Friday, March 27, 2009
But hey, it's not like compelling the young to serve the government in order to "strengthen the social fabric of the Nation" has ever gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
As it enters its second week in theaters, Watchmen has seen a substantial drop in box office and seems to be receiving a lot of negative word of mouth. I blame this on an advertising campaign that has led people unfamiliar with the comic book to expect a standard superhero movie when Watchmen is a far cry from a typical superhero movie. So I thought it might be a good idea to address some of the misperceptions as well as some of the more common complaints so that people who haven't seen the movie yet will know what to expect.
First of all you should take the movie's R rating seriously. The movie contains scenes of graphic violence including an attempted rape. The movie contains several sex scenes including one that's about as graphic as you can get without earning an NC-17 rating. The movie contains full frontal male nudity. Lots of full frontal of male nudity. If you don't want to see a guy getting a face full of hot grease or a woman being brutally beaten and then bent over a table or two superheroes getting it on or lots of blue wang then you should probably go see something else.
Secondly this is not an action movie. It has some action sequences in it but they are relatively few and far between compared to a typical action movie. Think of it instead as a murder mystery in which the hardboiled detective just happens to wear a mask. Even that is just a framework that the author uses to explore what sort of people would consider it rational to try and make the world a better place by dressing up in tights and running around beating criminals up. There is a lot more talking than there is fighting.
Now to address some common complaints I've heard:
Watchmen isn't kid friendly!
Just because a story involves superheroes doesn't mean its target audience is children. Watchmen is one such story. It is unfortunate that some of the movie's marketing has been aimed at children because it really isn't a story that kids are likely to enjoy or that their parents will want them to see. The average age of comic book readers has been rising as people who grew up on comics continue to read them into adulthood. Today there are many comic book readers in their 20s and 30s and even older. Watchmen was written with that adult demographic in mind.
Watchmen is too violent.
A strange complaint to make given that the genre is based around the conceit of people in costumes running around beating each other silly. The violence in Watchmen serves a point. It illustrates the brutality of the lives these people have chosen. In a comic book world superheroes get away with taking the most outrageous risks because the writers are on their side. The real world tends to be more unforgiving. If the heroes don't want to wind up like Dollar Bill, shot dead after his cape was caught in a revolving door while trying to stop a bank robbery, they can't afford to pull their punches.
The sex is too much.
As with the violence, the sex in Watchmen serves a purpose. Sex is part of the human experience and there's no reason to believe it would be any less important to superheroes than it is to normal people. Comic book fans have long speculated how their heroes might apply their superpowers to their sex lives. The Dr. Manhattan scene addresses that speculation while demonstrating that the use of superpowers during the sex act wouldn't necessarily be a rousing success. The two scenes with Dan serve to show that as himself he feels rather impotent but as Nite Owl he's a virile stud.
There's too much blue wang!
Some people seem to be really worked up about the fact that Dr. Manhattan spends a lot of time walking around with his junk on display. Again this is something that is done for a reason though it was handled better in the comic book. In the comics when Dr. Manhattan first gets his powers he wears a fully body suit. As the years go by the full body suit becomes a Speedo and then finally nothing at all. Manhattan's shedding of clothes is a representation of the shedding of his humanity. Consider the scene where Speedo Manhattan protests the Comedian's actions but does nothing to stop them. Full Body Suit Manhattan would have stopped it while Naked Manhattan wouldn't have protested. His powers make it hard for him to relate to humanity and so the more time goes by, the less human he feels and the less bound by human conventions he is.
The ending is too ambiguous.
Life rarely wraps things up with a nice tidy bow. The hero doesn't always get the girl. Sometimes the villain gets away. Sometimes the world ends. Sometimes it doesn't. Alan Moore didn't want to give his readers a pat answer. He wanted them to think about the issues he raised. Moore wanted to explore what kind of person might become a superhero and he does that well. All of the major comic book archetypes are here. The cop who wears a mask so he can operate outside the law. The man who wants to clean up the streets he grew up on. The idealist who wants to make the world a better place. The scientist who had power thrust upon him unexpectedly. The romantic who wants to be a superhero for the sake of being a superhero. The woman who is continuing the family legacy. Questions about the morality of killing millions of people in order to save billions is outside the scope of Watchmen. Instead we have to answer those questions for ourselves and, really, we should be the ones to answer those sorts of questions instead of letting someone else tell us how to think.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
It was like a flip had been switched. I had the hard drive and while I was now in debt, nothing bad happened when I sent the credit card company less than payment in full. I started buying other stuff even though I didn't have the money and obviously I didn't if I was carrying balances over on my credit card from the previous month. Books, CDs, videos, computer games...whatever I wanted, I bought.
Around this time I was working with one of my best friends and we frequently went to lunch together, often eating in the food court of a local shopping mall. Consequently he saw how much money I was spending and whenever I bought something he'd say, "Hammer time." He was referring to MC Hammer who famously made a lot of money and then promptly went bankrupt because he blew it all on things he really didn't need. I just laughed and kept on spending right up until the day I got laid off and found myself drowning in debt with no income with which to make even the minimum payment. I won't go into the months that followed but suffice it to say that it wasn't pleasant and now that I'm out from under that debt, I don't ever want to be in that position again.
I explain all this because yesterday Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that in the first 50 days of the Obama Presidency, the federal government has spent $1 billion per hour. And they're not done as they prepare to spend more money on a second "stimulus" bill and grant giant corporations billions more in fourth and fifth bailouts after the first three bailouts or so failed to take.
To President Obama and his administration I say, "It's Hammer time!"
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I love books. I take books with me everywhere. No matter where I go, if I have a reasonable expectation that I will have some downtime in which to read, it's a safe bet that I have a book with me. Books have gone with me to various relatives houses, to the beach, on camping trips, canoeing down various rivers, and many other places.
This has given me a great appreciation for the durability of leafs of paper bound together. I have dropped books. I have dropped them on the grass and I have dropped them on the concrete and I have even dropped them in the river. I have kicked them. I have stepped on them. I even have a Boy Scout Handbook that was set on fire (courtesy of the other members of my troop) and a copy of Sign of the Unicorn that, appropriately enough, was once impaled on the tip of a sword. Miraculously all of these books remain quite usable.
Something tells me that a Kindle would not react as well to such abuse. In addition you have to worry about such things as the batteries going dead and you probably shouldn't leave it sitting in the sun for too long. If I do accidentally destroy or lose a book, I've only destroyed/lost that book, not my entire library (yes, I know Amazon will allow you to redownload your previously purchased books for free but you still lose access to your entire library until you can replace your Kindle), and it will be cheaper to replace a book than a Kindle.
That's not to say that I see no use for a Kindle. I have a bunch of phone book-sized computer reference books that never leave my office and a Kindle would certainly be less bulky to deal with. But I really have to question if that convenience is worth the $360 price tag.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Does the Tea Party want us to do nothing? Not necessarily. They just have no faith that what the government is doing is going to help the economy. President Obama and the members of the House and Senate are lawyers and politicans. They are not, for the most part, brilliant economists or successful businessmen. Hell, many members of Obama's administration can't even figure out their own taxes. Yet we're supposed to blindly trust these people to turn the economy around?
Congress can't even run its own restaurant without losing millions of dollars. These are the same people who created a Capitol Visitors Center that actually makes it harder for people to visit the capitol. What makes anyone think these people can come up with good projects to spend our money on that will improve the economy?
Let's face it. Their record on the current crisis is pretty dismal. They gave $45 billion of taxpayer money to Citigroup which promptly spent $50 million to buy a luxury jet from the French. (I must have been out the day my economics class covered how spending $50 million in France stimulates the US economy.) Northern Trust didn't want bailout money but they took it anyway when the government insisted and then spent it on a golf tournament they'd agreed to sponsor before the economy turned bad. The list of abuses of bailout money goes on and on and its obviously come as a complete shock to the politicians when it really shouldn't have.
A business that is being run in such a way as to cause it to fail isn't going to turn around simply because you inject more cash into it. The business will continue on its path to failure as long as the factors that are causing it to fail remain. Throwing more money at the problem only serves to waste money delaying the inevitable.
Of course the government's own programs aren't doing much to help the economy either. Just recently in the Pacific Northwest there was a politician bragging about how the "stimulus" money she had obtained for the local power company was going to help people out by creating lots of jobs. Sounded really good until reporters asked the head of the power company how many new jobs were going to be created and how soon people could start applying for them. Turned out that their current projects were already fully funded and they already had all the people they needed for them. The stimulus money was going to enable future projects but before anyone was hired for them, the company would have to determine what projects needed doing, define requirements, do environmental impact studies, submit the work to the bidding process, etc. By the time they got through all the governmental red tape, new jobs funded by the stimulus money should start appearing around 2011. If you're out of work now, a potential job two years from now isn't going to be much help.
The Tea Party doesn't favor doing nothing. They just have more faith in the people who currently employ over 70% of the people in this country than they do in the government. A lot of Tea Parties are fans of rebel economist Michelle Muccio. She has her own trillion dollar spending plan:
Of course a lot of liberals don't particularly care for her plan as seen in this interview with Bob Schieffer from CBSNews.com.
It's an interesting peek into the liberal mindset when Schieffer refers to allowing people to keep more of the money they earned with their own labor as "getting something for nothing."
Of course the politicians would never go for this plan for a couple of reasons. First, they're not willing to give up the power this tax money represents. Second, if they did suspend these taxes for a year it would be political suicide to reinstate them. Imagine how voters would react when the politicians started taking a significant bite out of their paychecks once more.
So the Tea Party isn't about doing nothing. It's about getting the government to get out of the way of the people who are best suited to turning the economy around and let them do their thing.
Update: Been trying to remember the details of that story about the Pacific Northwest and finally tracked it down. It was Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) who enabled the Bonneville Power Administration to take on another $3.25 billion in debt to pay for construction projects. Too bad it's not going to do much to help out her constituents.