Sunday, 26 January 2003

Penn & Teller's trick

By the way, the Penn and Teller Super Bowl prediction trick came off without a hitch (that didn't stop me from figuring out how they did it though). The drawback to working with a live, unmanaged camera is that it's fairly clear how the trick was done, if you don't pay too much attention to Penn blabbering on and Teller waving around the sledgehammer.

Of course, it didn't help that one of the bystanders was pointing at the "confederate" the entire time she was switching the original paper they stored inside the test tube inside the pipe inside the giant pickle jar with the one prepared after the game was over. Nor was it helpful that she fiddled with it for a good 15-30 seconds in plain view of the camera.

Still, it was a cool trick, and I'm sure millions of people around the world think they did it with holograms or magic paper or an advanced flexible LCD display or camera tricks or something.


Virginia Postrel writes about her Lasik surgery experience today. It's something I've thought about vaguely (but never seriously considered; same with the fun and excitement of liposuction), but ultimately I've concluded that wearing glasses just suits me better than being "two-eyed." Now if they just figured out a way to keep the damn things clean...

As always, other good stuff there too...

Superbowl Thoughts

Rather than spam the blog with entries, I'll just add thoughts here as the game goes on... meanwhile, Oliver Willis has some football blogging of his own.

4:52 CST (Kickoff -0:30)

What's the point of these elaborate pre-game production numbers? I realize they have to kill time in the interminable four-plus hour pre-game show, but sheesh.

Related note: the last 3:45 has only featured two moderately entertaining segments: the front half of a magic trick by Penn & Teller, and Jimmy Kimmel saying "good-bye" to cable.

Another related note: the local ABC station (WPTY) keeps taking the picture down to 3/4 screen to plug its relaunch of its newscast tonight. If they do that during the game, I may hop in the car and kick some butt up in Memphis.

YARN: The Gratuitous T&A Counter is now at 4, after:

  • A preview for some sort of T&A special on ABC next month.

  • A preview for The Practice featuring a spoof of the "Every Guy's Fantasy" Bud Light commercial.

  • A preview of tonight's Alias with Jennifer Garner in both red and black lingerie. (Maybe that should count as 2 instances of Gratuitous T&A.)

  • A preview of Celebrity Mole with a notable jiggle-factor by one of the has-been celebs.

That's Network 4, Advertisers 0.

5:04 CST (Kickoff -0:19)

Oh, how mighty Ahnold has fallen.

Administrative note: the GTAC will not be incremented for gratuitous cheerleader shots. We're still holding at 4 (plus a potential Jennifer Garner bonus).

5:14 CST (Kickoff -0:09)

Someone tell Rich Gannon that “God Bless America” isn't the national anthem. (No cheap shots at Celine here; Mom would kill me.)

5:23 CST (Kickoff -0:02)

Not holding my breath on a 5:25 kickoff. Michele has some poll questions she'd like you to answer. (I'm too busy blogging the Super Bowl.)

5:28 CST (Kickoff +0:03; 13:50 1st)

Ok, so they got the kickoff off in time. Brad Johnson just threw a pick to Charles Woodson.

5:33 CST (Kickoff +0:08; 10:40 1st)

After a 5-yard sack, the Raiders kicked a field goal to go up 3-0. First ad: moderately amusing (“That referee's a jackass.” “No, I think it's a zebra.”). Second ad: Celine is singing about a car or something. Third ad: Quizno's. Still holding at 4 on the GTAC.

5:38 CST (Kickoff +0:13; 10:32 1st)

The Budweiser ad was oddly prescient — we've hit a replay already due to a ruled fumble on the kickoff return.

5:44 CST (7:51 1st)

After a decent drive, the Bucs stall — now 3-3 after the field goal. The Pepsi Twist and FedEx ads were amusing.

5:48 CST (7:51 1st)

GTAC incremented by Bud Light ad: now at 5. Also ads for The Hulk and Dodge trucks, neither of which are worth writing home about.

5:52 CST (6:36 1st)

Robyn is collecting “worst commercials” nominations at her blog. This ad block: Matrix II and III; the Gatorade “3 Mikes”; an ESPN “This is SportsCenter” ad.

5:57 CST (5:46 1st)

Anger Management looks lame. The Willie Nelson H&R Block ad is amusing. The Bud Light "handstand" ad was cringe-worthy.

6:07 CST (1:37 1st)

So far, this is a game for fans of the punt. Neither team seems to know what it's doing.

6:11 CST (End 1st)

Offensive ONDCP ad #1 of the evening: your tax dollars wasted. However, the Visa Yo/Yao/Yogi ad was moderately amusing. GTAC incremented by NHL/Pro Bowl promo to 6 (5 Network, 1 Advertiser).

6:21 CST (11:10 2nd)

The Bucs kick a 43-yarder to go up 6-3. Notable ad: the Bud Light “Dreadlocks” ad. GTAC is now at 7 (6 Network, 1 Advertiser) due to another 30 seconds of Jennifer Garner in lingerie.

7:14 CST (Halftime)

The Bucs scored a couple of times. It's now 20-3. The GTAC has been pretty constant, but Shania Twain has pushed it to 8 (6 Network, 1 Advertiser, 1 Halftime Performer); I expect Gwen Stefani to add another point shortly.

7:25 CST (Halftime)

As expected, Gwen added to the count, as did a Bachelorette promo. So we're now at 10 in the Gratuitous T&A Counter (7/1/2, for those of you keeping score at home).

8:49 CST (6:06 4th)

The game's gotten significantly more interesting; the Raiders have closed within 13, with another replay review on the 2-point try (denied); so, it's 34-21 Bucs. I think the GTAC is up to 11 (8/1/2), due to another promo for ABC's "search for America's hotties" or whatever it's called.

10:47 CST (Jennifer Garner probably in skimpy clothes)

Wow, that experiment worked well... not. But at least my prediction came true, even if the score (48-21 Bucs) was a bit more lopsided than I expected.

Jimmy Kimmel apparently isn't coming on here in the Memphis DMA, at least according to my DirecTV/TiVo APG. Signing off the Superbowl Thoughts...

Those of you looking for “Jennifer Garner lingerie,” please see here. Pervs. :-D

TDOT head to meet with citizens, legislators in W. Tennessee

New Tennessee Department of Transportation head Gerald Nicely (rapidly becoming a frequent subject of posts in this blog) plans to meet with Northwest Tennessee legislators and officials from the I-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition in Dyersburg on Tuesday, according to the Dyersburg State Gazette.

He is also making the rounds, meeting with members of the "TDOT Reform Campaign." This new group appears to be organized by the Sierra Club in opposition to projects in the Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville areas. The Memphis meeting is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 8 at the Shelby Farms Visitors Center; I encourage everyone with an interest in shaping TDOT policies to come and make their opinions known.

Why I can't be a Libertarian any more

I've written some on libertarians (and the Libertarian Party) before in this weblog (see here and in response to John J. Miller's nonsensical "The GOP would win if only libertarians would vote for us" argument here, here and here — to recap, John, in a republican democracy it's the party's responsibility to appeal to potential voters, not the voter's responsibility to vote for the "least bad" option offered by the two major parties). The truth is, however, the LP (despite still being the third-largest political party in the U.S.) isn't going anywhere fast — and electability isn't on the agenda. Libertarian ideas are selling — witness the stunning support for repealing Massachussetts' income tax in 2002 — but libertarian candidates aren't, at least not under the LP label.

Much of the blame for this, of course, can be laid at the feet of rigged electoral and campaign finance laws that entrench the power of the GOP and Democrats. Even in a post-Buckley world (free from the FECA), though, the electoral laws aren't going away. Which, in essence, means that if libertarians want to get elected to office (as opposed to working through the courts via like-minded groups like the Institute for Justice or through think-tanks like CATO), they're going to have to do it through the two existing major parties, using what I'd call the Ron Paul strategy.

The ground conditions for doing this vary from state to state. In most states, it's probably fair to say that the Republicans are rhetorically, if not in fact, closer to libertarian positions than the Democrats; if nothing else, the existence of the Republican Liberty Caucus and the absence of a similar Democratic-leaning organization suggests that Republicans are more willing to embrace libertarian principles, despite the hard-right influences in the party.

Beyond the practical matter of getting elected, however, it seems like the LP's disconnect with geopolitical reality is becoming more and more pronounced in light of the problem of global terrorism. While I respect the principled stand of many LP members and leaders, including 2000 presidential candidate Harry Browne, on foreign policy matters, I find it difficult to believe that the September 11 attacks wouldn't have taken place if the U.S. had pursued a more isolationist foreign policy, nor do I believe that Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-Il would be less belligerent global actors without the U.S. having a role in Gulf and East Asian politics. As a matter of first principles, avoiding foreign entanglements would be the best policy — unfortunately, we've had foreign entanglements since the XYZ Affair during the Adams administration. Our government can't simply hide under a ballistic missile shield and pretend that the rest of the world doesn't exist.

The Libertarian Party, for better or worse, is a party of principle (or "The Party of Principle," if you prefer). As such, it is inherently unelectable in a two-party system with plurality elections; you can't build a winning coalition on the uncompromising LP platform except if (a) you call yourself a Republican, (b) you do it in a highly-Republican district and (c) somehow win the Republican primary (Ron Paul's technique). Even at the state and local level, running on a party ticket as a Libertarian is not a vote-winner absent incompetent campaigning by the major-party candidates and a strong LP candidate. The LP doesn't have the resources to counter-act this effect (due, in large part, to FECA; McCain-Feingold will only make it worse) by getting an effective message out or electing a critical mass of candidates, and is unlikely to gain those resources — or more favorable rules — in the foreseeable future.

Fundamentally, the purpose of political parties is to win elections (see Why Parties? by John Aldrich — and no, parties are not evil!). The Libertarian Party, as currently constituted and working within the existing rules, can't do that. And since libertarianism can't be effectively advanced by the LP, there's no longer any point in my being a member.

Any implication that this post is the groundwork for me running as a GOP candidate in Mississippi's November elections is probably true.

Obligatory Superbowl Prediction

Tampa Bay 24, Oakland 17. (And I'm not just saying that to stay on Robyn's good side!)

The downside to a Bucs victory, of course, is that Warren Sapp won't shut up for the next twelve months. The upside is that at least he isn't as annoying as Terrell Owens.