The King is the Land and the Land is the King

Geeze o flip, do we love the royalty or what?

For you it might be the royal wedding. But for me it's the somewhat awesome notion that the fate of the world is bound up in the health and success of human individuals. Clearly I read a lot of messed up stuff as a kid, but here are some of my favorite permutations:

  • True and fictionalized traditions where an individual is picked to be "king" for a single year, or where kings must stay healthy to stay king.
  • True and fictionalized traditions where certain saints are believed to keep the world intact with their prayers.
  • Conspiracy theories and literature about secret kings and kingdoms that represent the true cause of our current world (for example, did you know that as soon as the cameras were turned off, astronauts raised the Union Jack on the moon!?! True story.)

There's just this huge undercurrent of regiphilia in our culture, and maybe in all cultures. It's fun to play with, but it's worth keeping in mind that this is probably just the memetic residue of millennia of propaganda and power politics.

It was really helpful to the kings if their subjects believed in divine right, of course. And if the kings actually seemed supernatural or genetically blessed, the reality is that they were probably just well fed compared to everyone else, as Doctor Science reminds us:

When only a few people are clean and wear nice clothes, always get enough to eat and never have to go without sleep or warmth, they *will* look comparatively gorgeous, and they are likely to be -- or seem to be -- stronger, smarter, and taller than the ordinary run of folk.
It twists my Tolkien-soaked brain to try to think of the families in Game of Thrones as being no more exceptional than the Windsors, but I think it's a useful exercise. When I think about people born into royalty in the past or in fiction, it's hard for me to get away from the habit, the mental rut, of thinking of them as naturally exceptional people -- when all they really were was well-nourished.
from the incomparable Married to the Sea

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 30

Austin Beard III

Happy Birthday Willie.


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 29

Back to the basics of beard


'EA Sports "won" by eating a bomb, and it's ticking.'

ah, the good old days
That's Bill Harris of Dubious Quality, talking about how desperate EA must be to "soak" it's fan base with this new subscription fee. His theory is that the exclusive licensing fees must be increasingly squeezing all the profit out of the EA Sports balloon.

I've got no idea whether he's right. EA is agressively monetizing what used to be stuff that was included in the $49 $60 price of each game across all of their properties, so I disagree that this new bullshit is (merely) a desperation move in response to increased licensing costs. The real question is whether fans will continue to pony up the monies for this shit (and I'm pretty sure Mr. Harris will be subscribing).

But I wanted to bring it up for a couple reasons.

1. God dammit, this blog has to be more than beard pop.

2. I absolutely adore the hostility coming off Harris's post. You can only have that kind of hate for something you love. For example:

There are multiple reasons why these things don't get fixed:
1) Zero leadership.
2) It's awkward, isn't it? Can you imagine a bullet point on the box that says "Players finally move at realistic speeds"? [Nope! -Jason] Far better to spend hundreds of hours getting the correct nipple size for all the FBS cheerleaders instead.
3) Why would they want to fix any of this? The EA Sports product line is relative mediocrity paired with exceptional, cutting-edge marketing. They're not about making the product more realistic--they're about selling more product.

EA has crushed their competition not by making their games better, or by adding value to their products, but by cornering the market on exclusive licensing. They've bought up every exclusive license they can. No competion. Big win.

And yet he'll play them all and discuss them in great depth. It's really a great blog, that you should probably check out.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 28

Armadillo beard



You euthanized your faithful companion cube faster than any test subject on record. Congratulations!

img via blogtown
Man o man, did I love Portal. If you haven't played it, you really should just stop what you are doing and go play it. It's like being inside a Terry Gilliam movie.

I'll have a review of Portal 2 here in a bit once I finish it. Anybody else planning on playing it?

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 24

New York beard


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 23

Austin beard II

Computers are better writers than a lot of people

I don't know if this is an indictment of journalism today or a small piece of support evidence for my least popular opinion ever:

Robot Sportswriter Outperforms Human (NPR)
The writer of that [terrible story that people assumed was written by a robot] — it turns out — was a living, breathing human being. But the creators of Narrative Science, a news-writing software program, took Deadspin's assumption as fighting words. They set out to prove that their system could produce a better story.
"We actually got hold of the information director of the school, we got the raw material, the numbers around the story," said Kris Hammond, chief technology officer of Narrative Science. "And we fed it to our system, which wrote the story, where the headline and the lead were focused on the fact that it was a no-hitter. Because how could you write a baseball story and not notice that it was a no hitter? I mean what kind of writer or machine would you be?"
I'll say it again (this is twice): Computers will be able to replicate every human creative activity within our lifetimes, and this is a good thing.

I've included the full text of the robot's article below the jump.



Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 21

Five beards for the price of one.



Maybe we should be clapping louder

… a new global opinion poll shows another, perhaps more serious form of damage: falling public support for capitalism. This is most marked in the country that used to epitomise free enterprise. In 2002, 80% of Americans agreed that the world’s best bet was the free-market system. By 2010 that support had fallen to 59%, only a little above the 54% average for the 25 countries polled. Nominally Communist China is now one of the world’s strongest supporters of capitalism, at 68%….
That's from the Economist, that says that this is a "cost of the financial crisis." But I think that the stage was set before then. As mentioned before (see again the Chart of the Decade, right), our current setup hasn't been doing wonders for anyone except the very rich lately.
Capitalism’s waning fortunes are starkly visible among Americans earning below $20,000. Their support for the free market has dropped from 76% to 44% in just one year. The research was conducted by GlobeScan, a polling firm. Its chairman Doug Miller says American business is “close to losing its social contract” with average families.
And then what happens?

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 19

Karmic beard


Why do the AP classes focus on the least useful texts?

I have no idea, but I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thinks so. Penny Arcade Tycho writes about his own experience surviving his expulsion from the smart kid lit classes, where they were "reading" Ulysses:
My first and only F well in hand, the illusion I had of myself - that of a pristine jarred brain casting aspersions on greasy, cavorting bipeds - was obliterated. I was enrolled, then, in a series of what were (and may still be called) "bonehead" classes, which was apparently where they hoarded all the Twain. And I Am The Cheese, and Watership Down, books that played with modern language and perspective and voice, and played rough.  There's really no doubt that my entire life turned on that point, and it never really stopped turning: the point at which Writing became decoupled from English.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 18

Starkey Beard



Chart of the decade

That's from Chuck Marr via Jon Chait, who writes:
Now, the flaw in the liberal story is the lack of an ironclad causal mechanism. Liberals have a lot of fairly persuasive stories about how this happened -- political power, the decline of unions, monetary policy, changing social norms -- but all those stories have at least some problems. Still, that chart captures the overriding economic problem of the current era. It also explains why policy solutions like the "Road to Prosperity" are so insane. It is based not only on ignoring this overriding reality but of accelerating it. Ryan's premise that liberating the wealthy from their social obligation will create mass prosperity. It could not be more out of touch with reality.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 15

Hall of Fame beard.


This isn't going to help nosocomephobics

via MoJo, Hospitals: Way More Dangerous Than You Thought

So the researchers started tracking errors at three hospitals themselves. As a result, they found that voluntary reporting missed 90 percent of the errors that took place in those hospitals. The study found that 1 in every 3 hospital admissions resulted in an adverse event, a figure that should make everyone shudder. A mere 10 types of errors made up nearly two-thirds of all the adverse events, conditions that included pressure sores and post-op infections—things that don't take rocket science to prevent. The cost of all these errors is high: as much as $17 billion every year, all from hospital screw ups that could be prevented. Perhaps Republicans looking to reduce health care spending should try going after medical errors rather than the people who suffer because of them.
1 in 3.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 14

Beard for beards sake.


Michelle Bachmann, speaking from the heart

… on why she's qualified to be President of these United States:

"I have a very broad, extensive background.
I'm a student of many years. I've studied a number of, a wide berth of topics. I sit currently on the Intelligence Committee. We deal with the classified secrets and with the unrest that's occurring around the world. I also sit on Financial Services Committee.
But again, I've lived life.
Tomorrow, I'll be celebrating my 55th birthday, and I've had a wide, extensive life. And again, my background is a very practical, solution-oriented vision."
See the video.  

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 13

Bearded Bishop sounds like a euphemism...


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 12

Make a wish, baby. A beard will make it come true.

This episode of "Screw the Poor" brought to you by Paul Ryan [Updated]

According to David Brooks, the Paul Ryan budget proposal will

* Prevent the government shutdown
* Set the bar for "seriousness"when it comes to budget discussions
* Become the republican nominee's budget platform
* Heal the lepers
* and...
"... will put all future arguments in the proper context: The current welfare state is simply unsustainable and anybody who is serious, on left or right, has to have a new vision of the social contract."
Well, well. Fine. Let's look at the top line item of the new vision: phasing out Medicaid Medicare* as we know over 10 years, replacing it with
"... a defined contribution plan. Instead of assuming open-ended future costs, the government will give you a sum of money (starting at an amount equal to what the government now spends) and a regulated menu of insurance options from which to choose." 
Well. Fine. Except that, as Matt Yglesias points out with a handy chart, [Medicaid*] expenditures don't match up with enrollees. Unless that regulated menu of insurance options includes high-risk pools and mandates enrollment  to cover payouts to the elderly and the disabled, it won't work even in the short term.

In the long term, of course, we've got this flat payout replacing our open-ended commitment. Since everybody from Nancy Pelosi to Paul Ryan assumes continuously rising health-care costs, how is this anything other than essentially cutting off access to health care for poor children, disabled people, and the elderly everyone except those that can pay out of pocket what used to be covered by Medicare? While still cutting taxes for the rich?

Stay classy, Republicans!

UPDATE: EPIC BELLMAN FAIL - I've conflated Medicare and Medicaid. 

Ryan proposes to phase out Medicare and replacing it with block grants will do nothing to account for rising costs, just shift the burden for most Americans on to their families. Meanwhile, he will turn Medicaid into block grands so that individual states can decide how and with what vigor they will screw the poor.


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 11

Seventies beard, eighties mullet.


Bearded Men Singing - Special Week-End Manic Edition

Bearded one-legged flutist unleashed.


I'm only posting this to keep bearded men below the fold, but still, Atrios has a good point

It's true that as with many bursting bubbles, even if some people lose their shirts in the crash it's possible that left behind in the wake is something useful. However, it isn't clear that a bunch of extra modern housing is a 'good thing' even in a place where numerous people didn't previously have access to such accommodations. A house is more than a house, it's also a location. One thing that location needs to provide is access to gainful employment. Ghost cities might provide for some improved accommodation for people at low prices, if prices are going to drop, but that doesn't do much for them if there are no jobs nearby, no functioning government services, no retail, etc. And unoccupied housing units can deteriorate very, very fast. via
This isn't something we deal with so much in Austin, where the economy hasn't really crashed, or even stalled. But I've seen it in other cities: There's a real danger of suburbia turning from a middle-class milestone, like Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, into the new century's ghetto. People can move there and then be… trapped.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 10

The lyric says I love you. The beard says I mean it.

Maybe we should arm them with tiger blood

…. NATO is now policing a civil war in which it is almost impossible to tell who is a civilian and who isn't, who is a rebel and who isn't, and which pick-up trucks are Qaddafi's and which ones are the rebels'. For these reasons, arming the rebels is a total crap shoot. On what grounds do the people of the United States have a reason to arm one side in a civil war, when we have no idea who they are? Doesn't the fact that NATO has already warned them not to attack "civilians" tell you something?
I remember Iraq when we spent months not believing there was an insurgency. How could the Iraqi people defend the dictator who oppressed them? It didn't compute. And then we realized things were not quite as simple as Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz had told us - and we are still there ten years and a trillion dollars later.
This is a dumb war, Mr President. And you are supposed to be against those. Remember?

via Sullivan.

C.I.A. on the ground. It's Reagan-esque. It's really, really disappointing.
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