Mike Kueber's Blog

May 31, 2012

The 2012 Republican and Democratic referenda

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:14 am

The Democratic and Republican parties in Texas are authorized to include a referendum on selected issues in the spring primary.  Because these votes are not binding, the media pays little attention to them.  In fact, I didn’t even know there were any this year because there had been virtually no reporting on them. 

The Republican referendum last week contained five propositions:

  1. SCHOOL CHOICE: The state should fund education by allowing dollars to follow the child instead of the bureaucracy, through a program which allows parents the freedom to choose their child’s school, public or private, while also saving significant taxpayer dollars. Yes or No?
  2. REPEALING OBAMACARE: Congress should immediately repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) and reject the rationing of healthcare by government or the intrusion by government into the doctor – patient relationship. Yes or No?
  3. PUBLIC PRAYER: Government should be prohibited from restricting the content of public prayer. Yes or No?
  4. BALANCED BUDGET / CONTROLLING GOVERNMENT GROWTH Out of control spending should be stopped at all levels of federal and state government through constitutional amendments limiting any increase in government spending to the combined increase of population and inflation, requiring voter approval. Yes or No?
  5. REDISTRICTING: The Texas Legislature should redraw the court-imposed lines for Congress and State legislative districts in its upcoming session in order to remedy inequities. Yes or No?

Obviously, the virtue of these propositions in a Republican primary was not in doubt.  All passed easily.  But the results still tell us something.  Propositions 2, 3, and 4 each received in excess of 90% yes.  For the party of constitutional conservatives, it’s ironic that Republicans are willing to disregard what the Constitution says about school prayer.  School choice was almost as popular with 84.5% yes, although I am skeptical of its claim that school choice will save taxpayer dollars.  The laggard was redistricting, which received only 71.3% yes.  That confirms what I have always suspected – i.e., Texans of all persuasions are disgusted with political gerrymandering. 

The Democratic referendum had only three propositions:

  1. Support of the DREAM Act and in-state tuition for those eligible: Any graduate of a Texas high school, who has lived in the state for at least three years and lived here continuously for the last year, should be eligible for in-state tuition at state supported colleges and universities and given the opportunity to earn legal status through a higher education or military service.  For or Against?
  2. State funding to make college affordable:  “Because a college education is increasingly necessary for jobs that allow our citizens to achieve middle class lifestyles and become the entrepreneurs who create the jobs that our economy relies on, we call on the Texas Legislature to fund colleges and universities such that tuition and fees can be affordable to all Texans.”  For or Against?
  3. Allow a vote to legalize gambling to fund public education: Should the Texas Legislature allow the people of Texas to vote to legalize casino gambling with all funds generated being used only for education?  For or Against?

Not surprisingly, the liberal Democrats strongly supported each of their propositions, too.  Leading the way, 92.5% of their voters wanted college to be affordable (who doesn’t), and 84.9% support the DREAM Act and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.  Bringing up the rear, only 74.1% want to legalize casino gambling. 

Like the Republicans and redistricting, the Democrats and casino gambling are not completely copacetic.

May 30, 2012

You could have heard a pin drop – a clarification

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

A conservative friend sent me the following well-circulated, patriotic internet article titled “You could hear a pin drop”:

At a time when our politicians tend to apologize for our country’s actions….  Here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our country

  • JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when DeGaule decided to pull out of NATO.  DeGaule said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.  Rusk responded “does that include those who are buried here?  DeGuale did not respond.  You could have heard a pin drop.
  • When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.  He answered by saying, ‘Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders.  The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.’  You could have heard a pin drop.
  • There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.  During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying ‘Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims.  What does he intended to do, bomb them?’  A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: ‘Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency  electrical power to shore facilities; they have three  cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they 20 carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck.  We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?’  You could have heard a pin drop.
  • A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, ‘Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?’  Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, ‘Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.’  You could have heard a pin drop.


  • Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.  “You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.  Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.  “Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”  The American said, ‘The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”  “Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France!”  The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look.  Then he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.”  You could have heard a pin drop.   

I am proud to be of this land, AMERICA

Some left-wingers have criticized the article as biased because it overlooks (a) French contributions to America during the Revolutionary War, (b) 1800’s land-grabbing under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, and post-WWII imperialism.  Despite this carping, I think the article reminds us that America has generally been an outstanding force for good in the world.

The first dot point about Dean Rusk is especially poignant.  There are two, however, two mistakes that afflict nearly all versions of the article floating around the internet:

  1. De Gaule should be spelled De Gaulle. 
  2. Although Dean Rusk was President Kennedy’s Secretary of State, he was President Johnson’s Secretary of State when he asked the profound question to De Gaulle.  Furthermore, he asked the question at the specific direction of President Johnson, who extemporaneously raised the issue in a meeting.

President Johnson had his bad moments; this was not one of them.

The media – fair or objective?

Filed under: Media — Mike Kueber @ 5:42 am

A couple of weeks ago, Don Imus interviewed Jeff Himmelman, the author of a new book on Ben Bradlee, the estimable erstwhile Washington Post editor of Woodward & Bernstein.  The book is quite controversial because it failed to genuflect in front of Bradlee, and Himmelman went out of his way during the Imus interview to assure viewers and listeners that the book should do no serious damage to Bradlee’s reputation.    

During the Imus interview, however, Himmelman made a point about the media that intrigued me as a journalistic wannabe.  According to Himmelman, Ben Bradlee often instructed his reporters that they needed to be fair, but not necessarily objective.  That’s interesting – and because I’m not the greatest at diction, I decided to learn the distinction between fair reporting and objective reporting.

According to the dictionary, fair means equitable, honest, or just; free from bias, while objective means unbiased or impartial; not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.  Obviously, there appears to be some overlap because both definitions refer to bias, which means “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.”  This is getting pretty circular, isn’t it?

Fortunately, I was able to find a website that contained a thorough discussion of fair vs. objective in the context of the media.  According to this discussion:

  • Objectivity means that when covering hard news, reporters don’t convey their own feelings, biases or prejudices in their stories. They accomplish this by writing stories using a language that is neutral and avoids characterizing people or institutions in ways good or bad.
  • Fairness means that reporters covering a story must remember there are usually two sides – and often more – to most issues, and that those differing viewpoints should be given roughly equal space in any news story.

Based on these definitions, I understand why Bradlee felt that fairness should predominate over objectivity.  Although reporters can’t help having feelings and prejudices, they can’t ensure that both sides have an opportunity to defend their position.

May 29, 2012

Inconsistently judgmental

Filed under: Aphorism,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 1:25 pm
Tags: , , , ,

“Judgmental” has become one of my favorite descriptors over the past few years.  It means having an excessively critical point of view.  My ex-wife used to get mad at me for being so judgmental about others, especially while we were taking a Sunday afternoon drive.  I’m not sure if it was my judgments or me that made her mad.  Since then, however, I’ve experienced a role reversal. 

My best friend Mike Callen is probably the most judgmental person I know.  He was educated by the Jesuits and believes that it is a useful mental exercise to discuss whether individuals are good or bad people.  By contrast, I suggest to him that, until we walk a mile in their shoes, we are in no position to assess their goodness or badness, although we can fairly comment on elements of their conduct.  My position sounds a lot like that hoary parental maxim that you might hate what your kid did, but you never stop loving your kid.   

Now I sense that I’m getting ready for a role reversal again, prompted by Jesuit-educated Mike and another Facebook friend.  Mike called me from his hometown of Fulton, NY a few days ago, where he was attending the town’s Memorial Day parade because his dad was the honorary Grand Marshall.  He said that he had been reflecting on my criticism of his judgmental ways and had decided that he was wasting too much time being mad at some bad people.  (Don’t get him started on John Edwards or mega-church preachers.)  Starting now, he resolved to change.

Mike’s change of philosophy contrasts nicely with a comment I received on Facebook a few weeks ago from a friend.  She noted that I often plant the seed for a serious philosophical discussion in my Facebook postings and then adjourn to the sidelines when two partisans launch into full-scale fisticuffs.  Guilty as charged. 

Of course, it makes common sense to look for cover when people start shooting wildly, but there have been a number of occasions where I should have followed Teddy Roosevelt’s advice and gotten into the arena:

  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Although my philosophy over time might be a bit inconsistent, we all know that a foolish consistancy is the hobgoblin of little minds.  Actually, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

May 28, 2012

Veteran gaps and gender gaps

Filed under: Culture,Military — Mike Kueber @ 7:27 pm
Tags: ,

An article in Sunday’s USA Today reported a new Gallup poll found that American veterans prefer Mitt Romney over President Obama by a shockingly large margin – 58% to 34%.  This compares favorably to war hero John McCain, who was preferred over Obama by veterans in 2008 by only 54% to 44%. 

Gallup was reluctant to speculate on the reason for the veteran gap, but provided two “chicken vs. the egg” explanations:

  • Why veterans are so strong in their preference for the Republican presidential candidate is not clear. Previous Gallup analysis has suggested that two processes may be at work. Men who serve in the military may become socialized into a more conservative orientation to politics as a result of their service. Additionally, men who in the last decades have chosen to enlist in the military may have a more Republican orientation to begin with.”

Neither of these explanations, however, explains why Romney, a Mormon who never served, enjoys a much larger gap over Obama than did John McCain, a war hero.  I suggest that veterans in 2008 gave Obama the benefit of a doubt, but that Obama has long since worn out his welcome with veterans.  That theory is supported by the fact that Romney’s percentage is only 4% higher than McCain’s, while Obama’s percentage has dropped from 44% in 2008 to 34% in 2012.  Romney has not won the veterans; Obama has lost them.

The Gallup poll also revealed that men prefer Romney over Obama by 8% while women prefer Obama over Romney by 7%.  I remember in the golden, olden days of Ronald Reagan, the media would argue that Reagan’s political viability was threatened by an even bigger gender gap, and they would ask what Reagan planned to do to earn a higher percentage of the women’s vote.  Inexplicably, they didn’t ask the trailing Democrats how they were going to get a higher percentage of the men’s vote.

I am encouraged that the media no longer makes this type of “glass half empty” argument against Republicans with reference to the electoral gender gap.  I do, however, see it used in areas of other social concerns, like pay equality or higher-education attainment or SAT scores.  As a man, it feels odd to have the media rooting for women to perform better vis-à-vis men.  Furthermore, in many areas women are now outperforming men, and at some point the cheerleading will have to stop.  Do we then start cheering for the other side?

May 27, 2012

Football is the king of sports

Filed under: Sports — Mike Kueber @ 8:42 pm
Tags: ,

They say that it is dangerous to discuss politics or religion because people tend to be opinionated and inflexible on those subjects.  My experience, however, is not consistent with that belief.  I have found that when you approach the subject thoughtfully and stay calm, other people usually reciprocate. 

In addition to politics and religion, another subject that can turn into a powder keg is sports.  In fact, many people are more opinionated and inflexible about sports than politics and religion combined.    

Yesterday in my apartment pool, I got into a wide-ranging conversation with some guys who obviously were left-of-center.  First, they expressed their love of hockey by opining that NHL hockey players deserve million-dollar salaries more than any other professional athletes.  I deftly defused their argument by pointing out that salaries for professional athletes in various sports have nothing to do with how tough the job is, but rather depends almost exclusively on how much money the sport is able to generate.  And everyone knows that the NFL is the king of money.

Unwilling to genuflect before the NFL, these left-of-center guys cleverly agreed that football is the king of money, but football of the soccer variety.  When I expressed my ignorance of how much money soccer generates or pays its players, they assured me that soccer generates more money and pays higher salaries.  Despite their assurances, I expressed my doubt based on America’s wealth and its love of sports.  In my mind, that is why America has to pay a king’s ransom to televise the Olympics while other countries pay a relative pittance. 

Eventually, my new friends and I agreed to disagree, but when I got home, I decided to confirm my suspicions by determining which professional teams were the most valuable and which athletes were paid the most.  The first item was easy to find.  Less than a year ago, Forbes magazine compiled a list of the 50 most valuable sports teams.  Although soccer team Manchester United heads the list at $1.86 billion, the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys are #2 at $1.81 billion, the NFL has 14 of the top 20, and all 32 NFL teams are in the top 50.  Soccer has eight teams in the top 50, while baseball has six.  Clearly, the NFL is the king.  

Forbes magazine also answered the question about which athletes are the highest paid.  According to Forbes, the highest paid athlete from May 2011 to May 2012 was boxer Manny Pacquaio at $67 million.  The top soccer guy was David Beckham, #7 at $46 million, while the top football guy was Peyton Manning, #8 at $42 million.  The top 17 was a motley assortment of five tennis players, three soccer guys, two NFLers, two boxers, two golfers, two basketballers, and one baseball player.  I think this information does not accurately reflect the dominance of the NFL because its compensation is spread over so many players on an NFL team.  An NFL roster consists of 53 players, while a major-league baseball team has 25, a soccer roster is about 20, and an NBA team has 12. 

Oh yeah, an NHL team has a roster of 22.  I almost forgot that this conversation started with my new friends’ love of hockey.  Unfortunately, hockey does not appear to generate much money, so the hard-working guys on skates don’t get on any high-dollar lists.  It just ain’t fair, but no one said that life is fair.

Sunday Book Review #77 – Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:15 pm
Tags: , , ,

Brandwashed is acknowledged by its author Martin Lindstrom as a follow-up to Vance Packard’s 1957 classic, The Hidden Persuaders, which was “a book that pulled back the curtain on all the psychological tricks and tactics companies and their marketers and advertisers were using to manipulate people’s minds and persuade them to buy.  It was shocking.  It was groundbreaking.  It was controversial.  And it’s nothing compared to what’s going on in the marketing and advertising world today.  Nearly six decades later, businesses, marketers, advertisers, and retailers have gotten far craftier, savvier, and more sinister.”

Unfortunately, Brandwashed does not deliver on its promise.  Perhaps consumers like me have become jaded to marketing techniques, but I read nothing in the book that was shocking or controversial.  I wasn’t shocked to learn that marketers try to encourage purchasing by use of:

  • Fear (exaggerating dangers of SIDS, germs, disease, etc.)
  • Sex (buy the product and be sexually successful)
  • Peer pressure (herd instinct)
  • Nostalgia (buy the product and return to a happier, simpler time)
  • Celebrity (buy the product and be like the celebrity)
  • Snake oil (vaguely promise that non-FDA products will work miracles on you)

The only important post-Packard information consisted of a lengthy concluding chapter that detailed the extensive data-mining that is taking place.  Much of this data is mined from digital coupons, Facebook and Twitter, credit-card purchases, and loyalty-card memberships.   

Perhaps it would have been useful for the author Lindstrom to explain how data-mining or any other of these marketing techniques are a bad thing.        





Sunday Book Review #76 – Better Than Normal by Dr. Dale Archer

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 3:12 pm
Tags: ,

Psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer is on a mission to convince Americans that there is nothing wrong with having personality traits that, in their severe form, might be diagnosed as a mental disorder requiring treatment.  In fact, these traits might serve you well in living a fulfilling life.  That explains why Archer’s book, Better Than Normal, is subtitled, “How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.”   

Better Than Normal is essentially a very simple book.  In each of eight chapters, Archer takes a famous mental disorder and describes how individuals with personality traits commonly associated with the disorder, but without a full-blown affliction, can actually use those traits to achieve and accomplish.

For example, the first mental disorder described is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity.  The so-called ascendant strengths associated with this disorder are energy, playfulness, adventurous, need for high levels of stimulation, and divergent thinking.

In addition to listing ascendant strengths, most chapters also discuss (a) careers that would benefit from those strengths, (b) the effect of those traits on a personal life, and (c) the evolutionary imperative (Garner’s best guess as to why the oft-genetic disorders were not weeded out by evolution).    

In addition to ADHD, the other seven mental disorders discussed are OCD (obsessive/compulsive), social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, histrionic, narcissistic, bipolar, and schizophrenia. 

I think Dr. Archer is on a noble mission.  Strong personality traits should not be routinely muzzled as long as those traits do not trample on the rights of others.  Instead, these traits should be encouraged to flourish in beneficial ways. 

There’s an old saying about being comfortable in your own skin, and I think Dr. Archer is working in that direction.      


May 26, 2012

A banner day for the Express-News

A few days ago I posted in my blog about a banner edition of Parade magazine.  The entry was prompted by exceptional articles on Colin Powell and Kevin Costner.  Today, the San Antonio Express-News published its own banner edition, with four superlative articles:

  1. Politiqueras in the RGV.  This article about abusive voting practices by politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley was the only article of the four authored by a local writer – Lynn Brezosky.  Although Democrats often carp that Republican efforts to curb voter fraud are a solution in search of a problem – i.e., they deny that voter fraud is a problem – I have personally heard much anecdotal evidence that voter fraud is a serious problem, especially in communities with large numbers of poor, uneducated voters.    
  2. Grover Norquist’s “The Pledge.  This article, which the Express-News borrowed from the Washington Post, reports that a significant number of Republican congressional candidates, led by its most serious challengers to Democratic incumbents, have declined to sign Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”  One of the challengers noted his disappointment that only one of the Republican presidential candidates was willing to accept $10 in spending cuts in return for $1 in higher taxes.  Another said that he can make promises to the voters without signing a pledge circulated by a lobbyist.  Amen.  I previously blogged against the pledge, so this is an exceptionally promising development.   
  3. Pay inequity – first article.  The Express-News had two articles on pay inequity, both gleaned from the Associated Press.  The first article was on CEO compensation, and it reported that the “head of a typical public company made $9.6 million in 2011….  That was up more than 6% from the previous year…. is also the highest since the AP began tracking executive compensation in 2006.”  Tellingly, the article noted that David Simon of Simon Properties earned the most – $137 million – and that an individual earning the national median annual pay of $39,312 would need to work 3,489 years to earn that much.  That is outrageous, and obviously the process for compensating CEOs needs to be reformed.
  4. Pay inequity – second article.  The second article on pay inequity was buried on page 6 of the Business section.   According to the article, the American Idol runner-up will no longer be guaranteed an album and $175,000.  Instead the runner-up guarantee will be only a few singles and $30,000, while the winner will continue to be guaranteed an album and $300,000.  The pay cut was justified, according to an industry expert, because viewership has dropped from 25 million to 20 million and because the previous albums have generally not been successful.  This change is outrageous, and obviously the singers are being exploited so that the producers and the celebrities can keep more of the money for themselves.  Reminds me of professional sports in the olden days before the athletes were unionized.       

Thanks, Express-News.  They say that newspapers are today’s dinosaurs.  I hope not.

May 25, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #28 – artsy, independent week

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 8:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

While trying to win the favor of an artsy eHarmony connection, I admitted that I have lived as a philistine, but would be amenable to being proselytized.  (FYI – a philistine, as vividly described by Wikipedia, is someone “who is smugly narrow of mind and of conventional morality whose materialistic views and tastes indicate a lack of and indifference to cultural and æsthetic values.”) 

My eHarmony connection said she would be willing to try to reform me, provided I had an open mind and an open heart.  I agreed, and decided to start with some artsy Netflix movies because I already had a modest interest in them, and perhaps that would ease the transition into a full-throated cultural maven.

Unfortunately, my start was rocky.  The first movie I watched is titled Destricted, described on Wikipedia as eight shorts “that explore the line where art and pornography intersect.”  Perfect, right?  Wrong.  I should have listened to the Rotten Tomato audience, 72% of whom disapproved of it.  Even worse, 82% of the artsy critics graded it rotten.  Most of the shorts were incomprehensible, and the others were boring.  The only mildly interesting short – called Impaled – involved some inexperienced young men being interviewed for a role in a porn movie. 

Step two in my artsy-movie week included two early films by Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater.  I became aware of Linklater earlier this year when I watched two of his classics – Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – and learned at that time that he was also responsible for two Austin-based cult films – Dazed & Confused and Slacker.

Slacker is a 1990 movie that Linklater filmed in Austin for $23,000, and it premiered in the Dobie Theater.  It is described as a plotless film that meanders aimlessly from one bohemian, twenty-something misfit to another in Austin, each pontificating and philosophizing.  Most descriptions of the movie fail to list any of the actors because none have more than a few minutes on the screen. 

Dazed and Confused is a 1993 coming-of-age movie that concerns the antics of Austin high school students on their last day of school in 1976.  Its cast included Matthew McConaughey in a breakout role and Milla Jovovich and Ben Affleck in insignificant roles.  The movie reminded me of American Graffiti, a 1973 movie that focused on some California kids in 1962 trying to decide what to do after graduating from high school.  According to an Entertainment Weekly list of the best high school movies, American Graffiti was #6 and Dazed and Confused was #3.   (The Breakfast Club was #1.)   

The titles to the two Linklater’s two Austin movies should have been reversed.  When I think of the term “slacker,” I think of someone who doesn’t work hard; whereas, when I think of “dazed and confused,” I think of people who don’t really understand what’s going on around them.  With that in mind, the high-school kids in Dazed and Confused are essentially slackers who just want to have some fun before growing up.  By contrast, the bohemian misfits in Slacker haven’t a clue about life.  That explains why I enjoyed Dazed and Confused – i.e., I can relate to a high-school kid who just wants to have some fun.  I give it three and a half stars out of four.  That also explains why I didn’t like Slacker – i.e., I get depressed by twenty-somethings who are never going to grow up mentally.  I give it one star out of four.

Rotten Tomatoes didn’t agree with me regarding Slacker, which received an 84% from the critics and 77% from the audience.  But it agreed in spades about Dazed and Confused, which received 98% from the critics and 89% from the audience.

For my final movie for artsy week, I decided to go with a 2010 Korean film titled The Housemaid, a melodrama thriller.  The movie concerns an aristocratic family that hires a housemaid to help care for their young daughter while the wife is expecting twins.  As might be expected, the husband converts the housemaid into his concubine, the wife finds out, and the shit hits the fan.  What makes this movie distinctive for me is its treatment of aristocracy and subservience in Korea.  I give it three stars out of four.  The artsy critics at Rotten Tomatoes agree with me and give it 75%.  The philistine audience at Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t appreciate the art and give in only 52%.

Looks like my transition to being an artsy guy is in progress.

Next Page »