The Lion King-Killer

Eric Dolski

This post analyzes everyone's favorite disney movie, The Lion King. Actually
Robin Hood was my favorite, but I never tell anyone that in person because
I'm afraid they'll judge my cinematic tastes.

We all remember the circumstances of King Mufasa's death: trampled by
wildebeests in a valley after his brother, Scar, essentially threw him from a
cliff. The scene makes Scar into a true villain and starts Simba on his
journey to become an adult. The key element here is that Scar becomes the
villain; Mufasa's death is depicted as a direct result of Scar's betrayal.
Never mind that Simba was the one who brought Mufasa into the valley in the
first place, or that the wildebeests were the ones who actually made Mufasa
into lionburger. Scar becomes a perpetrator, and Simba goes into exile.

It's interesting to note that while the whole savannah ecosystem seems
pretty anthropomorphic, nobody is willing to hold funerals for their dead.
Moreover, no one seems capable of sorting out their moral dilemmas in a way
that's not vicious and animalistic. This is an peculiar juxtaposition: the
animals in the movie act like people except when it benefits them to act
like animals. Or is that not so peculiar, after all?

What I mean is that Scar kills Mufasa to become the Lion King. It's a sensible
thing to do; it's good to be king. Yet the film's framing of scar as a murderer
forces the viewer to vilify him for his unfeeling, animal-like act of cruelty. But
he *is* an animal! Later on, Simba grows up and comes to (spoilers incoming)
kill Scar. Is this revenge killing justified? Not in a lawful human nation like the
United States of America it's not. But then, these are creatures of the African
savannah--they can't be held to the same standards as us people. But then,
why is Scar vilified for revolting against his King? After all, it's Darwinism at
work out there. The moral message of death and killing in the Lion King is
inconsistent if not outright deranged.

I sympathize with Scar. He, like all lions, just wants a hot meal, a cute
lion-chick, and a young lion baby who he can train in the art of devouring
smaller creatures. In a harsh world of death and renewal, he knows how the
cards are dealt. He knows that letting Mufasa live would only bring him
woe, yet we as the audience are supposed to look down on him for advocating
regime change. It's not like anyone's going to vote Mufasa out. Mufasa is
Castro. Mufasa is Mubarak. Scar just got dragged through the mud.

On a final note: let's talk about the Circle of Life. If it's everyone's
destiny to live and die, then why couldn't Simba have simply accepted
Mufasa's murder? Mufasa had to go sometime. More importantly, does the
philosophy of the Circle of Life condone Simba's revenge against Scar? How
is Simba's murder any different from Scar's murder? Are these killings
acceptable, philosophically? What kind of insane philosophy condones a life
for a life? Is the Lion King actually subversive fundamentalism?

Taking the Black and Red Out of Death

Eric Dolski

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande

Super-depressing article in the New Yorker: beware, and, if squeamish,
prepare to feel violated.

That said, is it wiser to choose hospice care for greater quality of life as
opposed to hospital care for possibly longer length of life? Hearing
descriptions of all these cancered people with their catheters and their
swollen lower halves, their weeping sores and bloody coughs and intravenous
feedings, I wasn't quite sure what to feel. If I were in these terminally ill
peoples' position, I wouldn't know what to do. It's not really quality of life vs.
length of life when you're talking about your own life; it's rolling over vs.
clutching close a tiny hope that may or may not go anywhere at all.

Hypothetical: you've got cancer of a lower organ. You don't know. Time
passes. Now its inoperable and half your colon is affected. You can't poop
right; you can barely poop wrong. You go to a hospital. Now you know its
inoperable. You have the choice of prolonging your life for a few months at
the cost of being chemo'ed, bedridden, and generally deteriorated, or you can
go into hospice care at home while your only preventative medicine is to
alleviate symptoms instead of address causes. Hypothetically, which is the
better choice? Which will bring more happiness?

The New Yorker article addresses the big question: when is it appropriate to
accept death? Ever? At what point do you say, "Yep, I've had a good run, but
I'm sliding toward home plate and we need to think about the next batter up?"
As it stands, there are more and more people (pesky baby-boomers) sliding
towards home plate very slowly, dare I say very inelegantly. They're twisting
and turning, having kidney dialysis on the way, resting in a reclining hospital
bed for a few weeks, and they're getting closer and closer all the timeÖ at the
cost of everyone.

A significant portion of healthcare costs come from end-of-life care, care that
you, I, and the families of the dying pay for. Through hospice care (non-
treatment), those costs are reduced. Would you choose hospice care if you
knew your family could save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars as they
try to prolong your life slightly?

This is where things like "death panels" come into play. Remember death
panels? Yeah, late life decisions between doctors and patients. With the
advancements in care today, we have the luxury of choosing when we want to
die, at least until we don't. Choosing to die earlier saves healthcare dollars.
Then again, you're dead, so what do you care? It's a complex issue, but it's
tough to get a grasp on because of all the emotions that come into play. I
couldn't decide willingly whether to live or die; I'd rather have someone else
do it just so I could rightly feel either vindictive or appreciative.

The Gold "Zip" Necklace

Eric Dolski------------------------------------------------------------

Jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels have revived a jewelry design dead for fifty years.
You know zippers? Well imagine this: a zipper made of solid gold, with
diamonds. Also it's a necklace.

http://www.thejewelleryeditor.com/2011/02/van-cleef-arpels-new-zip-...

Watching this video (muted), I wasn't sure if I was watching an
advertisement or an SNL skit masquerading as an advertisement. It's a
necklace. It zips. It's made of gold and diamonds. I've never seen anything
like it.

Would I wear it? No. I'm a male and I think that this zipper necklace is
ultimately disgusting. Yet, in this intrepid idea is a living representation of
wealth culture; to me, a barely-employed prole, it's disgusting. To a
millionaire heiress, maybe it's next week's fashion.

Onto the deathly element of it: zipper necklaces aren't new in 2011. They
were popular in the 1950's. Between now and then, something happened that
made the zipper necklace unfashionable, even in all of its golden, zippy
glory. The trend died. Now it's back. I would call the zipper necklace a
novelty above being a piece of jewelry; it's like a blob of Silly Putty.
It's a cool thing to have, it's a cool thing to show to people, and simply
by being a piece of ingenuity (obnoxious as it is) it becomes mildly
significant as a representation of positive spending. I suppose "Hey check this
thing out. Isn't it awesome?" is a little better than, "Hey, look at how rich I
am!" and then diving into a mountain of gold bullion. What's more
ostentatious, wearing a zipper necklace made of gold or building a statue of
yourself made of gold? They're both pretty ostentatious, but this is the rich
we're talking about here. A gold necklace is almost a sign of restraint.

So, the big idea here is that ideas come and go. Or, more accurately, hideous
jewelry designs come and go. All it takes is one intrepid jeweler to reacquaint
the market with this previously forgotten way of displaying material wealth.
Some day, you or I could be that jeweler. Some day, you or I or anyone could
come up with the next hot idea completely unrelated to human welfare. And
you or I or anyone could be rich! Rich, I tell you!

We Don't Do That Anymore (Still)

Eric Dolski

Bradley Manning, Pvt. 1st Class, was recently charged with 22 new counts of
things like computer fraud, aiding the enemy and generally treasonous
behavior. One of these offenses is capital; if the US government chose to,
they could smack the death penalty on him. However, the government hardly
ever (never) gives the death penalty to treasonous characters; the law is
on the books, but its never taken advantage of. That's interesting, and to
me it gives an interesting look back at history. When the idea of treason
being a capital offense was enacted, America was still young and fairly
rough around the edges (everything beyond the Rockies was still blank space
on a badly-drawn map). Our forefathers couldn't be fooling with treasonous
people being all treasonous and whatnot. The solution? Kill them! But when
I say "kill them", I merely mean threaten to kill them. Threats are much
more conducive to a change of action than actual action, am I right?
Because when you start killing people, then you start getting martyrs, and
martyrs are a big pain the butt for a regime. Look at Jesus, and most
saints, and every suicide bomber ever.

So we as an American regime decided that maybe killing people for betraying
their country was a bit much. So, through years of precedent legislation,
treason as a capital offense got hit until it was the equivalent to life in
prison. Then, later in history, America started freaking out, like an
octopus who'd just taken topical cortisol. We were getting into all these
wars, and a whole lot of people were dying, and we suddenly had a
burgeoning military that couldn't afford to be rotted out and/or ratted out
from the inside. Treason returned to vogue in the 40's and 50's, mostly
because of real Red espionage and presumed Japanese espionage. Then it
died once more when America collectively realized that the Soviet Union was
back then what it still is today.

I'm digressing here. Back to Bradley Manning. Treasonous, not going to die.
The charges have barely been announced, and that's the verdict. The death
penalty just isn't in style nowadays. We can want Manning alive or dead as
much as we want, because he's a dirty, treasonous champion for truth, but
the American system of law up to this point guarantees that he'll live.
Probably most of his life in prison, but hey.

Pro-choice in Lightbulbs

Eric Dolski

Should incandescent bulbs die? Should fluorescents reign alongside halogens
and LEDs?

(http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/rand-paul-blames-
energy-department-for-faulty-toilets-among-other-things/)

Basically, what I take from the incandescent bulb debate is that we (we
Americans; go America!) need to be more efficient in our living practices.
That means we throw out the incandescents and bring in the fluorescents.
Death to incandescents! All hail efficiency!

The argument gets difficult later on, though. Fluorescents are expensive,
don't support gradual lighting (good for switches, bad for knobs), arguably
have a "harsher" tone of color, and have mercury in them. The reduced cost
of fluorescents over time has some less-than-impressive tradeoffs for the
low-efficiency, 95% heat incandescents. For one, incandescents don't become
a biochemical hazard when broken. I think that's a pretty legitimate "for one",
so we'll forgo the "for two".

Are incandescents dying? Kinda, yeah. They're supposed to be phased out
unless Congress decides they're not supposed to be phased out (see the link
above). Will consumers benefit? Probably maybe sorta. They'll have less
choice in the marketplace, but their energy bills will probably go down
just as their lightbulb bills go up. Will the environment benefit? Kinda,
maybe, a little bit, possibly. Mercury is notoriously difficult to dispose
of, and I'll be darned if the average American family is interested in
contacting their local waste management center when they could just toss it
in a garbage can. Incandescents save the trip to the waste management
center. Less coal will be burned, which is good.

Now that I think about it, it's like the nuclear/coal debate. Fluorescents
are nuclear (difficult to dispose of, otherwise clean, highly dangerous at
times, highly efficient) while incandescents are coal (easy to dispose of,
dirty, relatively safe, inefficient). Another issue is that of horrible natural
disasters; what if a fabled Minnesota earthquake decides my apartment must
no longer stand? All my fluorescents would break and a disaster zone would
be that much worse as silvery mercury oozed all around. Fluorescents are
inflexible in multiple unique situations.

But, shifting viewpoints again, we're forgetting halogen! It's basically
efficient incandescent. Now you can have your incandescent and eat it too.
Of course, since halogens burn so hot that they can cause unintended fires
(as opposed to intended fires), put out the kind of light that gives sunburn,
and when fingerprinted may explode, they also have their drawbacks. Which is
better, an exploding lightbulb or a mercury-filled lightbulb, or a lightbulb
that uses twice as much energy as the other two? That's up to you, Mr. and
Ms. Consumer. That's up to you.

Death in "The Seventh Seal"

Eric Dolski------------------------------------------------------------

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seventh_Seal

Death in "The Seventh Seal" is straightforward and classic, a theater
representation of what personified death must be like. He's calm, a
little bit ugly, and he's willing to compromise. He has no problem with
letting people live, at least for the time being. He's genial and likable;
he's an interesting guy who simply went into a tough field, that of ripping
countless souls from their withering and confused bodies. Presuming Death
were born today, he'd probably grow up to be an actuary. Also, this death
wears black, the kind of black that people wore before nihilism got
unpopularized by "The Big Lebowski." Death in "The Seventh Seal" is a
minimalist, if nothing else.

The hero of the film, former crusader Antonius Block, meets Death when
Antonius' homecountry of Sweden is stricken with the plague. Death has come
for Antonius, but in true human-as-awesome fashion, Antonius challenges
Death to a game of chess, the stakes of the outcome being nothing less than
his life. Death, being a pretty agreeable guy and/or spectral horror, agrees.
What ensues are various grand allegories and intellectual thrusts and parries
between the living man and the not-so-living Death. Antonius gains the
upper hand, loses it, gains it again, and tours his own broken country as he
finds himself losing the chess game against Death.

What's important here is that Death isn't a villain; he's barely an
antagonist. He's got a job to do, and he does it. Antonius and others curse
him and question him and curse themselves and questions themselves, but
that's humanity to death. Death doesn't care; he's probably doing it for a
paycheck.

The Hummer Brand

Eric Dolski

Do you hear those birds singing, and that brook babbling again, and that harp
playing in the distance? Thatís the sound of mankind destroying the world
slightly less than we were previously. GM recently nixed the Hummer brand
from its lineup, presumably because the company finally realized that
Hummer sold more punchlines than vehicles. This, unfortunately, means that
consumers will no longer be able to purchase the 10 MPG Hummer H2 or the
13 MPG H3 Alpha. Somehow, consumers will need to find equivalently
efficient vehicles for their commutes: hovercraft and industrial bulldozers are
options to consider.

Will we miss the Hummer brand once the final vehicle rolls off the lot?
Doubtfully. With the recent financial crisis, America has little appreciation
for the high-energy, fun-conducive vehicle that the Hummer epitomizes.
Now all we want is efficiency at the cost of invulnerability. Hummer saved
lives, and this is apparently how we thank it--with an auto bailout that
didnít even work.

But the jokes ends here, because after those last two paragraphs I'm spent.
When I think of Hummer, I think of the car that most represents senseless
American consumerism. Sure, there are Ferraris and Lotuses and other sports
cars, but the Hummer has (or had) a mystique all its own. It was like wearing
a huge, ugly, ostentatious diamond ring. It was like having a beehive hairdo.
It was like living in Texas. It represented needless hugeness and fostered a
perverse appreciation for that hugeness. It was to SUVs what SUVs are to
regular cars.

I wish there were a unified collective representation of the American public,
because if there was then we could hear the sigh of relief as the Hummer
brand got discontinued. I mean, I'm all for freedom just as much as the next
guy, but when your vehicle is barely pulling 10 MPG, shouldn't there be some
kind of line drawn? I mean, are Hummer users carpooling? Is there a way to
justify 10 MPG besides "freedom"? I suspect that every American with even the
smallest concern for the environment disliked the Hummer brand on
principle, but there was no way to show that dislike besides not buying the
product. Meanwhile, other people bought the product, whether they wanted
to utilize a sports utility vehicle or they just needed to transport tons of
something. It's like, people love rainforests, but people have practically no
power to save rainforests because only companies are able to pay for all the
wood in those rainforests. People love the environment, but regular people
have practically no power to save the environment when the wealthy are able
to buy the use of that environment for their own purposes. Welcome to the
market economy, I guess.

Collect Calling - Call Collect!

Eric Dolski

Remember a life before cellphones? Of course you donít, because if you did,
youíd probably have symptoms of PTSD.

Mr. T being tough, as usual: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=fBoeMVpkUHQ&feature=related

In the 90's, it seems that American television couldnít go a single commercial
break without mentioning how you could call your friends in Bosnia the Nepal
and the Luzon for only five cents! Can you imagine? Communicating with
people across the world from any tethered phone line! All you had to do was
dial down the center (according to Mr. T) or dial 1-800-COLLECT (according
to Phil Hartman).

Phil Hartman, with a surprise cameo by Chris Rock:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzwtF5GY7zI

I mention Phil Hartman and Mr. T because nowadays telecommunications
celebrities are so white-bread, so clean-shaven. While the commercials back
then werenít that good, they certainly had unique and mentally challenging
storylines. Those commercials had $100,000 budgets. Today? Itís all awkward
jokes or CGI scenes of a huge crowd thatís supposed to be representative of
the telecomís customer base. What is it about being able to talk to 100 million
people thatís so appealing? I can barely talk to my own mother without an
altercation. Now those commercials are all fallen into the past in favor of
cellphones and cellphone usage. It seems like practically overnight, collect
calls were forgotten. We the American public didn't care, we just wanted to
blab as much as we could by any means possible.

That seems to be the way of it with industries; they die quietly because there's
no single person who's allowed to scream. AT&T and Sprint quickly moved
into the cellphone market while collect calls got phased out. I personally never
made a collect call, but darn if I didn't seen hundreds of collect calling
commercials over the course of my childhood. I miss them a little bit. They
were cheesy in the best of ways.

The Death of a Concept: Oatmeal

Eric Dolski

http://www.quakeroats.com/Libraries/pdf/Oatmeal_Nutrition_Facts.sflb.ashx
http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutrition1/itemDetailInfo.do

McDonald's Oatmeal. The words send shivers down my spine. Myself, I prefer
to make my oats mixed with milk in my *own* microwave. If I'm feeling
fancy, I might even add cinnamon and a banana, but only when I've got that
extra 12 seconds to spare.

McDonald's Oatmeal: it's absurd. It's like Walmart Jewellers, or Louis-Vitton
rags, or Aldi's caviar. Except it *exists*. Have you ever wanted oatmeal that
comes with 14 grams of sugar outright? Well that's good, because you can get
that with McDonald's, or you can get more than double the sugar by adding
their dried fruit and light cream. Do you suffer from inadequate sodium
intake? McDonald's oatmeal can help you, with its 140 mg. Compare that to
Quaker's Old-Fashioned, with 0.

But I'm distorting the big picture. No matter that McDonald's Oatmeal has
as much sugar as a bowl of Captain Crunch. It's not that much sugar overall.
It's only 290 calories. It's actually pretty light, if you consider it a meal at 9 oz.
Yet, this is oatmeal. Oatmeal by its nature is supposed to be simultaneously
bland and uber-healthy. Now we have McDonald's making it neither of those
things. Undiscerning consumers may even buy this product, thinking that at
least it's not an egg McMuffin (the oatmeal has 10 fewer calories and
promotes diabetes instead of heart disease). Admittedly, it's a healthy
alternative to the rest of the McDonald's menu. You know what else is a
healthy alternative? Not eating at McDonald's.

This is the death of an idea. When I think oatmeal, I think of a wholesome,
tastes-mediocre bowl of pure nutrition. I think of oats, liquid, and a small
pinch of salt, along with some fruit. The very premise that McDonald's could
offer healthy food is, to me, an offense. When I think of McDonald's and its
repeated, repeated nutritional abortions, I begin to think that Judas and Pol
Pot weren't such bad guys. No company has taken such a bold stance for taste
and against health, and now McDonald's continues to bait us with an
unprecedentedly unhealthy offering of oatmeal, burgers, fries, and apple pies,
all of which are twice as bad for you as you think they are.

Oatmeal can be a heart-healthy offering of carbohydrates, but not as
McDonald's has made it. McDonald's has produced a brave new oatmeal
unlike any oatmeal before. This oatmeal is distinctly bad for you, just like
every other Mc-prefixed item in existence.

I know the argument that sometimes we don't have time to get home and
prepare our own oatmeal (or food in general). But, if someone's running
around town five days a week, can't they anticipate and prepare a sandwich,
or prepare a thermos of soup, or prepare something that isn't fast food? Give
your heart, kidneys, and stomach a break, or just go all out and eat the
delicious stuff that McDonald's makes. Don't be a hypocrite. Make a stand or
buckle under the weight of McDonald's liquefied unhealth.

Dying Loyalty

Eric Dolski

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/02/25/134069630/libyan-
ambassador-denounces-gadhafi-at-u-n?ft=1&f=1001

Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Shalgham is Libya's UN representative.
Previously a longtime supporter of the Gaddafi regime, he decided recently
to represent "the Libyan people" instead of Libya's head of state Gaddafi.

This means two of two things: he's a patriot and a turncoat. Shalgham
(we'll call him Shalgy for short) went rogue against his superior who
also went rogue. This is an interesting proposition: how do you condone
betrayal? To a Western audience, public betrayal of a superior is right up
there with rape and incest as things that we really shouldn't be doing. It's
dishonorable. It's terrible. It's offensive to everyone who's been betrayed.

Admittedly Gaddafi has killed thousands of people during his tenure, but
this is the man's hour of need. Shalgy is really jumping ship; it makes me
think of some sort of antithesis to the stone-faced UN rep who must defend
human rights violations (think Burma, China, Zimbabwe). Then we have Shalgy
on the opposite side who'd stick a knife in his longtime dictator's back,
and for what?

That's the real question. Is he doing it to save his own skin, or is he
doing it because he believes Gaddafi's actions are indefensible? This kind
of act is mostly unprecedented in UN history, so what are people supposed
to think when Shalgy decides he's not going to represent the guy who
appointed him? Is he traitor, traitor, and should the Western media rabble
rabble? Or is he not a traitor? Well, he's plainly betrayed Gaddafi,
but he's plainly stayed faithful to the Libyan people. Then, what's the
precedent he's setting? Will future UN representatives on occasion decide
that their unstable government's policies don't represent the will of the
people and therefore refuse to defend them? Shalgy doesn't know the can of
worms he's opened.

This is all (tenuously) death related because Shalgy must be scrambling to
stay solvent; he's avoiding death by transforming himself. While Gaddafi's
thrashing about in Libya, think of all the government employees and police
and firemen and military men who are either out of work or soon out of work
because the government that pays them isn't paying them any more. The
government's dying, and Shalgy gets a front row seat to the show that he
was once a part of. In renouncing his longtime friend Gaddafi, he made a
decision of epic prudence, but also a decision of arguable cowardice. He's
a unique and lucky guy to represent political realism and liberalism at the
same time.

On the Cost of Revolution

Eric Dolski

http://prwatch.org/news/2011/04/9944/live-reporting-wisconsin-protests

The death toll of this most recent Egyptian revolution has reached 365
(probably much more, as numbers like these aren't to be trusted).
That's out of a population of 83 million. Egypt's regime is being reformed
because of those deaths and the protests surrounding them, although it's
anyone's guess as to whether the Egyptians' collective livelihood will
improve once Mubarak is completely excised from Egypt's government.

I don't know exactly when this blog post will go up onto the interwebspace,
but as I write this on the 19th of February I wonder if there will be any
deaths in Wisconsin due to Scott Walker's union-busting budget proposal. It
seems that in the 21st century, publicized deaths through perceived
government failure are the best way of causing a (excuse my language)
political shitstorm. Can you imagine if a few people froze to death while
protesting? A policeman accidentally pushes an elderly teacher to the
pavement, breaking her hip and ultimately ending her time on this earth? A
snow plow and an annoyed man reenact Tiananmen Square with horrific
results? There's 40,000 people hanging out around Wisconsin's capitol
building. It could happen.

However, in Egypt all those dead people became martyrs; it was automatic. A
cruel government did wrong, and they suffered for it so that others might
live. Over in yonder Wisconsin, my home state, I suspect that what's going
to happen if and when someone dies is that the protesters will get a
hugemongous grassroots support boost through social media while Scott
Walker and his supporters will start pointing fingers and making
embarrassing comments that amount to pouting cries of "ok, guys, we've had
our fun but now everybody just go home [and quit trying to retain collective
bargaining rights, you America haters!]." Since government's main purpose is
to support the general welfare, most people think there's a problem when
dead bodies come as a direct result of what the government intends to do.

I envision this hypothetical scenario as another Kent State, but for
unions. The protesting side will vilify the government, while the
government will do damage control. But when there's social media and
general internet shenanigans, how do you downplay the death of a single
person celebritized by millions of people? You lose accountability or you
lose votes.

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