Friday, October 29, 2021

It's been entertaining to watch the cringe-worthy comments made by toxic fanboys of the Wheel of Time series as the release date looms.

The Wheel of Time dropped another trailer this week. It's one of Amazon Pictures's entries in the epic fantasy genre. Although I've never picked up any of the books (and I don't intend to do so), Utah is a place where you can find a lot of strong opinions about the series given that one of their own (an LDS writer named Brandon Sanderson) finished it for the late Robert Jordan. But even before that, epic fantasy was an enormous playground for people with conservative leanings that run from the middle to the far right, as they usually have a chosen one that is a white male, and they go a long way to reinforce patriarchy, feudalism, and magical belief systems that have no place in a world where people with growing economic clout are fighting hard for science, diverse representation, democracy for all, a demand for high wages and work-life balance, and the idea that billionaires are amoral. As the fight intensifies I have no doubt that blood will be shed and the violence between these groups will grow. has been interesting to be the fly on the wall in observing the comments from people who are watching The Wheel of Time's release date approach with narcissistic trepidation They say things on internet forums like, "I will watch, but I am uneasy with the showrunner's choices..." or "what gives me worry is that this adaptation may not land perfectly the thing that differentiated Jordan from others...." and I actually have no idea what that is. Another comment says, "the showrunner is so proud to point out Nynaeve deliberately tugging her braid is a shoutout to fans of the book, but it bothers me because it's obvious he does not quite get the downsides of the representations." Like...gimme a break. It's obvious that The Wheel of Time is going to have even worse toxic fanboys than old Trek and old Star Wars. If you weren't around for The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson was accused of being a hack and a social justice warrior (SJW), which is an insult in the circles they swim in. It just all makes me shake my head, the same reaction I had when I watched toxic comic nerds tear ruthlessly into the Captain Marvel movie, because Brie Larsen was intolerable I guess.

So, make no mistake, every one of these folks believes that if the show is not a perfect adaptation, their withdrawal of their support and "not watching" will send a loud message to the "Hollywood types" and get the series canceled pronto, even though as of this writing, it hasn't even aired yet and has been greenlit for a season two. Nevertheless, if it doesn't get their thumbs up, then it is entirely doomed. It's just weird for me to go to a place and think, "Gamer bro that lives in his aunt's basement and doesn't have a job is going to tank this series. got powa!" Indeed...I wonder why no one else sees it. It actually takes A LOT to cancel something or someone. Dave Chappelle hasn't been canceled (and it's not for lack of trying). J.K. Rowling hasn't been canceled. Chick Fil-A hasn't been canceled. What all of these things share is that they have been criticized but not canceled. And David Chappelle calls out the uselessness of cancelation by saying that he doesn't care what people say about him on Twitter, because Twitter is not a real place. It's an update on the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." This is especially true in a divided country, where no one is on the same page anymore, and one person's morality is actually amoral to the next person. As you may already know, the trans community is outraged at Chappelle for being "Team TERF." Well, in comes Caitlyn Jenner who says, "I support Dave Chappelle." Her voice is huge (whether they like it or not), and it just shows that there's no unity anywhere, which is why cancelation doesn't work.

We're also living in a pop culture world now, where fantasy imagery has become mainstream in ways that would have never been imaginable a couple of decades ago. This has both good and bad implications. The good is that a lot of producers and showrunners who've grown up on these kinds of stories don't now regard them as strange or risky ventures. The bad is that a lot has become so mainstream that older fans of the source material cannot (and will not) adapt. They are dinosaurs in their tar pits. So you get these internet outrages over changing a character's gender or ethnicity, even if it's supported or encouraged by the creators themselves (or their estates or spokespeople). With regard to The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan's take on gender was very problematic (Man magic is more powerful than woman magic, etc.). The show is going to minimize or outright eliminate those aspects of his writing.'s a done deal. This is going to happen, because catering to the olds and the toxic fanboys does not make enough money. Their "clout" isn't what they think it is, and it's also wrong for society (or at least the society that I want to live in). And I imagine that many people will not accept this when they see it happen, and they will experience two emotions: 1) shock, and 2) rage.

All that being said, I'm excited for the debut of this series. I have high expectations, because I haven't read the books, and thus, I won't have anything to be disappointed about. What I do know is that the trailers look pretty great, and maybe some of that Jeff Bezos money will actually give us some rousing fantasy entertainment. Anyone else planning to watch? I've attached the second trailer that dropped this week below (you should watch it).

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Here are the things I liked and didn't like about season 3 of Titans all in one post.

I've always been a fan of The Teen Titans, The New Titans, and Titans from the DC Universe. I fell in love with them many decades ago, because of George Perez's artwork and Marv Wolfman's writing. But even as the characters evolved and other great comic book writers came and went along with artists that became legends, I've always thought that these characters were a lot of fun. Raven was my favorite, followed by Wonder Girl (and later Troia), Nightwing, and Beast Boy. People who review the shows always want to point out that what we get on screen differs a lot from the source material. This doesn't bother me at all in comic book movies, because every new writer that comes along does their own take on the source material. Look at how many times Spider-Man has been retconned in the comic books, and you'll see what I mean. The only thing that matters (really) is that the characters stay more or less within their lane.

Titans season 3 just recently wrapped up, and there were a lot of loose ends and some startling developments. We found out that ARGUS has moved into town. If you are familiar at all with the Arrow-Verse, you see this agency early on in Arrow as the ones who are behind The Suicide Squad. And then they kind of work a lot with other super heroes like Green Lantern. They specifically dropped the name Roy Harper in the finale, and he's been mentioned a few times before. If you don't know, Roy is also known as "Arsenal" and he is Green Arrow's (Oliver Queen's) former sidekick. This character was also in the Arrow-verse early on as Roy became Olly's sidekick while dating his sister (Thea) in the show. Anyway, I expect that ARGUS will be important in season four (should this show gets renewed). Honestly, it's probably a toss-up at this point as the show has not been knocking it out of the park at all. But it's also just barely good enough to keep me invested. In other words, I am enjoying myself, but just barely.


1) I liked that the budget seems to have improved. Given that they have so many superheroes, I get it. Effects can be expensive. But I liked the new powers Starfire manifests, I definitely like the effects on Nightwing's batons when he beats up bad guys, and I like that they FINALLY gave Gar another animal form and it didn't look too cheesy. Raven's powers are growing significantly and look cool. It seemed like she swallowed up some people in a "kind of" soul self thing, although it hasn't quite taken on the appearance of the Raven shape that it has in the comic books. But she's now wearing the Raven-shaped hood which I love. Maybe teleportation is next? That would be really awesome. Maybe we will get a huge T-shaped tower on an island in San Francisco? These are all things that I would love to please INCREASE THIS SHOW'S BUDGET!

2) I liked that Hank died. Yeah...I went there. I was tired of Hawk and Dove, and I'm glad that those two have exited the series. They were the least interesting pair of people in the show, and I sincerely hope that they don't find a way to bring the characters back.

3) Donna Troy needs more spectacular effects. The season finale showed her using the lasso to anchor to the sky to draw down lightning from a storm that was created when Starfire and Blackfire vaporized a Lazarus Pit. I gotta admit...that was cool. Superboy is also a really awesome character, and I wish his powers were more represented with some really cool effects. But I'll take what I can get I suppose.

4) The actors are perfectly cast. This is a strong plus for the show. Starfire feels like Koriander to me. So does Superboy and Beastboy, etc. 

5) Themiscyra was fun...I just wish there was more of a special effects bonanza to go along with it (kinda like what we see in the Wonder Woman movies). 


1) There was way too much Jason Todd. He's another character that is like Hawk and Dove. I never liked this whiny brat in the comic books, and I was glad when the Joker killed him off (and I wasn't the only one), and I was disappointed that they found a way to bring him back using a Lazarus Pit so that we had to suffer an entire season of him being both a villain and an anti-hero. Like...that was just horrible. It was fun to see Scarecrow though, and I liked very much that they borrowed a lot of Hannibal Lecter to infuse into their version. It made him believably sinister and evil.

2) I didn't really like the Lazarus Pit stuff. Ra's Al Ghul used to be one of my favorite Batman villains. However, I feel like this villain has gotten stale. They used him in the Nolan films. And then they used him again in season after season of Arrow. And I guess he's coming back in Titans. Titans had so many fun storylines that I wonder why they are digging so hard into the Batman's rogues gallery to drum up bad guys. Maybe it's because they squandered/wasted Trigon the Terrible so early on. I mean...that was just a waste in season one, and it hurts even more that they tried to do this world-ending villain on a shoestring budget. Trigon is worthy of an Avengers-level budget.

3) Why are they introducing Tim Drake? I like Tim Drake as Robin in the Batman comics. But can we not (at all) leave behind the Batman and Gotham and have our own Titans storylines? Sigh.

4) I didn't like that Oracle was a supercomputer that was just kept in a room where Barbara Gordon would visit it and ask it lame questions. In the comics, Barbara Gordon WAS Oracle. She was the eye in the sky. She coordinated the Birds of Prey and fed them all kinds of information.

So there you have it. Anyone else watching Titans and care to weigh in on whether you like it or not?

Monday, October 25, 2021

Let's talk a whole lot of Dune today.

Like most of the United States, I watched Dune this weekend. I have a pretty nice entertainment system at home, and one of the people I watched with said, "Man, your sound system is kickin'! 10 out of 10." That gave me a smile. Still, I am curious as to what kind of visceral experience awaited those who purchased IMAX tickets. There will always be the allure of the absurdly large screen and a sound system that is incomparable to the ones that you can get for the small theater at home. I may check it out before it disappears from theaters. However, (and this should be obvious) it is nice to be able to watch something without the fear of catching Covid from strangers.

Invariably, I've been asked by people who know me (as I really like the story of Dune) to weigh-in on Villeneuve's version. In short I really liked it. But I cannot actually say more about it without contrasting to the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune. Even though it was universally panned, I've always liked that version, and I thought it was really well done. never get the crysknife battles that you got in the story as David Lynch decided to elevate House Atreides combat-style with a kind of weird mechanical module that converts sounds into different types of killing effects. But for me, that was a forgivable directorial decision. All that really matters is that House Atreides soldiers are known to be some of the best in the known galaxy, trained by Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck, who were just amazing badasses with no comparison.

And David Lynch's unique style in that old 1984 adaptation was just so crazy bonkers that I loved it. There was gold on everything, the costuming was over-the-top, Patrick Stewart rushed into battle carrying a pug of all things, and when Paul rode the sandworms we got an eighties anthem guitar solo from Toto! I went really big in some absurd ways, and I'd argue that it really paid off. We got Jose Ferrer as the Emperor, and there's a scene where he's fighting the oncoming sandworm army from his golden ship and you see the hopelessness on his face that I just loved. There is also the strange grossness of David Lynch that suffused every inch of his film, like with the crazy eyebrows on the mentats and then Thufir Hawat having to milk his cat for an antidote to the poison introduced into his system. I wonder if we are even going to get any of that. Do I miss Sting sporting only a Batman-esque speedo? Yes, I do. 1984 Dune was a crazy show, y'all and arguably a work of genius.

So in comparison, this new version by Denis Villeneuve, is also a masterpiece. But it is a masterpiece of a different kind. It's slower in pace, and a lot more thoughtful with its screenplay. You don't have the weird inner thought monologues of the characters, and Villeneuve doesn't bombard you with explanations of how the Guild Navigators fold space. He doesn't bother you with any of the colorful minor characters like Princess Irulan and the Emperor of the known universe. Will we even see a guild navigator? My guess is, "Probably not." Instead, he keeps a tight rein on the telling of his story, and unfolds it layer by layer in a way that new audiences should have no trouble understanding. The only real characters you need to know are Paul, Jessica, Duncan, Gurney, Duke Leto, Rabban, and Baron Harkonnen. Everything else is just dressing. That list of characters is short enough for anyone to remember. Even Chani is only a blip in the movie (probably with a bigger role in part two as she becomes Paul's love interest). And it works for the movie really well. I have no complaints, and I actually really like Villeneuve's Dune in ways that I will never like Lynch's Dune. It's also just nice to have an update to a great story with all the modern special effects and a new crop of great actors, not the least of which is Timothee Chalamet who is very easy on the eyes.

This also leads me to other kinds of speculation. First, Dune isn't going to pull the box office numbers that movies pulled prior to Covid. We just haven't gotten back to that yet. But the numbers on it look extremely good despite being streamed and pirated and delayed more than a year from its original release date by a director that hated the idea of it being streamed. I'm wondering if Dune is the beginning of a franchise, similar to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). It actually lends itself really well to this kind of thing, and Harry Potter has failed in this aspect to produce a kind of universe that Warner Brothers can play in that can be a continuous cash cow for the company. Dune just might be this kind of thing, because it has really epic storytelling with a certain group of characters, and then moves on from those characters to others within the universe to tell other stories. I can't but help and ask, "What is all of this leading up to? Are we going to get all of the books in the series as movies? Boy, wouldn't that be interesting."

Anyway, if you watched Dune this weekend, please leave me a note in the comments and tell me what you thought of it. Also, do you think there will be sequels from Villeneuve within this franchise? 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Dr. Ramani Durvasula got me thinking about the toxicity of pursuing Fame in America and how it ruins lives.


I've been reading a book called Don't You Know Who I Am?: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. It is written by Ramani S. Durvasula, PH.D. It's one of those books that I'm progressing through rather slowly, at a pace of about 20 pages at a time. This is mostly due to the fact that I want to think about what I just read. It's also because a lot of what Durvasula talks about in the book are things I've witnessed first hand. Additionally, it's kind of fun to be the armchair psychologist and think..."Oh yea...this describes my family" or "Oh yea...this describes that narcissistic friend of mine to a tee. What an asshole they are."

And speaking of "asshole," there's a great definition of this term that I'm going to tell you about. I'd never thought of defining the word in this way. Apparently, an asshole is a "person who allows themselves to enjoy special advantages in social relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes them against the complaints of other people." It's a mouthful, but it kinda makes sense.

There is way too much to talk about in Durvasula's book that warrants attention (or that could fit into one blog post). But one thing did stick out in my reading last night, and that is what I'm going to blog about today. It's about fame. I'd never really given much thought to what fame actually was, but Durvasala defines it in a way that seems more meaningful than a catchphrase or a kind of force of nature/personality. Interested? Please read on.

Dr. Durvasula writes that "we humans want and, in fact, need social belonging and connection...the drive for fame then is largely our need for social belonging. Perhaps fame implies permanent social belonging, because the person will be recognized everywhere they go." Then she goes onto cite a personal example of someone who desperately wanted to be famous. When she asked this person why, they responded with, "So I am never lonely again."

When I thought about this example, I put down the book and was suddenly struck with how lonely some people must actually be. One particular example that pops into my head is Gabby Petito, the late (murdered) Instagram woman who went on a trip to see national parks in the United States with her fiancée, and their van life (though very instagrammable) was obviously a nightmare, and she was murdered by someone she trusted and her body left to rot under the sun. I wonder if she was driven to that kind of life because she was lonely. She was trying to pursue fame, and it just led to a toxic mess of abuse and violent crime.

And it got me thinking about how toxic our culture is. Americans are really good at walling off people, ignoring people, canceling people, and being mean to people. It's kind of like a super power that Americans all have. The idea of having fame seems to be a salve for that. If you are famous, then you can open closed doors. You can be invited to parties on the other side of the wall. You can feel welcome in places that are largely unwelcoming to everyone else. You can even rise above and profit from negative criticism that would destroy someone that wasn't protected by fame. So fame and fame-seeking seems to go hand-in-hand with the hatred that pollutes our country.

The more people hate, and the more people build walls to keep people out, the more important it will be for a person to have access to something that will allow them to move fluidly through all of those boundaries. Fame appears to be that "something," and it may be the most desirable commodity of all among America's youth these days. That (I think) is a bad thing for our country. For example, I can't imagine what it would be like to try and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with a famous person. How would they ever have time to emotionally support you when there are so many people clamoring for their attention? I think it would be a fertile breeding ground for massive insecurities unless the famous person took steps to create really firm boundaries with the public and put you at the center of what was important to them. Unfortunately, we see this kind of thing play out over and over again in the media. Those who are excellent with the boundaries have relationships that survive. Those who aren't good at boundary setting end up decimated by the public that worships them. There are so many bad things about America now though that it's honestly hard to keep track of them all. So it's just adding one more sociopolitical catastrophe onto the steaming garbage heap.

Anyway, I appreciate the thought exercise that Dr. Durvasula gave me regarding fame. And since we're on the topic, do any of you who are reading my words now hunger for fame (or do you have kids who are fame obsessed)? If so, care to share why? I'm a very non-famous person who legitimately wants to know.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

DC Fandome's Black Adam event looked glorious.

I've kind of become a super Dwayne Johnson fan. I drink his energy drink, Zoa. I follow him on Instagram. I watch all his movies. And I kind of just think he's a guy that continuously inspires me no matter what he is doing. Also, a lot of his public stuff intersects really well with the nerd things that I enjoy. The latest of which is that he unveiled the first look at Black Adam during a DC Fandome event earlier this week. I've embedded it below for your viewing pleasure. 

For people who don't know, Black Adam is evil. And this just opens up a philosophical can of worms starting with the question, "What is evil?" George R.R. Martin doesn't think that evil actually exists. Rather, what you mistake as evil is simply a person's motivation that is in opposition to yours. So, if that is the case with Black Adam, you can expect that there will be a lot of people who do not align morally with the character. But, if January 6 told us anything, it's that there are a ton of viewpoints out there, and a ton of people who admire different things. So there will be those whose motivations perfectly align with those of Black Adam, just like there was with Thanos.

I expect that the film will also go further, and try to sell the holdouts to Black Adam's cause...people who might like superheroes like Superman (for example). You know...the traditional good guy that does no harm and is essentially the stereotype of Sir Lancelot gussied up as a superhero. This is where we cross over from villain to "anti-hero," which is a big thing these days in the media that we all consume. With regard to Black Adam, I say that the possibility of this happening is doubled, because we've got Dwayne Johnson headlining the character. In the super short clip that aired on Fandome, you basically just see him stand up and vaporize one dude. But it looks really cool, which is all that matters. The fact that he vaporizes someone without so much as a warning is pretty much their way of saying...yeah...this guy is bad and isn't afraid of killing people.

That being said, it will be fun to see Dwayne Johnson playing a more villainous character. He's played the unequivocal good guy for so long that this feels like a fresh take on his career. To see him directly kill on-screen (as in the above example) is super rare. It's usually more of an "exploded the car with the bad guy in it" situation.

Anyone else excited for Black Adam? It looks like it hits theaters in summer of 2022.

Monday, October 18, 2021

The fact that Dune is such a great story is a significant contrast to the legacy of Frank Herbert.

My relationship with Frank Herbert is complicated. Can we separate the artist from the art? Or more appropriately, can I separate the writer from their great ideas and their book? None of what I do is logical. I am not Vulcan, and I suppose having said that, my open-eyed approach to enjoying the arts lends itself to hypocrisy. On one hand, I cannot bring myself to read Orson Scott Card for his obvious controversies with homosexuality. On the other hand, maybe because I learned of Frank Herbert's terrible views of homosexuals at a different period of my life, I can just dismiss the man as a bigot and think nothing of it, and then consume the products of his late estate and revel in his genius.

If you didn't know, Brian Herbert wrote about the strained relationship that his father, Frank, had with his brother Bruce. He even writes in Dreamer of Dune that when Beverly Herbert was on her deathbed, Frank discouraged Bruce from coming to see his own mother. Brian says, "Bruce had wanted to come afterward, but dad was delaying in giving him a time that would be convenient. My brother wondered, but did not say so to dad, if this had anything to do with his homosexuality, which our father never accepted."

There are also several first-hand accounts from people who knew Bruce, and they remembered him saying that he didn't speak with his father, because his father didn't like that he was gay. If memory serves, Bruce ended up dying of AIDS in the nineties. And (of course) there is other stuff you can find out if you dig (which I did). None of it made an unapologetic liberal and gay person like myself very happy. 

For example, Brian Herbert has written in as many words that his father wasn't just a Republican voter, but he was a Republican operative. While in his 30's, Frank worked for four Republican candidates. His most important employer was the US senator from Oregon, Guy Cordon, who was a bastion of hardline conservatism in a state that was tilting left. Cordon was pro-logging, pro-business, pro-military, anti-labor, anti-regulation, and a supporter of Joseph McCarthy. Herbert came to regret McCarthy's tactics, but Cordon was a "strong influence" on him.

So knowing all of that, I'm getting ready (like much of America) to watch the first half of Denis Villeneuve's Dune that is coming out at the end of the week. I'm looking forward to it, and I think it will be a beautiful adaptation of Frank's novel. However, I suppose that there is a wish inside of me that a better man had written it. Of course, there are people who love the man that he was. Those people are not my tribe, and just highlights how far apart many of us are on what we think being good and moral actually means.

Anyone else planning on watching Dune this weekend?

Friday, October 15, 2021

The United States in 2021 is in a really weird place in its overall history and its relationship with the idea of work.

This is an interesting time to be of working age and living in the United States. Growing up, my father always railed against foreign countries usually finishing up with, "America is the greatest nation in the world. You are lucky you were born here instead of someplace else." It was a kind of strange self-awareness, but because it came from the mouth of dad I never really questioned it until I was on the other side of my university experience. I suppose that is where the critical thinking started.

So, being alive and healthy enough to work for a living in the United States has got its surreal moments in 2021. Of the people who play in my D&D group, only myself and two others have jobs. The other five don't work at all and probably don't intend to work. One makes his wife work while he sits at home and plays video games; he sometimes applies to jobs but he's underqualified for all of them and will never get them. He's the person with a high school education and who managed a Sonic once that puts in a resume to be Dean of the School of Business for Harvard University. Like really...that's what he does. Another is able-bodied and lives with a parent who coddles him like a baby and pays for everything and tells him that he doesn't need to ever work if he doesn't want to (the man baby is almost 30 and believes that being forced to work is trauma).

A third person is a low IQ individual who takes a lot of explaining in order to understand things. Somehow they qualified for SSDI at the age of 40, and they followed up with, "My life has been so much better now that I don't have to work. I spend my days reading, watching programs I want to watch, visiting with friends, exercising, playing board games, and playing video games. Because of this, I don't have the stress that I used to have that was making me sick." So...translation...I become a man-baby and play all day and as long as I have a room to sleep in and things to eat...I'm happy. Okay then. It is what it is, but it puzzles me as to why this is happening. Current events are conflicting so much with the mantra that my dad pounded into my head... "This is the greatest country on Earth..." Is it though? By what measure? My dad obviously never had a friend tell him about "passive suicide." I recently had this conversation, so that I would understand why a friend made the choices that they did that were unhealthy for them. I was like...okay then. I validate you. A man should have a right to dictate the course of their own life. Ironically, I think a lot of "despair" has its origins in the Americanized idea of "work." The despair sets in when people realize that the kind of work that they really want to do is unavailable to them. Instead, the kind of work they can find is oftentimes a steaming pile of doo doo on a tin plate.

And in writing this, I seem to have sparked a realization that I have a lot of friends who don't work. There's the 44 year old woman who essentially plays all the time, because doing actual work is stressful and depressing and causes anxiety. She lives at home with her mom and they rent out rooms to people on SSDI so that no one in the household has to work. In fact, SSDI has become so commonplace in my social circle to see, that to my observation, it is kind of startling. It's like watching people launch out of childhood to be hit full force in the face with the brutality of capitalism. These people then cave-in mentally and crumble before it, the same as a person who would seek refuge from a raging bull in an arena. And then they cower in fear and safety behind a shield of SSDI for the rest of their lives. So the new life cycle for many people seems to be childhood until 25...a few years of work wherein you run screaming...SSDI by the age of thirty and essentially a permanent retirement of "getting by" and hoboing around with dozens of sexual partners and casual drug use until one passes from the Earth.

Now, some of what I'm seeing does actually make sense. For example, there have always been jobs that no one wanted to do. On my short list of terrible back-breaking and stressful jobs are phone centers, trucking, and being a C.N.A. I'm sure there are more. Retail (I've heard) has gotten really bad with the Karen's and the other "entitled" people screaming and demanding to see the manager and pulling off masks and spitting on people while being filmed. This is yet another nuance of "great America." But, there have always been people who did these jobs. There have always been people who moved the pipe in the fields (I did it for a few years and never again). There have always been people who drove truck or who took on the duties of care-giving.

What's different is that in 2021, people are saying, "Hell no! You can count me out!" And it's causing a huge problem globally. I've never been so fascinated by people walking away from work and essentially, going it alone to try and find some version of retirement or freedom, whether it is living off of another person, living off the government, or being a brazen thief in what's called "organized shoplifting." If you aren't familiar with this last one, you need to check out this article HERE that explains why Walgreens has closed 5 stores in San Francisco alone due to the phenomenon. There are amazing videos of people walking out of Home Depot stores with carts filled with merchandise...just going out the door...and pushing and punching anyone that gets in the way. They are literally daring the staff that work in these stores to do something. And then they just drive away with the goods that they sell through some other place at a later date. It's like my microcosm of a world has gone nuts all at the same time.

There are Republican pundits who say outrageous things on Fox News like, "We need to force people back to work." There are others who buy up billboard space to chastise those who drive by them with the message, "Get off your butt! Apply Anywhere!" Or something similar (I'm seriously not kidding...just google it). On the first note...I have questions...what does this "forcing" look like? Cause, from my perspective, that sounds like trauma in the best of light. And as someone who has received the message (or gaslighting depending on how you want to look at it) that work gives a person meaning and makes their life better...this doesn't jive with that message. I mean...if you have to drag someone kicking and screaming to do a thing...isn't that "without consent?" Aren't we, "The land of the free" or was that more gaslighting? If something is without consent...isn't that against the law? Like what the hell? And regarding the billboard messages, I don't know what planet the people who bought and paid for such a thing came from, but shaming someone to do a thing doesn't work anymore. It's almost laughable. We are a society of shamelessness...of grifterism...of just flagrantly doing things to get attention, because we are attention-starved. Ringing the "shame bell" is not going to work on anyone. No one cares anymore.

So, it's a strange time to be alive. I oftentimes find myself in the company of a dozen people knowing full well that I'm the hardest worker in the room. And it's a bit unsettling. Dwayne Johnson wears a shirt that says, "The hardest worker in the room." He takes pride in that, and he does inspire me and millions of other people. However, I don't wear that shirt out of personal choice. I never wanted to be the hardest worker in the room, but in America today (at least my slice of it), it's like there's been some unseen and unannounced race to the bottom, which has left me weirded out in more ways than one. At its most basic level, I think we need to seriously reconsider (as a society) what the idea of "work" actually means.

I don't think that "work gives value to a person's life." I think that wherever that bullshit came from was probably a self-help book written by a person that wanted to motivate others so that they could make money and sit back and have it easy. These days people are onto that, and everyone wants it easy. So, maybe, as a start, we could begin by acknowledging that, "Work is a terrible but necessary thing. If it is your time to work, we are sorry. We will make sure to pay you extremely well, to try and make it as easy as possible for you, and to make sure that you are taken care of when you cannot work anymore. Additionally, we (as your employer) appreciate you and will not subjugate you to micromanagement or performance evaluations as those are trauma-inducing. Rather, we will be appreciative of whatever it is that you can give us, but know your limits. We respect your boundaries." Maybe this is what work is moving toward? I don't know at this point, but it would be nice if it was.

Has anyone else noticed a profound shift in the country? Does anyone other than me out there have at least ten friends they can name that are long-term unemployed and have no prospects of ever fixing that at all? Like...ever? I'm talking about (essentially) permanently retired and in the prime of life? It's really strange, and honestly, it makes me wonder why I work so hard. I haven't figured that last part out yet. But I'm also in awe of the people who either have enough privilege or who have been smarter than me and figured out how to careen from year to year of life in America as an adult while doing nothing but play, play, and then play some more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

I have thoughts on the Alien franchise that I want to share.

So, science fiction news broke this weekend about the Alien franchise that is now moving to a television series headed by Noah Hawley. I've very much liked Noah Hawley's takes (episodic television series and not movies) on Fargo and Legion. Heck, based on Legion alone, I think he will bring a really interesting creepiness to the Alien franchise. With the ability to expand outward in episode after episode, he won't be constrained by time. He won't have to resort to the idea that people are just trapped on a spaceship, or they are trapped on a planet, or they are trapped in one situation or another. This is how Alien movies have been done up until now. And I think this is a great opportunity to step away from the movies and tell a different story about the Engineers (visible in the Alien prequel of Prometheus), and the danger of corporate greed looking for a biological weapon to keep those who don't support their interests in line.

However, Ridley Scott is not a fan of the idea. He doesn't like that the story will be set on Earth. In Hawley's words he wants to explore the idea of "What happens if you can't contain it?" And then wants to follow up with (assumedly) the destruction of Earth, which I think could be incredible television. Ridley Scott (who coined the original idea of keeping the aliens away from Earth) says that "It'll never be as good as the first one." In the interview with The Independent Scott said that having the xenomorph creature at the center of the story is not what audiences want.

Okay...I think that Scott obviously knows his own creation better than anyone. But I want to put forth another idea. The thing that puts Alien in its best light is the mystery. It is the impending horror without showing a thing. It's very Lovecraftian in that way. If I was going to do something with H.P. Lovecraft's work (and I had the resources to do it well), I wouldn't show the Great Old Ones on the screen except in very rare instances to inspire awe. I believe the same thing could also work in an extended series...with the horrific elements of the xenomorph being talked about and shown in contrast to the actual creature itself. Of course, Aliens showed us that massive amounts of xenomorphs being slaughtered with futuristic weapons can also be nice, as it all felt very hopeless despite all that firepower.

Scott's take on Hawley's ability to play in the universe he created also feels really defensive. In other words, why would a show be measured against one of (arguably) the best horror movies ever made?" And whether or not you like any of the sequels, you have to admit that Alien by itself is a masterpiece. In my humble opinion, the plot is simple yet deviously smart, with subtle layers to it that one doesn't even realize until the film has played itself out. To explain further, I don't know if Hawley's Fargo is any better than the movie it's based on either. But it doesn't matter, because I enjoy them both.

Anyway, when I learned that this project is going forward, I felt a rush of endorphins. It will probably be coming out next year, and it will air on the FX network, which is also where Hawley's other series tend to land. I guess we will soon see if Alien can make the transition to television and obtain a whole new demographic of fans.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The What If Infinity Ultron episode on Disney+ was a lot of fun to watch and left me with a lot of thoughts.

Spoilers ahead for Infinity Ultron and the What If series on Disney +

So, I'm still a little behind on the What If series on Disney +. However, I did finish watching the penultimate episode wherein Ultron gets a hold of the Infinity Stones and then proceeds to expand his power into other universes and then beats up the Watcher (who's been telling the What if stories in the first place). As entertaining as it was (and it was fun in the comic book sense of watching powerful characters slug it out), I was left with questions and observations that will probably never be answered. Here are some of them.

1) Ultron is able to use the Infinity Stones once he goes to another universe. This doesn't make sense to me having finished watching the Loki series wherein the Infinity Stones were used as paperweights in clerk drawers in the Time Variance Authority building (which is outside the known universe). They established in that series that the Infinity Stones have power only within the universe with which they originate. Even in the comic books, this is a thing. For example, in a JLA and Avengers crossover, Darkseid briefly gets a hold of the Infinity Stones, and then realizes that they are useless because they are not a part of his universe (Darkseid is a huge DC villain similar to Thanos).

2) Ultron in the episode got the stones way too easily. I mean...he just used the mind stone to cut Thanos in half. For some reason, I think Thanos would have put up more of a fight than that. But it's all what the writers want, right?

3) Was Clint's arm and cloak some Wakanda Tech? It seemed like it was, given that the Winter Soldier's arm came from there.

4) I'm actually not sure how powerful the Watcher is within the canon of the Marvel comic books. Is he up there with the Living Tribunal? I'm just not sure. I do know that the Living Tribunal can just turn Infinity Stones off, like flicking a switch. He did that in some of the Infinity Stones plotlines before placing them beyond anyone's ability to abuse.

5) I loved seeing Captain Marvel's true power unleashed when she attacked Ultron. That's impressive, even if she was ultimately defeated by the robot with all the stones. Still...we've never seen that kind of power flex from that character.

I'm kind of an anomaly when it comes to fans of the Age of Ultron movie (the second Avengers movie). I actually liked it. However, I do get that Ultron was a Thanos-level villain who could easily serve as the big bad of several MCU films, and he didn't even survive one movie. I get that...and I get why online bros are pissed about it. However, the team at Marvel already had a story-arc mapped out. They didn't need another big bad for this arc. Instead they used Ultron like a strong chess piece. For example, in my opinion Ultron is what creates the fissure between Cap and Iron Man. It's what decimates S.H.I.E.L.D. And, it arguably is what allows Thanos to win the first time.

Anyway...those are my thoughts about the episode. Anyone else watch What if? If so, what do you think of it thus far?

I will be taking Monday off from blogging to celebrate Indigenous People's Day (Columbus Day). So, I shall see you on Wednesday. Until then, take care.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The October 2021 Insecure Writer's Support Group contemplates boundaries in writing.

It is spooky October, and I have neighbors preparing for Halloween by lavishly decorating lawns and houses, and I have writer friends preparing for NanoWrimo in November. As for me? I'm doing neither of these things. What I am doing is putting up a blog post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Started originally by Alex J. Cavanaugh, best-selling science fiction author and guitar player, this monthly blogfest kicks off on the first Wednesday of every month. You can sign-up HERE if you like.

What is the purpose of the IWSG?: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

When do we post?: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

October 6 question - In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

The awesome co-hosts for the October 6 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

My answer==> Thus far, I haven't drawn a line with either topics or language. However, that doesn't mean that one doesn't exist. My "boundary" as it were lies in things that I'm not interested in. So if a particular subject is of no interest to me, I won't write about it. And I distinguish this as being different from being "intolerant" of a particular subject or curse word. That's not it at all. It's just some things inspire no passion at all, even if I can summon the passion to speak or write about them in an eloquent matter.

For example, I recently met with a person who had conservative views, and I engaged with him conversationally and for some reason, he was impressed with my knowledge and the passion with which I spoke about politics. He followed up by asking if we could be friends and continue such discussions. The truth of the matter is that I know I'm very eloquent and well-informed, and I can summon the energy to be engaging every once in a while. But I honestly have no interest in talking or building any kind of relationship based on this kind of thing. What some mistake as "passion" in... "But you are so passionate about this particular thing..." is not passion at all. It's just the hallmark of being an intelligent person. That's what intelligence is.

I'd imagine that there are a lot of people who can talk eloquently and intelligently about a thing they have no interest in. A physicist at Los Alamos (for example), could probably say all kinds of things about the effects of radiation on materials under stress within the core of a nuclear reactor, and then follow it up with data and heavy math. But it would be wrong to say..."Oh! You are so PASSIONATE about this! Can we build a relationship around this and talk radiation all of the time!?" They might look at you and say, "Uh...I was answering a question. What I'm really passionate about is cooking, and in particular, Italian pasta dishes? So...yeah... if you want to talk meat sauce...then we totally should...."

For me, (ultimately) politics is boring and frustrating, filled with narcissists, entitled people, and incivility. So, I educate myself out of necessity. But I'm not passionate about it, and I don't want to meet to educate others or to share viewpoints. I've found this kind of thing to be absolutely pointless, as it doesn't move the needle anywhere. I already have one conservative friend that is in close orbit to me, and I've known them for 25 years. The only thing I've managed to do in all of that time with all of my wasted arguments was to convince him that women deserve equal pay to men if they are doing the same job. That's it. And now he takes ownership of that idea as if it originated with him (it did not). I haven't moved him left on anything. He doesn't believe minimum wage should be hiked, he doesn't believe in universal healthcare, he doesn't believe in science (covid isn't real!), he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman!," etc. Whatever. It's all pointless to even chat about this stuff. I think of dinosaurs marching off to their tar pits whenever he is around, and I find that I get way more fulfillment from discussions revolving around Dungeons & Dragons, video games, and nice restaurants.

So yeah...that's where my "fictional line" lies. If I'm not interested in it...then I don't write about it. Plain and simple. It's taken a long time (a lifetime I suppose) to get so laser-focused on what I like and dislike. I imagine there are people out there who struggle with this, and they have my sympathies. It must be terrible to get involved in an activity (like writing) and then discover that you don't like what you are doing and just participated in it because you are a people pleaser. Boundaries are great, and good for the soul. I'm also going to offer another piece of's okay to say no to people wanting you to read stuff. When people find out I'm a reader, they will sometimes say, "Oh! I just finished reading a book. You should read it!" And then they try to assign homework to you via a book they just read. It's okay to say, "No thank you. I have my own book list, and I read from that. However, if you find it fulfilling to assign homework to other people, might I suggest you do it on Facebook? I'm sure that you'll get some likes from people who want to be interested in the same things that you are. I'm just not one of them, but thanks for asking." Your reward for doing this will be that your free time is indeed yours to spend in doing whatever it is you like. You cannot be responsible for another person's happiness. That's just too much of a burden to shoulder in today's world.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, October 4, 2021

I'm confused at how Venom and Spiderman are going to come together in one film without it being totally lame.

The big news that happened this last weekend within the realm of "speculative fiction that I pay attention to" was that Venom in the Let There Be Carnage movie is now in the same universe as Tom Holland's Peter Parker. I suppose that this is nice, since I'm a fan of Tom Holland's take on Peter Parker, and I've expressed as much on my blog in a different post.

However, I don't think that Venom and Tom Holland's Peter Parker, at least as they've set it up in the latest Sony movies, make much sense at all. do these two get together in the same movie? Allow me to explain.

Sony's Picture's latest incarnation of Venom (it was done previously about twenty years ago in the movie Spiderman 3 starring Tobey Maguire) is much less of a villain and more the antihero. So that's the first problem with this. Is there a Mysterio link then? Is Venom going to be mad at Peter Parker for having killed Mysterio based on what J. Jonah Jamison had to say at the end of Spiderman: Far from Home? As far as I know, the whole appeal of the animosity between Venom and Spiderman is that Venom's entire existence (from conception) was intended to be revenge at Peter for abandoning the symbiote suit. In other words, the symbiote was a spurned lover, rebounding with Eddie Brock, and amplifying his hatred for Peter out of nothing but pure spite. But now, is Sony just going to say that Venom wants to beat up Spiderman for killing Mysterio...a supposedly good guy? I think that's weaksauce to be sure.

Or maybe I've got it wrong. Maybe Sony is going to do a reverse plot on this whole thing. That is, the symbiote could leave Eddie for Tom Holland's Peter Parker...and then realize that Eddie was his true partner. And it was vice-versa in the real comic book story. This sounds slightly better, but I think I'd still like to see the original storyline that appeared in the comic books. Only, they can't do that now because they've chosen to go this entirely weird and different route with Venom as a character.

Do any of you reading these words have any theories as to how they are going to bring Venom and Tom Holland's Spiderman together in one film and have it be good? is this going to go down exactly?

Friday, October 1, 2021

What Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes doesn't say about the Vietnam War is probably the greatest truth that it has to tell.

I finished reading Matterhorn by author Karl Marlantes. It's a really good book, and a fictionalized account of a brief period of time in the Vietnam War. When I say "fictionalized," it's essentially one-step removed from reality. names have been changed as have names of characters. But, the story itself (I have no doubt) is based entirely on true events. The author himself appears to have a place holder in the story in the primary character named Lieutenant Mellas. So, reading this story is (I imagine) similar to the exact visceral experience that this former marine endured. Marlantes's military credentials are long, having served as an infantry officer in the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines from October 1968 to 1969. He was awarded the Navy Cross for action in Vietnam in which he led an assault on a hilltop bunker complex (which is what Matterhorn is about). He was also awarded a Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and 10 Air Medals.

His writing is remarkable, but I know a lot of that is due to editors and people who believed in the story that he was crafting which was probably one method of him to work his way through the PTSD that he lives with on a daily basis. And when I think about this book, after having read it, there is so much to unpack that it is hard to know where to begin. But, it has definitely taught me to rethink things that I don't believe I quite understood before. With context, a lot of things can become clearer. One of these are these four letters that counselors, therapists, and people tend to use a lot, i.e., PTSD. It stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. We use it to diagnose individuals who are emotionally screwed up. We use it to account for acts of hatred, violence, depression, extreme fear, and unending anger. I always knew that. I knew that this is what PTSD was. However, I never really understood that PTSD was a logical thing and that the right thing to do is to validate all of these feelings, because they make sense.

In reading this story, there are concrete reasons why Lieutenant Mellas goes from being this starry-eyed volunteer in the Marine Corps hoping to get a medal so that he can add it to his Ivy League education like a person would collect a a person that (in his own words) says, "I fucking hate it (being a Marine)...I'm sick of the fucking lies and covering the lies with blood."

So, the book is called Matterhorn, because "Matterhorn" is the name of a mountain covered in dense jungle that is close to the border of Laos, which makes it a strategic position as this is where a big regiment of the North Vietnamese Army launched a lot of their military campaigns. The NVA were a well-equipped and well-trained regular fighting force. Now, the name "Matterhorn" is exclusively an American name given to an area of land to which there was probably some other name, and the Americans (ignorant of that) did not care to find out what its actual moniker was called. It only mattered in the sense that the commanders of Bravo Company could name it, and everyone would understand to what that name referred to. Up to about the middle of this 566 page novel, Bravo Company is tasked with first taking Matterhorn, which is unoccupied, clearing it with their resources, and building out bunkers atop it for strategic importance. The trek through the jungle is awful, with leeches raining on them, and even one person getting a leech stuck in his urethra who then has to be medevac'ed, because the pain is excruciating, and it will kill him. Dozens of other people suffer from this awful condition called trench foot. One person gets eaten by a tiger. And one person who has excruciating headaches is killed off by a disease called cerebral malaria, which honestly sounds beyond horrific. They cut their way through fields of elephant grass, which is so sharp it cuts open all exposed flesh and just shreds everything else. And then when they finally get the bunker all built, and it is actually quite nice and probably able to withstand quite the siege, they are commanded to abandon it and go to some Landing Zone that is a long ways away and under a time limit. They are not resupplied, start to starve, and essentially get to this Landing Zone on-time but half dead. But there is no empathy at all from the commanders of this company, calling the shots from their radios many miles away.

Well, Bravo company then gets some rest. And then...wouldn't you know it...but Matterhorn is taken by the NVA, who then occupy all of the bunkers and things that Bravo company built for them. So then they are ordered to take it back. This is pretty much the rest of the novel, and sparing the gory details...a lot of young men die horrible deaths. And they are all pretty much men that Lieutenant Mellas calls "friend." He gets so mad, so angry, that the final assault on Matterhorn pushes him beyond the breaking point and he does some truly crazy stuff that nearly gets him killed from a grenade. However, it's enough to break a bottleneck against the defenses that his own company built with their bare hands to get in and kill the NVA who are occupying the strategic point. The air support they call in to help them weaken the bunkers is absolutely useless, as they are coming in during foggy conditions, at night, and flying at 500 miles per hour. So everything they drop...all the napalm...all the bombs...just land in unoccupied jungle. The palpable frustration of taking this stupid hill is written in every thought of Lieutenant Mellas.

Mellas gets so mad at some point at his own commanders, that when one starts to strut around proclaiming how proud he is of the company at having taken back Matterhorn and "restoring their honor," he grabs a rifle and almost snipes him off before another one of his friends clobbers him to the ground. The incident goes "unreported," but it shows you how "tone deaf" the military commanders of this particular era seemed to be when it came to the things that they ordered boys/kids to do. What struck me as remarkable was how pathetic awards seemed to be. One person exclaims (who didn't participate in the assault but who sat in an air conditioned office somewhere), "I only have two gold stars on my wall. The second one now is for Bravo Company for what you guys did." I really felt how drippy that must have felt, receiving that compliment. I'd be thinking...I got a gold star while my friend got his legs blown off by a mine? What the fuck? It sounded so patronizing, but it is what it is.

So...obviously...Mellas has severe PTSD by the end of the book. But his anger, his grief, and his hatreds all make sense even as medals are probably coming for his brave conduct in taking the hill called Matterhorn. But it's way more complex than that, because Mellas didn't have a choice. It even seems weird to call him "brave" when he had about as much choice as anyone at breathing in and out. "Oh you are so brave to take your next breath." That's basically what it sounds like. Mellas was pinned down behind a tree trunk, and he did what he needed to do to survive and to stop the bullets that were being machine-gunned down upon him and his friends. If he didn't do what he did, he would have been killed. He acted in the moment...not out of patriotism...not out of duty. He did it because he loved his friends, and they were dying. And then he gets called a hero to his face by people who don't (and never will) understand exactly what he went through to earn that title. As a society, the words that we use to label and talk about things is really strange.

The comedian Chris Rock says in one of his stand-up comedy specials on Netflix, "It takes pressure to make diamonds!" He was advocating for the idea that society does indeed need bullies, because without bullies, we all don't know how to deal with one when a true bully comes along (think the 2016 election). After having read Marlantes's book, I now understand better at why it seems to be a wise choice to elect politicians who have been in live combat in the military. And that's an important distinction. always gamble with trusting anyone. But the pressure cooker of live combat is where the seeds of empathy seem to get sown. People who don't suffer through some kind of trauma have a higher chance of lacking in empathy. And when you don't have a person with empathy in a position of power you end up with a terrible situation. People without empathy will order a door dash delivery of food during a flash flood, because, " says on this app that they are delivering so fuck it." They have no idea that someone may be too stupid to know how dangerous it is outside. They just figure, "I don't need to police them because I trust when a person knows what's best." We all know (because of Covid and the pandemic) that we cannot trust people to know what is best. Trusting people to do what's good and right is a complete shit show. Of course, there are other things that are capable of delivering trauma. But I would argue now, especially after reading this book, that I'd rather have a survivor of trauma calling the shots than one who has no idea what trauma even is (a life filled with ease).

The book of Matterhorn is a complicated and extremely enjoyable read. It is also a work that unravels through its pages the almost psychopathic disconnect between the people who do dirty jobs that no one wants to do, and the need for those dirty jobs to get done. It highlights how people give platitudes to the dirty job workers...honestly, it's very similar to calling people at fast food places or working low wages at grocery stores by the term, "essential worker." Meanwhile, some dude at Goldman's Sachs pulls down millions and works from home on a laptop part-time. From Mellas's perspective, there is also this kind of strange misogyny that is felt by practically all of these young men toward American women. However, I feel that it is mostly justified as (seeing things through Mellas's eyes), these enlisted men seemed to be attached to women who had no empathy at all for the situation in which they were in. There are several passages that elude to this. Here's one:

"In Bravo Company's unpainted plywood office a clerk was pecking at a typewriter....Above the clerk, covering the entire back wall, was a blown-up picture of a beautiful model in a girdle and brassiere advertisement. A note had been handwritten by the model on the large poster in neat round script. "To the men of Bravo Company, First Battalion, Twenty-Fourth Marines. You're doing a great job. Love, Cindy."

It's this feeling of, "You are appreciated by us for what you do...but we don't really want to see you or hear from you. But here's a picture of you to masturbate to, and I hope that you are doing well." It's honestly how all the women come across in this book, and these boys (who are in the prime of their lives and dealing with all of this other stuff) don't handle it very well. I honestly get it. American society has tons and tons of walls. In 2021, the Surgeon General of the United States has come out saying that America has a "loneliness epidemic." And I'm not trying to draw any connection between the book and the modern loneliness epidemic. However, if Americans have been good at one thing since the sixties, it is this: "Good walls make for good neighbors." We are all about our individuality, about keeping people out, and staying completely focused on what brings us happiness (even if this is a cup with no bottom).

Americans are good at surrounding ourselves only with those people who agree with us, and do not challenge us in any way. We are good at canceling those who do not abide by our rules. Boundaries are healthy for the person creating them; perhaps not so much for the person who just desires a special human connection and can't find one and ends up dying alone. But it happens all of the time, and it probably needs to be this way. No one should obligate anyone else to anything. To express it another way, human connection whether sexual, emotional, or otherwise IS a privilege. Maybe it didn't used to pre-1950. But it is now, and if you don't have that privilege. Well, there isn't much you can do about it, except complain or express your frustration in other ways. I didn't make the rules. This is just how it is these days. I can see the sprinklings of how much the world has changed in the subtext of Matterhorn. It has a lot to say about racial inequality, white privilege, and the folks (regardless of race and privilege) who do the dirty jobs and are (by virtue of their job) assigned a moniker that means "unworthy of love." But hey...there's always a "thank you for your service" waiting somewhere, right?

There are so many things I could probably say about this book. But this review and subsequent rumination over the things I've read is already long in the tooth. I'm just going to say this: Matterhorn is an excellent novel, and you would be wise to give it a read, because what it doesn't directly say about the Vietnam War is probably the greatest truth that it has to tell. People are terrible and do terrible things to each other ALL of the time. Marlantes says through Mellas that we all have an inner demon. Soldiers in the bush just have met and come to terms with that inner demon. They know what they are. The rest of polite society likes to pretend that it doesn't exist.