Tag Archives: twitter

For The Record, Star Wars is Awesome


Because there is still good in this world, The Rise of Skywalker is available to stream today. So of course I’m watching it.

And I tweeted about it. And my usually very humble Twitter account suddenly got a ton of likes and retweets, and a handful of comments.

Now I’m a Twitter baby, and I don’t care about it a whole heck of a lot, so the likes and retweets are cool, but the comments baffle me. Because most of the comments are negative.

I mean, I get it. Twitter sucks, it’s home to trolls and grumps and nothing is better than disagreeing with somebody on the internet and Twitter is bloody fanTAStic for that. But why? I make a post about something I love and grumps want to roll into the comments and say any number of variations on “YOU SHOULDN’T LIKE THAT THING.”

Like … okay? I mean, consider. You’re in a grocery store. (Actually, given the state of grocery stores the last couple days, the grocery store might not be the best setting to consider, but heck it, let’s move ahead.) You hear a person saying to another person, possibly while standing near the bananas, “man, I really love a good banana.” And you pounce upon them: “I HATE BANANAS AND I ALWAYS HAVE SINCE I WAS A CHILD BECAUSE MY MOTHER FORCED ME TO EAT THEM AND I HATE MY MOTHER AND YOUR MOTHER TOO.”

Well, we all have opinions, don’t we? But yours isn’t going to change the other person’s, in this case, and all it really accomplishes is making them wonder who hurt you and why you are the way you are.

Anyway, I just started responding to the negative comments with the following gif:

king e3 GIF

Which might, in fact, be my response to everything negative I encounter on Twitter going forward.

But I don’t want to gripe about Twitter (man, the world has enough of that). I want to rave about Star Wars. (Because … the world doesn’t have enough of that? Eh.) Because the new trilogy gets a lot of hate. And I think that’s hot garbage. I’m pretty convinced that most of the guff these movies get comes from prejudice on behalf of the guffer; it comes from hangups and holdouts that people have against these movies. Star Wars Owes You Nothing, as I’ve mentioned before.

And I get it. It’s impossible to consider the new trilogy independent of the originals. The new trilogy is not the original trilogy. Not for nothing, filmmakers have learned a lot about filmmaking since 1985 when Jedi came out. They know how to push our buttons better, they know how to pull us in. And the new trilogy is absolutely lousy with brilliant moments that push our buttons, both from a storytelling point of view and, of course, from a cinematic one.

So because you needed it today, here’s a non-exhaustive list of awesome moments from the new trilogy, moments that made me go “WHOA” or “HOLY CRAP” or “NO WAY”.

  1. Kylo Ren freezes that blaster bolt in midair
  2. Rey scavenging the husk of a star destroyer
  3. “The garbage will do”
  4. Rey mind-tricks the stormtrooper into dropping his weapon
  5. “That’s not how the Force works!”
  6. Kylo Ren murders Han
  7. The entirety of the lightsaber battle in the snow but especially
    1. Finn picking up the saber and
    2. Kylo Ren force-pulling the saber to him but it goes flying past him and into Rey’s hand (I get chills every time!)
  8. Luke tosses the saber over the cliff
  9. “You went straight to the dark”
  10. Kylo Ren murders Snoke
  11. And the entire ensuing battle in the red room
  12. Holdo’s kamikaze lightspeed maneuver
  13. Kylo and Luke’s duel (Luke doesn’t leave footprints!)
  14. Rey surrounded by the floating boulders as the rebels escape
  15. The Emperor’s cackle
  16. Rey accidentally blows up a ship with force lightning
  17. Dark Rey
  18. The duel over the ocean
  19. Rey kills — and then saves! — Kylo Ren
  20. Ghost Luke stops Rey throwing the saber away
  21. Thousands of ragtag ships drop out of hyperspace to fight on Exegol
  22. Kylo Ren pulls Rey’s saber from behind his back
  23. Palpatine zaps every single ship out of the sky
  24. Rey hears the voices of the Jedi

And I mean, there’s dozens of smaller, less significant and less awe-inspiring bumps along the way. These movies are awesome and they fill me with joy.

Is the new trilogy perfect? Heck, no. There are plot holes and dumb diversions aplenty, things that don’t make sense, things introduced and then forgotten or never explained. But — and here’s where I shock you — those things are in the original trilogy, too.

Episode IV is just, I mean, horrifically paced. It’s so slow. You’re a good hour into it before anything really starts happening. Empire has so many tangential diversions from the main plot it’s ridiculous. (Wampas! Space Eel on an Asteroid!) Jedi? All I have to say is Ewoks. Let’s not pretend these are perfect movies.

So when somebody tells me that any new Star Wars movie can never measure up to the originals … meh, that’s maybe not a bad thing.

Anyway, enough about Star Wars. (As if such a thing were possible.) I’m locked down and I have movies to watch.

Star Wars Rey GIF by Red Giant

No Girls Allowed – Why Marvel Needs to Take the Next Step


My wife and I went to see Avengers 2 this weekend, which is unusual. It’s a rarity for us to go see a movie in the theater in the first place (young kids and all), let alone on opening weekend, but the hype was sufficient, we enjoyed the original. Further into the mix, we are both big fans of James Spader ever since his stint as the inimitable Alan Shore on Boston Legal a few years back, so… well, there we were.

And the movie’s great. Exactly what it says on the tin: a good time, tons of action, more than a few explosions, not too heavy on the brain. Good stuff. I pointed out, more or less in jest, to my wife after the fact that for all Marvel’s trying to make itself more female friendly (see the new Thor for example), their biggest franchise in the Avengers doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. (If you can’t be bothered, the Bechdel test is a rule-of-thumb, exceedingly low bar for a film to pass to qualify as not-entirely-chauvinistic-in-its-portrayal-of-women.) Now, you might argue, and you might be right, that the films’ primary audience is men. But you don’t have to look far to find female fans of not just the Marvel universe, but of comics in general, and of popular cinema for that matter. My wife and I are perfect examples; I don’t think I’ve ever cracked a comic book and I’d bet dollars to donuts that my wife hasn’t, but we love the recent spate of superhero movies nonetheless.

So we go home, and my wife discovers the “news” story that Mark Ruffalo tweeted at Marvel calling them out for the lack of gender equality in their Avengers merchandise. Not in so many words. He simply stated that it would be nice for his nieces and daughters to be able to find their favorite figures from the films in the toy stores and on the t-shirts they’re buying. Now, that surprised me, except that it didn’t. Because as much as Black Widow has become a face of the franchise, and as much as Scarlet Witch impacts the new story, they are still girls.

Right? Sure, you say, they’re girls, but only until a certain point. Black Widow single-handedly tames the Hulk, for example, and becomes one of the trainers for the newly reformed SHIELD unit at the end of the film. Not to mention the numerous asses she kicks along the way. Her kung fu is strong. Scarlet Witch manipulates the minds of virtually everybody in the film, including a demigod, for goodness sake, and then is solely responsible for the defense of the MacGuffin at the end of the film, dispatching baddies to the left and the right with little more than a flick of her brain stem.

And that’s awesome!

But.

Black Widow is still exceedingly feminine, in that she tames Hulk with the calming, gentle gestures that only a woman (in the world of this film) could effect. And her primary arc at the end of the film shows her as a lovelorn, heartbroken woman after the Hulk takes off. She’s a badass, but her badassitude is mitigated in no small part by the fact that she still plays into the roles we expect.

Scarlet Witch, too, as part of a genetically-modified duo together with her brother, falls into the same trap. You’ve got twins granted superpowers through some undisclosed don’t-ask-questions science thing. One gets super speed, the other gets the ability to manipulate minds… which one do you think goes to the boy, and which to the girl? You could have just as easily gone the other way and let the girl have the super speed for once (looking at you, The FlashSupermanNightcrawler, etc) instead of making her a master manipulator (and there’s nothing woman-phobic in that, promise), but no, we’ll make her eyes turn red and give her these mind powers.

Okay, okay. I don’t mean to deconstruct the film. Fact is, Marvel is trying, and the further fact is, they are succeeding in a lot of ways at giving their female characters depth, realism, dark sides, and the unpredictability that we expect from its male characters. They’re still women, but they’re not “women” the way women are women in movies.

But why, then, are they not embracing the female fans in their audience? Or the males who (rightly) think a character like Black Widow or Scarlet Witch has something admirable or worthy of emulation about her? Sure, we can put those characters front and center when it’s time to put together a promo spot, but let’s not monetize those characters. Who would want that?

Except they don’t even make the ladies front and center. Look at how far from center the women are in this promo! Not one, not two, but three slots away from the place your eye goes to when you look at the picture. They’re there, sure, but they’re so removed from top billing they’re almost an afterthought.

There’s a problem here, and it’s a self-fulfilling problem. The problem is that Marvel thinks they’re not going to make any money on the sale of merchandise that features its females (and let’s not argue that it’s about anything other than money; if they felt it would sell, they would be overflowing the shelves with it). So they don’t make the merchandise, which of course ensures that they won’t make any money on it. And they market the hell out of the male-centric toys and apparel, which ensures that girls buying the stuff are an outlier rather than a focus. But is the problem a real problem, or is it a problem they assume is true? Maybe the audience has evolved; maybe there’s more market than ever for female superheroes, but we’d never know it, because we’re holding onto an outmoded way of thinking. Make hulk hands and replicas of Thor’s hammer and Iron Man gloves so that little boys can pretend to be those guys, but if a girl wants to imitate her favorites, well… send her to the Barbie aisle, point her at the Disney Princess outfits.

I’m reminded of Field of Dreams. Guy gets the idea to build a baseball diamond in the middle of nowhere — and, yeah, the idea comes from a disembodied voice in a cornfield, but you know, roll with it — but nobody supports him because there’s no market for it. Nobody’s going to come to a rinkydink baseball diamond on a farm. But in true hollywood fashion, he builds it anyway, and lo and behold, people start to come. Sure, the ghosts of dearly departed baseballers coming to noodle around on the field helps. But the point remains: he didn’t accept the way things were, he insists on at least trying his idea before he’ll take no for an answer.

I have a feeling that we’re having that If you build it, he will come moment here, except it’s a lot bigger than one person — it’s a whole gender. The whole town (the existing industry) is telling Marvel that it doesn’t make sense to market the female superheroes, but I have a feeling that if they can have the courage to build a baseball diamond in the cornfield (roll out some female-targeted merchandise), the consumers will come. And let’s be honest. Marvel has the money for this gamble.

All they need is the courage to phone up a bulldozer and knock down some corn.


Easy Money — But the Hatred is Free


I know, I know. For the past few weeks it’s RFRA this, human rights that. But I’m not here today to argue about whether the RFRA functions properly as a backdoor allowing prejudice in a society that is trying to move past such a thing. Okay? I’m not here to talk about that. Never mind that, you know, it’s the 21st century, and we still have people in this country who think it’s vastly more important that they not have their feelings hurt by having to think about what goes on behind the closed doors of other people than to look out for the actual human rights of vast swathes of society… okay, god, it hurts to be so vague. Specifically the people behind RFRA, and in fact, behind the pizzeria I’m talking about here, feel really icky about homosexuals. To be more specific, they don’t feel that people that don’t like homosexuals (and, you know, whoever else they decide to hate that day) should be allowed to order cakes for weddings, or have a slice of pizza, or, god, I dunno, use the same water fountains as the rest of us.

But ahhh, there I go, talking about the issue I didn’t come here to talk about. Hate gay people if you want. In some states, it’s even going to be legal soon!

No, I’m here to talk about all the sweet, sweet green that’s out there waiting for you if you’re savvy enough to hop on the train early.

See, Memories Pizza is a trendsetter. They’ve shown us that you don’t have to work really hard, or even offer a good product, to make money… all you have to do is uphold a controversial point of view, get “persecuted” for it, and then complain to people — usually religious people, but I suspect it would work with other groups — and wait for the donations to roll in.

Because what’s important to people in this day and age are causes, not individuals.

Let’s say I have $20 that I don’t particularly need for myself. I know this is a stretch for most of us, but just work with the hypothetical. I don’t need this $20, and I want to use it to make a difference. I could take the money down to a homeless shelter and donate it directly, or maybe I go to the thrift store and buy a pile of coats and take those down to the homeless shelter. Maybe I prefer animals, so I take my money to the pet shelter instead. Or maybe there’s a donations bucket for wounded veterans or something out front of the grocery store. In those scenarios, I give my money to people that need it, though I don’t really get anything back for doing it — aside from the warm fuzzies in my heart.

Or, I could find a cause that I agree with and send the money there. A political campaign. The donations plate at my church. The GoFundMe page for a pizzeria that’s been closed down because of protests. Now I’m actively supporting something. Which means my money is speaking a little bit louder than just quietly buying meals or clothes for an anonymous group in need. I can put a face to the people getting my money. I can say that this person’s or group’s success is thanks to me. I’m part of something. And that’s important.

It’s so important that the pizzeria in question raised over $800,000 in the first 24 hours. That $800,000 didn’t come from the restaurant’s patrons; it came from anonymous people all over the country that wanted to support this particular pizzeria’s cause in discriminating against gay people.

That’s awesome, isn’t it? The owners can retire and never bake another pizza again, all because they hate the gays, and there were enough people in the country that think it’s bad they got backlash for hating the gays to send them almost a million dollars IN A DAY.

It’s all so clear now.

I’ve been laboring under the false pretense that the American Dream involved working really hard in your job and making enough money to provide you and your family a decent living. Picket fences and all that. But that’s yesterday’s dream.

In the age of the internet, there’s a new American Dream, and man oh man is it sweet.

The dream goes like this:

  1. Work somewhere. Anywhere. It’s probably better if you own your own business, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
  2. Acquire some controversial beliefs. Gay issues are hot right now and thus are probably overdone. Maybe look into weird oppressive stances on dwarf boxing, or insist that the earth is flat.
  3. Operate your business as usual until you meet somebody who runs afoul of your chosen controversial belief. Refuse to offer this person your goods and/or services based on your dispute over said belief.
  4. Make a big stink on social media about the argument that ensues. If necessary, call a local news station. (It’s better if the person you refused service to does this for you, but however the dumpster fire gets started, it works out in your favor.)
  5. Close down your business or resign your position, citing “protests from the community” or “online threats” or “fear of magical civil rights fairies”. Again, make a big deal about it on social media.
  6. Create a GoFundMe page in support of re-opening your business or getting your job back.
  7. Retire in Aruba.

This will work for as long as fools and their money remain in close quarters with each other. Oh, and for as long as people continue to hold their religious (or social, or scientific, or whatever) beliefs more dear to them than the rights of individuals.

Which will probably be forever.


Twit


I finally joined twitter.

That’s a lie. I joined twitter some many months ago, explicitly for a flash-fiction challenge. One that I quite enjoyed, actually, and even toyed around with extending around the time I finished the first draft of the Project. It crashed and burned, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, twitter.

On its surface, I can’t stand twitter. As an English teacher, I laugh to scorn at it. How can you possibly express a complex thought in only 140 characters? In so many cases, it shouldn’t even be attempted. I can sneeze 140 characters. Hell, I can fire off 140 characters winding up for the sneeze.

But then you consider the fact that twitter has been almost singularly responsible for the deposement of governments, and the FOMO starts to set in. For better or worse, the world is on twitter, banging out 140 characters at a time in a maelstrom of tidbits, snatched fortune-cookies of thought and expression, billowing away on the digital breeze like a blizzard of daffodil petals. And apparently, it’s good for networking. And keeping up with news. And then there’s @pentametron, which scours twitter and smashes together inadvertent iambic pentameter tweets to create abstractly delightful Shakespearean couplets.

So I have it now, and I’m resolved to use it, at least a little bit, as I go forward with this whole “writing” thing. But only insofar as it serves that purpose. Social media in and of itself feels like fluff and nonsense to me. This blarg is no exception, with the exception that I’m convinced that I’m using it as a whetstone for my narrative blades. But that begs the question: what the hell do I post there?

I’m a rambler and an overthinker. If I feel strongly enough about an issue, I’m going to strip it down to its component parts like an old motorcycle in the garage, and I’m going to beat those parts to death examining them from every angle I can think of. I can’t do that with 140 characters. Besides, I have the blarg for that. So what’s left? Post about what I had for breakfast, or the random epiphanies that strike while I’m walking the halls at school or running in the wee hours?

I dunno.

I feel that any endeavor on twitter lacks depth just as a by-product of the form, and I’m leery of things that waste my already too thinly-stretched time. But I’m going to give it a spin just the same. Just to say I tried dipping my toe into the 21st century, if nothing else. So here goes.

Seriously. Other budding authors, how do you use twitter? Is it a waste of time? I am making this all up as I go.


WordSpawn


It’s a little-known perk of writing that writers get to do something truly remarkable. I’m not talking about the godlike power to create empires of the mind, to breathe life into characters and to spawn images in the minds of our readers. Nor am I talking about the Herculean ability to overcome the blank, intimidating expanse of the blank page. I’m talking about a quieter power, but a greater one.

Writers get to invent words.

This is a subtle power, one that can’t and shouldn’t be waggled around like a magic wand in a seven-book epic about teenage wizards (if ever there were a metaphor). It’s a power that should be practiced with care, delicacy, and great reservation. It’s the power to change the way people think and communicate, if you use it right.

Imagine where we’d be without words like “schadenfreude?” (The Germans are really good at this.) “Kerfuffle?” “Google?” Seriously, imagine your life without Google and try to tell me that the power to create words isn’t incredible and earth-shattering.

Sure, English is chock-full of words already. Good ones, too. Great ones, even. Still, there are those times when you’re casting about for just the right word, one that perfectly encapsulates the thing you’re talking about, one that leaves no room for confusion, one that immediately creates meaning in the mind of your reader, even if they’ve never heard that word before. And the problem is, as broad and expansive as the language is, we just don’t have words for every situation. ‘Twere impossible to have a word for every situation locked and loaded in our memory at any time. Sometimes you just have to make one up.

I do this all the time, and most of the words suck. They’re good for one use only, and once used, they disappear down the gullet of memory and are never seen again. Once in a while, though, you hit on a winner: a word that’s useful, memorable, and catchy enough to merit use by others. Because communication is a two-way street… it’s no good making up an entire lexicon of new words here in my lair if nobody else sees fit to use the words, too.

But today, a breakthrough. A word that might — might — catch on.

I didn’t even make it on purpose. I was just trying to alliterate, and I accidentally created a word that’s already resonated with two readers here in my sphere. Maybe it’s resonating with you, too, and you don’t even know it.

A thing I do a lot here at the blarg is ramble. I have a way of overstating and overthinking things, and I end up going on at length… possibly longer than is necessary. I own that. It’s a fault, but it’s fun for me, and this is my sandbox. I also love to complain, again, probably more than is necessary or healthy. And what do you get when you combine the two? A rant? Sometimes, but not always. I don’t usually rise to the level of anger characterized by a rant. A gripe? Well, a gripe is quick and small-scale. No, when I complain at length it’s like those rumbles in your stomach leading up to a really unpleasant excursion in the restroom. They go on forever and leave you feeling cranky as your innards get all twisted up in knots. The only remedy is getting it out of your system. A grumbling ramble. A “gramble.”

I recognize that this word sort of describes the thing that maybe your grandfather might do about the state of his retirement checks, or that your cranky English teacher might do about the work ethic of his young, irreverent students. As such, it’s not a particularly glamorous addition to a lexicon. But it’s a good one nonetheless, because sometimes you just need to bitch and moan about this one thing specifically, perhaps well beyond the point where the average listener feels sympathetic to you. You need to gramble.

So it’s time to start a movement. You read a blog entry from some guy going on and on about how long he had to wait in line for his driver’s license? Call him out for his gramble. You need to spout off about your boss’s idiotic cornflower blue tie and how ridiculous it makes him look? Fire up the gramble. Kids kept you awake all night and it’s all you can think about or talk about at work the next day? Ask your co-workers to pardon your gramble.

You know this is a word you need in your life. You know you’re dying to use it. Do it. Embrace the dark side, and embrace the raw creative power of language. It’s time to make this a thing. Go get your gramble on.

#gramble


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