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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pushing the Button

I like to like things on Facebook. I also will not hesitate to hit the unlike button.  I am not talking about people I know.  I am talking about professional pages.  You know the pages of actors or music groups or just organizations.  I've been thinking that I should go through all my likes pages and thin them a bit.  There are right now 600 plus pages that I've clicked like on. My son tells me I am somewhat prolific.


Good question.  Some were pages I liked because they are a particular music group or actor.  Others are organizations, mostly funny, that I struck me as humorous.  Other pages are a result of entering contests while others are stores that I shop or restaurants I frequent , and I am hoping that I will get good coupons from them.  Some pages are friends' pages, and some are pages that friends like.  Some are pages that were linked to other pages. There are also some that I have no idea how I liked them or why.
I don't see all 600 plus on my feed. Some folks are more prolific posters than others, and some will suddenly post dozens of ideas, memes, and other items in a day and then I won't hear from them again for a month.  I do read many of them.  I guess read isn't as accurate as scan them.  And when some of them post foolish gibberish, their time on my feed has been instantly limited.
Take for example a few pages I "unliked" recently.  One was a page called "Almost Nerdy." When they posted the ridiculous story about the "Alien Ship lands on Moon" and posted it as if it were true sparking a debate in the timeline about aliens, they left the realm of nerdom and entered the world of conspiracy theory.  They became that wild haired UFO researcher in so called alien documentaries (one of the reasons I've become very selective about what I watch on the History Channel). Five seconds on the internet and the page owners would have found an extremely accurate debunking of the story. I believe it was listed two or three stories after the original report on Google search. This is not even "almost nerdy."  It is ridiculous.

I also dumped the Charlie Daniels Band page.  I still like some of his music, but when Charlie Daniels decided to post his lengthy rant about how the Apocalypse is nigh, and all the signs are there including the Moslem connections of the POTUS. It was time to let Charlie go off roaming into the wilderness in search of his own golden fiddle.  I don't know how to put this to dear old Charlie, but I don't recall the word Moslem even being mentioned in the Bible and the entire Moslem connection is just wrong and has been debunked so many times that he really needs to find a new place for information. I also seem to recall a passage that no person shall know of the coming of the end times. Maybe it was Mark 13:32 "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Have any of these folks actually read the Bible? (Not that I've read the whole thing.)

There was also the strange case of Cheech and Chong page.  I grew up with the humor, although it was often drug related, of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.  They were hilarious, and it was pretty clear that drugs made them stupid.  Not really a great "real-life" character trait. Then came their series of claims about the use of pot on the page.  I don't know if Cheech and Chong are actually responsible for the page.  Who knows? But when the page basically announced that driving stoned was not at all dangerous, it was time for it to go.  Stupid humor is far different from stupid advice.  That was stupid.

So "unliking" is not a hard thing to do.  I don't cut off the feeds of people I know, although I may actually limit what I see from them. I really don't need someone who thinks every post requires a cuss word.  It doesn't make you grownup, just limited in your vocabulary.  I do not unfriend people I know because their beliefs are something I disagree with.  I will, however, eliminate the moronic of the corporate pages and cut the spreading of hate from my feed.
Now if you'll excuse me, I should go cull the "liked" pages.  Maybe I can get it trimmed down to, oh say, 575 liked pages.  I would hate to lose my prolific status.  Stop the hate.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Robo Reboot


Yes, I went to the reboot of Robocop.  My nerd license required it.  Neo-Robocop is not bad.  It's fun and has some heavy hitters in the movie biz.  Let's be honest, the original wasn't exactly received as one of the great movies of its generation.

Robocop is played by Swedish actor, Joel Kinnaman.  The bad guys are multiple from the drug and gun running Antoine Vallon, played by Patrick Garrow to the evil Robocop controller/trainer Rick Mattox played by Jackie Earl Haley to the evil corporate president Ramond Sellars played by Michael Keaton.  Thrown into the mess is Gary Oldman who plays Dr. Dennet Norton, Robocop's wife and son, Clara and David, played by Abbie Cornish and John Paul Ruttan, and a combination of every over-the-top political commentator you've ever seen, Pat Novak played by the one and only, Samuel L. Jackson.

The often messy the plot is marked by some nice moments and interesting acting vignettes.  The political subtext is a little heavy handed at times, but the satire over all does work.  I do have to wonder about the moment when we see all that remains of the human Murphy/Robocop. It is a bit creepy and left me a bit surprised that the movie kept its PG-13 rating.

There is enough homage paid to the original with the blue suit, a few famous lines, and even the original theme song.  The biggest issue though is that most of the great scenes don't have Robocop in them.  He actually becomes the secondary character. It is almost as if the writers said, we have Robocop for the action sequences, but we have Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton for the acting along with Samuel L. Jackson for the narration and satire. The good doctor is terribly conflicted about what he must do to Murphy. Finally, morality knew it would.

So while it is not an awful movie for a reboot, it is not the cutting edge of its much more violent predecessor. The original Robocop was a much grittier world, and  its violence made us cringe - I still remember twisting uncomfortably in my chair when Murphy is killed.  While the original has become a "classic" in the pop cultural entertainment, it is doubtful that the new Robocop will follow suit.  I had fun, and I am not demanding my money back.  Its just that the new version wasn't quite sure the story it wanted to tell.  I probably won't buy the DVD, but "Thank you for your cooperation."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Choosing Knowledge: How informed are you?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about not watching dedicated "political" news channels and sites too much. Then I found a university survey done in New Jersey. I also noted that a number extreme left sites announced things like survey proves "watching Fox makes you stupider."  It  doesn't.  It makes you less informed, and Fox News wasn't the only one that showed up as making its audience less informed.  I'm looking at you MSNBC. That's right, while MSNBC watchers were not as low in the survey as Fox, they were still lower than those who watch/listen to NPR, read the New York Times or USA today.

The survey was first done on a state-wide poll of New Jersey in 2011.  It was then expanded in 2012 to a national level with pretty much the same results.  Ironically, people who do not regularly watch or even read the news were more knowledgeable about current events than those who received their information almost solely from agenda driven, political TV and sites such as Fox and MSNBC.  Even guessing the answers, those who do not watch or read the news did better than those who watch agenda driven news. The most knowledgeable were NPR and The Daily Show.

I did not find a response from MSNBC about the survey, but Fox News put out this statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter: "Considering FDU’s undergraduate school is ranked as one of the worst in the country, we suggest the school invest in improving its weak academic program instead of spending money on frivolous polling – their student body does not deserve to be so ill-informed." Nothing like an ad hominem* argument to say, "We got nothing, so you guys' school stinks."

Let me give you a recent example that appeared in my time line.  This is a summary of the story from  regular news stations.  In Fort Collins, students at the high school protested that the school would not allow them to have 'Merica Monday during spirit week.  The reason the day was not permitted had nothing to do with not celebrating America and American values and everything to do with the connotation the word 'Merica carries.  It is true the ban could have been handled better by administration, but then again we do not know what was actually told to the student council and what actually happened leading up to the protest.  Local news reported the story and then pointed out that the Urban Dictionary defines 'Merica: "Hick: If you don't like they way things are here in Merica then you can git out." This is hardly the name you want associated with a spirit week which is actually titled "Spread the Love Week." The administration relented, and the day was simply renamed to America Day.  Well, duh.  Problem solved.

But this is what reported on its opinion page: " protest the school’s decision to ban a celebration of American patriotism. The student council had wanted to designate a day during Spirit Week to celebrate the red, white & blue. The young people called it '’Merica Monday.' But the school turned down their request." Later in the report, the story add the heavily loaded statement "But after a day of righteous Rocky Mountain outrage, the principal at Fort Collins High School reversed course and apologized."

After publishing the explanation letter sent out to parents, the opinion story turns into a true opinion piece pretty quickly even using its own statement as if it were a quote from someone participating in the protest in the lay out.  "It seems to me that a public school administrator got caught with his hand in the multicultural cookie jar. While the school should be commended for doing the right thing and allowing students to celebrate America, whoever would have thought that American teenagers would be treated as second-class citizens in their own country?" Is it me or does the statement about the "multicultural cookie jar" kind of baks the urban dictionary definition of 'Merica?

Sadly, it was this opinion piece that was posted on my timeline and quickly became a "news story" on other sites.  I doubt the person that posted it even realized that it was an opinion piece and not news. On the news tonight, both sides, according to 7 News, admit that the controversy was a result of bad communication. The students, being teens, probably simply thought the name was funny.

 You would never know this though if you read only the Fox story/editorial.  Whatever happened to fair and balanced?

I see these type of stories all the time.  This story continues as a group again protested that it was not 'Merica Monday.  In other words, they are protesting America Day not being named 'Merica Monday. They protest an issue that has been settled. They expected nearly 500 protesters to "surround the school with flags." In reality, only a couple of dozen protesters showed.  Maybe word is getting out, and the poor turnout to the second 'Merica protest shows that people are understanding that this is not news but agenda driven, fear mongering, divisive reporting.  

Is it any wonder the survey found what it found? Stop the hate.

*An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Puzzled by Covenants...


As I was running my snow blower the other day, it suddenly stuck me that there is a certain amount of irony in the whole idea of homeowner associations or covenants as they were once called. You know, those places where you live, pay a fee, and agree to live by rules that tell you how you must maintain your home in very specific ways.

I will be honest, I have never paid such dues.  I would not live in an HOA controlled subdivision. I cannot imagine someone telling me what kind of grass seed I can use or trees I can plant or what color my house trim should be.

What interests me more is that people put up with it. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need to protect neighborhoods from becoming trashy.  I have seen more than a few unregulated areas that would easily meet Jeff Foxworthy's joke, "You might be a redneck if you cut your grass and find a car." Some HOAs seem to be a bit extreme though and in a few places a bit pricey.  I know a few associations make sure the grass is cut, and the snow shoveled and the trim painted but I also have heard of a few that want to tell the residents how many leaves must be on each tree and the color of the rocks in the landscape.  Honestly, I would not be surprised if one hasn't tried to tell members how to store stuff in the garage or arrange the furniture in their houses. Okay, okay, I know the number of leaves on the tree isn't true, but it seems a few have gone to extremes to make their community conform.

Years back I saw a report of an HOA that demanded a particular kind of grass in every yard.  The problem was that the grass was not water efficient, and the subdivision was not only in an a dry climate but in the middle of a drought.  When a few people could not afford to water the expensive lawn, the HOA began to fine them.  Another HOA told the residents that all Christmas lights must be blue or white, no multicolor.  I even built hand railing for my sister's new home for handicap purposes, and the HOA not only told her that even though the railing was sealed in top quality tinted stain, that it was the wrong color of white. They would've objected to the rail had it not been installed for physical needs of one of the residents.  Later I found out she had to wait for permission to remove dead trees in her backyard.  I know I would not survive.

This brings me to another point.   There is a certain amount of irony.  Do those folks who yell and scream about that dictatorial government who interferes in their free lives find HOA's the same? I know of one of these folks.  He would be the first to put up his "freedom from government control" banner.  He is also the first person to report when someone violates the rules of the HOA. I know it sounds like a stereotype, but the irony is not lost on me.  There have been some moves to limit the power of the HOA by some states, but something like 80% of all new builds has an HOA. (The link also gives a host of HOA horror stories if you're interested.)

Now if you will excuse me I have to go shovel my walk before the town gets mad at me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Leaving the Source...

I love the BBC production of Sherlock.  The acting is solid and the editing phenomenal.  It is the modernized version of Sherlock Holmes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle deserves.  Clever adaptation of the stories and wordplay on the original titles, and so it concerns me more than a little that the series is going down the path of leaving the source material.

I've written about this before.  House, another series inspired by the great detective, left the character that had been crafted to be Holmes and lost fans and ratings.  The Mentalist forgot that Red John was supposed to be a backstory and made the series all about the quest for an unbelievable super serial killer.  By the time they killed off Red John, I doubt even a series reboot with virtually all new cast will save the show.  The same is true for other series.  Bones' consistent refusal to let go of another super serial killer Pellant and overuse of character backstory with adopted daughters, the sudden appearance of institutionalized brothers and a stolen wealth that apparently had no protection or criminal recourse what so ever consistently damages what was once an okay show.

But I digress.  I want to make a point that leaving the source is seldom if ever a good idea.


It is pretty clear that there will be at least two more seasons of Sherlock if the show's creator is to be believed.  It all boils down to schedule since both Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) and creator/producer Steven Moffat (Sherlock and Doctor Who) have pretty hectic schedules even to do the three episode series.  But more and more, season three, the most recent, began to drift from the source material and more and more towards another Holmes inspired show Elementary.

The first two seasons were clever modernizations of and loosely adapted plots of original stories.  Season three not so much.  Still a clever word play on titles like "The Adventure of the Empty House" which becomes "The Empty Hearse" in the series; The Sign of Four which becomes "The Sign of Three"; and "His Last Bow" which becomes "His Last Vow." All three shows stray far afield from the namesakes.  I am willing to give the series creators some latitude for John and Mary Watson's wedding as clever and entertaining, even though the murder mystery was to say the least a bit of a stretch and really, as near as I can recall, has no inspiration from any of the stories.

The last episode of season three strays even farther.  "His Last Vow" comes off as sort of a cross of "His Last Bow," what was essentially a World War I propaganda spy story with the addition of blackmail which I suppose might be very loosely inspired by perhaps "A Scandal in Bohemia."  That is not the issue.  It is poorly plotted.  Mary Watson suddenly becoming a super assassin is just plain silly. I know.  I know.  There were clues early on in the first episode of season three, but to leave the character that far from the source borders on the ridiculous.

Then there is the whole thing that Watson is attracted to dangerous people like Sherlock and Mary.  The entire point of the original Watson was not just that he was Holmes' biographer but offered Holmes a human side.  To make the new Watson some kind of danger groupie is really kind of far off the mark. There is also the idea that there is nothing Holmes would not do to protect Watson.  It is doubtful that he would miss the keys that Mary is not what she seems to be and just as unlikely that he would let Watson continue in said relationship before he marries her.

The villain in the episode, Magnussen, is the prince of blackmail.  The problem is he has all the information memorized so no one can get at the secrets he knows. The plotting problem is that a blackmailer that has nothing he can lay his hands on as proof to the secrets is really not much of a threat as a blackmailer.  There nothing to publish.  Nothing to prove what he says it true - knowledgeable, yes; the prince of blackmail, no.  All it takes is one person to call his bluff and the entire "I know your secrets" kingdom collapses on a lack of proof.  Given the number of power brokers Magnussen has apparently challenged, it is highly unlikely his "memory without proof" blackmail would stand for long.  It just does not make logical sense.

Next is the murder.  Holmes has admitted that he is a "highly functioning sociopath." The fact that he cares about Watson and even Mycroft and Mary, makes the idea that he has no moral compunctions and would leave John Watson to his fates by murdering Magnussen also stretches the credulity.  Holmes is a sociopath, not a psychopath.  The murder by someone who has again and again valued the use of his mind to solve problems is out of character.  With the problem of the lack of evidence in the possession of our blackmailer, Watson is in little danger.  The entire scene of Magnussen flicking Watson's face was both unbelievable and illogical.  Watson has demonstrated in a number of episodes his abilities to protect himself and his willingness to kill if needed. He would not likely stand there while someone threatened his wife, belittled his friend and embarrassed him.

Last, but not least, is the return of Moriarty.  We watched Moriarty shoot himself.  Now we do know that Moffat loves a good red herring, and we can only hope that the reappearance of Moriarity is one involving his criminal organization.  The alternative would be the creation of another super villain like Pellant and Red John which is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Dear Mr. Moffat, please return to the source.  Doyle would be proud. The fans of Sherlock will forgive you. You won't become the British version of Elementary.  You have 56 stories and four novels to pick from.  The actual adaptation of The Sign of Four.  In other words, while you may be planning seasons 4 and 5, the source is the best place to start.

Newly edited.  Thanks Abby for poking my memory.*