I Don’t Want The President To Fail

I just want all of his policies to fail. Don’t you see the difference?

I want the President to succeed, you know, as long as that success doesn’t include any of those policies I disagree with. (Which actually isn’t all of them. It would probably be a good idea to get rid of the homeowner deduction, as much as it would hurt.)

The battle rages. Fred Thompson wants the President’s policies to fail. Patterico approves of the wording while ignoring that, in context, that’s exactly what Rush said. Goldstein schools him. (The early comments are really funny, too.)

What I don’t get is how Patterico–who I have mentioned before does a great job calling out the Los Angeles Times for its many duplicities–can’t grasp this. I mean, I swear that in recent years, he’s found the Times just making crap up to support their narrative: How on earth does he think careful word choices and non-inflammatory phrasings are going to help?

If you let someone else control your meaning, you’ve lost the game. It’s that simple.

UPDATE: I wanted to point out here that I wanted George W. Bush to fail, too, in almost every case. In fact, it’s generally a good thing for the people if the Presidents do fail, unless they’re making government smaller–which they almost never are.

Inappropriate But Funny, Vol 1

I don’t actually approve of abusing the poor user–think of me as the Strunk & White of developers–but I do find the following site’s suggested responses to IE6 users funny.

Content Warning: Adult Language and Adult Themes

Link.

It’s not really fair to blame the users; MS saw a market that threatened it and did whatever it could to undermine it.

I try not to see the parallels in other facets of life.

Have I Mentioned Lately…

…that homeschooling rocks?

Have you been following this story? The girl’s gonna be in college by the time the issue gets settled. Wait, no, she’d be 19 now and already in college.

It’s not just the thought of adult authority figures demanding your child debase herself, it’s the fact that they she was an honor student who gave no reason for them to mistrust her–and that’s precisely why they mistrusted her!

Lack of evidence of guilt = evidence of a criminal mastermind!

Should anyone this stupid be in charge of any sort of education?

Drink Too Much (b)

I’ve been drinking too much water, according to the latest tests. (The doctor has advised and tested me on the basis of me needing to be alive to pay for The Boy. Smart!) I haven’t had any negative symptoms (e.g., headaches) but I’m reducing the amount of water I drink, and adding some fruit juice in.

The Boy, unfortunately, backslid a bit in the past two weeks. He’s been having trouble keeping track of his water bottle and I think his guesses were on the low side. He’s also got to start getting more aggressive as far as changing his diet. He’s been good about trying new things, but if he finds something he likes, he’ll eat it to the exclusion of all else. Variety is key.

Some of you asked about this program; I finally got the guy’s name right: Carey Reams. This is just the first thing that came up on Google, so I don’t know how accurate a representation it is, nor should it be considered a validation of other things on that site. (Or an invalidation, for that matter.)

Years ago I knew a woman with a mess of inoperable brain tumors who did this program and got rid of all of them. It took her a couple of years to go from “terminal” to a clean bill of health, but in the next ten years or so, she didn’t have a relapse.

I just remembered that; interestingly, there’s no connection between her and my doctor.

Stay tuned.

Sweet Coraline

One important rule of making it in Hollywood is to always be working on your next picture by the time your last one opens, and to have the one after that all nailed down. That way, if the one at the box office flops, you have two more chances before your career is finished.

This is probably impossible if you’re doing stop-motion animation. And so it came to pass that the director of Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach went eight years between movie releases: the disastrous Monkeybone and the reasonably successful Coraline.

I had held off going to see this movie, as it The Boy wasn’t really in the target audience–too old–and neither was The Flower–if not too young, exactly, then not particularly inclined to the creepy. But it has hung on and made an unexpected appearance at our local art house this week, when all the Oscar dross finally got pushed out. (Yay!)

The Flower seemed pretty confident that, as this was a fairy tale (my description), that they would all live happily ever after, and therefore it would be okay for her to see. But why o why, she lamented, didn’t they just tell you the ending beforehand? Then you’d know if you wanted to go see it!

This led to a less surreal discussion than the one I posted here (which occurred after the movie) between her and the boy about whether the ending was more important than how you get there.

So, about the movie: This is, indeed, a fairy tale about a young girl who moves from the big city into a sub-divided house out in the boondocks with her preoccupied parents. In the house, she discovers a tiny door with only a brick wall behind it. But if her parents aren’t around (asleep, away), the wall becomes a passage. And on the other side of the passage is a mirror image of her world, only this world fulfills her dreams of the perfect life.

Her other parents are doting and entertaining, her neighbors aren’t crazy old coots but magically talented, the garden is a living world of lights, and even her room is fantastically enchanted.

The only apparent thing that’s “off” is that all the people in this mirror world have buttons for eyes. (This, of course, is just a warning sign of how off the whole thing is.)

Creepy, eh? Now, fairy tales are creepy and horrific, in general. This isn’t much different, thematically, than Hansel and Gretel and the gingerbread house, or Celtic stories of “little people”, who were always doing horrible things. But if you’re going to take a kid to see this, make sure they’re not freaked out by eye stuff. (The other really disturbing part of the movie, that of the fat old women running around in skimpy clothing, was in the “well, there’s something you don’t see every day” category. The Flower recognized the reference to Boticelli immediately.)

The Flower is primarily disturbed by unhappy endings, so no issue with the eyes for her, though when the illusion of the other world started to come apart, my arm was grabbed and stayed grabbed for quite some time.

And come apart it does as the mystery of the “other mother” unfolds.

Wonderful voice work by Teri Hatcher (who shall forever be Lois Lane to me) and Keith David (as a savvy cat nemesis to the “other mother”), as well as Dakota Fanning as Coraline, John Hodgman as Father, and the comedy team of French and Saunders as the crazy old ladies next door. Ian McShane, late of Kung Fu Panda, plays an old Russian guy training mice in his apartment.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying movie, with solid Fairy Tale logic. Everything hangs together. I would swear I’ve read the tale before in another form; certainly the concept of a fairy world where illusions make very mundane or even nasty things seem marvelous is not new. But I can’t remember any particular fairy tale that goes that way. (Fritz Leiber wrote a Fafhrd/Grey Mouser story called Bazaar of the Bizarre in that vein, and the theme of great-illusion-masking-horrible-truth was used in the 2000 version of Bedazzled.)

And Selick’s work is good here. He demonstrates (again) that much of the visual artistry of Nightmare Before Christmas was his, if you didn’t pick that up from James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone. (His pallette is less ruthlessly grey/white/red than Burton’s.) Since it was meant to exploit 3D–my brain doesn’t do 3D so we saw it regular-flat-style–it has more than a few moments that are conspiculously sticky-out-of-the-screen-y, but it’s not horrible in that regard.

And the stop-motion is very fine, indeed. It’s even more impressive to think that, in this day-and-age when computers can simulate this style of animation (or even more, that computers fulfill the needs stop-motion animation was originally meant to address), that there are teams of people out there moving little dolls around a millimeter at a time. And you get to marvel at the broken mirrors, the running water, and all the other little things that seem impossible with just stop-motion. (There are some parts that were surely computer animated, but not that many!)

The only caveat I have is that the movie is probably over-rated. It’s very good, but not a mind-blowing revelation. I think a lot of the hype comes from the fact that Neil Gaiman–a comic book luminary along the lines of Alan Moore or Frank Miller–wrote the story on which this was based.

It’s a fine story. And a fine movie. Part of the reason for both, though, is that it doesn’t have grand pretensions. It’s a nice, moral fairy tale. Enjoy it for being that.

From “Poly” meaning “many”…

If you haven’t been following this debate between Jeff Goldstein and Patterico, and you care about language, truth, education and how all those play into politics, you should.

In one corner, we have the guy who has dedicated himself to pantsing the Los Angeles Times, one of the worst papers that ever was or will be.

In the other corner, we have a stalwart defender of language and meaning, and a bad ass catch-wrestler who could probably beat you up. He’s got footnotes and links back to some pretty hefty essays on this whole argument, which is his blogging raison d’etre.

The recent flare-up was the Rush Limbaugh brouhaha staged by the White House.

A lot of the conservative response was, “Well, Rush is inflammatory and he should take care to not be so provocative.” This is Patterico’s side.

Goldstein’s response is basically that when the speaker’s intention to communicate is subordinate to the listener’s intention to impute meaning, the game is already lost.

The fact that the whole thing was staged by the White House as a distraction, and that the entire context of Rush’s talk proves his intention was exactly the non-controversial sentiment that the “be more cautious” crowd would have preferred him to express, demonstrates that Goldstein is correct.

If you don’t believe that, cast your mind back to the election, when Sarah Palin was ridiculed for saying she could see Russia from her house. Which, of course, she never even said. Or look at Jindal, who was ridiculed for walking up to a podium. Now cast your mind forward to all the apologists of Obama’s recent “Special Olympics” comment: How many of those people defending him attacked others for similar behavior?

Patterico’s reasonable-ness is his downfall. He sounds a bit like the abused wife who’s just sure that if she just minds her Ps and Qs, she won’t get hit again. And in the case of conservatives trying to gain some kind of fair hearing in the current environment, it’s a seductive argument: We can tailor our messages in a way that they won’t distort them. (Or at least that there is as “reasonable segment” of them who won’t.)

But the truth is a lot harder: If we’re ever to have honest debate in the world again, we have to break the stranglehold on the media. We have to insist on being taken on what we mean, not grovel when bad actors impute villanous motives to us. We have to change the educational system so that people learn to respect communication and are able to destroy the rhetorical sleights-of-hand engaged in by would-be totlitarians.

In other words, I think Patterico doesn’t really see how bad things are, or how big the problem really is. But I can understand: It really is bad, and the problem is huge. It’d be nice if we could actually make ground just by being reasonable.

But the unfortunate reality is that “reasonable” people never make ground. Because there’s always a “good reason” why they can’t.

“You are a smelly pirate hooker!”

The little business with the Irish PM has particularly provoked a comparison in my mind with the dopey, funny, revisionist history that is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. I maintained throughout the election that Obama was no great orator. It’s one thing that his speeches were vacuous and contradictory, however mellifluously delivered, it’s more that he needed a TelePrompTer, which is the mark of a lazy speaker.

Forget about his debating skills (please!). He was (and is) at a huge disadvantage as far as any interactive discussion goes, because he has to lie. He had to sell a 95% tax cut (in a country where only 95% of the population doesn’t pay taxes. He had to sell a “net spending cut”–one of the baldest lies since Clinton campaigned on taxing the rich, while constantly lowering the threshhold for “rich”. He had to sell not being a socialist, though that at least is easier because, frankly, most Americans are socialists now, even if they don’t use the word.

(That’s the big lie the left has been successfully pushing for years: Refusing to label socialism for what it is.)

I’m not the only one who has made this Obama-Burgundy connection. VodkaPundit has ripped a page from the script to come up with this plan.

Anyway, a lot of the recent shenanigans and goin’s on made me think of this debate.

Ron Burgundy: I’m not a baby, I am a man. I am an anchorman.
Veronica Corningstone: You are not a man. You are a big fat joke.
Ron Burgundy: I’m a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. That’s what kind of man I am. You’re just a woman with a small brain. With a brain a third the size of us. It’s science.
Veronica Corningstone: I will have you know that I have more talent and more intelligence in my little finger than you do in your entire body, sir.
Ron Burgundy: You are a smelly pirate hooker.
Veronica Corningstone: You look like a blueberry.
Ron Burgundy: Why don’t you go back to your home on Whore Island?
Veronica Corningstone: Well, you have bad hair.
Ron Burgundy: [insulted] What did you say?
Veronica Corningstone: I said… your hair… looks stupid.

Hey, Mr. Fancy Pants

Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair
Of very fancy pants that Mr. Fancy Pants will wear
When everyone is marching in the Fancy Pants Parade
He’s gonna pass the test
He’s gonna be the best
The best in terms of pants

Say a little prayer for Mr. Fancy Pants
The whole world knows
It’s only clothes
And deep inside he’s sad

–Jonathan Coulton

This was The Barb’s first favorite song. Here’s a cute video of it set to World of Warcraft graphics. (It’s not the only one, either. JoCo has a lot of fans with graphic editing tools.)

Guns and Roses

The roses are for you guys who have been taking the time to make such good comments in the posts these past few weeks. Much appreciated. Feels a lot less like I’m talking to myself.

The guns are in reference to this post, “Not Until You’re 12, Son”, which details a recent trip to the shooting range. That line, by the way, is from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (Mike Teevee complains that his dad won’t let him have a gun.)

ChickenLittle–who, for the record, I have never once heard claim the sky is falling–mentioned that shooting is a family tradition (though he didn’t get the gun obsession gene) and mentioned how firing a BB gun is illegal in his town, which put a stop to a fun hobby his boy was enjoying.

So, for the record, we go to a place called The Firing Line. Lane rental costs $20, gun rental costs about $10, a bag of about 50 bullets runs about $15. (A year family membership costs $250, less if you’re a cop or soldier, and covers the cost of the lane and the gun rental, so the trip price goes down to $30. So it takes nine trips to come out ahead, not six like I posted there.)

I’ve heard some vague criticisms about the place, particularly in the store where we purchase our non-firearm firearms (i.e., BB guns, knives, swords, etc.) but we’ve never had any troubles, and the people there are very polite, and reasonably indulgent of tyros like ourselves. (We took our basic training/safety class there.) The Boy has noted that the people who deal in weapons–both guns and knives–tend to be very polite.

One thing I want to make clear, though, is that this whole gun thing is not my idea. You have to go back to my great-grandmother to find a marksman–she used to shoot prairie chickens for dinner, and win county competitions–and I never even had a toy gun until I started to hang with a friend who had a bunch of them. (I had a lot of toy cars and slot cars, which indicated absolutely nothing about my adult interests.)

We used to have these spring-loaded guns that shot out quarter-sized plastic disks that would curve if you knew how to shoot them. These were great toys and fun for playing tag with, though they would hurt if you took one point-blank–something we did pretty regularly because, hey, at the time, we were teenage boys. (Also, at least early on, the toy guns did not have those orange “I’m a toy!” safety tips.)

My parents never expressed an opinion one way or another on the subject of guns. But growing up when I did, there was an atmosphere of “guns are bad”. If you had to use one–no matter how righteous the cause–you could expect to feel horrible about it and need lots of unhelpful counseling. (Remember “Hill Street Blues”?)

I never so much as held a gun until I was past 30. As weird as it may sound, I’d feel far more comfortable defending myself in hand-to-hand combat than using a gun. My dad just suggested going to a shooting range out of the blue. I agreed mostly for two reasons: My father kept saying that most people couldn’t hit anything past 15 feet with a handgun when they needed to; it seemed like an experience I should have.

Well, I found myself able to hit a human-sized target at 60 feet pretty easily first time out (no instruction), so that resolved that. Also, I had the experience. (On the subject of experience, it’s interesting to note that when firing a rifle later on, I began to see that the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald could’ve fired the three shots during the assassination was really not far-fetched at all. There’s no substitute for going out and experiencing something for yourself.) But, frankly, I had mixed feelings about the “gun thing:.

But that didn’t matter much, because there was The Boy. And The Boy, though quite young, was (and remains) fascinated with all things weapons. And when The Boy learned there were guns and shooting, the next thing he wanted to learn was when he could engage in shooting said guns.

Well, life goes on, and we actually didn’t get around to it until he was ten or eleven, or maybe just barely twelve. I’ve come, in the space of that time, to regard shooting as an important skill. That is, one should be comfortable and familiar with guns, so as not to fall prey to any ideas of their mystical power. (Turns out, e.g., they actually don’t kill people.) So, when we’re in the groove, we go about twice a month to the range.

I’ve told The Boy that if he adheres to this new program well, we’ll go to one of these Appleseed Rifle Camps. There’s one within driving range, and they’re not terribly expensive. Though we’ll have to actually bring some rifles. Buying guns with a Dem in the White House seems fiscally imprudent, but with luck, they won’t have passed any really price-hiking legislation by the time I get around to it.

As a parent, you often think you’re going to pass things down to your kid. (I’ve so far been unable to get one kid really interested in music.) But this is one of those things that the kid has really passed back up to me.