47 Ronin – The Movie



This weekend I rented 47 Ronin, a movie with some of the same characters as the famous story of the 47 ronin of Japan from a couple hundred years ago.  I would say it is based on the story, but really I would be lying to you.

Rotten Tomatoes, that movie review site, gives 47 Ronin a rating of 13% out of a possible 100%, placing it a solid 16% worse than Tideland.  Tideland was so terrible that it broke the cardinal rule of movies; a sequel to the original would excel it.  But more on that another time as Tideland deserves its own post.  Opinions can differ on many things, but the fact is, Tideland is worst movie ever made.  Ever.  Ever ever.

Keanu Reeves stars as a blah blah, half demon, yada yada, swords, witches, samurai, halfwitted stares into the distance, who cares.  Nobody has ever accused Keanu of brilliant acting, but he makes a fun action hero.  You want him to defeat evil and you turn to his movies for a good time, not for intellectual stimulation.  Go, Keanu, go!  Say your lines and kill the bad guy in cool ways.  Time for some popcorn.

All those reviewers who gave 47 Ronin a poor rating need to remember why the watched the film in the first place.  They wanted action and that’s exactly what they got.  If, as they stated, “…one dimensional roles” is a negative, why did Titanic get 88%?  (Ha, ha, I took a pot shot at Titanic.  Take that, American public that loved it!)

47 Ronin should have received a rating in the low 50s.  If you just want to see a bunch of samurai with swords fight demons (and a witch-fox-dragon-whatever thing) for honor, while facing certain death, buy some milk duds and rent this one.


Personal note: Milk duds happen to be excellent for removing any annoying dental work cluttering up your mouth.


Keep your expectations for 13% and this movie will exceed them with flying colors.

An overweight prediction


As the world has become wealthier and more efficient, the cost of food has dropped.  We exercise about as much as beached whales and we have seen the inevitable result:  An explosion of “big boned” Eric Cartmans as far as the eye can see.

Unless we come up with the means of losing weight that requires zero self control (such as a new Stalin or functional diet pill), I anticipate this trend will continue.

As the ranks of the overweight swell (both literally and figuratively), the social stigma of morbid obesity declines.  As time progresses, overweight people will attempt to make their lives easier by doing as little exercise as possible.  Easing the stresses in one’s life has been a goal of invention and business for millennia and has been a sign of progress in the modern era.


Often the most stressful exercise overweight people experience in a typical day is walking up stairs in their own home.  I predict that, as more and more people become overweight, newly designed houses will do away with stairs, either substituting an elevator (you’d still need emergency stairs which take up space), or, as I now foresee the future, multistory homes become a thing of the past.

Except for the wealthy, who can afford the cost of both floor space for stairs and an the expense of an elevator, homes will lose their upper floors.

If the seller of a home wants the new, morbidly obese, borderline shut-in to buy his home, a big selling point would be the ranch style.  Why should the mobile 400 pound man have to strain his overworked heart going up stairs?  He could just walk or ride his scooter straight from his bedroom to the bathroom, the home office, or out the door to his car.  When building a new home, for both future resale and one’s own convenience, why not build wider instead of higher?

I predict entire new developments without a step to climb.


Side note, with a tiny, super easy prediction:

In our age of politically correct speech, I am surprised the overweight masses in the United States accept the medical term “morbid obesity.”  “Morbid” and “obese,” while descriptive and specific, may easily be found offensive by people who fit into that category.  Consider, in the past, “moron” referred to an IQ of 51-70, “imbecile” to 26-50 and “idiot” up to 25.  Mental retardation had a specific definition before school yard kids started slinging it at each other.  These are all now considered offensive, politically incorrect,  and have been entirely removed from our speech as inappropriate.


It is a very small step to see how “morbid” in morbid obesity will have to be removed and some other, easier to swallow term will be substituted.  Perhaps something along the lines of “formidably built.”  It is only a short time before the term changes.  I give it less than ten years at most, maybe only 2 or 3.

Montaigne, Chess, Eggs and Men of Honor

I’ve been feeling a bit down the past few days and so I did a bit of light and heavy reading.  On the somewhat heavier side is Montaigne.  Montaigne’s essays make for enjoyable reading and his voice speaks directly to me all the way from 16th century France. Then, suddenly, he attacks the game of chess.  I really didn’t see this coming, but in his disparagement of chess he makes a strong statement about men of honor that set me thinking.

Please bear with me as the quote is a bit longish for those looking for quick amusement.  The emphasis in the quote is mine.

“What passion does not excite us in this game: anger, vexation, hatred, impatience, and a vehement ambition to win in a thing in which ambition to be beaten would be more excusable.  For rare and extraordinary excellence in frivolous things is unbecoming a man of honor.  What I say of this example may be said of all others:  each particle, each occupation, of a man betrays him and reveals him just as well as any other.”

Is the study and attempt to uncover the meaning of life a more honorable pursuit than the world’s expert studying rock paper scissors?  In my heart, I feel it must be so.  But, as I consider it more deeply, what of the artist who portrays beauty?  Is that frivolous?  Is a doctor or a priest on the same level as the man who becomes an expert at rolling play-doh snakes?

A little more than a year ago, I went to Per Se in Manhattan.  It was one of my most memorable meals and an early course had an egg in which the top of the shell was perfectly sliced away.  I can’t recall what was inside, but it was amazing and I don’t even like eggs.


After the meal I discovered that making the egg in exactly this way took a tremendous amount of skill and quite a bit of training by the apprentice chefs.  This egg was one of the best parts of my meal and the beauty of the presentation was perfect.  I consider the course a work of art.  Yet I would found sustenance more easily (and cheaply) if they had just fried it up and put it on some toast.  It is a reach for me to find the egg course anything less than frivolous.

In Chess, there is no luck beyond the question of who plays first, and even that rotates back and forth in a tournament.  Some games and moves were so brilliant they have become famous.  The gold coin game had such a shocking and insightful move at the end that it is rumored the spectators showered the board with gold coins.  Regardless of what happens during the match, all that has physically occurred is moving a few plastic or wooden pieces around and then putting them in a box at the end.  There isn’t even a tear in the AstroTurf or a stray fly ball for a fan to grab.

Unless the category of things defined as frivolous is narrow indeed, I maintain Montaigne is in error.  Extraordinary excellence in anything becomes indistinguishable from art.  In this author’s strong opinion, making art is not unbecoming an honorable man.  In fact, art is one of the greatest impacts a civilization makes upon the world, long after it has crumbled to dust.  Extraordinary excellence is linked to eternal truths


Author’s note:   When I gluttonously scarfed down the egg and wished I could have another, I was unbecoming for even polite company, much less honor.  Om nom nom nom nom.

By way of thanks for getting to the end of this long post, here’s a Faberge Egg.


Stinkburger! Meanwich!

So, the news came out yesterday.  I’m a day behind, but what a news day it was!

In the grand tradition of the presidential eloquence of Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy and Franklin Rooesvelt, President Obama called the Republican budget proposal a “stinkburger” or “meanwich,” after visiting a deli.  Apparently those suggestions would be for a new deli sandwich if it were named after the proposed budget. I can’t help but think this is the funniest thing any president has said or done since the Beer Summit of ’09

This is presidential speech writing at its best.  I imagine the writers giggling as they saw this come across the teleprompter.  I humbly suggest he describe the Supreme Court as “filled with crotchety poopypants jerkfaces” in his next State of the Union Address.

All joking aside for a moment, the ability to laugh at oneself is a sign of strength.  Only fragile ideas and people are so brittle they cannot withstand a bit of ridicule and joking.  With this in mind, the Republicans should adopt the title “Stinkburger” for their budget, as nothing is quite as much fun as embarrassing your opponent with his own words.  Plus, it would show Republicans are capable of having a sense of humor, a revelation that would shock the world.



Sex, Drugs and Menswear

Yesterday, while driving aimlessly through Knoxville, I came across a large billboard.


According to the billboard, I must have missed my turn.

For who could miss the all caps advertisement shouting down at the highway the wonders of this adult establishment?  On closer inspection, the sign shows a terrific assortment of merchandise.  In case it is too small to read on your tiny phone screen, it says, “Novelties, Tobacco Acc., Lingerie, Plus Size Lingerie, E-Cigs, Menswear.”

Well, novelties (I’m guessing they don’t mean trick gum and hand buzzers) and the always exciting plus size lingerie imply sex.  I assume the Tobacco Acc. refers to the sort of pipes seen in Greenwich Village shops “for tobacco use only,” wink, wink.  So we have drug paraphernalia to go along with any upcoming escapades.

But then, everything shifts dramatically.  An enterprising manager decides to branch out.  Hmmmm, sex… drugs…  what more could we offer at Fantasy World alongside these exciting prospects?  I’ve got it!  How about an ascot or a nice pair of work boots?  What man or woman, when shopping for a glass bong (for tobacco use only) wouldn’t make a spontaneous purchase of cufflinks at the register?  From there, menswear was assured to be broadcast from the reddest billboard in town.

As my wardrobe from Manhattan has worn a bit thin, it may be time for me to buy some new clothes in the South.  I could use a new suit, you know, an adult one for interviews and such, and I may need a tie to match.  Sorry Brooks Brothers, but as everyone knows, the best way to be welcomed into a new city is to support the local merchants.

Sanctions, you’re doing it right.


Found on a liquor store in Knoxville – “Due to Russian Aggression, we will no longer sell Russian Vodka (Until Putin Modifies his behavior)”

Good for you, liquor and wine store!  Way to take a stand!  I know where I’m buying my booze from now on.

People on both the left and the right are quick to accept economic sanctions as a punishment for poor national behavior, a punishment short of dropping bombs.  As someone who finds turning to the government a lousy choice, I hesitate to leave it in the hands of politicians.  Instead of people complaining about Obama’s unimpressive reaction to recent events in the Ukraine, sanctions can begin immediately in the social sphere through boycott.  In addition, if you want to support Ukraine, buy Ukrainian (not that I have the slightest idea what they sell, but in the internet age, I’m sure Google knows).

So many conservatives who distrust our government are quick to suggest government imposed sanctions.  The first move should be outside of the government through social shaming of those who support and do business with an aggressor.  Since when do we decide to leave all control in the hands of our government when market forces are immediately available for instant karma?

It’s not that sanctions are worthless on the government level, but why would that be the first place to turn?  Since when do governments make good, rapid and appropriate decisions?

Say China (I know, easy target) starts behaving badly.  I don’t know, invades Taiwan or pokes fun at McDonalds or some such.  We know our government will not have the political will to enact severe sanctions.  But what if China knew the public of the good old US of A was going to stop buying their goods, regardless of White House (in)action?  The public would be unconstrained and may never buy as much as they had in the past, even when the sanctions had ended.  That would be a real and serious impact that could exist outside of the weak willed that often dominate our political sphere.

Don’t get me wrong, there are decent, hard working, liberty loving types in politics, and our politicians are much better than many in other nations.  Really, there are.  Not all politicians are weak.  I wasn’t around at the time, but I hear Calvin Coolidge was awesome.