The Post Racial candidate…

…is Rosario Dawson.

Seriously. Think about it.

She played Valerie Brown in Josie and the Pussycats. So. Black, right?

Then she was Will Smith’s love interest in Men In Black II, which again would lead toward the “black” theory. Hollywood doesn’t usually like to complicate its romances with mixed races–but wait, she was actually an alien. So, that doesn’t count. Can’t really be “black” if you’re from a different planet, any more than you can be “white”.

In The Rundown she was Brazilian. In Sin City, it doesn’t come up–but I think the comic book character she was playing was white. Hard to tell, though, since it’s basically a black-and-white comic book.

Now, Clerks II had her in a heated situation with Wanda Sykes, who was offended that Jeff Anderson used the term “porch monkey” (ignorantly but insistently). At no time was there any indication that Becky would or should take the term personally! So, clearly either not black or post-racial.

Lately, in the Death Proof half of “Grindhouse”, probable rapist Jasper says to Abernathy (Rosasrio’s character), “Who’s Kim? The colored girl?” As imprecise and crude as Jasper most assuredly is, can we assume that he’d say that to a girl who was also–in his words–“colored”? I think not.

Granted, if faces are not my forté, races are even less so. I spent the first half of Grindhouse wondering if why Rosario Dawson had changed her looks so drastically, only to realize I had mistaken her for Vanessa Ferlito.

Some might wonder why I don’t figure He’s Got Game into my calculus, given that Ms. Dawson even appears topless in it briefly. I don’t, because it’s unfair to hold against an actress things that she’s done early in her career to gain exposure, like star in Spike Lee films.

You Know Your Homeschooling Program Is Going Well….

…when your kid identifies John Dickinson on the HBO series “John Adams” strictly from his dialogue.

Damn. I’m not smarter than that fifth grader. (OK, seventh grader. But still.)

EDIT: On the other hand, when he’s worried that George Washington is going to kill someone with a bat

EDIT: On the third hand, it’s a little spooky when he looks at the young Adams boy and says, “Oh, yeah, that’s Charles Adams. He was a total loser. Dies an alcoholic. Costs Adams the 1800 election.”

Traci Does The News

On an IMDB discussion of Crazy Eights, Traci Lords came up. Traci and I have a “special” relationship, though she’s not aware of it. I had never heard of her before she was exposed as a minor. (Porn stars were not really part of the mainstream awareness back then. There really wasn’t an analogue for, say, Jenna Jameson.) The local NBC affiliate screamed her name across five nightly newscasts.

Obviously the hot ticket for the week. At the end of some of the longest days of my life, this was what passed for news of the outside world. (I’ll talk about my relationship with newspapers later.) Here was the thing about the Lords story:

Every night, they changed the number of movies she was in without comment or reference to previous nights. First it was “over 200”, then “nearly 200”, then “over 100”…I think they closed with “nearly 75”.

A lot of other things said or implied made no sense, either. She controlled her own mega-media empire racking up millions upon millions of dollars. On the other hand, she was a victim of the exploitative porn industry.

But just the changing of a simple, basic fact over a period of five days as if the audience had no memory told me everything I needed to know about what the nightly news guys thought of their audience. Or of facts in general. I’ve never watched a nightly newscast since.

So, thanks, Traci!

It’s sort of ironic that, to this day, I actually don’t know what her story is. I tend to doubt seriously claims of a highly polished machine kidnapping kids off the streets of LA and forcing them at gunpoint to have sex on film. (Linda Lovelace’s claims–er, the second set of claims she made, reversing the first set of claims–seem outright absurd.) I do not doubt there are many sleazy individuals working to take advantage of girls who are down on their luck in the first place, though.

She’s got a book. Maybe I’ll read it. I do owe her that much.

Trying Neaira

If ever I had the idea that I wasn’t boring, surely a book like this disabuses me of it.

Honestly, I loved it. I have to re-read the section about ancient Athenian jury pools, which sort of required you to build your own Greek Jury Poll-O-Matic device for selecting jurors (they numbered in the hundreds to the thousands per case! 30% of the population was on jury duty!) to follow along.

I’m just not that handy.

Anyway, this book is ostensibly about a non-Athenian prostitute on trial for being married to an Athenian. Along the way, we learn about Greek brothels, how slavery and freedom from slavery were negotiated in the ancient world, how trials used to work, how women–decent women, that is–were expected not to associated with any men other than their guardians, what happened when women who were supposed to be decent were found with men other than their guardians, why you shouldn’t cross Apollodoros, and how the Athenians valued their citizenship.

Above all, we learn that the ancient Athenians may have been even more litigious than modern men.

The author Debra Hamel has a lively writing style that keeps the story interesting, particularly if you have some interest in the time (which I do, as I mention). She’s up-front about what we know and what we don’t know, and what can probably conclude given the somewhat sketchy nature of the surviving data. (A big portion of the data comes from the prosecuting attorney, Apollodoros, and it has to studied for negative implications as well as what was asserted to make the case.)

Definitely a fun read.

Andy Marken’s “Content Insider”

Andy’s got another post up at Google Docs.

It’s all about storage. This is interesting to me because it dovetails nicely with some other thoughts previously expressed here.

It doesn’t really make sense for everyone to store everything. Maybe it might if storage were–let’s say–3 magnitudes more capable than currently. You know, intsead of going high-end for a terabyte you were going high end for a petabyte. That would be enough to store a few hundred thousand movies, all the music you could eat, all your photos. They could boost resolution to make even this untenable but if MP3s are good enough–and they seem to be for most people–I imagine the current (non-high-def) definition formats are probably also good enough.

The popular mis-interpretation of Moore’s “Law” has it that processor speeds double every 18 months which, if it held for storage, would mean we’d be “only” 15 years from that kind of storage. I was going to say that it doesn’t, but thinking back, 300GB (2008)->300MB (1993)->300KB(1978) works.

So, maybe it will happen. Still, if I were a content provider, I’d be focused on charging nominal fees to provide it to people and not worrying about what they did with it after I provided it. I’d just make my own service easier to use than a pirate’s.

Server Madness

I’ve been replacing the old server with a new one, and it’s been going pretty spiffy.

Lots of work, though. In addition to handling a mad work situation that popped up as if aware that I was starting a new business this month. I’m wrestling through my least favorite part of any business (paperwork) though. The product is fun and interesting, to say nothing of useful.

The only problem is, it could always be better. Initially I was approaching the situation a la the old Model Fords. One size fits all. But I can’t mass produce them efficiently, anyway, so I might as well add the customizations. I realized last month or so that I was actually providing a service (that of installing powerful but particular software) and not a thing (the hardware it resides on).

Though I’ve already got plans to make the hardware better and cheaper than an individual building for himself could. But I gotta get things off the ground first.

The Eyes Have It

I actually thought the recent “Eye” movie was going to be a remake of the “classic” 1978 flick “The Eyes of Laura Mars”. And by “classic” I mean “not very good”.

It was a good idea, scripted by John Carpenter, who I believe parlayed it into his first pro directing gig (or maybe his second). When people ask him how to become a director he said something to the effect of “write scripts and then use that as leverage”.

Huh. Worked for Chris Columbus, I guess. (And they don’t even have to be good scripts!)

I had forgotten that Tommy Lee Jones played opposite Faye Dunaway. And in 1978, Tommy Lee was actually fairly handsome. (I’m not dissing him; I know some chicks dig him. But he’s not exactly a “pretty boy” these days.)

The supporting cast is great: Rene Auberjonois (from M*A*S*H and “Deep Space Nine”), Raul Julia, and “Chucky” himself, Brad Dourif. Director Irvin Kirshner would follow this up with (IMO) the best “Star Wars” movie (The Empire Strikes Back) and the weird Connery Bond redux Never Say Never Again.

Kirshner replaced Michael Miller on the job after a fallout with Jon “spiders are natures most ferocious killers” Peters. Michael Miller’s work has been discussed previously on this blog. All-in-all, you can’t help but wonder if they shouldn’t have let Carpenter direct.

Good…Bad…Conservative…Liberal…I’m the guy with the gun….

Ace is in a bit of a–well, I don’t know. It’s not exactly a tizzy or a dither. He’s agitated though. Highly agitated in a positive way because David Mamet has come out as a not-liberal. Now, like Mamet, I’m actually not particularly interested in politics; I do consider them a gross waste of time and resources. But between Ace and Mamet, and a few Althouse commenters, I see things that are familiar to me and encourage me to reflect a bit.

The Mamet piece is interesting. It refers to “brain-dead liberalism,” which I read as “I am leftist because I am leftist and what I believe is beyond scrutiny.” Indeed, it seems to be Mamet’s willingness to challenge previously held beliefs on the subject of the government, corporations, the military, and the nature of Man.

Notice I switched out “liberal” for “leftist” there. The word “liberal” comes from the Latin “free” and it is the philosophy that makes the USA great. Let me borrow this from

A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

This is important because both Mamet–and to a far greater degree, Ace–are sort of rejecting the “natural goodness of humans” part. But you’ll notice that this definition has nothing to do with today’s self-identified “liberals”, who are statists (courtesy of an incredible PR campaign by the USSR that actually outlived the nation itself). They may believe in the “natural goodness of humans” but they sure don’t care for them being autonomous, when autonomy includes things like making money, buying stuff, or turning sacred cows into double-bacon secular cheeseburgers (with a super-sized side of shibboleth fries or something). I cannot, in good conscience, associate those people with, say, John Locke (and the probably wouldn’t want to be associated with him either).

On the contrary, the left today operates pretty clearly with the notion that there is evil in the world. And the world is happy to provide them with examples of such at the ranks of various top corporations. But they’re not interested in the evil at the UN, for example, and apparently actively disinterested in the evil America opposes (fanatical jihadists). What’s more, since disagreement is not allowed, leftists are pretty much convinced that a solid one-third of the US population is evil, or at least so stupid as to be indistinguishable from evil. Those people are called “Republicans”–on a nice day, anyway.

Politics is like soccer for the lazy, though, in that identification with a side is what makes the game possible. From far enough away, the two sides are indistinguishable, at which the game loses its meaning. (Althouse used to refer to an aversion to politics in her tag line and I have that in spades. I think she discovered it was a useful to generate vortex art.) This is how Reps and Dems can oppose something they supported only a few years, months, weeks, days, hours or even minutes before, and argue with a straight face that “No, this is different”. It’s also how penalties become greater or lesser based on the color of the player’s jersey. (The play scales well, too: Political bloggers replicate the “gotcha” moments of their big league idols by catching each other in typos, misstatements, blunders, etc.)

Anyway, liberalism–the idea that people are basically good, and therefore the most capable of governing themselves–is the basis on which this country is founded and that which makes the country great. The conservatives of the 1800s at the time would be suspicious of such a notion, surely believing that certain men are more worthy than others to govern. Hell, the liberals of the 1800s surely believed the same thing. Landowning free-men were all created equal–and we’ll see about the poor, the non-white, hell, the non-English, and don’t get us started on women.

So, how do we reconcile this notion on the one hand this idea of inherent goodness with the badness in the world. Well, the left obviously does it by accusing the state of creating inequity, particularly by favoring the business world. And the state obliges happily by doing just that. But again, they ignore the fact that the state can only favor certain classes when it has been given the power to do exactly that–and having that power will inevitably be corrupted toward an unhappy result.

James Madison is famously quoted as saying in Federalist 51 that “if men were angels, there’d be no need for government”. So, here is one of the most liberal men of the time admitted that government is only necessary because men are flawed. What gives?

I think it’s obvious that the point of liberalism is not that men are perfect, but that they are better suited to controlling their lives than any government, and that everyone wins (on balance) when they’re not interfered with beyond some basic rules of civility (such as not murdering and stealing from each other). It’s actually a negative statement: Men are unscrupulous, unworthy, opportunistic, short-sighted, narrow-minded, self-serving and predictable, but that’s peanuts compared to government.

Notice that the opposite of this is not “conservatism”. Conservatism is muddled in its own quagmire of historical baggage and modern revisionism. Modern conservatism is much closer to classical liberalism than modern liberalism is. In this Althouse entry on McCain, commenter Paul describes conservatism this way:

Conservatives believe that there is a vast repository of knowledge in tradition and culture accumulated through millenia of trial and error, and that most of that knowledge is unconscious and transmitted from generation to generation through customs and behavior so ingrained and automatic as to be second nature.

They believe that no man or council of men can even begin to approach that vast body of wisdom through conscious thought or design and are thus very cautious in implementing radical social experiments, as the laws of unintended consequences will surely dictate disastrous results.

Note that this has little to do per se with government except insofar as it expresses resistance to change. America is, itself, a radical social experiment. You can love it and still entertain the notion that there might be better experiments to make out there. This was one of the principles of Federalism, right?

Federalism unfortunately sacrificed itself on the altar of slavery, first in the 1860s, then again in the 1960s, because there was no way (in this country in the 18th century) we were going to be able to start from first principles: All men are created equal.

A persistent human flaw bedeviling philosophers devising governments is an inability to separate a good idea from a bad execution. Like war, nation-building is done with the populous you have, not the population you wish you had.

But a lot of modern conservatism is actually pretty radical. “Conservatives” preach the notion of restructuring the tax system, for example. Ending the broad social programs we have. Using the power of the government to limit very private activities. Some of these–hell, maybe all of them–are good ideas (though I doubt it). But conservative they ain’t.

Well, this has gone on a lot longer than I expected and it lacks the sort of focus I was hoping to bring to the topic, and I didn’t even talk about where I was (philosophically) versus where I am now.

Basically, I’m for freedom. Free markets. Free people. Which sounds a lot like libertarianism. But everyone knows, those guys are freaks.


Fun Kevin Bacon footnote: Mamet’s piece mentions Mary Ann Madden who was my first “chat buddy” and one of my favorite people in the whole world.

Oddities of IMDB

Every now and again, you get a movie at IMDB that seems like it should be good but the rating is rather low on the first few hundred votes–often the movie won’t

I have a theory that this is from wacky experiments in test screening. They take a movie, say, Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day and then show it to a group of–people who will show up to a test screening, like an eight grader’s slumber party, or local frat house. Lacking giant robots and boobs, they’ll naturally rate it low.

As time passes and the movie’s actual demographic goes to see it the rating will jump tremendously.

This seems to happen mostly with smaller films.

I’m going to test this theory tonight by seeing Mrs. Pettigrew, which went from a tepid 7.0 to a slightly less tepid 7.4 over the weekend. Still too few votes to get a bead on the mass IMDB opinion horde, and it could just be so-so.

The Anti-Monologues

The late Richard Jeni had a funny bit about The Vagina Monologues which, if there were any justice in the world, I could link to here.

I have little to say on the subject of talking genitalia, except to say that the concept disturbs me. This bit from The Black Table, however, is funny stuff. Well written, and remarkably–well, “tasteful” isn’t really the right word, but perhaps “surprisingly non-vulgar” would describe it.

It has the air of the sort of sensible folk who can’t take anyone who defines herself by her genitalia too seriously.