Monday, April 09, 2007
Possible Light Posting
On the heels of unexpectedly needing to put together one presentation, I find myself having just over a week to put together another that I'd already penciled in. Posting may be somewhat irregular until some time after next Wednesday.
The Pursuit of Happyness
After reading Jennifer Snow's review of this movie some time ago, I was intrigued, but work and travel commitments conspired to keep me from ever seeing it while it was in theaters.
Well, it's out on DVD now, and my wife, who is a big fan of Easter traditions, made me a basket yesterday that had the movie inside since she knew I had wanted to see it.
So we watched it last night, and to say that it didn't disappoint would be a gross understatement. Jennifer summed it up very well when she said, "[Chris Gardner's] bitter struggle to grasp hold of his dream before it escapes is both horrifying and inspirational."
I will add only a couple of things here.
First of all, see this movie if you haven't already.
Second, near the end of the movie, we see Will Smith, as Gardner, walking a crowded sidewalk just after his triumph. You know, from the story of his hardships and his struggles, that, except for his self-control, he would probably burst into tears of joy and relief at this point. On a humorous note, I suspect that many men in Smith's cinema audiences probably had that much in common with Gardner as they had to navigate the crowds on their way out of the theater! I know I would have.
The Wikipedia entry on Gardner is interesting and notes that his mother raised him with such advice as, "You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain't coming." He has also published his memoirs in book form under the same title as the movie.
As another humorous aside, my wife is also a little absent-minded sometimes. A box of Band-Aids she happened to buy at the same time as the movie ended up in my basket as well. I will now have an Easter tradition of my own: Giving her a hard time about "Easter Bandages!"
Good One on Global Warming
Newsweek recently put out a very good article on Global Warming Hysteria -- by a scientist who agrees that global warming is happening and that it is due at least in part to human activity. I'll quote his opening and closing sentences here.
Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe.Do I really need to say, "Read it all"?
The alleged solutions have more potential for catastrophe than the putative problem. The conclusion of the late climate scientist Roger Revelle -- Al Gore's supposed mentor -- is worth pondering: the evidence for global warming thus far doesn't warrant any action unless it is justifiable on grounds that have nothing to do with climate.
The biggest flaw in Richard Lindzen's argument is that he fails to mention that the global warming political agenda violates individual rights. Nevertheless, he does at least accept human life as an implicit standard for judging whether a given measure is a "catastrophe" or not. That's more than I can say for many in this debate.
State Enforcement of Aesthetics
This Sunday's Houston Chronicle features an article about how to combat the aesthetic wasteland (at least as its author sees it) caused by suburban sprawl. I found the below passages the most interesting.
This "loop" was not a roadway in the sense of our West Loop. Rather, it referred to the visual loop that the recurring suburban landscape created as we passed through it.R. Gregory Turner then begins to fantasize about adding money to the highway budget to bring the Interstate 10 reconstruction up to his personal aesthetic standards.
Seemingly every third mile we saw the same school building, then the same church, then the same shopping center, then the same ... well, you get the idea. If it weren't for our arrival at the golf courses, we all would have been convinced that we hadn't actually gone anywhere.
Imagine instead that individual school districts seized the opportunity afforded by their expansive building programs to transform their surroundings and create a sense of place defined by an architecture distinctive to them and them only. Taking the step of making themselves recognizable could set as powerful an example regarding what "recognized" means as SAT scores or state awards do.
I am all for beautiful architecture and landscaping, and I won't belabor what I think of the notion of one man stealing my money in order to finance his personal tastes, even if I happen to agree with some of them.
What I will note is that the one solution he fails to consider is to move towards a more capitalistic economy. Part of why we have such extensive systems of boring highways today is because rail was so over-regulated when it was privately-run. And a huge part of why we have such uniformly ugly (and poor) schools is that they are run by the state. This is not why we should move towards capitalism, but I strongly suspect that a more interesting urban landscape would be one happy result.
Rather than tell me to part with more of my money to put lipstick on the huge, statist pig that wallows across our landscape, perhaps if Mr. Turner would consider letting me have a lot more of it (and my freedom) back.
Unfortunately, I suspect that he shares the same petty power-lust we recently saw with a minor functionary in Sweden who refused to allow a couple there to choose a name for their own child. Yes. Metallica is an atrocious name, but the very idea that some meddling nobody can prevent its use is far uglier. More beauty in the world around us is something we could all use, but not at the cost of our freedom. Indeed, the goal of government-mandated beauty is ultimately impossible, for it will effectively puts blinders around the eyes of the beholder. This is due to the nature of government, the social institution whose function is to wield force, but whose sole legitimate purpose is the protection of individual rights.
Today: One minor edit.