I judge the superhero movies

Well, to celebrate our anniversary and to catch up with our fast-disappearing summer, my wife and I constructed a “double feature” (anyone remember those?) by seeing BOTH Spiderman and Batman:  The Dark Knight Rises on a single Saturday, with a late lunch in between.   We had a good time despite the Batman movie.

The Dark Knight Rises is pretentious, ponderous, ludicrous, and lugubrious.  It makes me miss what I thought I was tired of–namely, irony.  The movie was so serious, so full of itself, even while its main characters were putting on silly costumes.  A super-hero movie can be philosophical or angst-ridden, but it needs to have at least some element of fun.

As the Spiderman movie shows.   (Normally, one waits several weeks or months between superhero movies, so seeing them side-by-side makes the comparisons stand out.)  The best part of that movie was the part I didn’t expect to like, yet another version of the origin story.  But this time the origin made much more sense even than in the comic book (I write and criticize as a fan), picking up on the motif of interspecies genetic engineering.  What the movie did especially well was in showing high school nerd Peter Parker gradually learning about his new superpowers.  What science fiction and fantasy can do at their best is give us a sense of wonder.  Juxtaposing the spidey powers (super strength, agility, ability to climb and hang upside down and swing on webs, sticky hands and feet) with the ordinary routines of school and family life was an effective way to stimulate the imagination.  Later we get to the obligatory and conventional friend-turned-monster, but that’s all right, given the genre.

So what about any political themes in the Batman movie, as we discussed on this blog?  It does pick up on the Occupy Wallstreet threat of an uprising against the wealthy and privileged, such as millionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne living in stately Wayne Manor (to use the comic book language).  And it comes out decisively against the mob.  (The best scene was the sight of thousands of police officers coming out of the ground to restore social order.)  So the movie managed to be pro-rich, while still blaming the wealthy for  economic and social disintegration.  It presents the point of view of the wealthy-but-guilt-ridden-over-their-wealth.  That is, the new base of the Democratic party.

(That’s not why I disliked the movie.  That’s a perfectly defensible position and appropriate in many cases.  I disliked the movie for the reasons given in the second paragraph.)

Olympics post-mortem

The Olympics are over.  The United States took the most medals (104), including the most golds (46).  China came in second, with 87, 38 being golds.  The television ratings were huge.  I resisted at first, but every time I would surf by, I would be drawn in.  What were the high points?  What were the low points?  Any other observations about the games and their significance?

Romney picks Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan to be his vice-presidential running-mate.  Ryan is known for his deficit-slashing budget proposal and his fiscal conservatism.

Does this help Romney?  Will it rally conservatives behind him or just alarm the general public worried about Social Security reform?

iPhone App: Romney Selects Paul Ryan | The Weekly Standard.

Obama is winning

Bad news for Republican in the electoral college:

*** Romney leads in CO, but Obama’s ahead in VA and WI: Last week, President Obama campaigned in Florida and Ohio — just as new Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS polls showed him leading (and above 50%) in those two states. But today, as he begins a two-day swing through Colorado, the same polling outfit shows him trailing Romney among likely by five points in the state, 50%-45%. That said, new Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS surveys also show Obama leading in Virginia (49%-45%) and Wisconsin (51%-45%). So out of the six battleground states that Quinnipiac has polled in the past two weeks — Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin — Obama leads in five of them. And speaking of polls, a new national Washington Post/ABC survey finds that Romney’s fav/unfav is still underwater at 40%-49% versus Obama’s 53%-43%. In fact, ABC adds that Romney “is laboring under the lowest personal popularity ratings for a presumptive presidential nominee in midsummer election-year polls back to 1984.”

via First Thoughts: The final three – First Read.

I don’t know about that last point.  I know lots of people who would give Romney an unfavorable rating while still voting for him.  Still, I thought it was the economy, stupid!  Why, despite everything, is Obama still doing so well?

The early church on abortion

Charles Pope, a Roman Catholic priest in Washington, D.C., is compiling a list of quotations from the early church on abortion, which is not a modern invention but was extremely common during the Roman Empire.  Some samples:

The Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) ca 110 AD. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion. (2:2)…The Way of Death is filled with people who are…murderers of children and abortionists of God’s creatures. (5:1-2)

Letter of Barnabas, circa 125: You shall not kill either the fetus by abortion or the new born

Athenagoras the Athenian (To Marcus Aurelius), ca 150 AD: “We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion…, [For we] regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care… (# 35).

Clement of Alexandria: (circa 150 – 215 AD) Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, if order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time their own human feelings. Paedagogus, 2

Tertullian circa 160-240 AD: For us, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed. Apology 9:6 . . . .

Minucius Felix (180 – 225 AD): Some women take medicines to destroy the germ of future life in their own bodies. They commit infanticide before they have given birth to the infant (Octavious (30, 2))

St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD): The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. With us there is no nice enquiry as to its being formed or unformed. In this case it is not only the being about to be born who is vindicated, but the woman in her attack upon herself; because in most cases women who make such attempts die. The destruction of the embryo is an additional crime, a second murder, at all events if we regard it as done with intent. The punishment, however, of these women should not be for life, but for the term of ten years. And let their treatment depend not on mere lapse of time, but on the character of their repentance. Letter 188:2

St. Ambrose: (339 to 397 AD) The poor expose their children, the rich kill the fruit of their own bodies in the womb, lest their property be divided up, and they destroy their own children in the womb with murderous poisons. and before life has been passed on, it is annihilated. Hexaemeron”, (5, 18, 58)

via Ancient Testimonies Against Abortion | Archdiocese of Washington.

There are more, and the church fathers are in complete agreement about this.

 

UPDATE:  There is a whole book on this subject that I’ve read years ago and can heartily recommend: Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World by Michael Gorman.

HT:  Matthew Cantirino

“Liking” as free speech

Well, the consensus as to my query about whether you would like a “like” feature in the comments seemed to be “dislike” and “thumbs down.”  (That’s what we need:  a voting plug-in so we can do polls and surveys!   I am curious about someone’s reference to a larger range of responses that someone has put together.  And maybe something to help people keep track of threads and responses.  We’ll look into some possibilities and maybe try some, letting you voice your opinion after the fact to see if you “like” a feature or not.)

I know for a fact, though, that some of you “dislike” some of the comments, enough to contact me offline about them.  Which means that it is probably time for another of my exhortations:  Don’t hijack topics!  Don’t resort to insults or name-calling!  Don’t be vicious!  And, for heaven’s sake, at some point, just let it rest.  You don’t need to have the last word.  I mean, what more can be said after 200 comments on William Tell, though notice that after 100 or so comments , we typically have drifted far away from the topic of William Tell or whatever it is.

But, in honor of the original topic, I offer this, showing the power and the vast constitutional implications of just hitting a “like” button:

Daniel Ray Carter Jr. logged on to Facebook and did what millions do each day: He “liked” a page by clicking the site’s thumbs up icon. The problem was that the page was for a candidate who was challenging his boss, the sheriff of Hampton, Va.

That simple mouse click, Carter says, caused the sheriff to fire him from his job as a deputy and put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate over the ubiquitous digital seal of approval: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?

Carter filed a lawsuit claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated, and his case has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. This week, Facebook and the ACLU filed briefs supporting what they say is Carter’s constitutional right to express his opinion, signaling the case’s potentially precedent-setting nature.

The interest was sparked by a lower court’s ruling that “liking” a page does not warrant protection because it does not involve “actual statements.” If the ruling is upheld, the ACLU and others worry, a host of Web-based, mouse-click actions, such as re-tweeting (hitting a button to post someone else’s tweet on your Twitter account), won’t be protected as free speech.

via A Facebook court battle: Is ‘liking’ something protected free speech? – The Washington Post.

Do you think hitting a “like” button should count as free speech?  And while free speech means that the government must not punish people for expressing what they think, does free speech mean that individual citizens have to tolerate whatever someone says or symbolizes and that their bosses shouldn’t be allowed to fire them for it?


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