Monday, July 23, 2012

Civilians should not be allowed assault rifles

By Jeff

Even before the tragedy in Aurora Colorado early Friday morning, where a nut job killed 12 people and wounded over 50 at the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" I thought our nation needed to wake up and not allow the sale of assault rifles to civilians.

Assault rifles have nothing to do with defending your family. These weapons can fire hundreds of rounds in a minute. There are only two reasons a person not currently in combat for the military would need these weapons. The first is to kill a lot of people. The second is a zombie apocalypse. Oh, and the second one is a fictional scenario.

The NRA and the political leaders that they pay a whole lot of money to make sure gun control laws in this country are a joke will tell you that the tragedies in Aurora, Virginia Tech, Tucson and Columbine would have occurred with or without guns because the murderers in these events were psychopaths who would have found a way to kill people.

Well, let's think about that for a moment. If James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, could have planted a bomb in the theater that killed everyone in the theater, why didn't he? Probably because him carrying in explosives would have been a bit obvious. Whereas he could legally purchase and carry around the guns he used to kill 12 people.

Guns, especially assault rifles and extended magazines, are easy for killers to access in this country.

Sure, there would still be tragedies with guns in this country, even with bans on assault rifles, but they will happen less often and casualties will be reduced.

Cries of the Second Amendment will rain down from the NRA and Republicans, but think about it. When the Second Amendment (The right to bear arms) was drafted, the country so different. First, we were under the threat of England coming to take back their colonies. Second, there were Native Americans that were thought to be a threat, especially with families living miles away from their neighbors. Third, there were no telephones. If you were being robbed or threatened, there was no real way to get help quickly. There were also no cars, so law enforcement had no way to quickly get to victims' homes. Fourth, look at the weaponry from the 18th century. There were rifles that fired one shot in a minute. Pistols had to be cocked for every shot. Today we have rifles that fire a hundred shots in a minute without the need to reload.

The Founding Fathers had no idea how advanced humans would become at killing one another. I doubt they could even fathom a weapon like an AK-47 or an M-16.

The country needs to learn from these tragedies. We need better gun laws, and while this post is not about mental health, the citizens need easier access to mental health.

Big Country - Peace in our Time

The Dark Knight Rises, but doesn't soar as expected

By Jeff

WARNING! This post is going to contain a whole hell of a lot of spoilers for the recently released "The Dark Knight Rises". If you haven't seen the movie, stop reading right now!

"The Dark Knight Rises" may have been the most anticipated movie of my lifetime. Well, maybe the newer Star Wars Trilogy and "Alien Vs. Predator", had more buzz around them, but it's pretty close.

TDKR was a good movie. I enjoyed it and did not regret the $8.50 (matinee!) I spent for my ticket. Director Christopher Nolan does a very good job in creating the world of Gotham again. The shots were great and all the action sequences were entertaining.

Christian Bale was his usual self. I've always thought Bale was a good Batman, just not great, like many others say. The Batman voice just really bothers me by how over the top it is. Some will argue it makes sense, and I get that, I just don't like it. Leave me be.

Tom Hardy was good as the villain known as Bane. The voice he used was creepy, which I think was the point. I just have no idea what country he was supposed to be from. He was in some Middle Eastern or Indian prison for a long time, but his accent is more German. He reminds me a German mad scientist.

Those are really the only actors worth mentioning for their performance. Gary Oldman was pretty good as Commissioner Jim Gordon, but he wasn't as present as in previous Batman movies.

The story was all right. Batman was in retirement due to taking the fall for Harvey Dent's killing spree in "The Dark Knight". It's been 8 years and Gotham cops have pretty much cleaned up the city without Batman.

Of course, this peace is destroyed when Bane and his mercenaries show up. They arrive around the same time Selina Kyle (never referred to as Catwoman in the movie) robs Bruce Wayne of a pearl necklace. But that was not her purpose. She wanted Bruce's fingerprints that she gave to Bane's men so the villain could somehow use the fingerprints to make investments in Wayne's name and bankrupt him.

I saw the movie. I paid close attention to it. I have no idea how this worked, but that's OK.

Needless to say, Batman comes out of retirement to get to the bottom of this and stop Bane, who was billed as someone who could match Batman physically and mentally, like his character did in the comics.

Long story short, Bane breaks Batman's back, drops Batman off in the prison he grew up in, and then takes over the city with the threat of a nuclear bomb.

Batman makes a miraculous recovery and saves the day.

And here is the problem with TDKR. The story was lacking. In "The Dark Knight" there was character development. We learned about Harvey Dent and how he was incorruptible. We learned that the Joker was bat-shit insane, but had a method to his madness. He wanted to show that all humans were corruptible, which he proved by corrupting Dent.

TDKR didn't really develop anyone. To explain things, Nolan had all the characters explain through dialogue what they were thinking. What happened to show don't tell?

The biggest issue I had with the movie was the character Bane. We were led to believe Nolan was going to provide a match for Batman. An evil genius that outfight and out think Batman. Well, it turns out Bane was just Talia Al'Ghul's henchman. He was no evil genius. He was following orders by another character that wasn't developed at all. Her character sucked and served no purpose other than to provide a cheap twist near the end. Even the most diehard Nolan fans have to admit it.

Now I'm all for suspending belief for movies, especially comic book movies, but Nolan's Batman trilogy has been praised for its realism. This was not a realistic movie. Bruce Wayne has no money and no one knows where he is when Bane drops him in a prison. Yet he makes it back to Gotham, which has been locked down, with no problem.

The whole relationship with Kyle's character is forced and there is no way Wayne would end up with her in Italy when all is said and done.

Somehow Kyle can drive the Batpod with amazing skill despite never driving it before.

These are just a few things that just come off as silly. Like I said, I enjoyed the movie, but it is not the greatest comic book movie ever made and it's not the best movie of this year. It was not the best movie in the trilogy.

Batman theme song

Friday, July 13, 2012

Still giddy about Pens

By Jeff

OK, so a few weeks ago I shared my excitement with the idea that the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to maybe sign Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter. Well, you have probably heard by now that Parise and Suter decided to take their talents to the Minnesota Wild.

I'm not upset, and Pens fans shouldn't be either. The team has the two best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, James Neal is realizing his potential and Kris Letang is really good when he's not losing his mind and hurting his team (See Game 3 in the Flyers series for an example of this). This is still a championship caliber team if the defense and Marc-Andrew Fleury can right the ship. And there is no reason to think they can't. Fluery sucked in 2009-2010 playoffs, and then he and the defense carried the team in 2010-2011 when Crosby and Malkin went down.

Enough about the crying about a stud winger for Crosby. Before the concussion, he had Pascual Dupuis and Chris Kunitz on the line and was still running away with the scoring title and MVP trophy. That't not a knock on Kunitz or Dupuis. That just shows you how good Crosby is when healthy.

The defense does need a boost, and Suter would have been a hell of boost! Will the young guys step in or will the team swing a trade? Neither is certain but it will be hard to be worse than the defensive unit was in the playoffs.

Paul Martin was the whipping boy last season. Everyone seems to hate him something fierce right now. The guy has a history of being a solid defenseman, though. He was great his first year in Pittsburgh. I think he rounds back into form after an offseason of working his ass off in order to silence critics even attack him in baseball columns (I'm talking to you, Dejan).

While I was really pumped for Parise and/or Suter to be wearing flightless birds on their chests, this is still a team to be crazy excited about. After a disappointing playoffs and missing over a year, can you imagine how crazy Crosby has probably been with his offseason training? The man is going to come out and set the league on fire. He is going to score goals by the bunches, and when he does, he's going to pump that fist and shout "Fuck yeah!" To which we will all be screaming in unison with him.

The team doesn't need Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan or Alexander Semin. The Pens just need to play like they are capable of, and Dan Bylsma needs to get better at adjusting strategies during the game. Those two things happen, this is a Stanley Cup favorite.

Europe - Final Countdown

Penn State must prioritize

By Jeff

Note: I did not attend Penn State University. I am not a fan of their football team, nor do I hate it or the university. I have not read the full Freeh report, but have gone through about 100 pages and seen many statements/findings pulled from it.

Forget about the Joe Paterno statue. Forget about the upcoming football season. Forget about the fucking ice cream flavor.

In the wake of the Freeh report that came out yesterday, which found that former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier, atheltic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade," (referring to Jerry Sandusky raping boys, sometimes on campus) Penn State University must take steps toward redemption.

The first thing that should be done is a clean sweep. The Freeh investigation was just the beginning. The board of trustees need to go through that athletic department, find anyone who knew about this and didn't speak up, and give them pink slips.

That includes Mike McQueary. He may have gone to Paterno and kind of, maybe told him that he saw something strange going on in the shower between Sandusky and a boy, but he never went to the police. He thought a boy may have been being raped by a grown man, and all he did was slam his locker loudly. Nice job, Mike. Granted, that is a situation none of us ever want to be in, but I'd like to think that myself and just about every one of my friends would do more. I can say with all confidence in the world that Swan, any of my past blog contributors and any friend I know well would jump in there and make sure whatever was going on stopped. They'd also go to the police, not just the football coach.

So McQueary is out and so is anybody else might have seen what Sandusky was doing and didn't speak up. I'm looking at the former coaches and players who were defense witnesses in the Sandusky case, who saw Sandusky bring boys to the showers and didn't think anything of it.

Next, admitting their failure is a good step but now they have to go above and beyond to help victims of child, or any, sexual abuse. They can never make it right in regards to this situation. Their institution was used as a playground for a child molester/rapist. Those victims in the courtroom last month, and who knows if there are more and how many there are who did not testify, will never forget what happened to them at the hands of Sandusky. All while Penn State leaders closed their eyes and hoped it would go away.

What they can do is go to great lengths to ensure this never happens on their campus again. They can create programs to help victims of sexual abuse, harassment and rape. They can become a leader in raising awareness for the fact that most of these crimes go unreported and share resources with victims so they can find help.

Whether there is a football season this year, or whether Paterno's statue is torn down or not should be the farthest things from Penn State's mind right now. The fact that ESPN and others are asking those questions, rather than "What is Penn State doing to help others who have been abused?" is absurd.

I'm not going to give an opinion on any of that crap. I don't care if PSU plays football this year. I don't care if there is a statue of Paterno or he has his ice cream flavor. What I want to know is what is Penn State doing to hold everyone involved accountable to the fullest extent of the law and the institution's power. I want to know what programs and policies are they putting in place to make sure kids brought on campus are safe.

These are the questions the media, Penn State alumni and students should be asking. Football should be the least of anyone's concern right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Check out HBO's "The Newsroom"

By Jeff

At what point did people start thinking idealism and educating were bad things? I ask this question because there a lot of negative reviews for HBO's new series "The Newsroom".

The main reason many of these critics are panning the show is because they think it's "preachy", "idealistic" and "doesn't accurately portray a real-life newsroom".

All of these statements are true. Granted, my experience in a newsroom is limited, and I'm not sure many would consider the Pacific Daily News on Guam a real-life newsroom (I do). But putting that aside, the show is preachy, idealistic and some of the situations going on in the newsroom are not realistic.

While writers for the New York Times, Post-Gazette and Los Angeles Times think these three things are reasons to criticize the show, I'm drawn to these.

The show's premise is that news anchor Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) has long been a popular media personality because he covers all the silly stories that drive ratings. They don't go into specifics, but I imagine the writers had any kind of celebrity gossip, any coverage of Sarah Palin, etc., as the kinds of topics McAvoy would cover.

Well, one day, McAvoy loses it at a college speaking event when asked "Why America is the Greatest Country in the World?" You've probably seen the clips as McAvoy goes off explaining how we're not the best in anything, liberals are losers and conservatives give moronic answers that don't make sense, but will make overly patriotic people nod their heads and think "Damn straight".

This leads to McAvoy's show, "News Night", changing. Instead of delivering fake news to bring in viewers, the show will live up to it's responsibility of trying to create an informed electorate. McAvoy gives an on-air apology for his past of dumbing down the news and vows that he will be different from now on, and will not hide his opinions.

Before I bore you with more synopsis, McAvoy takes on the Tea Party (the show was set in 2010) because they took over his (Republican) party.

McAvoy's apology and his staff's dedication to delivering real news are what critics of "The Newsroom" point to as an example of preaching and idealism. Sure, they have some lame lines, like when McAvoy ends his rant with "We'll be right back with the news," But the whole point of calling out the news media today for sucking is great!

We need to be preached to about this because people need to know how many of our news organizations are failing in informing us. In the past week alone CNN and Foxnews erroneously reported that the Affordable Care Act was struck down by the Supreme Court, when in actuality it was upheld. How did this mistake happen? Was information leaked too soon and incorrectly? No! The friggin' reporters just didn't read the whole document! They read one part and wanted to have the scoop, so they ended up reporting the wrong outcome.

Now look at these two same sites the past two days. For the majority of the morning Wednesday, CNN's top story was Tom Crusie and Katie Holmes getting divorced! Right now on Fox News, they are leading with President Obama using the presidential seal at speaking events, while the Penn State findings sit a few stories below.

When you look at how far news organizations have tanked to appease their readers, I'd say we need more preaching and idealism. When I was a journalism student, I wanted to make a difference. I pictured myself covering stories like the Jerry Sandusky case, or something worthy of attention that people needed to know about. But you look today, and there is so much crap out there.

That's why I love how "the Newsroom" is showing us how the news should be done. There are so many stories today where the journalists let their interviewees off the hook with crappy answers. "The Newsroom" shows McAvoy holding feet to the fire when his guests try to lie to him and his viewers, and I really wish today's journalists would do that more often. Today, people like Sarah Palin are seen as "analysts", but they spout off lies and misinformation left and right because they want to make their parties happy get attention. And journalists do nothing.

This is a completely harmless example, but remember a few seasons ago when everyone was making a big deal of the Steelers playing the Atlanta Falcons because Hines Ward had never beaten his hometown team? Ward kept telling people how nice it would be to finally win one against them, and the media ran with it. No one took the 10 second to check and see that in 1999 Ward and the Steelers beat the Falcons and Ward had three catches in the game.

Like I said, this is a harmless story, but it shows how the news media has began this trend of taking a sources word as truth and not doing the necessary legwork.

In "The Newsroom" McAvoy and his staff of idealistic young journalists take those extra steps to hold people accountable. Maybe the real news media doesn't like it because the show is right.

My idealism took a huge hit when I worked at the PDN. There were two specific stories that made me question why we were doing our jobs. First, there was a car review for Nissan, and the headline read "Nissan leaves us wanting more". Well, Nissan was an advertiser in the newspaper and got incredible upset with the headline. The editor responsible for said headline got chewed out and another review with a new headline was written.

The other was surrounded by the use of the word "god damnit". The attorney general of Guam used the phrase during a school inspection and the reporter ran with it. Well, Guam is a very Catholic island and the AG got pissed that he profanity made it into the paper. A correction had to be run and the decision makers chewed out the reporter and explained how the paper can't have indecent language like that. Yet the powers that be had no problem running advertisements for strip clubs in the paper. I'm pretty sure those establishments are more offensive and indecent than the term "god damnit".

These were just two examples of hypocrisy and advertising driving content, which is not the way it should be!

As for the critique of the unrealistic atmosphere in the news room all I have to say is NO SHIT. It's a tv show. Find me a show that perfectly portrays an industry. You can't. The show has to be unrealistic to be more appealing to people. If it was exactly like real life, people would be bored and tune off. They get plenty of real life in their real lives. They watch tv to get away from it.

All in all, the show is really good. Granted, I'm a liberal and it's been mostly tea party bashing so far, so I might be biased. But at it's heart, "The Newsroom" is commendable. I wish we were all a little more idealistic and preachy if that meant striving to be the best and not settling for what's trendy or popular.

The Beatles - Get Back

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pirates are awesome

By Jeff

Happy 4th of July! The Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place!

Prior to the start of this Major League Baseball season, I was one of those Pirates fans that just didn't see this team doing anything. I liked the signings of A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, but I didn't expect the pitching to be as good as they have been.

I predicted another terrible season with less than 70 wins. I was really, really wrong.

This team has been so exciting to watch. Even in April and May, when offense was atrocious, and Bob Smizik never let us forget it.

Then the team went off in June. Did you know the Pirates led the NL in home runs and runs in June? Let me repeat that. THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES LED THE LEAGUE IN HOME RUNS AND RUNS IN JUNE. If you predicted that after the terrible April and May, please send me an e-mail about where Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will sign in the next few days. 

Unlike the offense, the pitching has been great all year. James McDonald looks like a serious Cy Young candidate. That is not an exaggeration. The man has been the ace this team has been lacking since Doug Drabek.

The most telling statistic may be the +16 run differential. When the Pirates were at the top of the NL Central in 2011, you had a feeling the collapse was coming as their run differential was far into the minus range. They were living on the edge and eventually got pushed off. Just imagine the scene in "300" when the Spartans start forcing all the bad guys off the cliff. Now imagine the bad guys in Pirates uniforms and that was what happened last year.

It won't happen this year. The team looks to be for real. The whole rotation is doing well, and even when they don't like in last night's game, the lineup is starting to come to the rescue.

Jump on the bandwagon, this team is going to be in contention come September.

Fun - Call Me, Maybe