Category Archives: Media

Shut Up, Mr. Man!

Let me issue a trigger warning. I am about to embark on a circular argument, because I am about to explain something while being a man. This act has been labeled by the liberals as a derogatory term, since for a man to explain something is evidently a microaggression. They have lumped this microaggression into a grouping designed to address what many feminist perceive as an affront to humanity: Mansplaining, manspreading and, here’s a new one, manterrupting. These are terms that feminists are using to promote the “gender inequality” argument that has been catching traction the past few years, so much so that CBS correspondent Faith Salie did a segment on the phenomenon on CBS Sunday Morning.

Mansplaining is the tendency for a man to “talk down” to a woman by way of explaining the man’s position “in a condescending manner.” Unfortunately, a condescending manner appears to be any time a woman doesn’t want to hear the argument, which, most men who are or have been married know, is all the time. But the label doesn’t really cover the gamut of condescending explanations. My kids condescend all the time. I have had enough eye rolls and heavy sighs from my granddaughter and women friends as they try to explain something to me to know that condescending is not a gender specific trait. Men explain things to other men. As an instructor, my whole day is spent explaining things. Is this mansplaining? Or is it only mansplaining when a man explains something to a woman? So if I teach a class of both men and women, am I only committing half a crime?

Manspreading is the masculine tendency to sit with the knees far apart supposedly to expose the genitals in some sort of sexual power display. This particular faux pax is a well-earned one, but maybe misunderstood. I know I tend to spread my legs when sitting, as many men do. Unfortunately, this has less to do with sex or power than with comfort. Men have certain physical accoutrements that occupy the space between the legs and those attributes can be in a position to cause discomfort with sitting with the legs together. The only remedies are to sit with the legs slightly apart, or to manually adjust the affected parts. Neither option is socially accepted and thus men find themselves between a rock and a hard place, or more to the point, stones and timber. That is not to say that some men don’t go overboard and stretch out to an excessive point. This is not exclusively a male trait though. Many larger people of both sexes can occupy more space that is appropriate. These people are simply douchebags. Again, not sexist. Just asshats.

Manterrupting is the tendency to interrupt a woman who is talking, presumably to do some mansplaining. This is a new one, because evidently, only men interrupt. Women are far too civilized to engage in such a rude activity, and it is only when a man interrupts a woman does the crime rise to the level of manterrupting. Women interrupt other people all the time. Both of my Ex-wives were quite ready to interrupt me in any discussion. Why is it manterrupting only if I interrupt them? Faith Salie threw out some statistics that during the presidential debates, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 55 times compared to the 11 times she interrupted him. The wonderful thing about that debate was that Donald interrupted everyone, including the moderators. It is just a Donaldism. Perhaps the term should be Donterrupting or Trumpterrupting.

One of the more tried and true rhetorical strategies that have been employed throughout the history of human interaction is that of undermining the authority of opposing views. This is no more evident that the current argument that men cannot have a voice in the abortion issue because men have no uterus. This is also evident when a feminist labels a male argument as “mansplaining.” Once the label has been applied, the man’s argument can be dismissed in its entirety with no more consideration to the content of the argument. So, when a label like mansplaining or manterrupting is thrown out in a discussion, it is merely another way for a woman to say “shut up, Mr. Man.”

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Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

The riots in Charlottesville, Virginia Saturday have been the topic of discussion all week, but most of the media discussion has been focused on President Trump’s response to it. The riots flared when a scheduled rally by several different organizations who planned to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a confederate general in the Civil War, was met with counter protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement and the Anti-facist (Anti-Fa) movement. One woman was killed when someone drove a car into a crowd of protestors. The driver was arrested and identified as James Fields of Ohio, who had come to Charlottesville to join in the protest. The media was quick to single out the alt-right as the sole source of the trouble and blame them for the death. This is a complete propaganda campaign of the worst sort trying to control the public consciousness with lies and misdirection. Fortunately, President Trump isn’t playing along.

According to reports, the facts are that several groups clashed in the streets and began to argue and shout at and shove each other. Small skirmishes erupted all over the area around the demonstration which devolved into more serious violence as the day wore on. Police posted units all along the area, but according to witnesses, the police did not actively interfere until the car crash. The governor declared a state of emergency and the police cleared the area, making several arrests.

From the reports, this looks like a standard public disturbance issue with a tragic outcome culminating in the death of the young woman. Two additional deaths occurred when a police helicopter that was supporting the event crashed in the woods. The details of the cause of the crash have not been reported yet, but it is not likely the result of any action from any of the protestors since it happened away from the demonstration.

So, while this is tragic, to be sure, it is not worthy of the media coverage or social media coverage it has garnered. The reason it has gotten so much traction is that many of the groups protesting the removal of the statue are what the news media has labeled “Alt-Right” or neo Nazis or KKK. The socialist left is raising the volume on this in order to try to paint all conservatives as neo Nazis and KKK members. As if the mere presence of these groups is the sole reason for the violence that occurred.

I would never suggest that the Neo Nazi party, or the KKK embrace the true spirit of America. I do not condone any of these radical ideologies. By the same token, I do not condone the BLM or Anti-Fa movement either. Groups like the KKK and the BLM are the flipsides of the radical ideology coin. Unfortunately, the news media and the left (one in the same) favor the BLM/Anti-fa crowd and are portraying them as the victims in this melee.

They seem to forget that it takes two to fight.

Sarah Bosner, a blogger for Rolling Stone magazine mentioned observing a white man punch a black woman as though that was an example of the whole ordeal.

Shortly before the car ramming, I see a man marching with the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group, punch a black woman who had thrown ice from her cup at him. Bystanders intervene, but the police do not respond.

Her point seems to be that a big bad Nazi beat up a poor defenseless black woman. She glosses over the fact the woman assaulted the man first by throwing her drink at him. I can imagine that prior to that, she had probably already peppered him with plenty of vitriol to raise his boiling point that level. In that regard, maybe it is indicative of the whole ordeal. A lot of people got insanely angry and acted like fools. Everyone involved should be held accountable…on both sides of the issue. In fact, BLM organizers deliberately bussed in demonstrators to counter the protest. The only reason to do such a thing was to foster a conflict and in doing so, they had to know that violence would erupt. In fact, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that the violence was the expectation. They wanted a conflict to promote their leftist message and to try to paint the right in as bad a picture as they could.

President Trump seems to have a handle on this concept. His initial condemnation said that people on both sides were to blame for the violence, which is clearly true. The BLM movement already has a history of violence and killing police officers, so they clearly bear some of the blame for the violence in Charlottesville. Trump addressed the incident on Saturday:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,”

This covers not only the violence from the Alt-right, but also from the BLM and the Anti-Fa, who also bear equal responsibility for the violence. But this wasn’t good enough for the left-leaning media or the neo socialist on the hill, who circled the wagons to roast Trump for “supporting Nazis.” Trump’s advisors quickly coerced him into revising his statement and singling out the “Nazis” because they are so vile they must be to blame for all the problems that happened. Trump did so, but then backtracked to his original “both sides” statement, much to the frustration of the left.

Here’s the thing: He’s right about that. Sure, Nazis are bad. Sure, KKK is bad. Sure, we had a war to stamp out the Nazis in 1945. And, sure, it is terrible that people try to align themselves with that movement today. But here’s the rest of the thing: They have every right to do that. It’s called the first amendment. Citizens of the US have every right to think however they want to, never mind how stupid that think may seem. After all, so many people still think Obama was a good president. They have a right to think that. The government cannot do anything about it. The government similarly cannot do anything about stopping people from joining the Nazi party or the KKK, no matter how repugnant it may be. Just because people align themselves with the Nazis or the KKK doesn’t mean they are criminals or terrorists or that their planning to murder people. It just means they are idiots.

Where these people, Nazis, KKK, BLM, what have you, go wrong is when they commit crimes like assault or vehicular homicide because of their beliefs. On Saturday, everyone there, from all of the different groups, are to blame for the carnage and all of them should be held accountable.

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Wonder Woman Excels Despite the Hype

Many critics were anticipating a poor showing of the film Wonder Woman because it is helmed by a woman: Patty Jenkins. The thinking apparently that a woman cannot drive a major Hollywood Blockbuster. Many people are heralding the film much the same way Hillary was heralded as the first female presidential nominee. Some people complained when a movie theater held a woman-only screening of the film, which drew more criticism from the other side of the issue. Other hype surrounding the film was that this is the first superhero film starring a female superhero as its main protagonist. The simple fact is that there isn’t a better female superhero to launch the effort. It pays off as well because Wonder Woman is the best DC Superhero film to date. This, despite the fact that Zack Snyder had his fingerprints all over it.

Gal Gadot exudes both a strength and a softness at the same time which is perfect for the role of Diana, Princess of the Amazons. Despite having a female superhero and taking the few side shots at feminism during an historical depiction, the film does not follow in the footsteps of the CW’s Supergirl in trying to become an Anthem of the new feminism, which might upset the more militant feminists out there. Rather, the plot focuses on telling the story of Wonder Woman’s development and entry into the modern, human world. This serves to actually tell a compelling story without delving into social mores and issues that would otherwise be divisive and distract from the enjoyment of the film.

The story departs slightly from the comic book depiction of Diana on Paradise Island, as well as its introduction of Steve Trevor, the American fighter Ace who is rescued by Diana and ushers her into the real world. There is no invisible jet, no spinning into her costume, and—for the most part—no alter ego. She is introduced to the war brass as Diana Prince, her secret identity from the comic book and TV show, but for the bulk of the film, she is Wonder Woman, even though no one actually addresses her by that title. She is simply Diana.

The bulk of the movie’s humor comes from Diana’s innocent reactions to what passes for modern society during the Great War. Chris Pratt, no I mean Chris Evans, no, sorry, Chris Hemsworth…nope, that’s not it. Oh, right, Chris Pine, of Star Trek, plays Steve Trevor, the American spy working for British intelligence to stop a Nazi chemical doomsday weapon that threatens to derail an armistice to end the war. There is an instant spark with Diana when she pulls him from the ocean after his plane crashes. The chemistry is tangible and plays well on screen, making their dynamic all the more real in the film’s climax. Pine’s portrayal is fine, if a little anachronistic. He tends to exude a 21st century swagger that would not have been tolerated by the British hierarchy in 1918.

The only detractor for the film is in its producer’s vision. Warner Brothers chose Zach Snyder to helm the DC cinematic universe and Snyder’s vision of the heroes in that universe is a dark one. Many fanboys have filled blogs and discussion boards with posts suggesting that Snyder is trying to adapt the DC graphic novels Injustice: Gods Among Us into the movies. That idea gets a serious booster shot with the antagonist in Wonder Woman. Snyder has an artistic eye for cinematic visuals. There is no denying that. But with the muted color pallet he chose for Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, it makes the viewing experience depressing. Snyder has a penchant for near monochromatic color filters as he displayed with his highly successful adaptation of the graphic novel 300. That pallet fits certain scenes, such as when Diana is first introduced to London (she says “it’s hideous”), but to make three films that way detracts from the viewing experience.

Despite Snyder’s limited vision, and the feminist hype, Wonder Woman is a great film and definitely worth the price of admission. Heck, skip the matinee and pay full price. It’s still worth it.

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Nothing to Fear with Alien: Covenant

The summer movie rush is upon us leading with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and promising a plethora of blockbusters to come. Last weekend’s big entry into the fray is Ridley Scott’s latest foray into one of the first movie franchises he started back in 1977. Alien: Covenant is Scott’s second film after James Cameron’s highly successful action adaptation of the title. Scott’s original Alien was a true horror film set in space, while Cameron’s sequels were a collection of action-packed battle royals. Scott wanted to put the horror back in the story when he released Prometheus in 2012 and its sequel Alien: Covenant
this summer. Unfortunately, neither Prometheus nor Covenant is particularly scary.

Prometheus was received with mix reviews in 2012, but is generally considered a pale reflection of the alien story. It attempts to fill in the back story of how the Xenomorph we’ve come to know and love got its start. It tells a bleak story about the dawn of humanity and the progenitor of both Humanity and the Xenomorph. Covenant continues that story while trying to get closer in tone and theme to the original 1977 Alien.

If nothing else, it succeeds in copying the feel and tone of the original. The ship design and visuals harken back to the first film and even the sound effects on the Covenant are eerily similar to those on the Nostromo.

The Covenant is a colony ship ferrying more than 2000 people and 1500 embryos to a new world more than 7 years away when the ship encounters a severe ion storm and is damaged. While repairing the ship, the crew detects a signal that shouldn’t be there and goes to investigate. Of course, they find trouble that puts the lives of the crew and colonists in jeopardy.

The plot is so familiar that it is easy to figure out who will die and who will live and the only surprise comes at who will go first. The hero of the film is unsurprisingly a woman named Daniels, played by current “it-girl” Katherine Waterston, who must overcome all odds to save as many as she can and defeat the xenomorphs.

While the film was entertaining and possessing a certain nostalgia for recalling the feel of the first film, it misses in originality and sadly lacks character development. Daniels doesn’t show any growth through the film. We don’t see the “Ripley” moment where she is forced to discover her unknown, never-before-seen inner warrior. The film’s antagonist, David, introduced in Prometheus and played again by Michael Fassbender, is similarly lacking development, though it is not Fassbender’s fault. His alter ego, Walter, shows great development. None of the other characters are there for any reason other than to be Xenomorph chow, which was disappointing because the story hinted at some much needed tension in those characters’ stories that was never realized.

There were one or two scenes where the suspense did build, but sadly, they resolved before hitting the crescendo of panic that a good horror film provides, and real suspense comes from not being able to see the ending; not knowing how the hero will resolve the conflict. This film telegraphed every turn by following the formula set forth by its predecessor. That, coupled with a disappointing ending and a predictable cliff-hanger leaves one bored and definitely not afraid. While it is better than Prometheus, it’s nowhere nearly as scary, suspenseful, or satisfying a film as the original. At best, it’s a “Meh.”

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Ghost Busted in the Shell

Science fiction is a large genre, so large, in fact, that there are sub genres within it. One such niche enjoys a nearly rabid fan base and those devotees refuse to brook any content not in keeping with a narrowly defined parameter for the niche, and that is cyberpunk. In the late 80’s and 90’s, cyberpunk was a growing segment of the Sci Fi phenomenon with its dystopian view of a future where people are fully integrated with technology so that entertainment is had by plugging one’s brain directly into the network. Many cyberpunk movies have enjoyed widespread appeal, such as the Matrix series, while others have fallen flat. One of the more eagerly awaited cinema treatments of a cyberpunk classic is The Ghost in the Shell, and the cyberpunk faithful have resoundingly decried the movie as a failure. Their beef with the film centers more around the casting of Scarlet Johansen as the protagonist, because Johansen is white and the story features an Asian in the role, rather than discussing the real problems with the film, and there are many.

The story centers around a cyborg referred to as “Major” who works for the ministry of security, section 9 in an unnamed future metropolis that looks like a concatenation of Hong Kong, San Francisco,Beijing, New York and any number of other large cities. Major is hot on the trail of a cyber terrorist whom she believes is responsible for the death of her parents and her current condition as a cyborg. During the course of the story, she uncovers a conspiracy that shakes the foundation of her understanding of her identity.

The contrived plot is not a new one and it has been depicted in TV shows and other films several times. The characters are flat and unworthy of empathy and the cinematography is a cacophony of color and light that hurts the eyes and disorients the viewer. The action seems disconnected from the plot and is used just to distract from the otherwise boring and uninspired story.

The one redeeming aspect of this film is Scarlett Johansson, but not for her performance. Johansson’s characterization of Major doesn’t let the viewer into her personal struggle, despite scenes written just for that purpose. She coasts through those scenes, looking confused and detached where one would expect a sharp focus. Her performance was less “Natalia Romanov” and more “Lucy,” with a lot of jumping, running and shooting. The only thing about her performance, and the film in general, that could be construed as positive is the skin tight body suit she wear during combat scenes. The effects of peeling her artificial skin, or detaching her face are interesting, but they’ve been done before. Her nearly perfect physical form, however, is unique and is the only reason to sit through this dismal failure of story telling.

Major’s partner in the film, Batou played by Pilou Asbæk, is the only character that creates a connection with the viewer, but the writers don’t give him enough story. For those who follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he could be excellent casting for Cable in any upcoming X-Men film.

If you are a fan of Scarlett, see it at the matinee, otherwise, wait for cable. It is not worth full admission price at a mainstream theater.

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Weapons of War

The fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Massachusetts ban on so-called assault weapons. The ban is a reactionary piece of legislation designed to make people feel good about doing something in the wake of the horrific December 2012 Sandy Hook Newtown shooting. The language of the ordinance makes broad definitions of what constitutes an “assault weapon,” which has been the bone of contention between gun control proponents and second amendment supporters ever since the incident. Also included in the ordinance is limits magazine capacity.

The court, in ruling in favor of the ban, stated in the opinion that “weapons of war” are not covered by the Second Amendment. This is a gross error of thinking by a panel of liberal judges who clearly do not understand the history of the amendment nor its language.

The second amendment was created by congress to protect Americans’ right to arm themselves in the event of war. This war could come from foreign forces, or from the organized military of a tyrannical regime. The language says this in the first phrase: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” This phrase says militia. It doesn’t say Army, or even organized military. It does not call for the creation of a standing Army. It was written in such a way to state that Americans could unite into militias to defend themselves, and as such need access to arms. This presupposes that the militia would need “weapons of war.”

The Second Amendment was not written to provide Americans the right to have flint-locks, or shotguns, or even bolt-action rifles for use in hunting or even self defense. It was written so that citizens could rise up to defend themselves from the enemy in a time of war, whether that war was a world war or a civil one. This is a fundamental American right. This right is one of the things that separate America from the rest of the world, and make us the envy of other nations.

The single most popular weapon in America.

The single most popular weapon in America.

Gun control advocates claim that putting “common sense” limitations in place is reasonable. The amendment has a word that addresses this thought: infringed. To infringe is “to act so as to limit or undermine.” The language of the amendment says specifically the rights of the people to keep and bear arms shall NOT BE INFRINGED (emphasis mine), meaning shall not be limited. Our rights to possess “weapons of war” cannot be limited. To enact limitations is to violate the Second Amendment. It is plain and simple.

Do people abuse their rights? Of course they do. Do we throw out our rights because of those who abuse them? No, we don’t. In fact, we double down on defending them.

The fourth circuit is wrong in this decision. This is the result of seeding the bench with too many activist liberal judges. This case needs to move on to the Supreme Court AFTER Trump’s pick to replace justice Scalia is sworn in, so it can be reversed and our rights remain protected.

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Going Rogue One

One of the most heated debates raging in Science Fiction fandom is the Star Wars canon, and what is actually included in it. When George Lucas first released Star Wars in 1977, not he, nor the studios anticipated the popularity of the film and no one could have anticipated its longevity and wide ranging appeal. It has spawned three sequels, numerous books, a couple of cartoon series, several video games and three prequels. Each of these additions tells a different story based in the same universe, sometimes using the same characters. The debate rages over which of these additional stories is “real,” and which is entirely outside the main story. Some say that only the movies are canon, while others say everything is. This weekend sees the first cinematic “additional story” to add to the Star Wars Universe and it is going to add fuel to the fire of this debate.

Rogue One tells a story set between the end of Star Wars episode three, “Revenge of the Sith” and before the events of episode four, “A New Hope,” wherein a young girl, the daughter of the man who designed the dreaded Death Star, joins the rebellion to help the alliance get the plans that are the crux of episode four. I need not worry about spoilers inasmuch as everyone who has seen the original Star Wars knows that the rebels do indeed get the plans and destroy the Death Star. Having said that, one might ask why bother to see this movie. Two reasons: Felicity Jones and Darth Vader.

Jones plays Jyn Erso, a loner who saw her mother killed and father enslaved by the empire and grew up under the care of one of the more radical elements of the rebellion, Saw Gerrera played by Forest Whitaker. A reluctant rebel at first, she manages to motivate the rebels into attacking the empire to try to get the plans for the death star to exploit the weakness her father built into it. This is where the debate is going to rage. According to episode four, the alliance didn’t know if there was such a weakness. Leia even mentioned it to Han Solo by saying “I only hope a weakness can be found.” According to the events in Rogue One, they knew there was a weakness.

Jones does a great job of playing the reluctant hero, and she brings the viewer into Jyn’s tortured world and allows us to understand her motivations. We cheer at her victories and weep for her sorrows and we can’t help but think of her as the little sister who we know is in over her head. This is facilitated by the fact that she looks just like a younger Sara Michelle Gellar.

Vader is a bit of a surprise here, because he actually fights better here than he did in Empire Strikes Back. James Earl Jones reprises the role of Vader’s voice while three actors have credit for his actions. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but enough especially at the end when he is pursuing the stolen plans that will eventually lead him to Tatooine.

Several familiar characters enjoy appearances in this film. Of course, Darth Vader has a role, but so does Grand Moff Tarkin played by Peter Cushing’s face digitally stitched onto another actor. Also, princess Leia has a cameo with Carrie Fisher’s younger face digitally stitched onto another actress. The ruffian who roughed up Luke Skywalker in A New Hope makes an appearance as does C3P0 and Artoo.

There is another droid in this film, a reprogrammed imperial service droid is the partner of Jyn’s pilot Cassian Andor. The droid, K-2S0 is voice by Alan Tudyk who gives the droid a quick wit and a bit more humanity than even C3P0, if that is at all possible. As I watched the character’s interaction, I kept saying to myself, ‘that violates the laws of robotics.” But maybe that’s the point.

The film’s weakness is its beginning. Too many scene changes and too many plot threads make it difficult to follow along at first and it threatens to throw the viewer out of the story out of frustration. This is necessary to familiarize the viewer with all the moving parts of this story, since, unlike every other Star Wars movie, there is no text crawl at the beginning to set the stage. Fortunately it does pick up when the main story arc becomes clear.

While this is by far not the best Star Wars film, It isn’t the worst one either. There’s no Jar Jar Binks in this one. While it definitely won’t win an academy award (though it may get a technical nod), Rogue One is an entertaining escapist film. It will defiantly be water cooler discussion fodder for weeks as fan boys debate whether or not or even how it fits in the established Star Wars lore.

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