An internet junkie’s ramblings


This is just a place for me to rant about politics, society, technology, or whatever else strikes a nerve.
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My top 10 movies of 2007

March 6th, 2008

Now that it’s March, I better get this list out of the way before I start mixing up the years. Here are my top 10 movies of 2007:

1) 300
Amazing movie from start to end. The gritty, stylized cinematography would get old fast in any other movie, but it really adds to this picture. This movie even survived several internet memes, which usually make any movie instantly cheesy. I’ve watched this at least 30 times and it’s always entirely entertaining.

2) No Country For Old Men
A very close second. Well deserving of all the Oscars it won. Perfect casting and great acting throughout without any one actor overbearing the others. The gas station scene was easily the most tense and awkward scene in recent memory.

3) Superbad
I saw this movie on each of the first four weekends after it was released, each time dragging new people with me. While the audience might be limited to a narrow generation, it’s perfectly targeted to them. Hilarious dialogue in every scene, and delivered so well. Michael Cera is a timing genius. Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill are a comedy powerhouse.

4) Smokin’ Aces
This one didn’t make many top 10 lists, or even top 25 lists, but I loved it. I loved the characters, the action (mmm, 50cal), the fact that Ben Affleck gets killed off so quick, and even the ending that took a lot of flak. The only thing that would have made it better is more Jason Bateman.

5) Live Free or Die Hard
Not that I remember many details from the first three Die Hard movies, but I thought this one was the best. Great storyline, great action, and great special effects. Even the jet scene was believable in context, despite being completely unrealistic. Bonus points for Bruce Willis beating up a chick.

6) There Will Be Blood
While I did debate about the effectiveness of this movie after seeing it, the more I think about it, the more I like it. The score was a bit off-kilter at times, but Daniel Day-Lewis is such an amazing actor and the cinematography was brilliant. The scope of the plot could have been expanded/explored more, but it works well focused on the main character.

7) 3:10 to Yuma
I haven’t seen the original, but I loved this one. It starts off a bit slow, as all westerns tend to do, but the fantastic ending more than makes up for it. Christian Bale plays the desperate farmer, and Russell Crowe plays the cocky, laid-back killer; both roles portrayed just as they should be.

8) Shooter
Another one that didn’t make many top lists. Great plot and acting throughout. Mark Wahlberg is turning into a sort of Leonardo Dicaprio, in that I can never picture him in the roles he gets, but yet he always pulls them off. Absolutely love the message behind the ending.

9) 28 Weeks Later
This sequel went largely unnoticed. 28 Days Later was so original and unique it became an instant classic. Because it was a hit, a big budget sequel was a certainty. Despite the money and big studio behind it, it somehow kept the same tone and feel of the first one with a new storyline. Shipping over the American military was a creative way to get American actors into the movie without feeling forced.

10) Sunshine
Speaking of unnoticed, I don’t know anyone else that saw this movie before I did. I took Netflix’s recommendation and they haven’t let me down yet. This is a sci-fi movie, so it’s hard to break new ground, but this movie does a good job of bringing in new ideas. The special effects are also great, especially for such a low budget film. You think you see the twist coming, but it goes a few steps beyond what you can imagine.

Honorable mentions go to, in no particular order, 30 Days of Night, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, and Into the Wild.

The sweet smell of freedom

December 11th, 2007

Alternate title: Anti-smoking legislation is destroying America.

It’s no secret that I’m a free-market kind of guy. I believe the free market can solve all of society’s ills given enough time, but politicians seem intent on trying to regulate businesses any way they can to get more votes. I’m also not a fan of any laws or regulations that limit a person’s personal decisions, whatever they may be. It’s not a mistake that the only law restricting personal freedoms in the Constitution, Prohibition, was repealed. This is also a point of contention when discussing flag-burning or gay marriage amendments, but I’ll save those for another time.

Most, if I may generalize, of the anti-smoking campaigners say that it’s not a personal issue, since secondhand smoke has been proven to be harmful. I see this as even more evidence that it is a personal decision, and now a more educated one at that. Science is there to help us make decisions every day, so it should be simple enough to think to yourself, “I’m glad that they found secondhand smoke is dangerous, now I can avoid establishments that allow smoking.” That is not the case.

These same people say that smoking is so pervasive in their daily lives that it’s impossible to avoid secondhand smoke. I’ll avoid the arguments that restaurants cannot adequately separate smoking and nonsmoking sections, because that’s not my point. My point is that if you are aware that a place allows smoking, and you didn’t want to inhale secondhand smoke, why wouldn’t you avoid that place?

This is where the free market comes into the equation. If enough people had that same mindset, the places that allowed smoking would make a wise business decision to no longer allow smoking. When Philadelphia recently banned smoking, a friend there said he couldn’t be happier. He said that over 80% of the people he knew, and he extrapolated this sample to encompass the city’s populous, wanted this law to pass. It was this same 80% that didn’t feel strongly enough to actually make a difference. They begged the legislators to step in and rescue their lungs from smoke-filled bars.

How come no one stepped up to create a smoke-free bar in Philly, with such an automatic built-in customer base? My friend’s response was that “people don’t go to smoke-free bars.” What? That response just tells me that the one or two smoker friends are either too stubborn to try a new place, or the non-smokers are too apathetic to do anything about it. I’m thinking it’s much more of the latter.

These are the same people that rally to regulate big corporations, yet shop at Wal-Mart. They drive gas-guzzling cars, and petition their congressmen to increase fuel efficiency. Actions speak exponentially louder than words. If only Americans would change their own behavior rather than be molded by the legislature, we could truly return to the glorious foundations of this country.

— I’m a non-smoker
I thought The Onion was supposed to be funny

Is nothing illegal anymore?

July 15th, 2007

It seems that the government and the mainstream media are actively avoiding the use of a simple word, illegal. Let’s take a look at the definition of illegal, just as a refresher: against the law. A longer definition is as follows: behavior that can result in either criminal sanctions, such as prison sentences or fines, or civil sanctions, such as liability or injunctions. Seems clear enough, right? The more and more illegal activity I’ve been reading about this past year or two, the more obvious it is that the word is not being used on purpose.

I noticed the trend starting when the first warrantless wiretapping scandal started. The wiretapping went counter to the foundation of FISA, which requires court approval of all such activities. Ok, then the program was illegal right? Nope, it was reported as “extrajudicial” everywhere I looked. A more recent study of the president’s excessive use of signing statements declared that the administration did not carry out the provisions “according to law.” So…then at least one person must have committed an illegal act, right? Of course not.

This past June, the CIA declassified 702 pages of “misdeeds.” By misdeeds, they mean illegal activities. The list is long and the violations are clear, but the word illegal is almost nowhere to be found. Instead, the CIA just “violated its charter for 25 years.” That has a better ring to it, doesn’t it? That same month, the FBI released an internal audit regarding the use of National Security Letters, a powerful new tool given by the PATRIOT Act. They found that 10-15 percent did not follow the required legal procedures.” Finally, someone admits they did something illegal! Wait, what’s that? It’s not illegal, those silly agents were just “non-compliant.”

Who remembers the Jack Abramoff scandal, or the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys? Well, good thing we have the Presidential Records Act to keep track of internal communications. These should both be easy cases. Wait, what do you mean that 88 White House aides used privately controlled RNC email accounts, and that 51 of them have been mysteriously deleted? Good thing it’s not illegal though, CNN reports that they just “skirted the law.”

Part of me hopes that this is all just a journalism necessity. That the media doesn’t want to sound like a broken record, so they have to keep inventing new ways to report more and more illegal activities. The other part of me thinks the word is being actively avoided because either they don’t want someone held accountable for their actions, or they know that no one in a position of power would be anyway. The moral of the story is that everyone needs to become active in politics, or at least understand what’s going on, in order to bring some much-needed change.

ACLU defending Nazis again

April 19th, 2007

The title of this post is meant to stir up bad feelings in your gut. It’s meant to make you angry at the ACLU. How dare they defend Nazis? Don’t they know how evil they are? They were responsible for killing six million Jews! (The other five million murdered undesirables are often overlooked.)

The title showed up in my Google Alert the other day and comes from Stop the ACLU. If the American National Socialist Workers Party of Roanoke, VA had any kind of larger presence, I’m sure there’d be similar articles all over the place. When I read that kind of sensationalist headline, it makes me want to pull out my wallet and donate every penny I have to the ACLU.

It’s not that I support neo-Nazis, but I support their rights of free speech and peaceful demonstration. Don’t like what they represent? Counter-demonstrate. That’s what makes this country great. Repressing speech is never the answer and doesn’t change anyone’s minds. If anything, it makes them more angry.

Whenever I see pressure to silence a group of people, no matter who they are, it makes me cheer them on. I love watching people stand up and voice their opinions, no matter how twisted or outside of the norm they may be. It blows my mind how many Western countries have hate speech laws, and that it’s illegal to display a swastika in most of Europe. Are they really that afraid of words or symbols that people must be jailed over them?

The ACLU takes a lot of heat for the clients they take on. The aforementioned article specifically notes Nazis, NAMBLA, terrorists, felons, drug dealers, and murderers. These just so happen to be the groups that no one else wants to defend, and in my opinion the ones that need it the most. If the ACLU didn’t defend them, I don’t think anyone else would. That’s the scariest part of all.

Free speech and Don Imus

April 15th, 2007

I’ve been trying to avoid this whole Don Imus story because it’s simply ridiculous. I’ve been following the story all along and the two sides seem to be either burn him at the stake or point the finger back and complain about black people using the same language. What ever happened to free speech in this country? If you don’t like what someone has to say, don’t listen. It’s your right to ignore someone as much as it’s their right to say anything.

The problem these days are self-important bloggers trying to change the world and the media circus that ensues for even the tiniest issues. Everyone has to have the latest story and then the news outlets compete to find more useless information or get bigger and better interviews on the subject. The fact is that the vast majority of people complaining about Imus had never heard of him or his show before they were told about his “insensitive remarks.”

That’s actually what inspired me to write this post. Yesterday, I read Condi Rice’s comments and thought, of all people, she was in the best position to say “he has the right to say whatever he wants in America.” Did she? Of course not. She said his off-the-cuff comment was “disgusting” and offensive to all young black women. So what if they were? You’re in a top position of the federal government. It is your duty to stand up for the Constitution no matter what your personal opinions are.

Remember when Eminem was being attacked from all sides for his “anti-gay” lyrics? GLAAD and other gay rights groups were furious. They solicited gay celebrities to join their fight, and what happened? Both Elton John and Melissa Etheridge publicly said that Eminem was free to say whatever he wanted and they supported him completely. Are there no black females that believe in the freedom of speech? Is the previous statement considered insensitive too?

This comic sums up my opinion quite well.

My top 10 movies of 2006

February 2nd, 2007

I consider myself quite a movie buff, but I’ve never created a list my favorites anywhere. Actually trying to sit down and think of my top 10 movies of all time would be impossible for me. Most of my favorites cannot be compared, which is part of the reason they are so highly regarded. Anyway, I came across Kevin Smith’s top 10 list for 2006, which includes a great list of the year’s movies. I’ve seen 58 of them and narrowed it down to my own top 10.

1) The Departed
No question, this was the movie of the year. Never have a seen so many top actors fit so well together. Great action and storyline, funny and brutal, just top-notch all around. Scorsese should finally get his Oscar this year.

1b) V For Vendetta
I just couldn’t bring myself to calling this movie #2. It was easily #1 until The Departed came along. Hugo Weaving’s voice acting is better than most normal acting that Hollywood has to offer. Vengeful and sweet, you cheer for V as he systematically kills people with class.

3) Borat
Funniest movie of the year, hands-down. I’ve been watching Ali G and Borat since even before he landed his HBO special so I couldn’t wait for this movie. There was so much hype surrounding this movie and it still exceeded expectations. Sacha’s genius is all about setting up the perfect situations and feeding off strangers’ reactions.

4) The Fountain
“Wow” is the best word I can think of to describe this movie. The Fountain’s love story is so inspiring, depressing, happy, and sad that it’s hard to put into words. Darren Aronofsky’s visionary movie also goes out of its way to redefine science-fiction by refusing to use any computer graphics. The space scenes will just blow your mind. It’s too bad that most moviegoers won’t understand the plot.

5) Clerks II
Kevin Smith finally returns to his roots after the misguided Jersey Girl and overacted Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Virtually every scene can be repeatedly reenacted at the lunch table or party (hopefully not the donkey show) and get laughs every time. Randall is in prime form and the new characters fit into the original cast well. Pillow Pants.

6) Casino Royale
I was not expecting this movie to be very good, but it’s the best Bond movie I can recall; maybe even too good to be a Bond-movie. Daniel Craig fits the role of the over-confident, pompous, smart ass assassin almost too well. Great action movie with a mix of hi-tech and low-tech scenes that can make you cringe.

7) Little Miss Sunshine
Surprise hit of the year. I went into this movie before the buzz started without seeing a single preview and was reminded how great indie movies can be. Dysfunctional family movies can be hit or miss, but the acting is superb from the underutilized older actors to the younger newcomers. I was literally in tears laughing during the final scene.

8) The Break-Up
This movie got some horrible reviews and it’s not doing very well on IMDb either. On the contrary, I think this is Vince Vaughn in his prime. I’ve seen this movie over a dozen times and still laugh just as hard as the first time. The biggest complaint is that this movie has too much realistic fighting in it. They are breaking up, that’s the whole point! If you feel uncomfortable watching this with your loved one, it may be time to move on yourself.

9) Mission Impossible 3
Tom Cruise continues his streak of great movies ever since Vanilla Sky. Exponentially better than M:I-2, and although it doesn’t bring back the mystery from the first one, it’s still a damn good movie. Gritty, fast-paced action from beginning to end along with excellent acting from supporting Hoffman pushed this movie onto my top 10.

10) Children Of Men
Clive Owen has been making some great movies lately, but he’s still not getting fully appreciated. This movie has a great storyline and it does a good job of juggling the very personal story with its global consequences. The refugee camp scenes are simply stunning and the ambiguous ending is meant to make you think about the possibilities for yourself.

Honorable mentions go to Apocalypto, The Prestige, and Miami Vice (minus the Cuban scene).

So as we all know the Democrats took over both houses of Congress in last week’s election. I was excited by this development, even though my own vote was split between the two ruling parties and a few write-in Libertarians. Don’t get me wrong; I hate Democrats as much as I do Republicans, but I prefer to have the different branches of government arguing with each other. It stirs debate and compromises are made that are far better than the initial proposed laws.

Now the Democrats are planning their agenda before taking over Congress, and while I don’t agree with half of it, one thing really struck me in particular. One of the top items on the to-do list is to broaden hate-crimes legislation. The Democrats wants to add gays, lesbians, and transgender people to the list of people “protected” under hate-crimes laws. Being “protected” simply means that the perpetrators of crimes against them receive a harsher penalty for their crimes.

I know many of you think this is a great idea, but the point is that the crimes are already against the law.  When people go beyond societal norms and resort to hurting others it is still a crime, regardless of race or gender. All these hate-crime laws do is punish the motive of the crime. Why should anyone get different penalties for hitting someone that, for example, crashes into his car depending on their color and/or sexual orientation?

Having stiffer sentences purely because of the criminal’s motive for the act amounts to thoughtcrime. The judge and jury consider what the person was thinking before breaking the law and take that into account when deciding the case. The only reason this has passed constitutional muster at all is because the crime was already committed, so they say. How much longer before we arrest people for what they say without doing anything based on those words? What is this, Canada?

If we start turning into Canada, who knows what will come first, socialized medicine or illegal hate speech. I have to be careful here because a lot of people think both are great ideas. Luckily we have that pesky Constitution to protect the latter issue. If only the Bill of Rights included a clause about handing down equal justice for the exact same crimes. If there should be any change in hate-crimes legislation, it should be to eliminate the laws completely.

Product placement

November 7th, 2006

Does anyone else remember when product placement wasn’t so pervasive? Does anyone remember when cable television was completely commercial-free? As each day passes, someone else forgets about these golden days, and it will only get worse.

The fierce capitalist in me agrees wholeheartedly with the media corporations. Let them milk every single penny out of advertisers where ever possible. They must add more and more product placement because of those pesky PVR users that are skipping commercials. It’s all about the bottom line.

The consumer in me is choking to death. I watch the commercials and get bombarded by product placement throughout entire TV shows. Where is the benefit for me? I wouldn’t mind it if commercials were eliminated and we went back to full 30 minute episodes of content. This would also solve the problem of people changing channels endlessly looking for something to actually watch.

The problem is actually much worse than you even realize. Everyone can spot the easy ones: a can of soda suspiciously facing the camera, the car logo perfectly placed on the screen, boxes of cereal taking up half of the screen. Don’t forget about all of the “sponsored segments,” such as highlight reels, replays, statistics, and even sponsored clocks. These days the media companies literally go out and get every piece of a set and wardrobe sponsored down to the shoes. The logos aren’t visible, but those retailers can now put some famous show on their resumes. Those spontaneous hip clothes that people wear in reality shows are all carefully hand-picked and paid for.

Gone are the days when shirts are blurred for swear words and drug references. When you see a shirt or hat blurred now, it means that the retailer didn’t want to cough up the money to be paraded around on the show-of-the-week. The media companies don’t want to stand out; they want to blend in. Be a part of the culture. Be the obvious choice. The advertisements have become so ubiquitous that they are starting to feel natural. When you watch TV and don’t notice the advertisements in every scene, they win. While there isn’t much I can do to stop it, I refuse to allow it to go unnoticed.

The role of a police officer

November 5th, 2006

So I’m the passenger in a friend’s car some weeks ago. We’re driving along and a car speeds passed us and cuts us off while continuing at his or her higher speed. My friend then says with anger “I wish a cop saw that!”

This statement blew my mind. Police officers are not meant to be waiting on the sidelines, always watching, waiting, for someone to piss off someone else. They shouldn’t be giving out tickets or arresting people just for a momentary inconvenience. My friend didn’t even have to slow down for this person to change lanes, but he wanted swift justice.

While that type of aggressive behavior would probably fall under the ever-widening “reckless driving,” not all people should be charged in every case. I’m all for objective laws, but it’s completely unrealistic to think that police have the resources, need, or even desire to crack down on every offender.

The world does not revolve around you. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. You will be inconvenienced and offended from time to time, and that’s ok. Learn to live with it and roll with the punches. The next time you start to get angry, stop and truly think about it. Getting upset over the little things in life never solves anything.

I’ve hated blogs since before the term was coined. I’ve always wondered who had the time to read the ramblings of other people. The whole “counter-culture” makes me sick. Recently, however, blogs have been instrumental in breaking stories and keeping the pressure on scandals that would normally be swept under the carpet.

Now I have absolutely no intention of doing any of that here, but I’ve gained a tiny bit of respect for people with too much free time on their hands. The large amount of people, as well as a small number of organizations, that actually read bills and laws that are being passed by a Congress that won’t.

I don’t plan on doing that either; I only wish I had that kind of time. So why did I finally cave and start a blog? Well I used to post the occasional rant on a friend’s site, which is now defunct. Since that site has gone under, I’ve been building up a lot of rants in my head and need an outlet to get them on “paper,” so to speak. To flesh out my ideas and opinions and share them with others without repeating myself.

That’s all there is to it, and you should expect nothing more. Let the good times begin…