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945

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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1185

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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1161

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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1112

Canadian Politics – the Environment

Culture, Opinion, The Truth

September 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: Many of the lines in this article contain hyperlinks to some of the sources used to write this article, specifically some of the articles used to build the conclusions reached here. Clicking on them will open a new tab that will take you to that article. Again, we want to be helpful, but also truthful – this sort of thing is important to us. 

The environment is playing a larger role in world politics than ever before. The corporate interests that have done their best to silence climate scientists, combined with the dedication to neutrality instead of objectivity found on sources like CNN News or NBC News – or the outright lies on Fox – have led to this catastrophic topic being placed on the back burner in a country that used to be respected for being environmentally conscious.

Climate scientists the world over have been begging governments around the globe for decades to start looking at energy alternatives, but the same oil and coal magnates that have done their best to bribe politicians and cripple science so that they can continue to line their own pockets have done a good job of making the issue a political one. They’ve even done this in Canada, and the Harper Government has been happy to help them. They’ve been wildly successfully at this and we’re beginning to see the effects of unchecked short-thinking greed.

The fracking in Alberta has seen a disturbing rise in ecological harm and has been tied to earthquakes that are happening as far as Mission, BC. The Mount Polly Mine and Burrard Inlet disasters happened while the federal government passed laws to criminalize those that were protesting an environmentally devastating pipeline, all while federal oversight to keep such disasters in check has been shrinking. And that’s only some of the disasters that have happened in British Columbia, nevermind the rest of Canada.

All the money in the world means nothing if there’s no world in which to spend it.

It’s not as if there isn’t money to be made in green forms of energy: solar and wind are both ready to go, and there’s some exciting things to be noted when it comes to tidal harvesting. There’s even personal devices meant to allow for the creation of green energy, but several conservative governments have been happy to destroy businesses that would be environmentally sound in the past. Hell, conservative governments tried to do that same thing to Tesla Motors, all while quoting Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged.

Didn’t John Oliver have something to say about that…?

As if that weren’t enough, the Harper Government has also seen fit to dismantle government protection on lakes, rivers, and national parks, which has made some people very, very angry

So, with all that in mind, what do our political candidates have in mind…? 

If you need a quick refresher as to who these people are, click on this sentence.  

If you want a more long-winded explanation of what each party is claiming to want, click the name of that party.

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits 

Leader Justin Trudeau has promised to restore the gutted environmental protection wing of the government, stop the Keystone Oil Pipeline, and start phasing out fossil fuels in favor of green energy immediately, which all sounds pretty great. He also wants to legislate a price for carbon pollution and increase the amount of protected coastal and marine areas by 10% by 2020. It’s a pretty good start, but the problem is that Justin already caved on C-51, and that’s left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. We’re not sure if we can trust Justin, and we’ve been mucked around with so much by the Harper Government that we’re a little leery of electing anyone that seems untrustworthy. It’s a shame, too, because Justin talks a good game.

 

The Tories

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Harper Government would like to remind us that it is not the Canadian Government, and care nothing for Canada, the world, or anyone other than the Harper Government. To that end, they promise to look at phasing out fossil fuels sometime in the next hundred years, and to consider lowering carbon pollution by 2050. No, I’m serious. The Harper Government has their heads so far in the tar sands that they can’t help but frack the rest of us. They’d also like to start buying carbon credits from other countries, so that they can use them here. Again, I’m serious. This is what they want to do. Lastly, they want to give the ministry of the environment $200 million to clean up the messes they’ve made, which sounds good until you realize that the Burrard Inlet mess alone is going to cost somewhere in the $2.1 Billion mark to clean up. Also, that picture on their site where they talk about the environment? That’s from another country. Well done, guys.

 

The NDP

Canada Politics 001 - 006Much like the Liberals, the NDP likes the idea of putting a price on carbon to give people an incentive not to go above a certain level of carbon usage. That could either work really well or fall apart, depending upon the implementation. There are some details about how Tom Muclair would like to proceed on the NDP site, though your mileage may very – literally, in some cases. His plan to cut subsidies to fossil fuel companies and invest that money in green energy research is probably the best use it could go to. By the by, in case you’re wondering what that means, the NDP plans to stop having to pay the fossil fuel companies to sell us our own oil. So, you know, that’s a thing. Even better than that, the NDP would like to put the right to a clean environment into law, making it legal for people to sue companies and even governments for damaging the environment. This is the sort of thing that gives Harper nightmares, and might be the best thing for our species’ long term viability.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens 

Here’s where things get weird in the best possible way. See, we tend to think that punishment and penalization are the best way to get people to behave, when studies show that people are more engaged when there’s something beneficial in the process for them. To that end, the Greens are big on the idea of not only introducing a carbon tax (like the Liberals and the NDP), but also rewarding people for going green. There’s a plan in place for encouraging corporations to go green and grow green industries, a concrete, step-by-step plan that would see most of Canada’s energies met via sustainable means by 2025. They also want to ease access to anyone looking to grow a green business or apprentice to a green trade, ensuring that sector of the economy grows and is supported. Hell, they’re even looking at infrastructure, and over-hauling long forgotten rail lines and retro-fitting them with green means of transportation, all while working within a reasonable budget and growing the economy. This is what the future should look like.

 

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc 

Oy. Okay. So, right off the bat, they want a high speed train that would connect Quebec City with Montreal. Both of those places are within Quebec, the province. See, because they only care about Quebec. There’s talk of extending them to New York, but let’s be realistic – New York isn’t in Quebec. Interestingly, they’ve budgeted $750 million towards the development of green energy technologies, so that’s a step in the right direction and much less villainous and self-centered than we’re used to seeing. They also want to push a more widespread infrastructure to support the electric car, possibly to spite Harper. Lastly, they’re interested in looking at some of the homes in their own province, and retrofitting them to make them more compliant with the Kyoto Protocol, which is a thing that should probably happen regardless.

 

Wyatt Scott

Canada Politics 001 - 007This one guy would like to set up tax incentives to keep carbon pollution down, which seems like a favored strategy with everyone except the Harper Government. He’d also like to encourage and invest in Canadian scientists and engineers to develop new and better ways to create green energy and technology, and implement environmentally friendly practices while expanding on new technologies. What those practices are or what those technologies look like are not known at this time, so that’s frustrating. We know he’s pro-environment and anti-robot, which should be enough, but he did kill a dragon. Those’re endangered, last I checked.

 

And that’s where our candidates stand on the environment. 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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1633

Canadian Politics – A Primer

Lifestyle, Opinion, The Truth

September 2, 2015

Every now and again, we’ll publish an article on politics. We try to keep our thoughts north of the border unless it’s something that’s going to effect the world stage, and even then it’s only a once in a while thing. We talk comics and video games and movies because we enjoy those things. We publish original fiction because fiction is important and culture defining.

We talk politics because we have to.

The federal election that’s coming up down south is happening, yes, but there’s another one coming up in Canada that our friends down south don’t know about, and, if we’re going to be fair, our government is much more interesting than theirs. And usually saner, though that’s slipping away.

So, the election is on October 19th, and we’re going to take a look at the politics of the parties and what they claim to represent – and what they actually do. While we usually are able to argue the subjective merits of one thing or another, there’s a lot of objective information we can look at with our politicians and see who they are and hypothesize where they’re going.

Now, while we are objective, we are not neutral. When someone comes to a debate and starts arguing with information that has nothing to do with what’s being discussed, their argument becomes invalid. If we want to talk about, say, climate change, and someone starts talking about their death cult, we’re going to call them on their bullshit.

And, in the name of Scott Wyatt, we’re going to have a little bit of fun with this.

The Federal Canadian Political Parties Include:

Canada Politics 001 - 005The Grits

Also called the Liberals, they used to fall on the center-left of the political spectrum but now sit more center-right, having been dragged their by the attempted fascism of the Tories (see below). Traditionally, their leaders were charismatic individuals who stood by cautiously progressive policies with a common sense approach. More recently, they’ve employed a number of charisma-less leaders who have had no solid grounding on any particular subject. Their greatest champion was Justin Trudeau, a former Prime Minister (like the President, but Canadian), and his son recently entered the political scene and totally kow-towed to Torie Fascism, which may have killed the party.

Canada Politics 001 - 002The Tories

A long time ago, they were center-right and the counter balance of the Grits. Back then, they were the Progressive Conservatives, but then there were some things that happened and the party imploded. Some people stayed behind, but their more extreme members formed the Reform Party, and their competent and sane people went and joined the Greens. The people left behind flailed about, eventually conning the Reform Party into rejoining, and then they decided they wanted to be the GOP and have been pushing an agenda of greed, fear, corruption, and fascism under the leadershit of Stephen Harper. Expect us to talk a lot about Harper and the Tories over the next few weeks.

Canada Politics 001 - 006The NDP

Once upon a time, the NDP were a socialist party that pushed a lot of far left ideas and never had a chance of getting in. Stephen Harper’s fascist policies have driven the whole political spectrum right, however, making the NDP a solid choice for the left and progressives alike. Generally speaking, the NDP wants to tax the rich with the idea of making education, healthcare, and opportunity available for all, which they believe will lead to a greater degree of economic growth and stability. They seem like good people on the Federal level, but when they achieve power on a provincial level they tend to bungle things horribly. Their leader, Tom Muclair, makes a lot of sense and has some interesting ideas. Most likely to win the next federal election simply because people hate Harper and Trudeau let everyone down.

Canada Politics 001 - 004The Greens

The Greens were a useless bunch of nothings for a good long time, but then the Tories exploded and a bunch of them ended up here. They studied up on the party’s policies but applied Torie thinking to them, and we all ended up with Red Greens – an organized core of leadership that pushes forward cautious progression and an environmental platform that is grounded in economic growth. Their leader, Elizabeth May, is the most well-spoken and informed of the various candidates, and she’d make a great Prime Minister. The problem is that most people still think of the Greens as a useless bunch of nothings, or don’t believe the Greens can win and thus cast their vote for anyone that isn’t Harper. This is called strategic voting, and it only works because Canada has multiple parties.

Canada Politics 001 - 003The Bloc

More properly called the Bloc Quebecois, this party is centered in Quebec and only cares about Quebec. They are determined to argue that Quebec is a distinct society from the rest of Canada – which anyone could argue in favor of – and that they are better than everyone else and deserve special compensation because of it – which no one but them can argue in favor of. Think of them as a villain from a James Bond movie; they frequently threaten to leave Canada with no clearly defined goal as to what that would look like, but their constant whining and threats basically allows them to hold the rest of the country hostage so that they can get stuff. They then do nothing with this stuff.

Canada Politics 001 - 007Wyatt Scott

A recent addition, he is an independent that has no party and doesn’t need one. Instead, he slays dragons, makes friends with aliens, and protects the country from giant robot invasions with his laser eyes. His political goals fall in somewhere between the Greens and the NDP, and while he most likely will not become Prime Minister, there’s a good chance that he will make it to Parliment (sort of the American version of Congress). His presence there has a good chance of mixing things up, which is good: we need a legitimate superhero after suffering more than a decade of Harper fascism.

Those are our parties and their leaders, the hopeful that think that they could run the country. We’ll go into more depth as to where they stand on various issues presently, but we want to help people understand what it is they’re hoping to be in charge of. Canada is a massive country with not so many people, just a lot of trees and snow and things. That said, there’s a massive divide in the cultures that abound here, with only a love of the environment, hockey, and beer holding us together as one people.

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993

Culture as Commodity

Culture, Opinion, Tech, The Truth

August 5, 2015

Bear with me here, because I swear there is a multi-layered point I’m going to make, and it might just blow your mind.

There was this Pokemon commercial that played way back when, one of the earliest of its breed. The premise was a black-and-white world, crowds of people in a hurry to get nowhere, and in the midst of it color would blossom. Children in full vibrancy would stand and look skyward, and a narrator spoke about an awakening, about how few were aware of the change that was coming to the world. Pokemon was mentioned only in the outro, the product little more than an afterthought.

Pokemon is successful, yes, but the product is the least part of what that brand sells. They’re pushing a culture based on the idea of collection and co-operative competition, where the best people aspire to make themselves and everyone else around them better. Only the villains are in it for their own gains and victory, and their pride and their greed makes them laughable and pathetic. It’s the desire to be the best for the sake of being the best that becomes the core theme of that culture, and it all goes back to that first commercial, pushing awakening instead of product.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

That’s been an on-going thing for decades now, since flickering fictions became a means of conveying meaning and depth. We moved from novels to radio to movies to television to YouTube to Netflix, historically speaking, in the blink of an eye. The information most likely to stick with you doesn’t come from dry history but from the stories around it, the recreations and tales that we tell ourselves.

When we as a species first started sharing stories on a national stage, the world changed.

See, when we started sharing our stories we started sharing and contrasting our cultural norms. Philosophies that had existed only in the bubble of their geographic range were allowed to move beyond those borders for the first time. Descartes and Socrates met with Lao Tze and al Razi. The ability to sell culture led to the idea of created wealth, which meant that we could move beyond the idea of land, access, or minerals being the sole measures of value.

"Wait. Philosophers that weren't Greek or from Europe?"

“Wait. Philosophers that weren’t Greek or from Europe?”

This idea was what allowed the United States to flourish and become a super power. By exporting culture as commodity worldwide and selling people on the idea of the American Dream – whereby anyone could become royalty through passion, dedication, and intelligence – the United States was able to become the wealthiest nation the world had ever seen, and to foster an environment of unprecedented growth.

Yes, they had problems along the way, but the consistent progress they were able to make as a culture allowed them to continue to be a powerhouse, right up until they crippled their culture for shortsighted political and economic gains that were what the United States constitution had been drafted to distance themselves from in the first place.

Sadly, most of the people that talk about that constitution have never read it, certainly don’t understand it, and are in the process of killing it. They’ve murdered their own culture for no good reason, and more than just their nation is failing because of it.

A culture without integrity is doomed to failure, and the United States would increasingly rather celebrate an old world that never existed rather than help create a new and better one. This means that they’re falling back into old habit patterns and ways of thinking that don’t really apply, and the only people that are challenging them are – wait for it – the geeks that spent so long being ridiculed for their intelligence.

If you need proof of this, look at Star Trek. A single show promised a better future – equality of races and sexes through the end of toxic patriotism, patriarchy and scarcity economics by means of technology. In the decades since, people adopted the tenants and culture of Star Trek as personal ideologies. They were mocked for it, of course, as intelligence became increasingly vilified by those with a vested interest in keeping scarcity economics a thing.

Pictured: The new line of products from Apple.

Pictured: The new line of products from Apple.

The trick of it was, they were using tools crafted by intelligent people to push their anti-intelligent agenda.

And the Star Trek fans? The ones that had internalized the culture of that show enough to look into science, engineering, and philosophy? They went about creating the technologies of that culture and pushing them as commodities for public consumption.

Cell phones? Star Trek. Smart phones? Star Trek again. iPads? Star Trek yet again.

As the technologies became accepted, so did the culture that came with them – the inclusive cultures, the ones that pushed for the world to be better. The one that wouldn’t turn a blind eye to systematic racism and sexism, to so-called acceptable levels of political and economic corruption.

There’s a whole thing that became popular about supporting the lesser evil, but intelligence will not and cannot accept evil as a choice; as a culture, we aim for the greatest good. And what culture is this, that pushes ideals of progress, integrity, and inclusion? Geek culture. The culture that grew out of Lord of the Rings and comic books and Star Trek.

Why do you think we spend so much time talking about geeky things?

The culture around those things is the birthplace of everything that is going to matter.

When you buy a tablet, you’re not buying a piece of technology: you’re buying a means of gathering and ingesting culture, and everything that goes with it. When you go see Iron Man in theaters you’re watching a story about a man seeking to better himself and the world through co-operative competition with his friends and allies, while the villains become pathetic and laughable because of their pride and greed.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

Pictured: Cartoon Evil.

Which brings us back to Pokemon and that commercial we started this out on.

See, the trick of that commercial was that, yes, it was pushing a culture – but not just the culture of Pokemon. The resonance of that commercial came from it speaking of of a global change, an awakening to a greater power and a greater responsibility.

The world we are moving into is one of fantastic possibility, where the prejudices and hatreds of the past will be nothing more than the shades of a world that no longer matters. When culture becomes commodity, the culture with the greatest level of integrity and inclusiveness wins.

Few were aware of the change that was coming to the world, but the change is here and it’s gonna catch us all.

Mind = blown.

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732

Nerdcouver Comics Episode 10

nerdcouver, Opinion, Reviews, Videos

July 7, 2015

Those kooky kids from Nerdcouver filmed Episode 10 this past Wednesday, which was Canada Day! Yay, Canada!


Naturally, they had to talk about the new comics series, “We Stand On Guard,” which is set in a futuristic Canada overtaken by America, where they won the upcoming mech duel with Japan and went a little conquer crazy!

The Nerdcouver crew also talks about The Spire, The Woods, Princess Leia, Deadly Class, Groot, Squirrel Girl, and X-O Manowar.

 

Nerdcouver is and can be found at:

Aaron Golden @lastswann

Jenna Táralóm @novavandorwolf

Nathan Rayes @natemayes

Reva Dawn @maplebunnie

 

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772

Qualitative Storytelling – Structure

Books & Writing, Culture, Opinion

July 6, 2015

So, a few weeks ago we were talking about qualitative storytelling.

We promised that this was something that we were going to get back to, and we meant it. There’s too many bad stories out there and everyone seems happy to jump on board and point out the bad, but there’s precious little about how to actually tell a story properly.

It’s great to be able to talk about what isn’t a good story, but criticism should aim to improve the craft of the person that is creating whatever it is that’s being criticized. I know that last sentence was wordy, but it’s important to separate the art and artist from both a critical and creative standpoint.

So, again, this isn’t going to be an attack on creatives or the creative process. What this, and the articles to follow, aim to be is a study of how story is told. That’s it. That’s the disclaimer. We good? Great.

"so much great. Look at the intensity of all this great."

“So much great. Look at the intensity of all this great.”

Structure is one of those things that looks intuitive right up until you start writing. This is the bare-bones blueprint, the layout that determines what action happens where and what characters progress and when, if any. This essay isn’t about action or character, though, it’s simply about structure.

Typically, structure falls into three acts. The first act introduces the setting and characters, the second act has those characters seek something within that setting, and the last act has them either succeed or fail. That’s it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

To that end, let’s take a look at two of the Mad Max movies as examples of this being done. We’re running with the Road Warrior and Fury Road.

Road Warrior begins with Max on the road, fighting people from his car. We’re introduced to the character and the violence of his world, and then a secondary character, a gas refinery, and a horde of maniacs that want access to that refinery.

Fury Road begins in similar fashion, with Max being hunted by the villains out in the desert. He’s captured and taken back to what passes for their civilization, where we’re given just enough information to realize that there is a wider world at play here and that some people are trying to leave that civilization.

Both movies introduce their characters and their worlds quickly and efficiently. There’s enough small details in both that we’re led to believe that there are larger forces at play, but they’re so far beyond the comprehension or agency of the main character that they serve only to bring us deeper into this world that Max doesn’t truly care about, but we do.

Why does Lord Humungous keep his gun in that case? Why has Immorten Joe turned himself into a literal cult of personality? Why the Doof Warrior? Max doesn’t care, but these other characters clearly do and it gives their world a sense of depth that helps transition from the first act to the second.

In the Road Warrior , Max realizes that he’s running out of gas and would like a top up. Doing so means working with the people in the gas refinery, helping them so that they’ll help him. In the meantime, the Horde lurks outside, looking for any sign of weakness, and the people in the refinery realize that they need to get out.

On the Fury Road, Max escapes imprisonment and manages to capture – before being captured by – a group of women who are running from the people that originally captured him. The mutual desire of all involved to escape gets them all on the same side, and they flee together from an army that is chasing them.

Health care was offered by the cult, but only to members.

Health care was offered by the cult, but only to members.

The desires of both movies revolve around flight or acquisition. The people in the refinery want to take their gas and get away from the horde. Lord Humungous wants the gas in the refinery. The women want to escape from Immorten Joe. Immorten Joe wants to father perfect sons to take his place when he dies.

Max becomes a catalyst in his stories by wanting both flight and acquisition; it’s a desire to get something that gets him into trouble and his desire to get away that costs him everything.

As the stakes surrounding that end goal ramp up, we move from the second to the third and final act. This is where people ultimately get or do not get whatever it is that they’re after.

In the Road Warrior, the people in the refinery get Max to drive away with the gas they’ve refined. He’s chased by the horde, who he eventually ends up killing, only to find out that the people in the refinery used him as a decoy – the truck he’s been given has nothing in it, and now that he’s killed the horde they’ve abandoned him.

In Fury Road, we learn that the destination that the former slaves were running to has been destroyed. With no other choice, they had back in the direction they came, hoping to claim it for themselves. Immorten Joe chases, still wanting what he views as his, and is ultimately consumed by his need to dominate and destroy. The women get what they want and Max moves on.

See how simple that looks? Here’s where things get tricky: most structure have an overlay that can best be summed up as yes-no-yes or no-yes-no. Yes-no-yes is when a story or character starts in a good place, moves into a place of challenge, and then recovers to try and get things back on track or improve them. No-yes-no is when a story or character starts in a bad place, moves into a better one, and then through hubris, circumstance, or ambition, destroys what they’ve built and ends up either the same or worse than when they started.

There are exceptions – both no-no-yes stories and yes-yes-no stories exist, in addition to every other permutations of those two words in three places. The thing of it is, they rarely work as stories for the main characters or the main story. If someone starts in a bad place and goes good, then continues to go good, well, why didn’t the story end? If someone starts in a good place and then crumbles, do we really need to see them fall all the way to the end?

MM RR 002

Pictured: Reliable narrator.

Sometimes, these subversions work on their own, but that’s rare. Instead, subversions work best when paired with the classic yes-no-yes or no-yes-no scenario.

This overlay applies to both the plot and the main characters within a given story.

For example, in the Road Warrior, Max is in a no-yes-no overlay. He starts off alone and is in a place where he’s barely surviving. He’s running out of resources, so when he finds the refinery and is able to build a connection with those people, his life improves. This is the yes part of the story. By the end, though, Max has been betrayed, has no means of finding the people that betrayed him, and has lost even the few resources he had at the beginning of the film.

Meanwhile, the people in the refinery have a yes-no-yes overlay. They were able to create a relatively comfortable life for themselves in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They had food, gas, and power, so this defintely falls into the category of a yes, right up until Lord Humungous and his horde show up. They find themselves trapped, and are in the no part of their story when we meet them. Through Max and clever planning, however, they’re able to escape with their lives and their gas, and ultimately get everything they want.

Finally, Lord Humungous finds himself in a chaotic wasteland and tries to impose order upon in. We join him in the midst of the yes part of a no-yes-no overlay. His battle with Max will rob him of everything, including his horde and his life, as his arrogance, hubris, and monomania slowly chips away at the small amount of control he’s been able to impose upon the wasteland.

Oddly, the exact same overlay applies to the character types in Fury Road.

Max is still in a no-yes-no overlay. He’s been alone for so long he’s forgotten how to speak. He’s running low on resources and is captured fairly easily, is taken into a hellscape and only gets away due to flukey circumstances. While escaping, he makes a connection with several people, relearns how to speak, and finds comfort in the people around him. He follows their lead and finds purpose because of it, only to walk away from everything at the end. Max’s story ends on a no not because of hubris or arrogance, but for much more complex reasons; he knows that his presence is a poison that will taint the world the people he’s been fighting for are trying to make. So, once again, he leaves with nothing save the haunting memories of the connections he’s made. Max is and always has been a perfect tragedy.

Immorten Joe, likewise, is in a no-yes-no story. Like Lord Humungous, he’s grown in a mad post-apocalyptic world and tried to impose order upon it. Unlike Humungous, he’s largely succeeded. His ultimate goal to make human beings again, but because he’s not human ethically or morally, he’s incapable of reaching the heights of the old world and doesn’t see that; he wants to control the world, and his hubris, cruelty, and arrogance drives what he sees as his tools to flee from them. The initial no and yes parts of his story are off-screen, but we see the influence of them on and around him, and we get to watch the world he’s built fade into nothing. The entirety of Fury Road is the final no of his story, with the implication of what came before groping every event that happens on screen.

This guy learns a thing or to, though. We witness him.

This guy learns a thing or two, though. We witness him.

Finally, Furiosa and the women are part of a yes-no-yes overlay; their lives start in a terrible place and they escape from it, which is the yes part of their overlay. All their trials end up being for nothing, however, when they learn the place they’re running to has already been destroyed. The only place left for them is the one they fled from, so they had back to it and claim it for themselves after Immorten Joe’s megalomania finally brings him low. Their yes is the promise of a better world to come, though their success is not a part of the story as we got it.

And this brings us to another sort of overlay, one based on thematic and philosophical structure. I’m going to use the words damnation, redemption, and salvation to describe these thematic overlays, as they inform how the structure of a story is built and influence every aspect of the story thereafter. These terms are being divested of their religious overtones for the purpose of this essay; instead, we are focusing on their core meanings.

Overlays of damnation deal with destruction of a person, place, or thing. Whether through delusion, happenstance, or malice, the goals that drive the story eat away at those involved and end up in a bad place. Redemptive overlays force a character to take responsibility for their actions, and to make themselves or their world better for the choices they then make. Lastly, salvation based stories are ones in which characters abdicate their agency to an outside power, and through that power are saved.

The character of Mad Max is one thoroughly routed in damnation, regardless of the movie he’s in. He starts off every movie in straits more dire than the last, and ends every movie worse than when he started. He’s given up, lost himself to the violence and madness of his world, and he’s smart enough to know that he’s going to poison every situation he finds himself in. It’s why he walks away at the end of Fury Road; he knows he’s terrible and he knows he’s not getting better.

He has no delusions, unlike Immorten Joe or Lord Humungous. Joe’s goals are self destructive, because he’s self destructive; we meet him already falling apart, his death cult wanting nothing more than to die for their god. Once he’s dead, his children will tear whatever he’s built apart, and the religion he’s crafted will spread like a disease.

Likewise, Humungous has no plan of grandeur for what he wants, no real sustainable end goal – even if he were to capture the refinery he would end up burning it, because even his creative goals lead to destruction. That’s simply who he is. He is lost to damnation, though he would deny it and claim that his is the only path to order.

By contrast, Furiosa’s thematic overlay is one of redemption. It’s her choices and actions that start the events of Fury Road. She backs down from nothing and no one, takes responsibility for her world and those in her care, and ends up making her world a better one. Her story moves her from heartless and unhappy to heartful and happy, as she frees what’s left of civilization from the death cult that had claimed it, forces reformation, and puts power in the hands of people better than her.

And those people?

The women in Fury Road have got the flavor of salvation. They’ve put their faith in Furiosa and, to a lesser degree, Max. They’re relying on her to get them to safety, and when that fails they expect her to come up with a new plan. She does, but their agency is tied to that of Furiosa. She does good by them, and they even convince other people to put their faith in them even as they continue to put their faith in Furiosa.

Over in the Road Warrior, the people in the refinery have put their agency in the hands of their leader and, to a lesser degree, Max. They expect the plan of their leader to save them, and they’re content to let him die for their well-being. Max is a handy substitute, and they’re more than happy to let Max die for them instead.

Anyway, this is the bare bones of where story begins, the place where we lay the groundwork for everything else to come. From here, we start constructing characters, but we’ll get to that in a few weeks.

Bare Bones? That's where Max lives.

Bare Bones? That’s where Max lives.

Questions? Comments? Let us know and we’ll answer. Let’s start making the best possible stories.

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1485

Bad Blood as Cultural Zeitgeist

Heroes of the Living Myth, Opinion, Reviews, Why Aren't You Watching This?

May 25, 2015

Watching anything after Mad Max – Fury Road makes that thing seem, well, muted. Everything feels quieter, less colorful. Or, it did. At about the same time Mad Max was unleashed, this came out:

As of this writing, Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood has been released for eight days and has 70, 853, 170 views. Taylor Swift has broken every record the internet has when it comes to music videos, and really videos in general. This is a milestone, a complete slap in the face to old school producers of media. And it has similarities to Mad Max, in that it features female action stars taking center stage and becoming dominant characters in and of themselves.

This music video is an action movie writ large, the sort of revenge story that was popularized in the eighties and nineties. One secret agent betrayed by another, awoken into a world changed by that betrayal, collecting allies and skills to go and confront the person that betrayed her. It’s a story we’ve seen again and again in male-led movies and television shows and books and comics, but to see it done here, and done so well? Why isn’t there more of this?

Well, the reason is simple. For decades the train of thought on this sort of storytelling has been that it doesn’t work.

The recent leaks from Disney and Marvel about why we’re not getting a Black Widow movie, and a drought of Black Widow merchandise, is the latest in a long line of proofs of a tainted belief among the primary decision makers of media: that women aren’t interested in watching or being a part of anything that isn’t a romance, romantic-comedy, or period piece.

Common excuses cited to support this error are the failures of movies like Catwoman, Elektra, or the Next Karate Kid. These films are used as proof that female-led action movies are doomed to failure, as opposed to looking at the idea that bad movies with terrible storytelling are doomed to failure.

Elektra failed as badly as Daredevil. Catwoman failed as badly as Batman and Robin. The Next Karate Kid failed as badly as any of the dozens of half-assed qualitatively bankrupt martial arts coming-of-age stories that came out around that time and continue to come out now. They don’t fail because they have female leads; they fail because they are, objectively speaking, bad.

And yet the illusion of female-led narratives being doomed to fail persists, outside of the prescribed roles of damsel-in-distress, arm candy, or romantic lead.

This, despite the widespread success of Kill Bill, the world-wide profits of Lucy, the popular demand for a Black Widow movie, the excitement that followed the Supergirl trailer and subsequent leak. This, despite the sales-figures of female-led comics like Spider-Gwen and Thor and Batgirl. This, despite the fanaticism surrounding books like the Hunger Games. This, despite the violent beauty of anything the Soska Sisters work on.

With this video, Taylor Swift has slammed the coffin shut on an out-dated, ancient, and erroneous way of thinking.

Taylor Swift herself is a controversial figure who picks up a lot of flack because double standards and patriarchy. Her latest album, 1989, makes it clear that she’s had enough. From Blank Space‘s  deconstruction of public perception to Out of the Woods‘ quiet reflective philosophy, the entire album feels like a diatribe from a person who has claimed her identity and her power and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She knows who she is.

And Bad Blood?

It’s intoxicating. In four minutes we’re given a host of characters and the world they inhabit, we’re given enough nuance that we want to see more of that world, and a large enough conflict that we want to see how it ends. There’s a reason that people are watching this video again and again and again, and with any luck some of decision makers will develop the skill of basic pattern recognition and start giving us the stories that we want, the stories that the current shift in zeitgeist is demanding.

Failing that, we’re going to have to make those stories ourselves… and if this is what we have to look forward to, well, we’re off to a good start.

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1020

Qualitative Storytelling

Books & Writing, Culture, Opinion, The Truth

May 22, 2015

We talk a lot about storytelling here.

exodus 002

Pictured: Standing up to the Man.

Of course we do. We’re geeks, and as such we base ourselves on the mythologies we’ve crafted for ourselves. From the Legend of Zelda to Mad Max to Harry Potter, we look at the icons around us and use them to understand ourselves and our actions, and to force change when needed.

In this, we’re no different than anyone else. In olden times, it was tales of Gods or other exemplars of whatever societal virtues ruled in that particular day. With the population growth of the past two hundred years, however, society is changing at such a rapid pace that the wisdom and stories of yesteryear fall flat, even without the historical context that give those stories meaning.

Which is part of the problem – given how quickly this world and our perception is changing, we need mythologies that are changing, adaptable, and fluid. That isn’t nearly as problematic as one might think, as the best sorts of stories can change without losing their essential meaning. It’s why movies like the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt can literally be different iterations about the same events while still, individually, ringing true.

It’s also why Exodus – Of Gods and Kings was such a colossal failure.

We’re going to start with one disclaimer: we are not, in any way, arguing the veracity of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qu’ran, or any of the texts that came from them. This essay has no interest in that whatsoever (the author, on the other hand, loves that sort of debate). This essay is talking about the story structure of the Book of Exodus, which is the second book in the Old Testament, and its modern cinematic adaptations. That’s it.

All kosher? Everyone understand? Good. Let’s get into this.

The Old Testament is one of the most impressive stories ever written. The two bestselling spin-off books – the New Testament and the Qu’ran – have influenced the entirety of western thought, and have helped shape the norms of the modern world. The lessons contained therein are considered axiomatic and culturally informing, even when people don’t necessarily understand the source material.

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings doesn’t understand the source material. It’s not just a bad movie, narratively speaking, it also misses entirely the point of the story it’s purporting to tell. The core of the Exodus tale is about God taking a stand against a nation, a deity moving into and battling an entrenched mortal power structure to free a disenfranchised people.

"I'm fighting what?"

“I’m fighting what?”

The Hebrews of the Old Testament have lost faith and have no power or strength from which to fight. They refuse to believe that they might be delivered, at least at first, and they doubt their God and the Prophet he’s sent. Moses is protected mostly by circumstance, but there’s powerful themes running throughout the story, of family and duty and faith, and that’s one of the reasons it resonates so powerfully.

Moses doubts God. He’s terrified of returning to the land of his birth, the place where he was a prince and is now wanted for murder. It’s only a brother’s love that protects him from punishment, and it’s that same brother’s love that allows him to act as God’s agent.

And, truly, that’s what Moses is: God’s agent. He has no power himself, and generally shies away from conflict. That’s one of the prime differences between the Exodus tale and every other mythology – the chosen people are slaves and don’t believe they can be anything else, and it takes God showing up and literally freeing them from the bondage of Egypt to rekindle their faith.

Both the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt get this. The Hebrews never pick up swords, never attempt to defend themselves because they know they can’t. The Egyptians kill their children and the Hebrews know they are powerless to stop this. It is only through the advent of God that the Hebrews escape and return to the land of their ancestors. There’s no desire for vengeance, no conquering of those that enslaved them; the plagues the Egyptians suffer happen because of their own hubris, and if they had acted in good faith they would have suffered no more.

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings has Moses leading an armed revolt. It’s standard popcorn fare without any sort of depth or dignity, a growling macho bullshit fable that tries to undo the grandeur of the text by using character names and applying standard action movie caricatures to a story that is so much more than that and chafes at the restriction.

We see this a lot in modern cinema, characters that are suited for one sort of story shoe-horned and stitched into other stories because someone doesn’t understand what the actual story is about, or is being willfully ignorant as to what the story is about.

"I'm the prophet America deserves."

“I’m the prophet America deserves.”

See, stories are often made to fit the criteria or needs of the culture that are telling them. America is currently considering another war in the Middle East, to the extent that the politicians that are running for president in the 2016 election are already being quizzed as to whether or not they’d be willing to bomb countries in that region for, well, a variety of reasons that boil down to “we want your oil.”

Exodus – Of Gods and Kings features an American Moses going to do battle with savages in the Middle-East. It lacks any of thematic elements of family, duty, and faith in favor of crass imperialism. It’s why we’re also getting movies like American Sniper, which runs so close to parody that one would think it was taken and re-purposed from a much better movie.

And Exodus – Of Gods and Kings bombed at both the domestic and worldwide box offices. The people that made this movie thought it would be a big hit, and still don’t understand why the movie didn’t do well. The answer is simple: anyone familiar with the story knows, on an instinctive level, that this retelling of it is wrong.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to be looking at the basic building blocks of storytelling and what makes a quality story – what we’re looking for when we discuss good and bad narrative. We’re doing this because we want more Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypts and less Exodus – Of Gods and Kings. If we’re going to demand good stories, the least we can do is define what we’re demanding.

And, hey, we’re here to help people give us what we want.

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