Empire State Asshatery

Politicians love child porn. It is the ultimate grandstanding issue. It is an issue with effectively no opposing side, after all, if you come out “against” child porn you’ve implicitly cast any opposition into the role of pedophiles and child molesters. There’s no downside.

Enter New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He loves the children. And he’s discovered that there’s this thing called the internet and, on it is, GASP, child porn. So, like any good crimefighter, he launches a campaign to “encourage” broadband providers to “volunteer” to take actions “surgically directed” only at child pornography and “not at any protected content.” Of course, this works really well, causing Time-Warner to pull 10,000 Usenet newsgroups to curb the corrupting influence of the 88 groups that the AG’s office found to contain evidence of child porn.

Even better than using this as political red meat to make him look “tough” when he’s “protecting the children,” Mr. Cuomo has indulged in a grand New York tradition, the protection racket. Apparently the threat of painting a corporation as facilitating the distribution of child porn is a great way to generate an income stream (from C-net):

But over time, it may encourage more attorneys general to play Net censor, especially if they come to view broadband providers as compliant, off-the-books sources of revenue. This seems to be Cuomo’s opinion; his press release said Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint will pay “$1.125 million to fund additional efforts by the attorney general’s office and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to remove child pornography from the Internet.” [my emphasis]

So Mr. Cuomo earns a trifecta; pandering to pedophile alarmists, bulldozing the free speech rights of law abiding citizens by nuking an entire internet protocol that was about 0.009% child porn, and lastly using his sleazy posturing to blackmail litigation-shy corporations to fund his own department.

A plea to parents. . .

Your kids are grown, you own your own house, and you have at least some desire not to inflict upon your children the kind of hell me, my wife, and my in-laws have been going through. I offer 10 tips to keep your house from becoming the 9th circle of hades.

  1. If you patronize the Dollar Store, and find at least four bags of crap still in the wrappers with the price tags on them back home when you’re putting purchases away, stop patronizing the Dollar Store.
  2. If a utility bill is over ten years old, it is safe to dispose of.
  3. If you’ve been unable to enter a closet in the past five years, nothing in that closet is particularly important, toss the stuff.
  4. If you have valuable stuff you’ve stopped using (china, jewelry, crystal) give it to the kids and grandkids. “Promising” it to them is a cop out, and if you lose it mentally you’ve insured that your kids will spend more energy fighting each other than taking care of you.
  5. Vacuuming is not optional, the dust bunnies should not be larger than the cat.
  6. You should not end two Christmases in a row with more wrapping paper or empty boxes than you started with.
  7. Televisions that do not work are not worth keeping.
  8. 8-Track is a dead medium.
  9. If your kids didn’t take it, they probably don’t want it.
  10. Rule of thumb, if it’s food, and the label has faded enough to be difficult to read, throw it out.

Places I will be at

Quick list of my upcoming convention going.

July 25-27 (this weekend) I will be attending Confluence in Pittsburgh, PA.

August 15-17 I will be at Armadillocon in Austin, Texas. (Thanks to my fellow ex-Hamster and ex-Clevelander Maureen for suggesting I come down.)

September 26-28 I will be at Context in Columbus, OH.

November 14-16 I will be at Windycon in Chicago, IL.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that I got Valentine’s Night polished up, printed out, and sent off to Eleanor today. This is the second spec manuscript I’ve written in as many years, in addition to finishing off Prophets for DAW. Here’s hoping it does as well as Lilly’s Song. This means, now that I got the rewrites done on three novels, I get to start on the next book in the Apotheosis Trilogy sometime before the end of the month. This means the counters will finally start moving again.

Now, the reason I’m not starting the new book right now leads me to the bad news. . .

You see, my mother-in-law has dementia and has moved into assisted living. This is a good thing, as she is, to put it kindly, obstinate and difficult to deal with. As in there was no way we would ever get her to agree to move, we had to check her into the ER after she wandered off and have her shipped directly from the hospital to the assisted living facility the following Monday. She’s royally pissed at my wife, when she’s coherent, but she now gets three meals a day, social interaction, and the occasional shower.

The bad news is her house. I get to spend this weekend cleaning out a house that hasn’t been vacuumed, dusted, tidied or otherwise cleaned out in nearly a decade. Parts of it are near collapse. There’s mold, bugs, rats and things I don’t even want to think about. I’m afraid I’m about to run out of dumpster. I’m exhausted, and I’ve barely started on what promises to be a very long weekend.

The way I get through crap like this? I promise myself that it will make it into a story someday.

Assimilated into the social network. . .

Nothing particularly profound, but I just created a Facebook profile. Just as with the blogging, I’m a little late to the scene, I guess after you hit 40 it just takes a lot more frigging effort to be hip.

If you want to find me, just look for Steven Swiniarski. (As my friend Maureen pointed out, there aren’t many people named that.)

Scalzi points out an asshat

Because I haven’t had an asshat for a while, and because this is rich in all senses of the word, I want to share a tidbit I found on Whatever.

Meet Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild. Yeah, those Rothschilds. The ones that are, well, kinda well off? Not that she’s any small taters herself, she was worth a hundred million before she married in to the really big bucks. This is not a woman who pumps her own gas into the SUV when going to soccer practice. You will not find her shopping at Wal-Mart— hell, not even Target. This woman would have to think for a moment if, while standing in her grand foyer filled with art costing more than most people’s houses, you asked her where the kitchen was. . .

This woman, a die-hard Hillary supporter, doesn’t think she’ll support Obama because. . .
“Frankly I don’t like him. I feel like he is an elitist.”


Carnivals of Blogness. . .

This is just to let my readers know of the Blog Carnivals that have recently linked back to my stuff:

Dr. Sanity linked to my AP/Media Defender rant on the Carnival of the Insanities.

Observations from Missy’s Window linked to my Iron Man review on the Movie Monday Carnival.

Good News Film Reviews linked to the same Iron Man post on the Carnival of Cinema.

The same post is also linked by The Guru’s Movie and Tube Reviews in the Guru’s Movie Review Carnival.

Lastly, The Just Write Carnival linked to my post on Chronologically Incorrect Storytelling at the Incurable Disease of Writing blog.

Random thought for the day. . .

I drive a 12-year old Buick Century, a car that leads to certain expectations— most of which involve liver spots and driving 15 mph down the freeway with the left blinker on. Since I’m a chubby bearded guy with a ponytail, my car’s sort of incongruous. (Though cheap as dirt to maintain.)

This is how incongruous. If a cop pulled me over on the way home today and made me pop the trunk, they would have discovered the following items (in no particular order.)

  • a 50 pound bag of senior horse feed.
  • 5 40pound bags of pelleted wood shavings.
  • a couple of books on SQL 2000 implementation.
  • three or four back issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
  • a two ton floor jack.
  • a box of polyhedral dice in a repurposed case from a Vic-20 game cartridge.
  • a rulebook for the Serenity role-playing game

Hancock. . . the movie that’s its own sequel.

Just saw Hancock, the latest in the current explosion of superhero movies, and I am left with the overwhelming sense of a missed opportunity. This is not to say that it’s a bad movie, there are parts that are quite good. Unfortunately, right after the big reveal midway in, the film loses its way, and we go from something that could have surpassed Iron Man in awesomeness, and end with something that’s just ok.

The problem is, I think, a failure of nerve on the part of the screenwriters. The first half of the film is great on just about every level. We have a story that is centered on the concept of a superhero, we have a deeply flawed character that has the physical omnipotence of Superman, and has a problem that cannot be solved by his Godlike powers. It is a perfect set-up for a good drama, and the titular character’s attempt to redeem himself, both in his own eyes, and in the eyes of the public, is a powerful engine driving the movie forward. The tension in every scene is held, not by any external threat, but by the potential that Hancock could snap and do something to destroy any chance of him succeeding in becoming a worthwhile hero.

And, for some reason, the screenwriters didn’t think this was enough to carry a whole film. So we have two films. The first is the character drama I describe above. The second feels like a sequel to that much better film. Where the first move goes places that most superhero movies don’t get near, and actually avoids most, if not all of the clichés, the second film is pretty much the textbook boilerplate of the cheezy superhero movie. Have your hero deal with a problem originating (so to speak) with a character related to their origin, make sure they have an explicit weakness, make sure the villains show up to exploit that weakness, and somehow have the hero overcome despite being terribly weakened in power. . .

The problem with Hancock is none of the second half is foreshadowed in the first. Much of the important plot points (like his origin) are blown over way too quickly giving a serious WTF vibe to the transition. In addition, because the way the second half is compressed, there are major plot holes. (How’d the villains just happen to show up when he was vulnerable? If this certain someone knew the consequences of being in the vicinity of Hancock, why would this person remain in LA after Hancock started appearing on the news? What did Hancock do between Miami and LA?)

All those elements, and all those problems, would never have come up if they’d just stuck with the first movie. In that movie you don’t really need an origin, and ignoring it would be better than the half-assed explanation we get in the second half of the movie. You don’t need a designated villain or the arbitrary weakness in the first film because Hancock is his own worst enemy, and the story is about him winning over himself.

Anyway, if you go see it, see it for the first half. And if you need a bathroom break, wait until they toss the refrigerator. If you go after that, you won’t be missing much.