So much rage, so much hate

I get angry at times. I think we all do.

Life is frustrating, complicated, annoying and at times infuriating. Too many cars on the road, long lines in the grocery store. Make a list of all the things that get under your skin and you’ll probably find at least one or more of them really sets you off. You know, the one thing that as soon as its mentioned or as soon as it happens you just get angry – really angry.

It could be something someone said to you, or it could be getting cut off in traffic or whatever – take your pick.

I-AM-IN-A-RAGE

In any case, the level of response is disproportionate to the offense, usually. Are there cases where the response is justified? Of course. But so many times the anger that erupts, the rage that spews forth isn’t just because of one thing.

It’s been building, for a long time, and is tied to other things in your life or others lives.

I read an article today about gamer rage that resulted in an arrest and is just one example of thousands of instances that happen daily (the rage, not the arrest) – because there are a lot of angry, rage-filled people out there.

Pick your poison – politics, film, TV, comic books, a female opinion – they are all triggers for people to suddenly go off in a fit of apoplectic hate and derision. The interwebs are filled with so much vitriolic, racist, sexist and just plain angry comments, screeds and book-length diatribes about any given topic that it is soul-crushing and mind-numbing.

Why?

I’m sure some of these rants healthy ways to purge the anger one feels about a Ghostbusters movie or to just get it out of your system that this or that really bothers you.

But it seems that most are just put out in the world to cause misery. “I’m upset, so others need to be too.” “You said something I think is stupid or something I disagree with so *insert insult* and *insert insult* and *insert slur* … ad infinitum until a desired outcome is achieved – that outcome either reducing someone to tears, quitting twitter or – in the worst of cases – taking their own lives.

The article I mentioned earlier that landed the angry gamer in jail details a new policy that Blizzard Entertainment has instituted to deal with those people who play their games that harass or insult other players in game, through chat messages or private messages – usually offensive or threatening messages – aimed at making other players angry or miserable, ruining the experience or just for simple dickery.

The solution Blizzard implemented, to deal with problem players, I felt was exactly the right one – they would “silence” the offenders account, basically preventing said player from sending messages for a set period of time.

The most effective thing you can do to someone who is clamoring for attention is to take away the ability for them to do so – trolls cannot live in a vacuum – if their bile is spewed out and the only ones that hear it are themselves, it loses any potency.

And so, after being ‘silenced’ the troll, whose anger was so consuming they felt it necessary to message the company directly – and to use threats of a violent and destructive nature, going so far as to tell them he would show up at their offices “with an AK47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools”.

Sitting far away, in the relative safety of my room, its easy to shake my head and wonder: Why?

Why on earth is this person so angry? What is it about life that has caused this level of anger or hate or rage?

In my limited view and opinion, this isn’t abnormal. Sadly, its actually pretty normal behavior.

The social nature of the internet has – and I’m not saying anything new – pulled back the thin veneer of social graces and niceties we supposedly taught growing up and allowed for the dislike that we generally have for our fellow human beings to come spilling out. In great waves. But what do you expect people’s behavior to be like when they are fed a steady diet of dissatisfaction, bad news, high prices and any number of other little things that make living a chore?

On a tribal level, we have a natural human instinct to choose someone around us and attack them – most often this presents its self in the form of bullying or harassment. There is a pecking order among us, those on top, those beneath and bullying and harassment is the most basic way to establish your place in that pecking order … shit flows down hill, so better to be higher up than down below.

Ten thousand people maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

In one sense I really don’t think we were meant to live in groups this large. We are able to do so because we have mastered our environment – through tools and intellect we have bent rivers to our will, grown more food than we know what to do with and subjugated, controlled or  destroyed every other species on the planet – including our friends and neighbors.

But is it really in our self-interest as a species to continue growing and expanding? Bumping up against one another is greater numbers generating even more pecking orders and hierarchies to fight through in order to be seen, to be heard, to live in relative safely and security?

I’m not sure. I’m not an expert, I’m not qualified to really speak on the issue – I haven’t researched the social, environmental or geographic data to support or to refute the idea I have about there being too many of us.

It does however seem connected to the issue of the anger in us.

So many opinions, so many critiques and so many people who simply play games and get lucky or who are better and so forth become targets for vicious, ugly and violent messages and posts designed to hurt and belittle. And why? Just because they can. The need or impulse to vent, rant or otherwise puke out one’s thoughts and opinions is part of the internet’s beauty and appeal – the sense of freedom and that someone, somewhere will agree or support your view is quite appealing.

Unfortunately, the downside is there is a lot ugly out there.

The best tool in my arsenal to fight against such ugliness is to ignore it. To silence it in my sphere of influence – meaning in my limited reach, in the fifty or so feet around me personally or by monitoring my social media – I can feed the trolls a steady diet of the one thing that will starve them.

Silence.

“Hello darkness, my old friend…”

Advertisements

“…a little human compassion…”

Bob Hauk: Plissken, if you get back in that glider and fly back here without the tape or the President, I’ll shoot you down myself! You try to climb out, I’ll burn you off the wall! Do you understand that, Plissken?
Snake Plissken: [beat] A little human compassion.

Probably my favorite moment of Snake’s.

The exchange above, is of course, taken from John Carpenter’s dystopian cult hit Escape from New York, which celebrates it’s 35th Anniversary today, July 10 (it was released on the same date back in 1981.)

Backed by Carpenter’s simple but effective score, one of the top ten anti-heroes in cinematic history took over the imagination mid-summer the year I graduated high school. I remember going to see at the Grand Theater in downtown Paris, Tx. Probably on a Friday or Saturday night, with my friends if I recall correctly. It wasn’t a date movie – it was a guy flick. A good ol’ testosterone neo-noir sci-fi western of sorts… a lone ex-military convict, forced to save the President from Manhattan Prison.

In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem River, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple: once you go in, you don't come out.

“In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty-foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem River, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners and the worlds they have made. The rules are simple: once you go in, you don’t come out.”

A lot of my fellow geeks and nerds would no doubt attest to wanting to be Snake, and might even had affected his tone and mannerisms (which Kurt Russell patterned after Clint Eastwood) in the privacy of their own homes. I myself remember mimicking his voice, trying to match the gruff, whispered tones, trying (and failing) to grow the right scruffy beard and maybe even sliding an patch over one eye.

What really struck me about the film is it’s bleak outlook about the human condition – and it’s assertion that we will, left to our own devices, bring about our own doom.

It’s a stylish, low budget sci-fi pop-corn muncher and it’s also a social commentary – maybe a lot closer about society today than when it came out thirty-five years ago. Back then, it was just a fantasy… today, looking at the mass incarcerations here in the USA and the fascist political rantings happening daily on TV and the internet – not so much.

And in the middle of it there’s this wonderful little human moment – with Snake, alone in a city of criminals and psychos and cannibals, listening as Hauk growls and threatens . And Russel’s response, his line reading isn’t what you’d expect. He doesn’t growl back, he doesn’t spit out a witty one-liner.

He sees the futility of it all. He sees the death of empathy and hope. The cost of one human life – his life – doesn’t stack up against another’s. Compassion is dead.

If you haven’t seen it, shame on you. Find a friend who has a copy – I know you have one who does. Get it, watch it.

Happy 35th, #EscapeFromNewYork

Bob Hauk: You going to kill me, Snake?
Snake Plissken: Not now, I’m too tired.
[pause]
Snake Plissken: Maybe later.

Snake

When Pulp is Plop

I really have high hopes anytime a film or movie is announced that involves characters found in novels and books from the Pulp Era – be it The Shadow, or The Phantom, or Flash Gordon, or Doc Savage – or Tarzan of the Apes.

Tarzan by Frazetta

Tarzan by Frazetta

I cut my teeth reading that particular type of fiction – or to be more accurate the latest reprint of that type of fiction. They were readily available on the shelf in my local bookstore or in the library and had eye-catching covers that promised thrills, adventure and cliffhangers. I gobbled them up like Skittles.

They may not be the best stories, or even contain the best story-telling. The plots are fantastical, they ignore logic and physics and common sense, they are filled with outrageous stereotypes, blatant racism and sexism. They are, in short, windows into a world we’ve tried to grow away from – as this article in the Guardian (Why the White-Man-in-the-Jungle film won’t die)  does a much better job of illustrating than I am.

In light of the recent shooting deaths of more Black Men by White Cops, the ugly undertones of the Pulp genre seem even more outdated and something to shy away from, something to put behind glass in a museum to look at and wonder… why would anyone act or think that way?

I went to see the latest pulp offering on the silver screen last week, the disappointing The Legend of Tarzan, with Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz.

I’m not going to go into the uncomfortable feelings that you really can’t ignore during certain sequences – the sad thing is, as great of a pulp character as he is, Tarzan just doesn’t work in the modern world. He is a product of his time and sadly, should be left there.

I say that for several reasons.

One being the “White Man Conquers the Jungle” point made in the Guardian article above. It’s not even handled well in this film – it’s almost blotted out under the “Tarzan is the Lord of Animals” theme that is thrust to the front instead.

And I really have to take issue with this aspect that’s pointed up in at least three or four sequences as to be almost laughable. Tarzan was many things in the books, but he was no Animal Man. He didn’t speak with the animals or command them. At least not in my recollection. Perhaps he did, but in my mind – in the version I hold dear – he was as much at odds with the wild beast of the stories as the other humans in the stories.

The continent of Africa was very much a character in the books as the main protagonist was – Africa was a vast undiscovered world, filled with mystery and forgotten things. And the trailers for the film highlight that – which gave me hope going in. Even the opening sequence, the title of which on the film’s soundtrack/score is called “Opar” had me waiting eagerly for the lost kingdom to be a central plot point, to see La, High Priestess of the Lost City of Opar and her brutish Man-Ape consorts… only to be sorely disappointed by the mish-mash that appears on screen. Listen to the track, close your eyes and imagine – thick mists, a high escarpment, thick jungle, an ancient and crumbling city fading into view… only to be shown something that doesn’t even come close.

It has to be a copyright or rights issue that either prevents or is ignored by the studios that pump out these new Tarzan projects every decade or so – make a film or lose the rights, perhaps. That has to be the reason why they just don’t use the damn books to make a film.

Instead they take bits and pieces from the 24 novels and just smash them together into something that kinda looks like Tarzan, kinda feels like Tarzan but in the end… just ain’t Tarzan.

Back to that opening sequence — Belgian troops led by Christoph Waltz as they find the Lost City of Opar (really kind of easily) and then kill a few of the city’s guardians (painted white for some reason) only to then be slaughtered themselves by the ‘superior’ savages led by King Mbonga (the grossly misused Djimon Hounsou) who appears, not as he does in the original Tarzan of the Apes novel, but more like Gato Mgungu one of the Leopard Men from the 18th book in the series.

Hopes dashed in the first five minutes. The rest was just watching other moments from the books played out in ham-handed, seen-this-before manner – so by the end, after the ridiculous stampede and the oh-so-convenient use of a crocodile’s mating call to dispatch Waltz and then have the riverboat explode in a fireball – I just sat there, wondering why I spent money to see this movie.

There were good moments, don’t get me wrong – I really liked the focus on Tarzan’s hands in the early part of the film, how misshapen or malformed they were because of how he was raised – how they gave (either with prosthetic or GGI) his hands this ugly, ape-like shape and power.

The jungle is dark and foreboding.

The music is decent.

But the animals. I don’t think a single one of them was real.

I’m not going to trash the rest of it. It was serviceable. But at the end of the day… It just wasn’t Tarzan.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! What is wrong with us?

UPDATE #2 – The motive, she was mentally unstable, depressed and wanted to make her husband suffer. And once again the focus will shift from the fact that a gun was used, to the cry of it was ‘mental illness’ that killed them.

UPDATE: Both daughters were fatally killed.

Just to get it out of the way, I gave up #DietCoke this week.

I’m not saying that has any bearing on this post. But I would be remiss if I say it hasn’t contributed to my mood about this post.

So, a friend on #Facebook shared the post of one of his friends who had posted his reaction to the horrific story of a Houston mother and gun rights advocate – Christy Sheats – who turned those guns on her two daughters in the street outside of their suburban home – killing one of them and seriously wounding the other.

This is the post that was shared:

Untitled

Names blurred to protect privacy

The mother was shot dead by police because she refused to drop her gun and they feared she was going to shoot her daughter again.

I have no details about why she was arguing with her daughters, or why she thought that the solution to that problem was to gun them down with the weapon she had so vocally and proudly posted about on her social media – her right to own and use guns to “defend” herself and her family.

I’m sorry – but it’s not radical Islam this time. It wasn’t an AR-15 this time. It was a handgun. At what point do you stop claiming that your right to buy and own a weapon is about defending yourself and acknowledge that its about fear and power?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – and will continue to say it – gun ownership isn’t about defending yourself, your home or your property.

It’s about fear and distrust of your fellow human beings… its about the certain knowledge that their lives are expendable.

I give up, I really do. I don’t understand and won’t ever understand why people continue to bring danger and death into their lives.

I’m a failure of a human being I guess. I don’t have enough manly attributes or aspects to qualify as a true blue, red-blooded ‘Murican.

I really want to turn my back on all of this, I really do. But I can’t. Hence I write things like this in my blog – which I’d rather devote to silly, trivial stuff about writing and comic books and other topics that bring me a tiny bit of joy and happiness.

Thank you internet, for reminding me how ugly and terrible things can be once again.  I sometimes shake my head when I hear people say things like “Oh man I wish I could go back” or “remember when this…” or “remember when that…” – I shake my head because I try to live in the present, to enjoy the moment I’m in not the moments that were… its not really healthy (in my mind) to live in or revere the past that much… it just generates unhappiness because, it’s impossible to go back…

But I get it, I really do. I long for the time when I didn’t give much thought to guns or weapons – when I played army with my friends, or read books like Mack Bolan The Executioner, or Doc Savage, played games like Call of Duty or Counter-Strike or watched films like Commando and The Matrix (Guns… lots of guns).

I want to retreat into those nostalgic days when the world seemed fun and enjoyable, when I didn’t want to hang my head and think the worst of my fellow man.

We’ve only been on this earth as a species for a very short time. About 200,000 years. Just before I read the ugly story about the Houston woman who gunned her daughter to death, I had watched a short video about Human Origins.

I wanted to write about that because the last few seconds are pretty spot on when it comes to us oh-so advanced humans in this modern day and age.

But all of that was wiped out by this story about Christy Sheats and also the Orlando shooting and the tsunami of uncertainty and fallout that the Brexit will create.

Yeah, today I want to retreat. I want it to be that long ago time when all I was concerned with was … nothing.

Today I want that very much. And a #DietCoke too.

Never As One

So, England has voted to leave the EU.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s try to imagine the worst (or best, depending on your POV) case scenario of this whole Brexit business and the avalanche of succeeding secessionist news that has steam-rolled the interwebs today.

I live in Texas and there’s new interest in a Texit – and a lot of people in this state would love it if Texas were its own country.

And because I write fiction, please don’t take this as anything other than fiction – a humorous rumination on a ridiculous (yet still frightening) scenario…

aMiasto_Ruin_10

So, let’s say it spreads like wildfire. Every country that’s currently part of it, separates from the EU.  Then, in like manner, any other other country divided by state borders, splits from its overbearing and ineffective governments. It’s the domino effect – one by one, things topple.

And it keeps going… Russia gobbles up the upstart states it had lost, China and Korea bristle and fighting breaks out. India and Pakistan take the gloves off. Every country in the world suffers due to world-wide economic collapse…

Suddenly the political and economic landscape reverts to a kind of Pre-Industrial Age world outlook, where its every country for itself – only with high tech weapons and spy games. You think the fighting in Syria is bad?

Now, if I am alive during this phase of transition, I won’t be for long. I will most likely die within the first few months of this stampede of hysterics and closing of borders between states – because I won’t lift a weapon to defend myself and someone more desperate or incensed than I will cave my skull in to either steal my car, siphon my gas or simply for thinking I looked at them the wrong way.

So I’ll be free of the madness that follows…

Untitled

The US Government either collapses or consolidates into it’s own city-state/country and every other new “country” scrambles to gobble up the resources left behind in their now sovereign territory – state military bases, banks and mints, food stores.

The U.S. will no longer be the U.S. – it will transform into a collection of 48 new countries. Or more accurately, a smaller or odd number of countries because stronger states will absorb the weaker ones (as always happens in border skirmishes) and we will have new maps every few weeks or so that – at least for a few years – will be fluid and ever changing until some semblance of stability occurs. It’s the NRA’s wet dream. Everybody arms themselves to fend of those “a-hole Floridians” or them “godless Vermonters”.

Battles and skirmishes breakout on highway borders because trade agreements between 48 ‘countries’ will all be different. Some long haul trucker will need to carry sixty different permits and have his rig up to standard on different codes or face fines and violations. He’ll have to a crew riding shotgun on top to prevent pirates and hijackers from forcing him into a ditch so they can “liberate” his cargo.

48 different countries with laws and regulations that benefit those who are powerful enough or rich enough to enforce them… we slide into a new Dark Age – Stephen King’s Mid-World is made real by rampant xenophobia and the greed of the rich and powerful.

At least that’s what I see in my head…

But wait, you say – it would never get to that state, people aren’t that short-sighted. They’d stop before things got that bad. They’d try to work things out.

But here’s the thing – survival is what drives us. Fear drives us. If you are afraid you aren’t going to survive – what would you be willing to do…? People kill over tennis shoes and insults. When things start to slide and it becomes about survival… ugly things will happen.

Now – of course this silly little nightmare won’t happen. It’s just the dark little rabbit hole I went down, the cynical part of me that thinks that – in the end – we really don’t care about each other. That really, deep down – every single one of us is out for themselves.

It’s pretty clear that the majority of voters in England don’t want any more outsiders in “their” country.  Just as its clear that a lot of people in my country don’t want anyone “not of their kind” living here.

They don’t want a melting pot – they want things to stay the same. They don’t want unity – they want division. Unity is the bane of existence it seems – how can anyone be on top if we are all one, if we are all the same?

And that’s how everyone thinks – its has to be us vs. them. This vs. that. That’s how the world works – that’s this reality and its kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.

We won’t ever be as one – because we don’t want to be as one.

Reconciling the Inescapable

For the last twenty years or so, I’ve been wrestling with an increasingly hard-line stance, one that proves to be an personal volatile moral quandary. That quandary being of course – the issue of gun violence in America.

I’ve made my stance clear in several other posts – but I’m also an actor and writer and one high profile project I’m involved with deals with some very violent and action-packed sequences that involve guns, gun use and the consequences of that particular type of violence.

redwhitebluegun

How do I reconcile my stance on the gun issue, when I am actively involved in projects that have them as part of the action and story?

I guess the simple answer is – its just entertainment. I try to look at it the way I look at plays I’ve been involved with… the same way that Shakespeare has weapons and violence as part and parcel of almost all his plays – weapons and the use of them in media is inescapable.

They are constant and ever-present in our lives.

And being an American male, a great part of my childhood and formative years I was presented and instructed – through visual media, playground shenanigans, history lessons, film, TV, books and advertisements that weapons and guns were normal, expected and manly.

If I didn’t like them – then something was wrong.

As a child, it’s easy to be swayed by the allure of weapons and violence. Especially when it comes to play and entertainment. There are no real consequences in those examples. You leave the playground and nothing much has changed — except for maybe feeling tired or worn out from the game… or maybe with a bruise or scrape – the coveted “war wound” you could brag about at school.

You leave the movie theater or turn the TV program off and you go about the rest of your day/night. The gunfights you witness come with a small thrill or rush of excitement – but it’s all just make believe. There aren’t any bloodstains or bodies to sidestep on your way to the lobby or on your way to the kitchen for a snack.

And so, on one hand, when I see the images for the project plastered on my social media, I get excited thinking about the project and the work it will take to bring it to the screen and to our viewing public. I can see that its just entertainment – its not real.

And in the same instant I look at those images and think: am I complicit in the promotion of guns as a solution – complicit in the propaganda that guns are necessary and a good thing?  That line of thinking — as always — is inflamed by the tragic news of yet another mass killing in this country.

orlando

Orlando – 2016 – Pulse Nightclub Massacre

How can I maintain a stance against the use of guns and high-powered military grade weapons – when at the same time I am writing and acting in and promoting a project that involves the same type of violence and gun use?

It’s a very difficult question for me.

Because on one hand, I want to work and I want my work to be seen by fans and the public and hopefully to see it generate more work. On the other it involves something I make an active choice to avoid in my real life.

I went through Army basic and AIT training at Ft. Leonard Woods in Missouri in the 80’s. I learned to disassemble, clean and fire my M-16, as well as several other weapons. I learned how to operate and fire a LAW rocket, how to hold and throw a grenade, even how to load, aim and fire shells from a tank.

When I was working in the game industry I got the chance to get instruction from a retired police officer (who had been involved in the Hollywood Shootout incident) about how to breach and clear rooms for a SWAT game we were working on.

I’ve seen countless movies and TV shows where guns and shootouts occur with such regularity that they are boring – they’ve become something I can walk out of room during because I can already predict how they are going to turn out.

We see, time and again, characters involved in amazingly intense and graphic gun battles emerge no worse for wear… and perhaps that’s the aspect I really get nervous about. Because, as we’ve seen, in reality… things are not so entertaining.

In the end, I can only live my real life the best way I know possible and live my truth and maintain my stance as far as it applies to me.

When it comes to entertainment work – I’ll have to take things on a case by case basis – and wrestle with the notion of possibly turning down a role or a part if it truly seems to go against my personal convictions.

I really do long for that time in my youth when this kind of issue was one I wouldn’t think twice about, one I could easily ignore or dismiss.

When playing the hero or soldier was fun.

Sgt._Rock_Vol_1_367

Cinematic Sandboxes

So, after sitting through the last three superhero movies of 2016 (BvS: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse) and reading screed after screed and post after post from fans and friends and frenemies and strangers, outlining what’s right with them and whats wrong with them, why they aren’t good or what should’ve been done differently, I’ve come to the conclusion that – in general – audiences simply don’t want that much story or character in these types of films.

They want story and character, don’t get me wrong. They just don’t want much of it.

These films – and the material they are based on – are simply extensions of power fantasies about our fear of death. They are also gladiatorial games of a sort, fulfilling a need that pro wrestling or MMA or actual warfare doesn’t.

Superheroes are strong enough or fast enough to meet death head on… they can fight cancer in a way we cannot, and more often than not they are victorious over death. Because bigger than life heroes win.

The way these films are marketed and sold – not the way they are made or told, just to be clear… but the way they are sold, plays up the ‘exciting’  and ‘action-packed’ elements to the point where we get fan trailers or ‘supercuts’  or phrases in articles or reviews that state that the preferred elements audiences want, i.e. ‘…As much as we’d all love to see Hulk kick ass for two hours…’ is simply the punching, the fighting, the explosions and destruction.

Think about it… how many times have you sat in front of a fighting match or a film and muttered “Just get on with it!”? If you say you haven’t… you’re fibbing.

I get that mindset, especially when it comes to entertainment. I grew up with toys and games and stories that glorified combat and fighting. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Risk. Stratego. Chess. As I got older, AD&D and computer games – Doom, Mortal Kombat, Warcraft, Age of Empires.

Working in the video game industry, the best part was being able to work with game engines and toolsets, setting up scenarios and situations and then watching how things played out.

And maybe that’s the next evolutionary step for films of this type.

looker-7

In the early 80’s (1981 to be exact) Michael Crichton directed a film starring Albert Finney, James Coburn and Susan Dey … it’s called ‘Looker‘ and watching it now you may think it lame. The gist of the film is that models are committing suicide after they submit to plastic surgery in order to be ‘digitally perfect’. Of course the suicides turn out to be murders because the company that hires the models, alters them and then scans their images into a databank (which they can then use to fit them into whatever commercial or ad or film they want) reneges on it’s “paycheck for life” incentive it uses to get the models to submit to the procedures in the first place.

As our technology advances and CGI and digital body and face scanning becomes more and more lifelike and easier to produce, the idea that an actor could submit themselves to this type of promise and then sit back and collect the rewards seems like a sweet deal. As long as they didn’t kill you off afterwards.

And that could also lead to a type of cinematic sandbox film making.

No need to recast Harrison Ford as Han Solo or Indiana Jones. He’s gonna look the same and so… bring on Star Wars Episodes 10-100, starring all the original cast.

face-capture

Imagine if you were able to take Henry Cavill as Superman and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk and then bend and mold them into whatever shape and position you wanted in order to make your ideal ultimate DC vs. Marvel showdown. You’d have access to the sets and world locations too. So your creations would look just like the films you see in the theater.

And given the vociferous amount of digital ink given to the problems and issues of the three films I mention at the top of the post, would fans and audiences member be happier to have a toybox version of these properties rather than sitting in the dark and passively watching something they have no control over – only to come out the other side disappointed or pissed or grumbling ‘why didn’t they do it this way?”

I prefer the quieter moments in these types of film, moments like the bunker scene from Winter Soldier, where Steve and Natasha confront Zola and learn that Hydra is alive and well and behind EVERYTHING. It has the same thrill as the elevator fight scene, at least for me. It’s tense, revealing and has you on the edge of your seat -the same way the shootout on the Guggenheim from The International does, but without the blood and violence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the next twenty years or so, the technology becomes available to allow for this type of product to become cheap enough to find its way into the public’s hand.

But, of course, because of Rule 34, we won’t get two hour fights between The Hulk and Superman.

What you will get — you won’t be able to unsee. So yeah, maybe we shouldn’t get that kind of tech anytime soon.  🙂

Everything has to be “New”

So, Captain America is actually – and has been all along – a Hydra agent. WTF.

*face palm*

*face palm*

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I began to get really steamed about the reveal. Not because it’s a bad story choice or a giant ‘oh my gosh’ moment – but because – as James Whittbrook points out – it’s a gimmick.

I shouldn’t be shocked, I shouldn’t be upset. But I keep running into this kind of thing, (that thing being “You want new? Try THIS!”) and the reaction that follows. Maybe it’s because of personal circumstances where I’ve been forced over the last decade or so to divest myself of much of the stuff I used to own or because of present economics circumstances I’m just not purchasing or consuming products and items as I did when I was younger.

And yeah, I posted something on my Instagram today about ’embracing change” – but what I’m spending way too much energy and words on right now isn’t about change. It’s about the glut of ‘the new’.

As we continue on at our blistering pace through the seemingly unlimited content of the world wide web, our human peccadillo of wanting more and obsessing over the new has reached an almost laughable state of ridiculousness… to the point where somethings we took as tide and true, are being revamped and re-imagined to their detriment.

You can do your own research on the psychological and societal workings of why we market and consume goods and services… to do so in this little blog post would take up more time than you would want to read.

We’ve been raised in a culture that expects the “New”. We even project it into our visions of dystopian futures – Mad Max: Fury Road? “Shiny and Chrome?”

It’s a concept as old as society, that new is better. Even images of our supposed ‘afterlife’ are painted in images and words as a place that is ‘clean’, ‘bright’, ‘untarnished’.

Because, “New” is better.

Getting back to Cap. When the Marvel Civil War comics came out I will admit I was intrigued, but at the same time, thought it was a cheap and desperate grab at getting fans to buy comics.

And I understand that. The economics and keeping writers and artists employed, the money aspect of keeping a business afloat is entrenched in the need to produce new content.

So many of us creatives and artists wrack our brains and talent day in and day out trying to come up with content. To put stuff out in the world because we need to in order to feel fulfilled but also because we want to entertain and if we’re lucky also gain some compensation for it… and that’s what feels so soulless about this “shocker” concerning Cap.

There’s the part of me that really could give two shits. That’s the part of me that looks at the comics wall at a comic book store and understanding that, well, they gotta get your attention somehow.

Then there’s the part of me that just grinds his teeth at the idea of someone – just as creative as me (if not moreso) and under the gun to produce – makes the decision to make Cap a tool of the very agency he’s been fighting for decades.

You know, for reasons.

They’re perfectly logical reasons, I get that. I just don’t agree with them.

Let’s talk a little bit about apprenticeship. Trust me, it ties in.

Way back in the history of our society we had the concept of apprenticeship – where someone would take years to learn a trade or a craft. The purpose of apprenticeship was not only to teach someone a profession – but to also imbue them with a sense of purpose, appreciation and understanding. That a products worth, or a person’s worth as a tradesman, craftsman or artist was enhanced or valued because of the time and effort that went into their education or its making.

With the rise in population and the advancements of the Industrial Revolution – apprenticeships began to fall away and the gap between a fledgling artist and a Master, to almost disappear entirely.

Now – I’m not telling you that people today don’t work at their craft or that there aren’t good things being produce by people that do not have training or schooling or who haven’t spent 30 years studying and perfecting a technique or craft… what I am saying is the tradition and the appreciation that is gained by an apprenticeship is missing from the consumerist notion of ‘new is better’.

As consumers, we are bored and tired of the tried and true. You wanna know what I think is the greatest threat to the human condition? Boredom.

When you are bored… shit happens. Mistakes happen.

You could argue that a lot of good things are created out of boredom too… there’s always two sides to every issue or opinion. But what I’m asking here is, is the rabid hunger for the “new” truly innovative or is it equally destructive?

Take for example the innovations or “new” take on Batman and Superman in the DCU – the camps are divided on whether or not its value is good or even needed. Marvel has made it’s missteps too, lest you think I’m being a bit biased. Civil War (the comics) for example.

And when you consider that its all driven by $, then the reasoning behind the changes or the audience hunger or the ultimatums of a CEO … then its something to be a bit sad about, and also a bit bit “eh, so what.” about.

Somebody somewhere will buy it, and the cycle will continue.  I keep looking through my internet search history for a movie review video I saw the other day that I wanted to reference to illustrate this point, and if I do come across it again I’ll update the post with it – but the gist of it comes down to the reviewer disliking a film because they “wanted something new”.

I’m not saying ‘new’ is bad. For example – I think V for Vendetta the movie, relates the story and concepts therein better than the graphic novel.

I too enjoy being surprised and delighted upon discovering something, seeing something for the first time, being wowed by special effects and so forth and so on…

And really, when it comes down to it, this little blog post prompted by an ugly gimmick in a comic book is just so much wasted wind. My railing against an insatiable consumer market will be lost to the ether the moment after I hit the ‘publish’ button.

I trust the comics will work out the story and plot to reveal that Cap is still Cap, because in the soap opera world of comics, its just another day at the office.

Tomorrow is another day, and we’ve got to feed the Beast.

Superhero Overload? #CivilWar

Have we reached the height of the superhero property zeitgeist? Will we see a decline or backlash? The jury’s out and others have already been weighing in on this issue for a while now… but after the last two big superheroes movies, I’m starting to wonder.

It’s possible. The prevalence of the superhero genre film/TV series seems to be taking up a fairly decent sized slice of the entertainment pie. And though some think that these types of properties will be around for some time, others have already begun to claim that they will go the way of the western, a genre that once dominated the box office and the TV screen, but which we see only sparingly these days.

Add to this the big divide between those who loved BvS: Dawn of Justice and those who didn’t, plus the now lukewarm early reviews of X-Men: Age of Apocalypse… maybe we are cresting over the edge with the superhero genre films.

I was thinking about this concept – even before  I read news of the Inhumans being removed from Marvel’s film slate, and when I watched BvS; DoJ and also – more recently – while watching Captain America: Civil War.

inuhmans-daisy

The news that The Inhumans film has been removed from the Marvel/Disney film docket may not be an indicator of a ‘audiences getting tired of superheroes’ — and Marvel is perhaps not averting a decline or backlash – but attempting something more akin to lightening the load — but that’s just my faint impression. The way that films get greenlit and released is a process I have little knowledge of, and I can’t even imagine the conversations and headaches that occur in the Marvel movie bullpen when it comes to the schedule that keeps the machine rolling along as it does. It’s no surprise the Inhumans have been removed from the list, as they’ve been dominating the story arc in Marvels Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series.

The Inhumans – at least for me – were always a bit of an strange mix. I knew of the X-men first, and to me at least, the Inhumans just seemed to be a a ‘weird tales’ version of the mutant team. They were the cast offs, the circus freaks and bizarro oddballs. The way they gained their powers, exposure to the Terrigen Mists, always smacked of eccelerated mutation to me – and so, they were mutants. But, we already had the X-Men… so why confuse everyone with this new type of mutant? And they also seemed to have a lot in common with Kirby’s New Gods… but maybe that’s because they were drawn in the same distinctive Kirby style.

Of course, part of me understood it was the comics creators trying to create something new to bolster sales, but already I had my favorites = Captain America, the Avengers, Power-Man and Black Panther, Werewolf-by-Night… and so never really got into the Inhumans.

Plus, at that time, I wasn’t a fan of Kirby’s art… the wide eyes and flat fingers just seemed odd to me, though Kirby drew fantastic landscapes and energy beams galore! As I got older, I grew to appreciate and love his stuff. It’s dynamic and enthralling and even today his panels have a life to them that makes everything seem to leap off the page.

jackkirbypencilsbyinkist

But I just wasn’t thrilled by the Inhumans. And I haven’t really been able to get into the story line that involves them in the AoS series. Still, they are part of the Marvel canon and I do think – if Inhumans has/have been removed form Marvel’s slate of MCU films, will we see them in the two Infinity War movies? I’m sure we will have an answer soon enough… and if the internet buzz is true, the cast for the Infinity Wars movies is huge, so I think we might… but will we care by then?

But getting back on point, to the question of – ‘are we getting tired of superheroes?’

As Retired General Thaddeua “Thunderbolt” Ross says is the new Captain America: Civil War film –  the world is dealing with (paraphrasing here) “enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders and inflict their will wherever they choose and who, frankly, seem unconcerned with what they leave behind.”

It’s kind of like that with these films, characters and so forth – we’re getting so many heroes, who run riot across the screen… are getting so many properties that were once just comics or graphic novels that are being turned into big screen entertainment packages. There’s almost too much to keep up with.

I saw Captain America: Civil War the night before it officially opened. And I got that feeling sitting in the dark watching the film – should we be getting two or more of these films a year?

What did I think of Civil War?

I liked it, but I kept finding myself thinking more about it then actually enjoying it – not that that is a bad thing… but I kept getting that feeling in my stomach that something had shifted.

I’ve been looking forward to it, as Marvel has done a prodigious job as far as creating a cinematic version of the comic books and characters – they’ve been building these story lines and giving us audiences and fans a chance to get to know and love them. So, when the first teaser dropped and we saw Bucky/The Winter Soldier and Cap ganging up on Tony/Iron Man – it was a bit of a sinking feeling in the gut – what?! Cap’s not a bully!

I enjoyed the film, yet I did get that sinking gut feeling a few times and really big near the end.

The only thing I felt should’ve been changed (other than the young RDJ /Tony Stark little bit of creepiness) about the movie was a speech given by Sharon Carter. The words she speaks are words that Cap himself utters in the comics – and I feel he should’ve been the one to speak them – but that’s just my opinion.

noyoumove

In the end, I guess it’s that hard-headed conviction and code of honor that Cap has that fuels the conflict in the movie, and escalates the issues to the point of physical violence.

Or perhaps its just us as consumers and audience members that fuels it because we just have to have someone fighting someone else – over whatever personal beliefs or tragedies that demand justice/vengeance/retribution whatever label you want to give it. We are conditioned to see conflict and fighting as the  penultimate entertainment. I’m guilty of this as much as anyone. I’ve written stories, been involved in projects were the main thrust of the story involves fighting and violence and all the stuff that goes along with it.

We admire strength and power. It’s hard coded in our DNA – and every story we tell is about struggle or conflict of some sort. But after thousands and thousands of years – what have learned? It seems we’ve only learned to tell the same tale to ourselves over and over and over. Because its fun or because its exciting, or because, we’re bored.

That and we don’t really live long lives, so tales are told for each new generation that say the same things the generation before them learned and that pattern will repeat itself ad infinitum until we do finally reach a stage where human lifespans exceed a hundred and fifty years or so.

When you break down the story of the film, its pretty basic.

To paraphrase the Vision: “Strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.”

It’s not good enough to see these people rescuing people from a burning building. Or helping evacuate a flooded town, or aiding the relief effort after an avalanche… yeah, that’s just not exciting enough.

That sinking gut feeling I got when watching this movie bothers me – because I’m supposed to like it. Cap’s a favorite hero/character of mine – I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that was a great film (again, just my opinion).

And I did enjoy the movie – the Spider-Man stuff was amazing – Tom Holland is perfect as Peter Parker. And for the first time, on screen, he really really “feels” like a teenager. The scene between him and RDJ during his “recruitment” was so well done. We should get a Tony and Peter walking around Queens movie.

I loved the banter, I loved Giant Man.

But that final sequence? I was wincing the whole time. I felt dirty and bothered and I guess that’s what I should be feeling. Why didn’t I feel that during BvS? Why didn’t I feel that during any other MCU property, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones – granted JJ made me wince but for other reasons during that final episode.

There’s an odd shift that occurs when you watch a certain type of battle or fight.

If it’s against a true evil villain, or a faceless enemy – you root for the good guys. You cheer for victory. You watch it excited and thrilled.

But here – this was like watching a fight at the family dinner table at Thanksgiving.

The ultimate goal of any film is to illicit an emotional response – to generate thoughts, questions. BvS generated a response, divided people. I’m sure others will feel the same about Civil War – heck the marketing campaign has been built around the question – whose side are you on?

In the end, what I got from the film was that – no one won – everyone lost. #ThereAreNoTeams

I disagreed with a few choices at the end of the movie – but I’ll talk about those in another forum.

I’m still trying to wrestle with my thoughts about the idea – are we getting tired of superheroes?

I don’t know… but I don’t like how my thoughts are leaning.