Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 1st, 2022

“Falling Down”

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Recently I was reading one of the many lists of great movies to watch, and I happened across Falling Down (1993), which I had seen back in the day. I can’t find the article now, but it said some interesting things. The movie stars Michael Douglas (and his father said it was his best role). Douglas was wanting to take a break after just finishing Basic Instinct, but when he read the script, he wanted the role. He even asked for his salary to be cut to make more money available for the movie. Other notable cast: Robert Duvall, Tuesday Weld, Barbara Hershey, Frederic Forrest, and Rachel Ticotin.

It’s on Netflix, so I started watching it again, and it really is excellent Reccommended.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Why is the Book of Revelations like that?

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Adam Gopnik reviewed Ellen Pagels’s book Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation in the New Yorker a decade ago. I just encountered that review and found it very interesting. I read long ago Pagels’s book on the Gnostic gospels, and that, too, was interesting, so I am predisposed to like what she has to say. Gopnik writes (no paywall):

The Bible, as every Sunday-school student learns, has a Hollywood ending. Not a happy ending, certainly, but one where all the dramatic plot points left open earlier, to the whispered uncertainty of the audience (“I don’t get it—when did he say he was coming back?”), are resolved in a rush, and a final, climactic confrontation between the stern-lipped action hero and the really bad guys takes place. That ending—the Book of Revelation—has every element that Michael Bay could want: dragons, seven-headed sea beasts, double-horned land beasts, huge C.G.I.-style battles involving hundreds of thousands of angels and demons, and even, in Jezebel the temptress, a part for Megan Fox. (“And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”) Although Revelation got into the canonical Bible only by the skin of its teeth—it did poorly in previews, and was buried by the Apostolic suits until one key exec favored its release—it has always been a pop hit. Everybody reads Revelation; everybody gets excited about it; and generations of readers have insisted that it might even be telling the truth about what’s coming for Christmas.

In a new book on those end pages, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” (Viking), Elaine Pagels sets out gently to bring their portents back to earth. She accepts that Revelation was probably written, toward the end of the first century C.E., by a refugee mystic named John on the little island of Patmos, just off the coast of modern Turkey. (Though this John was not, she insists, the disciple John of Zebedee, whom Jesus loved, or the author of the Gospel that bears the same name.) She neatly synopsizes the spectacular action. John, finding himself before the Throne of God, sees a lamb, an image of Christ, who receives a scroll sealed by seven seals. The seals are broken in order, each revealing a mystical vision: a hundred and forty-four thousand “firstfruits” eventually are saved as servants of God—the famous “rapture.” Seven trumpets then sound, signalling various catastrophes—stars fall, the sun darkens, mountains explode, those beasts appear. At the sound of the sixth trumpet, two hundred million horsemen annihilate a third of mankind. This all leads to the millennium—not the end of all things but the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth—which, in turn, finally leads to Satan’s end in a lake of fire and the true climax. The Heaven and Earth we know are destroyed, and replaced by better ones. (There are many subsidiary incidents along the way, involving strange bowls and that Whore of Babylon, but they can be saved, so to speak, for the director’s cut on the DVD.)

Pagels then shows that Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It’s essentially a political cartoon about the crisis in the Jesus movement in the late first century, with Jerusalem fallen and the Temple destroyed and the Saviour, despite his promises, still not back. All the imagery of the rapt and the raptured and the rest that the “Left Behind” books have made a staple for fundamentalist Christians represents contemporary people and events, and was well understood in those terms by the original audience. Revelation is really like one of those old-fashioned editorial drawings where Labor is a pair of overalls and a hammer, and Capital a bag of money in a tuxedo and top hat, and Economic Justice a woman in flowing robes, with a worried look. “When John says that ‘the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth,’ he revises Daniel’s vision to picture Rome as the worst empire of all,” Pagels writes. “When he says that the beast’s seven heads are ‘seven kings,’ John probably means the Roman emperors who ruled from the time of Augustus until his own time.” As for the creepy 666, the “number of the beast,” the original text adds, helpfully, “Let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person.” This almost certainly refers—by way of Gematria, the Jewish numerological system—to the contemporary Emperor Nero. Even John’s vision of a great mountain exploding is a topical reference to the recent eruption of Vesuvius, in C.E. 79. Revelation is a highly colored picture of the present, not a prophecy of the future.

What’s more original to Pagels’s book is the view that Revelation is essentially an anti-Christian polemic. That is, it was written by an expatriate follower of Jesus who wanted the movement to remain within an entirely Jewish context, as opposed to the “Christianity” just then being invented by St. Paul, who welcomed uncircumcised and trayf-eating Gentiles into the sect. At a time when no one quite called himself “Christian,” in the modern sense, John is prophesying what would happen if people did. That’s the forward-looking worry in the book. “In retrospect, we can see that John stood on the cusp of an enormous change—one that eventually would transform the entire movement from a Jewish messianic sect into ‘Christianity,’ a new religion flooded with Gentiles,” Pagels writes. “But since this had not yet happened—not, at least, among the groups John addressed in Asia Minor—he took his stand as a Jewish prophet charged to keep God’s people holy, unpolluted by Roman culture. So, John says, Jesus twice warns his followers in Asia Minor to beware of ‘blasphemers’ among them, ‘who say they are Jews, and are not.’ They are, he says, a ‘synagogue of Satan.’ ” Balaam and Jezebel, named as satanic prophets in Revelation, are, in this view, caricatures of “Pauline” Christians, who blithely violated Jewish food and sexual laws while still claiming to be followers of the good rabbi Yeshua. Jezebel, in particular—the name that John assigns her is that of an infamous Canaanite queen, but she’s seen preaching in the nearby town of Thyatira—suggests the women evangelists who were central to Paul’s version of the movement and anathema to a pious Jew like John. She is the original shiksa goddess. (“When John accuses ‘Balaam’ and ‘Jezebel’ of inducing people to ‘eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication,’ he might have in mind anything from tolerating people who engage in incest to Jews who become sexually involved with Gentiles or, worse, who marry them,” Pagels notes.) The scarlet whores and mad beasts in Revelation are the Gentile followers of Paul—and so, in a neat irony, the spiritual ancestors of today’s Protestant evangelicals.

Pagels shows persuasively that the Jew/non-Jew argument over the future of the Jesus movement, the real subject of Revelation, was much fiercer than later Christianity wanted to admit. The first-century Jesus movement was torn apart between  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 5:44 pm

The surprising psychological effect of tracking your expenses

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Elizabeth Gilbert has a brief but interesting article at Big Think:

Have you ever felt stressed out over finances? You’re not alone. Nearly two-thirds of Americans report that money is a major source of stress. Studies show that insurmountable debt may be even more stressful than divorce or the death of a close friend.

Financial stress is liable to spill over into other areas of life, too, including family relationships and physical health. Dr. Megan Ford, a licensed therapist and director of the interdisciplinary ASPIRE Clinic, describes how financial issues can infiltrate every aspect of our lives:

“Some clients come in because they’re feeling depressed, anxious, or are struggling with their marriage, and we discover the root cause is money,” Ford says. “Or, vice versa, we discover that financial stress is leading to struggles with mental health and social relationships.”

But there is good news for anyone worried about money. You don’t have to wait until your income increases or your debts are gone to enjoy relief — the mere act of planning ahead can reap immediate benefits.

Why money can be so stressful

To understand why budgeting and tracking your spending can boost your mental well-being, it’s helpful to understand why money causes stress in the first place.

We all need money to survive, but money is tied to our well-being in less obvious ways, too. First off, financial instability is mentally exhausting. When you’re not sure whether you’ll have enough money to pay down your debts or enjoy an evening out with friends, you simply must think more about how and when to spend your money and time.

Also, money is tied up in our identities. Financial stability influences one’s sense that they can provide for their family or be financially independent. On the darker side, it can often be conflated with one’s sense of overall value as a human, meaning that financial insecurity can lead to a sense of shame, helplessness, loss of control, and decreased motivation.

Budgeting can promote confidence and relaxation

At first, many people dislike the idea of budgeting. But according to Ford, it often becomes a crucial part of relieving financial stress for those who try it.

“Budgeting has a negative connotation,” Ford says. “Many see it as limiting or restrictive. But in practice it helps propel people towards their goals.”

Indeed, studies show that the simple act of creating a budget and tracking spending can reduce mental exhaustion and restore a sense of control.

Purposeful budgeting helps people create . . .

Continue reading.

I have to admit that I have become much less money-stressed since I started using the method I describe in this post. I would go so far as to say that I am now financially comfortable, in the sense that I have something that Bezos and Musk will never have: I have enough.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 1:07 pm

An Apple Pay discovery: Cost to the merchant

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I recently started using Apple Pay instead of my credit card. It was more convenient, and Apple explained that it was funded by the bank paying a small sliver of the transaction fee to Apple — no effect on me.

But banks are not in the habit of giving away money, and I learned recently from a merchant that the bank collects from the merchant the money it then transfers to Apple — and, according to him, the “sliver” is substantial. He told me that the Apple Pay fee he must pay the bank is 1% of the transaction.

That seems like a lot to me, and since I learned that, I have reverted to using my credit card. It’s still easy to pay, and I don’t want to rip off the merchant for Apple.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 12:59 pm

“The Crowd,” by Gustav Le Bon

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On the first of each month, Standard Ebooks releases a new set of free ebooks. This month’s selections include The Crowd, by Gustav Le Bon, and the books description reminded me of we see in the US nowadays:

The world of the 18th and 19th centuries had been wracked by change and revolution. Gustave Le Bon, a doctor by trade but wandering philosopher by avocation, was a first-hand witness to one such revolution: the establishment of the Paris Commune in 1871, in which a crowd of mutinous National Guardsmen seized the city and established a socialist government for two brief months in what Engels called one of the first examples of a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

After that revolution, Le Bon left to travel the world, developing his theories on the psychology of crowds. The Crowd is his distillation of that philosophy, and one of the earliest treatises exploring the behavior and motivations of crowds of people.

In it, Le Bon posits that with the rise of democracy and industrialization, it’s the unreasoning crowds who will control the affairs of the people, not kings or the elite; and these crowds are largely irrational in action, conservative in thought, violent both in act and in speech, and easily hypnotized by individuals with prestige but not intelligence.

Le Bon is ultimately cynical in how he views this development in human affairs. Individuals in crowds feel anonymous and powerful, leading to destruction and violence; and the susceptibility of crowds to pure charisma means that they’re easily dominated by thuggish men of action, not wise men of foresight. People in a crowd are “a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.”

His conclusion is that the increasing relevance and power of crowds in modern society will lead to negative outcomes in the long term. In his view, democracy can only lead to more and more violent crowds, who demand charismatic figureheads to give them meaning.

As one of the earliest examples of the study of crowd psychology, The Crowd was a direct influence on many titanic figures in 20th century history, including Theodore Roosevelt, Freud, Mussolini, Lenin, and Hitler.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 11:54 am

Indian Flavor and T2

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A very pleasant shave. My Simpson Emperor 3 Best easily — well, with one small driblet of water — evoked a very fine lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Indian Flavour shaving soap, and the Rockwell T2 was in fine form today. Lots of comfortable blade feel, and a very smooth result. A splash of Pashana with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel and I was done.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Hairy Crab Oolong: “Named for its leaves, which are serrated like a hairy crustacean, this semi-fermented Oolong tea has a lovely ripe peach overtone and a fragrance comparable to that of Jasmine.” And I must say this is an extremely nice tea, sweet in taste.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2022 at 10:14 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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