Monday, March 31, 2008


The IMDB page for Marlowe, my first produced film, is now up. Still missing a bunch of details (like me!) and we don't have cover art yet, but a few of the principal actors are listed.

Also, my scene in the film, a true gift to cinema, is apparently staying in, so before long I'll have a Bacon number of 3.

I'm in Marlowe with Billy Unger who was also in National Treasure: Book of Secrets with Ed Harris, who was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Class of 1984

Fellow Glendale High School Alumni, Greg Rodriguez scored a book-pimping on the Colbert Report recently!

And does a good job! He also writes weekly op-eds that appear in the L.A. Times.

Another famous alumni of my year is Clark Peterson, one of the producers of the film Monster.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Indie Computer Games

Used to be that I'd own a PC because that's where all the games were. Now all the big games are on consoles -- but the PC still has to be my platform because I like wargames, and they're pretty much only on here (Matrix Games has most of the selection).

But I'm also discovering a wide variety of fun Independent Games. Manifesto Games has a good selection. Play this Thing offers daily reviews to point you towards interesting stuff.

And there's an annual contest called the Independent Games Festival that has a great list of "Best of" for various years. Many of the games appear to only be sold via their own website.

I just started playing last year's winner, Aquaria -- which is a very fun arcadish, adventurish, puzzle-solving RPG -- albeit a bit chicky. Here's some video:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dangerous Strategy

CBS News has an article up about how some in the GOP see Rev. Wright as a path to beating Obama, if he's nominated -- even to the point of saying:

“For the first time, some Republicans are rethinking Hillary as their first choice,” said Alex Castellanos, a veteran media consultant who recently worked for Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Later in the article this is mentioned:

“I usually get three or four emails a week on Obama,” said Michigan Republican chairman Saul Anuzis Monday. “Today I received more than 10 - all of them on his minister.”

Among the e-mails Anuzis received was a link to a mash-up video splicing together Wright’s most extreme comments, Michelle Obama’s statement, footage of Obama not putting his hand over his heart during the anthem at a political event and images of Malcolm X and the two black Olympians in 1968 who raised their fists in the “black power” salute set to the iconic rap song by Public Enemy “Fight the Power.”

While Wright's comments won't make many friends, including those other images strikes me as very dangerous for a Republican party that's already struggling.

This isn't the 1960s -- and I'm not at all sure that modern Americans will react that negatively to Malcolm X or those two black Olympians raising their fists. Americans of all color are awfully sympathetic to the underdog rebel, even if we have doubts about their methods. Are they trying to indicate that blacks in the 1960s didn't even have a right to be angry? Are they trying to sell that idea now? In 2008?

I can guarantee that if I had been subjected to segregation and similar policies up through the 60s that I would have had a hard time keeping my anger in check.

And I also wonder to what extent it's even possible to make a criticism such as "he's not patriotic" stick to a presidential candidate. Did they even manage that against George McGovern? They didn't even try against Kerry and instead went after his truthfulness.

Thinking more about it, I suspect this is a feint. They can't really hope for it to work in the general election -- if they did, they'd wait until the general election to bring the full force of their arguments to bear instead of blowing their (perhaps only) wad in March. But maybe by media-blitzing this now, they could influence the primary and super-delegates into putting Clinton at the top of the ticket.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Power of Honesty

This will be my one open sales pitch for Barack Obama -- a link to video of the speech he gave today:

I'm concerned that most people will only hear it second-hand, from commentators or carefully chosen clips shown on TV. It's really best to see it as it actually is.

When Obama said that he'd be giving a speech on race in America and in this campaign I thought that what he would need to do is just be honest. And I think that is what he does here.

While some of my reasons for supporting him are specific and rather narrow policy points, I have to admit that certainly his "speechifying" has a fair bit to do with it as well. But I think it's cynical to attribute the power of a speech, or any writing, to being the mere ability to organize words in such a way as to create emotional affect.

I know from my own writing that often my first stab at a key emotional scene or bit of dialog fails -- that I put together clever words in carefully constructed artifice -- and it sounds like tin. When I go back and manage to remember that the key to this isn't pretty words, but honest expressions of what the character would do or feel -- that's when the writing truly works. And maybe I can include a few pretty words anyway. What's amazing is just how HARD and infrequent it is that one does manage to write honest, instead of just write well.

I see talking heads on TV discuss and dismiss Obama's ability to put together good speeches -- and I think that this is symptomatic of their own problems. That language for them has become so detached from meaning that they no longer even comprehend the fact that hollow talk sounds hollow and that writing, or art, or speeches only truly touch you when they've said something honest.

We don't remember the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, or I Have a Dream because Jefferson, Lincoln, and King sure did talk pretty. We remember them because they were not only honest, but expressed deep truths.

And I don't want to say here that Obama is necessarily one of those guys, or that this speech is in their realm -- but I definitely believe that it's honest and expresses some real truths.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Go Toronto!

Toronto is single-handedly changing the gender ratios in academic philosophy (from the Leiter Reports):

Kirstin Borgerson (Toronto) hired by Dalhousie University. AOS: Philosophy of Science, Bioethics.

Danielle Bromwich (Toronto) Post-Doc at NIH. AOS: Ethics

Sari Kisilevsky (Toronto) Post-Doc in Law and Philosophy at UCLA. AOS: Philosophy of Law, Political Philosophy.

Kara Richardson (Toronto) hired by Syracuse University. AOS: Early Modern, Medieval.

Chloe Taylor (Toronto) hired by University of North Florida. AOS: 20th Century Continental, Social and Political Philosophy. Previously SSHRC Post-Doc at McGill University.

Margaret Cameron (Toronto) hired by University of Victoria as the Canada Research Council Chair Candidate in the Aristotelian Tradition. AOS: Medieval Philosophy. Previously Assistant Professor at Hunter College, City University of New York (tenure-track) and a Research Fellow at Cambridge University.

A local cheer to former card-sharp Douglas Parvin (Rutgers) hired by Augustana College. AOS: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind. Yay Doug!

And, apparently Princeton still needs to remind us that it's Princeton (bolding mine):

David Baker (Princeton) hired by University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. AOS: Philosophy of Physics. Also had tenure-track offers from NYU and University of Wisconsin.

Congrats to all!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Fifth Branch of Government & My Own Crowd-sourcing

The Google-your-government law struck me as an elegant solution to some long-time problems of democracy. In fact, I suspect this sort of transparency is not merely a good, practical, and affordable alternative to greater internal oversight of how the government spends money -- but, in fact, flat out superior. In theory, you could achieve something similar with internal watchdogs within the government -- but then you just run into the "who watches the watchmen" problem. And I think historically the watchdogs just become part of the corruption.

So you just lay all the info out there and let bored nerds on the internet serve as your check and balance -- a special benefit of transparency combined with crowd-sourcing, something really only available due to the technological breakthrough of having the internet piped directly into nerd homes.

NERDS! They're the fifth branch of government!

And it's a good thing because I'm not so sure about the other four lately...

Although, truthfully, our modern news media is probably better than it has ever been in the past (probably our government too). The problem it has is that now news stations/papers are much better at revealing the failures of other news stations/papers and subject to the scrutiny of NERDS! -- who are often ridiculously expert in their incredibly narrow field of expertise, and thus able to show the shortcomings of the news media that, in the past, would have slipped by without question.

Hiking Trails in the Lexington VA area
In a vaguely related bit -- I've added some of my own effort to the crowd-sourcing: posting a bunch of hiking trails in the Lexington VA area to Google maps. Some of the directions to the trails in the guide books were either wrong or horribly confusing, so having them on the map makes it a lot easier.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thank God for NetFlix

All the movies showing within a 40 minute drive of our house:

R/C State Cinema 3
12 West Nelson Street, Lexington, VA, 24450
Theater Info | Map It
10,000 B.C.
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 49 min
College Road Trip
Rated G, 1 hr 23 min
Rated R, 1 hr 30 min

Valley Cinema
2275 Beech Avenue, Buena Vista, VA, 24416
Theater Info | Map It
Bucket List, The
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 37 min
Fool's Gold
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 50 min

A one hour drive gets the following as well:

Dixie Theatre
125 East Beverly Street, Staunton, VA, 24401
Theater Info | Map It
Bucket List, The
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 37 min
(4:00), 7:10
Definitely, Maybe
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 52 min
(4:15), 7:05
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 31 min
(4:30), 7:15
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Rated R, 1 hr 56 min
(4:20), 7:00

Regal Staunton Mall Cinemas

90 Lee Jackson Hwy, Staunton, VA, 24401
Theater Info | Map It
10,000 B.C.
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 49 min
(4:10), 7:10
College Road Trip
Rated G, 1 hr 23 min
(4:30), 7:30
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who
Starts on Friday, Mar. 14
Click here for Showtimes
Rated R, 1 hr 30 min
(4:40), 7:40
Spiderwick Chronicles, The
Rated PG, 1 hr 37 min
(4:00), 7:00
Step Up 2 the Streets
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 38 min
(4:15), 7:15
Vantage Point
Rated PG-13, 1 hr 30 min
(4:20), 7:20

Visulite Cinema

12 North Augusta St., Staunton, VA, 24401
Theater Info | Map It
2007 Academy Award-Nominated Shorts: Animated
Not Rated, 1 hr 30 min
Kite Runner, The
Rated PG-13, 2 hr 7 min
3:30, 6:30
No Country for Old Men
Rated R, 2 hr 2 min
Savages, The
Rated R, 1 hr 53 min
4:00, 7:00

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Closest Possible World?

The Wall Street journal poses a counter-factual: about Margaret Seltzer's Love and Consequences.

I’m curious to hear what Juggle readers might do in a similar situation. Not that many people will have a sibling who makes up a memoir, of course, but would you publicly call out a family member involved in unscrupulous doings — even if it meant ruining his or her reputation and career? Or in your family, does loyalty trump all?

According to David Lewis's method of handling counterfactuals (scroll down to Possible World Semantics), the way to analyze this question is to look at the closest possible world where it's true that my sibling wrote a fake memoir and see whether or not I ratted them out.

My intuitive answer is that I wouldn't rat out my siblings. But, thinking about it, that's because my siblings are cool and very nice people.

The kind of sibling who would not only gin up an entire book parasiting on the suffering of others, but also continue the lies through who knows how many meetings and, one would expect, future book tours and such, probably isn't a cool and very nice person. People don't just wake up one day and suddenly break into a massive pattern of deception and manipulation -- they've been practicing it for a long time. That's why they're so good at it. And, while I might not go out of my way to rat out that person, I'd certainly tell the truth if anyone bothered to talk to me.

Which shows one of the weaknesses of Lewis's treatment. Which world is closer: the one where my very cool sister suddenly writes a false memoir, or the world where my sister has serious emotional problems, a lifelong habit of manipulation, and finally gets called out on it after pushing everything too far?

Technically, I think the Lewis account would have to say A -- thus the answer should be "No ratting." But I think my more considered judgment is the correct answer.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Looking for Brilliant, Paying for Crappy

Craigslist provides a nice selection of the sort of thing writer's typically see, for example:

We are starting a new magazine in the style of McSweeney's and are looking for freelance writers who can do up to three humorous and insightful articles a month. Figure the average length is 2500 words and none of us will be disappointed.

Of course, there is pay. We buy all rights.

Send your one best sample. It might be a slice of life thing or it could be a humor thing. No straight news clips, please.

We are looking for brilliant.

A little piece of advice, if they don't tell you the pay, there's a reason. The worst part of the offer though is the line We buy all rights. If you're getting paid microbucks or contributor's copies for your brilliant humorous magazine columns you should at least have the hope of collecting them into a book some day.

One or more people have spent the day posting similar sorts of job offers, From Craigslist.LA:

Need scribe who knows 12 languages and can write in 3D Reply to:
Date: 2008-03-04, 10:25AM PST

Have immediate need of a writer whose mastery of language is so extraordinary it cannot be described in words.

You should be fluent in at least 12 languages and be able to translate Ulysses into each, particularly Mandarin, in which you will adapt Joyce's impenetrable tome into a Hong Kong action film.

We need all this quickly, in under a week. Well-known talent have expressed interest in these projects while heavily intoxicated.

Although we have tremendous piles of cash buffeting our pillow-topped mattresses, we can offer only $10 for this assignment. Your name will be seen, albeit in a dimly lit, smoke-filled room.

Oh, and your work must be written in three dimensions. We can offer an extra $5 if you can write in the fourth dimension.

-- the original post is gone by now. The world cannot endure such honesty.