Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Police car design reviews!

Colorado State Patrol

I don't care if this has a light bar and sirens. This does not look like a police car. If I saw this car speeding past me, I would think it was a company car for a start-up that produces hydroelectric power or something.

Maine State Police

I've heard some libertarians complain that giving police black uniforms and vehicles is a sign of the increasing militarization of law enforcement. That said, I don't think we ought to make the police drive around in something that resembles the 1982 Cardinals' road uniforms.

Massachusetts State Police

Oh, no! I'm being pulled over by the Seattle Seahawks!

Tennessee State Highway Patrol

I can see how someone might think that a broken stripe is lovably retro. But there is no excuse for harvest gold.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Remember when you were constructing Lego buildings and you'd start running out of correctly-colored (sorry, "coloured") blocks, so you'd just throw in whatever colors you had left in a series of stripes?

Johannesburg Metro Police

Every year, South Africa loses many of its finest officers to psychosomatic blindness.

Fairfax County (VA) Police

Ooh, gradients! Can you throw in a lens flare?

Grapevine (TX) Police

Yes, Chief, I know, "Grapevine" and all that. But couldn't we have a design patterned on green grapes?

North Pole (AK) Police

I would be really impressed if they used the color-changing paint we used to have on Matchbox cars, so that the snow caps on the letters disappeared in the summertime.

Forks Township (PA) Police

This calls for a visit from Peter Stormare.

Pope County (IL) Sheriff

Rumor has it that Pope County also ordered a series of custom sirens.

University of Oregon Police

The same brand of ugly that has infected Oregon's football uniforms has moved on to its police cars.

Double Oak (TX) Police

Here's an example of what a police car ought to look like. "Police" is written in big, clear letters that can be read from a long distance away. The black-and-white paint job is distinctive. Even very young children, illiterates, and newcomers to town can determine instantly that this is a police car.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A note on Texas justice

In Texas, it is OK for a prosecutor to refer to the defendant as a "moral vacuum," (McKay v. State, 707 S.W.2d 23, 36 (Tex. Crim. App. 1985)) an "animal," (Burns v. State, 556 S.W.2d 270, 285 (Tex. Crim. App. 1977)), and a "monster," (Rivas v. State, No. 04-06-00375-CR, 2007 WL 1608550, at *6 (Tex. App.—San Antonio June 6, 2007)), but calling the defendant a "hippie" in the closing argument is considered too inflammatory and is grounds for reversing a conviction. Stein v. State, 492 S.W.2d 548 (Tex. Crim. App. 1973)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Movie review: "Häxan"

There are about a half a dozen ways that you can examine this unusual Swedish silent classic, and I'm going to give you a once-over so you can determine if it's the sort of film you want to watch or not.

Experiment in narrative. Häxan isn't structured quite like any other film you've ever seen. It begins with a shot of the filmmaker, Benjamin Christensen, looking stern, and proclaiming that he created the film over the course of two years. Christensen then launches into what is essentially a university lecture on medieval cosmology, complete with pointer stick and citations. Then Christensen begins to weave skits about the Inquisition into his tale, occasionally dropping back out to present more lecture material, concluding with a short story about modern times. At a couple of points, Christensen even tells us what the actresses in the skits told him while they were playing the scenes! It's an unusual mix of documentary and drama, and I can't tell if it was totally revolutionary or if modern cinematic storytelling conventions hadn't quite set in yet. In a way, the combination of a straight-talking (and slightly sarcastic) narrator with a "re-enactment" makes Häxan the ancestor of both the horror anthology and such TV docudramas as Unsolved Mysteries.

Exploitation film. From the first time a witch pulls apart a stack of hay to reveal a severed hand, it's clear that Christensen is prepared to put on a spectacle using the best technology he could get, and the film is a bonanza both of early special effects (mechanical dioramas, stop-motion, double-exposures, bizarre costumes) and lurid subject matters (demonic dances, nuns gone mad, torture devices demonstrated, and blatant masturbation references). It brings to mind later exploitation films that used education as an excuse to get away with showing such sinful matters as sex, drugs, and gore.

Gender perspectives. All the characters who are afflicted with devil visits or mental illness are women. All the demons, the inquisitors, and the physicians are men. Häxan is part of the medieval tradition of associating women with chaos and men with order, but displays the worst of both traits; women driven mad by their unchecked emotions are confronted with the hideous and merciless bureaucracy of the Inquisition. (However, there's a short scene with a woman pilot at the end - I wonder if that means anything?)

Mental health. Despite Christensen's "we're men of science now" demeanor, it's clear that he isn't totally sold on his era's view of mental illness. He treats the sufferers as innocent waifs and the organizations that are supposed to help them as short-sighted and mean.

The Great War. Christensen began filming this the year after World War I ended. German filmmakers had already used insanity and mind control as a very effective metaphor for the war in 1919's "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," and Christensen revisits those themes here, even including a reference to the war in the modern skit. In earlier times such a horrific event would've been blamed on the devil, Christensen seems to say, but as men of science, we've proved that he doesn't exist… or does he?

Link to a free version of the film is right here, and feel free to comment or email me if you want to talk more about it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We want you, we want you, we want you as a new recruit

Scene: A smoke-filled room in Annapolis, Maryland, 1917. A team of admirals are meeting around a desk.

"So, we've finally decided to smash the cursed Hun. We're going to need a lot more men to join the Navy. Any ideas for our recruiting campaign?"

"Well, we could appeal to patriotism, or draw pictures of the Kaiser as a gorilla, but I think the Army already has that covered. We need some kind of angle, something unique."

"Sir, I have an idea."

"Go ahead."



"Yes, sir. Sex. We market the Navy as the sexy service."

"I'm a little confused. Do you mean something like this?"

"What? No! I mean using women in the ads!"

"But Admiral, surely you've noticed that there are no women in the Navy. And our sailors are often required to spend months at sea at a time, with no women for hundreds of miles around."

"So we get kind of a boyish-looking girl and put her in a Navy uniform. Like this."

"You know damned well that the Navy's uniform isn't designed for women."

"So then you just draw pictures of the girl in the uniform, so you don't have to design a uniform just for the model. And make sure you get one of a girl in one of those jumpers with a V-neck."

"I'm quite concerned that this campaign will be a disaster for some of our younger, fresh-faced sailors. We don't want the Navy to become associated with gender ambiguity."

"Look, if anybody asks, we just say that we're promoting how sexy your girlfriend will look when you come home and she borrows your uniform. There's no danger of attracting Oscar Wilde types."

"All right, let's do it. It's not like this display of sexual imagery will carry over into any future wars or anything."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Residential Rehab or Nondenominational Church?

I drove past a billboard for The Cornerstone today, and it struck me that this organization had the kind of generically uplifting and pleasant name that I associate with one of two entities: a residential drug rehab center of the type so often seen on "Intervention," or a non-specifically Protestant freeway church. And given that I received a compliment on my blog today, I figured I would turn this into a game for my readers. For each location listed below, guess whether it's a rehab facility or a megachurch. Answers at the bottom of the post. Search engines make it not fun.

1. Bay Pointe, Traverse City, MI
2. Guiding Star, Phoenix, AZ
3. Archways, Scott, LA
4. Garden Way, Eugene, OR
5. The Genesis Project, Ogden, UT
6. A New Freedom, Houston, TX
7. ChangePoint, Anchorage, AK
8. Life Changers, Hoffman Estates, IL
9. Changing Echoes, Angels Camp, CA
10. Empowered Life, Henderson, NV

1. church 2. rehab 3. rehab 4. church 5. church 6. rehab 7. church 8. church 9. rehab 10. church

(note: while researching this quiz I found a church called the Destiny Dome. Two gods enter, one god leaves?)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Tips

• Order a round of Black and Tans for your friends. Convince them it's traditional.
• Carry a shillelagh. Use it for its traditional purpose - cracking the skulls of anyone who wears fecking leprechauns on their clothing.
• If you run out of Irish drinking songs, remember that songs from other EU citizens are basically the same thing. May I suggest Ace of Base?
• Try the Salmon of Knowledge. It's delicious!
• Carry a sign reading "Down With This Sort Of Thing."
• Convert your name to its traditional Irish form by doubling every "n," turning every "o" into an "ui," and inserting an "haitch" before every vowel.
• Eamon De Valera quit drinking in the hopes that his countrymen would do likewise. Never speak of this.
• Celebrate St. Patrick's patronage of Nigeria with an evening of Nollywood films.
• Take up your Irish-American friends' invitations to kiss them, then spend the next two weeks at home with mononucleosis.
• Ask your German friends for money.
• Consider whether your quaint notions of the Auld Sod and its people could be mildly racist, and open your mind to the possibility that the Irish may be ordinary people like you and me. Then put these troubling thoughts aside.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Maybe a little inspired by a trip to the Sizzler

Suppose you have just entered a restaurant and you discover that all the patrons are old people. Would that make you more likely to want to eat there, or less likely to want to eat there?

• Old people are good at spotting bargains, so presumably the restaurant would give you good value for money
• Old people expect friendly service and are unlikely to hang out at a place where the staff is rude
• No irritating children

• Old people may just be coming back because they remember how great the food used to be twenty years ago
• Old people have developed a taste for braised pork snouts and boiled fish lips and other disgusting foods they used to have to eat during the War
• Unpleasant reminders of one's own mortality