Archive for January, 2010

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Avatar

January 24, 2010

I just got back from seeing Avatar and thought it was great.  I was worried it would have been overhyped by this point so I would have been let down but it really was awesome.  It’s not often I like formulaic movies but the formulaic nature actually made the movie more enjoyable.  You could just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. 

A couple thoughts on the themes of the movie:

1.  White people suck.  Certainly true if you look at world history, but just because white people suck doesn’t mean other people can’t suck too.  If one accepts that all societies are driven by the desire to continually improve their lot in life then one must accept that the only reason white people suck more than others is because they developed tools that allowed them to improve their life faster than others, ultimately at the expense of those who hadn’t figured things out as quickly.  These leads me to point number two.

2.  Blue guys may also suck!  My question would be what’s going to happen to Pandora after the White guys leave?  It seems to me that now that one tribe has access to more advanced weaponry they will start using it, and since they are a warrior race it’s only logical to assume that they will go to war with the other tribes (especially since their home was destroyed and they now need to find a new place to live), meaning they may become their planet’s version of sucky white guys.

3.  Unobtanium.  I’d like to think the reason they gave the mineral such a stupid name is because it’s supposed to represent the never-ending search for happiness through the accumulation of material wealth, something which Buddhism teaches is ultimately, you guessed it, unobtainable.   (see Wall-E Samsara post for more on this topic)

4.  Worship of nature.  Personally, I find pretty much any organized religion to be a load of crap and little more than a way for people to pursue a political agenda by placing it within an artificially divine framework.  I don’t need an illogical explanation to explain to me the wonders of the natural world – I think the natural world speaks for itself.  By placing a veil of artificiality over the real you cheapen the beauty of nature by ascribing its creation to the hands of some imaginary being.  If you accept that nature develops without any sort of divine guidance and simply evolves as it sees fit you actually enhance the overall sense of majesty that can be found in the natural world.  What’s more beautiful – a painting of a sunset or an actual sunset?  The beauty of nature is empirical and ultimately represents exactly what religious philosophers tried so desperately to prove about the divine nature of god throughout the centuries.  Aristotle’s unmoving mover was in front of him the whole time, he was just too busy trying to validate the existence of God to notice that God doesn’t exist except in the majesty of the natural world.  Everything else is artificial. 

All in all, I loved the movie.  I would just caution those people who get overly depressed at the idea that we as a race suck and remind them that there is no reason to believe that the tribes of Pandora aren’t equally warlike towards one another and that eventually one of them wouldn’t have developed gunpowder.  As for the people who got depressed at the thought that such natural beauty doesn’t really exist, I’ve got good news:  It does.  You just have to get off your couch and go out and find it.  It’s not hard.  In fact, there are a whole bunch of really great National Parks out there – you can even buy a yearly pass.  Just don’t try and ‘bond’ with nature like they do in the movie – you’ll probably get a stern look from a park ranger.

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The universe has been righted!

January 20, 2010

Just when I started to think that the world had gone all topsy turvy on me and the democrats were actually about to accomplish something, the universe stepped in and reminded us that while there are few constants in life, ‘democrats can’t do shit,’ is one of them.  How on earth do you lose the senate seat that was occupied by one of the most liberal politicians from one of the most liberal political families in one of the most liberal states in America when the signature issue for which that politician spent his whole life championing is the primary issue of the election!?!  I’ll tell you how – you run a Democrat.  The best part of all this is that it reveals just how little respect people have for the Democratic Party.  Everyone in the world is saying that with the loss of the senate seat and the supermajority Obama’s health care plan is dead and that all his initiatives will need to be scaled back, even though the Democrats still maintain a majority in both the Senate and House.  In other words, the only way the Democrats can accomplish anything is if they are allowed to operate without any opposition.  The Democrats had a full year to push through a health care package with no opposition other than from within their own party, and even then they failed!  Democrats are simply incapable of doing anything when there is any hint of resistance, regardless of whether it is internal or external.   Now that they have to deal with a newly strengthened Republican party, the odds of the Democrats getting a health care bill passed are even smaller.  The Simpon’s had it dead on when they showed the Springfield Democratic Party that met in ‘Trader Earths’ and was made up of the flamboyant gay guy, Mr. Smithers, Bumblebee Man, Comic Book Guy, and Marge.  Compare this to the Springfield Republican Party, which includes Fat Tony, two fat white guys, Count Dracula, the Texas oil guy, Mr. Burns, Rainier Wolfcastle, Dr. Hibert, and Reverend Lovejoy’s wife.

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Not spring, yet!

January 19, 2010

To all the girls on the metro who were wearing exceptionally short skirts and other flirty, spring-like apparel, please take a look at the calendar and note that it is still January, which, this past weekend not withstanding, is typically when D.C. enters the coldest part of the year.  I know, I know…yesterday was soooo nice that we were all, for a moment, convinced that it was April and that spring was upon us.  Don’t believe it.  Make sure you dress appropriately!  Not that I object to a gratuitously short skirt, but when I can see the veins in your legs sticking out because of the cold it just detracts from whatever else you might have had going on.

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Operations versus Support

January 14, 2010

Due to the earthquake in Haiti the Navy is deploying both the Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and the Comfort (T-AH 20) to provide assistance.  I was stationed on one of those ships and worked in the command center to which the other one reported.  Now I sit in a cubicle and make powerpoints.  What on earth am I doing?

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Congress and Taxes

January 13, 2010

Hey, Congress!  Go screw!  Yeah, you heard me!  Go screw! 

I was reviewing the latest changes to the 2009 tax laws (I really like tax season) and saw that they passed into law that you can deduct the sales tax you paid on a new car.  Awesome!  We bought a new car!  Woohoo increased deduction!  I then checked the fine print and it said you can only claim the deduction if you purchased the car after February 16, 2009 and before Jan 1st 2010.  Where the *#&$* did Congress come up with those dates!?  Why not make it retroactive for all of 2009!?  Does someone have some sort of personal animosity about the dates between December 31st 2008 and February 17th 2009?  I’m pissed about this because we, of course, bought our car in January, meaning we are ineligible for the deduction.  What a load of crap!  My wife and I did our part to try to stimulate the economy  so how does Congress thank us?  By giving us a big middle finger!  This is the type of garbage that makes you want to just scream and give up on the whole system.  However, rather than give up I decided to call the IRS help line and get the scoop on what was going on.

First off, the system was actually quite good, but there were some rather funny moments, the best of which was when the automated message said, “You have reached the IRS help line.  For questions about new tax laws, press seven.  For questions about your refund, press one.”  What monkey programmed that system!  Only the IRS could justify the first option being seven and the second option being one.  Oh well.  After a few minutes I got to speak to a live representative, which is less time than it took to get through to the Best Buy Consumer help line (More on that in a future post)!  The woman was quite helpful and very knowledgable (and she didn’t have an Indian accent), which was quite refreshing.  After speaking to her I found out the following:  It turns out that the vehicle sales tax deduction is designed to benefit people who normally take a standard deduction.  If you itemize you already have the option of claiming vehicle sales tax (assuming you choose to deduct sales tax versus income tax), but if you use the standard deduction and bought a car between Jan 1st 2009 and Feb 16th 2009 you’re still screwed. 

So, it turns out the government didn’t really screw me because I itemize my deduction, but if I did take a standard deduction I’d be really pissed.  Like, as pissed as I was when I thought it did affect me.  Ahh…tax law…the thing no one cares about until it affects them.  Or, as Leila put it in Futurama when she suddenly made a ton of money in the stock market, “I suddenly have an opinion on the capital gains tax!”  Funny stuff.

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Ship in a bottle

January 11, 2010

I got a ship in a bottle kit for Christmas and I spent yesterday putting it together.  It’s great!  I used to build models of ships as a kid and I’m thinking it might be time to get back into it.  The biggest problem is space.  I was looking at one model kit on Amazon of the USS Constitution before I realized it was over 3 feet long.  I think I either need to find a new model or a new house, preferably one with a huge fireplace and mantel.  (I think I also need a large wingback chair and a brandy snifter, too).

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Sherlock Holmes

January 4, 2010

Chris and I went to see ‘Sherlock Holmes’ this weekend and I’ve got to say, it was pretty good.  People who didn’t like it say there was too much action and not enough plot, but honestly, after going home and watching a bunch of the old Jeremy Brett movies, they were just as weak on plot as the new one!  The old Holmes movies all feature the same elements as the new one:  Bickering between Watson and Holmes, fight scenes, an emphasis on the occult, and silly stunts that play up the more child-like elements of Holmes.  The new movie simply takes all these elements and appropriately amps them up for modern movie audiences.  (Some might say this is a fault of modern movie goers.  I would argue that the same was probably said about the watchers of the old movies as well)  The plot is just as silly, the explanations just as ridiculous, the action scenes just as intense (relatively), and the interaction between the two characters just as petty.  From what I can tell, people who argue that the new movie is a far cry from the old ones have failed to realize that the old movies were just as silly as the new one – it’s just more obvious when you see that silliness filmed using modern techniques.  It seems to me that the new movie mimics the old ones perfectly – a fun and entertaining action / detective story that requires a fairly healthy suspension of disbelief.  As with all old movies that are remade, you have to account for the time period in which the original movie was made and adjust all the elements appropriately when comparing the old with the new. 

Oh yeah, I also find it funny that Robert Downey Jr. basically played the exact same character as he did in Iron Man.  Identical.