The Age of Hyperbole

George W. Bush is the worst president ever. He’s going to destroy America.

If W is reelected, America is finished.

Obama is going to destroy America.

If Obama is reelected, America will be destroyed.

Do you see the pattern? Politically, we’re living in the age of hyperbole. Every politician we don’t agree with is the “worst ever.” Every policy that’s not the ideal policy of our team is going to destroy our country with it fascism or communism (depending on the sponsors of said policy). The partisans have neither memory nor self-awareness, and their endless sanctimonious shrieking at every new outrage is pathetic. If anything, these people are going to destroy America, and once America’s destroyed, it won’t really matter who was responsible, will it?

Partisans are going to be partisans, I guess, but just think about the sheer idiocy that partisanship inspires:

  • Recently, I witnessed many people, with no sense of irony, say, “I’m tired of these stupid celebrities getting political” when Meryl Streep criticized Trump. That’s Trump, the D list celebrity who came to political power by backing the ridiculous birther conspiracy theory.
  • And people who were sure that their dissent was patriotic during the Bush presidency, demanded loyalty for Obama. And now that Trump’s president, Team Loyal and Team Dissent have switched. Again. And the people who approve and disapprove of executive orders have changed their minds. Again.
  • In the days before the last presidential election a dude on Facebook said, “racial relations are the worst ever.” He proceeded to act incredibly indignant when I told him that what he said was colossally stupid. Apparently, chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws, and lynching weren’t as bad as calling out white people for racism, or whatever triggered his claim about the poor state of race relations in America. Only an appallingly clueless white dude could say something so completely foolish.
  • The same people who wailed throughout Obama’s presidency gleefully posted about crying liberals when Trump was elected. They said, “you lost; get over it” while flying confederate flags. They have absolutely no self-awareness, and the democrats celebrating their next win, when it comes, will be just like them.
  • Obama’s education policies were terrible. I work in education. Few of my colleagues would openly criticize Obama’s policies, and if they did, they would do so in a low mumble, before shifting the discussion.

I could go on and on and on and on with examples from liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans.

Politics has become trolling. I remember a Palin apologist agreeing with me that Palin was an idiot but saying, “She pisses off liberals.” Cue facepalm. Look Skippy, any number of horrible candidates could piss liberals off; it doesn’t mean you should be electing them. Why not choose a competent, capable candidate who pisses liberals off? Such candidates exist.

Instead, we elected Trump. We have a troll (in the internet sense) as our president. Many of his voters like the horrible thing he says; however, many just didn’t want Hilary. Many democrats were shocked because they could not imagine why people thought Hilary was a poor choice. And many automatically assumed the worst: it was because she was a woman, and not because she’s a horrible person (who happens to be a woman). Me? I was really hoping for a Cthulhu win. Both candidates were vile, though I do think Trump is worse.

I really wish political partisans, the hard core democrats and republicans, would just grow the fuck up already.

Why?

Because now we have people who can’t even denounce Nazis without engaging in rabid whataboutism. Denouncing Nazis and the KKK ought to be an activity for conservatives and liberals to enjoy together. In fact, we ought to be able to agree on what to do when Nazis come to our towns:

  1. Kill them all and mount their heads on pikes as a warning to others. Okay, that satisfies my lizard brain, but I do believe in freedom of speech so let’s say this isn’t an option.
  2. When the nazis have a parade and/or demonstration, every community resident will be standing along the route with weapons. The city, county, and state police will be there as well. If the event is at night, generators and floodlight will illuminate the area. Fuck their torches. Before they begin, they will be greeted by the mayor, city council, or whatever the local government calls itself. A representative of the local government will read a message that goes something like “We recognize your freedom to assemble and your freedom to speak your vile ideas. However, you are not welcome. Notice the large wooden stakes in the trailer. If you engage in any violence, we will kill you all, and mount your heads on those stakes as a warning to others of your ilk. Say what you have to say and leave.” I like this response; it warms my heart. But still, maybe I’m just trying to set up scenario one.
  3. Ideally we could just ignore them, turn our backs to them and not give them any attention. Ideally, if conservatives are holding some kind of demonstration that attracts Nazis and the KKK, they should say, “Whoa! You don’t represent us. We find you and your philosophy loathsome. Go somewhere else.” Ideally, the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance day could mention Jews. Ideally, Sean Spicer could say “death camps” instead of “Holocaust centers.” Ideally, when a President of the United States is elected fringe groups wouldn’t be celebrating with Nazi salutes. I guess we don’t live in an ideal world.

With regards to Nazis, I share the opinion of Lt. Aldo Raine:

Nazi ain’t got no humanity. They’re the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin’, mass murderin’ maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. 

You know, I can imagine the conservative nut jobs saying, “another violent, cuck, libtard, sjw, durr, durr, durr” and the righteous liberals saying, “don’t normalize violence, tsk, tsk, tsk.” I would respond to both by saying, “THEY’RE FUCKING NAZIS.”

Let’s talk about the massacre of the Hungarian Jews. The Hungarian Jews had largely avoided the early massacres of the Holocaust. In the spring of 1944, the Nazis took over Hungary and started catching up. In approximately twelve weeks, about 430,000 Hungarian Jews were shipped to Auschwitz. The Nazis killed about 390,000 of them right away. Most of them died in several small concrete gas chambers. To put that into perspective, my home town of Pueblo, Colorado has a population of about 110,000. Imagine every single person in Pueblo being killed every four weeks. And at the end of the twelve weeks, we’d be about 60,000 people short of the total.

The death camp of Chelmno offers a more horrifying record. Estimates vary between and 178,000 and 300,000 for the Jews murdered by the camp. They were killed in gas vans by engine exhaust; there weren’t even selections in Chelmno. In his documentary Shoah, Claude Lanzmann claims that only two people survived this camp. A brief google search suggests maybe as many as seven or eight survived. Eight out of several hundred thousand is a hellish fraction.

And in America today, people who call themselves Americans hoist swastika flags. They look at the Holocaust and say, “I’m okay with that.” Sure, they’re a tiny minority. But I’m deeply disturbed that we can’t come together and say, “Fuck those guys.” We’re too worried about scoring points against the other side. We’re too worried about making liberals/conservatives angry and punishing them. We’re so busy labeling the polices and people we oppose as “the worst ever” that we can’t even criticize people who really are “the worst ever.”

Can we please stop?

 

 

Everything Old is Older Again: Stop Killing Uncle Ben

We’re living in a golden age of comic book movies and television. At least, a younger Djason would think so. Have we reached peak comic book/superhero saturation yet? I don’t know. While it’s true these movies still draw large audiences, I see plenty of stagnant elements. The origin plot is one such element.

Origins Ad Nauseam: There are, as of yet, undiscovered tribes in the heart of the Amazon who know that Bruce Wayne decided to become Batman after Thomas and Martha were murdered in an alley.  (citation: I paraphrased this joke from an episode of the British comedy The Young Ones.) I’m sure these same tribes also know Peter Parker and the tragedy of all those Uncle Bens. So I think we can stop with most origin stories, at least for the well-known heroes. And even though I enjoyed Doctor Strange and Wonder Woman, I don’t think origins are required for less familiar characters. Both Watchmen and the Ed Norton The Incredible Hulk movie told a lot of back story in opening credits sequences. This works well. If people pay money to watch a movie about a dude who turns into an anthropomorphic shark, they probably don’t need his life story. And don’t make it oedipal; I’m looking at you Ang Lee.

 

Why origin stories suck:

  1. Because they’re boring. We watch superhero movies to see people in ridiculous outfits punch each other, throw batarangs at each other, and shoot laserish beams at each other. We don’t want to see the average schlub living an average schlub life. It’s supposed to be escapism, remember?
  2. Because they’re usually pretty dumb. Most of these superheroes origins come from the pulp comics of the thirties, forties, or fifties. They’re not exactly the best examples of storytelling; often, they’re just a flimsy justification for the character to put on a costume and start kicking some ass. In real life, chemical spills or radiation don’t cause superpowers; they cause horrific deaths. Or maybe just cancer, which causes horrific deaths.
  3. Because origin stories often include the obligatory training montage. You know, the ones where the hero sucks at first, but through determination and booming soundtrack the hero masters his/her skills. While it’s true that these montages sometimes produce humorous “WTF?” moments with heroes discovering they can fart lasers and stuff, I would rather see more of the heroes punching evil in the face.
  4. Because they’re lazy writing. Wanna reboot Batman? You only need to write half a story and then figure out how you’re gonna gun down the Waynes. Again. And since the canon is sacred, at least when it comes to origins, the stories are stale. Imagine if baby Kal El’s rocket crashed in Colorado instead of Kansas. In Pueblo, even: the Steel City Superman! How many ways can Peter Parker encounter a glowing spider? What if Pete was bitten by a radioactive lightning bug? Or a mildly annoyed mutant assassin bug?

Instead:

Opening credits montages, as mentioned above, are good ideas. With well-known heroes, why bother with origins? Reveal the hero’s origin as part of the inevitable advertising blitz for the film. Or in a flyer included with the action figure. The point is the people who say, “I want to see this movie about a pilot who gets a magic ring from an alien that makes him a space cop who can make whatever he wants with green energy,” don’t also say, “but only if I have a clear understanding of the character’s origin.” If the movie is pretty enough and has enough action, audiences will forgive all manner of stupidity. That’s why James Cameron has been so successful. Seriously.

Are there other problems with the current crop of superhero movies? Yes. The constant heroes fighting heroes plots are dumb and weakly justified. Butchering the imagery from classic stories and removing the context of those stories isn’t very successful, either, even if Marvel movies have gotten away with it (see my Cameron comment in the previous paragraph). Having the protagonist lose her/his powers, suit, hammer, etc is also pretty stale at this point, and another example of lazy writing: “Super Doge will lose his powers, but recover them just in time to thwart Bad Luck Bryan.” Yawn. Stan Lee cameos. Ugh.

The latest Spider-Man reboot gives us hope that Hollywood can change. Of course, that reboot worked because Spider-Man was introduced as part of the Avengers or Captain America or Civil War or whatever. And shared universes and franchises are another problem for some future post.

 

Goodbye, Will

Recently, I’ve been thinking about death a bit. Maybe it’s my mid-life crisis; at least I’m not wearing gold chains and chasing younger women. I read many Facebook posts lamenting the strain of “adulting” (apparently, mutilating the language comes easy for those struggling with adulting–should we call them adulterers? ). For me, the most difficult aspect of adulthood is confronting mortality. All of my grandparents are dead, and most have been gone for a long time. Too soon, I’ll have to deal with the death of my and my wife’s parents. And in a not-far-enough-away time lurks my own death.

Today, I woke to the news that my first academic mentor, Will Hochman, is dead.

On the first day of my first creative writing class Will entered the room wearing a corduroy sport coat with leather patched elbows.  With his receding hairline and ponytail, he looked every bit the creative writing professor. His first words to the class:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably 

saving 

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet 

and so cold

were William Carlos Williams’ words.

We were sitting in a computerized classroom that he created: the MacLab. His syllabus included a packet about using the computers and formatting the required 3.5″ disk for class, which we would use to submit our final portfolio. He introduced me to computers and writing. One of the course’s texts You’ve Got to Read This introduced me to great works of fiction. How can I thank him for that?

The best complement I can give Will is that he was a great teacher. He taught comp and creative writing, the classes where instructors will sometimes see the worst kinds of student writing. Will could (and did) tell us that some part of our writing was horrible without hurting us. He offered blistering honest critiques with a smile on his face, and you would smile back, even as you acknowledged the bitter truth. I’ve taught all manner of courses for sixteen years, and I appreciate his skill now in a way I couldn’t then.

As I’ve thought about him, I’ve realized that his brutal critiques worked because they were born of kindness. He cared about what we wrote and wanted us to write the best essays, stories, and poems that we could. He didn’t enjoy criticizing us; he enjoyed talking about writing and how to make it better. We sensed his respect for the discipline and that he applied that same respect to our work. He honored class time in a way that few professors did and we loved him for it.

I’ve been fortunate to have many great professors; Will Hochman was one of the first. I wish I could offer eloquent words, but all I want to say is “Damn.”

Damn.

Damn.

Damn.

Goodbye, Will.

Let People Enjoy Things, Damn it

 

enjoy

One of my FB friends (Jean-Luc) posted this comic around the time of the last super bowl (go Broncos!!!). As the hip kids used to say, this comic is “dank as fuck.” I’ve always laughed at people who break their arms patting themselves on the back because they’re not a fan of X, especially when X = some popular pop-culture thing. Irony alert: the people who smugly state “I don’t like X” are the first to post “I’m so excited about Y.”

At this point, plenty of others have pointed out that if you don’t care about the super bowl or HBO’s Game of Thrones, that probably makes you one of AT LEAST five billion (that’s 5,000,000,000) people who don’t care about those thing either. In other words, you’re not special; you’re just acting like a bag of dicks. So stop it.

However, I get it. I’ll see friends’ FB posts or Tweets and think “OMG, Who the fuck cares?” (I seriously think “OMG” and I also think, and say, “LOL” when something is funny; I need some help.) I have a trollish side that social media brings out and it’s hard for me not to post a meme like this:

group photo

If I were indifferent about GoT and had to read a million (that’s 1,000,000 and hyperbole) posts that were some version of “Holy shit! The red wedding!” I might want to tell people that I don’t care.

And that’s one problem with social media: we’re confronted with ALL of our friends’, families’, and acquaintances’ likes and dislikes, their political preferences, and the minutiae of their lives. If I know one of my friends doesn’t like the Denver Broncos, then I won’t initiate a conversation about football with them. Sure, FB gives us options about who can see our posts, but I’m thinking we don’t use them too much (and why go through the trouble?). So we get slapped in the face with a bunch of shit we probably don’t care about, or maybe we care about some of the shit, but we’re not in the mood for that shit right at that moment.

Like I said, I get it. I want to hate post and hate comment on an awful lot of posts. But I don’t (some of my FB friends would probably disagree with me). I try to remember that I post random shit and dank memes on FB because it pleases me, and the same is true for most of my friends (except for attention whore posts, but most of my friends are too cool for that).

So let people enjoy things. Even Pokemon Go (which they’re probably not playing anymore).

Long Time Lurker, First Time Blogger

I’ve been reading and commenting on blogs for over ten years now. My colleague Jonathan Rees convinced me to start this blog as a way to not rely on our school’s IT system for all of our online teaching needs.

Okay.

And I’d been thinking about starting a blog for a long time, but I probably don’t have enough to say, and isn’t blogging kind of dying? I do know that many of the blogs in my favorites lists have died. It’s just like me to start blogging as it becomes less trendy (or is it? It could be that blogging isn’t dying at all; I have no real evidence of blogging’s death, and evidence is important despite the lack of it in most online communication).

I don’t know what I’ll write about, but it will most likely be a mixture of ed stuff, memes (I’m late to that trend, too), and pop culture miscellany.

(This is really weird since I don’t have any readers yet.)