Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, January 28, 2019

My Thoughts on Titans


So after getting bored and cracking the tape on a free trial of DC Universe, I binged Titans and... I have no idea how I feel about it. So let me work my way through it.


The Good Stuff
Dick Grayson
So a common interpretation of Dick Grayson (Robin I/Nightwing/Batman but not that Batman)  is that he is Batman (sometimes literally) if Batman were well adjusted. He's Batman if Batman was able to move past the death of his parents and have a life outside of the pain of the worst moment of his life.

I like the idea of showing that getting him to that point was a process. And I really like the idea the impetus for the Nightwing persona is that he's realizing he's starting to act a little too much like his mentor for his own comfort, showing that those differences are a deliberate choice on his behalf.

It's an interesting take on the character that I like.


The Supporting Cast and Cameos

Almost every interesting character that the audience doesn't have to stick around with for the duration is gangbusters. Hmm, it's like they're from another show or something.


Starfire
Yeah, I got stuff to say about the costume but I actually really like this version of Starfire especially once the show reveals what's actually going on with her. It's a bold choice that makes sense given the character's background and history.

On the other hand, it's the penultimate episode when they drop those bombs.


Shrug (I'm Still Processing How I Feel)
Deconstruction
This show is very much in that Kick-Ass deconstructionist place of showing why it would suuuuuuuck to actually be a super. And if you're main exposure to these characters is either of the cartoons it's going to be jarring.

I think what they do with the Robins makes it worth it, but if you're tired of gritty DC superhero deconstructions and just want hero classic this ain't your show.

Raven
So the vast majority of the plot deals with the Trigon arc which is probably either the second or first most well-known story arch of Teen Titans. But they make one big change and how you feel about the show is going to depend on how you feel about the one big change.

Raven is a normal kid.

Yes, she has powers but when stuff starts happening she knows jack all of the Trigon business.

She's just a normal kid, when... stuff starts happening.

I don't hate the change but it does mean this character is fundamentally different from any other version. It didn't bother me enough to drop the show but sometimes it could be jarring when it's plot relevant that Raven doesn't know what's going on when in almost every other telling of this story she's the only person who does.

The 90's Came Back
The show very much has the feel of a 90's prime time genre show, especially for the first few episodes. I actually like 90's primetime genre shows. They had cheesy campy sincerity that I can't help but respect.

But I also have no illusions that said campy sincerity could come off as unnaturalistic and disconnected from reality. (Sorry Buffy)

Raven's Mom
This is going to take spoilers. In almost every other version of the Trigon story I can think of Raven's mom is one the angels and is often showcased as THE reason why Raven doesn't just let the world burn.

Raven is traditionally one of those characters where it's very clear that for want of a nail she could have gone "the other way" and joined "the other team". But she doesn't largely because of the influence of her mom(s)  and I don't know how I feel about taking that away from both of them.

The Bad Stuff
F/X
The effects get better as the show goes on, but it's very noticeable when they don't work and they very often don't work.

Hawk and Dove
So they reimagined Hawk and Dove in about the darkest way I can imagine short of going full-Watchman with it and I literally do not know how I feel about that There are a lot of moments with them that have emotional depth but there is one scene that has politics I disagree with so profoundly that it changed how I was perceiving these characters up until that point.

They may not be the bad guys but they sure as hell aren't the good guys the story thinks they are. Going back to the Watchmen example Watchman knows The Comedian is an asshole but this story is damn near convinced that Dove I is a saint and I'm sorry, no. No, he's not.

Starfire's Costume
I kind of hate Starfire's costume. It is just jarring and distracting for the whole thing. I don't hate the actress or the character. But, man I hate that costume.

On the other hand, Starfire has one of the most stripperific costumes in all of comics and there is no way to make that work.  The costume needed to be redesigned. I just don't think the redesign works.

Everybody else is running around in relatively normal streetwear, at least until the Robins gear up, then... "Last Dance". Even the sorceress supreme is rocking a goth hoodie that wouldn't be given a second look in any high school cafeteria.

All that having been said, it doesn't excuse the bile that's been thrown the actress' way.

I Hate Cliffhanger Endings
Season one ends on a cliffhanger and I kind of hate it. My view of television writing is that the season finale is supposed to be a bookend. It shouldn't end the story but should leave things in a satisfying place. This season finale isn't satisfying. It's made worse by a bunch of obnoxious ads DC has been running that have basically been lying to the audience about what the episode is about. Dear god I hate those ads. Because that scenario they're selling does not make sense within the context of the story and as such it does not have the dramatic weight those ads are selling.


...

Screaming spoilers ahead Batman!




















It's all in his head. The entire episode is taking place in Dick Grayson's head.


  • Jason Todd didn't get wounded in action, permanently losing his ablity to walk
  • And he sure as hell didn't advocate NOT killing the Joker
  • And for that matter Batman also sure as hell didn't decide to actually ace him anyway.
  • Or kill cops
  • Jim Gordon isn't dead.
  • AND DICK GRAYSON DIDN'T KIL... FIGHT HIS SURROGATE FATHER!!!!!

THOSE ADS ARE LIES!!!!!!! NONE OF THAT HAPPENED AT LEAST NOT IN THE STORY PROPER!!!!! HELL NONE OF THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED IN THE STORY PROPER!!!!! I HATE IT SO MUCH!!!!!!

They took an entire episode, their LAST episode of the season just to take a break from all of the interesting stuff going on just so they can say ROBIN'S FIGHTING BATMAN! But surprise. It's all in Grayson's head and I was pissed. Like if they actually had the balls to go there and have Dick Grayson decide Batman needed to be put down for the sake of Gotham that would be one thing. It's very in line with his character arc. It does interesting stuff with Jason Todd.

But it's very obvious this vision in his head and ultimately does not matter to the plot which just kicked into high gear.  The show was teetering on being good and they finale got there with all the pieces being in place for a blowout and they wasted their last episode of the season.

Note: I deleted a link in this post to what I thought was just a movie quote not realizing that it had been edited near the end with a clip video of a real-life fight. I'm sorry I did not mean to do that. 



Sunday, January 13, 2019

There Has to Be A Better Version of Ready Player One



So I saw Ready Player One and it filled me with disappointment, not rage, not anger but disappointment.

I didn't hate the movie but the more I rolled it around in my head the more I realize within it's bowels it had the potential to be so much more than it was.

I think a lot of that maybe a result of going into the movie with expectations of emptiness.  I've only recently seen the movie but the internet is my playground. I was around when it was the big new thing to talk about and I didn't escape, "the dialogue" which centered around the book, which to be fair I have not read,  having not much more than an excuse plot to take the audience on a walking 80's nostalgia tour.

And to be fair the movie is an adaptation. Elevating it any further than Spielberg already did would probably lead to something completely unrecognizable as Ready Player One but still, as it exists there are some many plot threads, characters, and ideas that the story could have explored and chosen not to.

Welcome to The Bad Future

As I ruminate I think of all of the wasted opportunities the movie had to be better but the worst is it's ending which almost makes me want to beat up on Spielberg as an old man who doesn't get the internet and maybe shouldn't have put in charge of a movie fundamentally about how we use technology... and then I remember he directed  Jurrasic Park .and Minority Report, a movie that might as well be named "The Hubris of Silicon Valley"


If the man really wanted to create a polemic about the dangers of technology in the modern world even with his usual brand of humanistic optimism he could have.

Okay for those of you who haven't already seen the movie, the characters are about the future of and fighting in what is essentially a futuristic version of the internet.

And the movie has a golden opportunity to forge its creed about what the internet is, can be, and should be and its coda is... "the internet isn't the real world"

And that message seems so... 2002.



The movie goes through great lengths to signal to the audience that it's setting is a dystopia, that something has fundamentally broken down in society. It's not just that the characters we are following are poor the entire world is poor, the entire world is broken.

And what caused it.  The consolidation of economic and/or political power into too few hands? Nope. The loss of individual privacy?  Nope. Environmental devastation? Nope. Some sort of a pandemic? Nope.  A depletion of limited resources? Nope. A degradation of culture that leads to the mass loss of critical thinking skills? Nope.  The world becoming so automated that there is no-one left around who knows how to fix critical systems when they break. Nope. Rapid technological change creating economic and civil strife in a society unprepared for it? Nope. A societal prioritization of technological skill over emotional awareness. Nope. Fear of outside influence has caused the world to stagnate? Nope.

People spending too dang much time on the interwebs did us in.

To be certain there is a way to make the idea that the world ends when people spend too much time indulging in leisure activity without trying to solve critical problems compelling but this movie doesn't go there. Or maybe because my meat heart has been swapped with a cold dead machine.

Regardless that message as executed by this movie depends on believing that there is an online-offline binary I believe doesn't really exist anymore. The internet is nothing more than a highly advanced communications tool and most of it's problems are the same problems that exist in any communications tool.

Offline people act on the information they obtain online and vise versa.

Reference as Language


As mentioned I did not go into this movie blind and that caused me to lowere my expectations. I find the movie disappointing not because it's bad, but because as it went on I found myself becoming more and more invested in what could have been a pretty interesting commentary on how people use technology to communicate ideas in the modern world.

I am not the first or even the only person to point it out, but the movie doesn't really do anything with its references. My understanding is part of that was to fix the book where some members of the audience found the main character's narration explaining all the references obnoxious.

All the same, I would have enjoyed it if the references were used to communicate ideas the audience which is quite frankly how a lot of internet pop culture reference is used as a short to communicate complex thoughts and feelings via association with understood concepts.

Say Something, Anything!



I started the day I watched Ready Player One player one intending to binge Future Man and drifted off somewhere else. Don't ask. My life is complicated. But I couldn't help feel that Futureman does essentially what Ready Player One tries to do but better.

Future Man is essentially a series of extended plot references to 80's movies. But nearly every movie it references it also deconstructs and comments on the culture that birthed it.

P.S.
By the original purpose of this post was the to try to literally answer the question, is there a better version of this story which has so much potential", rather than writing a review.  The more I thought about it the more I realize that Anime has explored the thematic territory of Ready Player One for years. Watch Lain, .Hack//Sign, and Paranoia Agent, hell half Satoshi Kon's filmography really.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Well At Least Black Movies Aren't About White Assholes Anymore


So between awards season and the new year, all the media critics are doing all of their roundups of the best movies of the year. I'm broke so it's normally a while after a movie comes out that I've seen it and while that tail is shrinking it's not enough that I could do the best movies I've seen in 2018 without half of them having been released in like 2016 but it is enough so that I think I actually have something to say to cap off/start the year

Over the past year, I think black movies or at least the black movies that get the marketing push have finally gotten over the "overcoming" plot archetype.

Back in 2014, I wrote about my apathy towards a certain type of inspirational movie,   and my frustration that the "overcoming a singular racist asshole who keeps you down"  plotline. It's not one of the best things I wrote but I stand by the general point that I find these types of movies kind of boring and lazy at best discounting how they often portray racism as a thing of the past that no longer exists.

But over the last few years I have seen a plethora of black movies that weren't that, and moreover weren't that not because they ignored race or racism but because the characters had lives and agency outside of not only what "that white asshole" thought of them but that was intrinsic to them.

... The characters actually had a personality.

One of the problems that I have with the "overcoming" narrative is that it often boils blacks lives down into a singular experience and that can get tiresome, especially if that singular experience doesn't represent my individual life experience as an audience member.  And I don't want to dismiss any of the people who a lot of these movies are based on but their life is not my life their narratives often don't really speak to me as much as Hollywood assumes they do.

But this year there have just been so many good movies over the past few years that show a diversity of black vision. Many of which actually do come pretty close to my lived experiences.


(By the way I like all the Black super shows and movies that came out over the past few years but Static still wins since he basically was me at 15 at least in terms of his personality as a black nerd who is also kind of a wiseass at least in the suit. ... So basically the first incarnation of "Spiderman but if he were black." I hate that tail.)

I also want to be clear that not every black movie made before 2015 has been an "overcoming movie" but it's been frustrating to me that those seem to be the only ones that get the marketing push and these days that seems to be less and less the case.



And I like that but it makes me all the more frustrated that there are so many black movies from the past that aren't that haven't been exposed for the sake of "overcoming drams"

Well if only Black Panther or Sorry to Bother You won the Oscar.

P.S. I finally got around to watching Akeelah and the Bee and it's an exception to the rule, mostly because Akeelah actually has a personality and actively presses back on the role the movie gives her as the representative of all smart black kids everywhere as if to say, "this may look like that movie but this is not that movie. We ain't doin' that... okay we are but we're doing more than that"


Also, while I haven't seen it I've heard good things about Hidden Figures.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Takin' It Back



So for personal reasons, I'm trying to find media for kids that I have access to on the cheap cheap (I'm broke and canceled most of my streaming services but I have a free Amazon trial.) and I came across a lot of Golden Film's stuff. And I have feelings.

For those who don't know Golden Films spent most of the 90's making mockbusters of Disney Renaissance movies... and I was burned by them.  And I don't blame my parents for not knowing the magic of "I Won't Say I'm In Love". I blame Golden Films.  The rat bastards.

That is their business model. Tricking ignorant or naive adults into spending money on products their kids don't want. Screw 'em.

...

And then I get out of my head for a second. And ask myself do I really want to excuse Disney for branding stories that are supposed to belong to the public to the point where they kind of own them now.

Like that's where it started. We excused that business for far too long. But by now it's clear we have given the mouse too much power over us and it must be brought low.

Oh who am I kidin' I'm not giving up Star Wars, Marvel, Ghibli, and Pixar. I'm not.

... But I don't have to make it so easy for The Mouse either.

Here is my list of movies and shows that retell folk and fairy tales so if you want that you don't have to come crawling on your knees to the mouse if you don't want to.

Honorable Mentions
Before I continue I want to establish that I want this to be a pragmatic list of stuff that is easily and legally available, not just stuff I like.  But since a lot of these sorts of things are children shows a good bit of them have been lost to time. So here are some of those.

Merry Melodies Shorts


I can think of no better way to stick it to The Mouse than to watch Looney Tunes. Back in that golden age both Disney and Warner Brothers adapted a lot of fairy tales and honestly, I like the Merry Melodies shorts better. But here is the thing, some Loony Tunes shorts are easier to find than others and I just don't know where to find all the ones I want streaming.

Long Ago and Far Away


It was a PBS animated story anthology hosted by Mr. Darth Vader himself.

Shelly Duvall's Fairytale Theatre and Tall Tale's and Legends

These are actually two separate shows but they had more or less the same feel. The only difference is the types of stories they would tell. It's always kind of annoyed me that we pretend like there is no new folklore... mostly because in doing so we're pretending like simply because of its age my country has no stories of its own so any show that delves into tall tales, or urban legends gets a thumbs up from me.

Simsala Grimm


It's a German TV show and it actually looks kind of good as a fairy tale anthology featuring a lot of stories Disney hasn't touched yet... it's just that I have no clue how to get it legally.

Grimm's Fairytale Classics

And we're back to that actually good but I have no clue how to stream it thing.


The Stuff That You Can Actually Stream
Jim Henson's The Storyteller

When making this list what was most important to me is that these stories were not just trying to cash in on the Disney wave. (Sorry Don Bluth but Anastasia and Thumbelina to a lesser extent are about as Disney as you can get without actually being Disney) And there are a few ways I test for that. The principal one is that I look for movies and shows that adapt stories that Disney hasn't yet touched. The Storyteller is one of those. Instead of "Beauty and the Beast" you get "Hans the Hedge Hog". Instead of "Cinderella", you get  "Allerleirauh".  It bounces from service to service but generally, you can find it somewhere. I think though am not sure that right now HBO is streaming it.

Correction: I thought it was HBO but it's actually on Starz

Happily Ever After Fairytales for Every Child


Okay most of the stuff on this list is pretty old. It's going to be stuff from the 70's and 80's. Happily Ever After ran ... almost this century. So it's something I would actually show to a kid rather than just watch by myself drowning in the nostalgia. You can stream it on HBO.

Stories to Remember (Light Year Entertainment)

It's a bit hard to find because Amazon doesn't list it as an actual series but the as individual stories of that series with almost no indication that they're in the same style and made by the same company. But they are there. (By the way that's something it does with another entry on this list) But they do have most of them.

Anyway, the voice work is amazing on each of these and characterizes them as stories being told rather than just watched and there is something I love about that.

Ever After

You know how everybody said Disney's live-action remake of Cinderella was perfunctory since it wasn't all that different from the cartoon. This one isn't that. Mostly because this version of Cinderella actually has a personality.

Roger's and Hammerstien's Cinderella ALL OF THEM


I'm cheating because Disney owns the rights to a couple of them. But still, this one bugs more than most. See back in the day, the Disney Channel would actually run marathons of different versions of Cinderella.  And they were all interesting. I know for a FACT there are a million interesting places to take that story and when given the chance they didn't.

Shirley Temple's Storybook

Life is a circle. Yeah, I would prefer Shelly Duval as the celebrity endorsed anthology but Shirley Temple's Storybook is actually available. Also, note if you want to see a pre-Disney version of Winnie the Pooh here you go.

World Masterpiece Theatre

If you're looking for a man who can out Disney Disney look no further than Hayao Miyazaki. Back before he founded Ghibli he worked with Toei, on World Masterpiece Theatre (Specifically he was on Anne of Green Gables episodes) which was a series that adapted a number of well-known children's stories.

The thing about World Masterpiece Theatre along with Grimm's Classic Fairy Tales is that for a long time they were the international anime market. Gundam and Lupin the Third existed but good old red jacket took a long time to crossover. (Toonami popularized a lot of older anime. Not just Lupin, Dragon Ball and Gundam but also Astroboy and Cyborg 009.)

 Again Amazon lists them all individually so they can be hard to find but they're there.

Jiri Trnka's Films

They're available. I haven't seen them but bear mentioning.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Christian Media That Doesn't Suck


I have beef with God and his followers but one of the more benign is "Christian" movies are kind of shit. And heathen though I may be I feel there is no excuse for it, faith, the nature of God, and all of that is ripe for interesting storytelling opportunities. And it seems like all Christian media these days want to do is rant against the atheists.

So here is my list of actually good Christian movies and shows... that don't suck. With a few caveats

Books (Fiction)
For a lot of reasons I want this movie to primarlly focus on movies but there were a few books that I love so much that I had to mention them.

Tales of the Otori
It's basically a fantasy version of Japan's Warring States period but with a messianic protagonist who is a Hidden Christian named after the apostle Thomas well Tomasu but you get it. Huge chunks of the books are about him balancing his Christian beliefs, upbringing, and loyalty to brothers of the faith with the fact that the world will literally not allow for it in doctrine or morals. Turning the other cheek does not work in this series and will only serve to make your enemies hate you more... fatally more.  

He views Christianity as the faith of the underdog and wants to create a world that the meek can inherit rather than that of the samurai lords, but the world is the world and he has to live in it even as he changes it.


I haven't technically read it but everything I've heard about this version of Old Scratch is that he's interesting on a theological level and can't be dismissed as merely that bad guy. He's makes a decent point about why he and god can't just get along. Part of me wants to put the TV show on this list but it's a flawed adaptation.  It's not a philosphical rumination on the nature of free will which is what attracks me to the concept of the comic. 

There is a subplot in the book about close reading the story of Cain and Abel and I love it. Other than that the entire book is chock full of religious symbolism and is retelling Genisis as if it were set in California and oddly enough mostly succeeds.


The Ten Commandments

Alright let 's start this list off proper. Okay, so the real reason why I'm doing this whole thing is that back in the day the church I went to actually did show movies during Sunday school. And regardless of whether or not I've personally lost my faith I've seen enough good stories that almost rekindle it that it miffs me that any piece of media even tangentially related to Christianity is considered crap. The 10 Commandments is a lot of things crap ain't one of  'em 

Oh and while Job is my favorite Bible story there aren't a lot of Job movies but there are a billion Exodus movies so prepare for a lot of Moses parting the red sea.

It's not my favorite telling of the Exodus but if you want a big budget movie version of a Bible story this is one of the best.

The Prince of Egypt

Might as well get all the Moses stuff out of the way first. I personally like Prince of Egypt a bit more than The Ten Commandments and a lot of that happens to be simply,. I like the songs.  I feel the same way about Hunchback of Notre Dame but feel that's only really religious in the music not the story (which is odd considering the source material).  It's worth mentioning but otherwise isn't on this list. 


"Rugrats Passover Special"

Okay, I fully understand that the Exodus apart from resurrection is probably the BIG DAMN STORY of the Bible chock full of themes, symbols, and meaning that resonate across 3 different religions.

But sometimes you just need to have some fun with it. And if you want a "funny" version of the Exodus you can do no better than the "Rugrats Passover Special".


The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

We all know that Aslan is Jesus right. The books, (specifically the Magician's Nephew which is the book of Genesis in a talking animal world) make it clear Aslan is the god of Abraham given flesh in the form of a lion because Narnia is a talking animal world.

Moreover explaining the redemptive power of Jesus Christ while not boring kids with a sermon is more or less the entire point of the story. Edmond betrays his family for candy, (because kid's story) and then his soul is condemned for it by our resident satan figure, the white witch until Aslan dies for his sins breaking the physical manifestation of the old laws and it's covenant.... and being resurrected from the dead.

MAGICAL JESUS LION!

Oh and then there's all that "sons of Adam and daughters of Eve" business.

The resurrection scene is the core of the story all of the versions I've seen do it well. The best version I can think of is probably the 1979 cartoon. The Disney Movie was trying to be Lord of the Rings and Narnia isn't Middle Earth. I haven't sat through the '88  BBC version in a long time but it, while I think I would get a kick out of it, looks very much like the made for TV version it is.


Pillars of the Earth


Don't let the trailer fool you it's mostly about the political and financial wrangling as well technical knowledge required to build medieval cathedrals. This isn't Victor Hugo but it's about as close as I can reasonably expect to a modern Hunchback movie that's actually about Notre Dame. A man wants to use his God given talents towards the glory of God by building a monument in his service.

Oh and it has Ian Mcshane as a currupt Bishop. (I love Ian Mcshane)

Rome

I mostly like Rome because it's probably the most historically acurate television show I've ever seen. In the second season they have an arc about what was going on in Judea just prior to the birth of Christ. It was canceled before they get the gospels proper. But it sets the stage for why most of the major factions act the way they do.  


Forest Gump

It's subtle but losing his legs caused Luitenant Dan to have a crisis of faith before ultimately returning to it and it's one of the least annoying versions of that story I've ever seen so it's on here.

Mostly what get's me is the story frames this aspect of his character neutrally and doesn't pass judgment, not to say that he wasn't a prick in other ways. But in regard to the God thing, the story doesn't dismiss how he's feeling.  What happened to him sucks. He is not wrong to be pissed about that and he's not wrong to be pissed at God about that. And that he eventually can make peace after it all is kind of inspiring.

Kings

Up until now, I've been trying to accommodating to the folks who can't stand any deviation from what they've been told but from here on out the list will be challenging. Not necessarily heretical but stuff a decon might give you the side eye for. On the lighter side of that is Kings a fairly straight retelling of first and second Samuel ... if it were set in modern day.

It treats the story as a political thriller as Saul is working to eliminate a rival for his throne and it's an interesting way to tell the story.

Furthermore, it has Ian Mcshane and I will watch that guy in anything. If you need someone to play a charismatic villain and Saul is a charismatic villain he's your man. Accept no substitutes.


Dogma
The plot of Dogma is that existence is jeopardized because of the inflexibility of ... catholic dogma. That makes it sound deeper than it. is. the movie is mostly trying to have some fun at the expense of the church but it also has big giant point to make about the consequences taking religion too seriously.



The Witch

Enough with the shallow end. Let's go deep nearly blasphemous.  On a metaphysical level, The Witch is a meditation on original sin, (in this context) humanity's natural proclivity towards sin and depravity and our attempts to make ourselves truly worthy of the glory of God knowing it's an impossible goal. It does not speak well of the pursuit.



Jesus Christ Superstar

It's basically The Gospel of Judas Iscariot, ... music and dance numbers. And I know the very idea of that is enough to turn people off but it has a point to make.  By the way there are lots of rock operas about Jesus this just the only one I really saw so eghh.



From Dusk Till Dawn

Who knew a movie filled with vampire strippers could inspire faith in Christ.  Seriously though one of my beefs with let's call it propaganda is that it doesn't acknowledge that it's perfectly reasonable and natural for someone to wrestle with their faith and offer. Just admitting that can offer solace. It is okay to be pissed at the Father. And I have soft spot for movies that do. From Dusk Till Dawn is one of dems.


Angels in America

Angels in America... Angels in America. The word that comes to mind is epic. The play/miniseries has a lot to say about government, love, loss, sexuality, and yes religion. And while the story ends with a big damn rant against god from the protagonist that is seemingly the point, his isn't the only voice of the piece. Several of the characters wrestling with how to integrate their religious beliefs into their daily lives and there is more than one view within in the story on how to do that. Not all of them are good and the story says as such but if you're looking for a guide on how to live as a good Christian in a modern society here you go.

Moreover, it challenges the notion of the comforting God. Good doesn't necessarily mean nice.



The Grapes of Wrath

You know, it's not exactly fair that a lot of the religion has to take the heat for nutty evangelical fundamentalists who are complicit in all the horrible shit Donald Trump does. Like there are lots of different ways faith can be expressed and it doesn't have to be and most of the time isn't that. Casy is the my ideal of the good shepherd offering solace to his friends in the name of the father during times of trouble even if he is unsure if it does any good. That is all.






Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Argument



I am a black nerd, which is to say I am Black and I also tend to engage in media generally associated with dedicated and energetic fanbases. The two are not mutually exclusive.

My idea of a good weekend is ordering a pizza and marathoning whatever the new hotness is on Crunchyroll with intermediate bouts of video games and maybe a fantasy novel on the sly. That is my fun.  That is my jam. That has always been my jam. That will probably always be my jam.

But I am also black and fully aware that at least a reason why Trump won the white house was his overt appeals to white grievance.  Let me say it explicitly. DONALD TRUMP IS A RACISTMADE APPEALS TO RACIST SENTIMENT, AND CONTINUES TO MAKE APPEALS TO RACIST SENTIMENT!

He did that.



But more than that from where I sit Trump is incompetent and the reason why the electorate and yes even Republican leadership is willing to dismiss that incompetence because of that  racism. For a lot of them, it's a feature, not a bug.


People are willing to ignore everything about Donald Trump BECAUSE he reassures white racists, or sexists "or whatever" else that yes they are firmly in control of the country. And since they won the White House and the congress and are well on their way to a Supreme Court majority, yeah they kind of do. Life sucks get a helmet.

That is my reality. That that is the world I live in. That is the nail in my brain. That is my life. I don't like it but it is what it is.

...

Damn near every week I have hear some new controversy about ehem a "fan movement". And regardless whatever the spark was this time they all boil down to being mad about the same thing. And that same thing is directly related to all the crap I just described.

"I A MIDDLE-CLASS STRAIGHT WHITE GUY DON'T SOLEY CONTROL THE DIRECTION OF THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE!!!!"

I am just about sick of all that noise.

I know other groups of people have it worse off than me, a black dude from the burbs. but I've had to put up with a lot of shit over the years from media that otherwise, I'm pre-disposed to loooooooove.



(To anybody who comes at me saying I want to destroy Star Wars and hate it. Shut up! I love Star Wars, and I will probably die loving Star Wars.)

I also want to be clear. I kind of sucks when your favorite show or movie series, or comic book series veers off in a direction you can't stand and you have to give it up. And it's not out of bounds to criticize cast and crew when that happens.

But all of these fan movements have the same central complaint, that these pieces of fiction are trying to appeal more to people who aren't them and that criticism almost always immediately devolves into racist and sexist harassment as people start crying "SJWs (anybody concerned about issues race, class, sexuality or gender) ruin everything".

And it's not cool. It's not alright. And it's going to keep happening. Because that's where we are right now.

That is my reality. That that is the world I live in. That is the nail in my brain. That is my life. I don't like it but it is what it is.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

For the Sake of the Record

So I ran out of money to keep doing the blog... again and I have some strong feelings about that. In order to keep what I call, "brain leakage" (a state where I am unable to keep negative thoughts and feeling from affecting what I say and do) at bay I've been mostly writing stuff offline to sort out how I feel about it but somebody asked so here goes.

It takes money to keep up the blog and it's never been self-sustaining. I've also had trouble finding money otherwise in my personal life and am in huge amounts of debt. In all honesty, restarting the blog in January was a pretty irresponsible move on my part along with other things I did, that shall go unmentioned. But at the time I wrote down (again offline) what I was doing and why and I understand the logic of me of six months ago even if I can't say with a straight face I'd make the same choices, though yeah I probably would. I'm a predictable little bastard. 

This sort of stuff is what I want to do with my life and if I have the capacity to do it I will. I just don't right now. And yeah it bugs me but it is what it is at the moment.

All that having been said I'm not as angry as I was the last time things kind of fell apart. Even if I don't have the power to do all the stuff I want to do right now, I know how to rebuild things in my head and know that me not being in a position to do what I want isn't a permanent state. Or to put it another way in 2017 I was a bit of a junkyard dog, but the simple act of proving to myself that I can rebuild things has helped calm me down and find ... peace.

And Megalobalboa didn't hurt either.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Everything is Politics and Politics is Everything

So a lot of hay has been made about Republican political officials being heckled in public spaces. And none of the usual scuttlebutt from the usual places seemed to feel right.

The "Can't we get along pieces" from Washington Post seemed totally tone death from this moment in time and I just haven't seen an article from the opposing side of that sentiment that articulated exactly going on without talking about the incredulity of specific policies and well as much as I hate to say it elections have consequences.

And then I saw this video from Extra Credits about political and something clicked for me.

There is a sentiment in this country that politics is divorced from daily life, that is in the broad strokes politics does not matter. And that sentiment is one that's really been subtly under question for the past few years.

From where I sit of course politics matters because public policy matters and is one of the great forces that affects lives on a massive scale.

Because of that sentiment, it's not unusual to view politics as just a job. Something that can be slipped into and out of at the end of the workday. But I would argue it's more than that.

In the 2016 election, there was this great cynicism. This feeling that if the citizenry couldn't change the system they should revolt and dismantle it. And part of what led to that was a feeling that politics, the stuff people see on cable news, was divorced from their everyday experience.

And that runs counter to how I think. For me, everything politics. I can look at even the keyboard I'm typing on and work backward to environmental policies about manufacturing which affect the durability and pricing of the thing. We are a society of law even when the law is obtuse or invisible.

I don't know if I support the heckling of Republicans in these spaces but it speaks to a larger ideological divide. A politician doesn't stop being a politician at the end of the workday. The effects of their policies don't stop at the office door.  The effects of decisions about who gets what money and who doesn't, or who gets prosecuted and who doesn't, or who gets to vote and who doesn't don't just stop 50 feet from the office.

And the notion that it does is from where I sit why we ended up with a party in power that doesn't believe the government helps people in their daily lives because for the representatives of that party government doesn't exist outside of the physical workplace.  And that's something worth changing

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SMART (and Mass Transit in Metro Detroit As A Whole) as It Is Right Now Does Not Work But The RTA Millage Would Go a Long Way to Helping It Get There

So Mark Hackel and L. Brooks Patterson's solution to regional transit is to essentially expand the SMART BUS system, which on its face doesn't sound like a bad idea except ... SMART is kind of broken. It's not the institution's fault. From where I sit a lot of the problems associated with SMART are caused the by the opt-outs and the lack of resources that those opt-outs cause which these two fellows are absolutely stuck on.

All the same, I can't get behind the idea that SMART as exists right now works. That is that it does its job of efficiently and cheaply getting people from place to place in a timely manner, which by the way is something that I consider essential.  We have to make this work. We can't just keep shrugging and dusting it's failings under the rug.  Don't get me wrong it's better than nothing but if we really wanted to (i.e. supported the RTA) we could do better.

So here is a list of long-standing gripes big and small I have with SMART many of which, though not all, the RTA plan explicitly seeks to fix





P.S. As it is the RTA plan is dependant on SMART. So we actually need both SMART and RTA millages to pass in order to actually enact that plan. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Case Against L. Brooks Patterson

So if you haven't guessed already I am in favor of Warren Evans' transportation plan as I was also in favor of the original 2016 RTA plan.

Right now the main obstacle from keeping it from happening isn't so much that people are against it, though they very well might be but rather that Macomb and Oakland County executives Mark Hackel and L. Brooks Patterson via their representatives on the RTA Board of Directors essentially have veto power over any attempts to even put it on the ballot.

Which is to say I kind of hate those guys right now.

I don't know Mark Hackel but not counting college I've lived in Oakland County my whole life. L. Brooks Patterson is my guy and has been since childhood. And that thought makes me want to bang my head on a desk.

Despite that and my own personal fortunes, I have to admit Oakland County as a whole is in a state of relative prosperity.

But I would also argue that a lot of that prosperity is the direct result of white flight from the City of Detroit which Patterson directly encouraged. Which is one of the most frustrating things to me about this.

Patterson's rationale for not "giving" "Detroit" (for the record those are irony quotes, the money the RTA millage would raise would in no way be under his stewardship except maybe via his representative on the board of directors and the REGIONAL Transportation Authority as its name suggests is a regional body that encompasses not only Detroit but also Oakland County and as mentioned I for one as a resident of Oakland County would very much like a functional mass transit system which right now we do not have.) is that the city is politically dysfunctional but from where I sit at least some of that dysfunction though admittedly not all of it is his fault.

P.S. I also have beef because he continuously advocates for the widening and expansion of highways which have historically, especially before his time, been to the detriment to the neighborhoods of the city.

Oh. And the bus integration thing... WHY IS THIS GUY STILL IN CHARGE!?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I Am The Darkest Fear of Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers... A Tax and Spend Marxist



So this year there are a lot of local millages coming up in the Detroit metro area. Part of me wants to talk about the importance of taxes and my hatred of the current anti-tax environment both nationally and statewide but after some thought, I realize I might have the blinders on. The past two, if I'm being honest eight years of my life, both politically and personally has been a laundry list of things I want and need not getting done because the money isn't there so I have a natural bias towards the shiny new policy proposal that could change my world save for the lack of funding.

Indeed, it is easier to tell people what would make me oppose a tax rather than what would make me support it because supporting taxes is my default position. My baseline is that the government does a lot of important stuff and in order for it to keep doing all that important stuff, it needs money. "Starving the beast" is a very bad no good horrible idea.

Accountability
I know everything I just said. But taxes are still essentially "the people's" money regardless of how necessary I think they are. There are lots of reasons Donald Trump bugs the hell out of me but this is one of them. Even if you think the amount of graft in the administration is negligible compared to the size of the actual federal budget, which it is, the graft degrades trust that tax dollars will actually be spent on the missions of their departments which is something citizens are absolutely in the right to expect and be upset about when it does not happen. That graft is making every conservative right when they complain about the inefficiency of the federal government. And I hate it. 

Transparency
Part of that accountability is having a clear, understandable, and accessible purpose for each dollar the government spends. And honestly, I do think government budgets are a bit too complicated. Not so much that the government itself should be paired down but in how they are prepared in presented to both lawmakers and the public.  Budgets are more than a bunch of numbers but practical records and mission statements of the priorities of their organizations. If you want to know what the government actually does rather than what it says it does look at the budget

Progressiveness
Notice I didn't say tax and spend liberal in the title. I have drunken from the fount of Engels and Marx. Capitalism is inherently exploitative but we have so oriented our society around that system of production that replacing it would require radical revolution: cultural, economic, and political.

... But Communist revolutions don't exactly have a great track record of advancing the interests of the proletariat. 

Apart from throwing off the oppressive yoke of the bourgeoisie, ... a progressive tax along with services aimed towards helping poor and middle-class people (and maybe universal basic income)  is about the fairest and most practical means of the wealth re-distribution needed to create a more equitable and egalitarian society short of the alternative.

Which is to say I am tired of hearing rich bastards bitching about taxes while gutting worker pensions and arguing against raising the minimum wageI do not like the republican party right now.

And  I wish they would knock it off before I give up the pretense of respecting property rights and show them what a real pinko commie bastard would look like rather than the limp center-left policy advocates that pass for socialists/communists in their heads.

I have family that works for the local energy company. Seizing power plants would go down great at the family barbecue.

(For the record that was sarcasm. Seizing power plants is a very very bad idea that I do not support. It was just an idea of something a hard-line old school commie would want that nobody is seriously suggesting. The mainstream left is pretty far from out-right communism or even socialism right now, despite the fever dreams of Fox News, Breitbart and whatever crazy Youtube talk show host is in my suggestions this week.)

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.