What’s the Deal With Star Wars?

Rogue OneA lot of people seem to hate Rogue One. They seem to think that it’s schlock, a shameless, nostalgia-filled cash grab. These people are right, really. Disney has access to an entire franchise and to go back to the time-period from where people derive their fondest memories is transparently about money. They know the emotional pull of the original trilogy for many fans and wish to draw upon that wellspring of good will.

However, just because the detractors are right does not mean that we, the viewing public, are getting the short end. It seems foolish to fault Disney (or any company, for that matter) for trying to make money, particularly with the most lucrative franchise in history. Likewise, complaining about nostalgia when Rogue One is set literally a week before A New Hope is somewhat ridiculous. It would be like setting a movie in World War II and then complaining that it contains Panzers and Adolf Hitler. The setting means that visuals and locations are obviously going to repeat; repetition is not inherently a bad thing.

Rogue One, frankly, is a success by any reasonable standard. It’s a well-paced movie, with emotional pull and excitement. The plot is well-written, avoiding the common pitfall of getting bogged down in any one spot, and feels like a unique tale. The characters are a somewhat weak point, with the heroes, Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, both falling short of being well-rounded. However, they’re balanced out by a superb supporting cast that has all the heart that they lack.

The movie also contains all of the elements that Star Wars fans had been clamoring for (or at least I have) since Return of the Jedi. Sure, a lot of these, from the diverse backgrounds of the main cast, a lovable (if quirky) droid, and the backdrop of a war between good and evil, are identical to the original trilogy, but that is the Star Wars formula. That is what works. It is little surprise that combining these elements competently managed to make a movie worth watching.

Honestly, Rogue One does many things right which the previous year’s The Force Awakens failed at. Bear in mind, it is a good movie. From a technical standpoint, it is good, not bogging down with a plot that’s reasonably engaging. The new characters in particular stand out; Rey, Finn, and Poe are all great people who you can connect with. The original trilogy characters are likewise allowed their moments, without really overshadowing the newcomers.

The problem is that The Force Awakens tries too hard. It is obvious that this movie is playing off of nostalgia. It has been thirty years since the Battle of Endor, but everything sort of feels the same. There are X-Wings and Tie Fighters, there are Stormtroopers, the Millennium Falcon is still flying…somehow. The movie starts with a shot of a Star Destroyer, which four previous films (III through VI) did as well. For some strange reason there’s still a Rebellion, now called the Resistance.* Each of the original cast not named “Luke Skywalker” is given a very deliberate introduction meant to tug at our memories.Old Han and Chewbacca

The worst offender in all of this is the plot. While I did say before that it was well-executed, this does not excuse it from being lifted, largely, from the plot of A New Hope. The story starts with a violent attack by the Empire/First Order, then shifts to a humble main character on a desert planet accidentally stumbling upon a destiny greater than anything they imagined. The heroes travel to a hidden Rebel/Resistance base (mercifully after a second act that is actually different from that of Episode IV) where they learn about a new superweapon that can destroy entire planets. The third act then combines the second and third acts of ANH, where the heroes infiltrate the Death Star/Starkiller while a small fighter fleet faces overwhelming odds to end the threat.

On the one hand, Star Wars did return from a ten year hiatus from theaters. Creating a movie that is familiar is not an unwise decision. On the other hand, it so blatantly copies A New Hope, it barely qualifies as a new tale at times.

For the record, I am not trying to trash The Force Awakens. I still think it was a good movie. The problem is that it had its flaws, worse flaws than Rogue One had in some instances, yet there are people out there who think that Rogue One is substantially inferior. Perhaps it is not the greatest film of all time, but a bad film it is not.

Again, Rogue One had a lot more nostalgia bait than The Force Awakens, but it belonged there. Yavin IV and the Death Star, X-Wings and AT-STs, even Grand Moff Tarkin and Mon Mothma are all in the movie because they belong there. They aren’t thrust in there purely to tickle our fancy; their presence is natural in the setting. Sure, some elements, like not-Ackbar Admiral Raddus, AT-ATs, and the last ten (really cool) minutes of the film are obvious nostalgia plays, but most of it is not, or at least is not treated as such. For that, I think Rogue One deserves to be praised, rather than be cast out and spit upon like a heretic in a Vatican conclave.

The Last JediIf anything, my chief concerns are what The Last Jedi and next year’s Han Solo spinoff will look like. My earnest hope is that Disney will try to break away from the formula. The new films will grow stale very swiftly if they continue on the course of utilizing nostalgia and lifting plot elements wholesale from previous films. Even if such story-telling it is working, it will only last for so long. The amount of criticism levied at Rogue One is already evidence that nostalgia is starting to lose its effect. Ensuring a stable and enduring legacy for the future of Star Wars demands creativity, even when following certain basic structures.

With Disney at the helm, Lucasfilm has so far managed to do a surprisingly good job of reviving Star Wars. Despite its popularity, it was hurt severely by George Lucas’ missteps in creating the prequels. What remains to be seen is if Star Wars will continue to be good, or if it will, due to a dearth of true creativity, sink into being “just another franchise.”

*Yes, I know that the Resistance was formed long after the Rebellion became the New Republic, it just seems a bit off at first glance that Leia would go rogue and form Space Hezbollah** to fight Space Nazi Germany.

**I’m not commenting on the nobility of actual Hezbollah one way or another.

Advertisements

The “Othering” of Introverts

 

I wish that I didn’t feel compelled to write this, but after nearly 37 years on this Earth I still feel like a bit of an outcast because of who I am.

I am an introvert.

There are already a lot of people who have discounted this post out of hand because they see introversion as an “internet fad” that people use to feel special. There may be some people who do use this personality type and the online communities dedicated to it as a mask or an outlet. People are complex creatures and they sometimes do confusing or unreasonable things. However, I can attest to the fact that introversion is very real, and I know that we move more freely and comfortably online and it is therefore no surprise that we have found forums in which to congregate and commiserate about how we feel, how we function, and how we are still so misunderstood.

There aren’t many people who truly understand me as a person, or why I do (or don’t do) certain things. I was trying to explain to my children just this morning why I am so exhausted after a weekend that was not terribly physically demanding. It wasn’t the work I had to do that wore me out, it was the fact that my plans, throughout the week, have had to change almost daily, and I have had more interaction than usual with other people, and when I made plans to do nothing (specifically to do nothing) on my day off, I was instead asked to do work things and family things and school club things.

It isn’t that I dislike my job, or don’t get on well with my family, or that I’m depressed (introverts are often assumed to be depressed misandrists); rather, I just require time to recharge from the demands of servicing the needs of other people. Even conversation, however mundane, is a need most people have (hermit exemption applies), and it is not something that we can accomplish by ourselves. Therefore, conversation is an activity that you require someone else to participate in.

The conversation that most people expect just on a daily basis (the chatty woman in the bread aisle, the cashier asking about your shopping experience, the relative who calls with a question, the kids asking if they can go somewhere or do something) can already be taxing for an introvert, but add to that the extra demands of work, special requests of family, needs of friends, and any unexpected changes to your schedule and suddenly you have someone who is already feeling the tank run low but they have no idea when they’ll be able to refill it. You know that feeling… the feeling of anxiety and even panic when the fuel gauge of your car is dipping toward the red, and there are no gas stations in sight, and you’re on an unfamiliar road? That’s an introvert when they have had to deal with people and change and do not know when they’ll be able to enjoy their solitude long enough to recharge. We can usually calm down when we have a dedicated period set aside for doing nothing (which to us is everything – although many people see reading, meditating, or watching a favorite show as merely nothing). We may be puttering along, low on energy, but just knowing we’ll refuel soon is comforting: it’s the uncertainty that really wears on us.

To be clear, I love my family and I like my job. I adore my kids and encourage them to participate in activities that help them develop physically and mentally as individuals. I just need to spend time in peace and quiet in order to give the best of myself to them. The need for solitude, and the importance of self-care, is not a malicious or even passive selfishness. You cannot attend to the needs of others efficiently if your own state is precarious. It is no more selfish to assure you are psychologically prepared to handle your responsibilities than it is to insure you are physically capable of doing a task. It is prudent.

So many people see this need for solitude as shyness, or melancholy, or even arrogance. This is why we have our online forums and communities. This is why we write blogs. It’s not that we’re super impressed with ourselves for being “different”. It’s not that we want to be noticed and celebrated. We simply want to be understood. We want to exist without constantly being told we’re broken or that we need to change. Just because we enjoy solitude, and are often quiet in crowds, does not mean that we’re suffering from depression or shyness. It simply means we are observing and are content to interact on our terms. Not everyone wants to speak every thought. Not everyone needs to weigh in on every conversation. We aren’t “too good” to participate, we simply prefer to participate on our terms, in our time. We like to watch and listen and think. We are content with our own company. None of this means that we don’t like to go out and do things, or that we never want to talk. Introverts simply do not feel the need to do those things as strongly as other people do. When we are recharged and ready to participate in activities with other people, we’re a bit like a butterfly breaking free of a cocoon, vibrant and animated! We definitely require our quiet cocoon first, however.

Recently there was a concert listing game making the rounds on Facebook, and it reminded me how very unlike other people I am. There are several reasons why I haven’t attended concerts (money, time, desire), and I am not opposed to the idea of it, but I do not see concert-going as the pinnacle of fun. As a matter of fact, I simply don’t get worked up about music in general. This has earned me censure and a good deal of shocked disbelief over the years. I’ve had people insist that if I’d only listen to this, or try that, or “get out of the house,” I’d suddenly love it. Even if I do enjoy music I hadn’t heard before, I rarely enjoy anything that is blasted at full volume over a crowd of cheering strangers.

It’s not that I don’t like music, and even love some of it, it’s just that I really like silence. I enjoy walking outside without earbuds blasting notes and lyrics into my head, because I like the sound of birdsong and wind-rustled leaves and dogs barking in the distance. I like to hear gravel crunch under my feet. I despise, with a burning passion, unnecessary noise. I hate chatter that simply fills a silence. I bless the silence! I like to drive with the radio off. I like to clean with only the sounds of the fan running and the gentle swish of cleaner being sprayed. I just like hearing the world around me without blasting noise into it every second of the day and night.

There are, of course, times when I want to listen to music, and usually then a very specific kind of music or artist. I do enjoy it! It’s just not something I need to hear every day. Like a book that I can still envision in my mind, music plays in the background of my thoughts even when the world around me is silent. This is perhaps the most commonly expressed aspect of introversion – the “rich inner world”. It’s not that we despise the outside world and all its offerings, but that we can (and do) savor the things we experience beyond their actual duration. It’s often because we are savoring something in our thought and memory (or working out a problem, or pondering new information) that having anything intrude on that can be unpleasant and tiring. Imagine giving a presentation and being constantly interrupted with questions and demands that are largely irrelevant to the topic at hand; that is what it feels like to have the mind of an introvert.

I would dearly love it if I could fall into the blissful embrace of solitude, or sit silently pondering many things, without someone mistakenly assuming that I’m upset, or shy, or down in the dumps. Shyness is timidity, which by definition means lacking courage or confidence. Introverts are not necessarily shy any more than they are despondent merely because they’re quiet. It is much more plausible to say that introverts are simply stoic. All in all, stoicism and forbearance are not bad traits to have, and they are certainly not traits that imply one is dysfunctional. We introverts function just fine, we merely function differently than our extroverted and ambiverted friends, but we all share a commonality in that we as human beings wish to be understood and appreciated as we are.

The Pariahs

Once, in a past long before I was ever born, it seemed like people could live with each other. They could embrace and live with the contradictions among themselves. Yes, they disagreed, but at the end of the day, they could break bread and be friends and family.

Yet this no longer seems to be the case.

We live in a world today where, if you do not follow a person’s beliefs to the letter, they are to be shunned. They are to be treated as the dregs of the Earth, ostracized from common society. It does not matter what good these people do, what joy they bring to other people’s lives. The moment we stray from “socially acceptable” mores, we become…the other. A monster. The sort of being better suited to living under a bridge, terrorizing passersby with our backwardness.

It really is easier to simply believe that the trends of modern society are completely healthy. It is easy to believe that the people who oppose you deserve no seat at the table; that they deserve no voice. It is easy to claim that such people stand for hate and that hate will not be tolerated.

How true is this, though?

Is the the man who observes that only one race is demonized in public a racist? Is the accepted view that this particular race is inherently bad for the sins of centuries past not itself racist? Is it bad to point out the flaws, if not the dangers, in such thinking?

Is the man who worries about un-vetted foreign nationals entering his nation a xenophobe? Is it so wrong for him to observe the stark realities of the sorts of people who present a danger to his nation? Do these honest observations make him a nazi?

What of the man who sees his maleness as nothing to be ashamed of? As something even to be celebrated in its own unique way? Is he a misogynist for believing in the uniqueness of men and women and the necessity of letting those two things be separate?

Does this same man hate if he does not agree with the lifestyles of the LGBT community? Is it necessary that he must feel malice in his heart if he sees the views held by such as unhealthy? Is it a horror for that man to believe that maybe there is another way, a different way to think, a different way to live?

Do any of those opinions fill a man with hate simply by existing? Is there no possible good reason or decent logic for holding opinions such as these? Must it be assumed that there is only malice here and simply not another way?

Because I am that man.

I have friends like me.

But there are plenty of people in all of our lives not like us. People who hold views contrary to everything we hold dear. People who follow lifestyles at which we can only shake our heads mournfully. Yet we do not hate.

Can you say the same of yourselves?

I do not have to agree with the beliefs of my fellows to still have them enrich my life. They do not have to hold the same viewpoints, love the same things, be the same people to be of value to me. Yes, your beliefs may make me cringe, your assumptions of what I believe may make me roll my eyes, but you are not a monster to me for those things. Far from it.

No, you are not a monster, but do you think the same of me?

Because all I ever see from those who differ from me is an endless campaign of ostracism. Ceaseless attempts to demonize. No serious attempts at understanding or sharing, no real parley or discussion. There is no real need to discuss topics with racists, bigots, Nazis, or whatever else people of certain persuasions might be called today.

But I am not here to lay blame, tempting though that may be. No, rather I wonder how we have become the sort of people who only ever lay blame. Who only ever look for wrong-doing. Who only ever try to tear people down as villains, no matter their offenses. Why are we the sort of people who never listen? The sort of people who regard ourselves so highly that we can brook no disagreement without personal insult?

Will this piece make me a pariah among my peers? Am I to be cast as a monster too? Or perhaps belittled or condescended to?

I do not know. That is the scariest part of the world in which we live, for the very basic social fabric itself is always in question, always in doubt. Will we hold the same standing the day we did before, not for a crime or any sort of real wrong-doing at all, but for simply holding a thought, a view, an opinion? If we carry this course to its end, what will our culture look like on the far side?

Golden Sun Resumed

So, while I did say I was going to continue doing music posts, I did not.

I am going to say life got in the way and that’s what we are all going to believe until the end of the internet. To be fair, I have been pre-occupied with major life changes coming down the pipe, meaning less energy to put into the creative parts of my life.

Then again, this is a blog, so who am I trying to fool…

Today, I want to resume my Golden Sun playlist, begun an age ago, but never finished as I gave up on using Blogger. However, I want to change things up slightly. Previously, I was posting one song and one cover from 0rangastang’s Golden Sun Remastered album. However, because the quality of those covers are rather variable, I will instead choose a cover that I just happen to think is the finest, regardless of who made it.

Additionally, I’m going to try and keep the playlist as concise as I am able. There are a lot of themes in Golden Sun and it would not be prudent to try and share all of the ones I like. There are still a lot to come, but I will try to be more discerning in the future, to make it easier for me to come up with these posts.

With that out of the way, today’s music: Venus Lighthouse

Venus Lighthouse is Golden Sun’s final dungeon. Much like Mercury Lighthouse before it, it is a lengthy maze full of puzzles, traps, and enemies that culminates in a final showdown with Saturos and Menardi. Everything about this theme, from the vocals to the powerful percussion carries the feeling of finality that the conclusion of a great game deserves. And yet, this would prove to not be the end, but rather a new beginning for Golden Sun: The Lost Age.

That is for the next post, however. In the meantime, enjoy this Venus Lighthouse cover from OC/DC on YouTube. I honestly just discovered this cover today while searching for a video of the normal theme to use. I greatly enjoy its softer sounds and the limited usage of vocals towards the end charmed me.

Thanks for listening!

Big Announcements For Our Nerd Rage Audience!!

Last Wednesday night, we were excited to announce some big changes for Nerd Rage; unfortunately Osei had some glitches with his production software and we had to end our show early. We decided to bring you the news in the following video, and include our run down of the Walking Dead episode “Hostiles and Calamities“.

So we will be moving our show to Sundays at 7/6pm Central. This works with our schedules better and allows you, the audience, more time to catch up on The Walking Dead. We will broadcast just before the new Walking Dead episode airs, so that should reduce the chance of anyone hearing any spoilers on Nerd Rage.

We will try to keep the live, interactive show that everyone loves (hey, let us dream that you love what we do), with recordings playing on the upcoming Riot Radio. We look forward to engaging a broader audience and I, personally, think we can create some fun hashtags using the Rage and Riot themes. I’ll also be announcing more challenges and give-a-ways once we are settled into our new routine!

The Return of the Melody

Alright, so before we get into it, I ought to address the elephant in the room, namely, where this post is located.

Part of the reason I stopped posting music blogs is because I hate Blogspot. A lot. Not only is it a poor service, but I feel like it makes everything posted on it look cheap and small, regardless of quality. The problem is that I have no place else to post these things…except here.

I waffled on making posts here for a long time, though, in no small part because between me and Shannon (the other person who writes on here), we tend to post more serious, politically and culturally minded content here (when we can be bothered). And I honestly am afraid to taint Oseron Phaer with that stink, even if I take the realm of the political very seriously. I suppose no small part of it is knowing that my politics are very different from those of many of the people I know and like online and I fear alienating them, not because I am ashamed of beliefs, but because of the polarization of the culture in which we live.

But very well. I shall bite the bullet and return to sharing the music that I love…even if it’s from video games. Games have some of the most amazing music I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to and I must share that with the world.

Final Fantasy XIV Selections

“Apologies”

Ah, Sohr Khai…like The Wanderer’s Palace HM, Sohr Khai is my second-favorite dungeon purely because of its theme. Visually, the dungeon is stunning, of course, as you battle above the clouds in a bid to prove your mettle to Hraesvelgr. The theme is what drives it home, though. With stunning piano work, sparse-but-haunting vocal work, and a fast pace that gives the dungeon momentum, “Apologies” is a theme I can listen to for hours on end without growing bored.

“Ultima”

I honestly had a lot of trouble coming up with a fifth theme for this batch (yes, I know it’s the second, I reordered it), until I remembered this gem from 2.0. Honestly, any content released prior to 2.2 tends to get overlooked by me because of how unremarkable it all feels to me. It was fun, but nothing grabbed me like it should have. Indeed, this fact tends to make me think that the Ultima theme is too good for its fight; the fight does not live up to the weight and power contained within the music. All the elements of the piece combine perfectly to create an atmosphere for a titanic struggle against a foe beyond your ken.

“Exponential Entropy”

This theme was something of a surprise when I reached the Heart of the Creator in patch 3.4. It’s not that there wasn’t precedent for a piece like this; Locus is fairly mellow, despite its harsh-ish instrumentation. But “Exponential Entropy” is a different animal entirely. There’s almost nothing about it that screams “YOU’RE FIGHTING A GIANT DEATH ROBOT.” Instead, it is a calm theme, relaxing in its repeating vocals:

“Forward and back,
And then forward and back,
And then go forward and back,
And put one foot forward.”

Some might find that annoying after a point, but the song is a well-crafted piece and the repetition serves a vitally important role in making it work.

“Out of the Labyrinth”

I’ve posted before on how I believe that the Crystal Tower storyline is one of the best homages I’ve every had the joy of experiencing. Perhaps it is because the music in it recaptures many of my favorite themes from Final Fantasy III. The theme for Syrcus Tower (which is basically the Crystal Tower dungeon from III) is a perfect example of this. It takes a very fast paced theme and turns it into a slower, more epic version which better fits the pacing of the raid.

“Revenge Twofold”

Another theme that surprised me in 3.4, the new boss theme is fantastic. I was never a big fan of “Ominous Prognostics;” something about it felt too hectic, which detracted from many boss fights. “Revenge Twofold” is nothing of the sort. Instead, the pace is slower and the instruments weightier, along with vocals that hearken back to “Imagination.” All the fights that use this theme feel like struggles, even though none of them are nearly as important as ones that came before.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll return for more vidya music!

Battles with Heart

Something has been bothering me of late, and it has only just come together in my head, so let us talk about it a little.

Possible (minor) Rogue One spoilers (but not really) ahead.

Rogue One is truly the Star Wars movie I’ve wanted for a long while. Despite some weaknesses in the pacing and screenplay, it pressed all the nostalgia buttons and legitimately made me feel like a kid again. The final act is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as the final battle is exciting, emotional, and gripping. Even though the ultimate outcome is already known, the journey to the end is well worth it.

That is when it occurred to me: the Battle of Scarif is the first Star Wars battle since Endor that truly felt like an actual Star Wars battle.  What I could not quite figure out was why.  After all, the prequel trilogy is filled to the brim with fighting and duels. Very often, these battles were the highlights of otherwise incredibly mediocre movies. So what was it about this particular battle that made it better than three movies worth of battles combined?

battle_of_endor

The problem is that the prequels’ battles are merely a backdrop. They are the frame rather than the painting. The Battle of Naboo exists so that WesleyAnakin can do something cool and save the day. The Battle of Coruscant exists so that Anakin and Obi-Wan are not simply flying through empty space to save the chancellor. The battles themselves really are not important, based on how little we see of everything happening around the heroes. The battles are merely a means to get the heroes from point A to point B (in a fashion).

By comparison, the Battle of Yavin, while indeed a coming-of-age test for Luke Skywalker, is also just as much about the Rebellion’s desperate struggle against the overwhelming might of the Empire. Every Rebel pilot shot down in battle impacts the viewer in some way. The battle is not a background element; it is the story, of which Luke is a part. The story of the battle and the story of Luke compliment each other and strengthen each other.

Likewise with the Battle of Endor; we do not only see Lando Calrissian at the helm of the Millennium Falcon. We see rebel pilots like Wedge Antilles fighting overwhelming odds. The movie continually returns to Admiral Ackbar trying to save his fleet from the trap it has fallen into. Not only that, but the preceding two films laid the groundwork for the plight of the Rebel Alliance and the necessity of their cause. The viewer is emotionally attached to the fight, making it that much more intense and exciting.

Now, the Battle of Naboo contains some of these elements, but the problem is that the viewer has no real attachment to the plight of the Naboo. Any sympathy we feel for them is forced upon us by the movie’s framing rather than because there is an inherent goodness to the Naboo. At the very least, there’s nothing redeeming or enjoyable about the villains (after all, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin were cool), thus leaving the woefully underdeveloped Naboo as the only option.

George Lucas made a critical error when making the prequel trilogy. He thought the plot should be a (political) metaphor, the battles should (only) look cool, and the characters…well, they would work themselves out. It seems that he never once considered that none of these elements could make a movie to which the viewer could attach themselves emotionally. Or perhaps he forgot how to create a movie containing that emotional pull.

rogue-one-rebels-615x242-1-615x242

Emotion is why Star Wars is not merely another summer blockbuster. Emotion is why Star Wars is such a phenomenon that transcends its time. If it were another brain-dead sci-fi flick, it might have a cult following, but nothing like what we see today.

We are pained when Luke’s foster parents are murdered by the Empire, sharing in Luke’s grief. We are elated when the Death Star explodes and a costly battle for the Rebel Alliance turns out to have been worth it. We feel Luke’s shock when his lineage is revealed to him on Bespin. We feel joy when the Empire is finally defeated at Endor, emperor and all. All of these moments mean something because they have captured our hearts.

Rogue One’s greatest strength is the power of emotion and connection. It manages to do what the prequels failed to do, creating a cinematic Star Wars experience that even The Force Awakens fell a bit short on.

Embrace the Contradictions

It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means…

wednesdays
On Wednesdays we post spoilers.

WALKING DEAD COMMENTARY!

Okay, so for everyone who didn’t wimp out after Abraham and Glenn got Lucilled in the season premiere, Congratulations!! You may sit at our table.

fab-evil
I’m offering an olive branch..that’s wrapped in barbed wire.

Episode 2, “The Well,” introduces King Ezekiel and The Kingdom, which I suppose is proof that geeks and LARPers can survive the apocalypse.

haters
Become a king. Own a tiger. Be FABULOUS.

Carol wakes up after being unconscious for a couple of days due to her injury, only to find herself in this wonderland of tranquility and goodwill. Morgan takes her to meet King Ezekiel, and she almost forgets to affect her innocent act. You can tell she’s flustered, but little Sally Sunshine soon rises to the occasion and the cookie-baking Carol who fooled the inhabitants of Alexandria is once more ready for action.

punch-face
Oh, Carol, you saucy minx. We love you.

Carol is having none of this peace and plenty, though, and she lets Morgan know that she will not be staying with this group or returning to Alexandria as he had intended.

(By this time, of course, Glenn’s brain matter is decorating the ground and Rick is all crazy-eyes and snot, because Negan broke him. The group at Alexandria could use some good news and reinforcements, but Carol knows none of this and one has to wonder if it wouldn’t just make her more determined to go it alone.) 

Morgan, meanwhile, has taken a young man under his wing at Ezekiel’s request and is teaching him the ways of the Amish Ninja. You get the impression that Morgan is withdrawing his support from the #AllLivesMatter camp and making room for the possibility that some lives will have to end to preserve other lives.

shut-up
Just in time for the Neganpocalypse

It’s good that Morgan is coming to these conclusions before returning to the group, but Carol seems to need some time in the wilderness before she finds her mental balance again. She begins cheerfully and discreetly pilfering items from the residents of the Kingdom, intending to sneak away and shun whatever remnants of civilization are left, but is caught by King Ezekiel.

problem
Your problems don’t seem so bad when you’re eating a juicy pomegranate, now do they?

Zeke is cool, tho. He lets Carol in on his little secret (that he’s not a real king and stuff… total shocker!) and offers her a solution: embrace the contradiction.

He’s well aware that his kingdom exists in stark contrast to the reality of the world around him, and he’s carrying a heavy burden for the people inside his realm, but it’s the dream that makes it all worthwhile. He suggests that Carol can leave, but not, and offers to provide her with the means to go it alone if she so chooses.

feels
Don’t leave us, bae!

What follows is a solution that everyone can live with. Carol is on her own, but not, and Morgan is free to return to Alexandria. They both manage to make an impression on Ezekiel, which is promising given the possibility (necessity?) of an alliance and trade between the Kingdom and Alexandria. I’m hoping Maggie recovers and kicks butt at Hilltop, takes over management of that place, and then they can create a triumvirate with Maggie, Rick, and Ezekiel that would challenge Negan and the Saviors.

All in all, it was a very optimistic episode, in stark contrast to the premiere. It gave me some good feels, and made me hopeful again. I loved the depiction of Negan and Ezekiel as a fan of the comics, and I’m fully on board to embrace the contradictions established by these two dynamic characters. I’m excited to see where this season goes from here!

love
I can’t quit you, The Walking Dead. 

 

If you want to be part of the conversation about this and other topics, tune in to #NerdRage tonight, 9:30/8:30 central and join us in the live chat. Osei, Ruth, and I will discuss TWD and what the new developments mean for the group. We’ll discuss that other thing I wrote about, and Ruth is working on a post about the sexism of STEM and how photos of nature help ease the triggering, or something. So much nerdery! So much rage! We’d love to see you there!

 

 

 

Stop Blaming Men For Your Failures As A Woman

I recently had a friend ask my opinion of this post entitled, “Why Women Need To Start Asking Men Out…Because Men Have No Balls,” and oh boy….

what-even-face
*fights the urge to slap a mutha*

Where to begin? The most glaring stupidity is the premise of the article; that is, if men are inherently deficient, why would you want to go out with them?

low-self-esteem
Basically, this.

The author (who gave her actual name as if she’s proud of this tripe) then went on a 20+ paragraph rant about how stupid, scared, puerile, and gutless men are.

She laments, “There’s no door-holding, no hand-holding and definitely no free drinks. There’s no taking off hats or courting through invitations. There are no smooth moves, no jackets to dinner. There are no flowers, no tables by candlelight. But, most importantly, there are no dates.” Sounds reasonable, right? I mean you need a date if you’re going to be given flowers and taken to candlelit dinners and hold hands. The drinks aren’t free just because someone else pays for them, but we get the general idea…she’s describing courtship. Right?

Wrong. She then proceeds, “If you’re a single woman, you probably envisioned your twenties as a roaring social scene full of expensive dinners and lavish nights out. You probably thought you’d have a boyfriend, or at least a few dates a week.”

Uhh…at least a few dates a week?? Of expensive dinners? Several dates a week???

budget-bro
You failed math, didn’t you?

She made it a whole paragraph into her post before she begins a diatribe of such epic stupidity that I felt compelled to dissect it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps one reason men in her peer group aren’t spending lavish amounts of money on her is because they don’t have the money to spendIn your 20’s, you’re figuring out life, facing the reality of student debt, trying to establish yourself in a career, and probably living in a sparsely furnished abode with roomies. She obviously thinks a string of Christian Greys are going to vie for the honor of dropping fat stacks on entertaining and feeding her, and that they’ll be polite about it.

christian-grey
50 Shades of Delusion

She writes of the failures of men, “They’ll make eye contact with you in the bar, but never come over. They’ll get your number, but never call. They’ll offer to buy you a drink, but never pay.”

 I don’t know, maybe they’re in the bar to drink and relax, not engage with a millennial harpy.

They’ll say a girl is hot, but never hit on her. They’ll text you for a week, but never ask you out. They’ll do absolutely everything but make a move.” Apparently they just aren’t doing the hitting on and the making of the moves in the exact manner which you preferbut they are indeed making moves. You just don’t like their moves.

like-attracts-like
Just saying

She then goes on to complain that men will chase a woman down to get her number, but wait a week to text as if the only possible item on his agenda that week should have been texting her. 

Never fear, though, because M.H. (millennial harpy) has the answer!

Now, the unfortunate paradox for a woman is that she must be the chased and the chaser. She must be the target and the shooter. She must play coy and simultaneously pursue him.” 

She must complain incessantly and expect lavish dinners several times a week…

“Anyone notice the problem here? Yet again, women are left to do all the work. We’re left playing both sides of the game because they’ve simply forgotten how to play.”

Pretty sure if you’re expecting a man to invest time, energy, and funds into wooing you, calling it a game is a sure-fire way to turn him off. 

keeping-score
Lavish dinners ONLY, you man-child!

M.H. has decided that her dating woes are due to the fact that “…  men don’t know what the hell they want from us….We must tell them what they want if we’re to get anywhere close to the goals we had for ourselves.” 

Yes. Because dating is all about yooouuuuuuu, ladies! I suppose the irony escapes her that she complains about men being weak, indecisive mama’s boys, but her solution is to treat them like weak, indecisive mama’s boys who just need her guidance so that they might make her happy.

I’m curious if she and others like her ever bothered to ask men what they wanted, or if they wanted anything at all. Like my friend Doug said, “[She]  seems to assume that “normal” men SHOULD court, chase after, etc. any woman by virtue of the fact that she is a woman? This is nonsense.” It’s just possible that some men aren’t interested in the chase, and even more likely that they aren’t interested in that particular woman. 

As if her generalizations thus far haven’t been insulting enough, she posits that men are simply cowards; “They’ll never admit it, but you scare the hell out of them. After years of social conditioning, we’ve been duped into thinking that men are the strong ones…TV lied to you. Men aren’t these masculine displays of strength and perseverance. They aren’t these persistent characters..”

chandler
Because media and society have been so kind to portray men as pillars of strength.

It’s possible that the prospect of spending time with the author of that piece is frightening, but not because men are cowards… it’s because they’re sane.

M.H. then goes on to regal us with the strength and intelligence of women, and how they are forever putting themselves out there for the good of society. She does this, of course, by denigrating the women who are raising boys into men who have the audacity to actively avoid her company.

We women have to stick together, ya know.

an-idiot
I’m sure that will never bite her in the butt

Perhaps my favorite part of this inane drivel passing for quality writing at Elite Daily is this: “In the society in which we live today, with Gigi Hadid and Miranda Kerr’s Instagrams readily accessible, women have got a lot to compete with…We can dream about Channing Tatum and Chris Pine all we want, but at least women are rational enough to understand that’s just not gonna happen. So we settle for the options we’ve been given and learn to work with what we have.” (emphasis added)

I don’t know why you have such trouble attracting a man, sweetie. It’s a mystery.

picard-no-you-didnt
She’ll settle for a lavish dinner and flowers.

The coup de gras in this misandrist rant is this assertion: “Men also know that if they don’t get up the nerve to ask you out, all they have to do is swipe right on Tinder to skip the date and get right to the good stuff.” 

First, if you are calling sex “the good stuff,” you obviously don’t feel you have much else to offer. Second, unless all these potential suitors are gay, there are other women enabling this behavior. Finally, if what you want are lavish dinners and he’s obviously only in it for sex, WHY DO YOU CARE THAT HE’S NOT PURSUING YOU? It’s simply a matter of wanting different things, and you need to get down off your sanctimonious soapbox about how indecisive men are. They made a decision. They chose not you. 

the-pain
The struggle is so real.

As my friend Ruth said, “Men don’t approach women for dates anymore, because they’ve been yelled and screamed at that women are too empowered to need or want them for more than an F-bomb. And the GOOD men are looking for so much more.” 

Men who are looking for more than no-strings copulation are willing to put effort into a date. They’ll provide flowers and candlelight and the whole nine…but they are not interested in playing games with a whiny little diva who wants to use them for their pocketbook before she decides to settle for not-Channing-Tatum. If you want to attract quality, you have to be quality.

buy-me-things
There are always rich, lecherous septuagenarians if being a decent human being proves too arduous. 

It’s true that society has supplanted courtship with hook-up culture, but it’s hardly singularly the fault of men. It’s also true that, like it or not, sometimes he’s just not that into you.

big-old-mess
You can always just treat yourself to dinner.

Sex, Love, and Porn

Porn is Everywhere

Last Wednesday on Nerd Rage, we discussed sexuality and pornography. Or, more to the point, Shannon and Ruth did while I sat there trying not to have a coughing fit. This was something of an odd conversation for me to sit out, however, due to my own personal issues.

Though I talk about this rarely, I have problems with pornography.

Honestly, this does not feel like much of an admission any more. In a world where people openly declare their love of porn and their fetishes and their kinks, talking about porn like it was something to be ashamed of seems odd. Strange though it may sound to those of you who have never touched, nor even considered touching, porn, it feels unusual to be ashamed of such a thing.

Sex is so ubiquitous in our culture, we hardly think twice when we see it. The idea that anyone should feel wrong for looking at or enjoying sexualized imagery is peculiar because sexuality is so common. The very first episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage shows Luke and Misty getting it on. For three awkward minutes, the viewer is treated to kissing, stripping, and groping (lots of gratuitous groping). And while that is all that is shown, the scene is so dominant as to be out of place in the rest of the episode and first act of the season.

Or take another show, one of my favorites, Suits.  In the second season, the hero, Mike, finally gets together with the cute and whip-smart paralegal, Rachel. As is usually the course in modern media, the first thing they do is have sex. At the law firm they work at. Inside of the file room. And, not only do they have sex, but they go all the way. The whole  act is depicted from start to finish (albeit not explicitly). However, all it would have taken was a few more lost pieces of clothing and a few less discrete camera shots and it would have looked no different to regular porn.

Yes, regular, because make no mistake, that scene, and thousands of others like it, are porn. They may not draw FCC lawsuits nor will they draw a lot of views on PornHub (though they are probably uploaded there too), but they are porn. They exist to titillate, to excite, to bring the brain to think of sex outside of a healthy context. They are everywhere. And when you are a kid, the images get imprinted on you and, at some point, you are going to want to see more.

Porn’s Power

Usually it starts out small. Maybe a sexy advertisement that caught your eye. Maybe a lad’s magazine left lying out or sitting in a rack in the shop. Maybe even a website, where one mis-click sent you to a page filled with images you did not expect. It rightly does not matter what it was. What matters is that you were exposed and went looking for more, to turn that first flicker of a feeling into something big.

When porn first blossoms into that flame, it is a rush. Your eyes and mind are filled with images that you not only have not experienced before, but probably should not be experiencing. It is a bombardment that saturates your mind and fills you with its perverse sense of pleasure. The glow of that flame consumes you…for a time.

At some point, the fire will lose its intensity, its strength. The fuel that made it will burn away, but you remember the feeling. You remember the excitement, the euphoria it brought you. You want more.

You seek more.

You find more.

The first few times, it might be more of the same. What you viewed before or something similar. Eventually, however, you get used to it. You become desensitized to it. It is no longer more that you need: it is different.

Thus begins the spiral of addiction and dependence. What starts as a foray into lingerie catalogs or the “artistic” nude slowly extends itself into deeper corners. Eventually, bodies are not enough. Soon, still images are not enough. At some point, normal sex is not enough. For some, this goes far, far beyond the bounds of the “decent” and the “acceptable.” Mercifully, it has not for me. For millions of others, however….

Porn and People

Porn consumption is commonly treated as perfectly healthy and normal behavior. Humans are sexual creatures, after all, and have we not spent far too long constrained under the thumb of restrictive, outmoded moral codes? We need outlets, places where we can enjoy sex as much as we want, when we want, in whatever way we want. If it means we spend an hour or two a day watching sex on a computer screen, what does it matter?

Sex may be the subject of porn, but sex does not occur in a vacuum. In order for sex to happen, it requires one very vital thing: people. It is not just sex that you watch in porn; it is people. It does not matter if it is a single woman, man, a couple, any combination or multiplication thereof, porn requires people.

The problem is that those people are not really people, not as far as porn is concerned. In porn, those people are just big breasts, a hot body, or a nice…er, endowment. The value of a performer is not in the parts that really matter: the mind, the personality, the heart. Their value lies solely on the body. They are a piece of meat hanging in a butcher’s shop. After all, no one who watched porn has ever looked at an actress and wondered how well she can perform calculus in her head.

Day after day, we parade these images before our eyes. Maybe at first we see people, in the same way you notice someone out of the corner of your eye. But over time, we stop seeing the person. We only see the bodies. We only see the sex. We consume porn like a frat boy consumes beer. He does not stop to savor the drink, or even realize that it is cheap swill, he only wants more because he knows it better and it is “fun.” We are deadened to the person on the screen; they are only there for our pleasure. Cheap whores to be used, abused, and cast aside twenty minutes later.

Performing in porn is considered to be empowering, a way to take charge in one’s life. This is bollocks. Sex unbound does not give strength; it takes it away. Without emotion, without heart, sex turns you into someone else’s plaything. They do not care about your feelings, nor do they care about your future. The fans do not care about a person; they care about a body.

Yet, more and more people, particularly young women, get into the porn business. Not through seedy studios in back alleys, where they will be abused and forced into acts that will break them mentally. Now, they are getting into the business through the use of webcams and a bit of spare time. Young people are now willingly and gleefully throwing themselves into the business of debauchery. They get attention and fame and a following and all they have to do is expose themselves to perfect strangers from the safety of their own homes.

Porn Kills Love

It is the tagline of fightthenewdrug.org, a website committed to battling pornography’s influence. But how exactly does porn kill love? What is it exactly that prevents porn from co-existing with love?

The question is, what is the relationship between sex and love? Of course, it seems that there is no relationship between the two these days. Sex comes first, second, third, early, late, whenever, with love only being a secondary thing you might find if you bang enough people.

This is wrong though, is it not? Sex is more than just physical contact, more than just animal pleasure; it is a bond. It connects people in ways beyond what more platonic contact would. Love is an integral part of sex, in part because the latter reinforces the former.  Without the former, sex flails about, trying to find a true connection where there is none.

When sex is treated merely as a thing, the mind is still looking for a connection. Even if we deny it to ourselves, no matter how much we want to tell ourselves sex is merely animal instinct, it is something deeper in humans.

This is where porn comes in, because porn is the pinnacle of loveless sex. Not only are the people in porn committing loveless sex, the viewer is joining in vicariously. But that desire for a connection remains. Porn cannot provide that connection, but provides a shadow of it. This shadow is part of what keeps the viewer looking for more, this vain, subconscious hope that this can fulfill us.

The deeper you go, however, the more your mind becomes skewed. Love and sex become blurred, as does the purpose of each. Porn rewrites our priorities. We start seeing the sexual act as the goal and our aim is to reach that point. The people we love become objects of pleasure and satisfaction: our pleasure and satisfaction. We become so immersed in porn that we forget the person and only see the body. We begin to objectify those who we love, treating them as possessions to be abused rather than adored.

Sex becomes an all-consuming vice. Where love would give it focus and contain it, porn turns it into a monster. Sating our lust becomes our goal and lust, on its own, is never sated. There is always a new experience, a new conquest., another high. Porn kills love because all the focus is on the sex and not on the human being beside us.


This was hard to write. One of the things that porn does to you, should it get its hooks into you, is drag you into a sense of normalcy. Porn becomes habit and, thus, becomes natural. This post was difficult because I had to keep stepping back and looking into the truths of the habits I have formed. I had to look at my own ugliness…and then realize that I am not the only one.

There are millions upon millions of people worldwide who are broken by porn and do not even know it. They live in a world that tells them it is healthy and appropriate and so never realize how far gone they are. Day after day, relationships are torn apart by porn, women and men ruined by its pernicious effects. For millions of others, lives are consumed by loneliness, as people controlled by porn feel no real need to form bonds outside of themselves and their computers.

Porn kills love.

Porn kills decency.

Porn kills honor.

Porn is killing humanity, one click at a time.