I was Much the Same Myself

Much the sameWhile watching a clip from the classic Robert Redford film Jeremiah Johnson a bit of a throwaway line caught my attention; I was much the same myself. Johnson is trying to decide on a name for the young boy he took off the hands of a crazed woman who had seen most of her family murdered. The boy is not in a talkative mood as they ride along. Johnson gives him the name Caleb as it is one Johnson has much admired. The boy does not respond. Rather than pursuing the discussion, or chastising the lad, Johnson utters the line in question.

It’s a good line. I’m of the opinion it has a lot of relevance in today’s world. It seems people have always enjoyed being critical of one another but with advances in communication and the advent of social media such has risen to new heights. Much of the criticism involves telling other people how they should think or conduct their lives. This is what I was much the same myself addresses.

Johnson recognizes that, as a child, he wasn’t particularly talkative and when Caleb exhibits a similar attitude, Johnson accepts it without criticism. It is very easy to criticize people making what we deem as similar mistakes to those we made ourselves as children. I think the actions that tend to draw the most outrage are often those things we see in ourselves. The traits we dislike about ourselves and see in others.

Most often I see it in adults, like myself, in criticizing the way younger people are going about their business. Kids today. We were kids once but that is a fact apparently lost upon most of the critical curmudgeons of the world. Even as adults we do unwise things on a fairly frequent basis, but when someone else does something stupid, we are eager to point out their foolishness.

Perhaps it is a way to pretend that we are better than the other person. I wouldn’t do something so foolish, I wouldn’t think that, I wouldn’t act that way, I’d never take a picture like that, I’d never blah blah blah blah blah. The truth is, yes, we would and yes, we probably have at one point or another.

The next time you are considering chastising someone for their behavior or opinion, think about that line. I was much the same myself. Try it out. You might be pleased with the result.

Tom Liberman

The Warriors Libertarian Movie Review

The WarriorsIn my frequent YouTube perusals, I came across a wonderful video of the actors who played the Warriors in the movie of the same name riding a subway to commemorate an anniversary of the release of the film. It’s a wonderful movie and that means it’s time for a Libertarian Movie Review.

The film is set in New York which is broken down into many territories controlled by various gangs, much like the world is broken down into many regions controlled by various gangs, that is to say, nations. The Warriors, and most of the other gangs in the city, have come to Van Cortland Park under a truce to listen to the leader of the Grammercy Riffs make a proposal.

Cyrus suggests all the warring between nations over non-existent borders drawn on a map is an enormous waste of time and effort. Oops. I wrote that incorrectly. What I meant to say is: Cyrus suggests that all the warring between gangs over non-existent borders drawn on a map is an enormous waste of time and effort. He suggests it would be a much more profitable enterprise to work together for the mutual benefit of everyone.

Cyrus is shot and killed in the midst of his speech which essentially ends the truce. The Warriors are blamed for killing Cyrus and the rest of the movie tracks them as they attempt to make it back to their home base, Coney Island. They must battle various colorfully attired gang members including the iconic Baseball Furies.

The film is certainly action based but does a superb job of character development in that we learn about the various Warriors via their actions rather than any exposition. Ajax is wild and impulsive. The sort of jerk you hate on the other team and love when he’s on yours. Swan is a thoughtful and intelligent natural leader. Rembrandt is an artist who is unskilled in combat but valuable nonetheless.

Eventually the Warriors make it home where the duplicitous gang responsible for the death of Cyrus attempts a final vengeance before the truth can be discovered, only to be defeated. The Riffs exact their vengeance and acknowledge the martial prowess of the Warriors.

The movie has many qualities that appeal to a Libertarian. Particularly pleasing is the overarching theme against nationalism. The gangs do themselves no service by the constant warring when they would be better off cooperating. The idea of removing borders and working toward goals of mutual interest regardless of national origin, gender, race, sexual orientation or other artificial difference is also a major Libertarian policy point.

The biggest negative is when Cyrus appeals to the gangs to take over the city and defeat the local establishment. This will put them in power, simply replacing the existing structure with one that will be equally problematic. A more Libertarian ideology would have Cyrus appealing to the gangs to cooperate with the police and the establishment to make everyone’s lives better.

That being said, The Warriors largely exemplifies Libertarian ideology and I give it 4.3 Freedoms. Can you dig it?

Tom Liberman

Kelly’s Heroes Libertarian Movie Review

Kelly's HeroesMy daily forays to various Internet website brought my attention to a movie I enjoyed years ago called Kelly’s Heroes. At the time I watched it I was probably of a Libertarian mindset but I had not really given much consideration to such ideas. That being the case, I thought a review of Kelly’s Heroes from a Libertarian perspective was in order. Let’s get started.

The movie covers a period of time in late World War II as the Germans are retreating from allied forces. The basic plot involves Private Kelly, portrayed by Clint Eastwood, and his attempt to recover a cache of gold hidden by the German military. He is a private because he was scapegoated for a failed assault taking place before the events of the movie. Here we see of the state punishing the individual for its own failures.

Kelly is bitter over this turn of events and his loyalty has shifted from patriotic support of the war effort to a more self-centered mindset. In this he is joined by supply sergeant Crapgame, played by the great Don Rickles, who is also not particularly interested in winning the war but rather enriching himself. This is a theme we see throughout the movie and includes the cynical captain of the unit.

Several scenes which were cut from the movie show soldiers for both the German and U.S. units spending their time with attractive women and trying their best to enjoy life amidst the horrors forced upon them by the war.

This attitude is best displayed by tank commander Oddball, played effectively by Donald Sutherland. Oddball has little interest in putting his life on the line for his country but the mention of riches quickly garners his attention and he joins Kelly and his band.

On the way, the realities of war are not ignored as several of Kelly’s cohorts are killed in an encounter with German troops.

As Kelly and the others battle their way through German lines to the gold their communications reach allied headquarters where Major General Colt, played by Carrol O’Connor, mistakes their enthusiastic quest for money to actually be fighting spirit. He applauds their efforts and wishes he had more soldiers with this kind of attitude. This directly speaks to Libertarian sensibilities as the quest for personal enrichment, be it money or other endeavors, is what drives people forward. The artificial substitution of patriotism and hatred of another people pales by comparison.

It is certainly true the Nazi threat to the world was great and real but that danger was driven by the same zealous xenophobia that led to the war in the first place. Although the allies and their soldiers were certainly on the “right” side of the war, they and the Germans were on the wrong side of motivational reality.

We see this stark reality when Kelly and the survivors of his band confront a German tank commander at the denouement of their quest. The commander, played by Karl-Otto Alberty, defends the hidden cache simply because he has been ordered to do so. He sees the U.S. soldiers as the enemy.

Kelly and his associates risk their lives to approach the commander and explain the reality of the situation to him. Once he understands what is inside the building, he quickly changes his attitude in exchange for a fair share of the loot.

Then, in what I consider the defining moment of the film, Kelly holds true to his word and allows the German tank crew to leave with their cut, despite the fact Kelly and his associates could easily cut the Germans down without repercussions. They are all people in this world and their loyalty to self-interest far surpasses their patriotism to any contrived state.

Without question, Kelly’s Heroes gets the highest Libertarian rating available. Five Freedoms with gold clusters.

Tom Liberman

Right is Right when it Comes to the Nuns and Katy Perry

Katy PerryAn ongoing story involving Katy Perry and a pair of nuns recently heated up again when one of the nuns passed away in court and the other claimed bankruptcy. I think what’s important to understand is Perry is completely in the right. Yet, there are clearly many who think she should give up her claim because the elderly nuns are a sympathetic pair. Bah humbug, says this scrooge.

I think the first step we should take is to examine the case itself. Five nuns lived at a property called Los Feliz for many years although moved away a few years back. The property is owned by the Los Angeles Archdiocese although two of the five nuns claim they were the actual owners because of their long years living there. The three other nuns are not part of the legal situation and support the Archdiocese’s right to sell.

Katy Perry expressed an interest in the property and was in negotiations to purchase it when the two nuns got wind of the sale. They watched a few of Perry’s videos and decided they didn’t approve of her. So, they contracted with a third party and quickly sold it for well under it’s value with a miniscule down payment.

The judge ruled that they had no right to sell the property and the third party was engaged in tampering and ordered Dana Hollister to pay Perry and the Archdiocese no small fee. “Clearly invalid,” was the term the judge used in regards to the sale.

It seems clear Perry is right from a legal aspect but I’m willing to go significantly further. I think she’s right from an ethical perspective. The nuns are behaving horribly and using their position to vilify Perry and break the law. They are acting in an incredibly entitled fashion. We don’t like Perry. They claim they are somehow breaking their vows by allowing the property, that they haven’t lived at for years, to be sold to someone so evil as Perry. Their behavior is despicable and filled with selfish and righteous horse manure.

The two, now one, are a playing on the sympathies of those who look at them and see a pair of elderly nuns being taken advantage of by a ruthless mogul when the opposite is closer to the truth. The nuns are acting ruthlessly and viciously exploiting their position to turn public opinion against Perry.

The surviving nun is now claiming she is bankrupt despite the fact the Archdiocese continues to pay all her living expenses and has expressed it will continue to do so until her death. She is saying terrible things about Perry.

I will not stand by. I’m calling her out! Try to be a decent human being in your last years of life you angry and bitter old woman. Yep, I’m yelling at a nun and I’m doing it because she is legally and ethically in the wrong.

Don’t give up the fight, Katy. And, if you ever happen to visit St. Louis, dinner and a drink? My treat.

Tom Liberman

Natalie Portman and the Snide Comment

natalie portmanDuring the recent Golden Globes award ceremony Natalie Portman and Ron Howard presented the award for Best Director of a feature film. Portman announced, “And here are the all-male nominees.” I think she was being unfair and incomplete.

If she had mentioned what she thought was a worthy film directed by a woman, there are certainly several choices this year, and which male directed film she would have left off I would say that at least her speech was complete if still unfair. The dig was unfair to all the nominated men because they had nothing to do with their selection. The statement certainly implies that some, if not all, of them didn’t deserve the nomination. The winner, Guillermo del Toro, might have responded during his acceptance speech but instead he took the high ground and gave an emotional speech about how much of his heart he poured into the move; The Shape of Water. He was the better person than Portman, in this case.

I certainly think there is a point to be made that some of the films this year directed by women were equally deserving of nomination, I just don’t think that Portman chose a good time for her nasty comment. It was nasty, true or not, you cannot deny her statement devaluing the award one of the directors was about to receive was anything else. You might well support Portman for making the statement and that’s fine, but it was rude, nasty, and unfair.

It was, to some small degree, exactly what she was complaining about. She essentially attacked a group of men for the single failing of being a man. It was sexism. Certainly, it was not an egregious attack. She didn’t threaten their livelihood or physically assault them. They will go on about their lives pretty much as before. I don’t think a crime has been committed. I don’t think Portman should be blacklisted from Hollywood for her actions. I don’t think she should be denied a chance to participate in the making of future movies. I just think it was nasty and rude. I think she owes the five directors an apology. I don’t expect she’ll be making one.

She is largely being lauded for her bold statement. Most of the articles I’ve read on the subject seem to think she did the right thing in calling out the fact that all five of the nominated films were directed by men. I disagree.

The statement she should have made, in my worthless opinion, is to refuse to give out the award. If she feels strongly there was a miscarriage of justice then she should simply have refused to participate in the ceremony. That I would have respected. But the reality is she wanted to be up on that stage giving the award, she wanted to have her cake and eat it too. And she is apparently getting that wish, at least from everyone except me.

Tom Liberman

Epic Games Suing Stream Snipers for Cheating at Fortnite Battle Royale

fortniteThere is an interesting situation in the video game world in that a company called Epic Games is suing players of their game, Fortnite Battle Royale, for cheating. What’s that you say, video games and the law colliding? Have I died and fallen into the noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It’s time for a Happy Dance and a blog.

A website called Twitch.tv allows players of video games to stream their efforts for a live audience. One of my favorite streamers, Sacriel, plays the game in question. It is what is called a Survival game with cooperative elements. This means one player or a team of players roam the world finding weapons and battling other players or teams of players.

A player like Sacriel joins a particular instance of the game. This lasts until there is only one player or team left on that particular instance, at which point another game begins. Cheaters watch the most popular streamers and join the same game, this is called Stream Sniping. The cheaters then attempt to defeat the streamer and often use against the rules code supplements to make themselves virtually invulnerable. This is the cheating aspect of the situation. Epic Games bans such cheaters when they spot them but the Stream Snipers generally create a new account fairly quickly. In this case one of the people being sued created at least nine other accounts after being banned.

In the legal system, in order to sue someone successfully you generally have to prove damages. So, you might well ask, how is cheating damaging Epic Games? It’s just a few players being killed and they can just start up another game, right? Not to my way of thinking although we will have to wait until the courts weigh in on the matter.

One of the interesting realities of people using platforms like Twitch.tv to stream games is the revenue thus generated. When an engaging and technically skilled player like Sacriel plays a game like Fortnite Battle Royal, the game gets enormous promotion. When gamers see Sacriel enjoying himself immensely they too want to play the game and make the purchase. They even get an opportunity to test their skills against such streamers which is a big selling point. There is quite clearly direct correlation to game sales and popular streamers.

When Stream Snipers become prevalent, top streamers like Sacriel simply get fed up and quit the game. There isn’t much point in playing whenever you start a new game an invincible opponent arrives and kills you. It’s not fun for the streamer and it is not enjoyable for the audience to watch. Therefore, the streamer stops playing which, in turn, directly affects game sales.

As a Libertarian I’m also quite happy with the way this has played out. Epic Games attempted to simply ban such cheaters but when they were unable to effectively implement this tactic they were forced into legal remedies. I always appreciate trying to solve the problem without resorting to legal or law enforcement agencies, but there comes a time when reason is not an effective tool.

I think Epic Games has a case and I’m quite interested to see how this all plays out in court. I’m not of the opinion the Stream Snipers should be put in prison but hit her or his wallet and I think you have effectively curtailed the practice, and that’s a good thing.

Tom Liberman

Krysten Ritter and being a Celebrity in One Minute and Forty-Six Seconds

krysten ritter celebrityI’m a big fan of Krysten Ritter and I admit to watching more than a couple of her videos on YouTube. I stumbled across this one the other day and it reminded me why I’m fairly certain I’d make a horrible celebrity, and why Ritter is such a good one.

Fame seems like a wonderful thing when viewed from a distance and I think there are many people who enjoy the non-stop adulation. I, however, am not such a person. Introvert, socially awkward, whatever you want to call it; it’s hard for me to believe I could tolerate such incessant access to me. I would be a lousy celebrity. Much as I like to think I’m a pretty decent fellow, there is no question people intruding into my life so boldly and ceaselessly, would drive me insane.

Part and parcel of being a celebrity and all the good things that come with it; is the simple fact that you are well-known and recognized wherever you go. There will be an essentially never-ending line of people wanting your autograph. They will line up to take selfies with you until you are forced to leave. The lines will go on forever. They will scream your name and tell you to be still so they can take pictures of you.

There are compensations. I’m certainly not suggesting the life of a celebrity is misery and pain. I’m just saying that such a life comes with particular and sometimes onerous obligations. If you don’t like strangers standing next to you and taking pictures with flash after flash after flash, the life of a celebrity might not be for you.

There is an assumption here that I have enough talent to become a celebrity. That my novels have any chance at all of generating enough interest to make me desirable as a selfie mate. I have no illusions of this, but it is something that crosses my mind. If my novels were to become popular and made into movies would I have the patience of Ritter? Would I have the ability to smile and say thank you endlessly?

I think the answer is no. I think I’d have to take a path similar to that of J. D. Salinger or Emily Dickinson although that is not particularly appealing either. Perhaps I could find some sort of happy medium wherein I lived a relatively normal life and avoiding many of the trappings of celebrity. I wonder how many of the people I know would make good celebrities. Would you?

Tom Liberman

All Female Lord of the Flies Taking Heat

Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding wrote a book entitled Lord of the Flies which was later made into a movie and remade years later. There is a new movie in the works in which the children stranded on the island will be girls instead of boys. The script is being written by two men. Triggered!

Well, I’m not triggered. I think it’s an interesting idea. However, other people are pretty upset. The three main complaints seem to be that two men cannot possible write the script about girls, the idea the main plot of the boys degenerating from peaceful intentions to violent war wouldn’t happen with girls, they would be peaceful and nice to each other, and the story was about boys and should remain so.

I have sympathy for rage at the fact two men are writing the scripts. There is some merit to the idea men don’t have the personal experience of being a woman and therefore can’t write as good female characters as would a woman. That being said, I think there are plenty of wonderful female characters written by men. Wonder Woman comes to mind but there are many others. Would there be uproar if two women wrote a remake of Lord of the Flies with the original all boy survivors?

The second complaint is baseless. The children stranded on the island in the book and movies are all preadolescent boys. To some degree there is no real difference between boys and girls until sexual maturity. I have a number of friends and they have daughters. I’ve seen preteen and young teen girls in action. If anyone is under the insane delusion they can’t be as vicious and nasty as boys, well, you need to look a little closer. Perhaps the way they carry out their violence is subtler than a group of boys but I think that is interesting fodder for the new movie.

The third argument is likewise nonsense. There is no reason a book that originally had male characters can’t swap them for female characters.

The complaints seem to perpetuate sexist ideologies rather than dispel them. Two men can’t write a screenplay about preadolescent girls is as sexist as saying two women can’t write one about such boys. The third argument is similar to complaints about the 2016 Ghostbusters movie which had an all-female cast.

I’ve got a crazy idea. Let’s wait until the movie comes out and judge it then. Perhaps the two male writers will create a wonderful screenplay. Perhaps it will be awful. Perhaps an island populated by girls won’t end as horrifically as the original. Perhaps they will be worse.
All the judgment going on is sexist, from both sides.

And, by the way, I saw Lord of The Flies as a ten-year-old boy and remain traumatized to this day. I see no reason why ten-year-old girls shouldn’t be likewise disturbed. It’s only fair.

Tom Liberman

Handbook for Mortals Scam and the Power Young Adult Readers

handbook for mortalsThere was a fascinating incident the other day involving the Young Adult Best Seller list from the New York Times which demonstrates the good that can be done through group communication. In essence, someone scammed the New York Times and had their book, Handbook for Mortals, put atop the list. Fans of such fiction launched an investigation and, by the end of the day, the listing was removed.

The events themselves are fairly remarkable but their implications confirm my opinion about the potential of the Internet and Social Media. In this day and age see we violent extremists gathering and organizing using such tools and these sorts of things frighten people. What we seem to overlook is that far more often groups of people with a like interest gather using the same tools and bring much good to the world and great joy to individuals.

I think we need look no further than Wikipedia to see the great good that can come from such gatherings, but this incident with the New York Times Young Adult Best Seller List is further proof.

What happened is a new book, Handbook for Mortals, appeared atop the list, but no one had even heard of the book. There was no advanced publicity and there weren’t even copies of it available for sale. This inexplicable listing caught the attention of a Young Adult author named Phil Stamper who noted it in a Twitter post. From there the crowd took over.

At least two book stores reported large orders of the Handbook only after the purchaser confirmed they reported sales to the New York Times. It can be inferred the scammers purchased thousands of the books from various stores in order to get it listed. But our story of sleuthing does not end here.

Other investigators found the author of the book was a former publicity agent who was noted for pulling such scams. Yet more tracked down the Publisher, GeekNation, and found they created a new book publishing division just last month. The company was founded by a woman who has ties to minor celebrities. It turns out they are planning on making a movie based on this book, which is likely the reason for the attempt to place it atop the best seller list.

The entire convoluted scheme is interesting enough in its own way, but I find the power of the crowd to be the real story. Someone saw something suspicious, reported it on Social Media, a few hour later a large part of the scheme was unraveled, and action was taken shortly thereafter. This sort of thing was certainly possible in the past with diligent investigation, commitment, and a great deal of time. Now, with thousands of people involved in the investigation, each looking at different leads, the entire scam was discovered and dealt with in mere hours.

How about that!

Good job Young Adult authors and readers. Keep up the good work.

Tom Liberman

Phelps versus the Shark – Simulated that is

phelps vs sharkTo call people disappointed by the Michael Phelps versus Great White Shark race is a little bit of a misnomer. They aren’t disappointed, they feel cheated, and well they should. Phelps did not actually swim against a real shark but instead a simulation. What’s the result of all of this? Everyone loses.

I’ll start by saying I didn’t actually watch the event myself but I did see some of the promotional material. The first question I asked myself was: How’s that gonna happen? I mean, you can’t have them next to each other in the pool and getting a wild animal like a shark to toe the line and start at the right moment is going to be near impossible. There’s got to be some kind of trick, I said. It can’t be real.

Sure, many people could have figured out there were going to be some shenanigans but that doesn’t mean the event shouldn’t have been more clearly promoted. In addition, the show went on for quite a while, almost an hour, before the actual race. This means people used their valuable time waiting for something that never actually happened. To my way of thinking, this borders on and possibly crosses into the criminal realm of fraud.

What’s an hour of your time worth? Do you suppose people gathered friends to watch the event at various parties? That fans of Michael Phelps were intrigued enough to plan their Sunday around the show? I can even imagine some marine biologists were intrigued by the idea and wondered how on earth they were going to get the shark to run through a prepared course. I know I was thinking about how they might have treats, read raw and bloody flesh, at the end of the pool to entice the animal.

I was intrigued by the advertising campaign. I wouldn’t have spent as much time thinking about the race if I was not at least partially captivated. I certainly didn’t suffer damages. I’m also not advocating any lawsuits, although they might be justified.

The Discovery Channel clearly made it appear as if Phelps would be racing a live shark. He did not. I think those who expected to see Phelps race a live shark are certainly losers in all of this. The show attracted far more viewers than it would have if the event had been advertised truthfully. That seems to indicate the Discovery Channel won. They got advertisers to pay for the event based on expected watchers.

The reality is more difficult to parse. Certainly, any event the Discovery Channel promotes from here out on out is going to receive far more scrutiny. The network will not be able to point to ratings from this event as a price point for future such races. Advertisers will be wary and rightly so.

Will the public remember this fiasco when next Discovery Channel next tries to host such a race? I’m of the opinion they will. This hype was so overdone and the actual event so underwhelming that people will remain skeptical of the channel for many years to come. I think, despite the undoubtedly high ratings it garnered, the network is also going to end up losing.

If only they had managed to deliver a satisfying experience. Then we’d all be winners. Instead, just the opposite.

This brings me to my final Libertarian point. If the Discovery Channel had strived to make an excellent experience, we all would have been enriched. The network, the viewers, and the advertisers. More such events would even now be in the planning stages. Now, because they provided a cynical product, we all lose.

Tom Liberman

Clueless: A Libertarian Movie Review

cluelessYes, time again for a Libertarian Movie Review. Today I examine the timeless Jane Austin novel, Emma. That is to say, in the more modern form of Clueless. Released all the way back in 1995 it was a hit and is often considered a classic. It launched the careers of Alicia Silverstone, Stacy Dash, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, and director Amy Heckerling.

Clueless largely tells the story of Cher Horowitz, the daughter of a wealthy and powerful Beverly Hills litigator, marvelously played by the always great Dan Hedaya. In one of the early and most important scenes in the movie, Cher is given a subpar grade by a grumpy teacher and rather than accept it, she goes to work to get it changed. Not through computer hacking but in improving the life of her teacher, who will then hopefully be more open to a better grade in future negotiations.

While Cher is certainly Clueless in some regards, she is clearly well educated and has goals in life. Some of them shopping, most certainly. After igniting the romantic fires of two of her teachers, and getting a bump up on her grade, she decides that doing good things makes her happy. And, by golly, she’s right. When we help others, when we improve the lives of those around us, we also improve our own lives. She is helping people using what Ayn Rand would call selfishness.

Cher wants a better grade and finds the best method to do so is to make her teachers happier. Her life improves, as do the lives of those around her. Cher then sets out to do good for everyone including the tragically, her words not mine, unhip girl at school. Things begin to go wrong when Cher tries to pair Tai, played by Murphy, with a rather shallow and socially conscious boy, when it is clear she prefers the skateboarding and fun-loving Travis.

The failing isn’t in Cher trying to help her friend, just in not seeing the best strategy to make Tai happy. These things happen, we try our best but we often fail. Cher then experiences other failures, but rather than dwell in misery, she takes an introspective walk. She examines her own failures and tries to determine where she went wrong, and gets in a little shopping while she’s at it.

Clueless offers a lot of reality and some excellent Libertarian philosophy while doing it. Sure, Cher is a spoiled and Clueless fifteen-year-old girl, as would be anyone raised in such an environment. But she has brain, she uses it to improve her life. She has cool clothes and a great car, and that helps with her popularity but Silverstone plays a girl who would be popular everywhere, in almost any circumstance. She is intelligent, funny, and easy on the eyes.

When she is helping Tai, it is not all about being fit, there are vocabulary lessons and book reading exercises. Cher understands you don’t get far in this world without being able to think clearly. Despite setbacks, she clearly demonstrates her intellect and her unwillingness to give up.

The main lesson here is that by helping yourself, you help those around you. That is one of the most important core tenants of the Libertarian Philosophy. Therefore, Clueless gets a full Five Freedoms from this reviewer. A wonderful film worth watching again, or for the first time.

Tom Liberman

Solitaire and Changing Your Mind

microsoft solitaireIt’s not a bad thing to change your mind when presented with a new argument you hadn’t considered, that happened to me when I was talking about Microsoft Solitaire. It seems like people are largely uninterested in listening to facts that might change their thoughts on a subject. They merely want to confirm their own opinions. I recently changed my mind on a subject of relatively little importance but I think it demonstrates a useful way of thinking.

I like to play Microsoft Solitaire. So do a number of people I’ve met at the Facebook page dedicated to discussion of these games. There are two sorts of situation with the games. There are daily games. These are five games; one each of Klondike, Spider, FreeCell, Pyramid, and TriPeaks. If you manage to complete every game during the course of a month you get a Perfect Badge.

They also have a tournament every other day which involves completing a series of games as quickly as possible. You are grouped with ninety-nine other players and whoever can complete the most games quickly finishes with a higher rank and has the potential to get any number of badges.

One of my favorite types of games in either format is one in which there is a time limit to finish. This requires not only playing wisely but also playing quickly. I really enjoy the countdown of the clock as I try finish the game and I’ve finished a few of these with seconds left. They leave me feeling exhilarated, or frustrated, with my heart racing. I love them. When I see a time gamed, I immediately get excited.

Anyway, not long ago I was extolling how fun these types of games are and I noticed several people on the Facebook page lambasting the games as unfair. I could have immediately told these people they were incorrect, that I enjoyed the games and they should enjoy them as well, just because they’re hard doesn’t mean they are unfair. Instead I chose to read their arguments.

Several of the people who hate these types of games have arthritis of the hands, or some other medical condition. These people cannot move the mouse quickly or click fast enough to ever possibly win a timed game. This means it is impossible for them to complete an event or get a Perfect Badge. That is actually unfair. I was wrong. It’s not unfair to me, I’m a pretty decent player, but it is unfair to people with physical handicaps.

Now, that’s not to say Microsoft should stop including games of this type. The games are also unfair to blind people. They are largely less fair to older people and those who don’t have fast reflexes. Life is filled with unfairness at every level. There is no end to the unfairness of life.

I sympathize with those who cannot finish these types of games and therefore cannot get the rewards associated with completing them. They were right, the timed games are unfair.

At issue is my willingness to change my opinion. I didn’t originally consider the games unfair at all, but as soon as a point of view I hadn’t considered was pointed out to me, I immediately changed my mind. I don’t think this is any world altering change of opinion. I didn’t go from being a Cardinals fan to being a Cubs fan. Shudder. I do think it’s a valuable lesson in life. Be willing to listen to arguments that don’t support your point of view, and if they are convincing, maybe it’s time to change your opinion.

Too often we simply lock out anything that doesn’t agree with our preconceived notion. That makes the world a worse place.

Have a great day and maybe play some solitaire, it’s fun!

Tom Liberman

Why Katy Perry Gives Me Hope for Humanity

katy perryKaty Perry just became the first Twitter user to have 100 million followers and this is a wonderful thing. It gives me hope for humanity. You’ll laugh, I’m sure. That Tom Liberman has finally lost his marbles. Katy Perry?

A quick perusal of the top personalities on Twitter reveals entertainers dominate. Aside from corporate entities like YouTube, Twitter, and CNN; the top twenty are all entertainers with the exception of former president Barak Obama.

I’m not a big popular music fan. I think Miss Perry is talented and relatively easy on the eyes but that’s not why I was so pleased to see she is the number one personality on Twitter. The top twenty list on Twitter is a celebration of what is right in this world and what is important.
People argue about politics but we save our real passion for entertainment. What in this world makes us happy? What brings us joy? When I see Miss Perry has so many followers and in second place is none other than Justin Bieber, I do not frown, my heart is not filled with rage, I smile.

People do indeed have their priorities straight. They value their own joy over the misery and rage that has become politics. Not by a lot sadly. Obama sits at number three and President Trump comes in at thirty-third. The first athlete on the list is at eleven, Cristiano Ronaldo. The first comedian is Ellen Degeneres at sixth. The first business orientated personality is Bill Gates sliding in at a cool twenty-seventh.

Despite the heated rhetoric we see in the news. Despite the terrible deeds of the lunatic and violent fringe. Despite the hate I read in comment sections each and every day. Despite all this, to paraphrase another wonderful musician, People Just Wanna have Fun!

That’s the way it should be. We shouldn’t be worried about politicians. We shouldn’t be worried about what everyone else is doing with their life and if we approve or not. We must focus on what makes us happy.

In the not too far distant future we will have abundant energy with all it entails; endless food and water for all. Medical science will make us all but immortal. Advances in robotics will end most labor and I suspect even money will become a thing of the past.

Can you imagine a world filled with people whose sole interests are things that bring them joy? Can you imagine spending your life doing things you love to do? Can you imagine not having to worry about what other people are doing?

So, if you want to listen to Miss Perry’s latest single and sing along, more power to you. I’m going to go play chess with some strangers because that’s what I enjoy doing. I may even throw a few thousand more words at my latest novel. A novel I hope you’ll someday enjoy reading.

In the future I envision, you don’t even have to purchase that novel. It’s available for free to all because I don’t need money. I write for the joy of writing and my payment is people who follow me on Twitter or post kind comments about the book.

Only 100,030,506 more followers to go until I catch Miss Perry. I can do it!

Tom Liberman

Does Spider-Man Need a Super Spider Suit?

spider-manOne of my favorite superheroes, Spider-man, is getting another movie released this summer and the trailers have a few fans up in arms. It seems young Peter Parker has a fancy spider suit with all sorts of gadgets, provided to him by Iron Man, Tony Stark. This is causing much dismay in the Spider-Man fan community and I think it’s an interesting situation.

Spider-Man appeals to me, and I suppose others, for obvious reasons. I’m a rather small and anti-social lad, much like Peter Parker. Unlike me, Parker gets his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. He is very unlike Iron Man. This hero is buoyed by millions of dollars, a genius intellect, and a fantastical costume which can perform wonders. Spider-Man has only the abilities provided to him by the spider bite. Super strength and agility, the ability to cling to walls, a spider-sense that warns him of danger, and fast healing abilities. Initially he used mechanical webcasters but the spider bite eventually allowed him to manufacturer and fire webs organically.

In the new movie, it is apparent he has an enhanced spider suit that can do all sorts of things including deploying a parachute. As a side note, falling from great heights was one of the things that proved quite dangerous to Parker over his years of crime fighting, so the parachute makes sense from a practical standpoint. Many of the features of the new spider suit seem to be designed to make up for the weaknesses inherent in the Spider-Man character.

All this is pretty much explanation as to why people are upset about the apparent powers of the new spider suit. It’s just not traditional for the character of Spider-Man. Spider-Man has weaknesses, he is not Batman, Iron Man or Superman. He is Peter Parker, a sweet young man who becomes a crime fighter because of an accident. The death of his first love, Gwen Stacy, resulted from the fact he wasn’t as super as other heroes. This costuming strikes people as a betrayal of the very nature of Spider-Man. A coarse commercialization in trying to create a connection between Iron Man and Spider-Man. It hurts. I agree with those complaining but with a caveat.

I’m not running a motion picture studio. I like Spider-Man because some little nerdy part of my brain thinks maybe I could be like him. I’m not trying to make a movie that appeals to the maximum number of people and generates revenue to keep my business up and running.
Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios are in a business and that business requires making money. A number of super hero movies failed horribly at a financial cost. They have a vested interest in making money, not having Spider-Man conform to what a few geeky fan-boys, that’s me, believe the webcaster should be.

Still, frowny face.

Tom Liberman

Hollywood Makes Movies You Want to See

hollywoodWhenever a movie doesn’t do well the comments below the story lambaste Hollywood for making movies that no one wants to see. ‘I’ll never go to a movie by that studio again’ is a refrain I often read. Or, ‘The Hollywood elites are out of touch with us regular folks’. Anyone who says something like this is clearly completely out of touch with reality for a number of reasons.

Yes, some movies don’t do very well and lose the studios money, but the reality of movie making is that it is largely a money-making machine. A single hit like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast creates huge profits that make up for any number of bombs. The major studios top a billion dollars in profit on a regular basis. That’s profit, not box office. People are not only going to movies in record numbers but they are also purchasing them from Netflix and other outlets for viewing at home.

People love entertainment and it is an enormously profitable industry. Listen, I get it. Hollywood makes what I consider to be awful movies filled with action and lack of character development. I’ve got nothing against a good superhero film but I don’t see many of them. In my opinion Hollywood creates far too many movies that don’t really tell a story, they just blast the screen with nonsensical action and stupid jokes.

I was reading review for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest on IMDB and was stunned to see it got an overall rating of 7.3 which is pretty darned good. Many of the reviewers were waxing poetically about how wonderful was the movie. I must have had an expression of slack-jawed astonishment on my face as I read glowing review after glowing review. Finally, I started to come across reviewers who shared my opinion of that atrociously long and hideously boring piece of film.

While I agree with those who lambaste Hollywood for making many bad movies, I certainly can’t accuse them of not understanding their audience. Hollywood fully understands exactly the kind of movies you want to see and caters to that desire.

They provide amazing entertainment for people around the world. Perhaps you don’t like the politics of a particular movie, or, more like me, you don’t like the reliance on action. But if you deny the fact Hollywood is quite good at doing their job, you’re living in a fantasy world. Which is fine, I just choose to accept reality.

In addition to making movies that are not so good, Hollywood also makes movies that are fantastic. They make movies of every genre that appeal to a wide range of people.

So, in the end, I have to celebrate the fact that movies I hate make hundreds of millions of dollars for the various studios because that means they can make some great ones also.

Tom Liberman

13 Reasons Why Romanticizing is no Reason to Censor

13 reasons whyOf late, various news stories and my Facebook wall made me vaguely aware of a television show called 13 Reasons Why which is based on a book named Thirteen Reasons Why. I knew the show and novel had suicide as a central theme and that a number of people were upset by it. Now I see it is being censored, ostensibly because it romanticizes suicide.

I don’t want to talk about the book or television show because I have neither read or seen either. There is clearly a lively debate on exactly how suicide is portrayed in the book and show, but to me it’s irrelevant. Movies, books, fictional television shows, the news, and many other sources romanticize things all the time. War is romanticized, violence is romanticized, sex out of wedlock is romanticized, horribly behavior is romanticized. Frankly, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a human behavior that is not being romanticized somewhere, in some medium.

Throughout history censorship has almost always been rationalized by a need to protect people, particularly children, from ideas. In most cases the censoring agency does nothing more than promote the particular book or content. This was true back when it was difficult to get such material. In today’s world, it far easier for anyone to get content through the internet.

This fact, to my way of thinking, makes this latest case of censorship more egregious. It is moralistic self-delusion of the worst kind. Does any librarian actually imagine by removing the book from the library they will prevent people from reading it, seeing the show? Thus, the censorship is seen for its true nature. Nothing more than a moral pat on the back. Look at me, I’m a good person. I’m helping the children! I’m so good and wonderful. I’m protecting children, look at me!

The reality is simply the opposite. By proudly flaunting the censorship, more people are made aware of the book and television show. Censors do not inhibit children from watching and reading but encourage them. They achieve the opposite of their stated goal. They know this. They are fully aware their censorship does not achieve what they claim. It reveals their actual motivation, a need to stroke their own ego.

I do not deny ideas are dangerous. People are inspired by what they see and what they read. We fear people will read and see things and be motivated to act in ways they would not before consuming such material. Ideas are also wonderful. People are inspired by ideas in beautiful and amazing ways, each and every day. This is life.

I certainly support a parent who chooses not to allow their child to watch the show or read the book. I just don’t think it’s a decision to be made by anyone else. Be they a librarian or a politician. I do caution parents who refuse to allow their children to see the show; your child is going to learn about it through outside agencies. If you refuse to allow them to watch or read it, they will likely find a way to do so without your permission.

I strongly believe enforced ignorance is not an educational tool. Those who promote censorship think otherwise.

Tom Liberman

Steve Harvey and the Message vs the Delivery

steve harveyI just read an interesting story about entertainer Steve Harvey and a memo he released to his staffers. It’s getting a lot of bad press. What I find fascinating is that his basic message is perfectly reasonable. It is the delivery that gives rise, and reasonably so, to the criticism.

That difference between the message itself and the manner in which it was delivered is what I’d like to examine today. Let’s pretend we are on the receiving end of the memo in question. Let’s imagine our reaction depending upon the way it is written, rather than the content. We are an employee of Harvey or perhaps a perspective employee reading the memo in the news. How would we react? What actions would we take depending if we heard the basic premise or, instead, read the actual memo?

Now, as to the memo itself. Apparently, Harvey is often approached by staff while in his dressing room and during his time in the makeup chair. These disruptions make it difficult for him to focus on his job and cut dramatically into his free time. That makes perfect sense to me. When you are the lead talent on a television show, it’s important to manage your time properly. You can’t have unscheduled meetings throughout the day or you will find your performance suffers. Harvey is completely right about this.

Yet, his message repeatedly states the same point over and over again. He starts off in an extremely friendly tone but quickly degenerates into all capital shouting including threats of removal for as much as opening his dressing room door.

The first five paragraphs of the new rules basically list the same rule five times. Please don’t do A. If you do A, I will be angry. Don’t do A. If you do A you will be punished. Has anyone ever sat you down and told you the same thing over and over again? It’s incredibly condescending and annoying. The entire message could have been delivered in short but coherent memo not more than three paragraphs long. It could have been sent in a polite fashion or perhaps a firm fashion. That would be up to Harvey to decide.

It’s so fascinating to imagine myself on the receiving end of such a memo and my reaction to it. I’d like you to do the same. Let’s say you actually get the ranting, repetitive, all cap filled memo. If it was me I’d be thinking about a new job. The person who wrote it is clearly unstable. The person who wrote it most likely has anger management issues. It’s clear to me the person who wrote this doesn’t have impulse control and working for such a person is a nightmare. Even if I desperately needed the job, I’d immediately be putting my resume out there. I’d certainly think twice before taking a job for the person who wrote that memo. I would imagine anyone working for Harvey pretty much lives in constant fear of a mercurial and autocratic maniac.

On the other hand, if someone simply told me that Harvey doesn’t like being approached while in his dressing room or during makeup, I’d simply shrug my shoulders and say it sounds pretty reasonable. I’d go about my day without as much as another thought.

Now, maybe I’m fooling myself. I don’t actually work for Harvey. But the stark difference in the reaction I think I’d have is profound. If you are angry about a situation and thinking of writing a memo, I’d urge you to think about the situation. What impression do you want people to have of you?

It’s much more than the message itself, it’s the manner in which it is delivered.

Something to consider at least.

Tom Liberman

Battlegrounds Anarchy and Benevolent Dictatorship

battlegroundsAmong my few pursuits in life is watching people play video games on Twitch.tv and recently a new game called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has stormed the site. It is being played by tens of thousands of watched by more. One of the coolest features is the ability create a server where the host sets up many of the rules.

The games so created are a strange blend of Anarchy and Totalitarianism and I find the combination interesting. By technical definition, no two political philosophies could be further apart. In an Anarchic state, there is no real central government, just a collection of individuals with like interests. In a Totalitarian state the government makes all the rules.

What happens when a streamer on Twitch creates their own Battlegrounds server is that other players join and begin to play. When the host, or benevolent dictator as I prefer to call her or him, sets up the game, there are generally rules. Yet, there is no way to enforce these rules.

One example is a Zombie Apocalypse style game. In such a game one team of players is allowed to equip whatever weapons and armor they desire. These are the survivors. The other team must strip naked and grab only melee weapons like pans. There are several other rules designed to create a fairly balanced environment where both sides have a good chance of victory but, as I said, there is no real way to enforce these restrictions.

If a Zombie player chose to pick up a gun and start shooting, there is no mechanism to prevent it. Certainly, the benevolent dictator can alert other players and they can gang up on the person not playing by the rules. However, if a half dozen or so players decided to disregard the rules, the game would be largely ruined.

You must remember it is in the best interest of the players to have an evenly matched game. This is the absolute key to making such a system work. It must be understood that a poorly balanced game, in which one side completely destroys the other, just isn’t as much fun as a finely balanced match. It’s not much fun for the winning side and even less for the losers.

In these two things, we have a combination of a benevolent dictatorship and anarchy. The players who join the Battlegrounds game do so because they enjoy spending time with like-minded people. They agree to a set of rules designed to make the game more enjoyable. The rules actually change as balance shifts but the players largely follow them. The dictator sees how a session goes and tweaks the rules in order to create a game in which all players enjoy themselves.

No one has to join the server. Participation is completely voluntary and if a dictator creates a set of rules in which one team or group has an unfair advantage, she or he would soon find it impossible to get people to play the game. And, here’s the good news. It largely works. Sure, there might be an isolated case of someone breaking the rules now and again, but the vast majority of players abide by the rules and have a fantastic time while doing so, even when their team turns out to be the loser. For winning is less important than having fun, and much fun is had. Much.

Can you imagine a world that followed this pattern? People setting up systems in which everyone benefits. The people that create the most beneficial systems, those that are fun and fair, get more and more players. Those who create environments that are not so, are left behind. Would you want to live in such a world?

Certainly, we wouldn’t all choose to live on the same Battlegrounds server. Some people enjoy one thing and others might relish something else. As long as someone was creating environments, we could pick and choose that which we liked the most.

The world we live in today is not like this.

However, I believe we are headed toward such a world. I think the boundaries we call nations are at the beginning of the end. We separate ourselves by arbitrary differences like race, geography, gender, age, and more. In the future world, we will all be connected through technology, and we will choose with whom we wish to associate.

A fun, fair, and well-managed server succeeds because people join it. Seems like a good system to me.

Tom Liberman

Emma Watson Wins Best Actor Award

emma watsonEmma Watson played the character of Belle in the hugely popular and well-reviewed live action Beauty and the Beast movie. It’s not a huge surprise that she won the Best Actor in a Movie category at the MTV Awards show. Well, wait, yes, it is. Best Actor in a Movie? Yep, no more Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor and that’s got some people jumping for joy and others up in arms in rage.

Gender neutral awards. That word, gender, is a bit of a buzzword these days. Gender neutral. Same sex marriage. These are topics people feel strongly about and I suspect they are carrying those passions into this particular situation. They believe this yet another attack on what they consider their moral imperative. I don’t think it is. I think it’s a long overdue change.

The question I think is most pertinent is to wonder why we have any gender, race, creed, religion, or age specific awards? Is there a Best Male Actor Over the Age of 65 with Yellow Skin who Believes in Jesus as His Savior category? Of courses not, nor should there be. It seems self-evident to me that in a field like acting, gender has no role in excellence. The gender of the actor in no way gives them an advantage or disadvantage.

Many gender related restrictions are designed to allow women to participate. If there was no women’s basketball team, then there would be few women basketball players. Men are bigger and stronger than women and this gives them an inherent advantage. We’ve long seen that a woman who can compete with men is allowed to do so. We have hockey goalies, placekickers, pitchers, golfers, and other athletes who are women competing with men quite well. As they should. What we’re trying to avoid is bigger and stronger men competing and dominating physical events designed for women. That is also reasonable. We have the Special Olympics for mentally disadvantaged people. That also makes sense.

Where there is no inherent advantage, I’m convinced we should eliminate any gender based consideration. I don’t even see how this is controversial. It seems so obvious. Both men and women should support this even though their competition will now be doubled. There will be twice as many people competing for the same number of awards.

Think about what drives us to be our best. It’s competition. When we must compete against others we get better. If you increase the competitive field, the only result is the best has to be even better. We all benefit from this competition in any number of ways.

I strongly suspect people on both side of the political aisle will not like this idea. There are so-called Liberals who will note women will not win as many awards and be angry. There will be so-called Conservatives who think this is an attack on their moral and religious beliefs.

This united front convinces me even more that I’m correct, that MTV has done the right thing.

We should all be judged by our ability. This is the heart of equality. I’m all for that.

Tom Liberman

Hotel California not really Hotel California

Hotel CaliforniaFor anyone near my age, 52, the song Hotel California brings back strong memories. The song was an enormous hit for The Eagles in 1977. So, I was filled with curiosity when I saw members of the band have filed a lawsuit against a hotel in Mexico called Hotel California.

I’m also quite interested in all things legal and I find the case itself to be utterly fascinating. The Hotel California is a small hotel in Baja California Sur and had that name dating back to 1950. The hotel changed owners and names a number of times, but wily entrepreneurs began to market it under the original name in 2001. Using marketing campaigns and events at the hotel itself, they create an association between the establishment and the song.

The hotel was not the inspiration for the song and the band members feel as though their song is being used to falsely advertise the hotel.
Judging by the comments I’m reading in various articles about the lawsuit, opinions seem sharply divided. Some think it is a terrible overreach by the band while others think the hotel is clearly in the wrong.

Let me begin by telling you that I’m not a lawyer. My opinions herein are not based on a legal understanding of the case but upon a layman’s.

The hotel clearly has the right to use the name Hotel California. It was the hotel’s name long before the song. The Eagles have no right to stop them from using it. The lawsuit apparently simply wants the owners to stop using the false association. I’m guessing their argument is that people who stay at the hotel are disappointed it is not associated with the song and, perhaps, even blame the band for the misinformation.

It’s clear the hotel is creating a false association but that is not necessarily a crime. As the law says, Caveat Emptor. Let the Buyer Beware. The basic premise is that people have to take it upon themselves to understand the hotel is not associated with the song. They must spend the time to research this information before plunking down money to stay at the hotel. People presumably pay this money because they want the experience of staying at a hotel that was the inspiration for the song. Of course, it was not, but who is to blame for this mistake? The hotel or the traveler?

Yes, they are deceiving but have they actually lied? Do they claim the hotel is associated with the song or do they simply pipe in Eagles music, presumably for which they’ve paid royalties? Do they create an environment where the unwary might be fooled, but stop short of crossing legal lines?

Where is the border crossed between fraud and legal, but reprehensible, misinformation? I’m not sure but the entire thing is absolutely captivating.

While the legal case will likely remain in limbo for who knows how long, I think the events are a good lesson for all of us. Don’t assume something is true based on an impression. Pay careful attention to the exact words being used or written. We live in the Information Age. It is not at all difficult to determine the hotel and the song are completely unrelated. A short search on the internet can easily reveal this information. If you spend your money on the hotel assuming the relationship is there, when it is not, perhaps that is your fault.

Tom Liberman