[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Thursday, 2012-12-27

Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Iris

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 01:42
Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Iris

Just finished watching Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Iris. This is probably one of the best kaiju movies I have ever seen (and I have seen most of them). A major plot element of Revenge Of Iris concerns a girl who blames Gamera for the death of her parents. It’s true: Gamera smashed her parents’ apartment building into rubble while fighting the Gyaos. Of course, had Gamera not fought the Gyaos (or had Gamera not existed at all), the death toll from the unstoppable Gyaos would have been much higher, but as you might imagine, that’s small consolation to the girl.

I think some of the best villains are those with understandable motivations. In the case of Ayana (the aforementioned orphan girl), you feel sorry for her and sympathize with her, even though she is tragically misguided in blaming Gamera for her parents’ death: she ought to blame the Gyaos. But it’s an all-too-human failing to place blame using emotion rather than reason. That’s an element that’s hard to pull off without being either heavy-handed or simply ridiculous (particularly in a movie about giant monsters), but I think this movie does it successfully.

Sunday, 2012-12-23

My favorite Christmas specials

Filed under: Family,Friends,Movies,Mythology,Television — bblackmoor @ 15:01

I am imposing a unilateral un-grimmening! No more grim tidings for at least one week. Time for Christmas cheer and good will.

As a start, here are my favorite Christmas specials and movies, in no particular order. Some are great. Some are just terrible. Some make me laugh. Some make me cry. I love them all.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the real one, not the Jim Carrey abomination)
Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
(Mexican) Santa Claus
Gremlins
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Elf
Bad Santa
Scrooged
Star Wars Holiday Special
Hogfather
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 2012-12-15

Tragedy and perspective

Filed under: Firearms,Society — bblackmoor @ 21:16
Tears in the rain

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
— Joseph Stalin

From time to time, terrible things happen. When the terrible thing is something which no amount of human action could have prevented, such as floods and hurricanes, people tend to blame human action or inaction anyway. Some people use the phrase “god’s judgement”. Other people pray. This is all pointless, but understandable. Humans are irrational.

Sometimes the terrible thing is the result of human action. When this happens, the natural response is to place blame. Because we are people, we are reluctant to place the blame on the person who committed the terrible thing. If that person could do something so terrible, then any person could do a terrible thing. That is unthinkable. So we look for other explanations. The presence or lack of superstitious observance by the criminal or among the victims. The failure of society to ingrain certain individuals with a moral compass. The failure of society to protect the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the powerless. We are too lax, or not lax enough. We are too libertine, or not libertine enough. And so on.

The world is not perfect. It will never be perfect. Terrible things happen. Terrible things will always happen. The world is neither fair nor unfair.

But I am as irrational as everyone else. I want answers. I want to believe that I can prevent the next terrible thing. So I think about terrible things, and what causes them.

I think about firearms. More often than not, when a terrible thing is the result of human action, and people die, firearms are involved. Would the terrible thing have been avoided if our society was willing to restrict firearm ownership? It’s easy to place blame on that. We are told, repeatedly, how violent our society is, that we have too many guns in the hands of too many people. And we do have a lot of firearms. Hundreds of millions, at least. We could outlaw them. Australia did (although Australian firearm ownership was already severely restricted before that happened). Would that reduce the violent crime in this country? Comparing our rates of violent crime and intentional homicide with the rest of the world, most of which has much greater restrictions on firearms than the US, doesn’t seem to support that hope.

What would reduce the amount of violent crime in the USA? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rates of violent crime have been dropping steadily for decades, up until the past couple of years. Why has it rebounded in the recent couple of years? Could it be the years-long recession which we are still struggling to crawl out of? The double-digit unemployment? It’s said that desperate people do desperate things. Could it be that simple? I don’t know. Even if that were the case, I’m not sure I could do anything about it. I have been consistently outvoted at every presidential election I have ever voted in, at a ratio of at least 99 to 1. The American populace does not share my opinions when it comes to … anything. It’s unlikely any solution I have for our economic problems would be accepted by the hoi polloi.

I think about children. The worst of all terrible things involve children. No one wants bad things to happen to children, aside from the people who do terrible things to them. How can we protect children? Would they be safer if we made schools into armed fortresses? Would children be safer if teachers were armed? That seems to fly in the face of common wisdom. We are ingrained with the story of the careless gun owner who injures himself or others. That’s actually not an accurate picture of the average gun owner, but I confess the idea of children surrounded by armed adults makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Is that rational? I can think of several terrible things that could have been far less terrible had there been armed adults between children and someone who wished them harm. That’s not the picture of the world I want to live in, but unfortunately, the world is not what I would wish it to be.

I think about death. The terrible things that make the most news involve a large number of people being killed at the same time. “Large” is a heavily fraught term. I hear “5” or “15” or “30” and I think that’s a large number. I can picture 30 people being killed, and it’s horrifying. I’m outraged. Other people are outraged. They make their Facebook profile pictures black to express their sorrow. But yesterday, 19,000 children died of preventable illnesses. 19,000 died again today. 19,000 will die again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. 19,000 children, every day. And the handful killed in what is, in reality, an isolated and increasingly rare incident seems… I don’t know. Not trivial. Tragic. Of course it’s tragic. But it’s so small compared to what happens every single day. That 19,000? That’s not the exact number. The number could be 19,030. Those 30 children are just as dead, and we leave them out of the “19,000” because they hardly seem to matter when the number is so unthinkably high. But 30, just 30, makes national news. Vigils are held. Politicians vow action. Activists make accusations, and attack. Other activists declare innocence, and attack right back. Meanwhile, 19,000 other children have died, and no one seems to care.

But that’s world wide. Maybe that’s too big. I can’t do anything to protect children in the Saharan desert. Okay, so what about the USA? Five children die every day in the USA of abuse and neglect. Five yesterday. Five today. Five tomorrow. And honestly, while I don’t think there is anything that will prevent one terrible person from doing one terrible thing (such as the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6), I think we can probably make a difference when it comes to the five children who die every day from abuse and neglect. Better programs for at-risk children. Better training for social workers. More money. (Yes, libertarians do see a role for government when it comes to protecting the life and liberty of nonconsenting others. If you thought otherwise, now you know better.) If that number could be reduced just 20%, from five per day to four per day, that would be 365 children alive at the end of the year who might not have been otherwise. So maybe I could focus on that? Would that be a worthwhile use of my time and outrage?

I think about accidents. More children die in accidents in the USA than from any other cause. Could we make their world safer? It already seems so much safer than the world I grew up with. Fewer adults smoke. Everyone uses seat belts. The dangerous toys I grew up with are no longer available. What is left to endanger children in today’s round-edged, non-toxic, car-seated world? And yet, the rate of accidental deaths among children in the USA is one of the highest in the developed world despite the fact that it’s dropped by a third in the past ten years: roughly 24 a day, every day. 24. Every. Day. Most of those children die in automobile accidents. That’s horrifying, but honestly, I don’t see how I could do anything about that. Maybe that’s why I don’t see people on Facebook calling for the abolition of private vehicle ownership. But people do call for the abolition of privately owned firearms, which do far less damage (and which may in fact do some good).

I really don’t blame people for that. It’s well-intentioned, and I think good intentions are too rare in this world to condemn anyone for it, misguided or not. But we aren’t good at setting priorities. I’m not any better at it than anyone else. I am as heartbroken by a single, senseless act of violence as anyone else is. I’d like to find answers. I’d like to make sense of the senseless. I’d like to know how to keep terrible things from happening. But we aren’t primates screeching at shadows. We know that some things are more terrible than others. We can measure cause and effect. We can measure the relative danger of different things. We can focus on the terrible things with the highest body count. We can focus our efforts where they will have the greatest effect.

Or we can screech at shadows. And with as much disdain as I say that, I know that most of the time, I am right there, screeching along with the other primates.

P.S. These are worth reading:

Tuesday, 2012-12-11

Backing up Google documents

Filed under: Software,The Internet,Work — bblackmoor @ 12:39

I just had a panic moment when I thought that a Google document I’d spent the better part of a week writing had vanished. This is what I plan to do from now on, once a week, until I forget about it and stop doing it.

  1. In Google Docs, go down to the far left bottom menu item, and select “More V” and then “All Items”.
  2. Click the select box at the top of the screen next to “TITLE” to select all items.
  3. Click the “More V” button at the top middle of the screen, next to the eyeball (“Preview”) icon, and select “Download”.
  4. Select “Change all formats to… OpenOffice”, and click the “Download” button.
  5. Wait a couple of minutes and then download the file somewhere.

Wednesday, 2012-12-05

Rango

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 19:48
Rango

When Rango came out in theatres, I had no interest in seeing it. It just didn’t look interesting. Why would I want to see a movie about a chameleon in a western town? Dull.

I was wrong. Susan and I just finished watching this on Amazon Prime, and not only is it a good animated movie (better than the last three Shrek movies, easily), it’s a damned good western — and there aren’t that many of those made these days.

If you have Amazon Prime, see Rango. It’s free. If you don’t have Amazon Prime… hell, see it anyway.

This is a damned good movie.

Sunday, 2012-12-02

Skyfall… eh

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 20:42

Just came back from seeing Skyfall with Susan. I confess that I am puzzled by all of the glowing reviews. I can forgive technical absurdities like the biometric pistol (an idea which first got floated around over 20 years ago, and which was discarded because no sane field agent would ever depend on it) and the head of Q branch plugging a known enemy asset into their network (although after the last two movies got so many computer details right, that was kind of disappointing).

The glowing reviews puzzle me because the movie was so slow and dull. Even the theme song is dull. The movie didn’t even have a villain for the first, what, two hours? And when we do meet him, he’s just… creepy. Not scary. Not menacing. Just icky, in the way the grocery store bagger who looks a little too long at your personal hygiene items is icky.

It’s not the worst Bond movie I have ever seen (A View To A Kill and Octopussy are both much worse), but even A View To A Kill had a better villain. Christopher Walken, now, he knows how to play a deranged blonde genius.

Saturday, 2012-12-01

Cult Movie Night — Special Christmas Edition

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 11:33
Silent Night, Deadly Night

Last night’s interstitial Cult Movie Night SPECIAL EDITION was Silent Night, Deadly Night (a Christmas tradition!) and Brick. It was going to be Silent Night, Deadly Night and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, but I was overruled.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a much better movie than you might think, if you’ve never seen it. It spends a good portion of the movie introducing you to the main character, Billy, and gives you insight into why he later snaps and start killing people dressed as Santa Claus. It also includes a lot more nudity than you see in slasher movies nowadays (something I miss). But it’s not torture porn, like Saw and Hostel — there aren’t long, lingering scenes of people tortured and in pain. The violence is over the top and fun, not sadistic and disturbing. That being said, there are some genuinely creepy and scary parts, primarily in the early part of the film where we see Billy being traumatized by his early experiences.

Brick, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is completely different. Brick is a film noir mystery set in and around a high school. That might sound camp, but Brick works because everyone in the movie takes it deadly seriously. It works because in high school, every ridiculous little thing is deadly serious. There’s very little violence, some mild language, and no nudity. An episode of CSI has more violence in first fifteen minutes than Brick has in the whole movie. Yet the movie is rated R for “Violent and Drug Content”, showing you what a load of crap the MPAA ratings are.

Wednesday, 2012-11-28

Pasting spaces into Google Docs

Filed under: Software,The Internet,Writing — bblackmoor @ 16:19

I just spent too much time pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to get Google Docs to paste spaces and keep them spaces, rather than turning the spaces into tabs. I couldn’t find a way to prevent it, so here is what I did.

  1. Paste my text into a text editor, such as Notepad++.
  2. In the text editor, find & replace every instance of a space ” ” with a character that does not already exist in the text, nor in the document you intend to paste that text into. In my case, I used a tilde “~”.
  3. Copy this modified text, and paste it into Google Docs.
  4. In Google Docs, find & replace every instance of the placeholder character with a space ” “.

Is it ridiculous that you need to do this to keep Google Docs from corrupting what you are pasting? Yes. Yes, it is.

Saturday, 2012-11-17

Copyright Law Destroys Markets; It’s Time For Real Reform

Filed under: Books,Intellectual Property,Movies — bblackmoor @ 10:58
The Future According to Disney

I had to double check to make sure this wasn’t an Onion article. This is amazing. I thought the media robber barons had successfully brainwashed everyone in Washington.

Copyright was an Enlightenment-era social experiment: use the power of government to prevent people from selling or copying creative works without the consent of the creator for a limited time. As originally conceived, I think it was relatively reasonable. However, the current perception (perpetuated by large media companies that seek to own and control our cultural heritage) that when someone creates something once once, that they (rather, the corporation they work for) should be able to monetize that and prevent other people from sharing it or building on it forever has caused and continues to cause severe damage to our common culture, and to the culture of future generations.

If current copyright law had always existed, there would be no libraries, because there would be nothing to put in them.

Update (2012-11-18): That didn’t take long. Less than 24 hours after this “eminently sensible copyright position paper” was posted, the paper has been pulled and the Republicans are falling over themselves to placate the media robber barons. Money doesn’t win elections, but this makes it abundantly clear that money does buy politicians. (In case you doubted it.)

Should you want to read the paper, I have a mirror of it here, and there are also a mirror at KEI, and another from the MD Pirate Party.

Friday, 2012-11-09

2012 vote distribution

Filed under: Politics — bblackmoor @ 10:17
2012 vote distribution

Okay, another political thing, but this is less about politics and more about accuracy. When people talk about the former Confederate states voting as a block for Romney, those people are full of hot air. (In fact, pretty much any time someone starts spewing invective about the South or the North, you can safely bet they are full of hot air.) The Electoral College votes are not representative of who people actually voted for.

I’ll say that again:

Electoral College votes are not representative of who people actually voted for.

Cousin Cole” made the above graphic and posted it on Facebook.

I made this because 1) I wanted to see what it looked like and 2) I think it’s kinda important. Talking about red states versus blue states in a monolithic way is reductive and annoying.

Several people have asked how this was done. The numbers were taken from MSNBC. I matched the percentage of blue in an RGB color picker to the percentage of the vote Barack Obama got and did the same for Romney and red. Green stayed at zero.

So if a state had voted 100% for one or the other, you would see the bluest blue or reddest red your computer screen can produce. The reason all the colors are more or less in the middle is because no state went more than ~70% for one side or the other. Although if you zoom in you can see that DC is very bright with 91% for Obama.

A few people mentioned that they’d like to see this done by county. Personally I don’t think the county map would be that useful unless it reflected the population disparity between counties (which is harder, but maybe possible). I’m thinking about it.

The USA is not divided into huge subcontinent-sized areas that voted for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum in monolithic blocks. There is a good chance that half of the people you meet on a given day voted more or less the way you did, and half didn’t. That’s true whether you live in New York or Georgia, Alaska or Florida. People who spout hate and demonize entire regions of the USA based on electoral college votes aren’t interested in accuracy or seeking common ground: quite the opposite.

Be accurate. Seek common ground. Assume good faith in others until they prove otherwise. Don’t distort the truth to spread hate and divisiveness.

P.S. Mapping politics (and the politics of maps)

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