Monthly Archives: November 2008

Wall E is Not Walt D–Repeat

I am re-running one of my blog posts from June 30, 2008, because Disney is releasing Wall E on DVD for the Holiday Season. I can think of few films less appropriate for Christmas, the festive, joyful holiday. Here is my review of Wall E withreaders’ comments following:

One of the most important qualities Walt Disney’s movies, television programs, and theme parks imparted to me as a child, and to children everywhere, was a feeling of reassurance. I’m referring to the works of Walt Disney himself when he was alive, and of his studio the first few years after his death.

Even if the story is about things going wrong in one character’s life, it is clear that there is a larger world out there of sensible people and a system and world that makes sense, that there is something called normalcy, and the goal of the characters is to get back to normalcy or better, to improve their lives and live happily ever after.

The Banks family in Mary Poppins is at first somewhat unhappy, but there is hope and magical delight in the world outside, and there is a policeman and there are friendly neighbors who bring runaway children home. The home of (1961’s) 101 Dalmations’ owners is a happy, sane, home, and once the dalmations fight off the bad guys, they return to a state of eccentric yet happy normalcy. The world is expected to be filled with reasonable people who can get along and solve problems.

Even the satirical post-Walt movie The Barefoot Executive indicates that the larger world may be a little silly, but still okay at its core.

To a child, the sense of a system and society that is dependable and rational is extremely important to his feeling secure and optimistic, to his feeling free and motivated to learn and grow and become ambitious within that society.

The new Disney-Pixar movie Wall E is not at all in the spirit of Walt Disney’s movies. The characters of Wall E, Eve and The Captain are Disney-esque and very charming and funny. But the universe they inhabit is the opposite of Walt’s universe.

We are expected to believe and accept that in the future human beings (A) allowed a corporate monopoly to replace the U.S. Constitution (and all other governments) and become a dictator and (B) that no one noticed a problem with garbage disposal until it got so bad, the entire species had to leave the planet. In this dystopian vision of the future, the technology to build extraordinary robots and a spaceship that holds and takes care of the needs of the entire human population exists, but not the technology to get rid of garbage and plant trees or grass. Human beings are intelligent yet immensely moronic simultaneously.

Above all, the problem with this film and the fact that busy parents, or their child care providers, will one day buy the DVD and play it over and over for their children without watching it is the message that the universe makes no sense and the future is dark and adults are incapable of dealing with their problems until long past catastrophe. This is not a reassuring message to children who love life and can’t wait to grow up and flourish. It is harmful.

As my 5-year-old son said, “That’s a Garbage Planet. That’s not Earth. Why are they calling it Earth?” He understands that Earth makes sense. People are rational beings.

I explained it’s a make-believe silly story about Earth in the future where, as my wife said, “people become stupid” and can’t get rid of garbage. I reassured him and his sister that it’s ridiculous and that this is not going to happen in real life.

I received the following comment from Artifex:

Exactly right! For all the visual beauty and charm of Wall-E, the world we’re presented with is complete nonsense. BnL can build a massive spaceship with seemingly inexhaustible energy supply, human level artificial intelligence, what must be near-total recycling of resources (although strangely enough they seem to be ejecting a lot of trash into space – where does all that matter come from?), and the ability to hyperjump into another galaxy (!) in a matter of seconds but they can’t figure out trash disposal? Why doesn’t earth-that-was just fill the Axiom with garbage and hyperjump THAT into another galaxy? Why don’t they use the same recycling technology that must be present on the Axiom to solve the same problems on earth? Completely insane. It’s a shame – I really wanted to love this one.

I received the following comment from Mike:

Great post.

Saw your comment at the Think Progress site; your words were a voice of reason amongst so much vitriol, those words of hate that seem to be only language of left-leaning websites.

(wouldn’t consider myself to be a right-winger, but I sure don’t want to be classified with those who are haters of traditional values)

I’m so glad there are folks such as yourself who teach their children to think for themselves. Not having children myself, it makes me feel better about the future of this country.

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Thanks to TCM for Glimpses of True American Spirit

The cable channel Turner Classic Movies often provides a better glimpse of American history than the History Channel, because it shows the spirit, or sense of life, of America in the past. This is an elevated, inspired, courageous, innocent, moral spirit that lives on in the hearts of many Americans who were fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by it. It is a spirit that lives on today in the families and communities in America that aren’t interested in the hopeless-violent-crude-hostile-negative-gossipy-nihilistic culture presented by much of the arts and entertainment media today.On Veterans Day, through the night, TCM showed films I would not allow myself to stop watching, though I had not intended to see them. My feeling about my life and how I interact with people days later are still elevated by the glow of these films.

They were movies released during World War II: “Hollywood Canteen” and “Stage Door Canteen.”

They were made in 1943 and 1944, about real places in NYC and Hollywood at the time. The canteens were nightclubs where stars served food to thousands of soldiers on leave, and performed for them, for free, while civilian women volunteered to keep the men company for the evening. Everything about these films are so different from today. There are speeches that burst forth as if unwritten, from characters or stars playing themselves, about the meaning of the war, and why we must win, to preserve our freedom and specifically the pursuit of individual happiness. No altruism at all.

In “Stage Door Canteen,” the volunteer hostesses encourage the boys to be happy and to enjoy the women’s company, and berate a woman who doesn’t behave warmly to a man. Obviously it’s about soldiers so they get extra consideration, but the culture was so far removed from the fundamental hostility toward men, the presumption of evil or harmfulness in men, that I witnessed suffusing college campuses and large cities in the radical feminist-influenced late 1970s and early 1980s. This attitude still influences parts of the culture today.

It felt revolutionary to me to see these 1940s films where women respect and encourage men so directly, and women are also respected and adored. This is shown more vividly in these two movies than perhaps in any other film or TV show I’ve seen, even from that period. It’s so rare to see this fundamental respect so explicitly portrayed, rather than merely implied while part of another story. Maybe it’s because the characters seemed much more real to me than usual. These films expressed my sense of life, my sense of how people should act (even when it’s not wartime). Perhaps they seem especially real to me because I saw a bit of this positive ideal in the culture during my childhood in the early 1960s.

These films make the canteens come alive, and show the reality of them, by exquisitely choosing the best moments. I wonder if any of the incidents are based on actual ones.

If you want a happy sign in 2008 that marks the end of the feminists’ pitting of women against men, and marks the end of the hippies’ egalitarian removal of commitment, masculinity and femininity, and passionate romance, from relationships: It’s the joyful musical film for kids, “High School Musical 3.” It is has a non-cynical, innocent point of view, with worshipful adoration shown by boys and girls toward the ones they love, and pleasant flirtation all around. The songs and dances are about joy and energy and optimism and looking toward a great future.

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More Political Thoughts

Now that thereis no single leader of the Republican Party, and a clearly socialistic leader of the Democratic Party (and of the United States), I see evidence (on C-span, anyway) that the thinkers on the Right and the better Republicans (mainly in the House) are finally feeling free, with the inconsistent,concessionary McCain out of the way, to fight hard against the socialist/pacifist Democrats and the big-spending,bailout-supporting,me-too Republicans. They are energized. I think real intellectual debate could finally break out of the meaningless generalities and rally-the-crowd sound-biteswe’ve witnessed during the campaign season.

Of course, the good news about Obama is that he will probably save stem-cell research and keep America pro-choice, will keep the borders open to all (hopefully excepting known terrorists) who wish to come, “wretched refuse” or not, and won’t appoint religious conservatives to the Supreme Court. But the bad news is everything else he may support, fromrestrictions onoil-drilling, to endless government spending, to paying off rather than destroying foreign enemies, to endless regulations on business and industry, to socialized medicine.

There is little hope of the Democratic Party becoming pro-laissez faire, so thebetter choice is to encourage the GOP to reinvent itself as such, and toreduce the influence of the religionists in the Republican party, now that the party has sunk to the bottom. Unfortunately, too many on the right still are religious pro-life types,whereas the reduction of the religious-right influenceis not only more rational, but it is an important way to win back those who have deserted the GOP. My guess is that we won’t turn the nation or the partyinto atheists any time soon, but we can reduce the influence of the religionists in the GOP by emphasizing the principles of liberty, individual effort, private property,and self-defense.

Moving forward, I think it’s important to remember to pursue happiness. Defend your rightsand property as needed,and then enjoy the unlimited opportunities still presentin the United States forintellectual growth,productivity, learning, adventure, self-expression, building relationships, pursuing goals, and experiencing the arts and things of beauty.

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Two Topics: The U.S. Elections and The Merging of Man and Machine

Onthe November 2, 2008  “60 Minutes” TV program, Scott Pelley will report on one of the most amazing and importantleaps in technology ever achieved by Man. I predict that this discovery will be the stepping stone to never-before-imagined possibilities inhuman activity during the coming century.

As a CBS promotional message sums it up: “People who are completely paralyzed due to illness or trauma …are getting help communicating with a remarkable new technology that connects their brains to a computer. In the future, brain computer interface, or BCI, may even restore movement to paralyzed people and allow amputees to move bionic limbs.”

Now, on to a lessinspiring topic: The U.S. Elections.Obviously, for someone like mewho seeks a moral, individual-rights-based, laissez-faire capitalist society where no one’s income is takenfrom him against his will, where no one is forced to financially support projects he does not choose to support onhis own, where businesses, investors and banks are free tosucceed or fail without government regulations and without governmentbailouts that steal from taxpayers (andalso reduce the buying power of each dollar by inflating themoney supply via deficit spending)—and for someone who seeks a government with a consistent foreign policy of pure self-defense, where no American soldier is sacrificed needlessly and no mercy is shown to our enemies — and for someone who seeks separation of church and state — and open borders to immigrants — there is no acceptable candidate for President.

Even if you simply seek a candidate who consistentlyspeaks in depthof actual ideas rather than one-liners, who speaks from actual knowledge of history rather than pre-determined slogans, who acts like a human being rather than a marionette, you are out of luck. Of course there are brief exceptions here and there where the two candidates show a glimmer of actual thought, but nothing measurable.

The way the candidates act like robots,perhaps they arecurrent examples of the merging of Man and Machine.

Here’s what I plan to do on Election Day.

I think that even if you don’t want to vote for President, it’s important to vote for good candidates for the House and Senate. Good candidates are (approximately) the non-theocratic, non-socialistic and non-pacifistic ones. In other words, the ones that are generally pro-capitalism, pro-freedom, anti-taxation, anti-spending, anti-regulations, anti-bailouts, pro-defense and pro-choice, who primarily follow reason and not a mystical or religious guide. Few are going to fit all of these criteria, but some will fit most of them.

Many of the anti-bailout House Republicans, for example, should be rewarded for their fight against nationalizing the banks, withyourvote. (But don’t vote for any Huckabee types.)

Also, since thepacifist-socialist-altruist-leaningObama appears to be headed for the Presidency, voting forany relatively secular, pro-capitalist and hawkish Republicans you can find for the House and Senate is a good idea, in order to fight Obama and at least create gridlock. But don’t votein any more theocratic Republicans. Basically, look for pro-choice Republicans, or those who are not primarily known for religious-right views. In New Jersey, I will vote for Zimmer for Senate, a pro-choice Republican who has beenpraised for his anti-tax record, and Lance for Congress, another pro-choice Republican.

In New Jersey, I will vote for Zimmer for Senate, a pro-choice Republican who has beenpraised for his anti-tax record, and Lance for Congress, another pro-choice Republican.If (pragmatist-socialist-altruist) McCain wins, there is automatically gridlock, as he will be fighting the majority-Democratic Congress. But since McCain is expected to lose, the best hope for gridlock is voting for the better Republicans for House and Senate seats. Gridlock is good because usually, the less the government accomplishes, and the fewer bills that become law, the better for all of us.

Finally, if Obama seems headedto win in a landslide, it may be worth voting for McCain just to avoid an Obama “mandate” by reducing the margin of Obama’s victory.

To sum up, both candidates for President are unacceptable. For Congress, the religious-right Republicans, and big-spending altruist Republicansare unacceptable. The pacifist-socialist-altruist, tax-and-spend Democrats are also unacceptable.

But it’s important to vote for any secular, anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-bailout hawkish Republicans for the House and Senate, if you have any in your district. There is a chance theywill fightwhoever isPresident and the rest of Congress, and at least create gridlock, which is a relatively good thing.

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