Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Weekend in Review

Since Hurricane Charley interrupted our usual broadcast, I'm going to do a different post today. I didn't really watch any movies over the weekend, but I did tune in to the Olympics and watched a lot of hurricane coverage. My thoughts on both:

Hurricane Charley: I'm glad it didn't hit where I'm at, but I feel for those who were hit by it. Several donation and volunteer programs are in full swing for those affected, and I hope people take advantage of them. The most frustrating part of it all was waiting. Sitting around, knowing it may be headed your way, and not being able to do a thing about it. Nothing like a force of nature to make us feel as powerless and puny as we really are in the grand scheme of things.

For those who complain about having to evacuate "for nothing" and say they won't bother next time, I say go for it. I'm all for thinning the herd by getting rid of a few idiots. After seeing what Charley did to Punta Gorda and other areas, if there's even a possibility of a storm turning my way, I'm preparing for the worst.

Olympics: The opening ceremony was excellent and redeemed the Greek nation, which was under a lot of fire for their preparation or lack thereof. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As for the competition so far, here are the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: Michael Phelps is winning medals left and right, even if the color isn't what some might have hoped. I list him under the good because when he's interviewed, you really get the sense that this is a guy who loves competition and is truly proud to just be there competing. All of the pressure the media has tried to put on him hasn't appeared to affect his perspective so far, and I hope it won't.

The US men's gymnastics team put in a tremendous effort en route to their silver medal last night. Japan showed that they were undoubtedly the gold medal team for these games, but the US men rallied back from a disappointing rings rotation to put up 6 excellent routines on the parallel and high bars and beat out the Romanian team in the process.

The Bad: The United States' rose-colored glasses approach to the games. Watching commercials and even the coverage of the games, you'd think we're the favorite in every event. Let's be honest and say that Michael Phelps is competing against two or three guys (as he was in the 200 freestyle) that will likely beat him. From that perspective, his bronze in the event is a tremendous accomplishment, which it was. From the perspective of "there goes his shot at the Spitz record," it's a disappointment. While I understand the desire to get the viewing public excited about the games and the competitors, let's still respect the tremendous athletes from other countries by being realistic in our perspective.

The Ugly: The US men's basketball team was an embarrassment to the United States on Sunday. I hope we go back to using amateurs for the next games, which I know we won't. Two things make me angry- one, the list of athletes who declined the invitation to compete. While I understand their hesitance to endanger their money-making season playing ability, it's an incredibly selfish thing to not represent your country in a sport you excel at. The second is the attitude of the US team. They appear to think they're entitled to the gold just for showing up. They seem to think they can come back from any deficit. There is no sense of urgency, no team-oriented desire to win that was apparent in Sunday's game.

That said, I admire Iverson, James, and Duncan for playing in the games. The other players should be honored to be there- none of them are among the best we have to offer. The problem is in the incentives that exist for NBA players not to play. Why threaten your season, and all of the money that comes with it, for international competition that isn't rewarding to those with a money focus? Let's go back to recruiting guys who have a genuine desire to play and to win, and see what they can accomplish. If some of them are NBA players, great. If not, start visiting colleges. I've never seen a more disappointing "team" effort than I saw against Puerto Rico. Whom, by the way, were a bunch of guys with a genuine desire to play and to win. Funny how that works.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Why I Love Liberals

Instead of my normal politics/economics post, I'm going to do more of an informal article on my love for liberals.

Why I Love Liberals:

1. Their belief that spending more money on healthcare, education, and everything else can be accomplished while reducing the budget deficit. Higher taxes, anyone? How about everyone?

2. Their belief that raising the minimum wage will go hand-in-hand with their plans to reduce overseas outsourcing and job creation. Yeah- businesses will hire more people and send less work overseas when they have to pay more for labor. Sounds reasonable to me.

3. The way that they call conservatives and anybody with religious beliefs "hate-mongers" and other affectionate terms, as if their hatred of these people (not to mention Bush) is ok.

4. Their continued statements that a 15 month approach to war that included repeated attempts to bring the UN and other nations on board was both unilateral and rushed.

5. Their assertions that Bush improperly relied on faulty intelligence regarding Iraq when the intelligence he relied on was supported by several other nations and several congressmen relied on it when they voted to approve military action, including one John Kerry.

6. The way they're working to suppress the Swift Boat Veterans when actions by Republicans to suppress similar types of information would immediately be condemned as the suppression of free speech.

7. The fact that they keep mentioning how this group (the Vets) is funded by a rich Texas Republican when Moveon.org and other initiatives are funded by rich Democrats. Yet they're somehow valid while the Vets aren't?

8. Their elevation of "tolerance" and "diversity" to a level of importance usually reserved for religion, while doing all they can to remove Christianity from schools, public offices, and anywhere the courts will allow them to. Apparently tolerance of Christians is not required.

9. Their belief that taking mild steps to make it harder for children to access pornography online is a heinous affront to society. Pornography is a heinous affront to marriages, families, and anybody with values. But heaven forbid we restrict it. Oops- I said heaven.

10. The fact that they indoctrinate children through their control of the educational system in America (teachers' union, anybody?) but fight Christianity in schools since it supposedly indoctrinates children. I guess it's not a matter of whether or not there's indoctrination, but who's doing it.

That's the list for now. A hurricane's coming, so I'll be back after it moves through.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Movie Reviews

I missed a post or two last week, but this week I should be on top of things. Work's getting a little frenzied as we approach the start of a new school year. This is also my last week before my final year of grad school begins again. Should be interesting.

Here are the reviews, ratings out of 5 stars as usual.

Miracle: What's not to love about a true story of this magnitude? The thing that really set this apart from other underdog sports movies is the attention to detail. Every play was right on, and you felt like you were watching those games again. Also, the movie recreated the political and cultural atmosphere of the time perfectly. With such rich context and great performances all around, this is a can't-miss movie. Four and a half stars.

Starship Troopers 2: I know, I know. Call it morbid curiosity. This was exactly what I'd expect out of a direct-to-video sequel to a cheesy sci-fi flick. None of the original actors, a departure from the original plot (although a minor one compared to most of these films), more gore, and more nudity. Ah yes- if you don't have the star power and the budget, put in some nudity. With that said, I did find it interesting enough to watch all the way to the ridiculous ending. One and a half stars.

The New Guy: A friend recommended it, so I gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this wasn't just another crude sophomoric humor movie with the same tired jokes. This movie took the formula and dialed down the crude humor quite a bit (except for the opening scene, it was pretty tame compared to most other movies of this type) while finding different ways to get laughs. Maybe I was just too tired when I watched it, but I thought it was hilarious. Eddie Griffin is excellent, and the cameos alone make it worth watching. Few things are better than a psychopathic Vanilla Ice beating record store customers down. While not for everybody, it was a solid comedy in my opinion. Four stars.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

To Bounce or Not to Bounce...

Where's the bounce? That's the big question coming out of last week's DNC, and it's being downplayed by Dems and trumpeted by Repubs. I personally think that the truth of the matter is so many people are decided one way or another already that few decided voters would swing based on either convention. As for undecideds, I think it's going to take a lot more than superficial rah-rah fluff to persuade them to pick either one. Here's hoping the debates give us something more.

On the Democratic side, I'm a little disappointed in Kerry's speech. Not much real content, and his tendency to be too verbose will hurt him if not corrected. He loses people. On a different note, I can't believe how excited people got for Billary. She's possibly the worst speaker I've heard in recent years, and he's a self-absorbed womanizer who did well-documented things with interns while riding the coattails of an economic expansion that had little to do with his leadership. Still, the crowd shots revealed convention-goers who I thought were going to pass out from the excitement when he was announced. How sad that he's that much of a hero to people. Once somebody can convincingly explain why he deserves that level of admiration, I'll reconsider my stance.

On the Republican front, it's been pretty quiet while the DNC had its week. Bush has been moving to respond to the 9/11 report, and in spite of the "too little too late" stance of the Dems, I'm glad something's being done in response. My only hope is that the pressure to respond quickly doesn't come back to bite us in the future through bad decisions.

Republicans have been calling into question Kerry's documentation of his war experience as well. Now this is a little strange to me, and not because of my political persuasions. On a basic level, what kind of person goes back after battles and "reenacts" them for video footage? If you're truly behind something, you go do it, give it your all, and keep moving. Kerry's focus on footage during his tour that's being reported makes me wonder where that line between ambition and obsession is drawn. Was he just there for future political leverage? His actions once he returned seem to indicate that the political side of the war was far more important to him than what was being done to win it. If that's the case, and I'm not sure it is yet, I would have severe questions about his ability to support and lead our troops.

Economics: As we march towards the election, I would encourage everybody to read Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics." I started the book last night, and it is one of the most readable, common-sense books I've ever read on the topic. With so many candidates having economic agendas and planks in their platform, every voter should be familiar with economic principles, and this book is excellent for readers at any interest level. I've studied domestic and international economics at the undergraduate and graduate level, and so I can confidently state (based on the first section of the book, at least) that this is one of the best economic books out there.

Movie Reviews

I survived the audit. Barely, but I survived. Only after a long weekend of complete mental loafing could I return to work. So in the interest of that loafing, I decided to watch a couple of movies...

Evil Dead: I'd never seen the original work in the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell trilogy, so I decided to watch it. Wow. This had to be one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen. Especially since it tried to be genuinely frightening and serious. I'm not surprised it gained a cult following, due to the overdone gore and campiness, but what a lame movie. The special effects at the end, once the last two are killed, are especially funny. Things that seemed cool in the '80's.... One and a half stars.

Army of Darkness: This movie always cracks me up. I give this one credit for not even trying to be serious. I know- I skipped Evil Dead 2 in the sequence. I've seen it somewhat recently and didn't feel the need to brush up. However, Army of Darkness is one of my favorite "guilty pleasures" movies from my mislead childhood. The complete disregard for any level of logic is so blatant and beautiful that I can't resist cheering as Ash fires off approximately 56 rounds from his rifle without reloading. 3 stars.

That's it for the weekend. Back later today with my political and economic post.