The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

To the occasional frustration of my friends, I'm usually reluctant to spend the time on going out to a movie, particularly if it doesn't involve carefully re-staged pre-twentieth century battles. But Cave of Forgotten Dreams, from Werner Herzog, is one that would get me up and out of my desk chair and into a theater.

Herzog (Fitzcarraldo; Cobra Verde; Aguirre, the Wrath of God; and many others) got authorization to film in Chauvet Cave, in 3D, no less. Few people get to go into Chauvet for any reason, since its paintings are fragile and, incidentally, the oldest known so far. Herzog's film is the only chance most people will get to see this stuff, and as such it would be OK with me if they'd just mindlessly pointed the cameras at the walls and shot. Reviews, though, say it's actually art, as a film, about the art in the cave. In any case, making something watchable and (I hope) even beautiful while restricted to four hours a day for a couple of weeks, shooting from a two-foot-wide walkway, would be a real accomplishment. I hope the Michigan Theater has it on its list.

If anyone sees a listing for Cave of Forgotten Dreams, showing anywhere reasonably close to Ann Arbor, please let me know.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Death panels! GOP balances budget on the backs of seniors!

Just kidding.

But, now we know. (Of course, we knew already, those of us who can perform basic arithmetic calculations and/or let Excel do it for us.) You can't simultaneously raise revenue and hold it constant (let alone decrease it,) unless you're prepared to call it a quantum budget. So in order, hypothetically, to attract new jobs to Michigan, part of the Governor's plan is being reported to be: reduce business taxes while shifting some of the burden (not much, actually, if you read between the lines) to ... wait for it ... the evil elderly.

Actually, not all that many of the elderly, since the proposal is to tax public and private pension plan income. Other kinds of retirement income (except social security) are already taxed, and not many companies are doing actual pension plans for recent employees, so I guess this is aimed right at the shorts of (pick all that apply) the UAW, the UAW, the UAW, those expensive public employees we keep hearing about, and the UAW.

There are spending cuts involved, too, and already (Snyder hasn't actually given his speech yet,) (oops, yes he has) the Michigan Municipal League, the schools, the universities, the AARP, and many other radical organizations have expressed reactions ranging from outrage to outrage.

Me? Well, I don't have one of those pension plans, so if and when I do retire, I was kind of assuming that I'd continue to pay state taxes on my income, here or somewhere else. But more to the point, as I've said for, hell, decades now, you cannot cut taxes. You can't. I don't mean morally or ethically or philosophically, I mean it's an impossibility.

Unless you're living in a governmental area that provides no services at all, the cost of providing those services will go up along with inflation and the normal feature creep of human organizations. You can cut a department here or squeeze an entitlement there, but you can't beat the odds. Somewhere, somebody's taxes will go up. Anybody who thinks different, well, let's just agree to disagree, but maybe you should stay out of casinos. You probably think you can beat the house, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Traffic myths

Slow news day, apparently. The Grand Rapids Press used up some column space with this set of "myths" about Michigan traffic laws. I didn't believe any of these, but here are some actual Michigan laws for violating which you can be pulled over, beaten senseless, and left by the roadside to be eaten by cougars and polar bears.

  • Turning off a sidewalk into a vehicle traffic lane (or vice versa) while operating a bicycle; the famous "Which are you, a vehicle or a ped, make up your damn mind" law.
  • Operating a vehicle under the influence of Ricky Gervais.
  • Operating a vehicle larger than a Reagan-class aircraft carrier (the bio-diesel-bus ordinance of 2008.)
  • Failing to signal your political orientation (specific to Ann Arbor.)
  • Transporting chickens with intent to distribute (as above: only applicable in Ann Arbor.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Russians are catching up to us

In the public ignorance and general confusion arena. This, as if we needed any more evidence, should put the nail in the coffin of the No Child Left Behind Act -- clearly it has failed in its apparent goal to make America the world's stupidest nation.

I'd love to see a translation of the actual poll questions. (Although it must be said that the Russians have some excuse for not knowing what revolves around what -- Putin has been working hard to make them think the Earth revolves around him.)