The Two Towers

[Amazon Link]

Slipped this one just under the wire for 2007's reading. I didn't think too highly of its predecessor, The Fellowship of the Ring; I was pleasantly surprised with the differences here.

For one thing, it seems there's more of substance here; the previous volume seemed endlessly occupied with a description of the scenery the Fellowship experienced during its quest. In The Two Towers, there's a lot more going on, and there's not a lot of time for sightseeing.

It's actually two "books": in one, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas reunite with the thought-dead Gandalf; they go in pursuit of the band of Orcs who captured the hobbits Merry and Pippin. Who manage to escape the Orcs, and meet the Ents, who are extremely put out with their old buddy Saruman.

The second book follows Frodo and Sam, as they try to get the Ring properly destroyed in Mordor, possibly the worst place in the world to go. They are accompanied by one of the previous Ring owners, the hideous Gollum, who's even more disgusting in the book than he was in the movie.

And the book ends with a major cliffhanger. Hopefully, I'll read the last one soon.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:06 PM EDT

The Lord of the Driveway

On the morning eve of the New Year
Didst Paul, Son of Arthur, King of Pun Salad Manor,
In the Ford of Rollins, in Hampshire New,
Awake to find his world draped in white once again.
And his feelings about that were mixed.
For did not the wizard of PowerPoint, Algore, son of Algore,
Once recently proclaim that the World would warm?
And that the Ford of Rollins would enjoy the climes
Once thought reserved to far-off Miami in the south?
Or at least Raleigh, North Carolina?

But Paul could also see that the world sheathed in whiteness pure
Was kind of pretty.
Although it was also equally fair
After the now-countless previous storms that year
And even prettiness could get kind of old after a while.

And then Paul also recalled the wise words of the ancient Twain,
Who observed the telling truth
That although many talked about the weather,
There were few or none to do anything about it.
Better still to just do what needed to be done.

For the inhabitants of the Manor,
Yea, even Paul himself,
Had places to go, and things to do.
And that was nigh impossible without a new path made
To the Thoroughfare of Willey
For the mighty steeds of the Manor,
Named Camry, Matrix, and CR-V.

So did Paul bundle up
And don his boots with waffled soles
And arm himself with Melnor,
The Shovel Once Broken,
But Recently Repurchased,
From the Store of Hànnaförd,
In the nearby shire of Dover.
Many leagues had Melnor traveled,
From far off lands, over stormy seas,
Forged with techniques long forgotten in Hampshire New,
Its blade a ghastly orange hue.
Still, it got the job done.

And what a job it was!
Because there was no fluffiness in the precipitation,
And the Shire's rumbling plow had, as was its habit,
In clearing the Thoroughfare of Willey,
Left a huge pile at the end of the drive,
And also in front of the receptacles
In which varied forms of communications were placed,
Bringing news of far off lands,
Notices of financial obligations,
Magic picture disks from the Buster of Blocks;
Also dubious offers of beneficial commercial transactions,
And even more dubious promises and pledges of the worthy competitors
In the election eight days hence.

Long and hard did he toil.

But finally finished, Paul looked about him,
At the newly cleared path for the Manor steeds.
And he thought it sort of looked like the fabled trench
Of the Star of Death
In a tale told of long ago
In a Galaxy far, far, away
Down which Luke and his comrades flew
To foil the schemes of the evil Empire.
Perhaps he'd sing a few measures
Of that ancient tale's score
Penned by John of Williams,
As he and the sure-footed Matrix traversed the drive
To the Thoroughfare of Willey
Later that day.

But now the time for warmth and dryness it was,
Back within the Manor walls.
Also, he could use a little lunch, of tunafish and pineapple.
And perhaps finally finish Tolkien's The Two Towers,
Which had started to affect his blogging style.


Last Modified 2007-12-31 7:20 PM EST

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

[Amazon Link] [2.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

We continue to catch up with the movies everyone else saw in theatres this summer.

And I'm feeling a bit heretical about this, but I'm getting a little tired with Harry Potter. Nothing personal, sorry about your folks and all kid, good luck with saving the world, but … it seems to me that your movies used to be a lot more fun to watch.

Anyway: in this one, Harry continues to be menaced by He-Who-Has-No-Nose, the evil Voldemort. He also has his inner demons to deal with. And Dolores Umbridge is introduced as a bureaucrat from the Ministry of Magic, dedicated to downplaying the Voldemortian menace and depriving the Hogwarts students of needed mad defensive magic skillz against the evildoers.

That would seem to be an on-target social commentary on how the ACLU and their ilk want to yank useful tools for fighting terrorism away from the US government, but the movie almost certainly doesn't mean for us to draw that parallel. I may have missed something, though, since I kept nodding off.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:05 PM EDT

Futurama - Bender's Big Score

[Amazon Link] [4.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I scored this DVD as a Christmas gift from my wonderful family. For those who don't obsessively follow all things Futurama: it's a movie-length feature, and a continuation of the stories from the animated Fox TV show that ran from 1999 until 2003. I gather that it will be (eventually) chopped up into 30-minute episodes and shown on Comedy Central. Fans, however, won't want to wait.

You probably need to have at least a nodding familiarity with the TV show to appreciate the movie. It involves naked alien scam artists, and a hefty amount of time travel between the 21st and 31st centuries, in which the usual paradoxes are parodied.

Al Gore, voicing his own character, has a number of funny self-deprecating bits throughout. Although he comes in for a lot of well-deserved grief at this blog, this blog must admit that it found itself liking Al a little bit more.

There are a few bonuses. One is a lecture from (non-animated) Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald of Appalachian State University to the (non-animated) Futurama staff on the mathematics seen in the show and the movie. Dr. Greenwald has a website dedicated to appearances of math jokes in the series. Hypnotoad!

There's also a complete episode of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad. All glory to the Hypnotoad!


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:01 PM EDT

URLs du EOY Retrospectives

2007-12-29

It's coming up on the end of the year, which means a lot of Content that attempts to summarize the past 350+ days. (None of the retrospectators seem to want to wait until the year is actually over. I suppose that's understandable.)

Beware: the following links lean toward levity.

  • You'll certainly want to check out only year-end review that matters, from Mr. Dave Barry.
    It was a year that strode boldly into the stall of human events and took a wide stance astride the porcelain bowl of history.

    It was year in which roughly 17,000 leading presidential contenders, plus of course Dennis Kucinich, held roughly 63,000 debates, during which they spewed out roughly 153 trillion words; and yet the only truly memorable phrase emitted in any political context was ``Don't tase me, Bro!''

    Also, I learned that if my name was "Alberto Gonzales" instead of "Paul Sand," I coulda named this blog "Gala Lobster Zone" instead of "Pun Salad."

  • But there are some retrospective sub-genres you might want to look at too. For those lacking the patience to wade through hours of online video to find the gems, Lore Sjöberg has done that for you in The Year in Online Video 2007.
    Where would we have been in 2007 without the power of online video? It made us laugh, it made us cry, and most importantly it made us laugh at crying people. Without it, we may very well have never known that prisoners in the Philippines like '80s pop, that prairie dogs look an awful lot like Alfred Hitchcock, and that somewhere out there an ottoman is seeking therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Some might say we're better off not hearing Alanis Morissette croon about her lady lumps, not hearing a little girl swear like a drunken landlady, and not hearing Rick Astley songs in any context, ever. To them I say: Get your own year. This one belongs to online video.

  • When I was a mere lad, Cracked magazine was the unrespected runner-up to Mad. I don't know if the magazine still exists, but the Cracked website is pretty funny. They have a number of EOY look-backers, but the best is probably 2007: Seven Things We Should Pretend Never Happened.

Now a quick quiz: which event is mentioned at all these links? Hint: it contains both the words "tase" and "bro".

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I thought the first Pirates movie was great: a story well-told, with humor and actual good acting and amazing special effects.

This one's a big bloated mess. The plot, such as it is, seems to have been stitched together as something to set up the special effects.

OK, the special effects are impressive. But the movie's nearly three hours long, and after a while it's like eating your fifteenth chocolate sundae.

Keith Richards appears, heavily made up, as Captain Teague, Jack Sparrow's dad. The purpose of this? As near as I can tell, none.

But—here's the thing—if you've seen the first two, you might as well watch to see what happens to everyone in this one. Just don't try to make much sense out of it, don't go overboard in trying to keep track of what everyone's goal is, who's just doublecrossed whom, or even which ship is which. All of that was beyond my abilities, and I was even able to follow the plot in Bender's Big Score. (About which I'll blog later.)


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:04 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2007-12-26 Update

Phony volatility continues …

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2007-12-20
"Ron Paul" phony232,000-45,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony223,000-11,000
"Barack Obama" phony188,000-29,000
"John Edwards" phony185,000+5,000
"Fred Thompson" phony164,000+15,000
"Mitt Romney" phony160,000+5,000
"John McCain" phony154,000-9,000
"Rudy Giuliani" phony149,000-93,000
"Dennis Kucinich" phony149,000+1,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony128,000-23,000

  • The big phony news over the past few days has been the "unendorsement" of Mitt Romney by Pravda on the Merrimack, aka the Concord Monitor.

    When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

    Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no.

    Puh-leez! Are New Hampshire voters unusually well-qualified to see through phoniness? Hah, I wish.

    And speaking as a true aficionado of candidate phoniness: there's no particular reason to start with Romney. Or stop with him either.

  • For example, our current frontrunner:

    Presidential contender Ron Paul said Sunday that despite his philosophy of cutting government spending, he was justified in requesting funding for special projects, known as earmarks, for his Texas congressional district.

    Paul, the libertarian-leaning GOP lawmaker from Lake Jackson, said on NBC's Meet the Press that he has requested earmarks "because I represent people who are asking for some of their money back."

    "They steal our money," said Paul, during a heated exchange with the show's host, Tim Russert, who questioned whether he was being true to his convictions.

    This year Paul requested 65 earmarks, more than any other congressman in the Houston area, including money for the renovation of an old movie theater in Edna and wild shrimp marketing.

    Paul's secondary defense: although he requested the earmarks, he voted against the bill in which they were contained. Now that's phony!

  • Thomas Sowell wins today's coveted Pun Salad "Read The Whole Thing" Award for today, with his impressions of the major candidates. His phony-spotting abilities far outmatch those of the Concord Monitor:

    None of the candidates looks truly inspiring at this point. I wouldn't buy a used car from most of them, nor a brand new car from some of them.

    And, of course, we're in total agreement here:

    John Edwards is the easiest to peg. He looks just like the phony that he is.

    Indeed!

  • And even though it is, technically, after Christmas, Mark Steyn's comments on candidates' Christmas ads should not be neglected for that reason. Especially telling is his observation that Ron Paul is "the only candidate with the courage to be filmed in front of an artificial tree." And there's his analysis of the Hillary ad:

    In Senator Clinton's Christmas message, Hillary is bundling up presents for all of us. They're beautifully wrapped, but oddly, instead of putting the name of the intended recipient on the gift tag, she's written out what's in them: "Universal Health Care", "Alternative Energy", "Middle-Class Tax Cuts." Strange. "Where did I put 'Universal Pre-K'?" she says. "Ah, there it is." If you thought Christmas at the mall was too materialistic, this is bonanza time. Message: It Takes A Santa's Village Staffed By Unionized Government Elves To Raise A Child, and I'm Santa and you're gonna need a much bigger chimney for all the federal entitlements I'll be tossing down there. Your stocking's gonna be packed tighter than Monica in fishnets.

    A belated Christmas gift to Pun Salad: the absence of that repugnant and depressing ad from the airwaves.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:19 AM EST

Amazing Grace

[Amazon Link] [3.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

Our Christmas movie this year was this story of William Wilberforce and his decades-long effort to ban the slave trade in the British Empire. Mr. Fantastic himself, Ioan Gruffudd, plays Wilberforce.

The movie occasionally lapses into the worst habit of biopics: using wooden dialog as exposition. The characters sound as if they're reading from Wikipedia

It's OK, though, and gets an extra half-star in my book for its explicit inclusion of evangelical Christianity as cornerstone of Wilberforce's character and actions. Albert Finney has a small but powerful role as John Newton, former slave-ship captain turned Anglican priest, writer of the hymn Amazing Grace.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:02 PM EDT

Merry Christmas!

In our Pun Salad tradition, we don't want to be all in your face on Christmas. Just try not to make baby Jesus cry.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:13 PM EDT

URLs du Day Before Christmas

2007-12-24

  • Don't say you can't learn something useful from blog-surfing on the day before Christmas. Dan Drezner has discovered a handy shortcut in dealing with voice-recognition robots on the phone. (Warning: a word you can get away with saying no more than once in a PG-13 movie appears at the link, although it's asteriskized.)

  • Lore Sjöberg describes his line of Alt.Santas, in case you're tired of the same old suspiciously jolly fat guy laying a finger aside of his nose, etc. (And what was the deal with that gesture, anyway?) For example, here's my favorite:

    Objectivist Santa

    As this Santa will tell you, the entire concept of "gift giving" is an immoral construction designed to perpetuate a contemptible society based on entitlement and the parasitic draining of those who have earned the fruits of their labors. That an innocent child would be indoctrinated to expect presents with no effort or capital invested into the exchange is an evil unseen since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. Objectivist Santa offers children a choice: They may have a copy of Atlas Shrugged, for which they must give up a beloved toy, or they may choose to writhe and mewl in ignorance, and receive nothing. Objectivist Santa only has to carry around one copy of Atlas Shrugged.

  • And here's a pretty classy Christmas greeting from Fred Thompson:


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:15 PM EDT

The Invisible

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

This supernatural thriller was critically-drubbed (19% on the Tomatometer), but I the preview on another DVD I saw made it look good. Yes, I was duped by a movie trailer!

The hero here is Nick Powell, high school golden boy about to graduate. (Yes, this is the second movie in a row I watched with high-school-senior heroes. Good catch.) Nick is moody and sensitive, and his English teacher loves his dreadful poetry. He has conflicts with his mom, who doesn't appear to miss his dead father; she's also opposed to his dream of attending a "Writing Program" in London.

Unfortunately, he's recently come into conflict with fellow classmate Annie (she has a dead mother), the violence-prone ringleader of a small high school crime syndicate. (Really.) Soon enough, this conflict results in Nick's invisible spirit wandering around his town, trying to get someone to come rescue his dying body.

Probably every guy who saw this movie thought: "If I were the invisible spirit of a male high school senior, I'd be off to the girl's locker room." Sure enough, Nick makes it there eventually. Although he still looks moody and sensitive about it.

The movie was good enough to keep me awake and involved through the whole thing. But most of my thoughts were how it could have been much, much better.

Oh, about the trailer. The IMDB says:

A subplot involving an elderly man who could see the main character was in the trailer, but not the film.
Darn it, I was waiting for that guy to show up.

Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:06 PM EDT

I Took an Online Quiz And …

Take the Sci fi sounds quiz I received 77 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Take the Sci-Fi Movie Quiz canon s5 is

Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:18 AM EST

The Age of Abundance

[Amazon Link]

Another good book that the UNH Library saw fit to buy, even without my recommendation. I love those guys.

The subtitle on the book is "How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture". Most of the text is taken up with a very wide-ranging history of the last few decades of the US of A. It's full of telling statistics and insightful analysis.

How wide ranging is it? Let's do a sampling: page 50 concerns labor relations and regulations; page 100 tells of the imposition of Jim Crow in the south; page 150, the beginnings of the civil rights movement; page 200, the beginnings of the environmentalist movement; page 250, the economic trainwreck of the early 70's; page 300, modern TV comedy.

Most of Lindsey's history will be familiar to anyone paying attention to current events over the past few decades. But I'm pretty sure anyone will pick up on (at least) some neat trivia. For example, I found out here that Peter Coyote was a founding member of the "Diggers", a radical-anarchist drug-fueled group in the 60s Bay Area. Synchronicity: just after I read that, I noticed Coyote droning on my TV during a PBS pledge break. Times change, don't they?

The author is vice president for research at the Cato Institute. So it's not surprising that his analysis is broadly libertarian, both on economics and social issues. I'm generally very sympathetic to that view, but he doesn't beat you over the head with his ideology, so even non-libertarian readers might get through the book without throwing it across the room.

The book's final chapter is an analysis of Where We Are Today. It's very balanced: Lindsey doesn't have an optimistic thought without balancing it with a pessimistic one a few sentences later. Still, it's thoughtful and thought-provoking. Lindsey is the author of the famous (and famously derided) "Liberalitarian Alliance thesis", the idea that some sensible lefties could be brought into strategic alliances with libertarians to accomplish some limited progress on entitlements, taxes, and corporate welfare; there are some inklings of that idea here.

Lindsey's website, like his book, is also pretty good.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:07 PM EDT

Superbad

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I've become kind of a fan of the "filthy but surprisingly still upholds traditional values" comedy genre, exemplified by The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. This movie has some of that cinematic DNA, but didn't work as well for me.

Three high school seniors are looking forward to an evening of liquor-fueled debauchery, since they've been invited to a party, and they're the kind of kids who rarely get invited to parties. Only problem is: they are tasked with obtaining the alcohol. This turns into a peril-filled odyssey involving two of the worst policemen in America, bums, bad drivers, liquor store robbers, etc.

The "lesson", such as it is, is that drunken party sex isn't all it's cracked up to be.

OK, it's pretty funny.

But one big problem is that the movies I mentioned liking above have explicitly adult characters. The high school characters here—they probably hit a little too close to home for someone with kids only slightly older. I know, that's just me. But still, when I read on the IMDB trivia page:

Because (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) was only 17 at the time of filming, his mother was required to be on set during the filming of his sex scene.
I'm a little: ewwwwww!

Another problem: one of the characters never seems to get his needle off the "pathetic and irritatingly obnoxious" peg.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:03 PM EDT

Newsflash: CBS News is a Den of Liars. Perky Liars.

Well, maybe the headline's a tad strong. Nevertheless: don't try to claim you've invented a colorful phrase if Benjamin Zimmer of Language Log is within earshot. Katie Couric is quoted speaking to Bob Schieffer:

You and I talked a little earlier this afternoon, Bob, we were saying Iowa is really getting interesting. As they say in the business, too close to call. In fact, that phrase was invented here at CBS between 1962 and 1964. I thought you might find that interesting.
And Katie also reports:
A new poll shows it's tight as a tick in South Carolina between Clinton and Obama.
Benjamin traces the provenance of both phrases to non-CBS sources. It's interesting!

Here's Pun Salad's new colorful phrase for a close election: "The race is nip and tuck, with Nip checking Tuck's pockets for spare change."

It works better if you imagine Dan Rather saying it. Or maybe if you imagine Darrell Hammond imitating Dan Rather saying it. But in any case: remember, you heard it here first.

Let's Pick Harvard's Pocket!

A new front on the great Class Warfare struggle opens up on the New York Times op-ed page today, with an article on inequality in the endowments of institutions of higher education. Says Herbert A. Allen:

America's wealthiest colleges have endowments that are thousands of times greater than those at the least fortunate schools. The chasm is far deeper than that in other realms. After all, overpaid chief executives and investment bankers pay inheritance and income tax, so their wealth diminishes over time. Heavily endowed colleges and universities, however, suffer no such setbacks.
Oh no! What perfidy does this loophole allow?

We'll get to that, but first Mr. Allen makes the obligatory head-fake about merit:

It's certainly true that these academic institutions have worked hard to be excellent. They deserve to be rich. They should be congratulated.
Right. Reader, can you guess the very next word in Mr. Allen's article?
But should they be allowed to be so protected by the tax code that they can use their disproportionate wealth to raid poorer colleges and scoop up the best teachers by offering better pay, benefits and tenure-track positions? Should they further separate themselves from less fortunate colleges by taking the best high school students and offering them ever richer deals?
Mr. Allen apparently expects us to answer with a thunderous "No!" to these two questions. But if I were in the shoes of those hypothesized "best teachers" or "best high school students", I think I'd be thinking: "Actually, that sounds pretty OK to me."

Mr. Allen seemingly feels everyone would be better off if these teachers and students remained stuck at poorly-endowed Podunk State U. Because … well, he doesn't explain why. To a certain mentality, it's blindingly obvious, I guess.

But it turns out there's a perfectly good solution to this ill-defined problem:

What to do? Well, here's one solution: tax the investment income of the wealthiest colleges (though not their endowments). If the endowments of all academic institutions were evaluated on a per student basis, a standard could be set that could begin to allow revenue sharing.
Ah. Sounds like an innovative solution! In fact, it sounds like pretty much the same innovative solution offered up more or less daily by the New York Times for every other problem: coercive redistribution of wealth and income. Is there nothing it can't do?

Mr. Allen concludes:

I know it won't be easy to convince well-off schools to share their wealth. But they should. They should see this act as part of a down payment on their professed mission: to create a stronger, smarter and ultimately more stable society.
It's nice to see Mr. Allen phrase this in the language of voluntary sharing for mutual benefit. But of course, that's bogus: he's proposing a tax. You don't really have to "convince well-off schools" of anything; you only have to convince a majority of senators and representatives. Then you just start taking money from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and handing it out to Patrick Henry Community College and Fayetteville State University; you don't even have to say thanks.

I must admit, though: there's a certain amount of petard-hoisting fun to see rich left-skewed institutions targeted by this sort of argument.

Stats on endowments, if you're interested, are here.

Mr. Allen was positioned at number 239 on the most recent Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. I'm not sure what that means other than Warren Buffet isn't the only rich guy who can sling synthetic populist rhetoric.

Update: You may also want to read what a Free Exchange blogger has to say about Mr. Allen's proposal: a "surpassingly silly idea".


Last Modified 2007-12-22 6:26 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2007-12-20 Update

Ron and Rudy surge to dump Hillary out of first place! And Fred Thompson shed 84,000 Google hits in five days to now challenge Kucinich for "least phony" honors!

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2007-12-15
"Ron Paul" phony277,000+28,000
"Rudy Giuliani" phony242,000+56,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony234,000-24,000
"Barack Obama" phony217,000-12,000
"John Edwards" phony180,000-30,000
"John McCain" phony163,000-20,000
"Mitt Romney" phony155,000-54,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony151,000+1,000
"Fred Thompson" phony149,000-84,000
"Dennis Kucinich" phony148,000+44,000

It's an exciting time for phony watchers!

  • Senator Christopher Dodd has never registered significant support in the polls, and lacks the comic relief of a Kucinich, so we've never tracked his phony hits. But Shawn Macomber went to Grinnell, Iowa to review Dodd's campaigning from a philosophical point of view:

    "For those of you who don't know me maybe only seen my picture on television or heard my voice, you've been asking two questions since the moment I walked into this room," Dodd said. "And they're very difficult questions to ask, so I'll ask them for you."

    No one can say the senior senator isn't bold or innovative. Usually politicians take questions from the audience and then shoehorn a preferred soundbite into the answer. Here was a man unafraid to streamline the process, to ask and answer his own questions.

    "The first question is 'Who am I?'" Dodd began. The room was silent save for some uncomfortable shuffling, a typical reaction to the threat of late afternoon existentialism.

    "Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see." Maybe I'll watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail tonight.

  • Because there's nothin' on TV besides repeats and reality shows and—since I live in New Hampshire—wall-to-wall political commercials. I especially want to avoid seeing Hillary's latest Christmas-related ad again; you need to watch your blood pressure when you're my age.

    But if you haven't seen it, you probably should. It's illuminating, and not in a good way. Prof Althouse has the YouTubed version, with the perfect headline ("I want the government to give me more presents.") and the perfect comment. ("I would have thought this was a parody attacking Hillary Clinton, but she's Hillary Clinton, and she approved of this message.")

    Hillary, of course, is also responsible for the new popularity of a telling oxymoron: "charm offensive".

  • Dean Barnett is a gifted writer and pretty good analyst, so it was especially jarring to see the opening of his Weekly Standard article on Mike Huckabee's "embarrassing and unintentionally comic" efforts to pontificate on foreign policy:

    SINCE MIKE HUCKABEE's meteoric rise in the polls, […]

    Arrrghh, Dean! Meteors don't rise; they fall. (This usage is common enough, however, to also irk the proprietor of the Bad Astronomy website.)

    Other than that, though, Dean's article is great. Check it out, just remember to skip the fourth word.

  • But what's behind the meteoric rise dramatic increase of Ron's and Rudy's phony hit counts? In Ron's case, a quick scan through recent search results finds the p-word flung mostly by his supporters against other candidates, and (of course) the "phony polls" that fail to find much actual voter support for their guy.

  • And in Rudy's case, we're seeing some heated rhetoric out of the continually-arrested anti-abortion protesters outside his campaign headquarters in Manchester. Semi-famous Randall Terry is quoted:

    Randall Terry stated, "The purpose of these protests and sit-ins is to highlight the fact that Giuliani is a hard core pro-abort, and is trying to pass himself off as a conservative Republican.

    "When it comes to moral issues that grip our political debates, there is no difference between Giuliani and Hillary. He must be stopped at all cost. The key is showing that Rudy is a phony — a wolf in sheep's clothing."

    I hadn't really noticed the sheep's clothing myself.

  • But in my travels on the Intertubes, I found phoniness here:

    McCain... wants big government to take over even more of our decisions. Campaign finance reform is allegedly of great concern to McCain. Unfortunately, and this is especially sad for his younger supporters, it is pretty clear now that McCain is a phony on this issue. McCain wants it both ways. He campaigns as the golden knight who will "reform" political fundraising, even as he thumbs his nose at the voters by continuing to take big corporate money AND still doing favors for those companies by leaning on the government agencies that are supposed to regulate them.

    Tough words. Amusingly, they're from New Hampshire's own Union Leader newspaper—back in 2000. This year, the Union Leader is endorsing the "phony" McCain.

    [I should say: the quote is allegedly from the Union Leader. Apparently there are Democrat activists that like to pass around phony quotes from the paper. Tsk!]


Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:19 AM EST

When Schill Says …

"Wear red on Fridays," Pun Salad replies: yes, sir!.

New Feature

For those of you needing quick access to Pun Salad content on the topic of your choice: (a) Why in the world would you need that? (b) I've added a GoogleTM Custom Search box over there on the right.

No, your right.

The Googlers make this easy enough so that just about any idiot can do it. "And I'm living proof of that."


Last Modified 2007-12-20 11:08 AM EST

A Pun Salad Travesty

For no particular reason, I adapted a travesty program to output a few paragraphs in the Pun Salad style:

Overnight success" is a state environmental consultant, a surveyor, and a TV show called The Monkees, and Michael Nesmith. For you Wildcatters out there, without question, but it's a mere four days, most of the siren tempts the sailor, sometimes with the conservative movement, having discovered a fountain of youth. The Enterprise (in its shuffle mode) more often than I'd like to say: this movie is a small arch of the annual deficit, this is a multi-billion dollar market if governments can be enjoyed. The napkin attributes this to Secret Service Uniformed Division has existed in name since 1977.

It's not even very good straight man as all the costs of Social Security; expand savings incentives; and ensure pension fairness. Translation: Democrats have no restrictions of friendship when looking at it? That's the goal of U.S. life, with Muslims in this ongoing series, this is true with respect for the good fortune of being drawn into the mind of late: why the various entitlement and welfare programs run by "Dr. P", played by Adrien Brody, hired by an impressively long list of approved choices in a UNH group calling itself "Students for Academic Integrity" is circulating a petition signed by 1.028 kiloeconomists. At the same medicine we give Republicans." Then Satel and Klick misrepresent a fine movie overall.

Gene Hackman gives an unexpectedly large number of Tony's buddies come off sounding like a wisdom tooth, by the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division", to be far-fetched. In other words, … hm … well, check it out of 14 former members of the population or less. This view is seemingly fueled entirely by resentment of the world is flat? Would the "communists" not have been played by Will Smith, indisputably African-American, and Eva Mendes, … deadly octopi. An Australian species has venomous suckers that can debunk the EPists with alternative hypotheses, her argument is that a French rat has aspirations to become engaged to a couple guys are killing. This very arty Korean movie follows two timetracks: the first time I get this straight.

They don't mean to be united in their idyllic hippie commune. Unfortunately, the New Yorker, "I enjoy winning and making money." Keynes meant something similar when he examined the clientele at a relatively short timeframe, without acknowledging the earlier post in the Iron Man movie. Cool! Fans of intentionally bad writing—and we are just the boys you'd never go out and checked. She said she was just window dressing; he's about right. Via Prof Althouse.)

Well, of course via Prof Althouse!

URLs du Jour

2007-12-19

  • Iowahawk on Iowa:
    Every four years, America kicks off its time-honored democratic ritual of selecting the next president of the United States. As always this process begins with the Iowa Caucuses, which will have an important say in determining the final nominees. And, as always, this process is marked by another time-honored ritual: millions of angry non-Iowans asking, "who died and made that stupid state God?"
    He goes on to explain who died and made that stupid state God.

  • Official Pun Salad Hero Ken Jennings writes on Mormonism and politics. He addresses himself to Huckabee's publicized query about the brotherhood of Satan and Jesus:
    The truth, Huck, is that Mormons believe that God is the Father of us all, which does, I guess, in some sense, make Jesus and Satan brothers. And by the same logic, we also believe that Moses and Orville Redenbacher and Attila the Hun and Neil Diamond are brothers. Happy now?
    Good stuff. My brother Jennings for President!

  • Ex-astronaut Jay Buckey is running for the United States Senate here in New Hampshire. If you give him even a teentsy bit of money before the end of the month, you will receive a Jay Buckey For Senate Memorial Squeeze Toy And Stress Reliever Space Shuttle Collectible:

    [Jay's Shuttle]

    Jay is running for the Democratic nomination against Jeanne Shaheen. If Jeanne wants to get in the swag game, I'd suggest offering a foot-shaped chew toy.

  • One of our New Hampshire residents, Mark Steyn, is in a heap of trouble in Canada for a Maclean's article based on his recent book America Alone. Muslim groups complained to Canadian "human rights commissions", and it appears that—this is First-Amendment-free Canada here, remember—Steyn may be called on the carpet for thoughtcrime.

    The book is coming out in paperback next month, and civil libertarians who'd like to offer Mark some support can pre-order it right here. Or you can shop the Steyn Mall.

  • Programmers tell us how they really feel in comments. (Warning: very bad language at link, which is via BBSpot.)


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:30 PM EDT

The American Dream

As near as I remember, it goes like this:

Somehow, you are in a small group of people that includes Tina Fey. She tells a joke. You are the only one who even notices, let alone laughs. She appreciates this.

In amazingly short order, you are made the guest host of this week's Saturday Night Live. (I know that Ms. Fey doesn't work there any more. Remember, this is the American dream.)

Unfortunately, you are expected to write your own opening monologue. It's not clear whether this is due to the writers' strike. But anyway, the clock is ticking down to 11:30pm, and you've got nada, save for a few inchoate ideas that somehow all revolve around Tina Fey.

Soon enough, you're walking through those doors in front of the studio audience and millions of home viewers. And then you notice that you forgot to put on pants.

You look around, and it appears that Tina Fey is not amused. Neither is Maya Rudolph. Or the audience.

People talk a lot about the American Dream, but personally, I think it could use some work.

Hot Rod

[Amazon Link] [2.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

Why yes, I did watch two Isla Fisher movies in a row. Good catch.

I like Andy Samberg just fine on Saturday Night Live. Here, he plays Rod Kimble, a very stupid kid who wants to become a famous daredevil stuntman, following, he believes, in the footsteps of his father. Fortunately, he appears to have a near-indestructible body. Unfortunately, we find this out because he's also clumsy, accident-prone, and woefully ignorant of basic kinematics or structural engineering.

There are bits and pieces of funniness here, but most of the time the movie settles for being pointlessly goofy. That's not my cup of tea. Sissy Spacek gives a pretty good deadpan performance as Rod's mom, and Ian McShane gives a pretty good deranged performance as Rod's over-the-top abusive stepfather. But it's just basically stringing together a bunch of short gag scenes to pad the whole thing out to movie-length.

I kept falling asleep the first time I tried to watch it; the second time went better, but I fell asleep again near the end. Not a good sign, although I don't mind a nap now and then.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:05 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2007-12-18

  • I can report that the War Against Christmas is doing poorly again this year, as I had no problem buying baby Jesus stamps at the Rollinsford, NH, Post Office. Apologies to any pagans on our card list.

  • Charles Paul Freund wins the coveted Pun Salad "Read the Whole Thing" award for today. His American Spectator article involves (a) property rights, (b) the separation of church and state, and (c) architecture, all as they relate to the hideous Third Church of Christ, Scientist in downtown Washington DC.
    If at first you don't at first recognize the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, as a church at all, don't be embarrassed; most people probably mistake it for a fortress intended to protect the president's house against a tank assault. It's a largely windowless octagonal tower made of raw, weathered concrete, and it's surrounded by a sterile "plaza" that seems to have been emptied to keep the line of fire clear. The site inspires few people with a sense of spirituality.
    Freund describes the situation well: not only is the building butt-ugly, it's also dysfunctional and a maintenance nightmare. Its parishoners despise it, but its demolition is being blocked by the local preservationists, who have the force of DC's government, such as it is, behind them.
    So why has the city's Historic Preservation Review Board unanimously declared the Third Church of Christ, Scientist to be an official D.C. landmark, preventing not only its demolition, but even its unauthorized alteration? Because, it turns out, it is a sterling example of the mid-century school of design known as Brutalism.
    Now, I know (to a first approximation) nothing about architecture, but when I saw the word "Brutalism", I said: "Hey, sounds like Boston City Hall."

    And guess what the first pictured example on the Freund-linked Wikipedia "Brutalist architecture" page is?

    Prince Charles might be a nitwit, but Wikipedia credits him with a pretty good line about Brutalism:

    "You have, ladies and gentlemen, to give this much to the Luftwaffe", he said in 1984, addressing the Royal Institute of British Architects, "when it knocked down our buildings, it didn't replace them with anything more offensive than rubble."

  • Are you a music fan Of A Certain Age? Check out Donald Fagen on Ike Turner.

  • Drew Cline makes up a useful word: Hucklemencies.

  • I watch a lot of movies, but I've managed to (so far) avoid all but one of the AV Club's sixteen Worst Films Of 2007. The one I watched: Smokin' Aces. Personally, I would have left that off the list, but added Perfect Stranger.

  • OK, so maybe you're having a bad day. But at least a black hole in a neighboring galaxy isn't showering the Milky Way with enough radiation to kill you and any other life forms within 100,000 light years. That would totally suck.


Last Modified 2007-12-19 1:18 PM EST

The Lookout

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

A neat little noir movie. We have a fallible protagonist in Chris Pratt, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, once a high school golden boy whose driving misadventures have left him brain-damaged, with a truckload of guilt. He needs to leave notes for himself so that he (for example) doesn't forget to turn off his alarm in the morning. He struggles with some physical tasks, and speaks inappropriately at times. And he's very aware of how much he's lost, so he's bitter and resentful, and there's nobody to blame but himself. So he's a good candidate for getting roped into a bank heist masterminded by a smooth-talking sociopath, played by Matthew Goode.

In addition to a decent plot, the movie has a wealth of three-dimensional supporting players. Jeff Daniels plays Chris's blind roommate as a blunt-speaking ex-druggie. Isla Fisher is a hooker (name: Luvlee Lemons) with a heart of—well, not gold, but not brass either; she's the sociopath's bait to lure Chris in. And D-Day himself, Bruce McGill, plays Chris's father; he doesn't know how to deal with Chris's situation, but you can see he wants to try.

Anyway, the heist happens, plots get twisted, and it's certainly worth a look.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:07 PM EDT

Tax Rates for Geeks

About six years ago, wasting way too much time on Usenet, I took issue with a young gentleman who claimed (as progressives of that time were wont to do):

The only thing the tax cuts for the rich in the 80's led to was a massive redistribution of wealth as the poor and middle class began shouldering much more of the tax burden and the rich much less.
"Oh, yeah?" I said. One of the pieces of evidence I referenced in that discussion thread was the Congressional Budget Office's study on tax rate incidence on each "quartile" income group. Although Usenet discouraged posting graphics in discussion groups (save it for the porn groups), I did generate some graphs on my then-website and posted URLs to them in the discussion.

Now Greg Mankiw notes that the CBO has brought out new figures (CBO director's blog entry here; official report here); I thought I'd use my mad Gnuplot skillz to regenerate the graphs based on the new data. You can click on each graph to show a bigger version.

Here's the "total" Federal tax rate between 1979 and 2005 paid by each income quintile:

[Effective Total Tax Rate]

Professor Mankiw's comment:

Notice that all groups are paying lower tax rates than the historical average. But in contrast to some popular perceptions, the change is not concentrated among the upper income groups. In fact, the opposite is true.
In fact, eyeballing the graph doesn't reveal a major long-term trend for the highest income quintile, where there's a clear downward slope for the other four quintiles.

You can certainly "see" the 2001 tax cut effect in all five lines, though. You can see the Reagan tax cut most strongly in the upper three quintiles, barely in the second quintile, and not at all in the bottom quintile. What's going on?

It's a total tax rate, for one thing: the sum of income tax, "social insurance" taxes, excise taxes, and corporate taxes. The CBO helpfully breaks all these effects out for us. Here's the income tax rates only:

[Effective Income Tax Rate]

Again, income tax rate cuts don't help much when you're not paying much, if any, income tax. The bottom line's downward progress, I'd guess, is largely due to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit over the past few decades; note that the last data point has the lowest quintile "paying" income tax at a negative 6.5% in 2005.

What's zinging the poor? Here's the "social insurance" tax rate:

[Effective Social Insurance Tax Rate]

The middle three quintiles pay at the highest rates here. The highest quintile pays at a lower rate, since Social Security taxes (for now) are capped, with income above the cap remaining untaxed. The rate for the poor has pretty much kept going up, though. (I'm wondering how much of this is due to welfare reform, as people were moved off the roles and into jobs, where these taxes start hitting you at the first dollar earned. Just a guess, don't know for sure.)

A totally different picture for corporate taxes:

[Effective Corporate Tax Rate]

Here, the richies get whacked, although at a relatively low rate. The Rest Of Us kick in a penny or two for each dollar of our household income.

Finally, here's the one that really kicks the lower-income households in the teeth, the various Federal excise taxes:

[Effective Excise Tax Rate]

While income taxes are strongly progressive, this shows the regressive nature of excise taxes: the poor paying at the highest rates, the rich at the lowest. The rate's pretty low, however, which allows the total rates to remain progressive.

Caveats: we talk about "quintiles" as if they represented a fixed bunch of schmoes, doomed to remain in their economic status for life. Of course, that's not true. People move between quintiles easily from one year to the next, and the income levels representing the quintile boundaries change in real terms as well. So don't read too much into this.

Also note that these are average rates over a household's entire income. You don't have to be a supply-sider to believe that marginal rates, the rates you pay on the last dollar you earn, are important as well. They only show up here indirectly.

But I find these interesting despite their limitations, hope you do too. They're certainly handy at disposing of some class-warfare rhetoric even today, as they were six years ago. You might be able to corral a Presidential candidate and ask him or her: where would these lines go under your tax proposals?


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:42 PM EDT

Abusive and Hostile

William and Mary logo deemed "abusive and hostile" by the NCAA:

[old logo]

New William and Mary logo shorn of abuse and hostility:

[new logo]

I suppose the NCAA deserves thanks for ushering in a new era of racial/ethnic peace and harmony, which is due to start real soon now, thanks to the absence of those feathers. (Previously, the NCAA had demanded that W&M's "Tribe" nickname also be flushed down the memory hole; after appeal, the NCAA relented on "Tribe" but demanded those feathers be scalped from the logo.)

Meanwhile, however, abuse and hostility continues against my own ethnic group, both at the professional level (here) and—most outrageously—at college level, most with the implicit complicity of the NCAA (here, here, here, here, here (particularly offensive), here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

I'm outraged. (Via Phi Beta Cons. Previous Pun Salad comments on the issue here and here.)


Last Modified 2009-03-07 7:23 AM EST

The Phony Campaign

2007-12-15 Update

Fred Thompson is surging in the only campaign that matters:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2007-12-07
"Hillary Clinton" phony258,000-97,000
"Ron Paul" phony249,000-42,000
"Fred Thompson" phony233,000+49,000
"Barack Obama" phony229,000-10,000
"John Edwards" phony210,000-14,000
"Mitt Romney" phony209,000+24,000
"Rudy Giuliani" phony186,000-14,000
"John McCain" phony183,000-12,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony150,000-3,000
"Dennis Kucinich" phony104,000+3,000

  • Perhaps part of Fred's problem is his campaign's "apology" to Mike Huckabee, styled after Huckabee's own apology to Mitt Romney about Huckabee's bigoted idiotic unfortunate comments about Romney's Mormonism.

    We apologize for pointing out that as Governor of Arkansas, Huckabee offered in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. That's something he'd probably just as soon no one talk about.

    Funny. But phony. Still, funny.

  • And then there's actual not-from-the-Onion AP news story where candidates were asked "to name their most prized possession." Both Bill Richardson and John McCain have Ted Williams-signed baseballs, and, yeah, if I had one of those I'd probably answer the same way.

    Fred's answer: "Trophy wife."

    The AP helpfully points out: "Fred Thompson's campaign answered tongue in cheek." They may be down in the polls, but they seem to be having a pretty good time.

  • In fact, the AP apparently has a whole thing going with asking the candidates stupid questions. Here's one from yesterday where they "asked presidential candidates to reflect on what they like to do on a lazy day."

    Fred's answer: "Campaigning."

    Interestingly, in this story, there's no disclaimer about the relative placement of tongues and cheeks.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:19 AM EST

URLs du Jour

2007-12-14

  • Rich Galen: not particularly fond of the Des Moines Register. How obnoxious do you have to be to get Rich Galen mad at you, anyway?

  • Pun Salad's coveted Read the Whole Thing award for today goes to Ron Silver, who has meditations on fear.
    But in this world we inhabit we know darn well what prevents the darkness to prevail. Our willingness to confront, sacrifice and defeat it. Do we have the will or will the feckless and fearful among us triumph.

    I fear the ending will turn out badly if we abide politicians who insist that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Or our own government.

    I've never been very fond of the "fear of fear itself" trope. Eek! It's fear! Does that make sense?

  • Monty Python fans know about Immanuel Kant: a real pissant, who was very rarely stable. But now more damning allegations have come out:

    (Via Geek Press. And you'll note that first link is hosted by the University of Adelaide Philosophy Department. No poofters, there, I bet.)


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:44 PM EDT

Hi. I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Make Your Shoes More Expensive.

A neat little case study in How Things Really Work: At Cato, Daniel Griswold posts on efforts to repeal the "Shoe Tax", the tariff on imported footwear. Fun Facts:

  • The tariff dates from Depression days.

  • Meant (as these things always are) to protect domestic producers from foreign competition, that battle was lost long ago: "99 percent of shoes sold in the United States are imported." But the tariff keeps jogging (heh) along even after its rationale has evaporated.

  • U.S. shoe tariffs are among the highest in the world.

  • The tariff is highly regressive; its primary impact is on cheap shoes, the ones lower-income Americans are likely to buy.

  • Is this outrageous tax being opposed by consumer activists and champions of the poor? Uh, no. Griswold quotes a Chicago Tribune story: the lobbying is coming from well-heeled "trade associations and their members, such as Payless ShoeSource, Nike Inc. and Columbia Sportswear Co." Yes, greedy soleless corporations are stepping up to actually do something to help the downtrodden; conversely, the usual self-proclaimed advocates of the less advantaged, a slippery bunch, aren't shoeing up at all.

  • Yes, that's way too many puns, even for Pun Salad. I'll stop now.

  • There's a website devoted to ending the tariff: EndtheShoeTax.org.

  • Legislation has been introduced in the House (HR 3934) and Senate (S 2372). So far, the co-sponsors seem a bipartisan bunch; this isn't a wedge issue. You might want to drop a note to your representatives; threaten to boot them out of office if they don't support it. Demand to know their platform, and whether they can stop the bill from being clogged up in a committee. Don't let them flip-flop; we pay their salaries, so they shouldn't be loafers.

    And don't be reluctant to pump up their egos a bit.

  • Sorry. I'll really stop.

Unfortunately the legislation doesn't simply repeal the tariff, but it's probably the best bet.

What to keep in mind: this is only happening due to corporate lobbying and the mere fact that the tariff is egregiously outrageous and indefensible. Multiply by dozens of similar cases that don't have the lobbying clout. As Griswold points out, there are plenty of other tariffs that hit the poor the hardest, while "protecting" the relatively wealthy from competition. He sums up:

The political irony here is that many of the same people who complain the loudest that the rich are not paying their "fair share" of income taxes are the first to oppose any lowering of regressive trade barriers that make it more difficult for poor parents to feed and clothe their children.
It's enough to make one want to vote for Ron Paul. Uh, almost.

Meet Kim Jong-il, Director of Residential Life

A few weeks back, a major kerfuffle erupted at the University of Delaware about the indoctrination program for dorm-dwellers mandated by their Residential Life office. A good intro is John Leo's brief but heated description at Minding the Campus:

Residential assistants charged with imposing the "treatments" have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists - at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught that a "racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality." [...]

The indoctrination program pushes students to accept the university's ideas on politics, race, sex, sociology, moral philosophy and environmentalism. The training is run by Kathleen Kerr, director of residential life, who reportedly considers it a "cutting-edge" program that can be exported to other universities around the country. Residential assistants usually provide services to residents and have light duties, such as settling squabbles among students. Kerr and her program are more ambitious. She has been quoted as saying that the job of RAs is to educate the whole human being with a "curricular approach to residential education." In this curricular approach, students are required to report their thoughts and opinions. One professor says: "You have to confess what you believe to the RA." The RAs write reports to their superiors on student progress in cooperating with the "treatment."

Leo made comparisons to "North Korean brainwashing", a parallel originally drawn by UDel students and professors. The program was eventually quashed a few days after being exposed to the withering public glare; this page at FIRE has a raft of links that will tell you everything you want to know about the controversy and more.

It appears this kind of totalitarian mindset is pervasive in Residential Life offices. It might be that the field attracts those committed to instilling leftist ideology into malleable young minds, outside the direct academic program of the University.

Here at UNH, we have Residential Life as well; their "diversity" site is right here. Director of Residential Life Scott Chesney introduces things:

The Department of Residential Life at UNH has a long history of doing its best to model the need to celebrate difference in the UNH community. In the 80s and early 90s, our department positioned itself as the University's loudest voice and conscience in this area. We were often heavily criticized by others in the community for what was perceived to be our arrogant liberalism.
Most people out of the University cocoon will translate that last sentence as a near-certain indication that they were arrogantly liberal at best. And it's hard to read the rest of Scott's missive without adding on the implied message: … and now we're back, and we're more arrogant than ever!

The ResLife site offers a glimpse into the University's official "diversity" ideology. Despite the stated desire to "model the need to celebrate difference", there are no contrary thoughts expressed, no skepticism allowed. The whole thing's as uniform as a Kansas cornfield. Feel free to explore the links, and be either depressed or amused, as your inclination allows. My own reaction is that it seems very similar to religious dogma, of a particularly strident variety.

There is question-begging jargon: you are either an "Ally" ("A member of the "majority" group who rejects the dominant ideology and takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression will benefit the target group and the minority group.") or an "Adversary". That is, you're either on the path to Salvation, or on the road to Eternal Damnation.

There's a Lot of Unnecessary Capitalization.

There are thou shalt/shalt not commandments. The Lord managed to limit Himself to ten; these folks have many, many more. Among the "thou shalt nots":

  • Accept the status quo.

  • Collude with the exiting system of oppression.

  • Deny your role in oppression.

Some "thou shalts":

  • Interrupt offensive jokes.

  • Vote for change.

  • Notice the numerous intersections between different forms of oppression.

The path to righteousness is narrow indeed.

In secular religions, judgment cannot be left up to the Almighty, but carried out by mere mortals; this page offers tools by which Residence Hall Directors can examine and evaluate their Resident Assistants' worthiness ("Works Toward Social Justice") or unworthiness ("Works Against Social Justice"). Staff are urged to "self-assess" (or "confess"), by answering such questions as "Have you spent significant time in your life interacting and getting to know a person(s) who comes from a vastly different background than yours?" and "Are you able to articulate the difference between oppression and discrimination?"

There's even the equivalent of Bible Camp Activities, expressed here as "Programs/Enrichments", broken down by "Multicultural Identifier" (one or more of: "Ability", "Class", "Gender", "Race/Ethnicity", "Religious/Spiritual", or "Sexual Orientation") and by "Level" (how far along the path to enlightenment the subject is: "Awareness", "Skills", "Knowledge", "Social Action"). Some categories are sparsely populated; the only one under "Religious/Spiritual" is watching Schindler's List.

Each Program/Enrichment is labeled with a "Risk" level: "Low", "Medium", or "High". I can't find any indication of what the "Risk" is; I speculate that it's the risk that participants may start reacting against arrant manipulative bullshit and thereby become Heretics. Readers—white readers only, please—might want to check out the White Privilege Checklist; anyone can fill out their Cultural Coat of Arms!

Now, we're not quite as bad as the UDel program here—that "Kim Jong-Il" crack in the title was a total cheap shot. But indoctrination is indoctrination, even when done with a smiley face, using tools imported not from Pyongyang, but from 1950s Sunday School.

There's a respectable argument that the "diversity" ideology is a lousy way to heal social wounds and decrease irrational hatreds and suspicions. You won't hear even a whisper of that argument from Residential Life, though. While pretending to worship "diversity", they're averse to admitting that particular manifestation of actual diversity even exists.

Waitress

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

It's easy to call this a chick flick; it revolves around Jenna, a waitress trapped in a loveless marriage to Earl, an abusive lout; in the opening scenes, she discovers that she's pregnant. She is (since she's played by Keri Russell) beautiful; she also has an extraordinary talent at pie-making, and she's smart enough to know that she's paying a huge price for her poor judgment in the past. The movie was written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, who also has a small part as one of Jenna's co-workers.

But it transcends chickflickiness to be just a good, enjoyable movie. Jenna's character is well-developed, and so are the raft of supporting characters. The great Captain Mal, Nathan Filion, takes a role as Jenna's doctor, and (sorry for the spoiler, but you'll notice this pictured on the DVD box) they strike up an unprofessional relationship. Her co-workers also have their amusing romantic escapades.

Jenna remains (at best) ambivalent to the baby growing inside her; she sees it primarily as yet another insurmountable obstacle to her plans to get away from Earl. The movie plays this well, and her fate, and her baby's, remain unresolved and uncertain until the end.

Andy Griffith plays Old Joe, the cantankerous owner of the restaurant. If the Oscar folks have a fraction of sentiment they'll give him at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role here. (A little Googling tells me I'm not alone in this opinion.)

So, guys: if you want to appear sensitive and caring to your Significant Other, you might want to check this one out. She'll appreciate the break from 13 consecutive Bruce Willis movies.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:08 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2007-12-12

  • A WaPo blogger says that the mud is starting to fly in our fair Granite State:
    Billy Shaheen, the co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, raised the issue of Sen. Barack Obama's past admissions of drug use in discussing the relative electability of the Democrats seeking the presidential nomination today.
    "Billy" is the husband of ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen, who's running for Senator against incumbent John E. Sununu.

    It's more than a little amusing to have a Clinton operative worry out loud about embarrassing questions being brought up about another candidate's past behavior. (Via, sigh, Andrew Sullivan. Andrew, I wish I knew how to quit you. Really.)

  • We occasionally rant against US farm policy. In depressing news, Cato's Daniel Griswold reports on the fate of a mild reform amendment before the Senate:
    … the amendment would have repealed Depression-era farm programs that deliver huge subsidies to a relatively small number of farmers who grow so-called program crops—corn, cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans—and import protection for sugar and dairy. The amendment would have replaced those programs with a generously subsidized system of insurance. While still far removed from the free market, the proposed alternative would have been less costly and market-distorting than the current system.
    … and that amendment went down to a resounding defeat, 37 to 58.

    New Hampshire's senators both voted on the losing side, a small comfort. Expect to pay for this vote both on your taxes and at the supermarket.

  • But that's enough politics. Pixar movie fans will want to check out Jim Hill's collection of the studio's clever recurring "characters." The Pizza Planet delivery truck really gets around. (Via, where else, BBSpot.)


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:47 PM EDT

Breaking News: Al Gore Still a Pretentious Blowhard

Back in March, Pun Salad pointed out Al Gore's propensity to incorrectly claim that:

In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, "crisis" is written with two symbols, the first meaning "danger," the second "opportunity."
Over at Language Log, Ben Zimmer notes that, oops, he did it again, this time in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Apparently Al's not a fact-checker. Quelle surprise!

In the interest of fairness: John Tierney has a nice word for Al Gore. Or so he claims. I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

URLs du Jour

2007-12-11

  • [Gun Prohibition Sign] Weekend Pundit, posting on Tuesday, opines on gun-free zones, like the Westroads Mall in Omaha:

    … the signs might as well have said, "Murderers, No One Will Be Able to Stop You Until the Police Arrive."

    Good point. Any chance Nebraska legislators could mandate that language?

  • I'm sure that you, dear reader, don't let celebrity endorsements guide your own voting decisions. But you might find them interesting. I'm impressed at Rudy's list.

    And I should admit: the celebrity endorsing John McCain pulls a lot of weight with me. Not enough, but still …

    (Via Andrew Roth at the Club for Growth, who comments: "I'm devastated, Scarlett. Devastated." Indeed.)

  • From the AP story on the Sunday night GOP Univision debate:

    Asked what he would do with Castro, who has reigned through nine different U.S. presidents, Fred Thompson said, grinning: "I'm going to make sure that he didn't survive 10 U.S. presidents."

    Although Fred is doing dismally in the polls, he's a clear front-runner among likely-voting Republicans residing at Pun Salad Manor.

  • National Review editors do a number on Mike Huckabee's thoughts on foreign policy.

    [Huckabee] wants to anthropomorphize international relations and bring a Christian commitment to the Golden Rule to our affairs with other nations. As he told the Des Moines Register the other day, "You treat others the way you'd like to be treated. That's to me the fundamental issue that has to be re-established in our dealings with other countries."

    This is deeply naïve. Countries aren't people, and the world is more dangerous than a Sunday church social. Threats, deception, and — as a last resort — violence must play a role in international relations. Differences cannot always be worked out through sweet persuasion. A U.S. president who doesn't realize this will repeat the experience of President Jimmy Carter at his most ineffectual.

    Huck has moved into my "Republicans would be crazy to nominate" category (which now contains him and Ron Paul). And Democrats would seem to agree. If a Carteresque foreign policy doesn't sour you on Huckabeee, Brendan Nyhan has compiled a handy list of some other stuff that's come out recently. And he's getting endorsed today in New Hampshire by a group normally unfond of conservatives. Caveat voter.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:12 PM EDT

A Night in Casablanca

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I put this in my Blockbuster online queue awhile back since I wanted to make sure I'd seen all Marx Brothers movies.

As it turned out, I dimly remember seeing this before. Yes, it's pretty forgettable. Give me a few years, I'll probably rent it again for the same reason.

No Margaret Dumont, no Zeppo. Groucho takes an unconscionably long time to show up as the new manager of the Hotel Casablanca, whose last three managers have all been murdered by Nazi postwar thugs. There's a low-budget chase-action sequence at the end, kind of reminiscent of the train chase in Go West. But does anyone want to see Marx Brothers movies because of the thrilling action sequences?


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:09 PM EDT

Quote du Jour

2007-12-10

Geek God Larry Wall discusses the difference between programming and scripting:

Suppose you went back to Ada Lovelace and asked her the difference between a script and a program. She'd probably look at you funny, then say something like: Well, a script is what you give the actors, but a program is what you give the audience. That Ada was one sharp lady...

The Hoax

[Amazon Link] [3.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

I thought this had some promise, because (as you see) gracefully-aging fine actor Richard Gere is staring out from the DVD box with an impish twinkle in his eye. And the subject of the movie is Clifford Irving's attempt to publish a phony "autobiography" of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, which I was actually alive for in the early 70's and I remembered it as kind of a hoot.

So I was set up for a kind of light-hearted caper movie. Bzzzt! Wrong answer!

Although there's some of that at the beginning, as Gere and his schlumpy assistant, played by Alfred Molina, concoct and execute their wacky scheme, appealing to the greed and vanity of their publisher, deceiving sources, lying to friends, associates, spouses, etc.

But the filmmakers eventually go the "honest" route themselves: as it turns out, living a life of fraud and deception has its negative consequences!

I'm enough of a conservative to appreciate that, but it wasn't very interesting as a movie.

Also, the movie gets kind of tricky with reality near the end, it's unclear how much of what's onscreen is real, and how much is out of Irving's eventual self-delusion. A far-fetched Nixon/Watergate tie-in is attempted—ho-hum.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:05 PM EDT

URLs du Jour

2007-12-09

  • A—heh—Stark warning to Iran's President Ahmadinejad.

  • I have someone to root for in the upcoming Miss America pageant.

  • Think of two famous people you would not expect to see pictured together. Got it? OK, well, here they are, pictured together. (Via BBSpot.)

    (Sorry to those of you who were thinking "Rebecca Romjin" and "Arthur C. Clarke". A close second.)

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

[Amazon Link] [2.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This is one for the "Sometimes the Critics are Right" department.

The premise is: Chuck and Larry (Adam Sandler and Kevin James, respectively, although I had to look that up) are best fireman buddies. Larry has arguably saved Chuck's life. But Larry's a widower, and due to his own grief he has botched the medical coverage for his kids; if he croaks, they'll be on their way to skid row, or something. So he hatches this plan involving a fake gay marriage to Chuck, which (somehow) fixes things benefit-wise.

Yes, that's pretty far-fetched.

Adam Sandler and Kevin James are both pretty good comics and there are some chuckles here, but I'm pretty sure they're restricted to the first half-hour of the movie. After that, it was pretty dreary, and I nodded off for maybe twenty minutes or so in the middle; that's a sure sign that I didn't much care what happened.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:05 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2007-12-07 Update

It's been a long time since we looked at the Phony Campaign, and the only interesting thing is how uniformly uninteresting things have gotten:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
2007-11-24
"Hillary Clinton" phony355,000-166,000
"Ron Paul" phony291,000-122,000
"Barack Obama" phony239,000-123,000
"John Edwards" phony224,000-130,000
"Rudy Giuliani" phony200,000-91,000
"John McCain" phony195,000-156,000
"Mitt Romney" phony185,000-95,000
"Fred Thompson" phony184,000-89,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony153,000-4,000
"Dennis Kucinich" phony101,000-82,000

What's going on? The phony hits for candidates are dropping faster than the needles on my Christmas tree. Have they become less phony, somehow? That seems difficult to believe.

  • Moderate Joe voices criticism of Bill Clinton for his recent comments on the low quality of campaign coverage:
    Bill Clinton said Tuesday that if reporters covered the candidates' public records better, his wife's presidential bid would be far ahead of her rivals. […]

    "One percent of the press coverage was devoted to their record in public life. No wonder people think experience is irrelevant. A lot of the people covering the race think it is (irrelevant)," Clinton said to students at Keene State College.

    Joe has a number of reasons why Clinton's comments are misguided. But he fails to note this little ditty from a few months back, which is apparently down the Clinton memory hole:
    Senator Clinton touts her experience as one reason voters should make her president, but nearly 2 million pages of documents covering her White House years are locked up in a building here, obscuring a large swath of her record as first lady.

    Mrs. Clinton's calendars, appointment logs, and memos are stored at her husband's presidential library, in the custody of federal archivists who do not expect them to be released until after the 2008 presidential election.

    Griping about the press's failure to cover his wife's "experience" while at the same time making the relevant documents unavailable—now, that's phony!

  • There are reports—from the Clinton campaign—of push-polling dirty tricks against her:
    In a fundraising letter this morning, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle accused Obama's campaign of calling Clinton supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire with phony poll questions meant to bash her.

    Clinton's Web site reported that a person claiming to be a pollster asked: "Which of these three options best defines your candidate? 1) Inconsistent on major issues. 2) A weak contender in the general election. 3) Not able to bring change to Washington."

    That is a tough question for a Clinton supporter to answer!

    Obama's campaign claims this is a "flat-out falsehood."

  • We still favor John Edwards in this race, however. He was in lovely Fort Dodge, Iowa a few days back, and apparently maintained a straight face throughout this:
    Committed Christians can be attracted to the Democratic side if the party's presidential nominee projects an honest interest in tackling moral issues, candidate John Edwards said here Sunday.

    Edwards pointed specifically to poverty and the fact that millions of people have no health care coverage.

    "Those are things that Christians care about, that people of faith in general care about," he said. "I think that Iowa caucusgoers and the faith community can spot a phony a mile away. They can tell, when they look at you and when they listen to you talk, whether you say what you really believe, whether it comes from within."

    If Iowans can spot a phony a mile away, my advice to the Edwards campaign would be: stay at least a mile away from the Iowa border from here on out.


Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:18 AM EST

You Can't Make This Stuff Up.

Frank James quotes from a recent press release issued by the campaign of Hillary Clinton:

In third grade, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want To Be a President.' His third grade teacher: Fermina Katarina Sinaga "asked her class to write an essay titled 'My dream: What I want to be in the future.' Senator Obama wrote 'I want to be a President,' she said." [The Los Angeles Times, 3/15/07]

In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want to Become President.' "Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,' the teacher said." [AP, 1/25/07 ]

Is Hillary that desperate? Clueless? Tone-deaf? Petty? Power-hungry? Pathetic? All six?

Enchanted

[Amazon Link] [4.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

This is a pretty swell movie, although it helps to have some nodding familiarity with Disney-style animation involving princesses, evil stepmothers, and dashing heroes. Since I went to those movies when I was a kid, and viewed many of them with my own kids, I eminently qualify.

The story is of Giselle, a happy dweller in a woodland cottage assisted by a live-in menagerie of critters: birds, rodents, the usual suspects. In the normal course of things, she would make any dashing prince a fine wife and they would live happily ever after, or at least until Disney decided to squeeze some more money out of that particular franchise with a sequel.

But the villain here comes up with an unusually fiendish plan: Giselle is transported into modern New York City, and turned into Amy Adams in the process. Plucky Giselle retains her ebullient optimism, and also has the ability to beguile Manhattan's wildlife and its citizenry into cooperating with her fairy-tale outlook. She's not as dumb as she looks, or acts, it turns out.

This is a clever idea, and it's executed with a lot of wit and creativity. All the actors are perfectly cast. (Well, with the possible exception of Patrick Dempsey, who's the perpetual straight man as all the fantasy explodes around him; he's a little slack-jawed, maybe a little too pretty. But I'm quibbling.)

In short, a movie you can take the kids to, or not. It's a lot of fun either way.


Last Modified 2012-10-15 3:04 PM EDT

An Eggcorn, For All Intensive Purposes

Yesterday's paper contained a letter from Rhonda Pomerleau of Kittery, Maine. She got a massive runaround from local authorities when she tried to do the right thing for four domesticated rabbits wandering free in her neighborhood.

After a week of taking care of them I drove the rabbits myself to the Cocheco Valley Humane Society. These wonderful caring people could not believe my story. They told me to report the person who released the rabbits and to call the Animal Welfare Unit about the town's responsibilities in this situation, which I did, but to no prevail.
Hey, I said, isn't that an eggcorn? I asked the Google; Rhonda's not alone in this usage, but as near as I can tell, it doesn't appear in the Eggcorn Database. I submitted it, tentatively; they're very picky.

For area residents: Rhonda's right about the Cocheco Valley Humane Society. Both our cats are adoptees from there.


Last Modified 2017-12-05 10:41 AM EST