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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How're You Doing?

If you voted for Trump because he was an outsider, how is that working out for you?

He hasn't even taken office, and he is already acting like an insider with his cabinet choices. And his improper statesman decisions are affecting the US's relationships with other countries. His lack of knowledge of protocol has already had a deleterious effect on Taiwan and China. Is improprieties have seen him have a normal citizen (his daughter) in a formal meeting with dignitaries and a love-fest for regimes that the US is currently struggling against, like Russia.

If you voted for Trump because he promised to "drain the swamp," how is that working out for  you?

He hasn't even taken office, and he is already filling the swamp with new creatures, muck, and mire so as to make it as thick and uninviting as possible. It is as if he typed "opposite" whenever doing a search for someone to fill a cabinet position. He has already dropped his idea of trying to get Congressional term limits (one of the few ideas he had that I could get fully behind). He is already putting in place people who caused, or were a part of, some of the worst issues the country has had to deal with in the last 20 years as members of his cabinet.

If you voted for Trump because he was going to force companies to stay in the US, how is that working out for you?

He had to be reminded of his specific promise to 'force' Carrier to keep 'all the jobs' in the US, wasn't able to, said he managed to keep 1100 jobs in the US (which turned out to be about 720), and gave Carrier such lucrative incentives to stay that other companies are looking to it as a playbook for how to get tax credits and other incentives from the government. Saving less than 40% of jobs is not a viable plan to keep businesses in the US. His strong "35% tax" quickly became incentives and tax breaks instead.

If you voted for Trump because he was such a strong business leader, how is that working out for you?

More and more reports of how poorly run his actual business is, more reports of how his (mostly) silent business partners keep the business afloat, and more reports of how he just doesn't understand what the term 'conflict of interest' is or means.

Basically, unless you voted for him for his sexist and racist stances, you are probably already showing signs of disappointment as he goes against most every plank and platform he ran on. I know the people who were pro-Trump on my FB feed and other places have been strangely quiet since he started to make actual decisions and ignore everything he supposedly stood for during the campaign. Which, in the end, means you vote pro-racism and sexism. How's that working out for you?

And he hasn't even taken office yet.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jack Reacher Movies

A new Jack Reacher movie starring Tom Cruise is about to be released. I'm happy that the book series, one of my favorites, has made it to the big screen and that it has a major star attached. However, the star and his treatment of the subject is a problem.

The reason that Reacher is such an intriguing hero/anti-hero character in the books have to do with his size and his taciturn nature. He is tall, heavy, muscular, and has some very strong quirks; he doesn't own anything beyond what he carries with him, he doesn't have any real ID (until later in the series, anyway), he can't drive, and he doesn't use toothpaste (or floss or mouthwash)-- he simply uses a toothbrush, which is one of his few possessions.

His size is almost a character itself within the books. He rarely meets someone his own size, and he uses his size and physical presence to his advantage in the novels: frequently he can stop a fight from happening just by being so physically intimidating; sometimes he allows people to assume that because he is large, strong, and quiet, he must be stupid or slow; and he uses that great size and his attack-first mentality to end a fight before the opponent knows it has even begun. Not to mention how many women are attracted to him because of his size and physical features (even though he is not an attractive man, his size, confidence, and physicality make up for it).

Another big issue that comes up a lot in each of the books his inability, and lack of desire, to drive. He comments frequently that he breaks cars, grinds gears, and just isn't very good at any aspect of driving. He is always giving the keys to someone else to drive him; those close to him just assume he won't be driving. The few times he is forced to drive in the novels, bad things tend to happen.

Reacher, in the books, is also so physical that many of the fights don't last more than a couple of hits. Reacher believes in hitting first, hitting hard, and ending the fight before it begins. He does this because he understands that the long the fight goes on, the more chances to get seriously injured he has. Reacher is no dummy; he wants to stay as safe as possible and without injury. So, he will headbutt a person before they are expecting it. Or he goes for a debilitating one-punch/blow type of hit, like to a nose or the neck. When fighting multiple enemies, he will try to kill or maim someone seriously in one blow so he can turn his back on them and go after the next. He is whirlwind of force and power, not to be taken lightly.

When Tom Cruise cast himself in the role of Jack Reacher in the movies, fans of the series were a bit surprised. Reacher is 6'5", Cruise is listed at 5'7" (some say he is closer to 5'6" or even shorter). Forced to make the best of an odd situation, Lee Child made a statement about Reacher's size being "a metaphor for an unstoppable force" and that Cruise's acting and status as a star could fill that gap. I'm not sure any fan really bought it, or thought that wound up true in the first film. While Cruise can play bad-ass, and has real acting chops (although he hasn't really used them in awhile now), he just doesn't come across as the physical person that Reacher just is.

The first movie contained multiple fight sequences, and all of them involved fairly complex choreography in which Cruise fought both single and multiple entities. Because no one would believe his little body could take people down in one or two blows, the fights were lengthy martial arts dances that just didn't fit with the character of Reacher, whose fighting technique is military close-fighting and street fighting techniques.

That first movie also showed Cruise in a complex, interesting, and dynamic car chase sequence, where Cruise's Reacher showed exceptional skill at driving. A total departure from the books in every way. The trailer for movie two also shows a car chase sequence in it, with Reacher once again behind the wheel.

While they tried to keep the physicality in place, Cruise came across somewhat laughable when he threatened people in the first movie. In the trailers for the second movie, I find myself smiling once again when he threatens people. When a 6'5". 250 lbs monster of a man threatens you it is simply different from when a 5'7" guy threatens you, even if that smaller guy knows marital arts and can kick your ass three ways to Sunday. On screen and magnified, it just doesn't look or come across the same way as in the books.

Lastly, Cruise is a pretty boy. Reacher isn't. As he gets close to and seduces women on screen, they are reacting to how pretty he is, not to his sheer .... animal physicality and confidence. Again, it is believable that Cruise can get the woman because he's, well, Tom Cruise. In the books, it is almost always Reacher's actions that overcome a woman's lack of interest; he is confident, kind and courteous (in a military sense as well as just a "nice guy" sense), has a raw physicality, and is protective toward them.

I will probably not see the second movie in the theaters due to these changes, but likely will watch it on video later. While I'm happy that the character has made it to the silver screen, the changes to the fundamental nature of the character are off putting to me. I didn't actually mind the first movie and thought they did a pretty good job of bringing the book's story to the screen. However, I was constantly taken out of my immersion in the film by Cruise's size and totally different take to the character. I'd like to see a movie with a more faithful-to-the-character portrayal of the character. I can see someone like an Alexander Skarsgard playing the role, as he is about the right size (6'4") and can act.

ADDENDUM (1/7/2017)

Finally watched the second movie. Beyond having some of the same characters, locations, and general plot beats, the movie looked little like the Jack Reacher novel it is based on. It wasn't a bad movie, it is just not Reacher. They have to rewrite and write around Cruise being totally unfit for the part that it snowballs into changing large sections of the plot.

What's funny is that John Wick makes for a better Reacher movie than either of the two Reacher movies. While still not the size of Jack Reacher, John Wick has the intensity, economy of movement, and deadliness that a Reacher fan should enjoy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To Honor or To Serve?

I was raised in a military family. I was raised in a military town. Part of my upbringing occurred on a military base. My father is a 20-year Marine veteran. So I understand service, sacrifice, and loyalty. Which is why, even though I personally find it poor manners and bad taste to sit, kneel, or otherwise ignore the national anthem, I will defend to my death your right to do it.

Others have said it better and probably more eloquently, but being an American is hard work. The rights conveyed by the Bill of Rights are difficult to live up to, not because they are confusing or hard to understand, but because they apply to everyone, including that person down the street, on the TV, or even in your own house with whom you vehemently disagree. Your rights end where that person's rights begin, and vice versa.

There is so much hatred and vitriol in our country right now. I simply don't understand why, except to say that it sells. I mean, would you really, truly listen to some of these pundits if what they were saying wasn't so outrageous? The extreme is selling and it is selling well. So much so that there are very few actual, legitimate news programs left. It has all become opinion pieces and entertainment.

Any time someone forgets that the rights conveyed by the first ten amendments apply to everyone, regardless of race, sex, orientation, or political leanings, I start to get worried and leery. That is a person who, often, either is uneducated, uninformed, or has an agenda. If the reason is one of the first two, you can explain how the Bill of Rights work, that it applies equally to everyone at all times (with a few caveats), and you educate or inform them, making them a better citizen. But those who either refuse to listen of have an agenda will twist, ignore, or obfuscate what you try to teach them and will continue to spout their hatred.

I'd like to coin a new phrase and a new movement, somehow: compassionate understanding. No matter how offensive what someone else is doing or saying is to you, try to be compassionate to the reasons and understand the motives. For example, maybe what Colin Kaepernick started offends you -- why? what about his protest movement is so offensive and why are you reacting so strongly? Why is such a simple, peaceful means of protest causing such a reaction to you? What is it about transgender people using the restroom of the sex with which they identify (and, quite possibly, dress and look like, too) causes you issue? Are you simply uncomfortable with the difference of a man dressing, looking, and acting like a woman? Are you a little uncomfortable with your own sexuality such that you think you might find such a man attractive when you otherwise identify as heterosexual? Is that transgender man harming you in some way with his choice? Why does another religion make you so fearful? What about it is causing you difficulty? Is anything that religion is doing really affect you in any way? What about that liberal person offends you so much? What about that conservative causes you so much stress and fear?

Let's step back, learn about those people and things we fear and distrust, walk a mile in their shoes, and see what the root cause of your discomfort really is. I think, in most cases, you'll find the problem really resides in you.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Netflix and ...

I think it is fairly clear that the public has spoken and voiced their desires. While many production companies keep creating their own online venues for movies and/or TV shows, the public has said, "We like the Neflix model. We want TV and movies under one banner, a variety, and at an affordable price."

It's funny to me how the movie studios, in particular, have responded. Many have created their own digital spaces and tried to get people to pay them to see their own movies. But none have been overly successful because the variety isn't there and the cost is either too high individually, or more than someone with a current Netflix subscription wants to pay.

In Canada, for a time, people were some of the worst digital thieves of any country. Canadians wanted access to US movies in a timely fashion and at a reasonable price. No one was providing that, however, so they turned to illicit means to get what they wanted. A few years back, Netflix finally made the jump into Canada after passing absurd legislative hurdles put in front of it and enter the Canadian market... and illegal downloading went down by huge numbers. Even though they were being given a lesser product than the full Netflix available in the US, it was still better than anything provided by Bell, Telus, or Rogers. And this same result has happened in other nations, as well.

In some cases, people in Canada, Europe, Australia, and others have found gray-area ways to get the full US Netflix to watch. This further shows that people WANT to pay for content, but they want that content when it is first released, not months later, and they want to pay what they feel is a fair price (which the $10/month average cost seems to be for most people). You don't read stories of people using IP masking and VPNs to access a company's own digital content, only Netflix (and, sometimes, Amazon's video and TV services).

Of course, the TV and movie production companies still are fighting it. They allow product into Netflix but on a limited basis, so that their own digital outlets can "compete." Some will not allow their "best" products onto Netflix at all. Some only provide TV shows (and sometimes even with commercials!) and others only provide movies.

At some point, they all need to survey the digital landscape, admit that they are wrong or that Netflix has won the battle, relent, and provide both TV and movies to the option that people increasingly vote for with their pocketbooks and clicks... Netflix. It is party agnostic, provides a good method by which to get the product, and people like it. Stop wasting any more time, effort, or money in creating a service that does what Netflix is already doing... just accept the money they want to pay you for hosting your content and let the audience enjoy your products!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

None of the Above

In Brewster's Millions, Richard Pryor has to spend $30 million in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million. One of the things he does to spend the money is start a campaign to get people to vote None of the Above rather than choose between two bad choices.

In this year's presidential election, I sort of feel like Monty Brewster and want to ask people to vote None of the Above. But we know how that turned out, don't we? (Everyone thought it was just a smart political ploy and they started voting for Brewster instead.)

American politics are broken. The 12th Amendment basically ensures a two-party system. That being said, there is a precedence for a third (or more) parties possibly making a solid run and gaining the votes needed for a plurality.

This year, with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I'm praying for a third-party candidate run that I can get behind. It's not that I actively dislike Clinton; I'm sure she would make a decent President and would likely follow the successful path laid out by Obama. I am much less sure of Trump's ability to keep the country moving forward, as most of his speeches are in favor of regressive strategies. I'm also unsure, with the way that Congress decided to block Obama before he even took office, that the Republicans won't do the same to Clinton and the Democrats the same to Trump when one or the other is elected.

What I'm hoping for is some moderate Republican and Democrat to come together and run as a team. People with good ideas who can get the harder-line people from both sides to strive for compromise, rather than further fracturing the parties with extremist views.

Can you imagine how radical that thought would be? A Republican and Democrat on one ticket? The possibilities are incredible. It would show America, and other politicians, that compromise is possible and that we can agree on most things.

I guess that is what seems to be missing from these elections: the fact that most Americans agree on most things most of the time. Or, at least, that we can agree to disagree without it turning into something violent and extreme. It is possible for a life-long conservative to reach an agreement with a life-long liberal on a wide variety of topics. Neither will get all that they want, but each will get a little and each will give up a little and somewhere in the middle there will be a happy medium.

But, time is running out. A choice must be made. If you vote for Trump or Clinton, are you voting for the person you hate least? Is that a good way to vote? If you vote for a third party candidate now, are you just helping one side or the other to win or lose?

I've been doing my research, checking voting records and policy decisions, and trying to decide for whom I will vote. This year, more than any since I've been voting, is tough. But I have my ballot and I need to make a decision soon and get it in the mail. And hope and pray that it was the right one.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Golden Rule ... Again

I can't help but notice that many of the countries that have accepted Syrian refugees and then treated them like crap, passed laws banning their ways of worship and dress, and generally allowing hatred and anti-Muslim/anti-Refugee/anti-"other" rhetoric to proliferate are the same countries that have then had issues with ISIS, with home-grown terrorism, and with the refugees causing issues.

Now, I look at Canada. This country has taken in some of the highest numbers of refugees, has tried its best to be welcoming and comforting to them, and has gone out of its way to show them they are valued. Areas like the East Coast, where population decline, poverty, and unemployment have been rampant, have been especially accommodating. And Canada, to-date, has had none of the issues these other countries have had.

Coincidence? I think not. By vilifying those who live in your country, no matter whether they are newly arrived or have been there for a long time, you foment rebellion and hatred. By trying to be kind, welcoming, and understanding, you foment tolerance, hope, and inclusion. This goes for every race, creed, religion, and gender found in a country, and is regardless of how long the people have lived there.

I hope that Canada can continue to be one of the shining lights in this time of need.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Too Long

The election cycle for President has become way too long. It is untenable and other countries' processes show that it doesn't need to be this long. Here are my thoughts on how to bring this under control:

1. Money.

All money raised by all candidates goes into a pot and is then distributed equally to all candidates, or the top 5 at least. In this way, money cannot unduly influence the results by having someone with a multiple million dollar war chest simply swamping someone with a much smaller war chest.
I also think that war chests should be limited, to limit the influence of money on politics. Not sure how to do that, though, except by above.

2. Primaries/Caucuses

First, pick a system and stick with it. Since there are laws against making a person show or tell their vote, this means that caucuses should be done away with (as they are a very public way of voting, where everyone in the room can see for which candidate you are choosing to vote). Secondly, all primaries should happen at the same time, across the nation, rather than over months. This gives no undo sway to any particular state and means the candidates have to travel to most states and get their message across equally.
Registered independent voters should get special ballots that show all candidates on it for a primary. 

3. Results

No results from any primary or election may be reported on or disclosed in any way prior to the last polling place closing. In this way, the east polls cannot influence the west's voting. Everyone can simply wait until the next day to see who won/lost.

4. Time

The election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (note: the wording is complicated because the month can start on a Tuesday or later day). This means the election is held November 2 through 8th, depending on when that Tuesday falls. I don't see any reason, whatsoever, that an election cycle, from declaring, to primaries, to DNCC/RNCC, to election, needs to last longer than six months. So, candidates must declare no later than May 1st. The primaries should be held two months later, in July, and the winning candidates would have four months to debate, set their agendas and platforms, and campaign.

5. Voting

The act of voting needs to be made more simple, but also as error-, fraud-, and influence-free as possible. Voting via the internet is an absolute requirement. I mean, if you can do your taxes online, you should be able to vote online. No matter how they vote, all voters should get a physical copy of their results in case of suspected fraud, by which they can verify who they voted for. For example, if you vote online, you should receive an automated email response that shows "These are the candidates and ballot measures you voted FOR:" and a list. If fraud is suspected, the voting commission can ask the voters in that area for their confirmations, make a copy, and recount the votes or check the results. This should happen with electronic devices at polling stations, or manual processes, as well.

6. Gerrymandering

We need to change the laws to do away with gerrymandering. By changing the district shapes and locations, parties have made it almost impossible for an incumbent not to get re-elected. We need politicians to have to sway voters of all stripes, so their districts should have a good mix of all parties in it. This moves everyone back toward the middle, rather than polarizing, and means we have a Congress and other offices that can work together, rather than a divisive group of far right or far left people who refuse to work together. Compromise is possible. It also means you may have a Democrat win a district that is predominantly conservative, and his/her message and voting record will have to reflect the population and the will of the people he/she is representing, rather than her own politics.
I think these are a good first step toward making the election cycle shorter and more fair. It makes people running for office have to actually campaign and it levels the playing field between all the candidates. I think you would also see the general public invest more of their time, effort, and interest in the election process, and would see a commensurate gain in voters each cycle. There may be more ideas that can be added that would further tighten up the election process. I'll add more as I hear, or think of them.