I was interested to see Red State as I’ve liked all of Kevin Smith’s films bar Cop Out and as I consider him an intelligent guy was curious to see how he would tackle the issue of dangerous fundamentalist religious groups. Using it as the premise for a horror story sounded full of potential. I was sad to see how much the movie disappointed. It’s been a while since I saw a movie that was so mixed up in what it was trying to say or what it wanted to be. The movie starts off with three teens responding to an ad for a woman who is up for sex and so off they go hormonally charged full of anticipation and glee at what awaits. Of course this goes horribly wrong, and they wake up prisoners of the crazy scary religious people. It’s interesting to note that at the start of the film the fictional religious group seems to be a direct parallel to the Westboro Baptist Church, only for Fred Phelps to be mentioned and then dismissed as not as crazy.
This first part of the film is excellent and had it continued along this path could have been a great film. Part of what makes that aspect of the film great is because it is so very plausible. The film then makes a radical departure to a long drawn out firefight between the ATF and this religious group. This goes on for far too long, maybe 30 minutes too long. It doesn’t progress the story in any way nor does it really give insight into the crazy religious people. After the unnecessarily long drawn out firefight it seems to be a random attack on the US government. The lead ATF agent played by John Goodman is at a hearing to defend his actions, where the government representatives basically say outright how they are fine with killing people, how the terrorism laws are deliberately vague so they can be abused. It makes them look so bad that is it not at all believable. It seems like Smith wanted to comment on some of what has happened to the US in the last decade but it is shoehorned in and doesn’t help the film at all.
Done with subtext and drawing parallels with the film focusing on dangerous crazy religious people this could have been an amazing film. As it is it is all over the place and doesn’t seem to really know what it is trying to be. Which is a shame.
Wikipedia is an interesting tech phenomenon, perhaps the most interesting of the last 5 years or so. What started as just another wiki with rather ambitious goals actually ended up succeeding, becoming one of the largest and most popular sites on the internet. I never liked Wikipedia simply because anyone could edit it, which I saw as a negative rather than a positive. Of course, now that they have migrated to an “all submissions considered” model it has become far more reliable. There are still problems of course, such as the inconsistency in what kinds of sources to accept, people “owning” articles and denying constructive edits and all sorts of bias and opinion passed off as fact. This is getting better what with the feedback system on some articles but it still isn’t as good as it could be.
One of the most annoying aspects is that the English Wikipedia is USA centric. This isn’t surprising considering most submitters are probably American, but given most English speakers are not it would be nice if the wiki entries were more neutral. I would imagine this is a similar problem for the Spanish and French language Wikipedia’s. I also find it somewhat sad that many Wikipedia articles simply copy the text verbatim from other sources with a reference, meaning the original authors’ site is no longer a main source for information. I’m sure such a trend will only have negative consequences. Also of note is the problem of new users who join trying to contribute to issues they care about only to be accused of being meatpuppets and essentially driven away from the community or refusing contributions from experts. Is it any wonder they are losing contributors? Not to mention ridiculous and inconsistent notability guidelines for a project attempting to be ” A Repository of All Human Knowledge”.
Of course, now it is that time of year again for Jimmy Wales and co to personally ask for money to financially support Wikipedia. Despite having a firm no ads policy this appeal is advertised via a removable banner which cannot easily be removed, ignores the users preferences to ignore it, and changes often enough to use up quite a bit of bandwidth. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost to run the ads for so long offset the cost of any donations they receive. Of course for those of you who like the banner, you can now have it on every page you visit.
The biggest problem I would have with donating any money to Wikipedia at the moment, aside from the fact I don’t think enough policing and cleaning up is going on is the lack of transparency. Where is Wikipedia’s budget and needs? Why do they need as much as they do? The appeal doesn’t really give any reasons why Wikipedia actually needs money. The server costs per year are not going to be that much, certainly not enough to warrant receiving several hundred thousand dollars each year in funding. How do we know this money is not going to fund the lavish lifestyles of the Wikipedia staff? Jimmy Wales already makes quite a bit of money through Wikia, how much of that goes back into Wikipedia? Last year Google ended up giving 2 million to Wikipedia, why have they gone through that already? Where are the records showing how it was spent?
I would like to support Wikipedia but it simply doesn’t make sense until there is more transparency and until they put the costs towards quality control. If I was on the fence about donating, the constant begging certainly wouldn’t make me lean towards donating. I use Wikipedia frequently but I can’t be motivated to donate or contribute with the many problems that still exist. Wikipedia needs an overhaul to ensure their money is being properly spent and that people contributions are not simply being deleted or caught up in edit wars, that new users are welcomed and that some level of consistency is enforced.
I don’t really understand these various Occupy protests. Yes, the disparity between the rich and the poor is significant. Yes, it’s fucked up when people’s lives are getting ruined and others are wasting millions of dollars a day. However the problem here is not lobbyists. It’s not people being greedy. To some extent it is the system itself that allows people to exploit it, however ultimately the problem lies with people. The very same people who are now camping in cities all over the world trying to initiate some sort of change or perhaps revolution. The problem is that none of these protesting are making any effort to initiate change. All they are making is change. It is for this reason that the protests are essentially irrelevant and are inevitably going to fade away.
Aside from the lack of any cohesion between the various protests, none of the protestors really have an idea what they are protesting about. They are simply showing their immaturity by camping outside governments and financial institutions hoping someone takes notice and makes it better. What I don’t understand if these people were genuinely upset with the status quo, why not work within the system to fix things? The representative democracies in place in most western countries allow for people to be voted in. Why not create a 99% party and vote in people who they actually trust to fix things, not being limited to the Democrats or Republicans?
Of course, democracy has its own problems. Any system that relies on the influence of the majority is flawed from the start. People don’t know what they need, shouldn’t have what they want and most f the time shouldn’t be allowed to vote on the number of issues that they are. Churchill said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Which is very true. Why then are none of these protestors hard at work on an alternative? An alternative where a 1% simply cannot exist? It’s something I plan on putting a lot of effort into in the next few years; of course first I have to do extensive research into all relevant topics. As opposed to just going off half cocked and making noise, which is just foolish.
I was talking with a friend of mine recently who was sure that an American passport was the most powerful. I started wondering about this as while it seems reasonable, I don’t think it is actually so. It would seem that the commonwealth countries have a more powerful passport for a few reasons.
- The commonwealth countries are able to participate in Working Holiday programs run by most western governments pretty much except the US. Such programs operated on a reciprocal basis and since the US doesn’t want to offer working holidays, holders of a US Passport can’t do a working holiday on that basis.
- Less restricted travel. Holders of a commonwealth passport can go to countries that the US restricts its citizens from traveling to, such as countries like Afghanistan or Iran. To my knowledge most commonwealth countries don’t prevent their citizens from going to such countries, even if it is a warzone. Not to mention being able to go to Cuba without having to hide it.
- Holders with a commonwealth passport get longer in other commonwealth countries. For example most people from a commonwealth country will get six months in the UK, while holders of a US passport only get three.
I am unable to think of any advantages a US passport has over a commonwealth passport. I would have thought commonwealth passports were essentially equal to a US passport, but given the above advantages it would seem that are actually better to have. I would be interested to hear any thoughts on this.
J. J. Abrams has to be one of the most overrated people working in Hollywood for the last few years. What’s weird is he isn’t considered as such, rather he is very popular with critics and the public and widely considered to make good films. The reason I consider him overrated is because his films all seem to follow a formula. He tends to do a few things very well which also happen to be the things that overshadow the flaws in his movies. A good example might be the Star Trek film from 2009. Star Trek wasn’t really true to the spirit of Star Trek and indeed had many things that were out of place in a Star Trek film or just didn’t make sense. However he managed to focus on the things that fans care about and so, everybody praised the film. The Kobayashi Maru, Captain Pike, Spock Prime, etc. There is so much wrong with that movie as enjoyable as it is, but it all gets ignored because people see familiar elements that they like and that’s what dominates. What’s more they see their beloved universe realized with a proper budget, which blinds them even further.
J. J. Abrams seems very similar to Drew Goddard was as a writer on Buffy, which is to give little nods to the fans such as having Buffy learn that Xander lied only for it to ultimately lead to nothing. It was only there as a reference to make fans excited and start talking which somehow stops them from realizing that it was nothing more than what it was. I think it’s great when shows or films that are part of a franchise give little nods to fans, but that should not be the focus. With J. J. Abrams films it seems to be and he does it so well that people stop caring about the numerous plot holes and character flaws. J.J. Abrams has done what almost every other direct in Hollywood has tried to do…to make people think your movie is great by hiding behind cheap nods and visuals. Well, good for him, I suppose.
I don’t understand over the course of 15 years how Notepad has never managed to be improved. Most of the basic Windows utilities have improved over the years, primarily Calc and to a lesser extent mspaint and wordpad. I am not aware however of any improvements ever made to notepad. It can’t handle word wrap properly, and will create newlines based on the size of the windows. It can’t handle Unix end of line characters, requiring you to open the textfile in wordpad or an alternative editor and resave it. It requires using double quotes to save with a non .txt extension, which shouldn’t be necessary. Even the view menu has a grayed out option for a status bar, which I can’t seem to activate. It is also unacceptable for an operating systems basic text editor not to have support for regular expressions in 2011.
The only advancement made in Notepad seems to be the algorithm for detecting Unicode files which was introduced with Windows 2000. While it may have been improved since then, no actual features that would make the program useful have been introduced. I’m not asking for more advanced features like code folding or syntax coloring, although they would be nice as well. Just enough basic functionality to ensure text files didn’t break while transferring between platforms or because you resized the window. There should be no requirement to open text files in wordpad these days just to be able to read it properly.
I love Hip Hop music. I think it is one of the most interesting and diverse genres of music with its emphasis on storytelling and the mixtape arena. There is a lot more diversity in that one genre than most other genres and a lot more music coming out consistently. The mixtape scene is one of the most interesting with artists able to create work that can get word of mouth exposure easily and just lets them experiment. Personally I feel that the creativity in Hip Hop is a lot more raw and a lot richer than in other genres. It seems like it’s really only in Hip Hop where the artists still bother to stay in touch with fans and interact. Of course the main reason I like Hip Hop is the storytelling. Other genres just don’t have story telling as a factor at least not to the same extent. Quite often what passes for a story in say Rock can be reduced to a few lines with most of the story being implied and then a repeating chorus which adds nothing. Rather the songs seem to be about the emotion from an event, not telling the story of that event. There are only a few storytelling songs, The Hurricane being a notable example, that actually tell a story from beginning to end.
I get that not everybody likes Hip Hop….what I don’t get is why people keep attacking it. Are they just idiots? Perhaps, but I have to wonder if there is a strong correlation between people who dismiss Hip Hop and a complete inability to think critically. Hip Hop has a few things other genres don’t have that make it unique, has a strong associated culture and has been around for about 40 years or so. There is no indication that it is going anywhere. Yet people continually dismiss Hip Hop as nothing more than songs about killing people and bitches. Which is far from what the genre is limited to. So then, are these people simply willfully ignorant? The type of people who can’t be bothered looking into something before speaking authoritatively on it? Even at the Grammy Awards Hip Hop seems to be acknowledged without being taken seriously. It makes me sad to see my favorite type of music continually under attack and being dismissed but I have to step back and look at the people doing the attacking. Given it seems to be only shallow minded people who can’t think for themselves who do the attacking however, I guess I shouldn’t worry about it.