Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Hate Prophecy

            I hate prophesies, or prophecy dependent on whether you think there is one for everyone or only one for everyone, which I guess is the same thing.  The only reason there is a plural is because of the competing prophets who say they have the answer.  You ever think maybe that if enough prophets began spouting off at the same time for long enough, saying whatever came to mind, whatever they could dream, they would fill up all the possible outcomes, they would be right in a sense?  They predicted what would happen because they covered all the contingencies, I guess 99.99999... and so forth percent would be wrong, but those guys guesses would be edited out, the good bits about all the various signs and portents would be kept, all the auguries that were read that ran contrary to what ended up would be blamed on the readers who discredited would disappear into history as the nameless boobs and hopeless rejects that followed lost causes, they would be branded heretics.

What do you mean?  It is plane as day.
             And then, everyone who called it as it was would put down their signs and taboos, the methods they use to predict what would happen, none of which would be lucky, they would just be that good, all deserving of praise and wonderment, all their methods would be written into law, because they were right that one time and so they are the authority on what was right, and so it is only logical that they remain the authority forever.  When people in following generations get shoddy predictions that fail to give them an advantage they will be blamed, I mean... they worked that one time, so the fault must be in the newer practitioners, must be in their liberal interpretations, their desire to do things their own as if they knew anything better than those one guys who got it right that one really important time.  It must be the new guys, because if the methods proved right that one time over all the other methods then they must be right, and the people who are giving you bad portents those are the guys who are failing to live up to the record, so they need to be taught a lesson.  Heresy means they go to the torch, incompetence means they get ostracized.

            And then the records get damaged, and some get lost, and the few that remain are deconstructed, and there are schisms and sects, cults and more bloody rules because new prophets with new methods start to crop up on the edges and they are getting things right with new methods, so lets write their stuff into the record too, and make sure those are followed with the old, and just for good measure we'll write down all the best methods for punishing those who don't use these new and old methods, don't want any new cults and sects to mess up the clean little lists.

            And why not, they worked that one time.  Couldn't just be luck... Right?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


            Everyone would like to be glorified in death.  Gilgamesh, Achilles, Jeshua of Nazareth, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, all of the great figures in history wanted to leave such a mark that history itself would be subsequently shaped by their actions.  And for all of the above cases, they succeeded.  And while the first two have become legends in dead mythologies, the others persist as part of the history that makes our lexicon understandable.

            But what if that wasn't an option?

            Few people become legends, and some legends are more known than others, Lord Horatio Nelson gets marginally better press than Mad Jack Churchill, and Catherine the Great and Cleopatra can be compared on many different levels, but even among legends there are those who are greater still, whose personal bang will echo longer in history than others.  So what about the flip side?

            Adolf Hitler will probably be the most memorable person for the next 500 years.  His infamy will eclipse the good works of 100,000,000,000 good men, which is a tragic truth.  But stepping back, I bet people can name more serial killers than Congressional Medal of Honor Winners.  I bet people can name more serial killers than they can name Nobel Laureates.

            The thing is, people can name more Nobel Laureates than they can name Wal-Mart Managers.  And there are more Wal-Mart Managers than Nobel winners by a wide margin.  The vast majority of people will be forgotten, but in an effort to avoid being forgotten, how terrible a person are you willing to be?

            So, if you could not die a hero, saint, or visionary... would you in death prefer to be anonymous, or infamous?

            Comment and share, I would actually like some activity.

"I just miss - I miss being anonymous." -President Obama

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Learning Chinese

            Learning Chinese is going to be a harsh little time for me.  See, I still do remember a large amount of what I learned of it in undergrad, a large amount when you consider how long ago that all was, but the focus at FSU is different than that of FGCU.

            At FGCU I learned characters, and was far better at knowing the English definition of a character than I was at recognizing spoken Chinese.  I would hear Chinese spoken, sound it out into Pinyin (that is Chinese language written as English script) then remember what that Pinyin coordinated to with the characters, then knew what the character meant.  That is a lot of steps that I could trip on.  If someone just wrote several characters I would be able to tell you what each meant, and over a period time I could start to get the gist of sentences (sentences written for a first grader).

            Now I am at FSU where spoken Chinese is the norm.  Which makes things hard, because I am expending a lot of energy to learn it, and since I am less efficient at doing so I am left with less time to remember the individual characters.  Sort of an economics problem, I am efficient at learning writing, not at speaking, so I am not using my greatest possible utility.

            I can kind of see where they are coming from, spoken language is the most common form of communication on Earth, but here is my rebuttal: I don't like talking to people.  And I will never speak Chinese at a level that would permit me to talk with someone in it that wouldn't make me sound mentally disabled, with most conversations being that of tired and forced chit-chat that people pry out of tourists.  But I could conceivably learn to read and write it well enough to read a novel in Chinese, a newspaper, or street signs.  So while I will take the lessons, I will take the tests, and I will do as well as possible, I feel uncomfortable, and this will probably be the most challenging class I take this semester, then again the other two classes I am taking are so in my ballpark they are standing on the home plate.

A Chinese stop sign.  Though many also write stop in English.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Game of Thrones

            "Game of Thrones" is an excellent book.  It is well written, with characters that have complexity, motivation, and are both likable and unlikable but at all times understood.  At no point do you feel that someone is taking an action because the story needs them to, but instead that the character in question did this because it is a well thought out (or in stressful situations reflexive) action to take.  Because of a period setting dialogue the humor actually is timeless and manages to break the chains that would hold back comedy of modern times that leans heavily on referencing things, this book will be readable in 100 years, just like "The Hobbit" and be just as enjoyable.

            That all being said, I am rather pissed off at it.

Seriously, there is a lot going on in this thing.

            The book is 800 pages long, has 8 characters used for the sake of point of view (9 if you count the opening action sequence), has a massive number of names mentioned in it that get immediately filtered by the reader because, and I can't stress this enough, nobody outside of the author, George R.R. Martin cares enough to know the names of characters that only serve as window dressing.  If there were a book of short stories that gave each of the named characters time to shine, their own little thing, then maybe I would have the same reaction to reading the name that I do seeing a character cameo in a movie or TV show ("Hey look, it is that guy, who was in that thing; you know, that thing that I like").  But they don't, so it is visual noise, it could just as easily not exist.

            More so I have a problem that goes beyond having too many names, too many perspectives, and the fact that the chapters are unnumbered so it would be nearly impossible for me to go back through the thing taking notes for a more in depth analysis.  No the real problem is that there is no ending.  None.  The book is more than one and a half of any other novel I have ever written, to put that in perspective, the "Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy Trilogy in Five Parts" collectively only has 969 pages.  And that trilogy has 5 endings.  the original "Dune" has 412 pages.  "Dune" had three endings, and was still able to have a series that followed in its wake, each subsequent book of varying length, but each in turn had an end.

            You cannot lead people through 800 pages to a cliffhanger, seriously now, it ends mid-WAR.  WAR.  Only one of the main 8 cast members has a definitive character arc, and she is the only character to at no point interact with the other 7 perspective characters, she could have been a separate novel all to herself.  That is an obnoxious way to write.  Not only that but it means that no subsequent book in the series (which will supposedly be 7 in number all of comparable or greater length) can just be picked up and read.  How can you possibly deliver a satisfying ending to a series that will end up in the page count of 5,500-6,000?  How can you possibly give an ending people will not feel let down from?  That is too big a meal, by the time desert rolls around you will be too full to enjoy it.  Hunger is the best seasoning, and these books do not leave one hungry, they mentally stuff you.

Pictured: a mental 5 course smörgåsbord with two courses left to come.

            I'll probably continue with the series in a month or so.  If you like gritty fantasy, where no one is safe, and the bad guys do win from time to time, then by all means, feel free to take on the herculean task of reading these, but know this: the last book has not been written.  And book 6 six hasn't been finished either.  It gets worse: if Martin dies before finishing them, he's ordered his notes and outlines to be destroyed.  He is 63 and one of the books took 6 years to produce... Think age might slow him down?  In other words, that ending that is sure to disappoint, it may never happen.  This could be the biggest literary blue balls story in history.  And I have already decided that I will be taking part in it.

Don't worry, there is no way I could pull a Robert Jordan, on you all and fail to finish my own massive book series that is totally distinct from "Wheel Of Time".

            I'll probably buy the TV show's DVD when it comes out.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Ever have one of those moments when you just have to break the shit out of everything? That every person you talk to comes off as mockingly normal? And if you don't know what I mean by mockingly normal, it is when every single thing done by every single person annoys you, to the point where you mumble to yourself, "yeah, drink that coffee asshole, drink it and act like you don't even know that I'm here, now just walk away pretending like you don't think I'm a piece of shit, you bastard, I hope you choke to death on a biscotti."

Well, I like to think that I never really have those moments, but I do, I've thrown things, crumpled things, snarled... yes, snarled, screamed obscenities, and jumped around howling at the unbelievable stupid that just keeps trying to ram itself down my throat. And the anger always eventually breaks through whatever mantra I am repeating to try and keep it in check, "I am cool, calm, and in control... No, not today."

To illustrate this I have picked out some scenes I think illustrate these moments, because, I think that freaking out once and a while keeps us from drinking death from a straw made of gun metal for at least a few more days.

5) John Belushi is an easy going guy in "Animal House", but I feel that his response to annoying guy with an acoustic guitar is warranted. Cause if you are that guy who brings his guitar to a party to pick up chicks with your bland three chord non-melody and cottage cheese lyrics than seriously, shove it up your ass.
No Embedding... I'll put my fist through my own god damn monitor.

4) John Goodman plays Walter, and Walter is back from Nam, and for some reason he thinks that gives him a blank check to wave his gun around and be dick. All that aside though "The Big Lebowski" has several moments when he goes on psychotic rants that could create their own list in this format, that being said there is one moment that is rather notorious, and I think of it somewhat often.
No Embedding? Why?

3) Jack Nicholson could pretty much just have a list to himself, for god sake the man has committed so many murders on film it boarders on the grotesque. He has ranted, punched, shot, and chopped his way to awards and a cult following. To him I chose one of the most over the top break up scenes in film. "The Witches of Eastwick", honestly, he's the Devil, so maybe this could be construed as restrained.
Really? Embedding Disabled by request. Fine! Link!

2) Nicholas Cage is the God of insane bullshit. He has built his entire career around it. No one can scream "fuck" as loud and long as he can. So here is one of his earlier works from a movie I don't think I ever want to see, "Zandalee". This is the birth of the Maestro of insanity.

Kind of makes me think of "Paint it Black", and I often wonder if I should sit down and cover myself in paint while wailing.

1) Michael Douglas is not really known for freak outs the way that Cage and Nicholson are, one might say he is more known for being either a weasel, or the upper class but straight talking guy the audience likes, which is why I love the movie "Falling Down". The whole movie is an ever escalating series of freak outs, at everything from douche bag convenience store owners, to fast food, to gang members, neo-Nazis, and urban reconstruction. I love this, because it is a guy who is at the end of his rope and like Spolsion Man he just keeps going off and picking up steam as he does so. Any scene of his from that movie could be here, so I'll put one of the simpler ones.
Again with the disabled? The hell are they hiding this from?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Changing the Federal Structure

            Well the last blog I did was somewhat political so I figure I will talk about what I think is wrong with government again.  Not that the last post got a lot of views, just that I have had this on my mind being that it is everywhere.

            I do not like the structure of the United States government as it currently stands.  I think that it has failed to be amended in a long time and needs to be cleaned up a good bit to be more reflective of the nation it is supposed to represent, and to eliminate a lot of the institutional memory within it.

            I think that each state should have three Senators, each serves a 6 year term, so every election will include a Senator from every state, think of them as the Red, White, and Blue Senate seats.  A Senator serves 2 terms or 14 years (if she was appointed to take over for a senator who moved on).  This way the Senate has consistent role over, and the Senate is always a concern for a voter, because no matter what year it is, or what state they are in, they have a senator up for reelection.  I also think three Senators should exist to represent the collective territories of the United States, meaning that Washington DC and Puerto Rico would have representation (this is not perfect as the two areas are far apart and have distinct needs, but it is a step up from having no representation in a federal body that they are required to enlist in to defend, if they would like stronger positions then Statehood should be considered).

            I heartily dislike the way the House of Representatives is constructed.  The terms as so short that Representatives are allowed no time to pen legislation and set them into motion before they again have to justify their existence.  What is more the districts are horrifyingly Gerrymandered, creating a political class that will safely live out their lives in office because they safely trimmed out a section of the map that does not pay attention to how poor a job they are doing.  What is more the Speaker of the House has no real power and no real voice in the public sphere, meaning they have no way to spur action toward meaningful legislation.  To replace this system wholesale would be for the best.  What is more, they are afforded a level of local anonymity that only disappears when they commit a scandal, if you don't know who is representing you, then why have a direct local election for a Representative?

This is a Gerrymandered Congressional district.  This cannot be defended as democratic.

            The House should be replaced with a Parliament.  Each state allocated a number of seats based on their population, counting the territories as a state for purposes of representation (again this is not perfect as Puerto Rico and Guam are very different from DC, but it is better than the zero and a half they get now, and if they desire more representation they can advocate for Statehood).  Every four years an election is held (these are the off years from the Presidential Election, so on the same years as the Winter Olympics rather than the Summer Olympics) to allocate the seats of each state to members of the parties they vote for, the Party members vote along party lines and pen legislation individually.  We have a National Minister that takes the place of the Speaker but with more power and focus.  No one can serve more than 8 years as National Minister, and they can be removed by their party should they be found too close to crazy town.  No one should be allowed to serve more than 12 years in the Parliament in any party.

            The Presidency needs their role to change, with a lot more power being given to the Minister, a lot needs to be taken away from the President.  He should remain the center of the military and diplomatic channels, and should still appoint Judges, but should not be the source of legislative initiative, and should not be in direct talks with the Parliament and Senate committees over national programs.  The President's power to veto things should also be restrained, only using the ability if a new law threatens the President's ability to maintain peace and security, or if the President thinks that the law in question is unconstitutional and needs the Supreme Court to take action.  Furthermore we need to eliminate the Electoral College and have a one man, one vote, first past the post election.  He should also remain limited to his current term restrictions, and Vice Presidents should have their place as Senate leader continue.  This is more the Presidential role in France, where they have both a Minister and President.

Two Videos why the electoral college does not work.  And where I got this picture.

            The Supreme Court needs to be expanded to 15 members.  This should happen slowly, so that it does not suddenly become insanely conservative or liberal all at once, but by doing this more points of view can be considered, and less impact is made with each member's moving on.  It allows for more diversity.

            So you have a President in charge of foreign affairs, a Minister in charge of domestic affairs, a Senate that acts as a check on the Minister and Parliament, a Vice President that helps put a check on the Senate, and a Presidential Veto which helps put a check on both Legislative bodies.  The Courts are appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and checks everyone else against the Constitution.

            Beyond these things I think that a clearer structure for creating states needs to be put into place.  That way if a state like New Jersey feels that its northern and southern half's are too different and populous to be represented by just their three current Senators then they can divide themselves for cleaner presentation.  That extends to other massive and populous states and territories, and to foreign countries seeking a place in the Union.