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102

Marvel, We Need to Talk

Fail, God Of Comics, Opinion, Reviews

April 3, 2017

Oh, Marvel. Your comics were doing so well.

I mean, sure, you’d accidentally turned Iron Man into a villain with Civil War and spent the better part of a decade trying to fix the damage you did there only to finally give up and hit the cosmic reset button on your whole universe. Or the time you had Doc Ock turn into Spider-Man, which wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if the writing wasn’t terrible and your editorial board hadn’t doubled down on no, guys, for real, this is what we’re doing going forward. It wasn’t, we knew it wasn’t, and being lied to in the age of internet is kind of a turn-off. Mind you, that’s not the worst thing you’ve done with Spider-Man (hi, One More Day!), but you seemed to have things under control with your side comics: Spider-Gwen, Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur, Mighty Thor, Unworthy Thor, Ghost Rider… you’ve got a lot of good going on.

And then…

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

This wonderful little bit of what comes to us from David Gabriel, the VP of Sales over at Marvel Comics. He then followed up by adding that the aforementioned female minority characters are popular and some of their best sellers but that they’re not going to be doing more of them because people don’t like them.

Wait, what?

Have you been to a comics convention? We just got back from Emerald City Comic Con, where 90, 000+ people showed up to show their love of the medium. Here’s a link where you can check out photos of the event, and you should be able to see a good cross section of obvious minorities, David. That doesn’t even take into account the non-visible minorities; the people that look like the cis-white males you think you’re catering to but are actually somewhat else.

We look white, Christian, and male, but we’re a Jewish agender asexual and we’ve been reading your comics since we were a child. We’ve got boxes full of your comics, shelves full of trades we proudly display. Might there be some other reason, particularly when titles like Saga, Injection, the Woods, Divinity, Lazarus, Giant Days and others are doing so well while being full of the diverse characters you say people aren’t interested in…?

A while ago we posted our (rather discombobulated) thoughts about Captain America being turned into a Nazi by a writer named Nick Spencer, who has since gone on to defend Nazism on twitter and write a black man apologizing to a white supremacist for mentioning the centuries of systematic oppression that African-Americans have endured. Our response then was driven by gut-level anger and we reworked it and expanded our thoughts and think that might be a little more sensible.

Nazi Captain America sold 36,610 copies last month, though, and was the fifty-fifth top selling comic of February. Okay. Literally ten more copies than Iron Man with the new African-American female lead, a thousand less than Doctor Strange, and seventy thousand or so less than Star Wars: Darth Maul. That’s not good. If you’re going to tell a story on the ashes of six million dead Jews and eleven million dead in total, all from living memory, you might as well get some kind of sales bump, right?

We guess that’s what you’re hoping for with the upcoming Secret Empire event, and this… well, this is what we want to talk about. See, it’s not diversity that’s killing you, Marvel: it’s your stunt writing and your constant idiot-event comics. Especially your big dumb event comics. We’d like to elaborate on this point, Marvel, because it’s important and we want you to do well.

Your movies are excellent and other than a few stumbling blocks in Age of Ultron you guys are riding high. Someone in comics must have realized that and your editorial board has tried to capitalize by making the comics more like the movies. A big push to do that came and was finalized with Secret Wars, wherein you guys also fixed the editorial mistakes of the past decade. Remember when Civil War turned Iron Man into a villain and how you spent ten years trying to fix that and failed? Well done. A shame you’ve just done the same to Carol Danvers.

Since Secret Wars ended last year, you’ve had nine major crossovers: Avengers Standoff, Spider-Women, Apocalypse Wars, Civil War II, Dead No More, Death of X, Inhumans vs X-Men, Grounded, and Monsters Unleashed. You’ve got at least another four coming: Secret Empire, Til Death do Us, Weapons of Mutant Destruction, and Edge of Venomverse. That’s a lot of comics to buy and a lot of story to keep track of.

Here’s the trick, Marvel: when you do one of those crossovers it touches on every other comic involved with it, so even if you don’t want to read about how Captain America is a Nazi now, your crossover is going to make it impossible to for us to avoid those stories and they’re going to interrupt the ones we’re already invested in. You’ve given us a visceral level of disgust when it comes to Steve Rogers, Marvel, and any comic that he appears in is one we’re going to drop and not pick up again.

That same logic applies across the board to comics we might be invested in when characters we don’t care about show up and we can’t finish the story or understand the comics we like when the continuation of the story is in a comic we might not be interested in or able to afford. We like the X-Men. We don’t care about the Inhumans. When the X-Men are set up to be the villains in another shitty crossover that makes the heroes instead because shitty editorial mandates are shitty, well.

The fun part is that the X-Men are being cast as the villains as a result of the same shitty editorial mandates, ones that nearly drove you into bankruptcy twenty years ago, Marvel. You guys were putting out so many crossovers that no one could follow your comics anymore and readers left in droves for companies that weren’t so scattered. The only way you saved yourselves was by selling the film rights to your most popular characters in perpetuity to other people: Sony got Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Fox got all the mutants, and you were stuck with what was left.

Iron Man was a B+ player until the movie made him an A-lister. The only reason Iron Man got your first real movie was because there were no mutants, no Spider-Man, and no Fantastic Four. People who watched the movie, though, and might have been interested in trying the comics were subjected to Civil War-era Tony Stark, which turned people off in droves. Your comics have been mostly about heroes fighting heroes, which is depressing and something very few people are interested in.

For proof, let’s take a look at the top five selling comics of February 2017: Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 (105 177 copies) is about a Sith Lord fighting the forces of good, Batman #16 (102 096 copies) features good guy Batman fighting bad guy Bane, Batman #17 (99 637 copies) continues that story (and suffers from DC Comics putting out two issues of everything every month), Justice League of America #1 (93 494 copies) featuring the best heroes fighting the best villains, and Super Sons #1 (90 345 copies) has the next generation of heroes fighting the next generation of villains.

Do you see a theme here, Marvel?

We’re done with heroes fighting heroes. DC Comics learned this and so, after their latest reboot, they started focusing on stories about hope and heroes fighting evil and heroes being happy and now they have seven of the ten top selling comics for February 2017, while your only two entries on that list are both Star Wars spin-offs which are about – wait for it – heroes fighting villains (and, notably, villains that were inspired by Nazis).

Your first non-Star Wars comic on the top selling list for February 2017 is Amazing Spider-Man #24 (61 953 copies), and that comic features a massive supporting cast of minorities and deals with Peter Parker fighting the forces of evil as a hero, as a man, and as the CEO of a corporation. That’s interesting. I want to read that. I would totally read that except that Spider-Man is definitely going to be a part of at least seven crossovers this year and I’m done. His story is going to be interrupted so many times that we might not even remember what it was before the event, so what’s the point?

If a character has no impact on their story then we do not care about that character.

And that’s why your sales are flagging: stunt writing bullshit (ooooh Magneto is a Nazi now, a Holocaust survivor is a Nazi, how edgy… no, wait, fuck you) that we all know won’t stick and will be retconned while you guys talk about how, no, this is the new normal, and endless fucking crossovers that mean nothing and will be retconned out of existence because they are generally awful.

To your point, David, about female and diverse characters failing when published: Marvel doesn’t reach the top-selling charts again until spots sixteen and twenty with IvX #4&5 (56 969 and 53 348 copies, respectively), twenty-four with the Clone Conspiracy (48 780 copies), then Unworthy Thor (46 006 copies), and then it’s Elektra (44 310 copies), Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (43 475 copies) and Mighty Thor (40 175 copies). That’s three minority-driven books.

Nazi Captain America placed fifty-fifth.

Those titles that do work for you and have constant numbers? Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Moon Girl? Those are ones David mentioned by name. Also, Mighty and Unworthy Thor? They avoid or do damage control on all your big dumb events, pull in consistent numbers, tell good and complex stories, and have readers who are invested in them. Maybe instead of doubling down on the practices that nearly killed you, Marvel, you could instead just tell good stories?

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602

The D-Cast Episode 54 – The Force Awakens

Culture, film, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

December 21, 2015

Andy and Dale return to the D-Cast to talk a little movie that really came out of nowhere to dominate everything forever. You may have heard of it… Star Wars, the Force Awakens? You can and should check out the movie in theaters now, and then check out the spoiler-laden latest episode of their podcast right here, right now. The video version is sure to follow.

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The D-Cast can be found by clicking their name, and you can chat with them on twitter, too.

And you can check them out on itunes. Awesome.

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725

Why I’m Dreading Star Wars

Culture, Opinion

December 16, 2015

A new hope. A new love. A new franchise. The Force was strong with this one.

A new hope. A new love. A new franchise. The Force was strong with this one.

I can’t remember a time when Star Wars wasn’t a part of my life. Snowball fights where the big kids were AT-ATs. Light saber duels with wrapping paper tubes. My brother making Darth Vader jokes while being hooked up to breathing machines. Star Wars ran like a river through my childhood – an abstract knowledge, bits and pieces acquired like overheard conversation.

Then it happened. A cold spring day in 1997, my dad took me to see the Special Edition release of Star Wars: A New Hope. A red velvet rope attempting to class up an aging cinema, my dad, reassuring, as we wove our way through the crowd, down stairs coated in aging purple carpet, past bored teenagers popping corn, into the theatre. The lights dimmed and those first words scrawled past; “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…”

I was hooked. Books, comics, games, I devoured it all. From the Junior Jedi Knights to the Old Republic, I consumed it all. Looking back on my childhood, most of it was spent with a Timothy Zahn novel. Other girls were spending their allowance on mascara or miniskirts: I obsessed over the release dates of new X-wing novels. Being a huge nerd and a Star Wars fan quickly became integral to my identity, especially as the internet grew. From my computer in Smalltown, Canada, I could connect with other fans across the globe. We chatted and gamed, spending years in a SW MMB RPG.

I’d found my tribe.

Although, yeah, we all did a Dark Side run, didn't we?

Although, yeah, we all did a Dark Side run, didn’t we?

Being “That Girl Who Likes Star Wars” in high school was isolating, and yet it gave me a world to escape into. A place where I could dream. In the Star Wars universe, no one ever tells Jaina Solo she can’t do something. Mara Jade overcomes the influence and manipulations of the Emperor. Corran Horn explores the complicated relationship between Law, Justice, and doing Right. Through these characters, I learned to understand a world much larger than the one I lived in.

When George Lucas announced the prequels, I bought in hard. Opening day tickets with my dad, prepared to relive that first magic moment – and nope. Instead of the world I’d known, I got two hours on a trade dispute featuring more plot holes than CGI. Even the supreme hotness of Ewen Mcgregor could not save it. My soul was crushed. Still, I could not give up on Star Wars; too much of myself had I given it.

Maybe, I thought, I could just restrict myself to the post expanded universe, write off all that prequel nonsense, and focus on the characters I love: Anakin Solo, Wedge Antilles, Kyp Durron… they were safe. So I built my knowledge, showing off to nerds and smiting casual fans. Was I kind of a brat about it? Totally. Was I a little overly emotionally invested? Definitely. I loved Star Wars, but Star Wars never loved me back.

Remember these things?

Remember these things?

Sometime in high school, the Yuuzhan Vong invaded. A major event that wiped out several key characters, including Chewbacca and Anakin Solo, just for dramatic effect. I cried. I raged. I stopped reading. Slowly, the books were packed away. The RPG died off as players grew up and I started to find other ways to define myself… but in my heart, I couldn’t let go. I’d catch myself glancing over titles at the book store, making sure my favorite characters were still okay.

When Disney bought Star Wars, I knew it was the end. They removed the pre-existing books from canon, marking my childhood “Invalid.” They turned R2-D2 into a humidifier. They started selling Star Wars branded oranges. I watched as they took this esoteric thing I loved and gave it to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, Star Wars has always been a marketing machine. It’s a fantastic vehicle to sell toys and I get that. It’s just hard to watch. The fact is, for better or for worse, now that Disney has Star Wars they’re going to keep making movies, tv shows, comics, and toys until the end of time. We’re going to have new Star Wars forever… and there’s something terrifying in that.

The Force might be strong with this one, too.

The Force might be strong with this one, too.

Suddenly, everyone is a Star Wars fan, and I just want to scream, “No! That’s not true – that’s impossible! You’re not a REAL fan! You’ve come late to the party and are claiming it was yours the whole time. You didn’t live through it like we did – you don’t even know who anyone is!”

And yet I don’t. Who am I to deny someone the chance to love something I love? Even if it hurts to hear people mispronounce names or places, I don’t correct them like I would have 15 years ago. If you truly love something you need to let it go. So, I’m trying. I’m trying to accept that the thing I love has changed, and maybe? Maybe it’ll be okay… and if I’m lucky? Maybe better.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Star Wars, it’s that good is stronger than evil.

Unless they change the underlying themes… but then, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.

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740

Review: WWE Raw Opener 2015-12-07

Culture, Fail, Opinion, Reviews

December 9, 2015

Oh, boy.

There were reports that the WWE has been trying to get in touch with their fanbase, sending out surveys to find out what, if anything, they are doing right. I suppose it’s a smaller list than what they’re doing wrong, but the fact that they need these surveys and can’t just listen to their (very) vocal fans is troubling.

For years, the fans have told the WWE exactly what they’ve wanted to see: Zack Ryder, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, CM Punk. More recently, they’ve followed that up with more calls for the likes of Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, Paige, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch. The people running the WWE behind the scenes have outright ignored these desires, mocked them, or distorted them into fitting the people they want to see accepted by the fans, whether the fans like it or not.

It’s this misunderstanding that has led to the sabotage of Roman Reigns. Reigns would have been as big as the WWE would like him to be if they hadn’t interfered with him – the fans didn’t get behind him in a big way at the Royal Rumble in 2014 because they wanted him to win, but because they wanted Batista to lose. The only person they wanted to win that year was Daniel Bryan, though they might have accepted Punk. When Punk was eliminated and Bryan wasn’t in the match, the crowd rebelled.

DB TIB

Sayeth the crowd: “This is Bullshit!”

The WWE is pushing a person who, left to their own devices, might have been able to carry the company. Reigns is talented, has the look, and puts on exciting matches. He can’t talk, really, but he shouldn’t have to – anyone capable of seeing his limitations should be able to play to his strengths, but the WWE doesn’t do that anymore.

The WWE – the largest wrestling company on the planet – doesn’t know how to tell stories involving wrestling anymore. It’s why they’ve lost twenty percent of their viewing audience since July, and this past Monday’s first segment was a perfect example as to why.

Raw opened with a new group of people called the League of Nations who, despite being composed of several individuals of various nations working together, are bad guys. We know this because they are all foreign. We also don’t care because all of them are losers. Rusev has done nothing since losing to John Cena. Barrett is another guy the crowd would love to get behind but the booking committee keeps having him lose whenever the crowd gets behind him. Does anyone care about Alberto del Rio since his return? Have we been given a reason to? Seamus lost for weeks before becoming champion, and likely won’t win anything here.

Seamus is the one with the microphone.

Seamus is the one with the microphone.

Seasmus, by the way, has no character. His whole thing is that people think he looks like an idiot, and it’s okay to make fun of him – bullying him – for looking different. That last sentence added more nuance to Seamus than the last two years of WWE storytelling, by the way, so now that you’re up to date…

The League of Nations is interrupted by a hillbilly cult leader who should be terrifying and may be the least threatening person on the roster, because he and his cult never win. Ever. They outnumber people and still get beat. It’s sad, really, because the cult leader is pretty much the best talker in the industry today – so good that he can make a feud seem interesting even when the other person isn’t there – but the people booking this take the gold he gives them and create shit with it.

It’s interesting, because the crowd wants to like this cult, called the Wyatt Family. They like Wyatt, and they like the way two of his cultists, Luke Harper and Eric Rowan, fight. Naturally, this means that the WWE is pushing the fourth late addition to the cult, a talentless lug who can’t talk, wrestle, or act and skipped through their developmental process to become the big gun. His big move is a modified bear hug. The crowd doesn’t care.

Dude looks like he wandered off the set of a really good horror movie.

Dude looks like he wandered off the set of a really good horror movie.

The hillbilly cult are more bad guys, so when they are stopped from attacking the other bad people by some good people, it’s confusing. A bunch of guys who were last relevant maybe a decade ago come out to beat a dead horse before being interrupted by the aforementioned Roman Reigns, his younger brothers, and his best buddy.

End result? A four-way tag battle, where if one person is eliminated, so is their team.

Sounds exciting, right? Why is this dumb?

For a start, why did the cult interrupt the league of bad guys? Why did the old stars stop that attack from happening? Why do Roman and friends care about any of this? Nothing makes any sense at all. This is wrestling, yes, so suspension of disbelief is a given. We’re willing to accept snake charmers, necromancers, and a secret world of leprechauns, provided they make sense internally. This doesn’t.

SD_736_Photo_145

What, you thought I was kidding about the snake charming?

Also, all of your purported main event talent is in this match. Admittedly, all your main event talent boils down to Roman Reigns, who the crowd grudgingly supports, and Seamus, who the crowd doesn’t care about. Barrett and Ambrose and Wyatt could all be main eventers, possessing the talent for it, but the booking had made all of them look like losers for the past year, so…

Sure enough, the cult gets eliminated first, the no-longer-relevant nostalgia act goes out second, and the League of Losers goes out third. Roman Reigns~! Get it? That’s a better slogan than anything WWE creative has managed to give him in the past two years of pushing because they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.

Lastly, the WWE has an event called the Survivor Series that was built on five-on-five elimination tag team matches. This year, the event sported two of those matches where the participants were not announced until the day of the event, and one of them was played for laughs and featured Seamus – your current heavyweight champion of the world – getting pinned cleanly in the center of the ring.

By contrast, we can look at the WWE training league, a show called NXT. Their title holder is a guy named Finn Balor, whose character is that of a cute geeky Irishman who happens to have a demon inside of him. He’s honorable and polite and, much like the Incredible Hulk, if you piss him off he will unleash the demon on you.

An actual demon, too. Not just some low rent monster.

An actual demon, too. Not just some low rent monster.

Tonight, on the WWE Network (which you can subscribe to for $9.99!), Finn Balor will team with a former number one contender, Apollo Crews, to face off against his challenger on the next NXT event, Samoa Joe, and a man who wants his title and will do anything to get it, Baron Corbin. All of them have well developed characters and reasons for being in this match, so we care about the tag match tonight and we care about the two matches that are coming up.

NXT has been building this upcoming fight between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe for most of the past year, since Joe’s debut. They presented him as an equal to then-champion Kevin Owens, established a mutual respect with Finn that turned to homicidal jealousy through thwarted ambition in the months since. We care about Joe’s fall from grace, we care about Finn and his broken heart and the demon seeping out of it.

Again, the Raw opening featured too much talking for an overly busy mess where no one looked good and nothing was left for the main event. The NXT main event has been announced ahead of time, has been built to, and makes logical sense. This Raw opener came out of nowhere, meant nothing, accomplished nothing, and wasted everyone’s time.

The main event was not supposed to be an empty arena match.

The main event was not supposed to be an empty arena match.

That was just the opening segment, but the whole show was just as bad and made just as little sense.

Wrestling can, should, and must be messy. It’s a show about a fictional athletic competition that is shot before a live paying audience every week. There is no off-season, there is no safety net, just death-defying stunts and actors that play their characters pretty much twenty-four/seven, three sixty-five and a quarter. The best moments happen from the magic that comes from these people being left alone to do their thing.

“If you smell what the Rock is cookin’?” was a one-off ad-libbed line. “Austin 3:16,” ditto. “The Four Horsemen,” “the NWO,” “the Straight Edge Society,” wrestling’s best and brightest moments come about from people who live their characters. The best promos come from those that are given the confidence to talk and speak their minds. The Pipe Bomb, arguably the greatest wrestling promo of the past decade, happened when one man was given freedom and a microphone.

The most frustrating part about this is that the WWE should know better. The Attitude Era and the era of the Smackdown Six are largely considered the strongest periods for modern wrestling, and they were places where wrestlers were encouraged to roam free. The last time a wrestler cut loose and got himself over in a major way was Zack Ryder, who used social media to make himself one of the most popular people on the roster.

Zack Ryder is a decent worker and talker with a good look, but the WWE seemed incensed that he would dare make an attachment to the crowd without their approval. They punished him by having him lose for years, finally damaging his character and presence so badly that he was relegated to the training league – where he immediately got over again, and is now part of their incredible tag division, teaming with another wrestler named Mojo Rawley to become the Hype Bros.

Was Zack a future world champion? Unlikely, but he could have been one of those secondary guys who could make a believable run for the title. All it would have taken was some half decent storytelling, but the WWE made an example of him and no one has deviated from the script in any real way since.

He could have been Hokage.

He could have been Hokage.

And that’s a big part of the problem: it’s all scripted. Everything is scripted. No one ever wins and no one ever loses – there’s a sense of stagnation and boredom, because no one ever accomplishes anything. Champions lose non-title matches every week to the point where they look pathetic and the titles lack all meaning or value, or aren’t even booked in any way that makes sense.

For example, the WWE Divas belt was being held by a woman named Nikki Bella, and we were told that she was approaching a record for longest champion ever. Her challenger at the time was Charlotte Flair, daughter of Ric Flair, and the story being told revolved around the idea of Charlotte stopping Nikki from achieving her goal of being the longest running champion: she got a bunch of matches and never quite won, not until Nikki had achieved her goal.

That could work as a story, if Nikki were the good guy trying to do something incredible and Charlotte was the bad guy trying to keep her from achieving her dream. There’s even pathos there in the aftermath – an exhausted good guy Nikki losing to Charlotte, but taking solace in achieving her goal. Both women were playing the opposite roles, however, and the story suffered as a result. With the good guy unable to keep the bad guy from getting that record, it robbed the story of its pull. Charlotte stopped Nikki after it was too late to matter.

Charlotte is also a Flair. Being bad is in her blood.

Charlotte is also a Flair. Being bad is in her blood.

Again, contrast that with the last big feud for the NXT Women’s Title. First up, it’s the Women’s Title, not the Diva’s Title. The Women’s Title looks and sounds like a championship belt, while the Diva’s Title looks and sounds like a fashion accessory. The champion was Sasha Banks, a woman who improved herself and made a character over a period of years, cultivating a cut-throat arrogance to match her incredible skill in the ring. Her character is based on being better than everyone and backing it up when called to do so.

Her opponent was Bayley, a girl-next-door type who had dreamed of being a woman wrestler her whole life, a happy-go-lucky ingenue who tries hard and works hard and makes a go of it and is so impossibly earnest that it’s impossible not to like her. She toiled and struggled and earned her shot at the title, and Sasha mocked her for it.

The two of them had one of the best wrestling matches, with one of the best storylines, this year. No one had to tell us how awesome they were, or who they were, or why we should care: we knew by watching them, and everything else was just icing. Bayley has continued to be awesome on NXT. Sasha Banks was brought up to the main roster, where she has done nothing.

In short, WWE, your fans have been vocal about who they want to see, and your stubborn insistence is driving us away in droves. Those of us that know about NXT are tuning there for our fix, but those that don’t will leave and might not come back – and even those of us that watch NXT live in fear of what you’ll do to the people we care about when they’re called up.

Neville, a former NXT champion, languishes as nothing and has nothing going for him despite being able to deliver terribly smarmy interviews while wrestling a lightning fast style that can make anyone look good. The Ascension, former angry space vikings and all around ass-kickers, were turned into hypocritical eighties rejects before losing to everyone and being forgotten about. Sasha Banks, possibly the most talented wrestler on the roster, sits unused somewhere.

We know what we want, WWE. We know you can give it to us, and we know you like to bitch and moan about how we won’t accept the shit you try to shovel down our throats week in and week out. Your challenge was “love it or leave it.”

Twenty percent of us have.

The dark blue is the amount of people that have stopped watching since July.

The dark blue is the amount of people that have stopped watching since July.

More of us are going to leave, too. Raw is three hours long, Smackdown is two hours – five hours on a non-event week is a lot of time to sit there and not be entertained, to be insulted, to be bored. Most of the fans you have left are there out of inertia instead of passion, but even that is trickling down and away. The computer-controlled AI in your video games makes more sense than you do and is more entertaining, to boot.

Hell, if you added different commentators as DLC for the video game – specifically Corey Graves, Renee Young, and William Regal – you’d probably make a lot of money. The commentary on Raw is generally terrible, excelling only at reminding us how awful the product is and insulting those that haven’t or aren’t able to get the WWE Network (only $9.99~!). Those commentators I named are from NXT, by the by, and are just further proof that there is not one thing that Raw and Smackdown do that NXT doesn’t do better.

“Love it or leave it.” That’s your challenge, and while I don’t love it, I do want to. Your roster of on-air talent is ludicrously good, moreso than at any other time in the company’s history, but whatever is happening behind the scenes is poison and it’s tainted the on-air product, driving it towards unwatchability. Please fix this. I don’t want to leave. I want to love your product. I want to give you my money and my attention.

All I’m asking is that you give me a reason to care.

Thank you, Paige.

Thank you, Paige.

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799

At The Eleventh Hour.

Culture, Opinion, The Truth

November 11, 2015

When I think about what Remembrance Day means I get a little sad. Have we forgotten, despite the namesake, that on this day in 1918 at 11am the First World War came to an end.

World War One was the first industrialized war and its devastation was unprecedented, a true horror that we as humans should look back on with shame and regret. Yet not more than 20 years later, we were back at it: this time, it was the total war of World War Two. Millions where killed, soldiers and civilians alike.

The poem In Flanders Fields  is where this tradition comes from, and it is a harrowing tribute to the dead. It calls upon us to take up their “quarrel with the foe,” and this is where it gets sticky for us. The surface call is to keep fighting, as the saying goes “ours in not to reason why,” yet this makes little sense as those who have seen war face-to-face are reluctant to engage in it. So, perhaps the foe is war itself? Or, more accurately, the those who would use war as a political solution to their goals.

The Allure of Heroism.

We don’t need to glorify the horrors of war to respect those who have shouldered the role of national service. Hero worship is the flipside of that same coin that uses war as tool.

Our culture no longer goes to war against a specific enemy, but rather a concept that has no clear definition, no clear army or apparatus to dismantle and thus defeat. The wars on terror and drugs are again only political tools used to take advantage of our most selfless citizens. There is no glory to be had when they come home, as we give them only one day of recognition and it is filled with hollow lip service, especially given the way those same soldiers are treated once their battle is over.

Makes one wonder who the moment of silence is really for.

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1233

Review: Carmilla Season 2

Culture, Opinion, Reviews, Webseries, Why Aren't You Watching This?

November 4, 2015

We needed to wash the bad taste of Hemlock Grove out of our mouths, so we went back to an old favorite.

We powered through the first season and loved that about as much as we ever did, then watched the Christmas Special, and started up season the second. It was about halfway through the second that something occurred to us; we went back to our initial review of Carmilla to double check something.

Sure enough, it was there: “There’s a lot of telling of events, followed by a showing of the emotional impact and consequences of those events. It’s a clever device that allows the illusion of a much larger budget than the show actually possesses, which is nice.” We looked at the line, long and hard, because there’s a simple thing we came to understand.

We were wrong.

Carmilla works because it lacks any shown bit of action, or picking and choosing what action it does show. The plot is largely incidental – this is a webseries that prides itself on strong characters and character development, and the actions that happen around them are secondary to the aftermath those actions have.

For those of you that missed it (and you can start fixing that lack by clicking here), Carmilla is a modernization of a novel written by Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, which is essentially Dracula, only before and lesbian. There’s a school in Styria called Silas University and there are girls going missing there. A young girl named Laura starts looking into it after her roommate vanishes, and she’s assigned a roommate named Carmilla who happens to be a vampire.

Stuff happens. It’s awesome and adorable and heartwarming. We loved the hell out of it, and it’s something that gets frequent play around our offices when we’re formatting or waiting for things to render. We really like us some character-driven narrative, and Carmilla is very much that.

Naturally, a character-driven narrative is going to live or die depending upon the performances of those involved. Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis return as Laura and Carmilla, respectively, and absolutely become these characters. The snippets we see of their lives and how badly everything falls apart around is a tragedy made all the worse by the fact that both of them are very human, their actions and traumas entirely understandable.

Laura is still naive and very, very young – she has a very set idea of right and wrong, is very much the old tree that breaks in the storm because it does not bend. She has an unwavering and unexplored moral center that drives everything that happens in both seasons, but her short-sighted passion to do right does not look at the larger consequences of the resulting actions, and she ends up destroying everything she was trying to save, including herself.

Carmilla, on the other hand, is so desperate to be loved for herself that it’s terrifying. Her trauma is tied to being a non-entity, of having her agency constantly taken from her despite her apparent strength. As a noble woman she was murdered. As a vampire she was locked in a coffin and left to rot. She’s embraced nihilism as a guiding philosophy as a defense mechanism, and her relationship with Laura and Laura’s view of her becomes the crux of this season’s conflict.

There’s a host of other characters. LaFontaine and Perry continue to work their magic in the background, and have a strong presence throughout the season. The character of JP takes a surprising turn. Danny and Kirsch return, both of them in love with people they can never have, and both of them have their moment to understand and move past that. Kirsch, puppy that he is, handles it a lot better than Danny does, but both actors are able to convey the very fragile emotions that drive both of these characters.

Both of them bring along other new cast members to flesh out the organization that they represent: the Zetas, a fraternity that Kirsch claims are his brothers, gets Theo, and the Summer Society, an organization of warrior women, gets Mel. Both are introduced early, and both of them provide moments of change for everyone else without changing too much themselves. In a narrative as nuanced as this one, they are steady voices that represent larger human forces.

Which bring us to one of the simple truths of Carmilla: very few of the major forces are human.

The Dean was an unstoppable undead monster, the mother of Carmilla, and the big bad of the first season. Even in death she casts a large shadow over everything else, and the deity she worshiped still has a massive part to play in the overall narrative. We see the Silas Board of Directors, monstrous beings that exist only in shadow, their voices giving power to aura’s mistakes.

And Laura makes mistakes this season. She did last season, too, but she mostly got away with it; she gets away with nothing here. Her actions directly lead to the murder of Mattie, another wonderful addition to the cast and Carmilla’s sister. Her death is a sacrifice made in another’s game, the shadow player that manipulates everyone until they are nothing more than puppets on her strings.

The largest of her victims is Baron Vordenberg, a doddering old man and descendant of the family that took Carmilla in when she was first made a vampire, and whose bloodline Carmilla subsequently destroyed. He becomes the head of the Silas Board through Laura’s machinations, and immediately sets about changing the school in ways that horrify Laura.

And well they should. Vordenberg institutes a literal martial law, using magic to empower the Zetas and the Summer Society, making them his private supernatural army. He turns the ambient horror that lurks about Silas into a literal abattoir, seeking to justify the atrocities he commits and the lies he tells about his own life through bloodshed and murder.

Which leads to one of the most powerful moments the series has to offer. Spoilers lie ahead. You has been warned.

Carm2 001 Carm2 002 Carm2 003 Carm2 004 Carm2 005 Carm2 006 Carm2 007 Carm2 008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Carmilla, as played by Natasha Negovanlis, towards the end of the second season. She had her heart broken earlier in the season, when Laura loved an ideal of her instead of who she was. Carmilla broke it off and two of them were bitter, then strained – two people still very much in love with one another, but Laura’s binary morality would never allow her to see Carmilla as she was, and Carmilla was too broken to accept that Laura could love her.

We learn a lot about both of them over this season. Both of them are still willing to help one another, and Carmilla even shares a secret with Laura to keep her safe – a secret that Laura shares, resulting in the death of Carmilla’s oldest and dearest friend, resulting in the total destruction of their tie.

Still, when Laura is desperately trying to fix her mistakes, she calls on Carmilla for help. Carmilla comes and is captured, resulting in one of the most heartwrenching scenes in a season that was rife with them: Danny dies. Danny dies protecting Laura, protecting Laura’s dream, fighting to be what Carmilla can’t be so that she can win Laura’s heart. She’s betrayed, literally stabbed in the back, and she dies in Laura’s arms.

Laura is so broken by this that when Vordenberg shows up with a captive Carmilla in tow, threatening to kill her, Laura can’t respond – and that lack of response breaks something in her. In that single moment, without any word being spoken, we can see that this character is ready to die.

Over the course of these two seasons and before she has lost everything: her mother, her sister, her lover. And as much as she plays with nihilism, it’s because of her horrible life – her agency has been stripped from her so many times, from her time as Mircalla, to her whole life with the Dean, to being shoved into a coffin and left to rot, that believing in nothing is the only way she can think of to keep herself sane.

She’s lost and broken and keeping herself that way because it’s the only thing she knows anymore. When Vordenberg threatens to decapitate her, he quips “I bet you wish you’d married my ancestor now!”, and Carmilla smiles and bows her head and says “I’d rather be dead.”

And she would. She’s so impossibly tired. There’s nothing in her life worth living for, not at this point. She’s beaten down and shattered, and the problem is she’s tasted love now; loneliness and nihilism can never be the haven for her that they once were, but the person upon which that love is based has given up on her.

Which brings us to Laura. Flawed and brilliant as she is, Laura offends Carmilla on a basic philosophical level. It’s why there’s so much difficulty between them at the start of season one, and the reason for their problems throughout season two. Here, Laura sacrifices her innocence to save someone who they both know is utterly, utterly broken.

This is a direct assault on everything Carmilla believes about the world, and it’s got to be as shattering for her as it is for Laura.

Look at the last four gifs in this sequence and watch the shock in her face, the emotion of this sequence. Carmilla literally cannot understand what just happened. It makes no sense to her, and it changes everything about her relationship with Laura and Laura itself. This single moment gives Carmilla the chance she needs to actually heal, and for Laura to mature. All of this happens in silence. All of this happens in seconds.

This is exactly how you build a character-driven narrative, building emotion and history and choice and pushing it right to the breaking point. It’s a beautiful moment, about as close to perfection as you’ll get anywhere.

I love this show. I love this show completely, and I urge you to watch it.

In short...

The Good: The acting, characters, dialogue, sound design, mythology… pretty much everything.

The Bad: Pacing is sometimes a little off.

The Ugly: The soul of Danny’s murderer. What happens to Kirsch. The emotional trauma and heartbreak. Waiting for the next season.

The Verdict: Go watch this. Go watch this right now.

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677

The Truth – The Most Dangerous People in America

Opinion, Showcase, The Truth

October 28, 2015

Well, it happened again.

Ho-hum. Just another day in the United States of America. We expect this now. It’s common place, to the point where many people see this and think ‘what did the girl do to deserve that?‘ or, worse still, ‘given that cops are violent crazy people, why would you ever disobey one?‘ And, yes, this seems like it might actually be a best case scenario. The police officer, in service and protection, didn’t kill the girl on sight, taze her to death, choke her to death, or lock her up and leave her to die. That makes her luckier than the more than eight hundred unarmed bystanders that police officers have kill so far this year – not people involved in crimes or suspected of crimes, just people that happened to be alive when they met cops and then weren’t.

Several investigations, all spear-headed by police officers to look into the misdeeds of police officers, and underway.

Wait.

What?

Cops have a tough job. We’re not saying that they don’t. They have one of the hardest jobs in the world, and we as a society have given them a power we give no one else – the power to end the lives of other civilians within our civilization. They are supposed to uphold the law with a sense of justice; the word “police officer” means “office of the city’s people,” with connotations that these are the best humanity has to offer. Guardians. Protectors. The ones we turn to and trust to protect us.

And maybe that once was the case. And, sure, most cops are going to be good people. Well, some of them. A few of them, surely? See, the thing of it is, when a police officer helps to cover up the murder or assault perpetrated by another police officer, that cop stops being a good guy. That cop is now aiding and abetting a criminal, and because of that decision a criminal is walking free with a power that they are going to keep abusing.

There’s reasons for this, though. Violent crime is on the ri… oh, wait, that’s been on a steady decline for the past decade. Still, it’s a hard job. They see the worst that humanity has to offer with very little in the way of reward, and they protect us from dangerous criminals. You can rely on police to help you at any time and to keep your family safe. Cops are the best of us, honest, stalwart, and brave.

Maybe they were, once upon a time; we don’t know. We do know that the public perception of cops has changed. We know that people are getting in the habit of filming police officers whenever they show up, and that the police are angry that we’re now recording them, that they don’t like the idea of body cameras. Cops like being able to act with impunity, but have been increasingly unable to handle the responsibility we’ve given them.

Remember, we pay for police officers. They’re government employees. They’re supposed to be protecting and serving us, going after the most dangerous criminals and keeping us safe. They’re supposed to enforce the law across a wide populace fairly and with justice in mind.

Or maybe it’s just us.

Us, like those of us that aren’t cops, and us, those of us that are. Police officers are murdering innocent people. Police officers are proving themselves to be dangerous, well-trained killers who are protecting other dangerous, well-trained killers.

We like to think it was better once upon a time. You’d get stories of cops doing terrible things, but the officer was right there. Smiling. Happy. Confident. That’s not the kind of man that could do a bad thing, right? A pillar of the community. I’m going to put forth that it was never better – it’s just that everyone is carrying a camera now, and we can see how vile, violent, and vicious cops are now.

No wonder they want us to stop filming them.

Funny thing is, cops are supposed to have body cameras and cameras on their cars, for their protection as well as ours. They’re supposed to be accountable. Cameras often get turned off and footage goes missing or gets edited. Worse, the people investigating cop wrong-doings are often cops themselves, and they find themselves innocent despite the evidence far too often.

This is not to say all cops are bad. There’s good cops out there, great cops that are doing good things, but they’re the ones we don’t hear about too often because too many of them are breaking the law and otherwise terrorizing people.

So, the question is a simple one – why? Why are cops such violent psychopaths? The answer is equally simple: training. Cops are supposed to de-esculate situations, but their training often makes them violent, and the stress of their job is enough to make anyone mentally ill. It’s a hard and largely thankless job, but cops need to learn how to solve problems without resorting to violence, and they need time to recover mentally from the terrible things we pay them to protect us from.

Because police officers are necessary given our population, economic model, and justice system. We need them to save us from the broken souls coming out of the for-profit prison system and the thieves that take everything from us without consequence. That’s just truth.

So, stop giving cops military ordinance they don’t need and start giving them the training they need to not kill people. If you’re going to take the money normally spent on education, welfare, healthcare, and the other services that stop crime, or to pay off mistakes cops made in years gone by, then make sure it does some good and get cops the training they need.

We know they know how to kill people. We see them do that plenty, but we expect more: Service. Protection. Dignity. Let’s see more cops like this and less of this. Let’s see the police earn the respect they once had and have now lost before things turn bad.

Because riots are the language of the unheard.

I didn’t say that. Martin Luther King did – “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

So, with all that in mind, here’s another question: can you hear us now?

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837

Canadian Politics – Health and Security

Culture, Heroes of the Living Myth, Projects, The Truth

September 30, 2015

Health and security? What am I doing, covering two seemingly different topics? Am I following the lead of the Cons and cheating? No. We try not to play dirty politics, but these two things are strangely related to one another as the concept of security can be applied both internally and externally. With that in mind, we want to take a look at what’s been happening in our own country, what we’re doing outside of it, and how the rest of the world looks at us because of it. This is also going to deviate slightly from our previous looks as to who the political parties in Canada are and their views on the economy, environment, and education, because much of what’s happened to our security and health as a country is a direct result of the people in charge.

For those of you that maybe aren’t paying attention, some of this might come as a shock.

Canadians like to think that their socialized healthcare is among the best in the world, and while it is better than most it ranks poorly when compared to other countries that have adopted similar systems.  This isn’t to say it’s bad – it’s certainly better than most places in the world, and the regulations put in place keep things like this from happening while the system itself keeps things like this from happening. The trick of it is, the Harper Government has been cutting funding for and regulations of healthcare for a long while now, preferring the free market system that has worked so many wonders in the United States. This policy has been met with widespread objections from medical professionals and widespread approval from foreign powers that have no interest in Canada or the people that live there.  The Harper Government has long claimed that they are not a Canadian Government, however, so this can hardly be surprising.

What is surprising, however, is how these policies look when combined with other agendas put forward by the Harper Government. First among these is Harper’s commitment to war and his friendly relationships with war criminals, and his support of their actions. Harper has also overseen Canada’s continued involvement in the Middle-Eastern war crimes to the benefit of nothing and no one, and has committed to a larger Canadian incursion to come. Keep in mind that he’s doing this while cutting funding for veteran services, including the counseling that many soldiers need to re-integrate after being overseas in the thick of the fighting.

All of this fits with the Harper Con’s racist policies, which have drawn worldwide criticism for their almost guaranteed consequence of causing more war. This, once again, is perfectly inline with the Cons of the United States and one of the reasons we spend so much time discussing their policies. Con policies both domestically and at large have demoralized both our own troops and the view the world has of Canada, to the point where the good will we once possessed has turned into almost universal scorn. As Canada becomes less and less tolerant and more prone to violating human rights, Canada’s citizens find themselves less and less welcome out in the world.

Our Government tells us that the  human rights that they’re violating and the war crimes they want to commit are necessary to protect us from terrorism, blaming ISIS when that group was created by and originally supported by the United States’ war crimes in Iraq in response to the attacks on September 11th, 2001, which had nothing to do with Iraq at all but which the Cons both in the United States and Canada have lied about. The Cons both here and down south believe that through these acts of terrorism they can stop those acts of terrorism, all the while perpetuating the myth that the region has always been more violent than, say, Europe

Speaking of violence, Harper’s Cons are big on being tough on crime, the traditional policies of which have been shown to create more crime. Harper’s Cons would have you believe that violent crime is on the rise in Canada when the inverse is true – the total number of violent crimes in Canada are comparable to the murders committed by police officers against minorities in the United States, for example. Despite this, Harper’s Cons would like to follow the United States use of for-profit prison systems, a system which has been proven to cause more crime and cost taxpayers more than state-run prisons, while also being more prone to violate human rights and turn prisoners into literal slaves in the name of profit.

Meanwhile, Harper’s Cons continue to be lenient in their prosecution of white collar crime among their own members and among those corporations that support them. Harper’s Cons have been proven to fix elections, participate in widespread corruption, blackmailing their enemies, and lying to the Canadian people, in addition to the various ecological and economic crimes that the Cons are never punished for. All this, while ignoring the real crime of missing women and children that have been vanishing from aboriginal communities.

We are all, as Canadians – meaning Harper’s Cons – currently instigating violence against Muslims and stripping away gender equality because that’s in vogue with the Cons in the United States, while also butchering our independence and the essential rights and freedoms that make us who we are as a nation. Bill C-51 stripped away our privacy while taking away our right to protest and made it legal for Harper’s Cons to fabricate evidence and basically do whatever they want to anyone that would stand against their fascism. They also passed Bill C-23, a that will, in effect, corrupt every election going forward.

All of this has destroyed how the rest of world sees Canada. Harper’s Cons have turned us from a well-regarded progressive beacon to a myopic monster, the ones that were good but are now not to be trusted.

So, given all of this, what are the various parties planning on doing about it?

 

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits

Justin Trudeau has a lot to say for himself on the topic of security. First and foremost, he wants to scrap Bill C-23, a Cons-led law that makes it more difficult for people to vote. No word on the law that actually murders Canada, Bill C-51, which he and his party helped vote into law despite the protests of Canadians everywhere. It calls into question everything else he has on tap, including his promise to look into missing aboriginal women and children, restored and improved care of our veterans and sick, a ban on partisan advertisements in favor of informational adverts, and a non-racist plan to help clean up the mess we helped make in Syria and to aid Syrian refugees. The problem, again, isn’t that Trudeau lacks experience – he’s been groomed for this position and the responsibility that comes with it for the entirety of his life – it’s that, when push came to shove, he supported Harper’s Cons in gutting the country. Do we trust him? No. Is he better than Harper’s Cons? Yes, but that doesn’t set the bar especially high.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Tories / Harper’s Cons 

Harper doesn’t want us calling his government a Canadian one, and we’ve decided to acknowledge that desire. All hail Emperor Harper and his Conservatives, or Harper’s Cons for short. Harper’s Cons have created civil unrest in Canada and helped create some of the worst political nightmares currently facing our world with their policies, and their plan is to double down on those policies. This will likely make those situations worse. Harper’s Cons have also promised to continue stripping away the rights and freedoms of Canadians for their own benefit, while also blaming the victims of their policies for being angry about what’s been done to them. They also want to commit troops to wars they helped start, while keeping those who go to fight from getting the help they will need after they come home from the fighting. Harper also has plans to attack our healthcare and justice systems. He is the threat to Canada he’d have us believe ISIS is.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 006The NDP

Tom wants to fix the damage that Harper has done to our healthcare systems and veteran aid, which is pretty great. He also wants to improve on that healthcare, truly making it the world class system that we’ve always believed it was. He’s got plans to repeal Bill C-23, making certain that we have fair elections in the future, and destroy Bill C-51, thus giving Canada a chance to actually be Canada instead of the nightmarish Harper’s Cons hellscape from which there is no escape. Tom would also immediately end Canada’s presence in Iraq and Syria while giving a home to more refugees looking to escape the mess that we helped cause, which is all to the good. Better still, while Harper’s Cons have been ignoring actual crime to go after imaginary ones, the NDP has pledged to do the reverse, including looking into the missing women and children of our aboriginal peoples.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens

Elizabeth would see the end of Bills C-23 and C-51, which is a good place to start making Canada, well, Canada again. Beyond that, she’d like to help return Canada to its peacekeeping duties, putting us back on track to making the world a better place by helping clean up the mess Harper’s Cons helped make in the Middle-East and lending aid to Syrian Refugees. She’s spoken on the specifics of healthcare and how to improve it on a realistic level, tackling everything from surgery to asthma to obesity. The Greens believe in prevention more than cure, and have ideas on how to improve both that are well worth listening to. Part of that plan includes buying medicines in bulk to drive prices down for the medications and prescriptions that Canadians need, in addition to looking at the minds of Canadians veterans and citizens alike – and all this is before we talk about their justice platform, which would see a greater emphasis placed on rehabilitation rather than punishment, so that our society can grow as a whole and we can push forward with stronger economic, educational, and ecological strategies. Again, all of this is workable and thoroughly planned out, and would go a long way towards making truly making Canada one of the best places in the world to be.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc

We normally joke a little about the Bloc, but they did one fantastic thing: they stopped fast food and candy companies from targeting children in advertisements, which has scene a dramatic decrease in obesity across the age spectrum and an equally dramatic increase in health. Aside from that, they’re in favor of protecting Quebec, but would really like to repeal the damage Harper’s Cons did to Canada with C-23 and C-51, which you know are bad because even a political party dedicated to the destruction of Canada recognizes that these bills are too extreme to be allowed to exist.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 007Scott Wyatt

When not destroying giant robots with his laser eyes or defending Canada from dragons, Scott has pledged to defend the aboriginal peoples of Canada and make sure that they are under his protection. It should be noted that protection is fairly mighty, as Scott is also more than capable of defending Canada single-handed with those laser eyes, super strength, and ability to fall from great heights without damage. Is Scott Wyatt a superhero? Possibly. Why wouldn’t we want a superhero in parliament?

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1008

Canadian Politics – The Great Goofsky

Culture, Projects, Showcase, The Truth

September 21, 2015

We really like to celebrate our heroes in Canada.

There was a small town boy named Wayne Gretzky who rose to become an international celebrity because of his skill on the ice. Hockey is pretty much the most important thing in Canada, a sport that we pride ourselves on above and beyond any normal understanding, and Gretzky was the best at it. He was hailed as the Great One, number ninety-nine, and in 1988 he was traded out of Canada to the Los Angeles Kings and never looked back.

And, you know, good for him. He deserves everything he’s claimed through the skills he mastered. Over this past weekend, though, he took a large contract to come and endorse Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister, a man who is destroying the environment so he can continue failing at the economy.

Wayne, who has not lived in Canada since 1988, came back, shook Haprer’s hand, and said “You’ve been an unreal Prime Minister.” I suppose there’s not enough money in the world to call him a good Prime Minister, but the photo-op ensued – Harper standing and shaking the hand of one of Canada’s heroes.

We won’t be picking apart Wayne for this; there’s a host of other pundits that have done that already. And there’s plenty of other Canadian celebrities who have weighed in against Harper, ranging from acting legends Pamela Anderson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Donald Sutherland, to more recent talents, like Katie Findlay.

No, what we want to bring attention to is this: famed political historian and scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt put together a checklist we can use to measure the presence of fascism in any given government.

Here’s what that looks like:

fascism-checklist-big

Now, let’s see which segments of this checklist Stephen Harper has checked off:

fascism-checklist-big Harper

Point by point, each one of these has a link to support the thesis:

Identifying Enemies / Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause 

Rampant Sexism 

Obsession with National Security 

Corporate Power is Protected 

Disdain for Intellectuals / the Arts 

Rampant Cronyism / Corruption 

Disdain for Recognizing Human Rights 

Supremacy of the Military 

Controlled Mass Media 

Religion and Government are Intertwined 

Labor Power is Suppressed 

Obsession with Punishment / Crime 

Fraudulent Elections

And this past weekend gave us

Powerful Continuing Nationalism

See, Harper called upon the power of Wayne Gretzky’s endorsement to give his government a sense of age; by calling upon an icon from an almost mythical time, Harper is able to tie his own era to that which came before and give his government the illusion of representing that time, when his politics have done everything possible to destroy what Canada was in that era. And his comment of “Old Stock Canadians” is another like-comment, meant to evoke a semi-mythical tie to history, and make his party look like the natural continuance of the Canadian narrative.

That’s all kind of terrifying, isn’t it? And there’s the old question of if you could go back in time and stop Hitler, would you? Of course you would, most people say. We don’t have the technology to do that just now, but on October 19th you can, must, and should stop Harper.

Get out and vote.

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1020

Canadian Politics – the Economy

Greatest Hits, The Truth

September 16, 2015

So, there’s that election coming up on October 19, 2015. You know, the one the Conservatives really want you to forget about, and are keeping Elections Canada from reminding you is coming. That one. On October 19th, 2015. You can sign up to vote in it by clicking here, but you might want to know about the issues first. It’s important to know what’s at stake. We talked about who the players are here, and what their stance on the environment is here. And, yes, we’re going to start things off by reminding you that a lot of the statements made here will be hyperlinks – think of them as an instance citation. Unlike Harper’s Conservatives, we have nothing to hide.

And yet we still don’t support the fascist atrocity that is Harper’s curse on all of us, Bill C-51.

This week, we’re going to talk about the economy. To understand what the stances of the various political parties are, we need to understand what the economy is, where it comes from, why it crashed in 2008, what caused those circumstances, why it’s crashing now, what can be done to keep it from happening again, where it’s going, and where Canada stands. This is actually where the Conservatives likes to claim they’re strongest, but, well, we’ll let their record speak for itself.

Simply, our economy evolved on the collection of resources and has been moving towards the worth of ideas. The collection of resources is simple: one is as wealthy as the physical things that they have personal control of, whether that be land, cattle, oil, ore, or whatever else people have decided has value. There are a finite amount of these things, and so the only way to become wealthier is through trade, discovery, or taking.

Trade is when one exchanges good or services for other goods or services, and is the back bone of our modern paradigm. When someone pays you for your time working at a job, they’re renting your time and skills. When you pay for a television, you’re exchanging what your time is worth for a physical good that you can then use. Discovery is when someone finds a resource that has remained unclaimed by a recognized authority and claims it for themselves; through this claim, they now have the ability to trade this good at whatever worth they wish for it. Taking is when a group invents a reason to go in and take a resource that belongs to someone else, either fooling, bribing, or ignoring a recognized authority that might otherwise stop them.

As systems go, resource based economies work best when they work under a pairing of capitalism and socialism. Sadly, there’s been a press from corporate interests to focus more on the former and less on the latter, despite the fact that socialism has done much to make capitalism workable, in order to increase short term profits at the cost of long term profitability or survivability. Many corporations like to claim that they need to use these horrible tactics to remain competitive, when we know this simply isn’t true.

The system became to come undone when the Americans decided corporations were human citizens, and a bunch of us decided to follow suite. What that started was the corruption of the American, British, and Canadian political systems to the point where our politicians represent corporate interests rather than the interests of the people living in their countries. And, yes, that includes Canada.

Reaganomics and an increase in credit followed, and both were disastrous to the world in general but made a few people very rich.

A half-decent actor managed to get himself elected in America, because of course he did. His name was Ronald Reagan, and he was terrible and did terrible things. We’re going to get back him in the future, but for now we have to look at Reaganomics. Basically, Reaganomics posits that the very rich need all the money, and that if we give them all the money it will trickle down on everyone else as they spend the money. Like rain, or bukkake. We know it doesn’t work. We have seen repeatedly that it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, the Conservatives seem to really like Reaganomics and keep doing things that push Reaganomics on the country.

The other thing that happened was an explosion in credit. The minimum wage – which was always supposed to be a living wage, ie, the minimum amount of money one can live on – was frozen back in the early eighties, and credit was offered as an alternative. This must have seemed like a good idea at first, and it helped push the idea of Reaganomics in the short term, but in the long term it’s led to crippling debt for the young, the destruction of the middle class, and the industrialization of schools and prisons to the detriment of society as a whole. If you’re wondering why Generation X and younger aren’t buying houses or cars, this is a large part of it… and none of this is taking wage theft into account.

These two things have cost us billions of dollars. How?

We started building on the marketability of ideas. Intellectual properties have become billion dollar industries, creating boom economies out of nothing more than dreams; Take Harry Potter as an example. Harry Potter was the brain child of someone who had nothing, and is now impossibly wealthy – so much so that she’s given much of her money to charity and is still wealthier than anyone might have imagined possible. Her dreams were refined and brought to market, and subsequently gave birth to movies, video games, books, net series, television shows, toys, and more. Celebrities were created, careers launched. They’ve even influenced worldwide politics. Even the fan-inspired works to come out of it have become industries unto themselves.

The knock-off effects and growth are incalculable. What was possible, changed.

It’s a self-perpetuating growth industry that rewards creativity and depth, and has grown even larger with the advent of internet – uncontrollably so, turning people into celebrities through viral videos, internet shows, and more. The idea of being internet-famous is no longer a laughable statement, but a means of making a steady income.

Which is why the same short sighted corporate interests that regularly destroy the economy for the rest of us to the benefit of themselves are so interested in wrecking the whole thing.

So, that’s what the economy is and where it comes from. As for where it is, well, we’re in the middle of depression. A large part of this is because of the failing policies that Harper’s Conservative Government have been shoving down our throats. This includes that time he took a $13 billion surplus and turned it into the biggest deficit in Canadian history, gave $50 million from G8 and gave it to one of his buddies, knowingly took advice from a cabinet member that he’d appointed despite his multiple fraud convictionsdropped corporate tax rate to 15% with no benefit to anyone except his very rich friends… the list goes on.

In fact, on order to make it look like he’s balanced the books, he’s made some pretty impressive cuts to health care, the coast guard, science, women and minority groups, unemployment insurance… basically, if it makes Canada a good place to be, Harper wants to cut it in favor of, well, let’s get on that.

Again, clicking on the name of a political party will take you to that’s party’s website so you can check our findings for yourself.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits 

Trudeau says he’s going to cut the middle class income tax bracket from 22% to 20.5%, so that’s nice. That means that you middle class folks out there will get to keep 89.5% of what you make when you rent out your time, and that’s not terrible. He also wants to create a new tax bracket, where anyone making more that $200k per year will have 33% of that taken away. Part of that money will go for child care to those families making less than $150k, and that’s actually a great thing. Go, Trudeau. He’s going to keep the tax breaks that are in place for small businesses, and reverse the Conservative plan to keep people working to 67, while increasing both pension plan contributions and benefits for Canadians as a whole. It’s a pretty solid platform with a lot of promise, though whether he’ll follow through on anything is in doubt following the disastrous support the Grits gave Bill C-51.

 

 

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Tories

More of the same. To start, there’s help for those wealthy friends of Harper’s Conservatives, as they plan to increase the maximum annual amount you can shove in a tax-free saving account from $5,500 to an even $10k. For those of you keeping score, that’ll help some people, sure, but it’ll help the wealthy most of all. So will cutting the corporate tax rate from 22% to 15%, though his promise to lower the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% by 2019 sounds good until you realize he’s probably bending the truth. Harper does that – a lot – and expect more government programs and departments to be utterly gutted as he struggles to balance the budget. Part of that is his plan to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, while asking for Canadians to voluntarily give him more money to mismanage. There’s not a lot of certainties here, just vague promises. Harper has kept reporters and non-Conservatives out of his press conferences, so who knows what he really has planned?

 

 

Canada Politics 001 - 006The NDP

Tom promises to keep personal income tax rates while they are, and not touch the tax-free saving account thing. His reason is that the latter does nothing to help the lower and middle classes, and neither does income-splitting for families. That means that whole thing is gone, too, and that might be a good thing. He does want to increase income taxes on corporations to where they were before the Conservatives took office, though he does like the idea of small businesses going from the 11% tax rate to 9%, so that’s a thing. Tom Muclair and the NDP would also like to build a series of child care facilities, which would allow women to pursue careers and create jobs for those that like taking care of kids. Oh, and this money from the corporate taxation would go back towards the benefits of Canadians as a whole, including health care, education, pension plans, and keeping the retirement age where it is. It’s about on par with what the Grits want to do, and far better than what the Tories have in mind.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens 

And here’s where things get complex, again. See, the Greens have a comprehensive and workable plan for everything. To start, they want to raise the corporate tax rate back to 19%, but they’re also looking at setting up both pollution and carbon taxes that they can then reinvest in Canadian infrastructure, education, small businesses, and communities. Speaking of infrastructure and small businesses, they’re looking to invest in new forms of environmentally stable and supportable forms of energy, tourism, emerging technologies – the Greens have an eye for the future and want to stimulate and cultivate growth across the board, with the understanding that we can all prosper together. A big part of that is eliminating student debt and college tuition, ensuring that we have an educated workforce that is able to go and do things, like start businesses and buy homes. This means getting youth active and interested in the future, and not being forced into unpaid internships or into dead-end jobs that cannot support anything other than crippling debt.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc 

The Bloc is more interested in the idea of Quebec’s independence than in saying out that would be fiscally responsible, viable, or even possible. Do they have any economic policies on their site? We couldn’t find them. There are other places to find them on the interwebs, but if the Bloc isn’t interested in their position, why should we be? They are, of course, devoted entirely to Quebec and couldn’t care less about the rest of the country, except as a hostage used to get what they want. To that end, they’d probably like a million dollars, but whether or not they’d do anything with it is anyone’s guess. One thing for certain: that million wouldn’t mean anything outside of Quebec.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 007Wyatt Scott

Our favorite independent believes in a strong economy based on a backbone of agriculture. For him, floraculture and silviculure are the wave of the future, but care of orchards and cattle ranches are of equal value. He also wants to make post-secondary education mandatory, and to eliminate both tuition fees and debt towards that end. This would result in an educated youth that would, again, be active in the world and able to stimulate the economy by being a part of it. In addition, the technologies that could be retro-engineered from the robot he destroyed with his eye lasers may hold the secrets to untold riches. Given that he owns the remains of that robot by way of having put it down, voting for him may be the only means we have of getting access to its remains.

 

 

And that’s where our candidates stand on the economy. We’ll be back next week to talk about what these people plan to do about other issues, all leading up to the Federal Election that the Harper Government would like us not to talk about. That election is on October 19, 2015, which is a Monday. Make sure you’re registered to vote and find the places you can vote by clicking here. And, hey, looks like you can even vote online. Awesome.

 

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