Check out Walter’s previous articles in this ongoing series Thursday mornings exploring video games, cultural villains, and American values at PJ Lifestyle. From May 2: “Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness” and last week: What Zombies Teach Us About Human Nature. And also see Walter’s A Reason For Faith series, reprinted last week here. In these four articles Walter begins to formalize his task of synthesizing the Judeo-Christian tradition with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Tea Party activism. - DMS
In one of the most vivid dreams I can recall, I witnessed the landing of a plainly alien spaceship. It came lucidly, dancing on the edge of wakefulness, informed by enough of my rousing consciousness that it felt particularly real. I remember the feeling that my feet were glued to the ground, that I couldn’t move if I wanted to, not on account of some external force, but due to an overwhelming sense of awe and anticipation. The one thought dominating my mind: everything is about to change.
Though it was only a dream, I retain the memory as vividly as though it were of an actual experience and believe I will respond similarly if ever confronted by a true interplanetary delegation. Something about that kind of moment, when the veil lifts upon an existential mystery, produces an irresistible thrill. Perhaps that tops the list of reasons why our popular culture remains ever fascinated by the prospect of extraterrestrial life.
Aliens have become such a prolific device in our entertainment that we sometimes take them for granted. Like a modern deus ex machina, aliens can be relied upon to suspend disbelief in an otherwise inconceivable scenario. (How does Superman fly? Simple, he’s an alien!) Extraterrestrials rank alongside Nazis, zombies, and generic terrorists as the most common villains found in video games. Unlike those others, however, aliens may also be allies. Nothing inherent to extraterrestrial life demands it be villainous. Beings from other worlds often act as mirrors for examining the human condition, when not merely lurking among shadow and neon strobe.
It’s probably no coincidence that the advent of ufology, which is an actual word in the dictionary meaning the study of unidentified flying objects, coincides with the initial proliferation of aviation and the early years of the space age. We began to look up into the sky right about the time we realized there was nothing left to find over the horizon. In times past, when the known world was still defined by the flickering edge of torchlight, we imagined unspeakable monsters much closer to home. Spirits, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, fairies, vampires, all were the alien invaders and abductors of their time. As we have come to dismiss them as infeasible and childish, our imagination turns to the stars, where the realm of possibility remains seemingly infinite.
Certainly, we can see how aliens have stepped in to fill the role of menacing ghoul. Ridley Scott’s original Alien was essentially a horror film, a science fiction creature feature. While the execution was masterful, the formula proved well-established and has been revisited ever since.
This week is Bike to Work Week in Washington, D.C., which is a perfect opportunity to point out why the vast majority of bikers are huge jerks who ruin the road for the rest of us. I’m not saying they’re jerks all the time; just when they’re on their bikes. Kind of like how someone turns into a Mr Hyde version of himself when he climbs into a Prius.
I’m not even saying all bikers are this awful. Just most of them. Enough of them to give bikers a bad rep, even when some of us actually try to be considerate, safe, and respectful. So this Bike to Work Week, please do bike to work — just don’t be a jerk about it.
5. Biking on the road, without following the rules of the road
You know what I’m talking about — the bikers who use the bike lane or actually drive in the traffic lanes, but breeze through stop signs without pause, creep past red lights, cross lanes when they turn, and generally act like the rest of traffic should bend around them. This is incredibly unsafe — for bikers, drivers, and pedestrians. As someone who walks to work every day here in D.C., I could count on two hands (and a few toes) the number of times I’ve nearly been run down by a bike that had no intention of stopping for a red. Hills are no excuse. If your brakes are too poor to come to a full stop when you’re pointing downhill — or your legs are too weak to stop then start again while climbing uphill — then you shouldn’t be biking on the road. Get in shape, get a tune-up, and come back when you’re ready to bike safely.
In the good old days, consumers got what they wanted. Supply and demand, not causes or ideology, governed product design and manufacturing. That’s why we have great American icons like the 1969 Chevy Camaro, the charcoal-burning Weber grill, and DDT.
But things have changed. The Green Movement’s worship of scarcity has changed the consumer landscape for the worse. Instead of big, powerful, and, most importantly, effective products, in 2012 consumers must suffer with pansy products. Sure, they are designed to save energy and make you feel good. But they just don’t work as well as the old, and usually cheaper, versions.
Below are seven crappy products we must endure, courtesy of the Green Movement.
1. Low Water Toilets
Any article with the headline above must start with low water toilets. Many of you will remember an age before the government decided water was scarce, when toilets could be counted on. In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, and President George Bush signed it. It mandated a maximum flush capacity for toilets. Naturally, the 1992 version of the Green Movement was behind the law, and behind the Republican sponsor – Representative Philip Sharp of Indiana. Since Bush signed Sharp’s legislation, plunger sales have sky-rocketed. Sharp’s bad idea has caused some of the most embarrassing moments of people’s lives, especially when they are visiting someone else’s home.
Ain’t prosperity grand? We have so much to eat in this country that we toss nearly half of it in the trash. At least that’s the finding of a recent study conducted by a prominent environmental organization. From the Los Angeles Times:
Americans are throwing out nearly every other bite of food, wasting up to 40% of the country’s supply each year – a mass of uneaten provisions worth $165 billion, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
An average family of four squanders $2,275 in food each year, or 20 pounds per person per month, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan environmental advocacy group.
Among the study’s prescriptions is a call for government “to set a target for food-waste reduction” as the European Parliament has. After resolving to reduce food waste, the body stated:
The most important problem in the future will be to tackle increased demand for food, as it will outstrip supply. We can no longer afford to stand idly by while perfectly edible food is being wasted. This is an ethical but also an economic and social problem, with huge implications for the environment.
The obvious alternative to any government “standing idly by” is its taking action. Whenever government takes action, it applies force. That is the NRDC’s ultimate prescription, to force Americans to reduce food waste. This is ironic since government action already plays a substantial role in the amount of food produced and consumed. The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards explains:
Farm subsidies damage the economy. In most industries, market prices balance supply and demand and encourage efficient production. But Congress short–circuits market mechanisms in agriculture. Farm programs cause overproduction, the overuse of marginal farmland, land price inflation and excess borrowing by farm businesses.
Force is not a morally permissible or practically effective means of guiding productive behavior. Our rejection of slavery is an acknowledgment of that truth. Yet the notion that government ought to act forcefully to prevent pollution and reduce waste remains popular. Why?
The case built by green movement organizations like the NRDC relies on a tightly wound knot of lies. These falsehoods appear in the NRDC’s mission “to safeguard the Earth, its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends,” as well as its “priority issues”:
- Curbing global warming
- Creating the clean energy future
- Reviving the world’s oceans
- Defending endangered wildlife and wild places
- Protecting our health by preventing pollution
- Ensuring safe and sufficient water
- and; Fostering sustainable communities
Underlying this mission and these goals are six green lies which threaten to starve you and your family…
I devour good books, and have no problem putting down a bad one after 30 pages and never picking it up again. If it’s not good, why waste my time? If it’s good, I don’t want to stop. This one is a hell of a read! So was the The Andromeda Strain.
I read Moises Velasquez-Manoff’s An Epidemic of Absence in one sitting. This was Michael Crichton with Hookworms. The premise is fascinating, although heavy with anecdote and less on peer reviewed clinical data, even with his 307 footnotes. Definitive science should never get in the way of a good read.
I was hooked, pun intended. Remember, I am Western-trained but still consider myself very open minded.
What Velasquez-Mannoff suggests is that maybe we are a little carried away with the pure benefits of hygiene. Does using Purell at every turn really benefit us in the long run, or will we end up dying from a dirty finger nail because of it? This puts credence in what I always believed…”The 10 second rule”. You know, if it’s on the floor less than 10 seconds you can still eat it.
His adventure begins with searching to cure his premature baldness. Okay, I’m a little hard on him here. He’s really looking into an area of medicine that has not been brought to light until now, and he was really looking for a treatment for Irritable Bowel disease and MS. Every action in medicine and in life has an unintended side reaction. We are all intertwined. We, meaning every organism that is in touch within our body. We don’t need to treat everything! Not all bacteria are bad. Our intestines, mouth, and nose are lined with millions of organisms that actually are our allies in keeping us healthy. I think we all know that.
The problem as I see it, which he does not address is deeper. I’ll explain in a moment.
First, physicians have 2 main edicts that we should follow
1) Above all, physician do no harm
2) Alleviate pain and suffering
Our job is not to make people live longer. That’s just a by product of the 2 edicts.
Over the last decade the percentage of fathers opting to stay home with their children has more than doubled. In 2001, only 1.6% of dads were full time care providers. Today, it’s 3.4%.
What’s a dad to do? All that time at home with the little ones can get tedious if a guy isn’t prepared. But if you put a little effort into finding activities you and your kids can both enjoy, then your day will be much easier.
And if you can get them outside, away from the television, it’s even better.
Here are ten activities which I think you’ll enjoy.
10. Go Fishing
The one thing I could count on my dad wanting to do every weekend was grab some fishing poles and head for the nearest body of water. He loves fishing, and because of him, so do I.
His hobby is now my children’s hobby.
I loved watching each one catch a fish for the first time. It was exactly this cute:
If you don’t know anything about fishing, don’t worry about it. You can learn with your child. There are plenty of books on the basics of fresh-water fishing.
And the bonus is that even if you don’t catch a fish you still spent some time outside having fun with your kids. It’s a win-win.
With The Lorax, the entertainment industry and the federal government have joined forces to produce a candy-colored dollop of castor-oil. This woeful would-be message movie is about as jaw-dropping as a notable previous Potomac/Pacific joint effort — the pro-Stalin film Mission to Moscow ordered up by Franklin Roosevelt in 1943.
Dr. Seuss’ Lorax is a furry orange forest gnome who carries an overt anti-industry, anti-capitalist, pro-environmentalism theme, and in an effort to look as though they practice what they preach the backers of the film have lined up deals with supposedly green and eco-friendly outfits such as the detergent maker Seventh Generation, which is hawking a Lorax-branded bottle made of recycled paper. (Question: did anyone bother to measure the relative carbon emissions of making a plastic bottle versus making one out of paper, or is the overall feeling of groovy virtue all that matters?)
Another notable Lorax partner is the Environmental Protection Agency, which you might think (or fear) would have bigger things on its mind than promoting a big-screen cartoon, but the combination of Hollywood glamour (Zac Efron and Taylor Swift are in the cast) and the opportunity to push early propaganda on little minds proved irresistible to the EPA, which is using the Lorax brand to hype those supposedly energy-efficient appliances that never quite seem to deliver on their promises. (Click image at left to read.)
Unsurprisingly, given the rigid earnestness behind it, The Lorax isn’t much fun to watch. Every time you think it’s starting to get a little heavy-handed, it gets heavier still. The Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito) features in both ascension and resurrection scenes, there is a hymn to greed called “How Bad Can I Be?” that would have embarrassed Bernie Madoff, and the bad guy, O’Hare (Rob Riggle), who wears a severely geometric ‘do suggesting the epic hairstyling errors of Moe Howard, Ringo Starr and Rooney Mara, is a loathsome little creep who has made a fortune selling bottled air.
The art department never got the memo from the Heavy Themes folks, though, and they created a delightfully Seussian candy-colored playland that hardly says “hellhole.” The skies are azure and the streets are clean, giving the lie to the opening song about how smoggy and rubbishy everything is.
More likely to repel little Jake and Emma is the forest critter and alleged hero the Lorax. Imagine the crankiness of your average Scotsman with the mustache of David Crosby.
The Lorax famously “speaks for the trees” but sounds much like a creepy Earth Science teacher who can’t stop talking about that time he met Joan Baez at a No Nukes rally. Briefly I considered reporting the little freak to the police, after he sneaks into bed with the adolescent Once-ler (Ed Helms), an initially well-meaning kid out to make a buck who falls prey to his worst instincts and cuts down all the trees to harvest a substance used in making a must-have clothing item called a “thneed.”
The Lorax (who is only the fourth most prominent character, not that I wanted more of him) fails to convince the Once-ler to be gentle on the land and the woodland creatures who live there. But he’s such a huffy little troll that it’s difficult to picture anyone taking advice from him, even before he slips himself between the sheets with a little boy. Nor is DeVito’s the voice of wisdom; the man sounds like a cabdriver in a 1940s movie, or maybe Ratso Rizzo’s less successful brother, not a sage.
Note: A previous version of this post was published here on PJMedia.
Victor Wouk with his hybrid car, EPA lab, Ann Arbor, Michigan circa 1973
It’s the kind of story Hollywood normally loves: An independent genius’ invention ends up being suppressed by powerful interests. In Tucker: A Man and His Dream, political agents of the Big 3 automakers maneuver to put Preston Tucker out of business; intermittent windshield wiper inventor Robert Kearns is ripped off by the Ford Motor Company in Flash of Genius; The documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? accused General Motors of suppressing the development of electric vehicles by crushing them.
The truth is that GM and other Detroit automakers have been doing research on EVs for decades and that perhaps a better question would be “Who Killed (or at least delayed) The Hybrid Electric Car?” In the early 1970s, 25 years before Toyota started selling the Prius hybrid car in Japan, Dr. Victor Wouk, an independent American inventor, with encouragement from GM, developed a practical hybrid car that cut down on pollution and saved gasoline, but a conspiracy killed it.
Today’s Hollywood would never make that movie. Too many elements of Wouk’s story run counter to the preferred Hollywood narrative of evil businessmen or faceless corporations despoiling the environment. In this case, car companies aren’t the villains. To the contrary, corporations encouraged and helped Wouk in his research. The villain in this story was a government bureaucrat, working, ironically, at the Environmental Protection Agency, as part of a program designed to improve air quality.
Continue reading the complete post here.