Property damage costs in Godzilla (1998)

I haven’t had chance to see the new “Godzilla” with Bryan Cranston, but I did see the one with Matthew Broderick where the big lizard (is that what Godzilla is) wrecked New York City.

How much do you think it would cost to fix New York after that one?

A substantial figure. But I suspect the new “Godzilla” is going to top that number.

Feeding hungry children in America

This is an amazingly kind thing to do (from USA Today).

After hearing last week that dozens of Utah students had their school lunches taken because their accounts were delinquent, a Texas man decided to help students in similar situations near him.

Kenny Thompson, a 52-year-old mentor and tutor at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston, did some research and learned that children at the school where he works were receiving cold cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of full trays of food because they had negative balances on their lunch accounts.

These were children whose parents couldn’t afford the 40 cents per day fee, so Thompson took $465 and paid off the delinquent accounts of 60 children, KPRC television reports.

Because the following were amazingly evil things to do:

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.

And this:

A St. Louis County cafeteria worker is out of a job after giving away free meals to a child in need.

For two years, Dianne Brame worked as a cafeteria manager at Hudson Elementary in Webster Groves, keeping kids’ bellies full for their all-important task of learning.

The lunch lady loved her job: “I knew kids by their names, I knew their likes and dislikes, so it was just fun.”

But recently, she came across a fourth grader who consistently came without money. She says he used to be on the free lunch program, but language barriers got in the way of reapplying: “I sent them paperwork so that they could get back in contact with me, but it didn’t happen,” she says.

For days, Brame snuck the boy lunches. She explains, “I let his account get over $45 which I’m only supposed to let it get over $10, and I started letting him come through my lunch line without putting his number in, and they look at that as stealing. I thought it was just taking care of a kid.”

She was trying to protect him from the bullying: a cruel side dish to the default cheese sandwich given to kids without lunch money.

So, less than $500 will help ensure 60 American children have at least one decent meal a day. Otherwise, they go hungry, and people who attempt to feed them lose their jobs.

There are a lot of poor people in the U.S. and as the middle-class shrinks, it’s not because more middle-income workers are becoming rich. It’s because more of them are becoming poor. And those hardest hit by poverty are children.

So it’s always a good time to understand economic history. And since I haven’t referred to Paul Krugman in a while, maybe it’s time to look into the YouTube vault and hear him talk about income inequality and how we’ve gotten there:

Income inequality, poverty, hungry children. They’re all related. And as the generosity of one man in Texas shows, it really doesn’t take much to help children in need.

Pictures from an assassination

When President John F. Kennedy was killed 50 years ago today, it didn’t happen on live TV. If something like that happened today, there would be thousands of videos taken on smart phones and uploaded on YouTube within minutes.

But people did film the assassination. Home movies. Polaroids. Snaps from Kodak Brownies. It was an overwhelmingly documented event in American history. But the video above from the New York Times by noted documentarian Errol Morris reveals that the video evidence was pretty much ignored by law enforcement on Nov. 22 and the days, the weeks, the months, the years thereafter.

Ask a slave …

… Since who else would know more about the foibles of the founding fathers?

There’s a whole series of these on YouTube. Here’s another one:

I’ll go out on a limb here and say when she really did this for a living (a slave re-enactor), she was at Mount Vernon. And the sad thing is, these are really questions she was asked.

These definitely aren’t the answers she gave on the job.


Caffeine madness

Anything interesting happen at your coffee shop recently?

(Of course, I’m going to see “Carrie.”)


If I could talk to the animals … part 2

So the Mountain Dew ad with the goat in a police lineup with black guys while a white woman tries to identify her attacker was taken down. And now if you look for it on YouTube, you see every television news story in the world on the ad.

Which means the ad is a success.

Mountain Dew gets world-wide attention and great television viewership without spending a cent for advertising. The ad has a wider audience than it did when it just ran on the Web.

This ABC news story says the ad got about 2 million hits. But let’s see what’s happening here. ABC is talking about the ad for almost two-and-a-half minutes. That’s at least double, maybe triple, the time it took for the original ad to run.

According to Media Bistro today, the daily rating for “Good Morning, America” is 5.7 million viewers. So on one network alone, Mountain Dew got almost triple the number of viewers it had in all the time the thing was on the Web. Triple the exposure, triple the viewers. And not one cent was paid for advertising.

I will be interested in seeing if Mountain Dew’s sales go up this month. If they do, this is the reason.

And since I’m thinking about ads that are in bad taste, the following fake Volkswagen Polo ad from about 10 years ago  is the all-time winner:

A Middle East looking suicide bomber. Kind of racist, right?

It was made for the U.K. market, and ran about seven years ago. The production quality is pretty good. Someone spent a bunch of money to put it together. I first saw it when I lived in Brussels. Volkswagen denied any responsibility for it. But this clip alone got more than 800,000 views.

“McLintock”: a reactionary comedy

I was watching this John Wayne movie the other day on YouTube:

It’s the 1963 western “McLintock,” with Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and in the course of it you see:

1) A raging alcoholic as the heroic and admirable main character.
2) A depiction of Native Americans as uncontrollable alcoholics.
3) Mexican children roaming unsupervised through town assaulting homeless beggars.
4) Asian men behaving as babbling children obsessed with superstition.
5) A Negro manservant (and Negro is the appropriate word here) who cleans up his master’s mess without complaint and eternally holds the master in high regard.
6) The resolution of domestic disputes with guns and physical violence.
7) A strong-willed woman publicly humiliated and beaten by her spouse as an entire town watches and cheers.
8) The return of said woman to the house of the man who beat her, and her vow to obey him so they can live happily ever after.

So here’s my dilemma.

I really like this movie.

The parade of stereotypes shows the prevailing social attitudes of the 1960s. The scene where the daughter tells her father to shoot the ranch hand who calls her a trollop … and he shoots him … is really funny. The town brawl at the mud hole is something I’ve remembered ever since I first saw the movie at the Kinema theater in Brooklyn 50 years ago (whenever I think of a John Wayne movie, I always flashback to that segment).  In the chase scene featuring G.W. and Katherine McLintock, the wife gets some pretty good licks in amid the town’s laughter.

But, in an odd turn, there is sympathy for the plight of the American Indian. The stereotype listed above does reflect one of the plagues facing Native Americans today … alcoholism. And we see it was brought on by U.S. government treatment of the native population that was riddled with corruption and incompetence, imposed with cruelty and enforced by guns.

There is, in a nuanced way, an acceptance, or at least a defense of interracial dating. But only if the minority takes on the mannerisms and attitudes of the majority.

And Duke does give an impassioned speech about environmental preservation, something no one was talking about in 1963. That is one of the movie’s biggest eye openers.

Jerry Van Dyke‘s character Junior Douglas, an effete college intellectual (because all Ivy Leaguers are seen that way by “real Americans”) calls McLintock a “reactionary.”

A reactionary is an individual that holds political viewpoints which cause them to seek to return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society. Reactionaries are considered to be one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is radicalism, though reactionary ideologies may be themselves radical.

And in true reactionary form, the Duke pretends he doesn’t know what the word means.

But “McLintock” is a reactionary comedy. When you hear today’s American conservatives saying “I want my country back,” this is the imaginary time and place they’re seeking. And “McLintock” shows the idealized version of America that reactionaries of the 1960s yearned for.

But I go back to my dilemma. I still like this movie. And in its 50th anniversary it remains one of my favorites.

I’ll watch and wince every time I see the stereotypes. But I’ll understand better the folks who miss “the good old days.” Because, as the radical Gil Scott Heron once said of reactionaries, “this ain’t really your life. … Ain’t really nothing but a movie:

Stupid people tricks (and one smart baby)

I was steered to this video from Balloon Juice

… and I’m thinking that maybe the awesomeness that I’m supposed to be feeling by watching it is outweighed by the sense that a lot of these people are out of their minds, because what they’re doing could have gone really bad really quickly.

Especially anything involving leaping from high places, because it sent me back to this video of a bungee jumper who ended up landing in a crocodile infested river.

You notice that some of the people in this video are on crutches or in wheelchairs, which leaves me with the sense that maybe the first time they tried these stunts, they weren’t … oh, I don’t know … crippled!

But I’m cool with the finale of the baby going down the carpeted stairs. My son used to do the same thing on a wood staircase before he could walk. He’s now in his 20s, and I’m pretty sure he still has the sense not to jump off of cliffs.

By the way, the baseball catch in Tampa is a fake (I posted on it in October 2011), which leads me to believe some of the other clips here are fake as well.)