Oh great… I can’t watch Shrek now

Every week the local elementary school sends a bag of ten books home with the kids, to borrow for that week. Imagine my surprise when last week we found, among those books, a short story about an ogre, named Shrek!

Shrek, of Shrek!, is green, and has weird suction-cup ears. He meets a donkey on his travels and marries an ugly princess.

I haven’t actually seen the movies of that name, but one can’t help knowing all about something that Disney (or Dreamworks or whatever) want you to know all about. They beam it into your brain at night using cosmic rays, or something.

Anyway, I haven’t actually seen the movie of that name, but I’m pretty sure (thanks to the cosmic rays) that the resemblance ends there. And that’s too bad, because Shrek! is an awesome book about a perfectly horrible monster. So horrible that snakes which bite him go into convulsions and die, and he can handily dispatch a dragon with a puff of “putrid blue flame.” Mike Meyers would be an utterly unsuitable casting choice for this Shrek. I’d cast an angry five year old and pitch-bend his voice down three octaves.

But I’m not sure a five year old could deliver the poetry. Shrek! is full of interesting language and clever verse. Writer William Steig is very good.

The thing is, Shrek! would actually make a great animation. Not a blockbuster CGI animation, or even a deluxe Disneylike animation — an old fashioned, low budget animation where the character of the drawings in the original was preserved.

I don’t imagine that can happen now. Steig has passed away; I hope he died very rich and comfortable on the proceeds of selling out his awful ogre. No biggie for him. His imagination was full of more, I’m sure.

Anyway, now that I’ve read the real Shrek!, I’m pretty sure the animated one would just make me sad.

The Secret

I’m late to the party on this one, but apparently a “if you think it it will come” book called The Secret was on Oprah and spurred a lot of reaction. I’m not going to speak for or against it except to say that if you’re gonna go with that why not go straight back to the classic.

The Secret and similar books piss many people off because if you believe that people can bring fortune into their lives, then you can blame the unfortunate for their misfortune — and you can revere the fortunate for their good fortune, because it’s all to their credit! It’s a very Republican way of thinking, when you take it in that direction — the poor have made themselves poor, and are thereby dragging the rest of us down; the rich have made themselves rich, and are therefore benefitting us all. Let us reward the rich to encourage them to be more rich, and punish the poor to discourage them from being so poor. Tax cuts and welfare reform!

Sorry, got a little carried away there.

So something like The Secret or As A Man Thinketh brings up, in an exaggerated, supernatural way, the difficult question of how much control over one’s situation we ought to attribute to people.

One can go destructively far in the other direction. If you don’t believe people have any control over their lives, you court learned helplessness, which is psychologically devastating.

How do you find the most helpful and most accurate balance in terms of control over one’s fate?

Martin Seligman, who was involved in the original Learned Helplessness research, discovered that the psychologically optimal strategy seemed to be to skew one’s attributions so that one thought of positive developments as having personal, internal, permanent causes — e.g. “I got the job because I’m an intelligent guy” — and negative developments as having impersonal, external, temporary causes — e.g. “I lost the job because of the way the downswing in the economy happened to affect my company this quarter.” People who skewed things that way, Seligman found, seemed to be the happiest and most successful in life.

That’s what’s helpful (at least according to one psychologist), but what’s accurate? I’ve got no idea how to determine that.

Paul Campos on Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin

Rocky Mountain News – Opinion Columnists:

This inspires me to point something out to my more liberal readers. Remember that particularly clueless right-wing acquaintance of yours? The one who believes that anybody in America can become rich, because he thinks about poverty in a completely unscientific, anecdotal way, which allows him to treat the exceptional case as typical? The one who can’t seem to understand the simplest structural arguments about the nature of social inequality?

The next time you see some fat people and get disgusted by their failure to “take care of themselves,” think about your clueless friend.

Via fat-fu.

Dick Cheney, Customer of the D.C. Madam?

Wayne Madsen Report:

WMR has been informed by three well-placed sources that Vice President Dick Cheney, while a part-time resident of McLean, Virginia and while serving as Halliburton’s CEO, was a customer of the DC Madam.

I don’t know anything about the Wayne Madsen Report and how reliable a source they are, but dang, that would be a story. If it’s true, ABC News has a lot of ‘splainin to do, with regards to deeming the whole thing “non-newsworthy.”

Giuliani or Orwell?

‘Freedom Is About Authority’: Excerpts From Giuliani Speech on Crime – New York Times:

“Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

In certain contexts, obedience to authority may be a strategic sacrifice of freedom in one context for the sake of greater freedom overall. But Giluiani generalizes that here almost to the point of Newspeak.

I think an America run by Giuliani would be a very scary place. Although if we were attacked by terrorists we would have a leader capable of appearing on camera and looking very serious afterwards. So you have to take the crunchy with the smooth I suppose.

Luckily a President Giuliani seems to be a very remote possibility at this point.