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Archive for the ‘Side B’ Category

A Frozen Tundra of Theories

Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts about a theory making the rounds of the Internet about how the Disney movie Frozen is a conspiracy put forward by the House of Mouse to turn children into homosexuals.

Since the gentleman who floated that theory offered up no actual evidence for his rant, allow me to do the same and state for the here and now that Frozen is actually a movie that…

…teaches children the evils of the gold standard;
or
…is a stunning repudiation of the metric system;
or
…is a gateway studio to lure unsuspecting kids into Touchstone Pictures.

All kidding aside, let me show you what can happen when you actually offer up evidence for a crackpot theory or two. Here and now, let me state for the record (and with tounge firmly placed in my cheek) that the Disney animated movie Frozen is actually a promotion of misogyny.

As proof that this movie actually shows a hatred and dislike for women allow me to remind my reading audience that there are only three speaking roles for human females in this movie. There is Elsa, the older sister. There is Anna, the younger sister. Finally, there is Elsa and Anna’s mother, the Queen.

Of those characters, they are either killed outright (Queen), threatened with death (Elsa by orders of the Duke of Weselton and, later, at the sword of Hans, Anna by Hans’s refusal to help), or are killed but come back (Anna). Other than a dunking in water (Hans) and being exiled from Arendelle (Duke), there is no consequence for the murderous activity of any of the male characters.

So there you have it, my proof that Frozen is anti-woman.

Of course, there is also proof (read: reading what you want to see) that Frozen is an allegory of the story of Christ and is thus pro-Christian.

At the start of the movie, the audience sees Anna and sees how she wants to build things (such as a snowman). A carpenter likes to build things also and Jesus was a carpenter.

Jesus was tempted in the desert and Anna is tempted by Hans’s offer of marriage.

After Elsa goes off by herself and builds her ice castle on top of a mountain, Anna tracks her down and gives her a sermon on how she needs to stop the blizzard. Jesus also gave a sermon on a mount.

Anna comes to aid of a wrongly-accused woman (her sister) just like Jesus came to the aid of Mary Magdalene.

And now the coup de grace

At the climax of the movie, Anna is turned to ice and is therefore killed. However, she comes back to life through the power of love. Jesus also died and came back to life because as 1 John 4:8 states “God is love”.

So there you have it. With actual elements from the film, I can spin it so that Frozen can be both anti-woman and pro-Christian.

It really is too bad Mr. Swanson couldn’t have come up with any evidence to support his theory that Frozen would turn his daughters into lesbians. It would have been extremely easy (as I have shown above), but I guess that would have meant actual mental effort on his part.

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A Hate Frozen in Bias

I’m going to start this post with a story. At the international school that my trio of children attend here in Bangkok, my middle child, Jared, has a foreign language teacher that he cannot stand. Jared finds this teacher to be unfair, capricious in his punishments, and unhelpful when asked for advice. At first, I thought my middle child was being his usual stubborn self, but after a few interactions (i.e., back to school night, parent-teacher conferences, emails), I can verify that Jared’s teacher is rude, paranoid, obnoxious, unable to hear criticism, and basically should find another method of employment. Because of my new-found attitude toward this teacher, I now view everything this teacher does through the lens of my own dislike for him. In all subsequent electronic correspondence with this teacher, I now read his words with his sarcastic, defensive tone, which colors my emotions of what the teacher is trying to convey. I realize that. I understand that. I try to modify my displeasure towards this teacher, but it’s tough.

My displeasure towards this teacher taints his input and so the output I take away is sullied by my bias. It’s coming to the point where the teacher could say, “Jared is fantastic”, but I would read that praise as ironic.

I understand this issue is mine and I need to work on it. An article I recently read in BBC News showed me that I am not alone in allowing my hate to bias me, but at least I’m working on it. The same cannot be said for Kevin Swanson.

When I first read this article on the BBC’s website, I at first could not convince myself to click on the link to read it. I simply could not comprehend that anyone would go so far as to say that the Disney movie Frozen had a “gay agenda”. You can read that story here.

Well, I finally did click on it and it was even worse than I thought.

Kevin Swanson, a talk show host, makes the claim that not only is Frozen part of a conspiracy to turn kids gay, but that this movie is “…evil, just evil.” Oh, but why take my word for his word when you can leap on over here and read selections from his diatribe.

If you’ve read Swanson’s comments and if you’ve read the BBC News article, you notice that Swanson offers up absolutely no evidence for his allegation that Frozen promotes homosexuality. None. So, with no evidence to back up his claim, where does Swanson’s claim come from?

It comes from the same place where my displeasure for Jared’s teacher originates. It comes from bias.

For someone who is so biased against gays (as an example, this article makes the claim that Swanson wants homosexual behavior criminalized), it makes sense that he would see everything in popular culture through the lens of his bias. Just like I read the teacher’s emails with my biased view against him, Swanson’s view of movies is colored by his bias.

That doesn’t make it right, it just makes it irrational.

I should lean into my irrationality and remember the words of Mark 12:31, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

I wonder if Swanson is aware of that passage.

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TIME to Navel Gaze

It is sometimes difficult to come up with new things to post about when my past themes provide so much material also.

Back in September, I wrote about the differences between the covers of TIME magazine that Americans see and what citizens in the rest of the world see.

Last week saw yet another wonderful example of my previous thesis that the editors of TIME “think the State-side readers are morons.” I can only again surmise that the powers that be at TIME who decide what graces the cover of that magazine think that Americans are not interested in the world at large and only care about what happens in their land between the “sea to shining sea.”

Last week, the covers that appeared on the magazine that people in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the South Pacific could see looked like this…

Time_LastWeek_International

The cover shows the aftermath of the central square (called the Maidan) in Kiev, Ukraine, after the president of that country, Viktor Yanukovych, fled. This flight was due in part to the mass of protesters who had camped in the Maidan demanded a more pro-Western lean to the country. Yanukovych titled towards Russia and so there was conflict.

The popular uprising of a European country on the doorstep of Russia that includes the overthrow of its elected President is (and rightfully so) big news. The cover of TIME even admits that the drama is not yet over.

So do what those living in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City see on their covers of TIME? This…

Time_LastWeek_USA

They see a cover about an event that happened in October of 2013. Granted, Stephen Brill’s article about how a group of people rescued the technical failure that was heathcare.gov (the on-line portal that allowed people to sign up for President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act) is a wonderful read, but it’s an event that happened a full five months ago.

To sum up, international readers of TIME see what is happening now in the larger world and which poses questions about the future.

State-side readers of TIME see themselves…in the past.

I have a feeling this trend of TIME will only continue.

As a final thought, I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who sees this habit from TIME.

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Living abroad has given me the opportunity to view my country of birth through another lens. I have written before about how my perceptions of life in the United States has changed since I moved abroad.

I have also written in the past in this e-space about how I do not like e-books.

This post takes those two concepts and combines them into one.

While I don’t read books on my e-reader on a regular basis, I have found a new non-Angry Birds thing to use my electronic reader for. I use it now to read magazines. Rather than wait the week or two (or three or four or five) it would take my currents events publication to arrive in Thailand, I have opted to have the latest and greatest issue dropped into my e-library. While I enjoy reading about the latest tomfoolery occurring in Washington, D.C., New York City, or Cedar City (Utah), the latest issue I received from TIME magazine gave me pause about said magazine and how they view their audience.

The latest issue (Vol. 182 No. 12) from September 16, 2013, that was downloaded on to my tiny screen has a cover story about paying college athletes. Nothing odd about that as the college football season is starting up in the States so it seems like a timely topic.

However, when I was at our local Thai store, I saw the Asian edition of TIME and was confronted with a different cover. Here, look for yourself…

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other

So the international editors of TIME thought that a piece about Russian President Vladimir Putin should be on the cover. Well, that makes sense too as Putin has been vocal about not attacking Syria for their alleged use of chemical weapons.

But why? Why is there such a difference between the covers of the American edition of TIME and the non-American versions?

I surmise this is because the editors at TIME think the State-side readers are morons.

Here America stands on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East and one the main global players, the Russian President, stands opposed to such a military adventure. This might be a good time for readers from Hawaii to Maine to know more about Mr. Putin, the ex-KGB agent, the man who thinks the chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus was done by the rebels. So, it might seem like a good idea to hook the reader into this serious issue by placing Putin’s face on the cover so that the impulse magazine buyer would want to buy TIME. Apparently, the editors at TIME think that people around the world are interested enough in this issue and this man to put Putin on the cover. Also apparently, the editors of TIME don’t think Americans are that interested and resorted to putting a picture of a college athlete on the cover to attract U.S. readers.

I would tend to think that American readers are smarter than that and would be interested to pick up TIME if they same Putin on the cover. But that’s why I’m not an editor.

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When Bill Clinton was President (and even before), those opposed to him wasted no time or effort to tar and feather him by associating him with the following scandals…

Whitewater – a real estate venture gone bust;
Vince Foster – the Deputy White House Counsel who killed himself in 1993;
Troopergate – allegations from the days when Clinton was Governor of Arkansas; and
Gennifer Flowers.

This constant cry of scandal and misdeed led to an interesting conclusion.

When something scandalous actually did show up, the affair with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment and trial that followed, the public had Clinton “scandal fatigue” and shrugged. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate and he left office with an approval rating of 66%. By comparison, Ronald Reagan finished out his second term with an approval rating under 60%.

As George Santayana put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Such is the case with those who oppose President Barack Obama. Whether it is those who…

…question his birth certificate;
…question his religion;
…question his affiliation with pastor Jeremiah Wright;
…question his patriotism; or
…call him a socialist,

…those that call for the impeachment of the current occupant of the White House are falling into the same trap that captured the opponents of Clinton.

When something actually does show up – such as Benghazi and the Issa hearings or the IRS controversy – the public just shrugs and passes it off as more GOP crying wolf…or Kenyan…or Muslim.

Just once, I would like to see an opposition party keeps its powder dry and pounce at the right time…not simply at every whiff of blood in the air.

I have such large expectations.

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In On The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote about natural selection. This is the process by which organisms evolve over time. Humans – or better known by their scientific name, homo sapiens – have not been immune from this process and our species is the product of evolving from other, earlier species including Homo erectus and Homo habilis.

This post is not to talk about evolution or those who deny its scientific credentials. Instead, this post is about how Homo sapiens is an evolutionary dead end.

Yep, we are the last of our kind. There is no moving forward from this point on the family tree.

I make this announcement based on two idiosyncracies of our species.

The first has to do with out brain power. Because of our intelligence, we can build solutions to adapt to changing situations. With our mental know-how, there is no need for us to use natural selection to adapt to any different set of conditions that we might encounter in the future. From climate change to space travel to an errant chunk of comet slamming into the Pacific Ocean, humanity will be able to use its combined cranial fortitude to craft a technological solution to help us live.

And if we can’t, then that is the end of us and our line.

The second reason I make my Traveling Wilburys-like announcement has to do with how our society treats change.

The process of natural selection will express itself in humanity – as it does in all other organisms – by producing a mutation. This mutation may or may not produce an effect that is beneficial to the person who has that mutation. This mutation may or may not show itself as a physical difference. However, if this mutation does produce a marked physical difference and whether or not if confers an adaptive advantage to the carrier, the person with that mutation will be killed off as soon as possible.

Sad to say – but ever so true – but human society despises the other and actively seeks to destroy that which is different. It’s part of the reason genocide is the pastime of humanity. So if there ever comes a person who displays gills or translucent skin or…whatever the beneficial mutation is, that person will be knocked off by a tribe, mob, or government entity before that mutant has the chance to propagate.

So, for those pair of reasons, that is why I conclude that H. sapiens is the highest – and last – branch on the Homo tree.

Best of luck to those who follow us.

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For those of you in the United States who haven’t been following along, I currently live in Thailand.

Thailand, for those of you not following along, is a foreign country that resides outside of the United States of America.

As a foreign country, Thailand has some rules, laws, and conventions that some citizens of the U.S. of A. might find odd.

Thailand has a constitutional monarchy which means, like England (another foreign country), there is a king and queen who sit as the formal head of government.

However, unlike England, it is against the law and is indeed a punishable offense to make fun of or to say anything negative about the royal couple. The name for this crime is lese majeste.

Can you imagine living in a country where you can be punished – perhaps even lose your job – for mocking the head of the government?

Of course you can. You already do.

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Before I raised anchor from the Continent, spent some time in the U S of A becoming reacquainted with my home culture, and before planting my new homestead in Thailand’s capital, I wrote a post about a double standard in the Arabic world.

Now that I am ensconced on the other side of the world, I am going back to mine that “double standard” vein…mainly because it is so easy.

Today’s installment deals with the treatment of mosques.

In April of 2013, LEGO announced that they would be halting production of the Jabba’s Palace playset. Cries of racism came from the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria as they claimed that the palace of Jabba the Hut, the criminal lord of the Tatooine underworld, looked too much like the famous Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Putting aside the fact that the LEGO representation of Jabba’s Palace looks almost nothing like the iconic Turkish mosque (i.e., zero minarets on Jabba’s Palace as opposed to the four on Hagia Sophia, the tops of the domes are different), I’m here to talk about the double standard of the reaction.

The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria (TCCA) threw out the cry of racism and took to the electronic media to decry the technical desecration of a historic mosque because of its questionable similarity to a toy.

So what do you think the reaction of the TCCA would be to the actual desecration and destruction of a real historic mosque? If you guessed “apoplectic” or “hysterical”, then you don’t understand the meaning of the phrase “double standard.”

When – also in April of 2013 – a minaret of a historic and ancient Umayyad Mosque in the Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed during the civil war, the reaction of the TCCA was…

…absolutely ear-shattering nothing.

Go ahead. Look at their website here and you won’t find an iota or hint of any outrage at the destruction of the minaret in Aleppo.

The lesson here appears clear.

If a Western (in this case, Danish) toy company makes a product that looks something like a mosque (but only if you squint), then bring down the rafters with condemnation.

If an Arabic entity (in this case Syrian military or rebels) actually destroys part of a mosque, then shrug your shoulders.

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A true test of whether one’s position is based on sound principles or is simply the product of a bias is to switch the givens of a situation.

For example, if a person sides with Group A over Group B in a given situation based on a principle, then that same person should also side with Group B if the roles were reversed because the principle remains the same.

In an earlier post, I showed how a member of the Supreme Court of the United States switched principles depending on who was making the argument. Let me now expand on this idea to the world at large.

As a Jew, I take the situation regarding the existence of Israel rather personally.

In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to implement a partition plan that would have created two states: one Palestinian and one Jewish.

When the British Mandate over Palestine ended on May 14, 1948, David ben Gurion declared Israel to be an independent state. The following day, neighboring Arab states invaded the Jewish State in what is now known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Shockingly, and against all the odds, Israel won.

Almost two decades later, in 1967, war broke out again. As Egyptian forces crossed UN lines and massed on Israel’s southern borders, the Israeli Air Force launched a surprise attack against Egypt starting the Six-Day War. At the end of that conflict, Israel had taken over the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt), the West Bank (Jordan), the Gaza Strip (Egypt), and the Golan Heights (Syria).

In 1979, as part of the Camp David Accords, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. In 1993, as part of the Oslo Accords, some portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip were placed under the control of the newly created Palestinian Authority. In 2005, Israeli forces left the Gaza Strip. However, to this day, the Jewish State has maintained control over portions of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

This Israeli control over these lands once held by Arabs has not sat well with the Arab world and with the international community. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), with its Resolution 497, calls on Israel to rescind its annexation of the Golan Heights. Reactions from the Arab street are negative when Israel builds settlements in the West Bank

So what would be the mood of the “Arab Street” (whatever that phrase means) if an Arab country annexed land belonging to a neighbor. If the Arab states were adhering to the principle that annexation, in any form, was bad, then it would be obvious that leaders from Libya to Egypt to Syria would demand that their Arab brothers return said land.

But why imagine when I can bring you a real-world case study.

Allow me to introduce you to the African area of land known as Western Sahara.

A colony of Spain in the late 19th century, the Western Sahara is bordered by Morocco to its north, Algeria on its extreme northeast, Mauritania to its east and south, and its western border is the Atlantic Ocean.

Morocco had claimed the land bound by the Western Sahara as its own since 1957. In 1975, Spain relinquished control of its colony to a joint administration run by Morocco and Mauritania. Mauritania withdrew from the joint administration in 1979 and Morocco took full control of the territory.

However, the people who originally lived in Western Sahara were not too pleased to be under anyone’s rule and the Sahrawi national liberation movement (also known as the Polisario Front) was created and it proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in the area known as Western Sahara.

So here you have a portion of land once run by a European party which walks away and a neighboring country takes de facto control of the land and its people. To make the comparison even more obvious, the annexing country builds a wall to contain the original inhabitants.

(For comparison, the Moroccan Wall in Western Sahara is 2,700 kilometers in length where as the Israeli West Bank wall is 700 km in length.)

So what has been the international response to this annexation by an Arab country? Has there been a UNSC resolution asking Morocco to immediately give up its claim?

Of course not.

Among the UNSC resolutions that have been adopted, there has been a resolution asking for a cease-fire to the conflict between Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front (UNSC Resolution 690) and there has been one asking for a referendum so that the people could decide (UNSC Resolution 995).

I’d like to link to any negative commentary from an Arabic news service about the annexation by Morocco of the Western Sahara, but I can’t seem to find any. If you come across any, please let me know.

So while the international news community files story after story after story after story about today being the Palestinian commemoration of Nakba (The Day of Catastrophe…otherwise known as the day Israel declared its independence in 1948), don’t expect a similar rush to criticize the conquering power when the anniversary of the annexation of the Western Sahara by Morocco comes around.

Why?

Because of الازدواجية …which is “double standard” in Arabic.

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There is a metaphor that has been floating around that I wish would wither and die.

Most recently with the news out of Cleveland of the three rescued kidnapped girls, the dreaded metaphor is making itself known.

It raised its head after the bombings at the Boston Marathon with the likes of CNN and Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC) to Linda Chavez all using the same cliché.

This disdainful trope fully came into its own when folks gathered around their keyboards to discuss the failures of the intelligence communities in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (Un)Fine examples can be seen here and here and here.

I speak, of course, of the “connect-the-dots” metaphor.

The problem with the knee-jerk criticism of “Why couldn’t XYZ connect the dots?” is that the critic has the advantage of hindsight. After the fact (e.g., attack, crime, malfeasance, etc.), it is always easy to see the clues hiding in plain sight.

Before the event, it is nearly impossible to connect the dots. The reason for this is due to the number of dots. In a true connect-the-dots picture, the dots are clearly labelled in an easy sequential order and there are no extraneous dots. As with the example below, it is child’s play to even guess the mystery image before the pencil even hits Dot#1.

Find the farm equipment

Find the farm equipment

However, law enforcement and intelligence officials – those most often criticized for failing to connect the dots – do not have the luxury of numbers dots with no extra material. What those people have to deal with is more analagous to the nighttime sky.

The better metaphor that you should have in your mind the next time you read some pundit cry and wail about some police force not connecting the dots is that of the constellations. Instead of the simple kiddie connect-the-dots above, what is below is a more accurate (albeit simplified) picture.

Now find the tractor

Now find the tractor

Look at all those dots in the simplified starchart above and multiply those dots by 100. Now try to find the picture of the tractor.

That’s what the police and people who work in agencies with three-letter acronyms have to contend with. Given that situation, the surprise is not that the legal system misses events, but that it actually does manage to find the signal in the noise.

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