Apr 262016
  April 26, 2016

Year two of the Puppy Mess (year 4 if you want to count from the beginning, but there was still some honor to the award for the first two years) and it looks worse than last year. Why worse? Because there’s a lot of squirming and heming and excuses to just go with it. Surrender is in the air. “Oh, but some of Vox’s choices are OK.” They weren’t the fans’ choices, but hey, “Vox chose OK for us so why should we be unhappy?”

Let’s take a look at how the Pups affected things. What is noticable is that it is the Rabid Pups who dominated. The Sads are a distant second. And fandom is dead last.

Here are the nominees. Red=Rabid Pup. Yellow=Sad Pup (Yellow * means the Sads were supporting that Rabid pick). Blue=Fandom.

 

BEST NOVEL

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher*
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson*
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

 

BEST NOVELLA

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
The Builders by Daniel Polansky*
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold*
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson*
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds*

 

BEST NOVELETTE

“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander*
“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu*
“Obits” by Stephen King*
“What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke

 

BEST SHORT STORY

“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon*
The Commuter by Thomas A. Mays
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao
Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle

 

BEST RELATED WORK

Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini
“The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson*
“Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness*
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Policeby Vox Day
“The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland

 

BEST GRAPHIC STORY

The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell
Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams
Invisible Republic Vol 1written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman*
The Sandman: Overturewritten by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III

 

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – LONG FORM

Avengers: Age of Ultron*
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian*
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – SHORT FORM

Doctor Who
Grimm
Jessica Jones
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic*
Supernatural

 

BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
Jerry Pournelle*
Sheila Williams

 

BEST EDITOR – LONG FORM

Vox Day
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Jim Minz
Toni Weisskopf*

 

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Lars Braad Andersen
Larry Elmore*
Abigail Larson*
Michal Karcz
Larry Rostant

 

BEST SEMIPROZINE

Beneath Ceaseless Skie
Daily Science Fiction
Sci Phi Journal*
Strange Horizons
Uncanny Magazine

 

BEST FANZINE

Black Gate
Castalia House Blog
File 770*
Superversive SF*
Tangent Online*

 

BEST FANCAST

8-4 Play
Cane and Rinse
HelloGreedo*
The Rageaholic
Tales to Terrify

 

BEST FAN WRITER

Douglas Ernst
Mike Glyer
Morgan Holmes
Jeffro Johnson
Shamus Young

 

BEST FAN ARTIST

Matthew Callahan*
disse86
Kukuruyo
Christian Quinot
Steve Stiles

 

CAMPBELL AWARD

Pierce Brown
Sebastien de Castell*
Brian Niemeier*
Andy Weir*
Alyssa Wong
So there it is. You, the regular fans, made nine choices. That’s it. The rest were hand picked by Vox or the Sads. Might you (the plural you) have chosen some of those same works/people? You might have. But you didn’t. Vox chose them. And the Pups chose the rest Y’all (going Southern for clarity) did not. Y’all chose nine and that is all. Sure you can go with the “Well, I would have…” Yes, but you didn’t. Vox did. So if you are happy with Vox handing your choices, then go ahead and just somehow say it’s all OK.

And that’s what I’m already seeing. And it started last year. George and John and Mary, much as I like them, were wrong. They went with the “Oh, just vote for the best of what’s there and it will work out.” No, that wasn’t the thing to do and it didn’t work out. This year even the Sads didn’t do that well, though they did better than fandom. Vox did. The 2016 Hugos are NOT the Hugo Awards. They are The Vox-hugo. They will celebrate the best in what Vox likes. If you go along with it, you are not voting for the Hugo winner. You will be voting for the Vox-hugo winner.

There are no Hugo awards for 2016.

 

 

Apr 172016
  April 17, 2016
twinsofevil

Ummmm. He’s the good guy…

In my quest for distraction, I started re-watching old Hammer Horror films. They are lush, know how to use color (which many have forgotten—looking at you BvS) and have a sensual tone. So yeah, some light fun. But I’ve never been a big fan. The scripts are…scant, to put it politely. There’s normally more holes than plot. Characters behave in whatever way the pseudo plot requires, FX is painfully bad (they bought the bats in one case at the local five and dime store), and no one at the company owns a map (work out the travel in The Horror of Dracula some time—try it). Plus there is the whole criminal misuse of Christopher Lee. But I can deal with those for some light fun.

But my God I’d forgotten the miserable morality. and that I can’t just forget. Hammer has the most backward, conservative to reactionary philosophy I recall at any major studio. Universal’s fright flicks were substantially more progressive thirty years earlier and RKO was epochs removed. First, there’s the view on sex. Sex is bad. Sex is very bad. Only bad people are interested in sex and they should, and generally are, punished for it. Now unfortunately that’s a common trope in horror cinema, but no one goes at it with just gusto. Why that stands out is the hypocrisy. Don’t sell your films on sex if you say sex is bad. Keep out those heaving bosoms. It gets worse with lesbianism. The Karnstein Trilogy is essentially a three film lecture on how lesbians suck (pun intended). Where there is girl-on-girl interest, much less action, there is pain and suffering and evil. Get that girl back into the arms of a man, and all is well—which they do literally in The Vampires Lovers. And like sex in general, the trilogy was sold on seeing girls with girls.

I don’t even know where to go with the puritan witch burners in Twins of Evil. They burn innocent girls, but hey, they mean well, and are godly, so realizing they may have stepped a bit over the line is sufficient. Sometimes you just burn innocent girls. It happens. No big deal as long as you kinda sorta regret it later. That slides into the strong religious feelings of Hammer. Again, film horror tends toward the conservative Christian in general, but Hammer takes it up a notice by having a film where the focus is that atheists are doomed.

I’m not even getting into their roles for women, except to say that apparently women are incapable of taking any action.

But perhaps the worst is lost on American audiences. Hammer has a huge affection for the old British class system. The rich are just better. Peasants don’t really count. Sure, all the big evil comes from the upper class but so does the great good. This is because anything that matters comes from the upper classes. Ah, but their films were about ye olden times, and that’s how things were. No, that’s how Britain romanticized things to be. And during WWII, the pop arts, with the government’s suggestion, went to work dismantling that, because it is hard to all “be in this together” if we’re not all equal. English cinema kept this up after the war, with that being the basis for most every Ealing comedy. So while everyone else was saying, “Class hierarchy is a thing of the past,” Hammer was saying, “Let’s get back to that past.” One could think it was just laziness, and partly it was. It is easier to just go with the class/religious hierarchy in horror films displaced in time. But it isn’t that much easier, and this isn’t something they could have missed. It was too important to Britain at the time. Artists, particularly film makers, were dwelling on a new social order. Hammer could not have been unaware. It was way too visible. But they shrugged and went, “You know, peasants are kinda dirty and stupid and do a rotten job of cleaning my car, and girls are scary and really shouldn’t talk or do anything but heave now and then, and anyone who isn’t an ultra conservative Christian should be kept out of polite society, and lesbians are icky—fun to look at for a moment, but icky.”

So yeah. Not a fan of Hammer Horror. Maybe some James Whale will help.

Apr 132016
  April 13, 2016

I saw the article “Why Do So Many Folks Hate Transgender People?” posted, and started writing a comment, and my comment ran away with itself, so I’m posting it separately. I wonder if it will get me in trouble again. Of late much of what I post has gotten people’s fangs showing. I find this amusing. Odd, but amusing. But then I find most of the fangs online to be amusing, and odd. Oh well.

Here’s the most important point: my comment isn’t important. That’s what most people seem to miss in their lives. Their thoughts and feelings and beliefs are not important outside of their skulls. And I fear everyone thinks they are important and should be.

The topic at hand is transgender people, and how people hate them, but it goes equally to thoughts on gays (if you are not gay), other races, other hair colors, other body types, and so many more. People who dislike transgender people for moral or esthetic or historical or simply invented reasons seem to think it is vital that they let everyone know this and that it affects society. They want people to hate them, or, ideally, make them “go away.” And people who support transgender people want their feelings to go forth into society as well, and have everyone like and respect transgender people. Both are wrong, just the first group is evil as well as wrong. It’s OK not to like transgender people. It’s OK not to like gays. It’s OK to only want to date blondes. It’s all OK. Just live your own life, and let others live theirs. Everyone doesn’t have to like the same thing. Everyone doesn’t have to have the same morality. They just have to stop thinking that their opinions matter.

So, the link goes to a list of hypothetical reasons why people hate transgender people. And all I intended to do was write a couple line comment.

Anyway, as is my tendency, I’d like to see such a list constructed by a team of psychologists after doing research rather than one person’s speculations as I am curious. But I’ll go with the idea that this list contains things that many people accept and it may be accurate.

Which puts me comfortably completely removed from my fellow human beings, because a majority of these make no sense to me. I should point out that I do not understand transgender people, not on anything but an intellectual level. To go SF hipster, I do not grok them. I also don’t understand gays. Or straight women. Or football fans. Or country music fans. Or anyone who identifies as male. Or anyone who identifies as female. Or anyone who identifies as anything. So, from the trivial to the sublime, I do not understand people’s lives. I’ve just always taken it as an axiom that my understanding was of no importance. If anything, my lack of understanding is greater support for allowing everyone else to do what they wish without my consent or lack there of—without my approval or lack there off.

Which brings me back to: this list is strange to me. #1 says that hate is easy. Is hate easy? Granted you don’t have to learn or deal with nuance, but it seems exhausting. I hate few things because it is way too much work. Hate is a hell of a lot of work. If it really does come easy to people, then humans are even more frightening than I thought. But I don’t think so. I think hate is hard. That it is there shows just how self-important people feel.

Continuing with the list, yes, I agree sympathizing with a transgender person might be difficult, and empathizing considerably harder if not impossible, just like truly empathizing with anyone. But to me, the truly alien concept is identifying with anything. This makes transgender people the same as most other people to me, which is to say, a bit strange, but so what?

I do know transgender people, but it is truly sad that people need to know someone to avoid hating them. Again, I do not understand people. The same goes for “looking/sounding different.” Now this I’ve seen in action. This does seem to be a general truth in humans that again escapes me. I think it goes back to people wanting an identity. If you claim an identity, then you are opposed to everyone who has a different identity. All very sad.

I find it fascinating that in a country that prides itself, to a bizarre, fanatical degree, on our freedom of choice, that the assumption that being transgender is a choice is enough to summon up anger and hate, but I see this too. And I do not understand it. The author states it is not much of a choice, but the true answer is whether someone believes it is or is not a choice is irrelevant. People do not hateeverything that is a choice. Although there are many fights, and have been deaths, over someone choosing a different sports team, so there is apparently weight to this reason which says something very bad about humanity.

The author’s sixth reason has perplexed me all of my life: There’s a lack of positive models. I’ve never understood role models or any kind. I’ve never had a hero. I’ve never had anyone I’ve wanted to be. I’ve watched others who idolized movie stars or athletes or musicians and it has been completely lost on me. How weak does a person’s ego have to be to require role models, and how intellectually challenged must a person be to only avoid condemning others when they see someone like them in pop culture? I’ve no doubt the author is right. I just don’t get why. I suspect if you are reading this, you disagree with me and find me harsh. You think that role models are important. I think they are focuses of ignorance, foolishness, and hate. Yeah, don’t think we’re going to convince each other.

Hating others as an evolutionary advantage is an interesting idea. I’d like to see this examined by a team of scientists—evolutionary biologists come to mind. If true, then it is good to know. People can overcome many of their instincts, though not all. If this is the case, then it is something that needs to be watched as a society.

The ninth reason again shows how out of step with normal Americans I am. I think of perverts and fetishists as the good people. Those are terms and ideas with strongly positive connotations to me. I would only call someone a pervert as a compliment. Now the author intertwines that with safety concerns, which is at least something I can comprehend as a problem and cause of fear and hatred, and I have seen this is an issue the right likes to bring up. It also has no truth to it—nothing to back up any safety concerns but fantasy, and I find it easy to ignore ideas that lack facts. Why can’t others?

And finally, we get that it is socially acceptable to hate transgender people, and again, I’m happy to be out of step with the mainstream. In general, I take social acceptability as a mild negative. I’ve never wanted to be socially acceptable, and my natural tendency is to rebel. I keep seeing the idea of wanting to be socially accepted in pop culture—in superhero films and shows and the teenage TV theme of people wanting to fit in. “Oh no!. I do not want these super powers! I just want to be a normal teenager.” Really? I’ve never felt anything close to that. Why do people want to fit in? It seems that many do, but I find this so foreign. I expect anyone wanting to attempt to seem logical will say they want to fit in so they don’t get hurt or killed. But this makes the huge assumption that the price of fitting in is worth not getting hurt, and more, that death is always to be avoided. There are far, far worse things than dying (which is a good thing as we’re all going to do it) and sometimes (often actually) safety has too high a cost. But I have a feeling that most people’s desire to fit in is not based on safety concerns. They just want to without reason.

Eugie had psychological terms for it, particularly in childhood. It seems that some children develop wanting to fit in, and are able to do so. Some want to, but cannot. Some do not want to, and do not want to be noticed. And some want to stand out. I’m of the last group. Society tends to focus on the first group, and what they become. So I can accept that people want to do what is socially acceptable, and hate what those around them hate. I can never understand it, but I can accept that it is true.

So, ten reasons. Some of them are probably accurate. Few of them I understand. Few of them match my way of thinking. But one I think is wrong. Hate is not easy. Hate takes work. Hate takes energy. Hate takes focus. It’s far easier to shrug off something and just play a video game. No, hate requires attention. I think the author is letting people off too easy. These are not innocent souls who fall into hate due to a failing. These people are working at it. They are wallowing in it. They are feeding their hate. These are abhorrent, disgusting, cruel people. Unfortunately, that describes a good portion of the human race.

I like to end things with a happy note.

Apr 082016
  April 8, 2016

batmenI thought I’d look at the live-action Batmen when Batfleck was new. Now that Ben Affleck is out, I’ve updated this page, and await WB’s newest choice for the role. Oh, there will be another.  The impetuous for this was not only Affleck getting the part, but of him creating a pretty good Batman in a horrible film. While the quality of the character is a major element in the overall quality of his films, it is far from a 1-to-1 relationship and that is never clearer than with Bats v Sups. He comes off so much better than the film. For some Batmen, the reverse is true. In some cases, other elements—emotion, theme, plot, or just fantastic effects and art direction—have more to do with the rating of the film than Batman himself.

When ranking Batmen, it isn’t just the quality of the acting. That has much to do with it, as does the charm of the actor. But it also makes a difference if Batman is frightening when he is supposed to be, funny if he is supposed to be, and complex. The best Batman should be fun to watch in a fight and in a conversation. And he has to fit his world.

A key factor is that Batman doesn’t make sense in our universe. He’s absurd by nature. After The Dark Knight came out I had a fanboy tell me, with utter conviction, that dressing up in a bat suit to fight crime would completely work in our world and makes sense. Ummmm. No. No it doesn’t.

Saying he is absurd is not an insult. Batman bypasses reality. He enters the land of myth. He exists as symbol and metaphor. This works in a comic which by its nature is symbolic. Film can have a hard time as it is often used to approach reality as closely as possible. So somehow, Batman needs to work in this medium, and there are different ways that can be done. A good Batman must explain why he dresses in a bat costume and fights crime. They do not all pull that off.

And I have to judge a person by the company he keeps. Batman surrounds himself with girlfriends, family members, a butler, and sometimes boys that he picks up. He’s not defined by his enemies (though his films might be), but he is, partly, by his friends and allies.

So, starting with #8

#8 Robert Lowrey (Batman and Robin—1949)

Batlowrey1The second screen adaptation of Batman, this follow-up to the ’43 serial is a very different critter and far more like the comics than the first. This is action and adventure, played straight. Batman is no longer a government agent (Yup, that’s what he was in ’43), but the mysterious crime fighter we all know. There is no connection between the two serials, which seemed like it was for the best as the former could be embarrassing. That said, I found some enjoyment in watching The Batman while I was only bored with this one.

Lowrey is less charming than his predecessor, making him a less compelling Bruce Wayne, but he is a more imposing Batman. He’s not in the kind of muscle-bound shape expected of post-1980s heroes, but he is powerful-looking enough. His voice is deep and strong which helps in his characterization.

batlowrey2The only positive thing I can say about his costume is that it is a big step up from the ’43 version. It’s still embarrassing. Apparently realizing this, both Batman and Robin tend to stand so that the more ridiculous aspects of their clothing are covered by their capes.

It’s surprising that between the serials Bruce Wayne’s living arrangements have been downgraded. He now lives in a two-storey suburban home, and drives a typical sedan. At least ’43 Batman had a convertible.

Batlowrey is simply dull. He’s hardly given a chance to be anything else. There’s no attempt at character development and most of his lines are procedural: “Yes Robin, the Wizard’s men will be there. We should drive down this road.” “Wait here while I find out what’s wrong. The truck is parked around the curve.” It doesn’t leave much opportunity to establish a personality.

 

#7 Val Kilmer (Batman Forever—1995)

batkilmer1Joel Schumacher started with Burton’s gothic world, and then just screwed it all up. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is wrong, besides everything, and that includes Batman. Kilmer had a spotty career before becoming the Dark Knight and a disastrous one after. He brings his good looks to the role and little else. Kilmer’s Batman isn’t fully camp, just enough not to taken seriously while not enough to be any fun. This Batman isn’t deep, isn’t haunted, isn’t meaningful, isn’t silly, and isn’t a bad joke. He isn’t anything. He’s slicker than Keaton’s—more poised. He is in control of himself. And he’s barely noticeable.

He isn’t really Batman. Kilmer could have been playing any generic action character. There are worse things than being bad. There is being nonexistent. Other versions of the character could be considered worse in multiple way, but at least they are memorable. Clooney is not good, but if you think about it, you can remember him. What do you remember of Kilmer? Perhaps only the cheesy line, “It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car.”batkilmer2

His Bruce Wayne is pretty much the same as his Batman, which is to say, generic. He edges more toward smarmy, which isn’t terrible for Wayne, but is yet another reason not to care about him.

At least he hangs with a reputable Alfred, which he needs since he also hangs with the most annoying Robin. I can’t dislike Batkilmer, as that would require some level of interest.

 

#6 Lewis G Wilson (The Batman—1943)

batwilson1Wilson was the very first Batman in a 1943 serial. For ranking, he isn’t in a fair competition. Cash was not lavished on the production, which is evident in every frame. It’s no surprise that the effects are lacking in those pre-computer times, but they were capable of costume design in 1943. I suspect little money was allocated, giving us the worst batsuit.

The fight choreography was what you’d expect from a ‘40s serial. It would have been nice for a few more bucks to go there as well as to wardrobe, but unlike the outfit, combat is mildly acceptable.

Wilson was stuck in a low budget kid’s propaganda show, that looks silly now and probably didn’t look that much better then. As a war time serial, it is painful racist, proclaiming how good it was that the government had rounded up those “shifty-eyed” Japs that just happened to also be American citizens. Under the circumstances, Wilson could only do so well. But within the limits he was bound by, he’s charming.

This Batman is not a disturbed vigilante, unable to deal with his parents’ death. He’s an agent fighting War-time spies and traitors for Uncle Sam. As Bruce Wayne, he’s a bored playboy who thinks that The Batman is a show off.batwilson2 As The Batman (it is “The Batman,” not “Batman”), he’s brave, noble, and manly, if perhaps lacking the physique we’ve become used to. A few weeks in the gym, or a costume that lifted and compressed would have elevated Wilson. As Bruce Wayne, he looks good, but not so much as Batman.

I give him a point for the cruel way he says “Oh, those are my bats. It is nearing their feeding time.” Too bad the bats are sad shadows and the “Bats cave” (yes, there is an “s”) is a tiny stage. The poor cave gets a bit of a pass since this serial created it, not the comics. Likewise, this is the first appearance of Alfred.

Batwilson’s girlfriend isn’t a detriment. His Robin is surprisingly competent and is never annoying. He beats the Chris O’Donnell version, which I understand is faint praise.

Judged purely by acting and personality, I’d move him up a slot, but there’s no getting around the shoddy nature of the production.

 

#5 George Clooney (Batman & Robin—1997)

batclooney1Clooney’s Batman finished the transition from the complicated, gothic character Tim Burton had given us to full-on camp. It is a much lesser Batman, but at least it is fully something, even if that something isn’t particularly good. Watching Batman & Robin is like watching the old TV show done with a pile of cash and updated FX. Yet it doesn’t reach the level of fun of the old TV show, nor does Clooney reach the level of that Batman. He’s helped by absolutely nothing. The script is weak, the subplot of antagonism between him and Robin make him out as a bit of a jerk, and he’s got the silliest suit of the feature films. I don’t even mind the Bat-nipples, not when there’s the spiky Bat-ears to consider. This is a children’s Batman for a children’s movie.

Clooney managed better as Bruce Wayne, as long as Wayne wasn’t require to be mentally disturbed in any way. This is suave Wayne. Clooney just was Clooney, and since the actor is a suave millionaire, he pulled that off fine. And in this world, Wayne doesn’t need to be nuts, since apparently people run around in strange outfits all the time. batclooney2I have to assume Bruce’s neighbors get up each day and put on their ferret outfits before going to work.

Joel Schumacher has a lot to answer for.

There’s not much positive I can say. Few people thought this Batman succeeded, including Clooney. But it matters not only how good he is, but how well he succeeded in what he was meant to be. Batclooney was meant to be an empty, uncomplicated, light-weight, kid’s Batman. And that he was.

 

#4 Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice/Justice League—2016/2017)

batfleckbrucePoor Ben. He didn’t have a chance. It is hard to say what’s right and wrong with his portrayal as it is so inconsistent, due to no fault of his own. Zach Snyder wanted a worn and gritty Batman who might get raped in prison (yeah, he said that). Warner Bros wanted a Batman that would sell tickets. Affleck wanted not to be embarrassed. Well, it looks like no one got what they wanted.

In BvS, Affleck looks the part. As a world-wearied Batman, he nails it. His speech and the pain evident on his face all proclaim this is a Batman who has been beaten down over and over again, but has been giving better than he’s been taking. In Justice League, he’s sometimes that, but other times he’s a quip machine, and quite often he’s just tired and bored. He worked out to create the Batman body, but by the re-shoots, he’d given up and lets the suit do the work for him. Affleck was screwed over by the studio and he just gave up, and it shows. As the scripts didn’t know what Batman was supposed to be, the only guy who had a vision (Synder) had a horrible vision, and that “vision” was stripped away in re-shoots and editing, Batfleck isn’t anything.

His Bruce Wayne isn’t substantially different than his Batman, but that is alright since the years have worn them both out. And I can perfectly believe in this Wayne. Millionaires can have all hope beaten out of them too. Well, at least that’s what he was in BvS.

batfleck1His fighting skills are a mixed bag as they are so obviously computer enhanced. I like CGI, but mainly if I can’t tell it is CGI. Even with the post production polish, he’s a reasonably exciting Batman to watch in a fight, though there’s no real wow factor.

As a thinking Batman, he falls apart. Batman is the great detective, a genius with gadgets. This Batman is incapable of snooping in a house, is fooled by a psychopath, and really comes up with no workable plan. You can put it down to rage, but that doesn’t make him a better character. It just explains the problem.

And then there is the question of him dressing in a bat outfit. Likes Bale’s version, Batfleck has anger issues (sometimes), which explains him going out punching and even branding criminals. But he just isn’t odd enough to have said one day, “Hey, I think little ears on a cowl would be a great idea.”

He gets a point for hanging with a superb Alfred.

 

#3 Christian Bale (The Dark Knight trilogy—2005-2012)

batbaleMany choose The Dark Knight as the best Batman film, but Bale rarely ranks so high. The three Nolan films work based on the larger twisting structure and themes more than Batman himself. Bale’s Bruce Wayne is generally considered a good one, but his suited Dark Knight ranks lower. Partly that’s due to his sanity. He’s too in control. But mainly it is his voice, and that flaw falls on Nolan. Instead of the roughness Keaton added when fighting crime, Bale goes for full on cancer-voice. It’s a cross between unintelligible and laughable. And it only got worse in the second film when Nolan decided to tweak it beyond human capability in post production. Kevin Conroy, the voice of the animated Batman stated that the voice was ridiculous and Bale needed to stop doing it—if anyone should know, it is Conroy. It was a running joke in The Lego Movie, whose Batman would rate very high on my list if I was including animated films.

While Bale’s Wayne ranks higher than his Batman, it is mainly due to the complexity of his character. His lack of warmth makes it hard to ever feel for him. And he’s not nearly nuts enough to go around dressing like a bat. He’s got big time anger issues, but those would surface in violence, not violence dressed as a flying mammal.

batbale2I rank Batmans/Waynes on their entire personalities, including what they like—that means their relationships count. And Bale’s Wayne has the worst taste in women. If there is one consensus amongst fans, it is that Rachel is terrible. Much of that comes from the primitive acting talents of Katie Holmes (Maggie Gyllenhaal was better when she took over, but better does not mean good), but whatever the cause, his dating life is not a plus.

No one could question Bale’s commitment. And his physicality is impressive. Plus, when it comes to expressing those anger issues, he’s a genius (perhaps more than is good for him considering his famous rant on the set of Terminator 4). But Bale himself acknowledges that he never quite succeeded, and he prefers Adam West.

 

#2 Adam West (Batman: The Movie -1966)

batwest1If you are going to go camp, go all the way. Adam West is the most earnest Batman in the silliest of settings and that makes it all OK. His voice alone elevates him above the also-rans below. He’s a comedy Batman who never acknowledges the joke, but lives it. Not everyone wants a pure, virtuous, noble, unshakeable, always calm, kindly, polite Batman, but if you do, here’s your guy.

Batman is inherently silly. He’s a symbol and has real problems when taken literally. This Batman recognized the absurdity and runs with it. The entire world is a joke—enjoy it.

West looks the part of Batman, both handsome and powerful. No, he doesn’t have the six-pack build, but that has rarely been the sign of physically strong men but of ones who have a trainer who has muscle definition machines. And as both Wayne and Batman, he speaks like a god. His velvet tones gives depth in the middle of the ridiculous.

batwest2The only problem with this Batman is if you are just against the concept of a funny, joyful, good-time, camp Batman. If that notion upsets you, then no Batman that fits that will be to your liking. But figure, of all the camp Batman you could have, would any other have been better? For what he is, he’s the best.

And I do give him points for his companions. He has a solid Alfred, a perfectly fitting Robin, and even an amusing Aunt. And if you do not like Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, I fear there is no help for you.

 

#1 Michael Keaton (Batman/Batman Returns—1989-1992)

batkeaton1It shouldn’t be a surprise who tops the list. In the great Batmen debates of the last twenty years, Keaton usually comes out first and I can’t imagine that Affleck will change that.

I remember when Keaton was cast. Batman fanboys went nuts. He was wrong in everyway. He was too comic. He was too short. He wasn’t like their fantasy. Well, they were wrong.

Keaton nails the two sides of the character, Bruce Wayne and Batman. His Batman is dangerous, and for the first, and only time, Batman is scary beyond his violence. His is the only Batman that could frighten criminals in a fundamental way, not just because they don’t like getting beaten up. There’s something unhinged about him.

While Batkeaton is treading the line of psychosis, his Bruce Wayne is even better. No reasonable man would choose to dress up like a Bat to fight crime. Bale’s Bat and Batfleck are both emotionally messed up, but primarily they suffer from anger issues. Keaton’s Wayne is more substantially disturbed. Yes, he’s angry, but it is so much more. This is the only Bruce Wayne I can believe would choose to become Batman. I could believe him choosing to wear a mask made of human skin and carry a chainsaw too.

batkeaton2Sometimes the phrase “gritty realism” is brought up around the Bale Batman, but it is always inaccurate. Keaton’s Batman is by far the most realistic. As an actor, he has a talent of being an every man. He’s someone you can imagine seeing at the grocery story. But at the same time, he can embody insanity, a lack of control, and a ruthless dedication. That is Batman.

He does well in the fights and his costume is one of the best, though it shows some mobility problems. He also has a quality Alfred.

I’ve enjoyed several other Batmen, but only Keaton has been a total success. When recently asked if he, like Bale, felt a bit of jealousy at someone else playing the part, he replied that he didn’t, because he was Batman, and was secure in that. Which is why he is Batman.

 

Apr 072016
 
three reels

Select people are resurrected immediately after death to take part in a survival “game” that has real consequences for the world. They are sent out to kill actual monsters in the cities of Japan. If they fail within the time period allotted, they are killed. If they kill enough monsters, they can choose greater weapons, to resurrect a colleague killed in the game, or to have their memories erased and leave the game.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Gantz is based on a video game; there is one now, but that came later. It started as a manga, then became an anime series. Two live action films followed which were not consistent with the other versions. And now, there’s this 3D animated version.

Don’t expect an explanation. Who is running the game? Why are they running the game? Where do the monsters come from? None of those questions are answered, but that’s surprisingly not a major problem as the characters don’t know either. This is a war and we’re thrust in the middle of it with conscripted soldiers. The focus is on the combat, and on how the characters react to combat. The fights are fast and innovative, and against some disturbing, twisted creatures. I was looking forward to each ghastly addition. Unfortunately there’s a lot of pausing while heroes pose, either to look cool or to increase tension. Instead it halts the action and left me wondering why these guys didn’t just kill their opponents instead of waiting to get killed. It is much like many kung-fu flicks and spaghetti westerns, and I don’t like it there either.

The computer animation is impressive—the best I’ve seen. We’ve passed through the uncanny valley and come out the other side. This is miles ahead of the latest Final Fantasy film. Movements and expressions look human and lighting and camera work is what I’d expect of a well shot live-action film.

The dialog seems to be wanting, but as I don’t speak Japanese, I’m stuck guessing from the subtitles. Perhaps it is brilliant in Japanese. Probably not. Certainly the dubbed version (yeah, I tried that one too) doesn’t help. Perhaps the 23-year-old mother we are supposed to love makes sense in Japanese. With the subtitles I had to assume she was a sociopath who’d been confined to a box for the last fifteen years—she doesn’t seem to believe that anyone, ever, saves anyone else. Yeah, probably not on her making sense as well.

For what it is, for a CG combat picture focused on weird monsters and swords and guns and decapitations, Gantz: 0 is top of the pack and enjoyable. Don’t ask more from it.

Apr 052016
 
four reels

At a military base, ten years after a fungal plague kicked off the zombie apocalypse, a group of unusual children are kept in cells, allowed out only when strapped into chairs. Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is one of those children, happy even while abused by her military captors, particularly Sgt. Parks (Paddy Considine). She’s the best student in the class taught by Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), the only one who treats the kids with kindness. Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) experiments on the children. On the day the doctor takes Melanie, the based is attacked.

Just when I’ve once again declared zombie films to be dead, we get The Girl With All the Gifts, an emotional, exciting, and original take on that too often used sub-genre. We simply don’t see this skill and talent in zombie films, or most films generally. Everything works on every level.

It starts with a screenplay, adapted by the Mike Carey from his novel, that doesn’t play into cheap stereotypes. Everyone has reasons for what they do and speaks like  a real person would. We’re not handfed anything. We’re dropped into a story in progress with explanations coming only when they are both needed and when it makes sense. No one just decides to rattle off recent history or the rules of the game for the hell of it. As for theme, there are several that wrap around each other, but man’s inhumanity to man is a good place to start. It’s also good to brush up on your Greek mythology. You’ll be left with plenty to think about.

It was nice to see Geema Arterton finally given a good part. She’s an excellent actress who should be an A-lister, but over and over she’s ended up in works that don’t have depth. Here is her part, and she sings in it. Paddy Considine, an actor I didn’t recall, though I’ve seen apparently seen him in films before, is as good as Arterton. And this is the best performance by Glenn Close in a very long time. As for Sennia Nanua, there is no excuse for her not being nominated for an Academy Award. She was twelve? So what. She was excellent. Director Colm McCarthy deserves praise as well. Beyond his apparent skill in working with actors, this is a well shot film, with beautiful and breathtaking mise-en-scène, stuck between brutal carnage. I’ll have to keep to vague compliments over specifics as I don’t want to give away too much as this is a film worth experiencing without pre-knowledge.

Train to Busan was 2016’s hyped zombie film, but it is a lesser league. The Girl with All the Gifts seems to have been loved by everyone who’s seen it, but it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. This is an excellent film and one of the very best zombie films.

Apr 042016
  April 4, 2016

After a year and a half, I still hate grocery shopping. Nothing destroys me like grocery shopping. I’m sure other things could, but I do not do those other things.

Partly it is reminders. Shopping for food is filled with reminders. There is something Eugie would have enjoyed. That was a favorite snack of hers. Oh, I always skipped that because she didn’t like it. I used to buy two of those, but now I buy one. Yes, far too many reminders.

But more it is because it gives me time to think, and thinking is very bad. My mind wanders, and there is nowhere good that it will go. Other activities give me a chance to think as well. Driving is good at that. Any waiting or traveling excels in allowing my thoughts to flicker about. Which makes those things to avoid.

If I could cease thinking, that would be a gift. And at home I do a good job of just that. I am a master of self-distraction. I can take my mind on a thousand trivial journeys. Books and movies are good for that, as long as I choose carefully. The Internet is better. Ah, the Internet is a gem. Facebook alone is a giant gapping hole I can get lost in. All those angry people. All that rage. All the claims of offense and the far vaster number of pointless insults. All the politics that everyone finds so very, very important. Little of it is important to me. Little of life is, so it is a given, but that truth shines a bit brighter online. I never get angry in the midst of all that anger (although many have ascribed to me that emotion). I am an observer. Rage is left for those who care, and in any case, anger to me was always a personal matter. You don’t find rage in a thousand deaths—those numbers are statistics and you calmly find a way to fix the problem. No, rage comes with one death. One pain. Anger is always singular, and in the first person.

I don’t laugh at what I see either. That’s not the way of observers. And I don’t want to laugh. I have no interest in emotions of any kind, since emotions tend to grow, and when they become strong, they always go to the same place for me. And that defeats the point. The point is distraction. The point is to take me away from feeling. And as I said, I’m good at that.

I have to be good at that. In a year and a half, nothing has changed. People like to lie. They like to lie to me which I suspect allows them to lie to themselves: That things will get better. It is an absurdity. Why would things get better? By…forgetting? By abandoning what was? No, things getting better or worse here depend on actual, real things, and nothing actual, real, is going to change. Without a handy resurrection spell, things will not get better. And like anger and laughter, I have no particular interest in things getting better. People in recent years have adopted the philosophy that life is about happiness. That the goal of life is to be happy. This is a very new occurrence, but so many cling to it as if it has always been the case and it is natural and ordained by the universe. It is not. Far more people in the history of the world have spent their lives trying to “be good” or “be honorable” or any number of other things. Happiness is not the meaning of life, and while I have been happy most of my life, far more than most people I know, it is not my goal. It is a thing, like other things.

And some who see anyone not happy, or see themselves not happy, want to start giving their advice on depression. It must be clinical depression. There must be therapies and drugs to kick this sickness. But I was married for twenty-six years to a psychologist. I’m not allowed such self-deception. Depression is a mental illness. It has meaning. It has effects. It is not simply equivalent to a lack of happiness. Some people need the crutch of calling themselves sick, or more often, need for others to be sick. I do not need that. Depressed is not depression. Pain is not depression. Don’t mix them up. It is not fair to those who are sick.

Which leads me back to, I went grocery shopping today. And I hate that. And no, I do not intend to come up with some method to avoid that chore. I plan to distract myself again. Because that is what I can do. Hell, that is what most people do whenever they watch a game or go out to a bar or fiddle with a hobby—distract themselves from lives that are not what they wish they were. I didn’t do that. I didn’t need distractions. And now I do.

Time to read Facebook…

Apr 042016
  April 4, 2016
kurtisadolt

Kurt, being a dolt and mistaking the meaning of the word “can’t”

Yes, I think the meme is poorly thought out. But this is a branch off a discussion, so figured I’d keep the ill-considered meme that started it.

The topic of “political correctness” popped up, as it does a few hundred thousands times every day on the Internet, this time over on L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright’s page. It had much of the regular points—me saying it is simply a meaningless prejoritive used by people without manners, that and my implications of the cowardice connected to people who just can’t bear to say something for fear of people on the Internet being mean to them (and yeah, I feel the same about anyone on the left who can’t deal with the horrors of disagreement). Other people claimed it is a deep problem that “silences” and hides truth. That’s the normal stuff. It is impossible not to see that every day if you read forums or FB byond close friends.

But the host supported her side with something somewhat less common (meaning only seen thousands of times a day online). That is, that people may lose their jobs due to the stifling control of political correctness. In my Internet rounds, I see this position most often over on Sarah Hoyt’s blog, where this problem is connected to Marxists and Cultural Marxism. But Hoyt and Hoyt’s follower’s views are easier to dismiss for that connection (the cry of “Cultural Marxism” has been an anti-Semitic tactic since early in the last century when it was used in an attempt to keep German Jews fleeing Hitler out of the U.S.). So let’s disconnect it from that, even if that is how I most frequently see it, and instead look at it in a more pure state.

Political Correctness threatens people’s jobs.

OK. How? The example from that other thread is that researchers who disagree with climate change are afraid to speak up due to fear of losing their job. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good example for it brings up an obvious alternative—that is that researches who do not do a good job fear losing their job. Which they should. If 99 researchers do an experiment and get X, and 1 guy does it and gets Y, then the most likely reason is because 1 guy did it poorly. And that’s what we have in climate change research. But lets get past that and make this more general, to take out the notion that the employee is bad at his job while keeping in mind the nearly meaningless nature of the term “PC.”

So, how can someone lose their job due to political correctness?

  1. He could say something that is offensive to other employees or the boss thus damaging productivity.
  2. He could say things that are offensive to the general public
  3. He could say something that indicates his disagreement with the boss.

Number 1 is no doubt what most supporters of “the evils of the PC police” see. “Oh no, I cannot say my perfectly reasonable beliefs about my faith or my guns or my support of Trump without getting fired.”

Two huge problems with the self-victimhood of this. First, a majority of the time, when someone says something that is offensive to other employees, it is because it is an insult. He is being rude and insulting. Calling an Asian coworker “slant eyes” is not speaking truth, it is being an ass. And while the First Amendment does protect your right to be an ass, your employer is under no obligation to keep you around. You can say “slant eyes” but you also must deal with the non-governmental consequences of doing so.

“Ah,” says the Fan of Accusing People of Being PC, who I shall call George from now on, “but what if I am not insulting anyone but simply discussing how I really like my guns.” OK, so in those few cases where it isn’t a personal or racial or sexual insult, does George have a point. No, he does not. Lets flip it, politically. I’m a vegetarian. Try and find a group less liked than vegetarians. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Search for memes on Facebook. Apparently, we are just the worst. Far worse than gun enthusiasts. Hell, even The Daily Show makes fun of us. Not only am I a vegetarian, I’m an animal rights advocate. So, yeah, not popular.

But, don’t I have a right to talk about vegetarianism and my animal welfare positions at work? Yes, and my boss has a right to fire me over them. If my beliefs disrupt the work environment, then I can get booted for them. Choosing to be a vegetarian, or a gun nut, are not civil rights. So, I don’t talk about animal rights at a job, unless it happens to be for an animal shelter. This goes back to Larry’s famous “I’m starting the Sad Puppies because people were mean to me at a party about my love of guns and that’s unfair!” rant. Here’s the rule: Don’t talk about your beliefs in situations that will make others uncomfortable unless that’s the point. If the point is to do your job, then shut up about guns and vegetarianism.

“Hey, but my religion is a civil right!” Correct George. Which means the boss cannot and should not consider it one way or the other with regard to your hiring and firing, and if someone at work is upset about your religion and complains, it is he who is in trouble. It does not, however, mean you get to start talking about your beliefs. You can, but your boss can fire you for it if you are disrupting the work place by promoting your views. I can be a Catholic (and I’ve got some kick ass rosaries), but that doesn’t mean I can start preaching at work.

Point 2 is pretty much the same as 1. You are allowed to love Hitler. You are allowed to say so. You are allowed to be a vegetarian, and say so. You are allowed to love guns, think women should stay at home barefoot, that Black (or Whites, or Asians) are inferior, that foreigners are smelly, that harming a cat is morally equivalent to harming a human, that looking at a woman is raping her or that having sex with an unconscious women is not raping her, that Marx was right all along, that all men are sexist, that men are the ones truly oppressed, and that it is time for the revolution, and you can sing it to the skies.

And your boss is, and should be, allowed to fire you for it. If you take positions publicly that damage the company, then the company has a right to dump you. It doesn’t matter if your position is right or wrong. As any good protester knows, there are costs for fighting for what you believe in. Now, again, most of the time, you are probably just a jerk. But your boss doesn’t need to worry about that. He has to worry about if you are harming the company. Want to proclaim how swell Hitler is? Or cats? Start your own company. Or starve. Actions, particularly right actions, have costs. And this isn’t some new “PC” thing. This is the way it has always been, and how it always needs to be.

Which leaves us with you disagreeing with the boss. Hoyt and crew were terrified by this. “Ah, say a politically incorrect things and you can be fired!”

Grow up.

This isn’t “political correctness.” This is life. Deal with it professional victims. Guess what? People don’t like other people to disagree with them. And if they are the boss, they can fire you for it. So? Here’s a clue. Don’t disagree with the boss. If my boss loved guns, I would not go in and tell him that guns should banned. If my boss loved barbecue (and my boss did), I would not go in and tell him he was being an immoral slime bag. If my boss supported Trump, I’d keep my support of Sanders to myself and if he supported Sanders I’d suggest Trump supporters do the same. Your personal views are yours, and personal. You do not need to talk about them. Talk about something else. I believe “Game of Thrones” is quite popular.

“Ah,” says George, “But what if, like in the other thread example, my views are not about personal things, but are job related?” Well then, you can bring them up if it is your place to do so in the company, or just shut the hell up. You can take a chance, and see where it takes you, but getting fired is an option. Your boss gets to decide. I worked at an insurance company for many years. I think insurance companies are dishonest leeches on society. Guess what I didn’t say at any meetings?

“But how can the company improve without my brilliant idea?” Maybe it can’t because the boss is stubborn. Or maybe it does because your idea sucks. Either way, it isn’t your call. You can go for it, and maybe win the boss over. Or maybe get fired.

No, this isn’t “political correctness.” It is how people work and how business works. It seems it is always right wing and libertarian folks who want to claim this is a big problem. But tell me, keeping with those right wing or libertarian philosophies, do you really want laws that force an employer to put up with whatever wild things every employee wants to say and do? Forget laws–do you even want that to be the socially normal and acceptable way to act? Do you want to tie the hands of business owners? Remember, if you have some kind of job protection that lets you announce that guns are great and we need them in the schools or that climate change is a hoax, then the guy in the next cube can spout Marx and the workers control of the means of production or say how Jesus is a lie, and the weird guy in the end office can give his Nazi salute and suggest how brilliant it would be to stomp all babies to death.

I taught philosophy at a university. At the end of the semester I gave my students a questionnaire on what they thought my beliefs were. And they had no idea. Why? Because I kept them to myself.

So, what about those climate change deniers from the other thread who fear for their jobs? Well, if their jobs aren’t about doing climate research, then they need to learn to shut up. No one wants to hear about vegetarianism either. If their boss really doesn’t like their views, then don’t talk about them with the boss. And if they are climate change researchers? Well, discounting that they are just really bad at their jobs, which is my guess, then it depends just how much it is their job. If their job is not making grand claims about the entire field, then they do their job and keep their grander beliefs to themselves. If their job is actually to make a large, general statement, then they make it, and let the dominos fall. This also isn’t “political correctness.” Only a bizarre wing of the far right has made any of this political. It is scientific disagreement. And sorry, you can get fired for that. Always have, unless you have tenure. Which begs the question: Who are these people making grand statements about a scientific arena who lack academic tenure? Because that sure makes them sound like people who lack the credentials to make grand statements and should just keep their mouths shut. But I suppose that is besides the point, except for the keeping their mouths shut part.

Or they can just say whatever they want, and accept the consequences. Because that’s not political correctness. That’s life. I believe the phrase is, freedom isn’t free. Yelling “political correctness” doesn’t get you out of life. It doesn’t excuse you from consequences, and if you think it does, you are an idiot whose views of society would create the totalitarian state you claim to abhor—if you were consistent anyway.

Which all comes down to, no one is losing their job due to political correctness nor should they fear doing so. They are losing their jobs because they are rude and insulting, or because they are inconsiderate by disrupting the company, or because they are causing the company to lose sales, or because they are personally upsetting their boss, or because they won’t follow their boss’s lead, or because they are bad at their jobs. That’s how jobs work. Don’t want to lose your job? Don’t do those things. Political correctness has nothing to do with it.