Topic grab bag: Random blogging

I’ve noticed that I have left my blog unchecked for 20 days now. For everyone who’s still with me.. thanks. Also, sorry.

I have been pondering some weighty issues and trying to decide if, why, and how I should write about them. I finally determined to go ahead with the topics, but with less detail than I had intended originally. The topics could cause pain to some of my family, so it’s best to proceed with caution.

For now, though, I will not be writing about weighty issues. Sitting here full of pizza, cold medicine, and a little whiskey, I’d be lucky to make sense of the insignificant. To be honest I’m tempted to ask the internet for a topic and just write off the cuff about random things.

What could go wrong?

Here goes…

A quick look at Facebook reveals that the 2nd Amendment is the first line of defense, and also that 1 million likes man has won the dubious honor of  “Beta of the Decade.” I wonder if his wife owns a gun? I doubt he’d know what to do with one.

Twitter has disappointed me this evening. One question only.. “why are puppies so adorbz? (and delicious)” Umm… you’d have to ask the president about the deliciousness of puppies. I think puppies are adorable because they’re so awkward and fluffy.

But wait! More twitter questions…

“Why did the apocalypse not get any press?” Probably because we’re all still alive, there aren’t any zombies, and no aliens were involved.

And tonight’s winning question…

*Drumroll*

“Why do we never hear from Obama’s jr. high, high school, or college classmates?”

That’s a good question. I’d like to see Katie Couric interview the Choom Gang myself. I’m especially interested in what they read. It’s strange that we know so little about the past of our current president. I suppose it’s helpful if you have the authority to seal your records and preside over the FBI and CIA. I mean, I’m not saying anybody from his past would meet with any accidents or whatever, but if this were Hollywood, anyone who could cast The Chosen in a bad light would meet with doom. Not that he’s a Hollywood president. Just speaking theoretically, of course.

Well, that’s all for tonight. Thanks for playing Random Blogging with Coffeebreak! See you next week…. if you want to play again. Let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

A Hobbit Review

I just saw The Hobbit earlier tonight, and as a huge Tolkien nerd I feel it is my duty to give an honest review of the movie. Fair warning: this post will be chock full of spoilers!

I’ll start by saying that I LOVED the movie. The first thing I did when I got home was to read the critical reviews of the movie to see if anyone else noticed the same departures from the book as I did and also to temper my enthusiasm.

I still love the movie. You should see it if you haven’t already.

I’ll start by saying that I like how the back story is introduced. Tolkien fans will appreciate the references to the Sackville-Bagginses (and silverware) and the Red Book of Westmarch. I like that we see Bilbo setting his affairs in order on the day of his birthday party by leaving his account of the finding of the ring for Frodo and how his preoccupation with the ring affects his thoughts, which Frodo notices. At first I was afraid the movie would get bogged down in this introduction, but as Bilbo writes the story of how Smaug destroyed the region around Dale it keeps you from feeling as if the movie has slowed down by balancing Bilbo’s narration with exciting visual scenes. The meeting between Bilbo and Gandalf is word for word from the book, much to the joy of a true Hobbit fan, and the introduction of the dwarves is fun and accurate without being silly. I was glad that there wasn’t a lot of focus on the colorful hoods and cloaks, but rather on Bilbo’s discomfort with having an onslaught of unexpected company (during a meal no less!). The scene with the dishes being tossed around is great, as it is fun to watch and loyal to the book. I was also pleased with the reference to Bilbo leaving his pocket-handkerchief behind, as it is one of those details from the book that a true fan would notice and reinforces the truth that Bilbo is not adventuring material. I know (because I read) that some critics dislike this portrayal of Bilbo because it ignores his Tookish nature, but without a lot of Hobbit genealogy you can’t really get a feel for the peculiarity of the Tooks and showing Bilbo as a fully developed character early on would simply make him seem bipolar. He is a respectable Hobbit, who sometimes feels as if he’d like to have an adventure, but who has accepted that Hobbits don’t have adventures. He’s forced into this adventure by Gandalf, and if you ignore their dialogue early on I suppose you could make a case for Bilbo’s Tookish side being blithely ignored, but you’d still be wrong. To be true to the book, and to move the story along and leave room for character development cinematically speaking, Bilbo must be shown as doing something rather impulsive which leaves him feeling uncomfortable. Bemoaning the loss of pocket-handkerchiefs is effective in that it shows how Bilbo has become rather soft and comfortable in his little hole.

The company begins to face danger as soon as they set out on their quest. The first conflict is of course with the trolls. There is a slight departure from the book in that the dwarves attack all at once, and Bilbo is the one to play for time as the sun rises. If you feel affronted at these departures then you have taken literary purity too far. I like that Bilbo gets to show a bit of wit playing for time by having the trolls argue over the best way to cook dwarves. Gandalf of course comes in and exposes the trolls to the sunlight by breaking the rock with his staff, thereby letting the sun’s rays shine through. It’s close enough to the book without wasting time on dialogue shenanigans and it gives Bilbo a chance to find his footing in the group. The next danger they face is completely fabricated for the movie. In the book there were no Warg-riding Orcs hunting the group, but I can understand why this plot point would be brought into the movie; not only does it bring in Thorin’s back story of his battle with the Orcs of Moria, but it sets some of the groundwork for the Battle of the Five Armies to come later. It also conveniently brings the group to Rivendell where they get their map’s hidden runes exposed and translated. Some critics dislike everything about this time in Imladris, but it deals effectively with some fine plot points that no one outside of die-hard Middle Earth fans would know or understand. First of all, it shows Thorin’s pride and distrust as weaknesses of character in an otherwise strong leader. Second, it briefly shows the meeting of the White Council. The White Council met to discuss the rise of the Necromancer in Mirkwood, and it is at this meeting that Saruman counseled delay while Gandalf believed the evil needed to be confronted and banished. This is important in that it shows the very beginning of Saruman’s double-dealing. He knew the danger, but he had begun his own search for the ring and did not wish for anyone else to know of it. I speak as a book nerd of course, not all of this information is spelled out plainly in the movie. Rather, the company of dwarves use the meeting of the White Council to sneak away while those who would stop them are distracted and you get a sense that Gandalf knows what’s what and Saruman either does not or is a pacifist. (As a true fan, I’m glad the White Council is introduced to the storyline since it is crucial in the tale of the ring.)

The next danger the company will face is from the mountain-giants. I was surprised to see these creatures featured in the movie, as they aren’t hugely relevant to the story. The threat they pose to the group is overdone and exaggerated, and if I had one complaint it would be that these creatures take up time that would have been better spent on some other plot point. (Having said that, they are in the book and should tickle your purist funny-bone.) The mountain-giants effectively run the dwarves into a cave, where they camp for the night. In the book, a secret door opens to a passage where Orcs enter and kidnap the group, but in the movie the floor opens up, dumping the company into a sort of trap. What follows is a departure from the book, but also provides one of the best fight sequences you’ll see in a movie. Dwarves, young and old, kick serious Orc butt. (Gandalf rejoins the group at this time.) This is also where Bilbo gets separated from the group and ends up in Gollum’s cave. I know some people angrily nit-pick exactly how Bilbo ends up with Gollum, but I can see why Jackson would hurry that particular sequence along. While it may be fun to read about a Hobbit stumbling through the dark for hours, it isn’t exactly movie magic. Movie-goers would rather watch Bilbo fall down a slope after an Orc attack and then see Gollum kill the Orc with a rock. It also shows how the Ring ‘leaves’ Gollum at this time. (Keep in mind that the ring has gotten all the use out of Gollum that it can and now its desire is to be active in the world again!) This is where some critics go hog-wild with venting their ire. The scene is not exactly as it is first shown in LOTR. To those critics I’d have to say, “Watch the beginning of The Hobbit again, then read the books!” Bilbo didn’t tell the tale completely or truthfully of how he came by the ring! He only revealed the truth to Gandalf after much time and questioning and to Frodo in his written account in the Red Book of Westmarch. To depart from a previous version at this time makes perfect sense!

The next sequence of events also departs from the book and sets some purists’ teeth on edge. As the company escapes the Orcs of the mountain, they fall into the hands of the Warg-riding Orcs. Again, this is understandable as a plot device. In the book, the group actually gets chased into the trees by a pack of Wargs, and the Wargs wait for nightfall when the Orcs will leave the mountain and pursue the group. Orcs shun the daylight, and it weakens them, but after a defeat they’d be hungry for revenge. It makes sense to use this devised group of Warg-riding Orcs with a personal vendetta against Thorin to speed the story along, although it ends with a short fight scene that I can only guess is used to reconcile Bilbo to the dwarves so as to end the first movie on a note of solidarity within the company. Lots of critics see it as an unnecessary departure into the cliché, and while I agree that it isn’t relevant to the story, it is necessary to bring some cohesion to the group at this time. As a matter of fact, if I had any complaint about this sequence of events, I’d say the Eagles got short-changed. Again. Those noble birds are forever being treated as nothing more than Middle Earth transportation!

Some random things I noticed that I felt were a bit lazy: Gandalf scares people with his room-darkening trick again, the Orc battle is oddly like the battle in Moria with all the collapsing structure, and Gandalf asks a moth to send the Eagles. Other things will be familiar, namely scenes (Weathertop) and musical themes. It makes Middle Earth feel familiar, like an old friend, but in my opinion plays a little too much to the crowd that wants to relive LOTR instead of revisit Middle Earth. It’s small criticism of an over all exceptionally well-done adaptation, though.

The one thing that I haven’t decided how to react to yet is Radagast. When I read all the books, I imagined Radagast as a quiet, solitary wizard. Gentle, perhaps. In this movie he’s an eccentric, nervous, and almost motherly wizard whose primary purpose is to care for animals. That’s not to say that this portrayal is inaccurate. Radagast was known to have a rapport with animals and spoke to them. He even sent them on missions for the Council. What I find difficult to embrace about this character is that he allowed birds to cake one side of his head in poo and he rode a sleigh pulled by bunnies. Watching his Rosgobel Rabbits outrun the Wargs was pretty funny, but seriously if you were a wizard that talked to animals wouldn’t you ask the birds to kindly not crap on your head?? I would.

So anyhow… that’s what I thought of The Hobbit. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

Fiscal Snark

Fiscal Cliff.

We’ve heard news about the fiscal cliff until we’re probably all tired of it and are just glad the dealing is over…

Right?

I have to wonder, however, if most folk outside of a few fellow political junkies are entirely clear about what the fiscal cliff is, what deal was struck, and what it means for us lowly peons who don’t speak lawyerese.

I will attempt to explain it as well as I can given that I’m, 1) not a math genius 2) not a lawyer & 3) sick of the very thought of it, by breaking it down into ‘regular folk’ language and simplifying it as much as I can without losing the substance of the thing. Here goes…

This all leads back to the Budget Control Act of 2011.. *snort-laugh* budget control…*ahem* that addressed the debt ceiling crisis of that year. (Is anyone else noticing a pattern in regards to our government, spending, and crises? Anyone??) The changes that were set to take place at midnight Dec 31, 2012 were:

TAXES: 1) Last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts would expire [resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers. Lovely. Slave away, peons, Master Obama needs your taxes.] 2) The “Bush tax cuts” would expire [Bush tax cuts translator: Lower federal income tax for everyone, decrease in the marriage penalty, increase in the child tax credit Yay families!, etc.] 3) We would begin seeing taxes related to Obamacare. [Remember the tax that’s not a tax until the law Pelosi&Co crammed down our collective throats would be found unConstitutional unless it’s a tax?? There was this whole hullabaloo at the Supreme Court about it. Enjoy your “free” birth control, ladies, which will result in higher taxes on everything you buy now! ], etc., etc.

SPENDING: The spending cuts agreed upon as part of the deal would go into effect, including cuts to the defense budget and Medicare. It’s so cute how politicians pretend to want to stop spending our money, isn’t it?? Bless their hearts.

I have to note at this time that raising the debt ceiling via the “Budget Control Act” was considered the only plausible fix to the problem of our government spending, spending, spending, and having no plan to pay down the debt or indeed any intention of staying within a budget (seeing as how they have HAD NO BUDGET for over 1,000 days). I have to point that out because it is an out of control SPENDING government that has caused ALL of these problems and then proposes “fixes” that in no way, shape, or form limit the amount of spending that we as tax payers are expected to pay for.

*Ahem* Mini-rant over. Where was I? Oh yes, the fiscal cliff…

fiscal cliff huxtible

No, not THAT Cliff.

So the cliff was this big scary economic reckoning that would burden an already weak economy with heaps of higher taxes. Remember just before the election when Obama said the economy was ‘doing fine’? Wasn’t that precious!?

So.. what did the sage wizards of Capitol Hill do about this impending doom?

Good question.

Two good things have come of this deal: 1) Most of the Bush tax cuts are permanent. [Taxes will go up on higher incomes, just as King Obama promised in his class warfare campaign. You know, all those “rich” people who hire less rich people to do jobs that they are paid a wage for..] & 2) Taxing and spending have been de-linked, to be dealt with as separate issues. [Good news! If you were missing fiscal cliff talks already you’ll get a bonus round! Woot! ]

Bonus Cliff:

fiscal cliff assets

Now before you run off and spend all that money you’ll save in tax cuts, let me remind you that this is Congress we’re dealing with and if you thought there would be only good to come of this deal then… you don’t know Congress.

So what’s the bad in the deal? Well… 1) Taxes are still going up & 2) “Special interest” tax benefits are extended [“Railroad track maintenance credit” because it’s 1835, y’all!, recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes Wonder if these will be named after the venerable Ted Kennedy?, special expensing rules for film and television, and subsidies for alternative energy. I like to call this the Solyndra Cliff ].

Knowing our taxes are helping Hollywood make crap movies that they’ll charge us $10/person to see just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside doesn’t it?

Hopefully this has helped you gain a better understanding of the Fiscal Cliff and subsequent dealing. All of the research I did to get to this diluted and simplified explanation has created what I call a cuteness deficit in my thought processes. I’ll need furry animal memes to repair the damage done by this trip into Lawyerland’s Tax&Spend Extravaganza.

I-did-the-math

*sad panda*

References:

http://bonds.about.com/od/Issues-in-the-News/a/What-Is-The-Fiscal-Cliff.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_Control_Act_of_2011

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bush-tax-cuts.asp#axzz2GsEfAxWq

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/01/20/1000-days-without-a-budget-facts-on-the-senates-failure/

http://washingtonexaminer.com/the-good-bad-ugly-of-the-fiscal-cliff-deal/article/2517273#.UOT2jG9X0d6

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/12/31/obama-gives-congress-pay-raise/

http://www.whitehousedossier.com/2013/01/02/obama-returns-hawaii-added-cost-3-million/

Oh! I almost forgot…

Just so you know that Obama is serious about saving us from falling off the Fiscal Cliff, you should know that he granted a pay increase for Congress, which shocked even Congress given that they are supposed to be saving us from economic ruin. Don’t worry, the order was rescinded in time for Obama to address the Fiscal Cliff crisis and fly back to Hawaii at an additional cost of over $3 million in addition to the cost of his $4 million family vacation. He’s all about leading by example.

fiscal cliff roadrunner