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Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Aughts Sucked

And I'm glad they're over.

This article in the Post is depressing.

Here's the last line:
The task ahead for the next generation of economists is to figure out how, in a decade that began with such economic promise, things went so wrong.
Um, any student of history is going to know the answer to that one.

I mean, look at the fool who was in the White House during that time. You don't think his general incompetence, coupled with his lack of good sense, had something to do with it?

Here's to the coming Chinese century!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Congratulations! You've Won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes!

C'mon. I know you're probably enjoying your holiday weekend by NOT reading blogs, especially mine, but don't you want ten dollars?

Times are tough, man. I know ten bucks isn't much, but that's, like...five bus rides.

For naming the band, song, and album title of this song? That's free money!

If you're reading this, I know you've got the internet. Google it. I don't care. Life is an open book test, man.

The rules were: Ten Bucks to the first person who can name the band, the song, and the album that this clip came from.

Which means you have to be first, and you have to be right. That's it! And you get ten bucks.

Postage-paid!

If I don't get even some guesses, I'm going to think my readership is all independently weathy, and kinda stingy about it. I mean, I'm offering ten bucks, and you rich fuckers haven't even offered a guess!

So help a brother out. Listen to the clip. Tell me who it is.

The Obvious Joke

This headline has too many words in it:
Limbaugh released; no heart trouble found
It should read:
Limbaugh released; no heart found

Andrew Sullivan Fail

Here he is talking tough:
We need a thorough investigation so that every single person in the chain of command who failed to connect the dots is fired.
Fire them and replace them with dot-connectors? What does that even mean? The dots, not to mention how they are connected, are only obvious in retrospect.

I don't think Sullivan is proposing a policy here. I just think he's posing. "Look at me! Look at what a tough guy I am for my willingness to take a hard line stance on an issue."

Fire every single person in the chain of command who "failed to connect the dots?" That's probably a lot of people! And what's going to say on their paperwork? "Reason for dismissal: Inability to accurately predict future events?"

C'mon. You can do better than that, bud.

Updated: I swear I didn't read this David Brooks column until after I wrote this post. In it, he makes some of the same points I did, but probably better:
Much of the criticism has been contemptuous and hysterical. Various experts have gathered bits of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s biography. Since they can string the facts together to accurately predict the past, they thunder, the intelligence services should have been able to connect the dots to predict the future.
Yeah, that's what I said.

I also endorse, contra Sullivan's hysterics, the coda:
It would be nice if we reacted to their inevitable failures not with rabid denunciation and cynicism, but with a little resiliency, an awareness that human systems fail and bad things will happen and we don’t have to lose our heads every time they do.
Amen, brother.

Missing the Point

In my previous post, when I said, "All the shit I read about it was wrong," I was talking about shit like this:
I'm not normally one to invest much of anything argumentative based on what happens on a casting couch, but in this case, Cameron tipped his hand with all the subtlety of an overconfident drunk: the purpose of the avatars is to place white brains in blue bodies that would otherwise be inhabited by black ones.
Say what?

Now it's true that many of the alien characters are played by black people. Zoe Saldana is black. Cch Pounder is black. Another prominent alien character is played by a black man.

But then the chief of the Na'vi is played by Wes Studi, who is Native American, not black.

So there goes the "otherwise be inhabited by black ones" part of that commentary. I'd venture to say that other Na'vi characters, because there are a lot of them, are played by white people, but no doubt since they're not playing any of the main Na'vi characters, those whities don't count.

You see, since three black actors are playing alien characters, that means the aliens are representing black people. And the human characters? They're all white, so clearly they represent white people...

I wish I was misreading this critic's point, but I don't think I am. S/he puts it quite succinctly here:
My point in my previous Avatar post about the film indulging in the white fantasy of becoming the proverbial other is, then, made literal by Cameron's casting decisions: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Joel Moore play three white characters who inhabit bodies otherwise occupied only by actors of color.
This strikes me as a failure of imagination, and slightly racist in its own right.

I wonder how Cch Pounder would feel to know that even if she's playing a 12 foot tall blue-skinned alien she'll still be nothing more than an "actor of color" to some people.

You mean, she didn't get the job because she's talented?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar

I went to the matinee of Avatar 3D today and rather than bore you with a discussion of its themes or technical merits, I'm just going to give you a list of things I liked about it:

A) All the shit I read about it was wrong. No, it's not an environmental screed. It's not advocating some new tree hugging religion. It's not saying anything profound about the War on Terrorism. It's not Dances with Wolves in Space. The movie does resonate with these themes, but only in a way to engage you emotionally in the story, not to push one agenda or another.

B) Zoe Saldana was ferocious in her performance. She really makes that 12 foot alien hunter-priestess come alive. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Zoe Saldana should be a big star. A household name.

C) Cch Pounder had a great moment when she confronts Sam Worthington's character. Until that moment, I didn't know it was Cch Pounder, but after she gives the line, there was just something in that computer generated face that gave her away. Again, the performance comes alive.

D) Michelle Rodriguez. Show me some tough-talking chick who can fly a helicopter that looks like that? My heart goes aflutter.

E) Stephen Lang, who once played Ike Clanton as a ragged, sunburnt drunk in Tombstone, has been hitting the gym. Has he always had those guns?

F) I don't know how they did it, but they managed one key detail in the portrayal of Sam Worthington's paraplegic character: his legs were atrophied.

G) I hope not much is lost in the 2D version, because I don't know about you, but I don't have a Sony Real 3D projector at my house.

Should you go see it? Yes, I'd recommend it.

The 10th Caller

So no one wants ten bucks, huh?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hero of the Game

Last night I was playing a video game called Battlefield Vietnam. It's a first person shooter set during some of the major battles of Vietnam, Hue city, Operation Hastings, the Ia Drang valley, etc.

Last night I was playing Operation Hastings and I decided I was going to be a hero. I stormed a checkpoint all by my lonesome, carrying a single shot rifle and a rocket launcher.

The checkpoint was deserted, or so it seemed. I went into a building, looking for the weapons depot so I knew where it was in case I needed it, and not finding it, I went towards another building. That's when an NVA soldier popped out from behind some trees to take a few shots off at me.

The AI players in this game aren't very good shots, so I shot him at close range with my rifle.

And then I saw two enemy tanks converging on my position.

The tanks are the worst. They have a turret gunner and of course, the big massive gun that makes a tank a tank. If the turret gunner gets you in his sights, you can run away because he's not a very good shot. But if the tank gunner gets you in his sights, you're gone. You're a pile of meat and shrapnel.

The tanks also require three perfectly aimed shots from a rocket launcher to kill. But you can only carry four rockets at a time.

And I had two tanks coming for me.

My heartrate quickening and my butt sliding up on the seat, I managed to get a shot off at one of the tanks with a rocket. I missed. It exploded somewhere behind him.

I zig-zagged my way back to the ammo crate to get more ammo, bullets from the turret pinging the walls next to me, a huge shell from the tank barely missing me.

I found a wall to duck behind, came out and got another shot off. A hit. While I reloaded, I hid behind the wall for cover. I came back out to hit him again. He was closer this time, which made it easier to get a direct hit, but that scared me.

I felt the dread deep down in my stomach. At that moment, I wasn't a guy playing a video game on his computer. I was a soldier in mortal danger and I had to kill these tanks.

Finally I destroyed one of them, but the other one was still after me. I ran into the building for more ammo and barely missed a tank shot. There was a brief flash outside and then the doorway filled with smoke. I wasn't hit, but I was scared.

The next time I stepped out that door, he had me.

I needed at least two more shots from my rocket launcher to kill him so I had to go out there at least two more times and the chances of me surviving even one were just ridiculous.

So what did I do? I growled like Han Solo and ran out of the doorway, straight for a cluster of trees. The tank fired, but he was dialed into the doorway and missed me, and as he swung his turret to get me, I fired a rocket right down his throat. Bam, direct hit, explosions, smoke, sparks. But he was still there.

As my character reloaded, I zig-zagged back to the building. The turret starts swinging back.

Fzzzzzzzzttt! I send him another rocket. It arrives in his mailbox like a cherry bomb and he explodes in a black mass of death.

"YEAH! GET SOME!" I shouted, the real me sitting at my desk. Then I went to the flagpole that marks the checkpoint and watched the meter drain red and then go blue, and heard the voice say something like "Enemy position secured."

A few minutes later, as the fight played out, my side emerged with the victory. A major victory they called it, as opposed to a minor victory if you barely survive.

I should have gotten a medal.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ten Bucks

To the first person who can name the band, the song, and the album that this clip came from.

No shit. I will send you ten bucks.

Do Not Feed the Troll

Advice I ignored in this thread on Outside the Beltway. I'm Herb, of course, and my last post was directed to a dude named Have a Nice G.A. who had the gall to say this:
If they (the terrorists) have won anything, it's sympathy form the left, and also from the left a great apparatus for propaganda, because these gain votes.
Sympathy from the left? Fuck you, dude.

As I said in response:
"The Left," as you call them, has no sympathy for terrorists or Islamic jihadists. Their ideas (religious extremism, suppression of women, hatred of the west) as well as their methods (terrorism, oppression of their own people) are contrary to our ideas and our methods.
Yeah, sorry to break your bubble, G.A. You've been outsourcing your thinking to talk radio again. Not a good idea, unless you're listening to the sports zoo.

Anyway, the back and forth devolved into more nothingness, and I should have known better. I should have known G.A. was a troll, just trying to piss the liberal off, trying to get him to say something stupid. And you know, I fell for it.

I fell for it hard. It did piss me off, and responding back to him was stupid.

So I laid a little troll trap of my own. Knowing his pathetically predictable biases, I asked him:
Hollywood liberals. Socialist crusaders? Or cutthroat capitalists?
His response?
All of the above, and I think these might be the people who don't understand what socialism means,
All of the above? WTF? The terms are mutually exclusive! It's like having a blind seeing-eye dog!

So my send-off:
Ha! Sorry, no more playing, G.A. Dining room table and all that...

All of the above??? The socialist who is also a capitalist! Heel-larious!

Epic fail, bud. Epic fail.
He responded, and I was tempted to continue the debate, but nope. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.

And it would be much like arguing with a dining room table.

His response is laughable:
I guess you don't understand communist millionaire, Hey, but those are your limitations.So if you make billions of dollars that you don't share with the populace pushing your anti capitalist, anti American, anti Christian, anti free market, films, Hmmmm, what does that make you?
Hollywood is anti-capitalist?

You've gotta be kidding me.

Anti-American? Blah. What does that even mean? That they're critical of America at times? So what? I'm critical of myself at times. But that doesn't make me Anti-James. To be more concrete about it, does Hollywood actively root for the downfall of America?

Hell no. Where are they going to get all their money? (Yeah, if you're counting on foreign sales to fill the gap, sorry. We may be down, but we're not out. American markets are not yet obsolete.)

Anti Christian? Is that why there's so many movies with religious characters and religious themes? Is that why Mel Gibson made Passion of the Christ?

Anti free market? The free market is why Hollywood was able to make hundreds of millions of dollars this weekend. (Of which, I admittedly get my small piece.)

I mean, need I say more? This guy is just trying to piss people off. And it worked.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shrinking States

I'm not thinking of moving or anything, but when I saw this article (Where Americans Aren't Moving), I thought...ooooh, that's where I want to go.

But then I click over and see the list of states.

California
Michigan
Illinois
Ohio
New Jersey
Florida

You know, some of the most populous states in the country...

1 in 10 Million

The last time I was on a plane, airport security pissed me off so much that I could have killed someone. I wrote about the experience here.
A minor inconvenience, for what purpose? Safe from what? Breast milk and bottled water? Ladies with shampoo in their baggage? Dudes in wheelchairs? Digital cameras in the same tub as laptops?

Fuck that. I'll take my chances.
What are the chances, one might ask, of being the victim of a terrorist attack on an airplane?

Nate Silver crunches the numbers:
There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.
Duh!

Of course, one of Silver's commenters makes this minor point:
To say "one incident per 3,105 years airborne" is fine, but we are missing any correlation or causation from the security measures. Maybe the "tens of thousands of flights have been incident free" because of the restrictions? We'll never know.
Perhaps...but let's examine what we do know.

Silver finds "six attempted terrorist incidents on board a commercial airliner tha[t] landed in or departed from the United States: the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11, the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the NWA flight 253 incident on Christmas."

Six whole incidents.

Vigilant passengers successfully stopped 2 of them, and attempted to stop a third in Flight 93. Airport security didn't stop any of them.

If the TSA has indeed foiled a terrorist attack with their absurdly unhelpful security measures, I'm guessing we probably would have heard about it, especially during the Bush years.

So while I've never heard of the TSA thwarting a terrorist attack (or finding even a second shoe bomb after all the millions of shoes they've searched), I have heard of them totally fucking up their own security.

Just read this article by Jeffrey Goldberg:
On another occasion, at LaGuardia, in New York, the transportation-security officer in charge of my secondary screening emptied my carry-on bag of nearly everything it contained, including a yellow, three-foot-by-four-foot Hezbollah flag, purchased at a Hezbollah gift shop in south Lebanon. The flag features, as its charming main image, an upraised fist clutching an AK-47 automatic rifle. Atop the rifle is a line of Arabic writing that reads Then surely the party of God are they who will be triumphant. The officer took the flag and spread it out on the inspection table. She finished her inspection, gave me back my flag, and told me I could go. I said, “That’s a Hezbollah flag.” She said, “Uh-huh.”
Clearly what we need are even more useless security measures.

Grandpa Moment

I know it makes me sound like a grumpy old man, but I've had it up to HERE with the ignorant, lazy, and incompetent fools that pass for projectionists these days.

No wonder theaters are trying to go to all-automated systems. It's almost as if they're saying, "Sorry, teenagers. We gave you a chance, and you fucked it up."

You might have heard about a couple of big movies that are playing in theaters this weekend. Avatar, which is still doing brisk business, and Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it's been a record weekend at the box office.

Each time I call a theater to address a problem, I get the run around. I get excuses. I get put on hold and left there.

"We're too busy," is the universal response.

No shit, you're busy, but A) That's no excuse for not doing your job and B) full auditoriums + working ads = happy advertisers, whereas full auditoriums + no ads playing = lost revenue.

These fuckers can't see the big picture if it slapped them upside the face. And hey, I understand. They're young. They're dumb. They're part-timers. They don't work for a living; they work for a little extra pocket money.

But that doesn't give them license to be uncooperative, careless fools.

Fire them all, I say. Hire Mexicans instead. I'll learn Spanish, no problem. Just let me work with someone who gives a shit. Like...anyone but these teenagers!