Friday, June 24, 2005

Movie Star Media

I must have missed some things over the years as some movie stars have been catapulted to the top of the acting world not by any merits, but by the media that has been created around their world.

For instance, since when is Tom Cruise the greatest and biggest movie star in the world? Has anyone actually seen Mission Impossible 2? It is one of the worst films I've ever seen and I barely remember it, what I do remember is the last fight scene which is so ridiculous that I was cracking up. Also, why do people keep interviewing him about his dopey scientologist beliefs? The guy is a nut, you're not going to get anything out of him, as Matt Lauer has discovered, so either ask something else or don't have him on the show. I prefer the latter. And if we must question this freak why not ask him some real questions like, "Mr. Cruise, why were you unable to read and write until your twenties, are we supposed to believe that? Isn't it just a propaganda story to pump up the Scientology literacy program?" or "Mr. Cruise, I've noticed from other interviews that you have trouble in focusing when asked what Scientology is, so I'll get more specific, what exactly is your philosophy's, Scientology's, view on epistemology, or the theory of human knowledge?"

When did Sean Penn become the greatest actor of the modern era? You do a turn as Spicoli and all of the sudden you're Laurence Olivier? So I guess Seann William Scott (American Pie's Stiffler) will be winning Academy Awards next. Let's consider his other great works, Dead Man Walking the inspiring story of a psychotic killer, who is guilty, being executed and being sad about it. The Thin Red Line, a movie so god-awful and boring, I walked out. I am Sam, where he plays himself, a retarded man trying to live on his own. I see nothing in his filmography for which he deserves such an elated status. Olivier did Wuthering Heights and other meaty and weighty roles like Hamlet. Sir Alec Guiness, before taking on Star Wars at the end of his career, was in classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. John Wayne was in scores of great films and Clint Eastwood has been in many great ones as well. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has been in more great films than Penn, Terminator, Predator, Total Recall, Terminator 2, True Lies, etc. So why is Penn the greatest actor of the age? To put it as bluntly as possible, whose ass did he kiss?

The media around movie stars frightens and confuses me, much like modern technology to the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. What's the deal?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Theatre of the Absurd:
Koran Abuse

The story of Koran abuse at the prisoner camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is perhaps the most ridiculous example of media idiocy I have seen in some time. The critique is not that we have codes of conduct for a book some crackpots have some mystical affinity for, but that the codes aren't good enough or we aren't following them.

The Koran is just a book. If we can step on it, flush it down the toilet, burn it, wipe our butt's with it, or do anything else to it and get information out of the psychos down there then that should be applauded as a great boon to our cause. It is almost like the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur is traveling through the woods and is cowed by the Knights who say "Nih!" We can get these prisoners to spill the beans without breaking the law or resorting to the morally repugnant territory of physically torturing people.

If it makes Muslims around the world happy they can go ahead and burn down bibles, what do we care? We have no state religion and capitalism provides for the printing of billions of any book (Koran included, even I have a copy, you never know when you may need to hold it hostage to get some terrorists off your trail) even if you only intend to burn or ruin them.

How ecstatic would we be if the only thing that happened when our soldiers were captured was that their captors ripped up the American state papers, or The Federalist, or the religious texts of the individual soldiers?

The only real news in this case is that we treat these scumbags so well, giving them their precious book in the first place. They don't care that their freedom is curtailed, it was already non-existent in the Middle East anyway, but they would be punished by keeping the words of their nonsensical beliefs away from them.

On that note, other methods of messing with their minds: 1) change the placement of the arrow which points to Mecca everyday so they can't figure out which direction to pray; 2) feed them only wine and ham sandwiches; 3) load up derelict tankers with Muslim iconography every week to be used for target practice by the US Navy in sight of the prisoners; 4) during the five times a day when the prisoners are supposed to pray read contrary books to them over loud speaker in Arabic (suggestions: The Origin of Species, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Satanic Verses, etc.); 5) don't tell them when Ramadan is so they can't figure out when to fast; 6) give them Korans is languages they can't figure out like Yiddish or Russian; 7) give them Korans with insulting jokes inserted into them in Arabic; 8) give them the shell of a Koran, but the inside pages will be books like The Case Against God; 9) when the soldiers take target practice they should use pictures of Muhammad or Korans placed at different distances; 10) give them Korans, but no toilet paper, forcing them to choose; 11) plaster posters of good looking women in bikinis up everywhere.

I'm curious if in World War II prisoner of war camps that we held German prisoners in, did we issue Mein Kamph to all the prisoners and play German propaganda so that they could stay immersed in the irrational beliefs that led them to war in the first place? Of course not, back then we weren't complete idiots yet.

Meandering into Mediocrity
By Alexander Marriott 6/2/2005

Now that my time in the Clark Country School District is coming to an end, both as a student when I graduated from Cimarron-Memorial High School in 2001 and as a Substitute Teacher as of June 9th, there are some alarming trends which I think someone must address. These trends are not restricted to only Southern Nevada, but they will be exacerbated in the years to come by growing radicalization among the forces of political correctness and the new block scheduling which will go into place in Clark Country High Schools next school year. In essence, the public education system in the United States is teetering towards a situation that caters to and promotes the average, plain, and ordinary instead of the exceptional, intelligent, and best.

As a student in high school I was aware of these trends, but was fortunately buttressed against them by staying in the hardest classes and having the most able, challenging, and engaging teachers available. As a Substitute Teacher I have seen a whole different picture, engaging many different levels of students from the best and brightest to the worst and dimmest.

The first problem one encounters in classroom situations is that one has very few methods of ensuring discipline and the students are perfectly aware of this. In upper level classes there is a much greater degree of self-discipline amongst the students, most accord the teacher a healthy degree of respect and are able and usually eager to learn. In regular classes there is a noticeable divide amongst the students, a plurality wishing to learn and quite willing to behave while a sizable number refuse to do much of anything aside from talk, use prohibited electronics, speak disrespectfully to each other and the teacher, and numerous other things which make teaching difficult and which disrupt the other students from learning.

Perhaps corporal punishment in the classroom was too harsh, but the banishment of formal detentions and holding students back a grade represents the extension of irrational political correctness to the detriment of learning. There must be consequences for actions, good and bad, if any of these students is ever to be prepared for the reality of independent life.

The inability to flunk students leads to the next problem, the 4x4 Block scheduling to be implemented County-wide next school year. While students are no longer made to repeat grades they are penalized by not earning credits for high school classes they fail and which they need to make up before they can earn a diploma. Under the new block system the number of credits needed to graduate will be unchanged and yet the number of classes the students can take every year will be made larger. One teacher related a story about their special education class hearing this news and immediately putting two and two together; they can fail more classes and still graduate.

While the students in the lower echelons get some bonus classes to annoy teachers and fail, the students at the top and their teachers will have fewer classroom minutes to learn/teach the material. This is crucially important in Advanced Placement classes which are forced to move more quickly in order to cover all of the material in time for the students to take their AP tests at the end of the year. To illustrate this further, consider that under Cimarron-Memorial’s current block system students meet in their classes eight times every two weeks for a total of 524 minutes per class while under the new 4x4 Block schedule students will meet in their classes five times every two weeks for a total of 425 minutes per class. For those students in higher level classes and their teachers this is an hour and a half every two weeks that can scarcely be afforded.

Of course there is a fundamental problem with public education in general which will always be irreconcilable in a free country. There can be no accord brought between liberty and forcing property owners (or anyone else) to pay for schools. And it is obscene for children to go to school at the point of a gun. Freedom is just as essential in education as it is in any other service industry. Notice that none of the problems of discipline (in the classroom) appear in college because everyone is there voluntarily, is actively involved in one way or another in the funding, and presumably has some sort of goal.

It is no coincidence that American public schools continually rank very low while the American college system is unparalleled in excellence. Money cannot solve the problems of public education; untold billions have been thrown at the education system since the Soviets launched Sputnik and to no avail.

As the education system heads down its inevitable path towards becoming a factory for creating mediocrities with a few strong and brave students surviving and prospering in spite of the circumstances one must think to the oft used argument for the public education system. It goes something like, “Without a compulsory system of public education the populace will be uneducated, not be able to perform jobs, research important things, etc.” Whenever you hear this argument, think of these great and important Americans –

Benjamin Franklin – two years of grammar school from years eight to ten.
George Washington – no public education, taught by his father and brother.
Cornelius Vanderbilt – no formal education, started ferry business at 16.
Abraham Lincoln – less than a year of formal education.
Thomas Edison – three months of public education when he seven years old.
Mark Twain – six to seven years of public education whereupon he had to support his family at the death of his father at age 12.

*note: compulsory education laws in the United States began in 1852 and in earnest between 1870-1890, so prominent figures become much harder to come by as nearly everyone is forced to attend school through at least high school.

Public education or formal education of any kind never has been and never will be the key to success in life or the key to being a genius and highly intelligent. The common denominator for success, whether in private school, public school, or no school is self-motivation, discipline (both external and internal), and rational goal-oriented action.

But if we are to have a public education system to create all of these geniuses why do we keep destroying the learning environment and gearing the system toward the lowest common denominator? It is because the purpose and nature of government is to halt the initiation of force with force; it is a destructive power, a necessary evil. That destructive force has been turned against the children of the country and the consequences are as predictable as they are tragic.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Discovery Channel's "Greastest American"

You may have heard that the Discovery Channel was doing a "Greatest American" program with the selection criterion being the very dubious resort to direct democracy via the internet. The list of the top 100 vote getters has been out for a while and it is mostly very bad, consider that out of the 42 presidents we have had the ones selected are the four on Mount Rushmore and every president from FDR to the present minus Gerald Ford. Other "great" political figures: Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, John Edwards, Hilary Clinton, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, and Barack Obama. There are some people of merit on the list like Thomas Edison, Chuck Yeager, Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Ford, Audie Murphy, General Patton, Jonas Salk, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, The Wright Brothers, Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Frederick Douglas, and Harriet Tubman.
Counting the three acceptable to great presidents this makes 22 candidates for the title Greatest American. The other 78, minus the 22 I've already mentioned, include such "greats" as Dr. Phil, Oprah, Madonna, Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart, Pat Tillman, Elvis, Christopher Reeve, Brett Favre, George Lucas, Malcolm X, Hugh Hefner, Michael Jackson, Billy Graham, Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres, Cesar Chavez, Bill Cosby, Muhammed Ali, Maya Angelou, and Lucille Ball. Is the problem with democracy obvious enough yet?
Voting for the greatest begins June 5th and I would encourage everyone to vote as often as possible. For me, the choice is a no-brainer, I will be voting for George Washington.