Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hillary Clinton...Exposed

As if anyone didn't suspect this already:

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
- Hillary Clinton, quoted in the Associated Press
There's been an unsourced Hillary quote floating around the web for years which is not dissimilar to this. This may not prove that quote's legitimacy, but it sure demonstrates that she agrees with its sentiments.

"The Iron Giant" Special Edition DVD


Warner Home Video (WHV) is proud to announce a special edition DVD of the timeless animated classic "The Iron Giant" on September 7, 2004. Loaded with all-new special features -- including 8 "never-before-seen" scenes, including an alternate opening, all with director commentary, 13 mini-documentaries highlighting key sequences and a featurette, "The Voice Of The Giant," hosted Vin Diesel.

Additional special features on the DVD include scene-specific commentaries by filmmakers; a motion gallery of original animation; a letter from Ted Hughes, author of the original book upon which the film was based; DVD ROM access to the original web site; and "Easter eggs" revealing the behind-the-scenes filmmaking process. This DVD version of "The Iron Giant" is presented in an all-new digital transfer, a 16x9 widescreen format, English and French Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio and has English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Now if only they'll re-release the toys too. I'd really rather not have to shell out $100 for an Ultimate Iron Giant.

Friday, June 25, 2004

"Fillmore!" Cancelled

Fillmore! has apparently been given the axe by Disney.

This disappoints me greatly, as the show was one of my favorite cartoons currently on the air. The tone was unlike what you'll find on any other kids' cartoon show, as it was essentially a cop drama played out with junior high students. It also had possibly the best black leading character in a cartoon ever (not that there are a bevy to choose from). It was frequently funny, and it managed to be educational and moral-driven without being sappy like "Lilo and Stitch."

Even though my local ABC station relegated it to the 5 am Sunday death-slot in order to make room for two hours of Saturday morning news, it apparently did fairly well in the ratings nationwide. And when I did remember to tape the show, it was always the same handful of episodes I ended up with. Fortunately, I can take advantage of my sister's cable for the next couple of weeks, and compile a nice tape of episodes for posterity.

Several episodes have been thus far unaired in the US, but since one of them is airing this weekend, I have hopes that the others will surface soon. Plus, the official site also contains a Fillmore! comic book, and it sounds like future comics are a possibility, albeit a somewhat remote one. Since I'm still unemployed, perhaps I could convice Scott Gimple to let me author a Fillmore! young adults novel.

Social Security Strikes Again

Paul Musgrave has a few things to say about some new pro-Social Security propaganda that's making its way around the web. And Paul's right, it's grossly misleading. Here I thought I was pressing for changes because I wanted to make my *own* choices regarding *my* money. Now it turns out that SS opponents haven't been folks like me interested in personal choice, but rather evil dagger-toothed suits. (Or is that fellow supposed to represent me?)

Heck, there's at least one outright lie in the ad: "A small part of each paycheck is saved for you." Social Security doesn't save anything. It turns right around and gives the money I pay to other people. SS doesn't save money for me any more than my health insurance provider does.

And like Paul, I'm not encouraged by the "solvent for the next 40 years" rhetoric. I just turned 26, which means I'm guaranteed to pay 40 years worth of taxes, and retire just in time for insolvency to begin. And there's no small part of each paycheck of mine being saved for me.

For more fun, take a look at some old Social Security propaganda. The SS comic books are rather quaint, but the posters provide some good lines. "Join the March to Old Age Security.". Funny, I could've sworn the AARP just told me that SS alone doesn't provide security. Remember...Social Security services are free." Yep, so long as you define "free" as "12.4% of your earnings." Not surprisingly, the posters and comics focus only on benefits, and never on costs. From reading these materials, you'd think SS was just a matter of showing your employer your SS card, and then you'd be entitled to receive free money. Only when you look at the pamphlets does the subject of taxes even come up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today I turned 26. What else of significance do I share this day with? Not much, frankly. But Bruce Campbell shares my birthday, so that makes up for the lacking in other areas.

It also means I need to make something of my life, so future kids born on this day can say "Loren Collins has my birthday."

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Comics in September

Let's see what Previews has in store for me this September. First, the definites:

Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes #3 (for my brother)
Flash #214 - $2.25
Gotham Central #23 - $2.50
HERO #20 - $2.50
JSA #65 - $2.50
Plastic Man #10 - $2.95
Pulse #5 - $2.25
(apparently down from $2.99; yay!)
Ultimate Spider-Man #65 - $2.25

And now the series which may or may not be on my pull list in three months:

Adventures of Superman #632 - This'll probably stay, but it's been two issues already, and not much has happened.
Superman #209 - Even less has happened here. The art *is* nice, but that's not worth $2.50 a month. This is the most likely casualty.
Captain America and the Falcon #7 - Priest is probably my favorite comic author, but the first three issues haven't done it for me, as was the case with "The Crew." But maybe a new artist will help things.
Ex Machina #4 - I'll have to read the first issue before I'll know for sure. But I expect this'll be a keeper.

Based on this, it looks like I'll probably be shelling out a little over $23 at the store. If I added another series, what should it be? "She-Hulk" continues getting good reviews, and its legal angle might be appealing (or aggravating).

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Register to Vote, Get a Free Comic Book

Today only, if you register to vote online, you can get a free copy of Ex Machina #1. Both Randy and Don named it "Best of the Week" over at TheFourthRail.com, each giving it a 10/10 rating.

So if you're not already registered to vote, do so today. (And don't forget to vote Loren in November, either.)

For Argument's Sake...

John Leo on the lost art form of argumentation

I've had the opportunity to listen to Rush Limbaugh recently, and I came away unimpressed. My reaction to Sean Hannity's radio show is much the same, but I remain a fan of Neal Boortz's show. I attributed some of this split of opinion to the content of the shows; Rush and Sean talk nothing but politics, but Neal is inclined to discuss virtually any newsworthy subject. Neal is also more willing to have fun and cut up with his producers on the air.

But in the course of his column, I think Leo may have hit upon another distinction between the shows. Rush and Sean preach to the choir. Their listeners are folks who agree with them, and their callers are the same way. A fair number of Neal's listeners, however, don't agree with him, and Neal knows and likes this. Perhaps this difference in listenership is because of the other factors I mentioned above. Perhaps it's because Neal seems more willing to take calls from people who disagree with him. And while I do find myself sometimes irritated with Neal's methods of arguing, at least he *does* argue. He's not simply preaching to the choir, he wants people who don't agree with him now to change their opinions. They may not be convincing arguments; heck, sometimes they may not even be good ones. But it's an effort to reach beyond one's own ideological faithful.

This also explains why I tire of Neal's show when he begins to harp at length on Hillary or some leftist agenda. For the most part, I still agree with him, but it makes for much less interesting listening.

Back to Leo's column, I know that when we get to the Presidential debates for this year, the words will be just as scripted as he describes. Nothing will be spontaneous, and little will be persuasive either. Emphasis will once again be placed on the "what" of each's platform, with little to no talk of the "why" one course of action is superior to another.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Baby's First Work-Out

Here's the latest example of a fad surely created by people with too much money and too little common sense: Baby Exercise Classes.

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that there's *any* merit to such instruction, why would an infant need it? They eat a single food product, and it's all-natural. I don't imagine that overeating is common. It's not like a baby can sneak cookies or candy when Mommy's not paying attention. Besides, skinny babies don't tend to look healthy.

A Whole Lotta Lava Goin' On

The Giant Lava Lamp of Soap Lake, Washington.

This is a federal pork program just waiting for the right generous Congressman to come along.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Hypocrisy, or common sense?

Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution contained a follow-up story regarding a pair of G-8 activists profiled last Sunday. It seems that they've been a little tight on cash, but had a plan to get their rent money:

"We were going to pay with the money we took in from posters and T-shirts and water." But nobody showed up to buy that stuff. "We ended up spending more on last-minute things than we took in," said Gasink, who says she lost her job as a paralegal because of her G-8 activism.

That's right, in an effort to recoup their losses from protesting capitalism, they turned to...capitalism. And not just any kind, but hawking t-shirts and selling a product that's available for virtually free when it comes from a faucet. I wish they'd succeeded. Hopefully that would have taught them a valuable lesson.

Oh, and speaking of exploitative capitalism...

Political Insight from...Gary Bauer?

"When John F. Kennedy made his famous speech that the Vatican would not tell him what to do, evangelicals and Southern Baptists breathed a sigh of relief. But today, evangelicals and Southern Baptists are hoping that the Vatican will tell Catholic politicians what to do."

- Gary Bauer, quoted in USA Today

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

There are now at least three proposals being put forth to place Ronald Reagan's face on a piece of currency, particularly the $10 and $20 bills, and the dime. These currently bear the images of Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Roosevelt, respectively.

I'm not keen on any of these suggestions, especially not the $10. Hamilton was a Founding Father. His lasting influence on this country was greater than Jackson and Reagan put together. I say leave him be. And while I know how quickly FDR was put on the dime, I don't favor repeating what I consider a hasty move.

Frankly, I'm not hot on the idea of putting Reagan on any money yet, especially not if it involves bumping off Founding Fathers. But if it's inevitable, my vote is for the $50 bill. Whatever anyone thinks of Reagan, he was still a better President than Grant. And by replacing one Republican with another Republican, it saves some partisan bickering.

The US Mint is also in the market for a new face to put on the dollar coin. They finally gave up on Sacagawea, and are looking for a political figure. This would certainly be the easiest place to put him, and could easily bring some attention and popularity to the struggling coin.

Or how about the 50-cent piece? Ben Franklin used to be the face thereon, but he was replaced by JFK the year after Kennedy was shot. And no one uses that coin nowadays. Rotate it to a new dead President, and maybe revitalize some interest in the coin.

Or let's bring back a retired bill: the $500 bill. Quick, whose face was on the $500? Chances are, you don't know. Even I had to look it up: William McKinley. How did this guy end up on a bill and not Teddy Roosevelt? His only claim to fame is that his death allowed a more renowned President to come to power.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Superhero Movie Night

Last Friday, I took part in my church youth group's all-night Superhero Movie Marathon. Five and a half flicks, seen over twelve hours, and only myself and the youth minister made it through the entire night without going to sleep. None of the films were new to me, but as is common with films that tend to engender certain expectations before viewing them, a repeat viewing allows one to see the movie in a less biased light.

Batman (1989)

I first saw this one over a decade ago, and liked it. I watched it again on the big screen last semester, and having become far more in-tune with Batman over the intervening time, I found myself overwhelmed with the liberties taken and the flaws I perceived.

Why is the Waynes' murder apparently an incredibly obscure fact in Gotham City? Why is Alfred so keen on Bruce sharing his secret identity, to the point of letting Vicki Vale into the Batcave on his own initiative? Why does Batman, whose opposition to guns and killing are integral parts of his character, have guns on his vehicles and demonstrate a ready willingness to kill his opponents? And what's up with Bruce Wayne sleeping with a woman after their first date?

But Keaton and Nicholson are both fantastic, the look of the film is spot-on, and the Joker's murderous pranks are suitably deranged. I'll have to watch "Batman Returns" again to compare the two, but this one is certainly better than Schumacher's installments, though I'm sure "Batman Begins" will put them all to shame.


This would have been the best film of the night except for two things, one of which has been cited repeatedly in reviews. Namely, the Goblin's mask robs the character of any and all reason for putting Willem Dafoe under it. Without the ability to use his eyes or facial expressions to convey characterization, Dafoe is reduced to lots of excessive bodily movements. This makes the Goblin more of a caricature than a character. Alfred Molina's Dr. Octopus already has the advantage over the Goblin in this respect.

Second, Spider-Man isn't nearly funny enough. One of Spidey's defining characteristics, that which sets him apart from so many other superheroes, is his wise-cracking. Brian Michael Bendis has captured this aspect so well in "Ultimate Spider-Man," which had such an enormous influence on this film, and yet the filmmakers abandoned this tidbit and made Spidey terribly serious. He gets a couple of jokes here and there, but nothing terribly memorable.

But other than these two complaints, the movie was practically perfect. And now that the origin is taken care of, I have some pretty high expectations for the sequel.


Good, but not great. I maintain that the opening sequence of Magneto in a concentration camp was pure genius on the creative team's part, an inspired way to convey the heart of the X-Men's tale. It also adds a sympathetic side to Magneto's struggle, focusing on what I've long felt is a neglected aspect of his character. And as evil plots go, I rather like the one in play here. It's ethically troublsome, but it's well-intentioned and not outright malevolent. I prefer this Magneto to Grant Morrison's "must destroy New York" take on the character.

Some of the fun in-jokes ("yellow spandex") seem more hackneyed upon repeat viewing, and since much of the film is involved in bringing characters together and explaining the set-up, it sometimes feels a bit tedious. But it was necessary.

I'm still wondering, though, how did the X-Men know to be in Canada to save Logan and Rogue?

X2: X-Men United

Easily the best of the night. It fixes all of the flaws present in its predecessor, and improves on so much more. Nightcrawler, my favorite X-man, is translated wonderfully to the big screen. Brian Cox turns in a fantastic performance as a man whose own personal troubles and failings have caused his hate to take control of him.

Singer juggles a larger group of characters here, and does it more deftly than in the first film. As a result, you come away feeling that you've gained valuable insight into every character, even the minor players like Pyro. And he also makes good and ingenious use of their powers.

It's two hours and fifteen minutes long, and yet it doesn't drag at all. If I need to point to any flaws in this film, it's that it's a little *too* sequel-friendly. But those elements are not emphasized so heavily that they're a burden, so this film still stands perfectly well on its own.

The Hulk

The definite low point of the evening. I thought "Hulk" was OK when I saw it in the theater. I wasn't enamoured of it, but I thought it was unfairly maligned by many. This viewing definitely changed my opinion for the worse.

Some parts were admittedly good. I still feel Bana's performance was better than others say. In fact, most of the actors do a great job (except for the guy playing Talbot). Even Nick Nolte was satisfying, because while I found myself increasingly disliking his character and subplot, he does play crazy well. I still like the comic-booky split frames, except when two frames show the same scene from different angles. And the Hulk versus the military in the desert was the high point of the film.

The whole "Bruce's dad" subplot should have been scrapped. It contributed most of the film's bad moments, added little of merit, and served to convolute the origin story. A perfectly good ending with Bruce and Betty hugging in the street was followed by a ridiculous fight scene. I *still* don't understand what's happening in the last 5 minutes, and I found myself increasingly upset with the military's willingness to stand by while Nolte acted increasingly nutty. And given these events, it makes it very unlikely that Bruce "Krenzler" would ever take his birth father's name. I didn't really mind the Hulk dogs, but their fight scene was too dark to be worth the time. Lose the dad subplot, and this overly long 2.5 hour film could easily come in at under 2 hours, a much more reasonable length.

It took too long for the Hulk to actually appear onscreen, and when he did, he wasn't done right for long. As one reviewer put it, there's a line between being a very large person and a small giant. An 8-9 foot tall Hulk is pushing the limits of believability; a 15-foot Hulk is simply a monster. Watch how much Bruce has to shrink in front of Betty at the end, and you'll see what I mean. It strips the character of any remaining realism, and you'll note that as the film progresses, Ang Lee was increasingly hesistant to actually put the Hulk in the same frame with another person.

My hope is that if they pursue a sequel, it's sure to be better than this one.

Finally, we watched the first hour of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. The animation looked a bit pixillated on the 12-foot screen, but otherwise I enjoyed it yet again. I only wish the others, who have never seen this one before, had gotten to finish it. At least those who watched the first half were intrigued enough to want to see the remainder.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Bad Math

There's a Pizza Hut ad airing on television these days with Jessica Simpson and the Muppets, hawking the new "4-for-All" pizza. In it, Ms. Simpson says that because there are four little pizzas, and a total of 18 different toppings, and then, after producing a blackboard and uttering a couple of mathematical terms, declares that there are "six million, three hundred twenty-one thousand different combinations."

Somebody at Pizza Hut didn't do their math right. Given the terms put forth, there are only 5985 different combinations for the 4-for-All pizza. That is less than one-tenth of one percent of the cited number. Is this intended to mock Jessica's ditzy reputation? The blackboard would tend to suggest otherwise, and the viewer certainly leaves the ad thinking there are millions of combinations, not thousands.

Still, it's always good to see the Muppets on TV, even if they are commercial shills.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ronald Reagan in "Reason"

In the wake of the man's passing, I was exposed to a Reason magazine interview that Ronald Reagan gave in July 1975. It was during his tenure as California governor, and it's a great insight into his political beliefs before he made his way into the Oval Office. And it's a system of beliefs that I find myself in strong agreement with.

Sweet Endings

School officials in Massachusetts have decided to ban birthday cupcakes from the classroom. Obesity concerns were cited as the reason.

These kind of nanny state articles would be funny in The Onion. Unfortunately, it's all too real.

Eat the Rich

It seems that the U.S. Supreme Court has at least five millionaires on its bench. And who are they? Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. In other words, the entire middle and left wing of the Court.

No conclusions or allegations here, just the observation that it's funny how Republicans are labelled as the party of the rich.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Election Atlas

I just happened upon Dave Leip's Atlas of US Presidential Elections. It's a wealth of US political history, and a darn cool site to boot.

Cool if you're a political geek, that is.