Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Loser 8

Super 8 really terrible, even for a special effects movie; when will I ever learn?

The most irritating bit (spoilers)
is the opening horrific train crash that nearly-but-not-quite kills the cute kids and releases the menace. They look around, find that none of them are dead, and drive away.
It's almost inconceivable that the bigbad US Army would send the menace on a train across the country without a large number of escorting soldiers; it's completely impossible that they could have sent the menace on a train across the country without a driver. Who would then presumably be bleeding to death in the wreckage while the kids bail.
The issue being that the plot brings in incidents on the basis of them being what is called for in the spectacle at that particular moment, rather than on any felt need to conform to what happened ten minutes before or after. Absolute contempt for not only credibility but also consistency.
The menace excavates (with its hands, apparently) a vast burrow beneath the town, through what looks like rock and is certainly self-supporting (not sand, for example, or soil - perhaps clay) and apparently eats the spoil because there are no heaps of rubble left anywhere.
The menace at the end.... let's not even touch on that, the pinnacle of unbelievability is reached, but the issue is if it could do that why it hadn't done it before.
And the kids have to keep their knowledge of the menace secret because otherwise, the teacher tells them, the army will kill them. And at the end of the movie that just evaporates and they're wandering around in full view of everybody and the army is apparently just fine with that. I myself prefer to think that the army did kill them all and that the end-credits movie was put together by their grieving schoolmates, but that's just me.
And again, a vastly overdone subplot about the American obsession about being good fathers, without which no American blockbuster is complete.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Age Bin - Nanny State

Is it really wise of the tobacco pushers to launch an advertising campaign against the nanny state while Mary Poppins is still pulling full houses in Sydney and the last Nanny McPhee movie is just behind us? Are they really suggesting that these beloved paragons are less credible than Big Tobacco? The advertisers deserve a rap over the knuckles from a parrot-headed umbrella.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Right Wrong

Some hypocrisy on Catallexy (News Flash! Water wet!) on the topic of legalisation of drugs, based on a WSJ article.

I think an open and honest debate is a good place to start. At the end of the day I’m not convinced that harm minimisation (at most margins) can be achieved while drugs are illegal. The war on tobacco has largely being [sic] won while the product has remained legal.

Would I be considered out of line to point out that Catxy has without exception opposed every element of that war -- most recently, the blank packaging legislation -- on the grounds of nanny state interference with private property? The last reference, for example, was "the war on tobacco is reaching the stage of pure vindictiveness". Or
Already tobacco tax is probably close to the peak of the Laffer curve. And smokers are ostracised in many places. But there is always more that the Government can do to eliminate smoking.

And once it has won the war on smoking, there are lots of other wars it can fight against those who are not living the healthy life.

That is the vision: a thin, sober, non-smoking, exercising, vegetarian. The future of Australia.

Saying that drug use should be permitted and that the ill effects could be contained if the government introduced a level of control comparable to tobacco control is an argument open to me, as a a liberal interventionist, but not, surely, to a movement that objects on principle to tobacco control.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

They broke the entail

The oddest thing about Downton Abbey is that the whole plot revolves around the matter of the estate being entailed on the heir to the title and thus being unable to be passed to the daughters; and no dialogue was inserted to explain what an entail was. As a lawyer of the old school - well, as a legal graduate of the old school - I knew, but I can't really believe that the knowledge is so widespread in the general population that it can be assumed. I'd like to do a quiz.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Another Weiner-related pun?

Ah. According to Roger Fulford Wood and Cockell were "A pair of reactionary lawyers". Doesn't exactly explain why they were chosen to feature in Smith's line, but close enough.

Bad pun

Yglesias says on the Wiener debacle
The idea that we should regard this extensive record in the career to which Weiner has dedicated his entire adult life as somehow fake, and his after hours twittering as revealing his “real” character just doesn’t make a ton of sense.
One way to see this through an extreme case is perhaps just to observe that the demands of being President of the United States are straightforwardly incompatible with being a model husband and father. The hours, the travel, and the stress just don’t make it add up. But it can’t be the case that all Presidents of the United States lack the requisite character to be President of the United States. It has to be the case that the kind of character that matters for a public official isn’t the same as the kind of character that matters to be a good husband and father. After all, you want a responsible public official to neglect his family and friends (“hard-working”), to display a certain kind of ruthlessness and cunning (“negotiation”), to be a bit of a phony in certain situations (“diplomacy”), and all kinds of other things that don’t carry over straightforwardly from personal life to public affairs.

Well, that's simply an instance of the general Machiavellian principle, as expounded by Isaiah Berlin; the qualities required of a good statesman are not simply different from those required of a good private citizen, they're incompatible. For example, being a war criminal is pretty much part of the job description for being an American president. Or, in the words of Sydney Smith,
"You spend a great deal of ink about the character of the present prime minister. Grant you all that you write — I say, I fear he will ruin Ireland, and pursue a line of policy destructive to the true interest of his country: and then you tell me, he is faithful to Mrs. Perceval, and kind to the Master Percevals! These are, undoubtedly, the first qualifications to be looked to in a time of the most serious public danger; but somehow or another (if public and private virtues must always be incompatible), I should prefer that he destroyed the domestic happiness of Wood or Cockell, owed for the veal of the preceding year, whipped his boys, and saved his country."

I have no idea who Wood and Cockell are, which is mildly irritating, not to say, for a history buff, humiliating.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

X-Men Fourth Class

I keep going to these big-budget superhero movies, and I keep being disappointed despite coming in with no expectations other than good special effects.

X-Men First Class spent a simply enormous amount of time on the bromance between Professor X and Magneto, contributing to the very low ratio of special effects to "human interest", a phrase I put in quotes because
(a) they're not human, they're mutants and
(b) they're of no conceivable interest.

Mystique is first introduced as a five-year-old who had apparently coincidentally found her way into the Xavier's kitchen. On being surprised by x, she disguises herself as x's mum, who
i) is much larger and taller - where does the extra mass come from?
ii) she's never seen before.

x then apparently adopts her, and they grow up together, which is used as an explanation of why (other than clearly being homosexual) he won't 'date' her when they're both young adults - which brings up the next point. Hank McCoy says that Mystique's genetic code means that she ages more slowly than ordinary people. I can see that that's a necessary save to explain why she looks exactly the same in the later (chronologically) Xmovies, but it does bring up a number of consequent points.

1) If Mystique ages slowly, how old was she in that first scene? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty?
2) If she ages slowly, how come she went from looking five to looking twentyfive in exactly the same time that professor X did?

It can only work if she only begins slow ageing at the moment Hank clocks her. Which is unsatisfactory.

The newly-minted mutants are remarkably lame. The black whore who can fly on dragonfly wings and can cough up fireballs may represent a new low (and it's worth noting that the only black characters in the movie are a poledancer and the first guy to get killed).

I really should learn. But I never do.

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