Saturday, November 24, 2012

Life pro-tip: don't pass up opportunities to buy striking and inexpensive postcards.  Worst case scenario, they get buried under a pile somewhere and you've wasted some money.  Best case scenario: it's *so* awesome that you have them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Which movie to see?

We learn that our decisions as consumers matter.  We learn that we vote with our dollars.  We stop paying companies to erect factory farms, to enslave third-world children, or to lobby congress to loosen environmental restrictions.  Or, more likely, we become firm in our convictions that people ought to so moderate their consumption, even if we're not currently possessed of the fortitude to do it ourselves.

Okay, so those are some pretty morally lofty ways that we might govern our consumer habits.  But if you take  it as a general lesson that you vote, with your money, for the world you want to become actual, then there are other ways in which you might not realize that you are paying for the world to be a way that you wouldn't, if possessed of full information, choose for it to be.  Even if these ends-directed consumer habits carry with them little or no moral consequence, they still might fit the general recipe:  you have the power to tell some producer that you wish the world would be more this way than that way, and you will reward them financially if they modify their behavior to make the world more this way than that way.  I'm referring to the behavior of film studios.

Recently it's become the case that I watch a whole lot of movies in the theater.  A lot of the movies that I've been excited for recently have been giant studio hits, including Skyfall, Looper, The Hunger Games, Wreck-It Ralph and The Dark Knight.  A lot of the movies I've seen have been, though well known (and, by design, Oscar contenders)  not the same rakers in of hundreds of millions of dollars, for instance The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Seven Psychopaths.

I like the big studio hits, and I would be loathe to miss seeing them, especially since my interest in seeing movies is often to have my fingers in the pulse of a nationally shared consciousness.  But my aesthetico-political inclination (if I may be permitted a fancy sounding gerry-mandered word) is that the studios don't need any further encouragement to make movies like Skyfall and The Hunger Games.  They do need further encouragement to make the other sorts of movies.  So suppose I want to see Hunger Games and The Master equally, both are coming out this weekend, and I'm only going to see one.  How do I vote for the world I want to see with my dollar?  Easy...see The Master.  Done.  But what if I want to see both movies equally (or, at least, my desire to see both crosses some relevant threshold) and I have the time and money to see both?  How can I "vote" for The Master in the relevant sense without having my vote cancelled out by going and spending the same amount of money to see Hunger Games?  The answer boils down to: opening weekend. Movies' success is measured in how much money they bring in on opening weekend.  This is one of the reasons that movies that appeal to young teens are given such huge budgets, and why movie studios priorities are increasingly calibrated to the tastes of teens: teens flood the theaters on opening weekend. So if you want to send the studios a message that making The Master is economically worth their time, see it on the first day it comes out.  If two movies are coming out this weekend, and you plan to see both, but one of the movies is of a kind that you wish the studios would priortize more highly, then you should make a more concerted effort to see that movie during it's first several days, and feel free to put off the other movie into the coming week when you have the time.

This weekend Lincoln and The Sessions will both be coming out.  I don't have any sense that one of these is, as I put it, "of a type that I wish the studios would make more movies like this", but in the future if a movie has been produced by a smaller, more independent studio, or if the movie itself looks to be the kind of nuanced, investigative earnest attempt at perfectly exploiting the medium of film for artistic expression, then that's the movie I'm going to see on opening weekend.  I'll wait, dodging spoilers all the while, and see the Dark Night on the coming Wednesday.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Using Animals

Recent pedagogy, romance, and reading have converged to lead me to reconsider my thoughts on animals and our ways of using them.  I'm considering some lifestyle changes in the near future (perhaps New Years) but I want to get my thoughts straight on the matter.  I put together this chart...if you have anything to add let me know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why I Couldn't Vote for Romney Even if I wasn't a Liberal Partisan Hack (which I am)

I actually think that Romney is a good manager.  I think there is truth to the conservative narrative that Romney is the guy you want at the head of the board room table.  I think this is compatible with the gafftastic nature of the romney compaign; the CEO of a company doesn't usually have to put up with public scrutiny; they have to put up with private scrutiny (and, thus, have to be able to hash out pragmatic solutions to real problems and set all the bullshit aside) and they have to make public appearances.  But those two never don't usually intersect.  The CEO's public, chiseled, meticulous image doesn't usually face the threat of being ruffled by an overly curious public.  When they have the liberty to drop the facade and get down to brass tacks, and stop worrying about press or bloggers, they can be very effective.  I bet Romney would be very effective in this way.

The thing is:  CEO's don't need to make agendas in the same ways that presidents do.  they don't have to prioritize from scratch.  Because the CEO's agenda, the ultimate priority, is quite obvious:  make more money and don't lose money.

But for a nation, success is not so well defined.  One of the reasons that bipartisanship is so rare, and so unsatisfying when it actually happens, is because the sides don't agree on what it is for the country to be doing well, to be on the right tack.  So Romney might be very effective in getting-it-done, but without any antecedent understanding of what "it" is, a president has to make a substantive stand on what kind of success they are aiming at, knowing that that very result will not be acknowledged as a version of "success" by the other side.  The president has to know not only how we get to where they want to go, they have to establish where we want to go.

I'm not deluded into thinking that Obama is some ideological purist who "stands on the strength of his convictions", but I think he gets his sense of what it is for the country to be succeeding from a pretty traditional, democratic, left-of-center ideology, along with a somewhat right-of-center approach to America's international presence.  Use government as a way of correcting for the subtly coercive and oppressive maneuvers that unfettered capitalism invites people to exploit for their own gain.  that's the goal.  Be on the lookout for where capitalists have found a way to maximize their profits by robbing the less well off of any statistically reasonable chance at a minimum quality of life, and flex legislative muscles to make the capitalists cut it  the fuck out.  That's my understanding of left-of-center ideology, and I think that's by-and-large the perspective from which Obama approaches policy making.

Where does Romney take his cues from with regard to criteria for success?  He appears to be a bit of a sponge in this regard.  Make your demands of him, and he'll tout your ends as criteria for success.  That may not even be bad, except it's clear enough whose demands are the most audible in the oval office.  They're the demands of huge monied interests.  So I have no doubt that Romney would succeed at managing the executive branch as a machine built to accomplish some x, but I think we have ample reason to believe that Romney himself will be indifferent as to what the x is, and is likely to listen to fringe interests groups in his party's caucus, in the hopes that those interests can get him re-elected.  And this isn't idle speculation.  I think this is the best guess we can make given his apparent fickleness during the primaries.  As different voices got louder and quieter, Romney vacillated on which goals he trumpeted most loudly.

We all know how active and aggressive special interests are in Washington.  I feel pretty confident that the USFG would be as capable in achieving its goals under Romney as it would under any president.  I really do think that, I think.  My concern comes in how those goals will be decided upon, and I think we'd be foolish to take anything said in this campaign as an unbreakable promise.  I think that the most rational guess, given all we know, is that massive monied and corporate interests would successfully ensure that the agenda of a Romney executive branch would be their agenda.  And given how effective Romney would be at accomplishing his goals...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stanley Cup playoff predictions

Western Conference

Canucks d. Kings in five.
Blues d. Sharks in seven. [I've picked the blues to win it all]
Blackhawks d. Coyotes in five.
Predators d. Wings in six.

Eastern Conference

Rangers d. Senators in five. [I think the Rangers make it to the finals and lose to the Blues in seven]
Bruins d. Capitals in six.
Panthers d. Devils in seven.
Penguins d. Flyers in seven.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ayer's Moorean Paradox

Moore's open question defies informative analyses of GOOD to provide such an analysis (of the form "to be good is to be F") which passes the following test: Can I intelligibly ask whether something, which is F, is also good? If such a question is intelligible, Fness cannot be identical to goodness. Even if all the good things are F, their goodness is not their Fness, though their goodness may be in virtue of their Fness. Ayer kickstarted the 20th century noncognitivist tradition by accepting Moore's conclusion that GOOD cannot be identical to any complex property. But instead of following Moore to the conclusion that GOOD must be a simple, nonnatural, sui generis property, Ayer proposes that GOOD is no property at all, and that attributions of goodness are not attributions of a property to objects, but rather expressions of approval.

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Life in Wikipedia Articles

Got this idea from a friend-of-a-friend's website. Organized in roughly chronological order. About a half-dozen of these pages don't exist. But they should.