Thursday, March 27, 2008

The W Bush Effect

A study, back from 2000, reported by the SF Chronicle about what we have now come to know as the dreaded "W Bush Effect":

Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find: "There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them. Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent. On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well."

Too bad that this study wasn't more widely disseminated in 2000. Now we know (or, actually, most people still don't and never will).

h/t McArdle

Bruce Lee Films

By gender and age, I've been genetically and culturally determined to like Bruce Lee movies. Can't help it - genes and breeding make me want to see talented beat-downs with absurd sound-effects.

Sadly, Lee died after making 1 American movie, the iconic "Enter the Dragon" (which is must seeing for anybody who wants to understand Kung Fu references afterward; it's the martial arts cognate to Planet of the Apes). If you don't understand why a movie/story hero needs to go to a distant island to compete in a tournament in front of a disfigured mastermind (e.g. Mortal Kombat, or The Quest (1996), or Balls of Fury, or this awesome Onion article, and many others [has someone made a list?]) see the movie. Also it allows you to understand spoof that makes the majority of Kentucky Fried Movie.

OK, all that said, I've been searching Netflix for other Bruce Lee films. Sadly, it appears that any non-American movie he made doesn't match the quality of EtD. I rented Fists of Fury (note, there's a whole weirdness about Chinese titles - which were largely interchangeable - and how they were translated, as it is with this film, but whatever) and it's pretty bad.

How bad? Well see this listed "goof" on the IMDB page. I'm not making this goof up, and it's probably the best goof I've ever read: Tang shan da xiong (1971) - Goofs:
Revealing mistakes: When the guard dogs leap at Cheng, they are obviously thrown.
'Obviously thrown'? Oy.

Backpost finished 2009-11-30.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mmmmm, Sacreligious

This version of the 10 plagues - peeps for passover - would be perfect for my Haggadah. I must ask the wacko who put it together for the rights.

h/t McArdle

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

He Was Still Alive?! (Arthur C. Clarke)

Arthur C. Clarke, Premier Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 90...

2001 was great. Turns out it was mainly Kubrick. But I heard a speech from Clarke (on the 2001 DVD) and one line has stayed with me. I'm paraphrasing, but basically he asks what would happen if, in 1850, we had been given an image of the future, a jet airplane. To just know that the jet was possible would greatly clarify our thinking and enable a giant leap in technology and science. This is what he claimed would happen if we encountered alien intelligence (and what's the basis of the book/movie).

Note, this is the (unwritten?) basis for the great, underrated, Galaxy Quest.

Pic from here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Andrew W. K. about the McLaughlin Group

This is why the Internet was created. This is a video from Slate explaining how weird the McLaughlin Group is and - using Internet cartoon magic - debuts a song by Andrew "Party Hard" W.K. about said group.

Note, my family used to watch the McL group every week starting from the early 80s. Even back then I thought McLaughlin was insane. Years later, I discovered that McL was Nixon's personal minister (or something like that). Freak.

(h/t Yglesias)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My New Favorite Dummies Book

As I wrote before, the 'Dummies' books, while useful, are unnecessarily insulting. Why penalize curiosity by calling the reader stupid? And, in many cases, the title combinations are even more cruel than necessary (see below for the previous winner: "Depression for Dummies.")

However, some combinations can be funny, like this year's top choice:
Athletic Scholarships For Dummies

Update: some runners up:
1. Raising Smart Kids for Dummies (points for illogic)

2. Alzheimer's for Dummies (points for cruelty)

3. Living Longer for Dummies (points for its defiance of social engineering)

4. Job Hunting for Dummies (points for imaginative scenario: 'yes, I'd like a starting level position in being a dummy')

5. US Citizenship for Dummies (points for political relevance)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stand by Yourself

This op-ed by Dina Matos McGreevy, ex-wife of NJ Gov. McGreevy, about the recent Spitzer scandal, "Stand by Yourself" highlights a key fact about (you guessed it) Hillary Clinton.

Her claim of 'executive experience,' is subject to McGreevy's inadvertent catch-22: because if Hillary (claims) not to have known about Monica (and all the rest) so too, how can she call herself a full partner in the governance?

Pic from here. Backpost finished on 2009-11-29.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Onion of the Day

Arranged Marriage Reality Series In Production

CBS has picked up a reality show with the working title Arranged Marriage, a program in which contestants’ spouses are selected by friends and family, and the married couples’ lives are then filmed. What do you think?

Old Man

James Varana,
Service Associate
"That's disgusting. They are ruining the sanctity of reality TV shows."

Young Woman

Susan Feeny,
Claims Adjuster
"They're ripping off that Indian show Marriage Based On Mutual Love And Respect. "

Asian Man

Eric McElhaney,
Legal Assistant
"I don't get Hollywood. What's the difference between this show and my idea to push people out of planes?"

Backpost finished 2009-12-03. PS - our guy wins.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

60 seats in the Senate? (And Response)

This is in response to the idea that Obama may get 60 Democrats in the Senate, an email I sent to Mark Kleiman of the RBC. I've redacted for publication. My argument is that it may not be necessary:
To be honest, all we (Democrats) need are 52 seats. At least according to my theory... Ya see, the reason why 60 is necessary is because of the most recent set of Senate rules that require that arbitrary number to end a filibuster. As we learned back in 2004-2006, the GOP was threatening us with a "nuclear option" that would have removed the filibuster entirely (or at least that's what the Wiki tells me).

Now that we won back the Senate, why don't we just enact the nuclear option? Especially when the rate of filibustering has gone through the roof and the bills being squashed are matters of life and death? Here's where my theory comes in: Senator Lieberman.

Lieberman was on the "gang of 14." And he's the only reason why the Senate is in the Democrats' hands right now. My theory is that if Reid tries to implement the nuclear option, then Lieberman will leave the Democratic caucus and throw the Senate into balance (making Cheney the head) or even start caucusing with the GOP! And because of that 51-49 balance, the 60 supermajority is still needed.

If my theory is correct, then all it would take *right now* to end the filibuster impasses would be for one more defection to the Democrats (Collins? Warner?) But if that doesn't happen, then even without getting 60, as long as we have 52, Reid can use the nuclear option.
Kleiman's Response:
I thought, and think, that the "nuclear option" involves flat-out cheating. I wouldn't want to see the Democrats use it.
Not even to stop torture? Congress has been squashed by the executive for a long time, a few 'nuclear strikes' by the Senate - just to roll back some of the major excesses - may be in order.
If the Dems have that much backbone, there's other stuff to do that's fully legal.

Anyway, I expect the executive to change hands. The question is how much legislation we can pass.
Backpost finished 4/11/08, updated 2009-12-15.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fallows: Clinton, Obama, and the OODA loop

James Fallows, an Atlantic blogger, is one of the reasons why I subscribed to the dead-tree magazine. While very young, he was a speechwriter for HGM Carter - but I don't hold that against him. He's currently in China and has been many other places in his reportery career. He's also, and I say this with actual respect, very goyish (which means that he has many friends in the military and the business world, has traveled all over and is a pilot - many things that I can't/don't have/do because of my non-goyishness). He knows a lot about politics and speeches, so his political analysis in the primary is instructive. I just wish he could post more often.

If you've heard anything about the OODA Loop, it's because of Fallows. Read this excellent take on the current battle between Obama and Hillary (it's brilliant because, as usual, he's saying things that I've been saying. I admit that, so sue me): More on Clinton, Obama, and the OODA loop, James Fallows (March 05, 2008), with this especially important bellow:
In a live CNN interview just now, Sen. Clinton repeated, twice, the "Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience, I have a lifetime of experience, Sen. Obama has one speech in 2002" line. By what logic, exactly, does a member of the Democratic party include the "Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience" part of that sentence? And I guess with her nonstop references to 2002 she must be talking about Obama's anti-Iraq war speech, not the 2004 convention speech that actually put him on the map.)

I have reached the point of wanting to scream every time I hear about the primacy of "experience," knowing how skillfully the 46-year old Bill Clinton waved that argument away when it was used against him 16 years ago by a sitting President who simply dwarfed him in high-level experience.* But to pose it in a form that is poison for the party should Obama be the nominee??? To produce a clip that the McCain campaign could run unedited every single day of a campaign against Obama? That is something special. (Also, I think she means 2004 for the speech.) If Bill Clinton poisoned the well for other possible Democratic nominees in quite the same way back in 1992, I can't think of it now.

The conclusion of Spinney's (and Gerson's) analysis was that Obama had put Hillary Clinton into a position where in order to win, she had to damage not just him but the party. That is why, as everyone is saying, the big victor today is John McCain, and not just in the obvious way.
Fallows asks implicitly what I will say explicitly: will Hillary come to her senses, and even if she does, has she gone too far to be accepted by the party again?

Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-11-29.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax, 1938-2008

Gary Gygax died today. Very sad. He's second to Tolkien, I'd say, in his impact on the fantasy genre, and a very important figure in the world of entertainment. And I didn't see anything (yet) on the Times...

Pic from here.