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Showing posts from 2015

Pre-Sale Tickets

Our local theater is not the best managed nor the most fully-featured in the land, but it does okay. Since I've been here, they have upgraded the audio and the visual in a number of theaters. They can show digital 3D movies and have the new "AVX" audio systems in some theaters for enhanced sound.

The most recent idiosyncrasy I noticed at the theater, and was likely country-wide, had to do with pre-sales of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Everyone knew this was going to be a big movie, so they opened pre-sales about a month before release. However, when I went online to purchase our pre-sale tickets, the only options for sales were 3D shows, one 3D and AVX and the other just 3D. I waited, and kept checking back in, but non-3D tickets never showed up for pre-sale. I finally called the manager on December 8th, 10 days prior to the release of the movie, and asked him about that.

He said, and I'm not kidding you, that he wasn't sure we were getting 2D reels of the movie…

Unique

Marvel and DC Comics are going through some of the worst times financially they have ever endured. They are selling a fraction of the comics they once did, readership isn't picking up and is, in fact, dropping off in large numbers. Even while their properties enjoy some strong successes on the big screen, the companies that gave us those characters are facing hardship.

One of the reasons for this, I believe, is the fact that both companies are cannibalizing their own stars and each other's works.
Superman is often referred to as "the Last Son of Krypton." This used to mean that he was the only surviving Kryptonian when the planet exploded. However, he soon gained a dog (Krypto), a cousin (Supergirl), and a whole host of near relatives (Superboy, Mon-El, Power Girl, the Kandorians, General Zod and all of the Kryptonian criminals in the Phantom Zone).Batman now has Robin, Nightwing, Red Mask, Batwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, and even an entire network of pseudo-Batmen/women.…

Do Unto Others...

The Golden Rule exists in nearly all religions, and many philosophies, of the world -- and is absolutely foundational to the top four religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). However, the news seems filled with stories about people and groups are not following it or are actively ignoring it.
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version. How is it that so many people in politics are making rules that they themselves would not want to live by? How is it that so many get radicalized by religious leaders who ignore this vital part of the religious code? How is it that so many businesses ignore the people in their quest for profits?
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18 In politics we are seeing it from all sides. The Republicans have spent 7 years doing their best to veto anything that Presi…

Historical Perspective

I guess I have to admit that most Americans are stupid. Or, rather, not stupid, but uneducated. They don't pay attention in their History classes and they don't understand why America was founded and on what principles.

The First and Second Amendments to the Constitution are there, and are numbers 1 and 2, for a reason. The United States was founded by people who, for the most part, were fleeing religious persecution in the nations they left. Those nations (England, Spain, Italy, among others) were ruled by a theocracy, whether instituted or de facto. If you spoke out about the religion, if you dared to practice a different religion, if you dared to dissent at all, you could be arrested, held without hope of release, and even killed for those beliefs and actions.

When the founding fathers of America sat down to write the laws of the nation, they knew this. They remembered this. They wanted America to be a place of freedom, where anyone could practice his/her religion freely an…

Guns and Anti-Gun Rhetoric

I am a gun owner. I was raised in a household with firearms and taught to respect, understand, and properly use firearms. So I am coming from a "pro-gun" standpoint, but I am also a reasonable person who will listen to reasonable arguments from either side. However, I'm not hearing any reasonable arguments at all, from either camp.

Gun violence is often horrific, especially in a mass attack or serial situation. Firearms are a tool that are incredibly efficient and accurate at what they are meant to do. They are often loud and they often do what seems like a disproportionate amount of damage to what they are fired at.

But, here's the thing: There are anywhere from 45 million to 120 million firearm owners in America, depending on what data you use from the Internet. Most that I view seem to come down somewhere around 75-85 million, or somewhere south of 30% of the population owning one or more firearms (which, by the way, is down from previous highs of over 50% a few d…

Windows 10

I like the idea behind Windows 10 a lot. It is designed to be faster (always good). It is designed to use DirectX 12 (great for gamers). They want it to become ubiquitous, so are providing the download "free" ... for the first year. And, right there, is my problem. What does "free for the first year" mean?

I'm pretty tech savvy. I've built my own machines since the mid-1980s. But there are a few foundational things about your device that you need and Windows 10's approach completely ignores: your OS (operating system) is absolutely required to run 24/7 to make your PC (personal computer; in this article, anything on which you can perform computing) work. It is not a "service." Rather, the OS is like the memory, CPU, or monitor-- without it, your PC doesn't function. At all.

When Windows 7 came out, I purchased the little-known 'family pack' for it, so I could install the OS on my desktop, work laptop, and on my wife's desktop. …

Stupidity, Fear, and Illness

There actually is an axis of evil. The axis comprises three things that keep those in power in power. Those three things are health, education, and fear.

Ill health results in poor decisions. If for example, you have no insurance, you will keep working and ignore those weird pains in your chest until you drop over, dead. If you cannot afford to go to the hospital, you cannot get over that cold you have had for two months as it slowly becomes pneumonia. If your insurance is poor, you cannot afford the best tests and the best doctors, so you do not find out about that lump in your breast until it is too far advanced. Poor health keeps you working long, stressful hours that can make you sicker after your loved one dies from something you couldn't afford... but are stuck with the insurmountable bills.

Poor education results in bad decisions. When you are uneducated, you cannot get better jobs. You are stuck, most often living paycheck to paycheck. And then something unforeseen happens…

Argument versus Debate

I often think I'm having a debate when I'm not. In High School, I took some speech and debate. In college, I had a few more courses. While not professional, I do have a bit of a knack for debating. While I don't now always remember the terms for all of the processes and procedures for a debate, I do understand what constitutes one and the general flow and requirements.

For example, a debate requires evidence or support. You can't just say whatever you want without supporting it somehow, with some sort of evidence. Debates also have limits. You cannot assert one thing, and then assert something else when the first thing is successfully argued by your opposition. In a debate, the one with the best argument, the strongest support, and the most consistent presentation is usually the winner.

However, the rules are different for an argument. In that, all of the above rules for a debate do not apply. A person who argues does not present evidence or support for what they say, …

Trump and the First Amendment

Once again, here's a quick lesson on the First Amendment, since, it seems, most Americans do not fully understand it.

The First Amendment is designed to protect an individual from retaliation from the government when enacting his/her right to free speech. Even that is limited, to some degree, in that you cannot state things that are a form of defamation, that could incite riot or panic, or that are direct threats (among other things).

Basically, you can say what you want as long as what you say is not libel (written) or slander (oral), does not cause people to potentially harm themselves or others, or that is a direct threat toward someone, and the government will not arrest or detain you.

However, one of the huge and important caveats to this freedom is the right for other, non-governmental agencies (including businesses) to provide you with repercussions for what you say. As mentioned above, even the government can issue repercussions depending on what you say. And this is the pa…

Marvel's NOT "All-New All-Different" Approach

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Marvel Comics is coming out of a series of event specials and will be restarting their comics universe again. This is not really news, as they have done both hard and soft reboots a number of times. What is frustrating is that their tag-line for this new universe is "All New, All Different" yet the evidence screams otherwise.

Secondly, Marvel Comics has been strong in denying that they are altering their comic landscape to be more in line with their cinematic universe. Again, the evidence seems to shout otherwise.

Here are links to the most recent posters released by Marvel Comics relating to this reboot. They show the characters in various levels of prominence. Now, we don't know which will have their own books and which will be a part of a team book, but the characters are pretty indicative of both a merging of the comics and cinematic universe and a less than new and different approach to characters.

https://i.annihil.us/u/prod/marvel/i/mg/a/10/5571d44e88fbe.jpg https:/…

Oh, shit!

Every company -- hell, every department within a company -- has an "oh, shit!" person. The person that gets all the last-minute projects, the projects with a suddenly changed and really close due date, the person who can work under the stress and strain of a suddenly changing working environment and still produce good work.

I am that guy at work, currently. The manager thinks nothing of telling me to drop everything and work on something "quick and dirty" or to assign to me the task that slipped through everyone's fingers and is suddenly due in a day, a few days, or a week.

His willingness to do this tells me that he has confidence in my abilities, shows respect to what I can do and have accomplished for him, and trust in me to learn what needs to be done and do it right on short notice.

However, the fact that lately all I have worked on are these types of projects can lead to quick burnout. Right now, everything I am working on is last-minute, short time frame…

Some Religious Thoughts

There are somewhere around 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today. It is the second largest religion in the world, behind Christianity. So, saying that all Muslims are extremist, or that all Muslims are hate-filled, or all Muslims are jihadists is about equivalent to saying all 2.2 billion Christians are like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan.

I am willing to bet that most Americans do not realize that Christianity actually has more common beliefs with Islam than it does with Judaism.

I keep finding it bitterly funny, and distasteful, how many politicians in America, and the west in general, claim to be Christian and yet every policy and reaction to proposals stinks of a lack of understanding of the Bible, Jesus' teachings, or God's love. God is supposed to be the only one who can judge man, yet I keep seeing a whole lot of judging going on. And, how is taking one small comment out of context and in contradiction to the overall message of the Bible…

Compromise

It's like we have all forgotten how to get along. You are either right or wrong, and there is no middle ground, these days.

If you have a baby and want to breastfeed it in public, you are right and everyone else who does not want to see that happen while they are out enjoying their day are wrong. If you are speaking loudly into your phone, or playing a game on it with the sound on, in public, you are in the right and everyone else subjected to your fun or phone call is wrong... and not only wrong, but why are they listening to your 'private' phone call in the first place?

If you are liberal and want to do something, you are right and the conservatives are wrong. If you are conservative and want to do something, you are right and the liberals are wrong. If you are a politician and you are speaking about some new topic that came up, you are right and everyone else is wrong. If you are shown evidence of the multitude of times you have said the direct opposite of your current …

Criminal Criminal Minds

(Spoilers; this is entirely about the ending of the Criminal Minds episode, Mr. Scratch)

I enjoy Criminal Minds. I especially like Thomas Gibson's Agent Hotchner. With the exception of the ever-pervasive music that they can't seem to get away from, the show is top-notch.

This week's episode, "Mr. Scratch," was very good. It was eerie and atmospheric. It played on fears and with the mind. It was clever. They discover a bad guy who was always a step ahead and who was using chemicals to make his victims do things by planting suggestions in their heads.

And then they ruined it by having Hotch go, alone, to the last suspected victim's house, enter said house, and get gassed? Really? Really?

This is beyond unbelievable. Hotch knows when to stretch the rules and when not to. He knows his team and he knows his own limitations. He knows the criminal mind extremely well. And, on top of all of this, he's a smart man. Knowing what the criminal uses, the effectiveness…

Francis Bean

Francis Bean Cobain is now 22. She has been in the news lately discussing her father, Kurt Cobain (lead singer of the seminal 1990s band Nirvana), and what her father wanted from life, his band, and music. Here's the problem with that: Francis Bean was 2 years old when her father died. Unless she has an eidetic memory, she has no idea what her father wanted. She was simply too young to remember (not to mention that her father likely didn't discuss such weighty matters with a two-year old).

Everything she is saying in these interviews is secondhand at best. She is reiterating what her mother, Courtney Love, or what her dad's friends and band mates have told her over the years. And, while I believe each is trying to stay true to Kurt's memory and life, time changes our perceptions and memories. What they think "Kurt wanted" at the time is warped by their own lives lived since and changing memories. However, as has been proven with the various lawsuits since Kur…

Random Thoughts, Government

The Republicans campaigned on the idea that they needed to show how well they could govern. In their very first opportunity to show leadership, they fail miserably. Meanwhile, the plans the President was able to push through have caused the economy to stabilize, the job market to rise steadily, and the world's leaders to respect our government again, and he's rewarded with losing the Senate and being called one of the worst presidents in history by his opponents and much of the nation. Hunh?
The Republicans are praying to the ghost of Reagan past, acting like he was some sort of god-incarnate, and claiming to be "Reagan Republicans," and yet, Obama is following Reagan's play-book step by step and the Republicans are doing nothing but blocking him at every turn. Go back and look it up; everything that Obama has proposed is nearly identical to what Reagan did to help pull America up and get the economy humming again. Yet "modern" Republican leadership ign…

My Oscars Ceremony

Another Academy Awards has come and gone. Some will say Neil Patrick Harris did well, others will say he did poorly. Someone will complain about the In Memoriam forgetting people. Someone will complain about the length. I don't care anymore. I watch the opening and the first couple of awards, and then I flip away and watch something else, or simply go to sleep.

To keep me occupied, here's how I'd change the Oscars:
The host of the show presents all Oscars. No more need for awkward, unfunny jokes and presentations by celebrities. No more "Adele Dazeem" issues (hopefully). Too often while we're watching the host suddenly disappears for long periods of time and you get bad celebrity after bad celebrity presentation. The switching to these also slows things down. The host is there for a reason, use him/her.If the host is a song and dance person, then have multiple short areas where he/she can perform. If he/she is a comedian, then provide time for him/her to tell …

The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit

I have not been shy about how much I dislike Peter Jackson's overly bloated The Hobbit movies (here and here). Now that all three movies are available, I thought that maybe some enterprising fan would take the movies and re-edit them down to the actual story presented in the book The Hobbit. I quickly found this page with a link to a 6 GB version of the story in film format. I watched it this week and I was blown away.

As suspected, the parts of the film that Jackson made that were on point with the book were quite well done. When re-edited, each movie was chopped down to about 90 minutes and, together, make an approximately 4.5 hour film that follows the book pretty closely. I have some small quibbles with the fan edit but, for the most part, I think it is solid and it is definitely far superior to what Jackson released.

Some points, both pro and con, about this edit (likely Spoilers if you haven't watched the movies):
Getting rid of the love triangle took large swaths of the …

John Wick

John Wick is a lean story about a mob enforcer who has retired but is brought back into the life when some miscreants beat him up, steal his car, and kill his dog. He then seeks revenge on those who commit these crimes against him.

I love how the story just starts. There is no voiceover. You learn everything you need to know about Wick from both his actions and how other people in the movie talk about him/react to him. The action sequences are equally lean; they feel real, violent, and believable. I was most impressed with how quickly Wick dispatches most of those who get in his way; he shoots nearly every person twice, once wherever and once in the head to make sure they are dead (like a real mob assassin would). Very few individual fights with people last for longer than 10 seconds and the longest fight sequences with multiple people usually don't last longer than a minute or two.

I was similarly impressed with the fact that nearly every stunt was a practical effect. This puts y…

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

I previously reviewed the first Hobbit movie here. I skipped reviewing the second one altogether. This review will focus on the third film, but is really a summation of all three movies.

As I said before, these movies are bloated and a little boring. Pretty much every scene with Orlando Bloom bogs down the story and brings the movie to a grinding halt. His "action" sequences are universally ludicrous and mostly done with quite-obvious CGI. I know that Elves are supposed to be special, but a humanoid body simply can't do some of what the CGI has his doing.

Throwing the love story between the elf and the dwarf in also bogged the story down. I guess they didn't trust the source material, beloved by both men and women for decades, to draw women in and had to put something 'lovey' in for the 'girls.' When will people learn that women will watch a movie regardless of whether or not it has a love interest in it if the movie is good. That's most women'…

Another Break

Once again, I haven't been writing as often. The world is in such a state that I sit down to write a blog and then something else happens and I'm left speechless or dumbfounded again. I have probably sat down to write a blog at least 10-12 times since the last missive, only to be unable to focus on any one topic long enough to get my opinions out! There is just so, so much right now.

Regarding the cops shooting people: This is not an easy case. Until you've been in the dark, responding to a potentially violent situation, with unknown factors, and a bunch of fear and adrenalin pumping through your veins, you have no idea what it is like for a policeman to intervene in any situation. Do they make mistakes? Of course they do. Do they then regret it and do something (potentially illegal) to make it right, either for themselves or those affected -- quite possibly. They are human.Regarding people being shot by cops: In each case of a police shooting someone (mostly, it seems, bla…