Friday, August 9, 2013

In Memoria

I can't be the only one who looked at this story about the possibility of false memories and thought, "this would be an awesome way to enjoy a movie."

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Wolverine: A One Sentence Review Plus Some Other Explanatory Sentences

My review:

"At some point, the writers and director of The Wolverine became so bored and/or disillusioned with mauling one of Marvel's most badass, yet multi-dimensional characters that they decided they would rather be making Iron Man 4: Bushido Burns Hot."

I admit, I didn't mind the thing so much while sitting through it, but much like the poison and cancer the movie showcases, it's been eating at me since.  And since I have the coffin already open and prepped, allow me to present, in no particular order, the nails I will use to close it (I would warn that spoilers follow, but then the whole damn thing is pretty spoiled):

--Like it or not, and some don't, it has long been orthodoxy that the adamantium bonded to his bones would kill Wolverine if he were deprived of his healing factor.  In this movie, he is deprived of his healing factor.  But instead of sepsis, he goes on to enjoy some homemade tempura.

--Further, a Wolverine without a healing factor who nevertheless decides to extend and retract his claws would do nothing but bleed from the six gaping knife wounds in his hands and ruin his dress pants.  But no, Wolvie's dress pants survive just fine.  Apart from the bullets.

--The one thing you should know about Japanese culture is that they value family honor above all else.  No, literally, that's the one thing this film has to say about Japanese culture.

--Who is the white girl mutant named Viper?  Does she want to be rich?  In charge?  Is she enthusiastically serving the main villain out of loyalty?  Why is she even in Japan?  Also, if shedding her skin lets her shake off an arrow to the back and the blunt force trauma of the three-story fall that follows said arrow, then how is she killed by a second sizable blow to the head?  Does she only have one get-out-of-skin-free card?

--On that note, I submit a Moratorium Request: no more assuming that if a mutant has one power--say, Viper's poison, just to grab an example from the ether--that this mutant also has 1) super-strength, 2) expert martial arts training, and/or 3) physical invulnerability.  Last I checked, ingesting poison and ingesting an arrow with your spine are two completely unrelated bodily processes.

--Following on this, the bug Wolvie finds playing with his heart and dampening his healing factor is of the same variety as the two or three shown swimming around Yashida when we first meet him and his then oncologist, Viper, and something tells me that actively suppressing a cancer patient's immune system is not terribly Hippocratic.  So...the bugs were not dampening Yashida's natural healing too?  They only have adverse affects on gaijin?  Buehller?

--As for Yashida's intentions, man alive, what a waste.  We first see him in a WWII prison camp in Nagasaki and he's freeing American POWs so they can escape the coming nuclear holocaust.  So, good guy.  The rest of the movie features him as some super techno-savvy Tony Stark of Nipon only interested in living forever.  Not living forever so he can complete his life's work that would otherwise be left unfinished when he succumbed to cancer.  Nope, nothing so noble, just "living forever."  Even though he has a suit that's keeping him alive just fine.  (Cough, Tony Stark, cough.  Further digression: best iron lung EVAR.)  Okay, I see that the survival instinct that makes him turn away from seppuku and leap into a pit with Logan is the same instinct that guides his quest for immortality, but then that means his selflessly saving the POWs was...a simplistically moral writerly device to allow our hero Logan to save him in good conscience?  Why, that's not at all cynical screenwriting.  How much more interesting would the question be if the "gift" of a normal human life (and death) offered to Logan by the older, dying Yashida was done out of genuine compassion, rather than as a pretext for more sinister ends?

--Asian Hawkeye is just as gripping a character as his American counterpart.

--Apparently, Wolverine's healing factor is located in the bone of his claws.  Good to know.

--Sorry, but adamantium does not cut adamantium, even if the bit doing the cutting has been heated first.  Especially if it's been heated first.

--Much like half of the people in the movie, dead Jean Grey comes off as uncharacteristically selfish, wanting nothing but for Logan to stop trying to help people (!), finally give up the ghost, and join her in death...all to keep her from being lonely.  This is not who Jean Grey actually was (outside the grip of the Phoenix Force), it is the mutant ghost of Over-Attached Girlfriend.

--I lied before: the film knows two things about Japanese culture, the second being that all Japanese women speak in humble monotones--even the ones with swords--and just as a bird's song is used to attract a mate, the humblest monotone of them all snags the man.

--When your most sympathetic character is a CGI she-bear whose shining moment is pissing on a tree somewhere in the vicinity of our hero before meeting her untimely end just ten minutes into the movie, you, dear action flick, are in deep doo-doo.

High Points:

--The train fight was cool.

--My theater only charges $5.

I give it one claw.

A Call To Violence

The larger point here is not incorrect: religion is not some special spur to violence that, if removed, would leave a world of blissed-out unicorn rainbows in its wake.  There are many things that move people to violence--competition for land, resources, mates, etc.  Hell, if you extrapolate "resources" outward to a state level you have the only real reason anyone starts a war.  After all, nationalism is derived from pride, and pride is a feeling of being owed something, whether that's a tribute, taxes, or deference (and deference is often what leads to real world gains via trade negotiations, say, or military showdowns).  To be satisfied, nationalism demands something it can touch.

No, the reason people like me find religiously-inspired violence so nonsensical is because, of all the tangible things humans kill other humans in order to claim--better access to food and water; a woman; a parking spot--God is the one thing that does not exist.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Charlie Pierce points us toward the fact that a new beast is slouching toward the brains of right-wingers to be born.

As odd as I find the idea that this President, who has a fleet of drones at his disposal and who has used those drones to kill American citizens, that he would resort to the slow drip of denying health care to his political opponents as a form of assassination, as odd as that idea is, I couldn't help but chuckle at Bachmann's and Paul's quotes fretting over this whole thing when they didn't want the health care coverage extended anyway.

"With the implementation of Obamacare at hand...could there potential (sic) be political implications regarding health care--access to health care, denial of health care." --Michele Bachmann

Shorter Michele: I didn't want the food to begin with, but don't dare try to limit the portions!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Stop There?

I keep up with quite a few atheist writers and several atheist blogs.  (In all fairness, to some degree I write an atheist blog.)  What they--we--all seem to have in common is a sneering dismissal of religious beliefs in all their manifestations.

That is not a bad thing.

Believing in things that aren't true can be very dangerous, especially when large swaths of people are taught to believe that...oh I don't know, climate change is a hoax (or worse, the path to the Rapture), or...oh, I don't know, God wants you to kill the infidels.  These kinds of unfounded beliefs should be mocked, discredited, pushed to the fringes, and then mercifully ignored (except for further casual mockery)--ideally before the ocean reaches your doorstep or meat cleaver wielding lunatics decide to visit the local V.A.

It's a noble goal, this tearing of other people's veils, and in our day and age it literally has the power to save the world (let no pretenders tell you otherwise), but lord knows pursuing it properly can eat up a lot of time and mental energy.

And yet, I'm very confused as to why all the atheist writers I read tend to stop there.

It strikes me as hardhearted and fundamentally anti-humanistic to tear down the Bible's claim as the literal Word of God without also acknowledging that it is an absolutely stunning literary achievement.  (If that sounds questionable to you, Erich Auerbach will put a fatherly hand on your shoulder and explain why you should step out of the echo chamber post-haste to let your ears stop ringing.)

Like any monumental work of literature, it has things to teach us about being human.  Rightfully lampooning the idea that the sky is filled with water or that the world is 6,000 years old without then helping people to marvel at the weird, nihilistic genius of the Book of Job or the psychedelic explosions of poetry in Revelations is to miss the forest for the trees.  (I might even threaten my godless street cred by admitting that Jesus makes for a very enthralling protagonist.)  It would be like getting caught up debunking the existence of the Cyclops and failing to enjoy Odysseus' wit in escaping the monster's cave.

Many lament the "shrillness" of the current atheist movement.  I don't mind it.  Anyone who ignores a truth because it was bluntly stated is someone who was not in the market for truth to begin with, and so not someone I consider a fellow traveler anyway.  But I do worry for the "souls" of my fellow atheists out there, the ones whose righteous animus toward wrong thinking poisons their ability to draw pleasure from one of mankind's greatest written works.

The most pointed charge our critics level at us is equating atheism with emptiness, and if we focus only on dismantling their erroneous belief system it can often appear (appear, I say) that they are right.  I think the proper response is to go further than just twitting them for mistaking mythology as fact by then enjoying their "holy" book for the sublimely human piece of art it really is.  Because how maddening would they find that and how much richer would our lives be for it?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Remembrance Of Things Past

There's a lot of blogjuice pulsing through the veins of the politically-oriented New Media right now, seeing as ten years ago a terrible president took us to war for dubious reasons.

This post is not about that.

Rather, it's a personal reflection.  Ten years ago, I was a temp at a non-profit, not long out of school, hoping to break into NY theater, and mired in a thoroughly awful relationship.  Now...I'm a temp at a non-profit, looking to go back to school, trying to break out of NY theater, and married to the love of my life.

Buy me an Encyclopedia Britannica, cause them are some mighty fine bookends...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

I'm very relieved that Congress finally re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act.  After its expiration, I had to resort to punching puppies just to keep my calluses from disappearing.



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Primal Forces

I can't help but think that the modern Republican Party embodies the same human passions that burned down the library of Alexandria and robbed the world of countless artistic and intellectual treasures.

Gross over-simplification?  Maybe.  Maybe....