Interesting items from Sunday’s New York Times

Frank Bruni: The G.O.P.’s Gay Pretzels

Bruni imagines a letter from the RNC to the Republican presidential candidates on their handling of the question, would you attend a gay wedding?
From Bobby Jindal

We do not recommend the tint picked by Bobby Jindal, who just tripled down on his opposition to gay marriage while casting big business — corporate America — as a principal enemy of righteousness on this front. Earth to Bobby!?! We are big business. Big business is our cuddling partner. We spoon with it. We do not vilify it. Bobby is a desperate man, trying to find a point of entry into a crowded primary field with no room for him. Tune him out, and do not, under any circumstances, follow his lead.

to Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush’s tack is more comprehensible. He utters much of what religious conservatives want to hear. But he also brings enough gays or Republicans who support same-sex marriage into his campaign to give Americans a signal of where so many of us in the party really are. We have gay children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, colleagues, bosses, employees. We want the world for them and a world that’s fully open to them.

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William N. Eskridge, Jr.: It’s Not Gay Marriage vs. the Church Anymore

Eskridge (A Yale law professor) reflects on the upcoming arguments before the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage in the context of past civil rights battles resisted by the Church.

Race relations in this country show how religious practice and doctrine can change when public attitudes and the law change. Before the Civil War, many Mormons and Southern Protestants maintained that the Bible supported slavery for persons of African descent; when slavery ended, the same denominations read Scripture to require segregation of the races and to bar interracial relationships. Apartheid was the legal regime codifying those religious and social attitudes.

Biblical support for slavery, segregation and anti-miscegenation laws rested upon broad and anachronistic readings of isolated Old Testament passages and the Letters of Paul, but without strong support from Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. The Southern Baptist Convention now concedes that its churches misinterpreted the word of God on matters of race. The current Baptist view that God condemns “homosexual behavior” and same-sex marriages comes from the same kind of broad and anachronistic scriptural readings as prior support for segregation.

With examples of the many Biblical spiritual heros who marriages were hardly what is now called “traditional”.

Eskridge predicts churches will change about this topic too.

With greater tolerance and acceptance of gay married couples, more religions will, slowly, modify doctrinal discourse to match social discourse — exactly the way they did for their previous disapproval of marriages between two people of different races. It’s beginning to happen already: Last summer, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow its ministers to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, a stance ratified by a majority of presbyteries last month.

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A “Gray Matter” about The Economics of Suspense, in terms of sports rules and narrative structure. If you tell someone a game or a novel is a real nail-biter… that sorta destroys the suspense.

It’s a lesson that the filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, for one, seems to have missed. Once it’s common knowledge that your movie will have a dramatic, unexpected plot twist at the end, then your movie no longer has a dramatic, unexpected plot twist at the end.

To be thrilling, you must occasionally be boring.

This has implications in how to make literary plots suspenseful.

For instance, to maximize suspense, a mystery novel should have no more than three major plot twists on average. Of course, that last qualification is crucial: The exact number of plot twists should be unpredictable.

One example of how, upon deep analysis, there is remarkable uniformity to most popular fiction.

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Maureen Dowd (a regular NYT columnist) muses about artificial intelligence and the new film Ex Machina: Beware Our Mind Children.

She mentions the concern that some — including the likes of Stephen Hawking — have that robots could become more intelligent than humans. Alex Garland, director of the film, also as a commentary about this in the Movies section of the paper.

I find this concern unlikely, and ironic, considering how different strata of humanity regard each other…

Garland concludes,

I can imagine a world where machine intelligence runs hospitals and health services, allocating resources more quickly and competently than any human counterpart.

Public works aside, the investigation into strong artificial intelligence might also lead to understanding human consciousness, the most interesting aspect of what we are. This in turn could lead to machines that have our capacity for reason and sentience, but different energy requirements and a completely different relationship with mortality. That could mean a different future. A longer future. In which case, we could rephrase the warnings of Mr. Hawking and Mr. Wozniak. Where they say that A.I. will spell the end of humans, we could say that one day, A.I. will be what survives of us.

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And this week’s count of the number of same-sex wedding announcements among the total printed: 2 of 23. E.g.

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