Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another movie review for a film you have probably never heard of: A Tale of Two Sisters (Korea).

One of the staples of this blog was to do one or more movie reviews of scary movies just before Halloween.  Although I doubt I should call it a “tradition,” I thought I might take this opportunity to review a pretty intense horror film.

The film is A Tale of Two Sisters, which was made in South Korea in 2003.  I only knew about this film because I have the DVD of the 2009 American remake entitled The Uninvited.  (There is also a 1944 film of that same name, which stars Ray Milland.  That is a fine vintage haunted house film, but discussion of that one should be left to another day.)  The Uninvited is a pretty decent horror film.  However, once I discovered that there was an earlier Asian version on which that film was based, I decided I needed to see it.  Asian horror films are always superior to their American remakes, such as Ringu/The Ring, Dark Water, and Don’t Look Up.  

I will get to the punch line first.  This is a great horror film.  The plot is very interesting albeit highly convoluted, the acting wonderful, the cinematography is fantastic, and the scares are pretty great.  I highly recommend it, if you can find the DVD.  As of this writing, this film is also in Comcast’s On Demand film selections for under three bucks.  Do you like horror films that make you think?  (Note:  Slasher films involving a group of teens out by themselves terrorized by a scary wossname armed with all sorts of very sharp implements are NOT horror.)  You should see this film.

Asian horror films are very non-linear compared to your standard American films.  That is, they jump around a lot.  They also tend not to explain very much to the audience in a way of a backstory or any explanations of things that you might actually need to know to understand what’s coming next.  American films, at times, spoon-feed the audience with all sorts of forced revelations and expositions.  Not so with Asian horror films.  As a viewer of a film like A Tale of Two Sisters, you are expected to be fully alert and engaged. 

Personally, this is a very difficult task for me, as I am a very literal person.  If I am presented with a scene or a conversation, I almost always take it at face value.  This is a mistake when watching this film.   Some scenes are flashbacks without really explaining they are flashbacks, and almost ever scene involves some sort of subtle symbolism as to what is going on.   With this film, once I watched it, I went on the Internet Movie Database  to read some reviews there.  A number of things were explained to me, but many were still left unanswered.  And then I watched it again.  Now that I knew the ending and was armed with some facts about the symbolism involved, I came away with a much greater understanding, as well as a great admiration, of this film.   But there are still a number of scenes that are pretty bizarre and inexplicable, even when I knew the ending.  As an aside, if you have seen the American version I discussed earlier, you will have at least a partial knowledge of what is going on.  But there are many, many more twists and very shocking scenes that didn’t make it into the Hollywood version.  Even with the plot twist at the end of The Uninvited, I suppose the filmmakers decided that American audiences couldn’t process all the information that is in Two Sisters.

I do not want to discuss the details of this film too deeply.  I am giving this film a high recommendation for you to go find it (if you haven’t seen it already), so I don’t want this review to be full of spoilers.  And I can’t really figure out what to write about without playing spoiler.   

The basics of the plot, to begin with, are pretty straightforward.  There are two teenage sisters, living with their obviously overwhelmed and emotionally disengaged father and a pretty malevolent stepmother.  One of the girls (you aren’t absolutely certain which one) has just been released from some sort of mental institution and is coming home for the first time in a long time.  Some dark incident in the past, referred to several times, was obviously one of the triggers for this girl’s complete mental and emotional breakdown.  The girls seem very attached to each other and united in dislike that borders on outright loathing of the stepmother.   Then, the strange events start occurring that become more and more bizarre and inexplicable.

I will admit that a couple of the scary moments in the film rely on the usual tricks of scary movies, such as a hand jumping out from a dark place and grabbing you.  I look at those kinds of scary tricks as just that, a trick, and a cheap one at that.  But there are not that many of those in this film.  In fact, there were a number of scenes where I was expecting one of those tricks to take place, and they didn’t.  That actually had the effect of making those scenes that much more suspenseful.  There are several sequences that are just brutally difficult to watch, such as the scene where the evil step-mum grabs the younger sister and locks her in the dark closet, of which the girl is obviously terrified.  The screams and pounding on the door are pretty gut wrenching, as is the reaction of the stepmother.  How could someone hate a child so much to do that to them?  There are several scenes that just come out of nowhere, such as the young female dinner guest suddenly having a seizure or fit during a very, very awkward conversation at the dinner table.  That was a very shocking scene to me.  But even though it appeared out of the blue, it is yet another clue as to what is going on in the film.

Again, this is a highly recommended film, if you can find it and don’t mind having to read the English subtitles along with simultaneously watching the unfolding scene.  I would also plan on watching it more than once.  

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Huge new wind turbine in work from Siemens.

From Gizmag.com

Siemens has released pictures of its truly gargantuan B75 wind turbine rotor blades. As you might imagine, the prototype turbines that will use these blades boast some staggering statistics of their own (Airbuses at the ready, please).

Remarkably, the 75-meter-long (246-ft) blades consist of a single component made from epoxy resin and balsa reinforced with glass fiber, cast in a gigantic mold using a process Siemens has cunningly named IntegralBlade.

Initially, three B75 blades will be put to use in a prototype 6-MW offshore turbine at Denmark's national test center at Østerild. The sweep of the completed turbine will cover 18,600 sq m (200,200 sq ft) and the tips of the blades will move at 290 km/h (180 mph) at full lick. At a wind speed of 10 m/s (19.4 knots), the turbine will be hit by 200 tons (181 metric tonnes) of air every second.

The blade length of 75 m is not a kick-in-the-pants off the wingspan of an Airbus A380 (at 79.75 m or 261.6 ft), meaning that in a Y-position, the airliner could easily pass within the 154-meter (505-ft) sweep's radius above the blades (spatially at least. In practice this isn't recommended).

Siemens has already seen 6-MW turbines installed at the UK's Gunfleet Sands wind farm, albeit with 60-m (197-ft) blades. Thanks to a process Siemens has branded "QuantumBlade," it claims the B75s weigh four fifths of conventional blades. "The weight reduction is achieved by using specially designed blade profiles that are also shaped in a way that delivers maximum rotor performance at a range of different wind speeds," the company says.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I have no idea what Fox News thinks the are accomplishing anymore.

Fox News, back when it was new and relatively unknown, was really passing itself off as just another 24 hour cable news station.  In that guise, they could sort of be the "stealth Republican mouthpiece", because casual watchers might not really understand that they were getting a big spin on their news.

Now, however, it is all very, very clear about what Fox News is.   They will spin any sort of news they can to make President Obama and the Democrats look bad, even to the point of fabricating stories or taking individual sentences out of context.  They will puff up all sorts of stories that support their cause, like the Tea Party rallies, but totally downplay anything they deem to be "on the other side", such as the Occupy movement.  They will support Mitt Romney in the face of the unsupportable, e.g., his outrageous attack on President Obama DURING the attacks on the Libyan embassy and the consulate in Egypt and his ridiculous statements last week captured on a hidden camera video regarding the 47% lazy bums who will never vote for Romney and never take responsibility for themselves.

So, we all now know what Fox is doing and why.  But who are they talking to?  Their base really doesn't need any more fuel to keep their anger burning brightly.  They are already angry.  I seriously doubt that many undecided voters would be going to Fox to get their news to help them make up their minds.  If someone is going to Fox, I believe that their minds are already made up.  So, is it just money?  Is it just totally ideology driven, such that they don't really care that much about undecided voters or making money off advertising?  Is Roger Ailes so driven by hatred of Democrats, progressives and liberals, not to mention gays and lesbians, blacks, Latinos, etc., that that becomes his primary motivation?  Pure, unadulterated spite?

I know this is an overgeneralization.  There are probably a number of "reasons" why Fox News does what it does.  Maybe not really good reasons, but at least they might be rational ones when examined from their point of view.  But when they start having to rely on taking Obama quotes out of context that are 14 years old, what do they really think they are accomplishing?

I am not a psychologist.  I can only try to explain what I think are nonsensical human actions by my own point of view and hopefully, logic based thought process.  But I think that many people in today's society, and that does include some on the left as well, become so locked in to their own positions that they don't even care that they make sense anymore.  No logic is necessary, rationalization of their position is all that matters.  If they can come up with something, ANYTHING, that they can say to make their position seem to be the right one, then that is all that is required.

And when that happens to a society, it becomes vapor locked.  That is why we have Republican senators and congressmen who will never, ever vote for a bill sponsored by a Democrat.  It doesn't make any difference if they helped write it or if the bill represents a position that the Republican mainstream held during the Bush administration.  It doesn't matter.  All they know is that Obama and Democrats are evil and they can never agree with them.  On anything.  Ever.

So, where does that leave us as a country?  I have no idea, but wherever it is, it isn't good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Has anyone seen this TV ad for Five Hour Energy?

I’ve seen it a number of times.  It just has a lady in a pants suit sitting on a table next to a very tall stack of paper.  Her spiel, which I am paraphrasing, goes something like this.

"Have you asked your doctor about Five Hour Energy?  We did, and the results were AMAZING!  Fully 73% of doctors surveyed said that they would recommend a low calorie energy supplement to their patients who use energy supplements.  73%!"

There’s a bit more, but that’s the crux of this ad spot.

Gah, I can’t stand overt stupid in our society, and I hate it when advertisers just assume the viewers have the intellect of a persimmon.   I don’t suppose I need to point out to you, alert reader, about how inane this ad is.  The only thing that this “study” found out is that 73% (which actually isn’t that much to brag about) would prefer their patients, if they absolutely feel they must use an energy supplement, use a low calorie one rather than a fattening one.  Nothing about recommending an energy supplement in the first place, nothing at all about Five Hour Energy specifically….  When I asked my doctor once about one of those supplements for joint discomfort that has glucosamine and condrotin in it, he said something like, “Well, it can’t hurt you.”  That’s what doctors really think of dietary supplements for any reason.

I just find it fantastic, given how much money is involved in buying time on national TV for commercials, that this ad company expects a lot of potential customers to be convinced by this argument.  But perhaps, people really are swayed by someone who spouts a bunch of statistics that may sound impressive but are really out to manipulate the viewer.  Sort of like our current politicians.

Here’s someone else that finds Five Hour Energy ads to be stupid and potentially deceptive.

Ah, the wonders of the Free Market!

Yes, I know the free market is just like Darwinism, in that the weak and the fatally flawed quickly die out to be replaced by the stronger, but really....  Who thought this might be a good idea?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yet another fatal shooting, this time at Texas A&M.

As I noted in a previous post about the shootings at the theater in Aurora, Colorado, there will continue to be these kinds of violent, random acts involving lunatics and guns, because this country lacks the political will to actually do anything.

But I was going to note that, since the pro-gun folks' favorite proposal is to let everyone have and carry arms, this means that people will really need to be armed to:
1) Go to the movies.
2) Go to a place of worship, regardless of religion or denomination.
3) Go to class, high school or college, or just be walking by a school.
4) Go out to a bar, even the "artsy" kind that you might find in Seattle.
5) Go to a museum, such as the Holocaust Museum.
6) Work in any organization that might be seen as supportive of "liberal" causes.

I got that list from events that have happened or almost happened in the last couple of years, and I didn't even have to think more than about 30 seconds.

I wonder when the pro-gun people might want to rethink their proposed approach.  Does anyone really think that would be a credible deterrent when nutjobs with a grudge and a desire to be famous are involved?  And how many more innocent people might get shot if, all of a sudden, there was a crossfire in any of these places (like in a dark movie theater filled with smoke and lots of confusion) that leaves people nowhere to flee?

What a crazy country this is.  I guess it's a good thing that we really don't care what the rest of the world thinks of us, because the rest of the world thinks we are insane.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is the "Hunger Games" a ripoff from the 2000 Japanese cult film, "Battle Royale"?

I just watched Battle Royale last night on PPV, a Japanese cult film from 2000.  I had never heard of it before, but some of the scenes in the preview looked pretty compelling.  Once I got into the film, I was going "Hey, wait a minute...."

Apparently, this is not a new observation.  This controversy has been going on for some time, even before the movie version of The Hunger Games.  See this story for an example.  Of the few that I have read, however, the writers seem to be going out of their way to marginalize those who might suggest that Suzanne Collins took her ideas right out of Battle Royale.  OK, sure.  There aren't that many original ideas running around anymore, especially when it comes to films.  But really...  Let's take a bit closer look at this, given that Ms. Collins is saying she had never heard of this film when she was writing The Hunger Games.

The main drama in each comes in when groups of young people are sent out in an isolated area and are required to kill each other to survive.  Per the rules, only one can come out alive.  (That's the first similarity.)  Yep, the two groups came to be in this predicament in totally different ways.  But that, as the linked article might suggest, isn't a huge difference in my mind.  Each of these contests is government sanctioned.  (Second similarity.)  Each of these contests creates a media frenzy and is considered to be a huge sporting event.  (Third similarity.)  Each contestant (for the most part, which I will discuss later) is there against his/her will, being chosen by random lottery.  (Fourth similarity.)  Each contestant is provided a weapon, all different from each other, with some being much better than others but sometimes, the oddball weapon is of much more use than they might have expected.  Bow and arrow or crossbow are highly prized items.  (Fifth similarity.)  Announcements are made periodically through the contest, mostly to tell everyone who has been killed during the last period.  (Sixth similarity.)  Smaller alliances within the big group are formed, in order to hunt down the individuals easier.  (Seventh similarity.)  Survivors of earlier games are included in the current game.  (Eighth similarity.)  The heroes of the story are a pair, boy and girl, trying to survive together but ultimately know that they may not be able to both survive, given the rules of the game.  But they are certainly going to give it a try.  (Ninth similarity.)

Now, it is certainly possible that Suzanne Collins had had no exposure to this film before she wrote her books.  But boy...  That claim certainly seems, to me, to be really stretching at the bounds of credibility.  Some of the articles that I noted earlier really played up the differences between the two.  Well, sure.  If someone was going to copy someone else's idea, you wouldn't do it scene for scene, would you?  I mean, The Magnificent Seven is a different movie with different settings and different dynamics, but the idea still came from Kurasawa's classic, The Seven Samurai.  And the earlier film was given due credit in the American western version directed by John Sturges.  But to have that many, very detailed similarities between the two doesn't seem to be overshadowed by some admittedly different plot aspects (such as why these games are being conducted in the first place).

Like I said, it is possible, but boy.  I certainly see why some critics are really howling about how unlikely it is that Ms. Collins really had no idea she was writing something that paralleled so closely a huge hit film in Japan.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

As usual, NBC's coverage of the Olympics really sucks.

O.K., I am going to start out by giving NBC a few props here at the beginning.  They do have some extensive, live coverage available on line.  That's really nice.  Plus, during the day (when most people are at work, of course), they have three or four channels going of live sports, including ones we don't see a lot (e.g., archery, team handball, water polo) and they don't exclusively focus on Americans.  So, hats off to NBC for those developments.  Those are good things.  Thanks.

But your prime time coverage is still that same crap that you always do.  You want to watch the Olympics?  Then you are going to do it on our terms.  It's like they think they are showing the Outer Limits.  "We control the horizontal.  We control the vertical.  We control all that you see and hear...."  They seem to believe that they Olympics must be presented as a reality show.  It's just all a bunch of raw material that they can slice, dice, omit, re-order, etc., however they feel like it.  They are going to show you all Americans, all the time, except for some events which they obviously can't do that, like diving.  But even then, they have already decided which countries they are going to show and not show.  They never, ever show all the competitors in diving.  They recently received a bunch of criticism for not showing a very dramatic moment involving Russian gymnasts.  They wanted to keep the audience in suspense about whether or not viewers would keep watching, which would keep them watching.

I see the same criticisms, over and over, every single Olympics that NBC broadcasts.  Yet then never change.  Hey, NBC!  Pay attention, dammit!  The Olympics are not some reality show that is open to your own interpretation.  It contains its own dynamics and drama without you trying to insert your own manufactured drama.  You should not be screwing around with the content just because you think you can "maximize eyeballs" on TV sets.  And I have news for you.  A lot of people I know have to go to be before 11 p.m. (that would be 10 p.m. for me) as they have to go to work in the morning.  Would you PLEASE get over yourself!  You are not the show here!  They Olympics are!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Olympics certainly aren't what they used to be.

My opening statement is not a criticism.  I like them much better now than when I was a kid.  I was trying to explain to my 16 year old daughter how the Olympics were viewed when I was a kid, which was always, always through the lens of the Cold War.  Us vs. Them.  How many medals did the U.S. and its allies win vs. the Soviet Bloc?  That's what I remember the most about the Olympics when I was a kid.

There was always outrage when our gymnasts were given really low scores by the Russian or East German judges.  I remember how the men's basketball team was literally robbed of a gold medal by the officials by giving them not one "do over" at the very end of a game with a half court heave, but TWO "do overs."  I remember the U.S. boycotting the Moscow Olympics because of their involvement in Afghanistan (and boy, in retrospect, do we look stupid now) and the Soviet Union and their allies boycotting the games in LA.  I remember every once in while that we actually rooted for one of "their" athletes because they were so good, such as Nadia.  And I most certainly remember the U.S. hockey team's "Miracle On Ice" at Lake Placid.  I even have a hockey puck somewhere around here with a sticker of the U.S. hockey team on it when I saw them doing their warm ups by playing all the teams in the Central Hockey League way back when.

I am not sure my daughter could really get what I was saying.  After all, she has no direct experience with anything like that.  The Cold War is just something that happened back in the depths of time that she reads about in her history book.

I am certainly not saying there aren't political tensions in the world.  But it is certainly nice that, for the most part, they don't manifest themselves in the Olympics anymore.  The Olympic Games are not seen as some "proxy war" for who has the best ideology.  And that's really a very positive development.  I actually enjoy rooting for the Russians now and then.

Formatting issues on this blog?

I have received a couple of comments that the formatting is screwy here for some viewers.  I think the problem described is that the text overruns the margins and is difficult to read.  I have an iMac with Safari as my web browser and I haven't seen those problems.  However, I am sure they exist, as I have had that problem with other blogs on my work computer.  My problem is that I have no idea what to do about it.  Blogger went through a drastic change while I was sort of on sabbatical (i.e., "not blogging"). There are many things I don't get and I have noticed it will just change the text color on me for no particular reason.  I think I can go into HTML and change it there, but I would have to do it on a paragraph by paragraph basis.  Anyway, the point is, I have no idea how to fix this issue, especially if I can't see it on my iMac.  I believe the problem is probably happening when I paste something into the Compose window from Word.   I am typing this one right into the Compose window, however.  I bet it will work correctly....

Anyway, my apologies for those who bother to drop by and are having problems.  I have no idea what to do about this.

Friday, July 27, 2012

If trying to promote outrage by taking President Obama’s quotes out of context is Mitt’s main weapon in this campaign, then he has got absolutely nothing.

I find this utterly preposterous and very frightening at the same time.  It is beyond my comprehension to think that Mitt and his team truly believe that continually taking President Obama out of context and making political commercials using those out of context clips is a winning strategy.  But what frightens me is that this tactic might actually be working.  Mitt is counting on never being asked to explain this, that Fox News will always have his back, and that if some reporter does find a way to ask about this ridiculous approach, Mitt will just ignore the question or else pretend that this is a perfectly valid tactic.  “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, my friend.”  As if that explains anything.

I was going to write a post about this subject today, but of course, someone much higher in the food chain who writes much more thorough and succinct posts that I beat me to the punch.  From Crooks and Liars:

As we discussed last week, at this point in the race, Republicans aren't just occasionally taking Obama quotes out of context; they're actually building their entire 2012 campaign strategy around sentiments the president didn't actually say. I've honestly never seen anything like it.Let's start a running count:

1. The Romney campaign took Obama out of context in its very first television ad of the race. 

2. When the president told business leaders that U.S. policymakers have been "a little bit lazy" when it comes to attracting businesses to American soil, Republicans took that out of context and launched a series of attacks.

3. When Obama said private-sector job growth is "fine" relative to the public sector, Republicans took that out of context

4. Obama said public institutions help businesses succeed, and Republicans continue to take that out of context.

And 5. Obama said Clinton's tax policies were better than Bush's, which the RNC is taking out of context.

Remember, in theory, none of this should be necessary. If the president were the radical leftist his attackers make him out to be, Republicans wouldn't have to resort to cheap garbage like this. They'd be able to use real Obama quotes and real Obama policies.Instead, we're left with ridiculous tactics that treat voters like idiots.

It’s a great read.  Go look at the entire thing, including clicking through the links.

Again, in normal times, I should think that a major campaign tactic like this would be laughed out of the court of public opinion and ridiculed in every major news outlet in the country.  Just think if John Kerry or Al Gore had tried something like this. 

But these are not normal times.  Nope, they are not. 

First of all, a vast majority of the voting population has already made up their minds about how to vote.  On the right, we have people who are willing to believe anything at all about President Obama, Democrats, and liberals in general as long as it reinforces their preconceived notions that are already carved out of bedrock.   Obama is a Muslim socialist who hates America and is just itching to take people’s guns away.  Democrats are evil and want to give MY hard earned tax money to blah people.  They will absolutely love this kind of attack.  They will just lap it up.  “Look!  This validates everything I believe about Obama!”  This is the same bunch of people who believe that a top advisor to Secretary Hillary Clinton is a covert agent of the Muslim Brotherhood.  It seems as if no one in the right mind would believe something like that, but it is treated like gold by 30% of this country.

I just do not understand how this can happen.  How could we, as a nation, be that stupid, so unwilling to see the actual truth behind some terribly, terribly obvious lies? 

And what’s doubly amazing about this is that Romney apparently lies every time he opens his mouth, or else he goes and insults most of England the day before the opening of their Olympic Games for which they have been preparing for seven years.

What has happened to logic and reason in this country?  Or even fair play?  I understand that politics is a bloody knuckle kind of affair, but isn’t continually taking your opponent out of context every week, especially when it is completely obvious what President Obama was saying when you look at the entire clip, pretty much out of bounds if for no other reason than respect for basic dignity (including your own)?  This has moved way past normal propaganda and fear mongering (e.g., the Daisy ad from the Lyndon Johnson campaign) into uncharted waters. 

I want to know when conservatives will move on from taking complete sentences out of context and just splicing together words that would make Obama sound completely unhinged. 

But what is absolutely the killer for me here is that George Romney provides ample ammunition for attack ads against him almost on a daily basis, without any need for deceptive editing whatsoever.  The man is a walking gaff machine.  Oh, he certainly comes off as more sophisticated and polished than someone like Dan Quayle (p-o-t-a-t-o-e), but what comes out of his mouth is just about as nonsensical. 

And all of this is going on before the political conventions.  The next four months are going to be hell.  I am not sure how a rational, thinking human being is going to make it out of this unscathed.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ah, what a pretty fl.... OHMYGOD!!!

This could sort of be looked upon as a metaphor for America right now, I guess.  But I wouldn't want to be preachy or anything.

Yet more thoughts on the Colorado Theater Massacre.

I am a supporter of President Obama, but I am really upset that he and the entire country seem to think that an appropriate response to this tragedy is to go out to Colorado to visit the relatives of the slain and mouth a bunch of platitudes that are designed to make everyone feel just a bit better but will not accomplish a single thing to change the dynamic of gun violence in this country.  Not one single damn thing.  I find that message very offensive.  “We care.  We share your pain.  We will get through this together.”  

No we won’t.  The President, no matter how much empathy he has, cannot possible share those people’s pain.  And what does “getting through this” actually mean?  Time will pass, eventually the pain and grieving will diminish to a point that those poor people who were related to those killed or were themselves injured in the attach can sort of operate in a functional way that society can accept. 

And if he cared, really cared, he would do something from his position as leader of this country to ensure that something like this won't ever happen again.   But that isn't going to happen.  Some of the first statements made by the President after this shooting made it very plain that he isn't going to do anything substantive.

Here is something President Obama just said, via HuffPo:

“Because they represent what's best in us and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come."

Oh, really?  A “brighter day”, huh?  For who?  That’s total BS.  That’s just a bunch of meaningless blather.  How, pray tell, is this mythical “brighter day” going to come about if every single politician in the country, with the exception of NYC Mayor Bloomberg, apparently, lacks the spine to even bring up the point that there is something severely wrong with how this country views guns.  No, sure can’t say that, especially in an election year.  Nope.  Oh, can’t be seen to be “politicizing” a huge tragedy.  That would be unseemly. 

Like I said in a previous post, things are not going to change.  If they didn’t change after a madman shot President Reagan, or Gabriel Giffords, or the yearly attacks on some school across the country, things aren’t going to change now just because some people who wanted to go out to a movie happened to pick the wrong night to go.

I am also very upset with how the television networks play this kind of tragedy.  Within a day or two of events like these, the networks invariably move from news reporting into what appears to be the entertainment realm.  God, do they love interviewing grieving relatives or people who survived the rampage or maybe just some passerby that might have seen or heard something.  The news anchors and on scene reporters just love the opportunity to look very serious and important.  It gives them the opportunity to exhibit gravitas.  “Look how serious and caring I am about this terrible situation.”

I know that they almost have no choice in this matter, but this is the old saying, “If it bleeds, it leads” taken to an outlandish extreme.  Boy, does the American audience just love to lap up other people’s misery.  It’s just like a reality show!  Even better!!  It’s also easy for them, because it’s safe and there is no thought involved.  No digging for a story that might uncover some basic truths, like maybe how many people in the country are killed each and every year by gun violence.  How about a story on how the NRA has hijacked the political discussion in the country.  Why did the ban on assault rifles get overturned and maybe isn’t it time to rethink that approach? Or maybe, what is wrong with how this country approaches the issue of mental health and dealing with potential nut jobs?  (Yes, I agree, no one could have seen this one in Colorado coming.  But perhaps the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented if someone had done something with their obvious concerns and suspicions about the shooter.) 

Mass killings in the United States have become commonplace that they are apparently routine enough that we have programmed responses, and that speaks volumes about this country without any other commentary included.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Republican Senator believes that limiting high capacity rounds “restricts freedom.”

I want to know what, exactly, a regular non-military, non-law enforcement person really needs assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  What, exactly, are they going to do with those?  What possible purpose, besides the ones we have been witnessing, can there be for owning such firepower?

Well, a number of Republican senators certainly believe that, even if there may not be identifiable use, any attempt to restrict access would be a “restriction of our freedoms.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) drew a fairly strict line in the sand on Sunday with respect to the coming debate over gun control, suggesting that there is a constitutional right to buy high-capacity clips and magazines. 
"Does something that would limit magazines that could carry 100 rounds, would that infringe on the constitutional right?" host Chris Wallace asked Johnson on "Fox News Sunday." 
"I believe so," Johnson replied. "People will talk about unusually lethal weapons, that could be potentially a discussion you could have. But the fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common. You simply can't keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try to do it, you restrict our freedoms."

Yep, that certainly makes sense.  I definitely remember the Constitution, or maybe it was the Bill of Rights, or maybe it was the Gettysburg Address, that specifically said that a citizen of the U.S. must have access to firepower that can kill dozens and maybe hundreds of people in less than a minute.  Even though I believe that flintlocks were the order of the day back around 1775 and 1776.

For a political party that just LOVES to view the Constitution in what they believe was the original intent of the Founding Fathers, they certainly can stretch a point when it comes to guns.

This is the mentality I am looking at when I said in an earlier post on this subject that this country will never change.  Mass killings of innocent bystanders by lunatics with easy access to any weapon their hearts desire and a chip on their shoulder will not stop, because this country’s priorities have “absolute freedom with anything to do with high power weaponry” is much higher on our list than is keeping civilians safe.

Yeah, I know, if anyone were reading this blog and I got comments, someone would no doubt say that even with the type of restrictions I am talking about, we wouldn’t have stopped this particular person from killing people, if that is what he wanted to do.  And you know what?  You may be right.  But you also may be wrong.  Maybe low capacity clips might have slowed this guy down.  Maybe….  If he didn’t have an assault rifle, he might, must maybe, might have thought twice about his plan.  The thing is, we can’t know for certain until we try.  And we aren’t going to try.  Because this nation’s priorities are totally out of whack.

Now, of course, if this attack had been perpetrated by a fanatical Iranian, our course as a nation would have been very easy to determine.  We go bomb Iran and start another middle east war that will be much more difficult to win and/or extract ourselves from than Iraq.  The TSA would no doubt make it that much more difficult to get on a commercial airplane.  The Dept. of “Homeland Security” would issue more color-coded alerts.  The government would probably push for mass use of surveillance drones to spy on activities of anyone that looks suspicious.  But since this was a nutjob loner white guy, well…  There’s just nothing that can be done about that.

I just can’t fathom Senator Ron Johnson from the state of Wisconsin going on Fox News and saying something like this, three days after the horrific day in Denver.  He makes me a bit sick to my stomach.  But, to others, he is no doubt hailed as a “True American.”

UPDATE:  Sorry this is difficult to read.  I have absolutely no idea why Blogger decided to put this posts text in grey against a black background.  I didn't do that and can't figure out how to change it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

One more thought on guns and the lack of gun control in America.

Here's a comparison to think about when debating gun violence in this country.

On 9/11, one of the worst days in American history, somewhere around 3000 people were murdered in cold blood by a number of fanatics.  Over that event, this country ended up starting two wars (even if Iraq wasn't about 9/11 directly, George Bush certainly used the opportunity to get his war of choice), each of which set a record for the longest war this country had ever participated in.  Thousands of American soldiers were killed, and tens of thousands were maimed for life.  Over a trillion dollars was spent, and hundreds of thousands of civilians from both Iraq and Afghanistan were killed.  That's what this country did in the name of the 3000 people who died on 9/11.  "Never forget!"

On the other hand, somewhere between 9000 and 10,000 people in the U.S. are killed by gun violence each and every year, and we do absolutely nothing.  Let me repeat that.  Between 9000 and 10,000 people in the U.S. are killed by gun violence each and every year, and we do absolutely nothing.

The ability of Americans to rationalize away anything that contradicts with their established beliefs is nothing short of dumbfounding.

UPDATE:  Actually, Cognitive Dissonance was the term I was looking for.

UPDATE:  Here is actually what looks like to me a non-satirical commentary from The Onion, courtesy of Balloon Juice.

Friday, July 20, 2012

12 dead in a shooting rampage outside of Denver at a Batman movie.

This country is really, really sick. I am not sure I am not talking about a country which can continually produce nutjobs that believe they need to solve their grievances by taking out guns and blowing away innocent people. Yes, every country has the lunatics, such as Norway, for example, but this country seems to have more than our fair share.

But again, what I am talking about is the fact that these types of events are so damn commonplace. They seem to happen several times a year now. And I will absolutely goddamn guarantee that this event will be all but forgotten within six months, just like the shooting at Virginia Tech was. Just like the horrific shooing of Gabby Giffords at a campaign event outside a shopping mall in Tucson.  Those have all but been forgotten, except when someone brings up Giffords every now and then.

 Any attempt by anyone to actually DO anything about gun violence in this country will be met with overwhelming opposition, and the attempt will crumble. Any attempt will be labeled as “Political Opportunism” and “Government Overreach.” The country, as a whole (which is different than a majority of the population, because that doesn’t factor in money, the NRA, and political timidity), would rather have these sickening events a couple of times a year where countless innocent people die or come through the event with horrible physical and psychic scars, than actually curtail anyone’s easy access to as many guns as they want. THAT is what is important in this country. Innocent lives are not important in the face of letting crazy people have guns.

Don’t give me that crap about statistics. I can show you just as many statistics about how having guns in someone’s home increases the change, by a large amount, of someone getting shot accidently.

 Don’t give me that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” No, guns do kill people. That’s the predominate reason that many guns are manufactured and sold. Sure, there are rifles and shotguns made specifically for hunting of animals (which I think is cruel and absurd, but do recognize it as a legitimate form of “recreation”). But most guns are made to kill people.

I feel so badly, just like I do after every shooting. Nothing will happen. People will wring their hands and say, “how horrible.” And other people will immediately go into their defensive/pre-emptive offensive mode, ready to stomp on any attempt to do anything about curtailing gun violence. And absolutely nothing will happen. This is the norm. People die in car crashes, no one wants to take away people’s cars. (I have actually heard that one as an argument.) Therefore, by extension, why worry about a few nuts with guns which we can’t do anything about anyway? Don’t concern yourself that we haven’t actually TRIED to do anything. We just know that we can’t solve the problem. So, let’s just forget about this, shall we? Good. Too bad about all those kids that were killed and injured because they wanted to see the new Batman movie. That’s just how it goes.

I hate this country.

UPDATE:  This is in response to the first comment I received on my post, only about 10 minutes after I hit post.  I thought about addressing this "argument" in my original post, but I was so upset and in a hurry that I didn't go there.  Not that it would have mattered to those people who think that the best/only solution to gun violence in this country is to arm EVERYONE.  Yep, sure can't see any problems with that....  No, I am sure that drunken disputes at 2 a.m. in a bar that currently only results in broken teeth and bloody knuckles would NEVER result in a gun fight.  Just like the case of Trayvon Martin in Florida didn't end up with a 17 year old kid dead because some hot shot with a gun and a chip on his shoulder (who wasn't even drunk at the time) decided he was going to instigate something.  No, guns certainly don't empower people with feelings of control, machismo and invulnerability.  No, and I am sure that when something did come up, no more innocent bystanders would be hurt or killed in the crossfire.  20 people shooting in a dark movie theater with smoke bombs and tear gas going off?  No, no chance of anyone else getting hurt.

Goddamn, I cannot understand this country.  People have lost sight of all perspective and ideology is REQUIRED to drive all responses anymore.  No logic.  No understanding of anyone's problems other than their own, either real or imaginary.  Only mindless tribalism.  "They" are against this, so "we" MUST be for it!  And vis versa.

I still maintain that the 2nd Amendment was written to address the issue of the government being able to raise a fighting force (i.e., "militia") very quickly, as there wasn't a standing army back then.  To me, that's simple logic.  But a huge percentage of the people in this country believe that it means that anyone, even those with a history of domestic violence and mental illness, should be allowed to have as many guns as they want, without any government "interference" at all.  It's perfectly fine to have to go through mandatory training and getting a drivers license to drive a car, but guns?  Hey, it's all good.  No regulations necessary.

And I am just as sure that I will get more crazy comments like that first one.  I may end up using my authority as owner of the blog to delete those comments, of course....  You want to advocate arming the entire country?  Go get your own damn blog.

UPDATE:  I revised the number of dead in the title from 14 to 12.  Initial reports on events like these are always confused/confusing and will always be subject to correction after things settle down a bit.

UPDATE:  Ah, great.  The shooter booby-trapped his apartment.  That's just great....  This guy really meant to go out in a blaze of glory, or whatever that amounted to in his sick, twisted mind.  I don't care how badly anyone may think that "society" or the government has treated them.  There is absolutely no justification for this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More pretty cool public chalk art.

It just seems like a lot of work for something that won't last very long. But they are cool. Click on the photo for a bigger version.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What does and does not upset Conservatives in America today.

Here’s what Conservatives find outrageous these days.

So at an Obama fundraiser headlined by the First Lady, Robert DeNiro tossed out a moderately funny joke:

“Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?” De Niro asked to cheers from the crowd. “Too soon, right?”

Yes, it was a joke, you see, because in 2008, a lot of people asked if America was ready for a black president. We’ve had 43 white presidents, and 42 white first ladies, you see, and we don’t tend to think of them as belonging to any race. It’s a reminder of selective race-consciousness. I’m typing this v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y because some people don’t seem to get it.

Among the non-getters is Newt Gingrich, who has gone nuclear over the joke, and even tried to compare it to Rush Limbaugh’s sliming of Sandra Fluke:

“I do want to say one thing, both on behalf of my wife and on behalf of Karen Santorum and on behalf of Ann Romney — I think that Robert DeNiro’s wrong,” Gingrich said. “I think the country is ready for a new first lady, and he doesn’t have to describe it in racial terms.”

Gingrich went on to demand that President Obama apologize for the comments.

“What DeNiro said last night was inexcusable, and the president should apologize for him,” Gingrich said. “It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country. If people on the left want to talk about talk show hosts, then everybody in the country should hold the president accountable when someone at his event says something that is as utterly and terribly unacceptable as what Robert DeNiro said.”

Inexcusable.... Yep, that certainly is Inexcusable. But Gingrich wants an apology anyway, from the President, who had nothing to do with the joke in the first place.

And here is something that apparently doesn’t bother Conservatives at all.

Just moments before Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, he was on his cellphone talking with a 16-year-old girl. For the first time, the girl is speaking out about the last, horrifying moments of Martin's life.

"He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man," the girl told ABC News. "I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run."

According to accounts gleaned from 911 audio recordings made the night of the killing and the teenage girl's statements, Martin eventually did run. But Zimmerman wasn't far behind, and soon the two would be face to face. Zimmerman, the self-appointed captain of the neighborhood watch, was armed with a 9mm pistol. Trayvon had little more than a bag of candy in his pocket.

"Trayvon said, 'What are you following me for?' and the man said, 'What are you doing here?' Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the headset just fell. I called him again and he didn't answer the phone."

The line went dead, according to the girl's account.

"He knew he was being followed and tried to get away from the guy, and the guy still caught up with him," Tracey Martin, Trayvon's father, told ABC. "And that's the most disturbing part: He thought he had got away from the guy, and the guy back-tracked for him."

It’s apparently fine for a white guy with a gun and a history of calling the police every time he saw a “scary black person”, essentially stalk, initiate a confrontation, and then shoot a black 17 year old kid who was armed with nothing more than a box of skittles, and then claim “self-defense” and the laws of the state of Florida are perfectly fine with this. But lord, have some liberal make a joke that has some racial component, and everyone has a grand mal seizure. But killing an unarmed kid who was walking home from the local 7-11? That’s apparently fine and dandy.

I am so sick of these fucking assholes. And I feel so sorry for the family of Trayvon Martin….

I just don’t know how these racist cretins can live with themselves.

UPDATE: Read this, from BlackSnob, for an up close and personal perspective on this outright murder of a black kid. And much as this angers me, I could never really understand it from a black person's perspective. This will give you one. Highly recommended read.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Natural ice sculptures.

From National Geographic, natch.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Rush Limbaugh is a truly despicable human being.

May I offer my apologies to all females in the world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Worth 16 owls in the bush, but a bit difficult to carry.

Exceptionally cool crop circles in the snow.

I always enjoy artist endeavors that are outside the norm but still very artistic. Here are some pretty fantastic designs drawn in the snow by Simon Beck.

From Yahoo.

Are aliens giving up cornfields for cold, mountain air?

Nope. Turns out these incredibly awesome snow designs are the work of decidedly human artist Simon Beck, who takes the concept of a crop circle to new heights by strapping on a pair snowshoes and getting to work.

"They are made by a kind of reverse orienteering," he explains on his Yahoo! Groups page. "The main lines and points are surveyed using a sighting compass (as used for surveying orienteering maps), with distance either by pace counting or string."

It can take Beck hours of trudging around in the snow to create his masterpieces, which can run the size of a soccer field. Why go to the trouble?

"The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise," he says. "Gradually the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera."

It would have never, ever occurred to me to actually do something like this....

See more of his work/trudging around in the snow on his facebook page here.