Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Almost Like Christmas... Only not as fun!

Again, let me apologize for my lack of posts recently. My time has suddenly become rather event intensive. Work has picked up again, no more time for random thought postings while at the office... and I started classes again to complete my second degree. Add a nagging wife to the mix and there seems to be little time for anything any more (just kidding sweetie... would never accuse you of nagging me).

Any who... it has finally happened. The Town Halls have come to Tucson, AZ. John McCain just recently had his run in with an angry mob in Phoenix... to the point he even ejected a woman form the crowd that seemed to only want to scream at him. If the angry crowd applauded this move. But here in Tucson we have been waiting for the moment our illustrious congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords would host her town halls. The date is almost here! She has been running scared for several months now, and doing her best to dodge the proverbial pullet in hosting these things. The last public forum at which she spoke in our community, the mob was so miffed at her recent voting habits that they nearly formed a lynch mob on her. Needless to say, she was a little nervous of facing her constituents again. And this time I plan to be in the audience and experience the wrath first hand. For those that don't know Congresswoman Giffords, here is the banner from her congressional website... it pretty much says it all:

Will do my best to put posts up over the next few days, but will be rather busy getting my schedule a little more firm with classes and such. Stay tuned and check back from time to time... I haven't gone anywhere and I still have much to say.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ObamaCARE's "Gold For Grandpa"

Hello to all and my apologies for the 10-day hiatus. My wife and I took a week to travel and see just what a liberal government can do to a society… in other words we went to California.

Now that we have returned, I felt I should get a post up ASAP. Thankfully, material seems to be flowing in from all directions. As a change of pace from my typical rant or review, I thought I would try to provide a bit of humor to this returning post.

If only it were true… I have two grandparents and two parents all over the age of 65. I could rake in a quite a bit of cash under this plan.

But seriously… is this where we are headed? I mean, just how bad can Obama’s healthcare plan really be?

During our trip to California, our first stop was at my cousin and his wife’s house. As it turns out, my cousin’s wife has worked for Keiser Permanente for the past 30 years. Needless to say she has plenty to talk about when it comes to a government plan verses a capitalistic system and the current health plans available. Her opinion is pretty simple… leave it the hell alone! It works fine as is. She admits that it has a few flaws, but… like most things in a capitalistic environment, they are working themselves out. Supply and demand regulates what is and isn’t offered and how much it will cost. She went on to explain that it had been the government’s fault that most of the current problems exist in healthcare, due to their meddling in the system to begin with. The government is the one that mandated that certain items offered in one state must also be offered in other states as well… even if no one there uses it. Thus your coverage costs increased for something you never wanted to begin with… all thanks to our own government. And now they want to take over the industry to fix their previous mistakes? Hello? Does anyone with half a brain think this sounds like a good idea? Well… neither do I…and I have a whole brain (although my friend Ronn may not agree… see my previous post for the reference).

But what can we do? We elected those that currently represent us in Washington. The only thing I see that may save us from this egregious mistake is that those currently in power want to stay in power. And they also know that if they don’t appease the masses that elected them to begin with, that the masses may elect them out of power. So I suggest we all speak up and speak loudly if we do not want this Obama-nation of a healthcare system voted into place!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Price of Your Beliefs...

(uber-post warning)
Where to begin… First, my apologies for missing a day of blogging. I have been busy with a great deal of things and the post I plan to give is taking some time to develop. The reason being is that it may in fact cause the loss of a dear friend I have had for many years now. And all due to my new found views of the world.

My friend Ronn is a fantastic and brilliant individual. I first met the man when I was earning my first degree in the Arts. I was required to take a variety of art courses that would give me a full perspective of the Arts as a whole before I could proceed into my chosen specific disciplines of art. So there I was, awaiting my instructor to arrive to class when a moderate statured and lanky male boasting a cowboy hat, worn black T-shirt, jeans and cowboy boots strides to the desk at the front of the classroom. He sets a shoulder bag down and looks about the classroom briefly as he begins to unpack his satchel and prepare to start the class. I still remember how he opened the class… maybe not in the exact words, but close enough for quotes:

“Welcome to Beginning Graphic Design. My name is Ronn ______ (left out for privacy) and I am going to be working your ass of this semester. For those of you who took this class thinking it would be an easy grade, the door is over there… I suggest you leave now.” After a moment of pause and no one had left the room, he continued.

Over the course of the semester, I got to know Ronn well. Even after the semester, several of us from that Beginning Graphics class returned on a regular basis to discuss new work with Ronn, as he had proven himself to clearly be the most knowledgeable of all the instructors in the Graphics Department… despite only being an adjunct professor. Two semesters after I had taken his class, the rest of the department ousted him from the university due to this very reason.

Ronn and I had become very good friends though, neigh I say best friends. Despite a move to Dallas on my part, we stayed in touch and would visit any time I returned to Tucson to see friends and family. Often I wanted to see Ronn and my friends more than family, but if you knew my family… you would understand (for all my family that might be reading… love you all, don’t take it personally. I am talking about the rest of the family and not you specifically). Years later when I would return to Tucson, I would later move into a small group of Artists’ Lofts that would include Ronn as my across-the-courtyard neighbor. This brought on many evenings of talking over tea or the occasional venture out for a bite to eat. We became quite close friends and shared many of the same views.

I still revere Ronn as one of the most intellectual people I know. He is exceptionally well read and informed. He knows something about almost everything (intellectually speaking… he couldn’t rebuild a carburetor if he tried), and if he didn’t know he would usually try to learn by the next time it came up. But Ronn is an artist. He has always been an artist and always has felt a distain towards the rest of society. That most people out there were idiots and troglodytes not worthy of his time, as “they just didn’t get it”. This was the subject of a great deal of our debates. In particular when it came to the subject of art. Self admittedly I know very little about the history of art. I took three art history courses while in college and can’t remember much from any of them. And I never learned much about the history of Photography, one of my specific disciplines. But to this day I still hold my opinion on art… that it is a viewer's opinion that matters and not the art critic’s or even the artist’s. If an artist is intending to convey something through his work, it should be done in such a way that ANY viewer could walk up and look at the piece and understand what was intended. One should not be required to understand the nature of tribal upheaval during an African war from the 1600’s (completely fictitious for the sake of example) to get why a poorly taken photograph of an African American Man is significant. Why create art for only other artists that might or might not know what you are talking about? Art is for the world to see, not for artists to boost their egos among other artists! I doubt I will ever change this opinion.

But I digress… So recently (after several days of my initial blog posting), I sent an email to my friends Ronn. In my email I apologized for having not asked first, but mentioned I had added links to his and his girlfriend’s art websites to my blog page. And, that if they would like, they could have me leave them up or take them down after they had seen the blog. This was the first response:

“I'd prefer you take the links down ASAP. We're revamping our site and have asked everyone who has linked to it to drop the connection.We don't want people coming to the site right now. When we're done we'll give you a heads up. Got to deal with (for sake of privacy the name has been removed) right now. More later...”

A reasonable request… and as I mentioned I had failed to ask permission first. An error I have most definitely learned from. However, Ronn’s comments did not end there. He continued to send several more emails, each more heated than the next. The next came with the subject line “take us off!”, and the attack had just begun:

“Oh, sweet Jesus. I just read part of your rant and some snippets of Kevin's. I DEFINITELY don't want to be associated with anything that perpetuates this asinine, narrow-minded right vs. left malarkey. I think Kevin is nuts and you're both woefully misinformed. PLEASE take our names off this jive. Blake (Ronn’s girlfriend) and I are trying to stay out of the coming civil war and watch you teabaggers and jelly-wristed liberals SLAUGHTER each other. The less I hear from either side, the better off we'll be. Tribalism, received opinion and skewed versions of American history do NOT interest me.”

Frankly, I was a little shocked by this as Ronn has always been anti-government and more for the individual rights. He despised Bush for the choices he made as a president, but felt Obama was no better. He felt Obama was a sell-out the moment he threw his friend Rev. Wright under the bus for his ill timed comments during the campaign and would not support him from that point forward. And, for the most part, he agreed with Rev. Wright and what he had said. And he felt Obama should have stood tall with his friend verses doing the politically wise thing and distancing himself.

But the attack had not come to an end. It came again in the form of a third email. This one had a subject line of simply “NO!”. It read as follows:

“Mother of God. I read even more of both blogs. PLEASE TAKE OUR NAMES DOWN ASAP. This ignorant, incendiary, illiterate, piggish Know-Nothing codswallop is the very thing I've spent my entire life refuting. Even if the political stuff wasn't preposterous and vapid enough, the attention to bad movies and crap culture would be enough to make me run screaming into the night. REMOVE OUR NAMES

At this point, I was beginning to think that my friend was taking this blogging thing as if it was intentionally aimed at him. It wasn’t (until now)! I had received these three emails over the course of a single night and before I had the chance to remove the links or respond to the emails. Upon reading all three, I promptly removed the links as requested, but also responded to the emails directly as well. My response:

“As requested, I have taken the links to both websites down. Sorry you feel that this is something you wish to not be associated with.

If you could, please explain your views and why they are so opposed to someone like myself (or Kevin) for holding the views we do? Since we have begun having these discussions, you have always taken a stance of towards-the-middle and of lesser government. I understand your dislike for the film reviews, but it was something I have wanted to do for some time... this gave me an outlet for it. However, the political commentaries are the direction in which I find myself heading. Isn't our government running away without its citizens? Are they not abusing the powers that were given to them, and even executing powers never granted to them?

" Blake and I are trying to stay out of the coming civil war " - this is something that even Kevin agrees is coming... as do most of his readers. I have always thought there was something that could be done... all I have done is come to the conclusion the only place I thought that could do it was actually the one causing most of the problems.

You seem to be taking the stance of the innocent bystander... however, I believe you were the one that said there are no innocents. We all play our roll. I would agree that some (and maybe many) of the teabaggers may be the radical right, but a good portion of them are citizens that have finally had enough of big government and fear that the recent and future actions may actually be the nails in the coffin of our country. If they can do something to stop it, they will.

Frankly, I do not feel I am promoting any such "codswallop". Rather, I am freely expressing my new found insight of where I feel this country is headed. I have not posted anything I have not researched first. I link references to the things I discuss. And frankly... one of my few remaining rights as a US citizen is free speech... whether it be accurate or not. I have not entered this un-informed or light-hearted. I have seen things in a new light and this IS how I feel, and this IS how I have chosen to express it.

For the first time my friend, I am taking a firm stance against your opinion. For the first time I am going to flat out state that you are wrong on your judgment. You are entitled to your opinion, but I feel that you have thrown an unfair accusation at this. I can understand that someone of your age and health would not want to get involved, but I cannot help to think that these movements are quite similar to the reactions that took place during the 60's (that he had taken part in). The only difference is that the right is leading the charge this time. The 60's did amazing damage to this country, both educationally and politically. It also produced some good at the time. But for every bit of good that came from the movements of your time... we now face the damage left behind and are trying to navigate the ripples left behind by many of those actions. But then, I cannot truly blame everything on the 60's. The problems had started much earlier... about the turn of the century. At least in terms of education. We were no longer educating the public to keep them informed of what government was and was not allowed to do... mainly because government had decided that this country needed more drones for their factories. They did not need thinkers on the assembly lines that were being developed. The 60's was simply the complete and utter take-over of the educational system by the liberals. Peace and harmony became the status quo. Is this starting to sound familiar?

For now... I have found my new opinion. I have found my own voice, and I have found my platform from which to speak. It is no longer for you or me to judge whether it is right or wrong, but that of the public that reads it and gives it merit. You once told me that art unseen was not really art, as art is intended for an audience. Well... this is going before an audience. We will see what they have to say from here.”


Naturally, this did not end here. Ronn felt the obligation to respond. His attacks became more critical and poignant. While I admit to having a week “writer’s touch” at the moment, I am just getting warmed up. Give me time and I am sure my eloquence will begin to bloom. Ronn’s email came under the subject line “Retitle your blog ‘Me Like, Me Don’t Like’”. He writes:

“Let me make it simple for you:

You can't write. At all. You have no facility for it. Your prose is like reading the INGREDIENTS list on a tube of toothpaste--but less engaging and infinitely less informative.

At best you come across as a simpleton. Most of the time you sound like a a bloviating, egomaniacal twit. There are so many oxymoronic inconsistencies, tautologies, half-truths and appalling misrepresentations of history in your screed it would take 24 skilled linguists 6 months to decode it. But why bother? No serious person would waste their time and I won't, either. Not any more. I don't want to interfere with your "transformation" into a full-blown jerk.

It's excruciatingly painful to see somebody, like yourself, so willing to humiliate himself in a public forum. Your ignorance, your lack of empathy and compassion, your greed, your insufficient education and your embarrassingly bad taste are no longer just a few people's little secret. Now the whole world knows you're a pompous lummox. Congratulations.

Concerning your opinions--they are not an inalienable right. You earn them. Sitting on your couch watching TV for 30-odd years doesn't qualify you to have more than one--"Cheetos or Doritos?"

You remain, your own worst enemy. At least you're as consistent as you are ridiculous."

I might note that, despite my request for his “views and why they are so opposed to someone like myself (or Kevin)…” he did not respond. I since have replied once more requesting his stance on his views and opinions, but feel I will not get a response.

I regret that a friend that was so close to me would react in such a hostile manner to my changing views. Even if we find ourselves on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I would have hoped that our friendship would have been able to withstand such differences. In the end, perhaps he was not the friend I thought he was… I hope I am wrong. But do I not have the right to express myself in this manner? To post my opinions to the digital ether and see what responses result? How is this in any way being a “bloviating, egomaniacal twit”?

What I find interesting as a result of all this is that I feel more confident in what I have come to believe and understand. Before, as a liberal, I was always easily swayed from one liberal opinion to another… but not I feel more cemented in this ideal. I feel less discouraged but such criticism. Possibly as I came to this realization on my own and was not handed the opinions from which to choose to believe in, as I was when I was a liberal. My views now make more practical sense to me, and they seem more tangible and real.

It is an interesting and new time for me. As for my friend (I hope) Ronn… only time will tell. I would hate to loose a friend over a difference in ideology, but I think that I have to follow my beliefs and not the drivels of a person unable to define his position.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“Where are we going, and what are we doing in this hand basket?”

As a recent convert from liberalism to conservatism, I must say… you all are so much more fun and entertaining! I truly wish I could have come to my senses sooner!

But now I find myself in this very strange place of conversion. I still hold some of my more liberal thoughts, but now find myself reviewing them from a firmer stance in reality. As my dear friend Kevin would probably phrase it, “You must have gotten tired of sniffing the Unicorn Farts!”

With this newfound light to the world, I also have a new view of where this illustrious country of ours is headed… and frankly it scares the crap out of me. I used to blind myself by saying, “We can make it better, we just need to try harder and come up with better solutions.” Something that I now have found out is very closely related to the Democratic motto when a plan of theirs goes wrong, “The philosophy can’t be wrong, the idea is sound… we just have to do it again, only harder!” Ah… to be free of the shackles of delusion.

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and you believe what ever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland.” “Remember, all I am offering is the truth. Nothing more.” – The Matrix, 1999

Well… I have taken the red pill and am seeing the world through new eyes. I now find myself in a country that no longer truly represents me. A country that is slowly dismantling the very core of what I have come to believe in as my inalienable rights. A country that has systematically stolen the power from the people in return for “more bread and circuses.” (Thank you Kevin, for all your wonderful colloquialisms.)

Kevin also turned me onto an interesting piece by Peggy Noonan from a WSJ Archives titled “A Separate Piece” in which she quotes Christopher Lawford:

Do people fear the wheels are coming off the trolley? Is this fear widespread? A few weeks ago I was reading Christopher Lawford's lovely, candid and affectionate remembrance of growing up in a particular time and place with a particular family, the Kennedys, circa roughly 1950-2000. It's called "Symptoms of Withdrawal." At the end he quotes his Uncle Teddy. Christopher, Ted Kennedy and a few family members had gathered one night and were having a drink in Mr. Lawford's mother's apartment in Manhattan. Teddy was expansive. If he hadn't gone into politics he would have been an opera singer, he told them, and visited small Italian villages and had pasta every day for lunch. "Singing at la Scala in front of three thousand people throwing flowers at you. Then going out for dinner and having more pasta." Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr. Lawford, Teddy "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.' "

Mr. Lawford continued, "The statement hung there, suspended in the realm of 'maybe we shouldn't go there.' Nobody wanted to touch it. After a few moments of heavy silence, my uncle moved on."

Lawford thought his uncle might be referring to their family--that it might "fall apart." But reading, one gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

And--forgive me--I thought: If even Teddy knows . . .

If even Ted Kennedy accepts this as truth, how much more proof do we need that we are all screwed?!?!

Peggy continues on in her article about the elites and their reaction to the problems this country is facing, but towards the end she writes:

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, "I got mine, you get yours."

This got me to thinking about one of the issues I have always struggled with, which are the uber-rich. As a liberal I admit to having thoughts of they should pay more to help “balance” society, but I now see that taxing a person more simply because they make more is no more reasonable than a poor man telling a rich man he must buy him a house while doing nothing to earn it. It was much easier to rationalize these thoughts when I had a big federal government that was a buffer between the two entities and would solve all the details of who was entitled to what. But now I realize that was simply utter insanity. Since when has our government done anything well. “Government does two things really well… Nothing and over-react!” (Thanks again Kevin, great T-shirt btw)

So where does this leave us? And by us, I am referring to the normal every day individuals that don’t have millions in the bank. I finally get it! I now understand the position of the uber-rich! THEY SIMPLY DON’T CARE! It is all a game to them because, in the end, they can go anywhere they want to at any time. Who got affected the most by the recent housing collapse? Who suffers the most due to the Wall Street’s debacles? Is it the wealthy CEOs and businessmen and women that make ridiculous salaries? Of course not! They can make all the bad decisions they want to because it isn’t their money at risk. It isn’t their homes on the line. It isn’t their lives that will be destroyed by failures on the part of the businesses they run. Their job is much more self-motivated. Make as much as you can… as fast as you can… and move on to the next position that will make you even more. These people are going beyond Capitalism… at least capitalism is private enterprise, but not here… this is corporate. And if this country fails, the uber-rich will simply take their money and move to the next place of business. Or maybe they will retire on their private islands in which they have to answer to no one. Not that they are answering to anyone now…

So what am I saying… frankly, I don’t know. I don’t have a solution… I only see a problem. I know that things cannot continue the way they are, but I don’t know the better method of how things should be done. In discussion with Kevin, we talked about how this country was founded. And that, when George Washington was preparing to step down after his second term as president, the King of England said that if he went through with it, he would be the greatest man on earth. To have the power of a country at his disposal, George did indeed step down. This means the system worked. So why is it now failing? I am lead to two thoughts on the matter… the original design was flawed and/or we found ways to fuck it up! How do we fix it? I am not sure there is a way. Kevin refers to it as entropy, while I look at it as more of a one-way street. I think my choice is a bit more hopeful; at least a one-way street can change direction. If it doesn’t soon, we will most definitely hit the brick wall we are speeding towards.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Does Size Matter...

OK... enough fun and games. I saw the previous post's video clip and felt I had to share... maybe I just have a twisted since of humor.

Any way, the new topic of the day is... Does Size Matter? And no, we are not going to be talking about the male anatomy. Nor will we be discussing the weight of those of us that fall into the fluffy category. Follow me with this and I will explain...

For those of you who read my first posting "The Hypocrisy of Good Finance" you might remember that my wife and I bought our first home back in December of 2008. Well, not sure if it was a good thing or not, but the home does belong to a HOA. It is this very fact that truly thrusted me down the path of conservatism.... much to the joy and amusement of my friend and co-worker Kevin. You see, I now found myself in a community of about 3600 homes all governed by a Board of Directors, various committees and a management team. What more could one ask for in terms of a working demonstration of how government works. I quickly learned that the dues paid each month were the taxes, and that these committees, board members and management were spending my money on things that I either was not going to use or had no interest in. The example I have come to use so often to illustrate my new understanding is as follows: If I purchase a home in this HOA that has a personal pool in it's back yard, I must still pay dues to the management team to cover the costs of maintaining two community pools that I do not use. My money pays for someone else to use a pool that I have no intention of using... as I pay ore out of my own pocket to maintain my own pool as well. Why is this fair to me? Why should I pay for someone else's pool? Why shouldn't those that want a community pool pay for it and those that don't are not obligated to do so. And we all know the answer to this... "because it wouldn't be fair"... I can almost here one of those whiny little bastards complaining. They probably aren't even paying their dues... but manage to still get in and use the pool. So worse off I am now paying for someone else to use a pool I pay for and they don't.

Needless to say, it was this small scale version of government that really began to open my eyes to the hypocrisy of a liberal society. I used to be of the mind set that taxes should be sloped so that the uber-wealthy payed 50% in tax while the guy making $20k only paid 2%. The reason being I thought was because the wealthy could afford it. After all, what can you do with 100 million you can't do with 50 mil. I now realize that, just because you have the millions doesn't mean you should have to give up half your income simply because you can. And especially you should not have to just to pay for all the things our government now spends on that benefit those that do not pay at all. When is the last time you say a millionaire collecting a welfare check or food stamps? Why should he/she be allowed to do so? After all, they paid for it... didn't they? The government took the rich man's money and gave it to the poor man... gee... sounds a lot like socialism. Again... I didn't get it until I was the guy paying for a pool that others that had not were now using. it really chapped my ass! And let me tell you... that's a lot of real estate to chap!

But yet... I look at my 3600 strong HOA and then I compare it to our federal government and the 300 million (give or take) they have to manage. Like the HOA they have a covenant... the constitution. They have committees and such... and they determine how to solve the problems our country faces. I realize that the HOA has problems, but nothing in comparison to the run away government we now seem to be saddled with. If the HOA board tried to pull half the things the federal government has pulled, they would have literally been tarred and feathered in public. In fact, this HOA was so bad that just over a year ago, the people joined together and unanimously voted out the entire board. Why can't we do this with our federally elected officials?

So I raise the question.... Does size matter? For the HOA there are clear and simple solutions that, once reached, make sense to most everyone discussing the matter. So... should it be this simple for our federal government? If not, then why not? What makes running 300 million so much more complicated than running 3600. Why can't things simply be scaled and still work?

Personally, i think that one could scale things larger and make it work on a federal level... the only problem is that our federal government has become so large that it can not even govern itself, let alone the people it is supposed to be working for. How often have we heard of one group not knowing anything about what the other group had done... when they were supposed to be working on the same thing.

I used to believe the reason government had to be as big as it was, was in order to handle the larger problems this country faces on a daily basis. But now I think they are just there to confuse the public in regards to an issue just to cover the fact they have no idea how to SOLVE the issue. I think that our elected officials have now become so concerned with maintaining the power of their position, that they forget what they are there to do in the first place.

So.... does size matter? Are the problems of the country so big that it requires big government to solve them? Or can the simple solutions good enough for 3600 be good enough, if scaled, for 300 million? I am curious to hear from all of you. Please let me know your opinions.

Letter to the President...

Dear Mr. President,

During your campaign and since you have taken office, you have spoken many times about transparency in our federal government. Where then is your transparency? To date, you have been one of the most secretive figures in our nations capital. You have fed Congress numerous 1000+ page bills that they must then vote on within hours without having read them. Had they not been to busy kissing your... well, maybe that is going to far. My point is that we as American citizens would like the transparency we were promised by you. In order to help improve your understanding of transparency, I have included a video clip that may better represent what I am explaining.

Many thanks,
Your Concerned Constituent




P.S. This may be a good tip for Michelle as well, you might want to forward this on to her also.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My First Movie Reviews...

For a very long time I have wanted to do something like this. I have always loved cinema, and have been going to the movies on a nearly weekly basis. It is a staple in my life, and I love to be swept up into a story on the screen as I sit in a theater… seemingly entirely to myself (despite being shoulder to shoulder with someone possibly). I love to loose myself in imagination and for those brief minutes a movie unfolds before me, enter an alternate universe of surrealism and joy at the magic light flickering before me on a massive silver screen.

As you can tell… I love the movies!

However, with the birth of cinema came the inevitable afterbirth of the film critic. Most are paid shills by the film industry to spew forth nonsense as to why you should or should not see a particular film, all the while collecting a check for idle BS. I cannot mention how many times I have seen a film “the critics” hated, yet found myself enjoying one of the best films I had seen in some time. True, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure… but I hardly think this is the situation. Especially since one man’s opinion is based on a paycheck, while the other is based entirely on personal opinion.

Needless to say, I got tired of the tripe I was constantly being fed by “the critics”. I have felt for some time that there needed to be a place where one could come and read an average person’s opinion of what they thought about a particular film. In this case, that average person is me. Have I mentioned that I even have some amateur film experience and have a technical eye as well as opinion? No? Well…. I do. So don’t be surprised to see a little bit of technical talk from time to time in my posts…

All this being said, there are two reviews below… And on with the Show!!!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Official Movie Site: http://www.gijoemovie.com/

For those of you that were in that growing stage from child to adolescent during the 80’s, you may remember a cartoon series by the name of G.I. Joe. I know I sure do. And now, thanks to Paramount Pictures, what was once a children’s cartoon is now a full on PG-13 action film.

“The Joes” are a collection of uber-elite military men and women fighting the powers of evil in the world. They train for the unthinkable and have the latest in technology. To the point the creators of this film may have gone a bit to far. What worked as a cartoon is now leaping to a modern day in real life settings, sometimes to the point of being beyond believable.

Don’t get me wrong… I liked the film. I think my admission was well worth every minute, but also think that the movie might have crossed the bounds into fantasy a tad too much for it’s real life setting. That being said, I felt all the characters remained very true to their animated counterparts. Plus, the film did do something the cartoon failed to… which is to provide back story fro all the characters. Granted, I don’t think, as a child, I would have cared about back-story… but now, as an adult, I think it was a great way to bring old fans new information. And let’s face it… “Knowing is half the battle…” (have been waiting this entire post to use that!).

Overall, I would give this film a B+ . It is a great action film, provided you can suspend some of your disbelief. If you like cool sci-fi weapons and fantastical scenarios… I think you might enjoy this more than the rest of us. And yes… this is PG-13, so even the little ones could watch this… other than some loud noises and some violence. The two main female roles, while seductive and attractive, rarely bared much skin. The closest thing was a jogging bra and low cut sweat pants while running on a treadmill.

All in all, it was a good flick. It wasn’t the saga that Lucas might create or the mechanical money machine that Michael Bay created, but I guarantee there will be many sequels to come. And for you hardcore 80’s youths out there… you will love to see your animated favorites come to life like you never imagined.

Enjoy!


Julie & Julia:
Official Move Site: http://julieandjulia.com/

When I was growing up, I discovered a true love of food. However, I also loved to cook what I would then eat. I liked to understand how it became so tasty. I liked the adventure of mixing ingredients and getting a completely different result than expected.

I learned a great deal from 2 primary sources. The first was Jeff Smith, better known as “The Frugal Gourmet”. He entertained me and taught me to laugh and have fun with the food I would prepare, and to appreciate the subtleties that foods had to offer.

The second source of tutelage came from none other than Julia Child. While her intent was that of the modern housewife in the late 60’s and 70’s, I found her methods and precision to be that of any great chef I would later come to appreciate. Not to mention she was incredibly entertaining when she had kicked back a few while taping a show… the progression into a stupor was always an exercise in humor to say the least.

That being said, Meryl Streep has pulled off yet another mesmerizing performance as the late Julia Child. The mannerisms and character were well preserved and portrayed like no other actress could have done. The essence of Julia was truly captured by Streep and greatly appreciated.

Amy Adams was wonderful too, as the seemingly looser girl Julie Powell with no real direction and a group of friends all being far more successful than she. Wanting to be something special, she collaborates on a project to cook her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” over the course of a single year… and blog about it. In the process she has many successes and many more failures… all the while discovering that she always was special. In the end, she finds her self worth and discovers she can be somebody…all thanks to Julia.

The story toggles between the life of Julia and Paul (Stanley Tucci) Child during their time spent in France, and Julie and Eric Powell (Chris Messina) in their struggles with Julie’s new blogging project.

For Julia Child, she is struggling with being the lonely housewife in France as her husband goes to his US Government job every day. Julia decides she loves the food so much in France, she wants to be able to cook it for herself. She joins the Cordon Bleu Cooking Academy and finds herself in a world few women have ever dared to tread, but her will and determination guide her to the top of her class and an understanding of French cuisine that few have achieved. The film continues to follow her through her struggles to co-author the first French Cookbook written in English up to her inevitable success when “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is finally published.

For Amy Powell, she struggles with her place in life. She meets her challenge head on to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook, and discovers herself along the way… much as Julia had done in France. While Julie’s experiences and trials are meant to reflect those that Julia experienced, I would say that Julia’s life was far more interesting. And that the portion of the film dedicated to Julie was more of a grounding to the modern everyday person than anything else. After all, who wants to see a film about Julia Child’s life… other than myself of course, but then I am sick in the head (as you will come to learn).

Overall, I felt the film was well done and excellent in its casting, a very strong A- . If you have fond memories of Julia Child, this is a must see! For those that don’t know who Julia Child was… first learn who she was and then see the film. You could enjoy the film quite well without ever knowing who Julia Child was, but the film will be far more appreciated if you do know who she was. A quietly romantic and loving film with moments of emotion and excitement, you will be captured by Julia and all those that surround her on the silver screen before you.

In the immortal words of Julia Child: Bon App├ętit!!!






Sunday, August 9, 2009

My First Review...

Hello again my friends, and thank you for your warm reception. There is actually something liberating about having a location where I can speak my mind and fully express myself without constraint. I think I am going to love it here.

My first post was one tackling mortgages with our good friends at Bank of America. They have really rubbed me the wrong way, and I can all but promise that my first posting will not be the last on the matter. But, as the title of my blog states, this is also a site for my reviews. I figure I should live up to the title... I gave you a rant, now here is my first review.

El Super:

I live in Tucson, AZ which is all of 80 miles North of the Mexican boarder. What this means is that our fair city has a high population of Hispanics. If you love good Mexican food, then this is some good news for you. The South side of Tucson has the highest population of Hispanics in the city, which also means it is where most of the great Mexican restaurants and markets are located.

El Super, while tailored toward a Hispanic crowd, is still a full service grocery. In particular, they have one of the best produce departments I have ever seen. The food is fresh and the prices are exceptional. And when I say exceptional, I am talking 7 lbs of Cantaloupe for $0.99 and 6 Cucumber for $0.99 exceptional. The produce is clean and fresh, and the quantities are plentiful (not like there are 3 good melons and the rest are crap... they are all good).

The meat counter is also a bit overwhelming. First they have about 25 feet worth of seafood... fresh previously frozen shrimp 20-30 count for $3.99 a pound and previously frozen blue crabs (whole, waiting to be steamed) for $2.99 a pound. Not to mention octopus, squid and about 10 different selections of fish (both fresh and salt water varieties). The counter continues for about another 150 feet after that. It starts with Poultry... whole chickens, half of chickens, breasts, thighs, legs, etc. It then moves on to pork, and finally beef. For those of you looking for the finer delicacies such as Pig's Feet, Pig's Snout and/or Pig's Ear... they have all of them. They have prepared meets for Carne Asada (a seasoned and grilled beef dish), fresh pork chorizo and even cow's stomach for those wanting to make fresh manudo (can't even begin to describe it, look it up on google). If you are looking for some of the nicer cuts of beef or pork, you probably are not going to find it.... no T-bones, Rib-eyes or New York Strips... just lots of roasts, ribs and flank.

If you plan to make Tamales, you can get your prepared or unprepared maza here.... prepared is only $0.89 a pound. They also bake fresh Egg Bread by the hundreds here. While shopping, they wheeled out a rack of about 400 freshly baked egg bread rolls and unloaded them into their bin. You would have thought there was blood in the water and 50 sharks heading into a frenzy.... people swarmed the bin and began bagging as fast as they can. Steam was fogging up the Plexiglas doors to the bin and the aroma of fresh bread made even my mouth water.

There are plenty of regular day essentials... your cup-o-noodles (always 3 for $0.99), 24 pack Dissani bottled water for $3.99 (every day low price), and Lucerine brand milk just $1.97 a gallon. There was a separate counter for the Queso Fresco (fresh cheese), Salsa and deli meets as well. My wife and I have all but decided to forgo our normal shopping routine in favor of a once a week visit to El Super. It is fantastic!

While I know the Internet will allow many of you to visit from around the globe... for those locals to Tucson (yes, I mean you Kevin)... then you really need to check this place out. It is directly off the freeway at I-10 and 6th Ave. It has a bright orange top to the building and you simply can not miss it. If you want further instructions on how to get here, will be happy to assist if requested. Enjoy all... as for my wife and I, it is our new place to food shop.

Post Script:

While this site is truly meant for the Film and Restaurant reviews... I figured I needed to get my feet wet with a review of some kind. Especially after I opened with a Rant on BofA. Keep checking in, as my wife and I are headed to the movies tomorrow. Will be posting at least one movie review by no later than Monday. Enjoy your weekend all!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Hypocrisy of Good Finance

Hello to all and welcome to the blog. I have been wanting to create this blog for some time. I have always loved the cinema and seem to find myself reviewing the films I see to friends and co-workers. I figure, "Why make them so special... the world deserves to hear what I have to say!" Also, my wife and I love to try new restaurants and explore various foodie venues... I figure I can report on this as well. As for my rants, I seem to be achieving the age where I seem to have an opinion on almost anything any more... and I feel the world deserves to know how I feel.

For those of you who plan to stick around and maybe come back to see what my next set of thoughts might be.... this sight will mostly be dedicated to the food and movie review platform. However, don't be surprised when I through a tangent subject in the mix. This first post will be just such a rant.

Let the hypocrisy begin:

Thanks to hard work and good financial planning on the part of my wife and myself we purchased our first home at the end of last year. Nothing special, but a nice home just for the two of us. We shopped the market well and found a very good deal, and the interest rates were quite low. Our first mortgage was sold within a month of purchase to Chase Bank. Their online payment system was a little odd, but once you got used to it there were some nice features.

About 4 months ago, interest rates had fallen even more than before when we had purchased. My wife and I refinanced our home and were happy to achieve an extra percent lower than before. This time, the loan was sold to Bank of America. My wife and I, at the time, thought it was a good thing as our checking and savings accounts were also at B of A. We figured we would be able to easily link our checking and mortgage accounts, much like Chase had done for us before with our Chase Checking account (they also gave us a really nice account with free checks and all... since we now owed them a lot of money). My friends... the illusion is, I am sad to say, over at Bank of America.

During the original purchase and also during the refinancing, my wife and I learned a great deal about how mortgages work. In particular, we learned how various payment plans can drastically effect the term and total interest paid over the life of your loan. For example: if you make a single 13th payment every year to your mortgage, you can actually shorten the length of your loan by nearly 7 years and save yourself nearly $50,000.00 in interest (give or take based on your interest rate). Not only this, but based on your payment plan (i.e. monthly, bi-monthly, every two weeks or weekly) you can also achieve pretty drastic results as well. While it may not seem like a lot, if you were to break apart your monthly mortgage payment into 4 pieces and pay once a week. Your interest will then be recalculated weekly rather than monthly, as the principle is being adjusted weekly. We are talking pennies to dollars different (depending on the size of your mortgage), but it will actually result in almost a 9 year reduction in the length of your loan.

As you can tell... my wife and I have done our homework. We learned the system and how to work the system in our favor. If you are going to make this big of a purchase, you really should educate yourself on this... it will make such a huge difference if you actually fully understand where these lending institutions are sticking it to you. And once you get mad at how they all seem to find some way of taking advantage of you... you begin to find the ways of reducing the pain of these violations... or at least dowsing them with lubricant to make it more enjoyable (I kid).

But back to our friends at Band of America. My wife and I were discussing our finances and had decided it was time to initiate a more fruitful payment plan. Currently we had been paying our mortgage online at B of A's website. We had made the first two payments manually, but I had also just signed up for the 12 payments a year plan as a temporary plan until we decided which payment plan would be the best to go with. I might mention now that any other payment plan other than the manual and 12/year plan comes with a "per transaction" fee... so they must be better, right? (Ha, ha... whimper... think again)

As I explained, paying more often should reduce your interest, and thus increasing your principal payment. This, in turn, reduces total interest paid and length of the loan. However, Bank of America feels that most Americans don't understand good finance... unfortunately, this is true. So... will you get any of these benefits if you go with their 24-payments/year, 26-payments/year or 52-payments/year plans? No. Instead, B of A will hold that money that you have paid them and wait till the end of the month and make your monthly payment for you. This, of course, will not reduce any amount of interest you pay and will not shorten the length of your loan in any way. The only thing it will do will cause you to incur an extra "per transaction" fee charged to you for B of A providing the service of holding your money till the end of the month for you.... but then, I thought that was what checking and savings accounts were for.

OK... so there automated (and fee ladened) plans don't help. So what about the manual method you ask? Well... it turns out that Bank of America thought fast and screwed you here as well. While they will allow you to pay as many manual payments as you want.... only one will be applied to your monthly statement. If that one payment is not the monthly minimum, you will be failing to meet the terms of your mortgage... even if the sum of all your payments for that month exceeds your total monthly payment. The reason being is each "partial payment" will be applied directly to principal only. So yes, your total interest will be reduced, but at no savings due to multiple payments, but rather because you are paying more than you monthly minimum... as you have to have that one payment each month that matches or exceeds your monthly payment.

So... if your mortgage falls into the hands of Bank of America, be thankful. They are there to think for you because, after all, we are all to stupid to think for ourselves. And for those of us smart enough to see through B of A's BS.... there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. If you want to reduce the life of your loan or save yourself some interest, you are going to have to do it the old fashioned way.... simply pay them more money faster. And thus the Hypocrisy of Good Finance.

Tell me what you think America... my door is open and the Doctor is in.