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Self in Society Roundup 46

Abortion politics, feminism, Milei, Mars, liberal legos, Robots, The Burial, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
January 23, 2024

Biden's Roe Ad: Joe Biden has out a TV ad featuring Dr. Austin Dennard, who had to leave Texas to get an abortion for her non-viable fetus. She says, "In Texas, you are forced to carry that pregnancy and that is because of Donald Trump overturning Roe v. Wade. The choice was completely taken away. I was to continue my pregnancy, putting my life at risk." Brave woman.

Mac Donald on Feminism: Daily Beast: "Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald . . . lamented 'the bizarreness of females' who chose to work in demanding fields and outsourced their childcare to 'someone from the low IQ 3rd world.' Mac Donald tore into women who traded personal childcare to pursue competitive career goals, such as making partner at a law firm, as yet 'another curse of feminism.'" Huh.

Milei at Davos: Argentine president Javier Milei addressed Davos. Excerpts: "The Western world is in danger . . . because those who are supposed to have to defend the values of the West are co-opted by a vision of the world that inexorably leads to socialism and thereby to poverty. . . . [F]ree enterprise capitalism is not just the only possible system to end world poverty, but also that it’s the only morally desirable system to achieve this." Milei has more brains than the entire U.S. Republican establishment. It's a pity he incoherently complains about "radical feminism" and abortion. See also Cowen's notes.

Zubrin on Mars: Unsurprisingly, Robert Zubrin does not like the book on Mars by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith, as the pair are skeptical of settling the planet. Zubrin writes, "The Weinersmiths' central thesis is inherently contradictory. Human settlement of space is pointless and impossible, they argue, but we also need laws to stop it, lest humanity destroy itself fighting over the unprecedented bonanza that space has to offer." Zubrin writes that the Weinersmiths "ignore or dismiss all the more important arguments in support of human space settlement" and "downplay or neglect to mention . . . that there are ways of overcoming [various] challenges." Zubrin concludes: "To prevent war, the Weinersmiths would lock humanity in a cage. But that is the way to [ensure] war. For the Weinersmiths, our freedom to explore space is the problem. But exactly the opposite is true. Freedom is not the problem. Freedom is the solution."

Mars Water: There's some indication that there's quite a lot of frozen water around Mars's equator.

Terraforming Mars: Jason Crawford summarizes the idea of warming up Mars by turning native metals into "nanorods" to "scatter . . . radiation back to the surface." I have no idea if this would work.

Liberal Legos: Aaron Ross Powell argues that liberalism is not like legos that come preglued into permanence, nor like a pile of legos without instructions, but rather like a lego kit that has instructions but that the user is free to build according to the instructions or not. That's how my son engages with legos: He likes building according to instructions and he also likes going "off script." It also struck me that we could take Powell's description as a way that some people stereotype some people on the "other" side. Leftists see rightists and rigid and conformist; rightists see leftists as unstructured to the point of nihilism. In reality, most Americans at least are substantially liberal and offer a program more like the kit with instructions.

Catalina Bison: There's a bison herd on Catalina island off of Los Angeles, introduced there by humans, of course. But the bison aren't doing that great and they're rough on the landscape, so now people are wondering what to do with them (they've already been put on birth control).

Movie Notes

Barbie: I think it's ridiculous that the Oscars failed to recognize the directing of Greta Gerwig and the acting of Margot Robbie. Barbie arguably is the most important film, culturally, of the year, and Gerwig and Robbie did excellent jobs. (Gerwig and Noah Baumbach were nomiated for best adapted screenplay.) Oppenheimer got the recognition it deserves. In fairness, I haven't watched most of the nominated films. I'll probably watch most of them down the road (although Flower Moon seems too horrible thematically). I have to say American Fiction looks to be outrageously funny. To reiterate my views: All the actors (male and female) should be thrown into a single category, the Oscars should nominate all the most-deserving films and people, and the Oscars should give top awards to two best actors and two supporting actors.

Robots 2023: This was not the movie I expected! It was much better. It is not a movie about tech; it is a love story, and it is hilarious. The film starts by bashing "red" America, but that just sets some of the background. The set-up is this: A man has a body-double robot built of himself to go on tedious dates with women, then he shows up for the sex. But things go hilariously wrong. There's some chance that, along the way, this shallow, self-absorbed narcissist might learn something about life. The writing is genuinely funny, and the two lead actors, Shailene Woodley and Jack Whitehall, absolutely nail it. Not for kids!

The Burial: The cast, led by Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones, is phenomenal. I'm not sure how realistic the court scenes are (this story is inspired by real events but fictionalized). The set-up is that the owner of a small chain of funeral homes thinks he has a contract to sell some of the homes to a large business conglomerate, but the larger businesses never finalizes the deal, leading to a law suit. The background discussions about race are what most interested me. The film blames "greedy" businessmen for high funeral costs, but at least in some areas government artificially drove up costs in various ways.

How to Train Your Dragon: This 2010 animated film is one of my favorites (recently I rewatched it). The basic theme is that you should think for yourself and do what you know is right, even if socially difficult. Okay, it's wildly implausible that wild dragons, if there were such a thing, would be easy to tame. But if you can buy into the fantasy backdrop it's a well-told story about bucking social expectations, following the evidence where it leads, and accepting people for who they are.

Nim's Island: (2008) This charming family fantasy is about a father and daughter who live on a tropical island and an adventure writer who leaves her comfort zone in an effort to help the girl through a crisis.

The Baker: Featuring Ron Perlman, this in yet another movie about an aging reformed man of violence who has to come out of retirement to kick many people's asses. Two performances give this movie an edge: Elias Koteas as a conflicted mobster and Emma Ho as the traumatized granddaughter. Otherwise an okay but not a great film.

Simulant: A man wants to free the robots for the cause of love, except free agents do not always pursue love or do lovely things. I did not enjoy this film but I take its point.

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