September 22, 2014

The X Files and Critical Thinking

I am slowly and nitpickingly making my way through The X Files, which is on Netflix right now.  (I don't watch every episode; my favorites are the ones with monsters in them.  I'm a sucker for a good Loch Ness creature or Sasquatch.  ::grin::  I know, I'm hopeless.)

Can you believe that I never watched them when they were "in season"?  I saw a bit of one once when I was younger, and the antagonists of the episode scared me so much that I never wanted to see more.  It's very funny to watch them now, because they are so excessively campy and dramatic. 

Sometimes it makes me think though.  I have a tendency to extrapolate and overthink things, but it sometimes seems to me that the believer/skeptic dialog between Mulder and Scully could sometimes be taken as a metaphor for the dynamics between Christian/nonbeliever schools of thought.

Sometimes there are snippets that make me think of the way the government seems to view its citizens nowadays, like this exchange between the Cigarette Smoking Man and an alien dude who's decided not to help the cabal take over the world, or whatever.  ::shrug::  I don't follow it that closely!

CSM:   “Who are you to give them hope?!”
alien dude:  “What do you give them?”
CSM:   “I give them happiness; they give us authority.”
alien dude:  “Yes, in order to give them freedom under the guise of democracy.”
CSM:   “Men can never be free, because they are weak, corrupt, worthless, and restless.  People believe in authority.  They’ve grown tired of waiting on miracle and mystery.    Science is their religion.  No greater explanation exists for them.  They must never believe any differently…”

Doesn't that last paragraph kind of encapsulate what society is like, for the most part?  A bunch of sheep, keeping in line, doing what they're told.  Believing what the "experts" tell them with no pause to evaluate it for themselves.  Depending on the "benevolent" powers-that-be to protect, educate, provide for them.  Offering up their freedoms right and left for the most transient "benefits".
I think sometimes that Satan is probably rolling on the floor laughing at how mindlessly we go through life, and how easily we are deceived.  I'm speaking in generalities, of course, but sometimes it amazes me how little effort people expend to THINK for themselves. 
I'll step down off my soapbox now.  :)  Before I get a bunch of comments along the lines of "who are you to judge," let me say that I realize I am as guilty of this as the next person; we're all human, and flawed.  But at least I'm trying!

September 20, 2014

GND Movie Review: Transformers, Age of Extinction

I have decided to start giving you movie reviews that actually tell you the truth about movies, from the perspective of an ordinary girl who happens to love action movies. 

I do not intend to give you exact counts of profanity or nude scenes.  I will not explain the director's or producer's intentions, as revealed in their latest interviews.

I will tell you whether it was worth sitting through, or not.  And whether I would show it to my kids.

And there will almost certainly be spoilers, so be warned.


Saturday is movie night here at the Home Front.  The whole family settled in with plates of delicious pizza and turned on Vudu to see what movies were available.  Transformers, Age of Extinction was there - to buy, but not to rent.  This didn't seem to be an issue, because:  it's rated PG-13, we've seen a couple of the previous ones and enjoyed them, and the trailer looked pretty awesome. 

I feel that we were misled.  Seriously.

Here's what I was expecting:  Bad humans are hunting the Autobots.  Good humans (a father and daughter this time, instead of annoying teenagers awash in hormones) step up and fight to defend the Autobots.  There are epic battles and cool CG effects.  The good robots defeat the bad robots.  And there are Dinobots. 


The Good:  Some neat CG scenes.  The obligatory scenes where Optimus Prime (and the other Autobots) swap their old style for fresh new paint.  Lots of roaring engines and cool cars.  Optimus laying about wickedly with his cyber-sword and beating the heck out of the bad robots, while yelling "Charge!"  Some Dinobots (If you actually survived the first 95% of the movie without a) your brain leaking out of your ears, or b) giving yourself a hernia from laughing so hard.)  The guy who stupidly trusted the government to reward him for turning in the whereabouts of Optimus Prime got blasted, which he deserved, IMO.

The Bad:  see The Ugly (below)

The Ugly:  I caught 2 really bad profanities (or at least, it sounded like that word, so in my book, it counts) and I literally cannot number how many other "milder" profanities there were.  How this movie got a PG-13 rating, I cannot fathom.  --And I should note that I am not a purist when it comes to profanity; I don't like it, but usually if it is sparse enough to be muted out, or if it clocks in at a "conversational" level (not the way I speak, but the way many people speak, sadly), I can deal with it.  This movie was atrocious, and most of it had that we're-writing-this-language-in-to-seem-really-bad feel to it.

The plot was so unnecessarily convoluted and stupid.  Really.  Really.  Horrendous.  My 8-year-old could and has come up with better stories.

I thought by swapping out the annoying teenager mainstays of the franchise, we'd be avoiding the boyfriend-girlfriend banter, the short shorts, etc.  Nope.

The trailer seemed to present the father and daughter as a family taking care of each other, sacrificing to keep each other safe, etc.  Actually, they fight and squabble through the whole movie.  Once, when the dad has risked his life to save his totally helpless, whiny, obnoxious, and rebellious daughter, she totally bypasses him and runs into the arms of her boyfriend.  Gag.

Final Thoughts:  It was like they set out to make a parody of a Transformers movie.  It was so bad that half of my sons didn't even stick around to see the ending.  I find myself  wondering why I wasted 2 hours of my life watching it.  (Or maybe it was longer than that?  I don't know.  It felt like an   e   t   e   r   n   i   t   y.)

And I feel very guilty that we put $18 in the pockets of the people responsible for this movie.  I mean, really, you have cool CG and Transformers; how hard do you have to work to screw that up?!


Gargantuan Grocery Gathering - #1

I believe Wal-Mart is a time warp.

Seriously, I can walk in for a couple things, and an hour later I walk out in a daze, trying to figure out where I somehow lost 45 minutes.  And how all this stuff (that was not on my list) got into my cart.  :)

I really do like Wal-Mart, for numerous reasons:  everything in one place (Oil change while getting groceries?  Yes, please!), pretty good prices on most things, and price matching (which is an entire post lurking in the future).  And also to annoy the annoying people who vilify WM for being an enormous, evil corporation.  Cue maniacal laughter.

(Rabbit trail warning!  This also reminds me of one of my favorite bumper stickers: 

Back to the subject at hand - grocery shopping.  :)

WM used to be our main grocery shopping destination, back when the price match policy was shiny and new, but lately, good price matches have been few and far between.  So we do the bulk of our grocery shopping at Ruler and Aldi, and then go to WM for the few things I can't get elsewhere and my meager price matches. 

Also, to attempt to cut down superfluous driving, we try to hit the library and any thrift stores in the area on the same day.  Sometimes we schedule doctor or dentist appointments on grocery day too.

Here's what a typical "big grocery" day looks like for us.  By "big" I mean enough groceries to keep 7 people fed and in soap, toilet paper, etc. for two weeks.  (And enough produce and milk for a week.  Or at least 4 days.  Hopefully.)
  1. Wake the troops early (or at least, on time, for once) and feed them breakfast (preferably something with some protein to it).
  2. Clean out the car of any miscellaneous items; we are going to need the room.  So, strollers, fishing gear, jackets, etc. get removed.  Then we pack two giant coolers (unless it's the middle of winter) and our enormous collection of grocery bags.  I like the plastic bags you can buy at Aldi and Ruler, but I reuse them so I don't have to buy them very often;  we also have some cloth bags from various stores.
  3. Drive 35 minutes to nearest large town, in which is located the library we most frequently use, two nice thrift stores, a Super Wal-Mart, Aldi, and assorted other discount stores.
  4. Visit thrift shops, library, bank, and do any other errands that can be done.
  5. Usually it is lunch time by now, so we grab sandwiches to eat en route to another large town about 10 minutes away from the first one, where we start our grocery shopping at Ruler.
  6. Return to town #1, and go to Aldi.
  7. Pick up anything that can only be had at Wal-Mart, or that is price matched at Wal-Mart.
  8. Head home to unload and put away everything before starting supper.
So, it's a big day, but we only do it every two weeks.  I know that I'm going to have the basics for a number of different meals on hand, so it reduces emergency trips to the store (unless I forget things, but I try to avoid that).  I don't enjoy running out every other day to get stuff.  I always end up getting more than the one or two items I ran in to buy.  It saves money by just keeping me away from the checkout!

I like to just have it done, for the most part, so I can think about other things.  I can't fathom having to go and get groceries every night on your way home from work, or making the trip for only a few days' worth of food.  I know some people prefer to shop that way, but I am sure I operate better with the less frequent giant trip.

I'm thinking about turning this into a series, with topics like menu planning, what my grocery list looks like, the proper way to sack groceries (yes, I'm a control freak), why I don't use coupons, our experience with price matching, how we fit all this in the car, etc.  Let me know if there's something specific you'd like to know!
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