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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Race Relations

Following the Obama presidential election victory, newspaper nitwits and news channel "pundits" jumped to ask the ridiculously stupid question, "Is racism dead?"... As if white America had been waiting for the right opportunity to heave a collective sigh of relief. Well, it isn't. Duh.

But it might be time for a less timid discussion of race. It might be time to stop turning the easy targets from Jimmy Snyder to Don Imus into sacrificial lambs to appease our guilt about the history of racism and engage in the subject with genuine interest and openness. Overtly racist curiosities like this are an undeniable component of our cultural blooper reel of history. But that's a far cry from someone losing their job because they said that African Americans were genetically gifted athletes. I don't think anyone benefits from overreactions like that.

My new favorite jerk, Steve Sailer, has written extensively on race in America. He writes for publications like the National Post and is a confessed conservative. But he writes better than Stave It Off whipping boy George Will and comes off like less of an ass. He's the sort of guy that walks a thin line. Before Obama was elected, I think I would have found his work more objectionable. Since there are plenty of racist pricks blogging their unreadable hatespeech, I immediately write off anyone that suggests America needs to limit immigration. Interestingly, I found myself willing to keep reading this time. I guess I was more willing to give him a chance (because I feel less defensive these days?)... and found that he had some interesting things to say.

If you're shopping for a new conservative know-it-all to bash, I encourage readers to engage his works in these three easy pieces: an article about how racial diversity might make for superior breeding, a straw-man assault on the naive critics of miscegenation, and finally an interesting article on who is really hurt by interracial coupling.

I was expecting to find his articles slanted and pathetic, but instead found myself fascinated at how objective he was about things. He's like one of those pesky libertarians who I half agree with and find it difficult to argue against. It's evident that he isn't willing to go post-modern on how he perceives some social constructs like gender roles, but he still comes to some pretty interesting conclusions... some of which might surprise you.

PS For an interesting overview of Sailer's definition of race, check out this article.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

What Started as a Simple Movie Review

I have now seen Watchmen four times. Never before in my life have I seen a movie four times in the theater. Under the right conditions, I would even see it again. During the latest viewing, I picked up a few details that I had previously missed... some subtle inside jokes happening in the background or a nuance to a portrayal. But I didn't really see it in the hopes of noticing more... I saw it in the hopes that it would still impact me emotionally. And sure enough, even though I know every line of dialogue and every stunt and every cheesy comic book pose that the characters strike, I still cry every time.

I am somewhat stunned by that. It seems out of character for me. I don't really have a list of favorite tearjerker movies. So I sat down and tried to think of what other movies have hooked me emotionally time after time. There's really only one. And I'm not proud of it. It isn't exactly a good movie; it just speaks to me.

The film is called Powder. It was released when I was about 18 years old. It's a tragic fantasy tale revolving around a young man with a strange kinship to electricity. He is ash white and completely bald (he's the embodiment of electrolysis.) His "powers" are that he can manipulate magnetic fields and the electricity running through power lines. Incredibly sensitive and intelligent, he feels like an alien in our modern brutal society. It ends in bittersweet tragedy.


This is Powder


When I realized that Powder was the only other movie I had seen more than three times that still brings out tears, I was startled. There is a marked similarity between Powder's main character and the character in Watchmen that I feel the most emotional resonance with: Dr. Manhattan.



This is Dr. Manhattan


Both are completely bald. Both exude a kind of post-human quality, with the twin traits of extreme mental prowess and electrical/magnetic manipulation (though Manhattan's powers are of an atomic nature and near godlike in their capacity.) Both are baffled by the human drive toward cruelty, violence and chaos. Both ultimately choose to leave this world behind in a self-sacrificing but redeeming gesture. I suppose they could be considered aloof Christ figures. (If Jesus had been more intellectually detached and bald as a naked molerat, maybe I'd be a Christian!)

I don't know what this means exactly, but it strikes me as a significant insight into my own personal mythology. Whatever these characters represent must be profound for me at some level, conscious or subconscious. And what if I told you that one of my other favorite comic book heros was this guy?!

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