We Can’t Have Nice Things

A new commenter came by and commented on an old post I had about the weirdness of IMDB movie ratings, which is a topic I’ve mentioned not too long ago. When I first logged on to IMDB, the top-rated movie was The Godfather, and it had a 7.8.

I had always thought the main distortion on IMDB was simple inflation. “Oh, Godfather is a 7.8, eh? Well, then, Glitter must be at least an 8! And Godfather should be a 1!” And this leads to a vicious cycle, where people aren’t ranking movies according to their own preferences, but against others’.

And it made me think of Susan Boyle, who got a record breaking number of views on YouTube, and the article I was reading talked about how “Evolution of Dance” was suspected of being the most viewed video, but that fans of various musical groups set up tricks to increase the view count for their favorite acts.

Then I thought over Wikipedia, which has limited utility from all the bias. Then Althouse comment threads–and Althouse has among the best commenters–which people go in with the sole purpose to create noise. Twitter has a pretty good system for reducing noise, but you can still get lots of spam.

And I think to myself: This is why we can’t have nice things.

Seriously, all the social web things are cool. The open-ness of them, the facilitating of mashups and unexpected uses. But the difficult balance to strike is allowing contributions and also disallowing them.

Twitter works because following is easy but not automatic. Unfollowing is only slightly harder, which is to say, not hard at all. But Twitter lacks continuity and intimacy. (That may be an artifact of Twitter versus a necessary result of the following process.) It’s also a chaotic stream that is only manageable because you can limit it.

I was struck by that old meme of the mom pulling out hair because the kids knocked over her expensive vase by playing ball in the house where she laments, “We can’t have nice things.” The social web often reminds me of that. That and the sort of nouveaux “tragedy of the commons”, which isn’t about consuming resources, but controlling the ones that command attention.

I think something like Twitter could be evolved with multiple streams and nesting, possibly around little nodes, which could be links to blogs, or could be long “tweets”. But these would exist in the common space, perhaps with separate streams for different responders, even. Something less monolithic than Twitter.

I don’t know. I suspect we’re not done with the whole social web thing. But the real trick is trying to figure out how to have nice things.

Dead Men Throw No Switches

So I started doing the nutritional program in earnest, along with The Boy, and got a bit of a scare. It’s probably nothing, and may be related to the antibiotics I’m taking (for the ear infection from hell), but I’ll be having a thorough medical examination as a result. 

It’s not really something I look forward to. 
But it got me thinking about my mortality and taking care of business. Death isn’t something I fear, generally. When younger, I had some brushes with mortality to which my reaction was “Well, I guess if it’s my time…" 
I know that we get a sense of invulnerability, immortality, that nothing bad can happen to us, but there’s also the "who cares?” aspect of it. When you’re young you consider yourself sovereign over your life, and if you’re going to do something reckless well, what’s that to anyone else? You can see young death glamorized in a way that mortality otherwise is not.
And then you have kids. 
Well, crap. Now it matters if you live or die. (And if you’re thinking, you realize it mattered before–back when you were SuperTeen–to your own parents. A feeling of embarrasment is normal at this point.) I mean, the finances are easy enough to handle. In fact, the traditional male role is easy to fill: I think a widow with children can probably much more easily plug in a new male into her life than a widower is likely to find a woman willing to take care of another woman’s home and children. And how much more traumatic is that, that the primary caretaker be replaced by a relative stranger?
Of course, it happened a lot in the Old West (for example), with mortality in child birth being so common. And certainly it’s happened that a step-father has a callous and indifferent (or worse) attitude toward another man’s children.
Anyway, having a kid changes the game, if you were indifferent to your survival before. If you’re cancerous and would rather just let it take you than endure the medieval treatments we have for handling it, you really don’t have much of a choice. You have to fight. Congratulations: You’ve become more important than yourself.
It should also mean that you’re not exposing yourself to a lot of unnecessary risk, like extreme sports, daredevil ballon rides, base jumping, etc. But that doesn’t always happen.
Given the rather severe separation of my online life versus my real one, I’ve often thought about setting up a “dead man’s switch” that would notify people should I not throw it. I figured the most likely result of that, though, would be a false “Blake’s dead!” message. Heh. That might be funny once or twice, but sort of defeats the purpose should it happen a lot.
There’s now at least one service that will do this for you, I think. It’s been in the news a lot lately. But I suspect a lot of us don’t give enough thought on how online folks would be affected by our sudden disappearance. (I’ve had it happen numerous times, and I don’t know to this day whether the person just dropped out or something had happened to them.)
So, it’s something worth thinking about.

Tea For Two Million

We’re feeling inadequate down here at the ‘strom because we didn’t attend a tea party today. (The ear infection is still kicking my ass–through my ear canal, which tells you something.) I’m of course wild-ass guessing on the above number, 500 protests with 4,000 average people per. The number of protests is probably higher, but the average is probably a lot lower. But that messes with the whole tea-for-two riff.

So, we’ll enjoy vicariously through everyone else, and figure there are about 100 people like us who couldn’t make it for every person who actually did make it. 200 million, then, objecting to the current amazing expansion of government and debt. Which, even with the exaggerated numbers is still 100 million short of what I’d want to see.

Anyway, here’s Freeman Hunt with a video from Reason. Freem puts me to shame, since she’s got a newborn and she’s making the trek, and what do I have? A lousy ear infection.

Ann Althouse expounds a bit on why she hasn’t talked about the tea parties. I pretty much feel the same way as AA, in that I don’t really like politics, and I’m really not a joiner. I’m begining to feel like I don’t have a choice, though. As John Adams famously said:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

I hope the “war” part is just metaphorical.

That said, the reaction from the statists is tragic. I thought about fisking a guy who I saw tweeting “rebuttals” last night. Basically, anyone who goes to one of these tea parties is a tool of rich, greedy Republicans (Democrats who are rich of course have their hearts in the right place) and they’re all phony anyway and besides, FOX NEWS! LIMBAUGH! HANNITY! BECK! O’REILLY! (Are these guys even that close politically?)

(UPDATE: Patterico responds to one of the essays I thought about fisking.)

Ultimately, I decided life was too short to try to engage people who have no intention of actually communicating. Back when Alpha Liberal first showed up at Althouse I followed all of his links, trying to talk to him. But the links seldom related to what he was saying, or they were assertions being made by other statists, or if there was some real data, it didn’t really describe what he said it did.

But he never really addressed anything I wrote. You’ve seen this, I’m sure. They say, “A!” and you say, “Well, not quite A, more like A1.” Then rather than try to figure out where between “A” and “A1” the truth is, they say, “Well, B!” And they have an inexhaustible source of these assertions because, quite frankly, they’re made up.

It isn’t just the left that does this, of course, but it seems to be primarily the left that considers it legitimate. If you have two points, “A” and “B”, and “A” is completely, obviously not comparable to “B” in terms of scope or relevance, and may even be made up, while “B” is true, this crowd seems to consider the very availability of “A” to be sufficient rebuttal to “B”. In fact, if you see them on TV, the game seems to be getting as many of these in as possible.

The relevance of this to the tea parties is that the media is largely pretending these protests didn’t happen. The reality is “A”, they’re saying “B”. It will be interesting to see if they have to upgrade that to “Well, they happened, but they weren’t very big.” Or “Well, they happened, but they’re just haters and not important.”

Like NBC featuring Chuck Todd, who has dismissed these gatherings. (Though in fairness to Todd, it’s not really a Republican thing, so he’s probably right that it hasn’t “galvanized the party”.) Ace of Spades didn’t care for the CNN reporter who actually aggressively takes the opposing viewpoint. Another helpful CNN article uses Nazis to illustrate right-wing agitation.

Anyway, I saw pix of the various gatherings on Twitter. Tabitha Hale had some nice ones. InfidelsAreCool had pics from Santa Ana, complete with one of Andrew Breitbart. (God love ’em, but every time he comes on “Red Eye” it seems like he’s getting less and less coherent. Preoccupied?) StillStacy linked a nice pic from Denver.

Michelle Malkin has a ton of pics up, and a huge post at her blog. On the other blogs, Ace has a protest babe up. Previous massive pic thread here. Lots of heh over at Instapundit. (UPDATE: Protein Wisdom has a link roundup.)

Here’s a graphic that illustrates my main beef with taxes. It isn’t just that the gov’t takes half of your money directly, it’s that they also double the cost of everything we buy. But those costs are usually hidden. So how are they not, in fact, taking most of the money there is? This is why I’m for a per capita tax as the only tax allowed.

I mean, think about it: If your income was doubled, and everything cost half as much? Tell me you wouldn’t be willing to give up everything the government “gives you”! You could find some money in that for defense. Probably a few social programs, too.

And that’s now. Wait till the bill comes due on the latest spending spree.

Which brings me to another reason I’ve been somewhat reticent about going to a protest. OK, let’s say that there were two million people out there. And they’re fed up. What does that translate into? When you’re there, what are you doing? What do you hope to accomplish?

I mean, when the left does it, it’s for PR. This way the papers can run stories about how people hate the war du jour or Israel or whatever it is they’re hating. And I suppose there’s that value, because even if the newspapers insist on saying “B!”, there is the reality of “A” just sitting out there.

Ideally, these protests would translate into a repeal of all the legislation passed to date, from the Bear-Stearns bailout, insofar as that’s possible. And a confirmation that such legislation was never to be passed again, or at least not quickly. At least, that’s what I think. But what do the other two million think?

And wouldn’t it have been better if the government just hadn’t gotten itself involved in all this stuff 100 years ago?

20,000 Visitors Under The Sea!

Well, once again I missed a blogging milestone: The Bit Maelstrom passed 20,000 visitors over a week ago. As I suspected last fall, I wasn’t able to clear 15,000 by the end of the year, but then, in the last three months–with a big boost from the, um, romantically agitated Ann Althouse (and Meade knows exactly what I’m talkin’ ‘bout, hush yo’ mouth)–I jumped into the 20K mark.

Cooler to me is that more folks are coming by more often, about double what came by a year ago. Yeah, plenty are still linking in to the pointy breasts, but a few people come by daily for movie reviews, or something else a little more substantial. (Janet Leigh’s been good to me. I’m not knocking the–naw, I can’t say it.)

Special thanks to Ann Althouse, of course, and Freeman Hunt, who has linked me on Twitter generously. And thanks again to all y’all commenting.

Free Baby!

No, I’m not giving away babies, Freeman Hunt had herself a Freebaby yesterday evening while you were watching “Supernanny”! I mean, really, if you watched less TV and concentrated your efforst, you could probably come up with something pretty cool, too.

Probably not as cool as a Freebaby, but still.

I’m hoping the pix turn up on her blog.

Random Thought

As I (and the rest of the world) eagerly await the arrival of its newest champion of Freedom, I noticed this list tweeted by Mary Katherine Ham.

And I wondered, is Man the only mammal that enjoys bathing?

But then I remembered the elephants. They always seem to have a good time with it. Hippos, too.

It’s the hairy mammals that don’t like to bathe (you know, like Trooper York).

Keep watching the skies for Freeman Hunt’s announcement!