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Protesting Nerdiness

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Some people from my stunt crew and I went to Comic-con this year, and apparently so did some evangelical protesters:

Are you attending the San Diego Comic Convention next week, or do you wish you could? Then your soul will burn in hell for all eternity — at least according to the batshit insane congregants of the Westboro Baptist Church. Led by Reverend Fred Phelps, the church will actually take the time to protest SDCC from 1:15 to 2pm on Thursday the 22nd. Why? I’ll let this quote from Phelps explain:

“Are you kidding?! If these people would spend even some of the energy that they spend on these comic books, reading the Bible, well no high hopes here. They have turned comic book characters into idols, and worship them they do! Isaiah 2:8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not. It is time to put away the silly vanities and turn to God like you mean it. The destruction of this nation is imminent – so start calling on Batman and Superman now, see if they can pull you from the mess that you have created with all your silly idolatry.”

Phelps is known across the US for protesting burials for gay soldiers and AIDS victims, among other things. If a picket can gets them lots of press, they do it. The press exposure helps them raise funds, and events like this will probably bring even more members. Maybe this blog post I’m writing gives them exposure and could potentially net them some money, but since I don’t think religious groups like this are dangerous and carry no real political clout, I could care less. If anything, blogging about it gets me exposure. And the article is a funny read.

As much as everyone hates the Phelps crew, nobody seems to actually fear them.


Written by xout

August 2, 2010 at 8:57 am

Posted in culture, news

Attack of the Tables

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I had a dream about filming a movie. The director was really fancy and liked to show off, so when he was assigning wardrobes to people, the wardrobe person brought in hundreds of supermodels wearing the clothing and asked people to pick out the clothing they wanted to wear for the scene. The supermodels formed single-file “trains” that moved around the large building like a battalion of centipedes, and the director walked with me to pick the outfit I wanted. I chose some grey cargo pants.

Next came the propmaster, who had a similar system to show off the props for the scene, except instead of supermodels holding the props, the props were on tables that moved around in similar “train” formations. Soon there were hundreds of tables of varying sizes snaking around the large room. They didn’t even have wheels, they just floated around like air hockey pucks.

But the system was new and unstable, and one of the prop tables went crooked and caused a traffic collision with another train of tables. Within seconds the entire room was swarming with crazed tables, sending everyone into a panic. Everyone ran for the exits but couldn’t make it past the furniture.  I soon found myself cornered by a few dozen of them, but when we all realized that these tables had no real weight behind them and could easily shove them away, everyone started having a great time. It was like the tables were big, harmless animals that chased people around and dumped little props all over the place.

Everyone except the director and the propmaster was laughing. The propmaster was trying to put the tables under control with his remote control, which wasn’t working, with the director screaming in his ear. I found myself crawling underneath a huge congestion of tables and heard people running around on top. It was a blast and I may have laughed in my sleep.

This could make a fun ending to a movie, where the main character is crawling under the tables looking for the girl, while she’s running around on top looking for him. The villain would be the director, who is ruined now that he can’t finish his movie due to these insane, moving tables.

Written by xout

July 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Posted in experience, filmmaking

Peasants and Clients

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Oakland experiences a riot in response to the Oscar Grant shooting verdict. From The Guardian:

Rioters trashed parts of Oakland, California, today in protest against the verdict in a controversial court case in which a white policeman shot dead an unarmed African American.

At least 100 people were arrested after looting and confrontations with police in Oakland last night and early today. The protesters ignored a plea for calm by the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The policeman, Johannes Mehserle, 28, was found guilty yesterdayof involuntary manslaughter. The jury rejected the prosecution case that it was murder.

YouTube showed footage of Mehserle’s shooting of Oscar Grant, 22, who had been lying on the platform in a railway station on 1 January 2009, surrounded by police after a fight. Mehserle claimed he had thought he had reached for an electric Taser rather than his gun.

The case became a cause celebre in the US, with its echoes of the treatment of Rodney King, a black man whose severe beating by police in LA in 1991 was captured on video. The subsequent acquittals of four LAPD officers sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Police deployed in Oakland in riot gear yesterday and shops boarded up their windows in anticipation of a repeat of the rioting that took place in the immediate aftermath of Grant’s shooting. Up to a thousand protesters took to the streets last nightand early today, some wearing masks with images of Grant’s face. A banner was unfurled proclaiming “Oakland Says Guilty’.

Rioters, some dressed in black and wearing black masks, smashed shop and car windows, helped themselves to goods ranging from jewellery to groceries and trainers, and attacked police lines. Journalists were also attacked.

The Oakland police chief, Anthony Batts, told a press conference: “This city is not the wild, wild west. This city will not tolerate this activity.” He blamed anarchists coming from outside Oakland. “We started taking a number of rocks and bottles. We then made a dispersal order.”

Here’s a video of the Oakland looting.

Maybe it’s by chance or he’s just being timely and subtle, but Mencius Moldbug posted a blog about clients and peasants. He notes that peasants, aka the Tea Party, are mostly denoted as complainers, and rightfully points out that these same peasants elected the very ideology they’re now protesting:

If I had to describe it in a sentence, I would say that the rage is easily explained, but not easily explained in the terms of those who feel it. They are clearly angry about something, but the actual words that come out of their mouths are often nonsensical and contradictory. This is why it is so hard for so many to get a handle on. It is simply inarticulate demotic discontent.

The CAP historians mention these people a couple of times. Most notably, they mention the fact that this group, historically Democratic Party voters going back to the 19th century (“rum, Romanism and rebellion”), also historically urban, was living in the suburbs and voting for Reagan in 1980. They profess, however, to be entirely mystified by this transition. Surely, if we understand it, we can answer the question of what motivates the “tea partiers.”

What we can say quite clearly is that this tribal subpopulation has, in no temporary way, lost confidence in progressivism as a philosophy of government. Fortunately or unfortunately, they do not know how to unelect a philosophy.

And then talks about “clients”:

Last week I was at a party, at a warehouse space in one of the crackhead districts of SF, at which the subject of crackheads came up. The woman across the table, a member of my social class, expressed great sympathy for this class. I asked her if she had ever been victimized by such. She said: “two days ago, someone smashed a window in my car and stole my iPhone.”

And she perceived this crime through a pure Jean Valjean lens, with no sense at all that she had been *personally* victimized – much less, victimized by the government. Or a judge. Or an ideology. Or whatever. Rather, she considered it entirely normal and even laudable for a sophisticated, modern person to live in a city in which an iPhone cannot be left visible on a car seat, and she considered herself an idiot who had, for her $500 or whatever, purchased a valuable lesson about modern urban living….

Who would think this way? Well, perhaps if you were a Frenchman in 1944, and your property was looted and vandalized, by American soldiers on their way to kick hell out of the Nazis, you might think this way. The State Department thought this way about the killing of Cleo Noel. This is the way you think about your own clients and the excesses and abuses they commit. Certainly, if this woman’s car had been vandalized by cops, tea partiers, etc, she would have been enraged for life. We hate our enemies and not our allies – it is only natural.

Written by xout

July 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

Regressive Tax and Elitism in the Arcade

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I was playing Retrofit: Overload and realized that t$his and many other shoot-em-ups (“Shmups“) employ a regressive tax system to incentivize improved play.

Regressive taxes attempt to reduce the tax incidence of people with higher ability-to-pay, as they shift the incidence disproportionately to those with lower ability-to-pay. The opposite of a regressive tax is a progressive tax, where the marginal tax rate increases as the amount subject to taxation increases. In between is a flat or proportional tax, where the tax rate is fixed as the amount subject to taxation increases.

Here is a video of Retrofit’s gameplay. Watch closely at the 25 second mark. If you have 3 or more guns and can hold onto them, you advance fairly easily. If you drop down to anything less than three, the difficulty level skyrockets. The game tries to compensate by handing you more guns at a faster rate than normal, but it’s never fast enough. Players are rewarded by playing a near-perfect game, which means skilled players inevitably play an easier game than low-skilled players, much like a regressive tax.

Retrofit takes pride in being like classic arcade games, which were often regressive too. These games selected for high skilled players and left everyone else in the dust, which created a class system not unlike monarchies where the elite paid exceptionally low taxes. The arcade owners would adjust the difficulty on the machine to strike a balance between challenging the extremely-high skilled players and collecting from everyone else. Set the difficulty too high, and the machine loses money. Set it too low, and your arcade loses its elite clientele. The arcade market values both.

Part of the joy in visiting an arcade was watching elite players. This was good for business too.

Written by xout

June 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

The price of theft in Flushing

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It’s expensive to shoplift in Flushing, NY:

First, suspected shoplifters caught by the store’s security guards or staff members have their identification seized. Then, they are photographed holding up the items they are accused of trying to steal. Finally, workers at the store threaten to display the photographs to embarrass them, and to call the police — unless the accused thieves hand over money.

“We usually fine them $400,” said Tem Shieh, 60, the manager, who keeps track of customers on 30 video monitors in the store’s surveillance system. “If they don’t have the money, then we usually hold their identification and give them a chance to go get it.”

The practice of catching suspected shoplifters and demanding payment is an import from China, several experts in retail loss prevention said, where there is a traditional slogan that some storekeepers post: “Steal one, fine 10.” Whether this practice is legal in the United States is open to interpretation.

This was posted at my friend’s blog and I thought an interesting example of how theft carries prices like any service in the market. The price here is either $400 or, if you value your place in the community, shame. Based on the fact that most people pay up, shame costs a lot more than $400 in the Chinese community.

We might worry that this could be used to falsely accuse a community member if the store has a personal vendetta against him. This could happen, and apparently has, but just as shame is a theft deterrence for individuals, shame is a false-accusation deterrence for businesses. Businesses by their nature are more public entities than individuals, so it’s cheaper for them to engage in good practices, which is why businesses tend not to steal wallets from customers’ pockets.

Illegal immigrants caught lifting might be caught in a tight spot, but it’s probably a good signal to them not to steal. When immigrants come into a country illegally, they inevitably fall under a set of black market laws, which is simply the price of living in a country illegally.

Thanks to Big WOWO for the link.

Written by xout

June 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

David Friedman on Equality and Gay Marriage

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From here:

“Equal Rights” sounds like a principle practically everyone, at least in our society, is in favor of, which makes claims about equal rights rhetorically effective. It is not at all clear, however, what it means. The problem occurred to me recently while listening to Ted Olsen, who is one of the attorneys trying to persuade the Supreme Court that California’s failure to permit gay marriage is an unconstitutional violation of the principle. His view, widely shared by supporters of gay marriage, is that current California law fails to provide homosexuals the same right it provides to heterosexuals—the right to be married to the partner of their choice.

An opponent could respond, with equal logic, that it is consistent with equal rights. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals have the right to marry a partner of the opposite sex, neither has the right to marry a partner of the same sex. Seen from this standpoint, the difference is not in what rights different people have but in what rights matter to different people. Current California law provides both homosexuals and heterosexuals with the marital right that heterosexuals value and provides neither with the marital right that homosexuals value.

I talked to my father about this, and he asked, “Couldn’t the same logic apply to racist equality, where all people have the right to discriminate against black people?” I said that the argument against gay marriage claims that being gay is a choice, which isn’t the case with racists. It’s easier to legislate against choices as opposed to concrete physical traits like skin color, even if choices are supposedly influenced by genes or family history. A drunk driver, for example, can’t expect leniency if he claims to come from a family of alcoholics.

I assume gay marriage proponents haven’t found concrete evidence of the gay gene yet. I think it shouldn’t matter, since finding the gene makes homosexuality genetic-only and might restrict those who choose to go gay, though the legal process might be simpler if they did find the gene.

Written by xout

June 25, 2010 at 9:38 am

Posted in culture

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Nicolás Gómez Dávila on Laws

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The plethora of laws is a sign that nobody knows anymore how to command intelligently.

Or that nobody knows anymore how to obey freely.


Dying societies accumulate laws like dying men accumulate remedies.

I talked with a Republican recently about how complex gun laws that lay people can’t follow result in higher crime. He said, “Once you find that you’ve broken laws without even knowing it, you start to fancy yourself an outlaw. And it’s quite liberating!”

Written by xout

June 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm