One Year On

I don’t talk politics very much because it depresses me. Besides which, my own political ideas are pretty fringe at the moment and I’m not seeing anything good coming in the next few years. I typically vote Republican because the Democratic Party is absurdly evil (they literally have ‘kill babies’ as a major part of their platform), though I don’t like the Republicans that much and think they’re generally a lot of spineless cowards with little to no actual convictions and couldn’t lead a horse to a salt lick. The two political parties are like having a choice between Neville Chamberlain and Mao Zedong.

Nor do I like Trump. I think he’s a repulsive human being and an embarrassing leader. The really sad thing, though, is that I don’t see many politicians on the field I think would be much better (though one of them is actually Mike Pence, so if Trump gets impeached I think it’d be a trade up). Although I will say that I generally find the reactions people have to have to him to be much more alarming than anything he’s actually done, but that’s another story.

All that said, I was pretty sure he was going to win.

A few things made me think that. First of all was when I saw that Michigan was actually in play. The last time Michigan went blue was to vote for the first Bush, so when I realized Trump might actually win Michigan, I knew Hillary was in trouble. That’s actually why I decided at the last minute to cast my vote his way: I had been planning to vote third party, but realizing that it actually might make a difference, I gritted my teeth and signed for Trump.

Second was the mere fact that Hillary was going out of her way to alienate most of the country. Open borders, racist rhetoric about white people, doubling down on hatred of Christians and so on. You can only directly insult people for so long before they turn on you.

Then, of course, there was the whole ‘she broke the law’ thing. The more I heard people talking about it, the more that one song from ‘Hamilton’ was playing in my head: “Never gonna be President now.”

So, yeah, I knew Trump had a good chance of winning, and I was chuckling all the way as he did. Schadenfreude may be a sin, but I’m willing to indulge in it anyway. Again, going back to the ‘you can’t keep insulting people and expect them to be nice to you’ thing.

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RIP Jerry Lewis

One of the last of the great entertainers of his generation, Mr. Jerry Lewis has gone to his reward.

I confess, I’m not the best person to expound on Mr. Lewis’s career, as I haven’t seen many of his films, but of course, everyone knows his name, and that of his illustrious long-time partner, Mr. Dean Martin, with whom he was one of the top box-office draws for more than half a decade, before they unfortunately had a falling out and split as a team. Lewis himself remained a major box office draw in his own right, with films like The Nutty Professor, The Bellhop, and The Disorderly Orderly.

Like many comedians, Mr. Lewis was a consummate  professional and a very intelligent, hard-working man, in stark contrast to his nasally, child-like onscreen persona. In addition to his comedy work in films, stage, radio, and television, he was a life-long advocate for sufferers of muscular dystrophy disease, particularly children.

His appearance as a panelist on What’s My Line showed both his comedic skills and his sincere charity work:

 

Meanwhile, this rather harsh interview with him toward the end of his life, in which he bluntly refused to play along with the trite, canned questions of his interviewer shows that he maintained by his sharp mind and independent spirit up until the end.

Mr. Lewis spent his life making millions of people smile, and dedicated years of his time to helping those in need, and there are far worse legacies a man can leave behind.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

The Land Before Time and the Proper Approach to Prejudice

Over the weekend I posted my first video review, of The Land Before Time. I discovered how time-consuming such things are to make, and so I wasn’t able to address everything I wanted to. In particular, I glanced over the film’s approach to prejudice, partly because it’s actually kind of a minor theme compared to its dealings of faith and love (Cera’s the only character who evinces any real bigotry), and partly because it’s not a subject that really interests me that much. Everyone and their dog talks about the evils of prejudice these days; that and global warming constituted the main bulk of my public school education. It’s gotten to the point where I think it actually does more harm than good: people are so sick of being lectured about the evils of racism that they actually start to wonder whether the racists have a point. At least, that’s my experience.

(And for  the record, no, the racists don’t have a point. In the first place, a cursory knowledge of history shows that virtue and excellence are to be found in every race under Heaven. In the second, the Christian faith is clear both in Scripture and Tradition that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are the children of one God, made in His image and likeness. And finally, any differences in accomplishment observable between the children of Europe and the rest of the world are explicable culturally and vanish to the extent that that culture is expanded. That Christendom was long limited to Europe and hence to ‘white people’ is a historical accident brought about by the Muslim conquests).

Anyway, I oppose racism, but I also oppose our chosen method of combating it, which is to view everything through the lens of race and insist that some races are naturally racist and need to own that fact, which will somehow lead to racial harmony. In other words, we fight racism with racism. Call me crazy, but I always thought that would backfire.

(By the way, if whites are ‘born racist’ wouldn’t that, by LGBT logic, mean that racism is okay? I mean, if they can’t help the way they feel, that means there’s nothing morally wrong with it, right?)

What I would propose instead is something more like what’s shown in The Land Before Time, and was a popular notion before critical race theory became the order of the day. Cera’s an unrepentant bigot for most of the film. Littlefoot responds by trying to make friends with her. He doesn’t demand she change before he’ll have anything to do with her; he just tries to be as nice to her as he can, partly because that’s just the kind of person he is, and partly because he recognizes they’re in the same boat together. Even when she’s being a complete jerk, he still shows her kindness, as when she refuses the food they’ve gathered in favor of trying to get her own, and he just tosses her down some anyway.

I’ve always been of the opinion that prejudice and bigotry ought to be met with good-will and, well, tolerance. People don’t change their convictions overnight, and they’re not likely to change if you just arbitrarily demand they do so while constantly insulting them. Instead, it’s best to prove them wrong by your own actions. What changes Cera in the end is the fact that her friends do show her great kindness despite her bad attitude. She sees for herself that she was wrong because her friends have proven her wrong; that they’ll be there for her when she needs them, even if she won’t be there for them.

The point is that you can’t just demand someone change: you have to give them a reason to. Constantly telling someone he’s a horrible person who can never change is unlikely to inspire him to reform.

RIP Haruo Nakajima

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I’ve just learned that Haruo Nakajima, the stuntman and actor who originated the role of Godzilla himself, has passed away at the age of 88 of pneumonia. Now all the major players of that greatest of monster films are gone, with the sole exception of Akira Takarada.

Mr. Nakajima was a stuntman and bit player at Toho studios (he played one of the bandits in Seven Samurai) when he was picked to play the monster in Tomoyuki Tanaka’s massive gamble Godzilla. Since they pretty much had to invent the different special effects techniques as they were making the film, the suit they designed was notoriously difficult to work with. Mr. Nakajima suffered terribly for the role, enduring temperatures up to 140 degrees and often leaving a whole cup of sweat behind him. The suit weighed over 200 pounds and included numerous bits of machinery to operate the mouth and tail. Though a trained athlete and a powerful man, Mr. Nakajima fainted more than once during the shoot.

Yet he returned for twelve films, finally retiring from the role after Godzilla vs. Gigan. In the process, he helped give Godzilla the distinctive personality that made him such a memorable figure on screen. Mr. Nakajima was known as a very good humored, playful man, and that side of him sometimes came across through the mountains of coarse latex. Those who remember Godzilla clapping his hands in mockery of King Kong, or leaping with excitement after sending King Ghidorah packing will see Mr. Nakajima’s personality shining through. At the same time, he could lend remarkable dignity and poignancy to Godzilla’s movements, as seen in the underwater confrontation at the end of the first film, or his interactions with Minya in Son of Godzilla.

Few may know his face or name, but Mr. Nakajima helped create one of the great figures of cinema, and for that he will always be remembered.

Rest in peace, sir, and many thanks.

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RIP Adam West

More sad news: Adam West, forever immortalized in the infamously cheesy 1960s Batman show, has passed away at the age of 88 after a brief battle with Leukemia.

Mr. West was one of those actors (like Bela Lugosi) whose career was made and destroyed by a single role. He never recovered from being the Caped Crusader, especially after changing tastes caused the show itself to become infamous. At first, West descended into self-destructive depression over this fact, but later came to embrace his unique claim to fame and relished his position in the Batman legend.

Whatever you think of the show, Mr. West deserves credit for being the Batman for a whole generation. This, after all, is part of the Batman mythos as well, and even if it’s one that many fans might prefer to forget, it introduced one of the seminal characters of American comics to a whole new audience, including some of the writers and artists who did some of the best work with the character.

Happily, this very point was made in possibly Mr. West’s best post-Batman role: on Batman: The Animated Series. In the episode “The Gray Ghost Strikes,” West plays an actor made famous for playing a superhero on an old TV show, but whose career was subsequently destroyed by typecasting, and who now questions whether his life had any impact.

Adam West does some very impressive voice work as a man dealing with many of the same problems that he faced in his own life, and whose receives a truly touching vindication in discovering that he has had a positive impact, all the more so because the episode is so clearly sending that same message to Adam West himself. It’s Paul Dini and the other makers of what many regard as the very best iteration of Batman thanking the man who headed what is widely considered one of the worst for introducing them to the character they love.

By this point, I think it’s safe to say that Mr. West transcended his typecasting to become, if not a respected actor, a respected figure in the Batman fandom. Whatever you think of the 1960s show, Adam West undoubtedly inspired a generation of both fans and artists, which is something I think any actor can be proud of. May he rest in peace.

RIP Don Rickles

I really enjoy show business people. Not celebrity gossip, but the working actors, actresses, and comedians for whom entertaining is simply their job; a hard job, but a job worth doing. That’s one reason I loved The Dick Van Dyke Show so much, because it was all about that side of things; not glitz and glamor, but the working-people who happen to have entertaining as their career.

One of the many guest stars on the show was a young Don Rickles, the king of the insult. Mr. Rickles seems to have been exactly that kind of man in real life; a hard-working comic who earned his stripes in the cut-throat world of show business, carved a niche for himself, and cheerfully paid his dues through sixty years of quality work, until he finally went to his reward earlier today.

Mr. Rickles was the master of the insult; a skill he developed as a stand-up comic working bars and clubs with often rowdy clientele. From there he progressed to roasting major celebrities, including the notoriously unpredictable Frank Sinatra. No one but Mr. Rickles could get away with mocking Sinatra, but somehow, when he insulted you it was funny rather than offensive. He would say the most outrageous things; but always with an undercurrent of affection. As he himself put it, “If I were to insult people and mean it, it wouldn’t be funny.”

Mr. Rickles attributed this quality to his personality; it was because he was who he was that he could do such outrageous things and get away with it. Somehow, the warmth of the man shone through his insults. He was, by all accounts, a very kind man in real life, married to the same woman his whole life, and a close friend of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Lucille Ball, and mild-mannered fellow comedian Bob Newhart.

Modern audiences were privileged to be introduced to him through his performance as Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies, ensuring that his name and work will remain in the public eye. His was a unique talent, the likes of which will probably never be seen again. May he rest in peace.

Where We Go From Here: The Reconquest of America.

If I have learned anything during this election cycle, it’s not to make any predictions involving Donald Trump. So I’m going to say that I don’t know what he plans to do, or what kind of President he’s going to make. Only thing I can say for sure is that we’re probably in for an interesting time.

Meanwhile, conservatives need to seize the moment. The Left has received a major upset; we need to follow up on that. We might not get another chance.

Politics is downstream of culture. The government responds to the people, and the people act on ideas. If the ideas are bad or false, then the result is bad politicians pushing bad policies. If they ideas are true and good, the result is good politicians pushing good policies. Culture might be defined as the general field of ideas that are popular among a given people.

Every culture is a mix of good and bad, true and false ideas. Just which ones are which is very difficult to determine from inside the culture, though in ours we can form a pretty good notion of the bad ones based on the state of our civilization: the ones that go under the names of Multiculturalism, Diversity, Sexual Liberation, Feminism, Political Correctness and so on. These ideas form a large part of the culture of modern America, and they are, objectively, really terrible ideas.

The thing is, nothing Donald Trump could do as President would eradicate these poisonous ideas. His victory is a setback for them and the larger worldview known as Liberalism that embraces them, but only a setback. They still dominate the news media, the entertainment industry, the schools, and much of the political landscape. They reign supreme in almost every major city, and they are in the atmosphere throughout the country.

Now, no matter what happens in the next four years, the culture will remain steeped in Liberal ideas unless we the people do something about it. Yes, the direction of government has to change, and hopefully will, but that would only be a temporary, ultimately futile solution if the culture does not change even more drastically. This election has given us breathing space and momentum, but it’s up to us to take advantage of it.

Another thing it has done is to show us the weakness of our enemy. Trump had almost every news media outlet, all of academia, the entertainment industry, and the political establishment against him…yet he still won. They threw everything they had against him and it still wasn’t enough to stop him.

This supports something I have long suspected; that the Left, for all its formidable arsenal, is a paper tiger. Its primary weapon is emotional blackmail: “support this or you are a bigot.” The power it has is largely the power that we give it. Take that away and it crumbles.

So what do we do now? Here’s a summary of a few suggestions.

First we need to recognize that it is up to us, the people, to make the real change and take back the culture: no politician can or will do it for us (least of all Donald Trump, who is the last person in the world to overturn the central problem of our culture, which is the sexual revolution, but that’s a topic in itself), and no law will ultimately matter unless we do.

We also need to recognize that we can do it; we have seen the consequences of Liberal ideas and know that they don’t work. Reality is on our side and we have nothing to fear from open debate. Their ideas have had power for a relatively short time; perhaps a century or so at best, while our ideas are ancient and proven by experience. Their ideas are temporary fashions: ours are eternal truths. Besides which, if the other side can enact such sweeping societal change as they have over the past few decades, there is no reason why we can’t push it back: they have shown that what is unimaginable one year can become a basic assumption in the next. There’s nothing they can destroy that we can’t rebuild.

To believe that we can, and that we ought, is the first step to doing.

Next we need to start making out case publicly. We should stand up and celebrate Western Civilization, Masculinity, the Family, Religion, and so on. When someone denigrates these things, we should hit back at once, attacking their position both with reason and mockery. This is an important point: ideas are born from emotional responses as much as intellectual ones. Dissecting the illogic of Liberal positions won’t be enough; we need to make their ideas feel as ridiculous and wrong and immoral as we know them to be. Both reason and mockery are necessary for social change.

We need to reduce our concern for the feelings of others. I know how bad that sounds, but again, emotional blackmail is the Left’s greatest weapon: we won’t win unless we neutralize it. Their standard refrain has been, “if you don’t agree with this, you’re a racist or a sexist or homophobic or just a bigot.” Our answer to such accusations should be, “Call it what you like; it’s the truth.” If people get angry or hate us for it, so be it: we don’t have the luxury of caring anymore.

We ought to become more active in pushing our views. Mostly I find Conservatives are far less willing to proselytize than Liberals, and that needs to change. With the world as it is, people are more likely to be receptive to what we have to say than they have been in the past and we ought to be making a concentrated effort to persuade people of our ideas.

Those who are able to should create works of fiction, music, art, or even advertisements that reflect a conservative worldview. ‘Pop culture’ is far more powerful than it is usually given credit for in terms of inculcating ideas and emotional reactions in people, and we need to start taking advantage of that. The entertainment industry is overwhelmingly Liberal, but it is also going through a transition: the internet has opened the world of entertainment to anyone who is willing to put in the work and the old gatekeepers in publishing, music, and the film world are less and less powerful. We must seize this opportunity to establish a foothold on the field of entertainment.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to stop sending our children to be educated by the Left. We raise our children to be moral, sensible, upright citizens, then we send them to universities controlled by the most radical Liberals in the country, where they spend four years being indoctrinated and pressured into accepting Leftist ideas and then we wonder why they defect to the other side (yet another reason to avoid college altogether if you can). Since at least the sixties, American universities have largely been the enemies of American ideas and it’s long past time we realize that.

We should be thoroughly vetting every school our children attend, up to and including college. If we find a school functioning as a reeducation facility for the Left, we need to avoid it like the plague. If our children are already attending one, we should pull them out as soon as possible and either send them to a different school or teach them at home. I realize this won’t be practical for many, perhaps most people. If it isn’t, then we at least need to monitor what the school is trying to teach and point out the lies and propaganda, reassuring our children that it’s okay if they get in trouble or lose points because they don’t follow the party line. Whatever we do, we have to always keep in mind that we Cannot. Trust. The schools.

These are just a few suggestions: maybe they will work, maybe they won’t. The question of what specifically we need to do to reconquer American culture is at present less important than awareness of the fact that it needs to be conquered. Our present culture is a poisonous sewer, and unless we can do something to create a more sober and rational society, America will die no matter whom we elect.

The election of Donald Trump is not a victory; it is an opportunity. Politics are symptoms: not the real disease. The real illness is the culture. It’s up to us to take advantage of it. Make no mistake; if there is not a serious change in the direction of this culture, this election will ultimately not change a thing.

Let the reconquest begin!