Friday, June 27, 2008

Jurice Prudence When It Comes What We Dont Agree With

This past week has seen a couple very large decisions kicked down from the Supreme Court which I think has brought back out one of the more irritating aspect of political discussion, namely the "activist judge" angle. For those of you that have either never heard of this or don't live in this country, this is the idea that there are federally appointed judges that are making rulings based on their own beliefs instead of what happened in the case or the sentencing laws state should be a person's punishment. Depending on which way the decision leans, you will always wind up with people on the other side complaining and acting like what the judge in question did.

Do you know what I say when I hear talk like this?

All I can say to them is "Duh!"

Once you've reached the level of being appointed by the sitting government, most of your cases wind up being heard without the benefit of silly things like a jury of the accused peers. At trials like this, it all comes down to how the judge feels and how he interprets what he has heard. Along with the straight word of law, to think that a judge would not use parts of his own personal experience when he makes a decision is just plain stupid. If that was the case, then you wouldn't have Presidents always trying to pick a person to appoint to a judgeship within their own political ideology. They are banking on the appointee basing a good portion of their decision on their own personal beliefs when it comes down to those cases that mean a lot to their political base or the people that got them elected in the first place.

It doesn't help the situation when the talking heads on radio and television seem to not want to admit that this situation cuts both ways. You can have a right leaning judge make a decision on a sensitive case and the left wing people would be all over the it with complaints about bias and other naughty things. Reverse it and you have the right claiming that the left leaning courts are trying to steal away all of their individual rights as if that could happen.

The political arena is almost always run by smoke and mirrors. There are a lot of bills that get passed or decisions made that we will never know for sure if they are an honest interpretation of the law or just full blown bias. With all of that under considertion, it seems mighty stupid to me to say that none of the judges that I agree with fundamentally are good and decent human beings.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Purchasing Yourself Into The World Of Uncoolness

There are moments that just kind of strike my brain and show me just how silly I can be from time to time. We all like to think that we're too cool to go out and buy something that might mark us in the non-cool ledger. Some of us might never recover from something like this and could wind up spending the rest of eternity in a wrong headed attempt to return their level of perceived coolness to those who now know the truth.

My slight lack of street cred came out when I visited a local record store on Tuesday. In the new releases section of their DVD stock, I saw a brand spanking new disc that, at first glance, you would think that I would pause over for a moment and then move on but this time it didn't quite happen that way. Instead I picked it up off of the rack and, following a quick glance at the front and back of the box, I decided that I needed to finally own a copy of this movie.

It is a film that I actually saw in the theaters during it's initial release and thought it was okay. Since then, I've been tempted to purchase it when it appeared in other home video formats but I just never did. Call it scared of being uncool or just not having the money at the time. Whatever the reason, this film had not become a member of my slightly sizable collection but I just couldn't say no anymore. It sang it's siren song and I just couldn't help myself.

The film in question is that wonder of late 70s/early 80s wonderment known as XANADU. I can probably already hear the giggles coming from many of you but all I can say is that the movie might not be the most amazing piece of dramatic arts put to film but it is a large amount of guilty fun that I just can't say no to anymore. And before any of you start commenting on my knowledge of film, please remember that I got my college degree from San Francisco State film school which means that I survived all manner and style of film classes and saw my fair share of the serious and the art film.

I tend to look at it all in the way that many people work the metaphor between drama and action or comedy films. They say that a drama film is like eating a great steak dinner with all of the trimmings while an action or comedy film is like having a nice plate of your comfort food of choice. It's either that or they call them "popcorn films" like a drama sees that much of a decrease in the concession sales.

For me, I also have another level of filmdom, namely the "cotton candy" film. This is a film that is all about the sweet and perky and goes down all kinds of easy when you watch it. All this kind of film is doing is trying to entertain it's audience and take them away from whatever point their lives are at when they walked into the theater or put in the DVD. Some look at these films with a questionable eye but I tend to liken it to just wanting a slice of entertaining on my plate without having to really over think it.

Huh... I guess the fact that I waited until the "Magical Music Edition" came out isn't helping matters really. And yes, I've already added the soundtrack album that is included with the film onto my iTunes. Yeah... That's probably another check off from some of you but no one is perfect really... or perfectly cool...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Safety First But Obviously Not For All Of Us

We all have a story or three about astonishingly bad driving that we've witnessed over our lifetimes. Hopefully none of us are guilty of these things though we'd also probably not want to be willing to admit to it. Your friends and family will never look at you the same way again when you tell them of the astonishingly evil that you've done, like done a rolling start through a stop sign and so on.

Unlike the kind of questionable evil of things like this, there will soon be a change in the situation that many of are very guilty of, your humble writer included. That is the thing that we see nearly every day as we drive down the road. It might not seem a bad thing but talking on your cell phone while driving has led to thousands of car crashes. The law that goes into effect at the start of July which requires hands-on equipment to be used while the car is in motion will still be broken but I'd like to think that some of us would learn before it comes to arrests or fines.

To go back to the other versions of vehicular stupidity, there is always one event that I remember being the silliest side of brain dead I've ever seen. I was walking down a local street to buy my lunch during a normal work day when I saw a really nice looking 66 Mustang coming toward me on the other side of the road. The car did need a little work done to it but it didn't look like those cars that have more rust than original coloring on it.

Anyway, my vision made it's way around the car until I could get a look at the driver and that was what left me shocked and surprised. As his car quickly made it's way down the road, anyone could easily see the car's driver was shaving with an electric razor. And it wasn't like he would shave while the car was stopped at a light or anything like that. He was doing it all the way down the road. He even used his rear view mirror to check how close his shave was going like we've all seen women do with their makeup.

To continue the odd timeline of this blog, let's jump back to this past week as I drove to work on a pretty boring morning. At about the halfway mark of the drive, I came up behind a car with a backseat full of balloons. There were so many inflated orbs bouncing around back there that I would seriously question if the driver could see out the back window. This gave me a worry since she was in the fast lane and going at a pretty good clip.

After a moment or two and witnessing the car wandering all over the lane, the car quickly snapped over to the middle lane and nearly smacked into another car trying to change lanes into the same spot. The car quickly slowed down which meant that I got a chance to see what the driver looked like. Now I'd like to say that this didn't follow the standard "woman driver" myth but it was a female driver so I'm stuck with that one. Anyway, that wasn't the reason that I got a shock. It was when I saw that this driver with a backseat full of helium filled rubber balloons was talking on the phone that made me just give up on the whole situation.

It would be wrong for me to say that I've never done anything while driving that could be looked at as wrong. But, all that being said, I can safely say that I've never done anything that horrendously bad. Cars are like large blocks of possible injury if you don't use a little bit of common sense to know that it's bad to be distracted when in motion. We can all think of it all in a funny sense of how stupid these people look but I get worried when it can lead to pain and suffering. I'm of a good sense of hope that the new law might at least reduce the stupid factor but it always seems like we'll just find something else to do as stupid as the last.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Sad Funeral Ballad Of The SUV

It might just be the visible sense of desperation or maybe just an odd death knell for something that this time last year still looked so strong and vibrant. All the fun is over. There are no more balloons to drop or fanfares to play. The fat lady hasn't started singing as of yet but you can definately hear her starting to warm up in the background. We could be witnessing the demise of the large truck in the automotive world and it is fascinating to watch the death spiral that it looks to be in.

One of the first harbingers of doom came out from what read like a random news story that was buried in the back pages of the financial section. The blurb was a swift mention of how many people that owned large trucks and other massively sized vehicles are finding it exceedingly difficult to get a good rate of return when they want to trade the vehicle in. Many were finding that the auto dealerships would be offering an amount that was less than what they still owed on the truck. Anyone that witnessed the late 90s and early 00s can attest to how it seems insane that a style of vehicle that was so well mixed into the world as they were would have their popularity come to a complete stop.

The big trucks just didn't have a chance one those gas prices started to inch their way up to the $4 average that we have now. Those trucks and SUVs get such amazingly bad gas mileage that you could wind up paying double for the vehicle if you added the total price of gas fill-ups along with the price that you originally paid for the thing. I have a small car and I'm paying about $40 to fill up my gas tank when I hit the local service station so I can just imagine how frightening it must be when you have a Hummer to fill up. Maybe someone can use this whole event as the basis for a horror movie. Either that or one of those movies of the week where the lead character has to realize that their lives need to change and the only way they can do that is to dump that bad boyfriend of an SUV and go for a more practical relationship.

Today was my first exposure to the next level of descent for the SUVs of the world. It came from a commercial that I saw twice on Food Network and it took me until the second viewing to really grasp what was going on. The new advertising plan from Ford Motors is to promote just how important their trucks have been to all of our lives and I know just how much all of our existences would be different without those massive trucks being driven fast down the highway with no load at all in the back. But I digress...

The commercial seems to view as a love letter to the extra large trucks and SUVs but they sneak in another new promotional aspect at the very end. Ford is now offering to sell you one of their trucks to you at the employment discount level of price instead of the marked up version. This might not mean that they're giving them away but it looks to be coming very close to that. I'm not totally positive but I really think that they can't get any cheaper than the current level unless they want to take an even larger loss than what they're already experiencing. If the companies are announcing the closure of all manner of plants that built the thing and no one can trade them in, it makes the buyer start to worry that their investment won't have much left once all is said and done.

Everyone was wondering when we would get sick of the big huge vehicle trend that was going for the last 20 years but I think that it is oddly prophetic to realize that it took just a rise in the price of fuel to make all of our heads spin. If you can't use simple logic to explain the purchase then what do you have left to use when you try to talk yourself into buying that SUV? All of this might change whenever the price of gas dips back down again but I'd like to think that we've all had the scare put into all of us that we should maybe look into practicality over large bling. Anyway, you can always work the bling into your new small car. It's just be a little bit smaller than you originally wanted.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Being The Thing Killing The Music Industry

If you go to iTunes right now, it would appear that I am part of the problem. This problem being the evil corporate monopoly that is trying to squeeze all of the creativity and soul out of the music industry. It would seem that there is just no redeeming my state of naughtyness so I thought that it would be good just to fess up to the crime and be done with it.

What did I do that was so wrong?

I bought the Radiohead best of album that went on sale on Tuesday.

I was unaware of just how evil a thing to do this was when I did it. Either I was in the dark about the situation or I just didn't seem to pay close enough attention which means I'm either just evil or stupid evil. Your choice may vary.

The reasons for the evilness of my actions appear in the listener comments section. For those of you that don't know about this, here is the simple and quick explanation. Radiohead has always refused to release a best of album of any kind and stated on a regular basis that the only way their albums would be sold online would be as complete works and not on a song-by-song basis. It was all or nothing... until the band completed their contract and moved on to self release. This left the record company with all of their earlier albums and what looked like the total end of the relationship between the two parties. Looking to make more money back on their investment, the company went against the band's wishes and made a best of album. As can be expected, the fans of Radiohead sided with the band and now seem to spend large amounts of their personal time screaming online about anyone that shows an interest in the best of.

There is only one thing that I can say in my defense and that is the fact that I just don't like Radiohead enough to buy all of their albums to get the, at best, 10 songs that I really like. If this was something like Green Day's "American Idiot" where the songs are all linked together to tell a complete story, then I could see their side of the arguement. But making a statement like buying a single from an album is like only looking at a corner of a beautiful painting is really stretching the bounds of reality. The songs on the album are divided up into seperate songs... with seperate names... and can be played in any order the person listening wants to hear them. So why am I evil if I just want specific songs and not the entire freaking artistic masterpiece.

From reading down the reviews and comments, I really don't think that there is anything that can be said or done to disuade the fans of Radiohead on this topic. They have dug their heels so far into the dirt that only a nuclear bomb might move them and even that isn't a definate. I'd like to think that they could at least give a begrudging understanding to the idea that people can be interested in a band but not want to listen to every single song that they have ever made. That seems like a pretty even trade but what do I know? I'm the evil one...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Totally Different Kind Of Girl Power

A recent news story struck me in an odd way yesterday and it's left me feeling both kind of thrilled and really strangely worried at the same time. I just can't seem to really get a full grip on it which has left me kind of fumbling around in an effort to really clear up the whole vision.

In an online question and answer session in April, al Qaeda No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri was asked about how a woman can become of member and fight a jihad. His response is one that tends to fit into the ways that stereotypically people think of when it comes to strict Muslim countries, namely that women should stay at home and care for the home and families of the male fighters.

This has led to a ground swell of response from Muslim women in the Middle East who are questioning this answer. They are of the mind that it is their right and privledge to fight right alongside the men. Using alternate ways of communicating like the internet, these women are organizing as a group to fight for their right to go into battle.

For me, this has kind of left me feeling rather queasy and I'm not positive how I should really think about this. One the one hand, I give these women all of the props in the world for standing up and speaking their minds on an important topic in their world. If you were in the same situation that they are in, wouldn't you like to have the ability to fight for your freedom? It would seem like a natural thing to want to help win some manner of personal rule since the outcome will affect all their friends and neighbors.

On the other hand (and this is a big hand), I'm left feeling highly uneasy at the thought of these women fighting to have the right to go into battle and probably die along with taking their adevesories with them. An added level to this story is the news that more women are being used as suicide bombers these days then the men. When I read a fact like that, it kind of makes me sit back and wonder for a moment about what these women would be allowed to do if they actually won this arguement. It's one thing to take up arms against your perceived or real oppresors but it's a totally different thing to become a walking incidiary device while your male counterparts hang back and get to go home the next day.

Along with other things, the Middle East has seemed like a hotbed of the kind of thinking that leaves women as nothing more than possessions of their husbands and without any kind of chance for a normal life. Anything that can help to change that and bring them some equality would be something that I'd tend to applaud. But this has left me in an uneasy middle ground. You have living oppression on one hand and dead combatant on the other hand and neither of them really read any good no matter how you look at them.