Friday, April 11, 2014

This is what it looks like when Tha Cap'n makes love

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

easily my favorite song on the Exit Wounds soundtrack

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Surveillance and Language

To Orwell, this threat was not merely that loose and imprecise writing fails to convey one’s real meaning. His more immediate fear was more fundamental: that reliance on vague, “ready-made phrases” would, over time, conceal one’s real meaning even from oneself. Orwell understood that when a population stops “hunting about” for words—when it instead regurgitates the limited vocabulary of those in power—it stops truly thinking. “The fight against bad English,” Orwell wrote, “is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.” Far from it—it is “a necessary first step toward political regeneration.”

The government’s mass-surveillance apparatus, and the secret legal gymnastics that purportedly justify it, is a chilling expression of Orwell’s worst fears.
Dragnet Surveillance and the English Language

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Metal Monday

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Press statement

Tri Epsilon can neither confirm nor deny that the image reproduced below, among the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, portrays an invitation to induction in Tri Epsilon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Here's me and Tha Captain hard at work



yes I am saying that this blog is run by Andrea Bocelli

Friday, March 14, 2014

friday stuff

1. Fun game: Luftrauser

2. Fun game: Mini Metro

3.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Let's complain about the Godfather EU

There are three Godfather novels besides those written by Mario Puzo: The Godfather Returns and The Godfather's Revenge by Mark Winegardner, and The Family Corleone by Ed Falco. These novels have their strengths and weaknesses, but, overall, I find that the Falco work contributes more to the Godfather world than do the Winegardner novels. Let's discuss.

There is a lot to like about The Godfather Returns and The Godfather's Revenge. Seeing how the Family businesses operate is neat, although it makes the claim (from The Godfather) about Michael's successful year of negotiation following his ascension to Don seem a bit incomplete, if he's still killing folks and not doing a very good job of it. The background on the relationship between Michael and Vito is, overall, spot on. I like the way the Corleones take over the movie studio in The Godfather's Revenge. Most importantly, the ideology (if you will) behind the Mafia is developed fairly well: the emphasis on favors, the importance of relationships balanced by the total lack of trust of anyone; the way greed can undermine businesses. It's all nicely done and quite convincing.

There are too many things that undermine the characterization of the characters from The Godfather, though, for me to not be constantly irritated while reading. Fredo as gay is out of nowhere and kind of what used to be called politically incorrect (it's implied that he becomes gay due to molestation by a Catholic priest). I like Johnny Fontane until he marries (!) Sonny Corleone's daughter (!!) with Michael's approval (!!!); the whole point of Fontane's arc in the original story is that he can't make monogamy work, but he learns to make the rest of his life work. Tom Hagen in politics is a big switch for a man whose whole purpose has been to be a behind-the-scenes assistant and intermediary for those in power.

The biggest problem, though, is Nick Geraci. I think Winegardner is trying to do a dual-protagonist thing, but it never really comes off. Geraci as Tom Hagen's killer feels cheap, a bone thrown in to make Geraci seem more formidable and give some strength to the conflict between Geraci and Michael. But who cares about Nick Geraci? We're constantly told that Geraci is a great earner and so on, but we never really see it, the way we see Michael actually act as a capable Don. Geraci succeeds because the people he's dealing with are either not terribly competent or stringing him along. And why does he have to be the best? Smarter than Michael, warmer than Fredo, tougher than Sonny. It's poor development of the character that at the same time undermines other characters. When Michael wins, it feels lucky, that he's the favorite and should win.

I think The Family Corleone does a better job of what this kind of expanded universe thing should do: enrich and expand the original material. Plus, it's closer to Puzo's style. The stories we get, especially about Luca Brasi and the Irish gangster, are interesting and explain things about the later Godfather stories. I especially like the Luca subplot -- we understand just why everyone is so afraid of him and learn how Vito became his boss. The story behind Luca is that he's this suicidal psychopath who is so extraordinary that he can't be killed, despite his self-hatred and thus constant willingness to put himself at risk; Falco makes that seem like a real character. We also see some measure of how Vito is such a good Don: he can understand even control a man like Luca Brasi. And Vito's goals are a little more meaningful, a little easier to understand, when we see him trying to create a better life for his kids.

Still, there are some conflicts with The Godfather. Some of these can be overlooked; Sonny seeing Vito kill Tom Hagen's father instead of Fanucci changes things, but not too much. But some have real significance. Genco Abbandando is supposed to be Vito Corleone's wisest adviser and closest friend, but Genco comes across as easily excited and kind of an idiot. Tessio and especially Clemenza seem much closer and more important than does Genco.Why does Vito keep this guy around?

More important are the related changes to Sonny's character and the nature of Vito Corleone's fight with the unorganized gangs of New York. Part of the story of Sonny is that he's the violence of his and his father's way of life, personified: temperamental, angry, and physically imposing. It is this nature which ultimately gets him killed: he can't build alliances or make peace like his father can, but he can win a fight better than just about anyone. This brutality leads to the Five Families believing that the only way they can survive is to kill Sonny (and it's his temper that they use). And we're supposed to initially see this, at least as described in The Godfather, when Sonny takes over for his wounded father. But Vito is never seriously hurt, and Sonny never shows his genius for street-fighting. He's a mostly competent small-time gang leader and a tough guy, but that's it.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

This is no time for confessing



I keep up with pop culture enough to know and like about four new songs a year, so I guess this is the first one for 2014.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Vegetarian ancestors

Most primates have the capacity for eating sugary fruit, the capacity for eating leaves and the capacity for eating meat. But meat is a rare treat, if eaten at all. Sure, chimpanzees sometimes kill and devour a baby monkey, but the proportion of the diet of the average chimpanzee composed of meat is small. And chimps eat more mammal meat than any of the other apes or any of the monkeys. The majority of the food consumed by primates today–and every indication is for the last thirty million years–is vegetable, not animal. Plants are what our apey and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving. In other words, there is very little evidence that our guts are terribly special and the job of a generalist primate gut is primarily to eat pieces of plants. We have special immune systems, special brains, even special hands, but our guts are ordinary and for tens of millions of years those ordinary guts have tended to be filled with fruit, leaves, and the occasional delicacy of a raw hummingbird.
Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday links