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Monthly Archives: August 2010

This week marked the return to school for all the little kiddies of central Pennsylvania.  Suddenly, our morning commute has become infinitely more interesting with yellow school buses plying the streets again and crossing guards at seemingly every corner.  But, one thing I have noticed about myself as the kids return is how much I’m starting to sound like that old man sitting on his porch yelling at the kids to get off his grass.

As a kid, I was often regaled with tales about how much easier we had it than the generations before us.  They had to walk to school.  In the driving rain, howling snow, and burning sun.  Uphill.  Both ways.  In danger of being beset by bandits and grizzly bears with noting but a loose-leaf notebook with which to defend themselves.

And what about the way we dressed!  Well, as a child of the ’80’s I do have to agree with them on that to a point.  Parachute pants?  Members Only jackets?  What were we thinking!  And don’t get me started on jelly bracelets up to the elbow and popped collars.  Seeing pictures of ourselves could prove extremely painful.

But, I digress.

These days I’m sounding almost as bad.  I see kids picked up by the school bus at their own driveway, to the tune of the bus sometimes stopping several times per block, I roll my eyes.  In my head, and occasionally to my wife, I’m complaining that we had to walk for blocks to get to our bus stop and were lucky if a parent could wait with us in inclement weather.  I haven’t added the topographic miracle of hills with upward slopes regardless of direction, but it’s only a matter of time.

And, of course, I look at the fashions and roll my eyes again.  I don’t want to see your underwear.  Where are you going: school or the night club?  And for God’s sake, we learned that popped collars were a bad idea decades ago, get with the program. Damn juvenile delinquents!

Of course, after saying these things, I feel my face wrinkle just a little more, and my eyesight becomes just a tad blurrier.  I hope that one of my friends will warn me if I start showing a propensity for sweaters on hot days and talking about the good ol’ days that were so much better.

But, I swear, the second the word whippersnapper comes out of my mouth I’m hanging it up.

I often wonder in these days why we continue to bother with that pesky Constitution thing.  I mean, it is truly an outdated document, why should we bother with it anymore?  It isn’t like its important or anything.

At least that’s what the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals would have us think.

According to them, we might as well just torch things like he Constitution and Bill of Rights.  While we’re at it we might as well shred the Declaration on Independence as well.  Who needs all that yammering on and on about freedom, rights, and liberty.  Liberty. Hmph.  Who needs that?  Or even wants it?

Well, I do, for one.  And, I would imagine that most Americans are pretty fond of it as well.  But, the Ninth District has elected to continue the gradual erosion of our personal rights that has been happening for decades, but really kicked into gear post-9/11.

For those who don’t follow this sort of thing allow me to explain…

In 2007 DEA officials decided that Juan Pineda-Moreno was growing pot.  They were reasonably sure, but apparently needed a bit more evidence to get their conviction.  So, instead of doing further investigative work they went on his property in the middle of the night and hid a GPS device on his vehicle.  Mr. Pineda-Moreno drives out to his little pot farm in the hills.  They GPS track him.  Slam, bam, thank you ma’am he gets convicted, much of the case hinging on this GPS evidence.

Oh, did I mention they never had a warrant to come onto his property or GPS tag his car?

Our pot-growing friend’s lawyer decided this was dirty pool.  No warrant equals no evidence.  His client had a reasonable expectation of privacy on his own property after all.  The appeal was almost assured to happen.  And happen it did, in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who shot it down not once, but twice.

They made no comment, however, in either instance so we can’t judge as to whether they were intoxicated at the time.

Now, some of you out there may be screaming that this guy was breaking the law and deserved a conviction.  That is hardly the point here.  The point is, if I may be so bold, that the judiciary just handed carte blanche to law enforcement to track vehicles via GPS without having to ever justify such an action to a judge.

Cop thinks your a drug dealer or terrorist, but can’t prove a thing?  You can be tracked.  Cop thinks you drive a little too fast or recklessly, but he can’t get you speeding?  You can be tracked.  Cop gets dumped by his girlfriend and he wants to scare off any other potential suitors?  They can be tracked.  Cop saw you picking your nose at the red light?  Yep, that’s a go on the GPS, my friend.

I don’t care whether you are liberal, conservative, Republican, or Democrat; this country was founded on the concept of freedom.  Liberty is the basic underpinning that should inform every action of every level of our government.  The power in this country was invested in the people, not in the government.

I come back to the words of my one of the truest Americans to ever live, Benjamin Franklin.  I know I have quoted him thus before, but perhaps we need to hear it again.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

In 1968, Andy Warhol quipped that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”  Most people at the time thought he was making a visionary statement of how he viewed the future.  I am beginning to think otherwise.

I think it was a threat.

The truth is, in today’s ultra-connected, 24 hour news cycle culture, the statement is closer than ever to becoming reality.  The problem is that many people quite overstay their 15 minutes.  Reality TV, gossip shows, and celebrity antics give us a fresh crop of familiar faces on an almost daily basis.  We are quickly becoming a culture where the question isn’t “Are you famous?” but “Why aren’t you famous yet?”

This would be an irritating enough trend all on its own.  The problem is that as the reality shows and celebrity gossip programs search for more and more fodder to fill their time, we are getting more and more of the worst humanity has to offer being put on display.  In fact, it seems like the quickest way to get yourself on TV is to do something beyond the pale.

Now, I don’t like to get preachy.  No one likes to listen to someone lecturing them.  But, why is it they we are justifying theses disgusting behaviors by giving the perpetrators all the attention they can swallow?  For example, do you know what the number one costume was last Halloween?  The octomom is a variety of different incarnations.  I saw many of them, and there was definitely some creativity.  But why, in the name of all that’s holy, are we giving a woman who showed a dizzying lack of responsibility, judgment, and respect for herself and the lives she created all the attention?  It doesn’t matter that we are making fun.  Even the negative attention just encourages the behaviors.

And then you have the reality stars.  Every week we watch them scheme and betray one another in pursuit of God Money.  Put in close proximity, with cash on the line, it’s amazing to me what people will do to one another.  And yet, we cheer on our favorites week after week.  Of course some reality shows just dish us the celebrities.  But how serious am I supposed to think you are taking your recovery when you’re doing it on “Celebrity Rehab?”

We really need to take a step back and see what we are putting out there as fame-worthy.  Our children see everything that goes on around them and they learn the lessons we teach, not the ones we intend to teach.  And right now their learning that any number of destructive and irresponsible behaviors can get you a reality show and a fat bank account.

Imagine what the next generations will consider acceptable?

Hello, friends.

It seems Hollywood is trying to push as many films out to the theaters as possible before the summer ends.  After last week’s mediocre showing, however, the crop this week looks to be an improvement.  Not a huge improvement, but baby steps, I suppose.

So, let’s take a peek…

“Avatar: Special Edition 3D”

Trailer

Synopsis: A reluctant hero. An epic journey. A choice between the life he left behind and the incredible new world he’s learned to call home. Return to James Cameron’s Avatar – the greatest adventure of all time.

MovieDruid’s Comments: I have to hand it to James Cameron.  He is a consummate business man.  He even puts George Lucas to shame, and does it without raising the ire of his fans.  Much.  By now anyone in America who wants to see “Avatar” has seen it.  They have probably seen it more than once.  But, Cameron knows that he can tap into even more cash by re-releasing it into the theaters with some additional footage.  Zealot-like fanboys will flock to it, the curious will eventually cave and head to the cineplex.  And Cameron’s pockets shall grow ever fatter.  I for one will not be paying to see this one in theaters again.  It is a good movie, but hardly “the greatest adventure of all time.”  For those who do fall into Cameron’s mesmerizing trap, however, keep this in mind.  He called this one “Special Edition,”  are we destined for a third version on DVD tagged “Director’s Cut”?  Or, perhaps, more beyond that?

“Flipped”

Trailer

Synopsis: When second-graders Bryce and Juli first meet, Juli knows its love. But Bryce isn’t so sure. Girl-phobic and easily embarrassed, young Bryce does everything he can to keep his outspoken wannabe girlfriend at arm’s length… for the next six years, which isn’t easy since they go to the same school and live across the street from each other. But if Juli finally looks away, will it be Bryce’s turn to be dazzled? “Flipped” takes Bryce and Juli from grade school to junior high; through triumph and disaster, family drama and first love, as they make the discoveries that will define who they are – and who they are to each other.

MovieDruid’s Comments: Coming of age films like this one are almost always too sugary sweet for my taste.  But, every once in a while one comes along that really makes me take a longer look and becomes a treasured favorite.  This one looks like it has that potential.  Yes, it has a cast with some impressive names, but in this case they are almost irrelevant.  Only one name matters on this one.  The name that gave us “Stand By Me,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Story of Us,” and “When Harry Met Sally” to name just a few.  I speak, of course, of director Rob Reiner.  His directorial eye and style has informed many of the best movies in my collection.  And, here, he looks to do it again.

“The Last Exorcism”

Trailer

Synopsis: When he arrives on the Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer, the Rev. Cotton Marcus expects to perform just another routine “exorcism” on a disturbed religious fanatic. An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer has contacted the charismatic preacher as a last resort, certain his teenage daughter Nell is possessed by a demon who must be exorcized before their terrifying ordeal ends in unimaginable tragedy. Buckling under the weight of his conscience after years of parting desperate believers with their money, Cotton and his crew plan to film a confessionary documentary of this, his last exorcism. But upon arriving at the already blood drenched family farm, it is soon clear that nothing could have prepared him for the true evil he encounters there.

MovieDruid’s Comments: I’m not sure what to make of this one, to be quite honest.  I am a fan of exorcism films (particularly the original “The Exorcist” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”), but this one feels different somehow.  It almost feels grotesque simply for the purpose of being grotesque.  However, it does look like it would be a very scary horror flick, and thus might be worth the price of admission on that fact alone.  Regardless of all of these factors, however, my biggest concern is it appears to be shot handheld style (see “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield”), something that makes some moviegoers motion-sick.  This one looks like a second-runner to me unless I am really in the mood for a horror flick.

“Takers” – MovieDruid Pick of the Week

Trailer

Synopsis: A notorious group of criminals continue to baffle police by pulling off perfectly executed bank robberies. They are in and out like clockwork, leaving no evidence behind and laying low in between heists. But when they attempt to pull off one last job with more money at stake than ever before, the crew may find their plans interrupted by a hardened detective who is hell-bent on solving the case.

MovieDruid’s Comments: A good heist film is a difficult thing to pull off.  The ground has been tread so many times before that you run the risk of becoming cliché at every turn.  But, when done right they can be a thing of beauty.  This one appears to have the pieces necessary to do it right, and the execution appears to match the talent from what we see in the trailer.  Now they just have to avoid the plot pitfalls that come with this sort of film and they will have a winner on their hands.

I’m a gadget guy, and I love my smartphone.  In fact, going anywhere without the iPhone tethered to me in some ways makes me almost feel naked. But, I’ve noticed a trend that I find appalling as the smartphone continues to rise in prominence.  Next time your out to a movie or sitting in a restaurant take a quick peak around.  Chances are you will see at least one or two people paying more attention to a phone or other gadget than to the person (or people) they are with.

What is their damage?

I understand that we live in an ultra-connected society. Between text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, and social networking we are more interconnected to one another’s lives than we have been at any point in history.  At least when we’re not together.

We need to wake up.  We need to remember that the people we choose to spend time with in real space are, in almost every instance, more important than those virtual connections.  We need to rediscover to joy of the conversation over dinner, the intimacy that comes with being able to see a person’s eyes when you talk.

A conversation that does not include emoticons and webspeak.

So, I call on everyone to put down the phone when you’re with someone.  If it buzzes that you got a text, let it go until later.  If it blips that someone you follow just Tweeted, catch up on their stream later.  Don’t allow yourself to continue to be a slave to to beeps and buzzes of a gadget when a real flesh and blood person is sitting across from you.

We all love to receive attention, and that is part of the reason we have to see what the latest text or IM says.  But, the here and now of our physical reality is so much more inviting if you put down the digital leash we have all fastened around our necks.

Like Springsteen says: “I just want someone to talk to, and a little of that human touch.”

I recall back in 2007 an ice storm swept through the Northeast and paralyzed much of the region on Valentine’s Day.  It was an ugly mess all over, but this particular event stands out in the minds of many Pennsylvanians because of what happened on Interstate 78.

I-78 was all but shut down with a 50 mile backlog of traffic.  This would be nasty enough in that weather, but the cars and trucks on that highway were stuck there for over 24 hours.  No food, no water, freezing temperatures, and declining fuel.  It was a nightmare, and politicians were screaming for answers, and heads, for weeks afterward.

I thought I had seen the absolute worst in traffic that winter.  Leave it to the Chinese to prove me wrong.

On August 13 construction work began on the Beijing-Tibet Highway outside of Beijing.  The automobile ownership boom in China has, apparently, vastly overwhelmed its infrastructure and the project was going to add more lanes to allow for better traffic flow.  Irony saw this and decided to rear its head.  The construction project combined with the already overwhelming amount of traffic to create a 62 mile backlog that is quickly nearing the border with Inner Mongolia.

Average speed in the gridlocked area?  One-third of a mile per day.

The Chinese government is now speculating that the gridlock will likely continue until September 17 when the project is scheduled to be completed and the lanes reopened.  For those following along, that’s a traffic jam that lasts just over a month.  And, of course, that is assuming the project is completed on time.  Maybe it’s different in China because of the whole Communism thing, but I know that if PennDOT completes a project on time we here in Pennsylvania wonder what is wrong with it.

The bright side of this is that the residents of local villages bordering the highway are profiting from the situation by selling (read “gouging” by the motorists on the highway) the stranded drivers a variety of local wares including instant noodles.

And we though capitalism could never take root in China!

As many of my readers know, I am a former Internet Technical Support Rep.  I worked doing phone based technical support for two different companies for the better part of ten years.  It was time that was extremely educational.  I honed my skills at troubleshooting.  I honed my skills at dealing with difficult people.  And, I lost my faith in the general intelligence of humanity.

Well, not completely.

During my time in the trenches I witnessed many of my friends lose their jobs to outsourcing.  In fact, one of the call centers I worked in is now completely shut down due to every job in it being outsourced.  I got out to another company just in time, but a friend of mine actually had to spend his last weeks with the company in Indonesia training our replacements.

Good times, let me tell you.

Last week, my normally rock-solidly dependable home DSL service decided to go down.  I was frustrated, but hardly helpless because of my time as a troubleshooter.  So, I spent some time going through all of the rigmarole any tech worth their salt would check.  Thus, when all of these things failed to correct the problem I expected sooth sailing.

I should have known better.

The call to my provider ended up in India.  I should have expected as much, but it still irritated me.  Here I was, an out of work tech worker, and my technical support call is being answered in Mumbai.  Those jobs used to belong to my friends and I.  What’s worse, instead of demonstrating savvy technical skills I was led through a script, half of the things I was asked to do were either irrelevant to my problem or were obviously not going to help based on the facts I had already laid out.  It was maddening.

My DSL did get fixed, though it took nearly 24 hours for them to get the tech to their local office to fix the redback as I requested from the beginning.   And my service seems to be back to its old reliable ways.  But, this experience is just one of many I have had since watching my employer firing all of my colleagues to send their jobs overseas.  It seems every time I call any company these days the phone rings outside this country.

They call it business, saving money on the overhead of providing customer service.  I call it giving the customers, We The People of this great country, substantially inferior service to save a few bucks while not passing any of that savings on.  Oh, and as an added bonus taking jobs away from hundreds of hard-working Americans.

I know some of you might think I am being racist saying that the overseas contractors are providing substantially inferior service.  But, it has nothing to do with their intelligence or ability.  The problem lies completely in two areas: communication and ability to take action.

A large majority of these agents speak English as a second language.  No problem, if they had a decent level of fluency.  But, between unfamiliar accents and lack of fluency it can be hard to communicate with them.  They get as frustrated as we do because they have trouble understanding us as well.  This makes the whole process painful for everyone involved.  I shouldn’t have to struggle to get my bill corrected or my DSL fixed.

And then there’s the lack of power.  These contractors are invested with extremely narrow ability to do anything.  And when they can take an action, they often have to get supervisor approval to do it.  My DSL was broken.  The problem was obviously at their end.  The only way to correct it was to dispatch a technician to their equipment.  But I still had to wait on hold for five minutes while he got supervisor approval to do so.  But, try to talk to that supervisor.  That will be a fifteen minute argument about every reason you can’t do that.  That same argument will come up if you try to get something done outside their narrow parameters.

That’s not customer service.  And that’s not fair to the customers or the agents who have to deal with people made angry by these situations.  These jobs never should have left the country, in my opinion.  And, one of these days, the backlash from customers failing to receive the help and service they need is going to show companies that this has never been a smart move.

I’m a gamer.  It’s simply part of who I am.  Sitting down and playing gives me a chance to blow off steam from a stressful day and regain the calm needed to face the ongoing challenges of life.  I’m also lucky enough to have a wife who not only understands this, but also enjoys the hobby as well.  Unfortunately, my platform of choice, the PC, is the neglected step-child of the gaming world in many ways.  This, however, has never been a major problem for me.

One of the biggest draws of the PC as a gaming platform is the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game, or MMORPG.  This market has been dominated by games from “Everquest” to “World of Warcraft.”  I have been known, on occasion, to tout the advantages of these games as going beyond the scope of simple games and into the realm of socialization and the like.

What I haven’t mentioned is how long I looked at these games as ridiculous.

In fact, were it not for a friend talking me into starting up with “Dark Age of Camelot” years ago, I may never have jumped into the MMO pool.  I will tell you, though, one you jump in it can be hard to get out.  “Dark Age” was a prominent part of our lives for quite a while before we left.  “World of Warcraft” even more so.

But, recently, I began to have an epiphany.  I began to realize that while I continued to pay my monthly fee to play the game, my actual time in Azeroth was dwindling.  Dwindling markedly.  And, as I thought about it I began to realize why.  “WoW” was a lot like high school, in all the bad ways.  Maturity among players was the exception rather than the rule, as was even basic courtesy.  Guilds, while necessary to see any of the more interesting content of the game, quickly dissolved in to cliquish groups and contest drama.  And, so on and so forth.

I was paying a monthly fee to go back to virtual high school with all the fun ripped out.  It was adding stress and drama to my life, not relieving it.

So, my wife and I decided we would suspend our accounts for the time being.  We would take some time off and come back when the upcoming expansion is released.  It felt like a great decision.  A little time off and then come back to a fresh look and new content.

But, you know what?  The longer I’m away the less I want to go back.  The bold new direction in the world and all the shiny new stuff doesn’t excite me like it once did.  And, in truth, when they do release that expansion, I’m not sure I’m buying. Now, I’m not going to go so far as to say I’m done with MMO’s.  There are games on the horizon that pique my interest enough that I will probably be drawn back in at some point even if I never do return to Azeroth.

But, I think I’ve learned something from my time in “WoW.”  I’ve learned that perhaps that shiny new content or awesome new gear isn’t worth the aggravation of dealing with cliquish guilds and immature people with superiority complexes because of what they have accomplished in a virtual world.  I’ve remembered that games are supposed to entertain and allow one to relax and have fun.  I’ve remembered that when the game starts to feel like work and obligation you’re doing it wrong.

Let’s just hope the lesson sticks.

OK, so I’m not really in 3D.  But, everyone else was doing it and I was feeling left out.

It is amazing to me how many national releases there are this week.  But, what is more amazing to me is how little I wish to see any of them.  You would think with this number of choices something would manage to stand head and shoulders above the others and look appealing.

Sadly, no.

So, I apologize ahead of time for the mediocre nature of this week’s MovieDruid.  But, in my defense, I don’t make up the release schedules.

(As a side note, I have looked over the list five or six times now, and I can’t bring myself to put a Pick of the Week moniker on any of these films.  My conscience would bother me too much to even tacitly endorse one of these train wrecks.)

“Lottery Ticket”

Trailer

Synopsis: Kevin Carson is a young man living in the projects, is just an ordinary guy — until he wins $370 million in the Mondo Millions Lottery. That’s the good news. The bad news is, the lottery claim office is closed for the long Fourth of July weekend, so, before he can collect his prize, Kevin is going to have to figure out how to keep a lid on his good fortune and survive the next three days. As news of his windfall spreads through the community like a grass fire, Kevin quickly discovers the good, the bad and the ugly in his closest friends and neighbors. Girls who could never be bothered before start chasing him down. Everyone wants a piece of him. On edge and on the run, he even begins to question the intentions of his best friend.

MovieDruid’s Comments: Hollywood really needs to get some new material.  How many times are we going to play the huge lottery win and/or inheritance story for laughs?  This is beyond well-trod territory, we are officially in a ditch.  Of course, every director and every cast to try this thinks they have a new angle on the story, but it comes down to the same jokes, the same physical humor, and the same tired resolutions.  Hollywood has the capability to make comedies that are actually funny on their own merit.  Every once in a while we even see one get released.  So why fall back on the same tired concepts which have got to be creating diminishing returns after so many years?  I guess I’ll never truly get it.

“Nanny McPhee Returns”

Trailer

Synopsis: In the latest installment, Nanny McPhee appears at the door of a harried young mother, Mrs. Isabel Green, who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war. But, once she’s arrived, Nanny McPhee discovers that Mrs. Green’s children are fighting a war of their own against two spoiled city cousins who have just moved in and refuse to leave. Relying on everything from a flying motorcycle and a statue that comes to life to a tree-climbing piglet and a baby elephant who turns up in the oddest places, Nanny McPhee uses her magic to teach her mischievous charges five new lessons.

MovieDruid’s Comments: As far as family friendly fare I suppose this second installment in the “Nanny McPhee” franchise looks serviceable.  It appears to have plenty of laughs that can be shared by child and adult alike.  More importantly, it does not appear to talk down to kids or treat them like they are not intelligent enough to get the more sophisticated stories and humor.  But, again, I have to wonder if we are just retreading here.  The “Nanny McPhee” character is intriguing in a way, but much of that fascination is because she is so familiar.  Granted, she has a slightly darker side and is a bit more confrontational than Mary Poppins or Maria from “The Sound of Music,”  but the character is fulfilling essentially the same role is essentially similar manners.  Perhaps this is good entertainment for the young family on a hot summer weekend, but I can see little other use for it.  Then again, that’s probably their target demographic so I guess I should say “Well done.”

“Piranha 3D”

Trailer

Synopsis: When a tremor in Lake Havasu, Ariz., cracks the lake floor open, a prehistoric strain of fish are set loose and people begin to disappear.

MovieDruid’s Comments: Ah, here it is.  This week’s required 3D film.  Oh, and look!  Not only do we get another 3D movie, but it’s a time machine.  It’s going to take us all the way back to 1978.  Woot!  That, of course, was the year the original “Piranha” was released.  Of course, back then it was the time of the disaster and monster movie.  But, now we have CGI and 3D to make this the best damn killer-fish movie ever!  Does that sound as ridiculous to everyone else as it does to me?  This one might actually be worth seeing just to see if Ving Rhames (“Pulp Fiction” & “Mission: Impossible”), Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future” & “The Addams Family”), Elisabeth Shue (“Leaving Las Vegas” & “Hollow Man”), and even the great Richard Dreyfuss (“Jaws” & “Mr. Holland’s Opus”) can save this from being the train wreck it seems bound to be.  But, far be it from me to doubt the director of “The Hills Have Eyes.”

“The Switch”

Trailer

Synopsis: “The Switch,” is an offbeat comedy about Kassie, a smart, fun-loving single woman who, despite her slightly neurotic best friend Wally’s objections, decides it’s time to have a baby-even if it means doing it by herself… with a little help from a charming sperm donor. But, unbeknownst to her, Kassie’s plans go awry because of a last-minute switch that isn’t discovered until seven years later when Wally finally gets acquainted with Kassie’s precocious-though slightly neurotic-son. From the people behind “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno” comes “The Switch,” due in theaters this summer.

MovieDruid’s Comments: And now, judges, we give you the rom-com entry for this week’s pageant.  It was bound to happen with this many releases, after all.  One thing that irritates me about this one is they are touting it as ‘from the creators of ‘Juno’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine.'”  Decent pedigree, huh?  Well, I looked into it.  The only connection I can find with Juno is Jason Bateman and the only connection with “Little Miss Sunshine”  is a producer.  No directors in common.  No writers in common.  Really well-connected there, eh?  They at least made a decent selection with their female lead.  Jennifer Aniston is an actress built for this sort of role.  She is one of those actresses that truly helps define a generation in the romantic comedy genre.  Jason Bateman is an interesting choice.  He has chops, but I have to wonder if he can create the chemistry necessary to pull one like this off.  The saving grace here may be Jeff Goldblum (“The Fly” & “Jurassic Park”).  His dry wit can often act as a paste that holds things together.  But, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

“Vampires Suck”

Trailer

Synopsis: “Vampires Suck” is a comedy about contemporary teen angst and romance movies. Becca, an anxious, non-vampire teen, is torn between two boys. Before she can choose, Becca must get around her controlling father, who embarrasses Becca by treating her like a child. Meanwhile, Becca’s friends contend with their own romantic issues — all of which collide at the prom.

MovieDruid’s Comments: Open letter to 20th Century Fox.  I have weathered the entire “Scary Movie ” franchise.  I have refrained from much deserved protests as you release one new spin-off from it after another.  I flinched, but I swallowed them one after another.  I told myself you were providing a service.  You were giving fans of extremely stupid comedy a place to go.  I dealt with your spoofs on Superheroes, Disasters, even Dance.  But, you may have pushed me too far.  It’s not that you are making fun of the glut of vampire movies.  I have done that myself.  But, do you really need to pollute our pristine cinemas with this garbage again and again? If this sort of thing continues, we can’t be held responsible for the raging wildfires that will consume the 20th Century Fox backlots.  Consider yourself warned.

One of the biggest stories in the news these days is plans by a Muslim group to construct a mosque, or “Islamic Cultural Center” according to some reports, within two blocks of the Ground Zero site.  Every politician from the lowliest New York alderman to the President himself have been commenting on the plans for what feels like weeks.

I am not one to take up political topics on their blog.  I truly feel that there is a time and place for these types of issues, and, generally, the Jungle Gym is not one of them.  I want this to be a safe place for my readers where they can come for some twisted insight and maybe a few chuckles.  Politics is a divisive topic that will alienate one half of a room from the other faster than the speed of light.

I only bring the topic up because I have one question.  How far are we willing to stretch in our pursuit of political correctness?

I am fully in favor of any religious group being allowed to build their sanctuaries, regardless of what they are called, where they feel is appropriate.  I am a firm believer in the fact that tolerance and acceptance of religious viewpoints that differ from your own is a keystone in the structure of this great nation.  However, the question I have isn’t whether they have the right to build, but whether it is right or not.

Now, I know that some in my audience are now frowning and thinking I’m some sort of bigot.  And maybe there is a modicum of truth there, though I don’t believe so.  I simply think that we need to approach decisions like this with an eye toward what is appropriate and what is in poor taste.

When I was in college I read a book called The Sacred & The Profane.  In this work the author, Mircea Eliade, talks to the way that we divide our world into spaces that out Sacred and Profane.  Most people would agree that the interior of a church, mosque, or temple would certainly qualify as Sacred space, whereas the local GAP store, unless you’re a fashion-forward teenager, would be a Profane, or non-spiritual, space.

I would argue that places that are not houses of worship can certainly be Sacred spaces as well.  I would call the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Hawaii a Sacred space.  I would call the prison cell Nelson Mandela occupied for decades a Sacred space.  And, yes, I consider Ground Zero a Sacred space.

And because I see that place as Sacred, how do you think I view the building of a mosque, a holy place dedicated to the religion that was used to drive men to commit the acts of 9/11, within two blocks of that site?  Notice I did not say the religion of those men.  Islam was twisted and warped by zealots and extremists before it was given to those men as their faith.  The same can be, and has been, done with nearly every religion the world over at one time or another.

But, regardless of the fact that they were adherents to an extreme and radicalized form of Islam, the faith was the tool that was used by evil men, and I will not apologize for seeing them as evil, to drive them to acts of murder and terrorism.  The idea of this faith, even in a non-radicalized form, being practiced at that Sacred space strikes me as wholly disrespectful.  One has to wonder at the motivations behind the choice of site.  Surely, no one is surprised by this backlash.  Why are they so insistent that their mosque must be in that location?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that anyone who sees a problem with this is being called every name in the book in the press and by our political leaders.  Nancy Pelosi has gone so far as to call for investigation into the funding of one group opposed to the construction.

The truth of the matter is, as I see it, there needs to be respect all around.  I will fight for your right to build that mosque until my voice gives out.  However, I would ask that you respect the sacrifice of so many people and not color the Sacred space with controversy.  I would not ask that you accept the building of a Catholic basilica at the site of a city destroyed during the Crusades, show me the same respect.

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