Anniversary Post: Le Voyage dans la Lune

Le Voyage dans la LuneOn this day in 1902, Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) was first released. If I weren’t really pressed for time, I probably wouldn’t talk about it. I’m not a big fan of Georges Méliès. I certainly think he was a great and important filmmaker. But he was making films during that period where they were mostly just stage plays shot in a master. He was more interesting in terms of his art direction and, of course, his use of magic and “trick” effects.

My problem with the film is that it’s been over-exposed. It seems like one of the only silent films that pretty much any jerk can name. And it is, ultimately, not very interesting to watch. It would be another five years before film started to be interesting as an art form. But still, I’m sure it was spectacular for the audiences of 1902.

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The Shocking True Story of Twin Chickens

Baby ChickensIn the film Chicken Run, the two rats, Nick and Fetcher, make a deal with Rocky for all his eggs, only later learning that they’ve been conned because, “It’s a lady thing, apparently.” But at one point, Nick asks how the egg is coming, and Rocky says, “This is a double yolker.” That got me thinking. It isn’t that I’m unaware of double and even triple yolk eggs. I really like chickens and I used to care of a clutch of chickens. But my experience with a multiple volk was in the context of a frying pan. Rocky’s comment made me think, “What would happen if the eggs had been fertilized and allowed to hatch?

I guess I should point out something that may come as a bit of a surprise to many people. That white thing we call an egg is not, in fact, an egg. The egg is the inside. It is released into the chicken’s oviduct. Once there, the shell is created around it. Well, on occasion, a chicken will release two (or more) eggs into the oviduct and they will end up inside a single shell. These would be fraternal, not identical, twins. I’m not sure identical twins would be possible with chickens.

My big question is whether twin chickens survive in nature. As it is, there is very little room inside the shell for even a single chick. On the other hand, double yolk shells are larger than normal shells. Check out this picture of one double and two single yolk eggs from Fresh Eggs Daily:

Double Yolk Egg Comparison

Not surprisingly, hens occasionally become egg bound. This is more or less what it sounds like: the egg shell gets stuck in the hen’s oviduct. Egg size isn’t the only reason for this. It happens to very young hens, obese hens, those with too little calcium or too much protein. Check the link above if you want more information. Lisa Steele, the woman behind Fresh Eggs Daily, has all the information — and helping a chicken from this fatal problem is actually a lot less complicated than you would think.

Anyway, getting back to those multiple yolk egg shells, they are much more common among hens who are just starting their laying careers, and those who are at the end of them. But in Asia, hens are bred to produce multiple yolk eggs because they are seen as a kind of delicacy. I’m not sure how nice that is to the chickens, but regardless, much worse is done to chickens in this country.

My sister pointed me to two videos of hatching twin chickens. They were created six years ago by a woman (Rebecca Bowers?) under the account needmorechickens. Sadly, these are the only two videos she’s ever posted. The first video shows her carefully hatching a pair of twins. It is amazing, delicate work. And even though it is over ten minutes long, it’s almost impossible to stop watching. Or maybe it is just because I like chickens so much. Here it is:

The second video, Chapter 2, shows the chicks a few hours later, dry and fluffy, walking around. She then hatches a second set of twins. One of them was dead. It apparently had been for a while, because it hadn’t developed eyes. That’s sad, but according to the video, all three of the ones that survived were doing great. So at least with the help of caring humans, twin chickens can survive birth, which is awesome!


The main picture above is cropped to HDTV size from Fresh Eggs Daily, which is a fantastic site for all things chicken. If this article made you more interested in chickens, you should go over there and learn from someone who really knows what she’s talking about.

Update

In a private email, Lisa Steele said that “a double yolked egg can hatch on its own, but rarely do both chicks make it because there’s just not enough room inside the shell for both to develop correctly, but it can happen.” So we have our answer. But it is clearly best if you have your very own shell!

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Even Paul Bibeau Can’t Find Humor in Palin-Trump

Paul BibeauAbove is where I’d put the video of Sarah Palin interviewing Donald Trump on that weird irregular bin TV news network, and then I’d make fun of it. I’ve made fun of Palin and Trump in the past, and I will completely do so again.

But I found I couldn’t watch it. I saw five seconds of that garbage and just turned it off. I thought I had a strong stomach for idiot celebrity sociopaths — It’s my gig, right? — but they got to me. God, those people…

They’re awful. I don’t have a joke to follow that up. No. They are just really awful. We should really all be on board with how terrible they are. The fact that we aren’t is disturbing.

What the hell is wrong with this country? What the fuck is happening out there in Cleetusland?

—Paul Bibeau
This Is The Post Where I’d Be Mocking The Palin-Trump Interview

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Stupid Conservative Scorecards

Liberty ScoreI was writing about an article on Breitbart, Iran Deal Likely to Pass, Says Senator Who Made it Impossible. This refers to Bob Corker. The brainiacs at Breitbart apparently think there was some way for Congress to have set thing up so that they could just kill the Iran nuclear deal by not voting for it. The whole point of the deal was to sidestep Congress, because everyone knows that the Republicans there wouldn’t approve of anything other than starting another pointless war, allowing the poor to starve to death, or giving more money to the rich. So their contention that Bob Corker screwed everything up is just dumb.

But I noticed on the article, that Bob Corker has a “liberty score” of just 51%. After the mention of any politician, Breitbart sticks in the score so you can know who the “good guys” are. But it’s interesting that it is a thing and not just some kind of advertising. The scores come from a group called Conservative Review. So on their Bob Corker page, they give him a grade of “F.” This is roughly the same score that most Republicans get. Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch (who was once considered uber-conservative) get exact the same grade (F) and almost exactly the same score. John McCain gets a score of 43%. Lamar Alexander gets 24%.

The only people who get high scores are very special kinds of extremists. Rand Paul gets 93%. Ted Cruz gets 96%. And Mike Lee gets 100%. It’s just ridiculous. And the thing is that none of these guys disagree in any substantive way. It’s like the NRA scores. If you are extremely pro-gun like my Representative Mike Thompson, you get a C- from them. That’s because it isn’t just about policy; it’s about fealty to the cause. It’s about taking votes that don’t make sense to anyone just to show that they own you. So it doesn’t matter if it is the NRA or the Conservative Review.

This is what the conservative movement is about in this country. They decide to set up scoring so that only those politicians who actively want to prostrate themselves to these movements look good. Even Marco Rubio gets only 80% from the Conservative Review. And the truth is that a lot of people (this is especially true with NRA members), just look at the scores and base their votes on them. As is usually the case, when a Democrat and a Republican are running against each other, the Democrat has views about guns that are more in keeping with the NRA member. But they don’t look at the issues; they just look at the score. It’s like people who buy The New Rolling Stone Record Guide and decide to like all the 5-star rated albums. Turn off your mind and let the “experts” tell you how to vote.

I don’t see this on the Democratic side. I know there are liberals groups who score candidates. But first, it is almost always on a specific topic. And second, no one on the left goes around quoting such nonsense. And this, I would say, is part of what’s wrong with the Republican Party. They’ve set up so many partisan groups that do nothing but this kind of thing that they’ve ended up with a party that can’t legislate. Anyone who actually does the work of politics would get a single digit score from Conservative Review. As it is, such a towering figure in the art of making the Senate useless, Mitch McConnell, only manages to get a 52% score — and a grade of F.

Even by the standards of dying empires, this is madness. We should really just admit it: the Republican Party is treasonous. It wants to destroy the country. It isn’t that the individual members want this. But it has set up institutions that serve no purpose but to hurt the country. And I’m afraid that all the reformacons in the world won’t be able to fix it.

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GOP Cries Foul When Democrats Use Filibuster

Bob CorkerAfter all the posturing and faux concern, it looks like the Iran nuclear deal is going to happen. Politico reported, White House Pushes for Iran Filibuster. It had looked like the anti-deal bill was going to fly through Congress and Obama would have to veto it. And at times, it looked like he mightn’t even be able to sustain the veto. But now it is looking like the Democrats may have the votes for a filibuster in the Senate so that it won’t even come to a veto. This would be a good thing, because we really don’t need this deal to look like something so fragile that a simple change of presidents will kill it.

(There is something to think about in that regard, however. Imagine if it does come down to a veto and there is a Republican president on 20 January 2017 and he does as most of them say they will: kill the deal. This is not going to change anything regarding our other P5+1 partners. So the one thing that the US can do that will make Iran most likely to get a nuclear weapon is for some nimrod like Scott Walker to talk tough and destroy the deal. But of course, the Republican attacks on the deal have nothing to do with Iran getting a nuclear weapon.)

Jonathan Chait noted something loony and quite frankly, hilarious, in that same Politico article, Republican Senator Discovers Minority Can “Filibuster,” Is Outraged. Said Republican in Bob Corker, who is not, you know, new to the Senate. He was part of the gang in the early days of Obama’s presidency who filibustered everything short of the least controversial post office names. When he found out that Harry Reid was trying to build a filibuster, Corker said, “Are you kidding me?”

Chait went into some depth about how Corker doesn’t seem to even understand what a filibuster is. Corker is saying that it will be used to stop the Senate from talking about it. But it is the opposite. The filibuster keeps debate going and stops the Senate from voting on it. As Chait put it, “Every senator who wants the chance to read their canned talking points on the Senate floor while the other senators ignore them will have the chance to do so either way.” I can’t say if Corker is ignorant or disingenuous, but I wouldn’t be surprised that it is the former. Among Republicans, it seems to be the case that anything that allows them to “win” is acceptable. Believing in norms requires understanding the purpose of them. You go a long way to destroying them by not understanding their purpose.

I’m not a believer in the filibuster because it is totally out of hand and has been for a long time. But I’m not against the idea of the filibuster. There was a time when the filibuster was only used to stop things that Senators really hated. Sure, the bigots filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But they didn’t filibuster everything else just because they disagreed. I think the Iran nuclear deal is an issue that is important enough for people on both sides to filibuster. (The way things are, there is no point to the anti-deal side filibustering; but if things were different, I would be against them, but I would admit that the issue rose to the level of filibuster importance.)

So what we have here is a case where Republicans filibustered executive branch nominees who would later be approved unanimously. And that was something that Bob Corker was fully supportive of. But the moment the same tactic is used against him, he’s outraged. That, my friends, is the very height of the maturity of the Republican Party.

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Morning Music: Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin - PearlA story my mother used to tell me was that in the early years of her marriage with my father, he wanted to go out partying with his friends. And she had to explain that he was married now; he had children and responsibility. He felt trapped and wanted his freedom. And she used to repeat the refrain from the song, “Me and Bobby McGee”: freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. As I’ve written before, my mother didn’t think there was a problem that couldn’t be fixed with the appropriate application of a song lyric.

There’s just one problem with that story: the timing is off. My parents had been married for over ten years when Janis Joplin had her megahit with it. But maybe my mother was referring to the Roger Miller version of the song, but that only gains us a year and a half. I’m not doubting my mother. I’m sure she did mention this to my father at some point. But for all my parents problems, I don’t recall my father’s lack of commitment to the family being one of them. So I’m going to give him a pass on this one. Anyway, maybe I have the story all wrong and it wasn’t even about my father. I’ve got a lousy memory for that kind of stuff.

Anyway, here is what I still think is the best version of the song off by far Joplin’s best album, Pearl:

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Anniversary Post: Death of Henri Paul

Henri PaulI am not one to wish anyone dead. Well, except for Antonin Scalia — I really wish he would have a heart attack and die — quickly, painlessly, but completely and irrevocably. But on this day back in 1997, Henri Paul died. So did Dodi Fayed. And that other woman: Diana, Princess of Wales. For the record, I never liked her. I don’t like any of the royal family. They are good for tourism in the United Kingdom?! Great! Disneyland is good for tourism here. I’m all for that. But would it be news if Mickey and Minnie Mouse had a baby? I don’t think so. And I similarly think that people who care about what’s going on in the royal family are idiots.

This isn’t to say that I don’t think that the royal family is useful. They are a great example of how screwed up we humans are. There was a time when Queen Elizabeth would have total power over her nation — a time when she could kill anyone she wanted just because she was in a bad mood. And this was thought to be perfectly acceptable because the royalty were thought to be better than other people.

It’s good that those times are gone. Except that they aren’t. It is just that today — in America most especially — being rich means that you are special — better than other people. If you are poor, it is because morally you are a lesser soul. It might even mean that God doesn’t like you. If you are rich, well, you must be doing something right in God’s eyes.

We humans are followers. And it is not rational at all. We do not follow the smart when we need the smart and the wise when we need the wise, but we do follow the strong when we need the strong. But that’s just because we follow the strong always. I’ve noticed it in my life recently. As my working life has become better, I’ve felt better about myself, and people treat me better — even though if anything, I’m more of a jerk. But I’m no more smart or wise than I was before.

When Princess Diana died in the car crash, so did Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul. It’s sad they died. But no one cares about Fayed and Paul, so why care about Diana? No reason at all.

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My Solution for Saving the Racist Joke

Oompa Loompa -- People We Can HateEd Kilgore wrote a really good article over at Political Animal, Tell Us What You Really Mean By “Political Correctness,” Conservatives! It is mostly an attack on little brain SE Cupp. (I mean that: she is dimwitted; she wouldn’t have a job if she weren’t conservative.) She claims that the rise of Donald Trump is because of political correctness on college campuses. “If not for the loony sensitivities foisted upon us by the left, someone like Trump would be immediately dismissed as unprofessional and unserious, an incoherent blurter.” That’s actually quite funny. Because school kids aren’t able to shoot pretend guns, old people are voting for Trump. There is something unprofessional and unserious here, but it ain’t Trump.

Kilgore fired back, “Is that the source of all this hysteria?” Of course, it isn’t. It is just another excuse for a conservative pundit to blame the dysfunction of the Republican Party on the liberals. According to this view, if it weren’t for liberals being such meanies, the Republicans would be nominating people like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Well, Kilgore called bunk on that:

The Trump supporters and proto-Trump supporters I know are upset by things like having to listen to Spanish-language messages on customer service lines, not being able to call women “chicks” without someone frowning at them, and having to stop telling racist jokes at work. That’s what “political correctness” is code for: having to worry about the sensitivities of people who were invisible or submissive not that very long ago.

That’s exactly right. Since the 1970s, I’ve been hearing the same thing about the LGBT community: “I don’t care, but do they have to rub it in my face?” This same exact thing was told to me less than a month ago by a young social conservative who was about to go into the military. What the “it” that is rubbed in everyone’s faces is the fact of their identity. When we see an old heterosexual couple holding hands, it is charming. But two old gay men?! Oh. My. God! It’s somehow not a sign of personal affection but a political statement. “Look at us! We’re gay!” And this is what Kilgore is getting at: conservatives want those gay men back in the closet.

This goes along with what I’ve long argued about the supposed war on Christmas. It isn’t enough to be inclusive of Christians, they must be held up as uniquely right. It’s perfectly fine for there to be atheists and Muslims — as long as they are quiet and don’t mess up the illusion that everyone is a Christian. But this is part of a broader conservative complaint. And it is what is behind the “take our country back” meme. This is because they actually think that “our country” belongs to white Christian men and the women who are subservient to them.

But I have an idea for how we can maintain at least a little of our homogeneous culture: we can make up outsiders. And I recommend the Oompa Loompas. As Paul Bibeau reminds us, they are just “green-haired freaks.” So let’s take my very favorite joke when I was a kid. It was originally an Italian joke. When I got older, I made it a Portuguese joke, because my family is from Portugal. But it works great with the Oompa Loompas:

There was a joint space mission between the Americans, the Russians, and the people of Loompaland. And as will happen in these situations, the three of them were talking and getting a little boastful. The Russian said, “We were the first in space.” The American countered, “Well, so what? We were the first to land on the moon!” And the Oompa Loompa said, “That’s nothing! We are going to be the first to land on the sun!” The Russian and American burst out laughing. “You can’t do that,” said the Russian. “You’d burn up. The Oompa Loompa sighed, “You think we’re stupid?! We’re going at night.”

So you see: we can maintain our hateful bigotry at almost no cost to society. That is assuming that we don’t discover of a orange faced green-haired freaks. Oh my God! I just thought: what if John Boehner starts swimming in over-chlorinated water? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

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Piketty’s Quiet Revolution

Thomas Piketty - LionOver a certain wealth level, particularly if you are Bill Gates, if you have several dozen billion dollars, you know it’s not very useful for society if you keep it forever. So you should return part of it each year. In a way, it’s like permanent land reform. It’s like a permanent revolution, but it’s a quiet revolution because it takes place within the rule of law.

—Thomas Piketty
A Property Crisis: Interview With Thomas Piketty

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Did the Soviet Empire Reduce US Inequality?

Branko MilanovicI’m well aware of just how self-impressed I am. It’s because whenever I see someone writing what about what I’ve been thinking, my impression is, “What a brilliant thinker!” That’s what I thought when I saw Branko Milanovic’s article, Did Socialism Keep Capitalism Equal? What he’s getting at is the idea that as long as there was the Soviet empire, capitalists in the west had to be careful. They couldn’t allow inequality to get out of hand for fear that the people would just choose the other side. But now, without the threat of communism, the capitalists are going wild, because, hey, what options do the people have?

Well, there is one obvious answer to that: there was no communism before there was communism. There was no French Revolution before the French Revolution. This is part of a lesson that I’ve been trying to teach conservatives for years. It is hard to find a serious conservative who doesn’t think that FDR turned our capitalist utopia into a dystopian socialism. They just can’t see that what FDR most likely did was save capitalism in the United States. Otherwise, there probably would have been a revolution. And the US would have become a fascist state. (Because let’s face it: that’s where we tend to go as a people.)

But I think that Milanovic is really onto something. The rise of the whole “greed is good” mentality went along with the decline of the Soviet empire. In the 1950s, many people in the US government were worried that the Soviets could win the Cold War because of its centralization of power. It might not be so wonderful to live under, but such a system could — in theory — have been more effective in accomplishing its strategic goals. And that was a valid opinion — especially after Sputnik.

But by the 1970s and 1980s — regardless of the rhetoric of Nixon and Carter and Reagan — everyone knew that wasn’t true. And as a result, the rich grabbed more and more wealth and more and more power. As Milanovic points out, “Now, this idea comes from the fact that rich capitalist countries experienced an extraordinary period of decreasing inequality from around 1920s to 1980s…” But of course, the decline and fall of the Soviet empire is not the only possible reason for this. But I think the union story is hard to refute: the true decimation of unions is not due to skills-based jobs and globalization.

Ultimately, I think that Milanovic thinks that the threat of the Soviet empire (basically: fear of revolution) wasn’t the reason that we saw a decrease of inequality until about 1980 and then an increase. But it is certainly one of the reasons. And it is something that we who are not part of the power elite need to think about. We need something that will keep the rich in line. But the only thing that I can think of is solidarity. And the power elite have been fiendishly good at keeping the rest of us at each other’s throats, rather than focusing on how it is the power elite itself that is keeping us down. It would be sad indeed if we needed another Soviet empire for ordinary Americans to share in the wealth of this country.

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Why Silicon Valley Doesn’t Get Politics: Because It’s Filled With Idiots

Sloppy Thinker Tim UrbanAt Vox on Thursday, David Roberts wrote an exceptional article, Tech Nerds Are Smart. But They Can’t Seem to Get Their Heads Around Politics. But there is a fundamental problem with the article: Roberts really doesn’t understand “nerd” culture. (Still, you should read it.) He started the article by talking about how nerds in the past were at the bottom of the pecking order, but now the “coolest kids” are the nerds. No, not really. When you watch Shark Tank, do you see a bunch a nerds? No. You see a bunch of alpha jerks passing judgement on people who are generally not pushing any new ideas. I think the single biggest “idea” that people come on the show with is some kind of new fashion. Then, as now, the true nerds are lucky if they get a decent job where their nerd abilities can be used.

So just because the billionaire class in Silicon Valley pretend to be nerds, doesn’t mean that they are. Bill Gates? Even at his height, I never would have hired him as a programmer. Steve Jobs? He has a better claim to fashion designer than technological innovator. And don’t even get me started about Mark Zuckerberg — who I will admit is a nerd, but his success has nothing to do with it. So when a writer goes searching around Silicon Valley looking at all the “smart people” and wondering why they are so stupid about politics, I just laugh. They are stupid about everything — except “business,” which is far more about being ruthless and soulless than it is about being smart.

But Roberts does get to the heart of the matter in a section titled, “The quasi-libertarian anti-politics of the tech nerd.” I would use the word “glibertarian” — a person with a vague sense that the government is bad but without having given it any thought at all. But Roberts is actually focused on the fact that these high tech wunderkind just dismiss politics and assume that the two “sides” are equally wrong. Take, for example, the following image from Tim Urban’s Wait But Why:

Wait But Why - Politics

Obviously, this is the kind of graph that shows a complete lack of interest in the subject. The main problem is not that it is wrong. The main problem is that it is conventional wisdom. It is what you will read on the opinion page of USA Today everyday. It shows that that the writer might be able to dig into the science of climate change. But he has absolutely no interest in digging into politics because he doesn’t think that there is anything to know. In other words, when it comes to politics, someone like Tim Urban is totally postmodern: there is no truth — just opinion.

Think about that for a second. Because if there is no truth in politics, there is no truth in nature. If the proper policy on global warming is just whatever is between the Democrats and the Republicans then why are we even talking about the science? The Republicans have good ideas? Well, I would have agreed with that 20 years ago. But since then, they’ve abandoned even the idea of revenue neutral carbon taxes. And who are these Democrats in the “crazy zone”? Really, what are those people saying that is equivalent to the total denial of decades of climate science? That the Earth is going to turn into the sun? I really don’t know. But I do know this: Tim Urban doesn’t have a clue either.

The fundamental problem is that people like Tim Urban aren’t that smart. I know that I’m a minor league genius. I’m not boasting — it’s just a fact. But that isn’t why anyone should read me. There are far smarter people than me around. But the one thing that I’m really good at — the one thing that people like me (smart but not that smart) are good at — is knowing what I know.

The problem with the Silicon Valley whizkids — and successful business people generally — is that they think that success in one area means they are brilliant at everything. And the society buys it! This is why we constantly listen to idiot billionaires tell us what we should do about the macroeconomy.

So will it matter if people like David Roberts keep pounding on people like Tim Urban about what is actually going on in politics? I can’t see how. One of the reasons that libertarianism appeals to “smart” people is because it is so simple. It isn’t tainted by the real world. And so the kind of people who can explain global warming are generally not the kind of people who have the intellectual tools to deal with something are messy as politics. And they don’t even want to deal with the fact that half of the American political system is effectively fascist and post-fact. That would screw up their very notion that knowledge can save the world.

There are different kinds of intelligence. It isn’t surprising that the tech wunderkind don’t have a clue about politics. And let’s not forget: the world is working fairly well for them. Thus far.

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Morning Music: Mom’s Favorites

This Is Sinatra!Well, it’s another week and that means that I have to come up with another theme for the Morning Music posts. And I’ve come up with a great one. But it’s dangerous, because I haven’t thought a whole week through. And I really want to get this one right. I’m going to do some of my mother’s favorite songs.

My mom was a big popular music fan. And there was pretty much never a situation in which she couldn’t pull a pop music lyric out to help explain. This is going to be an eclectic collection — spanning a few decades. I’m afraid the last decade or two, I don’t know much of what she liked.

But let’s start with a song that she sang all the time. And I hate it. It’s a Frank Sinatra tune — one of the few of his that I don’t like. And it was made famous to a new generation of people as the theme song to Married… with Children — a show that I also hated, but might appreciate more now. The song is, of course, “Love and Marriage” off the album, This Is Sinatra!:

Afterword

Given the state of my parents’ marriage, I always sang it, “Love and marriage… go together like a horseless carriage.”

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