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.