Archive for September, 2010

Survivor Survival Guide: “Glitter in Their Eyes”

“I hate to say it, but I’m looking forward to Tribal Council. We’re finally going to get this tribe to play the game. This is real, and it starts now.”

–Marty

You might even have been able to tell from the episode’s title — “Glitter in Their Eyes” — that last night’s third installment of Survivor: Nicaragua was going to be about Marty’s attempt to take down Jimmy Johnson.

Marty’s anti-JJ agenda has been clear for some time now, and he wanted to establish himself as the leader of Espada, the older tribe. It started while they were out searching for fruit, with Jimmy playfully making monkey noises and several of the tribemates practically swooning over him. “His soul is inspiring,” said Yve. Marty was having none of it, saying he couldn’t risk taking Jimmy to the merge, when his celebrity and leadership could win over a whole new tribe of converts.*

*It’s interesting and telling that Marty seems to have never considered the potential advantages of this. For instance, if the two tribes merge at roughly equal numbers, and Jimmy’s charisma is able to win over someone from La Flor, it can tilt the balance in Espada’s favor post-merge. Marty, it seems, is thinking even longer-term than that.

Marty won himself some dap by revealing to the tribe that he had found the Hidden Immunity Idol, doing so almost begrudgingly on Jill’s counsel. It was a calculated but, from his perspective, low-risk move: Keeping the idol secret only benefits him if he’s on the chopping block, and Marty doesn’t plan on being on the chopping block until after the merge.* It’s also clear that he doesn’t plan on letting anyone else use it anytime soon, but Marty had won at least one fan in his tribe. “That move just strengthened this tribe about five times,” Jimmy T. said. “I was like, ‘What a guy! Way to go, Marty!’ I wouldn’t have done that.”** In the process, Jimmy T. firmly reminded us that Espada is a tribe of the elderly by using “What a guy” and “Way to go” as his primary means of exclamation.

* Of course, if someone from Espada turns and lets La Flor know about the HII post-merge, well, it can come back to bite Marty.

**He also didn’t mention, at least in the footage we saw, Jill’s role in finding the idol at all. Hmm.

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Survivor Survival Guide: “Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All”

“Every time she speaks, it becomes more evident she’s crazy. I’m gonna keep one eye on Holly and one eye on my shoes.”

–Tyrone

The second episode of Survivor: Nicaragua, which I believe is the first episode of a television series to be named for a quote taken from one Super Bowl winning coach by another Super Bowl winning coach,* represented, I suppose, a slight upgrade from a bland opening salvo. The main thing it really did, however, was further the realization that a lot of these castaways are really bad Survivor players.

*Jimmy Johnson quoting Vince Lombardi: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

We’ll start with Holly, who after going against her day-old alliance with Wendy in the season premiere, became a bit unhinged. First, she snapped at Jill for eating snails because she deemed them inedible (by watching Jill eat them), eventually throwing all the snails away. Then, after overhearing her tribemates making fun of her, she stole Dan’s $1,600 alligator shoes,* filled them with sand, and placed them in the water. Dan started wondering where his shoes were, Holly started wondering why she was rapidly becoming such a terrible person, and so she decided to come clean — which I believe only made the rest of her tribe think less of her.

*Really, Dan?

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Whose Ties Are You Calling “Weak”?

In this week’s New Yorker, the estimable Malcolm Gladwell takes, among other things, umbrage at the idea that tools of social media, like Twitter and Facebook, can be used for social activism. This idea has been popular for over a year now, dating back at least to the so-called “Twitter Revolution” in Moldova last year, as well as the site’s role in Iran’s 2009 elections. Gladwell, however, insists the “weak ties” promoted by these sites can never effect real social change. He compares it to the civil rights activism of the 1960s, in which “participants were far more likely than dropouts to have close friends who were also going” down South. This kind of activism—what Gladwell calls “high-risk activism”—is about strong ties.

As usual, Gladwell’s piece is brilliantly written and very compelling, but I’m afraid he falls into the same trap that many critics of modern social media are stuck in: this false dichotomy between “strong” and “weak” ties. It is indeed true that Facebook and Twitter are not built to maintain “strong ties” (like the ties between the four Greensboro students who began the Woolworth’s sit-ins, who were roommates). In fact, Gladwell provides as good a description of the uses of these sites as I’ve seen: Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while wondering why nobody asked us to testify before Congress…

Every Game Counts…Week 4

In my neverending quest to rail against the BCS, I am calculating week-by-week how many games this college football season really “count” (as in, influence the national title picture).

After three weeks, the carnage is settling in, with 66 of the 120 FBS teams cannot make the BCS championship (a refresher on my criteria), including my precious Blue Devils:

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You Can (Obviously) Prove A Negative

Everyone knows this is true. For one, there are several obvious negative statements that pretty much everyone knows are true and can easily prove (“George W. Bush is not the President,” “Red is not the same color as blue,” “Carlos Mencia is not funny,” etc.). On a less mundane level, whether a statement is positive or negative is a matter of how it is constructed—every positive statement (p) can be restated as a negative (~ ~ p).

And yet you will still hear people—smart people—resort to the obvious fallacy that you cannot prove a negative. Most commonly, you hear it in discussions of atheism. I’m sure even I have resorted to such a claim in my defenses of atheism. Even the brilliant Daniel Dennett erroneously invoked it here to explain why he couldn’t disprove God:

“You can’t prove a negative… I think it was Bertrand Russell who once said that he couldn’t prove that there was not a teapot orbiting Mars. So he’s a teapot agnostic. I’m a teapot agnostic with regard to God, too. I can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.” Continue reading

Unabated to the QB, Week 2: From Beast to Least

“A man is always a prey to his truths.”

–Albert Camus

NFC BEAST. That’s what we called it. The Redskins and Cowboys, Giants and Eagles. The SEC of the NFL. It wasn’t always the best division, but it was always in the conversation.

Year after year, all talk about teams from the NFC East had to be framed with the qualifier, “but in that division.” Sure, the Redskins are better, but in that division…. The Cowboys might be the best team in the NFC, but can they grab the top seed in that division? Every team in that division is just going to beat up on each other. It was, in short, the football equivalent of “in this economy.”

But this year? Through two weeks, the NFC East is looking more Least than Beast. The Eagles, Giants, and Redskins are 1-1; the Cowboys are 0-2. Their three combined wins are over the Lions, Panthers, and, well, the Cowboys. They have lost to the Texans and Bears and Packers at home and been embarrassed by the Colts on the road.

Now, I’m not saying it’s the worst division in football — the NFC West’s crown is secure; it’s just that the NFC East is not even close to being football’s best. The AFC East, North, and South are all better, the last of them proving it in non-conference matchups. The NFC North is better (two head-to-head wins already) and the South might be.

The Cowboys aren’t as good as the ignorant mainstream media expected, what with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett looking just as shaky as his offensive line and the secondary problems from last season re-emerging. The Eagles have made a strange, win-now decision to start Michael Vick over Kevin Kolb, negating everything they did in the past off-season. The Giants aren’t as good as some extrapolated from a not-that-impressive win over the not-at-all-impressive Panthers. And the Redskins are a holding call away from blowing two home games to start the season.

The four teams will continue to beat up on each other this year, but it won’t be because they’re all good.

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