Friday, May 29, 2009

What Power a Name

In my job I encounter people with the strangest names. Names that if I had them I would change in a heartbeat. Yet these people don't. I can only imagine what life would have been like in school.

It makes me think about the power of names. Fathers hope their sons will "carry on the family name."

And yet we expect women to change theirs when they get married. And then, they keep that name after divorce--in many cases because they want to keep the same name as their children, but even women without kids keep their married name after a marriage is over. And then there are women who have children out of wedlock and still give the kid the dad's last name. Is a name of less importance to a woman?

How do girls, who presumably expect to get married someday and change their last name, view their last name? Like a temporary tattoo? A hairstyle?

What say you?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Torture and the American Way

Torture has been used in our legal system for two centuries. Sleep deprivation, isolation, light 24 hours a day, repetitive sounds... and it's been questionable at best. It elicits false confessions and causes a whole host of problems. It's antithetical to the American Way in that we have that pesky presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

The war isn't our legal system, though, but it's fought on two fronts: 1) the battlefield by our military and 2) investigations by the CIA. In the first, presumption of innocence isn't really a question. People shooting at you are the enemy and the enemy may have information that will save lives.

Remember that Colonel who threatened an Iraqi prisoner of war and then pretended to shoot him in the head but instead shooting past his ear (no contact, just a really loud BOOM). The guy wet his pants and gave up the bad guy's plans, averting a costly battle. That Colonel was reprimanded and retired, as I recall.

How silly. Give the guy a medal. The Iraqi was caught in the act of war; waterboard his head already!

The CIA, on the other hand, bags guys they strongly suspect are terrorists. Even if they are, they may not know anything and torture may give false information that can be just as dangerous as no information. Occasionally, though, they have guys they KNOW are guilty and have information we need.

And that's where I have a problem with torture. Allowing the CIA and the military to use torture "only when it's called for" allows them to use it even when it's not necessary. It could be used out of incompetence, revenge, etc. Torture for the sake of torture is wrong, but how do we trust fallible people to torture only when it can save lives? We can't.

Still, the thing I have not heard in the media is how often torture has been used and saves lives as a result. We see the abuses; something tells me we don't see the successes partially because the media doesn't want us to and mostly because the CIA really doesn't want us to.

So; I am not against torture on principle (the enemy is the enemy and if they have information, they're a fair target... of course, that presumes who the torturer says is the enemy really is the enemy); like the death penalty, which I'm against only because we don't carry it out well (though some folk just needs killin'), I'm against torture because we can't be trusted to do it "properly."

How frustrating is that?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Boldly Go... Again

A definite 9 out of 10 for Star Trek. Maybe even 9.5. Good enough to see twice, which we did, and it left us looking forward to the next one.

The premise was simple: reset the timeline for more rollicking adventures with the first and best crew. This had it all, fun, action, sci-fi, warm fuzzies, and good old fashioned planet destroying good time. Pure popcorn movie (though to the nay-sayers who complain the original Star Trek was about something; that is that sci-fi is supposed to explore deep themes, I say thhhhhhpppppttttt!)

Without too many spoilers, here's my assessment:

Story - FUN

Concept - Fully realized, we're back at zero ready to warp ahead.

Kirk - Great. While Shatner always managed to beat up people ten time stronger and five times faster (since humanity is the slowest, weakest species in the universe... but we rule, baby!) the new Kirk was everyone's punching bag. And it worked for him. He's the new Kirk, raised without a father and hyper-rebellious. No mimicry of Shatner, he's really a whole new character who is a rebel not a maverick. Same no-no-win scenario, though.

Spock - The weakest of all of the new cast, it's not really his fault. Nimoy's shoes are just too big to fill. Nimoy looked alien. The new guy has a baby face. He looks a bit like a kid playing dress up. Good foil for the new Kirk, though.

McCoy - Great. He was the most like the original but didn't fall into mimicry despite the ease to do so with the McCoy-ish lines. Didn't have enough to do in this one other than follow Kirk around, except for the funniest sequence in the movie.

Sulu - Asian, like Takai, but that's about it. Pilot and fencer, but his own person. No deep voice, no swashbuckling. He took his sword fighting seriously. Didn't have much to do after his two big scenes, but that's okay.

Chechov - The best in show, by far. Love this kid; did everything right. Want to see more of him.

Uhura - Weird looking lady. In fact, everyone in the movie except McCoy looked like there might have been an alien or two in the woodpile somewhere in their ancestry. She's good; an interesting foil for Spock.

Scotty - Second best in show. Terrific, but looked lost in the engine room. No, that's not right, the engine room was lost. A conglomeration of tubes does not an engine room make. This was the film's biggest weakness...

The Enterprise - where are the bulkheads? All the wide open space seemed a waste. I loved the bridge and the glass display boards. Loved the new transporters. The outside was okay, but the inside was mostly atrocious.

Uniforms - I liked George Kirk's uniforms best of all Trek so far. I would have been happy if these were our crews uniforms and their uniforms were George's. Speaking of George, what happened to Jim's brother Sam?

Nimoy Spock - Dude is old, looks even more alienish, and is, of course, fantastic. He was the best thing about the old show and still has it without being overbearing.

The Lack of Shatner - I like Shatner and I'm glad he wasn't in this movie. There is no way for him to be in the movie without taking it over. Notice how easily he stole the movie from Picard in ST Generations, and Stewart is STRONG. The new Kirk would never been "his own" if Shatner was in it.

Sarek and Amanda (Spock's parents). Winona Rider looks ancient! She was good, though. I have no idea who Sarek was. Mark Leonard he was not. Seemed more vampire-like than Vulcan. I don't want warmth from a full-blooded Vulcan. I suppose there's new toys to play with if Sarek and Spock aren't feuding.

Bad Guy - Nero, great villian. Great look. Weird looking ship, but hey, they're Romulans. At this point in "history" humans had never seen Romulans but they glossed over that (the Romulan war could have been different, I suppose, in which humans never saw them, but why would it be?)

JJ Abrams. Knows Star Trek better than even Rodenberry. Make many more!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dad broke his hip

And he's mad as a wet hen. At 80, my dad is in pretty good shape as long as you don't count his blood pressure, kidneys, and fake knee. He fell in his backyard yesterday and broke his hip clean through. He's in the hospital (of course) and surgery will be followed by a stay in a convalescence home. I spoke to him at the hospital and he sounded awful. I think they'll need to get his blood pressure down before they can operate.

Your prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

It Comes in Threes

I confess to not know who Danny Gans was before he died (not a big Vegas fan) but I knew and very much enjoyed Dom Deloise.

Truth to tell, I though he had passed away a while ago, so it saddens me afresh. He seemed a very happy man who could communicate that happiness to his audience.

Who will be the third? Or did I miss the first?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Air Force One: A Financial Terrorist

Forget about the insensitivity and naivete of the new administration in buzzing the Statue of Liberty in Air Force One with an F-4 fighter dogging it's tail for a photo-op (after all, insensitivity and naivete are the hallmarks of President O-bow-to-Muslims). Rather, consider the phenomenal waste of taxpayer money instead.

I don't know the actual cost of flying Air Force One and an F-4 but it's in the hundreds of thousands at least. Contrast the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of photographs of AF1 and the Statue of Liberty and making a composite of them in Photoshop would take ten minutes for a semi-talented graphics designer (and the mega-buck photo-op disaster's photos would have to be retouched in Photoshop anyway) and you have a shameful boondoggle.

While I highly doubt BO had anything to do with it, the judgment of his staff is as woeful as his own.

10% down, 90% to go....