Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The evolution of Star Wars marketing

If your waffles aren't shaped like the Death Star, I hope you choke on them.

When Star Wars first came out, it was like: "Here's this amazing movie. If you are a Star Wars fan, here is some merch you can buy."

When The Phantom Menace was coming out, it was like: "Here's the next installment of this thing that is an amazing cultural institution. Star Wars fans -- you should totally see this movie. And here's some new merch you should buy."

Now with The Force Awakens, it feels like: "As everyone knows, the next chapter in our shared mythology is soon to be handed down. Previously uncontacted tribes in the highlands of New Guinea have already purchased their tickets. We won't even waste our time suggesting that you see it, because obviously you (and every other human) will.

"Star Wars fans -- since everyone on Earth is going to see this movie, you need to step up your game. You don't want to be less Star Wars than those non die-hard Star Wars people, do you? Well guess what: the only way to prevent that is to fill every possible facet of your life with Star Wars merch. Seriously, if you're not making toast in the Darth Vader toaster, you're not a real Star Wars fan. If your kid isn't sleeping in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, you should put him up for adoption. Ladies, if you show up at the screening and your face isn't covered in Cover Girl Star Wars makeup, your man should probably murder you and dump your remains out of the nearest garbage shoot before jumping to hyperspace."

That being said...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Cruz Robotics

Boudoir Androids. Conservative Values. Even Presidential candidates need a side project. So do videogame makers.

A little something I threw together for The Daily Show's‪ 'Cruz Your Own Adventure' campaign. Some fun with election 2016 after the serious stuff earlier in the week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Supporting Trump is un-American

An open letter to well-meaning Trump supporters everywhere.

Dear Trump Supporter,

You might not know it, but you're keeping company with some folks who believe some pretty disturbing things. Things like banning all Muslims from entering the US. Things like surveilling all American Muslims. Things like outlawing Islam entirely.

I’d like to focus on and draw out the implications of a few of these things:

To advocate a ban on Muslims entering the US or to assume someone is a terrorist (or potential terrorist) solely because they are a Muslim (i.e. absent any specific evidence of terrorist intent or membership in a terrorist organization) is to accept the idea that one should judge people primarily insofar as they are members of groups, rather than as individuals. That is a collectivist premise that is at odds with the principles of individualism and individual rights.

To advocate a ‘Muslim registry’ or the surveillance of Muslims in the absence of reasonable suspicion/probable cause/evidence of illegal activity on the part of specific individuals is at odds with the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments specifically and the notions of due process and equal protection generally.

To advocate the outlawing of Islam (or any other religion) is at odds with the 1st Amendment specifically and the principle of freedom of religion generally.

To embrace these ideas -- all of which are supported by a majority or plurality of Trump supporters according to recent polling data -- is to reject (at least) these four bedrock principles of our country (individual rights, due process, equal protection, freedom of religion). These principles were held by the Founding Fathers and enshrined in the Constitution, both of which you (rightly) claim to venerate. The equal protection clause (the idea that all people are entitled to the same treatment under the law) is part of the 14th Amendment, which is the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President.

To support such proposals is to stand against these principles.

To stand against these principles is profoundly un-American.

The (by no means exclusively Democratic/Obamian/potentially-Clintonian) failure to deal effectively with terrorism is a serious issue facing our country. But a weak, haphazard and ineffectual foreign policy does not constitute, in its essence, the betrayal of (or the danger to) America that the rejection of our core principles does. Nor, I would add, does a ‘poor' response to the imaginary ‘threat’ posed by Mexican immigrants.

Do you know who you actually stand with if you stand with Trump in rejecting individual rights, due process, equal protection and freedom of religion?

Islamic terrorists.

They see the world as primarily composed of groups (in their case true believers, infidels, apostates, etc.), not individuals, and believe how people should be treated under the ‘law’ is governed primarily by their membership in certain groups, not individual rights. They regularly behead people for the ‘crime’ of not being in their preferred group without any sort of actual legal system or due process. And they certainly don’t think anyone should be free to practice any religion: everyone should subscribe to (their particular, niche variant of) Islam or die.

I’d like to believe that the majority of you are conscientious, sincere individuals who care deeply about the future of our country. To such individuals I say: please understand that you are going down the path of rejecting the very essence of the country you love and of becoming the philosophical allies of the very people that you are concerned with protecting it from.

If, as I suspect, you are horrified by the thought that you share substantial philosophical common ground with folks like ISIS, perhaps it is time to reassess your views, including your support for candidate Trump.

A patriotic American 

Why you should take the Donald Trump phenomenon seriously

Some of my friends have questioned whether Donald Trump is sincere in the ridiculous things he says. I don’t want to speculate as to whether he is personally sincere or not. I don’t think it matters much.

But I do think it is a mistake to dismiss the Trump phenomenon in this way: i.e. as an (increasingly less) amusing sideshow, or as the ravings of someone who has become ‘unhinged', or as the behavior of an attention-seeking spoiled child or as ‘Trump being Trump.'

Here's why: these two articles provide an overview of polling data. While I disagree with some of the conclusions and interpretations, I think the data contained in these articles persuasively show that a majority or plurality of Trump supporters and, crucially, a plurality of likely Republican voters in certain states and possibly overall, agree with positions as extreme or more extreme than those articulated by Trump. These include:

  • Supporting a ban on Muslims entering the US
  • Backing the creation of a national database of Muslims
  • The idea that government should engage in surveillance to monitor ‘most Muslims’ (i.e. absent specific reasons to suspect specific individuals of illegal activity)
  • That Islam should be made illegal in the United States (seriously, a plurality of Trump supporters in North Carolina -- 44%! -- believe this according to that second article)

Again - all of these are supported by a majority or plurality of Trump supporters and/or all Republican voters in various polls. ‘Majority’ means ‘more than half’. ‘Plurality’ means ‘more people support this than not.'

So, yeah, I think Trump should be taken seriously.