Shifting Ground

The VFX world is rumbling. After years of enduring impossible deadlines, hours, and too often blatant nonpayment, Life of Pi’s VFX Oscar win was the final irony: the studio responsible for the award-winning effects is in bankruptcy.

And if it wasn’t bad enough, the barest mention of the situation got the winner played off in the cheapest style.

And if that wasn’t enough, the director didn’t make a single mention of the VFX responsible for so much of his movie:

Of course you know this means war!


And others decided to bring the point home in a more generalized way.

But twitter-snark aside, there is starting to be talk of a strike. Will it go anywhere? Desperate workers are often not desperate enough to risk being blackballed, but I think we might have reached the point where they feel they have nothing left to lose.

OMG Police Brutality

Unfortunately for the Occupy protesters’ messaging, this guy is right:

Boston Globe reporter on Occupy Boston arrests

Based on the videos I’ve seen, I pretty much agree. The Boston Police did show restraint, although that one guy just getting pushed over seemed unprovoked.

However: It’s clear that there’s a lot of propaganda coming out of the city now, between blaming the arrests on “anarchists” or evicting “to protect the plants.” It’s clear to me what this was: a show of force to tell Occupy Boston “we’ll let you have your little crappy plot of land next to the big ugly vent, but don’t think about getting any bigger.” The lawn next to Dewey Square was just a big barely-utilized field before, so who cares if a bunch of tents pop up for (as the city thinks) a couple weeks? But if they’d allowed the tents to remain in the next park, Occupy would have quickly outgrown that area and would have continued to move down the greenway. Occupy Boston is a manageable protest right now. If it remains manageable, nothing will come of it. Nothing will change if everyone’s still comfortable.

Occupy Boston

OccupyBoston_4 by Niklas Weikert, on Flickr

I attended a general assembly at Occupy Boston on Thursday night and I got to see, as the slogan goes, “what democracy looks like.” A week earlier I’d attended the initial planning session and thought the group was laughably over-organized. There were subcommittees, a series of hand gestures, and a complicated procedure for calling on speakers and making decisions. At thursday’s meeting the reason for all that process became clear: it’s really, really hard to get passionate individuals to stay on topic.

We spent an hour discussing (arguing would be too strong a word) whether to add a specific general idea to a list of ideas that will be considered for inclusion on a document in the future. That overstates things a little: a lot of the discussion was clarifying whether or not the specific topic would be announced right away, or if it would be held back until the whole document was done. The worry was that by announcing this single topic, the media would assume this was the primary concern for the group. This was an important discussion to have, and I think everyone was happy with the decision that was reached.

But it’s easy to see how, based on the rules of process, it will be hard to come to an agreement on actual details. Right now anyone can veto a proposal, and as the vague amorphous anger becomes more specific someone is going to be annoyed with the result. As an example, either the Paul-ies are going to be mad that Ending the Fed isn’t a major priority, or a non-Paul-y (like me) is going to be mad that Ending the Fed is a major priority. As long as a decision hasn’t been made, every protester assumes that the group agrees with him or herself.

The Boston protest is still in its early stages, and the facilitators running the meetings are still getting a hang of the complicated process. I think they need to have a stronger hand and make sure the process is going ahead as it’s been defined. Then, as the rest of the people learn the rules it will get easier to stay on topic. There are always going to be idiots who offer a “friendly amendment” as an excuse to inject whatever personal pet issue they are obsessed with, but they’ll just be like the annoying radio show caller that gets shut down quickly.

The support for the movement is growing daily, with unions, (more unions), ice cream manufacturers, and general folk of all stripes joining up. And with a high degree of tolerance coming from the Boston Police, I think Occupy Boston will have the time they need to mature.

“premium services”

The New York Times reports on, as Atrios says, the plight of the not quite rich enough. But I noticed this bit of End-Of-Empire detail:

Across the country, elected officials in privileged communities are caught between a fervor to hold down taxes and a fervor to maintain good schools, well-paved streets, an ample police force, generous library hours and other premium public services that set a community like Bronxville apart.

Good schools, well-paved streets, an ample police force, and generous library hours: these are what constitute “premium services” in America, 2011.

Elect-o-meter for linux

Boingboing had a neat post about an “elect-o-meter” that one could hack up — basically a plastic cup that glows red or blue depending on who is winning the election.

I don’t have the necessary hardware though, so I took the code and made a software version:


The purple will become more blue or more red depending on who is winning, and then when a winner is declared it will turn fully red or blue. Because the purples are very difficult to discern by eye, I print the actual percentages below.

Here’s the source code. Just run it on a Linux machine and it should work.


This is for the record, so that in case it comes true I can say “I nailed it”:

I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if, at some point this week, Sarah Palin’s ethical troubles suddenly blow so wide open that McCain is forced to withdraw her name from candidacy and select someone else. This would be an example of the Miers Maneuver.

Withdrawing Palin’s name might seem politically infeasible since it would show that McCain is grossly incompetent at the most basic of presidential tasks, but then again it already looks that way. He could easily claim, “see, I learn from my mistakes.” Or he could just throw her under the Straight Talk Express and claim she had assured him that there was nothing to the allegations, etc etc.

Update: Ok, so I didn’t nail it. Enjoy your nominee, dudes

Immigrant “boycott?”

In all the coverage I’ve read the upcoming event on May 1st has been referred to as an “immigrant boycott.” Which seems weird, because usually when a large number of people who work for various industries don’t show up for work it’s called a “general strike.”

The S-word doesn’t show up in cursory searches of the nytimes website and Google News shows a lot of big name sources using the “boycott” terminology, and half as many tiny sources using “strike.” I don’t have Lexis Nexis so I can’t really do this properly.

I’m not sure of the reason news sources are avoiding the word, other than perhaps to downplay the significance of the event. I’d be interested to hear from journalists about why they settled on this terminology.