Friday, May 20, 2016

TV, It Is A Changin'

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Last week I commented on Facebook that I think Marvel does better movies, but DC does better live action TV. I backed my assertion by saying, I love the DC shows; Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, IZombie, and Gotham; but the last 2 Superman movies blew chunks. On the flipside, Marvel's Avengers & X-Men movies are great, but I struggle through Agents Of Shield.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.

A friend of mine, Kyle, responded by pointing out that Netflix’s DareDevil is one of the best comic book dramatizations being produced today. While I had no trouble agreeing with his statement, I hadn’t thought of web based productions as being “TV” shows before. In my mind, TV shows were shows people watch on a TV set. Apparently, I had been a victim of old fashioned thinking.

Certainly there are reasons to think of online content as belonging to the realm of TV. When the sitcom Community was cancelled by NBC, Sony struck a deal with Yahoo to stream a sixth season online. Additionally, Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black have each beat broadcast shows to win several Emmy Awards.

While the definition of a TV show has evolved to refer to episodic material which can be viewed on a number of devices, in my mind there is fundamental difference between online fare and traditional broadcasts.

The day after a traditional broadcast, viewers can gather around the proverbial water cooler and say, “Did you see that last night? Man, Kunta Kinte stuck to his guns.” However, web content is released a season at a time. This allows people to view material at their own pace, but it eliminates that next day chat and sense of community.

Everything changes and evolves, thus is the nature of the universe. I just hope that as the nature of TV progresses, we don’t sacrifice the aspects which bring people together.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Have To Speak Up

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Back in October, I was on a coffee date with a friend of mine, and I kind of turned her off by talking politics.  I felt bad, so during the holidays I made a resolution to keep political opinions to myself.  Boy, did I pick the wrong year to make that resolution!
 Mr Donald Trump New Hampshire Town Hall
Subject: Mr Donald Trump New Hampshire Town Hall | Date: 08/19/2015 | 
Photographer: Michael Vadon |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
I did quite well for the first four months of the year.  Then, Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee for the G.O.P., and I could no longer hold my tongue.  Sorry Mallorie.

OK, I wasn't going to vote Republican no matter who they put up, but this selection seems especially misguided.  Don't take my word for it though, look at some of his own statements.

1. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

So, not only is he going to build a wall to keep an undesirable race of people out of our country, he's going to bill an already impoverished country for a project which they have NO say in.

2. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” (sic)

First of all, Mexico isn't "sending" anyone. We're not being invaded by squads of Mexican operatives. Poor people are scrambling across our borders looking for hope. As for the idea that Mexicans are rapists, according to the Sexual Assault Report Online, "The average age of rapists at arrest is 31. Fifty-two percent are white."

3. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”

Science must be for them thar other folks.

4. "The point is, you can never be too greedy."

Now there's a fine example for our nation's youth.

5. “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”

The World Trade Center fell on September 11 (9/11), 2001. I want a President who doesn't confuse a national tragedy with a place to buy Big Gulps and Slim Jims.

I chose these quotes from a list of many more at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/550112/donald-trump-quotes.

Supporters of Trump say they chose him because, "he's not a politician."  This sounds good.  It brings forth mental images of Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith ripping the U.S. Senate a new one.

However, there's a problem with this kind of voter reasoning.  Politicians have made a career of politics, and they know how to work the system.  Donald Trump comes from the business world.  He's used to giving orders and having people obey, no matter what outrageous statements he makes.  Washington can't work that way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Playing It Safe

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Andrew Golota (on the left) vs. Kevin McBride at the Madison Square Gardenh
Subject: Andrew Golota (on the left) vs. Kevin McBride at the Madison Square Garden | Date: 10/06/2007 | Photographer: Charlie |This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
For a few years there's been a movement to ban kickoff in pro football in order to make the game safer.  In a similar vein, a movement wants to ban head punches in boxing.

Both movements are products of an attitude that people need to be protected from anything dangerous or risky.  That way of thinking drives me crazy.

I wrote about a similar issue a few years ago, and I included a long lost of injury statistics.  I'm not going to do that this time, because the numbers are 100% beside the point.

Football is dangerous.  Boxing is dangerous.  That being said, not everything dangerous should be illegal.  People have a right to chose what to do with their bodies.  If people don't approve of full contact sports, THEY DON'T HAVE TO WATCH IT!

It's the same mindset as wanting to ban smoking in bars because some people don't approve of it.  If someone doesn't approve of smoking, THEY SHOULDN'T GO TO BARS!  Smoking may be dirt stupid, but people should have the right to do it.  Of course, if they smoke for 30 years, they shouldn't be able to sue tobacco companies.  Part of making choices is accepting the consequences.

Likewise, people have a right to participate in full contact sports.  However, if they do, they shouldn't be able to sue the league when they get a concussion.  Full contact sports involve FULL CONTACT!  You play the game, you take your chances.  But, that doesn't mean we should water down the game.

We can build safe cars, recall dangerous baby cribs, and do 1,000 other things to protect each other.  Yet, we'll never be able to make life 100% safe.  We shouldn't try.  People need to be free to be people, not robots.

A wise man once said, "Sitting in church, eating bran flakes is safe.  You take your chances with everything else."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Those SUPER Heroes

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Subject: Heroes of Marvel Live | Date: 03/05/16 |
Photographers: James Kiester & Bonnie Kiester | This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |

Recently, I was at Portland's Moda Center (home of the Trail Blazers), watching a Marvel Comics based stunt show.  A few years ago I wrote a blog about comics as pop lit, but as I scanned the crowd of children and adults, many of which were dressed as their favorite character, I began thinking about America's love of superheroes.

I was 8 years old when Christopher Reeves first donned Superman's cape on the silver screen.  Not having seen a mainstream comic book superhero in a full blown movie before, I remember being giddy with excitement.  Equally rare in those days, were live action superhero TV shows.  When characters such as The Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman did make the air waves, they were almost always pitted against non-super "realistic" criminals.

Fast forward to today; audiences can watch a variety of super-based shows.  From DC Comics we have The Flash, Arrow (Green Arrow), Legends of Tomorrow (featuring a Justice League-like team), Supergirl, Gotham (a Batman prequel), IZombie, and Lucifer.  Meanwhile, Marvel Comics produces Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, Dare Devil, and Jessica Jones with Luke Cage (Power Man) coming in the fall.

In addition to these televised offerings, in 2016, movie goers can see Deadpool, Batman Vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, and Doctor Strange.  Then in 2017 fans have Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League: Part 1 to look forward to.

Given their dominant media presence, one has to wonder what's fueled these heroes' increase in popularity.  I can think of three possible explanations.

  1. Those with the purse strings fund the arts.  During the Renaissance the Catholic Church was arguably the wealthiest organizations in the world.  As such, they funded the works of artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Pachelbel, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Verdi.  Today, thanks to toy and comic book sales, DC & Marvel are multi-billion dollar companies who can afford to fund block buster projects.
  2. The audience has changed.  From the 30s through the 70s, comic books and super heroes were primarily for kids.  In the 80s the kids of the 70s kept reading their favorite titles, and comics began to evolve to adapt to the older audience.  These days comic shops have a large general section and a small section of child friendly comic books.   Since adults are driving the market, movies & TV shows are being mass produced for those adults.
  3. We need a simplistic escape.  Typically, it's rare to see a morally complex super villain.  These baddies usually want to steal a valuable object (a diamond, secret plans, etc...), kill someone, or enslave a population.  In response to this threat, a noble hero rises to protect us from evil.  Given this moral simplicity, it may not be a coincidence that Superman became popular just as Hitler was coming to power.  Perhaps dark times make us long for symbols of hope, fictional or not.  If that's the case, it's not surprising that a country which continues to squabble over marital rights, and  has been at war for 14 years, has latched on to superheroes.