Thursday, March 27, 2008

Election Day

So this is an idea I've been mulling over for a while now, and while I'm aware that there are flaws in it, I have to say that I think it's worth doing. Australia does it, and they seem to get along alright...

My idea stems from America's low voter turnout. Everyone knows that somewhere around 50-60% of US citizens actually vote. This is how George W. Bush got into office, basically; he took the very strong support of 30% of the country, made sure all those people voted, and then picked up about 10% of the undecideds. That only adds up to 40%, but when only two-thirds of the country vote, 40 out of 60 is 66%. (Trust me on the math here.) People aren't taking seriously their responsibility to vote--and it is a responsibility, as much as it is a right.

So let's make voting mandatory. Election days would become a federal holiday, but you would be expected, as a taxpayer, to get your butt down to the polling place and cast your vote. Obviously, this is going to create a bit of a demand on the system, which is currently geared towards not expecting many people, but I've got a solution to that: Punishment for failure to vote involves either fines, which would go directly towards purchasing equipment for the polling places, or community service, which would be done during the next election (as, you guessed it, a volunteer.)

I've heard a few objections when I mentioned this before, but most of them boil down to "I don't want stupid people voting." (Which seems to radically misunderstand exactly who the 30% of the people who helped put Bush into office are, but that's neither here nor there.) These people aren't stupid. Apathetic, perhaps, even despairing of the political process. But in the end, putting a boot up their backside and making them get out and vote is only going to increase their emotional investment and involvement in the political process. They'll be bound to become a little more aware of what's going on if they have to. (Perhaps not much, but it's not like there aren't plenty of people who walk in, vote a straight-party ticket, and walk out feeling like they've done their due diligence as citizens.)

Of course, the real trick is getting it passed. Obviously, no politician is going to go for it; they all like to make lip service about how voting is important, but as incumbents, they have more than a little attachment to the way things are. I say let's put it on the ballot as a referendum. Really, it's bound to pass...after all, the majority of people actually showing up at the polls are smug bastards like me who want to see voter turnout increase. And most of the people who'd be against the bill...well, they're not voting this year.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


No Thursday post this week because the day after I posted this week's "Storytelling Engines" column, I came down with a mean-spirited cold bug. ("Nasty" just doesn't cover this one.) I'm feeling a bit better now, but I still don't have a ton of energy, and next week's Engine might be a bit delayed as well.

We apologize for the inconvenience. (Well, I apologize. The cold germs are probably laughing like hell right now.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friendly Advice for Cinematic Titanic

This isn't exactly a review of the first release for Cinematic Titanic, the new venture from the people who once upon a time brought you 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'. (Not to be confused with "Rifftrax" or The Film Crew, two other new ventures brought to you by the other people who brought you 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'. The Film Crew is Kevin, Mike, and Bill. CT is Joel, Frank, Trace, Mary Jo, and Josh.) But as I say, this isn't a review of 'The Oozing Skull', per se, because by this point I think everyone knows what to expect from a release of this nature, a good-natured (and sometimes not-so good natured) "commentary track" to a B-movie of questionable quality, featuring rapid-fire jokes at the film's expense. As always seems to be the case with these films, the volume of jokes is so high that even if you hit a bad one or two, there's always more coming along in a minute or so. So as I say, this isn't a review. Just a little advice for future releases.

1) Have a framing sequence. It doesn't necessarily have to be something new every episode, like MST3K or The Film Crew had. You could just do a credits sequence before each film. But something to ground the audience, introduce yourselves and let us know who you are before you're just silhouettes in a dark room, making fun of a movie would really help. (There is a premise to CT, as with the other shows, but it doesn't get mentioned on the disc itself. It probably should, as flimsy as it is.)

2) Slightly fewer sketches. I like the innovation of "freezing" the movie for the sketches and doing them in the theater in silhouette, and I like that there are sketches. But it felt like there were perhaps one or two too many. MST3K stuck with three breaks for sketches, and I think more than that tends to make the film drag a bit...and trust me when I say 'The Oozing Skull' drags quite enough without your help.

3) Have just a bit more faith in your material. A few times over the course of the film, someone would deliver a joke in a tone that suggested that the source of the comedy was that they were telling a bad joke, not whatever they were making fun of on-screen. This really kills any chance of making the joke funny, because the delivery undercuts the humor of the joke. If you don't think it's funny, leave it out. If you do, give it a chance to make someone laugh.

4) Hire me to write for you. I'm local!