Archive for May, 2008

On Talking About Talk

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Ann Coulter impresses me in a lot of ways as being a possible clone of Keith Olbermann, just marching off in a different direction. There are some differences, though. I think she criticizes people who need more criticism. Other people think Keith Olbermann is criticizing people who need more criticism…although I should add, I’ve seen Keith Olbermann criticize very few people, and the people he does criticize, if criticism toward them is going to fix something I would imagine we would have seen those beneficial effects some time ago. Coulter thinks up some new stuff here and there. Olby seems to be on kind of a merry-go-round…disgrace…sir…impeach…cowardly…lied…thousands dead…weapons of mass destruction…civil liberties.

If you’re a good little moonbat liberal, you have to constantly champion Olbermann. You can’t call anything he says into question. And furthermore, you’ll get kicked out of the moonbat liberal club — as in, your membership card is torn into pieces in front of your tear-filled eyes — for daring to imply Ann Coulter is right. About anything. Anything. Or, for daring to imply anyone else might be right about anything, who in turn would dare to imply Ann Coulter is right about anything. Or for saying anything nice about them. Or for giving them aid or comfort. Hmmm. Boy, it’d be nice if we could get that kind of resolved aimed elsewhere.

The irreconcilable dichotomy is that you will, similarly, be kicked out of the moonbat liberal club if you dare to prove Ann Coulter is wrong about certain things…like

Liberals view talk as an end in itself. They never think through how these talks will proceed, which is why Chamberlain ended up giving away Czechoslovakia. He didn’t leave for Munich planning to do that. It is simply the inevitable result of talking with madmen without a clear and obtainable goal. Without a stick, there’s only a carrot.

I’ve been waiting a long time for Coulter to be proven wrong on this point. I hear a lot of talk about talk. We need to talk to our enemies…that’s what’s missing in this administration…sit down and talk…blah, blah, blah.

I’ve always thought it odd and strange that people who talk about talk, who so clearly love to talk, never seem to talk about what takes place within the talk. Here, Coulter supplies the beginnings of an explanation for why that might be. Where there are no sticks, there are only carrots.

Nobody wants to talk about sticks, and nobody wants to talk about carrots. Talking about talk, on the other hand, is cheap and easy.

Update: You know, now that I’m thinking on it and trying to recall what it is I have and have not seen…it seems eminently reasonable, to me, to ask “Senator, would your administration talk to President Ahmadinejad using sticks, or carrots?”

I wonder what Obama’s answer to that would be. Probably something containing the words “hope,” and “change.” And it would make someone in the crowd faint, no doubt.

Stuff White People Like #101: Being Offended

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Comedy gold, and I’ve come to expect nothing less. Naturally, I’ve highlighted the especially good parts:

To be offended is usually a rather unpleasant experience, one that can expose a person to intolerance, cultural misunderstandings, and even evoke the scars of the past. This is such an unpleasant experience that many people develop a thick skin and try to only be offended in the most egregious and awful situations. In many circumstances, they can allow smaller offenses to slip by as fighting them is a waste of time and energy. But white people, blessed with both time and energy, are not these kind of people. In fact there are few things white people love more than being offended.

Naturally, white people do not get offended by statements directed at white people. In fact, they don’t even have a problem making offensive statements about other white people (ask a white person about “flyover states”). As a rule, white people strongly prefer to get offended on behalf of other people.

What comes next…even better still. Read the whole thing.

Thirty Things I’d Like Blamed For Global Warming

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

“Correlation is not causation!” say the science types. The meaning of this timeless refrain is clear: Just because you find two metrics correlate, throughout space or time, does not necessarily mean one metric is a causative agent of the other. Science cannot be useful to us if it doesn’t measure reality, and part of reality is the coincidence. Scientists must therefore be prepared for the eventuality in which they invest treasure and ego into investigating causation, and ultimately find out it just isn’t there.

Global WarmingReverend Al seems to have missed this. If you’ve watched his movie, you know an important part of his theory is that two curved lines happen to match up. He regales us with a story about one of his former classmates accidentally discovering the theory of continental drift with his observation that the eastern shoreline of South America is shaped very much like the western shoreline of Africa. Then he looks at the correlation between CO2 saturation and something called the mean global temperature or some such. And wonders aloud: Huh. I wonder if we have the same thing happening here?

He leaves his audience — which seems to be made up of young, impressionable minds enrolled in scientific-like college courses — with the impression that whenever you see two curved lines matching up, even a little bit…the first thing you must do is rule out coincidence. Oh, boy. I wonder what science is going to be rolling past us in the next couple of decades?

Indeed, presented on some of the charts, the curves do seem to line up very much like South America and Africa. Reverend Al, therefore, presumes that correlation must be causation. And we’re told “The Science Is Settled!” It is a curious situation, since scientists like to talk about correlation NOT being causation. Reverend Al’s theory is based on this — where are the scientists rushing out of the woodwork to rap him across the knuckles? His theory is based on the idea that correlation is causation — and on nothing else.

But Reverend Al has spoken. So if two curved lines match up, it must mean something. Can I interject something here? If that is the litmus test, I have a few things I’d like checked out. It’s pretty important. Reverend Al has told us our planet is withering away and may not be able to support life in a generation or two. I see correlation. Going by his logic, that must mean causation. Thirty times, I see it. Using Reverend Al’s science. So let’s look into it.

1. Illegal immigration

I’m told we have seventeen million illegal immigrants now, and just a few years ago it was less than ten million. That’s a doubling. It’s a doubling over exactly the same time frame that global warming is supposed to have skyrocketed. Correlation, suddenly, is causation, so I see a cause.

2. “Goldfish Rights” laws

In the early nineties, it looks like the mean global temperature was in a nosedive. That’s when the Maastricht Treaty was signed, forming the European Union. Once that gained momentum, the EU started inventing lots of “rights” for people…then animals…now they’re awarding brand new rights to goldfish. What’s the mean global temperature been doing during this time? I see a connection. Let’s check it out.

3. Reality television shows

They got going, as the temperature went up. Now we’re up to our ears in reality television shows, and the temperature is through the roof. There’s no sign of a slowdown in either case. Check out a possible connection, I say.

4. White kids learning how to rap

That was a 1990′s thing, wasn’t it? That’s when the temperature took off like a rocket. That’s when records were being set.

5. The phrase “I’d love to tell ya, but then I’d have ta kill ya!”

In the past few years, I hear it all the time. In the past few years, global warming is supposed to be life-threatening. Correlation. Must be causation.

6. Diminishing numbers of actors smoking cigarettes in movies

Haven’t you noticed? Back when cigarettes were smoked in movies, we didn’t have global warming.

7. Hillary Clinton opening her mouth and saying things in public

I never heard a peep out of her before 1992. Since 1998, when her husband was exposed as a constant cheat, it seems I’ve seen her face on the screen all over the place. That’s when global warming is supposed to have been a real problem.

8. iPods

It’s a little bit behind the curve, but it could be worth checking out. After all, they’re everywhere today, and we’re terrified of what global warming’s gonna do to us.

9. The phrase “illegal and unjust war” repeated over and over again

I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out the mean global temperature went up a hundredth of a degree, every time this stupid phrase was uttered. I’m sure the charts and graphs will bear this out to Reverend Al’s liking.

10. Cell phone conversations that don’t really need to happen.

Could ya pick up some milk…what’re you doing…dude, you wouldn’t believe how much this movie sucks.

Back when those conversations just plain didn’t happen…global warming was, also, just plain not happening. I see a connection.

Diminishing Numbers of Pirates11. Diminishing number of pirates

Because it’s an Internet classic.

12. Liberals being angry and nasty

It started in ’98 when Bill Clinton got in all that trouble, and someone established moveon.org. Isn’t that our record-warm-year lately, 1998? Hmmmm….

13. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction

Saddam was ordered to cease and desist, and open them up to inspection, in 1991 as one of the conditions for the cease-fire. Then you wait a few years…global warming takes off. Huh. My liberals keep telling me there were no WMDs…but how can they know? Check it out, I say.

14. Kids being diagnosed with exotic new learning disabilities

The 4A’s: Autism, Aspergers, ADHD and Allergies. Is anybody keeping track of how often these things are diagnosed? And the skyrocketing is almost perfectly parallel with the global warming thing…in a way that would make Reverend Al proud.

15. Y2K compliant products

Think about it. All that fuss and effort to make things Y2K compliant. From my vantage point, it seems looking back on it the efforts began in earnest right around ’97…by ’98, they had sucked the life out of us IT types. Reverend Al says 1998 was a record. Just sayin’…

16. Fraudulent Voting

Illegal aliens. Dead people. People who live in different counties. I don’t know if the illegitimate voting is on an upswing, but the accusations of it certainly are…and where there’s smoke there must be fire. Earth’s temperature is supposed to be up. Hmm. Seems irresponsible to ignore this possible connection.

17. democrats telling us it’s okay to lie about your personal life

It didn’t become a talking point until sometime between 1998 and 1999…sometime when the results of the DNA test on that blue dress came back. Up until then, of course, a lie was a lie was a lie. But since then we’re in this weird, surreal universe in which when we catch a politician lying, we have to prove it was “any of our business” before we’re allowed to point out that he lied. And the mean global temperature has done what?

18. Sandra Bullock making chick flicks instead of movies the fellas would appreciate

Coincidence? She makes Demolition Man…no global warming yet. She makes Speed…no global warming. She makes Practical Magic…we have global warming. From then on, Sandra makes movies to make the girls happy, and neglects the guys who built her career by paying good money to see her rescued by Keanu. Then she does it a few more times, and the global temperature goes up and up and up. You have some explaining to do, Sandra.

19. The shortage of kids actually playing outside and their mothers calling them home for supper

Did you go outside and play God-knows-where until your momma called you home for supper? If so, then find the year on the graph at the top. See where the global temperature is. Pretty low, isn’t it? And now, kids play video games. We have global warming.

20. Hate crime legislation

Perhaps global warming is God’s way of punishing us for making it our business what our fellow man is thinking…between his left ear…and his right ear. It’s none of our business. When we meddle where we don’t belong, nature has ways to retaliate. And Al Gore should like the theory just fine, because hey, the lines fit.

21. Pants that droop and show off your butt crack

Another nineties fad. Except this one stuck around, and stuck around, and stuck around some more. Global temperature was sent sky-high. Cause. Effect.

22. Kids skateboarding in retail store parking lots after the manager has politely asked them not to

It used to be an occasional happenstance. And then it happened more often, and more often, and more often still. We have global warming.

23. Barbra Streisand “final” and “going away” concerts

She keeps doing it. More and more often, it seems…during which time, the planet is being put in danger.

24. Baby boomers in positions of authority

I don’t have a theory yet for how one causes the other to happen. But there’s gotta be one. It used to be baby boomers didn’t run much of anything. They were too young. Now, everyone who runs anything of any size, is born between 1945 and 1959. And…we have global warming.

25. Hollywood making crappy anti-war anti-American movies

They do it without even thinking about it, now. It doesn’t matter if the last one they did, made any money or not (and by the way, they never do).

26. The Macarena

It came and went in 1996, didn’t it? Look at that graph. Find 1996. Tell me you don’t see something.

27. Television judges

TOUGH. SMART. STRONG. FAIR. Television judges in the “Wapner” model on daytime television who CUT THROUGH THE CRAP.

They’ve become a form of pollution, just as thick and noxious as carbon dioxide, or for that matter any other gas. I’ve lost track of ‘em all.

28. Oprah Winfrey recommending books to people

She keeps doing it, over and over again. And the global temperature keeps rising.

29. Goatees

Used to be, you only saw one once in awhile. By the time we had our “warmest years on record,” if you tuned into the American Country Music awards, you saw a room full of what looked like a hundred guys all trying to look exactly like each other. Big-ass belt buckle…big-ass cowboy hat…big-ass boots…silly looking facial hair, looked like they’d been bobbing for apples in chocolate syrup, and then kissing feather pillows turned inside out. Silly. Three things classically American, coupled with one thing from 17th-century France. Who in the world decided these go together?

And the earth got hotter.

30. Women in pantsuits

Yet another hot trend from the nineties that was never questioned. More and more women, maybe with nice-lookin’ legs, but who would ever know? — They’d cover up with these pantsuits, and the planet sizzled.

These are all very silly ideas.

But not a single one of them as silly as the idea that carbon dioxide causes global warming. Because the plants and the trees and the flowers do not suck up Sandra Bullock movies or iPods. They do suck up carbon dioxide…which is a non-toxic gas in the first place.

Supposedly, if we unplug the coffee pot when it’s not in use, we can save the planet.

I think I’d rather see Sandra Bullock’s hooters. So I like my theories much better.

Culture of Wimps

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Phil says we’ve become a culture of wimps, and if you’ve been reading the pages around here for any length of time at all you know I agree. I don’t think there’s any way to argue against this, except by engaging in some weird rhetoric to try to change the subject (that’s all I’ve seen anyone do about this…like…ever). And Lord knows I’ve beaten that dead horse to death, so it doesn’t need much more discussion.

What does intrigue and titillate and demand debate — is why. Or to word it more precisely, how. How did we get here.

I think it started in the twentieth century, with gun control measures popping up all across the world’s stage. Why do I lay the blame at the feet of gun control? Why is gun control, in my mind, the great-granddaddy of all wimp-ness?

Well, what is gun control?

It is an attempt to rid a society of undesirable behavior, by ridding that society of the tools associated with that undesirable behavior.

As I said a few days ago,

We attempt to eradicate human-on-human assault and harm, by eradicating or neutralizing those among us best equipped to bring it on — men. It is the human race’s oldest failing…getting rid of an act, by getting rid of the tool most commonly used to implement it.

The social pressure we have brought down upon people who would otherwise behave with a little bit more machismo — and, it should be said, they are not all men — is a natural outgrowth. It is unavoidable. You de-claw a cat so that the cat can no longer scratch…the kitty can still bite you, and when it draws blood that way, you are naturally going to be asking your vet about tooth removal. It is such an inevitability, you might as well be making an appointment to take care of all of it at once.

We take away the guns.

We do this to get rid of gun violence.

When it still happens, we will reach for the kitty’s teeth. Which is manhood itself. And so the de-toothing has begun. We would never in a million years stoop to the level of telling our boys, “if you want to live in this society, and you want to be granted the renewable privilege of continuing to live…you had better demonstrate to us, on an ongoing basis, that your masculinity is reigned in, brought to heel, diluted to a concentration we find acceptable.” We’d never dream of saying such a thing. But that is the message that has been sent. And that is the message received.

It starts out as something reasonable: You can’t smack your classmate in the back of the head while the teacher is talking. It’s about disrupting the class, which means — you also can’t shove, you can’t yell, you can’t pass notes and you can’t whisper. And then…it is not about disrupting the class. You can’t play tag at recess. You can’t keep score during a soccer game. You can’t engage in any competitive sport.

From there, it is a cancer upon our culture. Male action heroes in movies can’t disarm bombs anymore; they stand around and mumble things about being supportive while the heroines make their “choices.” Accomplishing something — even stopping something really bad from happening, that would bring harm to the weak and defenseless — is far less desirable as an ideal, than showing off that harmlessness.

Because the harmlessness, now, is a license to being allowed to live in society on an ongoing basis. And it is renewable, because it expires. Frequently.

we’ll look for the most masculine among the femininity that remains. And so to avoid “friendly fire,” those who still stumble on, will start to showcase their harmlessness. They’ll become more inventive in this endeavor, as society upholds an ever-ascending standard of said harmlessness. The question will be — what have you done to show off how harmless you are this year? And answering it, will be the key to continuing survival.

I blame gun control, because gun control is based on the axiom that if you have the means to bring harm, it’s just a matter of time before you bring harm to me. Another component to this axiom is that somehow, it’s an impossibility for you to harm others who would do me harm, to bring me a vigorous defense you might think I deserve. In other words, your capacity to do harm is thought — somehow — to be damaging to me, and never beneficial to me.

There’s a kind of a Martin Niemoller aspect to this: They came for the guys who had guns and nobody spoke up. Then they came for the big guys who could hide pens and sandwiches in their beards, with big ol’ beer guts hanging over their belts and nobody spoke up…then they came for the younger guys with their foot-long eyebrows scrunched up at the ceiling, who spoke like relatively harmless-looking WB Network stars, being “supportive” of their girlfriends, and never talking in a pitch more than a few notes below Middle C…and nobody spoke up…then they came for the nerds with biceps the size of rake handles, who kept on getting beaten up anyway…and nobody spoke up.

Then after the men are all carted off, they look around and notice that now that everyone’s female, some females are more female than other females. If warfare and violent crime have not yet been eradicated — and those two will never be — we’ll have to keep on carving away at humanity, at the women, starting with the most butch, and working our way toward the other flavorings. Once masculinity and wherewithal is a crime, you can’t ever go back. Not even a step.

Now, we’re not sending people to camps or lopping off heads. We’re just defining attributes to human behavior and development…things we’d like watered down.

But isn’t that conceptually the same thing? It leaves us in the same position. People get the feeling they can’t continue to live in society unless they act more-like-this, less-like-that. And so they dutifully conform. Maybe it happens quickly, maybe it happens slowly; but the point is, it only proceeds in one direction, it never retreats, it never stands still.

We have to keep getting wimpier with each generation that comes along. It has to do with becoming “civilized”…and no matter what we’ve accomplished to date, it’s never enough.

A Defense for Obama on the Uncle-Auschwitz Thing

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

It was Buchenwald, and the guy who helped liberate it was Obama’s grandmother’s brother. Which would make him a great-uncle. And it’s quite permissible to refer to great-uncles as uncles.

Out of the woods? Huh. Maybe yes, maybe no. We’ll all have to decide that for ourselves. Unless Obama says we’re not allowed to, which he probably will.

This kind of reminds me of that time Ann Coulter tossed it in one of her books that Newsweek Editor Evan Thomas is the son of Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas — and Al Franken tossed it in one of his books that this isn’t true. Coulter’s a liar. And on that point, started sounding like Henry Rollins…she’s a liar! Liar! Liar, liar, liar!

And then it went ’round the liberal jungle telegraph…Coulter’s a liar, she said Evan Thomas is the son of Norman Thomas when he isn’t! Liar!

Just like Bill Clinton’s friends being sent out to say he didn’t have sex with that woman…they went out to do a whole bunch of in-your-face arguing, knowing not what they were talking about.

Evan is Norman’s grandson. By the second or third printing, Coulter had the five letters inserted that were needed to correct the record.

So I’m just sitting back with a silly grin on my face, wondering how spirited of a defense all these “Coulter’s a liar!” types are going to afford Barack Hussein “He Meant Buchenwald And You Know It And You Should Silently Correct Him As He Goes Along Just Like I am” Obama.

Ostrich Doctrine

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

salvage‘s ignorance is luminescent. If naivete is a candle, this dude is a flare. He could light up your campsite for your 2 a.m. potty trip during a new moon, like it’s lunchtime.

How? What exactly is Iran going to do? Having a reactor doesn’t = bomb, having a bomb doesn’t = delivery system having a delivery system doesn’t = first strike capability. Considering Israel has a nuclear arsenal that could kill everyone in the ME I don’t think Iran is much of a threat. Even if they could launch their one or two nukes they’d be brought down before they came near Tel Aviv and Iran would be a smooth glass bowl.

Iran is as much a threat as Iraq was, that is not at all.

I love this mix of hubris and cowardliness that is the American wingnut; USA is the most powerful nation in the world BUH! BUH! THAT THIRD WORLD NATION WITH A FRACTION OF OUR MILITARY IS SSSAAACCRRRYY!!

Fear and hate, you just wallow in that crap endlessly.

There ya have it. Recognition of a possible threat == fear and hate.

And bad guys, there’s millions of people crawling all over our continent just like this guy. Say out loud “it’s a for a reactor not a bomb” and they believe it. They are the proponents of the Ostrich Doctrine. The Hakuna Matata foreign policy that has preceded our greatest successes in international relations. Yes…I remember reading that in history. Neville Chamberlain proclaimed “peace in our time,” and within six years we had it. Yeah. Right.

If he was a democrat, I’d say he has this attitude for the reason our democrats have this attitude. Which is, when you recognize a threat, you have to act on it, and when you act on it everyone who votes here is reminded that there are people in the world who want to do us harm…which there are…and when people think of that, they tend to vote for defense. democrats are opposed to defense — you look at their policies on all the issues, across the board, and the one consistency is that the only things worth defending from anything anywhere are things that have to do with democrat foreign and domestic policies. Things like abortion clinics. “Detainees” at Guantanamo. Things that attack other things.

That’s how I’d explain his ignorance if he was a democrat.

But salvage lives in another country, one that is dependent on the United States’ readiness, willingness and ability to defend things — to occasionally ignore what the democrats want us to do — for the defense of salvage‘s own country.

So I would have to chalk this up to plain old self-centeredness. When you say something is, or is not, a threat — you have to have a target in mind. Yeah, well, I think insofar as what salvage has in mind I’m going to have to agree with him a thousand percent. salvage is thinking about salvage. Not a threat? Yeah, if I’m a Mad Mullah and I’m in charge of governing Iran and I’ve got my thumb on a nuclear button that those stupid Yankees in the Evil West know nothing about…and I’m looking for a target…Canada’s going to be pretty far down on my list.

Whatever. Does he really expect people to think “Aw…I’m so glad salvage pointed this out — they may get a nuke, but they don’t have the delivery system! So we have nothing to worry about!” Well, I think he does. That’s the way he thinks. Nothing goes kaboom unless it’s spent the previous few minutes whistling through the air, like Luthor’s rockets in that first Superman movie. Ever.

Remember. This is not a lone wolf. He’s in lots of good company.

Lots.

Carbon Ration Cards

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Every adult should be forced to carry one. Yeah sure, that’ll fix it.

Under the scheme, everyone would be given an annual carbon allowance to use when buying oil, gas, electricity and flights.

Anyone who exceeds their entitlement would have to buy top-up credits from individuals who haven’t used up their allowance. The amount paid would be driven by market forces and the deal done through a specialist company.
:
For the scheme to work, the Government would need to give out 45million carbon cards – each one linked to a personal carbon account. Every year, the account would be credited with a notional amount of CO2 in kilograms.

Every time someone makes a purchase of petrol, energy or airline tickets, they would use up credits. A return flight from London to Rome would, for instance, use up 900kg of CO2 credits, while 10 litres of petrol would use up 23kg.
:
“The idea is a radical one” [says MP Tim Yeo] “As such it inevitably faces some significant challenges in its development. It is important to meet these challenges.

What we are asking the Government to do is to seize the reins on this, leading the debate and coordinating research.”

Wow, this Yeo guy is good. And you have to give the environmental activists props for going through the motions of finding a way to make capitalists happy…as if all of us who aren’t clambering on board their bandwagon get a commission or some kind of sex thrill every time someone buys or sells something that isn’t worth anything.

I also find it adorable the way they try to look like they’re searching for a way to save the planet without intruding or interfering in people’s lives. Intruding is what it’s all about; saving the climate, hasn’t got a damn thing to do with any of it.

The [British] Government is committed to cutting CO2 emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010.

Ratchet ‘em all the way down to ZERO. What the hell’s that gonna do? Or…double them, just for grits and shins. Have we got some kind of “scientific consensus” that the United Kingdom’s emission of a purely non-toxic gas, or lack thereof — a gas that is part of a natural photosynthetic cycle that spins around on a daily basis — will affect anything that could be called the “global climate”?

Because I’m not aware of one.

If I’m wrong, then what’s our best estimate of the ultimate effect of that 20% cut? Are we good then? If not, then why isn’t it 25%?

These are very silly questions. That’s the point. If there was a rational process to figure out 20% was our magic number for the UK, then not only would these questions be eminently reasonable…but there would be great urgency in acquiring reliable, accurate and verified answers to them. I don’t see anyone working on that.

Manna Manna

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Because it’s a classic, for reasons that make classics classic. Hard to get out of your head once it’s in there, making a commentary about society that is so subtle and so thickly veiled that it’s hard to see the message. And I just got done bitching and bellyaching for the zillionth time about people thinking in groups. Out of fairness, I should let the other side have their say.

And this is probably the best live-action replica uploaded to YouTube to date…

Someone on the Muppet Show agrees with me here; there’s a certain artful skill to the way the individual is shown deferring to the wishes of the group. Not so much “I’ll Defend The Alamo To My Dying Breath” — quite the opposite…”aw, screw it, it’s not worth it.”

Perhaps they’re making veiled commentary about genders too (although I’m way too smart to ever approach such a thing). How would the comedy delivery work, I wonder, if masculinity & femininity changed places in this skit? Hmmmmm…well…then you’d have two big strong men muscling around a poor defenseless girl, and that wouldn’t be funny at all.

But the “Manna Manna” guy seems to be an almost perfect depiction of men, at least, the subset of our attributes that make us different from women. Rugged, disheveled, sloppy-lookin’, reliable sometimes, other times not, kind of wandering around by ourselves out there, mumbling incoherently…acting weird…upstaging…getting off track and having to be yanked back in to proper protocol.

On Groups III

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

It is said that people make better decisions meeting in large groups than they do on their own; rarely does anyone challenge this, but for some reason, there arises a need to keep saying it over and over again. I’ve not yet heard anyone seek to assert that a larger group of people can make better decisions than a medium-sized group of people, and I don’t think I will. The largest group I can see deciding things, is the group of United States voters deciding presidential and congressional elections; it remains an inter-generational constant that they, themselves, are terribly disenchanted and unhappy with what they, themselves, have been doing. So if there’s something to this theory of group-think superiority over individual-think, then there must be an optimal group size. There has to be a number, more than one but less than 300 million, inclined to make better decisions than groups of any other size. What an enormous benefit to humankind it would be to find that number. And yet, I’m not aware of anyone trying to look into it.

As mulish and resolute as these group-think advocates are when they argue the benefits of group-think, to the point of bellicosity, their defenses are limited to calling attention to the best of the group-think ideas, whereas when the virtues of group-think are called into question, the indictment is a consequence of — not the best ideas — but the worst ones. The defenses, frustratingly, are never organized around the question at hand, which is why & how we should tolerate the bad ideas. The meaningful disadvantage to the group-think authority is that the ether that binds the minds together concocts irrational, deplorable, indefensible and harmful ideas, speckles of scatology no single one of the minds would deign to claim. Ideas that make so little sense, do so much harm, and produce so little, that they are unworthy of an identity.

These items, which dwell at the nadir of the group-think performance curve rather than at the zenith, always inspire the indictment of the group-think model but are never the objects of it’s defense.

The group-think defenders impress me as wanting to be able to point at something and say “Aha! There, see, is an idea that is so ingenious, so beneficial for so many and harming none, so demanding of intellectual resourcefulness for it’s creation, that no individual could ever have conceived it, and behold, a group did so produce it. Thus it has been, thus it shall remain.” That seems to be the sentiment they desire to promote, desperately; and yet they cannot. It would be far more modest to say “at least the group has a mechanism internal to it to ensure no harm is done” — or that “said harm will be constrained, contained, and limited.” They can’t even say that. Perhaps that’s why I see the group-think model defended so often and so belligerently, when so few people are attacking it.

When you strip away all the embellishments of shoddy thinking and insincere portrayals of it, what you’re left with is: Examples of group-think production can be found, somewhere, if you look hard enough, that have more pleasing results than some of the most wasteful and least effective results of individual thinking. To put it another way: Group-think can be made to look superior if you do enough cherry-picking on both sides.

But the deleterious products of group-think, meanwhile, have become the plague against humanity in modern times. The idea no man owns and that no man should own, or would own, or could own. And we can’t get rid of them; we can’t stop them; we can’t even slow their approach or implementation. All of these countermeasures would require criticism of the group-think idea, and since the idea was born of the ether that binds the consciouses together rather than any one of the consciouses themselves, nobody is accountable to them. It cannot be ascertained what sort of enemy is being made by the man who would criticize it. So they can’t be criticized.

Changing of the Guard

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Thank you.

And to the rest of us, if & when you see the vet out there, in front of the store with his donation can — do make a point to drop something in. It’s the very least you can do.

Hottest Bond Girls

Monday, May 26th, 2008

MartineAn intriguing challenge comes to us by means of the James Bond Wiki, in which an anonymous user asks:

May i suggest that you make a poll that has, Which ladies in James Bond are the hottest?

That sounds like a fun poll, provided you can have the usual back-and-forth arguing (Pam Bouvier, you kidding? Cigar Girl has her beat by a mile!). But it occurs to me that someone should go out and make sure the list is more-or-less complete before the arguing can commence. Who wants to be belabored by all those false-starts…”oh yeah, I forgot about her, she was pretty smokin’ huh?”

And I think people inwardly realize this. Out of 21 movies, who’s the hottest? It’s easy enough to answer who made the biggest impression. But that’s not necessarily fair, is it.

So I came up with some ground rules, and then I gathered the list.

1. “Bond Girls” are rated whether Bond slept with them or not; whether he expressed an interest to sleep with them; whether he ever enjoyed the positioning that would be needed to sleep with them; whether or not he had the time.
2. I had a “Natalya Simonova” rule in which the measure is based on the hottest as each woman appeared within the film. (This Goldeneye character was presented as a sort of dowdy computer programming waif in most of the movie, but was much hotter in her white bikini — outside the movie, as a professional model, Izabella Scorupco is hotter still. We take our measure from the bikini scene.)
3. Two characters in two movies played by the same actress, are evaluated independently. (Maud Adams is ageless, or at least was for the twelve years in question, so this rule never came into play.)
4. Scrumptious as they are, we leave the young ladies who did voices for the James Bond video games entirely alone. Because this is a mostly visual exercise, and hey, they’re a bunch of pixels.
5. We also leave untouched the names announced for Quantum of Solace this coming Thanksgiving. If we can’t see them on the screen, it’s not fair comparing them to those who came before.
6. These are EON Bond Girls. Never Say Never Again is out of scope…although, it must be said, Fatima Blush and Domino Petachi would both rank very high.

I gave it one go, and everything went wrong. There’s a text entry limit on the James Bond Wiki for starters…and then…I realized I left out a couple names. And then I found I left out ten. And then seventeen. Then, of course, I found a few places where I’d rated some super-hot girls above others who were super-super-duper-hot. Thus negating the entire point…so I had to go back and address that.

By now, I think I’ve got it all smoothed out and pressed into place. This isn’t quite so much time-consuming, as subject to an excessive amount of potential “aw crap” revision later on, so it occurs to me this is probably the ideal medium for the list. With that in mind, be advised that the following is necessarily subject to change. Although I’m reasonably sure the most disruptive is behind it.

So here you go. Bond Girls, to date, in order of hotness.

1. Professor Inga Bergstrom, Tomorrow Never Dies
2. Valenka+, Casino Royale
3. Bonita, Goldfinger
4. Zora, From Russia With Love
5. Paula Caplain+, Thunderball
6. Hotel Clerk+, Casino Royale
7. Log Cabin Girl, The Spy Who Loved Me
8. Patricia Fearing, Thunderball
9. Kimberley Jones, A View to A Kill
10. Gypsy Dancer+, From Russia With Love
11. Naomi+, The Spy Who Loved Me
12. Domino Derval*, Thunderball
13. Bibi Dahl+, For Your Eyes Only
14. Miranda Frost, Die Another Day
15. Dink, Goldfinger
16. Plenty O’Toole, Diamonds Are Forever
17. Tatiana Romanova*, From Russia With Love
18. Sylvia Trench, Dr. No
19. Arab Beauty, The Spy Who Loved Me
20. Helga Brandt, You Only Live Twice
21. Xenia Onatopp+, Goldeneye
22. Peaceful Fountains of Desire+, Die Another Day
23. Mary Goodnight*, The Man With The Golden Gun
24. Tiffany Case*, Diamonds Are Forever
25. Teresa di Vicenzo*, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
26. Natalya Fyodorovna Simonova*, Goldeneye
27. Paris Carver, Tomorrow Never Dies
28. Female CIA Agent #2 (Jeep Driver)+, The Living Daylights
29. Holly Goodhead*, Moonraker
30. Andrea Anders, The Man With The Golden Gun
31. Octopussy*, Octopussy
32. Corinne Dufour, Moonraker
33. Honeychile Rider*, Dr. No
34. Fiona Volpe, Thunderball
35. Vida, From Russia With Love
36. Miss Taro, Dr. No
37. Solange, Casino Royale
38. Stacey Sutton*, A View to A Kill
39. Tilley Masterson, Goldfinger
40. Cigar Girl+, The World Is Not Enough
41. Melina Havelock*, For Your Eyes Only
42. Jill Masterson, Goldfinger
43. Kissy Suzuki*, You Only Live Twice
44. Dr. Christmas Jones*, The World Is Not Enough
45. Jenny Flex+, A View to A Kill
46. Pola Ivanova, A View to A Kill
47. Felicca+, The Spy Who Loved Me
48. Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson*, Die Another Day
49. Hostess of Private Jet+, Moonraker
50. Linda, The Living Daylights
51. Elektra King, The World Is Not Enough
52. The Photographer+, Dr. No
53. Manuela, Moonraker
54. Lupe Lamora, License to Kill
55. Nancy, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
56. Anya Amasova, The Spy Who Loved Me
57. Lisl von Schlaugh, For Your Eyes Only
58. Pam Bouvier*, License to Kill
59. Magda, Octopussy
60. Pussy Galore*, Goldfinger
61. Aki, You Only Live Twice
62. Solitaire*, Live and Let Die
63. Carver’s PR Girl+, Tomorrow Never Dies
64. Female CIA Agent #1 (Gun Holder)+, The Living Daylights
65. Miss Caruso, Live and Let Die
66. Bambi+, Diamonds Are Forever
67. Ling, You Only Live Twice
68. Marie+, Diamonds Are Forever
69. Thumper+, Diamonds Are Forever
70. Saida+, The Man With The Golden Gun
71. Dr. Molly Warmflash, The World Is Not Enough
72. Kara Milovy*, The Living Daylights
73. Caroline, Goldeneye
74. Vesper Lynd*, Casino Royale
75. Rosie Carver, Live and Let Die
76. Ruby Bartlett, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
77. Colonel Wai Lin*, Tomorrow Never Dies
78. Pan Ho+, A View to A Kill
79. Mayday, A View to A Kill

* “Closing Credits” Bond girl. (I decided to go ahead and include Vesper and Teresa under this.)
+ He didn’t actually sleep with her.

Disagree? How in the world could you? Nevertheless, let me know…

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Monday, May 26th, 2008

I was chagrined that Bookworm thought it was stupid but reassured when Gerard sang it’s praises, albeit with some reservation. Yesterday morning I commented that “we’ll figure out which side of this hot controversy is swelled by my one vote.” And…

Well, I’m going to have to go between the two. I can see why Bookworm opened the can of whoopass, and I knew in advance I’d be able to understand this. And I do agree with Gerard’s summation that it “flags but does not suck.” Writing this up on Memorial Day morning, I’m pretty sure everyone who’s planning to see it before it comes out on DVD has already seen it. So it may be silly of me to shoulder the burden of calling out warnings while keeping spoilers reverently under wraps. But for the sake of tradition, shoulder it I shall.

Kingdom of the Crystal SkullI’m going to have to support Bookworm’s criticisms and pile on a little bit further still. I do think the word “stupid” is a bit harsh, but at the same time, there needs to be a warning for people who are expecting to waltz in and see Indiana Jones fully restored to his 1981 glory. It isn’t happening, folks. What you have here is a great deal better than Temple of Doom, and it’s running neck-and-neck with Last Crusade. But this is no match for the original.

You have not heard otherwise. But you have heard indications, more than a few, that this is going to be a wellspring of creativity and original thinking. Sorry. That’s not happening either. Let me get this out of the way, because Crystal Skull is richly deserving of high praise in some areas. But there’s bad stuff to report too, and it needs to be said because it directly contradicts the first-impression people have been given about this film.

The worst thing I can say about it — almost all out of anything negative I can say about it — is that when you strip away what was built up using tried-and-true formulas, and plot points and character developments that were stolen wholesale from something else, there isn’t an awful lot left. Practically nothing, really. That sounds like a heavy whallopin’, and I don’t mean for it to because overall it’s a fun experience. Harrison Ford is in great shape, and believable as a rugged and capable, but though somewhat weary, action hero. Shia LaBeouf does a more than serviceable job, and seems to have an impressive career laid out in front of him. Karen Allen, to plagiarize from girly-girl Bookworm shamelessly…looks fabulous. Better than Harrison. Really, check her out, she’s amazing. Next installment, “Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood’s Mysterious Hidden Fountain of Youth.”

Cate Blanchett: Sorry. I don’t like her in this. I know her character was built for this film and includes a lot of what the filmmakers thought was original stuff. It isn’t so. She’s just a female version of the guy with the moustache tying the damsel to the railroad tracks before the guy with the broad shoulders beats him up. She knows how to fence, which is mildly interesting. But as a villain, she is flat. Completely. There is no backstory to her and you end up not the least bit curious about what might be in one. She has no motivation, other than to GET the SKULL — there are no sinister superiors or rivals threatening her position within the Soviet power structure, no jealousies among the bad guys, no…well, no nothing. She’s just there. In a black wig. Looking bad. Trying to get the skull. And, when the time comes for her to (spoilers follow — highlight to read) bite the big one, it’s just a re-hash of what happened to Belloq in the first movie, and Donavan in the third. In fact, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that when all the good guys file into the Chamber Wherein It All Comes To A Climax, and Blanchett follows them in, it was essentially a carbon copy remake of Last Crusade. Not just plot-point-for-plot-point or event-by-event; more like second-by-second, or frame-by-frame.

That last bit up there, is an ugly, black mark. There really is no excuse for it. The fans deserved better.

What else can I bash? Not really very much. There was another thing that kind of grated on me, only because it’s not my cup-of-tea, but I can’t really call it a sin of movie-making or any kind of weakness with the product because others might think it’s just fine. Remember when Nicholas Cage made that movie, National Treasure. Cage’s character would figure out they all need to go somewhere; the entourage would go to that place wherever it was. There’d be a clue there. Cage would find the clue. Cage would figure out what the clue said. Cage would then decipher the letters. And then Cage would figure out what it meant. From that, Cage would figure out where to go next. Repeat.

It got to be so painful they started making fun of it halfway through the movie, which was National Treasure’s saving grace. The roles were typecast so rigidly that one guy was doing all the work while everyone else was standing around, and you couldn’t help but wonder what in the hell they were doing there — but at least it didn’t take itself too seriously.

Well, you have the same thing going on here. And Crystal Skull doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Plus, in the film’s defense, you have to expect some of this. It’s really about the character of Indiana Jones, right? So all other players are going to do a lot of standing around. And, that isn’t really all they do…everyone chips in and helps some.

But it falls far short of the original here. Marion, and Mutt, and Oxley do not go off and have mini-Marion adventures or mini-Mutt adventures or mini-Oxley adventures. It is National Treasure — a movie built for little kids. The group stays together, just like a third-grade class going on a field trip. When one is abducted by the bad guys, they all are. When one tries to escape, and fails in the attempt, they all fail and they all are recaptured. When one chases the bad guys, they all do the chasing. Remember when, in Return of the Jedi, Luke and Leia got in a speeder-bike chase with the stormtroopers, after which Leia was missing? Here, you don’t even get that.

Had this been done differently, it would have been much better, and stood a real chance, however remote, of reclaiming the glory of the first film. But this doesn’t ruin the movie. Just makes it a bit thin for my tastes…again, someone else will like it just fine, and wonder why in the world I’m complaining.

It all just seems so unnecessary to me. Indy could easily have been taken captive by the bad guys, leaving Mutt free to put together a plan to rescue him. Or…Indy could figure out how to get to some amulet or ornament, which then only Mutt would know how to read. But this is about Indy. Indy finds all. Indy reads all. There’s really not much reason for him to keep everyone else around, except he has to, becasue they’re already there. So it ends up being a field trip with communists and really big snakes & scorpions.

Now for the good stuff.

Well, there is some…but it’s all spoilers. Every single speck and crumb of it. With minor exceptions, I suppose; like the ants. Oh, now that was original, and mighty cool. Amazon ants. Do not mess with the ants.

All in all, an enjoyable Memorial Day outing for the kiddies. For the folks my age who are looking to revive the excitement from 27 years ago, prepare for disappointment. If you think of Indiana Jones as an old friend, perhaps you’ll find what you seek here — you get another nugget or two about from whence he came, and a few more about where he’s going. But he places a distant second in the “It’s Nice To See You Again” sweepstakes, alongside the lovely Marion.

The story between them has been done before. It’s lifted, like a car engine with nary a bolt or a washer removed for the purpose of the transplant, without the courtesy of even obligatory levels of confession, apology or shame, from Superman Returns; particularly, hint hint, the Oh my goodness he’s my son well golly I didn’t mean to be a deadbeat dad but I guess I are one. So there’s no originality there either.

If you still haven’t seen it and you’re still planning to, it would probably help you to read up on what we know about crystal skulls. It’s mostly a faithful treatment of that particular world mystery, “mostly” meaning 51% or better. And it offers some interesting theories, although highly fantastic and improbable ones. Again: Expect no originality. That is the overall theme, and bottom line, here. Expect nothing original, and you won’t be disappointed.

Definitely doesn’t suck. I did expect more, but these implied suggestions that there’d be a lot of creative thinking going on here, were implied and nothing more. That means it’s mostly my fault. I’d like to be able to say more than that it does what it’s supposed to do, and it isn’t stupid. But que sera sera.

Update: This isn’t so much a knock on the movie itself, or the Indiana Jones franchise, or even the production of movies. It’s part of a much larger problem in our culture and I think it needs some attention; this part of the film just helps to draw some attention to it.

It has to do with the “Red Scare.” The fourth Indiana Jones movie boldly confronts it, because Indiana’s career as a tenured professor is threatened when he is connected to the Soviets (the events of his latest adventure occur within his administrative leave from the university, under pressure from the U.S. Government when they look at him and see red).

Our latest Indiana Jones movie, therefore, has some valuable commentary about the unfair things that are supposed to have taken place a half a century ago.

Meanwhile, the Soviets, plainly, are standing in for the Nazis as the latest Army of Darkness. Steven Spielberg, himself, doesn’t seem to think too highly of Nazis. So if the Soviets are adequate stand-ins for the Nazis, those Soviets really must be some Dirty Rotten Creepy Jerks (DRCJ).

The Government officials, meanwhile, who blacklisted Indy — are also a bunch of DRCJs.

So the DRCJs are trying to destroy our government and our country. They are trying to infiltrate us (and they were successful in this, too; it’s fact). But waitaminnit, the government officials trying to ferret them out were also a bunch of DRCJs. We know this because they’ve set their sites on this fictitious character called Henry Jones, Jr., and we think he’s a great guy. Or would, if he really existed. That’s the movie’s way of telling us there were DRCJs on both sides.

Well, you can’t cut it that way. The Soviets are a danger, or else they’re not. To dispense the message “yes they are a danger, but there is no morally upstanding way to deal with them if we take any measures at all to defend ourselves from them” is to dispense the message — defense is deplorable. And we’re not talking defense against phony threats. We’re talking about defense when tne threat is real, and inside the gates.

There’s no conclusion to draw from that, than that we simply aren’t worth a vigorous defense.

Whether that was the intended message of the film or not, I respectfully disagree. I’d disagree even if today wasn’t Memorial Day. But it seems to be a particularly futile debate in which to engage right now.

Allergic to Wi-Fi

Monday, May 26th, 2008

We were at the drive-in last night with a good hour to spare before the start of the show, and my head was chock full of The Adventures of Shush Man because his help was so desperately needed. Some dickhead was up a row or two with that heavy bass booming along rattling everything. Headache inducing.

Shush Man is one of my other personas. I know I’m getting old, because if you offered me only one sampling out of a whole smorgasbord of super powers that included flight, super-speed, telekinesis, magic lasso that makes people tell the truth all the time…the one power I would have over anything else is to wave at persons and things and make them shut the hell up. Shush Man isn’t really about the power itself…it is about the desire to have it. You start out wanting to be Superman, when you get a little bit older you think the super power fantasy is a little juvenile, and Batman has a certain appeal for you. Then you hit a certain age and your ideal hero is Shush Man. Shush Man is your last one. Once you like Shush Man, you never go back. And I’m there.

Wow, I really could’ve used his help last night. Boom Boom Boom Katchoom Boom Boom…

I tried lots of Shush Man substitutes. I tried calling the administration office by cell phone; they did not pick up. I cranked up my own volume to 40 and put in Beethoven’s Ninth. The next step was to make a long journey up to the concession stand and report him…being a man, of course, I wasn’t going to do that so I marched out to right the wrongs myself. And I did. I implemented Shush Man’s super powers in a purely-manual mode. Intimidated the hell out of the poor guy. He promised to turn it down right away.

Once back to the car, we realized I had busted the wrong car. Oh, dear. That ain’t him……and I wasn’t going to find the right one, either. You know how that ultra-low ultra-bass thing is. It sinks into the ground and bubbles up out of it again. Goes around corners. It looks & sounds like an easy proposition to home in on it. Well, it isn’t.

I began to dream up new superpowers for Shush Man. Shush Man would obviously have to have some powers to hunt perpetrators down, powers that I don’t have. Bionic hearing or something. Explosive hydraulic foam was another idea…once Shush Man zooms in on that sonofabitch, he could conjure up bubbly pink foam out of the ground with such force that the car would flip over and be consumed by it. Or by an orange goo.

But in real life, Shush Man doesn’t exist. And I’d already collared an innocent man, did I want to go reprimanding another? Boom…boom…katchoom…boom…boom. So between the two options left to us — go on a witch hunt, or wait it out for the remaining ten minutes — I was persuaded to choose the more passive option. Fortunately, we had only another five before security made their regular rounds, and my lady flagged ‘em down and alerted them to the problem.

It became clear their younger ears could seek out things that my older ones could not. It did take a few seconds or so…but the photon torpedoes did find the two-meter exhaust port, and the deed was done. Glorious silence followed. We applauded. We were not the only ones.

I bring this up because…well…once again, I just think it’s interesting. We don’t have any blood-sucking lawyers calling me up to find out if I’m “allergic” to Boom Boom Katchoom Boom Katchoom ultra-low frequency ultra-high bass rap music. And it really does induce painful headaches…

…but lookee what we have here

A group in Santa Fe says the city is discriminating against them because they say that they’re allergic to the wireless Internet signal. And now they want Wi-Fi banned from public buildings.

Arthur Firstenberg says he is highly sensitive to certain types of electric fields, including wireless Internet and cell phones.

“I get chest pain and it doesn’t go away right away,” he said.

Firstenberg and dozens of other electro-sensitive people in Santa Fe claim that putting up Wi-Fi in public places is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Arthur Firstenberg, your lawyer is obviously hungry. Maybe he’s my Shush Man; he and I can help each other out. Have him give me a call.

Otherwise, I think I have another case of “discrimination” I’d like to report.

Look at what you’ve got going on here. We’re giving our poor, poor “disabled” people “chest pains” when we use WiFi. To…complete some term papers. Find something in an electronic almanac. Look at porn? Mmmm…I’m inclined to think that’s what a home broadband connection is for. WiFi is…to find out if the movie we just pulled in to watch is any good. Or? …look up the phone number of the administration office of a drive-in to report some boom boom katchoom dickhead in Lot 5. Generally, to expand our knowledge base — our minds. Lawyers are mobilizing to get us to stop.

What does the boom boom katchoom itself do? The opposite. Turns your brain to mush. Give people headaches. WiFi may or may not be about exchanging information, learning things from your fellow man, offering him something in return. It might not be, but it might. So it stops. Boom boom katchoom has nothing whatsoever to do with the exchange of information. And, better-than-even odds it will everlastingly interfere with your brain’s ability to process information that is passed to you in the future…

Where’s the battalion of lawyers mobilized to put the kibosh on that?

Suspiciously, MIA. And this is what I find fascinating — more than a little. With apologies to Arsenio, it’s well into the territory of Things That Make You Go Hmmm. Make yourself better stronger smarter, there’s a lawyer to stop you. Your freedoms must be curtailed, so that the “rights” of others float onward unscathed. Make yourself into a drooling idiot, and suddenly that is what freedom is all about — all those around you just need to learn to deal.

MOST interesting.

H/T: Anti-Strib.

The Three Hour Movie

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Making my list of things that make me smile, I had included the three-hour movie as #12, commenting…

You know what makes that happen…is when all the love-triangles and the clue-finding and the traitor-discovering is all done, and the final battle takes place, a bunch of important characters get killed but when the dust is cleared you find it’s just another clue that leads the survivors off to some other “final battle” that takes place half an hour later. It’s an exhausting thing to the audience and it’s really hard to do it right without boring people. But when it is good, it is very very good.

And I picked on Peter Jackson. As I expound on the above point, I’m gonna pick on him some more. He is probably the worst offender in the production of three-hour movies that do not make me smile. He’s definitely the most talented among the offenders. He makes amazingly high-quality three-hour movies, movies that are entertaining when you watch them.

He is a tragedy, because his movies are good, but tiring, and they don’t have to be. Nor is he alone. In the last few years we’ve had an impressive glut of films that, because they aren’t exciting, have to be limited to two hours…when, by implementing the following rules, the audience’s attention could be held for that long. So here’s what I’ve noticed about long, good movies, and what they do right.

1. Good guys do good things.

This is the number one rule. There is no breaking this rule. Not if you want to hold that much of the audience’s interest for that long.

In the past few years a regrettable sub-genre has risen up: The “I must rob this bank because they’re holding my girlfriend hostage” strain of movie, in which a supposedly heroic central figure is given an exotic motive, and therefore a license, to commit acts of personal injury, property damage, or malfeasance. These are parables designed to educate us that “real life” has all kinds of shades of gray to offer between good and evil. Sort of a “One Man’s Terrorist Is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter” type of thing.

Call it the Swordfish Problem.

Other than the fact that I just plain don’t like it, it has another problem: Moral ambiguity is tiring. The audience needs to make an effortless and clear decision about who they want to win. They lose their motivation for making this decision when, whichever way they go, a good argument can be made that they made the wrong choice. What’s the point then?

The social commentary about real life is not entirely without merit. The problem is, it lays down a requirement on the audience that they are to agree with the dubious moral choices made by the character. The problem is, for sufficient irony to be injected into the process of character development, the character has to be causing real damage. The incentive for the audience to dissent from his decisions, therefore, has to be real.

It therefore becomes unavoidable that the role of hero has to be diminished.

Once one inspects this closely, one has to conclude this has very little to do with authentic, original, compelling storytelling. It has to do with the repeal of the Hays Code of 1930, which was abandoned in the late 1960′s. Among other things, the Hays code specified that natural and man-made law “shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.”

If we re-instate this code, which I think is a great idea, we should agree on the caveats.

Heroes can do bad things in the antecedent action, or in sequences that take place well before the film’s climax. As in, before some kind of moral awakening, at which time he realizes the error of his ways.

Once the movie is in full swing, heroes can engage in bad behavior if it includes a consequence that makes them really sorry. And ideally, it should cost them something.

Now those aside, the heroes can be tempted by the prospect of engaging in bad behavior, so long as they don’t act on it.

Audiences can be sympathetic to the conundrum of moral ambiguity the hero must face; but they must never be made to be sympathetic to the choices he makes that harm innocent people.

2. Bad guys do bad things.

If you want the bad guys to have pangs of conscience, that’s just fine. So long as they do their bad things. People who do good things are not to be treated as bad guys.

That means, the cop chasing the convict wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit — he’s just doing his job. Don’t go making him into a jerk just to appeal to pissy disrespect for authority some in the audience may already have.

To appeal to that disrespect is to stoke it. And it’s unnecessary.

3. The struggle should undergo a metamorphosis.

You can’t spend an eighth of a day watching the same damn guy chasing the same damn thing.

Jason reaches Colchis, and only then learns that a prerequisite to acquiring the Golden Fleece, is to plow the field with the flame-breathing oxen. That is what is needed in a three hour movie. Jason was facing the challenge of reaching Colchis; now he faces the challenge of plowing a field with deadly beasts of burden without being immolated.

Michael Corleone wants to solve the Captain McCluskey problem. Then he has to go into hiding. The protagonist then shifts to Sonny. The goal is to find a way to fight the war with the five families without going broke. Sonny is killed and the protagonist becomes Michael again, at which time the objective becomes victory. The victory is won but it changes Michael forever, and this leads off into the themes that will be pursued in the sequel.

That’s just good storytelling.

3. There has to be a Big-Bad and a Dragon.

The Big-Bad is powerful and probably wealthy. He is a force with which to be reckoned, because he has the wherewithal to make things happen.

The Dragon is a subordinate to the Big-Bad. He reports immediately to him and usually outranks all other people who report to the Big-Bad. He possesses godlike skills.

Nobody, but nobody, is depicted as possessing skills in excess of the Dragon’s. Not until the movie is well into the final act, or second-to-final act. The Dragon is The Bomb.

A rival, who competes with the Dragon, may optionally have comparable skills. Which is to say it’s unknown which of the two of them is better. But the Dragon cannot be defeated until the movie is in the final act. Until then, he can’t even be humiliated.

4. The Big-Bad and the Dragon have to have issues of trust with each other.

Otherwise, you can’t build the characters. It’s like trying to light a fire under boards that are stacked tightly on top of each other — doesn’t work. They have to have different motives and they have to enter into conflict.

This defines, in a round-about way, their value to each other. If the Big-Bad distrusts the Dragon, the Dragon must have exceptional skills, because otherwise, why not hire some muscle that can be relied-upon to act in the Big-Bad’s interests? And the Dragon must have reasons for working for the Big-Bad instead of some other employer who he’d trust. This could be a testament to the awesome proportions of the Big-Bad’s personal wealth. Or, it could indicate that nobody else wants to hire the Dragon, because he’s such a rotten evil guy.

Which says some pretty cool things about the Big-Bad, if he isn’t troubled by such questions of scruple.

Also, conflict — be it conflict in method, or conflict in goals — creates an opportunity to have the two bad guys do some arguing. And that’s fun to set up, and fun to see.

If they’re left so simple that their objectives are identical in every way, they’re boring to watch.

5. There must be a meaningful transfer of knowledge among the good guys.

This is a counterpart to the above. This is why there is a “sage.” A transfer of knowledge allows you to flesh out the character of the good guys, without scrambling their motives into different directions that would raise questions about their “goodnesses.”

6. There has to be a pre-climax climax.

And a climax isn’t a climax unless someone is killed. Example: James Malone is killed by Frank Nitti. He’s able to give a clue to Eliott Ness, which leads to Ness’ arrest of Capone’s bookkeeper at the train station which is a cinematic triumph in every possible way.

Based on the arrest of the bookkeeper, the trial is allowed to continue, leading to an altercation between Ness and Nitti…another pre-climax climax, since Nitti is killed. And then the conflict is resolved and the movie ends, making it a quadruple play (and it isn’t even a 3-hour). One of De Palma’s best pieces of work.

7. There has to be a Tessio.

You have to have a traitor, or a backstabber, or a snitch. For the audience to be on the “outs” of this secret, is optional. But it should never be completely settled who’s good and who’s bad.

The mission should have moral clarity (except for mafia movies); the hero should be well-defined insofar as what he or she is trying to do. Each one of his “allies”…not so much.

8. There must be social commentary but it has to be extraordinarily subtle.

Nothing about left-wing right-wing this-is-right that-is-wrong stuff. Way too preachy.

That such-and-such an act of legislation or enforcement was a knuckleheaded move, should be left up to the audience to discern for themselves. It should be established entirely through cause and effect. In other words, there has to be a requirement for the audience to follow the story, in order to reach a decision about whether this was a good idea or not.

Showcasing a bunch of “sensible” characters jabbering away with snotty derision about what a bad rule this was to make, is the ultimate cop-out. And it makes the audience feel like another hour of waiting has been done, in the space of less than five minutes.

9. The bad guys have to do something reprehensible to show what bad guys they are.

Goodness-and-badness is decided by the bad guys, not by the good guys. That’s because everyone already understands Character X may be a wonderfully good guy, good as good can be, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that just because he wants something done it should be done. If Character Y, on the other hand, is revealed to be a Dirty Rotten Creepy Jerk (DRCJ), then it’s implicitly understood that if Character Y wants something to be done, it’s probably a Bad Thing.

The audience is the decider. Of course, the story only works if the audience decides one certain way — that’s expected and therefore permissible. But it is vital that the deciding — “whoah, man, that is messed up right there” be done by the audience. They can’t get invested in the characters and events if they don’t own this decision; if it’s pre-processed, pre-digested and pre-decided for them by the scriptwriter.

“Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” broke this rule because the “Rebel Alliance” is supposed to be “good” and the “Galactic Empire” is supposed to be “bad”…other than the audience’s desire to agree with this for the sake of moving the story along, there really wasn’t any reason to think such a thing. (The situation was made better because in A New Hope, the Empire sought to control star systems by pointing planet-destroying lasers at them, which seems pretty bad.) Had these been three hour movies, this would have been a real problem.

10. The hero’s resolve must be challenged.

There’s nothing more tedious than watching a guy do something, who seems to understand exactly what steps to check off from the very beginning, especially if he looks like he isn’t even coping with uncertainty about what he’s doing.

Why not just watch one of those instructional videos about charcoal sketching or home repair?

11. There must be a story to tell about the hero’s unique skills.

This activates the tendency, already internal to the audience, to love strength. Once this is working, people naturally feel better about themselves. Because people are also inclined to find appeal in weakness, but when they’re working through this, they aren’t as pleased with themselves. The conflict they feel must be confined with what is about to happen next, not with what they want to have happen.

12. There has to be a love triangle.

Because an action thread can’t be followed for all three hours straight. A love story is needed to cleanse the palette, if for no other reason — although it’s needed to make the audience care more deeply about the characters, as well.

And if you’re going to have a love story, it’s a waste of time for the outcome to be pre-determined.

13. Normal, circle-of-life events have to take place.

Someone’s gotta get married. Someone’s gotta get pregnant and give birth. Someone has to die.

Discovering you had a long-lost identical twin is a good idea, too. For a couple to separate, get divorced, pursue their own lives apart from each other, discover that their destinies are intermingled after all and get married again, is best of all.

14. The hero has to deliver an elixir that transforms the world.

If this is a tragedy, it might be for the worse. Might be. Usually, it improves things.

15. The hero is different in the aftermath of his adventures than from what he was going in.

Even James Bond has this. Which, when you think about it, is quite an achievement given the nature of the franchise.

When the movie is this long, the adventures should write on the hero, just as much as the hero makes an impression on the objects in the adventure.

16. The hero should be abducted.

If not the hero, then someone should be abducted and held in captivity. This helps to deliver to the audience the message that there are some thing that are outside the control of the protagonists.

17. You have to have a “hiding from stormtroopers” scene.

Good guys are surrounded by bad guys, who don’t really know the good guys are there. (They may have gotten into this situation by trying to spy on the bad guys.)

The bad guys may or may not suspect the good guys are there. If the bad guys suspect the good guys are there, there needs to be some resource cost involved in trying to expose them. Otherwise, the bad guys could just go ahead and do it, and it would be pretty silly not to.

If the bad guys don’t at first know the good guys are there, there should be a “breaking twig” to make the bad guys suspect. This is a sound involuntarily made by the good guys, or some other tip-off that the good guys might be where they are.

The “breaking twig” should not constitute concrete proof. If it did this, the bad guys would just keep looking until they found something.

There are only two possible conclusions to the “hiding from stormtroopers” scene: The bad guys should fail to detect the good guys, or they should succeed in doing so. If they succeed, the bad guys can be neutralized before alerting other bad guys, or they can succeed in capturing (or killing) the good guys.

The reverse of this is for bad guys to be confronted by the police, or some other authority figure, and try to conceal the skulduggery in which the bad guys are engaged. Example: In Fargo (which is a mere 93 minutes) there’s an excellent scene in which Steve Buscemi and Pete Stormare try to conceal from a state trooper the fact that they have an abducted woman in the back seat of their car.

The “hiding from stormtroopers” trope is named after a scene in which James Caan’s character in A Bridge Too Far — a real three-hour movie — successfully hides himself, his wounded commander, and his army jeep in the bushes while waiting for Nazi stormtroopers to move on. In the climax of the scene, one of the stormtroopers looks directly at him and, for a few seconds, appears to see him.

18. A “Maguffin” is a pretty damn good idea.

…although not completely necessary.

The term Maguffin was used by Alfred Hitchcock to describe an object, usually tangible, whose pursuit helped define the character traits of the characters. The characters so defined could be heroes or villains, and are usually both. This is the advantage of a singular, tangible Maguffin: Only one party can possess it, therefore if the bad guys have it the good guys don’t, and vice-versa.

19. It’s also a good idea for someone to sacrifice his life for the greater good.

…although that isn’t completely necessary either.

20. The hero should be forced to accept help from someone unexpected.

The help should be vital. There should be no alternative to getting it…and if it isn’t gotten, the hero’s quest must be a certain failure.

The source of this help should be someone conventionally thought to be opposed to the hero’s goals.

It’s much better if the source of this help has an ulterior motive for extending this help.

21. There has to be a spoiler.

This is one of the reasons why Peter Jackson shouldn’t be making three-hour movies. Also, books cannot be adapted into three-hour movies unless there is license taken with the story. When Titanic came out, there was a running joke to the effect of “I’m not going to bother, I already know how it ends”…there is a grain of truth to that.

22. The heroes have to get together and act silly.

This is another “cleanse the palette” rule. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy — if all you see these guys doing is working, even toward different goals, you don’t care about what happens to them that much.

23. The sidekick cannot be annoying.

This is non-negotiable. An annoying sidekick can’t be watched for ten minutes, let alone three hours.

24. The photography and visual effects have to be freakin’ amazing, and so does the music.

Movies you can watch for 180 minutes without being bored, have to be made up of pictures you can watch for five minutes without being bored.

And that means if characters are interacting in an interior, without windows, so that they can’t tell what time of day it is — there should be an excellent explanation as to why. The subject of the frame should not be dead-center (unless it’s a close-up shot of someone’s face while they’re speaking, and sometimes not even then.) An afternoon shot should never be used, if a sunset/twilight shot will do just as well.

There should be mist. Rainbows. Rain. Foliage. Icebergs. If it has to take place out in the desert, there should be light and shadow, with the sun barely peeking past things. And not just cacti and cow skulls, either. Interesting things. Like pyramids.

Update 5/26/08: (Inspired after suffering my nominal disappointment with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)
25. Split Up.

Rule 3 is about separating threads of the story in serial. Up to X many minutes, we’re looking for a doohickey; at that point we find the doohickey, and only then do we realize it is useless without the whatchamacallit. Maybe that’s another object. Maybe it’s a person. Maybe it’s the ability to translate some scribblings on the doohickey. Now we embark on a new quest for the whachamacallit. We are not pursuing any storylines, at all, that have to do with finding the doohickey.

In addition to separating threads of of the story in serial, over the three hours there has to be some effort to separate them in parallel. Luke is tasked to complete his training with Yoda on Dagobah. Han and Leia finally escape the Imperial fleet, and find refuge with Lando on Cloud City. This is very important because if it’s done right, by the time we’ve spent ten minutes or so catching up on Luke’s experiences with this weird green creature on Dagobah, we’re already wondering how things are going with Han and Leia before the script takes us there…and, when we watch them for awhile, we already are curious about Luke’s progress before the script takes us back.

Phantom Menace did this more artfully than most, but it was the most monotonous and unintentionally-comical movie because they waited until the very end. It’s remembered today mostly as a big old bucket of waste, and that’s unfair because what it really is is a tragedy of wasted talent.

Magnolia stands as a good example of how to do this — it’s a three-hour movie and yes, if I had it, it would probably gather dust because I have little desire to see it ever again. But the point of Magnolia was to make a movie relying on this technique and on nothing else…and for that purpose, it worked. The audience, to some extent, is intrigued by all these different stories and wants to learn something about each one. It remains plodding and boring, but that’s the technique involved in the storytelling.

To put it more readably, Magnolia bores you somewhat, but no more than an ordinary two-hour movie would’ve. The time warp worked. It was facilitated by this game of “Who’s Got The Token?” that is an important ingredient to all longer-than-normal movies, to keep them fresh and entertaining.

Yin and Yang X

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

This blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, and is not written-up by anyone with a degree in psychology, anthropology, or any field of science or for that matter in anything else — had the temerity a couple of years ago to advance the theory of Yin and Yang. The theory could be thought of as a proposed extension to the axes of Myers-Briggs, in which people are categorized as introverts/extraverts, intuiters/sensors, thinkers/feelers and perceivers/judges.

A good argument could be made that the proposed Yin/Yang axis is synonymous with the introvert/extravert axis…which it really isn’t…and that it’s synonymous with the thinker/feeler axis…which it really isn’t.

From working with grown-ups and children, I have found it is relatively safe to shoehorn the biographies of all intellectually matured people — people who have come up with some kind of method of addressing previously-unknown challenges in their lives — into two distinctly different models. Yin, and Yang. The paradox is that these are symbols from ancient China for male and female. But they’re flipped around, for the most part, because of this unpleasant truth we don’t like to confront — we don’t raise boys the same way that we raise girls.

The Yin is dark, contemplative, introspective, quiet…not so much quiet, but unconcerned with how much noise it makes. Yang is boisterous and outgoing. When the traditions of the Taoist religion were being defined, it was thought that men were Yang and women were Yin, and that’s probably exactly the way things were.

But the way we use it here, Yin and Yang doesn’t have quite so much to do with how much noise you make — it has to do with how you think about things. People are confronted by complex problems, and they solve those problems in a Yin way, or a Yang way. The mold they have cast for their personal development, since childhood, will determine which of these two methods they will use.

The “complex” problem is complex because…

1. The nature of it demands a multiple-step plan;
2. There is no pre-packaged solution available that can be implemented with the resources at hand;
3. It is determined that any proposed solution, will involve some level of uncertainty and risk.

And this is where the two biographies come in.

The Yang mature earlier — and, the ancient Tao symbols notwithstanding, they are predominantly girls (although by no means exclusively). By the time they’re two or three years old, and probably earlier than that, they show a proclivity for achieving an emotional equilibrium with other persons present, which are usually their parents, before doing much of anything. They get lonely when they can’t do this. The Yin, on the other hand, fail to achieve this level of connection with persons in the vicinity and so they end up building things. After they have done something in solitude, then they may try to achieve this emotional connection now that they have a “token” to present.

You might say the Yang child says “mommy and daddy, look at me” whereas the Yin child says “look at what I did.” If you watch children very closely, you’ll see it’s very rare for a child to step out of one of those roles and into the other; they all tend to stick to one or the other. And the Yin and Yang theory simply says — people grow up that way.

The Yin makes a lifetime pursuit out of cognitive thought. The Yang makes a lifetime pursuit out of directing, and channeling, the emotional energies of people in proximity. These are both demanding skills. They are open-ended in level and intensity…like Jedi training. In other words, you can work at refining them for as long as you care to, and you’ll never reach an aphelion or point of diminishing returns. Much To Learn You Still Have — is the state of your development, in both cases, everlastingly.

This last part simply means that both disciplines hold our attention. Forever. So we spend our entire lives toiling away at one or the other.

And we very seldom cross over in exercising our options for this personal growth. We do it out of necessity. An adult who is Yin will show some skill at collaborating with a group over and above what he possessed at age five — this is the sum total of what he developed through the years under protest, when backed into a corner. Ditto for the adult Yang showing some skill at solving complex and challenging puzzles by means of cognitive, independent, rational thought. He will show some talent at this he didn’t show in childhood…again, it’s the fruit of his cumulative labor put in when other options were not available. Left to their own devices, however, the Yin will work in a solitary environment and the Yang will work in a collaborative one. Because that’s what they prefer to do. That is how they do their best work.

This part is exactly like handedness. You write with your right hand or your left hand. Teacher makes you practice, you practice with whatever hand is “dominant” — because you produce better results. So you keep practicing that way, and the dominance becomes more and more clearly defined throughout the years. Of course, with handedness, there is programming wired right into the brain. It’s probably that way with Yin-and-Yang as well. It gets tricky, though, because the brain has the ability to re-wire itself as it works. That, too, certainly plays a part with the Yin and Yang definition.

That’s the end of what I’ve been noticing about it. On what we should do about it, other than continually learn as much as we can, I’ve only managed to figure out one thing that we aren’t already doing:

I would suggest we should strive for a balance, based on each half’s respect for how the other half works. We’re not there.

The Yin do this because they have no choice but to do it. The first step to problem-solving in solitude, is you have to create the solitude. After that, you define the scope of your work; that is one of the defining characteristics. When the Yin define a piece of work they are doing, there’s always some strongly-defined scope involved. This thing over here is out of whack — it must be fixed or the integrity of a much larger body of work has been thrown into unacceptable compromise. That thing over there is messed up — so what? It is outside of the boundary. For the Yin, all tasks of any complexity exist as a two-dimensional matrix. There is a finite list of tasks to be performed (across) upon a finite list of components within the project (down).

The Yang labor under an inherent contradiction in their view of how to do these things, and because of this, there is a limit to what they can do. Because they solve complex problems on a collaborative basis, they depend on harmony. If the group becomes dysfunctional, they become dysfunctional, because they can’t accomplish much beyond what the group, such as it is, can accomplish. So disharmony is toxic to their endeavors. But they have a tendency to generate it, because they’re just as draconian as the Yin in demanding compliance with a defined standard but they don’t recognize a limited scope. All things within their line of sight must conform, especially people.

A defining characteristic of the Yang is to make the statement “We are doing X” — when this is not the case, because quite to the contrary there’s some guy off in the corner who isn’t doing X and he is the problem that has to get solved.

So this is where I think we’re being unproductive. It is the nature of the Yin that they can allow — they must allow — all who are laboring on other things, to labor on them in whatever way those others deem fit. The Yang, on the other hand, have to make everybody within eyesight exactly like them. For, like the Yin, they are toiling away on a system of interconnected and interdependent parts, but unlike the Yin, the system has no boundary. It is universal.

Now I’m admittedly biased on this, but I can’t help noticing wherever the Yang try to make everyone into more Yang, it seems an inevitability that ability and capacity are about to be short-changed. There are reasons for this. For starters, you can’t gather “with everybody” around a piano singing tunes, and simultaneously…fix that broken towel rack in the kitchen. Or defrost the freezer. Some things are Yin tasks. They have to be done, they can only be done by one guy working in solitude. And when they are challenging things, they require the talents of someone who has spent a lifetime building an aptitude for solving problems through a structured cognitive thought process. A yangy-yangy gift-o-gabber, who has spent a lifetime building problem-solving skills only under protest and only when alternatives are unavailable — is simply not going to be strong enough to do the job.

Now what follows is not substantial foundation for what is speculated above. But boy howdee, it certainly is suggestive of a foundation, and I find it to be thought-provoking.

Today’s issue of You Can, with Beakman & Jax, by Jok Church. You find it in the kids’ comics section of your Sunday paper.

Dear Jax,

What are emotions?

Lynda Elsomes
Vancouver, British Columbia

Dear Lynda,

Emotions are messages we send to ourselves — messages from you to you, using a language that is yours alone. No one else can have your emotions. They’re just for you. There are two parts to emotions. The first is the feeling you have. The second is how you respond to that feeling. A big part of growing up is emotional intelligence. That’s you learning how to respond to your feelings in ways that are good for your life.

All very reasonable. What follows, threw me for a bit of a loop, though…

Once you’ve learned that, you have what people call wisdom.

Well…yeah, I’d still agree, provided that “respond[ing] to your feelings in ways that are good for your life” means to shut the spigot off and open the throttle on thinking instead.

Feelings simply don’t channel into things that are good for your life…not with any potential greater than random chance. I suppose there could be some exceptions to that. One that comes to mind — smiling during a job interview, I guess? But that doesn’t work at all, because does it happen very often that you really feel like smiling during a job interview?

But if that throws you for a loop, this next part will grab you by the ankles and shake you upside-down until all the change falls out of your pockets:

Mister SpockMr. Spock was born on the planet Vulcan in the year 2230. His people trained themselves to sit on their emotions, not feel them, not respond to them. It seems to have made all Vulcans kind of weird, with only a part of them showing — the rest locked up, hidden behind closed doors.

But in the years 2271 Spock found out even intense emotions should be felt. He learned by hooking up with a satellite named V’Ger. Don’t wait 40+ years to be like Spock. [emphasis mine]

There ya go. The Yang…very often…are caught trying to make the Yin — like them.

This is unhealthy. And I don’t think I have to explain why. It should be obvious to anyone who’s spent any amount of time, around people who are under forty, who’ve been making a point of getting those emotions shown.

It’s not as if we have any shortage of those types. They’re going to make Barack Obama our next president this year. Yeah sure, that’s supposed to fix all kinds of problems, and cause none. But nobody can explain how that’s going to work…

And it’s not lost on me that Spock was part of a television show produced during the nineteen sixties — a decade during which, like none other in recent memory, we were pressured to come up with emotionally charged solutions to our problems (and failed miserably, I would add). Furthermore, within this television show, it became a rugged and durable recurring trope that the Starship Enterprise, with hundreds of lives on board, faced certain doom and it was up to Mister Spock to save everybody…with his logic.

It took some balls to put out that message in the 1960′s. Balls, and no small quantity of truth behind the message. Of course, the real purpose to having Spock there was to put him in entertaining and interesting focused dialogs with almost-pure-Yang Dr. McCoy. Neither one of those two was designated Mr. Wrong or Mr. Right; the point of the exchange was to show how the latest problem confronting the Enterprise could be viewed rationally, and emotionally. It was fascinating stuff at the time, and in hindsight, a darn good idea for dramatic purposes.

But let’s keep that one thing straight, the thing where the fantasy of Star Trek happens to coincide so well with cold hard reality: Spock solved the problems.

Now I’m not going to sit here and type in some nonsense making the point Yang Suck, The Yin Have It Right, Hooray For Our Side, We’re Better. But I’ll definitely go so far as to say this: Complete Yang saturation, presuming it’s an attainable goal, cannot be a beneficial one. A lot of folks — like me for example — can’t contribute much that’s useful in such a world. We’re inherently boring, and we have dismal results in exciting people’s “feelings” into a desire to watch what we’re doing.

Such a world is bound to be brimming over with Obama-type solutions. You know, the kind of solutions that have lots of excitement generated around them and must therefore be the “correct” ones, and yet nobody can explain how they’re supposed to work or even if they’re likely to generate the results people are supposed to be wanting when they get so excited. That should concern everybody whether they’re Yin or Yang — because if you don’t know how a plan is supposed to work before you activate it, how can you possibly oversee it, to make sure it’s following the desired line of progress, when you’re in the middle of carrying it out?

Hawkins Joins the Vote Wasters

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Or writers-inners. Or the ham-radio-on-election-nighters. Really, I don’t know what you call us. I know the anti-liberals who disagree with us, should probably be called nose-pluggers — those who insist “this election is so important” and look at Candidate McCain as a half-a-loaf offering of Reagan-style conservatism, at least on some of the issues. And I know this is a heady, divisive issue…and oh so important.

What you call people like me, who are on the other side of the divide, whom Hawkins just joined (H/T: Karol), I don’t know. I’ll think on it.

But I can tell he’s put a lot of thought into this, his arguments are sound, and I know they make a lot of sense because they’re the ideas I already had. Simply put, McCain’s value as a candidate would be that he can talk to people who have my priorities, reassure them that he’s going to do things a certain way, and then go off and talk to people with different priorities — and we’d have some genuine confidence that he’d stick to his guns. Even if those people with different priorities had a quid pro quo for McCain that he desperately wanted.

And McCain is extraordinarily weak in that department. I haven’t seen anyone showing this kind of character defect to such a problematic extent since Bill Clinton. It’s like McCain has been studying his playbook. I’ve never understood people who supported Clinton — I’ve always thought as much as I resented his natural talent for acquiring more and more authority and power, I would resent it so much more if Clinton took some more positions I found acceptable. I mean, that would put me in such a spot. Clinton says what I like, I say “okay that sounds good, you’ve got my vote” and then Clinton has lunch with this guy or drinks with that guy or a meeting with that other guy…then what?

That’s the problem I’m having with McCain. Sure he says what I want to hear sometimes. He says it because it’s what I, and millions of others, want to hear. But that doesn’t mean very much, I’m afraid. It just tells me when he does one thing, he finds it easy to talk in the opposite direction later. And that isn’t giving me the reassurance for which I’m looking.

GOP 2.0I’m sidebar-ing that GOP 2.0 thing because it’s an idea whose time has come. How much evidence do we have, that the great mass of this nation’s ideological consensus is far, far, far away from what is represented this year by our presidential candidates. To borrow a phrase from our global warming and evolution-as-fact-in-school afficionados…the evidence is simply overwhelming. Except on this issue — it really is.

I have a special handicap in the science-or-skill of figuring out what “everyone” is thinking. But I can look around and see things for myself. And I see…

The idea that a typical war protester is motivated to “support the troops by bringing them home NOW!” is a thoroughly worn-out cliche that labors under far more skepticism than faith.

Radical feminism, the kind that mixes genuine hatred of men with only skin-deep egalitarian desires of “equal pay for equal worth” is still failing to achieve widespread support — which it desperately wants.

President Bush’s approval ratings were moderately high, and are now extremely low; what tends to go unmentioned, is that he governed conservatively when his ratings were high and he governs as a liberal now when his approval ratings are low.

Said presidential approval ratings, which now by all accounts show a persistent weight that keeps them anchored at bargain-basement levels…are stratospherically high compared to our hardcore liberal, left-wing, Nancy Pelosi Harry Reid “Marc Foley congress.”

Gas prices are going through the roof but, although you know there are some left-wing power brokers who’d piss rusty nickels if they thought they could get it to stick, you don’t hear a lot of “buzz” out there trying to blame it on “Bush and his oil buddies” like you did six or seven years ago in the wake of the Enron scandal.

I’m not hearing an awful lot about our “illegal and unjust war” anymore either.

Every six months or so, Hollywood trots out another movie that bashes America. It flops.

In my lifetime, in fact in a tiny piece of my lifetime, I have seen the gun control debate swivel away from a hotly debated issue with passionate opinions on both sides, to a Done Deal. You don’t do gun control now. You keep it if you’ve already got it…maybe…if you’re an exceptionally frenzied and partisan left-winger, living in an exceptionally frenzied and partisan left-wing territory. Otherwise no. That wasn’t true twenty years ago but it is definitely true now.

Let us not forget the above-referenced global warming movement. Wherever it presents itself as an effort to save the planet, it doesn’t do so for very long; I infer that is because people wouldn’t labor onward for too long accepting it in that form. Public service announcements use “save the env-eye-row-ment” for all of two or three seconds as an attention-grab, which is all it is…and the other 27 seconds dissolve into a gooey puddle of “oh and besides, our service/widget/plan will save you MONEY!” Money. The propaganda is that we’re all trembling in fear that our planet will burn out and become uninhabitable in a decade, and a third grader should be able to tell you in that scenario money isn’t going to hold a lot of interest for people. Our politicians believe in the Global Warming Boogeyman; I don’t think “real people” do. At all.

Skimpy Outfit, With Gun. Yummy.Lastly, there’s the stuff a blogger just plain knows. I write up hundreds of posts a year, and I get back traffic response on each and every one. You know what people really like? Pictures of girls in skimpy outfits…and then, after that, a whole bunch of other right wing stuff. Guns. Tasty dead animals dripping with barbeque sauce. Wounded warriors.

That’s significant, because this blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, is not ideologically-neutral when we say nice things about wounded (and as-yet thankfully whole) warriors. We show them genuine respect — respect for the choices they have made, as well as for the service they have provided. In other words, when we speak of the military here, we speak of it as if our nation has a genuine requirement to have one. Not to provide free or discounted educational benefits to people who are willing to go to boot camp and put on a uniform, or to deliver food and medicine to poor folks under the banner of the United Nations, but to do military stuff. Kill people and break things. Provide our country with the vigorous and deadly defense, when it’s necessary, that our country deserves.

So…welcome to our side of the wall, Mister Hawkins. That wall which divides the nose-pluggers and the vote-wasters. Speaking for myself, the possibility exists that I might jump the other way and become a nose-plugger before November — you can’t pressure someone to “do things my way” while you’re simultaneously guaranteeing “that’s it, you dun made me mad, now I’ll never, ever, ever vote for you.” But we’ve certainly been consistent in our position in these parts, that the candidate who truly represents America, has not yet been offered (or, rather, is no longer in the race). So on our ballot, we’re going to vote for whoever manages to drum up genuine confidence that he’ll represent our interests and values faithfully. If that’s a name we have to write in, then that’s a name we have to write in.

As far as picking a guy, and holding out hope that “our guy” is going to “get in there”…that ship sailed a long time ago. I don’t like saying it at all, but there it is.

Eleven Percent

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

I was just listening to Meet The Press with half-an-ear, and someone had commented on a poll that says a large majority of voters understand Barack Obama is a Christian, twenty-something percent don’t know what he is and eleven percent still say he’s a Muslim. Time for Tivo. I was disappointed in my ability to receive the television medium because I was specifically looking for some foundation to this argument they were having — Tim Russert was going into borderline hysterics about what a good Christian Barack Obama is. “Borderline hysterics” meaning…throwing out factoids that would be meaningful only to people who are trying to figure out what Obama’s religion is. A long string of ‘em. Which is a little weird, because if he was trying to prove something, one or two would have sufficed.

My impression was that since the media is in the tank for Obama, they were trying to conjure up a boogeyman that doesn’t actually exist: The millions-strong mob of likely voters who have eliminated Obama on the unfair and false accusation that he’s a Muslim. I was skeptical that this mob exists. Having heard this eleven percent thing, I remain just as skeptical.

It isn’t that my Madd Googl Skilz have failed to wrap their virtual tendrils around this poll. I’m sure I’ll come across it later. I think eleven percent sounds about right.

And yeah, I believe every single anecdote about encounters with these people. I think they’re out there.

It’s just that I doubt they’re worth discussing. At all. I don’t think they matter, I don’t think they’re significant, and I certainly don’t think they’re going to affect the outcome of anything. Naturally, if I’m wrong, that would be a good thing because this is an exceptionally just-plain-bad presidential candidate.

But back to these eleven percenters who “still think he’s a Muslim.”

I think they’re worth talking about, only because when people talk about them, all present feel a strengthening of their loyalties to the Obamessiah…and they like this. Obama appeals to the “feelings” voter. And I can’t help noticing that “feelings” voters use their feelings as sort of a security blanket — they can’t drop ‘em for too long or they get all antsy.

That, and of course, they don’t think. One of the persistent myths of our time, one accepted by far more than eleven percent, is that a single person can throw both his feelings and thoughts into a single decision. Not so. You have to choose which master you serve. To a thinking voter, “He Isn’t A Muslim After All!” is a pretty poor qualification for President. I’m not a Muslim, and I don’t know if I’m up to the job…although I’d be better than him, because I have the capacity to mix in an occasional wise decision in with my long train of stupid ones. That, and when I don’t know something, I think I’m pretty good at figuring out what it is I don’t know. Besides, isn’t being a Muslim supposed to be more-or-less okay?

I challenge the idea that eleven percent of anything means very much. Good heavens, what would happen if George Bush’s approval rating was suddenly eleven percent? World War Three could break out that very same morning and you’d probably hear nothing of it. The networks would rush to give us instructions to believe that eleven percent is statistically the same as zero…and they’d be right about that.

Because the elephant in the room that they’re trying to ignore, is that eleven percent, which is one out of nine, is a fraction descending far into the heavy fog of “statistical nobody.” You can come up with any cockeyed idea you want to — and it will find acceptance in one out of nine people, and probably more, with no trouble at all. One out of nine…you’ll probably find exuberant, enthusiastic acceptance of whatever-it-is among that many.

Obama should be pleased as punch. One out of nine means this canard is effectively dead.

Now, the real question, as far as I’m concerned, is how many likely voters think Obama wants the radical Muslim whack-jobs we’re fighting to come out of this thing whole, so they can stir up some more trouble later on. Seems to me this is far more pertinent to our decision than Obama’s personal faith, which is constitutionally barred as a litmus test for his candidacy anyway. The only thing I took away from all that stuff about his church is that he has a history of making friends with America-hating dickheads, and I already knew that. I’m concerned not with his personal creed, but with his sympathies.

And you know what? I’ll bet that’s true of the people who were questioned in whatever that poll was. In fact, I’ll bet it’s true of the eleven-percenters.

D’JEver Notice? IV

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

When we show signs of winning, that is when our fifth column types want us to talk to the enemy.

Not just with regard to things that actually have an enemy, either. Wherever there is a ray of hope, as that ray emerges, that is precisely when our “anti-ray” people want us to behave as if no such ray so emerged. Sen. Chuck Schumer offers a sermon of hopelessness about drilling in ANWR, for example. Now, the data say that the oil reserves there could bring down gas prices by 75 cents a gallon by 2025. They don’t know this for sure, and granted 2025 is a way off…seventeen years. But hey, seventeen years ago it was 1991, and we’d already been arguing about ANWR for a few years by then.

That brings me to Polar bears. They’re on the endangered species list now. It wasn’t so long ago that “endangered” meant what people thought it meant…that something was teetering on the brink of extinction…or headed there. This is not the case with polar bears, and cannot be the case with them, as population figures do not exist in adequate strength-of-estimate to conduct meaningful comparisons across time.

The best estimate we can make now, is that the population of polar bears is rising. So we need to take some special steps to keep them from going extinct. The best estimate we can make now, is that drilling in ANWR will have a long-term beneficial effect on gas prices. (Basic Economics 101 says this too). So we must move to act, and preserve the “pristine” environment — and stop any drilling up there.

Why do I have this irrational, sneaking suspicion…call it a “hunch”…that if, tomorrow night, we miraculously found five brand-new verifiable oil deposits stateside scattered throughout the lower 48 states…by next weekend we’d have five brand-new endangered species?

And how come nobody talks about what America is supposed to get out of it when we sit down and talk to the terrorists — whose asses we’re kicking? John Kerry talks of the “Wisdom of Talking” and his piece pretty much reads that way from top to bottom…oh, my way is so smart, and those other guys have “failed miserably” by trying that other way, and “we won’t know until we try.” Why no particulars?

As I pointed out earlier, the tea-drinkers feel SO strongly that they’re in the right. This is probably one of the few times when John Kerry isn’t acting as the vanguard of snottiness and condescension among those who sympathize with his point of view; everyone who thinks as he thinks, promotes what he promotes, seemingly without exception, applies the “John Kerry I’m So Good You’re So Stupid” mantra. The tea-drinkers behave, in every other way, as if they want more tea-drinkers. As if they’re arguing for the purpose of recruiting. Until they open their mouths and words come out…you don’t win too many converts to your side by beginning with “okay look here, you chucklehead, what you’re doing is really stupid.” Are they demonstrating exactly how they think this “negotiating” should be happening? Gosh — it seems to me just once, just once, some among them would throw out a piece of red meat or two about what would be negotiated. Don’t go wading shoulders-deep into the details. Just, y’know, tip a toe or two. Something more substantial than “we won’t know until we try”. Once you’re seated at the table and the tea is served, who says what?

But the timing is what really fascinates me. Our tea-drinkers, if they had America’s interests and well-being at heart — wouldn’t they wait until we got our asses kicked at something? Big, huge bombing that kills twenty guys, and a bigger and more fatal incident the next day. “Wow, we’re getting our butts handed to us over there we’d better start the negotiations.” Or, Abu Ghraib damaging our “reputation” — “We can’t take much more of this, we’d better start talking to the enemy and seeing what we can work out…won’t know until we try.”

My point is, I didn’t hear any of that stuff on those occasions.

It would still have been seditious. But at least it would have been logical. Time and again, what reality brings to me is a chain of events leading with victory — or substantial hope of it. Followed by a bunch of preachy, snotty, Kerry types with some argument they think is so much smarter than anything I or anyone else could say in response…without discussing any details at all. “Let’s begin the surrender talks before we actually win this thing” is what they seem to be saying.

Disturbing on So Many Levels

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Some people tell me I should feel really bad about the things I have to say regarding: women. I should be more sensitive. I should acknowledge more readily the good things women do and the bad things men do.

And then it occurs to me…

…about the most wonderful thing I’ve ever written about men, is that our attributes — not the historical specimens who have represented those attributes, so much — have given people in general just about everything, today, that they value, and that do them good. We have been helped, not so much by men, but by manly things…and we run into trouble when we try to get rid of those manly things.

And just about the most ugly thing I’ve ever written about women is that some among them — not all among them, not most among them, but just some — completely fail to see anything worthwhile about men, and set out in a misguided, destructive, and utterly, utterly, doomed mission to eradicate manhood and all aptitudes associated with it. For no higher ideal than raw, naked jealousy.

In other words, I would be hard pressed to go over my archives and find something I’ve jotted down that says “all men do this” or “all women do that.” Nor do I think there’s anything in there that says “everybody who does this is a guy” and “everyone who does that is female.” I don’t think anybody else would be able to pull that out of my writings either. These seem like terribly irresponsible things to scribble out, whether others could see it or not. Easily refuted things. So when people behave as if I’ve written something like that, I don’t know what it is they’ve read. Not anything I’ve written, I daresay.

I think we’ve been programmed. Someone says something good about character traits that are masculine in nature, the knee-jerk response is “you say all men do this” or “you say all women do that” — so the responder can more easily refute…that which was not actually said.

And there are certain people, men and women, who parade their gender identities for destructive reasons. Men hiding their manhood…to try to hop on some sick bandwagon. Women showing off how poorly they get along with men…to get such a bandwagon going. The male-female partnership that you and I might have seen upheld and defended by our parents, or perhaps our grandparents, seems headed toward consignment to the ash heap of history. Or, at least, we seem to have lots of loud people in our midst, ready to channel large sums of energy and effort into an attempt to so consign.

Via Cas…I give you Margaret Cho:

Ladies, I’m sorry, there’s just no delicate way to ask this.

What in the blue fuck is the matter with some of you? Do you understand that some among you have learned to live, productively, with some of us men…and therefore, those among you who have not — let’s call you the “Margaret Cho Types” — should therefore shut up?

Because otherwise, if those among you who don’t understand how to live with men and will probably never understand how to live with men…are allowed to talk over the more mature types, who appreciate us for what we have to offer, and learn to live with us…it is a blight on all of womanhood.

Deep down, I think you all know this.

Why don’t you then just zip it shut and go away? For the benefit of the Sisterhood. Showcase those among you who have achieved maturity, and can appreciate a true symbiotic relationship across gender lines. Give the rest of us at least the appearance that you have what it takes to get along with us.

It’s not asking too much. At least, that’s the way it seems to me…

John Wayne on Taps

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

H/T: Rick.

You Know That Feeling…

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

…you get when you suddenly realize you’re never going to see someone again, ever?

It just hit me. I realized he was dead about two weeks ago, by e-mail.

Seems the closer you are to someone, the more fond of them you are, the longer it takes. But it always happens…it’s always a delayed reaction. I tried to see him one last time…I really, really tried. It just wasn’t in the cards.

It’s becoming an all-too-familiar feeling.

World Without Men

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Inspired by a vote in Parliament, British writer A.N. Wilson stretches his mind forward to a world of AD 2058.

Just occasionally, in those not so far-off days, you will hear stories of families who have insisted on hanging on to their men.

It is only in remote, primitive parts of the country, of course, such as the Welsh mountains and the Outer Hebrides, that these pathetic specimens of humanity survive. Their old grey beards and gravelly voices would frighten the children in the bright new conurbations of the Midlands and the South, where male human beings have not been seen for two generations.

As all New Brits learn in their Herstory lessons (the term History is banned, of course, because of its male connotations), it was a very old President Cherie, after the tragic demise of her husband in the Middle East, who decided on the most humane method of reducing crime: lower the amount of testosterone.

Let’s ponder why, exactly, it is that when humans start voting to eradicate themselves from the planet, they will start with the tip of the masculine wing, and work from there to attack the rest of the body of humankind.

The bit about “reducing crime” hits the nail on the head. It has to do with the portrayal of a cosmetically causative agent of harm. Men are more threatening. It therefore logically follows that we’ll chisel away at ourselves starting with the testosterone. It further logically follows that, once we’ve gotten rid of that, we’ll set our sites on others when the world’s problems continue to go un-fixed.

The inescapable result is that the survivors will have to find creative new ways to be non-threatening. The cultural standards will evolve over time to accelerate this. For now, it’s somewhat fashionable (albeit a relic from the 1990′s) for women to be somewhat “butch” — to cut their hair short, to talk in a butch voice, to engage in sports activities that subtly suggest overtones of lesbianism. Some of the extreme adherents make a point of conducting themselves hour-to-hour in a caustic, bitter, never-silent always-complaining kind of way…and then bitch away about the bleakness of their social lives because “men are intimidated by a strong woman.”

In Mr. Wilson’s future world, I predict this all changes. We attempt to eradicate human-on-human assault and harm, by eradicating or neutralizing those among us best equipped to bring it on — men. It is the human race’s oldest failing…getting rid of an act, by getting rid of the tool most commonly used to implement it. It will fail. And when it does, we’ll look for the most masculine among the femininity that remains. And so to avoid “friendly fire,” those who still stumble on, will start to showcase their harmlessness. They’ll become more inventive in this endeavor, as society upholds an ever-ascending standard of said harmlessness. The question will be — what have you done to show off how harmless you are this year? And answering it, will be the key to continuing survival.

We’re already doing it, when you think about it. Send a pre-teenage boy to school, and should he act too much like a boy someone will want to put him on drugs to make him act like less of a boy. Whether this is necessary or not, will be left up to authorities who understand the harm that is done when too many boy-children act too boy-like — but have no appreciation whatsoever of the harm that is done when boy-hood is too thoroughly alienated from the educational enclave, and from society.

We’ll know it’s starting to happen when we’ve gone too long without inventing anything. Inventing, after all, is the triumph of the individual over group-think. And…uh…lessee, what’ve we done lately? Any revolutionary ideas we can place next to the products of genius from the 1980′s, like the personal computer, the retail software shop, the microwave oven, the flatbed document scanner, the space shuttle, the word-processor the spreadsheet the database…

Today, we have Vista. The iPhone. Artificial dog breeds, so small they can crap in expensive purses. Any revolutionary ways to look at data? Hmmm…not only no, but hell no. We don’t seem to be sending much thought energy in that direction at all. Not too much.

Iconic masculine resourcefulness is making just enough of an appearance to slake the thirst of the hoi polloi…wherever we can find it, it is bidding us Adios. Indiana Jones is singing his swan song. John McLean has already sung his.

Those who mold and shape our interests for the coming years, seem to be enamored with characters that weaken the gender divide — the super-butch women, and the uber-wimpy men. Us riff-raff, we happen to like James Bond; the few who are accustomed to dictating the tastes of the many, will give us James Bond movies as long as we pay to see them. Bond isn’t here because the powers-that-be think he’s a good thing — here’s here to make money. Thank goodness for small favors, he’ll probably be around for awhile. But don’t think for a minute there won’t be pressure, each and every year, to water that franchise down.

Thinking for yourself is discouraged, like never before. All who doubt this, approach one of your gurus who tells you to “question authority” and question his authority. See how he likes it. You’ll get a paradigm shift…I can practically guarantee it.

So the pattern is complete, or on the way to being nearly complete. Female concerns, up; male characteristics, down; group-think and village-think, up; coming up with your own ideas, down.

Over in America, the front-runner for this year’s presidential election is a guy who speaks articulately but says absolutely nothing. He’s got so many friends who despise and deplore the country over which he seeks to preside — that isn’t a figure of speech or idle speculation, they really do passionately hate it and they speak about it their hatred pretty much as often as they can — that it has long ago become troublesome trying to keep track of how many America-hating friends he has. He claims he didn’t know what he was doing when they became his friends, but this only means he’s either guilty of sharing America-bashing sympathies, or abysmally poor judgment. The evidence says both concerns solidly apply! The evidence further indicates our promising presidential candidate is a case study in exactly how skilled you can be with the spoken word, before a large audience, while still being a dimwit.

But he is the front-runner, and this says something further about the state of affairs in individual intellect in the United States. And in the world. And also…about manhood in the world.

Men are ceasing to exist. Their numbers will go down soon, but for now, they are becoming less educated compared to the women. They’ve been apologizing for existing for a very long time now, and to diminish one’s own existence is always the next step.

A doctor in Boston is performing sex changes on small children.

Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatric specialist at the hospital, has launched a clinic for transgendered kids — boys who feel like girls, girls who want to be boys — and he’s opening his doors to patients as young as 7.

The story does say “boys who feel like girls, girls who want to be boys” but I’m going to go way out on a limb here — his “patients” number heavily in the former and almost insignificantly in the latter. Either way, it’s another example of the gender line being erased, and the passion driving the erasure doesn’t have that much to do with the celebration of science, technology, and all it can do for us. Ripping out sex organs, installing some fishy, gelatinous substitute of other sex organs, and injecting hormones…these are all technologies that have been around awhile, and must have been predicted centuries before that.

No, this is not a celebration of ingenuity. It is the eradication of what makes us unique.

It’s the non-unique people among us, you see. The wishy-washy, the non-threatening. When you’re that way, it turns out you don’t want anyone else to be any other way.

So with all respect, Mr. Wilson, I don’t think we need to wait until 2058. We’re already headed down this road at a pretty good clip, and I’d say in 2018, if not sooner, we can begin scouring what’s left of the landscape for signs of your melancholy and dystopian vision.

Manhood has been in a steep decline, by culture rather than by nose count, for generations. Once the culture of manhood has diminished to some point of no return, the nose-count will enter a similar decline as well. At that point we’ll be on the final stretch toward your nightmare scenario, which is, for all intents and purposes, the same as reaching it.

Dear American Voter

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Another priceless thing I found from Boortz yesterday: Dear American Voter. Because, y’know, it’s so gosh darn unfair that the next President of the United States will be elected by…Americans…and not by non-Americans.

So all you so-called “Americans” who want to cast a vote to make the rest of the world happy with us again, now you can get your marching orders.

The global warming language is a nice touch. Look on this web site, all you global warming enthusiasts. How many times have you been told, now, it’s all about money and power and not about saving the en-vi-ro-ment? Every time you’ve heard it, you’ve sneered. How do you explain this? A bunch of dirty foreigners want to decide our election for us…and this is their excuse. How could an attempted power shift possibly be more brazen and naked?

This Iranian refugee living in Syria would like to chime in. Apparently, we’re all scum and we stink and we are doo doo heads and we suck, and none of the three are worth electing anyway:

Love the bit about “funded by Zionists.” Nice going, Dear American Voter! I understand John McCain just split off, hardcore, from some whackjob who’d supported him after saying Hitler was doing God’s work or some such rot. McCain’s an American — I don’t even like the guy, but he polices his own for anti-semitist assholes, and kicks ‘em out when & where he finds them.

I naturally have to wonder if “Dear American Voter” can say the same. It does not appear so.

So Eva Braun, here, is bitching up a storm about supplies that aren’t there, lack of fuel for the generators — and this goes into her litany of complaints against Americans. Is she saying Americans sucked the fuel out of the generators? Why, no…that isn’t what she’s saying at all. She’s just one more loudmouth with a case of the “gimmes.” Even on the subject of “rights” — and color me unsurprised, if it turns out she has a different notion of “rights” than I do — she can’t launch into her complaints about what reprehensible people we are, without using that verb “give.” We haven’t been “giving” people their “rights.”

Oh, maybe this is the other reason for all this complaining about America. That would make perfect sense…see, our country stands unique, in that our system of government (so far) doesn’t believe any mortal man “gives” any other human being the basic inalienable rights. The reason they are inalienable, is that all who live on the earthly plane of existence lack the authority to take ‘em away. We believe this because such rights were given to us in the first place, by someone who does not walk among us. A Higher Power. That’s what makes it impossible to deprive us of our rights.

Most Americans further believe that these most basic of rights extend beyond our shores, to all the world’s citizens. And a lot of us believe the same rights are enjoyed by animals too. These are questions for religion, sort of, and so they are not addressed by our founding documents because we have separation of church and state here. But the point is — we do not believe people “give” rights to people. And that makes our system of government superior, because when people give rights to people, the people who gave the rights must be entitled to take them away again, at their option. How in the world could they not be?

I would further add — when people give people rights, and take them away again, they are blind, oblivious and ignorant of the fact that they’re taking rights away from people. They always have been…and lookee what we’re twiddling with here. Isn’t “Dear American Voter” just a perfect example of what I’m talking about? These loudmouth complainers have gotten together and built a web site, to “give” non-Americans the right to virtually decide, or help decide, the American election. In so doing, they’re acting to deny Americans the right to sovereignty…to run our nation in a manner we see fit…to keep internal matters internal.

Granted, they’ve agreed on the idea that we are not worthy of such a right and deserve to be deprived of it. And they’re so sure they’re correct about that, because they all agree with each other about it.

Isn’t that the way it always works, when people take rights away from other people?

This is America. Our government doesn’t “give” rights; it recognizes rights that were already given, by an entity whose existence is recognized on faith. You can live here without “believing” in this deity, and you can even enjoy these rights we think you have because of a Supreme Being you refuse to recognize — but if you can’t deal with this basic working of how we got our rights, you don’t belong here.

And once you move out, we’ll decide our elections ourselves, thankyewverymuch.

Hyperhistory

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

…is here. Uber-cool timelines, millenium-to-continent matrices, maps galore.

H/T: Maggie’s Farm.

Bookworm on Indy

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

She pretty much hates it.

I don’t know what to say. I have a lot of respect for her sense of taste and judgment, and I’ve not seen the film myself, but — this would be a huge letdown. If Indy IV sucks, there’s no way we’re recovering from that ice bag on our testes. Iron Man and Hulk and James Bond and all the rest of ‘em can be wonderful cinematic experiences, and this year would still be a dud.

Her argument seems to be that parts of it are stupid. This, I’ve already figured out. The question is, what quality of stupidity, and more to the point, what quantity? On the quality question, the adverb “indescribably” before the pejorative “stupid” pretty much settles that. Quantity is more important. Controlled servings of stupidity, properly served, have become something of an Indiana Jones tradition. Yes, fellow Indy fans, they have. C’mon. Ancient Peruvian temples with light-activated booby traps and rolling boulders. Had it not been for Slocombe’s spellbinding visual effects, you and I would never have tolerated it.

Update 5/25/08: Gerard senses fatigue but overall likes it just fine, and he isn’t alone.

Tonight, we’ll figure out which side of this hot controversy is swelled by my one vote.

Whiskey…Tango…Foxtrot… XVIII

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Words fail. Again.

A Cambodian father and mechanic learned the hard way not to inflate children when he inserted an air hose designed to fill car tires into his 5-year-old son’s anus and blew him up, local media reported on Thursday.
:
The paper said the child’s stomach became distended and his concerned mother rushed him to hospital, where he remains in a stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

A few good farts…an enema…some kind of operation, worst-case scenario, in case some component of the alimentary canal got ruptured. And all’s well, one hopes. (Assuming a big ol’ air bubble didn’t enter the bloodstream.)

But at the end of the misadventure, daddy’s still a dumbass.

H/T: FARK.

Maxine Waters — Inmate Running the Asylum

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Two weeks ago I had observed about industries that seem to be illustrating for us the most treacherous, devastating and pure failures of capitalism:

These industries don’t operate on “capitalism.” At least, not to the extent that they can start screwing people over and failing to do what they’re supposed to do, and you can point at ‘em and say “Aha! See? There goes a prime example of the FAILURE of CAPITALISM!” No, these industries are hybrids between capitalism and something else. They are cooperatives in which we say, essentially…oh okay, let’s start exchanging goods and services, value for value…caveat emptor. But then let’s mix in a bunch of other bovine fecal matter with that. Let’s add in a regulating board, maybe one that sets prices at a certain level. And then let’s protect the “little guy” by guaranteeing some minimal provision, at the expense of someone else unwilling. Let’s have some people who don’t get any real work done, make rules about the people who actually do all the work.

And, as if some divine omnipotent kismet had said to itself, Hey, that Morgan Freeberg guy is spouting a whole bunch of gibberish, let’s make some stuff happen so his gibberish makes more sense –

Well, first of all, before I get to that. Neal Boortz brought in some news this morning about some neophyte in economic science, one Congressman Representative Paul Kanjorski from Pennsylvania, who happens to have a whole lot of authority in deciding what our laws are going to be — brandishing a brand new bill that would…that would…uh…

• H.R. 5800 would tax industries’ windfall profits.
• The bill would set up a Reasonable Profits Board to determine when these companies’ profits are in excess, and then tax them on those windfall profits.
• As oil and gas companies’ windfall profits increase, so would the tax rate for those companies.
• Kanjorski said his legislation will encourage oil companies to lower prices to prevent them from receiving higher tax rates.

“Reasonable Profits Board.” Let me guess, the name of this bill is the Anti Dog-Eat-Dog rule?

The Divine Kismet remains dissatisfied with my delusional ravings, and has decided more events on the plane of reality are needed to make them sensible. And so we have Congresswoman Maxine Waters, which our parent site Webloggin has — well, our parent site, along with Rush Limbaugh, has embarrassed the bejeezus out of her by letting people see what she’s doing lately.

This liberal would be all about socializing, er, ah would be about basically taking over and the government running all of your companies.

That’s just great, Maxine! I can’t wait to have my gas purchases work exactly the same way as all my Social Security investments. Believe me…that quote does not do it justice. You have to watch the clip. Two clicks of your mouse — what in the hell are you waiting for?

My original observation stands: Where is the purely capitalistic free-trade industry, or nearly-pure capitalistic industry, that’s doing such a swell job of showing us what a slipshod ramshackle system capitalism is? I’m looking at a growing list here of confiscatory, predatory, inefficient “capitalist” industries that are running on about an ounce and a half of capitalism and maybe a gallon or two of that good ol’ Marxist stuff…from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs…plus a stranglehold of regulations, and a crapload of compliance officers, lawyers, paper-pushers and bureaucrats. Wherever the compliance officers and bureaucrats and regulating statues and boards are missing…it’s something we don’t discuss very often, because there’s no reason to. You have some kind of ooze that you need on a regular basis, you run out of the ooze, you rummage around in your couch cushions for some nickels and quarters, you go down to the store and you buy some more of the ooze. Plain and simple.

When you get frustrated, because you have to pay a lot more for the ooze this week than you did last week — it’s usually because of taxes, regulations, or some unanticipated shortage that never would have happened, but for some type of “price cap” or “ceiling.”

Where, anywhere, are we screwing ourselves over by electively exchanging goods and services, for like amounts of goods and services? And so, I shall come up with a name for this observation of mine: To really mess things up, you need a politician. And some big ol’ stacks of rules that have nothing to do with capitalism at all.

Feminism In Ten Acts

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Here’s what makes feminism tough to explain to a ten year old: When you’re that young, you’ve missed out on all the big events. Another thing that makes it tough is, I happen to agree with it. The parts of it, anyway. The high-minded ideals. The goals. The intents.

Devil WomanIt’s the implementation that has been all wombat-rabies bollywonkers crazy. And that isn’t just my idea, it’s everybody else’s idea too. Or a lot of other people, anyway…

Maybe it could have been carried out better. Maybe it was doomed from the start. Maybe — in my opinion, this is a probably — the flaws that existed in feminism, had to do with the placement, over time, of the feminist personnel within the feminist occupations. The hardcore militant types were the ones who rose to prominent positions within the advocacy groups. So the timeless recruiting phrase, “it isn’t about bashing men, it’s about equal pay for equal worth” — had, throughout the entire lifespan of feminism, a grain of truth to it. But if you were inside the movement, and you really thought that way, you didn’t get far.

The spokesperson-and-above positions…the positions that had real power to them…went to the dedicated types. The acrimonious types. Feminism became brittle…and then it shattered.

They’re all very heady concepts to explain to the fourth or fifth grades. But maybe my play can help. After it’s sanitized from where it is now, that is…

Ballard School of Driving

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I thought I imagined the whole thing…every single split-second of it is just as hilarious as the day I saw it, when I was still living there.

Gerard, this is for you. You’re there today, so you know why.

Wasp Cookies

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Mmmm…hmmm…