Sunday, May 31, 2009


A very big day is coming up for General Motors tomorrow. I have been reading off and on about GM falling in to bankruptcy over the past six months but it appears now that it is actually about to happen.

In today's Columbus Dispatch the paper has a front page article called "Shrinking Auto Giant Pains Ohio". As if anyone has to ask which auto giant. GM has a total of six factories in Ohio, according to the paper. The largest of which is the Lordstown Complex located in the the north eastern part of the state. The paper claims it has almost 4,500 employees. The smallest would be the ACDelco Distribution Center right here in my back yard. It employs less then 100.

Wired Magazine also has a good article this month called Beyond Detroit that spells out what the future might be for US automakers. In this article I discovered Ford's unbelievably large and complex River Rouge factory. You have to read about it to believe it.

I'm not 100% sure why I'm writing about this topic right now other then the fascination I have for large industrial automotive factories. I think a lot of the country shares a general fascination with US automotive companies. It is remarkable to read about how large they once where. Just looking at GM you find out that they owned 54 percent market share in 1954. From that year to 1979 it looks like the company experienced unprecedented success and stability.

You don't have to know your history all that well to know what has happened since then. The very next year the company started experiencing losses. They agreed to bad union contracts with UAW and where slow to react to new federal regulations.

The Dispatch put together 'A brief history of GM' that was very telling. While the auto giant has always has a few labor issues in its 100 year history it is unprecedented what has gone on over the past 20 years. Strikes, violence, layoffs, employee buyouts, early retirements. There is a employment stat the struck me like a brick the head... GM employed more people in the state of Ohio 15 years ago then it now does across the entire company.

Today is Sunday. If you get a moment say a little prayer for the once mighty family of GM employees. From the 50 plus year old's living on a company pension, to the thousands of nervous current employees waiting to hear their fate in the coming week.

The Giant is nearly dead... Long live the Giant.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Angels and Demons

Catholic Church history is fascinating. How's that for an opening sentence?

Though I'm not practicing Roman Catholic I am a variant thereof. Anglican. Both churches share similar histories and tradition. I guess that could be said of all Christian faiths and denominations. That is to say they, we, believe in Christ as one in the three (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) as the same. So let's jump in that that last statement.

Heheh. no.

Angels and Demons. Ron Howard's latest. Some say, boiled down it is a work against the clock to disable the bomb thriller. Some say no more, no less. I would like to say that it is much more. Anytime you bring in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, it is going to be more. So I recommend you stop reading any reviews that say "it's only _______". Anytime someone makes a point to single out anything in reality it's going to be more. Especially when you have a popular book and writer behind it.

The Roman Catholic Church is so large it is almost incomprehensible (1 billion members) and so old (1600+ years), it's history shapes half the planet's history. Put something out there directly about the church and it is never "just" anything.

So where to start? I liked the Da Vinci Code (the movie). I like Dan Brown's approach to history in that everything is sort of tied together and that there is a massive undercurrent in the world. Some would call that conspiracy theory. I tend to agree. Yes, there are secret societies. Many of them. Heck, every major university has them. Masonry is a self proclaimed "Secret Society" that my grandfather participated in and devoted much of his later life to. I do think that the society the movie deals with, Illuminati, still exists under the umbrella of Freemasonry. In fact, the people who founded the Illuminati came along almost a century after a handful of Freemasons publicly wrote there ideas on science and religion. Once the Illuminati where shutdown (yes, mainly by the church) the 'johnny come lately' Illuminati founders joined the Freemasons only to realize they were already, for lack of a better word, illuminated.

But when I say the movie deals with the Illuminati, it isn't in the wild, hair brained idea that a group of decedents still roam the streets plotting their revenge against the wrongs of the Catholic Church. But the idea is toyed with to play with people who may believe this to be true. In other words, half of the folks who have set up websites on the internet. Those folks are taken for a ride. And a good one.

The movie isn't anti-catholic. In fact, some of the dialog about the church were strangely moving and powerful. Ewan MacGregor gives a stirring speech to a large group of Cardinals that was particularly moving. The movie has to be seen for more of those tidbits. Well worth watching if not for just that.

This movie passes my dad test. In that, my father, an Anglican Bishop, would find it interesting. I grew up with symbols of faith and ancient traditions so anything dealing with these things works for me. Do I know enough to poke holes in Dan Brown's theories? Probably not. He knows much more then I and he probably knows where he took license with things.

What I personally know is that he believes that symbols have meaning. Powerful meaning. Anyone who dismisses symbols, particularly when the Holy Church is involved, will think this movie a fictitious treasure hunt. But I have news for those folks... The symbols you see in broad daylight on buildings, in statues, in paintings... all have deep meaning, and then meanings underneath that, then some more under that. Most of them are not as cryptic and interesting as in the movie, but some are actually, maybe more. Heck, look at your keyboard right now and research some of those symbols and see what you come up with. That's just a keyboard. Now walk into an old church in England or Germany and let me know what you find or how about watching an orthodox service closely. Every movement, every word, every piece of furniture, every item in there has mean upon meaning that date back to long ago.

So, woops... got off topic, yep, I liked the movie. It passes the "my dad would like this movie" test. Not for the overt story, but for the little things in between. For the things the movie touches upon that connect us to the still used ancient traditions of the past and the symbols that can reveal our history since Christ walked the earth.

Resources on the Anglican Church:

1. The Church of England

2. The Anglican Communion (My Father's Church)

3. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer (One of the most beautifully written books in the English language)

3. The Tutors. The Showtime Original Series (why not).

4. Clip from Elizabeth (1998) on the Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

I'm sitting here with the new Star Trek movie fresh on my mind having watched it yesterday. Yeah, I'm a sucker for this type of movie although I missed the Transformers movie hype a couple years ago. I'll probably miss the the second one too. Looking at the line of of movies over the past couple years I get the feeling that the fertile ground of the '80's is still, well, fertile. Even a G.I. Joe movie has still to come out later this summer.

Me thinks Star Trek has a more of a special place in my heart then even I realized.

I went in to the movie expecting J.J. Abrams. Yep, that's it. None of that 'going into it with no expectations' thing. I expected J.J. Alias. J.J. Cloverfield, J.J. Fringe. He's a guy how has clearly defined interests. What I got from the new Trek film was mostly J.J. Trek. But that's OK, for it was just the fact that Kirk, Spock, Bones, and crew were all back again that had me hooked.

In the movie I felt there was a reverence for people who casually watched the re-runs of the original series. Kirk and Spock were characters that were almost real people who got invited into my home back when I was a kid. As time went by I never held any interest in the newer shows and after the first four movies only saw one. The lasting impression of Star Trek on my mind was the original series being rerun in a time slot after cartoons (G.I. Joe, Transformers) and before the Cosby Show on school nights. Sometimes it would be on during the weekend. I'd catch it after reading my comic books (Spider-man, X-Men) I picked up that Friday night.

What I'm working up to here is that seeing the original characters again got to me. The exchanges between all of them pulled on my heart strings. It wasn't over done in that way. It is a movie that stands on it's own two legs (well, J.J.'s legs, it even has the red ball doomsday device from Alias). But, honestly, my eyes teared up more then a few times. Yikes!

I've read Ebert's review, read Wilonsky's, even checked out some of the crazed geek reviews like the one by MovieBob on from the Escapist. Between those three you get the actual movie. Ebert's is stuck in the social climate of the 60's, grrr. Wilonsky, again, gets it right for me. MovieBob? you're missing out. You deserve some of the thrashing you are getting.

The movie works. More then the short parables written into the original Trek series, Gene Roddenberry's Trek was about young people having a rip roaring time in a positive future set in space. Since that original series is now long ago we forget that. Buried under countless half wit spin-offs, aged actors and funny little Priceline commercials. But if you look far enough back, youthful energy is what it had and what Roddenberry wanted. J.J.'s movie puts them back there. Much like James Bond - J.J. succeeds in the fact that it is the written ideas and characters of Kirk, Spock and co. that make the story, not the actors. It's great.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Game Review Oddity

Oddity. Had to make sure I spelled that right down here in the body text portion through the spell check. Just being honest.

Before I get started here I have to let you know where I'm coming from. I'm not a massively multi-player online role playing video gamer. I don't have the time. But what I am is completely and totally fascinated with the idea of it. Things like what happened a while back with World of Warcraft players protesting something or other blocked a bridge on some server to make a point about a warrior character imbalance peaked my interest.

With my recent writing on game reviews I stumbled upon a review of a game called Darkfall via Dubious Quality. The long and the short of what has transpired goes all crazy like and has the makings of legend...

A guy named Ed Zitron reviewed the game Darkfall Online and gave it a 2/10. For Eurogamer... as bad as it gets.

Fans of the game were pissed. Predictable. Fans of other like games poked fun. Fine. Predictable again. The developers (Adventurine) of the game looked into the time Mr. Zitron spent on the game via server time... and publicly posted it, in detail. Wait! Not predictable!

I guess they discovered he only spent a couple hours with it and in that time only really created multiple characters and took some low res screenshots. The developers preceded post Mr. Zitron's playing time on their forum and sent the logs to Eurogamer and asked that the score be taken down. Eurogamer, in kind, posted a response to the developers and posted it here.

To me this is epic. Eurogamer did the right thing in their response. They left the review up and told the fans that they would put one of the best men on the job to re-review the game and staunchly upheld their integrity by leaving up Zitron's review.

There are lots of other things I love about what is transpiring here. First off, I like that fans hold their favorite thing up like a hometown sports team. Secondly, I like that the developers, who poured their hearts out creating it for probably years, dug into the review. Thirdly; Eurogamer did the right thing. Their response legitimatizes the site.

If you didn't play the game, then tell your boss (Eurogamer) or the reader you didn't. Be honest Mr. Zitron. Don't fudge it.

I haven't come to any sort of conclusion about the rights and wrongs here. It is sad that there aren't a lot of places to go for good reviews on games. Things really are not much better then they were 15-20 years ago when all you had to go by was Sega Magazine, Nintendo Power, or... hell, just the artwork on the cover. Back then, picking out games was a giant leap of faith.

Apparently, not much has changed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

More on Death Proof

A couple years ago I remember being curious about what this Grindhouse thing was, but never really considered it to be more then just an 'Oh cool, Tarantino is indulging in something here.' I didn't watch it. I didn't buy into the hype. I didn't read the reviews. After watching Death Proof yesterday I decided to see what other folks thought of the film. Boy, did Tarantino pull off a masterful work. People either hated it or loved it. Not in the way we think of a modern love / hate. But in the love / hate that the director wanted. You loved it if you remember films that traveled across country where theater owners cut the films themselves just to fit time slots... and you hated it if you where a cool-aid drinking Tarantino fan looking for the next Pulp Fiction. There is something about that I love.

He so successfully pulled off a Manos that people that hated the film so missed. He made a movie so not self aware and yet is. He didn't ask people online before he made the movie what they wanted (which is what seems to be going one in video games so often, and movies). He wasn't trying to please the masses. He was truly paying homage to something that deserved no homage. Yet, maybe it does. Mystery Science Theater found it. Tarantino remade it. I love it.

There is a drive-in theater down the road from me that has no pretense or self awareness. They just want to make money. They have a flea market there during the day on Friday's and Saturdays until 2pm. Then, later that evening, show movies that they think teens want to see whilst making out with there girls or just want to hang out at with there dad's Chevy Nova or whale tail Eclipse.

Maybe Death Proof will be shown there a generation from now. Maybe I'll see it on the large marquis right next to the sign that advertises all night disco bowling at the Rainbow Lanes Alley building next door because that's right where it should be. Right where Tarantino wanted it to be.

Summer Already?

What happened to Spring? Is it gone already? I'm looking at my entertainment line up for this summer and it is all happening already. Strange... It just got warm(er). Maybe this is just a part of being out here in the mid-west. All that said though, the weather is beautiful out here... cool, and breezy. Very nice. It isn't too much different then where I done growed up. In Northern VA you got pretty much four equal seasons. In NC you really only get three (Summer, long Fall, short Spring). In OH you get long Springs and Falls... and a unrelenting Winter. Summer consists of about three weeks where 87 degrees feels like you are walking on the flippin' sun. Case in point... I turned my air conditioning on at 67 degrees last week. It's all relative people!

Anyway, I'm fully ready to take on and write about this summer. Lots of neat-o things going on. Lots of things I'm looking forward to, but nothing I'm over the moon about. But I digress... I'll be taking in the new Star Trek film, the new Dan Brown book in film, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (release date pushed back??). A PS3 later this summer that I'm saving up for and of course lots of old games. Speaking of which; I picked up someone's Dreamcast library of games over the weekend at a thrift store. More on that later.

So to gear up for the summer, I went back to two summers ago and finally sat down to watch 'Atonement' from 2007.

What happened, says I. I was expecting to be into it to say the least. Maybe a good British film in the same vein as the English Patient to get me going for the summer. What I got was something else entirely. Is it worth watching? Kinda. The five minute long cut about the retreat at Dunkirk is worth the 10 bucks I paid for it. But I'm afraid that, emotionally, it fell short.

My second gear up was to finally watch 'Death Proof'. A wonderful movie. I like it. Besides my fandom-isity(?) for Kurt Russell, the movie delivers on my lust for late sixties and seventies muscle cars. Couple that with Tarantino delivering on whatever he wants to I have to say the movie is very recommended.

My third 'gear' up is Gears of War 2 for the 360. I was fully expecting to dislike it. I was wrong. I love it. It's fun and you want to keep playing and playing. Sure you don't have to think. Sure you just find conveniently placed cover and shoot. But I LIKE IT. Perhaps it is do to my playing of Fallout 3 for over 40 hours though. Great game, that Fallout.

So, anyway. Lots of rambling here. But... Looking forward to summer. Looking forward to the future.