The Bullshit Awakens: Does anyone really care that John Boyega is black?

Answer: Not anyone who matters.

I’m really sick of this click-bait bullshit spreading like wildfire. Fans of Star Wars don’t have a problem with the new lead’s skin color. Rather, sleazy entertainment writers figured out they could design “news stories” around what know-nothing morons say in anonymous internet forums. And so it inevitably happened to Star Wars: suddenly there’s a manufactured controversy.

There is no real controversy here. “Controversy” suggests Skywalker Ranch is getting picketed by nerds with lightsabers and nooses. “Controversy” suggests more than a vocal minority actually give a fuck. “Controversy,” unfortunately, is nothing more than a buzzword that gets silly people to visit silly articles on silly websites like TMZ. The fans of Star Wars are too busy worrying about how a cross-hilt lightsaber works to care about an actor’s skin color.

I’m an average fan of Star Wars who had an average reaction to the new teaser trailer. The second I saw Boyega’s face pop into view, I breathed a sigh of relief. For one, I didn’t expect to see a lead in the trailer at all. Two, the teaser immediately looks, sounds, and feels more energetic than most of the stuff we saw in the PT (“prequel trilogy” for all you muggles). Those were my only two reactions to Boyega’s appearance and I’ve known and been around enough Star Wars fans to say with certainty that’s a pretty universal response. The majority of us were thrilled when we originally learned the lead of Attack the Block had been cast… when the news was reported several months ago.

The only people who have a problem with Boyega’s skin are anonymous internet commentators… you know, the people who don’t matter in the real world because they don’t even live in it. These are the same sheltered morons who believe humans never landed on the moon and that Obama is related to Saddam Hussein. So why, really, does anyone give a shit what they think on this matter when we don’t give a shit about everything else they say? And why the hell haven’t the rest of us figured out they’ll keep coming back when we keep giving them so much attention?

Some fans are worried about the story continuity because they believe all post-PT stormtroopers are clones of Jango Fett, who wasn’t black. But the most obvious indication that the reign of Jangos is over is that all the stormtroopers in the original trilogy don’t all share the same voice or height. Yeah, I understand that the OT was made a long time before the PT and George Lucas may have just messed up. But given Lucas’s reputation, we can be reasonably sure he would have dubbed over all the OT stormtroopers’ voices in the newer editions if he had intended them to be clones.

But that’s not our only indication that all stormtroopers are not clones. From the Star Wars wiki:

By the time the Galactic Civil War began in earnest, Jango Fett’s clones were heavily supplanted by clones based on a variety of templates around 9 BBY,[13] followed shortly after by enlisted Humans.[19] Thus, the Fett clones were ironically reduced to a minority status after years of virtually filling the stormtrooper ranks in its entirety.

And even if all stormtroopers are clones in the new trilogy… who cares? I just assumed Boyega was wearing the armor as a disguise, the way Luke and Han did in the OT. It didn’t even occur to me he might be a real stormtrooper until I started reading the comments on fan forums suggesting he was a bonafide deserter. (I still think he’s just using the armor as a disguise, for the record.)

This is all to say that this is Star Wars, not Duck Dynasty. Nobody gives a shit what color your skin is in this fandom. The ones who do just aren’t welcome and they never have been.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat: Shark Week’s biggest show was unapologetic bullshit

I haven’t had cable in so long I didn’t know how bad the networks’ programming had become. Yeah, I’ve heard of such bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings as Ancient Aliens and Finding Bigfoot, but I assumed nobody actually bought into that stuff outside of the Weekly World News readership. All but the hopelessly gullible will know the Ghost Hunters stuff is faker than suntan in a bottle, but according to the video above it appears a megalodon program was carefully constructed to trick even objective viewers.
your typical Weekly World News article

Neal Stephenson insisted that a hundred years from now, the majority of people might think the moon landings were faked. I thought that was farfetched, but now I’m not as optimistic. Cable networks are really turning to shit in the factual accuracy department and they’re among the biggest opponents of net neutrality in the world. If we lose internet freedom (and there’s a huge chance we will lose it), does anyone think the “educational” programming on privately owned television networks will suddenly get better? It’s hard to imagine cable programming getting any worse, but they have always found new ways to lower the bar just a little bit more.

It will get worse and there’s currently no sign it will ever get better. Let’s not pretend it’s completely Discovery Channel’s fault. Obviously someone’s watching this stuff. At least a few of them believe every bit of it, too. If the internet becomes what the major telecoms want it to become, I believe Mr. Stephenson is right: people will be watching a lot more cable TV, not to mention visiting the kinds of websites put out by the same people who control cable TV. That’s gotta have a negative affect on the average humans’ bullshit radar in the long run.

Sharks, man. Seriously.

Scientific American points out that many liberals can be anti-science, too

Scientific American has the article.

From the article:

….progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti–fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti–wind power because of avian fatalities. The underlying current is “everything natural is good” and “everything unnatural is bad.”

One comment points out what I thought was a worthy distinction: maybe the right are more likely to be anti-science while the left tend towards anti-technology.

Half-Life 2: Episode 4 (yes, four)

In case you’ve A) been living under a rock or B) just don’t play video games, Half-Life 3 is the most anticipated video game in history. Period. Half-Life 1 was a great game. Half-Life 2 said, “Fuck being great, that ain’t good enough,” and melted most of our eyeballs right out of our skulls. Developer Gabe Newell is the Akira Kurosawa of video games, the Dostoevsky of video game technology. The reason I never give a scaled review of any games I write about on this blog is because Half-Life 2 is a ten and any other game ever made doesn’t ever get higher than a nine—it’s that good.

screenshots/test footage from Half-Life 2: Episode 4?

Soon after Half-Life 2 Gabe Newell promised us that instead of a fully fledged sequel we’d be getting episodic content. There was Half-Life 2: Episode One (I personally thought the main game was, technically, the first episode, but what do I know? I am not the genius-god known by many fans as “Gaben.”) and shortly after that there was Episode Two, which ended on one hell of a cliffhanger and was no less remarkable than the gameplay before it.

Then? Nothing. And that was five years ago.

Today it’s generally believed that Episode Three has been scrapped and we’re going to get that full fledged sequel after all. But in case that’s not the case, well, I’ll refer to a possible (though unlikely) Episode 3 as Half-Life 3 for the sake of simplicity. So every other month or so I get an itch that can only be scratched by Googling the recent news for “Half-Life 3” and I leap into the usual rabbit hole of rumors and all-around made-up bullshit (the latter of which can be quite funny, actually), but today I was pleasantly surprised to find what at first seemed like a joke, but isn’t…

It’s concept art from Half-Life 2: Episode Four. FOUR! (See video above.) If you’re wondering what happened to Episode Three bear with me. Valve always planned to make Episode Three—that part is undisputed unless you also believe the Earth is flat and aliens populated the planet. And to presumably make their episodic content come out even quicker they enlisted outside help to work on the game while they developed Episode 3 in-house.

If you want to know more then a good place to start is Half-Life Wikia. Personally, I think I need to stop searching for Half-Life 3 rumors and get a full life… or just go to bed and repeat the search in the morning. It’s getting close, I tell you. I can feel it….

Terminator Suckvation

Terminator Salvation is basically a slightly better version of Battlefield Earth. I know this an ad hominen point that’s been run into the ground, but it’s hard to expect much from a director who encourages the use of his “McG” nickname, especially one who has never made a movie that was worth watching. Never. This guy is such a douche, he publicly tells those who criticize his big screen adaptation of Charlie’s Angels and its sequel to “fuck off.” I’ve seen more artistic integrity in a stick-figure doodle. You cannot make such a set of movies and defend it when people rightly recognize it as shit.

I’m so sick of movies with such ridiculous plots taking themselves so seriously. Since when was it okay for a movie to be so joyless? Are all the new filmmakers emo adults who think the audience should be depressed just by the way their movies look? When you have metal skeletons shooting at your characters, it takes a lot of misdirection to make that boring. What we have here is an example of a movie director who doesn’t understand drama trying to craft a drama out of a franchise that was fun the first two times around, then uninspired the next.

The movie begins with a story box. I groaned. Then, a future biological machine named Marcus (Sam Worthington) is prepared to be executed on a table which conveniently allows the director to sneak in crucifix imagery—shit’s so basic they teach it the first day in Metaphor 101. I groaned again. There’s a plot, which is as simple as you can get when you tamper with the mythology surrounding John and Sarah Conner, Kyle Reese, and the fact that, originally, Skynet was supposed to have roasted the world by 1997.

(When the flow of time can be so easily changed, why should we care what happened/happens? One gets the feeling they’ll just change it in the sequel anyway.)

Despite this “simplicity,” the plot’s needlessly complex and convoluted; beginning with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, they had explanations for why Skynet was “postponed,” but no real good reasons beyond the obvious financial ones.

And there was no good reason to continue after T2: Judgment Day, either. It’s so obviously a money-making scheme, I was turned off from the get-go. Which isn’t to say I didn’t give the newer films a chance. It took me several false starts to get through parts 3 and 4, but I did it. Too bad John Conner can’t send a terminator back to stop the production of those movies, for they take away a lot from the good ones. You can’t trust anything in the series anymore. Part 5 will probably go back and alter it so that parts 1 and 2 never even happened. Then the filmmakers will be free to screw up the franchise in any way they choose.

Terminator is a great movie, but Terminator 2 is also great movie in a completely different way. It wasn’t about Skynet and machine-on-machine fight sequences, not entirely anyway. It was about John Conner and his need for a father figure. It was about how a machine, the very thought of which the main character’s mother despised, could provide that role. I imagine the idea came to James Cameron naturally. He wasn’t just sitting around, wondering what he could do next to keep the franchise going. And for the film’s villain, he imagined a logical successor: the T-1000, which provided something we had never seen before in a movie.

The villain in Terminator 3, on the other hand, provided something we had seen done a million times before in all those terrible movies that ripped off the first Terminator films. There was nothing new. It felt more like a sequel to JCVD’s Cyborg than a movie worthy of the Terminator title. John Conner was an absolutely terrible kid in part two, yet he was a lot easier to sympathize with than the boring adult version presented in part 3, or the one-note JC in Salvation for that matter.

Which brings me to the continuity errors surrounding John Conner’s character. The only father he’d ever known was a machine. He was helped again by a machine in the same incarnation in part 3, albeit a lot less believably. So why, then, wasn’t he a little more receptive of the idea of a good terminator in Salvation? Why did he automatically hate Marcus so bad? Even his mother eventually learned to accept the idea a machine could be good. So why the sudden turn-around?

I’ll tell you why: bad writing. That and lack of respect for the preceding films. You ask me, that’s unforgivable.

The obvious direction the fourth film should have taken was an exploration of Kyle Reese’s relationship with John Conner, similar to the father/son riffs in Terminator 2. Instead, you have Reese taken hostage midway through the movie and held there nearly until the end. By the time Conner finally meets him during the ridiculous climax, there’s no time left to explore anything remotely interesting.

Which just goes to prove that once you remove the human element, you’re left with is a film that amounts to porn for action junkies. But even though it’s the focus, I felt even the action wasn’t good enough for the franchise. It didn’t flow like music as it did in the first two and it didn’t do anything new whatsoever. (Okay, one scene was pretty good: it’s when John Conner gets into a helicopter, flies away from a nuclear blast, and crash-lands when the EMP knocks him out of the air. It was all done in one shot, which was mildly interesting, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that Conner was so lacking in character, I couldn’t sympathize with him enough to care.)

Other thoughts about the franchise:

  • The writers of part 3 were sitting around a table, wondering how they could make their villain better than the villain in Terminator 2, which was an impossible goal from the get-go. One writer probably exclaimed, “I know! We’ll make it a woman!” And then they proceeded to pat each other on the backs and blow each other.
  • The obnoxious biblical symbolism began in part 3’s ending, I believe. John Conner and Clair Danes are Adam and Eve. How goddamned sickening. 
  • In parts 1 and 2, we get a feeling for how the terminators were programmed. We get in their heads and learn how they think. In parts 3 and 4, they don’t think at all. They fire a million bullets, even when the characters have long ago removed themselves from the path of fire, and they fall into impossible traps with all the grace of lemmings. (By the way, why do they have such bad aim now?) One terminator, in part 4, is caught hanging upside down in a rope. Instead of shooting the rope, it shoots its foot—its own fucking foot! Yet another point where I groaned. The terminators now lack a certain strategical purpose. They’re essentially metal zombies with guns now.

    Second Impressions: Ebooks

    See my first impressions of my ebook reader here.

    Well, I gave it a try, but I’m back to traditional ink and paper for my reading needs. Summer’s coming up and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable leaving a $200+ device in my car during the sweltering, Oklahoma heat. (Fuck Oklahoma weather, by the way.) Actually, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it at all. You have to pamper the fucking thing and you can’t just leave it lying around next to your bed or on the bathroom floor. In fact, it’s scary taking it into the bathroom altogether, what with the close proximity of all that water.

    Complaint #1: The digital clock in the upper right hand corner of the screen. 

    Why would I need this? I’ve got GPS navigators, phones, and everything else that takes a battery telling me what time it is. When I read a book, I’m trying to leave the real world. Is there a way to turn the clock off? I don’t know. Maybe it’s in the manual, but the manual’s on my ebook reader, which brings me to…


    Complaint #2: Reading reference books is a PAIN IN THE ASS.

    You want to flip to the things you need. You sometimes want to flip back and forth. You can’t do that on an ebook reader, not if you want to keep your sanity. You have to use the gruelingly unresponsive touchpad screen to search for the information you want. You have to wait for it to load. And that reminds me of yet another complaint…

    Complaint #3: Loading times.

    A traditional book accesses the page you want in the time it takes you to turn to it. Ebook readers get hung up frequently. They freeze. Mine isn’t the only one… I Googled the problem and discovered a significant portion of the population who was also duped into buying such a gadget had the same issues. I also got the feeling that they hated their devices as much as I did.

    Complaint #4: It’s infant technology.

    If you buy a reader as they’re made today, IT WILL EVENTUALLY CRASH ON YOU. I like to open a book and immediately escape. Sometimes I only get a few minutes of reading time, which I sometimes desperately need on a bad day. On one such day, I turned on my ebook reader and it froze. I had to take the battery out and put it back in, wait for it to boot up, and by then I didn’t have the time to read anymore.

    Complaint #5: People have to ask what you’re reading… and they usually won’t.

    It doesn’t happen often, but a world in which complete strangers can’t see the book I’m reading, and therefor can’t strike up a conversation because they read the same book, is a world I don’t want to live in. Then again, depending on what you read, maybe that’s a plus. Hey, I ain’t judgin’.

    There are some pros to the cons. For one, you can turn the page with one hand, left or right. That comes in handy when you’re eating, cooking, or driving (okay, kidding about that last one). Another advantage is traveling. Whenever I leave the house for for an extended period of time, I tend to take three or four books with me at a minimum. With an ebook reader, you can take something like 1,500 if you want. You can also… well no, that’s about it. Ebook readers suck right now.

    So… anyone want to buy my ebook reader?