No Blogging Today

I am suffering a fairly painful bout of arthritis and so no essays today.

I am also not going to my day job or writing.

Today is watching TV, taking painkillers, and icing the finger joints.




Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales

So, we have come to number five in the Pirates franchise. Roger Corman I understand once advised that film franchises rarely go beyond three because after that point you have run out of variations on a theme. Clearly there are exception to Corman Rule, Bond and Godzilla both come to mind. With the Pirates movies I would argue that the series ran out after film one.

Dead Men Tell no Tales adds very little of value to the wider story of Pirates of the Caribbean though perhaps the producers should have considered that we really didn’t need a wider mythos for that story. The protagonists of the story are Henry, son of Will Truner from the first movie, out on a quest to claim Poseidon Trident to free his father of the curse that makes him Davy Jones, and Carina Smyth, a young woman of scientific inclination out to prove a mythical map is real, said map leading to said Trident. We of course have the Return of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, crew after his luck has turned bad, and Geoffrey Rush’s Barbosa, no leading a fleet of pirates across the Atlantic. Added to the mix is David Wenham Royal Navy Officer Scarfield, who wants the Trident to make England the undisputed master of the seas, (Wait, at this time she already is, frankly it would have more interesting to posit that is why England rules all the waves around the globe.) and for a villain we have Javier Bardem as an undead Spanish naval officer who hates pirates and Sparrow in particular.

Sounds confusing and overly complicated? It is. This is a script fully slaved to the big set action pieces and special effects with almost nothing left for character. What is left for character is too fragment to hold interest as everyone has a storyline where they briefly feature, learn a valuable life lesson, and grow just a little bit.

The film is not original in story, character, or action and rarely engaging. Frankly, this one is a wait for video and then watch something else.



Memorial Day

Today we remember our fallen soldiers but one aspect I want to mention is that not all fall in combat.

It seems decidedly strange thing think that we now have an entire generation that is rapidly approaching adulthood that have never known a time of peace. 2001 to present has ben continual war for the United States, some times hotter than others but always there. Before the present and enduring crisis there was the peace for the Cold War.

I served, briefly for I was a terribly sailor, and I saw no combat, took part in no exchange of gunfire and never sailed under the direct threat of attack, but still I knew servicemen who died while on duty.

I sailed on one WestPac, a cruise of the Western Pacific, and two men were killed while another was maimed for life during that voyage. One was a marine who fell from a helicopter during on exercise and the other was a crew chief lost when a helicopter crashed and went over the side, vanishing beneath the Pacific’s uncaring surface.

The military in all its branches is a dangerous profession, filled with men and women who for a variety of reason have chosen to place their lives on the line for our greater good.

War, peace, training, or combat all who serve do so at great personal risk and not all survive. It is our duty, our responsibility to make sure those lives were never lost in vain.


‘Come see the Violence Inherent in the System!’

This week on the eve of a special election the electorate was treated with the spectacle of a congressional candidate, Gianforte, assaulting a person, a reporter, for their presumed liberal politics. Repeatedly punching the man while shouting that he was ‘… sick and tired of your guys!’ Sadly the candidate still won his election but let’s look at this again.

There were unqualified condemnations of the assault from people presumably on the left side of the political spectrum. This sort of violence is utterly unacceptable and there needs to be serious consequences for the criminality. From the right I heard qualified condemnation and regret. Yes, this is bad and it shouldn’t have happened, but liberal have long poised the discourse and this is the result of that. (I’m going to set aside any validity to that position, that’s not the point today.)

I have unqualified condemnation for all political violence. Violence should be held in reserve until it is required to defend life and safety. You bring the very concept that violence is acceptable, in any form, to political discourse and you have taken the steps to a terrible future.

We have another incident 4 months ago.

Richard Spencer, arguably America’s leading Fascist, the man who led a room of people in the NAZI salute while shouting ‘Hail Trump!’ was assaulted on camera while being interviewed.

I heard many voices from the left offering with outright praise for this violence to very qualified condemnation, while voice on the right proclaimed the utterly unacceptability of violence based on the target’s political views.

I posted at the time that while Spencer is utterly reprehensible this violence was in no manner justified. I feel the exact same way about Gianforte’s assault on a reporter. My position is perfectly aligned with my principles in both cases.

Be wary of being so wedded to your team, of being so poised by your animosity, that you surrender your values. Without solid values there is nothing but naked raw ambition and power.


Unimportant Political Posting

For Saturday here is an utterly unimportant political post about something that ticks me off.

Both Kerry and Obama were mocked by conservative media for ‘elite’ food tastes, Kerry while campaigning for asking about different cheeses on a philly cheese/steak and Obama for asking about deli/spicy mustard for a sandwich. (Not to mention the arugula comment.) these choices were presented as evidence that the respective pols were out of the mainstream culture and elitists.

Recently I have seen liberal media mocking Trump for his food selections, that he loves fast food such as McDonald’s, like catsup on his steaks, insulting him for having ‘common’ tastes.

Fuck off to all of you.

Trump is a terrible terrible president and may well be an inflection point indicating the beginning of the end for American dominance of the globe, but that’s not the point here. The point is that people are allowed to like what they like. They are allowed to take pleasures in the little things in life that help make life bearable.

I will not take part in elitist snobbery from the left or from the right. (And yes, mocking people for not following your tastes is elitist ) frankly food snobs in general piss me off. I see the memes passing around about how you should cook this or how you should consume that and the people who don’t should be asked to leave.

Yeah it’s joking but the heart of the joke is that others are expected to live their lives to an standard that is not their own.

You don’t like the way I order my steaks? You don’t like my choice of sauces.

Screw you. Your opinion on such things does not matter.

The same goes for music, television, books, films, and the like.


Thoughts on Roger Moore

I am a few days late in posting my remembrances in part because I so rarely engage in public displays related to celebrity deaths but also in part because this feels more like a Friday topic.

As a baby boomer Roger Moore was a facet of my entertainment environment, television and film he remained for decades a familiar and stable cast member. Like many people he was my first Bond. I was staying the summer with my sister Carol and she took me to the movies to see Live and Let Die. Coming from a small town in Florida and before that an even smaller town in the rural mountain of North Carolina this was my first exposure to a true multiplex theater and I just adored the idea of so many movies in one location.

I became a Bond fan but there was always a little dissatisfaction with the franchise. The tone, silly and fun didn’t connect for me on what I thought a spy movie should be. However I did return again and again to watch Moore’s wittily save the day. Exploring past film I discovered Connery and Lazenby and I really like Lazenby but I have always walked out of step. My favorite Bond is the current one, Craig.

Outside of Bond there were a number of project that Moore had become famous for but one that did not add significantly to his fan, and that is a flawed film, was one that became a personal favorite, ffolkes.

Early 80’s this is the story of a Scot mercenary ffolkes (Moore) who tackles the problem of terrorists who have taken hostage three oil platforms in the North Atlantic. The film is cheesy enough to have been produced in Wisconsin but for me is fun enough that I continually lose myself in it.

I think I shall need to give it another viewing soon.


Setting vs Genre

At a fellow writer’s Facebook wall we’re discussion the elements required for a story to be noir. Because we are SF writers the conversation naturally revolves about the intersection of noir and science-fiction. This has gotten me thinking and those and a few other terms and I’ve come to the conclusion, probably not original, that there is a difference between Setting and Genre

In this concept Science-Fiction is a setting, it has particular rules that govern its use and violation of those rules can lead to some and even most people excluding a piece from the setting definition, but it seems to me that genre is more about what is the intended or likely emotion reaction of the reader and as such is independent of the setting.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor was, according the author, written as an SF/Romance. The setting is science-fiction, the far future, humanity spread out among the stars broken into new nationalities. The genre is romance, the story of two people divided by their warring cultures and yet who fall in love.

Alien is Science-Fiction/Horror the setting is clearly sf, a spaceship deep into space. The genre is horror as the characters, trapped aboard their isolated spaceship, contend with a monstrous being.

Back to the Future is science-Fiction comedy the science-fiction elements, a lone scientist, time travel, are clear while the story is a farce about the clash of perception versus reality when it comes to one’s own parents.

All three of these works are Science-Fiction but looking at them simply through the lens of their setting tells us very little and nothing at all about if these are stories we want to experience. It is only when we examine to the mood intent of the piece, romantic, horrific, or hilarious that we can gather these disparate works into recognizable useful categories.


Logan Noir

Last night I took a little time of from writing to head up to the local Arclight theater and watch Logan Noir. This is last year’s film and swan song for Hugh Jackman as the character Logan/Wolverine but presented in black-and white.

The film remains a power story about family, friendship, and frailty. The B&W presentation was simply gorgeous. I am happy to see this trend of films being re-released in B&W. For the longest time the mass opinion was that a monochrome movie was inferior to a color one, but that is not the case. B&W presents images in a stark format and for some stories that conveys an entirely different set of emotional undertones.

I ran into an old friend at the theater. Someone I had not seen in decades and that was very nice. We chatted briefly before and after the film.

I have to say I am somewhat saddened by the loss of the 800-1200 words I would have written last not but I do not regret going.


Even Literal Jokes are Illuminating

The news cycle these days is more like a news cyclone. It moves fast, it’s unpredictable, and we are all concerned with swaths of destruction. It also means that an idea to explore or discuss is often simply the last hour’s events and out of date by supper. No matter, there a couple of events that raise some points I’d like the dive into and I don’t care that they are older news stories.

Last week we learned that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a private discussion with fellow House Republicans said:

There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrabacher and Trump.”

The quote was denied until it was revealed that an audio recording of it existed and then the statement was described as a joke. A lot of people do not think it was a joke, but I disagree with them. I actually doubt that the House Majority Leader was stating as a fact that with Representative Rohrabacher or Trump were on Putin payroll. I accept that it was a joke, a jest, a jibe, but that doesn’t meaning the statement is meaningless. Jokes exist in a context or they are not funny.

Two of the contexts that you can find joke is exaggeration and incongruity. A joke that relies on exaggeration takes a context everyone knows to be true and plays it to hyperbole for humorous effect. Stating that the giraffes at zoo were hitting on the school’s basketball player is not meant to literally imply either that the player is 12 feet tall but rather exaggerates his height for the punch-line. In that context it is clear that while McCarthy’s comment can be viewed as a joke the underlying premise is unsettling. The joke is only funny if there is a baseline to exaggerate, if there is a closer than comfortable relationship between Putin and the two men, a relationship so well accepted and know that it can be the basis for a joke. That should give everyone pause.

The other context I’m looking at is incongruity. That’s where a joke plays against an expectation. This is the sort of joke where someone might say to a person over-reacting that William Shatner called and wants his sense of subtly back. It plays on the well know, though not always fair, ding for Shatner’s expansive acting method.

During the confirmation hearing for A.G. Jeff Sessions a statement of his came back to haunt him. referring to the violent, racist group the KKK Sessions is quoted as saying that the KKK was ‘OK until I found out that they smoked pot.’

Again this was explained as a joke, and let’s go ahead and examine it as a joke. Now the KKK is not known for pot use so this doesn’t look like a joke of exaggeration but rather one of incongruity. The idea that the serious, and bigots are always overly serious in their hatred, Christian warriors are pot heads is at odds with their image, but that does not remove the nasty factor in this joke. There are really only two ways of looking at this statement.

1) That smoking pot is more serious and morally wrong than being a group of violent racist bigots.


2) That being a group of violent racist bigots is not as morally wrong as smoking pot.

I know that those two statement seems the same but they really are not, though neither is an admirable worldview. In the first the idea that the racism and bigotry is bad, perhaps even extreme, but it is exceeded by pot smoking. With the second view pot smoking is so reprehensible that even being a violent racist bigot is not as bad.

The joke only really works by way of context with the first interpretation. That being a violent racist bigot is wrong but it is not as bad as being a pot smoker, this both exaggerates the pot smoking and downplays the bigotry. The joke only works if your consider pot smoking in the same realm as violent bigotry and no matter how you cut it that is a serious disturbed viewpoint that either considers the KKK not so bad or harmless pot smoking the same as murderous violence.

So jokes can be jokes, but they still illuminate the interior workings of the minds that find them funny.


Final Birthday Celebration

Yesterday to close out my birthday celebrations I and two pal went to Universal Studios Hollywood. We had not hung out together as a trio in over 30 years and this was a day I had log looked forward too.

Nothing was forgotten before the trip. I brought everyone’s tickets, and sunscreen was applied when we got to the park. The day was bright, sunny, and hot, but we had a great time.

I did not take photos because I was too busy simply enjoying the company of good friends. We saw the shows, rode rides, shared meals, and ofter 8 hours all returned home tired and happy.

Now to start serious dieting again…


Literary Saboteur

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