Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Atheist Song of the Day: Dear God by XTC

Dear God, hope you got the letter, and...
I pray you can make it better down here.
I don't mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image, see
Them starving on their feet 'cause they don't get
Enough to eat from God, I can't believe in you

Dear God, sorry to disturb you, but... I feel that I should be heard
Loud and clear. We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image, see them fighting
In the street 'cause they can't make opinions meet about God,
I can't believe in you

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue? Did you make
Mankind after we made you? And the devil too!

, don't know if you noticed, but... your name is on
A lot of quotes in this book, and us crazy humans wrote it, you
Should take a look, and all the people that you made in your
Image still believing that junk is true. Well I know it ain't, and
So do you, dear God, I can't believe in I don't believe in

I won't believe in heaven and hell. No saints, no sinners, no
Devil as well. No pearly gates, no thorny crown. You're always
Letting us humans down. The wars you bring, the babes you
Drown. Those lost at sea and never found, and it's the same the
Whole world 'round. The hurt I see helps to compound that
Father, Son and Holy Ghost is just somebody's unholy hoax,
And if you're up there you'd perceive that my heart's here upon
My sleeve. If there's one thing I don't believe in ...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

L.A. Architecture/Design

As visitors to my Facebook page already know, I had a really good time on our long weekend in L.A. a week or so ago.  I won't recap the boring details but I thought I'd share a few of the photos I took.  I've always been really interested in architecture and design (until my senior year in high school, I thought I was going to be an architect) and these photos show some of the iconic places that we visited.

Our first day there, we went to Hollywood Blvd:

- The First National Bank Building on the northeast corner of Hollywood and Highland was built in 1927 and until 1932 was the tallest building in Hollywood. It was designed by the architectural firm Meyer and Holler, who also designed Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre.

- Built in 1926, the El Capitan hosted Citizen Kane's world premeire.

- The Roosevelt Hotel hosted the first Oscars in 1929 and many famous people, including Mariln Monroe and Frank Sinatra, have lived there.

Our 2nd day at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:

- Frank Lloyd Wright designed lamp 
- the building housing the Japanese and Koren art exhibits
- looking up at the Variety building from the balcony outside of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum
- two pictures of the Page Museum (La Brea Tar Pits), which is right next to LACMA

From the last couple of days in California:

- Underneath the Manhattan Beach Pier - numerous film scenes made near this pier (Falling Down, Point Break, Tequila Sunrise)

- picked up Michelle's mom from the Union Station train depot in downtown L.A.  Blade Runner, Speed, Italian Job, Drag Me to Hell all used this station as a backdrop.  The interior of the station is fantastic with Art Deco lighting and decorations.


Speaking of modernist architecture and design, I attended a screening of Visual Acoustics, a documentary of Julius Shulman, at the Phoenix Art Museum today.  Shulman is the preeminent architectural photographer and has documented all of the most famous modernist architects including Wright, Richard Neutra, Frank Gehry, etc.  This was a great film.  You would think it would have only attracted a few nerdy architecture students, but the film room was packed (probably 500 people).  His life and photographs do a great job of documenting 20th century architecture, especially in SoCal.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Sarah Palin & John McCain tag-team match in Mesa and Chandler today ... Wrestlemania in Glendale tomorrow. Coincidence? I think not. They kinda appeal to the same intelligence level. I'm just sayin' ...

The beefy guys escorting this Palin heckler out at the rally fit the part.  Straw hat and everything.

But for the shocking truth of wrestling fans, check out The Onion's expose:

Controversial Tell-All Book Reveals Wrestling Fans Are Fake

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quick hits

Reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind,

Dr Grigori Perelman, a reclusive Russian genius, is refusing to accept the prestigious $1 million "Millennium" mathematics prize awarded by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, MA.

Perelman was awarded the prize for solving the one-hundred-year-old Poincaré conjecture, one of the most complicated mathematical problems in the world - so complex, in fact, that after Perelman posted his proofs in 2002 it took several years for other experts to confirm he was correct ...

I would like to think that he's just not selling out, which is admirable. But, I think he's probably just nuts, a la John Nash.


My wife is working security at this weekend's Wrestlemania. Never have so many low IQ mouth-breathers been assembled in one location since ... well ... since CPAC.


Speaking of morons, from local progressive radio host, Jeff Farias:

"Consider these Harris poll numbers * 67 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is a socialist. * 57 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is a Muslim * 45 percent of Republicans agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was -not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president- * 38 percent of Republicans say that Obama is -doing many of the things that Hitler did- * Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans say that -Obama may be the Antichrist- ..."

Do you think people think up these things by themselves? No, they are spoon-fed ideas. Any self-respecting conservative needs to denounce people like Beck and Limbaugh. It's not about the fringe any more. Look at those numbers ... 67%! Every one of those items is easily refuted with facts (those pesky things). So, why would people still believe them? Because they are not interested in facts. They want to believe these things are true and will look for pundits who reinforce their prejudices. If it was just harmless disagreement, it wouldn't be a big deal. But racial epithets and anti-gay slurs have been hurled at our congressmen. People's families are being threatened, people are being shot at. Enough is enough. It's obvious that the disagreements actually have nothing to do with healthcare.

"Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge." -- Horace Mann

Friday, March 19, 2010

Open Carry Gun Laws

by Jeff Stahler at The Columbus Dispatch

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Top 25 Movies of the Decade

With a nod to Reel Fanatic's much more ambitious Top 10 Movies of each year of the 2000's, here's my list of top 25 movies of the decade. I thought about doing 10 for the decade, but you'd really have to cut out a lot of great movies.

Ultimately, for me, what make a movie great is that it sticks with me. There are a lot more movies than are not on my list that I really liked but I look back on them now and there just isn't something that strikes me as eternal. I'm all for mindless stuff but when it comes to my favorite movies, they have to say something about us as humans, good or bad. And being the movies of the decade, they need to define that decade to a certain extent.

And there are other movies that I may not have thought much about at the time or didn't get a chance to see until much later and now I appreciate their significance.

It was such an ordeal for me to trim it down to 25 that I'm not even going to try and put them in order. I'll just separate them into categories and chronologically within those categories.

Science Fiction:

Lord of the Rings (all of them) 2001 -- I realize I'm cheating a bit here, but it's really one story. A story that only 15 years ago, most people would have thought unfilmable.

V for Vendetta 2006 -- This movie does a remarkable job of pillorying the media and the American and British post-9/11 governments while not letting us, as citizens, off the hook. Those institutions only take those things that we give them willingly.

Children of Men 2006 -- Dark and relentless, set in the near future, also an indictment of our modern society much like ... Vendetta. Quite possibly the best sci-fi movie of the decade.

District 9 2009 -- I'm perhaps a bit too close to this to be objective, but a movie that surprised me and undoubtedly one of the best sci-fi of the decade. Like most of these sci-fi films, the genre is just the setting for much more serious political themes.

Politics & Race:

Slumdog Millionaire 2008 -- One of the more clever premises for a movie. Great music and beautiful despite the impoverished setting of Mumbai, India.

Crash 2005 -- The intersecting story-lines method of exposition has been criticized but I thought it worked and gave one of the most even-handed studies of race issues that I've ever seen.

Syriana 2005 -- If you need a primer of how oil and the Middle East drive our politics, this is it.

Good Night and Good Luck 2005 -- It may be set in the McCarthy era, but the politics of fear portrayed in the movie had a lot of parallels in our modern governments.

Hotel Rwanda 2004 -- How a whole country (a whole planet, really) could ignore the genocide of Rwanda in the 90's, who knows? This movie tells the story and exposes a new generation to what happened.

The Contender 2000 -- A very underrated political thriller with Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges. Gives a lot of insight into what the modern election/appointment cycle does to good people. Instead of electing true leaders with intelligence, we most often elevate those with vanilla resumes.

Traffic 2000 -- Stephen Soderbergh's best film, I believe. A great ensemble cast and beautifully shot (by Soderbergh himself).


There Will Be Blood 2007 -- A modern Citizen Kane. A stunning performance by Daniel Day Lewis.

No Country for Old Men 2007 -- I read the book after seeing the movie and I think I appreciate the movie even more now. One of the Coen brother's best movies. Javier Bardem's performance is one for the ages.

Into the Wild 2007 -- Most likely my favorite movie of the decade. Great music by Eddie Vedder, great cinematography and Sean Penn's best directing job. Says a lot about the emptiness of our modern materialistic society and how it drives us apart. But the irony is that our true salvation is not alone but with others.

Memento 2001 -- This one will tweak your head. This is a GREAT movie and holds up almost 10 years later.

Million Dollar Baby 2004 -- One of Eastwood's best acting and directing jobs. He is just consistently great.

Brokeback Mountain 2005 -- The late Heath Ledger's best acting performance, understated and deep. It's odd how often foreign directors (in this case, Ang Lee) seem to capture America in movies better than an American director would.

The Machinist 2005 - A haunting, scary performance by Christian Bale, perhaps taking method acting a bit too far. A psychological examination of the power of guilt.


Amelie 2001 -- I love this movie. Audrey Tautou is charming and cute, the story is clever, funny and touching. The look of the movie is vivid and inventive.


Where the Wild Things Are 2009 -- One of the best movies about what it feels to be a child.

UP 2009 -- Honestly, you could have put just about any Pixar movie of that decade here. Certainly Wall-E or The Incredibles. What elevated this one just a bit is the poignant montage near the beginning of the movie.


High Fidelity 2000 -- Coming from a person that is a little obsessive about making lists and loves music, this is nirvana (more than a little bit of a pun intended). Jack Black can be annoying in most films but is well-cast here. Cusack is made for his role.

Thank You for Smoking 2006 -- One of the best satires of the decade. Does a good job of making fun of both sides and captures the cynicism and sarcasm of the times.

O Brother Where Art Thou 2001 -- Coen quirkiness in spades. A modern interpretation of The Odyssey set in Depression-era Mississippi with arguably one of the best soundtracks of recent memory.


Inconvenient Truth 2006 -- You could make a case for any of the Michael Moore films. I really liked Shut Up and Sing (about the Dixie Chicks). But this movie will be the one that people are still talking about years from now because of where we are headed.

What just missed the list for me:

Gladiator 2000
Best in Show 2000
American Psycho 2000
Audition 2000
A Beautiful Mind 2001
Spirited Away 2001
A.I. 2001
Donnie Darko 2001
Ghost World 2001
Bourne Identity 2002
Minority Report 2002
Monster 2003
Incredibles 2004
Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban 2004
Serenity 2005
The Sea Inside 2005
History of Violence 2005
Munich 2005
The Departed 2006
Pan's Labyrinth 2006
Michael Clayton 2007
Zodiac 2007
The Wrestler 2008
Iron Man 2008
Frost/Nixon 2008
Star Trek 2009

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Tres Rios Nature Earth Festival

We had a good time at the Tres Rios Nature & Earth Festival in Goodyear yesterday. The festival is a great way to learn more about the Valley's numerous nature and environment related organizations in a beautiful setting at Estrella Mountain Regional Park. Estrella Park is a park that Alex and I like hiking at quite a bit.

There were a lot of interactive exhibits for children that Alex took part in. He was able to learn more about conservation, environmental issues and local wildlife. Some of the organizations in attendance:

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Arizona Public Service
Arizona Wilderness Coalition (an organization that I've volunteered at in the past)
Audubon Society (I've spent two weeks volunteering at the Audubon Research Ranch in SE AZ)
The Nature Conservancy
The Sierra Club
several solar power retailers

Despite the economy and budget restrictions, it was gratifying to see so many organizations in attendance. The state of Arizona has had to shutter many of its state parks (at least temporarily) but many non-profits are stepping up to the plate and giving people options to go and explore nature. Especially in large cities, it is important to foster an appreciation of the natural world in our children. If people understand better what is at stake when we waste and when we pollute, then maybe we'll be more careful about protecting those gifts.

We try to go to as many of these festivals as we can. In a community that seems to think it is more important to carry your guns around in public and ban gays from marrying, it's nice to get around a few people with similar interests.

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." -- John Muir

Movie Review - Moon

Summary from Metacritic:

It is the near future. Astronaut Sam Bell is living on the far side of the moon, completing a three-year contract with Lunar Industries to mine Earth’s primary source of energy, Helium-3. It is a lonely job, made harder by a broken satellite that allows no live communications home. Taped messages are all Sam can send and receive. Thankfully, his time on the moon is nearly over, and Sam will be reunited with his wife, Tess, and their three-year-old daughter, Eve, in only a few short weeks. But, Sam’s health starts to deteriorate. Painful headaches, hallucinations and a lack of focus lead to an almost fatal accident on a routine drive on the moon in a lunar rover. While recuperating back at the base (with no memory of how he got there), Sam meets a younger, angrier version of himself, who claims to be there to fulfill the same three year contract Sam started all those years ago. Confined with what appears to be a clone of his earlier self, and with a “support crew” on its way to help put the base back into productive order, Sam is fighting the clock to discover what’s going on and where he fits into company plans.

Is he going crazy?  Is that other version of himself really there?  Bearing more resemblence to the existential sci-fi of the past than of modern crap like Transformers II, Moon is a welcome little surprise.  The story is by, and the movie is directed by Duncan Jones.  That name is probably not familiar, but his lineage is.  Duncan Jones is David Bowie's son.
Old school special effects evocative of 2001 and a general look not unlike that movie and maybe the inside of the Nostromo in Alien.  This was a low-budget independent ($5 million budget, I heard) but the effects are not bad.  They really play to the story of a man who has been alone on the moon base for many years (longer than he knows).  There are subtle references and similarities to 2001, most notably in the robot voiced by Kevin Spacey.

In pacing and theme, reminds me of Solaris.  It's largely psychological like that movie.  Don't go into this expecting a shoot-em-up Hollywood sci-fi movie.  It's contemplative, some might even consider it plodding.  But I feel it's essential for the development of the plot.  And only an actor as talented as Sam Rockwell could pull it off.  Sam Rockwell is great. His performance is more than a little reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Castaway in that his acting is about playing off himself.  I really think he is one of the best American actors out there but he doesn't get a lot of credit.

 Moon explores the nature of consciousness, loving oneself, loneliness, paranoia, and even the individual's role in corporations.

There have been some really good sci-fi movies over the last few years (District 9, Serenity, Star Trek, Sunshine) and Moon is proof that the trend is continuing.  Grade:  A-