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Sunday, January 15, 2017

My New Year's Resolution

In an attempt to infuse my life with more spirituality, I'm going to blog my way through the scriptures, to make sure I'm actually meaningfully pondering what I read:

http://blogthebofm.blogspot.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Books Read in 2016

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Penguin Random House Crown/Achetype 2012).  Audible. 4 stars out of 5. 
A book that criticizes some of the modern trends I find most maddening, and also vindicates my entire way of being.  What's not to like? Key Quote: "Any time people come together in a meeting, we're not necessarily getting the best ideas; we're just getting the ideas of the best talkers."

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Barnes and Noble Softcover Classics edition.  2 stars out of 5.
An evil fable.  I was surprised how little plot there was. If you know the main idea, which almost everyone does, there's really little need to read the book, which doesn't offer much story beyond that main idea.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Trade Paperback 60th Anniversary Edition. 4 stars out of 5.
A re-read of an old favorite.  It's interesting how at different ages and different times in my life the same story seems to mean different things to me.  In this reading, the book really didn't seem to be about the dangers of totalitarianism or censorship, but about the dangers of mass media, and living a life of complacent acceptance of things we would really rather not accept.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1955) Kindle.  5 stars out of 5.
The best biography of C.S. Lewis is his own memoir of his conversion from Atheism to Christianity. Key quotes: "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.  There are traps everywhere . . . .  God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous." "The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

Tour of the Jungfrau Region.  A Two Week Trek in the Berner Oberland by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone Press 2012)  5 Stars out of 5.
A book for dreaming.

Walking in the Bernese Oberland.  Over 100 Walking Routes by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone Press 2015).  4 stars out of 5.  
The book which taught me to seek out Oeschinensee, a locals favorite known to few tourists, where we spent my personal favorite hours of our Swiss vacation.  Key quotes: "With the classic trio of Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau as its most iconic symbol, the Bernese Oberland hosts some of the best-known mountains in the Alps.  Rising out of lush green meadows they tower above chalets bright with geraniums and petunias; a stark contrast of snow, ice and rock against a kaleidoscope of flower shrub and pasture; an awesome backdrop to an Alpine wonderland." "Every corner of the Berner Oberland range has its own touch of magic."

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic 2016).  Hardcover.  3 stars out of 5. 
An enjoyable Potter-world take on the classic Butterfly Effect time travel plot device (the best version of which is still to be found in Ray Bradbury's classic short story "A Sound of Thunder.").  As a book, it's a fun way to spend a couple of hours, but not likely to pass the test of time in the same way as the novels.  I suspect it's better as a play and would like to see it someday.

Flashpoint, by Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, and Sandra Hope. Paperback Edition Graphic Novel (DC Comics 2011).  3 stars out of 5. 
Another take on the butterfly effect story.  In some ways better, and in some ways less so, than Rowling's version.

The Life of Greece, by Will Durant (Simon & Schuster 1939) Audible Edition (Narrated by Stephan Rudnicki).  5 stars out of 5.  
To be ignorant of "Greek thought and life, and of the arts in which the Greeks expressed their thought and sentiment," is, in the words of Charles Eliot Norton, to remain "ignorant of the best intellectual and moral achievements" of the race of man.  If this is true, then it is truly tragic that Americans no longer know what we should about ancient Greece and its key personalities, because the ruthlessly utilitarian nature of our educational reforms for the past century have cut us off from our heritage as the heirs of Western Civilization.  Reading this book is one way I have tried to remedy this deficit in my education, and to restore that which was stolen from me by John Dewey.
The book is magnificent, not just for the history it covers, but for the way that Will Durant has with words, and for his aphoristic asides on the inevitable patterns of history ("A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean." "It is as difficult to begin a civilization without robbery as it is to maintain it without slaves." "Around every Rome hover the Gauls; around every Athens some Macedon.")
The Audible Version, read by narrator Stephan Rudnicki, one of my favorites, who also reads several of Audible's versions of Orson Scott Card's books, is amazing.  The book led me to believe this: There are no new or modern ideas.  Every idea I have ever heard or read, about philosophy, literature, parody, satire, humor, art, science, medicine, atheism, politics, social science, economics, etc., can it seems be found, in its original and nascent form, in the writings of some ancient Greek.  Nor are there any original ways for a society to commit suicide.  Every version of societal decay and dissolution and fall from prosperity and prominence has been reenacted hundreds of times before in the various epochs of the hundreds of city-states of ancient Greece.  All that is wrong with America today might be remedied if we knew enough about this history to heed its warnings.  But we don't.  So we won't.
Key quotes: "Excepting machinery, there is hardly anything secular in our culture that does not come from Greece.  Schools, gymnasiums, arithmetic, geometry, history, rhetoric, physics, biology, anatomy, hygiene, therapy, cosmetics, poetry, music, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, theology, agnosticism, skepticism, stoicism, epicureanism, ethics, politics, idealism, philanthropy, cynicism, tyranny, plutocracy, are all Greek words for cultural forms seldom originated, but in many cases first matured for good or evil by the abounding energy of the Greeks."
"All of the problems that disturb us today --the cutting down of forests and the erosion of the soil; the emancipation of woman and the limitation of the family; the conservatism of the established, and the experimentalism of the unplaced, in morals, music, and government; the corruptions of politics and the perversions of conduct; the conflict of religion and science, and the weakening of the supernatural supports of morality; the war of the classes, the nations, and the continents; the revolutions of the poor against the economically powerful rich, and of the rich against the politically powerful poor; the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, between individualism and communism, between the East and the West -- all these agitated, as if for our instruction, the brilliant and turbulent life of ancient Hellas. There is nothing in Greek civilization that does not illuminate our own."
"Individualism in the end destroys the group, but in the interim it stimulates personality, mental exploration, and artistic creation.  Greek democracy was corrupt and incompetent, and had to die.  But when it was dead men realized how beautiful its heyday had been; and all later generations of antiquity looked back to the centuries of Pericles and Plato as the zenith of Greece, and of all history."
"Historians divide the past into epochs, years, and events, as thought divides the world into groups, individuals, and things; but history, like nature, knows only continuity amid change: . . .  history makes no leaps."
"Equality is unnatural; and where ability and subtlety are free, inequality must grow until it destroys itself in the indiscriminate poverty of social war; liberty and equality are not associates but enemies. The conentration of wealth begins by being inevitable, and ends by being fatal."
"Forced to choose, the poor, like the rich, love money more than political liberty; and the only political freedom capable of enduring is one that is so pruned as to keep the rich from denuding the poor by ability or subtlety and the poor from robbing the rich by violence or votes.  Hence the road to power in Greek commercial cities was simple: to attack the aristocracy, defend the poor, and come to an understanding with the middle classes."
"Man became free when he recognized that he was subject to law.  That the Greeks, so far as our knowledge goes, were the first to achieve this recognition and this freedom in both philosophy and government is the secret of their accomplishment, and of their importance in history."
"Science and philosophy, in the history of states, reach their height after decadence has set in; wisdom is a harbinger of death."
"No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself."

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro (Simon & Schuster 2010).  Trade Paperback Edition.  3 Stars out of 5.  
I remember walking into a music store in Provo Utah shortly after it was revealed that Milli Vanilli were not really singing on their CDs.  Scratched and destroyed CDs of their music were hanging from the rafters, donated by outraged one-time fans.  I found this perplexing.  I was not a fan of Milli Vanilli, but if I had been, would the music I liked somehow become less likeable, the tunes less hummable, the hooks less engaging, because Milli Vanilli didn't sing them?  Somebody wrote that music.  Someone sat down and played the tunes, or at least programmed a synthesizer to do so.  And somebody went into a recording studio somewhere and sang the songs.  If you were a fan, wouldn't the proper response to the discovery of the fraud be to keep listening to the music, while demanding to know who really crafted this music, so you could buy that anonymous person's next, no-longer anonymous, CD? If scholarship decides that Rembrandt didn't paint one of his famous works, but a student probably did so, why does the painting's value decrease?  If the painting was at one time highly regarded, isn't the painting itself still worthy of appreciation on its own merits, for whatever artistic talent it displays, regardless of whose talent was thereby displayed?
Most of those who dispute the judgment of history that Shakespeare wrote his own plays do so on the grounds that the plays are so well-written that the man from Stratford was not possibly sufficiently educated or experienced in the ways of court to have done so.  But I wonder, if a majority of scholars were ever to decide that Shakespeare didn't write the words, what would happen to the reputation of the plays themselves? Would they suffer in popularity and eventually be forgotten, like so many other works from that same time period?  This book, alas, does not address that question.
It does, however, address another question which I find equally intriguing: the psychology of conspiracy theorists, who, I have often noted, tend to know far more about their own theories than they do about the official history (and the evidence for the same) which they are challenging.  This is as true of moon-landing deniers and JFK-was-killed-by-the-CIA claimants as it is of Shakespearean authorship question devotees.
The book gives us a historical blow-by-blow of the rise and fall of the Bacon partisans and then the Oxford partisans, and their attempts to win legitimacy for their theories that Shakespeare's plays were written by someone else.  It's a fascinating story, that says more about the philosophical movements of the eras in question ("Higher Criticism" of biblical studies in the Bacon era, and Freudian psychology in the Oxford) than it does about who wrote Shakespeare.
The author does eventually get to that question, in a final chapter which (Spoiler Alert) argues that only Shakespeare could have written Shakespeare (although he collaborated with other playwrights, a common practice at the time, on at least one early play and two or three later ones).  The main evidence for Shakespeare's authorship, in addition to the historically impossible hurdles to alternative theories, seems to be (at least in Shapiro's telling) that his plays were so clearly written with specific members of his company in mind, whose physical characteristics and acting ability (as well as language and singing talents) would need to have been intimately known to the author of the plays, ruling out anyone who wasn't a member of the company, at the time the plays were written and first produced. This theory is backed up by Shakespeare's habit of sometimes mistakenly writing the name of the intended actor for whom the part was written, in lieu of the character, a mistake which sometimes was repeated in early published versions of his works. This renders fairly ridiculous the manner in which Oxford partisans breezily overcome the fact that he died before many of Shakespeare's plays were ever staged, by contending that they were written before Oxford's death, and stored up to be staged later. Ridiculous: the actors who appeared in the plays match the members of the company when they were produced, and many of the parts were clearly written with particular members of the company (active at that specific time) in mind.
A fun book, the last 75 pages or so is all you really need to read if you want to know the basic arguments in favor of the case that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.  

Presence, by Amy Cuddy Audible. 3 stars out of 5. There are some good motivational ideas here, in a book which is a great follow-up to Quiet.  The science of power-posing is, of course, the type of thing which will inevitably be debunked by some new study which fails to replicate Cuddy's results.  But hey, if it works for any particular reader: why not?  There's a reason they test new medicines against a placebo, and we all need whatever placebos help us get through the day more effectively.  Maybe it's even real stuff. Couldn't hurt.  And it makes a strange kind of logical sense.

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright (Vintage Books 2006) Trade Paperback 5 Stars out of 5.  Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt always asks his first-time guests two questions: (i) Was Alger Hiss guilty of being a spy? (Yes-see Sam Tanenhaus's biography of Whittaker Chambers); (ii) Have you read The Looming Tower? Well, now that I have read this 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner, if I ever go on Hugh's show I'll be able to answer both questions correctly.

The book tells a vitally important story, in a masterfully engaging, fascinating, and compelling style.  It is a book which all Americans living in the post 9/11 world really have a duty to read.  Nevertheless, I didn't get around to it for a long, long time after it was published, and now I regret it.  Here is the history of the men whose writings and ideas created the radical Islamic movement that emerged in the post WWII era, and eventually swept far too much of the Near-East from 1990 to 2000, and lives with us still in the form of ISIS.  The conditions that allowed for this movement to emerge and be successful are many and varied, and all of them need to be better understood.  But mostly, this is a book that will make you angry at the inevitable inefficiencies of big government, as it describes the bureaucratic red tape and intra-agency rivalries that kept anyone in the government from connecting the dots, all of which dots were possessed by our government, but not known to any one person. Again and again, in the final pages of the book, we learn that the FBI asked the CIA for information, which the CIA had but would not reveal, and which would have allowed the FBI, based on the information they already had, to investigate and apprehend the hijackers in time to halt their plans.  Hollywood likes to portray the CIA as dangerous because of its terrible power: a ruthless, omniscient, omnipotent force which can tap into security cameras the world over to hunt down and assassinate its internal enemies including anyone seen talking to Jason Bourne, oh my!  If only.  To anyone reading this book or Legacy of Ashes, it soon becomes very clear that just the opposite is true: the security services of the U.S. Government are, more often than not, dangerous because of their typical bureaucratic governmental incompetence, not because of their efficiency.

Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, by Corey Olsen (First Mariner Books, 2013).  Trade Paperback. 3 stars out of 5. I loved the Hobbit when I first read it in the 5th grade, as an assignment from the director of a children's play I was acting in, for the Las Vegas Rainbow Company.  I played Fili. But then I read the Lord of the Rings at some point after 6th Grade and I was never able to get all that excited about The Hobbit again. This book helped to remedy that, pointing out some of the literary and mythological techniques and ideas that Tolkien is playing with in this sometimes whimsical and sometimes grim children's story.  Highly worth reading for any true fan of Middle Earth.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  J.K. Rowling Audible CD. 4 stars out of 5.  Many of my fondest memories involve driving with our children to, around, and back home from a California vacation, while listening to Jim Dale narrate a Harry Potter book on CD or audio-cassette. There's only two children left to take on such trips now, but since we were going to the new Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, this was the perfect book to listen to while we were underway, and to finish up while commuting after we got back.  I'm pretty sure this is my favorite of the 7 volumes. In the final book, Rowling stumbles a bit in her first attempt to write a classic fantasy quest story.  But this penultimate book is the last one set at a Hogwarts, a place Rowling has gotten better and better at writing about since the first book. So she is in her top Bildungsroman form here, and she knows just how to exploit the natural opportunities for humor that would present themselves amongst a group experiencing not only wizardry but also adolescence.  Additionally, we finally get the background information we need, both to better understand the earlier volumes (especially book 2), and to set up the basic problem of the final book, while leaving just enough mysteries unsolved for a final resolution at the right time.  But mostly, I love all the trips into the Pensieve, and all the bits that involve both the fake and the real utilization of Felix Felicis.

After Virtue Alasdair MacIntyre, University of Notre Dame Press, 1981 (Third Edition 2007) Kindle 5 stars out of 5.  Like a lot of political and social conservatives, I spend some of my time wondering what exactly caused the modern world to be so screwed up.  This book offers an answer: when mankind stopped believing in humanity's telos, i.e., the revealed (from a religious viewpoint) or rationally discernible (from an Aristotelian viewpoint) purpose of a human being, and of a human community, it lost, along with it, any rationally justifiable basis for traditional morality. This was demonstrated, argues the author, by the ultimate failure of the many Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophers who attempted to create a rationally defensible basis for morality in a post-telos world. If we wish the world to be restored to a place where human beings can flourish, we need to reject Nietzsche, recapture the Aristotelian viewpoint, and the communal projects, that were available to earlier eras.  There are some amazing insights in this book, about our modern misuse of moral terminology we no longer understand in its proper context; about the triumph of emotivism in modern political arguments; about Nietzsche and King Kamehameha II and Jane Austen, and about the earlier eras of Western Civilization.  The nuances of the book should have been harder to follow than they were, as the author's arguments depend on a knowledge of philosophy and history which I have never obtained (thanks again John Dewey).  But the writing is clear enough to allow the basic premises to be followed, even when the syllogisms take several paragraphs to come together.  Might just be the most important book of the 20th Century.  Absolutely fascinating.

______________________________


Currently reading:

Seven Men, by Eric Metaxas




Thursday, December 15, 2016

Why I don't trust the American News Media

Is it true that social media is full of dubious news stories from illegitimate sources?  Yes, it is.  Fake news is a real problem.  But it's a problem the mainstream media created for itself, by driving out all ideological diversity from its ranks, and thereby driving conservative views to the margins of the profession, and treating it as illegitimate, which some conservative news vendors quickly became, and by offering far too many fake news stories of its own.

The problem isn't going away anytime soon because the one institution that could do anything about it, by policing itself, the mainstream media, has zero moral authority to do so. But the fake news sites on the internet are no better or worse than the supposedly real stuff at the New York Times, and the mainstream media will just be the pot calling the kettle black until it gets its own house in order.

i learned at a fairly young age that newspapers are extremely unreliable.  Every single local newspaper article I have ever read in my life, that described an event which I personally witnessed, from a funeral to a court hearing, has gotten major details of the story factually wrong, and spun the story to fit a pre-constructed spin.  So why should I believe that bigger mainstream media sources are any better? From a lifetime of observing, here's several reasons why I do not now and never will trust the mainstream media, from their lies to their many examples of hypocrisy.

MAINSTREAM MEDIA LIES AND FAKE AND FALSIFIED NEWS

1. CNN edits videotape of Black Lives Matter Supporter calling for violent protesters to take their violence to the suburbs, by editing out her "take that sh** to the suburbs" statement, and calling the segment they do air: "a call for peace" by the young woman.

2. NBC edits portion of 911 call in Trayvon Martin case to delete 911 officer asking Martin Zimmerman for the race of the person he is following, to make it appear that Zimmerman volunteered this information as a sign of his racism.

3. Dateline NBC fakes the blow up of a GMC truck on video to claim the vehicle is unsafe.  (No wonder NBC created MSNBC, they needed an outlet for this phony news stuff.)

4. Dan Rather reports a fake news story about a forged letter supposedly criticizing a young George W. Bush for missing National Guard pilot duty.  Amateur typography enthusiasts are able to point out the falsity of the letter within moments of the report airing.  Dan Rather loses his job, but Hollywood later makes a movie, called "Truth" claiming the letter was accurate.

5. Rolling Stone publishes a fake news story about a gang rape that never happened at a University of Virginia fraternity. Shortly after being hit with a multi-million dollar libel verdict for this fake news story, Rolling Stone publishes an interview with Barack Obama earnestly complaining about fake news on social media.  Neither Rolling Stone nor Mr. Obama seem aware of the irony of this moment.

6. Long after it has been proven false that Michael Brown was saying "hands up, don't shoot" when slain during a tussle with a Feruson, Mo. police officer, the mantra is being repeated by news media across the country.

7. Walter Duranty wins a Pulitzer Prize for whitewashing the horrors of Stalinism and helping the Soviets hide the truth about the genocide of Ukrainian kulaks, while enthusiastically reporting on the glories of Soviet Stalinism for the New York Times.  Of course, one could take any given year of New York Times reporting over the last 100 years, and find at least a dozen left wing lies per year, from enthusiastically endorsing the Piltdown Man hoax, to misreporting virtually every aspect of the Valerie Plame scandal.

MAINSTREAM MEDIA HYPOCRISY

1. Dan Quayle misspells potato.  MAINSTREAM MEDIA REACTION (hereinafter "MMR"): "Too stupid to be the Vice-President."  Barack Obama brags of having campaigned in 57 States. MMR: "Most intelligent candidate ever to run for the office of the President."

2. Bill Clinton terminates all 50 U.S. Attorneys in the nation, immediately upon taking office, and replaces them with hand-selected successors, in a throwback to the spoils system which so outraged Americans of an earlier generation that it was outlawed by early 20th Century Civil Service reform. MMR: Crickets.
George W. Bush, long after taking office, terminates 8 U.S. Attorneys. MMR: "OUTRAGEOUS!!  A MAJOR SCANDAL!!!"

3. Ronald Reagan's 1980s are a decade of prosperity.  MMR: "Let us bemoan this decade of greed."
Bill Clinton's 1990s are a decade of prosperity. MMR: "Let us celebrate this decade of prosperity!"

4.  Republican Senators, holding a majority position, consider changing the Senate's rules to make it easier to override a minority party's filibuster.  MMR: "This is a terrible idea!  A 'nuclear option' which represents an immoral evil threat to the Republic, which would silence the minority and deprive and strip them of all rights and overcome Constitutional assurances of checks and balances; and lead to lions and tigers and bears and cats and dogs living together oh no!!"
Democratic Senators, holding a majority position in the senate a few years later, don't just consider, but actually enact the so-called "nuclear option" and make it easier for themselves to override minority party filibusters. MMR: "This is a great idea."  Indeed, the New York Times editorial board actually publishes an editorial claiming it has changed its mind, and now favors implementation of the new rules, and has suddenly decided that it now disagrees with its own earlier editorial, published a few years before, arguing against the so-called Nuclear Option when Republicans were in the majority and were considering it.  You can't make this stuff up.

5. Richard Nixon erases 18 minutes of a conversation from an internal White House taping system before turning it over to investigators to respond to subpoenas in the Watergate scandal.  MMR: "Impeach this man!"
Hillary Clinton erases 30,000 emails, and has her personal assistants, literally, take a hammer to smart phones and tablets, which she never does turn over to investigatores to respond to subpoenas in the scandal involving her mishandling of classified information while Secretary of State. MMR: "Elect this woman!"

6. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney is accused of having had yard work done by illegal immigrants (who were not hired by him, but were employed by a citizen-owned landscape company Romney had hired to do the work and whom Romney had instructed not to employ illegals).  MMR: "Let's send a reporter to Guatemala to interview one of the illegal laborers who worked on Mitt Romney's lawn!"
Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign events are all picketed by a group of Haitians protesting the Clinton Foundation's graft and corruption in Haiti. MMR: "Should we send a reporter outside to talk to those Haitians?  No, that would involve walking several yards, with all of our camera equipment in tow.  We don't have the resources for that!"

7. Margaret Thatcher dies.  MMR: "Three Cheers!!!  The evil hag who proved the flaws in English socialism and helped win the Cold War is dead!!!  Let us bring in an expert panel to discuss how horrible she was."
Fidel Castro dies.  MMR: "Let us mourn the life of this courageous revolutionary, and discuss all the wonderful things the 'longest serving President' of Cuba did for his people, whom he loved.  Viva la Revolucion!!"

8. A white police officer shoots a black suspect during an arrest. MMR: "The police are all racists and it's time to end police violence!!"
A black Black Lives Matter supporter takes sniper shots at police officers in Dallas, killing 5 of them, while ambush style assaults against police officers increase by 300% in less than a year.  MMR: "The police are all racists and it's time to end police violence!!"

9.  A county clerk refuses to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, after ordered to do so by a federal court.  MMR: "She has a duty, as a local public official, to follow the federal laws, regardless of her personal opinions about those laws.  Order her to comply or arrest her."
City officials declare their municipalities to be "sanctuary cities" which will not enforce federal immigration law.  MMR: "Such courage!"

10.  Clarence Thomas is accused of having once said "there's a pubic hair on my coca-cola" to a female staff member.  MMR: "This man has committed sexual harassment and is not fit to be on the Supreme Court."
Bill Clinton is repeatedly credibly accused of having raped, groped, exposed himself to, and otherwise sexually assaulted several different women, throughout his life, including during his time in the White House, and perjures himself about having sexually exploited an immature young intern during both working and leisure hours in the oval office.  MMR: "Let's all just move on. This is a personal matter that has nothing to do with Clinton's continuing fitness for office."





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

11 Conservative Movies

Hollywood is, as everyone knows, the ultimate bastion of leftism, and a skilled purveyor of the many defining myths of the liberal ethos.  Many films could be cited to prove this point, but perhaps the easiest example is James Cameron's Avatar (which can serve as a proxy for many different movies, since it stole so freely from hundreds of liberal cinematic homilies that came before it).  Avatar is a kind of cinematic Mass for the 21st Century Secular Liberal soul, dramatizing with cutting edge 3D and Special Effects liberals' most cherished paradigms (since corporations are horrible, and the military satanic, combining them creates the ultimate evil); deeply felt prejudices (my own closest neighbors and family relations are hopelessly xenophobic, so I will prove my sanctimonious superiority by embracing, nay becoming, the more enlightened others my lesser co-citizens currently fear); and vaguely articulated but sacredly viewed beliefs (worship nature, not God; on some planet, somewhere, surely nature will actually respond back in kind, proving that the indigenous pagans were right all along).  

But, once in a while, through some quirk of physics or something, a movie with a conservative message somehow gets made.  Here are 11 such films: 

The Dark Knight Rises  This final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is basically another cinematic cover of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.  That means we get lots of imagery about the dangers of revolutionary movements, which subvert the civil order of the boring old conservative status quo, like the Scarecrow presiding over a Kangaroo court handing out arbitrary and capricious death sentences to anyone who engages in counterrevolutionary activities. Also, Occupy Wall Street-type protesters are shown to be the dupes of an evil power-hungry tyrant (Bane = George Soros).  And the police are celebrated as overcoming the protesters and restoring law and order to the streets, rather than vilified as the evil henchman of a Black Lives Matter morality tale. But the single most important conservative moment in the film comes in a scene where Catwoman is spending time with the revolutionary revelers in a home they've stolen from some hapless middle class family, whose photo, in a destroyed frame, she finds laying amongst their belongings:  

"Catwoman (viewing the photo and looking horrified): This was someone's home.
Catwoman's ditzy stoned friend (ignoring the troubling question of what happened to the family who once lived here): Now it's everyone's home."

All this anti-collectivist scene needed was the obvious next line, "Which means it's nobody's home" and it could have been written by William Buckley or Ronald Reagan.   

The Way Back This 2010 film about a group of refugees fleeing a Soviet Gulag earns its conservative stripes at the moment when the main characters are about to leave the borders of the Soviet Union, only to be greeted by images of Stalin at the border of the country (Mongolia perhaps? I can't remember) they are fleeing into.  They are crushed, and one of them mumbles something about "it" (the evil of Stalinism) having spread to other lands.

Ghostbusters  A group of academics lose their public grants and have to start a small business in the private sector, where, one of them notes, "they expect results."  Their successful efforts at providing a needed service are then thwarted, and the city of New York threatened with annihilation, because of an overzealous and power-hungry federal bureaucrat from the EPA releasing toxic ghost matter into the city rather than allowing the small business owners to store it without a license.  In the end, the evil federal bureaucrat gets what's coming to him. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Frodo keeps trying to give the ring to all the most pure and noble souls in Middle Earth: Gandalf, Galadriel, Aragorn. They each demonstrate that they are truly pure and noble, by refusing the offer, knowing, as Gandalf says, that, though they would use this ring out of a desire to do good, through them it would work only great evil.  Such is the nature of concentrated power.  Clearly, none of these Tolkien characters would have had much good to say about U.S. Supreme Court Justices who abuse their concentrated power by legislating from the bench, or about Fidel Castro, but they all would have cheered on George Washington when he gave up his commission at the end of the Revolutionary War. (And clearly, Canada's Castro-loving Prime Minister Bieber Trudeau has never read the Lord of the Rings.  Or if he did, failed to understand it.)  

Gattaca  A refutation of the modern liberal paradigm of a purely materialistic and mechanistic universe, in which there is no such thing as human agency, such that none of us may be held accountable for the outcomes of our pre-programmed decisions (see, for example, Sam Harris's book, Free Will, which denies that there is such a thing, or Barack Obama's "You Didn't Build That" speech). This film, by contrast, argues there is no gene for the metaphysical human spirit.   

Amazing Grace  William Wilberforce is arguably one of the most important men in history. This story of his successful, and Christian-motivated, crusade to end the slave trade, is a helpful rebuttal to modern liberal sneers at the evils of Christianity.   

A Man for All Seasons  One of the reasons I know I'm a conservative is because of my cranky annoyance at the belief that we can legislate away or reeducate away hard and objective scientific truths about human biology, sexes, chromosomes, and non-asexual reproduction. Nothing better encapsulates this conservative worldview, than the following defense of objective truth, uttered by Sir Thomas Moore, in this film about the famous Catholic martyr's contest of wills with Henry VIII over the definition of marriage: "Some men think the earth is round; others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question.  But if it is flat the King's command will not make it round, and if it is round, the King's command will not flatten it." [The movie version of this line is stronger than in the original play, where it is phrased as a question.] Lincoln, our first and still greatest Republican President, made a similar argument about the stubborn implications of objective truth, when he contended that if you call a dog's tail a leg, the dog still has only four legs, because calling something a leg doesn't make it so.  The same goes for humans, who remain human, even if you call them property, or fetuses. 

Groundhog Day  It is possible to misread the message of this movie and see it as just another liberal celebration of the sexual revolution: the purpose of life is to get the girl into your bed.  But, despite that terrible ending, that's not really the point.  This is a movie about a lost soul's realization that life's purpose is to be found in personal growth, accompanied by joining, and serving, a community.  Charles Murray has argued that the film is a good substitute for reading Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. I don't know if that's true, but it's certainly a lot more fun. 

Blast from the Past  The polar opposite of left-wing screed, Pleasantville 

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this film instead provides a gentle defense of the lost values of early 1960s America, as embodied by a young man who spent his life in a bomb shelter and was thus never slowly brought to a boil, like the hapless frog of the oft-repeated conservative analogy for America's slow embrace  of modern immorality.   

The Island An explication of why we don't create or tamper with the sanctity of human life merely for scientific research.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  For obvious reasons, any film based on the life or writings of C.S. Lewis (who spent his youth in socialist folly before converting to Christianity) will resonate with conservatives.  I could list movies and books all day which, in my humble opinion, end with a symbolic retelling of Christ's atoning sacrifice, at least as I choose to apply and as I choose to understand the plot of those stories.  There's less viewer's choice here, as the story deliberately sets up an analogy and an allegory for each element of the central doctrines of Christianity: the existence of an objective moral law, temptation, sin, betrayal, atoning sacrifice, redemption, death, resurrection, and the battle against evil. Normally, as Tolkien believed, such forced allegory, as opposed to chosen applicability, is a bad thing. But because Lewis understands the theological points which he is making so well, the story works, not only as a good children's story, but as a helpful source of theological clarity. The movie is, in my opinion, much more powerful than the book (especially if the sequel is watched shortly thereafter), and transcends its juvenile literature source material, primarily because the actor who plays young Edmund does such an amazing job of portraying the differences in his character's character, before versus after his countenance has been changed by his recognition of what someone else did for his redemption.