Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Attacking the Messenger Means You Lose

I've watched on social media as people attack people like the young activists for gun control from Parkland. I am not talking about the countless lies and Photoshop jobs that were created. I am talking about the blatant personal attacks on these folks.

I am not going to lie and say something like, "I don't care where you are on the gun control debate." I do care. But that is  not what this blog is about. It is, putting it simply, that personal attacks speaks volumes about the potency of their message and the horrible propaganda that has been created by the anti-gun control industry. It also tells us that those who post these attacks have been either taken in by the propaganda or truly have already lost the battle.

 According to several sites, Addison Whithecomb* said the debater's maxim of if you attack the messenger and not the message, you've already lost the debate. In other words, if you have nothing to counter the message of these activists and attack them instead, you've got nothin'.

Whether you like David Hogg or Emma Gonzalez or any of the other activist is irrelevant. Either you counter their arguments about loving guns more than loving the lives of children or you don't. Attacking them, or for that matter how awful all kids have become, or whining about being tired about hearing about them simply means you've lost the argument, and you do indeed care more about your guns than school kids' lives, or it means you have fallen for one of the oldest propaganda tools in the book. When you are losing, make them the enemy. It's called "the other" or ad hominem argument. 

 You cannot argue that you stand for the Constitution and the bill of rights and then demand these young people quit talking and demanding their rights of equal protection. There was great outrage when retired Supreme Court Justice and conservative, John PaulStevens, suggested the second amendment be repealed. If it angered you, then turning around and announcing that since these young people are suggesting raising the age limit we should repeal the twenty-sixth amendment is the height of hypocrisy.

Attacking folks only creates greater division. Your platitudes about loving your neighbors are hollow. If you are attacking the are a divisive part of the problem. You can announce how bad kids are these day and how little they care, but I think there was about a million or so of them who marched for their rights one Saturday in March and who would beg to differ with you. Just because a few did something stupid like eat a tide pod, it doesn't mean they all did. There are a few adults that have done some pretty dumb things too. If all you have is a personal attack on a person because of his or her age, generation, or if they are Republican, Democrat, or any other trait that has nothing to do with the message, then you've got nothin'. 

In other words, if that's all you have about the message of any activist, then perhaps you just need to go yell at kids,"GET OFF MY LAWN!" 

*Other than the quote and appearing in debate text, there is apparently no information on Addison Whithecomb. I, personally, wonder if he actually existed. Even  Wikipedia entry has nothing on the man.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ready Player One: A Pop Culture Tribute

I have not read the novel, Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. It is on my shelf to read, just haven't got around to it yet. So, I have no idea how the movie and book compare. The Stephen Spielberg film is an action movie that is clearly his tribute to pop culture, especially to the movies and video games of the late 70's and 80's. I am sure that the nerd websites will be spending hours upon hours finding every tribute and reference in the movie from Saturday Night Fever to Back to the Future to The Shining to Godzilla and King Kong. The references and details were astonishing and at times a bit over-whelming. 

The premise of Ready Player One is pretty straight forward. We are taken to the dystopic world of 2045. The protagonist of the story is Parzival/Wade (Tye Sheridan) a player in the world of Oasis. Oasis is a virtual reality world created by Halliday (Mark Rylance) and his partner, Morrow (Simon Pegg). The real world has become such an over-crowded place that people live in the virtual world called Oasis. Halliday has died. Before his death, he hid three keys in the Oasis. The first player to get all three keys will own Oasis, becoming wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Enter the bad guy, Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Sorrento is the CEO of the 2nd most successful game company, and he will do anything to find the three keys and take Oasis for his company. This includes killing in the real world. Parzival along with his gang and his virtual love, Art3mis/Samantha (Olivia Cooke) search for the keys to stop the evil Sorrento and his minions from taking Oasis. 

It's not just that Ready Player One is Spielberg's love letter to his past and all things in nerdom, it is also that it is a fun movie. I must admit the beginning of the movie which start largely in the virtual and computer animated world of Oasis, made me wonder what I had let myself in for. I was worried that we were going to spend most of our time in Oasis. Fortunately, we do get to also spend time in the dystopic world of Columbus, Ohio. Wade lives there and it is also where we get to eventually meet the members of his virtual world and the real-world people whose avatars we see in Oasis. Wade become Parzival which is if you know your legends a bastardization of the purist of knights from King Arthur, Percival. It is Percival who captures the Holy Grail that restores Arthur's soul. Wade/Parzival in his own way is on a quest for his holy grail that will keep the soul of Oasis for the players. 

Ready Player One is an exciting movie and is in the classic sense your standard hero movie. It has little in the way of surprise or twist as far as the plot goes. The only real unanswered question is one that come up at the end of the movie, which I am not going to discuss here. It is the story of a hero on a quest, his love, who in this case is as capable as he is, and his friends and fellow questers. They must over-come the evil bad guy who would steal all that is good. I liked the movie. Yes, it is simple and nothing really new. But it gives us a chance to see so much of the things we have come to care about in pop culture. In short, Ready Player One is a fun movie. I will buy the DVD.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Irony Impaired

I swear that those who post propaganda memes are suffering from a complete lack of irony.

They will post a meme how we should never forgive Jane Fonda for her stupidity of over 40 years ago for which she has apologized many times. (In fact, I did a whole blog on it.) They will forget that the president wasn't the only one trying to figure out ways to avoid the draft and not go to Vietnam. What is more that same meme poster will post a meme not even a few hours later announcing how God forgave and called prostitutes and tax collectors to serve.

Irony impaired.

Another will post a meme about how they will protect their stuff with a gun. Fight the evil government with their AR-15 or how we have to stop all those evil illegal immigrants and their "dreamer kids." Next meme posts? Love thy neighbor. Life is sacred.

Irony impaired.

Meanwhile, on another front comes how we must protect our children from the evils of "rap" music or violent movies and video games. A few hours later, it's how much they miss the good old days of big guns in gun racks in pick-up trucks or how much they miss AC/DC or Deep Purple. (I have to wonder when we will wax nostalgic about Marilyn Manson?) This is followed by a meme about guns featuring Clint Eastwood. Yep, Dirty Harry.

Irony impaired.

This is, of course, followed by a meme about how these kids who are speaking out or these women who are speaking out are eating Tide pods or lying and should just shut up. There is also the problem that if you are attacking the messenger and not the message, then you've lost the argument. You might as well announce, "I've got nothing," followed by "and so's your ol' man." Then they will turn around and complain about how their rights will be limited. First amendment much?

Irony Impaired

And then there is the news story of a gun channel,  InRange TV, moving from YouTube to PornHub because of YouTube's new guidelines on gun shows and PornHub "has a history of being a proactive voice in the online community..."  The new policy on YouTube, by the way, limits gun videos which demonstrate how to modify guns. I have a feeling typing in the search term of "gun show" on PornHub is going to get some interesting results. The owners of InRange TV seem oblivious as to what this move says about their programming.

All together now:

Irony Impaired

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Memes before Matter: A Good Guy With a Gun

Reducing a complex problem to a meme only creates division. It solves no problems and only spreads propaganda.

Following the shootings in a Maryland school it was less than 12 hours before the memes about how there were no parades and no reporting about how the the "good guy" with the gun killed the school shooter. This is one of three memes, I've seen. One uses the NRA's "good guy with a gun" propaganda.  Another was a share of a status post also using the "good guy" propaganda. This was despite the fact that there was a bunch of reporting about it. It is also still unclear whether he shot the school shooter or the shooter killed himself. (Update 3/28: The shooter took his own life.) All that is actually known is that shots were exchanged. For some reason, all of the memes I saw announced that there was no coverage especially on CNN.

Let me be clear, the "good guy with a gun" did exactly what he was supposed to do. At least the above meme got that part right. He was the school resource officer, a member of the St. Mary's County sheriff's office, and a member of SWAT. In other words, he was not just some guy with a conceal-carry license with a few hours of training which is what the "good guy with a gun" memes imply. He was not some teacher who thinks guns in the classroom is a good idea. What he is, is a hero who did exactly what he had trained much of his adult life to do. Everyone agrees that his quick actions clearly stopped Maryland's Great Mills High School from becoming much worse. His name is Officer Blaine Gaskill. Much of this information comes from CNN, by the way.

I'd heard the reporting about Gaskill on CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and two local news reports. Had it received the amount of press that Parkland did? No. But then again, a hero cop stopped the shooter before 17 people died. Will there be a parade? I have no idea. I am also unsure what students are having a parade. There have been some walkouts which are not quite the same thing as a parade. Vigils? The only person to die was the shooter.(* Update, late Thursday Jaelynn Rose Willey, one of the two victims of the shooter, was taken off life support and died late Thursday. The county flag was ordered to half-staff.)So why would there be a vigil? I do know that Gaskill would be only the second School Resource Officer to shoot an active shooter since Columbine if his bullets did hit the shooter. He is not some random "good guy with a gun." He is a trained professional. He is a hero. His work is more important and more complicated than to be reduced to propaganda in a meme.

You see what bothers me about these divisive memes is that they are clearly political and agenda driven. They are using a hero to propagate something that is not true.  Here is a list of CNN news stories on the Maryland shooting:

Yep, CNN had practically no coverage as long as you don't count these reports. This list took me all of a minute to find by typing in "Maryland School Shooting" on

If you are a gun rights activist, go for it. Try making your arguments without misleading propaganda or attacking people with whom you disagree. Reasoned argument not a meme will help others understand you. I know, far too many people want to make it simple. It seldom is. This kind of meme serves one and only one purpose: propaganda.

Try finding out the truth.

It is really quite simple if you're willing to leave the bubble.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Red Sparrow Fails to Soar

I know. I know. I've fallen down on reviewing the movies I see. Most recently, I went to see Red Sparrow. While I have not loved every Jennifer Lawrence movie, she still shows in everything she does that she is that rare natural actor. She is unfiltered in her performance and this movie is no different. Red Sparrow is meant to be a gritty, character driven spy movie. The problem is not with the acting skills. In fact, the only thing that saves the movie are the performances that the actors turn in. 

The problem with the movie is that it is unevenly paced and often muddled plot. It lacks believable cohesion.  Jennifer Lawrence turns in a credible performance as does her male counterpart, Joel Edgerton. The problem is that the two have zero chemistry on screen. Their love scenes which should be perhaps gentle and moving lack any real emotional ties and fail to juxtaposition against the grim and over-the-top sadistic Sparrow training scenes. Speaking of which, exactly how many Sadistic rape/sex scenes do we need to get the point across? Sparrow training is gruesome and hard and if the Sparrow fails, they die. We get it in about ten minutes of movie. The rest is unnecessary. 

 There is enough plot and character to hold the movie together. What hurts it is it uneven pace. The movie consists of largely talking followed by sadistic scene followed by Jennifer Lawrence walking somewhere followed by more talking followed by grim torture followed by more talking followed by Jennifer Lawrence walking somewhere followed by exciting scene followed by talking... Get the picture? 

Despite the fact that it Jennifer Lawrence is good as the Sparrow who would do anything to be sure her mother (Joely Richardson) is safe, believing that she is a premier ballerina of the Bolshoi is a bit of a stretch. With the exception of Lawrence's and Edgerton's characters and despite reasonably solid performance by supporting cast members like Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Ramping, most of the secondary characters are barely two dimensional. Even the big bad of the movie, Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays the Sparrow's evil Uncle who looks oddly like Putin, has only a halfhearted attempt to give him some depth. Take for example the sadistic hit-man and torturer Matorin (Sebastian Hülk) is a stereotypical henchman.  Most of the characters are pretty much these stereotypes.
I wanted Red Sparrow to be more than it was. I wanted to care about what happens to the characters. But alas, I didn't. Red Sparrow is just an okay movie. I won't be buy the DVD. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Little Logic

I've been contemplating the whole "fake news" thing. I want you to consider the logic of it. Put aside that since its adoption the places it most likely appears to be used besides the White House is by dictators around the world, I want you to stop and consider this idea that all news organizations except the one you listen to are out to get Donald John Trump.

Are most news organizations of a liberal bent. Some are. Some aren't. Are the news organizations often sensational. Yes. Look, there is a reason why in the news world there is the saying "if it bleeds, it leads." As long as news organizations must make money, they will lead with the sensational and salacious and grim. The question isn't really any of these things. The question is "are what news organizations reporting fake?"  "Fake news" is, after all, Orwellian double-speak for "lies."

Unlike Facebook, Twitter and a host of pundits on the web and TV, real news outlets, from the AP to Reuters to CBS to ABC to NBC and to CNN, have to meet standards. They all have standards and practice departments. Most are under control of the FCC. There are a slew of lawyers who vet stories. There are producers who look at the stories validity and interest. Even "unnamed sources" are verified by other sources. What you must do is distinguish between editorial content and news. On Facebook, YouTube and Twitter there are no such standards. It's why all those wonderful pages you use for your memes can post things that are patently untrue. Quotes that were never actually said. Events that never occurred.

When a true news organization gets it wrong, they update the story. This is a sign of not "fake news" but concern to get it right. Take the recent "fake news" awards put out by the White House. The first place award was not news it was an editorial. All the other awards were given to stories that were corrected as soon as the error was discovered, some within in hours of the mistake. Some reporters were suspended or even lost their jobs because of the mistakes. One of the "fake news" stories was a tweet. This is hardly a news story. The reporter who issued the tweet, apologized within an hour for his mistake. This is also not the only award given to a tweet. People make mistakes and some do stupid things. News organizations make mistakes. Good ones try to correct those mistakes.

For the whole fake news conspiracy to work you have to believe that not only every network, newspaper, magazine, and wire service in the US is out to get one guy. Not only that, you have to also believe that all of these same stories which are reported around the world that every independent news organization are also involved in this conspiracy. Spend just a few seconds looking at the news reported in Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada, etc.

Whether you like it or not, you must break out of your bubble. You may not like what they report, that doesn't make it fake. It is why we have the pesky First Amendment.  To be well informed you have read beyond the  headline.

Our election was attacked. Our democracy was attacked. That attack was not just in this country. Russia has attacked virtually the election of every democracy in the world. There is simply no logic to thinking that everything you see that is negative about this president is fake news.

I am still unable to put my head around how many of the people who post the lies and quite honestly hate from their Facebook feeds were just a few months ago angry that Obama wore a tan suit. I take very little at face value. It is why I don't post "news" memes or political memes. I choose not to spread stupidity and lies.

What do you choose?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Now for the False Comparison

Yes, Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world. No, Switzerland does not have the lowest, but it is one of the lowest. I think it is currently 8th. By the way, of the countries with lower homicide rates than Switzerland, the top ones, Singapore and Japan,  have extremely restrictive gun laws. 

No, the Honduras does not have a strict gun law banning all guns. A number of types of guns are allowed, but the AR-15 has been banned. Guns and Ammo magazine also rated Honduras #10 as one of the "10 best countries" in which to own a gun in 2014.  I should point out that Switzerland was rated #3.  Care to guess who number 1?

No, Switzerland does not require everyone to have a gun. What it does have is a military requirement. They give a gun to everyone who serves but the gun is sent home with no ammo, under strictly controlled circumstances, and is expected to be returned after the service is complete, but they can also opt to buy the gun following service. The Swiss have a substantial lower gun ownership rate than the US despite their liberal gun laws. They do require extensive background and mental health checks, though. 

Switzerland has a GDP that ranks it among the top 20 nations in the world despite land-wise being 134th in the world. Honduras has nearly twice the land and two coasts on two oceans, but its GDP is 2.5% of Switzerland. It is also racked by poverty, drugs and corrupt government. Many of the homicides are inner city, poverty related, and often involves drugs. 

The fact is comparing two countries because of their population and some very inaccurate information is not a reason to compare gun laws.