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Messages - ClintACK

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(Can't compare to Mr. J's great comic, but this made me laugh.  The distinction between "fruit" and "vegetable" has always been strange.)

Congrats, Nora!

Lots of really fun stories this month.

Voted for @Raptori & @Saurus and @SJBudd.  After that I had way too many tied to try to pick two.  :)

General Discussion / Re: Politics and other ailments of the real world
« on: December 01, 2015, 07:46:04 PM »
Back to the gun control issue Prof. Jaun Cole on firearm ownership and related murders in the USA.
Interesting numbers if correct but I make no supporting claims for accuracy. On the subject of alternate energy he has published what amounts to propaganda in the past.


Hard to take his numbers too seriously when the article includes the standard claim of increasing violence side-by-side with a plot that shows violent deaths decreasing 50% in the U.S. over the last forty years.  And when that chart specifically compares the U.S. to other developed countries with less violence by simply excluding the ones that are more violent.

Then there's the chart of "handgun mortality" -- with no reference to the fact that a large majority of those deaths are suicides.  (I'm not saying that suicide isn't bad -- just that gun control isn't a way to reduce suicidal depression.)  The text on either side of that chart obfuscates this fact -- talking about violent crime and firearm murder.  He even writes, "There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):" as the lead in to the chart. 

But here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States_by_state) are the state-by-state statistics.  The state with the lowest gun murder rate (Vermont) has 42% gun ownership.  The state with the highest gun murder rate (Louisiana) has 44% gun ownership.  Compare the gun murder rate statistics for the ten highest gun ownership states (0.6, 2.8, 0.8, 3.2, 4.0, 1.5, 1.0, 1.2, 2.7, and 0.9: avg 1.87, with >50% gun ownership) to those for the ten lowest gun ownership states (0.5, 2.8, 1.8, 1.5, 2.7, 2.7, 2.8, 3.4, 5.1, and 3.9: avg 2.72, with <25% gun ownership).  (all rates in the standard per 100k per year)  I wouldn't draw any conclusions from this without a lot more analysis -- but 2.72 isn't less than 1.87, and gun ownership is 2-4x higher in the high-ownership states I used.

And gun control can't explain the disparity of violence between the U.S. and the U.K.  The state with the lowest gun ownership -- Hawaii at 6.7% still has a murder rate twice that of the U.K.  The second lowest -- NJ at 12.8% -- has a murder rate four times that of the U.K.  Not one U.S. state has a murder rate lower than that of the U.K. despite a wide, wide range of policies on guns and violence.  (New Hampshire ties the U.K. with 1.0 violent murders per 100k per year.  New Hampshire has 30% gun ownership.)

TL;DR: Gun Control's a really contentious issue -- and a really complicated one.  Most of the statistics one would like in order to make an informed decision are completely unavailable.  No one knows how many lives are saved by the defensive use of guns, or even how often guns are used defensively -- estimates vary wildly (the reasonable ones range from 70k/year to 5M/year).  No one knows how many people who used guns to commit suicide would have found another method if guns were unavailable. Or how many premeditated murders of non-strangers would just switch methods.  Or even how much gun violence involves legally owned guns vs. ones that are already illegal.

In this vacuum, it's really easy to make assumptions that fit what we already believe.

Still TL; DR any of that: Yeah, Juan Cole is playing fast and loose with numbers and charts.  As he usually does.

My only concern about Civil War is its one film. 
For me this could easily have been a trilogy, a duology at a push. Take a film to set up events then have the film end on some cliffhanger (Cap/Iron Man facing off maybe?) the second film is the war, cover the characters and reasons behind whose side thier own, have a few epic battes. Then film three (or stuffed into the end of film two if a duology) is the end of the war and the fallout/repercussions.

This way the story is given plenty of room and honours such a major event.

I really hope so. I really wanted to like Age of Ultron, but as others have said, I felt it was overstuffed. It was fun but not nearly as tightly plotted (both in terms of character development and story beats) as prior Marvel movies. It really needed to be an hour longer (which Joss Whedon already said they decided not to do) or have some of its subplots simplified or excised. My opinion about Ultron hasn't changed on rewatching it. Too much happens way too rapidly.

Totally agree with all of this.

It's sad to see the Marvel superstars relegated to a crammed-in, rushed movie like that after watching how well Daredevil and Jessica Jones could develop a story over a nine or ten hour season.

It must be economic -- there must be more money to be made from a two-hour theatrical release than a ten-hour purchase-to-stream release.  But I'm not sure why that is -- or even whether it's still true in the era of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey. 

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What were your first fantasy books?
« on: November 28, 2015, 02:00:29 AM »
As a kid, Narnia, Prydain, and fairy tales.

Then my very first "full-length-novels" -- the first Xanth trilogy.  (I think there really were only three of those books back then.)

Then the Hobbit.

DNF'd LoTR in the many chapters of walking through swamps.  But did finish the Once and Future King.

Then found D&D, Dragonlance, the Belgariad... and lots, lots more.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« on: November 27, 2015, 03:53:16 PM »

In my case (aside from three series I read as a kid/teenager: Harry Potter, Darren Shan, and Alvin Maker), my introduction to fantasy was Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings, closely followed by Sanderson's Mistborn and Stormlight Archive...  :o

This topic seems ripe for it's own thread.  :)  But wow, you got a great start.

I think I started with Narnia and Prydain, then moved to Xanth, loved the Hobbit, but DNF'd LoTR halfway through the Two Towers.  (Half a volume of wandering in the swamp was too much for me at ten or eleven...)  Then my friends and I became aware of D&D...

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: What should Raptori read next?
« on: November 27, 2015, 02:25:32 PM »
After doing a re-read earlier this year, i realized Katniss is not that "strong female" that everyone seems to think she is. Also, don't even finish the word "lead". She doesn't lead anything. She is used (even more so on the 3rd book), guided at best, than anything else.


Even her mission to assassinate Snow is a total failure.

Pretty much agree with everything but that last bit.  I thought that was actually the one proactive, deciding-for-herself-and-doing-it, heroic thing she did after volunteering at the beginning of the first book.

The Man in the High Castle.  (Amazon Prime)

Between this and Jessica Jones/Daredevil... I'm starting to really like the full-series-at-once shows coming out from the internet streaming providers.  And not having to wait a week between episodes.

Suddenly remembered The Lensman Series by E E Doc Smith. I honestly have forgotten all about them, so will have to check them out again and nominate them here. They were fun and are regarded as a classic now. Anyone else here read them? Jmack?

These keep hitting my TBR list -- but then I can't find an electronic version of Galactic Patrol... and so I never actually read them.     :'(

General Discussion / Re: Ask a Brit/American what this means
« on: November 27, 2015, 01:21:11 PM »
Can anyone explain Black Friday to me? Another American tradition retailers are pushing at us and we are steadfastly ignoring.

Thanksgiving is our "harvest festival" in late November.  It's always on a Thursday, and it's a national holiday involving travel to be with family.  Lots of people get the Friday off as well -- with no football on TV and no family obligations.  It's traditionally the day that you can start to put up your Christmas decorations without having your neighbors look at you like you're weird.

And it's when retailers would like us to start the shopping frenzy that is Christmas shopping.  So the big stores have steep discounts on everything, and lots of people show up at the malls and shop.  It used to be lots of places would have gimmicks like the big electronics store would have the first fifty LCD TVs eighty percent off.  That kind of thing.  And the stores would often open early.  Ten or twenty years ago, this would mean crowds lined up outside waiting for the stores to open.  These days, with online retail, the numbers are thinning out.

Writers' Corner / Re: What's another word for...?
« on: November 27, 2015, 03:29:13 AM »
If you want to *really* go grey, you could try to pick a word that would mean different things to different people -- one that would obviously indicate "bad" to most of the "civilized" folks in your story, but might be taken as a point of pride by the villain.

"Crooked" maybe?  One person reads that as straying from the straight and narrow path of order and goodness.   Another reads it as not simple and straightforward.  ("My bones are old and bent, and I've lived enough to know that thinking in straight lines just gets you to the wrong answer faster.")

Re: inhuman and elves...

In a human-majority society, I'd imagine elves using "human" as a derogatory term, probably meaning short-sighted (if there's the usual lifespan difference). 

General Discussion / Re: The King's Paws
« on: November 26, 2015, 07:50:02 PM »
Black Friday tomorrow at my work, a horrible tradition we've inherited for no reason and don't even reach the standards of price dropping in the US.

Tomorrow I hate you America.  :-[

Wait, you have Black Friday in the U.K.??

We barely still have that here -- online retail has pretty much gutted it over the last decade.

[DEC 2015] - Nation / Re: Favorite Quotes & Passages - In Spoilers
« on: November 26, 2015, 07:00:33 PM »
The first line that reminded me I was reading Terry Pratchett:

Spoiler for Hiden:
... making up a new verse explicably missing from the original hymn...

But my favorite line of the first chapter was the one Lanko already quoted about Mau and birds.  The one about coronations was a close second.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« on: November 26, 2015, 04:08:42 PM »

@ClintACK I  defended Harry Potter in the Book Battles and can explain the original appeal of the books

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I *loved* Harry Potter -- despite all the flaws.  (Don't get me started on why Quiddich is the dumbest sport ever invented.)  I named my dog Hagrid (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/pets/msg106040/#msg106040). (See icon to left)

Heck, I even more-or-less enjoyed Twilight when I read it.  And its flaws are *much* worse.  (Quick: aside from Jacob and Edward -- name one thing Bella likes or wants.)

I think one of the big "problems" here is that readers of any genre are much savvier to what's become cliche or overused.  We're excited when we read a well-written book that does something *NEW* with the same old things.  But a mainstream audience has probably never even heard these ideas, so the first breakout mainstream book from an obscure sub genre is almost certain to be riddled with cliches.  (They aren't cliche because they're bad -- they became cliche because they work really well -- it's just that they've been overused and don't have that new-idea-smell anymore.)

Take Back to the Future.  It doesn't do anything new with time travel.  (Okay, sticking it in a car is a bit cool, but you know what I mean.  The story of man-goes-back-in-time-and-accidentally-kills-his-grandfather-erasing-his-own-existence has been a cliche for longer than most of us have been alive.  Sci-fi authors were already inverting and playing with the trope in the 1960's.)  But it's a fun story -- the first mainstream time-travel story since H.G. Wells and Mark Twain, and the first one involving a paradox, as far as I know.

Was it good science fiction?  Absolutely not.  But it was a hugely enjoyable film, and it got some of its strength by stealing good ideas from science fiction and serving them up in an easier form.  No mention of wormholes or relativity or many-worlds or alternate timelines or even the word 'paradox'.

The great science fiction coming out around that time -- Brin's Uplift saga.  In terms of science fiction, there's no comparison between the two.  But can you imagine trying to present the Uplift War to a mass audience in a two hour movie?  (It could make a great GoT-style TV season, though, now that special effects are getting cheap enough.)  There are way too many new ideas for a mainstream audience -- exactly the thing that makes it so spectacular for a sci-fi audience.

But, yeah.  I have no explanation for the love of Twilight.  I guess I'm not a teenage girl.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« on: November 26, 2015, 05:02:38 AM »
What does "deserve" mean in this context?

I could see a complaint if a book reached a mass audience through a deceptive advertising campaign and most of the people who bought it didn't enjoy the book.

But if most of the people who bought a book read it and enjoyed it... of course it "deserved" those sales.  Even if it's not my favorite book.  Even if in my opinion it's a terrible book.

I'm more interested in understanding *why* Harry Potter, say, had such broad appeal, than in griping about why books I liked better didn't sell as well.

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