Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Problem with Republicans

Is the same as the problem with Democrats.

They spend my future children's money far to freely:

"However, the Boehner plan doesn’t actually cut spending at all. The chart shows the discretionary spending caps in the Boehner plan. Spending increases every year—from $1.043 trillion in 2012 to $1,234 trillion in 2021. (This category of spending excludes the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)." (Chart)

Remember this come elections, because neither side is interested in fixing the budget.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Captain America


Like most reviews, I feel it is appropriate to begin this one with my personal background going into this movie.

I like the Marvel comic book universe. I tend to eschew actually purchasing comic books, but I know the universe better then the average guy, and I love and understand many of the characters better then most people.
Spiderman, Ironman, Thor... I like'm. The Hulk? I like him a lot.
But Captain America? I love this character. All the character we ask from Superman, but the limits of humanity shackling him in the real world.
Because he is a character that originated in WWII, Captain America aka Steve Rogers can easily, and many times accurately, be viewed as a character of propaganda machinations. In the past, he probably was a shill for the US government. 

Today? Not at all. After being recovered from a cyrogenic sleep that essentially hit pause on his life, Captain America returns to this world 80 years later. Steve Rogers is still the same man he was, but the world around him changed during his Rip Van Winkle period. 
But that all comes later.
The movie is from way back then. from the days of yore. 

This movie is spectacular. Performers who nailed their roles (looking at you, Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones). Screen writing that resonates and retains its comic book origins. Character development for Rogers that satisfies. Clean spoken and without a gratuitous female presence. A great intro, and even better ending to the film. (STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS)

What I was really pleased by was the levity with which this film takes itself. As opposed to the Sisyphean gravity born by the recent Batman movies, Captain America is rippling with levity. They have even addressed the past of this series, by incorporating the propaganda nature of the Captain as part of the growth process for Steve Rogers. 
As pointed out by KnightWing: (who should also hence forth be known as knack-for-words)
"Captain America: The First Avenger harkens back to classic adventure films that are rarely—if ever—made today. It feels more Indiana Jones than Saving Private Ryan, to its credit."

To make it simple, I loved this movie and will be both keeping the poster up in the living room and buying the DVD. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harry Potter: The Series


Since 1997 with the initial novel 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone', the saga of Harry Potter, 'The boy who lived' has dominated the landscape of children's fiction. Picking up critical mass with the release of the first movie in 2001, the series by JK Rowling has continued to grow in a way few things in popular culture will ever imitate. Originally for an audience of young-lings and proceeding to develop alongside them, it is going to have a cultural resonance well beyond a decade. This is a series that is deeply embedded in the fiber of a generation that is just beginning to storm the walls of this world. It will not be a departing from these United States in the identifiable future, so I feel it appropriate to devote some thought to pixels. 

Summarized previously is my background with this series. Although an avid reader, and of the correct age group, I never did handle one of these books until the end of 2010. At that point I blitzed through the series through audiobook, enjoying enormously the broad scope and intricate weave set in place by Rowling. Although there are large hesitations regarding this series in the evangelical community, I am quite content to separate fiction from reality and believe that most people are capable of this as well. Those who cannot, well, they are not reading this blog anyways. 

Watching the final movie this past week did unsettle something deep within me. My spirit stirred quite strongly against the futility that this fictional universe portrays. There is evil, and there is lesser evil, yet there tends to be very little good. The only characters that could be assumed to be completely good are Hermione Granger, Molly Weasely, and Lilly Potter. 
 Hermione we know well, because she is the smart one that knows how to do things and keeps the impetuousness of Harry and Ron in check, and it is her love for the two of them that drives her onward. Molly is a tertiary character who takes the roll of Harry's mother at times in the story, so we assume she is good because she loves her family. Lilly seems to be the real hero of the story, the one who died to save her son's life, and sowed the seeds for the dark lord's destruction.
The protagonists are deeply human individuals, with strengths and weaknesses and flaws and hopes. Harry himself seems to fight primarily from of a sense of jealously, revenge, or survival. There is no cause for which the 'good' characters strive, only a motley crew of lesser evils that we love against an array of great evils we hate. 

Is this a sweeping generalization? Yes. 
Is this an incorrect set of assertions? In quibbling over details, many of the muggle-nation will disagree with me. This is a nearly free country, they may do so. 

Reflecting on the theme, there is one overriding constant dominating the series; death. I didn't put this together in my own mind until recently, but in doing some more reading about the author, I found this interview that confirms my thought: UK Telegraph interview:

""My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry's parents. There is Voldemort's obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic."I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We're all frightened of it." In the seventh and final Harry Potter book, there will be deaths of both goodies and baddies."
Voldemort's return to life and constant pursuit of immortality drives him onward. Harry is persistently returning to the death of his father and mother to fuel his inner fixations. Eventually,  the death of Sirius and Dumbledore become persistent themes as well. There could be a consideration that love is the driving theme of this series, but it pales in the face of how frequently death is a motivator and monologue component of the series. The world is one of merely avoiding death as long as possible, for there is no hope for the triumph of good in the end. 

On the whole, as a series, the over arching theme is this: 'These people we like and want to live, and we know these guys are bad, and we want them to die'. What is left unspoken is ' die, so that others might replace them'. There is little that is striven for, yet much that is striven against. 

To give an example, there is a terrific scene at the end of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Sam and Frodo are headed once more into the dark land. Yet instead of discussing what they are headed to destroy, they speak of what is behind that they seek to defend. A theme of what is being fought for is a constant in the enduring works of civilization. Those that present aimless and vapid themes are swept away over time.

What is most distressing about this franchise is the generation (MINE!) that it represents. The story that will define this generation is one that has no moral truth to teach, possesses no theme inspiring greatness, and presses the inevitability of fate upon the lives of men. 
Harry Potter is not an underlying pestilence, but it is but a symptom of this generation. No surprise, a generation taught they are accidents of evolution set upon predetermined life paths, with nothing in the universe larger then oneself, would embrace such a story. 

I enjoyed the story, but I remain uncomfortable with the ramifications of it. 

(h/t to BikeBubba for a thought provoker)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: Harry Potter And the Deathly Hallows Part 2

My efforts continue to document the passage of American movies through the onward march of the summer month with my thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. This movie marks the 8th of the series, which is rivaled only by The Lord of the Rings in the book-to-movie genre for it's extensive scope and long term dedication to the franchise. 


I spent many years avoiding this series, battling past many friends in my attempts to remain ignorant in regards to this series. In 2008, I watched a handful of the early films but walked away unimpressed and with a few extra minutes of sleep by the conclusion of each movie. Roll around to 2010 as Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows came to the big screen, and I acquiesced to Jenny's request to see it with her. Leading up to that, we watched each of the movies in succession, again leaving me with additional moments of sleep and with a melancholic view of the series. 

Enter HP7, which grabbed my attention and held it throughout. Finally, a film worthy of all the chatter surrounding this series. 
Consequently, I make it a mission to read all 7 books prior to the July release of HP8. Audiobooks to the rescue, as I spent the subsequent 3 months listening to the book series in rapid succession. Rowling's development of the writing is a fun river to ride through, as is the development of the primary characters. Her writing is seldom approaching the greatness that the muggle-nation has imbued upon it. Rowling is no Steinbeck (to be fair, it is a novel clearly intended for a youthful audience)
If the primary point of a fictional yarn is to propel onward interest in the characters and their outcomes, it excels. An intricate and complex web of a story is woven that becomes increasingly epic, aided as it is by numerous flashbacks to help reset the setting of the story. This is the book series of Harry Potter.

The movies do a disservice to the universe, although I have a firm belief that this is not the fault of the production nor screen writing nor acting, but is a consequence of the novels themselves. This is not a series that lends itself neither quickly nor easily to the screen. 

To describe HP8 I turn to analogy. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is like a two-day old re-heated tortilla, one which contains all the necessary ingredients structured in the proper fashion and containing a modicum of warmth and yet leaves only a sallow taste in the mouth after mastication. Reverting to the true colors of the film series with a severe disregard for maintaining a compelling pace, it takes a terrific crescendo of a conclusion penned in a book and serves it up stale. 

The soundtrack is a treat. Visualizations of imaginary magic are both potent and intimate. The characters say all the right things most of the time. There is little to point out that is wrong with the movie, but it just failed to resonate with me nearly the entire time.
I am likely alone in this assessment and will likely remain so for a long time. That would not be unusual for this blogger. 

5/10, The bestfriend will be sticking it on our DVD shelf for sure. 

Presented Without Comment

For none is required:

-XKCD #925

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Ode to IowaHawk

My favorite twitter-er. IowaHawkBlog:

Example of why:

  • "You know who also talked about "shared sacrifice"? Aztec priests."
  • Hail DC full of grace, our cash is with thee. Blessed art thou among spenders & blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Deficit "
  • Oh yeah? Let's see you explain to America why NPR is doing reruns  
  • I won't cheer for the US women's soccer team until they (a) stop discriminating against men, and (b) stop playing soccer.
  • social justice contribution"

If you are on twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice by not following this man

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Government Stimulus Does Not Work

Because the money is spent like this:

Phil Greenspun is, among other things, a computer scientist at Harvard and a helicopter aviator. In the course of attempting to run a private helicopter charter service Phil has run headlong into the mire of federal entanglements: From his blog:

"Finally, the FAA inspector looked at my random drug testing program to make sure that everything was in place. I’m subject to the same drug testing requirements as United Airlines. I am the drug testing coordinator for our company, so I am responsible for scheduling drug tests and surprising employees when it is their turn to be tested. As it happens, I’m also the only “safety-sensitive employee” subject to drug testing, so basically I’m responsible for periodically surprising myself with a random drug test. As a supervisor, I need to take training so that I can recognize when an employee is on drugs. But I’m also the only employee, so really this is training so that I can figure out if I myself am on drugs. As an employee, I need to take a second training course so that I learn about all of the ways that my employer might surprise me with a random drug test and find out about drug use. But I’m also the employer so really I’m learning about how I might trap myself."

The anecdote goes on to tell of a call he receives within 10 minutes of this inspection from an entirely different branch of leaches, in order to begin an audit of his drug screening procedures.
Here's the point that you already know: Government does not have an incentive to do things in a manner that makes sense to people, because people look to derive profit from our endeavors. Bureaucracy seeks on to perpetuate the existence of itself, and in so doing, continues to prey parasitically on those who drive this organism onward.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to fix the Debt

"Thank you for your contribution which will be deposited to the account "Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt." Your contribution is accepted under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. 3113 which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to accept conditional gifts to the United States for the purpose of reducing the public debt. These donations are voluntary, and no goods, services, or other considerations are provided to the donors."

Thank you to the Treasury Department for presenting a positive solution to our deficit monstrosity. 
I do find it amusing to donate towards the public debt by using a credit card. I fancy this is a uniquely American solution.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Unemployment Numbers

Big news heading into the weekend, unemployment numbers at 9.2%!
Not so much. These are not your fathers government statistics.

John Wiliams of Shadow Government Statistics shows how we should really be counting the numbers:

Remember what they always told us about the great depression?
Unemployment near 25%?

The Keynesian failure has come full circle. I want that bailout back.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Review: Transformers 3

After the once in a generation debacle that is called Transformers 2 (TF2), I was very wary about Transformers 3(TF3). The elation and joy I experienced with the first transformers was more then drowned out by the anguish of the awfulness of TF2. With the cajoling of Jenny, I went ahead and paid good money for the IMAX 3d version of TF3.

I want it back.
Not on account of the IMAX or the 3d, but because it was in no way even close to being a good movie.

Begin with the terrible scripting, in which line after line after line is delivered with the apparent purpose of making the audience wince. Mixed in are the attempts at humor and levity, relentless in its failure at generating a laugh from an audience who wanted this film to succeed.

Prior to seeing this film, I verbally rejoiced that Megan Fox would be absent from the screen. To whit, "It has to be better then the last one, there is no Megan Fox as a primary character!" The director, Michael Bay, succeeded in finding a single actress to make me desire to have Megan Fox back for her acting abilities. The new female lead, who's name I will not mention, has no acting ability aside from a stint with Victoria's Secret. Her involvement was to add a 'hottie' to the screen to create a love conflict with Sam Widwickity. She fails on both counts, even to the point of committing the greatest heresy in an action movie, serving as the focal point of camera work while giant robots have a throwdown in the background. Booo.

Speaking of Giant Robot Throwdowns, this movie excels in one way. Giant Sci-fi Robot throwdowns are not to be missed, especially ones between thousands of robots in what is possibly the most intricately epic cyber warfare on screen ever. Its majestic in scope and detail, for almost a full minute of mind blowing animation work.
Then the movie really starts, and with the exception of almost a collective 20 minutes of Giant Robot Throwdown, it is worthless.
Not even close to a good movie.

3/10, Which is more disappointing then Green Lantern. If it hadn't offended me with its underwear modeling and moments of pointlessness, it could achieve a 4/10.

Headline of the Day

Headline of the morning:
"EPA Orders Texas to Cut Other States Pollution"

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Review: Liberty Defined

 Ron Paul is officially the most thoughtful and articulate member of this cavalcade of presidential contenders. I can say that with an absolute certainty, a certainty born of hours of delightful research. Starting in 2008 with Revolution: A Manifesto, continuing in 2010 with End the Fed, and marching triumphantly into 2011 with Liberty Defined, Ron Paul has set himself apart from this contemporary batch of misanthropic animals of the political machine. In 2008, I was set against Ron Paul in the GOP primary for various reasons, mostly involving foreign policy. I was present at the 2008 farewell to the Texas Republican convention, and wrote the following while sitting less then 50 feet from the man.
"He’s done now… this is the strangest thing. He essentially just left his constituents without guidance, which I guess is how this entire campaign has been run. I don’t know what lasting developments will come from this, but it was an interesting experience."

My primary criticism of Paul in 2008 has come full circle. The loudest praise I can proclaim for Ron Paul is this: The man thinks, he leads, and the lives what he writes. This is not a failed candidate who passed into the sunset following a lost campaign, he is a man who has become the shining beacon of a growing movement, that transcends a mere political race. 

Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom is really a collection of essays with a single objective: Defining an issue, showing the effects of the status quo, and offering a solution that is worthy of pursuit. Rather then playing games with politics and pandering to any group, Paul begins by assailing a sacred cow of the right and the left, Abortion. His solution is unlikely to make partisans on either side content, but it the man is a doctor who has delivered over 2000 children, and is far and away more experienced in his speaking then most of the current scene. Driving straight through Assassination, Inflation, Lobbying and Zionism, Paul never skirts away from a single issue. Clearly there will be room for disagreement. Just as clear is that there is much room for learning and thinking and considering every issue in a new light. The writing is simple and concise, wasting no time with bombastic extrapolation. 

I read this as an audiobook. The narration does a good job conveying the thought and gravity of the script, better then Paul himself would have done. I don't know what the deal is with publishers and books about liberty needing music by that nefarious instrument that plagues right wing kitsch dealers, the fife. 

Ron Paul collated gunpowder of ideas for fuel ideological fireworks of freedom. Those looking for what may be the last great prophet of liberty in this trouble nation should enjoy this while it lasts. 

Audible (Get it for Free!)

Amazon Hardcover
-The Revolution (Changed my thoughts on US Narcotic policy)
-End the Fed (Radically shifted my perception of monetary policy)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Makin Money!

Re-posted in its entirety from an always fascinating Cafe Hayek: (Because I cannot improve on it)
"Planet Money uncovers the fact that the US government has been minting dollar coins that no one wants to use. We prefer paper. A billion dollars worth of the coins that nobody wants is sitting in Fed vaults. And more are on the way–we’re only up to Ulysses S. Grant.
Why is Congress continuing with the program? This story may help–Arizona is rich in copper and Tennessee has zinc. Wonder what the coins are made of. Probably mostly copper. So Arizona politicians think it’s a good idea. They’ve pushed for the dollar coin before. I suspect somebody made a deal to get someone else to get behind it in exchange for doing that person a favor…" - Russ Roberts