2012 is basically over

All that's left now is to celebrate the passage of time through one of the more fun arbitrary goalposts.  (Don't get me wrong -- I like arbitrary goalposts.  But it is, still, definitely arbitrary.) And, to review 2012.

A lot of cool stuff happened this year, I'm sure.  Right now, I'm kind of drawing a blank.  I remember Wreck-it Ralph, my relationship with my partner, which, if she doesn't dump me during the countdown, will have spanned the full calendar year, working at an amusement park, lots of school, and lots of Minecraft.

Seriously, though.  I didn't talk about it much (because I can't imagine it's very interesting) but I spent a lot of time this year playing Minecraft, and watching Minecraft Let's-plays on YouTube.  I'm currently following like a third of the Mindcrack server people:  Etho, DocM, BdoubleO, and I just subscribed to Guude.

And Ze Frank started vlogging again.  That's awesome, and I've really enjoyed having the chance to be part of the Sports Racers community live this time.  I also became much more deeply invested in the Nerdfighter community over the course of this year.  (Having learned they exist just over a year ago.)

And, there was the serious, global stuff.  Like the election.  That was scary -- I felt okay on election night, because I checked Nate Silver's projections and decided that I felt confident in them, but I really didn't know.  It's still scary, because our government is not being super cooperative, but Romney as president was not a pleasant idea.

And the shootings.  There were three major shootings in the US this year, and it's pretty seriously solidified my position on guns.  (No-one should be allowed them.  It should be a jailable offense to be caught just having a gun.  That way, we can just arrest the people who get their hands on guns, rather than waiting until they do something awful with them.)

But back to nice things.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries!  For anyone who doesn't know, they're a modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice via the medium of vlogs.  (And tweets, and tumblr and pinterest.)  Not only is it an amazing series in its own right, but it introduced me to the story of Pride and Prejudice -- which, up to this point, I basically knew featured someone named Darcy.  Now, having watched multiple TV adaptations and staying up to date on the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I understand why some people rank it as the greatest English novel.  It's freaking extraordinarily fascinating, and I'm looking forward to reading the book.  (Didn't get around to that this year.)

Food was also a significant theme this year.  No, seriously.  My partner and I do a lot of cooking together, and it has expanded my horizons re: food.  I have also rediscovered a number of foods that I had forgotten I loved.  Like Hummus.  Hummus is amazing.  How did I go several years without eating hummus.

I mentioned Wreck-it Ralph earlier -- that was one of a few amazing movies that came out this year.  Rise of the Guardians was another one, which was a huge surprise to me.  I was expecting a weird, cheesy movie about the importance of telling kids there's a Santa.  And it kind of was, I guess, but it was also amazing and inspiring and moving.

And there was the Dark Knight Rises.  And the Avengers.  This was a pretty good year for superhero movies, which appear to be being taken more and more seriously by Hollywood.  (It occurred to me the other night that there are some inherent problematic qualities in the concept of a superhero, which I want to talk about, but I'd like to gather my thoughts first, so not today.)

Altogether 2012 was a great year.  I give it 4 out of 5.  Would see again.

2013 is scary.  It's a big, huge, scary year coming up.  I'm going to turn 24.  I'm going to find out if I got accepted to Clarion.  I'm going to have to figure out where I'm going after I graduate NECC. Lots of big, scary stuff.

For now, though, things are pretty good.  I'm going to enjoy that tonight.  I'll worry about my life tomorrow.  That's what hangovers are for.


The minutiae of politics

The first time that we set out to collect data on this and associate it with political or moral beliefs, we found a general pattern -- this is with the psychologists Yoel Inbar and Paul Bloom -- that in fact, across three studies we kept finding that people who reported that they were easily disgusted also reported that they were more politically conservative. Another way to say this, though, is that people who are very liberal are very hard to disgust.

It's getting very close to the election, and I wanted to do a post about politics.  I had a long conversation with my father earlier about immigration and poverty (which was fun...) and I've been trying to stay on top of the issues, but all that I keep coming back to focusing on is how ridiculously big a deal an election is, and how trivial we make it.

This popped up on Reddit earlier today:

The TED talk above is about how stuff like being near a sign reminding you to wash your hands makes you answer questions more conservatively.  I wonder if that means a biological outbreak is good for a conservative candidate?  Did swine flu sway an election?

Not that I can come up with anything better.  I often paraphrase Winston Churchill (who was himself paraphrasing someone or other): Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the other ones we've tried.  I'm terrified of the consequences of next Tuesday's election, because it seems ridiculous to put the future of the country in the hands of the people of that country.  I'm just more terrified of everyone else we could give the power of that decision.

Here's an idea we could try:  Let's swap it around -- rather than Americans electing the American president, everyone in every other country should vote for it.  Same standards: has to be an American, at least 35, and so on and so on, but everybody in a Democratic nation gets to vote for America's new president, except Americans.

We could do the same thing in reverse:  all the other countries' presidents and prime ministers could be elected by the rest of the world around them.  It would force everyone to start paying attention to world politics, and being nicer to other countries -- I think.  If your only way to improve your own country is by putting other countries in a position to do better by yours, I imagine a lot of people would do a better job of looking out for the rest of the world.

But maybe that would backfire horribly.

Oh well.  I'm voting for Obama on Tuesday, and I hope everyone reading this does, too.  Or at least votes.  Please at least get out and vote, if you're allowed.  There's nothing better to do.

The Great Gatsby: in theaters Christmas 2012

(via SourceFed) The trailer for the Great Gatsby movie, scheduled for Christmas of 2012, just came out, and it looks amazing.

I didn't know this movie was being made, but I'm already excited.  Leonardo DiCaprio seems to me a brilliant casting for the role of Gatsby, and while I haven't actually seen any of Baz Luhrmann's movies, but I am aware of their style and tone, which is perfect for The Great Gatsby.

I'm also really looking forward to what this movie could be.  I mean, they could totally ████ it up, but in our current political and economic climate the story of The Great Gatsby has a lot to offer.  It's a celebrated and well-known story that casts radical inequality as a bad thing, and the book certainly doesn't gloss over that.  I hope the movie doesn't, either.

But it also carries another important lesson[1. Well, actually, it carries loads of other important lessons.] -- that wealth doesn't mean happiness.  When I read The Great Gatsby, it leads me to empathize with the super-rich and famous, not in the sense that it makes me okay with their richness, but that it makes me want to rescue them from the radical inequality of the system we live in.

After a certain point, more money doesn't mean more happiness, and there's no point at which money can make up for alienation and disillusionment.

Great art has the power to change the national conversation, and if this movie does what I think it has the potential to do, it could re-frame our cultural discussion about wealth inequality, so it's not about stopping the bad guys from making everyone poor, but about working together to help everyone reach a position where it's possible to pursue happiness -- which, again, is not the same thing as money.

On a semi-related note, I really hope John Green comments on this soon.