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The Last Jedi Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Dec 15 2017 · 0 views
STAR WARS, Episode VIII and 2 more...
The Last Jedi Review :kaukau: This is going to be an incredibly short review, because just about anything could be considered a spoiler. Anyway, here are some of my basic thoughts about the type of sequels that this is.

John Williams produced three memorable themes in the last one, but I can't think of anything that stood out this time, although I'm absolutely going to rewatch this, so we'll see. But if I re-watch it several times and find nothing new that's iconic, that will honestly be very sad. I'll be listening to the soundtrack on Spotify in-between now and my next viewing.

It's kind of like Empire Strikes Back in that the heroes are definitely up against a huge challenge and you can honestly believe at times that the bad guys are going to win. On the other hand, in some ways this is the most like Flash Gordon than any other episode (and I'm not saying that this is a bad thing).

Holy cow, they did some things that I wasn't expecting them to do in the middle film of a trilogy. And by the end, I'm going to be honest, I had absolutely no idea where they were going to go with the next movie. As in truly, I can't even speculate.

In a lot of ways, the directing and story felt a lot different from a Star Wars episode, perhaps even comparable to an anthology film like Rogue One. Rian Johnson does several things with his editing that simply have never been done in any episodes prior. It was really weird for me. I think that other people are going to notice it, too, and there's definitely going to be people with passionate opinions on this. Some will love it, some will hate it. I'll just point out that in the original saga, the middle films were where the directors usually got a bit more experimental. In any case, this actually makes me glad that J.J. Abrams is directing the next one. Interestingly, though, I will say that the closing shot of this film was far more classically STAR WARS than Episode VII's ending.

Final assessment: I had a really fun time, and I liked it. I was going to watch it ten times, but now I think that I'll only watch it eight times. It's not quite the quintessential big screen experience, but that's typical of the middle films, because they've always been my least favorite. However, we'll see. These movies have a special place in my sister's heart, since this is for her generation, and if she loves it, I'll probably watch it those extra two times just for her. At the end of the day, she's what's important.




Posted by Jean Valjean , in Superman, Michael Phelps, Music Dec 02 2017 · 0 views
Iowa, music, Michael Phelps
:kaukau: I have on occasions considered getting a degree in political sciences just so I can run for Governor of Iowa just so I can write an executive order changing the state anthem. But that's a hassle. Much rather, I would elect someone else who's smarter than me and will put up with the terrors of public service who promises me that she will change the national anthem. I'm currently brainstorming a letter, at this very moment, that I can send to governor Kim Reynolds, and to the Senator of my district, Randy Feenstra. I actually kind of know Feenstra, though not as a personal friend. I might also send a letter to my representative, Skyler Wheeler (of no relation to Nancy).

But not quite yet. Among other things, people will start going on recess soon enough, and they're all celebrating Christmas, but I'm thinking that right around New Year's Day, I might be sending out these letters, and additionally, the emails of all of the rest of Iowa's state congressmen are publicly available on the the government website. Until then, I will be thinking through my case so I can build it into something compelling. Iowa has every reason to change its anthem. The main challenge to changing it (and I must admit, my real-world experience tells me that it will be significant) is that people really don't like to change things. Politicians, amirite? Stodgy people who don't take their constituents seriously if they're not petitioning for something that fits into a readily recognizable political narrative. Pfaah!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it should be self evident to y'all why Iowa's anthem needs changing. Here it is:

Wait, sorry, I had a technical error. This is Iowa's state anthem.

Ho. ly. Cow. I'm sorry if that gave you whiplash. And no, this isn't a joke. I'm not jigging your leg. That's actually Iowa's official anthem. There is literally onely one good thing about that song, and it's Maryland also rips off its tune from "O Christmas Tree", so we don't have to feel so bad. And Maryland has Michael Phelps, Savior of the Universe, King of the Impossible, Medals Be Upon Him, so by a very distant stretch, I guess I could say that Iowans have something in common with The Phelps that most other Americans don't.

But seriously? "O Christmas Tree"? Iowa already has a reputation for being bland and forgettable, and continuing to use this song that nobody cares about only contributes to that. Look at the Kansas theme: "Home on the Range". See? Isn't that much better? People actually know that one and like it! It gives Kansas a good reputation. Plus it's the home of Dorothy Gale and Clark Kent, so they're cultural legacy is set.

Here's an idea: ifi you're going to borrow music, at least borrow music that has something at least tangentially related to their state. West Virginia made "Take Me Home, Country Roads" their national anthem, because they were sensible and realized that people love John Denver and that it basically was the song that best represented their state. West Virginia would be cool if it used that song, so it did. Because why settle for something else when you already have something perfect wrapped and packaged for you? Oklahama is likewise wise, picking what else but the titular song from "Oklahoma!" to be their state standard. Do you see how easy that it?

It might be tempting to give Indiana a similar treatment by paying John Williams some royalties to use that one march of his as their anthem, but as it happens, Indiana already has a decent ballad from the 19th century.

Iowa, however, does not have a decent original ballad, so what are Iowans to do? What piece of music out there is indispensably associated with Iowa?

Ah, remember that Star Trek theme that I just shared? As every Iowan knows, the future Captain James Tyberius Kirk was born in Iowa. Ergo, Star Trek is a quintessential part of the Iowa's state mythology. This is what I personally would make Iowa's anthem. I just need Kim Reynolds to call Jerry Goldmith's estate, and Paramount Pictures, and basically whoever else she needs to sweet talk and pay off in order to get permission to use it when representing the state of Iowa. Aaaaaand BOOM! You have a great national melody. All you need to do from there is replace all of those nonsense "O Iowa! You're so pretty! Ain't we nice? Don't we all like our state? Iowa! O Iowa!" lyrics with something more sensible and imaginative so that you aren't singing about the exact same things as all of the other states. Create lyrics that actually describe what makes Iowa unique! Tell us about how Iowa was founded! Give people a sense of history and identity!

There you go. Except when I write my letters, I will probably have to drop all references to Star Trek if I want to be taken seriously by the politicians who may or may not bother reading them. Which is why I need to take some time to think through a serious proposal and maybe come up with a draft for a song myself, even though I'm not a musician. So by that, what I really mean is that I need to write up some poetry having to do with Iowa's history and then ask a friend who's a musician to compose a hopefully good proposition for a melody to go with it, and then my friend can be a co-signer in my petition. I'm thinking of a march, definitely in major. Hopefully Goldsmith or Williams-esque without overtly lifting anything from them.

And then I'm going to fail, but when I inevitably try again sometime down the road, I will be far more researched and have a serious game plan for changing Iowa's anthem. Because as small and as trivial as it seems, at least I will feel that I made a difference as one person, and I can confidently say that this would be something in history that wouldn't have inevitably happened without me.



Internet Bullying

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Dec 01 2017 · 0 views
bullies, bullying and 1 more...
:kaukau: In an earlier entry, I said that this decade saw a dramatic decrease in tolerance for bullying, but I realize that this is only part of the story. Bullying in schools has gone down and rarely dips into the realm of physical violence, the type that my father used to brag about witnessing in the 70's and 80's when people were apparently as bad as that kid from It (part I). Obviously, we don't see too many of these things anymore, right? Even since I survived middle school, it sounds as though younger family members never endured what I went through that I considered normal. They didn't have to deal with getting punched in sensitive places, having their shoes tossed out of the school bus window, being challenged to fights, and receiving swear words for nicknames. They didn't have fathers and authority figures who called them weaklings, thing-skinned, and pathetic for complaining about this kind of bullying. That makes me happy, because they won't end up as psychologically broken because of it.

However, over the last few years, I've been noticing a new form of bullying, one that we've heard people talk about for a while, but which has escalated to a point that I find incredibly unhealthy for us as a society, if not outright dangerous. In dearth of opportunities to bully others in public physical forums, people have turned to bullying and demeaning others in public virtual forums. Yes, we know that internet bullying is bad, and we launched campaigns against it, but I do not believe that the campaigns are working. I believe that they can work, if delivered with an inspired execution, but what I see now is a downward spiral in this new age.

The first and most obvious case of internet bullying comes in the real of politics and culture with some political subtext, and this is also where I began noticing a marked decrease in quality of conversation. Politics always had heated, emotional discussion, enough so that it's banned on BZPower. I've heard BZPers make cases for why politics should be allowed on the site, because we're supposedly mature enough to have these discussions and we have such a great sense of community, but I've begun to notice that even in communities organized around incredibly mature leadership and moderation, any discussion about politics will get ugly. The sign of the times that tipped me off about how bad things are getting now is that I used to get rude comments only from people who disagreed with me, but now even conversations with people I agree with tend to lose their decency from the get-go. I remember reading through political threads and encountering about a 50/50 ratio of hate-fueled comments and careful comments that were considerate of everyone's feelings. Now, the vast majority of comments make me cringe.

People are perhaps the most honest about their opinions on their fellow man in politics: everyone else is the the stupidest, least competent, most misguided, most fragile, most morally reprehensible person to exist. Anyone who doesn't conform to you exactly. And gradually, I see that trickle down to non-political things. People will say absolutely horrendous things about a celebrity, usually for the most trivial reasons. Everyone gets paranoid and assumes that everyone else represents a social movement that's abhorrent.

This contempt that we used to only see in political and religious discussion is now airborn. It contaminates even the most unifying aspects of our culture. BZPower forbids politics and religion, but these days I wonder if we should ban all discussion on STAR WARS, too. I remember that I gathered a lot of heat back in the day for saying that I really like Episodes I-III, and the treatment that I got on BZPower is nothing compared to the various Youtube discussions that I've had, where people will say the cruelest things simply because someone likes a movie that they didn't like. Alternatively, if you didn't like something that others like, then you must be self-righteous, pretentious, or you're over-sensitive. Those are the most polite insults I've heard, but most of us are sadly all-too familiar with how the internet works and how terrible this discourse can get. For example, I just saw an article entitled "Seven Things Justice League Did Better the Avengers, and Seven Things It Did Worse", and in the comments section, I saw one comment that I think does a pretty accurate job of representing what the average comment looks like these days: "1 way this article could improve: the writer kills himself." Surprise, surprise, it had zero dislikes.

I think that this is the unspoken message behind a lot of comments on the internet, isn't it? We want people that we disagree with to kill themselves. If they aren't moral abominations, then they're complete freaks. If they're not complete freaks, then they're stupid. If they're not stupid, they're functionally stupid, and so forth. We simply cannot believe that perhaps, just maybe, the people that we address on the internet are just like the people that we meet on the street. Perhaps, when a person complains about something, they're not nagging, but just expressing an opinion about something that they don't like?

Until then, we live in a world where apparently anyone who liked Marvel blindly supports a corporate empire as a brainwashed sycophant, anyone who likes DC must be a prejudiced fanboy, anyone who likes The Phantom Menace isn't worth talking to and is a blasphemer, anyone who dislikes Christopher Nolan must be an insecure haters who are full of themselves, anyone who likes Titanic supports bad romances, anyone who likes Toy Story has no culture, anyone who liked the new Les Miserables has even less culture, anyone who enjoys Michael Bay movies must be the lowest common denominator, anyone who watched Twilight must be too dumb to be allowed to breed, and anyone who likes that one unpopular sequel must apparently kick puppies. Take your pick. It has become bad that ScreenJunkies, the people behind Honest Trailers who make money by making fun of movies, even began requesting that people try to have friendly discussions about movies and realize that it's okay that we don't all like the same things. They realize the type of influence that they have, and they decide to use it in their small little sphere, and I for one really appreciate that.

At the end of the day, I think that it's incredibly important for people to realize that we're all just people who have our own opinions on what we think is great, and we like different things. People don't too often intentionally hold an opinion just because it's nefarious. A person who disagrees with you, or who has different tastes than yours, isn't necessarily a corrupt, despicable person who's light years behind your intellectually and emotionally. They're probably just a regular person. As inconceivable as that may seem to some. Who knew that we could be unique human beings? I, for one, choose to have some faith in the people that I meet everyday, because we just might be more alike than we are unalike. We are, after all, human beings.



Justice League Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Superman Nov 22 2017 · 63 views
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and 2 more...

Posted Image

:kaukau: Justice League stays true, for the most part, to what it advertised: a movie about five iconic superheroes who need little-to-no introduction getting together (right now, over me) in order to stop a villain who wasn't noteworthy enough to show up in the trailers, that may or may not have anything to do with Superman. There has been several different marketing tools employed domestically across the world that both imply that he is in the film, and things that imply that he isn't, and a lot of it is fake and deliberately misleading in order to get people speculating. So, out of respect to Warner Bros., I won't reveal whether or not Superman comes back or if they were gutsy enough to keep him dead.

With that in mind, what do you have?

Batman. Everyone knows who this is. The only difference to this Batman that I think needs introduction is that his main schtick this time around doesn't seem to be his batty obsession with his dead parents, but a sense of guilt over Superman's death. This is the first time that I've ever seen Batman depicted on film with friendship being a major part of his identity.

Wonder Woman. Everyone's favorite character at this point. The movie acknowledges some important parts from her origins movie earlier this year.

These two decide that they're going to start a team based off of cameos from previous films, consisting of the following three:

Aquaman: A bigger outsider than Batman ever was, and with a complicated backstory with Shakespearean family drama that's complicated enough that he's naturally the next one to get his own film. He reminds me a bit of the brooding Superman from Man of Steel, but it does fit the character a little better. However, he's the character who will probably endear people the least.

Cyborg: The most obscure of these characters, but at the same time can be summed up in one sentence. His father tried fusing him with alien technology to save his life, and now he's afraid of the technology that's taking over his body and possibly his mind.

The Flash: Barry Allen, everyone. Probably the most famous superhero outside of the Big Three. He says it as briefly as possible, that be got struck by lightning. Now he's fast, can go into some alternate dimension, and has the Speed Force. He doesn't have any friends, and it the most eager to join the Justice League. It should be noted that he is responsible for all of the movie's best moments.

They must fight Steppenwolf, a cool-looking villain played by a Shakespearean actor who delivers his few lines very well. He's of the Marvel variety, a forgettable villain; however, I personally really enjoyed him, if only because I really enjoyed the actor's performance. Steppenwolf's plan is to gather the Mother Boxes, an all-powerful force, and transform Earth into that red place that you saw in the trailers, which he would get away with if it wasn't for the Justice League.

That's it. That's the film in a nutshell. I think that it does a fairly decent job, and will keep people entertained. It doesn't have the gravitas and level of excitement and payoff that The Avengers did five years ago, but I think that people will be more satisfied if they go in thinking of it as a pilot episode for a DC animated show, since it has about a similar feel. There were certain moments that took me back to these kind of shows. Even Steppenwolf, as underdeveloped as he was, reminded me of villains who show up in a pilot episode to get introduced as a larger series villain who will get more development later.

I would also recommend this movie especially to people who haven't seen Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, on account of this film deciding to ignore major issues from them. It's very clear that DC wants to do a course-correct and wishes that they never made the first two films the way that they did, meaning that they're not only changing tone, but they're changing characters to fit their beloved comic-book counterparts with no in-universe reason.


Other pros and cons:

Great cinematography. Everything directed by Zack Snyder looks gorgeous. In fact, I don't say this too often, but it looks even richer in 3D.

Poor sound editing. There were times when sound played an important part in storytelling, and it really should have been edited to make the film far more immersive.

The editing! This is where most people complain. It's very obvious that there are quite a few deleted scenes, because the scenes that remain, especially in the beginning, don't directly flow into each other and interrupt the momentum that the film is trying to build up. However, each scene on its own is pretty cool. The other editing problem is in Warner Bros.'s mandate to keep the film under two hours, including the credits. So the film feels like it's about an hour and a half long (hence why I compare it to their animated pilots), and that just wasn't long enough to build up some important conflicts and play off of character chemistry. I feel that the second act in particular could have had several extra scenes to help build up to several key character choices. The inevitable extended cut of this movie will probably drastically improve on this. However, it would have been nice to see all of these extra story on the big screen.

The music pleased me. Greatly. They distanced themselves from everything having to do with Hans Zimmer and embraced a lot of their more classical music that I hear from their television shows and their video games, and it took me to a nostalgic place. You hear hints of the original Batman theme, and the original Superman theme, and Wonder Woman's theme gets a makeover so that instead of playing on an electric cello, she makes her entrance to trumpets, which I think takes her good theme and makes it great. The best new piece of music easily belongs to the Flash. It plays whenever he goes into speed mode, and I truly loved it.

The costumes were great. The Flash once again gets my praise, because his costume is almost exactly what I always imagined that it would look like.

I will defend this film against comparisons to The Avengers, since most of the comparisons being made stem from similarities in the comics. Steppenwolf is compared to Loki on the basis of them both having horned helmets, but they both had those in the comics. The Parademons have been compared to the Chitauri, but the Parademons have been in the comics longer. The Mother Boxes as a generic source of power has been compared to the Tesseract, but again, this is ancient comics stuff. Most other comparisons after that come off as stretches, for me. Like, the fact that Wonder Woman knows who Steppenwolf is, and Thor knows who Loki is. Ahem, that's lame.



North Korea Bans Singing

Posted by Jean Valjean , Nov 21 2017 · 55 views

:kaukau: Has anyone here seen The Little Mermaid III? Or at least heard the concept? Basically, it's a straight-to-DVD sequel that's about how King Triton had singing banned in his kingdom, and Ariel has to change his mind using her Mary Sue powers. It's an utterly ridiculous pitch. No leader in his right mind would ever actually ban singing. That's a concept that's too dumb even for kiddie viewers.

Except apparently Kim Jong-Un did it. Seriously, for realzies, in the real world. This actually happened. Glorious Leader is wise!

Now I'm in the mood for that movie.



Hunting Ethics

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Nov 17 2017 · 56 views
riflery, archery, falconry and 2 more...
:kaukau: So recently a news story came up about hunting. It got me wanting to talk about hunting, since it's something that I take some interest in. As it happens the news story involved political debate over some laws that are being passed on the federal level, but I don't want people thinking that I'm making a veiled political commentary; I genuinely had a sudden desire to talk about a sport that interests me. I also wrote a blog entry elsewhere on gardening and nature, which primed me for this topic. I haven't written an actual essay of any sincerity on this blog for a long time, and it's about time that I do it again.

Honestly, I've never hunted, because I never had the time. Back when I was a kid, I took a hunting class that included a lot of details about safety. That was the main thing, safety. A lot about safety. I do think that that's the most important thing to keep in mind when hunting. If you learn nothing else, you must know how to never shoot yourself in the foot, or worse, accidentally shoot someone else. One of the #1 rules of hunting is to always know where you're aiming your rifle and always know what you're shooting at before you pull the trigger. Always be aware of whether or not a shot is safe to take before shooting. Always take extra precautions to know with absolute certainty that you're the only person in the area. There are also many rules for handing a gun safely from one hunter to the other, how to handle guns in groups, how to cross fences with a gun, and even how to pass axes between two people (upside-down, with the blade perpendicular with your arms).

In case you were wondering, I learned all of this in a Boy Scouts-y type organization.

Anyway, that's safety. When it comes to ethics and other traditions, there are certain things to bear in mind. In a nutshell, always respect the law and the customs of the land. This includes:
  • Knowing if you're required to have a permit to hunt.
  • Knowing if you're the right age to hunt.
  • Knowing what hunting equipment is legal.
  • Knowing if you're allowed to hunt in an area.
  • Knowing if a particular animal is legal to hunt and in-season.
  • Knowing what you're allowed to do with an animal once you've hunted it.
  • Respecting people who are uncomfortable with hunting.
That last part isn't a written law, but a custom. In my hunting class, I was taught about how to live in a world where others do not particularly like the idea of hunting. Not everybody supports hunting. Not everybody reading this blog likes the idea. Often times not even the family members of hunters like or support hunting. While I can't say that I will stop hunting for them, I will do my best to not parade hunting culture. It's sort of like nudist culture; fine on your own time, but you don't start displaying bodies out in public, since most would consider that obscene. The most basic rule that I learned is that if you're transporting the carcass of a deer, you should keep it under a tarp in a pickup truck. Do not tie it to the hood of your truck. This will upset people, even other hunters. Most people agree that an animal must be shown respect, and in America it is disrespectful to transport an uncovered carcass. There is some debate over whether or not it is okay to pose for a picture over a carcass; I respect either opinion, but I personally think that it's okay. With regards to the content of the picture, such as whether or not the hunter is smiling, or if the wounds are visible, or if the animal has been gutted, or if part of it has been turned into a trophy, I personally believe that the photograph must reflect what is considered acceptable and respectful in the area where the animal was hunted. A respectful photograph in South Dakota might look different than a respectful photograph in South Africa. When you hang up a photograph in a public space, such as a small private business that you own, make sure that it reflects the values of both the culture of the hunting grounds and the locality of the physical portrait. This is just my personal perspective. It is also important for hunters to know when not to brag about their accomplishments or even talk about hunting at all, since non-hunters might find it socially intrusive.

There are certain things that aren't illegal, but it is still the responsibility of the hunter to act in an ethical manner. A hunter should always make sure that his hunting does not hurt the ecosystem. The law does not always reflect what is healthy for the environment. If you're on a hunting trip in another country where a reckless behavior is legal, that legality does not make the hunting ethical. You must use your judgment. Some countries do not have proper protection laws against endangered species. Make sure you recognize an endangered species and don't take advantage of their availability. A hunter must be a hundred times better educated than the average person on what impact their activities leave on the animal kingdom, since they bear a great responsibility.

Another thing that isn't illegal everywhere, but one should strive to avoid, is any unnecessary animal cruelty. Never allow an animal to suffer. My father, who likes to fish, enjoys catching fish and tossing them back into the water. My sister objects to this, because it's pointless and doesn't serve any point. She does not object to fishing, so long as the fish's body is used in some way and to some end, but returning them to their place worse than how they were found is not only cruel, but completely pointless. I happen to agree with her. I wish that my father would stop that habit if only for her sake. Unfortunately, my father doesn't really care much about hunting ethics, or any kind of ethics, or respect for people, or human decency, or boundaries, or love, or kindness, or any notion that any sort of living people holds any sort of dignity worth his acknowledging, or any sense of obligation to treat people with respect, or comprehension that he has any obligation to follow any sort of reality other than his own, or any ability to show empathy, or any inkling that sadism is actually the opposite of integrity.

[I had to delete this paragraph after I realized just how angry this subject makes me.]

So basically, there are a lot of rules, written in civil laws and in natural laws, for what one cannot do as a hunter. Once you respect those, you have freedom to determine your own hunter's ethics and traditions with what's left over. Different people have their own perspectives on hunting, and hunters are not a homogeneous group. In some places, hunting is seen as a rite of passage or as a means of proving one's worth. it can be a strong tradition, or a weak tradition. Many people have religious perspectives on hunting; for some people, their religion forbids it altogether, and among those religions that permit hunting, there's no consensus of what it means.

How I was brought up, I was taught that a hunter must contribute to the land, or at the very least, do no harm. It's sort of like the Hippocratic Oath. I see hunting as a spiritual experience, one where you bond with nature, one where you take part in the circle of life. I see humankind as holding a special place as both the caretakers and the masters over nature. A friend of mine, a farmer and actress (uncommon combination, I know), takes care of pigs, truly loves them, and holds similar views as me. As it happens, she still ends up slaughtering her livestock. The way she sees it, in her role as master, she determines the course of her pigs' lives; how they're conceived, how they're raised, what sort of health and happiness they will know while they're on this Earth, when and how they will conclude their lives, and to what ends they will die. The deaths are painless, and they are meaningful in her eyes. When I apply similar principles as hunting, I think of my grandmother's garden. She trims her bushes, uproots weeds, and sometimes even uproots beautiful flowers as she alters and shapes her garden into a plot of land that she deems desirable. I see hunting in a similar way; you're in a garden, and the death of a game can be like the trimming of a bush. Hunting shapes nature in small ways. Hunting allows someone to become one with nature, to appreciate the small details of nature's garden. It's more interactive than merely hiking. It has an intimacy to it.

Others simply love the primal aspect of hunting. Remember how I compared hunting to nudism? The comparison holds up. It's natural. It's a means of rediscovering our core identity. Some might say that we've grown past this, that we're better and more sophisticated, but others have a mind that technology will never change our core identity. We are hunter-gatherers. We go out and we tame nature. We celebrate being at the top of the food chain. So long as no one is hunting anything endangered or off-season, I have no problem with this mentality.

There are those who do it because it's a sign of independence. It makes a personal statement. There are those who do it because it's better than playing video games. Some do it to be tough, which I find a weak reason, but if they respect the laws of man and nature, then there's no reason to stop them from hunting. Then there's people like my father, who talk about hunting all of the time and never do it, and demean people who don't hunt, and will do thinks that deliberately make people feel uncomfortable for the sake of being macho, and

[Another paragraph and a half deleted.]

Believe it or not, I do want to go hunting with my father sometime. It's an experience that I feel that I need to have, if we can agree on what it ethical and what the meaning of the hunt is. It would probably be one of my better experiences with him. He never developed beyond parallel play; that is, he doesn't actually interact with people all that much, but he still desires for people to do the same things that he's doing as he's doing them. If he's interested in something, he wants to do it, and he wants everyone else that he knows to do it with him. Without copying and pasting a definition of parallel play, that's how I'll describe it. Basically, hunting seems like the ideal situation for this, since you don't have to talk much while you're doing it, but it's definitely something that he reveres and considers constructive, so it just might form a bonding experience. So long as he doesn't revel in his capacity to cause pain and demean everything in this universe that isn't him, it just might work out.

[Fighting the temptation to fit in another rant.]

Outside of my father, I sometimes wonder what people I would want to hunt with. I wonder what sort of father I'd be. When I took my hunting class, I remember a picture in my textbook of a father hunting with a daughter. That image stuck with me, and to this day I see that as something that I very much want. I don't give much thought to these days on romance and marriage and other intimate mushy stuff, and I like the idea of staying single for my entire life because of how hardcore and na-na-na-na-can't-touch-this that sounds, but then I think of these things and remember what I'm missing out on. I think of what things that I can offer someone that I've never witnessed in my lifetime, and hopefully in ways that are far more loving and prosperous than they ever would have been if I had had the opportunity. I only just realized as I was writing this that if this ever happened, there's a good chance that I wouldn't walk with my children in my own homeland of the North American Great Planes, but in a far-off country like China, and this image of hunting with my children that I always had might be completely different from the one that happens in reality. I'm very much interested in international travel.

On the note of China, hunting has been suspended there altogether since 2006. It isn't a permanent ban, but rather the country has been trying to figure out its laws for the last decade. Most people, when they think of hunting, think of the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and the continent of Africa, but China has a rich history of hunting. Eventually, when they figure out their hunting laws, I would be very interested in going to the sparsely populated regions of the country to experience nature in ways that few Americans have thought of. Before hunting was put on hold, they had various species of deer, goats, gazelles, and argali. The argali are a group of wild mountain sheep with twisted horns, with several subspecies, and are the largest type of wild sheep in the world. They are unique to the Himalayan region. There were a few other species, such as the Tibetan Antelope and wild yaks that required special permits. Presumably, most of these will still be legal when hunting is allowed again, with updated quotas. China is also trying to figure out what hunting laws will apply to citizens, since oddly enough it was only legal for tourists to hunt before they started on their revisions.

There's also Australia. I have a friend who was raised in Australia. When we ran in to each other on our first day of college, we went on a nature walk, and we did it regularly. On one occasion, we saw a couple of deer roam by our dorms, and we pulled out knives and chased them through a construction site. We've also done other things in nature, such as camping on the Omaha Tribe Reservation, which we visited regularly (and really ought to again sometime, if we can get in contact with our friends there), playing broomball on a frozen lake, sledding and skiing down the hills of our river valley neighborhood back when winters were cold. He moved back to Australia for a year, and upon his return often asked me if I wanted to move there with him. There we can explore the slot canyons, roam the desert, and skedaddle through the natural parks. He also mentioned legal means of hunting. There's an open season on all non-native wildlife, and it doesn't stop there. As sacrilegious as it sounds to Americans who would never dream of shooting the national symbol of their country, Australians don't hesitate to shoot their signature animal. Kangaroos are considered by many to be pests, and furthermore, though exotic they aren't endangered, so Australian hunters commercially hunt over one-and-a-half million kangaroos per year. Traditional, pre-colonial means of hunting kangaroos included throwing sticks, where people would throw heavy sticks at kangaroos and break their necks. These throwing sticks come in a few shapes, the most recognizable being a boomerang shape. An actual boomerang is considered to be lighter, and it thrown in to trees in order to startle birds into flying up into traps set in the higher branches. Contrary to popular believe, boomerangs were not designed to cross-breed yo-yo's and Frisbee's. I really like my friend's idea, and I am seriously considering it, since our lives are advancing similarly and we will both be in an ideal place to move to Australia at about the same time.

Hunting with throwing sticks fits my idea of hunting. I do not consider hunting with guns to be unethical, and as an American I consider firearms to be a quintessential inclusion in my nation's mythology. However, older tools such as the bow and arrow have always grabbed my attention. They're less precise and more frustrating, but I wanted that challenge. Furthermore, firearms scare me on an innate level, in part because of negative experiences with you-know-who. [Okay, I didn't have to delete a paragraph this time, but I removed a particularly unpleasant sentence right here.] I like that it forces me to conserve my ammunition, and to go search for it when I miss my target. I like the ability to select my arrows and even decorate them, and that arrows can be retrieved from their targets, and that arrows marking special achievements can be preserved. I like that everything about a bow and arrow is completely manual and dependent upon my strength. I like the physical exertion that it takes to create the torque. I love the technical design and the engineering that goes in to a bow.

What I didn't appreciate was being asked by a physics teacher to bring my bow to class back in high school without providing a means for me to do it without frightening other students in the hallways. Again, this comes back to the ethics. Hunting wasn't even involved here, but I still wish I had found a way to respect other people's comfort and not to startle anyone. A mature and responsible owner of such a tool ought to know how to never cause disharmony with it, because even freedom from fear isn't a legal right, it is still right to never let them know fear. For those wondering, the bow was brought to class for an experiment in measuring different types of force. In hindsight, I should have proposed meeting him outside of school so that he could have safely and inconspicuously brought it to the lab himself.

As cool and as challenging as it is to hunt with a bow and arrow or just a simple throwing stick, hunting with firearms isn't a walk in the park, either. Many people believe that hunting defenseless animals with guns at a safe distance is cowardly and isn't an accomplishment. Naturally, this has a point, and it's obvious that I agree with it to some extent seeing as I chose to train in archery instead. However, the name of the sport is hunting, not shooting. The weapon is only a part of the hunting experience, and anyone who has taken a hunting class knows this. The reason why I have not yet gone on a serious hunting trip is that the actual act of hunting is time-consuming, and takes a lot of knowledge. A good hunter must know where to find game, how to track game, how to wait for game, and if necessary, how to lure game. Hunting isn't like an arcade game where the deer are right there in front of you and all you have to do is aim and shoot. The vast majority of the time, you aren't aiming at anything. The hunter must use a backdrop of technical know-how to read the environment and find animals. I never quite mastered that level of outdoorsmanship. In addition to knowing the art of hunting in and of itself, avid hunters ought to know how to deal with the elements when things go wrong. If someone goes on a hunting trip in the Canadian shield, he needs to know how to take care of himself if he gets lost, how to cope with hypothermia if he falls into a freezing river, and how to start fires and create shelter. Having a gun makes things a bit easier, but it's still a hardy experience. People can have different opinions on ethics, which all hunters must respect, but I also believe that non-hunters must all understand the challenge that hunters undertake. Hunters can't simply be dismissed as lazy, insecure people who claim a cheap sense of accomplishment.

One thing that most people can agree on, though, is that laser-sighted rifles are unfair. Even in America, these are illegal in every state but the great state of Texas. At least, last I checked. It might be illegal there now, too. I wouldn't argue against its legality if it was legal in my state, but I would strongly discourage hunters from using them and I wouldn't want to hunt with such a person as my partner. This isn't surprising from the guy who enjoys archery. Riflery is more precise, but people still often miss. Having laser sightings is like using cheat codes in a video game. Can you imagine Jumanji if you had cheat codes? Good luck impressing Karen Gillan with that sort of sportsmanship.

Overall, I do still expect to hunt with a rifle someday, especially if I ever decide to get sentimental and have kids, and especially if those kids are raised in America. Rifles are a part of American iconography, just as swords are a part of England's. It's a part of the culture, and I do desire to hunt in part for cultural reasons. They say you haven't truly experienced another country if you haven't tried their food, and in some ways that goes for hunting. Really, any old traditions having to do with subsistence. As I said earlier, if I was in Australia, I would want to hunt a kangaroo with a boomerang-shaped bludgeon, not only because of the sportmanship but also because of culture. I could, after all, hunt with a throwing stick anywhere, but I would specifically do it in Australia because of its connection to the heritage of the land. The same goes with America, which had a history of riflery since its very inception. One simply has not had the "full" American experience without understanding riflery.

This leads me to one last thing with relation to hunting methods ending with the "ry" suffix. I mentioned riflery, archery, boomerangery (that isn't an actual word), and there's one more. It's called falconry. This is, hands down, the single coolest method of hunting ever devised by man. For those not in the know, it's when you capture a raptor and train it to fetch wild quarry, like having a dog catch a . People who practice falconry are called falconers, and come to think of it, that would make for an awesome name for a baseball team. But I should get back to the circle of life before I get off on a tangent. While the game that Thorondor brings home might not make for as impressive of a photo-op as the triceratops that Steven Spielberg shot, you get to pose with a bird of prey on your wrist as your loyal companion. You can be that person. Throw in a steed, and I'm pretty sure that you'll be the coolest person in the room no matter where you go. You win in life. Game over.

Of course, it isn't just awesome because it looks cool, but because it truly is a great achievement and puts you in a rare tier of hunter. Falconers are the SEAL Team Six of hunters. You don't buy a raptor for this. You capture an actual wild animal and forge a bond with it. You need to spend a great deal of time every single day with it. You most likely need to be single. Many places don't hand out permits for it unless you take a written test on it. You usually end up spending a small fortune on books because of the sheer amount of knowledge required for both training and caretaking. It can take two years to finish an apprenticeship, and it takes over seven years to become a Master. Most falconers will refuse to teach you anything unless you provide proof of the seriousness of your commitment. You have to spend great deals of time in the middle of nowhere, far away from roads, rifle hunters, power lines, barbed-wire fences, and all other things that could put all the time that you invested with Hedwig at risk of amounting to nothing. You never feed them food from the pet store, but raw meat that you expect them to later hunt for you. You have to be emotionally prepared for the possibility that Hawkeye might pull a Richard Parker and dump you at any given moment, after so much effort was put in to trying to share your life with nature's most graceful predator?

Got that? Now throw in ethics. The law mandates that you provide your raptor proper housing, and that you have the proper equipment. The American federal government has no laws saying that falconry impacts the environment, but falconers have to hold themselves to a higher standard than what the law permits. A falconer owes it to other falconers not to damage the reputation of the craft, and must never harm any birds. If you or another falconer looses a bird, then custom dictates that you put serious effort into finding it. If you run out of money to support this lifestyle, you must pass your raptor on to another qualified falconer or safely release it into the wild. The future of the sport rests on your shoulders to sponsor apprentices. You shouldn't let your friends touch it. You shouldn't do anything commercial with it. And remember what I said earlier about photo-ops and being the coolest person in the room? The falconry community actually discourages publicity, and much of what you do will go without recognition. At this point, we're not just talking about ethics, but the mettle of one's character.

Clearly, it isn't for everyone. However, I hold the ethical expectations for falconers as the classic standard which all hunters should take inspiration from. The future of the sport depends on the nobility of its participants.



Upcoming Justice League Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Superman Nov 17 2017 · 26 views
Justice League, DC, superheroes and 2 more...
:kaukau: I'm working on it right now. The spoiler-free review should be up tomorrow. Due to the nature of this one, I think that I will write up a spoilers review as well shortly thereafter. The trailers left a lot up to speculation, and there are certain specific details in what they did stylistically and tonally that fundamentally affect how I want to review this film that can't be addressed in a completely spoiler-free review.

Before I write up my post here, I'm working on a video review of the film. I haven't done one of those since May, but I figured that this one is worth it. I'm definitely going to do a video review of STAR WARS in a month.



Re-releasing Titanic

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Movies Nov 15 2017 · 62 views
Titanic, rerelease, James Cameron
:kaukau: James Cameron updates a few minutes to look extra-high-definition, so naturally he's re-releasing it and hyping it up as being better than ever, even though most won't notice the difference. Judging by the trailers, he hasn't updates the effects at all. They hold up pretty well, but they're not quite on the same level as Gravity. You'd think that it would be fairly easy for that guy to update those effects shots when you see the whole ship, you know? I mean, he's James Cameron. I personally think that he should wait until he has some more Avatar money in his pockets and re-release the movie in five years, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film. I think that's more special than the twentieth, which to me seems arbitrary. But that's just me.

Don't get me wrong, I'll watch it anyway. I like it more than Avatar and want to eventually make more money over time and become the highest grossing film of all time again. What can I say? It's one of the most epic experiences that I have ever, and ever will, see in theatres. What do you guys think? Anyone else think that they might actually watch it? Or does the stupidity of it all get to you?



2010's Nostalgia

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Events, Life Nov 12 2017 · 55 views
:kaukau: When people eventually make a nostalgic period piece of this decade thirty years from now, how will they depict it? What will be some of the hall-marks? Here's what I predict (in no particular order):

1. The rise of Youtube as one of the most dominant mediums of information. Make sure to include references to Gangnam Style and PewDiePie.
2. Superhero movies. Lots and lots of superhero movies. As in holy freaking cow so many superhero movies. Four Avengers movies, a Justice League movie, two Spider-Man reboots, and several expanded universes.
3. STAR WARS resurgence.
4. Disney transcending to another dimension.
5. People stopped complaining about CGI.
6. Hand-drawn animated films made like unicorns.
7. Frozen. We just couldn't...let it go.
8. The epic conclusion of the Harry Potter series...and then its refusal to die.
9. Artsy directors began winning awards for using more long, unedited shots.
10. D-d-d-d-d-d-dubstep.
11. Memes practically becoming a second language.
12. Facebook becoming Big Brother.
13. Presidents (and even more powerful people, such as Ellen DeGeneres) having Twitter feeds.
14. The race make sure that we watch everything in 4K.
15. High-budget television shows with impressive long-form stories.
16. Fifty-dozen crime shows existing all at once.
17. The Big Bang Theory essentially being the only notable sitcom.
18. "YOLO," "bae," "snowflakes," "deplorables," "hashtag."
19. Instagram
20. Hipsters. Particularly young men who combine beards with glasses. Bowties are optional.
21. Taylor Swift switched from sweet country to edgy mainstream. And the subject matter of her most popular songs...well, do I really need to say it?
22. Dabbing
23. The 51st Superbowl (but only among serious football enthusiasts)
24. Schools started using laptops in their classrooms.
25. Low tolerance for bullying.
26. Every major song requiring a rap in the middle.
27. People s tarted experimenting with self-driving cars for the first time (although it won't be mainstream for another decade or two).
28. All of the baby boomers became old farts.
29. Vaping.
30. Instead of playing Dungeons and Dragons, those Stranger Things kids would have played Cloud games, CoD, and Skyrim, Minecraft, Five Nights at Freddy's, and Pokemon Go.
31. Siri
32. The U.S. female gymnasts won in the all-around and the individual twice in a row.
33. Michael Phelps finishing his career for the forgiveness of our sins. His peace he leaves us, his peace he gives us. Amen.

Once you get outside of culture and technology and look at world events, again in no particular order:

1. Canada elects really great hair
2. America elects really bad hair.
3. Tons of protests. Everywhere. By everyone.
4. LGBT rights.
5. Pope Francis.
6. Royal Weddings
7. North Korea goes bonkers.
8. Benjamin Netanyahu
9. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria
10. Osama bin Laden getting hammered.
11. ISIS
12. Brexit

Overall, I find this decade a bit more memorable than the 2000's. It should be pretty easy for future generations to build up a stereotype for 2010's atmosphere when making period pieces.



Thor: Ragnarok Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies Nov 07 2017 · 46 views
Thor 3, Thor Ragnarok and 3 more...
:kaukau: At this point, Marvel movies hardly need reviews.

1. Tons of humor as usual, except with slightly more humor.
2. Forgettable villain, as usual, except slightly more forgettable.
3. Loki is the best part, as usual, except slightly better...wait, actually, he's exactly as good as he's been in every single installment. You simply can't improve upon this guy.

So yeah, if you like what Marvel does, then this is going to be a great film. If you don't, then it will suck. Then there's people like me who don't love the formula but can easily tolerate it most of the time, except in movies like this, when the formula for humor really pushes my limits. In particular, I was frustrated that this movie got more caught up in the humor than in actual creativity, which I think the Guardians of the Galaxy films did better, and also that there were some scenes that could have been epic spectacles but were watered down in order to keep things lighthearted. As in, I was kind of excited to see a giant apocalypic battle for Asgard that was going to get my heart racing and playing with imaginary swords for days to come, but this film didn't give me that particular fantasy. It was primarily a comedy.

Other things that are probably worth mentioning:

4. Doctor Strange doesn't really appear in this movie much. I expected more, because of the scene at the end of his movie, but ultimately his involvement in this movie is just an extended version of that after-credits scene. He could have very easily been cut without changing anything in this film. His inclusion will also be a little confusing to people who haven't seen his film. Also, is it me, or is his depiction here all-powerful?
5. Natalie Portman contracted breakup-by-sequel-itis. What a time honored trope. Actually, I hate this trope. And while I get that a lot of people didn't quite like the character, I found that she was the one person who made Thor interesting as a character; otherwise, Thor exists to make Loki more interesting. And they spent more time on their romance than any other romance in the DCU, so I kind of wanted that investment to pay off. Curses!
6. Nope. Valkyrie isn't depict
7. The fight with the Hulk is the best part of the whole movie. Best fight scene, best humor, everything.
8. This movie actually does change the status-quo by quite a bit. I actually think that due to events in this film, there will be permanent consequences that change the landscape of the MCU. Perhaps not Black Panther, but definitely everything from Infinity War onward. Civil War was a pretty gutsy film on its own, but in context it's pretty easy how it only momentarily changes the status quo, whereas I personally think that this has much more permanent fallout.



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Username: Jean Valjean
Real name: N/A
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Heritage: Half Dutch, 25% Hungarian, 12.5% Swedish, 6.25% German and Irish
Physical description: Looks like the eleventh Doctor
Favorite food: Chicken, turkey, and beef.
Least favorite food: Vegetables of any kind
Favorite band: Queen
Favorite singer: Billy Joel
Favorite song: American Pie
Favorite movie: Schindler's List
Favorite TV show: Smallville & Arthur the Friendly Aardvark
Favorite play: Les Miserables
Favorite color: Silver
Second favorite color: Brown
Favorite board game: Risk
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Lucky Number: 53
Past-times: Writing, reading, politics, drawing
Political party: Republican
Religion: Christian
Language: Not English, but American.

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