Friday, September 30, 2005

Bill Bennett explains, and of course, it's all better now

I find Bill Bennett's response to the outcry over his comments about aborting black babies interesting, because he still doesn't really seem to understand what was wrong about what he said.

You can read a transcript of the discussion that lead to the remark here. He basically says you could reduce crime by aborting black babies but that it would be reprehensible. It's sort of unclear what his position is; it is clear that he's thinking off the top of his head and isn't expressing himself very well.

His response to the uproar was to say: "I was pointing out that abortion should not be opposed for economic reasons, any more than racism or for that matter slavery or segregation should be supported or opposed for economic reasons," he said. "Immoral policies are wrong because they are wrong, not because of an economic calculation. One could just as easily have said you could abort all children and prevent all crime, to show the absurdity of the proposition."

The problem is, he didn't say all babies, he didn't say hispanic babies, or asian babies, or white babies, or Muslim babies, or Christian babies, or whatever. He said black babies. And what he needs to explain is, why is that the first thing that popped into his head, that specifically aborting black babies would lower the crime rate. Because saying aborting all babies is a very different concept altogether.

Now, one often says dumb things extemporaneously, but now that he's had time to think about it, why isn't Bennett saying, "actually, that was a dumb thoughtless thing to say. Clearly, crime is not simply a balck thing but a part of our society with many complex causes and I was wrong to single out a particular race to make my point." But if he did say that, neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times made note of it. If I'm wrong and he really did say that let me know and I'll give him props for it.

compassionate conservatives speak out

Is there a good list of quotes from conservatives expressing their rather unique take on compassion? Because I think the world needs one. You know, something with stuff like Barbara Bush's comment that after Katrina "things are working out very well for the poor" and Billy O'Reilly wishing the U.N. building was flooded and radio Host Glenn Beck talking about his hatred of victims of both Katrina and 9/11? Wouldn't that be a good list. Katrina really exposed the core of compassionate conservatism, but those afraid the right wing can run out of ways to express their truly feelings for the disenfranchised will be heartened by Bill Bennet's comment that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

Besides showing you the extent of conservative compassion, quotes like these also do a good job of exhibiting the great breadth of conservative stupidity. For example, no, crime rates wouldn't go do if there were no more black people in this country. The underclass that commits crime would just be made of of a different mix of races. Poverty breeds crime Bill, not skin tone. But I guess they're all just blinded by compassion.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Meet the new series, same as the old series - new TV series (part one)

I've been trying to check out all the new network series, as best I can, leaving out those that got terrible reviews (Ghost Whisperer) or that just didn't strike me as promising (Kitchen Confidential), and unfortunately also leaving out promising shows that conflict with stuff I want to watch (Everybody Hates Chris). So, because my blog is mine for whatever purpose I choose, I'm going to give little mini-reviews on what I've seen.

Premise: Aliens are coming, but don't worry, the government is handling it

My god, just think how horrifying the above sentence would be if the Bush administration was handling an alien invasion. You know the guy in charge would be someone who used to run the department of sanitation in Lubox. Fortunately, in the wonderful world of TV things are handled by an efficient, attractive woman who has a methodical plan to deal with any emergency. Her plan apparently doesn't value the safety of the head planner, since she's on site whenever a dangerous situation arises, but outside of that this is a smart, intelligent series in which we have yet to see an alien and have no idea what exactly they're trying to do. The first episode was actually beautifully done, efficiently outlining the premise while giving you insights into all the main characters, and while it hasn't been quite as good since, it's still the best new series I've seen.


Premise: Two hunky young brothers investigate paranormal activities.

Review: Supernatural is a very calculated series. Get two good-looking guys from other TV series and let them play X-Files. The show is genial and unoriginal, but does have some genuine scares in it. I'll keep watching this one for now.

The War at Home

Premise: Married with Children lite?

Review: Watched for about 5 minutes. Seemed pretty painful.

Premise: dumb and smart twins with dumb and smart parents tell a mix of dumb and smart jokes

Review: Twins causes one to ask the question: How many dumb blondes can one show stand. This one has two, although one may not be blonde, as I can't recall what color Melanie Griffith's hair is. But she's definitely a prototypical dumb blonde. Having a dumb and smart sister who each have a corresponding parent probably sounded good on paper, but it lets in more dumb-blonde-style jokes than can be comfortably handled. Very by-the-numbers sitcom only has Sara Gilbert going for it (as the smart twin), and it ventures too often into stupid or uncomfortable humor (much like latter-day Will and Grace, which is from the same producers), but it's watchable.


Premise: She's a brilliant forensic scientist with lousy people skills, he's a savvy cop. They hate each other, but if the show makes it to season two you know they're going to screw like rabbits

Review: If you read my comments on these shows, you'll notice a unifying theme: they are almost all capable and unoriginal shows that follow established TV conventions. That certainly applies to Bones, which seems to have resulted from someone saying, what if we made a series like "House" but instead of an old crotchety guy with a limp we had a a hot woman? The show has little going for it besides its personable leads, but the forensic scientist/hot woman (hey, I've only seen two episodes, you can't expect me to remember these characters names can you) is an interesting character, especially when a decapitated tree falls from a tree and she quickly and without revulsion catches it and calls for an evidence bag.


Premise: If I'd seen the first episode, or if the recap at the beginning of the second episode had been competently put together, I could probably tell you the premise of this show. Ocean monster, I think.

Review: The recap did a lousy job, but basically there's a monster or something in the ocean, a couple of people trying to find out what it is while the government tries to keep it a secret, and some kid who somehow has a baby monster in his bathtub. I think if I could actually figure out what the show was about this one might be pretty good.

Commander in Chief
Premise: Tampons in the oval office!

Review: This show had a really nice beginning, as vice president Geena Davis learns the president is dying and is asked by the attorney general to resign rather than take office, not because she is a woman, ostensibly, but because she's an Independent who won't fulfill the desires of the Republican president. The problem is, she took the request seriously, considering whether it would be wrong to take the country in the direction she wanted rather than in the direction of someone whose policies she disagreed with. Are there really politicians who don't think they could be the best thing that ever happened to this country? I don't think so. I found it ridiculous that she only decided not to resign after a conversation with next-in-line Donald Sutherland in which he spouted a bunch of reactionary nonsense, as though somehow she wouldn't have realized exactly what it would mean to let this particular guy run the country until this conversation. Since it's an interesting idea and I've always liked Geena I'll watch a few more episodes, but if they do two more things this stupid I'll have no choice but to stop watching.

enthusiastic about being jaded

I was cleaning up my blog posts and saw that somehow this one was never published! I wrote it May 12 2005.

From time to time I like to google my name and see what comes up. Recently I discovered that some time after my friend Francis had written his reaction to the game Syberia and had noted that it was similar to mine, his friend Todd had commented that he found me "a rather hostile and jaded reviewer."

Compared to a lot of game critics I suppose this is true. If you see where my rankings fall at Metacritic they are often the least enthusiastic, and I am often battling Gamespot's famously hard-to-please Greg Kasavin for the lowest ranking of a generally favorable review.

As a critic I am certainly not a cheerleader like Roger Egbert, who seems to love almost everything he reviews, judging by metacritic. I don't take Egbert seriously precisely because he seems to love way too many movies, making him a better fan than critic.

So I'm more jaded than Egbert, but I don't consider myself hostile. I hold games up to higher standards than most critics. I have seen reviews of games that said, this game has an interesting story and good graphics so even though it's kind of boring to play I will rank it 8 out of 10. That's nuts. There are also way too many decent but unexceptional movies that critics laud as perfect, like Doom 3. I ask more of games. I ask that they be great. When a game is great, like The Longest Journey or Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines I say so, but I still don't let them off the hook for their flaws. I believe a critic should go beyond just saying, this is good, this is bad; they should look at the possibilities of their subject and say, why did this game fail where that one succeeded.

I am neither jaded nor hostile. I simply see the potential of games, and I see very few games that reach that potential.

Ah, sweet irony

Here's something else that seems never to have been published, although I wrote it July 13.

What I find funny about Karl Rove being outed as the sleazebag who outed a CIA covert operative as political payback is, if the Bush administration hadn't so thoroughly beaten down the press until they were whimpering puppies willing to turn over notes on anything, it would have been hard to pin this on Rove. The Bush administration is now actually paying a price for breaking the media's spine. Neat.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

my first comment!

At last, an actual human being has commented on a blog post. What did she comment about? She posted the comment to my post about DeLay, but actually commented on my post on spam comments. It's so inspiring to know someone actually came across my blog that now I feel like posting ten times a day. I won't, of course, but I at least feel like it.

Stop the presses: a politician lied!

What I find interesting about the dust up over NYC mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer's fairly minor lie on his blog is how it shows what happens when politicians try and use a medium they don't really get. Keeping a blog makes sense for a politician, it's a way of putting on a human face and letting your constituents see what you're thinking.

So Ferrer's campaign approached it like politicians approach most things, as a soft way to deliver campaign rhetoric pumped out by PR people and speech writers. It's done all the time. Someone on a mayor's staff says something that turns out not to be true, the other side complains, maybe it gets a little ink and everyone forgets about it.

But blogs are a new animal. A blog is sort of like a public diary, and you just don't expect people to lie in their diary, nor to have their flunkies write it for them. That's Ferrer's big lie, not saying he went to public schools, but saying, I am talking to you directly. But I suspect most politician's blogs are done the same way, and I expect more backfires to result. Jumping into the blogosphere for a politician is like buyilng a cute tiger cub; you have to understand that it's going to be a tiger and act appropriately. Sure, Bloomberg has manufactured this scandal with the help of a compliant media, but still, Ferrer walked right into it.

It's fortunate I don't have any strong objections to Bloomberg, who lacks the loathsomeness quality of Gulliani, because with Ferrer stumbling this early I'm wondering if he's got any chance at all.

It's delightful, it's delovely, it's DeLay's indictment

I think it's just swell that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (ex-Leader now, since he had to resign under a rule passed by Republicans as one of those laws they pass to look moral that later boomerangs on them) has been indicted for criminal conspiracy at such an opportune time. I've been worried that Bush's screw-ups on Katrina and his inept handling of Iraq weren't going to harm the Republicans much. With the Democrats
working to seem as Republican as possible
I thought it was likely people wouldn't really see the Democrats as a viable alternative, and might decide that while they hate Bush he's just one screw up and the Democrats have supported him almost as much as the Republicans have.

But DeLay's predicament is terrific, because with people still down on Bush for his incomprehensible terrible reaction to Katrina and for Iraq, her comes Tom to say, look, we're not just stupid, we're also crooked. You've really got to hit Americans repeatedly over the head with a hammer before any sense gets knocked into them, but even the densest are going to notice this at least a little.

old dumb blonde joke retrofited for the bumbler in chief

Sent by my friend Little Oscar:

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.

He concludes, by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the
President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks,

"How many is a brazillion?"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

the comments are just flooding in

Well, after all this time, I finally got a comment on one of my blog entries. And it was spam. I didn't even know there were spam comments, but there are. I suppose some sort of bot handles it, finding blogs and posting anonymous advertisements.

I suspect the reason this has happened now is because I was mentioned on a blog with a lot of readers, What's Next. It's down by a woman named B.L. who I know from swing dance school. I told her I had a blog so she looked at it and posted a link to one of my entries. A couple of days later I got my first comment and was excited for that fraction of a second before I saw what it was.

Still, if actual people aren't commenting on my blog, at least mindless software drones are.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

might be evil, but it's awfully smart

The daily show had a report on a guy who is advertising his badly-named website by attaching a sign to the "will work for food" type of signs panhandlers sometimes use. He calls it Bumvertising. He pays these people around 75 cents an hour. So basically he's got guys doing signboard-type work for next to nothing.

It's really pretty brilliant, but of course a lot of people are up in arms over it. The guy has a long explanation on his site of why he feels this isn't a bad thing, but what you think will depend on your presumptions. For Libertarians this is going to be fine. You're paying people for a service, they provide it. They're going to be standing there anyway, so it's good for them, they get extra money for basically doing nothing beyond what they normally do. It's good for the advertiser. What's there to complain about?

And it's not that easy to answer. But it just seems wrong. Because if you can pay people third-world wages because the job doesn't inconvenience them much, couldn't you start paying people less for all sorts of reasons. I mean, Bush is already letting contractors pay employees less than the going rate to rebuild New Orleans (even in a national emergency, even with the country against him, Bush can pass up no opportunity to screw over the poor on behalf of the rich, or to give handouts to his friends).

So what if this guy also starts paying bums to hand out leaflets. It's not more work than panhandling. But now what happens to the people who have jobs handing out leaflets? They've been replaced by people who will do the job for less. And that's where the whole system goes wrong, because anytime you allow an exception to the minimum wage laws then people get screwed. Which is fine if you're a Libertarian, but Libertarians have about as much common sense as Communists so that's not an argument for anything.

I hope this guy gets fined for flouting labor laws, but more likely Bush will give him a medal for finding a new way to screw over the homeless (probably at the same time he awards Michael Brown one for his disastrous reign at FEMA).

One interesting thing, he has an ad for a game called The Bum Game. The game has a disclaimer saying it's not for politically correct cry-babies, but in fact from the little I played it (I didn't find it all that interesting), the game does a good job of showing exactly how difficult it is to be a panhandler.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Holy cereal, Batman!

Like to laugh? Don't mind a wee bit of blasphemy? My friend Matt Parker has created his first flash cartoon and it is pretty darn funny.