Billy Bob Neck and Paul Day

Billy Bob Neck and Paul DayI’ve written a lot about the comedian Paul Day and his character Billy Bob Neck over the years. So in my attempt to consolidate this blog, I’m putting everything I’ve written here.

It’s brilliant comedy. It’s another example of work that is just too good to get a very large audience. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose out.

Billy Bob Neck Makes the Rachel Maddow Show

For three years, Billy Bob Neck has been on YouTube spreading the love and wisdom of Jesus. Before I say any more about him, however, here he is with “The Burn a Koran Song”:

Okay. Billy Bob Neck is a character created by comedian Paul Day. This is the best satire since A Modest Proposal. He has 130 similar videos — always wearing the same clothes — on his “The USA Patriotic Freedom Channel.” They just get funnier. “George W. Bush is the best President since Winston Churhill!”

I discovered him via The Rachel Maddow Show which ran his The Shocking Truth About Rachel Maddow where he proves conclusively that Rachel Maddow is not just a lesbian, but a vampire.

Most people think that Billy Bob Neck is for real. Based upon the comments, I would say about 80%. When I first saw him, I didn’t know for sure and I had to do a bit of research — even watching several of his videos did not nail it for me. In the age of Terry Jones (not the guy from Monty Python) and the Westboro Baptist Church’s “God-Hates-Fags-Dot-Com (Not even Dot-Org!) it is hard to tell. But many people when first presented with A Modest Proposal don’t see the irony. But once you see what Paul Day is doing, it is hilarious. I hope you enjoyed the song!

–FM (18 September 2010)

Billy Bob Neck in Heaven?

Here is Billy Bob Neck‘s most recent video. At 1:37, he disappears — obviously raptured (a man like Billy Bob). The remaining 13:35 is just his empty seat so don’t wait for it.[1]

My question is: does this mean that Paul Day has decided not to do Billy Bob Neck any more? After three years of doing it, I can imagine that he’s tired of it and I wonder how much more he could do with it.

Comedian Paul Day

I wrote to Paul Day, the comedian who created and sustains Billy Bob Neck. I asked if this most recent video meant the end of Billy Bob. He responded that the character, “Will be back. Actually, if you check his FB page, he’s back already. God sent him back to get GWB a third term as POTUS to finish the war on terror.” So there is no fear that we will have to go on in a world without Billy Bob Neck.

I also asked if there was any non-BBN Paul Day on the internet[2] He directed me to another YouTube channel called Virtually Paul’s. Unfortunately, I am out of town, fighting with a terrible internet connection. I can’t say more than that there is some interesting content. I didn’t see much — perhaps five videos.

Videos

Here is the first video that he posted, which I think it is pretty funny:

Writings

He also provided the following links that I haven’t spent much time with. After I’m back with a decent internet connection, I may write an article about his work in a general sense. Until then, you can check them out yourself:

  • Paul Day’s Blog – He said it is under used, and indeed he has only posted once in the last month. One entry is called In Which Jesus Is Not An Objectivist. It contains an editors note indicating that an audio version will be available soon on The Pod Delusion.
  • The Pod Delusion – He said he’s been doing some work on this podcast. I haven’t heard it, but the site describes itself as follows: “The Pod Delusion is a weekly news magazine podcast about interesting things. From politics, to science to culture and philosophy, it’s commentary from a secular, rationalist, skeptical, somewhat lefty-liberal, sort of perspective. A bit like From Our Own Correspondent but with more jokes.”
  • Paul Day’s Facebook Page – I haven’t check this out, because (as regular readers know) I am afraid of Facebook.

Larry Sinclair

Paul seems to have been fascinated by Larry Sinclair a couple years back. Sinclair is this guy who claimed to have some encounter in a limo with then State Senator Obama. This supposed encounter involved drugs and sex — of course. Sinclair has no credibility, even with people like Rush Limbaugh who have notably low standards for truth. Thus there are at least two videos over at Virtually Paul’s and a whole website dedicated to him: Free Larry Sinclair!!! It has obvious similarities to Billy Bob Neck.

He also sent me direct links to two very good articles about the technical side of doing Billy Bob Neck. The first is In Which I’m Taking A Request. In it, he answers two questions: does he feel bad when people don’t understand the act and how he keeps from laughing. The second is In Which I Muse On Why They Get It Wrong. This was written back in early 2007, so it is BBBN (Before Billy Bob Neck). He discusses the blog Shelley The Republican, defending it against the attack that they are, “Satirizing homophobic, racist creationists by being homophobic, racist creationists.” Both articles are well worth reading if you are interested in the inner workings of Billy Bob Neck.

Paul Day is a very funny, insightful, and passionate man. I could have guessed that, given the depth of his characterization of Billy Bob Neck. But it really comes through in his writing. He was also very nice to answer all my questions. I’m sure this will not be the last time I write about him or his fascinating character.

God Sent Billy Bob Neck Back

What can I say? God works in mysterious ways:


[1] I posted a comment on the video asking if it was really necessary for this video to be almost 15 minutes long. I did watch the whole damned thing waiting to see if anything would happen. It certainly wasn’t necessary to make this video more than 5 minutes long, except as a sick joke. And given that Billy Bob Neck is a sick joke, maybe that’s okay.

[2] The Frankly Curious editorial board just decided that we will no longer capitalize the word “internet” — unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence.

–FM (28 May 2011)

More Than Ever We Need Billy Bob Neck

After 190 videos spanning more than five years, Billy Bob Neck is no more. Earlier this month, Paul Day — the man behind this inspired creation — posted the a video (now deleted) claiming that the beloved character had killed himself.


Many people, myself included, thought this was just a ruse. You see, Billy Bob Neck went away before: he was raptured. But then God sent him back to earth to help George W. Bush win a third term. This time is more serious, because Billy Bob took his own life.

No Warning

There were no real signs that Neck was headed for a fall. Sure, he had just released his soul-rap Songs to Stop People From Bein’ Gay. But who would have thought that a man like Billy Bob Neck would following in the footsteps of an evil sodomite like Nick Drake?

If I had to guess, I would say that Day just got tired of doing the videos. He has received roughly a million total views, but his videos have not been as watched recently as they used to be. This is not because the quality has declined. If anything, it is quite the opposite. I think there are a couple of reasons for the decline in viewership. The most obvious is that Bush is no longer in office. In fact, I fear that for many people, watching a Billy Bob video may result in bad flashbacks of that period.

But what I really think doomed the Neck videos to a smaller audience than they deserved is a combination of “satire is dead” and “Day is too good.” Billy Bob Neck is an uncompromising creation. The videos always amused me, but they also angered me. Day created a character who is an uncomfortably accurate portrayal of a shockingly large part of our country.

We need Billy Bob Neck. I asked Paul Day what he was planning to do next. He wrote back, “I’ve got no idea what I’ll do. I’m sure something will come up. I’m just going to enjoy being a civilian.” I like that last sentence because it indicates that doing Billy Bob Neck was something more than comedy — something more like a war.

I have two ideas for what Day can do next — both involving Billy Bob Neck. One seems obvious, since Neck killed himself: Billy Bob in hell. I’m not sure how the other would be done, but it amused me to think about: zombie Billy Bob Neck.

Come back to us, Billy Bob.

–FM (23 April 2012)

Billy Bob Back from the Dead

Billy Bob NeckAs some of you may know, Billy Bob Neck is inexplicably back. He is the intolerant Christian literalist character created by comedian Paul Day. After almost 200 videos, Day killed off the character. This wasn’t too surprising; previously Day had “raptured” Billy Bob Neck. But soon he was back — God having sent him back to earth to get George W. Bush a third term. But after a while, it was clear that Day was serious; Billy Bob Neck was no more.

Wha’ Huppened?!

Then a few weeks ago, Billy Bob Neck came back as if nothing had happened:

Now he’s churning out videos at a faster pace than ever. I tried posting a comment on one of the videos asking Paul what had happened. Billy Bob responded, “Who you talkin’ to, boy?” So I sent Paul a letter directly.

Paul Day Responds

He responded at some length:

The party line on what happened is that BBN never left and there is no evidence that he killed himself.

What actually happened is

1. Thanks to Todd Akin, I finally wrote the rape song I’d been trying to write for a very long time. I’d made several attempts but they were either not funny, too blatant or just too off-putting. I’d considered putting it up on Rape Babies for Romney but it was just too BBN not to do it as him.

2. When I first ducked out, I didn’t miss him at all. I didn’t have to pay attention to wingnuts and felt much more relaxed. Thanks to Todd Akin, that started changing.

3. As I said, one of the reasons I stopped is that it wasn’t fun any more. I started having expectations that he might start getting wider recognition. That was a major mistake… When thinking about bringing him back, I had to do a lot of soul searching and give up on the notion that BBN can ever rise above sub-minor cult status. It’s not that I don’t think it’s smart enough or funny enough because my ego says it is.

The crux of the matter is that I have to want to do it solely for myself. I have to ignore the view count on the videos. I have to see the few bucks that come into PayPal as gravy, not as measure of success…

And I got to that point. So BBN came back, humbled and somewhat re-invigorated.

I think that Paul Day is a bit too gloomy about the Billy Bob Neck project. It exists in the netherworld where people don’t know whether to laugh or scream. It is a brilliant creation and we are all better off for it.

Afterword

The official line from Billy Bob Neck may be that there was no suicide. And sure enough, the suicide video is now private. However, if you look at this screen capture of my More Than Ever We Need Billy Bob Neck article, you can see the residual of it: “He Will Be Missed.” I think it would be best to say that some liberal butt sex fans hacked into Billy Bob’s account to spread malicious lies. Because the evidence exists!

He Will Be Missed

Update (24 October 2012 8:50 am)

Billy Bob Neck has received a total of just under a million views. That’s a hit for videos that don’t involve cats.

–FM (24 October 2012)

God Is the Real Victim

Billy Bob NeckBilly Bob Neck sings, “Hey, little Tommy: if you believed in God you wouldn’t be dead.” This is satire of highest form, but I think even Paul Day (the actor) knows he is really pushing against people’s revulsion tolerance on this one. To make it clearer, he throws in a clip of Bryan Fischer saying, “I think God would say to us, ‘I’ll be glad to protect your children, but first you have to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.'”

With comments like that, you can see why Paul Day has had such a hard time getting traction for the Billy Bob Neck character. How do satirize people who claim that God is too much of a gentleman to stop the murder of 20 little kids? On You Tube, there is a lot of push back on the video. It’s kind of sad. Liberals have learned that it is just a political tactic when conservatives say it is too soon to talk about gun laws. But a number of them are saying that it is too soon to satirize the likes of Fischer and Huckabee who claim that the real problem is that we don’t have school prayer. Amazing.

We all use the tools we have, and Paul Day’s tools are humor and satire. Watch him do his thang:

–FM (17 December 2012)

Republican Politicians Do Not Believe What They Say

Jeb Hensarling - Republican Politicians Do Not Believe What They SayWhen it comes to politics the one thing you can say about me it is that I tell the truth. That’s not to say that I’m always right. But when I say I believe something it is what I believe.

But take, for a counter-example, Jeb Hensarling (Congressional Republican from Texas). He has been talking about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has hurt consumers more than it has helped them. This is of course factually wrong. And Hensarling knows this. He’s against the CFPB because his business donors are against it. He’s just making up this claim that it is hurting consumers.

But this is entirely typical of Republicans. He hates the CFPB because it protects consumers and hurts those businesses that harm consumers. He wants to help these businesses.

Jeb Hensarling Can’t Say What He Means

But he can’t come right out and say that because no one supports that — not even the elected Republicans who claim to. So he has to pretend that he believes something that he absolutely does not.

With all my problems with politics at least I don’t have to worry about which lie I told. My opinions may change over time but what I tell you at any given time is what I believe.

It must be awful being a Republican. I could not deal with having a to constantly lie about what I actually believed.

What’s amazing is that Republican voters don’t wake up to this. It is plain as day that Republican politicians are not saying what they actually believe.

The Lies of the New Republican Tax Plan

Take the new Republican tax plan. Republicans are going all around talking about how it is this great big wet kiss for the middle class. But they know very well that it is no such thing. They also know that those who are going to get a tax cut are going to see it go away and turn into a tax increase over the next 6 or 7 years.

But they can’t say what they actually believe because it is so extremely unpopular. They can’t say that their actual plan is to give a huge amount of money to people who already have too much money. And they can’t say that they have to do this so those campaign contributions continue to flow from these ridiculously rich people.

Democrats Can Be Themselves — Mostly

So I feel pretty good in terms of my politics. And in general Democrats do. It’s so much easier to just be yourself.

This is why Democrats were wrong to abandon the gun control issue decades ago. Because the truth is that most Democrats are for gun control. And let’s forget this assault rifle business. It is an issue, certainly; but handguns are the real problem. That’s what I’m most concerned about. That’s what most Democrats are concerned about.

But this is really the only issue that Democrats are like this. Republicans are like this on pretty much every issue you can think of. Even look at abortion and you will not see an actual interest in fetuses. Read my article on Bob Jones University and you will see that it is about racism.

And when not about racism, it is about controlling women — especially poor women. Because as we all know a rich woman can just fly to France and get her abortion there.

But this is a fairly minor sin compared to the outrageous lies told by Republican politicians.

Will Republican Voters Every Wake Up?

Most Republican voters are socially conservatives from economically very liberal. Yet they continue to vote for these lying Republican politicians like Jeb Hensarling who do little about abortion, nothing about same-sex marriage, but a whole lot that they hate about economics.

Will they ever wake up? It doesn’t seem like it. It’s gotten so that even Jeb Hensarling is going to retire. Because Repubblican voters will apparently vote for a politician who promises to burn children alive as long as they also promise to “get the darkies!”

It’s Time to Stop With the Bigly

It's Time to Stop With the BiglyIt’s the evening of 15 November 2017. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States over a year ago. It is time for us liberals to stop using the word “bigly” as an ironic critique of the man. We’ve had our fun. But the word has now reached a point were it hardly refers to Trump and acts in a silly and idiosyncratic way as “in the day” does (for me anyway).

Yes, of course, “bigly” is a word. So are “um” and “uh” and “irregardless.” Just because something is a word doesn’t mean sensible people should use it.

“Big” is an adjective. It modifies a noun. And understandably so. Things have sizes. But if we take “bigly” to be an adverb, it would generally modify a verb. And how often do we talk about the size of an action? Not often. “Tianna Bartoletta jumped bigly at the 2016 Olympics”?! No one says that. It’s not even really correct because “bigly” is not really modifying her act of jumping but the result of it.

Now I’m sure that people can come up with sentences in which “bigly” works just fine. But there’s a reason that it sticks out when Donald Trump uses the word. It’s unnatural. It doesn’t sound right.

Did Trump Say “Bigly” or “Big League”? Both

There are two ways you can look at Trump’s use of the word. He could be a lover of language who enjoys playing with it. I am such a person, and I’ve written a number of songs that play with language in this way. But regardless (or irregardless) of what you think of the President, we all know that he isn’t a language lover who lies in bed at night reading modern poetry.

The truth is that when he said it in the first presidential debate, I’m pretty sure he said “big league.” That’s what it sounds like to me. It’s also a tired colloquialism, which pretty much sums up Trump and, really, pretty much all politicians in the US. To speak well and originally is “elitist” and therefore bad for anyone who wants to win the contest of being “most enjoyable drinking partner.”

I Hate —ly

But if President Trump did say “bigly,” (and at other times it sounds like he is saying “bigly”) he didn’t mean to create an adverb; he meant to intensify “big.” In Nineteen Eighty-Four, it would have been “double plus big.” In most places I find myself, it would be “f—ing big.”

And really: why not? I hate the use of of —ly to create an adverb. It is almost always obvious from the context if a word is an adjective or adverb. Is there anything wrong with, “He ran quick up the hill”? If I had the the power, I would make all —lys optional. Unfortunately, I live in a world where I would have put up hordes of very opinionated people whose grammar knowledge stopped after Mrs Benson’s 5th grade English class.

Let’s Rid Our Speech of “Bigly”

Love Trump or hate him, you must know that he is not an intellectual. So making fun of his using the word “bigly” is only fun for a limited period of time. And that time is over. Using it today is like using “Well excuuuuse me!” in 1990 or “Now isn’t that special?” in 2000.

Trump has already done enough damage to our society. Let’s not add to it an odd new grammar construct that completely lacks charm.

So it’s 15 November 2017 and “bigly” is done. Anyone who doesn’t agree with me can kiss my grits.

The Carnagie Hero Award: Reclaiming the Word “Hero”

The Carnagie Hero AwardWilliam sent me some information about The Carnagie Hero Award. He sent it because he knows how much I hate the way we tend to turn everyone into heroes. I’m sick to death of hearing that everyone in the military and every police officer on the beat is a hero. The award literature puts it beautifully, “We need to stop throwing hollow praise on people doing the job they are paid to do: cops, firefighters, and military.”

That’s the thing. Most people don’t know just how well police officers and firefighters are paid. These are, after all, people who need no education or much in the way of special training. A friend of my family failed as a police officer because he couldn’t do the paper work. Basically, he was functionally illiterate. And the biggest part of an officer’s job is doing paper work. So the hardest part of an officer’s job is doing what pretty much everyone with a corporate job does. Except police offers retire early with a nice pension. Corporate workers usually get fired in their 50s because hiring someone fresh out of college is cheaper. And there is no pension. Go into a McDonald’s sometime and spot the ex-corporate workers. They’re the old people sprinkling salt on your fries.

I would never be a firefighter, because fire is my greatest fear. But the vast majority of firefighters’ time is spent doing nothing. They do a lot of stuff like showing up when someone has a heart attack. There’s already an ambulance and a couple of police cars, but they also need a firetruck — apparently because the firefighters don’t have anything else to do. Looking at stories from firefighters, it seems they have to deal with about one real fire per week. But it depends. Firefighters in cities see more action than firefighters in rural areas. Regardless, the job can be dangerous, but mostly it isn’t.

And then we have the military. They aren’t paid particularly well. But they serve for 20 years and then retire quite comfortably. I think a lot more people would go into the military if they knew what work was like in the private sector. We may have a culture that worships youth, but in business, it is even worse. You aren’t seen as more valuable as you get older — as you should. You are seen as too expensive.

Some Professions Are Dangerous

Regardless, all the people who go into these professions — police, firefighting, military — know what they are doing. And they are compensated well given that none of these jobs take anything as demanding as a college degree to qualify. Yet our society insists upon calling these people “heroes.” I am so sick of hearing police officers saying, “When I leave for work in the morning, I don’t know if I’m coming home that night.” Yeah, paper cuts can be really dangerous! Really: this is something that anyone could say. And truck drivers (who are more likely to die on the job than police officers) never say this. No one makes a note of what heroes Walmart truck drivers are.

During the recent Tubbs Fire where I live, everywhere I went, I saw signs saying things like, “Thank you firefighters!” You know, there were a lot of people who fought that fire that didn’t get any recognition: California prison inmates. “The first inmate crews to the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County and Atlas Fire in Napa and Solano counties worked for 72 straight hours.” They get paid $1 per hour when they are actively fighting a fire. They got little recognition. As far as I know, none of them were called heroes. And rightly so. They did sign up for the job.

Reclaiming the Word “Hero”

But The Carnagie Hero Award would like to take back the word “hero” and use it correctly. If I know there is an old woman in the house across the street and I rescue her from her burning house, I’m a hero. But if I do the same for my infant son in my house, I’m not; I’m just a normal father. But most of all, if I’m a firefighter and I save one from a burning house, I’m not a hero; I’m just doing my job.

As it is, the word “hero” has no meaning in our society. It’s just something we throw around for any police officer, even if they have a desk job. Or for an Army Sargent wo works in the motor pool. There are heroes in the real world. But it doesn’t matter as long as we apply the word “hero” to anyone with certain job titles.

Update

I just realized that I published this on Veterans Day. This was not intentional. But given that I think most US wars are simply to protect our empire, I’m not that keen on the holiday. But I meant no offense.

Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?

Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of articles about IQ — from liberal websites. For example, Vox has published a number, most recently, So You’ve Learned You’ve Got A “Pitifully” Low IQ. How Worried Should You Be? And I always hear the same thing: IQ measures something real, but it doesn’t mean anything on an individual basis. So: smart people will rise to the top, but we shouldn’t assume that a brown-skinned person, say, is dumb because it doesn’t work that way.

Liberals Embracing The Bell Curve

The problem is that this is exactly the argument that Murray and Herrnstein were making in The Bell Curve. The book wasn’t saying that blacks are stupid. It was just saying that blacks tend to be stupider and that this is why they are much more likely to be poor. Thus, the income inequality that we have is not random but based on IQ. Thus, we shouldn’t have Affirmative Action, because black people are poor because they just aren’t as smart as white people.

It bothers me that so many “liberal” people are so comfortable with this argument. Because here’s the thing: it’s bunk. We don’t have economic inequality because our system is so good at rewarding the productive people. For one thing, the number one reason people are rich is because they inherited their money. As I discussed two years ago, Donald Trump Is Rich Because He Was Born Rich. He actually has far less money today than he would have had if he had simply put his inheritance in an indexed mutual fund. That means that I’m better at business than America’s most famous rich guy.

But it’s more than just that. I haven’t inherited any money from anyone. But I did inherit a relatively (middle-class) social circle. I also got lots of other things like parents who greatly valued education. All of the things I inherited date back thousands of years. African Americans inherit little that is older than 150 years. This is critically important.

IQ Is Not Inherent

Let’s get back to the whole IQ debate, however. When I was in college, I read a psychology paper that looked at children who were adopted by affluent families. Now if IQ was just this thing that we were born with, those kids should have had average IQs. But they didn’t. Their IQs were well over one standard deviation above the average. That’s because IQ is greatly affected by life experience. Being around people who care about ideas helps. Going to museums and similar mind-broadening places helps. But the theory that IQ is a great indicator of success just makes it less likely that poor children will get the experiences that will help them develop high IQs.

I got some push-back some time ago when I noted that being smart was its own reward and that if anything, I deserved to have less money than those who are not similarly blessed. But I still think that. Or more accurately, I don’t think that being smart is something that society should reward me for. Nothing that went into giving me a high IQ was my doing. My IQ is no more a moral function of me than my diminutive body size.

Don’t Be Tricked, Liberals

Liberals need to be careful. And rich liberals need to be especially careful. It’s very easy for conservatives to wrap their vile ideas in a patina of science. And before you know it, liberals are saying that income inequality is no big deal. It is. It’s a very big deal. Of course, I don’t really think of myself as a liberal for this very reason. I don’t think humans should need to prove their productivity to have a decent life.

All humans deserve that.

Discovering The Milpitas Monster

The Milpitas MonsterWill called me the other day to tell me that he and his wife had discovered a film I might like, The Milpitas Monster. They had seen part of the film, but couldn’t take the bad sound quality and turned it off. I went onto YouTube and found the whole film and watched it. I’ve watched it three times now. And I ordered it on DVD. The truth is that the bad sound and video quality are due to the transfer, not the film itself. Just see the trailer below.

But as I watched the film, I was thinking about why I have so much respect for low and no budget films. It’s because it is really hard to make a film. I mean: really. I’m sure I’ve talked about this to some extent before. I once made a short (10 minute) film that got to the first-cut stage. So I know what it is like. For example, suppose you want to film some random people walking into a building. The first couple of times you can probably do it, because you’ll ask your friends. But then you run out of them. And frankly, I never found friends to be that helpful.

How These Films Get Made

A great example of this was one really simple shot: the main character drives up in front of a hotel. The doorman comes out and opens the car door, then refuses a tip. It took us several attempts to get a doorman to do it. I think I tipped the one guy who would ten bucks. But we had to time the whole thing right so it didn’t interfere with the hotel’s customers. The whole thing — after finding a doorman who would do it — took two hours. Most of it was just standing around.

That’s a lot of work for about seven seconds of MOS film.

The Milpitas Monster Does More

But whenever I see something like a police car in a low budget film, I’m always amazed. Where do you get a police car? Police uniforms? Well, you rent them. But when you are trying to make a film with no money, that’s usually out of the question. And that’s the first thing that really struck me about The Milpitas Monster. It not only had police and fire vehicles, it had a helicopter! (Last I checked, they rent for several hundred dollars an hour. Since everything takes ten times as long as you think is the absolute longest it will take, that would mean thousands of dollars.

Yet The Milpitas Monster managed to have all of this. And more. At about 10 minutes into the film, I was shocked to see that a garbage truck that the monster attacked is upside down. How do you do that?! That would be very expensive. It’s possible they did it with optical effects. And if that’s the case: that’s really impressive too!

The Story Behind The Milpitas Monster

Luckily, I learned how this $5,000 ultra-cheapie managed to do so much. It’s all laid out in an interview with the director, Robert L Burrill, in the book, Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews. In it, I learned that Burrill was a teacher at the high school in Milpitas, CA. He taught commercial art, and I guess part of that was photography.

So one day, he got the idea of making a short (10 minute) film about some garbage monster. There were a lot of elements to it. It had models and animation, for example. They showed the film to people in the area, and the response was good. Burrill refers several times to people thinking it was “cute.” So they continued to work on the film, gradually making a feature-length version of The Milpitas Monster.

School Time to Big Time

Because it was a school project, a lot of people got involved. For example, at the end of the film, there is a list of almost 100 local businesses that paid $50 to have their names listed in the credits. But it was more than that. The city council was behind it. So the filmmakers got help from the police department, the fire department, and most especially the high school. Thus the film is a lot more visually diverse than, say, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. (Just the same, Death Bed works in ways that The Milpitas Monster does not.)

I was glad to see that Burrill didn’t apologize for the film at all. He specifically discusses the editing and how the film does a good job of covering simultaneous action in multiple locations. This is probably the biggest thing that new filmmakers blow. And it’s important. You can put up with the limited abilities of the actors if the dramatic momentum is carrying you through the film.

I said that I ordered the film. It cost me 10 bucks. But if it is good enough, I think I’ll spring the $40 that they want for the director’s cut that contains 20 more minutes of film.

Different Films for Different Times

There are lots of times when I want to watch a professionally made film. It’s very hard for a low budget film to do anything quite like Dean Spanley. But a film like this, that involves an entire community over the course of several years? It’s totally unique. You’ll never have the experience of watching the first time again. None of the people who make these films are masters at the art of viewer manipulation.

It’s probably best to think of films like The Milpitas Monster as categorically different than professional films. And once you see that, you can pinpoint how they ought to be viewed. My problem is that people want to compare a film made by a bunch of young amateurs with $5,000 with the newest Hollywood blockbuster made by professionals for $100 million or more. Hollywood has exchanged authenticity for professionalism. And that’s fine. But more people should respect those who choose authenticity.

My Life and Work in the California Fire

My Life in the California Fire

I lived through the northern California fire. I just saw a map of the Tubs Fire. It came a lot closer to me then I had thought — perhaps just too short blocks. I’m going to talk about my experience with the fire. It is light-hearted. But don’t take that to mean that I don’t take the fire very seriously. Over 40 people died. Some people were identified by the serial numbers on their replacement hips. Roughly 3,000 structures were burned to the ground. At least another thousand were partially burned. It was a horrible thing. People were very afraid and for very good reason.

Evacuation From the California Fire

Sunday night I had been smelling a wild fire. I sleep with my window open because I have south-facing Windows and my room tends to get very hot during the day. Then at 3:00 in the morning there was a knock on the door. My neighbor Jodi told me that there was a fire and that people were evacuating. I could see the main street from my doorway and indeed it was bumper to bumper traffic — at 3:00 in the morning.

Then at 3:10 in the morning I got a very loud knock on the door from Charlie, my next door neighbor, telling me that there was now a forced evacuation. I threw on some clothes, grabbed my father, and drove to Coddingtown, the biggest mall in our area. The mall is less than 3 miles away. I walk to it all the time, and it takes me about 50 minutes to get there. It took us longer than that to drive there.

Hanging Out in Coddingtown

We sat in the car and listened to the local news. Most of the local news was not what I consider news. But it reminded me very much of the news coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. They didn’t know anything. There was no new news. And they were going to repeat that over and over again.

The only cool part was at around 5:00 am when the fire got close enough to them that they had to evacuate. I don’t say that because it’s cool that they were In Harm’s Way. It just broke things up. And it was some actual news for a change. And note they were all safe and so was the station. Unfortunately, our local NPR transmitter was completely destroyed. So now I have to listen to the San Francisco feed which is not very good.

Back Home — in Retrospect, Not Too Smart

At around 10:00 in the morning we decided to go back home. I could see on my phone that although we were in the evacuation Zone we were at the very edge of it. If we simply crossed the street we were not in it. So we went home and sat around there. My bed is much more comfortable then a car seat.

The next few days we’re all the same. I spent the days reading books which was nice because I get so little time to do that. And at night I tried to read by flashlight but found it very difficult. I’ve seen this in movies a lot. Maybe it’s just kids who are able to do it. I usually just gave up and slept an excessive amount.

Life Without Internet

If I had taken the money back the gods would surely have cut the electricity again.

My biggest problem was that I was unable to work. We had no electricity; no internet; no gas. It was kind of interesting though. You could drive 5 miles away and everything was just fine. So we ate out a lot. But that would only go so far because if I didn’t get an internet connection soon I wasn’t going to have any money to eat out. My work is entirely dependent upon having an internet connection.

But on Wednesday I had an idea. I called up my friend Barbara who took care of my brother when he was still alive. I asked her if I could rent some space in her home where I could work. She said sure — that I could do it for free. But I was certainly not going to do that. Barbara has a lot more people to care for than I do. She deserve to be paid.

Renting Office Space Outside the California Fire

So Wednesday night I brought my computer and everything else over to her house and set it up. It was great. Thursday morning I made my way over to her place and worked my first day. I was thrilled. Then I went home.

Tribute to the Gods

And then the electricity came back on! That included the internet connection. Thank all the gods!

So I drove back to her place and got my computer and set it up. Barbara tried very hard to give me the money back. But I was sure that was a bad idea. As far as I was concerned the money I had paid was a tribute to the Gods. If I had taken the money back the gods would surely have cut the electricity again.

The Journey’s End

We only got gas back yesterday. Which means that we went for another 4 days without it. And it is impossible to cook anything substantial in my house without gas because the stove is gas.

But I didn’t care because I had electricity and I had internet and I could work. And we were extremely lucky. We could easily have lost our home. The picture above is of the house of my sister-in-law who lives about a mile away from me. It looks like Armageddon. The first couple of days of the fire it looked like Armageddon everywhere. But it’s mostly over. And I hope there will be little more destruction and no more death.

Paul Krugman on Trump Terror

Paul Krugman - CarrierRight now, I’m feeling more terrified than at any point since the 2016 election. Why? It’s time for some game theory! Start with a clear-eyed assessment of Trump’s character: he basically has negative empathy — that is, enjoys seeing others hurt. Normally, however, one would expect him to pretend to care and maybe even do some good things out of ambition and self-aggrandizement.

At this point, however, it’s clear to everyone — probably even him — that he just can’t do this president thing, and won’t get better. The prospect that he will be removed, say by the 25th Amendment, are getting realer by the day. And again, he probably knows this at some level. So we’re getting into the end game. He can’t save his presidency. He can, however, still hurt a lot of people — and he surely wants to.

So from now on, until he’s gone, I’m going to fire up my computer every morning in a state of existential dread.

–Paul Krugman
13 October 2017 Tweet Storm

Math: When You Need to Feel Superior

Math: When You Need to Feel Superior

From as long as I can remember, I’ve been good at math. It was just fun. The same way that Jerry West practiced basketball late into the night, I was the same way about math. Probably as a result, I’ve always hated math used as a substitute for intelligence. And it was in that context that I came upon the image above.

It was for something like joining Mensa or buying some “brain training” course of something. But I like a good math puzzle as much as anyone. So I figured I would solve it. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, and it is as good an excuse as anything.

The thing about it is that it isn’t much of a puzzle. It’s just a math problem. And it takes zero creativity. All you need is to have taken a basic algebra course taught by a reasonably competent teacher. And you must have taken the course seriously enough to learn the material.

That shouldn’t have been hard because math actually is loads of fun. But the fact that someone would use it to construct such a simple, uninspiring problem does sum up everything that makes most people hate math. But without further ado, I guess I will get to it.

Why Someone Thought It Was Interesting

The two equations look similar. It’s just that one is with x and the other with x2. And so it looks like there ought to be some clever trick that allows the problem to simply pop out.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. A mathematician better than I might see something brilliant. But I don’t. There are lots of ways to approach the problem, but they all end in a slog.

Solving the Equations

Sadly, this is a brute force problem. The first equation is just a quadratic that can be solved all by itself, admittedly, with two solutions.

We just multiply both sides of the equation by x, and end up with the following equation:

x2 + x – 5 = 0

Oh, how I do wish this were more interesting. There are a bunch of ways to solve this, one way or another, you get that the two values of x are:

x = (5 ± 21½)/2

If we choose the “plus” case, then x = 4.79. If we choose the “minus” case, then x = 0.209. And through the wonders of mathematics, if you put these two numbers into the second equation, you will get that:

x2 + 1/x2 = 23

Now an actual mathematical question is why this is so. What we just did was plug numbers into equations. This is a good example of why most people hate math.

Even worse is that some dimrod thought that solving this question indicated any kind of intelligence or, even worse, intellectual creativity.

But trust me: this is the kind of nonsense that your children are being taught in school. This is why the American Empire won’t last the century.

Hillary Clinton and the Conservative Book Club

Hillary ClintonMatt Yglesias wrote a great article and Matt Bruenig followed up on it. The bottom line of it is that Donald Trump became president because Hillary Clinton was unpopular. There are some striking facts to chew on, like that Donald Trump won a smaller proportion of whites than Mitt Romney.

Long History of Clinton Hate

I know this from my personal experience. My father voted for Donald Trump. This is despite the fact that he was not going to vote for Donald Trump after reading David Cay Johnston book on Trump. But in the end he voted for Trump because he hate Hillary Clinton.

I’m not saying that his hatred of Hillary Clinton was right. The truth of the matter is that conservatives via the conservative book club and right-wing hate radio and Fox News have turned Hillary Clinton into some kind of evil figure.

If you have any questions about this I highly recommend that you read David Brock’s book Blinded By the Right. It explains all of this. But the truth is that a great section of America simply didn’t trust Hillary Clinton. And it had nothing to do with her or what she had done. But that’s politics, right? It isn’t fair.

The Smart Democrats

Sad to say, the Democratic Party should have known not to run Hillary Clinton. But Hillary Clinton was extremely liked by most of the people in the party. I am an extremist. In a parliamentary system, I would definitely not be a Democrat. And yet I like Hillary Clinton very much. There is no question in my mind that she would have made a great president.

But she was the nominee because those in power in the Democratic party wanted her to be. They were her friends. If they had been objective they never would have allowed her to be the candidate. But they weren’t rational. They liked her just as most Democrats like myself like her.

Lost Opportunity

And this is yet another lost opportunity for the Democratic party. As I have noted many times, in 2008 the Democrats were in the perfect position to nominate a real liberal, but instead we nominated a moderate. In 2016, we could have nominated a socialist (a real one — not Bernie Sanders) but again, we nominated a moderate. The big problem this time is that we didn’t even win.

As Matt Bruenig noted, “If you had replaced [Clinton] with almost anyone else, they would have beaten Donald Trump. Bernie would have won. O’Malley would have won. And Barack Obama would have dominated in an absolute landslide.” This is, of course, assuming that the Democratic Party establishment hadn’t sabotaged any other campaign. But as we saw with the Labour Party in the UK, the establishment only has so much power.

Conservative Book Club and the 1990s

One thing is clear: Donald Trump won the election in the 1990s. He won via the sustained attack on Clinton as a new and dangerous kind of woman — a feminazi — a woman who didn’t think her place was staying at home baking cookies. And in addition to the things Clinton actually was, there were all the ridiculous stories made up about her like the murder of Vince Foster.

But ultimately, it is our fault — Democrats. It’s not that I didn’t know there was this weird belief that there was something wrong with Clinton. In the minds of many Americans, she represents everything that was scary about the 1960s. Donald Trump might be a racist sexual predator, but that’s something Americans are all very familiar with.

Should we have known? All I can say is that the thought occurred to me several times. But the polling and Trump’s vileness made me push it to the background. I shouldn’t have.

Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders? Really?!

Hillary ClintonI’ve really been trying to avoid this whole battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Well, I say battle. It’s actually just Clinton’s battle. Sanders isn’t taking part of it. But hey: she lost. I understand how that must be hard and how she would want to write an apologia. What I don’t understand is why she thinks it makes any sense to attack Sanders. But given what I’ve heard from Clinton supporters, I’m not surprised by it.

This morning, Clinton was on The View and she said something that made me angry. She said that after she lost the primary in 2008, she endorsed Obama and worked hard for him. “But I didn’t get that respect from [Sanders] and his supporters.”

Well, the fact that she had to work so hard to get her supporters to vote for Obama shows that Obama didn’t get that respect from her supporters either. But here’s the thing: I was paying close attention to the 2016 primary. And after Sanders lost, I remember him giving Clinton a lot of support. And in the end, as many Sanders supporters voted for Clinton as Clinton supporters voted for Obama.

Hillary Clinton Is Confused

Bernie SandersI think that Clinton is confused. You see: Clinton and her supporters wanted Sanders to drop out of the race is February. It was back in April of 2016 that the Clinton camp was so upset that Sanders wasn’t supporting her. Was Clinton supporting Obama in April of 2008? Of course not!

Now, it’s true that the Obama-Clinton race was much closer than the Clinton-Sanders race. I called the race in February 2016. But I don’t blame Sanders for not seeing it the same way. My position was largely based on the fact that the Democratic establishment was determined to have Clinton as their nominee, and nothing other than a clear win by Sanders would change that.

Sanders Was a Good Surrogate

Once Sanders lost the primary, he was quite a good surrogate for her. And I find it petty that Hillary Clinton is now going around complaining that Sanders wasn’t a good enough surrogate for her. What incentive do future primary losers have to play ball when they get such treatment.

But it looks like this treatment happened long before now. As Slate reported, “Bernie Sanders surrogates who extended an olive branch to Hillary Clinton’s staff after the primary and were met with, at best, closed ears and, at worst, mockery.”

My biggest concern about Bernie Sanders winning the primary was always that the Democratic Party establishment would be more interested in tanking his campaign than in winning the election. You can look at George McGovern in this country or Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In the petty world of politics, the only things worse than your stated enemy are the people in your own party who don’t quite agree with you. Let’s call it the People’s Front of Judea theory of politics: the Republicans may be awful, but not as awful as people who disagree with you about how to provide universal healthcare.

The “Bernie Isn’t a Democrat” Canard

In addition to Bernie Sanders supposedly not supporting Hillary Clinton during the general election, I was treated to one of my most hated complaints: Bernie Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. Look: I wish Sanders would just join the Democratic Party. I’m not keen on this purity nonsense. The truth is that he is a Democrat in every way that matters.

I’m a Democrat. And I’m actually a lot further from the party ideologically than Sanders is. Sanders is a Democrat in the FDR sense of the word. I’m not. But in the US, we have a two party system. Neither Sanders nor I are Republicans; so we are Democrats.

But this idea that Sanders — who is hugely popular among Democrats — isn’t a real Democratic and so shouldn’t be taken seriously is just nonsense.

Are We a Party or Not?

I voted proudly for Bernie Sanders in the primary. And I voted proudly for Hillary Clinton in the general election. But Clinton is really disappointing me with her book tour. The truth is that the future of the Democratic Party is with Sanders, not Clinton. But she’s smart. And she should see that that part of the reason she lost the election was that everyone could see that she was working too hard to thread the needle.

One reason I was proud to vote for Hillary Clinton was that I knew she was real liberal. She was the person in the Bill Clinton White House who was constantly causing problems. If she had run as that authentic liberal, she might be president now. Regardless, that was a bigger problem than that Bernie Sanders didn’t support her enough in the general election.

Hillary Clinton Is Harming Her Image

Complaining about Bernie Sanders just makes her look small. And for those Democrats who can’t see that Democratic voters like Sanders and can’t see why, they’re lost. They need to spend some time thinking about that. Because the problem is not with the majority of Democratic voters who like Sanders. It is with you.