Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Couldn't Sleep

I couldn't sleep last night, and I'll tell you why.  Yesterday morning,  while I was waiting for the train, I was scanning Facebook, as we all do when we have nothing useful to do.  

And, I found that my cousin had posted this graphic:

After considering it for a few minutes, I commented, asking why a "patriot" would be assaulting someone for exercising their right of free speech.  And stating that in my opinion the "patriot" was the aggressor, and thus, the criminal in the situation.
My cousin's response was predictable for an ultra conservative, and had to do with kicking certain fleshy parts of my body. He then stated the misunderstanding of most of his ilk, that burning a flag is against the law.
I informed him that SCOTUS in a 7-3 decision stated that flag burning is protected speech under the First Amendment of the constitution and that assault is not.
He then went to the conservative fall back of telling me to get out of "his" country.
"Gladly" was my response.
Now I'm left wondering, and this is what kept me up last night, where is this country heading?  Is this how it begins?  Do we start with simply yelling at each other,  then we assault each other, then we kick out the minority that we disagree with. Then, do we start to build camps and then furnaces?
"Oh, that would never happen in the US!" you may say.  To that I have two words: "Manzanar" & "Topaz."  It has happened, and it could happen again.  Think about it.
Is this where we're headed?
This "patriot" (I'm using air quotes in my head because I don't think that he is one) this "patriot" is assaulting a young man for exercising his 1st amendment right of free speech.  And the young man is responding passively.  Do you think that the "patriot" would respond passively if someone tried to stomp out his rights?  I think the answer to that is obvious.
This happens on both sides of the aisle,  but I'm going to pick on the Tea Party because I feel that they are the most dangerous.
These people wrap themselves in the constitution, espousing the freedoms and rights afforded to every one in this, the greatest country on the planet (so they say), but then shut out those who stand in opposition to their views.
Don't you dare tell me to stop saying this, but I'm going to tell that guy to shut up.
You can't stop me from holding this rally,  but those freaks over there need to go home.
You can't make me take down this nativity, but that crescent has to go.

Freedom means freedom for all. There can be no other way. I wish people could see reason and see that we are all in this together.  What disturbs me that most about the graphic that my cousin posted is that an assault can be shared and celebrated on social media, and nobody could see the problem in the pictures. 

Maybe if we could come together, maybe our country could become great again.
I'm just saying.

Monday, July 13, 2015

I Can't Say the Pledge of Allegiance

The 4th of July is a week passed, and I'm pretty sure that most of the country is still sobering up, so, I thought that it was time for me to admit a truth about myself.

I don't salute the flag, I will not recite the pledge of allegiance,  and while I will stand for the singing of the national anthem,  I stand with my hands behind my back.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love this land, but the symbols (the pledge, flag, etc.) no longer represent what this country has become, and so, I will not, indeed, cannot honor them, or pledge my devotion to them.

Does this make me un-American?  I don't think so. I believe that it makes me just as American as the flag waver down the street. I just choose to express my love for the country by an act of defiance, rather than devotion.

My reasons are varied and complicated, but in essence, they are as follows:

Our elected officials are more interested in keeping themselves and their parties in power than officiating in the affairs of the people who put them there.  They only care about us, their constituencies, when it comes time for the people to vote. Not that it matters a whole heck of alot, unaffiliated people (Independents, like myself) can’t vote for the candidates in primary elections anyway, at least not in Utah, and if the R-Party has its way, it will remain unchanged despite a public referendum on the matter.

The voice of the people doesn’t matter anyway.  No matter how a popular referendum is voted, the losing side can and will always sue in the courts where a single judge can overturn the vote of the people.  I’ll use the Utah amendment on same sex marriage as an example.  2/3’s of the people in the state voted for the amendment, and with a stroke of a gavel, a federal judge overrode all of those votes and then the Supreme Court upheld it.  that’s a total of 6 people telling millions that their votes don’t count.  How can that happen?  I thought that the vote was supposed to be sacred.  I guess not.

Why would anyone outside of Ohio or Florida take time to vote for President?  Your vote doesn’t count.  And if you live in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, or pretty much anywhere in the mountain west, it really - really doesn’t count because our states don’t have enough electoral votes to make a difference in any presidential election.  The Electoral College is outdated, unfair, and should be done away with.  But… the big states, with lots of representatives and thus lots of electoral votes, love it, so it will stay… unfortunately.

Our government listening in, or rather, having unfettered access to our phone calls and text messages?  Does this not strike you as being a little 1984-ish?  Now granted, if anyone in the government is reading my emails and tracking my movements, well, they’re going to die from boredom.  But the fact that they can, just kind of creeps me out. But, the flag wavers will scream that it's for our protection.  Well, I don't know about you, but I'd rather have liberty to say or text anything I'd like without fear than to be "protected."

If the founders of our country could see what their work and sacrifice has become, they would, literally, be horrified.

But, you know what, I'm not giving up hope, just yet.

In my neighborhood we have these enormous ravens. They really are very pretty, but they cause lots of problems to the smaller song birds, especially when the smaller birds are nesting.  The other morning, while walking to the bus stop, i saw one of these ravens being chased down by a sparrow. The raven had probably gotten to close to the sparrow’s nest and its newly hatched babies, and so this tiny little bird, that was no bigger than the raven’s head, went after the larger bird with a vengeance.
My point is, small things can make a difference.  I don’t think that anything is going to change overnight.  One election is never going to make a difference.  But over time… maybe.

There are a couple of things that I think will help.

  • I never, ever, vote for an incumbent. I don’t believe in career politicians.  I figure that they have one term in any given office, and then they should go home and back to whatever job they had before taking office.
  • In Utah, I’m not sure if it’s like this anywhere else, but in Utah every couple of election cycles, we “vote” for judges.  Basically, you vote “Yes” or “No” on whether to sustain them. I vote “No” on every one of them, no matter who they are.  Judges need to know that, while they are there to interpret the law, the laws are supposed to be by the voice of the people, and so they need to judge based on that fact.
  • Work openly to change election laws.  There was a time in America that you had to meet a standard in order to vote.  You had to be male, or own land, or pay a tax in order to vote.  The parties, and our politicians who represent those parties, are actively working to put other restrictions on voting.  They gerrymander the districts, they close primary elections to voters registered as one party or the other and they actively fight any change that will open voting to more citizens.  Actively fight this.  The vote should be free to all citizens, it is our right.
  • Write your representatives.  Don’t email.  Actually put pen to paper and mail in your comments to your representatives.  For some reason the pen to paper approach holds more sway.  Tell them (or rather the flunky who will actually read it) exactly what you feel about them.  Don’t threaten their lives or family, (the first amendment won’t protect you if you do that, although it should).  But tell them exactly what you think about the job that they are doing and what you would like to see changed.  You’ll most likely get a form letter back that almost never, entirely, tells you what they think on a subject that might actually be, almost, what your letter was about.  The point is, let them know that you are out there, and that you are watching.

There you go, my state of the disunion.  Something that has been rattling around in my head for quite a while, and is now out in the world.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Casting: Ready Player One

For those of you who are Ernest Cline fans, I am completely sure that you have read his novel Ready Player One, and I’m sure that you all were totally jazzed, elated, dancing in the street happy to hear that Spielberg was picked to direct the film adaptation.

For those who have never read Ready Player One, first… what is your damage?
Ready Player One is a classic Arthurian Grail Quest, complete with questing knights, a fisher king, an evil nemesis, and an outspoken wizard, of sorts, couched in a pop-culture strewn, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic joy ride of a book.  It is so full of 80’s pop culture trivia that even I, a pop-culture nerd of the 1980’s, had to read it with Wikipedia on and ready to go.  So you younger readers may want to brush up on your 80’s trivia with a John Hughes marathon, then head over to your grandparent’s house to see if they stashed their Atari 2600 in the attic, before reading this book, otherwise you probably won’t get some of the jokes.

The basic premise of the story is this: An old 80’s obsessed game designer and his friend (Halliday and Og) invent a giant virtual reality MMORPG called the Oasis, from which, they get fabulously wealthy.  The Oasis continues to grow until it absorbs the internet to the point that it is impossible to access the knowledge of the net without being on the Oasis.  Shopping, education, & entertainment are all done through the MMORPG.  The world population is so overcome by the Oasis that they spend all their waking hours in a virtual world while the real world crumbles around them.  Halliday then dies, and having no heirs, he leaves his vast fortune and control of the Oasis to the first person (Avatar) who can solve a series of riddles and find the Easter Egg that he has hidden somewhere in the symulation.  Easy enough… Right?
With all of the iconic 80’s references that are so ingrained in the story, I wonder how the screen writers will incorporate them, and how the production company will deal with licensing.

Now, I am not one of those guys who try to guess the cast of a movie before it is cast, and I usually scoff at people who post their wish lists, but I’ve seen a couple of them so far, and I’ve totally disagreed with every one of them.  So, breaking my own rules here, here is my casting list for the upcoming movie, Ready Player One.
Oh, and by the way, spoiler’s ahead… just in case you have not read the book.

Parzival / Wade Watts
Wade just has to have a certain look.  He’s a nerd, a geek, a dork, and must convey that vulnerability.  The kind of vulnerability that makes jock boys want to shove him into a high school locker after administering an atomic wedgie.  He also has to be young, 17 years old, tops.  Some actors in their 20’s can play 17, but not convincingly.  For these reasons I choose:  Asa Butterfield

At first, I thought that Butterfield was just too scrawny to play a slightly portly Wade, but do I want to cast based on body type alone or on acting ability.  I loved Butterfield as Ender Wiggin, and I believe that he could do a fine job as Parzival.
Art3mis / Samantha

Art3mis is a hip, young quester (Gunter) and blogger with a secret. Isn’t that always the case?  Wade is pretty sure that he has a huge cyber-crush on her even though he has no idea what she really looks like.  Art3mis wears sci-fi inspired armor with twin blasters on her hips in a “Quick-Draw” fashion and unlike the other wasp waisted, barbi doll, style avatars found in the Oasis, she designed hers to have a curvy, real world, look.  Her actor needs to be able to deliver quick come backs with a crooked smile while hiding a deep vulnerability, and so I would cast:  Hailee Steinfeld

I know, she and Butterfield were in Ender’s Game together… So what!  Did you see her in True Grit?  Amazing!  Change her smart assed remarks in True Grit to be delivered with a new geeky, hipster phraseology, and you have Art3mis.  There you go.
Aech / Helen Harris

This character presents a couple of problems for casting.  In the online world of the Oasis, Aech is young man and white.  In the real world, Helen Harris is a young woman and African-American.  So… Aech needs to be played by two entirely different actors.  And while the book describes these two alter egos as looking vaguely alike, I don’t think that this is entirely necessary in the movie.
My choice for Aech:  Josh Hutcherson

  For Helen:  Raven Goodwin

I know… Josh Hutcherson?  Peeta?  Well, before you slam my head into the wall for such a choice… let me explain.  Hutcherson did a great job in the Hunger Games, I thought, he has the right look to be Aech, and my teenaged daughters would approve.  The weirdness of this story is strange enough that it may not appeal to the contemporary teen market unless you can put a name in its cast that will draw in the teen girl demographic.  Movies are a business and Hutcherson could deliver on that.  This is not to say that he’s not a fine actor.  I’ve liked him in just about everything I’ve seen him in.
As for Raven Goodwin, I’m afraid that I would cast het for body type alone.  I know that’s shallow of me, but what can I say?  I was watching Good Luck Charlie with my 11 year old daughter a week or so ago, while I was contemplating this casting list, and watched Goodwin in one of those episodes.  She’s a lovely girl and very funny.  Now, while Helen is not so much a funny character, I heard Joss Whedon say that he likes casting comedians for dramatic rolls because if they can get people to laugh, they can easily get them to cry. That’s what I think Goodwin can deliver

Nolan Sorrento
Sorrento is the leader of the egg hunting division of Innovative Online Industries, an evil corporation that wants to take over the Oasis by finding Halliday’s Easter Egg.  Kind of like how the Nazi’s wanted to find the Holy Grail in Last Crusade.

I went back and forth about the casting of Sorrento.  I wanted someone who can play totally evil while maintaining an upright, stick up the butt, corporate presence.  My answer for the casting came while I was watching Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado about Nothing.  Nathan Fillion was a great Dogberry!  Yes, he was a goofball, but Dogberry is a goofball character.  But his presence in the suit, the lackey that followed him around, the whole image was a brilliance that I could not ignore.  Take the image of Dogberry and mix that with the cynicism of Mal Reynolds in Serenity and you have Nolan Sorrento.

Ogden Morrow / The Great and Powerful Og & James Halliday / Anorak

I’m going to take on Og before Halliday because in many ways, Og plays more of a part in the story line than Halliday.
Og, is the Woz to Halliday’s Jobs, or maybe the other way around.  He is the surviving partner of the two Oasis creators.  He was the less focused of the two, the less technically minded, but a far better business man.  He was a people person when Halliday was not.  Because of Og’s goofy Zen-like aura that continually floats around him I thought that Jeff Daniels would be a perfect match.  But then I thought, Jeff has the Zen, but not the goof, and apart from Tron, he has almost no geek cred.  Who does?  My pick does, Wil Wheaton.

Right!?!  The guy oozes geek cred.  Will Wheaton was born to play the Great and Powerful Og!  Granted, he is too young to play the aged Ogden Morrow, but who cares.  Makeup artists are geniuses at aging people.
James Halliday on the other hand is not such an easy choice.  The actor would have to be older, and have to be able to play a man so awkward around people that he borders on mild autism.  I really wish Philip Seymour Hoffman was still living.  *sigh*  So who to pick?  Who do you go to when you need a great character actor, and Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t available?  Easy… Gary Oldman.

I’ve been looking for actors to play the brothers Daito & Shoto, and just can’t find anyone I really like.  They have to be of Asian descent, preferably Japanese… but I have no ideas, and I guess it really doesn’t matter because they play such a small part until the end of the book.
So, there you go.  These are my picks for casting Ready Player One.  I can’t wait for this movie to hit the screen, but I am so afraid that Hollywood will just screw it up, just like they screwed up Starship Troopers.  I can see myself sitting in the theater thinking, “This is bad, this is Highlander 2 bad.”

Let's hope not...


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Senate = Treason

For the last few years I have been ashamed to be called an American, but I have never been more ashamed as I am right now.
On Monday, 47 GOP senators signed a letter to the leaders of Iran, informing them that all of the negotiations that have been going on between them and the Obama White House may be for naught, because the GOP may shut down any agreement.
So my question is, when the Hell did the GOP side of the Senate become the head of State?  Answer: NEVER!
The President of the United States, whether you like him or not is the head of state.  He is the one tasked with negotiating treaties, with assigning diplomats to foreign countries, and communicating with other heads of state.  Not the Senate.
You’d think that these guys would know that.  Especially Orin Hatch.  He’s been in the Senate so long, he should know all about the separation of powers.  I can’t say the same for Mike Lee, he’s just Ted Cruz’s lap dog.  He’ll do whatever the Senator from Texas tells him to do.
I’m only singling out the Utah Senators because I’m a Utahan, I’m ashamed of them, and they will never again get my vote.
In my opinion, these 47 “honorable” Senators have broken the law, and if not the law, then the they have broken the trust (if they ever had any) of the American people, and showed themselves to be a grand party of fools.
I am only one voice, and a voice that is only an American by some accident of fate, and my voice is pleading with the good people of this nation to find out if their senator signed this treasonous letter to Iran, and if so, vote them out of office.

But what am I saying... no one will follow this request, because most American voters have no idea who they’re voting for, and they don’t really care.

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