Sunday, August 26, 2012

No They Can't

No, They Can't: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed:  As mentioned in a previous blog, I had the pleasure of meeting John Stossel last year.  Since he was nice enough to come and talk at a public school, I figured I would be nice enough to buy his book.[1]

If you've seen much of Stossel's previous work on ABC and his current work on Fox then you've already read this book.  It isn't anything that he hasn't said before many times.  The gist of it is simply that the cumbersomeness of government makes it ill suited to handle most of life's problems in any type of an efficient way and that the framers of the Constitution never intended the government to handle them anyway.

And as I've said before, he's got a pretty good point.  Government (any bureaucracy really) is inherently inefficient.  I don't think there are too many people out there who really believe otherwise.[2]  Throughout the book's thirteen chapters he reiterates this point over and over.

Stossel's solution is free enterprise.  In other words, government get out of the way and let the market handle it.  There's no need for an inefficient government to try and duplicate the success that the market creates on a daily basis.

Okay, so enough with the nice-nice.  What you really want to hear is what's wrong with the book.

The first thing I always think about when I hear somebody say something along the lines of, "that's not what the framers of the Constitution intended" is 'perhaps but then again the framers of the Constitution aren't here.'  In other words, maybe we can figure out what they were thinking back then, but we're not back then.  We're here in the present.  In a world that is so different from back then, I think if Thomas Jefferson were to suddenly be transported to the present day he'd declare a lot more than independence, if you get my drift.[3]  Once he'd calmed down and had a few things explained I suspect even he would say that some [4] of the ideas from the Constitution might need to be adjusted for the modern world.

If we are willing to except that, then the question simply becomes determining which things the government should be doing and which it shouldn't.

The other big problem I have with the book is the chapter on the war on drugs.  If you are willing to accept Stossel's assumptions then his points are valid and correct.  However, I don't accept them.  I agree that the war on drugs is a failure, but I don't agree that we should just give up or that we never should have started in the first place.

Finally, the book starts out [5] on a fairly positive note.  It essentially was saying, here's some issues and here are some solutions.  Perhaps we should look at them and at the least have a discussion about them.  The book basically ended on a note that was saying, 'things will never get fixed, so we're all doomed.' [6]  If you want to get people on your side of an argument, making them feel like the whole thing is pointless isn't the way to do it.

No They Can't: B-

[1] - And get him to sign it of course.
[2] - Okay there are plenty of people who might think that they believe otherwise, but there aren't too many who would believe that if they've dealt with or worked for the government on any kind of regular basis.
[3] - If you didn't, I meant he'd say a few choice words in his astonishment and perhaps wet his pants.
[4] - Not all or even nearly all, but some.
[5] - Or at least for me it seemed to start out
[6] - Of course his last chapter was about the skyrocketing debt problem, so it's hard to not get a bit depressed.


Sunday, August 19, 2012


Chicken: How do we eat thee? Let me count the ways . . . actually let's not because I don't have all week.  Perhaps a better way to ask it is, are there any ways that we don't eat chicken?[1]  And for that matter why do we eat chicken so many different ways?

Well if you were an alien staring down at us you might think it's because it taste super yummy, but you'd be wrong.  Think about it.  What does chicken taste like?  I'll tell you what it tastes like, it tastes like nothing.  It's nearly flavorless.

But that's okay!  It's chicken's non-flavor that makes it so great.  Because whatever flavor you like best, it's no problem getting your chicken to taste that way.  Chicken is the ultimate empty palate of the cooking world.

Of course the other great thing about chicken is that it comes from a quickly renewed source.  Did you know it only takes about six weeks to go from egg to tastiness on a plate?  Only six tiny weeks.  What else can you grow to full size in six weeks?  Not much at least as far as meat is concerned.[2]

And now to offend the animal rights people.

Some people say that it's horrible that we breed chickens in tiny cages and then mercilessly slaughter them and then cook them and eat them.[3]  I freely admit that I'm no chicken expert.[4]  But a quick check on the Internet will probably confirm . . . hang on . . . yep they got brains the size of a lima bean.  Which basically means they aren't likely to form a coalition any time soon.  Neither are they likely to care that they don't get to wander around much.  That time wandering around mostly being sent in a biologically driven constant hunt for food and trying to avoid getting eaten.[5]  Especially since, in their cage they get to lay on their butts as the food comes down a chute directly to them.  I'm pretty sure I could name five or six people who would sign up for that life in a heart beat.

Of course there are free range chickens.  In case you don't know what these are they are chickens who have the privilege of living in a place where the door to their coop is left open so that they can freely wander around to their heart's content.  If you ever go to such a place you're likely to see a bunch of chickens sitting around in a chicken coop.  Turns out that even free range chickens don't care for the wandering around so much.[6]

Anyway back to my original point.  Chicken!  Fry it. Roast it. Slice it. Chop it. Shred it. Make it spicy.  Make it sweet.  Make it crunchy on the outside or not.  Serve it over rice or between bread.  Stuff it with bread or cheese and ham.  Make a soup. Make a casserole.  Make a pot pie.  But whatever you do, make no mistake it can be as tasty as you want it to be.

Chicken: B-

[1] - Besides raw, I'm going to guess the answer is no.
[2] - That mold in your fridge doesn't count.
[3] - Which you have to admit is better than not killing them before you cook them.  Just ask a lobster.
[4] - I don't know nothing 'bout breedin' chickens.
[5] - By predators like a fox who aren't so particular about the killing before eating part.
[6] - Maybe someone should form a coalition to get them better educated.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Prolonging the Magic

Prolonging the Magic: This is an album by the band Cake.  You remember Cake, they had a big hit with The Distance [1] off of their Fashion Nugget album.  Except that wasn't Cake.  I mean it was Cake that put out the album and sang the song, but it wasn't really Cake.  For that album they got a new producer or somesuch that totally "redesigned" the band to make them more marketable.  The result was The Distance and while it did well on the charts and all that, it made Cake into not Cake.[2] Prolonging the Magic is the album after that where Cake said 'forget that nonsense we're going to be Cake and not not Cake.'[3]

This is a great album.  They've really hit the stride they were trying to find in their first album and were forced to partially move away from in their second.  It's got all of the goodness you expect from Cake: sarcastic lyrics delivered in a serious voice, obscure references scattered throughout, trumpets scattered throughout and the band using everything that they can think of as a musical instrument.[4]

Some of my favorite songs off of the album are Sheep Go to Heaven, Cool Blue Reason, When You Sleep and even Satan is Motor.  If you want to give yourself a chuckle surf around the various 'lyrics meanings'   websites and see what people say this song is about.  On one sight there were about twenty different explanations, each one containing a section in which the erstwhile explainer politely apologizes to all of the previous posts about correcting them for how wrong the previous explanations were and how right theirs is.[5]

Also there's a pig on the CD cover.  That's got to be worth some positive points.

Prolonging the Magic: A

[1] - He's going the distance.  He's going for speed.  He's all alone (all alone) in his time of need.
[2] - What?  Are you confused?
[3] - Except that they didn't literally say that, but it would have been cool if they had.
[4] - I sometimes think the band tried to be a part of Stomp but got rejected for using things for instruments that were just too weird.
[5] - fwiw I am not 100% sure what it means but I do know that McCrea (the song writer) has emphatically stated that it is not a satanic song.  Personally I think it's just saying that we can dress ourselves up in shiny clothes and look nice, but were all base impulses on the inside.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bubble Witch Saga

Bubble Witch Saga: I used to play a fair number of games on Facebook.[1]  But after the initial fun wears off, they get kind of tedious.[2]  When I realized how much time I was spending playing these things I quit and suddenly had time to waste starting a blog.[3]

Fast forward to a few months ago.  I'm sitting around bored with a few minutes on my hands and none of my Words With Friends games need me to continue dominating my opponents.  So, I decided to see what new nonsense FB had to offer.

Enter Bubble Witch Saga.

Ostensibly you are trying to help these witches get rid of the baddies, but it's really just a bubble shooting game.  You shoot up the screen trying to match colors to pop bubbles and get the board cleared.  There's nothing new about the concept[4] but BWS has added a few things.

The benign things are that they've added trickier bubbles in later boards.  Like bombs that explode if you don't get them off of the board fast enough or skull bubbles that cause you to lose a life if you shoot them at all. And these virus bubbles that infect everything and make you crazy.

The completely evil things they've added are that they've made it into a money generating monster.  You can buy potions that help you a minor amount with in-game coins, but they also have bunches of stuff that you can buy with real cash.[5]

If you run out of bubbles on a level you can buy ten more for 30 cents.  And that's part of the genius of their evil scheme.  Thirty cents is nothing!  I can just picture some sucker making that purchase over and over because it is such a small amount.  Of course at the end of the month you get your credit card bill and see that you've somehow blown $330 on imaginary bubbles.

Of course if you've got a sizable amount of money that you feel like blowing you can buy one of the charms.  There are at least 14 of these things.  I'm on level 85 and I've opened up that many and I'm sure there's more out there to be revealed.  There's one that adds three to the max number of lives you have and it costs a mere $9.90.  Another let's you see the next three balls that are coming into play instead of only seeing the next two.  That one will run you $12.90.

Are you kidding me?  If anyone reading this blog has actually been stupid enough to buy any of them, please call me immediately.  I have a bridge and a swamp to sell you.

But the award winner is the Charm of Immortality.  This will give you unlimited lives for a mere $79.90.


Please, please, please, please tell me that nobody has actually bought that.  They have to be kidding right?

If there is anyone out there that's bought it, please send me your address I need to come and slap you.[6]

Anyway, if you haven't guessed I'm addicted to playing the game.  Fortunately you run out of lives fairly quickly so it doesn't really take up much of my time.  Despite my lack of cash funded bonuses I've managed to get pretty far with just the free stuff.  Now if I can just come up with a game to milk suckers out of their money.  Maybe something about clicking a cow.

Bubble Witch Saga [The Game]: B
Bubble Witch Saga [The Scheme to Soak the Feebleminded of their Cash]: A+ [7]

[1] - Yes, it was me spamming you asking for some bricks to finish my hen house.
[2] - Sure, this time I'm collecting Terra Cotta Bricks and not just normal bricks, but in the end it's all just a bunch of clicking.
[3] - jk, I stopped playing FB games long before I started wasting time on a blog.
[4] - Snood players you can gloat about being there first if you'd like.
[5] - Let me be up front and say that I have not nor will I ever actually be dumb enough to spend money on something as stupid as this, but I can certainly image people who are.
[6] - You can press charges if you want, but when the judge finds out they'll just dismiss the charges and slap you themself.
[7] - An evil, evil, evil A+, but an A+ nonetheless.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man: A lot of people's complaint with this movie was simply that it was too soon to reboot Spider-man.  I like Tobey Maguire's adaptation and would have been glad to see another with him in it, but my understanding is that he said 'no thanks'.  So, I have no problem with the restart.  In fact when everything was said and done (and seen) I say, 'thanks!'.

There were definitely some changes to the traditional Spider-man genesis story but nothing too egregious. When I saw that Martin Sheen was going to be Uncle Ben I thought it a perfect match.  When I saw Sally Fields was going to be Aunt May I groaned, but not because she wasn't a good fit for the part, in truth she was perfect.[1]

I appreciate the director not rubbing our noses in the death of Uncle Ben.  It has to happen.  It happens and we move on.  I also appreciated some of the stuff that was cleverly left out of the movie.  For instance not giving Norman Osborne a visible face.  Meaning they can cast whoever they want later on.  Also doing the same thing with J. Jonah Jameson.  And they left the capture of Ben's killer unresolved for future goodness in another movie.

I also like that they didn't skip the Gwen Stacy part of Peter's life.  Good to see that arc finally show up in a movie.  Even if it doesn't end well in the end.[2]

I do think that the face of the Lizard was kind of lacking.  Don't know if it was a conscious choice or more of a CGI limitation choice or what but his face was less Lizard and more Voldemort imo.  In fact in the one scene where the Lizard has Spider-man in his grasp and he leans forward and says, "Poor Peter Parker", I was struck by how the look of the scene and the intonation of the Lizard could almost have been Voldemort holding Harry saying, "Poor Harry Potter."

Finally, I can't finish without acknowledging the groan inducing "feel good" scene with the cranes.  Of course, I also have to acknowledge that similar groan inducing scenes tend to show up the Spider-man comics from time to time[3].  So, I can't fault them for staying true to the comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man: A

[1] - More because somewhere along the line I've developed an odd aversion to Sally Fields showing up in stuff.  Then once I actually watch whatever it is, I get over it.  She's a good actress.
[2] - But in the end I like Mary Jane better anyway.
[3] - The ending of the Maximum Carnage arc almost killed my soul.  (At least I think it was that one, I'm blocking the memory.)

The Dark Knight Rises

Probably going to offend some people with this one, but that's never stopped me before.  Also, warning that there are some spoilers in here.

The Dark Knight Rises: I'm not necessarily going to call Christopher Nolan the greatest anything, but with movies like Inception, Memento and the previous two Batman movies to his name Nolan is definitely a major heavy weight when it comes to the movies.  So when the third of his Batman trilogy was released it goes without saying that I was more than a little excited to see it.

I guess this is yet another lesson in the realm of don't set your expectations to high.

Don't get me wrong it's a pretty good movie, but it's a pale shadow compared with the Dark Knight.

The biggest problem with it is that it just fails to build and maintain any momentum or energy.  It wasn't boring per se.  There were plenty of good elements and the plot is sufficiently dark and twisty.  It's more that there was too much story for the movie and thus we are rushed quickly through something that should have taken twice as long to tell. If you want to leave a scene with the audience feeling a specific emotion you have to build towards that emotion and that takes time.  To me it felt like we were shorted some of the connective tissue and thus we failed to reach the desired emotions along the way. [1]

Thus, I wasn't very worried about Bruce Wayne hiding in his house.  I didn't really care about Gordon being in the hospital.  Catwoman's betrayal didn't shock or outrage me at all.  I wasn't concerned about the police getting trapped in the sewers or about all of Gotham getting isolated from the rest of the world.  Bruce's escape from prison was more a foregone conclusion than thrilling. And when the big twist revealed who the real bad guy was I went, 'oh.' [2]  Which I don't think is what Nolan was going for.  In fact I wasn't worried or concerned the entire time.  So the movie ended with a fizzle instead of a KABOOM![3]

I've heard a lot of people complain about Bane.  Granted he isn't really one of the iconic Batman villains, but he was fine.  I wish they hadn't nerfed the idea that he was hopped up on a drug that made him super strong (called venom in the comic books), but I could deal with that.

A lot of people complained about Bane's voice. I know that in the original preview of the movie people complained that they couldn't understand what he was saying.  So it wouldn't surprise me if they went back and overdubbed his lines so that he was more clear.  Personally, I was fine with it.  It made him sound a little different, but that's okay he was a Batman villain, different is normal.  More weird to me was his accent.  It sounded like Nolan told the actor to do the worst Sean Connery impression he could.[4]

I'm not sure if there is supposed to be another movie after this one.  I kind of hope there is because I need a better final movie than this one.  If I can vote on a villain, I've always wanted a movie with Zsasz in it.

The Dark Knight Rises: B-

[1] - fwiw, I don't presume to tell Nolan how to make a movie, but this is the best analogy I could come up with to explain why the movie just didn't grab me like I wanted it to.
[2] - small 'o'. No exclamation point.
[3] - And when the final scenes of the movie revealed Blake's "secret" I went, 'whatever'.
[4] - In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out it was dubbed over by Sean Connery doing a bad Sean Connery impression. does not confirm this.  But then again it doesn't deny it either.