A Good Reason for Change?

A man looks for a car. He has in his mind an image of what he wants; the type of motor, the body style, the make and model and the color. Most people who go to buy a car have these ideas in mind at the outset. A lot of people are lucky enough to not only find that car that matches their wish list, but at a price that they can afford too.

Others are not so lucky. Oh, they might find a car that checks off a couple of the boxes, but not all. Say it has the motor, but it is a four-door and they wanted a two-door, or, it doesn’t have a sun roof, or it is midnight blue and they had their heart on candy apple red, or they find the perfect car, but it is way too expensive.

What many people in this latter group do is settle. The go ahead and buy the car that comes close to what they want, figuring they will grow to love it anyway. Or maybe they can upgrade the car later on. Say, swap that V-six for a V-eight, or add a sun roof, or maybe just a paint job. If only they could change the car they settled on into the one they wanted in the first place, life would be good.

And there is no problem with that. Really, none.

What is a problem is when we apply that same kind of thinking to our romantic relationships. A woman goes looking for a husband. She has in her mind the perfect mate. She finds one that on first blush seems perfect, but after closer examination, say a few dates, she notices a few things that don’t line up with her expectations. This happens all the time. There is no perfect mate. Everybody has some kind of personality quirk that may vex someone else. So this woman has to decide: accept the quirks and be happy with the aspects of this man that do line up with her wish list, or cast him aside and keep looking. These are two viable and acceptable choices. All too often, however, the woman will get it into her head that if she could change this guy, tweak those pesky attributes into something more in line with her desires, then he would be perfect. And she sets out to do just that.

This is inherently dishonest, both to the man in question and to the woman herself. She is setting herself up for failure. It is not that the man can’t or won’t change. He may, he may not. The failure is that she sets the expectation that he will, which has at its core an inherent deadline that predicates failure. She may not even be consciously aware of it, but in her mind is the thought “if he doesn’t change by this time, I’m out of here.” She may even tell the guy that she wants him to change. He may even say, “Because I love you and I want this to work, I’ll change.” Change doesn’t really work that way.

A compass can change its orientation. By the laws of physics, a compass always points to the magnetic north, no matter how it is held, but place a powerful magnet near the compass, and it will reorient to point to the magnet. It does not do this because it wants to. It does not do this because the magnet asked it to. It does it by simply being in proximity to the magnet. It has no choice. The magnet has no choice. It just happens.

If a man is to change for a woman, he does not do so because the woman asks him to. He does not really do so because he consciously wants to. He simply has no choice. He IS changed merely by being in her presence.

Relationships are hard enough on their own, but to add the effect of an unrealistic expectation of change is to doom the relationship at the start. Better to just deal with the initial disappointment at the onset and move on than to spend years trying to change someone into the perfect mate. Love the one you’re with is the title of a song and it is also a good way to live love. If a person wants someone to change, they don’t really love them. They love the idea of what they could be if they change, and that is not the same thing.

In the end, after spending all the money and time converting the car he settled on into the perfect car, the man ends up spending more than he would have just buying the car he wanted in the first place and either winds up wrecking it, selling it or trading it in anyway. Maybe it’s better just to walk.

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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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In The Nick of Time

It is not often that modern Hollywood makes a movie that forces one to think about the message and engages the audience on a deeper level than thrillers, action fare, or kids’ movies usually achieve. This weekend, Hollywood gave movie goers Arrival starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, and this movie is a fantastic respite from the mindless violence of Jack Reacher, the non-stop action of Doctor Strange, or the brainless giggles of Trolls. Arrival engages the viewer on several levels, each one dependant on the next. The characters are deep, complex beings and how they interact drives a lot of the plot of this mind-bending story. It was a relief to see something on the big screen that forced me to engage more neurons than a film has required since I saw Tree Of Life. This movie is a must see if for no other reason than that.

Twelve alien space ships, shaped like kidney beans, appear suddenly around the world. When there is no communication either from the ship or from the government, people begin to riot. There are no laser battles, no fighter chases and no last minute escapes in this story. The ships just sit there. The world governments try in vain to figure out how to talk to the visitors. Finally, when all else fails, they bring in Louis Banks, a well-respected academic specializing in linguistics. But America is not the only government trying to communicate and Louise and her team must crack the code before other governments decide on a less diplomatic solution.

Amy Adams plays Dr. Banks, the linguist recruited by the government to try to communicate with aliens whose ships mysteriously appeared over twelve locations around the globe. Jeremy Renner is a physicist who runs the lab in which Louise works and Whitaker is Colonel Weber, the officer heading the Montana alien site. Adams is a gem in almost every role she plays. She can seamlessly go from a live action Disney Princess in Enchanted to a whistle-blowing nun in Doubt to Lois Lane in Man of Steel to an emotionally vulnerable linguist and take the viewer along with no questions. Jeremy Renner is a likeable rouge in almost every role he plays. He has a quiet, understated command to his presence that makes one feel comfortable around him and he plays that effectively in his role here. Forest Whitaker is both the benevolent leader and the bureaucratic nemesis for the two doctors who try to figure out the alien language before fear leads to violence.

The only part of the film that might bring viewers some consternation is the very hook of the film: Temporal Mechanics. This story weaves its narrative in a deceptively linear story telling fashion, while back-handedly telling the other story of the film. I thoroughly enjoyed the revelations of the film and was not too stunned to appreciate the creative way the writers and directors tried to slip one by on me. It is not often that I am surprised by a plot twist, so I really appreciate when I encounter one I didn’t see coming. Be advised, though, that the auditorium was so stunned by this one that when the credits started rolling, no one moved for several moments.

Technically speaking, Arrival is not the state of the art. In fact, photorealistic CGI has gotten so commonplace that it is expected to be good. The aliens, one of the more interesting non-humanoid designs I have seen, look as real as made-up aliens can be expected to look. Where the film excels, at least to me, is the language they developed for the aliens. Perhaps it is the literary nerd in me, but I was totally in with Louise as she tried to figure out how the aliens used a three-dimensional form of writing to communicate. Whoever came up with that, should win a technical Oscar.

Arrival is not the typical fast-paced, action-laden Hollywood blockbuster. Nor is it the emotionally draining, pull-at-your-heartstrings drama. This film is an intellectual journey into the human condition. It informs the viewer while revealing a piece of humanity and entertains all at the same time. I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this film, simply because it made me think. If you’re looking for mindless escapist fare, this film will give you a headache. If you want to think about what you’re seeing, run, don’t walk to the theater today and see Arrival.

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Hail to the Chief

Ok, I can admit when I’m wrong. I’ve never had a problem with that. So, here goes. I was wr-wr-wr-wr—wr….ahem….I was wr-wr-wr-wr-wr….(I can do this)…uh, I was….not exactly right. (apologies to the Fonz).

So, Trump won after all. I didn’t expect that. But it’s all good. At least Hillary didn’t win and that was the real issue. All my concerns about her machinations to ensure her presidency are now moot. The good news is that America has a chance to have a conservative justice to replace Scalia and any judges who retire in the next 4 years, which was one of my biggest concerns with a Clinton presidency. That, and with a Republican controlled house and senate, we should have no worries about infringements on our second amendment rights for the next four years.

For these reasons, I am happy.

But now we have the Donald as president. That is…unpredictable. Granted, Obama demonstrated that the presidency can be shackled by a recalcitrant congress, so if Trump goes too far afield, congress should be able to rein him in, but the real concern will be his mouth and how he interacts with world leaders on that stage. He is used to making multinational business deals, but politics is a bit different. Hopefully, he will surround himself with competent advisors to council him on protocols for dealing with politics on a world stage and he won’t embarrass himself or the nation.

To those who bemoan this missed opportunity to have a woman in the Oval Office: please do not take this election as a reaffirmation that America won’t allow a woman to be president. This election merely asserted that America won’t allow Hillary Clinton to be president. By all means, select a more qualified candidate next time. If she is not completely crazy and an elitist, ultra leftist/neosocialist who cannot identify with mainstream America, she has a chance. Having a vagina should NEVER be a criterion upon which a president is chosen. The president should represent his or her constituency, not describe them as deplorable when they do not agree with him or her.

I am glad I was…not exactly right. It means that our election system is not totally corrupted and run completely by the media and businesses (Soros), and that citizens can determine their governance which is as it should be. That, my friends, is democracy in action, even if we don’t agree with the outcome. I was pleasantly surprised as the election results ticked in on my browser last night. I refused to watch the media’s reports as they worked feverishly to predict and direct a Clinton win.

Speaking of the media, they have been lamenting the loss of their golden child all morning, trying to explain Hillary’s loss in terms they can understand. One pundit said it was because many more white voters went to the polls that they anticipated. Another claimed it was “Whitelash” as white voters cast ballots against Obama, rather than for Trump. Really? Now it’s racist? The media spent way too much time and energy trying to sway voters to vote for Hillary, they are having fits trying to figure out how to go on in the wake of the Trump victory. If only there was a way Americans could vote the media out of office, that would be a true victory at the polls.

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The Sweet and the Bitter of Election Day

Tuesday the 8th of November, 2016 will be a bittersweet day for many people in this country, if not the whole world. It is the date that the worst campaign in the history of this country will officially end, which is the sweet part. The bitter part is that it is also the date that we will have elected the person who will no doubt go down in history as one of the worst world leaders ever. It is not because we have been forced against our will to endorse a tyrant, but rather we have degraded the principles of liberty so much that the citizens of this country no longer know any better than to elect people based not on capability, but instead on popularity. Knowledge and logic have been supplanted by feelings.

This is not new to this election cycle, unfortunately. The election of Barack Obama was the first time a president was chosen not because of skill, knowledge, or experience, but rather because of social popularity. Obama was not elected because he was the most capable, he was elected because people thought it was time we had a black man in the White House. This election is another opportunity for the populists who want social justice to ring their bell by not electing the best candidate, but by electing the first woman to the presidency. In fact, it has become the media catch phrase as pundits tout how America will make history by electing Hillary Clinton.

The social justice warriors who gave us affirmative action and hiring quotas are now trying to staff the White House, as if the qualifications for that job are limited to the color of one’s skin or the gender to which they self-identify. A knowledge of history, or law, or economics or anything understood to be a formal education are not even mentioned in the candidate selection process. None of the candidates who ran in either primary touted their academic credentials. Very few of them mentioned their relevant experience. All of them threw out their feelings on the issues about which the media had drummed the populace into a frenzy and batted sound bites around like a litter of puppies fighting over a toy, and we the people watched with similar fascination as we decried the responses that hurt our feelings and shouted along with the ones that echoed our own beliefs.

As a society, we have become so focused on feelings, that real matters that have meaning are relegated to whispers among the like minded, too afraid to speak out in public for fear of being labeled a bigot, racist, misogynist, extremist, leftist, right-wing, birther, libtard. If we cannot discuss the serious matters facing society as a whole, how can we hope to find a leader willing to do it? We can’t. This is why our politicians have become so impotent lately. They are afraid of being on the losing side of legislation being voted on by a public who cannot be counted on to actually learn anything different from their preconceived notions and ideals and who think it is time we had a woman in the White House even if that woman is a proven manipulative, elitist liar who doesn’t even think members of her own party are worthy of consideration.

Clinton said in an interview that she wants to be the president of those who vote for her and those who vote against her. Well, that is as stupid a statement as any candidate has ever made, but nothing more can be expected from someone who has manipulated the system at every turn to ensure her victory in the election, even going so far as to have defrauded the country by negotiating back room deals, including selecting her opponent, to lock in her win, no matter the outcome of the ballot count. When Hillary is announced as the winner (and she will be) understand it will not be because of the ballots cast. It will be because she defrauded an already corrupted process and was validated by a population that wanted a woman—any woman—president. Wednesday morning, there will be no more campaign commercials and no more news time devoted to the campaigns, but we will have someone who will no doubt end up being the worst president in history sitting in the White House. Bittersweet indeed.

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Doctor Strange Casts a Powerful Spell

I never was a big fan of Doctor Strange, until now. Marvel is well into its “Phase 3” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and fans have almost universally loved every one. Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man were long shots that surpassed everyone’s expectations, including mine. This week’s Doctor Strange follows suit.

Benedict Cumberpatch of Star Trek Into Darkness and Sherlock fame plays one of the country’s leading surgeons, Dr. Steven Strange, who through negligence born of his own ego, crashes his car and ruins his hands. Despite several cutting edge medical procedures, he cannot regain the full use of his hands and his career looks like it’s over. Never one to accept failure, he travels to Nepal to seek out a rumored alternative treatment, only to find out it involves mysticism, something his rational mind cannot grasp. Enter Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One, a guru who shows Strange the limits of his mind. He begs to be trained and quickly learns the art and could become one of its masters, if he can only let go of his own demons before he has to combat other worldly ones.

While I have only read a little of the comic title from which this movie is drawn, Cumberpatch is the perfect casting both physically and stylistically for the character. He is clearly one of the best actors of his age and he delivers a flawless performance as the nascent sorcerer, destined to save the world. As Dr. Strange learns to accept his injuries and work around them, the viewer gets a real sense of the loss and acceptance through Cumberpatch’s portrayal. And as he learns more of the art, his confidence grows and becomes more obvious in each interaction (read fight) with the bad guys.

Rachel McAdams plays Christine, Strange’s erstwhile love interest who serves to keep the sorcerer grounded while he deals with the astral plane. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, a sorcerer who helps Strange learn the arts and combat the bad guys and Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, the evil sorcerer bent on destroying the world.

The action is not overdone and just enough to keep the viewers riveted in their seats while the outstanding cast develops a fine plot with enough drama to emote and the occasional gut wrenching laugh Marvel is famous for.

The special effects in this film are gut wrenching, in that as the characters alter reality, they change the orientation of the world to suit their needs. Vertigo is a real risk here, especially if one sees the 3-D version, which I fully recommend. No film since Avatar is as good in 3-D as this one.

I put Doctor Strange into the top three of MCU titles, alongside Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Civil War. This is a must see even if it wasn’t critical to setting up next year’s Avengers: Infinity War (which it is, by the way). Go see it and not only that, spring for the 3-D, and that is a recommendation I have never given.

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