miscellaneous commentary

Archive for May 2012

Avenging Samurai

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I watched “Seven Samurai” earlier this week and was struck by the similarities between its plot and that of “The Avengers”. A quick internet search revealed I wasn’t the only person to come to this conclusion.

While I don’t agree with the character connections made by the author of the above link, I do see a general theme in the narrative structure — a group of people (farmers/earthlings), threatened by a powerful adversary (bandits/Chitauri), seek out trained warriors (samurai/Avenger team members) to come to their defense. The hired warriors bicker at first but eventually put their differences aside in the face of their opposition. The only difference being none of the Avengers (none of the superheroes, that is) die in the process, whereas [spoiler alert] four of the seven samurai die protecting the farmers.

But should I be surprised? Most comic books are about superheroes coming to the defense of average humans, and “The Avengers” is the inevitable culmination of several comic book-based movies over the past decade, based on a line of comic books that have been in publication over the past half century. Originality wasn’t high on my list of expectations when I saw the film a few weekends ago. I was entertained, but I dunno, I kinda expected a villain that would target the superheroes directly rather than the lowly Earthlings.

But I suppose if a film is going to borrow from a previous source, it could do worse. Many fine films have borrowed the storyline of “Seven Samurai”, from the 60s western “The Magnificent Seven” to the 90s Pixar kids flick “A Bug’s Life”, as well as the third act of “Saving Private Ryan”.

This is not meant to denigrate “The Avengers”. I was highly entertained, and am definitely looking forward to the pre-‘Infinity Gauntlet’ setup of the inevitable sequel.


Written by camcarlson

May 31, 2012 at 10:07 PM

Cycling Craziness

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I’m not sure which is more ludicrous, a principal sending 60-some seniors home from school for riding their bicycles en masse on their final day of high school, or schools banning bicycling altogether.

The good news is, in the former case, the principal apologized:

(CNN) – Seniors at Kenowa Hills High School in western Michigan thought a mass bike ride to school was a sweet sendoff for the last day. Police escorted the ride and parents lined the route. The Walker, Michigan, mayor brought doughnuts.

But principal Katharine Pennington didn’t know. She said the ride was dangerous, tied up traffic and prevented staff from making it to school.

She sent more than 60 students home after the bike ride yesterday. Soon-to-be graduates were banned from participating in the senior walk – a traditional final walk through the school’s hallways – and some were told they wouldn’t be allowed to walk at graduation, a decision that was later reversed. Students told CNN today the senior walk was rescheduled, too.

Pennington released an apology on Wednesday, along with the superintendent, after parents and students flooded a school board work session with complaints.

The bad news is, in the latter case, there are still a lot of schools that don’t want to consider any alternative to the automobile:

“The attitude was ‘Broadway is great now—why change it?'” said Olson. “It’s hard for people who’ve grown up in the suburban lifestyle to imagine not driving your car every day. To school board members who live outside town, it’s totally alien—and they vote on things that make it impossible for others.”

Schoolwise, this might be referred to as the Maple Avenue Mind-Set: passive acceptance of a status quo that promotes not only pollution and disease but also the lesson that children (who grow up to be citizens—and parents) are helpless. Amid this grand civic failure, the chief cause for encouragement comes from individuals who refuse to give in: [those] who prioritize fresh air and exploration and exercise, the powers-that-be be damned.

Written by camcarlson

May 29, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Facebook Boomer

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According to the graph below, I’m a fifty-year-old boomer!

Which makes sense, as I subscribe to the Dunbar Number theory.

Written by camcarlson

May 25, 2012 at 9:26 PM

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Credit reports

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Hey, did you all know you can request a free copy of your credit report once every year? Of course you did. How many actually do this? Probably not many. Well, it’s worth it, even if you’re like me and you have very few items on your report (though all are in good standing with an A-quality credit score*).

I made my annual request today at (not to be confused with the not-free services of I obtained PDF copies from Equifax and Experian, and had to phone-order a copy from TransUnion as their website was “experiencing technical difficulties” at the time of my request. What sucks is that not only am I limited to one report request per year, but the fact that their site was down at the time of my request counts as the request. Jerks. Whatever, I’ll wait for the snail mail copy.

But I did find a strange though perhaps innocuous discrepancy in the Equifax and Experian reports. One shows my student loans still open and the other shows them transferred/closed, which is technically accurate as they were transferred to a new servicer last year, but that begs the question of why isn’t the new servicer showing up on the report? Or, conversely, why does the first report not show the transfer at all? Hmm. I filed a dispute and will await their “research”.

So, message of the day: review your credit reports once a year.

*It is worth pointing out that the free credit reports do not provide a credit score.

Written by camcarlson

May 23, 2012 at 9:21 PM

Posted in Finance

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Digital Sabbath

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My weekend-long sabbath from my MacBook and movies went surprisingly well. I was up with the sun both Saturday and Sunday, managed to accomplish quite a bit, busted my ass on the bike trails and got in some quality reading. Things are lined up nicely for this final week of work for May.

I have no idea what Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film is about but I’d settle on it containing a sliver of the genius that was “There Will Be Blood”. That is to say, it would still be very, very good.

Written by camcarlson

May 21, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Rain songs

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Throughout the day I heard “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by CCR, “Set Fire to the Rain”* by Adele and “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, also by CCR. I felt it was fitting to open iTunes and listen to “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin, from Houses of the Holy (tied with Led Zeppelin III as my favorite LZ album).

*What the hell does that even mean, ‘set fire to the rain’? Or what about ‘rolling in the deep’? What was that woman smoking when she came up with these song titles?

Gone Bust Ctd

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A follow-up on two previous posts

1. The Iowa Senate allocated $3 million to keep Price Lab open for one more year but the funds were stripped when the state budget went through reconciliation. Pending lawsuits may be the only hope for PL supporters at this point. More than 100 of the school’s student body are scheduled to attend Janesville schools next schoolyear, which would increase that district’s student body by almost a third.

2. Winnebago Council voted two weeks ago to sell the Scout Reservation near Marble Rock as well as the southern portion of Camp Ingawanis. I assume this will leave all the cabins, mess hall, pool, firing range, horse camp, et cetera (basically everything I remember about scout camp) remaining open for business.

3. The company I work for filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today. The prearranged bankruptcy includes selling the company to Fortress Investment Group LLC via a “stalking horse bid” through its mortgage unit Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc. This bid may be approved in a month, which would lead to an auction lasting 90 days, allowing for competing bids. Upon completion of the auction, the sale should be finalized by the end of the year, pending court approval.

4. Valley Park Lanes closed a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been there in a dozen years, and I can’t say I remember much about the lanes aside from how warped they were. I did spent the final day of the school year in 8th grade there, which was kinda fun. I hope the same fate doesn’t befall Maple Lanes anytime soon.

5. There have been a few openings in the Cedar Valley, of the restaurant kind: the crappy Beck’s out at Thunder Ridge closed and was replaced with a nice place called The Wild Hare, which serves sinfully delicious boneless chicken wings. It’s hard to stop eating them! I tried the Pita Pit for the first time last weekend (where the Amoco used to be on 1st & Hudson) and loved it. There’s also a new Indian place at the same strip mall that I should try out sometime. I also need to try the all-you-can-eat Hibachi place at the site of the former Happy Chef on 1st St. Finally, a new coffee shop is opening where Bought Again Book and the Vibe used to be (which has sat empty for *far* too long). The Roast opens in August.