Monthly Archives: June 2009

What is Norman Osborn doing?

The current storyline in Amazing Spider-Man is both twisted and amazing. Harry Osborn is convinced to join Norman Osborn’s regime and Dark Avengers team because his ex-girlfriend, Lily Hollister/Menace, appeared to him and revealed that she was pregnant. Norman offers Harry the position of an armored superhero, which he somewhat accepts. Meanwhile, Spider-Man captures venom and poses as the villain with the help of a special suit made by Reed Richards. After pulling off a very good Venom impression, he gets caught and shot in the head by Harry. Issue 598 is especially interesting. However, the twisted part happens when Harry visits Norman’s lab.

As wrong as it sounds, I'm in favor of bringing George Stacy back as a super villain. When Spidey defeats him and helps him become good again, Captain Stacy can perform a heroic sacrifice after telling Spidey that he forgives him for his daughter's death.

Did you catch that? The guy in the background is “G Stacy”. That might mean that Osborn has been perfecting the latest super soldier serum on the remains of Captain George Stacy, father of Peter Parker’s first love, Gwen Stacy! Either that or it’s a clone. Or it’s a male clone of Gwen Stacy. Regardless, it’s all very messed up. Osborn is a sick, demented asshole.

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Where geeks go for a social life

A recent post on /. asks quite frankly how a geek goes about getting a social life. This has definitely been a question of mine every time I’ve moved into a new area. Seriously, how does one go about making new friends?

I am geek and so can you! The question asked focuses on geeks, but I think that’s probably the major problem the person is facing. Being social is about interacting with people, not interacting with mirrors of yourself. Of course there must be commonalities in order for things to work out, but there’s more to any geek than a fixation on computers, video games, comics, or anime. Recognize yourself as a well-rounded person and you open yourself to opportunity.

So, after establishing that you’re more than just a geek, where do you go to find people? That’s still the issue, isn’t it?

After dealing with that for years, I only have ideas. There are no solutions. Ideally, after you make a regular habit of spending time in a certain place, you’ll make friends with people who also make a regular habit of being there. That’s why it’s somewhat easy to make friends with co-workers or classmates – familiarity breeds companionship.

Then there’s the internet, which offers so many new and interesting ways of meeting people. My favorite is Meetup.com, which is basically the world wide web equivalent of a school’s club listings. Whether you’re a geek or not, there’s a social group for you – or you can create one (forIf you have to ask, then the person isn't really a geek a monthly fee). The issue beyond that is finding space for meetings and waiting for people to find and join the  group. One of the responses to the /. post was a suggestion to seek out hackerspaces, which are gatherings of geeks and people who wish to share and learn skills. I think that’s a brilliant idea and immediately sought local hackerspaces in the Metro Detroit area. Some are vapor, some are still in construction, and they all have membership fees I wish to avoid. They’re still brilliant ideas, nonetheless.

Going back to the original post, there was a request to find members of the opposite sex. This one is really, really easy considering the person asked on the internet – internet dating! I am not ashamed to admit to my involvement in the internet dating scene, which in brief I can describe as exciting and sometimes fruitful. Those who are particular about the types of people they encounter can easily filter out or ignore the choices who don’t seem geeky enough, and those who wish to branch out can definitely find Beware of sites with heavy use of flashindividuals who exist outside of their normal spheres of influence. I’ve also found that these sites can be useful for simply making  friends, depending on how obvious your commitment to being’ just friends is. Best picks that I’ve encountered are OKcupid and Plenty of Fish. Depending on how much effort one is willing to make, your mileage may vary. (For tips on wooing geek women, check out this post at The Park Bench. It rings somewhat true.)

The most important thing to note, however, is the success rate of all of these various channels really relies on one simple factor – how much effort you are actually willing to put forth into it. There is no simple and immediate solution, which is what leads to a mess of disappointment from this ADD-raddled instant gratification culture. There will always be difficulties. There will always be disappointments. But if you keep your eyes open and honestly want friends, you’ll be rewarded. It’s always worthwhile to ask for help, but the most important thing is to actually act.

One issue I must bring up, though, is that the person asked for help in meeting people in “meatspace”. That probably belies the deepest issue the individual has in relating to others and the difficulty he may find in forming friendships. Just a thought. Also, Meetspace might be a good name for an internet cafe/coffee shop/bar for geeks, specifically for those meeting for the first time in person.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Lite Review: It’s about robots who tear parts off of each other and battle to the death. If you are into that sort of thing, then this movie is perfectly acceptable. If you prefer a reasonable plot, likeable characters, and a story that actually goes somewhere; then why the hell are you going to a movie that advertises that it’s based off of Hasbro toys? It’s a decent enough movie to watch once.

Protip: If you advertise that a character is getting revenge, people would be even more interested if that character was even though to exist in the previous film

Before I get to the real bulk of this review, I must direct you to Brian Lynch’s “How to Survive Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. It’s far more informative than I could hope to be as far as movie survivalism is concerned. Also, read Roger Ebert’s review of the film for something totally scathing. He’s not alone. As I write this, Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a 21% freshness rating.

I absolutely loathed the previous Transformers film. The only good I'll be honest, I have no other reason to share this picture than the fact that I think Starscream in his more "accurate" incarnations is amazing thing about the film, in my view, was that Starscream got to wreck a squadron of fighter jets and look cool while doing it. The first spoiler I must release about the film is that Starscream is noticeably less badass, as are most characters who are not Optimus Prime. What this film lacks in Starscream badassery, it makes up for in strides with robotic violence.

I have now seen a Transformer stabbed directly through the chest, another get its face ripped off after a very violent and un-Prime line, a robot burst out of another’s face, and a host of inhuman characters get shot straight through. There were a few times throughout the movie when the only comment I had was, “That’s fucked up.” This movie made no pretense about the fact that they were performing acts of violence that would have gotten an R rating had it been performed by humans – or creatures for whom we were given a chance to care.

The characterizations for the titular robots in disguise were either lacking or racist, with nothing in between points. Optimus Prime’s character is that he’s a leader and he fights hard, Ironhide likes to pull out guns, Starscream is suddenly a coward, Megatron is violent and subserviant, the Fallen is old and revenge-driven, Sideswipe is a badass (which wasn’t unpleasant to find), Arcee is a girl (or is girls), Wheelie’s a pussy, Soundwave is there, and the twins are niggers. Sorry for dropping the N-bomb, but that’s what it was. They had big eyes, big lips, gold teeth, had particularly bad speech patterns and made heavy use of slang, and they admitted to not knowing how to read. The reading part is what really came to upset me. The producers of the film are racist, and I’m sure they felt they could get away with it because they figured “those people” wouldn’t get it. With all of the unsavory racial stereotyping and noise filling the screens in Hollywood these days, it’s not unlikely that many would gloss over those twins whose names were likely Boy! and Buckwheat.

In watching this film, it’s easy to see just how far from creative the Hollywood machine is. What the movie presents to us is a raceSonny, when I was your age, Transformers were more streamlined and less garish looking. Now they look like someone shit a junkyard. of aliens from space who somehow match nicely with Earth cultures and  stereotypes. Did the twins have to be stupid negroes? Was there any purpose in all of them using Earth slang? Why was the old Seeker known as Jetfire a Brit? I guess this is what we call humor. Giant robots riffing on our stereotypes and blatant racism is family fun. That is certainly good to know.

On another note, why the hell was Jetfire made to be so useless? He had everything going for him – he was a jet and could teleport This is the true form of a badass (despite not being Skywarp). Instead of being the scientific tactician and badass that longtime fans would recognize, he was an old curmudgeon with a British accent and a lack of loyalty to his former cause. He makes a heroic sacrifice in the end, though, but it’s negated by the fact that he wasn’t given enough screen time for the audience to care what about him. Also, I realize this film wasn’t made for fans of other Transformers stories or toys that actually look good, so I’m attempting to write this review from the lens of someone who actually likes good, fun movies. I learned from the first movie that the actual fan in me was not the target audience.

There was also a human element to the film that was totally useless. I don’t need to know about Shia the Beef’s long distance romance while my robots are getting eviscerated. I don’t care that his mother ate a pot brownie while visiting and tackled a guy. (Note: People who are high don’t tend to tackle others. The thought would probably scare the shit out of them.) It was a cool idea to see soldiers fighting side-by-side with the Autobots in the beginning of the film, but it lacked any sort of logic. It’s like they didn’t watch the first movie. We know that bullets don’t hurt Decepticons, so why send the humans out first with guns? Why send the humans out first against killer robots when you could more reasonably match them up against your own killer robots? That was beyond unreasonable. It was stupid. But at least it was a moment for Sideswipe to shine.

Fortunately, it’s not always true that a movie is only as strong as its leads. Megan Fox can’t act. Her purpose in the film was to induce masturbatory fantasies in Michael Bay the audience. This was This is a government/Hollywood cover-up. Superimposed over me is some kid who isn't nearly as black as I am. Don't worry, I'm not bitter. I'll get even soon enough.made clear by her first appearance on the screen, hunched over a bike. If you never before considered the motorcycle a phallic symbol, then maybe this makes it easier to think about things you want Fox to ride. Then there’s Shia the Beef, whose claim to acting fame is repeating the same word in succession. I don’t recall a “No no no!”, but there were other repeat words – don’t worry. He’s best scene in the film involved him screaming like a girl for comic effect. Good job. And his character, Sam, apparently had “The Touch”. Yes, I have a problem with that. Then again, I was also thinking that Sam might have had an intersect in his head.

I was thinking after that maybe Sam could become a Powermaster, just so long as the obvious joke about Fox’s character would be made. Yes, combine her with Arcee and make her a Headmaster. Sam would then say, “She sure is.” Laughs would ensue. By the way, this is still family fun.

Other issues I had that aren’t worth a full commitment to writing out: Optimus Prime’s death and resurrection is a worthless Transformers trope, no explanation for female bots, many unnamed and uncharacterized bots, Soundwave jizzed on our planet and no one noticed (seriously, we have a Transformer stuck to a satellite and no one even bothered to consider the possibility of intelligence’s being compromised), Devastator was present just for the wow factor of a gestault, not enough Sideswipe, not enough Starscream, not enough jet fighting, Megatron served a previously unmentioned master, no one thinks less of the Transformers for having a history of blowing up stars for power, the revelation of who is fighting on which side of the war was revealed to be a choice but still not used to provide character depth (it just let Wheelie jump sides so he could hump Megan Fox’s leg in peace), and the shaky cam was just goddamn annoying.

Despite all that, I am shocked to say that I liked this movie better than its predecessor. It was fun. I would say that I like it a little less than I enjoyed 2009 Film, which means I similarly see it as a film seeing at least once but not owning on DVD. The movie has a lot of crazy action and just has a certain energy permeating through it. Just don’t expect anything deep or to walk out of the theatre with comments on the plot. It’s ironic, but there certainly isn’t more to this movie than meets the eye. However, what meets the eye is pretty thrilling.

Bechdel Rule: FAIL! There are only two actual female characters in the movie, aside from two robot women. Mikeala and Mrs. Witwicky share screen time but never talk. One might think that Mama doesn’t approve of her little boy’s choice in woman. I mean, why wouldn’t she care for a hot, stupid girl with no good prospects for the future?

C'mon, you let Shia the Beef kiss you? How much lower can you go?

Yeah, I’m still bitter.

On Metroid: Zero Mission proving to me that 2D is still the best

In light of Nintendo’s E3 announcement of Metroid: The Other M, I felt inspired to go back and play the two Metroid titles released for the Gameboy Advance. I sadly realized that my copy of Metroid Fusion was missing, possibly stolen by a cousin’s child or simply misplaced during my cross-country move. That’s alright, though, because I was more interested in playing Metroid: Zero Mission, the 16-bit remake of the original Metroid title.

If these things don't make you want to curl up into a little ball, you clearly don't know Metroid

I downloaded Super Metroid on my Wii over the summer, so that experiences was relatively fresh on my mind. Zero Mission borrows a lot from its Super NES sister, including graphics, music, and weapons. It’s creation basically renders the SNES game redundant if played in order, even though it offers a completely new layout. Then again, since Nintendo wasn’t even planning on releasing the SNES game again, I suppose it’s more than acceptable to have a game that makes it useless.

There isn’t much to say about the game itself. It’s awesome and Some of us try to argue that Nintendo isn't nearly as shallow as the rest of the game companies out there, but here are your rewards for doing well in the game - a few being Samus in a skintight outfit and others of her in daisy dukes. Way to go, Nintendo. fun – but also short if you know what you’re doing. It’s so short that people can actually beat it in roughly an hour. No matter what I do, though, it takes about three. Since I only play at work when the kids are not being brats, that’s pretty good.

What needs to be commented on is the fact that 2D games are basically an art form in and of themselves. Even after this move we’ve made to 3D, thanks in large part to Nintendo’s own template for 3D game play, the 2D game has not actually been close to mastered. One must be truly imaginative to create an engrossing world that you can only see from ONE vantage point. When you consider that and all of the secrets that a Metroid or Castlevania game contains, you’ll realize that there’s some sort of wizardry involved in developing a flat world that is ever-growing but always reasonably connected.

This basically hammers down the fact that my favorite game style is 2D. Only one of my favorite games of all time, Metal Gear Solid 3, is 3D – the rest of my list is inhabited by 2D games. Not only are the worlds more interesting due to their being so fantastic, but even the perspective forced upon the player in such games allows for more creativity by developers. The 3D games have an emphasis on realism, which makes me personally less invested because I live in the real world. I don’t play games with hopes of mimicking reality – they are my escape.

Metroid: Zero Mission is a full escape. You’re a bounty hunter in a badass armored suit, jumping and climbing vertical tunnels and fighting aliens simply because you were paid to do so. The Metroid series is about as far from reality as one can get in video games, Your ultimate objective is the destruction of a cyborg brain with one eye. How much more fantastic can you get? aside from Rez and Katamari Damacy. For me, this is the face of escapism, totally freeing us from our reality. While the Metroid Prime games have come close to bringing such worlds into three-dimensional reality, they still fall far short of what their predecessors have offered. It’s hard to make this sweeping generalization, but almost all 3D games have failed to really live up to what the 2D games have and continue to give. Let’s have more games with more fantastic worlds built around the game play and not the shallow, shoot-it-till-it-dies writing the companies are trying to make people like.

Moby thinks the RIAA should be disbanded

Mr. Porcelain himself thinks that the RIAA should be disbanded, especially in light of the fact that a woman was recently fined Yeah, I think it's a no-brainer, too. Profitting by suing fans is stupid. $80,000 per infringing song. That’s quite a bit for items that are only $.99 on iTunes. Moby seems to think the obvious here – the RIAA isn’t fighting and incriminating people for the sake of the artists but rather for the labels. So, anyway, let’s add him to the list of artists we defaultively like because he’s sensible and doesn’t want the labels and the RIAA to bleed us of money just because we like music.

Pixar is up above all others

Remember my glowing review of Up! and how I said that Pixar is simply better than all of the other studios? I’ve apparently been given more reason to believe that’s true. Read this story about a dying girl, cold calls to Pixar for a request, and the subsequent home viewing of Up! delivered by a Pixar employee. Yeah, you can’t do much better than this studio. They involve writers who treat viewers like they have an iota of intelligence and are overall quite humanitarian.

The Hangover

With its title being The Hangover and credits inclusive of movies like Road Trip and Old School, there’s both a lot as well as little to expect from seeing the film. While the film promises and delivers in the way of laughs, it’s not a particularly intelligent comedy. That should not be a reason to hold anything against the film, but I feel like I have to put that out there first and foremost.

The movie is interesting because it somewhat combines Road Trip and Old School into one film. The former because of the trip the individuals take to Las Vegas and the sheer audacity of some of its moments, and the latter because of the ages of the characters and actual roles they play. Easily, Bradley Cooper’s Phil is an analogue of Vince Vaughn’s Bernard. Similarly, Ed Helms’ Stu plays Luke Wilson’s Mitch while Zach Galifianakis’ Alan plays Will Ferrell’s Frank “The Tank”. After that, the film is pretty elementary. It almost makes one wonder why this was not a direct sequel to Old School – save for the fact that it is simply cheaper to hire the current talent than it would be to hire the previous stars.

The plot is simple: Three friends take a guy out to Vegas for his bachelor party, they get wasted/drugged, and zany adventures occur as they bounce from location to location trying to figure out what happened the previous night and where they lost their friend. Of course, with such a big deal made about the roof of Caesar’s Palace (which isn’t the real one because Caesar does not live there), there is only a simple logic that viewers need to follow in the end. Regardless, the premise allows for literally anything to happen in the middle – and I would not be surprised that the manatee method of joke writing was used to fill the space.

The Mike Tyson bit was funny, but was there any real reason for them to steal his tiger and then go through crap to return it? How about the cop car/arrest/taser storyline? While we knew that Alan’s foreshadowed triumph would occur, did we need the homage paid to casino hacking movies? Really, the only thing that needed to be there was Stu’s marriage to an escort, since that helped him to grow as a character and realize that his girlfriend was a bitch. Of course, anyone who has ever watched the various VH1 television shows already knows that Rachael Harris is a bitch. (Just so I don’t sound like a total hater, I’m a fan of the mousey, nerdy look and find her quite appealing on that level. I just wouldn’t want to hold a long conversation with her.)

The obvious riff is off of Three Men and a Baby I’m criticizing this movie so much because I enjoyed it but don’t quite understand why. The usual frat pack movies appeal to me initially but don’t often hold up to repeat viewings. I loved Old School in the theatre, but subsequent cable viewings didn’t work. Wedding Crashers is kind of the same. I find stupid, situational humor incredibly funny – but I don’t get the appeal in memorizing it and owning the DVD.

This is where I admit to having found The Big Lebowski mostly humorous for the sake of John Goodman but otherwise insipid.

The lack of minorities positively portrayed in the film also is a problem of mine. I’ll admit that no one in the movie is portrayed in a positive light. Still, the main leads are all white and shown to be doing pretty well, all things considered. Then we have Mike Tyson, African American, whose security is so poor that four white guys could break in, pee in a fountain, and steal his tiger. We have an African American drug dealer who can’t tell the difference between rufies and ecstasy. We have a female African American cop who, while paired up with a white male officer, was dumb enough to let four guys steal her police cruiser. We have the overly violent ambiguously Asian gangsters whose boss was overly effeminate. This was a very…white movie. Why couldn’t Stu or Phil be black?

Final verdict on The Hangover? Overall funny but with a questionable lasting value. I’m sure people from my generation will eat it up and buy the unrated extended edition in September, but I think it’s better off watched sparingly on cable.

Bechdel Rule: Failure. Women didn’t talk when they shared a scene together. Then again, there were too few women in the film. The only one who got any real screen time as well as positive characterization was Heather Graham, who was a stripper and escort noted for the size of her breasts and was then shown breast feeding. Classy.

Tekkaman Blade – a syfy Freudian fantasy

Tekkaman Blade should really have consisted of nothing more than awesome robots and dramatic posturing, not the Natural Born Killers-esque story of familial slaughtering and rampaging When UPN debuted Teknoman some Sunday afternoon in the mid-90’s, I felt like something special was occurring with American releases of anime. The series debuted with a mini-movie featuring the first four episodes, and then the show was aired directly opposite of syndicate channel WXYZ 20’s Dragonball. This was the time to be an anime fan. This was the renaissance.

This was the hyperbole of emotion felt by a pubescent fan who thought that everything good did not have American origins. Dragonball ended after the very first story arc 13 episodes into the series, and Teknoman never reached its climax. Anime’s popularity would not be driven by a fantasy comedy or soft scifi series. Instead, a few years later, Dragonball Z’s mindless, endless action and Pokemon’s obvious support of slavish consumerism took the United States by storm. Teknoman faded into obscurity, despite the occasional fan’s asking, “Remember that show Teknoman? That seemed cool.”

Which is hilarious because, years later, I found out that it was the American version of Tekkaman Blade, itself a remake of Space Knight Tekkaman – which was also dubbed for American audiences in the 70’s and similarly fell into obscurity. To be fair, however, the original Tekkaman was a goofy and silly looking series, and the American version had horrendous voice acting that serves to set the bar extremely low for everything to follow.

10 minutes of “space lance” and other assorted bad acting

Then comes Tekkaman Blade, which starts off incredibly good before falling into storytelling that Freud could easily interpret to say the worst about its writers and director. Takaya Aiba and his family (minus his dead mother, of course) are caught by a parasitic alien species called the Radam while on an expedition in space. Each one is placed into crystal and provided an extra powerful form called Tekkaman. Takaya’s father is rejected from the process for indeterminate reasons, so he uses that time to save Takaya, his favorite son. Takaya escapes to Earth and befriends the Space Knights, who rename him D-Boy (for “Dangerous Boy”, but “Douche Boy” fits better) because he refuses to provide them with his real name. They join forces to fight the Radam monsters.

Where the story gets more interesting is that Takaya’s central conflict comes from Shinya, his twin brother. While Takaya transforms into the good, pure, Tekkaman Blade; Shinya turns into…well, Tekkaman Evil. Shinya claims that the conflict was a long time coming not because he was taken over by the Radam but because as twins they came from one being – so only one should be able to survive. This “blood destiny”, as he calls it, exists because of the natural drive to prove who should or shouldn’t exist. (Or a battle for authenticity.)

Awesome fighting ability - check. Mysterious psychic connection to the lead character - check. Destined for fight to the death - check. Prefers the color red - check. Be careful. He is a CHAR! Tekkaman Evil is eventually made into a sympathetic character in a one-off special taking place during his inevitable death. He flashes back to his childhood where he accidentally knocked over a candle while only he and his mother were home. She stuffs him in an old grandfather clock to keep him safe, and he watches her burn to death. He then grows up with his father obviously resenting him and favoring brother Takaya. Then we see what happened to the father after he freed Takaya from the Radams – he runs over to where Shinya is being processed and is promptly killed by the guy. Treasuring memories of the mother while slaying one’s father is certainly suggestive of Oedipal themes.

Later in the series, it’s discovered that the rest of the Tekkaman are of relation or close crewmembers of the Aiba expedition. Tekkaman Omega, the actual leader of the group, is never before mentioned older brother Kengo; Tekkaman Sword is Kengo’s fiance whom he never got to marry because they were waiting until they reached Jupiter – but they were attacked before that; Tekkaman Axe is their martial arts instructor and mechanic; Tekkaman Dagger is a dude named Fritz; Tekkaman Lance is a guy oddly named Molotov; and Tekkaman Rapier is cherished little sister Miyuki. Miyuki also manages to get away from the Radam. She is also a calming visual for Takaya. Even someone bearing a passing resemblance to the girl is enough to soothe him during critical moments.

The man on your left is your ideal self. The woman next to her is an advancement for your brother's dominance in the family. The man in the middle is your brother ultimate opponent for genetic dominance. The little girl is your obsession and idealization of innonence. The man to her right is your shadow and your means to self actualization and authenticity through his defeat. The man to his right taught you how to fight, so be grateful because he taught you to be a man. Naturally, Takaya needs to slaughter his family and crew in order for the human race to survive and also to become a man in this tale of xenowar. Some are emotionally easier to kill than others, interestingly enough. Takaya didn’t show any hesitation in fighting Sword, for example. This is a story about a man’s having no problem with killing his male family members or the women they love.

What really struck me, though, was when Shinya was freed of the Radam parasitic brain slug. He looked at Takaya’s love interest, one of the very few female characters, and said that he knew Takaya was in love with her because she bears a passing resemblance to their mother. If this isn’t Freudian, then I don’t know what is. To add to the statement in the last paragraph, this is a series about killing off the male legacy of one’s family and fantasizing about the female side. The writers certainly had things to work through when writing this story.

I want to say that this was a good series otherwise, but I don’t like lying. The first 26 episodes showed true promise and direction. The latter 23 were an obvious extension that were written due to the series’ popularity. The story got dumber and longer, which I dislike. A concise story is a strong story (says the guy with the overly long write-up for a series he found disappointing). The series lost its way. At least there was a drastic improvement in animation and art.

The worst part is how the series ended – with an obvious rip off of the 80’s Z Gundam. The hero, having witnessed first-hand the death of his friends and family but having won the war nonetheless, is reduced to a state of psychic shock via some convoluted means – which is ultimately supposed to symbolize the tragedies of the natural disaster known as war and the horrible PTSD-inducing effects it would have on anyone but especially our pure-hearted hero as he comes of age on the battlefield. It’s horribly tragic, but the inability to remember is a sweet relief for our hero. However, Z Gundam did it first and better a decade prior to Tekkaman Blade. Plagiarism is flattering, but sometimes people need to learn how to copy things right.

The drastically improved second opening of the series, “Woo My Destiny”, featuring unexpected Gainaxing by the very young Milly

On cultural brainwashing, buying American, and alternatives

I received this in an e-mail from my mother the other day:

My grandson likes Hershey’s candy.  It is marked made in Mexico now. So I do not buy it any more.  My favorite toothpaste Colgate is made in Mexico now. I have switched to Crest.  You have to read the labels on everything.
This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off brand labeled, "Everyday Value."  I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats – they were the same except for the price. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in – get ready for this – the USA in a company in Cleveland , Ohio .
So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here.
So on to another aisle – Bounce Dryer Sheets….yep, you guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada . The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!
So my challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA – the job you save may be your own or your neighbors!
If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others in your address book so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! Stop buying from China ……….
(We should have awakened a decade ago……)
Let’s get with the program…. help our fellow Americans keep their jobs and create more jobs here in the U.S.A.

It is misleading for people to constantly say it is difficult to buy items made in the US. It isn’t. We all know how to read labels, and we are well aware of most products. The issue is the brand name programming that occurs. Hershey’s and Crest have several decades of commercials behind them promoting their products and names into the cultural conscience. They’ve been there forever, so they must be the best! Now they use their name recognition to bolster their sales, maximizing profit along the way by reducing costs (people in Mexico will work for less) and increasing price (why should I pay an extra dollar or two for dryer sheets?).

It really comes down to preference. I like to suggest buying American items, but sometimes you just outright prefer something else. Do you know how many items I own whose ultimate origins are Japanese? It doesn’t work if I tell someone to buy American. Not to mention that price really does factor into things. People scoff if I suggest Mobil/Exxon over BP. They’re not being unreasonable.

Buy American? Sure. However, it’s even more reasonable to just buy smart. Remember that the store brands aren’t that much different, so save a buck and support your country. There are also items, like chocolate, that you could learn to make yourself without supporting companies who have forgotten the American workers. It certainly is more convenient to scoop these things up at the store, but it’s more rewarding to make your own.

Up – Pixar’s latest success

There is something magical that Pixar manages to include in everything it makes. I would be hard-pressed to find a misstep that they’ve made (well, Cars…). They’re amazing, and everyone knows it. It’s clear what part of the magic is – they don’t treat their audience like it’s simple, despite the fact that their target audience is children. There is so much that the other major studios could learn from Pixar.

Up’s trailer slightly misleads as it doesn’t spell out the whole plot, which is rare these days for Hollywood films. All the audience is given is a cantankerous old man named Carl who lifts his home away with balloons and accidentally takes a young scout with him. Why does he want to go away? Where is he going? The explanation is in the first 10 minutes of the film, but it’s all shown and not told. We get exactly why he wants to take that house to South America and stay there until he passes. He’s not an angry old man – he’s a romantic.

Which brings up one of the clever themes integrated into the movie, devotion versus obsession. Carl crosses paths with his old hero whom he had always thought simply fell off the face of the Earth. No, the man disappeared because the world didn’t believe in his discovery, which he has been tracking for the better part of the past forty or fifty years – and ending anyone he believes might be getting in his way. There’s something obviously Ahab about him, and he works wonders as Carl’s foil.

This review isn’t as full of spoilers as I usually like, but like the first act of this film, it’s all better when seen rather than explained. This film is art at its finest – an experience that appeals to your senses and emotions. If you don’t feel something at least during the beginning of the film, you either know too well how to separate yourself from fictional experiences or you simply need to learn how to feel.*gasp* He wears the cone of shame!

I should make a special mention about the dogs. Anyone who has ever had a dog or spent time with dogs will find the dogs hilarious, especially the joke that Dug shares with his new friends – whom he already loves. And the cone of shame…you have to love the cone of shame. And yes, I am understating everything. There’s a reason. Go spend your money on the film.

Bechdel Rule: Failure. There are no two women who speak to each other. Not that it matters. There’s nothing NON-feminist (masculist?) in this film, so no one should care. This film is good for the whole family – period.