Saturday, November 12, 2016

What Have We Done?

So, a crazy thing happened the other day, something that appeared to only happen in dystopian fiction, or in other countries far far away. This guy, this dumpster fire of a caricature of a human being, yelled and bullied and smeared his way into the presidential election and won.

The Donald, or as Jon Stewart once called him, Lord Fuckface Von Clownstick, is now the president-elect of the United States of America.

There has been a lot of articles, blogposts, statuses, memes, etc about Trump, Trumpettes (I refuse to call them anything else), and the horrorshow that may become the new reality in America. I think, for anyone either in the Trumpette basket, or willing to try get along peacefully, there are a few things to remember.
What I think of when I say Trumpette
Thing One: Trump is still the Right's fault.

I have seen a few articles trying to pin this election outcome on Liberal Elites who weren't paying attention. This may be true, if rich white people cared about poor stupid white people, the Democrat agenda may have been changed to reach this terribly misinformed and angry base. But then again, rich white Republicans have been jerking the poor stupid white people around since Nixon for the expressed purpose of misleading them to vote against their self interests. So... this probably wouldn't have made a difference.

There is evidence that a large slice of the voting public relishes in their ignorance. The Uneducated White Man has become a focus after this election. Anti- Intellectualism should not be a thing to be proud of. We ought to continue to invest in education and foster the scouting mind, and other good learning habits.

It is much more important to look at how certain groups vote solely based on one issue. For example: Evangelicals supporting Trump because they believe Democrats like Hillary want to kill babies instead of banning abortion. Or any redneck militiaman who is convinced Democrats want to take their guns away, even though there are no Democrats on record ever saying that, nor did it happen under 8 years of Obama, or 8 years of Bill Clinton.

See here for more thoughts on Religious zealotry.

Thing Two: Trump doesn't get a free pass now that he's been elected.

How about apologists who claim that the media has misconstrued Trump's stand on racial equality, and women's rights? The hypocrisy of this astounds me. Democrats come right out and speak of equality for all and they're called "libtards", like its retarded to want everyone to have an equal chance at a good life. But when Trump mocks the physically disabled, questions the patriotism of a Gold Star family, values women based on their looks alone, and pledges to ban immigrants based on religion, he's just joking and talking in hyperbole. Words have meaning.

A common mantra for Trumpettes is "he says what I think". Ok, but presidents don't say those things, even if they believe them. Woodrow Wilson was a huge racist. But he managed to keep any crazy racist things he may have been thinking from slipping out during public speeches. Kanye West once said Bush hates black people. But there was no evidence other than how long it took for FEMA to handle the Katrina disaster. Bush wasn't habitually tweeting with Klan members.

My point is, if you truly want to "make America great again", and you want to compare contemporary America with any other era in American history, Trump is unacceptable as a president in comparison to any other of the 44 you have to choose from. Except maybe Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover. Jackson helped murder millions of Indians and gave Nazis the blueprint for their final solution. Hoover loved the free market so much he led the economy right into the Great Depression. Not very good role models.

It may be true that white people in this country have felt pushed back to the margins and made to feel ashamed. No one should feel ashamed of being themselves... Unless being yourself means you habitually make other people feel afraid and keep them from being themselves. Hatred never gets a pass. There is a group of Liberals that have worked very hard to expose white male privilege. It has been aggressive and oppressive, and it has helped breed a contempt for feminists and humanists seeking equality for everyone. No one likes being called the bad guy repeatedly. This doesn't really matter. Bottom line, no one argues: Stop being shitty elitists! White men aren't superior. Rich suburban college grads aren't superior. Right Wing Free Marketers aren't superior. Stop it. Period.

Societies and economies are much better off and stronger when diversity is protected. We can all win. stop being shitty.

More on how things have meanings.

Thing Three: Taxes are important and necessary.

Get Government out of my life!
No one likes being told what to do, right. I mean, just about everyone between the ages of 12 to 18 cant wait to get out of their parents' house so they don't have to follow ridiculous rules. The problem is, adults should be way past acting like adolescents when it comes to politics. Once again, I blame the Right for fostering this idea that taxes are theft, and government is corrupt and wasteful.

Corruption definitely happens. There are no term limits for Congress, and these politicians all had lives before in communities throughout the country. There are plenty of opportunities to make deals in Washington that favor the politician. There are plenty of opportunities for corporations to grease palms and make deals that favor both the politician and the corporation and screw the US citizens.

Lobbying is a problem. Gerrymandering is a problem. Pork barrel spending is a problem. Obstructionist legislative tactics are a problem. Citizens United is a problem. Taxes are not a problem.

In fact, recently the great state of Kansas had a chance to slash business tax rates, with the hope of stimulating growth. Local businesses save money on taxes, invest in themselves, grow their businesses, create jobs and therefore grow state taxes and build the economy. Trickle down economics finally realized.... Except the exact opposite happened. Business owners saved money on taxes, for sure, but they had no obligation to reinvest that money, they just kept it as profit. Businesses did not grow or create jobs. Kansas did not slash budgets enough to handle the revenue shortfall, they relied on economic growth that never happened. Predictably Kansas couldn't balance the budget. In short, taxes matter.

Societies and economies are better off and stronger when everyone pays their fair share. A government that doesn't work because it is underfunded is no help to anyone.

See this for more about taxes.

Conclusion:

There is, and has been a Republican agenda that has plans to shrink government beyond usefulness. I believe the Koch brothers put it this way: make it small enough to drown like a baby in the bathtub. Now that Trump is president, and the GOP has control of both chambers of Congress, with the ability to nominate and approve Supreme Court justices that lean conservative, the Republican agenda has a real good chance of becoming a reality. This means rolling back the Affordable Care Act, defunding Planned Parenthood, rolling back civil rights afforded to homosexuals, defunding the EPA and deregulating environmental protections.

This last is probably the most devastating. Under the guise of stimulating economic growth, ecological protections will be scuttled. Plenty of GOP legislators don't believe climate change is real. We sure don't like spending tax money, but if the climate continues to warm, there will be considerably more natural disasters. More disasters means more to clean up. Disaster relief costs money. Tax money. Repealing regulations that protect water and timber and fish resources will lead to increased climate damage.

Societies and economies are better off and stronger when integrated with a strong and healthy ecosystem.

Bottom Line: I sincerely hope this next four years turns out better than expected. But, I fear the next election will have the same slogan. Make America Great Again may actually be a real goal.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lost in the Supermarket

The Clash
London Calling
1979, CBS/Epic
produced by Guy Stevens
Joe Strummer - vocals, guitars
Mick Jones - guitars, piano, vocals
Paul Simonon - bass, vocals
Topper Headon - drums
Mickey Gallagher - organ
The Irish Horns - horn section

singles-
  • London Calling/ Armagideon Time
  • Clampdown/ Guns of Brixton
  • Train in Vain/ London Calling
Probably one of the best Clash records, if not at the very least the most recognizable, this record is ranked by Rolling Stone as the best album of the '80s (it came out in '79), number 8 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of all Time, Q Magazine named it the 4th best British album of all time.

The cover art is super punk rock, an homage to Elvis's 1956 record with an out of focus Simonon smashing his bass. Aside from that, the album is probably as far from a typical punk rock album of the time (or the next 10 years). The Clash changed their sound from the British punk aesthetic (or lack of) to a rockabilly/ska/reggae infused sound that either departed from the punk, or diversified a genre that previously relished in its lack of talent and void of musicality. Either way, who cares? The record is great, fun to listen to, and absolutely a must-have.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Nostalgia Check: Sci-Fi, Love, Death and Transformers

Like many kids from the 80s, Saturday morning cartoons were a weekly feature. The routine probably went something like this for everyone: wake up stupidly early on Saturday, quiet as to not wake up your parents, pour your favorite ridiculously sugary cereal, and turn on the television to catch hours of kid friendly animated programming chock full of targeted advertising.

Even the shows themselves were essentially advertising for toy lines. Pretty formulaic, the shows themselves were poorly written 30 minute spots. Usually each episode was a self contained story, but sometimes there were two part cliffhanger episodes (we had to wait an entire week to get a resolution). and each episode focused on some sort of moral quandary, or held a special message. Some of the shows from this era have become pretty legendary among nostalgic fans, but most were completely forgettable. He-man and She-Ra, GI Joe, My Little Pony, The Care Bears, Rainbow Brite, and the Thundercats have transcended into the pop culture ethos. But there were plenty of other similar pulp trash cartoons like MASK, the Silverhawks, The Galaxy Rangers, the Centurions, the Moon Dreamers, and the Visionaries that are better left forgotten.

And then there was Robotech.


The vision of bringing Japanese animation to western television wasn't a completely novel idea. Voltron was a success the year prior. And shows like the 8th Man and Speed Racer had been around for a long time. But Robotech was something different.

For starters the show wasn't necessarily episodic. This was a long narrative, with a plot that continued to build without resolve for several episodes. There was no such thing as binge watching back then either, we received one episode a week for 36 weeks.

The characters were totally relatable. They had complex relationships. They were people of color. There was a reasonable ratio of male to female characters in a variety of roles. They joked, and argued, and grieved, and crushed on each other. This was the first cartoon with multiracial couples. This was the first cartoon where major characters died on screen. and stayed dead.

I loved this show as a kid. It had the look of an adult show. It had cool characters with cool hair. They fought alien invaders from space, and had planes that transformed into robots!

Rewatching it now, I realize some major flaws with the plot. The show was originally a Japanese show called Macross. The plot of the show was changed when dubbed into English in order to tie in two other unrelated Japanese shows so it could be one entire super show. The reason for this was pretty ridiculous. The broadcasting company wouldn't greenlight a 36 episode show. They needed more episodes. No new show today would get a 36 episode season.

So, instead of a clever science fiction plot that makes sense, about humanity discovering they were created by an ancient planet-seeding culture (which became a major plot point in Star Trek The Next Generation) we got a story about Earth caught up in the middle of an interstellar struggle for a renewable energy source.

The first few episodes deal with the crew of the giant reclaimed alien spaceship trying to get back to Earth after stranding themselves by mistake near Pluto, and taking an entire island city (Macross) with them. Realistically, picking up an island and dropping it in the middle of the Kuiper Belt, even with the population hiding in bomb shelters, should end in death for all people involved. But somehow the population of Macross not only survives, but rebuilds the city inside the massive spacecraft. They are able to relocate everyone, rebuild the city, and set up an intricate infrastructure within two weeks.

Speaking of realism, the giant battleship has to travel back to Earth presumably at less than light speeds, fighting a hostile alien fleet all the way there. But even though they are outmanned and outgunned, they manage to continue fighting with seemingly unlimited resources. How do they maintain supplies of ammunition? or food? Especially for a city of people that aren't supposed to be there? The alien navy should have been able to just wait it out until everyone on board starved. The city seems to be self sustaining, with simulated weather, unlimited supplies, and sophisticated broadcasting abilities. But the crew of the battleship can't figure out how to communicate with their own planet. Also, apparently a movie star somehow gets onboard for a beauty pageant. Has she been there this whole time?

The second season was a giant waste of time. So I won't say anything about the Southern Cross. I'm sure the original Cavalry Southern Cross show was a good stand alone series. But it made no sense as a sequel to Macross.

The 3rd season was originally Genesis Climber: Mospeada. I'm sure the original show is a much better overall experience. The plot seems to make more sense. This show, like Macross, had some things that no other animated kids show dared to do. There were complicated relationships among characters, and stages of grief just like in Macross. There was a transgendered character, and no one thought it was weird.
Regardless of the logistics of the series, or the messy legal battles between studios that leaves reboots or sequels doubtful, there is no denying the Robotech series helped create a subculture in America devoted to anime. Robotech led my family to discover Appleseed, and Project A-ko, and all sorts of other cool things. On top of that, it was also proof that the race, gender, or sexual orientation of characters, or who they dated didn't matter to the success of the show. Robotech was proof that sci-fi wasn't just for boys, it could appeal to everyone.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Yellow Moon on the Rise

Neil Young
Harvest
Reprise, 1972
Neil Young - guitars, vocals
The Stray Gators:
  Jack Nitszche - piano
  Ben Keith - pedal steel
  Tim Drummond - bass
  Kenny Buttrey - drums

singles-
  • Heart of Gold/Sugar Mountain
  • Old Man/Needle and the Damage Done
This is one of the first records I ever bought. I got it in middle school, mostly because Neil Young got a lot of radio play, but my father, who was a big classic 60s/70s rock guy didn't like him, but he had Crosby Still and Nash records. I had Old Man stuck in my head for an entire summer in high school.

Many consider this record to be one of his best. It's essentially a country album, back when country, bluegrass, and folk often blended boundaries, and Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams were kings. There is an overall melancholy that permeates throughout the record, even the uplifting love songs are tinged with a sweet sadness. The record became a pillar of Young's career, and he released a sequel record Harvest Moon in 1992 which also featured the Stray Gators.

Alabama is on this record too. It is Young's rebuttal to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama, and reminds me of Warren Zevon's song Play it all Night Long. Actually all four of these songs (including Young's Southern Man) should all be played together and called the Fuck the South Suite.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nerds Cannot be Satisfied: Ghostbusters Edition


-Tell him about the twinkie.
-What about the twinkie?

The Ghostbusters is one of the most beloved science fiction franchises in all of Nerddom. It's not really much of a franchise. Two movies were made in the 80s. The first film is a masterpiece of science fiction comedy, it basically wrote the book on comedy science fiction. The follow up was not as good, and although there were plenty of plans for a 3rd installment, Bill Murray could never be convinced to join up and the movie franchise fizzled. There was a really great, pretty successful animated television show though, from 1986 to 1991. I loved that show.

Finally, the new Ghostbusters remake opens today. Paul Feig had been working on this since 2014. An all new cast would take the mantle of Ghostbusters from the original cast members. Finally, fans can rejoice, this beloved franchise will get a new life!

Hooray!
Except they didn't rejoice. They vehemently rejected the entire project after it was revealed the cast would be all female. That's right, nerds are actually terrible people. There is an obvious reaction to being labeled a misogynist, and plenty of people attempted to hide their obvious distaste for this film yet to be made by declaring the cast didn't bother them, but remakes are the worst.

This argument does have traction, given the responses to other nerdy franchise remakes, like the Ninja Turtles, and Superman. I'm sure some of the nerd rage was from regular critics aware of the long history of Hollywood screwing with science fiction, comics, and fantasy properties. But the response to this particular film goes far beyond normal critic skepticism. The level of vitriol and disgusting rhetoric I've seen posted about this film is far higher than films like Straw Dogs, The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, Star Trek, or True Grit. Here is some evidence... beware, the following screen captures may be nauseating:



These are just the comments I could find through a Google search. The film's Facebook page has each and every post trolled with similar mean spirited, misogynist, hateful comments. I have never seen the kind of bile spewed at a film that hadn't even been released yet. Alicia Malone from Fandango hasn't "seen this level of hatred by an extremely vocal group before a movie came out or before anyone even saw it. It’s unprecedented”.

I was perplexed at first why people feel the need to share their feelings about the directions this film decided to take. After all, a new Ghostbusters film is better than no Ghostbusters film. Since the original cast are all super old (or in Harold Ramis's case, dead), a direct sequel didn't look like a good idea.

But then I realized this makes perfect sense. The backlash isn't about remaking Ghostbusters, it's about the women cast as the heroes. I completely forgot that nerds are extremely sexist. These are the same dudes who hate female cosplayers, and Gamergate after all. This reaction to the movie is so bad, IMBD suspects that after the release in the UK, American fans were giving the film poor reviews before they even saw the film (the US release happens after IMBD opens the film for review). Anyone who hates an idea so much they have to try to sabotage it; ruin it for everyone else, not only smells of crazy desperation, but is also indefensibly mean.

USA Today ran a story about the backlash, and included Paul Feig and Dan Aykroyd's reactions. Aykroyd stated, "If they are hardcore misogynists and against the women’s participation, they’ll stay home. It won’t affect us".

I agree Dan, fuck those guys.

I saw the film. It is an exceptional science fiction comedy. Women can be funny and play interesting multidimensional characters. Ghostbusters may be an unabashed reboot full of cameos and easter eggs. But it's a fun, well written comedy with upgraded special effects, and quality acting from quality actors.

The best part, I thought, was the characters. Most of the time in rebooted franchises, the characters stay the same. But these characters are not gender swapped Venkman, Stantz, Zedmore and Spengler, they are entirely new individuals with their own personalities, quirks, and ways they interact.

See this film. It's good. It's funny. It defies all the negativity and hate poured on it by lame, sexist fanboys.