Moff’s Law

Inevitably, in an online discussion (especially a discussion about -isms in art) involving more than three people, some ignoramus will say something very like: Jeez, it was just a movie. STFU and enjoy it, okay?

How to respond the next time someone accuses you of overthinking a text or a film? Please allow me to direct your attention to the newly-coined Moff’s Law.

First of all, when we analyze art, when we look for deeper meaning in it, we are enjoying it for what it is. Because that is one of the things about art, be it highbrow, lowbrow, mainstream, or avant-garde: Some sort of thought went into its making — even if the thought was, “I’m going to do this as thoughtlessly as possible”! — and as a result, some sort of thought can be gotten from its reception. That is why, among other things, artists (including, for instance, James Cameron) really like to talk about their work.

Because I don’t know about you. But at least once a week, someone demands to know why I insist on thinking about things so much.

And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what’s going on in their own heads, you’re not helping anything; on the contrary, you’re acting as an advocate for entropy.

The discussion giving rise to this matter-of-fact observation that it’s actually both unreasonable and intellectually hostile to demand that everyone turn off their brains when they approach a book, movie, or other form of art, originated in the comments thread following  Annalee Newitz’ review of Avatar on  io9

Art in the Oddest Places

Cupcakes, by their very nature a fleeting and clearly-delineated moment of sweetness, capturing the essence of games.

A mouthful of art:

How many games do you recognize? How many have you played?

TSA Knocking on Doors to Seize Hardware

Wired has the story:

Two bloggers received home visits from Transportation Security Administration agents Tuesday after they published a new TSA directive that revises screening procedures and puts new restrictions on passengers in the wake of a recent bombing attempt by the so-called underwear bomber.

And the follow-up:

In the wake of public outcry against the Transportation Security Administration for serving civil subpoenas on two bloggers, the government agency has canceled the legal action and apologized for the strong-arm tactics agents used.

We have got to walk back the crazy. Because when the brownshirts TSA is banging on your door, confiscating your hardware, bullying, threatening, and then backing down under public outcry—what happens when the public gets bored and jaded, and stops raising the outcry?

NORAD Santa-Tracking

The NORAD Santa-sighting updates have become a holiday tradition, quietly and with a remarkable lack of the late twentieth-century cynicism that too often mars our experience of things simple and sweet and innocent.

In his article Behind the Scenes: NORAD’s Santa Tracker, reporter Daniel Terdiman fills in the history of this particularly post-modern Christmas Eve sweetness.

All joking aside, NORAD has been taking its Santa tracking project seriously for decades. But it actually began in 1955 with a wrong number.

One morning that December, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command–NORAD’s predecessor–got a phone call at his Colorado Springs, Colorado, office. This was no laughing matter. The call had come in on one of the top secret lines inside CONAD that only rang in the case of a crisis.

Grabbing the phone, Shoup must have expected the worst. Instead, a tiny voice asked, “Is this Santa Claus?”

You can check The Official NORAD Santa Website for regular updates, assisted by Google Earth, as Santa meets his worldwide delivery schedule for yet another year. You can also follow @NORADSanta on Twitter.com.

Joyeux Noel, everyone!

Kevin Carey “That Old College Lie”

Carey notes that Senator Claiborne Pell died at age 90 on January 1, 2009. Senator Pell was the driving force, and the inspiration for the federal Pell Grants for under funded college students. In the context of noting that Pell Grants are no longer anything like sufficient in terms of funding percentages of college costs for low income students, Carey points out that:

It’s that too many of the students who do enroll aren’t learning very much and aren’t earning degrees. For the average student, college isn’t nearly as good a deal as colleges would have us believe. . . . A 2006 study from the American Institutes for Research found that only 31 percent of adults with bachelor’s degrees are proficient in “prose literacy”–being able to compare and contrast two newspaper editorials, for example. More than a quarter have math skills so feeble that they can’t calculate the cost of ordering supplies from a catalogue. more . . .