The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It's been a while since we dipped into the old EC mailbag.* If you don't understand how to use the comments section, this is your time to shine.

Q. I'm in a union and I don't really appreciate all of your union bashing. Union member are clearly better off than non-union members. Since that's true, doesn't it make sense to expand union membership?

Fred F, Bloomington, IN

A. I have several family members that are union members and they always throw this one at me. First of all, unions are able to command higher wages because they artificially limit the pool of potential employees. They create scarcity. If union membership increases, (in other words, if more people are candidates to perform a specific task), the wage paid for the position will generally fall.

The greater point is that unions do make people better off, but only if they're in the union. If you're not in the union, you're subsidizing the union through higher costs, higher unemployment, higher prices, and generally, inferior workmanship.

This last claim may sound a bit harsh, but I do not mean it as a criticism of the work ethic of union workers. The fact is that it is more difficult to fire a union worker, and a union worker's raises will probably be based on seniority, not performance. It is simply human nature to underperform in this scenario when compared to someone who is working to keep his job, as well as for a raise. People respond to incentives.

Union workers are not lazy. I've known many union workers who work as hard or harder than most non-union workers, but when you look at the overall quality of union work, it's obvious that incentives catch up to everyone.

Q. Last mailbag you stated that Nothing But Trouble is the worst movie ever made. So what's the best movie ever made?

Plankton, Jonesberg MA

A. Picking out the single best movie ever is tough. I like different movies for different moods, and I change my mind all the time, but here are a few candidates in no particular order.

I like Blade Runner for its Sci-Fi philosophizing, and for the line, "I want more life, fucker!"

I like The Shawshank Redemption if I'm feeling a bit low. (Isn't it strange how Stephen King's two best movies (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me) are non-horror movies?)

I like Grosse Pointe Blank for the same reason. I don't really understand why, but I do.

I like Rear Window because of the way that it's filmed.

I like Pi because it's so incredibly weird.

I like Caddyshack because Murray, Chase, and Ted Knight are fantastic, and because I'm a Noonan.

I like all Wes Anderson movies, but that's a separate post. (Especially The Life Aquatic, but as far as I can tell, only my wife and I, and presumably Wes Anderson liked that movie.)

I like Pulp Fiction because of the dialogue.

I like The Thin Man, because despite being over 70 years old it holds up surprisingly well. Also, both Nick and Nora drink like fish.

Finally, I like the Indiana Jones trilogy. Of all of the blockbuster epics that have been produced this is the one that I rewatch most frequently. Even Temple of Doom.

For some reason I think that picking a favorite movie is more subjective than picking a bad movie, which is why I can't narrow it down to one, and if I thought about it for a while longer I would probably come up with 100 more.

Q. Speaking of movies, did you ever see Breaking Away? How was it?

Morton, Salem, OH

A. Good question Mort. And timely. Breaking Away is a very good movie, and while everyone looks silly in their 70s clothing, especially Dennis Quaid in short shorts, it still held up pretty well. In fact, watching Breaking Away made me realize just how pathetic most "coming of age" movies really are. It's just a great, uplifting story about normal people, combined with an excellent sports movie. If nothing is grabbing you at the video store (or Netflix queue) I would highly recommend renting it.

Q. Since you link to Homestar Runner almost every week, I'd like to know who your favorite character is.

Rudy, Alabaster ID

A. It's a tough call, because they all have so much to offer. I like Homestar's oblivious insults, Strong Bad's harsh grammar critiques, and the fact that the King of Town employs a Poop Smith, but my favorite character is probably Strong Sad.

Why? Judge for yourself. Here's Strong Sad on caffeine. Here's the Strong Sad lookalike contest. Here, Strong Bad sells all of Strong Sad's underwear on E-Bay. And here's Strong Sad dressed up for the Clash of the Titans-con.

Q. I used to watch Charles in Charge just like you, and I agree that it was quite terrible, however, I don't think that it did any lasting damage. Are there any shows that actually warped your brain?

Jubb, Calcutta TX

A. Well Jubb, there were a few. You see, we had Nickelodeon, and Nickelodeon had some seriously weird stuff going on. Stuff like Belle and Sebastian, (not the band), The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Spartakus, Pinwheel House, and Out of Control.

But the most disturbing thing that I've ever seen is probably The Great Space Coaster, which was actually on normal TV. Just look at some of those characters. What could be more terrifying than a giant, weird, muppety clown? I'm getting the willies just looking at this page actually and that's bad gnus. Ahh! I have to move on.

Q. I read today in the New York Times that we produced more greenhouse gases in 2004 than ever before. I know that you're anti-environment, but doesn't this bother you?

Al, Carthage TN

A. First of all Al, I'm not anti-environment, I just think that most environmentalists advocate solutions that will do nothing to help the environment while increasing state power. But I do agree that greenhouse gases are cause for concern. I still suspect that we will invent our way out of this problem with clean-tech developments, but these numbers are troubling, and with the ongoing advancement of China and India it is only going to get worse.

That said, I don't think there is a governmental solution to this problem. Even if we enacted Kyoto it would still only be a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. The key to ending global warming is and always will be human ingenuity, and any actions we take to restrict human ingenuity are bad for the environment.

OK, last one so make it good.

Q. I am of the opinion that Brett Favre should retire. He has looked terrible this year, and he's tarnishing his legacy. Plus they need to develop Aaron Rogers. What do you think the Pack should do with Brett?

Cooper, Green Bay WI

A. Anyone who has watched every Packer game this year knows that most of Favre's mistakes are due to his truly sorry team. Not all, but most. I actually think that the number of boneheaded plays he has committed are about the same as ever. Favre can still play if he has some talent around him, and next year they should have some talent around him. They really need to fix the offensive line more than anything else, but they are not as far away from competing as some people think.

Playing Aaron Rogers at this point serves no purpose. There is no quarterback that is good enough to make this offense work, and no useful information about Rogers will be gained by playing him. You should not prepare Rogers by sending him in to play for a terrible team, you should build up the team around him so that when it is his turn to play he has the tools to succeed.

OK, another mailbag is in the books. Keep those letters coming people! I especially like how some of you managed to use hyperlinks. Very suave/impossible.

*All questions are in fact fake. The answers are real though.


  • You're not alone. My friends and I love The Life Aquatic. My wife, though, hates it. Maybe should have figured that out before the wedding.

    By Blogger Nye!, at 4:31 PM  

  • Breaking Away + Dennis Quaid = silly clothes? Only a man would even make that association.

    Young misanthropic shirtless Dennis Quaid = sexy time by myself.

    Oh, and unions rule, Ayn Rand drools.

    By Blogger Gypsy Rose, at 4:38 PM  

  • I'm not a big Randian myself actually. A bit too crazy for my tastes.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:44 PM  

  • Dear Electric Commentary Editiors,

    When is the next time you will post about:

    1) swords or ninjas or some combination thereof.

    2) dogs

    3) a positive portrayal of following rules?

    good work posting about Harrison Ford movies, they are sweet.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:57 AM  

  • Dear Phil,

    Please direct your attention to the "Fun Friday" post. Don't forget to hit the "refresh" button.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:25 AM  

  • Great movie list. I love The Thin Man! Many thought that Nick & Nora were married in real life.

    And you've solved one of the great mysteries that come from your typical foggy childhood memory; where the hell did Gary Gnu come from, and what was that crazy show? Thanks.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2:25 PM  

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