Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Series Two

Well, here we are. Detroit leads the series 2-1. Who is the better team? It's not Detroit.

Would we have won the game last night if the phantom interference call had never been made? I don't know. Tying up the game at that point might have given us some momentum, but frankly we were throwing a lot at the net toward the end of that game. Howard was good. I will say this: on Saturday Detroit deserved to win. They were better. Last night, they got the bounces. We played much more like I would expect, things just didn't go that well.

Bryan Bickell, I know that two goals down with a minute left, we have almost zero chance of winning. However, that number drops to an even smaller number when you take a stupid penalty. Despite the clear provocation, you can't lose your cool at a time like this and cross check a guy in the back. Three times.

Andy fucking Shaw. Seriously. This shit has got to stop. People are tired of killing off your bullshit penalties. And it's not like you're being effective at other times. Keep your mouth shut and your stick to yourself. Be a big boy. Everybody else too. This parade to the box has got to stop, freakishly good PK or not.

On the good news front: is it 27/27 for the PK or 28/28? Pretty fucking impressive; also impressive the way we decided to kill most of the last couple penalties in the Detroit zone. If only our PP was as good. Why isn't it? The brightest minds of the hockey world have been stumbling over that one for a couple seasons now. It's a great unsolved mystery, and also super frustrating.

Also, hockey blogs, stop calling out Corey Crawford. He's playing pretty damn well. His defense is failing in front of him and his offense isn't scoring. Contrary to rhetoric, a goalie can't win a game. And you try facing down Datsyk game after game. I almost peed my pants thinking about it.

All that being said, it's far from over. It's probably not even time to panic. We were always going to lose at least one at the Joe. They'll be good and mad on Saturday, I expect. We can still do this.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Conspiracy Theories!

Since my last post about the X-Files I have been doing a great deal of procrastinating reading on the internet about conspiracy theories. Boy oh boy. There are some DOOZIES out there. Who knew the world was THIS full of crazy people??? They must have loved it when the internet was invented and they could all find each other. Oh no wait, the internet will be used by the US government/secret world government/Illuminati to monitor our activity/ruin our credit ratings/laser our faces! BUT WITHOUT THE INTERNET HOW CAN I ACCESS MY FAVORITE CHAT ROOM ABOUT HOW QUEEN ELIZABETH IS REALLY A LIZARD PERSON??? The life of a paranoid conspiracy theorist must be exhausting. (Are chat rooms still a thing? I don't think so.)

I started with the wikipedia page about conspiracy theories, general, which actually is mostly about the psychological reasons posited for the existence and acceptance of conspiracy theories. One point I thought was really interesting was the idea that conspiracy theories are actually reassuring on some level. Sure, some part of the subconcious says, the Illuminati are running a secret evil world government that is planning to drive society back to the Stone Age. But at least SOMEONE is in charge of this shit, amirite? Apparently even the evil machinations of whatever cabal runs the world in your favorite theory are, for some people, preferable to believing that most things that happen in the world are at some level the products of chaos and chance and happenstance and interacting non-linear effects that we'll never be able to accurately predict. The mind shrinks at the thought of that much randomness. It might be easier to believe, for example, that the US government created and spread AIDS deliberately among the African American population (especially given the very real and horrifying Tuskegee experiments) than to acknowledge that actually these things just happen and at any moment a disease could sweep out of Africa or China or Central America and kill us all. (I don't mean to alarm you, but that is totally possible.)

From there I moved on to various specific theories. There's the oldies-but-goodies: faked moon landing; aliens crashlanding at Roswell; the Illuminati. There's David Icke, who was apparently a run-of-the-mill football broadcaster at the BBC until he had some sort of transformative experience and started speaking, publishing, and producing films about a race of lizard people secretly controlling the whole world. His theory is like the meta-conspiracy theory, or the theory for conspiracy theorists who hate having to choose. It has EVERYTHING: secret world governments, mind control, alien human hybrids, multiple dimensions, the Illuminati. It is PRETTY GREAT. Then there are some that just make me sad, like the 9/11 truthers and Holocaust denial and Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim and the above mentioned AIDS-as-weapon. They feel uglier and meaner and lack the giddy glamour of alien autopsies and men in black. After several forays into these themes, I scientifically deduced that man, people believe some CRAZY shit.

To conclude, I'd like to present two of my recently discovered favorites (along with the reasons they are total crap, of course).

Phantom time: This one states that actually, most of the Middle Ages never happened, and our calendar has been padded with about 300 extra years. I was unable to find any explanation for why the Vatican/secret world government/alien influences found this to be necessary. Charlemagne is apparently so crucial that, never having actually existed, he must be invented. Personally, I go from one end of a month to another with barely a thought for Charlemagne (unless I'm playing Characters, then I like to throw him in the hat), and I feel like most people who aren't taking 10th grade history are the same way. Yet apparently it's necessary we believe in about 300 extra years of revolting peasants and feudalism and everyone living in their own filth.

How to debunk it: Independent and aligned astronomical records from Europe and China tell us that all the years we think were the years were actually the years. No years missing. Charlemagne is safe.

Faked moon landing SLASH The Shining: This one states that the Apollo moon landings were faked in movie studios on earth, AND that the US government hired Stanley Kubrick to do it, AND that he felt  guilty about this but also afraid for his life so he made The Shining as an elaborate but veiled confession. (Stephen King apparently was NOT in on this. The theory mostly focuses on things in the movie that were different from or addional to the book.) This one has the added twist that Stanley Kubrick was actually in real life one CRAZY ASS MOTHERFUCKER who paid an insane amount of attention to every detail, so many of the props/costumes/set decor that the theory points out may actually have had some significance or meaning or symbolism (though I would bet a thousand jillion dollars the secret meaning is NOT "um sorry guys so I faked the moon landing but boy those special effects were something, right???").

How to debunk it: Well, you could go test the moon rocks. (You should probably ask permission first.) But really, the main thing that prevents me from taking this (or any other) conspiracy theory seriously is the fact that people are terrible at keeping secrets. You can go with old Ben's "Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead" or Stewart Brand's "Information wants to be free", but however you phrase it, people are not good at keeping their traps shut. To believe in these types of theories, you also have to believe that the secret cabal running everything is made up of a group of people who are uniformly and fundamentally different from almost every person you have ever met: dedicated to long-term goals, utterly secretive, perfectly disciplined, fantastically efficient, discreet, loyal, intelligent, serious, and amoral. I don't know about you, but I would say that people in general are gossipy, petty, inefficient, lazy, unable to accurately predict or plan for the future, driven by personal loyalties, personal gain, and personal morals or lack thereof, moody, emotional, vain, and irrational. This list does little to recommend us as a species, perhaps, but it also augers pretty poorly for secret world governments, so if you were planning to set one up, you should probably take that into account.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The X-Files: Reflections

I've been doing a lot of boring and repetitive lab work, so I like to watch TV while I do it. I actually think it keeps me focussed; if I was just doing the work I'd get bored and allow myself to take way too many internet breaks. Anyway, I've been working my way through a couple different shows on Netflix, one of which is the X-Files. I started at season 2, since I think I saw most of season 1 at some point, and I think it was mostly monster of the week episodes. I'm now on season 6. Here, in no particular order, are my reflections:

1. Why is it so dark all the time? I watch this show in a lab with a lot of natural light, so there's a lot of glare on my screen, and when they're creeping around in the dark, I can never tell what's going on. Often things are shot like that to hide the cheapness of the special effects, but the X-Files actually has pretty reasonable special effects. I guess it's the Jaws thing - it's the not-seeing rather than the seeing that creates the suspense/horror. Still, occasionally I wish Mulder and Scully could have investigated more things that happened in broad daylight.

2. Ok, so I get that aside from being characters, Scully and Mulder are also representative of, respectively, Science and Skepticism and Belief (and possibly Lunacy). However, at some points this continued insistence on these narrow roles kind of makes the whole thing devolve into ridiculousness. Mulder believes in aliens and a giant government conspiracy to cover up aliens and government programs to create alien-human hybrids; it doesn't automatically follow that he has to believe every crazy goddamn thing that he encounters. But he's always like "Why couldn't the spirit of the ancient Incan jaguar god come out of that mummy and kill people, Scully???? Why couldn't a prehistoric dinosaur have survived and hidden out in the Georgian swamp, Scully???" And then on the other hand, you have Scully, who after like 543 episodes of unexplained shit and being abducted by aliens and getting cancer and being cured by a microchip and all that is still always like "I don't know Mulder, there could be scientific explanation for this." Scully, there has never been a scientific explanation, not one time. If you were really a scientist, you would have concluded long ago that the data pointed to the conclusion that your crazy partner is right every single time he advances some crackpot theory.

3. I'm kind of impressed by the authentic shittiness of the motel rooms Scully and Mulder stay in when they're investigating something out in some rural town. Either there is a Hollywood set designer who specialized in Shitty Motel Rooms for Mulder and Scully, or they shot them all on location at real shitty roadside motels. In modern tv shows, I've noticed a tendency to place the aesthetic of the show over realism, so that every interior is glossy and professionally decorated and totally unlike where 95% of the people in the world spend their time. I don't really have a problem with that, it's not like the only thing standing between NCIS:LA and being a television classic is lack of realism on their sets (and for the record I like that show, but for what it is, which is fluff). And it's not like the shitty motel rooms on the X-Files elevate it to some level of important social realism, it's just as fluffy (but with more extraterrestrials and fewer references to the Patriot Act).

4. There are some moments where this show seems like it might be a little brilliant - there's the occasional subtle social commentary; there's some interesting asides into the psychology of belief and specifically of Mulder's motivations; starting in season three or four there are some lighter throw-away episodes where they mess with tone and narrative in ways that are kind of clever (the Frankenstein episode in season 5, the one where Luke Wilson is a vampire, the one that gets turned into a novel). There are also some moments where the show feels incredibly clunky and 90s. The music, god, the music is so 90s. So repetitive and overdramatic. There is usually only one story arc per episode, usually (but not always) presented linearly. By the time you get into the 2000s even half hour comedies are running two or three simultaneous story lines and often telling them non-linearly; this makes older shows feel excruciatingly slow, like every plot point is being hammered into your brain (grumpy old people will tell you this is symptomatic of our modern society's inability to focus on one thing for very long, and maybe this is true to a certain extent; however, I think modern shows actually give their audiences a good deal of intellectual credit for their ability to track multiple characters and plots and still integrate them into a meaningful thematic whole by the end of the episode). There are some really horrible voice-over narrations (stupid voice-overs are one of my cinematic/tv pet peeves). Scully's pantsuits could be worse, but I don't love them. And were everyone's cars in the 90s really that ugly?

5. How many people's paranoias were fed by the X-Files? Do NSA and FBI agents get tired of reading poorly typed manifestos from mentally ill people who took the X-Files way too seriously? I suppose if you have that kind of mental illness, you fixate on something, and if it isn't one thing, it would be another. Still, it seems like it could have fed conspiracy theories. I'm kind of afraid to google this.

6. Mitch Pileggi is surprisingly hot for a bald man whose character name is Walter Skinner.