It’s quite common to blame police unions for protecting cops that murder. Reason has two articles about it, here and here. There’s also the very union friendly law being passed in Illinois that will essentially make it a felony to record police offers on duty. Even my favorite guys at Tech Dirt place the blame on police unions for being the “entity that can keep cops from being held accountable for their actions.”
However, I’m going to go against the grain. It is not the police unions’ fault bad cops are able to keep their jobs. It is our fault.
Unions used to be strong. Manufacturing, construction, transportation, dockworkers, teachers, etc, all had very strong unions. These unions had great political influence. However, each and every union has weakened since the 70s… except for police unions. And the reason police unions have not been weakened is because all politicians bend over backwards to support police unions to appear strongly in favor of law and order. And the reason they want to appear strongly in favor of law and order is because that’s the only way they can get voted into office.
So don’t blame unions. Don’t blame prosecutors. Don’t blame the politicians who make the laws that favor the police. Blame us. We’re responsible.
People love using Uber to get rides because it’s usually much cheaper than taxis. Taxi services are expensive, in part, because they are highly regulated by various state and city laws. To put it simply, taxi rates are set by law. Uber drivers can charge what ever the market will bear. The libertarians of the world love Uber. Why should the government decide how much a driver can charge to give a ride?
The answer is that the regulations covering taxi services did not come out of nowhere. They developed over decades for one simple reason: Unbridled capitalism sucks.
Here’s a great example. A women is complaining that she had to pay $362 to get a 20 minute ride using Uber. Let’s make this clear. She knew the price in advance. She accepted the price and used the ride. It was only later that she decided it was too much and complained.
Eventually enough Uber users will complain and regulations will be developed to keep them from screwing people over.
We love the free market in the US. We just hate when we’re the one being disadvantaged. And when that happens we run to the government for help. It happened with taxis. It’ll happen to Uber.
Weeks after it was released, Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy is back to being the number one movie in the country. It also has become the number one movie of the summer, in the US. It also had the biggest opening in August, in the US.
I keep talking about the US. Because nowadays the United States is a secondary market. Most movie money is made overseas. For example, the foreign market is so important that the latest Transformers movie included an entirely new third act just for the Chinese market. It’s also the number one movie of all time in China. That shouldn’t be surprising.
This is also why movies are so bland nowadays. It’s because comedy is tied to culture. Good guys beating on bad guys is universal. Action is universal. Danger is universal. That’s why action/superhero moves are being pushed. With a little tweaking, they can play nearly anywhere on the planet.
But comedy, that’s specific to your situation. If you’re never been in a band, you’ll have no idea why This is Spinal Tap is funny. If you’re not familiar with the Beatles, you’ll never laugh at The Rutles. I could go on and on.
Even our comedies are being effected by this foreign influence. Have you ever noticed the Hangover series of movies lack actual jokes. Once again, jokes require a cultural basis. Physical comedy, on the other hand, is more universal. So the Hangover movies consist of men being tortured for hours at a time. “That guy lost a finger, it’s so fucking funny!”
But, bucking the foreign trend, for some bizarre reason Disney released Guardians of the Galaxy with American jokes in it. To me that’s exactly why it’s doing so well. Because it’s actually funny. There are actual jokes in it. So people are seeing it, and then taking the entire family to see it again. In fact, I think it’s hands down the best family movie every made with a cum joke in it.
However, Guardians has not yet been released to China or Japan. So maybe they’re quickly working on an edit for those audiences. That would sadden me. Because it would only feed into the notion that American’s don’t deserve their own movies anymore. And I love movies.
Update: I re-read what I wrote, and I want to emphatically state that while the Guardians is funny, it is in no way as funny as This is Spinal Tap or The Rutles. It’s an action movie with a great sense of comedy, not a great comedy.
There’s a post on Techdirt about the nostalgia people feel for newsprint. Wherein people will still invest and lose large quantifies of money trying to prop them up.
I used to love newspapers. I mean I loved them. I’d get to school or work and spend the first half an hour of my day reading. It was awesome. I’d save some for lunch, so I’d have something to read then.
It was annoying at times. Signing up for a subscription was always a suspicious process, sort of like signing up for a gym membership. Why was it so shady and complicated?
If you bought from a local machine, sometimes it’d be empty or wouldn’t work. So you’d have to scurry around trying to find a paper.
Sometimes there would be missing sections to the paper, which always pissed me off.
Oh, and let’s not forget the ads. Killing a tree to give me a ton of weekend ads I’ll never look at just seemed so pointless. Even back when I was in love.
But none of those mattered, because I was in love. Until the internet came out. Back in the 90s I realized I was reading in the paper the exact same stories I read the night before online. AP story after AP story.
But I was in love, so it didn’t matter. I still had local news, editorials, and the comics.
But the local news and editorials departments shrank, to save money. And in all honesty, I only read two or three comics. So I started getting newspapers less and less. And eventually I had to face the fact, I no longer loved newspapers.
But even worse, I didn’t even have any fond memories of newspapers. You don’t have fond memories of more difficult archaic ways. “Oh, I miss the days before microwave ovens when I’d spend 40 minutes warming up a frozen dinner.” No, I don’t.
When something better comes along, I don’t look back fondly, I look back and think, “How did I put up with that crap?” So yes, newspapers were crap. We just didn’t realize it at the time. They didn’t have the immediacy of radio or TV, but they had depth and substance. But those advantages died with the net. And good riddance. You won’t be missed by me.
There’s been a lot of press saying that the Washington Redskins have lost their trademark in their name. But that’s not true, at all.
The U.S. Patent Office did determine that the term “Redskins” is offensive. And because offensive terms cannot be trademarked, technically speaking, the trademark has been cancelled. But that does not mean that the Redskins no longer have a trademark.
First, the Patent Office has not cancelled it yet. It’s still a valid trademark during the appeal.
Second, it’s likely that the decision will be overturned on appeal.
Third, and this is the most important part of all. Even if the appeal upholds the decision of the Patent Office, that only affects Federal trademark protection. There are two types of trademark protection in the US: Registered and common-law. You can register with the Patent Office and receive federal protection across the US and its territories. You’ll see this ® symbol.
The other means is to simply use a term or phrase in commerce along and you’re all set, for your geographic area. This is called a common-law trademark.
Since the Redskins have sold their products throughout the geographic United States, the Redskins have common-law trademark protection in each and every state, and territory.
So if you tried to sell Redskins t-shirts outside of the stadium, you can be sued in whatever state you’re in. If you tried to sell Redskins coffee mugs online, you can be sued in whatever state you’re in.
And additionally, the (highly offensive) Redskin mascot is protected by copyright, so you cannot use that without permission.
The action of the Patent Office made it slightly more difficult for the Redskins to protect their trademark. But they still have a trademark.
A while ago I wrote about how Mike Meyers sucks as an actor, film maker, and a comedian. Today I’m going to talk about Johnny Depp.
Movie pundits are shocked that yet another Johnny Depp movie, Transcendence, has flopped. They’re shocked because he’s such a bankable star. So many of his movies make money. Heck, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies made billions!
The problem with Hollywood and Hollywood pundits, is that they all use Humean logic. And that means, If a movie was successful in the past, it will be successful in the future. If an actor was successful in the past, s/he will be successful in the future. If a genre of movie was successful in the past, it will be successful in the future.
That’s why we see so many ripoffs. The Matrix was a huge hit, so we had tons of shitty “bullet time” movies that bombed. When the Transformer movies were huge hits, we got an awful movie about the game Battleship, that flopped hard of course. Oh… and a movie about GI Joes, when the first one didn’t make enough money, they immediately had to reboot it with another one that flopped. Why, because the Transformer movies keep making money.
What I’m saying is that Hollywood sees correlative patterns and makes causal judgments of the future about them. The Transformer movies were not hits because they were based on toys. They were hits, in part, because they were produced by Michael Bay, who has a great track record with making money, and the movies had great special effects. So great, that I actually took the time to write a review for the first movie, even though I didn’t like it. In other words, the Transformer movies didn’t have to be about the toys, they could have been about space robots fighting on earth, and they still would have done just was well. In other words, the toys tie-in was a correlation, not causation.
So, back to Depp, he has been in a lot of movies that made money. But they did not make money because of Depp. That’s the Humean error Hollywood is making. All the Caribbean movies made money, but in the first three he was only a secondary character. He did not star in one until the fourth movie, and it only make half the money as the first one. Let me make this point clear, once Depp was made a star of a Caribbean movie, it made less than all the others.
Alice in Wonderland made a ton of money, but, once again, Depp was only a secondary character. Once again, it didn’t make money because of Depp.
Early on Depp had a string of money making movies, including Edward Scissorhands. However, that movie only made $56,362,352 at the box office. And the only reason it made a profit, is because it only cost $20 million to produce. In comparison, Depp’s latest movie cost $100 million and so far has only made $21 million in return. There’s just no way it will make that kind of money back.
Other Depp movies that made money because they were cheap to make include: Chocolat cost $25 million, Once Upon a Time in Mexico cost $29 million, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas cost $18.5 million, and the last example, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape cost only $11 million.
I’m not pointing out how little these movies costs to criticize them. I’m not arguing that only expensive movies are worth making. My point is that you’re more likely to succeed if you aim low enough.
Let’s think hypothetically. You run a sales agency. How do you pick your best salesman. Is it strictly the number of sales? Or is it the amount of profit he made? Depp was the former. He was “successful” because he had a lot of sales that didn’t add up to much. In other words, Hollywood was wrong about the future success of Depp’s work. So having him co-star in the Lone Ranger didn’t help the movie. (Not that I think anything could have helped the movie as made.) And having him star in Dark Shadows, The Rum Diaries, and his latest, could not have helped either.
The fact is that Johnny Depp sucks both as a character actor and as a Hollywood star.
Gary Oldman is a great example of a great character actor. He loses himself in every role he plays. Compare his role of the corrupt DEA agent in Leon the Professional to his role of Commissioner Gordon in the Dark Knight movies. He’s barely even recognizable as the same actor. As an actor, he makes the audience believe what they’re watching. That makes the film more believable, which makes it better. Even if no one buys a ticket because Gary Oldman is in the film, they’re buying it because it’s a good film, and it’s a good film in part because of Gary Oldman.
The other type of actor is the Hollywood star actor. The best example of this is Bruce Willis. The guy is not an actor. He never loses himself in the role, like Oldman does. He plays Bruce Willis in every movie. But each movie he’s in requires that character, so he works perfectly. Maybe it can’t be put into words, but an “actor” like Willis has a certain screen presence and charisma that audience like when it’s used appropriately. So we love watching Willis in RED and Die Hard. Because he captures the tough but accessible “everyman” perfectly. Not by working hard, but by merely being himself.
Johnny Depp is neither of these actors. Let’s look at his most famous role, Jack Sparrow. While Depp might have lost himself in the role, does anyone watching actually believe Depp is an actual pirate? No. He was playing a caricature of a pirate. So he’s not a great character actor.
Did his performances as Jack Sparrow evoke his natural screen presence and charisma? No. He was just playing a drunk pirate. So he’s not an Hollywood star, either.
In context of the Pirate movies, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow was important for one simple reason: Comedic relief. The movies are actually pretty dark, where innocent people die quite frequently. But Johnny Depp made it fun. In the same way, Chris Tucker made Rush Hour fun. But that does not mean Chris Tucker is a great actor. And neither is Johnny Depp.
Looking at Depp’s other movies, the main problem I have with his acting is that he cannot act. And by that I mean I never believe any of his characters are real. There’s a facade about his performances, a falsity, a detachment, as if he’s in on some joke we’re not privy to.
Look at Rotten Tomato‘s list of Depp’s best movies. It’s filled with either animated or unreal characters. E.g., Rango or Ed Wood. And more importantly, there’s not one great movie on it. Every one is at best, adequate. Even Nicolas Cage had Leaving Las Vegas.
So hate me if you want, but Depp sucks. He can’t seriously act. He’s not a hollywood star. He had a very lucky career because he appeared in a string of movies that made a little money because they were made very cheaply. But his luck has run out. Sure, they’ll make another Caribbean movie and it’ll make a ton of money. Pundits will say his career is back on track. But it won’t be. Because his follow-up movie will flop, unless it’s made very cheaply.
First the Right argues that we can’t give homosexuals and lesbians equal rights, because that would violate the religious rights of others. Then the Right argues that the religious rights of others should be punished by the force of law if those religious rights are used to marry gays and lesbians.
Basically, the Right are so desperate they’ll do anything to avoid gay marriages.
But there’s a zero sum tactic I have not heard. Get the government out of the marriage business. In other words, eliminate government sanctioned marriage.
Of course there still would be marriage. Couples could still go to their churches and such to get married. But those marriages would have no effect under the law and the government would keep no records of such unions. And of course there would be no tax benefits for getting married.
The hard part would be getting the government out of the divorce business. I’m sure that some religious sects would have unfair divorce policies. E.g., giving sole custody of any children to the father. I’m not sure we’d accept that as a society.
That being said, the libertarian in me can’t grasp why the government gets to be in the wedding business. And I’m shocked the Right hasn’t jumped on getting it out.
Pundits are saying that the Tea Party’s win against Eric Cantor shows that the party is not dead. However, the fact that the Tea Party beat Eric Cantor is the best thing that could have happened to the Democrats. It’s a simple fact the white middle/upper classes that make up the GOP voting block cannot be sustained forever. The colors of our country are changing. It’s a fact. And those colors are not being accepted in the GOP and do not vote for the GOP.
Eric Cantor was kicked out of office for taking a very minor step towards immigration reform. This will send shock waves throughout the rest of the GOP. No one in the GOP will touch immigration reform. That will leave the Democrats to win those votes.
The growing numbers of Hispanics in Texas means that in less than ten years it will be a blue state. Interestingly, the New Republic claims it won’t happen. But their reasoning is flawed. They agree the numbers will be in the Democrat’s favor. But they argue that Hispanics tend not to vote. Seriously, they’re admitting that angry white men will be in the minority, but are hoping and praying the majority won’t vote. They will start voting once they become a majority and their votes start actually counting.
The only thing that could have possibly stopped this was by the GOP co-opting the immigration reform movement. Latinos tend to be Catholic and Catholics tend to be conservative. So it would have been a match made in heaven. The GOP could have kept Texas (and New Mexico and Arizona and Florida) red for decades.
But not anymore. Now it’s only a matter of time. All those the votes from those angry white men bitching about immigration will mean nothing. If you have a party based upon exclusion, you’re going to lose. It’s a fact.
Update – June 16, 2014: This site seems a little suspicious, but apparently the trope that Cantor was defeated by the Tea Party is inaccurate, they didn’t support him at all. And furthermore, the winner of the primary, Dave Brat, barely campaigned on the issue of immigration at all. Mmmm…
I was reading a discussion about redditors’ favorite villains on Reddit. The Borg came up. But I don’t think the Borg are objectively villains. They’re only trying to give order and efficiency to the universe and they’re perplexed why anyone wouldn’t want it.
I think the Borg were set up as a contrast to the Prime Directive. The Borg are essentially the Federation. They’re exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations. But once they find them, they’re taking what is deemed advantageous and destroying what isn’t.
So from our subjective perspective, the Borg are terrible. But it’s the same as Americans who want to spread democracy and capitalism so desperately, that they’ll do it with an army behind them. Those people honestly believe they’re giving a better life. And when it works, maybe they’re right.
And what really makes a villain? To me it’s acting in a personal manner in opposition to the greater good. So if you rob a bank for personal gain, you’re a villain. But if you rob a bank and give to the poor, you’re a hero. (And if you work in opposition to the greater good without any personal benefit, you’re a sociopath.)
The Borg don’t even have a concept of personal gain. They have no greed, no anger, no pride. Every single thing they do, they do for the greater good of the Borg, and in their mind, the universe.
Think about it this way. A ship is sinking. The only way to seal the breach is to seal off a section of the ship, leaving those inside the section to die. Either everyone dies or those inside the section die. The captain decides to seal the section off. Is he a villain? Maybe even a hero?
What if he was forced to go inside the section to seal it himself? So he also dies to save everyone outside the section. Wouldn’t he be considered a hero then?
The Borg finds civilizations that have petty (to the Borg) conflicts concerning resource and property allocation. The Borg solves all of those conflicts. There is no war or want within the collective. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” epitomizes the Borg.
You might argue that freedom is more important. But what is freedom to someone starving? To someone fighting in an unjust war? Is freedom more important than progress? Than life?
I’m not actually arguing these points. I’m just trying to show they’re not objective. You might subjectively love your belief in freedom. You might even subjectively believe you have freedom! But, it’s not the truth.
So the Borg are not evil. If anything I’d consider the Borg amoral. Without a personal drive and ambition, they lack both morality and an immorality.
In fact, I think a great idea for fan fiction would be the introduction of evil into the collective. A part of the collective would see evil as a means to advance itself and would break off. That branch would allow its members to have greed and and personal wants. Heck, it sort of sounds like the Ferengi.
First off, I really like Kevin Smith. Clerks was a great independent movie. Clerk’s 2 was fucking hilarious, there’s not a bad scene in the entire movie. Zack and Miro make a Porno was very funny, and I can’t understand why it failed where other R-rated raunchy coming of age comedies succeeded, e.g., Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin.
He’s also a great story teller. Listen to this video of him describing a week he spent making a documentary with Prince. It’s fucking hilarious. And even when it’s not funny, you can’t stop listening because it’s so enthralling. The guy really knows how to tell a story.
So I do like Kevin Smith, so the next portion of this post comes not from hate, but from a pure quest for the truth: Why the fuck is Kevin Smith allowed to keep making movies?
His movies always bomb. His most beloved movie, Dogma, made only $47,857,700, adjusted for inflation. Compare that to the universally reviled Jack and Jill, which made a whopping $74,158,157. Let me make this perfectly clear: Jack and Jill bombed at the box office is hated by everyone and still made nearly twice as much one of Smith’s biggest successes!
And someone somewhere is behind the scenes helping Smith. He gets hugely successful actors to appear in his films, such as Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Liv Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Seth Rogen. But yet they completely bomb.
And Smith keeps getting chance after chance to finally break into the big leagues. Ben Affleck in Chasing Amy, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in Cop Out, and Lopez and Affleck in Jersey Girl. Who gets this many chances with big league talent?
Well, I won’t hold you in suspense any longer, my theory about Smith is that he has a psychological fear of succeeding, and he compensates for that by sabotaging his own work in the guise of being willing to live on his own terms. In his mind, appearing to “keep it real” is more important than actual success. “I didn’t fail, I kept it real!”
For example, he rationalizes his big budget bombs by arguing there was too much interference and he didn’t get to make the film he wanted. But yet, when he’s completely in control of the movie, it still bombs. So that doesn’t make any sense. And it’s a fact that even successful directors get interference. E.g., Sam Raimi was forced to include Venom in Spider-man 3. But yet it still made $336,530,303.
But this psychological fear makes him attack and burn bridges against people trying to help him. Like the Prince video above, why does Smith have to burn that bridge? Smith’s done the same thing with Bruce Willis. Smith tells a story before the fiasco movie Cop Out, about getting a random call from Willis saying, “Hey we’re both from Jersey, you should write a movie for me.” Instead of using that as a stepping stone, he uses it to deride Willis to his fans for bothering to call. Smith goes on deriding Willis for his work in the movie Cop Out. Do I think Willis was pleasant to work with? Certainly not. But why publicly air it? Why burn that bridge with one of the biggest stars of our time? Not only will Willis no longer work with him, but other actors won’t work for him for fear of being attacked.
But the most strange Smith feud is against Adam Carolla. You can watch a video of the two trying to work it out here, but I’ll explain it in a very petty nutshell:
Smith wanted to get into TV. Smith and Carolla did a podcast together. Smith suggested to Carolla they do a TV show together. Carolla politely agreed. Carolla emailed Smith his phone number and told him to call so they can get together for lunch and work through some ideas for the show.
Eventually Carolla gets approached for a show and he emails Smith that this is their opportunity. He again emails Smith and asks him to call so they can get lunch and talk about the details. Via email Smith informs Carolla that they’ve already approached him about the show. Carolla again asks Smith to call so they can work out some ideas in person.
Carolla fails to appear on a podcast Smith held, to which Smith never invited him.
Smith writes the production company and claims that he won’t work with Carolla. Despite the fact that Carolla signed a $500,000 contract, the producers pull out of it. Smith tries to do the show himself, but it ends up going nowhere. Smith did get his $500,000.
Anyway, the specific complaints Smith had against Carolla show how messed up Smith is.
First, Smith was highly offended when Carolla asked him to call. Smith felt that if Carolla wanted to talk on the phone, Carolla should have called him. This is pure passive aggressive mind-games crap because it’s a fact that Smith never asked Carolla to call him, and despite numerous emails, never gave Carolla his number. Smith was mad at Carolla because Carolla didn’t do what Smith never asked him to do. It was a secret test that Carolla failed.
Second, Smith was highly offended that Carolla failed to attend that podcast, despite admitting that he never asked Carolla to attend. He did ask a tertiary acquaintance, but never asked Carolla himself or his manager. And this is despite numerous emails going back and forth about the TV show. Carolla did end up hearing about it, three days before the podcast when he was being interviewed on a radio program. But because Smith had never asked him, he assumed it was a mistake. Smith was highly offended that Carolla did not call him about the podcast. Once again, this was a secret test that Carolla failed. Smith never mentioned it to Carolla, despite numerous opportunities. And Carolla failed by not calling, which Smith admittedly refused to do.
Third and last, when Smith sabotaged Carolla’s side of the TV deal, Smith was highly offended that Carolla didn’t simply call Smith and ask what the problem was. Once again, a secret test. Carolla was supposed to get a hold of Smith to work out their differences, when Smith refused to get a hold of Carolla to work out his own personal differences. Instead of writing the producers, Smith could have written Carolla directly. But he passive aggressively did it behind the scenes, and then blamed it all on Carolla for not fixing it.
This is so fucking petty. Smith is bending over backwards trying to burn a bridge with Carolla. Why? I think it’s because Smith feared success. As the deal was closer to being finalized, he had to come up with ways to sabotage it. And he did that by burning bridges and “keeping it real.” He gets to go on his podcasts and tours and explain what a prick Carolla is for refusing to call him and for ditching on the podcast.
This is really sad. Smith is talented. Smith deserves success. But his fear will keep that from ever happening. But he’ll die thinking he was “right” and all those idiots tried to screw him over. When all anyone did was try to help. If Smith has any bridges left, I hope those friends host an intervention. Maybe there’s still time left to save him from himself.