Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-The Hit List (2011)

Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as the Hit man who comes in contact with a disgruntled man (played by Cole Hauser) in a bar who while drunk creates a list of people he wanted whacked and Cuba starts to follow it through with deadly results for Hauser. Good Movie marred by excessive violence against the Law enforcement personnel which is deeply disturbing to watch. Recommended with reservations.

On the lighter side-Movies-Martyrs (French)

Weird, Weird Movie and very violent and extremely bloody and brutal just to name a few regarding two childhood abused friends out of one who escapes from a human experiment and is traumatized enough to kill a seemingly nice French family when her friend finds out about the torture chamber beneath the house, she gets imprisoned and subject to unspeakable torture at the hands of a cult who seeks to know what is beyond death. Too brutal for some but definitely Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Vampires suck

If you have seen the hugely popular Twilight saga series and you are familiar with the story line of all the movies released you would not have much to know about what the storyline will be in this spoof of that movie. This is one movie taking all the essential items of the original series and give us a movie that is like the same in the tradition of other spoofs made over the years (like Airplane, Not another scary movie etc). Essentially the same girl falls in love with a vampire, a werewolf falls in love with the girl and both defend her against her enemies. Not Recommended.

On the lighter side-Movies-Priest (2011)

Paul Bettany stars as the title of the movie who has retired after the church declares victory over the war with vampires in a post apocalyptic earth (don’t ask we have see this one scenario before ) who defies church and goes after the vampires who is holding his daughter hostage. A fantastically action movie with obvious scenes of martial arts and 3D mayhem. A good action movie and definitely highly recommended although a little dark for some tastes.

On the lighter side-Movies-Detective K: Secret of Virtuous widow (South Korean)

A South Korean action/comedy movie regarding a bumbling detective who is assigned to find the cause of the corruption that is causing billions to the treasury of the country. A good blend of action and comedy but you has to keep track of all the subtitles in order to understand what is going on. Recommended but for the fans of foreign films

On the lighter side-Movies-Hobo with a shotgun

Rutger Hauer stars as the homeless guy who becomes fedup with the lawlessness in this city and decides to take up a shotgun and clean the mess himself. A retro movie with plenty of bloody mess action but not a great one to enjoy your afternoon or get your pulse running. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Red Riding Hood (2011)

Amanda SeyFried stars as the title girl in a far fling area of some European country where she encounters werewolf who has been terrorizing a small village. Atmospheric and sometimes horror movie is not that great to begin with no noticeable special effects to back it up. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies- Drive Angry

Nicholas cage stars as the driver from Hell (literally) who comes back from Hell to track down and rescue his granddaughter from the clutches of a Devil Worshipping clan in this Action/ Horror Movie. Plenty of action and cool sequences with Amber heard as his reluctant partner who agrees to help him get his granddaughter back. If you like action and Nicholas cage, it is a movie to watch. Recommended

The Slowly crumbling social welfare state

As the events in Europe continues to unfold and here in the United States, the public and the politicians become infatuated with debt reduction, the biggest casualty will be the social welfare state on which European and American economies take so much pride in will take a severe hit. It is already happening in Britain and the worse hit Greece but also other countries like Spain, Portugal, Ireland and even rich nations like the French, the Germans and the Americans have been forced to think of curtailing this lavish system of benefits which was going to get unfolded sooner or later. Besides competing with the likes of the lower labor rate countries of India and China, the social welfare rich states are also battling huge debts and shrinking populations to feed the longer living citizens in their countries.

I really could not understand how long were they (meaning these states) were thinking before they put at huge axe to their welfare payments. Right now these states are essentially borrowing money not only from future generations but also surplus funds from investors and other rich countries that are happy to get a hold on their debt. It is like piling more debt over already insurmountable debt which is not going to be paid anyway. I guess either there is going to be drastic cuts or complete elimination of all welfare benefits or they will declare bankruptcy and then there will be turmoil in the markets and in their respective countries. I believe that this social welfare is not sustainable anymore and it should either be curtailed or be paid fully with present money or even drastically reduced to make them viable and developed states again.

It does certainly pays to shop around

Sometimes you have to spend a lot of time to save money. When the amount is small you have to figure out if it is worth the effort or the time to get less a dollar of discount or even five dollars if you have to search far. But if the savings is substantial then it pays to shop around. For example if you are car is in a accident or have been hit without your knowledge and you have to fix it, you can save substantial amount of money by getting two or three quotes or even go outside your city or even county if you can save thousands. Same thing happens with fixing repairs in your house like carpentry or plumbing. Major renovations needs to be carefully checked out for price and quality and not only license.

People have become price conscious and savvy enough on the internet to compare pricing and then buy goods. Even the lure of free shipping can change a person's mind to gyrate towards a particular website. As long as you have the time and you can do a thorough cost-expense analysis of products, it really pays to shop around and save substantial amount of savings on things you would have bought anyway from well-known

Another war brewing in the Middle East?

Since Iran continues to build upon its intended nuclear capability, its tension with the West and the U.S. has risen considerably. And with that the sanctions are being tightened further with U.S. sanctions and now the threat of European Union sanctions on its oil exports. In response, Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which one sixth or on fifth of the oil exports flow to the rest of the world. And since this is an election year in the U.S. most of the Republican candidates for the U.S. Presidency are going one up on each other threatening Iran with war consequences. Even the current administration has said that nothing is off the table including air strikes and war in order for Iran to stop its nuclear program.

But are we now rushing into war when we have done with one war in Iraq but are still in Afghanistan, Can we still afford to wage another war when we don’t have the money really. And we are still reeling from the effects of recession and now we want to send our men and women back to a war that will only likely delay the inevitableness of Iran acquiring Nuclear weapons. Can somebody read history of Iran and the geography to see that it will take a full blown invasion (and even at that) we won't be completely able to stop it from acquiring weapons. Nobody is saying that we should not make an effort but to start another war in a Muslim country can only reaffirm the Muslim fundamentals argument that the U.S. and the West is waging war just get their hands on the Oil deposits of the Middle East and it is another kind of the so called " Crusade" to destroy the Muslim economic infrastructure. We should give diplomacy a chance and avoid a war.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The World beyond the United States

Since I live in the United States it is natural that I blog about what is happening in this country, but it does not make me oblivious to the major world events which affect us since now we live in a small world and anything that affects one part of the world can have repercussion all over the world. Although the impact may be felt in slightly different degrees but it does have an impact. Right now the European crisis is engulfing not only the European Union but its affect are being felt worldwide because it is the single richest consumer market and its problem have impact on Asia, Africa, America, South America and Australia. Similarly any blow up in the tensions in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the United States can have the potential of disrupting the lives of major nations since one fifth or one sixth (depending upon which statistics you believe) passes through that region.

Another area of concern is the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where the Taliban insurgents are battling the NATO and U.S. forces and also the Civilian government is clashing with the Powerful military to gain control over the fate of that country. North Korea is another unpredictable area where we have to keep an eye on since it is also the most destabilizing nation which keeps on edge South Korea, Japan and somewhat China. So despite the U.S. being far away from these hot spots anything that happens there can have an economic as well as a security impact on us.

The Recycling Industry of Hollywood

Really here I am talking about the why we keep on seeing sequels, prequels, threequels and more and remakes and updates on technology on old and not so old movies. Just when I thought I have seen a movie and am done with, there comes a sequel or a prequel or a remake and then by nature of my habit have to watch it and generally it is either a rehash of the old movie or they make it in 3D or just give it a bigger budget to make people come to the theater. But really is Hollywood running out of ideas that they have to do this. Another scary trend is of breaking up the movies into two to make twice the money with the same concept.

Although I can understand that maybe the book on which the movie is based on is too long for a single movie but you can do that with any script and expand it to make it into two parts. For example in a horror movie, even if the evil is dead it just keeps on resurrecting in sequel after sequel and when you think that it is the last one, yet another pops up after a couple of years. It is a lucrative business that people want to be scared but come on you can scare them with different plots and stories instead of the same old story changed with minor details and updated technology. I wish there are new writers or at least new risk takers and the Hollywood people go outside their usual sources and tried formula movies to explore something different and new.

Happy and Prosperous New Year

All New Years starts with congratulatory good wishes for the New Year and wishing that the coming year will bring them more joy than they had in the last year but since nobody knows about the future, it all ends with wishes like good riddance or it was a tough year. But we as a human being have the tendency to keep our hopes alive and see things in the future as better than what we went through. Since the future is unknown it is kind of a nice feeling to think that we will have a jolly good time. But as the years progressive we come to realize that our past is/was much better than the present and maybe sometimes future too.

What I am blabbering about here is the fact that we should enjoy the New Year with good wishes and try to strive to make our lives much than what we had last year due to whatever reason. And for that we should all have a Happy and Prosperous (hopefully) New Year with plenty of jobs, no new wars, may the best person win the election and continued tax cuts and extension.

Happy and Prosperous New Year

All New Years starts with congratulatory good wishes for the New Year and wishing that the coming year will bring them more joy than they had in the last year but since nobody knows about the future, it all ends with wishes like good riddance or it was a tough year. But we as a human being have the tendency to keep our hopes alive and see things in the future as better than what we went through. Since the future is unknown it is kind of a nice feeling to think that we will have a jolly good time. But as the years progressive we come to realize that our past is/was much better than the present and maybe sometimes future too.

What I am blabbering about here is the fact that we should enjoy the New Year with good wishes and try to strive to make our lives much than what we had last year due to whatever reason. And for that we should all have a Happy and Prosperous (hopefully) New Year with plenty of jobs, no new wars, may the best person win the election and continued tax cuts and extension.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Year 2011 in review-2

And there was the Iranian nuclear crisis, which keeps on lingering and swinging back and forth. The Iraq war finally ended and U.S. troops left that country on its own mercy and struggle. Afghanistan war is seeing no end in sight, although the troops are suppose to start coming back by Year 2014 (we do hope so). Economy got a little better but still far from the pre-recession levels. Then there was the famous Occupy Wall Street Protests, which started as a form of protest against Wall Street greed and quickly spread to different cities of the United States and the world (and still going on somewhere).

Other news maybe of minor consequences but they still impacted our lives one way or the other. We sincerely hope that the New Year brings much needed jobs and other joys to people's lives and fewer wars. But now this is election year and by the looks of the candidates (I will put another post for that), it is going to be another four years for the Democrats in the white house (unless the economy goes south or even in that case, we don’t have credible alternative).

The Year 2011 in review

The biggest news of the last year was the Killing of Osama Bin Laden, although people were happy generally on over the world, especially in the U.S., Pakistan was furious that the U.S. infiltrated their country and killed him without any knowledge in advance to that country's armed forces. Although the details are still emerging, but I still can't believe that the Pakis did not know that OBL is living only a mile or so from their premier military academy and in a town which is swarming with soldiers. Anyway another story which continues to linger is the European Debt crisis which has no sight to get resolved as the Europeans refuse to act like Europeans and more like individual states.

The other thing is that European are still trying to live in the past where they were the only player in town, now we have fast growing China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and other developing countries fast approaching the living standards of the Europeans without the additional burden of low birth rate and welfare payments. And then it was the U.S. where the unemployment rate keeps on plummeting as the election approaches this year. The U.S. is also grappling with the debt situation but at least we have our currency to manipulate if we can unlike the Euro. Then the biggest news to impact the world was the Arab Spring where long ruling rulers of the Arab nations fell down and Libyan war ended in the killing of that country's ruler.

The unexciting lineup of presidential candidates

Election season has started and the usual suspects of the Republican candidates are trying to outdo each other with threats, promises and going overboard in their extremist’s ideology just so that they can get nominated. It is just plain disgusting to know that they want to send back troops to Iraq (like it is a U.S. states) threaten war with Iran (like it is a small U.S. town), exclude or label some minority group as not being American enough and going all the way to reverse many policies of the current President. Are the Republican Candidates sleeps walking through this situation where the country is literary out of money and heavily in debt and they still want to keep the defense budget sky high but slash every other social welfare program in sight?

To be fair, I am not a Republican or a Democrat or an independent but promising things when you don’t know what is going on in the world is the worst thing to do to your candidacy. And it is not only the candidates but the people who are desperately trying to believe that everything will be fine and we will be utopia land one of these candidates gets elected. There is Congress to be contend with and frankly speaking the world has changed since dramatically with the last two decades and it won't be the same flush welfare checks and programs and huge defense budgets that we have become accustomed too. The lineup right now of the Republican candidates is just that a line and even if I was Republican, I would be very unexcited about it and sit out this election as none aspires me or excites me about their same old programs and policies.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are people really stressed out by their finances?

This is one of the most fundamental questions that perplex me whenever I go out for shopping (which I rarely do) but this Christmas I had the chance to go out to buy some stuff for some friends and the line on the checkout counters and rush in the shopping malls really surprised me. Although I know that the economy is on the mend but the way the people flocked during this Christmas and so much rush that you have to really stand in line to pay your stuff is really confusing. On the one hand, people and economists are saying that people don’t have the money and they are mired in debt and houses are underwater (meaning they owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth) and jobs are scarce and on the other hand I see long lines of people buying stuff which really makes me feel like if we are really financially stressed out or is it that the news makes it seem like so.

I mean when you go to the mall, they are full with people who apparently have enough money to indulge in shopping or eating outside and they don’t seem from any sign that they are financially stressed out about their finances. This mystery has not been addressed that if there is really a disconnect with what the economists see and what the actual person is doing financially. I have seen sports stadium and the prices of the seats are not cheap either and you see them full with sports fans. How are they getting money to pay for this luxury and are they really going into debt or just had some stash of cash in their house to spend when they felt the time is right to spend. Anyway I am really scratching my head on this one subject.

In debt we live

No matter what you say we are all living in debt. Be it individuals, corporations, states or nations, everybody is embroiled in debt and I guess this system would remain in place forever. It has been here forever and it seems like it will remain here forever too. I mean look at the micro or individual level, the overwhelming majority of people buy houses with mortgages ( a kind of debt) even celebrities use only a percentage of money and get a mortgage for the rest in order to buy a house. Same goes with the cars, I become envious of people driving latest model and luxury car for a moment and then realize that maybe the cars are owned not by them but the finance companies and banks.

Corporations and states issue bonds and stocks to finance the expansion and acquisitions and also to fund their ongoing projects in order for their citizens to live a decent life. The same goes for the countries who have to finance the budgets when the revenues generated internally falls short of the expenses that they incur ongoing basis. Rich countries can issue bonds and bills to finance their budget deficits but for the poor or not so poor countries they turn to international financial institutions to get loans from them. Even on a small basis you sometimes finance your purchases through your credit card and pay it later when the statement comes. So anyway you cut the cloth, you are living a life of debt, it may be good for some, bad for some but we are all indebted till we die in some form or the other.

Selling weapons in destabilizing area

I don’t really get this recently the U.S. concluded two arms deals worth USD 30 Billion with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in an area described as the most dangerous conflict zone in the world. What was the administration thinking in this deal? The plausible causes that have been mentioned are that it will create/maintain many thousands of jobs at a time of high unemployment and election year politics and the next one is to protect them against the weapons of Iran. First I can understand it although it can hardly be an excuse but it maybe since the U.S. defense budget is shrinking thus threatening thousands of jobs a good big defense deal with countries that have the means to pay it makes sense. But the next one does not make much sense, by bolstering the so called defenses of its allies; the U.S. will force Iran to do the same by hook or by crook.

And I don’t remember the last time; these two countries have a full blown war with anybody else. The most they did was to fight Iraq in the first Gulf war along with mostly western troops and Saudi Arabia did fight Yemen a while ago which lasted not even a few days ago. It is just that they have money to blow and wanted to oblige the U.S. and the U.S. in turn wanted to show Iran that you will have to fight its allies pitting the poor Muslims against poor Muslims. These weapons would be of no use if their own population would rise against them and then it will either be used against the same regime buying them right now or against Israel. Either way it is a bad deal even if it involves thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On the lighter side-Movies-I am Number Four

A teen super hero movie regarding a teen who is Number four on the list of the victims of an intergalactic alien race which has decimated his race and are trying to kill the rest of the nine people on earth. The problem is that they have to kill in sequential numbers and they have already killed three and this story is about the fourth one. Not that great of a movie, although the action starts at the end and finishes too soon. Only recommended for teens, all others stay away.

On the lighter side-Movies-I spit on your grave (2010)

This is a remake of the same name movie made in the late 70s and less brutal than the first one but still pretty gruesome. A writer rents an isolated cabin in the woods only to be stalked by deranged town folks and the sheriffs’ and gets raped repeatedly. With her going insane, she hashes up elaborate scheme to get even and she does that in delight ways where you do root for the victim and are happy for the criminals. I liked the first one and this one was pretty up there for my likeness. I would recommend it but be forewarned not for the squeamish and not for all tastes and also sometimes unwatchable for the brutality.

On the lighter side-Movies-Wu Xia (AKA Dragon) - (2011)

Good Martial Arts movie with Donnie Yen as the reformed killer settled in a peaceful town who becomes suspect in the death of two ruthless killers and tries to evade his past by severing ties to a criminal gang run by his father (played by a heavy Jimmy Wang Yu of One Armed Boxer Fame). Good Martial Arts sequences (directed by Donnie Yen). Recommended (In Chinese with English Subtitles)

On the lighter side-Movies-Skyline (2010)

Good movie and good special effects about a group of people trapped in a high rise Los Angeles apartment trying to escape the invasion of alien forces whose lights pull the people up to their space ships. It was made for a half of a million dollars and made tons of money. It seems like there is going to be sequel (which I hate) since all these Science fiction and horror movies have to have to story continued (and make money in the process). Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Hard Ride to Hell (2010)

Ah these horror movies, another one in the long line of Devil Worshipping Motor Cyclists (why?) and nudity included in human sacrifice mumbo jumbo and the essential dumb teens (or in this case adults) in this movie, not that great to pass your time and not that much horror to boot. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Shaolin (2011)

Superior Martial Arts movie starring Andy Lau as an arrogant general who gets humbled when he is betrayed by this assistant and ends up at the Shaolin Temple and transforms his life when his daughter is killed. Along with a reluctant Shaolin Martial arts cooks Jackie Chan, this is a delight of a movie to watch with beautiful photography and human drama. Recommended In Chinese with English Subtitles

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Third Death Anniversary of My Father’s Death

Today is the third year when my father departed for the hereafter. It is really hard to imagine that I am without a father for the last three years. I loved him dearly and he loved me dearly too. We were not the best of buddies but it was more like a father and son relationship and I was extremely close to him. I miss his laugh and his talk and his anger and just his presence used to make me forget things and make me feel comfortable. Now I have been without his comfort and his advice and his wisdom for the last three years and I still can't imagine that he is gone. I am also a father now but I still miss my father a lot too and still refuse to believe that he is gone and always talk about him in the present tense.

I try to do as much as possible to keep his memory alive and think about him every day. I am sure my sister misses him too but the effect that it had for me I don’t know if it has the same effect on them. Well everybody grieves in their own way and I have my own way to grieve. May he rest in peace and may his presence keeps on influencing me and may his memory be kept alive for ever. I love you dad.