The Electric Commentary

Friday, December 28, 2007

I Am Legend For The Wrong Reasons

At what point do you cross the line from "modern interpretation" into "completely new story?"

I saw the Will Smith film "I Am Legend" last night, and I'm not sure how the acting, cinematography, etc., were because I kept focusing on just how much the plot, and more importantly, the resolution, stray from their source material. Without spoiling the movie for everyone, the differences between Richard Matheson's 1954 novel and the movie are strong enough that the title means something completely different in the book than it does in the movie, and this difference is sort of the whole point.

While both are to some extent zombie stories the zombies of the book are sentient beings, while the movie zombies are mindless rampaging monsters. The movie feels like an expensive knock-off of the updated "Dawn of the Dead." The book version of "I Am Legend" has much more in common with something like "Planet of the Apes" than it has with your classic zombie movie.

If you don't mind spoilers, the Wikipedia entries (book, movie) will make everything clear.

Don't even get me started on The Omega Man.

French Seeing

Soon, blind people may be able to see with their tongues:

Last October, she saw a candle flame for the first time. She was stunned by how small it actually was and how it danced. There's a second marvel here: She saw it all with her tongue.

The tongue, an organ of taste and touch, may seem like an unlikely substitute for the eyes. After all, it's usually hidden inside the mouth, insensitive to light, and not connected to optic nerves. However, a growing body of research indicates that the tongue may in fact be the second-best place on the body for receiving visual information from the world and transmitting it to the brain.

Sweet. I mean, pretty.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Enjoy the holiday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fun Friday: Simpsons Trivia

1. What is the title of Principal Skinner's novel, which bears a striking resemblance to "Jurassic Park?"

2. What is Cletus's full name?

3. What founded Springfield A&M?

4.Luanne Van Houten dates which American Gladiator? And cheats on him with which other American Gladiator?

5. Homer makes a video for Lisa's birthday at a mall kiosk instead of buying her a diary. When making the video he has to tell the video machine some of Lisa's favorite things. The plot of the video has Lisa as a cowboy trying to stop some robbers. Lisa's favorite food (according to Homer) ends up being the item stolen by the robbers in the video. What did the robbers steal?

6. Who quarterbacks the Springfield Atoms? You must mention his nickname.

7. According to Lenny Kravitz, who stuffs his crotch?

8. What is the proper name of Springfield's burlesque house?

9. What is Sideshow Bob's full name?

10. Name everything illegal that is going on in international waters?

Answers will be posted in the comments section at 3:45 or so.

Good luck!

Fun Firday: Decemberween

The Homestar Christmas cartoons are generally even more bizarre than the regular cartoons, but the strange and nonsensical mythology of Decemberween is still pretty funny.

Davenport Will Not Hamper The Steeler Offense

Since Willy Parker broke his fibula last night, we get to hear a bunch of Najeh Davenport poop jokes today. Najeh, by the way, is far more productive than Parker on a play by play basis. Still he's always stuck at #2 for some reason. Health has always been an issue for Davenport, but don't be surprised if he actually improves the Steeler offense.

Here is my favorite Najeh closet joke so far today.

Here's another.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Craig Counsell: Ballerina

And you thought his batting stance was funny. Here is the article, on point:

The Klements racing sausages will also suit up for the Dec. 29 performance. Counsell, who lives in nearby Whitefish Bay, Wis., will go through a dress rehearsal on Friday at the Milwaukee Ballet Studios.

According to the official billing, "audience members will be delighted as these 'rookie' and professional dancers join little Clara in her dream world filled with pirouetting fairies, marching toy soldiers and dancing teddy bears. Comedy will abound, and the laughs won't end until the final curtain falls."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Terrible Energy Bill

This thing is quite atrocious.

Laws like this drive people like me nuts. But, they also serve a purpose, which is to show just how idiotic and corrupt a government can be.

First, let's talk about ethanol. Corn-based ethanol sucks. It drives up the price of food, it's bad for the environment, it does not work as well as gasoline, and it's more expensive. Some sugar-based ethanol (produced primarily in Brazil) shows promise, however we levy protective tariffs on Brazillian ethanol. We do this to give money to people in Iowa so that they nominate the candidates who sign energy bills.

The only people who will benefit from this are corn farmers. This bill will literally harm everyone else on earth.

This bill also phases out incandescent light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient, however, they give off a harsher light. I hate reading by fluorescent light. It's tough on the eyes. I want to be able to buy incandescent light bulbs. I will no longer be able to do so. That pisses me off.

Here is Cato on the subject.

Here is Nick.

An Excellent Prank

On EBay, you can purchase the following service:

You are bidding on a rare chance to traumatize a treasured friend or relative with baffling, mind-numbing, mystery correspondence from abroad.

Here is the arrangement:

I will be spending the Christmas holiday in Poland in a tiny village that has one church with no bell because angry Germans stole it. Aside from vodka, there is not a lot for me to do.

During the course of my holiday I will send three postcards to one person of your choosing.

These postcards will be rant-ravingly insane, yet they will be peppered with unmistakable personal details about the addressee. Details you will provide me.

The postcards will not be coherently signed, leaving your mark confused, guessing wildly, crying out in anguish.

"How do I know this person? And how does he know I had a ferret named Goliath?"

Your beloved friend or relative will try in vain to figure out who it is. Best of all, it can't possibly be you because you'll have the perfect alibi: you're not in Poland. You're home, wherever that is, doing whatever it is you do when not driving your friends loopy with international prankery.

Your target will rack their brains in the shower. At dinner. During long drives. At work. On the golf course.

"Who did I tell about the time I got fired by a note on my chair?" they'll ponder, "And where the hell is Szczeczinek?"

But wait, there's more.

To add to the sheer confusion and genuine discomfort, one missive will be on an original promotional postcard announcing the 1995 television premiere of Central Park West on CBS.

Another will be a postcard celebrating Atlanta's disastrous hosting of the 1996 summer Olympic games.

Your mark will be at a complete loss, desperate for answers, debating contacting people he or she hasn't talked to in years.

"I know this will sound weird," they'll say, "but by any chance were you in Eastern Europe ranting about cantaloupe... twelve years ago... right before some show with Mariel Hemingway debuted?"

When you decide to end the torment is completely up to you. If you can, I recommend owning up on 1 April 2008 - giving you nearly half a year of joy and a George Clooney-esque level of prankage. If you can't hold it in that long, I totally understand.

The current bid is $187.50.

(H/T, Marignal Revolution)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Not Reduce Taxes To Zero?

I often point out that many Conservatives support supply-side economics and the Laffer curve without actually understanding what they are. Case in point, Mark Belling:

Laffer is the father of "supply side economics," the theory that as income tax rates are lowered, actual tax revenues increase. Laffer famously demonstrated this by drawing a diagram on the back of a napkin that became legendarily known as the "Laffer Curve." Laffer’s theory was that as tax rates declined, economic activity (and therefore income) would increase resulting in more taxes paid to government.

This is not true. The Laffer curve shows that the actual cost of a tax cut will be smaller than the gross figure attached to the cut. This is due to distortionary effect that taxation has on the economy. When work is taxed, people do not work as hard. It does NOT say that tax cuts increase revenue. While it is possible for tax cuts to generate more revenue, the baseline tax rate for this is likely much higher than the current rate of taxation in the US. I say likely because the Laffer Curve is not some static thing; it changes with economic conditions.

Laffer and his eponymous curve have never asserted that tax cuts increase government revenue. Belling goes on to say that:

The real life experience in Wisconsin not only proves Laffer’s point in reverse but makes it clear that it applies to all taxes, not just income.

Well, not exactly. Taxes do have a distortionary effect on things, but certain activities are more inelastic than others. I'm not sure about property taxes off the top of my head, but I suspect that property ownership is quite inelastic, as someone tends to own any given piece of property. Perhaps people go around abandoning property when taxes are raised, but I doubt it.

Some politicians and economists favor a consumption tax instead of an income tax because in theory this would take away all of the bad incentives associated with an income tax and instead incentivize savings (while penalizing consumption, obviously).

Tax cuts are never as costly as they seem, and tax increases are often worse than they seem, but this is a far cry from what people like Belling claim. Poor Laffer. Almost no one believes him because almost no one actually knows what he said.

Tony Romo: The Natural

In the movie "The Natural" Roy Hobbes sucks whenever he's cavorting with his blond strumpet.

Yesterday, Jessica Simpson, the latest object of Tony Romo's affections, was in attendance at the Cowboys/Eagles tilt.

Romo was terrible in a Cowboy loss.

I'm just saying.

Packer fans, we must keep Glenn Close away from the Cowboys at all costs!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fun Friday: Desktop Tower Defense

Slate had a forum on Video Games this week. One of their reviewers called Desktop Tower Defense his "Game Of The Year." Play at your own risk.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Michael Schumacher Is Awesome

The Formula One driver was running late, and was going to miss his flight. until he took control of the cab...

Via Deadspin:

With his wife, two children and new addition to the family Ed, the Australian Shepherd pup, on board, Schumacher proceeded to put pedal to metal. Famously, German autobahns have no blanket speed limits, so the driver was able to put the cab through its paces. Although he was driving an Opel Vivaro, a minivan-style vehicle which has a top speed of 163km (101 miles) per hour, Schumacher managed to get the most out of it, according to the cabbie. "He drove at full throttle around the corners and overtook in some unbelievable places," said a white-knuckled Mr Yilmaz.

Turing Test Passed?

A Russian computer program is picking people up online:

A program that can mimic online flirtation and then extract personal information from its unsuspecting conversation partners is making the rounds in Russian chat forums, according to security software firm PC Tools.

The artificial intelligence of CyberLover's automated chats is good enough that victims have a tough time distinguishing the "bot" from a real potential suitor, PC Tools said. The software can work quickly too, establishing up to 10 relationships in 30 minutes, PC Tools said. It compiles a report on every person it meets complete with name, contact information, and photos.

"As a tool that can be used by hackers to conduct identity fraud, CyberLover demonstrates an unprecedented level of social engineering," PC Tools senior malware analyst Sergei Shevchenko said in a statement.

Here is the Turing Test:

...a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each of which try to appear human; if the judge cannot reliably tell which is which, then the machine is said to pass the test. In order to keep the test setting simple and universal (to explicitly test the linguistic capability of the machine instead of its ability to render words into audio), the conversation is usually limited to a text-only channel such as a teletype machine as Turing suggested or, more recently, IRC or instant messaging.

Quote of the Day: Huckabee Wants Everyone Dead

Although he may have to blow up the Sun to really accomplish this:

I think we ought to be out there talking about ways to reduce energy consumption and waste. And we ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Circuit City: Thieves

The computer that I am currently using was supposed to come with a $200 mail-in rebate from Circuit City. It has been quite some time now, and despite a ton of complaining, and resending of forms, we have yet to receive this money. Can a major company really afford to steal large amounts of cash from its customers? Really?

I buy a lot of electronics, and I'm confident that the loss of my business will cost them more than $200. I will have my revenge in this way, but I'm still shocked that this makes good business sense.

I would advise all of you to stay away from Circuit City, and especially their mail-in rebates. Odds are you will never see the money.

At least I'm not alone. Kevin Drum and Arnold Kling have been duped as well, and Arnold is an economist.

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