Monthly Archives: April 2011

April at the Humane Society

This month, I met the Poky Little Puppy.  Here are all his little brothers and sisters (a litter of two-month-old pit bulls), running up to the front of the kennel to say hi…

…And here’s the poky little puppy.

I’ve been to shelter school again and brought dogs on two field trips, which are long walks we take around the downtown.  Last week we had eleven dogs: five pits, a great dane/lab, a golden lab who got mauled by a raccoon, two indeterminate small dogs, and two chihuahuas (I had one of the chihuahuas, of course).  I didn’t bring my camera on either field trip, but here’s a picture from shelter school of peanut butter being enjoyed.

I’ll wrap this up with a nice “Baroo?”

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Oddity of the Week: Atlas Shrugged (the Movie)

Although it was predictable, I’m still delighted that the Atlas Shrugged movie has proved an astounding bomb.  As a no-budget independent film with Z-grade acting talent and a poster that looks like it was made in ten minutes by a high school student with Adobe Illustrator, it was inevitable, but still, even libertarian strongholds like the Wall Street Journal can’t defend this one.  They even got the release date wrong–thanks to federal holidays, tax day was April 18th this year.  Herp derp.

But seriously, there are train wrecks (pun intended), and then there’s 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Highlights:

This comically tasteless and flavorless adaptation of Ayn Rand’s bombastic magnum opus delivers her simplistic nostrums with smug self-satisfaction.  (Richard Brody, the New Yorker)

Few novels get the cinematic adaptation they deserve, but director Paul Johansson has been fair to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” — or rather, the opening third of it. The first in a proposed trilogy, “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” is nearly as stilted, didactic and simplistic as Rand’s free-market fable.  (Mark Jenkins, the Washington Post)

I’d rather have all my teeth pulled out with pliers than go see it, myself.  If you can stomach it, here’s the bile-inducing trailer.  Watch it and you’ll see the inherent difficulty of bringing such a book to the big screen, as hinted at in Brody’s review.

The difficulty is not that the book itself is an author tract and not a proper novel.  It is not why, if John Galt and his cronies are essential lynchpins of society, no one has ever heard of him.  It is not the plot gymnastics required to make high-speed rail the conservative cause celebre of the future.  The difficulty is that you simply can’t get away with portraying awful people as heroes in a film.  In a book, straw opponents, contrived plots, selective viewpoints, and author filibusters can combine to present a narrow one-sided perspective from which the heroes appear to be, if not heroic, at least justifiable in their motivations.  But a film can’t get around the fact that a flesh-and-blood actor has to portray a character in some way, and there’s no way to portray characters with truly Randian motivations except as smug douchebags.  And that’s how they come across.  Hank Rearden can’t say a single line in that trailer without making you want to punch his smug face; Dagny Taggart (where did Rand come up with that ridiculous name?) mostly comes across as a shrill harpy.

It’s almost like a cinematic exercise in achieving the impossible: “Let’s recast Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life as a hero and George Bailey as a worthless loser!”  But, if this film is anything to go by, it may indeed be cinematically impossible.  People are just too human to buy it.

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If you handled the trailer fine and are ready to test your constitution on something stronger, try Dear Woman: SFW, just guys talking, and you’ll never sleep again.

Here’s Trololo as a palate cleanser that somehow manages to be light-years less creepy.

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Empty Tombs

Christ is risen!

Easter is the occasion of one of my family’s most venerable traditions, always popular because it involves donuts.  I think it deserves to be propagated whenever possible; therefore, I am proud to present the Sullivan family Easter breakfast: Empty Tombs.

An empty tomb is a donut with a donut hole on top of it.  You could just pop out to Winchell’s, but this Easter I took things up a notch and made my Empty Tombs from scratch.  This recipe is modified slightly from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

On Holy Saturday:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 c. flour, 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. cinnamon, and 1/4 t. nutmeg.  In a small bowl, mix 1/4 c. melted margarine, 2/3 c. milk, 1 beaten egg, 2/3 c. sugar, and 1 t. vanilla.  Mix wet and dry ingredients; cover dough and chill overnight.  (The dough doesn’t have to chill overnight, but if you don’t, you’ll have to make the whole thing on Easter morning.)

On Easter Sunday morning:

Roll out dough 1/2″ thick on a floured surface.  Use the floured rim of a glass to cut dough into circles and something smaller, like a cap from a jug, to cut the holes.  (You can do this the night before and chill the shaped dough overnight, if you prefer.)  Fry donuts until golden, about 1 minute on each side, in 1-2″ of hot vegetable oil.  Cool slightly on a wire rack or paper towels.

Serve donuts any of the following ways: Dusted with powdered sugar, thoroughly coated with a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon, or coated with a glaze of powdered sugar and water.  If, like me, this still doesn’t strike you as delicious enough, make a chocolate glaze.  Melt 1/4 c. chocolate chips and 1 T. margarine in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir in 1/2 c. powdered sugar and 1 T. water, or enough to make a good consistency.  Drizzle over donuts.

Place a donut hole on each donut and look inside to verify that the tomb is empty.

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Ephesians 5: The Social Engineers’ Bible

Ephesians 5:22-27, the bedrock of complementarian theology.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (NIV)

So much to say, but today I’m not interested in looking at the passage itself.  I’m interested in the response to the passage.  A comment I’ve heard many times from complementarian men runs along the lines of “You’re lucky–men have it much harder than women.  Women are only compared to the church.  Men are compared to Christ on the cross, an unachievable standard!”

This comment is always presented casually: the officiant at a wedding turning from the bride to the groom during the homily and saying “And now for the harder part.”  Generally it seems to be an attempt to gloss over the obvious implication that women are fundamentally inferior than men; no one is going to suggest that Christ and the church are equals.

Yet it is an argument.  In essence, it is the argument that women shouldn’t want the man’s role because it’s so much more difficult.

Trying to convince women that they shouldn’t want what they aren’t allowed: social engineering.  This argument has been presented, in the most casual, soothing tones, to women since the beginning of suffrage.  You don’t really want a job, trust me.  You’re happier at home than men are, out there working.  G.K. Chesterton presents it in What’s Wrong with the World, as he argues that women should not vote:

When, therefore, it is said that the tradition against Female Suffrage
keeps women out of activity, social influence and citizenship, let us
a little more soberly and strictly ask ourselves what it actually does
keep her out of. It does definitely keep her out of the collective act
of coercion; the act of punishment by a mob. The human tradition does
say that, if twenty men hang a man from a tree or lamp-post, they
shall be twenty men and not women. Now I do not think any reasonable
Suffragist will deny that exclusion from this function, to say the least
of it, might be maintained to be a protection as well as a veto.  (p. 54)

It is reminiscent of the endless barrage of warnings against alcohol that pervade high schools: You aren’t allowed to have it, but you wouldn’t like it anyway.  You’re better off without it.  But most of all, it reminds me of this:

‘Alpha children wear grey.  They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever.  I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard.’

‘And that,’ put in the Director sententiously, ‘that is the secret of happiness and virtue–liking what you’ve got to do.  All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.’ (Brave New World, pp. 27, 15)

Perhaps complementarians should try hypnopædia?

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Oddity of the Week

I have a sobering announcement to make today.

Most Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors are artificial.

I noticed this last Thursday, my first trip to Baskin-Robbins in who knows how long (Fosselman’s, not to mention gelato and frozen yogurt, has completely displaced it).  Vanilla ice cream still proclaims “real vanilla,” but other vanilla-based flavors, such as chocolate chip, are only described as “vanilla-flavored.”  Sure enough, while vanilla contains vanilla extract, the others only list vanilla flavor in their ingredients.  And the deception goes on: There’s no mint extract, or mint anything, in mint chip.

To Baskin-Robbins’ credit, all their chocolate flavors seem to be real chocolate, including the fruit flavors, which isn’t always the case.  But, after entering a Baskin-Robbins for the first time in so long, I was struck by how commercial, oversold, and, well, chain-ish the whole thing feels.  Everything looks like it was designed by a marketing firm based on their focus group’s analysis.

In contrast, Fosselman’s and its Claremont equivalent, Bert and Rocky’s, are exactly what they appear: Neighborhood shops rub by people who just wanted to sell ice cream.  That’s something Baskin-Robbins will never hold a candle to.

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Meet Motley

Look who just arrived!

Ever since I had a chance to work with the cats from the hoarder incident, I felt like one of them should be mine.  But as quarantines and custody struggles dragged on interminably, my hopes of getting my own kitty dwindled.

There were some nice cats among the Humane Society’s regular denizens, but none of them really felt like the one for me.  Nevertheless, on Saturday I brought Jordan to the Humane Society to play with some of them and see if there was one he liked.  And there she was–just brought out of quarantine that morning, and ready to go home.

She came in with a bad upper respiratory infection, a common condition among shelter cats, and after a week shelter staff were going to put her down because she wasn’t responding to medication.  We didn’t swoop in and rescue her; that distinction belongs to the vet who decided to keep trying to treat her anyway.  Now she has nothing worse than an occasional sneeze.

As you can see, she is a torbie–a tortoiseshell (or, in this case, a calico) whose spots have tabby markings.  She appears to actually be a spotted torbie, with spotted tabby markings instead of the ordinary stripes.  She’s also a complete sweetheart who has already made herself at home.  We have named her Motley.

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Oddity of the Week

My attention has been drawn to two contenders for the title of Worst Bible Ever.

First up, the 1599 Geneva Bible: Patriot’s Edition.  This handsome hardback edition of the first English Bible features an inspiring picture of George Washington on the cover.  Inside, the divine Word of God, complete with original study notes, comes supplemented with the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, a prayer by George Washington, and much more.  The link between the Bible, the voyage of the Pilgrims, and American democracy has never been clearer.

Second, for those who think the Patriot’s Edition sounds too weighty, we have some lighter fare: the Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing Edition.  This paperback NIV is easy on the eyes and easy on the wallet.  Plus, it’s chock-full of color pictures and exciting stories from the world of stock car racing, just the thing to keep you riveted on God’s Word.  You’ll want nothing more on a Sunday afternoon than to pop open a cold one and relax on the porch with this baby.  It’s available for Kindle, too.

So what do you think?  Which of these worthy entries deserves the title of Worst Bible Ever?

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