Forget Episode VII – Batman Vs. Darth Vader

If the new Star Wars Episode VI trailer wasn’t your cup of tea, watch “Batman vs. Darth Vader” as the Dark Knight Detective faces off with the Dark Lord of the Sith. Batman infiltrates the Death Star in his spaceship to rescue Superman, disabling stormtroopers like common street thugs, and picking up a lightsaber along the way. Darth Vader tracks down Batman, setting off a battle between the Force (magic) and Gadgets (science). Despite several near death scenes, the outcome was predictable.

Awakening The Star Wars Trailer

I no longer see movie trailers when they come out on the Internet. I’ve seen too many movies over the years that fell short of a well-made trailer.  (Or in the case of “Cloverfield,” a well-made end credits with awesome music that was better than the movie.) If I have a low expectations walking into the theater, the less disappointed I’ll be after seeing the movie. The only exception to this rule is Star Wars, as the first “Episode VII—The Force Awakens” trailer has come out.

When I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple personality disorder), my fellow video game testers and I went to see “Wing Commander” (a video game-based movie) in 1999. The “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” trailer premiered with that movie. People got up after the trailer was over and left without seeing the movie. As for the movie itself, low expectations made “Wing Commander” almost enjoyable for being so bad.

What does this new trailer tells us about the plot of the next Star Wars movie? Next to nothing.

Although I saw the trailer on the Internet, I’m not going out of my way to read about various plot leaks. (Except for Harrison Ford being injured on the set after the Millennium Falcon door clobbered him.) Since director J.J. Abrams is responsible for re-imaging the Star Trek franchise, he literally threw out the books regarding what to expect with the Star Wars franchise. Anything is possible.

The two parts that I liked the most were X-wings fighters skimming above the water and the Millennium Falcon flying into the air before flying low over sand dunes while under fire from Tie fighters. Unlike the previous six movies, the spacecraft really do blend in with the environment. A promising start for a venerable franchise.

Republican Midterm Victory By The Numbers

Two numbers stand out after the 2014 midterm elections: the largest Republican majority in the House since 1928 (a year before the 1929 stock market crash that ushers in the Great Depression) voted in by the worst voter turnout since 1942 (after America enters World War II). If the past is any indication of the future, this country is in deep trouble for the next two years. But those weren’t the most important numbers. Three numbers about the new Republican majority in the Senate indicates what the midterm elections were really about.


Sixty-seven is the number of votes needed to override a presidential veto. The new Republican majority in the Senate has 52 members, which may increase to 54 after several contested elections get settled in the next few months. Unless the Republicans play nice with the Democrats to pick additional votes, they can’t override a presidential veto on their own.

Unfortunately, the Republicans won their new majority by ousting out conservative Democrats from conservative states. They have no one to negotiate with—except themselves. As we have seen over in the House, if the Establishment Republicans and the Tea Party Republicans can’t agree, much less negotiate, over a common agenda, nothing will get done. For some people, doing nothing is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs for Congress.


Sixty is the number of votes required to override a Democratic filibuster. The Republicans will have to play nice with the Democrats to pick up extra votes. Or experience the frustrations that they inflicted on the Democrats for the last six years. The Republicans could do away with the filibuster entirely and pass everything on a simple majority vote (51 yeas). However, gutting the minority’s right to hamstring the legislative process is too extreme for the world’s most deliberative body. The Republicans may find themselves in the minority again.


Twenty-four is the number of Senate seats that the Republicans will have to defend in 2016. The 2010 anti-incumbent Tea Party will face re-election for the first time as incumbents. Since the 112th Congress has distinguished itself as being the least productive Congress since the “do nothing” 80th Congress of the 1940’s, the incumbents will have few successes to show the voters back home. Expect the Tea Party incumbents to face Tea Party and/or Establishment challengers in the primary elections.

Unless the Republicans learn to C-O-M-P-R-O-M-I-S-E to get things done with President Obama and the Democrats, nothing will change for the next few years. If Hillary Clinton becomes the next president as many people expect, don’t expect the Republican Party to change their demographics to attract a wider voting base. It’ll be eight more years of the do nothing status quo, as the Republican Party match into the dustbin of history.

Post-Halloween Discounted Holiday M&M’s

Harvest Holiday M&M's CandiesBetween Halloween and Thanksgiving Day, I’m on the lookout for discounted bags of milk chocolate Harvest Holiday M&M’s candies at the local CVS store. I never pay full price for holiday-themed M&M’s because the bags are smaller and more expensive than regular M&M’s. The best price I got last year was before Thanksgiving Day with six bags at $0.42 USD each for 90% off. I’m getting off to a good start this year.

The day after Halloween I stopped off at the CVS store nearest to my home (there are at least five stores in a three-mile radius). Not surprisingly, the discount was 50% off and I picked up two bags for the price of one. I came into the same store the following week to find the discount at 75% off. A sudden drop in the discount wasn’t expected for another week. With each bag at a buck each, I bought out the entire stock of milk-chocolate M&M’s (six bags). Unless I find some bags at 90% somewhere else, this is probably my haul until after Christmas.

After I told my friend about the holiday M&M’s, he wanted to get his own haul of discounted M&M’s candies. We went to the CVS store where I got the 90% discount last year. The discount was still 50% two weeks after Halloween (should have been 75%). The milk chocolate M&M’s were long gone. My friend picked up two bags of the white chocolate “candy corn” M&M’s, and a bag of real candy corn. A strange combination.

Despite the Christmas-themed candies hitting the shelves after Halloween, I didn’t see any Christmas M&M’s that shouldn’t be available until after Thanksgiving Day. Unlike last year, I hope the Christmas M&M’s will last beyond mid-December and get restocked before Christmas Day. I can’t get discounted bags of M&M’s if they’re not available after the holiday.

One of the problems I noticed last season (Halloween 2013 to Easter Day 2014) was CVS stocking the next holiday-themed M&M’s after the last candy holiday. Valentine M&M’s after Christmas Day, Easter M&M’s after Valentine’s Day. By the time the actual holiday comes around, the holiday-themed M&M’s are long gone. I hope that’s not the case this season, as I buy M&M’s only after the holidays.

Unlocking The Profit

One of my favorite TV show is CNBC’s “The Profit,” where Marcus Lemonis invests his own money to turnaround failing small businesses. I saw the premier episode while attending the Las Vegas Star Trek convention last year, fell in love with the show, and can’t get enough of it on the Internet. Alas, CNBC has locked down the episodes when the second half of season two started a month ago. Since I’m not a cable subscriber, and the episodes aren’t available on Amazon or iTunes, I had to watch the sneak preview videos, and read the reviews on Previously TV, The Profit Fans, and Tycoon Playbook. A recent episode showed up on Hulu.

Over 40,000 businesses applied to get on “The Profit.” According to an article in Inc Magazine, there’s a fine line between the businesses that Marcus wants to turnaround and the drama that the producer wants to turn into good TV. In short, there are winners and losers. Swanson’s Fish Market was an obvious loser from the get go.

Unusual Product

The businesses that Marcus favors are either products or stores that have the potential to become national brands. As I’m not aware of any national fresh fish markets (the only fish I eat are frozen fish fillets from the supermarket), I couldn’t see him turn this 41-year-old family owned business in Fairfield, CT, into a national brand. With the family name being Swanson, a national fresh fish market and/or prepared food line might get confused with a national frozen food brand despite being in different markets.

Unusual Offer

Marcus discovers that the business is $900,000 USD in the hole despite doing $150,000 USD in monthly sales. The numbers are hard to figure out. Gary, the father, is laid back. Sue, the mother, has checked out of the business. Larissa, the daughter, struggles with the bookkeeping mess she inherited from her mother, and reached out to Marcus to help her family.

Marcus offers $1 million USD to buy the building to pay off the debt and put working capital into the business, giving the family an option to buy the building back at a later date. Since he didn’t request his usual 50% of ownership, I don’t see what his return of investment was unless the building has significant real estate value and/or appreciation. As he stressed in earlier episodes, he doesn’t do real estate play—and this is a real estate play.

Profitable Disasters

This fish market has a fishy history. A fire on Fourth of July 2009 gutted the original store, which was rebuilt for $1 million USD and the insurance company paid out $1.2 million USD. A warehouse fire that same year cost $30,000 USD to rebuild and a $220,000 USD payout from the insurance company. And, later in the episode, a $35,000 USD boat swamped during a hurricane got bought out by the insurance company for $70,000 USD. All that extra money supposedly went back into the business.

Many people on various comment boards believe that the owners have committed insurance fraud, as insurance companies aren’t renowned for generous payouts. Larissa in a special post on the business website disputes that accusation of fraud and how the episode humiliated her family. If anything, the owners were guilty of using the business as a piggy bank for a luxury car, boats and the remodeling of their house.

No surprise that Marcus walked away after he discovers that the building was under foreclosure proceedings. Unlike earlier episodes where circumstances became deal breakers, this episode felt like it got set up to fail from the beginning. Based on the available public records, the production company—and perhaps Marcus—must have known about this before setting up the cameras.