[pirate keyboard]

  • It's Talk Like a Pirate Day. Have at it, me hearties. Folks with a scientific bent will want to check out this convincing evidence that the decrease in pirate population over the years is causing global warming!

    Also Wired provides a handy chart of phrases in Somali. ("Where are the weapons?" is "hoobkaagee meyay?")

  • Damon Root notes the apology of Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard N. Palmer to Susette Kelo. As Root notes, one would only hope that Ms. Kelo will eventually get apologies from John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy too.

  • Pun Salad has been shamefully ignoring "Barackrobatics", the word it made up to describe President Obama's rhetorical tics and evasions. Two examples today. First up is from Mr. Jonathan Last notes: "the time for X is over."
    For instance, in Detroit earlier this week, Obama said, "The time for Washington games is over." Washington games being pernicious, QED.

    This is a terribly lazy locution. Because it presupposes that, up until a short while ago, it was time for Washington games.

    Last month? Good for gaming in Washington. Last Friday night? Play away! But now? Oh no. The window has closed. Time to put those terrible, callow games away.

    Good point. A couple years ago, Obama announced that the "time for bickering is over." But not just bickering. Because also, "the time for talk is over." Earlier this year: "the time for putting party first is over."

    What else is over? Well, "the time for moping around is over." Also, (same speech) "time for hand-wringing is over." And "the time for delay is over." In addition, "The time for denial is over."

    When Barack says the time for something is over, it's a slightly obfuscated version of "Shut up and do it my way."

  • But the Indispensable One has spotted another tired phrasing that's popped up: "balancing the budget on the backs of X".
    Judging from President Obama's rhetoric in recent weeks, he seems deeply concerned about back pain among key voter demographics.

    Speaking before the American Legion's national convention in Minneapolis, Obama thundered: "We cannot, we will not, and we must not balance our budget on the back of military veterans."

    While visiting Johnson Controls in Holland, Mich., on Aug. 11, he said: "We're not going to balance our budgets on the back of middle-class and working people in this country."

    Other backs on which Obama would prefer not to balance the budget: the most vulnerable Americans; the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession; the poor and [again] the middle class; seniors; students.

    A nice alliteration, but it's a bit too obvious that he just wants to keep spending. And that would be "on the backs" of taxpayers, current and future.

  • Steve Landsburg has thoughts on the use of "compassion" as a political debating weapon. Check it out.

It's Not You. It's Me.


So, I love Netflix. But people are beginning to speculate that Netflix doesn't love me. Not one little bit. This makes me sad.

Or maybe they do love me, they're just not in love with me. Maybe they just want to be friends. And not friends with benefits.

Awhile back, I got a note that said they were upping the monthly fee for the combination video-streaming/DVDs-by-mail service. (Everyone did. It made the news.)

My decision was easy: dump the streaming, keep the DVD service. No hard feelings. I never got around to buying Yet Another Box to allow me to watch streamed content on my TV, and the selection Netflix offered was merely OK, not great. So I actually wound up saving $4 per month.

But today (like a lot of people), I got mail from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, a combination apology/announcement. First line: "I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation." (You can read the rest here.) The apology was for folks who were a lot more upset about the change than I was. The announcement was that the DVD-by-mail service would now be called "Quikster". Wha…?

But so what?

Instant analyses came thick and fast. Megan McArdle points out that I should probably be worried:

It's not that Netflix doesn't have a problem. They have a huge problem. The company never wanted to be in the mail-order DVD service long-term; it's not a good business. Redbox was threatening to carve off the casual users, leaving them with the high-traffic movie buffs who don't make them money; meanwhile, the warehouses necessary to maintain the business at high traffic levels are costly to build and operate. Plus any idiot can see that the future is likely to be in painlessly streaming movies over the internet, not putting physical discs in little envelopes and mailing them. The fact that the Postal Service is near bankruptcy tells you a lot about the viability of business models based on mailing things.
Megan made me look in the mirror. (Uh, metaphorically. Although I'm a Netflix-lover, I'm also one of those "high-traffic movie buffs who don't make them money." So we may be in a dysfunctional relationship. (If it were a movie, it would be… gosh, maybe Fatal Attraction with me in the Glenn Close role. (Well, what am I supposed to do? You won't answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I'm not gonna be ignored, Netflix!)

And Megan was being relatively diplomatic. Dan Frommer (via this Wired article) implies I should probably be watching out for Netflix goons looking to break my kneecaps:

Why is this happening? Because the future of Netflix is streaming videos. Period. Not mailing them to your house via the U.S. Postal Service, but delivering them to your TV and devices over the Internet.

But to get there, Netflix first has to convince Hollywood to stream its best movies, and it needs to train consumers to stream movies as a default behavior. That means making sure that the streaming business can stand on its own. And that means separating DVDs from the equation, and doing as much as possible to get everyone to stop using them, short of blatant sabotage. (What, you think the bad name, "Qwikster," is an accident?)

Oh, well. As I type, I have three DVDs at home, 143 in my main queue, and 21 in the "Saved" queue, waiting for availability. And I'm willing to send them $15.99 per month in perpetuity. They can't make money off me? We can't make this commercial relationship work? That's kind of sad.

13 Assassins

stars] 13 Assassins (2010) on IMDb [Amazon Link]

Sometimes you're just in the mood for a good old fashioned samurai movie. And this, my friends, is the real deal, straight from the Land of the Rising Sun. It's a wonderful big-budget epic.

The need for good guys is dire: an evil lord, Naritsugu, has made his way into a position of power. And he uses that power in the most despicable ways imaginable: torture, rape, and murder of the innocent and helpless. (And the movie's pretty explicit about this stuff, so it's not for the kids.)

Taking up the task is the elder samurai Shinzaemon. He assembles a small squad of—well, I guess you know how many—heroes, including his nephew Shinrokuro. It is widely (and correctly) assumed to be a suicide mission; the team approaches it with a strong sense of fatalistic duty. They lay out a plan that will deliver Naritsugu into a spot where he can be attacked, but there are no guarantees.

It sounds pretty serious, and it mostly is. But Shinzaemon has a sly sense of humor. The group runs across a guy named Koyata on their trek through a forest—and he's hilarious.

Not everyone goes for this stuff, but as Lincoln allegedly said: People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.

Last Modified 2012-09-25 5:36 AM EDT