Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pro-gun advocates and their lies!

Alright, so what started out as a bit of rant on my Facebook timeline, hopefully will become something a little less -- ranty (is that even a word?) 

Since the Sandy Hook tragedy. there has been a lot of talk about gun control. It bombards the airwaves and social media. Facebook in particularly has become ground-zero for ultra-Conservative rants about Second Amendment rights. Everyone is resorting to name calling and finger pointing to "prove" that they are good Americans, while everyone else is in league with the devil. And I say, God bless them all. We live in a free country, where we have freedom of speech and are allowed to voice ANY opinion on ANY topic, and I will do what I can to defend that right -- not only for myself, but for everyone else too. However, for the past month, much of the name calling and finger pointing has one major flaw: it's nothing but a pack of lies.

Once and for all, let's get one thing straight: President Obama, the Obama Administration, The Democratic Party, and all of those evil, leftist liberals out there, are not calling for a U.S. firearms ban. Yet if one checks out Conservative Talk Radio and social media, one will find that Conservatives are, quite literally, up in arms about the government's plan to take away everyone's guns. Even Fox News political analyst Juan Williams has pointed out that, "Nothing in President Obama’s rhetoric or his record supports the right wing’s claim that he wants to confiscate the guns of law abiding Americans.  This is a paranoid delusion manufactured out of whole cloth by the National Rifle Association and the even more extreme group, Gun Owners of America. Unfortunately, this toxic nonsense has now seeped into the mainstream of conservative thought."

Got that? President Obama, and the Obama Administration has never said a word about "banning firearms" or coming to take away everyone's guns. What they calling for is a ban on military styled assault weapons. That's it! That's the extent of this supposed plan to take us down the road to some Hunger Games styled Dystopian society. In other words, like a good Democrat, Obama wants a return to the Clinton years. 

 Now, if you want to argue that you, as an American citizen, have the right to own guns that are designed to blow the locks off of doors or splatter someone's brains across the landscape from 300 yards -- fine, do that. In fact, I will defend your right to make that argument. But folks, please stop lying about the conversation that is currently taking place in our nation. No one wants to prevent you from hunting, target shooting, or defending your family from Freddy Kruger when he comes for you in the middle of the night. What the Obama Administration wants to do is prevent people from having weapons that are designed for the sole purpose of killing another human being.

You may disagree with that goal -- and that's perfectly fine. But do yourself -- and your karma -- a huge favor and stop LYING about what it is advocates of gun control are actually proposing. Lying about what others say, in order to get what you want, is not only immoral and selfish, but it is dangerous. It's dangerous because the more you lie now, the less likely it is that people will believe you if and when the wolves actually do come to our doorsteps.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

People -- answer your texts!

Over the past few weeks I've texted several friends, several times, and in response I received -- well, no response. Now, I know for a fact that it's not a problem with my phone, because I've gotten text messages from these people in the past, so I know it works. In fact, I've gotten text messages from others on the same day. The problem is clearly not with the phone itself but with -- something else.

Do you know how it makes me feel when you refuse to answer me? It makes me wonder if my texts were sucked into the void of nothingness, along with my missing socks, my favorite ink pen, and that missing five dollar bill I've been looking for.

I mean, what's the deal? How hard is it to type less than 160 characters? You do it hundreds of times a day in response to other people -- why do you ignore me?

 Now I'll admit that I'm not that into texting. For the most part, I think people that text dozens of times per day have a serious problem. However, I've come to learn that, sometimes, texting can be useful. It's a quick way of communicating with someone -- assuming that the person you've texted actually takes the time to communicate back. When they don't, it becomes a quick way of deflating one's own perception of one's self.

I mean, if you don't answer me back -- what am I supposed to think? Did I do something to piss you off? Do you secretly hate me? Are you afraid to answer back because you believe that I've been possessed by aliens from another world and will come after you next? Have you been possessed by aliens from another world? Are you sick? In trouble? Dead? Do you need to talk about what's bothering you? Here I am. Oh, but then you might have to text -- or gasp -- call me, wouldn't you? And well all know that that's out of the question.

Look, I get that we live in a busy world and I get that you have better things to do with your time than answer my insignificant messages -- like answer all of the bullshit messages that come into your inbox. So yes, I know you're busy.  but guess what, I'm just as busy as you. And if I've taken a few minutes out of my day to text you a simple question, the least that you can do is be polite enough to respond.

I admit that this whole problem probably lies with me. I mean, I was raised to be civil and polite. Yes, yes, I know. Being polite is seriously out of fashion. It's much better to be a rude jerk than to be polite. I feel that way too sometimes. In fact, I feel that way right now!

 I'm not always polite. I can be a rude jerk with the best of them. But I would hope that my failed attempts at communication don't come across as being rude. I'd like to think that my friends can tell the difference between when I'm being a rude jerk and when I'm trying to be nice. But perhaps they cannot? Perhaps I'm such a poor texter, that my messages border on the insane? Who knows? I mean, I am pretty sure I heard a heart beating under the floor last night. That doesn't make me insane, does it?

Or perhaps you really have been possessed by aliens and don't know who the hell I am. Or maybe you'd rather I fade into oblivion? Or are you simply being rude?

Or, I suppose I've completely blown this whole thing out of proportion, and you simply forgot to text me in return. Oh, now I feel like such a worm for getting angry about this whole thing. You know what, forget I said anything at all. I'm going to slink away now, and go deal with that beating heart under the floorboards.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Did Peter Jackson ruin The Hobbit?


If you've never read The Hobbit, you probably won't want to read this blog post. I try avoiding SPOILERS, but the nature of my little rant calls for it! Sorry.

Since the opening of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, book and movie fans have been split into two camps: The Hobbit is a brilliant piece of movie art, or Peter Jackson destroyed Tolkien's masterwork of "children's literature." 

For the record, I really liked The Hobbit the first time I saw it, and loved it the second time. And yes, I intend to see it at least one more time. Now, I haven't double dipped on a movie in more than a decade, but The Hobbit will be a triple dip for me. So I admit, I liked it. 

Of course, like all book fans, upon my first viewing, I couldn't help but make comparisons to the book. Some of the comparisons were good (Riddles in the Dark) and some of them (the Pale Orc) were not. However, I knew going in that, just like the film versions of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit was an adaptation of Tolkien's work and not Tolkien's work itself. Of course, I just so happen to think that The Hobbit (part 1) is an excellent adaptation of the first third of the book, but I admit that it does have its flaws. However, one flaw that The Hobbit movie does not have -- which every critic seems to think it has -- is that a "lighthearted, whimsical children's story" has been destroyed by Peter Jackson.

The problem with this criticism is not that Peter Jackson did, or did not, ruin The Hobbit. The problem is that The Hobbit is not simply a lighthearted children's story. And if you think that is, you need to go back and re-read The Hobbit the way Tolkien intended -- thoughtfully.

Yes, The Hobbit does have a more whimsical feel to it than The Lord of the Rings. I do not deny that. That is part of its charm. And I can see why some people miss that aspect of the story. But is it as "lighthearted" as people remember? 

The truth is there are some pretty dark moments in The Hobbit, which are mitigated due to the book's frame narrative. (Professor Tolkien is re-telling a tale that he translated from Bilbo's story taken from the Red Book of West March). For much of the book, this is done in such a way that makes the story feel "lighthearted" and whimsical -- even when The Company is being chased by wargs, orcs, trolls, goblins, and are on the cusp of death in the pine forest, the narrator's voice intrudes to take the edge off of things, because after all, he is telling the story to children.

But does the actual story sound lighthearted to you? 

Well, to some people it does, and much of The Hobbit movie is anything but "lighthearted", but it's important to remember that the movie only encompasses the first third of the book. If Peter Jackson had remained completely faithful to the book what would he do with the final third of the story which takes several dramatic and unexpectedly dark turns that make The Hobbit unlike any other modern day children's tale? 

Do I have to mention the scarier parts of The Hobbit? The Spiders of Mirkwood, entering Smaug's lair, Smaug burning Lake Town to the ashes? Are these lighthearted and whimsical events? Perhaps, but the real twist takes place after Smaug is defeated and we think the story is about to end -- but it doesn't. We get another third of the book in which good guys become bad guys, heroes become villains and main characters die in an epic Battle of the Five Armies. Yes, in the book, Bilbo is knocked out just as the battle gets underway -- does anyone think that that would make for a good film? Unlikely. 

The truth is, the final third of the story is when the shit hits the fan and it becomes epic. Peter Jackson had few options when adapting the story to film. He could have been "faithful" to the book and made the first 2/3rds of the story a "lighthearted" tale (complete with a dragon burning people's homes to the ground), but that would  leave movie goers utterly shocked and horrified at the sudden dark twist at the end when Thorin and the Dwarves retake the Lonely Mountain, the men of Lake Town march on them for battle, and Thorin calls Bilbo  a "descendant of rats." 

The problem with such a "twist ending" is that it lacks foreshadowing and would never work in the context of a film. It doesn't even work in most books, but it works in The Hobbit because of the frame narrative. We are given clues by the narrator (Professor Tolkien) that "something" happens at the end of the story that we're not expecting. At one point the narrator even says something about the Battle of Five Armies, but then says, "but that doesn't come into the tale at the moment." When we first meet Thorin (in the book) the narrator says something like, "and here is Thorin Oakenshield of whom I'm sure you've heard many tales!" The idea is that we already know all about this history but that Tolkien (the narrator) is putting his own spin on things. Um, you can't do that in film or modern literature because it sounds ridiculous -- unless it's coming from Professor Tolkien himself. Which is the conceit of the frame narrative of The Hobbit.

Peter Jackson was left with no option but to foreshadow the epic feel of the last third of the story so viewers wouldn't feel like they were being baited and switched at the end. What other options are there? Have a lighthearted tale which turns horrific and terrifying at the end? In my estimation this is the brilliance of Jackson's adaptation. By foreshadowing things to come, he has made Thorin's eventual downfall all the more tragic. As someone else on another blog  recently said, Jackson has set up one of the biggest tear jerker moments in film history -- when Thorin betrays Bilbo -- and again when he eventually delivers his last line as they reconcile, people are going to weep -- and I will probably be one of them.

With that said, The Hobbit isn't a perfect movie. It's not (so far) as good as Jackson's LOTR Trilogy -- not by a long shot, but realistically I'm not sure it could have been done any other way. It has its flaws. Many of which I could go on about. However, I won't do that at the moment. I enjoyed the movie. Was it a masterpiece? No. Was it great? I'd say yes. Especially upon a second showing. 

However, for those who do want to nitpick the movie -- and I will eventually, I'm sure -- take a look at Tolkien scholar Michael Drout's thoughts on The Hobbit movie

For me, I'm just going to enjoy it for what it is, despite it's flaws. I cannot wait for part two, and The Desolation of Smaug! Hint, Hint. An evil dragon has destroyed men's lives and burns a city to ashes -- NOT a lighthearted children's tale!