Saturday, January 31, 2015

Separated at birth

How Did Politics Get So Personal?

How Do We Increase Empathy?

I'll take a stab at it. It's the Tea Party's fault?


I was in the library and saw Malcolm Gladwell's decade-old bestseller Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking on the table.  I'd never read it.

I picked it up and almost immediately realized it's not for me.

Speaking of disappointing books, let me mention John Water's Carsick. It purports to be the story of how the well-known director hitchhiked across the United States.  I've liked his previous biographical stuff, and this sounded like it could be fun.

Turned out, however, that more than half the book is two fictional versions of the trip--his best and worst case scenarios. The subtitle is John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.  If they believed in truth in advertising, they would have added Mostly In His Mind.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Next target, emails from Nigerian oil ministers seeking help

A "news" article about a guy who is surprised that his fake paper is accepted by fake journals seeking to charge him $500.

"The good news is that there are tools available to navigate the process."

I doubt that, very much indeed.

(Maybe it's all a meta joke that I missed, and the spam is the article.)

Because Cosby

Poor Mark Whitaker.  Late last year his book came out and it's already out of date--Cosby: His Life And Times.  (Check the Amazon link and you'll see quite a few commenters taking Whitaker to task, like it's his fault).

It happens, of course, but how could Whitaker have known a month or so after his book was published a scandal would arise that would change how everyone looked at America's favorite comedian.  Whitaker himself was apparently aware of the rumors, but decided not to go into them.

Instead, we get lines like this from the introduction:

[Cosby] can already envision what historians will say about him.  They will focus, rightly, on his iconic place in the annals of television. [....] They will analyze his contributions to children's educational television. [....] Most of all, cultural historians will measure the seismic impact of The Cosby Show on the entertainment industry and on American society. [...T]hey will point out how, by implanting such a positive image of black family life in the national consciousness, it helped Americans envision sending a black president and his wife and daughters to live in the White House less than two decades later.

The funny thing is before the scandal broke I might have put up a post on how I disagreed with Whitaker's claims, but now it's not even worth explaining how he missed the boat.

By the way, the book is pretty good if you can forget know.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ah, discourse

Under the heading of "politics," which it certainly is.


"Bending the cost curve."

WTF? People who use this phrase have something approaching the brainpower of a parrot, but less, since it's not clear yet what their retention is. I realize Obama's 20 year old speech writer used it or more likely stole it before he became a 26 year old speech writer and moved to Hollywood, but give it a rest. It was a failure the first time it was used and it hasn't aged into anything better.


Today is Megan McArdle's birthday. (I didn't know that--I had to look it up).  So let me belatedly recommend her book The Up Side Of Down.

Part of succeeding is failing--a lesson we may recognize, but prefer not to practice.  We often employ strategies that prevent failure so much that we don't move forward, because the opposite of failure isn't success, it's nothing.  Megan gives us examples from business, as well as her private life, so that we can recognize what kind of failure is good and what isn't.  And also how to get out of the rut that makes you fail.

She also looks at the wider questions regarding what works best for society: how to avoid the phenomenon of blaming (generally based on our politics) some distinct group whenever anything go wrong; what sort of punishment works (it's not about how harsh it is, but how certain it is); and when we should give people a second chance (she claims easy bankruptcy laws have helped our country overall).

She sometimes goes against common wisdom, but whatever she argues, she's done the research to back it up.  And all in her readable style which anyone who knows her will recognize.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hello? Anybody home? I'm not getting an answer here . . .

[I]nterface . . . can allow a computer to plug into the brain


I was just watching Parks And Recreation (only seven more episodes to go!).  Here, according to the closed captioning--which I have on as I watch--is an exchange between Craig and April:

Craig:  April, the new Parks interns start today and I was wondering if you would deliver a little welcome speech.

April:  No, go away.

Craig:  Watermelon, martinis, exposed brick, Keri Russell's hair.

April:  Why did you just say those weird things?

Craig:  On the advice of my therapist, Dr. Richard Nygard, whenever I feel like yelling I just take a deep breath and say three great things about being alive.

April:  Gross.

Craig:  Please talk to my interns.

April:  Fine. Whatever, I'll do it.

End of scene.

See the problem?  He claims he just said three things, but he said four.  I was expecting a follow-up joke which never arrived.

Then I realized what happened.  He's not saying "watermelon, martinis," he's saying "watermelon martinis." The closed caption typist got it wrong. Is it too much attention to ask for them to listen to the meaning of the dialogue to get the jokes right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The End?

The eight-part comic miniseries Galavant ended on Sunday.  I found it mildly amusing, but since it wouldn't take that long to follow the hero on his quest, I figured I'd stick around till the end.

But that's just it.  There was no end, just a bunch of cliffhangers to taunt us until next season.  Somehow I got the idea they were going to wrap up the story, even if they planned to make more episodes later. Sorry, but I'm not going to stick around, and unresolved your unresolved plotlines do not tempt me.  I feel cheated.

(Not as cheated as I felt by Under The Dome, which I didn't even like..  I bailed on that show early, but tuned in for the finale out of curiosity.  I mean there's a big damn dome--where'd that come from?  But once CBS got some ratings they figured they had something, and it turned from a miniseries into a regular show.  So what was a mystery with promised closure became ongoing thing that will never get solved if people keep watching.  I got out from under immediately.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

All of a sudden I love Bob Dylan

"Why are you asking me these things?"

Move over, Joe Strummer.

(Er, not that I'm expecting Bob to go anywhere soon. Just talkin' bout my heart, here. Gonna have to replace Death or Glory with something from the Dylan catalog now, which I suppose implies I'll have to listen to it.)

Street Talk

I was standing outside a movie theatre over the weekend when I saw American Sniper was letting out.  I heard some people talking about it.  One woman said "that was, like, the best ending ever."

In case you didn't know, the film ends with Chris Kyle going off to be shot by a marine he was trying to help. So I couldn't help but think this woman was pretty cold.  Until I figured out she was referring to Whiplash, also letting out then. Now that film had a memorable ending.

By the way, with AS becoming such a phenomenon, I wonder if it's going to effect the Oscar race. It's by far the biggest hit nominated, and just as the voting is going on, everyone's talking about it. Mostly I wonder if Michael Keaton, who probably figured the Oscar was in the bag, is starting to wonder.  For that matter, are the Boyhood people starting to wonder if they're in trouble?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

You can't handle the truth

"Mr. Scorsese’s partly finished documentary about Mr. Clinton — which once seemed likely to be released as Hillary Rodham Clinton was navigating a presidential run — has stalled over disagreements about control."

Postulating that Obama is an anti-American socialist who will end up destroying the county, he nevertheless deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor for keeping these people out of the White House. At least if we go, we'll go honestly, more or less.


I was driving behind a car with a bumper sticker that read "9-11 Was An Inside Job." If you're nuts enough to believe this, fine, then believe it.

But why would you broadcast it?  And not because you're worried that everyone will think you're a nut--after all, you're already a nut, and part of that nuttiness is a pride in letting everyone know about it.

No, what I wonder if about how the sticker shows us your level of paranoia.  You believe your government was in on the 9-11 attacks, perhaps even carried them out.  In other words, our government is so evil that they're willing to kill thousands of civilians to further their policies.  On top of which, they're able to pull the wool over the eyes of the public at large, who will buy their lies about the attacks.

So knowing that, what's to stop them from taking you out?  Each bumper sticker gives the government another target.  If I honestly believed 9-11 was an inside job, the last thing I'd do is tell anyone about it.

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