Netflix’s Iron Fist Review

It’s bad don’t watch it.

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Comics I Care About: March 15th 2017

Comics I care about:

Every week a lot of comics come out. Of those comics there are a handful I’ll buy and hopefully like. A smaller more select set of comics are the ones that build some anticipation before Wednesday rolls around. Their history leaves you thinking about what will come next and their ongoing story has stakes, implications or simply a quality through-line you want to see developed.

Here are the comics I’m looking forward to this week:

MS MARVEL #16 – I’ll always love Ms Marvel. As someone who is pretty devoutly religious, the caring considered introduction of a hero who shared some of the human tensions I experienced as a young person was much appreciated. Some of the conflicts that the first wonderful hardcover Omnibus of Ms Marvel contains are the differing values and cares of family vs friends, how they can respect one another but still be different, making choices for yourself in a world where structurally you’re outside of the mainstream because of your (or at least your family’s beliefs), BOYS etc, Canadian ninjas and the end of the world. It’s so so good and I highly recommend you read it. The art in that omnibus has a lovable humane whimsy that never hits that jokey “lol chimichangas” obnoxiousness level that I can’t stand.

The series and the character’s portrayal has hit a few bumps in the road. Different artists have different takes on Ms M and no one quite gets her like her original artist Alphona. The recent Civil War 2 crossover didn’t in its entirety do anything more for the character than any one of the small character moments in a few ‘non-plot’ one off comics where Ms M goes to a science fair or spends time with Spider-Man Miles Morales while he’s grounded.

The current arc is wrapping up and I’m eager to hear what G Willow Wilson is trying to do with this whole online bullying plot even as the arc feels maybe stretched a little thin and whatever it’s building to is currently out of view.

SPIDER-MAN #14

They should have called the current Miles Morales storyline Crisis on Infinite Kisses. I am not on board with the multiverse as a concept but it’s canon and nerds love that stuff so of course we’re going to have a multiverse story at some point. Bendis seems aware of a core criticism of the this whole concept of literally everything inevitably happening somewhere in a multiverse based on his Jessica Jones book that’s going right now.

If we accept the multiverse then we have to accept that every character is always kissing every other character forever. Infinite kissing, that’s just exhausting and airless. Not to mention meaningless. But I’ve already said too much. Go read Jessica Jones’ first 6 issues and see the golden nugget therein. The in world implications of someone agreeing with this criticism as a denizen of one of the infinite planes is uhh… a lot more like bleak nihilism than tumblr’s thirsty uses.

ANYWAY, this arc has an interesting structure. It starts with a finale first, Miles kisses Spider-Gwen. Told after the fact as a story to his roommates, of course he’d start with the kiss. But we haven’t gotten to it yet so I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. For how much I hate multiverses I do want to see what they are doing with the post secret wars status quo of a single universe. I’ll glean whatever I can from this book even if the current arc is not my fav. I want Miles back in New York asap.

ALL STAR BATMAN #8

I’ve been digging the separate Duke Thomas story-lines that have been running through the All Star issues. FIRST, I know what you’re thinking:

CaptureDUKEImage result for duke thomas

So he’s just a guy… but let’s not forget that’s how batman started. He’s a relatively new character. They are deliberately trying to keep him out of sidekick territory and right now that’s new enough for me to be excited about his shot at finding his own corner of Gotham. Since Batman is very established, seeing him teach is another way of letting us in on what he’s learned.

The main stories so far each have a bit of an involved hook. You can’t fault All Star for its ambition so this is a plus for me though other readers may think its in fiction fake science or inter-arc connective tissue are A Bit Too Much. (Art also great)

BATMAN #19

Tom King, what a guy. He’s got a pretty clear straightforward take on Batman. Batman is the triumph of the will (but like good and not that Nazi movie from 80 years ago). In his Batman #1 he sets a pretty big mission statement. For all the haranguing batfans have gotten about the obsession with the Dark and Gritty aspects of the character, King’s Gotham is still in some sense better than our world. #1 evokes 9/11 with its chase to stop a plane to building collision. Here’s the thing, Batman stops the plane (but he doesn’t save himself).

This is King’s world and 9/11, he’s been very open about, is a personal touchstone for his personal world. It was and continues to be a person and nation shaping trauma but a trauma that he doesn’t let happen to Gotham. That he has Batman not let happen to Gotham. So his world is brighter than ours for a moment, when Batman exercises his will to the full expense of his person.

The subsequent arcs remind you of the individual, unique terrors of Gotham (and even the goofy pageantry of the lesser set of rogues). Batman gets to care about Catwoman. They get to be happy together. Oh that’s ominous though isn’t it, the gritty hero with a smile.

So in the current arc Bane comes to Gotham and things aren’t looking good. #18 got incredibly explicit about the parallels between Bane and Bruce Wayne and it was a little too much. The whole “how other characters are just a shade away from Batman” thing works really well under the surface of the like-attracts-like dynamic of Catwoman and the father of the Bat Family thing that Bruce has going on with the other side kicks. But with Bane all that needed to be said was said at the end of the I Am Suicide arc when Batman, on completion of a Suicide Squad mission to steal a prisoner from Bane on his home turf, gives Bane a speech that about not chasing him in a rage. It’s an expression of understanding and an acknowledgement of their similar psychology. It was good is what I’m saying and hopefully #19 steps back from the whole sameness angle and shows us what King has planned for the inevitable divergence and tragedy this arc seems to be promising by giving Batman so many wins (and so much to care for).

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‘Sleepless’ is all things good about “just another genre entry”

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One of the humble pleasures found at the cinema is the dad-action film. This microgenre is ruled by Liam Neeson who cemented his role as the particularly skilled patriarch of the Taken series. But not just Taken, Taken 2, or Taken 3, there’s also Non-Stop, The Grey, Unknown, A Walk Among The Tombstones and Run All Night.

Now, Jamie Foxx is taking a run at the tall handsome irishman’s throne with Sleepless. It’s the story of a crooked cop out to save his kidnapped son by any means necessary. By and large it works for what it is. How’s that for a poster quote, “as advertised.”

The title gives you a hint at what’s going on, it takes place over the course of, by my rough estimate, 32 hours. An early morning heist gone bad, the next day of the police scrambling trying to figure it out and a night of guns, knives and other nice things in the confines of a vegas casino.

It’s a full movie that actually takes its time. This movie allows a rare kind of proper set up, it’s almost jarring. When the first real hand to hand fight scene hits, you’ll feel a little relief, this is an action movie after all.

Not only does this film hang comparably with the impressive Neeson oeuvre (he’s not in it but the cast is great nonetheless), it’s also got what makes that collection so special. Sleepless has a personality and place. Think back to the various Neesons, there’s the plane one, the wolf punching one, the Ed Harris and Catholics one, the 90s noir, the amnesia one. For what hopefully will be the start of a long late career action revival, this is Foxx’s Vegas Die Hard one.

The confining single location for most of the action warrants a comparison to the first Die Hard though not as crisply plotted, there’s a lot more players here and the police do not just stand around. The criss crossing character motivations are nuanced as well. It’s not as clear cut as “shoot the german guy out the window.”

You’ll be glad that the filmmakers didn’t kowtow to the old mothers at the MPAA. For what could have been a PG-13 star power retread of cut aways and red smoke, you’ll see all sorts of creativity here. A scene of baseball torture and a handsy, pressure cooker like performance by Scoot McNairy flavor the festivities. There are cars, car crashes. There is a parking garage. There is a weapons trunk. Gas? Is there really a gas attack in this movie??? Yes, and more.

They don’t let David Harbour, Michelle Monaghan, or even Gabrielle Union go to waste. Pretty much everybody fights or shoots at everybody else. They cover their bases spreading the action around to the whole cast but never in a way that feels like it betrays the character motivations that drive this whole thing. There is a father and son team up fight that plays well when on its face that idea should really be ridiculous.

Dermot Mulroney’s character, the casino owner, doesn’t get much action but for good reason. In the dance of character meetings leading up to all hell breaking loose they subvert our expectations for who a Vegas big bad looks and acts like.
If you enjoyed this film enough to want another go round with the tension and stakes even higher, well they left the door open. It’s a door I’ll want to go through if it should ever appear.

Sleepless is now playing nationwide.

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Year in Review: 2016

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(pictured: what 2016 did to me)

This was not a good year. I got out to half as many movies as I’d like to, but made up for it accidentally by watching too much TV and getting into comics in the fall so…

Here are the numbers:

39 Full seasons of TV watched (40 if you count Horace and Pete which, it seems like most people, I still need to finish)

62 Films watched on VOD/Hard disk

80 Films watched in Theaters (with a few first run VOD exceptions like High-Rise, Skiptrace, Weiner etc)

-Over 100 individual issues of comics

9 older collected classic comic trades

5 nonfiction books (this is going to seem really sad but I’ve got a couple dozen that I’m 100 or so pages into)

-I didn’t keep track of fiction but if I did read anything it was probably a fantasy book aimed at kids like Redwall or Outlaws of Time by ND Wilson (it has a fantastic book trailer fwiw) with a few excursions into science fiction books on tape

6 video games that came out this year

5 video games from years past

-I haven’t even thought about music because in addition to being bad at it, I hardly understand it. (Church Clothes 3 by Lecrae, Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper and of course Lemonade)

5 comedy specials (all netflix and generally underwhelming except for Bo Burnham’s Make Happy who remains an interesting if undeniably jaded young man)

Hopefully I’ll post more complete analysis with time breakdowns and stuff so we can see exactly how much sleep I lost on those terrible CW superhero shows.

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What exactly happened last night? Westworld episode 7 – trompe l’oeil

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Is Bernard a man? or does he just take the appearance of a man? Like taking a few steps to the left while looking at the paintings of the header image, this episode of Westworld gave us a fuller truth about Bernard. We saw the stretched out parts of him, some parts flattened altogether.

I will contend that the robots are not just “toasters” that rob the drama of any stakes or the action of any fun. No, from that one particular vantage we had been given to this point Bernard is a man. A man who loved his child, who found a lover at work. A lover who hurt his feelings a little, but delicately, when she broke up with him. All the pieces line up to paint a full true picture… for a time.

In the same way, a piece of art can be shattered when you learn a fuller truth about the person who made it, or the harsh conditions under production. That shattering image, the protection of what’s inside the frame is why Old Hollywood studios were so tight with the image of their stock of movie stars.

It’s the beauty of what’s inside the frame of Bernard’s work life sleuthing with Elsie, carrying on his affair, being wounded that makes the will-shattering, character-defying behavioral discontinuity of killing Theresa all the more galling.

We want, I mean I want, Bernard to be a man. To be full and whole. We’re getting not so subtle hints from Maeve and Dolores’ stories that a broader based revolt against the oppression of the mortal creators of the hosts is taking shape. Will we see a Bernard who regrets? A Bernard to knows who made him a killer when he didn’t want to be. I  hope so.

The video game analogy for Westworld is applicable but deficient for the park. Not so many games are dialog based. The players in the park are co writers, co creators in every aspect of the story they are on (though the nudge is certainly there to sit back make as few choices as possible and enjoy the ride). The only game I can really think of like this, authorly in ambition and scope, is Facade.

At a point if the technology gets good enough, games like Facade just becomes talking. I imagine whatever is to be had at the end of that particular chat bot rabbit hole could just as easily be found in some underground AIM chatroom with an actual human.

This whole show is an exercise in flicking the eye that is self aggrandizement in creation. We are not so good to our creations as we think, maybe in the blasphemy of good creation, the creation itself becomes our enemy. If the creation can be free and real but we keep it fake and enslaved what are we making really? Toasters with emoji labels? Worse?

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Donald J. Trump is Evil

Maybe it’s bluster? He can’t really mean those things, or honestly hold the ideas behind those things.

Take punitive action against his opposition’s speech and the free press? Oh really.

Order US Marines to put their guns into cribs and shoot children? Not going to happen.

Make Mexico pay? Pretty vague, not even really a threat.

China will give back the jobs? Americans don’t actually want those jobs, POTUS can’t write new trade legislation, the market is self evidently good to anyone with even the barest education.

So it has gone for many when it comes to Donald J. Trump. He just seems too stupid and logistically untethered to be credibly dangerous. How are his plans even doable?

But then we remember the guns. For a while there have been issues in the presidency with encroaching war powers, like an unhealthy willingness in killing US citizens abroad, that have softened us up to the idea of an arbitrary executioner-in-chief. This is THE problem with someone like Donald J. Trump. What will he do with all the guns.

We need to stop thinking about Donald J. Trump as a Forrest Gump-ian, misplaced Real America Rosetta stone for the working class. See this manipulator for who he is, a strange mix of Bill Cosby and Saddam Hussein.

“They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.” – If there was one ethos that summed up Donald J. Trump it would be this one quote. From his own sexual entitlement to a linguistic obsession with emasculation and sexual violation as metaphor for the uncertain economic circumstances of his base. There’s no consideration for conscious, if he has anything left in his own seared corpse of an inner life or the possibility for that beauty in others. He has a raw unabated indulgence in everything including violence against children. The darkest part in his hate and his ruthlessness, slipping out in the quote above, is that his violence extends to those who say that he is wrong. Violence is his only guarantee, his only stick and his only sick carrot for the orcs that follow him. Refusing Donald J. Trump is an existential question, according to him.

We should take world leaders at their word. Taking Trump at his word should net only one response, moral resistance.

Will Donald J. Trump put a nuclear bomb right in the middle of Mexico City? We just can’t know he won’t if he doesn’t get what he wants.

Where in the past Right and Left have argued about the role of the government in justice, in moral social control, in what “the good life” is and how it should be promoted, with Donald J. Trump we see something entirely different. Not a new moral proposition to be negotiated or accommodated but a dark absence of any morals whatsoever. You’ll notice how after the uproar over every statement the walk back is inevitably “I won’t do that because you don’t like it” which really means “I don’t want the resistance now because I don’t have the guns yet.”

Donald J. Trump is not only evil but dangerous. Have we seen a politician in my lifetime so willing to be violent? So willing to cause pain for his own sick enjoyment? What else will this horrible man do to further his goals? He’s already tried to augment his swagger with calls to “go further” than torture that included medically unnecessary nonconsensual penetration with a feeding tube.

We all have a responsibility to stop him. If, God forbid, as Trump suggests, resistance is an existential question, there are a number of us who are willing and able to take that risk.

He does not have power yet and if there are any good men left in the United States, in the armed forces, in homes and communities where decency reigns, he never will have the means to work out his craven blood fantasies.

https://nevertrump.com/

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A Long Comment On Roberts and Gender

Alastair Roberts has written a compelling conservative christian interrogation of popular cultural gender atrophy here: http://mereorthodoxy.com/why-we-should-jettison-the-strong-female-character/

This is a comment I left on the post about how we can sometimes confuse ourselves and use “differences” as cover for inequality. In hindsight it wasn’t exactly a “quick caveat”:

“Just a quick concern/caveat:

“Women’s greater natural orientation towards relational and caring activities leads to their underrepresentation within the more lucrative and powerful professions. Women are drawn to subjects and occupations that are more personal, artistic, and relational, while men to those that are more realistic, investigative, and thing-based. Despite the expense of considerable money and effort to change male and female preferences, they are surprisingly resistant to change in many respects.”

When we talk about being “drawn” we’ve left the biological for the intellectual and the application of the will. Even if there is a biological component (as speculated based on the gender demographics in different types of intellectual labor), it’s negligible when it can be overridden by the will which is not less than gendered but encompasses much more than a rote determinism.

There is a position that if an “average man” can’t read, he has simply not had enough schooling/enough resources to focus time on that. If an “average woman” can’t read, it’s her own fault? Absolutely not. It follows to other areas of intellectual labor as well.

That position is pretty close to the, until recently, rampant and enforced inaccurate belief about women and math. Math, like reading, is just a matter of language, syntax, logic and practice.

Then there is the problem of “money and effort to change” preferences. These very recent dollars with modest aims (usually subordinating getting girls involved with actual programs to mere awareness or buying tools/toys/resources in pink that already exist for boys) have nothing on the concentrated government spending on the educational prospects of soldiers and the informal culture shaping dollars that come from hours of popular science fiction for boys and not having to do as much housework as girls. Tinkering is commendable in boys but damnable as spinsterly in girls. Many STEM female empowerment programs are simply trying to achieve empowerment parity. The question is not empowerment at the expense of men but if women are even allowed into this technical informal social culture of men.

At my software internship, without any prompting from me, another employee in the office of dozens where only one woman worked started talking openly and frankly about octopus based anime pornography. Keep in mind that I was working in a conservative, middle american firm with many many Christians there. If at the most moral places this kind of thing happens, can you imagine what it’s like for women in less regulated spaces that are even more informal and cultural like the university. In my entire college software program there was less than half a dozen women, all undergrad students. Those demographics for any minority group with less pronounced differences than gender would provoke a “wait why?” question about systemic correctives.

The study you cite says that a major mediating factor in education tract choice/college major is interest and that interest divides in gender haven’t changed in the last 85 years. It also says that the number of women in STEM fields has gone up. So there is at least some artificial barrier for interest becoming reality for a number of women over those decades.

All this to say, I am very sensitive to anything that suggests different than the notion that the life of the mind is BUILT. Math, like literacy, is a built apparatus for flourishing and neither is tied to domesticity but both can be done from home.

Further, in places where there is no formal ‘building’ whatsoever in younger people, the capacity for integrating math/coding/ingenuity into greater humanities type projects/goals (ostensibly the natural domain of women) is impossible. These require a basic technical literacy. These projects that can be done in the home are simply not on the table. This is the most compelling place for empowering women, regardless if you agree with me that boys are informally conditioned more than girls to enjoy “deep play” with computers/math, because it’s at that level of basic understanding. Getting what’s in the book before seeing the cover.

Too many women have simply not tried these things, because they are not given a rudimentary mandatory technical grammar in elementary, middle and high-school. When it comes a time to choose, cultural shortcuts can take precedence to lived experience. Math, Science, Engineering, Software etc are not hard. Like every subject, they are built. They are the result of the applied will + time + resources + support. We can make the first element easier by providing the other three elements.

Given those things, anyone can do this. Whatever biological differences women have, they don’t necessitate inability or disprove discouragement, hostility or failures in educational systems’ preparedness.”

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