Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'll be right back. Just nipping out to steal my neighbour's ox.

   Dropped by Technorati today to see who might be linking to me out there, and discovered this: a whole, brand spanking new blog dedicated to asking me a question. But the blog owner never told me he had this question to ask, so it's just luck, really, that I found it at all.
   I tried to answer his question in a comment there, but ran up against the 2000 character limit (hey, it's a complicated question), so I decided to transpose the comment here. Click the link above to read Guy's question first.


Hi Guy,
   You should have left a comment on my journal telling me you had this question. I only found your entry here by accident. (OK, so ego surfing can't really be called an accident, but I don't do it that often, so coincidence, perhaps, is a better word. It might otherwise have been months before I knew you had written this.) I shall endeavour to answer your question to the best of my ability.

   First of all, I do not believe in absolutes. I don't believe anything is 'inherently right' or 'inherently wrong.' No man's actions are either right or wrong in and of themselves. They can only be judged to be right or wrong in relation to how they affect one's fellow men. As Donne said, "no man is an island." Man is not a solitary creature. We are a social animal by nature. We desire the company of a group or a tribe. In fact, the entire Old Testament of The Bible is about the creation of a tribe. But a tribe cannot survive without rules of conduct. If, as you say, we were to kill and steal from each other without regard, no tribe or society could survive. Clearly rules are necessary. But whence come those rules?

   You attribute them to some God. I do not.

   Who is right? Difficult to say. I see no evidence anywhere that such a person as your God exists, however. Lots of hearsay, but no solid evidence. Like our court system, I will not allow myself to be swayed by hearsay. I can only accept actual evidence. I see none.
   So, I hold no belief in a God of any kind. Yet I cannot deny that morals exist. You have them. I have them. As I said in my original journal entry, mine and yours are probably virtually identical. You say that without God, there is no reason to abide by any moral laws. I disagree. If I transgress a 'moral law,' I cause hurt to a fellow human being. Because empathy is a characteristic humans posess, I am able to imagine how I might be hurt by the actions of another, and so I am able to understand how my actions might hurt someone else. This is how morals are born. Because we do not wish to be hurt by the actions of others, we agree not to hurt them in return.
   What I am talking about, of course, is the so-called 'golden rule': "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." (Luke 6:31). Of course, Jesus was only rephrasing Judaic teaching - good Jewish Rabbi that he was: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." (Talmud, Shabbat 31a).
   Also: "Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." -The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, circa 1900BCE, ancient Egypt, long predates the Judaic reference. The sentiment has been expressed in virtually every religion, and culture around the world, and is as close to a universal truth as exists. It is, however, an obvious one, and needs no Supreme Being to point it out. All other morals derive from this basic premise. The laws are many, but as the Talmud said, all but commentary on the first.

   And here I am. I do not kill, lie, cheat or steal. I am faithful to my wife and family. I honour my parents. I do not covet my neighbour's ox...or other belongings. I believe I am a moral person, but it is not out of any fear of a God. By your reasoning, as an atheist, I should be lying, and cheating, and stealing, yet I am not. Is there a fault in your reasoning, or can you explain?



Tags: , ,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How far will a blog roll?

   I have just spent an inordinate amount of time editing and updating my blogroll. If anyone out there has any interest in what I'm checking out on a daily basis, look over there in the right hand sidebar, where it says 'Other Blogs,' and click on "my complete blogroll." You may be presented with a collapsed view first, and have to click on the little plus signs in order to expand the list that comes up.




Tuesday, February 12, 2008

100 movies - part SE7EN

   So, here we are again. How you all been doing? Good, good. Glad to hear it.

   Well, I intimated that I might take a while to get the next ten of my list of 100 movies I really like posted here. I was wrong. Here they are. The previous entry is
here, and it contains links to all that came before. Enjoy. And tell me what you think of these films, OK?
   Oh, about the title. I wanted to make it a movie reference of some kind, and settled on that. The movie Seven starring Brad Pitt, however, does not appear on this list. At all. Because I didn't like the way it ended.

Blood Diamond - This film is full of great performances, but Leo DiCaprio stands out above them all. His gritty character pulls us through a movie filled with disturbingly realistic portrayals of the violence that occurs every day in various places across the African continent. Matthew watched this with us, and afterwards we spent a few moments discussing it with him, as it obviously affected him strongly. I recommend you see this if you have not already. It will affect you, too.

Ocean's Eleven(2001) - The chemistry between George Clooney and Brad Pitt in this movie is top notch, and can best be summed up, in my opinion, by a couple of throw-away lines at the end of the film:
Rusty (Brad Pitt), who is waiting to pick up a tuxedo clad Danny Ocean on his way out of prison - "I hope you were the groom."
Danny (George Clooney), looking at what Rusty is wearing - "Ted Nugent called, he wants his shirt back."
This is a straight up fun movie.

Pink Floyd: The Wall - Several friends and I used to go see this movie in the theater on a regular basis. It played in a downtown Toronto theater every second weekend for years (alternate weekends they showed The Song Remains The Same). Watching this on DVD, it is impossible to duplicate the sensations of seeing it on the giant screen, with the massive sound. Also, there are certain substances that may or may not have been involved in ::ahem:: modifying the experience...

The Fugutive(1993)- The whole 'home theater' revolution was in its infancy in the early nineties, and this film was one of my first experiences being truly rocked by excellent movie sound at home. The train wreck, early in the film, is a serious test of any home theater sound system to this day. Plus, Tommy Lee Jones is teh awesome.

Oops. I just realised that The Fugitive appeared on the fourth edition of this list. I'm not sure how that happened, but now I'm going to have to figure out what one other movie I should add in this spot in place of this one. Damn, that's gonna be hard!

Saving Private Ryan - The wife and I watched the first twenty minutes or so of this movie (the taking of the beach), then had to pause it to catch our (literal and emotional) breath. It has to be one of the most intense pieces of film-making ever produced. The rest of the movie was OK, too.

Moulin Rouge - Let me quote from
my review of this movie on
I had no idea what this movie was about. When I realised it was a musical, I was concerned...
In fact, about ten minutes in, I actually apologised to my wife for renting it. We almost turned it off.
...Then a funny thing happened. I started to get interested. By the time they hit the tango version of Sting's Roxanne, I was hooked. Not only is this not a bad movie, it may be one of the best movies I've ever seen. The picture quality is excellent, with a palette of vibrant colours taken from Tolouse Lautrec posters of the time. The sound quality is also good, although there is not much in the way of surround action here. An interesting note: both Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidmann sang their own songs in this movie. One other piece of oddment: the voice of the green fairy is credited as being Ozzy Osbourne.
   It is interesting to  note that this film has not held up to repeated viewings for me. I bought the DVD because I was so knocked out the first time I watched it, but subsequent viewings have left me underwhelmed, with a been there-done that kinda feeling. Still, if you haven't seen it, I do recommend it highly, at least once.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - I hear a lot of people complaining about the "unrealistic" fight scenes in this film (and in Chinese cinema in general). Those same complainers, however, will happily spend hours in line to see the latest Superman, or Spiderman, or (insert your favourite comic book hero here) movie. In order to enjoy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and other similar Chinese films from which it draws its inspiration, it is necessary to understand that it is, in essence, a superhero movie. It is not supposed to be any more realistic than Ghost Rider. OK, maybe a bit more than that.
   In the end, what this movie really is, is a touching love story.

They Live - Here's one of those 'bad' movies I alluded to in the
first installment of this series. It stars (Rowdy) Roddy Piper, for Pete's sake. Still, every once in a while it appears on late night TV, and I almost always stay up to watch. It's so delightfully tongue-in-cheek that I can completely overlook the fact that it's bad. Signature line: "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick butt, and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Apollo Thirteen - "Houston, we have a problem." Hmm, Tom Hanks again. I think I'm detecting another trend.

Braveheart - This film has been lambasted by some for its alleged historical inaccuracy. To them I say, "grow up, it's just a frickin' movie!" If someone is stupid enough to try and point to the film as an historical reference, then fine, go to town on them. But to expect a work of fiction to attempt to be 100% historically correct is just silly. Unless, of course, you like really boring movies. Yes, it's bad history, but it's a damn fine film.

<< previous ten                    next ten >>

Before I forget...

Happy Darwin Day.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Hello, Hooray

   I'm not sure why, but I find this to be the coolest thing ever: Coop's Party.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

100 movies - part six

   If you are only just joining us, I have been following Jaquandor's lead by posting a list of 100 movies I really like, ten movies at a time. To bring you up to speed, these are not necessarily what I consider to be the best 100 movies ever, or anything like that. They're just films I like, for one reason or another. Also, I am not presenting them in any kind of order. In fact, I have taken pains to randomise the order in which they appear. I have no idea why. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
   If you want see the first five parts of this list, they can be found at the following locations:
100 movies
100 movies: part the second
100 movies: part the third
100 movies: the fourth episode
A fifth of 100 movies
   Here follows the sixth installment of the AWV list of 100 movies I really, really like. If I understand this fandangled new math, that leaves 40 movies to come, in four installments. Think I can get to them all before the end of this year?

Twelve Monkeys - As bizzare a movie as you are like to ever see. I think that's why I enjoyed it so much. A real departure for Bruce Willis, but Brad Pitt just seems so natural as a psychopath. This will leave you wondering what was real, and what was delusion, and just whose delusion was it, anyway?

The Green Mile - Here's one of those movies (or books) that Rebecca would have questioned me about. The subject matter is fantastic, but the story is excellent, and Tom Hanks sold me the whole thing with his performance. Remember willing suspension of disbelief?

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Spielberg shows Lucas how it should be done. Why, oh why could Spielberg not have directed the Star Wars prequel trilogy? It would have been soooo shiny. Oops, sorry, I'm mixing SciFi metaphors again. Harrison Ford attempts to portray the quintessential golden-age-of-cinema action hero, and in the process redefines the cliche.

Stripes - Yeah, Bill Murray. We've seen his name on this list already, haven't we? Will we again? I wouldn't bet against it.

Jurassic Park - Another subwoofer workout, and a way cool movie. Also, Sam Neill rocks.

High Plains Drifter - See how bad my memory is. I thought I needed to squeeze this one in by cheating, back when I mentioned Soylent Green, but here it is with a spot all it's own. One day I will see the ending. This I swear.

Men In Black - "I'm going for my gun." Classic. This is one of those movies I can watch over and over again. Well, not until I replace my VHS tape with a DVD, I guess.

The African Queen - OK, really this is more the classic, isn't it? An example of truly great film making. Two great bombasts go head to head, and the winner is the film fan.

The Wizard of Oz - I own this movie on video. On VHS - that's how long I've had it. I haven't watched it. Never miss it when it comes on TV, though. This is just a TV type of movie, kinda like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. See, I've done it again.

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial - I think I have mentioned before that I cannot watch this movie without crying. And I've seen it multiple dozens of times. Stupid movie.

   And that's ten! Stay tuned for ten more coming soon (employing a rather liberal definition of the word 'soon').

<< previous ten                    next ten >>

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Without Annette

   I totally ripped off that title. Check out this web page for more details. The reference is to the fact that I am winging it tonight. No test journal entry to use for editing and spell-checking. This is me, live, without a net.

  In fact, why don't I just do that - go live. I'll be adding to this entry over the course of the evening, as the muse strikes me, live and uncensored. Check back often for the latest incoherent rantings from my fevered imagination.


   I haven't been here much, lately. I mean, I've been here, you know, I just haven't been here. What I mean to say is, I've been here on these Intartube thingies. I just haven't been here on my blog. By the time I've caught up on email, read a couple dozen blogs entries, commented here and there, and checked in at a couple of message boards I keep my toe dipped into, I just seem to be out of steam, you know.
   I've got six or eight entries under construction in my test journal. There's a new group of ten of the one hundred movies I really like. I'm way behind on that. There's a new skeptical post about snow tires that I'm halfway finished. I've only got two or three more weeks before that one stops being topical. There's the album cover meme, and a post about favourite song lyrics. There's even an idea for a regular series of posts on skeptical topics that I'd like to develop. But I open the page, stare at it for a few minutes, and close it again. I can't be bothered to rouse myself enough to actually think about any of them.
   Renewed resolve to post here, where are you?

Stay tuned, I'll be back...


   Oh yeah. I also have an email saved in my inbox from several weeks ago I wanted to talk about. It's from some Christian who dropped by and made a comment on one of my entries, thinking he could show me the error of my ways... Heh.

   I know many of you are hungry for news of my wife, post surgery. To those of you who have emailed privately asking after her, and her brother, my most sincere thanks for your care and consideration. There's really not much to tell, They are both doing quite well. Frank's recovery has been remarkable. One of the ironic things (and we were warned about this in advance) is that Frank feels better than Pat does. At least, he thinks he does.
   See, he went into the surgery following months of feeling like absolute crap. He was weak and fatigued - sleeping as much as twelve to fourteen hours a day - anemic and gout ridden. Luckily the vomiting had not yet started for him, but he could not have been far off. In contrast, Pat was in excellent health. The truth of the matter is, they are probably in fairly similar condition, but Pat feels much worse than she did, and Frank feels much better. Everything is relative.

   I've got laundry to fold. Check in later for more amusing musings...or dreck, I can't tell.


   It's snowing like all get out here. ("All get out." What does that mean, anyway?) I took a picture, but in order to show it to you, I'd have to upload it to somewhere, and I'm not quite ready to fight that battle yet. This winter has been one of the most interesting ones on record, I'd have to say. We seem to go from above freezing temps, with rain and melting snow, to blizzard conditions, and back to thaw again all in one week. And then start the cycle all over again the next. If all the snow that has fallen here since November was still on the ground, it would easily be eight feet deep.

   I love those kinds of hyperbolic statements, because really, how are you gonna check? 

   This whole 'without a net' thing was a lot less tiresome before I had a glass of scotch. It seems to take forever to catch all the typos now. Oh, well, it was good scotch.

   Somehow I envisioned more parts to this post tonight. But they seem to take an awful long time to write considering the heaping helping of nothing they are saying.

   Clearly, that one scotch has affected me, if the rather scatterbrained condition of this portion of tonight's entry is any indication. It was about 112 proof, after all. Anyway - I hate people who say things like, "anyway," in their blogs, don't you? These things really shouldn't be too conversational, know what I mean? Anyway, it's getting rather late, and the longer I stay up, the more things I remember to add to my 'to-do' list for tomorrow, so I'm gonna hit the sack. Y'all have a good night, now, hear?


   Oh, yeah. Happy Birthday to me! Good night.