Monthly Archives: March 2010

Sarah Palin: Metaphorical Violence?

Despite the bricks through windows, slurs and spitting, a cut gas line, and an anthrax threat against Congresspeople who voted for healthcare reform, Sarah Palin has been blithely unapologetic about the violent language and images she has been using on Facebook and elsewhere, most notoriously the image at right, which features the districts of Democratic congresspeople in crosshairs, and her call of “Don’t retreat, reload” (since removed from her Facebook page, but still on her Twitter feed). She claims the violence is metaphorical: All she’s calling for is more political action.

Now, Palin is a flaming idiot. She’s just enough of one to honestly believe that using she can use violent language and her followers can subsequently commit violent acts and there is no connection whatsoever. Nevertheless, the irresponsibility is staggering. Anyone ought to accept that, when a rash of violence breaks out, the thing to do is to condemn it swiftly and completely. Even if there is no good reason that your words should incite more violence, you should still watch them extra carefully.

The blogs were quick to point out the danger in her behavior, so she eventually changed the title to “Don’t Get Demoralized!  Get Organized!”, but left the graphic.  Her subsequent attempt at humor, a post about March Madness filled with gun- and war-related idioms and titled “Warning: Subject to New Politically Correct Language Police Censorship,” reveals her poor grasp of the situation.  For one thing, she doesn’t understand that changing her own post title isn’t censorship (nobody forced her to do it, and the people saying “you shouldn’t encourage your followers to kill people” are merely exercising their own first-amendment rights), nor is removing a more or less direct call to violence against one’s opponents political correctness so much as, oh, sanity.

Much more importantly:  It’s safe to use this kind of language in sports because the friendly rivalry of sports fandom so rarely leads to real violence.  Angry language, yes; shoving matches and similar faux-violence, yes.  But I remember the controversy when fans at a Mariners game held up signs that said “Yankees Suck.”  Many people considered that going too far, stepping across the line from friendly to mean.  It’s true that, occasionally, real fan violence breaks out during a game in the heat of the moment, but sports essentially never leads to coolly premeditated acts of hate like calling someone to threaten sniper attacks on her children, nor out-of-the-blue violence like ramming into a car with a 10-year-old girl in it because of a bumper sticker.

But here’s the real question: Are Palin’s followers getting the metaphor? Has anyone who supports her made the mistake of the “lamestream media” and failed to realize that what look like gun sights are actually supposed to be surveying symbols? Even if 99% of her followers understood her perfectly, that leaves 200 of the 20,000 people who like every one of her Facebook posts who think that they should actually go shoot someone.  It doesn’t matter if they’re deranged and mentally unstable.  Motivating 200 potential deranged gunmen is irresponsible and completely unacceptable behavior.

I’ve been stymied in my attempts to find out.  While the post has about 10,000 replies, Facebook’s “Show all replies” function only shows the most recent 50 or so and doesn’t allow you to view additional pages of replies, making it impossible to gauge how people initially responded to the post (naturally, all the recent replies are of the “liberal lametards don’t know what a metaphor is” variety).  I also wanted to look at the Twitter traffic from her followers after the post, but while all tweets are archived, they become unsearchable after about a week.  If anyone else happened to archive or link to the sort of stuff that was being said in the wake of Palin’s post, that would be edifying.

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Greeeat

No, no, no.  The agreement was that you wouldn’t hire dirty wankers to operate the airport body scanners.  Definition of a dirty wanker (henceforth abbreviated DW):  Someone who uses the scanner to take a picture of a colleague and then tells her “Love those gigantic tits.”

The problem is that airport security workers aren’t vetted carefully enough to catch all the DWs, nor do they receive the thorough training required of other people who perform pat-downs and other privacy-invading procedures, like police officers.  The Police Academy (in Pasadena, anyway) is a 26-week course.  Becoming an airport screener, according to the job listing, requires five weeks of training and a driver’s license.  And I doubt they are too picky about their applicants.  Not many people are going to be scrambling for a job that earns $39k a year and makes everyone hate you*.

Well, at least nobody is ever going to get anything through airport security again…oh, Britain has found that they’re 50-60% effective, as this report (PDF) says.  And, as others have pointed out, the risk of a terrorist incident (roughly one in 16 million per flight; for comparison, according to the National Safety Council, your annual risk of being struck by lightning is about one in 6 million, and your odds of dying that way are a whopping one in 80,000).

So, speaking of statistics, what are the odds that your airport screener will be a DW?  We know there’s at least one, and according to TSA’s self-adulatory statement, they have 43,000 employees.  Someone on this forum scrounged up 10 sex offenders who have been caught so far; here’s a child molester they caught three weeks ago.  Making the conservative estimate that, for every one who does something egregious enough to get caught, there are 9 who keep their filthy thoughts to themselves, the odds are a whopping 4,300 to one, and probably far higher.  After all, what sort of person would want to go into such a thankless job?  Could it be the sort of person who likes to look at naked people?  True, the body scans are meager offerings when one has the internet, but most other jobs will censure you for looking at naked pictures all day.  And even on the internet, one has limited access to children–no such restrictions apply at the airport.  And anyway, it’s hard to fathom the human mind.  Especially the mind of a DW.

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*A disclaimer about airport security workers:  Please understand that however much airport body scanners are an affront to living in a civilized society, you should never take your anger out on the employees.  They are simply bottom-tier government peons.  Since I’m currently working as a bottom-tier government peon myself, I can confidently say that they have zero ability to influence policy.  Libertarian nutjobs have been talking about how they’re going to grill census enumerators on what part of the Constitution gives them the right to collect personal information (article I, section 3, but the far better answer is “So you’re in favor of disbanding the Air Force, then?”), but it isn’t fair to expect the 23-year-old with three days of training to answer for all the actions of the Department of Commerce.  Similarly, one shouldn’t make airport security employees answer for the TSA.  Politely ask to file a complaint, but leave it at that.

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Oddity of the Week

It ends at the waist, in case you're wondering.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: a pillow shaped like Robert Pattison.  Thank you, etsy.

Poor guy probably had no idea what he was in for when he signed on for the Twilight movies.  Also, “manllow” may be the most awkward mashup I’ve ever seen, both in spelling and in meaning.

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Today Is Alan Grayson’s Money Bomb Day

He’s fearless, he’s funny, he’s trying to bring Medicare to everyone, and he’s conservatives’ #1 target in 2010, as promoted by Sarah Palin.  He responded to her attacks in his usual style:

In response to Palin’s attack on Rep Grayson, Grayson actually complimented Palin. Grayson praised Palin for having a hand large enough to fit Grayson’s entire name on it. He thanked Palin for alleviating the growing shortage of platitudes in Central Florida. Grayson added that Palin deserved credit for getting through the entire hour-long program without quitting.

Alan Grayson (who I’ve talked about before) proves that having guts in Congress makes you a target, and he’s facing an exceptionally tough election in Florida’s 8th District, which he captured in 2008 after 35 years of Republican control.  Today (March 27) is his money bomb.  Consider donating.  He can use every penny: Remember, the big businesses he’s constantly confronting can spend as much as they want against him.

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Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Radio)

Douglas Adams, who went off to seek the Ultimate Answer in 2001, has a large fan following for his novels, but I think a fair proportion of that base isn’t aware that the books in fact began as a BBC radio series, and the number who have actually listened to said series is probably very small.  I’m a fan of radio drama, so I’m listening to them and I can definitely recommend them for two main reasons.

First, one of the wonderful things about the Hitchhiker franchise is that it doesn’t have a proper canon.  Every adaptation is a variation on a theme, always starting with the Vogons destroying Earth and the main cast meeting up on the Heart of Gold, but then branching out in different directions, some more similar than others.  Thus, every new version–the books, the text adventure, even the lukewarm movie–can be enjoyed separately and carries an element of surprise while still maintaining the basic elements that make it so good.

Second, the first two books were based on the radio series, while the latter three* were not.  Since I think many fans will agree with me that the series took a precipitous and irrevocable plunge beginning with the third book, it seems that all the best Hitchhiker material came out of the radio series.  Listening to it, this is largely true.

The radio series mostly contains material found in the books, but it’s varied and reorganized enough to feel like a different experience.  Many of the best-written bits (such as Zaphod’s explanation of how the universe began) are included in the books verbatim.  The books mainly adds descriptions, some of which change the feel of the scene (Trillian throwing a pencil at the radio, rather than simply switching it off), which are woven in skillfully, but the story still proceeds well without them.

The radio version contains a few extra plotlines (Zaphod and Trillian get eaten by the Bugblatter Beast of Traal, but it turns out fine), plus jokes in the credits that obviously couldn’t be incorporated into the books.  The second book also changes the order of the plot: originally, the group gets transported to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe after the computer bank they’re hiding behind on Magrathea explodes.  This is why they all think they’re dead when they arrive, a bit that doesn’t make much sense in the books.

Knowing that the story was originally produced for radio explains other things, too.  The number of delightful bits that read like monologues (for instance, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most remarkable ventures in the entire history of catering…”) make sense because they originally were monologues.  It also explains why so many of the books’ asides (“two thousand years after a man got nailed to a tree for saying that we should all be nice to each other”) read like beginnings, and often like recaps:  They originally were the beginnings of various episodes.  The generally talky nature of the books (“I’m a perfectly safe penguin and my friend here is rapidly running out of limbs!”  “It’s all right; I’ve got them back now…of course, they’re longer than I generally like them”), although it works fine in print, is also explained.

I can’t say that the radio version is unequivocally better than the books.  It isn’t.  The many small additions to the books give them a more robust feel and are often great lines in and of themselves; the radio series’ pacing is a little fast.  Additionally, the sound quality is a weakness–a problematic weakness in radio.  The voice acting is fine, but not great, and Zaphod in particular lacks the egotism he should constantly be oozing.  The theme music is annoying.  The sound effects and robot/alien/computer voices sound like a bunch of tinny, computerized nothings that might be downright confusing to someone who didn’t already know what was happening.  I didn’t find that this interfered with my enjoyment much, but it did leave me with the frustration that it could have been better.  Then again, I felt that way about the movie and the third through fifth books, so perhaps it’s an inherent problem of a franchise stuffed with so much potential.

One can argue both ways about whether the books or the radio series are the proper canon of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but that isn’t the reason I recommend the radio series.  The reason is that there is no “official” version of the story.  Every version adds another layer to the experience, and the radio broadcasts are a layer that a true Hitchhiker fan should not miss out on.

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*No, I’m not counting Eoin Colfer’s addition.  I haven’t read it and I fear to.

Image from commons.wikimedia.org.

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Ah, Healthcare

I’m back and I won’t tire you with the details of my trip (the four days of which involved model airplanes, Die Fledermaus, pinot noir, and humpback whales, respectively), particularly since half of my readership was probably there for part of it. Anyway, I’m sure nothing important happened in the country while I was AFK…

…Wait, the healthcare bill passed the House?

…And got signed into law?

…And the reconciliation bill is on the verge of passing?

And people got called dirty epithets, and rocks were thrown through windows. Wow, more has happened with healthcare in the one weekend I when I wasn’t paying attention than in the year that I was. This must be one of those watched-pot things.

Underwhelming, isn’t it? It finally comes through, but in such a battered, bedraggled state that you almost wouldn’t want it anymore if you hadn’t put so much effort into it already. It’s the same way I often feel when I’m making dinner.

I’m being silly now, but there will be serious thoughts to come.

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The picture is the official White House photo of Obama’s signature on the bill, taken by Chuck Kennedy.  I found it here.  Obama has a pretty cool signature, no?

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Oddity of the Week (And a Hiatus)

I’ll be out of town and consequently AFK until Tuesday and I begin a new Census job (fill out those forms, people!) on Wednesday, so there will be a brief hiatus here at Chimaera. In the meantime, please enjoy an early Oddity of the Week: Stalin Vs Hitler.

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