Friday, January 29, 2021

The Gamestop stock manipulation of 2021 is the poster child for mass desperation and how bad income inequality has actually gotten.

The subreddit group of Wall Street Bets, who is mostly responsible for the artificial manipulation of Gamestop stock, is the poster child for how toxic capitalism actually is and how bad income inequality has actually gotten.

First, a disclosure: I live in a state where most people vote conservative. Many of them hold racist views, they are religious and believe in some stuff that is wildly different from garden variety Christianity, and every single one of the men wants to be a leader. However, they interpret leadership as "management," which in their minds means they can show up late and leave early, delegate all the work because they are smarter than others, and then go home and play video games. They are entitled folk who don't actually do real hard work. Actual work would break them in half.

This story usually doesn't end well, and they get fired. But the social safety net of unemployment catches them as does a working wife who doesn't carry the toxic narcissism but shoulders the responsibility by paying off the credit cards. And they don't leave their husbands because (in my part of the country) being older and a single woman brands you as a spinster. And plus, there's that whole inconvenient thing that you need a man after you are dead to call you from the grave to go to heaven. It's really quite a racket. ((Shrug)) it is what life is like out here in the West when they aren't toting guns, big oil, and yelling "freedom" from their pickup trucks. I may have just revealed my atheism yet again in saying all this.

A lot of them are in financial trouble too, but they won't tell you that because being poor is shameful. Taking handouts from the "gubmint" is shameful. Why? It's called the prosperity doctrine. Religion teaches that god shows his blessings by giving you the trappings of wealth. So they make sure that the optics of their living space is good. They buy new cars (which cost around $40,000 these days) and they replace them about every three to four years and just carry a car loan around with them forever. Many of them will never own homes, so they blow money on dining out, on home entertainment systems, on shows and experiences, and apartments that feature granite countertops and stainless steal appliances.  And they pay whatever that rent happens to be forever. They blow money on plastic surgery (a lot), because men are shallow, and sex feels good so you gotta look good to get it. That (again) is life out here in the West. But if you ask them...they all love capitalism. "F*ck socialism!" you will hear them say. "You libtards and your Biden are wrong for the country!" So then they vote for billionaires who care nothing for them, and then because they are fired and have no college degree, they collect unemployment and go and play video games and hope to own the libtards online.

There is little to no way to win unless you have above average intelligence, have luck on your side, and are flawless in your decision-making based upon the reality that you hold to be true. A lot of people fail at one or all of these things. You see the desperation everywhere if you just take a moment to look. Now, one of the wealth engines that capitalism has is the stock market. It's a thing where people can put money, buy portions of a company that is being run well (assumedly), and then share in the profits that company makes. But this is too slow for a lot of people, and with as little money as people make these days (because of toxic conservative politics) making 6% in a year on the $100.00 you have to invest only amounts to $6.00, which won't even buy you a drink at Starbucks. However, a 6% return on an investment in a year is considered excellent. So for a lot of people--and us liberals (by proximity and without choice) are always going to be on the same bus/boat as everyone else--the only way to truly get out of a money pit and to "pull oneself up by the bootstraps" is not through a job anymore. It is through taking psychopathic risks because you've got nothing to lose.

And it is psychopathy. You'd have to be dead inside to be able to sink money into something and then watch it swing wildly, so that one day it was practically all wiped out and in the next you were $60,000 in the positive. If you were neurotypical, you wouldn't be able to sleep at night. And that is what capitalism is. "Ya gotta take risks in life, boy!" is the advice of every assinine shill who has enough wealth in life to be comfortable.

This last ten days or so (maybe longer) Gamestop stock has been hitting the news. It has soared to stratospheric levels, not because the company was any good, but because its stock has been manipulated. The person behind "The Big Short" was among a few who noticed that there were these huge firms on Wall Street who were shorting the stock. This means, they are betting that the company goes out of business. And you know what? They are probably right. It's got an outdated business model. It's a store that was in malls years ago and now everything is downloadable and streaming. It's a dinosaur for the digital age. It doesn't take any special kind of intelligence to realize that. The difference here was that there were actually more bets against Gamestop's stock than there are actual shares by a lot.

The people over at Reddit and Wall Street Bets decided to screw all those guys and buy the stock, using social media to rally the commoners and by weaponizing options, which allows a small amount of money to go big in a huge way (you can also lose everything with options). It's a pure form of gambling. However, it's not random. If you can manipulate a stock, you can make a ton of money. And this is what happened for some people. I wish them well, because they embraced psychopathy to make some $$$, and they forced big firms to buy Gamestop stock at high levels because of obligations.

I watched while it happened in real time. My co-worker made $13,000. I don't like the stock market because it makes me feel stressed and queasy (a common reaction to psychopathic things), so I stayed out of it. I just wanted to watch. The stock fluctuated by hundreds of dollars a day as people buy and sell constantly, using apps like Robin Hood. Elon Musk piled in and I think it shot up to $400. People who had bought in at $3.00 and had options were making sums like $63,000 by the time they sold. They'd tweet how the money was going toward medical bills that they can't afford or this and that...each person had a horrible desperate story. And Wall Street got sucker punched for billions of dollars. It's like robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. This was amazing to watch and it is also incredibly sad to watch. It's sad because you shouldn't have to do crap like this in order to survive.

This is how you make it in our country now. Jobs don't pay enough, and people keep giving tax breaks to billionaires. Income inequality is so bad, that people need to make desperate "Hail Mary's" to try and make some real money to pay for things like housing, medical bills, vehicle repairs, and food for kids. The manipulation of Gamestop stock (GME) is the ultimate poster child for how bad income inequality actually is. It is the ultimate ponzi scheme using a company who's assets are on a downward spiral, and whose sales could never justify the price of their stock. I never thought I would see anything like it, and I hope that there's a lot more of it. Not for me, because I am comfortably middle class. I never want to participate in something like that. But I want other people to be able to make it into the middle class. It's just really sad that there isn't another a job or a career to do so. And it's incredibly sad that half the country uses their vote in politics to continue the abuse, because they've been sold the idea that tax breaks for billionaires will trickle down to them.

If you are reading this, and you made money on the Gamestop stock thing (before Wall Street stepped in and crippled the ability for the stock to go up), I congratulate you. I just wish it didn't have to be this way. It just shows you how broken our country has become with wages so low and with healthcare so gutted that it barely functions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What exactly is evil?

I'm reading Raymond E. Feists magnum opus collection of Midkemia books, and I have been doing so for a while. They are very "popcorn-esque." If you are looking for some deep-reading, you might want to go elsewhere. However, they are really fun with memorable characters that make the narrative kind of play like a high-budget fantasy movie in my head. They've been great vehicles to escape quarantines and the reality of Covid. Although his dialogue seems to be just about the same for every character, meaning that he seems to prefer intelligent characters who rarely get underestimated, and that everyone seems to share the same brain...he does have some surprising insights regarding the concept of "Evil" that I like. And in particular, he establishes within the series that the most evil thing in creation is insanity and madness.

Now, every intellectual property (and thereby author) seems to approach the idea of "Evil" differently. For Dungeons & Dragons things are very cut and dried. There are many creatures that are just "Lawful Evil," "Chaotic Evil," and "Neutral Evil," and there are game mechanics that deal with this really well, making it a functional part of the game. For Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin, "evil" doesn't actually exist. What you perceive as "evil" is just a thing fulfilling their own self-interest. So we are taught to try and see things from a character's point-of-view. From Cersei's own perspective, she was destroying her enemies, which isn't evil. But from everyone else's perspective, she was the worst person that had ever lived.

If we go back to Tolkien, who wrote in Letters, #184 about "Evil," he has this to say: "In my story, Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible." He goes on to explain, "In my story I do not deal in absolute evil. I do no think there is such a thing, since that is zero. I do not think that at any rate, any 'rational being' is wholly evil."

Now, if you've read Tolkien's Silmarillion you know of the character of Morgoth, who was Sauron's master, and who is going to be the big bad for the new Amazon Lord of the Rings series that takes place thousands of years before that famous trilogy. Tolkien writes of Morgoth that, "Morgoth fell before creation of the physical world." There is a suggestion inherent in this language that Morgoth is not a "rational being." Rather, I think he's saying that Morgoth is a product of uncontrollable rage, which is a kind of madness.

Tolkien writes, "Sauron had never reached this stage of nihilistic madness [as Morgoth had]. He did not object to the existence of the world, so long as he could do what he liked with it. He still had the relics of positive purposes, that descended from the good of the nature in which he began: it had been his virtue (and therefore also the cause of his fall, and of his relapse) that he loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction."

To circle back to Feist's Midkemia books (which are above twenty--the man was a prolific writer and committed wholly to his story that I think were drawn from D&D campaigns he ran? [which is remarkable by the way]), his "big bad" is a mad god. This guy was so insane (made no sense at all) that the other gods got together to throw him out of the universe and imprison him under a mountain (on a world) that is so large that the entire world of Midkemia could exist on a ledge of that mountain. At least, that is how it is described. It makes for an impressive visual to be sure.

In Feist's books, this "mad god" is so terrible that essentially knowing his actual name will cause a person to become influenced and controlled by him (even though he's under this huge mountain in another universe). So everyone just refers to him as "The Nameless One." You do (as the reader) eventually learn the name of this god...but "Nameless One" inspires more fear (I think), and I like it when the characters call the mad god by this moniker.

Additionally, everything that has ever happened that is really bad can be traced back to this guy, including multiple invasions, wars, and just all-around terrible and nasty wizards and sorcerers. In fact, there are multiple instances of really powerful wizards becoming recurring villains because you can't actually kill them. The reason is that they are nightmares or dreams from this slumbering Mad God, and like a dream, you can kill it, but it usually is only for a while and they come back in a different form and often with more power than they had the first time you met them. As you can see...that's a problem.

It's this idea of "madness" being the most pure expression of "evil" that intrigues me. It's something that Tolkien gave a lot of thought to, and I'm sure Feist knew this and made a conscious decision to follow the same path. It's also one that I find particularly attractive. When I think about pure expressions of madness in fiction, I'm immediately reminded of H.P. Lovecraft's creations, i.e., Cthulhu and the "Eldritch Horrors" from beyond. Those things actually cause their observers (when they interact with them) to go mad. Lovecraft even has a story called, Into the Mountains of Madness. So, I guess I'm in this place where I'm asking, "Is madness then what we would call evil?" If that's the case, then what about the stigma regarding the mentally ill, and the fact that we shouldn't really go down this path with regard to polite society? Of course, there are extremes to any kind of mental illness, right? How severe things get dictates a lot of what kinds of evil actions we might witness, from school shootings to other types of actions that most of us view as "completely crazy."

Anyway, I wanted to ask those of you out there who are reading these words what you think of "Madness" being the definition of "Evil." Does it make sense to you? And if not, what then do you consider to be evil?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Godzilla versus King Kong is the kind of hot garbage I'm really looking forward to seeing multiple times.

With the emergence of the Godzilla vs King Kong trailer from Legendary pictures this weekend (it will be released on streaming and in theaters at the same time on March 26 on HBO Max), I'm reminding myself why I love these stupid movies.

1) Modern military aircraft have weapons that destroy their targets at a range of miles and fly faster than the speed of sound. However, if the fighter planes do not get within grappling range of the kaiju it is just not as fun. I love awesome scenes of giant monsters smashing the jets as they fly by, and the pilots ejecting out seconds before. So please continue to serve up my movie crack cocaine.

2) Despite giant monsters punching each other, it's important that we have human characters to relate to so that we have a plot. I crave narration, perspective, and I like to feel the fear and awe of human characters desperately trying to frame the events of "WTF-ness" that kaiju inspire.

3) Aren't King Kong and Godzilla both kinda heroes in the perspective movies?'s hoping that there is a third kaiju like MechaGhidorah that appears that allows both of them to set aside their differences respectfully (think Batman vs. Superman) and team up to beat on a third kaiju and maybe destroy a big city in the process. I love my destruction porn.

4) What is that thing flying above Kong's shoulder in the trailer? Is that a flying saucer?

5) I think Kong made an axe using one of Godzilla's dorsal fins. That's how he's able to redirect the energy of Godzilla's own fusion blast. Do you guys see that in the trailer? Does it look like that to you?

All in all, this movie looks like hot garbage. Which means I'm going to watch it immediately upon release and probably see it multiple times.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Soul felt like a backdoor movie about suicide and depression and I loved it.


The other movie that came out on Christmas day (I'm clearing out a backlog of ideas here) was the Pixar movie, Soul. Hopefully, you've had time to see it by now. But just in case you haven't, I'm issuing a soft "spoiler" warning as I'd like to talk about some of the themes that I saw in it.

First off, I really enjoyed Soul. It was a beautiful movie that swiftly veered into territory that (I felt) seemed like a backdoor discussion about suicide and depression. Most of this centers around discussions about "the spark," which is an interesting concept. The spark isn't a thing. Rather, it's a passion for living. Joe (the main character) found his spark in music and jazz. But in the afterlife, Joe meets a soul that has yet to experience life and doesn't really want to. This unborn soul is called 22, and they are afraid of living. In fact, they never got their spark until they experience life in Joe's body.

This whole thing about the "spark" then seems to be a love of life itself. It is triggered by something that gets you wanting to step across the threshold and see what's out there. 22 felt like someone who had preemptively lost any taste for the world and any sense of purpose and had decided that life just wasn't worth it. It took having to explore an actual community and to use actual senses in order to be able to disconnect from this negative need to perform, conform, or achieve. In other words, 22 could just be present in the moment, and that empowered them to devour life.

I also like how Pixar went about explaining what the spark was not. Just because a soul found their spark sinking a swish while playing basketball doesn't mean that their spark is basketball. All it means is that something about playing basketball made the soul want to experience life. Another character in the show is named Des, and he's a hairdresser. Des's spark wasn't cutting hair or to be a veterinarian. We actually don't know what Des's spark was, and it may not have been connected to anything they actually do in real life. By this same logic, we don't actually know what 22's spark is. Rather, it's unidentifiable. All that we do know is that during their brief time on Earth in Joe's body, they found their spark.

And maybe...just maybe...this is what happens when people commit suicide. They lose their spark, or lose touch with it. We all like to think of people like Anthony Bourdain (who had a fabulous life), but after seeing this movie I think to doesn't matter how fabulous his life actually was or whether he experienced joy ten times a day. For whatever reason...he lost the connection he had with his spark. And it probably didn't take long after that before he decided that life was no longer "worth it."

It's also not lost on me what 22's role actually is. In the movie, they're not just an obnoxious kid who doesn't like to learn even though they have access to the smartest people. They are a metaphor for a kid stuck in the education system that inner-city children are most susceptible to: rote learning and recitation with no experience or exposure. The experiencing and participating is something schools are paring down and throwing away, and that is exactly what 22 is meant to symbolize.

If you haven't checked out Soul, which is on Disney Plus, I think that you should. It has a lot of things going on, but it is also a story about lost souls, sparks, and black experience. When you are not seeing Joe struggling to return to a life just so he could return to not living it, you get lots of voices: a single black mother, a black barber, a black woman who's an expert at Jazz. There's a lot of people expressing themselves and explaining themselves as black people rather than just riding along with one man imposing himself on the entire narrative with a single-minded obsession. It's honestly quite refreshing and masterfully done.

Pixar hits it out of the park yet again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Season Five of the Expanse is science fiction that is so good it stands alone above everything else.

I've been watching season 5 of The Expanse. If there is one criticism I can give the series it is this: I really love binge watching. Having to wait a week to continue the story does let some of the air out of the balloon. I guess that Netflix has kind of spoiled me. That being said, I get why they do it. Getting people to stay subscribed while they come up with something else that will make it hard for you to cancel your subscription is how they make their money. Right now, I'm a little disappointed with the Apple streaming service for this reason. However, Cherry, the new Tom Holland film is due very soon and then Isaac Asimov's series adaptation of Foundation is landing there as well. So...I may not cancel Apple+ just yet.

However, the Expanse is on Amazon Prime. So, I'm not sure why they like to string it out like Apple+ and Disney Plus. There seems to be plenty of incentive to keep people subscribing to Amazon Prime. But I do have my thoughts on this. Maybe they just want people to not question the Amazon Prime subscription? Something like...hmm...maybe I'm not getting my money's worth on Amazon Prime, but...if I cancel...I can't watch the new episode of The Expanse. Totally worth it plus the free shipping and other things. Nevermind and then dismiss thought. Maybe that's what's going on.

This season of The Expanse is the penultimate season. Even before it made its premiere in December, Amazon said that season six would be the last season for this science fiction series. I'm okay with that (to be honest) as the narrative of the series reaches a big conclusion in book six, after which there is a multi-decade time jump. Thus far, I'm impressed with the special effects, and I'm glad they got the actress back that played "Peaches," a.k.a. Clarissa Mao. I think that the meteors striking the surface of Earth could have been done with more spectacular fanfare, but it works. It looks realistic, and it's satisfying to see a "scorched Earth." Maybe I was expecting something closer to a disaster porn movie like "Deep Impact," which had a fantastic "comet strikes earth" scene. Actually, looking back on it that was the only scene worth watching in that movie.

Season Five has been an incredibly good season, but that's pretty much par for the course for this series. I said it all in the title above: the Expanse is science fiction that is so good it stands alone above everything else. That being said, I do have some random thoughts. For one, I do think that they are setting up Bull to be the next Roci pilot, because they fired Cas Anvar due to his sexual assault allegations. Second, I also wish that Bobbi was getting a little more screen time this season than she currently is. Bobbi is a great character. There's a scene in book seven when Amos and Bobbi get into a huge fight. I love this scene, because Bobbi actually takes down Amos, which we've never seen anyone do before. I hope we get to see that next season in some capacity, but we probably won't. That's probably my biggest regret at knowing that next year's Expanse is the last one we get.

To take stock at this point in the season, it is impressive at how the showrunners have been using the series as a way to remix and improve certain parts of what was already one of the best science fiction series I've ever. It has delivered on everything I hoped it would. And space battles on The Expanse give me life every time I watch them. They are so good.

I'm going to miss this series when it finishes. At least we get book nine this year, which is also the last of the books. Sigh. I hate to see good things end. However, when good things don't end, they turn into the Walking Dead, which was a series I followed for many years but finally gave up on. In my head, some things can (and often do) outstay their welcome. I should be glad that the Expanse is not one of them.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Okay y'all Bridgerton on Netflix is pretty great.

This week I fell down the Bridgerton hole. It was a good fall. At first, I had no idea what to expect. I've heard the buzz about Bridgerton from online sources to NPR. I am familiar with Shonda Rhimes, and her catalogue of work. But I hadn't heard of Chris Van Dusen, who created the show, and who deserves the lion's share of credit in bringing this masterpiece to realization on Netflix. I started out on a boring Monday evening, looking through some shows to watch, when I saw it at the top of the Netflix queue. "Why not?" I asked myself. "People seem to like it, and if it's not something I want to watch I can switch to something else." Well, I started watching and literally before the credits rolled on the show I was hooked. I finally had to turn it off FIVE HOURS later, a little breathless, and wondering where this show had been all my life.

Bridgerton is a romance. But it's a romance that presents itself with delightful modern touches. The cast is incredibly diverse, and everyone is very easy on the eyes. The story that we get in this first season follows Daphne (played by Phoebe Dynevor) who is the eldest of the Bridgerton daughters. As she enters the very competitive dating and hence "to marriage" market to avoid becoming a spinster, there are all kinds of things that I found fascinating, from the presentation to the queen to the idea that someone increased their dating value if they were seen being wooed by nobles with powerful titles.

It manages to put a spin on the old idea that love isn't found but constructed. However, true love (like a lightning bolt) will cause people to leap on horses between two men dueling with pistols (because what could possibly be more romantic than that?). And you know what? it works.

The charm at the core of this story explodes when two willful young people decide to manipulate the circumstances of betrothal by pretending to be in love so that they can help each other. guessed it...they actually fall in love. Added to all of this is the breathless reporting by an anonymous writer who goes by the name, "Lady Whistledown." And what Lady Whistledown issues in her scandal sheet is snapped up and read by everyone. In a way, it's the narrative voice of Lady Whistledown that adds the dash of whimsy to this whole tale. It's a perfect match to the music, the amazing costumes, the colorful and elaborate sets, and the gorgeous scenery of the promenade. And the voiceover for Lady Whistledown is done by none other than Julie Andrews. So it's fabulous!

Shondaland makes great television, and Bridgerton just may be the favorite I have ever seen from this company, which is saying a lot considering both Grey's Anatomy and Scandal are from Shondaland. If you haven't watched Bridgerton, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I bet it sucks you in like it did me.

Oh...and did I tell you that there are books? I discovered that fact this week as I was raving about the show, and one of my co-workers said, "The books explore all the Bridgerton stories." I paused and asked, "There are books?" I guess I have some reading in my future.

And honestly, with all that's going on in the world, couldn't you use a distraction? Time for a little romance, y'all. Have a good weekend. Want to hear the opening credits song? Click below.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Despite what Rotten Tomatoes has to say about it Wonder Woman 1984 was an excellent movie.

Today, I'm going to talk about Wonder Woman 1984. So, there are spoilers ahead if you haven't seen it.

To anyone that knows me, it was no surprise that I loved this show. I've now seen it three times. Wonder Woman is a character I've always loved, and I think that her story is much stronger than other female superheroes of the same caliber both on the Marvel side and on the DC side. Additionally, I'm able to look past C.G.I. flaws that most people don't seem to be able to do. I didn't think that Cheetah looked bad (people compared the Cheetah we saw at the end of the movie to the C.G.I. "cats" that appeared in the awful movie adaptation of Cats). I also wasn't disturbed when they substituted Gal Gadot and the kid she rescues off a road in Egypt (before getting run over by huge trucks) with a rubber dummy. I actually didn't notice that trick until I saw someone complaining about it and then slowing the video down to 1/100th of the speed so that we could see it was a dummy.

Okay then. But the illusion was real for me. If anything, the one thing that irritated me about the whole experience was that the movie came out on Christmas Day. That allowed family members of mine to hold the film "hostage" while I participated in the parade that is Christmas with lots of conversation (socially distanced) and enforced social participation. I usually don't mind these things, but it was especially difficult knowing that there was something really fun that I wanted to do, and I was being prevented from doing it due to familial obligation. If you remember, this shouldn't have happened. The original release date for the movie was June 5th. Then it was pushed to August 4th. And then it was moved to October 2nd. And then they were like...Christmas! Let's make it a Christmas movie!!

And it wasn't a movie that came out at midnight on Christmas Eve. Oh had to wait until noon on Christmas day to watch it, which pretty much guaranteed that you'd have to see a group...with people who aren't into comic books.

So who were into comic books had to sit next to people that weren't even aware of the movie and that comic books are a thing read by adults. People sat next to women in their seventies all dolled up for Christmas (and who wanted to drink wine and talk about past exes) who were like, "Oh...who is this again? Oh...sorry...I'll be quiet." Or..."How long is this movie? Does that woman know that young man from something? Oh...this is a series? What's that? The last movie I saw was with my grandkids in January and that didn't make sense either. I don't have the Netflix. Oh poo...why is everyone's attention on the screen? I wanted to get some attention today, because 'the rona' has left me all alone...."

So yeah :)) There is/was that. Lovely.

But getting back to the movie, I honestly just loved the way Patti Jenkins crafted the narrative of this sequel. Plus, I got to see the invisible jet, we got more Themiscyra bits (I love anytime we get to see the Amazons on Themiscyra), we got tons of lasso moments (she swung from frickin' lightning bolts), we got the Alex Ross "Kingdom Come" gold angel suit, and we got to see Wonder Woman fly in an achingly beautiful segment that happens due to grief at having to renounce her one wish, which means she will lose Steve Trevor yet again. The chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine is palpable, and I was fully drawn in and invested in caring about this story and this heroine.

I know Wonder Woman 1984 is "rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes, but that definitely is/was not my experience. It's a beautiful film, and when I watched it with some younger friends of mine who are into comic books (and who aren't poisoned by a political brain), they were also left breathless by the awesome parts of it. I feel like the ones who are truly jaded are just fundamentally different people from me, some being toxic narcissists that express or harbor a lot of anger with regard to creative expression of progressive ideals. It gives them an excuse to critically tear a thing apart, while using their genre expertise to express dissatisfaction at the way a thing was portrayed. It's the same kind of thing that you see when progressives tout $2,000 stimulus checks and conservatives shoot it down with all kinds of logical arguments from, "We believe people should work and not be given handouts" to "let's try to be fiscally conservative." But then one of their own says, "Let's do $2,000 stimulus checks," and they say, "We were stopped by the other party! It's their fault! This is a great idea!"

Whoever said that politics does not affect your every day thinking is 100% wrong. It affects everything, including what you accept as actual reality.

Anyway, I love Wonder Woman 1984. I'm glad it dropped, and it hit all the inner pleasure buttons I possess for this kind of thing. It made me miss the eighties. But I'd like other movies that are released simultaneously to video to avoid being dropped on Christmas. I know it won't happen...but wishing otherwise doesn't hurt.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Season 3 of Star Trek Discovery was some fantastic world-building and an open invitation to explore a fresh and exciting universe filled with fascinating characters.

Star Trek: Discovery has its flaws (like any version of Trek), and it also has its haters. I am not one of them. I want to talk about the season that just ended, and how wonderful season 3 ended up being. So spoiler alert, if you haven't watched it already.

Countdown: 3, 2, 1...

First, there is this:

Season 3 ends with a tribute to Gene Roddenberry, and to his original vision for Star Trek, exemplified with the quote above. This bit of wisdom hit really hard right now. In an era where I feel like people are no longer able to understand the words coming out of my mouth (because they have been radicalized and given a new dictionary with words that mean different things) I can empathize with just how valuable true communication is.

Me: " want to drain the swamp? That 'sounds' kind of good? Does 'swamp' mean corrupt politicians who lie and grift people for money? (surprised look) It means people who question a corrupt politician and don't sanction the corrupt politician with universal power? It means news people and media and democratic votes? That's the swamp!? Oh okay...thanks for taking the time to define that...uh...yeah I'm not a supporter of 'drain the swamp' if that's what you mean by 'swamp.' Thanks again...byeeee." So yeah...talking the same language is incredibly important. Want another example? "Right to work" doesn't mean your "right to have a job." It means, "the right of an employer to pay you dirt wages and replace you immediately with another person if there are any hiccups with you at all." It's all in the language, and it messes up communication between individuals.

The world of Star Trek is probably as close to my idea of what true heaven must be like than any other thing I can think of. A place where people can communicate instantly with one another via technology? Where there are consequences for people who do bad things? Where there is diversity, inclusion, and respect for people of all sexualities, gender identities, religions, and alien backgrounds? Wow. You can sign me up.

There are a number of things that I really thought were amazing about this season.
  1. Michael is now Captain of the Discovery. This is exciting, and when it happened, it just felt really right. She has made agonizingly tough choices and was always at the moral center of the show because of those choices. There was this ongoing guilt that she obviously wrestled with in regards to the insurrection she started in the first episode of Discovery when she tried a mutiny against Captain Georgiou. Her choices in season three weren't much better, which ended up forcing Captain Saru to demote her from the position of "First Officer." To have the Star Fleet of the 32nd Century recognize in Michael the same brilliant chaos that existed within Captain Kirk, and then sanction it, felt like a wonderful equalization of the sexes. Kirk got away with so much, because he was a man. But it felt like Michael (who did the exact same crap) couldn't get away with it because she was a woman...until she could. That was great. Equality at last.
  2. Can we talk about Gray for a moment? I love this character, and it's awesome that they will be part of Adira's story arc going forward. I just wonder if they will use some holo-emitter technology, similar to the doctor in Voyager. It's also fantastic that we now have non-binary characters in a major franchise. Discovery is breaking so much new ground, with the first openly gay couple (the engineer and the doctor) and now a non-binary couple consisting of a Trill and a former host who has lost their body.
  3. Now that the Emerald Chain is out of the way, I assume that Discovery is going to be visiting the former Federation worlds and trying to get them to rejoin the Federation. That will be a very interesting story arc for the fourth season.
  4. This season surprised me with the reunification of Romulus and Vulcan. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised, especially given that this was a key pair of episodes in Star Trek: The Next Generation. But I was. I also loved it, and it fits really well into the retrofit reboot that J.J. Abrams did when he blew up original Vulcan. The Romulans and the Klingons have now settled on a new homeworld, having abandoned the original worlds which they used to reside upon. That's a great thing. Also the challenge that Burnham had for the council was a fascinating episode. It was one where we got to explore her character through analysis, and I loved it.
  5. I didn't expect Book to be able to operate the spore drive, because of his natural empathic abilities. I wonder if Betazoids could possibly do it too? Anyway, I didn't see that one coming, and it's great. Now they have a backup person who can use the mushroom network.
  6. Star Trek: Discovery's third season did a lot to setup Strange New Worlds, which (I hope) is a series that takes place in the Discovery timeline. The universe of the 32nd century is incredibly interesting, and I want more.
  7. "The Burn" ended up being a fantastic story hook by which to explain the Federation's devastation, and to offer hope for every single person invested in this future. I'm very much intrigued by the alien "Su Kal," who is a Kelpian that is emotionally connected to dilithium crystals. When he screamed because of the death of his mother, every source of dilithium in the Federation blew up. That's a fascinating hook that one cannot ignore, and I wonder what it means going forward.
  8. Did anyone love that Michelle Yeoh's "Empress" exited the show in a Guardian of Forever episode? I didn't see that one coming either. I'm going to miss "The Empress" as much as I'm going to miss "Baby Grogu" in The Mandalorian. Both of those characters were just stand-out secondary characters that stole every scene in which they appeared.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Let's compare notes on the Mandalorian which wrapped up its second season in December.

 So, I want to talk about The Mandalorian for a moment. It ended its second season last month, and when it ended my first thought was that, "It's not enough." I deeply miss longer seasons of television, but eight does work in a pinch. And then I had a flood of other thoughts. If you haven't watched it by now, you might want to stop reading as I'm going to spoil the whole thing for you in discussing these thoughts.


Okay then, second thought: Why did they deepfake CGI a young Mark Hamill's face onto the body of an actor. There are two reasons for my frustration regarding this choice. The first is that within the Disney stable, they've already got an actor that looks a lot like young Mark Hamill. He's Sebastian Stan, and here's a pic comparing the two of them.

In my opinion, the resemblance of young Sebastian Stan to Mark Hamill is uncanny. Furthermore, Sebastian Stan said that he would play the part if it were offered to him. Like...he's already willing. He'd just have to juggle the new gig with his role in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

This seems like a big "missed opportunity" for Disney primarily because I know that the kind of "deep fake" stuff that Disney is doing to paste Mark Hamill's face onto the body of an actor is probably a thing that they don't want to do all that much. Why? It looks terrible. But... it also means that we probably aren't going to see Baby Grogu all that much anymore too. If he's off being trained by Luke Skywalker, it means that the supporting character of Baby Grogu is probably being written off, and I don't like that. I liked the kid. I thought the kid was an amazing character.

Third thought: Just like in politics, being extremely good at something and being passionate about something does not make a person the right one for the job. Specifically, I'm talking about J.J. Abrams. J.J. is brilliant. I like a lot of his stuff. But he wasn't the right person to hand the reigns to when it came to Star Wars. And follow me down this rabbit have to ignore box office receipts. And yes, I know that box office receipts are all that matter. Okay...that being said...please ignore the billion plus dollar box office, so that I can make a point.

J.J. is king at the box office! All hail J.J. Let's just work that out of our system. Because...he's still the wrong person for Star Wars. The right people are Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.

Now look...If you got J.J. in a room with Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, I know you wouldn't be able to tell them apart as far as Star Wars geeks go. J.J. would be right there rattling off his favorite moments along with the rest of them. He would pass every geek test. His track record is impeccable when producing money comes to bear. But he's still wrong. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni just know how to tell a Star Wars story. They just do...and they tell it way better than J.J. They're doing such a fine job, that the excitement around Star Wars is essentially due to their efforts with the animated series and with The Mandalorian and their other projects. I can't tell you why they are better. They just are, and I'd rather watch and listen to stories where Favreau and Filoni are collaborators, than listen or watch one where J.J. is in charge.

My fourth thought is that the creators of The Mandalorian know how to build a story. I didn't even think that there was any reason to return to Tatooine. In my mind, this dusty planet had no tales left to tell. Boy, was I wrong. When I saw the krayt dragon early on in season two, I remembered wanting very much to know what a krayt dragon looked like (all the way back when I was a kid)! I'd just forgotten. And lo and behold...there it was. And then we got to find out that Boba Fett escaped the Sarlac pit. We also got to see Boba Fett take over the old palace that Jabba the Hutt used to call home. All of these events fit into one season of eight episodes. I went into this season of The Mandalorian with no idea what it was going to be about, and I came out of it deeply satisfied with that kind of fan service.

My final thought regarding this season is with regard to Ahsoka Tano. Rosario Dawson is perfectly cast, which irritates me just a little because Rosario Dawson kinda makes my eye twitch with her refusal to support Hillary ("but her emails") Clinton in 2016. Her and Susan Sarandon both make my eye twitch. Because of people like them, we got Trump, who has proven to be a traitor to our nation. Like most liberals, I'm willing to "let it go," but eye twitches when I see them in a role. But that's it...I'm not angry at either woman....just disappointed that they made selfish choices in an era that probably felt safe to make selfish choices. After all, no one (except me) thought it would get this bad with the country 27 trillion in debt, that there'd be 350,000 people dead, where domestic terrorists storm the capitol, and where the world is on fire. Such is life. But yeah...eye twitch. However, I'm excited to see more Ahsoka, even if it is from an actress who gets on my nerves.

And those are my thoughts on The Mandalorian. Do you have any? Have you watched it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The 2021 January Insecure Writer's Support Group post is here to give us space to air our reading grievances

Happy New Year fellow writers and other insecure folk. I'm hoping that 2021 ushers in a year of good fortune for all of you. It has been a refreshing break from blogging, and I'm eager to share my observations with the world once more. However, as I wrote waaayyy back in November of 2020, the ice breaker is going to be an Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

This blog and a few hundred others participate in a monthly blogfest that was started by science-fiction expert and author, Alex Cavanaugh. It's purpose is to share and encourage. Each month brings a selection of new co-hosts that help with the housekeeping of an ongoing writer project like the IWSG. You can find all of the details (and the sign-up) by clicking HERE and going to their web page.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

This month, I am going to answer the optional question, which is:

Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

Wait a minute, is it Festivus? Are we here to air our reading grievances? I guess so. :)

I love this question, and I have a list. Here it is:

The first thing that makes me put down a book is too much description and not enough dialogue. I like a story that is based in fiction to convey information to me through characters and not through paragraphs of info-dumping. However, dialogue needs to be a back and forth thing, so one character carrying on and on in a quote that goes on for multiple paragraphs can also make me put down a book.

I need to be able to relate to characters, and I find that when characters are diverse and queer, I like them more. This isn't a game breaker, but I appreciate the stories in which diversity crops up a lot more than I appreciate homogeneity.

I prefer third person stories to first person ones. This also isn't a game breaker, but given that there is a world of choice out there and no pressure, I tend to gravitate towards ones that have this kind of style as opposed to the "let's slide into this skin suit and see the world through their eyes." I know this works well for people, and it's also extremely popular in video games. But it isn't really my cup of tea.

I don't like breathtaking action all the time. I call these kinds of stories, "kids books." In film, you can see it with the Harry Potter movies and Star Wars, etc. In fiction that I read, I like and savor the quiet moments where the protagonist discovers something, thinks about something, or engages in a kind of personal growth.

Not every character in a story needs to have a name. It's okay to say something like, "Ralph and Fred along with twelve others started on the journey. A few days later, four had died of various diseases and starvation, and this made Ralph and Fred realize how fragile and dangerous this journey was." I mean...that's okay. I don't need to know who the "twelve others" were. And I also don't need to know who died of what and when. Summarizing can be a powerful tool!