Joss Whedon unravels as political cancer eats his soul

Hollywood director Joss Whedon has been on a slow-motion political implosion for about six years, but last week it became much more obvious when he wished one of his fellow Americans were raped — by a rhino. Yes, as bizarre as it is for your friendly neighborhood blogger to chronicle this sad turn of events, on some level it is not the surprising. After all, Mr. Whedon also began using coup-like rhetoric after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

If you want more details on Mr. Whedon’s embrace of Ultron-level hate, then check out my latest YouTube video and let me know what you think in the comments section below. And, if you like the format, then be sure to subscribe for regular updates.

Renew Your Vows #3: Annie May Parker shines in spotlight

Gerry Conway and Ryan Stegman continue to roll with Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #3. If you’re looking for a Spider-Man book worth picking up, then this is the one. It’s not perfect, but the energy and enthusiasm the creative team brings to the book more than makes up for any editorial hiccups.

Check out my latest YouTube video below and let me know what you think of the issue, particularly my one minor gripe on the company’s continued habit of inserting political correctness across the line.

Daredevil #15: Soule hits creative bullseye — again

It wasn’t too long ago that your friendly neighborhood blogger was lamenting the decision by Marvel in recent years to ignore Daredevil’s Catholicism. Writer Charles Soule assured me on Twitter that I would “love” DD #15, and he was not lying. Finally — finally — Matt Murdock returns to the Church to discuss good and evil with men who tackle such issues for a living.

Check out my latest YouTube review of Mr. Soule’s work and let me know what you think in the comments section below. As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

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Mark Waid: ‘Every superhero you love’ is a SJW

There was once a time when activist-writers tried to hide their attempts to hijack comic books and turn them into little more than social-justice propaganda. Writer Mark Waid has changed all that. This week he took to Twitter and told the world that “every superhero you love” marches (or flies or teleports) under a SJW banner.

Check out my latest YouTube video on Mr. Waid’s opinion that comic book writers should look to anti-free speech ideologues for inspiration.

Marvel’s Nick Spencer plays SJW long-ball with Captain America

The was once a time when comic book writers were able to weave tales that turned characters like Spider-Man and Captain America into cultural icons. Creators may have touched on politics, but in general those who penned Marvel’s adventures transcended partisan hackery. They delivered work that resonated with multiple generations, which is one of the many reasons why Marvel Studios is an industry force to be reckoned with in 2017.

Somewhere along the line it was decided within the Mighty Marvel Offices that superheroes should be transformed from modern mythological figures into vehicles for forwarding a political agenda. They were diminished into little more than tools for political manipulation, and for evidence of that one needs to look no further than the work of Nick Spencer, writer of Sam Wilson: Captain America.

My latest YouTube video covers Mr. Spencer’s savvy strategy and tactics for influencing culture through comic books, which seems a bit similar to those employed by comedian Jon Stewart. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section blow. I’m always interested in hearing your opinions on the writer at hand or the industry as whole.

Marvel’s zero-sum politics needlessly damage the comics industry

The partisan politics of modern Marvel Comics creators is a mainstay of this blog, but for the most part it is usually discussed within the context of whatever “red state vs. blue state” argument makes headlines each week. Today, however, I’d like to dig a little deeper into the zero-sum politics of these writers and artists. In short, they act as if any positive development for “Character A” means that “Character B” is negatively affected.

For instance, Tony Stark’s existence as Iron Man was problematic for writer Brian Michael Bendis’ to introduce Ironheart — Riri Williams. Normal people have no problem with a young girl named Riri flying around the Marvel Universe while Mr. Stark does his thing. That is not the case for Marvel writers these days. In the mind of the modern Marvel creator, Mr. Stark needed to be hurt or sidelined or have his reputation sullied in some way so that a minority female character could succeed.

This line of thinking has poisoned Marvel’s decision-making from the top down in recent years, and as long as it continues the industry as a whole will needlessly suffer. For more details on this, be sure to check out my latest YouTube video on the subject. Then, if you like what you’ve seen, be sure subscribe for regular updates.

As always, make sure to let me know what you think in the comments section below.

‘Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging’: Junger’s must-read explains why America is tearing itself apart

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Roughly 17 years ago I exited the military after a stint as a mechanized infantryman in the U.S. Army. Even though the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and the nation’s “long war” had not yet begun, I found myself having a difficult time with the transition to civilian life. Understanding why I missed my old platoon — and why I felt a growing fear and sadness for the country I loved — took years (and a blog like this) to figure out, but author and former war reporter Sebastian Junger articulates it all in his must-read book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Americans who have not lived under a rock for the past 20 years have witnessed the slow-motion implosion of our culture.

  • Cable news pundits obsessively talk of “red states” and “blue states.”
  • The politics of personal destruction reigns supreme.
  • Saying “all lives matter” is interpreted in a Twilight Zone-ish twist by millions of people as somehow racist.
  • Americans watch carefully constructed social-media feeds that tell them all Republicans are the equivalent of Darth Vader, or that all Democrats have shrines to Fidel Castro in their bedroom.

In short, the modern world is deficient in something that is causing tens-of-millions of people to feel isolated, alone, and empty. The void is filled with confusion, and that in turn fuels the kind of anger and hate that was the hallmark of the 2016 election cycle.

Why is it that many soldiers and civilians who have lived through war sometimes get nostalgic for it?

What are the consequences for society when a person “living in a modern city or suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day — or an entire life — mostly encountering complete strangers”?

Why are we often surrounded by others, yet “feel deeply, dangerously alone”?

One of the answers can be found in tribal societies. And no, your friendly neighborhood blogger is not saying Native Americans should have won the clash of civilizations at our nation’s inception. I am merely saying, like Mr. Junger, that we can learn from their ability to provide “the three pillars of self-determination — autonomy, competence, and community.”

Mr. Junger writes:

“After World War II, many Londoners claimed to miss the exciting and perilous days of the Blitz. (“I wouldn’t mind having an evening like it, say, once a week — ordinarily there’s no excitement,” one man commented to Mass-Observation about the air raids), and the war that is missed doesn’t even have to be a shooting war: “I am a survivor of the AIDS epidemic,” an American man wrote in 2014 on the comment board of an online lecture about war. “Now that AIDS is no longer a death sentence, I must admit that I miss those days of extreme brotherhood…which led to deep emotions and understandings that are above anything I have felt since the plague years.”

What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender. There are obvious stresses on a person in a group, but there may be even greater stresses on a person in isolation, so during disasters there is a net gain in well-being. Most primates, including humans, are intensely social, and there are very few instances of lone primates surviving in the wild. …

Whatever the technological advances of modern society — and they’re near miraculous — the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawn seem to be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.” — (Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2016), 92-93.

Tribe covers issues like PTSD, depression, and anxiety among combat veterans, but it would be a big mistake to solely think of it as a book for the military community. It is much more than that, because it is a blueprint for getting the nation on a path to cultural healing.

The author continues:

“The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs — and, more broadly, over liberal and conservative thought — will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.

So how do you unify a secure, wealthy country that has sunk into a zero-sum political game with itself? How do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place? […] I put the question to Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. …

“if you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different — you underscore your shared humanity,” she told me. “I’m appalled by how much people focus on differences. Why are you focusing on how different you are from one another, and not on the things that unite us?” […]

Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost are deluding themselves. (127-128).

Tribe is by no means “the” answer to the nation’s deep-seated cultural problems, but it is a significant piece of the puzzle. To get a good look at the big picture, I suggest pairing Mr. Junger’s quick-read with George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic. Each book provides a template for transcending dead-end partisan bickering, and in turn getting America efficiently focused on  becoming a more-perfect union.

Douglas Ernst Blog: State of the Blog Address for 2017 content

Another year has come and gone, dear readers. As always, I just wanted to say that I am grateful for everyone who allocates precious time to read my ramblings and listen to my YouTube musings. The next day is never promised, which is why I can not thank you enough for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.

With that said, I wanted to fill some long-time readers on the “state of the blog” since I have not been posting very much political fare these days. There are reasons for that and I want to be honest and forthright with you as to what to expect in the year to come.

Here is the truth: Political posts, which used to come naturally to me, now seem to take much more energy and focus to produce than ever before. I used to be able to wake up at 6:30 a.m., eat some breakfast, exercise, write a blog post, shower, shave, and then start my regular day at work. Sometimes I would knock out another post late at night or at least begin one that could be published the next morning.

That isn’t happening anymore. In the past two weeks there have probably been 10 stories I would have historically loved to write about — and probably would have stayed up until 1:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. to make it happen — but I find myself opting to read a book instead, or heading out for a quiet breakfast alone (my wife takes off for work much earlier than I do).

Anyway, I suppose a part of me is mulling over the best approach to writing in a political landscape where principled conservatives (or shall we just say classical liberals?) — are statistical outliers. Those who follow both my comic reviews and the explicitly political material know that both are geared towards promoting a strong and virtuous civil society, but it becomes harder to write on day-to-day politics when the vast majority of men have embraced an “ends justify the means” philosophy.

For readers who enjoy regular reviews of Marvel comic books, there will be no shortage of those in the year ahead. In fact, I will likely begin reviewing DC’s Batman: Detective Comics as well (it’s already added to my pull list). I may concentrate more on YouTube videos than written reviews for numerous reasons, but fresh content will be there in one form or another.

Finally, for those who have been subscribed long enough to remember the book I’ve been working on, the good news is that at this stage in the game I am in the process of acquiring quality artwork before seeking out a publisher. I have a good relationship with an artist, but he is a very busy man. I have no intention of rushing him. In short, the book exists and it will eventually see the light of day. You will be the first to know once it becomes available.

Again, thank you all for being a part of my life. I truly enjoy speaking with each and every one of you on a regular basis, and I look forward to many more years of talking comic books and politics in the comments section below.

Happy New Year!

Best,

Douglas

Civil War II #8: Marvel’s Minority Report no Cruise thriller

Marvel’s “summer” event, Civil War II, is finally over with its eighth issue! Or…is it? Brian Michael Bendis’ conclusion to this hero vs. hero tale “ends,” but not before warning readers that they are in for more good guys beating the tar out of good guys in 2017 and possibly beyond.

Anyway, check out my latest YouTube review and let me know what you think in the comments section below. As always, make sure to like and subscribe if the format is up your alley.

And, if you’re going out this weekend for New Year’s Eve festivities, then have fun but stay safe.

‘Passengers’ review: Chris Pratt saves director from lackluster script

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Imagine a science fiction film starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s directed by Morten Tyldum (Intimidation Game) and written by Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange). That sounds like a winner, right? Not necessarily, because that’s exactly what moviegoers got with “Passengers” with uninspiring results.

If you’re thinking about seeing Passengers, then here is what you need to know:

  • Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer who is on a spaceship called Avalon. Its destination: a colony planet called Homestead II.
  • A meteor shows damages the Avalon, which causes Jim to wake from a state of suspended animation roughly 90 years too early.
  • Jim desperately tries to figure out a way to reenter a sleeping state while also dealing with extreme isolation. He has an AI robot named Arthur (Michael Sheen) to keep him company.
  • Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Aurora Lane, also is awakened midway through the film.
  • The Avalon begins to malfunction, which forces the two passengers (along with Laurence Fishburne — very briefly — as Captain Gus Mancuso) to work together to avoid a catastrophe.

This is a spoiler-free review, so I won’t go into many more details other than to say that Passengers is most intriguing for the number of missed opportunities racked up by Jon Spaihts. With a few tweaks of the script, Passengers could have turned into an instant classic. Over and over again the stage is set for a stunning reveal, only to inform theatergoers, “Nope. This is just a by-the-numbers sci-fi flick that will hit embarrassingly predictable beats by the time the end credits roll.”

If you decide to see Passengers, then ask yourself the following questions before the curtains open:

  • Will A.I. ever reach the point where it can become lonely and yearn for human interaction?
  • Would a company accused of treating customers like cattle ever engineer a disaster to see how the “animals” respond — perhaps as a way of garnering larger profits down the road?
  • If a character puts the proverbial “smoking gun” in a place where an individual would obviously find it over the course of a relationship, then that needs to happen — right?

Again, I note that this is a spoiler-free review, which means that asking the above questions only draws attention to the fact that Passengers explored … none of them. There are more, but for the purposes of this blog post we’ll stick to three.

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In short, if you’re a science fiction junkie who needs a fix, then see on Sunday matinee of Passengers. It’s passable, but in many ways that is only attributable to Mr. Pratt’s likability and professionalism. He did the most with what he was given, but he wasn’t given much.