Continue reading “These Ideas Can’t Be Fought”
I have no patience for defeatism.
There are people who are saying, “I have been speaking up, it doesn’t make a difference.”
You don’t know if it’s making a difference or not. No pebble ever understands the magnitude of the avalanche.
For decades, the reich-wingers have been shifting the Overton window (the window of normalization) to the right. We have to speak up to shift it back.
We have to speak up for standards of behavior, for intelligence, for rationality, for the weight of evidence, for transparency in government. We have to speak up for empathy and compassion and that the true purpose of government is to serve the people. We have to speak up and speak up and speak up —
Because silence is not only surrender, it is death.facebook/david.gerrold
Facebook Memories has served up the hack job I did on Star Trek: Beyond when that trailer came out. I’ve run across it more than once now, enough times that I feel I should at least mention how wrong I was about the film somewhere on the blog. The trailer I saw on Facebook, shared on Facebook, was not the first trailer, but trailer number two. This trailer.
When I shared the trailer I simply paraphrased from Abramantions Multiply: It is still an Abramanation. The possibility of suckage is high.
The damn trailer has the Bad Robot logo on it. I consider that to be fair warning of impending suckage after the disaster that was LOST seasons 4 through 6. I suffered through all of LOST, the Abramanator will not trick me into liking his work again. I tried. I really did. I tried to make sense of those last seasons of LOST. I tried watching the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Then I declared Trek dead. The Nutrek reboots are bad in many ways, as I and others have gone into great detail to describe in the past. Details that long-time readers of this blog will know about. They are bad in ways that a lot of popular movies are bad these days (Star Wars 7. Mad Max 4) but also bad because of the disconnect with the universe that Gene set out to create.
However, I did finally break down and watch Star Trek: Beyond, just as I watched Star Trek: Into Darkness edited for television and wished I could have my two hours back. After watching Star Trek: Beyond I had to admit that not all Nutrek sucks ass to an equal degree. In fact, Star Trek: Beyond really does try to go beyond, to leave all the previous attempts to tell grand movie stories using Star Trek as a vehicle, and just try to do a Star Trek story as a movie.
Simon Pegg penned a decent little story when he wrote the script. The actors playing the parts delivered their usual best work; and since they weren’t working from the Abramantors crap scripts, the resulting blockbuster spectacle is pretty watchable from just about any perspective that you might come to it. It’s not even bad Trek, per se. There are some points that I might object to from a purist standpoint, but those points can be overruled by watching any number of classic episodes that diverged from Gene Roddenberry’s strict guidelines for how the Trek universe manifested itself. At least one of the episodes that breaks his rules is one he wrote himself. So there are flaws that a purist might take exception to, but anyone trying to watch it with disbelief suspended and a willingness to let the story progress unprotested (how to approach watching any film) will probably walk out of a showing counting it as time well spent.
So, apologies to the cast and crew of Star Trek Beyond. For the first time since First Contact they produced a show that was truly worth watching. They produced a payoff for all the fans who have hung on through decades of bad filmmaking. The characters we’ve loved since the sixties finally felt like they might actually be the same characters that we fell in love with, even though they were portrayed by different actors.
Paramount should try to make sure that Abrams’ company logo does not appear on any more Star Trek properties if they want to win fans back to the show. Abrams has burned too many bridges among the fan community to be welcome even producing films that have any kind of fan following. This should have been clear after the failure of Star Trek: Into Darkness. When he screwed up Star Wars after screwing up Star Trek, it has to be painfully obvious that he screws up everything he touches.
But when all is said and done, it’s just another summer dark ride. Lots of great stuff to look at, lots of things exploding, lots of spectacular FX, and when it’s over, you get out of the chair and go pee. There’s not a lot here to argue about. There’s no moral dilemma.
What attracted me to classic Trek is that the show was about something. Every episode had a chunk of idea in it, big enough to chew on for a while.
Too much of what passes for entertainment today is about justifying cruelty to someone else. Not enough is about sitting down and finding a way to avoid the violence.
And I wonder if that’s a reflection of what we’ve become … or one of the reasons we’ve become what we’ve become.David Gerrold
I’ve watched one football game since I stopped sharing an apartment with a football fan. That game was Superbowl 40. Football fans will know which game that was, and because of that, where this post is going.
The last roommate I had before getting married was a Dallas Cowboys fan. He loved those Cowboys. Since the TV was his, and it was in the living room, we watched the Cowboys play every week, and I would be the devil’s advocate every week. “Who are the Cowboys playing this week? Yeah, I love those guys.” It led to some good natured rivalry, especially since I really didn’t give two shits about the game in the first place.
When I was living at home with my parents, back in the stone age of the 70’s, my dad would never miss a game that was being broadcast. Football. Basketball. Baseball. Hockey. If it was a sport and it was being broadcast, my dad was watching it. He lamented that I was too small for football myself because he wanted me to play like he played in high school. He did get me to try out for basketball. I didn’t make the cut, which was no surprise to me or Mitch, my wingman in that foray into sports.
I wrestled for a few seasons, and I had a perfect record. I was pinned every time I got on the mat. I even played baseball for a few seasons. I have my jersey around here somewhere to prove it because mom saved it for me. I have no idea why she saved it, I was visibly terrified of being hit by the baseball every time they’d send me out onto the field.
…And with good reason. I have the worst hand-eye coordination, come to find out. Dad played softball every summer until his health degraded to the point he couldn’t play, and his participation in that game lead me to try playing softball myself on one of my employer’s teams. For one season. During warmup one afternoon I was holding the mitt too low and the ball tipped the top of the mitt and plastered me right on the lip. I can feel the tingle where the lip split on the inside of my mouth to this very day. Between that and the gravel raspberry I got all up and down my left leg sliding into base one time, I decided that sports really just weren’t my thing. I’d be better off sticking to video games. The finger and wrist sprains are more easily dealt with.
We watch so few sports in this house that we joke that the TV is broken, sports-wise. We tell guests “Nope. It won’t tune sports. No idea what’s wrong with it.” The one time we had a guest insist on watching her game we banished the fans into another room so that they wouldn’t interrupt our movie watching. I will admit to occasionally keeping half an eye on baseball scores. I like baseball, even if I can’t play it. Baseball is the real American game, not football. American football is rugby played with helmets and pads.
But the Wife always liked the Seattle Seahawks. She didn’t know anything about football, the game, but she had studied statistics for some fantasy football league that she was part of one year, and Seattle had the best all-around players at the time. She won a lot of matchups that year because the individual players all did really well, so she never forgot them. Years later when the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl for the very first time and she decided she had to watch that game because her boys were in it. Consequently I spent the next two hours explaining what a fourth down was. What the ten yard line meant. I mean, I knew all the mechanics of game play because dad had drilled all this crap into my head, so I can watch and follow a game even though I consider the games just slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.
There is one thing that I do care about. Injustice. Bad calls by referees. Players cheating and getting away with it. Teams that don’t deserve to lose, but end up losing anyway. That is what happened to the Seahawks in the one game we had ever bothered to watch together in thirty years of marriage. The Seahawks lost because of a bad call. The Wife was pissed, I was pissed, and we’ve never turned on a football game since. It was Super bowl Sunday yesterday, and I did notice that cheatin’ Tom Brady won again this year. That makes this just another game I’m glad I didn’t watch.
The SGU skeptics start episode #605 (February 11th, 2017) gushing all over the Super bowl game and how it was such a great game, even though they thought it sucked for the first three quarters. Then the underdogs come from behind with an amazing drive to a successful finish in the last quarter.
Here’s my question. If this was such a great game it makes being a football fan worthwhile, how many Superbowl 40’s do I have to watch in between each Superbowl 49? How many crappy ass games do I have to watch before I get a good game? From my perspective the answer is “too many,” no matter how many games it is.
If you want to write science fiction, you have to get the science right.
David Gerrold wrote an article on his wall that dissects the above assertion. He does a pretty decent job of it, he is David Gerrold after all. His final point is correct in the article. We aren’t reading the story for the science, we are reading the story for the story itself. It is important that the narrative not distract you from itself by introducing problems that draw you out of the narrative. That is the sole restriction on telling the story well.
In the novel Dune, there is no need to explain where the oxygen comes from, if there is enough room left in the writing for the reader to fill that explanation in for themselves. I haven’t read Dune in quite awhile, but I recall a character (Kynes, I think it was) puzzling about where the oxygen comes from in one of the ancillary texts that came with the first novel. It is a mark of Frank Herbert’s genius that he invented the Butlerian Jihad to whisk away the questions of technology in the novel. That is the reason there were no computers in the universe of Dune. Religious zealotry, a quick and dirty way to write off any technology that near future readers might wonder about, and also the underlying theme of the novel itself.
Dune was not about the tech so why get distracted by it? Dune is 89% politics, and as a political treatise, it is almost unequalled in fiction. I would bet that Dune survives this period in time, if anything does.
I’m a serious Niven fan, but Neutron Star has quite a few science holes in it. They didn’t matter when he wrote it because we (the readers) didn’t know any better at the time. Also? I still call the overarching genre Speculative Fiction. It’s less cludgy than F&SF to say. If I mean fantasy I say fantasy. If I mean science fiction (like Larry Niven’s body of work) I say science fiction. But if you are talking about everything from Poul Anderson to Roger Zelazny, you are talking about speculative fiction.
When pundits start talking about Trump’s chances in 2020, this is the kind of thing that runs through my mind. He won’t be running in 2020, I can say that pretty confidently. What I can’t say is whether there will be a United States that we recognize by then if things aren’t done to change the direction we are currently heading in.
My belief that facts long-ignored would win out in the political arena proved to be ill-founded just like my fear that the United States would not survive the Trump presidency. Mercifully Trump lost in 2020 anyway. My in-law wanted to bet me a thousand dollars that my predictions were wrong, and the predictions were wrong, but their predictions were also wrong. As wrong as their understanding of who or what the Trump presidency was and his chances of staying in office beyond his fluke of a first term.
That was the kind of conversation that was in my mind when I wrote:
…the kind of mindless insistence that their team was always right no matter the situation and that liberals were clueless whiners who needed to figure out how to lose properly on exhibit in that almost forgotten Facebook thread was exactly the thing that motivated me to write about how Hillary wasn’t the problem in the first place. What I should have recognized and been writing about at the time was the hopelessness of convincing people who knew that Hillary and liberals were the problem of anything at all.
President Trump is making it so people can work and better themselves and get off the coattails of the government. I do not understand how anybody could think putting people back to work is a bad thing. Obama on the other hand closed down factories and put millions of people out of work and on food stamps.An In-Law
None of them know Donald Trump. They demonstrably still don’t know what he is. While I didn’t do better than the average human at predicting the future, I stand by my assessment of Trump’s business practices, which have been vindicated and will be further vindicated as time moves on. His crimes were many before he entered the White House and his crimes in the White House dwarf the crimes of any other president in history. His supporters still don’t know these facts even though they are readily available to anyone who looks for them.
These same wilfully ignorant people would of course try to storm the capitol and lynch their Vice President for attempting to certify the existence of objective reality by admitting that Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. They don’t recognize any reality that doesn’t conform to their preconceived notions of the proper order of the world around them. All you have to do is believe hard enough and what you want comes true.
Whether the in-laws would consider the current political situation a loss or a win for them or myself would be hard to determine, especially since we aren’t speaking anymore.
Part of that conversation on Facebook was turned into:
I have cribbed some of the other text from that lengthy and wide-ranging comment thread for other articles that I’m still working on. Still working on, two years later.
By his sixth month in office, embroiled in scandal after scandal, a Pew Research Center poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater with every single demographic group. Every demographic group, that is, except one: people who identified as white.The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates
What happens on September 22nd? I think to myself as I start looking through today’s history on Facebook. It’s bugging me. This day is important. There is an event that occurs today, what is it?
Obviously, it is the equinox. It took a bit of googling to turn the lights on, but finally, I had my answer. That is the significance of September 22nd. Equinox. Equal amounts of day and night across the globe.
Most years, this happens on either Sept. 22 or 23. However, every once in a while, the autumn equinox can occur on Sept. 21 or 24. This happens because the length of a calendar year (365 days) is not equal to the time it takes for Earth to travel around the sun (365.25 days). To make up for this inconsistency, people have observed “leap years” for the last two millennia. By adding a “leap day” (Feb. 29) to the calendar every four years, we have managed to keep our seasons more or less consistent from year to year.
The last time the autumnal equinox fell on Sept. 21 was over a thousand years ago, and the last Sept. 24 equinox was in 1931, according to timeanddate.com. While it’s been a long time since the equinox occurred on Sept. 21, we can expect to see it happen twice in the next century, first in 2092 and then in 2096. The next Sept. 24 equinox will be in the year 2303. (Keep in mind that these dates are based on Universal Time, so some time zones may not experience these equinoxes on the dates listed here.)Space.com Autumnal Equinox Not the Same Day Every Year
Equinox. Equilibrium. Balance. I’ve been feeling pretty unequal for about a month now. Unbalanced. The Meniere’s has been particularly burdensome since sometime in mid-august when the left ear started to flare up again. There has been a near-constant feeling of pressure in the ear for the last month. The pressure started a bit early this year for me, and it has lasted longer and been more annoying. But then this is the beginning of fall and it’s accompanying seasonal allergies. I just got my annual symptoms a little early this year, I guess.
Along with the pressure have been long bouts of hyperacusis and/or painful tinnitus. I can’t hear, I’m uncomfortable, I feel ill as if I have an infection. I went to the ENT yesterday just to reassure myself that I wasn’t actually ill. Nope. Not ill, just Meniere’s. This feeling of malaise has lasted for a solid month, almost without respite.
Which is why there is a dog hugging a goat at the top of this post. Denied physical balance I will seek mental balance. Calmness where I can find it. Lacking medical treatment to alleviate the symptoms of Meniere’s, I will simply endure it for as long as it takes. I see a lot of World of Warcraft in my future.
October 22, 2018. So I woke up this afternoon with vertigo again. This is the third day in a row that I have woken up with rotational vertigo. The third day in a row where I wake up and quickly drug myself. Take meclizine. Add Xanax if necessary. Stare at the screen in front of me for hours at a time. Try not to shift the focus of my vision because that always causes a little bit of spin until the new focus point is established. Lovely. Just lovely. This bout of vertigo is just the latest part of the symptomatic spell that started mid-August for me. This makes it a pretty solid two months of being severely symptomatic.
The vertigo spell finally ended on Wednesday the 25th. I celebrated by getting out of the house for the first time in a week and treating myself to an All Star Special at the Waffle House. Since Austin has established a Boil-Water Mandate in response to the record breaking rainfall on the Llano Estacado, and the subsequent flooding of the highland lakes including Lake Travis, the lake that provides Austin’s water, the choice of places to go was rather limited. When a restaurant can’t use the water that comes out of the taps to make the food they sell, most restaurants will simply close when there is no visible demand for their services.
But the Waffle House is always open if they can turn the lights on and fire up the griddle. That is why there is a Waffle House index for disasters. It was a yellow day, plastic tableware and a limited menu, but I would have gone to the Waffle House anyway. Love the coffee, even if it has to be decaf these days. I have to have hashbrowns and eggs over easy, too. My goto breakfast for those days when just waking up is a good thing.
Being symptomatic, when you have a chronic illness like Meniere’s, is not a contest to be won. You don’t get brownie points for suffering more than the next guy, because the next guy’s goal is the same as yours. That goal is getting through the bad days so that you can enjoy the good ones. If your good days don’t happen often enough, maybe you should change the things you are doing, or the treatments you are using, and see if you can’t get yourself more good days. Since there is no cure, and you won’t die from it (ergo chronic illness) the only metric available to you is the number of days in a row where you wake up glad to still be here. Today was one of those days. I had waffles, and I got out of the house. Looking forward to the next good day, now. If only the pressure in the left ear would ease off. That would be great.
All of my friends thought scaring me was funny. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Because they told me scaring people was funny, I started scaring people to see if it was funny. Weirdly enough, it was funny. It was funny when someone else other than me danced around like a stroke/heart attack victim.
I hate horror movies. The Wife has worked on close to ten horror movies now, so I have learned to deal with light horror in order to watch what she has been working on. I can at least appear to watch it. I can watch it enough to be able to appreciate the art that goes into making a horror film. I still have nightmares from watching The Ring a decade ago, so I don’t do extreme horror anymore. The Wife and Son go watch horror movies together now, I stay home and play World of Warcraft with The Daughter.
But when I was a teen, all my friends loved horror movies. When they would watch horror films, I’d try to humor them and watch with them. It never worked out well because they knew I was jump-scare prone and so would do things like grab my leg when say, Jason came up out of the water in Friday the 13th. They still laugh about that one.
The first time I found out there was a thing like jump-scare videos was back in the early days of the internet. Some forgotten website challenged you to study some photograph of a typical dining room and try to figure out what didn’t belong there. At some set frame in the video two or three frames of the screaming face showed up and screamed at you, from an image that you had been told was single frame NOT a video. Everyone knows MM GIF now, but back then it was a new thing.
When that face popped up I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I was across the room climbing up on the desk to get away from whatever it was. The sad part was, I still thought it was funny and showed it to my kids. The thing that broke me of enacting jump-scares was discovering I was related to someone with anxiety issues, and having to condition myself not to scare them. This revealed anxiety issues in myself that I never realized were there before.
There is a vicious child somewhere in the lizard brain that wants to scare people. I don’t know why it wants to scare people, but it might be missing that dopamine fix of being terrified itself. There was some part of me that was terrified by Star Trek as a child. The salt monster really gave me a fright. I was terrified of The Crawling Hand for years after watching that film one Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
…and yes I know now that the movie isn’t scary to most people, and that I would probably find it too stupid to watch if I sat down to watch it now. Too stupid to watch, like most of the movies featured on MST3K. That doesn’t matter. I can still picture the hands crawling toward me if I try. It’s a freaky thing to have an imagination that works that well. I had nightmares about talking possessed dolls long before Chucky was a thing because some grade school friend insisted that some show he saw with a possessed doll in it was real. As if anything filmed is real, and not merely the POV of the cameraman. Most speculative fiction still terrifies me on some level, but I keep coming back to it for the thrill. For the unknown, the unthought of, the beyond comprehension.
Jump-scares are cheap entertainment by comparison. The people who make those things should take up bungee jumping or skydiving. Platform diving. Stand a hundred feet above the water and jump in, like I have. Like I did every summer, before I knew how dangerous that was. Those are real thrills. If you are into jump-scares, scaring other people, turn off the computer and don’t come back till you’ve got your adrenaline fix in. The rest of us will thank you for it.
David Gerrold posted this image to his wall on Facebook. Now, while I am sympathetic to people who love their pets almost more than they love their children, the fact is that Pit Bulls are not a breed. The fact is that Pit Bulls, the square-headed, short-legged, bulky dogs that people think of when they think Pit Bull, were bred to fight other dogs. That is what the name Pit Bull means. Animal fights traditionally occured in a pit, and the square-headed fighting dogs were variants of the full-sized bulldog, a dog that was bred specifically for the sport of Bull-baiting. These dogs were bred to be violent, and the Pit Bull variant was bred specifically to attack other dogs. I have lost a dog to a Pit Bull attack, myself (I go into this in the article Rescues. -ed.) so I can speak first-hand about the violence of dogs bred to attack other dogs. These are not the musings of someone who is just afraid of dogs. Some dog breeds are quite violent, and you should be wary of strange dogs and understand the individual behavior and pack behavior of dogs if you want to avoid becoming a dog-bite statistic. My original comment went something like this,
More pit bulls are involved in human deaths than any other breed. (Along with Rottweilers, they make up 67% of dog bite deaths.) Pits are involved in 92% of the reports of dogs killed by dogs and 96% of cats killed by dogs. More pit bulls end up in shelters than any other breed. I’ve known many happy pit owners, but owning a pit requires responsibility and intelligence, as would owning a car or gun. Statistically, many owners just aren’t up to the task of owning and controlling a Pit Bull.
Another commenter on that image then responded with a dog is a dog, what part of this don’t you understand here? This misunderstanding allows me to draw some allusions to the gun argument, and perhaps shed some light on both subjects. This is another one of those instances of miscategorization that seem to automatically get me started. I’m off and running before I’m even sure what I’m talking about.
A dog is not a dog in the same way that all guns are not semi-automatics. To say it another way, a Pit Bull is not a Shepherd is not a Terrier in exactly the same way that a repeater is not a revolver and is not a semi-automatic weapon. Let me draw a third comparison so I know this illustration will be crystal clear. A hammer is not a claw hammer at the same time as all claw hammers are hammers. Groups and subgroups. Dogs are tools created for purposes in the same way that guns are tools created for their purposes. Owning a tool that you don’t understand how to use and don’t know the use it was created for leaves you open to errors that stem from the purpose of the tool’s creation.
Breeds of dogs were created for specific purposes. Terriers were created to hunt down rodents hiding in stonework. Terriers bite more frequently than any other breed of dog, ask anyone who has groomed dogs. Stats show Chihuahuas bite the most. They are snappy little things, personal experience confirms this fact, but Terriers bite hard and they bite repeatedly. Shepherds were bred to herd sheep and other farm animals. They have specific natural tendencies and require different kinds of care than Terriers and other small dogs do. Retrievers were bred for bringing game back to a hunter while out on a hunt. Rottweilers and Huskies were bred to pull sledges and to act as guard dogs.
Pit Bulls, like full-sized Bulldogs, were bred for animal fighting. I don’t need to go over that again. I could, but I won’t. Each of these breeds requires understanding of the breeds tendencies, the health problems of each specific breed, if you are going to be a responsible pet owner. Pretending that a dog that was bred to bite is more gentle than a dog that was bred to retrieve game without biting it is to deny the baseline nature of each dog breed.
All dogs can be violent.
Dogs are descended from wolves, and there are common traits that all dogs share with wolves. As pack hunters they defend their pack from other packs, exhibiting very strong ingroup/outgroup discrimination; in other words, if you never let your pet out to play with other dogs and meet other people, your pet will respond aggressively to others until it learns what order the new group structure represents. The ingroup is to be cared for even to the destruction of the individual itself, making them doting with children and fierce when threatened by strangers. These ingroup tendencies endear dogs to their owners, which is probably why dogs are the favored pet in most households.
But the general tendencies of the species can masque other traits that the specific breeds were bred for in the past, that might come to the surface in any descendant individual animal. So Pit Bulls that were bred exclusively for fighting can be more dangerous than other dog breeds whose jobs were less focused on the need to guard or attack and more on herding/caring.
A complex biological tool can be like that. Traits that had been designed in can disappear and then resurface later. A purpose-built simple tool, like a firearm, can’t do this. Single-shot pistols and muskets gave way to cartridge-loads fed by mechanical action and springs (repeaters) or mechanical action alone (revolvers) which gave way to the gas-powered semi-automatic and the fully automatic weapons of today. A musket is not a semi-automatic weapon. Aside from the basic design, killing with a chemically propelled metallic slug directed through a hardened steel barrel, the tools have virtually nothing else in common.
Today we own dogs as pets, and we choose those pets based on their appeal to us, visually and behaviorally. The purposes that the various breeds were created for are not what we own dogs as pets for now. There are some people who want a stocky, threatening dog because they want to train it to be dangerous. They want the dog(s) to be dangerous to other dogs and dangerous to other people. There are people who cherish the soft-side of their visually threatening dog and they train their dogs to be things other than what they visually appear. This is also true of weaponry. We generally buy a weapon for how it looks, and how it looks can determine how it is treated by law.
Both the laws against Pit Bulls and the laws against assault weapons are misguided, and for the same reason. They are misguided because the characteristics of their design, the nature of what they individually were made for, are not accurately reflected in the way they look. A Pit Bull is no more dangerous than the training that the dog owner has given it, no matter what it looks like.
The wooden stock and grips on a semi-automatic weapon do not alter the underlying technology that allows it to throw large amounts of lead downrange in a very short order. Ask any expert on weaponry, and they will confirm this fact for you. A semi-automatic weapon is a semi-automatic weapon, no matter what it looks like.
But a Pit Bull is not always a dangerous weapon, ask any Pit Bull owner. It, like almost any other full-sized breed, can be trained to be dangerous by the people who own it. The problem with that breed and other dangerous looking breeds arises when the owners want a dangerous looking dog because they want a dangerous dog, and then make the dog dangerous with training. This is where a simple weapon, like a firearm, is not like a biological weapon, a trained attack dog. Guns don’t think, at least not yet, but dogs do think and they can do things their owners don’t expect no matter how well the owner thinks they’ve trained their dog. The key here is not to make a living weapon out of your dog. I would not let my child play around a dog I had trained to kill. That is simply irresponsible parenting.
So you can have a Pit Bull that isn’t a killer, but your semi-automatic weapon is always going to be a killing machine. Pit Bulls are not semi-automatics, anymore than other wolf-descended canines can be deceptively harmless around pack mates. However, your Hello Kitty assault rifle will always be a killing machine. Like the hammer, a firearm is a purpose-built tool. A hammer drives in nails. A claw hammer drives them in and then can pull them back out again. If only we could recall the bullets from all the semi-automatic weapons fire we’ve seen over the past few years.
This article was inspired by a comment to one of David Gerrold’s Facebook posts. A comment he has since deleted. It’s probably also the reason he unfriended me and why I can no longer comment on his posts. Them’s the breaks sometimes.
Silverado, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, The Outlaw Josey Wales, True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder, Unforgiven, McClintock, Dances With Wolves, Tombstone (with Kurt Russell), The Cowboys, Young Guns, 3:10 to Yuma which was the last western I watched.
But as you can see, I can’t count.
Not only can I not count, but I left off at least a dozen films that I know are better than the ones I put on it. I know that, because I read back through the hundreds of posts and kicked myself for not putting them on the list.
For starters, I’ve been doing a Netflix Clint Eastwood retrospective. Not exhaustive, just felt like I wanted to see some of his films I enjoyed back in the 70’s and 80’s and hadn’t seen since. The son wanted to watch Dirty Harry, so we’ve made our way through all five of them and now we’re about to start the spaghetti westerns. His middle work, the westerns that followed Sergio Leone’s films, those I’m just going to add to the home library, which is why I kicked myself for not including Pale Rider or High Plains Drifter, just to name the next two films I’m planning on buying.
But that’s just to name what is going on in my head right now.
I completely forgot I watched The Hateful Eight quite recently, and that is damn annoying because it was such an excellent tribute to the vanishing art of super 70 wide screen films. It was good too. Not as good as 3:10 to Yuma which I own and did remember. Not even as good as Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s previous film. I’ve seen all of Quentin Tarantino’s work, it is all worth watching if just for the experience. There is a reverence for the art of filmmaking in his films that you can’t find anywhere else.
I also forgot The Revenant along with the 60’s original Man in the Wilderness (h/t to Jim Wright) both based on the true story of Hugh Glass, and if you don’t know that name, you have some really interesting reading to do over the next few hours.
But again, that is just scratching the surface. Reading back through the other comments reminded me of Little Big Man which I haven’t see recently but remember fondly. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a mainstay of my childhood that held up well the last time I watched it. Many mentions of Shane. I hate to admit to the cardinal sin of never having watched Shane, but I guess I can always atone for it by watching it soon. So I will.
I just barely scratched the surface of the impact that John Wayne had on my young life. I literally didn’t even have to think to name three films of his that I rated top ten. I could have done all ten as John Wayne films and still had some left over. I remembered True Grit because I saw the remake recently. Really can’t watch the John Wayne version without watching the unofficial sequel Rooster Cogburn. Really can’t watch McClintock without watching its unofficial sequel Big Jake. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance had the most mentions, but I think The Shootist is the most memorable of all his films because he was already dying of cancer when he made it.
High Noon had the most mentions of any film (rough count) but truthfully I didn’t find it that memorable. I mean, I’ve seen it. I don’t recall anything about it. I don’t think I’m a Gary Cooper fan, to tell you the truth. I remember more about the movie tribute to the TV series Maverick than I do about that film. Both the series and the film are worth watching just for the experience, but then I grew up watching The Rockford Files so go figure.
For the many people who recommended Magnificent Seven (or the more recent remake that is on my list to see) I suggest you watch the original. No, not the 60’s American film which was so popular they made a sequel and a series. No, I’m talking about Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa. I’ve seen three or four of his films and I have not been disappointed by any of them. Fair warning, be prepared to read subtitles.
Finally I suggest Cowboys & Aliens because, why not? You have cowboys and they are fighting aliens. What could you possibly hate about this film? Just joking, save your criticism, I’m well aware of its failings having seen it four or five times. It is one of the Wife’s favorite films, and it really is quite good once you’ve seen it a few times. This from the guy whose favorite episode of recent Doctor who featured Cowboys & Aliens, just different ones. Episode title A Town Called Mercy. Give it a try.
Weirdest film I’ve run across in reply to David Gerrold’s hive mind query? Well, weirdest film that could be called a western anyway? Zachariah. Just watch the trailer. If you can that is. I couldn’t, but I’m going to try to watch the film.
So as you can see, I can’t do just ten, and I’ll be kicking myself for forgetting something that just has to be part of this list the minute I hit the publish button. Such is my life.
As a people, we don’t believe in America. We stopped believing in America sometime after WWII. Maybe it was some time during the McCarthy hearings. Maybe it was the assassination of JFK. Maybe it was the sixties and the Vietnam war. Maybe it was Nixon and Watergate. And maybe it’s been the sea change in our culture. Maybe the democrats failed to understand the smoldering resentment of the red-state voters. But probably it was all of these things.David Gerrold
America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in ’29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us.
Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit to foreign powers who then use that wealth to buy up parts of the US.
Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt in exchange for their blood and treasure if we don’t let them own us in return.
The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either.
This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real.
It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?
That is the story behind Phillip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle (the second season of which Amazon will shortly bring to video. –ed.) Here is the first season trailer:
The second season trailer:
I wrote the above as a teaser to get people to watch Amazon’s new series, the title of which should be obvious by now after the two trailers I posted. The first two seasons were interesting, even if they departed from the text to many reader’s dismay. Here is the third season trailer:
…and the fourth and final season trailer:
I really don’t want to do a review of the series here. It stands on its own two feet with or without my help, as the case may be. It was flawed, true. Marred by the loss of cast members and the limits of filming the events of months over the course of years. I think the story in the series is even more interesting than the equally flawed novel that the story comes from. Dick’s madness can be a bit offputting at times, and unavoidable in his writing. It is a thing mercifully missing from the series.
The story concept is itself challenging enough to tell with video. Parallel worlds existing that you can travel to and from? How do you tell that story and not loose the audience? You are never certain in the book that the other worlds exist at all. They are alluded to. Hinted at. The world where the United States wins in The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Hawthorne Abendsen’s novel of the alternate world, isn’t even the world we existed in after World War Two. There is just the grinding misery of the Nazi boot, the Imperial Japanese boot, and the realpolitik that the two now-opposing forces engage in over control of the whole world. The ending of the series is much more gratifying than the ending of the book, even if it appears to puzzle a good number of people.