Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Another Google Fail

I am no longer able to post images.  The image upload tool have been broken for some time.  For a short time, I was able to use the old interface to upload images successfully.  After they retired the old interface completely, I was able to post images indirectly through Picasaweb.  Not the Google Plus Photos tool, which seems inferior in every way to Picasa.  (You can use the 'noredirect=1' flag when accessing Picasaweb to not get redirected to Google Plus.)  Even though it was a bit cumbersome if I had to post several images, I could make it work.  They must have changed something in the Blogger API, though, and failed to update Picasa, because I can no longer post images that way.  I'm not sure what else to do and may have to switch blogger platform.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Suspension of Disbelief

In Toy Story 3, there is a scene in which Mr. Potato Head mounts a tortilla, as part of escaping from the day care center.  I remember the first time I saw this, there was a brief moment where I thought, "a tortilla?"  I quickly went along with it, though.  If I'm already accepting animated toys, why not an animated tortilla?

I watched Olympus Has Fallen this weekend.  Ostensibly, it is more realistic than Toy Story.  There is no magic in it and it features no superheroes.  There are no animated objects.  The technology they use is perfectly feasible.  Yet, I found my disbelief surfacing again and again.  The initial accident is pretty contrived, and it gets worse from there.  It is not plausible for the attacking plane to take out two jet fighters so easily.  It is not plausible that every single security agent in the Korean detail was a terrorist.  It is not plausible for the army's response to take so long.  It is not plausible for secret service agents to all eagerly run into machine gun fire, and in general mount such a feeble and uncoordinated defense.  The whole Cerberus program is ridiculous, and if it was a real program, the security around it would surely have been designed better.  Why have the only three codes in the minds of people that are all part of the cabinet and thus often together?  Would the president make such poor choices in the face of national destruction?  Why was a brute-force attack successful in such a short time? This whole subplot is particularly jarring, because it seemed unnecessary to the overall story line.

The suspension of disbelief is a function of the strength of the story and the characters.   Pacing and setting matters too, because it dictates if our attention wanders and if we buy into the universe in which the narrative takes place.  It is fascinating that the actual factoid we are expected to accept matters hardly at all.  The devil can be a talking serpent, Hamlet can be the prince of Denmark, toys can think, discuss and act. 

I would love to hear about your own examples of suspension of disbelief, either where it worked in a way that astonished you later, or where it did not work at all.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Atlantic

The Atlantic is one of my favorite magazines. Although it is liberal, its focus is on publishing interesting articles about culture and current affairs from a mix of writers.  There is a good example from the June issue.  William Deresiewicz reviews two books on American literary novels.  In the article, there is such a fantastic quote that I had to share it:

Buell is a person, one should say, who uses terms like cracker, redneck, and white trash without self-consciousness or irony, which makes his moral teleology all the more repulsive—his assumption (and it’s hardly his alone) that all of history has been leading up to the exalted ethical state of the contemporary liberal class.
If you are curious what Deresiewicz means, you need look no further than Paul Krugman.

(Maybe you are curious why I, of all people, should be against derisive comments about politicians, but of all the critical adjectives you can apply to the creeps, stupid is not one of them.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

White House Whoppers

Our presidents are not known for their honesty.  They are politicians, and they lie.  Habitually.  George H.W. Bush gave us his phony tax pledge.  Clinton's name is almost synonymous with deception.  The younger Bush factually misrepresented the state of WMDs in Iraq and played subterfuge about indefinite detention and Guantanamo.

Obama misled us about the consequences of his healthcare law. It was such a stupendous lie that he won an award for it. He deserved it.  Full disclosure: I lost my health insurance due to ObamaCare, and I was happy with my plan, and I am upset about losing it.  Even before this happened, however, I was dismayed at how often and how audaciously Obama lied to us.  Here are several other instances, in no particular order:

1. There is no disagreement that we need action by our government
This is something he said during the debate about stimulus in 2009.  He may not have been aware of the intense controversy unfolding at the time, in academia, by pundits, on the street, about the wisdom of fiscal stimulus, in which case he must have been completely out of touch with people across the country.  I consider it more likely that this was purely rhetorical.

2. We will close Guantanamo Bay and restore the write of habeas corpus
In his defense, he did make a weak attempt at closing Guantanamo Bay, but it is still open, prisoners are still water-boarded there, and his administration have fought even harder for indefinite detention than the Bush administration did.

3. This is the most transparent administration ever
There is no evidence for this whatsoever.  Pure bluster.

4. FISA is transparent
There is no way to dress up this one as other than a pure, blatant, old-fashioned deceit.  (What if he didn't lie?)