Book of Bad Arguments - Cover

Bad Arguments

This book is aimed at newcomers to the field of logical reasoning, particularly those who, to borrow a phrase from Pascal, are so made that they understand best through visuals. I have selected a small set of common errors in reasoning and visualized them using memorable illustrations that are supplemented with lots of examples. The hope is that the reader will learn from these pages some of the most common pitfalls in arguments and be able to identify and avoid them in practice.

Humans and other animals

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

The literature on logic and logical fallacies is wide and exhaustive. This work’s novelty is in its use of illustrations to describe a small set of common errors in reasoning that plague a lot of our present discourse.

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Breaking Bad
Use your words

Is there any satisfying way to end a modern drama?

Asks Matt Zoller Seitz writing for Vulture:

Walter White goes free. Walter White redeems himself. Walter White dies of cancer. Walter White gets buried in the desert and eaten alive by ants. Walter White goes to the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks and has coffee and pie with Special Agent Dale Cooper.

One of these potential endings might satisfy you, or none might.

It’s probably especially hard to write an ending for an anti-hero, like the ones on dark post-Sopranos dramas such as Breaking Bad or Dexter, because a big part of such shows’ excitement comes from the dual pleasure of simultaneously loathing and cheering the protagonist.

There are big problems with both “justice” and “no justice” endings. If the anti-hero is punished, the viewer is guilty by association. But if the anti-hero is let off the hook — or has to “live with himself” — the show can seem amoral, or at least wishy-washy. Even a more nuanced or ambiguous nod toward one end of the scale or the other could backfire, seeming to neaten up a worldview that was intriguingly complicated. On top of all that, there’s the vision thing: Endings put a frame around the story and suggest why it was told to us, and what we should take away from it. If the anti-hero walks free, some might think the creator is a cynic, or a provocateur testing our moral compass for years but declining to say what direction the show was really headed in.

It’s an interesting problem. Vince Gilligan seems to think they came up with a satisfying finale for Breaking Bad. I can’t wait to see what happens, but in my experience the anticipation is usually the best part.

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NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander had a lavish Star Trek room built as part of his “Information Dominance Center”. Pictures from the DBI Architects, Inc. website.

It’s a 10,740 square foot labyrinth in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The brochure touts how “the prominently positioned chair provides the commanding officer an uninterrupted field of vision to a 22′-0″ wide projection screen”

The glossy display further describes how “this project involved the renovation of standard office space into a highly classified, ultramodern operations center.” Its “primary function is to enable 24-hour worldwide visualization, planning, and execution of coordinated information operations for the US Army and other federal agencies.” It gushes: “The futuristic, yet distinctly military, setting is further reinforced by the Commander’s console, which gives the illusion that one has boarded a star ship”.

Inside the mind of NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander

It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather ‘captain’s chair’ in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.
NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek’s Enterprise – pbs.org

Just incredible.

Shape of things to come

The NSA’s Star Trek room

NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander had a lavish Star Trek room built as part of his “Information Dominance Center”

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Designing the end titles for Star Trek Into Darkness

Andrew Kramer created this complex sequence using After Effects and Element 3D, his own $150 AE plugin!

If you’re interested in learning After Effects, Kramer’s tutorials on Video Copilot are essential, and very entertaining.