Sunday, September 29, 2013

Once Upon A Time, This Was A Good Show

Those who have been following my mom’s blog for some time might have deduced that my family has never been an ardent viewer of scripted television (at least not openly scripted television; a swarm of Duck Dynasty maxims has gradually seeped into our everyday conversation and mother consumes an arguably obscene number of 99% fictional house/wedding dress shopping shows).  We missed Lost, we missed 24, we missed Breaking Bad, and we continue to miss both The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones; when we do end up watching a scripted program devotedly, it usually falls under the denomination of classy British import (Sherlock, Downton Abbey) or classic family comedy that has no continuous, overarching plotline (Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, Get Smart, and other great shows loaded with racist and sexist humor that would never get past the FCC in today’s sickeningly PC television atmosphere).  ABC’s modern fairy-tale saga Once Upon A Time is decidedly divorced from each of these categorizations, so it must have been doing something exceptionally well to retain this household’s attention for a full two seasons.  Since its inception, however, the show has lapsed so far into tedium and nauseatingly complicated world-building that it will take a daring feat of conclusive and intelligent writing to wrench this ship from the whirling tides of Charibdis that threaten to consume its characters and the show itself.  Every good story must needs possess at least three components, a beginning, a middle, and an end, but OUAT is so deeply mired in the middle and focused on making every episode a climax that a satisfying end is but a distant mirage on the horizon.  History has generally indicated, not only in television but also in literature and other media, that the likelihood of a series delivering satisfying closure varies inversely with its length, and OUAT appears to be testing this theory yet again after ABC previously flipped off viewers of Lost, which coincidentally was written, produced, and acted by many of the people involved with this fairy-tale-gone-wrong.

The primary draw of the show is a spectacular if not remotely original concept that’s ripe for creative storytelling and thought-provoking allegory.  The early episodes of Once Upon A Time take a clever narrative slant by retelling a familiar fairy story as it plays out alternately in the past and the present, affecting characters in a fantasy setting just as their real-world contemporaries struggle with almost the same conflicts.  At the story’s beginning, an evil queen named Regina (ha ha, I get it – real smart, writers) has placed a might curse on the land of the Enchanted Forest, once ruled by the noble Prince Charming and his benevolent queen Snow White, which condemns all the fairy tale creatures to live out the rest of their miserable lives as amnesiacs in a small seaside town called Storybrooke that’s more or less insulated from Obamacare’s hefty tax and premium cost increases, the IRS’ political machinations, the NSA’s widespread invasions of people’s private lives, and all the other phony scandals that have erupted across America.  In all sincerity, though, it would hardly be inaccurate to state that Storybrooke is completely isolated from the nation at large, as no one can leave or enter the city except for a 30-something single mom named Emma Swann, who can travel to and from Storybrooke because she’s a child of both universes, being born to the royal family and sent to the “real world” just before the witch forcibly exiled everyone, herself included, from the Enchanted Forest.  When Emma faced an unplanned pregnancy (yet another word that needs to be added to the dictionary of New Newspeak) in her younger, wilder days, she gave up her child for adoption assuming that she’d never see him again, so she’s naturally confounded when a 10-year old boy named Henry turns up on her doorstep declaring himself to be her son.  Though Emma resists at first, Henry ultimately succeeds at dragging her into Storybrooke, where she becomes the new sheriff and discovers that her son’s adopted mother, also named Regina (the creators gave everyone in our universe an alter-ego except for her – lazy), is actually the mayor of the town.  Henry insists not only that all the fables in his storybook are historical accounts of actual events, but also that his mom is a kind of Chosen One whose destiny is to liberate Storybrooke’s denizens from the Evil Queen’s curse by reminding them of their true identities.  Emma’s gradual conquest of her nearsighted, overly literal worldview and her eventual acceptance of magic over materialism together form the basis of the first season’s conflict, making also for some remarkably stimulating commentary on the intersection between reality and fiction.  OUAT has a kind of Matrixy element underlying its surface action with the whole “What is real?” question, something that’s probably overused in modern pop culture but is still interesting to ponder in a society that scoffs at fantasy/science-fiction as the sustenance of nerds while praising the latest uber-biased documentary, historical drama, biopic, or whatever ‘based on a true story’ as a more accurate portrait of reality, which of course is anything the critics want it to be.

Although I initially thought that Once Upon A Time’s premise was the most revolutionary and imaginative thing to come by since, well, Terra Nova, which is literally and most unfortunately the only TV ‘drama’ I’d watched prior to this except for maybe a couple Firefly episodes, my admiration of the show’s false originality soured slightly when I started conducting extensive research into comic book lore and gleaned that OUAT is almost a direct ripoff of Bill Willingham’s long-running series Fables, albeit with marginally less adult content.  Still, as far as comic book adaptations come, one could certainly choose a worse series to adapt than Fables; when you think about it, there exists a theoretical possibility that some totally delusional company like Warner Bros. might choose to make a Batman Vs. Superman cross-over movie starring Ben Affleck and based on Frank Miller’s overly talky, deficiently walky Dark Knight Returns, but we all know that will never happen.  As highly derivative as it is, OUAT is at least partially successful for a triumvirate of reasons, the first of which is its strong character development.  OUAT wisely resists the temptation that has seduced many another fantasy epic, mainly the easy decision to pit flawless heroes against irredeemable villains.  The show’s creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who previously wrote episodes for Lost before moving on to script 2010’s spectacular Tron: Legacy, have imagined a world where clear good guys and clear bad guys are hard to distinguish.  Most of Storybrooke’s residents, even those who seem to be the purest of heart, suffer from dark sides that can overwhelm their reason and lead them to commit terrible acts in strained situations.  Prince Charming and Snow White are noble and kind-hearted royals who nonetheless give into their baser lusts, Rumplestiltskin is a violent and cowardly beast who constantly struggles between his love of himself and his love for others, Regina exacts revenge against innocent people for the tragedy she endured in her childhood, and so on and so forth.  No one is without wrong, yet many have been severely wronged.  The actors, for the most part, excel in capturing the conflicting emotions and desires that torment their characters, but the dichotomy between the high and low end of performances often seems like a war between angels and demons orchestrated by John Milton.  Robert Carlyle (Rumple), Colin O’Donoghue (Hook), and Eion Bailey (August, whose secret I won’t divulge, even though his character essentially got killed off a while ago for inexplicable reasons) are all superb actors, and the women overall do a good job, though the contrast between all the drop-dead gorgeous girls and their admittedly “dweeby” (to reiterate my mom’s verdict) partners in the male cast is a little jarring and decidedly unsuitable for what should be a romantic fairy tale.  On the opposite side of the talent spectrum, however, you have the guys playing Henry and Charming, who are frankly so bad that I won’t run the risk of furthering their careers by calling out their real names.  Child actors already have a bad enough reputation without someone like Henry delivering every line with the same blank stare and a vocal tone that shifts only in volume to signify moments of peril or extraordinary frustration.*  Of Charming, I’ll just say that Anakin Skywalker might finally have some real competition in the Least Romantic Actor In A Romantic Role category.

The second aspect that largely works in OUAT’s favor is its unique and dynamic storytelling approach of showing the present unfold through the prism of the past.  Most of the early episodes attempt to tell two narratives at once, one from the characters’ past adventures in the Enchanted Forest and one from their comparatively mundane lives in current-day Storybrooke, which together complement and overlap each other to give a fuller picture of the characters and their struggles.  The show is equally creative in the way it meshes figures from different fables, using Rumplestiltskin, for example, to represent not only the mischievous troublemaker of renown but also the undeserving Beast to a compassionate Beauty and the crocodile that Hook hunts with a vengeful passion.  OUAT doesn’t have a clearly defined brightline for what kind of story qualifies to enter its fantasy world, and the effect of mashing Hans Christian Anderson/Brothers Grimm into Lewis Carroll into J.M. Barrie into Carlo Collodi into Mulan (whose author, if a single one exists, I don’t care to look up) doesn’t always work, but the broad range of literary sources ultimately adds to the show’s appeal, even if the writers occasionally take heavy liberties with the original texts (gone is the Christian symbolism of Pinocchio).  Unfortunately, the show only adheres to the coinciding stories formula faithfully for the 1st season, after which the theme more or less recedes and the plot devolves into a boring and conventional narrative that just happens to focus on entirely unrelated events happening in separate dimensions.

The show’s final advantage, specifically its production design, is probably the least important of the bunch, but deserves recognition anyway.  Filled with colorful landscapes and castle settings, catching costumes, and some imaginative CG wizardry, the Enchanted Forest is certainly a pretty place to look upon which stands well above the typical made-for-TV alternate universe (again, I would clarify that my “typical” is Terra Nova).  Bad green screen abounds and the effects team never really figured out how to translate Jorge Garcia into a giant, but these are just the smallest complaints I can muster.

As for the biggest complaints, I might boil everything down to the simple fact that tonight marks the dawn of a whole new season to a story that should have wound down many episodes ago.  Now in its third year running, OUAT has amassed such a convoluted entanglement of unresolved subplots, brutally gnarled family trees, and arguably irrelevant supporting characters that I perceive no logical reason why I should commit another 45 minutes every week to unraveling the Gordian Knot that ABC and Team Kitsis-Horowitz have so tightly drawn.  Since the very beginning of the program, OUAT has entertained a perilous habit of introducing a new character in virtually every episode and leaving old characters’ plights completely unresolved.  This tactic could be sustainable for a short while on condition that the writers commit themselves to wrapping all the loose ends up in a concise timeframe, but otherwise it only ensures that the show will build up an increasingly greater deficit of trust in its audience and become ever less likely to close everyone’s story in a satisfying manner.  Similarly to the government’s devastating practice of adding another $1,000,000,000,000+ to its debt every year with no eye to the burden of relieving it in the future, OUAT has piled so many characters and conflicts onto its already onerous set of main players that it falters to give anybody a proper sendoff and thereby lighten its load.  Thus it resorts to aggravating filler techniques in order to artificially buy time until the series’ inevitable collapse/fiscal cliff/shut down/whatever you want to call it.  Season 2 was particularly maddening in the way that it separated the central heroes from each other for almost a dozen episodes, briefly reunited them, then split the party again in a lead-up to season 3, all while intimately familiarizing viewers with a new villain who appears to be a lasting character but dies abruptly after building up a dramatic presence for an entire season.  Another example of the show’s lunacy: I’m totally a card-carrying member of Team Rumpbelle (though I’m vomiting inside as I type that), but it’s hard to cheer two lovebirds on when one thinks she’s a slutty club girl for what seems like eternity and the other delights in beating up random people to ease his grief.

On top of its ridiculously complicated and overlong plotline, Once Upon A Time suffers at times from what can only be described as a serious case of moral bankruptcy.  Having grown weary of but accustomed to the rants of Free Love fundamentalists, I can tolerate some glorified depictions of single motherhood or even the perennial stereotype of the hateful Christian who doesn’t want anybody to love, i.e. “marry”, besides herself – after all, don’t such stereotypes really function more to expose the ignorance and bigotry of those who endorse them?  Still, the program crosses a red line in its handling of the Snow/Charming romance.  The problem lies in that Charming, or David as he’s called in Storybrooke, is an unhappily married man when he falls deeply in love with Snow, or Mary Margaret, and neither one of them seems to give a damn about his attachment to another woman.  Charming is comitted to standing loyally by his wife, but only in so far as she remains pregnant; in the absence of this one condition, the show’s illogic suggests that he retains a moral right, maybe even an imperative, to philander with any woman he presently desires.

The insanity starts at 0:35.  This conversation has absolutely no logical sequence of ideas.

If their whole affair wasn’t appalling enough, the show also peddles the message that it’s better to come clean to your spouse and leave her to be with the one you really love than to “live a lie” and stand by someone who just doesn’t do it for you anymore.  The way the writers handle such a tragic and sensitive issue as divorce is simply disgusting and completely inappropriate for a show that’s ostensibly aimed at families.  As a result of their adultery and unrepentant stance, it’s nigh impossible for the audience to sympathize with Charming or Snow, even after the latter gets turned into a Hester Prynne-like societal outcast.

If I had to describe a single instance at which Once Upon A Time reached a point of no return, it’d be the episode wherein Red Riding Hood joins a union of gay werewolves who fancy themselves the Lost Boys of the Enchanted Forest.  Had the production team decided not to pursue such laughable tangents, this fantasy could and should have drawn to a close once upon a long time ago.  “All convoluted plots come with a PRICE, dearie!”

Final rating: Nyehehe!

* Come to think of it, pretty much all the kids in this thing suck at acting, which is a darned shame given that Hollywood has such a vast pool of talented young stars including Hailee Steinfeld, Chloe Grace Moretz, Quvenzhané Wallis, maybe the cast of Moonrise Kingdom, and... never mind.  I can count all the good child/teen actors I know on one hand.

Side-note: Yes, I did watch the pilot to Marvel’s Agents of Shield, and yes, it was lame.  Maybe it'll get better with time, but for now I’m assuming that Agent Coulson died a noble death stopping Loki in The Avengers.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrating the Right To Read (Junk)

As the fiscal year winds to a close, the time has once again rolled around for librarians, the ACLU, and other supporters of free-speech-so-long-as-it’s-the-right-speech to pat themselves on the back for their firm commitment to defending ‘civil liberties’ and guaranteeing that adherents of all unorthodox,  esoteric, and sometimes even downright perverted viewpoints have an opportunity to share their voices.   Like affirmative action, the anti-bullying movement, promiscuity-based sex education in government schools, homelessness advocacy, and any number of Save the Planet mantras, Banned Books Week purports itself to be a noble and nonpartisan cause that all Americans should unite to endorse regardless of their political beliefs, but this week of awareness-raising hype was founded less to call out and decry real violations of the Constitution and more to make its participants feel better about themselves for committing an imagined act of civil service.  While fabricating illusionary crises revolving around the mass censorship and suppression of a particular minority’s writing can certainly elevate the self-esteem of “1st Amendment advocates” and delude them into thinking that their lives have significant meaning, throwing about words like “banned books” and sensationalizing the harm inflicted by vigilant parents who would regulate what materials are circulated in their children’s schools can have severe consequences that aren’t easily anticipated under a campaign which emphasizes lofty and seemingly infallible concepts of “free access to information” and “the right to read”.

Hosted by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is convened once annually to recognize and simultaneously recommend books which have historically endured or presently face challenges from disapproving parents (by whom half the complaints, approximately 2535, are filed) who have questioned its academic validity or substantive propriety in the setting of public school classrooms and libraries.  The event hails freedom of speech and thought as its primary goals, but a merely cursory overview of past Top Ten Challenged Books Lists reveals that the promotion of 1st Amendment rights is hardly the first item on the Association’s agenda.  Banned Books Week, far from encouraging thoughtful debate, philosophical diversity, and the other fruits that we rightly reap from the Bill of Rights’ first branch, seems more concerned with glorifying filth and breaking down all critical barriers that scholars currently use to separate true literature from drivel.  Whereas America’s Founders understood the 1st Amendment to be a vital article in ensuring man’s ability to pursue truth, beauty, and virtue, the American Library Association lauds it instead for enabling writers to publish and distribute the most repulsive and meaningless crap to people of even the most vulnerable age and mental development.  Observe the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2012:

  • Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  • Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  • And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  • Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  • Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

  • This chart, arguably the ALA’s parallel to Michael Bloomberg’s inflammatory recitation of “gun violence” “victims” that included Marxist and jihadist terrorists Christopher Dorner and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, offers some intriguing insight on what the Banned Books establishment deems to be high literature.  God – I mean Mother Environment – forbid that anyone should try to strip children’s library shelves of bestselling toilet humor comic books, anti-Christian pond-scum that indulges in F-bombs and the sexually deviant fantasies of a high-school boy, glorified portrayals of teen suicide, hard-core pornography written at a 3rd grade level, homosexual penguin propaganda aimed at 4-year-olds (which was later proven to be false), and other assorted modern classics of the multiculturalism, Heather Has Two Mommies, and sex comedy genres!  Obviously, there’s a fine line between censoring certain documents for advancing a particular political or religious worldview and regulating others for being gratuitously distasteful and disgusting.  The vast majority of those books recently touted by the ALA have been “banned” for entirely legitimate reasons: to uphold basic standards of decency in the midst of children and young adults, and to foster a desire in the youth for books that will sharpen his intellect and nourish his soul.  Were any public school teacher to present his students a copy of Fifty Shades, even while pleading ignorance to its subject matter, he would promptly suffer accusations of negligence or sexual harassment and would be placed on leave for an extended period, if not fired.  That’s a true story, actually, and a teachable moment at that.  If such a book is not fit for educators to distribute amongst their students, why, I ask, should it be fit for librarians to distribute amongst other minors?

    There’s an even finer line between a governmental body like Nazi Germany or Communist China banning/criminalizing speech that disrespects itself or its allies – as we are now seeing happen on public college campuses, where so-called Hate Speech like “Shut up, you water buffalo!” and efforts to educate students on the Constitution are strictly prohibited – and a parental body ‘banning’ ‘speech’ it considers inappropriate to the adults’ aisles of the library.  One of the main principles underlying the whole Banned Books hoopla is the assumption that all written words are equally suitable, nay expedient even, for all people at all ages.  Few proponents of this principle, when prodded to completely extend its logic, would apply the same reasoning to adult-oriented movies; no one, for example, would argue that the MPAA is ‘censoring’ intellectual property by branding certain films with an R-rating (unless it’s a Really Important And Totally Factual Documentary like “Bully”), but when public school administrators and parents make any attempt to discriminate between works according to their propriety for different age groups, self-righteous alarmists in constitutionally ignorant unions cry foul with idiotic charges that E.L. James’ and Dav Pilkey’s “viewpoints” are being censored, banned, and relegated to second-class protection.  What Banned Books Week symbolizes is little more than a veiled effort to transfer ever more control over the upbringing of children from their respective parents to the state, a move that’s either shockingly anti-democratic or altogether despotic depending on how you look at things.  Mothers and fathers, these arrogant egotists assert, cannot be entrusted with the power to condemn or restrict any controversial author’s writing at the risk of impairing another youth’s access to it; accordingly, they must cede sole authority over their own kids’ education to disinterested men in black robes who will provide the state’s young properties with the most culturally and (a)morally diverse curricula possible.  If anything, we as Americans ought to celebrate, not lament, the bold and responsible actions taken by watchful parents to secure to their descendants a spiritually and mentally cultivating education, one that will certainly wither and perish on the foundations of Captain Underpants, part-time Indian diaries, and porn.

    In an age of moral relativism and institutionalized Atheism, one can easily understand why so many people should set aside a week for solemn reflection on the victims of religious bigotry, to acknowledge the casualties of a cultural war waged by misguided and hateful patriarchs who continue to blind themselves with false conceptions of an absolute right and wrong, a moral code that should ultimately shape all policy decisions affecting the rearing of young skulls full of mush.  But when one looks underneath the attractive platitudes of Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity, a gross double standard becomes strikingly apparent. The ALA, ACLU, and other self-professed champions of the Constitution stress that all books are equal, deserving the same level of analysis and representation in public schools, but at the same time these elitists clearly hold that some books are more equal than others.  The most challenged text in the United States is neither Captain Underpants nor Fifty Shades of Grey, but the oldest surviving, bestselling, and most important book of all time.  Ever since the iron reign of KKK member-turned-Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, corrupt judges and lobbyists from Atheist churches have gone to extreme ends in order to expel this book and any written by its followers from state-administrated schools, all the while venting outrage and indignation that anyone should try to redistrict contemporary YA twaddle, none of which will last more than a decade, from the sphere of public education to its appropriate place in the garbage bin.  In this sense, they’re roughly the literary world’s equivalents of those liberty-without-morality activists who support taxpayer funding for ‘artists’ who shove Jesus in a jar of urine and call the display a masterpiece. Just as Labor Day is a monument to non-work and Martin Luther King Day has lately morphed from an occasion to condemn racism into an opportunity for exercising it, Banned Books Week appears to celebrate a great ideal imprinted in the American Constitution, but actually contributes to a steady and dangerous perversion of the 1st Amendment that will eventually destroy this country’s moral bedrock and upend civilized society in a raging torrent of Relativism.  It is an ode to all things vile and disgusting, a flagrant distortion of the Constitution, and an unconscionable assault on the natural right of parents to raise their children as they see fitting.

    Unrelated side-notes –
    * The Republican Party is exhibiting strategic illiteracy.  Necessity dictates that they either strike Obamacare down entirely or allow the government to shut down under the Democrats’ refusal to enact spending cuts.  Kicking the can another $1,000,000,000,000 dollars down the road and delaying Obamacare’s main implementation yet another election cycle until after the midterms aren’t viable options, and neither is any other course.

    * George Zimmerman’s wife finally laid out in clear terms yesterday exactly why she’s filing for divorce, saying, “I don’t know him and really don’t know what he’s capable of,” which reminds me of a romantic George Lucas movie…

    * The editorial board continues to expand the New Newspeak lexicon with additional entries; please feel free to check it out on a regular basis.

    * “Tell them what you’re gonna tell them.  Tell them.  Tell them what you told them.”
    Bill the Cat on Signposting

    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    A Star Trek Into Coincidental Darkness

    In the weeks following its release, Star Trek Into Darkness (Trek: Into Darkness?) rapidly contracted a reputation as one of the most controversial and polarizing movies in the series, not because it was an anti-Bush, pro-terrorist message flick disguised as apolitical science-fiction, nor because it embodied pretty much everything that constitutes an unnecessary sequel, but because many long-time fans viewed it as an insufficient and deeply disappointing successor to the legacy traced out by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

    Whoops, I meant to say SPOILER!  For a moment there my mind slipped and overlooked that I, being an independent columnist, am not entitled to frivolously disclose major plot twists that aren’t revealed in any given movie’s marketing campaign, unlike my professional, overpaid peers in the United Film Commentators’ Guild of America.  Representative Nancy Pelosi, please take note of my catastrophic error and amend your proposed amendment to the 1st Amendment to prohibit fake journalists and other bloggers like myself from further abusing our free speech privileges to comment on popular culture to the detriment of those who haven’t yet seen the movie in question.  Nevertheless, the most broadly spoiled plot twist in the recent history of Hollywood also happens to be one of the stupidest, reducing what could have been a bold and exciting journey where no movie has gone before to nothing more than a cliché-ridden retread of past U.S.S. Enterprise voyages and excessively campy nostalgia-quencher.  Speaking as a moderate fan of the original Star Trek TV show who hated the first four big-screen adaptations with such a passion that all of them, Kahn included, easily make my Rottenest Tomatoes chart (which is outdated by several years, at this point), I won’t attempt to compare Star Trek Into Darkness with the vastly inferior ‘classic’ to which it pays homage other than to say that it’s vastly superior in only superficial areas, viz. its special effects, cinematography, and art design.  All in all, this is an underwhelming follow-up to one movie that mixed the formula right the first time and another that had no formula to speak of, neither of which cried out for a respective sequel or prequel.  “Shall we begin?”

    Yes, that is an Inception "bwaaaaah" effect in the second half.  So awesome.

    Opening upon a primitive world whose natives have not yet invented the wheel, the movie reintroduces viewers to Captain Kirk and his crew as they execute a mission to do something in a volcano – I remember not the particulars.  In any case, Spock is steeling himself to suffer an especially fiery and sacrificial death in the depths of the mountain when Kirk breaks Starfleet code by exposing his ship to the savages in order that he might rescue his best friend and first officer.  In so doing, he hypothetically disrupts the natural development of the planet’s civilizations and ecosystems, devastating its environment and causing irreparable damage to the scientific study of the indigenous population’s pure and arguably superior culture.  One need not wonder, therefore, why Starfleet restores Admiral Pike’s command of the Enterprise and demotes Kirk for his brash leadership and brazen violation of the law, though he’s back in action soon enough after the shoot-first-ask-questions-later warmonger Admiral Marcus commissions him to annihilate a fugitive named John Harrison, suspected of orchestrating a deadly explosion at a London library.  A defector from Starfleet, criminal mastermind, and superhuman terrorist who has a knack for skullcrushing people off-camera, PG style, Harrison justifies his actions as righteous retaliation for greater offenses committed by Starfleet against him and his crew.  “Is there anything you would not do for your family?” he asks Kirk in one of several memorable and characteristically evil monologues.  The more intimately that Kirk comes to understand Harrison, the more uncertainly he comes to regard the Admiral and his real motives for trying to eliminate this master intellect.

    There are basically two significant themes recurring throughout Into Darkness, the first of which is an extension of the emotion-logic conflict introduced in J.J. Abram’s prior movie and the second of which is a far too apparent political statement.  Kirk typifies the impetuous and daring pragmatist who sees rules as a stubborn hindrance to his duty, while Spock represents the proper and patient lawman who fears that chaos will stem from a contempt of order.  The former man thinks predominantly through his passions, the latter through his mind, and the movie is for some part a commentary on the need to balance these opposing ends, to heed legal institutions but answer ultimately to morality, to approach every problem with reason and every fight with one’s gut.  Into Darkness largely works when it explores this dynamic between Kirk’s recklessness and Spock’s decorum, but writers Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, and Damon Lindelof (who’s famous primarily for ruining Lost and Prometheus) unfortunately feel the need to inject a preachy lecture about the War on Terror into the plot.  The social commentary, applicable to a wide array of issues including drone warfare, due process of law, and war in the Middle East generally, is so pronounced that several characters almost qualify as allegorical stand-ins for real-world figures, whether it’s Harrison resembling the Underwear Bomber or Tsarnaev brothers as a righteously furious and victimized jihadist who attacks innocent people in just retaliation against the United States’ imperialism, or Admiral Marcus playing the George Bush/Emperor Palpatine role as an authoritarian leader who feeds lies to his subordinates in order to start the war he so desires.

    The first problem with these stereotypical portrayals is that terrorism can never be justified; no matter how vile the injustices of the protested establishment may be, exacting violence against private citizens will always be an even viler crime of utmost cowardice and cruelty, which is precisely why the Obama administration’s and mainstream media’s attempts to rationalize terrorist attacks at Benghazi and the Boston Marathon are so heinous.  The declaration that “we will find out who did this and why” necessarily implies that the terrorist, Harrison for example, must have been justified in his atrocities against mankind and that the United States, or Starfleet in this instance, is somehow culpable for his crime, which is not just illogical and absurd but inexpressibly disgusting.  Secondly, Bush never “lied” as Admiral Marcus does to start a war in Iraq, which was initiated not to satisfy a lust for oil, economic expansion, “Islamaphobia”, or personal vengeance but to prevent an irrational dictator from unleashing weapons of mass destruction on the U.S. and its allies, as Saddam Hussein had formerly proven he would do without a moment’s pause.  Kirk essentially spells out the movie’s message in a final speech: “There will always be those who mean to do us harm.  To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves.  Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us.  But that's not who we are.”  While it’s true that we should never stoop to our enemy’s level and that wars should be waged only for preventative rather than corrective motives (which is just one of several reasons I oppose a purely political strike to “punish” the Syrian regime), it would be the height of foolishness to describe either the Iraq or Afghanistan war as an outgrowth of Kirk’s “first instinct to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us”.  Adding insult to injury, the movie’s producers haughtily “dedicate” it to “post-9/11 veterans”, whose very sacrifices the film mocks and maligns as nothing more than fruitless losses in one man’s selfish war of retribution.  Into Darkness assaults audiences with a warped worldview that’s not just preposterous and misguided but deeply offensive to all those who have given blood, sweat, toil, and tears to counter future attacks on the life and liberty of their countrymen.  To those who might object that I am artificially reading my own opinions into the film instead of judging it at face value, I would point out that cast members Benedict Cumberbatch and Simon Pegg themselves have interpreted the story as a bitter critique of Bush/Cheney's foreign policy, and the writers have said much to the same effect.

    With all that said, Into Darkness still delivers excellent entertainment like the reboot it follows and mostly excels at all the technical aspects of filmmaking.  The cast is fairly competent overall: Chris Pine perfectly conveys Kirk’s sarcasm and pluck, Zachary Quinto is appropriately stern and emotion-washed as Spock ( although the script sometimes overplays his stilted and robotic manner of speaking), Simon Pegg nails a lot of good one-liners in the role of Scotty, and Karl Urban never fails to delight with Dr. McCoy’s cheesy “Damn it, man…”s and talk about “superblood”.  Zoe Saldana mostly botches the part of Uhura, but that’s mainly the writers’ fault for giving her charater nothing to do but squabble with Spock in a romantic affair that’s painfully forced but does generate a few good laughs.

    Kirk: Are you two going to work well together?
    * Uhura walks away without answering the question.
    Spock: Unclear.

    As anyone who has watched Steven Moffat's and Mark Gitiss' excellent modern take on Sherlock might expect, Benedict Cumberbatch is mesmerizing as the film’s antagonist, delivering every line with palpable venom and leaving viewers constantly guessing at his grand schemes.  John Harrison is so nefarious and captivating a villain on his own merits that it’s almost inconceivable why the writers elected to dilute his already exceptional character with an unnecessary plot twist involving Kahn.  I should also briefly comment on the newest addition to the Enterprise crew, Alice Eve, who wields a British accent to distance herself from her evil father Peter Weller and his American accent.  She has all the acting chops of a Victoria’s Secret model trying to transition from a Michael Bay commercial to a Michael Bay movie, which is a fitting comparison considering the one and only reason that her character is in the movie.*   “Make that two reasons – huh huh.”  I would have embedded this movie’s Honest Trailer above, but then no one would have read the rest of my review.

    Alice isn’t the only thing that dares to look spectacular in this movie, as Into Darkness boasts some of the flashiest special effects, cinematography, and sound design to hit the cinemas this year.  The pan- and shaky-camera in the command deck gets a little tiring after a while, but the movie still looks great overall, managing to maintain suspense and adrenal rush even though viewers know in the back of their heads that the heroes will pull through the chase or the fight in one piece.  Two particular, one in which a colossal Starfleet ship plows through a cityscape and levels a row of skyscrapers and another wherein Kirk and Harrison are blasted out of an airlock into a minefield of space debris, feature some of the best applications of CGI I’ve seen outside Transformers, Tron, and some select other movies.  The film has a variety of fantastic planetary settings, and its depiction of a futuristic London looks like the evolutionary descendent of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles and Star Wars’ Coruscant.  However, Michael Giachinno’s soundtrack is mostly copied and pasted from his work on the first movie, which makes it redundant and disappointing.

    Like 2009’s refreshing update to the Star Trek franchise, Into Darkness is immensely entertaining and visually impressive, but good graphics cannot exist in a vacuum; they must be complemented with a meaningful and substantive story, something this sequel is sorely wanting.  This franchise will need a hefty dose of Kahn’s superblood to lure me back for future installments.

    Grade rating: B-

    * Though most people have asserted that her pivotal scene is completely gratuitous and serves no purpose in the grand picture of the plot, I might venture that it's a (really) veiled commentary on the absurdity of women integrating themselves into the military and expecting to be treated exactly the same way as men in a sexually-blind working environment.  HA!  But we all know that's not what the scene means...

    For a more optimistic take on the same movie, feel free to check out my good friend Mr. Bonecutter's review at Moovie Nooz.

    Saturday, September 21, 2013

    A Hulking Mess

    It’s a strange paradox that any retelling of a pop-culture legend should make its central characters more one-dimensional in attempting to make them less one-dimensional.  Hulk: Gray sees itself as a critique of 1D characterizations, preaching that real people can rarely be divided into black and white categories, that a man’s true nature most often falls somewhere within the realm of the gray, but the storytelling within this 6-volume miniseries is so inept that collaborators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale inadvertently create the very tale they so revile.  Sadly, the most incredible thing about this Hulk is that his conflict remains utterly simplistic, boring, and unfulfilling even in spite of the authors’ noble efforts to infuse his origin story with themes that could easily have been plucked (and in some places were, by the creators’ admission) from King Kong, Frankenstein, and Beauty and the Beast.

    Hulk: Gray uses a story-within-a-story framework to recount the hours immediately following Bruce Banner’s disastrous contact with a Gamma Bomb explosion somewhere in the Midwest.  The first issue opens upon Bruce Banner paying a late-night visit to his psychiatrist Leonard Samson.  On the run from some unknown forces, Bruce nevertheless finds time to spill his inner thoughts and feelings on the Hulk to his old friend for the umpteenth time.  As Bruce explains, his monstrous alter-ego was originally gray before he was green; this is supposed to be clever symbolism reflecting the moral ambiguity surrounding the Hulk himself, but it’s really more symbolic of the stylistic decision to set nearly the whole story at night and to paint everything in muted colors and overwhelmingly dark hues.  Prior to becoming the Hulk, Bruce had fallen in love with a beautiful woman named Betty Ross – at least she’s supposed to be beautiful.  As far as comic book girls go, Betty isn’t much of a looker, especially considering that Sale’s previous artwork in Superman: For All Seasons and several Batman series gave us some of the most seductive or attractive interpretations of Selina Kyle, Poison Ivy, Janice Porter, and Lana Lang in the DC universe, but that’s all beside the point because everyone knows true beauty comes from within…  Anyway, as if the Hulk’s brutish appearance didn’t throw enough complications on his sex life, Betty’s father also happens to be the wrathful General Thunderbolt Ross, a loudmouthed and results-driven pragmatist who will use any means to arrest and put down the creepy monster who’s hitting on his unwilling daughter.  When Kong – I mean Hulk – kidnaps the girl who won’t requite his love, Ross sends soldiers, helicopters, and even Iron Man to get her back, all of which our giant freak of nature (not a giant freak of nature that can speak) crushes while spouting Hulky one-liners like:

    “Robot Hurt Hulk. Hulk Hurt Robot. Hulk SMASH Robot!”
    “Ross Say Hulk Am Monster. HULK NOT MONSTER!”
    “Hulk Is Hulk.” (The psychiatrist thinks this is a profound statement.)

    Despite the Hulk’s frequent gestures to protect, warm, and save Betty from the evil, trigger-happy military, she never really embraces him for what he is, and the relationship between her and Bruce is never coherently resolved, although it’s implied in the present-day conversation that they got married at some point.  I should also note that there’s a snotty, inarticulate kid named Rick who occasionally shows up as a plot-advancing utility and an object by which to develop other characters.

    Team Loeb-Sale has repeatedly demonstrated an aptitude for telling captivating stories through words and illustrations.  The Long Halloween and, to a lesser extent, Dark Victory were moody and thoughtful crime thrillers with a touch of noir that crafted compelling portrayals of Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne, among others.  Superman: For All Seasons took a thematically lighter but no less powerful route, retelling Clark Kent’s rise (or fall, based on one’s perspective) from the humble life of a farmer to the duties of a godlike titan as a solemn but uplifting coming-of-age yarn.  Hulk: Gray, on the other hand, tries to be a monster romance, anti-war parable, and commentary on human nature all in one, but fails to execute any of these ideas well.  Its failure, for the most part, can be attributed to clumsy and often cheesy writing.  Aside from The Odyssey of Homer, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (both the movie and the Good Parts Version on which it was based), I’ve rarely encountered a novel or film which utilizes the story-within-a-story or voiceover-in-a-3rd-person-narrative effect to enhance the overall impact of the story, and Hulk: Gray is no exception to this generality.  Not only does the realization that all the main plot’s events have already happened strip the book of any urgency it might otherwise have possessed, but the pervasive background commentary from Bruce and his friend proves to be an intrusive distraction of the most egregious order, tearing readers apart from the action and spoon-feeding them whatever thoughts or reactions they’re supposed to experience, as if they’re too stupid to figure the comic out for themselves.  A far cry from the believable and multi-layered scripts that Loeb produced for his past series with Sale, the dialogue here is terrible and feels like it was ripped out of a children’s cartoon.  I’ve already touched on the Hulk’s ridiculous expressions, but he at least gets some special leeway to sound stupid, having lost control and turned into an enormous green rage monster.  The humans, on the other hand, have no excuse for saying such things as:

    “EVERY person I’ve ever depended on has walked out on me.  YOU saved my life.  I OWE you.  So, until you get a handle on this thing… I come with the dinner.  GOT IT?” ~ Rick Something

    “Leonard… am I just insane?”
    “‘Just’ is a vague word, Bruce.”
    “More insane than a psychiatrist who comes out in the middle of the night to talk to a…?”
    “…friend, Bruce. Don’t forget that.”
    “That’s the problem with not living in a black and white world. You’ve got the possibility for ‘vague.’ The probability for… gray.” ~ Bruce and Leonard, spelling out the book’s message in a conversation that has no logical procession of ideas

    “Do you want me to beg? Is THAT what you want, monster?!”
    “Hulk Wants to Be Left Alone.”
    “GO TO HELL!” ~ Hulk and Ross, who apparently doesn’t like to leave people alone

    The other huge problem plaguing the storytelling lies in character development.  The book desperately wants – probably even needs – the reader to despise Hulk’s arch-rival Ross, and the authors even clarify in the behind-the-scenes extras that he’s supposed to represent the evil imperialist dimension of the U.S. military.  Bruce suggests repeatedly that his foe was an abusive father and murderous bully, but the book doesn’t bother to substantiate any of these speculations, simply presenting the narrator’s claims as truth without giving any kind of visual proof.  Loeb demonizes the general for obsessively hunting and attempting to kill the beast created by the Gamma Bomb, but most people, put in the same position that Ross occupies, would likely equate the Hulk to a lion that’s escaped its enclosure at the zoo, a public menace that must be subdued and, in the worst case, put down to prevent the more unfortunate loss of human life.  When you break everything down, the very worst transgression that Ross commits in the course of the novel is slapping a teenage boy for withholding vital intelligence on the Hulk; at his worst, the general is just a really grumpy guy.  Disregarding his simplistic portrayal as a powerful but gentle giant, the Hulk essentially proves Ross’ perspective numerous times over, smashing military vehicles and infrastructure, flinging soldiers with lethal force (although we’re supposed to believe he doesn’t kill anybody in this story), and abducting a woman with seemingly malicious intent.  All these things considered, it’s effectively impossible for an open-minded audience to love the ‘heroes’ and loathe the ‘villains’ in this warped adventure.

    The book’s artwork is also severely disappointing, though by no means as horrid as the writing.  Ever since the spaghetti western rose to prominence in the 1960s, many filmmakers have used the deserts and valleys of Utah, New Mexico, and California as a kind of tertiary character, something grand and poetic that tells a story in and of itself on top of the main plot’s action.  Whereas Sale once succeeded at transforming Gotham City, Metropolis, and Smallville from mere settings into vibrant and memorable characters, here he utterly wastes the potential offered by the wild west, staging most of the book inside military compounds or caves and giving only occasional glances at altogether bland landscapes.  So too does he fail to capture the savage gait and apelike charge of the Hulk, which was so well conveyed in The Avengers.  In this book, the Hulk appears to fly around a lot in a manner more befitting Thor and Iron Man than a gigantic man with disproportionately massive arms.

    Hulk: Gray is ripe with thought-provoking themes one wouldn’t normally expect from a franchise that’s spawned so many crappy TV shows and movies, but struggles to handle any of these themes in a way that’s remotely exceptional or satisfying.  The Hulk may not have completely smashed Team Loeb-Sale’s near spotless record, but he did smash an hour or two of my life (plus many more I imprudently spent to raise awareness of its reek for these Files) that I’m never getting back.  Take the monster’s own advice and LEAVE HULK ALONE.

    Side-note on comic books: I have now broached the 7th book and 800 pg. mark of Jeff Smith's fantasy masterwork Bone, a hulk of a book if there ever was one, especially given that I have to juggle it with Latin, American literature, physics, precalculus, book writing, movie writing, and blogging.  Suffice it to say, before I write a full review, that it's probably the funniest and most ambitious cartoon to come along since, well, anything.  “Stupid, stupid rat creatures!”

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Yet Another Snow White – The Politically Cleansed Version

    In the age of Ben Bernanke, hyper-inflation, and dollar candy, it’s a little hard to picture any well-to-do persons being sorely disappointed by a purchase that downs them naught but a mere 25 cents.  Nevertheless, a library bookstore copy of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories did the seemingly impossible by evoking just such a feeling in Your Humble Narrator*, though this feeling is more internally than externally directed.  Put another way, James Finn Garner’s series of “modern tales for our life and times” fostered a powerful sensation in me that more closely resembled self-resentment and shame than anything else, for the simple reason that Politically Correct Bedtime Series is exactly the kind of over-the-top satirical drivel that I would dream up and publish had Garner not beaten me to it by 20 years.  Loaded to the brim with fairy tale Newspeak, political stereotypes, sophomoric humor, and intentionally vapid message stories, this book aims to offend nobody but will offend just about everybody as a consequence.  Like all good satire, it illustrates absurdity by being absurd, treating the silly as though it were serious and shining light on the lunacy that dominates mainstream liberal ‘thought’.

    The inside cover of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories informs the reader that it is the “first processed tree carcass” to be released by Garner, “the descendent of dead white European males” and a writer for Chicago Tribune Magazine.  The book’s title is fairly self-explanatory, but for the benefit of the unenlightened, I’ll briefly explain the premise of this compilation.  PCBS, or PC-BS to be more accurate, fancies itself as the solution to hundreds of years of culturally biased and discriminatory stories that did little in effect but perpetuate bigotry through reinforcing racist, sexist, ageist, sizeist, and speciesist stereotypes.  In the words of Garner himself, “When they were first written, the stories on which the following tales are based certainly served their purpose – to entrench the patriarchy, to estrange people from their own natural impulses, to demonize ‘evil’ and ‘reward’ an ‘objective’ ‘good’.”  In contrast to the dark, misleading, and hateful narratives that unwitting and predominantly male parents exploited to pollute the minds of vulnerable children for many eons, the stated purpose of these new bedtime stories is to rectify the dangerous record set by past fairy propaganda on the foundation of more tolerant and culturally diverse fables, whose worldviews will clearly reflect the progressive strides of modern society towards civil equality and peaceful coexistence for those of all statures, species, and classes.  To that end, PC-BS recasts all the most famous fairy tale heroes as environmentally conscious, economically disadvantaged, sexually confused peasants and all the villains as greedy, carnivorous, unhealthy, misogynistic capitalists.  Among the more hilarious of the collection’s 5-minute reads (which number 13 in all) are its portrayals of the three little pigs as indigenous victims of imperialism and Snow White as a feminist crusader against male dominance.  In order to avoid making insensitive or derogatory remarks about members of any downtrodden, historically abused minorities, Garner also makes clever use of a unique and flexible dialect that includes such expressions as “vertically challenged”, “nonhuman animals”, “mobility nonpossessor”, and “kindness-impaired”.  Girls of “greater-than-average physical attractiveness” are called wommons, and characters who would normally die in an indecent story of antiquity are simply “rendered nonviable” here.  Regardless, it’s better to let the book speak for itself than for me to paraphrase it.

    - Through the thicket, across the river, and deep, deep in the woods, lived a family of bears – a Papa Bear, a Mama Bear, and a Baby Bear – and they all lived together anthropomorphically in a little cottage as a nuclear family.  They were very sorry about this, of course, since the nuclear family has traditionally served to enslave womyn, instill a self-righteous moralism in its members, and imprint rigid notions of heterosexualist roles onto the next generation.  Nevertheless, they tried to be happy and took steps to avoid these pitfalls, such as naming their offspring the non-gender-specific “Baby.”

    - Now, while Chicken Little had a small brain in the physical sense, she did use it to the best of her abilities.  So when she screamed, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” her conclusion was not wrong or stupid or silly, only logically underenhanced.

    - “FEE, FIE, FOE, FUM,
    “I smell the blood of an English person!
    “I’d like to learn about his culture and views on life!
    “And share my own perspectives in an open and generous way!”

    Much in the manner of Fun with Dick and Jane, the entirety of the book is written at a 5th grade reading level**, but parents would be wise to acknowledge that these so-called bedtime stories aren’t really appropriate for the young uns.  Like that moronic “Go the ___ to Sleep” book that graced bestseller charts for so long before the 50 Shades crap rolled along and like the equally moronic mock-poetry by Dr. Seuss that educators continue to peddle, PC-BS is an adult’s product wrapped in children’s packaging.  Though I would hardly call it distasteful or gratuitous in any situation, the book does have a fair amount of foul language and sexually suggestive material peppered throughout, most of which is implied, as when the Seven Towering Giants adjourn to the sweat lodge to “get in touch with their primitive masculine identities”.

    Alas, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories are far from correct and their addictive nature doesn’t lend the series well to the bedtime genre (for that, one should examine The Custom-House by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herodotus’ Histories), but those of a certain age and sense of humor will delight in “some world other than (but certainly not unequal to) our own” that’s uproariously wry and unabashedly crude, and whose sociopolitical battles oddly parallel those of America in the present day.  None of these tales are bound to stand the test of historical endurance, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

    * I'm trying to put a dystopian illusion in every post I write now.
    ** That's another allusion to some dystopian movie not enough people have seen.

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Huntsmanning For A More Sophisticated Movie

    What do you get when you smash Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit into Game of Thrones, sprinkle some girl power on top, throw in some nanobot-like monstrosities from Michael Crichton’s Prey, subtract any element of urgency or permanent consequences from the story’s conflict, and add Kristen Stewart?  If you visited the cinemas even once in the six months leading up to last year’s summer movie season, then you most likely found the answer in the egregiously overplayed trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman, which is just one of the more recent titles in a long, cross-media line of self-purported ‘gritty remakes/retellings’.  While the trailer was hardly effective at persuading me to cough up money for a theater ticket or the DVD, it was an exemplary tease in that it captured virtually all the praiseworthy scenes its host had to offer, condensing two hours and ten minutes of blah into two minutes of relative awesomeness.  The short of this review: watch the commercial, skip the product, unless it pops up on TV and neither Lord of the Rings nor Game of Thrones are playing at the same hour; the latter program, in spite of its notorious indulgence for graphic sex and violence (or because of it?), and Tolkien’s masterpieces are infinitely more tolerable than this wannabe fantasy epic.

    Snow White and the Huntsman fancies itself a dark and dramatic reinvention of the fairy ‘legend’, claiming to have more commonality with the Brothers Grimm story than the somehow radically different Disney version that’s perverted the minds of children since 1937, although I honestly can’t testify to its faithfulness in either situation other than to express my deep skepticism that Snow White ever became a medieval Amazon warrior like Joan of Arc in any of the 'historical accounts'.  Whatever the source material happens to be, Charlize Theron dominates the so-called villain’s role as a vain and cruel witch named Ravenna, who consumes the beauty of younger women to maintain her glorious aspect into old age.  Cursed as a child, she’s condemned to live forever as a human liberal leech that builds herself up by knocking others down, sustaining her own majesty only in so far as she can continually rob youthful, upper class girls of their femininity.  To this Margaret Thatcher would certainly object by saying, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s beauty,” and our devilish sorceress recognizes as much when her mirror, mirror on the wall, cleverly portrayed as a kind of glass silhouette, prophesies that Snow White will be the fairest of them all lest Ravenna use her Dementor-like life-sucking skills on the princess and gain immortality thereby.  After usurping the throne of Snow’s kingdom by seducing the king, her father, and murdering him in his sleep, Ravenna imprisons the girl in a tower for twenty-some years until she determines that her step-daughter is better off dead and sends her gleefully wicked brother Finn to fetch her heart.  Being an idiot, the white-haired freak botches the job and allows Snow’s escape into the Dark Forest, a move that prompts the evil queen to enlist a real professional for job, specifically a nameless and boring huntsman played by Thor, a.k.a. Chris Hemsworth.  The huntsman, of course, spares Snow’s life in the tradition of the classic tale, but goes much farther in this particular script, guiding the princess out of the woods, into a pointless lakeside village that gets burned down within a day’s time, and onward to the realm of faeries, where they run into seven awkwardly photoshopped dwarves, also nameless except for one who goes by “Gus”, although you don’t know that until he dies in an emotionally poignant scene twenty minutes after you meet him.  Along the way, Mr. Huntsman forecasts the end of the movie an hour in advance by teaching Snow how to deflect a knife jab and return it – so customary has it become for Hollywood action pictures to emphasize a critical combat technique that the hero will always ends up using in the final battle to signify how far he has progressed since he first started training as an ignorant and scrawny peasant [e.g. The Matrix (not having to dodge bullets), Batman Begins (using your opponent’s surroundings against them), Cars (driving backwards/turning right to go left), Kung Fu Panda (too many to enumerate), and so on].  I suppose I should also note that Snow happens to be a Christian, at least for one tiny scene when she mutters the Lord’s prayer, an identification which believers of all denominations should praise as a rare gesture of religious tolerance and intellectual diversity from Universal Studios.  YeahNO.

    Anyway, after uniting with the seven anonymous and extremely airbrushed dwarves, Snow discovers that she’s a Chosen One of sorts who must lead the forces of good in an attack on the queen’s castle and so topple her reign of terror, but this final battle gets postponed when Ravenna deceives the heroine into eating a poisonous apple that induces a deep slumber.  Fortunately, something about Snow reminds Mr. Huntsman of the wife he lost and whom we never knew, and thus she awakens when her scruffy ally smooches her in the spirit of true love… for something or somebody, we know not what.  They never speak to each other again for the rest of the movie.  One Independence Day/Avatar-inspired “We’re going to battle, o my brothers, and all that cal” speech later, the Riders of Rohan or whatever the hell they call this kingdom are charging across the beach towards the dark fortress of their oppressor.  The evil queen delivers a few evil monologues when she has the chance to kill Snow, and I already told you how the movie ends.

    As predictable and clichéd as I make it sound, the fairly commonplace script isn’t really terrible, and the ‘bad guy’ actually gets more than a fair share of good lines (don’t they always?).

    "I was ruined by a king like you once.  I replaced his queen, an old woman, and in time I too would have been replaced.  Men use women.  They ruin us and when they are finished with us they toss us to the dogs like scraps."  (The King starts to cough as he leans over her in bed.)

    Charlize Theron’s portrayal of a tantalizingly wicked and physically ravishing villain is undoubtedly the best thing the movie has going for it.  Obsessively self-absorbed, short-tempered, hardened against moral concerns, and determined to have her way, Ravenna almost seems like a more alluring and vicious relative of the Red Queen from Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, but one should mind that Grimm predates Lewis Carroll by around a hundred years.  It’s only regrettable that Theron isn’t the main star but only a supporting player in a Kristen Stewart movie; as such, she gets to show up every ten minutes and throw a screaming tantrum that sometimes entails force-choking, but her character is most often sidelined to make room for the lead actress.  While I won’t infer that Stewart ruins the movie, per se, her presence in this is one of the biggest casting missteps since Hayden Christiansen, a.k.a. Anakin, in the Star Wars prequels and Lenny Kravitz in The Hunger Games (not to mention Woody Harrelson as Haymitch).  Not only does she lack the muscular physique to convincingly play a medieval general but the grand irony of casting her as Snow is that no man, or talking mirror for that matter, in his right mind would ever regard her as a fairer woman than Theron.  Some will argue that such a statement is entirely subjective or, worse, indicative of bias towards blondes, but I ask of these people two questions: 1) how many ‘guy movies’ has Stewart produced in comparison to Theron (The Italian Job, Hancock, Prometheus) and 2) whose face was displayed more prominently in the promotion of this movie?  A merely cursory study of the DVD cover would seem to indicate that the marketing division went out of its way to mask Stewart’s involvement in the project, but I digress from more important observations, namely Stewart’s acting ability.  As if her ever gaping mouth wasn’t distracting enough for 90% of the time she’s on screen, she also feigns this contrived, semi-British accent for half her lines and forgets about it for the other half, lending even more uncertainty to the already dubious geographical location of this fantasy world.  The production team only augments the hilarity of her performance by caking her in the most ridiculous and contextually inappropriate makeup, though this fault can’t really be attributed to her.  Chris Hemsworth is adequate if totally forgettable as Mr. Huntsman and, being native to Australia, he sounds more or less authentic with his fantasy accent.  While his role is minor in the big picture, Sam Spruell admirably imbues the sycophantic servant Finn with an intoxicating mixture of spite and malice.

    Overall, though, the actors in the cast pale next to the unseen actors in the post-production department.  Snow White and the Huntsman is full of fantastical imagery both haunting, as in the Dark Forest, where the ground crawls like a swarm of insects and trees writhe like serpents, and beautiful, as in the counterpart woods populated by bushy tortoises and flowers that burst into clouds of butterflies.  This movie masterfully portrays a fairy land where witches can shape-shift at will to resemble other beings or dissipate into a flock of ravens, where dark soldiers arise out of a million glass shards, shattering at a sword’s blow and reassembling themselves at a moment’s notice.  The CG animation isn’t as refined as the creations of, say, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, Lord of the Rings, or King Kong, but looks great nonetheless.  Alas, not all the special effects work as well in execution.  Rather than using trick photography à la LOTR or hiring real ‘little people’ à la Game of Thrones to create the dwarves, the studio tried to meld both approaches by digitally interposing the heads of regularly sized actors onto the bodies of short people, a trick that’s not only lazy and artificial-looking from a cinematic standpoint but kind of insulting to ‘real dwarves’ who would relish the opportunity to appear in a mainstream, big-budget picture.  Rupert Sander’s direction also leaves much to be desired.  Prior to working on this feature, he had but one other production to his name, that being a live-action commercial for Halo 3: ODSTSnow White and the Huntsman makes his inexperience glaringly obvious.  Most of the fight scenes are edited in quick cuts and close-up shots to the effect that the audience can barely discern the action, which is a damning trait for any film of this genre to possess.

    Despite my numerous complaints, Snow White and the Huntsman is hardly awful, but it still falls far short of the standard that its box-office competitor Mirror Mirror set for witty and engaging spins on old tales.  Completely devoid of humor and self-serious to the extreme, the former movie imagines a chaotic world wracked by misery where hope is elusive and light is seemingly non-existent.  In so doing, it indirectly and unintentionally illustrates a profundity concerning meaningful storytelling: why do the heroes fight if they have nothing to fight for, and why should we care when they prevail?  If Frodo and Sam had not their Shire, if Aragorn had not his Gondor, if the whole Fellowship had no Middle Earth to lose, would not their quest to destroy the Ring be verily purposeless?  Thus is the question raised by Snow White and the Huntsman, albeit at its own expense.  Snow White should have told Universal Studios:

    Grade rating: C+ (where Once Upon a Time Season 2 is a C, OUAT Season 1 is a B, and some as-of-yet-unmade Snow White movie is an A)

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    The New Newspeak

    To celebrate Karl Marx’s favorite national holiday, so conceived as Labor Day and dedicated to honoring those morally upright members of the proletariat who whine, lobby, and sue for the privilege to do as little labor for as much money as possible, we at the editorial board of The Author’s Files have undertaken the ambitious endeavor of compiling an exhaustive list of all the most popular English terms and phrases that people once respected and reserved only for use within a proper, grammatically intelligible context but now carelessly bandy about without any respect to the words’ objective meanings wherever using such phrases might make themselves feel better about holding logically suspect and irrational worldviews.  In short, if you insist on frequently and all-inclusively regurgitating any one of these words, we do not think it means what you think it means.  Following in the footsteps of Greece’s most eminent philosopher Socrates, who exhorted his fellows to articulate exactly what they mean by lofty ideas such as justice, piety, and happiness, we implore our readers to speak with awareness and discretion, to fully understand just what they’re implying when they talk about:

    Labor – A fitting place from which to launch this list, labor is properly defined as the exercise of one’s physical and mental talents to complete work, i.e. to produce services or items that others will consume.   As (mis)understood in the modern American dialect, the laborer or 'worker' is one who either does no work, receiving his income from the government, or fulfills a certain position that doesn’t demand advanced skills and that those who would buy his vote arbitrarily designate as ‘good work’, as opposed to the ‘bad work’ executed by evil businessmen and ‘corporations’, who don’t do any real work and exist only to prey on the worker by denying him a ‘living wage’.

    Living Wage – Living wage is a compound term, being composed of the adjective ‘living’ and the noun ‘wage’.  A living wage is a wage that’s sufficient for one to live.  To live is to survive, to exist in the absence of death; hence, a living wage is one sufficient for the man who receives it to survive, to provide any necessities nature imposes on his continued existence.  Contrary to public opinion, a living wage, grammatically interpreted, is not necessarily sufficient for the wage-earner to thrive, to command all manners of luxuries including iPhones, HDTVs, extravagant housing, and electric sports vehicles which are complementary but not essential to his survival.  Yet this ‘thriving wage’ is just what union bosses and social engineers in the political class infer when they demand that employers pay their ‘workers’ a living wage.

    Themiddleclass – From a historical standpoint, the so-called middle class has often been regarded as the wealthiest segment of society, while if one looks purely at the grammatical composition of the phrase, it would seem to indicate that set of citizens whose accumulated wealth ranks roughly between that of the very poor man and the very prosperous one.  Modern politicians from the right and left alike eschew both these legitimate conceptions of the word, opting instead to define themiddleclass simply as whichever branch of the electorate is most ‘suffering’, needy of government relief, and likely to make a sizable impact on the election results.  Leaning on nebulous words like themiddleclass poses distinct advantages to the politiclass in the 21st century, viz. a huge license for audience adaptation, the ability to pander to countless victim groups, and total immunity against any criticism over factually incorrect and utterly preposterous statements.  After all, if welfare sponges, hard-working capitalists, single-parent households, two-parent households, part-time workers, full-time workers, etc. all comprise the same middleclass, then ruling incumbents can make virtually any comment on the economic condition of said middleclass and deflect all objections with ease.

    Democracy – What America isn’t, but we’ll forgive you if you’ve been deluded like America’s elected officials into confusing a constitutional republic based on the rule of law with a people’s republic based on majority tyranny.  What difference, at this point, does it make!

    Right – Stems from God, rather than from society.  A right is something conferred on a man by virtue of his being human; that which all men possess in their natural state is justly called a right.  No man posessess a home by nature, nor does any possess food, job training, a decent paycheck, recreation, a marriage certificate, or access to abortion.  Still, all these things are commonly invoked as inviolable ‘civil rights’ in the modern day, to such a point of absurdity that the word has been marginalized to signify nothing more than “what pleases me”.

    Right to choose – Literally, the right to make a decision concerning one’s own destiny and… what the hell – let’s just dispense with any pretense that this phrase has objective, definite meaning and dissect the modern interpretation of these words.  The right to choose, broadly speaking, is the right to desire a certain course of action and to commit said action in the appeasement of one’s desire.  In other words, this human construct of an entitlement is not only a right to choose something but a right to that something itself.  The right to choose, however, is a limited right, granted in some cases and denied in others.  For example, the proponents of this alleged ‘right’ would never argue that it protects the ability of bandits to choose to rob a bank, nor, in most cases, would they extend this right to the parental choice of where and how they educate their children – hence the mandatory contribution that all taxpayers must make to state-run indoctrination centers, resounding opposition by overpaid unionists to charter schools or vouchers, judicial degradation and perversion of government school curricula, federally sanctioned racial discrimination in higher education, and the unfortunately prevalent mindset of Nazism sponsored by MSNBC, which holds that “kids belong to whole communities” instead of their parents.  Besides the outstanding example of education, one can point to a bevy of instances where the rightochoose is either gravely marginalized or altogether dismissed, from the individual insurance mandate of Obama- and Romney-care and the payroll tax to the minimum wage, recalls on allegedly hazardous or defective products, bans on plastic bags and/or light bulbs, and millions of other, mostly irrational restraints on the freedom of businesses and individuals to make their own choices.  Ergo, this imagined righttochoose is fundamentally estranged from every other right enumerated in the Constitution in that it is not an absolute, bestowed on man by his Creator and evident in his nature, but a conditional privilege that the ruling class can allot and revoke at its leisure, depending either on its religious beliefs regarding the ‘choice’ in consideration or on the expediency of the choice as reflected in its net benefit or cost to social institutions.  The right to choose is roughly equivalent to ancient Athens’ right to free speech: you could do it so long as you weren’t corrupting the youth or antagonizing the democratic mob.

    Assault weapon – A destructive and morally irreconcilable weapon built for the sole purpose of assaulting someone or something, as contrasted with a non-assault ‘weapon’ that’s designed for sowing peace, fostering physical healing, and enabling constructive, nonviolent reforms to a growing social order.  The Democrat Party reserves the exclusive power to define what distinguishes an assault from a non-assault weapon, but until Congress relents and agrees to pass comprehensive gun safety laws removing weapons of war from America’s streets, the friendly firearms expert at Bass Pro Shops will continue to show consumers a massive stock of assault weapons, from the most diminutive handgun to the most powerful rifle.

    Military-style-weapons-of-war – Properly interpreted, weapons that are manufactured and sold solely for use by contemporary militaries on a battlefield, most often assuming the form of automatic rifles, armored vehicles, and other things that civilians literally cannot obtain outside of a black market, if at all.  Legitimate militaries in the 21st century don’t use AR-15s, nor do they use slingshots and blowguns.  To the average, low-information American, however, a military-style weapon of war is simply a weapon that’s used to inflict physical harm on somebody, and thus it is indistinguishable from every real ‘weapon’ in existence except in its unique quality of visual scariness, so recognized by the party of reason and science that pompously derides skeptics of evolution and man-made global warming as the “Flat Earth society”.

    Congress – The legislative branch of the United States, consisting of two departments, namely the Senate and the House of Representatives, that used to be distinct entities elected through separate means but are more or less identical in the present day.  In the 21st century, politicians and commentators frequently employ ‘Congress’ as a synonymous term for the House of Representatives, or the GOP generally, in order to sound objective and nonpartisan while in reality they’re doing nothing more than parroting their party’s talking points.

    HateCrime – Literally, the crime of hating some person, practice, institution, etc., comparable in severity to ThoughtCrime and PreCrime.  The invocation of terms like HateCrime presupposes a judicial system based, not on the judgment and punishment of particular deeds according to a fair and constant code of laws, but on circumstantial evaluations and verdicts which fluctuate from case to case, taking into account a wide range of irrelevant factors such as the criminal’s physical appearance, economic background, motive, and personal character, rather than focusing on the one question that truly matters: guilty, or not guilty?  Tragically, the presupposition that America has a deliberative court system is mostly correct.  For a more detailed analysis of HateCrime, we invite our readers to look at Chapter 18 of Rush Limbaugh’s See, I Told You So, entitled “Political Correctness and the Coming of the Thought-Police”.  Or just read the whole thing.

    Homophobia – The irrational fear of enduring physical harm at the hands of homosexuality and its practitioners, comparable to arachnophobia, aquaphobia, and altaphobia. See also adulteryphobia, blasphemyphobia, murderphobia, dishonestyphobia, and robberyphobia.

    Diversity – A state of collective identity distinguished by a wide multiplicity and variety of character, philosophy, habits, occupations, and other factors pertaining to the different traits of the group’s individual members.  As interpreted in the modern day, a condition of total racial equilibrium in the body of any establishment, usually a business or college.  External physical appearance and skin color are the chief and possibly the only criteria by which “diversity out-reach coordinators” like Michelle Obama measure the diversity of a given institution, which is why we have affirmative action for black students but not for conservative college professors.

    African-American Grammatically defined either as an immigrant to America from Africa, an immigrant to Africa from America, or a dual citizen of America and some country in Africa.  Also denotes a dark-skinned person who has no African heritage whatsoever and has probably never visited the continent whom the politically correct news media nevertheless insists on identifying as an oppressed victim class based on the sufferings of other dark-skinned people who were kidnapped from their home countries and enslaved by Caucasians more than two hundred years ago.  African-American, therefore, has developed a largely metaphorical dimension that allows racebaiters such as Representative Sheila Jackson Lee to assert with a straight face that they “stand here as freed slaves”.  Obama is the First-African-American-President only in that he was born in Kenya and subsequently brought to the United States or in that his great-great-great ancestors, whose history we do not know, were theoretically bound to some Southern farmer a century before he was born.

    Wall Street – Literally, a real, geographical street in Manhattan which is home to the New York Stock Exchange.  Figuratively, banks and rich people.

    Lobbyist – An offensive term referring to anyone who advocates a particular political cause that the speaker finds objectionable, as in the gun lobby, the corporate lobby, and the Jewish lobby.  In other words, anyone who’s even partially immersed in politics is a constituent of one or another lobby depending on whose opinion you ask.  Can we hear a Non-Unique? 

    Tea Party – A historical protest raised against the oppressive and unlawful taxation by King George the Third in which Massachusetts revolutionaries boarded a British vessel and threw all the tea stored there overboard.  Now, any member of the Republican Party who dares to separate himself ideologically from state-propagated, Democrat dogma and stand for free markets and fiscal conservancy through massive cuts to unsustainable spending measures.  This “Tea Party” is not a real political party, nor is it a party in the rowdy, tear-down-the-house sense, nor is it even a party of like-minded individuals who think the government needs to replace its socialistic, punitive tax code with a moral and just system for collecting revenue which respects mankind’s equal and natural rights and which shows no special favoritism.  This imaginary Tea Party, with which media commentators associate both hard-core constitutionalists like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and wishy-washy moderates like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, is nothing but a kindergarten-level insult that anti-conservative writers use to smear their opponents as extremists from the “far right”. 

    Far-right/hardliner – Veering to the side of the political spectrum favoring maximum liberty and constitutional government.  Severely conservative, if a conservative can be “severely” anything. 

    In the shadows – Occupying a dark and shrouded region of space; unclear, hard to discern, obscure, strange.  A special, not that logical application: when used with ‘living’ or ‘being’, refers to non-citizens or aliens being denied certain privileges reserved for law-abiding U.S. citizens because they are neither law-abiding nor U.S. citizens.  For example, “No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.  They are alive and well and respected in the state of California.” ~ Jerry Brown, on passing historical “civil rights” legislation that allows illegal aliens to get driver licenses.  Said people living in the shadows are extremely introverted, light-sensitive, and reluctant to enter the public spotlight (except for the select few, usually young, college-bound morons, who delight in boasting about their lawlessness and demanding full pardon and even reward for their crimes), and so they resign themselves to inhabiting alleyways, tree-dotted parks, and other shadowy refuges.  We don’t get what ‘the shadows’ are either, but with the NSA peering down our shoulders at everything we say, send, or type – including this – we sure wish we could go there. 

    Undocumented worker – A person who works without a (work) document, whatever that is.  Also denotes a person who doesn’t do any work, sucks up state welfare handouts, and also happens to be lacking a document certifying his legal presence in a nation whose citizens are forced by law to feed him without the slightest return for their labor. 

    Native-American – Someone native to America by birth, not by his no-good, dirty, rotten, land-stealing great, great grandfather’s birth.  I.e., a person born in America is, by definition, a native-American, not a native-European.  PC usage: the term refers exclusively to the descendants of Indian tribes whose members were poisoned, pillaged, raped, and murdered by evil white men 400 years ago and coercively displaced by Andrew Jackson in the 19th century, although we’re not supposed to remember that latter travesty. 

    Needy – 1. Depending upon the possession or consumption of a particular commodity to attain a certain end, generally one’s continuous existence.  E.g., all human beings are needy of food to survive, but some are needy of greater quantities than others; this film is needy of a $100 million budget to get off the ground.  2. Lacking a certain substance or product of which one may or may not be truly needy. Food-stamp, SSI disability, and Obamaphone recipients have no greater need than their self-relying counterparts, but since their want often exceeds that of their neighbors, they are held to be more needy in the eyes of many a beholder. 

    Holding someone hostage – Physically restraining an individual’s freedom, usually of movement, in order to extract some personal benefit in the form of a ‘ransom’; depriving a person of his natural liberty.  In a metaphorical sense, restoring a person’s freedom from governmental fetters in order to extract some largely theoretical political benefit in the form of an endorsement from Faux News, Rush Limbaugh, and Teabaggers; liberating a person from societal captivity. 

    Faux News – A nonexistent cable news channel invented by unoriginal groupthinkers who watch Jon Stewart and MSNBC and can’t even come up with a mock title that rhymes with Fox News. 

    Teabag, -bagger, -bagging – 1. Something we at the editorial board prudently elect not to describe in its literal sense.  2. A popular victory dance in 1st-person multiplayer shooters like Halo, humiliating to both victor and victim, that will only get more creepy and immature as Call of Duty: Ghosts leads the charge for sexually integrated armed forces in video games.  3. What some people think is a clever and original nickname for members of the ‘Tea Party’, which they also created.

    Universal health care – The condition that treatment and care for one’s personal health is universally accessible to anyone who seeks it.  Universal health care and universal health insurance are fundamentally different ideas, as one can care for his own health even without health insurance and, indeed, for much less money.

    Affordable – Able to be afforded based on one’s personal income; that which is affordable for one man may be patently unaffordable for another.  As opposed to expensive, which is the state of something costing more than it is worth (Apple computers/phone plans, new video games and consoles), or cheap, costing less than it is worth (used video games and consoles).  When gauging whether a certain service or product given by the private sector is affordable, politicians compare the cost of that item to the lowest possible income in order to ‘prove’ that said item is nonviable and must be supplanted with a statist solution.

    Affordable (health) care – Health care that is affordable. Not health insurance that is not affordable.

    Comprehensive – By the dictionary, denoting a plan or thing that is well thought through, carefully examined, meticulously constructed, and thorough in its scope, as in comprehensive corrupt bureaucracy reform, comprehensive welfare state reform, or comprehensive bloated tax code reform.  In its contemporary sense, as explained by Mark Steyn, the word “is a euphemism for interminably long, poorly drafted, and entirely unread — not just by the people’s representatives but by our robed rulers, too”, as in comprehensive health care reform, comprehensive immigration reform, and comprehensive campaign finance reform.

    Reproductive rights – Literally speaking, the natural right to reproduce as God intended without invasion or punishment by the law; said right has been threatened and often trampled by barbaric population control measures, such as the one-child and forced abortion policies in China, or by radical man-haters who think that human beings are an irreconcilable plague on the rest of the earth’s species and try to give their lives meaning by attacking imaginary crises like the Duggar family’s reckless fruitfulness and uninhibited expansion.  As opposed to unreproductive rights, which were conceived by brilliant human rights activists William Brennan and William Douglas and enshrine the civil liberty to have as much sex as you please and never bear a child, whether that be by birth control or abortion/infanticide.

    Back-alley abortion – An abortion committed in a back-alley, which is a metaphorical construct for any dreary, uncleanly, dark, or otherwise fittingly hopeless place.  Back-alley abortions are generally regarded to be more dangerous and immoral than front-alley or hospital abortions because they leave a more gory mess, pose greater harm to the physical if not the spiritual health of the ‘mother’, and more obviously reflect just what the ‘abortion’ is really aborting.

    Mother – A woman who has given birth to or raised children of her own.  Hence the bitter irony of a U.S. president openly celebrating contraceptives, or drugs that avert motherhood, and Planned Parenthood, which also averts motherhood, on Mother’s Day.

    Planned Parenthood – 1. Parenthood, or the state of being a parent, that is planned for, i.e. anticipated and actively worked towards by the prospective parent.  2. A federally-sponsored organization that helps people plan not to be parents by administering ‘medical procedures’ that prevent parenthood by killing the child before it is born.

    Medical procedure – A procedure executed in order to preserve or improve the physical health of a living being.  Antonym: Violence, a ‘procedure’ which is executed in order to weaken or sometimes outright annihilate the physical health of a living being.

    Civil right/liberty – A legal privilege or entitlement that can be extended or revoked at the whim of the ruling class; a ‘freedom’ that is neither permanent nor, arguably, exists at all.

    Haterism – The non-unique philosophical doctrine to which veritably all human souls subscribe of hating a particular person, policy, idea, or institution based on either logical or purely instinctive thoughts.  Even those self-professed angels of toleration that walk among us would admit to hating those they dub haters with a passion, as the very act of calling someone a hater/bigot/bully is itself a symbol of hatred, probably more so than whatever the alleged hater believed or did to provoke such a petty symbol.  What can we say?  Haters Gonna Hate.

    Fundamentalist – 1. One who accepts the fundamentals of a given religion, philosophy, or science wholeheartedly and without question.  Fundamentalists stem from quite every social or religious movement: e.g., Fundamentalist Goremons contend with no evidence that CO2 emissions make the earth warmer and cause extreme weather events despite countless evidence that proves the contrary, not limited to the facts that natural disasters in the U.S. are currently occurring at the lowest rate in decades, that the average surface temperature of the earth hasn’t risen in at least 15 years, and that the mass of Arctic icecaps has skyrocketed in the last year despite predictions by delusional BBC fearmongers that it would all have melted by now, all while CO2 PPM in the atmosphere has reached record levels.  Also, Fundamentalist Commies argue that maintaining a welfare state to the tune of $Trillions a year is a necessary expense to eliminate poverty in the States, even though the poverty rate has remained mostly level ever since LBJ enacted the Great Society in 1965.  Furthermore, Fundamentalist Atheists deride the Bible and especially Genesis as a Creationist collection of fairy tales that have no scientific basis, while simultaneously conjecturing that rational beings are descended from irrational animals, that homosexual intercourse is safe and natural for some people because research has shown that lesbian insects do it together, and that the human mind, nay the whole world on which we live, nay the entire universe and all its matter is a random product of an intelligent and self-initiated explosion at the dawn of time.  2. A derogatory and redundant slur for Christians invented by someone who clearly wasn’t a Christian.  There’s no such thing as a non-fundamentalist Christian, as all Christians must hold the Bible to be the incontestable word of God.  Fundamentalist Christians can’t pick out certain parts of the Bible and discard others that conflict with their conscience, as they would then be rejecting fundamental elements of their faith.

    Paying one’s bills – Paying off whatever debt one owes to a particular person, establishment or other entity; demonstrating financial responsibility and honest dealing in settling one’s liabilities towards those he owes.  In Newspeak, accumulating trillion of dollars in debt by borrowing unlimited amounts of money that one has no intent to repay in order to fund excessive and unlawful programs that one has no intent to cut or curtail; demonstrating financial irresponsibility and dishonest dealing in refusing to settle one’s liabilities towards those he owes under any circumstances.

    Anarchist – One who disputes the legitimacy of any and all laws imposed by governmental bodies and conducts himself as if such laws didn’t exist; a rebel disposed to chaos who believes that legislators have no business deciding which laws should be applied to society.  Slang/obscene: one who dares to dispute the feasibility, expediency, legality, or morality of certain laws imposed by governmental bodies and conducts himself as if such laws should not exist in the first place; a constitutionalist disposed to order who believes that legis-lators have every business deciding which laws should be applied to society.

    Credit card – A plastic article that private citizens use to buy products and services with money they are credited to possess.   Also a metaphorical image on which Bush put two wars and a prescription drug program.

    Education – The information and the basic skills, usually relating to mathematics, language, history, and science, that young people acquire up through the 12th grade of high school so that they can enter the world as intelligent and independent adults.  “Education” has since come to encapsulate in the popular mind both the high and low extremes of human learning, from the ABCs and 1,2,3s in “preschool” to job training in college, both of which are funded by the taxpayer and neither of which relates to education properly understood.  No one pays a $100,000+ tuition to a 4-year college in order to get an “education”; they pay such an exorbitant rate in order to get a degree, which is simply a means to a job.

    Fact-checker/-ing – The process of checking a certain, usually liberal person’s or party’s questionable claims to verify whether they accurately reflect factual information, as opposed to checking factual information that doesn’t reflect the questionable claims of a certain, usually liberal person or party.

    Buffet – V. To beat or strike repeatedly so as to weaken.  N. A supposedly brilliant and economically knowledgeable scribe who professes to desire to pay a higher overall tax rate than his financially downtrodden, second-class secretary, who is inexplicably alleged to pay a higher percentage of income (36%) than the highest statutory rate (35%) under 2012’s federal tax code, but is too dense to figure out how he can pay more of his own initiative and demands that the government likewise persecute everyone of his economic class who doesn’t feel similarly obligated to suffer more in order that their assistants aren’t suffering alone.

    Term of endearment – An address used between two people that signifies friend/kinship and respect for the other in proportion to his nature as a human being.  In common-man-speak, refers to an obscene and dehumanizing slur that can reasonably be uttered by people of the same skin color that the word degrades but must never be tolerated from people of another skin color, specifically white.

    Single-mom – A welfare recipient, most often a product of a culture and state that financially endorses promiscuous behavior in young adulthood, who won’t take care of herself and relies on ‘compassionate’ statists to support her with money they’ve reappropriated from people who will take care of themselves.

    Compassionate – Possessing the benevolence or grace to help others through one’s own resources and labor, often to no personal gain; idem-sacrificial – of the self.  As contrasted with the political “com-passionate”, which is the trait of feigning to help others through resources and labor that aren’t one’s own solely for personal gain; alius-sacrificial – of others.

    Charity – 1. A virtuous act committed before God by one’s free will out of a true love for one’s fellow men, however wretched and disgusting they may be.  2. An organization devoted to making such acts feasible.  3. Something the state incentivizes by threatening to confiscate your property unless you allocate it to such a cause.  4. A motion by which narcissists convince themselves that they’re “good people” and that their lives have meaning on account of their service to the human race, which is nevertheless but an accidental byproduct of chaos and equivalent to the smallest insect in its value.

    Objective – That which is real, true, and actual, regardless of any disagreements about it by feeble and fallible human minds.  Somewhere along the road of journalism’s historical decay, objective morphed into “without bias”, in spite of the fact that reality will always favor one bias over another, and from there it devolved still further into the unfounded notion that objective reporting requires total neutrality towards political disputes and even the full rejection of factual information that benefits any side over another.  Regardless, if we are to accept this Newspeak formulation of objective as “being without motive or bias”, then we’d be hard pressed to locate such a news outlet in today’s climate of objectivity, as nearly all present journalists happen to be either leftist hacks or kinda-conservative-but-not-really hacks (we’re looking at you, Krauthammer/O’Reilly).

    Patriarch The father of a household, or a derogatory term invented by feminists for men who don’t agree with abortion on demand, free love, or the desegregation of strictly male jobs out of “fairness”.

    Free love Love that is free (of moral boundaries, obligations, or other rules).

    Freedom to love Literally, the liberty to love someone or something without intrusion or persecution by the rest of society.  Popularly understood, the freedom to receive a marriage certificate and all its respective legal and financial perks in relationship to anyone or anything, i.e. the license to take advantage of someone or something by demanding the government intrude upon your relationship and officially subsidize it at the expense of the rest of society.  But that doesn’t sound as harmless and romantic, does it?

    Brothers and sisters – Familial or blood relatives by one’s biological or adopted ancestors.  When a politician makes vague and lofty platitudes about his subjugates’ siblings, e.g. “our gay brothers and sisters” and “being our brother’s keeper”, don’t pay him any heed.  Aside from cheapening the meaning of true brotherhood and affirming New-Age BS about “all life being connected”, such a career politician is a liar and a con of the lowest order.  He doesn’t know your brother or sister, nor does he have the slightest interest in your or anyone’s relatives beyond what will service his own personal advancement.  This kind of serpent is among the most disgusting vermin to call himself a man.

    Gay / LGBT community – Homosexuals taken collectively.  Has since adopted characteristics and implications that extend far beyond the individual people within the body, coming to engender not just gays and lesbians but also the legal agendas associated with them.  E.g., when a politician says that he “supports his friends in the gay community” or a GLAAD spokesperson condemns a figure for “spreading hatred against the gay community”, they’re not even talking about homosexual people per se so much as they are about homosexual marriage.  Whether one approves or disdains of the “gay community” is no more than a politically charged way of separating proponents and detractors of state-subsidizing homosexual unions and making the former sound morally superior to the latter.

    Compromise/deal A voluntary trade, usually of future plans and obligations, arranged between multiple parties in which each side gets something it wants and gives up something else in the process.  Compromise leaves no one perfectly content but everyone more satisfied than they were prior to striking the deal.  When “compromise” has evolved into an agreement that gives one party everything it wants at the expense of everything the other party wants, it’s no longer a true compromise but a “sacrifice” or “caving”.

    Bipartisan – Designating a policy or ideal that both parties – the Democrats and Republicans by popular use, disregarding that there are many other parties far superior to the ruling couple – support equally and without dispute.  Also designating a policy that only Democrats want and Republicans will surrender to them simply for the sake of calling themselves “bipartisan”, as in “bipartisan budget act” or “bipartisan farm bill”, or a policy that Democrats think Republicans should support and yet they never will, as in “bipartisan health care reform law”.

    LGBT – Popular journalistic euphemism for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.  Really, when was the last time you saw the New York Times or Huffington Post celebrating “lesbian rights”, “bisexual rights”, or “transgender rights”?

    Anti-gay(ness) – Holding moral beliefs or biases that are critical of homosexual intercourse and unions.   In Newslang, “anti-gay(people)” is used by practitioners of tolerance and respect to defame anyone who denies that taxpayer-funded homosexual unions are a God-given entitlement, that homosexuality is safe and natural, or that homosexual relationships are ethically equivalent to ones that biologically work.

    Pro-gay(ness) – Holding moral beliefs or biases that are supportive of homosexual intercourse and unions.  No one of political prominence will openly admit to being “pro-gay” – only to being “pro-gay marriage” or “pro-marriage equality”.  On the other hand, those of political prominence who stalwartly oppose gay marriage are never referred to as “anti-gay marriage”, but only as “anti-gay”.  Funny how double standards work.

    Marriage Equality – A condition wherein all law-abiding citizens retain the same liberty to enter a marital commitment with someone whose sex is compatible with the meaning of the word “marriage”, because in order for marriage to mean anything, it has to not mean something else.  A campaign to secure “marriage equality” for homosexuals is a superfluous and purposeless vanity project because they already possess the same “right to marry” under the law that everybody else does; they simply choose as any other single person does not to exercise it.  In order to achieve the kind of “marriage” “equality” that gay lobbyists desire, society would have to so thoroughly break down the established definitions of both words that they would no longer denote anything of significance.  The grand irony of the gay agenda is that its greatest triumph would also symbolize its greatest defeat: in winning the so-called “right to marry”, they would simultaneously lose the right to join in a marriage of any meaning, value, or worth.

    Not knowing where your next meal is going to come from – 1. Indecision as to whether one will next eat of an animal or of a crop, and of what species or sort.  2. Something that little poor kids do in bed instead of sleeping when they want to stay up all night and get lucky.  3. A state of severe anxiety and ignorance habitually held by government dependents whenever Congress is considering reductions to the indispensable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

    Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Food stamps, i.e. food that you’re taking from someone else you don’t know.

    Un******* believable – Something so unbelievable that its rank absurdity warrants or even necessitates the use of obscenity for proper emphasis, as perverted from the original meaning of the descriptor referring to a supposition, story, or other statement so serious and well substantiated that it’s clearly not ****ing around.  We’re kidding: this figure of speech doesn’t have any logical structure to it whatsoever.

    Hella – Ebonics abbreviation for “a hell of a/a hell of a lot of”, we think.  So invented because it was unduly difficult to say the whole thing or use a more articulate phrase to convey the same sentiment.

    Tolerance – The will to peaceably abide alongside and to let stand differing religions, countenances, political views, professions, and walks of life that don’t necessarily align with one’s own.  Origins: certain colonies in pre-Revolutionary America included Toleration laws in their compacts and constitutions that allowed individuals of different denominations to practice their faith without fear of persecution by the established government.  While these religious entities were tolerated within their respective communities, their creeds were seldom respected or endorsed by the government, nor were other citizens mandated to allay their own beliefs out of deference to the beliefs of others.  In order to sustain any semblance of objective meaning in language and to avert the degeneration of English discourse into senseless babble, we have no recourse but to fiercely battle all efforts to subvert this term.   Contrary to popular thought, tolerance is hardly synonymous with or indicative of acceptance, which is the unconditional approval of something, often evil, nor is it secured by raining favors on whichever contrived victim group has been deemed subject to intolerance.  One doesn’t need to subsidize or champion a belief or lifestyle in order to tolerate it.  This is the great lie of Moral Relativism.

    Religious belief – A conviction informed by reason concerning the nature of God, our relationship to Him, and the way of righteous conduct underneath His laws and commandments.  Not every personal fancy or opinion is a religious belief, as theology must needs be rooted in more than the genetic attributes implanted in a person by conception.  If everything one does or says can be attributed to one’s religion, then “the free exercise thereof” has no real value and we must conclude that the Founders were mistaken when they enshrined a right to it within the Constitution.  We know the Founders were not mistaken to observe that right, for if the United States didn’t protect this right then it would inevitably devolve into a fascist dictatorship, and therefore we must also conclude that the New Newspeak understanding of religious beliefs is faulty.

    Hate – A verb meaning to loathe someone or something vehemently.  In the 21st century, a noun indicating disagreement with any predominantly leftist political agenda, esp. homosexual marriage and legalization of illegal immigration, synonymous with Christianity and constitutional conservatism.

    Homosexual – 1. A scientific term designating someone who’s physically attracted to members of the same sex, as derived from homogenous-sexual.  2. A derogatory, bigoted, hateful, and grammatically baseless term designating someone who’s physically attracted to members of the same sex; substitute with a scientific and non-offensive word like “gay” or “queer” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

    Gay – Joyful and giddy; overflowing with happiness.  A complimentary and enlightened word when used to describe homosexual people or things; an insulting and insensitive word when used to describe non-homosexual people or things.

    First – Preceding anything else in a series, usually poorly conceived and rough-edged compared to those things which follow it.  Exception: when applied to historical events or political movements, being the first to do anything is generally held in higher esteem than being the best at doing something.

    Food insecurity – 1. A medical condition of being insecure about the food that one eats.  Members of the food-insecure community are often stereotyped as vegetarians and vegans, but this is a misconception, as even McDonalds consumers have occasionally professed insecurity about the pink slime and GMO ingredients contained in their McNuggets and Big Macs, if not the horrible taste.  2. Not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, or so we think.  See above.  USA Today wants us to believe that 49 million people in the country “sometimes eat less, go hungry, or eat less nutritious meals because they can’t afford to eat better”.  You’d have to ask them for the precise scientific meanings of eating “less”, eating “better”, and going “hungry”.

    This list will be continually updated with new entries, as The Author's Files editorial board was not alerted of Laboral Party Day, McDonalds day, or Trayvon Martin Luther King Jr. day in due time to finish a full series of commentaries on the unmitigated perversion of the English language.  We don't keep track of these self-indulgent social justice rallies.