Archive for June, 2008

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Wall•E – not my favorite film

June 30, 2008

My kids have always said that not everything has to be a lesson. We tend to make lessons of lots of things for kids, from trips, to tv shows, to probably even birthday parties. Some of this is vitally necessary. Learning how to live successfully, happily, and in harmony with others is important, if next to impossible. Sometimes I think the best thing I ever tried to teach my kids is perseverance. Sometimes I think it is standing up for their beliefs and values. Both are really important.

Anyway, they are right – not everything has to be a lesson. And not everything must be a heavy-handed lesson, one that wrings the fun and excitement out of what you’re experiencing. That’s how I felt about the Pixar film, “Wall•E,” which came out this past weekend.

Others can talk about the plot and such. A good synopsis can be found here. Granted, Ms. Mathewes-Green liked the movie more than I did, but she covers the high points. (She also needs to learn her movie musicals – the singer at the movie’s opening is a young Michael Crawford, of “Phantom of the Opera” fame, in “Hello, Dolly!”. It doesn’t just sound like a Broadway tune – it is, and a pretty famous one at that!)

My problem is how heavy the message of overconsumption is. It overwhelms everything – not just the surface of the earth and every single view of the soft, overweight humans on the Axiom – but the entire story is about the evils of overconsumption to the point that the characterization is extremely weak. In fact, there  almost no minor character development at all. (No great lines like the T Rex in “Toy Story” lamenting that his arms are too short for the video game control.)

Why does Wall•E like Eve so much? She almost kills him, repeatedly. Her reasons for feeling a fondness for him after finding out how devoted he was to her on Earth are believable, but he is a lonely little robot and she is the first equal he has seen in hundreds of years. That’s a desparate kind of loneliness, not love.

The wit of past Pixar films like “Cars” and my favorite, “Monsters, Inc.,” is completely gone from this film. There are almost no laughs past those you saw in the trailers advertising the film. Since the two main characters don’t really talk, the plot is either visual or told by supporting characters, and that doesn’t hold up very well. It’s a visual feast, but that’s it.

Pixar has done some things that were absolutely brilliant, and almost always fun and uplifting. This one just gets preachy.

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Happy Independence Day!

June 30, 2008

Since I won’t probably be posting on Friday, I thought it would be instructive to post the full text of the Declaration of Independence:

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn(sic), that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

  • He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured(sic) to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
  • He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
  • He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

    -For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    -For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
    -For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
    -For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
    -For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
    -For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences
    -For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies:
    -For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
    -For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

  • He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat(sic) the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured(sic) to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Signatures – 56 Total including John Hancock as President

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“Star Trek – The Experience” Closing in September

June 30, 2008

For Star Trek fans it was like a pilgrimage – a visit to Las Vegas and a visit to the “Star Trek – The Experience” rides at the Hilton. Now it’s closing.

They spent a pile of money on this thing, with a pretty decent restaurant (complete with a Ferengi manager and a Borg bouncer), huge ship models on the ceiling, a “historical” exhibit of props, memorabilia, and costumes, and the two rides – one that takes you onto the Next Generation bridge and another that is a shuttle ride through a Borg ship.

We visited it a couple of times. It was very well done, with no expense being spared. It was easily the quality of anything at Disney or Universal. It probably reached its peak attendance when Voyager was on television, since that’s when the second ride was added. It’s a pity they couldn’t keep it up until the new movie came out – that should boost attendance. I’m sure the Hilton would rather use the space for an expanded casino, since that’s where the money is. (Although I’ve heard the money in Vegas is now in the conventions, not in the casino income.)

The “Experience” required a number of live actors to run it and interact with the audience, so it was most likely expensive to operate.

Where are the models going? I would love to have that huge Enterprise in my living room. I’d even like the full-sized Gorn.  I’ll have to search around – someplace I have photos of the models in the restaurant/rotunda area.

Sad. Glad we got to see it when we did.

A promotional image – the 1701A is hanging in the background.

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DVD of the Month

June 28, 2008

The World of Maynard Ferguson was a TV special recorded in 1970 in England. It was recorded on 16mm film, but the original is now lost. This DVD was made from a first-generation videotape copy. The quality is pretty good, considering. Produced by Sleepy Night Records, it is available from ejazzlines.com.

It also includes an interview with Ernie Garside, Maynard’s former manager, and a tribute montage by Gary Gilles that includes video from Maynard’s performances from 1994 to 2004.

If you are a fan of Maynard’s work, you will love this. It has some other little oddities in it – a British folks singer and a pop vocal group, some Indian-influenced stuff (which Maynard was into at the time, only recently having returned from India), two tunes with guest vocalist Jon Hendricks (including a vocal rendition of Slide Hampton’s “Got The Spirit”), and even some music by classical guitarist John Williams – the other John Williams. Only 1500 copies were made, so get yours now!

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“Tunguska Tuesday” falls on a Monday this week…

June 28, 2008

The centennial of the Tunguska Event – comet impact, alien ship explosion, mini-black hole, whatever – is this coming Monday, June 30. I say flatten a few million trees in honor of the thing. Okay, maybe not. But I think it’s interesting we still don’t really know what it was. I understand it was in a very remote area, with few people and little communication. Antimatter, maybe?

Estimates are that it was an explosion of 10 – 15 megatons, or about the same as what we will see when Hillary is snubbed at the Democrat Convention. Trees in Denver, look out.

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Are we safer than we were eight years ago?

June 26, 2008

Let’s see…crazy dictators’ countries that could threaten the US:

Iraq – that’s taken care of
Libya – check
North Korea – apparently about done in
Syria – not there yet, but sent most of its terrorists to Iraq to be killed off

Iran – workin’ on that one

That Bush guy, he’s certainly been “ineffective”!

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A Christian Nation – clarification

June 26, 2008

Check below in the comments to my previous post for David’s statement about how the US is not a Christian nation by definition. I wrote a response that not only, I hope, clarifies my statements, but also talks about why we can’t negotiate with Muslim terrorists…