Sunday, August 31, 2008

People Love What Ifs.... Hitler Wins This Time

In the last few months, I have read books on the rise and fall of the 3rd reich, Stalin's triwsted and cruel dictatorship of Russia, and the conflict between the Nazis & Soviets in WW2. Previously, I blogged about multiple ways Hitler could have been stopped before World War 2 became a huge Euro-conflict. The Pacific theater would have still been a major event without the Euro action. I will discuss how Hitler could have won the Euro theater that he was doomed to lose. I say doomed because from a materials and manpower standpoint, by late December of 1941 he was taking on two of most industrious nations in the World with combined populations far greater than greater Germany and Russia, which ruined Napolean and the French.

Hitler and Germany's main problem was that they did not understand the British and underestimated the Americans. They could not understand why the British would not 'settle' with them, when for decades if not centuries the policy of England was to not allow one nation to dominate the Continent. Their view of Americans was very weak because they did not have a network of spies there, and fell back on crass racial views of the country. Hitler was dumb enough to say that once he had settled Europe, he would move to take on America. This moves beyond his idea of just achieving "Lebensraum" for the Germans in the east. He never thought Americans would fight, as the Jazz Age must have twisted German views of America. After the spring of 1941, Hitler had virtually every country in Europe either allied with him or under occupation. Britain stood alone. America was not directly involved yet, and the Russians were "buddies". How could he have kept the momentum going and set the Reich up for a long reign. I'll start with least likely, and then move to closest to what truly happened, as Hitler was a frickin' psychopath who would not stop with his obsession of destroying the Bolsheviks and gaining lebensraum (see Mein Kampf). Somethign twisted with how the Soviets and the Nazis were on complete opposite ends of the spectrum and geographic neighbors, and almost had to tussle on an epic proportion.

Not going to happen but most likely would have worked....

1. Do nothing more. Set up a European Union with Germany the dominant country. Defend against British air raids, and try to show the rest of the world that you don't mean Britain harm, hoping that other world leaders will force the UK to settle. Then carry out his horrible policies against eastern europe, hoping the current eastern european landmass would be enough lebensraum. At that point, an EU dominated by Germany could have served as a weird balance between the USA/UK and the USSR.

2. Think globally. Hurt the British Empire, faking an invasion of the UK but moving against them elsewhere. Do not force the Battle of Britain, therefore losing tons of planes and other materials. Instead, seize Gibraltar (with or without the Spanish) and Malta, run the length of the Mediterranean southern coast to the Suez canal and go for the oil fields in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, etc. Hitting the Brits in the Imperial groin would have been effective at cutting their supply of raw materials, forcing a settlement. Being cut off from raw materials and starving, the Brits would have settled if it left their island intact and not destroyed by invasion nor bombing. This would have provided the oil to keep the war machine going against a potential war with Russia. After reading several sources, one of Hitler's goals of invading Russia was getting to raw materials and oil resources. I don't understand why he took on the Russian bear to get to the Middle East instead of trying to softer underside of the Mediterranean. Then attack Russia with Operation Barbarossa.

Now we get closer to what actually happened. Taking on Russia without finishing off the UK was Hitler's downfall. Taking on Russia alone still would have been Hitler's downfall.

3. An invasion of Russia through Turkey. Either negotiate passage through Turkey with their government's blessing or just inade them as Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Holland. From there, either go to the Middle East and secure some oil resources for a later invasion of Russia or use Eastern Turkey as a staging grounds for a blitz up the Caucasus Mountains to grab the Caspian Sea and Caucasus oil fields by surprise and cut up through the south of Russia. The Russians were truly surprised by Operation Barbarossa, even though agents gave them the exact date of the invasion. They did not believe the Germans would do it. That element of surprise would still be there in this plan, but they could attack the Russian oil field area first, as well as attack the Ukraine through Southeastern Europe. This still would have left Troops available to attack through the Minsk-Moscow axis. All this plan does is shift resources down from the Northern Attack route (and some from the central attack) to a southern route. The Russians would expect a direct assault, so they would concentrate forces on the path to Moscow rather than try to stop a Caucasus invasion, which unbeknownest to them would be the primary objective. It nabs precious resources when the Russkis are asleep instead of a failed attempt a year after the Russians are on alert as happened in real life. In real history, when the Germans did make it to some of the oil fields, the Russians had destroyed them just in time sot hat the Germans reached the spot for nothing. With surprise, they could have kept some oil intact. This would have stabilized the natural resource problem for the Germans, and would have prevented the rapid transport of industry that kept the Soviet war machine alive since they would have cut off some railroads going east to the Urals and Siberia. If this were as successful as the initial 5 months of Barbarossa, this would have forced the Soviets to settle (which they made feeble attempts to in late '41) or courageously fall back to Kuibyshev or further east. Either way, it puts the evil Nazis in a better spot than the original Barbarossa.

4. Force the Japanese to take some action of the Soviets eastern side as a condition for waging war against America if the Japanese are attacked. Hitler's foreign policy team was weak, and after initial success, he lost his ability to read his opponents. Hitler was dumb in declaring war on the USA, which I will tackle next, but he could have forced the Japanese to give some support vs. Russia. The japanese were smart, so even just limited engagement would have helped the German cause. The Japanese knew the Russians were fierce after skirmishes in the late '30s with Russia in Manchuria, but the least they could have done was bomb Russian military installations, camps, supply depots, etc. timed with the start of Barbarossa. Creating a two front war for Russia would have been too much for the Soviets. The Soviets' sacrifice was great in WW2, but attacks on the East or even just bombings by the well trained and experienced Japanese air squadrons in spring of '41, would have been too much. part of the Soviets strength was their ability to bring in millions of men from the east to concentrate on the Nazis. With Japan wiping out material and some men at the start, those reinforcements are partially gone. With a menace in the East, the Soviets have to decide how to split resources. In 1941, with Stalin controlling so much of the decision making, this probably would have been a horrendous defeat.

5. As Operation Barbarossa rolled through Belorussia and the Ukraine, the Germans act friendly to the natives and ask them to help the fight against the Soviets. The Soviet regime had been horrible to the Ukraine. Instead of wasting time slaughtering civilians, the Germans should have been "nice" and offered liberation in exchange for cooperation. Making the war a war against the Soviet regime instead of vs. Russia would have helped the propaganda side and the hearts and minds battle. The Soviet regime had a tenuous grasp on the country, and they turned the war against Germany as a war for Russia which gave the regime credibility and rallied the people. Friendly natives and resources directed against fighting instead of genocide would have gone a long way in not just attacking the Soviets but in creating a better defense if they had to fall back.

Everything happens as it does in real history except one thing in December of 1941...

6. Do not declare war on the USA. Germany did not have to declare war on America because their agreement with Japan said they would fight with Japan in the event Japan was attacked. This is Hitler at his dumbest, because he stupidly takes on another giant foe when there is no need to do so. This would be a roll of the dice that America would not declare war on Germany, which if you read the history books, is a credible possibility. America was extremely isolationist in the 1930s, and even after Pearl Harbor, the desire was to take down the Japanese as they had attacked us. FDR understood the dangers of the Nazis, and allowed the British and Russians to swing him into the "Germany first, Japan second" plan of attack. American planners imagined a German defeat in maybe 1946, and at best a Japanese defeat two years later. It's amazing how history unfolds. I still think this results in a German defeat. On the other hand, without American supplies to the Brits & Russians and manpower in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and eventually the Italian and French invasions, it would have been a long hard fight for the Russians with the Brits just providing bombings on Germany and naval warfare. In the end, I would envision the Soviet troops marching their way across the Continent and turning Europe into a giant collection of Communist states.

Hitler was going to lose with his course of action, and the world is better for his loss. It is horrifying to think of what would have happened had Hitler won. Would the world have been in a never ending battle of free countries vs. Germany and her client states? Yes. How many more Jews and non-Germans would have died in an expanded Holocaust? Millions. Would a Cold War with Germany been even uglier than the real Cold War? Possibly, see below. Would the Russkis have just fallen back to the Urals creating a never ending guerilla front for the Germans to continuously fight and the USA to secretly encourage the Russians to continue? Most likely. When would they have got the A-bomb, and where would they use it first? Hard to say, but launching one on a V-2 rocket from a submarine at London, Washington or NYC is a distinct possiblity. With their head start in rocket technology, that is the scariest thought. Would the Germans have reached space and the moon first since their leading rocket scientist became the father of NASA (Thanks Operation Paperclip) and placed weapons in space? Cold War would have been mighty chilly with nuclear winter or EMP weapons usage. These are all horrible things to consider, and thankfully, they are just what ifs.

Sarah Palin Awesome, Hurricane Gustav Not

Glad McCain picked Sarah Palin. This now guarantees an historic "first" in presidential politics. We'll have our first female VP or first partially of African ancestry president. Limousine liberals everywhere are blushing.

My heart does go out to folks in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast that Gustav loses a bit of its steam and if it does reach Category 4 status that it weakens quickly. As it always does with weather, it depends greatly on the wind and where falls hardest.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Guilt Trips

While exchancing emails with my mom, she sent me the 'i am sad to think my grandkids won't see me' note. Here's the background: she has no grandkids right now and won't for another 5 years. My folks saved lots of money and worked hard for years. They have amassed enough in savings to create a "trust" for when they retire and then 30+ years from now pass on, and to be considered "evil upper middle class" people in the eyes of Obama voters. Thanks to working for major corporations (evil entities for socialists out there), the money they will receive from pensions annually will be almost twice what the average US household earns. This is before you get into Social Security payments and minimum requirement 401k withdrawals. They will have a paid off house and no degenerate kids leeching off of them. They will cruise with their hard earned savings, pensions, etc.

Now how in the hell can they not see their grandkids? Oh yeah, my family will be 1000 miles away. What, no airplanes? Oh wait, airplanes exist. What will they do, work full time until 80? Nope, they are now planning on retiring around 60. God forbid they leave Maine for maybe a month or two (maybe Nov-Dec) to visit their first born and his family. Oh that's right, my dad could never leave his family nor his hometown for longer than 2 weeks, and my mom will deny the economic ease of their retirement until we show account statements totalling a billion dollars.

Why even declare residency in Maine? Why not move here to Indy for "6 months", spend 3 in Florida and then 3 in Maine? I type "6 months" because that can be a loose number as what state government has the time to track two retired people for their real residency, so they can mix and match as they see fit. I think 6 months in Florida is far smarter. Maine has awesome seafood, an ocean, pretty forests that my parents don't care about, my parents' extended families that they find mostly annoying, and my sister's family. Maine's state taxes will just drain away money they saved for years for retirement at a higher rate than either Florida or Indiana. Maine costs more to live in than those two states. Cold winters with lots of snow that wreck havoc on my dad's bad knee.

My folks use my sister as their excuse for living in Maine in retirement and my sister uses my parents as her excuse for living in Maine. Maine is beautiful. It really is. I miss Portland and the beach of Kinney Shores that I grew up on. I'm not moving back though, and why can't my folks meet me halfway and spend a month or two here if they want to see future grandkids so much?

This is Why the Democrats Should Have Solved the Nominee Issue In February




I knew Hillary would come back to bite Obama in the ass. Wow, Hil-dog, way to go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sarah Palin, Please Oh Please Be the VP for the GOP

This is the fantastic part about Sarah Palin as the VP for the GOP ticket: the Democrats can't criticize her for having no experience because she has more experience than the Dems' presidential nominee.... and she's over 40, an NRA member, a mother of 5 and classy-sexy.

Ah yes, the 1980s. Oh, 1980s feathered hair. How awesome were you. I miss the likes of Blair Hair. If you become VP, can you please bring back your feathered hair?
I just posted this one for the boots. Yeah, look at those boots. I'm down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

McCain is Going to Pick Palin, Right? He's Old but not Idiotic?

John McCain has to pick Sarah Palin for VP. Am I right? Barack "Messiah v. 2.0" Obama picked the complete opposite of a change VP in Joe Biden, who I think is a decent guy but is a blowhard. It's such a slam to all the Hillary voters, all 18 million of them. I learned this quickly in marriage, don't piss off a married woman. They never forget anything, and usually bring up something later that you thought they forgot or had forgiven you for doing. This might be the easiest pick in years for the GOP, which is why they can still screw it up.

Where's McCain weak? His party and his age. He can't run away from his party, despite his ads never mentioning the word "republican". He can offset his age problem with a vibrant, non-grey haired woman. How many Hillary supporters might this peel off? Maybe an extra 5% of them who are still waffling over whether to vote Obama, vote McCain or stay home? Maybe just enough to swing around some married, female Independents that prove critical in elections. Maybe just enough in Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, etc. Bush increased his share of the female vote from 43% to 48%, and that was the key to winning the election. I like McCain. I supported him in 2000, and would have preferred 8 years under a McCain presidency to a Bush presidency. I just think he missed his moment.

Obama is going to win. That is why I have been reading The Court of the Red Tsar. When the netroots/socialist revolution comes, I'll be ready to denounce you all, bwahahahahahahahaha!!!!

My Dad Bought a WII

A 1000 miles away, my dad bought a video game console, the Ninetendo Wii. I will get him Tiger Woods 2008 for his system. Yes, the child now gets a gift of a video game for the parent.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympics Week 2 Thoughts

I am an old track and field runner that specialized in the 400. There were plenty of cool stories from the track side of the Olympics. Not all of it good.

The amazing week of Usain Bolt really stands out. I don't think he had a clue of how fast his 100 meter race was or else he would have run the whole way hard to the end. He could have shattered the 100 meter record. Too bad.

Jeremy Wariner really funked it up in the 400. He won the silver, but he ran a full .5 slower than his semifinals run. Weird. I'll miss him if he doesn't run in the 2012 Olympics because he was a pretty funny character.

When you run a relay, hold onto the baton and don't let go until the other person has their hand around it.

I like watching volleyball, not beach volleyball, but real volleyball. It's awesome to see teams that go back and forth instead of one side just spiking on the other non-stop on a steamroll to 25 points.

So the IOC is eliminating softball partly due to the USA's dominance of softball. Hmmm, ping pong is an Olympic sport because.......

The NBA used this Olympics to rehab their image. Kobe Bryant did the same. NBC and ESPN enabled them. I'm glad the USA won since they did have the top 3 players in the world on the same frickin' team.

Rhythmic Gymnastics is really really bad. It makes figure skating tolerable in comparison. Of course, my wife the modern dancer, loves it.

China got 17 days to broadcast a commercial for their country and what did we learn: lots of construction, pollution, and trash on the ground. The air is bad, and their state system of sports produces great divers and exploits 12 year olds. They put on a good show. Did we not know this before? I think at some point, economic freedom cannot continue to progress at breakneck pace without political, personal and religious freedom. Right now, the country is still run from a centralized planning base, but with growing freedom to politically connected individuals. Something will have to give. I'd love to see it in my time.

What if no one notices the end coming....

Excellent. Let's cross our fingers and hopes this date becomes a reality because of continuous improvements in Iraq.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Gymnastics Thoughts

Reflecting on the finish to the women's gymnastics, I must say that it was entertaining and delivered the ratings NBC was hoping for in 2008. The benefit of the 12 hour time split has been that US viewers can watch live competition. This meant a lot with the swimming and gymnastics. You can't create fictional drama better than some of the live, unscripted contests viewers have watched from their living rooms. The storyline NBC had to work with this Olympics for women's (let's not kid ourselves and just start calling it girls') gymnastics. The two Americans, one is an athletic sprite from the heartland and the other is a ballerina-ish daughter of World champions, duel it out for the gold with challenges from the underage, labor camp style Chicom contestants. It couldn't get much better, and suddenly, you had terrible scoring, and what blatantly appeared to be home cooking for the host country's contestants. NBC couldn't have asked for more.

Or could they..... What if we took this same cast of characters and just moved them back to the geopolitical climate of the '70s or '80s. You would have had underage Commie Chinese contestants and a blonde, ice in her veins Soviet who sticks all of her landings (Liukin) vs. a little 4 foot 9 pixie with a big smile from the breadbasket of the US coached by defectors from the other two countries (Karolyi is an old Eastern Bloc coach). That's the only way that Johnson-Liukin rivalry could have been better. It would have been like crossing Rocky 4 with the Mary Lou Retton story. I actually think NBC would have just blown up. They would have made it so cheeseball.

I'm going to fight my tendency to say things were better "back then" and prefer this year's contest. It was fun to see the Chinese blatantly exploit 12 and 13 year olds and be taken to task for it more than for the smog in Beijing. Sad part is that those Chicom gymnasts are the best cared for 13 year old workers in the entire country. It was fun to see Karolyi get fired up over the horrendous judging that always benefited the Chinese and hurt every other country (primarily the USA & Russia). Kind of like the magical tie that became a Chinese gold, yet the Chinese girl made more mistakes. It was great to hear the announcers call the Chinese medals awarded in individual events frauds. Those announcers never get fired up like that, and usually toe the IOC line. It was great to see the American duo house the rest of the world in the individual events after they missed out on a team gold due to the odd scoring and the horrible performance of a Masshole with a giant neck. It was great to see a Masshole fall on her @ss twice. Go back to Mass and cry about it in your Tom Brady pink jersey. The professional friendship between Liukin and Johnson was really sweet and reminded me that these are girls who have lives maybe a degree or three less disturbing in an athletic training and dieting vibe than the Chinese girls. It was nice to witness when so many of the today's athletes are me me me people. Think about this, I'm a 28 year old man, and I enjoyed watching gymnastics, causing me to waste time blogging about it multiple times.

Mass Production Haiku

1
lever pulled inside
no, stop it, it's a sickness
the daily struggle
2
bugs under the lawn
preconceived notion is false
no paint can cover
3
give up on perfect
only fleeting satisfaction
love reality

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Electricity Generation

This site shows electricity sources in America. Money section is this one....

48.6 percent of our nation's electricity was generated from coal. Nuclear energy produced 19.4 percent. Natural gas supplied 21.5 percent. Hydropower provided 5.8 percent of the supply. Fuel oil provided 1.6 percent of the generation mix. Other renewable resources, such as geothermal, solar, and wind, provided 2.5 percent, with other miscellaneous sources providing the balance.

We know if McCain is elected, the nuclear energy portion will see plenty of government assistance. We know if Obama is elected, the enviros will demand that the feds subsidize massive solar and wind farms. Because numbers are in Giga watt hours, I'm talking about massive solar thermal and PV plants, not putting little PV panels on suburban rooftops. If we could build up nuclear, wind and solar just 5% each in the next 10 years, it would seriously alter the electricity mix. It could free up nat gas for other use whether as a liquid fuel or industrial uses, either way, it would help with the coming supposed peak to nat gas production.

I would prefer to see it displace coal usage. I know coal is here to stay for my lifetime, but we can start to reduce coal's role in America. The USA could export even more coal to the rest of the world (+40% rise in exports this Q1), helping our trade deficit. Combined with an electrification of our transportation network, reducing our total oil usage, and we'd be moving towards a more balanced trade position (our oil import bill & one way China trade make up most of our trade deficit). Talk of electrification of the transportation network brings up increased electricity demands. It is not as scary as it sounds, read here. What it ultimately takes is leadership, government and corporate, willing to think long term and possibly risk short term 'victories' and more importantly, research by the brilliant engineers and scientists of the world.

Common Sense Investing Idea

In the last couple months, I have contemplated what to do for investing. It's a tough market out there, and I am trying a different take on investing. In the past, I have discussed foreign equities, bonds, or CDs for diversification. I have done some precious metals investing, but that is more of a basic savings operation. Recently, I have turned to the idea of personal hedging. Robert Shiller wrote an article about hedging for the average joe six pack and how more options should be available for individuals. He's pretty smart, and I would say his books and this interview are proof positive (that interview is from late 2004, scary how things have unfolded) Shiller wrote an article that is much more eloquent than my little blog about this concept. I'm looking for opportunities to apply this idea to my life and my investments. Think of the old saying "write what you know" and invest in that manner.

My parents already did this when they told their heating oil company they would lock into home heating oil costs for the winter at $4 a gallon. My sales pitch for a ground sink heat pump didn't work. Say you have a job that involves a lot of driving, which can eat into your profits or increase your out of pocket expenses. Maybe an investment that rises will the price of oil or gas could help offset the pain at the pump. I recently looked around and saw BP and Shell on my credit card statement, and thought, why not buy BP or Shell stock and get something back for my money. It's like having a kid and buying Disney stock on the very same day. You know those bloodsuckers at Disney are going to get money out of you, might as well join in on the fun. Yes dividend payments and capital appreciation may not keep up with what you shell out for these companies, but it can hedge those expenditures.

Some that I have considered and researched recently have been PWE, DUK, ACI and BP. BP is self explanatory since I fill up every single week, and when oil prices do rise again, at least I can ride the wave a bit. DUK is my electric company. Utilities are usually safe bets, and DUK has a nice dividend (slowly increasing) and diverse sources of power generation (coal, wind, nuclear, etc.). If my electric bill goes up, well my dividend checks can help offset that pain. Sounds dumb, but it sounds like common sense investing. ACI is arch coal, and no matter what we do with energy, coal is still going to fuel much of the world's energy needs in the near future. The PWE is a nat gas trust product from Canada. If I heat my future home (t-minus 10 months) with nat gas, an investment that pays a 13% dividend is a nice hedge. I can't get excited about UNG because it doesn't pay a dividend (same goes for heating oil hedges people of the northeast).

Touching on a topic on the tips of most people's tongues, I see nat gas as an energy source that will get lots of love in the next presidential administration because it is a domestic energy source (I count Canada as quasi-domestic as NAFTA almost makes it so) and US production has increased quite a bit in the last 18 months with more coming online soon. I see much of the transportation infrastructure in America moving to electrification whether through mass transit, hybrids or electric cars. Nuclear really should be the backbone of our electricity generation (like in France), but hippies don't like it for fears of doomsday scenarios (despite the damage coal does everyday). I'd love to believe in a world where wind and solar could power all of our electricity needs, but that world seems far away (20+ years). Even with wind and solar farms being built, they take time to build, time to link to the grid, and only provide intermittent power (until we figure out how to do better energy storage). Nat gas is still going to be used in electricity generation because it fires up generators quickly when wind and solar can't produce. Part of the problem is the energy markets have been so bubbly that I only want to dip my toe in slowly. Good luck to you all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Strip Clubs

Man, I hope I have not posted about strip clubs before, but I believe that my friend Dave, my wife and I could run a great strip club. One that would be friendly to all types of people and all tastes. This is on my mind as I recently discovered from my good friend Dave a website called nudar. This is a hysterical combination of sex, the internet and GPS. Maybe we can find those strip clubs (SC) that are on tv and in movies where no one gets naked? There is an all nude bar in Rumford, ME. If you have never been to that area, you have no idea how comical that is. I found the one that was in my collegetown of Ithaca, NY. This is just an interesting application of technology to an age old question for young men, "Where are we going tonight?"

I've been going to these bars for almost a decade now, and the human behavior displayed in them still amazes me. Why would someone work there? Why are the shot girls & waitresses usually more attractive than the dancers? Is there much thought to being human cattle? Do they dislike being objectified by patrons? Do they just think of separating the patrons from their money? Does it warp their self esteem and alter all relationships with men or lesbians? Is there a training class for new strippers? Why do men go but don't pay attention to the details? I once remember a friend not realizing a place was a 'pasties' bar until after we told him. Why spend so much money on a living doll? Do most realize they are 'marks' in the con game that is the strip club? Do they view the women as women or do they have a completely separate view of 'what' that person is? Does it warp their relationships with other women?

These questions usually race through my mind when I go to one with friends. I tend to view most of the performers in a positive light. This might be since a few high school classmates of mine became strippers, and I have a feeling their stories are part of the template for why many young strippers started in the business. I'm the chatty guy in a group that goes to a SC, as I usually ask questions about the nuts and bolts of SC ops like if the girls have to pay the house a % of all lap dances or kick a flat fee to the house at the end of the night. I can stare at a naked woman all night, but basic questions of what the hell is going on there interest me. Then again, I'm also probably the only guy there that is a MENSA member.

I usually view most of the guys there as douchebags. Does my being there make me one as well? Am I viewing these voyeurs purely on appearance and the fact that they are there? No, it usually is from their behavior which is loutish and classless, but they are at a SC so is it excused? Views of my own gender drop after a few hours of observing the d-bags acting like 5 year olds at Christmas because of topless women. Still, I tend to view the younger patrons in a more positive light. Is that age bias and wrong? Probably, but I don't like the creepy old guy at a regular bar let alone a SC.

There's something odd about SC joints. That's part of my disgust with the hypersexualization of young women in American society. In just a few years, those young boys and girls who grew up in the last 10 years will be hitting SC age. It just might make the SCs that much worse. There's an air of desperation that no amount of baby powder, body glitter or techno remixes can repress.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shooter

Mix The Fugitive with First Blood with The Parallax View and you have Shooter. I was laughing out loud at some moments because this movie is a libertarian/mountain man's wet dream. Not as much as Red Dawn, but close. This is a popcorn movie, and it recycles many of the played out motives for bad guys... corporations run things... shadow sections of the government are out of control... atrocities in foreign countries that we supervise... I'm tired. Good to see Marky Mark Wahlberg have another hit. He has managed to string together a series of decent box office moneymakers with moderate to low budgets that are re-watchable. That's a tough thing to pull off in Hollywood.

The small issue I have with this movie is that they try to make it realistic, and it is wonderful how they show the young FBI agent doing detective work to come around to Marky Mark's claim of innocence. Showing Marky Mark treat his wounds, figure how to get out of Philly, and disguise himself was great. They then destroy that credibility with some ridiculous action sequences. I have a friend who was a scout sniper for the Marines. I can't see Brad outrunning the entire FBI, but he would be hard to bring in alive. I can see Brad wrecking a policeman or FBI agent, but I do not envision him taking out 24 heavily armed, private army soldiers. Don't bait me with realistic sequences and make it incredibly interesting and then add in cartoonish action shots. I can get off my high horse though, as I can suspend my disbelief for the movie and laugh at the ludicrous moments.

Instant insight while watching the film: I could see how this movie appeals to the Red Bull and vodka crowd.

Olympics Week One Review

Because of my parents visit and my wife's love of gymnastics, I got sucked into watching the ChiCom Olympics. I do think a lot of the sham that is the Chicom games has been exposed. Twelve year old gymnasts, substitute 7 year old singers, smog all over, 'sold out' venues that are 3/4 full at most all show what a joke the coming out party is. Here's my thoughts....

Opening ceremonies had Sarah Brightman singing some song. Is she the go to person for international events? Who else thinks those Chinese men in the boxes during that weird wave floor display were forced to stay there for months in those boxes?

President Bush sounded like a smart statesman when interviewed by Bob Costas. Who is this man? Will we look back differently on Bush in 20 years? Maybe.

There are too many dumb sports now treated as medal sports. Beach Volleyball? Women's softball but not men's baseball? Ping pong. Come on.

Dara Torres can trash talk any swimmer out there by saying "I had a baby 2 years ago, what did you do since the last Olympics? Oh, just swim and weightlift. Kiss it." I tip my hat off to any 41 year old who can medal in a power swimmer event.

Can someone explain to me why this Masshole Alicia Sacramone was on the gymnastic team? How do you f**k up that much when you are the oldest person on the team (20)? Shouldn't she be savvy and seasoned? She cost the US a team gold. Go back to Brown and fall on your ass a few times walking the quad you Masshole.

Anyone else creeped out by the Chinese gymnasts? The men have baseball shaped muscles (yeah right, no roids there) and the "women" are 12 or 13. I felt bad for those girls. Made my skin crawl to see that little 8 year old on the uneven bars.

Glad to see the scoring of the women's individual was fair and balanced. No way were they trying to help out host country performers. Nope. Move along.

That duo of Lukin and Johnson were awesome to watch. If the USA had one decent other performer, they would have won gold. Shawn Johnson is 16 and towered over those ChiCom "16 year olds". That's not right. Boy did I run to look up if Lukin was 18. As this website would vote, thank you. Think the Russians are bothered that their country sucks so much that their gold medal gymnasts have kids and leave the country. Lukin and the male gymnast Artemev would both be on the Russian squads if Russia was not a sh*thole.

Bela Karolyi is so much fun to listen to and watch. He is so biased that it is like a grampa cheering on his kids. He sounds like Adam Sandler's skit "the goat". I was glad to see they showed shots of him watching the Lukin floor routine. Highest of high comedy.

On the flip side, go fuck yourself Kobe Bryant. This is all part of the NBA's pr blitz and Kobe's image rehab to make people like him again. He says it is the ultimate honor to represent the USA in hoops at the Olympics. Where was that spirit in 2000 or 2004 when they asked him to be on the team? Shut up you phony. I'll say it again, Kobe Bryant is more like a child TV or Movie star than an athlete.

The 100 meter sprinter for Jamaica was amazing to watch. He won a race by .2 seconds that is usually won by the start or "lean" of a runner. He also won by .2 after he slowed up to celebrate with 15 meters to go. That was a mindblowing race, and we can only imagine what he would have run had he run the whole way through to the end. I am shocked how many of the 100 meter sprinters were lean and tall. Most 100 meter sprinters are muscular with big legs like the bronze medalist from the USA Walter Dix. Weird.

Finally, Michael Phelps was just a joy to watch. I haven't yelled at the TV since.... the Super Bowl. Sometimes it is kismet, destiny, or whatever you want to use for a description. His destruction of the competition, the way relay teams came through in tight spots, the way he managed to pick the right time to use an extra stroke or time the start just right all added up to a feat we probably won't see matched until the next Spitz or Phelps comes along. People forget that he almost did the 8 golds in 04, so this is not such a big surprise. It is just amazing that he pulled everything together to complete such a mindboggling meet.

Let's hope week 2 is just as good.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Nintendo Wii

I experienced the Nintendo Wii. After playing it for an hour, my father and I both wanted one. It was fun as your movements decide what the players do in Wii Sports. I can only imagine the excellent gameplay for a good golf game like Tiger Woods 08 or a real baseball game. My dad really liked the golf game, so a true simulator game rather than an arcade golf game would probably entertain him for hours. My mom even played, which was funny as she stepped up to the ball in golf. My cousin and I played one night until about 2am. It was a simple arcade style tennis game but it was fun to play with someone and have my movements control the gameplay. The boxing game made a whole room of people laugh as it was played. I can see this system, with its easy to learn gameplay, be a giant hit at family functions and house parties.

That is the big selling point with the Wii: you play with other people in a fun, competitive manner. Video Games have been designed to cater to single player games. The consoles have great graphics and processing, but you play epic quests and sports games that do not encourage multiplayer gaming. Wii is cheaper than the expensive next gen consoles, and is outselling them by the hundreds of thousands of units. This fake ad is absolutely the truth. I would love to have a ps3, but it's wicked expensive. The wii is also easy to play and fun. That should be the goal of the game portion of a video game system.

Family Visit and Visiting Family

My folks came to visit for the week. We ate well, visited historical sites & the state fair, and in the middle of their visit, visited my uncle and his family. Weird week as my folks visited, revealing that they are geared up for retirement living (setting up a trust, revising their will, envisioning grandchildren) with retirement 5 years or so away. It was on the main focus of their near future plans, as I think my grandparents' failing health has taught them that they are the future standard bearers for their two families. It was good to see them.

During the visit, we drove to Ohio to visit my uncle and his family. They just moved back to the USA after 4 years in Japan. My uncle just retired from the air force. He is my favorite uncle, and it is nice to now have him 2 hours away. I wish I had lived closer to them growing up. It is weird to see his twins going off to college as I remember vividly their first birthday party when they moved stateside. That was 18 years ago. Even though I not spent a lot of time with them, they are two of my cousins that I care for the most. It is also odd to see my male cousin display mannerisms and facial expressions similar to mine and my female cousin act like my sister. They have quite the transition to make from going to concerts in Tokyo and Osaka and experiencing a foreign country to going to college in Ohio with tons of kids who have known only Ohio. I have a strong feeling they will transfer to other colleges in more cosmopolitan locales.

I have a funny story from the trip that will be saved for my next post, but another bit of comedy was playing the game "rock band" for the first time. This is an Xbox game where people play guitar, drums and sing in an attempt to make their band become superstars. My cousins and I are all artistic, and we played together. My male cousin on guitar, female cousin on drums and me singing lead. I was a tenor in the school choir and had a lead in the school musical Grease. The singing voice is not as high, but I still have my kick ass falsetto. Beauty of this game was that it played rock songs I knew by heart. Surprisingly, my cousins dislike many new groups and like early 90s grunge. Wow. Fortunately, I could sing songs by STP and Nirvana. I could carry them durign the 70s tunes. I understand why this game is so popular. You must play it with others, and you can enjoy good music. There is a Nirvana song that I always sing to in the car but never knew the name of it. We had to play it, and I said "I dont know that one". They looked at me stunned. When it came on, I ripped it up. They then laughed that I have been singing along to a song for 15 years but never knew the name of it. What can I say... "i'm the one who likes all the pretty songs, and i like to sing along and i like to shoot my gun, but i know not what it means (drums) bahbahbah-boom-bahdoom know not what it means (drums) bahbahbah-boom-bahdoom when they say yeaaaaahhhhhh".

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Allison Was Right

An old friend once told me, in that catty tone that young women use to snipe at some completely unattainable woman that a male friend lusts over in a magazine, "If Heidi Klum didn't have implants, you wouldn't find her attractive". My apologies Allison, you were right. Put some meat on your bones Heidi.

Haiku: Like Leaves Come Fall

Insight hit, taught me
Construct, which I placed hopes in
Melted, hope had passed

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Penelope Louise Perkins Hall of Fame

There is a group of actresses from the late 80s-early 90s who were in plenty of movies and never really reached the pinnacle of acting fame or prestige. I enjoyed their work. They were solid actresses who usually played complicated or nuanced characters. They sadly were not in the upper crust for talent (or agents) in that time frame like Emma Thompson, Kathleen Turner, Meryl Streep or Glenn Close. I think Kathleen Turner and Glenn Close in Body Heat and Fatal Attraction simultaneously sexually aroused & terrified baby boomer males everywhere with those two films. Those four women took turns playing the top notch drama roles and earning the big bucks & acclaim. These 2nd tier ladies are also not part of that Demi Moore-Jessica Alba crowd of bad actresses who play parts where the object of the female lead is to be gazed upon by the viewer. This is a sad truth of films. Don't believe me, just ask one of my favorites who is long gone: Ingrid Bergman. Their careers weaved in and around Hollywood, and some of them have found success after age 40. This is my salute to them: The Penelope Louise Perkins Hall of Fame.

Side note: While watching a love story recently, there was a passionate kiss where the lead brought his hand up to the female's face (big surprise). I asked my wife "what do you look at when there is a kiss?" She answered "the woman". I then said, "I observe the kiss, then the man, then the woman". Weird how we see the same action in completely different ways.

This hall of solid 2nd tier female leads will be named the Penelope Louise Perkins Hall of Fame in honor of the habit of using 3 names for their professional screen names. It's a play on their odd resemblance to one another. It was easy to confuse them, which may explain how they were good but forgettable in roles. This Hall of Fame will not be confined to only this era of actresses. Second tier actresses with a good body of work who did not just play 'babes' from other eras can be admitted, and I will accept suggestions. Without further ado, I will announce the first class of the PLP HOF.....

4. Mary Stuart Masterson - Plays a lesbian in a film. Has 3 names. Plays mentally disabled or sick people. Plays a tough chick. She has even showed up on the Law and Order with the creepy crimes. She's just cute enough to rope guys in, but just butch enough to break lesbians' hearts. Has a great speaking voice. I love her authenticity as she makes things interesting yet keeps a strong feeling of realism in her acting. Might be the most talented of the actresses in the inaugural class.

3. Elizabeth Perkins - This woman has played wonderful archetypes of the chick flick genre. She burst onto the scene in some '80s classics, playing the aggressive career woman very well in Big. I loved her slow realization and detective work to figure out that Josh was in fact a child. She couldn't carry a film financially, therefore was relegated to little work or the supporting aunt/therapist/best friend role for the rest of her career. Had some sister roles stolen from her by Marcia Gay Harden (what is it with the 3 names?) probably because as they aged the started to look similar. In an amazing twist of fate, she is on Weeds with another member of the PLP HOF. Maybe producers caught on that everyone confused the two of them.

2. Penelope Ann Miller - I had a huge crush on her growing up. She played the hot chick, the power lawyer, the tough girlfriend, the chick with a secret, stumbled through bad films, could not carry a film at the box office and is now doing random supporting roles. Her best work was in Other People's Money. She had a good chemistry with Danny Devito. She had to play a woman who exhibits sexual chemistry with Danny Devito. Made it look reasonable. Think about that again. Once more, she has 3 names. She may have been a victim of not getting implants when implants were starting to be in vogue for actresses (this goes for all of these women). She may also have had some pride in her work, refusing to only play the hot woman in films.

1. Mary Louise Parker - Probably the most successful of the actresses here. I will not link every movie, but she plays an AIDS victim that a lesbian falls in love with, an abused woman that a lesbian falls in love with, a housewife turned drug dealer, a tough, white trash single mom, and a cop's wife who eventually guns down the serial killer as he is about to kill her husband. That is an impressive resume of girl power roles. She had that stretch of nothing after Boys on the Side up until Red Dragon. She wasn't hot enough to play the lead love interest, and she wasn't a big enough name to carry a movie at the box office. Sadly, this is how Hollywood assigns roles. Her embrace of dark hair and amazing transformation from playing the vulnerable female friend to the strong, tough female lead is why she gets the top spot in this class. She has that sexy dark edge now and is positioned well for the near future.

Research will be done for women of the '60-'70s who may be inducted to the Penelope Louise Perkins Hall of Fame... I already have one in mind.

Two Great Movies

On a mini-vacation this past weekend, I caught a foreign film called "Tell No One" that is French in origin. I love how IMDB posters are already worried about an American remake. My prediction for an American remake is that Tom Cruise is cast as the MD. My friend suggested it, and thankfully, I agreed despite my desire to see a film about Genghis Khan. Tell No One (TNO) is a nice blend of the 'who done it' with a Fugitive vibe. The action scenes have a realistic feel to them, as the protagonist is not a superhuman genius, but a doctor that can put two & two together who is running for his life with the motivation of finding his wife whom he has thought for 8 years to be dead. The detective story within the detective story, chase within a chase, story arc is awesome. I enjoy movies like this as they appeal to my love for old Hitchcock movies. There is detective work, small gang member stuff and bits of comedy that I appreciated. Some things were shown that I bet in an American film would be cut for "run time". I would buy this on DVD. Three of four stars.



The Dark Knight was excellent. I really enjoyed Batman Begins, but TDK was everything I wished a comic book movie would be. I'm an easy sell as Batman was one of my favorite comic books to read. Despite its length, I did not feel bored for one moment nor felt that the movie was slow. My only problem with it was not seeing it on an IMAX screen. There is a cool twist how they arrest the Joker halfway through that I will not give away, but it caught people off guard. Here's where they have hit the mark with this Batman concept under Nolan & Bale: they have the right mood for Batman, the right shots of a gritty and shitty city, solid music, villians that are a bit realistic and less cartoonish, and an exploration of the troubling question "would a masked vigilante attract criminals to a city" that some comic books have discussed. It's a great line delivered by Ledger when he answers Batman's question of his desire to kill Batman by stating "you complete me". It is a shame that Ledger died, as it would have been brilliant bringing the Joker back 2 films later for a reunion. After watching TDK, my wife was thrilled by it but wondered how on Earth the producers of the Bond films could pass up on Christian Bale as the new James Bond. I would definitely buy this on DVD. Three and a half out of four stars.

Perspective

I read this today and felt that harmony with it. I dislike people today that think we live in a police state that duct tapes the mouths of those who criticize the government and question our leaders. I know plenty of people who question our leaders and still walk the streets. I question our leaders, and yet I still stand free. That's the beauty of America. Born at the end of the 70s, it surprises me that anyone could think the Soviet regime and the American government were equal from a moral standpoint. A short while ago, I read this book. The more I ponder its details (and I love to go back and read parts when I read a new book that covers a similar issue but from a different point of view), I came away with the thought that Hitler was crazy, but Stalin was just an asshole. While some of the assholery ended with Stalin's death, the Soviets did not put an end to the Gulags nor tot he oppression of their own people.