Category Archives: comics

Lending Credibility

Fake news

Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

 

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New World

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After a few hours to absorb it, I’m still numb at the reality the world has woken up to. It’s not gonna be as catastrophic as many people have predicted, I’m sure, but it is sad that a person at his most vile was rewarded the highest office in the land. This is what the world has come to. I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian. I’m not even in North America at the moment. I arguably don’t have a dog in this fight. But as a person who likes to think he’s decent, who cares for others (women, minorities, disabled people, the poor), someone who values facts and science, and as an immigrant of color, the world is a darker place. I could go on and on, but let me just list a few lessons learned from the whole thing.

  1. Do not get too comfortable with progress. I believe this is the hubris of the Democratic Party. They believed that since Americans voted for Obama twice, the country is essentially progressive and it would reflect easily on the ballot. Instead of going full progressive with Sanders, they decided to go with what their donors want and ran with the weaker candidate. And they’re not the only ones who got too comfortable. People who decided to stay home, voted for third party candidates, or sat this out because their chosen candidate (Bernie) was not in the ballot basically cost the election due to their hubris. No one will ever remember your vote for Jill Stein. No one. Every social gain must be cherished and protected. And now it’s too late. The little good that Obamacare did will now almost certainly be taken away.
  2. Obama should’ve done more on his second term. Despite what the right wing would have people believe, he was never that progressive. He’s more like a traditional conservative. And unfortunately, now he will only be remembered as the first black president, nothing more. He should’ve aggressively pushed for progressive policies because no matter what, his opponents will always demonize him. And now he will be gone, he will be demonized and blamed for America’s future ills, and all of that with not much to show for.
  3. Politics is a team sport regardless of how you personally see it. I like Obama but there are several things I could criticize him about. I like our prime minister, but I don’t like it when he tries too hard to be viral on the Internet. I’m a feminist, but it annoys me when feminists don’t know the difference between feminism and misandry. This election saw people wedded to their teams regardless of their candidates’ flaws. “He’s unqualified, but…” I believe people supported their team not so much for the good of their cause but just so the other team would lose. This is why those Bernie Sanders supporters didn’t turn out for Hillary. They took their ball and left the playground. This is why so many people voted against their own interest. It’s for the good of the team.
  4. The media is the worst. The media has to change. So much stock has been put on Hillary’s e-mails but none on Trump’s taxes. Instead of ridiculing him and his cronies out of the building for their nonsensical and sometimes dangerous rhetoric, they got a seat at the table. For ratings, they gave the most unqualified man to run for office free advertising. And to be fair and balanced, they entertained the ideas of liars and science-deniers as if they have any value other than to appease viewers who would rather not be educated otherwise. People were not held accountable for their lies and their biases. Even when Trump’s supporters are attacking media personnel, the media would gladly ignore all of that for a few more clicks. Less than 24 hours of Trump’s win, People magazine is already running a puff piece on Trump’s “adorable” grandchildren, forgetting that one of their own reporters claims to have been assaulted by Trump in 2005. They also forget that so many equally adorable minority children right now are more insecure because Trump has vowed to send them all away.
  5. The media is the worst, but the Internet has made us all dumber. I’ve seen so many people who I would’ve assumed are intelligent reference stories and articles that are easily debunked. Because of the Internet, we now mostly go to Websites that confirm our beliefs. I’ve seen lawyers and other professionals cite the likes of Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Dinesh D’Souza as if they’re not professional charlatans. Shouldn’t these people be more critical? What’s amusing to me though is that now that the conspiracy theorists and those suspicious of the government have taken over the government, who will they be suspicious of now? They run the place. Who will they rant and rave against when their man is the leader of the country? Will people stop stockpiling guns now?And speaking of the Internet making us all dumber, I won’t be going on Twitter as much. Arguing on Twitter has never changed anybody’s mind.
  6. The terrorists have won. Osama Bin Laden wanted to ruin America by crushing it from within, to destroy its fundamental values. Privacy rights are gone, first amendment rights are crippled, torture will definitely be making a comeback, America will be making more enemies with Muslim groups, freedom of the press will be attacked, US-grown hatred is at an upswing, etc. etc. White Americans, this not how you make friends and find peace.
  7. Distraction is king. Trump is the distraction candidate. He is the shiny object which gained networks ratings. Unfortunately in terms of politics, the easiest distraction to a domestic problem is foreign action. Bill Clinton was accused of this during his Lewinsky period. They said he bombed Iraq and Bosnia whenever he had problems domestically. Expect more violence with Trump. You can accuse Bill Clinton of being many things, but he was never inept. He was a smart and savvy politician. Donald Trump has failed in almost every business he had a hand in. Expect more problems with him, and expect more actions overseas.A part of me took comfort that the big schadenfreude I was expecting with a Hillary win has been delayed to a series of mini schadenfreudes in the span of four years. It would be four years of “I told you so.” Now that the US alt-right is basically running the US government, they would be the ones to blame for their own ineptitude. Unfortunately, these future disasters would have real and global consequences. And as decent person, in the face of tragedies, it’s very hard for me to relish schadenfreudes.
  8. Do not expect to be saved by the Democrats. They won’t. They are just as to blame for all of this. The Republicans played a great game of obstructionist politics during Obama’s presidency. Don’t expect the same from Democrats. They are weak and they only take action for their donors. Even Obama is guilty of this. One of the few exceptions is Senator Elizabeth Warren. She consistently stood for her principles and fought the banks. And the current president-elect has called her “Pocahontas.” The only way to get out of this quagmire is to take money out of politics. That was the crux of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and he is right. People in government spend more time calling for donors instead of actually governing. Taking money out of politics makes government officials more accountable to the people they actually represent.
  9. Polls are useless. Or at least the current model needs to be readjusted.
  10. Campaigns are filled with BS promises and the Trump campaign will be no exception. Obama promised many things but barely delivered. The last time I checked, Guantanamo is still up and running. The same thing will happen with Trump.
    • Black people will not find a friend in him. Years from now, I’m afraid Chicago will still be used as the go-to example for black communities mired in poverty and violence.
    • The wall will not be built. It simply won’t. The tall wall with underground protection and scanners all over the place is a figment of conservative imagination. Mexico will not pay for such a thing.
    • Hillary will not be prosecuted. She is now a neutered threat. Benghazi will always be referenced as an example of Democratic failing, but I believe they will no longer be too fixated on those e-mails.
    • There will be no Muslim bans. Life will be harder for Muslims and many minorities but there will be no such bans. This is impossible to implement and a nightmare for the US to defend in the face of its allies.
    • Obamacare will not be replaced with anything better. Obamacare is not particularly good, but it won’t be improved by the coming government.
    • TPP will be approved. Trump said he doesn’t want it, but everyone in the government does, even Hillary.
    • Women who get an abortion will not be punished. Abortion will be very difficult, but I just don’t see women going to jail for losing a child. Am I naïve? I like to think people are better than that.
    • Deportations will increase just like they have under Obama, but there won’t be families in camps nor storm troopers knocking down doors. Life would be harder for undocumented immigrants. There would be more hate crime for sure. But the US would still be taking advantage of them when it comes to labor and other things.
  11. People will make all sorts of excuses to say that the US is not bigoted. It is. Trump didn’t win due to economic insecurity or because of people’s need for a change in the political system. More white people with higher incomes voted for Trump than for Hillary. Wisconsin’s unemployment dropped under Obama and it still voted for Trump. People got richer under Obama. It’s not about the economy.And it’s not about the political system either. If it was, then you wouldn’t have the most useless long-toothed politicians still in office. You wouldn’t vote to give the Republicans the House and the Senate when they have basically stopped government functions for eight years. It’s not about the system.It’s about hatred and resentment. It’s about white men resenting being “cuckolded.” It’s about people being suspicious of blacks, Muslims, LGBTQ, etc. It’s about women not trusting other women as well. It’s about people being backwards, and Americans being called deplorable and embracing it.

Probably the hardest lesson to learn is that the bullies win. They do. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson after yesterday. Don’t get too comfortable in your high horse because the bullies win. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson just looking at the news throughout the world. Putin has bullied his country for years and will probably do so for more years to come. Assad is still in power. And now Trump, who has insulted every person who was not like him, is the leader of the free world. The likes of Martin Shkreli are not villains who will someday face justice because the world is right and good. No, the world does not care for your morals and decency and will reward the bully.

Take comfort in your morals and decency because that’s all you have for now. Hug your children and hope that they may never face a bully in their life. Because someday that bully… that bully who makes fun of their religion, their culture, their disability… that bully who grabs them by the pussy, might very well become their leader.

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No Asian Characters For You!

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Ghost in the Shell is close to my heart. I’ve been watching anime since I was a child, but nothing really captured my imagination than Masamune Shirow’s vision and his infectious enthusiasm over his subjects, often evident in notes either throughout the manga’s pages or in long essays at the end of his books. After stumbling upon the fifth issue of Ghost in the Shell (this was before the trade paperbacks), I followed most of his works in film and even video games.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything come out Shirow outside of the erotic material which he’s recently devoted most of his time to, so it’s a bit disappointing that the latest film based on his work is not only whitewashed, but it seems to have been concocted more by film investors than by people actually familiar with the work.

I realize that one of the main reasons why Scarlett Johansson was hired to play the Japanese Motoko Kusanagi is that without her, the film probably wouldn’t have been made. The film needs to attach itself to a big name in Hollywood to guarantee a certain amount of audiences in theaters. Unfortunately, it’s this same type of mentality that keeps minorities from getting roles and populates many Hollywood movies with the same small group of people over and over again. Now granted, the film will also star Takeshi Kitano as one of the Japanese characters, but this reeks of casting for the sake of the actor’s name. Kitano isn’t really the best English speaker, and I suspect it will come off as awkward and as badly as his flat performance in 2001’s Brother. I remember reading that Kitano would regularly get involved in projects that he doesn’t fully enjoy (gangster films) in between artsier and unfortunately less profitable projects. If this was the case, it makes me think that this Ghost in the Shell movie is the former, but a certain amount of people will see the film just for the Takeshi Kitano name alone. It’s pretty cynical. Instead of relying on Hollywood star power, the filmmakers should just focus on the strength of the writing. Great movies will sometimes have breakout stars, and they become breakout stars because filmmakers took a risk on them and believed in the story they are telling.

As Jon Tsuei wrote in a Twitter rant, the story of Ghost in the Shell is a unique product of the Japanese experience. Even the book sees and talks about everything from a Japanese standpoint. Many people have pointed out that the character Motoko Kusanagi looks and IS white, but this is a critique of the anime and manga as a medium (most characters are drawn “white”), it is not valid point when it comes to the specific story and the character which are both Asian. To remove it from its roots creates a product that might as well call itself a different name. They already did a western adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s called The Matrix Trilogy. Can we not just leave it at that?

And going back to the defense that anime and manga characters physically look white. This is the laziest close-minded defense. They don’t look white. They rarely physically look Asian either. I don’t see too many races where people have giant eyes with orange and purple hair. If anything, the way they’re often dressed makes them look Asian. Their character and mannerism makes them look Asian. It’s the reason why there’s something a bit odd when foreigners dress, talk, and take on the mannerisms of Asian people. It’s not just the language. Just see the western adaptation of My Sassy Girl where Elisha Cuthbert takes on the character and mannerism of a Korean girl. It doesn’t work.

Many fans fear that the western adaptation would result in an inferior experience, and they can’t be blamed for feeling that way because Hollywood doesn’t really have a great history with adapting Asian IPs. Godzilla was a bust. Oldboy was far inferior to the original. Dragon Ball was a disaster. And on a personal note, I just don’t buy Scarlett Johansson as an action star. I find the Marvel movies quite tedious, and I don’t find her physical scenes in the movie believable (yes, I realize it’s a comic book movie). Despite the success of the movie Lucy, I think it’s a very poor action film both in its execution and writing (SPOILER: She ultimately “evolves” into a USB thumb drive!).

In the end, I think this just adds to a long list of whitewashed characters in Hollywood. I realize many of the whitewashed characters are fictional and are thus open to reinterpretation. Not many actors are trying to pull off black faces; the characters are just turned white. But it’s exactly this reinterpretation that keeps media mostly white and minorities with very little representation. Call it the reality of moviemaking, but it’s also a very racist thing to do, denying people their characters and stories. It’s rare for minorities to have their own stories… their stories often have to whitewashed in order to be told.

What boggles my mind is that there’s a completely watchable Ghost in the Shell animated film that people can still watch. Not only that, there’s a couple of seasons of the animated series as well. I don’t really see a need for a live-action western adaptation. This is like when OldBoy was adapted by Spike Lee, when the 2003 Chan-wook Park original is not only superior, the visuals still stand out to this day. Go pick up one of Shirow’s books (not the art books) or watch the anime. Forget this movie.

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