Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Women who aren't repulsive

I've never been very good at most forms of generic guy talk. I don't know anything about sports, and all I know about cars is how to drive one, how to put gas in it, and how to change a tire. I suppose that beer is a manly thing to talk about, but there's only so much you can talk about unless the other guy is a beer-geek like me. There's one other thing that I've never been very good at, and that's talking about women.

At many of the jobs I've worked, I've had to listen to men engage in the form of guy talk where they discuss some woman's attributes and/or defects. Generally speaking, I never feel comfortable with this, as many of my comments consist of "yeah" and "yup" and maybe an "uh huh". I suppose I'd try every now and then, but it always feels pretty phony when I do it. I mean, I like women. I like them so much that I even went and married one. Still, I don't feel that it's necessary to point out the things that I like about each one of them. I mean, I can look and enjoy without feeling the need to share it with everybody else. And as far as criticizing the way they look, well, that's just pretty shallow and says more about the person saying it than it does anything else. (And no, I'm not totally innocent of this, but you can probably count on one hand the number of times I've done it in my adult life.)

This, I guess, will be my attempt to do this particular form of guy talk in a somewhat unconventional way. Obviously, aside from blogging about it, I think that my comments will be different from what you hear on the average construction site. (And I've worked on construction sites, and they live up to their reputation - although they're not the only places where you hear that kind of stuff.)

Now, I'm not going to write about any actual women that I do know, mainly because that would be awkward for any of them, I'd imagine. Plus, if I were to include women that I know, then obviously my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world, and all other women in comparison are twisted, hideous, Medusa-esque wretches that fell of the ugly tree, hit every branch on the way down until they fell into a pile of poo from the ugliest dog that ever lived. So, this will be strictly limited to celebrities, and if my wife ever becomes famous, then she will be the only one on this list.

For starters, I'd like to address the women that Joe Six Pack can't seem to get enough of. Right now, there's this Megan Fox who many guys can't shut up about. Is she pretty? Sure. I don't know though - there just isn't anything about her that really gets me excited. I guess she just seems to be too much of a blank slate - perhaps her role in the Jonah Hex movie might get me to change my mind. The other one that men all seem to be required to like is Angelina Jolie. Honestly, I've never understood this one. There are times, I'll admit, when I've seen her in interviews and she's downright...well...forgive this word...lovely, but I just think that too much of a big deal is made out of her. It's like some committee got together and decided that she's beautiful, and all the men in the world had to agree to it while I was taking a nap or something. I'm not going to go into what I don't like about her, because as I stated before, that's pretty shallow, so I'll just let it end there.

As I'm thinking about the women I want to put on this list, there seems to be something that quite a few of them have in common - my wife has yelled (I exaggerate) at me for the look on my face when they come on the screen. Also, I'm surprised as to how fair-haired most of them are, as I figured myself more of a fan of women with really dark, even black, hair. Maybe those ones are just slipping my mind right now. Okay, here we go:

Naomi Watts - Kirsti commented when we watched King Kong that the film had a lot of drawn-out shots of her face. My instant reaction? "There's nothing wrong with that!" What can I say? As far as I'm concerned, they could make a two-hour movie of nothing but Naomi Watts close-ups and I'd watch it. She has this unique mixture of being both cute AND beautiful at the same time. I also think the fact that she's really talented helps, and I have yet to see a performance from her where she wasn't good. Another favorite of mine with her is 21 Grams, and she hardly gets the beauty-queen treatment in that one like she does in Kong, but she still looks really good.

Kristen Wiig - I don't know if she's been included on any "hottest women" lists. Not that she's unattractive, but I can't imagine that she immediately springs to mind when one thinks of these sorts of things - except for me, of course. I think that she's still a regular on Saturday Night Live, and when I still watched it, I pretty much always liked her. For me, the reason why she deserves to be on this is that she's funny. She's already cute, but her personality is what does it for me. My favorite thing she does is on the extended edition of Forgetting Sarah Marshall where she plays the Yoga instructor. There's this moment when she crinkles up her nose when she's talking that's just plain wonderful. Also, she does really good impressions, and for some weird reason, that does a lot for me. (By the way, my wife is really good at impressions, and yes, it's one of the many reasons why I love her.)

Jenna Fischer - Okay, I know that I'm not the only guy in the world who feels this way about her. She's the cute girl who sat next to you in high school that all the guys liked, but since she's not generically pretty, she has no clue as to how attractive she is. Just like Kristen Wiig though, she has personality and she's really funny. She's really awesome at understated humor, and it's not really so much what she says, but HOW she says it and the look that she has on her face.

Evangeline Lilly - I'm thinking that with the exception of possibly Naomi Watts, I guess I'm just a fan of the girl-next-door look, and it's better when a woman doesn't look flawless. (I think that's why Megan Fox isn't doing anything for me - maybe if her nose was a little crooked or something. Speaking of crooked noses, I like that woman who hosts So You Think You Can Dance and her imperfect nose is her best feature.) The character Sawyer always calls Lilly's character "Freckles". Good call. I never understood why so many women cover their freckles with makeup. I'm with Sawyer on that one. I wonder if she can do comedy...hmmm...

Kristin Davis - I'll admit it; I genuinely like Sex and the City. I think that it's a well-written show with interesting characters. Now, while Charlotte, personality-wise, isn't my favorite (that would be Miranda) she definitely is my favorite in the sense that she's the only one my wife yelled at me regarding that look on my face when she came on the screen. Not only is she cute, but she's in her early forties and doesn't seem to be losing it. (Maybe she's had work done - if so, I can't tell.)

I guess I'm going to end this with five even though about five more just popped into my head. After all, I put five men on my man-crush list, so I suppose that if I'm heterosexual, this should be an even easier list to do. Maybe now my wife won't worry that I'm gay. She'll just make me sleep on the couch for even suggesting that any other woman could possibly be even remotely attractive. Ha ha ha ha!!! My wife would never do that! Right, Kirsti? Right? Ummm...right?

Where are the extra blankets?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Racism, Robots and Gungans

While I never wrote about my concerns at the time, I have to say that I saw the whole flap about supposed racism in the new Transformers movie coming. You haven't heard about this? Check it out here.

I remember seeing the quick clip of the two characters in question, Mudflap and Skids, in one of the later preview trailers for the film. It was a quick bit where they confessed that they don't know how to read. And I don't know a better way to put this, but they sounded...well, "black." I hate using that term for it because I know that there are plenty of black people who don't talk like that. How about "stereotypical black"? That's a little more like it. I also remember thinking that there was something about their faces that seemed a little caricature-like, reminding me a bit of some of the Jim Crow era caricatures of African Americans. Now, I'm willing to admit that my memory might have been adjusted a bit to fit their faces with their voices, but I've read more than once that one of them has a gold tooth, so perhaps it's not me. I've tried doing an image search on the characters, but they're all full-body shots, and just like all of Bay's Transformers, I can't even make heads or tails of what I'm looking at there.

As anybody who reads my blog knows, I have no intention of seeing this movie. Therefore, I'm not going to say that it's racist, as I don't really know the whole story. However, from what I've read, these two characters exist only for some moments of comic relief, and then they don't really have anything else to do with the "story". Maybe there's more to it though.

Of course, the comparison in the media that's being drawn is the whole flak over Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace. I always thought that was pretty overblown myself. There are plenty of problems with the character - the chief of them being that he's supposed to be comic relief but pretty much all of the jokes involving him fall totally flat, which simply makes him more annoying than anything else. (Although he's nowhere near as offensive as the "romantic" dialogue in Attack of the Clones.)

I remember people saying that he sounded Jamaican. I suppose that he does, if you never actually paid attention to how Jamaican people speak. The actor, Ahmed Best, is of heritage, and a few words and mannerisms were probably influenced by that. Still, when I look at Jar Jar, who's an orange amphibian, the first thing that comes to my mind is definitely not a black person. But let's just go along with the argument that he's a Caribbean stereotype, and it's offensive that he was portrayed as being dumb and clumsy. Okay, fine, but ALL of the Gungans spoke that way, and they built an underwater city! Not only that, but the rest of them were portrayed as capable and brave warriors. So, if Gungans are a comment on the Jamaican people, then the message is that they're technologically advanced warriors. Ummm...okay.

Of course, there were other things about The Phantom Menace that people liked to point out as being supposedly racist. Apparently the character Watto was either Jewish, Arabic, or Italian depending on who was making the criticism, and considering that people couldn't make up their minds as to which one it was, I think we can dismiss that one. I also remember a coworker at the time of the movie's release saying that the Nemoidians were "stereotypes of Asian businessmen." I'm sorry, but if you see Asian businessmen with those green characters (who have very WIDE eyes, I might add) then that says more about you than it does about them.

This is why I don't want to call "racism!" on the new movie. As with The Phantom Menace, the proper context might shed a new light on all of that. Perhaps they do some brave admirable thing in the movie. Maybe they actually CAN read. Maybe they're like that character in East of Eden who pretends to only know broken English but is actually pretty articulate. (I haven't read the book since high school - give me a break if I'm totally off-base with that one.)

I'd also like to point out that I don't even have a problem with the notion Transformers having the voices of what's pretty obviously a black actor. After all, the original cartoon series had Jazz and Blaster, from what I recall. Of course, neither of them were used as a comic foil, and they were just as smart and capable as all of the other Autobots. The explanation for their particular way of talking was that they had fallen in love with certain aspects of Earth's culture, and their manner of speech reflected that. I suppose if anything, that idea celebrates black culture more than anything.

I don't know about Michael Bay's version, but I do know that he has a way of dumbing things down. Let's hope that these accusations of racism are misguided. After all, there are plenty of other reasons not to support that movie.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Can we be honest about the King of Pop?

It's doubtful that I'll be able to say anything regarding Michael Jackson that hasn't already been said, but I'm going to give it a go anyway.

I'm not sure when the first time I was when I saw Michael Jackson, but I do have a lot of memories of him from when I was a little kid. I remember seeing him moonwalk and being amazed. I remember seeing the "Billy Jean" video where things would light up around him. Of course, I also remember the "Beat It" video. Now, I didn't have MTV when I was a kid, so I must have seen these on Solid Gold when they'd show music videos.

Oh, and I'll embarrass myself enough to admit that I got really scared when I first saw the "Thriller" video. I remember that quite distinctly, as we were at my uncle's house and we were watching a show called "Friday Night Videos." When he turned into a werewolf, that scared the bejeezus out of me. (What can I say? I had a very active imagination, and I honestly believed that scary things were "demonized". Thank the Jehovah's Witnesses for making me such a wuss when I was a kid.)

I'll also never forget when a radio station played both his Off the Wall and Thriller albums in their entirety. I had my mono tape recorder where I made my own copy that I'd listen to over and over again, despite the fact that the reception was really bad, and you could hear snippets of other stations randomly interspersed throughout the songs.

For some reason, when I was in about third or fourth grade, I arbitrarily decided that I didn't like Michael Jackson anymore. I hate to admit it, but it probably was due to the fact that most of the kids at school didn't like him for some reason or another. Go figure.

Yeah, so that means that I really missed the boat when Bad and Dangerous albums came out. When I hear most of his now (along with his stuff with the Jackson 5) I realize that it's really pop music at its best - catchy but not dumbed down. However, when I got into my later teen years and early twenties, I think that my dislike of Michael Jackson was a little bit more justified.

Let's face it, the man became a joke. I'm not even going to go into the child-abuse stuff, even though I have some pretty strong feelings about that. I'm just talking about his artistic career. Every time you'd see the guy on TV, he'd always be lip-syncing. I remember him on some awards show where he simply lip-synced a medley of his greatest hits and did his tired-old crotch-grabbing and moonwalking. (The effect had worn off on me.) What's worse, when they interviewed people about his performance afterwards, people kept talking about how "great" it was. However, I specifically remember Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins pointing out what a joke it was, saying something along the lines of how he couldn't understand how people could call that great.

I honestly don't recall any of his post-Dangerous stuff. I looked him up on Wikipedia, and I vaguely remember the video for "Scream". It didn't leave a lasting impression. The only song that really did was "You Are Not Alone", which I will continue to declare untill I'm on my deathbed is one of the absolute crappiest songs ever written. The melody is annoyingly simplistic and the lyrics sound like they were cobbled together by pulling a bunch of cliches out of a hat.

Did the man leave a lasting impact on the music world for the better? Absolutely. The reason why some of Justin Timberlake's songs sound so good is because they're obviously influenced by Michael Jackson, and I'm sure Timberlake would take that as a compliment. Of course, his influence goes beyond that, but that's the first one to pop into my head. I also really like Chris Cornell's version of "Billy Jean" and Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal".

But let's face it, the man wasn't doing anything worthwhile artistically, and it was unlikely that we'd see anything good come from him anytime soon. And no, that doesn't mean that he deserves to die - duh. I suppose that this was true for Elvis as well, but I don't remember his death. And you can probably also say the same for a lot of influential artists.

There's just something about the reaction to this death that's getting to me. As others have pointed out, everybody's suddenly acting like they're a huge Michael Jackson fan now. His album sales have spiked from what I hear. No doubt there are people who have never met him who are crying their eyes out. Me? I never knew the guy. But I do know that if I had kids and he asked me if it was okay to have them sleep in his bed with him, I'd punch him in the face. (Oops - said I wasn't going to go there, and I just did!)

More Transformers thoughts...

Okay, I was actually planning on avoiding this, as I don't want to sound like a broken record. However, I just can't keep away from this topic. I think it's probably because of my deep affection for the source material.

First of all, let's get something out of the way. Whenever I criticize the first Transformers movie, I get remarks along the lines of, "It's an action movie! It's not trying to be Shakespeare." I find it funny that anybody who knows me would say something like that to me. Since when was I a person who solely saw character-driven art house films? I am a fan of action movies. I own all of the Die Hard movies. I own both Predator movies. Dammit, I'm the guy who defended Punisher War Zone and I doubt that I'll last the summer without watching Blade II again. I get it, already! Please stop acting like you're telling me something I don't know. Beyond that, my response is as follows:

1. Action and good storytelling are not mutually exclusive. I will submit Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Bourne Trilogy, and many others as stories that emphasize action but do not sacrifice storytelling, characterization, and dialogue. Shoot, Shakespeare's tragedies contain action, and his characters have been discussed and dissected for centuries. So, a failure to create a coherent story is not forgiven because it's an action movie. Now, you may very well be able to overlook it, but that's another argument.

2. I still disagree that the first film even works on a mindless entertainment level. When you can't tell what the heck is happening, and all you see is explosions, then that's not good. There is an art to directing and editing action, and I still think that it fails even on that level. I have yet to hear anybody present any sort of counterargument to this.

Obviously, I'm not going to see the new one. Unlike the last one, which had mixed reviews, this one is being panned pretty thoroughly. Not only that, but the negative reviews are scathing, to say the least. And yes, I do trust movie critics more than I do the average person. It's for a similar reason why you should trust an English teacher to judge an essay. Sure, there may be disagreements amongst them, but generally speaking they know a successful one better than the average Joe.

So, why not just not see it and leave it at that? Why do I feel compelled to write about it? What is it about this movie that's making me so damn frustrated?

A big part of it is that I keep reading Facebook status updates that read "Transformers was the best movie!" The best? Best? I'm sorry, but if you think that, then I really don't know what the hell it is that you pay attention to when you watch a movie. Granted, these are mostly teenagers and people in their early-twenties (in other words, students and former students) who are writing this. It's also true that my taste in movies was pretty bad at that age too. Still, I don't think that I threw the word "greatest" around nearly as much as most teenagers I know. Basically, whatever movie they liked last is "the best". Next year, they'll see some other dumb movie and that one will be "the best." So far, I've heard that 300, Spider-Man 3, and the Thomas Jane Punisher movie have all been "the best".

I will make some concession here. I realize that sometimes a movie is enjoyable BECAUSE it's bad, and I realize that there are probably people out there who like it due to its very awfulness. I get that. In fact, the things that I love about Predator 2 are probably more along the lines of its faults than its good attributes. I'll even grant that there are some people who can appreciate a really good movie but then still like Transformers. However, this is not the impression that I'm getting from a lot of people - and this includes some adults that I've met. They really, honestly, genuinely believe that these movies are "good." When you ask them what's good about it, they really can't tell you. You'll get answers like (and I exaggerate only a little) "Megan Fox is hot!" and "It had lots of action!"

And I'll say it again, what also bothers me is that these movies have taken what's a pretty hokey concept (although it pains me to admit that) to begin with and then dumbed it down. What's up with the Jive-talking Transformers who can't read? (According to the screenwriters, that's not the way they wrote the characters.) What's up with the Transformers having testicles? (I read that in a review.) What's up with Bumblebee peeing on a guy? (That was in the first one.) Do people really find that funny? Obviously, they do.

I guess what it all boils down to is that this movie is a cynical exercise. It's not like they tried to make a smart action film but somehow failed along the way. It's not like they concentrated so much on getting the action right that the plot and characters took a back seat. It's like they're deliberately trying to make a piece of crap. They're purposefully aiming for the lowest common denominator, and it's sad as to just how low that is.

If you're thinking of writing a response along the lines of, "Yeah, but Lance - it's an ACTION movie!" then please read what I actually wrote.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Comics Roundup for 6/24/09

Madre de dios! I sure walked out of Flying Colors with a lot of comics today. I'd better keep each review brief if I want to get anything else done today.

Why am I doing this? Honestly, this is hardly what I'd consider to be any sort of professional, or even pseudo-professional review of what's coming out. I'm really doing this for myself, as I'm hoping that this will be a good way for me to assess what it is that I'm buying from month to month, as I have sometimes found myself with a large collection of a particular title and wondering, "Why the hell did I keep buying this?" Google Analytics tells me that there are people who visit my site who don't comment, so maybe this might even get somebody interested in comics, and that would be a plus. So, let's go:

Gotham City Sirens #1 - This is another new series for the new status-quo Batman universe. It features Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. Normally, I'd probably pass this sort of a thing up, but two words made me get it: Paul Dini. I've mentioned him before in this blog, but I'll state again that he's written some of the best Batman stuff in years. Also, he was one of the main writers on the old Batman: The Animated Series. So, how was this? Pretty fun stuff that makes me want to know what happens in the next issue. What more could I ask for?

Dark Avengers #6 - I didn't think that anybody could write a better bastard than Warren Ellis, but Brian Michael Bendis seems to be doing a good job with his turn writing Norman Osborn. Definitely some good stuff here, as Norman shows that he's not interested in helping The Sentry's mental problems so much as he is exploiting them. Also, it looks like Osborn's sanity is fracturing a bit itself, as it sounds like The Green Goblin is still talking to him. Great stuff, but I understand that the next couple of issues involves some multi-title crossover with The X-Men, and Bendis won't even be writing. Might skip those.

Detective Comics #854 - I'm really torn about this one. With this issue, the new Batwoman takes center stage, and this is the first comic I've read with her in it. I don't know much about her, and there really wasn't all that much in here to get me really intrigued. Greg Rucka's writing, and honestly, I've never gotten too into anything that he's done. However, hot damn! This book looks absolutely gorgeous. Not only is J.H. Williams III drawing some brilliant stuff, but the colors by Dave Stewart capture the perfect mood for the series. I don't know - I guess I'll pick up the next issue, at least, even though it costs a buck more and has a backup story with The Question that I don't care about.

Daredevil #119 - I started picking this series up again when Ed Brubaker started writing it, and I haven't been disappointed. He's really put Matt Murdock through hell, and the current return of the Kingpin storyline has been pretty good, especially since Daredevil has been forced to work with him. I really think that if they could make this into an HBO TV series, it would be really popular. Brubaker's last issue is the next one, and I'm hoping that'll give me an excuse to stop reading it. However, I know that he plans on leaving a lot of stuff up in the air for the new writer to deal with (just as he had to do when he took over the book as Matt Murdock had been sent to prison). I'll flip through the new creative team's first effort at the very least.

Star Wars: Legacy #37 - Another book about which I am very conflicted. I was considering dropping it, but the last issue was awesome, especially considering that it didn't feature any of he main characters. This one though, I found myself feeling a bit indifferent. Cade Skywalker is an interesting character, as he really walks the line between the dark and the light, but I was confused as to what was going on. I'll pick up the next issue and see how I feel then.

Avengers/Invaders #12 (of 12) - This series started off well enough, but it really ran out of steam at the end there. It had some nice covers by Alex Ross though.

Superman #689 - Even though I've been enjoying all of the Superman books lately, I'm thinking of dropping a couple of them as there are a lot of new books coming out in the next few months that I'm a bit more excited about. That said, I definitely won't be dropping this one so long as the current creative team is intact. I've liked everything that James Robinson has done since he took over the title, and I don't know how Renato Guedes is able to keep a monthly schedule with the absolutely stunning work he does. Also, I like Mon-El, who's trying to fill in for Superman while he's away, despite the fact that he's slowly dying.

Thor #602 - I miss Oliver Copiel's art, but this is still a good read. I need to go back and re-read the last few issues, as this series tends to experience some delays, and I forget what happened in the meantime. Still, I always remember enough to enjoy what I'm reading, and this one was no exception.

X-Men Forever #2 - This series reads a lot more like an early 80s issue of X-Men than anything else. That's good in some ways, bad in others. I was entertained and will be there for the next one, despite the higher cover price and the more frequent schedule (every two weeks!) So long as they have Tom Grummet (or somebody as good, at least) doing the art, I'll probably keep getting it.

Green Lantern #42 - This series continues to be at the top of my reading list. I don't even want to go into the story, but let's just say that it's all a prelude to the upcoming Black Lanterns storyline. The story moved along nicely, and I'm eager for more. Pretty much everything you want in a comic.

The Amazing Spider-Man #598 - Joe Kelly's storyline reaches its penultimate chapter with this issue, and each installment raises the stakes a bit higher. They should have gotten this guy on Spidey years ago. Fun stuff.

The New Avengers #54 - Although I've enjoyed this storyline about who'll take Dr. Strange's place as the Master of the Mystic Arts (it's Brother Voodoo, by the way) I'm glad that it's over. I'd like to see them getting back to dealing with the Dark Avengers, which is where the next story seems to be going.

Whew! Lots of stuff, definitely liked more than I didn't though, so I'm not wasting my money. That's always a good feeling.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Against my conscience

I had a moral dilemma last week of a kind that's probably fairly unique to me. I had a fella from Young Life, a Christian-youth organization, send me a message on Facebook. Apparently, he knew of me from some former students of mine, and he wanted to talk to me a bit about my school. The guy seemed nice enough, and I'm fairly certain that it wasn't some sort of insidious plot to sell Amway to me. However, I had a bit of a problem with this.

Allow me to tell another story to give a bit of perspective on how I feel. I recently had a conversation with a former student. She was telling me about how she was involved in a church group (it may very well have been Young Life - perhaps if she's reading this, as I know that she has in the past, she'll comment). I teased her a little bit, as when she was a freshman she had written some things that were rather critical of theism. When I was done giving her a hard time though, I told her that it was a good thing for her to expose herself to that sort of a thing, as she told me that she's pretty up in the air regarding her spiritual beliefs. I wasn't just saying that to cover my ass - I really believe it. I went to some religious services of friends of mine when I was a teenager, and it certainly didn't hurt me. Personally, I think that it's a bad thing to close yourself off from the world - especially at that age.

With that said, my problem with meeting up with this guy is that while I don't necessarily want to work AGAINST Young Life, or most any other faith group, (I think I would work against a Taliban group) I don't exactly want to help it either. First of all, it would seem somewhat hypocritical of me, being such an outspoken atheist and all. Secondly, I really don't want to encourage the spread of Christianity - or any religion, for that matter.

I emailed my friends about it and mainly got advice that confirmed my initial reactions to the offer. One friend though, who just happens to be a Christian, said that he wouldn't see anything wrong with helping a group so long as they don't bring any "harm". I can see his point, as we're not exactly talking about Al Quaeda, Operation Rescue, or even the Scientologists here.

But here's the thing - I do think that Christianity brings harm. Oh, sure, it can be a force for good, but keep in mind that even the Nation of Islam works to get drug abusers clean and sober. Personally, I don't think that it's worth the price. I genuinely believe that this world would be in a better place if we moved away from magical-based thinking (a term that I'm sure most Christians would reject - but that's just what it is. What else would you call rising from the dead but a form of magic?) Yeah, sure, most of the time it's harmless, but people make decisions that affect the real world (on important issues like the death penalty, abortion, stem cell research, science education, etcetera) based on something that an unknowable magical creature supposedly wants.

I also think that the basic Christian teaching, the idea that somebody else can die for YOUR sins, isn't really a good thing. It removes personal responsibility from the equation. I also think that the idea that we're being punished for something that somebody else did a long time ago is another morally reprehensible idea. And I've written again and again, any god that watches a child getting raped her whole life, and does nothing to stop it, is callous and evil. (That just being one example - and I know the counterargument to that, and it doesn't wash. The "free will" thing doesn't apply, as she had no free will.)

I realize that there are some people out there who will twist this around and think that I should lighten up. I realize that there are billions of decent people of faith out there in this world. I also don't want people to think that I want to see people forced to drop their beliefs. Forcing people to think a certain way is counterproductive. In all honesty, I wish that people could just come to dropping their supernatural beliefs on their own.

And the bottom line is that I'd hate to think that I was responsible for somebody coming to religious belief - even in an indirect sort of a way.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Comics Roundup for 6/17/09

Here are my thoughts on Wednesday's comics:

Captain America #600 - I did an entire entry about this issue alone. You can find it here.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #1 - With the new status quo in the Batman universe, DC comics seems to be flooding the market with new books, and I seem to be a sucker for most of them. At least I can say that I didn't get this for the sake of being a completest though. This one was written by Paul Dini, who wrote Detective Comics for a few years, and those are some of the best Batman stories since I've been reading them. He did a lot of interesting things with Harley Quinn, The Ventriloquist, The Riddler, and more importantly: Hush. (They need to use the Dini version of Hush in the next Batman movie! I'm telling you, it would be awesome!) So, picking up this one was a no-brainer for me. The only downside is that it costs a buck more, but it's an extra-sized issue with a backup story featuring Manhunter. Now, I don't know anything about that particular character, and I wasn't familiar with the creative team. Personally, I would rather just pay a buck less and get Dini's Batman book, but it was interesting enough that I'll at least keep reading that part.

The Trial of Thor - One Shot - Joe Field at Flying Colors Comics once told me something that should have already occured to me. Just like how the big breweries like to flood the shelves with all kinds of products (light beer, low carb beer, light beer with lime, toothpaste beer, ectcetera) that take up room that might be used for the smaller breweries, the big comic book publishers, Marvel and DC, do something quite similar with comics. Basically, this one-shot is just that sort of a thing, but I bought it anyway. The art looked good, and the story seemed pretty interesting. It was a pretty compelling read, even though the ending fell a little flat. Ah well, I see that the next issue of the regular series comes out next week. Maybe I should just stick to that.

Action Comics Annual #12 - Too...much...exposition... I was actually looking forward to this one, as it gives some background information on the characters who have taken the spotlight since Superman's departure from Earth - namely Nightwing and Flamebird. Personally though, I think that I could have skipped this one and been more happy wondering what their origin might have been.

Supergirl #42 - I've been picking this one up ever since it started to have a stronger connection with the Superman books. I wasn't familiar with the writer, Sterling Gates, but I've liked every issue that I've read so far, and I'd probably get it even if it didn't have a strong connection with what's going on in the Superman books. This is one of those series where I'm going to have to go back and reread the last year's issues in one sitting. And somebody who works with teenagers, I'd say that Gates is a good job of handling her personality.

The Flash: Rebirth #3 - Geoff Johns is the writer who got me reading Green Lantern comics when he brought back the Silver Age version of the hero, Hal Jordan. With this series, he's doing the same thing with the Silver Age version of the Flash, Barry Allen. The first issue was decent, the third was really good, and this one falls back to decent. I'm definitely on board for the last three issues of this series, but I'm undecided whether I'll keep up with the new ongoing series that's bound to come afterwards.

I'd also like to mention that I passed up on the following:

Amazing Spider-Man Family #? - For over ten years, Marvel produced a fun comic called Spider-Girl. It told the adventures of the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Parker, who winds up becoming a hero in her own right. It existed apart from everything else that was going on in the Marvel Universe, and each issue was pretty reader-friendly. While it was never my favorite, I picked up every issue, as there were definitely some high moments. With her series being cancelled, they demoted her to a backup feature in the Amazing Spider-Man Family anthology, so I started to pick that up. However, it's a huge comic where I have to pay an extra two bucks to get a bunch of uninteresting filler that doesn't have any direct bearing on what's going on in the regular Spider-Man book. I figure that I'll just wait for the inevitable trade paperback where they collect all her adventures from that series.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good riddance, summer school

In today's paper, I read that my school district (Mt. Diablo Unified) is looking at giving summer school the axe in the next round of budget cuts. I'm assuming of course they're referring to next year's program, as this year's is about to start tomorrow, I believe. (I'm not working it this year as I got my application in too late - which probably wasn't 100% accidental on my part.) This isn't surprising, as they've already slashed the summer school program quite a bit, as I think that all they have are programs for high school and maybe middle school students this year.

I hate working summer school. When I say that, most people assume that I'm referring to the students, but that's not my problem. The kids were just fine, although I did have one particular senior class one year that was so brain-dead that they made me lose the will to live. My problem has to do with the system itself. Basically, the whole concept is founded on a lie - the lie that you can make up an entire semester's worth of work in three weeks. I've also had other problems with administrators who coddled the kids and refused to follow-through on the attendance policy. (Don't get me wrong - I've worked with some really great administrators as well.) The nice thing about teaching in general is that I feel pretty good about what I do for a living. Summer school though? I don't have that same feeling.

Personally, I think that getting rid of summer school is good news overall - not just because it gives me a very convenient excuse not to do it. (For the record, working summer school is extra money. Nobody has to do it, and the way I get paid, I'm still getting a check during the summer months.) It's a good thing because summer school has become a safety net for slackers. I've had several students who had absolutely no problem failing their classes so they could quickly and easily make it up during the summer. Shoot, I remember one girl telling me that she deliberately failed because summer school gave her "something to do" during the summer.

Of course, I realize that there will be some students with legitimate issues (like a prolonged illness) who will be unfairly hurt by this, but for the most part it will give the slackers one less reason to not do their work. Failing a class will actually have more of an impact on their life, as many of them want to be able to walk with their graduating class.

Another impact of all this is that graduation rates are going to go down, at least, at first. Of course, many people will see that as a negative. However, you should try sitting amongst a group of teachers during a graduation ceremony. You'll hear "How the hell did he/she manage to graduate?" quite a few times. Many people will tell you that the graduation rates aren't high enough. I'm here to tell you that they're TOO HIGH. I had a student this year who was thoughtful, an excellent writer, skilled in the sciences, and was all-around diligent and productive. And yet she received the exact same piece of paper as this one doofus who could hardly read and write.

What's wrong with making a high school diploma a little more prestigious, elitist even? We shouldn't look at it as a right but an honor that one earns. No, I'm not saying that it should only be for people who are college-bound and enrolled in several honors classes, but we need to end this culture of social promotion that things like summer school enable. And we also need to deal with what the real problem is. If you truly believe that the graduation rates are too low, it's real easy to point to the school system and the teachers. While they're certainly a factor in the problem, the thing that's really gone awry is our very society. Too many parents out there don't give a damn about their children's education in the first place; how can we expect the school system to fix that? Not only that, but the kids themselves are never held accountable.

Why is it that the system is failing the students when they are the ones who are failing? Isn't it possible that in some cases the problem is the other way around, that the students are simply failing the system? After all, I'm fairly certain that there are some non-graduating seniors who say that I was the one who failed them, even though they didn't turn in their assignments/show up to class/do the work/read the books/etcetera. Heaven forbid we give people a sense of responsibility.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Captain America #600

I just finished reading the massive 600th issue of Captain America, and while I plan on doing my usual rundown of the week's comics, I thought that this one deserved its own blog post.

Even if you don't read comics, you may have heard about the "Death of Captain America" story that was published a couple of years ago, as it got some mainstream media attention. Of course, no comics fan actually expected this death to be permanent. At least, no comics fan who has been reading as long as I have anyway. Sure enough, it turns out that Captain America is very much alive with the current issue.

A non-comics fan might be wondering what the point is of reading all this stuff when we fans knew where it would all eventually go. Not only that, but there are probably some comics fans out there who saw the whole thing as being a gimmicky excuse to get some media attention and sell more comics. Certainly superhero "deaths" can very well be nothing more than a gimmick. While I'm sure that there are people out there who will disagree with me, that's how I saw the "Death of Superman" story from years ago. It certainly did the trick and got a lot of attention (Saturday Night Live even did a sketch based on it) but I skipped out on that one.

Why did I buy this particular death and rebirth though? To begin with, I've been reading Captain America comics on and off since I was in college, although I have always been a fan of the character. For a few years there, the series was pretty hit-or-miss, and I often found myself picking up the first few issues when a new creative team came on board only to eventually drop it again. This changed though when Ed Brubaker came on board as the regular writer. I had enjoyed everything that I had read by him before, and I had high hopes for what he'd do with the series.

He didn't disappoint, and Steve Epting's art was nothing short of spectacular. This was a series where I've probably read every issue at least twice now, and I'm sure that one day soon I'll go back and reread the past five years worth of issues. Brubaker hit the ground running with the storyline that introduced the Winter Soldier, who turned out to be Cap's long-thought dead partner, Bucky. Now, if you had told me that they were bringing Bucky back, I would have said that was the lamest idea in the world. Somehow though, I was sold on this, as they were able to do it in a way that didn't cheapen those Captain America comics from the 60s where he was dealing with the death of his partner. Brubaker also made Bucky more than just a former sidekick, as it turned out that the Soviets had brainwashed him and kept him in stasis between assasination missions. Ultimately, Bucky regained his memories and became a man on a mission to amend for his sins as The Winter Soldier.

And just around this time is when Cap "died". I also wasn't surprised to see that eventually Bucky would become the new Captain America, but that's not what kept me reading. What held my interest was that it's simply a compelling, and even somewhat relatable, character-driven story. What better of a way to have Bucky redeem himself than by stepping into his mentor's shoes? Who can't relate to the notion of trying to amend for past mistakes? Who hasn't ever felt intimidated at the thought of filling the shoes of a mentor? That's the kind of stuff that kept me reading.

The only thing that was surprising, plotwise, about the story is how long they held out. It's been two years since Captain America was shot, and issue #600 is just the beginning of the story where he finally comes back. Instead of feeling like a gimmick, this all seemed to genuinely come out of the story. Just as Bucky has finally started to adjust to his new position in life, he gets thrown a curve ball. The one thing that I can't predict is what's going to happen to him next, and considering how much time has been invested in this character, I have to say that I'm invested in his story.

I realized of course that I didn't write much about the issue itself. Unfortunately, I don't think that it would hold much appeal for somebody who picks this up as their first issue. I'd suggest buying some of the collected editions of Brubaker's run instead for those folks. If you're already reading, then you won't be disappointed. It moves the story along while still fitting in with what's happening in the Marvel Universe right now. Norman Osborn does something pretty shameful to tarnish the memory of Captain America, and I'm looking forward to the storyline that finally gives him his comeuppance.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What about love?

My last post got me to thinking about another conversation I had regarding the existence of God. For some reason, a lot of believers seem to think that they have an answer that destroys the "I'll believe when there's evidence" argument. They'll ask me if I believe in love, and when I say that I do, the reply is, "But what is the scientific evidence for that?" (Or something along those lines.)

I don't see why this is such a good argument. For some weird reason, we humans take a wonderful concept like love and turn it into something that it's not. While it's hardly romantic, love is perfectly explainable. After all, what is love but a feeling that you have? The sheer fact that I feel love is proof of its existence. Not only that, but I feel all types of love. (A good thing, as otherwise my cat would get awfully nervous.) So there, it's proven.

From there though, the conversation turns to the believer saying something along the lines of, "But just as you know that you love your wife, I know that Jesus is real." (Of course, if we were in India, it would be Ganesha.) The argument is that they FEEL that Jesus is real. Well, there's not much I can say other than the fact that there's a big difference between feeling an emotion and feeling that God had a son who was himself only to later sacrifice himself to himself so we could be forgiven for something somebody else did. In other words, all I need to prove love is to feel it, because that's what it is by definition. Postulating the existence of a deity though, that's making a statement about the very nature of the universe.

I mean, I don't go around saying that I "feel" that photosynthesis exists, do I? Even if I did, it wouldn't matter. All that matters is the evidence. And I hate to break it to you, but the evidence for a water-walking carpenter is fairly weak.

You'll believe it when you're irrational

I've had a few conversations with believers lately where I was told that perhaps my point of view on God might change if I undergo some sort of stressful, painful event in my life. I find this interesting for a couple of reasons.

The thing is, this very well may be true. Let's say something horrible would happen to me, and I'd get struck down with a debilitating illness. I just might start to crave the comfort that religious belief can offer. I may no longer care about things like empirical evidence and start to take things on a little faith. What's interesting about this is that it still has no bearing on whether God exists or not. Just because I'd be more inclinded to believe, that wouldn't suddenly poof him into existence. After all, maybe a painful experience might make me more vulnerable to Scientology - does that somehow validate their belief system?

Here's the thing about painful, traumatic moments: they tend to make one less rational. While I've never experienced what I'd call clinical depression, I was going through a tough time a couple of years ago. Basically, I was going through an incredibly self-critical phase of my life, where I felt pretty much worthless. And guess what? I was being completely irrational about things. I still have a tendency to beat myself up and put undo pressure on myself, but the only way that I can get out of that is by being rational, by taking a moment to really think about the reality of the situation. Sure, I suppose that I could have found comfort in the idea that there's a God who loves me whenever I make some sort of a mistake, but again, that wouldn't make him real now, would it?

Essentially, this argument is saying that the case for God becomes much better when you're in a state where you're less likely to be rational. Seems to me that if a God truly existed, you could find him through reason and evidence. (And yeah, I know that there are arguments that supposedly come from reason and evidence, but that's another blog post entirely now, isn't it?)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Comics Roundup for 6/10/09

Here's what I bought and what I thought of it. If you're a comics reader and haven't gotten around to some of these, you might want to be aware that there will be some mild spoilers.

The Amazing Spider-Man #597 - This story continues the "American Son" arc, which is all leading up to something big with the 600th issue. I'm still enjoying it, and the artist Marco Chechetto, while new to me, is doing a nice job. I won't go into all of the various subplots, but the main story, with Spider-Man infiltrating the base of The Avengers (who are for the most part all supervillains in disguise) is pretty fun. Looks like Spidey has been killed in the last page, but I've been around the block enough times to know that he'll be back in the next issue. Still, it'll be curious to see how he gets out of this one.

Action Comics #878 - The "World Without a Superman" story continues with this series focusing on Nightwing and Flamebird, a couple of Kryptonians who are fighting against all the sleeper agents from New Krypton. (I won't go into the complex history of who those two characters are.) While I don't find this storyline as compelling as the whole Mon-El storyline in Superman, it's definitely holding my interest enough for me to keep getting it. There were some nice character moments between Lois (Lane, that is) and Nightwing in this issue.

Fantastic Four #567 - I really need to go back and reread this entire run by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. It got off to a bumpy start, but I kept up with it since these two guys have produced some of my favorite comics in the past few years. The last few issues have been a lot of fun, and this particular arc with Dr. Doom is really good. It amazes me that writers can still come up with some original stories with that villain, and it reminds me of how lame the makers of the Fantastic Four movie must be to screw up such a great villain.

Trojan War #2 - Marvel has been adapting some classic works of literature into comics form lately (hardly a new idea, but it's nice to see it coming back). I really enjoyed their version of The Odyssey and only slightly got into their version of The Iliad. Then again, that holds true for the originals, so I suppose that figures. This series tells all the bits and pieces of the saga of the Trojan War that are not part of either of Homer's epics. I didn't get into this issue as much as the last one, but I'll stick with it for the final three issues, as it's one more thing to add to my knowledge of Greek Mythology.

Batman #687 - I might have skipped this one if it wasn't for Judd Winick returning as the writer of this series. (Yeah, he's one of those guys from the San Francisco season of The Real World, but that's got nothing to do with me wanting to buy it.) I know that he has his detractors, but I really liked his "Red Hood" storyline, and I also enjoyed the issues of Green Arrow of his that I read. He doesn't disappoint with this one, as there are some nice moments of Dick Grayson adjusting to his role as the new Batman. Personally, I think that the character moments in this book will probably top Grant Morrison's in Batman and Robin, whereas that series will be better for all of the wild ideas that Morrison brings to his superhero stories.

X-Men Forever #1 - Here's the thing: I love The X-Men. I love the concept, and I love the characters. That said, I don't really have a very big collection of X-Men comics. I was a big fan as a teenager, but I quit reading them with any regularity during the 90s, as the storylines became so convoluted and there were far too many different titles with which to keep up. If I look back on it, my lack of interest started up around the time that Chris Claremont left the books.

Well, this is the series for me then. Basically the concept of the series is this - What if Chris Claremont never left? For those of you who don't know, he's the guy who wrote more issues of the series than probably anybody else (and he even has a cameo appearance in the third film). When I was a teenager, I thought that he was the greatest writer alive. Now that I know a thing or two, I'm not quite that impressed, but I still think that he does some good stuff.

Obviously, Claremont is writing this series, but instead of going with the current continuity, he's picking up where he left off more than a decade ago. Oddly enough, this issue is probably the most accessible of most X-Men comics out there right now. I definitely liked it, and I'll pick up the next issue. Still, this is one of those series that runs $3.99 (instead of $2.99) a pop, so if I'm not LOVING it by the third issue, I'm going to have to drop it.

Thor: Tales of Asgard #2 - This five-issue series reprints some classic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby stories where they gave their own spin on the Norse myths. I haven't finished the first one yet, but I liked what I did read, and flipping through this one, I'm impressed enough to keep getting it. The one thing that really stands out is the fact that the recolored the stories with the modern coloring techniques. While this wouldn't automatically be a good thing, they're doing a nice job of it. Besides, I might photocopy another story and use it in my Norse Mythology unit like I did last time with the "Balder the Brave" storyline.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Time on my hands

Tomorrow I'm going to have to revisit my classroom, so I can finish cleaning it up a bit. After that, the summer is officially mine. Just like last summer, I'm hoping to make this one productive, as I don't want to simply goof off and just waste it.

What exactly do I hope to accomplish?

For starters, I want to do some writing. Not only that, but I want to finally write something that I can finally start looking into getting published. Didn't I write a whole novel last summer? Yeah, but it's what would pretty much be the last in a series of novels/stories. This time, I want to start writing from the beginning, and I think that I have some solid ideas with which to work. Of course, this means that I'll need to get the writing group going again that I had last summer. From what I've heard so far, the guys seem to be up for it. Hopefully I can get a few other people to read my stories. Oh, and I want to make this blog a little bit more regular than it has been lately.

I also need to do some reading. There are at least two books that I need to read, as they made the summer reading list for the pre-Honors freshmen, and I have not read them before. Other than that, I'd like to read another Shakespeare that I've never read before, another Vonnegut novel, and a few other books as well. I also have a lot of comics that have been sitting around for years that I haven't read for one reason or another. I just started reading The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told even though I've had it for years. I have some others like that as well, and I want to finally get through them.

There's also a lot of grunt work around the house that needs to be done. I need to clean out the garage and my backyard. Who knows, maybe I can finally make the backyard look like a place where people want to hang out.

I'm also going to see what I can do about getting my mortgage re-adjusted (or whatever the heck the word is for it). The way I see it, I'm not exactly hurting, and I'll be okay even if I can't. Still, if I can make things better, why shouldn't I? Unfortunately, this will involve a lot of persistence and phone calls, which is about as appealing to me as a root canal with a rusty drill.

I also need to see a new eye doctor, and I want to find one near me, as I need a new pair of glasses, since the backup pair that I have are in pretty sad shape. (I usually wear contacts.) I also need to see the regular doctor just to make sure I'm doing okay in general. I like my current doctor, but he's all the way in Clayton and he has lousy hours where I'd have to take a day off work just to see him. I'd like to find somebody more local.

Ultimately, I've realized that there's one thing that might get in the way of me doing what I want to do - and that's the computer. Of course, I need to use the computer to write my stories and blog entries, but I find myself spending too much time just dinking around the Internet. I'm going to need to set aside a certain amount of time for that kind of a thing, so I don't wind up wasting away my entire summer. That's going to be difficult, as usually when I sit down to write, I spend a bit of time just staring at the computer and reading all sorts of trivial crap until the mood finally hits me. Still, I think I can make this a summer where I feel proud of my accomplishments.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Comics Roundup for 6/3/09

I've decided that it'll make more sense for me to write about which comics I bought this week AFTER I've read them. I finished this particular stack a couple of days ago, but I didn't get around to writing a new entry until today. So here goes:

The Amazing Spider-Man #596 - This one comes out three times a week, and I'm hoping that I can find enough different things to say about it with each issue. This one continues the story from last time, where Spider-Man has decided to focus his efforts on taking down Norman (Green Goblin) Osborn, who's currently the most powerful man in the country. Like I said last time, this is fun stuff, and Joe Kelly, who's writing this particular arc, really seems to have the characters down. I'm enjoying the subplots of Aunt May being engaged to J. Jonah Jameson's dad, and Harry Osborn joining up with his father while seemingly trying to sabotage it all behind Norman's back. Good stuff.

Batman and Robin #1 - No, this has nothing to do with one of the worst movies ever made. Here's the deal, Bruce Wayne is supposedly dead as far as the world is concerned (we readers know that he's not - he's just trapped in the distant past). For the time being, somebody needs to take up the mantle of The Batman in Gotham City, and that has fallen upon Dick Grayson, formerly known as Nightwing and before that, the first Robin.

I've seen this story before with Dick-as-Batman, but I think that they're going to stretch this one out a bit more. Also, the dynamic is different for a couple of reasons. One, Dick is under the impression that this is a permanent change instead of just a temporary fill-in like last time. Two, his Robin is Damien Wayne, son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul (which makes him the grandson of villain Ra's al Ghul). Damien was raised by his grandfather's people, and he has a real sense of entitlement. He's also a little badass. The relationship between these two is off to an interesting start, and I look forward to more.

Also, Grant Morrison seems to be doing what he does best - throwing as many cool ideas against the wall as he can. When he's at his worst, his stories are far too convoluted. This one is pretty straight-forward but not dumbed down, so I hope that it stays this way. I always liked the "student is now the teacher" story archetype, and I don't think that this will disappoint.

Dark Avengers #5 - Remember how I said that Norman Osborn was the most powerful man in America? Well, he's also the most ubiquitious character in Marvel comics right now. This series is definitely his "home" though because it's about the team of Avengers that he leads as the Iron Patriot (think a cross between Iron Man and Captain America). These are the "legitimate", government-sponsored team, despite the fact that its Spider-Man is really Venom and its Hawkeye is really Bullseye (along with a couple other villains masquerading as heroes). This series has been a good example of the best kind of villain in fiction - the one who honestly believes that he's the good guy.

This was a pretty engaging issue, as it deals with The Sentry and his place on the team. The Sentry was on Iron Man's team and actually is a decent guy. He's probably the most powerful superhero on the planet, but his mind is too messed up for him to really be very effective. Osborn got him to join his team by promising to help him, so this issue was dealing with that. Shoot, even if the story wasn't interesting, I think I'd keep getting it for Mike Deodato's art.

Superman: World of New Krypton #4 - Honestly, this one was pretty disappointing. I was looking forward to it because in this one, Green Lantern comes to New Krypton (which orbits the opposite side of the sun as The Earth) where Superman has been currently residing. The whole thing was kind of blah, but I'll still pick up the next issue. As I said last time, the Superman books have been really interesting lately (and last week's issue of Superman was easily the best of the bunch) and the first three issues of this twelve-issue series have been pretty good, so I'm confident that it'll turn around.

Astro City - The Dark Age, Book Three #2 - Damn, what a title. Okay, I haven't read this one yet. This storyline has been so slow in coming out that I've had to reread all of the issues leading up to this one (I'm almost done) and then I'll get to it. I'm sure that when the whole thing is done, I'll read it all yet again. Expect my comments on this particular story in about five years.

Newsweek Versus Oprah

I plan on heading out to the store later today, and I'm hoping that it's not too late to pick up a copy of the issue of Newsweek that criticizes Oprah for her having guests on that present all sorts of questionable "health" information. I, for one, have also criticized Oprah for this as well, but for some reason, I don't seem to get the same kind of reaction that Newsweek gets. I'm thinking that it's some sort of anti-comic book-related blog bias on the part of the media.

Anyway, I haven't read the article, and I don't regularly watch Oprah, but the one thing that I do enough about to comment is the fact that she's had Jenny McCarthy on her show several times. For those of you who don't know, McCarthy is one of the prominent voices for the "vaccines cause autism" movement. Despite the fact that there's no evidence for this, and repeated studies keep showing that there is no link, McCarthy continues to make such argument-ending statements like "My science is named Evan, and he's at home. That's my science."

Oy vey! See, this is the problem with this country. People don't even have the slightest grasp as to what science is, even though it affects nearly every aspect of their daily lives. (The sheer fact that you're reading this right now proves that point.) Her "science" is her son? What the hell does that even mean? It doesn't mean anything, but it appeals to people who are more likely to respond to emotions than facts.

Here's what I think about Oprah. She's defended herself, of course, saying that she's had all sorts of guests who present all sorts of different health issues. The problem though with giving somebody like McCarthy a voice is that she's legitimizing junk science. Oprah also stated that her audience is smart enough to look into the issue and check out all the facts for themselves. Well, here's a newsflash - for many of them, that very well may be true, but some of them definitely aren't.

Oprah has every right to present junk science as being legitimate. However, if I had her influence, I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror if I gave people like McCarthy a forum to spout her nonsense. It's irresponsible at best, downright evil at worst. Think I'm being over-the-top by calling it evil? Try telling me that if there's a measles outbreak (which can, you know, KILL people).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Scattered Thoughts Yet Again

1. I saw Up last weekend. I liked it, but not nearly as much as Pixar's last two movies: Ratatouille and Wall-E. This one seemed to be aimed at the really little ones, and there's nothing wrong with that, but those seem to be the ones that I don't like as much. Still, it was good, and there's nothing to complain about. It had a good story with well-rounded characters and there weren't any cheap gags like in Monsters Vs. Aliens.

Speaking of that movie though, I actually was less impressed with Up's 3-D. Roger Ebert has been criticizing the recent spate of 3-D movies, basically saying that it's not as good as 2-D. For instance, the colors are much brighter in 2-D and everything is clearer. After seeing this, I'm starting to agree with him. I don't think that the 3-D added anything to it. I'd really hate to see every animated movie go this route. It's bad enough that traditional animation seems to be dead. I don't know about you, but when I watch the classic Disney films, they still look pretty damn good to me. (Got Pinocchio on Blu-Ray and it looks great.)

2. I want to personally confiscate the headphones of many teenagers. Is it because they always wear them? Nah, that doesn't bother me so much (unless it's during class). What drives me crazy is seeing them walk side-by-side, sharing the headphones. Apparently, these kids don't understand the concept of stereo. When I point this out to them, they look at me like there's something wrong with ME, even when I say that they're probably missing a lot of the music. This just further proves my theory that there are a lot (maybe even most) people out there who don't even really pay a whole lot of attention to the music that they're listening to. It's more about fitting in with their friends, showing that they know what the popular songs are. Because I'm sorry, there's no way you can just listen to one headphone and actually be engaged in the music. It's just filling the empty space.

3. I plan on doing some more writing this summer. In fact, my goal is to get something written so that I can start thinking about getting published. I'm going to shelve the big epic novel that I wrote last summer and start writing about my characters from the beginning. Once I'm done with all of that, I'll get back to that story, as I'm still pretty pleased with it. Of course, I want to restructure the plot a little bit, but essentially it'll be about the same thing and reach the same conclusion.