New Joss Whedon Series

Oct 312007

Joss has a new TV series forthcoming: The Dollhouse. Here’s the basic scoop:

Whedon’s new Fox series, called Dollhouse, stars Miss Eliza Dushku, best known as Faith to you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. And, this show isn’t just a pilot. It’s already been given a seven-episode commitment by Fox. Whoo!

The series, according to Fox, is about “Echo (Eliza Dushku), a young woman who is literally everybody’s fantasy. She is one of a group of men and women who can be imprinted with personality packages, including memories, skills, language—even muscle memory—for different assignments. The assignments can be romantic, adventurous, outlandish, uplifting, sexual and/or very illegal. When not imprinted with a personality package, Echo and the others are basically mind-wiped, living like children in a futuristic dorm/lab dubbed the Dollhouse, with no memory of their assignments—or of much else. The show revolves around the childlike Echo’s burgeoning self-awareness, and her desire to know who she was before, a desire that begins to seep into her various imprinted personalities and puts her in danger both in the field and in the closely monitored confines of the Dollhouse.”



Oct 312007

I’m still sick, so I’ve not yet returned to work. That’s why I watched the movie Jarhead this afternoon. I wasn’t expecting much from it, as I recalled Nick Provenzo’s negative comments on it.

While I didn’t expect the movie to be heroic, I didn’t expect it to be so completely pointless. In fact, its rambling-to-nowhere was its only point. As Nick says,

The fundamental theme of Jarhead’s portrayal of Marine life is that heroes do not exist. One cannot depict the Marine Corps accurately without noting that at least some of its members perform feats of strength, endurance and bravery, and that to build an entire institution of such men, certain virtues are required. Yet like Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” a movie acclaimed for its supposed depiction of Viet Nam-era marines, none of these men and certainly none of these virtues are to be found.

Instead, what one finds in Jarhead are empty men who drift though life, denied of what they truly want, and who choose to make up for it in emotional outbursts and sadistic and debased pleasures.


Affirmative Action Debate

Oct 312007

On the evening of November 5th, the L.O.G.I.C. (the UCLA Objectivist Club) will be hosting a debate on affirmative action featuring Ward Connerly, Richard Sander, and Peter Schwartz. More details can be found on the club’s web site.

Update: Paul posted the following in the comments:

The affirmative action issue is a good example where a single person can create significant positive political and cultural change. Ward Connerly’s tireless efforts to eliminate race-based admissions in the University of California system seemed doomed to failure in the mid-1990s, especially given the liberal mindset of California in general and of the academicians in particular. And his initial efforts did fail. But he persisted, and as a result there have been significant changes in the university admissions policies in California, Texas, Florida, and Michigan. The battle is not over by any means, but a single person armed with clear rational convictions can and has made a tremendous difference in framing the terms of the debate and moving important parts of the culture in the right direction.

I like to cite this issue as an real-life example whenever I am faced with gloom-and-doom Objectivists who say that “socialized medicine is inevitable” or “this country is going to the sewer and there’s nothing we can do about it”. Of course it’s irrational to take a pollyanna-ish approach (e.g., “Objectivism is automatically going to win because the ideas are correct and in accordance with reality”), just as it’s irrational to take a doom-and-gloom approach (“Objectivism will never win because the forces of irrationality are too powerful”). But if Objectivists are willing to work in their self-interest to advocate good ideas in the appropriate time and fashion, then I believe there is reason for rational optimism.

In particular, I wholeheartedly agree with some of the folks at the ARI who think that Objectivists should be spending less time arguing minutia amongst themselves in internet Objectivist online forums and instead should be willing to go onto mainstream forums, blog comment boards, etc., and post their ideas to the wider world. Planting philosophical seeds in support of reason, ethical egoism, individual rights, and capitalism can bear fruit in surprising places. These comments don’t need to be long essays – just a couple of short polite sentences stating ones views (perhaps with links to more detailed arguments on the ARI or other Objectivist websites) could suffice, depending on one’s comfort level with writing.

This is not to disparage Objectivist online forums per se. Those can be good places to discuss ideas in a friendly setting. But what I am criticizing is the kind of person who spends disproportionate intellectual effort engaging in pointless discussions of Objectivist hair-splitting in an insular setting, rather than taking up the more significant challenge of advocating his ideas in a constructive fashion to the rest of the non-Objectivist world.

In that way, it’s no different from hearing someone at work saying, “Shouldn’t the government guarantee health care as a right for everyone?”, then being willing to respond with something like, “Actually that would be a terrible idea; that would turn doctors and nurses into slaves, and screw over honest, responsible patients as well.”

Dressage Humor

Oct 302007

Yup, the best horse in Europe:

Book Recommendation Wanted

Oct 302007

I recently received this e-mail from Jason Head:

I am a daily reader of your blog and have been for several years. My question is not philosophical, but I believe that you or your readers may be able to lead me in the right direction. I am looking for an economics and/or investing book which explains in laymen terms what the Federal Reserve does, what it purports to do, and the actual consequences of its actions from a free market perspective. Do you or your loyal readers have any suggestions for reading on this topic?

I know almost nothing about the Fed. Does anyone have any suggestions? (Disloyal readers are welcome to chime in too.)

The State of Evangelical Politics

Oct 292007

This lengthy New York Times article on the state of political activism amongst evangelical Christians was fascinating.

Two comments:

(1) I’m not surprised to hear more about the recent leanings of evangelicals toward the socialism and environmentalism of the Democrats. Socialism is, after all, better supported by Christian scripture than opposition to abortion. So evangelicals will likely be actively courted by both political parties for the foreseeable future. All that can be hoped for is some kind of secular candidate in the 2008 presidential election, since voting for a left-wing theocrat (e.g. Obama) over a right-wing theocrat (e.g. Huckabee) would be futile.

(2) The source of the disillusionment with Bush’s Iraq War among evangelicals is instructive: the problem is that the war is not altruistic enough. That new-found Christian pacifism will not only preclude any fight against our enemies abroad but also invigorate entitlements for the needy at home. That’s bad all around.

Much more could be said about the article, but I’m still too sick for much heavy thinking.

Mr. Deity, Season Two

Oct 282007

In a brand-new episode, Mr. Deity concretizes President Bush’s conversations with God. (Via Adam Mossoff.)

Sick Sick Sick, Movie Movie

Oct 272007

I’m horribly, miserably sick today with some kind of head cold. It has been coming on since Tuesday morning, but I staved it off until Friday afternoon. (My mom was visiting until then, so I was determined not to be sick.) So I just had a bit of a sore throat, scratchy voice, and hugely swollen lymph nodes until yesterday. Then I began to enjoy the distinct pleasures of a stuffy nose and total exhaustion. So now I’m miserable.

I’m also bored out of my tree, as I can’t do any thinking in my condition. I’ve cleaned out all the backlogged episodes of The Dog Whisperer from my TiVo. (I do enjoy the show, but not all day long!) I also watched M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. I can’t say much about it without giving away the plot, but I did enjoy it despite the theme. It wasn’t nearly as well done as Signs though. (That was stellar art in the service of a totally corrupt theme.)

Also, on Thursday evening, we watched The Lives of Others. It’s a German movie about life before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s fantastic; I cannot recommend it enough.

Kant, Savior of Religion

Oct 272007


Religion has faced formidable foes in its history. But atheism hasn’t generally been one of them — until today. A recent string of bestselling books has put believers of all stripes on the defensive. Religion, say authors such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, is an unreasonable form of blind faith, often leading to fanaticism and violence. Reason and science, they contend, are the only proper foundations for forming opinions and understanding the universe. Those who believe in God, they insist, are falling for silly superstitions.

This atheist attack is based on a fallacy — the Fallacy of the Enlightenment. It was pointed out by the great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant erected a sturdy intellectual bulwark against atheism that hasn’t been breached since. His defense doesn’t draw on sacred texts or any other sources of authority to which people of faith might naturally and rightfully turn when confronted with atheist arguments. Instead, it relies on the only framework that today’s atheist proselytizers say is valid: reason. The Fallacy of the Enlightenment is the glib assumption that there is only one limit to what human beings can know — reality itself. This view says we can find out more and more until eventually there is nothing more to discover. It holds that human reason and science can, in principle, unmask the whole of reality.

That’s from Dinesh D’Souza, unsurprisingly. He’s the author of the just-published book, What’s So Great About Christianity. (Yes, I do plan to read it.)

Ayn Rand Lexicon Online

Oct 262007

Cool: The Ayn Rand Lexicon is now available on the web at

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