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View from the Middle: Never as simple as it seems

Note: In lieu of a regular opinion column this week (too many letters to the editor), I’m posting “View from the Middle,” my new, semi-weekly news column, which will be of more interest to Citizen’s News readers than to friends or family. But hey, friends and family: read it anyway.

When the Board of Education held its public budget hearing last month, most taxpayers who turned out worried about the impact of increased class sizes, spoke out against the closing of Salem School—a decision the school board has since reversed—and even implored borough officials to increase their tax bills to support the ballooning cost of education without necessitating drastic cuts.

I was sufficiently surprised, given the political atmosphere on the national stage, that those three of four residents willingly asked for a tax increase. All the talk about Salem and class sizes was old hat at that point—though I mean to imply neither that residents’ concerns were proffered with levity, nor that those issues are without significance.

In any case, a few other specific concerns caught my ear. Among them was trepidation over the textbooks line item, which is currently funded—underfunded, some asserted— at $60,000. I hope to examine this issue in detail in coming weeks.

But Charley Marenghi, the vice president and spokesman of the Naugatuck Teacher’s League, raised another point that caught my attention. Why, he wondered, are teachers leaving their computers on at night?

“District-wide, staff members are told, ‘Do not turn off your computers’ … Now at my house, we don’t do that. At my house, we turn the computer off. Because when a computer is plugged in, let alone left on, it consumes a massive amount of electricity. And we’re doing that in every single classroom, in every single building, including in our computer labs.”

That one, at least, seemed to be a no-brainer. I try not to leave my computer running at home, either, for the same reason I turn off the lights and television when I go out.

Surely there must be an explanation, I reasoned, or change would already have been implemented, and that savings—which I, like Marenghi, assumed would be substantial—would have already been realized.

So I spoke with the school board’s Director of Information Technology Alan Merly, and did a bit of research on my own in order to approximate the potential cost-impact of shutting computers off at night, as opposed to leaving them in a power-saving standby mode.

As a disclaimer, I must submit that my research is based on speculation and, thus, yielded highly approximate results (I will explain in more detail as we go). But it turns out not only are there a few good reasons the machines are left on, but turning them off every evening would save very little money, speaking in terms relative to a $57 million district budget: somewhere in the range of $2,000 per year.

First, let’s talk about the math. As I noted, this whole process was an exercise in approximation, so take these figures and the final calculations with a grain of salt.

First of all, Merley said, there are “somewhere on the order of 1,200 to 1,400 machines probably deployed throughout the district.”

I used his low figure, 1,200, as a benchmark, assuming the actual figure is somewhere in between 1,200 and 1,400 and that some are unutilized on any given day.

To determine how much power each machine would be drawing, I took the average of seven common Dell computers powered by Pentium 4 chips that were manufactured over the last 5-10 years: the Dimension B110, Optiplex GX620, Dimension E310, Optiplex 170L, Dimension E510, Dimension XPS 600 and Dimension XPS 400.

I’m being somewhat generous here, as I can’t imagine any Naugatuck classrooms or computer labs utilize high-powered XPS-series machines, which are typically used for gaming.

When these computers are off, on average, they are consuming, or “leaking,” two watts of power. Their monitors, depending on whether they are the older vacuum-tube CRT displays or the newer LCDs, can leak a watt or two of power when powered down. Merley said both the old CRTs and newer, flat-screen LCDs are used in the district. LCDs, predictably, leak virtually no power; CRTs can leak a couple watts.

But here’s the rub: when those seven common models are in power-saving standby mode, they consume an average of—hold on to your butts—only three watts. Sleeping monitors draw anywhere between 0 and 15 watts. I used six as a benchmark, assuming there are at least as many LCDs as CRTs in the district, and that many teachers powered at least their monitors off at night. This was, admittedly, the most speculative estimate.

I came up with 2,880 as the number of hours district computers go unutilized: I multiplied 180 (the number of school days in the 2010-11 school year) by 16, which assumes they are in use—thus, out of the scope of this discussion—for eight hours out of the day.

So we now have the baseline figures for kilowatt-hour (kwh) estimates: when 1200 computers are fully powered down for those 16 hours, they’re still consuming about 6,900 kW h. When hibernating, they’re sucking down about 10,400 kwh.

The school board will pay 9.4 cents per kwh in 2010-11 for electricity, to TransCanada. Multiplying our kwh estimates by .094 yields an annual cost of approximately $650 for computers district-wide that are plugged in but powered down, and approximately $975 for computers left in standby during off-hours.

When I factored in the average power draw of the machines’ respective monitors, I came up with an overall, estimated $1,000 yearly cost for machines to remain plugged in overnight, and approximately $3,000 for them to remain in standby.

So if teachers powered off at night, they’d be saving the district somewhere in the range of $2,000 a year. If they unplugged their machines entirely, or switched off a surge protector, they’d help save about $3,000 annually. I’m not a statistician, but I’m going to suggest a 50 percent margin of error, given the speculative nature of my number-crunching. So let’s say the school system would save between $1,000 and $3,000 annually by shutting down, and between $1,500 and $4,500 by unplugging.

Would that prospective savings be little more than a drop in the bucket? Sure; $2,000 is only a quarter of a percent of an $831,100 line item (the projected cost of electricity district-wide in 2010-11) and less than four-thousandths of a percent of the overall, $56 million school budget.

I remember talking to Mayor Bob Mezzo some time ago about the money awarded to Naugatuck by the CRRA, its waste authority, for the tonnage it produces in recyclables. In 2008-09, that revenue amounted to about $7,600, which only offset the $742,000 in tipping fees, which the borough pays the authority to process its trash, by about one percent.

But, as Mezzo said at the time, “Every dollar in a tight budget is important … it’s still money coming into the borough and not going out.”

So why not instruct faculty in the school system to power down at night? $2,000 might not pay anyone’s salary, but it sure could buy quite a few Bic pens.

According to Merley, there are a few reasons teachers are instructed to leave their computers on in the off-hours (it is important to distinguish between a running machine and one in standby mode: depending on the task being performed, a running, Pentium 4-powered machine draws 100-250 watts, as opposed to the three pulled down by one in standby).

First of all, he said, it’s a simple problem of logistics.

“We can turn the computers off, but who’s actually going to do it?” he asked. “We have a bunch of very capable, wonderful teachers, but they’re not all tech-savvy. So if we say, ‘Could you power those off?’ and they’d be like, “Sure, I did it,’ but that really means they disconnected the network cable [as opposed to the power cable] out of the back … either way you go, it’s a challenge.”

There is a way for the network administrators to implement a system, known as Wake-on-LAN, which would allow them to remotely power machines on and off as needed, Merley said. But implementing that protocol would require the purchase of some expensive network hardware.

“For every benefit, for every technological leap forward, there’s usually a capitalization investment that has to happen in order to get there,” he said. “And we’re not in a position to make that leap quite yet. So we’re trying to go after some of that low-hanging fruit, where we can realize some immediate, real savings.”

Merley said the IT department has contracted with Siemens for a power savings solution called Verdiem, which cuts the power consumption of hibernating computers even further than the three-watt average I assessed earlier, by using smarter features than the basic power-management tools provided by Windows.

And some of the fundamental tasks performed by network administrators can only be carried out when in-network machines are powered on. The most commonplace task is updating software; though the Windows operating system is only updated about once per month, Merley said, updates to applications and anti-virus software are applied more frequently.

In the case of anti-virus updates, oftentimes new strains of malicious code and software will surface unexpectedly, at strange hours, and require immediate—or at least prompt— attention.

Further, IT administrators may need to perform network maintenance remotely, which, again, requires the machines to be standing by.

“Oftentimes, if there’s a teacher having a problem with, say, a SMART Board, or a program having a conflict, [a network administrator] can go in at seven or eight o’clock at night, remotely fix the issue, and when the teacher comes in the next morning, the machine has already gone back to sleep and the problem has been taken care of,” Merley said.

So the school board’s IT department would need to overcome the logistical challenge of getting teachers to power down—not to mention of updating software and fixing routine, individual problems—in order to realize a relatively insignificant savings.

The final piece of the puzzle is the impact of physically booting up a computer, both in terms of education and power consumption. Power draw spikes for a minute or two at startup, so if multiplied times 1,200 computers times 180 days, there would be a definite negative impact on savings. And Merley said some of the machines take five minutes or more to power up.

“There is a time factor involved in booting them up,” he said. “[Teachers] have 40 minutes for a class. They bring their students in, and now the first class of the day, they have to have the students power them on, and they’re sitting there waiting five to seven minutes for the machines to start up. And then if there’s a login issue, they have to troubleshoot that. It could eat quite a bit of time out of their first-period classes.”

Would the potential savings be worth the potential logistical and technical trouble to students, teachers and network administrators? I don’t know. I’m not in the business of making value judgments.

All I can say is things are rarely as simple as they seem.


CN Column 04/30/10: In politics, it’s all about context

Over the course of the last year, I’ve learned that the context of a political action is often more important than the action itself. I’ve observed this at the local level, covering municipal politics, and have repeatedly seen how reading between the lines pays dividends when weighing matters of political significance at the state or federal levels.

Well, it’s not so much about reading between the lines as it is consciously choosing to read the writing on the wall. It’s not really my job to evaluate subtext.

It’s all about context.

Take, for instance, the Naugatuck school board and the ongoing drama about its budget. I have been on top of that story for months and have worked many late nights in the last few weeks, as officials have hacked and chopped the budget, which has dropped from a possible $7 million increase to one just less than $1 million.

Board of Ed. members have appeared to me in my dreams, and that’s not a joke. A week ago, I spent at least two hours lying awake in bed, mulling numbers and trying to reconcile savings estimates. A year ago at that time, my eyes would have been glazing over amid an all-night video game binge. My, oh my, how life does change.

But that’s not the point. The school board presented its budget to the joint boards last week, and two Finance Board members alleged it had used “scare tactics” and dumped an unpopular decision at the Finance Board’s feet.

They were interpreting the subtext: The Board of Ed. got parents “all riled up,” Diane Scinto said, by voting to close Salem School; it then reversed the decision in the midst of much public outcry and implied it would revisit the issue, if the joint boards didn’t award an adequate budget increase. The school board essentially said, “We’re putting the ball in your court. Salem School is on you.”

To be clear, this is not my opinion, rather the one I heard and partially inferred from Scinto’s and Matt Katra’s public statements. This is the subtext of a month’s events, as interpreted by a minority of the Finance Board. And school board Chairwoman Kathleen Donovan denied that the board had in any way employed “scare tactics,” saying, “We’re doing what’s educationally right within what the budget allocation is.”

But here’s the context, from which you can draw your own opinion: The school board voted March 30 to close Salem in an attempt to save some $400,000. At its regular meeting about a week later, it was publicly chastised by dozens of residents. A week after that, at a public hearing, it was put on the stand again and urged to reconsider the decision. The next week, only three days before its presentation to the joint boards, it reversed the vote by a narrow margin but acknowledged the decision may merit revisiting, pending the joint board’s allocation. You can decide whether the school board intended to scapegoat the joint boards, or simply responded to residents’ concerns and acted in the interests of an educationally sound school system.

It’s all about context.

On the national stage, take the GOP’s latest obstructionist ploy against President Obama’s agenda. All 41 Senate Republicans (and one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska) voted against bringing a financial reform bill to the floor for debate.

As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post points out, this latest filibuster isn’t preventing a vote on anything, but, “Rather, it’s standing in the way of debate and amendment … That is to say that Republicans who want to see the bill debated and changed are filibustering the process in which the bill can be debated and changed. They’re not filibustering legislation so much as the legislative process itself. … But Republicans have gotten so used to filibustering everything that they filibuster whether it makes sense or not.”

More interesting to me than this nonsensical approach—and an example of why context matters most—is a comparison of Republicans’ opposition to health care reform and their opposition to financial regulation.

At the crossroads of health care legislation, conservatives decried the Democrats for “shoving [the bill] down Americans’ throats” and “ramming it through,” and they called for the administration to heed popular opinion and the will of the people. Fair enough. The bill wasn’t polling well.

But compare that to public opinion of financial reform legislation: According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, about two-thirds of Americans support “stricter regulations on the way financial institutions conduct their business.”

Yet it’s an attempt to impose those very restrictions that has again drawn Republicans into staunch, rank-and-file opposition. Read the writing on the wall: Republicans apparently demand unequivocal acquiescence to public opinion—that is, when it’s convenient for them.

Are both parties hypocritical in their own manner? Yes. Do I think the public opinion point is moot, anyway? Yes; I believe we elect leaders to make executive decisions, even when they wind up being unpopular. There’s a reason why we don’t send every issue to public referendum.

But here we see that considering issues in context can illuminate hypocrisy, indecisiveness and political inaction disguised as principled opposition (the Republican Party’s MO of late, were you to ask me).

We can infer from subtextual clues what bearing these developments will have in November, or we can opine about either party’s disregard for the other or for the American people. But let’s stick to the facts.

At every level, it’s all about context.

Note: In last week’s column, I implied a reader who had phoned in to complain I am a “bleeding-heart” was referring broadly to my personal politics. The caller wrote me to say he was not casting broad assumptions about my belief system but simply responding to a specific opinion (a Feb. 19 column opposing a prison’s decision to take away privileges that had previously been granted to inmates). The caller wrote: “This accusation was not about political views, but you didn’t say that” and felt I had spun his statement. I’d like to publicly apologize for unintentionally misrepresenting his call.


CN Column 03/26/10: Health care: Stick to the facts, cut the rhetoric

Well, I suppose I must eat my words. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about budget reconciliation and advised my readers to “expect lots of noise but no action” on Capitol Hill when it comes to health care reform.

I was right about the noise part; but on Sunday evening, the House of Representatives proved the 111th Congress is not so infirm as it’s seemed the past several months.

You’ve heard the news, or some form of it; I won’t inundate you with redundant details. I’ll concede I provisionally support the legislation, though as something of a political moderate, I find competing philosophical interests pulling me in different directions. The progressive in me wanted a public option and worries the bill doesn’t go far enough; the fiscal conservative in me wonders how accurate was the Congressional Budget Office’s calculation that the measure will actually significantly reduce the deficit over the next decade; and my common sense tells me the individual mandate is an onerous burden.

At any rate, I’m mostly interested in how the conservative noise machine and the GOP proper managed to so galvanize so many moderate Americans against the final legislation with blatant misinformation, which increased by orders of magnitude as the debate drew to its long-awaited close. People are inflamed and people are discontent, but more than anything else, a lot of people are somewhat oblivious to the truth of the matter.

There are dozens of entirely legitimate objections one can make to this bill, but on the whole, all I’ve seen has been a whole lot of groundless, abstract and downright paranoid bloviating about socialism and the fall of our great Republic, instead of intelligent examinations of the Constitutionality of the individual mandate, the imposition of new costs on insurers and business owners at the butt end of a deep recession (and their subsequent effects on the costs of premiums and the already-unstable job market) or the privately-negotiated deals legislators were awarded in exchange for their votes.

The Internet (or, more accurately, Facebook) was my unofficial gauge of public opinion on Sunday. Between bouts of CSPAN—where viewers were treated to the baffling, esoteric parliamentary theater of the House, replete with gavel-banging, bickering over (literally) seconds of floor time, and members’ references to one another as “the gentleman from Arkansas” or “the gentlewoman from Massachusetts”—and regular references to for updates, I watched as friends and family proffered their fiery opinions on the 2,000-plus-page legislation they apparently knew very little about.

I tell myself to stay away from people’s politically-charged Facebook repartee, but in many cases, I just can’t resist. Just about anything my 18-year-old brother—one of only a few conservative college freshmen I’ve ever known—posts inspires a livid response from me.

I tried to explain, in what limited capacity I command, that the bill is far more moderate than he apparently thinks; leaves us to rely on private health insurance just like we always have (thus rendering the constant comparisons to Canada obsolete); would only positively affect our deficit, at least in projections; and certainly, if nothing else, is a far cry from anything even remotely resembling a socialist agenda.

Amid accusations that the bill would allow uninhibited federal funding for abortions (false: as of the president’s promise to sign an executive order ensuring it wouldn’t, to win those last few key votes) and give illegal immigrants “free health insurance” (unequivocally false: to my understanding, no one will be getting free health insurance, least of all illegal immigrants, who are explicitly prohibited from receiving subsidies to buy insurance), he made the following rather instructive offhand admissions (original text intact): “i am deleting this post if there is one more political remark that I dont have the attention span to read” and, most importantly “I don’t even watch a lot of news, its common sense, were headed towards socialism, were passing something that the American people don’t want.” So he admits he doesn’t watch the news or have the patience to read a 200-word Facebook post, yet claims to know something about a 2,000-page bill only the best news reports (the origins of which would be altogether lost on him) have aptly summarized.

I don’t want to single my brother out. I love him to death, in spite of his shortcomings in this respect. But the kind of radical rhetorical language he casually employs and his willful disregard for the cold, hard facts are reflective of, I think, the attitudes of many of the people, especially the young people, who brazenly oppose health care legislation in its current form.

A quick look at the most popular Google searches Sunday night was telling, as well. The most popular searches when I logged on around 11 p.m. were “Tyne Daly,” an actress who was featured in a new episode of Fox’s inane “Family Guy” spinoff, “The Cleveland Show;” “GSI Commerce,” most likely because the company had been the subject of that night’s “Undercover Boss,” CBS’ feel-good corporate propaganda vehicle; and also for NCAA tourney results and Terri Schiavo. Clocking in around number eight were search terms such as “did the health care bill pass?” and “what does the health care bill mean for me?”

Putting aside for a moment the fact that people apparently are still confused about how a search engine works, it became clear to me Sunday night that generally speaking, many were rather more interested in intellectually vacuous television shows and college basketball than they were in the possibility of broad health care reform and an unprecedented, historic policy decision.

I have but one appeal to self-proclaimed opponents of the bill: Do us all a favor and turn off the TV, read a newspaper for a change and try to frame smart objections to a bill that’s so far been controversial for all the wrong reasons.


CN Readers: Check out page 23

If you read the regular print edition of Citizen’s News, don’t miss my first published crossword puzzle on page 23 this Friday. I’ll be submitting a puzzle for publication every week from now on.

We might eventually find a way to embed them on the site; in the meantime, though, please feel free to send me any feedback. Did you give it shot? Is it a good addition to the paper? Is it too easy? Too hard? Want more local clues? Let me know by e-mailing


This decade’s top five albums you might’ve missed

Well, it’s here, folks: The end of the decade.  Some say 2012 will be the year our species is annhilated, whether we’re decimated by a hostile alien race, killed off by a meteor collision, thrust underground by a nuclear holocaust to die slowly of radiation poisoning, and so on and so forth.

At any rate, this may be the last time we all get treated to any biased, over-general “Best of the Decade” lists. I’ll be submitting my own over the next few weeks. This week: the five best pop albums released between 2000 and 2009. Christmas Eve I’ll reveal my video game faves, and New Years Eve we’ll reminisce about the best television had to offer this decade.
Bear in mind any “best of” list is highly subjective, and I certainly welcome your thoughts on any omissions or opinions on my choices.

Unfortunately, many will remember the 00’s as the years of the Spears, Cyruses, Jonases, and Lil Jons. We saw mainstream rock devolve into pseudo-intellectual emo-trash and/or half-constipated Pearl Jam aping. Popular hip-hop degraded into hook-driven, contrived studio slickness, Auto-Tuned vocal melodies, and emotionally vacuous, self-obsessed lyrical posturing.

But of course, as was the case in any Dark Age of pop music’s history, life was teeming just below the surface. Most of these groups have since had a day (or two) in the sun, and some old dogs turned out solid albums to keep the torch burning.
In my opinion, these were the five best recordings of popular music (with runners-up) of 2000 -2009. The list is rock-heavy as my hip-hop, country, and pop knowledge (and interest) is limited at best, so sue me.

5. Tom Waits: Real Gone (2004)

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for just about anything the man does. His music is not for everyone by any strech of the imagination, but if you find yourself wanting something a little (or a lot) different, this record delivers.
“Real Gone” oozes Waitsian flourish. For every brutal, bristling minor-key blues arrangement there’s a heartfelt, evocative ballad, and there are even a few weirdos thrown into the mix for good measure.  And  Waits’ signature howl is the spine behind them all.
Overall, this is dark, alarming stuff, and it’s not the most readily-accessible record in the world. But I submit that Waits is among the last truly singular voices left in American music.
Standout cuts: “Hoist that Rag,” “Trampled Rose,” “Make It Rain”

Radiohead: Kid A (2000)

Many would contend that the true measure of a great musical act is its ability to evolve over time, to never make the same record twice.
The challenge most bands face lies in finding a new sound without compromising the qualities which made them great in the first place. And English alt-rock quartet Radiohead set a remarkably high standard in 1997 with “OK Computer,” an album widely regarded by critics and fans alike as their opus.
“Kid A” was a paradigm shift for the band; instead of repeating the success they achieved with standard rock instrumentation on “OK Computer,” they branched out and experiemented more liberally with synthesizers, computers, strings, and brass; they allowed influences from jazz, classical, and electronica to seep into their work.
This is bionic rock for the computer age, babbling, cascading electronic noise standing in stark counterpoint against pop sensibility and an  indefagitable sense of warmth and humanity.
Standout cuts: “Everything In Its Right Place,” “Idioteque,” “Kid A”

3. Interpol: Turn On the Bright Lights (2002)

It’s a crying shame this four-piece NYC post-punk revival group never doubled down and made another album like this one. Though they’ve relased two records since, neither has come close to clearing the high bar set by “Turn on the Bright Lights.”
From the opening track, chiding, tremolo-picked guitar notes sink right into the deep, complex grooves held down by a competent rhythm section. Singer Paul Banks’ dramatic baritone peals out over it all, evoking in the listener memories Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. The overarching effect is swooning, emotional, but driving rock music dense with lush instrumentation.
This record will keep you up at night. Don’t miss it.
Standout cuts: “Obstacle One,” “NYC,” “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down”

2. Aesop Rock: Labor Days (2001)

This is the only hip-hop album on this list, and for good reason. If it weren’t for “Labor Days,” I’d have never gotten into the genre.
The thing that caught my attention about this artist was his lyrical flow; Ace spits at 100 miles a minute, but he still sounds calm, in control, humble.
To say nothing of this record’s unparalleled production savvy, Aesop Rock’s raps are not self-aggrandizing, nor are they petty; Ace possesses a vocabulary the most literate English speakers should envy, and he snakes it through a dense urban narrative with ease.
If this album doesn’t sell you on hip-hop, nothing will.
Standout cuts: “Daylight,” “No Regrets,” “Labor”

1. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

No band this decade  strode with such competence the fine line between abstraction and accessibility, between subtle nuance and solid, down-home rock and roll know-how.
This is a fragmented, haphazard work. The tone drifts between alt-country grooves, understated rock riffs and meandering explorations of what is ultimately a digestible soundscape.
Wilco have made plenty of good albums, but “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is their crowning achievement. This is an album to enjoy in any company, under any circumstances, under the influence of any emotion.
Standout cuts: “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Kamera,” “Reservations”


Mickey to get a makeover

No more Mr. Nice Guy for Mickey, says the New York Times, as Disney tries to reach a new, more tech-savvy audience more familiar with Pixar and Family Guy than the beloved cartoon mouse.

From Times writer Brooks Barnes:

“Epic Mickey, designed for Nintendo’s Wii console, is set in a “cartoon wasteland” where Disney’s forgotten and retired creations live. The chief inhabitant is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character Walt Disney created in 1927 as a precursor to Mickey but ultimately abandoned in a dispute with Universal Studios. In the game, Oswald has become bitter and envious of Mickey’s popularity. The game also features a disemboweled, robotic Donald Duck and a “twisted, broken, dangerous” version of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World.” Using paint and thinner thrown from a magic paintbrush, Mickey must stop the Phantom Blot overlord, gain the trust of Oswald and save the day.”

Say what you will about the manipulation of an American media icon, but I will almost definitely be playing that title.

This reminds me of the 13th-season South Park Episode “The Ring,” wherein Mickey Mouse terrorizes the Jonas Brothers and forces them to wear “purity rings” so Disney can continue selling sex to preteen girls.


Mickey kicks some Jonas Brothers tail in Season 13 of South Park


Jackson biopic receives mixed reviews

“This Is It” (not to be confused with The Strokes’ album “Is This It”), which apparently chronicles the storied career of late pop legend Michael Jackson, was released today.

When I first saw the trailers and posters pasted about on billboards and in shopping malls, I was fairly disgusted.

michael-jackson-this-is-it-movie-poster“Here we go again,” I thought, “Any way to make a buck.”

But perhaps the filmmakers’ goal was an admirable one— to recognize and honor the legacy of one of the great 20th-century entertainers.

I suppose we’ll never know for sure, but what we do know is that the film has received mixed reviews— perhaps appropriately, as the man himself had a polarizing effect on people, especially as his appearance changed and he was accused of child molestation.

One reviewer said the film “doesn’t have enough revelatory, caught-on-the-fly footage of Jackson to raise it above the level of a well-produced DVD extra.”

Another reviewer commented, “As an exercise in wringing every last penny from Jackson’s legacy, the movie may be a success. But if you’re looking for a tribute to the man who once took pop to its absolute zenith, this most certainly isn’t it.”

On the other hand, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers gave “This Is It” 3.5/4, writing, “… the film still feels vital and thrillingly alive. In this transcendent tribute to a performing artist flying without a safety net, death holds no sway over Michael Jackson. His soul is still dancing.”

One thing is certain: the film is more a tribute than a true documentary, as critics agree that it leaves out some of the more unsavory points in Jackson’s saga. They differ on whether that’s a good thing.

The film currently has an 80/100 on criticism aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and a 67/100 on Metacritic.

Don’t expect me to review it, though. I’m not sure I’d be able to listen to Jackson’s music while sitting still.