Thursday, February 24, 2005

Me and the Oscars

Mystery novelist and screenwriter Roger L. Simon comments on NY Times columnist Frank Rich's latest screed. Mr. Rich, brilliant logician that he is, blames President Bush and blue nosed Republicans for the decline in Oscar viewership (FCC problems don't ya know). Of course, Mr. Rich tends to blame anything wrong in the world, as he sees it, on Republicans and conservatives. I think Mr. Simon and the rest (the comments to his post) get it pretty much right.

As for me, I stopped watching the Oscars years ago for basically two reasons.

The first reason is that I can't stand looking at some of the garbs these men and women wear to these events. Don't these people own a mirror? Ugly gowns and dresses for the women and ugly jackets, shirts and slacks for the men. And don't get me started on some of the hairstyles. I look at these "beautiful people" and all I can think of is the old story about the Emporer's New Clothes.

The second and main reason I don't watch (or care about, for that matter) the Oscars is that Hollywood is too politicized. For the last 30 years or so Hollywood has prided itself on making "important" movies. In order to be considered for an Oscar, the movie usually needs to be "important". For a movie to be "important" in Hollywood, it has to take a Left-wing world view on things. So most of the movies that get considered for Oscars tend to be movies that I find appalling from a socio-political perspective. The "important" movies are, for the most part, decidedly Left-wing, made by people that are themselves, for the most part, decidely Left-wing. There are exceptions, to be sure, but by and large these "important" movies make me ill and leave me with a cold feeling.

I'd rather watch the Cartoon Network. The Family Guy is a riot!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Must see TV - Battlestar Galactica

In my book the SciFi Network has scored a big hit with its re-working of the old ABC-TV series Battlestar Galactica.

You remember the original series don't you? Sure you do. That's were some human colonies in some faraway galaxy are betrayed by one of their own to their enemy, the robotic Cylons. With the traitor's help, the Cylons unleash a devastating attack on these human colonies, wiping them out. However, a few thousand humans do survive and, with the Galactica as their lone guardian, go on an unknown voyage through space to find the legendary lost colony, living on a planet known as Earth.

The new series contains all those same elements. Only it does them better. Sure the new series adds some new twists and changes here and there. From where I sit these changes are an improvement over the old series.

For instance, in the old series the Cylons were a dying reptilian race that saved itself by becoming robots or cyborgs. In the new series, the Cylons are the robot creation of the humans. But there's more. For reasons that aren't clear, the Cylons rebelled against their human creators. And they were able to evolve. In the new series some of the Cylons can pass for humans. This change adds a whole new element to the story, as humanity's remnants have to worry and deal with Cylon saboteurs in their midst.

And what beautiful protagonists those human like Cylons make. First there is Number 6 played by the blonde stunner Tricia Helfer. In flashbacks we see how she seduced Dr. Baltar into betraying his fellow humans. If James Bond had had to face this alluring she-devil in her Majesty's service, he would have not survived his first movie. The other Cylon femme fatale is Lt. Sharon Valerii (callsign Boomer) played by the lovely Grace Park. Her character is much different from Number 6. The Number 6 character is always acting to advance Cylon goals whereas Lt. Valerii at times seems to not know that she is a Cylon, but she does things for the Cylons without remembering them, or so it seems so far.

While these new elements do add to the series appeal, the biggest improvement to me is just in the overall mood of the remaining humans. The sense of loss these remaining humans feel is palpable. The worlds they've known for generations are gone forever. There's less than 50,000 of them left. They face an enemy that wants not just victory over the humans, but wants the total destruction of the humans. They face food, water, medicine, munitions, and equipment shortages. They do have hope, a planet called Earth, but they don't know where it is or even if it exists. But without that hope the fleet would disintegrate and all would be lost, so they hang on to that hope.

Are there problems with the new series? Well there are some, but my quibbles are minor. In the new series the Starbuck and Boomer characters are now female (and Boomer is a now a deep cover Cylon agent to boot). The female officers on the Galactica are addressed as "Sir" instead of "Ma'am", which seems a bit silly to me. They say "frack" a lot, but since this is a substitute for the real f-bomb, I'll cut them some slack on it.

My one quibble that does rise above the others is the presence of a news media remaining in the fleet. It just doesn't ring true. Sure it is possible that on air reporters and journalists would be part of the survivors. But the networks and news organizations that they worked for would be gone. Their audiences are dead and gone, except for those survivors in the fleet. Given the situation, I think that any surviving journalists would have banded together to form a small network that worked closely with the remaining government authorities in getting important information out to the fleet. They could still be adversarial when needed, but given the dire straits all the survivors are in, it wouldn't happen very often. In the show however, Presidential annoucements are staged with a small group of reporters shouting questions at her, just like in Washington, DC, the only difference being that the number of reporters are smaller. As I said earlier, it just doesn't ring true.

These few quibbles aside, I heartily recommend you watch Battlestar Galactica. It's a gripping, gritty, and thought provoking science fiction drama. It does have some adult themes, so parents should watch it first to judge for themselves if it is suitable for their children. It's likely fine for children 14 years or older. Kudos to Executive Producer Rick Moore and his cast and crew for putting together this outstanding series. Click on Battlestar Galactica to learn more about the series. Happy viewing.

Career change coming

I'm excited about a possible career change coming down the pike. I've been a pencil-necked accounting geek for 20 years now and I'm ready to give up the debits and credits.

The first 10 years were pretty good, starting off working for one of the large CPA firms for several years followed by several years working for a software development company. In between those two jobs were growing pain years spent in retail (1 year), waste management (5 months), and a company too weird to describe (2+ years).

Since that time, my career has faltered. It's been a combination of some bad choices on my part and situations beyond my control. In the last 10 years I've worked for 5 different companies. I've been fired once, quit once, and I've been laid off three times. I've been on unemployment three different times. I've had several periods totaling well over one year when I haven't worked at all. I've done temp work several times for months at a time during the last 10 years. This chain of events has really soured my outlook towards my accounting career. I've probably haven't looked as hard in my current search as I normally would have because I've been afraid I'll find myself in another dead end job, laid off and looking for a new position within a year or two.

The good news is that this may all change very soon. I'm currently going through the interview process with an accounting recruiting/placement firm. I cleared the first hurdles on Thursday and Friday with a phone interview on Thursday and an in-office interview on Friday. I go back on Wednesday of this week for some more stuff. The interview/hiring process should be done in about a week. So if all goes well, I could be on the payroll by the first of March.

So I it looks like the unknown pundit is going to hang up his spread sheets and become a salesman. A friend of mine says being in the revenue stream is where it is at in business. He's already been there a few years. I can hardly wait to join him.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Juiced?

For some time now, steroid use in sports has been making the news. Even more so now, with Jose Canseco's statements that he and many other players used steroids. For the last several weeks, sports writers, team owners, politicians, etc. have been chiming in, condemning the practice and calling for (you guessed it) more rules, reform, laws, etc.

I for one have had enough.

I really don't care what Canseco or Sosa or Giambi or Bonds does to themselves. If they took steroids, fine with me. They are big boys (pun intended) and own their own bodies.

Our sports media seem to be under the impression that if one takes a steroid injection, then presto change-o, big beefy muscles just bust out all over, like David Banner turning into the Hulk. I've got news for all our so-called sports journalists. Steroids don't work that way. You still have to exercise, you still have to lift weights, you still have to hit the machines, etc. Otherwise the injection is all but useless.

Steroids work to help the muscles to repair themselves faster than the muscles would otherwise after a workout. Steroids don't make you stronger, they enable you to build muscles more quickly and efficiently and make it easier to maintain those bigger muscles once you've attained them. Seems to me this is a good thing for a busy athelete on the go with work, personal appearances, and family to attend to.

This whole brouhaha over steroids is just a continuation of our current national insanity known as the War on Drugs. I'll be writing more on that subject in other posts to this blog.

For the league to come down on steroid use is a bit hypocritical in my mind. No doubt many insiders in the league looked the other way on steroid use as fans flocked to the ballpark and TV sets to watch the likes of McGwire and Sosa chase Roger Maris' single season home run record of 61 dingers. They've benefitted from Bonds incredible achievements over the last several seasons. They've known (or at least suspected) all along but didn't care because these sluggers helped their bottom lines. But now that it is out in the open due to leaked grand jury proceedings and Canseco's allegations, the league is compelled to tout the standard War on Drugs bromides -- drugs are bad, and steroids are a drug, and therefore they are bad, etc..........

As for the media, well they thrive on controversy.

Some of the sports commentators are all aghast because they see steroid use de-legitimizing the accomplishments of these atheletes alledged to have use steroids. They point to the achievements of the likes of Mays, Mantle and Aaron and say that their status and records are being eclipsed by undeserving heirs using steroids.

Let me point out a couple of things. First, the steroids don't help you hit the ball. As I said earlier, they aid in muscle development, nothing else. The muscling up seen in these players could be acheived without steroid use. We should ignore the accomplishments of these atheletes because they may have muscled up more quickly and easily using steroids?

Secondly, the conventional wisdom in baseball used to be that big muscles were a hindrance to a players swing. The ideal prototype a couple of generations ago were players like Musial, DiMaggio, and Williams, all long, lean, lanky players. Conventional wisdom also used to think that to hit a ball a long way, one needed to use a heavier bat. No one considered that bat speed was important to generating power at the plate. If players of yesterday had known how important bat speed was to generating power at the plate, they might have been muscling up back in the 1940's and since. They might have been using lighter bats but they didn't because they didn't know better. It seems to me that we are wanting to penalize modern players because sports medicine and sports physics have surpassed the knowledge of years past.

Of course critics of steroid use will say that steroid use is too risky. Is it? I won't opine on that here, but instead refer you to this article from Reason. Read it if you dare.

http://www.reason.com/0301/fe.dp.pumped.shtml