The President of the United States (brought to you by Doritos!)

Now, I haven't had time to fully wrap my brain around the Supreme Court's latest big-time decision, Citizens United, but I think the satire of one Stephen Colbert aptly and somewhat frighteningly sums it up.

In short, we could very soon be treated to political candidates endorsed by Corporations, products, brand names, and other big business. Of course, big business has been in the pockets of politics since the foundation of our country, but this decision is going to make it very interesting. I'm almost always a supporter of "More Speech is Good Speech."

But in this instance, giving First Amendment speech protections to large corporations seems like arming a handful of CEOs with bazookas in a paintball fight. I'm just waiting for the first iCandidate to win the U.S. Presidency, who will live in the McDonald's White House and do business in the Oval(tine) Office (R).


Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus

And maybe one day, he'll bring me this:

You're right, it does sound magical.

If you can hear that, it's my geekometer spinning out of control and causing steam to burst out of my ears.

Still, I think I'll wait for the 2nd Generation. :D



Dear Hollywood. You are all mostly a bunch of idiots.

I know, I know. Not news to anyone. But it's never been so hilariously blatant as it has been lately.

First, there's the Jay and Conan debacle over on NBC. Way to give Conan room to grow and thrive, NBC! Wait, you sandwiched him between the "Jay Leno Show" (ie--"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.... at 9pm!") and the Jimmy Fallon show, scrapped a bunch of your most popular 9pm scripted shows that used to lead into the news, had news stations threaten to to not air Jay Leno, and then gave Conan 7 months to fix the inevitable rating nose dive for you? Alone?

It's almost like your motto from the start was "aNybody But Conan." How do these people become presidents and officers?


Beaker and Conan. Two equally beloved and silly names characters. Equal parts smart and suave. High pitched. Ginger-haired. Somewhat effeminate. And pure comedic genius dribbles forth from both with ease.

Statler the Muppet Critic and Leno the Puppet. Big-chinned, smarmy, and willing to stab someone else in the back in order to make himself look better.

So, now we get a reboot of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Only seven months later. And it will be the exact same thing. Again. Which reminds me...

Second, that's not the only other reboot on the near horizon.

After Sony tried to force Anne Hathaway (Ella Enchanted?!) down Sam Raimi's throat for Spiderman 4, the director buckled and basically said "I can make you three of the most successful films of all time with the quality I want and the control I need, but if you start to micro-manage, I'm out.

He's out. And now Sony has announced plans to REBOOT Spiderman for 2012. Mind you, the first three Spiderman movies grossed about 2.5 billion dollars between them. That's nothing to sneeze at.

But, and here's where Hollywood just baffles me, Variety (Hollywoods professional journal/daily) reported in the above-linked piece that there's already a new script for this remake of a remake of a comic book. Tatiana Siegel reports that in this new/old/rebooted Spiderman:

"The new untitled Spider Man film will center on the webslinging teen as he grapples with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises."

Wait. That sounds an awful lot like... wait for it... the LAST new remake of Spiderman. Where Peter Parker, the recently graduated high school student, grappled with his contemporary human problems (of going to school, trying to get a girl, and dealing with a death in the family) and amazing super-human crises presented by the super villain du jour, The Green Goblin.

And therein lies the problem. It's not that Hollywood has run out of ideas, per se.They're just rehashing them. Of late, there are "reboots" of several barely-old even newish movies or franchises. Lots of horror movies: Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. (Can't say I've seen them, but they're there).
Lots of comic book movies: Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Batman, etc.

This is especially disappointing because there's so much opportunity out there with leaps in digital effects and cinematography. See, for example, last month's Avatar.

While the archetypes and story arc may feel very familiar (and may even smell a little too much like other movies), the imagery, scope,  and world-building that director James Cameron engaged in on behalf of his latest sci-fi masterpiece has struck a chord with audiences like few movies before it have.

People compare it--and rightly so I think--with The Wizard of Oz, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, and Gone With the Wind in that, when experienced on the big screen, these films transcend their medium. They are movies that envelop viewers, draw them into the story, and make them feel less an outside observer than a participant in something much grander than their own mundane Saturday afternoon. (Alas, some have taken Cameron's film a bit too seriously--and tragically).

It's not even that Hollywood has "told all the stories there are to tell." When you get down to it, there are really only a handful of stories out there that we routinely like to read about, listen to, or watch. A few examples:

(1) The Orphan Messiah. Kid's parents die; he is raised alone as an orphan, often by meanies, and thinks he's a nobody; kid realizes, with the help of a grandfatherly mentor that he has super powers; kid saves the city, the country, and sometimes even the world.
Harry Potter, The Sword in the Stone or The Once and Future King, The Matrix, Star Wars, Spiderman, Avatar, The Hobbit, Superman.

(2) The Dream Team Travelogue. Random, often awesomely powerful, strangers must band together in order to save the world/save the cheerleader/win the game/escape from prison etc. This story often includes the reluctant wunderkind, the average guy, the Wookie/Warrior, the wise teacher (who ALWAYS dies), the lovable rogue and/or the beautiful princess who all pool their individual talents to overcome tragedy, personal betrayal and other emotional things to--save the world.
Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Lawrence of Arabia, The Seven Samurai

(3) The War. Snippets from people's lives that have been ravaged or are being ravaged by war. Often they are overcoming odds just to survive, but sometimes they also win the war. It doesn't even have to be physical war--it can be drugs, politics, intrigue, high school, you name it. There is a central conflict with delineated sides of good and evil and usually a nice kid/cheerleader/soldier we can relate to. Sometimes we get the villain's version of things. In the happy versions of this story, the protagonist wins out and everyone becomes friends. In the sad version, people die and nothing is solved.
All is Quiet on the Western Front, Schindler's List, Hamlet, MacBeth, Platoon, Mean Girls.

Before this post gets out of hand, my point is this: we have a handful of similar stories that we all like. Hollywood's problem now is that, instead of taking these overarching themes and archetypes and dressing them with new, exciting characters, dialogue, and plot points, they are rehashing the same plots with the same or similar dialogue and the same or similar characters.

They're basically repackaging something that was successful or should have been (in their minds) in something brighter, louder, neater, and expecting us to flock to it.

Sad thing is, we probably will.


Box Elder Bug Warfare

I had a severe encounter with Box Elder Bugs about two months ago. It was bloody, it was violent, it was tragic. But in the end, it was contained. Until now.

Backstory: as the temperatures in Utah plunged into the teens this winter, anything living began to migrate to warmer climates. For some species of birds, this annual frosting means literally picking up and flying South. For some species of Humans, this also means picking up and flying to Florida.

Unfortunately for me, however, winter in Utah this year meant the entire species of Box Elder Bugs (Boisea trivittata) was not flying South, but indeed, was flying to Bountiful, Utah. And for whatever reason, it decided that my office was the best place to congregate when it arrived.

 En Masse, as the French would say.

The worst part of being invaded by hundreds of seemingly innocuous, ugly bugs? They get into and onto everything. For example, I have a window behind my desk in my office. It's nice. It lets in sunlight and often reminds me that there is life going on outside the walls of my job. Sadly, I'm not the only that likes my window.

The Box Elder Bug army set up base camp on the glass, basking in my sunlight, as if to say "Just try to do something about it."

I distinctly remember responding to that challenge one November morning. "Damn them," I thought. And pulled out my legal pad and threw up the blinds.

Two hundred (I'm not exaggerating) Box Elder carcasses later, and my office floor looked like this.

The janitor came in later that afternoon, eyes glued to the floor and then to the abattoir of a legal pad in my hand and expressed the following sentiment: "!Dios mio! Cuantas moscas!"

I thought I was done with them after that. I had won. Shock and Awe. The Nuclear Winter of their short little lives had set in and I had triumphed like some Russian Czar facing an invading Napoleon in January.

It was too cold, they were spread too thin, and starvation would soon set in.

Boy, was I wrong.

They're back. And instead of invading in large forces, they're coming at me one at a time.

My wife, trooper that she is, picked one off my shoulder a couple of weeks back. As soon as she realized what she'd done, though, she promptly squealed and ran away.

One of the Judges I work with watched in horror as one of the bugs dive-bombed my head in the middle of one of our meetings.

Just today, I had to destroy one that had entrenched itself comfortably in my desk.

In short, they've turned Guerrilla on me.

So not cool.


Irrational Fears

Am I the only one who gets anxious when the elevator door doesn't close immediately and efficiently? What if THIS happens when I'm just trying to go home?*  

NOTE: the following clip does come from an R-Rated film. While the 45-second clip does not contain any material that is morally offensive, especially for those who regularly squash bugs, it can be quite scary for the faint of heart. Consider yourself warned.

Now can you see why I'm absolutely paranoid about the elevator door not closing quick enough?

Questions that I must answer each time I get into the metal box o' death:
  • Do I have a plasma rifle with which to defend myself from alien attacks? No.
  • Is there a high likelihood that an alien will drop down from the ceiling with the intent to hurt/maim/kidnap/kill me at the exact moment the elevator door stalls? Maybe. Depends on the day and current location.
  • Do I have body armor that can take the brunt of the acid? Nope. I continue to hope that my necktie can absorb most of the damage. It's another reason why I tend to buy more polyester than silk ties.
  • Is my wife hotter and stronger than Sigourney Weaver and therefore able to carry me to safety after the burn? Duh. Yes.
  • Finally, and this is the kicker, do I really want to deal with an incredibly painful alien blood-acid burn on my chest for the rest of the month? Not really, no.
So, there it is.  While my wife could probably  definitely pull off a stunning Ellen Ripley impersonation and carry/drag me to safety, I don't think I'd like an acid burn on my chest. It just sounds like a bummer. Not to mention the anxiety and stress it could all cause...

Therefore, to ensure my continued peace and tranquility, all elevator doors must close promptly and securely at all times. You just never know.

*As an aside, this really was and continues to be an irrational fear of mine. My Dad had us boys watch Aliens with him on the Fox Saturday Movie special when I was about 8. Too young? Probably. My mother was none too pleased about it. But it was wicked awesome! Thanks, Dad!