Roderick T. Long  BUY MY BOOK OR ELSE!

Archives: December 2004

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Boston Anarchist Thinking Brigade

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

A reminder to anyone who’s planning to attend the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meetings in Boston (home of Samuel Adams and Benjamin Tucker!) this coming week: the Molinari Society will be holding its first symposium from 2:00 to 5:00 on Tuesday, December 28th. The topic is “Libertarianism and Feminism”; the scheduled presenters are Jennifer McKitrick (University of Nebraska – Lincoln) on “Liberty, Gender, and the Family”; Elizabeth Brake (University of Calgary) on “Free Love, Marriage, and Individual Sovereignty: From Stephen Pearl Andrews to Laura Kipnis”; and Charles Johnson (Molinari Institute) and myself on “Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?”

There are other libertarian sessions on offer that same day – John Hasnas and Aeon Skoble on Hayek from 9:00 to 11:00, and then from 11:15-1:15 a choice of either Jan Narveson (inter alia) on economic justice or Doug Rasmussen on Rand. (See the full program for details.) So the hardiest souls can enjoy seven hours, nearly uninterrupted, of libertarian philosophy. (I fear I can’t muster up such hardihood myself; I’ll be at the 9:00 panel, which I’m chairing, and the 2:00 panel, which I’m on, but I doubt I’ll have sufficient endurance to take in an 11:15 session as well. That’s no excuse for you, however.)

Merry Krishna to all!

Posted December 25th, 2004



Tussling With Tidwell

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

No, not Cameron Tidwell! I’m talking about Rudy Tidwell, a theocratic columnist for the local paper. (See my previous gripe about one of his columns.) I usually try to avoid reading him, so as to maintain my serenity, but I succumbed a couple of times recently; the fruits of my weakness follow:

My December 5th letter to the Opelika-Auburn News (not published):

To the Editor:

Rudy Tidwell (Dec. 5) objects to hearing members of the anti-homosexual lobby called “homophobic,” since, he says, this term falsely implies that they have a “persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear” of homosexuals.

Well, the anti-homosexual lobby has been loudly proclaiming for some time that allowing gays to marry would somehow, inexplicably, lead to the destruction of the institution of marriage, and thereby to the destruction of civilisation itself. In addition, Senator Rick Santorum has stated that legalising homosexuality will also lead to the legalisation of child abuse. Then of course there’s Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who claim that American gays have provoked God into sending hurricanes and terrorist attacks toward the United States.

Gee, sounds like “persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear” of homosexuals to me.

Roderick T. Long
My December 18th letter to the Opelika-Auburn News (published today):

To the Editor:

Last February, in the pages of the Opelika-Auburn News, Rudy Tidwell attacked the poem “Invictus” (and insulted its author) for expressing the viewpoint “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Mr. Tidwell called such a viewpoint “the essence of sin.” (I remember because you published my response on Feb. 22.)

In today’s column Mr. Tidwell praises the poem “The Winds of Fate” (which he incidentally misattributes to the infamous Henry Ward Beecher; it is actually by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1915) for expressing substantially the same viewpoint – that it is “the set of a soul” and not the winds of circumstance that determine our fate.

I'm glad to see that Mr. Tidwell has changed his mind.

Roderick T. Long
I thought the one they didn’t print was a bit more important than the one they printed, but who can fathom the ways of the Opelika-Auburn News?

Posted December 23rd, 2004



Shadows on the Screen

As readers of this blog may be (all too) aware, I’m a big fan of the tv series Babylon 5 and its short-lived spinoff Crusade. So I’m delighted that some details on the long-awaited Babylon 5 theatrical movie have finally been made public. (Conical hat tip to Brady Campbell and Cameron Tidwell.) As the announced title The Memory of Shadows suggests, the plot apparently deals with the “technology of the ancient and extinct Shadow race,” which is “being unleashed upon the galaxy by an unknown force.” Apart from Galen the technomage, it’s not clear which characters from the show(s) will be returning; what is clear is that the plot will be trying to tie up some of the loose ends from the unfilmed Crusade episodes “To the Ends of the Earth” and “End of the Line.” (Since show creator J. Michael Straczynski is unfortunately a proponent of IP censorship, despite the fact that he is one of its chief victims, those scripts are hard to find online – but not impossible.)

Not all developments in the world of SF/fantasy this past week have been good, however. For one thing, Warner Bros. released the DVD package for Crusade without the commentary they’d promised Straczynski they’d include, detailing how and why TNT deliberately screwed up the spinoff series to make it fail.

For another, the Sci-Fi Channel’s recent adaptation of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books took everything that was strange and cool in the source material and flattened it out into an extended fantasy bromide. Perhaps the worst of many ill-considered changes was the decision to turn the proud bleak creepiness of the priestesses of Atuan into some sort of Earthsea Barbie convention. Bits of LeGuin’s wonderful vision kept shining through, but in fragmented form and surrounded by unimaginative crap. (They also, for reasons best known to themselves, made most of the main characters Caucasian.) I was irresistibly reminded of one of the scenes in The Fountainhead when Howard Roark finds that his architectural plans have been altered:

It was Roark’s house, but its walls were now of red brick, its windows were cut to conventional size and equipped with green shutters, two of its projecting wings were omitted, the great cantilevered terrace over the sea was replaced by a little wrought-iron balcony, and the house was provided with an entrance of Ionic columns supporting a broken pediment, and with a little spire supporting a weather vane.
Worse yet, it looks like images from this botched tv version are going to be defacing the covers of the Earthsea books for the foreseeable future.

The Sci-Fi Channel is capable of better than this. Their adaptations of Dune and Children of Dune, though certainly flawed, were far more faithful to the letter and spirit of Frank Herbert’s books than this disappointing mess is to LeGuin’s.

For LeGuin’s own comments on the adaptation see here, here, and here. (Conical hat tip to Charles Johnson.) To the points she makes I would add only that the gebbeth-creature that Ged accidentally summons – a creature that should be a hauntingly eerie being of shadow – starts off looking like a winged Gollum and later on morphs into a refugee from a zombie movie.

As a saving grace to redeem the possibilities of fantasy film, the extended version of Return of the King came out this week as well. Now I have plenty of gripes about Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien, and maybe I’ll blog about them at some point, but the gripes are at an entirely different level from my complaints about Legend of Earthsea. The Jackson films, whatever their flaws, are a magnificent illustration of how fantasy adaptations can be done when their makers actually know and care about the story; see Charles Johnson’s review.

Incidentally, I doubt Tolkien himself realised it – French literature was not one of his enthusiasms – but the passage about the white star shining through the clouds, promising that “in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing,” with “light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach,” while of course a nod to John 1:5, also echoes Victor Hugo’s decription of the ideal as “terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small, isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it,” and yet “no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.”

Posted December 17th, 2004



Submission is Ecstasy

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

I’m pleased to announce that, starting next year, I’ll be assuming the editorship of the Journal of Libertarian Studies. For details, see the full announcement.

As I note there, since “scholarship progresses through civil but vigorous debate, not through confinement in an echo chamber,” as incoming editor of the JLS I “enthusiastically solicit contributions from across the ideological spectrum, both within and beyond the libertarian movement.” If you’re writing a scholarly article that bears on libertarian thought, please consider submitting it to the JLS. Submit, submit!

Posted December 13th, 2004



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