An amazing story in the Guardian today: Patients who were unconscious for years, diagnosed as being in "persistent vegetative states" came awake when they were given a new experimental medication. As Wesley J. Smith emails to note, "They interacted with their environment. And then, after four hours, became unconscious again. The story says 'permanently unconscious,' but I doubt that phrase applies any more." It illustrates that "we really don't know what is going on inside the minds of people diagnosed as permanently unconscious," and it should cause great hesitation before pulling the tube by which people are fed. The doctors involved also claimed that the drug could have wider application, hoping that "the drug could have uses in all kinds of brain damage, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's."
The UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes protests in New Zealand after a student publication lampooned Mao Tse Tung. The local New Zealand news report may not have taken the protest seriouslythe headline was "Students See Red Over Mao Send-Up"but it was nonetheless an interesting instance of the way in which successful protest, like the outrage over the Danish cartoons, spawns imitators:
Students likened the cover of Chaff, which this week satirises women's magazine Cosmopolitan, to the anti-Muslim cartoons circulated around the world in February. Tempers flared outside Massey's library as about 50 Chinese Massey and UCOL students and a Chinese lecturer confronted Chaff staff. Students said the issue is racist and the last straw, as many have also suffered verbal abuse on the streets of Palmerston North....
UCOL student Xing Tang said Chaff staff are ignorant of Chinese culture. "Chairman Mao is like Jesus to us," he said on the verge of tears....Student Ronnie Cao likened the cover to the anti-Muslim cartoons. "This is discrimination against us." It will have a huge effect on New Zealand's reputation, Mr Cao said. However, compared with the United States, New Zealand is still considered a safe place for Chinese parents to send their children, he said.
Yang Chenglin said students are proud of their Chinese culture. "Mao gave us independence. He's no more a killer than George Washington or George W. Bush. "He is the father of Chinawithout Mao, there is no China." Mao Zedong, or Chairman Mao, was the founder of the People's Republic of China and one of the most prominent figures in Chinese history. He is also revered as a great spiritual leader and cultural symbol.
There's something that feels phoney about the whole protest. Is the mass-murderer Mao actually revered as "a great spiritual leader and cultural symbol" in China? I have trouble believing the words "Chairman Mao is like Jesus to us" can come genuinely out of anyone's mouth.
Still, the Kiwis managed to gather fifty people to protest a comic picture of Mao, and the school's administration is making noises about demanding an apology from the student publication. The number of safe topics for satire is narrowing by the minute. Pretty soon it will be only Christianityand the protesters outside Da Vinci Code II will have to explain, "Jesus is like Chairman Mao to us."
Over the last few years, there has emerged a new genre of parodyamateur art made possible by the growing together of video players, cameras, and computers. Since personal computers now have the power to play and capture images from DVDs, amateurs have begun to string together scenes in parodies of movie trailers.
The results are sometimes brilliant. There is this, for instance: Scenes from the old horror movie The Shining strung together to make it seem as though the film is actually a romantic film about a boy who finds a new father in Jack Nicholson. Or this, which cuts scenes from the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle to make a trailer for a Basic Instinct-style stalker thriller.
The key to these parodies is the play they make on the ironclad genres in which movies are slotted these days. In "Must Love Jaws," for instance, a trailer for a stereotypical "man comes to love misunderstood animal" movie is carved from scenes out of Jaws. The farther apart the genre of the original movie is from the genre of the trailer, the greater the effectwhich means the all-time winner may be a recent parody of Cecil B. DeMIlle's old The Ten Commandments as a modern high-school film in which "A Zero Becomes A Hero." You can see the trailer here. Warning: the parody splices in a moment of Samuel L. Jackson's voice from Pulp Fiction, not only breaking the rules of the strict genre a little, but adding some foul language. Still, very funny as a parody of how every movie from Hollywood has to fit an established story-line.
In addition to which:
The title phrase is Abraham Lincoln's, but we must work to make it our own. That is the argument of Paul Johnson's article "The Almost Chosen People" in the June/July issue of First Things. Johnson, the British historian and author of Modern Times and many other notable books, provides a much needed antidote to the current and reckless talk about "theocracy" coming from those who would divest the American experiment of its intimations of transcendent purpose. Isn't it time for you to subscribe to First Things?