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December 14, 2016

How're You Doing?

If you voted for Trump because he was an outsider, how is that working out for you?

He hasn't even taken office, and he is already acting like an insider with his cabinet choices. And his improper statesman decisions are affecting the US's relationships with other countries. His lack of knowledge of protocol has already had a deleterious effect on Taiwan and China. His improprieties have seen him have a normal citizen (his daughter) in a formal meeting with dignitaries and a love-fest for regimes that the US is currently struggling against, like Russia.

If you voted for Trump because he promised to "drain the swamp," how is that working out for  you?

He hasn't even taken office, and he is already filling the swamp with new creatures, muck, and mire so as to make it as thick and uninviting as possible. It is as if he typed "opposite" whenever doing a search for someone to fill a cabinet position. He has already dropped his idea of trying to get Congressional term limits (one of the few ideas he had that I could get fully behind). He is already putting in place people who caused, or were a part of, some of the worst issues the country has had to deal with in the last 20 years as members of his cabinet.

If you voted for Trump because he was going to force companies to stay in the US, how is that working out for you?

He had to be reminded of his specific promise to 'force' Carrier to keep 'all the jobs' in the US, wasn't able to, said he managed to keep 1100 jobs in the US (which turned out to be about 720), and gave Carrier such lucrative incentives to stay that other companies are looking to it as a playbook for how to get tax credits and other incentives from the government. Saving less than 40% of jobs is not a viable plan to keep businesses in the US. His strong "35% tax" quickly became incentives and tax breaks instead.

If you voted for Trump because he was such a strong business leader, how is that working out for you?

More and more reports of how poorly run his actual business is, more reports of how his (mostly) silent business partners keep the business afloat, and more reports of how he just doesn't understand what the term 'conflict of interest' is or means.

Basically, unless you voted for him for his sexist and racist stances, you are probably already showing signs of disappointment as he goes against every plank and platform he ran on. I know the people who were pro-Trump on my FB feed and other places have been strangely quiet since he started to make actual decisions and ignored everything he supposedly stood for during the campaign. Which, in the end, means you voted pro-racism and sexism. How's that working out for you?

And he hasn't even taken office yet.

October 19, 2016

Jack Reacher Movies

A new Jack Reacher movie starring Tom Cruise is about to be released. I'm happy that the book series, one of my favorites, has made it to the big screen and that it has a major star attached. However, the star and his treatment of the subject is a problem.

The reason that Reacher is such an intriguing hero/anti-hero character in the books has to do with his size and his taciturn nature. He is tall, heavy, muscular, and has some very strong quirks; he doesn't own anything beyond what he carries with him, he doesn't have any real ID (until later in the series, anyway), he can't drive, and he doesn't use toothpaste (or floss or mouthwash)-- he simply uses a toothbrush, which is one of his few possessions.

His size is almost a character itself within the books. He rarely meets someone his own size, and he uses his size and physical presence to his advantage in the novels: frequently he can stop a fight from happening just by being so physically intimidating; sometimes he allows people to assume that because he is large, strong, and quiet, he must be stupid or slow; and he uses that great size and his attack-first mentality to end a fight before the opponent knows it has even begun. Not to mention how many women are attracted to him because of his size and physical features (even though he is not an attractive man, his size, confidence, and physicality make up for it).

Another big issue that comes up a lot in each of the books is his inability, and lack of desire, to drive. He comments frequently that he breaks cars, grinds gears, and just isn't very good at any aspect of driving. He is always giving the keys to someone else to drive him; those close to him just assume he won't be driving. The few times he is forced to drive in the novels, bad things tend to happen.

Reacher, in the books, is also so physical that many of the fights don't last more than a couple of hits. Reacher believes in hitting first, hitting hard, and ending the fight before it begins. He does this because he understands that the longer the fight goes on, the more chances to get seriously injured he has. Reacher is no dummy; he wants to stay as safe as possible and without injury. So, he will head-butt a person before they are expecting it. Or he goes for a debilitating one-punch/blow type of hit, like to a nose or the neck. When fighting multiple enemies, he will try to kill or maim someone seriously in one blow so he can turn his back on them and go after the next. He is a whirlwind of force and power, not to be taken lightly.

When Tom Cruise cast himself in the role of Jack Reacher in the movies, fans of the series were a bit surprised. Reacher is 6'5", Cruise is listed at 5'7" (some say he is closer to 5'6" or even shorter). Forced to make the best of an odd situation, Lee Child made a statement about Reacher's size being "a metaphor for an unstoppable force" and that Cruise's acting and status as a star could fill that gap. I'm not sure any fan really bought it or thought that wound up true in the first film. While Cruise can play bad-ass and has real acting chops (although he hasn't really used them for awhile now), he just doesn't come across as the physical person that Reacher just is.

The first movie contained multiple fight sequences, and all of them involved fairly complex choreography in which Cruise fought both single and multiple entities. Because no one would believe his little body could take people down in one or two blows, the fights were lengthy martial arts dances that just didn't fit with the character of Reacher, whose fighting technique is military close-fighting and street fighting techniques.

That first movie also showed Cruise in a complex, interesting, and dynamic car chase sequence, where Cruise's Reacher showed exceptional skill at driving. A total departure from the books in every way. The trailer for movie two also shows a car chase sequence in it, with Reacher once again behind the wheel.

While they tried to keep the physicality in place, Cruise came across somewhat laughable when he threatened people in the first movie. In the trailers for the second movie, I find myself smiling once again when he threatens people. When a 6'5", 250 lbs monster of a man threatens you it is simply different from when a 5'7" guy threatens you, even if that smaller guy knows martial arts and can kick your ass three ways to Sunday. On screen and magnified, it just doesn't look or come across the same way as in the books.

Lastly, Cruise is a pretty boy. Reacher isn't. As Cruise gets close to and seduces women on screen, they are reacting to how pretty he is, not to his sheer .... animal physicality and confidence. Again, it is believable that Cruise can get the woman because he's, well, Tom Cruise. In the books, it is almost always Reacher's actions that overcome a woman's lack of interest; he is confident, kind and courteous (in a military sense as well as just a "nice guy" sense), has a raw physicality, and is protective toward them.

I will probably not see the second movie in the theaters due to these changes, but likely will watch it on video later. While I'm happy that the character has made it to the silver screen, the changes to the fundamental nature of the character are off-putting to me. I didn't actually mind the first movie and thought they did a pretty good job of bringing the book's story to the screen. However, I was constantly taken out of my immersion in the film by Cruise's size and totally different take on the character. I'd like to see a movie with a more faithful-to-the-character portrayal of the character. I can see someone like an Alexander Skarsgard playing the role, as he is about the right size (6'4") and can act.

ADDENDUM (1/7/2017)

Finally watched the second movie. Beyond having some of the same characters, locations, and general plot beats, the movie looked little like the Jack Reacher novel it is based on. It wasn't a bad movie, it is just not Reacher. They have to rewrite and write around Cruise being so totally unfit for the part that it snowballs into changing large sections of the plot.

What's funny is that John Wick makes for a better Reacher movie than either of the two Reacher movies. While still not the size of Jack Reacher, John Wick has the intensity, economy of movement, and deadliness that a Reacher fan should enjoy.

October 18, 2016

To Honor or To Serve?

I was raised in a military family. I was raised in a military town. Part of my upbringing occurred on a military base. My father is a 20-year Marine veteran. So I understand service, sacrifice, and loyalty. Which is why, even though I personally find it poor manners and bad taste to sit, kneel, or otherwise ignore the national anthem, I will defend to my death your right to do it.

Others have said it better and probably more eloquently, but being an American is hard work. The rights conveyed by the Bill of Rights are difficult to live up to, not because they are confusing or hard to understand, but because they apply to everyone, including that person down the street, on the TV, or even in your own house with whom you vehemently disagree. Your rights end where that person's rights begin, and vice versa.

There is so much hatred and vitriol in our country right now. I simply don't understand why, except to say that it sells. I mean, would you really, truly listen to some of these pundits if what they were saying wasn't so outrageous? The extreme is selling and it is selling well. So much so that there are very few actual, legitimate news programs left. It has all become opinion pieces and entertainment.

Any time someone forgets that the rights conveyed by the first ten amendments apply to everyone, regardless of race, sex, orientation, or political leanings, I start to get worried and leery. That is a person who, often, either is uneducated, uninformed, or has an agenda. If the reason is one of the first two, you can explain how the Bill of Rights work, that it applies equally to everyone at all times (with a few caveats), and you educate or inform them, making them a better citizen. But those who either refuse to listen of have an agenda will twist, ignore, or obfuscate what you try to teach them and will continue to spout their hatred.

I'd like to coin a new phrase and a new movement, somehow: compassionate understanding. No matter how offensive what someone else is doing or saying is to you, try to be compassionate to the reasons and understand the motives. For example, maybe what Colin Kaepernick started offends you -- why? what about his protest movement is so offensive and why are you reacting so strongly? Why is such a simple, peaceful means of protest causing such a reaction to you? What is it about transgender people using the restroom of the sex with which they identify (and, quite possibly, dress and look like, too) causes you issue? Are you simply uncomfortable with the difference of a man dressing, looking, and acting like a woman? Are you a little uncomfortable with your own sexuality such that you think you might find such a man attractive when you otherwise identify as heterosexual? Is that transgender man harming you in some way with his choice? Why does another religion make you so fearful? What about it is causing you difficulty? Is anything that religion is doing really affect you in any way? What about that liberal person offends you so much? What about that conservative causes you so much stress and fear?

Let's step back, learn about those people and things we fear and distrust, walk a mile in their shoes, and see what the root cause of your discomfort really is. I think, in most cases, you'll find the problem really resides in you.

October 17, 2016

Netflix and ...

I think it is fairly clear that the public has spoken and voiced their desires. While many production companies keep creating their own online venues for movies and/or TV shows, the public has said, "We like the Neflix model. We want TV and movies under one banner, a variety, and at an affordable price."

It's funny to me how the movie studios, in particular, have responded. Many have created their own digital spaces and tried to get people to pay them to see their own movies. But none have been overly successful because the variety isn't there and the cost is either too high individually, or more than someone with a current Netflix subscription wants to pay.

In Canada, for a time, people were some of the worst digital thieves of any country. Canadians wanted access to US movies in a timely fashion and at a reasonable price. No one was providing that, however, so they turned to illicit means to get what they wanted. A few years back, Netflix finally made the jump into Canada after passing absurd legislative hurdles put in front of it and enter the Canadian market... and illegal downloading went down by huge numbers. Even though they were being given a lesser product than the full Netflix available in the US, it was still better than anything provided by Bell, Telus, or Rogers. And this same result has happened in other nations, as well.

In some cases, people in Canada, Europe, Australia, and others have found gray-area ways to get the full US Netflix to watch. This further shows that people WANT to pay for content, but they want that content when it is first released, not months later, and they want to pay what they feel is a fair price (which the $10/month average cost seems to be for most people). You don't read stories of people using IP masking and VPNs to access a company's own digital content, only Netflix (and, sometimes, Amazon's video and TV services).

Of course, the TV and movie production companies still are fighting it. They allow product into Netflix but on a limited basis, so that their own digital outlets can "compete." Some will not allow their "best" products onto Netflix at all. Some only provide TV shows (and sometimes even with commercials!) and others only provide movies.

At some point, they all need to survey the digital landscape, admit that they are wrong or that Netflix has won the battle, relent, and provide both TV and movies to the option that people increasingly vote for with their pocketbooks and clicks... Netflix. It is party agnostic, provides a good method by which to get the product, and people like it. Stop wasting any more time, effort, or money in creating a service that does what Netflix is already doing... just accept the money they want to pay you for hosting your content and let the audience enjoy your products!

October 12, 2016

None of the Above

In Brewster's Millions, Richard Pryor has to spend $30 million in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million. One of the things he does to spend the money is start a campaign to get people to vote None of the Above rather than choose between two bad choices.

In this year's presidential election, I sort of feel like Monty Brewster and want to ask people to vote None of the Above. But we know how that turned out, don't we? (Everyone thought it was just a smart political ploy and they started voting for Brewster instead.)

American politics are broken. The 12th Amendment basically ensures a two-party system. That being said, there is a precedence for a third (or more) parties possibly making a solid run and gaining the votes needed for a plurality.

This year, with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I'm praying for a third-party candidate run that I can get behind. It's not that I actively dislike Clinton; I'm sure she would make a decent President and would likely follow the successful path laid out by Obama. I am much less sure of Trump's ability to keep the country moving forward, as most of his speeches are in favor of regressive strategies. I'm also unsure, with the way that Congress decided to block Obama before he even took office, that the Republicans won't do the same to Clinton and the Democrats the same to Trump when one or the other is elected.

What I'm hoping for is some moderate Republican and Democrat to come together and run as a team. People with good ideas who can get the harder-line people from both sides to strive for compromise, rather than further fracturing the parties with extremist views.

Can you imagine how radical that thought would be? A Republican and Democrat on one ticket? The possibilities are incredible. It would show America, and other politicians, that compromise is possible and that we can agree on most things.

I guess that is what seems to be missing from these elections: the fact that most Americans agree on most things most of the time. Or, at least, that we can agree to disagree without it turning into something violent and extreme. It is possible for a life-long conservative to reach an agreement with a life-long liberal on a wide variety of topics. Neither will get all that they want, but each will get a little and each will give up a little and somewhere in the middle there will be a happy medium.

But, time is running out. A choice must be made. If you vote for Trump or Clinton, are you voting for the person you hate least? Is that a good way to vote? If you vote for a third party candidate now, are you just helping one side or the other to win or lose?

I've been doing my research, checking voting records and policy decisions, and trying to decide for whom I will vote. This year, more than any since I've been voting, is tough. But I have my ballot and I need to make a decision soon and get it in the mail. And hope and pray that it was the right one.

September 6, 2016

The Golden Rule ... Again

I can't help but notice that many of the countries that have accepted Syrian refugees and then treated them like crap, passed laws banning their ways of worship and dress, and generally allowing hatred and anti-Muslim/anti-Refugee/anti-"other" rhetoric to proliferate are the same countries that have then had issues with ISIS, with home-grown terrorism, and with the refugees causing issues.

Now, I look at Canada. This country has taken in some of the highest numbers of refugees, has tried its best to be welcoming and comforting to them, and has gone out of its way to show them they are valued. Areas like the East Coast, where population decline, poverty, and unemployment have been rampant, have been especially accommodating. And Canada, to-date, has had none of the issues these other countries have had.

Coincidence? I think not. By vilifying those who live in your country, no matter whether they are newly arrived or have been there for a long time, you foment rebellion and hatred. By trying to be kind, welcoming, and understanding, you foment tolerance, hope, and inclusion. This goes for every race, creed, religion, and gender found in a country, and is regardless of how long the people have lived there.

I hope that Canada can continue to be one of the shining lights in this time of need.

June 17, 2016

Too Long

The election cycle for President has become way too long. It is untenable and other countries' processes show that it doesn't need to be this long. Here are my thoughts on how to bring this under control:

1. Money.

All money raised by all candidates goes into a pot and is then distributed equally to all candidates, or the top 5 at least. In this way, money cannot unduly influence the results by having someone with a multiple million dollar war chest simply swamping someone with a much smaller war chest.
I also think that war chests should be limited, to limit the influence of money on politics. Not sure how to do that, though, except by above.

2. Primaries/Caucuses

First, pick a system and stick with it. Since there are laws against making a person show or tell their vote, this means that caucuses should be done away with (as they are a very public way of voting, where everyone in the room can see for which candidate you are choosing to vote). Secondly, all primaries should happen at the same time, across the nation, rather than over months. This gives no undo sway to any particular state and means the candidates have to travel to most states and get their message across equally.
Registered independent voters should get special ballots that show all candidates on it for a primary. 

3. Results

No results from any primary or election may be reported on or disclosed in any way prior to the last polling place closing. In this way, the east polls cannot influence the west's voting. Everyone can simply wait until the next day to see who won/lost.

4. Time

The election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (note: the wording is complicated because the month can start on a Tuesday or later day). This means the election is held November 2 through 8th, depending on when that Tuesday falls. I don't see any reason, whatsoever, that an election cycle, from declaring, to primaries, to DNCC/RNCC, to election, needs to last longer than six months. So, candidates must declare no later than May 1st. The primaries should be held two months later, in July, and the winning candidates would have four months to debate, set their agendas and platforms, and campaign.

5. Voting

The act of voting needs to be made more simple, but also as error-, fraud-, and influence-free as possible. Voting via the internet is an absolute requirement. I mean, if you can do your taxes online, you should be able to vote online. No matter how they vote, all voters should get a physical copy of their results in case of suspected fraud, by which they can verify who they voted for. For example, if you vote online, you should receive an automated email response that shows "These are the candidates and ballot measures you voted FOR:" and a list. If fraud is suspected, the voting commission can ask the voters in that area for their confirmations, make a copy, and recount the votes or check the results. This should happen with electronic devices at polling stations, or manual processes, as well.

6. Gerrymandering

We need to change the laws to do away with gerrymandering. By changing the district shapes and locations, parties have made it almost impossible for an incumbent not to get re-elected. We need politicians to have to sway voters of all stripes, so their districts should have a good mix of all parties in it. This moves everyone back toward the middle, rather than polarizing, and means we have a Congress and other offices that can work together, rather than a divisive group of far right or far left people who refuse to work together. Compromise is possible. It also means you may have a Democrat win a district that is predominantly conservative, and his/her message and voting record will have to reflect the population and the will of the people he/she is representing, rather than her own politics.
I think these are a good first step toward making the election cycle shorter and more fair. It makes people running for office have to actually campaign and it levels the playing field between all the candidates. I think you would also see the general public invest more of their time, effort, and interest in the election process, and would see a commensurate gain in voters each cycle. There may be more ideas that can be added that would further tighten up the election process. I'll add more as I hear, or think of them.

June 14, 2016

Has Hate Won?

I think, sometimes, that hate has won, that America will eat itself from the inside and splinter into  many smaller nations. American could become the new Middle East, with many nations constantly at war with one another over ideological differences. I think this way because of how people are talking, and not talking, to each other.

The recent shooting in Orlando is a tragedy. But, to me, the bigger tragedy is reading the posts filled with hate about the shooting. If you evince any sympathy for those who were killed, or if you think that America needs to look at its gun laws and make revisions, you are instantly vilified as "left," "Liberal," "Democrat," "stupid," and a bunch of curse words that amount to being a woman or being gay. On the other side of things, people are "stupid," "Conservative," "right," and "Republican." I definitely agree with the "stupid" axiom, as that is true of either side and how they are reacting. You also see a lot of Bible quotations espousing the killing of gays (but, as always, taken out of context), calls that we don't need more gun laws (or that we need to take away all the guns), that there will be more mass killings if someone tries to take away the guns, comments about the mental health, race, and religion of those who believe one way or the other. The hate, and how it is expressed, seems endless. And the goalposts of hate constantly shift and move whenever any rationality and love seeps through.

Which is why, as long as people are going to become rabid on topics, rather than talking them through and seeking compromise, hate wins. As long as people buy into this "us vs. them" rhetoric, hate wins. As long as people continue to teach that some groups are somehow "less" than others, be they a different gender, a different sexual preference, a differing religion, a different race, a differing political ideology, or whatever, hate wins.

I'm willing to bet that the gun enthusiasts and gun-banning advocates can reach common ground, somewhere in the middle, where closing the loopholes in gun shows, making background checks mandatory, and requiring some sort of gun safety course and/or licensing is required to get firearms. I think the two sides can even reach agreement that some weapons do not need to be sold to civilians, and should stay in the purview of the military and police. But it takes cool heads and a willingness to listen and put away the hatred to do it.

I think we can even agree that the person is at fault, and not the firearm, if we talk it through. I think we can figure out that not all people of one religion, nor all people of a particular race or creed, are filled with hatred. We can probably come to common ground and agree that this person did what he did and that he is to blame for it, not the victims or their lifestyle nor the person's religion or race.

But, right now, seeing all the hate being hurled at one another across such a silly divide, for all political divides are ultimately silly, makes me think that hate has won. That the population has fallen for it, and is spending too much time hating and vilifying each other rather than looking for solutions and growing our strengths.

I wonder what kind of community we could have if we stopped hating and starting simply disagreeing?

May 18, 2016

Do The Right Thing

I guess this is the thing that bothers me the most about the recent spate of racism and sexism: most of the hatred is coming from people who self-profess to be Christian. Yet, if you look at the lessons of the Bible, it specifically states things like turning the other cheek, loving your fellow man, and leaving judgment up to God, among others. There is a list of commandments that are pretty explicit, yet many of today's Christians are advocating or actually breaking many of the commandments on the list.

The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that, when our neighbor is attacked, we should have mercy on him and help him as best we can. Yet, these Christians are the ones doing the attacking.

In the parable of the speck and the plank, the Bible teaches that people should not judge lest they be judged. It says that which you give, you will be given in exact measure in return. These Christians seem to be forgetting this, and the retribution for their hatred and acts of violence will be harsh.

The entire point of the "blessed and the meek" inheriting the Earth is that those who have God's power under their control will only use it for God's will. Both Moses and Jesus are described in the Bible as "meek," as they have their power under their control and only use it to exercise God's will. It means that you should not use that power for your own needs, but to follow and enforce God's laws. Yet, the Christians today are using it only for their own desires, ignoring God's law and His word, as expressed in the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Bible.

The parable of the Lost Son (or Prodigal Son) is a great allusion for today. It tells the story of one who takes his money and leads a hedonistic life, becomes indentured, and finally has a real revelation of his failures. He returns to his father and truly repents what he has done, so the father rejoices. Meanwhile, the other son thinks he is doing the "right things" and is self-righteous, but thinks that his father hasn't given him equal love. The father explains that he always has given the second son equal love, he just had to ask and all would be given to him. It ends open-ended, as we do not know if the self-righteous son accepts the father's invitation to come inside and join the party for the first son. This parable shows that many think they are doing the right thing, but become jealous when another gets what appears to be better or different treatment -- when, in fact, both people had access to the same things. One just chose to be offended and never ask, the other had to see how bad it could be before he learned to ask. Christians today seem to be the second son, standing at the threshold and not understanding why the fatted calf was killed and cooked for the first son, while they think they have done all that was asked of them. They cannot understand that they could have had the fatted calf at any time, had they asked for it.

The Ten Commandments are pretty clear on some subjects. Yet, today's Christians seem to be ignoring many of them.

  • How often do we see self-professed Christians lying? The candidates for Presidential office do it so often they can't seem to tell what is truth and what is fiction any more. How often do we see Christians bearing false witness against their neighbors? Lying about what "others" do, and trying to incense people to violence against them. Which leads to...
  • The incited violence often reaches murder, and is often done in the name of the Lord -- even though the Ten Commandments are VERY clear on that subject -- "Thou shall not kill." Period. So if you are walking into a Baptist church with a gun in your pants and the desire to kill the Black parishioners there, you are wrong and need to stop. Basically, any time you think your religious beliefs or leaders are espousing death, you have to take a serious step back and get out, because there cannot be any clearer commandment than "Thou shall not kill."
  • Adultery, Stealing and Coveting? Way too many examples to cite. But, again, the Commandments are pretty clear -- if you are yearning to possess something that is not yours, or actually take it (whether sexually or otherwise), you are committing a sin and need to stop, take it back, and/or repent for your actions. It can't be any clearer.
  • Honoring your father and mother? Most Biblical scholars think this is another way of saying honor everyone, praise everyone for their worth and value, and by doing so you praise God. Basically, the respect you show to your fellow man is the respect you show to God. When was the last time you saw one of today's Christians respecting their fellow man?
It seems pretty clear to me that so many of today's Christians are failing at following their own religion. And yet, at the same time, they are professing that these failures are espoused, or sanctioned by that same religion. If it is, they should be questioning their leadership and looking for a new church.

March 17, 2016

Is It Enough?

With the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice just around the corner, I have seen the endless debate about Superman as Clark Kent "getting away" with simply putting glasses on. Most fall on the side of "I would spot him in an instant" or "that's totally lame, he still looks the same!" Well, no, actually. What people don't understand is how much how you know someone is entirely based on context.

For example, have you ever been out shopping and had your mail-person stop you in the store and say hi? Until he/she says who he/she is, you probably draw a complete blank. Same with your hairdresser, next door neighbor, priest, and even some coworkers. This is because each of them wears a specific 'costume' when you see them, or you know them contextually based on location: the mail carrier uniform, an apron, a frock, and a suit and tie.

The human brain is a wonderful tool, but it can be easily confused. This is how magic works; tricks rely on the brain's inability to do some things for some tricks, or its desire to compensate and "fill in the gaps" for other tricks. That's how misdirection and palmistry work. And the same is true for people and faces. It's why we see the face of Jesus in toast burns and window reflections.

A great case in point is the large number of popular artists who are able to walk around freely in cities the size of New York and Los Angeles (and others) without being spotted. Some are always spotted, because they tend to dress and act similarly to some of the roles they play (Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark, for example), yet others, when simply dressed in jeans and a shirt, are completely hidden from view to the average person.

Take, for example, Henry Cavill. As a test, he recently walked around in NYC wearing a Superman shirt and hanging around Batman v Superman posters and yet no one recognized him (link). Without the proper context of the costume, or the red carpet and a tuxedo, people just don't recognize Cavill. But dressed as just Average Joe wearing a Superman shirt? Nope. I'm betting at least one person saw him and said, 'He looks sort of like Superman, but Superman is taller, I think.' Now they see that article and they kick themselves.

Just changing your hair color can cause people to be confused and walk right by you on the street, so why wouldn't completely changing your clothes, putting on glasses, and acting in a different manner work, too? Of course it would. Why do you think that the police, FBI, etc., release Most Wanted photos with examples of different hairstyles and hair colors? It's because they know how easy it is for a person to not see who they are looking for if the fugitive changes the style or color of their hair. So they put the person into more contexts for the viewer to make it easier for them to help find the fugitive.

Long story short: yes, glasses and a change in posture, vocal inflection, and/or simply context is enough for people not to see that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person.

March 16, 2016

Learning the Wrong Message

Deadpool recently debuted and became a smash hit. Hollywood was completely surprised by how successful, and many studio executives are left scratching their heads. So far, however, it appears they are all coming to the wrong conclusion: that Deadpool is a hit because it is R-rated. Warner Bros has announced that they will release an R-rated cut of Batman v. Superman and the studio behind the upcoming third Wolverine movie have announced they will plan on it being R-rated.

The R-rating is not why Deadpool was successful. It was successful for a couple of reasons:
  • The marriage of actor with source material. Deadpool was created as a wise-cracking, 4th-wall breaking, madman. He is the only comic book character who KNOWS he is a comic book character. He's called the Merc with a Mouth for a reason. Ryan Reynolds' career is based on being a wise-cracking, smart-assed, but ultimately good-hearted guy. All he ever really needed was the costume, and he would be Deadpool.
We saw the same thing happen when Robert Downy, Jr. was cast as Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie. He became a franchise, and created the "Marvel" way of making movies and minting money. Getting a guy or gal that everyone agrees is exactly right for the role can push your movie over the top.
  • Staying true to the source material. So often the studio says "we must have X, Y, or Z" in this movie. They dictate that a "big name" must be cast to draw in audiences. And they insist on making changes to the source material to make the material "more" something and "less" something else. In essence, they say, 'We want to use the name of the source material, but let's change it so that it is completely something else because we don't think the source material will sell.' And then they wonder why it flops. Deadpool kept close to the source material, treated it with respect, and simply updated it for a different genre (movies vs. comic books).
There have been quite a few comic book movies that kept close to the source material (while updating it for the movie genre) that have done quite well: The Dark Knight; Avengers; Spider-Man 2 (2004); Captain America and CA: Winter Soldier; Hellboy; Iron Man; Guardian of the Galaxy; etc.
There is an equal (maybe longer) list of comic book movies that the studios destroyed with their "vision," and that drove the target audience away, let alone casual viewers: Catwoman; Batman Forever and Batman and Robin; Daredevil; Fantastic 4 (pretty much every version); Ghost Rider (both movies); Punisher War Zone; Spider-Man 3; Green Lantern; Elektra; etc.
  • Story. I can't say this enough, the story rules over everything. If you have a good story, people of all races and genders will go watch it. If you have a bad story, the best you can hope for is a big opening before it goes belly-up. Frankly, all of the comic book genre movies (and most movies in general) can be fairly easily processed into those with a good story told well and those with a crappy story, and the results will fall neatly into line with either the box office results, or the box office expectations of the studios.
Others have done the research and shown that most of the successful movies throughout history have been R-rated. Hell, you can go to and see how many on the list were R-rated vs. PG-13. The PG-13 designation was not meant to be what it has become for the last twenty years (see here for a great explanation). But the R-rating by itself isn't the determining factor here; it is the quality of the story, the quality of the source material, and the marriage of the actor with the role.

In other words, Deadpool wasn't successful because it was R-rated. It was successful because it defied expectations, had a great leading man, told a good story, and stayed close to the source material. Now, if we can just convince the studios of this fact.

Do Your Damn Job

If you or I did not do our job regularly and with unconcealed malice our bosses would fire us. Well, guess what? The Republicans in Congress have been avoiding their jobs for almost 8 years now. When "forced" to do their jobs, they have, instead, done their best to filibuster anything that isn't theirs, or push only their agenda. Congress has the worst record of any Congress ever during Obama's presidency.

Not only that, but John Boehner actually said he was going to urge obstructionism when Obama was elected. Meaning, before Obama had even suggested a single piece of legislature, they said they were not going to do their job. They said they were going to obstruct what did get written and put up for a vote. It's the same as you being hired and vocally proclaiming you aren't going to work, and then setting about doing anything but working right in front of your boss. I'm not sure your boss would like that, and I doubt you would hang around very long.

However, the Republicans have gerrymandered districts such that it is nearly impossible for them not to get re-elected. Congress currently has a slightly above 90% incumbency winning record, meaning once someone gets into Congress, it is a virtual lock they will get re-elected year in and year out. This leads to the contentious nature of Congress's dealings these days, as there isn't the proper amount of turnover and new faces and fresh ideas.

Obama just announced his Supreme Court nominee. Since he's still President for 10 months, the Congress has a legal obligation to hear the appointee and make a decision. The Republicans continue to believe Obama shouldn't (although there are plenty of precedents that this has happened before and Congress acted accordingly), and claim that they will delay the nomination until he's out of office so the next President can nominate someone... because they assume the next President will be a Republican.

If they do this, I feel President Obama should go on a very public TV campaign and tell the American people directly that Congress, and in particular the Republicans, are not doing their job. He should tell the American public to fire their representatives and hire new ones who will do their job. People who bring those fresh faces and fresh ideas to Congress as a whole.

The American public seems to have forgotten that Congress serves at the public's behest. The public can vote them out and change the entire course of the country by doing so. Right now, Congress (on both sides of the aisle, frankly) think they are safe and secure. That they have the public under their thumb and neutered. All it takes is voting to change this. All it takes is picking any new name, anyone who hasn't been to Congress before, and voting them into office. That's it. It's entirely in our hands.

The other thing we can do is force Congress to create and pass term limits on Senators and Representatives. I strongly suggest no more than 2 full terms plus the conclusion of another person's term (in the case of someone being forced out or dying while in office). This would get the turnover going that we need in Congress. This would make those in Congress to have to work with new people, to vote based on conscience and the people's will, rather than on party politics.

It's in our hands. Let's do something about it.

March 15, 2016

Careful What You Wish For

I am almost hoping that Trump does get the GOP nomination and, eventually, the White House. In a case of "be careful what you wish for," I think the world, and the Americans that voted for him, will see what happens when someone without a plan, without political know-how, and without the acumen to be a President is elected.

It surprises me that he has made it this far. Most of the time, people who lie even once during a campaign are done. Trump has managed to fill nearly every single speech, answer, and comment with multiple falsehoods, but somehow he's just "saying it like it is." Really?

Seriously, how can anyone be elected when, objectively, no woman, no Latinos, few other minorities, and no one who is not Christian will vote for you? Hell, women make up not quite 52% of the American population... that alone should stop Trump in his tracks. Latinos make up 17% of the population... how can a presidential hopeful hope to overcome not getting any of those votes? Non-Christians make up around 15% of the population... that should be enough to stop someone from being elected.

Yet the Trump train keeps steaming along its tracks. I know that people are fed up with Congress, and politics in general, but isn't a better way to show this disdain voting against all the incumbents? Get anyone out of office who has been in for longer than 10 years. Period. Then you'll see change in politics. You'll hear new voices, and you'll see new ideas. You'll see more compromise and acceptance, because everyone will be new and everyone will be forming new relationships.

Trump is, categorically, racist, sexist, homophobic, and a general hate-monger. He lies with impunity. Hell, he even lies when he doesn't have to, which makes it seem pathological. Why would anyone want a person like that to represent the country?

After eight years of Obama slowly but surely repairing the United States' reputation around the world (yes, he has... read articles from the BBC, CBC, and other news organizations outside of the US, and you'll see it... the US news doesn't appear to have a clue any more), I can only imagine the muck and mire the country will be in with Trump representing it, thinking he can treat a fellow dignitary as he does a rival businessman.

I simply cannot fathom how this man has made it this far. I can't grasp that people are so angry they would want someone like this to lead them. I can't understand ... I just don't understand it, at all. Have we truly become so cynical, so filled with fear, that this is who we want to lead us?

February 5, 2016


Normally, I post a lot about politics here. I find stupid things the American government is doing/has done and I mock it, explain it, reason for or against it. I've been strangely quiet during this election cycle because I simply cannot believe what is going on.

The Republican process has been an unmitigated disaster. Few of the 14 people are remotely interested in being presidential, they just want to be the President. Carly Fiorina pretty much staked her entire campaign on false information, and couldn't change it when that information was proven, categorically and unequivocally, false. Jeb Bush would seem like a lock, but negative name recognition and a poorly run campaign have done him in. I don't know how Ben Carson stayed so high in the polls for so long; the man is a doctor who, apparently, doesn't understand how the human body works and lies about his past. Chris Christie? The people in his own state don't like him, how is he going to convince the rest of the country to vote for him? Cruz? Please. The guy sways so hard with the prevailing Republican wind that it is hard to figure out what he's really for or against. Rubio doesn't know how to do his job nor does he understand that voting is a key component of that job. And Trump? Don't even get me started. He offends women, offends every race, offends most religions, has no clue how to be inoffensive, and is a bloviating blowhard. Can you image that man trying to negotiate with the leaders of any other nation?

On the Democrats side, it has been calmer. Only four candidates started out, but only two really mattered. Clinton's campaign may wind up derailing itself due to the entire email server fiasco. She also took Sanders lightly until he came up and punched her in the face, politically speaking, with a virtual tie in the first caucus. His brand of social democracy has a lot of people on his side, mostly youths, and harkens back to the great social democrats of the past, like FDR. What happens if Hillary is convicted of a crime here? Can she still run for office? Could she be the first President to serve office while in prison? Who knows. Of course, there are some who are coming out and saying what she did was not unusual, like Colin Powell. It seems to be much ado about nothing, but we'll see.

As an unaffiliated voter who swings right on some topics and left on others, I literally have no clue who I might vote for. Of the presumptive nominees, I see myself voting for None of the Above. But that would be throwing away my vote, so I'll have to do some heavy research and see who has the better voting record (since either side will lie and claim they are for/against something; you have to look at their actual voting record (or lack of it, in Rubio's case) to see what they really do) on topics I find important.

And I won't even get started on the Iowa caucus, where hand-writing the person's name on a slip of paper, or standing in groups in an auditorium, seems to be the "height" of political savvy. If I was Sanders, in particular, I would want a recount with how close that was. The news I watched showed people fumbling about, hand-counting, and flipping coins to decide winners. This is absurd.

So, just know that my silence is speaking volumes -- when normally I would be explaining, arguing, or otherwise teaching about the topics, the fact that I'm so dumbstruck with what is going on that I have nothing to say, says a lot.

January 6, 2016

DC Comics Continuity

Dear DC Comics,

I'm a lifelong fan. I have been reading your comics since I learned how to read. I have comics of yours going back to the mid-1970s. You have the characters I am most interested in reading. You have the titles I'm most interested in collecting.

But you're losing me as a reader.

You see, when you created the New 52, I was onboard. I thought you were ACTUALLY going to make changes to your titles, your characters, and to your history. I thought you were going to modernize everything and bring everything into the 21st century. Maybe change the race of some characters. Maybe streamline some history. Maybe start from scratch and keep what has always worked and throw out everything else.

But you screwed that up.

You see, you had a Green Lantern movie about to release and a popular Batman franchise already out. So the editors and writers of those two series were excluded from the revamp that was New 52. And those titles had an effect on other titles, like Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, and others. Soon, the mishmash of some characters being changed and others not being changed caused internal story issues. For example, the entire "did Batman have a Robin or didn't he" conundrum you created.

You did do a good job in some areas. You made some decent changes to Superman, at first. I loved the initial changes to Wonder Woman. But the title that most closely fulfilled the promise of New 52 was Earth 2. You made wholesale changes to the characters, including changing races, sexes, and sexual preference on a number of characters. But, and here's the key, you didn't change the character of the heroes in question. E2 Green Lantern was still a father figure, a powerhouse, and an icon for others to look up to. Oh, and he was now gay. Jay Garrick's backstory and costume were radically altered. Hawkgirl and Dr. Fate's ethnicities and backgrounds were changed. Etc. But the characters continued to be the heroes we knew and loved, even if some of the specifics were altered.

The editorial positions behind the New 52 wasn't strong, and you let some writers ignore the concept of new and different while others embraced, which led to confusion. Soon, you knew you needed to clean house yet again, and you created the Convergence storyline, which was intended to get things back on track.

But you failed again.

The coherence of that storyline was poor, at best. Yet again, not every title and writer was fully onboard with the idea, and some were allowed to make very minor changes while others were allowed to make more sweeping changes. The readership, however, was left with a mess when it was all finished.

In my most recent week of comics, I picked up four comics that have Superman and/or Wonder Woman on the title. Each of the covers has a different variation of the costume for each character, indicating that each takes place at a different moment in time. But, as a reader, there is no set continuity with which I can read these titles and understand where they fit into things. They all seem to be taking place now, yet in one title Superman is wearing his old jeans and S-shield shirt, has lowered power levels, and is no longer dating WW. In another, he is wearing his New 52 costume, is dating WW, and has full power levels. In another, he is wearing a variant on the jean/shirt and is dating WW. On three of the covers, WW is wearing: her original New 52 silver/blue/red swimsuit costume, her silver/blue/red "armor" skirt costume, and her newest gold/red/black body stocking suit. But, again, I have no context or continuity to fall back on to tell me when each of these takes place. They all appear to be concurrent and now. Does WW simply change costumes depending on with whom she is fighting?

Batman is now a bigger headache. In the Batman comics, you had the Joker and Batman "die." Because Gotham City needs a Batman, you had Commissioner Gordon (really?!) take over the role wearing a mechanical suit to grant him extra-normal abilities and to protect him. Meanwhile, in other comics that are released concurrently with those stories, you have Bruce Wayne as Batman taking part in a variety of events in Justice League of America and Justice League. Again, they all seem to be taking place concurrently.

Your goal, after Convergence, was supposedly to make the entirety of the DC Comics universe available to your writers and not be so focused on continuity. But, by doing so, and by not clarifying when and why a character is missing, present, wearing one costume over another, or setting everything within some sort of time frame, you are simply making it difficult for a reader to understand what is going on. How is a new reader supposed to jump onboard and enjoy Batman when sometimes he's reading about Jim Gordon as Batman, sometimes he's reading about Bruce Wayne as Batman, and sometimes he's reading about both, with one being Batman and the other not? As a reader, aren't you more inclined to pick a couple up, get really confused about which character is which, and then stop reading all together?

DC Comics, I want you to succeed. You have the characters I want to read and collect the most. I want to look forward to comic book day each week, and I want to get those comics and immediately clear time to read them, because the stories and characters are that engaging. Instead, I am canceling titles, waiting weeks before reading, getting confused over the stories and direction the comics are going, and canceling a few more titles. If you can't keep me, then I know you aren't successful with other readers.

You need to clean house. Any writer or artist who won't follow editorial must be let go, no matter how popular he or she is. Next, you need to set up continuity. The readers don't care if there is a Superman in jeans and a shirt and low power levels and one with a full suit and high power levels, we just want to know where those two stories fit together. So, create some continuity. Say that X, Y, and Z are this continuity. Say that A, B, and C are this other continuity.

For example, let's say that you have a continuity that is "Past." (I would also be open to the Multiverse concept of an Earth X, 2, Pi, whatever... some delineator that says this is different continuity from the other stories we tell.) Justice League of America, Action Comics, Detective Comics, and others all take place in this continuity. Here, Batman is still Bruce Wayne, Superman is not using a full-on costume, Wonder Woman is wearing her silver and blue costume, etc. All these stories take place relative to each other and prior to any stories in other continuities. In this time frame, Superman and Wonder Woman are not dating; people are still figuring things out (i.e., lower tech, lower power levels, not as much teamwork, etc.); Batman does not start with a Robin, but maybe decides to add one somewhere along the way; many of the teen heroes are simply not here yet; you have fewer, but more well-thought out villains; there is no Green Lantern Corps or multiple colors, there is just Hal Jordan and a green ring; etc.

Then you have the "Present" continuity. This includes the comics Justice League, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, etc. In this continuity, Jim Gordon has taken over as Batman, Superman has his full suit, Wonder Woman is using the new body-stocking suit, etc. Superman and Wonder Woman are, or were, dating. The teen heroes are present and are making a difference. The Justice League is no longer an American institution, but is world-wide. More villains are present or have been working for years. Teamwork is better. Bases are better. Things like the Suicide Squad have been created in response to the hero surge. The Lantern Corps and the plethora of other colors beyond green are starting to make an impact and be seen.

Then, maybe, you create a "Future" continuity. In this run of comics, you include things like Justice League 3000, Legion of Super Heroes, Lantern Corps of all colors, Batman Beyond exists. This is where heroes are fully formed, exceptional beings and we see the effects of years, decades even, of heroic pursuits. The children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of the original heroes are doing their thing.

Lastly, you create an "Elseworlds" continuity, where writers and artists go to tell a story in whatever era of DC Comics they want. You want to write a pre-New 52 Superman story? You go here. You want to write a story where Hippolyta is Wonder Woman? Great place for it.

The point being, that I, as a reader, easily understand the continuity I am reading, understand that if I pick up this comic, Bruce Wayne is Batman, but in this comic, Jim Gordon (or Dick Grayson) is Batman. In this set of comics, I know I may not see some of my favorite characters, like sidekicks and teen heroes. But I can read those in this other set over here.

To wrap this up, I just want you to be successful, DC Comics. I want you to make reading your comics easy for both long-time and new readers. I want any reader to have a quick and easy time figuring out which characters they want to read and which titles to buy. Right now, it is a mess of confusion, even for a long-time reader like me.

Thank you,

A DC comics fan


Recent news suggests that DC Comics is rebooting its titles yet again in June. It will restart most/all titles with new number 1s and will more closely reflect the characters and situations in its movie and TV universes. I'm not sure this is a good thing in and of itself (why not wait to see if the movies are successful before doing this?), but I imagine that doing this will clean up much of the continuity issues I have discussed, above.

See here for more: