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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

IR in Fast Five

I watched "Fast Five" on DVD last night, though I haven't seen any of the prior "Fast" films. The movie received decent reviews and is a heist film, a genre that I enjoy, so I gave it a try. It's a bit long and has some stupid dialogue, but the film is generally entertaining. I'd have cut much of the long fight sequence between Vin Diesel and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

About 25 minutes into the movie, the affluent Brazilian crime boss Hernan Reyes gives a speech that sounds like an out-take from Empire-Building 101:
Reyes: Let me tell you a true story.

Five hundred years ago, the Portuguese and the Spanish came here, each trying to get the country from their natives. The Spaniards arrived, guns blazing, determined to prove who was boss. The natives killed every single Spaniard.

Personally, I prefer the methods of the Portuguese. They came bearing gifts. Mirrors, scissors, trinkets. Things that the natives couldn’t get on their own, but to continue receiving them, they had to work for the Portuguese.

And that’s why all Brazilians speak Portuguese today.

Now, if you dominate the people with violence, they will eventually fight back because they have nothing to lose. And that’s the key.

I go into the favelas and give them something to lose. Electricity, running water, school rooms for their kids. And for that taste of a better life, I own them.
I put the key passage in bold.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I read it in a magazine...

The internet has helped foster many changes in modern life, but not all of them are desirable.

In a December 2011 review of The Fall of the House of Forbes: The Inside Story of the Collapse of a Media Empire by Stewart Pinkerton, Jamie Malanowski identifies some harsh numbers for the publishing industry:
Facing dramatically declining advertising revenue (in the year 2000, Forbes had more than 6,000 pages of advertising—this was during the high-on-your-own-supply years of the bubble)—and was charging about $75,000 per page; in 2010, it had 1,640 pages of advertising, and was charging between $23,000 and $25,000 per page. The numbers from magazine to magazine no doubt differ, but throughout the industry the basic story is surely the same. Revenue declined, and the Internet, with all its power to deliver information quickly and cheaply, and all its nifty gadgets, pushed magazines into yesterday.
By my calculations, Malanowski is identifying a revenue drop from $450 million in 2000 to $41 million in 2010 -- and those figures assume the highest charges were always collected in the more recent year.

So Forbes, at least, lost over 90% of its advertising revenues during the decade, before accounting for inflation.

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Socialism is more popular than Rick Perry

Today, in a New Hampshire debate, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, borrowed some rhetoric from Sarah Palin:
“We have a president who is a socialist,” Perry said in response to a question at the early-morning eye-opener GOP debate in Concord, N.H.

“I reject the premise that Obama reflects our founding fathers,” Perry said. “He doesn’t.”
I've dealt with this kind of labeling many times in the past, so there's no need to address the substance of the charge.

Instead, let me make a different point. Socialism is more popular in the United States than is Rick Perry. A Gallup poll from 2010 found that 36% of Americans had a favorable view of socialism. Granted, few Republicans share this view and Perry is first trying to win their nomination for President.

A Pew Research Center Poll from a bit later in 2010 found that 29% of Americans had a positive response to "socialism." Among people aged 30 and younger, both socialism and capitalism scored 43% positive. A Rasmussen survey from 2009 likewise reflected ambiguous results when comparing socialism to capitalism.

The latest Pew Research results from late December 2011 show socialism with a 31% positive response.

Among all Americans, in a number generated by averaging his poll results, Rick Perry has a favorability rating of just under 25%. He's getting drubbed by socialism.

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Films of 2011

As I annually note, I watch a lot of movies, though most are viewed on DVD (or from DVR recordings) on my television. Because I do not see that many new films in the theater, I cannot at year's end write a credible post on the best movies of 2011. After all, I have not yet seen many of the highly touted films released in late December. But I will. Eventually.

In fact, many of the best films I saw this past year were older films on DVD/DVR that I originally missed in the theaters -- or were 2010 films I saw in the theaters during early 2011.

To make this abbreviated 2011 list, I scanned the top grossing movies of the year, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2011 and Movie Review Intelligence. In rank order of my preference, these were the best 2011 films I saw this year, so far as I can tell:

Moneyball **
Margin Call **
Midnight in Paris **
Bridesmaids **
The Trip
The Company Men

I think almost any film lover would enjoy these 8 films. The list is topped by two films with the same theme -- employing somewhat obscure information to gain a market advantage over rivals in business. In Moneyball, a small-market baseball team excels despite the odds. In Margin Call, greedy Wall Street traders take down the global economy. The Company Men shows the implications for everyone, as does Win-Win. Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids and The Trip are comedies, but they are very well done. And quite different from one another. Beginners sounds like a sappy movie-of-the-week, but it is well-executed.

The rest of the 2011 films I saw aren't ranked with much care, though the films near the top of this list are better than the ones near the bottom:

Super 8 **
Crazy Stupid Love **
Lincoln Lawyer
Friends with Benefits
Horrible Bosses **
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol **
Captain America **
Everything Must Go
Adjustment Bureau
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (part 2) **
Take Me Home Tonight
Cedar Rapids
Source Code
The Beaver
Our Idiot Brother
30 Minutes or Less
X-Men: First Class
No Strings Attached

** I saw these films in the theater.

Obviously, I saw more current-year movies in 2011 than I have in recent years. This is because of a Redbox located in a grocery store just over 2 blocks from my house.

Here's the annual list of movies I intend to see in the future (hopefully in 2012): 50/50, The Adventures of Tintin, Another Earth, The Artist, Attack the Block, Barney's Version, Bellflower, A Better Life, Certified Copy, Contagion, Cowboys & Aliens, A Dangerous Method, The Dept, The Descendants, Drive, Fast Five, The Future, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Go Go Tales, The Guard, Higher Ground, Hugo, The Ides of March, In Time, The Interrupters, The Iron Lady, J. Edgar, Jane Eyre, Le Havre, Like Crazy, Lovers of Hate, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Meek's Cutoff, Melancholia, Mysteries of Lisbon, Myth of the American Sleepover, My Week with Marilyn, Of Gods and Men, Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, Point Blank, Rango, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Robber, A Separation, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, The Skin I Live In, Small Town Murder Songs, Submarine, Tabloid, Take Shelter, Terri, Thor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tower Heist, Tree of Life, War Horse, The Way Back, We Bought a Zoo, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Weekend, and Young Adult.

Metacritic helped me form that list.

Keep in mind that I didn't get around to seeing many 2010 movies from last year's wishlist:Another Year, Blue Valentine, The Book of Eli, Buried, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Get Him to the Greek, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Green Zone, Greenberg, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Kick-Ass, Let Me In, Machete, Megamind, A Prophet, Rabbit Hole, Restrepo, Shutter Island, Unstoppable, and Unthinkable.

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