Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#McConnelling Made Easy

I'm a lazy, lazy man. There's a reason why I haven't updated this blog in two years and that is it. So when The Daily Show did this:

I had to make a McConnelling video of my own. But I'm too lazy. So when I discovered a website which allows you to automatically make your own McConnelling videos set to music from Youtube, I was overjoyed.

Here's mine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Between Twitter, Tumblr and to a lesser extent, Facebook I haven't been using this blog much. Maybe it's time to get back to those Battlestar Galactica reviews I've been meaning to write. The show's only been off the air for four years....

Politify: Find Out How Your Candidate's Policies Will Affect You

I came across a fascinating tool on Twitter. Politify purports to show you the impact a presidential candidate's policies will have on a personal, local, and national level. It's a slick and cool-looking tool and the people behind it are fairly open about the sources they use in putting it together. So I took it for a spin and took a look at how Barak Obama and Mitt Romney's policies would affect me and my three most recent home towns.

The results were quite dramatic. And quite skewed:

Haltom City, TX

Plainfield, IL

Chicago, IL

I must admit to a bit of schadenfreude at seeing my staunchly Republican brother's conservative enclave of Plainfield so heavily benefitted by Obama's policies. For that matter, I also got a kick out of seeing my new home of Haltom City in the midst of the red as can be state of Texas awash in a see of Democratic blue. (Here, the intensity of the red and blue colors which represent the Republican and Democratic parties respectively are meant to show how many people benefit from which party nominee's policies not how the areas are expected to vote.) But it was shocking to see nevertheless.

Nationwide, the results were similarly skewed:
Of course you might at this point, yell "Bias! Bias!" And maybe you'd be right. But I've been scratching my head over Romney for months, wondering what he's trying to do other than cut his own taxes. While Politify may or may not be biased for one side or the other, I for one am inclined to believe its results. Perhaps that's just because I was already leaning for Obama anyway but I don't see any reason to doubt their results right now.

Try it and see what results you get....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Completely Biased Review of The Avengers

NOTE: While I've tried to keep things more or less spoiler free, I haven't gone out of my way to do so. So if you are worried about spoilers proceed with caution or stop reading altogether.

Let me start out by admitting that I'm a huge Joss Whedon fanboy. I've always loved his work from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly; even the often misunderstood Dollhouse. And I've always wanted to see what Whedon could do with a big budget movie. So Whedon would have had to have failed pretty badly in order to disappoint me. With that caveat out of the way, I just have to say it: The Avengers is the best superhero movie ever!

The Avengers has pretty much everything you would expect from a superhero movie: great action set pieces; a great villain; and a slow, steady build up of tension to a great climactic scene. It also has all the elements of Joss Whedon's work: great rapid-fire dialog, wonderfully flawed characters, a shocking death of a popular secondary character, and the story of a group of misfits who come together to form a family. The plot itself is fairly simple. Thor's evil brother Loki is sent to Earth by powerful alien benefactors called The Chitauri who want him to steal a powerful artifact which will allow them to conquer the universe, starting with Earth. Loki does just that and Nick Fury must assemble The Avengers Magnificent Seven style. And we get a brief introduction to each of our heroes as they come together.

The Black Widow gets the classic Whedon treatment as Scarlett Johansson's character from Iron Man 2 is upgraded from hot chick with some kick-boxing skills to empowered ass-kicking machine with a dark past and impeccable comic timing. In fact, the humor of the film is so funny that it was sometimes difficult to hear some of the dialog over the laughter of the audience in the theater.

Hawkeye probably gets the least character development in this film but it is pretty clear that he is an every man who must hold his own against against superheros and demigods using only his courage and finely honed skills. Think Buffy's Xander Harris without all the teenage anxiety.

Captain America is lost in time. He feels like a relic and is without purpose in a strange new world. But he is ultimately a soldier first and when Nick Fury comes calling he eagerly prepares to fight in a war he doesn't understand.

Iron Man is of course Tony Stark and Tony Stark is of course Robert Downey Jr. If ever a writer was made to write dialog for Robert Downey Jr., it was Joss Whedon. Whedon's brand of witty, rapid-fire dialog was made for made for Downey's witty, rapid-fire delivery. It's a match made in heaven and it's hard not to smile when Downey is talking during this movie and he talks a lot.

The Hulk is a revelation in this movie. It is without  a doubt the single best representation of The Hulk on any screen since at least Bill Bixby's The Hulk TV series in the 1970's. And Mark Ruffalo's Hulk surpasses in Bixby's Hulk some ways—he's much funnier for example. The Hulk was something of a childhood hero of mine. I went through a stage as a child where I was full of petty, impotent rage and sorely wanted to be able to SMASH! the way The Hulk did. I think that it's safe to say the recent Marvel Hulk movies have been disappointing and it's nice to see a movie which not only does justice to The Hulk but where The Hulk actually steals most of the scenes that he is in.

Of course merely saying "The Hulk" tends to oversimplify matters as The Hulk is really two characters. There's the monster itself and Dr. Bruce Banner. And both characters are very compelling here. My nephew pointed out something very interesting to me following the movie; Mark Ruffalo actually looks like he could be a scientist much more so than previous Hulk actors Eric Bana and Edward Norton. And I think that he might have a point. Which naturally raises the question: Which of these gentlemen would you trust with your gamma rays?

Ultimately this is a superhero film and in the end good superhero films tend to be less about the hero's final triumph than they are about the hero's journey. And in this film, the story is mainly about how this group of misfit heroes comes together to fight a common foe. Many of the best moments come when the heroes are simply standing around bickering among themselves. And any movie can make a verbal argument between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers as exciting as a knock down, drag out fight between Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America is definitely doing something right.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Peter Beinart on The Colbert Report

The Crisis of Zionism

I found Peter Beinart's appearance on The Colbert Report to promote his new book quite compelling. His views on the state of Israel are pretty standard liberal views but I like the way he frames them. Instead of getting overly emotional or flirting with anti-semitism, seems to have struck a middle ground where he looks at the consequences that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have for Israel's own democracy. Israel rightfully prides itself as America's closest ally and as the only democracy in the middle east but decades of occupation of Palestinian/Arab lands has created a dissonance in which parts of the country are "freer" than others which cannot last.

I think I may have to actually read this book. TV shouldn't come with home work....

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Monday, February 27, 2012

My Guide to Social Networking

Admittedly, this is mostly tongue and cheek but I think I'm onto something here.
  • Gentlemint: Pinterest for guys.
  • Pinterest: Tumblr for ladies.
  • Tumblr: Twitter for kids.
  • Twitter: Facebook for ADHD types.
  • Facebook: Like MySpace only much less awful.
  • MySpace: Like Google Plus only it was actually successful for a while.
  • Google Plus: Blogging for people who don't know what a blog is.
  • Blogger, Wordpress, and other blogging platforms: Online diaries for people who don't know HTML or what a .plan file is.
  • .plan file: An online diary for people who were sick of getting flamed on Usenet.
  • Usenet: The original and best ever social communications platform for the Internet. Like the rest of the Internet it followed the typical path: created by nerds for nerds, then all the "cool" people joined up, and then regular folks joined up. Then it fell to constant infighting, frustrations, and people started leaving for the next big thing. And finally nothing but spam and porn. While many people continued to use it, it hand lost its relevance in much the same way that MySpace did. It's a little hard for me to be too snarky about Usenet, since I used it and loved it for so much longer than these other networks.
Enjoy your future folks, it's going to look a lot like the past....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Steve Ballmer, Apple Fanboy

So I was reading on Slashdot, as I often do, when I came across this:

Uploaded with IntrinSic.us

Suddenly it all made sense. Windows 8. Microsoft's seeming lack of direction and failure to innovate recently. Pretty much everything that had gone since Bill Gates retired. Steve Ballmer is secretly an Apple fanboy who is unwittingly sabotaging Microsoft from within. Yes, it all makes sense now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

He Says While Posting On His Blog

Here's something a gadget geek like me doesn't want to encounter on his travels on the Innertubes:

Study Finds Growing Up WIth Gadgets Has a Downside: Social Skill Impairment

The first thing that popped into my head reading this was, "But I didn't grow up with a lot of gadgets and I have terrible social skills." But I'm a gadget geek now. So I can't help but wonder if the reverse is more likely to be true. That is, perhaps poor social skills are part of what drives children to enjoy gadgets in the first place.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Daily Show on SOPA

You could face as a website, up to five years for streaming ten pieces of music.

When did Congress turn into Ogre?
What kind of douchebag steals other people's copyrighted work anyway?