Unreasonably Beautiful People

SmileSince I seem to have been ensnared by Game of Thrones, and have given up on doing some rather pressing (and actually fun) database work, I thought I would leave you with a disturbing observation. As I have gotten older, I went through a bad period, and ended up with rather bad teeth that I work very hard to maintain without the use of dentists. Thus, I have become obsessed with teeth. I am also rather obsessed with eye color. I used to think Hollywood had this thing against people like me with brown eyes. But it turned out that, in fact, if you look at the British and northern Europeans, brown eyes are actually kind of rare. And with George Clooney and Johnny Depp having brown eyes, it is kind of hard to make the case for being a member of an oppressed minority.

But the teeth thing still bugs me. I watch these shows of people living with no central heating or plumbing and yet they all have perfectly aligned, bright white teeth. There was a time not that long ago that even British movie stars had bad teeth. But I guess the American obsession with teeth has taken over everything. But I’m not fooled! I see a lot of really fine veneer work. I used to manage a dental office, so I know! Nasty procedure. I’d never have it done myself. I’m only interested in the health of my teeth, not looking like some dental freak. Anyway, it isn’t like having better teeth are going to turn me into George Clooney or Johnny Depp, brown eyes or not. (In my defense, I publicly challenge both men to a differential equation solving contest. Who’s the attractive one now?)

It’s one thing, though, for the royal women to have beautiful teeth. But there’s one character in Game of Thones who’s had his face half burned off and he has perfect teeth. What is it? Couldn’t Steve Buscemi do a English accent? He is literally the only actor I can think of who has rather bad teeth. And for all I know, he may have gotten his fixed. Plus he has blue eyes, so he’s dead to me anyway. I know we don’t want to look at a bunch of ugly people, but really. This is just too much.

Another thing: this series has an enormous number of naked female breasts. And to its credit, they all look quite natural, if you know what I mean: no “veneer” work. And they are all shockingly symmetrical and what I would call perfect. And that’s not a surprise because when it comes to women, I have a shockingly normal idea of beauty. And when I’m talking about breasts, I’m not just talking about minor characters. Major female characters who have beautiful faces, perfect teeth, deep blue eyes, wonderful acting skills, also just happen to have perfect breasts.

Am I going crazy?! This reminds me of a story I heard about some MIT physics students who were working out how many acceptable mates there were in the world for them. And in walked the only female physics professor there at that time. So they decided to do the calculation for her. (This is a standard physics exercise, “How many piano tuners are in New York City?” is a classic.) And she happened to be freakishly tall: like a bit over six feet. She would only accept a mate who was as intelligent as she was. So they cut out 99% of the population. And he would have to be as well educated as she was. That cut it down quite a bit more—actually only about 1% get PhDs, but you figure if you are starting with the smartest 1%, the numbers going to be higher. But here’s the kicker: he would have to be taller than she was. So basically, there was maybe one man in the world that fit that description, and maybe not even that.

Is that how it is in Hollywood? There are so many people who want to be actors that they can just say, “Oh, you have a slight overbite, maybe you should become a school teacher?” Actually, I think at some point this has got to reverse a bit. I mean the unrelenting beauty of the women and the men is too much. But back I go to watching all the warrior men who have never so much as had a tooth chipped!

Update (15 July 2014 5:15 pm)

For the record, having watched it all, I have to admit that I do not find the breasts on all the women in the show so perfect. This actually makes me feel much better. And for the record, when I talk about “perfect breast,” I mean just a kind of advertising ideal. I find almost all women beautiful in their great variety. The most beautiful women in the world are the women who like me!

Rick Santelli Slapdown

Rick SantelliNormally, I wouldn’t post something so quickly, but I just had to share this. I got it via Paul Krugman, Rick Santelli and Affinity Fraud. In the video below, Steve Liesman tells Rick Santelli that he’s been ranting about the same stuff for five years—Inflation! Weak Dollar! Greece!—and he’s been completely wrong. Liesman even says, “Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick.” Well, that’s true.

Of course, the whole time, Santelli is yelling in the background from his place on the trading floor. Krugman wondered why a number of them applauded Santelli and concluded that even though they would never listen to Santelli’s advice, they agree with Santelli’s outlook on life: help the rich, screw the poor. But it is always great to see anyone beat up on Rick Santelli:

This is nothing new. Over a year ago, Dean Baker made Rick Santelli look like a total idiot—not that Santelli needs any help. This one is notable because Dean Baker openly laughs at Santelli:

The thing about Santelli is that he seems like he’s going to have a heart attack. I wish he would. He is a hateful person. It is his hateful rant about tens of billions (it never worked out that way) to bail out homeowners, as opposed to the hundreds of billions to bail out the banks (where he was agnostic), that supposedly got the Tea Party all riled up. But the point is that Steve Liesman is right: Rick Santelli has been wrong about everything for the last five years, he continues to be wrong, and the only thing that changes is that his salary keeps going up.

That’s Right: I Watched Game of Thrones

Game of ThronesI figured that it was about time that I check out Game of Thrones. So I got the Complete First Season and watched the first two episodes. These things are always nice in seeing old character actors who I admire, like Mark Addy as the king, and Iain Glen as some other guy who seemed okay until I learned he was caught selling slaves. Of course, I’m sure Addy is not long for the series, because the queen is having an incestuous affair with her brother. And the heir apparent seems like he came from the brother and sister and not the king and queen. And then there is Sean Bean, who is, as usual, marvelous. We can assume that he is not long for the series either, because he’s a star. But there’s something else: I saw a joke, I think on The Colbert Report, about how George R R Martin, the writer of the novels, takes a perverse thrill in killing off characters you like. So I’m sure the heir apparent is likely with us to the end.

Other than just feeling that I can only avoid popular culture for so long, I also watched the show because I’m a big fan of Peter Dinklage. And I know that he survives because he’s become the symbol of the show, the same way that Maggie Smith has for Downton Abbey. In the first two episodes, he is what pulls the whole thing along. He seems to have a great interest in Sean Bean’s bastard son, because, as he put it: dwarfs are always bastards to their fathers. I remember James Cameron mentioning that audiences like smart characters, and Dinklage is that. But because he is also a freak (he mentions that if he had not been born to royalty, they would have just left him in the woods to die as a baby), he has to be smart to keep alive. Oh, I guess I didn’t mention: he is the brother of the incestuous sister and brother.

Now if this all sounds very I, Claudius to you, then I’m with you. I’ve made it a point not to research Game of Thrones to find out what will happen and what Martin was thinking. But the heir apparent seems an awful lot like Caligula, there is very much the same kind of palace intrigue, and Dinklage is playing very much the Claudius role: the smart guy who everyone stupidly underestimates because of a birth defect. But unlike Derek Jacobi playing the stuttering Claudius, Dinklage gets the best lines. For example, in the second episode, the bastard son asks him why he reads, and Dinklage responds, “My brother has a sword, and I have my mind. And a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” In addition to everything else, there’s a double entendre there because he clearly knows his brother is having sex with his sister the queen.

But the dialog is worth noting. Much of it is dreadful. But maybe it’s just me because more and more I find dialog wanting everywhere. It annoys me when I know how a sentence or a speech is going to end. And that’s also largely true of the plot. After an altercation between the heir apparent and a little girl who is basically the same character as the one in Brave, I thought, “Now you throw the sword in the stream.” Of course, she then did just that. And the end of the second episode was cut in such a cliched way. There is a little boy who was thrown from the window of the castle because he saw the brother and sister in flagrante delicto who is somehow in a coma for a month without food or water. His father is forced to kill a blameless wolf. So I thought, “Boy in bed with eyes closed, cut to father slitting the wolf’s throat, cut to boy whose eyes open, fade out.” Of course, that was exactly how they cut it. It’s effective, I’ve just seen this so much that I’m getting tired of it.

The art direction, costumes, lighting are all really good. And the acting is really great. Of course, it needs to be because it is all pretty silly. What’s more, many of the characters are cartoonish. The heir apparent, is especially so. At least with Richard III and Iago, you had actually brave men who were willing to do their own dirty work when necessary. Even Caligula wasn’t a coward. This character is over the top. And then there’s the incestuous couple, who have been copulating for decades and who still go at it like they are teenagers in love for the first time.

I can see why people love the show though. I’m not sure if I will watch any more of it. I already have a low opinion of human nature. Game of Thrones does not help.

Republican Policies Grow More Democrats

MillennialsThere has been a lot of talk recently about how young Americans are going to turn against the Democratic Party because the economy is so bad under President Obama. Jonathan Chait provided a good rundown of it, Teenage Republicans Still Not Happening Yet. It all started with an analysis by The New York Times that found that how white people voted depended upon when they “came of age.” It only looked at white people, because all other groups skew Democratic regardless of when they came of age. Chait noted that this is interesting and all, but the Democratic advantage going forward is not about young people being liberal, but rather about the fact that young people are less white.

Let me add a couple of points. First, there is this idea that conservatives have that people who came of age during the Bush the Younger administration turned against Bush because of the bad economy. Actually, until the last year of Bush’s presidency, the economy was pretty good. What they didn’t like was that the administration was just dreadful at everything it did and it was dishonest and proudly committed crimes against humanity. And the idea that young people now look at Obama and think that the modern Republican Party is a good alternative is absolutely one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard.

But we don’t need to talk about age or even race. The issue here is income. The poor vote Democratic. And the Republicans—even the smart ones—push policies that make the rich richer by creating more poor people. The only reason that the Republican Party hasn’t been reduced to a regional power is because the poor don’t vote as much as the rich. And there’s a good reason for that: it is hard to find time to vote when you are working three part time jobs and have to pick up the kids from school.

The whole point of the Republican Party is to increase income inequality. Sadly, half the Democratic Party either doesn’t care about it or is actively hostile to doing anything about it. Children starving to death? Fine! Class warfare? Never! But as inequality gets worse and worse, the Democratic Party will be forced to tackle the issue. And income inequality is getting worse and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In fact, I believe that things will get so bad that even the Republican Party will be forced liberalize and come up with some ideas other than, “More tax cuts for the rich!”

The history of America has been one of competing interests of egalitarianism and individualism. As the economic plight of the lower classes gets better, the country tends to tilt individualistic. But when things get too far out of balance and there are too many people who are too poor, the country tilts to egalitarianism. We have been on a four decade bender to the make the rich ever richer at the expense of the poor. As long as we have a democracy, things will turn around. But increasingly, we do not have a democracy. And the more unequal we become the less democratic we become.

But this should not make the Republicans think they are going to win this fight with the Democrats. Because if we make the full trip to oligarchy, the parties won’t matter. We will just “elect” President whomever the richest man is, and that will be that. Meanwhile, the Republicans’ continued hindrance of any policies that will help the economy only create more people who will agree with the Democrats and will bother to show up to vote. The fault, dear Republicans, is not in demographics, but in your policies.

American Aristocrat Owen Wister

Owen WisterOn this day in 1860, American aristocrat Owen Wister was born. He was born on the “storied Belfield estate in Germantown.” His father was a wealthy physician and his mother was the daughter of the famous actor Fanny Kemble. When he wasn’t attending school in Switzerland and England, he would hire poor people to lie in puddles so he never got his shoes wet—shoes made of the skin of poor immigrant children. Okay, that wasn’t actually true. But he was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt. Of course, being rich, once the Great Depression hit, Wister was totally against the policies of Roesevelt’s cousin, who was President at that time. If you learn one thing from reading me it should be this: bad economic times are great if you had a lot of money. Wister had a lot of money.

So why on this day is the birthday post about just another American aristocrat? Well, partly is is because last year I did Woody Guthrie. And I could have done Ingmar Bergman, but I just don’t feel up to it. It may be a cliche, but he was a great filmmaker, and he deserves a lot of attention. And I think I have a cold. A cold! And it is supposed to be 99° today! My plan is to go back to bed as soon as I’m done with this. Anyway, so we were talking about American aristocrat Owen Wister and how when times got hard for the American people, he was angry that FDR tried to do anything to ameliorate the suffering of millions of Americans.

But the main reason that I’m writing about Owen Wister is because he is considered the father of the Western. He got that name for writing The Virginian in 1902. It’s an episodic novel with pretty much what we have come to expect. The Virginian character is a kind of natural aristocrat, who of course, ends up as an actual aristocrat by the end of the novel. He falls in love and marries a school teacher, Molly Stark Wood. (Wister’s wife’s nickname was Molly.) And generally, he fights for life, liberty, and the American way against the Tramps who are just evil because, well, they aren’t natural aristocrats.

Interestingly, Wister never wrote another western. He did work with diabetic playwright Kirke La Shelle to bring it to the stage. And it has been made into at least six movies. You’ve got to give it to the man though, according to Wikipedia, the book was reprinted fourteen times in eight months. In addition to not writing another western novel, he didn’t much write anything. There was a ten year period where he was writing novels. And had he been struggling financially, he probably would have pumped out other rambling novels about life in Wyoming with noble men and pretty and pure school teachers. But who needs to do that when you can be sipping brandy and soda at The Philadelphia Club?

Wister died in 1938 at the age of 78. He was tragically killed when the four servants carrying him, dropped from exhaustion. I mean, he was tragically crushed to death when a wall made of money collapsed on him. I mean, he died of starvation after his food tester was tragically killed moonlighting as a puddle-coverer for a rich fat man. The truth is, I don’t know how he died. But he was 78. And that’s one good thing you can say about American aristocrats: they eventually die.

Happy birthday American aristocrat Owen Wister, pioneer of the most tedious of American genre fiction!