Her-r-r-r-e’s Negan!

Ann Ghoulter - Super-Sized

No, this is not Negan!

Well, season 6 of The Walking Dead played last night and things went about as I expected. That’s right, I said things went about as I expected as far as the cliffhanger goes – and the infantile bitching that went on afterwards on the internet. I read the comic, so I’ve known for a long time what happens and who dies, not that it will play out the same way on the TV show. But, because I feel like it needs to be said, GLENN dies in the comic!! Negan takes Lucille and gives ol’ Glenn the Irreversible fire extinguisher treatment. (Watch the movie if you don’t know what I mean. There are scenes in it that will burn in your memory). There! Deal with it!

And because I think the whiners need some conspiracy theory about who dies in the TV version, how about Norman Reedus, since he’s getting his own Guy Fieri-type show a la Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that will involve motorcycle culture. Could that be a bone AMC threw at him for killing him off? Before any noses get out of joint over this, no, I don’t believe that either, nor do I care about anything to do with people who ride Harleys and wish they were Sam Elliot. “The Dude abides.”

But, seriously, I have never seen such a bunch of whiny, self-entitled, bitches as I saw last night complaining about how Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple ended the season. If you think The Walking Dead is boring, you either have never read the comic and don’t understand the pacing of the story, will accept nothing less than instant gratification (fuck storytelling!), or have ADHD. Whatever the case, you need to watch something else and STFU.

And for those who think a cliffhanger ending was some kind of “gimmick”, oh, so sorry you weren’t good enough or brave enough or ambitious enough to get your own spot at the writer’s table. Whining is so much easier, right? And it takes much less talent (practically non-existent!). There is no way the fanboys were going to be pleased, no matter how the season ended: it was either end the show as it was last night and listen to the bitching or show who got killed and listen to the bitching. So what did Kirkman and Gimple do? Whatever they wanted to move the story along as they saw fit. After all, Robert Kirkman CREATED the comic, so he’s entitled to do that.

A word of advice to those who still need the diaper change: it’s a good show – one of the best shows on television right now – and the comic leads where the show goes. Enjoy it and be grateful that you have it.

A Novus Incipit Annus

Unlike those who refuse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their many sins and transgressions, I recognize that nothing exists in a bubble; every circumstance we deal with today was affected by previous events in some way.  For whatever failings Obama may possess, he hardly came into his presidency with a clean slate – no one ever does.  A new year does not eliminate the previous year, there is only the changing of numbers.  There are celebrations of hope for the new year and my hope is that we finally get serious about what we, as a nation, are doing.

I had the mixed pleasure of travelling back to my home of origin and spending a few days with my father and stepmother during Christmas vacation.  My father was a biology professor, long retired now, and the opportunities to see him in relatively good health are naturally coming to a close.  We invariably talk politics, he an old George Wallace-democrat, now Republican; I, a left-leaning don’t-bullshit-me anti-Republican.  Our conversations are ofttimes civil, but they can get heated.  What I didn’t expect, on this Christmas holiday, was to be yelling at my father because of obvious Republican chicanery.  Our topic was one I covered over three years ago.  Here’s how it went down:

My father, stepmother, and I were discussing varying aspects of Washington politics and I tried to not let some of the ignorance light a fuse in me because I understand from where that ignorance comes.  My father was born in Mississippi in 1927.  He is Old South.  He thinks derogatory jokes about black people are funny – because they are derogatory, not because they are funny.  My father is rarely funny.  For all his education, my father is a bigot and it serves no purpose to deny  that.  That’s not to say he is a sheet-wearing, cross-burning yahoo, but the racism is there.  He recognizes achievement and little else.  He is not against people of lower economic situations getting opportunities, but he is against affirmative action.  His answer to reconcile this would likely be “work harder”.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not.  I believe the reason for affirmative action to exist at all is that too often working “harder” was not working.  Perhaps you have a clearer picture of him now.

After I had explained my position on the uselessness of term limits in a party-politics system and that the reason the presidential term is limited is because of FDR’s ability to appoint eight of the nine Supreme Court justices before his death, my stepmother went off to do something else.  My father now had his opportunity to set me straight about Obama.  I don’t know why he has an affinity to world almanacs, but he dug one up and turned to the entry for Obama.  He sat on a footrest in front of me and showed me the book and I saw that many things had been underlined.  I heard the quick intake of air and the stern timbre in my father’s voice as he muttered in low tones, “First, he was not born in this country…”

“What!?” I cried.  I was incredulous.  The fuse was lit, but I tried to delay the detonation by calmly replying, “The State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”  I smirked and turned my attention back to the almanac.

My father was halted and sputtered, “He hasn’t proven he was born there.”

“You’re welcome to your opinion, but the State of Hawaii would disagree with you.”

“Well, then, they’re liars!”  This was usual for him when arguing from weakness or simply to hear the sound of his own voice.  But my fuse was short and detonation was imminent. I had had enough of this crap.

“Well, you just go ahead and toss out the facts you don’t like and make up your own and you can live in that little reality – but that’s insane!”  He fell to an uncertain silence, perhaps shocked that I may have been accusing him of being insane.

I stood up.  “I didn’t vote for Obama and don’t particularly like what he’s done, but I’m tired of this nonsense.  Is this about that PDF file of his certificate that people were saying was faked?”  I looked down on him with a nasty jut in my jaw.  “Because if it is, that is BULLSHIT!”

My father’s expression was blank and the fire he had been summoning in his rant was extinguished in meekness.  “I don’t know.”  Not exactly the answer I was expecting.

I began pacing and my father returned to his seat across the room.  “I am tired of reading about this and watching people on television prattle on about this because what they are saying is BULLSHIT!  Is this about that Orly Taitz garbage?”

“I don’t know know who that is.”

“She’s one of ‘em.  Fox News will trot these people out all day long and they are liars and they have agendas!”  Fox News, surprise!, is watched with interest in that household because, as my stepmother says, “They respect the troops.”  Of course they do.

“Who signed his birth certificate?” My father continued.

“I don’t know,” I groaned, “I don’t have the thing with me.”

“I haven’t seen it.”  This may have been my father’s way of trying to turn the conversation back to a “conversation”, but the topic was too far gone and way too stupid by now.

“Well, I have a copy of it and I know more about how that file works than any of those clowns!  And Donald Trump said he had guys over there and he was going to show evidence.  Well, he never did!  You know, why?  Because it was bullshit!  There was nothing to show!”

I couldn’t let it go without one more point to make:  “These are the same people who accuse Obama of being a Muslim without acknowledging that a Muslim can be president.”

“I know they can be,” was his subdued reply.

My father really had little else to say for the rest of the night.  Whatever other tripe had been force-fed into his brain by the Fox propaganda machine would be internalized until it was safe to spew again, out of my presence.  I am under no illusions that I can change his mind, but he raised us to educate ourselves about things and that is what bothers me the most about this conversation.  My father is a man of science, an educator and PHd, and he allows his own bigotry to take for truth the lies that are part of the Obama smear campaign.  He demanded no proof, no evidence, and didn’t even think to research the topic for himself to be better informed.  I am seriously disappointed in him.  Above all, I trusted he valued knowledge over all else.  He failed that trust on a Christmas holiday.

Accepting the System

I’ve played plenty of online games (as have most people who have computers).  I find it strange that we play games that offer different levels of “difficulty” and we don’t think twice about it.  Solitaire is the game that got me thinking about this.  Solitaire is Solitaire – 52 cards, win by stacking in numerical order by suit, everybody knows the game.  So how, exactly, does a computer game add difficulty levels to such a simple game?  Whether you play with a 3-card draw or a one-card draw, it’s 52 cards.  The answer is that the computer program alters the probability numbers – in other words, the games are rigged – and we seem just fine with that.  There is no such thing as a more difficult game of Solitaire than another without an overt change in the rules.  But that’s not what’s happening here; this is a deliberate alteration to make a game unfair and call that “difficult”.

This is what we’ve come to accept in today’s world as the norm.  How many of us actually understand what goes on in the computer world where we can say that our online transactions are safe?  More and more, we put our financial lives and our personal privacy at stake through online activity and we trust nameless and faceless entities to protect us, never knowing that they may be the first link in a long line of betrayal – and we wouldn’t know the difference.   It’s not so unlike the games: we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t seem to want to be bothered with demanding better.  Have we become so collectively incurious that positing the questions concerning corruption or legal parlor tricks is asking more of ourselves than will ever happen?  After Assange and Snowden how do we know that anything has really changed… because somebody said it did?

How many other systems do we take for granted and just accept?  How many are rigged against us?  Is it too late to fix it?

Confessions

I took a hiatus from writing on this blog, not because I am tired of writing nonsense, but I am getting very tired of writing about nonsense; unfortunately, there is plenty of that to write about.  The stream of stupidity from the Republican “adults” seems endless and it just isn’t worth the effort to talk about while those who are getting paid to do it (Jon Stewart, et al) are doing a rather clever job with it.  But while we have a major reckoning with the Confederate flag (again), it’s time for a little truth-telling – about the flag and about myself.  I’ll tell on myself first.

There was a time, when I was in my early twenties, that I wore a Confederate flag on a jacket that I frequently wore.  I didn’t wear it because of any racial animosity or anything other than as a “Southern” thing from someone who grew up in Alabama.  There truly was no more thinking into it than that, that is to say, there was no real thinking going on about that flag at all.  I was finally forced into thinking about it one night as a black man I worked with, a Marine who went by the name of “Slash”, asked me about it.

“Montgomery, you’re a really good guy and I just can’t figure out why you wear that damn Confederate flag patch.”

“Well,” came the feeble reply, “I’m from Alabama, you know, I grew up in the South.”  Yes, it rings just as stupid and hollow in my ears today as it likely reads for you.

“Well, so am I! I’m from Alabama, too!”

If I had a reply to that, I don’t recall what it was.  What I do remember is Slash saying something along the lines of “think about it”.  I did.  That night, after coming to some conclusions about the flag, I took that patch off and refused to make any rationalizations about it since.

The rationalizations that surround the Confederate flag have to do with “heritage”.  Well, that’s all well and good if you’re a white Southerner who doesn’t think that holding slaves in a country that made the pretense to freedom and liberty is hypocritical.  If you happened to be a descendant of those who suffered under such a myopic society, your views of such a heritage might feel a bit differently.  Regardless, the flag has nothing to do with “heritage”, it is straight up bigotry.  The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups didn’t adopt the Confederate battle flag by accident – they know what it means and what kind of a culture supported its cause.

Honoring one’s ancestors has a curious quality about it: those who are ostensibly being “honored” don’t know anyone is doing it; they’re dead.  Ultimately, the recognition is on display for the living to view.  What must be “honored” is the act of defending one’s home against the invaders.  Well, why were the invaders invading?  Could it be that the Confederacy declared war on the United States and fired the first shot of the war?  They did this in the name of secession, something the U.S. Constitution did not expressly give them the ability to do.  Then the defenders of flag and heritage will have to begin to lie so to perform the mental gymnastics inherent in defending the flag while disassociating it from the cause of the war.  They will tell you that the war was not about slavery, and maybe they are correct in a very technical sense – the war was for secession– but all paths lead to the driver of the economic engine of the agrarian South: slavery.  One only needs to look at the articles of secession issued by various states and the Confederate Constitution, where the rights of slaveholders were declared and protected, to see the lie.  There is no doubt that the South feared the loss of slavery and viewed secession as the remedy to maintain the institution.  There are no lies to tell, no diversions to employ, that can undo this truth.

Yet, there will be those who will continue to try to hide the truth.  I can only hope that a portion of those will have a similar experience as I did and stop and think about what that flag really means.  Maybe that portion aren’t really bigots, they’re just, as was true for me, unthinking.  I had the courage to admit my mistake and I changed.  Change is coming and it is good.

The Force Binds the Universe Together … and Goes to Sleep?

I let the dust settle a bit on the teaser trailer for Star Wars – The Force Awakens that had fanboys and haters all geeked out over the weekend. I have watched the offering from the new Sith Lord of the Star Wars Universe and, as you might expect, if you read my previous thoughts on J.J. Abrams’ misuse of lens flares, I was going to be hard to impress. I was and still am. J.J. has his work cut out for him if this trailer is a sample of things to come.

Star Wars means more to me as a movie fan. I was never much of a Star Trek fan because Shatner’s overacting was obvious even to my kidself and Kirk was too much of an asshole that even Spock’s ears couldn’t save it for me – but I did like the phaser beams. (Maybe the effects are what today’s filmmakers are taking from their childhood memories). But Star Wars had a different feel to it. The universe of Luke Skywalker and company wasn’t antiseptic the way Star Trek seemed to be: the ships were dirty, the people seemed to be more than character cut-outs (although the stormtroopers could vie with the red shirts as to who were more useless and expendable), and the world just seemed to be more than a Hollywood casting call for stuntpeople and actors in hokey makeup. Star Trek, in all its incarnations started off as “exploring new worlds” and eventually devolved into some form of militaristic crapola while Star Wars made no such pretensions.

But the thing that made Star Wars such a financial success was ultimately the siren’s song of Lucas’ undoing: merchandising. It became rather apparent during the Return of the Jedi days that some things (cough, cough, Ewoks, cough, cough) existed only as things to be merchandised because they sucked as story elements. Star Wars has always been susceptible to the putting in “fanboy-cool” things that are really bad ideas, AT-AT’s, for example. As “cool” as the sheer size and threatening nature of those things may be, if you can fly, why would you design something so ridiculously inept? The Star Wars franchise has a lot of this type of faulty thinking running throughout it and I shudder to think what horrors are to come because of “cool” and merchandising.

The funny thing is that a fan video was put out that fooled some media outlets into believing it was the real release. After seeing the real thing, the similarities are a bit disconcerting. Maybe there have been too many productions, such as Troops, focusing on the stormtroopers in a Cops parody, that are made with enough professionalism in shooting and editing that someone can wade through the myriad of material available and cobble together a respectable fake because the real release looks like a fan film! The moment John Boyega popped up into frame, the feeling of yuk hit me because it looked amateurish, unpolished. And then there was Daisy Ridley riding what looked like a part from an old television set with an ability to suspend and propel itself even more improbable than Luke’s landspeeder or the pod racers. I won’t even comment on the rolling ball thing. A lightsaber springs to life in the dark – with a laser handguard? Folks who are deeply into Stars Wars lore probably have a name for these devices, but I have one, too: crap.

I did like the shot of the X-Wings flying over the water just to capture the sense of speed, but overall, the thing could have been spliced together from previous films and video game cut-scenes and held up just as well. Of course, in an obvious attempt to utilize the 3-D technology, the Millennium Falcon spins and whirls through the air because who can make a movie nowadays without bilking the public through the eyesore of 3-D? Afterwards, a couple of TIE fighters narrowly miss the Falcon and take a few shots which begs the question, if the TIE fighters were gunning for the Falcon anyway, why weren’t they shooting at it when it was helpless in its ridiculous aerobatics demonstration? Ah, but there I go infusing some sense into the discussion.

I guess the point of all this is that, sure, the teaser “teased” people and the hype builds – just as it did with the prequels. We don’t need to go through that again!

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?
The dark side…  and the light.

Even for a trailer, that’s pretty stinky writing.  I’m not looking for more of the original, I just want something good and a hell of a lot better than the prequels!

And then there are the lens flares… oh, god… the lens flares…

Heyba, Mamby, Who Be Raybbin?

You’re travelling through social media, a dimension of insinuation, of gossip, of unprovable nonsense; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of agendas and biases and a willingness to accept things at face value. At the allegations up ahead, you’ve entered The Prattling Zone.

Some random stand-up comic said something about Bill Cosby and the internet blew up.  Yep, Bill Cosby. The Coz. Fat Albert. The black-youth-need-to-get-off-their-asses man. Shall we add “Serial Rapist” to his resumé? With thirteen (and counting) women coming forward to tell similar sordid tales of roofies, and ‘ludes, and unwanted advances, The Court of Public Opinion™ is having a field day while the Department of Due Process and Innocent Until Proven Guilty™ is struggling under the weight of circumstantial evidence that will never be tried in real court. What is one, who cannot escape the inescapable news feeds, to do except see this for what it is? And what is it? Empty.

My wife thinks I’m victim-shaming or “-blaming” or some other type of “-aming”, but that’s not it at all. I fully realize that slipping a woman a mickey to get into her pants is not the thing to do and to downplay that is inexcusable; I mean, duh! But at what point are we allowed to demand that people take responsibility for their own actions? It’s not like Cosby was accused of slipping something into a drink in every instance, some of the women say that they were handed the pills and told to take them. Why did they? A bad decision is a bad decision, whether you are star-struck or not. And some of these women continued to associate with Cosby after the incidents they describe as “rape”. (If you want a blow-by-blow account of their accusations, this is not the venue for that.)  It’s not that I don’t believe their stories, it’s just that taking into account the entire relationship with some of these women makes their accusations harder to accept… and after more than thirty years. I’m sorry, I just like things to make better sense than what I see here.

For one woman, money was enough, as there was a civil case brought against Cosby which was settled out of court and, also, in which many of these same women were prepared to testify but never got the chance. If they were ready to testify, why didn’t they strike when the iron was hot? The rationale of “no one would have believed me” or “it was harder for women then” may have some merit, but at some point, those wear thin especially in light that Cosby had just settled a case and there was a potential line-up ready to hit him with suits again and again. Yet, only when one woman broke her silence more than thirty years later did they come forth. It didn’t have to be this way and that’s what frustrates me about the way they handled this violation of their persons.  All because some random stand-up comic said something and a video went viral.

Is this a catharsis for them? In most cases, very likely. I can’t say that I even have the mechanism to relate.  But what is the difference when many people today won’t believe them or suspect their motives from when it was “harder for women” at the time of the assaults? The very fact that they waited in silence for so many years hurts their case as much as anything Cosby could say in rebuttal – if he was saying much at all. He’s all lawyered up and this will all come to nothing. Perhaps that is the most aggravating thing of all.

I like justice. I like to know that when someone has been victimized, their offenders will be brought to justice and properly punished. That’s not going to happen here. Whether the stories of the women are true or not will never be tested; the statute of limitations has run out. What does that say about our system of justice? If this crime happened, isn’t it in the interest of society that the facts of this are examined rather than put them to an arbitrary timetable that an offender only has to wait out? Yet the crime of rape can be dismissed after a certain length of time even if the mental scars will survive a lifetime. Where is justice?

I suppose an argument can be made that there is no evidence, so any type of trial will have little more value than the decrees already handed down with impunity from the self-appointed and faceless arbiters of guilt and innocence who, of course, can see these things more clearly from their vantage point on the internet than those folk from the Department of Due Process. But there are more sins to go around than just the ones’ Mr. Cosby committed – allegedly (Gah, I hate that.) What other sins, you may ask? Why, the women who were violated didn’t speak up, so they allowed this predator to continue to do what he was doing and the only means for warning off potential victims was the comedy circuit grapevine. That worked really well, didn’t it? Some, doubtless, felt intimidated to say anything against a celebrity, but some were also thinking of their careers in their silence. Yes, maybe they were raped, but their inaction assured that others were in danger, as well. Courage thirty years after the fact doesn’t look much like courage to me.

I have no particular regard for Cosby; I didn’t watch his show and his comedy is definitely a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for me. The Fat Albert cartoon was pretty unwatchable and the Jell-O commercials were just a dirty joke waiting to happen. I am not defending him, but I am defending the idea that an accusation has to carry the burden of proof and a mob of voices speaking in concert is not proof. Because with every subsequent woman who comes out against Cosby is another who said nothing and did nothing when action would have meant a hell of a lot more. What can possibly happen as a result of all this? I want more than internet noise. I want proof and there is nothing. I want justice for victimized women and there is nothing. I want a justice system that says a crime is a crime and the passage of time does not change that. Short of a miracle or a crisis of conscience, all the angst will amount to little more than yet another empty media event… and some random stand-up comic got his 15 minutes of fame.

The Death of Honey Boo-Boo

I never had occasion to watch the show – basically because I dumped my cable TV – but I have longed for the day when Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo would be given the axe. What little I know about the show is that the mother looks like that hog Clint Eastwood was wrestling in Unforgiven and that, in this family, ketchup is supposed to pass for spaghetti sauce, or as they called it “sketti”. I don’t know what part of the country they are from, but if stereotypes have any basis in truth whatsoever, this family reeks of Southern white trash. Is that judgmental enough for you? Of course, the circumstance for the show’s cancellation, which I won’t get into here, was unexpected, but it gives some credence to the way I view this sorry scene. In reality, I just don’t care about them but I do care about why they even crossed this country’s consciousness.

This is the crux of why I interrupted the other things I’m tending to for this ill-tended blog: has anybody responsible for “reality” television smartened up at all? The only thing that is “real” about reality television is that it focuses on the broken and dysfunctional in our society – and it’s cheap to make (that’s a biggie!). It’s not enough that there are people who hoard things because they are emotionally disturbed individuals, but let’s drag their crap out for all to see and entertain ourselves under the auspices of “helping them”. It’s not enough that there are little girls aspiring to be dancers, no, “reality television” has to inject some garbage-mouthed, ill-mannered heifer and throw a lot of manufactured outrage on top of it all. And the list of pure shit-for-television-programming goes on and on. Why has “The Learning Channel” become “TLC” and descended into showing the most despicable examples of human behavior? Why has A&E, Discovery, SyFy, Bravo, and many others become nearly exactly the same with little to recommend a difference, much less anything with intelligence? Have we become so insecure, so narcissistic, and so voyeuristic that we watch this shit-pile of schadenfreude to make ourselves feel good about ourselves? In the race for ratings, it’s been a race to the bottom of decency and “reality” television has mired itself in inequity and stupidity and bullshit. Who could be surprised that they finally stumbled across a sexual predator in the muck? Idiots.

A creative partner and I worked on a scripted television project and my partner presented it to a producer/creator of many of these shit shows purely for the purpose of using his connections or funding to move the project along. Well, it didn’t go anywhere as my partner got the sense that this producer didn’t have the juice to see a project such as ours through. His conclusion was that this guy was a one-trick pony and his trick was producing shit “reality” shows. Color me not surprised.

I hate the FCC, the Comics Code, the Hays Commission, the MPAA ratings system, and pretty much any other means of censorship, historical or current, where somebody thinks they know better than me what I should be allowed to watch, read, or say, but damn it, people, when do we start demanding some quality out of these braindead fucks? They don’t seem capable of doing anything other than chase ratings and we have shit television because of that. Is it enough to boycott advertisers or is that just an improbable quick-fix for short-term problems?

Hell, Alton Brown admitted that part of the reason he ended his excellent show Good Eats was because he could see the writing on the wall that the days of recipe shows was drawing to a close to be replaced by competition shows and DAMN I hate those shows! Everybody does them now! Everything has to be a competition; somebody has to be better than somebody else! Just stop the crap!

When the aim of your business is making money, you’ll sell whatever sells. You don’t have to care about the product as long as it sells and you don’t get sued. It’s well known that television is a business to make money. It’s also painfully obvious they don’t give a shit about what they’re selling.