The Grand Symbol of Our Mighty Republic

Slate:

THE SKY, Dec. 20—We’re hovering 1,500 feet above Baltimore in a 200-foot blimp with Ron Paul’s name on it, and I’ve lost feeling in my hands. Elijah Lynn, vice president of the Ron Paul Blimp, passes around heat packets, the kind made for skiers. “Shake it,” he says. Over the past week, temperatures in the blimp have dropped to as low as 28 degrees. As the crew has learned, it’s hard out here for a blimp.

The Ron Paul Blimp launched last week in Elizabeth City, N.C,. and has since moved through Columbia, S.C., Richmond, Va., and now Baltimore, taking days off for bad weather. (You can track the blimp’s path via GPS here.) Anyone craning their neck blimpward sees one of two messages: “Who Is Ron Paul?” (an homage to Ayn Rand’s ” Who is John Galt?”) or “Ron Paul Revolution,” with the “evol” highlighted as a backwards “love.”

[…] There’s something perfectly Paulian about the blimp. It’s a stunt, in the best sense of the term—big, memorable, and utterly silly—a lot like Ron Paul’s candidacy itself, at least in the eyes of outsiders.

I have to quibble over this last assertion. Thanks to Ron Paul, scientists now have enough data to quantify nonsense, making the Ron Paul blimp objectively silly. No one in their right mind says,” Hay yeah, lets advertise our man for president with a blimp!” and then, not only puts forth enough effort to raise the money from like-minded idiots to put the damn thing in the air but then plasters it with allusions to Ayn Rand. The surviving members of Monty Python were preparing for a reunion, took one look at the Ron Paul Blimp and then Michael Palin turned to John Cleese and said, “Why bother?” Will Farrel, when contacted to play the part of Paul in an upcoming biopic said, “I’m sorry, I simply have too much dignity to act that ridiculous.” This is industrial strength silly, hardened in the hard heart of the most nonsensical blast furnace and constructed by mimes huffing ether.

It’s the perfect symbol for America in the 21st Century: a giant bag of hot air, drifting lazily overhead, threatening to fall on anyone and everyone for no good reason other than that it simply can. All that would make it better is if it were a nuclear powered blimp covered in depleted uranium spikes, built to substandard specs by a blimp design firm who outsourced the job to Bangalore and then had it constructed in China by eight year old sweatshop laborers, painted with toxic lead paint and imported by Wal-Mart.

Ben Franklin famously suggested that our national emblem should be, not the Bald Eagle, but the Wild Turkey. It only took 223 years but he finally got his wish.

Link via Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake.

A Christmas Story

Razib at Gene Expression has a great post on Christmas and what it means, if anything:

Ed, Greg & PZ have commented on the strange reaction of the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary toward Richard Dawkins’ enthusiasm for Christmas traditions. So “why would an atheist want to sing Christmas carols?”

The same reason that the study and reading of literature has not been reduced to physics. We humans appreciate great stories, and we can conceive in our mind’s eye ideas which may not be true, but we enjoy the play of those ideas nonetheless. One does not have to be a Greek pagan to appreciate the beauty and power of the Iliad, and in fact for centuries pious Christians have been moved by the poems of Homer without acceding to the reality of its relgious vision. For them Homer was not about the Truth of the gods, but the Truth of human experience. We don’t need to appeal to a classical education though, anyone who reads a piece of moving fiction can be emotionally impacted, without entertaining that the narrative is real in a positivistic sense.

Today many Christians complain about a “War against Christmas,” but they might be surprised to know that until recently the soldiers in that war were avowed Christians! During the 1650s the ascendant Puritans in England waged a war against Christmas because of its associations with “Popery” and paganism. The reasoned argument was that Christmas had no Biblical foundation, that was not grounded in Truth, and that a host of practices were obviously extra-Biblical interpolations from the pagan milieu of their ancestors, residue from the age of darkness before the Savior. Politically, the practice of Christmas traditions was a sign that perhaps one was for the Cavalier cause or a recusant Catholic. In the the name of utilitarian economic efficiency these early fundamentalists also abolished most holidays and religious festivals because they had no Biblical grounding, and so were not rooted in Truth, and were a waste of time and without any utility. In may ways I think these early Protestant fundamentalists had much in common with latter day social engineers, such as the Khmer Rouge, who seemed driven by an unnatural and distorted Benthanmite conception of what drives human nature and what gives joy and fullness to our lives.

I believe in human nature. We are not a blank slate into which one can pour in prior values and assume that our lives will be shaped by these exogenous inputs through a chain of necessary propositions. We enjoy good food, music, the company of family, gossip, socialization and the broader succor of our community. These are not social constructions, they are are the core of our humanity, and any belief system or model of human action which neglects these natural impulses will lead us astray. I am not denying flexibility of the parameters, but that flexibility exhibits constraints and stress when deviated from the central tendency.

The whole post is great and hits on several ideas that have been whirring about in my brain for some time. One idea in particular that jumped out at me was his statement that, “anyone who reads a piece of moving fiction can be emotionally impacted, without entertaining that the narrative is real in a positivistic sense. This cuts to the heart of the Fundamentalist problem with other narratives, not just the Christmas Story.

Continue reading “A Christmas Story”

Tales of Beadle The Bard

Now here’s a Christmas present any Harry Potter fan would love to receive:

We’re incredibly excited to announce that Amazon has purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. The book of five wizarding fairy tales, referenced in the last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is one of only seven handmade copies in existence. The purchase price was £1,950,000, and Ms. Rowling is donating the proceeds to The Children’s Voice campaign, a charity she co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten by the bard herself–all 157 pages of it. It’s bound in brown Moroccan leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones.

Enjoy these first images of the book. We’ll be adding reviews of each of the fairy tales and more photos of this beautiful object as we can get them up in the coming hours (if you want to be sure of a link that will permanently work, use www.amazon.com/beedlebard). For the curious of mind, Amazon editors are now taking questions about the tales from all comers on our discussion boards (located further down this page).

So, when do the facsimile editions go on sale?

Comment Math

Updated: 

In an effort to better weed out the comment spam (and not accidentally delete any more comments by having to manually delete spam) I’ve installed Pete’s Custom Anti-Spam Plugin. Doug from All Things Democrat recommended it and I found it to be the easiest, cleanest and least obtrusive of the spam filter plugins I fiddled with. So far it’s working great; I only had to clean out 5 spam comments in the last 24 hours and those probably slipped in while I was fiddling with settings. This is a huge improvement over the 100 or so spam comments I normally have to contend with daily. Highly recommended.

I Swear To God, I Wish I Had Some Lions

So, today the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring Christmas and Christians important. Now, one would think, in a nation that is 70% Christian, where there’s a church on every other fucking street corner, this would be superfluous. Guess not. If the 12% of us Agnostics and Atheists scare American Christians that much, simply by our desire to sleep in on Sunday mornings, than your religion isn’t worth shit. Apparently, the very knowledge that some people, maybe living next door or down the street (or in your own house, even!) don’t believe in the same imaginary friend really spooks True Believers. But it’s not persecution. I live in a state that still has Blue Laws. I can’t buy a bottle of wine on Sundays to go with my dinner, like any civilized European or Northerner, yet you’re the one whose oppressed?
Continue reading “I Swear To God, I Wish I Had Some Lions”

Kucinich, Meanwhile, Is a Big Fan of Elfquest

Is it really any surprise that Ron Paul’s favorite superhero is Batman? Every politician thinks of themselves as a crusading billionaire, out to save the world by any means necessary. But it’s especially telling that Paul, no big fan of consensual reality, would picture himself as Batman, the dark brooding, disturbed and obsessive Shadow in a world full of lunatics with crazy plots and half baked schemes. That he picked specifically Paul Pope’s Berlin Batman is even more telling, as the plot revolves around the papers of Libertarian grand dingbat, Ludvig von Mises. I seem to remember a Zeppelin in that issue as well.

How do the other candidates match up to comic book characters?

Birds, Planes, Etc.

This weekend, I picked up the hardback edition of All-Star Superman, collecting the first 6 issues and, speaking as a tenured comic book nerd and a hypercritical lit geek, it’s the best dam superhero comic I’ve read in years, maybe even since Watchmen. Seriously. It’s that good.

Grant Morrison is doing a sort of remix of Superman, picking up some of the crazy ass stuff from the golden age and mixing it in with some genuinely awesome sci-fi mythologizing. This is the Superman story you’ve always wanted to read: mad scientists with amazing toys, time traveling supermen form the distant future, Lex Luthor with a genuine evil plan (rather than the lame plot form Superman Returns, where Lex’s big scheme involves a shady real estate deal and some fucking kryptonite). I’m looking forward to volume 2 to see how it all plays out but it’s hot shit, right here. Frank Quietly’s art is also amazing and the two together are doing some real fine work. Makes me wish more writers were given the freedom to rewire some old characters and see what can be done.

And Then The Polar Bears

I was very disappointed by the Golden Compass. Inevitably, it will be compared to Lord of the Rings, mostly because the first trailer explicitly tried to tie this to it,like they were conjoined cinematic twins. But The Golden Compass is a far inferior film than any one of the the three LoTR chapters.

It bears repeating (mostly because the hardcore LoTR fanboys won’t shut up about Tom Bombadil not being in the films) but no film can contain everything from the book. Following the book exactly, Lord of the Rings would have been an eighteen hour long musical. But The Golden Compass doesn’t try to follow the book at all.

Continue reading “And Then The Polar Bears”

From The Outside, You All Look Like Scientologists Anyway

So, Mitt Romney gave a speech, did you hear? In it, he blathered on, as politicos are want to do, about the importance of religion, and our shared spiritual values and how, so long as we all believe in Jesus, at least a little, than Freedom! Cake! Puppies and kitties! Vote for Romney!

Continue reading “From The Outside, You All Look Like Scientologists Anyway”