Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, revisited

Lynnea and I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind last night. The only other time I've seen it was in its theater release in 2004. It's weird to think how different everything was back then. Ben was two years old, I hadn't started grad school yet, and my first marriage still seemed more or less stable. Hard to believe, but it was nine years ago. I remembered very well that the movie was a good mind screw, but I hadn't remembered all the details, so really I went through the surprises all over again. Lynnea had not seen it before at all.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Superman vs. the Klan.


I downloaded a series of episodes of the old Superman radio serial called "Clan of the Fiery Cross," which Ben and I have started listening to in the car.  These episodes have some historical significance, as told by Wikipedia and this book:


Apparently There was a human rights activist who infiltrated the Klan and documented a bunch of secret meetings.  He went to the producers of Superman with this information, and they turned it into a series of episodes in which Superman battles the Klan as the main villain.  It helped a lot in delegitimizing them.  Naturally, I love stories about using entertainment media to solve real social problems.

It's really funny to listen to old radio shows.  As a kid I owned some cassette tapes with selected episodes of George and Gracie, The Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, and Charlie McCarthy, so I'm familiar with the big-talking style of radio stories, but it's new to Ben and he finds it hilarious.  We've only heard one episode out of 16 so far, so we've only gotten vague hints that Klan members will show up.  What makes it particularly funny is that it's full of slang from the 40's.  I simply have no idea whether the dialogue is well written or sounded natural when, for example, everybody keeps referring to one character (a little league pitcher) as a "sorehead."  "He's such a sorehead!"  "Don't be a sorehead, buddy!"  Over and over again.

It also led to a discussion with Ben about why the production values are so low.  He mentioned that the radio show -- which obviously has one guy playing an organ for all the background music, heroic or sinister -- doesn't sound as good as a movie or TV show.  I pointed out that it costs a lot to compose a professional score and hire a full orchestra, and these guys had to crank out an episode every week, plus the business of radio shows may not have been big enough to justify any kind of serious budget.

What's especially interesting is how thoroughly integrated the advertising is with the show.  One minute the announcer will be breathlessly describing the exploits of Jimmy Olsen, and another minute he'll be saying, "Kids, Kellogg's Pep is delicious.  When your mom brings you Kellogg's Pep, make sure you eat it ALL and don't waste any.  And pass on this important information to your family, so they'll know how to eat Pep properly."  These ads would go on for about two minutes, and Pep was the only product being advertised in the first show.  (I looked it up, Pep was a competitor to Wheaties and contained toy prizes like Cracker Jacks did.)

It was comically transparent, and it made me wonder whether or not advertising has gotten cleverer or more subtle since then.  To be honest, the way I consume media allows me to avoid the most obnoxious commercials.  I don't have a cable subscription, so everything I watch is via Netflix, DVDs, movie theaters, or downloads, and I have ad filters on all my browsers.  When I see a commercial on TV outside my house it tends to make me cringe.  Still, it's probably not as bad as the actors waving products around while doing the show.

You can download the episodes from this archive, or look them up on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election night cheer

Now let's see here... as I write this, Florida, Virginia, and Montana are the only states still considered too close to call, but Obama is ahead in all three.  Absent those results, the electoral votes stand at 290-200.  Obama could lose them all and he still has the election.  If Obama wins them all, that would be 338-200.  That would mean that Obama beat Romney and it wasn't close.

Who could have predicted such an outcome?

...Oh that's right, ME.

The technology of election turnout: My experience as a phone bank volunteer

Happy election day, everybody.  Nate Silver shows Barack Obama with a 91.6% chance of winning today, and a projected electoral college of 315-223 votes.  I look forward to the results at the end, so that I can see whether my "not at all close" prediction from early May will give me gloating rights or make me look foolish.  This guy, of course, still believes that Romney is way ahead and has been the whole time.  We'll see, right?

This week I used up some of my remaining Paid Time Off days.  While I was out of the office, I decided to take a break from the obvious regimen of improving at video games, to visit a local phone bank.  I put in six hours on Saturday, and three on Monday.

[...]

Friday, September 21, 2012

Election thoughts 2: Momentum and winning with intangibles

In my last post I talked about the long term consequences of the Republican strategy and about why Mitt Romney is losing as a result of it.  The question, though, is just how badly he is losing.

I've linked to electoral-vote.com often, since it is a site which breaks down polls state by state and collects them into an overall picture of how the important numbers may shake out in the election.  A similar site, with better analysis, is Five Thirty Eight, a New York Times blog run by Nate Silver, which uses some complicated math formulas to forecast the probabilities of each candidate winning.  (538 is the total number of electoral votes available from all 50 states.)

[...]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Election thoughts 1: Divide, conquer, and lose

This election season has been great for making me feel overconfident.  Back in early May, I predicted thaObama is going to beat Romney, and it's not going to be very close.  With less than two months to go, I see no reason to revise that estimate.  When I made my prediction the score was 290-215 electoral votes.  As of today, it is now 319-206; the lead that was overwhelming before has increased by 38 EVs.

And talking about overconfidence, lately I've been leaning towards a theory that the Republican party is even more screwed than they appear to be.  It all has to do with a strategy proposed to Richard Nixon, which has worked very well for Republicans but seems to be backfiring now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Early election prognostication

I'm going to go ahead and make my presidential election prediction right now, subject to wild swings as new evidence comes in: Obama is going to beat Romney, and it's not going to be very close.

I'm basing this on largely on the status of http://www.electoral-vote.com/, a site I followed obsessively in 2008, and they wound up being a pretty good indicator of the race.

Electoral map as of 5/2/2012

Since Romney secured the nomination, nationwide polling on Obama vs. Romney has been close enough to be called a dead heat in some cases.  This one, for example.  Despite this, right now on a state by state basis, the election numbers look really, really good for the incumbent.