Alpha Inventions created by Cheru Jackson, is a site which displays and automatically cycles through recently updated blogs. I reviewed this site some time ago, and did have a few criticisms of how it was running.  Cheru Jackson was quick to comment and engage in a dialogue with readers on that post to address their concerns. Overtime, AI has been tweaked and improved vastly over it’s original design.

The site’s pacing for automatic switching of blogs is much slower.  At times, perhaps a bit too slow, but this is a huge improvement over it’s original speed setting, which was so fast that by the time your eyes caught something interesting, it had disappeared. There is also now a back and forward button, although they do not seem to work consistently, and some design flaws are apparent..

Cheru Jackson says he created the site to help people, and I think we can give him the “benefit of the doubt”, as the saying goes. The bottom line is, the site is improving and is responding to feedback.  Alpha Inventions has come a long way since it first began, and Jackson is assuring people that the traffic it is generating for their blogs is legitimate user-based traffic, not “false hits”, as some have claimed.

The bottom line really is this: If you have specific criticisms of the site, they can be addressed, or you can choose to opt-out. Most bloggers are happy for any extra exposure that comes their way, and it’s with that in mind, that I’d like to support the site, and encourage others to give it a try, if they are not familiar with it.  It’s not the only tool to help your blog get some extra traffic, but it is one tool that you can make use of.

For more information from Cheru Jackson on Alpha Inventions, see “What Is Alpha Inventions?”

Since I had reviewed the site in it’s original form, I think I owe it to the site’s creator and designer to give a more up-to-date perspective.  Have you tried the new AI, and if so, what did you think of the improvements?

Similar sites:

If you like Alpha Inventions, you might also like Blog Surfer. Does anyone have any other good sites for finding new blogs to read and sharing your own for others to discover?

The other side:

Not every critic has been tempered by AI’s apparent improvements. See Alpha Inventions: A big waste of time for bloggers for current criticism. But, afterall, you can’t make everyone happy. I hope we will see further improvements to come.

Surrogates Movie Is Worth Seeing, But Barely

A day after seeing Michael Moore’s new film, I was off watching Surrogates. There’s a special place in my heart for sci-fi films, such as this one, and I was genuinely excited.  Sometimes first impressions really shouldn’t be overlooked, though.  I saw the trailer for Surrogates weeks ago, while seeing District 9 (which is a must-see movie of 2009). My first reaction to the trailer was laughter, and it seemed one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve seen a trailer for.  As time went on, and I saw different clips, I began to feel differently.  The concept seemed unique, and there wasn’t a whole lot else playing in the way of competition. So, in the end, I was choosing between Zombieland and Surrogates, and went with the latter.

This is a movie that had a lot more potential than it utilized. It certainly makes you question the nature of reality and the possibilities of advancing technology. It’s enjoyable, but it felt like it could have been so much more than what it was. I found the characters pretty two dimensional. Bruce Willis is great, but this is no Die Hard 3.

What I liked about the movie was it’s take on “virtual reality” or perhaps “alternate reality”, and that it’s the type of film that can mean different things to different people.  There’s a lot of room for interpretation, in particular, within the realm of social commentary, health, and philosophy.  It does have a sort of Matrix feel to it, but not to the same degree.  The film can be viewed as a metaphor for a robotic society, either through a diminished sense of man’s spiritual self, or through mind-numbing pharmaceuticals. In fact, there are a couple of scenes where several pill bottles are shown beside the “control device” for the surrogates, which is used by many to “escape from reality”.

Spoilers below:

Character development definitely seemed to be a low priority.  I found myself not really invested in any of the characters, and it certainly doesn’t help that half the characters in the movie end up being the same person. The ending did not make a whole lot of sense, and despite an obvious attempt at closure, there really wasn’t much. This movie seems to end with the assumption there will not be a sequel (I tend to agree), but it still couldn’t quite bring itself to burn that bridge entirely.

The political climate in the movie was fascinating, but fell short of the brilliance of District 9. The Prophet was an interesting character, but lacked depth, a quality which may have been deliberate given the circumstances of his identity.

Overall, it was a good movie if you’re the contemplative sort, or if you just enjoy action with a sci-fi twist, but I would not put it near the top of my list either for sci-fi, or for Bruce Willis flicks.

While we’re on the subject of sci-fi, what is your favorite science fiction movie? Also feel free to comment on Surrogates, but please do share your top sci-fi picks. There’s a lot out there I haven’t seen.

Michael Moore’s Capitalism Movie Hopes You Don’t Know Any Better

Capitalism: a love story michael moore reviewI’ve been a fan of Michael Moore’s work for several years, and so I was excited about the new movie. I applauded with the audience, at the end, and I found it an entertaining film,  but I do have to note some rather glaring inconsistencies in the message.

Before I get started on that, I want to note that I was a bit distracted during the movie. I had to duck out to the bathroom as images of Alan Greenspan flashed on the screen. Not to vomit mind you, but to urinate despite my best efforts to ignore the need. Adding to this distraction, was the appearance of the unibomber who came into the theater about 15 minutes in and sat down a few seats from me. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail on it, but let’s just say this was a very creepy guy with a hood, who really resembled a troubled outcast about to go on a shooting spree.  Thankfully, after making weird noises, twitching, and kicking chairs for 20 minutes, he got up and walked out.  After checking under his seat for a pipebomb, I was able to relax a bit.

So, distractions aside, I did enjoy the movie, however I found myself in disagreement with very much of it.  The premise of the film can sufficiently be summed up with the tagline  “Capitalism is evil”. In fact, that over-simplification is essentially drilled into viewers again and again with examples that, at times, serve only to discredit Moore’s perspective. There is a unabashed promotion of both Obama and socialism in this movie. There are also several instances of outright deception from Moore, the most glaring being the omission of Obama’s support for the “banker bailout” that Moore is heavily critical of.

While Obama is not explicitly depicted as a messiah in the movie, viewers are treated to the spectacle of several shots of African Americans yelling, bouncing up and down, hooting and hollering for the first half-black president, in the context of “the people overcoming”.  But don’t get the impression it’s all about race, there’s the not-so-subtle closeups of the only 2 (token) white people (both women) amongst the 30-40 black celebrants chosen for the scenes. Why use scenes that only serve to further the notion that Obama’s election was primarily a victory for “black America”? Were African Americans and a couple of women, really the only ones enthused over the election results? Were the scenes used to show support for Obama’s election at all indicative of the general demographical makeup of satisfied voters? If not, why this skewed presentation?

Viewers are paradoxically told that the government has been usurped by Goldman Sachs and other elite finance oligarchs, while reassured that Obama is a threat to their power structure rather than a direct participant in it, and then asked for help to essentially “take the power back” at the end.  But, I thought we were safe now? What happened to the Obama-mania and the statement that the rich elite are nervous over his election?  Michael Moore tells viewers he wants them to “join him”…  Maybe he’ll explain how you can serve him better in some other forum, but the movie gives no indication of his intentions.

Much of the film comes across rather disjointed.  We’re treated to scenes of evictions, and given the impression that people not paying their mortgages really had nothing to do with it…  These were just “victims of circumstance” with no accountability for their financial situation.  The cult of the victim thrives in Moore’s film, as we are told that housing is a “right” and illegal squatting tactics are promoted. I guess the Mexicanization of America, squatters and all, is an essential part of Moore’s plan for the future of the country. In fact, Mexico’s system seems to be supported pretty thoroughly by Moore, in particular their socialist government, socialized medicine, and disregard for private property. I remember when it was Canada that Moore seemed to hold-up as illustrative of his personal views. That Moore is now favoring the land south of the border over the one to the north, is another example of his increasing radicalization.

We’re told that the “rights” (such as the government confiscating your business on a whim), that a conquered and occupied Germany and Japan were “given” in their new constitutions, are “rights” which Americans got gypped out of by the death of a visionary president. Just ignore the fact that these “rights” and “freedoms” were literally forced upon battered, occupied nations, and don’t evaluate whose interest these new constitutions were actually serving. One just needs to look at present-day Germany, still occupied (for their own good, supposedly), to see how “free” it truly is.  This is a nation where people have literally died in prison because of statements they’ve made or books they’ve written.  To say there is a lack of free speech or freedom of association in a increasingly fascist Germany, is an understatement. Moore wants you to “demand” the “same rights” that the German’s got from losing a war, just as he earlier has exhorted you to demand the same medical treatment that prisoners of war have received while being tortured in American custody.  Am I sensing a sort of trend here?

Perhaps the most amusing deception in Moore’s film comes in the form of reaffirming the left/right paradigm, where we are told that the rich elite are literally fearful of the masses “equal voting power”, since they are so obviously outnumbered. Yes…  They must truly be disturbed by the very possibility that voters will exercise their will to elect the lone national political party whose campaigns they do not finance.  Oh, wait…  There isn’t one. Insert gloss-over of Obama’s funding by these same corporations, and then cue scenes of jubilation as Democrats come back in, and Republicans go back out.  The game of musical chairs continues, with Michael Moore sacrificing consistency and logic in the pursuit of shilling for Democrats. I guess we’re supposed to forget that these same banking elite types have excelled under both Democrat and Republic governments. Rather than coming to the conclusion that voting is only serving to create an illusion of support from the people, and propping up a broken system, Moore encourages participation in the two party system, offering no alternative to the exact structure he decries.

Moore plays upon the emotions of viewers to demonstrate that the entire capitalist system is based on greed and exploitation.  He is blunt with his radical views on the current system and his radical views on improving it.  We are told that the government (the same one he says has been co-opted by the banking elite) should have the ability to confiscate private property, and that people have the “right” to a secure job.  Where people will be working exactly, Moore doesn’t say. Moore claims a financial coup de’etat took place with the “bailout” , explicitly implies the government is run by corporate interests, and then ironically claims further government control is the answer. Confused?  You should be.

Overall, it’s definitely a movie worth seeing, and it does indeed highlight some absolutely unethical and offensive profiteering and exploitation.  The problem is, however, it’s a movie built upon generalization, over-simplification, and for a movie that hints at revolution, as is trendy these days, it sure tows the party line. Of course, expecting a movie about the evils of capitalism produced, in part, by Paramount, to be free of distortion would be a bit naive.

Capitalism may not be a flawless system, but when Michael Moore starts telling people to demand the same “rights” imposed upon nations that lose wars, it’s not unreasonable to question the motives of Moore himself. Fighting government and corporate greed by merging government and the corporate entity, and ensuring “secure jobs” by mandating citizens into government employment, is not the type of “solution” America needs. This is very much like advising someone who is concerned over the influence of the media on society, to have a lobotomy so they will have no mind left to manipulate.

Have you seen Capitalism: A Love Story? What did you think?