Let’s Answer a Question You Should Ask Your Non-Christian Friends

For those who didn’t know, in addition to being a filthy liberal, I’m also a heathen atheist.  I have heard all the arguments for the existence of God, and I find them all to be lacking.  I don’t go into this all that much anymore, because my days of being the anti-religion shit-kicker are long behind me.  Not to mention, I haven’t heard an original argument.  However, I was made aware of this video, that has a Christian speaker who has a question that can seal the deal on turning a non-believer into a believer.  Okay, let’s hope this is an original argument.  Let’s watch this video, and then we’ll talk about it.

We start off with a very timid girl asking a question while chewing gum (that is so annoying.  Don’t be one of those people) wanting to know how to get through to her non-believer friends.  This dude’s answer should be good.

He begins by saying that this is the question he has when he goes “back and forth” with non-believers and feels there is “some resistance.”  Yeah, resistance to his religious nonsense that I genuinely don’t understand how people can believe.  It is so ludicrous on the face of it.  The idea that there is a magic man in the sky who created everything.  How can anyone buy that?  Not a rhetorical question.  Feel free to try your shot at giving me an original argument.

Then he says the question – if Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?  What?!  That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!  For starters, you have to not only prove that God is real, but that the God that’s real is the one you believe in.  The ego of this assertion is mind-boggling.  I’m supposed to be unable to answer this?  Really?  Because my answer is easy – assuming you could prove that not only does a deity exist, but it’s the one that you believe in, my answer is – no.  I wouldn’t.  Why?  Because this deity of yours is sitting back and doing fuck-all while humanity is both fucking and polluting ourselves into extinction.  While children are getting limbs blown off by landmines.  While there are parasites designed to eat brains.  That’s all they do.  This world is a festering pile of shit, and if you can prove to me that your God exists, I would point to that and then ask the holier-than-thou fuck why he expects me to be cool with that.  I’d ask where he gets off think that that is okay.

Now of course, you’d say “then I guess you aren’t going to Heaven.”  Fine by me.  I want no part of a Heaven that the God this man worships is involved with.  A God who is small.  Who created this massive, incredible universe, but for some reason actually cares where a man sticks his penis.  A God who was able to create the countless worlds in the ever-expanding vastness of our universe, yet decided to send a bear to maul children to death for making fun of one of his prophets.  A God who is able to create life from absolutely nothing, as it says in Genesis, yet is also very concerned if a youth is bad-mouthing their parents.  Yeah, I want NOTHING to do with that God.  Not one damn thing.

The dude decides to make my point for me and say that other atheists have had the same answer I have.  Okay.  Curious to see what his rebuttal is to this position.  He begins by saying that because atheists claim to be reasonable, but then says that if something is proven to be true, would we believe it, and says we don’t.  Wait a minute!  That ain’t what you asked, dude.  You asked that if Christianity were proven to be true, would we become Christian.  Asking that and then asking if I believe it are two very different things.  I would not become a Christian because the God you worship is either malevolent, incapable, or not a deity at all.  Your God is pathetic, yet demands that we all think that he’s all-knowing, all-loving, and completely omnipotent.  Why would I want to become part of you?  Believing in something that has been proven and accepting that and following it are two very different things.  As if your beliefs being proven would be so powerful that I would have to instantly become a Christian on the spot.  No.

I love when Christians do this.  They try and make a point but then turn it into something else.  The reason they do this is because they know that they can’t win a straight argument with someone who is an educated non-believer.  Their beliefs don’t hold up to scrutiny.  So instead they have to make it about something else.  They have to take their points and then stealthfully tweak them to an argument that works for them.  Kirk Cameron was cited pointing this out by telling people to get around atheist’s logic and appeal directly to their emotions.  This dude is dealing with a strawman who is really stupid and wouldn’t see what he did there.  Idiot.

We then get into “they just want to be God of their own lives.”  Ugh.  I was really hoping for an original argument.  I really, really was.  I hoped this dude had something I haven’t heard before.  Armoured Skeptic once said he’d give up his left nipple for an original religious argument, and part of me wants to go in on him with that, before he moved on to other things.  Dude, you are the God of your own life.  Why?  Because God follows all the same values and prejudices that you do.  Find any Christian, and they will tell you that God and Jesus think all the same things they do.  It’s quite something.  Don’t like gay people?  Neither does God.  Don’t like openly sexual people?  Neither does God.  Don’t like the idea of your money going to help people you don’t like?  Well, you can make it so your God doesn’t like that either.  It’s really amazing.  It’s almost like the fucker can read your mind.  Isn’t that amazing?

Oh, we got another question!  Wait, never mind.  It’s him asking the audience if the non-believer they want to convert is someone who is “actively seeking truth” or just someone who is openly hostile to religion.  Wow.  Strawman Atheist strikes again!  Dude, I do look for truth.  The difference is, your world has no truth.  You believe in a magic man who has properties that could not be real if not for magic.  It’s a fact.  He flooded the Earth and had two of every animal in a boat and then had all those animals spread across the world without leaving any trace of themselves.  Magic!  He had a dude with Hulk strength all because of his hair.  Magic!  He created a man by forming dirt and then breathing into it.  Magic!  He turned a woman into a pillar of salt.  Well, that one could be the Crimson Alchemist.  Oh wait, it’s magic!  There is no truth in what you have to say.  I’m not openly hostile to your religion.  I’ve just heard all the arguments and found it wanting.

And what do you know, his audience agrees with him!  When he asks if the person the audience is thinking of is seeking truth, none of them raise their hands.  It’s all just hostility towards God and the idea of God.  This argument is so fucking dumb.  I’ve heard it all a thousand times in a thousands different forms.  “You just want the freedom to sin!”  “You just don’t wanna believe in God!  The evidence is everywhere!”  And naturally this dude sits in a room full of people who agree with him and they can all have their confirmation bias safely stoked without any fear of contradiction.  Because that’s how the Christian world works.  A magical echo chamber, just like pretty much every other group in this country.

He concludes saying to just pray for the person who doesn’t believe in God and that will do the trick, because they’ll have some tribulation in their lives that will bring them to Jesus.  Bullshit.  I’ve had a TON of tribulation, never once did I think Jesus could do anything for me.  It’s all a crock.  But whatever.  That’s the world we live in.

So, this was stupid.  I beat that argument to death fairly easily.  Always hoping for that one person who asks me a question that really gets me thinking.  A man can dream, after all.

Until next time, a quote,

“But in the bullshit department, a businessman can’t hold a candle to a clergyman.” – George Carlin

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole

So, I’ve been really lonely and depressed lately.  What this usually leads me to do is game.  The last time I was like this, I played through the Mass Effect games (the first three.  We don’t talk about Andromeda) so much that I know all of my favorite character’s dialogue by heart!  No joke, that’s how much I know those games.  This time, I decided to see if these two games based on the South Park universe were any good.  I’d heard good things, especially with the first and less for the second, so I figured I would see for myself.  And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, they exceeded my expectations in every way.  I’m gonna do reviews for both games here, so this will be kind of long.  Let’s get to talking about it.

First up, we have Stick of Truth.  A game that is riffing on fantasy RPG games, it tells the story of our voiceless protagonist, New Kid.  You create this character, but they never speak.  Something that is made a point of ruthlessly in the game, riffing on games that do that.  Our new kid just moved into town, and just happens to get roped into a struggle between Cartman’s Kupa Keep, and Kyle’s Drow Elves over a mythical object – the Stick of Truth.  A stick that can enable you to do anything.  However, it seems that New Kid is harboring some secrets of his own, and all of it plays together in a narrative that only the creators of South Park could tell.

There is a lot to talk about in this game.  The visuals are just perfect for something set in the South Park universe.  It really does feel like you’re watching an episode of the show.  Since all the voices are pitch-perfect for what you expect from the characters, the role-playing of this felt great.  Part of me really gets why the animation style of the series meshes well to video games.  Since it is done on computer, I have to figure there wasn’t a whole lot they had to tweak.  Though, getting to see Canada as an 8-bit world with 8-bit gaming music was adorable.

Combat in the game is basically a Final Fantasy game, with a few caveats.  Your character chooses their own class, and then you play through the game getting to add on to it as time goes by.  The amount of abilities you get is limited, and you can only change so many things.  Leveling up is also pretty basic.  That’s the thing about the game – it’s pretty basic in the controls and how you play.  Combat does incorporate QTE segments in both offense and defense to either get extra damage or extra defense, respectively.

But you don’t come to this game for deep mechanics.  You really, really don’t.  If you are playing a South Park game, you came to play for the experience of being inside an episode of the series, but longer.  And this is a long game.  I ended up having a good 24 hours through just the story.  Which brings us to this – is the humor on point?  Yeah, for sure.  It’s absurdly violent at points (the abortion clinic scene was so unbelievably grotesque.  I loved it), unbelievably raunchy (the scene fighting the gnome under your parents while they’re fucking is just too good), and doesn’t pull that many punches.  That being said, it is pretty standard for what the average observer would expect from a game in this genre.  Like one of the early season episodes.  That’s not a bad thing, but it does have you having to check your expectations.  And how it all ends is just too funny.  It’s so stupid that it’s perfect.

Overall, this is a solid RPG riffing on games in this genre, along with the fact that it is a South Park game.  Trey and Matt definitely didn’t take things too seriously, and that’s for the best.  I like that they have no problem making fun of their own work.  That’s mature, and while this game is decidedly not, if you wanted to play through an episode of this franchise, this is the perfect way to do it.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

The first game got a TON of praise.  Just tons of it.  People loved it across the board, save for the moralizing people who don’t like any game anymore because you can’t please those people and it bothers me that now Sony is actually trying to.  However, the sequel got a much more tepid amount of praise.  People seem reticent to pile it on for this one, which I think is genuinely unfortunate.  The Stick of Truth was funny.  The Fractured But Whole was fucking hilarious!  This game too so much more risks, and dammit if that didn’t pay off.  At least to me.  I can see why people would be hesitant to say nice things about it in mainstream gaming journalism outlets.

See, in the last couple seasons, South Park riffed on PC culture and it wasn’t nice about it.  Hell, it fucked it up the butt and when people were yelling, they just shrugged and went about their day.  This game is following in the vein of those episodes, and it’s funny to watch.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that a year after the events of the previous game, New Kid is still the King and all is peaceful in the Kingdom.  Until their game is interrupted by The Coon, who tells our hero and his friends that there is an opportunity to get their superhero franchise off the ground.  Now our young hero is thrown into a new world, and a new plot that gets more and more ridiculous as time goes on.  All for the purpose of saving a cat and getting $100.

Some people were complaining the combat in this game was kind of dumbed down from the previous entry.  I would disagree with that.  While you don’t have much of the QTE stuff, it made things harder by making it so you have fewer choices when you are in combat of what to do.  In the last game, you could use healing items and then attack in the same turn.  Here, you have to make choices, and since your enemy can hit for a TON of damage and healing items don’t just fall out of enemies every minute, you have to be smart.  What’s more, most summons only have the specific number of times they can be called into battle, and then they are done.  This game makes you think on your feet, but thankfully, give you a much bigger toolbox to play with.

See, you get superhero powers, and as the game goes on, Cartman keeps adding to your increasingly-ridiculous back-story which gives you a bigger toolbox to play with, that you can customize to whatever play style you want.  What’s more, before every battle you can do this.  So if you fuck up and die, you get another shot to change up your roster, you skills, and the augmentations you have.  There is depth here, just different from the last.  And if you ask me, some of that stuff did need to be toned down.  The streamlining of things in this game made it much fun for me.

But just like the last game, you didn’t pick this up because you wanted deep mechanics.  You did it so you could play an episode of South Park.  In that regard, this game does the formula even better.  Never have I felt more like I was in this world with these characters than I did in this game.  What’s more, since your character can customize their character sheet, You can change how you get interacted with.  Role-play-wise, this was a great game to get sucked into with the universe.  Plus, the narrative is so much better.  Stick of Truth was fun, but here they go all out.  Everyone is foul-mouthed.  There is PC culture that is seamlessly mixed into that world because it basically takes place where the episodes of the series have already happened.  You have to mesh with the madness, and hot damn!  It’s too funny. They take real chances with some of the stuff they go into.  My favorite of the Lovecraftian monster that is horribly racist, with racist cops feeding black people to it.  Their black characters have a bad habit of being urban as fuck.  They riff on the whole cis/transgender stuff.  There are no punches held back, and the game is better for it.

What’s more, there is something about how the narrative turns out that had me in stitches the first time because it felt so South Park.  When you have Stan at the end asking everyone “you be taking this seriously,” it feels like the best episodes of the show, where him and Kyle are trying to get everyone to see reason, but Cartman still wins in the end.  Plus, we have that great child-like naivety of Cartman combined with the diabolical master-mindedness of him that is just a joy to watch.  I will say that the final act does get draining as it is one boss-fight after another, but that aside, it’s great stuff.

I genuinely do love both of these games.  They both are charming and funny and great to play.  But this game is the better of the two.  Without a doubt, it does the formula better.  What’s more, it feels like it genuinely continues the narrative from the first game.  It doesn’t just forget that that stuff happened, and there were plot threads that were unresolved.  The whole narrative comes to a nice conclusion.  I don’t know if there are any plans for a sequel, but to be honest, I’d be okay if there weren’t.  This game ends on a nice note.  You really are doing a disservice to yourself if you haven’t picked these games up.  But if you wanna start here, I don’t blame you.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Persona 5 The Royal Japanese Trailer

For those of you who didn’t know, my favorite game of 2017 was, hands-down, Persona 5.  It was close between that and Horizon: Zero Dawn, but that game scraped by on a razor-thin margin.  It is the quintessential JRPG.  It’s the Gold Standard.  There is no other one in its class.  Not even remotely.  This game showed me just how perfect these games can be, and that makes me so damn happy.  So when I heard that they were going to be releasing an extended version of the game, with new characters, new areas, new combat mechanics, and even looking at the third semester that the game glosses over, I was squeeing like a 14 year old girl.  There’s a fun image for ya.  A trailer has finally been released, now let’s talk about it.

Oh boy.  Oh fucking boy.  I cannot begin to describe to you how utterly stoked I am.  That looks awesome!  Praying that the final game is in English.  Don’t you “sub-only!” fuckers start with me.  I don’t wanna hear it.  I don’t watch anime in Japanese, I sure as hell am not gonna play my JRPG in it either.  The English version of this game was part of what I loved so much anyway, so yeah.  So much to talk about.

We start with the scene in the basement of the police station.  We have our main character in there, when he suddenly gets pulled into the Metaverse to hear someone calling out to him.  Is this friend?  Is this foe?  Well, because the trailer had no subtitles, I guess we don’t know.  But to be honest, I prefer it that way.  I don’t want what’s coming spoiled to me.  Part of the excitement is not knowing.  Why Americans want everything in movies and games spelled out to them eludes me.  It really does.  It’s why I have loved how Kojima is handling the marketing of Death Stranding.

Then we get back into the jazzy soundtrack with the game’s signature style.  I love the aesthetic of this game.  It really does feel smooth and fun.  Then we get into the gameplay.  Seems we have a new stomping ground to explore – Kichijoji.  This is a very different kind of place.  One of the things I’ve liked about all the parts of Tokyo you visit is how each one has its own flavor.  Like it’s its own thing.  Really hoping to visit Japan one day.  This part of Japan has a very cramped and claustrophobic feel.  I can get into that.

On to the metaverse, it seems there is a new mechanic being introduced into the game – a zip-line to be able to get around.  It seems this new version of the game is expanding on Palaces to have new things to find.  I love that.  The fact that they are doing so much to make the game more engaging really makes me happy. Later on we see the mechanic being applied in other parts of the metaverse, so yeah.

Then we have the introductions of new characters.  First is a strange, enigmatic young woman with red hair, wearing the school uniform of our hero.  Who is this woman?  Her voice is the same as the one on the screen in the opening, so I’m guessing she has a big part to play.  Just how far does that go?  Hard to say.  We then see a doctor.  Who is this guy?  He seems tight with Ann.

We shift gears to the combat.  It seems characters have a bunch of new powerful moves at their disposal.  What are these moves?  How are they going to mesh with the characters?  It appears like some of them combine characters actions.  Perhaps these are combos like those you can unlock when you grow relationships with your Confidants?  Lots of questions, few answers.

Our new redhead is making nice with the protagonist.  This could get interesting.  Who is this new person?  Then there’s some stuff where we have our characters chilling with Joker, doing my favorite part of the game – hanging out.  Spending time together and getting to enjoy one-another’s company.  There’s also this pretty spectacular fish tank that you are chilling in front of with Yusuke.  It also appears you can shoot the shit with lots of characters at a very American-looking bar.  Throwing darts, shooting pool.  I like this.  My genuine favorite parts of the original version of the game were getting to chill with your friends.  Getting to do more of that sounds pretty great.

We finish this up with more combat.  Including seeing our mysterious redhead in action!  So she’s someone we can fight with.  Who is this woman, and what is her connection to the story?  So many questions, and I genuinely cannot wait for them to be answer.  What’s more, it seems I don’t have to wait all that long.  It launches on October 31st!  Halloween is when this game drops.  For the first year since I lost someone important to me, Halloween isn’t going to suck.  That’s pretty great.

An expansion of a game I loved, in a year with lots of cool stuff dropping, and the very real chance that at E3 we are gonna get to see a release date for Cyberpunk 2077.  I said before that this was going to be a hallmark year for gaming.  I don’t think I’m wrong.  My eagerness is off the fucking charts.

Initial Verdict
Now!  I want it now!

Peace out,

Maverick

The Future of Humanity is in Space

I’ve been reading a truly fantastic book by Neil deGrasse Tyson called “Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military.”  One of the things that I have taken away from it is that there has never been any scientific endeavor throughout history that didn’t start on some level as being used for military purposes.  The first telescopes were used to get a visual on an enemy army.  The first satellites were used to monitor the earth.  The satellites that your car’s GPS comes with are owned by the Air Force.  The history of science and how closely it is tied with the military is awe-inspiring.  And also a little terrifying.  However, it has validated a contention that I’ve always had – the need for war is a good thing.

One of the things that the chapter I am reading now has shown me is that the need for military supremacy has to take us to space.  It has to.  That’s not a statement of opinion.  It’s a goddamn fact.  Why?  Because here’s something that you take for granted, living in the world of technology that we do – everything is contingent on finite resources if we don’t.  Neat fact – all of the technology that you take for granted today is dependent on rare metals.  There is an entire line in the Periodic Table that is rare metals that are essential to the technology you use today.  Without that, your cell phone doesn’t exist.  Nor does your GPS satellites, the ones we use for science, solar panels, or missile guidance systems.  Everything about the world we live in today is contingent on resources that are rare for a reason, and could run out at any time.

What does this mean?  It means that humanity has work to do.  See, if you want to have that next version of the iPhone, or the next neat gaming PC/console, then you need those resources.  So does the military that we have absolutely absurd budgets to support, while China is quickly closing the gap with us.  In fact, when it comes to space, they’re ahead of us.  WAY ahead.  Why?  Because they have big plans in the works, and are not being shy about sharing.  They want to put two space stations in orbit, while here in the US the International Space Station is going to reach the end of its run in 2020-2024.  China is already talking about setting up structures on the Moon, and sending probes with long-term efforts of heading to Mars.  They’ve made clear that space is going to be the high ground for them, and they aren’t limping in getting there.

What’s more, they can do this.  Why?  Because all of our space exploits depend on products we get from them!  We’re entering a cold war with China, and our ability to get into the space race at all is tied to our ability to trade with them.  It blows my mind how people are so oblivious to this.  But then, this is America.  Obliviousness is pretty ubiquitous.  Of course, China is surpassing us in all kinds of ways.  Their military is catching up without missing a beat.  Their efforts to go green are ahead of us.  Their railway system makes our look like a joke.  Oh, and their health insurance has a public option, so they are on their way to universal healthcare too.  Proto-universal healthcare.  Unreal.  Seems the Chinese have taken up the mantle that America used to have of Manifest Destiny and really ran with it.  Too bad this country isn’t on the same course.

Here’s the thing – Tyson pointed out in his book that the simple reality is that for the way of life that we are accustomed to continue, we need to be able to get more rare metals, water, you name it.  And all the things we need are passing by this planet all the time.  Comets contain enough water to fill the Indian Ocean pretty easily.  Just giant snowballs in space.  Asteroids pass by this planet all the time that are rich in tons of various metals that we can use.  The simple reality is – there is a multi-trillion dollar industry in space, waiting for humanity to come claim it.  And with our population growing too fast to contend with, we need this now more than ever.  Why is America not leading the charge on this?  Everyone laughed at Trump’s idea for a Space Force, but why is that worth balking at?  Oh right, because Trump said it.  If Obama had, the same media would be championing it.  We’re so fucking tribalistic now that it doesn’t matter if someone who is a complete idiot has a good idea.  That good idea is wrong because they said so.

Our species is at a cross-road.  We can’t continue to subsist on this planet the way we have.  We’re coming up on 8 billion people on the planet Earth.  That is unsustainable.  Why are we not looking to push the boundaries.  Tyson pointed out that the point about making the mining equipment and habitability in space isn’t a scientific question, it’s an engineering one.  A question that he rightfully says there are tons of engineers who would relish the chance to solve.  Would all of this cost money?  Sure.  Inarguably.  But here’s the thing – that money would come back to us.  With friends.  Trillions upon trillions of dollars in friends.

What’s more, this would lead to pioneering in technology.  History proves me right on this.  All the tech that you take for granted today happened because of the space race.  All of it!  We are reaping the benefits of this today.  Just imagine what could happen if we took it further.  If we pushed the envelope and really pushed ourselves to take the next steps into it.  Imagine what kinds of new technology could be pioneered.  It boggles the mind, and makes me dream.

The fact that America is not leading the charge on stuff like this is so baffling to me.  Why is everyone in this country so concerned with keeping this nation in a perpetual state of now?!  Don’t change things!  Don’t make things better!  Keep everything the way it is!  Or you have those who want to take America back to some mythical golden age that never really existed.  It frustrates me when I talk about this stuff, and I can see that look in people’s eyes like “okay, Lucien.  Whatever you say.”  Where are the dreamers?!  Where are the ones who are looking to make the world a better place?!  This country is so fucking concerned by debt, so why are we not investing in an industry that we know for a fact will churn out money?!  Where is the pioneering spirit that we once championed?!  I don’t fucking get this.  Not at all.

This isn’t pie-in-the-sky dreaming.  This is achievable right now.  China, America’s chief rival, gets it.  Why don’t we?  Why is this country so focused on not moving ahead?  Some people wanna stay where we are now, some wanna go back in time.  I’m a futurist.  I want to believe in a brighter tomorrow.  But that isn’t going to happen while we have people in this country bickering about all the stupid bullshit that we are now.

What is wrong with this fucking country?!

Until next time, a quote,

“And that, in the 21st century, are the foundations for tomorrow’s economies.  And without it, we might as well slide back into the caves, because that’s where we’re headed right now, broke.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Sony Admits to Censoring Sexual Content in New Games

Something people have been talking about for a long time now, and it’s finally been verified.  And it’s something that pisses me off.  Why?  Because now we have a major gaming platform that has openly admitted that it is going to censor the free expression of those who make gaming content.  It’s bullshit.  Weapons grade bullshit.  It will stifle creativity, and what’s more, I think it is going to fuck up one of the games I am most excited for.  I’m talking about Sony finally admitting that they are censoring sexually explicit content in gaming.  Here’s a link to an article, now let’s talk about it.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Sony said that they are placing a strict limit on the sexual content that comes to games that go to the PS4.  Why?  Why do you think?  Because of all the #MeToo bullshit.  I should have seen this coming.  I really should have.  When Spider-Man: Homecoming had Mary Jane be SJW-tastic, I should have seen this coming.  Of all the movies that are basically Social Justice: The Movie, they seem to oscillate between Disney and Sony.  But now it’s finally come to their console.  It pisses me off.

I mean, why?!  Oh right, because they don’t want to “inhibit the sound growth and development of younger players.”  What a crock of shit.  But the source I cited did point out that the reason for this is almost certainly because of the fact that the PS4 is so big on streaming.  It’s a key part of the console’s features.  So naturally, young people can see games with naughty naughty things in them.  You know, because parents exist now just to put their kids in front of screens.  So the social justice gaming journalism circle-jerk has certainly written about this ad nauseum.  They’ve been trumpeting this shit for as long as I’ve been alive.

The source I cited definitely is pro-social justice.  They make a point in a positive that Sony is “taking a critical look at how game’s content portrays women.”  Yeah, because these digital women who don’t actually exist in the real world need to be protected, right?  Because fuck a developer’s creative freedom.  We have Sony being puritans.  This is such bullshit.  I wonder what would happened to Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V on their console if the game had been released now.

What’s more, Sony acknowledges that devs don’t like this, but their response – deal with it.  That’s just brilliant.  Creative freedom?!  Fuck that!  Artistic expression and not stifling the artist?!  But women, Lucien!  And I can already hear the social justice wankers response – if you don’t like it, don’t play it.  You know, maybe yeah.  I’m a console pleb.  Been all my life.  It’s easy.  You just buy a game, put the disc in, and play it.  That convenience has always been valuable to me.  But now I have my console of choice telling me, flat-out, that I can’t trust what they release anymore.  That now everything that comes to them goes through a puritanical censor first.

The reason this makes me so upset is that one of the games that I am most stoked for this year, Cyberpunk 2077, has already said that they are going to have explicit content in the game.  You can date, hook up with character in the game.  There’s also the fact that it’s a violent world where bad things happen to men and women.  Like in that demo where you see the naked bodies in the bathtub and you have to pull one of them out.  Guess that’s out in the game!  Same with scenes where if I choose to foster any relationships, I guess I get the neutered version of any intimacy.  It’s all such bullshit!

I like games where I can build relationships with characters.  It’s a big part of why I game.  So the fact that we have a company who has said that this new project, that looks so fucking awesome, also has that factor and even has it that you can grow relationships and get intimate?  That’s cool!  Wish I got to see Shepherd and Garrus hook up in the Mass Effect games.  Femshep was my girl, and Garrus is the coolest bro ever.  The thing that will never be.

One developer rightly pointed out that if you stifle the creativity of developers, you just push this stuff into niches.  And they will.  And people will go there.  Whether it’s to get their pervvy fix, or to get a game that isn’t afraid to go physical with stuff.  They will go to where the content is.  It’s funny, but people have defended game companies kowtowing to social justice by saying that they don’t want to lose customers.  I guess Sony is cool losing revenue too.  Because how much money will they lose on people going somewhere else?  Fucking Nintendo is letting explicit content onto their console!  Nintendo!  They are the family friendly icon, Sony!  What the fuck is your excuse?!  Oh right – Wahmen.

Creative freedom is looking more and more uncertain in the years to come.  I don’t like that.  I believe that all ideas and expression belong in the open marketplace of ideas.  But I know that I am in a minority on that.  A real shame, but whatever.  In the meantime – you fuck with my Cyberpunk 2077, Sony, and there will be Hell to pay!

Until next time, a quote,

“Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!” – Helen Lovejoy, The Simpsons

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 War Movies

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m a filthy liberal.  It’s true.  But I’m not some crazy social justice type.  Instead, I’m part of what’s call the “libertarian left.”  However, just because I am a filthy liberal doesn’t mean I am naturally opposed to the military.  Time was, before my head injury, I wanted to go into military intelligence.  One of many things in life that Lady Luck saw fit to take from me.  I can’t play contact sports, or serve.  However, the movies have provided me with some good depictions of the life.  Sure, there are the ones that are basically “America, Fuck Yeah!” The Movie, but then there are the ones that actually look at war and what it means to fight.  Or at the very least just have a very honest depiction of fighting it.  These are the films that have stuck with me in that regard.  Or, and I’m just being honest here, some of them are just cool.  I’m not above liking a movie for having cool shit.  The shame of my pseudo-intellectual bravado.  Here are the top 10 war movies that I like.

10. Green Zone
Made by the same guy who did the first three Bourne movies, this film tells the story of an Army unit commander who ends up getting caught in a labyrinth of intrigue, all on a quest to find out the truth behind the WMDs in Iraq.  This movie surprised me, when I first saw it.  See, the United States military is VERY protective of their image.  They have to approve movies depicting them before they get released.  So a film that is critical of military intelligence and isn’t nice about it is more than a little but of a shock to think that that got past their censor.  But then, you realize that Iraq was a giant cluster-fuck and with so many dead and wounded, they probably don’t feel all that bad throwing the government and the people who got us into that mess (that we still aren’t technically out of to this day.  We still have troops there) under the bus.  This film has flaws.  The hand-held shake-y cam can get annoying in chase sequences.  But it is a good look at what happened to this country and where everything went wrong.

9. The Patriot
Now we go to the war that started this country in the first place.  I do loves me some historical fiction.  Now, the cynic in me does recognize that this film is pretty much just Braveheart, but during the American Revolution.  But there is a lot of flavor to this movie.  Mel Gibson’s character is what holds it all together.  Taking the role of Capt. Benjamin Martin, he leads a force waging a guerilla war against the British.  What I like about this film is the characters.  You get to know Martin and his forces.  Everyone has personality.  Even the British are not just shown as pure evil.  Pompous and arrogant, but there are those among them who recognize that they need to be decent to the colonists.  What’s more, you see that the issue of starting a nation wasn’t as clear-cut as history can make it out to be.  There were those who opposed forming a Union.  Not the most complicated film, but worth your time.

8. Top Gun
Remember when I said that there would be films on this list who are here strictly because of cool factor?  Yeah…this is what I’m talking about.  Thing to know about me – I think that fighter jets are fucking rad.  The F-22 Raptor is the coolest thing in the world.  So a movie all about being a fighter jockey and learning to dog-fight?  I am all over that.  Sure, this movie is cheesy as fuck.  It is 80’s to the max!  ALL of the 80’s cheese is in here.  And the lengths they go to in order to make Tom Cruise look tall is just adorable.  But then they play Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone” again (no joke, they play it three times in this movie) and I am saying “fuck yeah!” to the screen again.  I’m not proud of it, but there it is.

7. Eye in the Sky
Another film that is very critical of the military.  However, since the primary focus is on the British, with the Americans merely as the partners in this mission, it makes more sense to me how this film got past the censor.  Telling the story of a British and American military operation to take out a British national in Africa, this movie looks at the ethics of drone warfare.  What’s more, they don’t just paint the whole thing as black and white.  One of the things that I love about this movie is the fact that they go so far to make sure all sides are heard.  And they let you, the viewer, come to your own conclusion about whether what they did in the end was right or not.  I like when movies respect my intelligence enough to let me come to my own conclusions.  Not only was Helen Mirren amazing, but the final role of Alan Rickman, and it was pretty fantastic.  If you haven’t seen it, you really should.

6. Fury
When I heard that they were making a film about a tank crew during World War II, I was curious to see what that would end up being.  I mean, it’s a different concept.  Something you don’t think about is how many people it takes to make a tank work.  It’s not just one dude in there.  And during World War II, this was a time when we had German artillery outmatching us.  A LOT of people died inside of tanks during this war.  So we have a movie following the exploits of an American tank crew and their vehicle, doing their best to succeed and survive in the most talked-about war in history.  I was surprised with how good this movie was.  Can add its name to the list of great movies that few people saw.

5. Glory
Heading back into the wars of yesteryear.  This time it’s the Civil War.  Telling the story of the first black regiment in the Union army.  I said before that I loves me some good historical fiction.  But the thing that really makes this movie are the performances.  It’s a fantastic cast all-round.  We have Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and even Matthew Broderick.  I’m with the nostalgia critic and thinking very little of Broderick as an actor.  But every performance in this film is stunning.  Looking at racial politics over a hundred years ago is harrowing.  This film hinges on the strength of its cast as it’s a very character-driven story of these people and their own prejudices as they learn to accept each other.  It’s not especially preachy, either.  If you’ve forgotten about this movie, you really should revisit it.

4. Saving Private Ryan
There’s a reasonable argument to be made that this is the most famous war movie ever made.  When it came out, this film was making huge bank and the critics couldn’t stop talking about it.  And to be fair, there’s a reason why.  We have Spielberg when he was at the top of his game, making a movie that opens on one of the most violent military engagements in history.  Telling the story of a squad of soldiers who are on a mission to find a man whose brothers have all been killed and get him home.  The cinematography of this film is graphic and unforgiving.  If you’ve ever looked for an accurate representation of how awful this war was, you could do worse.  Though I did have the same thoughts about Fury.  Tom Hanks is what makes this film.  I would argue he’s the best actor working today.  When he dies, it is going to be a VERY sad day for me.

3. We Were Soldiers
Heading into a different war, now we get to take a trip to Vietnam.  Telling the story of the first usage of helicopters to deploy troops into active combat zones, we have Mel Gibson back.  Taking a new unit of his into battle, in a war that all of historians agree was a GIANT cluster-fuck.  This movie is also pretty unforgiving in its portrayal of how bad war can be.  You can feel the oppressive heat and terror these guys must have felt, with the enemy pretty much being unseen and all they can do is fire at the green and hope they hit something.  This movie does tend to kiss America’s ass a bit, but given how Vietnam vets were treated like shit when they got home because of America’s attitude about the war, it does make you think that maybe they’ve earned a little adulation
For those who are wondering, this is basically where I would have Platoon, but I had to pick one or the other.  It was close, but I chose this one.  Mostly because I couldn’t take Charlie Sheen seriously in the latter film.  Willem Dafoe ALMOST clinched it, but this film took the spot.  Still, both are excellent films.

2. Black Hawk Down
A war film directed by Ridley Scott?  Sign me up!  This film is hardcore.  Not only is the cinematography at the top of its class, but this has some HUGE names.  I do love how many British people are in this movie doing their best American accents.  I think the best of them was Ewan McGregor.  But then, that dude is one of those actors that everyone forgets about, but always brings his a-game.  Still, this movie had a ton of real talent in there.  Josh Hartnett, William Fitchner, Tom Hardy, Jason Isaacs, and get this – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau before he had any name recognition.  That’s right, Jaime Lannister was an American soldier in a movie.  A sniper for Delta Force, to be exact.  That’s cool.  The violence is hardcore, and the performances are all great.  Not to mention the cinematography is incredible.  This film isn’t remembered the way it should be, but trust me, it’s worth your time.

And my favorite war movie is…

1. Gettysburg
Those of you who have actually seen this movie are definitely scratching your heads at this choice.  On top of some of the best war films ever made is a film that definitely has its flaws about the Civil War.  Let me explain.  This movie tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The turning point of the Civil War.  Had the Confederates won there, who knows what would have happened.  Historians will say otherwise, but I think they would have gone through to Washington.  This movie has some VERY corny elements.  The score being the biggest among them.  However, the reason this movie ranks so high on my list is the performances.  There are some real powerful roles in this!  We have Martin Sheen as Gen. Robert E. Lee.  One of the most beloved generals in American history.  We have Tom Berenger as Gen. Longstreet.  His role especially got to me.  He doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Lee on several occasions.  He has a realist perspective on what they’re doing, but can only follow his orders.  It’s pretty great stuff.  Lastly, we have Jeff Daniels, who is also one of my favorite actors.  He’s playing Col. Chamberlain, a college professor turned soldier, leading a regiment against some of the worst fighting in the war.  The corny bits are able to get past me mostly because you can tell this was a passion project of a ton of dedicated people.  You can feel the passion in every performance.  I love this movie.  If you haven’t seen it, and you like the time period, do yourself a favor and check it out.

So, what about you all?  What are your favorite war movies?  Let me know down in the comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“They’ve gotta be tired, the Rebs.  They gotta be close to the end if we are.” – Col. Joshua L Chamberlain, Gettysburg

Peace out,

Maverick

A Wife, A Soldier, An Assassin

That, my dear readers, is the title of this little narrative.  Let me tell you, I don’t do these kinds of things much.  It’s hard for me to maintain an idea long-term.  This little concept for a story started with me being bored as fuck at my job.  So I decided to let my mind wander, and it came up with this.  It’s been fun writing it.  I’m gonna have links to all the parts of the story, in the order I wrote them.  Hopefully you all enjoyed this too, and will come back to it.  I will say that I may end up writing more stories of the missions of the STARS in various posts.  I will be adding them to this post if I do, so check back if you don’t follow my work regularly and want to see if there’s more stuff.

Act I – A Wife
A Chance Start of a Friendship
The Hidden Story (Part 1)
The Hidden Story (Part 2)
Old Friends, Lost Dreams
Unveiling Some Truth, But Not All
A Thanksgiving to Live For

Act II – A Soldier
Lost Sisters, Old Wounds
A Preparing for Battle Tale
Camaraderie Between Branches, and Sisters
A Den of Secrets and Lost Family
Bad Dreams, Bad Behavior
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 1)
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 2)
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 3)
The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth (Part 4)
On Home, Gardens, and Babies
An Assassination, In Front of a Choir
The Principles of Youthful Love
Pictures and the Road Down Memory Lane
Home for the Holidays (Part 1)
Home for the Holidays (Part 2)

Act III – An Assassin
The Binary Compound Mission (Part 1)
The Binary Compound Mission (Part 2)
The Binary Compound Mission (Part 3)
Talking Until the Morning Light
The Submarine Mission (Part 1)
The Submarine Mission (Part 2)
The Dream
The Truth About Killing
Saying Goodbye to Her
Coming Full Circle (Part 1)
Coming Full Circle (Part 2)

As I said, there will be more mission stories, but the central narrative is finished.  I hope to see you all again later.

Until next time, a quote,

“War all comes down to these tiny stories about people’s lives that will never be the same.” – Eugene Richards

Peace out,

Maverick

Coming Full Circle (Part 2)

The phone rang.  Annoying.  Had to disengage myself from Ashley’s arms.  She was so soft.  Not nearly the cuddle-bug that Jean was, but still.  Looked at the clock.  0300.  Who would call at this hour?!
Picked it up.  “Hello?”
“Quinn-chan?!”  He sounded awfully perky.
“What do you want, Toriyama?  It’s really fucking early.”
“Oh yeah.  Sorry.  There’s something that I thought you ought to know.  Got a hot tip from someone.  Can’t say who.  They had me do some work on other documents from North Korea.  Very shady stuff.  Was something I found.  Thought you’d like to know.”
Now he had my attention.  “I’m listening.”
“Not over the phone.  Just give me an address.  Will ship it to you.”  A brief pause.  “But you may not like this, Quinn-chan.”
My tone was ice-cold.  “If you have something you think I’d like, then send it.”
“Ya, ya.  Okay.  But don’t say I didn’t tell you so if you no like it.”

It was dark, just how I like it.  A trip I had made years before.  Now I was making it again, for an entire different reason.  But I needed to know.  Had to know.  Needed an answer that only this man could give.  Didn’t know if he would be happy to see me.  Probably.  We had parted on good terms, after all.  But this wasn’t at all a good thing.  Old wounds that needed to be resolved.
Right back where my revenge started.  Sitting in the back of a car.  Well, laying in the back of a car.  Heard the door open.  As before, he was on his phone.
“Yes sir.  We’ve already got the President’s approval.  Once the budget goes through, we’ll get it started.  Thank you, sir.”
Silence.  Guess he was mulling things over.
Sat up.  “Another star on your uniform.  Very impressive.  You won’t be saying ‘sir’ to anyone here, pretty soon.”
He didn’t even have to look in the mirror.  “Pierce.  We have to stop meeting like this.  You know, if you wanted to talk, you could have just come to my office.”
I shook my head.  “There’s no official record I’m here.  Flew in under an alias.”
Still had that look where he was processing.  It was intense.  Even now, he still had it.
“Okay.  What did you want to talk about?”
“Got my hands on some interesting intel.  Real crazy stuff.  Seems the story about the attack on the Pacific Fleet didn’t end for them with the death of those who orchestrated it.  KPA did some digging.”
“Oh yeah?  And what did they find?”
I got very close.  “They found that it was curious that the dissident faction seemed to know exactly where to send their popper planes.  I mean, it isn’t like they had a big satellite network.  China had already told them no.  So how did they know where to strike?  Got me curious too.”
There was a little twitch in the man’s neck.
“Making me wonder – did the leak come from us?  Was there someone in our military who made sure they got it?  And if so, was my mission just to cover their tracks?  A big song and dance that helped them come out looking squeaky clean?  And also got us peace with one of our biggest adversaries?  Lots of questions.  Which then makes me wonder – was the guy who sent me on this wild goose chase the same one who knew where this all came from?
“Then I found out that the newly christened Delta Team got their start with a black ops mission here in the US.  Some ‘threats to national security’ iced.  Sounds like someone in the Navy used the STARS to clean house.  Sure would be a shame if it was the same person who sent me on my mission.  Wouldn’t it?”
The Admiral actually smiled.  “Not bad, Pierce.  But don’t think for one second that you’re innocent in this.  Like you said, you were gonna do this one way or the other.  You came to me looking for intel.  We both used each other.”
My knife slide into his neck like it went into butter.  “My wife’s dead because of you, you piece of shit!  Because you had to go scheming.  I told you that I would make her killers pay.  And now I have.  You’re the last loose end.”  Pulled the blade out.  He was dead in seconds.  “Goodbye, Amiral.”
Got out of the car.  My ERC-7 was on, and I exfil-ed the parking garage the same way as I had come in.  All these years later, and there was that same cathartic feeling that I had when I watched that mess hall full of KPA soldiers choke and scream and die.  But now it really was done.  She could rest.  And maybe, just maybe, so could I.

Epilogue

This was it.  What we had all been drilling for.  The last week here was nothing but drilling for the graduation ceremony.  Everything was regimented.  Every fucking thing.  We even had a practice hall that we used for the exact purpose of getting ready for the real deal.  But this was the home stretch.
My excitement was growing and growing.  While Petty Officer McGrath was yelling at us, I would be thinking about getting to see them again.  Dad told me wouldn’t miss it if the world was ending.  So had the rest.  All the letters we got.  Speaking of, had to get my duty done.  My tenure as the Mail Officer was coming to an end.  A post that I kicked ass at.  It was cool that I got the girls back home to send letters to the guys and girls who had no one writing to them.  Telling them that they were doing good work and that they knew it was hard.  I got a reputation around here as the person trying to help everyone.  Got the attention of the base commander.  No joke.  Felt proud of that.
Now the day had finally come, and here I was.  Dress whites on, I was ready.  We were all in formation.  My shipmates and I were in the 193, fourth in line.  Walked in to that room, and for the first time, I felt all the pride inside seeing all those people, to congratulate us for making it this far.  It wasn’t easy.  Not everyone makes it through boot camp.  Not everyone should.
I was there the day the girl died from heat exhaustion.  She didn’t want to look weak to her shipmates, so she hadn’t told Petty Officer.  Eventually it was clear, but by that point it was too late.  I can’t imagine being the CACO and having to tell her family that she died before she even got to be a Seaman.  Petty Officer was pissed.  Gave us all a talk as we did air-chairs that it doesn’t make us tougher sailors to die because we don’t report problems.  That we have a duty to our shipmates to look after ourselves, because we are all we can depend on.  When a ship is on fire, or we are under attack, all we have is each other.  So we have to trust each other.  That stuck with me.
Something to know about graduation from boot camp – it’s literally you standing at attention for 45 minutes.  No joke.  You cannot break formation or go at ease until they give you liberty.  Another thing is that they have people there whose sole job is to see those who are struggling and escort them out.  People pass out doing this.  Not even kidding.  Was hot as fuck, too.  Hated it.  But thinking about them all out there, watching me, seeing me in uniform, it made it so much easier.  Couldn’t wait to see Dad’s face.  Or hers.  She had promised that the rest would be here too.
Worst part of it all was when we all had to sing, in “unison,” Anchor’s Aweigh.  Never have I wanted to cringe more than I did then.  It was terrible.  People were off-key, not keeping time, and I hate singing unless I know I’m alone in the shower.  This was terrible.  Felt so humiliate to even be there.  Could almost feel her smirking at me.  But then, she’d been down this road before.  So had all of them.
Finally, and I do mean finally, the announcer came on.
“Now, let me say, Liberty!”
Everyone cheered.  Finally getting to break ranks, I knew Dad would come charging in to find me.  Sure enough, within moments, there he was.  Dressed in a blue suit that fit him like a glove.  Looking sharp, Dad!  Felt out-classed, all of the sudden.  But I wouldn’t when I had the officer’s dress uniform!
“Hey, sweetie!”  He gave me a big hug.  Kind of took the wind out of me.  “You look great in that uniform.  I’m so proud of you.”
Smiled at him.  “Thanks, Dad.  Not looking so bad in that suit.  Feeling outclassed.”
“Not for a minute, honey.”
Just then, I saw them.  Each standing in officer dress uniforms.  A little strange, considering that they weren’t in the Navy anymore, but these women were legends in the STARS.  I could see people looking at them with instant respect.  And in the center, there was she was.  My teacher.  My best friend.  The mom I never had, but I’d never tell her that.  Her hair was done up in a perfect bun.  She really did look the part.
Walking over, I immediately stood at attention.  Their uniform showed that they outranked me.
“Well done, Seaman Phillips.”
“Yes ma’am.  Thank you, ma’am.”
She stood at attention and saluted.  I returned it.
“Carry on, Seaman.”
Couldn’t get the smile off my face.  “Thank you, ma’am!”
Now she held out her arms.  “Give me a hug, kiddo.”
I jumped into her arms.  Just like old times.  Being 14 again and training with her.  Nothing had changed.  Except Quinn.  With her was Bethke, who was looking a little sheepish.  She was still enlisted, leading Alpha Team.  Beacham couldn’t be here, which made me sad.  But she did write and tell me how if I didn’t get through boot she would put her foot up my ass.  Believed it.  Pennyfeather couldn’t be here either.  Being Beacham’s right-hand woman was hard work.  Gave Rodriguez a hug.  She looked the most awkward in uniform.  Ever since she left it, she was always in something that had less layers, and showed more skin.  Even now, she still was looking for tail.  Some things never change.  Lastly, there was Crow.  Scuttlebutt back home was that her and Quinn were getting pretty close.  Nothing official, but part of me hoped they were.  I think they’d be cute together.
“I’m proud of you,” she said.
“Thanks, Quinn.”
It’s strange, but in that instant, for just a second, I thought I saw a woman with brown hair, just behind her.  Then I blinked, and she was gone.  I know Quinn has always been skeptical of the afterlife.  I am too.  But I like to think, that Jean was there too, also proud.
But now, I had a couple hours of Liberty.  Had to make the most of it.  Worst part was – no drinking.  I know that Rodriguez would hook me up.  Next stop, A School.  The first stop on the way to earning my wings.  I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Fin

Until next time, a quote,

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” – Plato

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Smart Science Fiction Films

You know what I miss – smart science fiction.  It’s so rare, these days.  With all the movies that treat science like a bitch that you can bend over a table and (insert horrifically dirty idea that your perverse mind can come up with), it’s genuinely comforting when I find films that actually get the concept right.  Or at the very least you can see there was some attempt to have science get a day in the sun instead of being treated like a beat dog.  So I decided to make a list of the films that were not only good films, but also did science right.  Maybe they didn’t get everything right, but they at least did their best to let science be a part that makes sense.

10. Ex Machina
The concept of a true artificial intelligence and people having to deal with it is older than me.  By far, actually.  But all of those films have a flaw that I just can’t look past – they don’t feel grounded in reality.  Films like AI have it where it’s a story about humanity’s prejudice against those who are different, so machines that think and feel are hated by people.  There was a game that came out last year with a similar tone that I liked.  But this film has it where they are at the very beginning.  We have a character who is brought in to be used as a kind of Turing Test for this new AI that a man has created.  It’s a very twisted thriller where we see this machine manipulating him, along with a human element manipulating things.  It’s very dark, and that’s part of why I like it.

9. 2001: A Space Odyssey
You might be wondering – what’s a film that is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made doing so low on this list?  Well, since this is all personal preference, while I do think this is a masterful movie, I don’t like it as smart science fiction as much as the others.  For starters, anyone who watches and enjoys Stanley Kubrick films knows that you have to be prepared for LONG bits of slow pacing.  It’s a meme, at this point.  This film is no exception.  HAL as the villain is pretty great, but there were times when I just couldn’t get past the slow burn pacing of this movie.  And the ending went into the realms of pretentious.  It is a great movie, from a film-making standpoint, but I just couldn’t get into it as much as other people.

8. Jurassic Park
This pick my have some of you scratching your head.  Wasn’t this some big blockbuster?  Well, yeah, but it is still grounded in the fact that it is a science fiction monster movie.  I might be biased towards it because it is based on a book by my favorite author – Michael Crichton.  While not close to the best adaptation of his work, it’s still got some of the science that the book was centered on in there.  The smart angle comes from the fact that it’s grounded in what they did to bring the dinosaurs back to life.  The film goes out of its way to tell us all about that.  What’s more, they have it come back to that with how the dinosaurs end up reproducing.  That’s pretty smart.  While it may have ended up being a monster movie, the monsters were cool, and there was grounding to the science that made it work.  I take that for what I will.

7. Apollo 13
More of you are probably wondering about this.  I mean, isn’t this based on a real event?  Yeah, it is.  But I see this film more as a dramatized piece of historical fiction rather than a straight-up piece.  After all, this was based on a book by Jim Lovell, who was one of the astronauts associated with this movie.  Telling the story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, what really sets this film apart is that the scenes in the film where they are in zero-g are actually done in zero gravity.  Part of why this film cost so much to make was due to how insane the effects were and what it took to create them.  It’s a great film where you can actually see what being in space would be like, and fear for astronauts.  Not to mention Tom Hanks is the lead.  Can’t go wrong.

6. Annihilation
Made by the same guy who made Ex Machina, this movie is one of my favorite films about aliens coming to Earth ever.  It also gets to add itself to the list of great movies that no one saw.  Telling the story of a woman trying to find out what happened to her husband, getting involved in a plot about this strange area that develops after a meteor hits earth – the Shimmer.  Inside, the laws of nature twist and turn.  Reality warps in there, and the deeper her and her compatriots go, the scarier it gets.  What I love most about this film is that even in the end, there is no explanation.  Dude asks her what the aliens wanted.  She doesn’t know.  They ask her if she knows what they are.  She doesn’t know.  They constantly try and figure a rational reason behind what the Shimmer was or anything inside, but there are none to be found.  It just was.  That’s smart science fiction, to me.  Because why would alien motives make sense to us?  They are, quite literally, alien.  The rhyme and reason we take for granted would be just as foreign to them as theirs is to us.  Not to mention the body horror in that.  This movie had one of the scariest scenes in years.

5. The Andromeda Strain
Another adaptation of my favorite author.  Far and away the best of them.  Telling the story of a satellite that lands back on Earth and is recovered by a small town, only for all of them to be dead.  What follows is an investigation by some of the best scientists in the world to see if they can isolate and then cure the infection.  This is a slow-burn film, but that works in this one’s favor, as you can fee the tension as they are getting closer and closer to understanding, and realizing that they are dealing with something that is unlike anything else they have ever seen.  The scene where they finally get an eye-view of the microscopic alien life is still scary to this day.  The effects have really held up over time.  Old movie, based on a VERY old book.

4. Arrival
I’m starting to think that there is nothing that Denis Villeneuve cannot do in terms of film-making.  His movies have run the gamut in terms content.  Suspense thrillers, crime thrillers, and then we see him do a foray into smart science fiction.  What’s more, it’s fantastic.  Telling the story of a series of alien ships that come to Earth.  The military gets the help of a woman who is a linguistics expert to try and speak to the aliens.  What follows is a fantastic movie and some great smart science fiction where they understand the language of the aliens, and see that it goes beyond just spoken words.  This film was the one that convinced me that science fiction that was intelligent could still be made in the modern age.  Also it was my favorite movie of 2016.  So there’s that.

3. Contact
This is a movie that I grew up with.  It grew on me from when I first saw it, and re-watching it a while back, it still sticks.  Another film about first contact with aliens, this one takes a decidedly different angle.  Ostensibly this film is about the battle between the need for scientific discovery, and humanity’s paranoia.  We have Jodie Foster as an astronomer who is trying to find alien life.  When she finally does, the young woman becomes embroiled in a struggle to get past the worst of our species, to be able to answer questions she has always had.  This film got some flak for the Matthew McConaughey character and how that romance wasn’t necessary.  But I think it was.  Foster believed, genuinely, that spirituality and faith were bad.  She’d seen nothing but the worst of it, growing up.  But he was like the realization that maybe there could be a meeting in the middle of the ideas. Faith was a very big theme.  Not a perfect movie.  It has its flaws.  But as smart science fiction goes, this is pretty fantastic.

2. The Martian
I recently have just fallen head over heels in love with this movie.  Ridley Scott is a great filmmaker.  He really is.  This film is so utterly amazing.  Telling the story of an astronaut who ends up stranded on Mars after his team believes he is dead and has to evacuate.  From there is a great look at all the science involved in not only his survival, but also getting him home.  This film has some fantastic performances by the entire cast.  Matt Damon is at his best in the role as Mark Watney.  Another film where he has to be rescued.  Someone should put a bell around his neck.  The effects in this movie are amazing.  The CG is really good.  There is a nice integration of practical effects.  The sets are cool.  All of the science is on point.  I love this movie.  It does the source material proud as well.  Another film based off a book.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you’re doing a disservice to yourself by not doing so right now.

And my favorite smart science fiction film is…

1. Blade Runner
The film that created the term cyberpunk in the popular lexicon.  A movie with a cyberpunk edge might not seem to be in the realm of smart science fiction, but I do believe this movie is.  Sure, we have flying cars, and that is silly.  But what makes this smart is the themes of the film.  It’s a movie about power relationships.  The replicants are beneath humans.  Society seems them that way.  They are forced to be in ugly places far from Earth.  Coming to Earth is on pain of death.  The test to find out if a person is a replicant or not is invasive and cold.  Deckard is a man who goes between the lower and upper world, belong in neither.  When he realizes that Rachel is a replicant, he treats her as poorly as the rest of people would.  This film is all about subtle themes that play out in a culmination of the final moments before Roy Batty’s death, are are among the most talked about in all of cinema.  The sequel was alright, but nothing can beat the original, in my eyes.  If you haven’t seen this film too, you’re also missing out.

What about you?  What are some of your favorite smart science fiction films?  Please don’t comment stupid shit like Gravity.  That film is visually amazing, but the science fiction in it is dumb as dirt.

Until next time, a quote,

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner

Peace out,

Maverick

Coming Full Circle (Part 1)

“When I first joined the Navy, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life.  It was all just something to get me out of that town and doing something important.  Boot camp was the loneliest I had ever been.  All the people getting mail from their families, it hurt.  You’d get the occasional guy who got a Dear John letter from a girlfriend.  Had a couple girls who got it from their girlfriends.  Never saw boyfriends sending this shit.
“Then I joined up with the STARS, because it felt like something worth doing.  They sold me on it being a unit for women, helping them get into combat roles.  The training we got, the places we visited, it was incredible.  I’ve done arctic training in Canada with CANSOFCOM.  I’ve crawled through sand with Kurdish fighters.  I’ve run through jungles with COPESP.  And I learned how to disappear in cities with the SAS.  It was amazing.  Difficult.  I thought that it couldn’t be harder than boot camp.  You can’t imagine how wrong I was.  The SEALS have Hell Week.  We had Hell Months.  When we got sleep were the good nights.  When we didn’t was pretty usual.  So many women dropped out or were flunked out.
“At first, we were seen as just the women-force.  What they called the FDU.”
“What was that?” Johnathan asked.
“The Frigid Dykes Unit.”
“Christ.  You’d think they’d give you more respect than that.”
I chuckled.  “Respect is earned, in the military.  And we eventually did earn it.  Like you wouldn’t believe.”
Emily was sitting on the edge of the bed, feet up and arms around her knees.  Kiddo looked awkward.  But I made the choice to finally be open with them.  These two were the closest thing I had to family since losing my wife.  Now I had to give them the full story.  Minus the classified bits.  I think.  Sometimes it’s hard to know with a unit that was breaking the law and sometimes operating on American soil to kill threats to the country.
“For a while, we were just a stealth unit, infiltrating, getting intel, setting explosives, whatever needed to be done.  Sure, there would be the occasional kill we’d have to make, but soon the brass realized our ability as killers and saw fit to have it become a bigger and bigger part of our operations.  One of Alpha Team stood out among the rest in regards to being a good killer.”
“Who?” John asked.
“Me.”  So many memories flashed before me.  So many kills.  The ways I could do it.  How I was always seeing ways to kill people.  “I was so good at it.  They had me doing more and more of it over the years.  Until finally I didn’t even know if I could stop.  It was doing things to me.  Mentally, physically, you name it.  The only person who was able to help me get out of the darkness with killing was Jean.  That’s part of how our relationship began.  She asked for some shore leave so all of us could unwind.  Our first date was that night.  The beginning of what would be the best relationship I’ve ever had.”
Both my companions looked awkward.
“Oh Quinn, I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine how awful it was to lose her.” he said, finally.
“Ever since, I haven’t been able to get past it.  Haven’t been able to let the killing go.  It’s all I know how to do.  So I keep doing it.  But now there’s no outlet.  My hands aren’t shaking, but my mind is still breaking.  I don’t know how much more of this I have in me.  But you all came into my life, and I feel like maybe, just maybe, there’s a future for me.”
Emily smiled at me.
“I’m sorry, kiddo.  I didn’t mean to hurt Ashley the way I did.  It’s just, there’s so much guilt inside me for what happened.  I was the one who convinced Jean to go on deployment when she did.  I wanted us to actually be able to spend a Christmas together in our new home.  Two years, and we still hadn’t been able to.  I wasn’t going to let that year be different.  Wanted to make tasty food for us.  Maybe have some of the girls who had no family over.  Make a feast for all the sisters.  That’s been in the back of my head for years.  Guess it caught up with me that night.”
All she did was nod at me.
“I think I’m finally ready to see if I can move forward.  I can’t leave the company I started, but I can start looking at the jobs I get offered.  Maybe change my criteria.  Some of the girls I served with are looking to leave the Navy.  No point letting good talent go to waste.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” John replied, with that approving dad look.  He really did remind me of my old Lt.  “If you’re ever looking for a CFA, I might know a guy who has the credentials.”
“What about the company you’re with now?”
He shrugged.  “It’s good money, but truth be told, I want something more challenging.  Handling the legal side for a Private Military Corporation sounds like one hell of a challenge.  I like it.”
There was this moment that passed between us.  Reminded me of when I had been negotiating with the Admiral after Jean died.  Two equals, figuring shit out together.
“Well, we’ll see when we get there.  Not committing to anything now.”
He nodded.  “Absolutely.  Decisions like this should always be given a great deal of thoughts.  But I’m glad you’re finally starting to think about your future.”
So much weight off me.  They were all on the same page.
Looked over at Em.  “You mind looking after Natayo and Shadow while I’m still in here?  They said it will still be a couple more days.”
She nodded.  “Sure!  They’re pretty great.”
“Thanks.  But you know, once I’m out of here, we’re back into training.  You’ve been slacking off!  Can’t have that.  And I want to expand your education.  Have you learn some new stuff.”
That got her attention.  “What new stuff?!”
“It’s time I teach you how to fight.  Some basic CQC.”
“Hell yeah!”
When her dad gave her a look, we both cracked up.

A couple days went by.  Finally getting back home, still recovering from a bullet wound.  I had gotten lucky.  Bullet went right through me.  No major arteries knicked, but my intestines had been perforated.  Did some surgery to get me patched up, now it was just about recovery.  Spent my days resting, for the most part.  Wasn’t going to risk my stitches getting undone.
Kiddo would come over.  I’d talk with her about what we would be doing.  Basic combat stances, being able to read opponents, relaxing her muscles.  Had a kitty perched on my lap pretty much the entire time I was recovering.  Pussy got some serious love.  Pupper wasn’t especially pleased with this.  But Emily was taking him out to run.  That did make a happy dog.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I was back on my feet.  Had to recover a LOT of strength.  Apparently I lost a decent amount of blood.  Now it was about getting my strength back and then going back into it with kiddo.
Something else that happened because of what I did – apparently I had a REALLY big fan club at Emily’s school.  Word got out about the badass former STARS member who saved the lives of students and even got a shooter to put the gun down.  The accomplice was dead before he hit the floor, but the first guy did surrender without incident.  None of the other students were hurt.  Only casualty of the event was me.  Got to talk to a news crew.  Being regarded as a hero was the weirdest shit ever.  All these years, a hero is the last thing I felt like.  But now, here I was, getting thank you cards, flowers, even a stuffed kitty with a card telling me to get well.  It was a cute snow leopard design.  Natayo now attacks it all the time.  It’s super cute.
Ended up going to Em’s school, and the second I walked in the door, the staff came to greet me.  The principal shook my hand.  Got to sashay into kiddo’s class and walk in like a rock star.  My old Navy hoodie was covered in blood, but it seems my Alpha Team sisters were all over that.  They got me a new one, that had Alpha Team’s insignia on the back.  The same one that Jean designed.  Not gonna lie, cried a bit when I opened it.  But I wear it so proudly.  Seeing that hoodie, so many people were all over me.  The adulation felt nice, but I didn’t let it go to my head.  At least, I don’t think so.  People asked me what it was like being in that situation, and I leveled with them that my first thought was with taking out the first kid.  But I pushed myself past my worse angels to reason with him, and I was glad I did.
I think everyone expected military bravado.  Eff that.  I wanted them to know the truth.  Needless to say, kiddo was something of a rock star for being chill with me.  For a little while, it made things awkward when we’d go to the pool to do training sessions and people would want to shake my hand of whatever.  But eventually the craziness died down and everyone moved on to the next thing.  In the age of Internet culture, nothing stays a huge deal for long.
Stuff with my company was changing too.  I had a couple of assassination contracts I had already agreed to.  Once a contract is signed, I can’t get out of it.  So I knew that I’d have to play those out.  I could do that.  The pain wasn’t as vivid.  The mental stress.  Maybe all of this was tied to how I had been holding everything in.  Was it the same way when Jean and I were dating?  I couldn’t talk about anything back then, either.  Perhaps the secrecy was what was fucking up my life.
One day I got a text from Ashley, wondering if I was doing anything.  Was kind of shocked.  After what happened between us, I figured she hated my guts.  Turns out, she was just scared and didn’t know how to deal.  Kiddo had talked with her, and now she was hoping to get another chance to spend a fun night together when she was in town.  I do remember how unbelievably attractive she was.  And pretty good in bed, too.  I needed a woman in my bed again.  Since the bad dreams had stopped, I was certain this was gonna be crazy.  I told her to wear something really sexy, on top and underneath.

Lt was coming out of the base.  He had a look on his face of it being a long day.  He fiddled with his keys, trying to unlock the door.
“Hey,” I greeted.
The look on his face was one of shock.  “What are you doing here, Pierce?”
Hopped off the rail I was sitting on, tossing him a beer.  Not some domestic shit.  America makes crappy beer.  Just gonna put that out there.
“Just in the neighborhood.  Figured I’d come visit.  Looking sharp, I see.”  Suddenly something caught my eye.  There had been a change to his uniform.  New collar, shoulder, and sleeve chevrons.
“Lt. Commander now.  Rock on!  So does this mean you’re not in charge of Alpha Team anymore?”
He shook his head.  “For now I’m still here.  A replacement is being selected from the program.  It’s in a bit of a bind.  We’re having new women integrated into Delta and Echo teams, but since several team members are leaving the ranks because either their enlistment is up or they asked for a transfer, we may end up having to compartmentalize the teams into new ones.”  Then he gave me a wry look.  “I mean some of those leaving have cards from your company.  You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
I gave the biggest innocent face ever.  “Who, me?!  Never!”
Guy chuckled.  “Smart ass as always.”
“Aye, sir.”
“I heard you talked with the other girls.  Once they stopped shit-talking you, I knew something happened.  They’re playing it close to the uniform, but I know something happened.  They talked about coming to visit you.  And convinced me to sign that card we sent after you got shot.  Heard what happened at the school.  Very impressive, Pierce.  On both the kid you talked down, and the one you took down.”
It still felt good, getting adulation from my old LCO.
“Thank you, Lt.  Well, guess I can’t call you that anymore.”
He snorted.  “Might as well.  It’s what the others still do.  No respect around here.”
Gave him a wink.  “Not a bit, sir.”
Leaning against the car, he took a swig of the beer.  “You look a lot better, Pierce.  I remember that day I saw you at the hospital.  You looked like shit.”
“Yeah.  I was in a bad place.”
“And now?”
“Now, I’m in a different one.  Not entirely sure what’s gonna happen, but I think that I am on the path.”
He nodded.  “I’m glad to hear that.  Part of me always hoped that one day you’d end up in charge of a team with the STARS.  But then, you were always following Beacham’s lead.  She’s one of the people we’re looking at to replace me.  Give her a HUGE promotion and then give her command of Alpha.  Don’t tell her I said that, Pierce!  Understood?”
“Wilco, sir.”
“Thanks.  I put her name in myself.  That woman has the makings of a great commanding officer.  Someday I know she’s gonna be where I am now.”
“You’re not wrong.”
We stood there for a few moments, just drinking beer and listening to the noise of the base.  F-22s landing down the way.
“I heard you’re finally getting a divorce form Vicki,” I said, finally.
“Why am I not surprised you know that.”
“I am so glad.  That woman was a bitch, sir!”
“She was a little rough around the edges…”
“No!  She was a bitch.  We all hated her so much.  She treated you like her dog.  Hope your lawyer takes her to the cleaners.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’ll happen.”
“We live in the age of equality, sir!  That means that women can be fucked over in a divorce as much as any man.”
Another snort from him.  “Yeah, I’m sure.  But no way am I gonna get out of this without paying alimony.  At least my son is in college now and I don’t have to worry about child support.”
“No kidding.  Up here it’s a bitch.”
“Copy that.”
From there, we have finally reached a point of being able to be personal.  Some light conversation.  His son heading to Cal-Tech, to study to be an astrophysicist.  Wanted to end up doing some work for the Navy.  Made his father proud.  I could feel that.  Would make me proud too.
Finally, Lt looked to leave.  “So, you gonna be alright, Pierce?”
“Aye, sir.  I think I will be.”
He held out his hand.  “It was good to see you again.”
Shook it.  “You too, Lt. Commander.”

Until next time, a quote,

“I started the lab because I was never able to create friends.” – Okabe, Steins;Gate

Peace out,

Maverick