To Rome, with Love

July 25, 2012

The movie was very strange. It was an attempt to be nostalgic. I imagine it would be a better film for people who have already visited Rome for a significant amount of time.
There are 3 story lines that run independent of each other. They don’t intertwine. None of them seem completely believable, in fact, each of them leans heavily towards the ridiculous.
The feel of this movie is very similar to the feel of some off-off-broadway shows that I’ve gone to, except those shows had better dialogue.
Woody Allen is funny.
I don’t like Opera, but this film made the Opera singer funny.

Everything else was pretty much a waste.
4 out of 10. Add a star if you spent a significant amount of enjoyable time in Rome. Remove a star if you dislike Alec Baldwin.

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Seeking a Friend (for the End of the World)

June 27, 2012

This review contains spoilers, but only because I believe that giving this spoiler will help you enjoy the movie more. If you don’t want to read spoilers about this movie, all you need to know is I liked the movie overall.

Now on to the spoilers! šŸ™‚

Seeking a Friend was a little sad, but not as sad as I expected it to be.

It had an early scene where a guy [commits suicide by jumping out a window and] (suddenly and unexpectedly) crash lands on Carell’s windshield. That prepared me to expect any close-up to be accompanied by a horrific scene. So, I was anxious the rest of the movie. However, that was really the only horrific scene, so it unnecessarily ruined the movie for me.

They really didn’t need to show it in such a jarring way. They could easily have shown a suicide jumper (depicting people’s sadness at the end of the world) without resorting to terror-tactics.

I liked Carell more in roles like this, where he not trying to be funny. If you are looking for a funny Carell, look elsewhere. But if you find him to normally be frantic, awkward, and annoying, you might enjoy watching him calmly face the end of the world.

Some reviews complained about Knightley’s performance, but not I. I found her performance consistent with the unstable character she plays in the film. I didn’t see any positive or negative energy between the two leads, but the world is about to end, so how much chemistry is there going to be? In fact, you could argue that more chemistry would have made the film less believable.

I liked the movie overall. I have to take off a point for the jarring suicide scene early in the film, so I give it a 7 out of 10.

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An ant story (from early 2002)

April 6, 2012

Here is a story I wrote one night when I was studying in Israel.
One night I couldn’t sleep, so I went from the dorm room to the courtyard. I found swarm of large ants carrying a gigantic Israeli roach to its final resting place. As I watched, this story ended up on my paper.

I copied it how it’s written (aside for some minor spelling corrections) even though some of the puns are cringe-worthy. I’m also maintaining the original paragraph structure.

There was an ant named Richard.
But his friends would call him Adam
Because he was lazy as man.
Every morning his parents would wake him up.
“But the sun isn’t even up”, he’d complain.
“By the time you finish breakfast it will be light out.
“Besides, the early bird gets the worm and the early ant gets the bird.”
The problem with ants is they don’t have seats.
From the time they awake till the time they go to sleep
They are forced to stand on all 6 of their feet.
Richard enjoyed sleep. Sleeping on his back, with his head on a soft pillow. He couldn’t want till evening, so he could eat a quick supper and go to sleep.
One day Adam was going collecting, he was trying to find food
When he came across a TV that a mouse had thrown out.
It had a remote control, so he could watch without getting up.
Thrown out with the set was a perfectly good bag of stale caramel popcorn, so Adam didn’t starve. On the contrary, he grew quite fat.
(The other problem with ants is when they get fat, they aren’t horizontally challenged, but vertically challenged; and that made it sound like Adam was short, which isn’t true.)
When he shoved off for his hole (shlepping his popcorn behind him), he discovered he was too girthy to fit down the ant hole.
“Help me! Make the hole bigger, please!” Adam requested.
“If you want something done, do it yourself”, said Smithers, the ant guard.
Instead, Adam dragged his bag of popcorn a few feet away and cried.
Suddenly, an anteater came along and ate the whole ant colony.
He couldn’t smell Richard, because he smelled like caramel popcorn.
Richard cried for a few minutes. (That’s another problem with ants. They don’t have tear ducts, so when they cry, all they do is blink a lot. Although most ants are too busy to realize they are sad, and by the time they go to sleep at night they have forgotten why they were sad (Ants don’t have the greatest memories, which explains why they keep trying to go on my picnic blanket even though I chased them off about 3,713 times.) which is why ants seldom cry.)
When he finished crying he dragged his bag back by the TV and began watching again.
Adam watched TV for 2 straight months! (When his popcorn was finished, he discovered an old hot dog nearby, so he was never want of food.)
One afternoon when he was asleep (during the afternoon news), a pesky rabbit jumped by, pulling the plug and bringing the TV down with a crash. Adam woke up with a start. Realizing his loss, he began to cry again. The rabbit said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see the plug. Maybe if you play with the chip it’ll work.”
“Are you crazy?” Adam lashed out “It’s broken. But chips, now that sounds good.”
Now the TV had broken and the pieces lay all over the floor. Adam sniffed around, found a chip, and ate it. “Eww. This is horrible. It tastes like a chip off an old block. Oh well, at least it’s worth two in the bush.”
Suddenly, Adam felt queasy, he felt statically, but then he was picking up the channels normally. And, whenever he couldn’t get a good reception, he’d just adjust his antenni until he got a clear picture.
He died 3 years later, when he refused to pay his electric bill and they cut off his service, leaving him a shell of his former self.

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Komen vs Planned Parenthood

February 3, 2012

There’s been a lot of noise this week about Komen’s announcement that they changed their rules. Their new rules included that they will no longer provide grants to any organization that is under investigation. Once they applied this rule, however, only one organization was affected – Planned Parenthood.

Immediately upon hearing this announcement, many people took great offense and started sending out tweets and posting blogs protesting Planned Parenthood’s exclusion. Also, some corporations, politicians, and individuals began donating directly to Planned Parenthood. Within a couple of days, Planned Parenthood donation pace was too great for them to provide a solid number of money received – and instead estimated about $400,000.00 raised in 48 hours that were directly caused by Komen’s decision.

Today, Komen decided that the protesters were correct and they should, in fact, be funding grants to Planned Parenthood.

For me this exposed that Komen doesn’t do direct research. I thought the money that I and others donated to them went directly towards cancer research. After all, their catch-phrase is “race for the cure”!
I don’t know how many people knew that Komen provides money to cancer screenings and questionable breast exams. I didn’t. Would I have donated to them with that knowledge? Probably not. I thought my money was going exclusively towards cancer research. After spending more time on their site, I see they spend a lot of money on things that are unrelated to cancer research.

People were upset because as soon as they heard that it involved Planned Parenthood, they automatically thought of abortion. Of course, anyone whose ever called Planned Parenthood for a non-pregnancy issue, knows that they do far more than just abort fetuses (which is a valuable thing on its own). Because of the natural association between Planned Parenthood and abortions, people decided that Komen was making an anti-abortion statement.

This reasoning ignored that Komen was initially funding PP and that Komen had a legitimate reason to cut funding. After all, if you are in the grant business, you should be responsible that the grants are made to deserving, transparent, and ethical organizations.

The Congressional investigation, launched by Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), into whether PP had illegally misused federal monies is, on its face, a legitimate reason for a responsible organization to be cautious.

Stearns, “I am leading a formal investigation into taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, which receives over $1 million a day in taxpayer money. Repeated cases of Planned Parenthood ignoring state and local reporting requirements, many involving minors, and allegations of financial abuse led to this investigation ā€“ the first ever oversight conducted on this group. We are still working with Planned Parenthood on getting the records and documents for the investigation, and Iā€™m interested in holding a hearing depending on what the investigation discovers.ā€

However, today’s press release is the smart political decision even if it’s not necessarily the best policy decision.

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Primary Field

January 25, 2012

This is a break-down as of January 25, 2012.

Obama
Weaknesses:

  • Economy is still weak.
  • Perception that he isn’t doing anything/ineffective.
  • Perception that he doesn’t care about his job performance.
  • Perception that he allows political games to prevent him from doing what’s right for the country.
  • Perception that he’s weak on foreign threats.
  • He pushed through a large, expensive insurance reformation while the country was dealing with economic instability.
  • Perception that his political views aren’t consistent.

Strengths:

  • He pushed through a major insurance reformation even while the country was dealing with economic instability!
  • He’s the incumbent.
  • He appears presidential.
  • His base is large and it is virtually impossible to lose their support.

Romney
Weaknesses:

  • Perception that he made his money solely by firing people.
  • Perception that (some of) his policies are too left-wing.
  • Unanswered questions about his financial dealing (offshore accounts).
  • Perception that his political views aren’t consistent.

Strengths:

  • He has large name-recognition.
  • As a former republican governor from Massachusetts, he can work with Democrats.
  • He has been through the primary season before, so he should be equipped to succeed.

Gingrich
Weaknesses:

  • He has aligned himself with Sarah Palin.
  • Perception that he’s a weasel.
  • Perception that he’s two-faced.
  • Perception that he’s immoral.
  • Perception that he took money from places that he advocated and advocates shutting down.
  • Perception that he’s unstable.
  • Perception that he cares more about himself than the Republican party or the country.
  • Perception that his political views aren’t consistent.

Strengths:

  • He has aligned himself with Sarah Palin.
  • He is a good orator.
  • He rabble-rouses effectively.
  • He currently espouses Conservative principles that resonate with his base.

Paul
Weaknesses:

  • Perception that he’s kooky.
  • Perception that he’s a racist.
  • Perception that he’s antisemitic.
  • Perception that he’s weak on foreign policy.
  • Perception that he has no chance to win the nomination.
  • Perception that he’s old.
  • His base tends not to vote in elections.

Strengths:

  • He resonates well with young, idealistic, and conspiratorial people.
  • He appeals to some libertarians.
  • Perception that his political views are consistent.

Santorum
Weaknesses:

  • Little name recognition.

Strengths:

  • His ideology would resonate with the Conservative base, if they knew about him.
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Movie Reviews for 2011

December 27, 2011
Films released in 2011 that I saw in the same calendar year

You can see a full list of films on Wikipedia

Films are listed chronologically
Title Genre Rating
The Green Hornet Superhero Action Comedy 5
Unknown Thriller Action Adventure 4
Hall Pass Blue Comedy 5
The Adjustment Bureau Romantic Thriller Political 6
The Lincoln Lawyer Legal Drama 4
Win Win Sports Comedy Drama 7
Source Code Science-fiction Techno Thriller 7
The King’s Speech Historical Drama 2
Your Highness Fantasy Blue Comedy 4
Fast Five Action Adventure 5
Thor Superhero 4
Bridesmaids Black Comedy 1
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Fantasy Adventure Action Sword 6
Midnight in Paris Romantic Comedy Fantasy Historical 8
The Hangover Part II Blue Comedy 5
Beginners Independent Drama 6
Bad Teacher Blue Comedy 7
Transformers: Dark of the Moon Science-fiction Action 3
Horrible Bosses Black Comedy 4
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ā€“ Part 2 Epic Fantasy 7
Captain America: The First Avenger Superhero Historical 8
Rise of the Planet of the Apes Science-fiction 6
The Help Drama Comedy Historical 9
Conan the Barbarian Fantasy Sword Sorcery Action 1
Colombiana Action Gangster 6
Our Idiot Brother Drama Comedy 7
Drive Drama Action Gangster 6.5
I Don’t Know How She Does It Comedy 4
Moneyball Sports Drama 6
The Ides of March Political Drama 6
The Three Musketeers Steampunk Action Historical 4
Margin Call Financial Thriller Historical 5
Anonymous Drama Historical 3
Tower Heist Crime Comedy 6
Immortals Epic Action Fantasy Adventure Drama 4
J. Edgar Biographical Drama Historical 4
Hugo Family Adventure Drama 3
Mission Impossible Action Comedy Drama 6.5
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Dems: We want our Weiner out

June 14, 2011

The bandwagon of politicians calling for Anthony Weiner’s resignation is filling up. Today’s NY Daily News quotes President Barack Obama as saying “If it was me, I would resign”.

Anthony and I don’t agree politically. I don’t particularly like him.

However, so far, none of his disclosed extra-curricular activities warrant him resigning his job. Barring any new revelations, he hasn’t committed any crimes.

I think non-indicted elected officials have an obligation to stay in office until their term completes. (It was wrong for Sarah Palin to leave her governorship and it was wrong for Trent Lott to resign his senatorial seat. However, people who commit crimes, like Alan Hevasi and Charlie Rangel should have resigned immediately.)

If there was a chance that his electorate would choose a better politician, maybe I’d be tempted, but we all know they are just going to elect another Schumer clone. So, what’s the point? All it will do is cost us money to run a special election.

Therefore, I implore Anthony Weiner to think of his obligation to New York City and not resign.

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Soda Can

May 9, 2011

This a poem I wrote in November 2001. I was sitting in a Beis Medrash (study hall), learning with my chavrusa (study partner) and he left to take a break for a few minutes.
I noticed a soda can sitting on the table in front of me. Later that evening I was scheduled to go on my first date. I had heard that women liked poetry, so I wrote the following poem with the intention of impressing her. She was not so impressed, so this is the only “dating” poetry I’ve written.

Soda Can
The can sits on the table
And holds it down
And if the can would wobble
Fall to the ground
The table might start rising
And bump the lights
There is no way of knowing
Which one is right
Because even if you remove
The can from above
It still would not be proof
The can gave a shove
If you see a can on top
Resting, at ease
Don’t blow it or make it drop
Just let it be

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Release the photos

May 5, 2011

President Barack Hussein Obama announced late Sunday night that U.S. Navy Seals (USNS) killed Osama bin Laden (ObL).
The White House (WH) announced that there was video and photos of ObL.
WH officials promised on Tuesday that they will release some of the pictures of a dead ObL shortly.
President Obama announced on Wednesday that he will prevent the release of any photos or videos.
There are reasons not to release the photos.
1. Barack said “We don’t need to spike the football. That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.” 1
2. Releasing photos and videos might incite a national security risk. 1

There are reasons to release the photos.
1. If the USNSs killed ObL, and there’s no evidence, yet, that they didn’t, they acted as representatives of the entire U.S. population. All Americans should have the option of seeing or not seeing what their representatives did in their name.
2. The many attacks on U.S. weren’t just on people serving in Yemen or Kabul; living in New York or Pennsylvania or Washington, DC; or flying on airplanes. The many attacks were directed against each and every American, regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation. As such, each of us deserves to see our self-declared enemy in the least regal pose possible.
3. (A famous commentary, Rashi, explains in the book of Exodus (14:30) that “god” made the Reed Sea deposit the dead Egyptian pursuers onto the shore so surviving Jews could see that their tormentors were really dead and didn’t just escape to a different shore.) Regardless of whether the photos and videos can be faked, and I’m sure they can be, it’s important for us, the survivors of ObL’s attacks, to see that he is, in fact, dead.
4. Transparency. Senator Obama promised that, if elected, his administration would be transparent.
Senator Obama should have released his birth certificate as soon as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton raised it as an issue in 2008. President Obama should have released his long form birth certificate when, after he won the election, people questioned the veracity of his certificate of live birth.
The President serves the people. He should be transparent.

I disagree that releasing the photo is only a trophy or a celebratory act. If releasing the photos will really incite violence, which I doubt*, than allow every adult American the option to view it in a secure location, but do not release it to the media or to non-Americans.

*Why would releasing a photo incite violence? Would it incite violence because it would “show” a bloody ObL or “prove” that ObL died? I imagine that most al-Queda members won’t believe the photo. They wouldn’t be incited by a fake photo. There is already a doctored photo of a bloodied and dead ObL on the internet, it hasn’t incited violence.

1 – Daily News, Thursday May 5, 2011, page 4

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Source Code

May 2, 2011

I went, without any expectations, to see “Source Code”. Most of the movie had an “Inception” and “Groundhogs Day” feel to it, which I enjoyed.

The movie was intense and interesting. There were moments of humor, but they did not take away from the seriousness of the situation.

However, the ending to this film is really bad. I suggest people pretend that the ending is didn’t really happen and is just someone’s imagination.

Overall, I give this film a 7 out of 10.

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