Saturday, August 13, 2011

S&P [chat] Downgrade

S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating, because the jackasses who work at S&P are team players, concerned for the well-being of the nation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sam Odio versus Jonathan's Card

I assume you all know what is going on with the Starbucks Jonathan's Card thing. Jackass #1 puts his Starbucks card online so persons can donate to it and/or use it to purchase coffee. Jackass #2 finds a way to siphon money off the card and convert it into his own Starbucks gift certificates. Unfortunately, Brent Rose, over at Gizmodo, decided to comment on the whole thing:

...this still feels like a dick move. It wasn't his project to mess with. Besides, it's not a project about people buying each other coffee, it's about looking at human nature. If want your own art project / social experiment , then go and think something up yourself that doesn't tamper with someone else's.

Ok, Brent. Can I call you Brent? Here's the thing: Jonathan's Card is "an experiment in social sharing of physical goods using digital currency." If we accept this as true, then how are Sam's actions messing with the experiment? Given that Sam is a part of society, his actions are data related to the social experiment. Sam isn't messing with the experiment, or breaking the experiment, or tampering with the experiment. Sam is participating in the experiment.

If we can summarize this experiment as, "What happens when I put my Starbucks card online for people to use?" Then Sam's actions provide an answer: Sam Odio steals your fucking money. This is not an outlying bit of data or a statistical fluke. Rather, this is what happens. When a society gathers together to put their money in a collective pot, an industrious person steals the pot. It's why communism / socialism / being a nice person doesn't fucking work.

Now, Brent, I realize that you kind of address this in your post:

While there doesn't seem to be anything nefarious about this, siphoning money out of the original project just doesn't sit well with me. Although, if Jonathan Stark truly wanted an experiment in "social sharing," I suppose this kind of thing reflects the reality of our digital cesspool ecosystem.

But you seem reluctant to accept this as a meaningful piece of data. I recognize and understand why it would not sit well with you, but that does not discount the situation as meaningless to the experiment. I mean, you wrote it yourself: "it's not a project about people buying each other coffee, it's about looking at human nature".

Yes, this is an experiment that deals with human nature. And it provides a great insight into human nature: People are fucking assholes.

Marriage is what brings us together today

Note how Huntsman's votes drop when he says equality.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wall Art for the Lewis Residence?

The artist is selling 11 x 17 copies for $20

Psych + Goth Larisa Oleynik = Retraction

While it does not happen very often, I sometimes make a mistake. The majority of these mistakes are fairly mild, involving life choices, money, or people’s feelings. But when I make a serious mistake, a mistake of meaning and consequence, I need to admit that I was, in fact, wrong.

Four years and eight days ago I wrote the lyrics to a song about why Psych is fucking stupid. I thought it was witty and mildly entertaining. I mean, come on:

This one time something happened
For reasons we don't know
So now he pretends to be psychic
Cause that's the premise of this show

That is kind of good. It succinctly summarizes both the premise to Psych, and why I dislike it. On that point, I maintain that I was correct; the premise to Psych is a bit shoddy. However, I must admit that I did make a mistake in calling the entire series fucking stupid, since the entirety of the series is not stupid. Is most of it stupid? Yes. Is a vast chunk of it stupid? Of course. But there is one saving grace to Psych. What is it?

Well, I just watched Season 4, episode 8. And in this episode Larisa Oleynik guest stars as a goth chick.

Couple things.

First, goth chicks are hot. Damn hot. Like, hottest of possible hots. Second, I’ve had a crush on Larisa Oleynik ever since she started turning into little puddles of mercury on The Secret World of Alex Mack. She was also adorable in 10 Things I Hate About You, that Taming of the Shrew knockoff. So, the combination of Mercury Puddle Chick with goth is something that pleases me. And Psych is the means by which it happened.

For that reason, I admit that I made a mistake. I officially cannot hate Psych, officially, since it provided me with Larisa Oleynik, dresses as a goth chick, wearing a dog collar:

It is important to admit when one makes mistakes. To make amends, I’d like to add two more verses to the song.

We’re now in our fourth season,
And since that’s kind of cool
Here’s Oleynik as a goth chick,
To make the fanboys drool.

Her brother’s Josh Malina,
Who was in the West Wing
She’s got dyed hair, a collar,
And a little nasal ring.

She also wears a corset
That’s shiny, tight, and black
To accentuate the body,
Of little Alex Mack.

Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill!

It’s kind of a non sequitur
To have her in the show
But it was for a reason
A good one, we’ll have you know

See, we added this here goth chick
To force _J_ to retract
His claim that Psych is stupid
Because he’s blessed with tact.

We’ll all now come together
All thanks to T and A
Of which we have some screenshots
So hip, and hip, horray!

Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill! Dule Hill!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cowboy Bebop - Session 9: Jamming with Edward

"Jamming With Edward" opens with a closeup of what appears to be a robotic eye, not entirely unlike the one Spike has implanted at the beginning of "Sympathy for the Devil". This time, however, the eye belongs to one of the many satellites that suddenly begin carving up the deserted surface of what is later revealed to be Earth. As apocalyptic as that may sound, this isn't so much the end of the world as it is a bit of graffiti, albeit on a global scale. It isn't an entirely innocent act, however , and the search for the who and why behind it occupies a good portion of the episode. Fortunately, the why ends up being significant not only to understanding the vandalism, but also the reasons why Spike lives as he does.

Incidentally, the reason nobody seems terrorized by the fact that satellites are burning pictures on Earth is because almost nobody lives there anymore, and those that do have moved underground. Mankind has relocated over the last half-century to avoid the moon chunks that have been crashing into Earth as a result of the gate accident we also saw in "Sympathy". The people remaining under the Earth are seen as a little strange by the people who left for other planets, partly because they have become remarkably adept hackers as a necessary part of being able to communicate across space. In the scene where Spike decides to sit this one out, Faye isn't necessarily talking about all Earthlings when she disparages the hackers and otaku there, but considering that they have become a race of subterranean computer geeks who refuse to move away from home and have an unexplainable love of Japanese trash, she may as well be.

Enter Radical Edward, a weird and gender ambiguous young girl who is the prime suspect in the mysterious satellite laser doodle case. She is one of the Earth-bound hacker elite who uses an odd combination of video-goggles, hand gestures, and occasionally her feet to gain unauthorized access to computer systems. Her formidable technical skills and impish nature are both on display when she uses the controls from a homemade toy model of the Bebop to hijack and crash the ship belonging to the cops who come to arrest her. This kind of circumstantial evidence certainly points to her as someone who would take over the Star Wars defense just to draw a smiley face on South America, but she didn't do it, at least not yet. So even though the episode title would suggest that this is her story, her main purpose in the episode is to pursue the real culprit, which is how we get to the vastly more interesting MPU.

Through Ed’s sleuthing, we discover that MPU is an artificial intelligence trapped in an old spy satellite that has outlasted its purpose and is doomed to orbit Earth for as long as it continues to function. In order to occupy his time, MPU has been using the laser-equipped satellites he’s linked with to draw pictures of birds and other Nazca-looking designs on Earth. It isn’t much of a distraction, but he seems to be comforted by images from the past and helps him forget that his reason for existence was lost decades ago.

This depressing fact nicely continues the futility thread we picked up in the previous episode and gives MPU a connection to Spike that goes well beyond their mechanical eyes. Their connection is even reminiscent of the one between Spike and Roco in "Waltz for Venus", despite Spike and MPU having never actually met. Roco and MPU are both nevertheless joined to Spike by their sense of futility in a specific enough way that we can observe Spike through them.

When we see Roco’s life of hard work and risk-taking end prematurely in defeat and loss, we are also seeing a more fatal approximation of Spike’s life coming to a similar end. Spike survived, obviously, so when he claims that he has already died or that he is watching a dream he can't wake from, it's Spike's dramatically circuitous way of saying that his old life is over and nothing in the present matters to him. While we still don’t know everything about the life he left behind, we have seen enough of his flashbacks to understand that at the very least, Spike has firsthand experience in defeat and loss that have left him feeling not quite alive.

If "Waltz" lets us see Spike’s figurative demise in miniature, "Jamming" shows us what happens in the life that follows. Unlike Roco, whose life and goals were lost simultaneously, MPU continues to function long after his reason to exist disappears. As is the case with Spike, he now drifts through space with a longing for the past while using his limited resources to keep himself occupied without ever really finding any meaning in it.

I think this is the connection we need to finally understand why Spike is not only a bounty hunter, but an oddly dutiful-seeming one who takes on lost causes and impossible missions without much thought for rewards. He believes that his life is meaningless, but he doesn't give up or kill himself because some part of him believes he may be wrong. Whether that means he thinks he can get his past back somehow or if he can eventually let it go and start a new, meaningful life is the question to keep in mind from here on out. In the meantime, he's going to continue taking on exciting or interesting jobs just to keep himself going until he can figure it out.

The sad result of this kind of empty life is loneliness, a diagnosis Spike himself makes after Jet wonders what possessed MPU to start drawing on Earth. His theory is supported by the intrigue MPU shows when Ed promises him that he’ll have lots of friends on the Bebop if he agrees to let them download his programming. Granted, we don’t see MPU again, so it’s hard to call this offer genuine; perhaps it was just the most convincing argument a lonely kid could think of.

Judging from Ed’s offer of friendship and her desire for it herself – evidenced by the one condition for helping the Bebop crew being that she could become a member of it – friends are supposed to be the cure for loneliness. It’s the child’s cure, anyway. Spike isn’t interested in them, instead closing out the episode by complaining about his traveling companions as we look back at the smiley face Ed drew on South America.