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Author Archives: Alex Miceli

About Alex Miceli

I am a creative writer, focusing on poems, plays, and prose. Politically, I'm a moderate and spiritually, I'm an atheist. More than either of those, though, I am a humanist, in the way, that I believe in the inherent good and evil of all people and believe that everyone deserves to be content and fulfilled in their individual choices.

Celebrate with Freedom, Love, and Life; Fight Against That which Would Destroy Those Ideas

Today is Independence Day. I was born and raised in the US. My parents were born here. My grandparents were born here. My paternal great-grandparents were from Sicily. On my mother’s side, I have family that came over with the pilgrims. I also have an ancestor on that side who’s mother was from Ireland and who’s father was black. He made up an Italian last name and erased his black ancestry. This ancestor was discovered when one of my cousins decided to do our genealogy and found his birth certificate. My family history with the US is extremely varied. It encompasses many different experiences of being a US citizen. But this is basically true of most Americans.

On this day, usually reserved for drinking beer and watching fireworks with friends and family, most of us are scared. We’re scared because our nation and the entire world is in upheaval. The pandemic has cost many people their jobs or businesses or homes on top of costing so many lives. Food scarcity, already an issue in the US for many, has become an even worse issue with the weakening of the supply chain. People began protesting for their freedoms, worried that the lockdowns were an attempt at government overreach. These fears were not unfounded as nanny statesmanship has been gaining favor in some cities and states. With the economy coming to a standstill and Congress not working fast enough nor doing enough to help the citizens, too busy fighting over the bone to appear as the heroes to the people, those who had been or had loved ones affected the worst had had enough. And the media chose to shame them instead of listening to their plights. And at the end of May, things just got worse.

People all across the US were in agreement that George Floyd was murdered. Both political sides agreed that it was police brutality that cost him his life. But then when we were our most united, those who practice critical race theory shouted the loudest and were given center stage. Critical theory ideology doesn’t bring people together. It divides us into groups based on identity factors out of our control. We cannot help but be who we are, even trans people. But critical theory uses that fact to prop some voices up and silence others. It hates the number one tenant that our nation was founded on: the freedom of expression.

Critical theory does not believe in the freedom and diversity of ideas that has allowed the US to progress to such a point that slaves were freed, women gained the right to vote, people of color gained that same right, and people were allowed the opportunity to live their lives in the way that felt best to them. The US has a history of activism to make our lives better than previous generations, all built on our first amendment. While the first amendment prevents the government specifically from silencing the people as long as they are peaceful in their activism, our freedom of speech is under attack from many corners.

You may have noticed it a few years ago when Zionist Jews were starting to be silenced, fired, or not hired in our universities. You may have noticed it in social media when people with more conservative or moderate views were cancelled en masse. You may have noticed it when moderators of those social media sites starting playing favorites with whom they decided to deplatform. You may see it now as many scientists, academics, politicians, professionals, and celebrities are fired over dissenting opinions. Maybe you’ve noticed that some of those people were of minority groups, liberal, loving, kind, or simply doing the job they had been hired to do and following the rules they had laid out before them. The hierarchy of ideas followed by the hierarchy of identities to see who does or doesn’t get shouted down is in full force, which is why JK Rowling, being a white woman who espouses for women’s rights over trans women’s rights, is under fire and why Terry Crews, being a black man who espouses universal liberalism and caution, is being called racial slurs. Both of whom have been victimized in the past but overcame it, which is why I believe they are still able to stand up for themselves despite the mass bullying. Maybe, like me, you’ve noticed all this and you’re afraid that the number one focus of what this nation is founded on is in danger.

If you feel this way, understand that you are not off the mark. If visions of an Orwellian or Maoist future are haunting your sleep, you are again not far off. Actions such as the tearing down of any and all previous forms of science, art, commerce, and religion, most recently depicted in the silencing of STEM, the tearing down of statues, even those representing or honoring freed slaves, the abolishment of slavery, black contribution to previous wars, or black heroes of the past, and the burning of churches or businesses, are the very acts committed at the beginning of such cultural revolutions. History is a harsh teacher, but it is important to pay attention to it.

Black people, like Terry Crews, Candance Owens, and Marcellus Wiley, who do not “fall in line” with what critical theory wants from them are being attacked with ad hominems, many of them the worst racial slurs I’ve ever read. The same is true for women, like JK Rowling, Helen Pluckrose, Asra Nomani, and Lydia Morphy. Gay men, like Dave Rubin, and lesbians are also under fire, especially if those lesbians state they will not date a trans woman who is non-op or pre-op, such as the deceased Magdalen Burns. Trans people like Buck Angel and Blaire White, who disagree with critical theory, often face attempts to silence them since they espouse the existence of sex and their identity as trans specifically over blending it into sex to the point where trans does not exist and cannot be spoken of unless it seems someone is facing dysphoria. Men and women of color are under attack, especially those of mixed race, for their dissenting views and “proximity to whiteness”, such as Tim Pool and Andy Ngo. Many people think being in a protected identity means those people will be, well, protected from ad hominems based on that identity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Because ideas are more important than people in critical theory ideology. And once someone strays from the approved ideas, their identity is fair game for attacks.

Because critical theory promotes attacking a person based on identity. This is why white men and women are especially under fire for being allies or for not being allies. They are assumed to be racist no matter what their experience and the more they wish to help, the more racist they appear. When it comes to sexism, men cannot talk about their problems at all, to the point that male victims of gendered violence must remain silent along with all other men while their teachers encourage the female students to speak on their victimhood, imagined or real. A white woman can be followed home by a man and be accused of racism for simply being frightened of this very aggressive and dangerous action because that man is black. Actions matter less than identity and identity matters less than ideas. This allows real predatory behaviors to go ignored and unpunished. This is how so many sexual and racial predators end up in high political positions. This isn’t the America that even our forefathers envisioned.

When the forefathers decided to stand up to the English overreach, they argued over the sticky issue of calling themselves a free and equal nation while allowing slavery to continue. One of the earlier versions of the declaration of independence had slavery as being illegal, but there were too many men that would not support the revolution while having to give up their slaves, so the rewrites capitulated on that horrific issue to allow the US to unite against the English. But the language was there. It was a seed of freedom and equality, and it was exactly the rhetorical tool left in the declaration of independence to allow abolitionists to fight slavery down the line. And to continue to create more freedom for more people. The only idea that matters as much as human life is freedom. Because that is what life should be, free.

One of the best freedoms the US has gained is the one to love whom we wish, and that one is facing a great amount of attack. Inter-racial relationships and the children they produce are now a sign of proximity to whiteness. The right to be homosexual is now seen as bigotry against trans. Love is, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., the only thing capable of destroying darkness and hate. Telling people who they can and cannot love is, in a time when Americans should be drawing those they love closer to them, wrong. Invalidating the very existence of that love for those who could not experience their love even fifty years ago is wrong. America in the last one hundred years has embraced love of all kinds. Critical theory does not support that love.

As a US citizen and a human being, I believe in your right to express yourself. I believe in your right to disagree. I believe in your right to protest. I believe in your right to be who you are. I believe in your right to love whom you wish. Today I celebrate those things that do make America great: the love we share, the ability to express ourselves, the ability to be who we are freely no matter how different, the people of the past and today who fought for equality and freedom and the rights they gained for my generation and for any other US citizen. I will stand against ideologies that work to break those rights down. I may be only one person, but there are, in fact, many who feel the same way. I stand with them, and I will support them, even if they aren’t Americans. Because these freedoms should exist for everyone.

 

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3rd Rock from the Sun – TV Tuesday

Beware the spoilers.

3rd Rock from the Sun is a TV show I watched as it aired; however, I didn’t watch all of it. Having recently watched it from beginning to end, I can say that it is my favorite of the 90s sitcoms, because unlike most 90s sitcoms, the main characters’ wholly inappropriate behavior is completely justified by the concept. In a lot of the 90s sitcoms, the characters are all assholes who really are unlikable and there is no in story reason for it. It’s a problem of poor writing, because there has to be conflict, but for there to be conflict someone has to be a dick. But 3rd Rock from the Sun sets up the idea that the four main characters have no idea about the world so if they do a social faux pas, it’s understandable. They’re just ignorant. I would often say with a smile on my face that Dick was such a dick, which indicates exactly how self-aware of the genre the show was. They all act like selfish children too, and considering their situation, that’s just funny. And Mary and Don, our main human characters, also commit inappropriate behavior, but the show either takes an ironic tone with it or they learn from their behavior too. Such as when Mary was the dean and had neglected her relationship with Dick. She realizes it and tries to mend things, but because Dick is an idiot, he conflates the whole situation.

 

The concept also allowed the show to tackle highly charged subjects in a hilarious way, such as racism, sexism and female sexuality, and elitism. The show often moved into the zany territory, sometimes well done, and sometimes not. The best being the dream TV movie they made, which I’ve seen so many times that watching it again, I could say the words to bits along with the actors.

 

The majority of the acting was amazing and fantastic, Lithgow and Curtain being the absolute best. However, the show is not without its flaws. It was obvious that the show writers often forgot elements of Harry’s character from episode to episode. Such as stating he didn’t have a job, when he actually worked at a bar as far as the audience knew, then in a following episode he works at the bar again. And then he doesn’t work there again and it wasn’t actually written out. He also was dating Janice, and she also disappeared without being written out.

 

The show had run out of steam by the sixth season. What with the Dick’ll Take Manhattan story-line, which was trite, boring, and over long at one episode, let alone the second episode they devoted to it. The ending of the series actually felt abrupt, especially considering that it was obvious several episodes from the end that they knew the show wasn’t continuing past that season. The show was still good for laughs by the end, which is why I’m glad they didn’t try to stretch it any further. It’s a show I would definitely recommend, but the final season is definitely skippable.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in Craft of Writing, TV shows

 

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Wonder Woman – PreWatch Thoughts & PostView Review

PreWatch Thoughts:

I rented Wonder Woman for free. I kept seeing ads everywhere, on my games, before videos on YouTube, to the point that I just didn’t want to watch it. Then I watched the Screen Junkies Honest Trailer for it, wanted to watch it, so I rented it.

So Why WWI? I think they didn’t want to be like Captain America: The First Avenger. Both characters have their origins in WWII. Maybe they thought it was too similar for a wide audience? They said they wanted more temporal distance. Hmm, or just more distance from Captain America? The problem I have is how is WWI a win? How can the movie end with triumph if it ends on the Great War, the War to End All Wars, that in fact, just made everything worse? The war that cost millions of lives because an archduke was assassinated but didn’t resolve anything, the war that ended with a circular economy (France owed the US money, the treaty required Germany to give money to France, the US felt bad for Germany and gave them financial aid; no one spent money on infrastructure or by pumping it into products or services from other countries and the world economy tanked—the US also couldn’t survive on its own thanks to the Dust Bowl destroying all crops). So how is this a win when it only led to an even bloodier war fed by desperation and hate? WWI was a waste of life, so how can she come out looking like she made any kind of impact? Lasting, helpful impact? That was the point of making it WWII in the first place.

With most female action stars all I can think is tie your hair back.

How are they going to address Wonder Woman’s inherent misandrony? An island of just women who teach that men are the source of all pain and war? Equate it to a society of Germans that teach that all Jews are the source of all their troubles, like poverty and national despair. That kind of results in an attempt to murder those people, and it did in both real life and in some of the DC storylines. For instance, DCAU Justice League TV show. Hawkgirl even calls out Wonder Woman’s society for being prejudiced against men. An island of just women who also forbid all men from being or coming there? Equate that to some Asian countries who used to kill all foreigners. This is a problem. Just because it is a minority group where we are, doesn’t change the fact that in their society they aren’t only the majority, they purely makeup that society. A lack of diversity is a lack of empathy and an ignorance of other cultures. And when purity starts getting involved, including closing the borders and allowing for a narrow field of teaching about other cultures, eradication is not far off.

How are they going to address Wonder Woman’s stupidity? In many stories, Wonder Woman is dumb. She is always ignorant of other cultures’ ways of life, which she often tries to correct, but she often lacks critical thinking skills. In the Justice League TV show again: she has a hallucination of Superman as a monster; if he, as dumb as a rock he is, can figure it out why did it take her so long? Bad writing. Then there was Justice League Doom: she has hallucination of everyone as Cheetah. Noticing a pattern here? Mess with Wonder Woman’s ability to process visual stimuli and her critical thinking skills go out the window. The movie never says that the drug is messing with her logic centers of her brain—one line from Cyborg that would have solved this issue—but instead that she is seeing everyone as Cheetah and we know it’s not messing with her ability to process auditory stimuli because every time we see from her perspective the Cheetahs are saying stuff like “What are you doing” or “Wonder Woman, it’s me Cyborg. You’ve been drugged”. She beats the crap out of all the Cheetahs instead of using her brain. Her adrenaline and heart rate are so high, she is about to suffer a heart attack or stroke, and I can’t help but think that she has not only permanently crippled many civilians, cops, and EMTs, but that she has also killed some of them. Dumb. The thing is though, she’s only dumb when the writers need her to be. Instead of her just being outsmarted in actually clever ways, or just not being stupidly racist, they like to make her stupid to add more conflict. They do this to Superman all the time too. Hopefully, they didn’t make her stupid in this movie too.

Am I excited? Not really. I’ve had this movie for half a month and would rather watch HIMYM or play free mobile games on my iPhone. I hope to be blown away, but I also am not getting my hopes up too high, because sometimes you just can’t fix the issues with a concept and sometimes you just can’t execute a good movie: Looking at you, Warner Brothers.

PostView Review:

For those of you who don’t want spoilers, I give Wonder Woman a 6 out of 10. Go away, because I’m spoiling crap.

Way over-hyped as a good movie. It’s not bad (like Catwoman/Elektra bad), but that doesn’t make it good. The pacing is so off. The climax just happens for no reason—She had given up; Ares’ plan could have worked had he not shown up there for no reason. Let her sit in despair until you win then talk to her.

Wonder Woman is just as dumb as she ever was—the only way to give this overpowered superhero any conflict. Also the Amazons are the best warriors but don’t teach strategy? While despairing, she literally says that innocent people are dying, but then says because of the few people who are murdering, that they along with the innocent people don’t deserve to be saved (baby and the bath water logic here). None of this is Gadot’s fault. This is more related to poor conception and execution by the Snyder’s and the director.

Steve Trevor was a little too Steve Rogers at the end ala the First Avenger.

They love each other? Really? Why? Because they danced once and he saw her in modern clothes?

She’s the Godkiller. Figured that out the second they mentioned the Godkiller and then had to wait two hours for the movie to catch up to me.

Why weren’t the Germans more freaked out by a nearly naked woman on the battlefield attacking them? There should have been more pause from them upon seeing her. When she jumped in the room at least one guy shouldn’t have started shooting but just stared. When she flipped over the tank, the men should have started running! They did not react to her like she was shocking (element of surprise!) to see or like she was the badass she was.

I am so sick of the hero doing a cross formation in the air while a wave of power emanates from them. It was in X-Men: Apocalypse as well. Once that happened, I got bored because it took so long for her to defeat Ares because the studio is so interested in their cool images that the pacing slows down.

Too much slow-mo. This was so much like 300. Once the Amazons started fighting the Germans, I said it out loud. When the credits rolled and story by Zac Snyder popped up, I was like oh, he had a hand in this. Could have been better if he stayed away.

The best character in the movie died in the first act. Antiope was awesome and Wright did a great job. Loved her. Only intelligent and capable Amazon in the whole movie. Give me a prequel about her great adventures.

Ares defeated the warriors, Athena and Apollo, the hunter, Artemis, the creator of the best weapons, Hephaestus, and the ruler of the dead, Hades? That seems unlikely. Sure, sure he did.

Do I just not like movies with strong female roles? No. That’s not it. I require my strong female movies actually to be good. They have to have good plot structure, good character development, and good conflict (not born out of the main character’s stupidity). I don’t much care about the main character’s sex as long as the movie hits those points. One with a female hero that I felt actually did those things was Mulan. Her intelligence is where her power comes from. I prefer that from a female character who has a lot of physical power like Jean Grey or Wonder Woman but has no critical thinking skills or is just a magic tool to solve the plot when the boys can’t get it done. Just because they look cool doesn’t mean I’ll like them. Eleven of Stranger Things also has amazing power, but she is not written as an idiot or a last ditch plot device to save everyone. Supergirl of the same titled show is also a better character, who often does something dumb but then admits it and tries to grow from it. Her conflicts are written the same way as the Flash’s in that same universe. Narrative universe, not actual universe. Because not of the same universe in the multiverse. That’s not confusing at all.

Overall I would give Wonder Woman a 6 out of 10. That may seem low, but it is a passing grade and the movies everyone else is comparing it to, get 4s in my opinion, so I still believe it is better than those female superhero movies that came before. I am still waiting for a female superhero movie that treats the character like a person and not like another species to be pointed out with such a heavy hand.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2019 in Craft of Writing, Film Criticsim

 

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Carrie by Stephen King – Sunday Book Circle

So since this is the first book I’m covering, I figured I should go over the format a bit. I’m not going to review the books. I’m instead going to talk about points I found interesting, and I really do want to hear from people in the comments what they think about the book. So I highly suggest having read the book before reading the post, but if you don’t care and just want to hear what I have to say, then you can do that too. I’m not going to just do fiction, but will cover non-fiction as well. I hope that all makes sense, so here we go.

 

Now Carrie is Stephen King’s first novel. I was a little worried that knowing how it ends from having seen the ‘76 film would make it less enjoyable, but King doesn’t bury the event as a surprise for readers towards the end. Instead, it is clear from the beginning what’s going to happen to Carrie because the format is documentation style mixed in with shifting limited third. I often enjoy documentation style narratives, such as Dracula (the book), but Carrie‘s style is more similar to the movie District 9 than it is is to Dracula, because of the mix of limited third. The documentation style is often interesting because it brings to mind that you can’t know for certain if the characters writing are being perfectly honest. Diary is still a presentation of the self as opposed to the actual self. And official documentation has a lot of white spaces. More traditional narrative style typically tries to fill in those white spaces and present sides of the self that the character may wish to hide in all ways or is not even aware of. The blend that King uses in Carrie is interesting because it often seems that what people wrote is the same as what they felt and thought, at least consciously. It almost makes me think that at the time of writing Carrie, King felt that people were very honest about who they are. But I won’t go so far as to say that that is strictly true.

 

Before reading Carrie, I had read both Danse Macabre and On Writing by King. King brings up Carrie quite a bit in On Writing, describing the two young women who inspired the character. And reading the book and knowing about those two women, I couldn’t help but think that King is quite possibly the most empathetic writer I’ve read thus far. I also felt like the alienation, isolation, and the hatred that grew out of those two feelings could be applied to how mass murders are developed in the real world. If you think about it, Carrie is a mass murderer. We feel sorry for her, mostly because we can literally feel and hear what she is feeling and thinking, but we can’t do that in the real world. Real world mass murderers are most often male because women tend to internalize emotional turmoil, but this whole book is built around a mass murder, who happens to be female and telekinetic. Importantly though, she’s also telepathic. Mass murderers are typically in so much emotional pain and feel that no one can possibly understand what they are going through and one of the goals of the act is to make others feel as much pain as they do and to make people finally see them. These are all things Carrie experiences and does. She does it better than a real world mass murderer because of the telepathy. Everyone knows Carrie is doing this, because she has the power to make them know. Everyone can feel her anger, because she has the power to make them feel it. And finally Sue feels all her pain, even the pain of her death, because Carrie has the power to make her. King does a beautiful job of showing that Carrie is a person, a human being, not some unknown monster that hides under beds, waiting for the moment to hurt someone because it gives it pleasure to do so. I loved this. If Carrie could have gotten the help she needed, if she had more friends, if she had a better home life, none of this would have happened. It’s a powerful idea. In fact, it empowers our society with a responsibility about mass murder.

 

Now, did King mean this giant idea I’m having to be applied to real life mass murderers? I have no idea. It’s just my takeaway and it seems very applicable to the United States today. But I’m interested to know what you guys thought about it and these ideas. Leave some comments and I will think about them and reply in a new post.

 

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Marvel Future Fight – Gamey Review

Marvel Future Fight – Gamey Review

The Game:

Marvel Future Fight is a free to play mobile game with freemium purchasing mechanics. It involves hero/villain collection and ranking through biometrics or x-genes and with six other methods making heroes and villains stronger individually and one method of making them stronger overall. It is top-down action based with skills for causing damage with each fight composed of a team of three heroes and/or villains. Some modes of play require the use of energy which is earned at a rate of one every five minutes. Players are also given a chance to earn extra energy through five quiz questions a day, five challenges a day, and are given a free energy recharge every twenty-four hours. Energy can be earned over the maximum amount through these methods.

 

The game has 19 modes of play, one of those, Epic Quest, currently comprised of four subsections with a total of 13 submodes of play with various limits on each one per day, Special Mission has three subsections with each having five modes of play with twenty attempts a day, Heroic Quest has five possibly paths to choose from but is completed mostly by playing other sections of the game, Daily Mission has three submodes to chose from with two completions a day, Dimension Rift is a rotating mode that allows players to collect rewards and tokens for the Support Shop timed and limited entry mode available at least once a day and allows players to enter other players’ rifts giving more entries, Legendary Battle has four sections to choose from with multiple subsections under those with five completions a day, Villain Siege has three levels of play each available for completion once a day, World Boss has ten different bosses to choose from but some are locked behind challenges and each of these has different levels of difficulty and reward. Alliance Raid is a boss mode allowed once a day as opened by raid leaders. Shadowland takes place over the course of a week and allows players one time use of each character to complete an entry, with the difficulty increasing after each completed entry. Ten Timeline Battle entries are given a day, except on Thursdays, when a second set of ten is given, to battle other players. Alliance Battle is given once a day and twice on Thursdays and is ten minutes to clear a large number of enemies with increasing difficulty, if cleared, an extreme mode is opened, and after that, a challenge mode to increase points and standing in the alliance. There are Alliance Tournaments and Conquests, wherein alliances battle each other. Battleworld is available as the devs allow with ten entries per day wherein a player chooses a team of five to fight another player’s team of five. Co-op Play, which has a randomized team up or a private one, allows three players with higher level characters to battle a boss. World Boss Invasion is another co-op mode wherein three players randomly team up with teams of three to take down a boss. Giant Boss Raid is an advanced team up mode with lobbies or quick start to take down a boss. And finally, Story is the campaign mode for Future Fight, where the majority of the character biometrics are and has the easiest characters to get. The battles get progressively harder and each one allows a player to gain up to 10 specific biometrics a day per battle.

All modes have different rewards but all the rewards are worth getting. And almost all modes include some story through text. There are also special event modes that happen every once in a while. There are two major types of currency in the game: gold and crystals. Gold is earned in almost all modes of play. Crystals have a base earning of 25 a day through challenges plus 30 every eight days. Gold is used in upgrading characters and purchasing some items. Crystals are used for purchasing more premium items, such as some uniforms and deluxe modes. Some of these modes have auto-play and repeat, but the best ones only have manual play.

The Progression:

Unlocks and Rank UpsI’ve been playing this game for more than a year and tracked progress for six months on unlocking and ranking up characters and you can see in the chart the rate at which this happened.

Player Level UpThis chart shows the rate at which the player leveled up in the same time period. The max is 60 with a max of 120 energy.

Crystal AccruementThis chart shows the expected rate of crystal acquirement to 6600, which is the amount needed to unlock a deluxe mode of play, versus the actual amount of time it took to reach that number of crystals. This is because crystals can be earned as rewards from other modes of play and because the devs sometimes give them to players for free for special occasions. It is possible to spend money to advance progression, but since very few of the modes are actually competitive in nature, I didn’t see much use in spending the money to do so. I’m more than a year in and am finally hitting a character progression slow down. I won’t even say it is a wall. I also believe that the progression is half the fun of this game, so don’t bother spending your money to advance characters. I’m frequently top of charts without having spent money on progression. It maybe took longer, but I’m a patient person and enjoyed the journey. This game isn’t very squeezy when it comes to how it deals with players. Not comparatively anyway. And on the subject of money.Biometric X-Gene Methods

Monetization:

There are many ways to pay for things in Future Fight. There are six sections to the store. In the featured shop, are the Deluxe Epic Quests, which give you a new character that you can’t get anywhere else and a new game mode, along with crystals and gold. These are purchased with crystals. The legendary Battle extreme packages, which are also purchased with crystals. There are various packs with different materials as well for crystals. Then there are the actual money packs, the most expensive being $99.99. Do not buy this. Seriously.

 

Under the Acquire/Upgrade Characters section of the store is Adam Warlock, Emma Frost, Sabertooth, and Iceman, this is the only place you can get them, and they are available for crystals. This is also where the loot box for characters is. The Premium Hero Chest is available for crystals, but it is not a guaranteed premium hero. The Recharge section of the store is where you pick up your free daily energy and holds the one pack I believe is worth having: Get 20 Biometrics Daily for 30 days. It is $9.99 and if you’re smart about it, you can get a lot of premium heroes during that time. The exclusive characters are Enchantress, Carnage, Hyperion, Spider-man 2099, Quasar, Luna Snow, Killmonger, Nadia Van Dyne, Ghost Panther, Sentinel, Ironheart, Kid Kaiju, Agent Venom, Nick Fury, Rescue, Electro, Aero, Slapstick, and Crescent. All others can be acquired elsewhere. There is the X-Gene version of this but currently it only has eight characters, and only seven of those are exclusive to that pack. Those are: Magik, Weapon Hex, Juggernaut, Jubilee, Namor, Kitty Pryde, and Gambit. The Mission Shop also has these daily packs as well as some others. The Token shop uses special in-game currency, and the Uniform shop uses both gold and crystals. Uniforms make your characters stronger and they look different. However, not all characters have uniforms available and some base looks are just cooler than the uniform options. This is also where you will find five gender swaps: those are for the Ancient One, Captain America, Ghost, Deadpool, and Loki. Unlike the Marvel Heroes MMO, gender swaps are not locked entirely behind a pay wall, since in the MMO, premium currency was not earn-able in game and gender swap costumes were only available for premium currency. My biggest complaint against that dead game. There is a lot that you can buy in Marvel Future Fight, but really only buy the 20 Biometrics Daily for 30 days. You get to choose the biometrics every day, so you always know what you are getting. If the X-gene version ever has more characters, then it will be worth it too. However, it is sometimes still possible to get these heroes without spending money. How? They’re exclusive. Well, sometimes the devs run special events where you can earn biometrics for a character of their choosing and sometimes they just give you a premium hero chest or random premium hero. They are often generous with freebees in this game.

Issues:

The most common problem with this game is network failure. It usually boots the player to the home screen or kicks them out of an attempt to complete a battle of some kind. However, every once in a while a different issue occurs. The Angel Dimension Rift used to get characters stuck in their run and some of the Special Missions do that with specific characters. Probably the worst bug I ever saw was when I did a World Boss Invasion, won, but it never went to the Victory screen, the boss was gone because we’d killed him but nothing happened after we did, so the timer ran out and we got Mission Failure, even though we had 100% completion and I was actually the leader. It was very annoying.

 

Other issues are spelling and grammar errors in the story dialogue. Really silly ones that I wonder if they are ever going to fix. They probably don’t even know they’re there. One game play issue is inventory management. It is a huge chunk of the time spent in the game. All players have 600 slots and some things stack and some things don’t. Custom Gear, ISO-8s, and Cards do not stack, which means a player spends a lot of time upgrading with these items. You can spend 100 crystals to expand the inventory 10 slots, but considering that one Dimension Rift instance could fill ten slots, that’s a bit weak in my opinion. While it may be tempting to do so to clear up space, I wouldn’t ever suggest selling Biometrics, as once a player upgrades a character’s gear to 15, biometrics are needed to upgrade them further. There is no warning of this, and that brings me to my other issue. Tutorial. This game has a pseudo tutorial but it very obviously was designed before a bunch of other stuff was added to the game. New modes and higher level character management are not explained in it. Players typically have to find game guides to really know these things.

 

Autoplay can be somewhat annoying in that it doesn’t just give rewards like some other games do. Instead, the computer plays the battle for you in real time, so your device is tied up with doing battles. While it is nice that autoplay doesn’t have to be turned on every time you go start a battle, it would be better if it just collected rewards or gave a fail state. Now some people argue that games shouldn’t have auto-collect, autoplay, or repeat at all, but these freemium mobile device games are games for the busy person, the kind of person who doesn’t have six hours a day just to play a video game, so these features are helpful if like me you work 45 hours a week and have three or four side projects on top of that as well as the urge to eat and sleep like a healthy person. On a scale of 1-10 on how helpful Future Fights’ autoplay features are to the busy person, I’d say that Future Fight lands in the middle at a 5. Helpful, but could be much more helpful.

 

When it comes to actually playing the game, what is both good and bad is the fact that skills don’t queue. You can interrupt a skill, which is good if that skill is not helping you, but isn’t good if you don’t know the character’s skill animations. Some skills, the worst ones, seem uninterruptible by the player. They just go on forever unless the enemy does something to interrupt it. The only thing the player can do it seems is move the character to make them stop using the skill. Kinda dumb.

 

Some characters are not fun to play as, either because the tempos of their skills are much slower than other characters, the characters are weak no matter how much a player pumps them up, or they just stand there to complete their skills. The best characters are those who move a lot, improve a decent amount during upgrading, and complete skill animation at a fast tempo.

 

But how do you know which ones are good and which ones are bad? Well, don’t expect the Team sorting feature to help you figure that out. This is probably one of my biggest gripes with Future Fight. Team sorting is done by Tier, Level, or Rank. There isn’t one for damage or threat or some other noun that means how powerful the characters are in a fight, so there is no way to sort them by how effective they actually are. Scarlett Witch and Deadpool Jean Grey and Rachel Summers are probably my most powerful characters right now, but no sort function puts them at the top. That’s stupid. It’s not like it’s impossible. Other games do it. Just add it in Netmarble. Each of the different game modes also seems to effect the sort, putting all of the characters in a different order. Damned if I know what defines that sort, because it frankly seems random. For example, in a recent update, they changed how characters sort for World Boss, putting specific characters at the top when they are clearly weaker than those that come after them. Before the update, it was a lot easier to know who was actually strong enough to beat the World Boss, because the Recommended Attack number could be in the normal or easy range and still be a losing battle. Yes, that Recommended Attack rating is broken too. They keep updating things, and while the new content is great, the UI changes aren’t always for the better. Just saying.

Best Things:

Two great things about this game are the freebees that are given quite regularly and the new game play that is added all the time. Log-in calendars are generous, giving out biometrics, rank-up and mega rank-up tickets, characters, tier-2 tickets, and premium currency. Holiday and update premiers also include rewards for players. Most of all, the new game modes; I’ve seen them premier five new game modes, and more game content on previous modes happens at a good pace with much of it just being free. They even have added story chapters. When they were premiering the X-Force game mode, I was certain, absolutely certain, that Deadpool was going to be a 20 biometrics daily only character. Instead, the day of the update arrives, and they just give everyone Deadpool. It was great. Other games, which will currently remain nameless (Injustice 2 Mobile – or not at all nameless), would have locked Deadpool behind a heavy paywall. Not so with Netmarble. They said “You like Deadpool?” Yes. “Well, here’s Deadpool!” Cool! Thanks! They kind of hurt themselves when they did the next Epic Quest, First Family. “You like Mr. Fantastic?” No–“Well, here’s Mr. Fantastic!” Uh, thanks. I guess. The point is many your absolute favorites are outright given to you or are so easy to get. On top of that, they’re making new original characters, such as the Sharon Rogers Captain America, who looks like such a badass with each new uniform, Luna Snow, White Fox, and Crescent, who are all draws for the South Korean audience, but are still really cool, and the four combo characters, Ghost Panther, Weapon Hex, Arachknight, and Iron Hammer. This combination of traditional favorites for free and original characters as well is really good.

Recommendation:

I don’t like giving online games an actual rating because the games change too much, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, sometimes in a mixed fashion, over time for that rating to always apply. Especially after the debacle of some triple A games waiting until after the reviews were out to up their microtransaction squeeze (Black Ops 4). I think really only a recommendation can be given for an online game and ratings apply to single-player games or mostly single-player-like games. Otherwise, I don’t trust online games enough to give them rating. They are simply too fluid. Future Fight has given me a good amount of fun and Netmarble obviously cares enough to value their two major markets equally and seems to understand how to work with them both, which is pretty impressive.

 

Since I play this game everyday, and look forward to it everyday, it may come as no surprise that I would recommend Future Fight. If you have a possible gambling problem, I would not suggest it because it does have some mild loot boxes, that won’t bother those without the inclination, but will definitely effect those with the condition. Overall though, it is fun, it’s great to unlock and rank up characters through hard work and the freebees make you feel welcomed by the devs. It’s also great for people like me who like project management and analytics, because you can plan out upgrades methodically, so it meets the needs of the spreadsheet lover in a flashy way. It’s definitely for the Marvel fans out there. And I wouldn’t suggest it for the more action minded out there. Yes, I love this game. I will continue to play it, and I hope that the devs keep up the good work.

 
 

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American Horror Story: Roanoke – First Blush

American Horror Story: Roanoke – First Blush

In this series I’m going to go over my initial reaction to first episodes of show. American Horror Story is a bit different because each season is a new story. So for this one, I’m giving some background reactions to the previous seasons and how Roanoke seems to shape up against them.Thumbnail

I’ve been watching this show for a while now. I liked Murder House, even with all its mistakes. I loved Asylum and Coven. But I noticed a drop in quality of writing in Freakshow and Hotel. Murder House had an interesting theme in the extreme desire to be a mother or not and how the state of motherhood is not the same as being a good one. Asylum examined societal understanding of insanity and reality, but rushed an ending. Coven, arguably the best season, is about feminism and racism and how the two can be counter to each other. Freakshow was very obviously about homosexuality, but it was a bit more overt with its message. And Hotel was about . . . vampire melodrama? I made jokes, pre-Hotel, that they had taken a step down in no longer having Jessica Lange and instead having Lady Gaga, but I was pleasantly surprised by Lady Gaga’s performance. She had subtlety and emotion that some more experienced actors never have. When they announced Hotel, I couldn’t help myself and started making jokes about how they had run out of ideas. What was next? American Horror Story: Library. IMG_2415

American Horror Story: Supermarket.IMG_2411

American Horror Story: Senior Assisted Living Facility.IMG_2413

But now that I’ve seen the first episode of Roanoke, I really believe they’ve run out of ideas. Going with a documentary style is the way horror goes when the story can’t fill up the whole time. The problem with documentary style is that it takes all the tension out of the narrative, and in a genre where tension is the most important thing, this is really bad. False documentary is not the same as found footage, and found footage still keeps the tension. The reason why fake documentary evaporates all the suspense is that I know Shelby didn’t drown in the hot tub, because she’s talking to the camera telling us what happened. I have almost no worry for Shelby, Matt, and Lee. They’re talking about it after the fact. Obviously, they live.

The real versions of the people look more like the real versions of these character types. Lily Rabe looks more like a yoga instructor who drinks too much light colored wines and wears Birkenstocks, while Sarah Paulson doesn’t really pull it off, which lends the dramatization some more realism in that the actor pretending to be Shelby doesn’t really capture the real Shelby. It’s very meta. The same is true for the real Lee versus the fake Lee. I can’t believe I’m watching something else with Henry Deaver. He’s everywhere. He’s good, but he keeps popping up when I least expect him. I also can’t believe that I’m watch Cuba Gooding, Jr. again. I didn’t realize he was still acting. Weirdly, Henry Deaver seems like a better actor than him. In my opinion at least.

On the character of Matt: he’s a racist. “He can’t be racist, he’s black and in an inter-racial marriage.” His assumption that the locals hate him and his wife when what’s happening clearly has nothing to do with them because how could they string all those Blair Witch style twigs throughout his house, is his easy answer. Easy answers are typically wrong and often come from prejudice. The locals weren’t threatening them when they said You don’t want this house. They were warning him. Who knows what they planned to do? Set it ablaze, maybe. Also, the show’s need to depict the locals to be as disgusting as possible is prejudice on all its levels, the fake depiction by the fake people making the show and American Horror Story itself. It’s cliche, and I don’t care if they are being satirical; this kind of crap needs to stop.

Overall, I’m not looking forward to finishing this one. I’m worried that the show has lost all sense of thematic strength, but of course, I’m going to finish it. Because I lay myself on the altar of review.

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Read! Read Everything You Can!: The Teaching Power of Fiction

There’s this strange idea that writers should only read the so-called good stuff to be good writers themselves. While it is true that what we read effects us as writers, it’s not a good idea to read just the classics to develop your skills as a writer. Let me unpack the myth of the elevating power of classical literature and explain the benefits of reading outside that cannon.

Literary Snobbery

A writer runs into a lot of this in the academic sphere. Professors, even creative writing professors, swear that by reading less “quality” work, i.e. work that they deem unacceptable teaching material, a young writer is doing themselves a disservice by lowering the quality of their own writing. This bothers me because, well, cannon is too easily effected by what is considered acceptable. Native American, African-American, etc. and women’s fiction didn’t used to be thought acceptable. Now some colleges teach Ceremony, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Beloved, The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and more, but we can’t trust that they aren’t still under-representing certain voices or simply judging books by their genre instead of by their contents. It’s also a silly idea that we can’t learn from the mistakes of others. If I read a bad novel, I can articulate what it did wrong. That’s a good thing. That makes me a better writer. One playwright that taught me said that the best thing for him as a writer was being a literary manager at a theatre and reading bad plays that were submitted.

Also, let’s not pretend that Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, The Turn of the Screw, The Pilgrim’s Progress, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, Invisible Man, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, Ulysses, To the Lighthouse, and so many other books of fiction are without flaws and are written in the style that modern writers should aspire to, as if modern readers want contemporary work written in those archaic styles (maybe some of them do). But contemporary work is hardly taught in modern classrooms, and some of that isn’t what I would consider masterpieces either, like The Road by Cormac McCarthy or Under the Dome by Stephen King (and I like Stephen King). Some of the cannon is absolutely awesome and definitely worth reading as a writer, but don’t start writing like Henry James!

Foreign Fiction

US writers definitely need to read work from other countries, and by other countries, I don’t just mean the UK. Some of the best works of fiction out there weren’t written in English: The Tin Drum, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Bless Me Ultima, The Metamorphosis, Midnight’s Children, Blindness, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, and so much more, more that I haven’t read, more that I can’t remember. US writing, like any cultural art form, often gets stuck on the same narrative tropes and structures. Part of the reason that House of Leaves is so good is that Danielewski clearly read some of Borges’ short stories. Tropes, techniques, and plot structures are all almost entirely culturally inherited. Reading work outside your culture is an absolute boon for you as a writer. In fact, experiencing narrative work of any medium from outside your culture is helpful, movies and TV shows help too! While everything will go through an extra sieve of translation, the major plot techniques and character archetypes will be there even after translation (most of the time). So I strongly suggest reading foreign fiction to expand what you consider fiction.

Nonfiction

So it’s not fiction, but it is prose. There’s also this old saying for writers: Write what you know. And you should (try to) know more. Teaching yourself about new things, learning about different perspectives, and researching history and culture will help you be a better writer. It’s especially important for preventing looking like a jackass. If you don’t know about cars, but your character is supposed to, you don’t want to write something that makes a reader who does know about cars go “uuuuh . . .”. Writers who don’t research are very obvious, and while the idea that we as fiction writers can just make anything up is tempting, it looks bad if having never been to Kansas, you describe it in a way that is cliche. It reminds me of all the cowboys I see in Phoenix fiction. I’ve never seen a person walking around in a cowboy hat and string tie here. In fact, I didn’t see much of that in Kansas either. So it’s important to prevent stereotype through the use of research, and sometimes that means reading nonfiction, or going even further (like learning to play the guitar, shoot a firearm, or going to a place). Nonfiction is also a great source of inspiration. Maybe someone has already written on the subject, but you haven’t, and maybe your version is better. It’s a good idea to give it a shot, even if ten other writers have already written a Pearl Harbor story. Take a chance that your story is worth reading.

Genre Fiction

I really don’t understand the hate that genre fiction, specifically westerns, romance and chick lit, sci-fi, and fantasy, gets. “Oh, there’s so many of those novels that are bad!” Yeah, and there’s a lot of bad classic, literary, commercial, and award-winning novels out there. Just because an award committee or a bestseller curator or the academic crowd says a novel is worth reading, doesn’t mean it is good, not by looking at the technique and skill in the novel. I’ve read plenty of bad fiction that was taught in academic classes, made the bestseller lists, and won awards. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes to mind as landing in all three of those categories but having very little narrative skill and technique involved. It wasn’t engaging. The characters were flat. The prose was uninteresting. The dialogue was insufferable. “But it has something to say!” Every work of creation has something to say, has intent. That doesn’t mean it is good. Even if you like the message, it doesn’t make the work good. And genre doesn’t automatically mean that a novel is bad. There are actually some genre novels that I consider technically better than those that are considered better novels based on theme alone. I do think theme is important, but I do not think it can prop up a novel alone, or any form of narrative. Without the support of strong narrative plot, character development, prose, and emotional engagement, a theme is useless. The four things listed in the previous sentence are what makes a novel enjoyable, and the theme is what makes the reader think. I’ve seen genre fiction do these four things and present a theme. So don’t count out genre simply because someone with an inflated sense of authority tells you it isn’t good. And don’t assume that same someone isn’t pulling one over on you when they say this book is good when you can’t stand it. Don’t think that makes you a lesser writer for not loving it. Recognize the faults in everything you read, and be willing to give something with a label a chance. And even if the genre fiction you’re reading isn’t good, you can still learn from it and be a better writer for having read it.

Fiction Outside Your Demo

Say you’re a woman, your demographic typically reads literary or upmarket fiction, women’s lit, chickl it, or romance. Well, if you’re also a writer, you should probably read thrillers, war novels, westerns, and terrorism novels as well. And the same for the reverse. If you’re white and a writer, you should probably also read books by Native Americans (There, There; Ceremony; Where the Dead Sit Talking), African Americans (Friday Black, Beloved, There Eyes Were Watching God, The Color Purple), Asian Americans (The Joy Luck Club, Interpreter of Maladies, The Refugees), Hispanic Americans (The House on Mango Street, The Book of Unknown Americans), and others. And the reverse, though that’s not very hard in the US. Why is this important? Even if you are a minority and if you’re in the majority, it’s important to see many other sides. Everyone’s story is important; otherwise, they wouldn’t have sat down to write it and tried to get it published. So take the time to learn what they have to say. Take the effort to learn why people like it. Examine what makes it good, what makes it successful. Don’t take easy answers either. Most writers, unless nepotism is involved, work hard to get their novels published. There are millions of us, and it’s easy to be lost in the shuffle of query letters, so ask yourself what this writer brought to the table that got them published. Ask yourself what the publisher saw in the work. Ask yourself what our society wanted out of the work. The answers may surprise you. And don’t write off majority reading as just what a bunch of old fogies chose either (counter to the above section). Be willing to let the so-called cannon surprise you too. Also read Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. Some of them are great and the writing may impress you.

Popular Fiction

A teacher once told me that a wife can’t also be a whore which–besides not being literally true–is figuratively false. Read popular fiction. Seriously pick it up. It’s not going to ruin you. You may actually pick up something from it too. Like why so many people bought it in the first place. I don’t read a lot of it myself, but that isn’t because I don’t find it valuable, but because trends and I react like holy water and vampires, but I can understand why a lot of people find it engaging. Popular fiction isn’t known for its prose, but it’s certainly know for its engaging plots and interesting concepts. These are important things to know how to craft. Your prose can be really poetic, but if your plot isn’t engaging or interesting, you may not be able to hold a reader. So check out some popular fiction. I honestly have, and the techniques that make this fiction popular are important. But do not do what John Grisham did and read all the bestsellers to find out how to craft one every time you write a novel. You risk losing your spontaneity by doing that.

Graphic Fiction

No, I don’t mean violently graphic or sexually graphic fiction (but read those too). No, I mean graphic novels, comic books, and mangas. Wait! Don’t click away! The Watchmen won a Hugo award, comic books have a long history of social commentary directed at the youth, and mangas open you up to completely new to you cultures. This form of storytelling is just as viable as prose fiction. Some of it can be very impactful. Don’t knock the medium just because it is different. It has it own techniques and heights of skill. They can also help you write action, create an epic story, and describe setting. How? Well, take your time looking at the panels, really examine the images, and consider how the image could be translated into words. Also enjoy the very differing art styles. No, the stories aren’t Shakespeare.

Except, apparently, when they are.

Jeeze, maybe it’s Shakespeare more often than I thought.

Seriously though, there can be some great inspiration and technique to be gained from visual storytelling. So give it a chance. Don’t be surprised if the first few dips into the giant depths that is graphic fiction aren’t all that appealing. Like any medium there can be quite a few stinkers. I mean, have you ever tried to read The Gutbucket Quest?

Learning from Reading

As a writer, you can learn from reading anything. Literally anything. Literary anything. Even bad things. But to do so, you have to be looking at the work with your craft eye open. I do this with other forms of storytelling as well, TV, film, plays. Reading (or watching) something while thinking about what it is doing with craft, what the author’s intent is, what the work is meant to do, and how it goes about doing it, can teach you how to write better. But it is important to separate your reading time and writing time from each other, as in don’t write on the heels of reading. Doing this could make your work sound imitative. This is the biggest pitfall of a lot of reading. But, otherwise, read. Read everything you can get your hands on. It’s the most important thing you can do for yourself as a writer.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2019 in Books, Craft of Writing

 

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Generational Warfare: The Grown Children and Their Parents

There is a lot of animosity between Baby Boomers and Millennials right now. Shots are being fired on both sides and it has been going on for years. Mainstream media articles take more shots at Millennials either by directly blaming them for the downfall or decline of certain brands or industries or by simply being out of touch. And Millennials have mostly been firing back through social media. Avocado and “By the time you’re thirty” jokes abound. So what’s going on?

Meme Wars

This has been the most fun thing to come out of this. In our frustration, many Millennials have been fighting back through the use of memes. Outside Xtra has an entire video about mortgages in games and how they purchased too many avocados to afford one in real life. The never-ending list of tweets fighting back against the very out of touch idea that by the time you’re thirty you should have twice your income saved in your retirement, including my favorite that by the time you’re thirty you should have a potato masher in a drawer making it impossible to open that drawer. There’s the old couple meme, the university building meme, and the interviewer meme, all of which point out how out of touch Baby Boomers and universities are to the current academic and job market situations which make getting an education too expensive and make getting a job nearly impossible. But it’s not as if the older generation isn’t generating content against Millennials.

Articles abound saying that Millennials are killing the housing market, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday’s, TGI Fridays, fabric softener, the car industry, the wedding industry, domestic brand beer, mayo, department stores, razors, toys (like Toys R’ Us), Hooters (good riddance), cereal, golf, motorcycles, normal yogurt, soda, bars of soap, napkins (source: https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-hurt-industries-sales-2018-10#fabric-softener-18), Campbells, McDonald’s, the NFL, Tiffany’s, De Beers (source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/young-people-killing-off-these-brands-faster-than-you-think.html/), designer bags, gyms, home improvement stores, the oil industry (https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-are-killing-list-2017-8), and so on and so on.

Lazy, Luxurious Millennials?

The idea is that Millennials spend their money on stupid things like going out to bars and unique restaurants with avocado toast and aren’t willing to work hard and that’s why we can’t afford things like houses. That’s actually bullshit. Millennials often do not prioritize a clean and tidy home over things like working long hours and having some moments of relaxation, exercise, and enjoyment in their day. In the work-life balance, there is not a lot of cleaning. Having a messy home can make people appear lazy. This often comes from a Hollywood idea that if a person’s home isn’t clean then they are obviously trashy welfare assholes. The idea that we also like pricey things, while not wrong, is not an accurate depiction of Millennial values.

Failing Industries and a Loss of Value

Millennials like valuable things. There is a good reason for all of these articles and the perception about Millennials. For one thing, Uber Eats and Postmates exist as does Amazon! It’s come out that some of the foods that are failing are bad for you, and some of these items are simply luxuries that Millennials can’t afford, like golf, motorcycles, gyms, and huge weddings. Big weddings were traditionally paid for by parents, but most parents don’t have the money to spend on that anymore. Baby Boomers have even stopped buying from these places or stopped buying these things for the same reasons that Millennials have. Some of these companies are just not adapting well to the new shape and direction of the markets. On the thing about houses: it’s not that Millennials don’t want to own a home, it’s that a lot of them can’t afford a home until they are much older. One of the articles I listed above said we were specifically killing the starter home market. I’ve not seen a new development with any starter homes in it at all for the last fifteen years. So it might more be that the development companies are not building them. The tiny houses trend is actually big with Millennials, and typically you have to go to a pre-fab company to get one of those because every home built in the last twenty to thirty years by developments all have a fucking “great” room. What’s so great about a giant empty space that no one knows what to do with? It’s the same thing with the car market. What happened to companies making the economy car? Where is that? So these articles are off base in blaming us, not because we’re not responsible in some cases, but because they fail to recognize that trends come and go. Women don’t wear stockings all the time anymore and you don’t hear the hosiery companies still bitching about it. Frankly, this blame game has to stop. It’s not actually making anyone happy. Even if the memes are funny.

Millennials are also not at all lazy. Most of them work two jobs when they can get them with projects on the side. The idea that we like luxury items has more to do with the fact that we are paid less than previous generations at our same age. Millennials do follow the adage that the poor man pays twice. We are not affluent. When we have money to spend or need to spend money on something it better be worth the expense. It should be healthy, quality, durable, and/or enjoyable, or we don’t want it. This is why McDonald’s is failing. This is where avocado toast comes in. It’s not Millennials’ fault that healthy, quality food is more expensive. This is why when you see a Millennial “splurge”, the item appears high value/cost. We value money more. We spend it less, but when we do spend it, we want it to mean something. Millennials are actually pretty smart with money. Most try to plan for rainy days while at the same time enjoying small pleasures every once in a while. The problem isn’t that they’re dumb with money; it’s that money isn’t coming into their pockets at the levels it should be. Work is valued less than it used to be, as in people’s time is not being compensated to match the cost of living, so Millennials have to work about twice as hard to afford essentials than previous generations did at their age. It’s no secret that tuition costs have skyrocketed. It’s no secret that the minimum wage is not keeping up with the cost of living for one person, let alone for a family of four as it was supposed. If articles could stop trendily slamming Millennials for being poor and frugal, and instead start slamming industries for not adapting or paying employees livable wages, maybe the economy would be doing better overall because people would start hearing the truth instead of whiny complaints about how we don’t buy fabric softener.

Greedy, Thoughtless Baby Boomers?

There’s quite a bit of hate going backwards too. Most of this is through memes as stated before, but the idea is that Baby Boomers are out of touch with the reality of the job market and cost of academic degrees today. They don’t understand how hard it is to get a job, job benefits are mostly abysmal, that minimum wage is not a livable wage for even one person, and that tuition prices are way too high. They aren’t willing to help either. They are also looking for jobs, but finding them more easily due to their experience, but they inflated the housing market, consume way too much in products, and are rude to lower paid individuals. This is just the idea that people have about Baby Boomers. It’s not completely true, nor is it true of all Baby Boomers, especially those who have done things out of the traditional order and tried to get degrees without employer help in the ’90s or later. Younger Baby Boomers do not always represent this depiction as well. But where does this attitude come from for those that do accurately represent this depiction?

An Abundance of Everything and Raised by Those Who Grew Up with Nothing

Baby Boomers were children and young adults in a time of great industry growth. Post-WWII saw more growing companies, more colleges, more access to upward mobility. Until the ’80s, everything was upward trending, so consumerism also rose. People could afford more, so they got more. This isn’t really this generation’s fault. It’s just how our brains work. They don’t believe in the future. They believe in surviving now. (You know? The future is a lie, the pasta is now.) At least, that is the part of the brain that is all urges. Baby Boomers’ parents actually didn’t grow up with much, so they actually encouraged Baby Boomers’ to consume when they could. The problem is that the world changes. We’re back to a time of less, instead of more. Partially because of over-consumption. The housing market crash doesn’t happen without this. Were balloon mortgages a good idea? Absolutely not. Doesn’t mean that they didn’t take what was offered them. It’s part of the reason so many of them are still working into retirement age. Immediacy was too strong with them. It’s hard to know how to have temperance when you are surrounded by cookies. If you know you won’t be getting cookies often, then it is much easier to save some of them for later. But after a lifetime of giant piles of cookies, these habits are hard to break, and it’s hard to see past your visions of those piles to notice that other people have never been surrounded by the piles. The cookies aren’t the greatest of metaphors because I’m not talking about something pointless but tasty. I’m talking about the things required for living: jobs, homes, decent wages. Speaking of . . .

Entitlement and Privilege and What Is Deserved

The words Entitlement and Privilege have been bandied about quiet a bit in negative ways. Oh, Millennials are just entitled. They have privilege. There are actually scales of entitlement and privilege and a slave is on the end with no entitlement and no privilege. And that’s a bad thing. We also hear those things as if other generations or demographics don’t have any entitlement or privilege, and that’s just laughable. We also hear them as if fighting for more entitlement or privilege is a bad thing, and if you know anything of labor history that’s also laughable. Baby Boomers had as much as they did because they and previous generations fought for labor rights: things like livable wages, overtime pay, sick leave, FMLA, anti-discrimination, worker’s comp, OSHA, etc on both federal and state levels. Then there were all the unions separate from government laws to hold industries to even higher standards. So when someone tells younger generations they are just entitled and don’t deserve anything, I can’t help but think that not only is this unempathetic, it is also ignorant of American history and law, and just generally stupid. It’s great to sit on your mountain of entitlements and rights and pretend that no one fought for those, because they very obviously did. There were strikes, riots, and protests to get where we are today. Why wouldn’t we continue that history of activism for more or for application of what we already have in other industries or for other workers in areas without those rights? The argument that we don’t deserve anything if patently false based solely on the law. I believe some of this comes from the inaccurate idea that working hard and exploitation are one in the same. I know how to work hard. I work very hard. But as I said before, I’m going to avoid exploitation of my hard work when I can (https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/letters/when-opportunity-knocks-now-its-the-opportunity-to-be-exploited/), and there is nothing wrong with others doing the same.

The other major argument, that minimum wage jobs are for teenagers, is completely and historically inaccurate. The minimum wage was meant to be a livable wage for a family of four with one income at full time work (source: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/minimum_wage), and since a single person in most locations cannot live on a minimum wage (i.e. pay for shelter, food, utilities, and healthcare), it is obviously not high enough. Fighting for a higher minimum wage is completely justified, and while people argue that it will hurt business, I don’t see how more people, especially the poor who tend to spend more of their money, with more spending money is a bad thing. The majority of the people living paycheck to paycheck and having no disposable income and often no livable income is not sustainable to business, especially for those industries which rely on luxury purchases, such as restaurants, entertainment, and retail (yes, this is a luxury, since most of the people under the poverty level purchase clothes from resellers). I have hardly ever heard real arguments against these changes. Just more of the same unsupported claims. The only argument I’ve heard against raising minimum wage or increased benefits that made any kind of sense was the increase in daycare and disability care costs argument; however, considering the fact that these people are taking care of our loved ones and often have advanced degrees and stringent requirements, I can’t help but think that they shouldn’t be making minimum wage, but far more than that. We should value that work more. And to prevent costs from becoming unmanageable, their work should be at least partially, if not substantially, subsidized by the government. While some of them are, I don’t believe our government is valuing their work or the need for them enough. These things are all worth fighting for, as other “entitlements” were worth fighting for in the past.

The Forgotten Generation

For some reason in all this, Gen X is just not involved or considered. It’s possible because this generation is small by comparison (by population, not years) and that it actually doesn’t have a name. Millennials were called Gen Y for a hot second before Millennial became the name. They almost had the name of Latchkey, but it didn’t stick, and neither did the name MTV. There isn’t, however, as much data on the experience of Gen X. The generation is considered happy, active, and entrepreneurial in nature (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_X). Maybe no one talks about them because they are happy and aren’t trying to blame anyone else for their problems. Maybe they aren’t fighting for anything either. It just seems weird though that in the all shots fired, Gen X hasn’t taken one hit or fired one shot, generally speaking. When I read comments on articles bashing Millennials, a few Gen Xers will pop their heads up and voice their support of the problems facing Millennials, which is nice. I really don’t think we should forget this generation or their experience. It’s not as if they are invisible or not contributing. I’d actually like to hear more of their voices.

The New Generation

While Millennials are self-deprecating and fatalistic, Gen Z makes an art form of it. Some of this comes from the idea that they may not be able to go to college at all or afford the lifestyle of the American dream, things Millennials thought they were going to have. It also comes from growing up in a post 9/11, Great Recession America. They feel insecure and unsettled, but this wasn’t jarring to them, like it was for Millennials, who grew up in prosperity and then had the rug pulled out from under them. There’s also more of them then there are Millennials or Baby Boomers. I would like it if Gen Z had more to look forward to. I would like them to have hope for their futures.

What Does It All Mean?

That’s a good question, because as it turns out, generational traits are contentious. They’ve found that they don’t really cross socioeconomic lines, race, and sometimes even gender. African Americans, Hispanics, other minority groups, and rural Americans typically are nothing like their generational cohorts. Some of the traits of Baby Boomers really do not apply to all of them. In fact, it seems some of them are more like Millennials. Some of the traits applied to Millennials really do not apply to all of them. For example, it is believed that Millennials are supportive of the government restricting public speech offensive to minorities, more so than previous generations, believing in trigger warnings and safe spaces. I am not one of those people. Even though I am a Millennial. But I am also a writer, and just as I stated in my post about being a writer over being a woman (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/im-not-a-female-writer-im-a-writer/), I didn’t choose to be a Millennial. I absolutely chose to be a writer, and writers, especially American ones, have a long standing tradition of not supporting government sanctioned censorship. I may not have liked the things the Black Hebrew Israelites were saying to the Native Americans, but they still have the right to say it (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/fake-news-what-happens-when-trump-is-right/). Part of the reason why I don’t support censorship is that, as I stated in my blog post about satire (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/irony-satire-and-sarcasm-and-those-who-dont-get-it/), too many people are not intelligent enough to recognize it. They become offended and demand censorship, while the point sails clear over their heads. I do not trust mobs to decide what is or isn’t offensive because mobs do not have the ability to reason what is satiristic. That makes me an atypical Millennial. My point is, you can’t assume a person’s personality based on their generational group. Yes, vast numbers of them adhere to certain traits, but not all of those traits and not all of those people. Like any other demographic, a person has to learn about an individual before they make any judgements about them. You know? Like a good person.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2019 in Consumer Rights, Social Issues

 

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Fake News?: What Happens When Trump Is Right

Have you heard the latest news debacle? Video has surfaced of a group of white teenagers bullying a Native American U.S. vet. Or so that’s what most media organizations big and small are selling for their headlines. Definitely gets clicks and shares. Like my headline. Thing is though, I don’t make any money if you read this. I also hate the idea that Trump is right about fake news. He shouts it like Oprah giving away prizes and about things that are typically not fake. But not so in this case. I’ve had issues with news media manipulating the public before, but this instance is only proving that it is getting harder and harder to do so what with the internet and now we can all feel free to call the intent of the news into question.

The Reporting

Take a look at what was originally said of this incident on major news sources. The Washington Post shows four minutes of the incident and speaks specifically to Phillips the U.S. vet and several representatives of the Native American rights associations: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/01/20/it-was-getting-ugly-native-american-drummer-speaks-maga-hat-wearing-teens-who-surrounded-him/?utm_term=.acfbde9d2669. ABC has less than two minutes of video but interviews on a more balanced level despite the click-baity title: https://abc7news.com/politics/boys-in-maga-hats-mock-indigenous-elder-in-dc-video/5097427/. The initial CNN report video shows only seconds of the footage but makes many moral judgements using tone and statements, but forces the responsibility on society as a whole, but seems almost ironic when it moves on to the idea of people promoting “going viral” considering how much news itself relies on audience attention and shares (and the fact that the video didn’t come from the teenagers themselves): https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2019/01/19/maga-video-teens-native-american-unfiltered-vpx.cnn. Fox News obviously didn’t say much about the video until the backlash started. Yahoo News shows less than two minutes of video and then four minutes in another embedded video and had no interviews: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/maga-hatted-teens-harass-native-182138098.html.

There is actually more than an hour of footage of this incident, including moments of a group of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters taunting the teenagers with racist and homophobic slurs, but most shockingly of all the video starts with the Black Hebrew Israelite group blaming the Native American protestors for the loss of their land on their “idol worship” and that’s just the first 30 seconds. You want to talk about offensive? That’s offensive. Why isn’t that the headline? Because it is two minority groups butting heads instead of a majority group and a minority group. While the clip everyone is showing has one kid being silent and a Native American banging a drum and singing, the beginning of the whole video includes a shouting match between a Black Hebrew Israelite protestor and what appears to be a Native American woman. “Half of understanding is listening,” says the guy that’s not listening. After eight minutes in, the man filming turns the camera on himself to spout extremely sexist comments. Then the main protestor starts asking where her husband is. He calls another woman a “culture vulture” as if telling Native Americans that them worshiping idols instead of God isn’t disrespectful of their culture. The person recording then calls who seems like the MAGA teenagers crackers and threatens to “stick [his] foot in their ass”. A chunk of the video after this is the Black Hebrew Israelites discussing religious history with a Native American man as the Indigenous Peoples’ March kicks up a bit. After a while, the main protestor starts shouting at the Native Americans again, suggesting that their march is useless, but recognizes the similarities in Native American and African-American struggles. Afterwards, they point out the teenagers again and use the N-word. Then there is a lot of political/religious preaching, followed by the reasonable question “When has America ever been great for us?” Which he then hurts his message by calling the kids peckerwoods. But he keeps promoting separation of White people from the other races as they are all oppressors to him. Then he disrespects Native American culture and religion again. A Native American man started yelling at them for not showing respect. The Black Hebrew Israelites call them the N-word, stupid, ignorant, demons, and Uncle Tomahawks and ask why the Native Americans don’t yell at the MAGA teens (who’ve been quiet thus far on the video). Then the MAGA teens come over and the man recording talks about how disrespectful they are to the Native Americans for wearing those hats at their march. A woman starts yelling at them and the Black Hebrew Israelite leader start asking about her husband and after she starts preaching love, peace, and unity, he says he’s done with her. More preaching. A man points out that they are proselytizing. More preaching. Then some anti-Semitic comments. The man recording starts pointing out the teenagers again. The boys don’t do anything. More preaching. Then homophobic comments about a pedophilic priest. Then homophobic comments about Trump and Giuliani and the Catholic Church. More Uncle Tomahawk comments about a member of the crowd, telling him he might as well put on a MAGA hat and calling him the N-word and coon. The guy filming asks them why they won’t yell at the teenagers. Then he walks up to the teenagers and calls them crackers. They still don’t do anything. The Black Hebrew Israelite leader calls them all future school shooters and the man filming calls them animals. The teenagers put some distance between themselves and the Black Hebrew Israelites. More political/religious preaching, including something about UFOs. Some guy skateboards through the area playing music, and they start threatening him with “punishment” if he gets too close and call him a clown. A woman talks to them about a prophecy. More preaching. A near fight breaks out between the skateboarder and the guy filming. The skateboarder goes off, but circles them still, and the man filming says he’s going to hit him. The leader starts talking about Bill Clinton, Haiti, and Paris. The man filming continues to point out the teenagers, that still haven’t engaged. The skateboarder’s music is still playing, as he seems to be trying to drown them out, and they keep threatening him. More preaching. A man starts shouting, but he’s really hard to understand, but they call him a five dollar Indian. A woman shouts that we love everybody. The leader shouts “We love you as much as Donald Trump loves us.” More preaching and threatening of the skateboarder. Someone asks if this is a Stand Your Ground State. More preaching. Then they call the teenagers incest babies and bastards. The teenagers start chanting, but it is not “Build the Wall”. They call the teenagers dogs and hyenas. A water bottle is on the ground between the two groups and one of the teenagers runs forward to pick it up. It is not clear where the bottle came from, if it was thrown or dropped or by whom. The teenagers then chant and focus on one of them who takes off his shit, and after that the man filming calls them cavemen. He says they are surrounded by them but you can clearly see a way without any of the teenagers that people are walking through. The teenagers keep chanting. Then we can hear Phillips coming and he stops between the two groups and continues drumming. The teenagers jump up and down in front of him, and yes, some of them are disrespectful. They chant Hey in time to the drum and clap, then it sounds like some of them sing O, but some of them are still and quiet. A couple of the teenagers engage with the Black Hebrew Israelite leader, booing him for calling them school shooters. It’s hard to see Phillips, but we can still hear his drum. Some of the teenagers say at best cheeky things to the leader at worst immature. Some White adults start making the teenagers back up. School chants ensue, one kid says they are being racist. More cracker and N-word slurs. Most of the students are standing there but are very close. The man filming calls one of them a young clansman who had said something I couldn’t understand, and the man filming appears to be holding a stick (like a broom-handle). The students appear to be about four feet at least from the protestors. One of the students says they can’t vote. More preaching and the kids are shocked by many of the things he says. One teenager says you can swear on a law book instead of the Bible, one says they don’t judge them. Some of the teenagers are laughing. An adult says Let’s go, the teenagers cheer and leave. Then the Black Hebrew Israelites start shouting at a group of Native Americans. More homophobic comments. A woman comes up and says We love you. He asks for his land back. A White man says that Black Africans sold others into slavery. After more stuff about religion and child molestation, a woman says “You’re not going to change their minds.” At this point it is clear that nothing will stop these protestors from shouting down the people around them, using racist, sexist, homophobic, and disrespectful comments. This is so hard to watch. It is so hard to sit and listen to everything these two men say. I did it though. I watched the whole thing, and I know it is hard to watch anything longer than five minutes these days, but it is worth our attention, so here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQyBHTTqb38. I won’t say enjoy, because I didn’t find anything about this enjoyable.

I want to say that I don’t understand why the headline is about the teenagers. I want to say that I don’t get it. But I do understand. It is about an agenda of divisiveness that increases viewership. It’s about clicks.

Assault, Harassment, and Defamation

Because of how the media has presented the events of the quick bit of video they show, the main teenager in the video and his family have gotten death threats, he is facing expulsion from school, and is one of the most hated figures of social media right now. It’s no wonder that he came out with a version of events from his perspective, even if it laden with rhetoric to make himself out to be the victim. To be honest with you, considering that he and the other students are underage, I don’t believe the video should even be shown with them in it with their faces clearly identifiable. Other countries do this, and it’s high time we did, but minors should not be part of the media circus. To me, it prevents mob mentality from judging minors for life, in the same way we protect them from the stupid, inexperienced criminal choices of their youth by sealing juvenile records. Not everything is protected as if they are charged as adults, then it sticks. But I certainly don’t think any of these teenagers committed the kind of felonies in the video that would mean we never let them forget it. But the media has decided to vilify these teenagers. And if some of them did see the whole video before reporting, they decided to hold minors to higher standards than adults.

I don’t agree with why the teenagers were there, I don’t agree with their support of Trump, but they are still young and people change quite a bit in their early to mid twenties from who they were as teenagers. I also believe they have the right to march in a rally that I don’t believe in. They have the right to buy hats I don’t like. We can’t assume they deserved to be vilified simply because of those hats, as some people vilify women for wearing low cut necklines or LBGT people for wearing rainbow hats and shirts nor do we accept them being harassed by others. But apparently we’re supposed to okay with a minority group heckling Native Americans. Those two men also had the right to be there and they also had the right to say what they did. I don’t have to like it, and I don’t, but they still had the right. Everyone had the right to be there. There were some near assaults when people started to get into each other’s personal space, and only if people followed someone around and said horrible things to them repeatedly would it be considered harassment. The event itself was fine. Uncomfortable. But legal and fine. As Trevor Noah put it “All First Amendment and no Second Amendment.” It was fine.

The Backlash

What isn’t fine is how the major media networks decided to reframe this video to rabble rouse and sow division. As if things aren’t bad enough. And after everyone found the long video, many people were upset at having been misled, and now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Those on the extreme right feel vindicated and able to character assassinate Phillips, as if that’s okay too. It’s really not. I’m a huge opponent of ad hominem. I don’t believe it promotes empathy, trust, or the seeking out of the truth. Very rarely do I see a purpose in condemnations of others unless a true argument with evidence to support claims is given as well.

People who are typically in the middle, like me, see this news debacle as disheartening. For me, it is just more of the same. I’m unsurprised by their decision to manipulate their audience, but this has given a lot of people something to think about. A lot people, despite Trump shouting fake news, trusted the major news networks to give them unbiased information, but now they feel lied to or misled. They may even look back at previous reports on political and social topics and wonder. My hope is that more people will start digging deeper as a result, which is now easier to do with the internet.

A lot of the old guard think that the internet actually makes it harder to know what is real and fake, but a person just has to be discerning in their sources. It also one of the only places Americans can get international news as while interest hasn’t dropped, reporting from the major networks has (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ly7Btx0Stg). There is still some left push back, people saying that the teenagers deserve what they get both in the video and by way of punishment and harassment since they were wearing MAGA hats and were there for a Pro-Life rally, but as I said before, they have a right to believe what they believe, wear what they want to wear, and protest what they want to protest. I don’t have to like it or agree with them, but they have the right, just like anyone else. That is what America is about. Even if it isn’t always pretty.

But some of the networks are defending what they did as it is not always easy to get the whole picture before you have to publish, and that’s a load of bullshit. We now have 24 hour news cycle, but I suggest if they can’t do it ethically and competently in the amount of time they are giving themselves, that they need to slow down. It’s their job to fact check. You don’t win anyone over by whining about how hard it is to do your job. They’re more afraid that someone will report the story before them that they are all jumping the gun than they are of getting the story wrong, but look at what it has gotten them. If they hadn’t jumped the gun, if they had done their due diligence, they could have reported on the video accurately and looked like the good guys. Now they just look like assholes. It is shameful that they have misstepped so badly as to allow extremist right shouting of Fake News to be credible.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

Oh, but Fox News does it! Yeah, and they’re wrong when they do it too. You can’t control what someone else does, only what you do. CNN is not responsible for what Fox News says, but they are responsible for what they say. You can’t hold yourself to the standards and principles of those you don’t like or find unethical. You can’t think of it as winning or losing. Disseminating information is not a game. It is about ethics, the truth, and honesty. That’s what you hold yourself to. I can’t believe that I have to pull out an adage meant for five year olds to talk about major news networks comprised entirely of adults. That’s the kind of immaturity that exists in that industry. I understand that there is a competition for viewership, but there should not be a competition for hearts and minds. The news should be objective, despite the flashlight theory–it should at least strive to be as objective as possible. The point of the news is to provide the people with information, not to sway them politically or socially. That’s the job of politicians and activists. The real problem is the death of local news and coalescing of news, especially in major print and TV services, to a few sources. A few people get to decide that the truth is less important than a political or social goal, even if people are trampled by their manipulations. But the news is sold to us as an informational source, not a persuasive argument. So we have a mockery of that idea in all the major networks. They may claim to be news sources, but really that is a mask they wear to put forth a perspective subversively. It seems that yellow journalism rules the day. Left, right, I don’t care. I don’t want my news littered with rhetoric designed to manipulate me. And neither should anyone else.

Why This Is So Bad

But this debacle is going to have long term consequences. I can foresee in 2020 any “outrageous” things being held in suspicion. I foresee that if Trump does run that swing vote people will go for him because they won’t trust sources like CNN and ABC who will be pushing for a democrat winner. They already had a hand in Trump winning in 2016 (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/a-lack-of-respect-the-path-to-a-trump-presidency/). I know this sounds like conspiracy theory, but at this point too many people believe that left leaning news networks are not worth trusting and we can’t pretend that they’ll get over it. I figured out all news networks were trying to manipulate me a long time ago. Teaching rhetorical analysis gave me the edge needed to recognize it, and since I am a Centrist I did not ignore it from any source because no source was telling me what I wanted to hear. I don’t buy into the narrative that one side is evil and one side is good. I believe most politicians are in it to win it, no matter what, and are willing to promise anything to get a vote. So when any news source promotes one candidate over the other, and it’s not an Op Ed, but the kind of subtle jabs at one candidate and subversive advancement of another while “reporting” on debates or campaign appearances, I’m just pissed. And I think it is safe to say that more people are pissed at them after this incident then before, and I think they will remember, mostly because the right is not going to let it go. So great job, any left leaning media, you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in Gender Relations, Politics, Social Issues

 

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Disney Stupidity Strikes Again!

I’ve complained about Disney making stupid decisions before. Their need to allow marketing to shape the creation of Star Wars. The extremely poorly thoughtout plan behind Thanos’ motivation in Infinity War. Their nearly utter lack of risks under their own titles by way of live action remakes, sequels, and reboots. But now they are doing it again. Disney is not renewing their contract with Netflix and has decided only to release digital copies of their titles on their own video streaming service. This is beyond stupid. This is near suicidal.

So Late to the Party, It’s Over

There are three big streaming networks: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Netflix added their streaming line in 2007, Hulu launched their content in 2008, and Amazon Prime’s streaming service switched from only on demand to a subscription service in 2011. That means Netflix has been around for 12 years, Hulu for 11, and Prime for 8. All three hold titles from many different distribution companies and in the last few years, all three have been creative Emmy winning original titles as well. Netflix has 137.1 million subscribers (https://www.statista.com/statistics/250934/quarterly-number-of-netflix-streaming-subscribers-worldwide/), Hulu has 20 million subscribers (https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/hulu-statistics/), and Amazon Prime has about 100 million subscribers (https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/amazon-prime-100-million-subscribers-jeff-bezos-1202757832/). Netflix being the first explains why they have the most, and Amazon Prime offering other perks, such as free two day shipping and digital copies of a selection of books and music, explains why it is second. The only other real competition to these three is HBO Now, as HBO has been creating it’s own original content for decades before streaming subscriptions were a thing, and they regularly get recent blockbusters. This past year their relatively new online subscription service has hit over 5 million subscribers (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-01/hbo-s-channel-for-cord-cutters-surpasses-5-million-subscribers). This was actually a relatively natural progression for the channel, and other paid channel networks have followed suit with less success. The point is that the most successful streaming services offer both original content and multiple distribution companies’ titles and have been around for nearly ten years or have a sweet package that includes other benefits. The streaming wars haven’t just begun. They’re long over. Only something with extremely competitive benefits can even get a foot in the door. Another Amazon Prime. I could see Apple successfully doing this if they were willing branch off of their own tech products (i.e. all smart TVs and Windows computers) and converted to a subscription service, like their Apple Music. Disney’s package is not competitive. My guess is that it’s going to be priced too high because Disney thinks they are worth more than they are.

Big Dumb Animal

Disney is one of a handful of major media corporations. Nearly all of them are know for doing stupid things on a regular basis. Universal tried making their dumb dark universe. Warner Bros is failing spectacularly at creating a DCCU. Fox just makes bad movies because they trust Ridley Scott far too much. Other endeavors don’t do so well either. The news sections of the major media corporations are lackluster as almost all of them use rhetorical techniques and spotlighting techniques to incite fear and manipulate public opinion to political sides or to raise their own ratings. They often make business decisions that would kill smaller companies, such as cancelling Emmy winning TV shows, not marketing movies that need it and over-marketing those that don’t, designing creative titles by committee, watering down acquired IPs for mass markets, performing unethical and illegal acts that obstruct a criminal investigation simply to keep a news story going, one arm of the company suing another arm of that same company, not backing video streaming when it first came out. These big media corporations are stupid. They are frankly too big not to be stupid. They aren’t innovators. They aren’t trail-blazers. They copy each other and they copy the innovators, thinking that they can “do it better”. They typically can’t. The problem is inspiration. They don’t have it. Maybe one day they did, years ago, but they don’t have it anymore. Now, they have demographic data, marketing teams, and financial optimization. These are not the things that create new ideas. These are the things that keep big businesses big and, they hope, bigger. Disney is just like any other major media corporation. Large, full of MBA buzzwords, and mostly empty-headed.

You Have Hulu?!

Case in point: Disney owns a controlling interest in Hulu, one of the three major video streaming services, and they want to launch a new, Disney-branded video streaming service that would be in . . . direct competition to . . . the one they already own with 20 million subscribers. Hmm. I don’t think it needs to be explained why that would be a dumb move. I could foresee Disney pushing a vote to close down Hulu, which is dumb, to cut this competition. Why would this be dumb? Well, Hulu is established, it’s built. All the investment that was needed to create Hulu has already been spent. Disney is now spending what has to be a comparable amount of money to build a Disney-branded video streaming service when they already have a pre-built video streaming service. Is it entirely theirs? No, part of it is owned by Comcast and AT&T, and the 30% that was owned by Fox is now Disney’s, which means Disney own 60%, a controlling interest, and thus a majority profit. They could rebrand Hulu if they wanted to (don’t do that), and after Hulu’s deal with Spotify, Hulu is even more attractive as a product then it used to be. Disney is not going to be able to compete with that. I seriously doubt that the new streaming service is even going to compare with the amount of content and the quality of the original content on Hulu. I got Hulu exclusively to see The Handmaid’s Tale, an award winning show. I doubt Disney’s channel with it’s branding tied specifically to the Disney name will have the kind of deep and dark content allowed on Hulu. And it’s just going to cost them so much money.

Money Sink

Disney has a lot of money. Of that, we can be sure. They bought Star Wars and the Lucas companies for billions of dollars. They acquired Marvel through similar means a few years before that. Recently, they purchased 20th Century Fox and all their IPs and subsidiaries. They have money. Frankly, they could stand to take a few hits in that department to make them beef up their quality. While Marvel is still doing well financially on the film front, the quality of writing has gone down dramatically since the Russo Brothers have replaced Joss Whedon. Star Wars fans have finally woken up to the idea that Disney Star Wars is the worst Star Wars–something I’ve been saying since Rogue One and knew after The Force Awakens. But hardcore Disney fans still drink the cool aid when it comes to these live action remakes and sequels. My hope is that this new video streaming service will be an absolute waste of money, much like the A Wrinkle in Time adaptation was. I can see Disney not investing enough to build a truly workable service, with a good customer service system, spending more money on marketing the service, and then over-charging for the whole thing. I can also foresee them pulling the whole “Disney Vault” bullshit and rotating old titles in and out of their own service arbitrarily, thus creating a false supply titles. What I’m saying is, I foresee an utter waste of money for both Disney and fans.

An End to the Defenders

It was a sad, sad time as each new day brought another notice of a Defenders cancellation. Were all the shows good? No, of course not. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were terrible, and the second season of Daredevil, much like the second Iron Man movie, was too focused on introducing new things into the mix as we had more of the Hand, Stick, Elektra, and the Punisher then we knew what to do with. But the quality of these shows overall were better than say Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They covered deeper, darker subjects than other MCU titles. And now thanks to Disney being a jealous dick, we’re not getting any more of them. When Luke Cage and Iron Fist were cancelled, I was not shocked as I had just finished the second seasons of both and yee, gods, man. What the hell were they thinking? When an audience member literally says out loud “What the fuck?” upon the final scene of your show, that may be a sign that its time to hang it up. But Daredevil season three was great! And I can’t wait for the premier of season three of Jessica Jones or of season two of Punisher. Jessica Jones season two was still very awesome. And the first season of Punisher, while shockingly brutal, was freaking amazing! This is just a tragedy of TV that we won’t have anymore Charlie Cox Daredevil, Krysten Ritter Jessica Jones, or Jon Bernthal Punisher. Or will we? No, probably not. Disney isn’t smart enough to move it something like FX or Hulu, where something that dark would make sense, and with the new way of TV original content being separated by different video streaming services, it wouldn’t really make sense to have some seasons on Netflix, where the distribution rights lie for those seasons, and have new seasons on another service. So I don’t foresee a revival for any of these unless Disney can unjam their head from up that deep, dark cavern they’ve decided it belongs.

Devalued IPs

Speaking of IPs like the Defenders, Disney has been systematically watering down and killing their major IPs. Most of you will think I’m talking about Star Wars, and I totally am. Disney has managed to drive away the reason they purchased Star Wars in the first place. You know, the fans. It wasn’t just virtue signalling narratives, it was also poor narrative construction with uneven pacing, badly developed characters, marketing that over-saturated the market, and getting in bed with the worst game publisher in the world that resulted in a huge PR nightmare and loss of public trust, when they could have just used the publisher that came with the purchase from Lucas (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/star-wars-why-i-dont-like-it/). But Star Wars is not the only IP they have harmed in the last decade. What with their need to milk the shit out of their own titles, resulting in remakes, reboots, and sequels up the wazoo, Disney movies have gone down in quality, resulting in mostly boring live action remakes that aren’t as good as the originals (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/do-you-need-money-or-something-disney-reboot-remakes-and-sequels/). Then there is the sequels with Pixar. Luckily, Pixar still has some ideas, like Moana, but you know its going to get a less than stellar sequel. While I love The Incredibles and I’ve always wanted a sequel, when I watched the trailer, I got a bad feeling. Finding Dory was basically Finding Nemo, but with Dory and Nemo switched places, and a lot of having their cake and eating it to when it came to making fun of people who were different and suggesting that they are complete individuals deserving of our respect. The trailer for The Incredibles 2 just seems like The Incredibles only now instead of Bob running off to do superhero stuff while Helen stays home to take care of the kids and house, she’s running off to do superhero stuff while he stays home to take care of the kids and the house. It’s a problem. And really, they’re going to do a Toy Story 4? Isn’t that a bit much? Finally, the MCU. Their golden goose. Well, it was, before Joss Whedon decided he was done and they went all in on the Russo Brothers, who suck hard core. The main storyline of the MCU has become increasingly plot-hole filled with villains that have plans without any sense or structure to them and characters whose development is abused by main plot points. The stories are contrived for the purpose of creating drama. And I’m sick of it. While most audiences still like the MCU, the quality is fucking awful now. The only thing holding it all together are the great actors. I swear, it feels like the Russo brothers were asked to dismantle the MCU, because it is the only thing that makes sense. So yeah, Disney has flooded the market with horrible movies, and don’t even get me started on their TV channel! That’s been horrific for decades.

No Risks and Stupid Risks

I’ve said before that Disney was in a position to take risks. When I said that, I meant creatively, as in coming up with new IPs instead of remaking all their animated movies. I didn’t mean jump into the video streaming service market five years after it matters and after having acquired one of the big three. That isn’t a risk. That’s a jump off a cliff. It baffles me that they would not take real risks with their creative work, but do something that will in all likelihood fail as business venture. I know that these decisions are not made by the same person, that Disney is large corporation made up of a lot of people and subsidiaries, but it has a corporate culture of no creativity and cutting out the middle man. This new venture isn’t about innovation or customer support. It’s about making the most money they think they can. They see the profits that other video streaming services rake in and think they could have all that money by cutting out Netflix. But that’s potential profits, not real profits. They have no idea how much money they will actually make off their video streaming service. This is a stupid way of looking at things too because Netflix makes the money it does not because it has Disney titles, but because it has Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Sony, etc. titles and original content and no commercials. Disney is only one part of how they make their profits. They have an amazing contract with Warner Bros that allows for CW shows exclusively. And we all know how popular, if not good, those are. So for Disney to be looking possibly at Netflix profits and thinking, those could be our profits, is dumb, because they aren’t the only draw of a varied and long-standing video streaming service.

“Well, I’m Going to Cancel My Netflix Subscription”

Sure, the five million people who do this will leave “quite” a dent in Netflix’s profits. As if Netflix doesn’t have Stranger Things. Suuuuure. Netflix is gonna suffer sooooooo much. Netflix’s biggest competitor isn’t even Amazon Prime. It’s YouTube. Not even YouTube Red, Google’s attempt to get YouTube out of the red and into the black. Just regular old YouTube. But that’s because YouTube has content no one else has. No, not live TV or news clips. No, let’s plays, and gaming news and lists. The most watched videos on YouTube are related to gaming, something no other video service comes close to getting right. Twitch could eat their lunch in the viewership numbers if they weren’t just live streaming, as gaming news and lists and game walkthroughs are another huge draw, which are harder to do live. So when I hear the counter that people are going to leave Netflix for Disney, I scoff, because no other video streaming service competes on the same level. Prime looks like it does because of its numbers, but some Prime members aren’t there for the videos. They’re there for the two day shipping. Will Netflix take a hit over this? Yes, but it won’t be a company breaking hit.

In the End

I rag on Disney a lot, and despite that, they are not my least favorite media giant. That spot is firmly held by Sony. But Disney is a close second because they have so much, do so little creatively, and make dumb decisions. Because Disney owns so many major IPs, this upsets me. They have some of the best material, material that has huge followings built into them. It’s upsetting to see them gobble up more and more with the feeling that they are just going to waste all that potential and talent on half-assed projects, that they are going to end good ventures simply to get all the money in the world. They think their shit don’t stink. But it does. God, but it does. Is something like this going to take them down? Well, if EA is still around despite all they’ve done the last few years, I seriously doubt that this straw is the last straw for Disney. In fact, I see there numbers being high enough in the beginning at least for them to think this is a justified venture. They are also huge. They can absorb this quite easily if it is a loss. Will they learn a lesson if it fails? Most likely they won’t. Their vault BS has been working for them for decades. The problem is their size. They’ll stub their toe and just move on to the next dumb idea. Disney fans will continue to swallow the cool aid, and they will continue to make enough money to think they are untouchable. They’ll look for any answer that doesn’t hold them responsible for any failures, as they have in the past. And they’ll kept on doing what they’ve been doing. But now they own nearly everything of value. If they buy Warner Bros, we’re fucked. Because you know damn well, they’d end the Arrowverse in a heartbeat, despite its success and the world it has built. I’m just tired of Disney getting more and more and doing less and less of value with what they have. Aren’t you?

 

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