90 seconds to wait for popcorn? Forget that!

February 27, 2009

When I was a kid, comics were old guys who complained about how crazy the world was and how much better things used to be. Now we have Louis CK complaining that “the worst generation” doesn’t appreciate how much better things are now than when he was a kid.

I wonder where the dividing line is between older people like me who think this is hilarious and younger people who think it’s a big plate of geezery sadness.

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Release me from your clutches, online humor sites!

February 24, 2009

Another sign of the coming apocalypse: I’m now getting some of my news from Cracked.com. That’s in addition to getting less political reporting from NPR and more from Comedy Central, at least during the hours when they’re not busy roasting Larry the Cable Guy or presenting sanitized-for-basic-cable versions of direct-to-DVD American Pie sequels.

In any event, Cracked is listing 5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don’t Work). I don’t know how carefully they’ve fact-checked this article, but if some of the details are anywhere near the ballpark parking lot they raise some interesting issues. Take this item:

Also, re-using something is not always better than just tossing it away. A chemist at the University of Victoria calculated that you would need to use a ceramic mug 1,000 times before you would see benefits over using disposable polystyrene cups for those 1,000 cups of coffee. This is because it takes far more energy to make that mug and takes energy and water to wash it after each use.

I’m not sure people are ready to carry Saving the Earth to the extent that it begins to affect our basic sanitation needs. There’s a strong argument that the ongoing advance of civilization is based in large part on the human mastery of sanitation.

Besides, George Carlin pointed out years ago that what we call Saving the Planet is really about saving our own asses and having a clean spot to park our Volvos. Okay, so apparently I used to get a lot of my political news from stand-up comedians, but Carlin’s gone now, and I can’t think of another comic who’s quite as smart as he was. Unless maybe it’s Jon Stewart. Unhand me, Comedy Central!


Exhort your local library

February 18, 2009

Our local public library recently announced an event for next month:

LANSING COMMUNITY LIBRARY HOSTS HANDWRITING ANALYSIS PROGRAM
Graphology is the analysis of letter formation and can give an accurate and realistic picture of a person’s personality. Young, through the careful study of the trail of written movement, can interpret letter formation in order to reconstruct the personality of the writer.

Now, I have nothing but respect and affection for libraries, and it nearly makes me ill to find out that ours is wasting time and effort to give a platform to nonsense like this. I sent this letter to the head of the library:

I was disappointed to learn that the library plans to host a program about handwriting analysis (“graphology”) on March 5th.  Graphology is at best pseudoscientific, no better than fortune-telling or astrology, and as such I don’t feel it’s a fit topic for a public library event.

A program like this could be made more informative by including the skeptical viewpoint and explaining the academic consensus that graphology is scientifically invalid, and outlining the difference between it and the scientific field of document forensics.  However, there’s nothing in the event announcement to indicate the likelihood of that happening.

I hope the library will reconsider this event.  Giving a forum to something this questionable is a disservice to the community.

I don’t know for sure, but I think the person pushing this is the same guy who wrote a local newspaper column about his experiences as a water dowser. That doesn’t have any bearing on this issue, but it does tend to show that if you fall for one form of bullcrap, you’ll fall for another.

I’ll report whether I get a response from the library.


Quote of the day

February 11, 2009

George Packer at the New Yorker tells What the Debate Is Really About:

There’s a basic phoniness to the whole debate over the stimulus bill. Republicans are shouting about pork and debt; Democrats are insisting on jobs and more jobs. The truth is, no one can be sure how much spending or what kind of spending will pull the economy out of its downward spiral. The other truth is, one man’s pork is another’s beef. Until the day before yesterday, Republicans had nothing against massive deficit spending. Apparently, they oppose it only when it’s aimed at real problems and real needs.

Can somebody explain to me how Republicans can pretend they still have any credibility on economic issues?