Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day - misc. comments

I voted today, and happily it didn't take long. I had been seeing all sorts of reports of record turnout all over the country, people waiting 10 hours to vote, people lining up at 3AM, etc. Frankly, it was quite scary thinking of the prospect that I might have to wait so long. Luckily we have a reasonably small precinct here, and when I got to the polls about 10 minutes before open, there were only about 15 people in line. Once the polls opened at 7AM, it only took me 15 minutes to get through everything and back to my car.

Last night I was watching TV, and it was nothing but a last minute flurry of ads. I'm not even sure if I saw a single ad that wasn't a campaign advertisement. Lots of the same ones over and over and over. A few of them got to me, because they seemed like they might be inaccurate. One of the ones that really bugged me was trying to urge people to vote against Michigan proposal 2, which is intended to allow research using embryonic stem cells to be funded by tax money. The ad tries to make the case something like "supporters say it won't increase your taxes, but then how come it says that tax money can be used...that is BS". The logical error on their part is astoundingly obvious. It doesn't need to raise taxes, as what it is doing is saying that if you get tax money to do your research, you can now use any portion of that funding to include human embryonic stem cells in your research. The deceit in the ad is clear as day (to me, at least), but I'm sure countless people will fall for it.

Which brings me to my next point. We currently have truth in advertising laws, but there is no such thing as a truth in campaigning law. I know such a law would be a difficult thing to define and enforce, as you can always pay anyone to do a study and conclude that you are telling the truth. Still, with the outrageous number of outright lies I've seen this election, it feels like something needs to be done. I'm just not sure what. All I know is that, when telling blatant lies is so often the most effective strategy to get elected, then democracy is largely meaningless?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween 2008: I am the Banana King

It's been a long time since I went out (or even just dressed up) for Halloween. The last time I can remember was 18 years ago. Well, my youngest niece just turned 14 months old, so this was her first time going out for halloween. My wife and I decided we wanted to go with her...I just needed to come up with an idea for a costume. After thinking through a number of ideas I couldn't come up with anything. Then one night, a group of us were introducing a friend to the silliness that is Charlie the Unicorn. Then suddenly it dawned on me...I will be the Banana King.

Now, if you aren't familiar with Charlie the Unicorn, then let me be the first to introduce you to the insanity that is Part 1 and Part 2. I got my idea for the Banana King from part 2, though I suggest watching part 1 first (just to better understand things).

Now, in the video, Charlie the Unicorn is actually the Banana King. However, I didn't really want to go around as a unicorn with a crown, as nobody would have any clue what I was. The king unicorn? The unicorn emporer? It just wouldn't make sense. Second, as a guy, dressing up as a unicorn is kind of...odd. Finally, I just don't know that my sewing skills would be good enough to make a unicorn costume.

Instead, I decided to take the concept of the Banana King and go my own direction...create what I would envision it like if somebody explained it to me. With that, I decided to make myself a giant banana with some appropriate accessories. I figured that way, even if people didn't know about Charlie the Unicorn, at least they should be able to get the basic premise of my costume right. They'd know what I was, even if they didn't understand it.

I started by looking at what banana costumes were available on the market. What I found was the same outfit that was being sold by everyone, but I thought it was quite lame. I thus decided to create it from scratch. It took me under a week to do the entire thing (5 evenings plus half a saturday).

The costume itself was just made from white and yellow fleece with some stiffening material sewn in, and a bit of stuffing to fill the bottom and top sections. The basic design was a banana half peeled. After making the main part of the costume, I added a crown (which I bought from the costume shop). I made a magical amulet from some balsa wood, painted with gold metallic paint, with some plastic jewels glued on, and put on a gold chain. I made 3 mini banana which were just the same as the main outfit but miniaturized, with some pipe cleaners for arms/legs and mouth drawn on a piece of fabric and glued onto the body. I put one on my back, one on my shoulder, and the third was free so that I could carry it around. Finally, I put a banana in my ear, which was just another mini banana, half peeled, but without the top peeled part or the arms/legs.

Here's some photos of the finished outfit:

So how well did the costume go over? Pretty good. I won a $50 iTunes gift card in a contest. I got tons of comments on it, including many "best costume of the night" comments. Almost everybody figured out right away that I was the banana king (or at least I'll give them full credit for guessing king banana). Yet it was the type of thing where they knew what it was, but it didn't make sense, so they had to ask to be certain. A few people at first thought I was....well, let's just say they thought I was something else (not that type of crown, folks). The funniest part is they were all ladies that thought that. I also ran into a guy dressed as a gorilla.

Yet, in all of that, nobody actually knew exactly what I was. Very few people I talked to had any clue about Charlie the Unicorn, and the few that knew hadn't yet seen part 2. So, in that respect the outfit was a bust, but it was tons of fun and very rewarding overall.