A Modest Critique of Star Trek: Lower Decks

I enjoy Star Trek and have my own opinions about the new shows.  Having an opinion is not the same as crafting a manifesto declaring what I think Star Trek SHOULD be.  As much as I enjoy it, Star Trek is a consumable piece of entertainment that amuses me when I’m not living my life and filling it with pursuits that pay my bills and give me pleasure with family and friends.

I’ll never be angry if Star Trek or any other beloved, branded intellectual property suddenly fails to amuse me.  I survived the entire disappointing reboot of Ghostbusters in 2016 without firing up any message boards or calling anyone the child of a whore.  I understand and try to enjoy myself and respect the artists’ vision of things.  When something stops amusing me for an extended period, I stop wasting my time.

Now, I will be vocal about LOSING something that gives me joy or when it is renewed for another season, sequel, or incarnation.  I am enjoying the hell out of the obscure Syfy series SurrealEstate, but I’m afraid it is going to die on the vine in the rush to put out derivative but higher profile shows like Chucky and yet another zombie show stolen from the grave of George Romero. I do have feelings about my entertainment.  However, I recognize that entertainment is a self-assigned reward, not an entitlement or my possession. It is my choice to give the show my half-hours and the contract is limited to that content, not a promise that it will be made to my specifications. 

So.  Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Continue reading “A Modest Critique of Star Trek: Lower Decks”

The Sexy Beast – The Kilmerfication of Evil in Tombstone and Wynonna Earp

I really dig the show Wynonna Earp. I read the comic book by Beau Smith back in 1996, but it was part of that brief but unfortunate “Bad Girls” period when every new indy comic heroine was drawn like Jessica Rabbit, given guns, supernatural powers, or both.

I picked up the comic because of my interest in the intriguing history of Wyatt Earp and the legend that followed him. This, like the comic perhaps, was inspired by the success of not one but two Wyatt Earp-centered films in the mid-1990s, Wyatt Earp and Tombstone.

Continue reading “The Sexy Beast – The Kilmerfication of Evil in Tombstone and Wynonna Earp”

Syfy’s SurrealEstate fills a niche market with an attractive listing promising many chilling amenities

Spoilers…maybe.

I like my ghost stories with some bitter-sweet backstory to make it more gothic or Victorian in nature than the cheaper and dumber jump scare factory. I love what Mike Flanagan created with both “Haunting of…” stories that made the hauntings into mythologies of horrors both tragic and sad across generations of families. But I am also a die-hard, day-one Ghostbusters fan and I live for those stories where the mortal heroes explore the unknown, find it is pretty hostile, but then stand-up and fight against the ancient world-eating evils, winning the day with heart and humor.

And an arsenal of pew-pew gadgets.

This is that kind of show.

SurrealEstate is a new ORIGINAL show on Syfy, the latest in a line of original shows not involving wrestling, zombies, or weather-borne sharks. Syfy has been releasing better shows over the past few years. Syfy recently brought us the Alan Tudyk alien-out-of-space dramedy Resident Alien which I enjoyed quite a bit and gave me hope that the network was on a roll with shows that did not suck. It gifted me with The Magicians, Wynonna Earp, Channel Zero, Happy!, and other small-scale productions that told big stories. SurrealEstate caught my attention with its series trailer that contains some atmospheric shots of creepy houses, cryptic character shots, and an intriguing premise about a real estate company that handles metaphysically-engaged properties, otherwise known as haunted houses.

SurrealEstate is the best parts of Ghostbusters, X-Files, Boston Legal, with a light glaze of Twin Peaks over it all. Where many shows are satisfied to focus on the effects and the horrors, the show clicks based on the choice of creating intriguing characters instead of “types” to follow. It is a mix of very different people offering small bites of their rich back stories as we get to know them through the eyes of the new agent, Sarah Ireland (Sarah Levy). This real estate agency is not just a front for some secret organization, it is the heart of the show. This is a real estate agency that focuses on a narrow market and is consistent in that approach. The goal is to sell the properties they represent by abating with whatever paranormal contamination exists there.

Continue reading “Syfy’s SurrealEstate fills a niche market with an attractive listing promising many chilling amenities”

One created a monster. Others abused it. One man had to put it down: Afghanistan War

(from Reddit)

People who really hate Joe Biden are rejoicing today, dancing on the mass grave of Afghanistan over the chance to condemn the late-comer who chose to end a war lost long ago.

The war was over.  We were in the middle of an unsustainable occupation promoting the idea tat we remained only to foster a democracy within a region that has never been “tamed” by western ideas.  It was clear that our reason for being in Afghanistan expired with the death of Osama bin Laden, a man who sat in Pakistan for years while trillions of dollars flew over his head to a different country.

Continue reading “One created a monster. Others abused it. One man had to put it down: Afghanistan War”

When the Infomercial is the Product: While Netflix Did Right by the MCU Disney is Turning it Into A Creative Ponzi Scheme

SPOILERS to everything up to yesterday in the MCU:

Continue reading “When the Infomercial is the Product: While Netflix Did Right by the MCU Disney is Turning it Into A Creative Ponzi Scheme”

Actor Who Played Superhero Upset How Other Superhero is Politicized; Internet Leaps Into ACTION!

Dean Cain played Superman.

His Superman was part of a television romantic-drama in the 1990s.

Superman was created and continues to be depicted as an immigrant story of someone who loves “truth, justice, and the American way” and fights for those values and on behalf of the oppressed.

Captain America is the story of a man who loves his country so much that he allowed the country to conduct medical experiments on him so he could play a larger role in its fight for “truth and justice” and particularly the American way.

Superman was introduced at a time where European and American anti-Semitism was surging. He was shown as a true American fighting for social justice against exploitative or corrupt capitalism represented by villains like Lex Luthor. His arrival on Earth has shifted forward in time with every reset of the DC Comics universe to keep up with the contemporary re-imagining of The Justice League.

Cap’s initial war against Nazis and fascism brought him face to face with the “ultimate Nazi” in the form of The Red Skull. He used his powers to go to war against tyranny. This led him to become frozen in time, revived later in a different America than he remembered, yet he stayed true to his values. As the Marvel Universes set and reset their continuities, his re-introduction to society changed. He was revived in the sixties initially and then later to keep up with the contemporary re-imagining of The Avengers.

Dean Cain has a right to say whatever the hell he wants. His special status makes his opinion important enough that Fox News gave him a platform to share it. Good on all of them. This is America, after all.

Dean Cain bemoaned the politicization of Captain America, asserting his belief that Cap is a nationalist and would never question the way the nation chose to approach any issue because, while it isn’t perfect, it is the greatest society on Earth.

His words: “I love the concept of Captain America, but I am so tired of this wokeness and anti-Americanism.”

Well, we can’t have this once-upon-a-Superman tired.

“Wokeness” is a term that has been weaponized by the right to represent a revisionist view of American history that generally makes white or anglicized Americans uncomfortable, particularly when it comes to things like slavery, genocide, internment, sexism, police abuses, and other things that free white people were granted by luck of their genetics.

To tired folks like Dean Cain, it means people who don’t know how good they’ve got it. You might be a black woman assaulted by armored and heavily armed American cops because you fit a profile of a suspect six miles away, but what if those cops were FRENCH? Or Iraqi? Or somewhere else the assault wasn’t kissed by the sweetness of American freedom?

Anti-Americanism is the idea that America, itself, is a bad thing. It is the idea that we shouldn’t have a United States at all. The ironic thing about that is that America sets itself up to be the hardest type of nation to maintain because it allegedly promotes the free exchange of ideas. So, it can be tiring to have to live in a country where people shout ideas at you all the time that make you feel uncomfortable in your world view or angry that these people seem to think they are “true” Americans. In fact, it’s when someone starts to say that people who share uncomfortable ideas are Anti-American that they reveal their ignorance of the American Experiment.

TL/DR: If you are content to live in an echo chamber where everyone has the same idea about how to live and anyone who doesn’t agree finds themselves “dealt with” in some political or legal way – you’re the ANTI-American.

Comic book heroes – at least the most enduring ones – are based on the fantasy of the “little guy” becoming a hero to those like them. Even comics had to grow and learn with the times because there were a LOT of white people wearing tights up until the end of the 20th century. Even know comic readers whine about the “wokeness” of comics in the modern world, upset that there may be people of color looking to see themselves in the stories being told.

Captain America has always been politicized. This is not a fresh take on the hero, though it may be to Dean Cain. Captain America doesn’t care about governments or ideologies. He just hates bullies. He hates bullies that wrap themselves in the armor of nationalism, be it the Nazi kind or American. He was of strong heart and mind but weak in flesh and bone. An opportunity gave him power and his character allowed him to retain his sense of equality and drive to help others who lack the ability to stand up for themselves.

Captain America abandoned his identity more than once because he lost faith in his ability to carry the title. However, he kept on fighting for his values, believing in America even though those who wished to control him in government would have him corrupt those values.

Steve Rogers and Clark Kent would be good friends, I believe.

Superman was an immigrant whose birthright afforded him powers far beyond those of mortal men. This inspired fear in men like Lex Luthor who feared the tyranny such power would demand. Luthor’s mission was to contain, exploit, or destroy Superman depending on the era of comic writing.

Superman chose to live as Clark Kent, an ordinary man who chose journalism to keep him close to the people and resources he could use to help people while also informing his fellow citizens. He protected those he loved by concealing his powers and public identity from them.

It may be that Americans see themselves as Clark Kent or Steve Rogers. They have Black friends and regular jobs. They believe and love their personal concept of “America” and hate those things that threaten it. They see heroes as warriors in a fight against those threats, but they don’t accept the responsibility of living in a society where ideas of inclusion under the umbrella of freedom are not tyranny or evil or anti-American.

In other words, they want the four-color comic book America and not the one that requires the leaping of tall buildings in a single bound required to maintain it.

Dean Cain, I believe, is the first multiracial Superman. He exists in a time where this was not a factor in casting him as the symbol of white male virtue. Some would say his opportunity to inhabit that role comes as a result of “wokeness” that defeated more hostile racist attitudes.

Sha’Carri Richardson’s Situation is Sad, But Not Because the Rules are Bad.

Sha’Carri Richardson’s aspirations, training, and sacrifice made her one of the top athletes in the world. She was going to Tokyo. She was going to reach the pinnacle of her profession. She was the darling of sports media with her on and off-track profiles. She approached this goal knowing the terms and conditions of her participation set down by the global body that works to keep a level playing field for all athletes. In advance, in writing, and for all athletes in competition, Richardson agreed not to use specific substances, including cannabinoids, during competition.

And then she broke the contract.

She admitted she knew it was wrong and did it anyway. That is what I believe is the core of this issue. It isn’t that marijuana laws are archaic and dumb, rooted in racism and exploitation. All that is true and none of it matters here. It was not as if the Anti-Doping body suddenly introduced the rule and demanded the testing of all athletes mid-competition. All athletes knew the rules and understood they would be tested.

It would be a worse scandal if Richardson was excused based on her status as a sports superstar, especially when the vast majority of all the other athletes came to their shot at competition without violating the rules.

Richardson told “Today” that she had just been told her biological mother had died when she chose to ingest the substance, implying it was to cope with the news while in the most stressful and important junction of her professional life. This statement (or admission) is highly problematic.

There is an old sports expression about keeping one’s “head in the game” because sports is both a physical and mental discipline. If Richardson is saying she needed the substance to focus and function and otherwise could not, it becomes the very definition of a “performance-enhancing” drug. An injured mind is just as serious as an injured ankle or knee. In fact, the reason cannabinoids are prohibited during competition (though permitted otherwise) is that the organization believes in those enhancing qualities rather than any moral objection to its use…otherwise it is likely pot would be in the same category as those prohibited at ALL times.

We can argue that point, but it doesn’t matter. The drug is prohibited and all parties agreed to the terms of participation. Cannabinoids are also cited as the reason some people survive heart attacks because it eases their anxiety and fear, keeping down blood pressure and stress on the body. It eases the pain in cancer patients. I cannot accept the medicinal benefits of marijuana use and not think that it provides an edge to someone in a physically and mentally demanding sport.

But none of that matters, either. You can disagree with me on this point. Richardson still knew the rules and broke them, putting all her life’s work at risk. It sucks for a lot of people. Her fans, her supporters, family, and the people for whom she is a role model. It is hardest on Richardson herself who not only has to face the consequences of her actions but the judgment and dissection of outsiders with no skin in the game… like me.

We can continue to complain about how The Rules(tm) are unfair and wrong, but we weren’t having this conversation when all athletes were consenting to those rules.

Army of the Dead: What Kind of Monster??

Thanks, EW. Tig doesn’t look Photoshopped in there at all.

ZACK SNYDER: I am SUPER STOKED about the new monsters in ARMY OF THE DEAD.

WARNER BROTHERS: Yeah, well you literally reinvented the zombie genre with that profitable 2004 movie that made fast zombies popular. Can’t wait to see how you turn another old favorite on its head and make it your own this time.

ZS: I KNOW, RIGHT?! But this time, we’re upping the game by like a lot and this monster will be EPIC. They are fast, fierce, can leap tens of feet into the air and trot on all fours along the walls and over debris.

WB: Very “World War Z”

ZS: But better because I’m Zack Snyder.

WB: Go on.

ZS: AND, the BEST part. They are cunning hunters that live as a family inside a Vegas casino. They hunt by scent. AND they have social…things.

WB: ….morals, mores, and folkways?

ZS: SURE! They have an honor system. Like, if you want them to leave you alone in their territory, you have to sacrifice someone.

WB: Wait, you have to kill a person and the bloodthirsty flesh eaters won’t kill anyone else?

ZS: Right, cuz they have a CODE. And an ALPHA male that takes a mate and everyone follows them.

WB: Right. Um. These monsters…

ZS: ARE COOL, right?

WB: Are they werewolves?

ZS: … nnnoooo?

WB: Because they seem a lot like werewolves.

ZS: No! They’re zombies! I’m the “Dawn of the Dead” fast zombie guy!

WB: Sure sure. But. They are pack animals that hunt by scent. Alpha male dominance… they are fast and strong and agile…

ZS: And they GROWL and crawl along the ground on all fours like contortionists on cocaine…

WB: So….werewolves.

ZS: BITCH THERE AIN’T NO FULL MOON!

WB: Yeah, I know, but…in terms of stretching the mythology of the monster, I get making them fast and fierce because that’s scary but its’ still in the general wheelhouse of flesh-chewing dead people with no self-awareness, just unrelenting hunger.

ZS: Isn’t that exactly what I just fucking said?

WB: No. What you’ve done is cross over into a different, existing monster that has all the traits you describe.

ZS: Super Zombies?

WB: No. Werewolf.

ZS: AGAIN! NO FULL MOON, JACK! HOW CAN THEY BE WEREWOLVES IF THERE’S NO FULL MOON?! IT’S NOT CREATIVELY POSSIBLE TO DEVIATE THAT FAR FROM THE MONSTER’S ORIGINS!!!

WB: Make them Man-Wolves, then. They hunt in packs, they are smart, hella more dangerous with teeth and claws…and they have social customs that would justify calling them an “army”…just not of the dead.

ZS: But, there’s this whole thing about having to evacuate Las Vegas and zombie strippers eating fat gamblers and Liberace impersonators, Elvises shambling up Freemont…

WB: Wouldn’t it be more fitting for wolves to be the monster consuming everything glitzy and glam? It’s like the perfect metaphor for…

ZS: ZOMBIES! Marketing agrees with me!

MARKETING GOON: Yeah. Target demo shows +20% visibility for Snyder and zombies versus any kind of where-the-wolf thing, so we don’t give two shits about mythology or monsters.

WB: Wow. We’ll work on that. So, what’s the story?

ZS: (It’s an elevator pitch for a ride in a skyscraper)

WB: So it’s Resident Evil meets Three Kings meets The Dirty Dozen with Ocean’s Eleven.

ZS: Like…all of them?

WB: Oh, and Peninsula.

ZS: What’s that?

WB: The sequel to Train to Busan?

ZS: Not sure I…

WB: Peninsula was also a heist picture inside a zombie-clogged city. And a LOT of CGI.

ZS: Is the Peninsula a monster like a zombie?

WB: And you made me want to go watch Aliens again based on all the notes and beats that…well…were from Aliens.

MG: YES! MARKETING! Don’t make them think it’s new, make them think it is something they already LIKE!

WB: Yes, but…

ZS: You describe the movie like…like this isn’t a totally original and fresh take on the zombie-action genre.

WB: Well, It sounds like the log line on Rotten Tomatoes will read, “It’s a lot of dumb fun. I think if you keep it around the ninety minute mark, it’ll be a great popcorn movie for late summ-

ZS: LESS THAN 2 HOURS?! Maybe if I ran all the slow-mo shots at regular speed. I’m Zack-friggin-Snyder, people want to count the bullet casings falling to the floor. They want to marvel in the splash pattern of a single tear while listening to two verses of a folk song! And my movies have HEART. There has to be a subplot of family disfunction to relate to my core audience!

WB: “family disfunction” is “heart”?

ZS: Real human conflict to anchor the fantastical world I’m weaving for audiences, like that talk between Lois Lane and Martha Kent in Justice League.

WB: Sure. Whatever.

ZS: And I’m gonna shoot it in these cool, old lenses that make everything look like we’re all out in the desert with near-sightedness and dry-eye – a TRUE immersive experience. And 4:3 aspect ratio.

WB: What?

ZS: My true IMAX vision is 4:3.

WB: This concept ain’t IMAX money material, babe. Sorry. How about $50 million and we let you have total control?

ZS: Fifty. For the effects budget, or…?

WB: Total.

ZS: I don’t understand.

WB: We’re throwing you high seven figures to jerk off all over Justice League again, aren’t we?

ZS: Oh, I don’t think.

WB: Take it or leave it.

NETFLIX: Oh hai, guys. You has movie idea?

WB: How the hell did you get in here?

NETFLIX: I live in all your devices. Hey, Zack…let’s chat.