Great Writer Trivia
July 31, 2010, 10:20 pm
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Q: What great writer dropped this piece of wisdom?

Like a snake shedding his skin after each shedding the project gets stronger and more vital. That old saying is so true: Writers don’t write, they rewrite. I’ve never been hung up on perfection the first time around. I leave that to the geniuses. I’d rather write with fiery exuberance rather than cold logic. That can come later.

A: Sylvester Stallone.

UPDATE: Just to clarify – because it’s often unclear, I know – I’m not being sarcastic in the slightest with this post. Also, please note that AICN has posted not one but five pages of Q&A with Stallone at that site. I have read them all and it was well worth it.

UPDATE 2: Because I can’t resist – more highlights.

On things happening for a reason and the casting of Talia Shire:

I think things happen for a reason or it’s a wonderful ‘disaster’ that turns out for the best. For example, the first four women chosen for ROCKY were Cher, Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon and Carrie Snodgress, who all passed. This left the door literally open for Talia Shire, who walked in at 8PM just days before filming and secured the part, which in my mind was the most important casting in the film. So sometimes initial failure is good and leads to an unexpected outcome.

On the fleeting nature of life and the expendability of heroes:

When Kennedy was shot, as a young man I surmised the world as we knew it would cease to exist and the earth would basically stop turning. But I found out through simple living and deduction that everything and everyone is expendable, not gods, not eternal, not a life force. Therefore when one realizes we’re here basically on borrowed time, that expendability applies to each and every thing, we are really grains of sand. So I made it my sworn duty to pack as much life as I can into my allotment and only wish others would do the same.

On action films as mythology:

Action films; past, present and future are really a device for maintaining modern mythology. In reality, evil quite often triumphs over good and its effects have devastating longevity. So I believe the action film supplies an outlet for optimism and the unwavering belief that heroes, under great physical threat, rise and vanquish the oppressors. I believe it’s a necessity that these sorts of modern day street fables continue to provide an example that perseverance and bravery prevail.

On Rocky Balboa and perseverance:

I truly believe that life is about absorbing punishment while still moving forward.

On giving it your all:

Therefore I struggled for 7 years to have ROCKY BALBOA made because that was the final note I wanted to go out on. I wanted to do it with dignity. The philosophy I adopted at the beginning of that film I now approach every movie with, as though it were the last. And when you think that this could be your final statement, you pull everything you have inside and you play it out for the world to see. So when your lying on your deathbed you can say ‘I gave it all.’ Now that may come off as overly dramatic, but if you approach anything as though it’s going to be the final chapter, you really pour your heart into it.

Do you see what I mean? This is a very intelligent and wise man.

Blog Names
July 30, 2010, 10:34 am
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It’s interesting to have witnessed the highly contingent trajectory of the blogosphere. One facet that goes underreported is how the name you give to your own blog can dramatically affect whether it becomes, like, one of the main blogs. We have seen this with many blogs.

Take “Instapundit”. Why on earth that blog is practically the center of the blog universe is impossible to explain or quantify rationally. Nothing against Glenn Reynolds or anything, seems like a good enough chap, but far as I can tell, he’s just some law professor from Tennessee. And he barely writes any actual commentary. Seeing his blog, and the traffic it gets, it’s entirely fair to shrug and say ‘I don’t get it’. So you’re left with the conclusion that his blog’s success has very little to do with any of the actual blogging, and everything to do with the fact that, way back when, he fortuitously and/or shrewdly decided to call his blog “Instapundit”, rather than, say, “Links From Tennessee” or “Law School Guy”. Because “Instapundit” was the hook that made that site what it is; seemingly, that’s all it took.

On the flip side, take this here blog. It’s never going to catch on. Why? Well, (among many, many other things) “Rhymes With Cars And Girls”. What does that even mean? And how on earth does it relate to the content? Doesn’t seem to. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue or easily conjure any images.

Another blog-naming strategy, one whose boldness and arrogance always impresses me, is the Claim-Stake gambit. This is when someone who has no right whatsoever to stake a claim to be “the” anything, or to speak for this or that profession, hobby or point of view, just goes ahead and names his blog as if it does anyway.

Exhibit A might be “Economist’s View” by Mark Thoma. The unstated principle behind that blog name seems to be that if someone on the internet wants the economist’s view – i.e., wants to know ‘what would an economist think? – well, that’s where he should go. That’s where you’ll find it! Nevermind that Mark Thoma – again, nothing against him or anything – has a very specific point of view that not all economists would agree with, and doesn’t appear to be any kind of exceptional or noteworthy economist or anything. Let alone does he speak for economists in general. He appears to be just one of the thousands of guys who fit the job description ‘economist’, the only difference being that none of them had the bright idea to call their blogs ‘Economist’s View’. He staked the claim to it, so now it’s his, rightly or wrongly. (Notice he didn’t call it An Economist’s View.) So if some other economist wanted to make a blog which he would claim contained the economist view, he couldn’t. That’s all Mark Thoma now.

Sometimes I think maybe I should do a Claim-Stake Gambit and change my blog name. I could call this blog “The [Profession] View” and insert my profession. The only problem is that, unlike Mark Thoma, I would be pretty embarrassed to do that…

Ok, I Think I’m Caught Up With The “Rock And Roll”
July 30, 2010, 2:33 am
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Sometime in the early ’00s I sort of stopped discovering new, how you say, “rock and roll” music to get into. The list of (a) non-retired bands that (b) I still liked had shrunk to a fairly stable and manageable handful, meaning that between their sporadic releases, I haven’t really had to buy very much music this decade. Certainly nothing like the previous decade, when music was probably my main expenditure after rent and Frosted Flakes. As a side effect, I also sort of stopped paying attention to bands that I had kinda liked, but weren’t quite in that upper echelon.

What this means is that I missed all of Green Day after sometime around Warning, and I missed the White Stripes entirely. But you will surely be massively relieved to hear that in the past six months or so I have rectified this via iTunes. And yes, I can report that Green Day’s last two albums (especially 21st Century Breakdown) have indeed been very good, and that the White Stripes really do rock (except for on the 2-4 songs every album where they are just stupid).

So anyway, now I’m basically caught up. That is, unless someone can convince me there’s any point in checking out U2’s post-’90s albums that are virtually impossible to tell apart, or all that post-The Bends Radiohead noodling jazz nonsense that everyone seemed to feel compelled to pretend to like for a few years. Because otherwise, really, what’s there been this decade? That bizarre Black Eyed Peas thing with the dancing Swedish girl? What is that supposed to be anyway? It’s like they just do commercials or songs for commercials or commercials that also happen to be sort of like songs or something. How anyone can even pay attention to them is beyond me.

But I’ll be sure and check back in with “rock and roll” sometime around 2020 and see what the kids have come up with by then. What strange new innovations shall the future bring. A fourth chord? I sure hope not.

What Motivates The Experts?
July 29, 2010, 2:26 am
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Reading the first few lines excerpted from Making Sense of the Climate Issue (via Mark Thoma), something jumps out at me:

What really bothers the climate worrywarts the most isn’t global warming at all. It’s the possibility that Smart People might not get their way on something.

It’s not the climate science at all. In fact most climate worrywarts don’t know jack diddly squat about climate science. And yet, armed with knowing precisely nada about climate science, they are nevertheless convinced that it’s highly important for the government to do something about global warming, and anyone who disagrees is an evil moron. More to the point, what seems to really dwell on their mind horribly is less the supposed effects of climate change per se than the simple fact that experts might not be able to get the government to do something.

The Experts might not rule! The Smart People might not be able to move the masses!

This is the stuff of nightmares – to Smart People.

That’s why you’ll see articles like this that make no attempt whatsoever to apprehend, grapple with, let alone defend the climate science behind the supposed urgent call for action. Instead what articles like this are all about are all the evil reasons why The Experts have been thwarted. What dark forces have thwarted The Experts here? What sinister special interests have prevented The Experts from dictating? This is what’s important, you see! We must figure out what has prevented the government from doing exactly what The Experts say!

This consideration is why an issue like climate-change-stoppage has gained such a zombielike cult following among the intelligentsia (not merely climate scientists). They all seem to instinctively perceive – perhaps correctly – that this is a battle over whether The Experts will dictate and thus that anyone who considers himself an ‘Expert’ – in something, anything – has an interest in that outcome.

What this is not about is the actual substance of the actual issue. It’s more like a test case: can The Experts get the masses to spend a bajillion dollars on something, merely on their say-so? The issue on which The Experts have rested their hopes happens to be climate-change. But really, it could have been just about anything. The important thing here – the thing which really motivates so many commentators – is to make sure The Experts can dictate – or if they still can’t, to analyze why not so that unhappy fact can be changed. Actual rational defense of the Experts’ position on the issue in question is clearly secondary to making sure the will of The Experts is the one that triumphs.

Americans, Feel Sorry For The Lifelong Leech Who Sued You
July 24, 2010, 1:17 pm
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I’m vaguely aware that there’s a controversy surrounding some government employee named Sherrod who was fired because she’s a racist but then she turned out to be not. But I didn’t know the details so I decided to Wiki it.

Reading about the controversy itself, it does seem as if this particular rap against her was unfair.

However, reading about the rest of Shirley Sherrod’s “career”, I think there are much worse things to charge her with:

She and her husband lost their farm when they were unable to secure USDA loans. Sherrod along with other activists sued the USDA in Pigford v. Glickman in order to protect the remaining black farms which were in danger of becoming shut down. The Department agreed to compensation which was to be paid between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1999. The event was considered as “the largest civil rights settlement in history, with nearly $1 billion being paid to more than 16,000 victims.”

Translation: She wanted the taxpayers to chip in to give her a below-market-rate loan to buy her and her husband a farm. They didn’t. So she sued the taxpayers. She won and got the money from taxpayers. $1 billion distributed among 16,000 people (oh sorry “victims”) equals some $60k per person. Although what do you want to bet that her share was more than the arithmetic mean?

Then a year ago the government hired her to be “the Georgia director of rural development” whatever that means. And so now the whole thing is, we’re supposed to be mad because she then got fired over bogus racism charges.

Questions for discussion:

Why did the taxpayers need to start paying a salary to this woman who had already bilked them out of a billion dollars. What exactly is this woman doing for taxpayers that they should happily give her a sinecure. Like literally what sort of tangible, actual work has she been literally doing. And why is she so important that her brilliance in particular is required to be a Georgia director of rural development. Out of all the possible people to approach to hire to be a Georgia director of rural development, why the hell did the USDA approach a woman who had sued them out of a $1 billion dollars. For that matter why do we need a Georgia director of rural development at all. In what respect does Georgia need to be rurally developed that it requires this wonderful, hard-working, selfless woman’s brilliance. How much more money are taxpayers required to pay to this woman in order to prove we’re beyond racial issues. Generally, why on earth should I care or want to hear anything about this apparently useless, worthless, leeching person who has created nothing of her own but rather appears to have made a life’s work of sucking wealth out of her countrymen.

Okay, I admit, these are really just rhetorical questions I guess. But these kind of people (like this person) just royally piss me off. I work fucking hard, fucking long, and will never get as wealthy as people like this have gotten by being worthless, scum-sucking leeches navigating the government teat for personal gain. It’s enough to make you say fuck it.

A Blog Post With Some Links In It
July 24, 2010, 12:09 am
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It’s been a while since I’ve thrown a bunch of links into a post and posted the post as a blog post. Let me remedy that.

  • A theory of the cause of cancer that I hadn’t heard before and can’t immediately debunk and which is potentially frightening as hell.
  • Well-meant reform has unintended consequences. Go figure.
  • Aretae on science and Bayesianism
  • Clint Webb’s got my vote, for his honesty:

    HT Anarchangel

  • Paul Graham explains how to lose time and money
  • What is Job Creation? by Arnold Kling.
  • Is there a cupcake bubble? I think so. Money quote:

    “Did they really think cupcakes were different than cake?” the world will ask after the cupcake market implodes. “Why did they wait in those ridiculous lines just to buy cake?”

  • Steve Sailer makes an important larger point here, that is more widely applicable:

    What we’ve seen in America is the emergence of a Winner’s Class of people who, while they may endorse enthusiastically all the 1960s changes for other people, they don’t actually follow them themselves. They don’t have a child out of wedlock, they do get married, they stay married, they live amidst others like themselves, they send their kids to schools with the children of other people like themselves, and the wife often downshifts her career to invest more time in her children and in her husband’s career.

    It’s almost as if ‘liberalism’ is a stealth method of sabotaging poor people to keep them that way.

  • Someone really loves chocolate.
  • Borepatch on scientific credibility.
  • I like Morgan Freeman even better than I already did:

    HT House of Eratosthenes

We’re All Geoengineers Now
July 22, 2010, 2:54 am
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Gentle reminder: If you think society should actively work to consciously alter/guide the future earth climate (e.g. because you think it’s gonna get too hot if we don’t), then guess what: you’re in favor of (gasp) geoengineering. This is the case even if the method you suggest involves taxes and regulation rather than seeding the atmosphere with particles or giant orbital space mirrors.

It is just grating whenever I see someone who objectively favors geoengineering running around arguing against…geoengineering.


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