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2010 Man of the Year

December 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I say part 1 because usually these things seem like such a good idea when before I set out to write them and then the process usually gets bogged down with a desperate attempt to be funny, which I’m just not. I guess I can do this pseudo-award style or something…I don’t know I really just brainstorm these things as I write them, anyway…here it goes.

How about an award for increasingly irrelevant award? I think this year should be the last year for Time Magazine’s Man of the Year thing. Seriously it’s getting to the point where they are just phoning it in. Let’s look at the last ten years, skipping their obligatory nod to the President of the United States upon his inauguration (so that means years 2000 & 2008 are out) and we can see a gradual dumbening with a few anomalies. It begins with Giuliani in 2001, good choice except that they totally pussied out on their original choice of Osama Bin Laden–who totally had a bigger impact on the world than the former Mayor did.*

Then you have the whistleblowers, these are the people that blew in the corporate swindlers of Enron, Worldcom, and Martha Steward for insider trading which led to the toppling of said companies. Except that only Enron truly collapsed, Worldcom was filed for the largest bankruptcy in US history, which was then promptly (in these matters anyway) broken by Lehman Brothers and WaMu only six years later. Worldcom was then awarded in 2004 a no-bid contract to build cellular phone networks in Iraq. Martha Stewart is still Martha Stewart, although unlike current celebrities at least she did her time you’ve gotta give her that. It’s not like any laws were changed on Wall Street that could’ve at least mitigated the financial mess we are in now. 2002, brought us a group of people who, although toppling successful and illegally run companies, didn’t change anything.

The American Soldier in 2003. They toppled the Taliban with the efficiency that we love in America. This is more of a sappy one than anything, I’m not going to discredit their desert here, but when Time gives this to a group it just feels lazy. The worst thing about this year’s winner was that the American Soldier was in for a world of hurt for the next several years. If only there was a news magazine that could have done better digging into either the existence of WMDs, the evidence thereof, or the war plan then that would have been a real award for the American Soldier.

2004: George W. Bush, no complaint for this one. It was his year, he toppled Baghdad and won re-election. This is the anomaly.

2005: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bono. Being a fan of NPR even before everyone forgot about Juan Williams (remember him and your “outrage”) I have no complaint about the Gates being here. Someone needs to explain to me how or what it is that Bono actually does. Aside from releasing shitty albums and being a pompous jackass how is he important at all. At least Angelina Jolie actually gets kids out of impoverished countries.

2006: Me, or You depending on who is looking at the cover. It was a mirror and it was complete bullshit. Instead of talking about how we, the population changed the world, it was more of an excuse to write about web 2.0 (whatever that was) and social networking. See Myspace had been in the news again, and new site was ascending among college kids and marketing people were realizing that it was really cheap to make 1 million people aware of something by making a profile about whatever it was and then friending whoever they could. While this was socially important it wasn’t a person, it was only the illusion of a person.

2007: Putin, I’m just not seeing this. Putin has ruled Russia for over 20 decades or something, and Russia once the seat of organized crime and breadlines after the fall of Communism (and before too) was now back in the game. Economic recovery had finally turned the country around. The only trouble was that it was largely the surging price of oil that did it.

2008: Barack Obama, obligatory new president award. See 2000, 1992, 1980, 1976…with few exceptions a new US president is given the honor, usually upon election or their first year in office.

2009: Ben Bernake. He’s been overseeing our financial crises but not really doing anything to prevent it again. Thomas Jefferson once said that banks are more dangerous than a standing army but he does nothing to limit their power. I’m glad we are getting most of the money back from the Bush bailouts, but stop it again or else don’t nominate one your Wall Street buddies to be your replacement.

2010: Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook isn’t new, it’s not a new concept and it wasn’t new this year. In fact, it wasn’t new last year, it was invented in 2004, but didn’t really catch on till 2007. This was merely the year that a movie came out about it and the year your grandmother probably joined up. There will be something else to replace it just as it replaced Myspace which replaced Friendster. Way to catch up with the times, I would have suffered Steve Jobs in place of this one.

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Don’t get all uppity about it, the award isn’t supposed to the best person that year but the most influential. Hitler has it once and Stalin twice.

Is It Safe? (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 407-410)

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

We’re at a seedy hotel by the airport, inside is Jasper, Alice, and Bella waiting for a phone call to find out whether or not it is safe. Along with the oddly reminiscent scenes this book has with 90s era softcore pornography, it is starting to become a cliched cop movie. In that movie I see Bella as the witness to a murder in which the male-female cop duo, who totally don’t get along are waiting to hear from their snitch whether the witness can be moved or not. The trouble with that scenario is that it is far more interesting than what is going on here.

Bella has switched clothes and then been carted off back to Arizona to hide from James, the tracker (we still don’t know that means) who is in Forks. It should be noted that this drive is over 1500 miles and would take almost a straight day of driving. By all of this we can assume that it is now Tuesday. The night baseball game was on Sunday, they panicked and ran, 24 hours of driving and then a groggy Bella wakes up…Tuesday at the earliest. This also means that for Charlie, his daughter has been missing for two days but since he isn’t that central to the plot or the story we don’t have to concern ourselves other than a fleeting mention that Bella makes.

Edward reminded me that you have to eat a lot more frequently than we do.” Alice comes skipping in with this witty writing. This comment breaks the fourth wall, it reminds us that we are obviously in a vampire story. Alice goes to school with high school kids, they interact with humans all of the time so why should she need to be reminded that Bella needs to eat. This far in the book we know who the vampires are, we don’t need to be beaten over the head that Alice is one of them. The comment further serves to get Bella to mention Edward without him actually having to be in the room. Lest we forget that he is also in the story.

There’s a brief exchange between Bella, Alice, and Jasper wherein Bella wants to know what is going on, and why everyone is so careful and quiet. With the absence of lucky strike cigarettes, and Joe Pesci this plays more like a scene from JFK only with more paranoia. In that movie Pesci’s character and everyone else thought they had something to fear, in this book we have an actual fear but it is so remote that the tension seems false. If Phoenix was only an hour away from Forks or a couple of hours it would seem more real, or if Phoenix was the size of Port Angeles than, again that would be something else. Here, past 24 hours and 1500 miles of water, wind, and bridges the odds of James being able to continue to track them should let them relax.

Bella is, of course, not concerned about herself but about the fate of Edward. The bit about the waiting is good, I’ll grant that. The whole thing is about not knowing that something is going on when something probably is going on, and then wondering what the outcome of that something might be. Yet in two days, no one can pick up a phone?

Finally when someone does call they just tell Bella that everything is fine. But, “Her eyes were wide, honest…and I didn’t trust them.”

They were so honest she couldn’t believe them at all. Is that irony or is actual irony?

Tron: Legacy

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The original Tron movie, released about three decades ago, was a childhood favorite of mine. As a kid it had everything that a movie needed, fancy effects, some excellent action scenes, lots of battles, none of that love story crap to get in the way, it was about video games before that automatically meant the movie would suck, and something about a plot or whatever. When I first heard that there was going to be a sequel to Tron, I was intrigued but not overly excited. The movie may have come out almost 30 years ago but I haven’t seen it in at least half of that time. Other childhood favorites have held up: I can’t bear to watch the Transformers movie now, nor any of the Ninja Turtles (no one thinks to buy a gun in those movies) movies, and for some reason finding Tron is difficult. The only movie from back then that really resonates still is Big Trouble in Little China, but being one of the greatest movies of all time isn’t really fair to the others, or more accurately at least that movie knew not to take itself seriously.

The original Tron was something the boys could talk about on the bus, without having to endure conversations with those cootie riddled girls sitting in the front.  A few years back I bumped into one of those cootie riddled girls at a bar, her name was Kelly and she was extremely gorgeous, ten minutes into our conversation I realized that she was as dumb as a brick but I couldn’t pry my eyes away from her. I talked to Kelly until I had to leave but to this day I couldn’t tell you what she was talking about.

Tron Legacy is just like Kelly. It’s Tron all grown up as insanely beautiful as possible but with noting beneath it. It’s mildly entertaining, and like my conversation with Kelly I don’t consider it a waste of time, but I’m honest that I like the view more than the conversation. Tron: Legacy is about as gorgeous as a movie can get. Every thing in the movie is polished to the point of unreality, it looks almost too good to be real, and by that I mean the images. We know the movie is fake, we know the grid doesn’t actually exist, but looking at the light bike races the grace and elegance of the images made me doubt what I was watching.

There’s some plot here but it’s pretty thin. The grid has been taken over by a fake Jeff Bridges called “Clu,” who is supposed to be designing the perfect system. Clu is a digital copy of the Bridges from the first movie and he looks fake, because he is fake. He’s a program not a user, but in his desire for perfection he’s adopted an iron hand in his drive forward. Ultimately Clu’s goal is to take his army to the portal in order to leave the Grid and enter into our world.

There’s also a story about the actual Bridges, Kevin Flynn who is trapped in the Grid for decades (which translates to hundreds of years inside the machine) and his son who abandoned in this world has to seek him out. There is also a fermenting revolution against Clu’s despotic control that is introduced and then quickly dropped. Add in some metaphors about how much people don’t like change, about genocide and purges; and there is the movie.

The trouble for the movie is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a father/son reuion movie, is it a movie about revolution, or what? There is also a new life form that spontaneously generated in the Grid which apparently holds the key solving all of the world’s dilemmas about disease, religion, philosophy, etc. This life form represented in the person of Olivia Wilde (formerly of House M.D.) is never explained as to how she is supposed to solve these problems.

The movie would have been great if it has just been about rescuing old Flynn by young Flynn from the Grid and the clutches of Clu. However the writers of the movie used too much of a heavy hand by putting in the Quasi-Zen philosophy essentially making the same mistake the Wachowski brothers did in the final Matrix movie. Being deep or philosophical in a movie requires nuance and subtlety, not a giant sign that states “deep message here.”

These are all the reasons to not like the movie. It is however an excellent exercise in style and effect over substance. As I have said earlier that movie looks beautiful, and if you can stomach the 3d movie experience* I’d recommend it simply for the light cycle races alone.

At the end of that night at the bar, I said goodnight to Kelly and walked out instantly forgetting everything we had talked about. This movie isn’t supposed to be more than the best eye candy I’ve ever seen on the screen, which makes it a perfect sequel because the first movie wasn’t anything deep either. I can’t recommend it any more than I can recommend going out with a gorgeous but vacuous woman (an easy tip is to ask them what that word means), sure it looks nice but in the end we get used to appearances and find them lacking. The movie is a beautiful illusion but it’s exceedingly pleasant to look at.

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*Which I learned makes me motion sick as well as giving me a headache.  

Categories: movie review, reviews

Random Disjointed Blog Post

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Gwen’s getting stranger. I guess that’s to be expected from a two year old, but she’s just a weird little monster now. It’s getting harder and harder to argue with her she uses her cuteness to wear me down. I fear for the people that she will eventually date if she keeps this up. One thing that I have noticed is that she will say “no” to a suggestion only to suggest it herself later so that it will be her idea. It’s hard to tell her no in turn since she remembers that I asked it earlier, only now it comes from her so she takes a bit of pride when we do it. She can be so smug sometimes.

Her new hobby is drawing. I don’t mean doodling either nor do I mean scratches on paper that only she can decipher. She draws people, little heads with eyes, mouth, teeth, and hair. Then she puts in a couple of stick legs and names them. I really hope that all of the drawings of me are not how she seems me. Laura and I jokingly call them her “deformities” but it’s really cool to ask her to draw a picture of someone and watch her sit down and sketch them out. I don’t know if this is advanced or on par, and I would hate to be one of those parents that thinks everything she does is evidence of her inherent genius but it’s hard not to. Although she will speak in full sentences and I know that is something my peers sometimes can’t do.

One semester of Grad school over with and it went well…I suppose. I made a huge mistake on one paper which led to a B-. That wasn’t good at all. I need to rewrite that, not just for a better grade (which I’m not sure the professor will change) but just to have a paper that’s correct. The other one, also a B, I can revise but I haven’t looked at it yet. I just don’t want to worry about it between now and the New Year. Although I have an idea what was wrong with it and it was mostly stylistic.

I should get a book reader, and not a color one either. The color ones are just laptop screens, and if I could read a book off of a laptop I wouldn’t have a problem. The whole publishing industry is moving in that direction, right now Borders is in deep financial trouble and Barnes and Noble is heading there also. The price drop between electronic and paper is quite incredible, one book I am going to need costs 47 in paper but 9 as a file. It shouldn’t even really cost that, but someone has to get their taste of the action.

Kind of addicted to Hearts on the computer. I can’t do anything without having to play a game…that reminds me. Cool I just won a squeaker.

Trying to read Aristotle over the break. I’m taking a class on the Metaphysics this coming semester but attention keeps straying. I mean that I’m still reading Aristotle but I keep drifting from Metaphysics and into De Caleo or De Politica. It’s a good thing I don’t have “On Things Heard,” which could be titled “De Bullshitica” but I don’t think that’s a word in Greek. I should probably get the Oxford Complete Works but it’s 97 dollars in the stores and online…although it’s 18 bucks on a reader, further backing up my claim that I should get one.

X-Mas tomorrow, makes me glad I don’t live in the year 3000.

Categories: daily observations

Fort Sensible (The Twilight Walkthrough Pg. 401-407)

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

“The Indians said, throw out the captain and everyone will be spared.”
“What happened?”
“They threw him out! And that’s why it’s called Fort Sensible.”
              –The Simpsons, “Whacking Day”

We’re back after a week off so that I could finish my assignments for the semester. We bring up a classic episode of the Simpsons, from when it was good,* because it illustrates a problem that the Cullens are having with Bella that only one of them seems to understand. To recap, three new vampires are in town and two of them really really want to kill Bella and eat her. Out of the blue, the Cullens decide that the best course of action is to rush her out of town forcing her to abandon her father with no prior notice. All of which she accepts with only token protest. I should note here that this is indicative of the religion of the writer. If a person marries in to a Mormon family, they have to adopt the ways and means of the new religion. I’m aware of this through personal experience as well as many testimonials regarding the religion. The Mormons take to shunning non-Mormons, this is evidenced even by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the very first Sherlock Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet,” although it’s less fatal now.

They are trying to escape a Tracker, which is some sort of super vampire that they can’t just hide from. Which is an idea that never really crosses their mind. James isn’t from the area, and although it’s not that big, he doesn’t know where anything is. They could hide her in town and then set a trap, but apparently none of the Cullens received the gift of knowing how to bait a trap. Which is odd given how old they are supposed to be, just watching season 2 of the A-Team would allow them to have basic knowledge of this concept.

Intelligently, however, their plan involves having Bella switch out of her clothes. Edward asks Rosalie to do this and Rosalie, clearly the most intelligent of the group replies, “Why should I?’ she hissed, ‘What is she to me? Except a menace–a danger you’ve chosen to inflict on all of us.

Rosalie’s reply is pragmatic, and the rest of the Cullens must understand this because they don’t rebuke her. I understand that she is supposed to come off as a bitch here but she’s right. Bella isn’t anything to them other than Edward’s girlfriend. There are many numerous ethical theories put forth throughout the history of Philosophy that will state that Rosalie is being unethical. From Plato to Kant to Rawls, and even Levinas who said that our first duty is to the other, but Rosalie has a point. Bella isn’t important other than being Edward’s current relationship. He’s not 17, he’s a vampire who will not die of old age while she will. Later Jasper will tell Bella that they are protecting her because they don’t want to see him lonely again, which is very nice for family cohesion, but she will die. Furthermore it’s implied that Bella’s scent is something different, more special than other humans so other vampires will be hungering for her if they catch it as well. Rosalie wants to sit this one out, I don’t blame her. At most protecting Bella gives the undying Edward, what, another 70 years? It sounds like a long time for us mortals but to the undying it’s like a week. Aside from Happy-Go-Lucky Alice, she makes the most sense.

Speaking of the precognitive, they actually consider her when they formulate their plan which I’m calling the “Audrey Hepburn Gambit” since I watched three episodes of Leverage and Ocean’s 13 in the last week.** Esme and Bella go off to the room to undress each other (seriously) and switch clothes: the plan is that Esme dressed like Bella will go off in the jeep. Later Jasper and Alice will drive Bella somewhere and meet up with Edward. It’s like a bait and switch but a little over complicated. Why not just leave at the same time, James can’t be in two places at once?

Someone gets handed a “tiny silver phone” which given the time of this writing and the apparent wealth of the Cullens was probably a Motorola Razr. I’m just mentioning that.

Carlisle, before putting on his black leather gloves and popping a cigar in his mouth asks the brains of the operation, Alice, “Will they take the bait?

Good job, centuries old patriarch, consulting the person who actually can tell how things are going to turn out. It would have been better to come up with about five or six plans and then ask her how they would end up but at least you are aware that your shitty plan still needs the future to work out.

They speed off. Bella falls asleep and wakes up in Arizona. Jasper asks her for directions to the airport, which Bella gives and then asks why, “It’s better to be close, just in case.

Having been written post 9/11 this is the part of the plan that doesn’t make any sense. You can’t just go into an airport and buy a ticket in a hurry. That’s a security flag. You also need at least an hour to get through security, so if James has figured out the Hepburn Gambit and is on his way then they need to pack up Bella, drive to the airport, buy a ticket, check their bags and get into the hanger. Then they will be sort of safe, if James doesn’t follow them and do they exact same thing. Or James could just lose interest. I’ve seen cheetahs and bears do this on the discovery channel (er, National Geographic since Discovery is about motorcycles now for some reason), the prey gets too hard to catch and they go after something else. Since James has already eaten in Seattle he can’t be that interested in one person.

Although he’s a hunter and Laurent has said that it’s the chase that thrills him. If that’s the case, then isn’t all of this running, hiding, and switching actually making him more interested in all of this?
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*Which is always more than six years ago, and a statement which is true as long as it is made after season 7.
**I just love the names they give to these elaborate cons.

The Thing I Missed

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been not exactly an eventful week that I took off of blogging in order to finish the semester, but my facebook updates did relate one issue that I would have wrote about had I been a bit better about my time. It was brought to my attention on the Daily Show which covered the situation with the little attention that a half hour “news” broadcast could: that is the blocking by the GOP to provide healthcare to the injured first responders of the 9/11 attacks. Let me repeat that point so that no one has to go through the trouble of looking two lines up: the Republican Party blocked a bill to provide 9/11 First Responders care for the injuries they received on and related to the attacks.

For a party that has used the attack to leverage just about whatever they wanted over the last ten years and to go after the Democrats for being weak on terrorism this is about as unfathomable as it gets. The best part is that no Senator from the GOP has had the courage to explain themselves, and secondly that Fox News hasn’t attacked them for it. This is clear evidence that they completely lack objectivity. In the last six months we’ve had to endure a fake controversy over the Ground Zero not-really-a-Mosque because it was offensive to the survivors and the heroes of 9/11, but when it comes to actually endangering those heroes’ lives they remain silent. Why? Because it’s their party? When the president wasn’t going to visit the Pentagon on the anniversary of the attacks last year they covered it as being insulting, but now there is nothing. I can’t really say much more than Jon Stewart has already said without repeating him, so I’ll just leave it at this: can anyone explain the justification?

The other thing that this shows is that we have no fourth estate. No government oversight from the press, which is their philosophical role, since they have remained about as mute as it gets regarding this subject. Last week’s TIME had nothing but another article on Sarah Palin, no network news organization has devoted significant coverage to it, Cable news has devoted a couple of minutes to it all of this in comparison to the hours and hours spend on that bullshit controversy that was rendered obsolete the moment a different Mosque opened on the other side of Ground Zero several months ago. I’ve said it many times in the last six years of this blog, the news doesn’t inform us about what we care about they tell us what we should care about and then opines about it.

The last thing that this really shows us is how weak and incompetent the Democratic party really is. This is a victory of incompatible political magnitude and they are just letting it go. Polls show people still think about the attacks on a daily basis and they cannot exploit this situation for their own gain. This is because they are either too stupid to be aware of the situation or too cowardly to do so. I’ll give them an idea of how to do it: the president, or the Democratic Senate leaders get the NYPD and the FDNY to dress in full uniform as a backdrop and then demand that the GOP explain why they are letting them down. You could also do it in front of the very site where the attacks occurred.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on them, maybe they are just waiting until the next election cycle before using this card…then again that is still a bad idea because people won’t remember it since it was given no coverage. Do it now, and then do it later, the truth of the matter won’t change if you use it twice.

What else is really amazing is that the so-called “liberal” media isn’t saying anything about it either. For all the claims of “hallowed ground” and the sanctification of those who died attempting to rescue others by the GOP senators one might think that Keith Olberman would have a very large weapon to use against the Senators he has railed against on issues that weren’t as important. 9/11 got people behind the Iraq war, Michael Moore even used responder’s plights in his movie SiCkO (although he falsely equalized first responders with volunteers [not that the volunteers aren’t deserving of something but that the two groups aren’t the same]), yet nothing from them either.

All around this is a giant failure. The only people I can’t pissed about are the Tea Party People since they don’t seem to believe you should cover anybody for free. I don’t agree but at least they are consistent.

Categories: current events, politics

Blocked

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

This is exactly the worst time that I should be doing this. However, I think that I need to kick start my brain into writing mode and although some people may not believe that these blog entries serve any purpose it’s all just practice for the paper writing. I currently sit in Starbucks on the library table that takes up a good deal of space in the small building. I am surrounded by source material to the left of me are both of the text books that I used when I was teaching Medical Ethics. To the left of me are two magazines (The Atlantic and Skeptic Quarterly) opened to articles on Autism. Beneath those are the PDF articles that are useful to my paper. This table could easily fit three people on one side and I have annexed the entire side with my stuff.

Yet, with all of this material around me, not to mention that I have two power points, another PDF, and my already started paper open on my laptop, I cannot get writing. The trouble is that immensity of the paper that i have to write and my love of the subject. For the most part I didn’t really like teaching bioethics. Mostly because I stuck with the cliche topics and after five semesters they became kind of rote. However I never tackled the subject of pseudoscience and the danger of legitimizing it before. It was one of those traps that I fall into, I don’t like talking about the subjects that I really like because it can infuriate me when someone disagrees.

This time the danger is a bit more real. It’s not just disagreement, it’s a grade. If I can’t prove that medical ontologies should not include false beliefs or at the very least include them but indicate that they are false, then am I just bullshitting this? The worst part is that it’s all here, both the theoritical reasons why (with some minor objections about patients’ rights) and actual evidence about what happens when you let such false beliefs propagate, outbreaks of pertussis in California for example.

I just can’t transition well enough to get past the six page block where I am now. I’ve performed all of the actions that normally stall me in writing: checked three email accounts, briefly skimmed facebook, and now I am writing this. It’s a jump start…hopefully. I’ve even found the articles in the text book that I need I just can’t get into it.

The largest trouble is that I need to get this one done this weekend because a week from Monday I have another paper due. One that I haven’t actually started but I have all of that research done. The writing for that paper, save some new block like this, will just be a grind.

Perhaps, I have something right now, or perhaps I will just end up staring at the blinking cursor for awhile longer. Either way I can feel it in my brain the inkling of an idea, a transition sentence. It really is all I need to get going.

Then again it may just be another game of hearts…

Categories: daily observations, School