Sunday, May 31, 2009

The horrific reality

A friend of mine recently sent out a link to a news article where a local school district has decided to include lessons about different types of families with the elementary school kids. Of course, by "different types", we're not talking about Wookies or Vulcans - we're talking ones where there's a dad and another dad, and I'm not talking about the super-hilarious sitcom My Two Dads. I'm talking about families where they might be two moms. No, not Kate and Allie! Dammit! I'm talkin' gay people, not TV shows!

I can imagine that there are some people who are going to get really upset about this. After all, half the hoopla for the pro-8 crowd was that schools were going to teach gay marriage TO THE CHILDREN!!!! Let's take a look at this though. Where is all of this tolerance of homosexuality going to lead this country? Just imagine a world with the following scenarios:

  • A child goes to school and finds out that his best friend has two fathers. His initial reaction is not to ridicule and ostracize his friend. Instead, he simply thinks that it's "normal".
  • A child suspects that he might be gay. Instead of being afraid to tell his parents, he lets Mom and Dad know how he's feeling right away. His parents don't shun him; they don't yell at him. They don't even threaten to kick him out of the house. Instead, they tell him that they'll love him no matter what, and whether he brings a boyfriend or a girlfriend over to the house, the expectation of him being with somebody who cares for and respects him will remain unchanged.
  • People get so used to seeing gay couples that they don't freak out and/or express disgust if they happen to see two men or two women kissing one another.
  • People use reason and logic to determine a value system rather than a literal interpetation of a collection of ancient writings.
  • You get invited to a wedding of a gay couple. It doesn't even cross your mind that there's something different about this wedding than any other wedding. All you feel is happiness for your friends.
Pretty horrifying, isn't it? Is this the kind of world in which you want to live?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We need Captain America

For some reason, I found myself wrapping up with my usual lesson plans a little bit early. Usually I have a day or two to play around with at the end, so I throw in a short lesson on comics. This year I expanded it quite a bit. While part of me was constantly second-guessing myself - wondering if perhaps I was indulging myself a bit too far and confusing my hobby with my job (what's next? a lesson on homebrewing?) - I ultimately wound up feeling pretty justified with this lesson.

As I explained to my students, I told them that I was teaching them about this stuff for the same reason that I taught them things like mythology and the works of William Shakespeare. Basically, the stories that came out of the comics have embedded themselves in our culture, and just as somebody understands what an "Achilles Heel" is, they understand the concept of kryptonite.

With many of the characters, I found myself talking about what they represent symbolically and psychologically. In a way, it's not too different from how I explain pretty much everything else. What's better is that most of them are already familiar with many of these characters, and when my students can see the symbolic potential in them, then maybe they will think a little more thoroughly to all of the other symbols around them.

Anyway, while doing this whole thing, I found myself going on with a particularly long bit of pontificating when it came to Captain America. Personally, I think that more than any other hero right now, he's the symbol that this country needs. I pointed out to my students that they were working on a movie, and I told them that I hoped that they get him right the same way they got Spider-Man (in the first two, anyway) Batman and Iron Man right.

For those of you who don't know, Captain America was just another patriotic superhero in the days of World War II. His first appearance, which came out months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, featured him punching Adolf Hitler on the front cover. Shortly after the war, his popularity waned, and for the most part, he disappeared for the next couple of decades.

He was brought back in the early 60s in the pages of The Avengers. The story went that he had been frozen in ice since shortly before the end of the war, but he was back and ready to fight for what's right yet again. This, to me, is where he gets interesting. I don't know what it was like to live in the 60s, but I know enough history to know that the mood of the country had changed quite a bit from the 40s.

I'm as cynical as the next guy, and I'm aware that even World War II has its grey areas. Still, when compared to what we were up against with both the Nazis and the Empire of Japan, I feel pretty safe in calling us the good guys in that one. In many ways, it was a simpler time, and long after "the greatest generation" completely passes away, it will always be remembered as such. It's almost as much legend as it is history by this point, and Captain America represents that time period along with its spirit of heroism and selflessness. The great thing is that the story works whether you bring him into the 60s or the present day - in fact, it probably works even better right now.

Cap's not only great because he represents a more heroic age of America, but he's apolitical as well. This is something that the comics writers have managed to get right up to the present day. I don't want an issue where Cap gives his stance on abortion or some other issue that divides the country. He represents the best potential that resides in all of us. Not only that, but both liberals and conservatives can relate to him, as there have been quite a few stories where has taken a stand against the government and resigned his duties as Captain America. Obviously, conservatives probably relate to that sentiment a lot better right now and liberals related to it better during the Bush years.

Captain America was shot and "killed" in the comics a couple of years ago now only to be replaced by a new Captain America - his former teenage sidekick, Bucky. It looks like things are gearing up to bring the original back (I don't think that there's a comic book fan alive who thought that the death would be permanent).

It's about time. We need Captain America.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Comics Wednesday - on Thursday

In what may become a regular thing, here's a quick rundown of what comics I bought this week. I didn't realize going into the store how much stuff was out that I wanted to get, but $40 later, I found out. Some weeks I spend $10 or less. I wish that the stuff I liked could be spread out amongst the week a little bit more evenly. So, here goes:

Green Lantern #41 - This series is one of my current favorites, but it's having a bit of a hiccup right now. While the story "Agent Orange" is an interesting lead-in to the "Blackest Night" storyline that's coming this summer, the artist, Philip Tan, stinks. This is especially difficult to deal with considering that Ivan Reis, the guy who drew it beforehand, is arguably one of the most talented comics artists out there right now. Ahh well, just one more issue of Tan's suckiness and Dough Mahnke will take over, and he does some good stuff.

Ultimate Wolverine vs. The Hulk #6 - The last issue of this particular series. I haven't read the last few, as I was waiting for the series to conclude, so I can read them all in one sitting. The first two issues came out a few years ago, and the rest of the series finally went monthly just a few months ago. I don't remember much, but I remember The Hulk ripping Wolverine in half, and that was pretty damned cool. Hopefully the rest will live up to that moment.

Avengers/Invaders #11 - This series is only so-so, but it only has one issue left, so I can't just stop now! What's it about? Time travel and the superheroes of the WWII era meeting the heroes of the modern era. The twist? Captain America exists in both.

The New Avengers #53 - What the hell? Another artist with the last name Tan who stinks? Yeah, I don't like this guy either. Just like the other one though, he's leaving in an issue or two to be replaced by Stuart Immonen, who does some great stuff. Still, even with Tan's awkward art, Brian Michael Bendis' stories have been a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to reading it.

Wolverine #72 - I'm only reading the regular title until the conclusion of the "Old Man Logan" storyline (unless what they have afterwards looks any good). Mark Millar wrote what was probably the best Wolverine story since the Claremont/Miller limited series with "Enemy of the State" and this one is shaping up to be another winner. Basically, it's Wolverine as an old man in a world where the villains have taken over America. For some reason, he refuses to fight, but a road trip with Hawkeye puts his pacifistic ways to the test. Fun stuff.

Superman #688 - I expected to drop the Superman books once they started this whole "World Without a Superman" storyline, but it's been too darned compelling to quit buying. I like what's going on in this series in particular with Mon-El, Superman's friend from the Phantom Zone, trying to take Superman's place in Metropolis. Renato Guedes' art alone makes it worthwhile.

The Astounding Wolf-Man #16 - Robert Kirkman also writes what's probably my current favorite comic series - The Walking Dead. This series is a consistent good read, as pretty much every issue has some sort of crazy plot twist that doesn't seem forced. This series really gets to the heart of what makes for good superhero stories, and that's that it really sucks to be a superhero. Wolf-Man has it really tough, as his mentor killed his wife, he was sent to jail, and his daughter is trying to kill him. It started off as what seemed like a standard superhero story in the early issues, until he flipped out during a full moon and gutted a fellow superhero. They've gotta make a movie with this one.

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #5 - The final issue based on Colbert's sci-fi alter-ego. This has been a pretty solid and funny series - enough so that I don't feel like I'm just being a completist by buying the last issue.

The Amazing Spider-Man - The Short Halloween - This one's written by Bill Hader and Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live. That alone wasn't enough to get me to pick it up; the fact that Kevin Maguire was doing the art was what sold me. I've only flipped through this one-shot so far, and it looks good at least. Hopefully the story will match up.

Star Wars: Legacy #36 - This is the only Star Wars comic I get. It takes place about 100 years after the days of Luke, Han, Leia, etcetera. It revolves around Cade Skywalker, who's as powerful with the force as his famous ancestors, but he has a rougish streak in him (having given up the Jedi life for the life of a pirate back when he was a teenager) that's reminscent of Han Solo. I think what's good about this series is that it has a lot more freedom to go in whatever direction it wants. The stuff with the established characters from the movies really can only do so much.

The Amazing Spider-Man #595 - I don't give a damn what some people say. Spider-Man's adventures have been more fun lately than they have been in a long time. Shoot, they're attracting A-list talent like Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Phil Jimenez, Barry Kitson, and John Romita, Jr., aren't they? This one is the first part of a five-part arc that has Spider-Man going after Norman Osborn, who's basically become the most powerful man in America.

So, I've only read two of them so far - looks like I've got my work cut out for me. Remember - comics are awesome.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More scattered thoughts

There isn't any one thing that's on my mind; rather, there are a lot of random things:

1. While I read about it in my local paper and wanted to write about it, Jon Stewart already beat me to this one particular thing. Apparently, the Republicans are changing their strategy when it comes to the whole gay marriage issue. They're trying to focus on how more marriage partners will potentially hurt small business owners (who provide health insurance) if gay marriage is allowed. I suppose that I can understand somebody having this idea, but I don't understand how nobody filtered out the notion before it got to the point where it was both said out loud and said publicly. As anybody with half a brain has pointed out, this seems to be more of an argument against marriage in general rather than just gay marriage.

This just goes to show that the anti-gay marriage crowd is getting desperate. More states are allowing it, and recent polls show that the tide of public opinion is turning (which should come as no surprise to nobody, as the new, young voters are more and more in favor of allowing gays to marry). They're basically grasping at straws here, just like they were with the whole Perez Hilton/Miss California thing. It must have been nice for conservatives to mock such an easy target as Hilton - it saves them the trouble of having to defend their indefensible position.

2. What's up with people who don't clean up after their dogs? There are a lot of big turds along the way where I walk my dog, Argos. There are some right in front of the house of this one guy with whom I talk on a semi-regular basis. He didn't ask, but I felt compelled to let him know that those turds didn't come from my dog. (Honestly, I don't clean up after Argos, but that's because I don't have to - he's kinda shy about pooping in front of people. If I didn't have to clean it up in his dog run every day, I wouldn't know that he even went! However, if he did go while on a walk, I'd clean it up, obviously.)

3. I went to a wedding last week, and I had to sit at a table where I didn't know a single person. (My wife was in the wedding party, so she was with all of them.) The thing is, I can do the small talk thing. I was shmoozing, making people laugh, and having a good time. After a couple hours of it though, I felt absolutely drained. I suppose I could have just sat there and said nothing, but for some reason when I'm around a lot of people - especially when I don't know them - I feel almost as though I have to put on a little show. A lot of people who only know me a little are surprised when I insist that I'm an introvert. The reason is that I actually have some pretty solid social skills. The problem is that using them takes up a lot of energy, so that's why I tend to avoid a lot of social interactions when I can.

4. I saw the new Terminator on Saturday. After reading the reviews, I expected it to be absolute crap. It's easily the worst of the series, but I would be lying if I said that I totally hated it. In fact, I kinda liked it. It's certainly not perfect, and I'm not necessarily recommending it either. Perhaps it's because my expectations were so low, but I kept expecting everything to suddenly turn to crap when I found myself enjoying it. That didn't happen though. What did happen is that when I had some time to think about it, I realized that it definitely had problems. Still, I liked it more than Wolverine.

5. They have a new trailer for the upcoming Transformers movie coming out. It shows some comic relief moments that the other did not. Once again, I must say that Michael Bay has robbed The Transformers of their dignity. Bastard.

6. GI JOE still looks like absolute crap, but I just know that I'll have students who will list it as their favorite movie of all time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wrong number

For the past three days, my answering machine has had a message from the same lady, leaving a message for a "Lindsey". For those of you who don't know, my name is Lance and my wife's name is Kirsti. My dogs are Argos and Willy. The cat's name is Oliver. There's a squirrel I often see out the window in the computer room, and I call him Squirrely. In other words, there are no Lindseys here.

Why would she leave repeated messages for a Lindsey, then? That's because our answering machine message says, "This is Lindsey's answering machine. Leave a message for Lindsey." No, wait, that's not quite right. It says that it's Lance and Kirsti's number and people should leave a message for one or both of us. The thing is, the first time, I can get it - you're not paying attention. But a third time? At what point do you suspect that you've got the wrong number?

For some reason, when I was living in San Francisco, I used to get wrong numbers all the time. My message clearly stated that callers had reached a Lance, but I'd get messages for Mark and Tony and Bill and whatever. It got to the point where my message went something like this: "Hi. You have reached Lance Johnson's answering machine. If you're not calling for Lance Johnson, then please don't leave a message. Once again, this is Lance Johnson. Only leave messages for Lance Johnson." It annoyed some of my friends, but I would STILL get messages from clueless people going something like this: "Hey Dave, it's Mary. I just wanted to let you know that I'll be at the restaurant a little bit late...blah, blah, blah, etcetera." I suppose by that point people might have just been screwing with me, but if they did, they were masters at ironic comedy.

What's even worse, one time I remember picking up the phone and getting a call from some guy asking for an Elizabeth. I told him that he had the wrong number, so we said goodbye. He then called again, asking for Elizabeth. I told him that he still had the wrong number. He then asked me if I was sure! As though there was an Elizabeth living with me the whole time, and I just wasn't aware of it! Or perhaps I was Elizabeth, and I had forgotten my own name! I wish that I could convey the indignance in his voice, as though I was being a jerk for not being the person with whom he wanted to speak. For a wrong number, the conversation was taking far longer than it had any right to take. He finally gave up shortly before I was about to just hang up on him.

Oh, and if you leave a comment on this blog, please realize that you're writing on Lance Christian Johnson's blog and that you're responding to my "Wrong number" post. Make sure it has something to do with that. I'm looking at you, Superb Jon.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I'm a coward

Forgive me for being really vague at first here, but it's pretty important that I maintain a level of confidentiality.

I once had a student confide in me about how he was having a hard time with his family. The reason why is that he came out as an atheist, and needless to say, it wasn't being taken very well. I assume that he took the time to talk to me because he knew that I'm an atheist myself. Of course, he knows this because I frequently insult religion in my class, calling Jesus a homo and telling them that all religious people are stupid. No, I don't do that. I just let them know because we cover a lot of ground regarding religions, and I tell them where I stand up front. The reason I give for telling them is so they can take that into consideration if I ever do say anything that seems particularly slanted. (In all honesty though, I've had kids accuse me of trying so hard not to offend anybody that I almost go too far in THAT direction.)

The advice I gave him was that he basically should do his best to consider things from his family's point of view. After all, they were probably concerned that he was going to reject everything that came along with his religion. Also, they may very well have seen it as him rejecting them and who they were as well. I told him that I was sure that he wanted them to understand him more than anything right now, but that the only way they ever could would be if he took the time to understand them.

I tried to relate some of my own experiences. After all, I've gotten in a few verbal brawls with family members regarding religion. I have rejected the faith of my parents. Still, I can only carry the comparison so far. My parents never belonged to any sort of organized religion (although they seeemed to be getting close to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and praise be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that they didn't get any closer!) This kid though, his family was pretty entrenched in a very organized religious group. For him to turn his back on his faith requires a whole lot more than just saying, "Hey, I don't believe this stuff anymore."

Ultimately, that's all it was for me. While my parents don't agree with me, neither one ever came close to threatening to disown me or anything like that. Some people aren't so fortunate. Some friends of mine recently abandoned their faith, and I was really fascinated by their story. Unlike me, most of their friends were part of their faith group, and much of their lives revolved around their belief system. Abandoning their beliefs required a much bigger sacrifice.

Sometimes I feel a bit of pride in myself when I look at religious beliefs. I feel a slight sense of superiority when I think about how I was able to see it all for what it really is. Stuff like this wakes me up a little though. After all, I didn't really go down a path with a lot of resistance - at least, not external resistance, as my mind was wrestling with itself for several years, trying so hard to make sense of things that my mind could no longer accept. Still, once I conquered my own magical thinking, I didn't have a struggle with the people in my life.

I have to wonder - what if my parents really did get involved with the Witnesses? Would I be knocking on doors and passing out copies of The Watchtower? Would I really believe that the End Times were upon us? Would I be making excuses as to the fact that the Witnesses had repeatedly made precise predictions for the end of the world? Or would I have the guts to not only think my way out, but walk my way out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Can we be honest about chick flicks?

My wife recently went with her parents to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. It's not so much that she wanted to see it, but she wanted to spend Mother's Day with her mom, and that's the movie that her mother wanted to see. When I asked her shortly after she saw it how it was, she replied, "It was okay" with very little enthusiasm. When I mention the movie now, she gives something between a groan and a grumble.

Unlike a lot of men, I don't really feel a lot of pressure from my wife to see what people like to call "chick flicks". Usually the movies she wants to see are independent or foreign films, with which I am always okay. We also like to see the Pixar movies and Judd Apatow-related comedies. (Yeah, I know, that last "type" of movie means nothing. I'm referring to movies like I Love You, Man, Adventureland, and an upcoming movie with Adam Sandler that's actually directed by Apatow.)

She has more tolerance for chick flicks, of course, as unless it was somebody's dying wish, there's no way that I'd waste my time with something like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. And no, I'm not saying that's because my taste in movies only allows for artistic, life-altering fare. After all, I believe that I gave a fairly positive review to Punisher War Zone while admitting that it's basically a crappy movie. There's nothing wrong with slumming it every once and a while.

But the thing is with the term "chick flick" is that it implies that it's a movie made for women. The prevaling notion is that men don't want to see it mainly because it's not aimed at them, and we're only interested in action movies or comedies that feature lots of boobs. I resent this notion because I don't see anything necessarily wrong with movies that are primarily aimed at women. I especially don't see a problem with the notion of a romantic comedy where the basic setup is: boy meets girl, boy and girl hook up, boy loses girl, boy and girl reunite for a happy ending. Shoot, that's the plot to some stuff that Shakespeare wrote, so how bad of a formula can it really be?

The problem with "chick flicks" isn't that they're movies for women. They're movies for women who don't have any taste in movies. That doesn't necessarily mean that all women who watch them have no taste in movies. It also doesn't mean that there aren't men with bad taste who liek them too. I suppose that there are some women out there who would see both A Very Long Engagement AND How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. At best, these are movies for somebody who doesn't care about characterization, dialogue, story, etcetera. Again, you could say the same thing about Punisher War Zone, but stupid action movies aren't all that I like. For some people out there, they never challenge themselves beyond anything like Legally Blonde.

What's a shame about this is that for some reason, the genre "romantic comedy" is almost synonymous with "chick flick". That's too bad, as movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall follow the usual romantic comedy formula (although more from a man's point of view) and that's a great film. It has all sorts of silly, colorful characters, but it cares about story and none of the characters simply act as strawmen for the audience to jeer at. (Even Aldous Snow, who's a pretentious rock star, has more to his personality than the things that you can laugh at.)

I can see a woman having somewhat of a soft spot for these movies. After all, I'm rather tolerant toward superhero movies even when they're not very good. (I can find good things about Daredevil, for Pete's sakes.) The reason why so many men aren't interested in chick flicks isn't so much that they have better taste in movies, it's just that those films don't cater to what the "typical" man is looking for in a movie. This reasoning works for why women aren't lining up to see every dumb action movie that comes out.

But let's stop pretending that these "chick flicks" are aimed simply at women. They're aimed at a certain type of woman. How do you know if you're that type of woman? If you list movies like that as your "all-time" favorites. If Just Married is on your all-time favorites list, you need to expand your horizons just a little bit more, just as I would have to if X-Men Origins: Wolverine was on mine.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Retarded. It's a great word. For instance, here's how it can be used in conversation:

Person A: Hey, did you see The Santa Clause 2 yet?
Person B: No, I'm not retarded.

Of course, I don't think that you should actually use the word in that context. In fact, I correct my students when I hear them saying, "That's retarded" just as I do when they say, "That's gay". I use the same correction with both phrases, "Don't use that word in that context."

The thing is, there's something about that word - probably because it has a certain ring to it. I still find myself tempted to use it. What's worse though is that a lot of people I know not only continue to use it (some who work with special needs kids, I might add) but actually defend the use of it.

I could go on and give the arguments that they use and counter them point-for-point, but that's really not necessary. Here's the reason why you shouldn't use it in casual conversation to indicate that something is messed up (or a person is being obtuse).

Let's say you have a child some day. Let's say that child has autism, Down's syndrome, or some other developmental disability. As we all know, kids can be cruel, and no matter what you do, there will be kids who will make fun of him or her. What do you think they'll call them?

Retard, that's what they'll call them. They'll also, no doubt, say things like, "You're retarded". Never mind the fact that this word doesn't really mean all that much, as it's nothing more than a catch-all for anybody who's been unfortunate enough to not be born with the same cognitive functions that most everybody else has.

If that were to happen, suddenly I don't think that saying the word "retarded" so casually would feel so defensible any more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scattered thoughts...

1. As per usual, I went to the comic book store today. I'm always tempted to write a "What I'm reading" entry, where I go over every title I picked up. For the most part, this would be done moreso for me so I could assess whether I should keep reading that particular series or not. I'm not going to do it today, but I just wanted to point out that I expected to spend well under $10, and I managed to just slide under $50. I picked up some interesting stuff though, one was the collected edition of Marvel's recent adaptation of The Iliad. Considering that the pre-honors Freshmen have it on their reading list, it'll be a quick way to refresh my memory on what happened. (Assuming it's as accurate and as well done as their version of The Odyssey.) As much as I love mythology, I wasn't that high on reading that one again this summer, especially considering all of the other reading that I have to do.

2. Scott C. Harris pointed out something on a recent blog of his (the same one that prompted me to write my entry about Sean "Dijon is Elitist" Hannity). He pointed out how he was troubled by all the students he had who proudly proclaimed on their MySpace pages that they "hate to read". I've noticed this as well, and it bugs me too. I've heard students say out loud, "I hate reading!" Call me an elitist (after all, I do have some Dijon mustard in my fridge) but to me, that's the equivalent of saying, "I'm an idiot, and I want everybody to know this." My guess is that they have parents who don't read much - they probably don't even have any books at their house. The question is, how exactly is somebody like me supposed to teach these kids? I suppose that I might win one or two over every now and then, but I'm not the flippin' Miracle Worker. Maybe the following will encourage them:

3. Even though I'm probably a bigger fan of the character Wolverine than I am a fan of the whole Star Trek concept, the new Trek movie kicked the Wolverine movie's ass by a mile. It just goes to show that you can have a fun, action-packed movie that also has engaging characters. Too bad with Wolverine though, as he is a great character. Unlike The Punisher, he's a dark hero about whom a decent movie can be made, as he at least struggles against his baser instincts. They did well by him in the first two X-Men movies - here's hoping they'll get it right for the next solo adventure. (Chances are they'll try to jam-pack it full of other mutants though.) What's REALLY sad is that Wolverine is doing much better business than Watchmen. It's not surprising though in the least.

4. There is no way in hell that I'm going to see the next Transformers movie. I wrote my review of the last one some time ago, but the one thing that just keeps getting to me is that they somehow managed to dumb down the concept, which is an amazing accomplishment. Also, they have robbed the Autobots of any dignity that they have. What's up with that part in the trailer where Bumblebee is STILL using the radio to talk, always having the appropriate song queued up and ready to go? Not only that, but he's gotta snap his fingers and do a little dance to "I'm So Excited"? Bumblebee - you haven't been treated this poorly since the GI JOE team mistook you for a Decepticon and blew you up, only to later rebuild you into Goldbug. (No, I'm not making that up - see the old Marvel GI JOE Versus The Transformers series. Actually, just take my word for it. Don't look it up. Seriously, I warned you.) And dammit, what's with the flames on Optimus? That ain't right, dammit!

And again, while looking at the effects, I don't even see how people can like it on THAT level. I can't even tell what the hell it is that I'm looking at half the time.

5. As bad as that looks, GI JOE looks even worse! What's up with those robot costumes that they're wearing? That was never part of the story. Seems like a lame excuse to do a bunch of slo-mo "kewl" action sequences. What can you expect from the guy who directed The Mummy? Don't get me wrong, the original is an amusing film with some fun effects, but ever since then, that guy has gone totally overboard with the CGI.

6. They haven't announced the cast for the Green Lantern movie, but the director is the guy who directed Casino Royale. Here's hopin' for something good!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sean Hannity confirms that he's a joke

Special thanks to Scott C. Harris for pointing this one out to me. Apparently, Sean Hannity has gone after President Obama for requesting dijon mustard to be on his burger. Seriously?

Now, I know what conservatives will say, "C'mon, Lance! Lighten up! It's a joke!"

Yes, it is a joke, and the name of the joke is Sean Hannity. See, the thing is about jokes is that they need to be funny. There's absolutely nothing funny about it. Now, if Obama had asked for chutney or something, then you'd have something. But dijon mustard? Seriously? Frikken' Subway has spicy dijon mustard as a condiment option. I wasn't aware that dijon mustard was still considered elitist.

Okay, so it was Hannity's rather lame attempt at humor, perhaps I should just leave it alone. But no, I won't. Why not? Because this illustrates just what kind of guy Hannity is. He's the same guy who got called out by Bernie Goldwater, of all flippin' people, for being so blindly and pointlessly partisan. (Goldberg pointed it out when Hannity found a reason to criticize Obama over the whole pirate thing.) It's my sincere belief that Obama could parachute into Pakistan tomorrow and single-handidly bring in Osama bin Laden, and Hannity will find something to criticize.

The thing is, it's not even that guys like Hannity are conservatives. It's that they're clowns and yellow journalists. He'll stir up his hornet's nest as much as he can in order to get ratings. Shoot, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he voted for Obama, as you no doubt know that he must be loving this.

And yeah, I know about Keith Olbermann. I don't watch his show because even though I probably agree with him quite often on political matters, he tends to nitpick things as well. Sure, half the time he goes after guys like O'Reilly, they have it coming, but oftentimes he just grasps at straws. Still, I don't think that anybody ever got "Worst person in the world" over their choice of condiments.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Superb Troll

Since I've been on this series of tubes known as "The Internets", I've come across some strange characters. Each one could have a blog devoted entirely to them, but here's a quick rundown of some of the more notable loony birds:

1. Flagship 1 of the Paranormal. This was a guy who used to post on the usenet paranormal/aliens/psychic/etcetera forums. He would create posts with convoluted titles like "Are Paranormal Aliens Visiting Us?" The posts would go on and on, and he'd make all sorts of weird claims about how there is more and more evidence that we're being visited all the time, while never citing what that evidence actually is. My favorite claim of his was when he stated that aliens might have built the Egyptian Pyramids, since most alien sightings are supposedly near the equator. When it was pointed out to him, time and time again, that the equator was nowhere near the Pyramids (or New Mexico's Area 51, for that matter), he would just respond with more ramblings preceded by the statement, "You seem to have missed my point".

2. Linda Gallo. I wrote about her before. She was a crazed Michael Bolton fan who wrote several nasty emails to the War on Bolton website that my friend Scott and I created years ago. (It's no longer online, as AOL removed all of the old home pages. Maybe one day I'll piece it together and relocate it. But then again, who the hell even cares about that guy any more?) She compared us to the terrorists and told us that Michael Bolton's security was going to come after us. Also, she kept throwing around the phrase "legal tort" a lot.

3. SyeTenB. This guy would post to the Raytractors page and Ray Comfort's blog, thinking that he had the ultimate argument to put atheists in their place. Essentially, he would ask atheists how their "worldview accounts for the rules of logic" or something along those lines. This is such a convoluted question to begin with, but eventually he'd try and get you into a corner where you admitted that ultimately, we can't really be certain of anything. When asked how he accounted for anything, he'd say that God created it all. Of course, this would be followed up by the question of how he could know this for certain, and he'd make the assertion that his faith allowed him to be certain. Basically, it's all just a bunch of sophistry, and you could replace God with The Flying Spaghetti Monster and pretty much make just as much sense.

4. Superb Jon. This guy's a new one. He posted to "My Adventures in the Conservative Echo Chamber". Basically, it's just a long rant with all sorts of obscure historical references that points to some kind of strange Da Vinci code-like conspiracy of Catholics and the evil things they do. Apparently, they're in league with the Muslims and Chinese, but we can get the Jews and Indians (Gandhi, not Sitting Bull) to help us out. Ummm...yeah. At least, that's as much as I was able to discern, as honestly it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Go ahead and check out his comment. I dare you to read it out loud. Just try this one sentence: "Talal got Pontifical medal as Fatima mandates Catholic-Muslim union against Jews (Francis Johnson, Great Sign, 1979, p. 126), Catholic Roger Taney wrote Dred Scott decision." Sounds like frikken' Tarzan, if Tarzan was a pretentious ass, that is.

What elevates this guy from a nutbar hit-and-run to a full-fledged Internet Troll is that apparently he's posted elsewhere. Not only that, he posted this EXACT SAME diatribe on other people's blogs. One guy deleted it. Somebody else was polite and said that he wasn't interested in these conspiracy theories. A couple others seemed to be just as baffled as I was.

How did I find this out? Well, there was something about that post of his. The first thing that made me wonder was the fact that it really had very little to do with what I had written, and he didn't even make any attempt to make some sort of a transition from my point to his. What it reminded me of is when students plagiarize their essays, as the ones they turn in rarely even address any of the topics that I give them. From there, I type in a sentence into Google and voila, there it is. So, I wanted to try it out with Superb Jon's post, and sure enough, I found quite a few hits.

The other thing that made me wonder is that somebody who read it told me that it seemed like one of those strange SPAM emails you get where there's a bunch of assorted and unrelated sentences in order to throw off the SPAM filter from the fact that it's really an email about penis enlargements. Could it be that Superb Jon was nothing more than a SPAMbot?

He has another post that he's made on a couple of blogs. It's mostly the same as the one he sent to me though, as Catholics are bad and Obama is a secret Catholic - rather than a secret Muslim, apparently. (They said that Shakespeare was one too - maybe Jon might want to tackle that issue if if he ever creates a third incoherent paragraph.)

I'm not quite sure what to make of Superb Jon, but I'm strangely fascinated by what this guy's deal is. Jon, are you out there? Can you prove that you're not simply a SPAMbot? Until you do, that's what I'm going to assume that you are.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Yet another person I don't want on my side

I read this article in my local paper this morning. For those of you who don't want to read the whole thing, it's basically about how a history teacher in Mission Viejo supposedly violated the First Ammendment by stating that creationism is "religious, superstitious nonsense". Apparently, he also said a lot of other disparaging things about religion in general, and Christianity is particular. (Looking at the article that I just linked, it's slightly different than the one I read in my local paper, so not all the quotes are the same.)

Obviously, when it comes to religious issues, I'm of the same mind as this guy. After all, creationism IS religious, superstitious nonsense! And to teach it as some sort of alternative scientific theory in a public school is downright criminal. However, I have to wonder exactly what this teacher was hoping to accomplish.

Have I ever said anything against creationism in my class? Damn straight, I have. However, I worded it quite differently. I have said two things, the first being that it's a myth that the creationism/evolution debate is a debate solely between theists and nontheists. I also said that it's a myth that the scientific community is somehow seriously divided on this issue. After those statements, I follow it up with, "Don't just believe me - look into it for yourselves." (Why bring this up at all in an English class? It's because much of the literature that we read dovetails into religious issues, and I'm trying to make it relevant to today's issues.)

The bottom line is, I might reach a couple of students who care about these sorts of things in the first place, but most of them have already made up their mind or (even worse) don't really care about the issue one way or another. Calling it "nonsense" will only turn kids off and not convince anybody of anything.

The way I see it, the only way to really combat religious/magical thinking is by emphasizing critical thinking skills. If all we do is try to get kids to repeat what we say, then they'll fall for any kind of bullcrap.

I suppose that this might be difficult for those who only know my religious thoughts from this blog, but the point of this blog is to get out all the stuff from my head that I hold back on during the day. I'm pretty open with my students about where I stand, but I know that if I insult their beliefs, they won't listen to anything I say. Considering the fact that I've had kids who were deeply religious come back and visit me after they moved on from my class, I'm going to assume that I'm doing a pretty good job of this.