Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Disney Blogs, Day Zero "Gargoyles"

            I have decided to do another 30-day movie blog to challenge myself to greater levels of output for this year.  (The last one I did is here; it is about video games).  This blog challenge will be about Disney movies.  This was somewhat inspired by the Nostalgia Critics “Disneycember” video blog in which he watched many… many-many movies over the course of multiple Decembers.  A luxury someone who reviews films for a living can justify and that I envy.
            After looking thru a wide swath of 30-day blog suggestions I realized that the cult of Disney has a bad habit of being overly positive “What’s your Favorite (Blank)” is too common a prompt.  They also have far too much an emphasis on asinine details like “Prettiest Eyes/Dress/Hair” … WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WRITE ABOUT THAT?  It is one thing to emphasize character design or art design (“Hercules” is different than “Oliver and Company”) but to go to the level of picking out favorite eyes is stupid.
This is a tumblr joke.  It would have to be.  Because even though it would sell and make money.
Disney does not encourage this kind of fandom.
            Anyway!  I eventually compiled a list that stretches things bit far in some areas, unlike with video games I can’t focus on game mechanics or systems so I have to focus more on characters, settings, and the emotional resonance of certain scenes.  Which is fine, I hammered out a list and it will do.
            That all being said I did not have a full grasp on the brobdingnagian amounts of stuff Disney has made over the years.  I have seen only a small portion of it all, especially when you include the animated series and direct to video garbage they were throwing out to the public for a quick buck in the 90’s.  So I have to put some logical limitations on what I am looking at because some things would be more than a little heavy with potential candidates.
            So here are my limitations:
1)     None of the animated series Disney produced; this one is difficult as it means I can’t give any sort of “Best” title to “Darkwing Duck”.
2)     None of the direct to video stuff, so “Return of Jafar” is out of the running for my nostalgia.
3)     This is the biggest one: None of the Live action stuff.

            Disney produces a shocking amount of live action material and me wanting to put “Sky High” as the most underrated movie from Disney is really not fitting in with all the animated musicals that a “Disney Blog Challenge” evokes in a reader’s mind.  And really, that also means I don’t have to worry about Muppets, Marvel, or Pirates either.  Which I think is for the best.

            Now, since I have established I will not be talking about animated series for the month of December, let me talk about one now, in the month of November.

            “Gargoyles” is perhaps the best thing ever made by Disney.  It miraculously/stupidly has not been replicated since its initial creative run in spite of it being an expansive universe that blends science, magic, and myth into a perfect adventure setting.  It had complex characters who developed over time and possessed motivations like bigotry and self-loathing that are rarely seen in television that is ostensibly aimed at children.  I consider it one of the best animated programs ever and one of my favorite shows that jumps to mind when I am asked.

I wonder how many people have used these sequences of the gargoyles breaking out and set it to Evanescence?
            While I wonder how anyone could get their hands on it for viewing these days I do think that if such a thing were possible it definitely should be a priority for anyone who likes Disney, animated shows, or the superhero genre.
“Gargoyles” uses many of the tropes associated with Marvel Comics’ properties—like a cadre of recurring villains, New York being the primary setting, fantastic powers being used for crime fighting, and a “will they or won’t they” romance subplot—so many of these tropes show up that I am kind of shocked they didn’t try to just tie it into Marvel comics after the merger, it would fit right in.
            The Show also has a legendary voice cast with Johnathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Keith David, and Ed Asner among many others.
Watch the show.

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Audio Book Review: "Miss Peregrine's Home..."

I have recently given up on “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”.  I listened to it as an audio book from Audible and that hurt it severely as the guy doing the reading was awful. That being said I can list many good things about the story that if not for a particular fatal flaw would have made me love it, but as is they just feel like a lot of wasted potential.

This book.  This is the book.

1)      I like the underlying themes of reliving things, a form of time travel is in the story and that plays along with the setting that time forgot and the pictures of the peculiar children, the strange swamp mummy that is in the little town’s museum, and allusions made to family legacies.
2)     I like the fascinating backstory about the protagonist's Grandfather, if there had been no supernatural elements and the story had just been about a kid finding out his grandfather's tragic life fleeing Poland and then having his adopted home in Wales bombed by the Nazi’s it would have been great on its own.
3)     The scenes in which real action and tension are happening are great, the death of the grandfather which kicks off the story is tense and awesome.
4)     The creepy/strangeness of the supernatural elements are great; they have the feel of a more magical Addams Family or a Tim Burton movie (hence why his choice to direct the movie adaptation was a smart one).

               But here is the fatal flaw: the main character is crap.  He is an entitled stupid asshole who mentions being in lots of honors courses, but aside from occasionally using a word you would see in an ACT prep book there is no indication of his intellect.  I think I muttered, "Go fuck yourself" multiple times when listening to him try and blunder his way thru a conversation any halfway intelligent person would have anticipated and planned for (again maybe it had to do with the voice actor whose constant upward inflection, like every sentence was a question or statement of being confused made the character sound like even more of an idiot).
The protagonist (whose actual name I have forgotten) isn't a complete blank slate like Harry Potter, so the audience can’t just jump into him and pretend they are the one on the adventure.  The lead also is not clever or funny so I don't enjoy being along for the ride on his adventure.  He's just a jerk and I don't have the patience to see how his character arc manifests.

The book also does not give me the impression that Miss Peregrine was hot like the surface of the sun.
I don't know whether to think of this as a miscasting or the filmmakers making something better in the adaptation?

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Blog for all Time

I am closing in on 350 blog entries and I think I should set some kind of new goal, have at least one blog entry for each day of the year (which is going to be difficult to complete because another February 29th won't be around till 2020). It seems like another good arbitrary goal to shoot for, though it will take a while to accomplish.
If I wanted to get started this December, I would need 24 entries for the month (it already has 8 covered).  I could start in November, but that would be a hassle, though I guess this entry counts.  First thing first is an inventory.
I downloaded a series of “Print it Yourself” free Calendars and blocked out all the days that already have an entry in them for each month with the powerful image manipulating software… MS Paint.  So they looked like this:

Marvel at my ability to use the fill tool!
(This is where I got most of the original month images... I think)

Having now looked over the things and making visual guides to help, I have determined October and December are at the bottom having the fewest days covered with 23 and 24 open spaces respectively.
January, by virtue of being the month in which I typically do lots of movie reviews, and August, the month that this year I did a 31-day blogging challenge, both of those are completely covered.

So now with my upcoming free time for the holidays I will attempt to do another blog challenge for December and conquer the “hole-y-est” month of my calendar.  Or I will fail, and… nothing really lost.
What prompted me to do this?  Honestly, it was Facebook now having that “Memories” feature that allows you to look back at all your old posts on each date.  I figured I should shoot to be able to repost a blog from every day in the year going forward.  Because I am an ego maniac sometimes. 
If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Inquisition of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton is one of the most investigated people in the history of the United States, the actionable evidence that has been found against her during all of that investigation does not exist.
There will always be another new bit of information to look at about Clinton’s time in the State Department, there will always be a new thing to look at when she was a Senator, because she is a big deal.  It has been 100 years and we are still finding things on McKinley, it has been 200 years and we are still finding things about Burr.  People who live a life in politics, sadly, live a life that blends service, slander, and often times shady dealings.
All of the things Hillary Clinton has been accused of doing, all of those things that have been found to be questionable, all of those things directly relate either to working in government positions that require subterfuge, or working with technology that is constantly evolving.

For the record, I also really like President Obama.
Let us take a moment to look at her more generally, maintaining a bird’s eye view of her career that is in question.  Clinton (as I said previously) is one of the most investigated people in history.  So logic must dictate that there is a reason for that.  Many of the people who deride her (“Hillary for Prison”) would point to this constant scrutiny as proof of her being corrupt.  Guilty by implication.  They are on some level right.  Just because there is not enough evidence to prosecute doesn't mean she is “innocent” of all wrong doing.
BUT, there has to be a point at which you say, "okay, that is enough investigation. I am satisfied that nothing happened." I don't know what that threshold is for you, or the typical voter, or a Trump supporter, or some guy living in France.  I do not know what that threshold is for most people, but the level of scrutiny Hillary (and her husband Bill) have been under for LITERAL DECADES and the lack of actionable intelligence that has emerged conclusively shows me that there is nothing there.
How many times does a congressional hearing (out for blood) have to be paneled?  How many times does the Justice Department or FBI have to not bother?  How many hours of reading thru email after email has to happen before people just say, “Okay, that’s enough?”  I am sure there are people out there that will never accept the lack of evidence as anything other than a cover up.  I am sure that there are many, MANY people who don’t even understand that you can’t actually prove innocence, you can only assume it until evidence of wrong doing is presented (That is why “Innocent until proven guilty” exists as a concept).  But for ME, there is nothing there, and the continued furious search for something-anything looks more and more like crazy people hunting to justify their irrational biases against her.
Even the stuff they have found that looks suspicious is so thin that I can't hold it up as an example of why Clinton should not be looked at as a fine candidate for public service.  I can’t point to anything of substance that would bar her from elected office. Nothing I have seen looks any worse than the generally complex stuff you see as part of being advised by intelligence organizations and advising on both political and military operations.
There is always going to be some holes in the data, there always be some slip ups in handling that data, there will always be something that does not hold up to casual observation, because regular people who work at banks or grocery stores or whatever, regular people have some idea of what it is like to keep something secure, but they do not understand the level of security and information Clinton has been operating on for DECADES.  Let’s look at a few things I often see pointed out and break them down.

Having a private email server is not treason.
Furthermore, when one considers how many prominent political officials I have seen listed as having a server, a cache, or whatever, I don't even view having the server as irresponsible.  (I know Hillary Clinton has said it was irresponsible in the media, and has apologized and taken the mistake to heart, so maybe I don't know enough about tech security.  OR, the general public doesn't know enough about tech security and Clinton would rather just admit to mistakes and promise to learn from those mistakes rather than explain to people why it isn’t a problem and be accused of “rationalizing her behavior” … as if being able to explain one’s actions rationally makes you a bad person.  Whatever).
Technology moves faster than the agencies that need to use it, and that technology is not always approved of because the policies governing such things are not being written and reformed fast enough.
If her emails were improperly secured, and I am not sure that is true considering the slap dash way things are managed in general.  I have no doubt that such insecurities are still par for the course when compared to the rest of the US government.  I would go further to say that if there were security breaches the fault does not lay at her feet specifically, but is instead a natural (unwanted) side effect of the volume of digital material that is so routinely handled by so many people thru so many points of access.
Hillary Clinton is not a cyber security expert and (call me ageist or sexist if you like) I highly doubt this 60+ year old woman is hunkered down jiggling circuit boards to make sure all the pins connect and then then playing bejeweled on her phone while line after line of self-written code compiles.  She is not the tech professional that should be looked at as having done a bad job.  If the Secretary of State or her staff says she needs some kind of computer hardware, then Lenny the tech support guy has to be there to provide it.

WAS NOT HER FAULT.  I am sorry that a terrorist attack killed personnel in an embassy.  I am sorry that how the attack was handled was insufficient.  I am sorry that serving as an ambassador around the world (and particularly in the Middle East) is dangerous work.  BUT, Hillary Clinton was not in charge of security, she is not a Marine Colonel, she is not even enough of a micromanager to have known who was in those facilities at that time.
There are hundreds of diplomats and support staff all over the world.  While the Secretary of State is ultimately in charge of those people and in turn reports to the President, that does not mean that every attack upon that agency is the fault of the Secretary of State.  Not every attack on a US facility is the fault of the person in charge of that facility.  People were victimized and the confusion around that victimization meant that the whole thing is not only tragic, but looks like some kind of mistake.  I am sorry, but to claim this was the sort of mismanagement that came from the White House or the Secretary is just too high up the chain and is scapegoating for the failures that happened at numerous levels.  Again, this was a HUGE investigation, and it was the FAULT OF TERRORISTS.
In retort you may say, “there should not have been ambassadors in a country that was so unstable.”  I disagree, establishing diplomatic ties with the fledgling government was a priority at the time, and establishing connections within the Middle East and Northern Africa remains a priority.  The United States needs to have both a military and diplomatic presence in the Mediterranean and surrounding areas.  It is dangerous, yes.  It is also necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and the formation of rouge nations down the line.

I actually think Bill was a lukewarm President.  With the fall of the Soviet Union he was kind of playing the game on easy mode.  So I am probably giving him both too little and too much credit.  Time will tell.

Bill Clinton's sexual escapades mark him as a shitty guy.  Even if you are in an open relationship and everything you do with your extramarital liaisons is consensual, there is a time and a place.  That being said, NOT A LOT HERE EITHER.
 If activity related to Bill’s infidelity can be proven to be anything other than consensual (and I do tend to lean toward believing the accuser) I am all for raking Bill over the coals. But, nothing has shaken loose.
Hillary Clinton has been accused of being a monster for attacking the women who have accused her husband of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.  So let me say this, if someone accused my spouse of rape without evidence I would be pretty defensive too, so maybe instead of calling her an apologist or covering up for his behavior, you instead think to yourself how you would react in her place to someone (from her point of view) slandering her husband and endangering both his and her legacy.  I actually have not heard her give any opinion on these affairs except to acknowledge (reluctantly) that Bill cheated and to then forgive him (and really, I am sure they have an open marriage, and I don’t care). 
Regardless of all of that here is the most important thing to remember: HILLARY IS NOT BILL, and she should be judged as herself and not for crimes she was never even arrested for.  She is not her husband’s jailor.  Nor is she his avatar.  The fact that she is being judged for him is indicative of some uncomfortable standards that Hillary herself often alludes to, that it was Bill that cheated and she who is getting picked on.

I really like Bernie.
            Here is the last thing that I see people mentioning as a scandal, that Hillary and the Democratic Party conspired to keep Senator Bernie Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination.  Yeah, they did.  I have no trouble believing that, and I have no ill will towards them for it.  Why?  Cause I totally get it.
            While I will fully admit to being a Bernie supporter (I find his policies to be more ambitious and sweeping) the fact of the matter is: HE IS NOT A DEMOCRAT.  He aligns with them on a majority of things and I can see why his running for their nomination made a lot more sense than trying to run for the Republican nomination, but he is not a Democrat.
            Bernie Sanders did far better than he expected, you can tell because if he had known he was going to give such a good fight he would have made a better opening announcement and done a better ground game 2-4 years ahead of time rather than just being a Bernie come lately that kept Clinton on message and forced her to take more aggressive positions.
            But let’s all put this in perspective, the Democratic party has had a series of long term plans that were supposed to culminate with Hillary being President back in 2008, she was the gifted tried and true policy wonk they had wanted for ages and it was only because of the inexplicable success of Obama that she wasn’t President.  So they pushed back the plan, and low and behold someone else comes along, well, they took it more seriously this time.
            Hillary had the party on her side because she did a good job for them, and they were (by and large) tried and true voters rather than the, “Well, I was excited at first but voting for congress was a hassle” voters from years before.  You don’t win long term strategies banking on a sudden influx of voters who are so obviously flash in the pan.
Followers of a particular candidate who happens to have the right message at the right time tend to not be constant voters, and then tend not to have the stamina for long term hope and change (look at the 2010 congressional blowout against the Democrats, WHERE THE HELL WERE THE OBAMA VOTERS?).
To make real change on an institutional and societal level, you want the tried and true.  It is not dramatic, it is not sweeping, it ain’t exciting, but you know what they are going to do, you know who will vote for them, and you know what they have and haven’t done to earn the position.
THAT’S RIGHT.  For me, Hillary is the boring one because she wasn’t immediately LIBERAL enough.
            The Democratic party is an institution, and while they are a democratic one, they have super delegates specifically because they have a central message they want to stick to over the course of decades.  Sanders did not align with that central message entirely and Clinton did (she helped write it).  So rather than cool grandpa, they went with un-cool grandma.  Is it undemocratic?  Yeah.  But maybe if Bernie had been part of the system instead of just railing at it the DNC would been more supportive of his candidacy.  And considering how many Bernie supporters went against Bernie’s own request and joined up with Trump it is pretty clear that issues and long term goals were not really their bread and butter, those guys were not reliable, and wouldn’t have been useful down the line.  Screw those guys.  I don’t know what caused those guys to jump to Trump as the only thing he and Bernie have in common is that they are running against Hillary.  But they did, so screw’em.
            I am fully acknowledging that the Democratic party did not want their carefully cultivated plan with their carefully cultivated candidate to be knocked out (again) by an X factor, who pushed policy that (while I and many others think it would have been effective) would have been stonewalled (again) by congress.
It was and is unrealistic to have a candidate that has billed themselves as an outsider.  I see this all in retrospect and look at Bernie as a valuable part in the process and a guiding star for the future of liberalism.  But for Bernie to show up with his newly registered fair weather friends and oust all of the hard work that the establish members have put together, that does seem unreasonable.  AGAIN, I say this as someone who was a Bernie voter and continue to look up to him for his long time principled stances.
I do not hold it against the Clinton campaign or the Democratic party for working against Bernie.  It was pretty underhanded, but I get it.  And considering Bernie clearly never expected to get as far as he did and now really wants Clinton to win while he chairs a powerful committee in the Senate, it would be pretty stupid to see this as a scandal worth holding a grudge over as all that will accomplish is losing the white house to American Mussolini and a good chunk of the legislature to a Republican party that is looking more and more like an out and proud Klan rally.

I'm sorry, I do not see the deliberate evil in Hillary Clinton’s actions that others have been pointing to.  I don’t smell the sulfur.  What I see is a candidate that has worked within and thru the system now having her record looked at as a loadstone rather than an asset.  When did having such a deep and robust resume become a detriment?  I do not get it.


If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.