Sam's Blog

Twenty-four hours is like three weeks!

Odds And Ends

Posted by samgr on December 28, 2008

Joining the land of the living again, a few notes:

My post on my top ten movies of 2008 should be self-explanatory, the previous one certainly is not.  Found it as a draft on my blog’s account.  I don’t remember why I wrote it or what it means.

Also, in reference to past posts, please note that my assessment of Sarah Palin was right on target, while those of others (news analyst whose name rhymes with Schmack Schmeatty) were not.

And I got a digital camera!  Maybe this means there will be more pictures on the blog. Maybe it doesn’t. You get to find out!

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My Top Ten Movies of 2008

Posted by samgr on December 28, 2008

With the obvious caveat that I can choose only from movies I have seen.

  1. Flight of the Red Balloon
  2. Let the Right One In
  3. WALL-E
  4. A Christmas Tale
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. Ballast
  7. The Visitor
  8. Happy-Go-Lucky
  9. Frozen River
  10. The Band’s Visit

A strange list now that I look at it… But I think accurate as far as my opinions go.

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Procedure Requested

Posted by samgr on December 28, 2008

I was asked to see this patient in consultation by Dr. Adolphus Scratch for an elementary raffle-ticket.

HISTORY OF PRESENT ILLNESS

The patient is an hundred-year-old man with persistent rudimentary antrinophy, due to an addiction to the sensation caused by emptying his ears of water.

MORE TO COME LATER, SUGGESTIONS WELCOME

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On Point

Posted by samgr on October 5, 2008

Also, I have a new job!  I’m a full-time producer for On Point.  Kind of my first real (salaried) job, which is pretty cool. Listen to the show!  I’m currently trying to pitch one on neanderthals, with not all that much luck…

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Superman is a Democrat, Batman is a Republican

Posted by samgr on October 5, 2008

Superman is the son of immigrants, and was raised by a middle-class family in rural Kansas. He works as a journalist uncovering abuses of power. He believes in progressive values and is fiercely patriotic — driven by belief in truth, justice, and the American way. He cooperates with US law enforcement and criminal justice systems, and believes in the right to a fair trial. He avoids violence unless it is absolutely necessary.

Batman is a vigilante who believes that his position as a member of the American plutocracy allows him to work outside of the system. He is a billionaire who has been surrounded by luxury and opulence all his life, and has never had to work to support himself. He is motivated primarily by his belief in the power of fear. He uses violence and torture to achieve his goals, is answerable to no one, and considers himself better equipped than anyone else to determine a suspect’s innocence or guilt. He considers the legal system an impediment to bringing offenders to justice.

UPDATE:  Embarassing mistake: Superman of course IS an immigrant, is not the son of immigrants.

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Sarah Palin? Really?

Posted by samgr on August 30, 2008

Really?

So my new job is as a freelance producer at On Point over at WBUR. We’ve obviously been doing a lot of political coverage. And yesterday the senior editor and the news analyst were talking about how brilliant a pick Sarah Palin is for the McCain campaign.

I am seriously skeptical, though. To me it just seems like desperation. I would bet money that they had pretty much settled on Mitt before the “how many houses do I have” thing intervened and they had to scramble for someone who isn’t richer than Howard Hughes.

And while Sarah Palin seems like an interesting and possibly friendly person, I did not get a lot of instant charisma coming off of her. She mentioned that she started off in her school’s PTA, and I just couldn’t shake off that image of her. The pushy mom in the PTA who always brings cupcakes, puts down the other parents, and is possibly secretly racist and/or gay. I’m pretty sure she’s a character in like a hundred movies, and Sarah Palin talking like she’s straight out of “Fargo” doesn’t help to dispel that. Possibly this reaction is just me being latently sexist, but I don’t know

And on that note, if I was a woman I would be insulted by Palin’s implication that she will scoop up Hillary voters. It implies that Hillary’s supporters are so stupid that they would vote for someone who doesn’t even believe in allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest, SIMPLY because she is a woman. I certainly hope that kind of angling backfires.

And if Joe Biden doesn’t make the obvious, “I know Hillary Clinton… and you’re no Hillary Clinton,” joke in the debates I’ll be disappointed.

It’s just weird, this woman apparently didn’t even have a passport until last year. And she’s supposed to be ready to take over the presidency?

Posted in Election 2008, John McCain, politics, Sarah Palin | 1 Comment »

Huma Abedin = Tory Foster

Posted by samgr on May 29, 2008

I’m sure someone has pointed this out, but aside from the well-established “John McCain looks like Saul Tigh” link, Hillary Clinton’s chief aide Huma Abedin looks a heck of a lot like Laura Roslin’s chief aide Tory Foster. Do the research yourself; it’s all there. SPOILER: Huma Abedin is a cylon.

Posted in Battlestar Galactica, Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, politics, space, television, Tory Foster | 2 Comments »

Sound! Fury! Blaah! Argh!

Posted by samgr on May 26, 2008

Continuing my quest to plug embarrassing holes in my reading history, I’m trying to address the fact that I’d never read ANY Faulkner. So, the Sound and the Fury away!

First thought: depressing. And sort of hard to connect with for me. The decline of an aristocratic Southern family is very alien to my experiences. Of course, so are, say, orcs, but I felt more of a disconnect with Fury than I have with other novels I’ve read.

Second thought: I actually liked the book, but I didn’t really wake up until the third section. See section-by-section analysis:

Benjamin Compson, idiot brother— meh. (Reading Augie March now, whats the deal with idiot brothers?)

Quentin Compson, depressed emo Harvard kid— meh times a hundred. I don’t have to READ about that.

Jason Compson, angry son-of-a bitch shopkeeper with twin devil-horn spit-curls— BING! I’m paying attention now; we’re back in Plainview-Hearst-land. Tell me what happens! (Spoiler: he comes back to Jefferson and makes a carriage go the other way around a statue. Um… okay. No milkshake?)

Caddy Compson, promiscuous… whoops, not gonna hear from her. “Psych!” says Faulkner, “No female narrator for you!” Instead, we get William Faulkner, omniscient narrator and— Dialect. Lots and lots of dialect. Why do black people talk in dialect and white people don’t, even when we’re no longer inhabiting a white narrator?

This all is kind of hyper-kinetic, and seems like I didn’t like the book, but I think I did. I’m just still digesting it and working out my reactions.

Posted in books, reviews, William Faulkner | 4 Comments »

The ‘Great Filter’: I Wish Stephen Jay Gould Were Still Alive

Posted by samgr on May 15, 2008

So there’s a really interesting article in the MIT Technology Review by Nick Bostrom which basically argues that finding evidence of extraterrestrial life in our own solar system would be the worst thing that could ever happen to humanity.

Loosely the argument is this: we now know the galaxy is full of planets, so the fact that we’ve seen no evidence of extraterrestrial INTELLIGENT life means that there is likely some kind of “great filter” that precludes the advancement of civilization to the point when it can colonize or otherwise broadcast its existence to the rest of the galaxy. If the great filter is in the past from a human standpoint—i.e. if it’s very hard for life to evolve complexity or intelligence, or even for life to arise in the first place— that’s good news for us. We’ve already passed through the filter because we’re lucky and awesome. If it’s in our future—i.e. if there’s some technological discovery that tends to wipe out civilizations (don’t switch on the LHC!!!)— then we’re in deep trouble. We’re unlikely to be the first civilization to make it through the great filter.

So, says Bostrom, if we find life on Mars or Europa, that’s bad news. The more advanced the life is, the worse news it is. If life evolved independently somewhere else, it’s statistically much less likely that the filter is in the past. So the expected lifespan of human civilization gets a lot shorter.

Now some thoughts from me. This all ties in with a lot of what Stephen Jay Gould writes about in Wonderful Life. He doesn’t use the “great filter” terminology, but he argues pretty forcefully that evolution of life on Earth is wildly improbable. He doesn’t seem to think that the ORIGIN of life is that wacky though; it’s more that the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms is very hard to achieve, and that the evolution of intelligence is in fact very unlikely.

So from Gould’s point of view (I would think), if we were to find some slime on Mars or even some jellyfish on Europa, that’s not quite as much of a disaster as Bostrom thinks it would be. Bostrom leans toward the great filter being the initial origin of life, where what Gould writes suggests that the filter is more likely one of the transitions along the very unlikely path from slime to us.

Another thing that interested me in Bostrom’s article was this passage:

“Now, it is possible to concoct scenarios in which the universe is swarming with advanced civilizations every one of which chooses to keep itself well hidden from our view. Maybe there is a secret society of advanced civilizations that know about us but have decided not to contact us until we’re mature enough to be admitted into their club. Perhaps they’re observing us as if we were animals in a zoo. I don’t see how we can conclusively rule out this possibility.”

This has always been something I’ve wondered about. To me, this seems almost as likely a solution to the Fermi paradox as the great filter dealy, but it’s true that there’s no real way to prove or disprove it for now. Something’s going on, in any case.

Posted in aliens, evolution, science, space | 1 Comment »

Blindness

Posted by samgr on May 9, 2008

Hey, I’m still alive. So, I see on Apple Trailers that they’re making a movie out of Blindness, the novel by Jose Saramago. I read the book when I was down in Costa Rica, pretty much purely by chance. I found it in a hostel’s book-swap shelf. But I thought it was incredible. Also very cinematic: I was picturing it as a movie as I was reading it.

The short version is that there’s a mysterious epidemic of blindness in a city. (Unclear exactly where it takes place, whether it’s Europe or Latin America or whatever.) The affected end up getting herded into a containment facility in an ex-psychiatric ward, where they are more or less abandoned by the authorities and terrible, terrible things happen.

For the character of the doctor’s wife—who pretends to be blind but can actually see—I had dream-cast Mary McDonnell (President Roslin) in my head. Looks like in this version it’s going to be Julianne Moore. Okay, but I like my idea better.

Also, I imagine that the movie is not going to be able to be quite as horrific and gruesome as the book is in parts, or it would end up rated NC-17. I don’t know what I think about this. The novel plays a neat narrative trick where the most horrible things that happen near the end you don’t actually see, the author only describes the sounds. So the reader becomes blind, too, for a while. I kind of hope the movie does this too; it’s very doable. Just fade to white and hear what happens.

In any case, this reminds me to go to the library and check out some more of Saramago’s books, which I had planned to do but forgotten about.

Posted in books, Jose Saramago, movies | Leave a Comment »