Movie Review: First Blood

In contrast to my other posts about movies that get worse every time I see them, this movie always delivers. Even Mrs Muttrox agreed, and she is not overly supportive of action movies.

Keys to success:
1) Stallone is ripped. Let’s face it, he looks cool, and not in a Rocky III oily kind of way
2) No love interest. Except guns maybe.
3) Morally ambiguous characters. The “bad guy” is not very bad, the “good guy” is not very good. They are both complex characters — the conflict is more of the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, and things get worse.
4) Realistic violence. One bullet does not blow up a Vietnamese village, Rambo does not free Afghanistan by himself or any craziness like that. Motorcycles swerve, rocks hurt, wounds need to heal, etc. That’s not to say it’s perfectly realistic, but it’s a good deal more than most action movies.
5) Very little actual violence. The conflict is not direct most of the time. There is suspense and tension most of the time. Desperation, chase scenes. That’s not to say there is no violence, just not as much as you would think.
6) Brian Denehy. He’s awesome. I don’t care if he lied about his military service*, he’s a great actor, and perfect for this role.

A lot of this comes because it’s based on a real novel, where it’s hard to get away with the same stuff action movies get away with.

There’s probably more too, but you get the point. First Blood rocks!!

* I just finished The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life. This is an excellent read, and deserving of it’s own post at some point. It cites the work of Burkett in debunking many of those who falsely claimed Vietnam military action, including Brian Denehy. I can’t find any other links to this research. On the one hand, it’s a book about truth, it’s hard to believe that it would be a hoax. On the other hand, Burkett was one of the folks who launched the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, which was itself so riddled with lies I have a hard time believing it’s core assertions.

…ok, I’m spelling Dennehy’s name wrong. Now I can search the web a bit.
Cite 1
Cite 2
It’s hard to tell if these are more links to Burkett’s work, but since they refernce specific events (an apology in 1999 after winning Best Actor), I’m going to say Burkett’s on the up and up.

And to think that I heard it on NPR

NPR is currently in their spring pledge drive. Today, I heard the sales spiel from Ira Glass, host of This American Life. It was appalling.

Ira explained to we listeners how normal TV and radio work: There are $42 billion spent every year on advertising in those media. Where does that money come from? From you and me, every time we buy a product. That works out to $208 per person, every single one of us, whether we like it or not. He then contrasted this to public radio where you have the choice to support the exact station you want, your money doesn’t go to places you don’t want it to go.

This has to be one of the most deceptive and plain stupid arguments ever promulgated on the airwaves. And I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh.

1) The money comes from corporations, not people. If you’re going to follow the chain back from where the companies got the money to the people who gave it, it’s only fair to see where the people got the money. Hey, they got it from companies (either in the form wages or investments)! Gee, it’s like we got ourselves some kind of Economy boys and girls! Can you say Economy?

2) Sure, when I buy a rotisserie chicken, I’m funneling a couple cents of profit to Kroger or Costco, who can then, if they choose, spend some of that on advertising to me on TV and radio in the hopes I’ll buy more chickens from them. I chose to buy the chicken, the company chose to pay for advertising, the media choose to view it, I chose to watch it, and then I choose whether to respond to it or not. What’s so anti-choice about that?

3) The math is based on a figure of 200 million people. No idea where that came from, current US Population is at 300 million or so. Ira’s show is called This American Life, but these companies are mostly multi-nationals, so you can’t make any kind of per person estimate without figuring in the world population, where companies spend money, what percentage of revenues Americans contribute, etc.

4) Worse than the math is the warped conclusion he draws from it. If we accept the specious claim that the average citizen spent $208 on advertising last year, this does not mean that each person actually spent $208! C’mon Ira! If this thinking made any sense, the problems of poverty and iniquity would have been long since solved. After all, every person in America made over $37,000 in 2003, that’s plenty! On the other hand, the average American family has over $9,000 of credit card debt, so by Ira’s logic I should be worried although the Muttrox family lives debt-free.

5) Lastly, the element of who I support. I loathe Clear Channel and Sinclair Broadcasting, and I’m sure some of my money is going to them. On the other hand, Car Talk is one of the most annoying shows ever created. If you edited out all the laughter and rambling stories, you are left with a five minute show. It could be stuck in between other shows, like the excellent Moment of Science. But Ira, if I give my money to NPR, some of it goes to Car Talk. How anti-choice! The horror, Ira, the horror!!

(But I’ll give money anyhow. It is my hope that NPR [really the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in this context] will get enough money to eliminate government funding so the Republicans can finally quit their whining. $60 million dollars a year. Whoopee. That’s about two hours worth of the Iraq war. Or take a look at the Porker of the Month archives to see what else the feds decide to spend $60 million on.)

Bush & Clinton: Their gang

Just curious — I’ve read books by/about a few people who served in the Clinton administration (for example Robert Reich, Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan). Without fail, they are always complimentary of Clinton. In contrast, I haven’t read anybody from the Bush side with much complimentary to say. Part of this is because I’m not interested in books whose only purpose to is smooch Bush’s bottom. (Likewise, I wouldn’t count “My Life” as a remotely objective viewpoint.) So maybe I’m missing some there. But I think it’s because:

a) Bush’s team is so ideological, it’s hard to find those who have a relatively neutral viewpoint
b) Anyone who was relatively independent have long ago realized what they were working for and got out (for example O’ Neill, Richard Clarke).

So is there anybody from a non-partisan background who’s written a complimentary book about Bush? I mean, does anyone really admire this guy?


Here in Georgia, the state congress just passed legislation requiring voters to have photo ID. Seven forms of ID are allowed. This is causing a great stir, with opponents walking out of sessions, singing protest songs, strident editorials, etc. I don’t get it.

There are so many problems with our voting system. The black box voting machines, the partisan officials who oversee the process, the lack of a national voting day, etc. Fairly low down on the list is fraud, but it’s there. Requiring photo ID should not be a substitute for real reform, but it stands well on it’s own merits. Both here and in my home state of Massachusetts, I could have easily voted multiple times. All I had to do was say I was someone else, someone else I knew who wasn’t voting. Done.

The reasons that opponents give never have to do with the basic idea, they all have to do with implementation. They fear a return to minority persecution. In Georgia, there are hardly and DMVs, and they are so inefficient that you must take off at least a full day of work to get anything done. But the answer to these problems is not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, it’s to have the law be implemented correctly.

Photo ID is a good idea. Maybe it’s being brought up for bad reasons, but it’s still good.

Bill Bradley speaks

Today, the New York Times published a terrific editorial in which Bill Bradley examines the difference between the Republican and Democratic infrastructure. It’s a great piece, and it lays out explicitly many of the connections on the Republican side that you normally only see in left-wing blogs. I was particularly heartened that he analyzed the role of the media.

Anyone who thinks the media is impartial is fooling themselves. Jabley has a great list of keys to democratic victory, but I think there is only one. Get the media to report on facts and do real journalism. I firmly believe the Democrats have a vastly superior message, one that will easily win elections. On virtually every topic, those who are familiar with the facts of the topic side with the Democratic position. It is those who are not familiar with the topic, or have swallowed the lies that have been fed, that tend towards the GOP. Call the lies out, and you have an ex-Republican. I am convinced this is the absolute truth for the center of the political spectrum. If I can ever get around to digging up the links, I’ll post my 2004 election analysis, which is really only two paragraphs long.

Grand Ole Opry

We just got back from a weekend in Nashville, TN. We were staying at Opryland. It’s fuller name is (unfortunately) Gaylord Opryland. I don’t know who Gaylord was, and don’t really want to find out. I certainly hope there was a Gaylord, I’d hate to think that someone come up with that name as a marketing tactic. (Actually, I lied. I just googled to see who Gaylord was. I didn’t get the answer, but I did find a particularly Dilbert-esque homepage that proclaims that they are “Defined By Our Finely-Honed Growth Strategy”.)

Opryland is like Vegas, but without the casino. It’s incredible just to walk around the grounds. We ended up taking a boat ride through the hotel. Yes, a boat ride through the hotel. Enormous gardens, inhouse river, fountains and fish, amazing food. It’s all connected at the hip to the actual Grand Ole’ Opry, as well as a mega-mall. We went to see the Gibson guitar factory. My guitar was made there in 1984. There are no tours on weekends though, so it was just like any other guitar store, except a lot more banjos and dobros, what with being in the south and all.

It was a good stay, except for being constantly nickel and dimed by the hotel. We were paying roughly $200/night. That’s more than we usually spend, but we were willing to do it once, just for the experience. But the big hits did not stop there. Muffins that cost $2.75, breakfast buffet for $20, the aforementioned boat ride for $8/head, with your option to buy a picture of the experience for another $10. These were annoying, but par for the course. We’ve become accustomed to those prices, it’s like living in an airport. No, the two charges that really got to me were:

  • Parking: It was $8.72 a day to park your car. Parking your car is extra!? What!? Mind you, this is not valet parking (that’s $16/day plus tips). No, this is parking your car 1/2 mile away from the hotel in the pouring rain, and being forced to park on the grass and your car makes some awful sounds as it goes over the curb and you walk back to the hotel in the rain after having driven for 5 hours straight with a screaming toddler — that is the experience for which we were paying $8.72 a day. The specificity was irritating also. Yes, I get it, it’s $8.00 with a 9% tax. You couldn’t just call it $8 or $9 even?
  • Resort fee: $5.00 a day, for internet access (we didn’t use), newspapers (we didn’t get), use of the fitness center (we didn’t use), and I don’t even know what else.

Neither of these were optional of course. So why don’t they just make it part of the overall room charge? Nothing else gets broken out. When was the last time you saw a hotel bill like this?

  • Bed: $55/night
  • Sheets: $15/night
  • Room Service: $25/night
  • TV: $10/night
  • Doorkey: $15/night
  • Toiletries: $10/night

I hope never. That’s the point of having one charge, to roll up the whole experience into one number. This is good for the hotel and the consumer. The consumer knows what they are getting. The consumer does not spend their whole trip thinking about money, wondering how saracastic to make their blog entry, and vowing never to go back again.

Terry Schiavo

Here’s a little rule of thumb. When two branches of the government pass a bill that only applies to two citizens, that’s not a good bill. I don’t know how many bills meet that description, but I feel confident the rule holds. I didn’t even think it was possible to target a bill so specifically (and probably it’s not, this one is bound to fail any constitutional review).

Now that I know that, it does changes my own priorities. Instead of working for the man, I’m going to get me an office on K Street and start lobbying for the Muttrox Family and American Way Preservation Act (MFAWPA).

This Act will:

  • Appoint Muttrox (me) the Traffic Czar for life. More details in a later post on what that entails.
  • Guarantee Muttrox (me) 10% of any savings garnered through Social Security Privatization (I don’t expect to see a dime of that)
  • Award Muttrox (me) the first American Knighthood. Sir Muttrox has a nice ring.

Rumsfeld, doin’ good

Rusmfeld is fighting Congress. No, not about torture. It’s about budgets, and bringing just a hair of rationality to the procurement process.

It’s easy to forget how important this battle is to Rumsfeld. When he was brought on as Secretary fo Defense, his stated goal was to transform the military. He was probably as surprised as everyone else when he had actually had to, you know, run a war and stuff. He has been outspoken for many years about the need for the military branches to have a funding and procurement process that gets them what is needed to accomplish their military mission, not the mission of the arms manufacturers and congressmen. Today’s military is only slowing preparing itself for the post-cold landscape. Considering the amount of our GDP that goes to military expenditures, it is welcome to see Rumsfeld going to war on this front also. Will he be able to buck the “Iron Triangle”? I don’t know, but I give him better odds than anyone else would get. Go Rummy go!

McCain again

This comment from Jabley on on my first McCain post deserves a full reply:

To his credit, it sounds as if much of the talk centers around “negotiating” not cramming the Bush plan down the country’s throat. It’s pretty much accepted that support for Bush’s plan as initially-conceived is insufficient to win approval; I perceive this effort to be more of an attempt to keep Social Security alive as a political issue rather than an attempt to win Bush’s precise plan. Clearly McCain understands that there will have to be a meaningful middle ground on this issue and I think the “come to the table with us” talk demonstrates as much.

Here’s why I disagree with this line of reasoning.

1) There is no Bush plan. To speak of negotiating is absurd when Bush won’t commit to anything. Any criticism against the Democrats for not having a plan of their own is easily answered with that classic, “You first!”.

2) The elements that we know are in the Bush “plan” are non-negotiable. Bush and his allies may refer to “saving social security” or “just making sure it’s solvent” or “giving people more control”, but these are not what their plan is. Their plan is privatizing the system, plain and simple. Note that Bush and Cheney and others have all recently stated that their ideas will do nothing to address solvency. If that is true (and it certainly is), why exactly do you think they want things to change?

3) Their is no meaningful middle ground. There are either add-on accounts or not, there are either carved out accounts or not, you either address the solvency issue or not, you either leave Social Security as an insurance system or transform into a fancy 401(k), etc.

4) It is not that Bush’s plan as initially conceived has failed to win support. It is that the very elements that are central to his “plan” are unpopular. In every setting, the more people are exposed to his plan, the more they dislike it. The more the true costs are known, the more they dislike it. And it is not the “negotiable” parts of his plan that people dislike, it is the central concepts themseleves. That isn’t going to change, because Bush’s “plan” isn’t going to change in any meaningful way.

Bush and McCain hugging.

“Just let me president. Please, please let me be president.”

John McCain, one too many

John McCain is now stumping for Bush’s Social Security “plan”. What the hell happened to him?

I have always liked McCain. His story is amazing, his independent streak welcome, but his appeal to me has always been his priorities. If there is one single thing that can improve the political structure of the USA, it is campaign finance reform. The influence of money is ubiquitous and pernicious. Witness the travesty of the recent bankruptcy bill, which blatantly screws everyone unlucky enough to be neither a corporation nor a millionaire. There has been no defense given to this bill because there is none. It is a blatant payoff to the credit card industry. This happens to be a particularly egregious example, but the effects go throughout the entire system. As long as that influence is there, it is next to impossible to get representatives who are there to serve the public.

At any rate, McCain has always been a proponent and a warrior for campaign finance reform. For this reason alone, I have always been in his corner. But. But. But I feel like he may have scored one too many negatives on my accounting sheet. His embrace of Bush’s worst ideas defies his public image. No one who is intellectually honest can stump for Bush’s “plan”. The “plan” such as it is, is riddled without distortions, inconsistencies, and outright lying. I still like to think McCain is basically honorable, but this can simply not be an honest presentation of McCain’s personal views.

I see a quid-pro-quo. Despite all the bad things that Bush did to McCain during the 2000 election primaries, McCain has agreed to play ball – and in return Bush will throw his support behind McCain in 2008. No other rationale adds up to me.

McCain in 2008, with the full support of the mainstream GOP and Bush administration. You read it here first.