A Few Thoughts About Space Opera

After finishing up my review of Galaxy’s Edge – Galactic Outlaws, it occurred to me that there was more to say about the category of Space Opera.  Some might say that I was a little unfair to social justice fiction fans.  After all there must be a significant audience of fans with blue hair and cats who really enjoy girl power super heroes and their adventures in space.  So, to say that these are automatically bad just because I heartily dislike them might seem arbitrary and unfair.  It might seem that way but it isn’t.  And that’s because I am the final arbiter of good and bad in science fiction.  I earned this coveted status by living long enough to see everything in the world.  So, once again, all Star Wars movies after Return of the Jedi (and even some parts of them before that point) are irredeemably bad and should be cast into the outer darkness where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And that lines us up for me to proclaim what does make a good space opera.  What follows is:

“photog’s RULE FOR WHAT MAKES GOOD SPACE OPERA” (patent pending).

It needs to appeal to the sense of wonder of the twelve-year-old boy in you.  Now mind you, it doesn’t have to only do that.  It can also be a brilliant philosophical treatise on the dualistic nature of the universe or a psychological study of the impact of technology on the human race, or even a deathless love story written across the stars of the galaxy.  But if it fails to inspire the twelve-year-old boy in you it’s not space opera.  It may be science fiction or anything else but it isn’t space opera.  And this isn’t even an exclusive precinct of science fiction.  Any adventure story has to satisfy that same basic requirement.  Take the literature of the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century.  A quintessential example that comes to mind is Treasure Island.  Here is a story that was tailor made for the sense of wonder of a twelve-year-old boy.  It has all the earmarks of the tale of wonder.  The boy who loses his father, the quest for riches, exotic locales, colorful and dangerous opponents, the revelation of secret knowledge, the coming of age experience of the world and the people in it.  An adventure story is a story for a boy that kindles his interest in the world around him.  It leads him to think there is more to life than school and chores.  It inspires him to strike out on his own and find his place in the world.

Now I can just hear the modern women and girly men screeching, “Girls want adventure too!”  To which I reply “Stop screeching, you’re hurting my ears.”  But also, I would say that what girls want is neither here nor there.  Boys need the adventure story because it fits their brains.  Girls have been told that they want adventure stories so they want them in order not to get left out in the modern #metoo world that they live in.  And in fact, I don’t really care if there are adventure stories for girls.  More power to them, I guess.  What I do mind is that for the sake of inclusiveness they are ruining all the adventure stories that are coming out of Hollywood.  And that is why I look for good old (and new) space opera and other adventure stories for my grandsons (and for me).

Longmire – A TV Review – Part 1

Last year I watched Justified on Netflix discs. I thought it was great.  I liked it so much I bought the blue-rays and watched it again.  It was still great.    But I didn’t want to burn the show out.  So I asked around to see if there was anything else out there that was worth watching.  One of my relatives suggested Longmire.  He said it was a modern day western, a show about a sheriff in modern day Montana.  It sounded odd but I figured why not.

So me and Camera Girl have watched the first two discs. She thinks it’s great.  My reaction is slightly different.  I like the main character.  My problem is with the female characters.  Sheriff Longmire has a daughter who is some kind of lawyer.  She always seems to be whining about something.  Either her father isn’t doing something he should be or he is doing something he shouldn’t be.  It’s very annoying.  Then there’s the female deputy from New Jersey.  I thought we were done with the female cop who complains about being treated different than the guys.  Apparently she hasn’t gotten the memo.  In one scene she starts gyrating on the stripper poll at a club to get the patrons to give her information and in the next scene she’s threatening some cowboy for checking out her butt while she’s walking in front of him.  I mean, come on.  Do we have to have this nonsense in a cop show?  And there some other things.  There’s a believability thing sometimes.  In one episode Longmire threatens to release a grizzly bear on a suspect unless he confesses to using a grizzly bear to murder his enemy.  I’m not 100%  sure about this but I’m guessing that might be considered a coerced confession.

 

So there are some fantasy aspects to the plot lines in the show and the personal stories of the characters are a little shaky. The daughter I find especially annoying.  I’m hoping he gets that grizzly bear back and lets it eat her for real.  But I actually do kinda like it so far.  Camera Girl has adopted the show and I do like to keep her happy because she feeds me so I’m going to keep watching it.  If it goes completely off the deep end I will have to invoke male television primacy and call an end to it.  But I confess it’ll have to be really bad for that to happen.  It’s like Mueller.  Trump can only pull the plug on him if the damage he is doing is worse than the fallout from the firing.  Definitely a delicate judgement call.

 

So, so far, one thumb up. To be continued.  The jury is still out.

What Would It Look Like If Hollywood Tried To Give The Troglodytes What They Want To See?

The recent furor over the large audience for Roseanne Barr’s tv show and the rumor about Fox resurrecting Last Man Standing got me thinking about what it would be like if TV and the Movies produced a certain amount of product every year for troglodytes like me.  And let me try to be precise.  I don’t mean generic action or sci-fi shows where the eighty-pound magic girl kung-fu-fights her way through acres of white South African and Serbian villains.  And I don’t mean family drama about blue collar guys who clean up after a hard day on the construction site and strut their stuff on the local drag-queen circuit.

So that’s what I don’t want.  But what would I prefer?  You know, it’s been so long since there was a choice other than weirdo-liberation of the week tv that I actually have to imagine what it would be.  Well, for a start how about a tv family where Mom stays home with the kids and Dad goes to work?  And how about a family where everyone is heterosexual or even better let’s just say normal?  And how about the words gay, lesbian or trans never come up?  And imagine if there are no disgruntled minorities aggrieved about the name of the school being Washington or Jefferson?  And how about if no one forces the boys’ baseball team to add a girl to the squad for “fairness?”  And imagine if we never have to hear about “Black Lives Matter” or “White Privilege?”  Suppose gun control and hate speech are unknown ideas?  And just to round things out, if we never mention Obama, Al Gore or Climate Change I’ll be happy.

You know what was a pretty good sit-com?  “Home Improvement” was actually almost perfect.  Innocuous comedy, family warmth and chemistry between the actors playing the family.  What else do you need?  And here’s a thought, when Tim Allen already has a popular family show on tv, why not try supporting the show instead of cancelling it when it’s near the top of the ratings for its viewing night?  ABC, you are truly hopeless.  Walt Disney must be spinning in his grave.

Now as for action-adventure, just have Americans blowing up foreigners and space aliens and pretty much I’m there.  Did I mention I don’t need any sexual weirdos or racial politics?  Good.  Try to remember it and I’ll go see your movies.

But who am I kidding?  Hollywood would rather go broke than support normal values.  They have too many friends in the LGBTQ weirdo network to turn back now.  So, this whole arc must be allowed to reach its inevitable conclusion.  In a few more years when Hollywood has completely lost the normal people someone will start over with the things I mentioned above and low and behold the people will beat a path to their door.  Hopefully that will put the last nail in the coffin of Hollyweird.

1APR2018 – American Greatness – Article of the Day – The Real Resistance Emerges as the Hollywood Left Collapses by Eric Lendrum

A nice little review of the various entertainment news and events lately.  One little tidbit I hadn’t heard is that Fox is thinking of reviving ABC’s cancelled show “Last Man Standing.”  Now thqt woud be sweet.  I’ll bet Tim Allen would go out of his way to heap mockery on the leftists who demanded his show end when Trump won the White House.

The Real ‘Resistance’ Emerges as the Hollywood Left Founders

Roseanne is a Trumpite? Well, What Does that Mean?

I was never a Roseanne watcher. Whenever I did see a little bit of the show she was always berating some man for being a man and spouting some kind of blue collar feminism.  So I’d switch the channel.  Here we are twenty plus years later and Roseanne is rebooting the show to chronicle the later lives of the fictional blue-collar Conners family.  And I hear Roseanne is a Trump voter and supporter.  And they say her show has attracted eighteen million viewers.

Well, all the entertainment pundits are saying the networks will roll out a bunch of blue collar right-wing Trump loving family shows. Yeah, right.  Let’s be real.  About a year ago the only slightly positively portrayed right-wing character on television was Tim Allen’s Mike Baxter on Last Man Standing.  It was a reasonably popular show.  And because Trump was elected the show was cancelled. Do I believe somehow they’ve discovered the error of their ways?  No.  Whatever Hollywood imagines right-wing blue-collar values are will basically be Hollyweird wearing a ballcap or a cowboy hat.  I don’t believe Roseanne Barr is any closer to my beliefs now than she was twenty years ago.  The only difference is she has been left behind by the precipitous lurch toward insanity that the left’s leading edge has performed in the last ten years.  So Hollywood will churn out shows based on benchmarking  “Modern Family” as the new Ozzie and Harriet and “playfully” experiment with the exciting idea that Trump voters are unconsciously ready to embrace trans-bathrooms and indoctrinating small children into sexual perversions.

I look at this breathless discovery of Roseanne’s popularity as the usual two steps forward, one slightly slower step forward that is the default reaction of progressives to right-wing resistance. So if there is any good news in the Roseanne story I guess it’s that they at least still try to make believe they care what we think or what we want to see on TV.  Hurray for Hollywood?

23MAR2018 – OCF Update

Well, I’m back in the saddle at work again and catching up here on the site.  I’m halfway through Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle (hat tip to Tom) and should have the review soon.  And based on the story so far, I think I’ll read the other two books at some point.  I have some movie and tv reviews coming up very soon.  I’ve got over a thousand photos from the Southwest to edit and rate so I should have a few photo posts coming up soon.  The political situation is like some kind of crazy kaleidoscopic nightmare.  It sounds like Ray Bradbury’s formula for his stories, “The trip—exactly one-half exhilaration, exactly one-half terror.”  And now we know just how many women are willing to admit to having sex with Donald Trump.  I guess he was right about them letting him grab them.  But they do seem to have been paid for the experience.  Trump truly believes in capitalism.  Well at least he wasn’t attacking them like Slick Willie.  Either way things seem to be going well.  The Republicans are afraid of losing the House, blah, blah, blah.  Well they are pretty lame so anything is possible.  But they really should embrace populism and try to show some backbone.  It is the smart move.  I still have to read some of the political columns I missed but whether there is something important to share remains to be seen.  From my point of view Trump needs to clean the stables and drain the swamp.  Then he can move onto policy.  And he needs to punish the sanctuary cities and send the illegals home.  And finally, Justice Kennedy, go away, now!

William Shatner – A Demigod of Bad Acting

Over the course of over fifty-five years of television viewing I have become jaded and much of what I once felt was entertaining has lost its thrill.  For instance, as a young kid I was convinced that “The Twilight Zone” was not only great acting and entertainment but also intellectually dazzling.  I thought that “Flipper” was top-notch adventure and “Lost in Space” was cutting edge science fiction.  Ah, youth.

But one thing has remained constant from the early sixties to the present day.  And that is the Shatner.  From my first sighting of him on the Twilight Zone as the panicked lunatic on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” to his every close-up on the original “Star Trek” TV series to his every career iteration he has distinguished himself as the World’s Greatest Bad Actor.  No one can compare.

And along the way I’ve cheered him on.  I thrilled to the scene where he agonized about “losing command” when the transporter separated him into “Good Kirk and Bad Kirk” and he knew that “Bad Kirk” was muy macho and he, “Good Kirk,” was a wimp.  I was transfixed as marooned Kirk shouted up to the sky, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!”  And I fought back the nausea listening to his riveting rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”  It’s been a wild ride.

But his greatest role is one that few have seen or remarked on.  In 1984 he starred in a made for tv movie called “Secrets of a Married Man.”  In it he is an engineer who is going through a mid-life crisis.  His job is on the line due to a difficult project.  He’s stressed out and his wife is busy with the kids.  He starts having sex with hookers.  There are a number of hilarious Shatner overacting scenes that turn what is supposed to be serious problems into over the top comedy.  In one scene he’s in the shower and looks down and starts spazzing out and choking out the words “Oh my God!”  In the next scene his doctor is telling him he just has a rash on his genitals and he shouldn’t worry.  Another gem is Shatner driving down the main street with his wife in the car next to him and all the hookers are calling out greetings to him by his first name (Chris) and him claiming that it’s some kind of standard hooker greeting.  Ah, if only the Oscar went to the deserving.

But time is running out.  Shatner was born March 22, 1931.  In a few days he’ll be 87.  One day soon the world will wake up to the news that the Shat is no more.  And on that day, I will morn.  But in the meantime, it’s comforting to know that in this world of relativism and revisionist propaganda the gold standard for something has stood the test of time and will be there immortalized in all its tacky splendor, the life work of William Shatner.  Well done Shatner, well done.

Passing the Torch

The other day I was talking to a young guy at work. Now, by young I’m talking relatively.  Looking at him and basing my opinion on appearance, work experience, the fact that he has a wife and a child, I’d say he’s somewhere between 27 and 32 years old.  Well, we were discussing stuff and Fred Flintstone came up.  We were talking about car tires and how Fred could chisel out a spare when he got a flat.  There were some general comments on the unenlightened character of Fred and I said that Fred was a cartoon copy of the Jackie Gleason character Ralph Kramden and how Ralph was a comical but fair representation of the working class guy of the nineteen fifties.  This elicited blank unrecognition of Jackie Gleason, Ralph Kramden and the Honeymooners in general.  I guess this surprised me.  After all older shows that I watched on TV as a kid were still well known to younger people.  For instance, The Three Stooges were from the 1930s and 1940s and yet they are a fixture on television and are still relatively well-known.  I guessed that the Honeymooners must have disappeared from television far enough back to completely disappear from the present adult population’s collective TV consciousness.  That bothered me.

Why do I think that the Honeymooners shouldn’t disappear? First of all I don’t pretend that the Kramden household represents some golden age portrayal of American marital bliss.  Ralph is portrayed as pretty dimwitted and Alice is given a certain amount of the female empowerment motive that has reached its disgusting fruition in our present feminized society.  She often wins the argument by proving to Ralph just how superior she is and how unfair her role as homemaker is.  Deference to her moral superiority is on display most of the time.  But the basis of the show is the underlying rock-bottom premise that a man should be the king of his castle.  Even in the derisive arguments that Alice gives Ralph at every turn is the bottom line of “so if you’re the boss, what do we do now?”  No matter what dumb thing Kramden does, he is the master of his soul.  He will have to find a way to prevail.  And like it or not, Alice will have to back his play.  And good, bad or indifferent she would rather go along with him than go it alone.  He may be the lowest rung on the totem pole but he is still the alpha male.  And in a few episodes he does get to prove himself the king.  The one that stands out is of course one of the least plausible.  Ralph has obtained a bag full of counterfeit money.  When the gangsters catch up with him they threaten Alice and the neighbors and when Ralph defies them they take him in the back room at gunpoint to work him over and make him comply on giving them the money.  And in this crisis Ralph prevails.  He beats up the thug and rescues his wife and neighbors.  Of course, in the next minute he tries to cash in on his achievement and makes himself ridiculous, but his victory stands as proof that he is the man of the house.  And for once even Alice can’t diminish his victory.

And the other aspect that endears the show to me is the working class ethos. For the most part, American TV exists to reflect the world-view and the sensibilities of the upper middle class.  Even when they are portrayed as struggling twenty-somethings you can see that missing a meal or not having the status symbol item is not part of their existence.  They are the cloud people.  By contrast, the Kramdens and the Nortons (their upstairs friends and neighbors) don’t have two nickels to rub together.  Even buying a new bowling ball can be outside the realm of possibility.  These are people who aspire to be lower middle class.  Ralph dreams up countless get rich quick schemes to allow him to make Alice proud of him.  And he always fails but he never gives up.  That is the kind of message that the young people need to get.  Not that everything will be handed to them on a silver platter.  And not that they can’t decide what is good enough for them.  For that is the message that is out there now.  The government will provide what you need and also decide what you don’t need (or deserve).

So I’m going to do my best to spread the word to the kids about Ralph Kramden and the Honeymooners. I think the show is an antidote for the namby pamby male sterotypes currently infesting television and the movies.  He may be a colossal failure but he certainly is king of his castle.  And that’s a good thing to be.

 

 

My Favorite Show Last Night

So I’ve repeatedly called the Trump presidency “the greatest show on earth.” Honestly, it really is.  I watched the President’s address.  My only objection was having to hear one or two minutes of Shep Smith yammering in the background before the broadcast.  But that faded out of my mind right away.  One of the first things that struck me was that President Trump was having a good time going through the ritual.  He shook hands with Pence and Ryan more than once before he got started.  He always added something at the end of a sentence to intensify or personalize what he was reading off the teleprompter.  He applauded all of his guests very vigorously and he seemed at certain points to be speaking directly to the Democratic Congress as if to chastise them for their lack of enthusiasm about undeniably patriotic and sympathetic topics.  At one point, his expression and his hand gestures seemed to be saying to the Dems, “Come on applaud!”  The news said it was one of the longer SOTU addresses but honestly it seems to go quickly for me.  And I’m not just comparing it to the torturous Obama addresses.  Even W was too long for my tastes.  Probably because it didn’t entertain.  Trump was fun to watch.  The hand gestures, his claims to non-partisan motives and the general appeal to a patriotic agenda were highly effective.  I especially enjoyed his rhetorical shot at the NFL Anthem Kneelers right before the Super Bowl.  Masterfully done.  And, of course there was the kill shot, “young Americans have dreams too.”  Gold, Jerry, gold.

I’m sure there were some right wingers who were upset about the 1.8 million dreamers being brought up as a pillar of Trump’s four part plan on immigration but honestly, there isn’t a prayer in the world of Cryin’ Chuck accepting the wall and all the rest of the good stuff Trump loaded into his plan. I look at it as a poisoned pill that the Dems will refuse to touch.  What other choice will Trump have than to go to the American people and tell them to give him more Republicans in November to get his job done correctly.  I’m guessing a few years ago I would have been one of those complaining about this offer.  But I have learned my lesson.  Ann Coulter was right, “In Trump We Trust.”

Some of the other facets of the experience were the cutaways to people in the audience. Pelosi was the most consistent.  Her expression seemed to be saying, “That egg salad sandwich I just ate must have gone bad.”  Honestly she looked like she had to throw up but was gritting her teeth to stop it.  Schumer was draped over his chair like it was a recliner.  He was just sitting there taking it all in.  Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus looked enraged, especially when he talked about historically low black unemployment.  One of the highlights was when Trump mentioned the presence in the audience of Congressman Steve Scalise, recovered from the gunshot wounds he received at the hands of a crazed Democratic supporter last year.  That was a feel good moment that Trump seemed especially to relish.  First Lady, Melania Trump was in the gallery with the guests and looked typically dignified and lovely.  I read this morning that CNN claimed that Melania wore white as a protest against her husband’s alleged dalliance with a porn star, although why white would be an effective protest color is beyond my meager understanding.  Honestly, these people really have lost what little minds they had.  Several of the guests were associated with MS-13 gang related violence.  There were the four parents of two murdered Long Island teenage girls and an Hispanic law enforcement officer who ignored death threats to lock up a large number of these gang members.  These were highly emotional moments that made a deep impact.  However I believe the most charged moment came when Trump said that American heroes lived not only in the past but also today and the Republican audience started chanting USA, USA, USA.  At that point Democratic Representative  Luis Gutierrez literally got up and walked out of the assembly.  Good times, good times.  So what else could you ask for?  Well, actually, if you remember my recent “Trump vs SOTU” spoof, I included Trump insulting his enemies and having the FBI “Secret Society” members frog-marched out of the House of Representatives in the middle of the address and hauled off to jail.  Well, sure that would have been cool.  But you can’t expect reality to be as cool as my imagination.  But, then again, this is Trump so maybe he’s just saving something for next January.

Science Fiction TV Series Review – Stranger Things – First Season

Full disclosure, I am the only one I know who still uses Netflix for DVDs and doesn’t stream.  Oh, the shame of it all!  So last month the first season of Stranger Things became available to rent on Netflix (or as it’s now known DVD.com) and they sent me the two discs.  I was busy with life and the holidays so I watched it after the Christmas during some time off from work.  For anyone who hasn’t seen it but is interested or for anyone who wants my opinion here are my thoughts.

Let me start with the strongest impression the show left.  Almost everyone in the show is not particularly likeable.  Let me expand.  Many of the characters are annoying or worse.  In particular, the character who should most attract our sympathy, the mother of the missing boy, played by Winona Ryder, is hands down in the top three of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a movie or tv.  Several times I was hoping the town sheriff would pull out his gun and shoot her or at least pistol whip her to make her shut up.  There was one character I liked.  He was a strong, caring, humorous, warm, responsible, regular guy who used good judgement and compassion to help a troubled runaway pre-teen.  He was shot in the head about six minutes after his first screen appearance.  After that it was annoying nerds, arrogant jocks, clueless suburban parents, alcoholic lawmen and nefarious government officials all the way down.  Eventually the hell-spawned creature makes some appearances, and interestingly, I found myself kind of rooting for him.  At least he didn’t blather on.

The season is eight episodes long and I finished them.  After reading what I just wrote, you may be wondering why I did finish them.  Well, surprisingly, I found myself sucked into the story.  Maybe this was an artifact of having all the episodes in front of me, time available to watch them and post-Christmas-Feast stupefaction.  But for some reason, at the end of each episode I wanted to see the next one.  And even after I knew how it would go I wanted to see it through to the end.

So, what’s my recommendation?  Well, guarded at best.  The plot is some kind of bastard spawn of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and the X-Files.  The tropes are hackneyed and the characters, as mentioned, are mostly stereotypes and annoying ones at that.  Two episodes in you know how it will go and who will do what.  Honestly if someone had told me this ahead of time, there is no way I would have watched it.  But now that I have watched it I’m wondering if I should wait the year and watch Season 2.  My gut tells me that there is no way to make the next season even as mildly interesting as this first season.  And the thought of listening to Winona Ryder screeching at her unfortunate neighbors again is hard to justify.

I was starting to like how the sheriff usually settled difficult negotiations by punching people in the face.  His timing was really good.  The sheriff, played by an actor named David Harbour, is a big guy who drinks too much and sleeps around with the various lonelier ladies of the small midwestern town where the story takes place.  I found him the only character that I actually believed might exist in the real world.  But is seeing Sheriff Hopper pummel various “men in black” enough of a reason to sit through this thing again?  I doubt it, but it’ll be a whole year before I have to make that decision and pickings are so slim, so who knows.  Anyway, consider yourself warned, if a review that’s a year behind the times can be considered a warning.