the war on the weird
Be careful what you wish for because you might get it. If we increase the power of psychological professionals to involuntarily commit people, or to otherwise have their freedom limited, and if this power becomes abused for political purposes (as it has been in other countries), who do you think is going to be the big losers, given that probably 80% or more of psychological professionals are liberals and that liberals control all of their organizations and standards-making bodies?
This attempt by a lot of conservatives to deflect the anti-gun hysteria from mass shootings into anti-weird-people hysteria has me a bit concerned. I've read descriptions of the "warning signs" that should have alerted people to make sure that someone didn't have access to guns, written by conservatives, that look something like this: "a loner who didn't talk much and when he did he was socially awkward and people considered him weird and possibly dangerous. Seemed rebellious and resentful towards society. Had an unusual fascination with violent things like guns, knives, and martial arts."
You know who that sounds like? That sound like me in my early twenties. Pretty much exactly. I never once fantasized about gunning down a bunch of random people at a mall, but how could I ever prove that, especially since I was given to telling dead-baby jokes and joking about committing crimes just to shock people?
If in my early twenties we had had in place some of the mental illness precautions that some conservatives seem to be endorsing, I could very well have been forced into counseling and forbidden to own weapons even though I never harmed anyone nor ever wanted to. My resentment and resistance to these things might very well have ended up putting me in a mental institution or into jail just for the crime of being weird in a scary gun-owning kind of way instead of in a pathetic forty-cat-owning kind of way. That hardly seems fair.
Movie Review: Jack Reacher
Merry Christmas to both of my loyal readers and for your Christmas present I'm giving you, YES, a POSITIVE movie review! Personally, I think negative movie reviews are a drag so I don't know why I always end up writing them that way, especially since I actually enjoy most of the movies I see. I guess it's just that I don't write reviews of most of the movies I see and I'm usually prompted to write one when the movie annoys me or is surprisingly bad. I probably need therapy.
But now onto Jack Reacher. I didn't really expect much from this movie, probably because I view the star, Tom Cruise, as something of a flake. But that's silly. Since when has being a flake prevented someone from being a good actor? And Tom Cruise, however much I hate to admit is, is a pretty darn good actor. He raises the level of just about everything he is in, and Jack Reacher is no exception.
Jack Reacher the character
is the hero of a series of books that I haven't read but they sound interesting. From the Wikipedia description, he sounds sort of like Dirty Harry, Military Police. Tom Cruise does an outstanding job of portraying the character (although I think Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson would have done better) and the other acting is good as well.
The plot is a canned action-movie plot. You've got your superhuman action hero, your sexy female co-star, your rugged and humorous sidekick, your powerful and scary-evil villain and his superhuman action henchman. You've got your mystery appearance of the hero out of nowhere, your side plot involving family struggles, your expected unexpected betrayal, your easily solved mystery (so us non-mystery experts can feel smart for figuring it out before the hero does), your sexy too-young girl coming on to the hero in a bar, your bar fight with 5 to 1 odds against the hero (spoiler alert! the hero wins), your plot twist where the cops are after the hero, your evil villain showing how evil he is by killing his own guy, your car chase, your damsel in distress, your hero to the rescue, your climactic mano-a-mano with superhuman hero vs. superhuman evil henchman. You've got everything you want and need in a classic action movie. There is just one element missing but I won't say what that is because it would be a spoiler.
Now, if you aren't an action movie fan, that list of plot elements probably has you thinking that the movie wasn't good because it was so predictable. But if you think so, then you just do not understand the art form of the action movie. The action movie is a stylized art form. It is supposed to have certain character roles and certain plot elements. The art in action movies is not in coming up with unusual plots; the art is in the engaging or frightening character quirks, the interesting back stories and locations, the funny or memorable dialog, and the acting that makes you identify with the good guys and despise the bad guys so you really care about the outcome.
Jack Reacher is an excellent example of the art of action movies in the sense that I just described. The hero is dramatic, the other good guys are quirky good, the bad guys are quirky despicable, and the climax is grandly satisfying. All in all, a fun movie. Highly recommended.
i guess I think too much like an engineer
The Republicans in the House are trying to pass an extension of the Bush tax cuts that would only apply to incomes of $1,000,000 or less. I have two comments about this. First, anyone who says that the Republicans are voting for a tax increase is being unfair. A tax increase is coming and there is nothing the Republicans can do to stop it. The law was passed years ago. All the Republicans can do is try to limit the damage and this bill a reasonable attempt.
Second, why don't they first try the bill they actually want? I mean, I know the Senate would probably never pass it, but if I were in the House, I'd say: look, what we think is the best thing to do is to make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Let's send the Senate that bill. When the Senate rejects it, then we send our compromise bill. If they reject that, then they can take responsibility for raising taxes on all Americans.
I'd do the same thing with the spending cuts that are scheduled to happen. Pass a bill that undoes the spending cuts for military spending and leaves the rest alone. The Senate will reject it, but then when the military has to drastically cut back, there would be no question whose fault it was.
Why don't the Republicans just send their preferred policies to the Senate as bills and let the Senate reject them? Make it crystal clear what the Republicans wanted and what the Democrats rejected. None of this behind-the-scenes negotiations and the he-said-she-said accounts of what happened. Let Americans know what the Republican proposals are in their bills, out there for all the world to see, and let the Democrats reject those proposals, out there for all the world to see.
movie review: the unexpected CGI journey
When I saw The Hobbit --An Unexpected Journey
I was surprised at how empty the theater was on a Sunday afternoon at a move based on a children's story. After the show, I was no longer so surprised.
Martin Freeman is very good as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen is tremendous as Gandalf. The rest of the acting is good, although I don't think much of the casting and/or makeup. Richard Armitage who plays Thorin Oakenshield just doesn't look dwarfish and neither do several other of the dwarvish company. And then there were the elves, who have a short scene or two. I never thought Peter Jackson did a good job casting the elves in the Middle Earth movies. Regardless of acting ability --and some of them were very good actors-- to my eye, they all look more like they belong on a sheep farm than in an eldritch forest.
The story is a bit schizophrenic because it tries to be about two heroes: Bilbo and Thorin, each with their own nemesis and their own plot arc. That seldom works out well for a drama. It certainly doesn't work well in this movie but we don't yet know how Jackson will pull off a 2-hero climax in a single story because The Unexpected Journey doesn't really have a climax; it's just the first part of a 3-movie story. Maybe Jackson can make it work, but given how he did in the first movie, I have my doubts.
This movie really is just the first part of a longer story. It doesn't make a complete story on its own and the ending, was abrupt and, er, unexpected. Although to be honest, I had been ready for the move to end for about 45 minutes by that time.
And I have to say that there were too many CGI fight sequences and they were too long. Peter Jackson just doesn't have a good sense for balancing the story with the action. He showed this weakness both in King Kong and in The Return of the King, both of which were actually made boring at points with too much CGI action.
Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of CGI action sequences. When you have a movie with a ridiculously over-done hack story like The Avatar
or a pathetically bad story and worse acting like Dragon Wars
, then long drawn-out CGI sequences can make the movie better. But when you have a great story and great acting like Peter Jackson did in the Bilbo half of An Unexpected Journey, then the action sequences seem like an interruption of the story. You want to get back to Bilbo and Gollum, not waste time with a ridiculous scene of dwarves running through a goblin cave trying to escape a giant goblin with a goiter the size of a large shoulder bag.
To force in all of that CGI, Jackson had to cut down on scene-setting. The journey all seemed to happen within a couple of days. They would jump from one action scene directly to another with no intervening work to mark the passage of time. It was quite exhausting, and not in a good way.
All in all, a pretty disappointing effort.
the looming fiscal cliff
Can someone explain to me why Republicans and fiscally conservative pundits are going along with the Democrats and press, agreeing that letting the sequestration happen is a huge disaster? It's a significant lowering of government spending, and the only one possible for the next 4 years at least. Why in the world are Republicans trying to stop it?
Yes, yes, I know that it also involves a dangerous reduction in military spending but seriously, how hard is it to ever increase
spending? If the US needs more military spending to handle some emergency in the future, Congress will vote for it and the president will sign it. I'd love to see the Democrats trying to tie needed military spending to their favorite social programs during a national emergency.
Here's to the fiscal cliff. Let's jump off it.
is complaining because he can't find an Android phone in the size he wants with the latest processor. I can relate. When I was looking for a waterproof Android phone I had the same problem. If you want some specific feature different from what the mass audience wants, you often have to settle for lower specs in other areas. Most likely this is because they always design smaller-market phones with last year's technology because they can produce a smaller batch cheaper that way.
On the other hand, though I sympathize with Donald emotionally, rationally, it doesn't make much sense to demand the latest fastest processors and the most memory unless you have been having performance problems. When I think about it, I haven't really noticed much performance trouble with my two year old phone, so a phone with one year old technology should work fine (Yes, I do buy a new cell phone every two years or more. I know it's kind of ridiculous, but I'm a Silicon-Valley developer. If I let my cell phone get too out of date, the other kids will make fun of me and not let me sit with them at lunch).
So I'd say go with the RAZR M, Donald. It looks like a nice phone. The pain of inferior technology will only hurt for a week or two and then it will just be your phone and you won't think about it any more. Well, except at those times when someone at the office reaches into the pocket on his sagging pants and pulls out his new 2 pound new MEGADROID 7 with the 16-core Intel Core i9 and a terabyte of RAM and a built-in corkscrew. Then you just have to humbly bow before his tech fu and mumble something about how your phone is adequate for ... WHAT, YOUR PHONE CAN DO THAT!?!?! ... but, really, why would you need that on a phone, ... NO WAY I THOUGHT THAT FEATURE WASN'T READY TO SHIP YET... but sure, if you want the beta version ... NO! SERIOUSLY? ... Look I have to get back to work, want to have lunch later? No? Oh, yeah, that's OK, I understand.
On the third hand, I decided not to bother with the water proof phone because it's unlikely to get splashed and if it goes overboard it's gone anyway. Instead I'm thinking about going the opposite direction from Donald and getting a Galaxy Note II which has the biggest screen you can get on a smart phone. I use my phone all the time now for browsing the web and navigation, both of which will be much easier with a bigger screen. I also think the Note II may be big enough to use as an e-book reader which would actually save pocket space at times because occasionally I actually carry an e-book reader in my pocket. It would be nice to have one with me all the time without the discomfort.
the joy of colds
I'm a pathological procrastinator. I'm always putting things off or forgetting them altogether. This week I've had a cold and have come to appreciate the advantage: it gives me an excuse for not having done the things I probably wouldn't have gotten done anyway but now couldn't do even if I weren't procrastinating. A cold is like a week of get-out-of-jail free cards for procrastinators.