Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Declaration



The news and imagery coming from Portland is horrific. Secret Police, without identification or name badges walking around the streets tear-gassing and sweeping people away to undisclosed locations, without being Mirandized (which is legally required, by the way, in all 50 states - there was a big Supreme Court decision about it a few DECADES ago). But just because you're not seeing it (yet) in other cities doesn't mean it isn't happening. 

It just means it isn't yet being filmed.

Welcome to the Fascist States of America. I don't want to live here - I was born and raised in a country very different from this one, and I will do what I can to get us back there as long as I live within the geographic confines of this nation. That said, I want a few things noted:

1) If anyone without proper identification attempts to pick me up and remove me from a city street, a public place, or a private one, I will resist. Forcefully. Lethally, if I must. There is no unmarked force of any kind that I will not resist. I will assume you do not have the power or authorization to detain me - and that qualifies as kidnapping. I will fight that until the very moment I cannot, and I promise you I will draw blood.

2) The same applies if this is something I witness. If I see this happening to anyone else, whether I know them or not, I will defend them with the same force, voice, and ferocity. I won't be filming - I will be fighting.

3) I do not carry a gun. In this setting most of us have the right to carry one but I choose not to. I have my wits, which will hopefully be swift. I have my fists, raised in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters, as well as any human being whose skin tone isn't the same as mine. I have my back, which I will use to help burden the load. I have my voice, which is loud. I have my cane, which I will use to help me walk and to smack you down.

4) I will do my best not to raise a hand to someone that didn't raise a hand to me first. But a violent reaction must be seen as understandable against a government, or anyone else for that matter, that is intent on seeing violence happen. If I need to use violence, I will use a little as I must. That might be more than you want though.

5) Nazis get punched. I can live with the disconnect between this rule and the previous one. We sent over 100,000 men to their deaths in an effort to wipe Nazis off the face of the Earth, so you don't get to be one. Not today. Not ever.

If you cannot follow these 5 simple rules, your are complicit. You are part of the problem.

That is MY Declaration of Independence from the Fascist States of America.

Signed,

James Christopher Reed

There. Singed in big enough type so that King Donald can read it without his glasses.

Please sign on.

Monday, July 20, 2020

How to watch Star Wars

So, one of the strange side-effects of being "that guy" who saw the first Star Wars movie in theaters nearly 1,000 times is that I get asked which movies should be watched, what order they should be watched in, and so on. A few years back, before the Disney Star Wars movies, there was something called the "Machete Edit", which proposed a specific order to watch the movies, editing out a lot of Episode 1.It was actually pretty good, but we have so much more to work with now.

There are others as well, and some of the TV shows have been input into the viewing order as well. So, after years of saying I wouldn't do it, I have changed my mind - I mean, I need to do some kind of non-political post at some point this year - and so here we go, with my logic for it.

And stay away from all of the revised and director's cuts. Just don't. Han shoots first.

1. Star Wars

Okay, I'm never going to call this "Episode IV: A New Hope". This is freakin' Star Wars. Period. this whole "episode" thing didn't ever get mentioned until filming was under way for "Empire Strikes Back". But to get to the point, this is the first movie, and although there are lots of events that take place chronologically before this one, all of the world-building of the Star Wars universe is established in this movie. We meet Luke, Obi-Wan, Han, Leia, the villains and heroes, and get introduced to the force. This must, must be the first movie you watch. Pay attention to the mannerisms of Obi-wan. I will be coming back to that later.

2. The Empire Strikes Back

This is the best of all the movies. But to tell a coherent story this movie must come next. The absolute depth of the force is first explained, we meet Yoda, we understand more about the politics of the Empire, and the truth of who Darth Vader is - was - is revealed. This is the 2nd movie made too, so up to this point we can just work with how they were made. But now we must depart the text.

3. The Phantom Menace

Let's be honest, this isn't a great movie. But again, we're trying to tell a storytelling arc, and this is the first in a series of "how did we get here" stories that builds and enriches. Some of the acting is horribly stilted and the dialogue is terrible, and who the hell thought the idea that Anakin Skywalker actually built C-3PO? That's just wrong on so many levels. This is a movie meant to build a toy line and it shows. But holy crap that first poster was great, and there are a couple of set pieces in the movie that are a marvel. The Pod Race, every scene with Darth Maul, and watching Senator Palpatine put everything in motion is just great. Yes, the whole Jar-Jar Binks arc is misplaced, but once you've seen the next movie it sort of falls together.

4. Attack of the Clones

Although not the worst movie in the franchise, it is a close second. It's hard to believe that there are two Oscar winners in this film. The dialogue is awful, the acting is terrible, and every time Teenaged Anakin Skywalker is on screen you want to change the channel or wish you had picked up Star Trek instead. But allow me to enhance your viewing of this movie with a couple of ideas that are never shown on screen. First of all, compare This Obi-Wan Kenobi to the Obi-Wan in the first movie. As a character, he has settled into the man you first meet when he is much older - he has given up on anything but Jedi pursuits and although not given much to work with Ewan McGreggor does a couple of amazing things, but you have to pay attention. First, he channels Alec Guinness expertly. But secondly, he gives a nuance to the performance that is easy to miss - that one of the things he gave up is Padme Amadala. Keep that in mind when he is on screen, especially with Natalie Portman. Obi-Wan treats Padme as if she were a lover he had to give up on. It's very subtle, but it's there.

And one more thing, watching Palpatine manipulate Jar-Jar Binks into destroying the Democratic institutions brings the Jar-Jar arc into a completely different focus, and I have to admit that I enjoyed that. And oh yes, finally, clones.

5. Star Wars Clone Wars (2003)

A lot of people have forgotten this one. The animation wasn't very good but it was a first attempt at actually having the famed Clone Wars, which the movies never really had. Do not confuse this with the animated close wars that came much later, but there are some important moments, such as Anakin finally becoming a full Jedi and not a Padawan, and the introductions of General Grevius and others that are important later.

6. Star Wars Clone Wars (Movie, Seasons 1-6)


This is the more famous of the Clone Wars Series, and the writing is much better, and the animation improves over time. Watch the movie and series 1 through 6, but not 7 (the final season). There is a lot of development and a lot of time spent on new characters, but we get to see the effects of a long protracted war from the point of view of the people fighting it, and we eventually work our way into the scenes at the start of the next movie on the list.

7. Revenge of the Sith

Okay, Anakin turns to the dark side for a pretty stupid reason. But watching Palpatine manipulate him is just amazing. There are some set pieces that are great, including the final showdown between Vadar and Obi-wan, but dear lord there some wasted performances, including Christopher Lee, James Earl Jones, but especially Natalie Portman - who is basically barefoot and pregnant for the entire movie - the reduction of a heroine to a piece of disposable scenery that that's just unforgivable. Palpatine and Obi-wan make the movie shine, but everything else is poorly executed. But you have to slog through this to get to this:

8. Star Wars Clone Wars, Final Season

Told concurrently with Revenge of the Sith, This expands upon the best parts of the movie, and flushes out the stories of the people who we've gotten to know over the course of the various TV shows, and what happens when General Order 66 is given. It also sets up a small plot point in a later movie on this list.

9. Return of the Jedi

Finally, we get to the last of the original three movies. Yes, there are things that are cringe-worthy, like the metal bikini, the stupid dispatching of Boba-Fett after building him up so much, the Ewoks - which are just a little bit too cute but I will forgive because we were introduced to the great Warwick Davis, but for each element of that are such things as "The Emperor is not as forgiving as I", and watching Palpatine manipulate everything yet again with a master's touch, and at long last the redemption of the Skywalker family.

10. Rogue One

Now that the saga has "ended", let's see how it all began! This is a pretty damned good movie, with some unexpected special effects and a furious pace, with characters you love who will die, and some who have truly questionable motives. And given that the events of this movie take place just before the events of a movie released 40 years earlier, the advances made are just amazing.

And now I am going to make a few controversial moves. There is another stand alone movie that I do NOT think should be next. I am also not going to include either of the other TV series - one because I just haven't seen it and one because I believe most people have the timeline misplaced. I will explain.

11. The Force Awakens

Okay, yes we get new characters, and yes Adam Driver acts circles around everyone, but for the most part, this is the just original movie reworked as "The Search for Luke". Harrison Ford is now in the wise old man role that used to be owned by Obi-wan. This movie, like the very first one from 1977, sets the rules for the new universe. The happy ending everyone was expecting didn't exactly happen, and the rebellion is once again trying to gain the upper hand against all odds. The fascism elements are over the top, although they seem to be prophetic as of this writing. There's lot of promise here, but far too much J.J. Abrams.

12. Solo: A Star Wars Story

This first movie of a trilogy that was never made, this movie holds up pretty well. It explains the whole "distance as speed" paradox introduced way back in the first movie, and gives you one last glimpse of the potential of Han Solo as a younger man, how he unconsciously had an impact on the events that lead to Rogue One, and the introduction of so much potential. I mean, Darth Maul! Darth Maul! Oh, what could have been.

The biggest problem with this movie is that audiences wanted a young Harrison Ford. Alden Ehrenrich is fine as Han Solo, and Donald Glover is well-cast as a young Lando. But I have to admit that having Emilia Clarke as the female lead was jarring. By this point she was the female lead of everything fantasy and sci-fi related, from Game of Thrones to Terminator and I for one was getting pretty sick of her. But Darth Maul! Darth Maul!

Director Ron Howard has said repeatedly and loudly that he'd like to return to this and tell more story, but so far there has been no green light.

13. The Mandalorian

Boy oh Boy did Disney deliver on their first Star Wars Live Action series. The actual place in time that the series happens in hasn't been fully established. It's most certainly after Return of the Jedi. Until explicitly shown in the series, I like to think of this as happening concurrently with the third trilogies. There are lots of fan theories about Boba-Fett and a bunch of other things, but I don't buy it. Even if I'm wrong, this is the place to see this series for a completely different reason, which I will explain momentarily.

The performances here are close to legendary. That includes Warner Herzog, chewing up the scenery as the person you think is the villain behind everything, Nick Nolte, Pedro Pascal as the tital character, whose face you only see once, Taika Waititi as a droid, and of course Giancarlo Esposito as the actual villain, eating up the scenery with every appearance/

14. The Last Jedi

This is the 2nd best movie of the whole selection, and it's just amazing. It takes the characters and puts them on a hopeless path, while explaining the dubious choices made in the J.J. Abrams movie in believable ways. It introduces new characters and sets the entire story path on end, saying that the story isn't about the Skywalkers, but about the rebirth of the rebellion, which happens by the end of the movie. The Force itself gets redefined, and the showdown between Luke and Kylo is just badass. the stuff with Benicio del Toro is a weak point to the movie ,but otherwise this is a strong one - and I quoted the line by Luke of "Everything you just said is wrong" for MONTHS after.

15. STOP HERE.


I'm dead serious. Stop with The Last Jedi. The Rise of Skywalker is a simply awful movie and it spends about an hour erasing the entire previous movie. It creates nonsense about characters who are dead but not dead, has McGuffins and happenstances of convenience galore, A plot that requires advancement because of a physical impossibility involving a knife and death star debris. You get through the movie and realize that someone (J.J. Abrams? Disney?) is trying to smother the franchise with a pillow and create an ENDING. And suddenly Rey is the long lost granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine? are you FUCKING SERIOUS?!!?!!?!?

Oh lordy this is such a terrible movie. There was so much that could have been done with Riann Johnson still at the helm, and if Carrie Fisher hadn't died suddenly. But no. The Rise of Skywalker pukes on the entire franchise and is not worth the consideration. There is exactly ONE good idea in this movie, and it involved the link between Rey and Ben that was established in the previous movie - and it's the only idea that J.J. Abrams doesn't try to destroy.

End your experience with The Last Jedi, and you will see it ends with a message of hope, which is where it is supposed to be. Yes, things aren't resolved, but why should they be? The fleet is rag-tag, but the spark of rebellion exists everywhere. The rebellion is on the ropes and on the run, but the young slave-stable boy at the end is hopeful, and the force is with him. Interestingly enough the first season of The Mandalorian ends with the same overall message.

Stop here. Don't let The Rise of Skywalker ruin it for you.

And there you go. You're welcome to argue with me below.




Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Peter Navarro can go fuck himself.



Peter Navarro, Trump’s economic adviser, had some thoughts: Comments in bold are my own observations and refutations.


Dr. Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on. Except no.

In late January, when I was making the case on behalf of the president to take down the flights from China, Fauci fought against the president’s courageous decision — which might well have saved hundreds of thousands of American lives. Fauci said, “Obviously, you need to take it seriously and do the kind of things the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Department of Homeland Security is doing. But this is not a major threat to the people of the United States and this is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about.” In January, this was true. I should also note that flights were halted, and they did nothing to stop the spread of the disease.

When I warned in late January in a memo of a possibly deadly pandemic, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was telling the news media not to worry.

Fauci reiterated that COVID-19 “isn’t something the American people need to worry about or be frightened about” because, at the time, it was centered in China and the U.S. could screen travelers from that nation. But Fauci also twice described the virus as “an evolving situation,” and said, “Every day, we have to look at it very carefully.”

I should also note at this point that Navarro was in fact saying that the situation was much worse than most people were saying. But you need to take Fauci's comments in context: when he said them flights were already being stopped from China.


When I was working feverishly on behalf of the president in February to help engineer the fastest industrial mobilization of the health care sector in our history, Fauci was still telling the public the China virus was low risk.

In a Feb. 29 interview, Fauci said that “right now at this moment” the risk was “low” and there was “no need” for people “to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.” But he added that “this could change,” that people needed to be wary of “community spread,” and that it could develop into a “major outbreak.” Also, stop calling it the "China virus" you racist.

When we were building new mask capacity in record time, Fauci was flip-flopping on the use of masks. Except that we never built up this supposed mask capacity. We ran out. We're running out again.

"We have to admit it, that that mixed message in the beginning, even though it was well meant to allow masks to be available for health workers, that was detrimental in getting the message across," Fauci said in an interview with Mary Louise Kelly of NPR's All Things Considered. "No doubt about it."

The point here is that everyone was send out "mixed messages", including Navarro. Hell, the Surgeon General of the U.S. said masks shouldn't be required on July 15, 2020. TODAY.

And when Fauci was telling the White House Coronavirus Task Force that there was only anecdotal evidence in support of hydroxychloroquine to fight the virus, I confronted him with scientific studies providing evidence of safety and efficacy. A recent Detroit hospital study showed a 50% reduction in the mortality rate when the medicine is used in early treatment. Fauci was right about this. 100% correct. Navarro, Trump, and everyone else who supported this idea was wrong.

Now Fauci says a falling mortality rate doesn’t matter when it is the single most important statistic to help guide the pace of our economic reopening. The lower the mortality rate, the faster and more we can open. Except No.What Navarro is missing the point about and Dr. Fauci isn't the the long-term effect os a disease that 2 Million people who have caught the disease haven't recovered from. While the mortality rate is down, thankfully, for every 1 person who has died there are 20 who are still sick and potentially permanently disabled or will yet die. That is an economic catastrophe. But what do I know? I only handle money for a living.


So when you ask me whether I listen to Dr. Fauci’s advice, my answer is: only with skepticism and caution. That's because you're a fucking idiot.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Prison Camp America


The script:

To every member of the Republican Party, From Donald Trump all the way down to the smallest little Boogaloo voting for the first time, I have a question for you. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

You want to send children back to school in the middle of a Pandemic that you seem to even fail to recognize exists!

300,000 thousand TIMES more people have caught COVID-19 than caught Ebola, and you think that Obama handled his crisis worse than Trump did!

You have called the police on everyone from a man jogging to a man mistakenly passing a counterfeit bill to a woman walking her dog to a man building a porch to a man on the phone simply because their skin tone is darker than yours!

You are claiming that the ravings of a Aderall addicted radio flunkie are of greater medical use than the Centers for Disease Control.

You are claiming that the wearing of a simple piece of fabric, which medical professionals have been wearing for over a century in order to protect people, is the equivalent of being choked to death, that it impinges upon your freedoms, and that you won’t wear it, won’t wear it, won’t wear it!

What are you, 6?

You decry the removal of statues that celebrate the existence of something that didn’t last as long as DISCO.

No one is trying to take away your goddamned freedoms. They’re trying to keep you alive! If you can’t see that then WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Actual plans exist to implement a recovery, from testing to getting people back to work and school, but because the best ideas come from the Democratic Party and not from your own succession of morons you won’t do it.

We have access to masks, social distancing, technology, vaccines, testing, and people who know how to do it but all of a sudden you’re fucking AMISH? Well, no – the Amish are wearing masks!

You insist on nicknames for people you disagree with. Bullies do that. Those and people with a desperate need to remain in control of their social hierarchies.

Your leader is a racist. He always has been. He called for the executions of five black men who had been wrongly convicted of rape – AFTER they were exonerated. He is a misogynist, and has admitted more than once to being attracted to his daughters and nieces. He is a tax cheat, a man who blasphemes regularly, and misquotes the bible, the constitution, and doesn’t know the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner. Yet you look at his am pious, humble and patriotic. He is obviously none of these things, so I ask again, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

And then there’s the man at number two – Mike Pence.  A man who can’t be alone in a room with another woman without his wife present. A man who believes that God will protect people from COVID-19 as long as they attend church – the bigger the better.  A man who says that CDC guidelines are unnecessary in order for kids to return to school this fall.

He had NEVER contradicted his boss, even when he is obviously lying, even though his particular version of religion says that lying is a sin.  He claims not to be a sinner but he’s lying. He treats Trump like he’s the second coming. A lot of people do, which mystifies me.

He has gold drapes, a gold watch, gold carpeting, golden dyed hair, and prefers gold toilets and everything else as well. Come on Christians, how many more damned clues do you need?

The crimes of the current administration are too numerous to list. Their lack of interest in governing las lead to the deaths of over 100,000 citizens – and yet you love them more and more each day. You were even okay with him claiming that a HURRICANE was going to go in a different direction than it did.

Trump has a philosophy – there must be winners and losers in everything. He must win. Everyone else must lose. That’s an actual quote – it’s in “art of the deal’. Yes, I’ve read it. It’s horseshit. Every successful businessman I’ve ever met – including a couple of billionaires - has done it differently.

He is WRONG.

America, at least the America we used to have, is about making everything better, for everyone. Everyone is supposed to win. We have differing philosophies of how to get that done and that’s FINE. We should debate these things. But we have to want to do these things. Trump and his administration, and the Republicans in both houses of Congress do not. They just want to win. They just want everyone else to lose. They’ve turned this amazing country into a Prison camp.

Which brings me all the way back to my original question: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

There is no such thing as Fake News. There is News, and there are lies. Trump, his handlers, his people, and those in government who support him are LYING.

It’s America or Trump, people. If you can’t see that, then what, the fuck, is WRONG, with you?

 

 


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Deadnaming...

I know a lot more about trans people than I did a few years ago. A lot of that has been an effort to educate myself and discover what's important and what isn't. I've had to throw out some notions that I've held for decades and re-write my own personal code to simply gain some basic understanding of their wants, fears, hopes and dreams. I won't pretend that it's been easy, but I also won't pretend that it was anyone's problem but my own. There was no one trans to blame for how I had to change - I had to change.

And change I did. Because I cared enough to work at it. I don't think I'm all the way there, but I'd like to think I've made progress. I tell you all this because of a revelation I've had that I honestly wish I could have made many years ago.

If you understand what you're looking for, you can see J.K. Rowling's bias against the trans community right in the fucking books. Remember, she never said Dumbledore was gay until all of the books were published. It made her seem like a hero in retrospect. So retrospect is fair game.

In their final confrontation, Harry deadnames Voldemort. He's the only character in the whole series who does so, and he's the bloody hero of the books. Whatever you think of the book's main villain, he has transformed himself from Tom Riddle into Lord Voldemort. Every character respects this transition - except Harry Potter, and it is Harry who has the voice of the author.

I never would have noticed this a few years ago. But in the course of educating myself I have, from time to time, deadnamed people I know to be trans, and who have taken new names upon themselves. And every time it was like I had sucker-punched them. I didn't mean to, but I had. I've owned up to it every time. There is real trauma that can be caused by using the former name of a person who has transitioned. The problem wasn't the trans person - it was me.

Just as Dumbledore was J.K. Rowling's surrogate "gay", I think that Voldemort was her surrogate "trans". I'm not sure she consciously meant it, but as a writer myself I know how easily personal bias slips into what you do. It's something you must be constantly vigilant about.

It has become clear that Rowling understands nothing about the trans community. But in retrospect, it is also clear that having Harry call Voldemort by his former name is meant as a sign of disrespect to his own transition from mere wizard to villain.

Yes, Harry Potter is written as a teenager and what teenager isn't a jerk? She explores that in some detail and you can't dismiss that. The books are well written, but I have to admit that I will never be able to look at her books the same way again, not because she has changed, but because I have. I look at Orson Scott Card the same way.

This is in fact why I keep books and collect and re-read them. It's not that they have changed but that I have, and they will have a different impact on me now than they would when I first read them. If I ever re-read the Harry Potter books I will notice things in them that I didn't before, and I think I'd enjoy them less than before I knew that J.K. Rowling is a trans-phobic bigot - because I now see Harry in the same light, and he's been written as the hero, and the surrogate trans character as the stock villain.

And that's simply not acceptable to me any more.