Tuesday, April 11, 2006


My heart goes out to the million plus people who have marched this week in protest over potential immigration reforms, these folks have a lot to lose and I admire their initiative and passion.

They are, however, completely misguided.

The poor and working class, which the marchers claim to have compassion for, are the ones that will be most negatively impacted by an amnesty or open borders policy.

It is amazing to me how blinded people are by the simplistic and foolish notion that it is okay to break the laws of this country as a means to a better end. Our current immigration laws are in place not just to protect the citizens of this country, but to protect immigrants as well.

Imagine you are waiting in line for a movie, just about to buy your ticket, and someone comes in and cuts directly in front of you and buys the last tickets available. This is precisely what is happening to the millions of LEGAL immigrants and lower middle class workers today - thanks to an unprecedented influx of ILLEGAL immigrants brought on by a corporatist president and administration.

Jobs, that many Americans WILL take for a decent wage (despite what the president says) are being undercut by desperate people who are here illegally. Our government looks the other way and big business reaps the benefits of this near slave labor. Meanwhile, hard working honest immigrants, like my next door neighbors, get the shaft - as their wages are undercut and unions are weakened.

Our economy works insofar as capitalism fosters prosperity and freedom. To undercut that by bringing in "brown people" to do the dirty work at the benefit of the corporate loving Republicans just churns my stomach. And I can't believe that George W. Bush's biggest allies in this scam are working class liberals. They have been duped, big time. They think they are fighting for the poor and oppressed, but they are actually setting the nails to these peoples coffins.

Encouraging illegals to risk their lives so that they can come here and work for less than minimum wage.

Let me say that again.

Encouraging illegals to risk their lives so that they can come here and work for less than minimum wage.

That's what the marchers are in effect asking for - open borders and complete destruction of the working middle class in this country. They are damning legal immigrants to the same substandard living conditions from whence they came, and they are helping out those of us in upper income brackets by increasing our cheap labor pool. It is disgusting.

To add icing to this disturbing cake, anyone like me who questions the marchers and their misguided intentions - gets to be branded a racist, bigot, jingoist or some other fun slur. Instead of having an intelligent discussion about what to do, I get to have names hurled at me. Sticking to the issue seems to be impossible for the impassioned liberals and big business folk. Anger makes for strange bedfellows indeed.

Well, let me just say, that as a racist bigot jingoist, who actually cares what happens to our Mexican brothers to the south- the current policy can work if it can be enforced. If you are illegally entering this country, you are a criminal and should be deported immediately. I'm not saying you should be thrown in prison as a felon, as some more hard line people are - but there must be consequences. To deny this is to deny Mexicans a fair shake.

Follow me if you can - by not acting when someone breaks the law, we are encouraging the kind of corruption that is common place in their country. We must lead by example, and with tough love in our hearts. We do no one a favor by looking the other way when an illegal alien steals jobs from a legal Mexican resident. We are hurting both parties in the long run, especially the men and women who have jumped through countless hoops to play by the rules.

There are no easy answers now that George W and co. have opened the floodgates. With over 11 million illegals here today, deporting them may be impossible for lack of political will or simple logistics. But we must take steps and secure our borders to prevent further abuses of the law and of human beings.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Kong is King

With raising a child there isn't a lot of free time to spare, so when Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong appeared in theaters last year, I helplessly watched from my busy life as it came and went from the big screen. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite set of movies since the original Star Wars trilogy (movies that are pretty much directly responsible for my career as a camera operator and editor) so I surprised even myself that I didn't rush off to see the new Kong on opening day. A busy life will do that to a person, and you realize that you've actually become (gasp!) an adult with the corresponding responsibilities.

Well I finally saw the flick last night at home and I must say I enjoyed it thoroughly. My favorite kinds of movies are ones that take me someplace else, and while I always want as much realism as possible in the story telling, nothing thrills me more than escaping from the banal evils of the real world. Movies like "Boys Don't Cry" or "Shindler's List" may be great films, but they are so depressing as to be disqualified as entertainment. Watching a poor young girl getting raped and murdered is not my idea of an enjoyable evening, nor is a painstakingly detailed account of the 20th centuries worst crime of humanity. Important films yes, enjoyable movies no.

King Kong is everything that serious films are not, yet I couldn't help but be awed by Jackson's vision. From a stunning opening montage of depression era New York City (mind bogglingly detail rich and heavily researched) to an incredible journey into the heart of darkness - Kong never falters or missteps in telling a classic tale with reimagined vigor and stunning special effects.

Critics universally raved, the nerds and the public were less forgiving, citing a three hour running time and subplots that didn't pay off. I thought the various smaller stories actually worked quite well, though they didn't dovetail neatly or spectacularly, there was a lot of subtext that I think the fanboys missed. Three hour running time? Didn't bother me in the least, because everything I was seeing was interesting and moved the story along. In fact, once the action kicked in I was shocked at how quickly the remaining two hours blew by.

The geeks also bitched about uneven special effects. As I get older this becomes an increasingly lesser concern of mine, any major studio can pull off great optics and CG work these days - the tricky part is a gripping story and characters that work. But judged merely by it's FX work, I'd have to say Kong was pretty incredible and groundbreaking in almost all it attempted. There was a ton, repeat a ton, of green-screen work which normally takes me right out of a film - but here, as with Lord of the Rings, it was so well done and seamlessly integrated with practical sets and actors, that I hardly noticed. When I did notice, I was amazed at how good it looked.

It may be because I didn't see it on the big screen, but all the problems I heard about in the Brontosaurus chase were not readily apparent to my eye, save for a handful of brief shots - the close ups of our heroes running between the Bronto legs. But these shots were so quick, and the editing seamless that I never got taken out of the moment - the chase was a thrilling ride from start to long middle to end. It was over the top in a good way.

Over the top really says it all. Like the carnival rides we enjoyed as kids, this movie was bigger and louder and longer and better in the most positive sense. The creepy crawly bugs were unrelenting, my wife groaned repeatedly "Oh come on!" as the scene got more and more extreme. This fanboy was in geek heaven.

But the key to this film was the wordless dialogue between Naomi Watts, our heroine, and the entirely computer generated Kong. I never thought I would be moved by a computer generated character until I saw gollum in Lord of the Rings. I never thought I would cry over a computer generated character until I saw King Kong. What the filmmakers have done is nothing short of true movie making magic. They have succeeded in getting the audience emotionally involved with an object that only exists in pixels of light; a perfectly crafted and rendered 25 foot gorilla that strikes exactly the right balance between pure animalistic terror and gut wrenching sadness.

From enormous, and extended fight sequences of dinosaurs and Kong to the heart wrenching finale atop the empire state building - Peter Jackson's King Kong is a magnum opus of both excess and beauty. It is extreme and extremely touching. For the modern film goer and genre enthusiast, it is the best recent example of a movie that simply cannot be missed. I can't wait to watch it again!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ah Vegas...

Though the number of smokers has dropped precipitously over even the last five years, the casinos of Vegas still burn my lungs and stink up my clothes in rapid fashion.

It was a fun two days and one night with my buddy and me, and we prowled the strip like two tigers on the hunt...er, okay, like two overweight thirty five year old geeks chilling and taking in the scene. It was a trip.

There is lots more construction, big surprise, but the town is still garish and now turning away from the Disney-fication it underwent less than a decade ago. All the major hotels on the strip now have burlesque shows again, and there is no shortage of female body parts prominently displayed on billboards, taxis and bus stops everywhere. As a heterosexual male who is also a human being I guess I shouldn't complain, but it all seemed forced and blatant to the point where I was wondering if Vegas had some serious issues.

On a more practical note, the casinos took $150 of my money, $120 of which went to the poker table and the rest to machines. I haven't played at a card table in over five years, and I must say, that even though I ended up in the negative, I had a blast playing. Most of the people were greener than I, especially in the $60 tournament I entered, and it was quite fun to win pots from them. Everybody also was really friendly and chatty, a different experience from my previous card club forays. Back then everyone was dead serious and concentrating on the cards, this time there was so much fresh and enthusiastic blood it was just a joy to be there.

Poker has truly exploded in Vegas. Every major strip hotel we walked through had new or expanded poker rooms, and multiple tournaments every day of the no limit hold-em variety. We got the biggest kick out of watching a few hands at a no-limit Omaha table in the Wynn casino. We saw a $9000 pot go down, holy crap! I was hoping to win a couple hundred, and these guys were messing around with the cost of my baby girls child care for a year! What a place.