Saucers of Mud

June 24, 2008

Soylent Green Is Bocaburgers (Spoilers)

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 6:49 am

So Soylent Green is based on a science fiction novel called Make Room! Make Room! in which… Soylent Green isn’t made of people. (I’d say it’s like Planet of the Apes without the Statue of Liberty, but.) Everyone’s desperate for “soylent steaks,” where “soylent” is soya and lentil. Veggie burgers, in other words.

I was reminded of this by Yglesias’s comment that limiting carbon emissions will lead to eating less meat and more plants, since raising animals is very carbon-intensive; and

That kind of thing is one reason why I think the cost of adjusting to a low-carbon future will actually prove much lower than people think. A lot of the changes in habit that a world of more expensive energy will incentive are things that there are sound unrelated reasons to do. Less meat-eating and more walking and biking would improve the health and long-term quality of life of the population.

The thing is that soylent products can be quite tasty. A New York where many people eat lots of soy and lentil products isn’t a dystopia of near-starvation, it’s our modern New York that’s full of vegetarians and people who don’t eat much meat. (And this vision is a lot more plausible than the movie version; if you think about it, reprocessing people into meat is an incredibly inefficient way of getting nutrients. Only works if the population is dropping drastically, so you’re eating more people than you’re feeding. This is not to deny that it’s much more effective artistically.)

Make Room! Make Room! also seems to have a Caves of Steel population estimation problem — apparently there are seven billion people worldwide in the book, which there almost are now and New York City isn’t a Malthusian hellhole (even if people do live in small spaces). Though admittedly the book has New York City’s population at 35 million, which might be a bit of a strain (though maybe not, if there was a lot more density in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island; and if you didn’t have super-rich people taking up a lot of spacein Manhattan, which I’m guessing you don’t have in the book). Lots of people in underdeveloped countries are living the Malthusian nightmare, but I don’t think it’s due to population pressure, and I’m not sure that it’s worse than it was around 1966.

June 18, 2008

People I’d Like To See Profiled

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 6:43 am

1. The guy who shouts “Yeah!” in SexyBack. Does he work for Timberlake or Timbaland? Does he want to branch out? How did he get the job? Was he discovered shouting “Yeah!” at a sporting event or a concert, or did he work his way up from shouting “Yeah!” on other songs? Does he want to branch out? Does he maybe aspire to a solo album? It could be called “The Yeah Man.”

(If it’s actually Timberlake who shouts “Yeah!” I will be sad.)

2. Rudy Giuliani’s lone delegate. Who is he? (It’s not easy to find out, and yes, I’m making an assumption about the gender.) The article, of course, will be called “The 50 Million Dollar Man.”

June 16, 2008

Perlstein and Hershberger on Jane Fonda and POWs

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 12:04 pm

Talking Points Memo’s front page linked to this article about John McCain’s National War College thesis about the alleged effect of anti-war dissent on POW behavior. It mentioned (in a photo caption) that one POW, Sgt. Abel Kavanaugh, shot himself after his release, when the military began to court-martial him for collaboration. Searching for more information about this, I found this fascinating review by Rick Perlstein of Jane Fonda’s War by Mary Hershberger. Perlstein (and Hershberger) talk about Fonda’s antiwar activism and her visit to POWs in 1971, and some of the myths around the anti-Jane cult. It’s an interesting read in combination with the article about McCain.

There doesn’t seem to be much about Kavanaugh on the web (here’s a contemporary article that briefly discusses his suicide). The main text of the Times article seems almost actively deceptive by omission; it says:

Court-martial charges were filed against two officers and seven enlisted men, he noted. “Probably more would have been charged if the Vietnam War had been like other wars in which this country has engaged,” Mr. McCain wrote. (Top military leaders quickly quashed charges against those nine.)

It seems like it would be worth mentioning in the main text that the charges weren’t dismissed until after one of the POWs had committed suicide. Hounding a POW to death was much harsher than anything done to, say, the perpetrators of the My Lai massacre; William Calley served three and a half years house arrest.

UPDATE: aimai has more thoughts on this. My favorite part:

Its often forgotten that the war at home was a “war” because the Government insisted that on it–insisted on the language and tactics of war at home, on the protesters, their families, and their motives and their lives. And that that was in defence of an incredibly unpopular war that by democratic means–the vote–the people had essentially already voted to abandon.

June 13, 2008

Bobby Jindal Is Mr. Flinchy

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 9:19 am

So I know this story ends with cancer and an exorcism, but man, the part they’re letting me read makes me think that Bobby Jindal was a bad guy to have a crush on in college.

Susan and I had developed an intimate friendship; indeed, our rela­tionship mystified observers, who insisted on finding a romantic component where none existed…. Susan had left the meeting in a very sullen mood. I asked her to join a group of us who were attending a Chris­tian a cappella concert to be held on campus that same evening…. Despite our intimacy, Susan and I had not spent much time together this past year. We had succumbed to pressure from our friends and de­cided we should not be so emotionally interdependent without a deeper commitment. To be honest, my fears of a relationship and the constraints of commitment had kept us apart; our friends’ objec­tions merely provided a convenient excuse…. Though Susan ap­peared composed throughout the concert, her sud­den departure in the middle of a song convinced me otherwise and affirmed my earlier suspicions…. I found that she had not gone far, but was sobbing uncontrollably outside the auditorium. Since we had been very careful to avoid any form of physical contact in our friendship, I was not sure how to respond. Could it be… Satan?

via Kleefeld ‘n’ Klonick, Kleiman, and Sullivan, and in fairness to Jindal I may not have been any better. On a more theological point, I think Jindal may have been on shaky grounds taking part in an exorcism without a priest; I don’t think the Catholic Church would approve. [more here]

…after starting this post, I see that Jezebel is all over this angle.

BTW, Mr. Flinchy — sadly, the subsequent pages are lost.

June 9, 2008

Two Thoughts about Then She Found Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 5:27 pm

1) They should call the movie How I Met My Mother.
2) They should make it a little more about the baby. Like, they could show this, or they could do a medley of this and the verse of this where Robert Plant sings “BAAY-bah” about fifteen times in a row. What’s up with that? I read the first hundred pages of the book, and there are no babies (or ex-husbands) in it. Bette Midler is perfectly cast, though.

[That’s not actually a negative review of the book, btw.]

[My official count is that the movie trailer contains the word “baby” six times, while the Led Zeppelin song contains the word “baby” 20 times (as well as about ten “babes” and four “womans”), so the movie has a ways to go.]

June 7, 2008

Fun with Small Sample Sizes

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 6:08 pm

One often hears something along the lines of “No non-Southern Democrat has won the White House in almost fifty years” (though not that much this year). Here’s a similar factoid I came up with: no non-incumbent Democrat over the age of 55 has won the White House since Woodrow Wilson. And he was 56. To get someone who was over 56 when elected (even Cleveland was only 55 when elected, as a non-incumbent, to his second term), we have to go back to James Buchanan, on everyone’s short list for worst President ever.

Clearly either the Democrats were very wise to nominate Obama, or these factoids are hooey.

June 4, 2008

Separated at Creation?

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 4:04 pm

I was goofing around looking into the background of this story, and through the main guy’s Wikipedia page I found this Wikinews story. Doesn’t the guy on the left look a lot like the guy on the right?

(The original piece begins “Ernie Chambers is Nebraska’s only African-American state senator, a man who has fought for causes including the abolition of capital punishment and the end of apartheid in South Africa.” I would not call those particularly out-there causes. Anyway, though I also appreciate that Chambers seems to get photographed in roughly the same T-shirt I’m now wearing, I have to say that I don’t have much sympathy for his lawsuit; he was trying to show that another lawsuit was frivolous, and while there may have been no basis for an alleged rape victim to sue a judge who ruled against her, the judge’s conduct was absolutely fricking appalling. I wouldn’t make my stand against frivolous lawsuits. I also think that prosecutors generally shouldn’t say that they think someone is guilty if they aren’t going to bring a case.)

June 2, 2008

A Brief Review of Mystery Series with Thematic Titles

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 12:04 pm

John D. MacDonald (the original?) ran into trouble. There are arbitrarily many color terms, but past the big eleven they start to sound somewhat silly. Let’s face it, “indigo” is just there to fill out the acronym in “Roy G. Biv,” and “The Dreadful Lemon Sky” sounds pretty desperate.

Janet Evanovich, obviously, is set for this life and the next. Well done, Janet! Though I have to say I read one of these and I don’t think the title had anything to do with the story.

Sue Grafton is probably fine; I don’t think she wants to write twenty-seven of these. [In fact that article says she doesn’t.] I just hope that she’s got something good in mind for ‘X’.

Harry Kemelman completely played himself.

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