Saturday, March 14, 2015

Political Song of the Day -- Man in Black by Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 VNSA Used Book Sale

A sampling of my finds from our yearly trek to the VNSA Used Book Sale:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick -- the inspiration for Blade Runner.  I had a few others of his but had never picked this one up.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester -- on most lists of the best sci-fi books of all time.  I have not read this author yet.
Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks -- Banks is probably my favorite sci-fi author.  I have almost all of his books now.

The Physics of Star Trek by Lawrence M. Krauss

Science Non-Fiction 

Wrinkles in Time:  Witness to the Birth of the Universe by George Smoot
A More Perfect Heaven:  How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos  by Dava Sobel
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

The Poincare Conjecture by Donal O'Shea -- nerdy math stuff.  I love it.
The Case for Mars:  The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must  by Robert Zubrin

General Non-Fiction & History

Benjamin Franklin:  An American Life by Walter Isaacson -- After reading John Adams and now reading Team of Rivals, I'm kinda hooked on political history.
Code Breaking:  A History and Exploration  by Rudolf Kippenhahn
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Garbage Land:  On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte 

Soul Made Flesh:  The Discovery of the Brain by Carl Zimmer

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” -- Jane Austen

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Here I go again ...

Jeez, I didn't mean to do another religious post this quick, but I saw two things yesterday that made my blood boil:

The first, a mission statement of sorts, was on the wall of a client of mine, a Mary Kay cosmetics seller.  The 2nd was a church that I saw just a a mile away.

I'm obviously not a Christian, but I pride myself on the fact that I know more about religion than most of the religious people that I know.  And I'm pretty damn sure that God, or at least the God of their own bible, did not "intend for them to have more".  More compassion or more forgiveness, perhaps.  But not more money or cars.  It's fascinating how God-centered pastors or businesses fooling people into believing otherwise.  We all know why ... people believe what they want to believe.  If they value possessions, they will seek that belief system that reinforces their desires.  And if that belief system involves God, then all the better because it will give their selfishness a legitimacy.

The second picture deserves a response in the tone in which their statement is given:

- "Your church and religion making something a sin does not make it so."

Especially when said religion picks and chooses what transgressions the bible is supposedly against to define as sin.  Just a few things the bible is against that are ignored: 19 Things The Bible Forbids Other Than Homosexuality 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sunday, June 01, 2014


I saw some kids today holding signs for a car wash.  The signs' message:  "Help send us to Bible Camp."  Strongly fighting the urge to pull over and give them some money with which to help save them FROM Bible Camp, I instead reflected on the institutional child abuse that they are being subjected to.  Children are not born Christian.  They are indoctrinated at an age where they have little choice.  These children's plight reminded me of a couple of great documentaries:


"Tell people there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure." -- George Carlin

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Top 10 Movies of 2013

Before I get started, just wanted to say how sad I was to hear about Philip Seymour Hoffman passing away today.  A great actor.  Probably my faves of his would be Magnolia, The Master and Capote.

Finally, here they are ... my top 10 movies of 2013:

(10) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Though this is ranked lower in my list than the first Hunger Games was in last year's list, this is the better movie.  Darker, and with a more tangible sense of the loss of life, it's a worthy sequel.  I particularly liked Jena Malone and, sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

(9) Now You See Me - This one surprised me a bit.  The commercials for the movie were interesting enough, but the movie was a bit deeper than they let on and the storyline more clever.  About a group of magicians recruited for a project by a mystery benefactor for a goal that is not as obvious as it may seem.  A great cast which includes Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher.

(8) Star Trek: Into Darkness - I think fans and critics are torn on this one.  Either giving director JJ Abrams credit for putting a twist on what is generally considered the best Star Trek movie (Wrath of Khan), or criticizing them for unoriginality for the same reason.  I believe it works because of who they chose in the role in question ... Benedict Cumberbatch.  Both charming and threatening, he is the heart of the movie.  I also liked how the relationship between Kirk and Spock was advanced.

(7) Ender's Game - I didn't want to like this.  I wasn't even sure I was going to go because of my deep disagreement with Orson Scott Card's personal politics.  But ultimately, the book and the movie stand on their own.  And Card had no involvement in the movie.  The filmmakers do a great job of distilling the main points of the book into a more manageable time frame.  And the young leads:  Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Abigail Breslin are well-cast.  The  training battle scenes are how I envisioned them when reading the book.

(6) The World's End - Brought to you by the makers and cast of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this movie is funny, irreverent, yet poignant.  Pub crawl, end of the world sci-fi, social commentary, and nostalgia trip all rolled up in one. Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman are both great.

(5) Sound City - Former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl made this documentary about the famous LA studio that produced many of the classic rock albums of the 70's, 80's, and 90's including Nirvana's Nevermind and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.  I wrote a bit more about it here.

(4) American Hustle - I just saw the movie this last weekend.  Very funny and evocative of many Scorcese movies, to whom director David O. Russell is often compared.  The acting is universally outstanding ... probably the best ensemble acting of any of the movies in this list.  I especially liked Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence.  She is a fireplug and hilarious.

(3) 12 Years a Slave - A hard watch.  Much like Schindler's List, this movie is not intended as a comfortable watch.  There are going to be moments that have you squirming.  Moments that have you convinced that the human race is not worth salvaging.  But also with moments of unlikely beauty.  Director Steve McQueen, and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, Serenity), Michael Fassbender  and Lupita Nyong'o are all deservedly Oscar worthy.

(2) Rush - I wrote fairly extensively about this here.  A movie about racing, but not really.  Rush is more about the things that motivate us in our lives.  Sometimes they are external, but often they are internal.

(1) The Wolf of Wall Street - 5 minutes into The Wolf of Wall Street and several older couples exited the theater.  Perhaps it was the frequent f-bombs.  Maybe it was the snorting of cocaine off of naked breasts.  But they apparently had enough.  Me and the 85 year old lady sitting next to me who howled with laughter throughout the movie couldn't get enough.  Like the best of Scorcese movies, you revel in the debauchery and almost root for the bad guys, yet you never lose sight of the fact that these are morality plays.  The movie is a metaphor for the financial gluttony of the 80's (and now) and the belief that there will be no negative consequences for wantonly fucking people over and elevating the accumulation of money above all else.  DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have never been better, and Australian newcomer Margot Robbie is fantastic.

Honorable Mention: A few indies:  Upstream Color, Prince Avalanche, Drinking Buddies, Side Effects and The Europa Report.  Some big budget films that were good ... just not quite good enough:  The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Gravity and Pacific Rim.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Top 10 movies of 2012 ... yes, I said 2012

I just wouldn't feel right presenting my top 10 of 2013 if I didn't put a tidy bow on 2012, which because of laziness, I never got around to.

(10) The Hunger Games - I thought this was faithful enough to the book, while understanding that you can't put everything on the page on the screen.  The best thing about the movie is the main character, wonderfully played by Jennifer Lawrence.  Woody Harrelson is also very good.

(9)  The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey- Not as good a movie as any of the LOTR movies, but it is of admittedly lighter material. Martin Freeman is well-cast as Bilbo and I think Peter Jackson does a good job of capturing the humor and roughness of the dwarves.  We saw this in the high-frame-rate 3D and it was an interesting experience ... almost hyper-real.

(8) The Dark Knight Rises - The previous film, with Heath Ledger, is probably better.  But this one, has plenty of acting talent, most notably Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy.  I think it wraps up the trilogy well.  The plot twist is well-done.

(7) Looper - I'm a sucker for time-travel movies because of the way they twist your noodle.  Causality, timelines, the nature of existence ... all good stuff.  This stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (also of Dark Knight) and Bruce Willis and the always stunning Emily Blunt.

(6) Prometheus - A flawed movie.  But also beautifully shot.  It succeeds when director Ridley Scott lets the scenes breathe and show off the vastness and loneliness of space.  A good cast highlighted by Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Michael Fassbender as a truly creepy robot.  I will forgive more in sci-fi movies because they frequently delve into bigger themes.  In this case - where do we come from and why are we here.

(5) The Avengers - Director Joss Whedon makes a movie that works because of his trademark dialogue and humor and a plot that allows each of the characters to develop.  Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk is an improvement over the previous actors who have been in that role but the true standout is Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  Because of his wonderful British charm, you can't help but root for the villain.

(4) Skyfall - This is the best of the new Bond films.  An origins movie of sorts, delving into a bit of 007's past.  The cinematography by my all-time fave Roger Deakins is incredible.  Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) deftly weaves nods to the past Bond films into a new narrative that sets up well for future films.

(3) Argo - A deserving Best Picture Oscar for a an entertaining movie.  Ben Affleck continues to show that he will be a director worth following in the future.

(2) Lincoln - If there is a better actor working today than Daniel Day-Lewis, I'd be amazed.  He so completely immerses himself in every role that you can't imagine another person playing that role.  I was most impressed with the script of this movie and how it made the minutiae of political wheeling and dealing into suspenseful (and funny) theater.

(1) Life of Pi -Well, you can color me surprised that my favorite movie of the year ended up being one that is largely about the nature of faith.  Why that works for me is because it was visually stunning and ultimately it is about any kind of faith ... not necessarily religious.

Honorable Mention: Wreck-It Ralph,  Bobby Fischer Against the World, Frankenweenie, The Muppets, The Master, Room 237, Lorax

My 2013 list will be up by Wednesday.