Monday, September 16, 2013

On Modern Culture

The economy isn't wonderful and politics are even more bleak than usual, but those are not my subjects today.

Art has never been better. We are living in the era of the greatest outpouring of creativity in the history of the human race. Everywhere the barriers to self expression have been lowered. Thanks to technology you can write a novel and publish it to the world. You can write, produce, and record a song for everyone to hear. You can design and make clothing, sculpture and drawings for little to no cost. Almost no area of the arts is untouched by this. Feel like drawing? If you have a computer and a connection you can download a very powerful free program (the GIMP) and manipulate images to your heart's delight. If you write, there are several text programs to help you.

Millions, possibly hundreds of millions, are doing so. And the potential audience is growing larger every day. You can potentially reach billions. In the old days, you had to get your vision through a battery of gatekeepers. In the visual arts, you had grant committees who heeded certain critics more than anyone else. For music and writing, you had publishing companies who selected works based upon a mixture of whim and marketability.

Those inbred cliques are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. There will always be winners and losers in the arts. A novel by a Stephen King or a James Patterson will always sell better than the latest work of Millicent Shrump or Stan Forbush. But E L James has literally made a fortune off of her fanfic. A book that never would have been published twenty years ago.

Today, record your song and either give it away through YouTube or sell via a plethora of for pay music channels. You can own the tools to do so for less than two hundred dollars. Produce a play and stream it for pay or give it away. Or do both.

Don't like how group X is over represented in comic books or how Group Y is constantly denigrated? Stop moaning and whining and do something about it. There are real live people like you and I who make money off web comics. Some even make enough to support themselves.

Here's the take away point: It will only get better.

Friday, September 06, 2013

He Really Is Bringing Us Together

I know people from all across the political spectrum. And, I must confess, when my progressive friends touted Pres. Obama as being the one who would bring this country together, I was skeptical. I remained skeptical for what I thought were good reasons until very recently. But a spirit of unity is sweeping through the land and I would be foolish not to acknowledge it.

Absolutely no one I know is in favour of intervening in Syria. And I know some genuine troglodytes on the right and rabid progressives on the left. Not one of them is for it.

God bless you President Obama. It took you seven years but you have pulled us all together.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Third Amendment

A lawsuit has popped up in Nevada regarding homeowners who were ejected from their home during a siege of their neighbour's house by police.

As militarized as the police are getting, I don't think they are soldiers as described by the third amendment to the Constitution.

For reference here is the full text of the relevant article: "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

That's fairly clear and somewhat self-explanatory. Depending upon the facts and circumstances, it's entirely possible that the court may find the police justified in their actions.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good News For White Democrats

The Supremes just held that section four of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. That doesn't mean that the practise of gerrymandered 'minority/majority' Congressional districts will cease forthwith, but it makes them look  a tad more dubious.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Observation

In 1959 the Episcopal Church had 3,444,265 members and 8,708 clergy. Clergy was .25% of membership.

In 2009 the Episcopal Church had 2,006,343 members and 15,404 clergy. Clergy was .76% of membership. Were the Episcopal church staffed at 1959 levels, the number of clergy would be 5,073.

A causal link between the increase in clergy and the decline in membership is not proven, but it is interesting. In the fifty years since 1959 (the high water mark for membership), membership has declined by 41% and the ranks of the clergy have increased by 77%.

Ignoring theology, the increase in clergy relative to membership has to be putting a strain on finances. It is a truism that a church in financial trouble is less attractive to a prospective new member than a church that is not.

Granted that there has been a boom in part-time and non-stipendiary clergy in the past few decades, how much better would the finances be if two thirds of the currently existing clergy were off the rolls?

Figures from here.

I would like to point out that trimming dioceses and bishops would be an even better bang for the buck than dropping priests. The Episcopal Church has a ludicrous amount of middle management compared to almost every other organization.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Problem With Movies

Here's a popular musical number from a remake (2003)



Here's the original:



The more modern version is racially integrated. It also has only pretty people.

There are plenty of pretty people in the 1962 version, but there are also what my wife calls 'faces'. That is to say non-pretty people with distinctive looks. In the modern version the mayor and his wife are youthful and very pretty. They are portrayed by Victor Garber and Molly Shannon, both of whom are quite good looking.

In the 1962 version, the mayor and his wife are played by Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold, neither of whom could be described as beautiful. What they did have were faces with character, distinctive voices (hearing Hermione Gingold say 'Balzac' is worth the price of admission) and serious comedic and acting chops.

Somewhere in the forty years between 1962 and 2003 Hollywood lost track of what character actors should bring to a movie and started casting pretty people exclusively.