literalism

A Rumor of War

Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

This is what it is worth:

After Janet Porter, the creator of a new “documentary” about how the gay rights movement will outlaw Christianity, discussed her “restraining order” campaign to convince Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to rule on marriage cases, Dobson said that his fellow activists “need to be realistic about what we’re up against here.”

He said that the gay rights issue has reached an unprecedented “level of intensity” and put the country on the brink of conflict: “Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.”

Dobson also claimed that marriage equality will lead to the collapse of the nation: “The country can be no stronger than its families. I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

(Tashman)

Let us be clear that there really isn’t any sort of dog-whistling going on here; James Dobson is calling for armed insurrection because he hates gay people that much.

Certes, some might try to split the hair, but “we could have another” Civil War over human rights for gay people? Really? Bigotry is that important? And, as Dobson tells the cult, the nation will collapse if the gays aren’t stopped, and “We need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

Which is really quite strange. Once upon a time, Dr. James Dobson was a respected author who advised Christians on how to raise their children. And it is true that his approach to raising children is not exactly healthy, but that’s the thing; he wrote in a context serving an empowerment majority, so he could spend his efforts just finding ways to tell them what they wanted to hear and crafting a pretense of professional respectability.

And when we look out at the generational cohorts, we ought not be surprised to find those sectors of our society falling behind; there is a reason these supremacists are reduced to blithering about civil war―it’s all they have left.

Then again, really? Because of gay people? Out of everything else in the world, this is what stirs American Christians to revolutionary ire?

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Excessive Pedantry (Either Way)

Detail: Engraving of a sperm whale

There is this joke, see, and it’s not exactly a good one. Rather, it is a barb intended to poke and cut, and comes when one is just being a bit too pedantic: Do you read novels? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … come on, Charlie, it can’t be both!” Don’t laugh. Er, I mean … right. Go ahead and laugh. But take a moment to consider the chuckle and what it is for; you might be amazed how often this point comes up.

Then again, when it is not politics but, merely, a job to keep the roof raised and the cable television connected … oh, wait. We’ve picked on Todd Van Luling before, but then, the pointα still holds.

Scrutinizing the science of Moby-Dick is definitely beside the point, especially because there’s evidence in Herman Melville’s notes that he purposely skewed facts to bolster his story. Melville even wrote a friend saying he embellished things writing, “To cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy.”

But the rambling scientific musings of the character you’re supposed to call Ishmael are often so maligned by high school and academic readers alike that noting a few places where the facts are all wrong seems a worthwhile exercise. Today, November 14, is the anniversary of the United States release of Moby-Dick, so it’s as good a time as any to knock it down a peg leg.

Here are five scientific inaccuracies in Melville’s masterpiece ....

Yes, really.

It’s a living.

Perhaps it should suffice to say that Moby Dick is a difficult novel to read for any number of reasons, not the least of which would be its length, general verbosity, or glacial pace; and, further, we might remind that not everything is a drinking game. Spotting inaccurate science in a nineteenth century adventure novel is a bit like looking for inaccurate science in science fiction. Where The Odyssey becomes Star Trek, reality warps.

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α That is to say:

Articles like these always recall a curious episode from over a decade ago, before CNN Headline News became the HLN monstrosity you find playing on the flatscreens in a bourgeois McDonald’s. Late autumn, 2003 or so. There’s a war on. The phrase, “I died a little inside”, had not yet risen to fashionable heights. Or maybe it had. A new young reporter gets his first big shot on the air, and he’s stuck doing a report on which sweaters will look best on your small dog during the Christmas season. Which, in turn, is enough to inspire a recollection of the old Wayne Cotter joke about masturbating a fish.

Van Luling, Todd. “5 Scientific Inaccuracies You Didn’t Know Were In ‘Moby-Dick'”. The Huffington Post. 15 November 2014,