Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Lessons Most Won't Learn From The Wuhan Virus Economic Shock

Note: This was originally a FaceSpace post that a friend suggested should be more widely available. They were comments made while sharing The Federalist article, 7 Major Cultural Shifts The Coronavirus Crisis Should Make Happen


I've trimmed a ton out of this snippet, hit the link to read it all, but I left all of #5 in because it's exactly what regular readers know I'm all about. Major sermon after the excerpt.
FTA: "The coronavirus pandemic is a social stress test exposing many Americans’ lack of responsibility for our lives, our willingness to hold other people’s lives hostage to our own, and our national unpreparedness to manage danger. What are some long-term positive steps this moment of unexpected reflection and improvement should inspire us to take to address that? Here are a few ideas.

1. Massive Shift in Education

As schools and universities attempt to maintain learning through screens, it’s an opportune moment to consider whether one’s schooling is really ideal....if a layperson can do the job of a credentialed teacher in half the time, maybe that’s an indication of serious lack.

We’ve discovered that many Americans value it mostly as a babysitting service. Many governors immediately disbanded classes for a third to a half of the school year — possibly to be renewed this fall — then continued collecting children in the same buildings for daycare and government feeding, even though congregating people like that is supposed to be too dangerous to hold school itself.

2. Prepping for Emergencies, Government Incompetence

Lots of people just discovered they might go hungry without a weekly shopping run and open restaurants, and can’t manage common illnesses without using medical resources that might be needed for people with worse problems.

Hopefully the shock of realizing these things will encourage at least some people to upskill. Keep a few weeks of food in your pantry at all times, and rotate supplies. Keep basic medicine on hand, and learn how to help people sick with common illnesses that won’t need a doctor if well-managed. And keep more than one roll of toilet paper in your bathroom.

Long-term, at least someone in your family should regularly practice with a gun for self defense...Think ahead. Take responsibility for your life and family.

3. More Flexible Work Environments

The coronavirus offers workers an opportunity to do just that by forcing many into work-from-home arrangements. Many people, especially working mothers, would like to work from home more or completely, and have been either afraid or unable to leverage their employers into it. Showing their capability during this time gives them more leverage for this kind of negotiation in the future.

4. Better Social Norms About Sickness

We all have heard people at some social event talking, as their kids stick fingers in the snack bowl, about how their family has been sick all week and they just ditched the fever yesterday. We all know people keep working while they are sick, and keep their kids in school although the kids are sick, because they want to bank their sick leave for vacations.

Now this kind of petty selfishness is widely recognized as such, hopefully people will continue to take more care about spreading germs to others.

5. Basic Financial Responsibility

Congress just sent billions of dollars to Americans they stole from the next generation without their consent because neither Congress nor Americans prepare for emergencies. It is a crying shame that we live on borrowed money and have nothing stored away against inevitable disasters, so dip our hands into the next generation’s pockets every time “something comes up.” This will lead to an unstoppable national financial disaster sooner or later.

Half of Americans say they couldn’t pay for a $1,000 emergency out of cash or savings. Excluding their mortgages, the average American has $38,000 in debt. That’s just plain irresponsible. This irresponsibility just cost the next generation $2 trillion plus interest for precisely zero government services to them, and the bailouts aren’t even close to ending.

Pre-coronabailout, American kids were already on the hook for $132 trillion in federal unfunded liabilities. Is there any limit to the money we’re going to demand from future generations for zero services in return? How is this not selling them into indentured servitude?

Before you dare to take money from other people — which is the same as taking a part of their lives because money equals labor equals time, which is priceless — you should cut all expenses that don’t keep you alive as cheaply as possible, and work as hard as you can at as many jobs as are necessary. I don’t want to hear you whining about how high your expenses are and how low your income is. Do you pay $100 a month for your cell phone? How old is your car? How big is your house? Do you eat out? Did you take out loans for college that you now want me to pay for because I cut eating out, travel, groceries, clothing, and other expenses to pay my own loans off faster while you didn’t?

Congress may be alright enabling Americans to steal trillions from children for basically everything it authorizes, but lots of Americans are aware that a house of debt like that is going to crash someday, and no amount of money-printing will stop it. Smart people will haeve gotten themselves out of debt, not planned to rely on bankrupt government services, and saved up an emergency fund and supplies beforehand.

6. Learning How to Live through Deprivation

Just like athletic training is no pain, no gain, it’s often not fun to develop self control, to think of and serve others above ourselves, repent for our bad decisions, and reconsider our life priorities. But it is very healthy, both for body and soul. Our nation corporately, and all of us individually, could use that now and always.

7. Revitalization of Community Relationships
When our governments finally hit the debt crisis they’re storing up even more speedily now for us, it will end the pretense that it’s someone else’s job to solve our personal problems."
While the other items may not apply to everyone, no one has an excuse to not seriously consider the list in #5.

As you may know, I grew up extremely poor on welfare to a single mother and that made thrift, bargain hunting, deferring gratification, and taking care of one's stuff basic survival skills. But we worked and took advantage of opportunities to get off the dole (because unlike now when it's a badge of honor for some how they're ganking the system with their EBT card, it was embarrassing to pay for groceries with food stamps) and I started working while in high school to pay for my stuff because no one else was going to.

But I didn't truly learn the lessons until I got caught short with insufficient savings when I was 24 and my job abruptly vanished. I was so broke that if girl's wanted to see me, they'd have to give me gas money. (Luckily, I was hot enough then to pull that off! I miss thin me. ) It was a very lean year (no pun) until I got another job many months later, but once I'd dug myself out of the hole, the mission was to have at least X amount of dollars in the bank. As time went on X has become ever larger where I'm not at the point that if I don't have....let's just say an amount to withstand a prolonged income disruption...then I get antsy.

Being a broken record, but I genuinely don't understand how people put themselves behind the 8 Ball after a certain age. I get being young and dumb and thinking the money will never stop coming in because I was that dumbass once. But I stopped being that dumbass and now I'm living a reasonably comfortable middle-class life with plenty of the latest toys and comforts and zero debt outside of my mortgage which is lower than a lot of people pay in rent. All because I know the difference between needs and wants and spend as little as possible on both.

I have to remind myself constantly that many aren't as blessed as I am. I still have a job; I'm still getting paid; I don't have to worry about paying my bills or put food on the table; other than people STILL thinking Wuhan virus causes explosive catastrophic diarrhea which makes the tsunami in Deep Impact look like a ripple in a puddle and thus buying up all the damn toilet paper, I'm OK.

But many people aren't OK and the massive mismanagement of Hot Fad Plague 2020 has them scared and eager to look to Uncle Sugar to provide succor. But if/when we get through this asteroid strike to our lives and economy, how many are going to return to the bad habits that put them in this state this time?

Most, is a safe bet. People resist change, especially if they feel it will make them the least bit uncomfortable. "What? Buy 2-liter bottles of pop for 99 cents on sale instead of a 20oz bottle for $1.59?" (I've seen people buy two singles for what three 2-liters would cost, getting 1/5th of the beverage for the money. Why? You're going to eventually drink it, aren't you?)

You don't have to live the life of an ascetic to save money; you just need to make choices as to what's actually important and bargain hunt a little. I saved a family I know $140/mo by changing their ISP to a 2/3rds cheaper and 2X faster plan, dropping down a tier on their cable package and adding a streaming app version of the ONE CHANNEL they'd been paying for that higher tier to get. They paid something like $600 per year for one channel! (NFL Sunday Ticket isn't that much, is it?)

It took me less than a half-hour to find alternatives and now they have almost $1700 in their pockets and sacrificed nothing they really wanted to get it. How much money are you overpaying every month for various things. A little here, a little there, it adds up.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Britney Spears: Galactic Commando?

NOTE: This review was written in February 2006 for the now-defunct pro videogaming website (Global Gaming League). It's one of the pieces that continues remain relevant as portrayals of women in the media keep cropping up - most recently, feminists whining about the Amazons in Justice League - and rather have it lost in the digital ether, it is preserved here.
“Realism” is a buzzword in gaming. We want more realistic graphics, physics, AI and gameplay to create a more immersive experience and we’ll spend untold sums to upgrade our computers to allow for maximum eye candy and performance and criticize games that have rudimentary enemy AI and an overreliance on scripted behavior.

But one thing that remains unrealistic in games and particularly in their marketing is the portrayal of women. Everywhere you look, you see scantily-clad Barbie dolls wearing outfits that don’t seem very practical for hostile environments – whether it’s sub-zero temperatures or flying shrapnel. While male characters are typically wrapped in so much armor that they look like they had a Hummer crushed around them, the lovely ladies of gaming look as if they’re backup dancers for the “Britney Spears in the 25th Century” tour. If it weren’t for the weapons they toted, they’d just be packing a pair of 38s, if you know what I mean.

While this has been going on forever and a day, it didn’t really start to bug me until I was flipping through PC Gamer recently and came across an ad for X3: Reunion. If you go to the game’s site, you can see the nameless babe with her skimpy tank top, tight leather pants and bare midriff. I’m not familiar with the series, but it appears to be all spaceship battles without any individual characters, so what’s with the chick?

Another game that’s been nagging at me with its pre-release imagery is the upcoming Steam-distributed Sin: Episodes. This shooter has been featuring a babe named Jessica Cannon as a main attraction. In the concept art, her jacket has changed a little – they’ve eliminated the cutouts that bared her shoulders – but one thing has remained consistent throughout…

Her thong.
That caption was added by whomever posted this, so it's not just me.
Forget about the cropped jacket. Ignore the low-rise pants. For some reason, the artists have decided that this armed-and-empowered woman needs to have a string thong that defies physics to hang on her sides up around her navel, many inches above her waistline. It’s kind of hard to take someone seriously when she looks like she’s heading to her job at the Booby Trap after she gets done defusing a nuclear bomb.

When the initial concept sketches of Aida from Unreal 2 appeared, she looked more like Brooke Burke hosting “Wild On: Na Pali” than a serious briefing officer with her requisite pneumatic bosom and exposed midriff with bonus cobra tattoo on her stomach. While that made for a nice wallpaper – I know, I made one – during the game, it was hard to accept mission intel from a girl who was only missing some dollar bills sticking out of her britches for effect.
The miniskirts and go-go boots of Star Trek: TOS are Amish wear compared to this.

Of course, this isn’t even touching on the clothing-optional look of just about every fantasy role-playing game out there. Whenever I see these elf princesses standing in knee-deep snow with magical racks exposed, I wonder if they have to make a saving throw against pneumonia. (Maybe they have an enchanted Thong of Warming which grants a plus-five on rolls against frostbite and common sense.)

Lara Croft was the first breakout female character in gaming, benefiting from the then-novel polygonal difference that 3D games brought her ample endowments. Her phenomenon probably reached its peak (or nadir if you will) when Douglas Coupland, author of “Microserfs”, wrote "Lara's Book--Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider Phenomenon" about her. That’s right, a semi-serious analytical/mash book about a fictional character. Sonic, Mario and Link didn’t get books, Lara did.

Whenever a new Tomb Raider title is announced, the first thing that’s revealed is how Lara will look this time around – bigger or smaller boobs?; how about that waistline? - with gameplay frequently being an afterthought and the series’ brink-of-death status shows the results of these priorities. It’s somewhat ironic that Angelina Jolie, hardly Amish in her prior onscreen attire choices, wouldn’t wear Lara’s trademark hot pants beyond the opening of the first film, yet managed to come off as kickass in the otherwise lameass movies.

The exceptions to the cheesecake heroine are few and far between. Samus of Metroid was so covered-up that her gender was a game-ending twist and Joanna Dark of Perfect Dark manages to keep her form-fitting leather over her naughty bits, but that’s almost it. The best current example of a realistic heroine is Alyx, your plucky sidekick in Half-Life 2. She’s fit and pretty – I’m not calling for a switch to tubby, unattractive characters, mind you – but the faded Black Mesa sweatshirt and duct-taped jacket make her a plausible scientist’s daughter.

Maybe it’s me, but a girl – neigh, a woman – who can handle herself in a firefight and has a giant robot Dog is hotter than some chippie who looks like she should be writhing on a stripper pole and giving lap dances. Is it too much to ask for compelling female characters that look more suited for Max Payne than Maxim? Or at least let Jessica Cannon “go commando” rather than be forced to flaunt that thong? 


ADDENDUM: Of course, the primary feature after the overall graphics overhaul of the Half-Life 2 Cinematic Mod was the option to substitute a suitably bodacious model based on Adriana Lima because bewbz or something.
Won't lie, I switched to this version when playing the mod. Oink.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Jack Thompson – "Out of Harm's Way"

NOTE: This review was written in December 2005 for the now-defunct pro videogaming website (Global Gaming League). During a discussion of various controversies embroiling the videogame media on my podcast, Culture Vultures, this review was referenced and it would be better preserved here than lost in the digital ether.

As the cheerfully self-appointed Public Enemy #1 of violent videogames and those who make and sell them, Florida attorney Jack Thompson has made his crusade to protect children his life’s work and in the process managed to alienate everyone from those who balk at his efforts to those who would nominally be allied with him, like the National Institute on Media and the Family, themselves recently in the news for attacking the ESRB ratings system.

For gamers, the release of his book “Out of Harm’s Way” was another opportunity to act out their displeasure against their nemesis and a roving band who dubbed themselves “pixelantes” stormed the reader review sections of Amazon, posting one-star reviews and generally fulfilling the obnoxious stereotype of gamers that the general public has. The irony is that if these people had actually read Thompson’s book – and not just claim they did – they would’ve known that they were only feeding Thompson’s sense of mission for he writes of speaking tours where the hostile college crowds honed his rhetorical skills and gave him a sense of mischievous fun.

When my editor suggested that I review “Out of Harm’s Way” after my ironic commentary piece “Why Jack Thompson Is Right and Gamers Are Wrong” ran, my initial reactions were, “He has a book?” and “Why would I give this guy the time and money?” Since I’m troubled by others who rail against subjects they know little about, it did make sense to find out from the horse’s mouth what he had to say. What I found was an occasionally candid self-portrait of a man who has been on lonesome crusades to protect children for nearly two decades and despite his best intentions has turned into his and his cause’s own worst enemy.

While a bit of a slog at times for anyone not interested in Christian testimonial, the early portions of the book are interesting in his relation of his early years as a newlywed law school graduate who initially failed to pass the bar exam and had to rely on his wife’s lawyer income to support them while he got his act together with a mixture of faith and getting over his admittedly arrogant attitude.

After working for various practices and hanging out his own shingle, his life was changed in autumn 1987 when he heard a Miami morning radio “shock jock” that Thompson describes as openly gay soliciting young men to send in photos of themselves and descriptions of their sexual fantasies in order to win a vacation trip with the personality. Prior to this, Thompson considered himself to be a broad-minded libertarian with an attitude that speech shouldn’t be curtailed, but this tested his beliefs.

In a savvy move, he didn’t protest this nameless – the DJ is never named, a mystifying decision since he calls out others by name - shock jock’s conduct on the basis of his personal tastes being offended, but on the basis that it was in violation of FCC rules governing the broadcast industry. He started writing complaints to the station and FCC and in return, the local authorities – including Dade County prosecutor Janet Reno, years before her stint as U.S. Attorney General - generally gave him the brush-off and more distressingly, the host retaliated by reading Thompson’s name and address on the air, leading to harassment ranging from pizzas being sent to his house to outright death threats to be made.

After his protracted battle with the jock and the station marked by suits and countersuits, the victorious Thompson started getting contacted by other groups about other issues of concern regarding children including a teen help line that encouraged children to experiment with drugs and their sexuality, denigrated religion and told kids that their parents didn’t understand them and to go to their peers or school counselors for advice.

When Thompson investigated, he found that this was part of a deliberate scheme of extreme liberal interests – some of whom found employment in Cabinet positions of the Clinton Administration - to slip their anti-family agenda into the mainstream under the radar. When Thompson blew the whistle on them, part of the blowback against him was a suit from the Florida Bar Association that required him to undergo psychological evaluation to determine whether he was obsessed with sex since he was complaining about it. (He passed.)

Throughout his confrontations up to and through his attempt to have Miami rap group 2 Live Crew’s album “As Nasty As They Want To Be” declared obscene, the disconnect between what he was doing and why and how it was responded to by the politicians who are supposedly sworn to act in their constituents best interests is interesting. Frequently portrayed in the media as a maniacal religious zealot who was trying to inflict his morality upon everyone else, such a characterization ignores the opposite possibility that perhaps it’s the shock jocks, rap groups and social engineers who are trying to impose their immorality upon the public.

The common retort to his protests – then and now - was to STFU (i.e. shut the f*** up) which is an ironic response from those who proclaim free speech to be sacrosanct. For his part, Thompson states that freedom of speech is limited to political speech and that advocating brutality against women and homosexual pedophilia isn’t protected. He also points out that the end of the First Amendment allows citizens “to petition the government for a redress of grievances” and that’s what he’s done.

In contrast to Rosa Parks who was recently giving a hero’s sendoff for her simple act of disobedience challenging the prevailing government segregation policies, Thompson has routinely been vilified for his attempt to oppose the unmistakable coarsening of the culture. While no enthusiast of unchecked hedonism is going to like a buzz-killing, moralistic Puritan, for those not reflexively opposed to people’s right to protest, his tale is both interesting and sobering when we realize that if the powers-that-be are ideologically sympathetic to those being protested, they’ve got a whole lot of tools available to crush that dissent.

If Thompson wasn’t a lawyer with intimate knowledge of the system – with a wife whose income kept the family afloat when he was too hot to hire - he would’ve been flattened, which may be a thought that brings cheer the gamers who despise him, but it shouldn’t for what it means for individual liberties in general. In other words, if they can silence him, they can silence you, too.

While Thompson has an annoying habit of referring to himself in the third-person and the book’s editing is inconsistent by having his refusal to name names later slip in partial mentions (e.g. he attacks a “popular talk radio host” and then mentions “Rush”, referring to conservative talk icon Rush Limbaugh), where the book and Thompson plow headlong into trouble is the portrayal of the Ice-T song “Body Count” and his current activities against violent games. While he cuts a few corners in describing the song which was portrayed as calling for the murder of policemen, he really steps into it with his wholesale distortion of games, but a new villain (to gamers) is introduced that is at least partially responsible for his persistent misinformation: Lt. Col. David Grossman.

The retired Marine has made a notorious name for himself promulgating the theory of “killology” which states that people - initially military recruits - can be desensitized to violence through training and that violent games are “murder simulators” that teach impressionable youth the “skill and will to kill.” While that makes for a catchy slogan, it’s shaky social science when the isolated incidents that could be tenuously blamed on games are contrasted to the millions of players whose strongest violent impulse is to yell at whoever took the last frosty beverage in the refrigerator.

Because Grossman shared Thompson’s Christian beliefs and had a plausible-sounding, yet specious theory, Thompson divorced himself from the very reason and quest for truth he insisted was important to him in the beginning and started upon the downward road that made him the nemesis of gamers, the game industry and eventually himself and his best intentions.

Fed by his go-to status by news shows such as “60 Minutes”, he increasingly starts to bend truth and make unfounded connections between research studies and what they mean in practical terms. This is where gamers and the gaming industry has had him dead to rights, for in his campaign to save the children, he has recklessly and repeatedly broken the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shall not bear false witness” (i.e. “don’t lie”.) When he writes about the ability to pick up prostitutes in “Grand Theft Auto” and then kill them to get your money back and says that it allows you to “win the game faster”, he is deliberately distorting one of the seamier elements of the game, most notably that the game requires such behavior in order to progress.

While distortions like this and his contention that “Doom” was a training tool of the homicidal punks who murdered classmates in Paducah and Columbine will immediately elicit a raised eyebrow from those knowledgeable about these games, it’s important to note that “Out of Harm’s Way” isn’t targeted toward the gamer population or even the general public, but the Christian community. (My bookseller had it filed in the Religion section.) What makes this positioning troubling is that when Thompson starts talking about the reasons he wants games restricted there is a strong probability that these readers will not know that they’re being misled. Just as Thompson swallowed Grossman’s misinformation whole and regurgitates it, so will ignorant readers of this book.

He devotes a sizeable passage to a speech he delivered to his son’s Christian school which is so chock full of unfounded statements – a more polite way to say “outright lies” – about how parts of the brain deal sexual and violence stimuli and how there is an dastardly plan to market “murder simulators” to young, impressionable gamers, consequences be damned, a whole separate article dismantling it piece from piece could be written. Before he gave his talk, his son was afraid of what his classmates would say, but in Thompson’s telling, not only did they not duct tape him to the flagpole afterwards, Thompson received notes from students who said that now that their eyes had been opened to the insidious plot of evil, greedy corporations to sell them murder simulators and that they’ll never play them again. (If he received any feedback calling out his malarkey is unmentioned.)

Thompson leads the appendices with a section entitled “25 Culture War Tips From The Trenches” to guide anyone inspired to wage jihad against Satan and his greedy corporate minions. Filled with common sense advice, albeit contradictory at times (one rule is to “make friends” while another is to “trust no one”), the most ironic tips are, “Remember that it’s not about you,” and “Pick fights you can win,” because, “Every time you lose a battle, you give the other side a victory.”

With his recent bizarre and self-sabotaging behavior – offering a $10,000 prize for a game to be made that depicts the killing of the head of the Entertainment Software Association, then rescinding it when someone actually did it; complaining when a web site made a donation in his name to the ESA’s charity fundraising drive; sending out press releases calling people “Nazis”, drawing the ire of the previously allied NIMF; and being disbarred in Alabama and tossed off a police shooting suit in the scant months since this book’s writing and publication, the value of such advice must be weighed against how the advisor has done by his own counsel.

The book opens with a sickening dedication to the victims of the Paducah shootings, including the note that “When I die, I shall read this book to you in heaven,” but when an estimated 500 children (at a minimum) are reportedly dying annually from what’s called “the choking game” – cutting off the air supply to the point of near-unconsciousness to attain a euphoric high – his decision to obsessively pursue a legal agenda based on unproven science and specious claims of insidious corporate activities is questionable.

Multiples more children are dying in a fortnight than all the school incidents in the past decade he wishes to attribute to violent games. Aren’t these children worth saving or does the lack of a wealthy defendant to blame and sanction prevent his caring about them and their families? Does the lack of a villain – real or imagined – to vanquish make their lost lives too insignificant?

In the final analysis, “Out of Harm’s Way” is really the story of a man who may’ve started his journey fighting lonely battles against formidable foes and daunting odds, in order to stand against what he sincerely thought was wrong, only to fall victim to the hubristic belief that the ends justified the means. Perhaps he was led astray by the beguiling sooth of David Grossman – an intriguing thought considering Thompson writes that “Satan…is more brilliant and clever than you…[he] is always trying to lead the precious souls in this world astray.”

Or maybe he has just transformed into a latter-day Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills of Take-Two and Id Software thinking they be dragons. For someone who fancies himself a humble David taking on corporate Goliaths in the service of God, he has been laid low by his own ill-considered actions and as a result, put himself on the sidelines of the culture war he once zealously prosecuted.

Jack Thompson is a hard man to feel much sympathy for and it is natural, if less-than-admirable, to take some pleasure from his recent foibles and setbacks. I started reading “Out of Harm’s Way” with the usual negative preconceptions of who Thompson was based on years of reading his outrageous rhetoric, but even though he frequently retails Grossman’s bogus theories as proven fact and rankles with his distortions of what even casual gamers know to be untrue, I finished with an unexpected reaction: Pity.

While Jack Thompson has undeniably become a shameless liar and erratic personality, I don’t think he’s an evil man intent on doing evil deeds as much as he is a well-intentioned fool who has lost sight of what is true in the pursuit of what he believes to be right. If there is a moral to his story for readers, it may be that no cause – no matter how righteous or true – can be advanced when truth is abandoned to achieve a desired goal. While this probably isn’t the lesson Thompson sought to teach with “Out of Harm’s Way”, it’s worth remembering to avoid following in his tragic missteps.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Law Fought Me and I Won.

Almost 25 years ago I got pulled over on some BS moving violation - might have been doing 85 in a 25 (kidding!) - and at the hearing the cop lied and I blurted out, "He's lying!" The judge declared that I had an attitude problem and ordered me to, no kidding, Traffic Attitude Class. If I completed however many weeks of it, I'd have the ticket dropped and no points. Decent deal.

Problem is that it made me a marked man in my suburban Detroit town. The fuzz was so obvious about tailing me that it was impossible to overlook; when cop almost flips their car busting a U-turn to get behind you, you know you're popular. I'd heard from my girlfriend who worked at a donut shop that the cops from two towns would get together and trade target lists. Nice. Seig heil, herr officer!!!!

Anyhoo, one night I'm driving through the expensive part of town, noted for its winding boulevard road that used to be an open creek back in the day. I'd just left from a stop sign at a part where the road took a tricky jog when I see in my rear view mirror a cop car BLAZING up behind me with the lights flashing like he's in a hurry. I pull over to let him pass, but, oh WTF?, he was coming for me.

Cop walks up and orders me to cut my engine off and give him the keys. (Think there might have been some civil rights abuse there.) He asks for my papers and goes back to his car without telling me what he pulled me over for. My girlfriend and I are sitting there waiting when he comes back with the ticket. "You were driving pretty fast back there and I could've cited you for reckless driving, but BECAUSE YOU HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE, I only wrote you up for careless driving which carries half as many points. If you wish to pay or contest blah-blah-woof-woof...." and off he goes. Gee, can you say "frame job"? I knew you could. I go to start my car and....

The son of a bitch had my keys.

Remember, this is 1990 or so and civilians (read: po' folks) didn't have cell phones, so I was facing having a bit of a walk to a pay phone to call for a ride. Fortunately, I had a spare key in my hip pack and I was back in motion, heading for the police station. I go to the desk officer and explain what had happened. Someone called the screw on the radio and I heard him say incredulously, "He's already there?" (Yeah, Bub. I'm here.) He said he'd be there shortly and showed up perhaps 20 minutes later, a neat trick in a town only 12 sq. miles in size, no more than 4 miles from any border to another.

He saunters up to me and asks, "Did you have a spare set of keys?" How about an apology, Oedipussy? Nothing. Time to get to work....

I went to the city engineer's office and got an aerial blueprint of the stretch of road I was on and put it on poster board. I drove the path of the road and took photos showing the sightlines, or more appropriately, lack of sightlines to see from point to point due to the sweeping curves in the road. It was very slick.

Court date comes and my girlfriend and I go together since she was a witness. Cop goes first and tells a story about UFOs and pink elephants and....well, for all the lying he was doing, he may as well have. The capper was when he shared this fantasy with the judge, "When I approached the car, the defendant immediately became verbally abusive." My g/f and I nearly broke our necks and dislocated our jaws whipping to face each other in disbelief at this whopper. The judge - a different one from before and rather old - had to have noticed that we were flabbergasted by this fabrication.

When it came to be my turn, I calmly denied any belligerence (what does my manner have to do with the alleged infraction anyway?), explained with my exhibit how it was impossible for the officer to have seen what he claims to have seen, and told about the keys being taken. The judge, clearly to save face for the hapless flatfoot, said, "While I suspect that you may have been driving in excess of the posted residential speed limit, I don't believe that you engaged in careless driving, so I'm going to dismiss this citation."

One of two things could've happened after this crushing smackdown: The cops could've really stepped up the jihad or they could find some real criminals to harass. Fortunately, they chose the latter option and the heat went away totally. I don't think I've gotten another ticket here since and the last time I got stopped, it was for a totally legit reason - I'd double-parked to drop some stuff off and the cop was cool as ice to me, nicely suggesting that I not do that again.

The baffling thing about the whole incident is that the cops could've ganked me at any time for any made-up charge. Plenty of places to make up a 5-over ticket and screw my "no tickets before you see the judge again" order; they followed me enough. Instead, this moron safety patrol boy with a gun and the color of law dummies up the worst load of malarkey possible, probably on the presumption that what could a 23-year-old traffic offender possibly do to exonerate himself?


Welcome To The DIRKtionary!

Over the ages, I've built up a broad lexicon of iconoclastic phrases and definitions to entertain myself. While those who know the lingo get it without the original context, it can be baffling to newbies. So here are some of the phrases that pay. (Note: They don't pay.)

  • Avril TheVigne - Avril Lavigne.
  • Big Food Store - Costco, because it sells large sizes and quantities.
  • Blah-blah-woof-woof - My version of "yadda yadda yadda" or "blah-blah-blah"; taken from a line on Dark Angel.
  • Boobs McPhee - Rachel Nichols character on Alias
  • Buckorama - 2nd run movie theater, aka "dollar show."
  • CompUSA - Pronounced as one word, "Kahm-POO-suh."
  • Dark Knight Reloaded - My mocking of The Dark Knight Rises, tying it to the equally craptastic The Matrix Reloaded.
  • DirkFlix - My movie viewing diary and review site; downloaded movies.
  • Gringos - Non-minority people, aka "white people." 
  • Hermione - My girlfriend, allegedly my neighbor's stolen cat according to Culture Vultures lore.
  • Hot Boobs - Character played by Jessica Parker Kennedy on The Secret Circle
  • ManBearPig - From South Park, the mythical deity who is supposedly responsible for global warming or climate change or whatever the latest name applied to what used to be called "weather" is. Related: Church of ManBearPig (the religious institution that ManBearPiggers attend to practice ManBearPiggism, their religion. Al Gore and Michael Mann are the Popes of the Church.)
  • Nukerizer - Microwave oven.
  • "Rule X Violation" - Violations of Dirk's Three Laws (and One Strong Suggestion) of Band Naming.
  • Roundeyes - Non-Asian people, specifically white people (gringos). 
  • Slavic Housewife - Michelle Branch. (Too complicated to explain.) 
  • Stupidheads - What Hermione calls Pretty Little Liars; short for "Pretty Little Stupidheads" because they're such idiots.
  • Taco Guano - Taco Bell. 
  • Yummy Girl - Anne Hathaway.

The Bad Math of Keurig

Overpriced coffee machine pimps Keurig recently redesigned their KKK-cups (sp?) to include DRM because their original patent had expired and generic pods were available. To keep the money coming in they're using the DRM to prevent non-approved cups from being used, but competitors are claiming they've cracked the code and because the evil DMCA doesn't cover this specifically, they're likely to get away with it. Good. But when reading about these silly things I started thinking about the math involved with Keurig coffee makers and it's appalling.

When I moved to my current job, where I work alone in my office, I bought a 4-cup (20 oz) Mr. Coffee maker for $10. Package of 150 filters was $1. Big can of Maxwell House runs about $6 on sale. I drink a pot a day (very occasionally two) and after 9 months, I've just gotten into my 2nd package of filters and am half-way through the 3rd can of coffee. Not counting flavored creamers, I've spent less than $30 for about 400 10 oz. mugs of coffee so far, covering machine and coffee.

To make as much coffee with a Keurig would require a $120 machine and 800 coffee pods at ~55 cents a pop. That's $440, or $560 total to make as much K-offee as I make for $30. It may be "better" coffee, but there's no way in hell it's almost 19 times better! (If K-offee made your penis a foot longer and grow fangs and every girl who was an hard-8 or better within 10 miles run to you and fight for your attention like an Axe commercial, I could see the value, but otherwise...)

I just bought an HDTV for $550, so just by drinking Maxwell House instead of Keurig, it's as if I got a free TV. People ask me how I can afford so many gadgets and Blu-rays, etc. It's because I don't spend much on what I buy and the savings allow me to buy other stuff. Keurig drinkers had some coffee which was on its way to Wyandotte a few hours later. I had just as much coffee AND a 50" TV which I'll be watching for several years.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Killing Blow For The ManBearPiggers

THIS IS MUST READING for those who have to contend with the sad, insane, religious fanatics who hysterically run around screaming that ManBearPig is gonna kill us all unless we make Al Gore a billionaire or something.

The reason I'm so brutally harsh with these tragic lunatics is because they are ruining the world economy based on absolute bullsh*t draped in the misnomer "science." If you've seen my posts about this stuff, you know I always use the term "REAL SCIENCE" to differentiate from the pseudo-religious garbage the enviro-crazies peddle. This guy - a REAL SCIENTIST by the way; not a member of the MBP cult priesthood - absolutely nails in short order the differences:

Science deals with facts, experiments and numerical representations of the natural world around us. Science does not deal with emotions, beliefs or politics, but rather strives to analyse matters dispassionately and in an objective way, such that in consideration of a given set of facts two different practitioners might come to the same interpretation; and, yes, I am aware of the irony of that statement in the present context.

The phrase ‘Occam’s Razor’ is now generally used as shorthand to represent the fundamental scientific assumption of simplicity. To explain any given set of observations of the natural world, scientific method proceeds by erecting, first, the simplest possible explanation (hypothesis) that can explain the known facts. This simple explanation, termed the null hypothesis, then becomes the assumed interpretation until additional facts emerge that require modification of the initial hypothesis, or perhaps even invalidate it altogether.

Given the great natural variability exhibited by climate records, and the failure to date to compartmentalize or identify a human signal within them, the proper null hypothesis – because it is the simplest consistent with the known facts – is that global climate changes are presumed to be natural, unless and until specific evidence is forthcoming for human causation.

It is one of the more extraordinary facts about the IPCC that the research studies it favours mostly proceed using an (unjustified) inversion of the null hypothesis  – namely that global climate changes are presumed to be due to human-related carbon dioxide emissions, unless and until specific evidence indicates otherwise.
That last sentence is key because it reveals the fundamental dirty trick the ManBearPiggers play by insistent that their zealotry is the standard that all others must yield to and anyone who differs is a liar, a "denier", a "shill for Big Oil" or just plain stupid. The problem with the desperate shrieks of the MBPers is that when you put their bullsh*t under the microscope and test their preaching REAL SCIENCE STYLE, the FAIL epically every single f*cking time!!! There is no REAL SCIENTIFIC basis for their garbage, yet we're told to sacrifice light bulbs and safe cars and transfer billions to government cronies because they say so. FTS!!!

I saw an item yesterday that a scientist has a theory that could upend centuries of thought about how gravity works. If proven, it would require rethinking the mechanics of everything, but that's how REAL SCIENCE works; it's always being challenged and tested, forced to prove itself. Compare that to how ManBearPiggers react when you point out their books are cooked and more study is needed - they literally sh*t themselves in rage and reach into their loaded Underoos and start flinging their poo at you for your heresy.

REAL SCIENCE is science. The global warming hoax is a RELIGION, nothing more. If the Pope told us to use CFLs because God commanded it, we'd tell him go pound sand, but we're supposed to take Al Gore's word that we're doomed because he has a Powerpoint slide with a fraudulent "hockey stick" graph? Get real. And get sane. Knowledge is power and it's up to you to speak the true knowledge that REAL SCIENCE provides to the madness that the Apocalyptic death cult ManbearPiggers are peddling.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS (from my Facebook link to this story): These kooks claim that sane people who believe in REAL SCIENCE are "anti-science" when they're the ones doing immeasurable violence to the cause of science with their wolf-crying and overt lying. We should worry about minimizing air pollution, protecting our waters, making sure our food supply is sound and not burning our food in our cars because of the demands of a cabal of religious fanatics leveraging their cult's teachings for massive profit.

Every second and dollar wasted on the total fraud of global warming/climate change/ManBearPig is time and money not being spent on things that could actually provide benefit to the people of the world, not the connected cronies and scammers who inhabit the temples of junk religion calling itself "science."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

CFE: Saving Money The DIRK® Way

The Backstory: Lifehacker had a silly item about saving money by imagining things cost 10 times as much. Many people in the comments remarked how dumb an idea this is in practice, so I chimed in with this:

As others have noted, this is stupid advice because it asks you to imagine spending something no one without a royal title would consider paying.

What I do is view money not as a number but in terms of what it buys and what not spending on one thing allows me to purchase somewhere else. For example, I was considering getting a Galaxy S3 on AT&T. Amazon did a sale last year where all non-iPhones were a penny, so I decided to wait a couple of months for the time they'd done the sale to save the $200, which is like 20 Blu-rays on sale.. While waiting, the Nexus 4 was released and I'm using it with Straight Talk. Over the term of what the AT&T contract would've been, I'm saving over $900 going this route which is a new laptop or most of an HDTV or rent and gasoline for a month.

The reason people don't realize how the little things add up. Going to the cafeteria for lunch costs $7 a day, that's not so bad, right? Sure, unless you realize that it's $35 per week or $1750 per year! What aren't you able to buy with that $1750? How about buying some lunch meats, cheese and bread for $10 per week, brown-bagging it, and having $1250 more in your pocket to spend on something else? Don't buy the new game the day it comes out for $60; wait 6 months or a year and get it for $10 - the entertainment value doesn't evaporate.

With a little patience and some deferred gratification, you can save tons of money. Instead of imagining something costing 10X as much, just multiply what something costs over time and then see how much other stuff you could buy (or SAVE!) instead. I'm able to live a lifestyle of someone making twice as much by just being smart about spending. While my friends are subsisting one paycheck to the next or are buried with credit card debt, I've got no debt, just pay my monthly bills/rent/car lease without interest, and have the ability to splurge on whatever I want on the rare occasions some deal comes along because I've saved.
Another tip is taking drinks with you when going to the bar. Since you have to go outside to smoke, it doesn't look weird to be going to the parking lot in between bands. Two tall boy cans of Labatt Max Ice are $3 (plus tax and deposit - $3.38 at the party store and have the liquid quantity of four beers and the alcohol content of eight beers. Depending on the bar, brand, and tipping, eight beers would cost you around $30! Save $26 bucks by getting your drink on in the car or buy one in the bar and still save a Jackson.

If you drink pop (soda, Coke, soft drinks, whatever your locality calls it) and aren't buying 2-liter bottles, you're throwing money away. People laugh at my giant bottles of pop at work, but I paid $1 for over 64 ounces - don't tell Nanny Doomberg! - while they paid at least $1.20 for the 20 oz. bottle they have. I've got three times the pop for less than a third the price. When there's a sale, I stock up. I drink about a liter a day, so $2.50 takes care of me for a week. Co-workers are paying at least that much per DAY for their consumption - five times as much. Chug!

Friday, December 28, 2012

CFE: The One Where The Atheist Has Irony Expained To Him

The Background: had the usual masturbatory Gawker network anti-religious screed using a Harvard report about how American students are falling behind as a launch pad to bash some silly Christian textbooks. (Because crappy teachers unions and the government indoctrination system has no effect, right?) I don't even know if the example shown was referred to in the report or some extreme example to illustrate how crazy them Sky Man Jeebus freaks are because them snake handlers is crazy, amirite?

Anyhoo, one of the unevolved chimps in the comments section chittered:

Eventually those kids will grow up and realize they've been lied to, right? 
 To which I replied:
The irony of your anti-religious sneer is that the real rude awakening is when the poor victims of our pass-along, everyone gets a participant ribbon, therapeutic, feelings-based, outcomes-based government indoctrination programs run into the real world and discover that they're not prepared for reality and their entire birthright has been mortgaged in order to buy the votes of moochers and socialist government cronies. We're seeing it now as all the chumps who voted for Obama now can't find jobs, but are so ill-informed that they re-elected him because they've been programmed to slobber and pull the lever next to the picture of a donkey. Wait until you try and collect on all that free stuff you were promised. Suckers.
Doubly funny is how the atheistic jackwagons who sneer at "Creationism" or "intelligent design" or "Sky Man" beclown themselves as they initially chin-stroke and murmur about the second law of thermodynamics only to solve the serious problem of where the matter of the Universe initially came from by saying, "Oh, it just appeared." Anyone who takes Steven Hawking seriously after that brain fart is a fool. How do you bash people for believing God created everything when you believe the seed matter for the Universe just materialized from nothing.
The truth is that neither of the Coke or Pepsi stories explaining how everything is here holds much water. Sorry, but it's true. We can't explain where God came from and we can't explain where the matter for the closed system of Big Bang and then billions of years of random occurrences leading to Earth, grass, birds, fish, trees, and Anne Hathaway came from. We are simply here despite the evidence and thus choose which story feels better. The difference between overtly religions people and atheist assholes is that the former understand that they are engaged in a faith whereas the latter are hardcore religionists using "science" as a cudgel with which to beat people into worshiping their belief system.
Atheist assholes believe that faith is the enemy of reason. The fact there are many scientists who are expressly in their fields because they wish to understand God's design of nature is unknown to them or a novelty like a conservative in Hollyweird.

As I commented, we are here despite the evidence, but of the two choices available, the idea that an Almighty created everything is far more plausible than the whole "lucky random series of events" proposal. At least I know there's no "proof" for my beliefs. The atheist jerks don't, yet they pretend they're not engaged in their own religious practices. Just because you've removed a central deity doesn't make what they're doing any less a religion; see the global warming/ManBearPig cultists for a perfect example.

Friday, August 03, 2012

I Bought That For A Dollar!

One of the cool features about Android devices are the Live Wallpapers - snazzy, interactive and/or animated wallpapers that really liven up your home screens. (That my Samsung Galaxy S II phone has part of the functionality crippled by the petty harassing lawsuits by Apple is a rant for another time.) Many of these wallpapers are available for free from the Google Play store, but to encourage people to pay a buck (i.e. 99 cents), many developers lock customization settings on the free versions. It's a decent trade-off: Cheapskates like me can get some basic cool papers for no cost and people who like to tweak are welcome to pay.

Why looking around for some new walls, I came across the Mystic Halo Live Wallpaper Free which looks a little like this (not my video; from Play page):

As usual, when changing wallpapers I hit the Settings button to see what options were available and was greeted by this:

The listing of what features are unlocked for your penny less than a dollar is the usual stuff. The picture of the puppy thinking, "So hungry!" and the promises that buying the wallpaper would feed the dog, capped off with the button text is sheer genius. I'm a cat person and I wanted to feed the puppy and felt a little bad when I canceled out the first time. I posted about this on Facebook, but it merited some pictures to make the point, so this.

Since I had credit from my Nexus 7 purchase, I decided to spend 4% of my balance to feed Lizzy. He should buy her a kitteh to keep her company!

This is a useful lesson in marketing. When so many people are using the same "freemium" technique to distribute - and hopefully monetize - their wares, you need something extra to differentiate one's self. If he'd just put up the usual nag screen, I wouldn't have bought it. By being different and memorable, he made me say...

...and pried a virtual dollar out of my hand where none* had done so before. Bon app├ętit, Lizzy!

* To be honest, I've paid for a few other freemium wallpapers when Play had a sale with stuff for 10 cents a pop. I'll buy anything for a dime; a dollar, not a chance.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Why Royal Oak Ford Can Eat A Dick!

Background: I'd never had a new car until 2000 when, in the aftermath of a ghetto mechanic puncturing the fuel tank of my old (but paid-off) GMC Jimmy, I took on a lease for a Ford Explorer. When that was up a couple years later, I leased another for three years and another for two years after that. Rising fuel prices made me switch to a 2007 Fusion for a couple of years then a 2010 four-banger for the past three. My lease is up in a few months.

Every time I did a deal with the dealership, which has been my default go-to because it's literally a five-minute walk from my home, I felt slightly screwed-over as if I ended up paying too much or something. Every time I swore it'd be the last time I'd lease from this dealership, even when they changed ownership and switched from McLaughlin Ford to Royal Oak Ford some years back. As much as I disliked them, the sheer convenience of the location and the fact it was a once every two or three year pain kept me coming back.

No longer. F*ck Royal Oak Ford in their f*cking ears. They can eat a dick.

The fun begins three weeks ago when I took my car in on Good Friday for an oil change and a recall involving my wheels. When I called to schedule the recall look-see, they said it involved the wheel studs. My sunroof had also stopped retracting, but they wanted $105 to just examine it (applicable to the repair) and since it was going back in a few months, I passed on the opportunity to hand them another C-note. They called me several hours later to say that there was a small leak from the transmission boot that was covered by the power train warranty, but they didn't have time and people to do it that day, even though it was only noon. It wasn't a pressing emergency, so it could wait.

When I picked up the car, they asked if I'd like it washed for free and then sent me on my way after paying for the oil change, which for a dealership is actually cheaper and better-quality than what I get at the local Valvoline quick change place. Wheels fixed, oil changed, car washed, life was good.

Or so I thought.

The next day, while pulling into a diner lot to get some breakfast, I noticed that there were lug nuts in my cup holder. Huh? Closer examination showed they were the locking lugs that I'd purchased in the aftermath of my previous Fusion's wheels being ripped off. Um, why were these here and not on my wheels? I got out and checked my wheels and they had five lugs on them, so WTF? I have a four-way lug wrench in the trunk, so I went to make the switch and discovered that the locking lugs weren't tightening up. Huh a second time? What gives? It was then I realized that they simply didn't fit - they were spinning freely because the posts were too small. How the heck did this happen? Aren't wheel studs pretty much the same size?I called the dealership immediately, but since it was a Saturday and nearing 3 pm, there was no one around to ask about this. I put it on my list of things to do, but kept putting it off for one reason or another; I figured I'd stop in sometime.

Last week, a survey request was emailed to me and having a little spare time at work I completed it, blasting them in the comments for not telling me about the wheel locks being left off. Someone from the dealership left a voicemail on my home phone the other day asking for a callback and I was going to give them a jingle, but some asstackler managed to call my work phone first. This is when it all went to hell.

This jackass - I think his name was Jerry, but let's go with Jackass - basically came out of the gate like a shrill little bitch, whining that I had not called to complain to them before dinging them on the survey. Oh, so the problem is that you were content being jerks until Ford corporate types got tipped off? Oh, it's on, muthaf*cka!!! In the course of a five minute long conversation, he managed to be sporadically insincere about my concerns before lapsing back into whimpering about his butthurt over my not calling and talking to them before ratting them out to daddy Ford.

Now, what was the purpose of Jackass's call? To address customer concerns or make me backtrack from my offending his honor? I pointed out that no one mentioned the lugs to me either on the phone or and he nearly screamed that it was on the paperwork and so I can just shut up my stupid mouth! (I don't have the papers handy, but it's irrelevant for this discussion.) When I asked what the deal was with the differing stud sizes and he claimed that only the lugs had been changed. Between his hysterical squealing and demands someone apply Tucks to his inflamed hemorrhoids, I realized there was no talking to the clown and wrapped things up by telling him that he'd sealed Royal Oak's Ford hopes of ever getting my business again.

What's exceptionally stupid about this jerk's call was that it presumed that he was the only Ford dealership I could get my next car from. Um, no. He's the only Ford dealer ON MY BLOCK, but there are other dealers, all of whom haven't had their a-hole service manager call me up at work to bitch about my temerity in complaining about their crap service.

Last Labor Day, Dean Sellers Jr. himself of Dean Sellers Ford called me up at home and arranged an Arts, Beats and Eats ticket package for me and really put himself out to help this total stranger who'd left a voicemail in his box. I'd never leased a car - much less FIVE cars - from them, but they were willing to help. What did Royal Oak Ford do but be bullies? I pay the same price for cars wherever I go due to my work, so the ONLY thing that Royal Oak Ford offers me is locality. NOTHING MORE and that was before they pulled this stunt. Anyone have a good reason why I shouldn't give Dean Sellers a call?

It didn't occur to me until I started pounding out this rant that Jackass the Service Manager was flat out lying about the locks being the wrong size because not only did they transfer the locks from my old ride to this one, but I've had the oil changed - WHICH INCLUDES TIRE ROTATION - at least twice at the dealership and NO ONE MENTIONED THE LOCKS BEING THE WRONG SIZE before. I'd also had a flat that needed plugging and had changed the tire, not to mention that if they didn't fit as claimed, they would've fallen off sometime in the previous 45,000 miles. (I had mentioned that to him and he started screaming again.)

Royal Oak Ford can eat a dick and so will Jackass. I'm going to check the paperwork, clean up this post's language and trim it down, and send it to the general manager of the dealership under the title, "Why I Am Not Buying My Sixth Car From Royal Oak Ford. (And You Can Eat A Dick!)" (OK, the last part won't be on there.) I specialize in the Wrath of God Complaint Letter® and when you're as militantly stupid as Jackass was, you are profoundly inviting an air strike onto your position.

It's raining dicks, Royal Oak Ford and Jackass! Eat them!


UPDATE: 2/11/2015 - I never bothered sending the GM the note, but last summer I spent over THREE HOURS trapped there on a Saturday morning to get a freaking OIL CHANGE. They had the waiting room TV set to MSNBC which was a treat for the customers who may've been lacking hours of extreme liberals one-upping their horror stories about Republicans. (Stuff like, "The reason Republicans oppose abortion is because they like to eat babies." This is barely an exaggeration.) Hoo boy, now they'll never get my service business either, though I did have them do the repairs on my last car when it sustained $13,000 in damages when it was stolen for its wheels. There was a recall on the car too, so as much as I hate ROF, I needed things fixed someplace close.

Since this post originally went up, I leased a Fusion from Fairlane Ford in Dearborn because it was close to my work and after a job change put me on the other side of town, got another Fusion from Roy O'Brien Ford in St. Clair Shores. The only reason I didn't patronize Dean Sellers is because it was too inconvenient to work and home.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CFE: Act of Valor Makes Liberal Critics Sad In Their Pants.

The Background: Drew McWeeney at HitFix reviewed Act of Valor and simply couldn't restrain his liberal knees from jerking. (My review is here.) This prompted the following comment:

I saw a screening of Act of Valor in early December and found it to be an odd mix of superawesomeincredible action and painfully stilted melodrama. Using real SEALs made the action feel hella more authentic than pampered Hollyweird stars who've had a few days of "boot camp" training with Dale Dye would deliver, but the plot parts suffered from tired tropes (e.g. if you can't immediately spot which one has the call sign of "Dead Meat", you've never seen a movie) delivered by earnest warriors with the looks and acting skills of Peyton Manning. I tried to imagine how it would've played with all real actors or more of a pseudo-documentary "found footage" execution and couldn't decide which would've been better. (It's like how Clerks probably wouldn't have worked as well with real actors as Mallrats showed.)

However, the movie is the latest political football for hyper-liberal commentators to get their hate on for the military, war in general, and "BUSHITLER! WAR FOR OIL! LIES!!!" The Huffington Post has been wringing their dainty hands over the idea that our soldiers be portrayed as anything but the raping killers (as seen in Redacted), duped victims of corporatist war (e.g. Lions For Lambs), damaged thrill jockeys (Hurt Locker), and/or ticking time bombs threatening civilians back home (In the Valley of Elah) they imagine soldiers as being, not that they actually would deign to know any real soldiers. War is bad, mmmkay, and anyone in the military is either a fascist skinhead warmonger or a poor exploited minority. Right. (It's ironic that the same people who are hating on this movie are cheering Obama for "getting bin Laden" and on the night of the State of the Union a month ago, SEALs were rescuing an American held hostage by Somali pirates in a manner similar to a rescue dramatized in this very movie.)

On the other hand, conservative pundits are wildly overpraising Act of Valor as the greatest thing since film stocks moved from nitrate to acetate bases. It's easy to understand why: When the only positive depictions of the military to counter the narrative detailed in the previous paragraph seems to show up when we're fighting robots or aliens. (Not that Battle: Los Angeles was roundly bashed for being too pro-soldier, cuz we all know they're crazed Nazi timebombs rapist murderers.) Act of Valor isn't as great as the Right says and as terrible as the Left wants to smear it.

Drew's review is revealing in how allergic he is to values that exist outside of the Hollyweird bubble of liberal secular humanism. For someone so close to the movie BUSINESS as he is, he seems deeply offended that there are Christian (gasp!) and pro-military (to the fainting couch!) filmmakers who aren't militantly dedicated to offending the Flyover rubes who watch NASCAR and drink domestic beer and are actually making a buck doing so. I'm sure it's due to his deeply-held beliefs and not just because he lives and works in an industry where political affiliations are literally make or break for one's livelihood. However, reviews like this one with its, "Can you believe there are morons who fall for this stuff?", tone indicates that he can't even imagine anyone who doesn't align with his personal views being here and reading and if there are, they should have their incorrect thinking slapped around.

I've never understood why Hollyweird has chosen insult their customers and hand each other trophies for movies the unwashed rabble have no interest in seeing when there are piles of money for the taking if only they could mask their utter contempt for the paying customers. The self-anointed enlightened liberal elites can't stop vomiting over the success of movies like The Blind Side - let's not even mention a certain movie that Mel Gibson made which sits at #17 of the all-time domestic chart - but I can give you 309 million reasons they're fooling themselves. The denizens of Hollyweird doesn't need to actually become conservative or practice any of those archaic Judeo-Christian values in their own lives; they just need to stop screaming, "WE HATE YOU PEOPLE AND ALL YOUR STUPID BELIEFS!!!", with their movies. Stop insulting the customers and they'll give you money. Just fake it and take it. Is that too hard?

The commercial success or failure of the film is going to be spun by each side. If it flops, liberals will crow that it's because it was a terrible movie and if it succeeds, they'll dismiss it as being red meat for Red State bubbas who are terrible people. Conservatives will, who cares what THOSE PEOPLE think, right?

The polarization is even effecting evaluation of the most impressive and least political part of the movie, its look. Shot mostly on HDSLRs (Canon 5D MkII and 7D), it looks SLICK - Michael Bay slick. The HDSLR has been the indie filmmakers best friend since the Canon XL1, but it's typically been used for shakycam mumblecore stuff, not Big Action Movies and if I hadn't been tipped by the intro my screening had that HDSLRs were used, I would've been even more stunned by learning that. However, when noted photographer and HDSLR prophet Vince Laforet blogged about how remarkable a technical achievement achievement the film was, his comments section was overrun with comments like this: "Hey.. great another macho film… Yep show it to kids in the school, so they can serve as front line meat again. It seems we’ve had enough of that Vincent. There’s nothing glorifying about these guys." Lovely.