Frogs Don’t Turn into Princes, After All

Yahoo News (AFP):

LONDON (AFP) – Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says.

A study of both parents of primary school children and women who have been involved in domestic abuse claims than those who grew up reading fairy tales are likely to be more submissive as adults.

Susan Darker-Smith, a graduate student who wrote the academic paper, said she found many abuse victims identified with characters in famous children’s literature and claimed the stories provide “templates” of dominated women.

[…] “They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner’s behaviour,” Darker-Smith said. “Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships.”

I always suspected there was something unwholesome about the way Cinderella’s mind worked. Of course, it’s not like we’re really allowed to say that Fairy Tales warp little girl’s minds but it strikes me as common sense that if you use a submissive princess as your role model, you’re going to end up in a heap of hurt as an adult. Nothing ever ends happily ever after.

I’m currently reading a fairy tale that pretty much explicitly says this, The Princess Bride. William Goldman lays it out plain and simple: life isn’t fair. Things don’t end happily, or neatly. They don’t really end, either.

Fifteen minutes after they are reunited, Westley and Buttercup have an argument. Westley chides her for not being that bright, and she gets on his case for not being dead. They still love each other and as anyone who’s seen the movie knows, they do ride off together at the end but not before having to overcome doubts, complications, promises made and broken, and realizing that perfection, while it sounds like a nice thing, is more trouble than it’s worth. Princes aren’t charming, they’re selfish. Princesses aren’t beautiful, they’re vapid. Pirates on the other hand, understand real inner beauty and appreciate the value of true love.

(Link via Jessa Crispin at Bookslut)

Surprises in the Desert

Kevin and I were in need of some mindless entertainment last night, so we went to see Sahara. Surprisingly, it was a lot of fun. I expected the standard bad dialogue and gagging oneliners but there weren’t any. Too my surprise, it was a tightly plotted adventure movie and Penelope Cruz didn’t completely suck.

The most implausable plot element, the Civil War Ironclad that sails across the Atlantic and gets lost in Africa, isn’t all that far fetched, especially when we consider the benchmark film for all other action adventure stories involves a search for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. The pending ecological disaster subplot dovetails nicely with the treasure hunting plot, which is a plus. I fully expected to be swinging back and forth from maudeline eco-histrionics to cut throat adventure but was pleased with how the script writers, all sixteen of them, managed to segway from one to the other and back again without breaking anyone’s neck or stretching credibility too far.

On the Indiana Jones scale of adventure movies, I give it 4 out of 5 fedoras.

Cat and Fish

I’m feeling the effects of too much Grad School today. I’m tired, in that mentally exhausted way I haven’t been since… Well, end of last semester. This time is different, though. I’m done with School, forever this time, in about three weeks. Then a bit of a vacation. Then it’s continuing on with the job search. Should be fun.

Also, I’ve made a few changes to the sidebar, added a few new links and divided the links into two categories, Arts and Letters and Current Events. Not exactly the most descriptive cataloguing system in the world but it’s a start. Obviously, there’s some overlap as sometimes writers bitch about politics and sometimes political wonks blather about what they’re reading. But you get the idea.

Speaking of blather, Norbizness at Hairy Elated Ferret bulletin Board has announced the winner of the knock down drag out best comedy movie ever for all time competition: Dr. Strangelove.

News That’s Really Important

This story may have gotten ignored in the ruckus surrounding Pope Palpatine* and the slow-motion car wreck of Tom Delay’s political career but the results of it will far outlive both:

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure – a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilization. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

Just roll that last bit around in your head a moment. Classics literature thought last for the last 2000 years, rediscovered. As if that isn’t enough to tweak your noggin, savvy this:

In the past four days alone, Oxford’s classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

I’m a big fan of new knowledge. When that knowledge may make the superstitious squirm, all the better. This could shed new light on our collective cultural history and heritage, and allow us to better know where we came from and thus, better decide how to get where we want to go as a civilization. This transcends Popes and politics. This is all about the business of being Human.

(Link: SciAm Blog)

Way to Go, Cardinals

ABC News:

VATICAN CITY Apr 19, 2005- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the church’s leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium. He chose the name Pope Benedict XVI and called himself “a simple, humble worker.”

So much for the hopes of love, peace and a more tolerant, progressive Catholic Church.

UPDATE 4/20: Pope Palpatine’s Wild Berlin Adventure

A lot of people are making hay over Pope Benni (minus the Jets) and his Hitler Youth escapade. We’re told by the talking heads and those in the know that well, gee, everyone was in the Hitler Youth back then, so we shouldn’t hold it against him. Sorry folks, the “just following orders” excuse didn’t fly in Nuremberg and it ain’t flying now.

For some reason, we’re now to believe that the German Teenagers of 1933-45 were the only ones in history who weren’t rebellious by nature. Right. Sure. He was drafted into the Hitler Youth and went along for the ride, just like a lot fo other young kids did. Children are impressionable and regret the choices they make. A lot of Germans got caught up in the mob mentality of the Nazi party. That’s what was so scary about the Nazis: they tapped into a secret desire and gave everyone involved an excuse to give in to their dark side. But that’s not an excuse. It’s never an excuse.

When you’re 14, you can still tell right from wrong, even if everyone else is doing the wrong thing.

Also, we’re expected to believe that this man is an exceptional member of the human race, virtuous and sanctified. Except for the years he was in the Hitler Youth, The he was just another German kid going along with the crowd. Who just happened to grew up to be Grand Inquisitor.

I Went Looking for God and Found Science Along the Way

Mike, at the Corpuscle has an interesting take on the ID debate:

We can’t know, of course, why Sir John’s outfit is putting up the money for (post-)Dr. Murphy’s research. Based on what we do know, however, we can probably assume that somebody thinks that studying the possibility of changing universal constants will lead to some sort of evidence of God.

Which, you know, I think is great. As long as the research is intriguing, and the experiments are rigorously performed, and so long as it’s their own money and not mine, who the hell cares why the money is put up? And I’ll tell you what, I’m in a hell of a lot better position, as an atheist, if they do prove God exists than a believer would be. I mean, then I could go, “Oh. Okay. What do you know? There’s a God.” The believers, on the other hand, would have a cataclysmic crisis of faith, which is to say they wouldn’t have any faith at all anymore. How can you have faith in the existence of something that you already know exists? I’d stay away from the subject, were I them. But, hey, it’s no skin off my nose.

The horror for me would be if everything the most obnoxious, radically-right, fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstoner types say about God turns out to be true. You know, being a mortal, if my situation gets so god-awful I can’t stand it anymore, I can at least kill myself and flee into the eternal peace of oblivion. If, however, I am immortal and I am faced with an eternal being that demands I love him no matter how despicably he behaves… well, where you going to go then? There’s Hell, I guess, but from what I hear that ain’t no picnic. You’re looking at eternity, pal, either burning in Hell or sucking up to a right-wing nightmare.

He makes an interesting point in that True Believers have a lot more to loose than us Atheists. After all, if it turns out there is a God but he’s not the all-Punishing firespitter that the likes of Pat Robertson and Tom Delay have been worshiping for years but instead is, say, all wise and compassionate, with a killer sense of humor, who actually means it when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” then Pat and Tom are royally fucked. Whereas Mike and me and Carl Sagan can say, “Sorry for not believing in you there, God but we didn’t have a whole lot to go on.” and God would say, “Hay, no big deal. You guys were more concerned with the search for truth and knowledge, which is an admirable quality. I figured you guys would catch on eventually, so don’t sweat it.” Which would really piss of The Hammer and Dr, Robertson, since they would be pretty much proven to be what we’ve suspected all along: ignorant jackasses who get a kick out of bossing people around and nosing in on the business of others while hypocritically wearing a pious suit and fancy, Sunday ass-kicking shoes.

Mike goes on to nail exactly what fascinates me most about dingbat theories and whirligig thinking, “We live in a culture where crackpot millionaires spend their own money methodically researching out-there questions, and maybe in the process they find answers that will take us to places we never dreamed of being able to go.” If not for wooly thinkers like Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla,1 we wouldn’t have lightbulbs, telephones, alternating current, radios or motion pictures. Creativity leads to some pretty unusual corners of the mind, where often, unexpected but usueful things are to be found. And nothing is more creative than a crackpot trying to prove to the world that he is right.

1. Edison had some unusual ideas about the soul and spirits in general while Tesla thought he talked to aliens. Other oddball geniuses include Newton, who not only defined the way we think of gravity but was also a deeply religious man and an ordained minister. Hook, who refined the microscope, drank mercury on a regular basis.

And Many Miles To Go

Today is another busy Friday. This semester, I’ve been doing an internship and on Wednesdays and Fridays, I spend the whole day locked away in the special collections room of a library, handling moldy books. Not exactly how I intended to spend my second anniversary as the savior of media as we know it/ scourge of mainstream media as we know it/ harbinger of the end of Western civilization– a blogger.

Today, the Invisible library is two years old. No one is more surprised than me.

But I’m not through, not by a longshot. I’ve still got a head full of things to say, books to write, art to make, rants to… rant. I don’t know quite where I’m going, with this post, or my life. None of us does and anyone who claims to is wearing flammable pants. But hay, that’s what life’s all about, isn’t it? The journey. The discovery. The cat pictures you find along the way.

So, in the coming year, look for a little more fiction, a little more content– I finish Grad School next month and once that’s done, I’ll have a lot more time to devote to this blog, and my writing in general. Plus, hay, I’ll be looking for a job, moving and maybe even starting a family. It should be a lot of fun.

This Just In…

…From the Unitarian Jihad:

We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.

Join the fight and get your very own Unitarian Jihad name.

— Brother Sword of Enlightenment