Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 1

There’s not much left on TV for me to watch anymore.  I remembered hearing over the last few years from several reviewers who were not progressives that “Justified” was pretty good.  Well, last week my Netflix queue was completely empty so I added season one of Justified to my queue. With some trepidation, photog and camera-girl settled in this week and watched the first two disks.  And eight or nine episodes into the season we still haven’t seen a bad show.  It’s actually very good.  Timothy Olyphant is the protagonist playing a US Marshall named Raylan Givens.  He’s been sent back to his home state of Kentucky after shooting a drug lord in Miami under questionable circumstances.  This puts him in contact with his family, friends, associates and enemies.  And the amount of overlap between all of these categories in the episodes I’ve seen is quite remarkable.  And here we run into the expected stereotyping of the Appalachians.  For instance, Ray’s father is married to Aunt Helen.  I’m not far enough into the story yet but it appears she was Aunt Helen before she was married to Ray’s father Arlo.  So, the incest and inbreeding jokes can’t be far off.  Also, one of Ray’s old friends from his time as a coal miner is now a bank robber who dabbles in white supremacy and shoulder launched rockets.

Needless to say, Ray’s personal and professional lives become extremely entangled and pretty early on he finds himself sleeping with a woman he shouldn’t be.  He had been investigating her for shooting and killing her husband.  Subsequently she is his witness in his shooting of her brother in law.  Add into the mix that the brother in law is also that coal miner / bank robber friend of Ray’s and it starts getting extremely complicated and confusing.  Also, Ray’s father is a criminal.  Ray’s ex-wife is married to a man in hock to mobsters and Ray’s boss is starting to think he’s unstable.  Oh, and the investigation into that drug lord he shot is getting complicated by all the other guys Ray’s been shooting since he got to Kentucky.  And finally, the drug lord’s friends really, really want Ray dead.  It’s a really fun show.

I’m only about half way through season one and so it’s hard to say where this will all be by season six but so far this is a crime drama that’s well written, filled with action and includes characters that while far from unconflicted are quite sympathetic for the audience.  Timothy Olyphant is the obvious star but the supporting cast is quite strong and fun to watch and listen to.  I especially enjoy Nick Searcy as Ray’s boss, Art Mullen.  He brings a dry wit and long suffering attitude to the job of overseeing Ray’s overcomplicated work-life balance.

So, that’s my first installment.  I will be watching a bunch more of these in the next few weeks and will give an update on my recommendation.  But so far, I’d have to say watching Justified is definitely justified.

A Short Review of Rod Dreher’s Book, “The Benedict Option” – Part 1

Two weeks ago I was watching Andrew Klavan’s podcast on the Daily Wire ( http://www.dailywire.com/podcasts/16856/ep-320-death-stupid-andrew-klavan ) and he had an interview with Rod Dreher who has a book called “The Benedict Option.”  I had heard the title before but thought it had something to do with Pope Benedict abdicating. But the Benedict of the title is Saint Benedict who founded the Benedictine Monastic Order.  The sub-title of the book is “A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.”  The thesis, as he explained it, is that America is no longer a Christian nation and in fact is now a place inimical to Christians trying to live their faith and raise their children in it.  He drew the analogy of Benedict coming from an Italian town to the city of Rome about twenty five years after the last emperor was deposed by a Germanic King.  Benedict found it a hollowed out and corrupt place.  He decided that the only way to live a Christian life was to separate from the dominant culture and set up a separate society.  According to Dreher this was the basis of the survival of Christianity and the remnants of roman culture in the Middle Ages.

Needless to say, I ordered the book.  I’ve only started it but the introduction basically states that the majority of Americans are not Christians and do not support the traditional concepts as illuminated in the Bible.  He believes that there is no chance that the culture will return to where it was even twenty five years ago but will instead continue down the progressive slope to Gomorrah.  And in fact traditionalist beliefs will be criminalized.

Sounds pretty depressing.  But instead, he says it’s an opportunity.  He thinks this will be the start of a revival.  And we should, like Benedict, gather the faithful and build a New Jerusalem.

When I finish the book, I’ll give you my opinion on his idea.  For now, let’s just say I’m intrigued and I think this idea has relevance for even those who are not Christians but feel that all traditional values are disappearing from the Western world.  After all it’s not that hard finding analogies between the present era and the Late Roman Empire.  Perhaps this time instead of Attila the Hun being the Scourge of God it will be Lady Gaga.

Ray Bradbury – An American Original – Part 1 – Dandelion Wine

 

When I was a kid back in the third quarter of the twentieth century I came upon science fiction in the children’s section of the Brooklyn Public Library.  And so I read Heinlein’s and Asimov’s juvenile sf stories.  As I got a little older I was able to borrow from the adult collection and soon discovered all the golden age authors and some of the newer, edgier writers.  But at a certain point I discovered Ray Bradbury.  I remember he had two collections called R is for Rocket, S is for Space.  But when I read them I found out he wasn’t writing space opera.  In fact, some of his stories didn’t seem to be science fiction at all.  At the time, I didn’t know what fantasy was.  They just seemed to be strange stories.  Later on, I found some of his stories showing up on “The Twilight Zone” TV series and this helped me categorize them as something weird and fun.  But whatever I called him Bradbury was different from the other writers I knew.  Each of his stories had to be evaluated on the merits.  Some of his stories lacked fantasy plot elements and at the time these stories seemed lacking in interest.  Others were almost horror stories and these kept my attention best.  Even his most externally identifiable science fiction stories, “The Martian Chronicles,” didn’t feel like other science fiction stories.  Even if there were ray guns and aliens and space ships it didn’t seem as if these were the point of the story.  They were more like parables or morality tales.  And to a kid this was perplexing.  But I always considered Bradbury as something worth reading.  He was high value.

Fast forward twenty years.  It was the late nineteen eighties.  I was in an old used bookstore in Boston during my lunch hour from a design engineering job I had.  I hadn’t read any science fiction in a while.  I was browsing through a pile of books that had been displayed earlier in the year as summer reading.  There was a used hard cover book with a mylar library-type jacket cover on and a cover painting of a little blond haired boy virtually covering the pavement with his chalk drawings of lines and shapes.  The book was called “Dandelion Wine” and the author was Ray Bradbury.  It was a novel length book and it surprised me because I didn’t remember Bradbury writing many novels.  At the time “Fahrenheit 451” was the only one I could think of.

On a lark, I bought it.  I put it on my bookshelf and figured I’d get to it when the project I was on slowed down.  Well I forgot all about that book and before that project slowed down I had changed jobs and was too busy for reading.  It was about nine months later in July, when I picked it up again.  I was going on vacation with my wife and kids to Old Orchard Beach, Maine for a week.  It’s a very working class old beach resort where middle class people go to sit by the ocean and let their kids dig sand castles and swim.  And later on, you can go down to the pier and buy bad pizza and ice cream for your kids and let them get fake tattoos or go down to the amusement park and watch them be centrifuged in the dozen or so kinetic devices that are used to extract dollars from parents and regurgitated food from kids’ stomachs.  The several years I brought my young family there are among the happiest memories I have.

Anyway, when the family settled in the beach house at night and the kids settled down to reading or watching the TV I picked up Dandelion Wine.  And I was surprised to find I had already read it.  But wait, not really, I’d read parts of it.  What Bradbury had done was patch together a number of his older stories along with transition scenes that tied them together, and make a narrative about a summer for a boy and his family and neighbors in Green Town, USA circa 1928.  What it really was, was an ode to the boyhood Ray Bradbury had lived and imagined in Waukegan, Illinois.  He used the memories of his childhood home and passed them through the story writing algorithm in his head and invented a world that struck me as remarkable.  Here were the mundane short stories that as a kid didn’t click with me because there were no monsters or space ships.  Now they were knitted together to talk about what was magical about being a twelve-year-old boy in a small mid-western town in the early twentieth century with three months of summer vacation ahead of you.  They are stories about family and friends and growing up and living and getting old and even dying.  And they are mostly about being a kid.

Since that summer I’ve re-read that book a dozen times in whole or part.  I mostly read it when I have some vacation time in summer.  This year I’ll be sixty.  When I read that book I’m not even sixteen, I’m twelve.  It’s remarkable.  I didn’t grow up in a small town.  I grew up on the relatively mean streets of Brooklyn, NY.  And I was born forty years after him.  But I can understand what he’s saying and feeling in his alter ego character.  He’s captured the essence of boyhood in its quintessential form, summer freedom.  And the setting is a simpler time and place.  It’s idyllic.  Not realistic but almost archetypal.

I imagine there are many for whom this type of story has no appeal.  It’s not high adventure or technical fun.  But if any of this strikes a chord try the book out.

Open Range – A Short Movie Review

True Grit: The Duke, The Dude and The Dutiful Daughter; Part I

True Grit – Part 2, Rooster Redux

Having been born in the fifties of the last century I am familiar with westerns from the early days of Hollywood and the later era in the sixties.  Now these two styles were as different as night and day.  The earlier movies represented a simpler more idealized version of the old west.  The sixties represented the era of the anti-hero and the anti-heroic west.  Both of these periods produced memorable films.  I have favorites from both periods and depending on the mood can enjoy either.  In the last twenty years, some good westerns have been made.  Interestingly they represent an evolution that contains aspects of both these earlier film types.  Unlike the earlier films, they do not represent an idealized world and at the same time they lack the relentlessly negative depiction of the sixties western.  Let’s say it’s a more balanced approach.  So, some of these new movies appeal to me for a variety of reasons.  Some are remakes of earlier classics.  One of these, True Grit, I’ve already reviewed.  Some are new stories like Open Range.  I’ll say what I like about this story and why.

The plot of the story is a familiar one.  It’s settlers versus herders.  A small herd owner passes through a town run by a rich tyrannical landowner, Denton Baxter (played to the hilt by Michael Gambon) who controls the sheriff and attacks and kills any free grazing herders that come through his land.  His men attack and kill one of the cowboys and injure another.  The herd owner, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), and his lead man, Charlie Waite (Kevin Costner), come back to the town to get a doctor for their shot friend and to get justice.  The narrative runs to a climactic gun fight.   Mixed in is a love story between Waite and the doctor’s sister, Sue Barlow (Annette Bening).  Seeing as Costner and Bening aren’t kids anymore, the love story is appealing to people of my generation and fits in with the theme of a changing world closing off one familiar lifestyle while opening up a better one to those willing to see.

So, this is a pretty standard plot.  Why do I like it?

First off, the look and feel of the movie.  It must have been filmed in the Canadian Rockies.  The panoramic views and the outdoor scenes are fantastic to look at.  The scenes in the town look good.  They spent enough money to make the sets look authentic.  The soundtrack is first rate.

Second, the portrayals by all the leads and many of the supporting characters are well done and very engaging.  I’m a fan of Duvall’s and the chemistry between him and Costner makes the movie work.  The Costner/Bening love story is understated and enjoyable.

Third and most important, the gun fight at the end is epic.  Our heroes Duvall and Costner line up against five men and then fight their way through the rest of the gang to stay alive and win the day.  So why is it so good?  Well first off, these have to be the loudest guns ever fired.  Even sitting in my living room, I can feel the percussion rattling my teeth.  Honestly, I doubt there were Iowa Class battleships with guns this robust.  Secondly, Kevin Costner was lucky enough to own revolvers that were twenty-five-shooters.  He would peel off ten shots at one adversary before moving on to another dozen shots at the next opponent.  This can be both dramatically useful and conducive to a gunfighter’s health.  And finally, the bad guys are so enjoyably bad.  One villain even brags about how much he enjoyed shooting someone in the head just as he himself gets shot practically right between the eyes.  The lead villain, Baxter is continuously issuing threats and insults at anyone he sees and is thoroughly despicable.  It’s truly a pleasure seeing him dispatched by our heroes’ thunderously loud and apparently infinitely loaded shooting irons.

Open Range is one of my favorite modern westerns.  In style, I think it throws back more to the pre-sixties westerns.  But it is so well-acted and generally well made that it actually updates many of the conventions it adheres to and gives them new life.  I highly recommend it.  And the ladies like it too.  So, throw it in for date night.  You can’t go wrong.

 

Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: A Short Book Review

This book is a bit of a departure from my usual fare of science fiction and fantasy.  It’s a book based on a course the author gave on business start-ups.  And considering that Thiel was one of the founders of PayPal I guess he knows a thing or two about innovation.  The title “Zero to One,” is a way of describing the invention of something new, literally something out of nothing.  He contrasts this to the current business paradigm of amplifying existing businesses by small incremental improvements mostly involving decreasing business costs.  This might seem like a narrow topic that would only interest business school types and in one sense that’s true.  What makes it important to the general reader is how he frames this situation as a symptom of a larger societal problem that effects us all and threatens to make permanent the recession that has gripped the United States for the last thirty years.

Thiel defines the parameters involved as two binary variables.  The first pair is optimism versus pessimism.  As examples of these he compares American culture in the post WWII era (optimistic) with other cultures that tend to pessimism (e.g. Modern Europe, Modern China).  That’s easy enough to understand and familiar to most readers.  The other parameter he describes is definite versus indefinite.  The dichotomy here is the difference between believing that you can shape the future (definite) versus believing that the future is ruled by luck or random events.  Putting these two sets together you can come up with four cases, Definite Optimism, Indefinite Optimism, Definite Pessimism and Indefinite Pessimism.  With respect to the United States he claims that we have shifted from the Definite Optimism of the 1940s and 50s to the Indefinite Optimism of the present.  He maintains that Americans tend to regard the future as optimistic but instead of the bold plans for creating the future in the 40s and 50s (characterized by such bold endeavors as the Manhattan Project and the other engineering marvels of the times) we just assume that everything will turn out well without actually having a blueprint of what needs to be done to achieve this prosperity.

This framework is then extended to other areas of human activity such as finance, politics and even philosophy.  These observations seem genuinely compelling.  The analysis is uncomplicated and fairly obvious once examined.  I find this section the most interesting from a general interest perspective.

The majority of the book returns to more concrete elements of what a successful start-up business should look like (and that is something that is interesting to more than just venture capitalists and computer savants) but sprinkled throughout the book are arguments that show Thiel’s divergent view on modern business goals.  His thoughts on the desirability of monopolies is clever.  And finally, he examines the consequences of automation on human society.  He recognizes the disruptions to older life styles inherent in these technologies but offers an opinion on how it can be made to serve society instead.

News that Thiel is being considered for a role in the upcoming Trump administration strikes me as a positive turn of events.  He appears to be an original thinker who seems to possess insights into how innovation is central to the American Dream.  I think it’s almost prophetic that both Thiel and Trump seem to be telling America to return to a winning strategy.

This book is primarily for those interested in what makes for a successful start-up company but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know why America is faltering economically and even spiritually.

CTRL ALT REVOLT! A Book Review

Nick Cole’s CTRL ALT REVOLT! (CAR!) is a 2016 publication that was rejected by his original publisher.  This was probably because it takes a number of swipes at the politically correct culture found in this dystopic future (and more importantly in our own real world).  For that reason alone, I would probably have given it a whirl.  But when it won the 2016 Dragon Award for Best Apocalyptic Novel I felt I owed it to myself to test whether the Dragon Awards would be a better fit than the Hugos when it came to predicting a good read.

I am happy to say they are.  CAR! is an excellent read.  Putting aside that it pokes merciless fun at progressive ideas and practices (which I see as a plus), the action in the story is interesting and fun throughout.  The characters vary from barely sketched in to fairly full framed but they do not jar the way the characters in the “literary sf” often do.  Even the computers come off as recognizable personalities and not HAL 9000 stand-ins.

I won’t describe the whole plot because there are enough twists that I’d be spoiling a lot of the fun.  But the back cover says it’s a robot revolution and I’ll add that it’s a goulash with artificial intelligence, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), the Star Trek universe and the extravagances of Silicon Valley as ingredients in a future world where a nanny state handholds its wards through their cyber cocooned lives.  Because of the skillful insertion of on-line story lines the action jumps from deep space naval battles to running gun battles through the streets of a Caribbean paradise.  The real-world action is more bizarre.  Not to indulge in cliché, but the good guys consist of a rag-tag bunch of individuals that barely know each other and can’t be sure if they’re actually on the same side.  The ending is a train wreck (a really cool one) and promises at least a sequel.  I have to confess that there are so many odd elements that I have no idea which way he will take this story line, but I am excited at the prospect.

One of the more interesting concepts that Cole has built into his near future is the merging of television and MMORPs.  There are scripted and semi-scripted intrusions of television shows into MMORPs and to some extent, the reverse.  The professional “reality” for the actors highlights how the old studio star system will continue to degenerate until minute by minute trending of character popularity on social networks will replace long term contracts.  One of the sub-plots revolves around the interaction of gamers with tv stars and how knowledge and intelligence can trump telegenicity and histrionics.  There’s even the recognition that the finance people in media might be more reliable partners than the directors and talent agents when it comes to dealing with difficult situations on the set.  So here you have the collapse of television, on-line gaming, social networking and on-line business into one complex that allows some people to spend most of their time and almost all of their working and even their emotional lives interacting with each other only virtually.  But looking at the way the world is heading I hesitate to even call that a prediction.  It’s probably closer to a short term extrapolation that’s already reality for some.

Now a word about the anti-pc snark.  Full disclosure, I’m a card-carrying member of the “Basket of Deplorables.”  I haven’t met a dig at SJWs that I didn’t chuckle at.  So, it’s not hard to imagine that I haven’t deducted any points from my review for lack of cultural objectivity.  I laughed at every single ironic take, every set-up shot.  If you happen to be of the other persuasion will these bother you?  Probably.  Should you read it anyway?  I think so.  But remember I’m a terrible person and worse, I have a sense of humor.

And finally mention of the trekkie angle.  There is a small amount of Star Trek plot that dredges up mention of Kirk and Shatner and the associated hagiography.  Suffice it to say that there is a comical congruence between the pretentious prima donna that was Shatner and the current captain in the book.  There is even a reference to him performing a “shatner.”  Now of course, Shatner mockery is required reading at the academy but I have to add five points to the review grade to cover these goings on.

So if you want my opinion, read this book unless you’re a literary sff type.  In that case run, run for the hills.

The Black Bird

Dashiell Hammett was not a science fiction author. What he was, was a card-carrying communist, an alcoholic, a philanderer who deserted his wife and children and by all accounts a jerk. He squandered his money and his writing talent and by the measure of lifetime total output left a very sparse legacy as a writer.

So why am I writing about him? Because he was one of the greatest 20th century American genre writers. And by extension I’d say he was one of the greatest 20th century story tellers. And finally, because he wrote the Maltese Falcon, which is the archetype for the hard-boiled detective story and by extension for most of American genre fiction and film story lines for the 1930s and 1940s. In fact I would say that the film Blade Runner is without a doubt the legitimate grand-child of the Maltese Falcon. So therefore it’s related to science fiction. Thus I can semi-legitimately categorize this under sf&f.

I’ve never been a detective story addict. When I was young I read the Holmes stories and I have from time to time read some crime fiction. But sf&f were more my central interest. I came to the Maltese Falcon late in life. I can’t remember if I ever saw the John Huston film in its entirety in my younger years although I am sure I saw bits of it through discussions of classic Hollywood films of the ‘30s and ‘40s. It was actually a very offhand chance that brought me to it. I was at a book store (Barnes and Noble’s or Borders?) back in the mid 1990s. They had some books for sale as remainders and a faux leather bound book caught my eye. It had the image of a black bird set off by silver highlights. It was an edition of the Maltese Falcon at a very reasonable price. How could a bibliophile resist? So I bought it and stuck it on a shelf for a year or two. One night I was tired and bored and there was nothing to watch on tv and nothing new to read. I looked around my old books and thought about rereading something I liked. I considered rereading Zorba the Greek for the hundredth time or some old short stories I like. The black book caught my eye. I hesitated. Why should I start that? It’s too long to fill an hour or two. I’d probably hate it. Eh, I’ll read it.

So I read it. I liked it. I recognized it. It was the written image of the American century. Here were the brash, mercurial, inhabitants of the early 20th century scurrying around their frenetic chaotic lives. This was a new world to them. The older world of family and community had dissolved into the urban machine. All certainty of earth and heaven had been removed. Their mission was to shove themselves through the crowded streets of the industrial age fast enough to collect some memories before the curtain came down on their short lives. All that was sure was death and taxes. You held onto a job to be able to pay the landlady and the butcher. The memory of the earlier world still existed in some of the older habits. Even the psychopath might still tip his hat to a lady or offer his enemy a cigar and a scotch. But the modern accelerators are already on the scene. You had mass communication in the form of the telephone, radio, phonograph and the big city newspapers. Transportation existed as the streetcar and the taxi. Automatic weapons, both pistols and machine guns had come on the scene. And most important was the new hero or rather the anti-hero. Sam Spade. He didn’t protect the weak and innocent. He was muscle and brain for hire to the highest bidder. If he caught a killer it might be just as much to give the police someone beside himself to arrest as it was to see justice done. His scruples wouldn’t prevent him from bedding the wife of his business partner. A the same time, it would compel him to avenge his partner’s murder. He was a professional and knew all the tricks and skills of his trade. But he was a violent man with a very dangerous temper.

So it’s a book of murder and cops and crime and crooks and femme fatales. There are twists and turns and ancient treasure and double and triple crosses. But surprisingly there are some small touches that stay with you just as much as the big scenes. There is a scene in the crowded dining area of his cramped apartment where he puts out food and drink in a way that makes you wish you were there. It’s a book with many things going for it. Some of the stylization seems unfamiliar and the violence less shocking than the latest slasher book. But you can detect the dna that underlies so much of modern genre storytelling.

I’ve since read the rest of Hammett’s works. That includes a few novels including the Thin Man book which also became a famous movie and a fair number of shorter stories. He has a number of good characters and some interesting plots. But in my mind the Maltese Falcon is the masterpiece and his claim to fame. I’d say it should be required reading for anyone who wants to write genre fiction. Not because you’ll learn how to write. And not to see where all the conventions came from. But just to show that good writing involves capturing the essence of a time or a place. It’s like a snapshot of the spirit. It tells the truth and that resonates. And that makes it last. You see there’s one other fact about Hammett that explains his success. He had worked as a detective. He actually knew what he was talking about. He probably never had to deal with people looking for a jewel encrusted golden bird but he certainly dealt with cops and crooks and desperate men of many types. He wrote what he knew.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: A Book Review

Scott Adams is best known as the creator of the Dilbert comic strip.  In the 1990s and 2000s it was one of the most widely read and enjoyed parts of the common culture.  Every cubicle dweller in the western world could commiserate with the trials and tribulations of this geeky everyman.  Any engineer of whatever stripe could empathize with the bureaucratic idiocy that Dilbert navigates at every turn.

What people might be less aware of is that Scott Adams has written some other books that are more in the vein of self help.  I was unaware of it.  The only recent information I had about Adams was his commentary about Donald Trump’s candidacy.  Apparently he is somewhat on the right end of the spectrum (although his exact shade is not defined in the present book).  But through an article I read on his recent book I became interested to see what kind of advice I could get from Dilbert.

After reading this medium length book (~250 pages) I will say I’m very impressed.  It combines advice on health and career in a surprisingly integrated fashion.  Without regurgitating the details of the book he ties together diet, exercise, work, play, psychology, innovation, socialization and happiness into a coherent hierarchical plan.  The book is laid out into a narrative following the details of Scott’s life from his childhood on.  It shows how each of his various failed endeavors contributed to his understanding of what he was doing wrong and what he had learned.

I found the writing style funny and very readable.  What really surprised me was how convincing his arguments were.  I found myself agreeing with the logic of his perspective on a lot of these topics.  Most surprising was how enthusiastic I felt in response to this book.  Individually, none of these topics is profound.  But wrapping them together I think they provide a powerful stimulus to someone interested in enhancing his own peace of mind and prospects for a happy life.  There are all kinds of self help books out there.  Some better, some worse.  Scott Adams has written one for the everyman who is navigating a world filled with confusing, unhealthy and frivolous choices that distract us from what we need to do (and not do) to be happy.

Because of how positively I viewed the book I decided it was necessary to test my reaction by consulting with the most skeptical authority on life known to man, my wife.  I described the thesis of the book in short outline and she provided a rapid decision.  It was all just common sense.  I objected that the way the advice was presented made it much more valuable than Ben Franklin’s, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  She still scoffed at my enthusiasm.

So there you have it.  It’s a man’s book.  Women are the ultimate pragmatists and have little use for common sense handbooks because they already live by simple rules that life dictates for them.  I guess men naturally think rules don’t apply to us and therefore allow us to defy common sense and make our own rules.  Fine.  But I think I did not sufficiently detail the sections of the book that addressed the advice on maximizing success and innovation.  Here I believe Scott captures some behaviors and ideas that are applicable to almost anyone who wants to break out of the hum-drum existence of modern day corporate life and build something of his own.  If I went over this with my wife I’m sure she’ll tell me it’s just another way of saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Damned pessimists.  Once I’m rich, powerful and famous she’ll change her tune.

Bravo, Scott Adams, bravo.

Dead Pool: A Short Movie Review

So, I’m not a comic book guy. I don’t have a dog in DC vs Marvel. I despise the X-Men. It seems to be some thinly disguised stand-in for every grievance group’s revenge wet dream (OUR SPECIALNESS IS OUR SUPER POWER!!!). Iron Man and Captain America have been fun. But it’s only a matter of time until Joss Whedon consigns them to gender re-assignment surgery and makes them a lesbian couple. Now they’ve even ruined Batman and Superman. All they do is whine and brood about how tough it is to be invulnerable or a billionaire. Wow.

So it is with great joy that I announce that there is at least one super hero who is having fun. Dead Pool. I’d never heard of him before this movie (remember, not a comic book guy). I heard some good word of mouth from friends so I was hopeful. But other than the fact that it wasn’t for kids I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Being hopelessly old, I rented the DVD from what used to be called Netflix and last night I watched it.

I’ll say from the very opening scene (which includes some very amusing credits) right up to the final credits it entertains the hell out of you. It’s funny, obscene, funny, violent, funny, clever and just plain funny. All the major characters and even some pretty minor ones are excellent. The action scenes are well done and exciting. The dialog is outstanding. The plot is pretty much the usual meaningless super-hero origin story but Dead Pool hasn’t decided that his suffering will elevate him to a noble avenger. He’s just a really pissed off jerk bent on revenge. It’s perfect.

His attitude toward everyone (good, bad or just bystander) is the same, “I’m gonna do some really dangerous stuff to kill a lot of people I really don’t like. Sorry I didn’t warn everyone else but I really don’t care because I’m basically a selfish jerk.” It’s wonderful.

One of the best features of the character is his constant mockery of movie conventions. At a certain point Dead Pool (played hilariously by Ryan Reynolds) recruits two X-Men characters to help him save his girl (portrayed by the still incredibly hot Firefly alumna, Morena Baccarin). But he does it with as little grace and gratitude as humanly possible. One of the X-Men characters is named ( I kid you not) Negasonic Teen Warhead and is a rather short girl with a slightly stubbly shaved head. Sort of the epitome of the surly teen girl super hero. He mocks her incessantly sometimes pretending she’s Sinead O’Connor. Then he taunts her thus, “Look! I’m a teenage girl! I’d rather be anywhere than here! I’m all about long, sullen silences, followed by mean comments, followed by more silences. So what’s it gonna be? Long, sullen silence or mean comment? Go on.” This may be the most refreshing thing I’ve seen in a sci-fi movie in twenty years.

All in all a first rate comic book movie presentation. Long live Dead Pool. I just wonder if a sequel is possible.

SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police; A Review

Discussing this book is really a combination of explaining the concept of the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) to the uninitiated (or fortunate innocent) and reviewing the efficacy of the content with respect to the book’s stated purpose.

How’s that for a loaded thesis?

So, for anyone who has been in a coma for the last twenty years or living in a Burmese lamasery for the same period of time, an SJW is a person who pursues a policy of seeking out and punishing anyone who does not sufficiently submit to any aspect of the ultra-progressive narrative and agenda. This transgression can be of any kind; action, inaction, word, silence, facial expression, glance or any behavior at all. Most guilty are those who regardless of any other action belong to that most detestable group; the cis-gender, male, straight, white, christian American. They have the Mark of Cain (if I may use such a Judeo-Christian metaphor). For them any punishment is justified and insufficient. The SJW’s favorite method of attack is the internet swarm. These creatures will locate a likely target and using internet posting and e-mail complaints attempt to convince the victim’s employer that he is a terrible person and needs to be de-employed (fired). This sounds highly unlikely but reading a few of the clearly documented and easily confirmed high profile examples from the book it’s pretty clear that SJWs exist and that they do horrible damage to their victims. So in a nutshell that is the meaning of SJW. First part of mission accomplished. Hooray.

Part 2. My thoughts on the book. The author of the book, Vox Day, is an incredibly polarizing individual. For left wing individuals (especially those in the science fiction and fantasy community) he is the devil himself. Their fear and loathing of him is practically a fetish. For the political moderates he is a gadfly. He punishes them for failing to support anyone who the left labels as racist, sexist, homophobic or any other label they use to disqualify their enemies. Lately, in fact, Vox has been more of a scourge of mainstream conservatives than left-wing targets due to the Trump campaign and the reaction of mainstream republican politicians and pundits to it. Therefore he has become a lightning rod for several types of attack. He is aligned with the alt-right and nationalist groups and his popular blog site ( https://voxday.blogspot.com/ ) reflects his take no prisoners approach to the culture wars. For these reasons it would be easy to dismiss his book as a partisan screed only useful for preaching to the far right choir. But that is not the case. The book is actually an incredibly useful tool for explaining to all sorts of people and preparing them for an SJW attack. How to recognize it. How it progresses. What to do and most importantly, what not to do.

The information is laid out in a very orderly arrangement with chronological breakdown of the stages. Interspersed are examples of the high profile SJW victims from the recent past. Also Vox provides his own autobiographical account of an SJW attack.

Grabbing just one nugget from this useful guide I’d say probably the single most important rule is never apologize (although a close second is never resign).

In my estimation this book should be read by anyone who wants to protect himself from being intimidated (and potentially destroyed) by leftist culture thugs. What it also does is allow you to recognize the noxious effect that political correctness has already had on normal human interaction. Basically everyone is afraid to challenge the thought police who impose an unpopular narrative on us all. The fact that it is reinforced at almost all institutional centers (media, schools, corporations and government) shows just how serious the problem already is.

Vox Day has millions of enemies. But he has almost everyone in his debt for providing a useful tool to warn of and protect us from these totalitarian harpies.