All About Agenda

There’s a feature on the iPhone, I don’t know if it’s new with this update or not, that allows a user to designate an emergency contact be sent a message when the lock button is pressed five times. The idea behind this is to give people a sort of defense if they are attacked or need medical help. There is a lot you could use it for, but a Twitter user tweeted out a message that showed a screenshot of how to use it and asked that all women set it up in case their attacked. She was just passing on what she thought would be friendly advice.
Nothing controversial there.

But she got jumped on and a few hours later (now) the account is protected and the tweet can no longer reach people that are not on her approved list of readers.

This isn’t surprising and is kind of the pattern of things. Men who claim they’re not sexist and there’s not a problem turning right around and creating a problem by being the thing they say they’re not. A lot of the question was “why didn’t she send the message out to everyone?”

Which would be a fair point if we weren’t looking at problems like sexual assault on campuses and really just anywhere else. It’s not that men might not need it, but perhaps in her particular group those topics are more relevant. And it’s not like men can’t see the message just because she addressed women directly. It’s not like anyone is stopping them from using the tip.

I read an article yesterday where Dan Harmon, one of the creators of the show RIck and Morty is pretty pissed that some of his show’s fans have been going on Twitter and other social media. He had A LOT to say about his feelings:

“These knobs, that want to protect the content they think they own—and somehow combine that with their need to be proud of something they have, which is often only their race or gender. It’s offensive to me as someone who was born male and white, and still works way harder than them, that there’s some white male fan out there trying to further some creepy agenda by ‘protecting’ my work.”

The important thing here to focus on is the “creepy agenda” bit because that’s where all of this stems from. These people aren’t upset that this girl didn’t share the details of some iOS feature with them or that Rick and Morty has seen a drop in quality due to women being on staff. They’re just out to nitpick women and attack the for anything that they find that seems like a target and though many of them aren’t necessary the exact same people that we would refer to as the Alt-Right, they benefit from the behavior the Alt-Right displays as well as partake in a bit of those same behaviors.

It’s of note that when you look at someone like Dan Harmon who has created things that adored in female and male geek circles like Community, Harmonquest, and Rick and Morty and you look at these people who do these kinds of things and the talking heads that drive them forward there doesn’t seem to actually be much in the way of creativity between them. They create controversy and make online videos or write books just to drive their platform and agenda while their fans ignore what most of the entertainment world is basically screaming at them at this point.

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Ulysses

I’m old enough to remember a time when Microsoft Word wasn’t the dominate word processor out there. I vaguely remember seeing Word for the first time and being blown away by the fact that it wasn’t just a deep blue screen with a line of words across the top like File, Edit, etc.

Word Perfect was what I first typed on, though it was mostly in school or just playing around. We would occasionally have to use the computer lab to do some small assignment or I would just open different applications on our old Windows 3.1 machine and pound at random keys to pretend I was a reporter or something.

Word Perfect was the go to word processor back in the day. It was extremely plain, mostly made up of a blue field where you typed and the bar across the top that held picture-less menu items. If you made something bold the shade of white of the lettering changed to be brighter to reflect that. Looking back it was very primitive, but so were most other things ad the time. So, when Microsoft Word showed up and had a genuine interface that showed you what your typeface would look like when it was printed with whatever shitty, loud dot-matrix printer you had hooked up to your computer.

I’ve genuinely been a Microsoft Office person since it was available to me. I’ve use it as my primary suite of applications except for brief periods where I wasn’t using a compatible OS (like Linux) or where I tried out some other office software (like Google Docs, LibreOffice, etc).

I had come to a place where I didn’t expect to find something that worked better for me than Microsoft’s setup. Then I got a Mac and there was an option to try Ulysses for fourteen days free and the first thing I notice about it is that it’s not flashy. The interface is simplistic and mostly cloud based. But it’s really good at organizing ideas and being able to let you quickly jump from one set of ideas to the next .

I’m actually typing this in Ulysses.

One thing that I think kind of endears me to it is that it lets me export to different file types or even html. More than likely I won’t get rid of Word and Office, but I might start using this as my primary way to work on my writing since t’s very geared toward distraction free work.

A Review of Passengers and the need for a Hollywood Introspective

What the fuck is it that Hollywood wants? For the last several years it seems like at every beat of the year there’s some dark and gritty take on X. We got to see the gray, grim-dark, take on a Batman and Superman who are only outmatched in their hatred of each other in their hatred for themselves. We see scripts pushed darker by studio interference so often that no one ever talks about the alternative.

Rogue One is an example of a movie that was actually changed after a director got the go ahead to make it darker and that is actually an okay thing on some level, but we see the opposite with Passengers.

Passengers was a blacklist script darling that was supposedly one of the best movies that wasn’t being produced. It stayed in development Hell and was eventually supposed to star Emily Blunt and Keanu Reeves. The original script that the movie was going to have had a different ending that drew on the themes differently. While the troubling issues that the movie brought up were still present, they were explored in a more nuanced way and, to quote one friend, wasn’t “Hollywooded the fuck up”.

Spoilers past here for both the Passengers movie and the script that was never produced.

Here’s a quick rundown of the plot. A ship is carrying people to a far off world to colonize it. Everyone is placed in stasis pods and one pod malfunctions. Chris Pratt plays the man who wakes up. He goes for a year and three weeks alone before waking up a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) that he has spent time admiring and being in love with, but he lies and says she woke up by chance. He courts her, they fall in love, and the robotic bar tender in the ship let’s it slip that Pratt woke her up. It’s discovered later that the entire ship is malfunctioning due to the complication that woke Pratt up originally and he and Lawrence work together to fix the issue.

In the original ending they succeed in fixing the issue and manage to reboot the whole ship’s system saving the ship and themselves. But the reboot causes the ship to launch all of the other passengers into space. Five thousand people die. Lawrence questions whether she can come to grips with Pratt’s choice in waking her. On one hand he’s doomed her to never reach the new planet they’re traveling to, but on the other they’re alive because her pod wasn’t fired into space. When the ship reaches the new planet their descendants disembark.

The theatrical ending of the movie, the only one that was actually produced, ends with everything going down much the same, they have to reboot the ship and also open a door to vent plasma into space so that the core doesn’t rupture, but Chris Pratt has to go outside of the ship and actually manually open the door and is almost lost in space in the process. His suit ruptured and the tether broken, Pratt floats to what would be his death, but Jennifer Lawrence dons a suit and rushes out to save him, the two make up after he is revived and the problem of what he has done is essentially ignored. He does give her the option to sleep in the Sick Bay pod that they discover, but she declines and stays awake with him.

The real issue here is the issue that the movie seems to try and make a love story out of the idea that a man forced a woman to be alone with him in the hopes that she would fall in love. One of the deleted scenes on the blu-ray actually has her questioning him (after the big reveal) asking if he ever thought that if they’d just met back on Earth would he think she were capable of even noticing him. It might sound harsh, but it comes from a drunk woman who has been robbed of her life where any number of things could have turned out differently.

The movie gets a lot wrong along the way too. There’s a bit of dubious science that keeps this from looking like something like Interstellar or The Martian. There’s the whole Laurence Fishburn character that doesn’t actually have enough screen time or back story to make an impact and kind of just serves as a device to explain the problem of the third act.

With the almost everybody dies ending you’re getting at least one thing that kind of makes us realize just how fucked up the fact that he did this to her was, but she also rationalizes it with the idea that she could have very well died along with everyone else on the ship so she has whatever time is left as they travel. It’s still shitty what he did and he still robbed her of real choice, but he inadvertently saved her life and it would make her cooling to him make more sense.

In the theatrical script it seems like his risking his life to vent the plasma is more of an apology and that he is kind of assuming the blame for dragging her into this, but at the same time there’s some hope for him that he’s saving his own skin in the process. She makes the choice to go out and save him and to forgive him, but the choice of him saving her is more deliberate here. It’s not out of some predatory sense that he has to be with her that he saves her at the end. It kind of loses the theme of the movie for what was supposed to be a happier ending, but it also kind of tries to gloss over the big reveal just a few minutes earlier.

This could have been a much darker, better movie, but Hollywood didn’t want that. We can have plots about forced romances that get glossed over, but don’t let the ending be sad!

And real quick a note on casting. I love Chris Pratt. I think he’s super talented and charismatic, but the studio had a chance to cast someone potentially less attractive or at least less expected in the lead male role. I think that had we seen a black actor (less expected) that audience reactions and willingness to forgive the character would be less likely. Let’s consider for a moment that Donald Glover had been the Pratt character (just because I fucking love Donald Glover) and that he had done things the same way.

How do you think that would have changed the movie? How would that have changed people’s desire to see the Glover and Lawrence characters together?

How about if we picked someone less conventionally attractive. John C. Reilly steps into the Pratt role and he’s the same blue collar guy courting an attractive, younger, richer woman by dooming her to die in space? Is that a love story?

For a guy who likes brevity, I’m running long. But this was a conundrum of a movie that had a lot of strange angles that it was coming from. It touches on being an enjoyable watch until you think of the deeper issues with the science in the movie (if you were stuck in a large free floating ball of water in zero G you’d be able to swim out because water is still, well, fucking water) and the morality of what’s happened.

What’s happening is the movie is just disappointing. It could have been a much more interesting picture with some changes and I don’t want original scripts to stop being shot because of the shortcomings of this one. I want more science-fiction to come out of Hollywood. But I want them to be truly thought provoking and, if they’re going to go after the hard questions not to fuck it all up.

Is This Liberalism

I have never watched many of the politics based programming on television because it wasn’t having the kind of conversations that I want to see, but HBO seems to know me. Edit: There is an error with this theme for my Wordpress where contractions in the first word apparently fuck the whole post up.

“Last Week Tonight” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” have become mainstays of my weekend shows. I tend to watch them back to back late Sunday night after everyone else is in bed. I genuinely agree with most everything Jon Oliver says, and let me tell you he had a hard sells for me. I thought I was always see him in Jon Stewart’s shadow because of his years on the “Daily Show”. After the time that he filled in for Stewart proved that he had what it took, I still remained skeptical. I mean, a big part of the show was the writing staff.

His move to HBO did him some justice though and he surpassed the “Daily Show” in my mind almost immediately.

Real Time is a different beast all together. I was the show because the guests are people that I want to see discuss things. I skipped an episode once (the one with Milo Yiannopoulos) because I felt that even giving that kind of person a platform to reach more people was in bad taste, but the more I hear about the episode the more that I think I should have watched it.

There’s a phenomena in the liberal community that seemed to be at its height right after the election. The idea at its best is that social issues are less important and that we should concentrate on the big things and at its worse there are those who are only able to care about the issues that affect them directly.

Marijuana legalization would be a pretty big deal considering the number of people locked up for such a minor drug, but when that’s the only thing you’re considering important in a world with out of control pay inequality and where people are literally dying while the government could do something about then there’s something seriously wrong.

And let me just say that social issues do mean a lot. Maybe you’re not gay or black or hispanic or a woman, but a hell of a lot of people are and these issues are their day to day lives. Bill Maher brings legalization pretty often and he treats the whole thing with a sort of reverence. This past week when comments Bill O’Reilly made about Rep. Maxine Waters’s hair came up on Maher’s show her immediately shot the whole story down and say liberals sweat the small stuff. Let’s try to remember that the guy shot down a valid point she made about Trump by saying  “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.”

There’s layers of hypocrisy to the statement itself, especially when O’Reilly is defending a man who has the hair that Trump does. But then add to that how Maher handles the statement by dismissing the whole thing too.

Maher is one of the only ones I see on the airwaves doing this kind of thing, but he represents a swath of the liberal population that seems to be unconcerned with real gender and racial equality and treat it like one of those things that we’ll get to after all of the other things are done.

So what party is left for the rest of us? We’ve got one that openly vilifies us and another that thinks of us as an afterthought or votes in their pocket to be drummed up every four years when they need us, but forgotten any other time.

I got into liberalism because I felt that it was the ideology that served the People with a capital “P”. I was pretty conservative for years and I grew up going to Catholic school and thought abortion was wrong and that we had to be patriotic and stand by our President no matter what things he did. I found those policies didn’t work for me slowly over time and I grew up and learned what was important to me.

If liberalism doesn’t represent the people and work for the good of everyone, what good is it to us? Liberalism that doesn’t do that doesn’t even seem like liberalism at all.

 

Holding Me Back

So it seemed right when I was determined to get back into writing and putting some real words on the page that my computer started to have a problem. At first I thought it was the graphics card or the power supply, but it just started to be some problem with it  in the sense that something was wrong with how it reacted to certain things. I would open my web browser and the monitor would go off as if I had put the whole computer to sleep.

I could hold the power button on the actual computer to reset it, but before I did that it seemed to be running as normal over there. When I did restart it the computer would come back up with the scan disk application saying that I had improperly restarted.

The computer I had was bought right before Barack Obama was elected the first time. I’ve had a relatively long life span out of most of my Windows computers (one laptop was stolen from me about a week after I purchased it, but that doesn’t count). I wanted to try something different, but not sink a shit-ton of money I don’t have into it.

So when things started to go south I looked into options for buying a Mac. I don’t game, I don’t really do much outside of typing, Lightroom, and Photoshop–so this isn’t one of those things where people can warn me about the drawbacks. I know the drawbacks. I haven’t particularly been much for PC gaming at any point in my life and, besides League of Legends and Sims, I’ve never really played anything on the computer.

Getting the computer here was a fucking nightmare. UPS couldn’t have been less helpful if they had shipped me a box of pissed off hornets, because at least then they would have actually shipped me something. All in all I picked my package up earlier today and I know I need to set goals for myself with writing and with photography and all of the other things I’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t.

Procrastination is easy and excuses are really plentiful, but the fact of the matter is that I haven’t put in the work the way I should have and that’s my own fault (I could have written on the iPad even when the computer was gone). The big thing holding me back is that I’m just not writing and that has to stop.

Facebook Friends

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The word “friends” takes on a strange connotation on Facebook. Currently I have two hundred seventy-seven friends, which is down about thirty from earlier this year. At the height of my friend-getting I think that I had around five or six hundred. There was a point several years ago where having a lot of friends on Facebook seemed like something of an accomplishment or, at the very least, something to be aspired to.

Over the years I’ve been battered down by conspiracy theories, begging for attention, and strange political views that I’ve come to realize less is more on Facebook. All of those people who complain about what the site has become don’t realize that’s in part to the people and likes on their Facebook list. Those things decide what Facebook is for you.

About a year and a half ago a friend of mine hid most of the people on his friends list from actually appearing on his wall unless they mentioned him and the results were astounding. He was interacting with people he actually wanted to interact with–Facebook has become a lot like the Game of Thrones for some of us: we’re forced to keep up these relationships for the sake of appearances, etiquette, satisfying old debts, or because of family ties. I don’t think I know anyone with a Facebook friends list that’s one hundred percent what they want it to be.

We can trim parts off, but a lot of it is inconsequential. There’s always that uncle that you really can’t get rid of without catching flack from family. Or that ex-co-worker who seems to magically post on your wall every time you come home looking to delete them. Or that girl who posts crazy stuff, but that will often times post a really cute picture…

I bit the bullet and deleted some people right before the election. Not just because of differing opinions, but because I didn’t like the idea of someone threatening shooting sprees if their candidate lost or that was really enthused about “pussy grabbin'”. Since two of these people in particular have tried to add me back, but what is it you really want? We don’t actually talk, that’s why the decision to get rid of you was extra easy, and we aren’t particularly friends either.

Look, I’m not saying that you have to agree with your friends about everything, but I am saying that no one should be forced to be friends that’s past the age of, like, five. We can like who we like and not deal with others. That goes for family too. And if you live your life without subjecting yourself to people who you really don’t want to, maybe things will be a little better for all of us.

Post Election 2016

I had this brilliant post all figured out and then the election went and happened. I was going to ignore the whole thing regardless of who won, because before the whole thing was finished I hadn’t really considered the whole of what a Trump presidency meant.

I’ve been scared for a while that he’d win and despite the fact that everyone around me was telling me that it was impossible that someone like him could win–I’m not going to do the whole blame thing, though I think there’s a lot of it to go around (most of it resting squarely on the uneducated rural masses that seem to think a New York billionaire who’s never given a shit about them gives a shit about them), but I am going to say that the one thing that I’m tired of hearing is that people out there need to stop protesting.

I lived through eight years of President Obama being protested against about all the awful things that he was going to do that he has yet to do. Considering he’s only got a few weeks left in office I think we’re not going to see any of that shit.

People are scared that their rights to marry who they want, their right to control their reproductive freedom, their right to be who they are might be stripped away from them. Those are all very scary things that I guess wouldn’t matter if you’re straight and a guy.

It’s you’re right to protest and it’s your right to be scared. There’s good reason to be scared of a man who called a climate change “a Chinese hoax” while a good section of the part of the country that voted for him is burning in the middle of fucking November. And I haven’t even mentioned the whole racism thing. The country has been ablaze with racism. Someone posted racist bullshit on the wall at a college right north of me.

I don’t really think that Trump invented racism. I don’t think that’s even possible to claim that. I don’t even think he stirred it all up. A good section of the GOP did that, the online white nationalist presence in this country has been on fire online; Trump didn’t put them there. Trump even claimed not to know or like them. But they have been emboldened by all of this and that’s a genie that won’t be put back in the bottle easily.

Now, on a positive note, Trump has walked back like half of the shit he said already. So to any who voted to him on “policy” it looks like you shouldn’t get your hopes up.

 

Belonging 

I went out to see Doctor Strange on Thursday night. It was supposed to be the highlight of my day. I’ve been counting down the days over the last month. There’s a tiny theater connected to my neighborhood. It also happens to be in the same building as my favorite comic book store. I’m in the place about once a week and people know me and I know the area. 

The movie had been moved to a new auditorium and was starting late, but by the time I stopped bullshitting with the guys in the comic book store I was coming into the theater after most people had taken their seats. A woman pointed to the area where my seat was and I walked down the front part of he aisle (our theater has wide aisles in front of the seats for waiters to pass along without disturbing the viewers). The seat numbering seemed off and the seats in the area where the employee had pointed me to were filled. I was in seat 13 of the row I was on and I saw a seat marked 513 and assumed it was that one. 

Suddenly a bearded man around my age or a little younger stands up from a seat a little to my right and asks “Are you sure you’re in the right theater?” He doesn’t come toward me or really move except to point. “They’re playing the Madea movie in another one.”

Oh, I get it now. That’s very clever. Black people, as we know, would only come to the theater to see the latest Madea movie or tales of triumph set during slave times. I wasn’t sure if he was going to tell me how brace I was next. It was raining, after all, and we know the blacks can’t swim. 

He laughed after that and sat back down. I figured out my error a few seconds after ignoring him. There was a second set of white painted numbers on the bottom of the upturned seats. I found my chair near the middle of the row buffeted by a man playing on his phone and a man who would continually talk to himself and push down on the empty seat between us hitting me in the leg. 

The movie was really good and I was thrilled to see it. Did the small interaction at the start ruin it for me? No. I’ve had worse said about me, although I really hate Tyler Perry movies, so this is an insult on two levels. There’s not a moral to this story unless it’s this: these kinds of things happen. I went into public to enjoy a movie and a stranger made a racist joke. I’m minding my own business and it doesn’t matter. People feel the need  to comment on my race. I’m sure if asked this guy would be one of the ones who “has black friends” and “doesn’t see race”. 

Yeah, sure. 

Scared For The Future of My Country

I’ve been stressed. I stopped by Wendy’s earlier and couldn’t finish a medium meal, which is not normal for me. Sleep is hard to come by and in the mornings I’m awake but don’t want to get up.

I lay in bed on my phone talking to friends and trying to avoid the bad news on sites like Reddit or Facebook. I throw on the MBMBAM podcast, but part of the way through I realized I’ve zoned out and don’t know what they’re laughing at. I missed the entirety of the last goof.

Work is surprising in that it is calming. No one really brings up the outside issues there and not many people really talk to me. I kind of like it that way. But the fact of the matter is it’s an election year and the things coming out of this election are causing me to be really afraid for my country.

Think that a few years ago a statement about binders of women or a weird scream was enough to get you flack. I miss the days of Bush and Romney when I look at the candidate that people have chosen to support.

There’s such an undercurrent of hatred in this election and the odd thing is that the guy stirring it up is somehow saying he’s the victim. He’s calling Mexicans rapists and bragging about sexual assault. He’s saying he wants to bring back unconstitutional stop and frisk laws and that he wants to default on our debt (which puts the world economy at risk). He’s asking why we don’t use nukes more often.

Notice I didn’t cite any of that. Mostly because it doesn’t matter. I’m on a phone and I won’t waste my time making the buggy copy paste system work for people who either know all that already or refuse to believe it. Even though it’s fact. It’s recorded that Trump has said these things; we’ve become anti-fact.

And the thing is what he’s taken advantage of scares me as much as Trump, because it will continue win or lose. There’s not really a chance for a conversation with people who are threatening to commit acts of terror against foreigners or “grab their musket” if they don’t get their way.

I’m thinking maybe America isn’t the place for me and a lot of people seem to not want people like me here. I’m thinking maybe this doesn’t get better after this.

Since people question my personhood still of ponder the idea of women not being able to vote can we really even say that we tried?

The Wonderful World of Incels

My novel seems to be stuck in a permanent research phase somehow. When I think about the fact that I was closing out a final chapter a little over a year ago, it’s strange to realize that the stuff I had back then doesn’t work for me anymore. This all started as something I dreamed up (literally–I had a dream) on a cruise ship. I should have never had any aspirations about keeping everything exactly as it was in my mind.

The latest idea that I’ve started playing with is a character who represents the common, downtrodden type of guy that you’ll find pretty much anywhere there is discussion to be had about dating. These guys are lonely and consider themselves un-datable, but they place a large amount of blame on society for the way it is. Women want well off men. Women want men that look a certain way. They’ve come up with all sorts of shorthand for the things they regularly talk about like their in a NATO briefing. For the men that they consider adversaries, the ones that women actually scramble to date, they use the name Chads. Some of the time they just refer to the guy as if his name is Chad. Most desirable women are Stacy.

They refer to themselves as incels. It refers to involuntary celibates, but in reality there seems to be more to the culture than just that. They categorize and break themselves into smaller groups from there. A KV is a kissless virgin and I forget the other stuff they say, but I’m not digging out my notes.

There’s this whole culture of slang and meanings, most of it meant to show how much the world has wrong them and to some extent all men. Women being allowed to have choices is sometimes spoken about as the first real problem that caused a whole host of problems and there’s a special kind of cognitive dissonance there too. Under the surface there’s a dash of racism and alt-right politics thrown in.

See this is the problem with research. I’ve read a lot of these postings. I’ve studied what these guys say and the words they use and the tone in which they use them. No one can be 100% horrible, right? So there’s got to be some silver lining in these people, but that’s what making the character is for. I have to cook up some way to make these guys be awful, but still be people.

A little over a year ago I watched the Elliot Roger videos on YouTube, you can still find them there, and the most astonishing thing was that I could see instantly why he had problems attracting women. He moved in a way that was off–kind of like how people talk about the uncanny valley–he spoke and acted as if he had this over blown sense of self worth.

And he plain acted like he was entitled to women.

I see some of the same traits in the men calling themselves incels and Roger identified as one, so that makes sense. I don’t mean to make light of the problem that Roger and others like him represent, but I think that the sort of character who embodies all of these things would have to be an interesting villain. Some might have a hard time sympathizing with him; if you’ve ever had to deal with someone who was so obsessed with how they were missing out on relationships and sex, you would see what I mean. At the same time I don’t think you always have to sympathize with great villains to see where there coming from.

People will tell you that they don’t believe the level of villainy that we’ve seen happen in a given story, but then you look at the world around us and we can see some pretty terrible events unfolding. On a smaller scale, couldn’t it just be that someone really hates the world around him and doesn’t think it’s treated him fairly? Couldn’t someone just have had enough of their immediate surroundings and they’re just going through the motions until the right chance arises?

That’s what I’m looking at here.