Project Red Band: the Proposal

20170816_150524I can’t speak for anyone else on this subject, but it seems to be very big news in North America at the very least. Over the previous weekend, National Socalists (as they preferred to be called) descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in memorial to a person of significance or some such that I don’t really understand at present. And of course, as with all such things: bad went to worse.

Anti-White Supremacist Rally attendees were accosted by a member of the White Power organization via vehicular homicide, killing one and injuring very nearly twenty others (a slight inflation on my part, but it worked well for the sentence). Then, in the face of such events, the organization that is supposed to be a point of clarity for the people to turn to, or at the very least the symbol of unity and belief in the Less-than-United States performed a series of shocking political blunders that rivals anything B-rate Hollywood script writers could concoct.


This is the statue “of  significance or some such” that I was mentioning.

Sufficed to say, the whole story is something of a catastrophic mess. Seriously; the world-ending events of World of Warcraft Cataclysm isn’t nearly as disastrous as what’s going on south of our Canuck borders. But while things seem to only be going from bad to worse, the reactions and opinions of everyone seems exceedingly divided.


In my own personal friend groups, I’ve seen opinions ranging from “this is a travesty” to “yeah, I don’t give a crap” to “we need to kill more people”. Declarations of “history repeating itself” have been thrown around online, and everyone who used to have faith in human capacity is finding that belief seriously tried or strained.

I, myself, find this whole series of events shocking and exceedingly stressful. It’s why there was no blog post on Monday, as a matter of fact: I had to retreat into my own head and rationalize what precisely was going on. It all seemed so surreal; it couldn’t actually be happening, could it? After all, US media has romanticized anti-Nazi sentiments to such a degree that I had assumed it was very nearly a trait born into all “pure-blooded Americans”, as the concept goes.

And no matter where I looked or what I listened to, the messages being spun around are either less-than-helpful or dubiously vague. There seems to be one hundred and one ideas on what to do about this, and one thousand and one excuses for what’s transpiring. It is, for a mere mortal like me, all too much to process.

This doesn’t mean I plan on burying my head in the sand and hoping it’ll all blow over, a strategy that was suggested to me by someone who cares about my mental health (my mental sanity is shaky at best, and at worst: basically the condition of the Titanic immediately after it hit the iceberg. On the surface it looks alright, but an hour later it’d fracture in twain). And it is true, part of what makes modern media so appealing is that no matter how un-bad something is, News outlets are pretty good at inflating the issues to sensationalize things to a greater profitable degree.

Fake NewsI realize that sounds like an accusation of “Fake News”, a term I generally lament using, but that’s a different issue for a different day.

Today, I want to focus on what some of the primary issues and questions that have been raised as a result of the Charlottesville riots. I’ll cover them in very broad points as follows:

  • If, historically speaking, US ideologies are greatly against the concept of Nazi-ism and centralized governmental control, why are we seeing a great insurgence of people who are declaring themselves as National Socialists
  • Is this a result of recent electoral and governmental flaws in the US Presidental system of national, or an inevitable result of a culture that defines itself by violent uprising
  • What are the environmental conditions that give way to a system of prejudice and hatred; is it limited to certain socio-economic classes, or is it less discriminating

And, most importantly:

  • What is the best way to manage these recent events in a way that ensures growth and security for peoples in general in a developed country with a great deal of ancestral or modernized pride

Charlottesville EmblemMuch like all issues I find myself in the middle of, there might initially appear to be simple solutions to these issues. But I do believe that if it were so simple we wouldn’t have the issues we have to this day. On the contrary: each of these points are incredibly complicated issues that affect every aspect of modern western culture on the whole, and the societies that stem from them.

I have every intention of trying to understand this issue in greater detail. I want to find a solution that’ll bring about a positive change to what is transpiring at present: one that does not defer to violence as a means to the end. Maybe it’s because, in the traditional sense of the word, I am a coward (I spent 8 years studying martial arts, and the one aspect of it I could never perform well because of personal beliefs was sparring), and by extension that I do not place much faith nor emphasis in using violence as a method to enforce will.

Of course, this will discredit me to many of my friends. As I’ve seen multiple times, I know no shortage of people who seem almost giddy to default to violence or murder to “quell” the hate-based groups that have given rise to these present and pressing issues. They endorse such ideologies which share, in their own perverse ways, similarities to the hateful methods of these self-titled National Socialists.

Violence is not the solution; not to me anyway. Being a student of history, I understand how violence will cause an initial disruption of organizations, but will just as efficiently and effectively give greater cause and fervor to those same groups. In fact, many of today’s most powerful organizations and religions were tampered and strengthened by acts of violence perpetrated against them by once-great forces.

To understand this will be our best weapon against these movements. I strongly believe this, and so, I will be endeavoring to understand all the smaller nuances and ideologies that are held by all the various organizations under the heading of National Socialist. This will mean I’ll be burying myself in research; online, literature and even personal. This last point will very likely earn me the ire of many people who I hold in high esteem, as I will, without doubt, be talking with these supremacists on an individual or group basis to understand what their motivations are.

And this terrifies me on many levels and causes me no shortage of stress. As I mentioned earlier, my mental health is not the greatest and will very likely never will be. But I have the tools and resources to try to make a difference in this, regardless of how small or insignificant it will end up being at the conclusion of it all. I’m doing this because, despite all the horrors of the past, distant and recent, I still have faith in the human race. Perhaps misplace, perhaps idealistic, but I don’t really care.

Image-7I know where I stand on these issues and I will try to find solutions using methods that I agree with. This is the concept behind what I am titling Project Red Band, an ongoing research and investigation task that was not given to me, but one I will take up all the same.

Results of my investigation will be posted here as I find and learn things, and the title will always include PRB: _ in the heading. If this research or my methods make you uncomfortable, I completely understand and will think no less of you for disregarding what I have to say. As I’ve said in many past topics: not every fight is for everyone. This also does not mean that Station 85 will be exclusively about Project Red Band; I will still post my other works as the schedule demands.

Thank you in advance for your patience with the patchy uploads on this site and for those who keep coming back. And good luck to all of us in these trying times. Seems there’s something of a shortage of it these days.

On Witches and Hobbits; a Comparison

20170808_201604I’m going to be flat-out honest at the get go here: this idea is a bit of a stretch. Okay, maybe a magnificent stretch, but I’m going to run with it here and see how it pans out. Who knows; I might be onto something.

It was only the other day I finished blitzing my way through an anime that started out great, but rapidly devolved as the episodes went by (there’s been a few theories as to why, my best guess is budget reasons). And if you’ve taken the time to watch Izetta: the Last Witch, you’ll probably also have your own opinions on how the series went. In the interest in hitting my main point in a somewhat timely fashion, I’m going to skip ahead of the summary and assume you, reader, are at least already aware of the broad strokes of the story.

By the time I had finished watching the series, I had mixed feelings about everything. The ending was expected, but not satisfying. The character arcs were bland, which was disappointing because of the promise they showed. The final clash itself was underwhelming, except for a few surprisingly savoury moments (I mean, seriously, Izetta uses the Eiffel Tower as a spear. And need I go any further with the phrase: Train Whips?). But most puzzling for me by the end of it was that something felt oddly familiar with the whole story.


Seriously, I cannot emphasize enough how absurd/amazing Train Whip is

Not the oddly familiar in the sense that it followed a typical plot progression, rather the main strokes of things felt uncanny and some of the views expressed by watchers were strange. I didn’t pay it much mind because my friend immediately distracted us with a new anime, Made in the Abyss, so I rapidly forgot about it for the remainder of the day.

Disclaimer: Made in the Abyss is hella good. Give it your time.

It wasn’t until Monday night, actually, when I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep that several things clicked in place. The thing that struck me as uncanny and all too familiar was the relationship between the two main characters of the anime and two other main characters from a film trilogy.

Frodo-Sam-image-frodo-and-sam-36084653-1920-800Specifically: the relationship between Izetta and Princess Hime was very reminiscent of the relationship between Samwise and Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Bear with me: it gets weird but makes more. I hope.

abcc6053c4fdcdab998997a8aaa2708f1475018758_fullAll through the anime, it is very clearly shown that Izetta adores Princess Hime and is willing to go to any length for her; fighting against the poorly renamed Germainains’ tanks and soldiers single-handedly. She even takes a bullet for her at one point; or something like that anyway. And the fondness goes both ways: Hime openly expresses that she has no shortage of affection for her unsurprisingly well-endowed companion, and relies on her as a source of strength to keep going against an overwhelmingly industrialized and powerful enemy army.

Taking things from the fans perspective, which I have gleaned from reading a couple dozen viewer reviews, it’s a borderline Yuri relationship. For those of you who don’t know what yuri is: I encourage you to Google it with the Safe Search off. You’ll either thank me, or curse me to the nine hells; I’m not really sure which. Point is, though: many mannerisms shown by these two characters are shown to be not only playful, but flirtatious. And I think that, for the first few episodes anyway, this was the intention of the writers. But as the series goes on, things kind of change direction and the show places more emphasis on the platonic love these two characters share.

This is where I bring in the Lord of the Rings. I’m seriously hoping by now you’ve watched the movie, reader; it’s been over 16 years by now. Get on that, would ya?

Recall to the kind of relationship shared between Samwise and Frodo. While it’s been a few years (read, almost two decades) since I last read the books, but I’m inclined to think that the intention of JRR Tolkien, and by extension Peter Jackson, that the friendship shared between Frodo and Samwise is that of brotherly affection. And while our modern audiences can view some of the ways these two characters interacted with one another as homosexual in nature (which could make for a fascinating debate one day, but not the one I’m trying to make currently), it is largely agreed upon by peoples that this is not the case.

This is where we reach a weird, implied double standard in how we view these two pairs. There are many instances of both our duos showing intense affection or compassion with one another, and moments where the only thing spurring the one on is the strength of their traveling companion. But when we are presented with the hobbit pair, we as a society default to “Brothers in Arms”, where the girls are seen as a failed attempt as lesbianism.

lord-of-the-rings-1-the-fellowship-of-the-ring-movie-poster-2001-1020195991I’m trying to tread lightly on this topic because I am poorly equipped to discuss the finer nuances of gender perception in society as reinforced by traditional and modern roles; hell, half the time I’m barely equipped to talk about what I had for breakfast.

We’ve been seeing a growing movement for better handled gender roles in movies for a while now; a very poorly constructed sentence that I now immediately regret typing. What I’m trying to say there is that there is a bigger push to have movies that defy the standard gender archtypes we typically see portrayed. And I’m all for that, even if I can’t express it with a moniker of eloquence.

And while I can certainly understand that a single anime comparison cannot do justice to the breadth of the argument, I think we can agree that any time you can find a point of interest that makes you think is an overall positive result.

So yeah, that’s the long and short of it. Like I said, the comparison was a bit of a stretch, but I’m sure were I given more time to go over both pieces in greater detail I could probably draw some other analogies. For the time being, I will leave it at this though.

Note from Self: this might have been the flimsiest outro I’ve ever written in my life. I am ashamed.

Another Soul, Another Controversy

20170807_004837This brooches the subject of outdated news by all traditional schools of thought, and very nearly all current schools of thought. Indeed, one of the lessons taught to prospective students in radio broadcast: if it happened more than a day ago, it’s dead news and time to move on. Our media engines move quickly and, as a result, we consume this information much more rapidly to keep up with the ever incessant onslaught of new stories or, sometimes, just a rehashing of something we’ve heard before.

My brain simply doesn’t move that quickly, especially on more sensitive topics. I’ll very likely never be able to compete with modern news sources on my own because it takes too long for me to rationalize what I’ve heard, then turn it over in my head some two dozen times and think it through. And while I certainly consider this to be an important process for me as a method of mitigating hasty (and, need I say, almost exclusively ignorant) opinions on matters, it means that when I finally have something to say about a topic, everyone has already moved on to the next thing.

And for some conversations, this is fine. Some topics will come and go and people will either learn from it or discard the information, as is their want. For other topics, though: this can be acidic to the nature of the ongoing conversation that we, as a peoples, need to have about certain issues that plague our society or world. Some pieces of information we learn needs to be remembered, or at least discussed more deeply than our fast-moving world will allow. And I’m not the first to say this; it has been said more eloquently by better minds or more learned people.

Without beating any further around the bush, this is another discussion about the ongoing crisis that is our Mental Health Awareness in North America, or at the very least Canada. And yes, much like many people, this point was, again, reinforced by another celebrity taking their life due to unsustainable depression. But this point was not a reminder for me; I live with depression on a daily basis. As a person diagnosed with Clinical Depression, I’ve yielded to the fact that this is something that I’ll be fighting with for the rest of my life.

There are countless others who are in similar situations, and most certainly a good majority have it far worse than I ever will. And much like everyone else (to my working knowledge) who lives with depression, or knows someone very close to them who is afflicted, the ongoing fight to keep a healthy mentality is never far from our minds. But, where I do differ from some of these people is my understanding of the natures of these issues.

20170308_225340_10272_972071Not terribly long ago now, the lead singer (and some would say, the very soul of) Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, terminated his life quite prematurely. There was a massive outpouring of sympathy and sadness from the music community and fans the world over. But what surprised me was a small voice that was buried in the crowd. It was anger. Not at the late Mr. Bennington or Linkin Park; it was anger at the world around them.

“How many more people need to kill themselves before everyone really begins to care?” These were, in essence, the messages these groups were shouting. “You only care about depression and suicide when someone famous dies! Why don’t you care all the time?!”

In all honesty, this is a point very near and dear to me. Again, as said earlier: I live with depression and battle it on a daily basis. Many of angry voices that demanded this were either in similar boats themselves, or very likely people who have lost loved ones to suicide. And while, at first, I was a little put off by their sentiments, as time wore on I started thinking about it more and more. I didn’t want to be angry at the anonymous masses who would forget about mental health in a few days; I am a strong believer that anger is a poor medium to enact constructive change.

I am also, deep down inside, an angry person myself. In general, anyway: I have a bit of a temper. #gingerproblems

But I also didn’t want to be frustrated, much like these many angry voices were. After all, everyone is more than willing to show their support for mental health awareness when someone famous dies, so why can’t they care about it all the time?

There are many, many, many reasons why, as I see it. For starters, it’s entirely hard for someone who has not had experience with depression to understand the depth of detriment it does to someone’s well being. And for many who do experience depression, it is something they either are cured of, or find methods to cope with so that it does not become exceedingly prominent in their life. With this in mind, it’s very easy to understand why many people have a hard time empathizing with this issue, or even sympathizing.

As well as the other issue mentioned at the very beginning of this blog: things move fast in our world now. News and media aside; everything about our lives are quite frantic and harried when you really think about it. The concept of ‘a long time’ has changed drastically through the generations and, even now, changed exponentially within the years. No longer is ‘a long time’ generally agreed upon by months or even years; now ‘a long time’ could be a few hours to a couple of days.

And when things move this fast, especially in our connected world where the internet has allowed us to cultivate massive networks of people whose lives we closely follow: the information we receive is less news and more bombardment. And that’s not even including things that happen in our personal lives. If you really stopped and thought about it, a great deal happens to the average and not-so-average Canadian’s daily routine.

And of course, the biggest hurdle I see with everyone taking a zealous interest in conquering mental health issues is: energy. Because, for the worst case scenarios, depression isn’t something that’s really ever fixed. Unlike a cold, or a building project: there’s no real end in sight. And, as is contrary to the very progression-based mentalities that have become so centric to western societies, it’s very easy for someone living with depression to relapse due to factors outside of their control.

I can understand how it is frustrating for people who try to keep close relations to me when I suddenly go silent for months at a time because I’m locked in my own head. It takes a shocking about of energy to interact, on a consistent basis, someone who suffers from depression or similar. And energy is a very limited commodity we, as a human race, have. Energy to be spent on other pursuits: travel, work, family, friends, hobbies, interests, passive or active activities, stories, education and the list could go on for quite a long time.

And with all these things that we, as individuals, value and prioritize, I can very much understand why keeping close relations to anyone who requires a lot of time, patience and energy to interact with and care for, is a trying process. It is not for everyone, and that’s quite alright. It is stressful and draining, to say the least. I get that, I can sympathize with that.

When I see mass posting about people crying out for better mental health treatments or options when someone famous commits suicide, I don’t get upset at them. I will not deny that I would be more pleased to see them give the same attention to this issue all the time, but that is simply not reasonable nor realistic.

After all, there are many issues in our world that people champion and fight for that I, myself, have forgotten about as time wears on. As shocking as it is to hear: cancer has not greatly impacted my life as it has many others’. Cancer research and better treatments are, as a result, not something I often remember or take notice of. And that fact may shock you. After all, cancer is one of the leading killers in the western world, and is often referenced in the news or in general discussion.

It is not to say I do not care about cancer research though. To think that it is something I do not care about would be a grave misunderstanding of things. I would love, as much as the next person, to hear that there has been a cure for cancer and that no one needs to suffer that fate ever again. However, it is simply not the fight I have chosen to focus my efforts and energy into. And the same could be said for any other hundreds of issues that groups have dedicated themselves to.

I was toying around with the idea of making a small list here of other topics, but it was getting excessively long and a bit distracting: I wanted to keep researching more points to make the list even longer.

So when I see posting occasionally pop up about mental health awareness as a result of recent news, I will not become angry. I’d rather capitalize on the brief attention of these people and engage in discussion. Much like all great things, this is an ongoing effort that will take no shortage of time, understanding and compassion to conquer. And with every conversation we have on these matters, a greater understanding is achieved. And when society has a greater understanding of things, it is an inarguable victory, regardless of how small it is.

suicide prevention imageIn the meantime, I will continue to dedicate myself to this fight; so long as all the other battles are being fought by others as dedicated to theirs as I am to mine. If mental health awareness or treatment isn’t your particular battle, I will not think less of you for it. If it is not something you spend your energy upon often to learn more about, and the only time you think to involve yourself in the discussion is after tragedy, to you I promise:

I will always be willing to have a conversation with you about it.

Some Thoughts on Education – No Click-bait-y Titles Here

Anyone who has held a prolonged conversation with me can probably tell you there are several topics that will send me into a spiral or rants or musings, depending on the nature of the discussion. Oftentimes, we call this a “heavily-opinionated person”, and I can certainly attest to being someone under such a label (despite my general disdain for labels in general, more on that another time). My reasons for launching into these triads stem from a few different sources: the need to express an opinion, the desire to challenge my own thoughts and critical thinking and a plethora of minor reasons that are a little too tedious for my shockingly presently-focused mind to feel like rationalizing.

Chiefly among those reasons, however, is the need to voice my beliefs and thoughts about topics I have seen or read. My mind is a jumbled mess of thoughts and concepts at the best of times, and vocalizing these thoughts helps form them into concise statements and hypotheses. And one such topic that I find myself launching into rant-realms over is the land of education.

Now, I understand education is something of a hot-button topic (a phrase I didn’t think I’d ever use until now, which means I probably am misquoting or incorrectly using it), and everyone and their dog has an opinion on the matter. Teachers, students, parents, politicians, researchers and board members all have their opinions on what the educational system today is like and what it needs to do to improve, or conversely, what it needs to stop declining in quality.

It should come to no surprise that I, myself, am someone who has very charged and self-important beliefs on the quality of the school system in Canada (or at least in Ontario, as I understand there are minor nuances to the systems not only between countries, but between provinces as well). I mean, I possess all the warning flags of someone who has deep-rooted grievances with the current school system: I did poorly all through school due to a laundry list of personality and motivation flaws, I did not attend post-secondary education due to financial and personality flaws, and am largely against the commercialization of education due to financial and personal beliefs.

You might have noticed something of a trend in there somewhere.

Granted, I’m not so self-important as to believe that I am blameless in my current academic standing, nor do I honestly think that the problems that plagued me are anywhere near similar to those that bother other individuals or organizations. That’s why I make it a point to read up on different studies, articles or coverage of the ever-changing landscape of education. I also keep contact with several friends who are teachers at different levels in the school system (by that, I mean the range from kindergarten to high school, teachers to school board members, and even a couple of politicians) and am very careful to listen to those who have differing opinions on the school system than I (check out my piece on Echo Chambers in social media for more).

I also consider the opinions of those who have personal views on the nature of school because of life experience or spiritual beliefs, as these are both important aspects in understanding how we can better operate as a global community in our exceedingly diverse world. I’ve noticed several trends in these varied beliefs that sometimes I am, at first, inclined to argue against, but often have to sit back and think on until I can properly process what I’ve just learned.

There is one general consensus that I have noticed, however: very nearly everyone thinks the current academic landscape is broken or has gaping holes in operational efficiency/policy. Very seldom do we hear people discussing the accomplishments of a standardized educational system that has made significant leaps and jumps in how our brains have developed over the decades, let alone centuries or millennia of the history of education.

Instead, there seems to be an overwhelming belief that there is little good from our current school system. This generally stems, I have noticed, from small groups picking out an issue and inflating the damaging nature of said defect. This is not to say there are not dangerously broken systems in our schools; one needs only look at the academic disparities between both racially segregated or financially destitute schools to see things, two traits that are oftentimes linked. But some issues are only a part of a greater concern, and that is the need for hard evaluations on the intended direction that education serves as.

Now you start leaving the realm of hard, numerically provable evidence and get into the realm of cultural or philosophical reasoning. What EXACTLY is the purpose of education? This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer as it seems the intended purpose changes based on personal views.

I know it seems that I’ve performed a complete 180 from my original statement, but bear with me: it’ll all tie together in the end. I think.

Note from Self: I can’t help but feel the “bear” that was used in the sentence prior is incorrect. I’m almost completely confident that it should be “bare”, but Microsoft Word is convinced otherwise. I might also just be losing my mind, which is exceedingly possible, as well.

I don’t claim to have the greatest knowledge of educational history, but based on what I do know, it seems that for the better part of western culture and history the drive for better education was a largely social need. In order to develop a more stable and prosperous civilization, better academic reasoning was required. To cultivate this sense of logic, students (or monks, before that) focused on the mathematics and sciences. As anyone who has built a tiny bridge in science class can tell you: understanding weight dispersal and fulcrums are not exactly guess-work when trying to plan for a bridge to navigate a tiny car across two desks.

But with the maths and sciences, so too came the humanities. Poetry and music can help maintain a semblance of order and sanity in large populations; they also further reinforce a sense of cultural identity and stress relief that maintains a higher quota of productivity than otherwise. And as time progresses, so too do these systems improve. Science and learning becomes more precise, and literature and the arts have more to draw upon as human nature and identities change with the times.

Now, I’m not even going to begin to speculate on eastern education, because I know very little about it. Based on academic rankings, though: they seem to be doing pretty well in the past couple decades.

Based on these developments, I’d say the nature of education is to improve upon the human mind in general. We can see this in the varied and diverse fields of study that can be obtained within the higher academic establishments; the only real limits to what you can learn comes down to ethics at that point. Or money.

And in that regard, the education system we have today has achieved that goal with remarkable success. Our brains are sophisticated machines that, as a result of the stimulation and information we’ve received through our developmental years, can process complex questions and scenarios that have built civilization as we recognize it today. The fact that we can even question these ideas on such a massive scale, potentially reaching and hearing millions of voices at a time with universal theories and scales to work with is testament to that accomplishment.

But this begs the question: what is the purpose of education now? Where do we go from here? And this is where everyone splinters into their different groups and beliefs. We’re all asking the same question, frankly, just in different words. And this is good. This is hella good.

I strongly believe that everyone who partakes in these conversations and arguments all have the same base goal: to improve upon such a fundamentally important system that our world relies upon. And if we’re all having that discussion, I genuinely believe that, as far as morals are concerned, there are very few wrong view points to have.

Except for anarchists. I do not like them, or their beliefs at all!

The funny thing is what sprouted this recent mind experiment for me. I was thumbing through a social media feed and happened across a post about the nature of education. It stated that home education was far superior because, as far as human history is concerned, it’s the one that’s been in use the longest and that established education was an experiment.

The implication was that established education was wrong and we should go back to individualized family-based learning instead. I can sympathize with the sentiments behind the post, but I largely disagree with the overall message. As a whole, our society is better for having an educational system in place. And while I, much like many, believe that our system is far from perfect, it is infinity better than having nothing at all.

This One Won’t be Making me any Friends

20170723_221122It’s not tremendously often I go out to see new movies. Most of this stems from a surreal combination of lack of cash and, more often the case, the lack of desire to drive half an hour to spend the aforementioned cashery. But on the rare occasion I do go out to see something on the big screen, I typically enjoy the experience. This week prior, however, I went to go see media sensation and equal rights front-runner Wonder Woman.

I realize that, by the very nature of who I am, any blog I write about this movie that doesn’t include “I loved every aspect of this movie forever and always and erhmagerd” will likely be discounted by my demographics: straight, white, middle-class male type thing. And while I’m not here to discuss the finer points of gender equality (a topic I lack the mental capacity to discuss properly), I am here to discuss a movie’s strengths and weaknesses.

I would like to preface this with a few disclaimers: I have about as much experience and certification to discuss a movie as I do with anything else I talk about. And my discretion of this movie is not, shockingly enough, fueled by any sort of sexism towards the material or subject matter. In fact, most of my problems with the movie come down to plot progression and source material.

Also an overwhelming dislike for Ben Affleck being cast as Batman. Still don’t like that one; please pass the pepper, as I already have more than enough salt.

So, in an interest of some sense of continuity, let’s start with the beginning of things. The movie starts off to a bad start with Mr. Wayne delivering a photograph to Diana Prince: for further explanation, please refer to the paragraph prior.

321_CPT_BeachBattle_v020_15.JPGOkay, in all seriousness: let’s actually actually start at the beginning. Before I had watched the movie, I’ve been loosely apprised of some of the praise lauded at the film for various aspects. Much of it I could appreciate and agree with: the armour worn and displayed by the Amazonian warriors was exquisite to someone of my interests. It was function, it made great sense and the historical references to certain pieces was a masterful stroke. And in the sense of the scenery of the island (which I shall refrain from trying to spell due to having exceedingly limited internet at present and no clear recollection of the name) was gorgeous. The setting, set pieces and framing of shots in that area was very well done.

But one thing I had read at one point or another was how incredible the sense of sisterhood was from the first quarter of the movie. As a writer trying to improve my writing of female characters, I was very interested in pulling apart those scenes to see what it was that other writers were speaking about in specific so that I could use similar methods and aspects for my own purposes. What I was presented with was several scenes of women doing fight-y things.

I’m willing to admit that I was largely disappointed by this: if for no other reason than the only way to represent a strong sense of sisterhood is to have women fighting together against evil Germans. It’s entirely possible that there might have been some subtle nuances of the scenes that eluded me in my single watching, or maybe it’s something only women can see and appreciate (in which several questions about empathy and understanding come up, which are another topic all on its own), and so I don’t consider this to be a massive issue against the movie.

A much bigger issue was with the fight choreography in general and, more importantly, the framing and camera techniques. While the fights were visually impressive, the nature of how much CGI these action sequences greatly undercuts the very significant physical training and practice that the whole cast underwent to make it a truly awe-inspiring accomplishment. Having confirmed with friends of mine from a very work-out intensive circle, they confirmed that the physical training these actors underwent is very strenuous and something a flub like me would probably have died trying.

And instead of showcasing this, the movie largely relied on CGI renders of the characters to have them perform sequences and movements that the actors quite possibly could have accomplished with some clever framing and a few camera tricks. I’d go so far to say that at least 50% of all action sequences involving the cast and 70% of action sequences involving Wonder Woman were completely computer rendered. It reminded me of a cheaper version of 300; similar action sequences, just involving more nerds at a desk instead of more actor performance.

And in between the action sequences, fairly unimaginative camera angles and shots were used, occasionally being a little too static or “by the book”. I’m not looking for a completely new and innovative way to showcase a movie, but something a little more interesting than a series of static shoulder/hip-and-up shots would have been a nice change of pace.

3236382-wonder-woman-lifts-tank-in-reald3d-posterBut, for the biggest nail in the coffin for me would have been the plot progression itself. I know DC can make brilliant stories with great arcs and clever twists; if anyone has taken the time to watch Batman Beyond, they’ll know what I’m talking about. In this movie, however, the writer seems undecided as to what they want to focus the message of the story on: is humanity innately evil, or is Ares the reason for WW1.

There was actually a very heated argument about this in my friend’s basement after we watched the movie. The only thing we could agree upon is that Professor Lupin is not a good representation for an antagonist. Moving on.

I understand the nature of including the lore of Ares being established at the beginning of the movie and that, from an outside source, the appearance of Ares was predictable to say the least as a result. And if this was the moral of the story the movie had tried to stick to, it would have been fine. Not great, but fine. However, then some philosophy about the nature and ethics behind the human condition got shoe-horned in and things got bogged down.

Outside of the Amazon Island, great effort is placed into showing the evils of humanity and the atrocities they can commit on their own, regardless of outside influence. Well, slight correction: the evils that Germans can perform, because Germans are pure evil in the early 21st Century. The entire movie, Diana is fully convinced that the source of the war is Ares, and the supporting cast and main villains go through great lengths to prove that humans commit terrible things without godly influence. Then, upon the death of the German commander, Diana begins to realize that the simple and naive beliefs she once clung to might have been wrong.

Suddenly: jokes, Professor Lupine pops up and says “Hay, it was me but not really,” so Diana kills him and the war ends rather abruptly. The sudden 180 the movie takes is jarring and kills all the good material the plot had going for it up until that point. I am fully convinced that, if the writers had not tried to inject god-plot into the movie at the end, it would have been great. We, the audience, would have seen Diana question the beliefs she held on her own and question the morals of the people she was trying to protect. It would also have shown that evil is not a one-person problem: it’s a slow and clever system that happens through many people and politics.

But nope; we don’t want any of that philosophical nonsense in this movie! Let’s have a CGI fist-fight with a god to showcase how badass he is. Because ratings!

The battle with General Ludendorf was a fun fight on its own. His battle and defeat was quite satisfying without having to take it over level 9000 with a duel against Magneto afterwards. General Ludendorf and Doctor Poison were really cool villains on their own without trying to cram Ares into the story as well.

wonder-woman doctor poisonAnd on those really cool villains, it would have been nice to have seen more of them. I mean, Doctor Poison was a really cool bad guy. What event caused her face to be partially melted away? Why was she so inclined to make such dangerous weapons? She really needed more screen and plot time than was allotted, so the whammy of being forced to believe Professor Lupine was the BBEG was more than I could choke down.

Which leads me to another common problem with Superhero movies in general (and usually DC is the ones more prone to this than Marvel), but trying cram multiple super-villains into one movie is just too much. I know it’s a method to raise the stakes, and typically the second villain is someone who has a more “profound” effect on the protagonist, but it just pads extra movie time in a film that’s already quite long enough.

I could also rip apart several of the historical inaccuracies portrayed in the movie about WW1 in general (like the half-asses approach to PTSD, or that German soldiers took civilians as slaves when they were captured, or that Germany fought Britain, France, Russia and the US on their own… does no one really remember that Austria-Hungary and Italy were also in those trenches?), but if I start ripping apart Hollywood for taking creative licences with history, we’d be in for a very long list of movies that were terrifyingly wrong in very nearly every aspect.

At the end, with the choices that were made by either the producers or direction, we went from a movie that could have been “holy shit wow” to “meh”. And I know that makes me the enemy of women everywhere to rate a movie like this as “100% meh”, but as things stand, I probably won’t be rusting out to buy this one on Blu-ray when it comes out.

Let’s see more of what the actors can do, let’s see superhero movies asking much harder philosophical questions and let’s see less Ben Affleck. You can fight me on that one, but you’ll lose.

And I really think that stance makes me a “Mediocre Hero” at the end of the day.

Let’s Bring Back Those House Hippos

20170712_115836-1[1]I have always stood by a statement of mine that I am, 100%, a by-product of the 90’s. In regards to pop-culture influences, to music tastes to overwhelming passive-aggressiveness for no justifiable reason. And Pogs™, let’s not forget those either. But perhaps one of the biggest things about the 90’s I remember are those Concerned Children’s Advertisers that played on half a dozen channels intended for audiences between the ages of 2 – 18.

You remember those commercials? “Nobody’s good at everything, but everyone’s good at something”; or “I can put my arm back on, but you can’t. So play safe”; or my personal favourite and topic of today’s article: The North American House Hippo. I remember how long it took me to come to terms with the fact that the commercial was a result of clever editing and lighting tricks, and a very convincing voice-over. After spending far too long searching my own house for traces of the House Hippo, I finally was old enough to rationalize the message behind the commercial and apply it to tv, the focus of the advertisement’s warning.

Some twenty years later, this message is just as applicable. And not only because of its limits to less than factual television programming. The lesson of “don’t believe everything you see” can be applied to very nearly every source of media we, as the Western world, absorb on a very-nearly hourly basis. Granted, this mantra needs a little updating and polishing to be more poignant.

For starters, let’s evaluate the primary message behind the House Hippo commercial. We (kids) were presented with a series of shots and explanations as to the lifestyle of the elusive House Hippo (should that be capitalized? I’m not even sure), what they eat, where they nest and all that good jazz. Then the reveal at the end that the house hippo wasn’t real, and that we should be wary of things on television. Or, at least, better informed.

Fake NewsAnyone whose spent more than thirty seconds on Facebook can tell you that the spreading of misinformation or, worse yet, outright lies, is a blight upon what the greater information network (aka, the internet) is supposed to be. Everyone and their political representatives have pointed fingers to every Tom, Dick and Jane for being to blame for this and youths/elders/millenials/generation-bazinga people need to read things more carefully.

Were the solution that easy, this wouldn’t be an ongoing issue.

Breaking down the reasons into the spreading of misinformation usually stems from articles/posts/claims/statements/utterances that appeal to an emotional response; knowing how to get people riled up is one of the fastest ways to get a message out there into the world at large. Is it any surprise that the articles most likely to be blatantly incorrect or misleading are often charged with rage-inducing headlines or slants? I could do it myself if I didn’t like to think of myself as an entirely passive-aggressive-ish person; this blog would very likely get many more viral views. This largely comes down to a matter of framing.

For those of you who know what framing is, you are well aware of the powerful impacts it can have on even the most benign of statements. For those who don’t: a quick Google intermission might be in order.

This is now the part where I would very likely launch into a series of inductions based on the research I have compiled about this particular topic; but as things stand, my research is actually quite narrow in this regard. I’d very much like to cite a proper experiment on this topic, but as of yet, a good example eludes me. And such, I am reeling myself in from making any sweeping statements about the phenomena.

hhYiYBfWhich, in many regards, is still a great deal better than most of these posts that are the ire of news outlets and rational thinking alike. Because of how fast everything seems to be moving at all times (especially online,) it can be very difficult to not make a wild conclusion based on the concepts and information we have at our disposal. When we do: while it is true that we will invariably see more readers for what we post, we will degrade the quality of our works by not taking that little extra time needed to verify our sources.

No Laughing Matter

20170705_011455-1It was maybe going on four years ago now a friend and I were having a greatly heated discussion. The kind of discussion that only happens after someone makes an off-hand comment and, in all my wisdom, I challenged him to a verbal duel. A battle of wits. A kerfuffle of nonsense. The argument lasted all of the two hour car ride we were in, but every so often one of us would remind the other that we hadn’t reached a consensus, or would pipe up with some new dollop of information that would (ideally) sway the other to our cause.

Of course, like all great debates of our time, it stemmed from nerd-dom and superheroes. Surprisingly, I had all but forgotten about the debate until a wayward article numbering the top film and game Jokers of all time rekindled that debate in my soul.

For the sake of all humanity, I have yet to bring it up with my friend again. There may very well be no survivors.

The argument in question referred to the Dark Knight Trilogy; that Chrisopher Nolan brain-child that revived a somewhat stagnant DC franchise and presented the world of Batman to a darker world that most mainstream fans were not familiar with. Hell, most people, before this trilogy, had no idea that Batman could be as dark and visceral as this updated rendition. The idea of Batman still sat in their mind as the goofy Sunday morning “Baffs” and “Pows” that were iconic to the Adam West era, or the cartoon rendition from the 90’s series that, while dark, was still written for a young audience and, therefore, lacked a lot of the teeth that the comics of that time bore.

Good Gods, Self: you’ve spent about three paragraphs dancing around the topic now with cryptic and teasing mentions as to the argument. In the almighty words of Python: Get on with it!

In the trilogy: there were three main antagonists for Batman to out-battle and compete with. The first was Ra’s al Ghul, the super sneaky ninja mastermind whose national origins still baffle me to this day (more on that shortly). Then was the anarchaic and deranged Joker, as popularized by Heath Ledger; giving madness and violence a certain skin-crawling charm. Finally was Bane, the brutish member of the League of Shadows who delivered a reckoning to Gotham, and forced its peoples to look into their inner monsters and become the villains they were all aspiring to be.

Get on with it!

Ignoring that Ra’s al Ghul was a way less interesting villain than Scarecrow was (how I still dream to this day that the good doctor was given the leading villain part instead, but I digress), and that Talia al Ghul was actually the mastermind behind the whole movie and, frankly, was an anti-climatic plot twist that I’m still a little sour about. The debate raged on about who was, actually, the greater villain mastermind in the trilogy.

GET ON WITH IT!god.jpg

I just mentioned it, actually; chill. My friend and I had bashed heads for a good long while about who the better super villain was. He was in favour of Bane, while I attested that the Joker was far greater in very nearly every aspect. And the debate got rather heated once or twice. And, as a point of clarification: the argument was exclusively about the characters as they were portrayed in their two respective films, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises; as well as it was about the natures of the characters in how they not only pushed Batman and the people of Gotham, but how they themselves represented very visceral aspects of humanity and the varying degrees of success for their plans.

Note from Self: and thank the gods we ignored the overall movies and just focused on the characters: the Dark Knight Rises was a hot mess of a movie and there are few too many leaps o’ logic in The Dark Knight to make any real sense anyway.

Of course, each of those topics could very easily be stretched out into a very long article on their own, and just going over the broad topics don’t really do the depths of these two characters any justice. That being said, I’m certainly going to do my best to make a good case for both characters and, if there’s enough interest, I can re-visit this all in greater detail.

Joker 2Disclaimer: If there’s one lesson I managed to actually take away from my Writer’s Craft course from high school, it’s that we should be up front about our biases and honest about them. In this regard, I am almost 100% of the mind that the Joker is the much greater villain between the two. Honestly, if you read the article closely, you probably could have divined as much.

For the first part, let’s examine these characters as devices that move the plot forward

In both cases, both Bane and the Joker serve very well as an embodiment to focus Batman’s, or in many cases, Bruce Wayne’s attention towards for character growth and a baddy to beat-up. In the literal sense, both men are incredibly dangerous in very easy to understand ways. While Bane is certainly a much better fighter than virtually everyone, the Joker is more liberal in his willingness to throw away any and all human life simply to prove a point, and oftentimes in a very grim and grotesque manner.

But, in less literal terms, both of these villains serve as emotional and philosophical hurdles that Bruce Wayne must overcome. Trust plays a large factor for both villains, as well as understanding the limitations of what one person can accomplish on their own (it’s easier to tear down than to build, as it were). There are fairly overt differences in the broader aspects of what each sort of threat each villain poses to society in general, and in ways that terrify us as individuals. And on that note:

The threats that both these characters pose to our own rational minds

bane-2.jpgThis is where things split for the two villains in quite radical ways. Starting with Bane (because that happens to be the BGM I’m listening to right now), he represents very methodical and deliberate destruction. It’s large-scale and targets very foundational organizations that we, as a society, place a great deal of faith in. Governments, military and law enforcement, and corporations are the targets of Bane’s destruction; as well as the stripping of power from those who possess it. While it doesn’t necessarily empower those of the lowest classes, it enables those of looser moral scruples to act as they see fit with fewer consequences. It’s total liberation from social conventions, and rapid changes like that are dangerous to civilizations en mass.

Joker 1The Joker, however, represents fear in the individual. His methods of terrorism and destruction hit everyone on a very personal level. Mutilating civilians, blowing up public services and encouraging the deranged and the violent tendencies, that many people have buried deep within, to be brought forth as a result of desperation. It’s indiscriminate and unbiased fear; a kind of fear that will affect anyone and everyone. Because no matter whom you are or what securities are in place, it’s yourself that is at risk. And when comes down to personal safety and security, or a matter of life and death, nothing can tear down a social hierarchy faster than the fear for the individual’s life.

The execution and accomplishment of “the plan”

It’s reasonably safe to say that both Bane and the Joker’s meta-plans failed as a generalization. However, if that were really the case, Gotham wouldn’t have changed, and neither would our dark and brooding main character. The plan for the Joker was… well, actually: was there even one at all? Contrary to his statement that he was a guy without a plan, he wasn’t lying, strictly speaking. He didn’t have one; he had dozens. Little plans and schemes that sometimes related to one another, and sometimes didn’t. But, if we were to choose his primary goal from the smorgasbord of choices, it was the mass spread of fear that was his greatest ambition. To rip open the weak seams that held public security together and to unleash the city upon itself in mass hysteria. Traditional terrorism, really.

Bale BatmanAs for Bane, his objective was a lot more straight forward. To continue the work of his predecessor, Ra’s al Ghul and have Gotham tear itself apart at the core. Because the opulence and corruption of Gotham had become so deep-seated within its nature, it was to serve as a world-wide symbol of a return to balance in the nature of things. To reset the clocks, in a way. This, however, wasn’t going to inoculate the human ego from the corrupting influence of power and wealth; but it would serve as one hell of a cold medicine.

In both cases, though: the plan was not (completely) achieved. In the Joker’s case, while the town didn’t exactly succumb to total fear, it certainly did brew up a sense of unease and insecurity in established conventions that would lay the groundwork for Bane’s ambitions to follow. And in the case of our favourite brutish mute-turned gentleman: Gotham did in fact rip itself apart… to an extent. The dregs of the social pyramid pillaged and plundered until they basked in a kingdom of hedonism and fear. But, it would require the aide of an atomic bomb to finish the deal, which proves that the basic concept behind the plan was a little more than flawed. But, to his credit, Bane did instill a more balanced sense of public justice afterwards. So, y’know how it goes.

In conclusion: I have way too much spare time to over-think this stuff

When you really break it down to the nuts and bolts, these character renditions are fascinating on a multitude of levels. Both Mr. Hardy and the late Mr. Ledger breathed an incredible amount of life into their characters, and with no small measure of help from not only the directors, but the writers as well for concocting the script and lines that we know and love today. And if nothing else, it gives us nerdy folk something really fascinating to dig our talons into and pull apart, all in the name of fandom.

For those who watched these movies and simply enjoyed them as movies: ain’t nothing wrong with that. I’m sure these kind of folk enjoyed different villains for far different reasons that are no less valid than the in-depth reading and thinking I tend to perform to things I enjoy just a little too much.the_dark_knight_rises_2012_gotham_new_york_city_bridge_explosion

And at the end of the day, there is one unanimous rule that pretty well everyone can agree upon: Batman’s villains are WAAAAAAAY more interesting than the “villains” that Superman deals with. Because Superman is dumb and everything about him is garbage. /tiny-rant