Today’s found on Facebook – Matthew McConaughey’s thoughts on religion

June 23, 2016

He has a new movie out (Free State of Jones) where he plays Newton Knight, a Confederate soldier who rebelled against the Confederacy. The Daily Beast provides this quote from the actor talking about the film and explaining what he thinks is wrong with America (and everything else):

“It is my personal belief that mankind has bastardized religion,” he says. “Religion actually means, if you look up the Latin root, ‘re’ which means again, and ‘ligare,’ which means to bind together. It means exactly the opposite of what and how we are often practicing it these days!

“All of this, the abolition of slavery in the Civil War at this time, they were almost all led by religious movements—Christian movements—that were trumping the ideals that everyone else had. They went further into it and said, ‘No, this is not right—because of the Bible.’”

Sigh. First, we’ll sort out the etymology of “religion” – turns out a few different thoughts on its origin are around. Related to monastic vows, belief in divine power, piety, respect for the sacred, etc…

However, popular etymology among the later ancients (Servius, Lactantius, Augustine) and the interpretation of many modern writers connects it with religare “to bind fast” (see rely), via notion of “place an obligation on,” or “bond between humans and gods.” In that case, the re- would be intensive. Another possible origin is religiens “careful,” opposite of negligens. In English, meaning “particular system of faith” is recorded from c. 1300; sense of “recognition of and allegiance in manner of life (perceived as justly due) to a higher, unseen power or powers” is from 1530s.

So, I’ll just throw a minor correction at Mr. McConaughey: mankind invented the idea of religion and, as evidenced by its changing definition, people have been changing their minds for centuries on what it means on a personal level and what it means culturally. It stands for different things at different points of history.

Much the same way as people for all of written history have reinterpreted the Bible and rewritten the so called Word of God for “modern” audiences. Tyndale Archive lists a shit ton more than a hundred of the ones in English alone. Old souls love to stick to the King James (1611) but I know the New International Version (1978) is also commonly quoted.

I love how he’s pointing to the Bible as the reason Newton decided to go against his compatriots and for the reason people aboloshed slavery. Have you read a Bible lately, Mr. McConaughey? Or thought to Google how often slavery is condoned and encouraged in there? The guys who wanted slaves could also point to the Bible as proof they were right to be White and continue to mistreat anyone who wasn’t. A couple easy finds right here:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. (Peter 2:18:)

However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46)

It’s called cherry picking, and everyone can use it to point to the Bible and claim they’re correct in whatever manner of thinking they feel is correct, all because they found a line or two in one of the books they happen to agree with.

The Smithsonian has a great article explaining the history of Knight and how the film got made, and what people around Jones County have to say about this man and this bit of local history. Sounds like his descendants are still struggling under his name and legacy. At least, the black ones.

Dorothy Knight Marsh and Florence Knight Blaylock are the great-granddaughters of Newt and Rachel. After many decades of living in the outside world, they are back in Soso, Mississippi, dealing with prejudice from all directions. The worst of it comes from within their extended family. “We have close relatives who won’t even look at us,” says Blaylock, the older sister, who was often taken for Mexican when she lived in California.

Both women appear in the film in a courthouse scene.

This is probably not a movie I’ll watch. I’m not much for historical drama. I will be listening to The Dollop later today, though, because they have a piece on this guy and if it’s anything like what they did for the story of Hugh Glass from The Revenant, it will be terrific.

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Question of Atheist Scruples – bad teacher?

May 27, 2016

One of your professors is an incompetent teacher who grades too easy. Some classmates have a petition demanding his replacement. Do you sign it?

Three personal history stories first:

First story. My K-7 elementary school didn’t have a French-specialist teacher in the ’80s so for grades 4-7 the teaching was done by whoever was assigned. It didn’t matter overly much at that school what level of French we were getting, but I sure as hell noticed a difference when I switched to the junior high for grade 8 and wound up in French class with kids who’d been at that junior high for their grade 7 year where the French teacher was an actual French man from Quebec who was actually teaching usable French and verb conjugation and all kinds of vocabulary. Those kids really had a leg up compared to me and my grade 7 experience which, comparatively, was grade 3 level drilling on colours and days of the week. It was really frustrating to be thrust into the real thing and be so clueless.

Second story. I was already in Band by junior high which exempted me from the music class others were in and, by all accounts, the Music teacher was terrible at his job. At least once in his own class, I was told, he passed out the marked exams for his students to look over for any marking errors or whatever, then took them back with the intention of marking the grades down officially but then lost the exams somewhere. He then asked every student if they remembered what they got on the test. Of course people lied. He was oblivious to cheating in general and apparently would grade girls easier if they wore skirts and flirted.

I experienced him only through a semester of lunch break choir practice and the few times he’d subbed for other courses, like Math and English. He’d make mistakes in lessons there, too. Eventually, the kids had enough and took the matter to the principal. I can’t recall if I got interviewed over it but I might have. I wouldn’t have had much in the way of testimony as I wasn’t in any of his regular classes, but I probably would have backed up my friends.

Third story from university and my introductory computer course. The professor was fine but the TA was an Asian fellow with a very thick accent and it seemed like everyone in the class wanted someone else to take over our lab sessions and took it up with the prof. I don’t recall where I stood on that one now, but he was really struggling to explain things in English and make himself understood and everyone was complaining about it. Poor bugger. He could have been the cleverest guy we were going to run into that year and we sidelined him. 

So, to this question. Would I sign a petition? Maybe. It may depend on the type of class it is and how much I care about it.

If it’s a throwaway filler class I have no interest in pursuing as my major, I may happily take the easy grades and focus my energies on whatever mandatory coursework is required for the degree I do care about.  

If it’s happening in a class that should be better preparing me for future classes in my chosen field, however, I’d feel cheated and concerned about the quality of my education going into it. 
Which is how my peers taking that “filler” class as a mandatory one would be feeling.

Pop culture and “quality” education:

Bad Teacher which I didn’t bother to see. It just sounded like absolute crap. Going by IMDB, Cameron Diaz “stars” as a middle school teacher who hates the job but can’t afford breast implants without it once her rich fiancé calls it quits.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 4 – not my favourite, but does feature scenes of Buffy trying college on for size and that shit ain’t fitting overly well. She signed up for what she hoped would a blow-off pop culture class but gets ejected by the jerky prof within minutes of sitting down. Her psychology class isn’t a lot better, but at least her professor likes her, sort of. Professor Walsh winds up having some horrible secret mission shit going on and Buffy winds up in the middle of the mess that woman’s making with her monster-hunting militia and favourite army boy, Riley Finn. 

Community — oh, how to pick something from that one. Ken Jeong plays Chang, the shittiest Spanish teacher in the world. He’s certifiable with some serious anger issues.

The pottery teacher pitches a fit over anyone trying to duplicate that scene from Ghost. Betty White does a fun cameo episode as the anthropology prof who deliberately tranquilizes one student and could easily kill Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) while trying to prove a point about weaponry. John Oliver is in several episodes as Ian Duncan, foremost a psychology prof, but who fills in for Ms. White after the weapon episode and decides that anthropology, being the study of people, allows for entire lessons to be filled with Youtube videos of people who’ve Autotuned farts. There’s also a gym instructor who teaches valuable lessons about playing pool with or without gym shorts, a Who’s The Boss expert who gets schooled, a drama instructor who takes things to extremes and a life coach kind of “Carpe Diem” guy who tries to make people live in the moment, to the point of absurdity. Last of all, there’s the Dean (Jim Rash) who really shouldn’t be in charge of anything so important as education…


Question of Atheist Scruples — do you like fishing?

May 24, 2016

The question:

You are on vacation and plan to fish. You will not fish again all year. Do you buy the licence?

In terms of Saskatchewan, an annual fishing license costs $29.44 this year. Other Canadians can pay the same price for Sask fishing rights for 3 days. $78.51 for anyone out of country. Seniors (65+) fish free regardless and the province does offer free fishing weekends but don’t list any dates thus far for those.

That said, there’s also the camping fees or gate fees to consider in terms of where you’re staying and where you’re planning to fish. It all adds up. I personally wouldn’t spend a dime to fish anywhere as it’s not an interest of mine in any way, shape or form. I think were I to go fishing, it’d be with me, on a boat, with the line in the water and no hook or bait. Create the feeling of fishing without any fuss of fishing. I have 0 interest in fishing.

Although, as the question asks if I get the license, yes, I’d eat the $30 and get the license. I’d rather have it than risk fines for getting caught without one. Costs from 2014 could have only gone up and they were already ugly looking then.

It’s cost-effective to have the license handy, whether or not fish are caught.

Now, since I’ve started a trend, movies or TV about fishing:

A River Runs Through It — probably my first experience of fly fishing. Also, of Brad Pitt looking gorgeous.

M.A.S.H — any Colonel Potter episode, nearly. There was a cute episode in season 10 which the Man I watched this week where Potter shows a young man how to make his own trout flies. The fellow was from a state near Potter’s but had lost his dad young. Potter takes him under his gruff wing a bit. When the fellow tries to sign up for the shit bomb testing job since he’s been bullied by some assholes in his troop, Potter’s quick to make sure the guy has time to change his mind.

Grumpy/Grumpier Old Men — where the two lovable lugs, Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau, wind up in competition for a beautiful lady and one of them winds up with a dead fish in his car thanks to the other guy who hopes the stench will ruin future romance. I need to bring those both home again for a rewatch. Funny funny films, both of them.

The Old Man and the Sea and may as well throw in Moby Dick. I may have read parts of Old Man in school, but only know of Moby through television and film references. Never read the book or seen an entire film based on it. I should try the Patrick Stewart version. He’s great in everything.

Which reminds me of the recently made from life story of the inspiration for Moby Dick, In the Heart of the Sea which tells the story of a whaling ship meeting finned doom. I haven’t seen this either but The Bustle reports that it’s the fishermen who are the villains of the tale, not the whale itself that hit the Essex and sealed its fate. So, that’s that, then.

So, fisher people. Buy the license or fish for free?


Question of Atheist Scruples – you become a man of BUSINESS

May 23, 2016

Fuck, I love the Muppets’ Christmas Carol. I don’t care what time of year it is, I can watch it over and over.

So, this round’s Question of Atheist Scruples:

You’ve agreed verbally to a business deal when you get a much better offer. Do you back out of the deal?

Ouch. If my ambition is just to get ahead, no matter what the cost, then yes, I’d take the better offer. If my ambition is to create successful long-term business relations regardless of profit potential, then no.

What kind of person am I?

It is only verbal. No contracts have been signed on either side. The traditional gentleman’s agreement, even though I’m a woman.

That said, I’d be a rotten person to turn my back on this person and go for what looks like the better deal.

Libra libra libra, sucks to be a libra…

I think I’d still stand by the original agreement, even if the payoff is less. I’d rather be respected than rich.

Popular films capitalizing on business deals, nefarious or otherwise:

Risky Business — Tom Cruise plays Joel, a well-off young adult who wants more sex than sense and a call girl walks off with a family jewel. His solution to many problems is a brothel run from his own home. Good thinking…

Indecent Proposal — A millionaire offers a couple some money to sleep with the wife. Cool beans, although should one’s intimacy really be for sale in such a way?

The Telegraph had a post this year listing the best films about business and throws Wizard of Oz on it. Why?

The Wizard of Oz (1939) Dorothy’s journey along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City (what colour is money, again?) is believed by some to be an allegory of American monetary politics at the turn of the 20th century.

Ah, yes. I’d read into that before. Interesting ideas.

You’ve Got Mail also gets listed there. A revamp of Shop Around the Corner but adorable because Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are fun together all of the time. A lonely small bookstore owner (Ryan) is overwhelmed by the giant bookmonster store moving in nearby. She’s involved in an online chat/email with a sweet fellow, thus falling in love with the owner of that monstrosity (Hanks). Hanks knows who she is, though, and she’s foolish not to realize sooner that he’s the reason her shop’s nearly doomed. All works out in the end, I think, though, because those shows usually do.

The Devil Wears Prada is there, too. I was largely disappointed by that film. I never read the book but I still hoped that Anne Hathaway’s character would have seen fashion for the sham it was, regardless of the terrific monologue Meryl Streep’s character provides about how the runway predicts fashion choices for all wage levels and is thus super important. I just recall finding myself wishing she’d seen through the bullshit and quit the work at the magazine for some other kind of job.

Thoughts? Are you in a business? Do you wonder about decisions getting made and whether they best benefit those working, or those in charge?


Friday night movie night – the devil and…

October 10, 2014

In theme with the whole satan kind of thing going on at the blog this weekend, the Devil and Daniel Mouse is available in its entirety on Youtube. For now, anyway. Damn, fond memories of this little show. Watched it every time it was on when I was a kid, got the novelization, and tried my damnedest to learn how to play the songs that accompanied the book from the show. I was unsuccessful. Enjoy!


What’s wrong with Christian films

September 17, 2014

I confess that I had God’s Not Dead here this weekend but I didn’t watch it. I’ll borrow it again at some point, I promise. I’ve been on a Community kick lately and opted to watch that instead. I was in the mood to laugh at the genuinely funny, not, from all the reviews I’ve read, watch a film liable to make me want to tear my hair out and scream in frustration. A philosopher wrote a very long rebuttal to the film, too and it’s totally worth the time it takes to read it.

On the topic of other Christian movies, though, how’s this for a headline?

Christian Movie Producer Wishes Christian Films Got Dirty

The suggestion isn’t a foray into porn, but a request for more proper films that really dig into an issue to get to its roots rather than tickle the pretty leaves and think that’s good enough to understand the tree as a whole.

Christian film producer Laura Waters Hinson has a problem with Christian films: they dont [sic] cover the really tough issues accurately.

Hinson said something that bothers her in the industry of Christian film is that they don’t get dirty and cover the issues as deeply as secular cinema. She said what makes a great film is an “accurate portrayal of darkness, and how it can be overcome by light never really comes.”

“I think that’s where, just to be frank, Christian movies fall so short,” Hinson said. “There’s not an actual authentic representation of real people really, truly struggling. And film makers being bold enough to show the depth of the brokeness. Being too afraid…needing to whitewash everything. So really the payoff of the light never really comes.”

Bottom line, the problem has to do with the brute force attempts to proselytize over telling a moving story believably and well. They resort to stereotypes and pussyfooting and giving roles to Kirk Cameron who’s so religiously devoted to his wife that she had to be the kissing stand in during his make-out scenes in Fireproof or else it’d be a sin to god.

Some of the best secular movies ever made are great because of their light/dark dichotomy. Throw Star Wars in there, throw Harry Potter. Throw any film in where the main character is struggling to do the right thing when it’s clear that gaining all the power and glory seems to hinge on the temptation to join the other side. That’s God versus the Devil everywhere, even if you never see a guy dressed in red with a horns and a tail. The good versus evil storyline is found everywhere, not just in the bible. Take Homer’s Odyssey for example.

odyssey

Click it if you need a bigger view. I couldn’t copy/paste from ancientgreece.com so I cheated with the “PrtSc” key.

The line just prior to that I’ve “quoted” notes that the ancient Greeks were notoriously optimistic in their stories and they lacked a lot of realism on account of that. So, much in common with Christian films, then, where everything ends with happy happy god god god, I’m guessing.

Back to the Christian Post:

“I think the Christian content that I typically think of, the films, the books or whatever, have to have a clear representation of the gospel message,” Hinson recounted. “Rather than being content to weave througout the themes of the book gospel themes. In films today…it has to have that presentation of Jesus rather than to being content to just fall short, to leave questions unasnwered, to allow the audience to make their own conlusions, to trust the audience. I think a lot of Christian Content doesn’t trust the audience. Which drives me crazy.”

Because the answer, if honestly presented, might lead a wavering believer to drop whatever facades may be left and seek out an atheist group. Read some de-conversion stories sometime.

I think some Christian groups pay lip service to the notion of “It’s okay to doubt and question” because they’re determined to lead the doubter back to Christ at all costs — if they can use enough prayer and badgering and guilt-tripping. But this is the risk – losing the person to critical thinking and the realization that their faith and their religion could actually be untrue. It’s a scary idea to have in your head, and scarier to realize you agree with it. Nothing I ever went through, myself, I was atheist before I knew there was a word for it and forays into Christianity were fads that lasted a few weeks and were soon meaningless to me.

Back to the Post:

Hinson spoke at the 2014 AEI Evangelical Leadership Converence in the “Song and Cinema: Why Engagement Upstream Matters” panel along with singer/songwriter Charlie Peacock and moderator Mark Rodgers.

Hinson said that she believed culture was a huge part in the most important thing cinema is a part of: Storytelling. “I think for me as a film maker I think story telling is at the heart of culture,” Hinson explained. “I think that the stories we tell create the culture that we live in.”

But the bible is true and every piece of it really happened, even the contradictory pieces that god put in there just to test your faith because god wrote the whole thing himself and the bible says so…

And other stories believers might tell themselves…

Yeah, humanity builds stories and decides on behaviour based on the stories it chooses to uphold as valuable and true to a perfect form of humanity, or near enough.

Love conquers all.
Good triumphs over evil.
The circle of life.
Triumph over adversity.
Build it and they will come.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And more, if you care to comment and add some.

Unsurprisingly, people have already done the literary legwork to document the appropriately pro-Christian themes in many secular movies. I’ve just run across the Movie Theme Index which will help any Christian conscious movie lover pick the best films to watch for miracles (Green Mile and Pulp Fiction get mentions) or repentance (Dead Man Walking, City Slickers) or surrendering to the divine (Patch Adams, Forrest Gump).

I understand the desire to create Christian-specific theatrics, but if broad appeal is the goal, films like God’s Not Dead will always miss by a mile and only make money when churches buy up all the tickets and force their flocks to sit down and watch them. Secular film buffs don’t really want a bunch of heavy handed god business getting in the way of a love affair or fight to the death. Unless it’s Thor doing the fighting…


Is there anything the fundy Westboro Baptist people won’t do?

August 16, 2014

Apparently they don’t know the difference between life and acting. The Daily Mail reports they plan to picket Robin William’s funeral because he once portrayed a gay man in The Birdcage. Good movie.

organisers at the global non-profit organisation Planting Peace have launched a fundraiser to counter the church’s plans.

A message from co-founder Aaron Jackson reads: “Robin Williams played many different roles in so many people’s lives, and giving back to others was at the top of that list.

“His appeal crossed generational boundaries. I was personally impacted when I heard of his passing. This is a small gesture to honour his legacy and the difference he made to so many,” he said.

Jackson said that when the WBC announced they were protesting the star’s funeral, “we felt like launching a fundraiser for a charity Robin loved would be the perfect way to honour him and counteract the message of hate and intolerance that the WBC continues to convey”.

The proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit St Jude Children’s Hospital, which Williams supported during his life.

Awesome.