Uncle Josh on the Fat-Shaming of Thorbowski

I fall into the Thor was not being fat-shamed camp.

He was reacting to tragedy. He was failing to cope. He was was completely out of the character of Thor we’d seen before and that was the point. That’s what depression does to a person.

He could only recover by seeing his Mom, as heartbreaking as that was. In my opinion he wouldn’t have even tried to call Mjolnir had he not spoken with her. Where he was as a character was not a place where he could think about his own worthiness, but Mom fixed it. Mom turned him around. She didn’t fix him; she didn’t cure him; she pointed him in the right direction.

We should all be so lucky to have a Mom like that in our lives. I count myself among their number.

I’ve been there: in the darkness where nothing seemed like it could get better, every choice was the wrong choice, the only luck was bad, sunshine burned the soul and three a.m. wasn’t very comforting but it was familiar. I have been fortunate to be turned away from that darkness when it got really rough.

I lived through enough of it to hit 300# by my 25th birthday.

I had enough of it that one day I was a happy boy laughing and smiling and then one day I put a bag over my head so nobody else would have to look at me.

I find the darkness easy to wrap around myself.

And for all of my life my Mom has been there to try to get me to see the Sun.

Uncle Josh Overreacts to The Rise of Skywalker trailer

Star Wars has defined me as much as my family, my church, the Beatles, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the Discworld have. Probably more so than most other than the Beatles, who I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. More than church? Well, church was always a thing I did (except for a few years where I toyed with atheism; it wasn’t a success) but Star Wars was a thing I wanted.

Really wanted.

Wanted so bad that my mother reportedly kept my brother up on Christmas Eve after we got home from midnight mass to put together an AT-AT Walker for me to have on Christmas morning.

Wanted so bad I wrote “rules” to a Star Wars role playing game that let me re-enact key scenes from the movie.

Wanted so bad that when The Phantom Menace came out I was one of those people using the awful phrase “raped my childhood.”

With The Force Awakens I was grateful they didn’t ruin Star Wars like the books did. (Vector Prime didn’t inspire me to think “hey this is an interesting direction and challenge” but “they killed Chewie? Star Wars is dead to me! Years later when I heard R.A Salvatore hated doing it and was forced to and chose to drop a frikkin’ moon on him to do the dirty deed, I felt a little better but I didn’t forgive the brand.)

With The Last Jedi I processed the shock of how different the movie was but after a few viewings I understood it better and realized we had the Star Wars we needed, which wasn’t the Star Wars a few entitled pricks wanted.

In the interim I’ve been contemplating what this would be like. This is the closure of a major part of my life. (Seven-eighths, roughly, and that first eighth was early childhood so you can imagine I don’t have many clear memories.) This is part of the story that shaped me, and it is coming to a close. Star Wars isn’t going away. Disney will milk the cash cow as long as we buy the books, games, watch the cartoons, or buy the toys.

From what I can understand there is a Star Wars Celebration going on and I haven’t paid much attention to it. I watched the trailer. I watched one commentary video from a source I didn’t know. I watched the trailer again. There is more news out there than I care to cover right now. I’m trying to capture my feelings, which is taking a bit of context.

Why Now?

Why release the video two weeks before Avengers: Endgame? It’s all Disney all the time now, as big entertainment goes. And this is a teaser for the trailer of the trailer of the movie, so it’s pure hype to get us geeks frothing and I, for one, am frothing.

Then I thought: What if this trailer had been a surprise for everyone going to see Endgame? I’d probably spend the first act of Endgame trying to figure out every damn clue about Episode IX that I just saw. Better to get this squee out of the way before going to see Endgame.

What is “The Rise of Skywalker” anyway?

It’s a great title because it has already spawned a hundred conspiracy theories. (This is a guess, of course. I’m not going to count them.) From what we know, Ben Solo is the last person in the Skywalker Family, aside from Leia and I’m not sure the character will survive the movie, as the great Carrie Fisher is now the late, great Carrie Fisher. (Too soon, I know.)

It could be anything and we won’t know until December 20 which is 252 days away (not that I’m counting or anything).

One of the random flashes on the noise machine that caught my eye was the idea that “Skywalker” would be the name of the new group of force-wielders which would function much like the “grey Jedi” of the old extended universe (but that may be in Disney cannon as well). We know she has the books so it’s kind of like starting over with whatever the Jedi tried to be in the beginning but didn’t end up that way.

Another idea posed a new character, some descendant of Luke or maybe even all the way back to Shmi, but that feels like a cop-out.

It’s not even an easy solution to make Rey Luke’s daughter, because that means he did all that work with her and lied about it. I can’t imagine Luke showing up as a force ghost admitting to that lie the way Kenobi appeared to Luke to own up about lying about Vader.

I had to pause this rant to eat dinner and on a whim we re-watched The Force Awakens so a lot of steam as left my sails. The excitement has already waned, which I suppose is a sign of being tired with the whole mess or this level of fan-geekery to begin with.

Maybe all I want is a conclusion to the Skywalker Saga that feels real, that satisfies, that makes me think “of course this is how it ends.”

But that laugh

But then I remember the laugh at the end of the teaser. Palpatine’s laugh. A brief from the Star Wars thing in Chicago confirmed it’s his laugh. Maybe he’s a force ghost, maybe he’s a flashback, maybe he’s got a bunch of clones like in the old Dark Horse comics. Snoke, possibly, could have been one of those clones and he took a name that he felt was more intimidating than “Sheev”. (Why did they let George name so many characters?)

If there’s some form of prophesy from the prequel trilogy at play, that there would be messianic figure to “balance the force” (whatever that was supposed to mean) and Annakin failed to balance the force, Luke failed to balance the force, so it’s up to Ben or Rey to finish the job. Palpatine burning down the entire Jedi structure was part of it, because the stagnant Jedi had to go. Then the few dark side users had to go, because they also couldn’t really exist without the opposition force. I figure the empire ruled for 20 years with the only known force user: Darth Vader. The Sith, too, for “balance”, have to go.

The best way to bring balance is to forget the whole thing ever happened, which seems to be the case in the sequel trilogy. Everyone thinks it’s a myth. Luke has given up reviving the Jedi, neither Snoke or Kylo have used the word “Sith” but they’re still dark-sider control freaks.

Rey has the books and they can start the whole stupid cycle all over again.

This whole idea of trying to fulfill a prophecy every thirty years or so in the galaxy far, far away means it makes sense that the narrative structure of the films would repeat. Many people complained The Force Awakens was a remake of A New Hope, but really it had vibes from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Early complaints about The Rise of Skywalker being a rehash of The Return of the Jedi are probably easily dismissed on the grounds that we haven’t seen the movie yet.

I know speculation is part of the game, and as long as we keep it part of the game and have fun with it, fine.

I’m going to try not to piss in the pool anymore on this.

Good night.

Uncle Josh Struggles with Reading Paul

I got to read in Church today from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:4b-14. My congregation is one that struggles with Paul. Paul is too easily dismissed. Paul who wrote “women should be silent in church” or “it is better to stay single than be married” is easy to hate, especially in the modern age of Outrage Society. But I was assigned to read his words to my community today.

If anyone has else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

This is the kind of stuff we love to hate about Paul. I have to appreciate the editors who this list of not-so-humblebrags and punctuated them in a way that let me read them in a crescendo, a litany of self-praise that we like to think is what Paul is really about.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

This is a powerful statement. There’s a lot of bang for the buck here. It’s pure attention grabbing.

More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

I swear there’s a Marie Kondo joke in here somewhere. Paul held all of these attributes as special to him, and then he realized they weren’t making him special. I don’t know if he thanked these attributes before disavowing them. They are not like stuff we surround ourselves with. They are not the things we purchased over the years to fill our lives. Even after the road to Damascus he was still of the tribe of Benjamin, he had still been circumcised on the eighth day.

But Paul calls them a loss. It’s a little tricky. I tried to imply with my interpretation that these things weren’t simply attributes he no longer considered his own, but things that held him back if he spent any time dwelling on them.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection of the dead.

Here again is one of Paul’s “bad ideas”: That we must suffer for our faith. That’s a hard one to push in modern America where “Christian” is the default in most of the country.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Yeah, I emphasized the “not that I have already obtained this” line because it felt important to knock Paul of the high horse we frequently read him to be on. (I’m pretty sure that sentence makes sense.) I also emphasized the phrase “press on” because it’s important to me, in any way that I act as a teacher, to urge people to avoid complacency. Thinking we have it made because we’re baptized is not really what the Episcopal Church is about.

The lesson I take from this is we must move forward, constantly. We can’t let our pasts drag us down. Change is possible. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Habits form easy neural pathways that channel our thoughts and keep us repeating the same behaviors. I could wake up on any morning and think “I’m not going to be self-disparaging today” and as soon as anyone even hints that I’m doing a good job at something, or am a nice person, before I can even think about my reaction I’m already saying something cruel about myself.h

I still do not do what I do in the hopes of getting to heaven when I die. I believe that I do the right and good thing (when I do them (which is hopefully most of the time)) because it is the good and right thing. That’s an artifact of my Philosophy classes right there.

In other practical terms, I really hope people could understand every word, because I try to enunciate clearly.

Uncle Josh Has Reasons to Be Afraid of the Bar

I only have six lifts each week. Three squats followed by either the Press or the Bench Press in alternation. Simple stuff, really. This week I failed three out of my six lifts.

For the past several weeks, probably even as soon as I started lifting again, I have been feeling pain in the belly of my left bicep that feels like the muscle isn’t relaxing. The pain starts during squats, which I can alleviate a bit by letting my arms move out along the bar.

This image posted on the Starting Strength weekly (
https://startingstrength.com/report/20160328/sh.jpg ) illustrates the problem. My hands go out even wider than this. The wider the grip on the bar, the less pain I feel and the later it begins. By the time I’m done with the squats the pain has crawled up my arm into the shoulder.

I’m not sure this pain is a result of lifting again. It’s very similar to the pains that made me go to the ER in February fearing a heart attack. (It wasn’t.)

So when I move on to either form of the press, the first rep of each set is slow and hesitant because my left arm feels like it’s going to give. On Tuesday it gave during the bench, and today it gave on the press. I also failed my first set of squats. The theme of the week has been “thank God for safety bars”.

I don’t know what to do. My doctor thinks I may be able to find a masseuse that can work the shoulder and arm and maybe find some relief, but it may take another bout of physical therapy to actually fix this.

Usually my back or my legs give out, but so far they’ve been fine. The only thing I’ve noticed is my treadmill walking speed has gone down from 3 mph to 2.5 mph. I can push 2.8 for a bit without too much discomfort, but on the day-to-day they’re fine. I’ve pushed them harder than ever and not needed a single trip to the chiropractor. Weekly yoga probably helps out here.

Uncle Josh is Still Afraid of the Bar

Now that the weather is amenable I am back to hitting the bar 2-3 times a week. I’m back on the minimized Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression on three lifts: Squat, Press, and Bench. I still cannot Deadlift safely and the only thing keeping me from Power Cleans right now is cowardice.

My goal is to squat 400 by my birthday in early September. Basically, Labor Day. In past years I had pushed past the 300 mark. Several years ago I had a catastrophic failure at 295. I collapsed butt-to-ankles and had to roll the bar over my neck to get out of it. I’ve got much better equipment now and a bar that could actually support that weight. In my head I finished last year with a 345 squat but looking back at my records it seems I really crapped out around 325.

And yesterday I did 325.

That’s a 50 lb. gain in 21 days.

And for the past two or three weeks the bar has been scary. My target workout number scares me, so I delay working out on Sunday (I don’t really have a choice on the weeknights but I did push my schedule back a day once already). I get in the garage and do my warm-ups and the final single-rep set scares me.

I am afraid of the weight all the way up to about the fourth rep of my first work set. Then it seems to calm down.

The fear is real, though. I am afraid of collapsing under the weight again, even though I know I have safety rails that can catch the bar. I might bang my shoulder against part of the rack as I fall, but that’s probably not as fatal as I think. I know I have been recovering lost strength. Up until yesterday I was not in new territory: I cannot say that I am at a 5×3 PR yet. Maybe next week.

I am perfectly safe when I lift. I don’t know why I’m so afraid of it. I know my heart can take the strain. I was in the ER at the end of February thinking I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t. I was fine except maybe a pinched nerve in my neck which managed to simulate all the major signs of a heart attack. I am, at least, no longer afraid of my heart going pop.

It is possible that experimenting with other meditative techniques during the rest period may help. Even something quirky may help. For the past few weeks my yoga class has been hitting tree pose more often that I’m comfortable with and some days the only way through is to think “I am Groot” to hold the pose.

I also know that failure isn’t a setback. This doesn’t really help in the moment, but hopefully it can inoculate me against the inevitable failure. I haven’t failed a set yet this year, but it’s only been 9 sessions over 21 days. I know I will fail a lift. I have imagined the failure and escape several times. Maybe I’ve planned to fail too many times so the failure is fresh in my head instead of the completed lift.

So maybe I should just imagine myself standing tall with all that weight on my shoulders.

Uncle Josh Sorts out Captain Marvel

Let’s get some of the early stuff out of the way: I was looking forward to this movie on the basis that Marvel movies tend to be fun. I was looking forward to seeing how Marvel handled their first leading woman. I was looking forward to more Goose.

What I wasn’t bringing into this movie: Brie Larson is ruining Marvel because, oh, I don’t know, boobs or something something. Nobody wants to see a woman superhero in a skin-tight body suit. My enjoyment of the movie depends entirely on if I pop a boner or not.

Obviously, this post is going to be full of spoilers. You have been warned. (Although, judging by the box office reports and my WordPress stats, that shouldn’t be an issue.)

With all that aside, I am not as happy with Captain Marvel as I wanted to be. I didn’t cheer nearly as much as my wife and sister-in-law with whom I watched the movie did. I spent too much time in the opening half hour trying to sort out what I knew from the comics and the MCU to get this story in my head.

The Kree

We know the Kree as the enemy from the Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D TV show, and we didn’t see any pink-skinned Kree in that series, so having them in this movie was a bit odd. I was able to connect Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with the Kree from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, but this group of Kree felt different. I suspect when someone in the cinematic universe side remembers they still have one television show, they’ll whip out some “renegade Kree” bullshit to continue the tradition of ignoring the television shows in the movies.

The Skrulls

I know the Skrulls from the comics as an invading force. Chris from Comic Tropes offers a great (and timely) summary of the Kree-Skull War that was some of the basis of this movie, although it’s easy to see where they change things up here.

The Supreme Intelligence

I appreciated how they changed this up for the movie, allowing a great actor like Annette Bening to play this strange creation that we usually see as a giant head with tentacles for hair, usually floating in a tank. This does introduce a potential plot hole: If the Supreme Intelligence appears to Vers as Mar-Vell, wouldn’t the Supreme Intelligence recognize the renegade Kree scientist? My no-prize submission: The Supreme Intelligence is lying about everything anyway. The Supreme Intelligence already knows where she is from and that Mar-Vell is dead. Even if the Supreme Intelligence knows Mar-Vell’s final words, it’s probably managing Vers in such a way to find out what Mar-Vell was up to.

Nick Fury

I didn’t notice the CGI youthing-up they gave him. Coulson’s was uncanny valley obvious, so it’s good they didn’t give him too big a role. Either Jackson’s darker skin made this trick easier to get away with, or they didn’t try to reshape his face to his younger look. (I am also willing to accept that, as a white guy, I notices the distortions to the white actor more than the black actor.) Steph Cozza, in her non-spoiler review, claimed that Fury was having too much fun. I’ll return to this.

Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel

What I knew about the character from the comics going in: She was an Air Force pilot, was handed down powers a-la the original Green Lantern, was de-powered, put through an abusive relationship that Chris Claremont had to retcon, re-powered, de-powered again to Rogue, re-powered again, and is now one of the heaviest cosmic hitters in the Marvel Comic Books Universe. (In other words, not a whole lot, considering.)

So that same backstory in my head made the first scenes hard to figure out. I know the character is supposed to be from Earth. I know from the previews she claimed to be a Kree and was proud of that fact. The memory loss is an easy way to make this work.

So I’m guilty of trying to figure out the story they were trying to tell me and not letting the filmmakers just tell me the story. That’s going to happen with any movie based on other source material: Someone’s going to spend the first act screaming “that’s not what this is supposed to be!” and hopefully not ruining it for the rest of the audience.

The Stories Men and Women Tell Themselves

This is an attempt to summarize a bunch of narrative theory that still needs more sorting out: Women don’t get the hero’s journey (as defined by Campbell/Lucas/Snyder) because they don’t get the luxury of refusing the call. Instead of mentors pushing them forward, they have to overcome their mentors’ efforts to hold them back and control them. They are not granted some boon (either power or knowledge) in their journey, but instead realize that who (or what) they are is enough. Their self-actualization is a clearer vision of who they have always been, and they lose the constraints others put on them.

Captain Marvel has to regain her memories to find herself: A woman who has never let others define who she is. Even when she lost her memory, the core of her (stand up when you fall) is in full display. She is defined as the person who will do good. The Kree weaponize her by lying to her, and letting her natural instincts work to their favor, even though she fights them on the grounds that they are trying to control her and she will not be controlled.

The one time I did cheer for her was at the end, when Yon-Rogg tried to goad her into fighting without her powers, that she couldn’t be a hero unless she could beat him in an unpowered match, which is insanely biased because as a Kree he is stronger than she is (or most other humans). She blasted him into a rock and he deserved it. No one other than Carol Danvers defines who Carol Danvers is.

Character Arcs and Growth

Another complaint I’ve seed bandied about is that Carol doesn’t “grow” as a character. Sam Spade didn’t “grow” in The Maltese Falcon. Steve Rogers doesn’t “grow” during Captain America: The First Avenger. Some people may have wanted to view that journey, but this isn’t an origin story so it doesn’t make sense to judge it by that standard.

There is an external challenge she must overcome and that changes mid-way through the film. The internal challenge is to dump the blinders everyone else has put on her. She is tested time and time again and she remains true to herself. No growth needed. No arc necessary.

Would the movie be improved by adding a scene near the end when she is tired, or about to admit defeat? No, because the only way to do that is to kill one of the two people she genuinely cares about: Maria or Monica. That would be cruel and even if they had done so, I doubt Carol would have folded. She’d have kicked ass. No, we need the powerhouse leaving this movie in the greater scheme of the MCU.

I will admit that at no time did I feel like Carol was vulnerable. I’m not sure I felt that way about Steve in the first Captain America movie. If it didn’t bother me with Steve Rogers but it does with Carol Danvers, then I have found some unconscious sexism in my own head and I can find a way to erase it.

Is Captain Marvel To Powerful For The MCU?

I know some complaints have to do with, well, I think it still comes down to boobs we don’t get to see, but the closer rational complaints are that she is too powerful compared to other characters, and she’s clearly being brought in at this time to beat Thanos.

Only, from what I know from the comics, Thanos can’t be beaten by brute force. Thanos loses because of his own hubris. I predict that Captain Marvel will give him a proper beat down in Act One of Endgame and we’ll all cheer that Thanos is getting whipped, then he will crush her and we’ll spend Act Two in a state of shock.

Compared to the other heros, she’s overpowered.

The Actors Have WAY Too Much Fun

The working relationship between Captain Marvel and Fury seems to go from agent-suspect to buddy-buddy pretty fast. To be fair, Fury and Rambeau also jump into a buddy-buddy pretty fast, so maybe that’s just the way Fury was as a young agent who didn’t like authority and that was his easiest way of flouting it. It explains his relationship to the cat as well. He’s serious when he needs to be serious, but otherwise fun.

It also speaks to Carol Danvers herself. We can see in the memories that she knew how to have fun, and frequently did. It is easy to see Carol instinctively trusting Fury as a good guy.

And, as Lindsay Ellis pointed out in her comparison between Independence Day and the Scientologist’s take on War of the Worlds, the 90s were a completely different time. The Pre-9/11 world is hard to remember but it really was that kind of fun silliness. Any movie with federal agents would have been similar.

Let’s face it, after Infinity War we needed a couple of lighthearted movies. Ant Man and the Wasp was one, this is another.

Comparing Captain Marvel to Wonder Woman

As a Marvel fan, I hate to say that Wonder Woman is the better movie. Gal Godot expressed a full range of emotions and Wonder Woman had the heroic traits of lifting up those around her. Brie Larson played this a bit cooler, a little less empathetic, less “that’s terrible” and more “let’s right this wrong right now.” Wonder Woman had a definitive goal through the whole of that movie. Captain Marvel had to shift to new goals as the story unfolded.

Plot Holes

Steph Cozza’s spoiler review is a diatribe against the movie for plot holes against the MCU. One thing we fans forget is the powers that be do not give a shit about continuity to the same level, and neither does the majority of the movie-going audience. Butts were in seats. That’s all that really matters.

They are telling a big story with lots of episodes and all they want is eyeballs and a promise to come back for the next movie. This isn’t a great big vision like Lucas claimed to have, so we’re not going to see these movies being changed and updated.

Besides, Comic Books are really good at ignoring continuity, retconning, and bluffing, so the following No-Prize submissions are fatuous:

Nick Fury’s Eye

Apparently in Winter Soldier Nick Fury states “the last time I trusted somebody I lost an eye”. Now we know he lost his eye to a Flirken scratch. Could be he was referring to Carol during that speech, she’s the only person he trusts, and Kevin Fiege disabled the “why didn’t Fury use the pager” complaint with “how do we know he didn’t?” which means if he did, then Carol ignored it, or showed up too late, or (more likely) spoke to Fury in the background. It also enforces the idea that Fury doesn’t trust anyone in the chronologically later movies.

Apparently there’s also a photograph of Nick Fury being sworn in as Director of SHIELD with a healthy left eye. I’m sure they’ll pull a Lucas and edit the photo when the movie is streamed on Disney +, if they even go so far as to care.

“Nobody calls me Nick”

Well, apparently other people do later in the timeline. This is easy. As an up-and-coming agent trying to make a name for himself, this line is part of the presented persona and forces a sly kind of respect in people who interact with him. Later in the timeline, when things have gone to shit (you figure between 1995 and 2008 he’s recruited two people: Natasha and Clint, and they aren’t even super powered), he doesn’t need to pull this persona BS because he has the respect from his history. He no longer needs to micromanage or even care about that part of his persona.

“SHIELD” as a name

Yeah, in the first Iron Man they were “working on it” because the full name was complicated. A) Coulson could have lied about “we’re working on it”, and B) I’m pretty sure the name appeared in Agent Carter (not that the movie side cares about the TV side, but at least Agent Carter derived directly from a movie).

Some Song/Movie/Book didn’t come out early enough to be in this movie

Yeah. The only people who would be disturbed by a videocassette case of First Knight or a song by Garbage (a band I hadn’theard of until reading the IMDB trivia and goofs pages) are hardcore fans of those things. Let me tell you a story.

When I was a burgeoning curmudgeon (ages 6 to 16, when I stopped burgeoning), I was a Beatles uber-geek. I knew every song, every album, running times, which songs were original and which were covers. You know what I didn’t bother with? Release dates of the albums or singles. I’m not saying there aren’t people out there who don’t have these dates connected to significant events. I can imagine there is at least one couple who went to First Knight on a First Date and have that date firmly memorized. And I’m willing to bet that even if they noticed the calendar on the wall with the month and year they didn’t freak out and think the Captain Marvel movie was ruined.

And with any other minor real world timeline goof, you know this is all an alternate universe, right? Timelines could shift. Software could be shipped on time. Movies could be made a year earlier. To complain about LEDs on a plane in a movie where a woman glows; flies into space; and manhandles oversized planet-killer nuclear missiles, is to focus on the wrong levels of verisimilitude.

In Conclusion

I liked Captain Marvel. It was a fine entry into the series and there’s only so much fangeeking I can manage to put into it right now.

It was fun, sure. Like a few others, I may not have been impressed with the final fights (except blasting Yon-Rogg) but in the context of the MCU, I’ve seen more impressive SFX-driven fights. Hell, Thanos threw a MOON a couple of movies back.

I’ll probably see it again in the theater, and will probably buy the movie, and I’ve already subscribed to the new Captain Marvel series from Marvel Comics, so Marvel has won the battle anyway.

Uncle Josh Deals with Outrage Society

Outrage Society is my shorthand term for what I view as the extreme form of the Cult of the Individual, which may itself be an extreme form of the Cult of Ignorance, which may or may not be the fault of Capitalism. I’m still trying to sort out all these capitalized ideas.

Note: Outrage Society is not the same as Political Correctness, which is an agnostic attempt to express “treat people with respect” as a good rule of getting along in society. (Disclosure: I agree with this position 99% of the time.)

One: The Outraged (a participant of Outrage Society) assumes that others will see the world as they do. This is ridiculous but it doesn’t stop them. No two people see the world the same way. Even identical twins don’t always see the world the same way. It declares the Nature vs. Nurture debate over with Nature the winner, and then assumes everyone has the same Nature. Or at least everyone should have the same Nature. The assumption of the Outraged boils down to this: Your experiences don’t matter and if you are not outraged about this particular thing that outrages me then you are fundamentally and morally flawed.

Fuck that.

Two: The Outraged declare that people should not make assumptions about other people. This may be more about the Cult of the Individual (I’m still looking for those representative tweets).  If I meet a person presenting as a woman I am not allowed to make the assumption that they have always presented as a woman, or grew up through girlhood. I can’t make assumptions about people’s pasts, or their current situations.

Humans are pretty damn good at pattern matching, and when meeting a new person the human brain starts to categorize: Age, gender, style, and yes, various physical features (skin tone, hair, eyes) and affectations (clothes, body movement) all start the free-association from our experiences and assumptions and attach themselves to the new person. Does this pattern-matching and categorization make us see things that aren’t there? Sometimes. But they also allow us to see things that are there.

In this model, bigotry is a philosophical condition of having too few boxes to handle the real world. The Outraged demand the use of too many boxes to be practical or helpful.

And not making assumptions about people in the Outrage Society model leads to all sorts of awkward starting conversations about personal pronouns and trigger warnings. I’d rather listen to an old modem try to connect to the local bulletin board system when the lines are busy that manage these conversations. It’s easier to treat people as people instead of a bundle of exceptions to some “heteronormative constraint model”.

Three: It seeks to shape the language in awkward and unhelpful ways. My joke definition of the outraged is the person storming into a city council meeting about a sidewalk repair project that needs to be done demanding they don’t use the term “sidewalk” because it’s “ableist” and implies people in wheelchairs or walkers aren’t welcome in public. This is the absurd extension of what’s happening.

Orwell’s 1984 contains the argument that our language shapes our thoughts. D.T. Suzuki argues in his introduction to Zen Buddhism that westerners can’t understand  Zen because our language doesn’t fully support the ideas that lead to it. The Politically Correct movement also tried to shape the way we think by introducing words that didn’t come with the baggage that words like “retard” or “cripple” came with. “Special needs” or “differently abled” or “something impaired” tried to stop the dehumanization of disabled people. It may have been successful in reducing dehumanization, but it didn’t humanize them much, either.

Outrage Society tells us that our language in insufficient, and will never be sufficient. It’s hard not resist the easy lure of fatalism when you can’t, by definition, succeed.

I guess the underlying issue with the Outraged is they are judging everyone else all the time and all others are found wanting. It’s a strange form of narcissism. Maybe the Outraged are so desperate to feel heroic and find themselves so unheroic that they have to turn every other person into a villain. Why do they do this? Do they have an idea of a hero that is an impossible standard to live up to? Is this just an outlet for managing a need most people have to be a victim? (Okay, that’s kind of hard to believe because I suspect most Outraged would consider themselves on the political Left and most Victims are on the political Right. But I digress.)

I can see why I don’t like the Outraged: I don’t like being judged harshly and constantly. I don’t know why I should give them my attention except that I experience an intense negative reaction to them. My small steps into stoicism tell me I am ultimately in control of my reactions; but this is one of those reactions that I don’t seem to be able to control. In the very first part of the Enchiridion challenged me in this claim and I have visceral reactions that seem out of my control. I suppose my stoic journey is finding some way to control these reactions. I need to examine them and source them to manage them. The true source of my reaction against the Outraged is a reaction against being judged.

Now, what is a judgement against me? What is the judgement of a stranger? This points me towards a conflict I still feel between stoicism and my Christianity. My religion tells me I need to listen to others, to see Jesus in them, and Jesus is somewhere in the Outraged (although I suspect their inability to follow the Golden Rule is a cause of His distress). I suspect stoicism would eject the concerns of a stranger, especially if the point of the interaction is solely to injure me or to raise others’ self esteem. Neither Christianity nor stoicism would require me to suffer and injury. I should be able to listen to what’s being said underneath the tone and the negativity. I should be able to hear any real criticism of my character.

And that is the struggle. Maybe this whole thing is what Epictetus meant in the Enchiridion:

Seek at once, therefore, to be able to say to every unpleasing semblance, “You are but a semblance and by no means the real thing.” 

Epictetus, The Enchiridion, Chapter I.

How would the Outraged react to that, I wonder: to be told their Outrage is just a semblance and by no means the real thing? Their whole affect is trying to either a) make me a better person, or b) make me deny my core being to be replaced (presumably) by theirs in a Cult of Personality. In either case, it falls apart when faced with a placid-faced “your sail has no wind” reaction.

Not reacting to their anger, whether it is genuine or not, is the best way of dealing with them. With that as my armor, they can’t really hurt me, and that’s all I ever really wanted in this process to begin with.

Uncle Josh Read Something in January

My Goodreads challenge feels like it’s going slowly. I’ve read 8 books so far in 2019, and one of them that made it onto Goodreads was the Original Sin graphic novel. I’m a little hesitant to add the graphic novels in my count. I’ve read several so far this calendar year, including (I am kind of embarrassed to say) a couple of Batman stories.

Even stranger for my habits is four of them were non-fiction:

  • The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
  • How to Create Cultures by Amy Laurens
  • Building Your Resiliency by Brett McKay
  • If I had Lunch with C.S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

I have been working on getting my shit together, and the Bullet Journal seems to be helping me get organized. The most important thing about the BuJo method is regular reflections on how the day/week/month went and examining where I am in various things, including tracking my reading habits but even some of that I don’t want to do by hand.

For example, my goal to read more short fiction. I would like to actually be able to participate in the reader polls and Hugos but I don’t because I don’t feel like I have a good enough sense of what’s out there. The short fiction reading also feels like it’s digging into the book reading time and energy. I read 1 novella, 11 short stories, and 1 flash piece that I can actually track. That’s not a lot compared to the massive amount of short stories that got released in the genre magazines in January.

And February is already a week gone. I’ve read 1 story so far.

The fiction highlight was Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint which I finally got around to reading. It seems like I’ve seen advertisements all over the web for it for so long I lost track of it. It became a thing I wouldn’t read because it was so damn popular (that didn’t stop me from reading Martha Well’s Murderbot books) or it became a thing I wouldn’t read because I could never get caught up, even though it’s the first book of a series, wasn’t published that long ago (50 weeks or so), and there are only three books in the series so far.

This is why I need a one-stop source of information, as much as possible, anyway. I’m too disorganized.

Uncle Josh Tries to Solve for X: Watching the second X-Men trilogy in a single day

Boxing day. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be about but in our house it usually means a movie marathon. We have a dearth of superhero movies in the theaters right now, and no Star Wars, and we are saving Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for New Year’s Eve.

So I decided to get caught up with the X-Men franchise which kept cranking out movies over the years and I kept thinking *yawn* each time except for Logan which was incredible.

Did it help trying to recall everything I knew about the X-Men comics? Not really. That kind of knowledge gets in the way of watching the stories Bryan Singer wanted to tell in this trilogy..

Did it help trying to recall everything about the first three X-Men Movies? Not really. That kind of knowledge gets in the way of watching the stories Brian Singer wanted to tell in this trilogy.

At least this is normal for X-Men. Multiple intersectioning timelines and sometimes even multiple versions of the the same character at different ages fighting with each other or along side each other.

The original trilogy came out before Iron Man, so the idea of a cinematic universe was probably planned and hoped for. I don’t think the idea of anything more than the series came up in planning sessions.

With all of the stories the comics available, they chose a few.

When they tried a reboot I think they made a few stupid errors. Messing with the timeline and when we introduce characters seem way out of whack and having three movies set 10 years apart filmed two or three years apart means everyone ages really frickin’ slow. I think the Marvel standard is three real-world years pass in a comic-book year, but I may be wrong.

There were parts of the movies I liked, but the overall affect was meh. Maybe too much backstory in my head interfering with trying to understand what these stories were trying to do. I didn’t like Days of Future Past relegating Kitty to a small role with apparently different powers. I think the original comic had a version of Rachel Summers and the rebooted movies hadn’t introduced her parents at that point.

Apocalypse was a poor choice for a villain, too. He’s too damned powerful and they could only defeat him with the Phoenix Force which has its own complicated history.

I guess I watched them for something to watch. I didn’t want to think and there was too much thinking trying to sort these movies out.

Uncle Josh Ranks the Grinch

Not individual Grinches, but covers of the classic song “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”.

#4 Straight No Chaser

This ranking is most likely because of my general distaste for SNC. It’s nothing to have the bass vocal growl through the very bottom of the range without a whole lot of personality.

#3 Moosebutter

It’s crazy. It’s wacky. It’s bizarre. It’s hard to sing along to because it’s not a cover predicated on a lot of patterns. But, it’s Mossebutter. It’s the typical for them.

#2 The Coats

They may have been The Trench Coats when they recorded this one. It’s a solid version that is fun to sing along with, which is really the whole point of a christmas song, right?

#1 Thurl Ravenscroft

You can’t beat the original.