Puttin’ the Money on the Screen

First, if it seems like it’s been forever since I last wrote–well, not exactly, but it’s been a few weeks.  Reason being . . . it just has.  Like having a shy character who is shy because they are shy, I haven’t done anything of late because I haven’t.

That said, roll on.

I don’t know why this is pissing me off today.  Maybe because the political season has begun and Teh Crazy has begun full-blown.  Maybe because I’d love to whack me some Conservatives who think playing whore to their moneyed pimps is a great way to live.  Maybe it’s because I’ve finally become completely, utterly, and totally sick and tired of hearing about how “Liberal Hollywood” is corrupting “family values” and the end result of this is that Little Timmy is gonna fall in love with Little Johnny’s butthole and Pretty Penny is gonna have 20 abortions by 19 men and a transsexual when they all grow up if they keep watching TV or going to the movies.

Lets back up on that last shit for a moment.  Liberal Hollywood?  Why is that?  Is it because some actors go out and protest the construction of nuclear plants, or spend a few hours picking lettuce with migrant workers, or get behind their favorite social program for the poor?  Or, worst of all, they are . . . wait, here it comes . . . gay?  Is that really what “Liberal Hollywood” is about?

Let me burst your bubble here: Liberal Hollywood is about a liberal as Barry Goldwater–though I think I hear a Teabagger out there yelling, “He was!”.  Liberal Hollywood has two faces: the actors who are in the public eye and whom need something to get behind (not all, mind you, but more than a few), and the producers and a very few marque directors who are really running the whole damn thing behind the scenes.  And it’s this last group of people who are only concerned with one thing: making money by putting your ass in a seat.

And if it means spending a bazillion dollars on a movie, consider it done.  For example–

You may be unaware of this, but there’s a Transformers movie about to take over theaters for the 4th of July weekend.  Now, I understand there are a huge number of people out there who love these flicks despite them consisting of bad or non-existent acting, racist caricatures that almost make Jar Jar Binks look noble (almost, I said), more shit blown up than you could ever hope to see in one lifetime, and Megan Fox’s ass (said ass now replaced by a that of a lingerie model ’cause–why not?), but who am I to say they can’t blow their $10+ (based on what they charge where I live) on mindless bullshit?

I mean, I like shit explodin’ as much as the next person, though I don’t enjoy it as much these days mostly because the mindless crap between the ‘plody shit drives me crazy.  But there is one thing that really drives me nuts about the Transformer movies, and that’s the one thing that most people never think about:

The budget.

Making movies are a very expensive endeavor these days.  Dropping $150 million isn’t out of the question, and if a studio spends “only” $60-$70 million on a production, they’re in danger of having said flick labeled an “independent production”.  Most of that money goes into “production values”, also known as Special Effects, also sometimes known as the shit blowing up on the screen, and for the most part you do see the money.

So how much did Liberal Hollywood spend so Transformers fans could get their kicks?  Well, that’s pretty easy to figure out, because in the days of the Internets you can look this up.

The first movie had a budget of $150 million, which again seems about average for a SFX-heavy movie these days.  The second movie had a budget of $300 million, which is now moving into rarefied air, because only a few movies have approached Titanic-level spending.  But seeing how much money the second movie rolled up, it was justified–at least by the studios.

And the budget for the third movie?  Well, now, you may as well ask, “What’s the operating budget for Area 51?” cause the answer is very elusive indeed.  There is no “official” listing for the budget just yet, and the best I could find was an unconfirmed report that the budget hit $400 million and was “still going north”, meaning the final tally is probably very close to the magical $500 million mark.

Liberal Hollywood–which, remember, is all about making sure our kids turn into gay atheists who love Muslims–likely spent a half a billion dollars on a movie about toys made in the 1980’s beating the shit out of each other.  Oh, and destroying Chicago, but, hey: it’s either toy robots or giant grasshoppers, take your pick.

And when you add in to this mix the first two movies, you realize that these crazy liberals have spent a billion dollars on three movies.  Think about that: a billion dollars.  Your school system can’t get $150,000 for new computer labs, but banks lined up to fork over cash so robot trucks can be kickin’ ass while low-ballin’.

Hollywood is about as liberal as Wall Street.  It’s all about domestic and international gross.  It’s all about how to go about maximizing products and spinin’ the toys–I’m sorry, the “collectibles market”.

In the end, it’s all about the green.

I can think of a lot of ways to spend a billion dollars, an none of them involve CGIing a couple of robotic Stepin’ Fetchits.  But then, I understood Inception ($160 million to make) and had no problem following it, so what do I know?

All Hail the Birthday Girl

Today is my daughter’s birthday, and it is also her last day of school for the 6th Grade.  In a way it’s a very big day for her.  She has entered the last of her twener years–and is looking ahead to her first teen year–and she will be leaving the self-contained coocon that is the 6th Grade, because in her middle school they try to keep the 6th Graders separated from the 7th and 8th Graders to allow them the time to adjust to a much different world.

All this year she’s been a member of the 6th Grade Honors program, which means throughout much of the year she’s been doing math and science at a 7th Grade level.  Not that she’s slacked off on the other classes: she’s had 6 classes every one of her 4 grading periods, and throughout the entire year she has scored A’s in all classes–the only exception being one B in a literature class during the second grading period.

Not too shabby.  Particularly when you consider she did all this while, at various times during the year, as a member of the School’s Spell Bowl, a cello player in the 6th Grade Orchestra, a sprinter in Girl’s Track, and taking taekwondo twice a week and reaching her last belt before moving on to 1st degree black belt.

And all of this is happening at a time when Indiana, like maybe states run by crazy scumbags–I’m sorry, I mean, GOP governors and legislators, are pissing and moaning about how the public school system is broken and is should be replaced with something better–like charter school that are run like businesses and have about as much accountability.

It is no secret that my daughter has an advantage a lot of other students don’t: she’s a member of a special program that sort of sets her apart from others.  But don’t imagine for a moment that she’s going into classes with only a hand full of other students.  I’ve met her teachers and see her classes.  The class load is no different than others, and her teachers aren’t super geniuses who have found a magical way to open up her head and pour in all sorts of magical learning.

And, yes, I have helped monitor her progress.  I have checked her progress online and saw when she was starting to falter and gave her encouragement to help her alone–and, yes, I even bribed her a little with the promise of payment in return for improving her grades.

(And before you get your knickers in a bind, here’s the payment: books.  Whenever she brought her grades up or managed to keep them at the same level, we would head off to the local Barns & Nobles and she would buy her choice of books.  And that was picked because she loves to read.  So there.)

She worked very hard to get to where she’s at this year, and even though there was some involvement on our behalf, really, it’s all on her.

She is a product of the public school system, and I’m proud of them both.

And though it might sound like the school system where I live just rocks to hell and gone, it has problems.  One of the biggest issue here is the age of the schools.  For example: my daughter’s grade school is one of the oldest in our town.  It was original build in the early fifties, and was expanded in the late 1970’s.  It’s class load is actually higher than then average for other elementary schools in the stat.  And it’s very ill-suited for the 21st Century, with tightly packed heavy brick and steel walls making it difficult to wire the building for full wireless use.

School infrastructures fail students.  A lot of the schools where I live were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Even the high school, which was built huge to accommodation a growing population, is over 30 years old and starting to show the strain of aging facilities and a large student population.

And yet, going back to my daughter’s elementary school . . . that one is not only considered one of the best in the state, but one of the best in the country.  That probably pisses the hell out of those people in Indiana who probably think the 300 students packed in there should be forced into a non-public environment where they can get a real education.  Sure.  Because we know everything run like a business is an Epic Win every time!

Another thing our system does is keep parents engaged.  We hear from the schools all the time, whether it be through news letters or automated phone messages, the various after school meetings and functions, or thought the various online sites, one which allows parents to monitor their child’s progress online.  Now, I am not a helicopter parent who hovers around making sure my daughter does everything the right way, but I did keep up on her progress, and when I saw she was having issues I helped where needed.  I didn’t do it for her, because by only helping she still learns.

And that’s another important lesson; your kid has to learn on their own.  They have to be shown how to take in the information they are taught and apply it to their work.  ‘Cause if all your kid is going to do is sit around and scratch ass all day and not give a shit, it doesn’t matter if the instructor is Albert Einstein–Little Johnny ain’t gonna lean a damn thing.  And in order for Little Johnny (or Jenny, I’m all for equal opportunity) to figure out how to do this, they need help from the parental units.

But if said parental units are unable to give a shit; unable to get up off their own asses to help where needed; unable to give encouragement where necessary; unable to do anything but piss and moan about how the “teachers ain’t learnin’ Johnny anything!” and how we needs to simple shitcan the public school system and replace it . . . well, folks, to put it bluntly–Little Johnny/Jenny is fucked.

Any time you want to cut funding for school programs that might enlighten your child and stimulate their imagination, you have fucked them.  Any time you take the disingenuous position of the schools have totally failed because your kids spends all their time watching TV and playing video games and you can’t understand why, you have fucked them.  And–a personal peeve of mine–any time you, as a parent, think the most important thing your local school can have is a brand new $30-40 million dollar football stadium–because you view football as a “religion” and see it as the only ticket out of your town–then you have no only fucked Little Johnny/Jenny, you have fucked every kid in your local school system.

You want your kids to find a way out of you town.  Then take that football money and spend it on science and math and literature classes, ’cause your kid has a hell of a lot better shot of getting out of Podunk Shithole, TX, by being a researcher or an engineer or, hell, even as a teacher, than they do as a future quarterback for an NFL team.  (And notice: where football is seen as a way up and out, it’s only for the boys–’cause we all know girls don’t need to be lifted up and out, yeah?)

Like everything else, you only get out of something what you put into the effort.  My daughter has gotten a lot of her school, and she’s told me that next year she wants to forgo Spell Bowl and Track because she wants to concentrate on her school’s Science Olympia program.  As she told me, “Yeah, I’ll have to study for it every day (after school), but on Saturday they let us come in play!”

Sure, they work all week and the school lets them cut loose on the weekend.  Sounds like fun.

And it will be.

What Do You Mean You Haven’t Fixed Our Mess Yet?

Yeah, you gotta hand it to the GOP; they are very skilled at taking bullshit and spinning it into something that approximates gold.  I mean, look back through about 60 years of politics and there they are, talking how the U.S. is gonna become a socialist hellhole if we allow Medicare to continue (something Ronnie Raygun was whoring for Operation Coffee Cup back in 1961) or if we don’t cut taxes for corporations we’ll become a third world country, or how you can just wear a shit-load of sunscreen if the ozone layer is destroyed and all will be cool . . . you get the point: they create such an event horizon of hyperbole that only their crap is able to escape its gravitational effects.

It’s been at its worse for the last 10 years, what with the GOP having been taken over by an unimaginable lineup of bullshit artists who so seem incapable of telling the truth that if they did, they’d need to lie about that fact to anyone they met.  Cut taxes to get more money to the people not making it; getting rid of regulation will turn the country into a fantastic world of free money for all; once you get rid of government you’ll be a totally free man.  It’s all there, man, the whole manifesto.  And the one I’m hearing more these days: Mr. President, you’ve had your chance to fix thing, and you’ve fail.  Now it’s our turn.

Now, hold on there, Hoss, and lets look at this last one–and lets look at it in a way that make more sense from a personal situation.  Lets say you’re in a relationship, and in that relationship your significantly other is sort of–well, when it comes to handling the group finances, they tend not to pay much attention to something known as cash flow.  They tend to take in $1 and spend $10, and sometimes they say, fuck it, whip out the credit card and rack up about $100 in charges for something they really, really need, and when the bill shows up the following month they only pause what they’re doing so they can piss on it before tossing it in the trash.

And this isn’t something they do one month, or two, or six.  Naw.  They keep at it for years, baby.  They live for the idea of “There’s no success like excess”, but they aren’t successful, they’re a fuckin’ looser mess, and they have been since Day One.  But when you try to bring this up, they not only get pissy, but all their friends jump in and call asshole on you for even trying to question your SO’s money management style.  So you let it continue, because if you say a single word, you’re labeled as 20 different kinds of ridiculous, callous bastard who needs to shut up and let your SO do their wonderful thing.

Finally, you get to where you just can’t take it anymore, and you take the debit and credit cards away, you move what little money you have left into another account, you kick your SO’s lying ass from you house–oh, and let there be no doubt, the only way they’ve been able to get as far as they have has been on pure bullshit, enabled 1000% by their friends–gather up all the outstanding bills, and start the slow, painful process of getting your financial house back in order.

If you’ve ever been sunk into a financial hole, you have a pretty good idea how hard it is to get out and back on your feet.  Now, imagine instead of your SO having drained the bank account and running up about 40k on your credit cards, they put your ass about a trillion or two in debt, ran up another $400 billion or so on the cards, cleaned out the bank account and took the silver on their fist-pumping way out the door . . . do you really think you’re gonna fix that shit in a couple of years?

Yeah, you had your chance to fix things, Mr. President.  Now the bullshitters who put us in the goddamn hole want another chance at “fixing things”.  Right.  That’s sort of like Jeffrey Dahmer as your handyman, who a few years back came over to put up some cabinets and, in the process of putting them up rapes, murders and eats your Significant Other–and he’s now knocking on your door saying, “You know, I can clean out your gutters and mow your lawn, and I know we had some unpleasantness in the past, but I assure you, this time around I’ll do the job and totally not knock up your daughter and eat your son”.

And, some idiots will nod and go, “Hey, no problem, Jeff.  Come on it–“.

One doesn’t even need to smell the bullshit swirling around the upcoming cock fight–I mean, presidential election, to know the GOP is so full of shit everyone’s got brown hair . . . go back to the start of our current congress and the GOP House.  Hey, they were going to get jobs going full time, man!  You know it, ’cause if there is anything the GOP is about, it’s jobs–

Only it wasn’t.  Since the first of this screwed up year 2011, they are only about three things:  cuttin’ taxes for their friends–of which you and I aren’t–getting rid of programs they don’t like, and, oh, yeah–making certain that section of the population that’s sportin’ a uterus knows their place, yo.

And what about jobs?  Jobs?  You wanna job?  Fuck you.  We got Chinese to make Nike shoes, so what we need you for?

I know people tend to have such a short attention span that they can’t remember important things like who just won American Idol last week, but, jeez, people–you got bullshitted into economic hell.  Are you really that willing to get bullshitted into believing that the very people who screwed things up in the first place are really gonna fix things?

It really is a good thing I don’t drink early . . . but I might start.