You Just Kinda Wasted My Precious Time. Also Money.

My local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat offered a tasty headline yesterday, concerning goings-on up in Rochester, New Hampshire:

Rochester forges ahead with 'tremendous waste' of money: Uses federal funds to rehab houses, sell for far less
The lead paragraph:
Despite a general consensus the city would be taking advantage of "a tremendous waste of federal government money," the City Council agreed Tuesday night to move forward with an application for the next round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding.
The idea of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program is to buy and renovate foreclosed and abandoned homes in troubled neighborhoods. Overall, it's authorized to shell out a cool $3.9 billion. But according to City Councilor David Walker:
"You're spending $500,000 [per house], and then you turn around and sell it for $120,000 or $140,000. That's unbelievably wasteful," he said.
No fooling. But I encourage you to read the whole article; it's a nice little example of the dysfunctional incentives involved with such programs.
  • A Portsmouth "nonprofit" company will handle the application process for Rochester. All they're asking is for 15% off the top of any incoming Federal money.

  • The deputy mayor views it as a "very inefficient way to invest in the city."

  • Another councilor notes that their previous involvement with NSP had "no results".

  • Still another councilor observes, well, what the hell: "If this is one of the ways the federal government is sending back money, I don't think it's beneficial for Rochester to turn it down and let it go someplace else."

  • Another points out that there is nothing to stop them from abetting the Federal Government's foolish wastefulness: "I'm against pork and I'm against earmarks. But if there's a program and it's going to be earmarks, I want us to get our share of it."

    Or: Pigs have no incentive to decline more slop at their trough.

  • Another councilor, after the vote: "I wouldn't want my family to live in that neighborhood. Look what you have for neighbors up there after you've rehabbed those homes. Who wants a beer bottle behind your head every time you get out of your car?"

But, once more: they're "forging ahead."

At least the Rochester folks are being for-a-politician "honest". If not admirable. Multiply this waste by hundreds and thousands of other localities throughout our fair land.

Tales From Earthsea

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

If I was forced to play a science fiction version of David Lodge's "Humiliation" game, I think my entry would be this: Even though I own decades-old paperbacks of Ursula K. Le Guin's acknowledged classics The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, they're unread.

Nevertheless, I had high hopes about seeing this: I loved other movies from the Japanese animation wizards Studio Ghibli, and Netflix predicted I'd like this too. But … eh. IMDB claims that Ms. Le Guin was also disappointed, so I'm in good company.

Briefly, things are falling apart in the fantasy land of Earthsea. Crops are failing, dragons sighted near land, fighting with each other. And the young peoples' music—it's just noise! What's going on?

Enter Prince Arren, who immediately fails to grab our sympathies: he stabs his dad. (If they explained why he did that, I missed it.) On the lam, he meets up with Sparrowhawk, a wise old wizard who's trying to diagnose the ills besetting Earthsea. They run into all sorts of problems, but eventually figure out that it's a plot set in motion by evil and creepy wizard Cob.

Good news: this movie is beautiful to watch. Bad news: I was unable to make a lot of sense of it. In fact, I kept nodding off, and eventually gave up backing up the DVD to figure out what I missed. There was a climactic battle, and it was sort of cool.

True: I kept trying to figure out who was doing the voice for Sparrowhawk. Could it be… Sean Connery? Sounds like him! Irony of ironies, when I looked it up, it turned out to be … Timothy Dalton.

"The name is Hawk. Sparrow Hawk."

Other voices include Willem Dafoe as the evil wizard, and—honest—Cheech Marin as a thug.

Last Modified 2012-09-27 9:29 AM EDT