Monday, January 23, 2017

Nerd Fun: xkcd on Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics

Ever wonder what would happen if Isaac Asimov had arranged the laws differently?  Wonder no more, darlings!



The fact that fully half of the configurations ends in a killbot hellscape does rather give one pause, doesn't it?
...


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Nerdworld Soundtrack: Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro"

It's what I have playing right now, and it's fantastic, no?  Before you start thinking that I'm all fancy and sophisticated and cultured and whatever, let me tell you that I had completely forgotten about this piece until I heard it in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation that I was watching earlier (excellent flick, by the way, and how The Marriage of Figaro shows up in it is absolutely in keeping with my irreverent sense of humor!).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

US-UK Special Relationship Back On?

Churchill's bust is back in the Oval Office, and Theresa May will be the first foreign leader to meet Trump after inauguration.  This should prove interesting indeed in the light of Brexit.

Quote of the Day: One Libertarian's Thoughts

I can't take any more media, be it mainstream or social or any other kind, because the general noisy emotional overdrive and hyperreaction over Trump's inauguration from both supporters and opponents alike is giving me a headache. It's gotten to the point that I am half-expecting febrile friends of mine both on the left and right to start yelling at me because I haven't been posting excitable effluvia nonstop online. 

So I give you one libertarian's bemused thoughts:
It’s been a weird couple of months. I’ve seen more people unfriend each other on FaceBook than in the past few years combined; There have been several reports of both Trump supporters and minorities being physically attacked; I’ve been asked to wear a safety pin to proclaim to the world that I am not a racist, because the presumption now is that everyone is a racist and you have to (secretly - only not so secretly) announce to everyone if you’re not; and the senior editor of ThinkProgress is afraid of his plumber. (This, based solely on whatever profiling techniques they use over at ThinkProgress - “… a middle-aged white man with a southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this week’s news.” - rather than anything resembling a conversation with the man.) 
Here’s the thing: I’m a libertarian. I’ve been surrounded by people who don’t agree with me for as long as I can remember and it has never occurred to me to isolate myself from everyone because of our political differences. Certainly not to assault them. Nor am I filled with anxiety by the thought that people who work in my home might have different political views than mine. To me, you’re all a bunch of fascists. But I’ve somehow learned to live with you.
Heh!  Seriously, though, later the writer says, "For me, watching people unravel over this election has been instructive," and what ultimately follows is not unlike what I've said about why an overly powerful executive is a Very Bad Thing and that it's still a Very Bad Thing even if (and maybe especially if) a guy you happen to like is sitting behind the Resolute desk. Just imagine someone you hate and fear having those same powers. You don't like that? Then maybe those are really stupid, dangerous powers that nobody should have, period.

Oh, one more thing. I've heard plenty of Obama-love over the last few days ranging from the classy to the completely deranged, but the one I remember the best is this: someone I know actually said that s/he wished Obama were a king so he could stay in power forever and we wouldn't have to deal with Trump. Yes, you read that right. Wished Obama were a king. Criminy, this actually happened in earnest. I half-expected the ghost of George Washington to appear on the spot and slap this person into next week. You've missed the entire point of the American Revolution.

I am so tired.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Movie Review: "Suicide Squad" (2016)



Prison Break.

Well, against my better judgment I finally saw Suicide Squad over the holiday break, and let me tell you I shouldn't have.  That miserable vomitous mass is an insult to the very idea of movies as a pleasant enterprise.  It's 2 hours of trash. No, really, I mean actual, literal trash, as one of the major plot points - I kid you not - involves a swirling tower of flying rubbish propelled by the sorcery of a shimmying witch wearing a skimpy, spangled Las Vegas showgirl outfit. The whole thing is as silly as it sounds.

I watched Suicide Squad with Alessandra. I suppose I should clarify and say that we hate-watched it. We knew it would stink like a heap of dead sewer rats - New York City-sized ones at that - but even we connoisseurs of crap entertainment were frankly astonished by the sheer incompetence we saw on screen.  The basic premise - getting a bunch of convicted, imprisoned criminals to carry out dangerous government missions - isn't bad in itself, but the execution was shockingly shoddy.  From an entire phalanx of characters we don't care about at all to a plot that - as Alessandra said - isn't even a plot, so much is wrong with the movie that my head is spinning. In fact, let me make it easier on us all. There are 2 - and only 2 - good things about this movie, and they are Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn (though her exaggerated accent started to grate as time went on). Everybody and everything else is a complete failure. Of those crashing ruins, Jared Leto's Joker just might be the worst offender of all. The less said about him, the better. He is to this movie what Jesse Eisenberg's Luthor was to Batman v. Superman.

What the hell is wrong with DC Comics?  No, wait, don't answer that.  I haven't got the time or the inclination for a dissertation, though I suspect that a big part of it can be summed up in 2 words: Zack Snyder, the Michael Bay of comic book movies.

Look, this review is turning into a rambling, incoherent rant, and it's not even an entertaining one. Here's a better:


Mad Minerva gives Suicide Squad a grade of D- because it's somehow even worse than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that I savaged.  


RottenTomatoes gives Suicide Squad the miserable Rotten rating of 26%.

Suicide Squad runs 123 minutes and is rated PG-13 for violence, some language, suggestive content, and total narrative idiocy.

Concluding Thought 1: I have to say too: I am now completely pessimistic about this summer's Wonder Woman movie. DC is going to screw it up. They're going to screw up one of the best comic book characters in existence.

Concluding Thought 2: Go watch 1967's The Dirty Dozen instead. That film's a classic, and the cast is full of stars. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Evil Plan That Backfired: China Fears Baby Bust

Disastrous. So now Beijing is begging women to have babies. Who could have guessed that its cruel one-child policy of social engineering would have resulted in chaos, misery, human rights abuses, and now a feared "demographic time bomb"?  Who indeed, except anybody with any sense at all.

Meet LA's Chinese American Gun Owners

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting report.

You may remember the experience of some Korean Americans in LA some time ago.

Start Off 2017 Right

With some delicious breakfast/brunch/"any time you can finally face being awake and upright" items, of course!

As for me, I'm on my third coffee of the morning ...

Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Some thoughts before the spring semester starts!

Two Law Professors Watch "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"

Professors of law are among the hordes who have stampeded to the movie theaters this holiday season for their Star Wars fix. You may find their ruminations of some interest: law prof the first and law prof the second.

As for me ... No, I haven't gone yet. No, and however heretical this may sound to some people, I'm not all rarin' to go either. It feels like an obligation. I'm thinking that I'd rather go see La La Land, actually, because the combination of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone was so charming in 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love.

But! As long as we're on the topic of Star Wars (I've always been more of a Trekkie myself), take a look at this fan's detailed obituary of Leia Organa. Not Carrie Fisher, mind you. Leia Organa.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Come Quickly, 2017! Meanwhile, Read Dave Barry's 2016 in Review

2016 has been a heck of a year. Let's look back with a sense of satirical humor, shall we? 

Here's a snippet:
 The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.
Zing!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Fun Video: The Dishwashing Robot

It's been a loooong time since I've posted a fun video, so here you go!

Hum from Tom Teller on Vimeo.

Travels with Charley - I Mean, Chin Ho Kelly

A celebrity goes to the Middle East and doesn't launch into half-baked political yammering and virtue-signaling moral preening! Instead, he conducts himself with grace and humility (and some charmingly self-deprecating humor too). Kudos to one of my favorite Asian American actors for doing it right.

‪A #Christmas Tree, a #Crescent Moon and a #dove with 8 lights for #Hanukkah, all present in one holiday display in the city of Haifa. This simple monument, more than anything else, captures my feelings about my visit here to the Middle East. Though I have listened and heard many impassioned viewpoints, my trip is not a political one. I am not so arrogant as to think that a two week stay qualifies me to be an expert on a conflict that has lasted for thousands of years. I am here to appreciate the beauty of this region. I am here to meet its extraordinary people, from every walk of life. I am here to respectfully bow my head in the birthplace of many of the world's religions. And most importantly, I am here to learn. ‬ What I do know though, is that I have already had some unforgettable experiences with people I now consider friends- Israeli, Palestinian, Bedouin, Jordanian, Christian, Jew and Muslim. And to all of you, above all else, I wish you #PEACE and a harmonious #COEXISTENCE. In fact, I wish that for us all. ‬ So if you shout. Or if you rage, I will not hear you. But if you want to share your opinion below in respectful dialogue, you are welcome here. ‬
A photo posted by Daniel Dae Kim (@danieldaekim) on

On Objectifying History, or, 2016 is Not a Sentient Thing Out to Get You

Indeed. Note this too:
Something incredibly important is missing here: the human agent. The very thing, the only thing, that makes history. The objectification of history represents a negation of human agency, of our operation of intelligence and will, of our shaping and reshaping of the nature of society through ideas, engagement and revolution. This negation has been explicit in 2016. The investment of this year with a kind of menacing power, the treatment of it as a uniquely disruptive year, the according to it of the qualities of cruelty and unkindness, is fundamentally a means of nullifying, or at least mystifying, the cause of political disruption over the past 12 months — which was electorates, individuals, conscious and alert, thoughtful and engaged. And decisive too.
So, knock it off.

While I'm at it, let me say here what some historian friends and I were discussing recently: STOP SAYING THAT 2016 IS "THE WORST YEAR EVER." This hyperbolic nonsense boils down to the unwitting admission of the complainer's own vast ignorance. Is 2016 worse than 1347 when the Black Death burst on the scene in Europe and began its destruction of some 30% of the population? Is 2016 worse than 1939 when Hitler's invasion of Poland started World War II, a conflict that would kill tens of millions? That's just 2 years for example. I'm sure you can come up with many more. 

On a related note, stop saying that "the country has never been more divided." Regardless of how you feel about Trump or Hillary or whatever else, this statement is obviously silly. Is the country more divided than it was during - oh, let's say - 1861-1865? Pfft.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Twitter-riffic Beclowning: #Trudeaueulogies

First came the silly utterance. Then comes the Twitter mockery.  There's nothing quite as entertaining as watching an overhyped public figure shoot himself in the foot.

Cuban Exiles Celebrate in Miami's Little Havana

Good riddance to Fidel Castro. 

2016 has seen the departure of all too many notables from David Bowie to Florence Henderson, but I can't say that I'm sorry to see the last of Castro. A bunch of my leftie friends are busy waxing eloquent about him, but my sympathies are closer to Andy Garcia's sentiments and to the Cuban exiles celebrating in Little Havana.

Here's a detail:
The passing of Castro was also welcomed by Miami’s mayor, Tomas Regalado, who was born in Cuba and whose father was a political prisoner for more than 20 years. 
“For 57 years Fidel Castro has been the symbol of tyranny and oppression of our people,” Regalado said in a statement. “I call on the Obama administration and the Trump administration to demand real changes from the Cuban regime, on behalf of many Cubans who have died in the U.S. and in Cuba waiting for this day and for freedom.”
UPDATE 1: Obligatory "Cuba Libre" joke/tie-in

UPDATE 2: A Yale history professor does some mythbusting. Good for him.

UPDATE 3: Read this.

Quote of the Day: A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune

Check out this review of Mifune: The Last Samurai, a new documentary of the great Japanese actor, and then go check out the film itself. If you don't know who Toshiro Mifune was, you'll certainly want to. Just take a look at this wonderfully mad description:
Mifune was a one-man kamikaze burlesque show, as elegantly savage as his future inheritor Bruce Lee, as dextrous as Errol Flynn, as insanely comic as Curly from the Three Stooges, with a bombs-away ego all his own. 
... He was a hurricane who blew away the landscape that had come before him. He was really the first samurai of action cinema, the one who cast his cross-cultural shadow over everything from the evolution of the martial-arts genre to Eastwood and Bronson.  
He also turned down the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi!

Mifune got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame not too long ago.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED


Time for More Pre-Turkey Family Touch Football!

ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?  There may be complications.

MM in the Kitchen: A Different Dessert for Thanksgiving

Pumpkin pie is so predictable, darling!  Shake things up with a lemon pistachio cake!

What's In a Name? A Turkey By Any Other Name Would Taste as Great

Naming names and Meleagris gallopavo!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Macy's Parade!


I'm not crying ... I'm chopping onions for the turkey stuffing!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Recipe Festival!

The big day is nearly here, my darlings. Need some recipes? Here you go!
  • Crispy sweet potato roast. Please do not desecrate lovely sweet potatoes with marshmallows!
  • Mashed potatoes. Carb-errific! Please pass the gravy. 
  • How about these pretty potato stacks made in a muffin pan? They look like roses!
  • The ever-reliable Alton Brown offers his own version of green bean casserole.
  • How I do green beans: steam or blanche them briefly, and then saute for a couple of minutes in olive oil and garlic. Add a little salt and pepper, and that's it. They should be bright green and just a tiny bit crisp, not mushy. Try a bit of fresh lemon juice on top at the last minute for a tangy variation.
  • Roasted parmesan green beans are a nice option.
  • Try some roasted Brussels sprouts!
  • Cornbread dressing that's leaps and bounds ahead of the insipid white bread variety. Make your own cornbread, obviously.
  • If you already have the gorgeous cornbread dressing, you probably don't need dinner rolls (they're just filler anyway), but I know some people insist on them, so here's a recipe from King Arthur flour, and I have to admit that that flour is excellent.
  • Try making your own cranberry sauce if you don't want the canned kind.
  • Finally, the main event: Horrify your vegan friends and delight your fellow carnivores with a spectacular bacon-wrapped turkey. (Need a refresher on how to carve said turkey?)
  • Dessert: So many options! I'll leave you to pick your favorite(s). I always go for pumpkin pie first myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Comfort Viewing: "The Karate Kid, Part Two" (1986)

Had enough of the never-ending drumbeat of negativity, identity politics, and divisive rhetoric from all fronts?  Let me recommend one of my favorite movies, now celebrating its 30th anniversary (!).  I assume that you - as properly educated humans - have already seen 1984's original The Karate Kid, yes?  Of course you have.

There is a lot of good stuff in the sequel that it manages to engage without being prissy or preachy - eternally resonant themes like honor, justice, standing up for yourself, respect, mercy, love, friendship, family (both of blood and of choice), forgiveness, and reconciliation across divides of age, race, culture, geography, and time - and I'll leave it to you to enjoy the story, along with a gloriously bombastic, cheesy soundtrack. Hey, it's the 80s! It's OK!

 

By the way, don't bother with the rebooted Karate Kid from 2010.  Look, I love Jackie Chan as much as anybody, but there's only one Mr. Miyagi, and he is the late, great Pat Morita.  Go rewatch the original Karate Kid.

Quote of the Day: Media Hysteria

One journalist has a few words of advice for his colleagues:
For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again.

What kind of president will Trump be? It’s a tad too early to say, isn’t it? The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution. The press’ frantic need to keep the outrage meter dialed up to 11 at all times creates the risk that a desensitized populace will simply shrug off any genuine White House scandals that may lie in the future (or may not).

Hysteria is causing leading media organizations to mix up their news reporting with their editorializing like never before, but instead of mingling like chocolate and peanut butter the two are creating a taste that’s like brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice.
It's certainly good advice, but it will also almost certainly be ignored. At least Kyle Smith can say he tried. 

The news media has done incalculable harm to itself throughout this election cycle (and well before it too), but it seems quite fixated on further clueless self-immolation.