Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RACISM and money

I have never found the logic in racism.  Judging a person based on their mere appearance seems the most fruitless of methods of deciding a persons worth.  When I read through my bible, I think of the sprawling city and cultural epicenter of Jerusalem.  I imagine it being crowded with people from all over.  That implies people of all different colors.  What I never see in the bible is Jesus making an aside to speak to people based on their color.  He doesn't tell us to think of people based on color or judge people based on color, or for any other reason for that matter. 
Unfortunately, despite having overcome any legal means of discriminating against minorities in this country, people cannot let go of the divisiveness of color judgment.  Right now, with our entire nation on the brink of economic  collapse due to bloated deficit spending, some are finally asking for cuts in spending.  For many dependent on the spending, it will be difficult to adjust, but for those in the position of power of allocating those funds, it will be an all out war.  Recently, members of the congressional black caucus spoke at an event.  The topic of the their speech involved attacking the “Tea Party”, who are the most vocal advocates for government spending.   Their moderate comments in reference to the Tea Party included, “go to their homes and blow them up”, “They want to see you hanging from a tree”, “their actions are motivated out of racism”.  These are beyond inflammatory and I should be offended.   But I’m not offended at the direct attack at what I would like to see happen to our budget.  I’m offended at the implied racism of these comments as well as the implicit racism in the policies of the left.
You see, I think it is racism to imply that minorities are more in NEED of federal spending that non-minorities.  I think it is racism to imply that minorities are the only recipients of federal spending.  If I were a minority, I would be offended that people that look like me must receive a government hand out to make it in the world.  Let’s take their argument at face value, that government programs are designed specifically for minorities, isn’t that racism in and of itself, just racism against the majority.  This has to be true for their argument to be valid.  I think that tying minority success to government spending has done nothing more that inhibit progress for the minority community over the last 50 years.    In fact the income gap between blacks and whites has actually increased under our first black president.  Not because he is black, but because he has pushed through the most amount of government spending.  If we want to end racism, let’s end all federal discretionary spending. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Next Three Days Movie Review

If I had to use one word to describe the movie “The Next Three Days” it would be ‘uncomfortable’.  This can be either good or bad.  In the case of this movie, I would have to say good.  It isn’t that I liked feeling uncomfortable, but it showed that the director took a novel approach to a jail break movie.   In fact, the movie made me feel uncomfortable in a way I hadn’t felt since seeing the movie Crash.  I wondered if there were a connection between the two movies, and they just so happen to be written and directed by the same person, Paul Haggis.    The only other movie I watched recently that made me feel uncomfortable was “The Road”, but the difference between those two movies is that I didn’t want to finish The Road, but couldn’t stop watching The Next Three Days.  I actually finished it at 1 AM.   So here is what the movie is about, a cute couple, Russel Crowe and Elizabeth Banks, with a 3 year old boy have a dinner out and then come home and it is obvious they are in love.  The next morning, as they are happily preparing for the day, the police barge in to arrest….the beautiful young blonde wife.  There is your first curveball.   You then realize that whatever happened to her, she has been away from home for 3 years.   Yup, she is in prison having been convicted of the murder of her boss.  Her husband is the only one that believes her innocence.  They have exhausted their last appeal and she tries to kill herself, unsuccessfully.   Crowe then becomes desperate himself as he realizes that his wife really won’t ever be released.   There are references to Don Quixote bending of reality to meet his own needs, making the viewer believe Crowe is doing the same thing about his wife innocence.    Crowe then interviews a person that escaped from prison 7 times under the guise of writing a book.  The escapee, Liam Neeson, quickly realizes that the interview is not for a book, but for personal reasons, so he gives him all the how-tos of escaping.  Based on this interview, Crowe begins to work on his plan.   Here is the first level of discomfort because your realize that this father is risking his relationship with his son to free his wife.   As a viewer, you don’t want him to take such a risk, especially when you don’t know whether the wife really did do it or not.    A formula Hollywood movie would then progress from this point with the husband putting together some sort of precise and outlandish escape.  Since this doesn’t follow the formula, this movie takes you on a nauseating journey of Crowe’s misfortunes.  He tries to get fake IDs and gets robbed and beaten in the process.  He researches how to create a master key, and when he tries it in the prison as a test, it breaks, and he almost gets caught.  Crowe leaves the prison and pukes in the front.   As a viewer, you just keep hoping that Crowe will realize how stupid and risky it is.  There are moments where you think maybe he will reconsider his plan.  The temptress Olivia Wilde is introduced at a playground.  She seems attracted to Crowe.  You think maybe Crowe will be tempted and forget about his wife.  Nope.  To this point in the movie, Crowe has only done things on the periphery of illegality.  He hasn’t crossed the point of no return.  When he finds out that his wife will be transferred to another facility in 3 days, he becomes desperate as he doesn’t have the funds needed to do the escape.  Liam Neeson’s character advised him he would need 5 years worth of cash on hand.  And since the sale of his house hadn’t gone through yet, he only had enough money for a couple of weeks.  Now Crowe is brought to the brink and you as the viewer are cringing again as he prepares to rob a bank.  At the last moment, he changes his mind, and you breathe a sigh of relief.  That is until you realize he is going to rob a meth lab instead.  Now he is crossing the legal line, but you as the viewer must say that his crime is against criminals, is it still a crime.  While robbing the meth lab, a gun battle ensues in which one man is shot dead and another is shot dead by his own gun.  Crowe has committed murder.   Do you offer an excuse because of his cause?  As a viewer, you are uncomfortable with having to make that choice.  With cash in hand, he begins the breakout, but now that there is a crime scene, the cops are hot on the trail.  As I have given so much away, I will not give away the conclusion.   But I do give it a two thumbs up for making me so darn nervous all the way through. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

V for Vendetta Movie Review

I’m not a big fan of super hero comic book movies.  There are some exceptions, such as the novel approach taken in Unbreakable and Watchmen.  V for Vendetta is also one of these movies.  The importance of the movie is freedom, freedom from tyranny and from fear.    The message of the movie is also about how you have to tolerate some freedoms you might not agree with yourself so that you can experience the ones that you do.  For me, personally, I am willing to tolerate those freedoms because in doing so, I’m allowing God to be the judge and not myself.   I’m allowing room for God in society.  I don’t just like the movie for the message, I also liked Hugo Weaving’s character, V.  He has a compelling voice just as he did in the Matrix.  The supporting cast and plot also carried the movie well.  Ultimately, V is inspiring to me in that it displays on screen the type of reaction I hope people show one day to the ever growing government big brother.   I also like how John Hurt plays the Big Brother figure on the screen as a nod to his role as a man in fear of the big brother on the screen in 1984.  I give this movie two knives up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Social Network Movie Review

Timing is often the key in the success of a movie.  Most frequently, timing is a key for a made for TV movie, where a TV studio capitalizes on the headline of the day to make some horrid idea of a movie.  When I saw the previews for “The Social Network”, I must admit I felt the same way.  Why would the director of the beloved Fight Club direct a headline movie.   When it did well at the box office, I wasn’t surprised.  Suckers, I thought.  Then the academy awards came out and this movie received a nomination.  I started asking people that saw it what they thought.  It was a unanimous endorsement, so I decided to check it out. 
As an avid facebooker, the subject matter immediately resonated with me.  I was hooked within the first 5 minutes.  The story of a future billionaire that builds his empire based on a break-up and disdain for row team members, is great.  The portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg as a cold and calculating nerd of the new generation carried the movie.  Justin Timberlake did a great job portraying the muse and former scorned Napster founder.  As a synopsis, this movie covers the creation of facebook and the two concurrent lawsuits of the  winklevoss twins, Harvard finishing club members that hired zuckerberg to create a Harvard only social network, and Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder and early financier of facebook.    If this movie were a facebook page, I would like it and send it a friend request.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Flash Mobs and Hate Crimes

I remember when a new term entered into our culture back during the days of Bill Clinton.  Inspired by the “mostly dead” term used in The Princess Bride to further describe a concrete term,  hate crimes are crimes that involve some sort of hate as a motivation, usually involving violence.   It was really designed as a method to hold one race more accountable for violent crimes against another race wherein had the same crime been committed against a member of the same race, it would not rise to the level of the federal hate crime law.  Additionally, the application of the hate crime law is intended, while not stated, to apply specifically to one single race.   I realize the outdated intention of the law.  Perhaps it could have been useful pre-1970, but being a person that doesn’t like to look at the issue based on race, I think the law is crazy.  Truly, if one person attacks another person regardless of their racial make-up, there is some sort of hate involved.  The act of violence implies hate. 
Recently, we have seen a series of violent flash mobs, mostly involving black youths.  At the state fair in Wisconsin a similar mob attacked fair goers as they left.  Eye witnesses and victims stated that the mob specifically targeted white people.  By the definition of the federal hate crimes law, this should be a slam dunk case, but not quite.  Police have been falling all over themselves saying that it is impossible to ascertain whether there was a racial component involved in the crime without a confession of the fact by a perpetrator.   That is both the most intelligent and ignorant statement to come out of law enforcement regarding federal hate crimes. 
It is in intelligent in that without a confession, it is truly impossible to know whether or not race was a factor.  It cannot be left to a jury to guess at the psychology of the criminal, nor can talk radio, internet, or other media do the same.    Unfortunately, it is also an ignorant statement in that the police would even spend time figuring out whether or not it was a federal hate crime.   If I were asked the question I would have said, “Of course it was a hate crime.  These people savagely attacked innocent citizens.  There has to be some sort of hate in their hearts, but I don’t care what the source of that hate is because that doesn’t change a single thing about the crime.”  I would then proceed to prosecute the criminals for their violent crime.  The last thing we need for race relations in this country is to tie the word “hate” to crimes so that now we are again forced to look at the race of people involved in crimes.   Let’s end this racial thinking by ending hate crimes classification.   God is not in heaven looking at our race to judge us and our sin, neither should we. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau Movie Review

The Adjustment bureau.  This is a standard story of fate and love.  In this case, a love so strong and meant to be that no matter what forces or risks come in its way, it cannot be stopped, even by the chairman.  You have to watch this movie and suspend disbelief, not because you are asked to, but because you don’t want to deal with all of the holes in the plot.  How about I ruin the movie for you and outline some of them.  This story is about a senator to be that has a chance meeting with a woman in a bathroom while practicing his concession speech.  She was meant by the forces upstairs to adjust the young senator into not giving up politics.  She unknowingly succeeds, but their chemistry is so strong, a kink in the plan erupts.  The plan is displayed by some sort of cryptic diagram on a notebook carried by caseworkers that fill in for angels.  The rest of the movie is about trying to iron out the ripples caused by the woman and congressman’s encounter and its adverse impact on the chairman, we can assume God, plan.  What is unique is that the caseworkers reveal themselves and their purpose to the congressman, rather than trying to play hide and seek.  The only condition he had to uphold was to not mention their existence.   For some reason, the chairman handicaps his angelic caseworkers by only allowing them to travel using a series of doors that transport them all over the city, so long as they have their hat on.  I wonder how the chairman and caseworkers traveled and looked 2000 years ago.   In the end, the congressman and woman come together despite facing their elimination, and pass the test.  The test being that the chairman only allows those worthy of truly having free will.  The rest of us go through life according to plan, nudged along the way by case workers.  I didn’t turn it off, so two thumbs turned sideways. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Invictus Movie Review

Invictus is a movie about forgiveness, something we are told to do by Jesus, something that God has done for us through Jesus, and something that we are always lacking in.  Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost 3 decades by the ruling white minority in South Africa.  He was the focal point in the movement to free the oppressed majority of native black south Africans.  As Mandela put it in the movie, the practice of apartheid made South Africa the skunk of the world, and rightfully so.  As a child, it seemed like such a strange and old practice to govern a country in such a way.   To make a long story short, they finally freed Mandela and eventually made him President.  It would have been easy for Mandela to use his new office as a means of exacting revenge on the minority white population.  Who hasn’t done something similar in their own lives.  But he knew that everyone would be looking to him to see how he handled his power, and he did it through forgiveness.   If you remember after our own civil war, we attempted a policy of forgiveness with the South.  We didn’t imprison generals like Robert E. Lee for all the men he killed, or Jefferson Davis for leading the South in rebellion (there were punishments handed out for mistreatment of prisoners such as those at Andersonville).
What Invictus does is tell the story about how Mandela used the sport of Rugby and the South African National Team, the springboks, as the focal point for walking out forgiveness.  The black South Africans had long hated the symbol of white power, the springboks, and would root for the opposing team.  It was a foregone conclusion that they would get rid of the team’s identity once they took power.  Mandela took an odd and passionate interest in the success of the team, helping to inspire them to victory in the 1995 world cup over the famed New Zealand All Blacks, and more importantly, helping to inspire a nation to unify under the banner of forgiveness flown over a rugby field.       
As a movie critic, I enjoyed the first 1.5 hours of the movie, seeing how people progressively got more comfortable with one another through the example Mandela showed.  My one critique comes from the direction of the last Rugby match.  Since most people have no idea how to play rugby, dragging out a match in which you have no idea if something is good or bad on the screen, and doing so in slow motion was poor direction and added unnecessary length to the movie.  Over all, I give it two thumbs up on the basis of story.