December 31, 2010, 5:07 am
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Finally saw I’m Still Here, and it was pretty good, but more obviously fake than I had expected it to be, given the confusion and ‘controversy’ and ‘is it or isn’t it’ that seemed to surround it at the time. So many scenes just didn’t make sense if you thought them through logically and took them at face value. I didn’t buy the most notorious scene for one second. (But it was funny)

Why did I like it then? I guess I’m just a fan of the fake-documentary in general. So I’m an easy pushover. But it should be said that Joaquin Phoenix did a brilliant job. Although for my money, Mail Order Wife is the all-time masterpiece of the genre. You can watch it on Hulu I believe. And, you should, because it is hilarious.

The fake documentary did make me curious about the real Joaquin Phoenix and got me to thinking about the Phoenixes in general. I know so little about them. What is Rain doing? Etc. The film opens and closes with Joaquin in Panama, at what one gathers is his father’s house. Why does Joaquin Phoenix’s father live in Panama? And why does he dress like a Sandinista nowadays?

The obvious conjecture that suggests itself is that this is an ex-hippy we’re dealing with, and a few clicks on Wiki later, sure enough, Joaquin & River’s parents were members of the Children of God / Family International cult, which is known primarily for its innovative technique of ‘Flirty Fishing’ – having its female members offer sex to try to get recruits/donations. Or, as some courts have charged, running a prostitution ring.

By the way why do so many commune/cult members seem to have turned out actors as their progeny? The Phoenixes, Winona Ryder, Beck the musician is a Scientologist, etc. It almost seems as if actors are the main, if not only, lasting cultural legacy of cults. What is it that cults do exactly that produces good actors? Is it just the child sexual abuse or is there more to it? Were historical actors in e.g. ancient Greece, etc. also generally produced by their equivalent of cults? One wonders.

Then there is the odd fact of Joaquin’s friend and ‘assistant’ Antony, who it appears is his real friend and assistant in real life, but who is also the guitar player for Spacehog. Spacehog were pretty good! What the hell is their guitar player doing being Joaquin Phoenix’s personal assistant? Is that really the way things work in rock/Hollywood? For some reason I find that incredibly depressing. If I dug into things would I find that Blur’s bass player fetches espressos for Jude Law, that the Stone Roses’s drummer shaves between Matt Damon’s eyebrows for him weekly, that the lead singer for Cast orders the escorts for Shia LaBoeuf?

I’m Still Here raised all these questions and more for me. Oh, I guess Casey Affleck & Joaquin wanted to say something about celebrity (or something) too. I’m not sure they did. But did you know that Beck is married to Giovanni Ribisi’s sister? And that they’re Scientologists too? Actually, sort of Scientology royalty (second-generation)? She had a small acting career too – she was the redhead in Dazed And Confused. I thought of all these things and more while watching I’m Still Here. It gave me that sort of time/space. Come to think of it, maybe the film itself wasn’t that great. But Joaquin’s rapping wasn’t that bad either. Kind of a wash really. Maybe the main point of the film is that rap is kinda easy. But at the same time, you walk away with a real respect for P. Diddy and the professionalism he brings to what he does. And so on.

Okay, let’s just say the movie was ‘thought-provoking’ in the literal sense of the term and call it a day. I have no real point here. And in the end, wasn’t that the point?

The Problem of Mutt
December 26, 2010, 9:45 pm
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Had a chance to look at most of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a second time, and got to wondering what exactly made it miss the mark. When I wrote about it before my main complaint was the CGI, and that criticism does hold up. But if I can forgive CGI in fully green-screen film like Sky Captain, I can deal with it in Indy.

I’ve decided the real problem is just Shia LaBeouf. Everything else, on paper, is fine:

The most iffy part is the ‘ancient aliens’ storyline. But this basically worked fine and is pretty consistent with the other Indy movies, all of which featured the cheesy supernatural.

Having the bad guys be the Soviets? Refreshingly fine.

It’s totally fine and, in fact, makes total sense to set the story far later than the others and give Indy a grown kid. Harrison Ford is pushing 70 after all.

The story (therefore) takes place in the late ’50s, so the kid is kind of a rebel, with a leather jacket and switchblade, etc. Ok sure. Totally makes sense.

It’s totally cool that the kid is with Marion Ravenwood, but adventuring Indy didn’t know about him, and I’m totally on board with bringing Karen Black Allen (heh – thanks George!) back.

Even some of the details about the kid: dropped/kicked out of several schools, but highly intelligent, hangs around with the academic set, and also trained in stuff like fencing, but with a disrespect for authority. Yes, yes. That’s Indy’s kid.

And the general notion of grooming Indy’s kid to be the next Indy is totally fine. Indy’s got to pass the torch at some point.

All of that is fine. If you had described all of that, and nothing more, to me I’d have said you had the ingredients of a perfectly workable Indiana Jones movie. Some of the set pieces are pretty good, while others are irritating (and the movie at times is just a string of set pieces), but even that is well within the Indy tradition.

The only real problem I can see is that as Indy’s kid Mutt, the next Indy, the rebel misunderstood greaser to which Indy needs to pass that torch, they cast Shia LaBeouf. Indiana Jones is a swashbuckling adventurer played by the man’s-man actor of our time. Harrison Ford may be a shorty (and, I think, a bit of a weirdo) but he is almost universally beloved as a strong, rugged ugly-handsome hero type, a cowboy with a bit of Bogart in him. And whatever else you may think of him, you just don’t look at Shia LaBeouf and think, “chip off the Indy block” or “the next Harrison Ford”. You think, “Disney Channel superstar”. And that’s a problem.

Why exactly did they do this?

I’m not even anti-Shia, as such. I think he’s fine for the role he plays in those Transformer movies, for example, because he’s supposed to be a dweeby, overlooked everykid. But for Indy, Jr.? Seriously, what were they thinking?

Does Steven Spielberg like Shia LaBeouf because he sees in him a younger, cooler version of himself, or something? Because that’s the only explanation I can think of.

December 26, 2010, 3:49 pm
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Another bah-humbug thought that won’t ever win me any popularity contests is that the existence and continued production/popularity of “jewelry”, which just offends my intelligence. Imagine: vast amounts of capital is utterly wasted digging up/honing little rocks, and shaping melted metals, to put on women’s, like, fingers and ears. These things by definition and construction serve no actual purpose whatsoever, and cost vast amounts of money at least when compared to their size and usefulness. Yet women – in what, as far as I’m concerned is the most challenging and serious paradox for anyone who believes in the equality of the sexes – actually demand these completely-useless things. All the time, and throughout their lives.

The standard explanation is that they believe (or at least act as if they believe) that “jewelry” – i.e., shiny rocks – can make them more beautiful. Which is to say, I guess, that an ugly woman with jewelry on can be no longer ugly, or that a beautiful woman with jewelry on somehow gets beautifuler. Now, as far as I can tell this is not a conclusion that has been drawn by actually asking men what they thought. It seems to have been decided amongst women themselves. But men do pretend to believe it too (indeed some may do so in the comments) – usually because they have to, or think they have to, in order to get women.

No one has an interest in admitting the truth (which is that jewelry is essentially a signalling/superiority strategy directed at other women – “look at what I got this dumb-ass man to waste his money on, just by me being me; it’s shiny so you can’t avoid looking at it; now I am superior to you”). Women of course will never admit that this is why they want to have jewelry even though there is no other rational reason for it (and even they can’t be so dumb as to believe that the difference between them being beautiful and not, them getting a man and not, is having some shiny rocks on their bodies). Meanwhile, men have no interest in admitting they are so dumb (and desperate to get into her pants) that they fall for the whole thing – so they fall right into line and play-act the way the de Beers commercials teach them to. So you end up with a stable, neverending arms race of jewelry buying. The result is, of course, by definition a complete deadweight loss to society.

Women are supposed to be the kinder, more caring and sensitive sex. They support social programs up the wazoo. They care! Yet at the same time, in reality they demand that vast, vast expenditures be spent in Third World countries on gathering and making shiny objects. Without this STUPID preference on this USELESS expenditure, society would be significantly wealthier. Literally: less people would go cold, or hungry, or starve. Maybe that’s why I always appreciated this Sarah Silverman sketch so much – it basically says it all:

Ho Ho Ho
December 25, 2010, 6:11 pm
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Merry Christmas to all.

But this still seems relevant.

I mean it: if I could sign bilateral mutual disgiftament pacts with the various adults around me without causing social ostracism, I would do it in a heartbeat. I was thinking how it could actually be done logistically: someone sets up a centralized website where you create an account, with basically just your name and location, and you list the various adults with whom you’d be interested and prepared to sign disgiftament treaties. Now, they don’t know they’re on your no-gift list unless/until they list you too (or already had) – so, no ostracism, no shame. But if they DO list you too, you are both notified, and both should be happy about this, thus the disgiftament treaty is immediately and permanently triggered, to be enforced by The Honor System. From there on all that remains is to publicize the website, to make sure everyone’s aware of it. Once it catches on I think it could go viral. The boost to our economy (from removing a sizable chunk of the deadweight loss that gifts represent) would be not insignificant.

Because everything I say/write tends to be glazed over with sarcasm (even when not intentional), let me just make this as clear as possible: I actually, sincerely think this is a decent idea for a website. In fact, it may be the best idea I have ever had in terms of how it would help humanity. Again: not being sarcastic!

As an alternative, perhaps a Standard Alternative Gift Tax – a yearly flat fee that one could commit to paying other adults in lieu of the various asinine birthday/holiday gift obligations we now have. If it were reasonable, say $100-300 range, I’d switch over to the SAGT track for many people. Of course, if two adults are on the SAGT with each other, you just cancel them and it becomes de facto mutual disgiftament. Beautiful.

Either way, whether we go with the Disgiftmanet or the SAGT, Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho!

My Bias For Inaction
December 24, 2010, 3:57 pm
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Some folks have a bee in their bonnet about the filibuster & have been agitating to get rid of it for a while now. (Except, of course, when it was used by Senate Democrats to block George W. Bush’s judicial appointments – in which case it was a key cornerstone of the Republic.)

I guess I can understand the intellectual arguments on both sides, but (as often happens) what I can’t understand is the passion. What drives a person to feel so strongly about the supposed need to get rid of the filibuster that they blog about it endlessly? I mean, even if my position (which, I’m not even sure I have one) were to get rid of the filibuster, I still wouldn’t care.

At face value, one can only interpret such caring to indicate that the carers passionately want the Senate to be constantly doing stuff. If the Senate isn’t doing stuff, or is thwarted from doing as much stuff as a majority of it seemingly would like to, that’s something akin to a tragedy and certain people just can’t abide it. Why, the Senate could be doing more stuff – writing more laws and regulations, handing out more pork and earmarks – and it’s not! Ipso facto, reform is needed – say some people.

It’s similar to the left’s approach to treaties. ‘It’s a treaty! I haven’t looked into it too deeply but we should probably sign it! Why are you against it? What are you, just against all treaties?’

Theirs is a bias for action, or (at minimum) for a stance according to which ‘action’ and ‘non-action’ start out on an equal footing, and in each opportunity for an ‘action’ you need the argument for non-action to outweigh the argument for action. Otherwise, they’re for action!

It’s difficult to convey just how alien a point of view this all is from mine. I guess it’s fair to say I have a bias for inaction. All other things being equal, and lacking other information or highly compelling reasons to the contrary, my default answer to ‘should we do it?’ is No. I certainly don’t feel any strong compulsion to try to make the Senate able to do more stuff daily nor does its current (supposedly too low) rate of doing stuff make me feel sad, incomplete, or unsettled. In the most fundamental way possible, this is all just a statement of the fact that I am conservative.

So maybe I am extreme. But the opposite point of view seems extreme as well. Whatever you think about this or that Senate, or this or that issue, the notion that the United States needs the Senate to be constantly doing stuff strikes me as pathologically bizarre and disconnected from reality. As if our lives couldn’t continue if the Senate stopped doing stuff! This bespeaks a mindset that seems a little too steeped in bureaucratic thinking. Like a middle manager who thinks their PowerPoints are so important, there’s a class of politically-agitated folk which sees our DC masters as something akin to the engine or heartbeat of our country – if they are ‘paralyzed’, if they stop, we all stop. That’s why filibuster reform is so important!

My inclination is to assert that no one with (simultaneously) a real life, a real job, a real background, a real family, real responsibilities, and real experiences could possibly think this way. But I guess, by the same token, I do understand why DC elites, various classes of self-anointed intelligentsia, and the wunderkind bloggy commentariat think this way.

The Rorschach Logo
December 23, 2010, 9:31 pm
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Most of you will recognize this logo, the beloved eagle of the U.S. Postal Service:

Now, I’ve just spent several hours using my deft computer-artistry skills to highlight how, I gather, we’re supposed to visually parse this image. I have colored the eyes blue, the beak yellow, the wings brown, and the talons orangeish. Et voila le result:

Hopefully, if you’re sane, this is how you already saw it. But me? I never saw an eagle at all. Instead – well into my tweens – I always saw a strange, little, badly-drawn mailman with a hat, striking an odd pose & doing a sort of kick with his obscured right leg, holding what I now think must be a napkin draped over one arm, and ceremoniously presenting a letter to the viewer (is he a mailman or a waiter?) with the other. Something a little bit like this:

I always wondered why the U.S. Postal Service saw this as a good logo, thought mailmen would ever stand this way (and I could never quite parse how he was meant to be standing), and why they didn’t know what their own hats looked like.

But, I just understood it to be a highly-stylized impression of a mailman, something like an example of (what I might have later learned to call) cubism or futurism or somesuch, and just figured I had a lot to learn about the basis for and background of the U.S. Postal Service logo. Great mysteries awaited me, and that was ok.

This Isn’t A Real Blog Post
December 23, 2010, 12:28 am
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And these aren’t real thoughts….

Kids in a certain age-range seem to crave sugars & starches (and absolutely nothing else) so much that maybe we should just listen to them. Maybe 4-12 year old kids just need a crapload of sugar and starch, biologically (and not only that but if there’s any ‘green stuff’ on or mixed in with or even near the rice, or noodles – or any kind of non-cheese-based sauce near it at all – this destroys the starchy nutritional value their young bodies need). And maybe by resisting all this and trying to heartlessly force e.g. vegetables, etc. on them we’re inadvertently causing a national epidemic of sugar-starvation. Why aren’t we listening to the evolutionary signals our kids are trying to send us? I’m actually kinda starting to talk myself into feeling bad about it.

You know how you can either buy like brand-name cereals, or generic knock-off versions that cost half or 1/3rd or 1/4th as much? I noticed that the knock-offs don’t have cool stuff (cartoons, games, etc.) splashed all over the box (if they even have a box – often they’re in bags). And I miss all that stuff. There’s nothing to read/play while you eat! You think they have like expert comic-book authors and game-creators on staff, to create those things? Maybe that’s what you’re actually paying for when you buy the brand-name cereals. And, indeed, maybe they’re actually a good value – and the knockoffs are a ripoff – when you factor that in. Have we all been duped by Big Generic?

The politics of marijuana legalization are strange to ponder, because often the same people who want to demonize, regulate, propagandize against cigarettes – but of course, tax them and use those taxes as crucial funding! – are the ones who want to legalize marijuana. But it’s not like marijuana cigarettes (“doobies” or “joints” in the vernacular, I hear tell) are somehow wholesomey-good for your lungs, or that the arguments used against tobacco cigarettes somehow magically don’t apply to marijuana cigarettes. So what’s going to happen when the latter are legalized? Is the idea to legalize-and-then-demonize? Maybe there’s just a dual morality at play in peoples’ minds: cigarettes are evil precisely because they’re legal, whereas marijuana gets a pass cuz it’s not? But then what happens when it is? Or will (in a legalized scenario) Big Marijuana get a pass because (we all assume) its kingpins won’t generally be easily-despisable fat bald white men from North Carolina, but rather, Birkenstock-wearing balding-up-top-yet-gray-ponytail-sporting sensitive NPR-listening hippy types from Reading, California, and we don’t mind them getting rich? (At least, I think we don’t. That’s what it seems like.)

By now everyone has noticed that their supermarket chain wants to track all the food purchases you make. You either have a card or use your phone number and get little pseudo-discounts for letting them do it, and this helps them do data-mining. Fair enough, I suppose, but I wonder if/when the supermarkets (or whatever consulting firms they outsource the analysis to) will start to realize that the data they get just might be polluted by a load of crap? It’s not like a huge amount of security or quality control is applied to this ID tracking involved. You can just borrow someone’s card, or give them any old phone number (your wife’s, friend’s, etc); actually I often get the impression that the cashier would be perfectly willing to just let you use their phone number if it’ll get you the discounts and make you happy. I even think I’ve had it happen. So suddenly a purchase history full of maxipads, pre-made sushi and organic-everything is buying up cheese puffs, beef jerky and a 12-pack of Cup O’Noodles. Ha! Let’s see your algorithms deal with that, oh so clever ‘data miners’! Don’t like it?, well maybe you should never have left the cushy confines of that Operations Research graduate-school program! This is the real world!

So yeah, seriously, you shouldn’t have read any of that. You just lost a few minutes of your life you’ll never get back,

Sonic’s 2010: The Year In Rock (And Roll)
December 22, 2010, 9:48 pm
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Boy, 2010 was a great year for the Rock And Roll music. Based on all the great music I listened to in this great year, here’s my best-of list for Rock And Roll in 2010*:

  • Badfinger, No Dice
  • Redd Kross, Show World
  • Gary Louris, Vagabonds
  • The Dickies, Stukas Over Disneyland
  • The Shangri-Las, The Complete Collection
  • Pulp, Different Class
  • Squeeze, Argybargy
  • Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Greatest Hits
  • Easybeats, The Definitive Anthology
  • TV Eyes, TV Eyes
  • Tim Rogers, The Luxury Of Hysteria
  • Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown

*Due to inevitable delays between record-release timing, Sonic Charmer’s backlog of review-copy albums to listen to, and the perils of blog-post deadlines, it is possible that at least some of these albums were officially released prior to 2010.

*UPDATE: After further review, all of them were. The blog-author hastens to add however that since (as my hasty, superficial and crotchety survey revealed) literally no good new Rock And Roll music of note was released in calendar-year 2010, the substance of the above post remains essentially correct, thus a retraction is neither warranted nor proferred. Happy Rockin’ Holidays!

Facts And Science And Argument
December 22, 2010, 4:18 pm
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  • Eratosthenes on a repeal amendment. Silly him, doesn’t he realize that ‘progress’ is a one-way ratchet?
  • Charles Rowley on the Federal Reserve.
  • zbicyclist on how to make banks small enough to fail.
  • tjic on getting things done. The post looks like it may have some promising ideas in it, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it all.
  • Robin Hanson is still going on and on about this ‘forager’ hypothesis he’s trying to shoehorn everything into. And, I still don’t get it.
  • Eric Falkenstein demolishes Taleb. Like catnip to me.
  • Joseph Dantes has an interesting theory that one of the keys to happiness may be contempt for others. But of course, Joseph Dantes is a pitiable person and in every respect is way beneath me so he can’t possibly be right. On an unrelated note, suddenly I feel very content and happy!
  • Although I can understand the frustration of which it was borne, I actually did not like this response by Professor Mondo to a grade-grubber. HT mkfreeberg
  • Russ Roberts, What’s Wrong With Keynes. Worth a read, but do we really need to delve so deeply into it? One may as well be asking in 2010: What’s wrong with phlogiston? What’s wrong with the luminiferous ether? What’s wrong with phrenology? The main thing that’s wrong with ‘Keynesianism’ is that (unlike these others) it’s still with us.
  • Whiskey on The George Clooney effect.
  • Arnold Kling on FDR and elevation of group status.
  • I really like and fully endorse tjic’s notion of how pardons should be dealt with:

    …freeing a man from wrongful imprisonment by the state would be a high ritual: as soon as the pardon or appeal was read, trumpets would sound, cops would halt traffic so that the the governor and his retinue could march directly from the court house to the jail, ceremonial sledgehammers with carved ironwood handles would be used to break the hinges off the cage, the free man would be draped in a [....]

    Go over there and read it all.

  • John Papola (via David Henderson):
    Why in the world do behavioral economists who study our flaws and irrational quirks advocate centralized power in the hands of a small group of flawed overlords? If people are irrational, so are government regulators, only they have corrupting monopoly power.

    Isn’t the answer obvious? We may be flawed, but they aren’t – and they see themselves as the overlords-in-waiting.

You Had Them At Weaken
December 22, 2010, 2:01 pm
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I saw a leftist commentator (don’t remember who) make the point somewhere that it seems as if Republicans are against the START treaty because they’re simply against all treaties full stop. I think he may have a point. (Note: beyond the vague generalities I can guess at, I really have no idea what’s in the START treaty.)

It might be a more salient point, however, if it weren’t equally apparent that the left is pretty much in favor of the START treaty solely because it’s a treaty. That is: it’s some sort of Serious Document, which was presumably cooked up by some experts somewhere, if the United States signs it she’ll presumably have to do a bunch of stuff, and get rid of some weapons, and employ a bunch of expert bureaucrats in the process (for verification, and writing up docs, making reports, etc.) – and the left automatically likes all of those things, regardless of the treaty’s actual details. In fact you pretty much had the left at ‘the United States gets rid of some weapons’. Didn’t you?

You don’t have to be hugely observant to notice that on any treaty such as this, the left is constitutionally far more interested in constraining the United States from doing things, than in what happens in or is done by the co-signer of the treaty – whether it comes to verification, or realist assessments of the co-signer governments, the left is distinctly uninterested in the treaty’s actual effects – on anyone other than the United States, that is. If the United States signs the treaty, and abides by it, and Russia cheats like holy hell – my sincere and honest impression is that the left would take this as a perfectly desirable outcome.

With such values it’s no wonder that all the left needs to know is ‘it’s a treaty’ before favoring a treaty. This is why my favorite question about all such documents that the left forms strong opinions about is what’s your favorite part of it? But go ahead, prove me wrong, do tell, if you’re passionately in favor of us signing the START treaty, and think that only cretins could oppose it, let me know what your favorite part of it is, so that I may evaluate the basis for your passion myself. (Thanks in advance.)

Meanwhile, let me push back and give my two-cheers for conservative/Republican anti-treatyism. Because personally I find myself anti-treatyist too, and I think I have a rational basis for this reactionary stance: namely, it’s the only healthy response to a left which is promiscuously in favor of any/all treaties regardless of details.

If you have a little slutty sister who brings home any guy with tattoos and a motorcycle, all of whom beat her up, do you really need to investigate Guy #71 in full depth and detail in order to know that her getting involved with him is probably as bad an idea as Guys #1-70? At what point does it become not only defensible but rational to say, about your sister’s choice in guys, ‘if she’s for him, he’s probably a bad idea’? If no discriminating filter is in evidence, and no standards whatsoever seem to be applied, reactionary resistance can become the only sane option.

A rebuttal to this would consist of establishing that this time, the sister has chosen the guy on the basis of careful, deliberate consideration, taking the choice and its ramifications seriously, and weighing objectively some rationally-defensible standards and values of some sort. But, alas, I see no evidence of this whatsoever on the left; all I see is a Pavlovian salivating response to the word ‘treaty’ (a treaty very few of these lefties were talking about or presumably had even heard of two months ago) and to the generic concept of weakening the United States. It’s quite clear to me that, to many if not most lefties, ‘weakening the United States’ is all they need to know. About anything, really. And to me, that doesn’t betray a huge amount of taste or discrimination in treaties – thus merits no deference.

Again, though, I am prepared and perfectly willing to be proved wrong. It just hasn’t happened yet.

In Defense of “Children’s Books”
December 21, 2010, 5:11 pm
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One of the more irritating tics that Smart People have is, once they decide they hate someone, they feel the need to criticize that person for everything he/she does or doesn’t do, on every front, at every conceivable opportunity. It’s the equivalent of the bratty, precocious but ignorant and ignorant-of-his-ignorance 11-year-old who just discovered talking-back to his parents and now suddenly always has to have the last word of an argument, even when he knows he’s lost. And ultimately, it traces to insecurity: at some point you have to ask yourself, what are their self-doubts that make them feel the need to do this?

Not a day goes by that I don’t see some news headline or opinion piece about Sarah Palin that takes the form of a ‘riposte’ or ‘debunking’ of something Sarah Palin did, said, didn’t say, thought, ate, wore, read, rode, etc., etc., etc. Hey um Palin critics: I get that you don’t like Palin. I really do. And it’s not like there can’t be valid reasons to not prefer Sarah Palin to be the next U.S. President. But please, get a fucking life, for pete’s sake. Not EVERYTHING that you see Palin, or a relative of Palin, or someone who doesn’t openly hate Palin, do or say needs to be immediately and tirelessly ‘debunked’ or answered or researched or critiqued. Especially since (according to you) she’s so ‘stupid’! How can such an easily-dismissable ‘stupid’ person simultaneously inspire such diligent reactionary panic and the need to spend hours and hours ‘fact-checking’, researching, and writing counterattacks and counterarguments?

Seriously: are you THAT fucking insecure?

The latest example comes from (noted Smart Person – hell, let’s face it, one of our most cherished Public Intellectuals) Joy Behar who, whatever else she is or was – and I really have no idea who she is or where she came from – is primarily known to the public as a longtime host Woman-Who-Sits-In-One-Of-The-Chairs-And-Gabs on that TV show “The View” that, for some reason, is still on the air. You gotta hand it to Smart women: they are so damn Smart that when it comes to opinions they all share “The” exact same View. When the opinions of tens of millions of individuals can be neatly summarized – with not only nary a protest from any of them, but instead with only a chorus of knowing nodding head-tilts and predictably-periodic trained-seal clapping – as “The” View, well hot damn, you just know you’re in the presence of The Smart!

Anyway, apparently Palin (who in totally serious journalistic inquiries is still being asked important questions such as what books she reads) cited C.S. Lewis as an author she liked, and Behar high-mindedly belittled her because they are “children’s books”. Palin defenders (such as at that Powerline post) are taking up the mantle by pointing out Lewis’s more adult work such as Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters, but I’d like to hold the line a little further up the hill here:

The best “children’s books” are some of the best literature, and if you disagree, you are just a fucking illiterate MORON.

The Chronicles of Narnia series need not apologize for itself nor hide behind Mere Christianity. It is perfectly good and valid literature in its own right. You don’t think so? Pray tell, what else are you an ignorant, pedestrian ass about?

I say this as someone with ‘Smart’ credentials up the wazoo. Unlike Behar, I have a PhD, I have done postdoctoral research, I have written more Peer-Reviewed Academic Articles ™ than dumb broads like Joy Behar and those who agree with her and undoubtedly went “wooo!” and clapped at her dumb-ass “children’s books” comment do or ever will. So let me turn the tables and ask them to defend their dumb-ass position:

What the hell is wrong with “children’s books”? Are you so dumb that you can’t see their value, their legitimacy, as literature? Why are you so dumb then, the question becomes? In fact, scratch the other questions – this is my only real question – why are you so dumb? Let me know,

Footnote: Some of the “children’s books” and/or “young adult” books I have read (in many/most of these cases, re-read, obviously) in the near or somewhat recent past:

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

various by Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War, Tenderness, I Am The Cheese, After The First Death, etc., etc.)

Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater

King Dork & Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman

Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

various Dr. Seuss (Lorax, Horton Hears a Who which I practically had memorized at one point, etc)

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

various/all Salinger

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (does this count?)

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

and, in fact, I did read pretty recently:

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

(And many more I’m probably forgetting, or could add to the list if I extended the timeframe…)

Not all of these are great literature or cited as examples of same. They are just things I happened to read, among other (non-“children’s”) books I happened to read. So the hell what? In any case, none of these, I submit, are any worse or of lesser value than that ridiculous The Girl With.. series y’all are so obsessed with and spontaneously decided to all start reading simultaneously like lemmings. Further, some of these examples only serve to raise a new question: what are “children’s books” exactly? What precisely is the important distinction between “children’s” books and those that aren’t? Is there one? Is it a ‘smart’ one or a dumb one (like, ‘books with/about children as characters’)?

In any event, guess what. I apologize for precisely none of it. I am ‘embarrassed’ about and feel the need to defend, hide from, or make excuses for exactly 0% of this list or anything else I’ve been reading or haven’t been reading. My answer for someone who would point out these are “children’s books” is: And? So? Your point? If you have one?

But go ahead, do tell, Smart People, what is your haughty Smart objective reason for dismissing “children’s books” and readers of “children’s books” exactly? If there is one. Because I deny there is one. But there sure are plenty of dumb reasons. Reasons that I guess make sense – if you’re a dumb-ass dummy. Like Joy Behar.

Sonic’s Guide to 2010 in FILM
December 21, 2010, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Roger Ebert’s 10-best of 2010 is out, and there’s exactly one film on it that I have actually seen (Inception), which was not a good movie.

But this reminded me of my longstanding bloggy tradition (going back even to other fake personalities besides this one) to list the Best Films Of The Year (That I Have Seen). So without further ado, and with a little help from IMDB’s advanced-search feature, here’s the list for 2010:

Best Films Of 2010 (That I Have Seen)

Let’s just go ahead and list all of them. Ordering – best to worst.

  1. Toy Story 3 – Fantastic.
  2. How To Train Your Dragon – Surprisingly good.
  3. Kick-Ass – I keep saying I’m not a fan of comic-book movies, and then I keep liking them. (See also, Iron Man 2)
  4. Tangled – A not-bad-at-all and sometimes-very-nice Disney CGI cartoon.
  5. Iron Man 2 – (See also, Kick-Ass)
  6. The Book Of Eli – Kinda works but basically feels like a made-for-Sci-Fi-channel TV movie.
  7. Alice In Wonderland – Ok but forgettable.
  8. The Runaways – A mixed bag.
  9. The Crazies – Don’t remember why I watched this neo-zombies movie. Maybe because of Timothy Olyphant from Deadwood & Justified. But it was actually ok.
  10. Shutter Island – Whatever. I am tired of Martin Scorsese movies with Leo Dicaprio.
  11. Inception – Not great.
  12. The Expendables – Disappointingly bad.

Hmm, that took longer than I figured, when I started it I expected it to be like 4 movies. Looking at the above here’s a simple algorithm for figuring out whether I’ve seen a movie – just decide whether the answer to any of these is ‘yes':

Is it a CGI kids’ cartoon? Is it a comic-book adaptation? Is it a rock biopic? Does it have Stallone, Denzel, Olyphant, or someone else manly? Or (conversely) does it have Leonardo DiCaprio?

I think that covers it.

Why I Violate The Principle of Charity
December 21, 2010, 3:31 am
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One of the reasons I will not win any debating society-sponsored events in political debates is that I fundamentally do not abide one of the first rules of debate: presume that your opponent is sincere. I fundamentally do not believe that most left-wing commentators are sincere in what they say. I believe that deep down they are interested in point-scoring, victory, and (ultimately) power – and nothing else. Certainly not the truth.

For example, take the debate over the Obama health care mandate, and its constitutionality or lack thereof. An Obamacare supporter will inevitably say that it’s constitutional because of the commerce clause. I do not believe for one fucking second that anyone in their right mind with an ounce of intelligence sincerely believes this. So, I am literally unable to carry on a civil conversation with someone who puts forth this (patently disingenuous) argument as their own view. I just can’t. I can drop the subject, or I can tell them what I think of their fucking disingenuity, but I can’t pretend to believe that intelligent people can believe the modern interpretation of the commerce clause.

For example here’s Josh “hey what happened to Micah?” Marshall:

A year ago, no one took seriously the idea that a federal health care mandate was unconstitutional. And the idea that buying health care coverage does not amount to “economic activity” seems preposterous on its face.

Josh’s implication is that because buying-or-not-buying-health-insurance is ‘economic activity’, this means Obamacare falls under the commerce clause. And this is an argument that Josh wants us to think he actually believes. The problem is, I simply don’t. I don’t believe he actually believes that. I don’t believe he’s actually that stupid. I take the (more charitable, slightly) view that he simply wants Obamacare to happen and therefore is selecting/constructing arguments he thinks will maximize the chances of that outcome. Because I don’t think he is sincere in the resulting postures and verbal techniques he puts forth, actual discussion and engagement with those assertions is pointless. Should I put comments under his post? Should take his post seriously at face value on my own blog and respond to it? Should I engage his views as if they were meant literally and proferred sincerely? Obviously not because I don’t believe they were. I believe he doesn’t believe them. They are not statements of sincere views, but mere parries, maneuvers and jousts in the neverending Struggle he evidently seems himself engaged in (to get things like Obamacare to happen). The only appropriate response from me is silence, and not to take him at all seriously (which I don’t) or waste my time on him (which, alas, I just did).

A similar response is warranted when confronted with this argument made by Matthew Yglesias (2010) to the effect that even though (D)s passed Obamacare in part by claiming it wasn’t a tax, in fact that was all just wink-wink rhetoric, because (psyche!) it is a tax, therefore it’s perfectly within Congress’s taxation power:

Raising taxes is unpopular, so conservatives accused the mandate of being a de facto tax increase. Liberals pushed back against this criticism to pass the law. But now that it’s passed, they’re admitting that basically the fine is the same as a tax. [...] But what’s the legal force of this supposed to be? Political rhetoric isn’t unconstitutional. The point is that the government’s taxation powers give congress the authority to force people to pay money contingent on various kinds of behavior.

Now again, should I take this argument seriously, and confront it, and try to argue with it? The problem with that is, how do I know he even means it? After all, I’m pretty sure that had I engaged Matthew Yglesias a year ago on the mandate being a tax, he’d have argued vehemently that it wasn’t. Indeed, here’s Matthew Yglesias (2009) implying that he thought the mandate wasn’t a tax:

I can just note that we generally speak the English language in the United States and we’ve never previously taken the word “tax” to include all regulations that increase some people’s costs of buying stuff. Nobody says, for example, that a minimum parking regulation on new development is “really” a tax on non-drivers or that the Americans With Disabilities Act is “really” a tax on people who aren’t in wheelchairs.

So did Matthew Yglesias sincerely mean what he said then and he’s a fucking disingenuous little Machiavellian liar prick now? Or is he being sincere now but he was a fucking disingenuous little Machiavallian liar prick then? Hey you know something. I don’t fucking care. Either way the resulting ‘commentary’ merits no respect whatsoever, at any time – and the ironic part is, he admits as much, by making it a central core of his (more recent) argument that (D) rhetoric is nothing more than Machiavellian posturing and lying.

Okay, Matthew Yglesias, good point. Leftist commentators are continuously engaging in calculatedly strategic, disingenuous political rhetoric at all times, and therefore can never be called to account for the things that they said at any given time. I would only add that since we all now (finally!) seem to agree that’s the case, it’s perfectly fair game for me to point that out.

Sonic’s Razor
December 21, 2010, 1:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Like countless other standard blogger topics I haven’t blogged about, we here on the staff of Rhymes With Cars & Girls have yet to give voice to our (important, and weighty) opinion as regards the “DREAM Act”. I would like to remedy that here.

That’s going to be a bit of a sticky wicket however seeing as how I haven’t even the foggiest notion as to what the “DREAM Act” is. Let me use Sonic’s Razor then and simply make note of the fact that the “DREAM Act” is, I gather, some sort of legislative proposal before Congress that is being referred to by an acronym that is also a word. Therefore, it’s obviously bad (whatever the hell it is), and all right-minded folk should oppose it, as is the case for ALL proposals people refer to by acronyms that are also words.

Christmas Medley
December 20, 2010, 6:14 pm
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by Hanson

p.s. Hanson are great.

p.p.s. Don’t you ever, ever, ever reveal to anyone that I like Hanson. I would never live it down at all the cool peoples’ hangouts that I frequent.

No Love For Fountain
December 20, 2010, 5:13 pm
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So it’s been decided, by hip wealthy New York Smart People in co-ops presumably, that Darren Aronofsky is One Of Our Best Directors. Like, much better than (say) Brett Ratner, just to name at random someone who is considered a total hack but has actually made more movies I like than has Darren Aronofsky (to wit: The Family Man, After The Sunset).

Now, surprisingly I just didn’t like Pi that much, I have no desire to see nor can even understand why anyone would want to see Requiem for a Dream, the subject matter of The Wrestler holds no interest for me (nor does the ‘let’s all spontaneously decide Mickey Rourke is a great actor again’ received Smart wisdom), and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go and watch Natalie fricking Portman in some ballet movie.

Am I really the only person in the world who thinks Darren Aronofsky’s best and most awesome movie was The Fountain? All the same people who anointed Aronofsky a great movie director are totally down on The Fountain. It’s just messed up.

What Is Steel Compared To The Hand That Wields It?

So I was watching Conan The Barbarian – FOR THE FIRST TIME! – and, in addition to being blown away by its complete and total awesomeness, had a random (and dumb) thought about its political subtext.


Conan is up against a sort of peace-love-death cult led by Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) that seems to be a John Milius-cooked-up allegory either for ’60s movements in general or (more likely) ’70s cults such as Jim Jones. As if to drive home the point, when trying to infiltrate Doom’s castle, Conan encounters and hides among a bunch of flower-toting hippys making a pilgrimage to Doom’s temple (where they will presumably either commit mass suicide or go out suicide-terrorizing on his behalf). Doom is a charismatic, articulate, determined and seductive leader (at the beginning of the film he appears to mesmerize Conan’s mother with a look, getting her to drop her sword, before beheading her). And he waxes on and on about the power that flows from being able to control people, as opposed to the mere steel that is Conan’s domain; he repeatedly asserts that Conan owes his existence to Doom, because Doom’s actions are what gave Conan’s life purpose.

So naturally, I had the thought that Thulsa Doom is Barack Obama.

Well scratch that. I didn’t really have that thought itself, not directly. If I had, and could articulate/defend it (which I can’t), that may have been actually bloggable, but I almost immediately realized that it wasn’t because (a) that’s completely dumb and pedestrian, there are a zillion and one ways that Barack Obama really isn’t like Thulsa Doom at all, and it’s not even obvious it’s the kind of thing that would occur to anyone if he hadn’t been played by a black actor, and (b) it probably wasn’t anything resembling an original thought anyway.

Because, to be more precise, the thought I actually had was that someone on the internet has probably compared Thulsa Doom to Barack Obama.

A quick Google search (I won’t dignify with links – as I said, it’s just a dumb thought) will easily reveal this to be the case.

So the real thought I then had, and the point of this post, was that the internet may be sapping my ability to have original thoughts (or at least to have thoughts that I can plausibly think may be original), while at the same time honing my ability to predict thoughts that others out there are likely to have. The ultimate endpoint of this trend seems to be that I will no longer have any individual thoughts whatsoever, but at the same time on every issue I instantly and almost instinctively know what my fellow man is thinking, and how they will react.

And that’s when I’ll be able to control them. Ha, ha, ha.


With Friends Like These
December 19, 2010, 10:47 pm
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Further thought to the weirdness underlying the politics of DADT:

We have now, in recent times, seen that the two primary civil-rights issues proclaimed loudly by self-anointed defenders of homosexuals are that we should all:

  1. Let them put on uniforms and be sent to godforsaken deserts to stand in the way of whistling bullets, exploding IEDs, and descending missiles for us.
  2. Let them get married.

For God’s sake. Let up on the poor homosexuals!

The Meaning Of Repeal
December 19, 2010, 10:42 pm
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Thank goodness Congress has finally repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. What a horrible policy, and a curse upon the horrible evil right-wing administration and Congress which enacted it.

Now, with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed, “Ask And Tell” is back in place (I assume). That is, we can once again actively keep those homosexuals out of the military (I assume). Awesome!

Why Streak?
December 19, 2010, 8:57 pm
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On the general theory that (after a certain age) female beauty and styling efforts are aimed at creating the illusion of youth, ‘streaks’ or ‘highlights’ or ‘frosting’ in hair present a puzzle. I understand simply coloring (fully) one’s hair, either a youthful color (i.e. blonde) or just to cover up gray hair. Similarly, makeup and beauty creams can be understood as, in part, an effort to hide wrinkles and other signs of aging. And both of those can actually work.

But what of these streaks/highlights (not sure what to call them – let’s just use ‘streaks’) that women have started introducing in the past 10-15 years? What do they think they’re doing? No such thing is found in nature, hence any woman with streaks is making it fully apparent that her hair’s coloring is the result of chemicals. You can’t get tricked by streaks into thinking that’s naturally youthful hair, since streaks are not natural. So it’s not possible, not even in principle, for streaks to create an illusion of youth, except perhaps at a distance/first glance (before the phoniness of the coloring becomes non-ignorable). Instead, they are a reminder of age.

Let’s say I’m trying to estimate a woman’s age, and by my estimates, from her looks, I figure she’s between X on the low end and Y on the high end. The age-range she can pull off is [X,Y]. If her coiffing/etc. are particularly good, maybe she can trick me into thinking her age is closer to X. If she is of average styling, I’ll probably guess somewhere in the middle, (X+Y)/2. But, if my a priori estimate would be that she’s between X and Y, and I see streaks in her hair, I’m instinctively going to increase my estimate and guess that she’s closer to Y years old. Because no one who was on the young end of her [X,Y] apparent age-range would have put streaks in her hair in the first place.

So basically, streaks/highlights in hair serve almost the opposite function of most other beauty aids: they make an aging woman seem objectively older than she otherwise might. They pin a woman’s age to the high end of her pull-off’able age-range. At least to me. Now obviously, I’m not the target of most such efforts, so women can say ‘we don’t care what you think’. Ok fine. Just saying.


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