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How “Eye in the Sky” should have ended.

“Eye in the Sky” is a close look at modern warfare, fought remotely with drones, hightech cameras that look like birds or beetles, and real time  connectivity to the drone operators in Las Vegas, face recognition technicians in Hawaii, political decision makers in Britain, America, and China, and intelligence agents risking their lives on the ground in territory held by a hostile militia.

eyeinthesky colonel

The plot: There are a couple of terrorists that a British colonel has been tracking for years.  They are bad bad people, responsible for many death.  One is a British citizen and the original mission, overseen by political advisors and lawyers, is to capture her and take her back to Britain for trial.   But capture turns out to be impossible.  They’ve been tracked down to a safe house and it’s a perfect time to eliminate them with a missile strike.  But there’s a problem.  Changing from a capture plan to an assassination requires political approval.

So the movie is really about who will make the decision.   Politicians dither and insist on deferring to higher authorities. After the series of buck passing, approval is given.  A missile strike is authorized.  But then… a  young girl is selling bread just outside the house, and there’s a very good chance she will be killed too.  Collateral damage.  Is that acceptable?  This launches a whole new round of buck passing.  The military feel it is a necessity, and killing the girl would be unfortunate but worth it because of the lives that will be saved if the terrorists are killed.

Then the remote camera sees two young men being fitted with suicide vests.  They are preparing to find a crowded location where they can kill as many innocent people as possible.  If they leave the house there will be no way to stop them.

That does it.  Approval is finally given.  But the young airman who must pull the trigger rebells and demands a new collateral damage assessment. We bounce around the globe to ever higher levels of government while the British Colonel tries to get a decision out of the bureaucrats and policy wonks.  Legal advice is sought.  Rules of engagement are cited.  An agent on the ground, in a very risky spot controlling the remote camera,  tries to buy the girl’s bread and send her home.  He is recognized and barely escapes with his life.

Spoiler alert: It is a very good movie, and I hope you will see it.  So don’t read further unless you have seen the movie, don’t intend to see it, or don’t care.  I’m giving it all away.

Finally, after many delays and objections, much discussion, much buck passing, and a second attempt to get the girl out of the way, the approval is given.  The missile is launched.

eyeinthesky explosion

The terrorists are killed, mission accomplished, but the girl is terribly injured.  Her mother and father flag down a militia patrol jeep.  The soldiers set their machine gun aside to carry the family to the hospital.  Doctors and nurses rush to help. Will the girl live?  Sadly, no.  She dies.  The mother and father collapse in grief over her body.  It’s been gripping.  It’s been good.

And then, after all the great drama, the solid performances, the tension, the plot turns that work, after all this great stuff the movie fails.  It’s in the denouement, after the resolution.  The audience is treated to a number of scenes in which each character in turn expresses shock and remorse, variously guilt and anger, recriminations and rationalizations.  “Don’t EVER tell a soldier that he doesn’t know the cost of war.” And finally we jump the shark into bathos with a flashback of the dead girl playing in her yard.  The message: War is hell and innocent children die and we all feel terrible about it.

And that’s a bullshit message.

So, how should the movie have ended?  There could have been a teenaged boy who is part of the girls extended family, just a background character, maybe her older brother.  Brief scenes show that he’s a moderate, loves his baby sister, wants the girl to be educated, doesn’t like the fanatics who are terrorizing everybody, wants more freedom and fewer restrictions.  After the girl is killed we see this boy being fitted with a suicide vest.  He’s been radicalized.

Instead of a soppy emotional ending, we see that the effort to fight terrorism has created a new terrorist.  Because this is what is happening.  An American military expert said it:  We are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.

That’s how the movie could have ended.  It could have said something really important about the war on terror.  Such a pity.  It came so close.

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We Need an Alternative to RIP

RIP grave marker

When a beloved entertainer or closer to home friend dies, I’m seeing RIP on all the Facebook posts and I simply can’t write that.  We need an alternative.

RIP stands for Rest in Peace.  But this person is not resting.  This person isn’t doing anything.  Their body has been reduced to ashes, or filled with formaldehyde and left to pollute some cemetery or crypt.  They are just gone.  Suggesting that they should rest in peace seems downright silly.

My partner says she thinks of this as “all their pain and suffering is over now so they have no worries” and this is fine, except they don’t exist any more.  So they have no worries, but no anything else either.  They don’t exist anymore. Reminds me of one of my favourite Phil Ochs songs.

Pretty much sums it all up.  When we’re dead we’re just gone.  Solid gone.

So what is an alternative to RIP.  I’m thinking of something like HBM (He’ll Be Missed) or SBM (She’ll Be Missed) or the gender neutral TBM (They’ll Be Missed) or maybe IFS (I Feel Sad) or GBNF (Gone But Not Forgotten)  I don’t know.  Any of these work better for me than RIP.

Suggestions?

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Does FtB Need Another Cis White Middle Class Male Voice?

FTB logo

I’ve been politely rejected, with encouragement to try again in June. And that’s okay.

I applied to write for Free Thought Blogs, along with many other aspiring bloggers apparently.  It would be a thrill and an honour to be associated with that group.  ‘Twould make me so proud to stand with the likes of PZ and Greta and Digital Cuttlefish. But aside from being reduced to a whimpering pile of humble by the very thought of joining them,  I’m not sure I would recommend me.  One of the things FtB is struggling to achieve is more diversity.  Do they need another privileged cis white male voice?  I think not.

No matter how witty and insightful my perspective on life might be, or how clever my use of language, my opinion about just about anything isn’t worth a pinch of guano in the grand scheme of things.

As a radical atheist feminist mangina SJW, I really belong on Free Thought Blogs.  Except I don’t need to be there, and they don’t need me.  I’m perfectly happy with the readership I have.  I’m not sure I’d be happier with a wider readership, and I can certainly do without the hate mail that all the FtB people seem to attract.  My hate male is… non-existent. Aside from one pathetic old man who wrote in all caps and now seems to have gone away, or perhaps died, I’ve never had any hate mail.

Closest I’ve come to hate mail is being called a hypocrite for declaring that this blog promotes tolerance, while being intolerant of religion.  That’s pretty weak tea compared to what the women endure.

Still, I hope that FtB likes my writing enough to offer me a spot when they open up the roll again in June.  If they do, I’ll have to decide whether that’s actually a good idea.

Oh who am I kidding?  I’d be delighted to join them.

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The Penny Drops

Some years ago I was on a tour in China, sitting beside a Mormon woman from America.  She told me the horrifying story of a young good looking Mormon boy who confessed to a series of murders of young women.  He told the authorities that he had been lead to this by his addiction to pornography, she said.

I expressed some surprise, and explained that Denmark, a country that had legalized pornography had seen a drop in the number of sex crimes in all categories.*  Perhaps it’s possible that one Mormon boy could become a serial killer because of pornography, but it certainly looks more like an exception than the rule.

Bundyquoted

So that was years ago.  Very recently I read an article entitled “Ted Bundy’s Success is a Feminist Issue”.  I’ve never paid much attention to serial killers, and didn’t know a lot about Bundy.  So the article prompted a Google search that brought up the Wikipedia entry in which I find these paragraphs:

########################### begin quote from Wikipedia ################################

On the afternoon before he was executed Bundy granted an interview to James Dobson, a psychologist and founder of the Christian evangelical organization Focus on the Family.[317] He used the opportunity to make new statements about violence in the media and the pornographic “roots” of his crimes. “It happened in stages, gradually,” he said. “My experience with … pornography that deals on a violent level with sexuality, is once you become addicted to it … I would keep looking for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Until you reach a point where the pornography only goes so far … where you begin to wonder if maybe actually doing it would give that which is beyond just reading it or looking at it.”[318] Violence in the media, he said, “particularly sexualized violence,” sent boys “down the road to being Ted Bundys.”[319] The FBI, he suggested, should stake out adult movie houses and follow patrons as they leave.[6] “You are going to kill me,” he said, “and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that.”[319]

James_Dobson

Multiple biographers,[320][321][322] researchers,[323] and other observers[324] have concluded that Bundy’s sudden condemnation of pornography was one last manipulative attempt to shift blame by catering to Dobson’s agenda as a longtime anti-pornography advocate, telling him precisely what he wanted to hear.[325] While he asserted in the Dobson interview that detective magazines and other reading material had “corrupted” him and “fueled [his] fantasies … to the point of becoming a serial killer”, in a 1977 letter to Ann Rule he wrote, “Who in the world reads these publications? … I have never purchased such a magazine, and [on only] two or three occasions have I ever picked one up.”[326] He told Michaud and Aynsworth in 1980, and Hagmaier the night before he spoke to Dobson, that pornography played a negligible role in his development as a serial killer.[327] “The problem wasn’t pornography,” wrote Dekle. “The problem was Bundy.”[328]

################################# end quote from Wikipedia ############################

So this is the source of my Mormon bus rider’s information.  A questionable source indeed.  Bundy was not raised a Mormon, and it’s stretch to characterized him as a clean cut Mormon boy.  It seems he was just telling an anti-porn crusader what he wanted to hear.

Reading about Bundy was the intellectual equivalent of swimming in sewage with my mouth open.  I’m left with the thought that the evil that was Ted Bundy continues after his death, spreading misinformation to the gullible anti-sex crusaders and contributing to repressive sexual attitudes.  Fucker.  Although I don’t support the death penalty, I’m sure glad he’s dead.

*turns out I may have been wrong about this, but it was current information at the time.  It now appears that violent sex crimes have in fact increased in countries that have legalized porn.  Whether correlation is causation in this case remains to be settled and is open to debate.  I haven’t taken the time to follow the links offered and investigate the validity of this post.  I’ll get to it.

 

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Consensual Crazy

I spent yesterday afternoon at a jam packed memorial service, held in a very large Catholic church, for a teen who died in a skiing accident.

not the actual funeral

Surrounded as I was by such obvious pain and grief, it was not the time to sound off on my own beliefs or show disrespect for the apparently sincere expressions of utter nonsense. Not the right time to mock. It was disconcerting to hear so much crazy, and so many people who seem unable to understand that time passes and things actually change.

If I were to lose an arm, yet run around insisting that my arm was still there, that I would be reunited with my arm soon, that my arm still existed, healthy and invisible, in another place, people would think me insane. If I were to lose my job, yet insist that the job was still mine and that soon the pay cheques would come my way again, people would recognize that I was in denial. Yet somehow the massive denial that goes with the death of a loved one is an accepted, encouraged, and expected (demanded?) characteristic of human beings.

There was a lot of crazy in my afternoon yesterday. I just hope I never catch it.

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What is it about nose hair?

We need a good evo-psych theory to explain this.  (So that PZ Myers can rightfully scoff at it as a “Just So Story” ) I love head hair.  Long, shiny, or clipped very short, it doesn’t matter.  It’s all sensual.  Beautiful.  Body hair in moderation is also okay, sort of, and what Alan Ginsberg called “fuzzy fucky blondes” are a major turn on.  But nose hair?  Repulsive.  Why?  It’s just hair, and has as much functionality as any other hair we sport, serving as a first line of defence against dangerous dust and asbestos particles.  Yet it turns the stomach.

Hair that we are not accustomed to can have the same effect.  I well remember my first German class at university.  It was lead by a jolly overweight woman who didn’t shave her armpits.  I had a very visceral reaction to those clumps of black hair.  Leg hair on a woman gets the same reaction from most men, but I’m convinced that this is just a cultural thing, like finding a circumcised (read mutilated) penis more attractive than an intact one.  I no longer react to armpit hair or body hair on a woman.  Somehow I seem to have accepted that it as natural, and I prefer natural.  But nose hair is different.

 Sir Tim Hunt doesn't care about his nose hairs.

Sir Tim Hunt doesn’t care about his nose hairs.

Does anybody find nose hair attractive?  Is there a group of nose hair fetishists out there someplace?  Probably, but they are being very quiet about it.

I remember my grandfather showing up at our home when I was a child.  He was nearly blind, and could be forgiven for wearing nose hair walrus tusks that looked to me to be two inches long.  My father took him to our bathroom and trimmed him to a respectable state.  No doubt the day will come when I also lose control of my nasal foliage, but right now I’m embarrassed if so much as a single hair shows itself outside of my nostril, which they all seem to want to do.

In “The Black Knight” there’s a scene in which Martin Lawrence plucks his nose hairs and dances around in pain after each pluck.  It’s supposed to be funny.  I used to cut my nose hairs.  Now I pluck them on the, apparently unsubstantiated, theory that they will be slower to grow back.  The pain is not that bad.

In the first episode of “Six Feet Under” there’s a scene where the ghost of the father, played by Richard Jenkins, is watching his own funeral from a lawn chair at the edge of the cemetery.  The sunlight is sparkling on a nose hair that must extend at least an inch under his his nose.  Either the director and cameraman felt this added to the realism of their show, or they missed it.  My bet is, they missed it.  My bet is there was gnashing of teeth in the screening room that night.

Few people, if any, like nose hairs.  Please tell me why.

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Remembering Charlie Hebdo – a suggestion.

I just received this letter from another blogger.  It speaks for itself.

########################################################################

Hello Mr. Darwin Harmless

CharlieHebdocover

I just visited your site, and having a blog on my own (http://artikelvijfentwintig.blogspot.com – but it’s in Dutch) I wonder if you would join me in something I wish all bloggers of free speech would participate.
In about 2 months, 7th January 2016, it will be the sad anniversary of the killings of Charlie Hebdo. I think this day should be remembered for eternity, and remembered by publishing a Mohamed cartoon. I intend to do so on my blog, and I announced it already.
Would you join me in this endeavour, by publishing on your blog that day a Mohamed-cartoon, and by writing to other bloggers that you know to participate in this Charlie Hebdo-day ?
Thanks in advance for your reply
Art. 25
Art.25 is the article of the Belgian Constitution that guarantees the freedom of the press and the abolishment of censorship.
##############################################################
Everybody_Draw_Mohammed_Day
The original  Draw Mohamed Day was back in 2010.  It’s worth taking a look at the history of that protest.  But I do like this idea, and if I can remember to do it I shall post my own drawing of Mohamed on January 7th.  Perhaps you’d like to join me.

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An Open Letter to Zunera Ishaq

Dear Zunera Ishaq:

Welcome.  Welcome to Canada and congratulations on becoming a Canadian citizen.  You are joining a great country, as the debate you triggered by deciding to wear the niqab at your citizenship ceremony proves.

As I’m sure you know, many in Canada would like to follow the lead of France and the Netherlands and ban the wearing of the niqab.  I am not one of those Canadians.  I believe that you have every right in a free country to wear whatever you want, even if what you are wearing is considered rude and offensive to millions of your fellow citizens.  I believe in the right to offend.  You have not come to a country where people riot or murder over perceived insults.

Zunera Ishaq, or possibly somebody else, wearing a niqab.

Zunera Ishaq, or possibly somebody else. Who can say?

Unfortunately you have come from a country where such things do happen.  I’m sure you are aware of Salman Taseer, the Pakistani politician who was murdered by his own bodyguard because he called for the abolition of the death penalty for insulting Islam, and defended a woman who was facing death under that horrible and unjust law.  When the murderer appeared in court, supporters showered him with rose petals. Salman Taseer’s son, Shabaz, who was a witness at the trial, was also kidnapped and murdered. So this is a part, possibly just a small part but a part none the less, of the culture you have left behind.  I think you can understand why Canadians would not want to see that culture in your new country.

So that explains our first reaction to your traditional garment.  For us it represents a horrible, brutal, disgusting, odious, malignant and oppressive culture.  The aura of that culture clings to the niqab like a bad smell. For us it is far more offensive than any cartoon or verbal statement could ever be.  When you wear it, I hope you will be aware that we find it offensive and why.

Our offence taken goes beyond an acute distaste for the culture the burka and the niqab represent to us.  Many of us have been accused of racism when we criticize the wearing of these cultural symbols.  But race is something that a person does not choose and can do nothing about.  I am a man of Caucasian descent.  These are things I did not choose and can’t change.  But the customs and trappings of my culture are things I can choose and can change.  There are many actual racists in Canada, and many racists, in fact all racists, are indeed ignorant.  But this is not a matter of race but of culture.
My offence is not founded on ignorance but on verifiable news reports from your original country.

So I reject the ad hominem that is thrown at people who object to your display of freedom.  We are not necessarily racist, though some may be.  And there is a second and a third source of our offence.  I’ve read that one purpose of your complete covering is to prevent men looking at a woman and thinking impure thoughts, that they cannot control their uncontrollable lust.  This seems to me unlikely to be true.  Even if it is true in some cases, it is an insulting assumption about me and most men.  It infantalizes us as a gender.  It is also ineffective, in that men assume there is a woman under that cloth and their imagination is quite able to give an image to what the garment conceals.

Canada is a country of inclusion.  We welcome you.  By wearing the niqab or the burka, you say to us that you do not want to be included.  You want to stay in your own culture, insulated from the common culture of by far the majority of Canadians.  A large part of our communication is through body language and facial expressions.  You deny us this access to your thoughts and feelings.  You say, to our understanding, that while you claim to have come here because you like Canada and like our culture of freedom, in fact you don’t.  You would really prefer to be back in the culture you have left behind.  It should hardly come as a surprise when many Canadians suggest you would be happier if you went back where you came from.

It is not my place to tell any woman what to wear.  If being, at the very least, provocative, if not rude and offensive, is your aim, then you have succeeded.  If none of this was your intention, then please understand that it is the result no matter what your intention might be.

I support, even applaud, your offensive statement.  But please understand that you are being offensive.  Please do not be surprised when people respond by being and acting offended.

With all due respect

Darwin Harmless

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Vote Early Vote Often (once a day for the next fourteen days)

The web series, QUILTBAGS, is trying to get ten grand out of Telus so they can buy some decent equipment and take their productions up a notch.

Please click on this link, find QUILTBAGS “Don’t Bug Me”, and vote.  This shouldn’t take much of your time, but it could really help a worthy creative endeavour.  Please.

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I have this little hose…

I have this little hose attached to my body a few inches below my belly button.  It’s very convenient because sometimes i need to void waste water and the little hose makes this easy.  I can void waste water standing up.  I can write my name in the snow.

hose

Apparently roughly half of the human population has a hose something like mine.  Some are much bigger, and some are smaller.  But they all have the same function – a little tube through which waste water can be directed.

Oh yes, of course, the little hoses have another function as well.  Under some circumstances they will become stiff and inflexible.  Then they can be used to insert reproductive material into the body of another human, one of the ones who doesn’t have a little hose attached to their body but have, instead, a hole for the little hose to go into.  This is essential for he continuation of our species.  It’s also very pleasurable, probably because if it wasn’t pleasurable it wouldn’t happen enough to keep our species from going extinct.

Now here is the strange part.  Nobody is allowed to see my little hose.  If I take it out in public, I will be arrested and charged with a crime.  Only doctors are allowed to see my little hose.  Well, doctors and select people who don’t have a little hose.  Or even select people who themselves have a little hose but like to play with the little hoses on other people.  The point is, showing your little hose is not a casual thing.  It’s accompanied by elaborate negotiation and rituals.

The way human beings reproduce seems very strange indeed.  Genetic material is passed through the little hose into the body of another human, one has a hole, where it joins with some genetic material from that person, eventually growing into a tiny human and being expelled from the host body.  This is a difficult, painful, and dangerous way for our species to reproduce, but that’s how it’s done.

Then things get really strange.  The people who don’t have little hoses have bumps on their chests.  After they expel a tiny human from their body, these bumps produce a liquid that is very nourishing.  The new tiny human gets to live on this liquid for several months, sometimes several years, until they grow teeth and have the ability to eat normal food.

In general, people are not allowed to see these bumps either.  They can see part of the bumps, but the spot where the liquid comes out is never supposed to be seen.

So some people have little hoses that they can’t let other people see.  And some people have bumps on their chests that they can’t let people see.  Oh, I forgot to mention.  they’re not supposed to let people see the entrance to their holes either.

The people who don’t have bumps on their chests still have spots on their chests very similar to the places where liquid comes out of the bumps on other peoples’ chests.  But nobody cares if people are allowed to see those spots.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to write to me and I’ll do my best to answer.  Just keep in mind that the answers might not be very satisfying, because a lot of this doesn’t make much sense.

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