I am very disappointed

| Jan. 30, 2009

McCain ‘disappointed’ White House did not consult GOP on bailout

Oh get out with your piddling little non-confrontational words. “Disappointed” like you went to Baskin Robbins and saw they were out of America’s Birthday Cake ice cream.

Not only is disappointed a shitty word choice because it comes across with all the condescension of a scolding parent, but it does so in the most evasive, limp-dick way possible. Not McCain posits Obama is dumb, or arrogant, or going to be hopelessly lost by not consulting the GOP, but more like McCain is about ready to cry because he didn’t get picked for the cheerleading squad.

I have to admit, I’m also disappointed a douche because for a brief period in 2004 I also used that linguistic cop-out “unfortunate”. It’s an unfortunate word choice because not only is it an evasive way of not apologizing, it makes you sound like a fortune cookie.

Also, what good is it to bring the GOP in, when they unanimously voted against the stimulus package anyway?

24 is torture porn

| Jan. 29, 2009

My apologies if this should have been written in 2005 or so.

The unpleasant label of ‘torture porn’ gets thrown around a lot: Hostel, Funny Games, Saw, anything from the Rob Zombie oeuvre. But these are caricatures compared to the real, everyday evil that 24 embraces. Evil isn’t something so obvious as a dark, menacing figure. That’s The Bad Guy — evil is going about your business with no moral quandaries about what it is you do. And this is the position Jack Bauer takes in the opening minutes of this season of 24.

The people of 24‘s CTU work for a secret government agency, with near limitless resources, and access to every type of surveillance imaginable… and yet despite these innumerable resources they are still trapped in crisis mode, continually finding themselves in shootouts, on the run, making shaky alliances, and yes, resorting to the oft-used plot device of torture to achieve any sort of meaningful results.

The flaw in the show is the same flaw of its characters — 24 is guilty of mistaking motion for action. If the characters were any good at their jobs, this shit wouldn’t keep happening. [Also, we wouldn’t have a show. But still.] From my time in web development, I recall this same organizational anti-pattern: from botched website launches and last-minute patches, to dirty hacks performed to keep a website limping along for the time being, or to avert an all-out catastrophe, until the time spent patching the leaks obliterated any opportunity for forward progress. Here I see the same kind of sloppy work going on in 24‘s CTU. Would you call an agency where every situation they’re given devolves into catastrophe a well-run agency?

Disregarding how sickening its appearance is in real life, the show’s flagrant over-use of torture has turned into a laughable deus ex machina. Our heroes need information? Torture. Someone isn’t cooperating? Torture! One scene depicting torture, implied torture, corporal punishment, or even the threat of torture and ba-da-bing! Jack or whichever other maverick hero 24 serves up has the next piece of information to get us to the next scene. Not only is it morally bankrupt, it’s just lazy writing. Or maybe Jack Bauer is just a one-trick pony. When all you have are electrodes, every problem looks like testicles.

If torture is so effective, why don’t our antagonists use it to the same ends? When lawyers are trying to find their client (around 10:40), why not torture Garafalo to get her to give his location? Is it just that they haven’t thought of it, or are they somehow less immoral than our “heroes”?

I find it myopic that the things to get singled out for moral reasons are typically fantasy comics such as Tales From the Crypt, Spawn, (the movies above) and similar, by people like that douche who wants more moral and uptight upright heroes, while 24 is uncritically embodying the zeitgeist of the last eight years, and the much more damaging lessons it has imparted in the name of freedom and justice — if it even stands for those things at all and not merely the fantasy of getting to play by your own rules and bully those unable to defend themselves. Lessons like:

The ends justify the means.
Might makes right.
Those who enforce the law are allowed to be above it.

There is an uncomfortable double-standard where the characters will break the law when it suits them (even when it is contrary to their character), yet will contend that to uphold the law requires there to be two sets of rules: one for everyday plebes like you and me, and another different set of rules (or perhaps none at all) for those who would protect us. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? If they violate the law, what makes them better than their enemies? That they would save American lives and kill vaguely-defined foreigners, and not the other way around? I hold out a slim hope that 24 is doing this to purposefully make that point about moral ambiguity, but I don’t believe it’s a show that works on that many levels.

To make sure the series doesn’t go too overboard in its authoritarian power fantasy, despite championing freedom-at-the-cost-of-freedoms kind of liberty, in a later scene (around 9:30) Bauer will denounce the use of force; I assume a move by the writers to placate the audience or remind them that despite his demonstrable contempt for the law, his use of torture, and the killings that are all part of the job, that he’s still the ‘good’ guy. How can this be when our hero is working to defeat an enemy who is demonized for roughly the same things? For this I find the show on shaky moral ground, when its best defense is, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Jack Bauer isn’t the first anti-hero, and that wouldn’t bother me if his actions didn’t have real-world consequences, like when politicians use 24 to justify the use of torture. These are our nation’s leaders ignoring the bill of rights because of something they saw Jack Bauer do on TV.

Ultimately, 24 holds up an interesting mirror to the society that created it. In it, there is an attitude of fall-in-line-or-resign in the White House, there’s an unpopular military action taken by the US to unseat a dictator in some backwater country (only this time, it’s like totally justified!), a transparent villain in government-trained terrorist Tony Al Qaeda Almeida, and a government that asks, nay requires, that is be above the laws it enforces. That and the whole “being OK with torture” thing.

That the last eight years define this as what makes a hero is sickening.

How to choose the right CMS

Work | Jan. 26, 2009

I love that they mention a list of what CMSs to avoid and it contains one item.

via Web Designer Depot

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

| Jan. 20, 2009

I finally found out there’s a name for this sort of thing.

Here are more examples of this fallacy, including one I am routinely guilty of:

Locating the gas station with the lowest gas prices, but driving 20 minutes out of the way to save $0.05 per gallon, or, looking for the lowest gas prices but buying a vehicle with poor gas-mileage.

This makes a nice counter argument to another axiom I have lived by: opportunity cost, which kept me from doing a lot of things out of a simplistic ledger-like approach to life experience.

I feel like these two balance each other out, and being aware of the two of them will help me make better financial decisions. That is if I have any money left in my 401(k), Mutual Funds, or stocks to be wise with.

Faith-based economics

| Jan. 20, 2009

Saw this link to Coudal Partners, and thought …yes, because faith-based initiatives have worked out so well thus far. [via Daring Fireball]

The Drupal community’s answer to everything

Work | Jan. 16, 2009

Q: I have a problem with (theming/listing nodes/placing blocks/anything) because of the limited design of Drupal.

A: Have you tried using Views?

Be seeing you.

| Jan. 14, 2009

“Prisoner” star Patrick McGoohan dies at 80

Fix to Drupal to allow NOW() and CURRENT_TIMESTAMP in new tables

Work | Jan. 8, 2009

This is why I hate CMS software — their incessant, misguided need to over-abstract every little detail. Take for example Drupal’s system for including additional tables into your existing MySQL database. Drupal would have you create a needlessly complex multidimensional array of all the elements in your new data table schema, created with a separate function and called by another custom Drupal function. Because I guess including the actual SQL to create a table was just too fucking simple.

So here’s Drupal’s way of doing it. I hope you like nested parens!

Read more »

Bush family mourns death of 18-year-old White House cat

| Jan. 5, 2009

It was killed after Tower 2 fell on top of its flooded New Orleans home, where it was recovering after returning from its third tour in Iraq, having been wounded by friendly fire. The cat was in stable condition until it was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center and given a childs toy to play with tainted with lead-based paint and melamine.

The family asks that donations be sent to AIG, Bear Stearns and Chrysler.

from Yahoo!