SHAME ON YOU NORTHROP GRUMMAN

Recently the Northrop Grumman corporation has aired several commercials, that start off innocently enough with children playing games. In one commercial a boy playing hide and go seek imagines having X-ray vision, to find his chums; fast forward thirty or so years, a man overlooks a tactical map to find enemies of the United States and smiles. The obvious conclusion reached, is that the mans vivid imagination as a child has prompted him to become involved in the business of war.

A second commercial also portrays a group of children, this time, they are peering over a fence into a neighbors yard, watching as mysterious foot prints appear in the muddy soil. A football magically floats and then flies through the air to be caught by a waiting boy. Next we see a girl materialize with a smile of satisfaction for a job well done. Again fast forward into adulthood and we see a young woman developing stealth bombers for Northrop Grumman.

I get it, I know that Northrop Grumman needs bright young people, to infuse new ideas and new blood into their organization; but these commercials seem to be targeting children, kind of like Joe Camel did in the 199os’. Lets face it, the leather jacketed smoking camel, didn’t amuse many adult smokers; and I don’t believe that college aged men and women, or recent graduates, really fell for this crass exploitation of children to advance their agenda. I personally find these commercials offensive, because there are better ways to recruit young people. The military industrial complex Which fuels the war machine is not healthy for Children or any one else.

Children who were not raised in a war zone, don’t understand the horror and the gravity of war. They think of it as a game, where no one gets maimed or killed and at the end of the day every goes home, just like that game of hide and go seek. Commercials, such as the ones mentioned above, have a desensitizing affect on naive American children. War becomes just another game, a continuation of hide and go seek, except the end goal is to capture or kill the enemies of America.

These Northrop Grumman commercials air all day long, easily viewable to millions of children, every day of the week. You can’t tell me that this saturation of the airways does not have an effect on impressionable young people. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s the vestiges of world war two and the Korean war were all around, I attribute my own eagerness, to join the Marine corps and go to Viet Nam and fight for Democracy, as the result of a not so subtle type of brain washing, starting as early as seven years old. I collected army divisional patches and chevrons, my favorite toys were a plastic BAR and a german Luger squirt gun and my collection of plastic molded soldiers representing the axis and allied troops of WW II. The airways back then saturated us with patriotic tales from West point,Men of Annapolis,The Big picture, which aired on Saturday morning kid vid. There were uniforms and guns galore on television in those days I remember with fondness, Captain Gallant of the foreign legion, Tales of the 77th Bengal lancer, sergeant Bilco, Rin tin tin and many more.

This is what happens when society is in a constant state of war. Everything is affected our media our reasoning and our children. We are in the 16th year of an ever expanding war in the middle east, and the holdouts from a bygone era want to re-ignite the cold war, they are grooming another generation of cannon fodder, keeping us forever off balance and in a permanent state of conflict.

Into the Badlands (review)

I am so tired of dreary, sad, hopeless, end of the world scenarios. The Left overs, The Walking dead, Helix, the Twelve Monkeys and Childhood’s End are all supremely sad and depressing. They are must avoid television not must see TV. Even the comedy entry to this field of nightmares The Last man on Earth on Fox is without hope of redemption.

Into this litany of post apocalyptic dreariness comes Into the Badlands. It’s part Steampunk, part Diesel punk, part martial arts slugfest and all pure escapist fun. Screw Rotten Tomatoes low score of 65, I give the first season a rip roaring 99% I do have a few problems with the teen aged angst, but that’s just me. What I love about the show is the action and the intrigue and the character interaction. I am not a professional critic but I know what I like. If a show keeps me entertained, interested and wanting more then it is a success.

I wanted the season to last longer, I wanted to know more of the background of the boy with the mysterious powers; I wanted to know more about  Sunny, about the widow, about the Baron (Quinn) and about Sunny’s mentor Waldo, The Kick ass guy in the wheel chair. There aren’t a lot of television series that I want, or need to know this much information about the Characters, I think that says a lot about the quality of the writing on the show.

The cast is diverse and awesome and women with wit and sword keep the men constantly looking over their shoulders and on their toes. Orla Brady (Lydia), Sarah Bolger ( Jade), Emily Beecham, (The Widow) and Ally Ioannides (Tilda), are all dangerous in their own way, demonstrating that femininity is a two edged sword, literally and figuratively. It might be a man’s world but the women are about to shake it up.

The men Daniel Wu as Sunny the main protagonist of the story and Marton Csokas as the Baron the main antagonist, play a game of cat and very dangerous mouse while pretending to maintain the status quo. Precocious, petulant, spoiled Ryder (Oliver Stark), the Baron’s son lurks in the background with his own agenda to gain supremacy over his father and the rest of the Barons. Six episodes wasn’t enough for me, If you missed season 1, you’ll have to pay for it.  I’ll just have to wait for season 2 .

 

Why I hate Network Television

It seems like a conspiracy to drive me away personally. Every time that I think that I have found something worth while to watch on network television they cancel it. After years of forsaking network TV for cable and satellite I had made tentative steps back to the networks. I told myself that maybe things had changed; maybe they could retain my loyalty with quality original programming. I fooled myself into believing that they would give my favorite programs a chance to thrive before canceling them, just because there weren’t enough twenty year olds in short skirts and stripper shoes, or enough buffed shirtless dudes, or enough angst ridden vampires.

I have nothing against pretty young things in short skirts or booty shorts, however there is more to making quality TV shows than a liberal helpings of eye candy.

Case in point, Don’t trust the B in apartment 23 has both, but Kristen Ritter is very good at nonchalant delivery with flippant remarks, that are both inherently selfish and hilarious. James Van Der Beek whom I hated on Dawson’s creek, is a perfect parody of himself. The stories are absurdly funny and as whimsical as the lead character Chloe, a self styled Holly Go lightly type, only more conniving.

I got hooked on this show after only one episode and quickly became a fan. I actually caught up  on all of the episodes that I missed on my i Pad and was looking forward to another season of hijinks; when to my Chagrin I discovered that Apartment 23 was cancelled. I was furious. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, strike three for network TV.

Strike one happened in 20ll with the cancellation of The EVENT Featuring Blair Underwood as the president. They built the story up into a crescendo and then just ended it without a real ending. Talk about unfulfilling; it was like being fed a really good meal and then being forced to regurgitate it, or like having one bite of your favorite brownies. So what happened to this show, I still don’t know. Not enough shirtless guys maybe or short skirts, too many old people, I just don’t know. As a baby boomer I represent the majority of today’s present demographic. Yes there are more baby boomers than any other age group, yet we are poorly represented on Television. I don’t expect the airwaves to be flooded with codgers like my self but I do expect programming that appeals to me, with characters that I can relate to. The fact that Modern family still exist proves that people will watch more mature actors like Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara. I’m not a real fan of this show but at least it represents the over twenty demographic.

Strike two came more recently with the finale of one of my favorites, Last Resort, Where they reduced Andre Braugher’s stellar performance to just another Dead Bro Walking. See TV Tropes. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackDudeDiesFirst

I was really pumped about seeing another season, but alas it wasn’t to be. If this program was meant to be a mini series and not a regular weekly series, it should have been advertised as such. I love mini series, I am a big fan of them, some of my fondest TV memories are of mini series. I still remember such big winners as Roots, Winds of War, Rich man Poor man and Shogun. In a mini series you don’t have to degenerate into stand alone weekly episodes or two parters. Everything in a mini series is straight forward building up to the climax; there is no cataclysmic deceleration. What I saw last week was a rush job that may or may not have been planned ahead, (Break glass in case of cancellation). It was a real WTF moment that even fooled my direct TV info button; it was listed as season finale, not series finale. I was thinking that Andre Braugher i.e. Captain Marcus Chaplin was faking his own death until he could miraculously reappear at some opportune time and place to save the day. Instead the faithful viewers got a martyr and a montage of what happened to the rest of the crew and peripheral players, sort of.

We know that Kylie Sinclair assassinated the president But what happens after that? For instance what happens to her, not to mention her father. and is poor Sophie going to have to spend the rest of her life with Julian the local thug and exploiter of island resources. It’s apparent that he honestly loves her or she would have been killed in the finale, but it’s unfair to condemn her to such a dubious fate. Sophie was a real heroine in every sense of the word, her only crime was loving the wrong man and daring to hope for the return of his affection.

Another nagging question is Why didn’t CPO King go after Julian instead of trying to take out a representative of the Chinese government, (there are plenty more where that one came from). And what happens to the people of this obviously self sustaining Island, that is so dependent on out side resources now that modernity has reared it’s ugly head. I am pretty darn sure that what ever was in that vial of green stuff that Julian gave to Zheng Li will attract the attention of some sleazy corporation or another whether it’s Chinese, French or American. As long as Julian is calling the shots the future of the island is dark. but all that is moot since the series is over. I hate you ABC. This blunder was as monumental as canceling “The Event” or Sci Fi channels canceling “Caprica” while leaving “Sanctuary” intact. I love you Amanda Tapping, but that show sucked.

With both Last resort and Apt 23 gone the only thing still holding my interest is 666 Park Avenue, but knowing ABC for the CANCEL CRAZY KNUCKLEHEADS that they are, I don’t want to invest my time in watching yet another show that I like, only to see it unceremoniously dumped like Tess of the d’Urbervilles. So good bye and good riddance ABC; maybe I’ll see you in another five or ten years when I have forgotten the royal screwing that you gave me. By the way I haven’t watched the Sy Fy channel since a they Cancelled Caprica.

Here is a short list of shows that I loved but were cancelled
Skag (1980)
(note: From 1984 until 1990 all of my TV love was focused on Miami Vice.)
(note: From 1990 to 1999 I switched to cable,because of lame network programming.)
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
Dead like me (2003-2004)
Wonder falls (2004)
Men in trees (2006-2008)
Reaper (2007-2009)
Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
Heroes (2006-2010) I only mourn the first two seasons.

As you can see I am a Bryan Fuller fan but the networks aren’t. His shows have garnered a lot of awards; look it up on IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0298188/#Writer but for some inexplicable reason they keep getting cancelled. You can clearly see a pattern of Network incompetence degenerating further into an unwatchable mess devoid of any entertainment value. Why should I bother with the network hacks, when I can enjoy shows like Mad men, breaking bad. How to make it in America, Enlightened, The Borgias, Boardwalk empire, Magic City and many many more. So Arrivederci Networks until you can mend your evil ways.

Tech review: Vizio Smart TV

IMG_0578 (1)             MY STUPID SMART TV.                                                            Don’t be fooled by the name of a product. Just because something has the name smart in front of it, doesn’t mean that it is. I recently purchased the VIZIO E-Series Smart TV. I shied away from Apple TV because I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with MAC products, meaning I own an iPod touch an iPad and a iMac All in one computer. They have an incredibly steep learning curve for a guy like me, who started with a simple PC. My main beef with Apple is that their customer service is nothing more than a money grubbing scheme to bilk their customers. I swore to myself that I would never again buy another APPLE product. When they finally wear out or can no longer be upgraded all of my Apple devices will be replaced with anything other than Apple.

Back to Vizio. After setting up and tuning it, I discovered that almost everything available on the menu of internet apps, (most of them are subscription services), which means they charge a fee, are apps that aren’t needed , not wanted, or are redundant. I am an HBO subscriber but unfortunately They don’t make that available on this product. They do have Hulu plus, but why should I pay for that, when I have HBO GO. I feel that with a smart tv I should be able to access the same things that I can access from my iPad,or my TV. The Yahoo app store is so limited that it only took me two minutes to check out their inventory, pretty lame! I feel that I should be getting much more from a smart TV, especially when all of the hype and the sales pitch that I got from the guy at best buy. This thing should be amazing, but it’s not.

Here is what I expect but didn’t get. The ability to browse the internet, the ability to use a wireless keyboard, the ability to watch HBO GO, Adult Swim, Crunchy roll and a bunch of other favorites. I thought I would be able to play Mahjong,slots or download the Sims. None of these things which are common on my iPad are available to me. The only good thing that I can say about it, is that it functions as a normal television with a very slow remote and You Tube. I can not figure out the use of the pairing feature, since you can only  use it with You Tube and you see the exact same thing that you’re watching on your iPad. I can rent or purchase movies but I can do that on my  regular television and have a bigger screen. I can also and have watched movies on my Mac and my iPod and iPad, so no big deal. I can not lay up in bed and work on my blog. In short it’s just a TV that isn’t very smart after all, just a scam to sell more apps.

My Favorite westerns

It’s been about two years since I’ve added to my favorite List, so I think that it’s about time. Western Movies have been around since the beginning of the movie industry, beginning with The Great Train Robbery in 1903 I wasn’t around back then so it’s not on my list. However it was a ground breaking film in it’s day. I love old movies as much as I love the contemporary ones, probably more; so the list that I’ve compiled covers decades. They are the movies that I have grown up with and grown old with and continue to watch every time I see them on television. These movies are not in any numerical order, so here it goes.

HEAVEN’S GATE 1980 Directed and written by Michael Cimino. The reason this is one of my favorites is that I’m a history buff. Even though there’s a disclaimer in the credits stating it is not based on actual event, it actually is. The Johnson county range war is the basis for countless Movies,novels and tv shows. Although most accounts of the era blamed them darn squatter, or them darn rustlers, contemporary history judges the cattle barons as the bad guys. I love this movie’s atmosphere, cinematography and costumes. It’s a long movie, but I never get tired of watching it. The cast is an all star line up including Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Bridges, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt, Joseph Cotton, Isabelle Huppert, Sam Waterston and many others. Great action, engaging story, excellent cast.

JOHNNY GUITAR 1954: Starring Joan Crawford Mercedes McCambridge and Sterling Hayden, Directed by Nicholas Ray,also known for Rebel without a cause. Quite possibly this is the first feminist western. Don’t be fooled by the name, Johnny Guitar might as well be called Johnny McGuffin. The real story is the epic battle between two great female characters;Vienna, played by Crawford and Emma played by McCambridge. These two women are the perfect storm converging on a small town, bringing destruction with them. There will be blood.

THE LONG RIDERS 1980: Directed by Walter hill and starring just about every set of working siblings in Hollywood at the time. You can’t beat this line up: David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, James Keach, Stacy Keach, Dennis Quaid, Randy Quaid,Christopher Guest and Nicholas Guest. Only Sam and Timothy Bottoms are missing from this flick. They are supported by a cast of all time favorites. This is a cult classic far superior to the 2007 snooze fest (The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert ford). If you love westerns and shoot em ups, this is a must see film.

OPEN RANGE 2003: Directed by Kevin Costner, Starring Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall you Can’t miss with these two power hitters. This is a gritty, emotional, unflinching look at the old west, not your Granddad’s western. These are hard men but not hardened killers Their humanity unexpectedly shines through, relenting the death of their enemy.

THE OXBOW INCIDENT 1943: Directed by William Wellman, Starring Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn. This is a morality play in western dress, not a hell bent for leather, six shooter horse opera. It is disturbing and quiet and portrays the lynching of three innocent men, for the dastardly and despicable crime that it is. Henry Fonda is the voice of reason that everyone ignores. The unlucky drifters come to a a sad and sobering end and justice is denied.

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE 1946: Directed by John Ford, Starring Henry Fonda, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond,Victor Mature and linda Darnell. When John Ford calls all the big names answer. This is one of my favorite narratives of the famous Clanton Earp feud, that sparked the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. It is gritty grim and dark just like the men that it portrays. The atmosphere of anger pervades the entire movie and it’s easy to see why these men clashed. This is the western that is the benchmark for all the Wyatt Earp movies that came after it, and most other westerns as well.

PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID 1973: Directed by Sam Peckinpah Starring James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson. Sam Peckinpah has always been one of my favorite directors. He not only weaves a great story, he expertly integrates the action into the over all plot. Pat Garret and Billy the kid has some great character studies, that pull you into that world. Slim Pickens gives an extremely touching performance as an over the hill lawman, Who gives his last full measure of devotion to enforcing the law, even though he didn’t have to. Veteran western movie actress Katy Jurado, plays his wife who supports his decision, even though she knows that it might result in his death. The scene with Pickens and Jurado is one of the more memorable in western movies.

THE WILD BUNCH 1969: Directed by Sam Peckinpah Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oats and Robert Ryan. This is a stark character study of really really bad men, who go out in a blaze of glory, in retaliation over the death of a friend. This is one of the bloodiest onscreen gunfights ever. Peckinpah set the bar so high that no one has been able to duplicate it. If you haven’t seen this movie it’s worth a try.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN 1960:Directed by John Sturges, Starring Yul Brynner as the good guy and Eli Wallach as the bad guy. This was my first A-list western and it was a wonderful introduction to some of the best young stars of the day. just think Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn and Horst Bucholz all in one movie. When I found out some years later in high school, that the Magnificent Seven was based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, Seven Samurai, it made me aware of the fact that Hollywood wasn’t the center of the movie universe. I also became a lifelong fan of Kurosawa. I’m so glad that its rousing Oscar nominated theme by Elmer Bernstein is remembered, it still sounds awesome. This film is a solid classic and is scheduled for a 2017 remake.

HIGH NOON 1952: Directed by Fred Zinnemann, Starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. This is the movie That Cooper is most remembered for, not the Fountain head or Sergeant York. This is the predecessor to the lone hero going against impossible odds trope, later exemplified by movies like Pale rider and high plains drifter.

TOMBSTONE 1993: Directed by George Cosmatos and Kevin Jarre (uncredited) Starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer with a strong supporting cast that includes Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton. Billy Zane, Powers Booth and Dana Delaney. This is another retelling of the famous gun fight in the empty lot next to that photo place, that is known as the gun fight at the O K Corral.

PALE RIDER 1985: Directed by Clint Eastwood, Starring Clint Eastwood, Carrie Snodgrass, Michael Moriarty and iconic television star John Russell. This is a classic lone hero yarn, where a gun toting, wandering preacher descends on a mining town and deals out death, like an avenging angel. Like most movies of this sort, the week kneed town folk turn their backs, as the local bully rides rough shod over everyone, doing whatever he pleases, because he’s rich, must be a conservative. I love this movie because revenge is a dish that’s best served cold.

MCCABE AND MRS MILLER 1971: Directed by Robert Altman, starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Rene Auberjonois. More of a north western than a western, filmed in British Columbia,that’s right it was filmed in Canada and you can feel the chill. It kind of makes you wonder why people would leave civilization to move to this wet, dirty, cold, desolate place. The answer is money of course. the lure of gold or silver. The town of Presbyterian church is a mining boomtown. McCabe is a gambler and wannabe pimp and Mrs. Miller is an English whore. Between the two of them they plan to make money from the miners. It is an engaging and atmospheric, dark and brooding, one of the truly great westerns.

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY:1966 Directed by Sergio Leone, Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. A sweeping epic of a western that starts during the war between the states, and moves across the dusty western landscape like a rattle snake. It’s about greed, friendship and betrayal and a clash of wills that can only end badly. This movie is dirty, gruff and like the old west unpolished. Sergio Leone sees the old west through the eyes of a foreigner stripped of its white hats and nickel plated six shooters, he brings a taste of ugly realism to the screen. After this move American westerns were never the same.

DESTRY RIDES AGAIN 1939: Directed by George Marshall, Starring James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich and Brian Donlevy. Jimmy Stewart plays a peace loving law man who doesn’t resort to gun play to solve all of his problems. The son of a famous lawman helps out an old family friend. Other than the title, the movie bears no resemblance to the Max Brand novel of the same name. It’s a light hearted romp in a frontier town with Stewart as the towns moral compass. This was always one of my childhood favorites on TV.

JEREMIAH JOHNSON 1972: Directed by Sydney Pollack, Starring Robert Redford Will Geer and Delle bolton. A greenhorn retreats to the isolation of the mountains and becomes a mountain man.Friends in the wilderness are few and far in-between, but he prefers it that way. The lessons are hard ones, as he first learns to fight Indians and then learns how to coexist with them. His relationship with nature is just as rough, but he survives and even gains a native wife. In the end he is at one with nature, reveling in it’s solitude and stark beauty.

HONERABLE MENTION GOES TO

SILVERADO 1985: Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, Starring Kevin Klein, Danny Glover, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner.

THE QUICK AND THE DEAD 1995: Directed by Sam Raimi, Starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and Leo DiCaprio

QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER 1990: Directed by Simon Wincer, Starring Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo and Allen Rickman

Those Happy, Sappy Hallmark Christmas Movies

It’s that time of year again, when the Hallmark channel starts rolling out those goofy, sentimental Christmas movies and there are a lot of them. That’s right folks, they have a whole arsenal of the oozy ,gooey sentimental sap for your viewing pleasure. If you’re not familiar with the Hallmark channel, this is the one time of the year when I actually recommend it. If you are feeling the pre-Christmas Blahs like I so often do; dreading those Pre-Chirstmas chores, then the Hallmark Channel is the place to go for a quick infusion of the Christmas spirit minus, the religious aspect of course. After all, Americans have been celebrating secular Christmas for at least a century or more, ever since that famous letter to the New York Sun by Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897 asking the question; Is there a Santa Claus?

Incidentally, or not, Hallmark has been selling Christmas card since 1915, so Why shouldn’t they sell Christmas movies on Television. What a great platform to push their product, while injecting us all with the Christmas spirit. All of that aside, I find that their movies actually make me feel good about this time of the year. For an old curmudgeon like me, feeling good is a big plus. The Hallmark Holiday movies provide a much needed lift for someone like me, who is suffering from bad news syndrome. This is a time when I can get get behind happy fluff and put all of the horrible stuff on hold until next year. I highly recommend a Hallmark marathon, of romantic sappy, secular Christmas movies to anyone needing a lift. Try watching them with friends or family, or have a tweet-athon while watching. You might be surprised by how much fun you can have, making fun of these sentimental fluff pieces. They are perfectly designed to hit your soft spot, like it or not. “HAPPY FESTIVUS EVERYBODY!”

What’s wrong with Disney?

The world is a scary place especially for we older folks, who have been around long enough to watch it deteriorate. So to get away from stress, it was suggested to me by a doctor no less, to separate myself from the stress, by not watching the news.  Yes, watching the news can be a source of stress. Watching Fox can be especially stressful because they are pure fear mongers and hate mongers. My favorite news channels are BBC and PBS which I consider to be far more fair and balanced than Fox, which is slanted and skewed and mentally unbalanced. Of course people accuse me of being a leftist radical because I listen to Al JAM, Link TV and Free Speech TV, along with moderate dosages of C-Span, CNN and MSNBC. So I watch it all and I think that I have a pretty fair grasp on what’s happening. To make a long story short, I get pretty overloaded on news most of it bad. So what does all this have to do with Disney.

WELL! Disney,Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon are a good source of  non stressful programs. Ramsey’s nightmare Kitchens has proven too taxing, Flip this house too feisty, Gear heads too annoying, Lockup Raw way too depressing and the World at War too warlike. Sometimes I just like to sit back and watch innocuous subject matter and turn off the frantic part of my brain. I am kind of a cartoon addict when I let my inner child out on saturday morning, the traditional prime time for kid vid. I am also a shameless channel surfer so I have sampled a lot of stuff.  One of the programs that I discovered while channel surfing was Disney XD,s Lab Rats, a live action show probably aimed a younger teens. The show features three bionic teens, Adam, Bree and Chase. Sounds cool at face value, teenaged super heroes, but if you examine what’s underneath the premise it becomes very dark.

To start with the teens were originally locked down in a basement lab, in glass tubes, until discovered by the precocious and annoying Leo, their defacto brother. They were only let out to perform various dangerous missions deemed too dangerous for humans. Here is were I find a problem with this premise, first this is the definition of what bionic means. (bionic |bīˈänik|adjective having artificial body parts,esp.electro-mechanicalones.• informal having ordinary human powers increased by the aid of bionic devices,real or fictional).  So if these are real children, and let’s not forget that they are minors; then why are they being used to take on missions that are beyond the capabilities of adults. In effect they are being exploited as child soldiers, and we all know how hilarious child soldiers are. Their so called father, or creator or what ever he is, is guilty of not only abuse, but of crimes against humanity. Davenport the billionaire inventor is also guilty of illegal experimentation on humans. If these children were androids, (robots that resemble humans) then that would be more palatable, but not by much. So what we have here is a man who should be cast as a villain, instead being a bumbling comic relief character. Oh He’s so rich that he’s wacky, an eccentric genius. I guess he suffers from Afluenza, to rich to know better.

The questions that this series raised for me are; where did these children come from? who are their actual parents? Were they created from a collection of body parts like Frakenstein’s Monster? Are they orphans? Did they give explicit permission to be experimented on. How much of their humanity has been compromised to add the bionic enhancements.? But first and foremost, why does Donald Davenport, think that it’s okay to keep human beings caged like animals in his basement?  There is a degree of creepiness that pervades this entire scenario, that is quite frankly disturbing. This show may appear to be cute and cool on the outside, but underneath it is as disturbing as it gets. Famous anime series like Ghost in the Shell and Gunslinger Girl, have explored this same subject, but without pulling any punches, or sugar coating it. Disney shows a distinct lack of concern about the lessons learned and conclusions drawn from this piece of dark fluff. Things need to be explained about the origins of these three teens and their actual status, i.e. are they humans or machines?

Female Oriented

I am compiling this list at the suggestion of my daughter; or rather she compiled the list for me, and dictated it to me over the phone. We are constantly having discussions about feminism and most of  the time I agree with her. Movies are one of the things that we most often agree on. Women are under represented in Hollywood both behind the camera and in front of the camera; and in spite of the success of movies such as Bridesmaids, My big fat Greek wedding, and Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker and Zero Dark thirty women are still a neglected part of the Hollywood scene.

The powers that be, would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars on crap like John Carter (250 Million) which barely broke even, Oblivion (120 million) and Pacific Rim, a 190 million dollar clinker. Luckily, Pacific Rim made most of its income from foreign box office receipts. If these Movies had been entirely dependent of domestic gross they would have lost big money. On the other hand Bridesmaids made 169 million with a production budget of 32 million. My Big Fat Greek wedding grossed over 241 million domestic Box office on a 5 million dollar budget.         Zero Dark Thirty had the largest budget with 40 million but still doubled its money with a 95 million domestic box office gross, with a very limited opening. Women can make Hollywood money but they still get the exclusive boys club treatment (no girls allowed).

Consequently what you get for the female demographic, is a lot of Rom Com stinkers written by men: examples, This means War, and the Five year engagement (see Box office Mojo for their grosses). So now that I’ve ranted like the curmudgeonly old man that I am, let’s get to the list of movies that my daughter swears by, that deal with real female relationships and are female oriented. (Note I don’t have these ranked because I’ve only seen three on the list).

JOHNNY GUITAR

LABYRINTH

PARTY GIRL

MI VIDA LOCA

GAS FOOD LODGING

ALL ABOUT EVE

THE WOMEN

CARRIE

HEATHERS

NEW WATERFORD GIRL

WITCHES OF EASTWICKE

THIRTEEN

LITTLE WOMEN

MERMAIDS

BAGDAD CAFE

9 TO 5

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM

MISS FIRECRACKER

THE CRAFT

HEAVENLY  CREATURES

WHITE OLEANDER

BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER

SHIRLEY VALENTINE

Information and stats for these movies can be found on IMDB http://www.imdb.com/?ref_=nv_home

The Awesome Ladies of Television

I am a big fan of strong women in media. and not just those cat suited kick ass vixens as portrayed in recent movies and TV.   I’m talking about strong Character driven roles, where a lady can show off her acting chops rather than her curves. Some times less skin is better. When the plot drives the action and not vice versa, what you get is more enjoyment out of the story. Case in point is the movie Barbwire, starring Pam Anderson. Sure you get lots of T&A but it was a totally unmemorable waste of time. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money to watch it on the big screen. On the other hand you have Lori Petty in Tank Girl, an equally  Cheesy story but so much more re watchable. I was going to use Helen Mirren in The Debt as an example, but that would be like comparing a Waterford crystal goblet to a Kmart plastic cup, but you get the point. So this week I’m dedicating this blog to my favorite TV strong women.

TATIANA MASLANY: ORPHAN BLACK

If you get BBC America check out Tatiana, as she convincingly plays a collection of clones, all with different lives and different personalities, and all of them potentially dangerous. The fact that the clones are all so different raises the question is it nature or nurturing that makes us who and what we are. They range from a mild mannered soccer mom, to a marginally mad psycho and a con artist.This is like an ongoing acting exercise and Tatiana Maslany does a great job managing it. She shows strength, vulnerability and adaptability all in one package.

EMILIA CLARKE: GAME OF THRONES

As Danaerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) rules. Rising from a frightened little girl, barely in her teens, to a fearsome Khaleesi of the Dothraki horsemen. The Dothraki are a warlike nomadic people in the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. She is wise beyond her age and has out smarted all of the men who sought to exploit her. Danaerys is a real survivor.

ANNA SILK: LOST GIRL

Bo (Anna Silk) is literally a soul sucking succubus and not the kind that you hear divorced guys talk about. She will actually drain you of your life force and leave nothing but an empty shell. She’s the protagonist of the series, so everybody else is so much worse, that she looks like the nice one. She is strong, loyal and doesn’t depend on a man to save her or validate her existence.

LUCY LIU: ELEMENTARY

Dr. Joan Watson is not the bumbling comic relief of the old Basil Rathbone movies. She is as brilliant as her charge, a capable and competent healer and sobriety coach. She also sees things that Holmes doesn’t, providing a fresh pair of eyes when Holmes hits a snag.

KATEY SEGAL: SONS OF ANARCHY

Gemma Teller Morrow is one mean motorcycle mama. She not only has to keep her husband and her son from killing each other; she has to tread the mine field between family life and Matriarchy of an outlaw biker gang. She has endured many trials and tribulations but still manages to be the moral center in a family that has few morals.

KRYSTEN RITTER: Don’t trust the B______ in APARTMENT 23

Chloe, is Holly Golightly without a conscience. She’s the manic pixie girl on drugs and alcohol who bulldozes her way through life, with panache and pure moxie. She is the text book definition of a brazen hussy, a sociopath who always manages to land on her feet. I have no doubt that Chloe could survive in any environment.

REBECCA FERGUSON: THE WHITE QUEEN

FAYE MARSAY

AMANDA HALE

Watching this trio of ambitious ladies, is like watching a female version of the Good the Bad and the Ugly, without the good. They cajole, prod, instigate and manipulate the menfolk like pawns in a chess game, while vying for supremacy in Jolly old England. The winners get to sit on this cool throne and wear a heavy crown. The losers get skewered, smothered, drowned in wine vats, poisoned and beheaded. The headsman’s axe gets a regular workout on this show, some of them deserve it, others just had the misfortune to get caught up in this war of the women.

LENA HEADEY: GAME OF THRONES

Cersei Lannister is just as capable as her brothers, Tyrion and Jaime and as cunning as her father and would probably make a better monarch. Her one weakness, is her devotion to her sadistic bully of a son. Prince Joffrey is a hand full, whose favorite sport is abusing and killing whores and being a bad ruler.  Poor Cersei has to handle him, while simultaneously handling the intrigues of court life and placating her Father.

ELIZABETH MOSS & CHRISTINA HENDRICKS: MAD MEN

Peggy Olsen (Moss) and Joan Harris (Hendricks) are two women in the male dominated world of Madison avenue ad agencies. These ladies are as smart as, if not smarter than most of their male counterparts. They have taken divergent paths to get to the top but neither one has had it easy. They have endured good old fashioned sexism and generally bad male attitudes, all while watching lesser males be promoted over them. Both women have prevailed in an atmosphere that has literally driven one of their male colleagues to suicide.

ANNA GUNN: BREAKING BAD

Skyler White on the outside is a typical suburban housewife and working mom. In reality she is her husband’s partner in crime. Walter White aka. Heisenberg is a rogue chemistry professor, tuned meth drug lord and the most dangerous man in Albuquerque.  Skyler gets to watch her mild mannered doormat of a spouse degenerate into a violent criminal mastermind. When she first discovers Walters wrong doing she is appalled, but eventually she succumbs to the lure of filthy lucre, for the sake of her children. In spite of everything she manages to survive, masterfully maneuvering to evade prosecution.

SPECIAL MENTION GOES TO

ANNA LISE PHILLIPS:  REVOLUTION (as Maggie Foster) I know that she was killed off in the first season, When she died, I stopped watching. Awesome Lady.

MAISIE WILLIAMS: GAME OF THRONES (as Arya Stark) Beware of the pointy end of her sword.

GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE: GAME OF THRONES (as Brienne of Tarth) Physically and morally strong she’s a lady and a knight.

As you can tell I am a game of thrones fan, and just about all of the main female characters are strong, in every way imaginable. Great crafting of female characters Mister Martin.

Star Maidens: a really, really, really, guilty pleasure

One of the things that I love about  You Tube, is its function as a defacto Archive of vintage movies and television. I spent a good part of this winter hunkered down in my snow bunker, searching You Tube for ancient gems. So far I have found more than enough to keep me busy on those cold winter nights. Two of my favorites from  my childhood (in the 1950’s) were the 1930’s serial version of Flash gordon and Buck Rogers; incidentally both of these starred Buster Crabbe. I have already watched all of the episodes of both serials

On further examination I have rediscovered some of those great 1970’s and 80’s Sci-Fi TV show that I had forgotten long ago, like Space 1999. However there are some shows that I have never seen before, because they are from the U.K. and were not aired on American television. One of the few Brit Sci-Fi shows that aired on American TV. was and still is Doctor Who, (on BBC America). I am not familiar with British TV from the 70’s and 80’s so when I discovered STAR MAIDENS I was pleasantly surprised. I must admit that it is slightly silly and campy, but in a good way; unlike the laughable and awful Galactica 1980 which was a total flop.

Star Maidens a 1976 British and German production, is one of those rare reflections of contemporary society that in retrospect is quite progressive. It is representative of second wave feminism because it stands gender roles on their heads and highlights the pernicious and banal male attitudes of the time. Some of these attitudes still persist today. The main premise of the story takes the gender  role reversal to its logical conclusion; the nightmare of all Macho male misogynist, a Female dominated society.

Plot summary: the Planet Medusa is struck by a roque asteroid and forced out of its own orbit and strays into the orbit of our sun. The remnants of their population have moved underground and developed a matriarchal society. I guess the reason for this mega disaster back story, was solely for the purpose of moving the planet close enough to Earth for the action to take place.

Two lowly male servants, Adam and Shem virtually enslaved by the evil dominating women, discover that they are close enough to another planet to risk an escape. The reason why they want to escape this planet inhabited by oodles of beautiful women, who use them for sex as well as labor, is that they are tired of not being taken seriously and being condescended to. Don’t you worry your pretty little head, let a woman do that for you. Your man brain is too small to comprehend such technical things. These are the kind of attitudes that the women of Medusa have toward their unworthy male domestics and laborers. These are the common complaints of women in our own society and it is hilarious to see the tables turned.

Adam (a male domestic) and Shem (a mechanic) steal a space ship and high-tail it to the big blue marble. The women are incredulous about the escape and don’t believe that the men could actually make the journey without killing themselves. Much to the women’s dismay the bumbling men actually make it to earth alive. The first thing they do upon arrival is try to converse with a cow and then eat some grass. These guys aren’t really the brightest bulbs in the light shop.

The Medusans then dispatch Fulvia and Octavia in the Hunter ship Nemesis to apprehend the two male fugitives. It’s for their own good, men are too stupid to survive on their own. On earth Octavia and Fulvia come head to head with the insolent and arrogant Earth men and start making demands for the return of their property. In the mean time Adam and Shem have turned themselves in, and ask for political asylum.

The women discover that they can’t reason with unreasonable males and kidnap two scientist Liz Becker and Rudy Schmidt and abscond with them back to Medusa. Immediately upon their arrival the pair is quickly separated and begin to learn what is expected of them. Liz is set up in luxurious accommodations, while Rudy is set up in a male barracks with the other sausages. It is soon obvious that Liz loves her new status and that Rudy hates his new life on Planet Medusa. When it is explained to him, how men had mishandled the planet for thousands of years, before the women turned it into a peaceful paradise, (for women) he says that he would rather live on a planet of war and greed than stay on medusa.

I guess that Rudy doesn’t  believe in the old adage that, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”  The underlying themes of, freedom is relative and empathy is impossible are explored in a light hearted manner. Rudy insulated by his male superiority, feels enslaved, while Liz feels liberated in a matriarchal society; although she claims, she just wants to return to Earth and be Rudy’s assistant.

As the story progresses Fulvia makes her way back to Earth, albeit against orders, to try to retrieve Adam, her domestic who she obviously loves. On earth Fulvia is kinda put in her place but not quite as she learns the quirks of earthly behavior.

This show is a fun diversion full of feminist themes, as well as a a lesson in tolerance and gender parity. As campy as it is, Star Maidens is a satirical denunciation of sexism that’s done in my opinion in a non offensive way. It is worth a watch if you like campy Sci-Fi with intelligent themes.