Sunday, October 28, 2012

Argo: Very Good, but Even Better if More Faithful

Beth and I just saw Argo. I found it very involving, especially since the Iran Hostage crisis was, right up there with Watergate, one of the most memorable national events of my childhood. Very well done, extremely encouraging that such a serious movie could enjoy strong box-office success.

Of course I could not resist truth-squadding the movie afterwards. After a little Googling, I found this very apropos Slate article.  It seems like it was somewhere in the C+/B- range for fidelity. But not all transgressions are equal--even a reductive apologist for realism such as myself will admit the need for dramatic license.

To me, the damning offense was the climacitc getaway sequence. The Slate article confirms its substantial falsity, while drawing the wrong conclusion [my italics]:
Affleck’s version involves every conceivable complication—each one of them, as it happens, invented purely to make the movie more exciting. (And it works! The finale is thrilling.)
I didn't think it worked, at all. The whole down-to-the-wire finish got worse for me by the minute, and collapsed under its own weight with the utterly ridiculous runway chase. I kept whispering to Beth about my doubts that the whole getaway was nearly so fraught as portrayed, but the runway scene triggered an insta-fail on my built-in realism-O-meter.

I can, reluctantly, accept that a smooth-as-silk final sequence in the airport just would not cut it for a fictional movie. So it would have been fine to have the revolutionary guards sweat the escapees for a while in the airport, in the service of dramatic interest. Heck, I could rationalize that, even if said sweating did not actually happen, to the escapees it might have felt that way.

But the action-movie climax undid some of the great storytelling. When you have a story that unbelievable yet true, it doesn't need embellishment. But I suppose if a dollop of excessive drama at the end of a very good movie is an acceptable price, for a high-grade movie to enjoy commerical success.
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Full disclosure on the realism-O-meter....at one point, I leaned over and whispered to Beth "I don't believe they were putting together the shredded photos". But apparently they were--sort of. They did have people re-assembling shredded documents--but there doesn't seem to be any indication that they were focused on any particular photos or had an inkling that there were unaccounted-for staff.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Speaking of Manning Up on Vasectomies...

(per previous post) In fact, this would have worked very well in the recent Modern Family episode, where Jay takes Phil to get a vasectomy, and Phil is chickening out.

I really didn't like that ending. Phil is waiting in pre-op, having finally ginned up his courage, only for Claire to waltz in and talk him out of it--because she's "not sure" she doesn't want any more children! This is Claire, mother of three, one college-aged, who is herself--how old? In the show, she looks like an extremely attractive 34 or so. But let's do the math. If she were 22 when Haley was born, she'd be at least 40. That's probably the best case, she could be older. Sure, not out of the question for conceiving, but really, she is not in the "just in case we change our mind in a few years" camp. If there were ANY QUESTION of having another baby--which, to be clear, I think is a ridiculous proposition--she should have already been on it.

Then there is the question of Phil's age. He looks even older, pushing 50. Yes, I'm aware that plenty of men don't have children till well into their forties and beyond. But that is usually men who have no kids, or are on their second family. Very few American men of 45 with three kids are raring to have a baby. The reason it usually happens is carelessness! Which brings me full circle...men foolishly avoid vasectomies enough as it is, without any encouragement from pop culture. The show could have handled it so much better.


"Man Up" - Sexist Usage

I really do not care for the phrase "man up". As in "don't take that from a girl--man up and show her you're the boss!"Although it is no doubt used sometimes to exhort to noble actions--"man up and pay your child support"--it has, to me, an unmistakeable air of schoolyard masculinity and machismo. I find it to be rather sexist, especially when used by women.

In researching this blog post, I came across this NYT article, which I think covers the term quite nicely (though in the non-judgmental approach common to both journalism and descriptive dictionaries). I do think the military usage, with a different meaning, is likely the origin of the term.

Final note...like many edgy terms, it may be acceptable in certain situations, especially when used between in-group members...I think the perfect situation would be for one buddy to exhort another to "Man up and get a vasectomy!".


Monday, October 15, 2012

A Different Kind of "Lean" Needed at the Doctor's Office

I had an ophthalmologist appointment today. I arrived on time. It was a good 70 minutes before I was seen by the doc. And the worst part? Neither by word or manner did the doc betray any indication that he was aware of running late. This was clearly business as usual.

I am aware, of course, of the primary motivation for running their practice that way--the doc's time is infinitely precious, the patient's utterly expendable. Could the situation be improved? I think so.

Even if we accept the proposition that the scale will be heavily tilted toward optimizing physician time, I bet there is a lot of room for improvement--if only there were a will.

First of all, I wonder how much of the backlog is non-optimized, sheer waste? Could the backlog be halved, and still achieve the same level of physician utilization?

Following close after that is the question of sharply diminishing benefits. What is a reasonable tradeoff between wasting patient time and doctor time? 10-to-1? 50-to-1?

Okay so those considerations are the low hanging fruit. Next comes simple process improvement. Could the practice take a page from appliance deliverymenpeeps, and book you for a large window (e.g., 9-11), but let you call in beforehand to get a refined estimate? Obviously, even better would be an automated, real-time system with web lookups and notification texts.

Of course, the cynic in me has to wonder--is part of it image? Does a long wait at a specialist's office serve as a signal that their time is hard to come by, and you are lucky to get an appointment at all?

All I can say is--thank goodness for smartphones. Wait time == reading time.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Early Voting False Analogy

Although I am not a fan of early voting, this is a very broken analogy:
Francis Wilkinson, a journalist who became a Democratic campaign consultant and is now a member of the editorial board of Bloomberg News, says, "You don't have a jury decide a court case when it's just three-quarters of the way through. New information arrives every day."
 The big difference is that serving as a juror is an inherently closed-ended process. There is a most definite end. The date of an election is rather arbitrary. There is no process or science behind the length of the campaign. So 3 weeks more campaign exposure might randomly change a few minds either way, but there is no particular reason to identify those 3 weeks as crucial. 
 
In a different system, 3 weeks might be a material portion of the campaign. I have heard it said that British elections typically involve about 6 weeks of campaigning..But in campaign seasons whose length is measured not in weeks, or even months, but in years, it is silly to think an arbitrary 3 weeks more matters in terms of the additional time.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

T-Mobile, can you do anything right?

I really want to like T-Mobile. They are low-cost, and relatively less evil than the likes of Verizon when it comes to screwing with their smartphones and doing generally annoying things to their customers. But honestly, they screw up so much. 2 rebates in a row, they gave me the wrong form, I had to call in to get it fixed. A couple of different promos, they told me I wasn't eligible, I had to get the store reps to escalate to convince themselves I was. Then when I got the free Father's Day Data promo, I had to call every single month to get them to give me the credit. Each time, the rep swore up and down they had fixed the problem, but they never did.

Then there was the time I upgraded 2 lines to unlimited minutes, but they put it on the wrong 2 lines, resulting in the classic shock-inducing $2000 phone bill (of course they fixed it, but another call, another story to the CSR). Or screwing with my grandfathered data plan when I upgraded the line...they switched it back when I complained, so now that I think about it, that is probably deliberate corporate evilness (let's see if customer notices), rather than CSR mess-up.

Here's the latest...just received a new Galaxy S3 for Beth. But it takes the new micro-SIM, so I can't just swap her old SIM into this phone. I have to call to activate the SIM they sent. Okay, that's a bit inconvenient, but reasonable and no alternative. I call, get through quickly, rep understands my request, and after the perfunctory attempt to up-sell my data plan, he puts it through. Except...

Except what he did was transfer my line to the new SIM card. Doh! I assume this happened just because my line is primary. He saw that we had a Family Plan, wouldn't it have been a good idea to be sure he know which line to move?!

Okay, so that's annoying, but I figured a call back should solve it. After explaining the situation about 3 times to the polite but somewhat clueless rep, and waiting on hold while she asked her supervisor, they asked if it would be okay if I went to a Tmo retail store to get a free replacement micro SIM. Well actually, no, it's not okay. Of course, that was just CSR-speak for "I can't help you you're gonna have to go pick up that micro-SIM". Not happy.