Archive for January, 2009

Still Not a Jew
17 January, 2009

During an appearance on Dinner for Five, Jason Biggs related that many people think he is Jewish. Later in the episode someone (perhaps Kevin Smith) referenced his being Jewish and Biggs dropped the hilarious line “still not a Jew”.

After I laughed at a Telly Savalas lollipop joke on an ep of Two and a Half Men, I wondered how many viewers in the key demo would get the joke since Kojak went off the air thirty years ago. How I got the joke is curious as well. Perhaps it is just my knowledge of pop culture. (For example, I recognize shazbot.) Yet I also have an above-average knowledge of Hollywood history, personalities, and vernacular, probably evidence of a misspent youth. On the plus side hanging out with me is like hanging out in a writer’s room.

In college a girl I dated thought I was Jewish when she first met me. That was neither the first nor the last time someone has mistaken me for a Jew. A vocabulary seasoned with words picked up from comedians, things like kvetch, schmuck, and oy vey, probably contributes to that impression. Well, that and my choice of clarinet as a musical instrument.

It might be a good shtick. But I’m still not a Jew.

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The Dark Knight
10 January, 2009

The Dark Knight arrived on a tsunami of hype. Maybe I’m just a contrarian but it failed to pique my interest, despite all that hype. My instincts were correct.

I really like Batman Begins. It is by far my favorite Batman movie. But The Dark Knight recaptured none of that magic for me. I found it about sixty minutes too long. I like action movies, comic books, and Hero System; I’m good with a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. But I found The Dark Knight had unnecessary silliness that took me out of the film. Plot points depend on a technology carried by most people being available in a building almost completely empty and crew ignoring their duties even when their lives are at stake.

Even though I like most of the actors individually, I found none of their performances outstanding. Heath Ledger brought a new, and good, take to the character of the Joker. But I think the ballyhoo about this role derives mostly from his death at a young age.

If you liked Batman Begins, just watch that again and skip The Dark Knight.

Arena of Interests
4 January, 2009

Whilst catching up on tivoed Boston Legal, we watched an episode on abortion. Denny Crane comments that Democrats need Roe v. Wade to justify their position on abortion. This is an accurate observation, if a bit surprising given David E. Kelly‘s politics.

 
The Democrats deride the Republicans for their religiosity. Yet the Democrats demonstrate the same fervor, zeal, and blind faith in their positions (even if not derived from an organized religion) as do the Republicans. Letting one’s religion dictate one’s morality, rather that letting one’s morality determine one’s religion, seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Perhaps this is because it is easier to do what one is told rather than to think.

 
Just as one ought not have politics without principles, one ought not conflate politics with morality. While others view ethics and morals as synonymous, to me ethics are the subset of moral principles relating to agreements or contracts. In essence, ethics is following the rules that one agreed to follow. For example, if a vendor knowingly sells a defective product under the agreement that all sales are final, it is ethical but immoral for that vendor to refuse refund.

 
In my early teens, when I began thinking about these kinds of things, I made the statement that I would do what is right, not what is legal. (To my knowledge I had not yet read Mark Twain‘s “Laws control the lesser man… Right conduct controls the greater one.”) This caused my mother no end of consternation as her world view can not accommodate something being moral and illegal or vice versa. I found “because the rules said so” little consolation for wrong actions.

 
As Aneurin Bevan said, politics is the arena of interests, not morals. Morality can not be legislated and politics should not be used for that doomed endeavor. What I believe is politically right may not necessarily be what I believe is morally right. Many, including my mother, find it contradictory that I politically support others’ choice of whether to abort a pregnancy while I would personally avoid choosing to abort if possible.

 
Even in a best-case scenario, politicians merely advance the interests of their constituents. Laws are independent of, although occasionally coincident with, morality. We ought to do what is right, even when determining that requires us to think.