30 May 2010

Hm. It seems the U.S. government did fly flying saucers out of Area 51 after all. If this story is to be believed (and I think it is), Area 51 was the home base for a top-secret spy plane named OXCART which had a large disc-like fuselage to carry fuel. Information about the program is just now becoming public because the records are being declassified as they become fifty years old.

Not quite as cool as reverse-engineered alien technology, but pretty cool nonetheless.

24 March 2010

My mathematical grandfather just won the Abel Prize. (I.e. the "Nobel Prize of math", with apologies to Good Will Hunting.)

05 March 2010

So there was just an article in the times arguing that the best actor oscars shouldn't be gender-segregated. I'm pretty sympathetic to the argument. The obvious problem with making this change is that you can't really just cut the number of acting awards in half, and "second best actor" somehow wouldn't quite work. Anyway what really interests me here is who would have actually won a unified award. Here's my guesses (these are for would have won, not should have won). I'm starting in 1996 cause that's where my movie knowledge starts. Which do you disagree with? I think the toughest guesses are 99, 03, 04, 06

1996: Frances McDormand (Fargo) over Geoffrey Rush (Shine)
1997: Jack Nicholson (As Good as It Gets) over Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets)
1998: Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful) over Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love)
1999: Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) over Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry)
2000: Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) over Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
2001: Denzel Washington (Training Day) over Halle Berry (Monster's Ball) [though maybe Crowe if he didn't win in 2000]
2002: Adrien Brody (The Pianist) over Nicole Kidman (The Hours)
2003: Charlize Theron (Monster) over Sean Penn (Mystic River)
2004: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) over Jamie Foxx (Ray) [on the "she was robbed for Boys Don't Cry" theory]
2005: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) over Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
2006: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) over Helen Mirren (The Queen)
2007: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) over Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)
2008: Sean Penn (Milk) over Kate Winslet (The Reader)

24 February 2010

Poll numbers show a staggering majority of voters oppose the Citizens United decision overturning limits on political expenditures by corporations. The numbers are high enough that a constitutional amendment overturning the decision isn't out of the question.

If there is a constitutional amendment, the next question is what the amendment should say. My home state senator, Tom Udall, has introduced what I would call a narrow amendment, which would enable Congress and the states to regulate corporate political expenditures.

A more intriguing option would be to draft a broader amendment limiting the freedom of speech to natural persons (i.e., not corporations or other artificial entities). This would have all sorts of effects outside of the campaign finance world. To name a few, this would greatly aid in the regulation of pornography and advertising.

About the only downside that I can think of (although I am sure there are others) is that a poorly worded amendment might enable interference with the press or with churches. Because the First Amendment separately protects the freedom of speech, the free exercise of religion, and the freedom of the press, however, I don't think it would be impossible to maintain those protections that I think most people would want to keep in the First Amendment.