Thursday, December 24, 2015

Star Wars: "The Force Awakens" a review.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

The following article is intended as a post-theatrical release full review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

If you have not yet seen the movie, stop reading now.


Star Wars needs no introduction. 

It’s as ubiquitous as sliced bread and quoted more often than Richard Nixon delivering his keynote resignation speech. It’s been parodied by more late-night comics, magazines and TV serials than perhaps any other popular relic we have in our cultural arsenal. “Star Wars” has become the ideal vehicle for Hollywood to partake in selling mythology lite to the cynical, post space-race western masses. It embodies the perfect blend of Kurosawa film technique; Zen traditions, totalitarian fascism, WW2 Era ace pilot bravado and a “Black and white” mystical dichotomy that dares to begin venturing yet further into the questionable grey areas of our materialist, postmodern morality. The latest entry in the saga meets the anticipated nostalgia quota that gives a degree of fan-service that everyone from the general audience to the true blue fans, of which I am proudly one, will appreciate.

The core premise of ‘The Force Awakens’ is about reclamation: This is the grand, overarching theme that runs throughout the course of the movie. The very future of the Star Wars franchise hinged entirely on J.J.Abrams ability to distance it from the recent memory of the prequels and establish vital, binding links with the original trilogy while pumping in new blood and applying a fresh coat of paint. There is no doubt he succeeded brilliantly. ‘The Force Awakens’ is, from a canonical perspective, less of an extension of Jedi and more a reboot of A New Hope. This is pulled off with precision detail and finesse thanks to its ardent cast of characters, engaging score, pulse-pounding action sequences, and of course, it’s trademark quirky humor and campy one-liners. All of these factors complement one another. It’s the first Star Wars movie since ‘83 that truly feels like a Star Wars movie.

On to the review!

Acting:  The cast carries the film, as it should in any great production. Their performances are invigorating and the cast feels excited to be there. (Well, most of them). Poe Dameron and Finn are total bro’s and their energy radiates genuinely on screen. The hotshot ace pilot is a young Solo incarnate, and perhaps my personal favorite new character. Oscar Issac could have been granted a bit more screen-time as Dameron, but gave an otherwise outstanding performance. Daisy Ridley steals the show as Rey, a force wielding savant with riveting screen presence. She’s also a natural actress and a convincingly force-powerful female lead that has been pulled off perfectly. Finn's enthusiasm is infectious, embracing the light side and his newfound role as the reluctant hero. Han and Chewie have the ‘grumpy old men’ vibe going that provides comic relief while still displaying a gun slinging chivalry reminiscent of the first films. Leia mutters a few forgettable lines. Luke Skywalker has transformed into a grizzled Ben Kenobi and stares intensely for about 10 minutes straight delivering one of the best wordless cliffhanger endings in cinema history.

Staging and special effects:  They finally did it right this time. The usage of physical sets and models combined with real costume design and strategic use of CGI made all the difference. The atmosphere is quintessentially Star Wars down to every last detail. Maz Kanata is a wonderful new character brought to life through CGI and motion capture thanks to the talents of Lupita Nyong’o, which is exactly the kind of new character that the new trilogy deserved. She had perhaps the most unique and original role in the film, I felt, despite her cantina/castle drawing yet more obvious parallels to ANH through the setting being a facsimile of the Mos Eisely Cantina. The full IMAX sequence of the Millenium Falcon being chased down by TIE fighters across the dunes of Jakku and through the bowels of a scuttled Star Destroyer should be more than enough to make a Star Wars fan out of anyone.

Score: A thematic John Williams score never fails, as it simply wouldn’t be ‘Star Wars’ without one. Each track is utterly flawless. 

Cinematography:  Panning, sweeping shots lend themselves to some of the best scenes yet featured in any of the Star Wars films. Most notably, Finn and Rey running away from the TIE fighter bombardment all in one take, referencing a certain ship hidden off screen as ‘garbage’ as they sprint toward a vessel off in the distance in hopes of escape only for it to get blown to pieces in front of them, turning back round before the camera swiftly pans to the left unveiling the Millennium Falcon draped in tarp, was, in my opinion, brilliantly executed. Rey’s speeder racing across the dunes of Jakku amidst the wreckage of Imperial and Rebel ships both in foreground and background gives a breadth of scope that is nothing short of jaw dropping. The shot where the nose of the Star Destroyer Finalizer begins hovering over the crowd in IMAX was simply glorious. The Light saber battle which takes place toward the end of the film was absolutely incredible; feeling authentic and haggard like a novice medieval sword battle would play out, rather than a highly choreographed showboating dance number that was the bane of the prequels. I needn't go on. We never feel out of the action within any of these sequences. There is no blurry, telescopic focus on the characters as they fight, no cutting rapidly in and out of takes which plagued many action movies of the past. We feel involved in the battles, and can hone in on the rich detail of all the characters as they square off.

Plot:  Simultaneously its weakest and strongest feature. It’s the strongest because it’s essentially a retelling of a new hope. It’s the weakest’s essentially the retelling of a new hope.

This of course, is the film’s most pressing concern. It is light years past the point of homage when every pivotal plot point is an echo bounce off the hallowed halls of ANH. This can be absolved, however, as the fundamental plot of ANH was a superb modern adaptation of the Hero’s journey and the monomyth that resonates with audiences to this very day. The obvious parallels, however tenuous they may be at times, are pulled off so incredibly well that despite Abrams stratagem of playing it safe by having gone this route purposefully, we are yet left with a plot that still amounts to a Re-hashing. When it comes to the integrity of the storyline, what it suffers from the most is unoriginality regarding the story arc, most notably in the development of the protagonist (Rey).  Rey is Luke. She follows in his footsteps and inerrably leads right back to him. She also does this wonderfully and with magnanimous screen presence. Star Wars needed to come back its roots, and it has done just that. ‘The Force Awakens’ may be a rehashing, but it is a great re hashing.

Genuinely funny moments abound: cheeky puns and quirky humor are essential to the Star Wars experience. BB8 giving an ambiguous “Thumbs up” or “Middle finger” to Finn was pure gold. By virtue of existing in its own galaxy, Star Wars can bend the integrity of its storyline by never taking itself too seriously. This is one of the defining features that make Star Wars unique.

The villain, Kylo Ren, is something of a mixed bag. Having found his calling in being seduced to the Dark Side by Darth Smeagol and his ‘Attack on Titan’ Sized hologram, he is far less menacing and confident as Vader appeared in the 1970s by an order of magnitude, Kylo appeals to the sensibilities of the current times: The untrained villain, while powerful, is genuinely emotionally unstable. Self-doubting, self-conflicted, and irrational to a fault, his litany of flaws and weaknesses are purposefully exacerbated; verging on the whininess of Prequel Anakin. Yet Driver delivers a solid performance through Kylo harnessing his distinct psychopathy and contempt for the light which result in his inevitable patricide. We now have the father/son redemption dynamic in reverse. Evil is portrayed as delirium, a spontaneous force lashing out of control.

Though predictable, I am not ashamed to admit I found Han’s death scene to be the most emotionally compelling part of the film. Han knew stepping onto that catwalk would spell his doom and that his chances at saving his son were slim to none. Harrison’s expression of anguish upon sacrificing himself followed by pity for his son at what he had done to him was brutal, still caressing his face before he fell to his death. Chewies utter ballistic outrage and Finn and Reys horrified look of shock after their more naïve hopes at Kylo’s redemption were dashed to pieces drove the scene home. Despite all this, it had to happen to give the film the impact it needed. Ford wanted this for over 32 years.

Han Solo will always be a cultural icon. He’s the original space cowboy preceded only by the likes of Flash Gordon. The backdrop of his death scene resembled the Bespin Shaft where Vader revealed his fatherhood to Luke. Han’s death itself was a throwback to Obi Wan becoming one with the force right before being ‘struck down’ by Vader. These are just a couple of the many parallels Abrams ties with pretty red bowstrings to the original trilogy.


Captain Phasma :  No, I am not a Game of Thrones fan, I have a legitimate bone to pick here. Gwendoline Christie’s character was the most underwhelming of the entire movie for me. She was primed to be the next ‘Boba Fett’ and did absolutely nothing. Knocked upside the head, capitulated to the Resistance while muttering an idle threat, and dumped into a trash chute without as much as putting up what could have been an epic fight in an exciting scene. It doesn’t get more humiliating than that. She ended up about as relevant to the plot as Dannik Jericho. Don’t know who that is?  Neither do 99.9% of moviegoers who aren’t die-hard SW fans. She’s pure ornamentation. She could have stood on the bridge of the Finalizer throughout the entire movie as a set piece in her shiny chrome armor and the plot would not have changed one iota. Ok sure, maybe Han and Finn could have abducted one of the other ten billion storm troopers aboard the Starkiller to lower the shields (Oh, like THAT hasn’t been done to death…).

What an utter waste of a fresh character with a badass costume design.

Suspension of disbelief: The film stretches itself a bit too thin at times. Coincidence to the point of absurdity can and will be written off as ‘The will of the Force’ in any Star Wars film. Jumping out of light speed eight hundred feet off the surface of the Starkiller? A perfect rift opening up within the span of 30 feet right in between Ren and Rey at the exact moment there's a lull in their saber fight?  Kudos, Abrams!

Leia: While appearing matronly and reserved, her bittersweet reunion with Han was believable but she did not project the aura of a Resistance general. She seemed bored to be there, and sounded like a woman named Blanche after pulling an all-night binge in Vegas playing slots and smoking menthols.

Upon escaping Jakku and being towed in by the freighter Eravana, Finn and Rey hide out in the smuggling compartment of the Millennium Falcon expecting to be boarded by storm troopers. Upon which, they plot to flood the Falcon with poisonous gas to take out the storm troopers coming on board while wearing re breathers of their own. Finn then has some dialogue with Rey in reference to the threat of invading storm troopers which leads us to:

The Dumbest line in the movie award! Which goes to:

“Their masks only filter out smoke, not toxins!"


Yeah, no.

That whole idea is dumb and should have been scrapped.


Overall, the movie was excellent. Little else needs to be said on that front.

What I now feel to be the most crucial function the next two installments must accomplish is for the screenwriters to take risks and head in a completely new direction, introducing a fresh plot with more twists and turns that keeps people guessing. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can anticipate how Ep VIII will flesh out: It’s going to get dark. Luke will train Rey. Snoke will train Ren. There will be a pivotal battle. Light sabers will clash. SOMEONE is going to be related to SOMEONE else. Yawn. 

There needs to be a variety of highly exotic elements coming into play with the following films. Ep VIII cannot emulate ‘Empire’, else it should become stale and fall back into prequel mediocrity. ‘The Force Awakens’ was a veritable success in recapturing the essence of Star Wars and did it so well that it can’t afford to let the series simply repeat itself like a broken 8-track thinly disguised as an iphone6, even though the theme of coming full circle is quite charming and underscores the locus of thought that Abrams felt necessary to execute with this film, the series now needs to branch out into unknown territory and truly surprise us.

Ah…who am I kidding? Even if Ep VIII clones ‘Empire’ frame for frame it’ll still rake in billions. 

Much of the script is likely already written and may already be in pre-production. Let’s hope it breaks the mold and gives us something completely different.

Audiences at large don’t sincerely expect Star Wars to wax philosophic on some profound soul searching pastiche; delivering deeply intellectual melodrama through black & white art-house performances by academy award winning actors and actresses: its pseudo-science and space aliens. It’s about munching on popcorn while watching laser cannons blasting apart Star fighters to smithereens and receiving little tidbits of wisdom from sagely old masters in cloaks.  It’s about licensing and toy companies. It’s especially about toy companies. It’s about them selling veritable ass-loads of action figures to your kids. This is all a great thing, of course…though maybe not for your checking account if you’re a parent…or a 30 something year old ‘collector’ in a subterranean living situation with your parents.

Star Wars is this wonderfully crafted modern cultural vessel that ties people together and spans entire generations through the enduring mythos of a fantasy space opera that has stood the test of time, but the whole thing now desperately needs an injection of ingenuity straight to the heart like Uma Thurman getting pumped full of Adrenaline after overdosing in Pulp Fiction.

I am incredibly satisfied with ’The Force Awakens’, and can strongly declare it a worthy successor to Jedi. Despite a series of minor flaws and a singular glaring one, The Force Awakens deserves its global success and positive critical reception. The Force has been brought back for a whole new generation to enjoy. It’s as nostalgic as it is entertaining, and it left me smiling in my theater seat.

Most importantly, it feels fun. 

Final score


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why "Undertale" is Game of the year: A game review.

(Though I would consider this review "Spoiler Free",its much better to play this game without hype or expectations, if you agree, stop reading now.)

Coming from the likes of a jaded, life-long gamer, I can honestly say that “Undertale” is a game that came completely out of left field for me. Having been recommended by a friend, I went dubiously into this game with an open minded critique expecting a typical RPG experience and came out emotionally moved with a whole new outlook on video gaming as a hobby and as an art medium.
It reels you into its world immediately and you won’t want to let go until it’s all over. Visceral and emotionally charged, one cannot help but find that it's heartfelt plot development, offbeat sense of humor, and gripping musical score are nothing short of compelling. 

The hype is real.

You play as a human child who has fallen into an underground world inhabited by monsters that were sealed off by humans during a war long ago. You strive to escape the Underground, but soon learn you weren’t the first to fall in. Simple, right? Things aren’t as they seem. Your every choice has consequences, and every character you meet along the way has their own complex agenda and distinct psychopathy. The incredible amount of painstaking attention to detail that went into making this game is impressive alone. This is a game, which, 20 some odd years ago, would have required an entire Dev team of coders and graphic artists to make, along with a marketing team to promote it and a major publishing company to release it.  Among my first thoughts during my initial play through was “This game was made with heart.”

On to the review!


This is a game that prides itself on being an ‘NES’ style throwback. It fully embraces the Indie doctrine of ‘Story and substance’ over the ‘Pomp and circumstance’ we have come to expect from over-the-top, salaciously rendered pixel-porn that has become the norm of mainstream gaming; often some well-established heavy hitting franchise that has overstayed its welcome or a tie-in title with some multi million dollar movie series. Undertale’s graphical styling gives us a revival of the classic era, and it does so not for the sake of playing on our nostalgia, but out of sheer candor. The monster encounters are like wistful, black & white pantomiming silhouettes, each one crafted with care and detail. The simplicity of the world design is almost ‘Zen’ like in execution, and its charm and exquisitely rendered sprites hearken back to the 8-bit era without patronizing it. This serves us well by further emphasizing we should never judge a game by its polygon count.



The melodies in this game are riveting and expertly composed. The themes run the gamut from heartwarming and bold, to foreboding, somber, or just plain bizarre. It is perfectly synchronized with every character encounter, and creates ambiance that make the underground world truly ‘live’.  The catchy chip-tunes typical of the 8-bit era are born anew through the original composition by TobyFox who cut his teeth creating tracks for Homestuck and playing piano by ear. Playing Undertale is worth it for the soundtrack alone; it elevates the game throughout its progression and drives the story sequences home in such a way that is wholly uplifting to the soul.

Game play:

 Implementing ‘Bullet hell’ gameplay mechanics lends itself to Clever, quirky, and at times delightfully challenging monster encounters and boss fights that keeps the pacing fresh and interesting. Although many of the map puzzles are too easy, it intentionally uses this cliché as a point of parody. It never takes itself too seriously, which ultimately lends itself all the credibility it requires. It’s got glamour, it’s got style….You can even date a skeleton! This is a game that needed to be made. I once pondered long ago what it would be like playing a game where you do not have to kill a single enemy, and if it would even be remotely enjoyable: Undertale answers that with a resounding “Yes.” Each character encounter offers you a unique way of dealing with them that does not require outright slaughter. You can finish the entire game without killing a single enemy. 


This is where Undertale shines the brightest.(Hurr hurr hurr!) Toby Fox takes a seemingly simplistic story that anyone can follow within the first few minutes, then masterfully adds layer upon layer of depth and emotionally charged story progression that ultimately results in a climactic Apotheosis of both player and protagonist that shatters all conventionality, right at the decisive moment, when it spawns a Deus Ex Machina, goes full ‘Meta’ and bulldozes through the fourth wall in flames while popping a wheelie at full throttle.

In any other game this would have proven catastrophic to its integrity.
I find it immensely difficult to deliver a complete assessment of the story without introducing spoilers critical to the plot, which is something I refuse to do. It’s such a pure story that needs to be experienced rather than being subjected to an over-analytical TL’DR fanfic-esque dissection.

Its clever pop-culture references and amalgamation of internet/anime/meme-centric humor speak to the sensibilities of the modern gamer in 2015. Undertale is really a horror game masquerading as a benign, cute JRPG style adventure. It disarms you with humor, only to confront you with a slew of ethical challenges and eldritch abominations. It forces you to think of your own consequences in a game world as a reflection of how you’d behave in the real world. It deals with androgyny and sexual undertones in such a brilliant manner, as to render it a harmless burlesque. The characters are so deeply flawed in their nature, yet so lovable, and that is exactly what gives them mass appeal. Whether or not Tobyfox set out with this in mind, the base elements of the ancient theme of Greek Tragic-comedy are alive and well in this game, and it is made adaptable for the modern generation in the form of a video game. It may even seem absurd to some who refuse to believe that such a twisted creation can even exist or that works of Art can take on so many variegated forms. 


In all fairness to the critique, it was clear to me right from the start that the game mechanics and graphical style are reminiscent of the Earthbound (Mother) series, and that it even draws upon some of its oddball charm, however, Undertale cleverly strikes out on its own volition and delivers a unique brand of quirkiness that sets it apart without directly 'imitating' anything before it. Despite how much TobyFox was influenced by the EB series, Undertale is by no means an ‘Earthbound clone’; it stands on its own two feet proudly, sallies forth, and delivers a homerun. The torch has been passed.

That being said, it’s very true that ‘Undertale’ is on the short side. Depending on your style of play, this game can be completed in a matter of hours, or over the course of a few days.  Initially, I felt as though the maps could have been more expansive in breadth and scope and more fleshed out…but I digress. For a game that costs only 10USD, having been developed by a very small dev team, this is a non-issue for one major reason: Toby Fox has embarked on this incredible venture and woven an intricate tale for us: Undertale delivers its message. It says what it needs to say, and I’ve come to realize it’s absolutely perfect as it is, short though it may be.  It throws typical RPG tropes out the window. It rejects the doctrine of completionism  and the mundane task of requiring hours and hours of mindless grinding typical of virtually all RPGS, or setting out to obtain some pointless ‘McGuffin’ in order to advance progress. It utterly redefines what it means to be a gamer by examining the relationship between the player and the character. In the same way that the Legend of Zelda series realizes the significance of the monomyth and the Heroes journey by allowing you (the player) to ‘Link’ to the Hero, Undertale reinforces that connection through embracing the core message of hope, forgiveness, redemption, and above all else: Determination.

If you don't....well, let's just say you're in for a bad time.

Those who truly ‘understand’ the game will require a degree of empathy and the ability to feel unhindered emotion and project their thoughts outside of themselves by ‘letting go’ and therefore engaging with the interactive medium of gaming to vindicate the art form to its highest potential, helping to understand the nature of others who have different perspectives. The powerful emotional impact this game possesses will result in a cathartic experience that has been described by many as nothing short of intense.  If you are unable to feel ‘something’ after completing one of the 3 possible endings, you may be just as repressed and internally tortured as the game’s “antagonist”.

I haven’t felt this way playing a video game since I was a child playing the NES classics back in the day. It was something I thought that I had lost and would never feel again. Undertale embodies the re-awakening of something so very familiar, but also something refreshing and so very unique, and I am sincerely thankful that someone out there still ‘gets’ it. In a mainstream world full of Halo’s, Metal Gears and Madden sequels, nothing could have prepared me for this experience. There’s so much hate right now in video games, so much division between gender, class, and corporate fanboy-ism pledging allegiance to their respective camps that many of us have lost focus on what a pure gaming experience truly is. Undertale comes along in all its lo-fi, 8-bit glory, and resets everything.

In a way, we are all like the child fallen into a world of monsters.

This is hands down game of the year, and in my humble opinion ranks among one of the greatest games of all time. I am not saying this lightly, either. Don't mind the haters: Undertale is the true underdog of retro-classic gaming in 2015.

Reading this review fills you with Determination to play Undertale.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gun Control means using both hands...

The phenomenon of mass shootings has become a routine fixture in modern America. 

Few hot-button topics evoke the kind of strong sentiments and staunchly held positions in people like the issue of gun control. The liberal Left often views it as an ideology fit to undergo legislation and be adopted across all states, while the conservative Right tends to support gun ownership as a constitutional right for all, not a privilege for some, often cowering away from any legislation to curb the widespread availability of firearms. Foreigners are especially prone to greatly underestimating as to how deeply entrenched gun-ownership is to the American identity. The brevity of the 2nd amendment is its master-stroke, placing crystal clear emphasis on the token responsibility of the public at large to act as a militant counterweight against the possible outcome of a radically oppressive federal government.

From the constitution,

Amendment II:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

What many often fail to realize, is that the constitution is a living document with the inherent capacity to be amended to suit the needs of the nation as it advances, should the general consensus of those in power deem it a necessary course of action. 

This document was written in an era when the most powerful firearms available consisted of single shot muskets that fired lead balls with great inaccuracy and were clumsily inefficient in their reloading process, brandished by soldiers who went up against Red-coated opponents that marched on the open battlefield in perfect rank and file. The very concept of gas-operated, full bore machine rifles with 30 round magazines were as scarcely imaginable to the 18th century psyche as the notion of an unhinged individual set loose in a civilian tavern possessing the magnitude of firepower in a rifle or pistol that could claim dozens of lives in a heinous act before being gunned down by minutemen or taking his own life.

I’ll say it loud and clear: The dogmatic interpretation of the 2nd amendment is the preferred ‘catch all’ shield gun-fanatics of every stripe use to hide behind while they remain unwilling to adapt to the necessary changes of our time and accept that it is a document 224 years overdue for a revision that would keep pace with the issues of the 21st century, specifically, mass shootings and gun-violence.
It is explicit, not just in granting a proliferation of firearms to a ‘well-regulated militia’, but to the public at large with absolutely no discretion as to how this was to be implemented once the nation matured. The founding fathers were some of the wisest men humanity has produced, yet we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that they had the foresight to anticipate the technical and sociopolitical challenges that the country would face hundreds of years into the future. 

 The inclusion of the second amendment is predicated entirely on anti-authoritarian sentiments that play on the layman’s fears of state-run tyranny by levying firepower in the hands of the masses to keep the balance of power in check. This may have been relevant in an 18th century group of colonies forming a new nation from scratch, though it is now outmoded without legal safeguards that can quantify an individual’s ability to properly handle a firearm. Congress has long been influenced by the NRA and the gun lobby. They have this nation by the balls. They’ve consistently lobbied against any progressive legislature that proposes enacting restrictions on gun ownership.


Gun Violence is a cultural problem.

Make no mistake: mass shooting events are not simply going to dwindle in occurrence. This trend is only going to perpetuate and it’s going to fester, because we live in a violent, tribal, gun fetishist culture that browbeats any iconoclastic dimwit that challenges the prevailing worldview upheld by the majority of gun enthusiasts.  These people fail to recognize the rampancy of gun-culture and the unmitigated availability of weapons poses a threat to almost everyone, and they let it get in the way of their better judgment. Sadly, this is a direct consequence of a whole host of factors, the least of which, being congressional ineptitude, bureaucratic red tape, and the backing of a militant gun-lobby which panders to a crowd-source that is ultimately fearful of their ‘liberties’ coming under scrutiny in any way shape or form. 

I am a supporter of a citizen’s right to own guns. I support open-carry as well as concealed carry. As a responsible gun owner, I am by no means in favor of abolishing firearms (Not that it would ever happen in the U.S), although I strongly believe there should be a rigid system of safety measures in place to help ensure that fire-arms are maintained by responsible and well-disciplined citizens.

Can there be anything more hilarious than that idea? 

“Responsible and well disciplined citizens.”  

Just think about that for a moment.

Consider the millions of gun-owners in this country: just how many of them realize what an incredible responsibility owning a gun truly is? The amount of power one has over life and death is immense, and the mental discipline necessary to not only wield a gun properly, but to fully grasp just how extremely slim the margin of error one has in a circumstance where they could be found justified using it against another human being in accordance to the statutes of self defense in their state.
This isn’t even yet taking into account the sheer amount of training and mental fortitude necessary to prevent accidents and mishaps when even handling a firearm, loaded or not. To shirk the responsibility of the kind of mental fortitude I refer to is to embrace a level of idiocy that would make the ghost of Charles Darwin cackle with glee should you ‘accidentally’ plug your best friend in the nads with a hollow-point round.

Or, you know, your three year old nephew taking one to the forehead. Whoever happens to be in the pathway of the bullet at the time.

An effective system of gun control would drastically reduce the instances of gun related violence. Other countries have statistically proven this to be the case. Enacting such a system into law will not prevent mass shootings and gun violence, but it would represent headway in the right direction. Having these countermeasures in place will alleviate the problem, though nothing can ever truly prevent it.

The fact of the matter is we are not in control. 

We never will be and the wiser among us know this to be true.

 Somewhere, in the back of our minds, lurks this undeniable logical conclusion, even if some of us are reluctant or unwilling to face that fact. It’s a hard pill to swallow. So long as we live in a civil society that is armed to the teeth with individuals who possess free-will, it is utterly impossible to completely prevent these treacherous events from occurring. If a deranged individual is determined to get a hold of fire-arms, they’re gonna get em no matter what the cost because they have nothing to lose. And when one has nothing to lose, the very notion of cost becomes meaningless. Whether through the black market, theft, 3D printing, or self assembly, that craven individual, possessing enough resourcefulness, will find a way to acquire an arsenal no matter how hard our society makes it for them.

This is the price we pay. 

Allow me to cite an article from the National conference of state legislature:
“Under 18 U.S.C  § 922(d): It is unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person “Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.”

By more actively prosecuting and convicting any individual(s) found complicit in selling or giving fire-arms to a person who is mentally deranged, we will be putting pressure on negligent sellers and private owners where it is needed , and that should give enough incentive to help provide a drop in the overall rate of gun crimes and mass shooting events. State law on fire-arms restrictions varies, though heavy-set uncle Jim-bob with his moustache-goatee and Camo-cap scowls and spits his chewing tobacco in disdain at the idea of any penalties or restrictions put in place. He’s probably packing more firepower in his Chevy Silverado than Washington had in an entire regiment. Hunters and sports shooters alike will hide behind their hobby to legitimize their cause while avoiding the implications unfettered gun access has on society at large. Many of these hunters are indeed well trained, responsible, and are no happier to see gun-violence occur than your average liberal arts major dwelling in downtown Manhattan, but they would rather see a Columbine happen every year than take steps to support gun control.

When machine pistols and rifles are so easily accessible to disturbed hormonal teenagers, gangbanging thugs (Yes I said it) and schizophrenic post-teenage angst males with a score to settle against their peers, then the outrage and condemnation should be especially vocal within the ranks of NRA members. Many of which, are trophy hunters, sports shooters, and gun collectors. The gun-lobby needs more people calling for change within its own support base, and we don’t see this happening.

The following bullet points have been re-iterated by many a left of center gun-control advocate. Sure, skip ahead to the last paragraph if you feel you probably aren’t reading anything new.
My resolution methods pertaining to gun control are fourfold:

1: Require federal criminal background checks along with standardized mental health evaluations in place as standard protocol when purchasing ANY firearm with a pass/fail outcome. Establish a waiting period of several years if failed. Prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, those who have either given or sold a gun to someone with an established history of criminal felonies or known mental disability severe enough to hinder their competence in handling a firearm.

2: Mandatory gun training classes and gun safety course with a certified instructor. Again, employ this on a pass/fail basis.

All firearms should then be registered and a Federal firearm holder’s license would then be obtained. Increasing fines with severe penalties leading up to prison time should be on the table for judges to sentence transgressors as they see fit. Mandatory minimums are a terrible idea, and only serve to tie the hands of judges and fill up our already overflowing prison system. Enforcing these licenses would be a logistical nightmare to the bloated bureaucracy of our federal government, but it represents steps in the right direction.

We require licenses to drive several thousand pound motor vehicles at high speeds so why not issue licenses to own firearms? I am not referring to a concealed carry permit, but a certified license issued just to possess a firearm whether bought from your local Wallyworld, the flea market, gun show, or a hand-me-down rifle from uncle Jim-Bob wearing his mossy-oak camo cap. Is this going to stop Jim-bob in rural flyover-country from giving a hunting rifle to little Aiden on his fifth birthday without a license or training course? No Sirree, but I would damn well support his incarceration for gross negligence. 

3: Amend the constitution to include the mental competency of citizens seeking gun-ownership.

‘Whoa there! How extreme and un-american! How dare you attack the Second amendment and my God given rights!’

Not so fast, Jim-Bob. This isn’t NASCAR. 

It’s very clear the Second amendment has a built in failsafe that accepts the implementation of gun control legislation. I’ll get to that in a second.

In the same way that chattel slavery and Women’s inability to vote were considered inconsequential during the formation of this country and would later become blights on our nation’s history, some of the most pressing issues were purposefully neglected to be dealt with at a later date. I would successfully argue that the widespread gun violence we are experiencing today is the unforeseen crisis that the second amendment has provided a proverbial shelter for without specifying the extent of its reach. It is a pressing crisis that we need to deal with in our day and age. Amendments have been made to the constitution to keep up with the times when our civil liberties reached a boiling point, and it is high time that gun-control be addressed in the same manner.
So, let us also draw attention to the fact that the 2nd amendment contains an inherent bid for revision by examining its first four words.

 “A well regulated militia…”

A militia? Regulated by whom? 

Lets look into the Miriam Webster definition of the term ‘Regulated.”
Full Definition of REGULATE:  transitive verb
1 a :  to govern or direct according to rule
b (1) :  to bring under the control of law or constituted authority (2) :  to make regulations for or concerning <regulate the industries of a country>
2:  to bring order, method, or uniformity to <regulate one's habits>
3:  to fix or adjust the time, amount, degree, or rate of <regulate the pressure of a tire>

According to the constitution, if we expect our gun carrying citizens to be a militia then they must be regulated like one; and regulation on firearms means strict adherence to a set of rules, protocol, and above all else, ‘mental competency’ with severe penalties for those who transgress the law. I propose that the amended clause be very specific as to the nature of regulation stated in the 2nd amendment so that it applies ONLY to those individuals with the mental faculties who have proven themselves, under a standardized evaluation, to be worthy of possessing a firearm. 

4: Better mental healthcare systems in place to treat those at high risk and prevent these incidents before they happen.
This one’s crucial. Perhaps the singular most important solution in putting the brakes on gun violence and mass shootings is to help prevent them before they even begin. Detractors will often state “Oh no! The ‘Mentally ill’ are wrongly accused, and are far more likely to be victims of violence themselves!” 

While our nation pours billions into the military industrial complex, our healthcare system has become a barely functioning mess. There isn’t nearly enough community outreach that could catch a lot of these incidents in their early stages. There aren’t enough programs to fund counselors and mentors who can see the warning signs and the red flags in young people and help set them straight.
This is a direct consequence of our healthcare system’s inability to properly diagnose and treat these people. Instead society goes about labeling them as dangerous sociopaths and lumps them all in with the others that Americans consider ‘undesirables’ with disabilities which run the gamut from PTSD, ADHD, to anxiety and depression. Our healthcare system has proven utterly hapless at the task of weeding out the minority of maliciously mentally ill from the majority of innocuous mentally ill who just need proper care and treatment and can barely help themselves.

To those against adopting any measures that restrict gun-ownership, I say you are outmoded and on the wrong side of history.  You need a wakeup call to become enlightened on this issue.  For many across the country, firearms represent one of the last bastions of masculinity in modern America. 

But wait! 

Just opt for the model with the pink handgrip and it is now a symbol of female empowerment! Yes ladies, you too can help fight the patriarchy by keeping your hot-pink AR-15 locked in your chifforobe!

 Even the notion of fostering a discussion on enacting gun-control is unthinkable to some of these screaming man-children who feel threatened that their shiny toys are going to be taken away from them. This paranoia masks deeply rooted insecurities within the ranks of gun proliferation advocates and is one major reason why meaningful measures fail to even get off the ground: The pushback and mass-rallies following the introduction of a gun-control bill would shake the nation. Having the FBI seize Jim-Bob’s  rifle collection, should he be found guilty of an unrelated federal crime without a possessing a firearm holders license would be lethal affair for agents making the bust because you better believe he wouldn’t go down without a fight.

We would see hundreds of WACO style incidents play out across the country. Fact is, there are millions of Jim-Bob’s out there, and many of them would rather perish in a blaze of glory rather than surrender firearms if convicted of a felony, which is why they petition the gun-lobby which funnels tens of millions into the NRA which are then ‘distributed’ into the coffers of local Politicians that agree to veto any restrictions on their racket. This is asymmetrically costing lives. Instead, much of the news media and politicians choose to shift the focus on the turban-wearing Boogiemen half a world away instead of confronting the enemy within.  The obvious reasons for this:

A) To prevent a massive popular uprising and/or riots.
B)  Its simply not profitable to target the gun industry in America. 

If it is not a willingness to act against the gun lobby, then what are we left with other than to conclude the brutal truth that the political elite in charge of the country would prefer to let these events run their course to help thin the herd? There are fewer resources to go around now anyway. Just let the little people kill each other off. 

After all, the richest 1%, as well as our senators and congressmen remain immune to the public interest since they have bodyguards and mercenary forces often amounting to the size of a small army that protects them at all times.  Political figureheads, presidential candidates, and even Billionaires and some CEO’s have what equates to a private platoon protecting them, except they wear business casual with black ties instead of jungle fatigues. 

The public at large is susceptible to its own monsters.

The victims have been High school students.
College students.
Movie theatergoers.
Amish schoolchildren.
Innocent first-graders and teachers.
Elderly African American churchgoers.
TV News reporters.

These are the events that make headlines on the news networks. They get the ratings. They bring in the cash. What evils society turns a blind eye towards are often those which hit closest to home.  I often wonder how many Americans realize that the vast majority of gun violence incidents consist of drive-by shootings in ghetto slums, confrontations on the streets, college campuses, and domestic violence disputes that occur every single day while working class America conveniently ignores them.  Most of these incidents do not even qualify as “Mass shootings” yet underscore the same pivotal problems we face, and add up to a far greater statistic than the sensational incidents that grab the headlines.

Until effective methods are in place that help restrict firearms possession to competent law abiding citizens,  these types of events will only perpetuate in an endless cycle of violence and we will grow numb and impotent every-time a maniac with a lead dispenser decides to go on a killing spree after posting a rambling Manifesto on livejournal while their actions make the primetime drama circuit where the talking heads toss around buzzwords like “shocked”, “appalled” and extend ‘heartfelt condolences’ that go out to the victims families as they try to pass it off as “breaking” news to their jaded, cynical audience; their actions analyzed ad-nauseum at Nine’O clock Eastern Standard by bearded old men wearing wireframe glasses to help ease our collective guilt. Our nation’s ethos is as hypocritical as it is incapacitated. So much so, that the mind balks at its absurdity. If this is the future that we are inheriting, it’s going to make the ‘Hunger games’ look like Sesame Street.

I can think of no better example to illustrate the profound dementia of our mass media and modern American culture when faced with gun violence than how we react to it when it hits the nightly newscasts: When it comes to enacting effective gun control legislation, we see the epitome of ignorance coupled with bureaucratic paralysis in our Capitols and courts, ritualized and watered down to be suitable for primetime programming and made tragic comedy to satiate the discriminating palates of God-fearing, white American suburbanites that will squabble for fifteen minutes amongst each other while our senators, congressmen, and their lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank with their NRA endorsed cheques after having accomplished nothing. 

Gun control means using both hands: It also means making a fucking effort to help keep them out of the wrong hands.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Concerning the SCOTUS ruling for Gay Marriage

The recent SCOTUS ruling that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states is, beyond all doubt, a monumental achievement, and is truly one of the defining historical highlights of the year 2015. The LGBTQ community now possesses the inherent rights that should have been granted to them decades ago during the civil rights era of the 1960’s and 70’s. In the eyes of the law, LGBTQ individuals are no longer second-class citizens. Alas, the bravura and pageantry of the white house lit up in rainbow veneer is something I never expected to see. The world is changing at breakneck speed. 

It is a fantastic time to celebrate human rights, yet it is imperative to be aware of the opposition. 

As for the blustering bigots who are blowing their collective fuses in the aftermath of the SCOTUS ruling, I can only say my levels of Schadenfreude have never been higher. Let’s be honest here: their real world encounters of actual homosexual activity will be limited to witnessing Jacob and Steve holding hands with matching rings as they shop for fabric, and dropping their spectacles aghast into their decanters of sherry as they open their morning papers to see Suzie-Q and her lezzie Lulu having posted their glorious wedding reception in the Mainstreet Gazette. The vast majority of their exposure to gay marriage is what they are indoctrinated into on Sunday morning by their hate-filled preachers and the hyperbole that is spoon-fed to them in the afternoon by over sensationalized Fox news commentators. 

The demographic of old, church-going white republicans has been shaken to the core. It should be pointed out that the landmark ruling for the legalization of marriage for LGBTQ citizens is not the only mitigating factor that distresses them, it is that homosexuals are now, by virtue of this ruling, viewed as EQUAL citizens on EQUAL footing to them. This is the underlying, subconscious ‘threat’ that rocks the foundations of their warped psychology. 

Of course, when the next major natural disaster hits (and trust me, it WILL happen, it’s a FUCKING part of nature) be it hurricane, earthquake, or rising floodwaters (Global warming made this a certainty long before the ruling) conservative pundits along with fire and brimstone preachers will rejoice and be all too eager to be putting the blame solely on “TEH GAYS” getting hitched. 

But alas, we should pity them. Their reptilian ape-brains do not possess the capacity to differentiate between arbitrary natural processes conducting themselves according to plate tectonics and the volatile weather patterns of the tropics. This mode of primordial thinking is barely a notch above:


The sheer arrogance that they claim to speak for ‘G-d’ is audacious as it is erroneous, for they speak only for themselves and their prejudiced ilk that helps reinforce their confirmation bias. They will continue to rant, rave, and project their ‘hate’ and ‘wrath’ onto ‘God’, while claiming that they are free of guilt for harboring the aforementioned hate within their own hearts. This tired tactic will not absolve them in the eyes of future generations; as much as it has spared us the ire of the fanatics who organized the witch hunts of the 17th century. The tide of history is against them, and they will be left behind as future generations move forward toward the shining beacon of egalitarian progress both societal and technological, since the dogmatic control of the Judeo-Christian establishment is losing its stranglehold on humanity faster than they can grasp.  

And yet, we must remain vigilant, for the momentum of this ruling must be maintained. The LGBTQ community still has a long, tough road ahead of them, especially in underdeveloped countries around the world that are still governed by laws mired in the dark ages. The triumph of the 26th of June cannot be understated: It was a remarkable event whose aftershocks will be felt for decades. Although we have yet to confront the challenges that remain, I am confident that the up and coming generation being raised today will meet these challenges and carry the torch another mile further.

I would also like to add that it is not a proper course of action to hate or dehumanize those bigots who, in turn, hate and dehumanize gays, for it would make the LGBTQ community no better than they are.There are a great many issues concerning the legal framework of how this ruling will be implemented across each state, though ultimately I believe the legacy of this ruling will help reinforce the separation of church and state and therefore define marriage in the context of a legal and civil union that can be carried out in a secular institution without the authority of the church to oversee it's consummation. It is my hope that this ruling will become a social catalyst that will inextricably lead to greater emphasis on equality in the workplace so that anti-discrimination laws regarding sexual orientation will become a federal mandate that protects LGBTQ individuals from harm and injustice. The intolerance of a corporation firing someone because they are Gay is just as antiquated and derisive for firing someone because they are Black. Possessing religious liberty does not grant individuals or groups of individuals the right to discriminate others based on their inherent faculties. What we are witnessing is civilization reaching maturity with growing pains.

My message is clear: The right wing spewing their religious vitriol and ultraconservative rhetoric cannot curb nor hinder the success that has been achieved here in this great country. This was a milestone step forward for human rights, human dignity, and love.


-Fox Crimson