Archive for May, 2011

The Shakespeare Project: All’s Well That Ends Well

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Earlier this year, I paid a couple of bucks to download the entire works of William Shakespeare to my Kindle. While I have seen a number of the plays, I’ve never read through all of them and, now that I’m pushing 40, probably should. So I’m going to tackle it the way I tackle everything: start at the beginning and push through from sheer bloody-mindedness. And I’ll post the occasional update and thought.

I’m going to follow the order in the First Folio from his point on, but the first one I actually read was All’s Well That Ends Well, since the Kindle lists them in alphabetical order. This is one of the so-called “problem plays” since it’s one of his lesser works and of the two leads, one is an asshole and the other is kind of passive. Helena was particularly unpopular in the Victoria era, according to wikipedia, because of her “predatory” nature. So performances, which are rare, try to redeem the couple.

Personally, if I were to put the play on, the theme would be comeuppance. Betram is a fool and a rascal — someone spoiled by wealth, class and, most likely, good looks. He ends up married to a woman he despises who now has his title, his wealth and a much higher standing in the eyes of the King and his mother. I’d let that be the moral — that an arrogant asshole got what was coming to him.

Summer Movie Musings

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in discussing Thor:

I did not find it transcendent (Batman Begins did it on that count.) I thought Asgard looked rather plastic, and the love story was, as always, tacked on. But here is the thing: They kept the train on the tracks. The narrative felt smooth enough that I could just sit back and take in the fight scenes, the effects and laugh at the jokes.

This sounds like meager praise. Except it’s exactly what I ask out of a summer blockbuster, and it’s exactly what I often find missing. It’s shocking how often the train is derailed by distracting characters (robots with gold teeth) preposterous dialouge (“Hold me, Ani. Hold me like you did on the shore of the lake on Naboo”) or the off-screen murder of major character (Cyclops?)

Seriously, this is my case against Michael Bay. It’s not the explosions. It’s not the special effects. It’s not the lack of seriousness. It’s that he can’t keep the train on the tracks. It’s that, as a director, he’s a humorless clutz who can’t get out of the way.

There’s nothing wrong with Independence Day. There’s everything wrong with Armageddon.

The best I can say of Thor is that I was entertained. I think that’s worth something.

My movie time is limited these days, so I don’t have as much time for good trash as I’d like. But my feelings are very much along these lines. I don’t mind dumb movies as long as they’re entertaining. I can suspend belief with the best of them. I loved Inception even thought the plot had some pretty big holes in it.

But there are a huge number of movies these days that play out like trailers for other movies. The second Transformers movie was this in spades — it jumped around with no rhyme or reason, gave you no reason to care about who was shooting who and why, and it’s action scenes were an incomprehensible blur of CGI.

This summer is just going to be awful. Look at the most anticipated movies. Maybe I’ll watch a few. But none of them look fresh or interesting or even watchable.

Blocked?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

It would appear that I have been blocked on Twitter by Neal Boortz. Here are the two tweets I sent him:

In response to Neal asking if there was anything more pathetic than Obama “progs” trying to claim credit for bin Laden’s killing, I said:

@Talkmaster Sure: progs grasping at OBL’s death to justify Bush’s mistakes even more pathetic.

And in response to his question if the birth certificate would shut up the birthers:

@Talkmaster If only. Conspiracy theorists never let facts get in the way of their paranoia. The BC issue will stay with us. Sigh.

The former is the one that seems to have triggered the block. A completely inoffensive reply but one that apparently, by criticizing Bush, went too far.

Yankees Suuuuuu … Zzzzzz

Friday, May 27th, 2011

See, I knew the Yankees and Red Sox dragged things out interminably. Whenever these guys play, I feel like I can go to the fridge, start making a sandwich, realize I don’t have any meat, buy a gun, sit through the waiting period, get the gun, go into the woods, lie in wait, identify my animal, wait for it to grow bigger, stalk and shoot it, take it home, cut and cook the meat, make my sandwich … and it will still just be the third inning. Announcer love it, but it drive me crazy.

It was worse back in the 00′s when the A’s were good. When they played the Yankees in the post-season, you could have replayed the Hundred Years War in one Jason Giambi at-bat.

Wednesday Linkorama

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Non-political links:

  • What does your brain do when you orgasm? A scientist finds out.
  • This imitation of video game voices cracked me up.
  • Wonderful color photos of the Great Depression.
  • Political links:

  • This sort of thing happens every day in our ridiculous War on Drugs.
  • I don’t know what depresses me more about this story: that New Jersey passed an ill-considered law mandating decals on cars drive by teenagers; or that people succumbed to a baseline Predator Panic as a result.
  • When the Rapture Fails

    Monday, May 23rd, 2011

    Cross-Posted

    Well, the rapture failed to happen and we all had a good laugh. There’s been some pushback against the laughter and some calls for mutual understanding and so forth. But while it’s true that it’s not nice to laugh at the misfortunes and humiliation of others, I think it’s a reasonable substitute for what we might otherwise feel: unadulterated rage.

    Why? Consider this article from the NYT:

    With their doomsday T-shirts, placards and leaflets, followers — often clutching Bibles — are typically viewed as harmless proselytizers from outside mainstream religion. But their convictions have frequently created the most tension within their own families, particularly with relatives whose main concern about the weekend is whether it will rain.

    Kino Douglas, 31, a self-described agnostic, said it was hard to be with his sister Stacey, 33, who “doesn’t want to talk about anything else.”

    While Ms. Haddad Carson has quit her job, her husband still works as an engineer for the federal Energy Department. But the children worry that there may not be enough money for college. They also have typical teenage angst — embarrassing parents — only amplified.

    “People look at my family and think I’m like that,” said Joseph, their 14-year-old, as his parents walked through the street fair on Ninth Avenue, giving out Bibles. “I keep my friends as far away from them as possible.”

    The NYT (and other stories) talk about children pressured to spread the word, about family members not talking to each other, about college savings being burned. If these are the people who will talk to the Times, you can imagine how much worse it is out there for families who won’t. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I’ve seen friends wounded in the battle between True Believer parents and Heathen children. It’s only made worse when the end of the world is at stake. Imagine all the small children — 10 or under — who’ve been hearing about this for months. As a kid, I sometimes had nightmares about a nuclear war. Can you imagine what it’s like when your grandmother is talking about the End Times every damned day?

    That’s not to mention the clearly mentally ill people this tipped over the edge, like the woman who tried to kill herself and murder her daughters to avoid the tribulations. Or those who ruined themselves financially:

    Keith Bauer, a 38-year-old tractor-trailer driver from Westminster, Md., took last week off from work, packed his wife, young son and a relative in their SUV and crossed the country.

    If it was his last week on Earth, he wanted to see parts of it he’d always heard about but missed, such as the Grand Canyon. With maxed-out credit cards and a growing mountain of bills, he said, the rapture would have been a relief.

    Others had risked a lot more on Camping’s prediction, quitting jobs, abandoning relationships, volunteering months of their time to spread the word. Matt Tuter, the longtime producer of Camping’s radio and television call-in show, said Saturday that he expected there to be “a lot of angry people” as reality proved Camping wrong.

    Another man blew $140,000 of his own savings spreading the good word.

    Now we might be happy to say, “Hey, these gullible idiots got what they deserved”. After all, we’d never follow a doomsday cult and ruin our lives. Only, as — of all places — Cracked pointed out:

    Studies show cult members are just as intelligent, if not more so, than the general public. And around 95 percent of cult members are perfectly sane (when they join up, anyway), with no history at all of real psychological problems. They’re not stupid, and they’re not crazy.

    As social animals we are hard-wired to want to belong to a group. It’s a need as basic and real as hunger or sex. When we get cut off from our group–say we lose a job, or move to a new city, or break up with our girlfriend–we go a little crazy. Cults are very, very good at finding people in that exact moment of weakness, and saying exactly the right things. Those pamphlets that sound so corny and transparent to you, read like a glorious breath of fresh air to somebody caught in one of those rough spots.

    So sure, when we’re in our normal, stable state of affairs we like to imagine ourselves coolly shooting down all of the charismatic cult leader’s stupid-ass claims with the power of pure critical thinking. But remember that the next time you’re drunk dialing your ex-girlfriend in the middle of the night, or stalking her new boyfriend, sneaking into the parking lot where he works and pooping on the hood of his car.

    It’s no accident that televangelists target lonely seniors or that weirdo cults target young people in the early and difficult phases of their careers. In times of stress — and if you hadn’t noticed, our times are pretty stressful even for those of us with families, jobs and houses — there’s comfort in hearing that it all makes sense; that it’s all part of a plan.

    So when I laugh a the rapturists, it’s because it’s the only thing keeping me from punching Harold Camping and his fellows in the face. At best, they are charismatic lunatics who got people to act stupidly. At worst, they’re cynical charlatans who got decent but vulnerable people to turn their lives upside down.

    So no, I’m not prepared to be understanding about this. And I’m not prepared to be understanding about the next End of the World panic — this one coming mostly from the non-religious — about 2012. You can bet that the above stories will be repeated all over again in about 2 years.

    Post-Submission Linkorama

    Saturday, May 21st, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Some round-up of May 21 humor. Best tweets, God’s computer, the weather forecast and, of course, the housing market.
  • France’s national disgrace.
  • Man, I do like me some Sir Charles.
  • It’s OK to be Takei. Brilliant. The best thing you can do with bigots is to make them look foolish.
  • Lenore Skenazy with two more stories to reminds us that we live in a sane society.
  • Political links:

  • This is why HUD should be cancelled. It’s not because building homes is a bad thing; it’s because our government can barely do anything competently.
  • I like Huntsman. I just don’t think this is his time.
  • Weekend Linkorama

    Sunday, May 15th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • A truly fascinating demonstration of the shift in population.
  • And, slowly, we lose the last of the WW1 vets.
  • More of my love of time lapse video.
  • A lovely story about an e-mail scam.
  • Political links:

  • Yer government at work: literally crying overspilt milk.
  • I wonder how the people who hate the Oath Keepers will reconcile this.
  • Remember when the President said he would make decisions based on science? That’s OK, neither does he.
  • The Curse of the Libertarian: you’re always right but no one listens. We said homebuyer tax credits would hurt more than they would help. We were right.
  • For the six thousandth time — we did not profit on the bailout of the automotive industry. Quit claiming we did, media.
  • More Healthcare Lies

    Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

    Sullivan has posted Medical Billing and Coding’s infographic on why our healthcare cost so much. I have rarely seen such a huge a stack of healthcare lies collected in one place.

  • They claim that America’s obesity rate is not driving our healthcare costs, only accounting for $25 billion in spending. If that’s the case, someone needs to tell the CDC, which has estimated obesity to be responsible or at least 10% of our healthcare spending and projects it to eventually cause 20% of our spending. Obesity is a primary risk factor for heart disease, something we spend a lot of money on. Lipitor alone is a $7 billion expense.
  • They claim malpractice isn’t driving healthcare costs, only being responsible for 2% of spending. This ignores defensive medicine. Now I’m aware that Haav-vud has estimated defensive medicine to be a tiny expense. But their lawyer-friendly study is far far too conservative. The Kessler study estimates 10% and I would even say that’s conservative. A huge amount of our healthcare spending is for end of life care and a huge driver of that is the fear of lawsuits. Many procedures and tests that are considered “routine” would not be without lawsuit threats. Additionally, the effect of malpractice is not linear. For hospitals, it’s a small part of the budget. For practicing physicians — especially OB/Gyn’s — it can cost more than the rent on their office.
  • They then say that providers charge more because they can — true enough — because the US government is not involved in price regulation. So Americans have “less power” over healthcare costs. I’m not going to re-open the price control debate again. It’s too complicated for a group this stupid. But I will note that there are other ways for consumers — not “the people” to have power over healthcare costs.
  • They complain that admin costs are 21% of our healthcare bill — twice what other countries spend and that 85% of this is due to private insurance. This tells me that they are buying the lie — and it is a lie — that Medicare’s costs are only a tiny fraction of the private sector. Keep in mind, this is the Medicare that is currently spending 20 cents on the dollar on fraud — a problem that they perversely try to blame on the private sector.
  • They complain that 41% of healthcare costs are for outpatient procedures. But outpatient procedure usually save money. They specifically site the example that 60% of UK hernias are treated inpatient, but only 11% of US hernias are treated inpatient. What?! Treating a hernia — usually not really an optional procedure — is MUCH cheaper done as an outpatient. Outpatient procedures save money. And lots of it.
  • Finally, they say are doctors are overpaid. I’ll leave that talking point for the class.
  • Sullivan should embarrassed to have posted this on his site. It’s quite clear that the people who put this together have an agenda and have resorted to distortions of fact that would make Michael Moore blush. This isn’t adding to the debate. It’s setting it back twenty years.

    Weekend Linkorama

    Sunday, May 8th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • And now … low salt diets are bad for you.
  • I found this article, from Vanity Fair about the Playboy Clubs of the 60′s oddly fascinating, and not just because of my generalized interest in the opposite gender. Doubtless the clubs were bad bad things. They certainly wouldn’t function today — they’d get justifiably eaten by sexual harassment laws. But the 60′s and 70′s were interesting times in terms of sex. Mad Men, to my understanding, mines that particular retro-chic vein very well. The article also reminds me of the near-innocence in the early days of commercialized sex that has been lost as it has become ubiquitous. Hef, at least in the early days, was great at up-marketing porn. The magazine had legitimately great articles (for which they paid a fortune to writers). Early pictorials were far more tasteful and coy than today and the clubs, from the description, played to that aesthetic. Plus, how cool would it have been to see Aretha Franklin give only her second public performance?
  • On the flip side of that, Cracked dissects one of the most disturbing romance/sex writers out there. Egad.
  • And just to round out a gender-conscious linkorama: this comes from the Fanatics Come in All Faiths file. Hillary Clinton has been photoshopped out of a White House picture.
  • Political Links:

  • Egad. Sugar interests vs. corn interests. Who to cheer for?
  • Of the many things our government could be worrying about, why is raw milk even on the list?
  • A touching note on forgiving bin Laden from a 9/11 survivor.
  • Half of Detroit can’t read. The city is spending $13,000 per pupil on their schooling system. Can we maybe admit that money isn’t the limiting factor here?
  • The Dynasty

    Friday, May 6th, 2011

    It’s behind the pay firewall but today Bill James compiled his list of the greatest baseball teams of all time. It’s an impressive effort as he is considered single season performance, multi-year performance, post-season performance and the quality of the team (i.e., was this time comprised of great players or guys just having good years).

    My 1995 Atlanta Braves ranked 3rd, slightly ahead of the Big Red Machine.

    This will, of course, sound ridiculous to anyone who’s not me or Bill James. After all, the Braves of the 90′s only won one world series. But consider the totality of what they did between 1991 and 2005.

  • Won 1431 regular season games and lost 931, a winning percentage of .606 — a 98 win pace. They won 100 games six times.
  • Won 14 division titles and were a wild card when the ’94 strike hit.
  • Won 12 post-season series and lost 13. Between 1991 and 1999, they went 11-7, taking five pennants and one title.
  • Had future Hall of Famers Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Chipper as well as a near-HOFer in Fred McGriff and bona-fide stars in Lemke, Lopez, Galarraga, Justice, Gant and Andruw Jones.
  • Had a future HOF manager.
  • I was there for most of it. I watched every night, I frequently went to Atlanta, I attended World Series games. It was like nothing I had ever seen before or ever will again. We just knew they were going to win. There was an aura about the team that was remarkable. Even if they fell behind in the standings — 10.5 games in 1993 — we knew they would close the gap.

    The reason the Braves are not generally considered one of the greatest teams of all time is because of who is #1 on Bill James’ list — the 1998 Yankees. The Braves, like the great Brooklyn Dodgers before them, had the misfortune to be contemporaries with one of the greatest teams of all time. And they lost twice to them in the World Series including in 1996 when the Braves were clearly the better team.

    People wonder why I hate the Yankees so much as I’m not a big Red Sox guy. 1996 is why. The Braves had blown out the Yankees in two games. And then, with some bad luck and bad ump calls, it fell apart. And it became even worse after since the media swooned over the Yankees, portraying it as a wonderful story that they had won their first title since all the way back in … 1978.

    I’m still bitter about it. It still hurts. And one of the reasons it hurts is because it blinds people to the greatness of those Braves teams. Had they won the ’96 World Series, no one would question their greatness. But because they lost, they don’t get mentioned.

    If only Tim Welke had gotten out of Jermaine Dye’s way…

    Mathematical Malpractice Watch: 10 Billion

    Friday, May 6th, 2011

    Seriously? You think we can project population growth a century in advance? Really? You have Nigeria quintupling in population over the next century. That’s predicting the reproductive habits of people who’s great-grandparents have yet to be born.

    What a load of crap.

    Social scientists simply never learn. Every single population projection we have seen for the last fifty years has been too high. Why should we trust them now?

    Twitter FYI

    Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

    I do most of my political blogging at Right-Thinking, including a lot of stuff on the OBL killing this week. As part of a massive site overhaul, I’ve stared a twitter feed for even more political belchings.

    I don’t have a personal feed. Not sure what I’d do with one since facebook covers any non-political stuff.

    Moorewatch has closed, although the archive is still accessible. This wasn’t for financial reasons or anything. Moore has just become so irrelevant, we decided that maintaining an active site wasn’t worth it.

    Submission Linkorama

    Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • The caption on this says it all.
  • An interesting article on efforts to conserve water in Las Vegas.
  • One day, computers may make it completely unnecessary for me to speak. If one comes out that bring up relevant Simpsons quotes, I’m doomed.
  • Now playgrounds are being ruined by safety hysteria and the unaccountable CPSC.
  • Political Links:

  • It just goes to show you — if it exists, some political asshole will want to outlaw it.