Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blog a day month!

Last year, my friend Scott made a challenge to everybody out there in blogland to blog a day for the entire month of October. That was before I was blogging fairly regularly, so it was both easier and harder for me. It was easier because I had a lot of stuff to say. It was harder because I wasn't used to writing so much.

Dammit all though, I'm determined to do it again! I declared myself victorious last time, and I shall have reason to do so again! Even if I don't, I shall do so again!

Oh, and November is Haiku-a-Day month.

Are you up to the challenge?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Proposition 8

I've been sitting here in front of the computer for about a half hour now, trying to think of something to write about. I currently have a few ideas buzzing in my head - I could continue to speculate on what they should do for the next Batman movie, I could write about the dangers of pet anthropomorphication, I also have been contemplating on a series of entries about what's so great about comic books. Oh, and there's also some thoughts about my fear that Sarah Palin might actually be as dumb as we all fear.

For some reason, none of those are really moving me. I've got gay marriage on my mind again. Why? Well, you know, now that it's legal in California, I'm looking to end my marriage with my wife so I can marry a dude. That's what it's all about, right?

Nah, it's not that. In fact, I was hesitant to write about it at all, as I've devoted a few blog entries to it already, and I don't want to just repeat myself. In fact, the joke that I wrote up above is basically a variation on one that I've already done dozens of times.

What got me thinking about this issue is that I heard the first ad (I was in the other room from the television) urging voters to vote yes on Proposition 8 - the proposition that would amend the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage. In all honesty, it made my stomach turn and left me with a rather morose feeling that dragged on for the rest of the day.

I was going to post a couple of video clips on this blog so I could compare and contrast the rhetoric of the anti-gay marriage crowd with the pro-gay marriage crowd. The problem was, when I watched some of the anti-gay videos, I just started to feel depressed. I'm so sick of these people and their specious arguments. Stop talking about "protecting" marriage. Stop talking about "values." Shoot, one video I saw showed Newt Gingrich comparing the "Yes on 8" cause to the cause of the American Revolutionaries. I had to stop, as I feared that such a concentrated dose of hatred and stupidity would melt my brain if I continued to watch it. Good thing he didn't say "judicial tyranny" 'cause that makes me want to vomit fire.

The thing is, I'm really starting to hate these people. I honestly don't think that hate is a useful emotion, and I realize that it does more harm to me than it does to them, but I can't help but feel this way. This whole thing is so colossaly unfair. It's not just unfair, but the arguments of those who are against same-sex marriage are so completely illogical. The combination of ignorance, hatred and irrationality is too much for me. Basically, I need to stop thinking about it, as I tend to dwell on things that depress me - and these people depress me.

The only glimmering light in all of this is that the polls show that Californians aren't likely to vote for Proposition 8. Times have changed in the decade since they voted to abolish gay marriage. Also, a lot of people might not be for it, but they're also not for amending the constitution either. Hopefully that'll be the thing that saves the day.

Oh, and Californians - No on 8, please. My slogan? "Don't be a total fucking douchebag - vote no on 8."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Do most Christians even know?

I wonder sometimes when I talk to people who identify themselves as Christian whether they even know the sort of things that the fundamentalists are endorsing. While they certainly aren't as dangerous as the extremist Muslims out there, there certainly is the potential within their belief system for them to become dangerous.

For instance, the bottom line with fundamentalists is that it doesn't matter how you live your life. All that really matters is that you confess your sins to Jesus and are "born again." That means that you can eat babies every day for seventy years, and then one day you can repent to Jesus and everything is a wash. Don't believe me? Check out this comic from Jack Chick, a fundamentalist cartoonist. (Click on the panel for the whole thing - but that one panel gets the point across. There's a criminal who goes to heaven, but the good marshall goes to hell because he didn't believe in Da Jeebus.)

Am I crazy to say that this is a potentially dangerous theology? While I don't think that we should try to be good to gain some sort of eternal reward (or avoid an eternal punishment), I can at least see some value in people believing in heaven and hell for the simple sake that it provides motivation to be a good person. With this though, what's the motivation if the bottom line is that it all simply depends on what you believe? (And let's not even get into the fact that this is a pretty screwy interpretation of scripture. I've read Revelation and I know that it says at least once that people will be judged on "their works". It's amazing how Bible believers can pay attention to everything that confirms what they already think is true and totally ignore the stuff that they don't want to be true.)

I also don't think that people are aware of the threat that these fundamentalists pose to science education in this country. While I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of home school or even private schools, I do fear for a generation of kids who are being taught that there's some genuine debate regarding evolution and the age of the Earth. I also have to wonder if your average Christian is even aware of places like the Creation Museum, which purports to be a science museum, yet it shows people with dinosaurs and claims that Noah put T-Rexes on the ark.

I've heard a lot of people say that the average Muslim needs to do his or her part to condemn the actions of the extremists out there. While the Christian extremists don't pose the same sort of a threat, I feel that the average Christian should be more vocal against these people as well - lest they become dangerous. ('Cause it's not like nobody's ever died in the name of Christianity. I sometimes worry that Christianity is a sleeping dragon right now, and when it wakes we'll enter a new dark age.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I've never been a fan of cigarette smoke.

Before I go any further with this, I should point out the fact that I live in California. I should also point out the fact that I grew up in the 80s and 90s, not the 50s and 60s where everybody pretty much smoked. So I'm aware of the fact that me having never smoked isn't really all that remarkable.

With that said though, I gotta say that I just don't get it. I've known people who've smoked all my life - from family members to friends. My parents smoked when I was young, but quit (for the most part) when I was still a kid. I had friends who smoked - some of them still do, if only during social events like when they're drinking.

I don't even get that. Here's the thing: it's stinky. Yeah, I'm aware that it causes cancer and all that stuff. Even if it had vitamins in it though, I don't think that I'd be interested in doing it. It's like carrying around a little cloud of pollution everywhere you go.

I remember when I would go to the bars before smoking was banned from them and I would come home with my clothes completely reeking of cigarette smoke. It was extremely nasty. I suppose that if you smoke, you get used to it, but I guess that's also true if you handled dog shit for a living (not sure what that job would be, exactly).

I remember I had an aunt and uncle who smoked a lot. They were from Germany, and when somebody here asked them about how so many Germans were smokers (I understand that's starting to change though), my aunt responded with how she did it because she "liked to enjoy life." I found that amusing, because while she was staying with us, I had to hear her wheezing, hacking cough in the mornings. I wonder how much she enjoyed that. So yeah, Bogart might look cool with a cigarette in Casablanca, but I'm sure if you got close enough to him, he'd be pretty darned stinky too. Plus, if the booze hadn't killed him, it's safe to say that the cigarettes would have done him in eventually.

I'm also baffled how there are people whom I generally respect who smoke. That's fine, I guess, but some people like comedians Greg Proops and Bill Hicks don't just smoke, but they incorporate their reasons for smoking in their bits. Generally speaking, their humor is pretty intelligent, but they sound like they're really reaching when they go there. It's almost like they have some sort of an addiction that they'll try to justify any way they can.

Let's not forget the tobacco industry. If ever there was an evil cabal of supervillains, it's those guys. Their representatives actually testified that there's no link between cigarette smoke and lung disease. (I don't remember the exact details - if it wasn't that exactly, it was something just as outrageously stupid.) As far as I'm concerned, these guys are just as bad as any Pablo Escobar out there. They make their money off of the suffering and misery of others. If that's not evil, I don't know what is. Yeah, sure, they also provide people with some temporary enjoyment - but didn't Pablo do the same? (I realize that I'm being a bit extreme with this analogy - but not as much as you might I was.) Why the hell would anybody want to support these devils?

I'm also sick and tired of the smokers who are out there acting like they're some kind of oppressed minority. Here's a newsflash, smokers - you chose to smoke! Sure, you might be choosing to stop, but the monkey on your back won't let you, but that doesn't change the fact that it was your choice to begin with. Yeah, you can't smoke in the office. Yeah, you can't smoke next to the door of the building. Boo-fricken' hoo. You want to complain about your rights? What about my right not to have to smell your filth? Do I have a right to smear poop all over the place? What if I want to smear it on myself? After all, I'm only hurting myself, right? Wrong. (Again, a bit extreme with the analogy - but only a bit.)

The bottom line for me is that I've always noticed that the people I knew who did smoke almost all wanted to quit. Many of them were trying to quit. Many of them had tried many times but couldn't quite seem to do it. (Oh, and as an aside here, it's really annoying when you have to constantly stop because your smoker friend has to light up before going in the car, right after coming out of the car, etc. etc. etc.) Surely when they started smoking, they knew people who were in similar situations. Why would I want to start something that most people who do it are trying unsuccesfully to quit?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Screw Chuck Norris

I was at Barnes and Noble today, and I couldn't help but notice a book called Black Belt Patriotism. Who was the author? No, not William Shakespeare! It was none other than Chuck Norris.

Needless to say, (and yet here I am, saying it - or writing it, but if you asked me to say it, I would,) curiosity got the better of me, and I had to take a look at it. Perhaps ol' Walker, Texas Ranger had some unique spin on this country's current situation that we've never heard before.

I couldn't get past the dust jacket. Apparently, the problems with America are that illegal aliens are flooding our country, Islamo-terrorists want to kill us, and "activist" judges aren't interpreting the Constitution in the way that conservatives want them to do it. Oh, and we're driving Da Jeebus (a.k.a. God) out of all of our public institutions. What's even worse, some people have the nerve to question whether there even is an all-powerful magic man in the sky! How crazy is that?

Ugh. Is this book really necessary? I mean, what, are Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Douchebag McFuckface, Assy McAnusburger, and Shitforbrains Q. Pundit-Ass not enough? I don't know, perhaps Chuck Norris actually has a new take on all of those things, but somehow I just don't see it happening.

The thing is, I've actually sat down and watched about half an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, and there's no way that the man behind that has an IQ that's higher than Cheez Whiz.

I realize that it's hip and retro to like Chuck Norris. I've read the list of things about Chuck Norris, like how his tears cure cancer, but he never cries. It's funny, I'll admit, but he didn't have anything to do with that.

So, screw Chuck Norris.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Batman movies - what next? Part II

A few weeks ago, I speculated on which villains that they should use for the next Batman film. In that one, I covered the possibilities of using The Riddler, Catwoman, and Hush.

While thinking about it some more, I realize that for as much as I love the two most recent films, they're still not the kind of Batman movies that I would make. For me, I would make something that's a little closer to the Animated Series, just with higher production values, obviously. That series (the one that ran in the '90s - not to be confused with The Batman - which is a decent cartoon, but not as iconic as the previous incarnation). That show managed to make Batman himself a realistic (I'm using that term very loosely here) character, and even his world was believable despite the fact that they'd incorporate elements of science fiction and fantasy.

With the current series of movies, they've established a world that's as realistic as this sort of a thing can possibly be. While I have no problem with it, and I definitely prefer it to the "anything goes" mentality of the earlier films, I realize that this probably leaves out a lot of villains and characters from the Batman mythology that simply wouldn't work in this current series.
So, with that in mind, I'm focusing on characters that I think are great, but I just don't think that they'd work well in the next movie.

Mr. Freeze - Just like how you should forget about Halle Berry as Catwoman, you should forget about The Governor of California as Mr. Freeze. I'm not talking about that guy - whatever the hell he was all about. Actually, Freeze was a pretty lame villain in the comics even - a "second-rate Captain Cold" as the Joker once said. It wasn't until the Animated Series came along that he became one of Batman's best, and most tragic, foes.

Dr. Victor Fries had his sick wife cryogenically frozen while he searched for a cure for her ailment. Thanks to the crooked boss who ran the company that worked for, he got into a horrible accident, leaving him unable to survive in anything warmer than sub-zero temperatures (hence the suit). Seeking revenge, he was willing to break the law in order to get satisfaction.
That's some classic comic book supervillain stuff there. Unfortunately, it just wouldn't work against Christian Bale's Batman. It's just wayyyyy too sci-fi. You'd have to change him so much that he'd be unrecognizable.

Poison Ivy - Forget about Uma, okay? She certainly looked good, but that's where the goodness ended. The problem with Pamela Isley is the same as Mr. Freeze. Her origin story involves a similar theme of corrupt businessmen and a freak accident.

It's a pity though, because she's a classic femme fatale/temptress figure. Much like how Catwoman could fulfill both a villain and love interest role, there are a lot of possibilities with her. I suppose it's possible to do something with her in the current series, but again so much would have to be changed. While a "fear toxin" seemed to work in Batman Begins, I'm not so sure that her kiss, which turns men into her mindless slaves, would work as well.

Clayface - He's a really cool visual, but I'm not going to get into his origin story. (It's wayyy too damn convoluted - but the Animated Series managed to simplify it.) But the problem is that you have a big shapeshifting guy. If they ever manage to create a new series where they inject some fantasy and sci-fi back into the mythology, then he'd be a cool one. I'd leave him out of the next one though.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I am a musician

I mentioned in another entry that I recently bought a Playstation 3. Mainly, I was looking to get a Blu-Ray player, as there are a lot of movies coming out in the next few months that I'd like to get in the best format possible.

I already have about six or seven pre-ordered via Amazon.com. First one up - the Sex and the City movie. It's mainly for Kirsti, who is a huge fan of the show, but I went and saw the movie with her and I enjoyed it. I don't think that I liked it enough to buy it for myself, but I'll probably watch it again with her. Mainly the ones that I'm looking forward to are Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight and some comic book/action movies.)

Anyway, the reason why I didn't just get a Blu-Ray player is because a PS3 costs about the same amount (and it has a Blu-Ray player, in case you didn't know) and both Kirsti and I had a lot of fun playing the game Rock Band at various friends' houses. So, when I picked up the PS3, I also picked up Rock Band, and last week I went and got Guitar Hero III.

There seems to be a bit of controversy over the game Rock Band, at least amongst my group of friends. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's basically a video game that allows you to create your own rock band. Instead of standard video game controllers, you use a guitar-shaped controller. There is also a drum-kit, which is probably more like the actual drums than the guitar is like an actual guitar. Lastly, there's a microphone, where you can sing along with the songs. While playing the game, a series of lights flash across the screen, and you have to hit the right buttons and strum on the guitar to the music. The drums are similar, as corresponding lights match up with the drums. If you're singing, you have to stick with the correct pitch and sing along precisely or else you start to lose.

If my description sucks, check out this video of some people playing:

It's a lot of fun, but the controversy seems to stem around the notion that you're not really playing any instruments. People who actually play the guitar say that it's completely different from the real thing. (In fact, Slash, who contributed to Guitar Hero III, said in an interview that if he had never actually played the guitar before, the game would probably come a lot easier to him.) Apparently, some people are afraid that kids will like the game so much and have a deluded notion about what being in a band really is - and thusly there will be fewer kids playing actual instruments.

Personally, I think that anybody with that attitude is simply being a luddite. Here's why games Rock Band and Guitar Hero are a good thing:

1. If anything, it will get more kids into playing the real thing. Nobody who would really want to play an instrument is going to be content with a game like this. After all, you can't compose your own songs and you can't play it differently than the recording. I'm 34 - if I haven't picked up an instrument by now, then I probably never will. For me, the game is fantasy in the same way as when I play my superhero game. Playing Rock Band doesn't make me any less likely to learn an instrument than Marvel Ultimate Alliance makes me less likely to put on a costume to fight crime.

Still, I can really see a lot of kids getting into the idea of playing the real thing after getting into the game. I wonder how many parents who bought the game for their kids are now heading to the music store to buy a real guitar or drum set? I bet there are at least a few.

2. It's more active than most video games. While it certainly isn't an exercise game, you definitely get a bit of a workout when you play the drums. As for the guitar, I like to stand up and move around while I play. I doubt that I'm burning the same amount of calories as a marathon runner, but I definitely burn more than I am right now sitting at the keyboard.

3. This one is more of a personal reason, but it's a game that I can play with my wife. Too often we're in separate rooms of the house, but with this one we're having fun together. She's also getting pretty good at the drums, and even though she doesn't get to play as often as I do, I'm pretty sure that she's ready to move from the Easy to the Medium difficulty level.

4. It exposes kids to music. A nice change that I've been noticing over the past couple of years is that a lot more kids seem to be familiar with music that came out more than two years ago. For most teenagers, their sense of musical history is extremely limited. These games introduce them to a lot of classic rock. Now all they have to do is come out with a game called Jazz Band and then we can really get some musical appreciation going on.

5. The potential for newer versions is promising. Supposedly with the new Guitar Hero game coming out, players will be able to compose their own songs. I imagine that the range of what you can do will be pretty limited, but there's no doubt that this sort of a thing would inspire a lot of kids to pick up some real instruments. After all, you might be able to create a cool song with the game, but you can't go out on a street corner and play it, can you?

6. It's a lot of fun. To me, that's the bottom line. When I want to unwind after work, it's a good way to get my mind off of things. It combines both game play and music. What can be better?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Afraid of the dark

It's been real nice having the weather cool down a bit lately. I can take my dog for a walk in the middle of the day if I want, instead of having to go first thing in the morning or wait until the sun starts to go down. (He's got a black fur coat - it would be kinda cruel to walk him when it's hot - not to mention that it wouldn't be too pleasant for me either.)

Still, with the cooler weather comes an earlier sundown and a later sunrise. I joked on my blog some time ago that I worshipped Helios, the sun-Titan who carries the sun across the sky in his chariot (a theory that I want taught in science classes). While I obviously don't actually do that, there is a hint of truth in it since I basically need a certain amount of sunlight a day in order to feel normal.

I've never been a fan of cloudy and rainy weather, but as I've been getting older, it's been getting harder on me. Last year was particularly bad, but that's because I was dealing with a lot of other things. This year though, I'm determined to not let it get me down. While it's hardly a "green" solution, I think that I'm going to leave at least a few lights on in my house. The thing is, I'm okay while I'm at work, but the depression starts to sink in when I come home to a dark house. (I should also leave the blinds open.) Hopefully with that, I'll eleviate a bit of that winter funk.

Also, I recently bought a Playstation 3. I'm not a big video game guy, but I have three games right now: Rock Band, Guitar Hero III, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I tend to stew on my problems a lot, and I'll find myself brooding on things that have happened or things that I'm worried about. The nice thing with video games is that they tend to distract me and keep my mind from spinning. So, that's one more thing for me to do that'll help save me from my winter slump.

Or maybe I can try praying to Helios. Perhaps he'll shift the axis of the Earth for me. After all, that wouldn't be the dumbest idea for a prayer I've ever heard.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Speaking of sex ed...

I recently read about a McCain attack ad on Obama, where Obama is criticized for wanting to teach sex ed to kindergardeners. Apparently, the attack is a pretty bogus one, as what Obama called for was "age-appropriate" sex ed that would extend beyond 6-12 and into K-5. By "age-appropriate," we're talking about teaching kids what things like "inappropriate touching" and coming up with a better response than "a stork" if they ask where babies come from. (The stork only being slightly less ridiculous than a magical being who created the world in six days.)

Of course, a lot of people are going to be outraged, and they're going to jump to the conclusion that Obama wants five-year-olds to learn about how to put a condom on a cucumber.

For me though, I really have to wonder - would that be such a horrible thing if they did? You know, if they were taught absolutely everything regarding sex ed? I mean, I don't think that they should, but not so much because it would cause them irreparable damage. The main reason why it should be saved for later is because they simply won't get it. Also, it's just not relevant to teach it to them. But what are we worried about if they're taught how condoms are put on? Five year olds have absolutely no interest in having sex. They don't even have a sex drive.

Again, I don't think that it would be appropriate, but I don't think that it's such an awful scenario either. Want to know what I do think is an awful scenario? Sexually mature teenagers who don't know a damn thing about how their bodies work, that's what. Teenagers having unprotected sex is a far worse thing.

I'm tempted to criticize Sarah Palin here. I'm tempted to wonder how much she talked to her daughter regarding sex. Considering that she's a conservative Christian, chances are decent that the conversation began and ended with, "Don't have sex." Still, that's unfair, because I really don't know. After all, it does happen that there are daughters who get pregnant who have families that are open about sex. Still, I'd bet that the statistics would show that they're the exception rather than the rule.

So, I'd vote no to showing little kids how to use a condom. However, we should be much more outraged at the prospect of an ignorant populace, don't you think?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Condom utility belt

I recently learned that the three boys who comprise The Jonas Brothers, a pop-rock, media-created teeniebopper band, all wear "Purity Rings." Basically, these are rings that a lot of teenagers are wearing nowadays, including some of the prominent entertainers in the teenybopper crowd. The idea behind them is that they're publicly advertise that they're not going to put their wee-wees in a girl's hoo-ha until marriage. Of course, they can't just have that be a personal decision, they have to let everybody know, as they have to set a good example for all their fans. I somehow doubt that it was their idea, and I even have my doubts as to whether any of them are virgins.

The thing is, if I had a son who was in a popular rock band, and he told me that he wanted to abstain from sex until he got married, my response would be, "That's fantastic. Here's a carton of condoms. I want you to have three of them in every pocket, five in your wallet, one in every drawer of your room, ten in each suitcase, one in each shoe, and one connected by a belly-button piercing."

If he responded with, "But dad, I want to remain a virgin until I'm married!" I would counter with, "Do you like girls?" If he said yes, then I would repeat my previous response.

Can we please stop pretending that we're not driven by a biological urge to reproduce? Not only that, but it's an urge that can override all of our reasonable decision-making thought processes. Not only that, but come on, I work with teenagers. It's a proven fact that their frontal-lobes, the parts of their brains that drive decision making, are not fully developed until their mid-twenties. I mean, it's one thing if you were an awkward teenager like I was whom the girls just weren't interested in (at least, not the kinds who wanted to have sex - dammit!!!!) It's another thing if you're a flippin' rock star who girls are no doubt throwing themselves at! Does anybody really think that all the teenage female fans out there are going to respect their "promise rings"? Here's a crazy newsflash - girls like sex too! Can we stop acting like they're all a bunch of sexless robots for once and start getting real?

Don't get me wrong, everybody needs to make their own choices in life, and if somebody's choice is to wait until marriage, then great. However, can we stop pretending like there's something "moral" about this decision? I read that some of these rings say things like, "True love waits." I'm sorry, but what a fuckin' self-righteous, totally assholesque thing to say. Oh, since my wife and I didn't wait, our love is less true?

The thing is, I had some sophomores several years ago, while doing an oral presentation about themselves, who told the class that they had made the "abstinence pledge." I just smiled and moved on, even though I was thinking, "BULLSHIT!" From what I understand, these pledges do tend to make teens wait longer to have sex - if not necessarily until their wedding night. However, I've also read that it makes them more likely to engage in oral and anal sex. I'm sure that's the desired result, right? Maybe the promise rings can have a new logo that says something like, "True love waits up the butt". (Sorry about that if you're reading this, Mom.)

Also, I'd hate to stereotype or make judgments, but I think it's pretty safe to say that at least one of them was not a virgin by the next year. One of them would wear very skimpy clothing the following year, and her friends informed me that she was into some hard drugs. That doesn't necessarily mean that she was having sex, but come on, let's be real. Even if she did keep that promise, I don't know about you, but I'd rather that my teenage daughter was having safe sex than doing hard drugs.

Anyway, even with the kids I know, it's still different because they're not rock stars, for Pete's sakes.

Mr. and Mrs. Jonas, my recommendation to you - get those boys of yours some rubbers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Fresh Captain America

A rumor, now debunked, was circulating that Will Smith had signed on to be Captain America in an upcoming film. (And for you non-comics geeks, Captain America is one of the heroes who would also appear in an Avengers movie along with Iron Man, The Hulk, and Thor.) It's been debunked, but Michael Doran over at Newsarama insists that Smith would have been a great choice. Mainly, he cites Smith's box office draw as the reason why he should be the Star-Spangled Avenger.

I'm sorry, but there is one really good reason why Will Smith shouldn't play Captain America. It's because he's black. Oh my goodness! Did I really just say that? Yup.

Mind you, I don't necessarily have a problem with color-blind casting. When I saw a stage production of Julius Caesar, an African-American played the title role, and he was the best thing about that play. Generally speaking, I think that the stage is more forgiving and more accomodating to a stronger suspension of disbelief than the screen is.

Doran argues that "there is nothing essential about the Steve Rogers character that requires him to be white." I would very much beg to differ. For those of you who don't know the character's history, here's the short version:

Steve Rogers was a frail, sickly young man who wanted to enlist in the Armed Forces so he could fight against the Nazis. The Army turned him down, but they offered to have him be part of the "super soldier" program. Rogers volunteered, and he was given an injection that brought him to the pinaccle of human strength, speed and endurance. From there, he was given the uniform of Captain America and sent out to fight the Axis Powers. Not only was he out there to fight, but he was there to inspire the soldiers on the ground.

During a battle with Baron Zemo, Cap fell into the ocean and became frozen in a block of ice. (It's comics - don't get too logical.) He was then found and resurrected in the modern day, and now he's a "man out of time" who continues to fight against all sorts of evil doers.

So there you go. If you make him a black guy then the first part of the story definitely doesn't make any sense. Since he doesn't wear a full-face mask, does it seem very likely that the government would choose a black man during the 1940s to be an inspiration to the troops? Of course not. It would be insulting to imply that they would.

The thing is, there have been a lot of stories in the comics where Rogers quits being Captain America, and then somebody else puts on the costume and continues the fight. While it's never been a black man in the comics, that sort of a story has potential, and I wouldn't mind seeing THAT in a movie.

And let's also not forget that there are plenty of cool African-American superheroes out there, and it would be wrong to cast a white guy as The Black Panther or Power Man. (To be fair, there may be a lot of cool black superheroes, but there should be more.) Will Smith is definitely a good actor, and I'd love to see him do a superhero role. (I know about Hancock, but I haven't seen that one yet. Still, he could do more.) It's just that if he's going to be Captain America, then they would need to completely change the backstory - and then what would be the point in calling it Captain America then?

With all this said though, the Will Smith as Cap rumor didn't bother me as much as the Matthew McConaughey as Cap rumor did. Yee-ikes! Would Cap go running around without his shirt?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Snopin' out the truth

Much like when Prometheus gave fire to humanity (and this really happened and I want it taught in science class) and we realized its potential for both good and evil - the Internet is definitely one of those mixed blessings as well.

On one hand, it can be a tool to spread all sorts of false and downright crazy rumors. On the other, there are plenty of places to find out whether it's all true or not. Of course, you have to be willing to seek out these sorts of sites, otherwise you'll believe that a shark was about to eat a helicopter and there's a little boy who will get a nickel for every email you forward.

Just today, I got an email from a coworker that goes as follows:

This is the list of books Palin tried to have banned. As many of you will notice it is a hit parade for book burners.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden...
Etc. Etc. Etc. - you get the point - and it even included typical banned fare like the Harry Potter books.

Now, I've heard the rumors of Palin having tried to ban some books while she was a mayor, but there doesn't seem to be any concrete information coming up about it. Personally, I wish that the media would ask - because if it is much ado about nothing, then I'd at least like to know so. I fear that this woman might be a religious extremist, and when it comes to violating the first amendment, I get concerned.

So, when I got this email, I figured that this was the smoking gun. I was even all set to send it to some conservatives that I know. However, even though I don't care for Palin, there's one thing that I dislike even moreso: inaccuracy.

With a little internet searching, I found out that my favorite debunking site had already taken care of this. Turns out, it's completely bogus. As much as I'd like to discourage people from voting for McCain/Palin, I'm not going to go around spreading lies to do so.

Anyway, do a little fact-checking before you spread those rumors and email forwards, okay?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jesus the War-God

Some time ago, I was speaking with a Christian over the merits of Christianity versus Islam. To be more specific, we were talking about the holy books of the two religions. He talked about how The Koran had various versus that called again and again for the killing of infidels, and he told me that I should "read it".

He has a good point, and I certainly have not read it in its entirety. I've read bits and pieces, and it's hard to deny that the calls for violence are there. I've also read enough to know that there's a bit more to it than that, but it's hardly enough for me to defend it, much less believe that this book was inspired by some sort of higher power.

I pointed out that The Bible has all sorts of violent passages as well. God gives the Jews instructions on how to carry out a proper genocide even. While one could argue that those passages are simply detailing history, and not asking for renewed attacks, it certainly isn't a far stretch to see how Christians over the centuries have used their holy book to justify all sorts of atrocities.

His response was that if you look solely at what Jesus said, it's a message of love and peace. I let him have that one, but I still think that doesn't really paint an entirely accurate picture. After all, Jesus says that he came "with the sword" - although as a teacher of English literature, it would be disingenuous of me to say that particular passage was a call to war. He was being metaphorical. Still, I don't think that 100% of what Jesus says in the Gospels is really good advice. I don't think it's right to consider lustful thoughts (in other words, basic biological impulses without which we would have been long since extinct) to be the same as adultery. I also don't think that one should completely abandon his or her family to become a follower of Christ. (I could look up and cite chapter and verse, but I hope that the folks who actually read this trust me enough to know that I'm not just making crap up when I say these sorts of things.)

Still, Jesus is a peaceful sort of a guy. Sure, if you ignore the rest of The Bible, Christianity certainly seems to be a mostly peace-driven religion. However, that's not all there is to The Bible. In fact, did you know that Jesus appears outside The Gospels? Indeed he does - and I'm not talking about Paul's vision on the road to Damascus. I'm talking about the Book of Revelation. (No, it's not "Revelations.")

Personally, it's probably one of my favorite books of The Bible for its visual imagery if nothing else. However, when Jesus makes his appearance, it's hardly the peace and love, groovy guy who gave the Sermon on the Mount. He comes in as an angry, vengeful, destructive God of War. His eyes glow with flame, a sword comes out of his mouth, and his clothes drip with blood. Kinda makes you want to go up and give him a hug, eh?

When I start my Bible unit with my seniors, I always play a little game with them where I give them a series of quotes, and they have to guess whether they come from The Bible, some other source (like the Koran) or if it's just a bunch of crap that I made up. Most of them do quite horribly, and many of them are shocked as to some of the crazy, violent passages that I take right from the Bible. (Don't panic, Christians - I end the lesson by explaining that I pulled all of those quotes completely out of context, and that they shouldn't question their faith based on a cheap stunt like that. I tell them that if they want to learn more about why The Bible says those sorts of things, they'll have to go look them up for themselves and/or ask a priest/pastor/etc.)

Sometimes, I have had collaborative classes where another teacher works in the room with me. They're usually quite shocked as well - I was even accused of making those quotes up. I gave over the chapter and verse. Kinda hard to get mad when somebody simply quotes what's actually there. (But again, I must emphasize that at the end the point is that they shouldn't just listen to people who pick and choose quotes to get them to think a certain way. If they're going to want to know what it really says, they're going to have to read it for themselves. In my class, all we cover is The Gospels and an overview of the most commonly used Biblical Allusions.)

Anyway, next time you think that Jesus is all about peace, dude, picture those flaming eyes and the sword shooting out of his mouth. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a God of War to me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Activist voters

It looks like Proposition 8, the Constitutional Amendment proposal that would ban same-sex marriage isn't looking like it's going to pass. I've read more than a few articles now that indicate that it simply doesn't have the support that it needs, and more Californians are okay with the idea of gay marriage now than they were ten years ago. Not only that, but there's a website that places online bets on all sorts of issues and news stories, and right now the money is on it not passing.

I wonder how the extreme right is going to interpret this. Of course, when the Supreme Court got rid of the same sex marriage ban, they all threw around their favorite, totally meaningless phrase, "activist judges!" (At least, it's meaningless in this context - because from what I've seen, absolutely nobody who used it even attempted to address the real issue - how are gay people getting equal protection when they don't have the same rights as everybody else?) My personal favorite, originally spouted off by uberdouchebag supreme James Dobson, was the phrase "judicial tyranny."

Yeah. Those judges are tyrants. Couldn't you just feel the tyranny when you saw that one lesbian couple, who had been together for something like 50 years (give or take - I don't remember, all I remember was that it was longer than I've even been alive). It was like Atilla the Hun all over again! How dare those women! Loving each other? Can't they see that they're destroying marriage with their stupid life-long commitment and ridiculous devotion to one another? I love my wife, but how can I not divorce her now that gay people are getting married?

Anyway, so what will the spin be on this, when the voters reject this bigoted and hateful proposition? Will the voters become activist voters? Will it be voter tyranny?

Personally, I'm not as enthusiastic about Obama (not even sure that I'll vote for him - I'll probably vote Green) like a lot of people I know, but I do think that there will be at least one thing to vote for in November that will definitely make the world a better place.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Batman movies - what next?

Okay, can we start off by saying that the rumor about Cher being Catwoman is a hoax? Let's just get that out of the way.

Anyway, this will probably be the first of a series of an undetermined number of blogs, as I realize going into this that there's no way I'm going to want to sit here and write about every single idea that comes to me.

Considering that The Dark Knight is making money like gangbusters, it's a pretty safe bet that they're going to make another one. From what I understand, the director Christopher Nolan has only been signing on for one movie at a time, but Christian Bale initially signed up for three. It's pretty safe to say that the next one will follow the same continuity as the last two, but that leads to the inevitable question - what's next?

Here's the problem. In this particular series of movies, a very specific mood has been created, and the rules of this world are fairly well established. For the most part, Christopher Nolan has steered away from any of the fantasy or science fiction elements from the Batman comics. While I consider those elements to be integral to the overall mythology of the character, I don't think that this particular series has room for them. Perhaps when they reboot the franchise again in another fifteen years, then they can go with all of that stuff. Until then, they should definitely keep it "realistic."

So, with that in mind, what characters could be in the next movie(s) and how good would those choices be? In no particular order:

The Riddler - Of course, this is the one that's on everybody's mind, and there are even rumors about Johnny Depp playing the part, although he himself has confirmed that it's only a rumor as of this point, and nobody has seriously talked to him about doing it yet. I suppose that could work, but is The Riddler a good choice in the first place?

Personally, I love the character. While he hasn't had his equivalent to The Killilng Joke (which was the ultimate Batman/Joker face-off in the comics), there was a great origin story told in a Detective Comics annual several years ago. Basically, the concept was that Edward Nigma was clever, but he was a cheater - he'd do anything to get ahead and make himself look good. Also, it's an interesting idea that he's so insecure that he basically gives himself away by leaving riddles so Batman can know how smart he is.

Could he carry an entire movie though? Personally, I think that they should do the same with him that they did with The Joker. Don't necessarily worry about a character arc for him, just make him the guy who makes stuff happen. Unlike the Joker, they could go into his origin a bit, but ultimately, he doesn't have enough going on like Harvey Dent/Two Face did.

Catwoman - Okay, get those images of Halle Berry (and every other version we've had of her) out of your heads. This is the chance to finally get it right. Selina Kyle definitely has the potential to carry the next Batman film. Not only could she have an interesting character arc in her own right (probably involving her conflicted feelings over being a hero or a thief), but her arc could directly impact Bruce Wayne/Batman because she could also serve as a love interest.

Hush - What? You've never heard of this guy? Adam West never fought him and you don't remember him from the old Superfriends cartoon? Well, most people hadn't heard of Ra's al Ghul before Batman Begins, so why not try one who's only been in the comics? (Although Ra's had appeared in the animated series - unlike Hush, who's too new.)

Personally, I think that they could make a GREAT film with this guy. Thomas Elliot is what would happen if Bruce Wayne wasn't a decent person to begin with. He was born into a wealthy family just like Bruce. He also faced a great tragedy involving his parents when he was a child - but the catch is that he was the one responsible for it! (He cut the brakes on their car.) He was a childhood friend of Bruce's, and he went on to discover that his old friend was Batman. He already was jealous of Wayne, but when he found that out, he hated him even more.

There's definitely a lot of potential for drama with Hush. I wonder if they're even considering him.

Okay, that's all for today. To be continued.