Forget the shrine, embrace the sheds Part II

With a tight schedule and believing it would suffice to only see the outside of the museum, I left the museum and drove to the next famous tourist attraction in Memphis: Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. I thought, “Oh man, won’t it be magnificent to see the whopping private jet, the fancy car and the mammoth mansion of Elvis? As a not-so-rich traveller who tried to save every dollar in the long drive from Chicago to the South, often by means of rationing money spent on meals, I decided to find a free parking space nearby, as it costs $10 to park inside the Graceland complex.

On the road, a black couple drove by and I asked if I could find a place to park for free. They offered to take me to their apartment building and told me I could park in front of their room. It turned out to be an all-black apartment building that had the appearance of a slum. Although we were afraid, we decided not to turn down the kindness of the couple. I decided to take the risk and parked our car in front of their shabby room. The man then offered to drive me to Graceland and save us some time. It turned out that the cheapest ticket just to see the mansion is $36 per adult and the whole tour package is over $70 dollars. Thinking I’d better spend the money on food than paying homage to the pop singer, I decided to walk back to our car and leave. Again the man was around the corner and conveniently picked us up and delivered us to his apartment.

Then the story suddenly turned. After I got out of the car, my son was waving to me from the backseat since he could not get out of the locked door. He looked very scared and thoughts of all kinds of terrible things that could happen raced through my mind. Could this be a trap in the slum and their hospitality of free parking and picking us up was a lure? Within seconds, the man took out the key from his pocket, apologizing that his car featured a safety lock for children and he forgot to open the door for my son. My son got out and we were both relieved and grateful. What an adventure in a shoddy neighbourhood in Memphis! What beautiful spirit the kind man and his family demonstrated – although they are not financially well off.

The best part of this experience is that it taught me not to worship a shrine or see how an extravagant celebrity once lived; instead, I should pay attention to the shed and the common souls around me. They may not have any grandiose appearance, but they often have a beautiful attitude and are ready to help others as they know how selfless kindness can warm the heart of a stranger. In that moment I realized that shrines and monuments are shallow, and that I should focus on ordinary people and observe how they make this world a better place. Adding an additional gold brick to a shrine does not increase its value, but a walk in the sheds will teach one a lot about life.

Forget the shrine, embrace the sheds Part I

In my recent trip to Memphis, Tennessee, I went to the famous Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony in front of room 306. Now the motel has been transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum, acting as a shrine for the poignant memories where Dr. King fell and the painful struggle that helped blacks rise triumphantly from oppression and denigration, although the struggle continues. Outside the museum, there is a protest stand and behind the makeshift shack and the weather-worn banner, where at first a black man stood, although in he was replaced by a thin woman moments later. Her name is Jacqueline Smith and she has been protesting the situation facing black Americans at the museum since its establishment in 1991. I learned about Jacqueline’s experience from a very brief account with a Chinese visitor to the site.

A quick conversation with Jacqueline helped me understand her reasons for protesting. As I recall her explanation, Jacqueline is trying to convey to the world the continuing plight of blacks in the US. Although the museum draws most of the attention, overshadowing the rest of the neighbourhood, or maybe the entire city of Memphis much of the local area is not well maintained and poor. Although Jacqueline believes in the value of dedicating the this historic location to keep alive the r memories of Dr. King, she also contends that it is more important and urgent to focus on the people who are still suffering from the unfavourable conditions due to the disparity in the distribution of social resources. Dr. King himself, if he had lived to make a decision, would have opted for channelling resources and energy to where it can be better used.

Although in my first search of the museum’s website, it appeared to be a for profit site, I learned that it is, rather, a privately owned non profit memorial. I am encouraged that the museum is non-profit and stays clear of the image of a corporate shrine version 2.0, as so many Buddhist temples in China have become during the past few decades due to the magic work of money.

What’s wrong with Hollywood?

Gravity is mediocre. The Internship is a commercial for Google. This is the End is a disaster. These are all getting high scores from IMDB. When the bad things get good reviews and high scores, it means the whole industry is at risk — the trust is lost. When movie watchers know the hard earned money and precious time are spent on manipulated reviews and scores, they will stop going to movie theaters. What’s coming next Hollywood? Depression.

AxCrypt is evil and it installs heinous Adware on your computer. Avoid at all costs!

AxCrypt is a nightmare for my computer. It downloaded many exe files and installed Conduit Adware across the system. My Firefox starting pages are deleted and the homepage is changed into An ugly and intrusive toolbar is also install on Internet Explorer (IE).

A virus total scan report shows that AxCrypt is infected with OpenCandy Adware. Actually it is worse than normal Adware because it is so pervasive and intrusive — most important of all, no user consent was acquired before this heinous AxCrypt infected system with Trojan like malicious applications: Malwarebye scan reports that there are about 140 folders, files and registry keys which are infected with conduit malware. Please avoid using AxCrypt at all cost. You have been warned.

To the developers of AxCrypt: shame on you!

Don’t watch Gravity

Gravity’s score and reviews on IMDB is dubious. For a stunning high score of 8.7 and over 48 thousand votes, I thought this movie must be very good. However, the result is disappointing. I will just give this movie a 6.0 for its visual effects but the story line is very simple and hurried to the end.

The inflated score on IMDB, just like it is on Taobao, will hurt the whole movie industry as the disappointed audience will no longer pay to watch movies with good reviews, knowing that the scores have been rigged. The good movies will suffer because they will not get the attention they deserve and are easily drowned in the noises created by illicit promotional activities. The individual’s voice will not be easily heard, although they supposedly have an equal vote with the movie ticket they buy.

In a digital age, the public opinion can be easily created and swung by a few key strokes and clicks — the monopoly of media tycoon can manipulate the statistics and the masses will buy into it and buy the mediocre products — the best ones do not even have a chance.

Some notes in the aftermath of Breaking Bad

OK, I was wrong about the finale of Breaking Bad and Heisenberg did die. The most unforgettable line in the last episode is, when talking about why he did what he did, “I liked it. I am good at it”. This explained why he wasn’t successful as chemistry teacher, because he didn’t fulfill his destiny — to do the things he is good at. The scene when the hidden machine gun in the trunk mowed down all the gang members is a cathartic outbreak of revenge. It is well done. However, it could be even better if he used his chemistry skills to deal with the gangs.

Now here is some new information I found about Breaking Bad. Bob Odenkirk performs the lawyer role brilliantly in the movie. He grew up in Naperville, Illinois. From his biography on IMDB, he is “three credits shy of graduation” and wrote extensively for comedian shows. He also won a few Emmy awards. One day, I perhaps need to write a book to list the successful college dropouts and the unsuccessful college graduates. Bryan Cranston certainly know the importance of sticking to it. I think when he was at the lowest point of his career, he had thought about quitting and became an insurance salesman. However, he didn’t. Here is what he said about why he didn’t give up: “You know, this business is pure luck. It truly is. There is a tangible amount of luck that is necessary for a successful career, and the only way that luck happens is if you’re prepared for it and you stick with it. If you drop out of the scene, your opportunity for luck diminishes greatly. No one’s going to say, ‘Hey you’re an insurance salesman. Come and do this movie.'” “I don’t need to work, but I love to work and I will make the movie if I would want to go and see it. ” “It is also interesting to learn he drove motorcycle around the US. It was just two confused boys running away. My brother was on the verge of becoming a deputy sheriff, and I was grappling with whether I wanted to be a police officer or an actor. So we got on our motorcycles and just left California with no plan. I had $70 in my pocket, and that soon ran out. We got odd jobs wherever we could. We worked at cafés, in carnivals, at beachfront hotels selling suntan lotion, earning just enough to get back on the road. We camped everywhere, the cheaper the better. Just a patch of grass was all we needed. A few times we stayed at midnight missions, in Texas and Louisiana, and those were always scary.”

Walter White will not die

I haven’t watched the last episode of Breaking Bad, but I am pretty sure Water White did not die in the finale. The producers and script writers have two choices: one is letting Mr. White put up a good fight and kill all his enemies and died a heroic death. The rationale behind this ending is Mr. White has late stage cancer and he will die anyway. The second ending is Mr. White will kill all his enemies and walk into the setting sun as Heisenberg — with his tell-tale hat.

I think the second ending will be favored because if Mr. White is dead, there won’t be opportunities to produce a possible sequel and even a movie on this brilliant story again. The death of Heisenberg means the loss of commercial interests, so he will not definitively die in the denouement.

In all circumstances, Mr. White will join hands with Jessie and annihilate the new meth cooks in a violent way. After the revenge, he will reclaim his money and leave for good, leaving behind the suspense that he would come back one day in a sequel TV series.

The focus of the last episode will be his revenge with the gangs, reconciliation with Jessie, temporary reunion with his family, and most of all, the redemption of his name — he is still Heisenberg!

The mechanization and standardization of American life

When I am reading the little and old book called America in Perspective, which collects over 30 essays written by foreigners to describe American way of life. The excerpt written by Richard Muller-Freienfels offered very penetrative insights by characterize as a country of mechanization and standardization. Although it was published in 1927, the descriptions are still exactly true in today’s America. I couldn’t help but dogear the page and jog down his insights as follows:

In a purely external sense, the mechanization of life is conditioned by the size of the country… A vast network of railways covers the land; the telegraph and the telephone, both largely American inventions, have reached a high degree of development… Above all, the motor-car is not a luxury, but an article of everyday utility, which is obvious from the shabby conditions of most of the cars one sees… In the eyes of the American all these things have a positive value… This general mechanization of life is, of course, due to the co-operation of a number of factors. The lack of domestic servants, which I shall presently consider as a social factor, has of necessity resulted in the mechanization, even in the home, of many tasks which in Europe are performed by human labor.Everyone who has visited the United States will be able to recall similar characteristics, all of which go to prove the same thing, namely, that the whole of life has been mechanized in a far greater degree than with us.. the prevalence of practical thinking, of the concentration of the intellect on the practical, useful, and efficient, and the obverse of this attitude is the repression and suppression of all that is merely agreeable, emotional, and irrational in the personality. This rationality, as a form of thinking and willing, expresses itself in constructions and instruments and machines which impress the purposeful will of humanity, with the aid of the inorganic forces of Nature, on the outer world. The machine is above all the typical creation and manifestation of the utilitarian and practical reason. It is pure practicality, embodied rationality.

The mathematization and technicalization of life is connected inextricably with a further trait of Americanism–with the typicalization, or, to use the American expression, the standardization of life. Nowadays one may also call this Fordization, since Mr. Ford is regarded a peculiarly representative of his country. Standardization is a consequence of mass-production, mathematization, and mechanization, for it implies the unlimited mass-production — for the most part by mechanical means — of a definite type of product … At all events, an observant eye will note the conspicuous appearance of the same features everywhere, in spite of obvious differences. This typification will be seen in the most prominent features as well as in the least conspicuous.

In every sizable town, there is a WalMart, Home Depot and Blockbuster. A visit to McDonald’s will show you the array of devices and equipment which makes fast food delivery even faster. It appears to me that for every problem, there is a technical solution and for every illness, there is a magic pill for it.

One unifying character of American society, which encompasses all the characteristics in this dazzling diversity in this country, is the inherent belief individualistic capitalism. Everyone is a business and you need to run it as you do with a business. You make personal choices and accept consequences. No one, even the parents, cannot run the business for the child, because they cannot face the liabilities of infringing upon another individual’s business. The consecration of individual capitalism began as early as when the egg is fertilized. As to the question of how closely this celebration of individual enterprise is related to the fundamental changes of Christian belief system, I am not so sure. But I know it does have a connection and has manifested itself ever since the first English immigrant steps on the new continent.

I hope to write a book on this topic one day.

IMDB score is inflated

Like the ongoing inflation, the rating score on IMDB is inflated. The movies with a rating of 7 or above are tedious and boring. Honestly, the 2012 movie Lincoln, which has a rating of 7.6, is unbearable to watch. After the first twenty minutes, I just quit. On the other hand, some movies are underrated. For example, Identity Thief is a good road trip comedy, but it is only rated 5.3. My experience is that any comedy with a rating of 5 or above is worth watching if you just want to relax and have some fun time.

Nicolas Cage and Jim Carrey, as your fan, I hope you can keep making good movies.