Review: Star-Crossed Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:29:04 +0000 Stephen W. Browne “Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife."

- William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet," [...]]]>
Ukraine Mon, 03 Mar 2014 18:33:39 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Because I'm still on the mailing list of the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, I still get their travel advisories, warnings of demonstrations that might turn lively etc.

On Monday I got one with a link to the site of U.S. Passports and International Travel, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State.

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine, and particularly the Crimean Peninsula, due to the potential for instability following [...]]]> Snow down South Mon, 17 Feb 2014 15:34:23 +0000 Stephen W. Browne It snowed again in Minnesota and North Dakota Sunday night. Not enough to get excited about, just a couple of inches. We've had more this winter and might have more again. We might even cancel a school day or two again before it's over.

It's been an pretty cold winter over much of the country, with snow down as far as Georgia and South Carolina, which is unusual but not unheard of.

However down south it has a different effect. Atlanta has been basically paralyzed for two [...]]]> Where journalism is dangerous Fri, 07 Feb 2014 18:12:59 +0000 Stephen W. Browne The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Barometer for 2013 is out.

A crucial way of measuring press freedom is of course, how dangerous it is to be a journalist.

Last year 75 journalists, 4 media assistants and 8 netizens and citizen journalists were killed, down 20 percent from last year.

Looking at the list of countries where journalists are known to have been killed [...]]]> Antanaclasis that’s what! Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:25:05 +0000 Stephen W. Browne The part of a journalist’s life we don’t like to talk about involves making phone calls and spending a lot of time sitting at our desks waiting for someone to return them.

For those of us raised with a work ethic, this is profoundly uncomfortable. You feel like you ought to be doing something for the time you are after all getting paid for.

You could go the self-improvement route and read a book, but unless you are pouring over the AP Style Handbook [...]]]> The Enigma of Pete Seeger Mon, 03 Feb 2014 13:39:31 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Legendary musician Pete Seeger died January 27 at the age of 94.

By all accounts Seeger lived a rich and rewarding life. He died just six months after the death of his wife of 70 years, Toshi-Aline Ota. Their marriage produced three surviving children, all artists in their own right, and six grandchildren.

Seeger grew up in a world full of art and music. Scion of a family with centuries-old roots in New England, his father was a Harvard-trained musicologist his mother was [...]]]> Review: Lone Survivor Mon, 27 Jan 2014 16:03:01 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "Lone Survivor," written and directed by Peter Berg, is based on the 2007 book, "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10," Marcus Luttrell's account of the doomed mission Operation Red Wings, as told to novelist Patrick Robinson.

In June, 2005, four Navy SEALs embarked on a mission to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in a village deep within the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. The mission went horribly wrong, [...]]]> Going Galt Sat, 18 Jan 2014 11:21:31 +0000 Stephen W. Browne There is some good news and bad news about employment.

The good news is, that although employers created only an anemic 74,000 jobs in December, nevertheless the unemployment rate fell from 7 percent to 6.7 percent.

The bad news is, the reason unemployment has dropped appears to be because two-thirds of the adult, able-bodied unemployed aren't looking for work at all.

That's the lowest labor force participation since 1978.

There's an expression that's [...]]]> Another roar from the Tiger Mother Wed, 15 Jan 2014 13:41:42 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Amy Chua, the famous or infamous “Tiger Mother” has a new book out, this time co-authored with her husband Jed Rubenfeld.

The book is titled “The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America” for the three characteristics that Chua claims makes some groups more successful on average than others.

The three are: a group superiority complex, combined with a [...]]]> Review: The Tomorrow People Mon, 13 Jan 2014 17:27:05 +0000 Stephen W. Browne What if you could read minds, move objects with your mind, and move yourself anywhere you wanted to go in an instant.

These are the "three Ts": telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation, of "The Tomorrow People," a series which premiered last October on The CW Television Network.

Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) lives with his widowed mother (Sarah Clarke) and seems a normal enough teenager. Except he keeps waking up in places he didn't go to sleep. Such as a neighbor's bed [...]]]> Melissa’s apology Tue, 07 Jan 2014 12:35:46 +0000 Stephen W. Browne MELISSA-HARRIS-PERRY

Well Melissa Harris-Perry has stepped in it and frantically tried to unstep in it with a I did not want to like it, but I did.

On the night of the 14th day of the 12th month of the 15th year of the Genroku era (January 30, 1703), 47 ronin, disgraced and masterless samurai, attacked the castle of Lord Kira Kozuke-no-Suke Yoshinaka in Edo (modern Tokyo) intent on taking his head.

The 47 were former retainers of Lord Asano Takumi-no-Kami Naganori, daimyo (feudal lord) of Ako, a minor holding in the country.

The ronin held Kira, an important official [...]]]> Review: Community Sat, 28 Dec 2013 09:01:51 +0000 Stephen W. Browne As a fan of surreal humor I can't believe I missed this little gem for four seasons. Now I'm left in the uncomfortable position of recommending it as it goes into a fifth season with a major revamp.

I'll have to plead that it is after all on network television, NBC to be exact, and who watches that anymore?

It has garnered much praise from film and TV critics but who reads them anyway?

I stumbled across it as NBC was running episodes back to back to get people [...]]]> Lest we forget Fri, 20 Dec 2013 23:16:34 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This was my op-ed for Pearl Harbor Day.

"Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget – lest we forget!"

-Rudyard Kipling, "Recessional"

This last week saw the 72nd anniversary of the "Day that will live in infamy," the attack by naval and air forces of the Empire of [...]]]> Review: Dracula Fri, 13 Dec 2013 15:35:59 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Drac is back. In a new series on NBC to be exact, staring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Henry VIII "The Tudors") as the ever-popular count.

The count is by official count the second most popular movie character ever. Dracula has the lead role in an estimated 217 films, only barely edged out by Sherlock Holmes (223).

This is oddly appropriate. After the publication of "Dracula"(1897) by Irishman Bram Stoker, Holmes' creator Arthur Conan Doyle sent him a warmly appreciative fan [...]]]> Review: Catching Fire Fri, 06 Dec 2013 22:32:35 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant." ("They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.")

- Gaius Cornelius Tacitus; 56 – 117 A.D.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is the second film based on Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy, set in the dystopian future state of Panem.

"Catching Fire" was preceded by [...]]]> The Winter War Fri, 06 Dec 2013 15:45:41 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Last Saturday, Nov. 30, was the 74th anniversary of the beginning of a forgotten war, the Soviet invasion of Finland, called the Talvisota in Finnish, and the Zimnyaya Woyna in Russian.

The Red Army, which possessed three times as many soldiers as Finland, 30 times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tanks, poured across the border in 1939, three months after the beginning of World War II.

The ostensible goal was to take a strip of border territory the Soviets [...]]]> Some thoughts on what it means to be an American Sat, 30 Nov 2013 14:40:26 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Just the other day I had a Facebook exchange with a friend.

This was an exchange of the kind which reminds me of (journalist) Frank Meyer's observation, "We find comfort among those we agree with, growth among those we disagree with."

The fact is, sometimes I spend entirely too much time with people I agree with. And of the people I don't agree with, a lot of them don't argue very well. It's just not very challenging to discuss disagreements with somebody whose [...]]]> If we can put a man on the moon why can’t we…? Fri, 22 Nov 2013 12:00:28 +0000 Stephen W. Browne We used to have an expression, "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we…?"

You don't hear it put that way as often these days since we haven't been back in over forty years.

Nonetheless it's a fair question.

The United States put no less than a dozen men on the moon in six successful landings between the years 1969 and 1972.

Over a period of 10 years starting in 1904 the United States moved several mountain's worth of earth and rock to build the [...]]]>
Print me a gun please Wed, 20 Nov 2013 17:27:30 +0000 Stephen W. Browne A Texas company Solid Concepts just announced they had made a working model M1911 automatic pistol and test fired 50 rounds through it.

What made this interesting was that the gun was made with a 3-D printer.

Just last year the open-source organization Defense Distributed printed a plastic gun and actually got a few rounds through it, but it broke down very quickly as you might expect.

The State Department then "suggested" Defense Distributed take down their [...]]]> Birther bosh bites back Sat, 09 Nov 2013 11:51:32 +0000 Stephen W. Browne From Fox News Politics, "Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday he is a “U.S. citizen by birth” despite being born in Canada, amid questions about whether he is planning to run for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election.

Cruz, R-Texas, said in an interview with Fusion that because his mother is an American citizen he is a citizen as well."

"I was a U.S. citizen by birth and beyond that I'm going to leave it to others to worry about the legal [...]]]> Google invests in life extension Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:01:21 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment." – Woody Allen

For those who were wondering what they were going to get up to after Google Glass, Google announced in September a new startup Calico, dedicated to research on [...]]]> Review: The Blacklist Mon, 04 Nov 2013 17:23:02 +0000 Stephen W. Browne A former government agent, now one of the FBI's most wanted criminals, walks into the FBI headquarters, identifies himself and submits to arrest. He offers to help them catch a seriously bad guy but he'll only talk to a certain FBI profiler, who started work just that day. (Megan Boone playing FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Keen.)

They sure know how to hook you on "The Blacklist" and they haven't let go yet.

James Spader plays Raymond "Red" Reddington, a.k.a. "the Concierge [...]]]> The healthcare fiasco Wed, 30 Oct 2013 14:33:59 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Well the first reports on the effects of Obamacare are in and it's not looking like the universal blessing promised. And that's entirely aside from the software snafu.

According to some reports, more people are having their insurance carrier drop them than have been able to enroll in healthcare exchanges. Others are finding their premiums increasing by significant amounts.

It's difficult to get hard numbers for this as yet and effects seem to be uneven. I walked into a [...]]]> Hubble telescope discovers oldest galaxy Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:22:58 +0000 Stephen W. Browne z8_GND_5296 is not what you call a real exciting name, but the reality is exciting enough.

Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Observatory in Hawaii have confirmed the galaxy with that unexciting moniker is the oldest and most distant in the universe found to date.

z8_GND_5296 formed within 700 million years after the Big Bang, making it about 95 percent of the age of the universe. It is about 13.1 billion light-years away, which means that we’re [...]]]> Post shutdown game-changer Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:22:11 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Well the government shutdown is over, and boy am I glad all that anarchy in the streets is over and we can start picking up the pieces of our ravaged civilization!

Well actually 83 percent of the government never shut down, and most everybody never really noticed anything was different, except for tourists wanting to visit national monuments. And as it turns out, the government actually spent more money shutting down things like unmanned open air monuments and parking spaces than [...]]]> Review: Captain Phillips Mon, 21 Oct 2013 17:27:11 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Pirates! Cicero called them "Hostes humani generis," "Enemies of all mankind."

Pirates have been the scourge of the seas since ancient times. Julius Caesar was once the involuntary guest of a band of pirates.

America's first foreign war was against the Barbary Pirates based in what is now Libya. The combined land and sea assault on the pirate capitol inspired the line of the Marine Corps Hymn, "…to the shores of Tripoli."

Piracy on the high seas [...]]]> The worst thing in the world Tue, 15 Oct 2013 17:49:18 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "Ye tender arms, the same dear mould have ye

As his; how from the shoulder loose ye drop

And weak! And dear proud lips, so full of hope

And closed for ever! What false words ye said

At daybreak, when he crept into my bed,

Called me kind names, and promised: ‘Grandmother,

When thou art dead, I will cut close my hair

And lead out all the captains to ride by

Thy tomb.’ Why didst thou cheat me so? ‘Tis I, [...]]]>
Review: Gravity Sun, 13 Oct 2013 18:21:12 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "Gravity" is only an hour-and-a-half long, has only two stars on screen, has more monolog than dialog and less of either than background music. It's going to knock your socks off.

It was directed and o-written by Alfonso Cuarón who wanted to be a film director and an astronaut as a kid.

As the film opens Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a mission specialist performing repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope while astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is skylarking around [...]]]> To end a life Fri, 11 Oct 2013 11:27:25 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,

Or that the Everlasting had not fixed

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!"

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

Next to a country road in rural Minnesota there is a memorial to a young teenage girl who died a suicide. It features her likeness and words of loving [...]]]> Review: The Family Wed, 02 Oct 2013 12:27:56 +0000 Stephen W. Browne How many times has Robert DeNiro played a gangster?

We could refine that question. How many times has De Niro played a mafioso? As opposed to a Jewish gangster ("Once Upon a Time in America," 1984), a half-Italian wiseguy ("Goodfellas," 1990) or Al Capone ("The Untouchables," 1987).

(Capone was Neapolitan, the mafia is a Sicilian thing.)

De Niro has played young Vito Corleone ("The Godfather Part II, 1974), Lorenzo Anello ("A Bronx Tale," 1993) and Paul Vitti [...]]]> Tweet, tweet, tweet Mon, 30 Sep 2013 12:35:40 +0000 Stephen W. Browne As it happens I had just finished writing a piece on teens and social media, touching on cyberbullying when the perfect storm of media idiocy broke out.

It began when Amanda Carpenter, a speechwriter for Sen. Ted Cruz, tweeted that Republicans could defund Obamacare.

Allen Brauer, communications chairman of the Sacramento County Democratic Party, tweeted in response, "May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases."

When some people [...]]]> Review: Una Noche Mon, 23 Sep 2013 13:22:41 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Film making is changing. One sign of this is when an unknown brother and sister team who have only made shorts before come out of nowhere with a feature-length film that knocks your socks off and sweeps the awards at the film festivals of Tribeca, Berlin, Brasilia, Deauville, Athens Ft. Lauderdale, Stockholm, India, and Oaxaca.

The other is that you can actually see it even if you don't live in a city with an art house cinema. You go over to and rent it for $6.99 to [...]]]> Seen from the side of the road on Monday Wed, 18 Sep 2013 11:13:17 +0000 Stephen W. Browne IMG_6453

This is why I always have a camera somewhere near. I have my professional camera I take on assignment and I have a smaller camera in my glove box as a backup.

I was on my way to Montevideo to sit in on a session with [...]]]> America gets Red-lined Tue, 17 Sep 2013 11:24:20 +0000 Stephen W. Browne You want to know how I think Vladimir Putin feels these days? I bet he's feeling pretty sick right about now.

Sure he's just humiliated the president of the mighty United States, made us a laughingstock among nations, frightened our allies, heartened our enemies and with one stroke vastly diminished our influence in the Middle East while vastly increasing Russia's. And I bet the victory tastes like ashes in his mouth.

Putin is former head of the KGB, the dreaded secret [...]]]> Review: ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ Fri, 13 Sep 2013 15:04:16 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is the film adaptation of a book in the young adult urban fantasy genre. The book is the first of five, soon to be six, in a series. There is also a prequel trilogy set in the Victorian Era, and a planned sequel trilogy set in the near-term future. So fans will have a lot to look forward to if "City of Bones" is a box-office success.

I haven't read any of them.

This presents a problem only insofar as I can't speak to how well and [...]]]> My son got his name on 9/11 Wed, 11 Sep 2013 13:35:54 +0000 Stephen W. Browne It seems 9/11 is one generations defining memory, as in “Where were you when you heard about…?”

For my generation it was the assassination of President Kennedy. (Seventh grade home room.)

For my parents generation it was Pearl Harbor.

But 9/11 for me will always be the day my son got his name.

Actually his name had been kicking around for a while. I was living in Poland then and his mother wanted “Jerzy” for an uncle she [...]]]> Review: We’re the Millers. Mon, 09 Sep 2013 14:28:28 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "We're the Millers" looks like it started out with some clever ideas and got assembled by committee.

Aw heck, it's got some funny moments that are worth some of your time and you get to see Jennifer Aniston doing a strip tease, not too tacky! But overall it's disappointing.

And do not take your children!

David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a pot dealer and has been since college. They've obviously made it about pot rather than harder drugs to generate some kind of [...]]]> Can one silly girl bring down western civilization? Wed, 04 Sep 2013 12:28:40 +0000 Stephen W. Browne It's official, I'm a square. I had to ask what "twerking" was.

I had assumed it had something to do with Twitter and "tweeting." Wrong!

Turns out tweaking refers to movements of the hips and buttocks in suggestive ways.

There, aren't you glad you know that now? I know I am.

I found this out of course, through all the outrage over Miley Cyrus' offensively silly performance at the 2013 MTV Music Video Awards.

As you might expect, when the [...]]]> Review: Elysium Tue, 03 Sep 2013 17:52:38 +0000 Stephen W. Browne On the strength of precisely one feature-length movie, "District 9" (2009), South African writer/director Neill Blomkamp was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2009, by Forbes magazine as the 21st most powerful celebrity from Africa, and by legendary director Ridley Scott as a "game-changing filmmaker."

"Elysium" grossed $11 million on opening day, and $139 million box office to date. It's already made back the $115 million production costs. [...]]]> Syria Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:21:54 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Hang on to your hats, here we go round again.

President Obama has asked the military to “prepare options for all contingencies” in Syria, according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The immediate cause was compelling evidence a lot of civilians, estimates differ so widely I'm just going to say "a lot," were killed by poison gas attacks recently in Syria's civil war.

The gas presumably came from the nonexistent stockpiles Saddam Hussein didn't have [...]]]> In the Black Hills Thu, 15 Aug 2013 14:14:46 +0000 Stephen W. Browne KEYSTONE, SD. It’s morning in the Black Hills of South Dakota and it’s cold and damp.

In the mountains the suns come up over the rim of the narrow gorges and daylight creeps down the opposite side at a snails pace. Heavy dew forms early in the night and may never burn off entirely if the day is cloudy.

The tent has a heavy layer of beaded raindrops from yesterday’s shower and the inside walls are damp with condensate. If the clouds don’t part and [...]]]> News of the World Mon, 05 Aug 2013 12:04:51 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

This past Sunday 22 American embassies and consulates across the Muslim parts of the world were closed down due to fears of terrorist attacks. At the time of writing it had not been revealed how long they are expected to be closed, but at least until [...]]]> The weird Weiner saga Mon, 29 Jul 2013 11:17:54 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

The Anthony Weiner scandal has been called “the gift that keeps on giving” by commentators with a low taste for word play. But after we’ve rung all the fun that can be had about a sexting politician with [...]]]> The Zimmerman case and our new canoe Thu, 25 Jul 2013 11:16:55 +0000 Stephen W. Browne As predicted, there have been riots in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. Nothing really big so far, but there's been a fair amount of property damage and some serious but so far non-lethal assaults on whites and Hispanics.

I reacted differently. I bought a canoe.

Well I was going to anyway, but it was sort of waiting on paying off some bills, studying, getting some fairly serious dental work done etc etc.

But after [...]]]> Review: Pacific Rim Wed, 24 Jul 2013 17:17:05 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

"Pacific Rim" is director Guillermo del Toro's take on the Japanese genre of Kaiju and mecha films, with he says a dash of inspiration from Francisco de Goya's painting "The Colossus."

"Kaiju" means “strange creature” in Japanese and is used to describe big monsters who destroy Tokyo regular as clockwork. The original kaiju is of [...]]]> Review: World War Z Thu, 18 Jul 2013 17:13:59 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

The Zombie Apocalypse is coming and we've got to be ready!

In 2003 Max Brooks published "The Zombie Survival Guide" describing in detail how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, based on historical zombie outbreaks going back to ancient Egypt and the Lost Colony of Roanoake. Brooks followed this up in 2006 with "World War Z: An Oral History of the [...]]]> The verdict is in – on the media Mon, 15 Jul 2013 14:15:18 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is my weekly syndicated column and I have also cross-posted it on my professional blog. I usually delay posting my columns, but I think this is important. I take being a journalist seriously and I am deeply and personally offended by this kind of media misconduct.

Well the the Zimmerman trial is over, and the war has begun.

People are lining up on opposite sides of the question of whether a murderer got away, or Zimmerman never should have [...]]]> Never understimate the good effect of a bad example Fri, 12 Jul 2013 11:21:36 +0000 Stephen W. Browne A little while ago my son and I were talking late one night and the subject of Jack, an old acquaintance of mine came up. Apropos of what I can't recall.

I told my son this guy was a bombastic braggart with no solid accomplishments to his name. Though highly intelligent and quite well-read he couldn't, or wouldn't hold down a job.

He sponged off friends and was a fine example of what I call the "third time deadbeat." Meaning he'd borrow a small amount of money from you [...]]]> I have a new pair of shoes! Wed, 10 Jul 2013 11:21:53 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Ordinarily I don’t get excited about shoes, as long as they cover my feet and are comfortable.

But these are really comfortable. I went up to the Mall of America and thought maybe I’d just pick up some shoes when I got [...]]]> Happy Fourth of July! Thu, 04 Jul 2013 11:20:53 +0000 Stephen W. Browne July 4th is upon us again. This year it falls on a Thursday, and as usual we'll celebrate with fireworks.

I have a guest from Poland staying with me who I will take to the celebrations at our town's biggest park to see the display.

Poland is a country connected to ours through much history from the very beginnings of our country.

A Pole Kasimirz Pulaski helped found the U.S. Cavalry and died leading a charge at the Siege of Savannah in our Revolution. The U.S. [...]]]> What is it with zombies? Fri, 28 Jun 2013 17:20:44 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Well I took my son to see “World War Z” the other day and will probably be reviewing it week after next unless something more compelling comes along.

(Sneak peak: as an action movie it’s pretty good. [...]]]> Review: Man of Steel. Wed, 26 Jun 2013 11:21:04 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

Something happened on June 10, the Man of Steel returned and he's… the same but different.

"Man of Steel" is of course the latest reboot of Superman, directed by Zach Snyder ("Watchmen," "300") and produced by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy.)

Superman was created in 1933 by two nerdy high school students from Cleveland, [...]]]> What’s happening to the Internet? Thu, 20 Jun 2013 19:15:28 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Is it just my computer or has something happened to the Internet?

I got a new desktop a couple months ago. A professional writer needs to have two computers and my laptop sat on the desk 99.999% of the time anyway. So [...]]]> Lurking tyranny Sat, 15 Jun 2013 14:12:46 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This was my weekly opinion column. The theme will be continued in my next.

In his address to the graduating class of Ohio State University on May 5, President Obama sounded the alarm against alarmists.

"Still, you'll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's the root of all our problems even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner," Obama said. [...]]]> Review: The Purge Fri, 14 Jun 2013 13:13:53 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: A slightly edited version of this appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

"The Purge," directed by James DeMonaco, operates on many levels: dystopian fantasy, home invasion thriller, political allegory, and moral fable. And it's unbelievably stupid on every one of them.

The year is 2022. The New Founding Fathers have instituted the Purge, a yearly 12-hour period in which all laws, including [...]]]> Review: Epic Tue, 11 Jun 2013 17:21:14 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "Epic" is an animated fantasy story directed by Chris Wedge, who also directed Ice Age (2002) and Robots (2005), so already it's got a lot going for it.

The film is loosely based on "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs" by William Joyce, who also created the animated world of "The Guardians" (2012). Very

loosely from what I can gather from the book blurb. The film is set in Joyce's fictional world and borrows a few characters is about it as far as I can tell. [...]]]> Review: After Earth Sun, 09 Jun 2013 17:29:01 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: The appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

"After Earth" directed by M. Night Shyamalan, appears to be one of those films audiences like and critics loathe.

It's been treated pretty badly by reviewers, though it seems to be doing all right at the box office.

Shyamalan could use a hit about now. After the initial success of "The Sixth Sense" his movies have declined in profitability, [...]]]> My Memorial Day weekend Tue, 28 May 2013 11:29:35 +0000 Stephen W. Browne "The true soldier fights, not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." – G.K. Chesterton

This Memorial Day weekend I stayed home alone and got some productive work done, in between even longer bouts of productive loafing. And of course I watched a lot of old war movies.

I got to see "Destination Tokyo" again, with Cary Grant as a submarine skipper on a mission to insert a weather observation crew ashore in Japan to guide [...]]]> The Minnesota marriage equality act non-issue Fri, 24 May 2013 11:24:48 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Well Gov. Dayton has signed the marriage equality act, and depending on which side you line up on either the sky if falling or Minnesota has leaped into the forefront of human progress. [...]]]> Review: Iron Man 3 Thu, 23 May 2013 22:13:42 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

"Iron Man 3" is awesome. At least according to the unanimous vote of this older dad, pre-teen son, and six-year-old daughter.

How's that for broad-based appeal? My daughter is pleading to see it again.

Perhaps not so surprising. According to Marvel Comics, though fan mail from females is much rarer than from young boys, most of it is for [...]]]> Review: Home Run Mon, 20 May 2013 19:15:28 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

I ran into this film quite by accident on Sunday. I was pressed for time, had to have something to review and I really didn't want to see another iteration of "The Great Gatsby." I've seen the Robert Redford version, a work of genius about people I don't give a flip about.

I knew "Home Run" was about baseball, [...]]]> Terror in rural Minnesota! Mon, 13 May 2013 12:11:15 +0000 Stephen W. Browne I started out last Monday writing my weekly movie review when a report of terrorist activity in Montevideo, Minnesota landed on my desk.

The FBI press release had it that someone named Buford "Bucky" Rogers had been arrested in a raid on his parent's trailer home on Friday. The FBI claimed they'd seized lots of guns, including a Romanian AKM assault rifle, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs.

It's a bit outside of our coverage area but it seemed serious, Nobody argues anymore Fri, 10 May 2013 11:26:28 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is my weekly op-ed.

"What are you talking about?" (I hear you say.) "All we do is argue these days. About gun control, abortion, Obamacare…"

No, we don't argue about these things at all. Or at best, only one side argues.

"What? Doesn't it take two to argue? Or fight, make up, or tango?"

Let me back up a bit.

I'm using "argument" in the formal sense used in logic. You have a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion. You're [...]]]> May Day Thu, 02 May 2013 11:28:51 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: Cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Yesterday, May 1, I saw a Facebook post by an academic I’ve known for… a long time. He teaches history in an east coast college and advertises himself as a “labor historian.”

He, or somebody, had filched the classic “We can do it! [...]]]> I adore Lenore Tue, 30 Apr 2013 17:30:21 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: Cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Lenore Skenazy is a columnist who usually writes from a light humorous perspective.

Not surprising, she used to write for MAD Magazine back when it was still good, and is the author of Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:

“To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;

And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods,

"Horatius at the Bridge" by Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

Don't worry, [...]]]> Boston Tue, 23 Apr 2013 22:19:27 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is my weekly op-ed column.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead and his brother Dzhokhar is in custody, which is the way it ought to be by rights. Yet there are people unhappy about it.

The two brothers were from Chechnya, a majority Muslim territory in the Caucasus, occupied but never completely subdued by Russia since 1834. After the breakup of the Soviet Union the Chechens attempted to win back their independence, a rebellion that was broken with Soviet-style brutality. [...]]]> I used to like Reese Witherspoon Mon, 22 Apr 2013 21:19:22 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: Cross-posted on my professional blog at the Marshall Independent.

Darn it! Another case of Celebrities Behaving Badly, and this time with one I kind of liked.

Reese Witherspoon and her husband Jim Toth were arrested and very briefly held in Atlanta, he for alleged DUI and she for allegedly disobeying the police officer’s instruction to remain [...]]]> Review: 42 Fri, 19 Apr 2013 18:14:50 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

According to Entertainment Weekly, "42" made Hollywood history with the highest-grossing premier of any baseball-themed movie. Which is true but almost beside the point. It's not just about baseball, it's about honor.

It's about men doing the right thing at a time when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so.

It's good for people [...]]]> Review: The Host Sat, 13 Apr 2013 17:25:26 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Noe: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.

There are great movies, good movies, bad movies, and awful movies. Then there's movies like "The Host" which are just kind of blah.

The movie is based on the book by Stephanie Meyer, a writer of great wealth and surpassing awfulness who makes every writer who can string a coherent set of sentences together wonder why he's reviewing this swill [...]]]> Is this the time? Fri, 05 Apr 2013 11:33:44 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: My weekly op-ed.

The late great science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once told a crowd at a convention, "Some of you will see a nuclear war within your lifetime."

The crowd, to say the least, did not want to hear this.

A few years ago when I was the world's oldest journalism intern in Washington, D.C., I coined the term "no-name nukes," in the context of the sentence, "We're living at Ground Zero for the no-name nuke."

During my three months [...]]]> Sticks and stones may break my bones… Wed, 27 Mar 2013 11:33:01 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This is my syndicated column.

Well, we know the rest of that old saying isn't true. Words hurt. Sometimes a lot, depending on who says them.

In every society children are taught social rules for what kinds of speech are appropriate, when and with whom. Rules backed by sanctions ranging from dirty looks to social ostracism, or in extreme cases an educational beat down.

These days though, speech is policed on many university campuses by speech codes – and [...]]]> Habemus Papem Tue, 26 Mar 2013 11:32:56 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: My syndicated column of a couple weeks back. I sometimes forget to archive them here right off, but better late…

On March 13, the white smoke let the waiting world know the conclave of cardinals had elected a new pope, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February.

The new pope is a Jesuit, which is the first interesting thing about the election. The Jesuits, though technically in subordination to the pope, have throughout history often [...]]]> Review: Vikings Sun, 24 Mar 2013 11:31:25 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This originally appeared in the print-only TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.

Kine die, kin die

And so at last yourself:

But this I know that never dies

How dead men's deeds are deemed.

- Hávamál: The Words of Odin the High One, from the Elder Edda

"Vikings" is I believe, the first venture of the History Channel into historical [...]]]> Review: Jack the Giant Slayer Mon, 18 Mar 2013 17:13:50 +0000 Stephen W. Browne Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.

"Jack the Giant Slayer" did not do very well opening weekend, earning only $28 million of the $200 million they need to break even.

On the other hand, nothing else that weekend did either and "Jack" wound up on top anyway. There have been indications it's been picking up, perhaps due to word of mouth advertising.

I went to see it with [...]]]>