Monday, January 28, 2013

"Wanna know what the most annoying sound is?" Dumb & Dumber

To me, the most annoying sound is that of ignorance. Not racial, just plain old ignorance. When people spout off opinions and think that nothing on their ends comes at a cost.

I recently had a nice little discussion about the eventual return of a professional basketball team in Seattle. They're likely getting a new facility in the south part of downtown, next to the Mariners' Safeco Field and Seahawks' Century Link Field.

The area is industrial, no doubt about it. It's also in close proximity to the Port of Seattle. Now, my bone of contention is 1) Why do we need another NBA team and 2) Why build an arena in that area when it's better for the economy to improve the Port of Seattle infrastructure.

So in regards to 1: The Sonics already left. Our city hasn't faltered. We've embraced the Sounders soccer club, so it's not like they wouldn't have a fan base. I'm not a big basketball fan. I'm not a big hockey fan, either, but I'd rather see an NHL team before an NBA team returns.

But here's the deal with the second point. The cost of the arena and the location. The Port of Seattle is in need of infrastructure improvement. It's the intermodal improvements, actually. Getting the stuff off the ships and onto trucks and trains to other areas of the US. The Port of Seattle Marine Terminals brings in $3 billion in revenue, and $254 million in state and local taxes. It employs over 100,000 people, making it one of the state's largest employers.

And as business goes, you have to keep up or be left behind. The Seattle ports have huge competition up and down the coast, from Vancouver, Canada to Los Angeles, CA. There's even a little canal in Panama, with it's recent improvements, will cut the cost advantage of cross-country shipping. But Seattle chose not to invest in improving the Port infrastructure that would keep it competitive, thriving, and profitable. Instead, they're going with a sports arena that would bring in a little over $4 million in tax revenue (that was estimated from the 2000 study for Memphis NBA team).

Other arguments for an NBA team coming back to Seattle is the jobs. Ok, listen. You'll have one or two years of design and construction. After that, you'll have seasonal employment for a couple of hundred people, selling overpriced beer and hotdogs, and pointing idiots to their seats. The organization itself isn't a large employer. Certainly not when compared to the Port.

Improving the Port would also add jobs, too. And ones that pay a good, liveable wage. Career jobs. I mean, when in comes down to dollars and cents in making the decision, it's a no-brainer.

Create jobs and improve the economy, or put your stock in another sports team that overpays overgrown children to run around throwing a ball in the hoop (oh, don't worry, I have issues with all professional athletes that are overpaid).

There are other locations for the stadium, and the Port addressed that. But the powers that be ignored common sense. Again.

Friday, January 25, 2013

OT: Senator Feinstein is an idiot.

Obvious disclaimer: I support the 2nd Amendment.

Senator Feinstein, the asshat person behind the revised "Assault Weapons Ban of 2013," is a complete moron when it comes to firearms. Banning a firearm is in direct contravention of the Constitution, but obviously she's not concerned with the Constitution. Even though she swore to "uphold and defend the Constitution" upon taking her seat to represent the people of California.

I've taken to Twitter (@mbull) because, well, why not? I can't email her, she's not my legislator. But suffice to say, I've done more tweets to her recently than generic tweets. Mainly these tweets are to poke holes in her thought process, because her and her staff routinely misinterpret statistics and bend facts to fit their argument, because they know that most people won't look at the reports or raw data.

Basically, they say whatever they want because they know people are stupid and/or lazy.

Prime example- from one of her recent press conferences on her proposed bill: Assault weapons were created for a purpose and
" view that’s a military purpose, to hold at the hip, possibly, to spray fire to be able to kill large numbers."
Hold the phone, Rambo. Military-grade firearms aren't meant to be fired from the hip. Military-trained soldiers do not fire from "the hip" except in rare instances. That's why firearms have a stock (among other things, like sights). 

Also, Senator Feinstein is concerned that a pistol grip is a military feature. No, it's not. It's a better ergonomic way to hold a rifle. Try this- hold a .308 rifle or a M1 rifle from the shoulder like you're going to shoot a target. Then hold a rifle with a pistol grip. Which one is more comfortable? Which one requires you to cock your wrist at an odd angle?

Other inaccuracies on Senator Feinstein's part include misrepresenting statistical reports. From her webpage:
In a Department of Justice study (pdf), Jeffrey Roth and Christopher Koper find that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was responsible for a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders, holding all other factors equal. They write: “Assault weapons are disproportionately involved in murders with multiple victims, multiple wounds per victim, and police officers as victims.”
Actually, what Roth and Koper say is:
Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995, beyond what would have been expected in view of ongoing crime, demographic, and economic trends.  However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.
Guess what? Contributed is not synonymous with responsible. Not by a long shot. And just a little bit further on in the report:
We were unable to detect any reduction to date in two types of gun murders that are thought to be closely associated with assault weapons, those with multiple victims in a single incident and those producing multiple bullet wounds per victim.  We did find a reduction in killings of police officers since mid-1995.  However, the available data are partial and preliminary, and the trends may have been influenced by law enforcement agency policies regarding bullet-proof vests.
And other highlights from other reports that Senator Feinstein has on her site:
It is Premature to Make Definitive Assessments of the Ban’s Impact on Gun Crime
•  Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.
In the broadest sense, the AW-LCM ban is intended to limit crimes with
semiautomatic firearms having large ammunition capacities – which enable shooters to discharge high numbers of shots rapidly – and other features conducive to criminal applications.  The gun ban provision targets a relatively small number of weapons based on outward features or accessories that have little to do with the weapons’ operation.  
Ok. So "other features conducive to criminal applications" is a retarded argument. Feinstein wants military-style weapons banned. Now the reports she quotes state the ban is intended to limit crimes committed with guns that appeal (maybe?) to criminals. Or features that are conducive to criminal activities. In which these features have nothing to do with the gun's operations. Just because it looks scary to you, or because it's what the military uses, doesn't mean it should be banned. That logic is f**king retarded.

And now we move on to the most blatant smoke and mirrors effort of Feinstein & Co. According to numerous reports, the bans on "assault weapons" and large capacity magazines (LCM) have shown, at times, a dramatic drop in either a) guns with LCMs being used/recovered or b) assault weapons being used/recovered.

Let that sink in.

Statistics show that banned items are found less frequently than expected.

No sh*t, Sherlock. I mean, it doesn't take a genius to expect that if something is banned, fewer people will be using it.

The misdirection here is subtle, if you're not thinking. These studies show that LCM and "assault weapons" are used less during the time period of the law. The studies do not correlate any data to a decrease in crime. In fact, these studies don't even acknowledge that the AWB/LCM bans had any affect on crime*. None! A ban on an item that doesn't prevent crime?! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

I have also removed "magnificent assclown" from the text herewithin, since I don't want a knock at my door from guys in black suits and shades.

*I read a handful of articles and conclusions of the reports, not all of them. I've not found a direct correlation between the AWB and decrease in total gun-related crimes.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"I want to see mountains, Gandalf. Mountains!" (LOTR:FOTR)

I've seen The Hobbit. That new movie from Peter Jackson from J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit. The origin story of Bilbo Baggins and the One Ring. I've never read the book. Luckily, I went into the movie without preconceived notions of what would be in the movie. I knew Bilbo would get the Ring, somewhere, somehow.

So let's get into the movie from a story-telling standpoint, and how it belongs in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) universe. Warning- here be spoilers.

It's a good story. Whether or not that story needs to be spread out into three movies, I'm not sure. I haven't read the book to see what parts can be eliminated. The challenges Jackson & Co. had to deal with was how to make the movie fit, being filmed over 10 years after LOTR. Actors age, and unfortunately there are CG programs that can de-age actors. I say unfortunately because it's implemented horribly. It looks like Bilbo is wearing a latex mask, poorly painted by people not good enough to win Face/Off (TV show on SyFy).

So there's that problem. Bilbo looks horrific. Outside of the clothes, he looks totally different in The Hobbit than he did in LOTR.

I'm a fan of the series, so it somewhat is discouraging for me to say this. Jackson went Lucas. As in George Lucas. As in, OMG CGI! CGI! CGI ALL THE THINGS!!!!! There's a point in the storytelling that gets overshadowed with the technological desires. Specifically, the underground capture and escape of the company. In the escape sequence, Dwarfs (Dwarfs, mind you) are running and/or sprinting across bridges, outcroppings, falling, sliding, and doing all manner of physical things in addition to fighting a non-stop onslaught of goblins/trolls/orcs (I don't know what they are).

Really. It looks worse than the charge out of the front gate at Helm's Deep. There are parts that the CG just takes all magic out of the movie. Lots of movies do that, sadly, and someday I might get used to it. But probably not.

It's a long story, with a lack of roller-coaster between scenes. It goes from adventure to stop, to adventure, to stop, to adventure, to stop. There's little storytelling. We have snippets and flashbacks of the main leader (not Bilbo). But there's nothing about the rest of the party. They're just there. Boromir had more depth than the others in the company. And that's because of the very frequent action. It plays out like those "long falls" in movies, where the character falls down somewhere, stops momentarily, then the table they're on collapses, and they fall again, until they hit the floor, which then gives way and they keep falling. On and on and on. The Hobbit is like that.

The other thing that let me down was the vastness of Middle Earth that was portrayed in LOTR. When the company starts off, the stunning cinematography present in LOTR is avoided in The Hobbit. That might have been a case of "They've already scene it before," but I think there are enough spots to create the Middle Earth world.

Maybe all this points are based on how the pacing of LOTR was. I wouldn't deny I was expecting something more akin to the first Middle Earth trilogy.

On the positive (since most of this is negative), Martin Freeman did a good job as a hobbit. He does a good job of epitomizing the reluctant hero. Even for a thief.

Overall I'll buy the blu-ray when it comes out, eventually, just to keep the franchise complete. It's not necessarily something non-die-hards need to see right away.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Do I look like a cop?" (Batman Begins)

Go grab a cup of coffee, or your dinner, or whatever. Find a comfy seat, this is going to be long.

I've recently finished watching The Dark Knight Rises, after months of waiting. Originally, I went to see it opening night, but some gene pool misfit ruined the night by spraying beer everywhere and talking during the movie. Anywho...

There is nothing short of excellent film making and story telling here. Sure, you can poke holes in plots and continuity, but this is just a movie. You can't tell me that the comic books had any plot holes, either. But back to the movie. Christopher Nolan created a well-known story and delivered a movie trilogy that will rival Star Wars, and possibly The Godfather (#3 notwithstanding).

Spoiler alert- I may talk about the ending... scratch that, I will talk about the ending.

Why is this trilogy so good? Didn't The Avengers make more money? Wasn't that such an amazing movie? Yes, The Avengers was a tremendous movie in it's own right. Nolan's Batman Trilogy is a different type of movie- it's not an action-packed, ADD-infused, squeal-inducing cinematic story. The Batman is a dark, quiet beast of a story. It's taken three movies for Nolan to answer the big questions and tell an interesting story.

Let's start with Batman Begins, the start. We get the standard Bruce Wayne story. We get a villain that has a history with the hero. The supporting characters are established, and ones that have been ignored in previous Batman movies. Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox are introduced as pivotal characters. The audience is allowed a chance to learn who Bruce Wayne/Batman is, and why he fights. And he defeats the villain and establishes strong ties with Gordon.

Next is The Dark Knight, where we learn what Batman can and can't do. And at what lengths he will go to to capture the villain. Batman also deals with loss, both in his love life and his alter-ego. Here's one of the biggest issues with Batman- he's human. There's no super power he can pull from. He has his physicality and intelligence. Eventually one will go before the other. That issue has to be dealt with.

The Dark Knight unfortunately will be known for the death of Heath Ledger, who's Joker character has been widely regarded as one of the best villain portrayal. The movie, all by itself, stands alone as a great movie.

And now comes the conclusion: The Dark Knight Rises. The title is not about Batman returning. It's about The Dark Knight- what Batman represents. He gets his hands dirty. He circumvents the laws and injustice to be that vigilante needs to get down to the criminal's level. And in this epic final chapter, Bruce Wayne is able to rise above his own pain and passion to add positive balance to the world. He rises to choose a successor, which is a daunting idea. How do you select someone to take up the dangerous mantle of The Batman? To fight injustice, to become secret and alone?

The successor is known in the movie. And Bruce Wayne still lives, able to train and mentor from afar. The close of the movie provides an insight into the future sequels that can be unending: Wayne Manor as a home for orphaned boys. Not unlike Xavier's School for the Gifted Youth. Perfect.

Batman will endure. He will continue his fight against evil. And he will be forever.