Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nice Guy TM

Sometimes culture invents a new phrase or name. Sometimes these names are labels that name something we already understand. Swingrich, discussed below, is such a term. It's a great name for something we already understand.

But sometimes learning the meaning of a new label means learning something new, beyond the name itself. The concept exposes us to an idea which increases our understanding of how the world, or people in the world, work.

Nice Guy TM was such a concept for me. From seeking to understand the label, I gained insight into our culture and the people in it. I could write a lot on the idea of Nice Guy TM, but really I just wanted to take a minute to throw up a couple posts around the internet that explain and have various takes on the idea. I'd like to think that reading the content at these links would have done 16-25 year old me some good.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Real Republican Candidates Preparing for Future

The 2012 Republican Primary has been a parade of political punchlines in the form of "candidates." Liberals would like to believe that it is the state of the Republican Party which as forced them into this terrible condition. That is likely at least partially true. However, the reality is that the real dangerous candidates in the party have decided to sit 2012 out. I think it's pretty clear they don't want to run against Obama in a year where it looks like the economy will continue to improve up to election day. So they can afford to wait until 2016.

One of these candidates appears to have an awareness of how quickly the gay rights debate is moving, and what that political landscape will like in four years. Governor Christie has appointed a gay man to the state supreme court.

It's a move that doesn't force him to come out of the closest to his party as not a bigot. But, in four years, when he's running for President, it will give him cover on this issue. He will be able to claim during the general election, that he always believed in whatever level of rights he is proposing as part of his platform (something calculatingly moderate, like believing gay marriage and adoption is a question of states' rights, and that the federal government shouldn't be involved at all).

I think this news story demonstrates that smart politicians know full well where the gay rights debate is headed, and how fast it's getting there. Now that Don't Ask Don't Tell has been repealed, and absolutely none of the world ending scenarios predicted by the conservatives have come to pass, the credibility of the anti-rights individuals is evaporating quickly.

When we're told that gay marriages, or gay parents, will result in a world where cats chase dogs and babies steal our candy, it will be even less believable than it already was.

Smart politicians like Christie know this, and they know they need to plan for the future.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On "Fixing" Star Wars

For years after the Star Wars movies first came out (New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) Star Wars fans were treated to hours of entertainment. Mostly this came in the form of watching Star Wars movies, talking about how awesome Star Wars is, trying to use the force, pretending a stick is a lightsaber, watching the movies again, hunting down people who had not yet seen the movies and making them watch the movies, then trying to use the force again, and then talking some more about how awesome Star Wars is.

It seems likely that this pattern will repeat itself indefinitely into the future, providing unmeasurable entertainment.

It is also true that the new Star Wars movies (Phantom Menace, Clone Wars, Vader is Back - or something) have provided a near endless supply of entertainment for Star Wars fans. However, 99.9% of this entertainment comes in the form of sitting around and talking about the ways the movies could have been better.

It is impossible to talk about these movies without, even by accident, mentioning a way by which they could have been improved.

Most of the methods of improvement can be summarized quite simply. They are ways in which the movies could be *better*. Better characters, better story, better moments, better casting, better writing . . . etc.

I can agree with that, but I've always had one huge issue with the challenge presented by Episodes I-III of Star Wars: at the end, the bad guys win.

That seems to me to be a structural flaw in the story that no amount of "better" is going to fix. At the end of the movie Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, two cherished characters from the original movies, lose. A moment which I imagine goes something like this:

Yoda: How did your battle with Anakin Skywalker go?
Kenobi: Great, I cut off all his limbs and left
him on fire next to a river
of lava
Yoda: At least the terrible evil who
betrayed us all and killed the Jedi is
Kenobi: . . . .
Yoda: He is dead right?
Kenobi: . .
. so, uh, how was your fight with Palpatine?
Yoda: oh, that . . . yeah, that
was fine, y'know,
basically like
Kenobi: like mine?
Yoda: yeah, uh, limbs .
. . lava . . . or something
Kenobi: . . .
Yoda: . . .
Kenobi: So, want to go hide out on remote planets for the next twenty
Yoda: sounds good

The bottom line is that Vader and the Emperor standing triumphant over a crushed republic and hundreds of dead Jedis is an ending that no amount of "better" is going to rescue.

Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a serious movie with a serious ending as much as the next guy. The Thin Red Line is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it ends with the harsh realities of war. But there are limits. You can't make a prequel of Saving Private Ryan that ends with the Nazis celebrating in the streets of France. That's going to be a terrible movie, even if it doesn't have Jar Jar Binks.

Those limits are especially applicable to an action movie about cowboy ninja wizards in space.

So how do we fix it?

The fact of that matter is that Episode IV starts in a dark place. The Jedi are dead, democracy is toast, and the Death Star is complete and blasting planets out of the sky. The prequels have to get us to that bad spot.

The answer, as with the corrections to all of George Lucas' idiocy, is pretty simple.

Episode III needs to end the moment before Episode IV begins. This way the triumphant ending of the movie can be the rebels successfully stealing the plans to the Death Star; the very theft which initiates the plot of Episode IV.

It's not that tricky to do. Simply lop off Episode I entirely. This way the first Star Wars movie is about the friendship and training between Obi Wan and Anakin. The second movie is about the betrayal of Anakin, the emergence of the Emperor and the fall of the Jedi. Then the third movie can be about the rise of the rebellion, and mostly center around Princess Leia. At the end, she manages to organize a group of rebels for the daring theft of the Death Star plans.

The third movie has the added benefit of allowing an explanation for why Yoda and Kenobi, the two most powerful good guys in the galaxy, are hiding in caves on remote planets. Yoda and Kenobi helped to organize the rebellion initially. However, their strength in the force allowed the Emperor and Vader to detect their presence, and could be used to give away the location of rebel bases and outposts.

This structure would mirror the basic outline for the first three movies. The first one is where we meet our characters and learn a bit about their struggles. In the second one the bad guys win. In the third, the good guys regroup and emerge with a gritty victory against all odds.

It's the formula by which all cowboy ninja wizards in space should live.

Friday, January 20, 2012

This book is blowing my mind.


I got linked here by Amanda Marcotte's tweet: https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaMarcotte/status/160439693220118528

It's a dude writing an advice columnist asking for permission to skip a wedding because his girlfriend - who is the maid of honor - has, in the past, kissed other members of the bridal party. I can't muster a better response than....REALLY?

I can note that somehow, this fella is a member of my chosen profession, which is depressing, and manages to use the phrase "the repercussions of her actions" to describe his bowing out.

I have a lot of tolerance for teenagers acting like morons. That's why I put up with weird characters on teen shows. You can allow it, they're undeveloped! But law students have to be adults, and it's just frustrating and nothing more when they're these kinds of dillholes.


I knew Dan Savage would summarize the Gingrich "open marriage" story perfectly:
Technically you're not asking your wife for an open marriage if you've already been fucking another woman for six years. You're presenting your wife with an ultimatum. That doesn't make you a proponent of open marriage, Newt, it makes you a CPOS.

CPOS means Cheating Piece of Shit for any non Savage literate readers.

Definition of Swingrich:
"Swingrich" is a CPOS masquerading as a swinger/polyamorous person. "I thought he was ethically nonmonogamous but he was just a swingrich."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I have lots of idea for great posts full of content. But none of them are as awesome as this:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Drinking Game

Considering the number of my friends over the years who are both huge nerds and huge drinkers I'm shocked I've never encountered this before.

Make it bughouse chess and I would finally acquire a taste for beer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the implications

Great clip, and behind it lies a great point about the social balance between men and women. On the one hand too many men are completely ignorant of the fact that physical danger is a very real part of women's daily lives, on the other hand, as demonstrated by the clip, all too many men are probably aware of this fact and its implications.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Riker Line

This is a thought that occurred to me talking to my wife, who is extremely culturally literate but not (specifically) a Star Trek fan. She would, with sufficient persuasion.

But in a general conversation about Star Trek, a basically culturally literate person will know who Kirk and Spock are. They'll probably know Data, if we're talking about the true pop culture nerds that make up just about all of my friends. Picard is played by a legendary actor, and thus carries enough cache to break through. But then, we get to: the Riker Line.

William Thomas Riker is not a famous character. If you bring up Riker, if you reference Riker, if you call him "the Riker of the West Wing," you will only be understood by Star Trek fans. If you're talking about Sisko, or Worf, or Miles O'Brien, you're past the Riker line. But you can mention the Vulcans in relative safety.

There are a few very minor moments where the line is permeable. You can refer to "Scotty," perhaps, but "Montgomery Scott" is too far. You can talk about Nichelle Nichols work as Uhura being praised by Martin Luther King Jr. for having an interracial kiss with Captain Kirk, but that's about all you can know about her. Geordi LaForge gets you only as far as the visor and the treasured name Levar Burton, but not his work as an engineer on the Enterprise. But fundamentally, anything more obscure than Commander Riker gets you across the line.

But this makes me think of what other pop culture spheres have their own Riker Lines. I'd put Harry Potter's Riker line at Neville, I think. Star Wars line is at Bobba Fett. I haven't seen Lord of the Rings through, but whoever comes after Legolas fits the bill. Any others?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Crazy Boyfriends

Liking celebrities is a funny thing. We don't really know that much about them (at least I don't). Yet when a person plays a character I love on tv, I transfer a not insignificant portion of that love to the actor or actress. As a result, it can always be a bit harrowing when an actor I "love" has their opinion or life exposed in some critical way. Say, if I find out they are a terrible parent, below to a crazy pants church, or support Ron Paul. Stand-up comics are a bit more exposed than most, because they have control over what is in their routine, so it's nice when a stand up comic's routine is close enough to something that I can project as conforming to exactly what I want them to be!

Also, Donald Glover is really funny.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Violence in Sports

I understand that there was a time when football was a sport for real men. Men who played without facemasks or helmets. They were all balls, and nasty, hardworking sons of bitches. Or something to that effect. I didn't watch a lot of football in the 70s. But that's what I hear when I listen to sports radio, or read newspaper columns, or god help me, read comments on sports stories.

But I do know this: those guys are all dead. Or they're living with debilitating injuries, or severe brain damage. That's a real problem.

I don't like watching and enjoying an activity that causes a lot of harm to real people. I understand they're well compensated (although the vast majority of people who play football try to play like the pros, and they're not compensated). But I don't think that's the way to just absolve the issue that real injuries are happening to real people for the purpose of entertainment. I think there's a prerogative to make football as safe as it can reasonably be. And that's why I support Goodell in all efforts to reduce violent hits and make the game safer. Nuts to you, James Harrison.

But what really confuses me is why people are so virulently against these kinds of changes. James Harrison, at least, makes a lot of money and gains his fame on these kind of hits, so I understand his motive. But the average fan isn't getting paid for the hits. Is he paying for the hits? I doubt it - the ratings keep going up no matter what the NFL does in regards to violence in the game. I like defensive struggles as much as anyone, but I really am skeptical that anyone hates high scoring games with the passion they express. They're mostly just people whose teams are losing high scoring games. And besides, the talk is all pretty moderate around rules about pass interference or defensive holding. The talk is always about late hits and defenseless WRs and out of bounds contacts or hitting a QB in the knees. Driving to the ground. All stuff that doesn't directly affect the outcome of the play. And really, improves defense most of the time (tackle with your arms, not your shoulder!)

The fundamental issue appears to be one of sadism: a desire to see people get injured. There's a real undercurrent of sadism in American life these days - a feeling that suffering is an objective good: for people who have sex, we'll get rid of abortion so you can suffer more. Remember the cheers for Ron Paul telling those without insurance to die? Or for Rick Perry's executions? It's one thing to support those positions as necessities, but they seem to be lauded as objective goods. It's important to cause suffering.

Part of this is that the love of violence rarely seems to carry over into incidences of fair fights in sports. Boxing is getting less popular every year, wrestling is gone, and MMA is catching on, but still very peripheral. These are all sports that are violent, but are based on a set of rules, with voluntary fighters. Even hockey is the least popular "major" sport, where the fights are entered into on equal terms - the player basically agree to fight each other, punch and grapple, and stop. It's a totally different scenario than leveling a receiver over the middle. It seems to be a crucial difference.

So we get the great defenders of what are essentially dangerous cheap shots. Because people don't like seeking violence: they want to see pain.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Drug Sniffing Dogs don't Work?

This article is pretty astounding. This gist of it is that studies suggest that most drug dogs are picking up on cues from their trainers, and return a huge number of false positives.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Houses are People

When you warm a house, you also warm the people inside.

If a house burns down, the people inside burn too.

If you damage a house, the people who own it pay.

Ergo, houses ARE people. Clearly.

Corporations are legal structure. A house is a physical structure. Corporations bring capital together in a common purpose and shelter individuals from liability. Houses bring people together in a home and shelter us from the elements.

Of course what we do to a corporation affects the people involved in the corporation. That is true of virtually anything in this world. But, the reality is that we recognize that vessels and structures are not, in and of themselves, people.

It would be possible to simply say that taxes on corporations are paid by people. It is similar to the argument advanced for years that taxes on merchants are paid by customers. That argument never needed to become a claim that "merchants are customers." But, the "corporations are people" argument must go further. It is because this assertion is not a simple analogy for the purposes of election politics, it is about extending to corporations fundamental rights granted to people under the law.

It isn't the same as arguing that I can put a political poster on my house because I have a right to political speech. It is saying that the house itself possesses this right. It's a fine, but highly dangerous distinction. It is a distinction that allows corporations to speak and act with the rights of a person, but keeps the wealthy individuals behind the corporation's walls sheltered and separate. It is a distinction that is not missed by highly educated, very wealthy individuals like Romney.