Thursday, August 26, 2010

Truly Outstanding Movies: Land and Freedom

Note: Land and Freedom is not available on Region 1 DVD. It is, however, available on YouTube. You can watch it here.

It can be difficult to mix movies and politics. The needs of telling a story don't always jibe with the needs of making a detailed coherent argument. It also has to be condensed into close to an hour and a half. A book can do a better job at making detailed arguments, especially a non-fiction book. But with movies, you usually have to compromise. That's the rule. And Ken Loach's Land and Freedom is the exception.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'm Afraid We Need to Use (gasp) Math!!!

The most recent episode of Futurama, "The Prisoner of Benda" was one of the most mathematically intense episodes. Written by Ken Keeler, who has Erdős number 4 for his paper "Short encodings of planar graphs and maps" co-written with fellow Futurama writer Jeff Westbrook.

Since the math got a bit complicated, I thought I would provide this handy little guide to what exactly was going in mathematically and what concepts were used.

As you could probably tell from the moment Professor Farnsworth said "Mind-Switcher", this is an episode about group theory, specifically the theory of the symmetric group.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Salute to Important Criminals

I would like, if I may, take some time to salute some criminals who made important contributions to society. Because, every once in a while, you should take the time to thank a criminal.

Now, I'm not trying to say that criminals are inherently good. In fact some of them are downright horrible. I'm looking at you, Bernie Madoff. However, consider the following. We have a black history month despite the continued existence of Alan Keys and Flava Flav. We have a women's history month despite the continued existence of Margaret Thatcher and Ke$ha. So why shouldn't criminals be similarly honored?

Like black people and women, criminals are discriminated against. There is an unwritten assumption that criminals are inherently bad people. It's almost as if the written law had some sort of actual correlation between good and evil. Now that's just crazy talk, but it's crazy talk that people believe, just like creationism and the linearity of the square root.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Impotence of the "Professional Left"

The Obama administration has always been about bringing the country together. No matter how much resistance the Republicans and the teabaggers put up, the friendly folks in the White House will always look for a compromise. You know, for the sake of unity and whatnot. Free healthcare? No? Then how about a toothless public option? Still to radical? Okay then, how about we force people to give their money to a bunch of HMOs? There we go!

Of course, this spirit of togetherness only applies to the right. If you actually want free health care then, according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, you're a crazy person who ought to be drug tested. Sorry Gibbsyboy, but I have no intention of paying for drug tests. Now if you were to say, provide free health care, then I might consider it.