Monday, December 22, 2014

5 Armies

I'm pretty bummed about the last Hobbit movie. I can't really even say if it was good or not. I was distracted for the whole movie by what felt like everything moving slightly too fast. It felt like watching a colorized version of those old black and white films silent films where everyone movies unnaturally fast because the cameras of the day were hand cranked. Or, if you've ever streamed video and had it freeze for a second at the beginning and then everyone moves a little fast to catch up with the sound. Or, tap the forward button on your Blue Ray controller sometime and get a movie moving at 1.2x's speed. That's how the whole movie was.

I found myself during parts thinking it looked an awful lot like a video game. Which, don't get me wrong, I love video games, but you don't expect a movie that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make to look like a $60 video game. It made it hard for me to get invested in the story. I missed whole sections because instead of immersing myself in the story and unfolding drama, I kept wondering why it was moving this way. Was there something wrong with the equipment? Was the theater thinking it was being slick and trying to get a slightly faster turn around on the movie. It was late, so did one of the employees speed it up slightly to get us out of the theater sooner? Was I the only noticing this? Was I getting sick and that's why it was moving like that? Because of this, I missed sections and scenes of the movie. Without giving away spoilers, there were points where I realized someone was back and I don't remember how they got there because my mind was so distracted by the visuals and subsequent musings it caused.

So, I don't say anything when I leave, and neither does anyone else. On the drive home, I'm thinking about the other two and how stunning they were. I saw 'Unexpected Journey' in 4K, 48FPS, 3D. It was beautiful. I saw 'Smaug' in 4K, 48FPS, IMAX 3D, and it was nothing short of revolutionary in vision. So... what the hell happened in 'Five Armies' that made it so hard to watch? Was it just the theater I was in. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy there and it was staggering how beautiful and rich in detail that movie was.

I get home and I start looking up 'what is wrong with 5 armies'. Turns out it's in 60FPS. Now, having seen the other two in 48FPS and loving it, I don't understand why 60FPS would be worse. That's what the human already sees in. It should be better theoretically. But it wasn't. Then, I started seeing the same complaints I had. Video game-ish, weirdly sped-up, unnatural. So, it wasn't just me then. I don't know why those 12FPS made such a radical difference, but for me it was a total distraction. The actors may have been good, performance of a lifetime, but I missed it for the most part because the visual quality took me out of the movie experience.

I'm not saying it's not the future of cinema. Maybe it is, but this early version didn't work for me. I'll repeat... for ME. It's just something I'm going to look out for in the future. I mean, I really, really loved 48FPS, 4K, IMAX 3D. It was stunning. And I'm not saying 60FPS isn't smooth... maybe it is. Maybe the format I saw it in; 60FPS, 4K, IMAX 3D was just too much. Maybe the format isn't ready for prime time yet and will be with a little more work. I hope people keep shooting in it because I would love it to work and be even more immersive in the future. That's why you go to movies, to get away from the world for a while. To get lost in a story. But, in this particular case, I couldn't stop wondering what was wrong. That kind of distraction in a movie defeats the point of going to the movie for me.

And, to clarify, I'm not some critic or movie snob. I have very rarely seen a movie I didn't like. I take every movie for what it is. I don't worry about adaptations or scale or messages or any of that. When I see a movie, I set aside any expectations and just enjoy it for what it is. People that know me always comment on how into movies I am, even movies they consider totally shitty I find things to love. Take Doom for example. I love that movie. Was a blockbuster? No. Is it gonna win awards. No. But can I sit down, grab some Reese's and a soda and have fun watching it, absolutely.

I feel like people have become too cynical about movies. It's become popular to be stuck up about what's out there instead of just loving that we live in a world where people get paid to do this purely for our entertainment and that we can do things with both practical and CGI effects that are utterly mind-blowing. It actually bums me out that this is the first time I've ever left a movie dissatisfied. I know, I know. #firstworldproblem. I get it. But I'm still bummed. I really want to see 5 Armies again, but I think... for the purposes of being able to immerse myself in it, I'm gonna have to see it in a different format. And I'll probably wait until it comes out at home. I don't see any point in throwing more money at it to potentially get let down again.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mix Tapes

Im sitting here watching Guardians of the Galaxy, which is an absolutely great movie. It occurred to me that Peter's mother gives him mix tapes. I loved mix tapes. I remember making them for friends to introduce them to bands I would find. I remember getting one from a girlfriend and our became our soundtrack when we were together.

In the world of mp3 players and streaming music services, mic takes are a lost art.  My youngest sister never even experienced them. Makes me sad in a way. That was a very cool and personal cultural thing that heavily influenced me growing up. Now it's gone.

I love where we are now, don't get me wrong, I'm excited where we're going. I've never been a fan of record labels, and now the tools are in the hands of the musicians to reach audiences, so I really love that. But creative destruction had it's losses. Mix tapes is one of them.

I guess the new mix tapes is a shared playlist, but it's not quite the same. Assigning a few tracks to a playlist is not the same as taking the time to record a take in real time. It's like the difference between an email and a hand written letter. It's just more personal than the digital mimic.

I should totally bring back the tape deck in my next car. Nobody wants to steal those.   And I'll get one of those mp3 tapes like I had in Korea.

Anpower® Car Telecontrol Tape Cassette SD/MMC MP3 Adapter Player

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Robugtix T8X

The practical applications for this thing are insane.  On a larger scale, it can be used for damn near anything.  Spiders, while creepy, are so mobile and getting their movements down and usable is a massive accomplishment.  It can navigate steep inclines over rough ground, carry hiker or rock climbing gear.  Haul injured civilians from hard to reach locations.  Investigate foreign planets.  This on Mars or the Moon, could navigate any terrain.  Volcano environments with high sulfur in the air.  All kinds of stuff.  

I would love to get one big enough and mount guns to it for home protection.  Giant robotic spiders with frickin' lasers.  

If we're lucky, someone will combine it's power source with the bio-mass powered robots (read as flesh eating).  That'd be great.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Seattle Socialist Group Hypocrites to Their Own Cause

Obviously, I'm not for raising the minimum wage.  It doesn't 'catch up' to the rate of inflation, it just helps drive it.  It should not be surprising that the name at the bottom of their signs is the AFL-CIO.  But this group went the extra step and used the free market to advertise a 'negotiable wage' for $13 an hour.  Their main mission has been a standardized minimum wage of $15 an hour, and recently shifting to $21.

In the military, they drill into us that leaders lead through example, not through dictation.  The whole, 'walk the walk' thing.  That means not playing golf all the time while telling people what they should do and what they should want.  By advertising a position for $13 an hour, this group completely undercut themselves, their point, and any credibility they had with people on the fence to their cause.  Which I'm completely ok with. 

In his book Shakedown Socialism: Progress to Nowhere, Oleg Atbashian describes the events that transpired when the coal miner's union in the Donbass region of the Ukraine went on strike for wage raises.  Oleg grew up in the USSR and believed in socialism and communism.  But eventually, reality dawned on him and he began to reason, on his own, in a country where all information and news was tightly controlled, that the problem was socialism itself.

Now, he's in America, and he sees us going down the same roads that lead to the failures in the USSR that he witnessed first hand. To boil down the coal miner's situation, the coal miner's decided to strike for higher wages.  The Ukraine was dependent on coal power.  Without coal, there was no power.  It was the middle of winter.  They got their raise, power prices went up to meet the demand for higher wages.

People couldn't afford their power bills, in the middle of winter.  Their unions began demanding for higher minimum wages.  In short work, the prices of everything went up to accommodate.  Restaurants raised their prices to pay their power bills and higher salaries for employees.  Soon, the coal miners where basically where they started because the entire economy adjusted to their demand.  So, they went on strike again demanding more money.  The cycle repeated itself.  Again. And again. 

It caused a situation known as hyperinflation.  Where currency is so worthless that you need millions of dollars just to buy a loaf of bread.  The people hurt the worst buy labor union greed were the people who's businesses could not afford the higher minimum wages and went out of business.  Fewer businesses meant fewer jobs, even in the USSR where you were 'guaranteed' a job.  But, no one really worked there anyway.  One of my friends who had escaped the USSR with his family as a child told me that their Soviets had a saying. 

"We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us."

It's an interesting observation that people tend to accuse others of the traits they are themselves guilty of.  One of the biggest accusations thrown at Capitalism is that it's driven by greed.  It's true.  Capitalists harbor an intense desire to improve their lives.  So do Socialists however.  The difference is that Capitalists don't pretend to not be driven by greed or pretend they are doing it for some faceless 'greater good'.  They make no bones that they want to be able to keep what they earn to improve their situation or the situation for their family.  Like Isiah to Hezekiah, 'Set your house in order...'

Capitalists don't say 'you should pay me more because you have enough money to.  If you don't, I'll force you to.'  They say, 'you should pay me more because I'm worth it, and I'll prove it to you.'  It's the difference between being given a paycheck and earning one.  Are there bad capitalists?  Sure.  There's bad everything.  Socialists, through all their actions have helped big, corrupt businesses more than any other group.  And the sad part is, they don't even see it.  They just keep going down the same roads and strengthening the people they despise through misguided actions.

“I have never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.”
Thomas Sowell, Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

Where Capitalists accept that they are greedy because they want the best life they can provide for themselves and their family and are willing to do it on their own, Socialists ignore their own greed to take from others by force; via strikes, via lobbying government and using politicians as a weapon against the businesses they expect to employ them, via higher taxes and minimum wage requirements.  There's a word for taking something by force against someone's will... it's um... how do you say... theft.  That's right.  It's stealing.

They see themselves as Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but Robin Hood didn't use political power to take from others by force to redistribute to those they judge worthy.  Sheriff Nottingham did.

You also have to question the irony of advocating things that put businesses out of business.  Minimum wage hikes are small business killers.  These people are generally anti-big business, yet through minimum wage hikes, they are systematically knocking off any potential small business competitors to big business, and as a result, doing the big businesses a favor.  They are, through minimum wage hikes, strengthening big businesses by culling their fledgling competition.

And big businesses like McDonald's, Amazon, Hyundai... are finding ways to cut people out of the picture to retain profit because they have the financial resources.  Which, let's be clear, I'm totally for.  Replacing workers with robots and other creative innovations that will help them retain and hopefully gain new profits.  I don't fault them for it.  I love it.

McDonald's can do drive-through orders in California and Seattle from North Dakota where the minimum wage is lower.  It's a stateside version of outsourcing.  If you think the response is to just raise the national minimum wage, you know those Indian and Asian tech support call centers... you'll be getting that at the drive through.  That means less available entry level jobs.  Amazon is robotizing large swaths of it's work force.  That means less available entry level jobs.  Hyundai mainly cut the labor unions out of the picture by using machines to build all their cars.  That means less entry level jobs.

You will need higher qualifications to work on the VOIP system for drive through ordering, to maintain the robots working in the warehouse, to maintain their software and patch it with updates.  Higher qualifications means a higher salary, but because minimum wage went up driving up the cost of goods and services, your fancy new higher paying salary won't be as useful as it could be now. 

If you raise the minimum wage, put small businesses out of business, and then the big businesses opt to use robots they don't have to pay for work and deal with stupid union rules or personal issues, where are you going to work?  Who's gonna be around to pay you this wage you fought so hard for?

Businesses exist for one reason: to make money.  They do so by providing a product or service.  When you take away their earnings, there is no reason to stay in business.

Raising the minimum wage will only result in hurting people at the bottom of the economic food chain.  Yes, they will get a raise, but the price of everything will rise to pay for their new, higher wage. So, the next time they go to buy anything, it'll basically be like they never got the raise.  The people at the bottom struggling to pay their current bills before they go as a result of businesses needing to pay the higher minimum wage for their employees, the elderly on fixed incomes, will find themselves struggling harder, working longer hours to make up the difference. Using more hours of their one and only life, to try to maintain their already low standard of living.

Socialism is the ultimate driving force of true economic slavery, because we don't get those hours of our life back to re-live.  They are gone forever because of the greed of a few who want everyone else to pay their way.  But, I hope they get it.  I love Seattle, but if the people in this country can't learn from Detroit and how labor unions absolutely destroyed one of the most powerful, thriving capitalist cities in just 70 years, then they deserve it.  I feel bad for my friends up there who will pay the price for this idiocy, but hopefully they can get out before it starts to get really bad.