Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Probably the best spam comment I've ever gotten

I use comment moderation on this blog because every once in a while, I got a lot of spam in the comments.  Usually, these comments are the boring type or the gibberish type, but sometimes I come across a true gem.  Not wanting to post it as a comment, I've decided to legitimize the spammer on my own terms:

The Discount Cigarettes With Virginia Stamp is, if you exactly after "evening banquet" thought that the time is "the unforgettable time", you are the choice pull out Double Coronas or Giant Double Coronas? Or is both pulls out together? If business is arduous, meets the company share circuit breaker or Kenneth lai such faces likely goes out of business safely lets the human is badly battered, is sure not to light the cigar, because smokes the cigar is enjoys the leisure time whiling away the time. The cool evening, is burning the prill on the lawn, on the frame calmly is lying down the fresh and tender pink beefsteak, is assisting the very good red Newport Cigarettes.
The food finishes, lights a vandyck brown big cigar, attracts one, puts out freshly, moist, sends the blue color slightly the smog, no matter these blue smokes are for the time being flutter from a 400 Yuan David Du in husband (Davidoff), flutters from 300 Yuan Mcknew Du (MacanuDc), or is 90 Yuan P G C Hajenius, you

Now I know what's been missing all those cool evenings when I was burning the prill on the lawn.

Currently listening: "Annie Waits," Ben Folds

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My take on SOPA

If you so much as used the internet today, you might have gotten the distinct impression that the internet is literally going to end because of SOPA.  Its opponents would say that's only a mild exaggeration.  It's easy to read the anti-SOPA offerings on Wikipedia and Google and be swayed into opposing SOPA.  They are persuasive arguments.  And at first pass, it's easy to conclude that SOPA represents a grave threat to the internet as we know it.

But there's an intellectual problem with supporting or opposing any measure before hearing every argument for or against it.  There are two sides--often many more--to any story.  As its critics accuse SOPA of being distinctly anti-internet, it's easy to go on the internet and find the ways in which SOPA is or might be bad.  What the internet has done a less good job of doing is exploring the ways in which SOPA is or might be good.  "That's because it's not," an opponent might argue; "everything about SOPA is bad."  But somebody thinks it's good.  It has sponsorship in both houses of US Congress (under the name PIPA, and with slightly differently wording, in the Senate), enjoys bipartisan support, and has extensive lobbyist funding.

As the internet becomes more riled up about what the bill might be, or might become, it's more important for supporters of SOPA to deliver their arguments clearly and rationally.  Often, SOPA is accused of being pushed by "old-media people" who "don't understand how the internet works."  It would be enlightening--and, by this point, essential--for a "new-media person" who does understand how the internet works but nevertheless supports SOPA to offer a rebuttal.  Such a person may or may not exist.  At the very least, authors and supporters of the bill need to respond quickly and specifically to the concerns raised in various parts of the internet.

Here's a paraphrase of a common example used to illustrate the perils of SOPA.  Say a Google search turned up a site that hosted pirated copyrighted content.  Under SOPA, its opponents claim, the holder of that copyright would be able to sue and get an injunction against Google.  In turn, the attorney general would be able to enact that injunction to temporarily shut Google down.  Google would then be faced with the prospects of frequent outages--clearly denying its customers the chance to use its services--or actively policing all its indexed search content, a time- and money-intensive process.

This seems bad, if it is true.  Without hearing any arguments to the contrary, I'm forced to conclude that it's both true and bad.  What this debate needs desperately is for SOPA supporters to explain whether or not that's a fair characterization of SOPA and if it is, why it is not bad.  The longer they fail to do so, the more ground their position will lose.

In the vacuum of counter-evidence that is the internet, SOPA does indeed appear threatening and dangerous.  It's possible--even likely--that all the pro-SOPA argument in the world wouldn't change that appearance.  But to snap to conclusions about what the bill might become without even having heard the argument is irresponsible.

Currently listening: "1957," Milo Greene

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

3-Sentence Reviews: Movies I Saw Over Christmas

I'm surprised I liked The Help as much as I did. It's the closest thing I've seen to a chick flick in a long, long time (there are approximately two male characters with lines), but it won points for not being too relationship-y or sappy, instead focusing on a solid script and a well-told story.  It also won points for starring Emma Stone, whom I may have a bit of a celebrity crush on.

Following in the welcome trend of Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker, The King's Speech was a Best Picture winner that was entertaining, well-made, and wholly deserving.  It's a World War II movie that's about so much more than the war; it reminds us that for all their royal trappings, the Kings and Queens of England are people too.  Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are brilliant, and Helena Bonham Carter delivers the best performance of her career.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo may have pulled off the rarest feat in book-to-film adaptation: being more entertaining than its novel counterpart.  Minutiae of 1970s Swedish politics are part of what gives the Millennium trilogy its unique "charm," but they make for a much better reading than viewing experience.  Instead, we get all the action and intrigue (and yes, disturbing graphicness) of the book, distilled into about two and a half hours of movie that don't seem nearly that long.

Considering all the possible stakes for losing a particular bet, forcibly watching Ghostbusters is far from the worst thing that could have happened.  It suffers a bit from Lethal Weapon syndrome, in that it's a product of the '80s, and boy, can you tell.  But the comedic talents of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd (not to forget perennial third-man Harold Ramis!) keep it afloat, and if the the aesthetic trappings seem egregiously dated, the "just this side of absurd" humor is oddly timeless.

I often describe myself as more of an Atlanta Braves fan than a baseball fan, but I think you have to have at least a little baseball fan in you to appreciate Moneyball. The human element to the story is fine--and if Jonah Hill doesn't win a Supporting Actor Oscar based on this movie, then the system is totally invalidated--but in the end it takes a back seat to a fascinating look at a transformation of America's pastime. For anyone who's ever wondered why we suddenly care about OPS and WAR in baseball, Moneyball explains it and tells a compelling story at the same time.  

The James Bond franchise was "rebooted" after Die Another Day, and it's easy to see why. By the mid 2000s, Pierce Brosnan's 007 had become so smug and over-the-top that the franchise was in danger of becoming a vehicle for one-liners and CGI explosions. To its credit, Die Another Day has some downright spectacular CGI explosions, and there are far worse Bond films out there (I'm looking at you, anything starring Timothy Dalton), but there are far better ones too.

Currently listening: "Simple Song," the Shins

Friday, January 06, 2012

Pyongyang Pikas Postgame: Season Recap

The most hilarious thing about a four-team fantasy football league is that every team makes the playoffs.  The regular season matters for about nothing.  Sure, there's an attempt at seeding, such that the nominally best team in the league plays the nominally worst.  But any team can pull a 2008 Detroit Lions, losing literally every game, then get hot at the right time and win it all.

Nothing quite so dramatic happened in the Pikas' fantasy league, but Zach's Beat Tom was close.  Long occupying the number four spot on the ladder, Beat Tom had a late-season surge to make things interesting.  BT beat the Pikas in Week 13, the last game of the regular season, to drop the Pikas to a losing record overall.  But--in another amusing side effect of a four-man league--their 6-7 mark was enough to earn the #2 seed for the playoffs.  (In retrospect, looking the the records going into the playoffs, it should have been immediately obvious what would happen.  Only Tom's 2MuchJohnson4U had a winning record, an impressive 9-3-1.)

That was a double-edged sword for Pyongyang, though, as the surging Beat Tom claimed the #3 seed.  In a couple of mid-December games that the Pikas would just as soon forget, Beat Tom blew out the Pikas 235-182.  But the Pikas' season wasn't over yet: Christmas and New Years' weekends held the third-place consolation match against Josh's North Dakota Narwhals.  On Christmas Eve, Aaron Rodgers (as usual) and Brandon Marshall had huge games, putting up 32 and 21 points.  Cam Newton had 30 of his own, but the Pikas eked out an 8-point lead.

But playoff games last two weeks in fantasy-land, and third place wouldn't come so easily.  The Pikas made their last stand on the first day of 2012.  Their early games were marked by inconsistency, with 49ers running back Frank Gore scoring exactly zero points (a mere 9 yards on 7 carries) but Michael Turner having his best game of the season, putting together 172 yards and 2 touchdowns for a fantastic 29 points.  It all came down to the last game of the season, a Giants-Cowboys contest that, in true fantasy fashion, I wouldn't have cared about at all but for fantasy.

The game started with the Pikas down 99-79, with one Pika (backup quarterback Eli Manning) and one Narwhal (tight end Jason Witten) to play.  Eli, playing because the Packers were resting Aaron Rodgers, needed to outscore Witten by more than 12.

He scored 26 in a veritable Aaron Rodgers-esque clinic.  Witten scored 6, and the Pikas claimed the third-place "honors" in the league.

Pikas final record: 6-7, 3rd place in playoffs

Pikas MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers QB.  No question here.  Rodgers was the league's highest-scoring player despite sitting out the last week.  The one week he scored under 20, it was shocking, and his best game was a mind-blowing 45 points.

It's been sometimes fun, sometimes stressful, and always enlightening running a fantasy team.  It's also an excuse to drink bad beer and trash-talk your friends, which I've grown to appreciate is the real point of fantasy.

Currently listening: "Calamity Song," the Decemberists