Tuesday, 15 November 2016

So I Watched... Silenced: Our War on Free Speech.

This piece is about my thoughts on it and will avoid spoilers as much as possible as this was an advanced backer copy I received digitally.

Mike Cernovich seems to me to one of those who a lot of folks out there like to hate, he comes across as a master of testing the waters of Twitter to see what he can find and even bring to the surface to poke at. I follow him on the site because I do like some of the stuff he comes out with, I have listened to the audio book of Gorilla Mindset and enjoyed it very much so when I saw he was involved in a Kickstarter project with director Loren Feldman, I took a look. Free speech is to me a very big topic these days, you see people banned from Twitter all of the time for tweeting something either stupid or very unwise but yet others are allowed to tweet things such as encouraging the murder of police officers and doxing people and get away with it, I have also noticed that these days it is quite wise to keep certain opinions to yourself, even with friends because it could often lead to an argument. The documentary talks about this, calling it "self-censorship" and it was a disturbing section.

The documentary has a fine selection of guests, including Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopoulos, Vox Day, Charles C Johnson, Scott Adams, Pax Dickinson, and many others. Their views and stories tell a cautionary tale and as I watched them talk I was more on edge than entertained, it is a scary future that we could be in for should this trend continue. One thing the documentary got right, in my opinion, was that it explored the threat free speech faces on American college campuses and speaks to the likes of Ariana Rowlands and her experiences with it. I have listened to Milo's campus lectures and they are a spectacle, I do wish I could have been at one and I was pleased that Silenced did mention in a small way about him being banned from some campuses.

My main criticism of the documentary was that Twitter was barely mentioned in the film, even though it was shown in the trailer for it. Both Milo and Johnson have been banned from the site over tweets that they have written, Milo's was the most well known of the two but this is only mentioned by that of a subtitle under their names when they are introduced. I would have liked to have seen Twitter (and even Facebook) talked about in greater detail because a lot of the bannings that have happened in the past, such as Robert Stacy McCain, have been very suspect and often have a ripple effect on the site.

Silenced is a worthy documentary and is certainly worth a watch, I sat thinking for a while after it finished and was happy that I had backed it. A long time ago I was quite cautious about backing Kickstarters but when projects like this are funded and come to a satisfactory completion, it gives me the reason to back more because the most unique work may come from crowdfunding as opposed to the mainstream. When the DVD/Blu-Ray comes out, I will buy it as hopefully they will do some behind the scenes material for it because there is so much they could expand on, I will even keep my fingers crossed for a director's cut.

Ironically, I learned after I had finished watching the film that Pax Dickinson had been banned from Twitter, apparently no reason has been given.
Think about that for a moment, Silenced suddenly became much more relevant.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

So About The Election Result...

Yes, I'm going there.
I said in a couple of conversations a while back that I thought Donald Trump would win because of the way he spoke, directly to the voters themselves, it seemed, but there was still doubt in my mind. I woke up for work on the morning the voting began and checked my phone to see he was ahead, I then traveled to work and watched what I could of the vote count before my shift started and his lead became larger, I won't deny that I found the footage of Hillary supporters watching in shock and crying quite amusing. When he won I found it both funny and shocking, not only because he had won and people were panicking about it, but because he had pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in living memory. What made me laugh the most about the whole thing was the celebrities and how they were before the result and then after it and how much a difference there was between them and the regular voter, the working class man or woman.

On Twitter alone, the tweets from celebrities etc was a sight to behold, from the likes of Stephen King, Tara Strong, Patton Oswalt, Miley Cyrus, Rose Mcgowan and even idiots like Laci Green were coming across as if they were throwing every toy they could possibly find out of their pram because the result was not what they wanted, and it was comical, the guy isn't even in the office yet and people were still doing their best to drive him into the ground. One of the odd things I did notice was a Twitter account in the name of Clint Eastwood (it was not actually him) did celebrate the win with a tweet but was suddenly banned soon afterward, not reason given but then again, Twitter never does explain itself when it comes to that.

Some of the television I watched that day had reporters interviewing regular working people in the street and a lot of them were happy with the result, there were, of course, those who were protesting in the street about it and I wasn't surprised in the slightest, there is even a petition going at the time of writing this to get the result changed, Tara Strong herself appears to support it. As an Englishman living in the UK, I watched this from a distance with no horse in the race and have found this sort of behavior the very definition of sour grapes, Trump was a controversial figure from the get go and almost everybody had their knives out for him, media coverage that I observed was mostly biased against him, especially when Thomas Friedman published this piece for The New York Times, but when it came to pieces that criticised Hillary in any kind of way, I barely saw any at all. One that was written was for The Huffington Post, which raised some questions about her health but the article was taken down with no explanation given, the writer of the piece was apparently fired shortly afterward. Another writer, Michael Tracey, took a look at actress Lena Dunham and whether she deceived the public or not over her voting, he was fired from Vice for doing so, which I'm sure had nothing to do with the fact that Vice's Cheif Operating Officer had attended "off record parties" by the Clinton campaign. There was also the news of attacks and abuse towards Trump supporters such as Kassy Dillon, founder of Lone Conservative, who has reported being verbally abused and shouted at on her campus, the man who once encouraged Trump to run for president back in 2013, Russell Steinberg, has had vile things tweeted at him and had to block many people as a result and even Zoe Quinn has received emails blaming her for Trump winning, which is kind of funny.

After the American media (which was supposed to be the unbiased fourth estate) and various celebrities spent so long telling the average working class who they should be voting for, their arrogance finally came back to bite them in the ass. I will not be one of those who attacks him when he hasn't done anything yet, I will sit back and watch and will judge him after four years and make my mind up then. I respect him for doing what he has done, an outsider who has turned the whole system on its head, showed that polls mean shit these days and exposed a lot of media personalities and celebrities for who they are underneath. I wish him all the best in his new role and shall watch with interest, but for now, I shall leave you with this little gem, which makes me smile whenever I see it.

Monday, 7 November 2016

So I Watched... Bosch.


When I was growing up, a favorite of mine to watch on television were police series. Anything from TJ Hooker, The Bill, Law and Order, you name it. I loved policemen and women as main characters because I loved to cheer them on as they conducted their investigations, caught the bad guys and were heroes in the end. Nowadays I struggle to find a good cop show to watch, Law and Order was canceled and I've drifted from the other versions of the series, The Bill finished a long time ago and TJ Hooker finished long before both of them. I have Netflix and have enjoyed what the service has to offer but that good cop show still eluded me, but then I saw a small trailer for Bosch as a way of advertising Amazon Video and something caught my attention about it. It wasn't just the fact that who appeared to be the main character was a policeman who looked like an absolute badass, it was in fact because I recognized him from a film I had seen at the cinema a while back with my wife. I recognized Titus Welliver from Transformers: Age of Extinction but had also seen him in Gone Baby Gone and Argo, I watched the trailer for Bosch again and thought "you know what? I'll give this a go" and I signed up for Amazon Video and watched the first series without delay.

Bosch is set in what I like to think of as the dark side of police work, where not all of the stories or cases have a hundred percent happy endings and the journey through them is not a pleasant one, many are left with scars on the inside or out but they have to keep going. One ending in particular ends in a crushing failure and the only way some kind of comfort is found is with a well-placed mouthful of spit and a broken picture on a wall.  The series starts off with Bosch in trouble for what is being portrayed as a questionable shooting of a suspect who may not have been armed. With this to deal with, he also has to investigate an awful child murder via the discovery of the child's bones. Season two focuses on a murder investigation where politics rears its ugly head and interferes on many levels, there are other subplots that are woven through the two seasons but to talk of them too much may spoil them so I'll leave that part there. The two series are a reasonable length in episodes but I see this as a good thing, the stories are not padded out to fill up a longer series and you can often tell when this is happening.
True Blood, I'm looking in your direction.

One of the reasons I think Bosch is so awesome is because of it's cast, not only do they fit their roles so well but it is always nice to see faces you remember as opposed to a "star name" as such, it is something I will always find much more pleasing. Titus Welliver is something special as the almost stoic policeman who at times it seems is wearing the perfect poker face but also deadly serious. He has had a tough life but does his job none the less, I do not recall seeing him smile often except near the end of the first season when his daughter (who always calls him Harry) actually calls him Dad. It's a wonderful little moment that glued me to the screen when it happened, but cross him and do so at your own peril as another character finds out also at the season's end. Amy Aquino (ER, Picket Fences) is awesome as Bosch's commanding officer and friend, someone who does not take shit from him or anyone but the level of respect between them is evident and nicely acted, his partner is played by Jamie Hector (The Wire) and the two of them play off of each other nicely, especially with shorthand talk when on the job.

The Chief of police is played by Lance Reddick (Fringe, John Wick) and looks and acts like the one guy you seriously would not want to piss off, his eyes look like they could melt steel alone with some of the expressions he gives. Bosch's ex-wife is played by Sarah Clarke (24, Twilight) and in most stories, the ex-wife is a bitch who does not get along with the ex-husband but their relationship here is a mature and adult one for the sake of their daughter, a confident young lady played well by Madison Lintz (The Walking Dead). What adds to this is the well-chosen supporting characters and who plays them, such as Jason Gedrick (Iron Eagle), Jeri Ryan (Star Trek Voyager), Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), Mimi Rogers (The Rapture), I could keep going here but I invite you to watch the show and see what I mean.

One thing that I have enjoyed is that the series has a nice fan base and even a fansite too, Titus Welliver is on Twitter and is certainly approachable. I decided to tweet him one night before I turned in to say how much I was enjoying the show, I did not expect an answer because I know from Jimmy Kimmel's Mean Tweets that actors and celebrities often get a lot of abuse on the platform so I expected my tweet to get lost in the traffic, but I was shocked to see he responded by thanking me for what I said. Keeping my head still attached to my shoulders, I again tweeted him in which I thanked him for responding and wished him the best, again he replied with gratitude. Through following him on Twitter I also came into contact with and am getting to know the fansite's "Proud Mayor", Clare Costa, and immediately I became jealous bcause her Twitter profile picture is of her with Welliver, so very jealous, god dammit. Another positive that I found out is that Welliver has also given some of his time to record audiobooks of some of the series, I have not listened to any yet because I have so much to catch up in terms of reading but I certainly intend to as to me it shows an embracing of the character on more than one level and reminds me of when John Ritter narrated 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter before he sadly passed away.

At the time of writing this, season three has been announced and is on the way. A long time ago I had cut my television time down heavily as a lot of what was on really didn't appeal to me. Signing up for the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video have given me something to watch again and that makes me happy as with these services you are guaranteed something new, something original and in an age where remakes and reboots are the in trend, that is brilliant. I will stick with Bosch for the long run and hope for the day when I actually shake Titus Welliver's hand or even get a photo with him, I think the best way to describe his performance in the series would be in the same fashion once used with the late Christopher Reeve and Superman...
Titus Welliver doesn't play Bosch, he is Bosch.

Friday, 4 November 2016

An Open Letter to D.C. Douglas

Hello, Mr Douglas, I hope this open letter finds you well and in good health. I have written this in the hopes that you will see it and maybe think about what I have written as I was so disappointed to learn the other day that you had me blocked and we have never spoken, an apparent result of you using the blocking program which can be used with Twitter. I understand you started using it after mocking the Gamergate hashtag and had many people who used it come at you, some in quite a nasty manner and I can only shake my head at that and wish that it had not happened because those of us (yes, I was a supporter a while ago) who supported it for the cause of wanting ethical journalism in the gaming sector did so because we wanted exactly that, and not to abuse people online.

As a result of supporting this cause because of the August 28th articles (the most well known is linked), many of us were attacked and slandered by the media and only a handful of the online press actually bothered to get both sides of the matter. We have been called almost everything imaginable from "worse than ISIS" to "trolls", the list would go on here but you get the point I hope. From a personal point of view, I am blocked by a lot of people I do not know and nor have I ever spoken to them and this does not bother me as such, but when I discovered that you had gone down this road, I was especially disappointed and I will explain why.

Legion was my favorite characters in Mass Effect, I used him as a playable character as soon as I could because I loved the idea of his story, the way he spoke and the way he performed in the battlefield. I gave him my best sniper rifle and some of the headshots he pulled off literally made me stop what I was doing for a moment and think "damn!". His death in part three (I played the hero route) was my second saddest moment (first was Mordin's death) and left me upset because I really wanted to use him again just to see where the story took him. My only problem with the character was that he was not introduced in the story sooner because I think it would have been awesome. I was not aware of your Twitter account and did think about following it but then you used the blocking program, here we are, I know you have said that Twitter is not real life and so on, but I had wanted to ask you questions about voicing Legion and so on, but it looks like that will not be the case.

I saw that you had some criticisms of Gamergate and at one point called them "sexist, racist and douchey" and then expressed amusement when some of them fired back at you. When I was growing up, if someone mocked me I would mock them back, I'm pretty sure it still works that way these days but maybe you were unaware of that. To address what you said, however: you are wrong. I have met many of the other Gamergate supporters and many of them were women and black, in fact, it is arguable to say that many of the most high-profile supporters were as such, an example of each would be Oliver Campbell and Christina Hoff Sommers, I invite you to look up the others as there were people from every race, colour and background who supported the hashtag and its cause.

As for the "douchey" part, yes I will agree that there were a lot of idiots on the internet who used the hashtag as an excuse to go after people. One of them I know you have blocked already, this idiot, who harassed a friend of mine until she eventually blocked him, at one point she was even made aware he was attempting to mess with her in real life even though he lives in another country. Then there is this character, who runs this website. Words cannot describe some of the nasty things he and his friends post on this site but many in the Gamergate community washed their hands of him after he published this article, using the suicide of a young girl as a blunt weapon to attack someone else with. I tweeted one day in amusement how his Twitter account was verified and he and some of his followers/minions got into my mentions and insulted me for it, I blocked and muted them and moved on without a second thought. The point I am leading to here is that a hashtag cannot be controlled with regards to who uses it, I hope you think about that for a moment.

Those of us who supported Gamergate were subject to insults and harassment for supporting the cause, none of it was ever reported in the media and of course not, as it was the media we were criticizing in the first place. This blog, written by the above-mentioned friend, has cataloged a lot of it and I invite you to read it and see what is in there, such as racist and sexist insults as well as doxing of a few Gamergate supporters and again, this was never reported. I have to ask you how far you have looked into Gamergate and what it uncovered during the strongest parts of its time, the deepfreeze website has cataloged almost every ethical breach made by the gaming press with evidence to back it up, please take a look and read through some of them and you might grasp the scale of what was uncovered. Were you also aware that the supporters were given the chance to speak fairly at the Society of Professional Journalists in Florida back in 2015, just before the hashtag's first-year anniversary? The first session can be found here and the second, here. The first session was the more productive as just after the halfway mark of the video, the SPJ panel agreed with and essentially vindicated the hashtag with regards to unethical practices. The second one was cut short after about ten bomb threats were phoned in to stop it and forced all the attendees to wait outside whilst police searched the building. Finally, a lot of the hashtag's accomplishments have been summed up in this video, I invite you to take a look.

With regards to the users of the hashtag supporting Donald Trump, I have seen a mixture of those who do and do not, it is something I personally care little about because I am an Englishman living in the United Kingdom so I am not sure what I can say to you about that, each to their own I guess.

Now with regards to the blocking program you are using, I can only wonder at this point if you are aware of who it is made by and who she is as a person. Randi Harper has been revealed to be one of the biggest bullies on the internet, a woman who has gone after people she dislikes either on her own or with the help of her followers but again, this has not been covered by the mainstream media. The only place that took a look into her was the Breitbart website with this article, I know you may ignore it because of the fact that it supports Trump but I implore you to read the piece, especially when it mentions some of her victims. I have met two of them and I cannot tell you how nice they were but to people like Harper, they were good targets and nothing more. Harper is unemployed and is unemployable due to her online activities and has to survive off of a Patreon account, using that blocking program enables the real bullies like her to keep doing what she does. Think about that for a moment.

I hope this got through to you in some way but I suppose the reality is that you will ignore this and move on, who am I to lecture you, right? This blog was not written to insult, condemn, or harass you in any way at all but instead to ask you to reconsider your course of action, you most likely blocked a lot of fans without even realizing it by painting them with the same brush you used on those who insulted you. I have personally ruled out purchasing any Bioware games as it now appears that they employ a racist who has tweeted as such but gotten away with it, I can only wonder if you have him blocked or not. Finally, I wanted to leave you with two things: as you have decided to block the likes of me without even knowing who I am or even talking to me, if I am about to buy a game or film and find out you have a part in it, I will not buy it at all, this may be nothing more than a mild itch to you but I can only wonder how many others will follow suit.

Finally, as a fan of your work, I wanted to tell you that I am so, so disappointed in you and the choice you made. Take care Mr Douglas, good luck with your future projects.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Censorship and Drinking the Cool aide.

I am reminded constantly that even though I am getting older and am approaching my forties, I still have lessons to learn and can still screw up royally when I speak before thinking first. Part of me was reluctant to write about this but one lesson that I have learned about is that in order to make some peace when you screw up, it is best to admit that mistake and take whatever shit is coming your way.

Yes, I was one of the many people who saw the variant cover of the new "Iron Man" and took issue with it because in part of what appeared to me to be a sexy fifteen-year-old girl. I also did not like it as it was another example of Marvel doing a race & gender swap of a popular character, I ended up mixing the two together and voiced a strong opposition to it along with a few other people out there. I took a look at my tweets about it much later and realized how much I had sounded like the crazies from The Mary Sue when they published a piece on it and that made me feel worse. A friend of mine told me that weekend when we spoke about it that jumping on the bandwagon was way too easy to do and he was so right about it; my god he was so right.

When I learned that the cover had been pulled, I suddenly felt so stupid and also a little guilty that I may have contributed to that fuss, Campbell is a man who's art I have enjoyed for some time since the days of Danger Girl and even Gen 13, his main fault in my eyes was that he became known for not being able to stick to a deadline. In my defense, I was not one of the people who directed abuse and so on in Campbell's direction on Twitter and a lot of people were. He handled it well and eventually the situation has died down since then but I did have something pointed out to me that did make me wonder: Campbell has been known for drawing sexy women, it was pretty much his trademark. I remember when I was collecting Danger Girl there were stories of readers crying out for him to draw nudity because of the way he drew the characters, it made me chuckle when I remembered it. Further thinking made me wonder why he was hired to do the Iron Man cover, it was almost like he had been set up to fail as a way to draw attention and possibly generate future sales for the comic. It does sound far-fetched I know, but it was something that Marvel did with the new Captain America series and the whole "Hail Hydra" storyline. It was some success as it has outsold the previous volumes but in my mind, it has done so purely on controversy and this has obviously occurred to the readers as its sales have since dropped.

Frank Cho had been through a tough time with his variant covers for Wonder Woman, the above Image was the variant for issue three, can you spot the difference? The series writer, Greg Rucka, exercised some editorial control and had the cover cropped to one side to hide the small line that was her underwear (at least he showed she was wearing some) as he apparently thought it was "vulgar and showed too much skin" and as a result of this, Cho quit. It was a sad situation but not one without some irony, particularly with Rucka himself as he once left behind Marvel and DC because of the way he and others like him had been treated by the big two. I can only wonder if he realizes that he has now become the very thing he appeared to hate so much a long time ago, the reason I say "I can only wonder" is because I discovered a while back that he has me blocked even though we have never spoken. Sadly it is the apparent case of him using a blocking program so as a result, I will buy nothing with his name on it now.
Your loss Greg.

Cho came under attack again after he was presented with a gift from Milo Manara for his fight against censorship. It was an original watercolored painting of Spider-Woman in a provocative pose and of course, it once again drew criticism from those who appear to want to see Frank Cho silenced, such as small time artists like Scott Kurtz who viewed the situation as everything that was wrong with comics.

It amuses me to think back when male frontal nudity has been drawn in the likes of Sin City, Watchmen, Tokyo Ghost and even been shown in TV programs like Spartacus but not much has been mentioned because as said, it was male. I am thankful that whilst we have people out there like Frank Cho there will be a push back against this PC attitude some people take with art, I was stupid to drink the cool aide once and I do not plan on doing it again anytime soon.