Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sick

Well, kind of. I started getting sick last week, but now feel better, with one exception: my nose. It keeps running and getting stuffed up. Which makes simple things, like eating, kind of annoying when you can't do something that is also quite necessary. Like breathe.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Classless", or Why I Don't Like Organized Sports

This last Saturday was "the big game" in Utah: the annual University of Utah vs. Brigham Young University football game. And here, it's a big deal. Epic. How epic? Think Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi epic. Or so you'd think.

I don't participate in organized sports, much less watch them. I used to; I think everyone probably does at some point. A lot of this changed for me around the time I was in intermediate or high school. And there is very much a reason for it: people take sports way too seriously. That's precisely why I've found this Max Hall controversy so funny, as well as a reminder of why I stay away from organized sports as much as possible.

In case you are reading this from outside of Utah or have somehow not heard about this, here is what Mr. Hall said:

I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything. So it felt really good to send those guys home. They didn't deserve it. It was our turn, and our turn to win. We deserved it. We played as hard as we could tonight. And it felt really good, again, to send them home, to get them out of here, and so it is a game I will always remember.


He was then asked to elaborate, responding, "You really want me to go into it?" He then stated:

I think the whole university, their fans and their organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserved to lose.


And thus opened up the floodgates of negativity following the game. On Facebook, I've seen a lot of anti-Hall status updates and friends joining various "Max Hall is Classless" or "Max Hall Hates Me and Thinks I'm Classless" groups. Which led me to wonder: what if a Ute had said the exact same thing about BYU? There are Max Hall support groups on Facebook; undoubtedly there would be an opposite effect had it been a Ute making the same statement. Would all of those so outraged have been upset if the same thing had been said about BYU?

There are BYU fans who were appalled by what Mr. Hall said, and--might I add--rightfully so. What Mr. Hall said was one of the most unsportsmanlike things I've heard in a long time. Undoubtedly, there would be many Ute fans who would be appalled if one of their players said something similar to what Mr. Hall said. Unfortunately, this whole thing just digs a deeper whole, taking the rivalry to new lows, on both ends of the field, so to speak.

See, I would hope that this would bring out the best in Utah fans. Take the moral high ground, and prove Mr. Hall wrong by showing genuine class. Instead, in one of these Facebook groups, I've found equally, if not more abhorrent, bad behavior pop up. Things said about Mr. Hall and mockery of sacred beliefs of the LDS faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--also known as the Mormons and frequently abbreviated as the LDS Church--owns BYU) are displayed and then commented on as being "hilarious" in the group's photo album.

I don't take that lightly; not simply due to the fact that I find the latter in particular offensive as a member of the LDS Church, but also because I firmly believe that things a religion finds sacred--be that religion LDS, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or what have you--should be treated with respect, regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof. It's also a bit ironic considering that a considerable amount of the University of Utah's student body is composed of members of the LDS faith. Not only are these people mocking their rivals, they're mocking an entire religion, as well as fellow members of their own student body.

This behavior extends to the field, as well. In Utah, come October, you can never be sure if there will be snow on the ground; therefore, come game day there could be snow on the field. I recall watching a game several years ago where either a University of Utah cheerleader or fan (although I believe it was the former) threw a snowball at a BYU player, striking him in the helmet. This type of behavior is just as disrespectful and reprehensible, but how many "outraged" by Max Hall's statements would decry that action as well?

Of course, I want to make it clear that I'm not generalizing. I think the majority of Utah and BYU fans think that actions going as far as they have on either side take the rivalry away from what it should be: intense, but ultimately fun. There should be no ill feelings toward either school. No one should meet a supporter of the other team and seriously think "oh, one of those people."

But this is exactly what I dislike about organized sports: the intensity and absolutely horrible feelings that come with it when people get too involved with it. Sports should be about character building and teamwork, not hurling debris in Engery Solutions Arena, soccer stadium riots, or dedicating a Facebook page to how Max Hall thinks you're classless.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Concert Review - Imogen Heap; November 12, 2009 at In The Venue



Thursday night was a dream come true for me as I witnessed someone who changed how I view music take the stage and perform her music. Imogen Heap's music isn't traditional by any means, so it was interesting from a technical aspect to watch as she came out on stage holding a wineglass full of water and used that to create the interesting sound that opens her newest album, Ellipse. Using loops and bits from various technological marvels on stage (as well as help from a drummer/multi-instrumentalist and opening acts Back Ted N-Ted and Tim Exile), much of the songs' sounds were brilliantly recreated on stage.
Imogen Heap is also very personable, appearing on stage to introduce her opening acts, as well as providing bits of information about the songs prior to performing them. Overall, the concert was a smashing success, and I take her at her word when she says she will be back in April. I'd get tickets again in a heartbeat.

Aside from the performance, there were a few gripes.

1) I was embarrassed for the crowd, who I felt was disrespectful throughout the show. Imogen tried at various times to tell stories about the songs, even asking the crowd to please be quiet while she told them the story, only to be met with continued chatter. One person claimed that they "couldn't hear" her, which I don't believe. I've sat upstairs at In The Venue before, and everything was loud and clear.
In any case, it was embarrassing and frustrating as people kept shouting things and one person near us kept requesting "Candlelight", which Imogen said she would not be playing that evening upon the first request. Seriously, after that, just let it go.
Also, there were some people there who came up from Arizona. I think that's cool; we took a trip down there eight months ago to see Jimmy Eat World live on the Clarity x10 tour. But at no point did I elbow my way to get a whole row closer to the stage. Traveling eight hundred miles doesn't give you the right to push ahead of people who got there before you.

2) In The Venue is terrible, a fact Imogen even joked about as she had people facing her back throughout the show. I hope the next time she comes she skips that joint and picks a better locale. It's kind of a dingy place, but the crew there is hardly friendly. Nobody seemed to have good things to say about them. My personal suggestion would be for The Depot, which is similar in size but much nicer an better maintained. Of the two shows I've been to there, the staff has been friendly; the only drawback is the 21+ restriction as it is a private club.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Retroactive Review - Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

In discussions between ourselves, it came up that Rosie hadn't seen the original Star Wars films in quite some time. So we've decided to watch them, but we're going to catch up by watching them chronologically, though; so of course we watched Episode I.

Ten years ago, I was very excited for this film to come out. It wasn't until The Dark Knight came out last year that I had anything close to the excitement I had for Episode I. In retrospect, one film paid off in just about every aspect I could have hoped for, and one didn't. (Hint: the one that did came out last year.) In any case, I was somewhat worried about watching Episode I again, but I found myself pleasantly surprised.

There are, of course, hundreds of reviews out there, so we'll skip over most of that. I just want to point out a few things that I thought the film did well, and a few things I thought were lacking:

Special Effects - This one's kind of a mixed bag. In all actuality, the SFX hold up considerably well. Compared to the first Harry Potter film, which came out several years after Episode I, The Phantom Menace still had stronger special effects. (I found the SFX quality between the first two Potter films astounding.) However, the downside is that I felt some effects/creatures were there simply to "show off" what they could do. For example, the underwater scenes look cool, but when Boss Nass shakes his head, spreading his saliva about, there's no real purpose to it. It just looks like they're saying "look what we can do." The SFX overshadow the story in many instances.
Likewise, though the effects still hold up relatively well, there are clear instances of being able to distinguish what is CGI and what isn't. Some things look far too shiny, particularly creatures and other characters. It was cool what they were trying to do, and in some cases, succeeded, but at times the effect just didn't work or was otherwise distracting.

Jar Jar Binks - This was actually a relative surprise for me. Having not watched Episode I for years now, I'd read countless complaints regarding the character or Jar Jar; going into this, I was expecting to outright dislike the character, but was surprised to find that I didn't.
That said, there were some things I didn't care for. The character was relied on far too much. It's been put out there that the character was intended for 1) children, which I find fair enough, and 2) comic relief. It's the latter I tended to have an issue with because I didn't find the film particularly stressful or overtly dark. Sure, the other films had comic relief, but I never felt like it was being overdone; for example, in the battle scene with the Droid Army of the Trade Federation. Jar Jar's "clumsiness" (which in part, ironically enough, caused him to be banned from his native city) causes battlefield hijinks, which is fine occasionally but keeps continually happening. It feels like too much was spent on the character, again giving the feeling of "look what we can do" in the crafting of a near-completely digitally created character. But I do think the character has gotten an unjust bad rap.

Story - This probably impressed me the most. Having seen all of the films, there is considerable foreshadowing and interesting events that don't entirely make too much sense to the overall story until viewing the six-film saga as a whole. I can't really say much else other than that I thought is was very well done.

Dialog - Here's where there is a major problem. While a lot of the dialog is passable, portions of it are embarrassing and/or cringe worthy. One particular grievance I had this time around was with the Gungan dialect. Although I've seen the film enough times to know what is essentially going on, there were enough times that the Gungan characters were speaking and I couldn't understand a freaking thing they were saying. Likewise, some of the dialog given to Anakin was downright flat; I could have definitely gone without the "yippie"'s and other clunky dialog.

Verdict & Grade - Overall the film was okay. It wasn't the dreadful experience I was expecting, but there were definitely sections of the film that could have been worked on. For that, I'd give the film a solid C. On the plus side, though, it did have Liam Neeson in it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Weekend 2009

It was something of a weird weekend with a couple of big bombshells over the course of it. One of those was that our band's bassist is moving back to San Diego. This leaves me as the only original member of EotF. Nick and I are going to continue, though. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Best Part of Waking Up...

As a kid, when I went grocery shopping with my Mom, the one aisle I absolutely hated walking down was the one with all of the coffee. I absolutely hated the smell of it. To this day, I still hate walking down that aisle, and will either do what I can do get what I need on said aisle by going the long way around, or attempting to hold my breath until I feel I have sufficiently evaded the aroma.

Of course, this was long before I discovered coffee shops and brands other than Folger's. Perhaps here we'll take note that I do not drink coffee, but I do enjoy a nice hot chocolate, and several coffee shops I've been in craft fine cups of it. Needless to say, I am happily relieved to walk into a coffee shop and not want to cease breathing.

In any case, a few weeks ago I walked into my office common area where our soda machine and fridge are, and was whacked in the face by an old familiar smell. Next to the microwave is Mr. Coffee, gently bubbling a steaming pot of Folger's. Instinctively, I exhale or avoid breathing whilst walking past there now. On the other hand, Mr. Coffee does remind me of Spaceballs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"You Just Don't Get It"

Thinking over it the last day or so, there is something that really bothers me in debate. No matter how well versed you are in a subject, when encountering an opposition, the subject is quickly closed with "you just don't get it!"

To me, that is just insulting. In debates of health care, the phrase very well can and undoubtedly has been used multiple times. Either side of the debate can have valid points, but debate comes to a halt when someone says, "You just don't get it." Or, in other words, "I'm right, you're wrong. End of debate."

If that phrase is said to me, it implies that I have no clue what I'm talking about, in spite of the research I've done on the subject. Clearly, health care is a touchy subject for everyone, so clearly our feelings are mixed in. Do I think that only the rich should be responsible for a federally-funded health insurance program? No. Since the wealthy make more money, I would expect them to pay more, but not exclusively fund the operation. But I can't put aside my feelings that everyone should have some form of health insurance--especially children who have no say in the matter.

I recently read that in the German system, the only way you can be denied health coverage is to not pay your low-cost premium. To me, that makes sense. If you don't pay your power bill, clearly you shouldn't be allowed to have your electricity on. But I think it's great that everyone can have some form of coverage.

I don't know how it can work in the United States. I don't know how to make it work. But because I disagree on health care reform doesn't mean that I don't get the issue. It means that I have a different opinion, one that is just as valid as anyone else's.

In any case, like in the article liked to above, I agree that "you just don't get it" should be banned from public discourse and debate. Rather than pushing understanding and mutual agreement forward, it hinders progression and turns people off from debate.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pam Beesly Bobblehead



My Pam Beesly (soon to be Halpert) bobblehead showed up yesterday. I took these pictures at home, but now she is next to her co-workers of Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. And The Joker.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ensign Peak Hike




Rosie and I went on a hike up Ensign Peak and took our new camera with us. I took the above picture with the sun behind me, but I have no idea what happened; the sky turned entirely green, and I became a silouette. But I thought it looked pretty cool. Below is Rosie and I at the top of the Peak.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Making Music

I had band practice over the weekend. We took a long break and over the last couple of practices, have started writing some new material.

The best things come out of jams. Tony, our bassist, started experimenting with some chords, which sounded cool on the bass. The progression was similar to one of our other songs, but on the bass sounded totally different, too. So we played with it, and after a while had a start to a new song.

We've been playing together for about three years now (at least, Tony and I have; Nick's been with us for about two years), but upon practicing over the weekend, I was reminded how cool it is for a few people to get together and make music. I'm not necessarily talking about us like we're the coolest thing since sliced bread, but what I mean is that it happens all over the world; people get together, work with one another, and speak a language that surpasses nationalities. Music really is a wonderful thing. I feel very blessed that I have been able to take part of it in any way.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years Gone

Today definitely feels different.

I really don't know what to say about September 11. As I thought about it today, I thought about how this morning really felt a lot like that September morning eight years ago. I had weight training in the morning, and the radio was interrupted to broadcast the events unfolding in New York. It wasn't until I got to my next class that I really grasped what was going on; until that point we only had a vague idea of what was going on; I recall hearing a plane had crashed, but thought it was an accident. But when I saw what happened, it was a different story entirely.
Everyone who was old enough to remember what happened, I'm sure, will remember it forever. That's not something that leaves you.

I hope it's the same for everyone else, but for me, I don't think I'll ever forget the sense of unity and compassion that was felt on September 12, and the hope that was felt in the days after. I think it's a shame that, after the unity we felt after the country was attacked--where race, political ideology, and religious/social/economic differences didn't matter anymore--has been replaced with a divide that polarizes us on the national issues we face currently, and over the past several years. I hope that, without another devastating event, we can agree to disagree but be respectful and caring towards one another again. Because regardless of our race, political ideologies, and religious/social/economic differences, we're all Americans and want what is best for our country.

In closing, I hope you might take a few minutes to watch this. I think of it often when I think of September 11. It touched me the first time I saw it, and it touches my heart still today.

God bless America.

I can't get the video to embed, so please go here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Little Update

Time flies and suddenly the last post you did was something like twenty days ago. So here's what's been going on:

1 - I finally got my band back together. We're working on new stuff finally, and might be adding another guy on guitar, but that's yet to be seen. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

2 - We signed up for Verizon Wireless. After months of dropped calls and dead zones with T-Mobile, we finally gave up and switched. I loved T-Mobile back in the day, but kept having issues with my calls, and was lucky to get through a call, much less recieve it, if I was in my apartment. That's not horribly bad in the summer, but is terrible during the winter. So we switched to Verizon, and are much happier. Granted, there have been a few hiccups, but it's not on a daily basis, so that's great.
When we signed up with Verizon, we got a rebate with our phones, but instead of getting a check, we got gift cards. That ties into the next update.

3 - My birthday was last month, so between it and the Verizon rebate, I've been on the recieving end of a lot of new music and movies. I've recently put the new music from Imogen Heap. New Found Glory, Pete Yorn, Dashboard Confessional, and A Fine Frenzy on my iPod. and have a couple of seasons of The Simpsons and several movies to get through.

4 - I saw The Prestige twice over the weekend. What a trip of a movie! If you have seen it, let me know what you think in the comments!

5 - School has started up again. I'm at the University of Utah now. I don't know how to feel about it. Maybe I'll have better classes next semester, or maybe these ones will turn out to be okay, but I'm feeling a bit lackluster overall thus far.

6 - I found Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the Wii at Target for $20. The game itself is kind of a mixed bag. At times it feels like it could be more challenging, and it feels a little on the short side, however, it is insanely fun. As in, I want to just keep playing it. There is something really cool about slashing away with a virtual lightsaber and throwing large objects at Stormtroopers. And for $20, that's a pretty good deal.

7 - Labor Day was nice. Good times seeing family and friends and relaxing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's That Thing Called, Where We Elect People to Public Office?

Ugh. I'm getting sick of this. I just saw this video (at the end of the post), and one thing that continues to perplex me is this notion that we've lost our representation or that our representatives don't really represent us.

Well, I suppose if you voted for the candidate that lost, you'd be partially correct. They probably don't represent your views, but seriously--calling for a new revolution?

Don't get me wrong, I agree with several point in this video, but really? A revolution? If the person you didn't vote for doesn't represent your views, that doesn't call for a revolution! That's democracy!

But the last bit, the "get a gun, you'll need it" is ridiculous. It seems to me that this video was put together by a politically conservative group, but it's mind boggling that now, when the Democrats are in power, a revolution is called for. What happened to waiting for 2012, or 2010 for that matter?

No. Rather, let's take up arms and "take back the government" by force. Is this why people are showing up at health care rallies with assault rifles?

Last time I checked, we took care of those in positions of power that we didn't agree with by voting them out of office. And if they aren't voted out, then we abide by the will of the majority.

Some people are afraid of "what America is becoming" because of proposals and legislation being passed through a Democratically-controlled Congress with a Democratic President. I'm more afraid of what will happen to America if people start revolting simply because they can't handle the will of the majority.

You know, democracy.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Imogen Heap - "Ellipse" Review

I initially heard Imogen Heap's music on The Last Kiss's soundtrack, which featured "Hide and Seek". After that, I ended up getting the Garden State soundtrack, which led me to Frou Frou, Heap's electronic duo project and their beautiful song "Let Go."

Eventually, I picked up Heap's sophomore album Speak For Yourself and Frou Frou's Details, finally picking up Imogen's debut I Megaphone a while later.

Speak For Yourself was, for me, one of those albums that you feel may forever change or define some part of who you are. It didn't sound like nearly anything else I had in my collection--the closest to that would probably by Jem--but it felt neatly at home. Details continued that trend, but I found I Megaphone to be somewhat lacking; it is substantially different from Speak for Yourself, and has a much different musical sound than Heap's later work. To be fair, though, it was written and recorded when Heap was around 19 or 20, and separated by a seven year gap between it and Speak for Yourself.

Needless to say, I was quite excited for Imogen's next album, Ellipse. While I was expecting a sound similar to Speak for Yourself, the album sounds like an amalgamation of I Megaphone and its predecessor, and it's own work entirely. And it comes off quite well.

Heap, who as far as I am aware wrote and recorded--for the most part--the album by herself uses an eclectic variety of instruments and methods to create sounds. "The Fire", towards the end of the album, features the crackling of a fire to start the track out, followed by piano playing over it shortly thereafter.

One of the biggest problems I had with 21st Century Breakdown was Green Day's use of using the same conventions as they did on American Idiot. To a much smaller extent, Heap uses a couple of conventions on Ellipse as she did on Speak for Yourself; for example, "Earth"starts out in a similar way to "Just for Now," with a Capella, dubbed over vocals, but it lasts for a few seconds before jumping into the rest of the song. Likewise, there is a similarity to "Hide and Seek" with similar synthesized vocal line, but done in almost an entirely different way--one that almost seems like a brief tribute to her earlier hit, rather than ripping herself off.

Ellipse is just the right amount of comfort, not steering too far away from the work of Speak for Yourself, but changes things up enough so that it's not a rehashing of its predecessor, and sounds like a natural step and progression from the album crafted four years ago.

On a four-star scale, I find this one hard to rate. Speak for Yourself is a definite 4/4, and I feel I Megaphone is a 2.5/4. Ellipse falls somewhere in between; it's by far better than I Megaphone, but it doesn't hit that same level as Speak for Yourself. I'd rate it around 3.5/4; it doesn't hit that 3.5 exactly, but it's close. This is a thoroughly enjoyable album that satisfies but doesn't shatter expectations, but that's fine by me.

TIME Magazine Universal Health Care Article

I found this article on TIME magazine's website. Since health care is a passionate topic for me, I thought I'd pass it on. I've emphasized certain parts in bold italics.

In recent weeks, opponents of Barack Obama's health-care-reform plans have criticized Britain's National Health Service (NHS) in an effort to counter the President's proposals for greater government involvement in health care. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa suggested that his Democratic colleague Edward Kennedy would have been left to die in Britain because doctors would have refused the 77-year-old treatment for his brain tumor, and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote in an article that British health care is run by "Orwellian" bureaucrats who put a price tag on life. Meanwhile, the lobby group Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR) has been running scare ads with horror stories from British patients on its website. TIME takes a look at what the NHS is really all about.

What is the NHS?
The NHS is a rare example of truly socialized medicine. Health care is provided by a single payer — the British government — and is funded by the taxpayer. All appointments and treatments are free to the patient (though paid for through taxes), as are almost all prescription drugs. The maximum cost of receiving any drug prescribed by the NHS is $12.

How was it formed?
The NHS officially came into being in July 1948, in the wake of World War II, to replace an inadequate system of volunteer hospitals that had, during the war, come to rely on government funding. Doctors and conservative politicians vehemently opposed the NHS in the run-up to its formation, using many of the arguments that opponents of greater government involvement in the U.S. cite today. According to Geoffrey Rivett, author of From Cradle to Grave — The First 60 Years of the NHS, the then head of doctor's body the British Medical Association (BMA), Charles Hill, gave a radio address in 1948 in which he asked, "Do you really want the state to be your doctor?" Today, the BMA is a champion of the NHS and resists any privatization initiatives. In a statement on Aug. 14, BMA chairman Dr. Hamish Meldrum said, "The NHS is not perfect. But the market-style philosophy of the U.S. is a lesson we could do well without."

How does NHS health care compare with U.S. health care?
Like most developed countries, Britain ranks above the U.S. in most health measurements. Its citizens have a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality, and the country has more acute-care hospital beds per capita and fewer deaths related to surgical or medical mishaps. Britain achieves these results while spending proportionally less on health care than the U.S. — about $2,500 per person in Britain, compared with $6,000 in the U.S. For these reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Britain 18th in a global league table of health-care systems (the U.S. was ranked 37th). However, there are measures by which the U.S. outperforms Britain: for instance, the U.S. has lower cancer mortality rates.

Does private health insurance exist in Britain?
Yes, and it works in a similar way to health insurance in the U.S. Many employers offer private health-insurance plans as a perk to workers — a minority of patients opt out of the NHS system to receive their medical treatments privately. Private patients can choose their specialists and avoid waiting lists for non-emergency procedures; NHS patients wait an average of about eight weeks for treatments that require admission to a hospital, four weeks for out-patient treatments and two weeks for diagnostic tests. While NHS patients have a choice of hospitals, they cannot always choose their specialist.

Is it true that NHS bureaucrats put a price tag on life?
The short answer is yes. The NHS has a body called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that decides which new treatments and drugs the NHS should pay for. One of the factors NICE considers when deciding whether to approve funding for a new treatment or drug is cost-effectiveness. To determine the dividing line between what is cost-effective and what isn't, it must set a threshold. Taking its lead from Britain's Department of Transport — which has a cost-per-life-saved threshold for new road schemes of about $2.2 million per life, or about $45,000 per life year gained — NICE rarely approves a drug or treatment that costs more than $45,000 per life year gained. In short, NICE does not want the NHS to spend more than $45,000 to extend a citizen's life by one year.

While NICE's decisions have angered some doctors and patient groups — particularly some oncologists who say they are unable to prescribe expensive, life-extending cancer drugs — mainstream politicians, the media and most Britons accept NICE's rare rejections as a necessary compromise to keep universal coverage affordable in the face of rising health-care costs. As NICE chairman Sir Michael Rawlins recently told TIME, "All health-care systems have implicitly, if not explicitly, adopted some form of cost control. In the U.S., you do it by not providing health care to some people. That's a rather brutal way of doing it."

Is it true that old people receive inferior care on the basis of their age?
NICE uses what it calls "citizens councils" to help it sort through difficult ethical issues, and one of the decisions the councils have made is that age should not be a factor in the institute's approval process — that is to say, a year of life should be considered as valuable to a 77-year-old as to a 12-year-old. In every part of the system, a 77-year-old has the same access to treatment as anyone else in Britain.

What about the ad by lobby group CPR that interviews a British woman who developed cervical cancer after being refused a Pap test because she was too young, and another for a woman whose mother died while waiting for treatment for kidney cancer? Are these experiences typical?
As mentioned above, cancer treatment is one area in which British patients probably receive inferior treatment to Americans who have comprehensive health insurance. However, Britain's policy of beginning cervical-cancer screening at age 25 is in accordance with WHO guidelines, which are based on evidence that screening below that age produces false-positive results that can lead to unnecessary and dangerous surgical interventions. Overall, the WHO has found that the risks posed by false positives outweigh the benefits of earlier screening.

It's also true that Americans who have comprehensive health-insurance plans do, in some cases, have access to a greater range of cancer treatments, without waiting lists. The two British women used in the CPR ads have since told various newspapers that their views were inaccurately portrayed. While both have complaints about how cancer is treated within the NHS, they support the service as an institution. The woman who developed cervical cancer (it is now in remission) told the Times of London, "My point was not that the NHS shouldn't exist or that it was a bad thing."

That view seems typical. It's a British pastime to complain bitterly about the NHS but remain fiercely protective of its existence. A recent "We Love the NHS" Twitter campaign has received thousands of messages of support, including from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose eyesight was saved by British doctors after he was involved in a rugby collision as a young man and whose son suffers from cystic fibrosis. The leader of Britain's right-wing Conservative Party, David Cameron, expressed his support for the health service on Aug. 14: "One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured or fall ill — no matter who you are, where you are from or how much money you've got — you know that the NHS will look after you."

Friday, August 14, 2009

21st Century Letdown

Green Day is playing in Salt Lake City this Sunday, and a couple of years ago, I'd have been jumping all over the chance to see them live. That was when they were still riding the high of American Idiot, an album that had a profound impact on me regarding the world and how the political climate stood at the time.

After five years, Green Day readied their latest album, 21st Century Breakdown. Here is what I had to say about that album after listening to it:

First things first: I like Green Day. I think they are a tremendously talented band, and are an influence in music that will be felt for years and years to come. Their songs have spoken to me, motivated me, and moved me. That, in part, makes this review hard to write.

Nine years ago, Green Day released Warning:, and after some setbacks and a side project, released American Idiot four years later. It was loud, political, and in-your-face. Green Day rode their new wave of popularity high for another several years, releasing another side-project album in between, and are readying the release of 21st Century Breakdown, an album which "chronicl[es] the life of a young couple as they deal with the mess our 43rd president left behind."

Herein lies the first problem: the album is still rooted in the politics of old. When Idiot hit, everything that Green Day had to say was relevant to the times. Since the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency, it seems to me that most people just want to move forward. The theme of this album comes nearly seven months too late.

However, the real problem lies in the songs themselves. They don't sound bad, but the problem is that it sounds like I've heard each of them before. Some new things are nice, such as a piano intro and Billie Joe singing falsetto, but quickly things change, and it's the old familiar sound. Before the Lobotomy and 21 Guns each sound like a hybrid of Give Me Novocaine and Letterbomb, while Restless Heart Syndrome has an ending that reminded me of Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Last of the American Girls, thematically, is like a carbon copy of the songs regarding Whatsername on the Idiot opera. The title track sounds like Green Day's version of Working Class Hero, the John Lennon song they covered a couple of years ago; they even use that title in this song. Musically, the song is alright, until the Queen-like breakdown, which just doesn't fit the song. It's almost like an afterthought tacked on to the end of it.

Similarly, the piano intro and band entrances are used more than once, and sound too similar to one another to stand out. A little piano intro, and boom!, it's into the swing of things, but each time, it's done too similarly to the other to stand out. A piano filled bridge may have done better.

Like American Idiot had two "suites," a song composed of five shorter songs, complete with transitions, Breakdown features one--American Eulogy--composed of two shorter songs. It's about half the length of either of Idiot's suites, but the transition is reminiscent. It even starts like Idiot's latter suite, Homecoming, just Billie Joe and a guitar, though his voice is slightly distorted this time, then we get the whole band coming in. Mike Dirnt even sings lead vocals on one part...just like he did in the Homecoming suite. Each member of Green Day has a good singing voice; why not alternate whole songs? Why not trade off lead vocals with Mike singing verses, Billie Joe singing choruses, and Tre singing the bridge?

American Eulogy is divided into two parts: Mass Hysteria and Modern World. Almost immediately into Hysteria, the vocal melody reminded me of an older song. I had to check it out, and while not identical, the melody to Hysteria and Warning:'s Deadbeat Holiday are quite similar. Likewise, while remaining its own song, 21st Century Breakdown has transitional pieces into a guitar solo that sound like something heard on Idiot.

The lyrics are available online, and I've read them all. I know like Idiot, Breakdown is a rock opera, nonetheless, the conventions of repeating themes and phrases don't seem to work here, they just seem like Idiot revisited. There's not much new here, which is what kills the album.

Warning:, while not commercially viable, was strikingly different from what Green Day had done in the past and was critically acclaimed. Idiot was relevant to our times, and set a new standard for Green Day. I would have like to see that standard met, but unfortunately, thus far, it hasn't been. I would have liked to see something different. The lone song that stood out was the closer, See the Light. I enjoyed it, but it came seventeen songs (literally) too late. After four years--and a LOT has happened in that time--it would have been nice to hear something new. Green Day has proven they can do it; their side project Foxboro Hot Tubs was unlike anything they've done before. I realize it takes a lot of talent and skill to write an album, and maybe it's not my place to call this like I see it and be so critical, however, it just feels like they've rehashed their last album and released it under a different name. It feels like I've wasted my anticipation on nothing.

After hearing the album, I've changed my rating: 1/4 stars. And that one star is pushing it. Sorry to anyone who disagrees, but this is one of the most disappointing albums I've heard in recent memory.

I stand by every word I said then today. If I could change one thing, I would probably rate the album lower than I already did; a half-star would probably suffice, as a whole star feels much too generous for Idiot on replay.

Perhaps the worst part about Breakdown is the fact that it entirely killed my desire to see Green Day live. Of course they'll play a selection of songs from their back catalogue, but Breakdown is the album they're touring behind, and I really have no desire to listen to them play a majority of--if not the whole--album, filled with songs I feel are pale shadows and shallow retreads of those released on its erstwhile brother.

And so Green Day will come and go, and I don't even mind.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walker, Texas Politician

I don't even know where to begin.

Maybe with this: I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat, either. I find myself being more left-of-center than anything; mostly moderate, I tend to be more conservative on moral issues, but more liberal on issues like the economy, education, health care, and so on.

But even then, I still have issues with this.

The two political sites I often check on are Politico and The Drudge Report. That is, if you can call TDR political.

Criticism of TDR aside, an important thing to know about it is that there are rarely stories reported on there written by founder Matt Drudge (or perhaps TDR staff, if any) himself. Most of the stories link out to other websites, such as newspapers, through their headlines.

One such headline listed today states "Obamacare, page 838: 'Home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children'..." and links to townhall.com. The article in question was written by none other than Chuck Norris.

Norris, as a Republican, and has issues with the universal health care bill. Titled "Dirty Secret No. 1 in Obamacare", Norris takes issue with the federal government offering assistance to people on raising their children. Says Norris:

Dirty secret No. 1 in Obamacare is about the government's coming into homes and usurping parental rights over child care and development.

The bill says that the government agents, "well-trained and competent staff," would "provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains ... modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices," and "skills to interact with their child to enhance age-appropriate development."

Now we get into conjecture:

Are we to assume the state's mediators would understand every parent's social or religious core values on parenting? Or would they teach some secular-progressive and religiously neutered version of parental values and wisdom? And if they were to consult and coach those who expect babies, would they ever decide circumstances to be not beneficial for the children and encourage abortions?

One government rebuttal is that this program would be "voluntary." Is that right? Does that imply that this agency would just sit back passively until some parent needing parenting skills said, "I don't think I'll call my parents, priest or friends or read a plethora of books, but I'll go down to the local government offices"? To the contrary, the bill points to specific targeted groups and problems, on Page 840: The state "shall identify and prioritize serving communities that are in high need of such services, especially communities with a high proportion of low-income families."

First, I'll make note of the abortion note. One, I doubt anyone would go in and encourage that. But secondly, what is to say that one of these agents is decidedly pro-life? The assumption here sounds like this government agency will be entirely "liberal." The Obama Administration has Republicans in it. Jon Huntsman, the now former Governor of Utah, a Republican, was just appointed as the Ambassador to China. As most any job can't discriminate against one for race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, I doubt anyone from this apparent government agency would be denied work based on their political or moral views. I doubt abortion would be readily encouraged.

Norris believes that the government should stay out of people's lives and let them raise their own children. Low-income families shouldn't be targeted by the government. Sure, I can agree with that, but if the consultation is free, it might have an application to low income people.

No, they can just turn to parents, religious leaders, friends, or books. While those are all fine and outstanding options which should be encouraged, more options provide people with more choices. They are free to choose which they may not want to use. If someone desires to consult with their bishop, priest, or rabbi, in addition to parents and the government, they will get information from different view points. They can then choose how to incorporate any of that information in taking care of their children.


Although he notes that the service would be voluntary, the question is raised of an ulterior motive. Why would the government want to interject with people raising their children, you might ask. Well, it's most likely so that they can raise them the way they want to, not the way you want to.

Government's real motives and rationale are quite simple, though rarely, if ever, stated. If one wants to control the future ebbs and flows of a country, one must have command over future generations. That is done by seizing parental and educational power, legislating preferred educational methods and materials, and limiting private educational options. It is so simple that any socialist can understand it. As Josef Stalin once stated, "Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

It's all an attempt to control the next generation. You know, the way that socialists tend to do.

I will give credit where credit is due. I appreciate Mr. Norris' comments regarding how the LDS Church has been unfairly be targeted for Proposition 8 when a load of organizations supported the initiative. However, that article contained facts. Much of Mr. Norris' current article is conjecture, fear-mongering, and speculation, waving around the spectre of the Hammer and Sickle.

Recently, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin declared the Obama health care plan "downright evil" because it would institute "death panels" that decide "based on a subjective judgement of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."

As the AP report states, the euthanasia rumors have been going around the Internet for weeks, but the non-partisan group FactCheck.org states the claim is false. In fact, FactCheck quotes the President on the actuality of the claim:

At an AARP town hall event on July 28, the president took on questions about these claims. A woman named Mary, from North Carolina, asked: “I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that’s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die. This bothers me greatly and I’d like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill.” Obama responded:

I think that the only thing that may have been proposed in some of the bills – and I actually think this is a good thing – is that it makes it easier for people to fill out a living will. … And if you don’t want to fill out a living will, you don’t have to. But it’s actually a useful tool I think for a lot of families to make sure that if, heaven forbid, you contract a terminal illness, that you are somebody who is able to control this process in a dignified way that is true to your faith and true to how you think that end-of-life process should proceed. You don’t want somebody else making those decisions for you. … But, Mary, I just want to be clear: Nobody is going to be knocking on your door; nobody is going to be telling you you’ve got to fill one out. And certainly nobody is going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington.

Moderator and AARP radio host Mike Cuthbert then told Obama: “As I read the bill, it’s saying that Medicare will, for the first time, cover consultation about end-of-life care, and that they will not pay for such a consultation more than once every five years. This is being read as saying every five years you’ll be told how you can die.” The president responded: “Well, that would be kind of morbid.”

He went on to explain: “The intent here is to simply make sure that you’ve got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it.” Exactly so.


So an option for people to have their information updated every five years and provide a way for them to have a living will has been distorted into "the government will tell you how you can die," and "death panels will decide who gets health care and who doesn't"; both radically far from what the actual clause is.

The President recently held a town hall-style meeting where he addressed some of these issues personally. He said:

"[Opponents] will try to scare the heck out of folks, and they'll create bogeymen out there that just aren't real."

Directly confronting the death panel issue, he said:

"[D]eath panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that it's too expensive to let her live anymore. … I'm not in favor of that."

"For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this ... if you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need."

I am of the belief that we need a health care plan that covers all Americans. I lived in Canada and have seen the system work--although I agree with the President that the Canadian system wouldn't work for the United States; there are definitely kinks that could and should be ironed out in an American system. I also don't believe that any legislation should be rushed through, and that it should definitely be refined before being passed into law.

No universal health care bill will get passed that pleases everyone and that doesn't have some sort of problem, but I believe it will be beneficial for everyone to either have coverage in some way, or have the cost of their existing care lowered. If the government and private care coverage can compete, then everyone can benefit from lower costs and quality care. But everyone needs to know the truth about the bill that is currently being considered, and know what is downright false.


For further information on the death panel falsehood, please click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Advertisements in Liner Notes

So.....

I have a long history of not liking Mariah Carey. Maybe she's okay personally. I've never met her. But I've never liked her music. And this little ditty, reported by MTV News, really kind of puts it over the edge for me:

With product placement already ubiquitous in television and movies, the next logical place for brand integration is the CD — and Mariah Carey is taking the first step.

Brandweek magazine has reported that Carey's upcoming CD, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, will feature a 34-page insert in the CD booklet that is a collaboration with Elle magazine and which will include ads from upscale brands like Elizabeth Arden, Angel Champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Métier de Beauté and the Bahamas Board of Tourism.

In addition to the ads, the mini-magazine will feature stories about the singer with titles such as "VIP Access to Her Sexy Love Life," "Amazing Closet" and "Recording Rituals" written and designed by the Elle team and mixed in with lyrics and other traditional liner-note materials. A spokesperson for Carey's label, Island/Def Jam, confirmed the report.

The ad-supported booklets — which will also be available in a digital format for downloaders — will appear in the first 1 million U.S. copies of the CD and the first 500,000 overseas, and if the experiment is well-received, even bigger branding deals could be in the works for upcoming CDs from Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Kanye West and other IDJ acts, according to the magazine.

A condensed version of the booklet, without the music-specific material, will be inserted into 500,000 subscription copies of Elle's October issue.

"The idea was really simple thinking: 'We sell millions of records, so you should advertise with us,' " said Antonio "L.A." Reid, IDJ's chairman. "My artists have substantial circulation — when you sell 2 million, 5 million, 8 million, that's a lot of eyeballs. Most magazines aren't as successful as those records." Reid said Carey was "very open" to the idea when he showed her a mock-up of the magazine with brands that fit her jet-setter lifestyle. "I wouldn't want to do Mariah Carey and Comet abrasive cleaner," Reid said. "I wanted things that really reflected her taste." Advertising revenues will subsidize the label's entire costs for producing the booklet.

The deal comes amid the continuing bad news for the music industry, which has seen sales down 13.9 percent so far this year compared with last year. It also follows on the heels of last year's deal by Chris Brown's label, Jive Records, with the William Wrigley Jr. company, which found him writing and recording a single, "Forever," that doubled as a commercial for Doublemint gum, a campaign that was suspended after Brown was arrested for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna; Brown pleaded guilty to a felony count of assault and was recently sentenced to 180 days of community service.

The Mariah initiative also gives IDJ a chance to promote the CD outside of traditional music stores and the constantly shrinking music aisles in large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. At Wal-Mart, the CD will be featured outside the music section in a special display coordinated with Carey's new Arden fragrance, Forever, which will be advertised on the booklet's back cover. The CD and perfume will also be displayed together in the stores' beauty departments.

Yep. Advertisements in CD's. Nothing about this seems right to me. Now here, it seems like Carey is entirely on board with the experiment; but what if the experiment is an enormous success?

I once heard that it takes about 500,000 album sales--a gold record--for a record company to start making money on an album after making back what they spent to produce it. As stated in the article, by selling ads, the record company has subsidized all of their costs for producing the booklet.

Record companies, I believe, are necessary for musicians to get their music into the mass markets. And record companies, like nearly all companies, exist to make a profit. But a lot of artists thrive off of their intergrity. Will companies start putting advertisements in the newest Pearl Jam album? (Not that Pearl Jam would go for that!) Let's look at them as an example, though. This is the last of the '90's Seattle bands that has it's main members--and I assume we can count drummer Matt Cameron, as he was in Soundgarden when the Seattle scene exploded. This is the band that fought Ticket Master and survived. This is the band that fought AT&T censorship.

But say their next album came with advertisements in it, issued not by them but by the label. Would they be considered sellouts--a term that is thrown out all too often and too loosely, in my opinion--when they had nothing to do with it?

Hopefully we can all see the problem.

Worse, would a new band be forced to compromise their intergrity in order to try and sell their album? In doing so, they could lose all credibility, and be labeled nothing more than a corporate band when, in every other way, they've earned their way to making the album they want.

The record industry is hurting, and looking for a way to make money. Throw in advertisements; problem solved.

I'm a huge advocate of actually buying a physical CD. I love reading the liner notes, and I love seeing what the band or artist has to say. But if I began opening my CD's and started seeing ads for Gucci or Burger King, I'd be rather upset. I believe I'd start buying almost exclusively on iTunes. Granted, the article says that the ads will be in the online version, too, but when it comes to digital albums, I don't personally bother with that if the liner notes are available after the first album I tried that with had issues.

As a society, we're surrounded by advertisements every day. On the drive to work, you'll see them, or you'll see them on the bus or train. Every eight or so minutes you get bombarded with them on television, or every few pages in your magazines and newspapers. They're on scores of websites. They appear before your movie in the theater, and product placement can be prevalent throughout a film. And now someone thinks we should have them in our music.

Thanks but no thanks. If I see it in the liner notes of an album I purchase, I'll know to start buying online.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hot Diggity Daffodil!

According to comingsoon.net, Futurama will be back with the original voice actors!


Forgive and Forget

Something that really came to my attention yesterday is that we so often let trivial things get in the way of our friendships, and therefore our happiness. After getting together with an old friend this weekend, it became clear to me that holding on to the little things that can disrupt a friendship really only hurts yourself in the end. If I held onto things that were, for the most part not really anything to hold on to, I deprive myself of great experiences. After getting together for a little bit and having a lot of fun, it was clear to me that sometimes it's just time to let go, let bygones be bygones, and mend the fences. And I feel a lot better about it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

William Shatner Reads Sarah Palin's Resignation Speech

Probably one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Please, No...

MTV News and Hollyscoop are reporting that Miley Cyrus, of "Hannah Montana" fame, has talked to Warner Bros. executives about playing Batgirl in an upcoming Batman film.

According to Hollyscoop.com, the "Hannah Montana" star reportedly "stunned" Warner execs during her audition, even dressing for the part in a "full batsuit."

“She was sort of hopping around the room and had even written some dialogue for herself," a source said of Cyrus' audition. "The problem is some people aren’t really convinced Miley has the acting chops to pull it of.”

This conflicts with everything Christopher Nolan has done thus far to establish the new Batman film franchise as something at least semi-plausible. The good news is, I don't think Nolan would ever go for this, and I'm inclined to think that it's either a) not true, or b) Warner's was trying to be nice to Ms. Cyrus and this will never come to be.

At least, I hope it will never come to be. Otherwise, Warner's execs are jsut as good as the ones at FOX that decided to bring back Futurama, only to talk about replacing the voice talent.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Batman 2008

This is a bit older; I did it in about March of 2008. I'm currently working on a bunch of new ones; I have inks done on Batman, Batgirl, Nightwing, half of Harley Quinn, and pencils for Robin and about half of Poison Ivy. Still need to do a bunch of characters for a massive group drawing, and then color the sucker.
Oh, if you couldn't tell, I am a Batman fan...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Throwing Terms Around

Last night, the President talked about health care reform. This is something I believe strongly in, but that's another post for another day.

I didn't actually see the press conference, as I was busy doing homework at the time. However, I had Facebook open (yeah, I know) as I worked, and I started seeing some comments come in regarding a friend's status update.

Now, I have no problem with people opposing the President's policies, or not even liking the man. That's normal; you can't win them all. However, I was shocked when I read some of the things people were saying. I refuse to use names, as I believe that is disrespectful. But here are the things I took issue with. The statements written in quotations are exactly as they were written, except where I felt clarification was needed.

"[The President]'s a lot like Hitler" because Hitler "slowly manipulated everyone into liking him and slowly took over germany and became dictator.."

"People already think that [Obama] is the Messiah and that how Germany saw Hitler.."

The biggest problem I have here is that the President of the United States is being compared to Adolf Hitler, one of the most despicable and almost universally reviled men in the history of the world. I think anyone should have a problem with that comparison, whether the President is Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or anyone that has a name that isn't Adolf Hitler.
Another person pointed out the following:

"[H]itler took power by usurping control over the following industries: banking/lending, military, health care, etc. obama may not be comitting genocide, but a lot of history is repeating itself."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that because President Obama is a charismatic individual and an excellent orator, the Hitler comparisons are also being levied against him.

But let's look at those points: First would be the banking/lending charge. The collapse in the banking industry happened before Barack Obama was elected President. Keep in mind when it happened; Senator McCain "suspended" his campaign in order to help with the crisis.

The initial bailout was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008; this was a month before Obama became President-elect, and three-and-a-half months until the he could sign anything into law himself.

Using that logic, the Hitler charge could be issued against President Bush; does that make it true? Of course not! President Bush is no closer to being like Hitler than President Obama is.

Secondly, the charge is that Obama, like Hitler, took power by usurping control of the military. Nowhere prior to the election on November 4, 2008 to January 20, 2009, did Obama in any way utilize the military. It wasn't until his inauguration that he had any authority over the military. It was through his inauguration that he thereby took control of the armed forces of the United States, and he did so the exact same way George W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and every other President did. To compare Obama to Hitler in doing so is to compare all of the other 43 Presidents to him in the same way.

Lastly, there is the charge that Obama trying to take over health care is similar to what Hitler did. At the time of writing, I don't know where to find out if Hitler did take over Germany's health care system. Therefore, this part is speculation, but I think the same principle applies. Consider that Obama is rather trying to provide a health care system similar to Canada, England, or Australia. Weren't these countries allies of the United States during World War II? And they are allies still today. Still, does that make Canadian Tommy Douglas the same as Hitler? Does that equate every other industrialized nation that has universal health care with Nazi Germany? Clearly, as it is with the Obama-Hitler comparison, it does not.

Further are the charges that Obama is a socialist. This is a somewhat humorous charge among the Hitler comparisons, as Hitler and the Nazi Party were anti-communist. That aside, it brings us to the first order of contention here. Anymore, people are using "socialism/socialist" synonymously with "communism/communist." While socialism and communism are similar, there are also striking differences.

Webster defines socialism as:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

Whereas communism is described as:

1 a: a theory advocating elimination of private property b: a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed2capitalized a: a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics b: a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production c: a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably d: communist systems collectively

True, the government bailed out many corporations, but unless I'm mistaken, I believe the condition was that once those companies were back on their feet, the government-owned shares would be sold. That's vastly different in comparison to socialism or communism, wherein the means of production are owned by all or the government.

In the case of health care, I believe the plan isn't that the government owns the health care system; rather, the government health care system provides coverage to those that are not currently covered, and thereby the government's system actually competes with existing health care providers. That sounds an awful lot like capitalism.

Obama is not a dictator, and no one party permanently controls the government. Although Obama has declared he wants to "even the playing field", so to speak, it is not in the way described under definition 2b of communism listed above. Obama doesn't want to do away with private property. The vast majority of the means of production are owned by entities other than the government, and there has been no indication that Obama or the Democratically-led Congress has any intentions to change that.

A lot of his rhetoric has been about helping small businesses succeed. To me, that sounds like a capitalistic venture.

The problem is that people throw these words around without knowing what they mean. Or worse, we allow people to change the meanings of these words into shallow distortions of their original and true meanings. In the same way, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have been warped into caricatures of their true political definitions, and are used to demonize those that adhere to a particular ideology. Similarly "socialism" has been warped to be synonymous with "communism", and in particular with Communism as defined in definition 2a, and essentially 2b; the principles of socialism appear to be quite different from Communism.

It would be my hope that we would take into consideration the terms that we haphazardly throw around, and the comparisons that I believe do more damage to ourselves than they do those we are trying to attack. In doing so, we can open an actual dialog that can produce productive debate that might change our minds on the issues, regardless of where we may currently stand.