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Wii U

It just came out Yesterday that the latest Nintendo system is going away.  It had been rumored for a long time, but yesterday, as I am writing this, was the day that Nintendo finally came out and announced that the NX would be coming out this time next year and that the Wii U would soon stop production (there are rumors that they already have and are depending on the surplus that already exists to fill an almost non existent demand).  I know that it was easily the least popular major console in memory, and probably had the fewest games, but I would like to voice the opinion that the system was not as bad as many irate customers are making it out to be.

The biggest complaint that I keep hearing, other than Zelda, which we will get to in a moment, is that the system never really had any games on it.  I will agree that the system never had the number of games for it that I would have liked.  You had to hunt for something to play where the other consoles were overrunning with new content.  I will also agree that for gamers that only like certain types of games, there was not the most variety on the console.  With all of that being said, I would rank the U as better than either of the other two next generation consoles in this category and further say that the system was one of the better systems that Nintendo has every put out.  I know that there are not even a lot of Nintendo fans saying what I am saying and I completely understand why they feel cheated, but the simple fact is that there are more truly great games for this system, even if it went away tomorrow, than most systems get during much longer life cycles.

Nintendo, during the NES, SNES, and N64 eras, did not play well with other developers.  For the first two, they were easily the biggest company and figured that they could make whatever demands that they wanted to.  In many ways, this was a very good thing as one of the requirements was that developers create a completely unique game for their system so you don’t get what you get today, where 3rd party developers make one game that is on all platforms.  I would say that most of the games that come out today are like this and it makes almost every console completely the same.  Other than a few games, there really was no reason to have either a 360 or a PS3 and there is exactly no reason, other than maybe Halo 5 at this point to have one next gen over the other.  They are completely the same and were designed to be completely the same.  But the N64 lost the the PS One and so when it was time for the Gamecube to come out, Nintendo started to mend some fences with the companies that had been on bad terms with and started to have most of the same games the other systems had, plus some of their own great games.  As much as I feel Nintendo had the best system that generation, they were in dead last and many thought the Wii would be their coffin.

This was of course not the case.  Everyone still remembers how amazing it was to play Wii Sports for the first time and the idea of motion controls captured people’s imaginations of what would be possible with games.  Also thanks to the PS2 being the most successful console in history, it still had many games still being made for it that could be easily ported to the Wii.  The Wii was also cheaper than what was coming out and because they didn’t have to deal with their games being in HD, were able to create more games for cheaper and ultimately what people care about is great games.  The Wii became successful enough that it was able to generate more niche games and games for adults.  The Wii was the most successful machine that printed money until it simply wasn’t.

Nintendo had forgotten the lesson of making sure that there games were quality, a holdover from the shovelwear that had doomed Atari, and flooded the Wii market with 3rd Party games that barely functioned.  Nintendo wasn’t really making many of their own games, and 3rd parties could no longer port games from other platforms, so the Wii never got installments of games that were on the competition.  The drop off in profits meant that Nintendo rushed out a console that would be capable of playing the HD Games the competitors did and with its own little gimmick to replace the motion sensors.

I will be the first to tell you that the hardware that is the Wii U is flawed.  I really think they could have made a much better system if they had followed their original development cycle and put the thing through more testing.  I still have a hard time appreciating why there are just so many controllers that are compatible with this system and more is not better.  The fact that so many games can require so many different types of controllers isn’t so much an asset to customers as much as it is a liability that they might be required to spend fifty bucks to go out and get a new controller with their game, and heaven help them if they were planning on playing multiplayer.  The system in many ways was very confused by what it wanted to be.

Once the system crashed, not very long after it came out, pretty much all third party support went away.  Nintendo didn’t have many games ready to go outside of launch, and were starting to have some of the same schedule problems that their rivals were in creating games that the Wii took advantage of.  This meant that after launch there was more than a year before any good games came out and this pretty much killed the system.  The system would never attract 3rd parties back into the fold and even if the system were able to catch back on, the other systems would soon get next gen treatments that would be far superior to the Wii U, making the little system incapable of receiving ports of the new games, much like the Wii before it was.  Nintendo kept making systems that were a generation behind and eventually gamers got tired of it.  That was pretty much the story that every developer has said regarding the flop that was the Wii U.

Here is the thing though, the games did eventually come.  There weren’t a ton, but the games that Nintendo did come out with were all pretty great games.  Super Mario 3D World is the best Mario game to come out in 25 years.  I know that a Mario game might not light the world on fire with sales, but there are not any games from PS4 or XBOX ONE that are great.  Maybe Fallout 4, which I will go on the record as saying that it wasn’t as good as New Vegas was.  I don’t care about how pretty a game is, and I would take 3D World over Fallout 4 any day of the week.  With that out of the way, the the aforementioned Halo 5, there is not one great game on the new systems.  There have been a lot of empty promises but not one game that I have really enjoyed playing.  Wii U has dozens.  They were able to Make the Best Donkey Kong game ever, Mario Maker is simply amazing, the first good Star Fox Game since the Super Nintendo, a true sequel to Yoshi’s Island that may be the cutest game that has ever been made, and Xenoblade which is the best traditional RPG since Final Fantasy X.  Zombie U is the best survival horror game ever made.

The other thing the U is excellent at doing is making good games great.  I purposefully waited to get Mass Effect 3 when I heard that it was coming out for the Wii U and while I still feel that the ending was bad, the game experience was better than the first two because the touch screen really was able to open up the game and allow you to control your squad.  I know that the biggest thing missing from this system is shooters, but I can only imagine what could have been possible if more developers or Nintendo were more able and willing to explore this with shooters.  I can only imagine what online multiplayer would have looked like if the screen was fully utilized.  Ninja Gaiden 3 was completely reworked for this system and was drastically improved to the point where it could have been a system seller if people hadn’t already written it off.  Rayman Legends was designed for and plays better on the Wii U, but most people didn’t bother because it released on other systems so no reason to buy a another system.  Bayonetta was the most fun hack and slash game I have played in a long time.  Resident Evil Revelations was the best Canon game the series has had since the Gamecube days, and would have been a great exclusive until everyone else realized it was the best canon game the series had in ten years.

There are other games in other cute genres that I have been told are amazing. Pikman comes to mind, but it simply is not my kind of game.  Due to sales, there simply was not as much variety and if it isn’t your kind of game you are just never going to appreciate it and I get that.  I also know that sex and violence sell games and the Wii U didn’t have that, but I am willing to bet that the NX isn’t going to have that either.  What any system is going to need is games.  Every fan of Nintendo should know that Nintendo is going to be working hard to ensure that there are plenty of games ready when the NX comes out, which probably means that there will be almost no new games that come out for the U until the new Zelda game comes out.

It is an especially sore subject for the people who bought a Wii U only for the Zelda game that has been promised to them since the system launched.  To them, they didn’t see anything good on the system and they would have been better off waiting on the NX and benefitting from the upgrades that system is able to offer the game’s graphics.  I would at this point like to point out that it shouldn’t matter what another system has or does not have.  This game was designed for the Wii U and I am willing to bet that it will be better when played on the Wii U.  I think the same could be said of Twilight Princess on the Gamecube.  With that said, I completely understand that Nintendo wants a system seller out front and that customers that didn’t want to buy the Wii U because of lack of games might be reassured by having a Zelda game out the gate.  Nintendo can’t afford to fail again after all.

At the end of the day, Nintendo does well because it makes the best games.  Of every generation, out of the top ten games, four or five of those games will be Nintendo exclusives.  The reason that the Wii U didn’t sell well is because Nintendo failed to put the resources into the system to create the games.  There are enough 3rd party companies that have gone under that Nintendo could have bought up and put them to work on more Nintendo exclusives, but instead they sat on their surplus and are trying to wade out a storm that doesn’t seem to be ending any time in the near future.

As the system dies, I can’t help but think what could have been.  I imagine a world where Nintendo scooped up Capcom and Sega so we could see decent Megaman and Sonic games again.  Capcom had one of the best engines for the old systems that would have paid for itself if it was able to get more games out for cheaper.  I imagine what would have happened if Nintendo had bought out much of THQ’s properties.  What I would really like to have seen is Nintendo buy out Ubisoft so that more Rayman and also Tom Clancy.  The Tom Clancy games have gone largely out of fashion in light of Call of Duty and Battlefield, but could you imagine if Ghost Recon went back to being more slow and deliberate, where you had to use the second screen.  Imagine that not all players would be given the same information and that it would be up to leaders to disseminate orders.  The Wii U could have been a well rounded alternative that might have forced the competition to further divide the remaining developers and actually be different for a change.

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Batfleck Vs Super Serious: Dawn of Awful

It took me a long time to come around to writing this and I know that a lot of other people have already said almost everything that I have to say, but as laughably bad as Man of Steel was, this is by far the worst big budget film to ever come out of Hollywood.  There were a lot of talks that it didn’t make back the budget when you factor in advertising and considering that Man of Steel pretty much broke even (this of course does not include merchandise, where I am sure they have made a killing) and this series of films could not be doing worse.  They have yet to have one success, not to mention a hit, when this film very much should have been the highest grossing film of all time.  There has been a lot of talk that this film single handedly lost DC any chance of competing with Marvel.  I’m not sure if that is true, but I do know that as long as they keep the same recipe going for each film, you are going to get the same or worse results.  The studio has to very much deal with the fact that they have another two films already in the can, and a third that is supposed to start filming this summer if it hasn’t started already.

I’m not sure if the rumors are true in regards to Suicide Squad going through extensive reshoots to put humor into it to be more like a Marvel movie after this film failed to make money.  I don’t really care why.  Not all reshoots are for the worse, with Mad Max being a very noteworthy film that did extensive reshoots to make the film that much better.  Of course that is what is being reported about Suicide Squad.  I’m also willing to bet that something similar will happen with Wonder Woman, though it might not due to the fact that Wonder Woman herself is busy in the Justice League movie, though there is still plenty of time for that to happen.

The first problem that these films have is that they are completely reactionary.  The whole reason that Man of Steel and this film are as super serious as they are is because they are trying to immolate the very successful Dark Knight films from a few years back, only Nolan is generally a very intelligent director that manages to hook the audience’s imagination in a way that Snyder never has in his career.  He needs humor and irony in a way that Nolan does not.  The idea that they are going to make an R rated director’s cut of the film so close after Dead Pool became the most successful R rated film of all time and many insiders were predicting that the main stream R movie genre was pretty much as good as dead.  Now they are finally going to try to be light hearted and funny like the Marvel films.  That too will fail because Marvel is almost completely made to be light hearted and funny where DC is generally a bit more serious and archetypal.  This can get a bit boring, but the best DC stories come when the writers are faced to deconstruct just why these characters are archetypes to begin with.

A few things that I keep getting said in reviews are that there is a good film in this one somewhere.  This theory would suggest that the film is simply too long and loses itself somewhere in the editing room.  I agree that the film is too long, but would also like to point out that there were some good ideas somewhere in them, but none of them ever finished to form a coherent thought and take a curve into idiocy somewhere about half way through the film.  These ideas are also surrounded by crazy, boring and inconsequential ideas.  I also would like to take this moment to remind people that the R rated version of the film is supposed to be considerably longer.

The easiest thing in this film to cut out is just how many establishing shots there are.  It kills any kind of pacing, which might have saved the film from its more stupid moments.  I think we can all appreciate that there are plenty of films that we all know were stupid, but we didn’t really notice until we were walking out of the theater and you start to think about what you just saw.  I know that Dark Knight Rises was a stupid movie that had some rather large faults in it, but I was also thoroughly entertained throughout to the point that it wasn’t until days later that I started to analyze how much the film contradicts itself.  A lot of movies use movie magic to cover holes in the plot line, but this film just repeatedly slapped the audience in the face with how little thought was being put into what the characters were doing and saying and part of that is the movie crept along at such a snail’s pace that you could stop and think about the stupid that you were being presented with.

Man of Steel

I started to write another piece about the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie and decided that I kept referencing opinions that I had about this film to justify anticipation for that film, most notably how fans were retroactively praising this film, when that was far from the case upon initial release.  I’m not one to say that such a thing is impossible, as some films are hard to take in at first or there is a key as to what you should be looking at to enjoy.  I can safely say that this film is not one of those types of films and is one of the worst films of the series which is really saying something when you take Superman IV into account.  I would have much preferred a crazed Nicolas Cage as the last son of Krypton or a sequel to the boring Brandon Ruth film to this one.  This is becoming more and more the norm, where you have people that are fans of being fanatical about the things that they love to the point that the love that they feel no longer has to be justified or earned.  People are afraid to decent in certain areas, because I think it is fair to say that

I feel like there have been so many people that have already laid into this film and pointed out the myriad of issues that the film has, ranging from trying really hard to be a dark film when Superman is seared into the American subconscious as a beacon of light and hope.  I have heard a lot of recent apologists for the film try to point out that this all stems from expectations that come from the very popular Richard Donner/Christopher Reeves films from the late 70’s and early 80’s, but I would like to point out that because of the age of the characters, comics were all lighthearted kids fare when they started.  If you look at one of what first really brought the character to the first national consciousness, you have to look at the radio show and film serials.  You have to look at the George Reeves show and all of the animated series that the character has inspired.  I’m not going to say that the character has never been dark in the history of the comic books, as I honestly think that is where the Christopher Reeves films went south, after trying to keep the films too campy rather than move the story and the films to more earned drama, Man of Steel suffers from trying to do too much in too little time.

The first, and perhaps biggest problem that the film has in the origin story.  I’m not going to say that origin stories can’t be fun if done well.  I’m not going to try and bring up some tried and true complaint that movies frequently get hammered with, because no matter how well known a story is, they still feel the need to have to hit audiences over the head with an origin story to explain all the special powers and such, as if someone wearing a super hero costume wasn’t all the explanation that is really required at this juncture.  I also want to point out that when the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy was coming out, that Warner Bros. were talking about how you had to set up Batman, a hero that is grounded in the real world that people can relate to, before you bring in the fantastical like Superman.  I have to imagine that Warner wanted Nolan to jump start the entire DC film universe, but after he fought them, we get a restart with Man of Steel, because DC can no longer start with a restart of Batman after ending another Batman franchise.  Were they going to call it Batman Begins Again?  I’m not saying that audiences need a new Batman origin film, but I would say that we do need a Batman introduction film, and I don’t think that Batman Year One would have been a bad place to start, because we are being told that Batman is already well established before Batman vs. Superman. Alas.

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The closest thing to a complement that I can give is to say that when DC decided to make a Superman origin movie, at least they didn’t make something that we had all seen before, but everything new that was created isn’t as good as what we had before.  The original origin story is that Jor El is a scientist that discovers that Krypton is about to explode, but no one believes him.  Because he doesn’t have time or funding he is only able to build a ship large enough for his infant son to escape the genocide of his species.  Zod is off world while this is happening, because of general horrible things that he has done to his own people.  It makes perfect sense that Zod would want to come to a world that gave him special powers that would allow him to rule over a sentient and civilized world such as earth.  What we get instead is Jor going to the council with his discovery of their impending doom and pleading with them to send the Codec off world so that their species can survive.  The council are predictably stupid and refuse when in pops Zod demanding that they release the Codec to him as he is about to take a group of Kryptonians off world to survive the ensuing holocaust.  He rage murders some of the council for being so stupid and near cited that they have doomed their entire species to death, to then find resistence from Jor because, well, Zod isn’t the man that should be in charge of deciding who survives.

I realize that the movie tries to get away with that mess of plot because we know Jor is ultimately Superman’s dad, so we go in knowing that he is the “good” guy, just like we go in knowing from Superman II that Zod is the “bad” guy.  Despite all of this, the movie goes out of its way to confuse this aspect of the film and portray Zod as the clearly rational agent here.  Imagine for a second that a scientist discovers that Earth is going to be destroyed in a matter of days due to stupid decisions made by the Earth’s governments.  There will be no time to evacuate and the entire species is going to die out with the Earth.  The scientist that discovers this, reasonably asks for a last ditch effort to save the species and the government just looks confused.  Now the military, charged with protecting Krypton and its people decide that they are going to try and save as many people as they possibly can and start life elsewhere.  Now imagine that scientist being all like, nope, you don’t have a right to decide who gets to live, we should all take responsibility for the government’s bad decisions and just die out together, except for MY child that is.  In fact, I’m going to stop you from trying to live or trying to have anyone else survive.  Jor is by far the most hypocritical and villainous character in the entire film, and no less played by Russel, America hates you, Crowe.  I’m not saying I don’t think he can act, but his ability to be a leading man in a film in this country has gone down the toilet and almost everyone who I have seen this film with complains that he is in the movie at all.

Now for the even more annoying part, where we have to explain what a Codec is.  The Codec is this storage device that contains all of the genetic information for the Kryptonians to grow the next generation because apparently someone looked up dystopian future and couldn’t get past Brave New World and The Matrix.  So, in this world, you are genetically assigned a role from birth, so Zod is a military officer.  When he marries, the government will grow him a child that is also meant to be a military officer and he will train his offspring to one day replace him in the task that he has done his whole life.  Jor seems very against this, when his initial argument to the council clearly wants the Codec for survival only to moments later be against this form of facism.  With all the fighting that seems to be happening over the Codec, it sure is simple enough for Russel Crow to steal.  I didn’t see any form of security whatsover for this thing that literally makes all of the world’s baby’s.  That would be like breaking into Tort Knox without ever being stopped or asked for identification.  If it were so easy to steal, why didn’t Zod skip the council and simply go and take the skull to begin with?  Also, why the hell does Jor need the the thing if he is against everything that it stands for and is against ever using it.

So let’s go back to that world ending analogy.  So this general wants to save as many people as he can from the world going up into flames and he manages to get a few thousand people off world before judgement day only to find that there is a disease that everyone has come down with that prevents them from giving birth only to find that there is a cure for said disease that was given to the son of the scientist that had wanted you and everyone that managed to be saved to die, who doesn’t need the cure and taunts you as you see your numbers dwindle.  There is absolutely zero reason for Jor to simply not give the Codec to Zod and ship his son off to earth and let that be that.  I might be getting a little bit ahead of myself here, but the only thing that Zod ever really does to be “bad” is try to create a new Krypton on Earth that would effectively mean teraforming the planet and killing all the humans.  This seems like a bit of a reach to me, as they had already been living somewhere else and could probably go back there to live after they retrieved the Codec.  Also, while I realize that there were some painful adjustments to our atmosphere, you eventually get superpowers.  Imagine that by simply going through another round of puberty, you were able to get Superman powers, and your first response is to be all, nope, I would rather genocide billions of people, much like my own planet was genocided, rather than go through some discomfort that will ultimately leave me so much more powerful than them, as if all my technological advancements weren’t enough, that I could rule the entire world.

The plot holes and gaps in logic in this film never seem to stop, culminating in the scene where Jonathan Kent sacrifices himself for no reason whatsoever, but let us not forget the you say a couple of sexual phrases to a waitress, I will ruin your life and your career and leave you in crippling debt rage monster that is Clark Kent.  None of the transformation into the man is interesting nor makes much sense.  The first issue is just how disjointed the story telling is by jumping from one unrelated life event to another.  While I’m not going to say that all of the stories were not interesting nor original, I will say that just by the non linear way that they are presented makes them boring and hard to follow.  I remember falling asleep during them the first time I saw the film in theaters and all the attempts at spectacle via loud noise at the end couldn’t wake me back up again, though I have since bought a copy of the film (the deluxe metal box Blu Ray if you are curious) and have forced myself to sit through it many more times.  I want to be an apologist.  I want to love this film and be able to enjoy this film the way that Kevin Smith did on that one Reddit live stream, but I just can’t get into it.  Some of the points that I tried to get into were the aspects of just how alien and different that Superman is rather than just how much he is able to assimilate.

It is an interesting way to look at the Character, but I think that when you look at it from the perspective of the Jewish men that created the character at a time when Nazi’s were talking about Nietzsche’s Superman being realized as the blonde haired and blue eyed Germans, you can start to appreciate the importance of why Superman is both an immigrant and part of the fabric of Americana.  The story is that anyone from anywhere can come here and be accepted and become part of the American way of life.  I know there is a lot that can be said about the real life failings of that narrative, but what I don’t see are the real world improvements by disrupting that ideal of American life.  There has been a greater emphasis in America on just how much immigrants have to give up many of the distinguishing characteristics of their old ethnicity in American life, and much like those characteristics, Clark is haunted by the residue of who he really is and is overwhelmed by the parts of himself that he can’t change while trying to hide those signs from others.  Even Jonathan Kent dies trying to discourage Clark from telling anyone his secret that he is not really from there.

MAN OF STEEL

This leads to the beginning of the hero’s journey, but in this case it can be linked to Clark trying to find ways that he can outlets for expressing the aspects of himself that he is trying to suppress.  This leads to a couple of action set pieces and finally to the Antarctic where Clark discovers a crashed space ship from Krypton where he also meets Lois, played to almost perfection by Amy Adams, who may be the best at the role since Noel Neill in the Serial and eventually the George Reeves TV series.  The problem is that she has almost no chemistry with Superman.  In fact, Cavill doesn’t seem to really act much throughout the entire film, and prefers to let the audience infer and project onto him.  The only thing that he really brings to the role is the physique.

I know that there were a lot of changes that were made for this iteration of Superman, and I don’t want to get too much into the symbol or the suit change. I am not a fan but it really wouldn’t be that had to get past if the rest of the story held up, but it as almost as if all of these little changes were adding up to something more than would seem possible.  From the origin changes, to the fortress of solitude no longer being a gift from Jor El, but a remnant of a past and lineage that Clark seems to be ashamed of, as if the new subtext of the film is supposed to be White guilt.  If anything, the film is trying to say way to much, with not enough time or substance being spent on any of the touched on themes.  You can perhaps read into them, but the film never forgets that it is really just a big dumb move, except of course when it actually comes time to entertain or you know, the run time that is so long that makes the movie hard to sit through, and it doesn’t look like it is something that they learned their lesson for the upcoming sequel either.

I know I’m going to be getting way ahead of myself here to say this, but it wouldn’t surprise me that if the Dawn of Justice doesn’t do the kind of business that people are expecting it to, and if the Suicide movie flops, because I think that is pretty much a given, if DC will completely abandon the new DC universe and I am really curious how that would look.  I remember a few years back when Sony was pretty much in the same bed, talking about an expanded Spiderman universe (Which I realize is much sillier and much smaller with less to offer than all of DC) and it really only took one mediocre film and one bad one to kill the biggest franchise that company owned.  With all the Talk of Wonder Woman, and how that will be this big event because it will be the first female superhero movie, directed by a woman that I have never heard of no less (because that could never go wrong), and you start looking at what is really on the books and you see Zak Snyder’s name all over what is coming up and not much else, you can’t help but wonder if this isn’t going to completely blow up in Warner’s face.

There is just way too much movie that has nothing to do with Zod, and the film just feels disjointed by the time that we get him showing up.  In many ways we haven’t earned having a villain of that size and magnitude yet in the series, much like we really haven’t earned Doomsday in the film to be.  I also don’t know what any of the battle that followed had anything to do with anything.  We have a lot of people flying through and being thrown through buildings that could not have been less exciting.  We also have Superman fighting a metal octopus thing that became important right before he had to face it.  There is exactly no sense of real place or importance to anything that this movie is trying to do or say and is a comic book movie in all of the worst possible ways.  All of the little moment seem more suited for Youtube or for the trailer than for how they would eventually accumulate to tell a whole story.

The only positive thing I can say after having seen the film yet again is that the movie was able to give a lot of information because it really wasn’t trying to tell one story.  If that is never the case again going forward, there is some good in that we can skip a lot of the trappings that the character has faced in past installments.  I don’t think that the loss of life and destruction from this film works at all and agree that sort of spectacle has no place in the post 9/11 world that we live in today and I don’t like how that paints the hero going forward.  While I always supported Batman for not trusting anyone and having a backup plan, I don’t think Superman has ever been painted as the general villain as much as he was in Man of Steel.  I do realize that they were trying to make the familiar new, but in doing so , the film completely destroys the near century of character development that came for this series of characters and it puts a bad taste in my mouth for what Mr. Snyder might do when he gets his hands on the rest of the DC canon.

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Heads Up

I am really bad at having a blog.  I build so much into my head and very little ever comes from that.  I am the type of person that needs some form of schedule to be able to do anything, and then when the rest of life hits, I have found myself really struggling trying to meet the goals that I had set for myself only to give up eventually.  My current goal is to have one well written and thought up post up every month that should post about the first of every month.  What I have been trying to do is have it finished well in advance and actually have the time to go back in and make little changes and updates.  I, as always, love feedback and would be interested in hearing more about what you would be interested in me writing about.  I try to stick to politics and pop culture, but my interests are varied at best.  I don’t see me posting more than once a month unless this somehow turns into my full time job, and no offense to people that blog professionally, or to allude to not enjoying what I write, but having to come out with an article every day for money seems like more of a chore than something enjoyable for me, which this is.  I hope you enjoy.

Phil Anselmo

There has been a lot of comment about the actions of this singer in the past few days.  He made a Nazi salute and mouthed the words “white power” while exiting the stage at a recent concert held in memorial for Darrel Abbot.  For those of you who were not aware, Phil Anselmo is the singer of the 90’s metal band Pantera.  He then got addicted to H and pain pills due to a back injury that resulted in Pantera splitting up just before their guitar player, Abbot, was gunned down on stage.  There are many reports that the shooter blamed Abbot for the band’s break up and took Phil’s side, not that any of that matters because he obviously had a lot of problems.  As much as I loved Phil in Pantera, his post addiction self was beyond interesting and inspiring.  He manned up to his mistakes, got sober, and quietly toured college campuses to talk about what he learned about substance abuse and addiction.  Phil had recently been honored by the president for his contribution to the arts.

And this he did what he did.  There have been rumors for years that Phil was a racist.  He has worn shirts that have had symbols that represented white supremacy.  He has tackled race in his music from a very meritocracy point of view which was frequently galvanizing.  He also wrote some of the best lyrics ever talking about racial harmony and brotherhood among races.  It is hard for me to look at the many things that this person has done and think that he is a racist.  There is plenty of evidence out there to support my belief, but there is also plenty of evidence out there to support that he is a racist.  I would go so far as to say that most of the people reading this will never really know.  I say that about almost all celebrity or media coverage of things.  We don’t know nearly as much as we think that we do.  It is not my place to judge someone, though if what he did offends you to the point that never want to look past what he did, then it is your right to feel that way. There are a lot of things we can interpret, but he did what he did.

The first thing I am going to say is that I have been a fan of this man’s art for a long time and because of this, I admit that I have a very biased point of view.  I look at the lyrics to his music and I have a hard time believing that he is hateful of any group of people.  I honestly don’t believe that he intended for the crowd to see him doing what he ultimately got caught doing, as the gesture was recorded as he was walking backstage.  I can believe that he was gesturing towards a friend and not intended to publicly support any hate group or ideology.  I also don’t know if that is good enough.  I won’t pretend to know what a celebrity believes or is thinking from one moment to the next.  I have the same belief when it comes many of the legal allegations that the media makes way too public and often skews public perception, but Phil isn’t being accused of anything here, it is merely a report of a stupid thing that he did and has to be viewed as that.  Maybe part of the reason that people are defending him is because he knows that he is an addict and that he goes to far when on any drug to include alcohol.  I’m not saying that to defend the action, but to say that I know this event was a heavy trigger for him.  I’m sure that it offended plenty of people and helped to reinforce a racist perception surrounding hard rock and metal music that covers the people listening to it.  If you listen to Pantera publicly now, people might assume that you are a racist or that you are trying to convey hate by your musical choice, even if the lyrical content are saying the exact opposite.  That is the kind of burden that has always been a part of the metal community that we have been dealing with for a long time that will be worse now.

Part of me wants to say that this is all being taken out of context.  There are plenty of examples that Phil’s friends, family, and fans have posted online recently in his defense.  How after he got over drug addiction that he quietly toured college campuses and tried to get the word out about drugs and addiction and their glorification in media.  How he would bring disabled people on stage at his shows or the things he would donate to his community that is largely an African American community in New Orleans.  The question that a lot of people are asking now is if it were someone else that had made the gesture, would anyone be defending it.  I think that there is a weird answer to that in that because Anselmo has always asked for a meritocratic approach to race and people and that he was one of the only members of Pantera that was trying to disassociate the band from the rebel flag.  On the other hand, this isn’t the first time that Phil has been accused of being a racist or a white supremacist.  In the past, it was easy for me to dismiss this as him talking openly about race rattled a bunch of feathers and made him a target.

Part of me wants to change this discussion to racism as a general concept and context.  The context here is that you have a 50 something year old man that is at a memorial for a friend of his that he grew up with.  The people that he was with all had known the friend that had died, and I can only imagine that being around these people is similar as when I congregate with some of my old Army buddies.  We all love each other, but whenever we are together, all we can think about are the friends that are no longer with us.  It is like being caked in depression and there is a lot of drinking.  There is a tension there that longs for release.  I know that we tell a lot of “inappropriate” jokes among each other, some racial, but mostly not.  I am a big fan of the taboo and honestly do believe when it comes to jokes that involve race are some of the most healthy because they acknowledge difference in a society that seems to take these things too seriously.  I know that some of those jokes can go very wrong and especially when you have been drinking and are in front of a large group of people, this can make a person appear a certain way.  I also don’t see the joke about Nazi’s or white supremacy, though the one Dave Chapel told about the blind Africa American joining the KKK was hysterical.  The reality might be that Phil really is a racist and how we come to term with our heroes being less than we hoped them to be shouldn’t change their ideals.

Celebrities and artists are almost all hypocrites.  The Cosby Show was still a great show and still great for what it had to say about race relations, even if Bill is a rapist.  The show still holds up the way that it always has.  The lyrics and outward message that Phil wrote about isn’t any less poignant because he failed to live up to them.  In fact, there are a lot of great people that had sides to them that we often overlook because it tarnishes the image that we have of them.  Gandhi was a white supremacist.  I know that might be a little weird to think about considering that he was from India, who are kind of brown, but the term Caucasian comes from the Caucus of Asia which is kind of where India is.  Same is true of Persians.  Martin Luther King had a lot of misogynist beliefs and was a known womanizer.  Jefferson talked about freedom and owned slaves.  I think as people we sometimes have to look at the ideas and thoughts of these men and possibly take their work and their art away from who they were as people, because if we were so cautious to pick through history to only listen to the men that don’t have a few skeletons hiding in the closet, there are a lot of great thoughts and thinkers that would need to be discarded and we would be a lot worse off as a species.

Update: I finally got around to listening to the Rob Flynn recording.  I didn’t want to give it a view at first, because if there is one thing worse than what Phil did, it is bands that are not very good or popular trying to get publicity for these situations.  I tend to think Rob says a lot of things to try to get attention and don’t have much respect for him.  After watching the video, it first came off to me as someone with a personal grudge.  He goes out of his way to point out there was no wine, when Dime’s widow stood up for Phil and said that there was and that she believes, like I had, that Rob posted his video as a response to an unrelated argument they had earlier in the day.  The one thing that stood out to me in the video was that Rob claims that Phil had and has always said “white power” in the line from New Level.  I called his bullshit and googled live recordings of the song.  The ones that are more professional don’t have it, but when you get to the fan recordings that Phil didn’t think he was being recorded on, they are definitely there and so are the Nazi salutes.  It changed the whole way I view that and him.  I still stand by his songs being powerful, meaningful, and even forward thinking on race, but not sure if knowing that in his mind he is singing about Nazis changes those songs for me like knowing that Mathew Broderick killed a guy right about the time that he shot Ferris Bueller’s Day Off changes that film.  You read into them differently.

With all that being said, much like how there were a lot more people that contributed to that movie, there have been a lot of different artists that are part of the songs that he has made, and ultimately they do stand up, I just have to think about what I’m supporting.  I saw Pantera back in 2000 and didn’t catch any of that racial stuff, probably because I was too busy in the pit.  I’ve seen Down and Superjoint several times each and love those bands.  I heard Phil talking about asking those bands to go forward without him and just feel in a weird place about giving this man my money knowing that he not only is part of the band but that he releases those records.  He owns them and gets an owner’s cut.  There is a part of me that is ok if someone has a private opinion or feeling that is racist.  We all are a bit racist whether we think we are or not, but to blatantly try and signal and recruit skinheads during your shows is overt racism and it makes me ashamed to have supported it.  I don’t want to feel like a hypocrite but at the same time, I’m not sure if Phil and Down can ever go back to business as usual and the last thing I want to hear is some lame apology track or to try and speak with any kind of authority on racism like he has in the past.

I’m rather selfish as a fan.  Down used to be a Super group that made an album once in a blue moon and it was amazing.  Then they started being the main band for all those guys and Kirk left because he didn’t have time to do Down and Crowbar.  He has called on for Down to get a new singer and go on without him, but at this point, the only “super” part of the band is Pepper and Bower.  Down should be something that he earns after a lot of time off. In a lot of ways I want to hear more from the Illegals, the small band that almost no one likes that tours the really small clubs, because I actually did the music but it allows Phil to talk about his own struggles.  The first album was mostly about his injury and how that affects him and his motivation from day to day.  As someone that has a debilitating injury and knowing that struggle every day when you get up, I Love that record.  What I really want to hear is some really struggling personal recovery about his feelings on race.  I don’t want to hear about how he isn’t racist, but about why he is now.  After a career of him talking about hypocrisy I really want him to own this.

Real Marriage Equality

I keep hearing about this preacher out West who is being arrested for refusing to perform a same sex marriage.  This is where I knew that the gay marriage cause was going to go and the biggest reason that marriage should have never become a service of the state.  For better or worse, when this country was founded, it was a bit more of a religious time, and marriage was a huge part of day to day life.  As much as the founding fathers wanted to separate church and state, this became a function for the state to recognize what was or was not a marriage.  They were government functions, and most of the WASPs that were in the country at the time could not foresee where we have taken relationships to in the modern era.  But that is not the point of freedom.  We have to imagine all possibilities and say that even these things that we haven’t even thought of yet, they will be protected and they will remain free.

As I have mentioned in many other places, I am Pagan and proudly so.  I have a faith where being in a relationship, even one defined as a marriage, where monogamy is not a tenant.  Now, no matter what your personal convictions are, I am a firm believer that people will always do as much as they can get away with when it suits them.  In states where “adultery” is legally defined as having sex outside of the person that you are married to, and committing adultery can forfeit your assets to the “injured” party,  people will lie when it suits them.  Relationships end for all kinds of reasons, open and monogamous alike.  It is not up for a court to decide that just because an open marriage doesn’t work, to get to give a moral say just because one party has proof.  We all know that these kinds of morality laws are on the books from state to state.  In Maryland here, it is illegal to have premarital sex in a hotel room.  Now we justify that such things are never enforced, but the point is that they have every bit as much legal merit as not murdering, and if someone ever made a case against you, then there is little to nothing that you can do.

That is why this preacher being arrested scares me.  He was simply practicing his faith.  I am not saying that the government should not allow this gay couple to wed, but how is it not a vendictive action to go after someone that disagrees with you, is practicing their own freedoms, and you choose to infringe on them and then make him have to hire lawyers and go through all this legal mess.  It isn’t as if the preacher was a state employee, but the case here is that he did have a state licence to perform marriages.  State sanctioned religion.  It will never end well, and no matter what the legal decision ends up being, you are going to have a decision in it that will be looked at and used against the American people putting more stupid laws on the books that infringe our rights.

Cosby

I really don’t know what to say about this one.  I, like some others, am not going to comment on whether or not I think that he did it.  I am not in a place to know enough information to make an educated guess.  There are pieces of information that both support his innocence as well as his guilt.  I read a really good article about why this has become such a big focal point of public outcry and even more so why we don’t want to believe that he did do it.  There are certain aspects to a celebrity persona that overshadow who they are as people.  I write this blog and stand by everything that I say, but there are definitely qualities that I possess that I am never going to write about.  Everything that I write or say is edited to its utmost ideal, and some of those ideals are hard to live up to.

One of the bigger ideals that Cosby personified to me, was that of race relations in this country.  If you can think back to a time when cable and the internet were not even thought of, and the country only really had three channels to reflect life and political thought, there was a lot of talk about how race should be shown on television.  There are a lot of things that you can find to show you just how racist this country used to be, with one of the first shows in the country being in black face.  As the 60’s and civil rights were becoming more and more of a national discussion, blacks started to demand more representation on television.  There were several kinds of shows that took different approaches.  One of those was to show a struggling black family, generally in a sitcom and as a sitcom.  Cosby transcended race on I Spy as his race wasn’t really brought into question.  He was a friend and partner of a white guy and was just as competent and heroic as his counterpart.  Blacks were equal in billing and profile on the show, much like on Miami Vice later on.  The Cosby way to treat race was as a non issue.  Cosby would take it one step further on the Cosby show to talk about personal responsibility and empower the black community (or blame depending on who you talk to) with the idea that they are the master of their own destiny and how they will be perceived and treated in life falls on them and what they choose to do with themselves, much like it does on every individual.

To see such a person then be responsible for such things has racial implications and human ones.  If he was preaching that we are capable of personal choice.  He blamed the black community for the thug ideal and how he viewed they treated women and rejected education that would uplift them.  I find it odd that so many of the larger race leaders have had so many problems with sex.  I know that I, as a man don’t always live up to the ideals that I aspire to or the ones that Cosby so eloquently portrayed throughout my childhood, but that does not make those ideals any less worthy of striving for.  Ideals are meant to be unobtainable.  It sucks that so many of our role models are so horrible.  I am sorry for my own faults, but we can’t give up, because that only leads to one place.