Agora - A movie review

Over the weekend I saw the movie Agora. The movie covers the destruction of the library of Alexandria and the murder of Hypatia. Thus there is no suspense about the outcome but the movie is in many ways more gripping than the typical Hollywood thriller. This movie covers actual historical events and although the details are not known completely it certainly seems to generally agree with what is known of the events.

There are a couple of themes in the movie; first theme is that violence and threats are not useful for deciding issue of religion or philosophy; and the second is the theme of faith versus reason. Is the movie is anti-fundamentalist? Yes but it is more than that. It is ultimately anti-faith. Fundamentalism derives from faith not the other way around. In reflecting on the movie a couple of days later I wonder if the people who made it realize how much of an attack on faith is implicit in much of the movie. This movie is painful and depressing but hopefully it will serve as to advance the cause of reason and rationality.

This movie is only being released in a few theaters and I strongly urge seeing it if possible.


Three Cups of Tea - A Book Review

I read the book The Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Olver Relin for a reading group. It was an interesting read. The book is the story of Greg Mortenson who gets separated from his guide coming down off of K2 and stumbles tired, hungry and weak into the small Pakistan village of Korphe. He is taken in by the village and recovered. He saw that the local children would try to learn from a teacher who came by a few times a week and the children were sitting in a open flat area on the ground trying to learn. The lucky students had a piece of slate that they wrote on with a stick dipped in mud. Mortenson promised to build a school.

Mortenson was basically broke. Mortenson worked as a nurse to finance his mountain climbing hobby and was only able to go on the K2 attempt by signing on as the expedition medic. Eventually Mortenson gets the money for the school. The details of the fund raising are actually an interesting part of the book. A donor leaves funds to start an institute as a framework for Mortenson to carry on his work.

One talent that Mortenson has is with languages and he is able to quickly pick up enough of the various local languages that he is able to function well. He is also sensitive to the cultural differences. I had heard much of the Mortenson story from various media outlets however one part that I had not heard much about was the impact of his work on his personal life. After the breakup of one relationship he eventually met Tara and they were married six days later. His work has put some stress early on in the marriage however now they have two children and the family seems to be dong well.

This is a book well worth reading.

Some good news about a court ruling

Federal Judge Richard J. Leon has just dropped all charges in the trial of John A. Stagliano and two of his companies. The prosecution had completed their case and based on the evidence presented the judge dropped all charges saying there was not enough evidence to even bother with hearing from the defense and sending it to the jury. The judge dismissed all charges and set Stagliano free.

Now you may ask why am I taking the time to write about this. Well it has gotten some press but in my opinion not enough. Reason magazine and blog have covered it very well. For example it was from a the Reason blog article about the beginning of the trial that read the report that FBI Agent Daniel Bradley was working on national security issues before being assigned to the Stagliano case. What was the Stagliano case about? Well I have not seen the movies however according to the news reports the movies involved sexual scenes milk, enemas and various other activities. It is not exactly mainstream but so what? That does not matter. What matters is the liberty of Mr. Stagliano and his associates to make the movies. Any adult with a credit card or a few dollars in their pocket can go buy them. If you do not want to watch them then don't. Info about the trial conclusion at the article including a short video.

This ridiculous case was started under the Bush administration which just adds one more item to the long list of vile, stupid and despicable things done by the Bush administration. Of course the reasonable thing for the Obama administration to do was drop the whole thing when the got into office but they did not stop it. The Obama administration has been disappointing in being either inept or reluctant to curtail many of the crap left over from Bush.

My concluding comment is that the next time you are standing in line at airport with your shoes in hand or hearing the next proposal for further monitoring every financial or other transaction that you do in the course of your daily activities just remember that it was the Bush administration who pulled an FBI agent from national security work to investigate some guy making kinky movies.