Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eastern Promises (A Christian Movie Review)

This film is so offensive to the morality and cleanliness of a Christian mind, I must urge people not to watch it. You cannot mix clean water with dirty water and get clean water; your mind is something worth protecting.

Without spoilers, I will list the offenses:

As with most mob/organized crime movies, most of the characters are deplorable, and the movie goes to lengths to shock us with how commonly, every-day brutal these people are. But what tips the scale is that the film deals with, essentially, human trafficking. As the name implies, the film shows how young (often underage) Russian girls are tricked into coming West and then forced into prostitution.

The opening scene of the movie has a grisly murder, but the very next scene depicts a 14 year-old girl coming to a pharmacy for help, and then leaking lots of blood from between her legs and feinting. She dies in childbirth (to go further is to introduce spoilers).

In a later scene, the son of the local crime boss and his second are enjoying themselves in the locked room where the forced prostitutes are kept. Some of the girls are enjoying themselves, but most seem scared and act perfunctory. The son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel), forces Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen, "Aragorn" from the Lord of the Rings) to have sex with one of the girls to prove he isn't queer. Nikolai does so in a graphic sex scene with one of the underage girls, easily distinguishable by her underdeveloped breasts. It is hardly something I ever needed to see that particular actor do, let alone any two people in the world.

Another protracted scene features two men armed with knives attacking a naked mobster. During the fight scene, no effort was made to hide the victim's nudity, and several full-frontal nudity shots are presented. The fight is also accurate in its depiction of a knife-fight. As a weathered Jujitsu expert from Japan once told me, "If you ever get in a knife fight, expect to get cut. It's just going to happen. The goal is to live, not to avoid getting cut."

Mild spoiler: In the movie, a baby's life is consistently threatened; in one graphic scene she is taken to a river to be drowned.

So, while the quality of the movie is good, the acting is good, the movie is such an affront to the Christian mind that such kind, beneficent people really do not need to see this.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Natural History of the Only Child

Wired has a decent article on why family sizes are shrinking, called "The Natural History of the Only Child."

"exactly why families are shrinking is a mystery. Rising living standards seem to have something to do with it. It's certainly true that as living standards rose in England -- as children died less from diseases, as the country overall became richer -- the size of the English family shrank. When other countries became wealthier, their families shrank, too. These days, affluent countries tend as a rule to have smaller families than poor ones."
I have read and written thoughts about this before, but the key the author found was a good one: It is the biological idea of what it costs to raise a child. As the idea moves from "I have to feed them and have them so they can help me survive" to "I have to feed them and clothe them and send them to college" to "I have to feed them and clothe them and buy them lots of things and send them to college and I want a big screen TV", we have less children, just as animals weigh their ability to "pay" the cost of having offspring.
"It turns out that animals have evolved a balance between offspring and effort. Some can even adjust how many offspring they produce, depending on whether they are under stress or live comfortably. Ruth Mace, an expert on family size at Imperial College London, argues this week in the journal Science that humans are governed by the same kinds of rules. When the standard of living goes up, the cost of living goes up too. It takes a family in Addis Ababa (the urban capitol of Ethiopia) a lot more money to raise an additional child than a family out in the Ethiopian countryside. That may be one reason why the population is exploding in rural Ethiopia, while in Addis Ababa it is actually shrinking."
Of course, some people, such as myself, make the conscious decision that "I can't pay for all of them to go to college, so I will have to raise them to work hard and get good grades", in other words, downgrade what is perceived as necessary to raise a child, and then we have more children.
"If Mace is right, then as long as the world keeps creeping out of poverty, families will continue to shrink. How small they can go is an open question. But perhaps we should stop thinking of families with only children as some odd fluke of neurotic New York life. It's just human biology played out to a logical extreme."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

iPhone: Security really means Lack of Liberty

Two very interesting articles from Wired Magazine:

  1. With iPhone, 'Security' Is Code for 'Control' by Bruce Schneier
  2. iPhone's Security Rivals Windows 95 (No, That's Not Good) by Kim Zetter
The first details why companies are in love with "locking down" their devices so that no competition and worm its way in, and more importantly, how companies confuse "Security" for "Control" as a way of pulling the sheets over consumers, who are hindered, not helped, by such measures.

The second shows just how little real security the iPhone has, while its "lock-down" controls are so tight, updates can brick your modded iPhone.

That just goes to show you where Apple's concerns really lie.