Sunday, December 23, 2012

We Are (Almost) All Still Here.


I was all ready to go! I got drunk, wore my sloppy sweats, acted like a total slob, and waited for the world to end.

Wait. That's what I do almost every day.

So the Mayan Apocalypse came and went. And we are all still around. Well, most of us, anyway.

There are a few less of us today. Specifically, there are 20 fewer children in the world. They went to school in NewTown, Connecticut.

One of those killed was a girl born exactly 6 days before my oldest nephew.

Yesterday, at 9:20, we all observed a minute of silence to remember those killed.

Not too long after, the head of the NRA held a "Press Conference" wherein he blamed everyone but people who use guns for the massacre. He then suggested that the only way to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future was... to introduce 10 times more people with guns into the picture.

This. Man. Is. Insane.

Perhaps this tragedy, combined with the NRA's response to it, will finally be the straw that breaks the back of the stubborn camel that is holding up real effective gun control laws in this country.

I have doubts.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Some Pictures...

Are worth TENS of thousands of words!

(Face blacked out by me. Want to see the original picture? Go here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Dumbass Belt

I’m sure you've all heard of the bible belt, the rust belt, and the sun belt. These refer, of course, to certain regions of the country that are often connected culturally, ideologically, and, often enough, geographically. Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to another “belt” the girds this great nation of ours. I call it “The Dumbass Belt”*
This term refers to that string of six states that stretches right down the middle of the country geographically, from the Canadian to the Mexican border. These states are, from North to south, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
*(I toyed with calling it something a little bit more polite, but sometimes you have to tell it like it is!)

(NOTE: I apologize in advance to anyone reading this who lives in one of those six states. Obviously, if you're reading my blog, you're probably not a dumbass! That, or you're just a glutton for punishment. More on that later.)
Since the election of 1980, these states have voted almost exclusively for Republican candidates for President. The only slight exception was in the 2008 election, when, due to Nebraska’s method of determining its electoral vote distribution by Congressional district, a single electoral vote was awarded to then-candidate Barack Obama. The last time one of these states went to a Democrat was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter won Texas. This, of course, was before the Total Republican Takeover of Texas.
These states, with their 62 electoral votes, represent nearly one quarter of the total needed to ensure victory in a Presidential election. And they are states that are all but guaranteed to vote Republican. HEAVILY Republican. 6 states that any Republican Presidential candidate can almost completely ignore and yet still be assured of getting their vote.
An aside: I realize a similar argument can be made on the Democratic side for California and New York, but, unlike the 6 states in the D.B., those 2 states do occasionally switch sides.
So why do I call this the Dumbass Belt? It’s for one simple reason: The majority of the population of each these states, in every Presidential election, votes for the one party whose entire agenda is completely and totally against their political, economical, and, cultural interests. There’s only one way to describe this type of behavior: D.U.M.B.
Let’s start with the economics: With the obvious exception of Texas, not one of these states ranks in the top 25 in terms of percentage of U.S. GDP. The closest one of them gets to it is Oklahoma, which ranks at #29. (Based on 2010 figures). Two of the 5 other non-Texas states, North and South Dakota, rank at #50 and #47 respectively. Puerto Rico contributes as much to the National GDP as those two states combined.
And yet, in terms of federal funding received per state per tax dollar paid, both North and South Dakota receive nearly twice as much federal spending as they contribute in federal taxes (Based on 2009 figures). In fact, of the six states of the D.B., only Texas and Nebraska contribute more to the federal coffers than they receive in federal funding. (Texas, by the way, the state with the country’s second largest economy, still receives 92 cents in federal funding for every tax dollar it contributes. The same state, by the way, where 25% of the population has no health insurance and where one in five of its citizens live below the federal poverty line.)
In other words, these are six states that need every possible federal dollar they can get their hands on, and yet they consistently vote in favor of a party that wants to cut federal spending to the barest minimum. And then cut it even farther than that. Once again, DUMB!
These states also claim to believe in so-called “traditional values”, such as outlawing abortion and banning gay marriage. And yet, during the six years from 2001 – 2007, when Republicans, for all practical purposes, controlled all 3 branches of the government, not once was a bill introduced outlawing all abortion, nor was their ever a constitutional amendment proposed defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The reasons for this vary somewhat, but the main reason is that Republicans don't want these issues to go away! They are part of the reason they receive the knee-jerk votes of Republicans in these states.
So why do these states keep voting the way they do? One possible explanation, put forth by many before me, is the “battered person syndrome” theory. Perhaps the voters in these states, due to a long period of, at best, neglect, and, at worst, continuous abuse at the hands of Republicans, do not know how to behave any other way. This happens all the time in long-term relationships (I’d say a period of over 30 years is definitely a long-term relationship) where one person controls another through a regimen of systemic physical and psychological abuse followed by brief periods of contrition and begging forgiveness while at the same time blaming the victim for the abuse.
I don’t buy this, though. I think there’s a much more simple explanation: These voters are idiots. They’re just too stupid to realize just how much the modern Republican Party is conning them. Hence, the Dumbass Belt.
This may be changing, though. The population of the state of Texas is becoming younger, and, more importantly, more diverse. This does not bode well for Republicans in the future, who are consistently losing the votes of ethnic groups in every election. When and if Texas switches from Red to Blue, and Texans start seeing some return from the Federal government on all the tax dollars they are sending to it, the other states in the D.B. might just learn from Texas’ example. In other words, they just might learn to vote for a party that actually gives a crap about them.
It's a long shot, I know. But a man can dream.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Movie Review: Real Steel

Today’s Movie Review (Blu-Ray): Real Steel
(Released originally in October 2011.)

Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton
Dakota Goyo (Who?) as Max Kenton
Evangeline Lilly as Bailey Tallett

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My, it’s certainly been a while since we saw a movie about a low-class, underdog boxer who, through a bizarre set of circumstances, ends up with a shot at the title that no one ever thought he would get. Oh wait, no it hasn’t. Less than a year before this movie was released The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, came out, with a similar plotline. That movie, however, was based on real people and won Academy Awards. This movie is pure fantasy and is fun to watch.

It’s the year 2020. Not a lot has changed between the world today and the world about a decade from now, except that maybe wind turbines are a lot more commonplace (although the way they are sprouting up everywhere these days, I can see it) An aside: For a graphic example of how inaccurate a movie can be at predicting the near future, watch Timecop sometime.

The world of professional boxing hasn’t changed much, though. Professional promoters hype events to the max. A small group of rich people pulls the strings. Well-groomed champions are set up in bouts whose outcomes are foregone conclusions. One BIG thing has changed, though: The bouts are fought between remote controlled, 8 foot tall, 2000 pound robots. Think of a real-life version of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.

And fight they do! These massive machines, pound, pummel, and pulverize each other into scrap metal, all for the amusement of millions of cheering fans. Some things never change.

We are introduced to Charlie Kenton, a washed-up former professional boxer turned robot fight promoter. His “fighter” is a broken-down, battle-scarred robot named “Ambush”, who is so battered that he is reduced to fighting illegally in underground matches. After Ambush is destroyed in a fight with a bull (yes, you read that right) Charlie is desperate to find a new robot.

Shortly after the “bullfight”, Charlie learns that his ex-girlfriend has died, leaving behind Charlie’s son Max (Goyo). Max’s Aunt wants Charlie to surrender his parental rights so that she and her husband can adopt Max. Charlie, however, seeing that her husband is VERY rich, secretly extorts the husband for enough money to buy a new robot in exchange for giving up his custody rights to Max. The husband agrees, but only on the condition that Charlie keep Max for the summer so that he and his wife can take a trip overseas.

Charlie is at first jubilant. He plans to use the payoff to buy a new robot and get a few fights in over the summer while leaving Max with his on again/off again girlfriend and gym owner Bailey (Lilly). His plans quickly go awry, as, first, Max blackmails Charlie into taking him with him on the road, and, second, Charlie’s new robot is destroyed in its first match. As the two of them scavenge a junkyard looking for anything they can used to build a new robot, Max finds an old, long-obsolete but completely intact sparring robot.

This robot—named Atom—is unique in two ways: It is designed to take a lot of punishment, and it can exactly mirror the movements of any opponent it faces—a “shadow” function. Using this and parts salvaged from the two wrecked robots, Charlie and Max train the robot to fight using human-like boxing skills. As they begin cleaning up on the underground fighting circuit, they eventually get noticed by the “World Robot Boxing” league.

Will Atom get a shot at the WRB champ? Will Charlie and Max grow closer as the summer goes on? Is there more to Atom than meets the eye? Will there be a sequel?

Let’s answer those in reverse order, shall we? First, the movie made back nearly 3 times its budget, despite being released in October (usually when the crap movies come out) and it was well-liked by most critics. That sort of success breeds sequels. Hell, a QUARTER of that sort of success breeds sequels. And there are issues left unresolved, which brings us to the next question: Who created Atom, and why did he wind up at the bottom of a pit in a junkyard if he is so special? And to answer the first two questions on the list above, of course he will and of course they will. After all, this is Hollyweird! Didn’t you see Rocky?

That’s basically what this movie is, a Rocky for the video game generation. The world of professional fighting is already headed in this direction. The sport of boxing is slowly being subsumed by the much more violent UFC, so how far away can we be from millions of fans cheering as they watch two machines literally tear each other apart? And these machines are a video game nerd’s dream come true: Seeing the remote control fighters they have been watching on screen come to life. We saw hints of this possibility in the movie Gamer a couple of years ago (Look it up). And while I can’t see our society becoming that barbaric (yet), I can easily see this movie coming true, to a certain extent.

The acting is decent enough. Jackman, in his first major Blockbuster film since Wolverine, portrays Charlie alternatively as a world-weary has-been and as a small-time con man who can never think past the next big score. Lilly portrays his long-suffering friend, sometime girlfriend, and close confidant who loves him but has grown tired of his immature behavior. She has limited screen time, though, since this movie is not about their relationship—it is about the relationship between Charlie and Max.

It is this relationship that forms the soul of the movie. At the beginning of their extended road trip, it is Max who is the grown-up, and Charlie the immature kid. The roles gradually reverse, however, as Charlie learns to accept that he must become a better role model for his son.

Dakota Goyo, all of 11 when this movie was shot, shows real talent, and, provided he can avoid the pitfalls that most child actors have to face, should have a good career ahead of him.
The visual effects are very good. The movie received an Oscar nomination for them, based on the strength of the robot fight scenes. When you watch the extra features on the disc and see how much trouble the production team went through to give the movie an authentic feel, you see it was money well spent.

All-in-all, this was a pretty entertaining movie. And while it starts out slow and is quite cliché-ridden, it accomplished what it intended—to entertain and make money. That is the true measure of a successful movie.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Yet another entry in my They Said It Better Than I Ever Could series. Recorded by master Hollyweird personality (and one of my favorites) Joss Whedon, and presented without further comment.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Pro-Rape Republican Party

The news has brought us yet another Republican Senatorial candidate making a ridiculous quote about rape, birth control and emergency contraception.

So here I present to you the new GOP rape advisory chart, courtesy of

Does anyone remember when this party was not insane?

Neither do I.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

They Said it Better Than I Ever Could, Cont.

Yet another post in my ongoing TSIBTIEC series. Presented with only this comment: Watch the ENTIRE video.

Monday, September 24, 2012


One of the new TV series this year is called Revolution. The premise is simple enough: At some undetermined point in the not-to-distant future (I'm betting around December 21st, 2012--Look it up), a worldwide electrical blackout falls over the entire planet. And when I say blackout, I mean BLACKOUT.

You see, just about everything in this world requires electricity. And if that is no longer available, our modern world falls apart. It's not just about the lights going out--it's about EVERYTHING going out. Cars stop because spark plugs don't work. Radio transmissions stop. Not one single thing that requires any kind of electrical based function works. The only "modern" conveniences that continue to function are those that work on chemical or mechanical functions. Cars stop. Airplanes drop from the sky like flies. Millions of people die.

The series picks up 15 years after the blackout. Modern civilization has disappeared. Cities have been reclaimed by nature. What is left of humanity has been reduced to an agrarian existence, and warlords who managed to stockpile the few remaining weapons of war reign supreme.

Behind all this, of course, are a few central characters who are obviously aware of more than what they seem to know.

It's an interesting premise, and it has the support of both J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau, both of whom are strong Hollyweird personalities. It seems to be strongly written and directed.

Nevertheless, I predict an early and painful death for this show. There may be several reasons for this.but the primary reason for this is the same reason that killed the CBS show Jericho: Nobody in today's world wants to be reminded of the future that could lie just around the corner for them.

Just in case anyone forgot, Jericho depicted a United States shortly in the future wherein a shadowy quasi-terrorist organization set off Nuclear bombs in 15 major American cities, and showed how the aftermath of that affected a small Colorado town.

Now, this new series depicts another post-cataclysmic world. And reminds us of just how close we could be to it.

And nobody I know wants to see that.

A few months from now, we'll see if I was right or wrong.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Laws of Movies and TV Shows

Have you ever noticed that most things that happen in movies and TV shows (to some extent) will often defy the laws of physics, legal restrictions, human physiology, and even basic common sense? I have. And, in an attempt to explain this, I have come up with a few basic laws that apply only to movies and television.

1) The Law of Inconvenient Ammunition Depletion: Any firearm, regardless of its magazine capacity or whether a hero or villain is wielding it, will always run out of ammunition at the worst possible moment.

2) The Law of Shotgun Ammunition Multiplication: A pump-action shotgun, which holds only six shells maximum, will always be able to fire 3 times that number of shots before reloading. Also, loading a single shell will fully reload an empty weapon. NOTE: This law may be superseded by Law #1 above.

3) The Law of Revolver chamber capacity expansion: Any basic six-shot revolver will always be able to fire more than six bullets without reloading. NOTE: This law may also be superseded by Law #1.

4) The Law of Concussion Avoidance: No character, after being knocked unconscious, will ever suffer any debilitating effects from it.

5) The Law of Uncanny Pistol Accuracy: Any pistol with only a four-inch (or less) barrel will be as accurate as a scoped sniper rifle, regardless of the distance it is fired from, as long as the person firing said pistol stands ramrod straight, takes careful aim, and wears a look of grim determination. NOTE: This law does not apply if missing the intended target is essential to the plot.

6) The Law of Insignificant Flesh Wounds: Bullet wounds, regardless of their location, will not decrease anyone’s effectiveness, unless said decrease is key to the plot.

7) The Law of Cast Iron Bodies: Being struck by a car, or some other similar hard impact, will cause no broken bones, nor any other injuries other than superficial cuts, scratches, or bruises, unless a character is meant to die or be crippled by such an impact, in which case even a slight glancing blow will be more than adequate to cause the desired effect.

8) The Law of Loud Argument Interruption: when two or more characters are involved in a heated argument or discussion, they will ignore someone who has something very important to tell them until said person whistles or yells loudly.

9) The Law of Unimportant Busywork: No Police detective or Federal Agent ever has to spend any time sitting at his or her desk simply doing paperwork – all of their time can be spent investigating in the field.

10) The Law of Unemployment Effectiveness: A Police detective does his or her best investigative work only after being fired or suspended indefinitely.

11) The Law of Prolonged Survival: No secondary character will die after receiving a fatal wound (or wounds) until he or she has delivered a crucial piece of information to the main character(s).

12) The Law of Warrantless Search Nullification: No case based on evidence obtained without a warrant will ever fall apart in the future (although in most cases, such cases usually never go to trial since the suspect or suspects often end up dead anyway.)

13) The Law of the Super-Powered Punch: Any punch thrown by a hero or heroine, regardless of how small they may be or how much their target outweighs them, will completely stun or knock the target unconscious, with no damage to the hand of the punch-thrower. NOTE: This rule does not apply when a punch is thrown at an unstoppable serial killer in a horror movie, or when the punch is simply a futile act of defiance.

14) The Law of Bloody Phlegm Defiance: Any character, after receiving multiple blows to the face or jaw, will always spit a huge globule of bloody saliva off to the side. This will instantly cure said person of any dizziness or disorientation that may have come as a result of those blows. NOTE: The restorative effects of this action are doubled if said globule lands anywhere on the body of the assailant (preferably the face). Also, this law does not work if it is simply a futile act of defiance as stated in law #13.

15) The Law of the Magic Neck Crack: Any character, after receiving a savage beat-down that would land most people in the hospital, may recover from all injuries by simply cracking his or her neck from side to side, producing an audible sound that is never heard in nature.

16) The Law of the Steel Eardrums: No character will ever be deafened by being in close proximity to an explosion, unless said deafness is part of the plot.

17) The Law of the Variable-Speed Explosion: Any fiery explosion will always ignore the laws of thermodynamics and will slow down its expansion speed to accommodate the maximum walking/running/riding/driving/flying speed of the person(s) fleeing it, unless said person(s) is supposed to be consumed by it.

18) The Law of Shockwave-Free Explosion: A variable of #17, this law allows any character to stand motionless in front of, or slowly walk away from, a massive explosion without being bowled over by the shockwave from the blast, unless being knocked down by said shockwave is part of the plot.

19) The Law of Useless Self Hand-Gagging: Any character, after blurting out crucial information that others are not supposed to know, will instantly clap his or her hand(s) over the mouth in a useless attempt to retroactively prevent the words just uttered from coming out.

That's what I've come up with so far. More may follow later.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

On the (Not Quite So Beautiful) Blue Danube

This week, my dad is taking a long-anticipated cruise on the Danube River in Eastern Europe. He's been planning this trip for months now, and it's one that is well-deserved. He (and my mom, God rest her soul) worked for decades and lived frugally to ensure that they could both provide for their kids (me and my sister) and live a very comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, cancer took my mom before she could realize that hope. But my dad lives on -- a cranky but loveable curmudgeon who is now in his 9th decade walking this Earth. And he travels frequently because he can.

But this trip had to be altered somewhat. It seems that the Danube, one of Eastern Europe's most prominent waterways, and one that has fed the cultures and economies of more than a dozen countries for centuries, is getting so low that the regular cruise excursions can't travel the routes they usually do.

Part of this is, of course, due to the many hydroelectric dams that have been built to supply electrical power to the various countries the river passes through. But a good part of it has to do with the drought that is being experienced in Europe. And just about everywhere else.

We don't need to be told about drought in the Midwest. Crops are dying in the fields from lack of water. The Great Lakes are at their lowest levels in decades. Maybe even in centuries. I've seen evidence of this firsthand.

But our problem with global warming induced drought is far from local. Polar sea ice is melting at an alarming rate. And, the river that inspired Johann Strauss to write one of the most beautiful classical waltzes ever written has now become so shallow that tourists wishing to sail its waters must shorten their time on the boat  and travel the sections the ships can't take them on by bus.

But hey. Dontcha know that global warming is a myth? Republicans have said so. So it must be true. Amiright? Hello? Hello?! Is this thing on?!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Thank God for PBS

Tonight, as I was searching through the few available TV networks still available to those few folks without access to Cable TV (yes, I am the one), I looked for coverage of the Democratic Convention before 10:00.

ABC: Nope
NBC: Nope

PBS: Yes

Thank you.

Every so often, PBS and NPR remind me why I still like them. Thanks.

As I write this, they are broadcasting the speech of the founder of COSTCO, who founded his business on the principle that his business succeeds only because it had support from the communities around it.

Elizabeth Warren is speaking now. She might be President someday. More power to her.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

They Said it Better Than I Ever Could, cont.

Continuing on my theme from yesterday (BTW, I diaried a copy of yesterday's entry on and was selected for Community Spotlight for some inexplicable reason, for which I am extremely proud), I present to you the following TSIBTIEC without further comment:

Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Day.

Labor Unions. Labor Unions? Labor Unions?! Nothing but a bunch of shiftless, worthless, work-hating, mob-embracing fat cats who live to sponge their living off the backs of decent, honest workers who wouldn't touch a union membership card with a ten-foot pole.

That's what I once thought, once upon a time. And I know I wasn't alone in that opinon. Or something along those lines.

My tune has changed over the years. When I was in college, I once wrote a major paper for one of my classes detailing the worthlessness of labor unions and how we could all do without them.

I changed my mind.

Please note: THAT does not happen very often, but it does happen. Once upon a time, I was fervently against gun control laws. That all changed, and I can tell you exactly when it happened. It happened when I was robbed at gunpoint. The most ironic part of the whole thing was that a good friend of mine was at a store that was robbed by the same person only 3 days before the place I was working at was hit--by the same guy. Most people, after being held at gunpoint, would be on the shooting range the next day. But not me. The incident, on some level, crystallized for me just how out of control this country's gun problem is.

But I, as usual, digress.  This post is about labor unions, the good they have done, continue to do, and hopefully will do in the future. Workers throughout the industrialized world were, for decades, or even centuries, treated as nothing but assets to be disposed of once they had outlived their usefullness. They were treated little better than slaves. Children would often work next to their parents. Overtime? Safety regulation? Decent working conditions? Fuhgettaboutit. It was only after workers learned to band together and overcome incredible odds that they earned the right to be treated as something other than chattel.

I have written before about why I continue to work in a union job, and am happy to pay my dues as a member. Unions are the antidote to complete corporate takeover of the country. The big corporations may control the government, the media, and almost every other aspect of our lives, but if they can't control the workforce, they will never control the country.

This holiday celebrates the power of the people. So, if today you are kicking back, enjoying your evening barbecue and drinking your celebratory beer, please take a moment to remember the many union members who gave their lives in the fight against business who wanted to exploit you. And remember that if you had today, or yesterday or the day before yesterday, off, a union member paid for that. For that, and for the fact that you only work 40 hours a week without being paid overtime. And that you are might be earning a living wage. And the fact that your children are starting school instead of working right next to you.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Haven't Laughed That Hard

In a LONG time.

I was at COSTCO today, picking up a few things.

As I wandered by the book section, I glanced at the available titles.

Suddenly, a young boy, maybe about 8 or 9 years old, grabbed a boxed set of the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy. (Look it up you morons! I keep telling you I ain't your damn search engine!)

He loudly proclaimed, to anyone within earshot, "Mama! You haven't read this one yet!" (That's a paraphrase--I don't remember his exact words.

I looked at the people closest around. We all smiled, then burst out laughing. Especially when he ran off to find the aforementioned "mama". Who, I am sure, was turning fifty shades of red.

I laughed for two solid minutes. I was still laughing as I approached the checkout counter.

I only wish that I had followed the boy and seen the reaction of his "mama" when he found her and made his announcement to anyone around. I suspect that if I had, I'd either still be laughing, or the victim of a homicide right now.

So, to an unknown female COSTCO customer: If you were in the Toledo, Ohio store today, and your son came up to you with a boxed set of the 50 Shades trilogy loudly declaring that you hadn't read it yet, please know that he gave me one of the best laughs I've had in quite a while. Don't be too hard on him.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Adventures with Netflix

Not too long ago, I acquired an internet-capable Blu-Ray player. I figured it was only a matter of time before they stopped releasing movies on DVD altogether, and it can play DVD’s so I figured, “What the hell? Why not?” 

An aside: That’s nothing new. I make a lot of decisions that way. With decidedly mixed results.

At any rate, along with the player I also acquired a subscription to Netflix. Their streaming-only service is only $8 a month, and contains literally thousands of movies and TV shows to watch.

It also contains a few surprises.

One of those surprises came as I was recently flipping through a list of available movies. I came across an old sci-fi flick called Starcrash.

Here’s the description: “Sexy space smuggler Stella Starr (alliterate much?) and her partner Akton set out on a mission to save the son of the emperor of the Galaxy in this racy sci-fi flick.”

I thought, “Now this I gotta see.” So I queued it up.

Roughly 90 minutes later, I was curled up in a ball on the floor, vomiting my guts out and begging for mercy. OK, not really, but I wanted to.

This. Was. A. BAD. Movie.

Seriously. If this had been made today, it would have hit the straight-to-video market faster than the 15th sequel to Rocky.

Released not too long after the first Star Wars film (which is actually the fourth sequentially, but don’t get me started), the movie was a shameless attempt to cash in on the genre’s new popularity. I suppose it succeeded, if by “succeeded” you mean “hopelessly failed”.
There are many elements familiar to SW fans: One of the lead characters is a robot (who inexplicably speaks with a hillbilly accident) who looks like the love child of C-3PO and the robot from Forbidden Planet.  (Seriously. Look it up. I'm getting tired of telling you people I ain't your damn search engine!) Another character has mysterious supernatural power (including the power to deflect laser beams) and fights with a laser sword (can you say "lightsaber"?)

But the best part is the main character, Stella Starr, played by Caroline Munro. She was never in any danger of winning any acting awards to begin with. She spends more than half of the movie decked out in a skimpy leather bikini. She also wears an outfit that doesn't offer much more protection than said bikini whilst wandering about a planet that gets so cold at night that the air freezes solid.

The movie also stars a pre-"Knight-rider", pre-"Baywatch", pre-"drunktard on youtube" David Hasselhoff. Who showed even less acting talent than in any of his subsequent shows.

The worst part is Christopher Plummer, the Oscar-winning actor. He has had a fine career in Hollyweird. He is well-respected. And he spends the entire movie wearing an expression that says, "What the hell am I doing being in this movie?!"

The special effects are horrid. I could have made a better show with a cardboard box and a flashlight.

I used to think that the problem with Hollyweird was that they had run out of original ideas. I now know that they began to run out of original ideas decades ago. It just took a while for the problem to become painfully obvious.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gene Kelly, Monkeys. Republicans, and Ignorance

Yesterday would have been Gene Kelly’s 100th birthday.

I’m the first to admit that I have never seen either of Kelly’s 2 most famous films: Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, although I have seen clips of the former, mostly of his performance of the movie’s titular activity. I’m sure everyone has.

But he appeared in another movie that he is probably far less well-known for: The 1960 movie Inherit the Wind. The movie also starred Spencer Tracy and Frederic March, both of whom were Oscar-winning actors and who were both in the twilight of their movie careers. The movie also starred a pre-M*A*S*H Harry Morgan and a pre-Bewitched Dick York, as well as a pre-“Sheriff Lobo” Claude Akins.

The movie is based on the play co-written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (no relation to the Confederate General). It centers around the trial of a schoolteacher (York) who was arrested for breaking a state law banning the teaching of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and who is prosecuted by a renowned state attorney (Matthew Harrison Brady, played by March) and defended by an equally renowned defense attorney (Henry Drummond, played by Tracy.) Kelly played the part of journalist E.K. Hornbeck, a caustic, cynical, far-from-neutral observer of the trial.

The play and subsequent movie versions were inspired by the events surrounding the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925. Brady and Drummond were based on real-life lawyers William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, respectively, and the character of Hornbeck was based on journalist H.L. Mencken who covered the real-life trial. The original play, however, makes no mention of the state of Tennessee or its then on-the-books law against the teaching of evolution. The production notes for the play simply state that it takes place in “A small town” and at a time “not too long ago”.

The 1960 movie version has become one of my favorite films. I first became interested in the film and the events it was based on after seeing a made-for-TV version starring Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards. This version was somewhat mediocre, despite the talents of both men. But it’s really the play that interests me. I’ve seen a few versions, and even managed to wrangle a bit part for myself in a performance given by a local amateur troupe (2 appearances, 4 short lines.)

The trial and even the law itself became a public joke to most of the rest of the country, aided in no small part by the reporting of Mencken, who took every opportunity to belittle the state, the town, the local populace, and the prosecution team in print. There is even some speculation that the town of Dayton, Tennessee staged the whole thing as a publicity stunt, albeit one that grew wildly out of control, to drum up revenue for the local businesses.

Although both Tracy and March gave fine performances (Tracy received an Oscar nomination), it was, in my opinion, Kelly’s caustic performance as the cynical Hornbeck that drove home – to me, at least – just how silly the entire thing was. Perhaps it was simply jarring to see the usually genial Kelly portraying someone so abrasive and unlikable, and that made his part all the more noticeable. More likely, however, it was the way the character laughed at the nonsensical nature of the trial itself, and at how ridiculous the cause of the Prosecution team, the state government, and even the citizens themselves, was.

The refusal of someone to listen to anything they don’t want to hear was and is nothing new. An astonishing number of these incidents involve religion. Galileo was punished by the Catholic church for daring to suggest that the Earth revolved around the sun. Thousands were put to death by the Inquisition because they refused to acknowledge there was only one “acceptable” religion. Darwin himself was threatened with death for his research.

And next week, an entire Political Party will assemble under a platform that denies the existence of global warming, denies that women have any rights, and encourages the teaching of “intelligent design”, which is Creationism in a fancy suit. The scary part? These people have a better than average chance of ending up running the country for at least the next four years.

Somewhere, H.L. Mencken is laughing his ass off at us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Adventures on the City Bus

I don’t ride the Toledo city bus any more. Allow me to explain.

Years ago, when I first started in my job, I began riding the bus to work. It seemed ideal to me at the time. After all, there’s a bus stop half a block away from my house, and the route drops me off literally across the street from where I work. It’s also cheaper than daily parking ($2 round trip, as opposed to $4, $5, or even as much as $6 per day to park downtown). And I saved the gas money, as well as car wear and tear.

Also, with someone else driving, I was free to read or listen to morning news on the radio. And the bus ran on time, more or less.

Eventually, however, I found a lot only 3 blocks away from my workplace where I could park daily for only $30 per month (the cost of a parking space in downtown T-Town is inversely proportional to its distance from the center of downtown). It made more economic sense: Monthly bus fees: $56. Monthly parking fees: $30. Even buying tokens, which cost 10 cents less per trip, saved me only $2.80 per month. And, for those inevitable times when I needed to drive to work, I would be stuck with the higher daily parking fee.

So I quit riding the bus. My car was simply more convenient. Ta heck with the environment, ah needs mah car!

At any rate, TARTA (Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority), the Toledo area’s bus system, is hopelessly inadequate. You see, Toledo is a small town trapped in a big city. It is not large enough to require a major mass transit system, and far too spread out to operate one efficiently (or profitably).

Also, there are 3 large cities in Ohio, and Toledo isn’t one of them. Those 3 cities, (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, often referred to as simply “the three C’s”), while they may be politically and ideologically different, are inextricably connected by a vast money belt that has 3 buckles that land in those 3 cities, from the southwest to the northeast corner. These 3 cities receive the bulk of state money, while the cities and towns outside the reach of that money belt scrabble among themselves for the scraps left behind.

Toledo often gets the fuzzy end of that lollipop, being a reliably Democratic-leaning city in a State controlled for years by a mostly Republican legislature and far too often a Republican Governor. What money we do receive from the state often goes to the far wealthier (and Republican) suburbs. So Toledo is usually on its own as far as money goes. And in bad economic times, Toledo suffers.

Which brings me, in my usual roundabout way, to my point: There is no money to improve on the city’s mass transit system (or anything else for that matter).

And it needs improvement! Most bus routes haven’t changed in decades. Every bus route still leads to the downtown area, despite the fact that nearly every business once located in downtown Toledo either went out of business or moved out to the suburban areas decades ago. The only people who still work downtown every day are the poor government schlubs (like me) or the people who provide them with food, drinks, or other services. Walk down any downtown street after 6 p.m. (when there’s no baseball or hockey game on) and you may not meet another person during your entire walk.

So being forced to take a bus downtown is silly. And if you want to travel from one part of the Toledo area to another, you must first take one bus downtown, transfer to another bus, and then repeat the process on the way back. A trip that you could drive in 20 minutes can easily take up to two hours by bus. And forget about taking a bus anywhere on a weekend. If you’re going to try, take a book. I might suggest War and Peace.

So TARTA needs a serious revamp. It’s gotten so bad that some suburbs are threatening to pull out of the system completely. One already has.

The problem is the money to overhaul the system does not exist. It’s barely making ends meet right now. And it survives at its current level by a continuous series of tax levies, which must be approved by voters every few years. And fewer and fewer voters are seeing the value of the current system.

A couple of years ago, a medical issue forced me to stop driving for 3 months on doctor’s orders (I was actually lucky – most states would’ve kept me from behind the wheel for a year. Or more.) So I got stuck riding TARTA to work again. It served to remind me of why I didn’t miss riding it.

I’ve ridden buses in cities with mass transit systems that worked well. I know it can be done. But the money and the will to do it have to be there. TARTA lacks both.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

They Said it Better Than I Ever Could, Cont. (TSIBTIEC)

A recurring feature of this blog is something that I refer to in the title of this post. It doesn't happen often, but I sometimes come across people on the internet who say what I am thinking far better than I ever could.

Here is another example, presented without further comment.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Why I Keep Doing it.

Why do I do it?

For over 8 years now, I’ve been writing ceaselessly on this blog, sometimes as frequently as twice a day (or more), sometimes as infrequently as once a month (or more – see date of entry below). But I am always. Writing. Something.

And I have to ask myself: Why?

I make frequent humorous references to the 3 people who read this blog, but I know that I am fooling myself. There are literally MILLIONS of blogs out there, in every possible language. A Yahoo! search for “voice in the crowd” doesn’t locate this humble blog anywhere on the first ten results pages (I didn’t look any further than that), nor does searching for “voice in the crowd blog” find me. Even the name I chose is far from unique, as dozens of blogs have the same name, or some variation of the same name. And this blog really isn't advertised. Anywhere.

So why continue to slog on?

It is really not a secret: I like it.

I simply like the fact that, at any time the mood may strike me, if I have something to say, I can write it. And, as soon as I do, what I have said will instantly be committed to the memory of that great thing known as the internet, where once something is there, it will always be there, despite the best efforts of whomever may seek to obliterate it as some point in the future. The internet is forever, my friends. Just ask Paris Hilton.

It’s also a good place to vent. And since I am highly unlikely to ever seek fame or political office, I can say what I want with impunity. And, if someone somewhere down the line does take offense at something I say, I have two words for them: Tough. Shit. If you don’t like what I have to say, don’t read it.

And of course, the best part is that I don’t have to be particularly eloquent. While I may go back and revise and edit a few parts of each entry here and there, it’s mostly what you see is what you get.

So I will continue. For however long this completely free service remains available to me. Feel free to read it. Or not.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


By now, you may have heard about the new show on HBO called "Newsroom". In case you missed it, you can watch the premiere episode for free here. The show stars Jeff Daniels as the anchor of an hourlong news show for a fictional news network. He is described as being the "Jay Leno" of news anchors, because he has developed a reputation for never offending anyone.

That reputation, however, takes a hit when, as part of a panel discussion at a university (later revealed to be Northwestern), he loses all patience and launches into a rant about how America is no longer the greatest country in the world, and then lists the reasons why. Watch that clip here.


Naturally, in today's media saturated market, the clip gets widespread distribution, and Daniels' character, Will McAvoy, is forced by his network to accept a new Executive Producer (MacKenzie McHale, played by Emily Mortimer), who challenges him to re-create the format of his show to be more about "real" news, instead of entertaining people and not offending anyone.

There have been very few shows on TV that have grabbed me with both hand from the very first episode and never let go. "The West Wing" was one. "Scrubs" was another. And now we have "The Newsroom".

An aside: The character played by Daniels seems to be a somewhat toned down version of the Howard Beale character played by Peter Finch in the movie Network. Another excellent movie, by the way. Hopefully Daniels character won't eventually meet the same fate as Finch's

The show was created by Aaron Sorkin, who also created the aforementioned "West Wing", along with "Sports Night" (a show that, sadly, was never fully appreciated for how good it was), as well as several excellent movies (A Few Good Men, The Social Network, The American President). Sorkin is a rarity in Hollyweird these days: A man who believes that people will be entertained by good, intelligent writing that can provoke lively conversation and examination of the issues.

Fans of "The West Wing" - myself included -  have been waiting for years now for something else that we could sink our teeth into. In this world of idiotic reality television shows *cough* Jersey Shore *cough* and live talentless talent shows, it is nice to know that there is still some good TV to look forward to. As I've mentioned before, I do not have cable (yes, I'm the one), so I won't be able to watch the rest of the episodes  until they become available on DVD or Netflix. But it gives me something to look forward to. And a good feeling that there is still some hope for Hollywood.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Prime Example of Stupidity

This is my latest shoe purchase from Costco.

It's a pretty simple walking/running shoe. They run about $15 at Costco. They're pretty cheaply made, but they are comfortable and ususally fit pretty well. They usually last about a year before something causes a seam to pop somewhere, and a hole develops. At that point, I get a new pair. The old pair becomes my "grass-mowing shoes". I wear them while...mowing grass, naturally.

But that's not really my point. My point is this:

See that "Made in" label?

More than 60 years ago, President Kennedy signed a trade embargo against Cuba--an island 90 miles off the coast of Florida--because it had become a Communist dictatorship. A few years later, America engaged in a bloody and prolonged war with another Communist dictatorship halfway around the world: The People's Republic of North Vietnam. It was a war that we eventually lost. Vietnam was completely taken over by Communists. It remains so to this day, more or less.

Vietnam is halfway around the world. Although some democratic reforms have happened, it is an inescapable fact that it is a single-party Socialist state, not unlike Cuba.

And yet today, Vietnam is a valued trading partner of the U.S. (see above picture if you have any doubts). It is a popular tourist destination. Direct flights from the U.S. are available. Veterans of the war travel there to visit places where they fought. Some of them even crawl through tunnels where their enemies hid. I would remind you again that Vietnam is on the opposite side of the world.

Meanwhile, Cuba still suffers under the U.S. trade embargo. No direct flights are available.

The reason is simple. The Cuban-American community in Florida excercises an enormous amount of political clout, mostly because they have a lot of money. And every time someone even dares to suggest weakening the embargo, a tremendous outcry arises from that community. An outcry heard--and obeyed--by Florida's representatives. And most of the rest of the political community. Particularly the Republicans

You have to realize that this country has a long history of forming powerful trade alliances with its former enemies. England, Canada, Japan, Spain, Germany, and Mexico, among others, are all countries that we have fought wars with, sometimes more than once. Today, many of them are some of our strongest allies. We somehow learned that it's more profitable to be friends with them than enemies.

Cuba, however, gets the short end of the stick. We have never fought a war with Cuba. American troops actually liberated Cuba from Spanish rule during the Spanish-American war. However, thanks to the whims of a few embittered expatriates who have never learned how to let go of a grudge, the embargo remains.
With any luck, within a few years what remains of the Cuban-American old guard will no longer be in control of policies towards Cuba. But it is shameful that such a small minority has had so much power for so long. Stupidity personified.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yet Again

A couple of years ago, just before Christmas, I broke my right big toe when I stubbed it on a chair leg in the dark.

A broken toe is a medical problem that really can't be solved. The bones involved are so small that, once broke, they can't be reset. All you can do is wait for them to heal (out of alignment) and then deal with the chronic problems that tend to ensue.

So last Saturday, I stubbed another one. My left little one this time. I don't know if I broke bone or not, but even if I didn't, it still hurts like all hell.

There are simply some injuries that modern medicine cannot alleviate, despite all the advances that have happened.

Someone really needs to look into this.

Because sometimes the little stuff like this really fucking hurts.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's Pointless

I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to convince my co-workers of the absurdity of the current Repuglican position.

The 'pubs', to a (wo)man, led by their Presidential nominee Willard Romney, are convinced that the surest way to economic recovery is increased tax cuts for the wealthy, less government regulation, and reduction of public worker payrolls to next to nothing. The very same policies that led to the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, almost every co-worker of mine is convinced that all Repuglicans pee lemonade. And that they could piss that lemonade all over their heads, tell them it's rain, and they would believe it completely. And they would willingly open their mouths and drink that piss until it killed them.

(What? You think that's too vulgar?! How long have you been reading this blog?!)

Romney, if he is elected President, will destroy this country. That. Is. A. Fact.

But my co-workers cannot be convinced of this.

They have been convinced by the right-wing media that Obama is a Socialist Foreigner who is working to destroy this country. Never mind that he has been working tirelessly from day one to undo the damage done by 8 years of a George W. Bush Presidency. This is not an easy task under the best of circumstances, but the President has been fighting a Repuglican Congress that has had no other stated goal for the last 3 years than ensuring that Barack Obama serves only one term as President.

Try as I might, I have been unable to convince my co-workers about this.

My reason for this is simple. They. Are. Idiots.

And I've decided arguing with them is pointless. Arguing with an idiot is like wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it. Then he drags you down to his level and beats you with experience. And from the outside, no one knows the difference.

This country will not survive being controlled by another Republican administration. Not as the current Republican party stands. The sooner people realize this, the sooner we'll begin fixing the world they broke.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Last Nail in the Coffin

I have, on this blog and elsewhere, repeatedly expressed my reasons why I can never even consider becoming Catholic. This story, which I just learned about today, was the last and final reason why.

For those of you who are too lazy to follow the link, let me give you the Cliff Notes version:

A 9-year-old girl in Brazil, who had been raped by her stepfather and impregnated with twins, underwent an emergency abortion. This operation saved her life, and probably her ability to have children in the future,

Brazil is a strongly Catholic country, although that faith has been tested over the years.

The Catholic church, however, excommunicated both the mother of the girl and the doctors who performed this lifesaving procedure. Apparently, the unborn fetuses that this severely underage girl was carrying were more important to them than the life and future health of the girl in question.

I'm more than willing to acknowledge that the young girl in question may have been older than 9 years. After all, it's an accepted fact that most human females don't hit puberty until age 10 or later. That is NOT an excuse for the Church's behavior. A female child--and there's no doubt that's what she was--is not biologically able to carry a baby to term, much less deliver one (or two, in this case).

But that's not the worst part. No, the worst part is that the man who raped and impregnated this child is still a member of the church.

If you can explain the logic of that, please tell me how.

The Catholic church, in the midst of growing increasingly irrelevant, continues to march steadily backwards.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Win, They Lose. 'Twas Ever Thus.

For some time now, I've been engaged in a one-sided\  battle of wits with a few of my co-workers over the current political  situation vis-a-vis Romney vs. Obama.

It's been an uphill battle. For me. For one thing, these people devoutly believe every Republican candidate pisses lemonade. For another, they all firmly believe that Obama is a criminal Socialist who is leading this country to ruin.

And finally, I am firmly engaged in this particular battle of wits against unarmed enemies. There is no more dangerous opponent to face.

There's an old saying: Never wrestle with a pig: You both get dirty and the pig enjoys it. Another old saying is that you should never  argue with an idiot, because they drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

So I try not to engage them whenever possible.

But yesterday I heard them talking about Romney Todd, the demon barber of Cranbrook Academy. And they were wondering why anyone should care about what Romney Todd did when he was 14.

I proceeded to remind them how many Fox News talking heads exploded when it was revealed that Obama attended elementary schools in Indonesia when he was six. By my math, that's about 8 years younger than Romney Todd was when he attacked a young man for being different.

They had no retort for this.

You learn to savor the small victories when they happen.

Meanwhile, I will continue to refer to the presumptive Repuglican nominne as Romney Todd, the Demon Barber of Massatwocuts. Heh.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Brita's Claims

A commercial for Brita brand water filters claims that last year (2011, presumably), Americans consumed enough bottled water to encircle the Earth 190 times. It also claims that their filters remove 300 bottles per person from that statistic every year.

Let's do some math.

The circumfrence of the Earth is about 24,900 miles at the equator, give or take a few miles.

1 mile = 5280 feet.

That makes the circumfrence of the earth 131,472,000 feet.

That figure x 190 is 24,979,680,000. Yes, that's nearly 25 billion feet! Multiplied by 12 that is 299,756,160,000. That's nearly 300 billion inches!!!

The average (plastic) bottle of water (500 mL is the standard size) is about 7-8 inches long. Let's be generous and call it 8 inches. In order to reach that figure of encircling the Earth 190 times, Americans alone would have to consume 37,469,520,000. That's over 10.2 million bottles of water every day.

That means every man, woman, and child in the U.S. would have to have consumed almost 125 bottles of water per year. Somewhat less than those 300 bottles the commercial claims. A company exagerrates its claims. I'm shocked. Shocked, I say.

These are my calculations. If anyone finds a problem with them, let me know.

Meanwhile, I do my part by using a tap water filter and reusable metal water bottles.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

Movie Review: The Avengers

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Capt. America
Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow
Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson with an Eyepatch
(And many others)

It’s been a while since I posted one of these. Back when I went down this path, I swore to myself I would only review those movies I really liked, or perhaps those movies that possessed such a high degree of SUCK that I needed to do everything in my part to ensure they were seen by as few folks as possible.

Fortunately, this movie falls into the first category. And how.

As the movie begins, the fictional Superspy agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Look it up yourself—I ain’t your damn search engine!) has been studying, mostly without success, a mystical object called the Tesseract (which moviegoers were first introduced to in last year’s Captain America), a source of seemingly boundless, other-worldly energy that promises to solve the world’s energy problems, but also can be very dangerous. This last point is brought home quickly, as the Tesseract suddenly brings to earth the fallen Norse God Loki (Tom Hiddleston), last seen plummeting into the cosmic void in last year’s Thor. Loki, banished from Asgaard for trying to kill his brother and usurp his father’s throne (and for generally being a dick), is in search of a new world to rule. And he has decided Earth will be that world, with the help of an alien army known as the Chitauri, which he plans to bring to Earth using the Tesseract.

Long story short, Loki steals the Tesseract, corrupts some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and escapes with it, leaving behind nothing but a giant crater in the Southwest desert and a very pissed off Colonel Nick Fury (Jackson). Fury, realizing Earth’s military forces have no chance against Loki and his army, recruits a team of superheroes, many of whom we have already met in four previous movies. The idea is that this team, which includes Loki’s brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Dr. David Banner (Mark Ruffalo)—a.k.a. The Hulk—will be able to battle Loki and his minions on a more level playing field.

Of course, problems ensue when the team members actually meet each other, as each of them discovers that not only do some of the members have their own personal demons and agendas, but that the S.H.I.E.L.D. council itself is pursuing its own nefarious goals. Added into this volatile mixture is Loki, who has allowed himself to be captured by the team, and is also working to undermine the team by playing them off of each other with his own brand of mind games.

This is, by my count, the fifth movie in Marvel’s “Avengers” series, and believe me, it was well worth the wait. Marvel studios did two things right for this movie. First, they hired Joss Whedon to both write and direct. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, he created the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, as well as its spinoff series “Angel”. To give you an example of how talented a writer he is, he once received an Emmy nomination for writing an episode of “Buffy” wherein not one of the main characters had a single line of dialogue for nearly 30 minutes.

The writing in this movie reflects his skill as well, with dozens of witty one-liners and numerous hilarious sight gags. There are poignant moments as well. In fact, one of the best moments comes as Loki is forcing a large crowd in Germany to kneel before him as he belittles them. One older man, however, refuses to kneel, saying he will never kneel to a man like Loki. Loki chides him, stating, “There are no men like me.” The elderly man responds, “There are ALWAYS men like you!”

The second thing they did right was focus on the characters instead of the special effects. This movie’s strength is not its special effects, or its star power--although both serve to compliment the movie well instead of taking it over. The writing and direction of Whedon, and the chemistry of the actors involved, combine to create a greatly entertaining movie. Nearly the entire middle third of the movie is devoted to the exploration of the developing relationship between the protagonists and the way that they slowly learn to work together as a team. Such a dialogue-heavy section can easily bog down a movie mid-stream (Tron: Legacy, I’m looking in your direction!) but the sharp banter between the characters keeps the movie humming along.

It’s not without a few flaws, of course, which is why I can’t give it a full 5. My biggest problem is Iron Man, for the same reason I've had a problem with the previous Iron Man movies. I mean, yes, his armor is super strong, and nearly impervious to external attacks, but unless it has some kind of space-age microscopic super shock-absorbent air bag system inside what appears to be a fairly form-fitting suit, I don’t know how the man inside survives the shock of the impacts he suffers (can anyone say “blunt-force trauma”?)

Also, the character of Hawkeye is somewhat weak. I mean, the Earth is being invaded by an enormous alien army, and his solution is—to shoot at them with a bow and arrow. Yes, they are explosive-tipped arrows, but seriously, my friend—there’s a reason the Indians lost. Also, the character spends almost 3/4ths of the movie under Loki’s mind control, and has little screen time.

But those are minor flaws. The final climactic battle scene is spectacular without being overwhelmed by CGI, and it the characters manage to battle while effortlessly tossing off one-liners which had the audience alternately cheering and roaring with laughter. And at the end, the audience stood up and applauded. That’s when you know people enjoyed themselves.

I look forward to the sequel, especially if they get Whedon to do a repeat performance.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just a Bit of a Stretch

The Toledo Blade published (I'm not sure why) a story today in which Republican (snicker) "Congressional candidate" Joe Wurzelbacher--aka "Joe the Plumber, or, as I call him, "Joe the dumber", called President Barack Obama's "conversion" to Christianity "a miracle". He also says that "Barry" (his nickname for the President of the United States) came to Christ, and that he is his brother.

OK, first, where do I start?

Well, step one. They are both humans (presumably).

Two: Both are male.
Three. Both are American. (Yes, birthers, Obama WAS born in America!) Hey, 3 down. We're on a roll.
Four: Both are Christian. I think we may be onto something here!
Five: Both are relat--er, wait. Strike that.
Six: Well, they are both good frien--er wait. Strike that.
Seven: They went to college togeth--shoot. Not looking good.
Eight: Both are President of the Unit--Ah, crap.

Not much of a case for the "brothers" thing here.

If you read the article carefully, you see where Joe the Dumber manages to get in digs at the President, calling particular attention to his admitted drug experimentation and the fact that he lived in Indonesia as a child. He also calls Obama's "conversion" to Christianity the reason for his election to the Presidency. There couldn't possibly be any other reason for that.

I'm not entirely sure what this is meant to accomplish for Joe. After all, he's not running for President, he's running for congress (no, really!) (stop laughing!) (I said stop laughing, dammit!) How this helps his "campaign" is something of a mystery.

I'm not really sure why this man is still being taken seriously by the national press.

Friday, April 20, 2012

OK So I Missed a Month and Missed a Lot

I haven't posted an entry on this blog for quite a while now, and it seems that the posting format has changed. A lot.

I'm still getting used to it. So you, the 3 readers of this blog, who have been pining away for me for a month now (yeah, who am I kidding) will have to bear with me while I get used to it.

Mostly I've not posted lately because I've been seething with so much anger over so many things that have been happening that if I posted what I really think I might just explode the entire blogosphere with my rage. Seriously. We're talking nuclear detonation. Possibly plasma explosion. Which doesn't even exist yet.

I'm working to get control. But it's been hard. And I hope to fix that soon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dick Cheney Has a New Heart

Just in case you haven't heard, former Vice President Dick Cheney has received a heart transplant.

Question #1: Why?

Question #2: What the FUCK were his doctors thinking?!

I'm sorry, but this is the man who is deliberately responsible for so many policy disasters that if there was a hall of fame for those who are destined for a one-way trip to the ninth ring of hell, he would be the principal exhibit.

He gave us two terms of George W. Bush.

He got us into two wars that have collectively cost this country over a TRILLION dollars.

He made cabinet appointments that resulted in the largest government deregulation since the Great Depression. With similar results.

He, more than anyone else, is responsible for the dominance of the neo-conservative movement that set this country on a course that would do it possibly irreparable harm both at home and abroad.

And now he has a new heart. He will probably live another decade or more as a result.

I think that someone else more deserving could have been giving the heart he received. A drug dealer who molested children would have been more deserving.

If you disagree, please articulate your arguments. I'm listening.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mitt's Ford Field Speech

Mitt Romney gave a speech today at Detroit's Ford Field, promising to tout his new economic agenda. As you can see, the place exactly...packed:

Here's a different view:

You know, Mitt, it doesn't matter how big you make those black curtains, or how closely together you pack the roughly 1200 people that you somehow managed to cram into a stadium that normally holds over 60000. You simply can't hide the fact that when you consistently follow an economic policy that favors the One percent, you shouldn't be surprised when they're the only ones who show up to listen to you.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Susan G. Komen...

...Is surely spinning in her grave.

Yesterday, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation announced that it was pulling all of the money it donates to Planned Parenthood for funding Breast Cancer Screenings for impoverished women.

I really don't know where to start.

Seriously. I am almost at a loss for words. Almost.

WHAT can possibly be the rationale for this decision?!

This is a foundation supposedly dedicated to the eradication of breast cancer. And now they want to make that objective harder?!

Planned Parenthood provides countless reproductive and other health services to impoverished people--men AND Women--who would have no place to go otherwise. And yes, they provide counseling about, and in some cases perform, abortions. Abortions are only a tiny fraction of the many services they provide. In addition to providing sex education and advice about contraception, they also provide general health care as well as a friendly ear about sexual identity, and many other services.

The most disgusting thing is that this all came about as a result of intestinal parasite James O'Keefe's continuous assault on progressive organizations using dubious tactics. You may recall I have blogged about this before.

I'm flat broke. I have been for a long time (You don't go into public service to get rich--despite Republican claims to the contrary). But if I had more than 2 nickels to rub together, I would make a donation to P.P., to try to make up for what has been done to them by an organization that has caved to pressure from right-wing organizations that are using scare tactics to desperately prove they still have some relevance.

If anyone out there reads this, please do what I can't. Please give some money to Planned Parenthood. Do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


As I write this, the English language version of Wikipedia, the worldwide on-line encyclopedia, is unavailable. And it will be for the next 24 hours, give or take a few minutes. Along with several other popular websites. Note: Google, as usual, caved from their promise to join this boycott. What a surprise.

This is in protest to the Congress's so-called Stop On-line Piracy Act, or the Senate version, the Protect IP Act.

Under these new laws, any website that even posts a tiny segment of copyrighted material could be immediately and permanently shut down, with no legal recourse.

That means this blog could disappear. Which would, I know, bring great grief to you, the three people who read it. Because I have probably posted videos here that show clips of copyrighted material. I don't know what precisely, and I'm not going to go back through my last nine years of posts to find and remove them.

But someone could, if either of these bills passes. And I could lose my internet privileges. And go to jail.

We expect this sort of thing to happen in China. Or Iran. Or some other totalitarian regime.

We don't expect it to happen here.

In the meantime, since you can't access Wikipedia on-line, I suggest to you my very few but loyal readers to go to your library and find a book by Sinclair Lewis called It Can't Happen Here.

And be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tebow: Go Blow

Just in case you missed it, the Denver Broncos got pretty thoroughly crushed last night.

Maybe, just maybe, now the country will stop talking about Tim Tebow. At least for a few minutes.

Tebow may be a great QB in the future. He may become the next reincarnation of Joe Montana, Fran Tarkenton, and Johnny Unitas all rolled into one. Probably not. But in the meantime, right now he is what he is: A stunningly mediocre second-year quarterback who got incredibly lucky in about 5 different games.

Religious leaders pointed to divine intervention in some of his games this year, based on his repeatedly professed strong Christian faith. I tend to see it for what it was: a combination of luck, weak opponents, and some incredibly poor coaching decisions made by those same opponents.

Last night, the Broncos faced one of the best teams in the NFL. With, as much as I hate to say it, one of the League's better QB's. And as much as I hate Tom Brady, he's a QB with 3 Superbowl rings and a better than average chance of adding a 4th to his collection this year. A QB who has passed for nearly 40000 total yards and 300 TD's over the course of his career. And one who was apparently rather miffed at all the attention being paid to this wunderkind from Denver. And demonstrated his anger convincingly.

As for Tebow? Well, he spent more time on his back last night than a $20 hooker at the New York pier during fleet week. He was sacked 5 times, while passing for a mere 136 yards and NO touchdowns.

And yet, still, everyone talked about how "poised" and "professional" Tebow was in the post-game interviews. And about how what an asset he'll be for the team next year.

Memo to the news media: Of the six TD passes in last night's Broncos-Patriots game, not ONE of them came off the hand of Tim Tebow. There were TWO quarterbacks in last night's game. One of them clearly deserved to be there. One of them did not. No matter how much he expounds about how strong his faith in God is.

To paraphrase a line from a favorite movie of mine, El Dorado:

"Faith can move mountains. But it can't beat a better team."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It Happened Ten Years Ago


We had all packed for a long car trip. My Aunt (by marriage) Jeanine had just died after a protracted battle with Cancer.

My dad, my mom, and me, were getting ready to get in the car to go to her funeral. My mom was not feeling well, as a result of extensive chemotherapy sessions from her own struggles against her own Cancer. But she wanted to be at the funeral of her sister-in-law to support her family members. It was in her nature.

We got ready to go. My mom felt nauseous. She ran to the bathroom to vomit.

Dad and I knew at that point that we wouldn't make it out of the driveway. My mom was too sick.

We unpacked the car. We got my mom into the house, and tried to make her rest. But she got sicker.

We were forced to take her to the Hospital. She was weak, and could not keep any food down.

Upon our arrival, she was taken immediately to intensive care. As a result of her chemo-weakened immune system, she had developed pneumonia. And, after nearly 20 years she spent fighting a sure losing battle with a particularly insidious form of Cancer, she was unable to recover from it. She died less than 24 hours later.

That was ten years ago today.

It is often said that Cancer patients do not die of Cancer--they die with it. This was what happened. She did not die because she had this horrible disease. She died because all the treatments that she endured over the nearly 2 decades she spent in a relentless battle to defeat a disease that her doctors told her would kill her in 5 years finally did--18 years later.

There is no cure for Cancer. Seriously. Cancer can be treated. Cancer can be destroyed. Cancer can be sent into remission. Cancer can be removed, surgically or otherwise. Cancer cannot be cured. And I'm not entirely sure that some of the available Cancer treatments today don't do more harm than good.

All I know is that this disease took my mother away from me ten years ago today. Along with probably thousands of others. And it will continue to do so, until someone decides that it's more important to find a real cure instead of raising money to find one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just Remove the Middle Letter...

The BCS is over. Alabama wins the BCS National Championship.

Big. Deal.

This was not the story of some Cinderella underdog team coming from behind to claim a victory over a powerhouse team. No. This was the story of a team that had only one loss the entire 2011 College Football season. To the team they just played last night. A loss that resulted from a single missed field goal in overtime.

And I sincerely believe that not one single person outside the state of Alabama really gives a flying f$%&.

The whole BCS system has gotten even more ridiculous than it already was. In the 14 years since the BCS was instituted, by my count it has worked right exactly one time. At the end of the 2002 season, 2 undefeated teams existed in college football: Ohio State and Miami. These two teams met in the Fiesta Bowl, and OSU won in a dramatic Overtime. Everyone, while not exactly happy about the result, was satisfied that a clear champion had been established. And as far as I can tell, not one time since then has that ever happened.

There is so much wrong with the BCS that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that only certain college football conferences are even allowed to compete for spots in the coveted BCS bowls (and the huge payoffs that come with them). There are, of course, the so-called “at large” spots that the less powerful conferences can sometimes claim, but often only by virtue of going undefeated, a difficult task to accomplish in any football season. And don’t even get me started on the so-called “Notre Dame rule”.

Then there’s the whole notion of computers picking who the better teams are based on things like strength of schedule and points scored, to name a few. Not only does this encourage teams to pad their schedules with weak teams in order to boost their records, it also encourages coaches to run up the score of games, instead of giving starting players a break and letting the second and third-stringers get some much needed playing time.

And, of course, the coaches poll. Not only does this tend to be very subjective, it can end up having a profound impact on the final game. A few years ago, after Ohio State had beaten Michigan when both teams were undefeated, Michigan’s chances of getting a rematch in the BCS championship game came down to a vote by the coaches, one of whom was the coach of Florida, the other contender for the game against OSU. Guess which team wound up playing OSU? (OSU’s coach, Jim Tressel, graciously declined to vote).

So usually what happens is that no one is happy, outside of the fan base of the team that is eventually declared “the Champion”. Every year, calls are made for the system to be changed, and every year those calls fall on the deaf ears of the BCS.

Now, I understand, BCS officials are meeting to discuss changing the format. The most likely scenario is that the final pool of teams will go from 2 to 4, with a 2-round playoff. This, while slightly fairer, is not nearly enough.

The fairest solution would be to invite the champions from every FBS conference to compete in the lesser bowls. As each conference was eliminated, the winners would advance to the next bowl, until the top 8 teams could play the 4 major bowl games on New Year’s day, followed by the aforementioned 4 team 2 round playoff, winner take all. Not only would this encourage more interest in the minor bowls (which would equal more money—always a plus to bowl promoters), it would help the less powerful conferences with their recruiting, since every conference would potentially have a chance at producing the national champion. The playing field, while not completely level, would be far less tilted toward the BCS conferences. This would also leave plenty of bowl games available for non-champion teams.

Oh, and screw Notre Dame. Tell them they either join a conference or they don’t get to play in the big dance. They’d change their tune pretty quick, I think.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Year 2011 in Review

2011: In Review

I know, I’m a couple days late. I’d offer some excuse, but it would just be complete and total bullshit. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Favorite Sports moment of the year:
Ohio State 31
Arkansas 26

The record books can claim the game never happened if they want. I saw that game with my own eyes. Vacated, my ass!

Runner up:
St. Louis defeats Texas 4 games to 3 in the World Series.

Screw Texas.

Worst Sports moment of the year:
Pretty much the entire 2011 Buckeyes season. They set a lot of records this year that you never want to set.

Runner up:
Michigan 40, OSU34.
I guess it had to happen eventually. They can have their next win 7 years from now.

Favorite Movie of the Year:
Captain America: The First Avenger.
Cap kicks ass! ‘Nuff said.

Runner up:
The Adventures of Tintin.
This late entry beat out a few others, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I literally saw the day before. I loved the Tintin graphic novels as a boy, and it was a special treat to see them come to life on the big screen. More importantly, it was done well, with Steven Spielberg at the helm.

By the way...
Most disturbing movie of the year:
The aforementioned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This movie is not for the faint of heart. I may have a review up in a day or two.

Worst Movie of the Year (that I saw):
The Green Lantern
Three words: Box. Office. Bomb.

Speaking of which...
Movie I’m Glad I never saw:
The Green Hornet
Seth Rogen? Seriously? What, was Jack Black too busy to play the part?!

Movie I most look forward to in 2012:
Tie: The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.
Both look AWESOME!

Favorite new TV show of the year:
“Person of Interest”
I’ve always thought Jim Caviezel was one of the more underrated actors in Hollywood. They couldn’t have picked a better actor for his role if they’d tried.

Worst new TV show of the year:
“Charlie’s Angels”
This show died a quick and well-deserved death. One of my co-workers said she was sad to see it go because her 8-year old girl loved it. Need I say more?

Favorite political moment of the year:
Occupy Wall Street.

Least favorite political moment of the year:
Debt Ceiling Standoff.

Thing I am least looking forward to in 2012:
Two words: Presidential. Election.
Seriously. This is shaping up to be the worst election cycle ever. And that’s saying something. Note to the Repuglicans: Mitt Romney?! Really? That’s the best you could come up with?