Friday, October 27, 2023

Rather than ask people to sacrifice in the name of social security we should let the whole thing implode and see what that looks like.

The New York Times ran an opinion piece yesterday entitled, For the Good of the Country, Older Americans Should Work More and Take Less. When I read this opinion piece, I became infuriated. You can find it HERE if you want, but I plan to talk about it below. The gist of the piece is that older Americans are retiring too early and straining the support system of social security. It seems to be written by a man who is an economist and lives in his ivory tower somewhere and is tone deaf to what it is like to work for a regular "middle class" salary and to have performance evals where you are reminded by your employer of who has the power, and how you better "toe the line" in order to keep your job. The implied threat in all of this is that brutal capitalism will crush you without the job and thus, you should be grateful. It's a decades-old way of traumatizing workers and reminding "adults" here (these are not children) that the rod can fall across your back as sure as the rod beats those who do not comply.

Oh...and it came with this illustration below...which also served to enrage me.

Here's the thing...I don't want to work any longer than I have to. Right now, I'm doing the carrying. I'm not the freeloader. And to imply that one day when I'm old and would like some support that I should say no...and continue to carry others as well as infuriating. Like...I should sacrifice for someone who is 1/4 of my age so that they can live a better life? I already know people who are 25 years old, have nothing physically wrong with them, and who draw SSI. They play D&D with me in my game. I try not to judge. But the idea that this person is retired while someone stands next to them, finger pointing at me, and says, " need to work a few more years before drawing benefits. It's for the good of the country!" makes me angry. I want to say, "What about that lazy bum sitting in that chair that has NEVER worked? What about him?" But we aren't supposed to talk about things like that. Meanwhile, I've sacrificed my ENTIRE life so far in order to carry the weight of others. It is is not going to happen. Not on my watch. There comes a time when people are due what is owed to them, especially if they have paid into the system their entire working lives.

What would be a good start in addressing the system that sounds like it will collapse (not if but when) would be to tax the super rich. Tax the crap out of them. Then vote in Medicare for All. That would be a tremendous start. Go after Elon Musk. Go after every multi-millionaire and billionaire in the U.S. with a vengeance. But don't ask already tired middle class people to "work longer" and "don't draw social security." Screw you, writer (Mr. Eugene Steuerle who lectures at Stanford Business School), for even suggesting this. He probably looks at his $30,000 a month income and goes, "Social Security doesn't pay enough to even warrant my interest. You should give it up too." But I think they know that the rich can afford their own armies to fight for them, so they are not easy targets. So they go after the people who have always been exploited and ask them to "sacrifice a little more." It reminds me of the Utah governor who (during a tremendous drought) asked all of us to take shorter showers to conserve water. All of this while churches had green lawns, the governor owned alfalfa farms (notorious for sucking down water), and golf courses sucked down water by the lake full so that people could play on the greens. It's ridiculous. 

I hope that everyone who reads this opinion piece gets as enraged as I am at it. We should say, "Hell No!" and call the bluff. If the bluff is real, and the entire system collapses, well...that will be a disaster. But it will be a disaster worth watching. Maybe in the aftermath of whatever follows, we'd finally get some empathy back in this country, and people would no longer be so entitled and brutal toward others. Sometimes, you've just got to let things collapse so that they can be rebuilt better than before. I've always been a firm believer that in failure there is much to learn.

I'm going to post one more time for 2023 on the Insecure Writers Support Group for November (next week). Then I'll be taking a blogging break until January. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

It's time to admit that Barbie is a Best Picture prospect for the 2023 Academy Awards.

I was originally expecting myself to be watching Dune 2 about this time in the year. This is the sequel to the 2021 Denis Villeneuve adaptation which I liked. It dropped during the pandemic, so I ended up watching it on HBO Max at the time (like a lot of folks). Despite this setback, it still made a "decent" amount of money to warrant a sequel.

But it continually gets pushed back. At first it was November, and now it is set to come out in the spring (March). A lot of this has to do with striking actors and writers and other such things that complicate the world in which we live. At the end of the day, entertainment is just "fun" but the people who make all that entertainment need to get paid for what they do. So...I get it. But in thinking of how the Dune sequel might actually benefit from being pushed back until next year, I have to realize that this may be a good thing because the Barbie movie is actually a contender for the Best Picture Oscar.

I never thought I'd be saying that. Barbie didn't conjure up the images that I would think of when it comes to the coveted "Best Picture." That it is today may just indicate how badly the sheen has rubbed off the Academy Awards: a slow decline of "keeping it real" that just unraveled year after year with people becoming more and more aware of how white the industry is, how exploitative some directors and producers have been (Weinstein), the ageism within the industry, and the infamous Oscar slap that sent Will Smith into exile. And now our country is so divided that woke messaging within films and television is being called out by MAGA groups as "You go woke! You go broke!" exercising their financial muscle and ability to corral their own to "teach libtards a lesson!"

So's weird. I don't much enjoy watching the Academy Awards anymore. The glamour feels like it has vanished, and everyone is just a monkey throwing poo. Just these particular monkeys all look nice and wear nice clothes, but their lives don't actually feel envy worthy because I just know too much of what's going on, whether it's painful plastic surgeries, sexual assault, toxic patriarchy, discrimination, or racism (take your pick). Never meet your heroes, and the 24/7 news cycle along with Twitter and other social media (unfortunately) makes this almost impossible. We practically know how a fart smells that comes from a celebrity...and this isn't a good thing. There's no illusion there, and they are no different than us. And when we start thinking that, then you just realize that (at the end of the day) there's little justification as to why they make so much money and all of us make so little. about losing "suspension of disbelief."

All that being said, we come to Barbie. This film by Greta Gerwig was remarkable, and that's what I'm having an issue with (in my brain) because maybe...I never thought that Barbie was supposed to be taken this seriously. But it should. The message of the film (which is a critique on patriarchy and toxic masculinity) made it into something that was incredibly deep and meaningful instead of this weird light-hearted comedy that I was expecting Barbie to be. And maybe my expectations were built on patriarchy, because (as a man) how could I think that Barbie was important to anyone until I realized that this strange doll from Mattel was (in fact) important to many people? And therein (I suppose) lies the rub of all this. The movie that I would have thought was a shoe-in for not having critical acclaim (and easily dismissible) is in fact the opposite of that. It's a great movie, and its "woke" messaging may in fact make it the juggernaut at the Academy Awards that all other movies should just avoid if they can by pushing release dates out into the next year. I think that's what I'd do if I were calling the shots around a film, especially if I was counting on some Oscar buzz to lift the overall box office and aftermarket sales of my movie.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Invincible is returning to Amazon much sooner than I thought it would!

Oh! The Invincible season 2 trailer just dropped, and I had no idea that the new season was so close. It's apparently going to start streaming on Amazon Prime on November 3rd.

The last season ended with Omni-Man being exposed as a Viltrumite secret agent, which is apparently a race of beings that are so powerful that there really is nothing out there to compare with. It was also really violent, which (for some reason) worked for me. Maybe it's because I'm into doom posting so much these days. The animation sucked me in the same way that I remembered some cartoon superhero shows from my childhood grabbed me from the getgo. But the story of Invincible was unlike other things I've been watching. The closest thing to it really is The Boys, and that really doesn't encompass what Invincible is as the superheroes (for the most part) are actually trying to be super.

I'm ready for this to be injected straight into my veins. Click on the trailer below if you haven't seen it yet.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Good Omens season 2 felt smaller but it still made me happy.

In an attempt to lighten the mood around my blog (P.T. has called me out for doom posting), I'm going to talk about season 2 of Good Omens, which I'm making my way through. I got heavily distracted by Baldur's Gate 3, so I wasn't really free to binge watch as much as I would just watch an episode here and there whenever a friend was around who was watching it with me. But I do have some thoughts, and here they are.

First, if you don't know anything about Good Omens, it's a show on Amazon that's based on the works of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett. At the core of the story is the angel Aziraphale (played by Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (played by the very talented David Tennant). Season two picks up where season one left off: the apocalypse didn't happen. And thus it is a "what happens next?" kind of story.

Now, some highlights. Jon Hamm really gets into the role of Gabriel this season. We've seen him go from the all-powerful archangel persona in heaven to an apparent amnesiac that likes to organize books in Aziraphale's bookstore. The way Hamm plays him is very child-like, and I think this served two purposes. The first one is it allowed for all kinds of absurdities that are funny if not charming. The second is that the story immediately felt smaller scale, even if it did eventually spiral into a war between Heaven and Hell, mostly because everyone involved is just so extra. I for one appreciated the more personal and subtle approach. But it also felt (unfortunately) that maybe there wasn't as much budget available as season one. The cast of characters is smaller, the sets don't feel as "lived in," and the special effects are more obvious and intrusive. But it is what it is, and at least David Tennant's son is getting small parts here and there. He's a handsome young man, and I'd like to see him in more roles.

I suppose that the real standout for people who are fans of this show (like me) is the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale. Spoiler alert: the romance between the two is more than just subtext. If they hadn't done this, I think I would've felt genuinely queer-baited in the same way as I felt watching the BBC version of Sherlock. There's been some outrage regarding this because people think "angels are sexless beings." I would argue that they're made up beings so they can be sexual if we want them to be. However, the romance between the two women was exhausting. The actors had zero chemistry. Despite my misgivings in this, I can't ignore the fact that the entire season was just a rejection of heteronormativity and acceptance of queerness. So on that most basic level, I'm happy.

Anyone else a Good Omens fan?

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Driving a car in America is becoming a luxury.

I don't like to drive, because it has become more dangerous to drive. The more time you are on the road, the more exposure you have to things like road rage, and the more time you have to get into an accident. One type of accident I'm acutely aware of is turning right on red. Not to minimize pedestrian traffic in smaller towns, I'm going to just say that it's challenging to monitor a stream of cars on your left (while waiting at a stop light) and also be aware of pedestrian traffic on your right.

This is particularly true in areas where there's a high homeless population, and homeless people seem to mill around the intersections of busy roads. Because I'm on the road so much, I usually witness an example of someone almost being run over because a driver is monitoring the oncoming traffic on the left, waiting for the break in flow to gun the engine and turn right, only to immediately slam on the brakes as someone screams that was trying to cross the street. They weren't there a moment before, but they hurried up to the sidewalk to try and cross the street before the signal changed. And meanwhile, the person turning right has been under some pressure to get going from the impatient people behind them, who are now backed up on the street.

This is just one example of a terrible potential cost to operating a car in America, lawsuits not even being counted in this statement with respect to auto/pedestrian accidents. And I say this provided that the accident in question isn't just a flat out hit and run, which is extremely common in my city. I would say anecdotally that hit and runs are probably on the rise (and this is due to personal experience where I've counted a growing number of adults who lack personal accountability of any kind). It feels a lot like people are stressed to the max, that they cannot add one more thing to their plate, and something like an accident is going to cost both time and money. A person who feels like the accident is their fault is going to take option "B" more these days. I think the reason for this is that "catch me if you can" actually does work and is a viable strategy for living successfully. It just sucks for everyone else who can't catch you.

Other costs of operating a car in America are also soaring. I remember not too long ago when the price for a new vehicle was around $25,000. Now, the average price of a new vehicle is $50,000, and there are only three cars that (brand new) cost below $20,000. They are the Kia Rio (a subcompact sedan), the Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback, and the Nissan Versa sedan. These are all Asian cars. Anything that white people make costs about twice that.

And there's also the rising cost of insurance, the cost of gas, the cost of tires, and the cost of repairs. I had to repair a head gasket in one of my vehicles, and it cost $3,500.00 after all was said and done. And then my insurance bill (which is just liability only) inexplicably jumped at the beginning of the year. I have a friend who drives an electric car. For years she was so proud that her solar panels paid for the electricity to charge her vehicle. Recently, I asked her why she's driving her gas guzzling Dodge pickup truck around town. She told me that the batteries in her Leaf were dead. The cost to replace and recycle them? $10,000.00. Considering that she's only owned the vehicle for eight years, that's a big cost. At least I think it's big. Maybe to other people, wiping their ass with $10,000 is completely doable, and so it doesn't mean much. But I don't think that kind of behavior is common. I read just this morning that incomes in America need to rise 55% from where they are now in order to restore affordability in housing. Sure, that's "housing" and not "cars," but it's been my experience that what goes on inside the housing market actually touches everything.

So, what's my point? Maybe it's that this is issue 300 of a complaint about modern society and how it's breaking down. Sarcasm aside though, I think it's all being presented here in this blog post so that I can make a statement about cars that I never thought I'd make: owning and operating a car is becoming a luxury.

But maybe it always was. I've heard that statement before too. But I want to push back on it for just a moment, and say, "Historically, I disagree, but something is changing in America, and I don't like it." I think that owning and operating a car wasn't a luxury. I grew up in a small town and everyone I knew in that small town owned and operated a car, and these people weren't rich. It wasn't a luxury. I learned to drive a car at thirteen, because I needed to know how to do that in order to help out on the family farm (agriculture was a big industry for my small town, and we even had a scheduled week-long break from school to help out with the harvest).

There were even laws back then that said if you were "this young" you could drive a vehicle as long as it wasn't nighttime. Sure, back then we also weren't required to wear seatbelts, and there were no airbags in cars, but everyone had one. I knew dozens of families that took road trips in their cars, and they did this to "save money." And this is because owning a car gave you independence, and it also didn't have the tremendous costs associated with operating a vehicle that we have today. Having said all of this, it is weird to wrap my head around the idea that owning a car now is a sign of wealth. It's a sign that you can afford the various "costs of operation," and it is indeed a luxury, just like owning a mink coat might be considered a luxury or wearing expensive perfume. If you live in a city with hostile parking infrastructure, operating a vehicle says that you have the money to pay parking fees.

I guess I don't understand why this is happening, or why we (the collective "we" here) are allowing it to happen. Cars are still as important today as they were fifty years ago. Anyone that has had to navigate the public transit system can tell you that it can take hours to get to where you are going if you have to make three different transfers to get there. And many rural areas don't even have the option of any kind of public transit. Why have we allowed the costs of operating a vehicle soar to unaffordable levels? Does anyone have an answer to this? I'd sure like to hear what you have to say. And meanwhile, the list of people I know who do not drive, do not know how to drive, and do not own a car of any kind just continues to grow. The reason why? They cannot afford to operate a car.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Is A.I. going to replace writers? That's the question on this month's edition of the IWSG.

Welcome to the October 2023 edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here's a LINK you can click on to sign-up (if you've somehow managed to land on my blog without already following one). And if you would like to know more, just keep on reading :).

What is the purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group?: It's 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, so it's perfect for a lot of people actually :).

When do y'all post?: You may be able to tell, because of the date this post was published. But, the first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. To participate, you should post your thoughts on your own blog. You might want to talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered, or you could discuss your struggles and triumphs. If you can, offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling, and visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer. As a rule of thumb, you should 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.

Here's some more housekeeping:

The X (formerly known as Twitter) handle is @TheIWSG and the relevant hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the October 4 posting of the IWSG are Natalie Aguirre, Kim Lajevardi, Debs Carey, Gwen Gardner, Patricia Josephine, and Rebecca Douglass!

Every month, the people behind the IWSG announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. If you'd rather participate in this way, you should include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

But, remember, that the question is optional :).

October 4th question: The topic of AI writing has been heavily debated across the world. According to various sources, generative AI will assist writers, not replace them. What are your thoughts?

My opinion is that generative A.I. is incredible. It can draw better than me, it can write better than me, and it never gets tired. I think that people should watch their back. Going into any liberal arts related field is probably a one way ticket into poverty unless you have some privilege (for example, you're the son of Stephen King and just want to be an author). If that's the situation, then being a nepo baby is definitely the way to go. As far as already established authors that pull down big salaries already? A.I. is a boon, because it will allow them to have a book mill without ever admitting to it. I mean...these are the times of Trump. So admitting to anything is just slitting your own throat. Even if some program came back and said that "it is 99% probable that this is a.i. written," a smart person should just say "allegedly.

Anyway, my opinions can be controversial. But a.i. has seriously blown me away on what it can do. I also wouldn't be insecure about it. As an individual person, you have no power to affect anything. The genie is out of the bottle, so you should adapt and pull on those bootstraps. And yes, I think generative A.I. will replace writers (in case I wasn't clear), and I'm saying, "Lots of writers." Unless (of course) there's legislation to force the people who have money to continue to pay people who write. If that happens, then it won't.