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Friday, March 30, 2018

A Snapshot in Time

   We never know when we are on the cusp of events that will shape the future, or be that point in time where we can point to as that moment that “changed everything.” Every now and then we need to take a snapshot in time so that we can reflect to quantify if these were indeed the moments, we had no idea were unfolding.

The President:

   Now some may say that the very election of Donald Trump as President was a watershed moment, and it would be hard to argue…but there is much more happening after the fact that might later be looked on as having historical significance. The current scandals plaguing the President are the subject of today, but how will they be looked on tomorrow?

   With a rash of women coming out making claims of sexual relationships and misconduct, the headlines are dominated by our human curiosity of our human nature. Now…I’m not too certain these claims will amount to any more than to cement the fact Trump puts his pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us, but I do know there is a fundamental difference between his scandals and that of Bill Clinton, namely that all of Trumps accusations are said to take place before he was in office, not in the oval office.

   Perhaps this will all “blow” over and be forgotten, or perhaps he will make the same mistake Clinton did and lie about the situation. After all, people forget Clinton was impeached because he lied, not because he had an extra-marital affair. Given that Trump has a continuous war with the truth, the odds are not in his favor…but time will tell.

The Police:

   Anyone that is a regular reader of this blog knows the police have been the subject of a few posts. Apparently the right people have not been reading them since we seem to have more of the same when it comes to police conduct, or lack thereof. The officers responsible for the death of Alton Sterling have been found innocent of any wrongdoing, despite the President himself remarking during his candidacy, that the cops obviously needed more training and the situation reflected very badly on them.

   Watching the discussions on this and seeing people remark how Sterling was on drugs, would not comply, and had a gun in is pocket just doesn’t seem to cover the entire issue because they completely ignore the climate that has been created by the constant exoneration of cops, regardless if they are right or wrong. How many videos of people complying with police and still being brutalized do we need to see before its understood that for Black people, an interaction with police is a life or death situation…no matter what you do?

   Stephon Clark is the latest victim of the police, specifically Sacramento PD. People can say that running from the cops was the problem, but who does not run from that which you think is trying to kill you? That segment of America that only see police as protectors simply refuse to understand how another segment of America see them as hunters, sanctioned by those in power to execute whomever they want to.

   If you are not seeing the disparity in police behavior when a white person can shoot up a church or a school having confirmed kills, yet every effort is taken to capture them alive, but a black person that hasn’t killed anyone is quickly shot and killed…then you are being willfully ignorant, and are part of the problem.

Guns:

   The hottest topic of the day, by far, is gun control. With the rash or recent school shootings, young people all across the country are leading the way to gun control reform by having their voices heard, and promising to have their votes count when they come of age.

   Politicians want to be re-elected, regardless if they are doing a good job or not, and you can bet that if their jobs are threatened, they are going to listen. My question is what is the message and is the answer as cut and dry as banning some guns?

   There is no question that improper enforcement of the current gun laws had a hand in facilitating the recent tragedies. So shouldn’t the first step be to enforce the laws already on the books? Shouldn’t the next step be to make the children safe in school? Nobody wants to go to school with metal detectors at the doors, but if those detectors and school police keep the guns out, shouldn’t they be installed? Obviously we probably need more stringent laws and the enforcement of such, to keep guns out of the hands of unstable people, but it seems to me that we skip a few logical steps on our way to infringing on the rights of others that actually obey the law.


   I’ve heard the argument that the AR-15 is not used for hunting, but is only used to shoot other people…and that there is never a need for that. Well, if the 2nd Amendment was made to arm the people against the tyranny of their own government, then I sincerely hope there will never be a need for citizens to own such a weapon. That said, to assume such a time will never arrive is to ignore the lessons history has already taught us.

   The debate on guns is a complicated one, but being fired up on one side or the other and not trying to understand each other will make progress slow, if it happens at all.





Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Way of Wakanda

THE FILM:

   There has been a lot of hype about the release of Marvel Studio’s Black Panther film. Much of it has been positive, but some has been in the form of controversy…which is nothing new when discussing T’Challa and the ways of Wakanda. Black Panther was the first black super hero to appear in comics, and although he debuted onscreen in 2016 in “Captain America 3: Civil War”, his solo film is the first major superhero film to boast a mostly all black cast (I say “major” because in comparison, “Meteor Man” was minor, albeit enjoyable).

   Some see this as significant given the level of success the film has had thus far as it breaks and sets box office records. Others see it as highlighting real issues with Black America…that they will come out in droves to see a film, but not to vote (although I would love to see some concrete numbers on this instead of percentages). Then there are those screaming foul on the film because it has a mostly black cast, citing “reverse” racism.

   If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, you might want to stop reading now before some spoilers drop.

   There are also those crying foul because the film was not the first Marvel Studios film to showcase LGBT characters in a major way (this has yet to be done onscreen by Marvel, but was expected by some since the current iteration of the comic portrays the Dora Milaje as lesbian).

   If you’re into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’re going to like this film. Heck, it’s entertaining as a film regardless of its affiliation to the MCU. That said, if you take a closer look, you will find much more to the film than special effects and CGI.

  For example… the struggle between T’Challa and Killmonger can be seen as not just a microcosm of black-on-black violence, but the continual breakdown of the black family since these characters are blood relatives. A point further driven home when we learn that T’Challa’s father killed his own brother, making Killmonger an orphan early on. T’Chaka leaves his nephew in America (the abandonment of the black man on his children), a victim of whatever the system will produce (in this case another angry black radical…or liberator of his people, depending on the lens you choose to look through). Not to mention reinforcing the fallacious generalization, but sometimes true point, that black Americans cannot be in harmony with Africans.

   Of course much of that is overlooked when the film continuously tries to reinforce the empowering of black people (Wakandans), even as the story is about stopping Killmonger from trying to do the very same on a global scale, albeit not the Wakandan way (but the American way).

   As we keep tunneling down this rabbit hole we eventually come to Everett Ross, one of only two non-black major characters…and a CIA operative (and all that such a job implies), that is given the awesome responsibility of helping to save Wakanda (insert America to the rescue in the form of a great white hope) from an angry radical black man that would likely kneel for the anthem (I couldn’t help myself).

   All power to the people, er…all power to Killmonger.

   Killmonger is right. His methodology is questionable (and some will say flat out wrong, while saying the same methodology used by America is right), but his position that Wakanda should have been doing more to help other black people around the world is right. The film itself makes this point and shows T’Challa buy up the area in Oakland where Killmonger grew up with plans to open a Wakandan outreach program to help uplift the community (a nod to the real-life Black Panther organization).

   Of course Killmonger has let his own personal pain and agenda trump the cause, as evident by his burning the heart-shaped herb, proof he doesn’t have any vision or care beyond his own reign as king (or perhaps he simply is not vested in the welfare of Wakanda specifically, beyond their use to achieve his goals). Either way, power to the people has given way to absolute power to Killmonger. While it can be argued that Killmonger is a lost soul, it can also be argued that the Wakandans are a lost people…and the actions of Killmonger have found them, to the benefit of not just black Americans, but the entire world.

   Go see the movie…and even though it is much more profound than I have presented here (and thankfully it takes from all the Panther lore, not just the current iteration), it is an enjoyable experience regardless of how deeply you choose (or not) to look at it.


THE BOOK:

  Now let’s tackle the book…from which everything stems, and understand the Wakandan way. My first experience with this material came in the 70’s from Don McGregor (Jungle Action). My childhood was enriched by these stories and they were the foundation for my love of the character of T’Challa. Along the way of reading over the years, the lore has been further enriched by Reginald Hudin and Jason Aaron.

  Of course we can not have a valid discussion of the subject without talking about the absolute best run of Black Panther as written by Christopher Priest. If anyone is interested in truly understanding the character and what the Wakandan way is all about, read everything by Priest…and be welcomed into a truly wonderful place (his imagination as it expanded upon the established lore).

   Unfortunately, the conversation does not end with discussing the best writer (and I would love to stop here). We have to discuss the worst as well, as written by Ta-nehisi Coates. Coates never understood the material, so it doesn’t matter what accolades he has as a writer, when you don’t “get it”…it shows.

   Coates was so blunt to the material that he thought the Dora Milaje were simply accessories to T’Challa who were just an extension of his arsenal (he could he not understand the position to be one of the most honored in their society, akin to how a patriotic soldier might see the assignment of being the President’s personal Secret Service attachment and therefore didn’t understand how stupid it was for the Dora Milage to turn on their king). He didn’t understand why Wakanda was a monarchy (and subsequently made it into a democracy). He didn’t understand that T’Challa was a king first and foremost (and tried to make T’Challa into Spider-Man). All of these lapses of understanding (and more) contributed to the increasingly declining sales of the current book…and subsequent cancelations of the two spin-off books.

   Long time Panther fans walked away from Coates, with good reason. Even Ben Shapiro didn’t like Coates’ iteration…which simply means Coates has run the table on his damaging the character, from long time hardcore fans all the way to filthy casuals.

   A great letter to Coates was published at the end of the 14th issue of his run that explained all this to him. In a nutshell, Coates was writing the book from a western philosophical mind set (or conditioning) and needed to write the book from a Wakandan mindset instead. His response citing “anti-colonial struggles in Africa” and not being able to write about democracy while excluding Nelson Mandela just highlights his disconnection to the material (and lack of understanding of the letter) since Wakanda was never a victim of colonialism, and thus doesn’t fit his references or reasonings for them having such a struggle for freedom and democracy.

   Coates is a perfect example of the saying “I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you.” Hopefully Marvel wises up and understands that Coates might be better off elsewhere (and I don’t just mean adding Captain America to his plate) and instead gets someone who actually understands the character to bring the book back to greatness, back to the way of Wakanda.






Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fall in Love Again

   I don’t often write about love or matters of the heart, but I have been known to dabble in the subject from time to time. I think one of life’s most complicated subjects, but also one of its most necessary, is the subject of love…with emphasis on how we find and maintain it.

   Now I’m no expert (and really, don’t trust anyone that says they are since life and love is unique to those living while loving), but I have lived long enough to observe and experience love from a variety of perspectives. Most people believe that there is someone for everyone, and that everyone is deserving of love at some point in their lives. Notwithstanding some very disturbing elements of our society, every single one of them was a child at some time and who really thinks the innocence of a child is underserving of a nurturing love?.

   Today you can often find a discussion of who loves whom, whether it be in a tabloid, on the news, on your favorite entertainment show, reality show, or even just in fictional television and film. It seems we have an undying fascination with the business of other people when it comes to love. I think many go wrong when they try to apply these observations to their personal experiences, but I digress.

   Instead, let’s continue to explore love from the perspective of being and staying in it. I mean, that is ultimately where all these observations and fascinations boil down to anyway right? Isn’t it all really about our desire to find someone with whom we can feel connected to? Isn’t it about finding that special someone, our “Soul Mate?” Or are we thinking deeper than that and figuring out that finding is just half of the equation, with staying together being the other half?

   Recently I heard a fantastic song that succinctly embodied the real life dynamic to this whole love issue. The name of the song is “Fall in Love Again” and it speaks about the rough patches real relationships go through, but then it always brings it back to what is needed to keep that relationship going and growing…and that is getting back to the basics, back to that “fall in love” place where it all begins.

It gets better though.  
                                    
   Turns out the artist of the song, Briana Jean, lives in the same city as me and was open to a quick interview about the song and herself, making this the first ever interview on this blog!

KD: How did you get into music?
BJ: I’ve always had some sort of attachment to music. I feel like as I got older, my connection grew stronger. It all began when I started hitting piano keys on this app called”music studio” which is basically a watered down version of garage band. After that, I realized how much I love music and I’ve been making music ever since.

KD: What was your inspiration for the song?
BJ: At the time, my parents were arguing a lot. I thought, you know, maybe this is it. Maybe they’re falling out of love. I wanted to write a love songbook I just didn’t know how or what to say. Then I thought to myself, “How would Ed Sheeran write this? What would he say?”…and just went from there.

KD: Who are some artists that influence your musical style?
BJ: Ed Sheeran is my biggest influence. I’ve always admired his style and his songwriting skills. Shawn Mendes also inspires me because he and I are the same age and I feel like if he can do it, so can I.

KD: What are your plans for the future?
BJ: I plan on going to Berklee College of Music to enhance my skills so that I can produce, and possibly own my own music business some day.


Briana Jean’s song can be found on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Play, Tidal, and probably anywhere really. I look forward to hearing more her in the future.









Saturday, December 31, 2016

Out With the Old, In With the…Old?

   As the new year approaches we traditionally think of discarding the “old” and implementing the “new.” We make resolutions (some realistic, some not) and commit ourselves to making the reflection in the mirror a better person. I can’t say what percentage of people actually follow through (I haven’t done a study and am not even motivated enough to look one up) but it occurs to me that instead of simply swapping old for new, that maybe we should examine ourselves a bit more closely and realize that maybe the old…is actually best for us.

   I won’t list what is good or bad since those terms are subjective to what you are doing and trying to achieve. I will say that we don’t always realize what works for us and tend to take that measure based on what is working for someone else. It makes no sense…but I’ve seen it happen. 

   Throwing out the baby with the bathwater leaves you with no baby…when all you really wanted was to get rid of the bathwater. Trying to fix something that isn’t broken can leave you with something that does not work. What I’m saying is sometimes when we go to make sweeping changes, we end up changing some things that we really didn’t want to. Other times we try to improve upon something that is great the way it is…and the process of trying to make the improvisation actually destroys what has already been working (and the replacement may not work as well, or even work for us at all).

   I’ve watched people buy new cars (a fresh start) without accounting for the financial impact it can have on a budget. Eventually the reality presents itself and the new car is gone…replaced by a worse car than the old car, or no car at all. The kicker was the old car was great for what it was being used for (short distance travel to and from work). This is just a simple example of the above analogies, but clearly illustrates that new for the sake of new is not always the best decision or change to make.

   Things get a little more complex when dealing with personal relationships. Sometimes we need to change the type of people we have around us…and sometimes we need to change our exposure to just one person to make all the difference. Maybe our friends are really just people we associate with (I’ve spoken about friendships before) and we simply need to change how we use the term. Self examination can be complicated, but if improvement is your goal for the new year, it’s absolutely necessary.

   Romantic relationships are even more complex than the interactions mentioned above. I’ve seen people change romantic relationships like others change clothes (I can’t make this stuff up) and I gotta wonder if they will ever realize the baby was in the bathwater. A new relationship might not be the best answer when a few changes to the old one might be better. I’ve spoken about relationships before here so won’t go into that rabbit hole, but if I had to convey one aspect we could all benefit from paying more attention to, it would be communication/consideration (see how I snuck two in there when I said it would be only one).

   Whatever it is you want the new year to bring with it, realize that some of those things might be what you have to bring with you…not the new year. So this year when you go to make your resolutions, take a moment to examine what has been working for you and commit to maintaining that occurrence. 


Happy New Year! 









Wednesday, December 28, 2016

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Typically an review like this would be on my other blog The Boxed Office, but please enjoy this slight change.

The Cast: 

   Jones plays Jyn Erso, daughter of the man responsible for building the Death Star seen in the original film in 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope. This is the first time a Star Wars film has had a female lead and Jones does a great job carrying this film (and us) further into the Star wars mythos.

   Luna plays Cassian Andor, a rebel loyal to the cause and willing to do whatever is necessary to defeat the Empire. Not having really seen him in anything else, I had no real expectations from him…but early in the film I realized Luna was a very capable actor as he sold me on his role just on his execution (pun intended) alone.

   Mendelsohn has always been a good actor (imo) and didn’t disappoint here. He seems to be very comfortable playing a villain, as well he should, since he plays them so well. In this film he plays Orson Krennic, a commander for the Galactic Empire tasked as the director in charge of building the Death Star. Mendelsohn seems to gravitate to characters with questionable authority issues as Krennic was unsure if he was in charge, dealing with Vader, in this film, and Dagget (The Dark Knight Rises) had a similar complication with Bane (lol).


The Plot: 
   The Rebellion is in full swing and the Galactic Empire has developed a new super weapon that will end it. To that end, they require Galen Urso (Mads Mikkelsen) leaving his daughter Jyn on her own, to be cared for by the infamous Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

   When the Rebels find out that the Empire is nearly done with this new super weapon, they acquire Jyn in hopes that she can lead them to the whereabouts of her father. Together with Andor and a reprogrammed Imperial security droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), they travel to a moon called Jedha seeking out Gerrera since he has pertinent information and the Imperial pilot (Riz Ahmed) that delivered it.

   While on Jedha, they are helped and joined by Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a blind former Guardian of the Whills and his partner-in-arms Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), a man with a rapid fire file that can’t seem to miss. The five rebels succeed in escaping Jedha with the defected Imperial pilot as the Death Star destroys the capital city (and Gerrera). 

   As a traitor within the Empire is revealed the Rebels race to find galen Orso. Not reaching him in time, our unlikely heroes take it upon themselves to steal the plans to the Death Star and exploit the weakness Orso built into it. What follows is a mesmerizing and exciting adventure full of explosions and blaster fire that will leave you stunned and clamoring for more.


The Verdict: 
   This is one of the best Star Wars films….ever.

   Now before we have a huge clamoring of dissented voices, think about it for a second. There have been seven films before this one. This one is certainly better than the three prequels. It’s better than the last sequel (“Force Awakens”). It’s better than “Return of the Jedi.” It’s on par with “Empire Strikes Back” and “A New Hope”…so, that makes it one of the best. Don’t believe me, ask George Lucas:

“George Lucas loved the film so much that Director Gareth Edwards posted on his Twitter "it was the most important review to me he's kind of like God, I will take that conversation to my grave, his opinion means the world to me”.”

   The third act alone is better than the entirety of some of the other Star Wars films.


   Before I get into all the good, let me discuss the bad. The CGI of certain characters could have been better. The first two acts were a bit slow. On that second one though, it could be that the third act is so action packed and filled to the brim with awesomeness that it just seemed like the other acts were slow when in actuality, they may not have been.

  Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen is a badass) and K-2SO were the stand out characters that will have a lasting impression on you…until the end of the film, when the only thing that will matter is that dang door that did not open all the way.

   This film is a Star Wars story. It tells us exactly how the Rebels got the plans to do what they did in “Star Wars: A New Hope” and while some may feel it didn’t need to be told, I am very glad it was as it burned four and a half (4.5) cinnamon sticks into the side of my cup of tea with laser-like precision.



Rating 4.5 / 5