Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deport Justin Bieber? Sure.

So by now you've probably read about pop sensation Justin Bieber's arrest. You may also have heard that a petition to have him deported and revoke his green card hit the required 100,000 signatures that forces the White House to respond. I doubt it's going to cross President Obama's desk, but presumably such a high visibility name means it won't be dropped in the lap of a doe-eyed intern. Apparently there are now several counter petitions to ignore this young man's offenses and allow him to remain in the country.

I don't care about his music. I don't really care about the fact that by all accounts he's an absolutely spoiled brat. What I do care about is the fact that some people only care because he's famous. I decided to do a quick search to see what sorts of crimes were the lower limit for deportation. I felt it fair to consider the overall legal precedents for deportation given that none of what Bieber did is intentionally malicious, though I do hold a special spot in the burning depths of my anger to those who risk the lives of other people by driving while under the influence.

I immediately came across an article that seemed relevant. Both marijuana possession and speeding are considered criminal acts sufficient to get you thrown out of the country. We're all guilty of speeding once in a while and marijuana is such a fundamental part of certain segments of our society that it's no surprise that it's now legal for flat-out recreational use in some states. So why should an individual known to hire prostitutes, make bizarrely self-centered comments and just do stupid things be given preferential treatment?

Whenever someone acts like a grand idiot and is under the age of 25, people usually have the same lines chambered and ready. "They're just a kid". "They don't know any better." His grandfather came out saying "What [Justin] does is everything a 19 year old boy does..." I'd like to go on the record as thanking my parents for impressing upon me the importance of being a decent human being, because at age 19 I wasn't peeing in mop buckets in restaurants, putting other people's lives in danger or doing anything worthy of being arrested.

Is Justin Bieber going to be deported? Of course not. He's a rich white teenager with a lot of corporate lawyers who have a vested interest in making sure he can legally come and perform in the USA to sell tickets to his hordes of female fans. But should he be? I don't see why not.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hail The Real Heroes, Don't Go For Page Views

So if you haven't heard, yesterday in Manhattan there was an incident where a cab driver jumped the curb and pinned a young woman against a planter, severing one of her legs. Several bystanders answered the call and jumped in to help, putting tourniquets on both of her legs, cutting off the flow of blood and saving her life. These brave individuals are playing second fiddle to Dr. Oz, who is being hailed in the headlines of every website and news article.

It's fantastic that this woman's life was saved, but she wasn't saved by a celebrity doctor, she was saved by regular people who knew what had to be done. By the time Dr. Oz arrived, her legs had already been seen to by a plumber and a dog walker. I'm sure Dr. Oz was extremely helpful in taking the lead and calming the situation down once he arrived, but he's not the hero of the story. In fact if he had been standing right next to the girl, he wouldn't even have been a hero. Then he would have been a doctor doing his job.

But since every website wants as many page views as possible to increase their ad space, David Justino isn't getting much notice. But I salute this brave plumber who was instrumental in saving the life of this young woman.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Read The Constitution Texas

Members of the democratic party and liberals in general often get accused of ignoring our constitutional rights by conservative republicans. In case you haven't heard, there's a young man languishing in a prison cell in Texas that shows just how ridiculous that accusation can be. 

The internet is a strange creature. In many ways things like Facebook and Twitter can simply be conversational, but they have the downside of being recorded. Eighteen year old Justin Carter was talking with a friend on facebook and responded to someone calling him crazy with an admittedly tasteless comment: 

"I'm f---ed in the head alright. I think I'ma [sic] shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them."

He followed it up with a J/K (just kidding) in case anyone wasn't clear that it was entirely sarcastic. If he'd said this to a friend while sitting on the couch, it wouldn't have gone any further. But as so often happens on the internet, someone saw the comment and alerted the authorities. I say bravo and well done to the authorities on doing their job and saying "okay, we'll look into this."

Did they send an officer around to the Carter house to talk with Justin and his parents, potentially questioning their neighbors and friends to ascertain the veracity of this supposed 'threat'? That sort of response would have been completely acceptable. What happened however is they threw him in jail, where he has spent the last five months.

I'm the first one to say that there are responsibilities and consequences hidden behind our rights, but to be locked in prison with bail set at $500,000 just for shooting your mouth off in a tasteless joke? The young man in question is kept in solitary confinement because of repeated assaults and is forced to be naked because they consider him a suicide risk. 

So yeah, get your heads out of your oversized asses down there Texas. Read the constitution that protects free speech and protects the rights of American citizens against cruel and unusual punishment. 

The worst part? Carter hasn't even been sentenced yet. His court date is set for July 16th.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Pop Sci-Fi Is Always Idiotic

If phrenology were an actual true science and not simply a collection of random ideas used to justify various racist ideologies, I'd have a huge bump somewhere on my skull. Checking a chart, you'd find that bump corresponded to "love of science fiction" or maybe just "general nerdliness". I've spent a large chunk of my life reading science fiction and watching science fiction. Consume enough of the genre and you're bound to stumble onto what I call "the World of Next Week".

In WONW we don't live on other planets. We probably haven't made contact with a freaky alien species. We certainly haven't all blended into one ubiquitous, caramel colored non-race through years of cross-breeding and cultural diaspora. But we do usually have some pretty fun toys.

Flying cars, computers that can project information onto contact lenses, the ability to regulate our own weather; you dream it up and somebody's probably already put it into a book, movie or TV show. Yet I always find myself annoyed when some things aren't considered. A prime example is Back To The Future II. We're talking about a world that has some pretty funky gadgets, most of which we haven't invented yet. I have yet to rehydrate a pizza or see a flying car, though we do have multi-screen TVs and individual tv/goggle hybrids.

The one thing that started to annoy me when thinking about this film however? Books. The crux of the film revolves of course around Marty McFly's get-rich-quick scheme of buying a sports almanac for some reliable betting. It's a fantasy we've all had of course, somehow getting next week's lotto numbers, etc. But when Marty pops into the sports memorabilia store to pick up the almanac, the clerk comments on the dust jacket from the days before books were made dust-repellent.

So in a future when you can zoom through the air in a mini-van, pay a bill with a press of your thumb, nobody figured that maybe we'd have figured out a technological alternative to carrying around a thick stack of dead tree scrapings? Even Star Trek got this one wrong; sure, they'd have people reading documents on a fantastic device known simply as a "pad", but if someone had a lot of reading to do, they'd be carting around stacks of them.

I guess maybe they didn't want to be able to resolve the entire plot of the film with a big-ass magnet.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seasonally Appropriate

In the icy depths of winter even the most hardened northerner has a few moments where they understand the appeal of living in locales where the only ice to be found to be is floating in refreshing drinks. Yet there is a certain basic mechanism of humanity that exists. Anything pleasurable is made infinitely more so by its scarcity or absence. This of course led Miguel de Cervantes to coin the phrase "hunger is the best sauce in the world".

Yesterday after leaving work, my wife suggested we take a stroll. Wandering through the streets in the general direction of our apartment we admired the fine stonework of old apartment buildings on the upper west side, treated ourselves to frozen yogurt and even stopped to indulge in some see-sawing. All of these are activities that could have been done in the winter, though with far less comfort.

Flowers were blooming along park paths and in the waving branches of trees. Dogs were trotting happily alongside their owners and the many health-conscious Manhattanites were out strolling, jogging or biking. We passed a restaurant where patrons luxuriated in the last rays of the evening sun with a fine view of the river.

It was one of the most marvelous afternoons I've had this year. I'm sure that for many people my experience was only one of many such encounters with the joys life has to offer. People in California could walk every day around their fair cities, snacking on low-calorie treats and feeling ambivalent about simultaneously praising the effort and mocking the poor form of joggers. But look at the human experience. When you're an adult there's generally a moment that you realize you can do whatever you want, eat whatever you want. Who hasn't had a brief period in their lives where they had a cheeseburger for lunch every day or gone out for drinks with friends every night after work.

But the cheeseburger begins to lose its luster. The cocktails cease to sparkle. Just look at those born rich. The phrase "money can't buy happiness" wasn't talking about people who worked hard and earned their success. It's about the people who were handed money from day one and never learned to appreciate it. The same goes with the changing of the seasons. Spring is a blessed relief from the chill of winter, bringing the beauty of flowers and smiles on every street. Summer wafts in with long, hot days that beg for idle relaxation, sitting on a beach or in a park, picnic basket at the ready, followed by endless nights of balmy warmth. Fall brings relief from the scorch of sun and the eternal yet fleeting beauty of the changing leaves. Winter brings the childlike joy of tossing a snowball and the magic of stopping on a corner for a kiss while broad flakes float down in slow motion around you.

Sorry, was this post not angry enough? I'll fix that.

Screw California.

Friday, April 5, 2013

On Market Shares

As an enthusiastic video gamer I've been following the news on the upcoming "next generation" of consoles. One of the major concerns of any software manufacturer is piracy. There have been various attempts to combat this over the years. My favorite was always games that had thick, lengthy manuals and would require you to find a certain word on a certain page to verify you'd purchased a legitimate copy of the game. The next Xbox console from Microsoft, tentatively labeled the 720 has a simple yet annoying solution; the console must always be connected to the internet. If you lose your connection for more than three minutes, everything comes to a grinding halt.

As you may imagine, some people aren't happy about this for a variety of reasons. I've been combing through the comment threads on IGN as I am prone to do, amusing myself with tirades as poorly thought out as a Soviet five-year plan. I came across one which was admirable and heartfelt, yet oh-so-idiotic.

The comment was about soldiers deployed overseas, particularly those in areas where amenities like an internet connection aren't readily available. I decided that this question bore some consideration. First off, let's look at the numbers. Some online estimates put our total active military personnel at 1,414,000 (rounding up). Of that huge number, just over two hundred thousand are stationed in nations like Afghanistan or Iraq where obtaining an internet connection is probably extremely difficult. Roughly another hundred thousand are out on the ocean. So we've got about 300,000 troops who wouldn't be able to just jack in any time they wanted. But how many of those play video games? Let's say maybe half, since a large number are going to be relatively young enlisted men and women. So a potential market of 150,000. Further considering that a lot of games can be played by two or more people at once, I feel safe shaving that estimate in half, since friends/roommates/etc often make purchases like this together. So 75,000 units. Compared to the Xbox 360 launch sales, they sold 326,000 consoles in North America alone in the first month.

So maybe someone, somewhere at a Microsoft meeting pointed out the fact that this 'feature' would cut out the brave men and women serving overseas, but I'm guessing they ran the numbers, shrugged and continued on.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Placeism

New York New York. London Calling. California Girls (Beach Boys, not Katy Perry). There are enough songs written about places to create a terrible musical about teleporting tourists. Get enough people in one place and it gets a nickname; a sense of identity and rabid fans who insist that if you live anywhere else, you might as well be dead.

I won't argue that some places offer a things that others don't. Moving back permanently to my hometown sounds about as appealing as gargling bleach while getting a ghost pepper chili sauce enema. A lot of city dwellers go to small towns and whinge about the lack of twenty-four hour diners (well, twenty-four hour anythings to be honest) and the scarcity of foods more creative than Americanized Chinese.

When I visit these days, I appreciate it more. Not due to some misplaced nostalgia, but because when I go, I can embrace the aspects of what small town living offers. The last leg of the drive to visit my parents is a perfect representation of what makes small town living nice. Scenic views, low traffic with familiar establishments that have been largely unchanged for most of my life.

Nobody's written any songs about where I live, because it's just not that important. But I get frustrated whenever I hear ill spoken of anywhere except one city in particular. Just recently I was watching a film where, in speaking of LA, a character said: "It's where everyone wants to live, whether they admit it or not". I've been to LA. I have no plans to go back. I didn't hate it, I just didn't like it. I love New York City. I live there. But I still get frustrated when people say it's the greatest city on earth. There's a lot to love about this city of ours; fabulous museums, fashion going up and down every block every day, concert halls and venues scattered across the boroughs, not to mention the Mets.

But greatest? According to who? And why? Yeah, we've got some great food here, but so does Chicago. The food I had at relatively unremarkable cafes in Paris and Rome matches the quality of some of the better places here. We have Broadway, but so many of the biggest shows are just stage versions of movies. I'm sure they're fun, but I imagine you'll find far more intellectually and emotionally challenging productions in London.

I'm something of an inclusivist. I don't think you have to like everything. But I think you're a dick if you automatically exclude certain things as potentially likeable. And I really think you're a dick if you can't understand why someone would want to live anywhere other than where you do.