Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Red Sparrow Fails to Soar

I know. I know. I've fallen down on reviewing the movies I see. Most recently, I went to see Red Sparrow. While I have not loved every Jennifer Lawrence movie, she still shows in everything she does that she is that rare natural actor. She is unfiltered in her performance and this movie is no different. Red Sparrow is meant to be a gritty, character driven spy movie. The problem is not with the acting skills. In fact, the only thing that saves the movie are the performances that the actors turn in. 

The problem with the movie is that it is unevenly paced and often muddled plot. It lacks believable cohesion.  Jennifer Lawrence turns in a credible performance as does her male counterpart, Joel Edgerton. The problem is that the two have zero chemistry on screen. Their love scenes which should be perhaps gentle and moving lack any real emotional ties and fail to juxtaposition against the grim and over-the-top sadistic Sparrow training scenes. Speaking of which, exactly how many Sadistic rape/sex scenes do we need to get the point across? Sparrow training is gruesome and hard and if the Sparrow fails, they die. We get it in about ten minutes of movie. The rest is unnecessary. 

 There is enough plot and character to hold the movie together. What hurts it is it uneven pace. The movie consists of largely talking followed by sadistic scene followed by Jennifer Lawrence walking somewhere followed by more talking followed by grim torture followed by more talking followed by Jennifer Lawrence walking somewhere followed by exciting scene followed by talking... Get the picture? 

Despite the fact that it Jennifer Lawrence is good as the Sparrow who would do anything to be sure her mother (Joely Richardson) is safe, believing that she is a premier ballerina of the Bolshoi is a bit of a stretch. With the exception of Lawrence's and Edgerton's characters and despite reasonably solid performance by supporting cast members like Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Ramping, most of the secondary characters are barely two dimensional. Even the big bad of the movie, Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays the Sparrow's evil Uncle who looks oddly like Putin, has only a halfhearted attempt to give him some depth. Take for example the sadistic hit-man and torturer Matorin (Sebastian Hülk) is a stereotypical henchman.  Most of the characters are pretty much these stereotypes.
I wanted Red Sparrow to be more than it was. I wanted to care about what happens to the characters. But alas, I didn't. Red Sparrow is just an okay movie. I won't be buy the DVD. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Little Logic

I've been contemplating the whole "fake news" thing. I want you to consider the logic of it. Put aside that since its adoption the places it most likely appears to be used besides the White House is by dictators around the world, I want you to stop and consider this idea that all news organizations except the one you listen to are out to get Donald John Trump.

Are most news organizations of a liberal bent. Some are. Some aren't. Are the news organizations often sensational. Yes. Look, there is a reason why in the news world there is the saying "if it bleeds, it leads." As long as news organizations must make money, they will lead with the sensational and salacious and grim. The question isn't really any of these things. The question is "are what news organizations reporting fake?"  "Fake news" is, after all, Orwellian double-speak for "lies."

Unlike Facebook, Twitter and a host of pundits on the web and TV, real news outlets, from the AP to Reuters to CBS to ABC to NBC and to CNN, have to meet standards. They all have standards and practice departments. Most are under control of the FCC. There are a slew of lawyers who vet stories. There are producers who look at the stories validity and interest. Even "unnamed sources" are verified by other sources. What you must do is distinguish between editorial content and news. On Facebook, YouTube and Twitter there are no such standards. It's why all those wonderful pages you use for your memes can post things that are patently untrue. Quotes that were never actually said. Events that never occurred.

When a true news organization gets it wrong, they update the story. This is a sign of not "fake news" but concern to get it right. Take the recent "fake news" awards put out by the White House. The first place award was not news it was an editorial. All the other awards were given to stories that were corrected as soon as the error was discovered, some within in hours of the mistake. Some reporters were suspended or even lost their jobs because of the mistakes. One of the "fake news" stories was a tweet. This is hardly a news story. The reporter who issued the tweet, apologized within an hour for his mistake. This is also not the only award given to a tweet. People make mistakes and some do stupid things. News organizations make mistakes. Good ones try to correct those mistakes.

For the whole fake news conspiracy to work you have to believe that not only every network, newspaper, magazine, and wire service in the US is out to get one guy. Not only that, you have to also believe that all of these same stories which are reported around the world that every independent news organization are also involved in this conspiracy. Spend just a few seconds looking at the news reported in Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada, etc.

Whether you like it or not, you must break out of your bubble. You may not like what they report, that doesn't make it fake. It is why we have the pesky First Amendment.  To be well informed you have read beyond the  headline.

Our election was attacked. Our democracy was attacked. That attack was not just in this country. Russia has attacked virtually the election of every democracy in the world. There is simply no logic to thinking that everything you see that is negative about this president is fake news.

I am still unable to put my head around how many of the people who post the lies and quite honestly hate from their Facebook feeds were just a few months ago angry that Obama wore a tan suit. I take very little at face value. It is why I don't post "news" memes or political memes. I choose not to spread stupidity and lies.

What do you choose?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Now for the False Comparison

Yes, Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world. No, Switzerland does not have the lowest, but it is one of the lowest. I think it is currently 8th. By the way, of the countries with lower homicide rates than Switzerland, the top ones, Singapore and Japan,  have extremely restrictive gun laws. 

No, the Honduras does not have a strict gun law banning all guns. A number of types of guns are allowed, but the AR-15 has been banned. Guns and Ammo magazine also rated Honduras #10 as one of the "10 best countries" in which to own a gun in 2014.  I should point out that Switzerland was rated #3.  Care to guess who number 1?

No, Switzerland does not require everyone to have a gun. What it does have is a military requirement. They give a gun to everyone who serves but the gun is sent home with no ammo, under strictly controlled circumstances, and is expected to be returned after the service is complete, but they can also opt to buy the gun following service. The Swiss have a substantial lower gun ownership rate than the US despite their liberal gun laws. They do require extensive background and mental health checks, though. 

Switzerland has a GDP that ranks it among the top 20 nations in the world despite land-wise being 134th in the world. Honduras has nearly twice the land and two coasts on two oceans, but its GDP is 2.5% of Switzerland. It is also racked by poverty, drugs and corrupt government. Many of the homicides are inner city, poverty related, and often involves drugs. 

The fact is comparing two countries because of their population and some very inaccurate information is not a reason to compare gun laws. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Where did you grow up?

Those of you who keep posting memes about guns in the back of every pick-up truck, exactly where did you grow up? If you kept a loaded gun in a gun rack, you are unsafe and very possibly a fool.

Where I grew up, there were gun racks in most pick-ups. I even went hunting and had a gun in my car when I did. It was also kept empty when being transported. You see, we took hunter's safety and most parents were very careful to make sure kids remained safe with weapons. At my house, guns were kept empty and locked up. 

At school, however, those racks were generally kept empty. If it were hunting season, you might see an occasional shotgun or rifle depending on the season. I can also almost guarantee that those guns were kept empty. These guns, by the way, are a long way from an AR-15 or for that matter any semi-automatic. So yes, occasionally, you might see a gun in a rack, but not every truck and not every day. 

There is also - and this is just a thought - a reason that guns disappeared from the windows of trucks. Advertising what you are carrying in your vehicle is not the brightest thing you could do. It's kind of like putting a sign in you window of "Please Break This Window and Steal My Stuff." Perhaps, it was more of a modern common sense idea than a political statement. By the way, you can still buy a rack for your truck, if you want. Here's one from Cabela's in case you want to advertise your stuff.

Memory is a funny thing. While there were guns used for hunting, they weren't a statement about how armed and dangerous we were. I don't recall anyone ever announcing he was carrying for protection. It wasn't a statement then. This is, quite honestly, rewriting history that didn't exist.  You're right, we didn't have nearly as much of a gun problem then. We do have one now. Living in the past will not solve the problems of today. As much as you may want to go back to that mythical, history of 50's and 60's television, it's not going to happen. It's time to deal with the problems of today. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Welcome to the Land of Fictitious Quotes

We've talked about this one before, but one more time for the information impaired:

Washington never said that "that a free people need 'sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence' from their own government." The only thing he did say was, "A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined..." You can find the entire speech to congress here: The context he is referring to goes back to the idea of the establishment of troops for protection and have their own military supplies.

And despite what this sign seems to imply, the quote beneath the 2nd Amendment is not a part of the 2nd Amendment. 

As to the argument which frequently comes with this that the Supreme Court has said that no guns may be regulated or limited, that also is not true. Perhaps the most conservative Justice in recent memory, was Justice Anthony Scalia who writing a majority opinion on gun control in the Court's most recent decision, wrote "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose... 

"It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service – M16 rifles and the like – may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause."

In other words not all weapons are protected from being banned. The AR-15 is considered an M16 replica and was considered to be originally a military weapon. (

Check your facts.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Stop or My Teacher will Shoot

Arming teachers is one of the inanest thing I've heard. We've had this chat before. It is bordering on the idea that someone has seen one too many Bruce Willis or Clint Eastwood action flicks and has come to the conclusion this is reality. While I know a few teachers who would carry, they are pretty few. And no, there is not a preponderance of retired military folks who become teachers. There are a number of programs for the purpose of getting retiring military into education, but I could find no statistics about how many are using the programs.  In 2013, 72 percent of the eleven thousand educators surveyed said they would not carry a gun. 

We've discussed the "which sign will stop a tragedy" before. I am going to say this one more time about this either or style of argument meme, but first ask yourself how many people you see daily that don't follow speed limit signs? A sign cannot prevent or stop an act of gun violence. Got that? Good.

If you were to arm, as Trump has suggested, 20 per cent or one-fifth of all teachers, you are looking at 700,000 plus folks. If you were to give them a stipend of $1000 for carrying a gun, the cost would be at least 700 million dollars. Where is this money coming from, exactly? I've seen the argument before. If we need to fix a problem, it becomes education's responsibility. We cannot afford the materials we need for over-sized classes. We cannot give staff raises that keep up with cost of living. Yet, we are going to buy a gun; train teachers in active shooter procedure, which would have to be far more involved and expensive than a day long class; and maybe even give them a bonus for packing a gun? Do we buy them body armor too? We cannot hire enough people to lessen class sizes but we can pay for a gun, ammo, training and a stipend?  Teachers cannot keep Tylenol for students in their desk, but a gun is okay. Really?

Putting armed security hasn't really been that successful. Both Columbine and Parkland had armed security on campus. According to one study by the center for investigative reporting in bank robberies, where armed security was present,  shooting violence was three times more likely to occur than where no armed security was present. The fact is there is little empirical data about "hardening schools" because our congress has made rules forbidding research by the CDC on the dangers of guns. This was an NRA backed plan put in place now more than 20 years ago. I would also remind you that when Reagan was shot he was surrounded by guns and the shooter was using a simple handgun. Imagine what he might have been able to do with an AR-15. 

By the way, if you see this meme about arming teachers, no they do not arm teachers in Israel. Israel actually has strict policies about who can get and carry a gun.

I know teachers. There are some wonderful, dedicated folks out there in the profession and these same folks I would barely trust with a hammer and nail, let alone a gun. I also know a number of teachers would leave the profession if guns became a way of life in schools. A teacher's nature is to protect, support, and guide; it isn't  to run to the lock box and get a gun or pull one from a holster they have strapped to their ankle. A teacher is not a security officer and most don't want to be. 

There is also the possible damage that "hardening" schools could do to the relationship kids have with teachers and school. Think of going into a building, surrounded by a security fence, everyday where you enter through camera-watched, secure doors, are searched by metal detectors, are under constant surveillance, and taught by someone who may have a 9mm glock strapped to his/her person. Prison-like anyone? You may secure the kids but at what cost?  

A pistol is no match for an AR-15 in power, range or the number of bullets. An armed person with a pistol is facing a person who has planned his attack for months if not years. An armed person with a pistol is facing someone who may even be wearing Kevlar.  An armed person with a pistol is facing a shooter with at least one rifle, multiple clips for that rifle and possibly other weapons. An armed person with a pistol is facing a person who isn't planning on finishing the day alive. 

Folks, who lived through the Cold War, did we learn nothing from the Arms Race? The answer to peace is not more war. It is less. Weapons of war do not engender safety. They are for war. If they did make things safer, explain to me why C-PAC, a major platform for the NRA, bans all weapons by its attendees or why the White House and Congress bans them from visitors. More guns do not equal less death. It equals more gun sales for the gun manufacturers and that's pretty much it. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

What is Wrong with You?

Quit attacking the victims. What is wrong with you? No! They are not 'crisis actors.' That is so wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. Seventeen people died at Douglas High School. Twenty-six died at Sandy Hook Elementary. Your lack of simple human decency is staggering.

What in the heck does the fad of tide pod eating have to do with anything? Before you talk about doing dumb things, I suggest you look at your own life. If you've never did anything that was stupid, you are lying to yourself. From actually eating gold fish to hood surfing to fishing with M-80's or a high-powered rifle, we've all done plenty of idiotic things. And posting this unfounded garbage counts as doing something stupid.

These kids have survived the most horrific incident anyone could imagine. They watched friends and people they respected die. And you are posting memes about tide pods and crisis actors. You need to go and find where you left you compassion and your decency.

Look, it boils down to one and only one thing, and it's not the tin foil hat sites that you think are actual news. 

Which do you value more: The Assault Rifle or the lives of kids?