April 13, 2006

throwing stones at loonies

On the "Comedhimmi Central" debate, it is certainly their right to self censor as they wish and I will leave the wisdom of that move to be resolved.

I just want to note that it's pretty fucking sad that an American media outlet feels the need to alter what it puts out, not out of respect or an aversion to creating offense (God knows South park has none of that), but out of fear of violence. Hell, I think it's sad when somebody backs down on stupid jokes out of fear of lawsuits from the perpetually offended, but now its gotten to the point that we have to alter what we do out of fear of enraging some lunatics to the point of homicide. That is both ridiculous and depressing.

Posted by Francis at 08:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

place holder

in the meantime, go read these posts: HOI, JP.

If we're lucky, I'll expand later.

Posted by Francis at 05:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

homemade coffin nails

I've taken up rolling my own cigarettes. It's part affection, part money-saver. The combination of too many Dashiell Hammet novels and a small paycheck.

As for the moneysaver, it's a big hit. A bag of tobacco big enough to put me well on the way to a hospital bed costs about as much as a pack and a half of Camels, and rolling papers are cheap enough your average pothead can buy as many as he needs.

I had a tough time getting the hang of it, and I'm still learning. I still wind up dumping tobacco all over the damn place, but I've managed to roll 'em tight enough that the devilweed dosen't fall out the end, and I can hold it between two fingers for more than five seconds without getting burned.

It's strangely unsatisfying. Undoubtedly, my unfiltered cancer sticks are getting more nicotene into my system than Camel Lights. And the tobacco is much better, sortof like a low-end cigar (trivia: cigarettes were invented by peasants picking up cigar ends their betters dropped on the ground, then shaking the leftover tabac onto papers). But for some reason, every time I get done smoking, I feel like I need another cigarette. I think I cram less tobacco into each one, but the direct injection of great black clouds of smoke should make up for it.

I think maybe the relatively crappy experience of smoking a branded cigarette is what people define as smoking. If I left the tobacco out in the sun for two days and maybe sprayed some cat piss on it, then smoked that, the experience would be much more authentic to me, because it'd taste and feel just like your average branded cigarette.

Instead, I wind up smoking twice as many cigarettes because while I'm probably up there on nicotene, because the psychological aspect of it remains unfulfilled. I always feel like I'm about due for a smoke, because I haven't had the feeling I associate with smoking a cigarette.

Then, thanks to the massive amounts of tar I've been sucking down, all of a sudden I'm getting out of breath starting my car, and still feel like I haven't had a cigarette for hours.

Posted by Francis at 05:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

The Ten Commandments of Hercules

First off, I'm glad to see special effects haven't gotten any better since Heston's days. When we first put it on, I had to doublecheck to make sure we hadn't accidently clicked onto an episode of "Hercules" or "Zena". Did Sam Raimi direct?

I had a dead-tree version of the source material on hand, and was trying to follow along through all the thee's and thouest's, but apparently the filmmakers decided it needed a bit of touching up. It seems they decided just improvving the book of Leviticus was a better way to go than simply making a movie version of a segment of the all-time champion bestseller. Mel Gibson proved the folly of that route, I suppose. Instead, there's alot more moral debate and "Character" work, which would've been neat, aside from the fact that it has no place in the story (it's called "The Ten Commandments", not "Moses makes a constipated face") and that they apparently picked up some random homeless British guy to play Moses.

This was the one aspect I had figured they'd get right, the multi-culti Hollywood types. Blue-Eyed Moses? There wasn't a Jewish actor up to snuff for this thing? I keep hearing how the Jews run Hollywood, couldn't they go get the producer's nephew or something?

Anyway, have you looked at Leviticus lately? It's like fifty pages of rules, rules, more rules, followed by four more books that are mostly more rules. I didn't get to watch the very end (which sucks, that part is, after all, the point of the movie, at least in theory), but for a movie based on a book about a guy on speakerphone with God hisself laying out the laws by which the majority of the world will live for the next 3500 years, there sure seemed to be a lot of ambiguity about what, exactly, God was saying.

Instead, the Ten Commandments get relegated to the last few minutes so Mose can agonize over his wife leaving him, static on the line with God (what's ancient Hebrew for "Can you hear me now?"), and various other interpersonal issues. In the book, most of this stuff is pretty straightforward: In one instance, Mose is dealing out the law, his father-in-law (Jethro, tee hee) steps in and says, "Dood, that ain't right", Mose says "Yeah, let's do it your way". End of story, let's lay out the rules for how to herd sheep.

At least in the (also pretty awful) old version, our blue-eyed Moses is pretty adamant about what's going on, with all the "LET MY PEOPLE GO" and stuff. This incarnation of Moses sortof pesters Pharoh until God gets so bored with waiting he sends the plauges while Moses pulls yet another constipated face at his (invented? I couldn't find him, but I'm no scholar) Egyptian brother.

And so on through the movie. I had hoped it would get better the second night, but I don't know why I had that hope, I should've known it would be, if anything, worse. I did get a kick out of the thing, mostly just to make fun of it, as I would watching any other cheesy made for teevee movie with the added fun of trying to read along in my quite dusty bible. I know what they were doing, trying to Humanize the cannonized figure of Moses, but sometime maybe they ought to try celebrating, rather than downplaying, the things that made Moses more than a man, and make him and his teachings so much more enduring than himself or his petty relationships.

Posted by Francis at 03:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 09, 2006

Charles Krauthammer is plagarizing my blog!

Common sense breaking out all over!

Charles Krauthammer says first a wall, then amnesty.

Just like I said in my post a few days ago. Actually, our plans are damn near identical. He dosen't use the phrase "Pissing in the wind" and there's fewer f-words and no sci-fi movie refrences, but it could be said that his article is more "articulate" and "coherent" and "dosen't read like something written by a fifth-grade moron", if that's your thing.

Posted by Francis at 06:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

sounds good to me:

Ladies and gentlemen, Jimmy Carter:

I was teaching a Sunday school class two weeks ago," he recalls. "A girl, she was about 16 years old from Panama City [Fla.], asked me about the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

"I asked her, 'Are you for peace, or do you want more war?' Then I asked her, 'Do you favor government helping the rich, or should it seek to help the poorest members of society? Do you want to preserve the environment, or do you want to destroy it? Do you believe this nation should engage in torture, or should we condemn it? Do you think each child today should start life responsible for $28,000 in [federal government] debt, or do you think we should be fiscally responsible?'

"I told her that if she answered all of those questions, that she believed in peace, aiding the poor and weak, saving the environment, opposing torture . . . then I told her, 'You should be a Democrat.' "

Okay, so then to be a republican, you have to want war, want to help rich people and screw over the poor, destroy the environment, practice torture, and be pro-debt.

Actually, I prefer the version mistakenly attributed to Winston Churchill: "To be a conservative at 20, you have no heart. To be a liberal at 40, you have no mind."

I'm the first to admit I'm a heartless prick, and Jimmy Carter seems evidence of the second half of that statement.

via Neal Boortz, who has a good riposte of his own with a bonus libertarian slant.

Posted by Francis at 06:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 06, 2006


Part 1: Just for laughs, I'm reading "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, A Manual For Fiction Writers" by Lawrence Block. I ran across the book by accident at the library, and checked it out for a lark. It's amusing, and already I'm trying to make a commitment to one page of fiction per day, no matter how awful, on the theory that in one year's time I'll have a complete, awful book.

Part 2: At one point, Block discusses how much money he had made from fiction at the outset, but it's in dollars from when he started his career. For reference, I found an inflation calculator online to see what his wages would be in 2005 dollars.

Part 3: For no discernable reason whatsoever, I click the link at the bottom of the page to see more webpages by the owner of that site. I have no idea why, I figured it'd be economics stuff, put me right to sleep, but this is the internets, and clicking links like trained monkeys is what we do.

Part 4: Turns out the proprietor of that webpage is an author by the name of S Morgan Freeman. A link to his book on amazon reads, "Buy the funniest book on amazon.com". I like funny, so I click that link to see what the book is all about.

Part 5: The book is titled "Overheard in New York", which I've actually heard of. Apparently he's part blogger, part actual author. So I'm reading through the first publisher review on amazon, and the book sounds funny, with a forward by some guy I've never heard of and an introduction by:

Lawrence Block. Whose thirty year old writing manual set me off on this series of completely unrelated links to a new book he wrote the introduction for.

That has to be one of the oddest coincidences I've run across in some time. I guess now I have to buy the New York book, it's fate.

Posted by Francis at 04:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

in which i solve the immigration debate

This should not be such a complicated issue. It only got this way thanks to the world's largest natural source of hot air, American Politicians.

First, before there can be any discussion of amnesty, guest worker programs, whatever, somebody needs to lay out a definative plan to stop, or at least severly curtail, illegal immigration. Anything else is pissing in the wind. If this requires a big f'n Jurrasic Park style electric fence, so be it. Hang a few signs reading "PELIGRO - CERCA ELÉCTRICA - ESTA MATANZA DE LA COGIDA DE LA VOLUNTAD DE LA COSA USTED", and Darwin will take care of the rest.

How there remains any oppostion to this completely eludes me. It's a humongous security problem. It isn't "Racist", it's the opposite of racist: 325 people died crossing the border in '04. If one of the primary functions of an object is to keep more people of a particular demographic alive, it is categorically not racist. It is anti-racist. It is pro-race. It is whatever the word for the opposite of racism is.

Okay, so tommorow morning everybody in the country wakes up and finally realizes I'm right about everything, and the border is magically secured. What now? There's two problems remaining: what to do with all the people living here already, and what to do with people that want to come here legally?

As to the first problem, honestly, if we got the border secured, I'd be willing to damn near grant them citizenship on the spot. How 'bout a few months of required basic English and Civics courses, maybe some time on a citizenship-parole , raise your right hand, now go get a job and start paying taxes.

Anybody who wants to try to throw out every illegal immigrant is being silly. Not only is it a logistical impossibility, a political non-starter, and an economic nightmare, it dosen't accomplish anything useful. There's no positive effects in the long term, and while I'll grant that amnesty has its downsides, at least it's a workable situation.

Which brings me to another problem: lots of righties point out that illegals take up a huge percentage of the welfare and prison problems in southern states. This is true, but it isn't an immigration issue, it's a social and fiscal one. Of course, if we let people work legally and earn a decent living, try to improve themselves and their futures, these problems would likely be greatly diminished (That's conservatisim 101 for you, right there). But telling able-bodied people to get a job and quit breaking the damn law isn't an immigration issue, or an issue unique to immigrants, it's a seperate debate.

I'm getting on a tangent, but I also want to address the "Immigrants do work Americans won't do" line. This is true. Why? Because I can make better frigging money working at McDonald's, or perhaps just collecting welfare, than I could at the wages immigrants make doing manual labor. That line implies that Americans are lazy, but it isn't really right: We aren't necessarily lazy, but we aren't stupid, either, and we aren't going to take a slave-labor job for bullshit money when we don't have to. Immigrants don't have the option of taking a better job, and frankly, that pisses me off: what good has the past hundred years of civil rights and unions and everything been if we just give a wink and a nod to people paying garbage for hard, honest work? Immigrants should be given the right to peruse the job market as any American, and employers shouldn't be allowed to skate on paying wages that your average American would starve to death on. Does bringing fair competition to the workplace hurt lots of businesses? Yep, it sure does. What do I say to that? Karma's a bitch, baby. You've been cheating the system and screwing people over for years now, time to adapt and overcome or join the plantation owners of days past.

But back on topic: the second part of the question above was, what to do with people that want to come here? Now that they aren't busy drowning in the Rio Grande, we need to reform the process by which someone can come to this country to work. I don't pretend to know all the details here, but I do know that the current situation sucks a big one, and most of the suggestions out there are almost as bad. It shouldn't take a hundred years of lost paperwork to come build houses in America. I know this is a radical idea to bring to the bureaucracy of government, but the process should be streamlined. Alot.

I mentioned above the idea of a Citizenship parole. Basically, this would be a set period of time where one's only goals would be to hold a job and stay out of jail. If you frig up on either one, you are permenantly denied the right to ever work in this country again.

So, some time of that, the aforementioned civics and english basics, you're good to go. See how easy? Again, there's details to be worked out, but at least it isn't as asinine as some of the stuff coming out of Washinton or, worse, LA. What is with the $1000 application fee? You want to stop the problem of illegals working off the radar by...charging them money? That is quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Then the "If you've been here less than two years, you have to go back; If you've been here two years, you have to run back to the border, tag a border agent, and run back; If five, you have to run to the closest Taco Bell and bring me a Chalupa; blah de blah blah blah." None of this shit makes any kind of sense, it all just depends on which particular interest group a politician is pandering to and how hard.

UPDATE: Ace of Spades is plagiarizing my blog!

Well no, not really, of course, although we do seem to be in agreement; I simply have the advantage of insomnia.

Posted by Francis at 03:32 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

April 05, 2006

there exists x such that...

I'm preserving here one of my personal favorite blog comments I've seen lately. Try to read the comment without paying attention to the politics: the form, not the content. I have to email this to my Discrete math professor, he swore we'd use some of this stuff in real life and here it is buried in PW's comments section (you may want to read the actual post first, for context):

"TB, posting from Disingenousness R’ Us, says:

Explain it [the “straw man” fallacy] to me.

Okay, but since I teach this stuff at the college level, I should charge you.

The “straw man” fallacy occurs when one refutes a weaker argument than was actually offered. This is a fun example, because while accusing the President of using a straw man, the author actually constructs a straw man. Observe:

(1) the President says “Some look at the challenges in Iraq...”, ““Some say that if you’re Muslim ...”, and ““There are some really decent people ... who believe ....”

These are, as you note, apparently correct quotes. (I haven’t confirmed them independently, but I’m willing for the sake of the argument to assume it.)

(2) The author says “Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions” and from this asserts “In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.” From this, she concludes that Bush is making a “straw man” argument.

But observe: the argument for Bush’s statements being “straw men” depends, by definition, on the notion that these positions aren’t held by “some” people. If there are people who hold that position, Bush’s statements are valid; it’s not a straw man to refute a weak argument that has actually been made.

And observe, by saying “hardly anyone” holds these positions, the author implicitly concedes that at least some people do hold that position. In order to make this clearer, it can help to convert to symbolic logic: the statement “some people believe x” can be expressed symbolically as “there exist people who believe x” or “(∃ x) believe(x)”.

“Hardly anyone believes x”, similarly, is an assertion that “everyone believes not-x” except for some few people who do. This, the correct symbolic expression is also “(∃ x) believe(x)”. And, of course, (∃ x) believe(x) ≡ (∃ x) believe(x).

It follows necessarily that the conclusion that Bush’s statements are fallacious is itself incorrect; when stripped of rhetorical flourish, it’s merely two assertions:
(1) Bush said “(∃ x) believe(x)”
(2) “(∃ x) believe(x)”

What makes it fascinating as rhetoric --- and also concludes my argument --- is that the false conclusion depends on an amphiboly: the syntactic confusion lies in the implicit assumption that “hardly any” is a different assertion than “some”, which as we’ve seen is incorrect. The author’s argument for these statements being straw men rests on the reader misunderstanding “hardly any” as meaning “none”, allowing her to infer that Bush is positing a more easily refuted argument than has actually been made.

Thus she imputes to Bush a more easily refuted position than his actual position (a position with which she, in fact, concurs in her discussion.) It is, thus, a straw man.

Thus endeth the lesson. "

That was from Charlie in Colorado at PW.

Posted by Francis at 05:17 AM | Comments (291) | TrackBack