Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Heroes Exposed (the episode)

Warning, Spoilers

Heroes is one of my favorite shows. Now the seasons after season 1 tend to not be as good, but every now and then there comes along a season 1 quality episode. I think this was one such episode.

In this episode Matt and Peter broke into Building 26, the building where Nathan runs his operations, in an attempt to rescue Daphne. They came in contact with someone called REBEL, who seems to be a computer genius. Peter’s relationship with Nathan is even more frayed than ever before. Noah Bennet seems to have successfully earned the bald guy’s, Danko’s, trust, yet is unwilling to hurt Peter. Then Danko goes crazy and sends Matt out wired up with explosives just to prove people with abilities are dangerous. A few questions and theories arise from this: first, a couple theories on who REBEL is: Sylar’s dad, the Haitian, Angela Petrelli, or Micah. Peter’s ability is still broken; he can only keep one power at a time. I thought of a couple ways that might get fixed. Ando supercharges him so his ability becomes stronger, so he could hold onto more than one. Or Sylar takes off the top of his head and fixes him, like he would’ve fixed a watch. Of course for that one to work Peter would need to be able to heal. And any theories on what’s going to happen with Danko and Nathan?
Sylar and Luke went to an old restaurant where Sylar remembered that his father had killed his mother. And that his father had at least one power, telekinesis. When He saw this Sylar vented his feelings out on Luke; nearly killed him and then ordered him to return home. Sylar then vowed he would kill his father in revenge. Sylar is one of my favorite characters. There’s something really cool about bad guys, that is if they’re done well; smart, complicated (not purely evil), and doesn’t automatically lose. I’m really interested to see how Sylar will react when he finally meets his father, a man cold blooded enough to kill his wife and sell his son.

Feel free to comment with speculations and thoughts about the episode or just the show in general.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

There's No 'Redefinition' Involved

This article, , written by Orson Scott Card, was written a long time ago; however it’s still worth talking about. Now I think he's a good author, and has written some excellent books like Ender’s Game, but his political views on same sex marriage are quite simply, wrong. "The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to "gay marriage," is that it marks the end of democracy in America." Card wrote. How is gay marriage wrong? How could it be wrong to allow someone the basic right of marriage? The answer: it isn’t. As for ending democracy in America?! How is giving people equal rights, which is what America stands for, the end of democracy?! The end of democracy is the rejection of basic, constitutional rights. This is what Bush did, whom he supported, with his abolishment of habeas corpus. How can he justify this as the end of democracy when the president he supported worked actively to suppress it?!

“The pretext is that state constitutions require it -- but it is absurd to claim that these constitutions require marriage to be defined in ways that were unthinkable through all of human history until the past 15 years.” He argued. Again, his two points are quite wrong. The common argument against same sex marriage is because it’s ‘redefining’ marriage, yet its not. Gay marriage is in no way preventing, or changing, heterosexual marriage. And if there was no ‘redefinition’ of marriage there never would’ve been inter-racial marriages (as Jon Stewart pointed out). As for it being “unthinkable through all of human history” it is—ready for this?—wrong; Japan, Central Asia, and Greece had a long history of homosexuality and bisexuality.

Orson Scott Card wrote about unconstitutional limits on freedom of speech. His example is that people aren’t allowed to pray in front of abortion clinics. “Do not suppose for a moment that the "gay marriage" diktats will not be supported by methods just as undemocratic, unconstitutional and intolerant.” I suppose it is true that it’s unconstitutional that people aren’t allowed to pray in front of abortion clinics, it’s just obnoxious. I think this point is moot. What constitutional limitations are there, when the constitution specifies people have the right to liberty? Liberty is having the privilege to choose. That shows that not having the option of same sex marriage is undemocratic and unconstitutional. It implies that they are less than human, and don’t deserve the benefits of democracy live everybody else. As for intolerant?! How can he possibly say that the acceptation of gay marriage is intolerant? The rejection of gay marriage is intolerant.

“Remember how rapidly gay marriage has become a requirement.” Do I even have to go into this? Just because same sex marriage should be allowed doesn’t make it a requirement. People should have the right to choose how and who they want to marry.

“No matter how sexually attracted a man might be toward other men, or a woman toward other women, and no matter how close the bonds of affection and friendship might be within same-sex couples, there is no act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the same as the coupling between a man and a woman.” Who said anything about it being the same? Its different certainly, but that doesn’t make it bad. Passing a law to allow same sex marriage isn’t about making it the same. It’s about allowing couples the equal rights marriage brings for heterosexual couples.

Card talks about how being homosexual is having a ‘sexual dysfunction’. He also says he isn’t a homophobe, and that gay marriage wouldn’t work because there would be no offspring. He calls people dictators for trying to pass laws allowing gay marriage. I think these quotes from his article show he is definitely homophobic, and that he just doesn’t get it. Gay marriage does not stop heterosexual marriage, or change it in any way. This is what people against same sex marriage just don’t get.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A What If Question

Now I know this post is irrelevant and random, but hey, what are blogs for? Anyway in History class we’ve been studying WWI. We learned about the U.S entry into the war. And the question arrived; what if America had never entered WWI? At first I thought that maybe the Treaty of Versailles (the treaty at the end of WWI that imposed strict punishments on Germany, and set the seeds for the next war) wouldn’t have imposed such harsh conditions on Germany because they would have won so absolutely without the aid of American soldiers. Or perhaps the Germans would have won. Or maybe neither would have won and the war would have ended in a stalemate. But that was before I remembered Japan. Ever since modernization Japan had long been the superpower of the East. They had defeated China several times, and gained some territory. They had also defeated Russia. In WWI Japan was rich and strong. “Japan, when she entered the war, was at least twice as strong as when she bcgan [began] the war with Russia. She had an army of one million men, and a navy double the size of that which she had possessed when the Treaty of Portsmouth [the treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese war. The first war in the modern era that an Asian country had defeated a European country] was signed.” I found this quote here. Japan was one of the Allies for WWI and attacked outposts of Germany in China, and some pacific islands. Japan defeated the Germans easily. It’s conceivable that if America had never entered the war Japan would have taken our place as the Allies’ savior. An argument at the end of WWI was that Japan wanted the land from their conquests and the other Allies refused. If Japan was the nation that had rocketed the Allies to victory it is doubtful they would have denied its request for more land. Japan had proved that it had an expansionist policy. With more land, thus more riches and resources perhaps the U.S would have faced a Cold War, not with the Soviet Union, but the Japanese Empire.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Not The Savage He Was Named

Genghis Khan: a savage, ruthless conqueror. He led hordes of savage Mongols who ravaged the civilized world. That's what most people know about.

There's only one problem: it's not entirely true. Its true Genghis Khan was a ruthless conqueror, it's true that he was a Mongol. However, the bit about Mongol hordes ravaging the civilized world--not so true.

Before Genghis Khan, Mongolia was divided into many warring tribes. They raided and kidnapped amongst each other constantly. It was kind of the national pastime. Many of these tribes were poor so war and kidnapping was how they survived.

In the midst of this unending cycle of violence Genghis Khan was born into one of the poorest tribes. Mere scavengers, they had no great standing among the other tribes. At an early age Genghis Khan’s father, Yesugei, the Khan—chief—of their small tribe was killed. Genghis Khan and his family, his mother, younger sister, two younger brothers, and two half brothers were kicked out of the tribe in a coup by one of Yesugei former lieutenants. Their exile amounted to a death sentence. In the harsh Mongolian winter they could not have been expected to survive. Without a tribe they would have been in constant danger from other tribes. Yet somehow they survived. At least most of them did. Genghis Khan older half brother Bekhter was killed. By him. Now the killing wasn’t for any reason. While Genghis Khan and his family were starving Bekhter stole some food for himself. He was a leech on the family. From a pragmatic point he had to go.

Not much is known about Genghis Khan’s childhood. What is known is that he was enslaved at least once. He also made an extremely important friendship in Jamuka, slightly older than Genghis Khan his family camped near Genghis’s. He was also betrothed to his future wife, Borte.

As a young man, Genghis was in charge of a small band (including his family and now Borte, his wife) he was close friends and allies with Jamuka and his father’s old ally Ong Khan. In fact he originally teamed up with Ong Khan and Jamuka to regain Borte, who had been kidnapped by a rival tribe. When they regained her Genghis was Jamuka and Ong Khan’s firm ally.

Some time later, for reasons unknown, Genghis and Jamuka broke off and became rivals in the struggle to rule over all the tribes of Mongolia, although Genghis was still subservient to Ong Khan. And then for the first time Genghis went on a series of raids as the sole commander. Predictably, he won and instituted the radical new process of incorporating the conquered tribe into his own tribe.

It took him decades but eventually Genghis defeated Jamuka, and later Ong Khan, who had betrayed him. He had united all of the Mongol tribes and took on the name that made him famous, Genghis Khan.

As the leader of the newly unified Mongols he instituted a series of radical changes. The conquered tribes were incorporated into his tribe as full members, not slaves. Genghis Khan created a meritocracy, enforced rule of law, and declared complete freedom of religion. Many, if not all, of his reforms were well ahead of his time.

Now he was ready for war. During Genghis Khan’s lifetime the Mongols conquered, part of modern day China, the Khwarezmid Empire (which was in Central Asia), Afghanistan, part of Russia, and Georgia. The fact that Mongol hordes overpowered through sheer numbers is wrong. Mongolia had a relatively small population, and not all were soldiers. Genghis Khan was almost always outnumbered so he won the day with brilliant tactics and strategies instead of the overwhelming numbers that were depicted.

As head of the Mongol Empire Genghis Khan pieced together the Silk Route, granted immunity to all diplomats (even if they were from hostile nations), he lowered taxes for everyone and abolished taxes for teachers, doctors, and priests.

The story of Genghis Khan is fascinating and complex and cannot be labeled simply as the work of an evil conqueror. All the cards were stacked against him. He was not handed the throne like most conquerors. He had to struggle and claw his way up from poverty, even slavery, to become the most effective conqueror the world has ever known. But more than that, he did good things too. Many of the reforms he used, such as freedom of religion and the rule of law, are in place in many modern countries.

If you want to learn more about Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire I recommend Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford.