Movie Micro-Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where Did the Story Get To?

12 year old son wanted to see this before it left the theaters, so off we traipsed to the theater after an afternoon spent planting the second of our two cute little avocado trees.

For the first hour of this flick, I was frankly bored out of my skull. The best that can be said is: the special effects are exactly what we’ve come to expect from years of government training high-budget hollywood sequels.  Newt Scamander was – well cast? Quirky? The protagonist? Funny-looking English dude? The magical animals were – cute-ish? Destructive in a way that would get them grimly shot by wizard or muggle alike? Generally immune to the ubiquitous magic in ways that were never even hinted at?

Image result for fantastic beasts
Newt, amidst the surprisingly mortar-free bricks of a building that just happened to have gotten destroyed.  

This last point bears expanding. The magic in Harry Potter-verse has always had an arbitrary nature that was, in the original books and movies, (1) masked somewhat by its use as comic relief. As Roger Rabbit answers Eddie when asked if he could always have slipped out of the handcuffs: no, only when it’s funny. Thus, magic things and spells have funny names and do funny things, most of the time. It breaks down when taken seriously – we never really know why dueling goes the way it does, why wizards don’t just, say, liquify the earth beneath their opponents or drop a house on them or whatever – no, it’s always some lame-ish spells introduced earlier except when it isn’t.

But we look past it because it’s fun and we care about the people. In Fantastic Beasts, Newt unleashes some Grade-A magic to break into a bank and zip through walls and repair destroyed buildings – but can’t do anything to stop a kleptomaniacal platypus from wreaking havoc – until, suddenly, he can. Lame. Distracting. BOOOOORING.

So I got up, used the men’s room, checked my email and blog stats, took a deep breath, and went back in. I came back just in time for Newt and Tina to be condemned to death by the extraordinarily good-looking bad guy Percival (yeah, he was the bad guy from the get go). Something interesting probably happened in there that I missed.

The second hour was much better, rising to the level of distracting enough fluff. What saved it from total disaster was the ensemble good guys: The odd-looking Newt, the semi-prim and often worried-looking former Auror Tina, her flapper babe with a heart of gold mind-reading sister Queenie, and, most of all, Jacob, the token Muggle (No-Maj? Huh? LAAAME!) who gets caught up in the adventure and proves, like the handsome driver in The Magician’s Nephew, to be stalwart, kind and game.  To paraphrase Mathesar,  their courage, teamwork, friendship through adversity saves us.

Except – not quite. You see, the immediate bad guys are two, who in a way need each other and want the same thing: war between wizards and muggles. Percival/Grimwald (Spoiler Al… ah, forget it.) on the one hand, and Mary Lou Barebone, an evil, evil Calvinist witch hunter and child abuser because Christianity (however thinly veiled) and child abuse go together like social justice fanaticism and projecting bread and butter. She wants the mundane world to seek out and destroy witches. Christianity and its condemnation of witchcraft must be Eeeevil because look how nice – and misunderstood! Never forget misunderstood – the real witches are, kindly destroying and rebuilding our building and manipulating our minds to their advantage.  Or something. Newt is a nice guy, after the manner of somebody who’d carry the equivalent of glass vials of anthrax through a crowded city because magical creatures/deadly airborne pathogens are – here’s that word again! – misunderstood.

Anyway, the danced-around issue of *why* Puritans (and the Spanish Inquisition, etc.) had it in for witches is conclusively proved to be bigotry and hatred because witches – well, some witches – are just like you and me! Witch hunts are bad, and, historically, driven by envy and revenge more often than not, but the disgust and horror with which witches were historically viewed might – might! – have *some* more rational, less hysterical basis, just maybe?

Nope. Witches, like sparkly vampires, are just Misunderstood, and Christians are the real bad guys.

The not-at-all-Puritan named Credence, a young man adopted and raised by the sadistic Mary Lou, snaps and unleashes his pent-up and suppressed witchy superpowers and all but destroys New York, until Love gets him to calm down enough for the Witch FBI to kill him. Huh. And then one of Newt’s super-cool magical creature, using a conveniently-mentioned-earlier-in-the-story magical creature extract, Obliviates the entire population of New York while remarkably well-dressed Magical Untouchables rebuild the city (a city in which hundreds of building get destroyed without, one assumes, killing anybody – unless there’s a Resurectiones spell, or something, off camera). So, it’s all good! (2)

Boys and girls, don’t go suppressing Who You Really Are, or you might end up destroying a major metropolis. Anyone who tells you otherwise is Eeeeevil!

The denouement involves a Stupid Rule: no fraternizing with the muggles! which means Queenie, who has fallen for Jacob, has to let him go, in the sense of letting him have his mind obliviated of any memory of her and the magical world. And Jacob, swell guy that he is, just accepts that. No mind-rape there! Newt, the limey bloke in whose country such fraternization is permitted, never mentions the possibility of the lovebirds moving to the Old Country and living happily ever after.  Huh.

The chemistry between the 4 main characters was touching. But, ultimately not enough.

  1. I’ve only read about the first 3 books, heard snatches of the remaining books as read out loud to the kids, and seen maybe 3-4 of the movies. So if the magic system gets explained in a satisfactory manner somewhere I missed – so sorry. I don’t care.
  2. That Obliviate spell would come in real handy for a wizard who might, say, date hot Muggle women… Nah, that would never occur to anyone!

Book Review: Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin (Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 1) by [Lamplighter, L. Jagi]To sum up: Fun read. Buy this book, read it, then give it to a young woman, for example your daughter,  in the 13 to mid-20ish range. Lovable characters, fun adventures, suitably scary villains, wild speculations about how things are not as they seem, and coming of age issues dealt with frankly yet appropriately.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is the first book in what is intended to be a fairly extensive Unexpected Enlightenment series. Following the current practice of listing the ingredients in the stew, let’s go surreal: In a Harry Potter style universe, Narnia meets the Matrix.  No, really. The wizarding school aspect is clear on page 1, while the everything is not what it seems, in both the existence of other  worlds (Narnia) and the everything you know is a lie (Matrix) is only glimpsed and hinted at in this first volume.

As in the Potter-verse, wizards use spells to shield their activities and very existence from the mundane. In such a world, what keeps wizards from blinding each other? What keeps the most powerful from keeping the true nature of the world (or worlds, as the case may be) from those they seek to control? If so, how would a victim of such deceit become aware of it and make their way free of it? (1)  Very grown-up issues, but not told in a way too overwhelming for younger readers.

Rachel Griffin is the youngest daughter of a large, ancient and noble wizarding family. She starts life with all the advantages: loving family, wealth, connections, looks (although she’s only occasionally aware of how cute she is in a barely pubescent 13-year old girl way). Plus, she’s sharp, has a photographic memory, and is a kind and polite (civilized!) young woman. So – the anti-Harry Potter in origin. The rags to riches role is given to a couple of her friends. (2)

She’s also precocious, starting Roanoke Academy a year early. Lamplighter is first of all spinning an adventure yarn, but is also exploring how the world looks to a well-bred, well-loved young woman entering the boyfriend/girlfriend arena, what goes on both good and bad, what sort of temptations a girl her age goes through, and how good and bad choices are made. Of this, the real drama in most young girls lives is made, and what they see around them is largely horror and ruin portrayed as ‘normal’. As a father of daughters, it is heartening to see such issues treated appropriately in an engaging piece of fictions. Girls can grow into women without caving to a out of control, narcissistic world.

Don’t get the impression that the story and action suffer from too much girly digression – not so. The author does a great job of simply acknowledging what Rachel is going through and following her thought process as she ponders her relationships – one of which is the attentions of a very attractive (and very well-behaved) older boy.

But that’s getting ahead.  The adventures and mysteries start on page 1, when Rachel awakens from her first night at Roanoke Academy, and never stop. She awakens to overhear two animals – a tiny lion familiar and a huge red-eyed raven – talking about something that makes no sense to her. She then takes a broom flight around the grounds – she’s an elite flyer – and sees the statue of an angel, something she has no word to name and has never seen before in her life. She runs afoul of some crass girls, give a famous boy a ride on her broom, spots an impostor pretending to be a wizarding police officer, and helps save a girl’s life. All this before breakfast.  Action hardly lets up. And this first book only covers the first week or two of Rachel’s first year!

Rachel, tiny, young,  precocious, shy and and inexperienced, wants to make friends. She has poor luck at first, then finds Siggy, an over-the-top, dragon-owning orphan boy, and Nastasia, a prim princess, as her besties, and a circle of other remarkable friends. They are all trying, in addition to learning to be witches and wizards, to make the treacherous journey from children to adults.

In this first book, mysteries are introduced and deepened – a little – but not resolved. There are two more books out already, and many more on the way, so this is to be expected.

As a man pushing 60, I’m hardly the target audience for the Rachel books, except in the sense where good fiction should work anyway (Narnia and Have Space Suit, Will Travel are among my favorite books – because they’re great, regardless of what age the target audience was). And I never made it past about book 3 in Harry Potter – not my cup of tea. Yet, these stories work for me.

I’ve read the next two installments as well, The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel and Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, and found them also good and engaging, and plan to read the additional volumes as they come out. Will review as time permits. 

  1. Aside: have wondered if anyone ever asked Alinsky, who taught that believing one ought to tell the truth was a stupid bourgeois bias, that one needs to do and say whatever is required to move the revolution forward, when he was going to stop lying to them? One would have to concluded that Saul was telling his audience only whatever he thought would advance the ball, with no regard for the truth. You know? Using them as he was training them to use others. Similar issue.
  2. Now I’m really getting out there: Given the way he was raised, Harry Potter would have been much more likely to turn out as a craven weedler or even  a sociopath – a Tom Riddle – than a decent little boy – ya know? Rowlings is playing somewhat with the rough life/different outcome thing, of course, but really – 11 years of the Dursleys is not going to produce a bitter little boy? More bitter, I mean. But I digress. Rachel represents the issues facing a kid raised with love facing a world sorely lacking in love, which makes these very different stories.

Update & Prayer Request

Might turn my brain on later and post something a little more profound (for certain generous values of ‘profound’), but for now, here’s a picture of rain-soaked California taken on my noon walk:

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This crane has been hunting on this stretch of creek for the last week or so. Or an exact replica. Of the crane, not the creek.

You know it’s winter because of the leafless trees and the water in the creek. Should have worked some joggers in shorts into the picture. California: brown in the summer and fall, green in the winter and spring.

It is supposed to rain some more next week, and it does get below 40F some nights. But we out here are holding up OK, thanks for asking.

On a more serious note: last night, my Aunt Verna, 92, the last of the 7 Polansky siblings that included my mother, died. Her daughter my cousin Christine was with here. She had been recovering from a brief illness and preparing for her 93 birthday next week when she became ill, was taken to the hospital and died the next day.

Mary and Adolph Polansky had 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls, who they raised in East Texas among the other children and grandchildren of Czech immigrants there. In the late 1930s, they began a migration west and all (I think) moved to California at some point, and most stayed. My mom, Mary Magdalene, was the oldest girl, with little sisters Bea and Verna. All ended up in Los Angeles County, Bea and Verna and their families next-door neighbors in Hollywood on the tail end – literally, the last houses – of Mulholland Drive, the non-ritzy part that overlooks the 101 Freeway. (Celebrities did drive by – Uncle Art once got to help out Jay Leno, when his car – some collector vehicle – broke down and he rolled it into Art’s driveway. That’s another story).

We lived 20  minutes away (1960s traffic version of the distance – it’s much farther now) in Whittier, and would get together with the relatives often. Verna’s kids were all older than me, so I didn’t get to know her as well as Bea, who had a couple boys nearer my age.

The brothers, my uncles, all died first, mostly in their 70s. Mom held out to age 86,  I think Bea made it to 90, and now Verna almost made it to 93. She was a sweet woman, devote in her Catholic faith, and yet had a hard life,  outliving her two sons and divorced years ago by their father. Now Our Lord has dismissed her in peace, according to His word. Eternal rest, grant to her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her!

Thus also ends any direct living connection the Moore family had with Texas, which almost qualifies in Modern America as ‘the Old Country’.

Weather Update

Well, this looks scary:

blizzardwarning
I personally will be avoiding wind prone

The thing is, as often mentioned here, we Californians keep our snow up on the mountains, where it can be admired from the much warmer afar. My little piece of ‘afar’ is 54F and sunny at the moment. So, except for truckers and people who absolutely have to cross the mountains, this warning means little. I’m assuming people who live in the mountains are set up to deal with this – hot coco, Netflix, backup generator, that sort of thing.

But there will be some people who try, Donner-party style, to cross anyway, so we will see pictures of overturned trucks in blizzard conditions, etc. You’ve been warned.

Meanwhile, down here in afar, we’ve been averaging about an inch of rain per day for the last week. We get some sun today, a little more rain tonight into tomorrow, then a whole 4-5 days of 60F and sunshine before it may start raining again. One or two more decent storms over the next 3 months will put us over season average rainfall almost everywhere. Anything over that is gravy (well, not literally – that would be gross).  Similar for the mountains – 2-3 more good-sized storms should push the snowpack up to season average.

Since we are/were in a drought because of Climate Change, I await with eager ears to hear how we are now not in a drought due to Climate Change.

NASA satellite image of CA snowpack today.
Snow up in the mountains where it belongs. As you can see, we also keep some in adjoining states, and go visit it there as well, if we must. 

 

Weather Report

First off, out here in California, it is wet and has been for over a week. If you are from a typical inhabited part of the planet, that may seem hardly newsworthy. Out here, it’s the biggest thing since Russian agents hired by Trump hacked voting machines in key states to steal the election from Hillary in a manner so egregious and outrageous that it causes us all to forget even more how Hillary stole the nomination from Sanders in the first place. Right, Bernie-oids?

Or something. The details seem somewhat uncertain. Except for the Hillary-stole-the-nomination-from-Bernie part. That’s pretty clear, because of the emails that the Russians are said to have liberated from the DNC servers say so. I think. So, if I understand this right – unlikely, I admit – one set of Socialists used their nefarious yet l33t hacking chops to make sure another Socialist was defeated by an elderly New York Liberal in the primaries so that she could lose to another elderly New York Liberal running as a Republican in the general election, thereby advancing the Russian agenda, which has long been to turn the US into a Socialist country – via keeping a Socialist from winning the election. Kind of a Lao Tzu meets Machiavelli in Byzantium and starts plotting with Odysseus sort of thing.

I digress.  Allow me to clarify the weather situation. You may see pictures such as this:

petaluma-flooded

This would be Industrial Way in Petaluma, CA. That does look serious. Petaluma, the former Egg Capital of the World, home to the beautiful St. Vincent’s Church, a large Portuguese population as well the Clan o’ M’ Wife, is largely situated on the – you’ll be amazed – floodplain of the Petaluma River. Much of this floodplain is about 12 inches higher than the estuary know as San Francisco Bay  at high tide.

Why, a sane person from much of the inhabited world might ask, would anyone build a town on a floodplain? Such a person is not a native Californian. It might be a couple decades between any actual flooding, plenty of time to settle in, build a town, get used to the beautiful weather. When such flooding  does inevitably happen, it will seem an unusual and arbitrary act of a cold, heartless Universe and not something any doofus could have predicted. (1)

Same goes for earthquakes, only doubly so. Major cities – San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose – are built right on top of major faults, or on mudflats sure to liquify in a major earthquake, or both. Do not suspect that this what we shall generously call odd optimism is a Northern California thing – not so! Los Angeles is not only built on one of the world’s scariest fault systems, it is almost coextensive with the floodplains of three rivers! Rivers that, in the state of nature, regularly flooded the LA basin in a totally not funny way. A little over 100 years ago, engineers started channeling and paving and otherwise rendering hideously ugly the three big rivers – the Los Angeles, San Fernando and San Gabriel – turning them into little more than giant concrete flood control channels. This is OK, in a way, since all the water that would naturally flow down them is now confined to reservoirs, evidently so 20 million people can water their golf courses and lawns in what is, essentially, a desert. On a typical summer day, any of the rivers is an ankle-deep trickle down a huge concrete slot. The water is up in the hills, in fake lakes and tanks.

I again digress. A few decades ago, the Army Corp of Engineers decided enough with the flooding, already, and did a bunch of work on the Petaluma River that, so far, has prevented any really serious flooding. But it also made some nice flat land that even Californians were not willing to bet a building on look a lot more attractive – thus, some industries – Industrial Way, right? – built some concrete slab tilt-ups and paved some roads right down near the river – right down near here. And, while the Army’s work has greatly mitigated the flooding, if you push it hard enough, you can still build in Petaluma so that a once every 20 year rainy season will flood your streets.

Thus, dedicated professionals can indeed get pictures of flooding, with swamped cars and everything, in order to make the reading/viewing public aware of the disaster out here in the West. But, seriously, most of the flooding is out in the middle of nowhere, meaning vineyards and pastures are getting flooded, not streets and homes (with few exceptions). About 95% of Californians looking out their windows would see Damp. Some who live up in the mountains would see Snow. Some very, very few would see flooding worthy of the name.

Yep, we’ve had almost 5″ of rain in the last 3 days, way more further up in the hills, and many feet of snow in the mountains – and it’s still raining and snowing. Reservoirs that get their water from the Sierra are almost all way above their average levels for this time of year. Reservoirs nearer the coast or otherwise far from the Sierra had gotten very, very low, and are filling up from a much lower starting point, for the most part, so they still have a way to go. Sierra snowpack, which supplies about a third of California’s used-by-people water, is significantly higher than average for this time of year. Local rain gages show some areas reaching their seasonal average total rainfall – with half the rainy season to go. In general, the people here, who have been fed doom and gloom drought predictions for the last few years, are pretty happy with this state of affairs.

The weather is really, really nice almost all the time out here. Once it stops raining – it’s supposed to take a break over the weekend – it will be around 60F and sunny. In the middle of January. Then, typically, rain off and on through February. Come March, it will be sunny and nice most of the time, in April almost all the time, and then it’s sunny and bright until October at the earliest.

So, yea, all of us out here are  in imminent danger of being washed out to sea, right after we die in a car crash attempting to dodge a mudslide and getting hit by a falling tree. And snow. If the earthquakes don’t get us first. Whatever you do, stay someplace safe, like Minnesota or Florida.

HTH.

 

  1. In 1834, the Mexican land grant of Rancho Monte del Diablo was made to a Salvio Pacheco, who promptly founded the town of Pacheco, CA. It’s on the floodplain of several creeks that empty into the Bay. After a while, Salvio got tired of having to dry out his ranch and all the building in it every few winters (bad luck! With better timing, could have lived there for years and never seen a flood!). He looked south-east, and realized that his massive land grant included not only floodplains and a mountainside, but square miles of hills! So he moved a couple miles, and, perhaps reflecting on how it looked a bit bad to name a town after himself, founded a new town he named after Our Lady, Queen of All Saints. This got shortened to ‘All Saints’, which the local Spanish-speaking population insisted on calling ‘Todos Santos’ on the premise that they all spoke Spanish anyway. When the Yankees got around to noticing the town, they shortened the name further to ‘Concord’. So, the town where I live is not on a floodplain. It is, however, in keeping with the Rules, very near an active fault.

Choosing Ends vs Means

Yes, I’m a bit obsessed with the Trolley Problem, because in it a whole mess of Bad Things converge in a uniquely clear way. Further, it seems to me the Trolley Problem is a clear example of what I was getting on about that, somehow, was brought to the attention of and earned the scorn of some Reddit folks. Yet further, Mike Flynn posted about how poorly the Democratic Party is forming and attempting to make its points regarding the so-called Affordable Care Act, which, as is so often the case with obsessions, brought the Trolley Problem back to mind. Because it’s all related. No, really!

Funny ol’ world, innit?

So, first, at the post linked above, the esteemed TOF gives an example of what really qualifies as not only fake news, but really inept political maneuvering:

Recently, for example, the Democratic Party was shocked, shocked we tell you, to learn that the Republican Party intended to follow through on its promise to dismantle the Affordable [sic] Care Act. The skyrocketing insurance costs in premiums and deductibles consequent to this act was one of the factors leading to the narrow defeat of its perceived heir and champion, Mrs. Clinton, in the recent election, although this has not been much mentioned. So the Democrats in Congress held a photo op announcing their intention to oppose this opposition. So far, so good. This is the normal procedure — sic et non — pioneered in the medieval world.

This was their opposition:

One immediately senses the overall ineptness that led the Party to its losses of Congressional seats, state legislatures, governorships, and now the presidency itself. Their sound-bite fails on two levels: the visceral and the rational.

The slogan “Make America Sick Again”, TOF asserts, fails on a visceral level, since, among other things, it’s not even clear who or what is being blamed until one (not likely) reads the fine print.  Further, the slogan makes no sense: neither the ACA nor its repeal will cause or fail to cause any sickness. The ACA is all about who *pays* for *care* of sickness.

Read the whole thing. While I agree with all this, I think there’s another level, and it has to do with what the ACA is in the minds of the audience: is it merely one among many government (and private sector!) programs designed to help defray and control the costs of medical care? Or is it Wonderful Healthcare for Everyone at Very Little Cost (or WHEVLC)? In other words, is support for the specific laws, regulations, and bureaucracies set up in the actual 1,990 page, 363,086 word bill itself, or is support based on the belief that the ACA is the same as WHEVLC?

I think the answer is obvious: those who supported the bill stated, almost without exception (that I can think of at the moment) that they were favoring WHEVLC. There were practically no popular discussions of specific provisions by those who favored the bill except for touting the Big Three of Pre-existing conditions(1), kids stay on parents’ insurance until they’re 48 or so (I may be off a little, something like that) and subsidies for people too poor to buy insurance. The other 1,900+ pages? Not talked about much.

Meanwhile, almost all opposition to the bill focused on details and mechanics. The most pertinent detail was the express need to pass the bill to see what was in it. That seems somewhat dubious, but it makes complete sense: the supporters of the ACA really didn’t care about how the worker’s paradise WHEVLC worked mechanically, because they were voting for WHEVLC, not the details. Problems, if any, would get ironed out in a few years, then everybody in America could walk into glistening medical facilities any time they needed to, get top notch care from caring professionals for anything that ailed them, and walk out confident the bill would be taken care of! Who could possibly oppose that?

Basically (and of course there are exceptions) one side viewed the decision to be between two ends: the then-current health care system, and WHEVLC; the other saw the decision as picking means: does the ACA make things better?  As I commented on Mr. Flynn’s blog:

One must assume the ends are known, because decisions are made, in the modern world, by choosing between ends. The Pragmatists, starting with Pierce, want to make the ends justify the means, so they habitually assume they know the outcomes and are deciding on them. A Pragmatist of the John Dewey species would be lost at sea if one were to demand moral decisions be made on principles, because, practically, the ends are unknown in any but very trivial cases. This is a Forbidden Thought.

Thus, the “Trolley Problem” is used as an example of moral decision making: a fantastic set of assumptions where all the crucial pieces are assumed to be known with certainty so that only the ends – 1 guy dies or 5 guys die – is considered relevant.

A real example of a moral decision might be: You promised to love, honor, serve and be faithful to your wife, but this morning you found out you didn’t like her anymore. What do you do?

No ends in sight. But that sort of question wouldn’t be very popular, less so the answer. So we assume, instead, that we know the ends *for sure* so that we can be Good People and chose Wonderful Healthcare for Everybody at Very Little Cost (WHEVLC, let’s say). And then make up whatever numbers and stories we need to help us feel good about it. In such a moral world, those who don’t like the ACA don’t want WHEVLC = what evil, evil people! The idea that there’s a difference between choosing ACA and getting WHEVLC cannot be entertained.

Back to the inane slogan. What seems to be happening to me is that the Democrats have decided, consciously or not, to abandon trying to convince the ‘undecided’ voters, in this case, those who may have become disenchanted with the ACA over the past 6 years. This slogan is perfect for the die-hard fans: it parodies Trump’s hateful (to them) campaign slogan, and hangs all the *inevitable* evil to come from failing to love WHEVLC on Trump’s shoulders. And the people who hate poor people and women – you know, people who would dare ask how this WHEVLC voodoo is supposed to work – well, they are, what is the word? Oh, yes, contemptible! Oops, meant Deplorable! That’s it!

On some level, I wonder if the current core of the Democratic Party believes people’s minds can be changed by argument or information. I suspect not. Therefore, a ‘better’ slogan might not be possible.

Finally, if one of those Reddit readers were to wander by, I ask: Did you ever hear about the trolley problem in school? How was it presented? Was a vigorous counterargument proposed and championed? More generally, was the possibility that moral decisions simply cannot be based on ends seriously discussed?  I suspect, but do not know, that Pragmatism is taught, more or less unconsciously, and that objections – fatal objections – to it are simply not seriously discussed. Well?

If this post isn’t enough, check here for further dissection.

  1. In insurance-land, that pre-existing conditions clause invites what is called ‘adverse selection’. In general, it means that buyers have information sellers don’t. People are more likely to buy insurance if they’re sure or think it likely they’ll need it. If I buy lots of life insurance because I know that the Mafia has a contract out on me, but don’t relay that information to the life insurance salesman, that’s adverse selection. That pre-existing conditions coverage clause codifies adverse selection – the seller must at least pretend they don’t know about your heart troubles, etc. Thus, the wisest, if not most moral, path is to buy insurance when you need it, say, right before you go into the hospital for surgery you’ve known about needing for years. Further, if you are young and healthy, it’s only a small risk that you’ll be hit with something bad before you have a chance to buy insurance for it. The premiums of healthy people who don’t make many big claims help keep costs down for sick people who do. This means sellers of insurance must take into account 1) having healthy people not contribute to the system (This reality is recognized – a little  – by penalizing those who don’t buy insurance. Then it’s just math: is the penalty or the insurance cheaper?) and 2) having to cover expensive treatment for people who only contribute a few payments into the system while taking large amounts out. Ultimately, this means prices have to go up – for everybody. Hmmm – did they? Every sane businessman and economist predicted they would.

Weekend Update

1. Still waiting for the Most Epic Rain Since, like, way back in 2005 to hit. All the radar images and projections sure look impressive, but, so far, have yielded less than a third of an inch of rain locally over the last 20 hours. They claim it is raining elsewhere, but why would anyone trust them?  If we don’t get at least 3 inches by Monday, I may have to write a rather sternly-worded letter to, ah, well, someone who can Do Something about this!

Something like this:

“Advan-ced” kills me every time.  (Also, this tune always brings to mind Chesterton’s quip: ‘Ten thousand women marched through the streets shouting, ‘We will not be dictated to,’ and went off and became stenographers.’)

Related image
A Norman doing it all wrong. 

2. Saw a tweet hoping to muster support for efforts to ban fracking in Sherwood Forest. Eyebrows shot upwards with bracing alacrity. Don’t we know the Forest is for the enjoyment of right-thinking Normans, who will punish with death any impoverished Saxons who dare try to use it for their ends?  Some things never change.

Image result for robin hood movie
Normans doing it right.

 

 

 

 

3. Christmas: the 12 days during which we are sore tempted to become yet more incarnate, in the sense of adding more carne, as it were.  A hazard I bravely endure is sharing a house with a gaggle of good to great cooks. We were having, for example, scones and fresh lemon curd, or waffles, maple syrup and whipped cream for breakfast, and  fresh baked pitas, fresh hummus & falafals and all the fixings, and fresh made pasta in a onion garlic cream sauce with fresh-baked bread for dinner. And that’s when we were eating at home – it was worse at family events, where we (by which I mean my wife and daughters) provide the desserts.

I’m sure many of you would bravely step in to relieve me of my fate, but my doom is my own. Sorry about that.

Then there’s fruitcake. I should mention that I do not share the general disdain for fruitcake, because I think of the fruitcake my mom used to make which, like everything she made, was outstanding. What passes for fruitcake in these degenerate times is a mockery!

Well, my beloved wife, bless her, has her own recipe for what is called a Christmas pudding, but one would be hard pressed to tell it from a fruitcake of the species my mom used to make. See below:

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Unfortunately, I messed up my attempts at pictures of the flaming part – yes, one warms up a little brandy, pours it over the top and sets it aflame – it burns a lovely blue. The smell of brandy is appropriate, as that topping you see is brandy butter whipped smooth.

The Calorific Vision.

Monday, I tell you, back on the wagon! Assuming I don’t explode first.

4. Kids heading back to school/work. Elder Daughter left last Sunday, packed off Middle Son today – put him on the train rather than make the 11 hour round trip on Interstate 5 because its supposed to be raining in an epic manner. Younger Daughter will be heading off to Rome (she chose Thomas More College largely to do the semester in Rome, it would seem) weekend after next. It’s sad to have all the kids home and them have them leave again, but it is sure good to see them.

After that, back to what passes for normal around here.

5. Still working on the Novel That Shall Not, For The Time Being, Be Named. Mostly background stuff and high-level descriptions. But still keeping it up. As Bullwinkle often said: This time, for sure!