28 July 2014

Housecleaning

Mission creep set in around these parts, and since I'm sure most of the people checking out the puppet stuff don't give two shakes about my opinions on religion and politics, I'm moving all that stuff to impolitetopics.wordpress.com.

The Felties will continue to me about pop-culture related stuff, personal happenings, and maybe even that puppet series that I all but gave up on a few years back. Considering the emergence of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sources, perhaps I can whip together a budget and finally make something more than crappy video tests with the AMAZING puppets Russ built.

Also, it would be nice, at long last, to pay Russ back for the work he did. If he's still speaking to me.

13 October 2013

Project Corner: Snapper Rods

This is my little contribution to the ever present problem of "HOW THE HECK DO I PUT ARMRODS IN THIS DARN THING?!" My wife and I have been using this technique in Project Puppet puppets over the past few years, including puppets we've used in our burlesque lives (hence "Snapper Rods.")

It's not a perfect solution -- a perfect solution costs more. Instead, this is a relatively quick and easy solution that won't bust the bank. It is so quick and easy in fact, you will must likely figure it out when you read the materials list. Let's get started!

MATERIALS:
   

  • Unfinished wooden finials. At JoAnn's they call these "candle cups," they come four to a pack, and cost a couple of bucks. These accommodate a quarter-inch dowl rod.
  • A quarter-inch dowel rod. (Bet you didn't see that coming!)
  • Black hockey tape.
  • Paint. (Black spray paint and acrylic paint to match your puppet.)
  • Thread. (I recommend Silamide or some similar 2-ply waxed nylon thread. )
   
THE STEPS:

1. Dry fit the dowel rod into the finials. You may have to sand down the end of the dowel rod just a bit so it will fit well.

2. Paint the finials to match your puppet. You don't have to paint the entire thing, just the surface with the hole and over the ridge. I use double-sided tape to hold those little suckers in place while I paint them.


3. Take a seam ripper to the bottom of the puppet's hand, opposite the thumb. You want to open up a space just big enough to allow you to squeeze in the bottom of the finials. (I suppose you could just not sew this part when you make the arms.)


4. Pop in a finial on each hand!



5. Stitch that sucker in. Start on one side, get as close as you can to the finial, wrap the thread around the indented part, and continue the stitch on the other side. Make it tight. Try to turn the finial -- it shouldn't spin freely.

6. Cut the dowel rod down. They usually come 36" long, which is ridiculously long for a Project Puppet puppet. I usually cut one in half, making two reasonably long armrods. Your mileage may vary.

7. Spray paint your armrods black.

8. Wrap the handle end with hockey stick tape. Wrap about two and a half-three inches. I get all fancy and add a ridge by twisting a length of the tape, wrapping that around the stick, and covering it with more tape. It looks like this when I'm done:


9. Insert the armrod into the finial. Make sure you grasp the bulb end of the finial with one hand as you insert the dowel rod with your other hand. Ta-da! You're done.

   
FINAL NOTES:

You may note that the hand is a little floppy on the dowel rod. If you want to get super fancy, you could build a wire armature for the hand, tying the finial into it so that you have more control over the hand itself. I've experimented with this, but I haven't figured out the perfect (or "close enough") solution. If you figure something out, let me know!

19 March 2013

More on Libertarian Patches

Daniel Bier sums it up nicely at The Skeptical Libertarian Blog:
Look, we get it: government shouldn’t be in the marriage business. But the government shouldn’t be in a lot of businesses (I have serious questions about whether government should be in the governing business). That does not excuse violating individuals’ fundamental rights while they’re at it. Advocating for equality before the law is not a “distraction” from the libertarian project–it is a core piece of it.
By all means, we must continue to work at getting the government out of our private lives.  In the meantime, we can't let injustice and inequality persist because the solution isn't doctrinaire libertarianism.

State recognition of same-sex marriage isn't a doctrinaire solution, but it is a "patch" that can correct a defect in the code while we continue to write the new OS (see also:  "Why I Voted for Gary Johnson.")

12 March 2013

The Angels have Gone Galt


I should have just left it alone.  But I saw the above graphic on a friend's Facebook feed, and I guess I had just reached the limit on how much bullshit I could take for the day.  I engaged, thus breaking my rule to keep politics out of my Facebook encounters.  But I didn't argue.  Simply commented and moved on.

Arguing is for the blog.

Let's look at this.  "Libertarians make bad lifeguards."  The joke is, libertarians are selfish, and would rather see people drown than throw them a life preserver.  Ha ha ... we want to see people die.

Problem #1:  The chair should be empty. Assuming that this is a metaphor for how we view state intervention.  Or perhaps the life preserver should be absent, due to spending cuts. That would be funny. perhaps a little wonky, but it is a political cartoon.

Problem #2:  If a libertarian were to operate a pool, it would be in his best interest to have the best lifeguard under his employ.  Particularly in a cartoon world where drowning is so easy that four people drown simultaneously.

Or let's say the owner of the pool is a socialist and the lifeguard is the only libertarian on the scene.  Presumably, the lifeguard took his position on a voluntary basis, hired on merit, to freely exchange his service (life-guarding) for currency. There is an actual contract in place, not some nebulous "social contract" that haunts us from the distant past like "original sin." If said lifeguard then refuses to uphold his end of the contract, he's not a libertarian*, he's a dick.  He should be fired, sued, and thrown in jail for criminal negligence.

Problem #3:  And this is really what pisses me off.  This cartoon is part of a larger narrative that says libertarians are selfish and self-serving at the expense of all others. I call this "being tarred by the Ayn Rand brush."  It's objectivism, not libertarianism.  It's wrong-headed and dismissive; a thought-stopping and conversation-ending canard along the lines of calling Democrats "socialist" and Republicans "fascist."  It's an ad hominem.

I see where it comes from. There's this idea that if you are against State solutions, you're against all solutions.  Gary Johnson nailed it in his campaign for President. I don't recall the exact quote, but he said something like, just because you are against the Department of Education that doesn't mean you are against education.

Just because I'm against State-provided life preservers doesn't mean I'm against life preservers.  Likewise, I don't believe the State is the ultimate moral authority.

Does that make me immoral?  Let's sidetrack for a moment with Penn Jillette:
Religion is not morality. Theists ask me, “If there’s no god, what would stop me from raping and killing everyone I want to.” My answer is always: “I, myself, have raped and killed everyone I want to ... and the number for both is zero.” Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats. Religion is bribery and threats. Humans have morality. We don’t need religion.
Likewise, the State is not morality. Libertarians (and anarchists) get this.  The State is merely a concentration of power, and like any concentration of power, it will fall into the wrong hands and it will be abused with tragic consequences. Gun control?  Let's talk about State control.

People are moral.  People help people.  You don't have to look far to see this.  We are active in our communities, we contribute to disaster relief, we put ourselves in harm's way to help each other -- sometimes in direct violation of the State.

Are there dicks?  Sure.  There are seflish libertarians, just as there are selfish statists.  There are selfish people.  Stipulating for the moment that we are all horrible selfish people who need a State to keep us from screwing each other over, and further stipulating that such a State would be organized and run by a portion of said selfish people, why on earth would we surrender our personal sovereignty to them?  Or, to end with a quote from Uncle Milt:
Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest ? You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us?
Don't look to the angels.  They've gone Galt.

[*I dislike the "No True Scotsman" fallacy as much as I dislike "Argumentum Ad Hominem," and I think it's a cop out.  Having said that, respecting and honoring contractual obligations is part of the libertarian philosophy.]

13 February 2013

Minimum Wage and Libertarians

I think we libertarians largely miss the boat on minimum wage, because we fail to challenge the premises posed by folks who argue for a minimum wage and instead wind up locked inside our own Gedankenexperiment cage, yelling at the bars.

We nibble around the edges, as Mitch Toland, Jr., the author of Where is My Liberty does in this post, but we stop just shy of making the next logical step, opting instead to mouth the same old libertarian line:  "[...] government regulations such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits drive up the cost of employing additional workers."

Mitch reproduces the following graph in his blog post entitled "Obama wants to raise the minimum wage and unemployment":

This is a accurate depiction of the traditional libertarian argument against minimum wage.  A federally or state mandated minimum wage is more than what a free market would pay for unskilled labor.  Businesses that employ unskilled labor are therefore unable to hire more employees, and so the minimum wage causes unemployment.

I would argue that the graph is upside-down.  As Mitch points out, our government actively devalues the currency. An hour's worth of work doesn't buy an hour's worth of goods. As a result -- and this is where I think we miss the boat -- the market wage is actually higher than the legally mandated minimum wage.

We know this because there are companies, successful companies whose competitors pay minimum wage but who themselves opt to pay a higher starting rate.  In-N-Out Burger comes to mind: "We start all our new Associates at a minimum of $10.00 an hour for one simple reason...you are important to us!"

Minimum wage gives unscrupulous business owners an out.  They can essentially fleece their low-skill employees all the while paying the legally mandated minimum wage.  Workers don't challenge it because, hey, it's the legally defined minimum wage.  Such employers don't have to bow to market pressure to increase wages. It's price fixing that benefits business. If we did away with the minimum wage, wages would actually increase.

If employers truly had to compete for workers, we would see an increase in wages, an increase in economic activity, and a decrease in unemployment.  Pegging "minimum wage" at an artificially low number prevents this from happening.  Expecting the government to fix this mess by increasing the minimum wage is to yet again expect a government solution to a government-perpetuated problem.

At the risk of locking myself into my own Gedankenexperiment cage, consider for a moment the effect depressed wages have on the labor force.  Specifically, on worker morale.  If working over a hot grill 30 hours a week provides a meager living only marginally better than living on the dole, 1) Why the hell would you bother pursuing such work, and 2) If you had such a job, why the hell would you do any more than the absolute minimum required?  We complain about lousy service at fast food restaurants.  You get what you pay for.

Which is why I think we should flip the graph upside-down.  Or better yet, replace it with something that looks more like the Laffer Curve, but for employment and wages rather than revenue and taxation.

UPDATE:  After I hit "publish," it occurred to me:  The president's pitch to increase minimum wage to $9 supports my theory.  If minimum wage kept pace with inflation, it would be a little over $10 now.

29 January 2013

Blue Man Group

Red and I went to Vegas over the weekend to teach ("Props 101" for me, "Down and Dirty" for her) and perform at Cha Cha Velour's Live Burlesque in Las Vegas show.  The classes went great, and the show was awesome -- packed house, very receptive audience, and we got a wonderful compliment after the show from burlesque legend Dusty Summers.  That was Saturday.

The Friday night before, we went to see Blue Man Group.

My thoughts and impressions, in no particular order:
  • The show has bits that date back to the very first BMG performances.  Catching marshmallows thrown across the stage with the mouth, "fancy dinner party" with Twinkies, etc.  This are the "radio hits," the stuff the audience is expecting to see.  And they still work.
  • They do this new thing with steam and smoke rings.  It's visually arresting, but they haven't quite found the story yet.
  • If you go, (and you should) you MUST be there for the preshow procession.  The energy is incredible.
  • During the "fancy dinner party" bit, one of the Men cracked up.  It was slight, and he hid it well, but I saw the unmistakable smile form on his blue face.  The audience member did something unexpected, and he reacted. It was a beautiful moment to witness.  That a performer can do show after show, day after day, and still be surprised by an audience volunteer tells you how awesome this show and these performers are.
  • There were many times I felt like a kid.  The orgasmic dance party at the end was overwhelming.  We were second row, dead center, so we were right in the middle of the flashing lights, streaming paper, and large bouncing balls. I felt eight years-old.
  • The subtext behind the bits -- the "message," if you will -- sneaks up on you.  There is a point behind all the mania; a commentary on how connected yet isolated we all are.
  • Their explanation of synapses in the brain blew my freaking mind.
We did the dinner and a show option through the Monte Carlo, and our tickets were fantastic.  There is not a bad seat in the house, so if you can't afford the pricier seats, worry not.

24 January 2013

Just a thought ...

If doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity, what do you call doing different things each time and expecting the same results?