Pixar’s “Up”

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out, and I found it a very powerful experience; let’s say my allergies acted up through the whole thing. On my rating scale, I give it the highest marks: “see it twice at full price”. I just watched it again this evening, via Netflix On-Demand, and I wasn’t quite as much of a wreck this time, so I could pay more attention to deeper aspects.

While “Up” is perfectly appropriate for children, I think emotionally mature adults will have a hard time watching it without benefit of kleenex. Hell, this is the most shamelessly manipulative film from Pixar yet. It’s a roller coaster: love and loss; innocence, and realizing the world is not what you expected; determination, and despair, and finding strength to go on anyway; and understanding at last what your promises really mean, and the sacrifices it will take to keep them.

There is one major theme that really stood out for me on this second viewing: that of personal growth, and of self-discovery, and of letting-go. (There’s a lot of M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled” here.)

It is Carl’s childhood promise to Ellie to visit Paradise Valley that motivates him to leave his old world after her death, and go against his old safe nature to begin an adventure (“it’s out there!”) when thought he had nothing left to lose. But he *did* have something to lose, and he carries it around with him through the whole film. Carl’s house is symbolic of everything about his old life: all his possessions, all his memories, everything that remains of Ellie, and everything else that he loved. He wants to keep these things and transplant them to new surroundings, to keep everything inside without changes while still keeping his promise to go to the valley. He wants to go to a new place, but stay the same person; he doesn’t know yet that by the time you get to your destination, the journey will have changed you.

When he and Russell first touch down in the valley, he has his first brush with what will be required of him; as they teeter over a cliff, Carl literally screams into the abyss as he sees danger to him self (and to his sense of self). He carries all of his old life with him: it hangs over him, he lives in its shadow, he struggles to keep it; he won’t let it go, but in some ways it carries him too. It’s only when he has other people to take care of, when he sees where they are in their lives, when he makes promises to them like he made to Ellie to protect them and keep them safe, and when he fights to keep those promises in the face of despair and impossible circumstances, that he finds strength and talent and power he had never tapped before. His old life helps him through the new challenges, but when the time comes, he is finally ready to let it go — and *then* he gains new life, while at the same time honoring all the best of his old life.

And that’s just one aspect of the movie. It’s a great, great film … I just can’t watch it very often, you know, because of the allergies.

Are Soccer Fans Socialist?

But what surprised me was the reason that many fans defended rules that make it hard to score goals in soccer. Several commenters said that soccer would be boring if the best team always won, which makes the luck factor a good thing.

I agree that it is important for the underdog to have a chance. However, in the sport that I like, the underdog wins by playing better in that particular game or series. The Orioles did not upset the favored Dodgers in 1966 because of an arbitrary call or a bizarre mishap. The O's outplayed the Dodgers. Clearly.

I have my doubts about the case for giving the better team a high probability of losing due to bad luck just for the sake of making the games more interesting. That seems to me like wanting to tax rich people because you don't like people to be too successful. It sounds to me like soccer is the road to serfdom.

I thought the title of the post was funny. Via Are Soccer Fans Socialist?, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

A Civil Rights Victory: 2nd Amendment Upheld

The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution’s Second Amendment restrains government’s ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights.

Two years ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home.

That ruling applied only to federal laws. It struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement for other guns in the District of Columbia, a federal city with a unique legal standing. At the same time, the court was careful not to cast doubt on other regulations of firearms here.

The Supreme Court already has said that most of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights serve as a check on state and local, as well as federal, laws.

… Alito noted that the declaration that the Second Amendment is fully binding on states and cities "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values."

via Gun rights extended by Supreme Court.

Is the U.S. a Fascist Police-State?

It’s getting harder for me to answer a solid “no” to this question.

A police-state uses the law as a mechanism to control any challenges to its power by the citizenry, rather than as a mechanism to insure a civil society among the individuals. The state decides the laws, is the sole arbiter of the law, and can selectively (and capriciously) decide to enforce the law to the benefit or detriment of one individual or group or another.

In a police-state, the citizens are “free” only so long as their actions remain within the confines of the law as dictated by the state. If the individual’s claims of rights or freedoms conflict with the state, or if the individual acts in ways deemed detrimental to the state, then the state will repress the citizenry, by force if necessary. (And in the end, it’s always necessary.)

What’s key to the definition of a police-state is the lack of redress: If there is no justice system which can compel the state to cede to the citizenry, then there is a police-state. If there exists a pro forma justice system, but which in practice is unavailable to the ordinary citizen because of systemic obstacles (for instance, cost or bureaucratic hindrance), or which against all logic or reason consistently finds in favor of the state—even in the most egregious and obviously contradictory cases—then that pro forma judiciary system is nothing but a sham: A tool of the state’s repression against its citizens. Consider the Soviet court system the classic example.

A police-state is not necessarily a dictatorship. On the contrary, it can even take the form of a representative democracy. A police-state is not defined by its leadership structure, but rather, by its self-protection against the individual.

via Gonzalo Lira: Is the U.S. a Fascist Police-State? « naked capitalism.

Broadcasting and Blaring the call to Prayer in NYC

Does this strike anyone else as a problem? Because it does me:

As New Yorkers who suffered the ultimate call to prayer on 911, there is no reason in the world why we must be subjected to this noise harassment. Pamela H caught this amplified "call to prayer" on 29th street today.

Will the 13-story mega mosque be blaring the Muslim call to prayer on 911?

Bronx Mosque Suspends Request to Amplify Call to Prayer; Residents Remain Unsympathetic

This is merely an extension of the takeover of our streets — every year we have to put up with this islamic supremacism.

Child in burka….is she a sex object? Why the cover up?

Praying on Madison Avenue.

Police dropped down too

The fellow in a NYPD uniform kneeling down with the eagles on his shoulder is at the rank of Inspector. He seems awfully damn young to be that high up the ranks.

Women allowed to pray in the last two rows only.

Initial reaction: you want to pray, fine; do it inside, and don’t disturb the peace with your bullhorn. Another initial reaction: a uniformed officer of the law in public execution of his duties should not be acting that way on the street.

via Broadcasting and Blaring the call to Prayer in NYC – Atlas Shrugs.

Ten pillars of economic wisdom

1. TANSTAAFL: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

2. Incentives matter.

3. Economic thinking is thinking on the margin.

4. The only way to create wealth is to move it from a lower valued to a higher valued use. Corollary: Both sides gain from exchange.

5. Information is valuable and costly.

6. Every action has unintended consequences.

7. The value of a good or service is subjective.

8. Costs are a bad, not a good.

9. The only way to increase a nation's real income is to increase its real output.

10. Competition is a hardy weed, not a delicate flower.

via Ten pillars of economic wisdom.

Solar 1.1.1 Stable Released

On Thursday, I released version 1.1.0 of the Solar Framework for PHP. Due to a small but critical bug in the PostgreSQL adapter, I released version 1.1.1 with the necessary fix earlier today. Change notes are here for 1.1.0, and here for 1.1.1.

The single biggest new feature in this release of Solar is a Markdown plugin set for DocBook, along with a new make-docbook command to convertAPI documentation to DocBook files. Previously, the Solar API documentation was wiki-like; now, we take the Markdown-based comments in the codebase and convert them to DocBook, and render the DocBook files in to HTML using PhD. (Incidentally, I tried rendering with xsltproc; after three hours, the processing was less than one-third complete. With PhD, rendering takes under five minutes for the entire API documentation set.)

Also, the make-model command now recognizes a star at the end of the model name, indicating it should make one model class set for each table in the database. For example, this will make one model class from the table "foo_bar" …

./script/solar make-model Vendor_Model_FooBar

… but this will make a Vendor_Model class for each table in the database:

./script/solar make-model Vendor_Model_*

That kind of thing is helpful when getting started with an existing set of tables, or when you’re updating your models after schema changes.

Other highlights include a series of small fixes, better CLI output in non-TTY environments, improved automation of CSRF form elements.

Finally, we’ve added a new manual chapter on user authentication, roles, and access control. Find out how, with some config settings, you can instantiate a single object and let it automatically handle user login/logout, role discovery, and access permissions for you! And if you want more direct control over the process, browse on over to these blog entries from CoolGoose:

If you haven’t tried Solar yet, maybe now is the time: run through the Getting Started documentation and see how you like it!

(Cross-posted from the Solar blog.)

The Helpless Titan

It’s not necessary to ignore the misdeeds of British Petroleum to criticize the appalling performance of our massive super-State. Big Government and Big Business have become so entwined that any disaster on the scale of the Gulf oil spill, or the subprime mortgage crisis before it, will have both public and private agencies to blame. Suggesting that government cannot be criticized until every one of its private-sector “partners” has been bankrupted or nationalized is a recipe for tyranny. We should study the example of BP and understand that only one half of the government-business alliance can call press conferences at will, addressing a media prepared to extend them unlimited credit for their good intentions.

One of the reasons Big Government is so helpless in the face of an actual crisis is that it never learns anything, because it evades blame and consequence for its failures. The politicians who brought you the subprime crisis are richer and more powerful than ever before.

via The Greenroom » The Helpless Titan.