Archive for January, 2013


OBR – The Walking Dead at the Break

Thoughts on The Walking Dead at the midpoint break of Season 3. Note that I’m going strictly on what I’ve seen so far of the television show – I’ve not read the original graphic novel and am privy to very little background information on the show:

  • Much stronger so far in terms of pacing and content. Season 1 was uneven with some fantastic episodes (the opener and the closer were both strong) while Season 2 was redundant and an exercise in tedium until the final two episodes. Nearly every episode of the third season has been engaging with the characters much more sure footed and considerably more exposition through visuals and action rather than dialogue and forced conversations. The opening scene where Rick’s party scavenges in an abandoned house is illustrative of this approach. The desperation and fatigue of the group are clearly evident along with the characters inhabiting more assured roles – all without any dialogue.
  • Andrea’s character, and too a lesser extent Michonne, has been one of the most enervating of the  season so far. Unfortunately the relationship between the two and how they operated for their eight months on the run is largely assumed as Andrea is either sick or in thrall of the Governor during most of their screen time together. Thus the two are almost always seen at odds rather than the implied mutual affection that supposedly characterizes their relationship. It doesn’t help that Michonne seems to wear a constant snarl and thus has little depth at the moment–though this could obviously change with some hints of it in her observation of Rick’s group’s closeness and her initial reaction to Penny’s confinement. Andrea’s behavior seems peculiarly out of character, particularly her fall for Woodbury and the Governor in light of the evidence that something unsettling is happening behind the scenes. This is in part because the audience knows far more about the underbelly of the town than she would which unfairly raises the viewer’s incredulity at Andrea’s gullibility. The showrunners could have made the Governor’s machinations more circumspect until the final episodes of the first half. For instance, they could not have shown the Governor taking down the National Guardsmen but only shown them returning in the military vehicles and Michonne’s subsequent suspicion about what actually happened to the soldiers. They could also have revealed the Governor’s secret room of heads and Penny until the final episode almost as written (perhaps with the Governor staring at the heads and then turning to the gate as Penny begins making a commotion).
  • One of the more awkward scenes was the “fight night” and Andrea’s reaction to it. Pitting two Woodbury fighters against one another in a bizarre MMA match surrounded by toothless zombies made little sense even in the Governor’s explanation that it allows the residents to blow off steam. Why is this appealing? Fights, whether boxing or MMA, were always something of a niche sport unlike basketball, baseball, football or even soccer and hockey.  Moreover since the fight appeared to be real, why would Woodbury risk some of its muscle in a pointless brawl? Although another sport would certainly risk injury, this one was designed to cause it. It’s also unclear why Andrea felt she needed to be repulsed by it and why she was uncomfortable with how she liked it. With the obvious exception of the zombie element, it’s not like this hadn’t been extant in the world prior to the outbreak. Perhaps she thought it barbaric then but far more barbaric events had transpired since the world moved on which she evidently accepted and even embraced evidenced by her desire to be armed and dangerous. A possible replacement scene would have been Merle and others in some sort of contest to see who could kill the most zombies in under ten seconds, or even an exhibition of killing zombies in comical and ridiculous fashion (the scene in A.I. where humans are destroying robots in some kind of rodeo is a fair example, although Walking Dead would have needed to go less campy). Naturally such grotesque violence, particularly if participants paraded around with severed limbs or heads, would certainly justify any revulsion and make her reluctant to admit her liking of it. The Governor’s explanation of stress relief and Andrea’s concern that it made people too cavalier about the zombie threat would have carried more weight. Moreover the Governor could have explained that it was also meant to dehumanize creatures that people humanized far too much–that each person will not “come back” but rather die and be desecrated by some disease that takes over their lifeless body. This game was a ritual purification of sorts. Secondarily this also would have juxtaposed nicely with Michonne’s zombie slaughter as well as Milton’s failure to discover an echo of a former self in a walker.
  • The Governor himself doesn’t strike me as a let down. Some were expecting a character more in the vain of Danny Trejo, as the comic would seem to depict him. According to Screen Rants, there was even speculation that John Hawkes might land the role, possibly reprising a version of his character from the excellent Winter’s Bone (for those not familiar). Morrissey himself is fairly neutral. He doesn’t take away anything from the character but doesn’t seem to be adding a lot either. He’s able to play psychopathic well without being particularly memorable. It is interesting that the producers went a completely different direction from the graphic novel in both Woodbury (which apparently wasn’t in the book) and the Governor, who, judging from the picture, was more of a hardcase than the refined Morrissey. Although the element of a suave and respectable veneer over ruthlessness is a compelling one in a post-apocalyptic setting, it wasn’t played terribly well by the showrunners, not only in regard to Andrea’s relationship to the Governor but also in the early reveal of his vicious and dictatorial behavior. If Andrea had gotten involved with a separate character in the village, such as Milton (perhaps a bit more self-assured–Hawkes might have been good in this role) whom she does take a liking to in the show for his compassion, the audience would observe the debonair Governor from more distance, and perhaps more through Milton’s admiration of him as Andrea probes him for more information in the course of their relationship. Naturally actors such as Javier Bardem or Daniel Day-Lewis would be strong in the role of the Governor, though obviously far too expensive or disinterested (or both). Danny Huston, given his strong performance in the similar role of depraved but erudite outlaw Arthur Burns in The Proposition, would have been a good choice. Guy Pearce, though likely more difficult to get, would have also been solid as a revamped Milton, possibly similar to his performance in L.A. Confidential.

Side note:

I also had a vision of the Governor sitting in a chair surrounded by still animate zombie heads nailed to the walls and ceiling of a small enclave, as opposed to the still very creepy heads in tanks. Also using Portishead’s Machine Gun in a zombie movie montage.


Roundup – Buttfumble

Line O’ the Day:

Until then, a look back at the funniest moments of the 2012 season. There’s certainly room for debate for things you felt worthy of inclusion that didn’t make the list. I had a hard time not including the GIF of Alfred Morris’ mom cleaning out her ears with her car keys. I know that’s an image everyone wanted to see again.

-Christmas Ape,  “The 10 Funniest Moments From The 2012 NFL Regular Season” [KSK]

Best of the Best:

‘She Stabbed The Teddy Bear With A Knife’: The First Time ‘Sesame Street’ Tried A Divorce Episode [Wikipedia via Josh Krupp on Warming Glow]

They once tried to deal with the subject of divorce. They knew they couldn’t do it with either of our married couples—Gordon and Susan or Maria and Luis—so they tried it with Snuffleupagus [and his sister, Alice], writing a show about his parents getting divorced. They wrote a whole show and taped it, and it was just devastating for test groups of kids. So they just threw the whole thing in the garbage and never tried it again.

W. Va. Woman Fights to Collect $10 Million from Debt Collectors [Elisabeth Leamy on ABC Nightline]

In a twist of irony, a West Virginia woman is trying to collect money from a collection agency. Diana Mey, of Wheeling, W. Va., won the largest judgment ever against an abusive debt collection company — more than $10 million…From her small-town home base in Wheeling, Mey went after a debt collection empire that hounds people nationwide and won. But she still hasn’t received any money.

Why Women Make Less Than Men [Kay Hymowitz, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, via The Wall Street Journal]

The Labor Department defines full-time as 35 hours a week or more, and the “or more” is far more likely to refer to male workers than to female ones. According to the department, almost 55% of workers logging more than 35 hours a week are men. In 2007, 25% of men working full-time jobs had workweeks of 41 or more hours, compared with 14% of female full-time workers. In other words, the famous gender-wage gap is to a considerable degree a gender-hours gap. The main reason that women spend less time at work than men—and that women are unlikely to be the richer sex—is obvious: children. Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers. But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.

Obama Justice and medical marijuana  [Glenn Greenwald on Salon]

President Obama gave an interview to Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner this week and was asked about his administration’s aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, including ones located in states where medical marijuana is legal and which are licensed by the state; this policy is directly contrary to Obama’s campaign pledge to not “use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.”

Music Film Is Delayed by Fees for Songs [Larry Rother on The New York Times]

Mr. Tedesco’s plight underlies the difficulties that the makers of music documentaries increasingly face. As the recording industry has seen its sales tumble by more than half since 2000, labels are intent on squeezing every bit of profit out of songs in their catalogs. Licensing that music to films — whether big Hollywood productions or modestly budgeted documentaries — is an attractive source of revenue.

Steep Rise of Complications in Childbirth Spurs Action [Laura Landro on The Wall Street Journal]

Emergencies during delivery, such as cardiac arrest, respiratory distress and kidney failure, increased by 75% in the decade ended 2009, according to a new study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the days immediately following delivery, severe complications for women more than doubled over the same time period…A big reason for the increase is the number of pregnant women who are older, obese, or have chronic conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease that put them at higher risk. But healthy women, too, can experience major complications such as severe bleeding, or hemorrhage, which is the most common cause of death after childbirth. A nearly 60% increase in the rate of Caesarean-section delivery since 1996 is associated with a sharp increase in a condition known as placenta accreta, in which the placenta grows into the uterine wall through a surgical scar, and can cause severe hemorrhage after delivery.

How to Control an Army of Zombies [Carl Zimmer on The New York Times]

Whether humans are susceptible to this sort of zombie invasion is less clear. It is challenging enough to figure out how parasites manipulate invertebrates, which have a few hundred thousand neurons in their nervous systems. Vertebrates, including humans, have millions or billions of neurons, and so scientists have made fewer advances in studying their zombification. Most of the research on vertebrate zombies has been carried on a single-celled parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Like thorny-headed worms, it moves between predators and their prey. Toxoplasma reproduces in the guts of cats, which shed it in their feces. Mammals and birds can pick up the parasite, which invade their brain cells and form cysts. When cats eat these infected animals, Toxoplasma completes its cycle. Scientists have found that Toxoplasma-infected rats lose their fear of cat odor — potentially making them easier prey to catch.

How Maurice Clarett Lost His Way, Bombed Out Of The NFL, Planned A Murder, Missed An Exit, And Found Himself (And Warren Buffett) In Prison [Monte Burke via Deadspin]

As Clarett wraps up, there are audible gasps and a few whispered “holy shit”s in the room. Some of the coaches stare at Clarett with stunned, almost fearful looks on their faces. There is a brief silent pause as Clarett sits down.

The Absolute Very Worst Movies Of 2012 [Ashley Burns on FilmDrunk]

Hundreds, if not thousands, of films are made each year, and a lot of them are bad. That’s not just by my standards; that’s by the standards of the majority. I have never, in the several years that Vince has let me poison the quality of his website, proclaimed to be a critic. I am just a bro who likes watching movies, and I have a naïve innocence that lets me still believe that people in Hollywood care about making quality films. Then I watch Bucky Larson and that gullible side of me is shoved into a wood chipper.

Moonlighting [Jonathan James on The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland]

Why do workers hold multiple jobs? The reasons are varied. One explanation is that workers may use multiple part-time jobs as a substitute for one full-time job. This is evident in the data. Part-time workers are more than twice as likely to work a second job as full-time workers. Yet still more than 4 percent of full-time workers hold multiple jobs.

Another explanation for working multiple jobs is that a worker’s main job provides income and their second job gives them an opportunity to do something they enjoy. In 2004, the most recent year in which multiple jobholders were surveyed on the reasons for taking extra work, almost 20 percent reported that they did so because they enjoyed the work done on their second job.

What Does It Take to Fool a Snake? Send in the Robot [John Letzing on The Wall Street Journal]

Today’s robot animals build on earlier studies, such as the one that persuaded cockroaches to come out of the dark. In an experiment that began in 2002, scientists in Belgium, France and Switzerland deployed cockroach robots to mingle with real roaches. Aiming to influence roach behavior, they found that robot roaches coated with pheromones could lead living bugs to hang out under brighter light if the fakes ventured out first.

Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke [Matt Taibbi on The Rolling Stone]

If you get pulled over in America with cash and the government even thinks it’s drug money, that cash is going to be buying your local sheriff or police chief a new Ford Expedition tomorrow afternoon.

Master computer controls universe? [The Times of India]

Explaining how the experiment works, physicists claim that finite computer resources mean that space time is not continuous but set on a grid with a finite volume, designed to create maximum energy subatomic particles. The direction these particles flow in will depend on how they are ordered on the grid. They will be looking at the distribution of the highest energy cosmic rays in order to detect patterns that could suggest that universe is the creation of some futuristic computer technology. And if it does turns out that we are mere players in some sort of computer programme, they suggested that there may be a way to mess with the program, and play with the minds of our creators.

Firearms Research – Homicide [Harvard Injury Control Research Center – Harvard School of Public Health]

We analyzed the relationship between homicide and gun availability using data from 26 developed countries from the early 1990s.  We found that across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides. These results often hold even when the United States is excluded. – Hemenway, David; Miller, Matthew. Firearm availability and homicide rates across 26 high income countries. Journal of Trauma. 2000; 49:985-88.

Revenge of the Reality-Based Community [Bruce Bartlett via The American Conservative]

In November 2003, I had an intellectual crisis. All during the summer of that year, an expansion of Medicare to pay for prescription drugs for seniors was under discussion. I thought this was a dreadful idea since Medicare was already broke, but I understood that it was very popular politically. I talked myself into believing that Karl Rove was so smart that he had concocted an extremely clever plan—Bush would endorse the new benefit but do nothing to bring competing House and Senate versions of the legislation together. That way he could get credit for supporting a popular new spending program, but it would never actually be enacted. I was shocked beyond belief when it turned out that Bush really wanted a massive, budget-busting new entitlement program after all, apparently to buy himself re-election in 2004. He put all the pressure the White House could muster on House Republicans to vote for Medicare Part D and even suppressed internal administration estimates that it would cost far more than Congress believed. After holding the vote open for an unprecedented three hours, with Bush himself awakened in the middle of the night to apply pressure, the House Republican leadership was successful in ramming the legislation through after a few cowardly conservatives switched their votes.

Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions? [Glenn Greenwald on The Guardian]

Over the last several days, numerous commentators have lamented the vastly different reactions in the US to the heinous shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut as compared to the continuous killing of (far more) children and innocent adults by the US government in Pakistan and Yemen, among other places.

On China’s Internet, a Pro-Gun Response to Newtown [Adam Minter on Bloomberg]

Pro-gun [Chinese] microbloggers have tended to stake out two overarching positions. First, guns are an important means of earning, and preserving, civil rights. And second, blame for U.S. massacres can no more be assigned to guns than the Chinese school stabbing-epidemic can be assigned to knives.

The Top 10 Animal Superpowers [Sarah Zielinski on The Smithsonian]

Humans may not be able to regenerate severed limbs or missing organs—at least not without the help of modern science—but simpler organisms have got this nailed. The king of regeneration, though, has to be the axolotl, a funny-looking salamander from Mexico. It can regrow not only its limbs but also its heart, spinal cord and even brain.

How the Bar Code Took Over the World [Drake Bennett and Jim Alley on Bloomberg Businessweek]

The bar code was a feat of technology, for sure. But it wasn’t a sure thing: The proposed system started off as one option among many in a stand-off among competing interests. So what enabled the bar code to take over the world? How might today’s emerging technologies (we’re looking at you, mobile payments) achieve similar dominance?

Let’s Talk About Sex…During Sex  [Dr. Amy Muise on Science of Relationships]

So it’s not only important to share your sexual needs and desires with a partner outside of the bedroom,3 but it is also important to do so right in the heat of the moment. The researchers found that even a small amount of anxiety can influence the degree to which you communicate pleasure with your partner during sex,1 and improving these communication skills may have positive results for your sex life.

The Art of Pickup: Misogyny in Action [Elizabeth A. Schoenfield on Science of Relationships]

It all really comes down to what these strategies are designed to do. Because these assertive pickup techniques are intended to propel the relationship from hand-shaking to bed-shaking as quickly as possible, it makes sense they would appeal to people who feel more comfortable sleeping with strangers. And because these strategies are an exaggerated version of the traditional courtship script (featuring the male as the sexual initiator and the female as the sexual gatekeeper), it also makes sense that individuals with sexist attitudes would be more drawn to initiation strategies in which men assert their dominance.

Getting Her There: When Are Women Most Likely To Have Orgasms? [Dr. Benjamin Le on Science of Relationships]

But when it comes to female orgasms, long-term relationships seem to be the place to find them: 67% of women in relationships reported they had an orgasm with their partners the last time they had sex, which supports the commitment and affection perspective. Similarly, rates of enjoyment of sexual activity (e.g., “enjoyed it very much”) were higher in relationships (81%) compared to hookups (50%).

Curiously Strong Remains:

11 Most Ridiculous Criminals of 2012


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