Maybe that’s why everyone loves Wall-E

WALL-E: Cute robot or liberal propaganda? – ParentDish

“From the first moment of the film,” wrote Shannen Coffin, former general counsel to Vice President Cheney, “my kids were bombarded with leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind.”

So, Wall-E has been described as “a 90-minute lecture on the dangers of over consumption, big corporations, and the destruction of the environment.” The cynic in me is wondering if the blogs I read, predominantly pretty liberal, pick up on that, and overstate how good the movie is because it speaks to some of the issues they believe in. That is, it’s getting “good movie” points for “good message”. It’s only natural to come away with a more positive perception of anything – a movie, a person, a work of art, whatever – if that thing supports views you already hold. I certainly don’t mean to imply that the reviewers of Wall-E are being dishonest, even unconsciously. But it’s something to think about. Especially if the conservative reviewers consistently have lower opinions of the movie. I guess I’d have to check out some of them to be sure.

Unfortunate name, interesting product

Tobias Buckell Online | Blews

I’m quite intrigued, as I’m always trying tools that will blunt any attempt by myself to surround myself and read only people who think exactly like I do. I think of all the outraged liberals in ‘04 who thought there was no possible way Bush could win because they didn’t know of anyone who was going to vote for him. Or conservative friends who still think Bush has been the greatest president evar!

I keep hearing about this Microsoft Blews thing, and, as Buckell says, this could be the coolest thing Microsoft has ever done. I’d add “since Windows 3.1” to his statement, but whatever. I have mentioned before that I’d like a nice unbiased news source that leans in the direction of exactly none of the political parties. I’ve tried foreign publications, since they probably lean towards parties I’ve never heard of, and I figure that’s better than ones I have heard of. But foreign news always seems to have this undercurrent of, “Oh, jeez, look what the Americans did now”. Maybe that’s just me – I do have a not-entirely-irrational fear that the entire world laughs at us all the time. Anyway, the one thing that I don’t see anywhere is whether it’s a website or a desktop application. If this is going after Google Reader or some other web-based news aggregator (My Firefox dictionary doesn’t have “aggregator”?), then I think it could be very successful. However, if this is some desktop application (Windows only == fail), then I’m getting interested for nothing. Desktop applications are best suited for things that are too resource-intensive to be done in your browser. Consuming news articles through a desktop application is only a half-step above (shudder) reading a newspaper.

Who needs cake?

Accidental Hedonist – The Smells of a Kitchen

When the aroma [of garlic and onions frying] filled the kitchen and then wafted into neighboring rooms, something happened that kicked any “new home anxiety” out of the door.

Some people say to bake a cake or bread when you’re trying to make your house seem as appealing as possible.  I like garlic and onions better.

Smells do have a strange effect on people.  For example, I found it very disconcerting today when I walked into the men’s room at the headquarters of one of the illustrious branches of the Department of Homeland Security.  I can’t describe the smell, exactly, except to say that it reminded me strongly of a pet store.  Hamster bedding, perhaps?  I don’t know.  It freaked me out a little.

But I’d never really thought about smells-as-therapy.  It makes a lot of sense, though.  If a smell can quickly generate a strong feeling of something, it’s logical that they could be used to turn unwanted feelings into something more comforting.

That’s not to say that I want to smell garlic and onions everywhere, or that I want to smell my grandmother’s basement all the time and be transported back to 1986, playing my uncle’s old hockey game.  Sure, it’s a nice memory, but it wouldn’t be  so comforting if I had it all the time.

Anyway, it seems like an interesting way of manipulating emotions.

Today we teach race car drivers how to fly

‘World’s most valuable car’ fails to sell –

One thing it doesn’t have, of course, is modern safety technology. Race cars in those days didn’t even have seatbelts. It was seen as preferable to be thrown from the car in a crash.

This car has a top speed of 185 miles and hour, and it was “seen as preferable” to exit the vehicle at that speed than to stay inside.  I can’t imagine what the car must be like to make people think that.  Perhaps, instead of today’s “crumple zones”, old race cars had “pointy-spike-impalement zones”.  That’s the only explanation I can think of.

You! Go take an econ class, right now.

Techdirt: Infinity Is Your Friend In Economics

So the trick to embracing infinite goods isn’t in limiting the infinite nature of them, but in rethinking how you view them.

I’ve said many times to anyone who will listen that no one should graduate college without an economics class. I took Principles of Econ as a freshman (And got one of only two or three A’s for the semester, despite being one of only a few underclassmen), and it changed the way I thought about things. Just understanding a supply and demand curve, even a basic understanding, can allow you to look at things differently.

I wonder what would have happened if I had graduated as an economics major. I started off that way, then, through some sort of entrance test mixup that placed me in Calc I after two years of Calc in high school (I think maybe I was asleep for the test? I don’t know) and the subsequent working it out with a math professor, I became convinced that Math-Econ was the way to go. I managed two Econ classes before I dropped the major. It wasn’t the material, it was just that the class was so boring. There was no discussion. We just sat and took notes and then took tests. I wanted to shoot myself.

Anyway, this is sort of relevant to the link at the top. Business flips out when there is no scarcity – when supply really is infinite. This makes sense, because an infinite supply means you should be selling it for nothing. Obviously you aren’t going to make any money that way. But this article points out that markets do not exist in a vacuum. A free good can be used in other goods or used in relation to other goods, and money can be made.

It’s all about, as Techdirt says, continuous innovation. You can’t ride one great idea forever. Sooner or later, someone will do it better and cheaper. And when your old business model is obsolete, because the good you were selling is now infinite, or whatever else might happen, you can’t run to the government and ask them to make competing with you illegal. You have to think about the next step. There’s almost always value to be added.

Edited to add:

BoingBoing has a post about inflation in virtual worlds that seems appropriate here, too. I actually didn’t read the linked article, but it’s probably interesting and relevant.

T-shirts and more t-shirts

Tcritic – Daily T-Shirt Blog

Ever since the dude from Preshrunk stopped updating regularly, there has been a t-shirt-shaped hole in my RSS reader.  But no more.  Ever since BoingBoing pointed me towards the list of blogs that I’m not cool enough to be reading already, I’ve added Tcritic to my daily reads.  Awesome t-shirts, not too much commentary (You know how some of us bloggers get long-winded and rambling.  I mean, not me, of course).

Cool DIY site

instructables : Conjoined Twin Mice

Warning: dead mice in decorative form. If you disapprove of this concept on principle, please peruse some of the other new Instructables instead.

Instructables is a collection of HowTo guides from people on all sorts of things.  I found it through Lifehacker, telling you how to make a solar powered light in a jar, but this dead mouse art is obviously the pinnacle of the site.  Some of the stuff here just sucks, but some of it is pretty cool.

Helium shortage? Oh, no!

NPR : Helium Shortage Looms for United States

Helium balloon fans — of whatever age — shouldn’t worry about a shortage, however: The balloons suck up only 8 percent of the helium stock.

Well, that’s good to hear.  I don’t know what we’d do without helium balloons.   It’s a little surprising, though, that 8 percent of all the helium in the country is used for balloons.  I mean, not to knock birthday decorations and whatnot, but do we really need to use that much for something that lasts only a few days at best?