Friday, August 26, 2011

Expanding on a Theme

I continue to watch in stunned disbelief as (p)Rick Perry's poll numbers continue to climb, and as the media continues to annoint him as the Repuglican front-runner. I also watch with disbelief as Michelle Bachman's numbers continue to climb almost as high.

This is a man who, based on everything I have seen, heard, and read, is only marginally more qualified to be President of These United States than George W. Bush was. And that's not saying very much. I am more qualified to be the President.

And this is a woman whose sole qualification for office is her ability to appeal to the most extreme right element of the Repuglican party.

But maybe that's the point.

I've pointed out before how stupid we are becoming as a people. And if we, as a nation, are collectively stupid enough to elect another dumb-ass governor from Texas, or a crazy Congresswoman from Minnesota, as POTUS, then I swear that this country does not deserve to exist.

Poeple in this country seem to enjoy feeling like they are smarter that the POTUS. George W. Bush was elected twice for that exact reason.

But there is a problem with that idea: No matter how unswervingly stupid the President may be, and no matter how superior Americans may feel to the man (or woman) they elect as President, there is one crucial difference between the President and everyone else in the country:

The President can launch our nuclear weapons.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And This Man...

...Wants to be the President of these United States...

This is the Repuglicans best prospect lately?! Seriously?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disturbing. VERY Disturbing

Another Movie Review (sort of).

I have recently watched the "Mockumentary" movie: C.S.A.: Confederate States of America.

This is a movie, made about 7 years ago, that describes what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War.

The victory would have come about as a result of the South getting the English and French to be their allies in the war. The Battle of Gettysburg ended in a decisive victory for the South, thanks to the intervention of those two countries. The Confederacy captured Washington. Lincoln fled the Capitol with the assistance of Harriet Tubman. They were both captured in their attempt to flee to Canada. Tubman was executed. Lincoln, after his capture, was pardoned, and exiled to Canada, much in the way Jefferson Davis was. He is depicted as having died a lonely and bitter death in exile.

Blacks are still slaves. Women cannot vote.

The CSA goes on to conquer Central and South America, at an extreme cost, as part of its expansionist mindset.

During WW2, the CSA agrees to remain neutral in the war in Europe. However, due to its fear of Japanese expansionist ideals, the CSA attacks Japan on December 7th 1941.
Although it suffers heavy losses, it wins due to the atom bomb.

President John Kennedy, a Republican (!), campaigns on the idea of ending slavery. After his assassination, this idea is abandoned.

The CSA suffers from isolationalist trade policies, constant terror attacks from "abolitionists" in Canada, and a general malaise of its citizens.

But it continues to survive in the modern world. The long-running FOX reality show "COPS" is re-imagined as a regular TV show called "Runaways" (containing videos of the "CBI" (what the FBI is called) capturing runaway slaves. Commercials featuring racist themes and depicting slavery as a normal way of life air as regularly as normal commercials do today.

This movie was made with a very limited budget and no popular actors.

It had a very limited release.

It made very little money.

I classify this movie with Idiocracy as one of the most important movies of my generation.

If you, the 3 readers of this blog, wonder why I tell you this, then rent it from Netflix or Redbox and watch it.

Then ask me that question again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

One out of Seven

(p)Rick Perry, Repuglican candidate for President, has proposed seven changes to the U.S. constitution.

The first one I happen to agree with. I've seen the damage that can be done by Federal Judges who have lifetime tenure. One need only look to the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned the McCain-Feingold Campaign finance law to see how poor an idea it is to allow Judges to serve as long as they want.

Our current Supreme Court currently contains three completely unqualified members. All three were appointed by Presidents with the last name of Bush:

1) Clarence Thomas, who reportedly has NEVER asked a single question during any oral argument before the court. I'm not sure if this is because he's already made up his mind before he hears any case, or if it's because he is fantasizing about what every female in the chamber looks like naked.

2) John Roberts, who is apparently so stupid that he can't remember the Presidential Oath of Office, 35 words that EVERY Federal judge should be able to recite in his or her sleep, since he or she can never know when they may be called upon to administer it.

3) Samuel Alito, who may as well be sitting on Scalia's knee with Scalia's hand up his back, dictating what Alito will say.

These 3 Justices are the best arguments I can think of for Federal judicial term limits.

I understand why they exist. Initially it was so that Judges would not answer to anyone once they were appointed. And when it was initiated, living past 50 was the exception, not the rule.

But that's not the case today. A federal judge appointed today can expect to hold his or her post for 50 years or more if they want to.

By the way, this isn't the first time I've expressed this opinion. See this.

However, just because I happen to agree with (p)Rick Perry on this one point does not mean he will ever get my vote.

Why? Because every other idea of his that is detailed in that article is so preposterous that anyone even thinking about voting for this man needs to have their head examined.

One out of seven = 14.29%. That's a failing grade in anyone's book.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why do I do What I do?

I am a public servant.

I've been in this job for more than 15 years. More than half of my adult working life. More years than I spent in all of my other jobs put together.

I never intended to stay here so long. When I first took this job, it was because I was out of work, and I needed employment. A friend of my father knew that I was looking for work, and he recommended me for employment.

An aside: This is not at all unusual. Few people who work in my office did not obtain their jobs without help from someone.

This job was, at first, simply a stopgap until I could find something better.

But I came to like it.

My mother spent most of her working life as a public schoolteacher. In case you are unaware, that is NOT a career you enter if you want to become rich. The only reason anyone takes that career path is to educate children.

I would've loved to follow in her footsteps. But, sadly, I fear I would never have had the patience or tolerance to do so.

But when I came into my current job, I found a niche. I am able to do a job that helps me contribute to the well-being of other people.

I'm never going to grow rich in this job. And I'm certainly never going to be famous.

But I can help make people's lives easier. Try to find something that feels better than that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best. Pictures. Ever.

Taking of the Republican party?

How ironic is it that they're advertising "Footlongs" behind her?

(By the way, is that John Boehner behind her?)

Memo to Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry: Whoever it was told you it was a good idea to be photographed eating a 12-inch corn dog, you should probably fire that person.

No, on second thought, keep them on. And please listen to them and do whatever they say!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A New Feature

I’m going to start something today that I hope to make into an occasional regular feature. And while I know this feature may give you, the 3 readers of this blog, more fear than you would have if Edward Cullen showed up on your doorstep on a sunny day and asked you if you wanted to hang out, here it goes: I’m going to start reviewing movies. I realize I’m no professional movie critic. However, since most movie critics nowadays are simply paid hacks studios throw tons of money at in order to generate glowing review quotes for the crapfests they turn out, I don’t see how I can do any worse than they do. And since I would never sell myself out like that (unless they offered me a LOT of money), you can count on my honest opinion.

Do not fear, gentle readers. It won’t happen very often, if for no other reason than I don’t go to see movies very often in theaters. After all, there are very few movies coming out of Hollyweird today that are worth paying ten bucks and sitting for 2 and a half hours to see them. And I don’t see that trend ending any time soon.

But enough stalling. On to the review.

Today’s movie: Captain America: The First Avenger
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Chris Evans: Steve Rogers/Captain America
Tommy Lee Jones: Colonel Tommy Lee Jones
Haylee Atwell: The Hot Chick
Directed by Joe Johnston

Ah, The Comic Book Movie. Fast becoming all Hollyweird seems able to come up with these days. Why, just this summer alone we’ve already been treated to Thor (mediocre) and X-Men: First Class (good) from Marvel comics, and The Green Lantern (ridiculous) from DC. And now we have this latest entry from Marvel, which takes a look at the origins and adventures of America’s first real superhero.

An aside: I suppose the latest Transformers movie could also be called a comic book movie, since that’s where the series originated in the first place. But I digress.

I suppose it was fairly predictable that the comics would be fodder for Hollyweird. After all, most comic series have fanatical fan followings whose members spend millions of the dollars they save not paying rent by living in their parents’ basements on issue after issue of any given series.

This, unfortunately, is where the problems usually start. Y’see, these fans can be...let’s just say, a And, thanks to the internet, Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites, they aren’t shy about sharing their opinions. With EVERYBODY. And those opinions can have sharp knives. And those knives can tear into any tiny flaw in any comic book movie adaptation and turn that flaw into an enormous sucking wound that can kill a movie quicker than a movie producer telling a studio head he’s gone over budget. Twice.

Fortunately, as far as I can tell, this movie stays faithful to the C.A. storyline. For the first one-third of the movie, Chris Evans’s head, carried by a much smaller body, spends his days getting rejected at the Army recruiting centers, getting beaten up in back alleys, and striking out with women. Then, after his fifth attempt to enlist is noticed by a German-American scientist, who is apparently impressed either with his determination or his stupidity, or possibly both, the scientist (Stanley Tucci) allows him to join a special unit of the army.

This unit, led by Tommy Lee Jones playing his trademark gruff, no-nonsense character, also features a hot chick who is also, of course, as tough as nails herself, but with a tender side (naturally). The goal of this special Army unit is to provide the U.S. Army with a regiment of super-soldiers who will, in the words of Jones, “Escort Adolf Hitler straight to the gates of Hell.”

Naturally, Evans’s head is chosen to be the first subject of the super-soldier experiment. He undergoes a Mad-scientist style lab procedure in which, apparently, they remove Evans’s head from the much smaller body and put it back on Evans’s real body, which is much taller, stronger, and about 10 times more buffed. This is done by injecting the smaller body with an experimental serum and then bombarding it with “Vita-Rays” (whuh?) until the smaller body agrees to give up the stolen head and give it back to Evans.

OK not really, but that’s what a comic-book movie novice might think.

At any rate, the experiment works. Rogers/Cap A. is now 5 times stronger, faster, and more agile than any normal human. His body does not age and constantly regenerates itself, allowing him to heal damage quickly and completely. The only downside is that he can no longer get drunk, which would make me wonder if it was worth it.

All well and good, until a nefarious Nazi nogoodnik (whee!) destroys the lab, steals the only remaining sample of the supersoldier formula, and kills the German scientist. Rogers then chases the agent (barefoot!) along the streets of Brooklyn, finally catching him just as he is about to escape. Unfortnately, the stolen serum is destroyed, and the spy kills himself, but not before bragging about the extensive reach of HYDRA, the Nazi division he works for.

It seems that Hitler is the least of the Allies' worries. HYDRA, apparently, is a secret Nazi research division, led by Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving, who is very good at being a very bad man), that is determined to win the war by harnessing the powers of the Norse Gods (I'm NOT kidding). Red Skull has already taken a dose of the supersoldier serum and it has made him just as strong and powerful as Rogers. Unfortunately, it also left him severely disfigured, and, apparently, an insane megalomaniac. Seriously. This guy makes Hitler look like Winnie the Pooh in comparison. And that’s saying something.

At any rate, the U.S. Government, now worried that they have lost the secret of the serum for good, wants to keep Rogers in a lab and experiment on him to re-discover the formula. Some other government types, however, have a different idea, and decide to put him on display in a series of War Bond tours as “Captain America”. This, by the way, is one of the best parts of the movie: It shows just how ridiculous the war bond tours were during WW2, and at the same time how effective they were (my dad, who was in the audience with me, remarked about how authentic the tours looked. And he would know.)

And this is fine with Captain America, until he travels overseas to entertain the troops and sees just how different the real war is from the sugarcoated version being fed to the folks on the home front. This is one of the most poignant moments of the movie, as Rogers realizes how little he is actually contributing to the military side of the war effort.

Then, after learning the unit containing his best friend has been captured, he decides to infiltrate the HYDRA base they are being held in. There, he liberates the prisoners while simultaneously learning the extent of the danger HYDRA really poses, and how dangerous Schmidt really is. So Rogers and his unit set out to destroy HYDRA. Naturally, this is where the movie devolves into the usual cliché-ridden action fest that is typical of a summer movie.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. You don’t go to your average summer blockbuster to see Shakespeare. You go to be entertained.

And it is entertaining. At my first viewing, I was transfixed. I sat for two hours enjoying nearly every minute. It was only after I went back to see it again with my dad that I viewed it with a much more critical eye. And began to spot the obvious flaws. For example, how did HYDRA obtain such vast resources and so many able-bodied men in war-torn Germany? Surely someone was keeping track of such things.

Of course, the largest flaw is the lack of credibility. I realize that watching a comic book movie requires a certain suspension of disbelief. But in this case, you have to blindfold your disbelief, tie its hands, put a noose around its neck, and hang it until it’s dead. Then you have to toss it off a cliff. I know that, by most accounts, the Nazis were probably 10 years ahead of the Allies technologically, but come on! They used devices in this movie we don’t even have today, more than 70 years later.

Obviously there won’t be any best acting Oscars for this movie. The dialogue, while cliché-ridden, does has some very funny moments. And the special effects compliment the movie rather than overwhelming it, as they do in some movies (Green Lantern, I’m looking in your direction).

All in all, however, I found the movie to be very enjoyable, and I look forward to the Avengers movie that is coming next year, which will unite the Marvel characters introduced in Marvel films that have come in previous years.

UPDATE (7/28!2): Cap A. is now available for streaming on Netflix. Just as a trivia excercise, I counted the number of shots fired by the Hydra spy from his standard 9mm Luger pistol before he ran out of ammo. This is a pistol that holds 9 rounds. You can count the exact number for yourself, but it's just a little less than twice that number.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Disturbing Comment

I have a regular barber. I've been going to this guy for over 10 years because he knows how I like to have what little remains of my hair cut: Short, simple, and hassle-free.

He also charges a reasonable price.

However, at my last haircut a couple days ago, our attention was drawn to a national news program, which was discussing--big surprise--the downgrading of the credit rating of the United States.

An aside: The fact that these banks, most of whom received billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to bail them out during the last financial crisis, had the gall to downgrade the U.S. credit rating, really grinds my gears. But that's another story for another time.

At any rate, my barber, watching how screwed up our political system is, remarked that he wished there was simply one person who controlled the government and made the decisions for everybody.

The fact that this man, who is old enough to know better, would make a comment like that, disturbs me.

I immediately reminded him about what happened in Germany in the 1930's. He seemed to remember this, and reconsider his opinion.

I was reminded of the quote by Winston Churchill: "The best argument against Democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter."

Case in point.

Of course, Churchill also said: "Democracy is the worst form of government--except for all the others that have been tried."

We're stuck with what we've got. It isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but until and unless someone comes up with something better--and many have tried and failed--we're going to have to stick with it.

Friday, August 05, 2011


Today, I stand before you, the three readers of this blog, completely humbled.

Contrite. Chastened. Overshadowed. Awed. Stunned.

Yesterday, if you look at the post, I lamented the fact that the progressive generations of humanity were growing dumber.

I was not, apparently, the first one to recognize this trend.

Not by a long shot.

The brilliant TV and film producer Mike Judge, recognized this trend more than 6 years ago.

It was then that he produced the brilliant film called Idiocracy.

This film, which Judge conceived and brought forth while apparently also producing the series King of the Hill for Fox, depicts a world 500 years from now as being so ridiculously stupid that a man with a completely average IQ (of 100) is considered to be the smartest person in the world. And his ideas, which reflect the most basic tenets of common sense, are ridiculed by the general population.

This hypothetical future world of the massively stupid comes into being for one simple reason: The stupid reproduce at an astonishingly higher rate than do the smart.

If you doubt this premise, then I invite you to take a trip to the Creation Museum that I talked about yesterday.

Needless to say, this movie by Judge, which I enjoyed immensely, enjoyed only limited release by its parent corporation Fox, which is a corporation dedicated to promoting maximum degrees of dumbassness (yes, I often make up words) on all levels, as far as I can tell. Lately, anyway. It didn't do well.

I'm not surprised. Dumb people rarely enjoy having a mirror held up that reflects their stupidity.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Discussion in the Lunchroom

I work in an office with a large number of people. Several of those people often take their daily lunch break in our common lunch room.

Most times, I ignore the usual lunchroom chats like the plague. To me, my lunch hour is a sacred thing. It's the one hour a day I have during the work week when I can totally unplug my brain from my work environment. For our lunch period, we are completely free from the constrictions of work.

So my usual routine, once I have consumed my lunch (which usually takes less than 20 minutes), is to find a comfortable chair in the corner of the lunch room, plug in my headphones, find a good classical music channel, and bury my nose in a book. And when I say bury myself, I mean it. The entire building could fall down around me when I read and I doubt I would notice.

Occasionally, however--usually if I'm reading a boring book, or at least a boring section of a book--I take notice of the conversation around me. And I sometimes listen in, and contribute the occasional nugget of wisdom. I don't participate very often, since in order to dumb myself down to the usual level of discussion therein I'd have to hit myself on the head with a hammer 10-15 times.

(If at this point you haven't yet figured out that I'm a conceited SOB, you haven't read enough of this blog.)

This brings me, in my usual roundabout way, to my point: The discussion on the day in question veered into the topic of the Creation Museum.

This museum--which is located only a few hours drive from me, by the way--is dedicated to proving to all visitors the truth of the Creation story, as provided in the book of Genesis. This, despite reams upon reams upon reams of scientific data that has been collected to contradict it.

The fact that this museum exists, only a few hours' drive from my house, is not the scary part. No, the scary part is this: This museum has hosted over 1 million visitors since it opened. And this flow of visitors shows no signs of slowing.

This leads me to one inescapable conclusion:

We are getting dumber.

Over the course of history, each subsequent generation of humans has surpassed its predecessors in terms of intelligence. Until a few years ago. That's when this trend reversed itself.

I think it started when George W. Bush was elected President. This man was the poster child for how an unqualified underachiever could achieve position far beyond what he was qualified for. And it inspired everyone else in the country to believe that they could do the same.

I'm not saying this has never happened before. History is filled with examples of people achieving postitions they weren't possibly qualified to hold. The difference between then and now was that most of the time those people went no farther. They were shamed out of their positions.

This doesn't happen today. Today, people who are underqualified for the positions they hold are propped up by various means until they believe they ARE qualified. This happens in all walks of life, from celebrities, to politicians, to corporate executives, to religious leaders.

If you have any doubts about the dumbing down of humanity, I invite you to watch an Episode of Jersey Shore.

And watch how its audience continues to grow from year to year.

We used to publicly ridicule people who regularly demonstrated how stupid they were. Nowadays, they get their own TV reality shows.

Progress? I have serious doubts.