Wednesday, December 26, 2012

End of the Line

     The Fiscal Cliff is looming. Not the one in D.C. No, I'm talking about the real one that so many of us are currently facing. It doesn't really matter how you juggle the numbers or how you define unemployment, there are a lot of us wasting away and watching our futures dwindling.

     Officially, my unemployment benefits end in three days. That's the current deadline for the federal extension.  I was laid off in March. Now, reaching the end of the money that was doing nothing more than keeping me afloat, I'm faced with the real fiscal cliff. What do you do when you have no more money? None. No savings, no checking, no job, nothing.

     I've gone through all of the stages. When you first get laid off you prioritize your spending, cutting out all the unnecessary stuff. You re-work your resume. You contact friends and colleagues and get the word out that you're looking.

     Later, you realize you've slipped into stage two. You aren't just looking for equivalent or better jobs than the one you had. You're willing to take a pay cut, lose benefits, drive farther in your commute, go a few rungs down the ladder. Hey, these are tough times and we all have to make cuts.

     You get a few phone calls, even a couple of interviews. For the most part though it's a long series of auto-replies from companies saying they've received your application. If you're lucky you get a rejection later letting you know that they'll keep your application on file. Don't worry, you'll never hear from them again.

     Eventually, you reach the first emergency stage.  For me, it was when I realized that even with my money management, I could no longer afford my apartment.  I held a woefully unsuccessful garage sale, got rid of everything outside of a laptop, a few irreplaceable's and my clothes. I moved in with my girlfriend. 

     Comparatively flush with cash and stripped of literal and metaphorical baggage I bought myself a new camera, determined to keep myself solvent with various freelance gigs until fate brought me together with my eventual new job.

    Time passed, applications were sent, a few pictures were taken. The holidays came along and the second emergency slowly revealed itself along the horizon.  The end of the benefits means the end of being able to pay my bills. It's not like I have kids or a mortgage, so I'm among the lucky. But as many of us already know, it only takes being one dollar in debt to be bankrupt.

    Starting Wednesday, I'll begin applying to retail and service industry jobs that are either within walking distance or busing distance. Next month will be the last that I can afford my car insurance.  I'll sell my car in order to keep from defaulting on my student loans and credit card debt.

    I'm writing this because, while I've been broke before, I'm a little baffled and slightly amazed at how far off and removed some people seem to be from the effects of the unemployment around them. Most of them here in Seattle are middle to upper-middle class. I think that some of my friends and acquaintances think that because I show up at a party with my girlfriend and a bottle of wine, that I have money to spend on gas or booze. 

     I have friends who fret over what dates they can fly across country or season tickets for sports teams. They have to budget their home renovations or make choices about which vacations they can take this year because they can only do two. I don't think they realize what a short slide it is from them telling me about all of this over a glass of pinot and them ignoring me on the street, walking by them, homeless.

    Some people reading this might scoff, but I've been poor before, I'm poor now and I'll be poor again. There's no scapegoating here, there's no single root cause to all of this. It just is what it is. Of course, it's magnified by the current state of the economy, but make no mistake that the mechanisms of misfortune have been grinding along for ages.

     I have a great deal of confidence in myself. I've always been a fighter, a smart one too. I'm creative, dogged, kind, and am deeply sure that I have a lot to offer this world. My fear isn't in my own failings, I know I'll triumph or go down swinging.  My fear is that I'll go down swinging with nothing to swing at. That my opponents, unemployment, lack of money, lack of an ability to care for myself, are opponents that I cannot hit. They're smoke, illusive and ephemeral and they kill with a thousand tiny cuts.

     I don't want to go out like that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Punks on Politics

So, my friend Ty Garfield and I have launched a little venture together that he created. It's called Punks On Politics.  It's a combination Vlog, podcast, website, Facebook page that will have the two of us taking apart various local, national and global political and news topics and giving them a good solid anti-authoritarian shake down.  The first episode is up and I'd love it if you could take a look.

The project is just starting so we'd love feedback. It's sure to evolve.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm Unemployed And You Can Be Too!

Quit your day job. The American Dream is dead and there is nothing to be gained in trying to hump the corpse.

Things are changing in America. Deep fundamental change. I truly feel that while this change may be painful and even devastating in the short term, it's something that has to happen for all of us to get to the next stage, whatever that happens to be.  Part of that change is jobs, careers, employment and what it all means for us at a deep level.  What I'm writing about today is how we need to start looking at our 9-5 life in a different way than our parents did if we're going to make it through to this next stage.

I got laid off back in March. It was a great job. Shit for bosses, but a good company with wonderful people. I'd put my heart into that company in a way I'd done for very few other jobs. Like many people now, I'm among the unemployed.  While I'm still marginally looking for a job (read: punch in, punch out, get a pay check), what I'm looking more for now is a way to exchange skills that I have for resources and experiences.  That may sound like a thin distinction or something from a Portlandia skit, but give me a minute to explain.

All around us are signs that the idea of working for an "American Company" for twenty or twenty-five years, putting our kids through college, owning a home and then retiring on a cushy pension is one that isn't just unattainable, but perhaps wasn't really in reach to begin with. It was one that was sold to us, and perhaps given to a lucky few boomers, but was never really sustainable.

How many of us out there have a good idea of what's going to happen to us twenty years from now? How about ten even?  Are you sure that company you work for will still exist? Do you trust the stock market with your 401K? Do you think banks are looking out for you and would be on your side in an emergency?

Hopefully the preceding questions had you either shaking your head, snorting in derision or maybe even crying.  Because the truth is, if you aren't a millionaire right now, this system is rigged against you. The safety nets we think are below us are far thinner, weaker, and more full of holes than we realize.  Your job is less secure, your health insurance less valuable, your home is worth less and your voice carries less distance.

I'm not going to get into politics in this article today. It's too broad for this topic. Instead, I want to focus on what I think I'm moving towards, where I think I'm changing my life and see if any of it strikes a cord for you. If even one of you says, 'hmm, interesting,' then I've done my job here.

When I got laid off in March, I had a small one bedroom basement apartment that I was renting. I owned my 1996 Honda Civic, I had roughly $10000 in personal belongings, about $9000 in total debt (a little more than half being student loans), about $2500 in the bank and about $3000 in available credit.  Including all of my rent and expenditures, I wasn't going to last long without an income. I was laid off with 48 hours notice. I'd gotten a raise and a promotion back in November so I certainly didn't expect to be let go the way I was.

So, there I was with no job. I scrambled to update my resume and get the word out that I was looking for work. I began applying everywhere I thought I could get my foot in the door. I'm sure most of you know this dance.  I got a few auto-replies, a couple of phone interviews, one face to face. That was it.

I'd been down this road before.  When I arrived back in L.A. after hurricane Katrina it took me a very long time to find work. In the meantime, I'd picked up doing any kind of freelance video and film work that I could. It helped cushion me along the way, but I always felt like I was treading water with weights on my legs. I wasn't really doing anything but slowing down my own drowning.

Being back in that same predicament and feeling it so fiercely,  I decided to take a step back and come at things from a different direction. That led me to a Pandora's box of increasingly radical ideas and I realized that I was on the precipice of a completely new paradigm in my life. A part of my brain screamed, "But, you're 41! This is not the time to be making extreme changes! This is the time you're supposed to be buying a house! Splurging on a motorcycle! Doing that sort of  'Planning' that adults do!"

Then, I just said "Fuck it." With the decision that my life was not going to be normal, with the realization that I was not ever going to own a home or have a retirement or do any of the things in the Baby Boomers Brochure of Life, I was suddenly free to start my own new path.

The first thing I did was swallow my pride and take up the very generous offer my lovely lady made me to move in with her.  Once I'd agreed to do that, I also decided that a good chunk of what was weighing me down in life was the sheer volume of physical possessions.  You might think that the sum of what can fit in a one bedroom apartment isn't significant, but that's exactly what I'm talking about when I say that our concept of what's important and necessary is all out of whack.

I sold almost everything I own.  I'm not exaggerating.  Couches, TV's, computers, desks, my bed, books, dishes, all of it.  What I kept had to fall into one of two categories: Functional or Irreplaceable. Functional meant clothes (a very trimmed down wardrobe) and toiletries, my car and my camera.  Irreplaceable meant a couple pieces of art, a box of old photos, memorabilia and important paperwork like taxes.  That's it. It all fit into four large plastic tubs, three of which now reside in my lady's attic.

I took the money I got from selling all of those possessions and purchased a new Ultrabook and a new camera and some gear for it.  These items serve as both my connection to the outside world and a way for me to theoretically earn money anywhere I go.

Since then, there's a lightness that has come over me. I've been more prolific with my writing and photography, I've been wanting to engage with my fellow human beings more than ever, and I've gotten a sense of wonder and excitement about the world back that I'd lost for quite a while.  Things aren't perfect by any means. I have no health insurance. My savings and unemployment will run out by years end. If things were to somehow go badly with my partner and she kicked me out, I'm not sure where I'd sleep or go.  As dreadful as those things may sound though, they don't weigh on me at all. Not one bit.

Once you stop running on the treadmill and more importantly, once you stop trying to get back on to the treadmill and you then catch your breath and look around, you realize that much of the work you were doing wasn't for control of your life, but for the illusion of control.  We're all so desperate for that illusion that we're willing to sacrifice a lot of reality for it.  For me, the cost was just getting too high.

So what happens next? I don't know. I'm enjoying doing things with photography, video and writing. I may do some traveling, work abroad or possibly even ex-pat to another country. I don't really feel like an "American" any longer, just a person on a planet full of neat places, fun things and other people. I want the rest of my life to feel like a series of interconnected surprises rather than a chain of poorly pre-scripted events.

Regardless, I'm better off than I was when I was pinning my hopes on finding that 'one job' that I'd have for the rest of my adult life that would somehow see me through retirement and old age.  I just don't believe that the Coca Cola's, the Walmart's, the Google's of the world will be around for us thirty years from now.  We, as a society, will have given them the best parts of our lives and have nothing to show for it but a second mortgage.

There's this joke I heard. It's about 'West Coast' people. It's said that they are kind of weird and different from others because they came from the kind of stock of people who, once they'd escaped Europe and had migrated across the ocean to the colonies, they got there and said, 'Hmm, this isn't really far enough away from civilization for us' and they wandered off West, away from the settlers.  I'd like to think that maybe a bit of that spirit is living on in me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Liberals and Progressives Shouldn't Vote For Obama

Republicans will vote for Romney and Democrats will vote for Obama.  It's a given, really. Personally, I've never registered with a party in the 23 years I've been voting. Initially it was laziness, but as I grew older and perhaps a little wiser, I began avoiding them intentionally.

More than ever, most American voters have this horribly polarized view of presidential politics. It's all 'us or them', left or right, good and evil.  It makes for great storytelling, but very poor representative politics.  Many people will tell you that voting for a third party or not voting is a vote for 'the other guy'. Of course, 'the other guy' is so horrible that it's sure to bring about the actual, literal apocalypse. Or at least, the parties would have you believe so.

Democrats used to be where the terms 'liberal' and 'progressive' made their political home.  As a person who absolutely loathed the intellectual void that was George W. Bush, I was proud to not vote for him. I half-heartedly voted for Gore, begrudgingly voted for Kerry and in 2008, voted for Obama with a glimmer of hope.

That was my last ever vote for the 'lesser of the evils.'  And Obama is bad. I know most of you 'left' folks don't want me saying that. Hell, some of you've probably already started thinking I'm some sort of right wing nut. But please remember who I just told you I've voted for. I've never voted for a Republican in my life.

But simply having a (D) in front of your name doesn't make you liberal or progressive.  President Obama is living proof of that.  I'm going to list seven very clear examples of lines he crossed which not only make him a bad president, but one that is far to the right of center.

1) He is a war hawk. He is absolutely one of the most aggressive, imperialist Presidents we've ever had.

A vote for Obama is a pro-war vote, pure and simple.

2) He has a horrible record on civil liberties. Oh, I'll grant you the repeal of DADT and the passing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. But those don't even begin to balance the scales when it comes to Obama's callous disregard for basic human and American rights.

"I'm disgusted with this President," said ACLU Executive Director, Anthony Romero. 

3) Obama is waging a massive war against state legal medical marijuana.  Despite the fact that he's admitted using it himself for non-medical reasons. ( )

4) Obama has set a new record for deporting illegal immigrants.  This isn't something to be proud of. We should finding ways to integrate these people into our society and make sure they become healthy, productive members of our tax base. Additionally, he continues to enforce the Secure Communities Act. (

5) Obama is pro insurance and has moved us away from socialized healthcare. The individual mandate will force citizens to buy health insurance or else pay a tax/fine. Apparently, it's Constitutional, but we should all be horrified that the court sided with Obama in authorizing a bill that institutionalizes health insurance companies as a default recipient of our tax dollars. That is something a person who is pro-big business would endorse.For the first time ever, a US citizen must buy something continually from a private company. ( )

6) Obama's administration is rampant with payoffs and cronyism. He's filled his administration with lobbyists, despite promising to have nothing to do with them.  He's given choice jobs to his biggest campaign contributors or 'bundlers' ( )  and (

7) He's pro-big bank and pro-corporatism. It may seem like Romney is the corporate boogeyman, but Obama is just better at his slight of hand. He helmed massive bailouts for banks all on the taxpayer dimes, while homes were foreclosed on at a horrendous rate. ( ) and ( ) and ( ) and (

So, how would you describe a pro-war, pro-banking, pro-corporate candidate who disgusts the ACLU? Before you start arguing with or dismissing my links or leaping to the defense of the POTUS, consider this: Reagan supported and signed the Brady Bill - a gun control bill. Nixon created the EPA. George H.W. Bush  signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The reason I bring those up is that it's just as easy to demonize an opponent as it is to elevate your heroes. We need to look at these people clearly and with a steady moral compass. If we simply judge the quality of our leaders by how they compare to their opponents in the election cycle, then we're doomed to get nothing more than the lesser of two evils. And that's where we're at in this country.  People are so used to gridlock, cronyism, glad handing, and the status quo that when it comes time to choose one of the most important figures in the world, we're essentially saying:  "Well, between a shit sandwich and a shit sandwich sprinkled with glass, I'll choose the shit sandwich." And then, somehow, magically, you're excited to eat a shit sandwich.  When someone points out that you're happily eating a shit sandwich, you point out with a muffled voice, "Well, it doesn't have glass in it!" (In case my analogy isn't clear, Obama is the shit sandwich and Romney is the shit sandwich with glass sprinkled in it.)

There are very rich folks out there, who have massive influence, who are thrilled to just keep making sure that you are happy with your shit sandwich. So, go ahead and take another bite and make them happy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Poking the Bear: Sexism at Cons

I'm going to be throwing out my opinion regarding the recent dust ups surrounding feminism and sexism in geek culture.  There's a lot of talk about it currently and you can get up to speed with these insightful articles:

These are just a sample of what's going on out there and like racism or any other 'ism' it's probably being discussed so much currently because any time you lift the rug, you find the roaches.  With more and more women not just coming out of the 'geek closet' but with more also learning to love from the outside what it has to offer and jumping in head first, the proverbial rug is getting lifted and the roaches are indeed on display.

If you couldn't be bothered to check the links above, or don't know what I'm talking about, let me sum it up for you.  Many men in current modern culture are sexist. A large portion, I would say, are not consciously even aware of it and distance themselves from the label if asked.  But like any majority, when faced with the inequities that a minority (in this case, women becoming an ever growing factor in geek culture) group is enduring, the defensive walls go up and both sides begin the finger pointing game. In this case, many female nerds and geeks are feeling as though they are in a hostile, sexist environment at Cons and in some cases, online as well.

I don't consider myself a feminist, I consider myself a humanist. To me, feminism is a subset of humanism, it's part of the package. Somehow the term feminism seems too 'active' to describe me. I was raised by my grandmother and mother, who I think did a pretty damn decent job of raising me.  Along the way, I took on the label of ethically non-monogamous when it came to my romantic relationships.  I've had the privilege of being in love with more than one lovely woman at a time and would say that those ladies involved felt I treated them as no less than my equal because of their gender (If any of you are reading this and if you felt otherwise, now is a great time to speak up about it here - please!)

With that said, I'm sure I've come off as sexist or misogynistic multiple times. Why do I say that? Because while I don't consider myself sexist and try to be the best 'man' I can be (unless asked not to be), I cannot control how others interpret my behavior. I may be completely innocently expressing myself and someone else may take it as something completely different.

There was an incident at a Con recently. I'm not going to link to it or call it out, because I don't want to pick a fight. But the short of it was, a woman got into an elevator with a man. The man propositioned the woman. She said no.  The end.  There was no groping or physical contact and he took no for an answer (from the story as I understand it).  The woman went on to write that this situation made her feel uncomfortable and that her boundaries had been violated.

This incident and her response to it are, I believe, at the heart of a big problem when discussing this issue for both genders.  Any woman can relate to that story and that feeling of an unwanted advance in a situation where you're feeling vulnerable. That's totally fair.  But that man was not being sexist or misognystic (as I understand it, again).  He was simply propositioning her. He has every right to express his attraction to her and attempt to make some sort of connection.  She has every right to rebuff it.

Ladies - You do not have a right to not be offended.  He asked, she said no. The end. She can be offended if she wants, but that doesn't mean he did anything wrong.  The guy has no way of knowing what her boundaries are if he doesn't ask. Remember, men are brought up to be the initiators in this society. Women are brought up to be passive recipients of that male initiating (generally speaking). Whether those two generalizations are ethically or morally sound is a different discussion.  If you want to wear a mini-skirt at the Con, you don't have the privilege of deciding which guy stares at your ass. You don't even have the right to not have someone come up and ask your name. That's not sexism, that's humanity.

Men - Stare all you want. Ogle, cat call, make lewd gestures. You have every human right to express yourselves as you see fit. If you want to generally imitate a chimpanzee attempting to get a female chimps attention, go ahead.  One step further, you can, and read this carefully, ask for her consent to begin even more direct interaction. This can be a request for a name, physical contact, whatever.  Do not under any circumstances violate her private space though.

Both Genders - Here is where the all powerful concept of consent steps forward. Once the consenter has been asked, the decision to consent or not must be respected absolutely. Unclear or vague consent is not consent. People should not touch other people without permission. People should not block other people's paths, follow them into personal spaces, get close enough that they are in anyway restricting another's movements, interrupt other conversations or in anyway violate their ability to act freely.

Here's an example for you all.  I grew up loving Han Solo. Star Wars changed my life.  I think most geeks reading this can agree that it's a seminal film series and one that is as close to a modern myth for our culture as we're likely to get.  Remember in The Empire Strikes Back, the great scene on the Millenium Falcon between Han and Leia.  Think back to that for a moment. Leia is working on fixing the ship. Han stands inappropriately close to her, enough so that she shoulders him.  He persists, literally backing her into a corner and interrupts her with a kiss. Aww, isn't that romantic and hot?  Or was it harassment, a violation of Leia's space?

This scene is something men and women grew up watching and learning from.  The guys want to be Han and the women want to be Leia.  No one would accuse Leia of being weak or a victim and while everyone loves to call Han 'roguish' or a 'scoundrel', he's certainly the heroic idol in the film alongside Luke. Yet, in our society, this scene is a clear example of how not to act. Han bullied his way into that kiss. He pushed himself upon her. Both genders, in my experience, love this scene and these characters.  What does that tell us about how our genders view each other?

Gender roles, more than ever are changing. Our modern culture is opening whole new arenas for women and that's great! But both genders need to remember that by virtue of that change, men's roles are changing too, whether we like it or not.  Where women are free to go out to Con's next to naked and expect to feel safe, men are also now in a situation where we don't have a cultural guide book for how to act. Both men and women need to start being a little more self-reflecting on their own personal behavior and little more understanding of the people around them.

As I said earlier, consent is the line in the sand we can all agree on. But beyond that, we need to remember that most of us out there are good people with good intentions.  The next time someone cat calls you, remember that he's likely not a rapist and just trying to show, in the limited way he can, that he likes the way you look.  The next time someone tells you "no" when you ask for a number, remember that you aggressed on them and put them in a defensive spot. Take no for an answer, but don't take it personally.

Everyone should feel safe in expressing themselves however they want. At the same time, we should all feel safe from the expressions of others.  Best of all, when everyone starts feeling safe, we're all more likely to have a good time, make new friends and lovers, and then everyone wins.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Time To Pack It Up...Literally

No, this isn't about quitting this blog or any other metaphorical version of 'packing it up'.  I've just recently moved in with my lovely and amazing girlfriend and along the way, I made a pretty drastic, fairly un-American decision:  I decided to get rid of most of my shit. This led me to deciding that I'm pretty sure I'm going to leave America for good soon.  As Inugo Montoya so famously said, "Let me explain."

When I said I got rid of most of my shit, I'm not talking about the 'spring cleaning' style of junking that most of us do doing a regular move.  See, most of my stuff was purchased either post-Katrina or during my last hideous grotesque of a marriage.When I decided to move in with my current lady, it dawned on me that, as a woman who owned her own home and had very much made it her own place, I didn't want to wreck her vibe by cluttering it up or making her rearrange everything.

In that spirit, I decided that most of the things that I owned just sat there and took up space.  What did I really need? Well, clothes, a newer laptop than the one I owned, my camera, and a few select pieces of memorabilia and art that were irreplaceable. That was it. Enough to fit into my battered '96 Honda Civic.

I sold my TV, three computers, my furniture, dishes, kitchen appliances, my bed.  What didn't sell went to Freecycle, ended up on the curb or got donated.  As terrifying as that all was, I feel pretty liberated as well.  There's a lightness to not being weighed down by your possessions.

At the same time, I'm watching the usual 'feces flinging primates' show that is the American election cycle.  My blood boils now listening to all the empty rhetoric (at best) and the out right lies (standard). I subject myself to online forum and threads about atheism vs. theism, idiots reactions to polyamory, and the joke that is the daily news. All around me, American just seem enthralled with their own bullshit.

That stuff exists everywhere, I'm not naive. But as a still fairly young, unencumbered, childless, almost debtless, petless man with a halfway portable skill set, why would I not take this opportunity to get out of here and see some of the world?  More than anything, I describe myself a human being. Second descriptor would be a tie:  mostly straight, male, ethnic mutt, fairly smart, and a few others.  Way down on that list is 'American'.  I just don't care that much.

The exceptionalism routine in this country is getting really old.  As a person who's traveled enough to know better, there are some great places out there, and some great people. I love the idea of seeing some of the Nordic countries, or going back to Germany, or drinking with some more Aussies, or driving out to Tierra Del Fuego. There's an entire planet out there. Full of people! And Booze! And People! And Food! And cool shit that existed long before the American Electoral College or McDonalds!

 I think the time has come to really start considering packing up and getting out of here.  Forty years as an American is plenty, don't you think?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Polyamory: Married and Dating - A Review

This review has been coming for awhile. I knew about the show, Polyamory: Married and Dating, from early on and while I've seen Showtime doing some interesting things, I was nervous about them covering this particular topic. I've been non-monogamous for about 12 years. I stopped using the word polyamorous for a few reasons, but primarily because it seemed like it was becoming sort of limiting. I also have a degree in Communications focusing on film and television and have worked in the industry for a number of years, including producing my own reality/travel series pilot. I'd like to think I have some decent insights into both the show and it's content.

I watched the second and third episode and for those not familiar with it, the show follows two groups of people. One is a married couple, Anthony and Lindsey, who are both dating Vanessa (they refer to themselves as 'The Triad').  The other is two married couples dating each other, Michael and Kamala and Jen and Tahl.

The series, which runs 30 minutes per episode over a 7 episode season, covers their interpersonal dramas, their dramas as they date 'outsiders', and their group sex. It's fairly graphic and the conversations, while surely edited, don't appear to be censored at all.

The easy way to review this show would be to discuss the various situations and dialogues that the characters get in. We could discuss why Kamala has a hard time sharing her girlfriend, Roxanne, with her husband Michael or anyone else. Or we could talk about whether or not it was ethical for Vanessa and Anthony to ambush Lindsey on her date with her boyfriend Krystof.  But that's a diversion. That's the slight of hand that the show's producers deftly create. Unfortunately, it's a trick that works on polyamorous folks as well as monogamous ones. We're just as vulnerable to media manipulation as anyone else.

I can't discuss the true character of the people involved in this show. They may be wonderful people making an altruistic attempt to show the inner workings of their unusual lives or they may be narcissistic sociopaths out to make a buck. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between as it does with most human beings. And there's the rub. We really can't know these people. At all. In fact, we're worse off than if we met them on the street. Bad information is worse than no information.

Let's go back to the scenario where Anthony and Vanessa ambush Lindsey during her date. Did Anthony and Lindsey come up with the idea to do that? Or did the producers? Was Vanessa actually surprised or was she told to act surprised? How much was edited from the scene? We have to realize that we aren't seeing these people's lives, we're seeing the reconstructed, re-editing of a staged version of their lives. A shadow of a shadow produced by a company that has profitability as it core standard.

Really, all you have to watch of Polyamory: Married and Dating is the opening credits.  You have quick cut scenes of bodies grinding on each other, running around, laughing, women kissing women (note: no men kissing men), lots of skin, all set to a rock music score.  They're all pretty, well off, white people in Southern California. Some time is spent discussing jealousy issues and personal limits and far more time is spent showing group sex and displaying the women's bisexuality.

Do they have jobs? They seem to just roll out of bed, fuck and then go on dates. I laughed out loud in episode three when Kamala arrives at her girlfriend's house in her silver Prius. As she walks up the drive, what car does Roxanne have parked there? A silver Prius!

It's as though the producers ran the polyamorous community through a media strainer and came up with a half dozen people who were attractive,  filmable and most of all, willing to have their personal lives dissected for a period of weeks or months.  Forget words like 'average' or 'representative' or 'cross section'. I'd love to hear about the people in all of their lives who refused to participate in the show. How many of their lovers or friends were invited on and said, 'I want none of this'?

Already, I see people all over the internet saying things like: "@MoeTruth For the people who don't know what polyamory means...It consists of having a side lover while married to someone.."  Of course, to argue that means arguing against the title of the show, Polyamory: Married and dating. I realize that trying to capture an entire lifestyle in a half hour show is daunting. Of course these two groups of people are not necessarily representative of all polyamorous people. But they never say that and the show is setting a precedent that may be hard to alter for those of us who have to deal with this on a day to day basis.

As I said before, I don't know the participants in this show and I'm refusing to make any kind of personal judgments about them. I just don't know anything about them. What I know about this show though is that it's about pretty, privileged people navigating the dramatic waters of daily group sex.

In the show, Jen said, about her sister's take on polyamory, "I don't think she understands that it's not all about sex. I think that's what she thinks it is." Gee, wonder where she could have gotten that idea?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Not so progressive Huffington Post

So, there's been a growing trend over at Huffington Post to scrub comments even though they don't violate any kind of community standards. They just don't fit some sort of prescribed tone I guess.

Supposedly the site for news with a 'progressive' slant, I had the following comment deleted today (after it had been favorited multiple times and commented on more than a half dozen) regarding the Democrats announcement that they'd officially be putting marriage equality on their new platform (

“This news brought to you by the party system! Jumping on bandwagons late and doing what's politically expedient rather that what's right for more than 200 years!

Yayy Democrats! You bunch of self-serving suck ups.”

Okay, so maybe it pisses off some Democrats. But in what universe should that be scrubbed from a progressive news sites forums? It definitely didn't violate and language guidelines.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fucking Marriage. Fucking Divorce.

Just stop people. Stop getting married.  Just don't do it.

You know that person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with? That person who is your best friend, your lover, your confidante, your partner in crime?  Why would being married to them make your life any better? How would it help your relationship?

I'm not talking about a commitment ceremony or moving in with your partner.  I'm talking about walking down an aisle and getting a piece of paper from the state and saying things like 'till death do us part.'

No romantic relationship ever improved *because* of marriage. Ever. Not one. (And I challenge you to prove me wrong.)  Many of them, however, go right down the crapper.

I've been married twice and I'll never do it again. I won't even go to weddings anymore.  They make me sad and a little sick.

My first marriage ended with us being friends.  She's a wonderful woman and we just sort of grew apart and there were things that necessitated the divorce. I still love her dearly and talk to her regularly.

My second marriage was a flaming turd of a mistake to a person that barely qualifies as human.  It was a wretched failure of judgement on my part and I'm going to be spending a great number of years healing the wounds that were carved into me.

But my take on marriage didn't come out of my own personal experiences. They were only reinforced by them.  So, why did I get married at all then you ask?  Well, it's complicated in both cases.  In neither case was it 'traditional' in any respect. However, it's important for me to note that since before my first marriage, I've been openly non-monogamous.  I avoid the word 'polyamory' for the most part, but there it is. I've also never cheated on a partner (although, I've been cheated on) and I believe in an almost brutal level of honesty in my relationships. So, now that you have the basic background, I'll get on to my point.

Most of my friends are married (and monogamous). Many have kids.  One pair of friends I have are about to get married.  Another are in the midst of dealing with an infidelity and it may end in divorce.  In both cases, I just want to shout at them: STOP! JUST STOP!

In the case of my friends getting married, they are a great couple who live together and have a wonderful life.  Why fuck with it? Why mess with it?  I respect them both and they are wonderful people.  I also get that sometimes people want a celebration of their relationship with those that are close to them.  I also get the legal/social ramifications that come along with marriage - the tax breaks, insurance issues, powers of attorney, the responsibilities of raising children, etc.  Great! Throw a party, arrange DPOA's and living wills.  All of that makes sense to me and can be really useful, fun and provide a sense of security.

The other couple are headed where so many marriages end up though - divorce.  Huge expectations arranged in an unnecessarily complicated social structure that our family and peers reinforce is the giant burden couples voluntarily take on. It's amazing that marriages last as long as they do. Divorce and all of it's myriad causes are so commonplace now that it's a testament to the power of love that it clouds our memories and judgments so completely.  At my first wedding my mother attended with her third husband.  The lessons of that never entered my mind.

Don't get me wrong though - just because I'm not sounding out on the side of marriage, don't take me for pro-divorce.  As far as I'm concerned, divorce is just doubling down. It's going right back to the same system that screwed you up in the first place and looking for a fix.  "Gee, I can't imagine how a centuries-old religious ritual based on property rights and paternal control had any negative effect on my 21st century relationship, but now that it has, I'm going to go back to the same bureaucracies that got me into this mess and see if they can help me out.  They obviously know what's best for me."

Why would you ever get a divorce (a 'legal breakup') unless you plan on marrying again?  Oh tax reasons you say? Money you say?  NOW it's all about practicality?  Outside of $10,000 funeral caskets, marriage has to be the biggest scam in history and divorce is just the sequel.

My friends who are going through their infidelity, I'll call them Jane and John, will probably divorce. It's the way it goes.  And sometimes, it's necessary. I really, personally, painfully, understand that.  But what I would like to see is people putting as much philosophical effort into their divorce as they put into their marriage.  What I mean is, if you just jump from 'married' to 'divorced' with nothing in between, maybe you haven't really thought things out.  For example, there are plenty of politicians and businessmen who have arrangements where when they are away from home, they have an agreement with their spouses that they are allowed to fool around.  I'm sure that wasn't in their vows, but so what? If you took stupid vows does that mean you're supposed to punish yourselves with them for eternity or adapt to your situation and find a way for your relationship to survive?

Jane and John got married. Fuck up number one (at this point, they both might agree with me).  Then one of them cheated. Fuck up number two. (Side note here: As a person who is non-monogamous, I see the word 'cheating' perhaps a *little* differently than monogamous folks. Sex with another person is in-and-of itself not necessarily wrong. It's the betrayal, the lying that is the problem.  Most people wouldn't end a relationship over a lie - but it's the 'scale' of the lie that's the problem.  In the case of an affair, it's an on-going giant lie. A lie that large is hard for any relationship to recover from.) Now, if they decide to divorce, I'll call that fuck up number three.  Why? Well, in Jane and John's case, I happen to think that in many ways, they are a great couple. In some ways, they are not. Regardless of how well I know them or their personal issues, the one that both seem to agree on that is the impetus for the divorce, the infidelity, isn't necessarily something that *has* to cause a divorce.  Instead, if they divorce, it will be a choice. And the choice they are both making is this:  Despite all of the other awesome things in our lives, all the other good shit we promised each other before, during and after the wedding, we're chucking it all because of this one thing.  Now, admittedly, 'this one thing' is a lie. A big, nasty, filthy, perpetuated lie that did huge amounts of damage.

However, having that one thing rob Jane and John of all the good things adds to the damage that it did.  Instead, I believe John and Jane should be trying to save the good parts. Yes, it's hard and yes it may take time. And yes, the original sparkly-glowey marriage picture they have in their minds might be gone for good. But if John and Jane are together 20 years from now and they went back in time and talked to John and Jane at the alter, I'd be willing to bet that John and Jane at the altar would just be happy that they were still together and willing to let the details of how and why slide if they knew they'd be happy in the long run.

Maybe John and Jane should end their traditional sex lives and work on becoming some form of 'monogamish' as Dan Savage likes to say.  Maybe they should end the 'romantic' portions of their marriage and just be friends that live together.  (I'm not going to give specific advice to them here, as I've done that to their faces and that's not what this is about).  I don't know.  What I do know is that 'divorce' is a cheap, shitty word.  Slightly less cheap and shitty than marriage, but still.

I want to end this on a positive note.  I'm lucky enough to have loved quite a few times. Even luckier that some really great women have loved me.  I still love all but one of them, even if I acknowledge that maybe certain phases of those relationships have changed, quite possibly forever. Every woman I've loved has made me a better person.  I truly believe that it's the people we share our lives with that make it worth living. The legal and societal titles bestowed upon us are just burdens to help other people more easily categorize us. Don't let your relationships be reduced to that.  Love is way too fucking cool.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prometheus Review (Spoiler Alert)

This review is CHOCK FULL OF SPOILERS!  Don't read on unless you've seen the film or don't care.  There. It's been said.

Prometheus might just be the most important hard science fiction film since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I'm going to spend the rest of this post defending and explaining that statement.  Before I do though, let me say that I consider myself a cinephile, have a degree and Film and Television and am enough of an Alien fan that I have one tattooed on my back.  Now you have a little context.

Despite what all the fan boys and forums are saying for or against Prometheus, I'm a strong believer in a film standing on its own legs. It doesn't really matter in the long run whether this is a true 'prequel' to Alien or not.  The film has to be viewed on it's own merits and flaws.  Prometheus has both.

Almost everyone I've spoken to about the film has had a very strong reaction to it one way or another.  Some want to trash it immediately, others are drawn into deep conversation about symbolism, themes and the visual beauty of the film.

Something that needs to be kept in mind when discussing Prometheus is that modern viewing audiences aren't really encouraged to think much in cinema these days.  While plots can be clever or complex occasionally (Memento, Inception, and Moon come to mind), they don't really require anyone doing any real mental math.  Even films like the Matrix have someone in the film who will eventually spell out the premise  for some other character, creating a simple path for the viewer to follow.

Prometheus' primary focus is on some pretty grand themes:  Where do we come from? Why are we here?  The biggest questions humanity faces.  Had director Ridley Scott given us an easy two hour explanation, the film either would have been too simple or too heavy handed.  Philosopher's have been asking these questions for thousands of years and a filmmaker strolling in and handing you the answers would have been the height of hubris.

So, the answers Prometheus delivers are woven carefully throughout the film in a quilt of dialogue and visuals that require work on the part of the viewer and a realization that answers sometimes aren't clear cut, but can be vague, unnerving, lead to more questions or are sometimes right under our noses.

There have been many nitpicks over the plot and script and I'm going to attempt to address those as well as my interpretation of the larger issues the film tackles into one thread. There's a lot to cover, but that's one of the many reasons I enjoy this film.

The film opens on a shot of what may be Earth, many years ago. It's important to note that we see greenery and life as we approach the shot of the waterfall.  Life already exists on Earth.  Then we see a robed alien who is dressed in a cloth wrapping of underwear underneath.  As a large disk shaped vessel leaves him behind, he ingests a strange substance from a dish.  His dress, the dish, the substance, the ship are all important details for later.  The scene is there for a reason.  The alien ingests a substance which disintegrates a good portion of him and the remainder of his body falls into the water.

It's important to note that if the alien wanted to just leave his own DNA behind to affect future life on the planet, then he need not ingest the liquid.  He could've just as easily leaped into the water and drowned, insuring that more of his DNA would still exist.  The substance *changed* his DNA.  If humans are the offshoot of the aliens, then it's clear that the aliens were not trying to create replicas of themselves, but something else, something different.

As the scene ends, the ship is leaving and the only alien we've seen appears to be dead now.  In the next few scenes with the scientists, Shaw and Holloway, we learn some more important information.  The aliens have been back visiting us over the ages.  All the symbols, drawings and pictographs represent the aliens as having visited us and referenced a star-system by pointing to it.  The oldest date back to a couple of thousand years ago. This is also important.  Shaw thinks this is an invitation and says so.  However, note that this is an assumption on the part of Shaw and other than the literal determination of 'where' the star-system is, we have no actual proof that it's an invitation.  And in fact, we have reason to believe later in the film that these glyphs were actually *threats*. Here, Scott is running a parallel with the first Alien film, albeit subtly.  The ship in the first Alien film assumes the signal they're receiving is a distress call which the computer later figures out is a warning beacon.  In Prometheus, the scientists assume a benevolent race is inviting us when in fact there is plenty of evidence to indicate that this is an industrious species keeping it's creation in line.

Once aboard the Prometheus, we're given a few minutes to meet David, who is by far the most important character in the film.  He's the Rosetta Stone by which many of the films important questions and answers are translated.  While it's made clear that he's a robot, it's equally clear that he has many human like qualities. He's a shadow of a human, much in the way we are shadows of the Engineers, which is what Shaw refers to the aliens as. He chooses to emulate Peter O'Toole in Laurence of Arabia, an interesting choice.  O'Toole is both an outsider and a hero in the film.

But we also see that his ethics are not in line with ours.  He casually watches Shaw's dreams while she's in hibernation and pries into her private life in a way that we would consider serious violations.  Was he programmed to behave that way or was it a lack of programming that allowed him to so casually violate standard human ethics? Regardless, in just those few minutes, it's been established that while he emulates humans, he is definitely not one.

Another important note here is the visual representation of the dreams Holloway has. They're layered and almost look 'pixelated' for lack of a better term.  This visual style is very similar to the one we see later used by the aliens in their holographic re-creations.  Scott is very carefully drawing comparisons between humans and Engineers.  The alien in the opening scene is dressed nearly identically to Shaw and the other scientists aboard Prometheus -  a robe with white linen undergarments.

When we get to the briefing scene, we get another big chunk of information.  Weyland's hologram mentions David being the closest thing he has to a son and instantly they cut to Vickers and her disappointed look.  We can assume that not only that she his daughter, but that their relationship is less than loving. And was that a slight look of pride on David's face?

The relationship between David, Vickers and Weyland is another example of Scott pursuing the theme of disappointment between parents and children - in both directions. In this scene it's obvious that Weyland spent years developing David to be the child that he didn't believe Vickers to be.

Vickers and David meet with Shaw and Holloway to discuss the mission priorities and we see Shaw gush over a rare automated surgical table.  She says it's used for bypass and asks why Vickers brought it.  Her answer is evasive and curt.  This is a set up for later scenes.  She also tells them that the scientists are not to engage the aliens should they see them.  Besides the fact that Vickers has her own agenda and secrets, it's also an allusion to other Alien films which deal heavily with malevolent corporate influences.

The Prometheus lands on planet LV-223.  It's shown very clearly in the hologram earlier and this is to make it crystal clear that they are NOT landing on the planet in the first Alien film.  The planet is clearly designated LV-426 in the other films which hints at a relative proximity perhaps, but definitely not the same planet.

Next, upon landing on LV-223 we get another huge piece of information.  The planet itself has striking similarities to the Earth-like planet in the opening scene. When the crew enters the dome structures, they realize that there's a breathable atmosphere.  Holloway stupidly takes off his helmet to test the air.  Quite a few people criticized that move as unrealistic, but I had no problem with it.  First, any scientist willing to spend two years in hibernation traveling billions of miles because of cave paintings is a pretty unusual and determined character. I bought it.

But it's also important to note that Weyland's slogan is 'Building Better Worlds'.  You don't use that slogan for your company unless you're a major terraformer.  This implies that other planets, other atmospheres, these are things that are pretty standard for these people.  They trust their gear at this point to give them accurate readings.  Also, I think it's critical to point out that nowhere, ever does anyone say that we haven't seen other lifeforms on other planets in the past.  This very well may not be first contact at all.  I also realize that while not specifically in this film, Aliens (the James Cameron film) makes it pretty clear that humans have run across other species and in fact they may be common.

At one point one of the scientists, I forget which, refers to the atmospheric situation and says 'they're terraforming' here.  We already know that the Engineers breath the same things we do so it's a good assumption then that Earth was terraformed by them.  This planet also may then be in the process of being terraformed, but I don't think so.

Next we see David being rather willful and acting on his own, reading glyphs without translating, activating doors.  This is our first hint that David has agendas that don't include the scientists.

Shaw says that the headless body of the Engineer they find in the corridor dates back to about 2000 years.  This puts it about the same time that the Engineers stopped appearing in various records on Earth. Another clue.  David opens the door, which unlike other places seems to be sealed.  This is perhaps why the Engineer was running to that door in the first place - it was perhaps some way to escape something that was either chasing them or to avoid contamination.

Here's where many people watching the film had issues.  There is a scene of David's feet in the room.  When his foot moves there are two worm-like creatures under his feet in the soil.  Shortly after that, we see that the atmosphere of the room has changed, along with the mural and the behavior of the frozen liquid in the cylinders.

My take on all of this, and I don't think there are any logical fallacies here, is that the entire facility is a military installation (Janek says as much later in the film).  The room in which the find the vases is a room specifically carrying bio-weapons meant for humans.  There are plenty of safety precautions for the Engineers (the substance is frozen), which explains why the Engineer might have tried to get in that room during an outbreak.  However, the weapons are built to activate in the presence of human beings.

What is this weapon? How does it work?  Imagine you wanted to wipe out a whole species without decimating the planet itself.  A weapon that was keyed not just to the species itself, which might be able to isolate itself or partially defend itself, but to it's entire ecosystem.  If the weapon contacts species other than humans it mutates them into something dangerous and life threatening to humans.  This is what happens to the two worms under David's feet that later attack Fifield and Milburn.  If it connects with humans then it infects them at various rates with death as the final outcome.  But, as any biologist will tell you, the most dangerous diseases are the ones that have a number of ways to spread.  In this case, a face full of the weapon transformed Fifield into a killing machine.  I'm sure that eventually he would have died, but not before possibly spreading the plague to others. Then we have Holloway, who got only a tiny drop of the stuff, ingested through a drink.  Not only does it do the same job it did to Fifield, a bit more slowly, it affects even his chances at reproduction. Causing the offspring he generates with Shaw to be another malevolent creature aimed at killing humans.

So, after the first expedition out to the Engineer facility, they've left behind two crew members and are returning with an Engineers head.  The facility obviously wanted to also keep the humans contained within the area once they set off the canisters as it was obvious the storm was generated by the atmosphere processors. It's also what seemed (emphasis on seemed) to create confusion as to why Fifield and Milburn got lost, as Janek mentions that there was both interference and large amounts of static.

I was a little dismayed that Milburn seemed to show so little interest in the dead alien corpse and head. That is, after all, his area of expertise.  Fail number one.

Upon returning to the ship, we see David speaking through his VR helmet and standing over someone still in hibernation.  We now know that Weyland is alive and that he is probably the source of David's semi-hidden agendas.  From the one way conversation it's easy to tell that Weyland isn't pleased with the results so far and that he expects David to do whatever is necessary.

This plays out in the next scene with David and Vickers.  Vickers hate for David is apparent and his summation of Weylands comments as 'try harder' make it clear that Weyland has instructed David to do whatever it takes to make progress.  We also know that Vickers is aware of Weyland's presence on the ship, which explains some of her attitudes earlier.

The examination of the head confirms what I've suggested above.  The weapon, having gotten loose had infected this Engineer.  It might not even be the same weapon, but assuming it is, since he was running for the 'safe room', it lay dormant in his head, frozen, until 'reactivated' and stimulated by the scientists.

David, now on a time table is forced to take drastic action.  But he also has certain ethical programs embedded that he finds 'inconvenient'.  A robot however can't regard ethical programming as inherently important, only a hurdle to overcome on the way to his objective. He asks Holloway what he would be willing to do to get the answers he wanted.  Once Holloway says 'anything', David is ethically able to put the bioweapon in Holloway's drink.  I think he specifically chose Holloway because he seemed the most likely to take chances and thereby move David's agenda ahead.

But this scene is also crucial to the rest of the film.  When David asks 'Why did you (humans) make me?' and Holloway responds with a drunken 'because we could', we get to the heart of the film.  While we assume that David can't be 'disappointed' as he says, there's a nagging voice in us that says that that is a lie. David yearns to be greater than he is, to become closer to his creator.  He searches for the same answers we do.  And just as the Engineers' motives seem foreign to us, so too does David seem unable to completely connect with ours.

A few people have commented that the scene between Vickers and Janek is pointless.  I completely disagree.  First, it explains why no one is on the bridge when Fifield and Milburn call for help.  Second it establishes a very real question for Janek - is Vickers an android?  Which considering Vickers situation, is a question which cuts pretty deep.  Her response is one that is very reasonable - 'I'll do the one thing I can do to prove I'm nothing like David'.  Her sex with Janek is an act without love, born out of pain.  On the other hand, the sex between Shaw and Holloway happening at the same time is an act of love that brings about a monster.

Milburn and Fifield encounter the two mutated worms and get killed.  Milburn was stupidly optimistic in his behavior toward the snake, but I'll defer to the character on this one.  For all we know Milburn had had similar encounters with other creatures who turned out to be friendly.  Also, maybe Milburn wasn't aware he was in a sci-fi/horror film.

The next day, the crew searches for the two lost crew members and Holloway begins to succumb to the bio-weapon.  One of my other primary complaints about  the film is his reaction to seeing the silvery movement in his eye.  While Holloway might be reckless, ignoring this blatant symptom of infection wasn't just stupid, it was obviously dangerous to the whole crew and his lover.  He should have immediately quarantined himself.  I caught myself going 'Oh come on!' out loud during that scene.  Fail number two.

Upon returning, Vickers kills Holloway, who lets himself be burned to death - a little late for his altruism.  Nevertheless, it's a great scene for Charlize Theron who is firm that he not come aboard.  We see at this point she's willing to put the safety of herself and her crew above the ambitions of her father.  But once she's set him ablaze there's a true look of horror on her face.  Much of Vickers coldness is bravado and she's wonderfully human in that scene.

Meanwhile, David has gone off on his own, even cutting off Vickers and has found a spaceship underground, attached to the base.  It's loaded with the bio-weapons and there is at least one Engineer still left on board in hibernation (another allusion to the similarities between humans and Engineers - the use of hibernation chambers).  To me, this scene is at the heart of the whole film.  It's the second time we've seen the world solely through the eyes of David (the first is before the crew wakes up).  This time, David is communing with the machines of the Engineers with the language that he understands.  He's understanding his creator's creator.  He's in the cockpit of God's father and best of all he can grasp the significance and wonder of it all.  He's also at the point where he knows he can wake up Weyland.

Back on board, the focus shifts to Shaw who once she realizes she's pregnant is determined to end it.  Here, Scott is playing with our memories and emotions tied to the Aliens franchise.  The involuntary impregnation, the malevolent robot who almost seems to be encouraging the situation and suggesting taking her back to earth in hibernation.

She escapes the medical ward and heads for the automated surgical unit we saw earlier. The computer informs her that it's calibrated for male patients.  The only reason to have written it that way was to give us another clue that Weyland was alive, on board, and might be in need of surgery at some point.

Once she's done the self-surgery (which will probably go down as a classic sci-fi scene for years to come), she stumbles into the ward where Weyland is being awoken and readied for his trip to meet the Engineer.

The scene between Weyland and Vickers completes the picture of their relationship and how exactly everything went down.  Weyland wanted to fly off into space to look for immortality - for any number of reasons he would want to keep that a secret.  Perhaps his taking what would surely be a one way trip would cause stock problems with his company or incite a hostile takeover.  Also, the scientists might not have agreed to come if their trip's main goal was to grant Weyland eternal life. Or maybe if the ailing head of a major corporation announced he was flying off to a remote planet, other companies might have tried to horde in.  Regardless, his presence was a secret and Vickers wanted to be on board not to help her father but to make sure she was there at either his triumph or failure.  She attempts to make one last emotional connection with him before he leaves but is again rebuffed.

Once the Engineer has been revitalized and stands before the humans, both Shaw and Weyland try to convince David to ask the Engineer their own important questions.  I read that there actually is a translation as to what David said to the Engineer, but I don't think it really matters what it literally meant.  The Engineer's reaction says it all:  He strokes David's head softly once, before pulling it off and then beats Weyland with it.

So, here's my take from the Engineer's point of view:  2000 years ago, roughly, something happened (maybe on Earth or maybe within the world of the Engineers) and there was a decision:  Time to kill the humans.  This particular Engineer was assigned to the ship that would fly to Earth and decimate it with the bio-weapon.  Unbeknownst to him, there was a leak and something got out.

(Sidenote for Alien fans:  This is where I believe the two films connect.  In the first Alien film, the space jocky is described as 'fossilized'.  Perhaps at the same time the virus broke out, another ship, this one carrying a different bio-weapon, the aliens we know from the Aliens films, took off from LV-223.  That ship also had a breach, the pilot was infected and the ship crashed on LV-426 before it could reach it's destination.  Of course, this is all speculation and not important or relevant to Prometheus.  Just fun.)

Back to my hypothesis.  The bio-weapon had gotten out, contaminated those on the base and putting the whole thing on something like a lockdown.  Meanwhile, the rest of the ship's crew never showed up and the one Engineer was left in stasis, waiting.  When he wakes up, David says something to him.  Regardless of what it is, the Engineer then figures out that the mission failed and something has gone wrong.  His target is now standing there in front of him.  His mission is now more urgent than ever.  He has to kill these humans and get this ship to Earth, ASAP.

The rest of the film plays out fairly self-explanatory, but there are a few interesting points still in there.  I've seen the film three times now and after the first someone said 'Hey, Shaw figured out that David poisoned Holloway after she remarked about the air possibly being unsafe and David saying he was sure it wasn't.  If she knew David poisoned him, why was she so friendly to him at the end?'  After watching the film again, there's no look of understanding or recognition on Shaw's face. The look on David's is an assessing one. Does she know? Has she figured out that I did it?  I think the answer is no, Shaw wouldn't believe that David's programming would allow him to do that.  Maybe that will be explored in potential sequels though.

A friend suggested an alternate spot to end the film and I really like it.  After Shaw has escaped the life boat and is crying, David's voice comes over the communicators and he says 'we don't have to die here. There are other ships. I can fly them.'  Bam.  The end. Right there.   What more really needs to be shown or said.

Other people and friends have shown unhappiness with the 'squid thing' that comes out of Shaw and the 'alien' that comes out of the Engineer at the end as being either too similar to the facehugger and aliens of the other films or not similar enough.  What are the implications there?

My personal take on this - and mind you have I have no direct evidence for this - is that the Engineers perhaps found the aliens that we see in the other films and were attempting to use properties culled from them for bio-weapons purposes.  Why do I think that?  Because over and over in the films, human corporations want to use the Aliens for weapons and it always turns out badly.  Prometheus is about how we are the Engineers and they are us, so it makes sense that the Engineers failed as badly as we would've at trying to control the Aliens.  Of course, the Engineers failed to destroy us too.  Which brings us back to one of the many themes used in all of these films - messing with mother nature can and will come back to bit you.

Here's what I didn't like:  Milburn's lack of interest in the Engineer's body.  Holloway not telling anyone that he was infected.  Vickers unseemly death from failing to just turn left.  Those are all fairly small nitpicks in my opinion. I also might have liked to see a little more character development from everyone, especially Janek, Holloway and Shaw.  Lastly, the score seemed a little off to me.  It often seemed 'hopeful' or 'wondrous' where it should have been 'ominous' or 'foreboding'.

But there's a lot to love here.  Prometheus sets up a grand view of the universe and an interesting role for human beings in it.  It doesn't step on any of the other franchises (with the exception of Aliens vs. Predator, but does anyone really care?) and it left us with two interesting characters with a lot of room for development.

There are definitely things left ambiguous.  The biggest being 'why did the Engineers turn on us?'  What exactly is the relationship between the creatures in Prometheus and the aliens from the other films?  What did David say to the Engineer?

Things I really enjoyed:  The Engineer at the beginning is obviously different from the others.  He doesn't wear the armor, but robes and underwear and his ship is different.  I think he's a scientist like the humans or a 'creator' as opposed to the 'destroyer' Engineers.  The self-surgery scene is just breathtaking and incredible.  Michael Fassbender's performance as David is Oscar worthy.  I suggest watching the 'promo' video for his 'line':

Of course, I'm just scratching the surface here.  You could launch into long discussions with this film: theism vs. atheism, gnosticism, fear of our own bodies and biology, the morality of science, bioethics...and on and on.

This review isn't meant to cover everything, and I'd love to hear if others have different opinions, gripes, etc.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gay Rights and Polyamory, The Next Front

The rights for same-sex couples to marry has been at the forefront of civil rights in the U.S. and quite a few other nations for the last five or six years.  While many states have voted one way or another, further entrenching each sides commitments to progression or regression, there are many of us out there who've already personally closed the door on this issue and are simply waiting for the rest of the world to play catch up.

Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry? Of course.  It's not debatable to me. It's a no-brainer. It's no more a question than, 'should I be allowed to buy an apple at the grocery store and eat it in my own home?'.  Duh.

For those of us who have thoroughly decided this issue though (on either side of the debate) and are ready to move on, we have to face the next issue coming up.  It's one that the religious right has already had nightmares about.  The Family Institute's Laurie Higgins summed it up well, saying, "“Some will take offense at my comparison of homosexuality to polyamory or adult consensual incest because — they argue — those conditions are immoral and homosexuality is not."

There are many hot catch-phrases out there right now.  Things like 'redefining marriage' or 'homosexuality isn't a choice' are repeated ad nauseum on both sides. Both sides have a tool box of verbiage and hyperbole that they use over and over, to little effect on those who are in their hardened moral bunkers.

Interestingly, last week, in Australia, the first real visible crack appeared in the 'left' side of this whole thing.  "Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has come under attack from polyamorists, including some who are members of her party, for insisting that marriage should be between two people of any sex, but no more than two."  In the same article in the Australian National Affairs, "Alex Greenwich, the national convener of Australian Marriage Equality, told The Australian that his lobby group's concept of marriage was "what it's always been" of "two people who rely on each other in a relationship to the exclusion of all others"."

The answer to these quandaries will play out the same way they did with slavery, women's right to vote and every other significant social equality movement in history.  Slowly but surely, a tiny war will be won for a group of people, while still marginalizing another group. What people need to do is step back and see is the larger pattern.  There are only two directions:  more freedoms for all of us or fewer freedoms for all of us.

You only need two words, and an understanding of their meaning to solve this whole problem: Liberty and Consent.  Apply them to any issue, any problem and you have the solution.  Should two men be allowed to marry?  Yes, as it is their liberty to do so, so long as both consent.  Should two men and a woman be allowed to marry? Yes, as it is their liberty to do so, so long as all three consent.  Should a person be allowed to shoot heroine? Yes, as long as he/she consents, it is their liberty.  Should a person be allowed to sell their body for sex? Yes, as long as he she/consents, it is their liberty. (And before some of you out there jump all over me for this - consent, by definition, must be obtained from someone who has all the components of being *able* to consent.)

Of course, this is all great in theory and it's a nice equation on paper.  But what about the realities and practicalities of dealing with this issue when it comes to government and legislation?  There's an ugly truth there and it's one that I'm afraid is going to not be very popular.  The government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all.  It has no business encouraging or promoting its citizens into any kind of social constructs.  It's completely unethical to give massive tax breaks to a married couple with six children while a single person pays massively higher proportional taxes.  A citizen is a citizen is a citizen.  The government should only see a human being.

If government stepped away from marriage, then families could make their own legally binding contracts that worked for them, regarding wills, inheritance, etc.  People could go to whatever church they want to attend and get married by whomever wants to marry them.  If people want their church to change their definition of marriage then it can be up to the members of that faith. Freedom of religion wins too.

So, rather than spend years on gay marriage rights, only to re-entrench ourselves with debates about polyamory and consensual incest, can we just step back and look at the problem from the larger perspective?  People have a right to their own bodies.  People have a right to give consent to others regarding their bodies.  The government needs to recognize the values of *all* of it citizens. It can do so by getting out of the marriage business entirely.

Remember, we need to fight for every person's rights. That means the people we disagree with too.  The only thing we can all agree on is that we want the right to decide for ourselves what's best for us.  So, I'll stick up for your rights to believe whatever you want for yourself.  As Thomas Paine said, "He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."