Sunday, January 27, 2013


Rating: Good gods, don't watch this movie.
I want to read off a list of Hollywood names that are in this movie. Tell me if you recognize any of them.

Elizabeth Banks
Halle Berry
Kate Bosworth
Gerard Butler
Richard Gere
Hugh Jackman
Johnny Knoxville
Liev Schreiber
Seann William Scott
Emma Stone
Uma Thurman
Naomi Watts
Kate Winslet

These are only a few of the Holly wood names attached to this film. Now, let me break down the movie for you. It's framed as a crazed man pitching movie ideas to a studio director, in the hope of getting a deal signed. These are the pitches:

1.) A blind date goes awry when the man removes his scarf and reveals his scrotum is actually hanging from his neck.
2.) A homeschooling couple try to get their child to have the full high school experience. This involves his dad trying to come out as homosexual to his son, his mother trying to get a first awkward kiss from him before asking if he has protection, and holding huge school parties in which his dad makes out with the son's crush.
3.) A couple finally decides to become physically intimate when she asks if he'll poop on her, which leads to him eating tons of Mexican food for the big night.
4.) Halle Barry goes on a blind date that escalates into a bizarre truth or dare, in which she shoots hot sauce into her privates, and he gets offensive surgery to look 'Chinese'. Also, she makes guacamole with her breast.
5.) Robin goes to a speed dating night where Batman insults him as he tries to get dates and spends half the time describing Supergirl's privates to him from beneath a table.
6.) A black basketball team is rallied to defeat their white opponents, because this is basketball, they're black, the other team's white, so the outcome is obvious.
7.) A cat in love with its master self pleasures itself furiously to images of him, then tries to kill the woman he's in love with.
W T F!!!
 There are a few others but I think I hit most of them. They're a series of about ten to fifteen minute skits set within the narrative frame of a series of movie pitches. Many are just unfunny. The problem is that there's no setup. You can have askew, gross humor, but there has to be a buildup, a setup. Because all of the jokes are just skits it's like the writers jumped straight to the punchline, forgetting that what makes a movie memorable is everything around the punchline. The setup of the joke is important, and there's no setup, just a shotgun blast of absurd and often times unfunny skits.

We will all regret being in this movie in five years.
I mean, what else can I criticize? There's no camera work worth nothing, no dramatics, no real need for acting to be done, no actual soundtrack that I can even remember. It's as if they took Family Guy, with its series of cutaway skits and jokes, and extended the episode over an hour and a half. The final product is really, really terrible. I can see all the Yes Men that surrounded these actors, telling them they were doing fantastic jobs, when the final product was actually just garbage. The funniest skit is probably one involving a girl getting her first period because, at least for that skit, it's grounded in something identifiable. All the men involved with the situation come across as men often do, uncomfortable with the topic. My friend argues the scrotum skit that opens the movie is the funniest, and I guess she might be right, if you think Kate Winslet with a pair of scrotum set aside her head is funny.
I can't believe you were in this either, Kate.
There are funny parts, don't get me wrong, but I found myself checking my watch multiple times waiting for the movie to end, and that's never a good sign. Do yourself a favor and just, please, avoid this movie. Don't give money to the studio and people that thought this was a good idea. Because they are robbing you of cash. You will walk out, poorer not only financially, but poorer in spirit. There's nothing like sending you off on a Friday night than realizing you paid to see a cat masturbate.
Obvious humor is obvious.
Rating: Dears gods, just don't. Don't watch it. Don't rent it. Don't.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A New Day Dawns: Sarah Palin is leaving Fox News

The New York Times reports:
Fox News has indeed parted ways with Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee, a Fox spokeswoman confirmed on Friday, reducing if not altogether ending her exposure to the channel’s millions of loyal viewers.
Although the picture isn't entirely clear, it seems that Sarah Palin is leaving Fox News following a fairly small contract extension offer. In essence, Fox was not willing to renew her million dollar a year contract. That isn't surprising, considering she was in highest demand coming off her role as a vice presidential candidate and a 'rogue' outsider. I mean, I guess, if she's the definition of rogue Republicans buy into. Still, whatever brand of crazy Sarah Palin was selling was eclipsed and surpassed by even crazier members of the Tea Party, which culminated in the 2010 debacle. Still, America seems to have entered the regret phase of their relationship, and that same Tea Party suffered a good number of losses just two months ago in the 2012 election.

With people identifying as Tea Party members in miniscule levels and most of the blame for the economy being shouldered by the Republican party, Republicans are now arguing that messaging is their biggest priority. While Democrats may argue otherwise, that it's really their principles that is the issue, the consequence of Republican re-branding may mean that the more 'loose cannon' style commentators are no longer of the value they once were. Even big names like Rush Limbaugh have caused profit losses due to their ill chosen comments in the last year, and if you can cut into his profit margins, you can certainly cut into Sarah's.

Palin was never the draw Limbaugh was though, and her appearances on Fox were growing less frequent. There were several reports that the honeymoon between the two was over, and in the wake of that, the offer they made seems to have been intended to finalize their divorce.
Nobody believes that this is the end of Sarah Palin's time in the media spotlight, but there's at least hope it's in its twilight phase. Without Fox to prop her views and provide her a camera, Palin is going to have to find ways to get exposure that don't include official backing from the Republican propaganda machine.

For now, let's toss this as one more log onto the fire consuming the Palin tv brand. Hopefully she doesn't find new life in some Glenn Beckian way.

Friday, January 25, 2013

First World Man Problems

So I'm fairly progressive, right? I mean, I know not everybody agrees with me on everything. I've got problems with Anonymous. I'm pretty hardcore about my faith as a Christian. But hey, I support lots of things that the Progressive movement does. I support a progressive tax that asks the wealthiest to shoulder a heavier bit of the tax load, because this country has made them rich. I support gay marriage, because regardless of anything I think, everyone should have equal rights and equal chances to be happy in a country based upon the principles of equality. I support gun control, and climate revolution. So what's my problem?

Ladies, I don't have a problem washing the dishes or cleaning the kitchen. I like to do that. My dad did it every day of his life if my mom cooked. If he cooked, she washed the dishes. Simple give and take, two people shouldering the daily chores. That's how it should be right? I don't think cleaning the kitchen is women's work.

So why can't I go buy a simple swiffer sweeper without being told it's a girl's job to be working in the kitchen?

Yeah yeah I got it Ms. Happy, you're in charge of the kitchen. It's your domain. Guess what, I'm a single guy that likes to keep an immaculate home. It's my kitchen too! I will scrub a toothbrush through my grout if it means getting the dirt out of it, and if I happen to walk barefoot along the floor, if I feel any grit, I'm whipping out my kitchen tools and getting that bad boy scrubbed. Oh, but I got to be the lady of the house if I want to do that work. It's not like the image of this (admittedly pretty) woman is the only offender. There's far worse. I mean, where are the manly straws?

The most conveniently placed straws, hanging in the middle of the aisles, coming in soft and gentle colors. Where is apocalypse red and doomsday black? Is it too much to ask that I get a straw that makes me feel like I'm sipping on the blood of my enemies, all while getting the convenience of a flexistraw? 
The worst though is the assumption that a man doesn't like to take care of his hands! You know I own a Jericho 941, also known as a sweet ass gun. I have also mixed concrete by hand in the poor towns of Mexico, stirring that stuff for an hour with a rough staff, and I've torn down walls in New Orleans in the post Katrina rebuilding project.

That doesn't mean I don't like an occasional manicure and soft hands. So why are the only gloves for kitchen work called GLAM  OR GLITTER GLOVES?

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that they exfoliate as I work (I really do), but is it too much to ask to get a manlier version of these things in the aisles? Where are the Glimmer Gauntlets of Gamalon? Or Golem Gauntlets? Yeah, that's the ticket! At the very least, could we get these kitchen gloves in a manlier design? I mean really: 
Seriously, my choices are cloudy skies blue or love struck pink? I didn't realize I was trying to be in a boy band. Seriously, as I was walking the aisles, I just kept asking myself where are the black kitchen gloves? And if the colors weren't the worst offenders, the designs are sure to rob me of my masculinity. It's a cold day in hell before I wear gloves with artistic circular shapes or lovingly adorned hearts toward the elbow. 

So come on, kitchenware manufacturers. I'm not asking for much. I like to maintain a clean house and a spotless kitchen, and there are few greater sins to me than a dirty sink. Is it so much to ask that you help me feel like a badass while I'm doing it? When I strap on those gloves, I want to feel like a barbarian going to war, with bacterial filth the proverbial Roman legion that I'm about to conquer in a bloodbath of bleach, with my scrub brush as my battle axe. So let's see the reds, grays and blacks, the colors of war, like I'm covered in the blood of my foes and the ash of his destroyed houses. While you're at it, if you could design some sort of helmet for me to wear while doing my kitchen duties, that'd be great. Totally unnecessary, but totally awesome.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The New Meme: Hillary Is Not Impressed

Perhaps the greatest look ever given by a competent individual placating someone of dubious capacity. Enjoy ;) 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Houston City Councilman: "You don't die from the flu".

It's not as if we don't already know Texas is a hotbed of crazy. In the scheme of things, Houston is one of the more diverse cities in the state, and the country. Ethnically, culturally, there are people of many backgrounds here, from African immigrants to Latino and Caucasian descendants of old state founders. Because of this, the politics of the city tend to sway from Republican to Democrat, depending on the vibe. Unfortunately, some of those Republicans have a bit of The Crazy. 
I'm talking about people like city Councilman Jack Christie, who recently claimed "You don't die from the flu". Houston is currently assessing whether or not to accept 3 million dollars in federal funding to expand childhood vaccinations against the Flu. To the city council's credit, the vote went 15-1. The sole exception? Jack Christie.

Three things to point out about why he voted against it.
1.) The government doesn't have the money to pay for it and we'll have to pay it back. Sounds like a Tea Party vibe right off the bat.
2.) Natural immunity is superior, while vaccines create an artificial immunity. In other words, better to suffer through it and gain a natural advantage.
3.) The media is embellishing how deadly the flu really is. Really?

Mother Jones had an informative article about the flu just a week ago. One of its informative charts detailed where the fly was spreading at the highest rates. Want to guess which state was part of that red zone? That's right, Texas. Alongside several states in the south and midwest, Texas has one of the highest transmission rates in the country. Don't trust a crazy liberal rag? Even the Plano Star has an article about how many people are catching the Flu in this state.

The councilman also ignores the fact that flu vaccines aren't just beneficial for you, but your neighbor as well. Simply because you don't come down with a bad strain doesn't mean it won't be a bad strain for the elderly couple across the way. Health officials are of the general consensus that vaccines are one of the most important advents of the 20th century. They save lives, thousands of them, and how their importance is up for debate is beyond me.

Sometimes people are under a misconception that we've found a cure for viruses, in the same way we have effective antibiotics. We don't. There aren't cures for viruses, only vaccines to boost our immunities. Sometimes vaccines are so effective they push a virus to extinction, but that's a rare occurrence. Viruses like the flu, which have multiple, mutated strains over just the last few years, are still deadly and still require vigilance.

But hey, what does that matter to Jack Christie? He never got a vaccine, and he's fine, which means all of our lives should mirror his experience perfectly. So good luck kids. If you come down with the flu because there wasn't funding for vaccines? Blame men like Houston City Councilman, Jack Christie. Because your life isn't worth the money to preserve it for men like him.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Don't Watch This Movie: Mama

Unfortunately this movie feels just as long.
I don't want to spoil this movie for you. Seriously, that's not the point of my reviews, or this blog. But I want to save you from yourself. I know you want to go see this film, and I know you think it will be good. Trust me, it won't be. It will be, perhaps, good enough, but it doesn't even contain the level of kick- ass spectacle that Gangster Squad that at least allowed me to recommend that movie as a rental. No, all Mama has is a ton of cliches, a stupid story and an ending so bad you'll go home and think a porn film does a better job of telling a tale.
Speaking of, this girl is hot.
There's no good music in this movie, but it's a horror film so, guess that's okay. The special effects are terrible. The movie monster looks bad, just bad, and not even in an acceptable way. Some of the cinematography, on the other hand, is gorgeous. Some of the locales are of vast forests and mountains that you might find in The Hobbit. Unfortunately, there's no comparatively good story going on. But hey! It's a horror film, right? You're in it for the scares. So how are those?
Actually, not bad.
When it comes to scares, there's three ways to go about it. One, lots of murder and gore, which I've never found scary as much as grotesque. Two, snap scares, done with sudden camera cuts, quickly moving monsters. You know, the stuff that happens so fast you can't help but jump out of your seat. Three, a director can set a creepy mood that sort of just saturates the audience and lets fear slowly sink in. Mama aims for the second and third sort of scares, and does so fairly successfully, at lest for a while.
Not even joking, this was everyone in the audience, several times.
The jump scares are always pretty good. The director makes good use of suddenly launching monsters at you, of having the girls appear from nowhere, the camera catching sudden glimpses of dark shadows. Especially in the closing thirty minutes, the entire audience was mumbling. One couple next to me were hugging each other so tightly I wasn't sure if it was the man or woman that was scared. The problem, though, is that the movie is terrible.
Creepy children are no longer scary.
The cliches are everywhere, and that's not an exaggeration. A lonely cabin in the woods? Check. Creepy children? Check. Nursery rhymes to invoke fear? Check. Drawings to communicate how disturbed they are? Check. Vengeful ghost that needs justice to end its vengeance? Check. A freaking psychologist analyzing the situation to find a rational explanation? Okay Halloween, we got you.
Don't worry kids, we're all scared of the cliches.
The story is bad, so bad that it ruins the context of the scares. At the same time I kept getting freaked out I also kept anticipating what was going to happen next, because the film is so by-the-numbers. Some things don't even make sense. For instance, the ghost is from the 1800s, but for some reason she lives in a cabin decorated with furniture fro the 1970s. Whyyyy,  it makes no sense! There's almost no point to that detail, it's just thrown in, and the name of the person who lived there, that the movie actually lingers on, never comes into play. It's like a small detail you'd expect to come into play later except the director forgot that he set up the story to include that detail.
Yes, the story is this painful
Don't watch this movie. It's got scares, but the price it requires in order for you to get to them is high. It's tedium, and boredom. That's a cost of admission that's much more expensive than the dollars you'll spend at the concession stand.
Hide us from the boredom.
Rating: Don't Watch This Movie!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Food Racism - What Genocide Looks Like in the 21st Century

Last week I was asked to screen Soul Food Junkies, a documentary that was to begin airing on PBS this week, at a local gathering of chefs, nutritionists and community activists. Soul Food Junkies deal with the unhealthy relationship we have with food, our addiction to it, and a number of preventable diseases we could avoid if we only ate at least a few greens every week. I myself love to eat fresh. I love vegetables, fruits, big salads, whole wheat. You know, the good stuff. I'm not here to argue the effects of genetic splicing and such, because that is another debate. In fact, it's a debate that some people in the United States can't even begin to wrap their minds around, and that's because they lack access to any fresh food whatsoever. These people live in communities where there is only 1 grocery store per every 10,000 people. In better off communities, that number is more like 3 grocery store per every 10,000. This prevents lower income people from having access to healthy foods, and they live in what we call a food desert.

While Soul Food Junkies deals with a number of health issues, one topic it touches on, and that deserves its own movie, is the racism of food. A number of the talking heads, and the narrator himself, bring up the fact that in the modern era, minorities, who make less money on the dollar to a white male and who tend to occupy lower income jobs as well as have a higher rate of unemployment, occupy these food deserts at disproportionate rates. 
Lack of access to healthy food leads to consumption of unhealthy foods at a higher rate. Fast foods, fried foods, become the main diet as opposed to the occasional indulgence. Worse than eating bad foods is the absence of eating any healthy foods. I myself once worked at a Title I school with low income kids who got their only fresh vegetables from our cafeteria. At home, they never saw actual, fresh veggies on their plates. What vegetables they got were soaked in cooking grease.

This isn't entirely on the parents when there is no easy access to grocery stores, especially in some lower income communities where transportation is done on foot or by bus. The insidious consequence, though, are the higher rates of destructive, preventable diseases that arise in these minority communities. An entire generation is being destroyed by diabetes and cancer, just from lack of access to quality food. It's genocide, the destruction of a people, but a genocide committed not quickly and with guns, but slowly and by preventing lack of access to food. People are being starved out, forced to low quality consumption. In fact it's no different from the situation of slaves over a century ago that were forced to eat the lowest quality foods that were left over from the masters table.
I'm not the only one who thinks of it as genocide, either. The documentary implies the same thing, and a number of the panelists screening the film that night made the same accusation. There's hope, however.

Mother Jones has had a series of quality articles food deserts and urban gardens. For instance, did you know that in Chicago, when local urban gardens have been planted for the community to participate in, that crime dropped significantly? As one of the panelists told me about his experience in California, "the kids went from slanging dope to slanging alfalfa seeds." We need to see more of these, as well as more supermarkets with quality foods. Even though supermarkets aren't immediate cures for bad food habits, which will require education of a population, they at least provide options that some people don't currently have. Heading into the future there's a tough struggle coming. Quality food must be made cheaper, so that families can better afford it. However, how that food is made and its impact on the environment is going to come up in the same breath. If $20 of fruits and vegetables can be made as cheap and long lasting as $20 of white bread and processed cheese, there may be some headway. Urban gardens provide at least one way of possibly providing this sort of access to the poor.

It's a tough question that will need to be tackled, but at least people are finding ways to tackle it, and I hope you'll think about this topic if you never have before. In the meantime, give Soul Food Junkies a watch, airing this month on Independent Lens on your publicly supported Public Broadcast System!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Republicans Officials Are Defenders of the Constitution - Except When Disregarding It Entirely

I'm not sure how long I've heard Republicans claim to be defenders of the Constitution. This isn't a claim limited to officials, to law enforcers or creators. On my Facebook page, among friends, I heard vigorous defenses of the Constitution. I hear the defense of the Second Amendment, and the misplaced defense of the First Amendment that really boils down to a defense of Christianity as a government propped religious institution, rather than allowing all religious bodies to stand equally. However, at least among my friends I can have a discussion, a debate about the role of government. 
There's no persuading officials, however, that are members of what I have begun to call "The Crazy".

What are "The Crazy"? The Crazy are people that fall within the realm of those with whom there is no discussion. There is no latitude for movement, no ability to have a sensible, rational debate. They are so badly propped by misinterpretations of the Constitution that they feel that any law they pass must be upheld, even when these laws are in flagrant violation of other portions of the Constitution. These are the people so interested in defending the Second Amendment that they threaten the First Amendment rights of people speaking out against uncontrolled gun laws. They are Tenthers, those who feel states can nullify federal laws, even though this is a debate that was settled by a devastating Civil War over a century ago, and that goes directly against the Constitution's stipulation that it is the supreme law of the United States.

The Crazy introduce insane ballot initiatives, laws and make decrees that are simply not supported by the Constitutional structure of our country. Like Arizona, which attempted a ballot initiative last summer to reject parts of Obamacare it might not like, something the state simply cannot run a ballot initiative to implement.

They're men like Steve King, who recently proposed a bill to curtail birthright citizenship that is justified by the Fourteenth Amendment. This wasn't his first time trying to do so, and he was joined by legislators from five different states all trying to introduce local legislation that would violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

Meanwhile, the rage over gun control, which shouldn't be so complicated, has created a number of Constitution defying pieces of legislation and decrees. Lawmakers in Wyoming tried to introduce laws that would deny federal gun control laws, making them unenforceable within the state. They were joined by Texas, who mirrored that legislation with some of its own, and also made it a criminal act for federal officials to enforce gun control laws. And just this morning? Word out of Oregon comes that once local sheriff has written a letter to Joe Biden proclaiming that he will refuse to enforce any federal gun control laws that come out of Washington.

These are The Crazy. They are the ones who hide behind the Constitution while spitting on it. They're rattle their sabers and declare their patriotism while tearing to shreds the document that binds the nation's framework and legal authority. So yeah, next time I hear Republicans arguing about how devoted they are to the Constitution, I've got a long list of evidence I'm going to bring against them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tea Party Nation says it's not racist (then acts really racist)

Seriously! Quotes to follow.
Comment by Ray Mason 12 hours ago     
I have thought for a long time that Colin Powell has the same credentials as Obama.  He was popular once and even had a chance to run for president but backed out and became silent for a long time, (that was before BHO).   I have suspected for a long time that Powell is not a real American, probably would fail the birth certificate test and has been a fraud all along.  He climbed the ladder on the equal rights steps or else he would be just another black guy that nobody knows.  I can't find where he has ever been anything but an Air Force general, not to cut those guys short but I was in the military about the same time and back then if you were black you got kicked to the front of the line.  Ray

Comment by Genevieve J. Douma 15 hours ago

    Hate to sound racist but it's the same old story,people like Powell are takers and users and as soon as the gravy days are over their "TRUE COLORS" come out.

Comment by Mary Ellen Pawlowicz 3 hours ago

    Colin Powell has a long-standing association with Louis Farakhan.  They are both from Jamaican descent and share similar views.  Farakhan is out there now trying to instigate a race war and I don't doubt which side Colin Powell would be on.
Comment by Jo Gonzalez 18 hours ago

    This man sure liked it when a White President gave him the chance of a Lifetime, but George W. discovered pretty soon what he was about, down deep, and outted him.  Ungrateful bastard, slimy two faced, taking everything the Evil Whities could give him, filling his sack, then turning on us. He is another one who is promoting hate.
Comment by ANDREW SCHRAG 19 hours ago

Comment by Frank Garvin 21 hours ago

    Colin Powell is a disgusting pig...he's immersed himself in the same sewage as Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, Harry Bellefonte and Jamie Foxx.
Comment by JEAN MACALLISTER yesterday

    Sadly, Colin Powell sees only Obama's skin color.   He will not see or hear anything that detracts from Obama.
Comment by Lawrence Brown yesterday

    Powell is just another black who hates the USA. He used the system over the years and now he is showing his true identity. Traitor and liberal communist sympathizer.
Comment by Michael J. Larkin yesterday

    An affirmative action General supports an affirmative action President...I wonder what his IQ is??? Race trumps everything...he could be another marxist dictator if given a chance..maybe he's wanting to command Obama's civilian army..."as large and well funded as our military"...don't laugh, it happened in Zimbabwe!
Comment by Ron Boyer yesterday

    Powell is a member of the most racist group of people on this planet and it is time for everyone to wake up and get off of the politically correct band wagon. He is and will be what he has always been only now his military career is not on the line so he can show his true color[BLACK].
Comment by Richard Eugene Thorton, Jr. yesterday

    LOL, It takes a long time for some people to see the truth!
    A BLACK MAN WHO GRADUATED FROM A JUNIOR COLLEGE BECOMES THE HIGHEST RANKING ARMY OFFICER!  Yes I know he attended some military schools after his formal education.  BUT NOT WEST POINT!
    What did you expect for a guy who gained every promotion due to his skin color?
Comment by Robert Camp yesterday

    Colin Powell was an affirmative action general he didn't get to become a general because he earned it.
So let me summarize to you the entirety of the previous quotes. Colin Powell got to his position as a four star general because he was black and was assisted by Affirmative Action. Otherwise he had no chance of attaining that title. He's black, which means he's a member of the most racist ethnic group on the planet. He would like to ally with Barack Obama as the head of the civilian army, just like what happened in Zimbabwe, because he's "just another black" that hates the Untied States, is a traitor and should be locked up in stocks. He's part of the black "takers", not the real makers of America. Also, he and Louis Farrakhan both come from Jamaica, so Powell's going to jump on the side of the race war that Farrakhan instigates. Yeah so, from this narrative, there's nothing racist about the Tea Party.

Sandy Hooks Was A Government Conspiracy - The InfoWars Video

I'm not going to say much. Jump below the fold, and descend into insanity.  But if you want the big hits:

1.) There was a second shooter. Probably a government official, because witnesses say he was seated in the front of the car.
2.) They claim the medical examiner's report is a lie.
3.) They next claim that all the witnesses are hired actors.
4.) They validate that the witnesses are actors on the basis of 'suspicious' behavior.
5.) They use a terrible photo morphing to claim that Emilie Parker wasn't shot at Sandy Hook, but is seen later with President Obama.
6.) They say that the 'parents' are actors hired from
7.) Claims that FEMA was holding drills 20 minutes away in preparation for the tragedy so they could quickly respond.

8.) Finally, they claim Victoria Soto's Facebook tribute was created days before she actually died.

This is from InfoWars, a hotbed of conspiracy theory, so it shouldn't be too surprising. As of this month, 100,000 people have gone to YouTube to see this video. 125,000 people have liked their Facebook page. And Infowars claims their main website gets many of millions of visitors each month, which means there's been a bit of exposure for this video.

It's a shame that this sort of tragedy is being manipulated by The Crazy in order to further their wild conspiracy theories.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Watch This Movie: Gangster Squad

Rating: Rent It.
So let me toss out a few things right off the top. Emma Stone is gorgeous in this movie. If you're into women, you might see it just for her. Because she's smoking. Also? There are some brutal kill scenes in this film. If you like seeing a guy get split in half while chained to two cars, or seeing a police office and a mob boss bash each other's skulls in with their fists in what has to be one of the epic beat downs of the last few years, you might want to see it. I enjoyed this movie as a sheer testosterone rush of sex and violence, so as a man, from that perspective, it was pretty good.

Pictured: Sex.
Other than that though? I'm not sure what it says that, going into the climactic final shootout and beatdown, I kept thinking to myself, "I'd rather be watching Scarface". Don't get me wrong, Sean Penn plays a heavy vicious Mickey Calhoun, mob boss of Los Angeles. He's the most interesting character in the film, but only because he's the villain, and because his acting's pretty good. Penn gets all the good scenes with murder, violence, mayhem and intimidation, so of course his character comes across as interesting.
Calhoun in the middle of a typical work day.
But every other character is generally unremarkable. You've got a black, knife throwing police officer that's just... there. You've got a Mexican gunslinger that's just... there. It's like they tossed in the two minorities in highest demand right now in politics, just to point out that the police force fighting Calhoun was diverse. They just don't say enough to be interesting. It's not a matter of too many people filling the screen, either. Tombstone, a Wild Western film about a group of law enforces battling a belligerent criminal element had plenty of people on the screen, but they found ways to fill them with personality.
One of the greatest performances of all time. And it came from VAL KILMER.
The most interesting member of the force is, ironically, an old western gunslinger still living in the Los Angeles area, and only because he's firing six shooters when everyone else is packing tommy guns. All the other characters are essentially lifeless, just good guys doing good things.
Like beating the hell out of Mickey Calhoun.
There's some conflict between Sergeant O'Mara, who leads the force, and his wife, concerning his role in an operation that could claim his life while she's on the verge of giving birth to her child. There's also some conflict between him and his intelligence officer, who wonders what the difference is between the police engaging in these violent activities and the criminals they're fighting. That's good material and it only gets lip service on screen, without real time invested into analyzing those internal conflicts. Because Gangster Squad is more concerned with looking pretty, putting period piece costumes on people, having them roll around spouting some somewhat cheesy period dialogue from time to time.
You'll never take me alive, coppa!
It's pretty. It's got a sexy girl. It's got men beating the hell out of each other between wild shoot outs. But it lacks substance, it's got some cheesy dialogue, and you never get a sense that the movie is more than black versus white. It does give some lip service to complex themes, but never explores them. So, overall? Maybe watch it, if you're looking for a rush of sex and violence. If you're looking for something deeper, rent it when it goes to your local Red Box or skip it all together.
Sex and Violence!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Houston Texans are about to be Destroyed


That is the combined record of the teams that the Houston Texas beat this year. Of those teams, the only four winning teams they beat were the Denver Broncos, the Baltimore Ravens, the Chicago Bears, and the Indianapolis Colts. I'm not even quite sure how much you can count the Colts game, since the Texans lost to them just a few games later. 

The teams they lost to had a combined record of 44-20, and included the Greenbay Packers, the New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Indianapolis Colts.  The Packers clinched their division, the Patriots clinched their division, the Vikings clinched their Wild Card spot, and the Colts clinched a Wild Card spot. 

Now here's why the Texans are going to get destroyed on Sunday.

Of all their wins, from a pure standings perspective, their greatest victory was against the 13-3 Denver Broncos. However, that was early in the season. I'm actually not too impressed with Denver overall, either, but if you contrast them against the Texans, at least Denver hit its stride late in the season, where Houston faltered. All of Denver's losses were early, and it went on to win all its games from mid-October on. It's also manned by one of the greatest quarterbacks of our generation, something the Texans can't claim.

The Texans stumbled late. It was destroyed by New England 42-14 and finished the season with only wins in five games during December. Where you can trust a Manning or a Brady to create offense, the Texans have struggled, barely finding the end zone through the end of the season and into its Wild Card game. After seeming dominant for such a long stretch it sputtered out and didn't even seem capable of handling the Bengals. 

Sometimes, in sports, momentum means something. Houston has had none since December, and even its wildcard win can't save its dying offense. The Patriots started the year 3-3, looked comparatively weak when compared against a team like the Texans, yet still clinched their division. That's a mental toughness the Texans just don't have, at least not yet. And when Sunday finally gets here? The Pats are going to be coming off of a week of rest and time to heal up, and will be playing at home. They have the experience to win in the playoffs that the Texans don't. 

Matt Schaub has only had one touchdown pass in the past 23 quarters, going back to their win against the Titans, and he's going to continue cracking as the pressure intensifies in the playoffs. The Texans' best chance of winning will be by dominating the time of possession, but they have no way to keep Brady off the field considering how bad their offense has looked. If Schaub had given the Texans any hope against the Bengals this might be a different story, but look for the Pats to stay on the field and Brady to dominate once again. You can't beat the Pats on field goals. 

 Houston, I love you, but the Pats are about to eat your lunch. So leave the letter jackets at home.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Life as a High School Teacher, or How Charter Schools Can Be a Living Hell

I was 25 when I decided I wanted to become a teacher. I didn’t
realize it at the time, but I was about to become one of the well
meaning, but terrible teachers going into the Texas school system. I
witnessed a charter school at work. I saw how business was done. Let me
tell you the story of the two years that showed me I was a bad high
school teacher, how I got better, and why I now instruct at the college

I’m going to argue that few of them should have been teachers. 12 meet
ups, in which your instruction is done by a projector onto a large
screen, is not sufficient to tell you just how hard teaching is going to
be. Where you’re hired also makes a difference.

With my shoddy alternative certificate, I was picked up at a charter
school in Texas. There was so much disastrous about this school it’s
hard to detail every element, but let’s do a quick rundown.  I was the
only social studies teacher for the entire high school. This meant that I
had to do classroom preparations for world history, U.S. history,
 geography, economics, and government. Mind you, I was certified to do
this without A.) A degree in history or B.) A degree in education. I
just happened to know a lot about history, because it was a passion of

For those of you who are not teachers, prepping for just one course,
like world history, can be time consuming and labor intensive. It
requires putting together lesson plans, which are required by the state,
and activities for the students. This needs to be done for each day of
the week the course is taught, then multiplied by five. It didn’t help
that I was trying to use Power Point to assist the class lessons, which
meant that, beyond planning, I had to write it all up.

Beyond the lack of time to prep for a class, there was also an issue
of how many students were being packed into the classes, often to a
degree that students were running out of seating. Behavioral problems
went generally undisciplined. As a charter school, this facility drew
from anywhere in the city that a student wanted to come from. There were
no limits on where the student might be from. Funds are given to a
school based on how many students are regularly attending, which meant
expulsion was out of the question. High failure rates would bring the
school under the state’s reassessment as well, which meant failing a
student was discouraged.  So to summarize, trouble students could
neither be expelled or failed.

And there were many trouble students. Part of the problem with the
type of school that this was, is that it drew on the students that had
been booted from standard public schools. This turned the charter school
into a school of last resorts, where a disproportionately high number
of students, per classroom, were trouble students. Don’t get me wrong, I
loved these guys. I tried. I worked. I slaved. I ran a Saturday School
to help students. My lunchroom periods were used to help them when they
needed extra study time. But, I was running off of 12 lessons of
instruction done via video and, in retrospect, there’s much I wouldn’t
do now.

For instance, did you know that Power Point is one of the most
ineffective methods of trying to instruct students? I didn’t. Maybe it’s
common sense to some, but to me, I thought it was amazing. You could
use pictures, video, all sorts of things. Turns out that, at a basic
human level, people don’t learn when copying information from slides, no
matter how many pictures you use. It’s incredibly ineffective. That’s
why there’s a heavier push for hands-on involvement of students versus
copying lecture notes plastered to the wall. You have something in your
brain that psychologists called a visual-spatial sketchpad, which means
you can only occupy a certain amount of information at once. If you have
an instructor telling you something, and the same thing he's saying is
basically written on the wall, and you're expected to write it down,
your brain begins to compete for limited resources.
You can't process
the visual, auditory and reproductive functions all at once. You can use
Power Point effectively, by limiting it to images, or limiting how much
you speak, but to do it all at once overwhelms the brain's ability to
simply remember. I had no idea about this at the time.

But my inability to instruct went beyond the procedural. I didn’t
know how to effectively situate a classroom, especially my first year.
Organization, desk arrangement, daily procedures, everything plays a
small part in running a classroom effectively. There’s a reason
experienced instructors insist on a constant, regular daily regiment. It
actually has a small payoff, and the more small payoffs you have, the
larger the overall payoff becomes. Students learn better.

Of course, it's hard to understand that when you’ve never been taught
beyond 12 video lessons, never had classroom training, or the like. And
while I was well meaning, there were those who weren’t. Another teacher
that had come in on an alternative certificate was a cocaine addict.
Then again, it’s hard to expect too much when my salary was 30,000 a
year. I know someone’s that was getting 25,000. This isn’t to say there
weren’t good teachers. Oh no, there were. However, because the school’s
bottom line was its priority, it was to its advantage to hire
undertrained teachers and then pay them at a lower salary. That’s a
consequence of a school’s goal being profit as opposed to education.

Want some other problems with a school like this one? It operated a
computer lab where students could catch up on credits. In theory, it was
a good idea. If a student became pregnant and fell behind, maybe they
could come in, use the computer to do some accelerated learning and
finish the semester credit in a month. It’s not ideal, but it might act
as a good supplement. The problem arose as students finished a year’s
worth of credits in, maybe, two months. The testing they took to pass
the computer courses were easily completed because, in the final
examinations, they used their phones or looked on someone else’s screen
to use Google. And in no case should a year’s worth of instruction be
done in two months.

So, unfailable and unexpellable students. Underpaid, undertrained
teachers. An emphasis on the bottom line. That’s what my life as a high
school teacher was like. I got better, don’t get me wrong. Actually, in
my third year I went to finish my masters degree, but continued on as a
substitute teacher at different schools. I got a fairly regular position
at one, and was able to turn that class into my own. By my third year, I
was actually getting pretty decent at what I did. Now, working on my
dissertation and with experience and knowledge, I’m actually a pretty
good instructor.

But man. That first year? Terrible. The problem wasn’t all on me,
though. There was a systemic issue with that charter school, and it
wasn’t an isolated experience. I could tell you about a number of other
teachers at different charter schools who had the same experience. It
wasn’t pretty, and it was always about making as much money as possible.
Education got some lip service and, don’t get me wrong, administrators
did care about teaching. However, the goal of making money, when it’s a
top priority, is always going to influence decisions regardless of
intent. It’s going to contour how facility decisions are made. Hopefully
parents will start to realize that charter schools are not silver
bullets. Also, if you live in Texas? Demand better from your teachers,
but also the policies that politicians are putting in place that govern
schools. Please.

Guests Visiting Due to Steubenville

To everyone arriving here because of the Steubenville post, thanks for staying informed. I'll be posting an updated version of the timeline soon. However, links at the bottom of the original Timeline link you to Prinniefield and KnightSec who did the heavy lifting exposing the evidence. I'm sort of just the collector of that stuff into a single post. This spot should be updated in a day or two.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Occupy Steubenville - Support the Victim

New details emerging from Steubenville are still vague and uncomfirmed. See The Steubenville Gang Rape for details on what happened in this horrific case as we know them right now. New accusations are coming from KnightSec, but I believe it's too early to pronounce these as fact until they've been further substantiated. However, for those of you hoping to support the young woman at the center of this case...
Online hacktivist group Anonymous is planning to hold a rally in Steubenville, Ohio, on Saturday to protest what it has called a conspiracy by some town members to protect local football stars accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in August. The rally, which a cell of the shadowy hacker collective promoted on Twitter as #OccupySteubenville, is set to take place at the Jefferson County Courthouse at noon.
Read more:
This is tomorrow at noon, people. Saturday, January 05, 2012, at the City Hall Court House. If you're in the Steubenville or Ohio area and can support them in any way, I'm sure the effort will be appreciated. Get the word out to anyone that might be interested.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Steubenville Gang Rape - A Timeline

A timeline and presentation of the evidence of the Steubenville rape case.
Warning: Graphic descriptions and language ahead.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening in Steubenville, and what led up to it.
It was August 11th when an end-of-year celebration occurred in Steubenville, Ohio. The end of summer brought students from a number of nearby schools for a party that would end some of their high school careers, while others celebrated in one final fashion before the new semester began. What was intended to be a wild night of fun, with booze already illegally flowing in the hands of underage teenagers, quickly grew far more tragic than people could have anticipated.

On that night, one young woman was brutally violated. Her body was still, carried by her feet and hands. Word quickly spread of the night’s insidious turn. The evidence? A trail of twitter posts, youtube videos and Instagram photos painted a picture of rape. The young woman in question was from Weirton, West Virginia, not too far from Steubenville. Much of the evidence magically vanished, but some remained. When all the evidence was considered, it seemed she had gone unconscious, then sexually violated in a number of ways, included being urinated on and forcefully penetrated. At the end of the night she was deposited on the front steps of her parents’ home.
On August 22nd, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were arrested for the rape in question. Police accused the pair of carrying her between parties and violating her while she was in a state incapable of resisting.

The aftermath is nearly as tragic as the incident itself. The country prosecutor and judge charged with handling juvenile cases stepped away from the case. In a town as small as Steubenville, it is not unusual to hear they had close ties with the football team that Mays and Richmond belonged to. Though the sheriff asked for witnesses to step forward, no one seemed to want to.

Far worse were the active defenses of the football team in question. In a part of the country suffering economic difficulty, football can provide a bright light for a town to rally behind. It can also provide motivation for people to behave in ugly ways. The family in question received death threats for raising the rape accusations. Meanwhile, one Steubenville football coach, Nate Hubbard, said this: “The rape was just an excuse, I think,” said the 27-year-old Hubbard, who is No. 2 on the Big Red’s career rushing list. What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.” The sheriff involved with the case stated to a new crew that witnessing the crime but not reporting it was not illegal. This is false. Failing to report a crime is, itself, a crime.

With so much resistance to the rape accusations, how did the evidence begin coming to light? It’s related to the town’s resistance against the accusations. It took an online blogger, who accused the town of siding with the rapists, and even accusing the police department of favoritism, to begin moving the wheels of justice. Defamation lawsuits were filed against the blogger. As of this date, those lawsuits have been dropped, but the point of the resistance remains.

The evidence collected and presented were, in the eyes of law enforcement, not damning enough. This was when KnightSec, a hacktivist collective of Anonymous, stepped in. On January 1st they threatened to come forward with further information if those involved did not take responsibility. When no response came, a 12 minute video of those involved came out, in which one player incriminates himself by repeatedly referencing the girl as both “raped” and “dead”. They make various indications that they knew the girl had been raped. Both the individual on camera, as well as those talking around him, can be heard referencing to her as raped.

The same individual captured in the video posted this to their twitter the night of the incident:

And that a number of people were aware of it, far more than the few who came forward in the case, is made clear by other Tweets collected from that same night:

Prior to much of this evidence, several people involved claimed that they weren't sure it was rape, or that any force was used. Photos taken from the collectivist group produced this:

While Mays and Richmond have been accused, Nodianos' role in the rape case has gone overlooked. Additionally, charges against Cody Saltsman have been dropped. The photo directly above was posted by Saltsman, who claims he received the photo, but was not present at the time of the incident. On the other hand, he responded to Nodianos the night of the rape:

In a country where it seems the protection we afford women is often inconsistent, what's horrifying is that A.) A girl in that condition could be viewed as willing and that B.) People in the two have either refused to come forward or actively tried to suppress the truth of the rape case. Here is one member of the town blaming the victim:

And finally, to reinforce just how miserable members of society can behave, here we have this quote to reinforce how such attitudes are not only isolated, but wider spread than we would like to think. From a poster at deadspin:

For the original story:
For Prinnifield's excellent exposure of the situation:
For KnightSec's excellent efforts to bring even more evidence forward: