Ties on Pigs
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
  The Da Vinci Sham by Andy

I got around to reading the very popular book The Da Vinci Code, and I must admit I am very disappointed. Dan Brown does a good job of running the reader through a compelling, suspenseful story, filled with riddles and cliffhangers. However, I was turned off by the presence and magnitude of anti-Christian statements. At times, Brown displays some positive sentiments towards Christianity, but it is overshadowed by some very forceful attacks on the institution of the Church and the Christian religion in general.

Brown has stated that his historical claims are well researched and accurate; however there is no way the ideas presented in the book would survive O’Reilly’s No Spin Zone. Many of the book’s claims are exaggerated, highly controversial, or just outright false--particularly with claims having to do with the Council of Nicea and Constantine. Just do a google search on "da vinci code critique" to find a surplus of strong arguments against the book.

However, the aspect of Brown’s presentation of religion that disturbed me the most is its lack of moral concern. The book encourages a sort of spirituality that includes paganism. The part that was glaringly missing for me was what sort of morality paganism brought to the table. For me to consider a religion to be purposeful, it must be centered or moral principles. Without the belief in right and wrong and a respect for the quality with which we live our lives, a religion is meaningless. It’s like going to a restaurant that does not serve food. I would love to see someone try to construct a philosophical argument as to how the pagan sex ritual (a la Eyes Wide Shut) is morally sound.

It is too bad that so many people change their view of religion from this book and are so trusting of the information it presents. It is fiction. Brown does a nice job of weaving a compelling story that promotes Gnosticism, but it is through the enticing presentation of his story, not the truth of his ideas.

And in the end, the success of The Da Vinci Code gives us the disservice of advancing today’s anti-Christian climate. 
Sunday, January 11, 2004
  Return of the King by David Z. Dent

I finally saw the final installment of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy movies last night. For the entire series, I have to give those that made the film an "A" grade. The special effects and casting for most of the film was excellent. But I am a long-time fan of Tolkien and no film could have been made of this story without criticism from me. I am wont to ignore minor discrepancies - recognizing their necessity for the sake of translating book to film - but have trouble with serious omissions or modifications to the actions or nature of the characters in the book.

Having said that, I hate what they did to Aragorn. He was a post-modern whimp in the film both in the way they wrote the screenplay to include all of the doubting and need for constant help and support from Arwen, and in the nasally, whimpy way in which Vigo Mortensen played him. Vigo is not physically the right guy. Check out the descriptions of the man in the early part of the story where Frodo and company meet him for the first time as Strider. There was no commanding presence, no natural authority or inspirational words of wisdom from the movie's version of Aragorn.

Aragorn, Elfstone, was a larger than life character. Not in a shallow special-effects/video game/cartoon manner, but in a real way. Aragorn represented to Tolkien everything honorable and right about men forced to violence. He also made some allusions to a Jesus-like figure in the events that happened upon his return to Minas Tirith (which the movie completely left out).

Some bulleted points of omission that bothered me:

1. Aragorn carried his broken sword with him and had it the day Frodo and company met. It was not on display at Elrond's house.
2. He had his sword reforged at Elrond's while they were there.
3. He NEVER hesitated or shrunk from his destiny. In fact he had been waiting his whole life to fulfill it and was tired of enduring the wait.
4. His destiny with Arwen could only be fulfilled if he became King.
5. After Helm's Deep, there was a final confrontation with Saruman. Wormtongue threw the Pallantir out the window and it landed on the ground, where Pippen picked it up.
6. On the way back from Isengard, the party is overcome by some thirty horsemen who turn out to be Halbarad and thirty Dunedan Ranger/Knights from the north - Aragorn's kinsmen. Along with them are Elrond's two sons. Elrohir, Elrond's son, brings a pole with a black cloth wrapped around it. He is told that Arwen wove the cloth for him over many months. Aragorn already knows what it is. It is his banner of the white tree, with the seven stars above it. To unfurl this banner was tantamount to claiming the throne at Minas Tirith.
7. Aragorn takes the Palantir and gazes into it, alerting Sauron of his existence, the heir of Isildur. He struggles to control it and masters it.
8. The undead warriors fulfill their oath in a battle far to the south along the coast where Aragorn, his thirty Dunedan, Legolas, Gimli and Elrond's sons intercept the Black Corsairs and defeat them before they move upriver. Aragorn builds and army from the freed slaves operating the oars on the galleys and several lesser nobles of the coastal areas. It is this army of mortals that come to the rescue at the Battle of Pellenor Fields.
9. Denethor had another Palantir and was being manipulated and driven mad by Sauron.
10. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth was completely left out of the film.
11. The Final Debate was completely omitted, probably because they didn't have some of the main characters.

I understand the need to shorten the film, because it was so long, but I believe they robbed the story of its soul in preference to the special effects.

Oh well. I really enjoyed the special effects and most of the castings were excellent. Gandalf was magnificent. All of the hobbits were excellent. Legolas and Gimli were perfect. Denethor was very good, as was Theodain, Eowyn, Eomer, and many others. The Ents were awesome. Saruman was excellent. Overall the film was an absolute must-see for any fan of the books, but they can never come close to the story for impact and significance. Especially when they try to rewrite it.

My biggest problem is that Hollywood, once again, robbed a film of a strong, powerful, good man. Hollywood seems incapable of portraying such a character in any venue. It is disturbing and disappointing. 
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
  Bobcats and 20 pounds By David Z. Dent

This morning, as I was taking my two-year old to his twice a week half-day at school, there were two bobcats squaring off to rumble sixty feet from my driveway. Beautiful cats. And they were big. It made me a little apprehensive about my pooches, honestly. My dogs are about 75 and 65 pounds, respectively, but they don't have the weapons a cats has and these kitties were at least 50 pounds, maybe more. A month ago, while walking the dogs, my boy dog ran off and bit a javelina on the nose and made it run away. Now there are bobcats. Living in the foothills sure is different than in town.

Also this morning, my second son weighed in a 20 pounds, 2 ounces at four months old! He was 8 pounds, 1 ounce at birth. His big brother was 10 pounds, 9 ounces at birth and 20 pounds, 4 ounces at four months. That baby is catching up fast! 
  Gentle Leaders By David Z. Dent

No. I don't mean guys like Ghandi. I'm talking about dog collars. I have just purchased two new dog collars for my rambunctious hounds and I am like a new man. I brought home two pups while still in college and raised them myself. It was a pain. It was impossible to train two at once. They are rowdy and excitable and chase anything that moves. Walking them has always been an anxious endeavor.

But that has changed. These new collars literally lead the dogs by the nose. There is a strap that goes over the snout and the leash hooks under the chin. If the dog pulls on the leash their nose is pushed down towards their chest. No choking. I have gone from having to be double and triple sure of my grip on the leashes to having only a finger in the loop. The dogs just don't tug at all anymore. It is awesome!

Anyway, I am very excited about it because that means I can walk my dogs more often now without the big hassle. Their lives will be immeasurably improved, as will mine.  
  Thoughts on College Sports by David Z. Dent

I was preparing to watch the Sugar Bowl between OU and LSU last Sunday night and I had the television on about fifteen minutes early and caught a little bit of ABC's World News (I think that is the title). They had some horrible images of Bam, Iran (may God have mercy on all those lost souls), and then they went into a segment on college sports just before the Sugar Bowl was to begin.

What would anyone think the story was about? The Sugar Bowl? The struggle for a national champion? The worthiness of LSU to be playing for the national title instead of USC? The travesty and conspiracy to keep Ohio State from defending their title (that last one was for Hugh)? NOPE.

The story was about how college coaches make too much money. Is this an envy thing between ABC's News and their Entertainment or Sports divisions? No one watches their News, so they have to take cheaps shots at sports?

I wasn't totally outraged or shocked, just tired of hearing the same liberal whine of complaint. Complaint that some people make more money than others and that somehow there is injustice in all of it.

One could make an arguement that college sports have gotten out of control (they did). One could point out that coaches of major football and basketball programs make ten times the money that professors of Physics make (they did). And it doesn't matter. I'll tell you why:

1. Big-time sports is big-time money in this country. Why wouldn't our universities teach our young men (and yes, it is 99% men), how to thrive and excel in that industry? Why wouldn't a university be interested in providing a program that teaches its students about this industry? Top drawer athletic programs are like top drawer Optical Sciences departments, they just teach different things. UA's Op Sci department fixed the Hubble telescope after Stanford screwed it up (sometimes you get what you pay for, NASA). That was like winning the NCAA national title game. The guys involved with that fix have their careers made. The UA spent gobs of money on that program over the years and has the best Op Sci dept. in the world. How is that different from a perennial top five basketball program? Lute's cats go pro pretty often, making millions of dollars in the NBA. They learned their skills at the UA. Isn't that what college is for?

2. At the University of Arizona, the football program has never lost money. Never. They had the most miserable season in anyone's memory this year and still kept it in the black. They had the worst turnout in the stands in recent memory and they were still in the black. And this is a basketball town.

3. Athletic programs are many times autonomous financially. This year, under extreme (not California extreme. Please, we still have a fairly conservative state) budget pressures, the athletic department gave back one million dollars to the University over and above the usual royalties and fees.

4. Big-time athletics is gruelling work. Coaches work insane hours, under unbelievable pressure and have no job security. They lose a few games and they are gone. When the sociology professors want to put up those kind of hours under threat of termination if very slim margins of error are breached, then maybe their salaries would rise up too. I don't begrudge anyone fair-market salary for their occupation. If you can demand and acheive one million dollar salaries, then God Bless you and have mercy on your sanity and family life under the pressure.

ABC tried to point out that athletic departments usually lose money. What about the College of Fine Arts? Secondly, I am not convinced of this, given the above examples about the UA. I would like to challenge the point a bit further as well. If the law was revoked that required equal numbers of athletic scholarships be available for men and women's sports, ALL athletic programs, save the very worst would be money makers for the universities. NO ONE watches women's sports except the parents of the players.

It is sad, but true. I remember reading or listening to a news report last year, right after the NCAA Basketball Tourney, that talked about the money made in advertising, royalties and merchandising. The commentary went something like, "The NCAA Basketball Tournament Brought in $XX in net revenues, after expenses. After subtracting $XX for the women's tournament, the Grand Total profit for the NCAA was $XXXX".

I did a double-take. What kind of insane money could be made if the women's programs were cut? I've got a news flash for ABC: "cut the women's programs and athletics would pay for itself and perhaps be a profit center for the school."

Enough of my rant. I get tired of whiny envy speech from the left. I was not interested in hearing that kind of garbage before enjoying a football game. 
Friday, January 02, 2004
  Happy New Year! by David Z. Dent

Happy New Year to everyone! Mark Steyn has a great year opener - read it here.

My own predictions, although still in flux, include a serious motion regarding our seive-like borders with Canada and Mexico. I believe that the Mexican trucks on US roads, Amnesty vs. Guest Worker visa argument and the health care conundrum that our border states are having, will drive this issue into the headlines this year. No one will cover it with gusto until Bush starts making real changes AFTER the election in November. But I believe that the trial baloons and ground rules are being played out right now.

Ashcroft, sent up a balloon last week regarding the reevaluation of our immigration policy. This issue will sneak in under the wire, because the Dems can't touch it. Only the fringe groups like La Raza and Mecha will cause a stir. Some doomed dems will try to side with the illegals, but a smart policy that is bound to come out of the Bushies will undermine any criticism they may have and a healthy proportion of legal immigrants will be supportive of the Bush agenda.

Illegal immigration is the biggest unresolved issue out there other than the War on Terrorism, and it gets nearly zero coverage or apparent action by elected officials. Expect some movement this year, if you pay attention, and real action to happen in '05 unless something aweful happens between now and then.

Expect continuing pressure on the Gay marriage stuff up until the election. It is a percieved weakness for the Bushies by the Dems and they feel the time is ripe. If the gay issue keeps getting pushed, expect a backlash of some kind, perhaps even a sustained one. In a related issue, expect the Episcopal attendance and membership in the US to continue to decline, perhaps even faster than before.

Look for Israel to lay down the law to the unwashed horde of illiterates in Gaza and the West Bank. Expect an eery silence from the US in response. Then watch as the various Muslim despots wet their pants and find ways to "contribute" to the war on terror.

My hope of hopes for 2004?:

1. A 60 vote majority of GOP in the senate.
2. Replace a couple of SCOTUS members with good conservatives (maybe this is a couple of years off yet).
3. A "Radio-Free-Europe" reinstated for France, Germany and the low countries of the north.
4. Regieme change in France.
5. A resolution of our immigration problems and control of our borders and ports.
6. Bankruptcy of several major liberal media outlets.

That's all for now.
Pushers for a Theistic Conservative agenda. Shining the light of truth on the muddy waters of moral relativism.

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