Subs Dare Doug: Answers on Jordan Peterson, Star Wars, and Marvel politics

A friend of mine used to call me “Daring Doug” when I was a kid because I was willing to do all sorts of crazy stuff in the neighborhood. That fun element of my past has morphed into a new segment on the YouTube channel called “Subs Dare Doug.” In short, my subscribers dare me to answer questions on all sorts of subjects, and then I answer in a future broadcast.

Today’s “Subs Dare Doug” is focused on Dr. Jordan Peterson, Star Wars: Episode VII, politics at Marvel Comics, a comic recommendation, and progressive activists.

If this is something you’d like to take part in, then just head on over to the YouTube channel on any day and ask in the following format: SubsDareDoug: [Insert question here].

I can’t promise I’ll answer everyone’s question, but I’ll try my best.

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‘The Death of Expertise’: Tom Nichols offers great read for understanding our slow-motion cultural implosion

Death of Expertise cover
A book called The Death of Expertise came out not too long ago. The best way to describe it for regular readers of this blog is as follows: It’s as if author Tom Nichols read my mind and then put all my disparate thoughts on Western civilization’s slow-motion car crash into a nice package. His understanding of how modern technology, social media, and left-wing academics exacerbate the problem is, unfortunately for future generations, on point.

I spend a lot of time on social media for work, and over the years I have seen a disturbing trend take place on the internet and college campuses. A toxic brew of left-wing “social justice” indoctrination on American campuses mixed with digital echo chambers, available to men and women of all political stripes, slowly boiled. (We’ve seen the effects of this during the U.S. presidential inauguration protests, the Berkeley riots, and the insanity at Evergreen State College in Washington state.)

Mr. Nichols, however, is one of the few people I’ve seen who has a firm grasp of the dangerous social dynamics at play beneath the surface. Like your friendly neighborhood blogger, he seems to think a miracle is needed to stave off an ugly future.

“I fear we are witnessing the death of the ideal of expertise itself, a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers — in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all.

Attacks on established knowledge and the subsequent rash of poor information in the general public are sometimes amusing. Sometimes they’re even hilarious.  Late-night comedians have made a cottage industry of asking people questions that reveal their ignorance about their own strongly held ideas, their attachment to fads, and their unwillingness to admit their own cluelessness about current events. […] When life and death are involved, however, it’s a lot less funny. […]

The overall trend is one of ideological segregation enabled by the ability to end a friendship with a click instead of a face-to-face discussion.

Underlying much of this ill temper is a false sense of equality and the illusion of egalitarianism created by the immediacy of social media. I have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and so do you, so we’re peers, aren’t we? After all, if a top reporter at a major newspaper, a diplomat at the Kennedy School, a scientist at a research hospital, and your Aunt Rose from Reno all have an online presence, then all of their viewers are just so many messages speeding past your eyes. Every opinion is only as good as the last posting on a home page.

In the age of social media, people using the Internet assume that everyone is equally intelligent or informed merely by virtue of being online. — Tom Nichols,The Death of Expertise (Oxford University Press, 2017). Pages 3, 129.

Boom.

Across every personal and professional level of my life I have witnessed the proliferation of this mentality. Google gives people a false sense superiority. A five-second search that allows a man to throw out a random factoids convinces him that he’s an expert when, in reality, his depth of breadth of knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Social media offers a one-two punch of perniciousness: It encourages people to dehumanize the guy on the other side of the screen while simultaneously fostering false pride and moral superiority. That, dear reader, is a recipe for violence.

Mr. Nichols’ book is by no means perfect (he sometimes shows off his own ideological blind spots by unfairly framing certain political issues), but it is still highly worth your time. It’s the perfect book to sit down with for a few hours by the pool or at the beach. Check it out if you want to better understand our widening political divide, or if you just like slightly terrifying reading material.

Iceman #1: Purifiers show Marvel’s double-standard, cowardice

Marvel Comics is known for having a “world outside your window” approach to its storytelling, and for decades the company did it well. These days, however, editor Axel Alonso appears to have issued a fiat that creates the politically correct world outside your window.”

Iceman #1  — along with its Christian villains known as “Purifiers” — demonstrates the state of affairs quite nicely.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would Marvel Comics ever have an anti-mutant group called “The Sons of Jihad” that hunts down metaphorical minorities?
  • Would Marvel Comics ever have an anti-mutant group  called “The Sword of Allah” with costumes featuring a star and crescent moon?

Magic 8 Ball says, “Not likely.” But yet, for some peculiar reason, the “Purifiers” and their Christian crosses are on full display. Meanwhile, the defining national security threat of the last 20 years has had nothing to do with Catholic guys like me.

If you want to hear more about the double-standards and hypocrisy of Marvel, then check out my new YouTube video below. And, as always, feel free to sound off in the comments section.

Editors Note: Make sure to stay tuned after the “outro” music for my “letters to the editor”-type idea for future broadcasts.

Wonder Woman: Patty Jenkins nails the directing, Gal Gadot nails the role

Last weekend I made the mistake of not reserving my movie tickets for Wonder Woman ahead of time and ended up having to decide whether I wanted to see a later showing or go home. I opted for an extra hour’s wait — and it was worth it.

Here is what I wrote **pseudo-spoilers ahead** for Conservative Book Club:

Director Patty Jenkins can make a strong case that she had one of the most pressure-packed Hollywood tasks in recent memory — making Wonder Woman a blockbuster for Warner Bros. She needed to please fans of a character with over 70 years of history while overcoming doubts about the direction of the DC Extended Universe and Gal Gadot’s acting.

Mission accomplished.

Wonder Woman, much like Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, was the kind of job where studio executives pull one off to the side and say, “Good luck, but don’t you dare screw this up.” Ms. Jenkins, like her creative peer, responded by churning out an upbeat film of solid craftsmanship across the board. Gadot’s Princess Diana just so happened to make her debut during World War I instead of World War II (both ideal backdrops for films pitting good against evil).

As is the case with most quality superhero origins, Wonder Woman takes its time establishing the character’s backstory before fists start flying and guns go blazing. This fish-out-of-water tale required the women of Themyscira to meet military men like Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and Ms. Jenkins wisely dictated slower pacing. The DC Universe is one where Greek mythology meets Judeo-Christian beliefs, but writer Allan Heinberg (story byJason Fuchs and Zack Snyder) made it work.

The plot is simple: The first World War literally breaks through a protective bubble put in place by Zeus to hide the Amazons from the god of war, Ares. Diana saves Captain Trevor when his plane crashes into the ocean, which serves as the impetus for her to leave utopia and save mankind. She believes that locating and defeating Ares on the field of battle will end all war. Steve humorously goes along for the ride as a means of getting home, although a romance between the two heroes eventually grows.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Wonder Woman — besides a memorable “No Man’s Land” scene and the iconic “lasso of truth” — is the way Diana’s improved understanding of love and free will allow her to fully realize her potential. The god of war eventually comes across as a Satan stand-in, and Wonder Woman adopts, for all intents and purposes, a Catholic definition of love (i.e., willing the good of the other as other).

Check out the rest of the review here.

 

Amazing Spider-Man #28: Dan Slott’s nostalgia smokescreen can’t hide horrible writing

The Amazing Spider-Man #28 sounds on the surface like it would be a great book. It features classic bad guy Norman Osborn going face-to-face with Peter Parker in a “no holds barred” brawl. Neither man has his powers to rely on, which means it’s just a gold old fashioned slugfest — the winner will likely be the guy with a deeper reserve of intestinal fortitude. Sadly, writer Dan Slott once again over-promised and under-delivered.

If you ever wondered what Marvel’s editors like Nick Lowe do these days, ASM #28 provides the answer: not much.

  • This is the kind of comic you get when you use nostalgia as a crutch to hide a lack of character development.
  • This is the kind of comic you get when you want to be buddies with your writer instead of his editor.
  • This is the kind of comic you get when you, as the writer, create a digital echo chamber and block anyone who offers intelligent criticism of your work.
  • This is the kind of comic you get when you think that giving a tacit nod to your critics somehow erases the legitimacy of their claims.

Aspiring writers should read ASM #28, if for no other reason than to see what happens when a decent idea crashes head-first into a wall of hubris.

Listen to your critics. Learn from them. Humble yourself before the collective wisdom of your fans and then adjust to what you’re hearing because if you don’t then you will write stories that fall flat.

For more on this topic, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube review. As always, make sure to subscribe if it’s up your alley and leave any feedback you have in the comments section below. Whether it’s on YouTube or this blog, I read them all and try to respond to as many as possible.

Jordan Peterson’s ‘Pinocchio’ speech: The finite mind can make contact with the infinite if you actively seek Truth

Jordan Peterson
There’s a “thing” that sometimes happens to me when I discuss philosophical or religious issues with my wife, which she finds incredibly humorous — I shed tears and get temporarily choked up. I told her for years that my theory on the phenomenon is something like this:

  • Deep in your heart is a conduit to the transcendent. There are times when your mind comes into direct contact with Truth with a capital ‘T’, but the finite parts of your being are obviously not equipped to handle the infinite. To grab hold of the transcendent, even for a brief moment, is like grabbing hold of a live wire. The difference is that the pain you feel is something beautiful, the charring and burning of spiritual impurities like rust on the soul. So you happily search for that place again and again because you wish that you could share it with everyone.

I was recently watching a video with Jordan Peterson, the famous professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He was talking with Dave Rubin about Pinocchio, and when I saw where he was going with it I could almost predict the point at which he would tear up.

Mr. Peterson said:

“Most of your viewers will have watched Pinocchio. There’s a scene in Pinocchio where Geppetto wishes upon a star. What it means is he lifts up his eyes beyond the horizon to something transcendent — to something ultimate — because that’s what a star is, it’s part of the eternity of the night sky.

And so he lifts his eyes up above his daily concerns and he says, ‘What I want — what I want more than anything else — is that my creation will become a genuine individual.’ Right? It’s a heroic gesture because it’s so unlikely. And that catalyzes the puppet’s transformation into a real being. And we start as puppets. And so the trick is to get rid of your god**** strings.

And you remember in Pinocchio, he faces a lot of temptations. One is to be a liar; the other is to be a neurotic victim. That’s how he ends up in Pleasure Island where he just about gets sold into the salt mines and turns into a braying jackass … because it’s run by authoritarians.

Well, okay, so what you do is lift up your eyes and you say, ‘Look, I would like being to progress in the best possible manner. And that’s best for me, best for my family, best for society — maybe best for the world. Simultaneously, I would like to attain that, whatever that is. That’s what I want. You commit to that.

Then you tell the truth. And you can tell if you’re telling the truth. You can tell it physiologically. And so this is something to learn. […] That’s really the core idea in Western civilization, to build yourself into a forthright individual who’s capable of telling the truth and capable of bearing the responsibilities of citizenry.” — Jordan Peterson.

Bingo.

Here’s another way to explain it. Imagine your mind’s eye witnesses the transcendent, and it’s like an ocean. A whole ocean can fit inside your head and you can see it clearly, but the person sitting across from you has no clue what you’re “looking” at. The only way you can make this ocean known is by embarrassingly running it through the tiny sink that is your mouth and the filter of language. Your task is to convince someone of the beauty of the transcendent ocean — or God, or Truth, or Love — when all you can give them is a bucket filled with water.

So you cry.

You cry because in some sense the metaphysical ocean has burst forth into the physical world.

You cry because you’ve seen what lies beyond and you know that if others saw it too then they would change their lives in profound ways.

You cry because you are unworthy of something so magnificent, and you cry because of all the souls who will never have a similar experience through the misbegotten application of their own free will.

If you have never watched Jordan Peter’s videos, I highly suggest you begin sooner rather than later. He knows what he is talking about. He speaks the Truth. If you listen to what he says and actively carry out his advice, then your life will be exponentially better for it.

 

Alien Covenant: Ridley Scott gives moviegoers sci-fi Rorschach test

Alien trailer

Question: How much do you want to bet that somewhere in Hollywood there is a producer who is thinking up schemes to make Wonder Woman vs. Alien happen?

The past weekend was rightly dominated Gal Gadot’s solid handing of Diana Prince, but if you’re like me and had to deal with sold-out shows, then you faced the “Do-I-stay-for-the-later-viewing-or-go-home?” predicament.  There was  a third option — seeing Alien Covenant — but I shirked my writerly duties and got you this review late. I hope you can forgive your humble (I try) blogger and consider the analysis below as similar situations unfold in the weeks ahead.

Here is an except from my latest review for Conservative Book Club, with a link to the full text once I’ve pushed fair-use content to its outer limits:

Director Ridley Scott’s latest foray into the universe he made famous roughly 40 years ago is a bit like a Rorschach test. Is it primarily a Prometheus (2012) sequel or an Alien (1979) prequel? Is it a highbrow science-fiction flick about the origins and meaning of life, or is it just another opportunity to show seemingly smart people make stupid decisions that lead to gruesome deaths? Alien: Covenant, like a quickly scurrying “xenomorph,” is hard to nail down.

One of the big challenges with bringing a film like Alien: Covenant to the big screen is making it fresh. Die-hard fans of any beloved franchise (e.g., Star Wars) understand that on some level they’re paying for the same roller coaster ride, but that doesn’t absolve creators from supplying a few new twists and turns. Luckily for Alien fans they have a 79-year-old Scott, whose lifetime of experience brings forth a gorgeous film that demands respect despite its flaws.

Alien: Covenant’s plot revolves around a crew of would-be planetary colonists who are wakened from hypersleep due to an emergency. Their captain dies, and a pensive man of faith named Oram (Billy Crudup) takes his place. Newly widowed Daniels (Katherine Waterston), an android named Walter (David Fassbender), and a small band of explorers decide to investigate a radio signal from a nearby planet instead of reentering hypersleep and risking another calamity. The chaos that follows serves as the bridge between Prometheus and Alien.

As expected, Oram and much of his crew soon find themselves overwhelmed by a hostile planet filled with xenomorph-producing spores that burrow inside ears and noses. The team is saved by David (Fassbender), the older — but more problematically human — model of Walter from Prometheus. He hopes to hitch a ride on their orbiting spaceship once an electrical storm subsides, but for reasons he has no intention of disclosing to his innocent human visitors.

Without spoiling the movie, the key to understanding David’s motivations lie in Alien: Covenant’s prologue, in which he speaks with his inventor.

“If you created me, who created you?” asks David.

His “father” (Guy Pearce) calls it the “question of the ages.”

“Allow me then a moment to consider — you seek your creator; I am looking at mine,” replies David. “I will serve you, yet you are human. You will die, I will not.”

A further window into David’s digital mind comes later in the movie during a conversation with “brother” Walter. He references fallen angel Satan from John Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

Check out the full review over at CBC here.

Alien trailer Walter

‘The Christian and Anxiety’: Hans Urs von Balthasar nails it on the transition between fear and hope

One of the most comforting feelings for individuals who have deeply thought about their faith is to find serious minds who came to similar conclusions. Top-tier intellectuals articulate complex ideas with a clarity and eloquence that makes readers sigh with relief and exclaim — “I think I’m on the right track!”

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s The Christian and Anxiety is one such example for this blogger.

“Inasmuch as the accomplished salvation remains eschatological and the sinner is still journeying toward perfect righteousness, then to some extent the twilight between ‘fear and hope’, or, to put it more clearly, between the sinner’s fear of God and of condemnation and the believer’s hope for salvation, will never be completely illuminated. Does not the New Testament foster this twilight by strengthening both the promise and the threat and making them definitive? Yet, in so doing, which requires anyone who stands in its force field to endure a superhuman tension (to fear in earnest and to hope simultaneously, to be certain yet to leave everything in suspense), has it not overstrained the human soul by winding its powers too tightly? Is it feasible to live within this contradiction? […] Does not the Christian who takes sin and salvation seriously get lost in a dialectic with no exit, in which each increase in grace brings forth an increase in unworthiness, even guilt, so that in this tangled thicket religion becomes the real inferno? …

Christianity cannot be blamed for this loss of footing; it has to be laid at the door of the man who does not want to take Christianity seriously. Christianity offers man, not a bottomless pit, but solid ground — grounding in God, of course, and not in self. To place oneself on this solid ground involves relinquishing one’s own ground. The sinner wants to stand on his own, not on God. And whoever tries to stand both on God and on his own is sure to fall into the bottomless space in between.

The uneasy conscious that many Christians have, and the anxiety based on it, do not come about because they are sinners and backsliders but because they have stopped believing in the truth and efficacy of their beliefs; they measure the power of faith by their own weakness, they project God’s world into their own psychological makeup instead of letting God measure them. […] They lie down to rest in the chasm between the demands of Christianity and their own failure, in a chasm that, for a Christian, is no place at all.” — Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Christian and Anxiety.

I, like anyone else who honestly wants to become a better person, found myself at some point looking for ways to monitor my progress — a “goodness barometer” of sorts. That is extremely difficult for a Christian because the benchmark for most people is, “What is the guy next to me like? How do I compare to my neighbors? How do I compare to my local politicians? How do I compare to the president?” And so on and and so forth.

All that, however, is irrelevant. We cannot see into another man’s heart and soul, and therefore it is spiritually dangerous to compare yourself to those around you. The only soul you can ever read is your own — and even then we often use our minds as a vehicle for self-deception.

Who, then, is the proper litmus test for spiritual progress? Answer: Christ.

And that, dear reader, is where the chasm von Balthasar mentions comes in. On many levels, your entire life is just a one-on-one conversation with God. The clearer God becomes to you, the more of your own blemishes you will see — and that can be terrifying.

The challenge for Christians is to keep their eyes focused on God while walking toward Him, because when one looks down into the chasm of their own wickedness for too long the experience can mutate from something humbling into something crippling.

There is much more to say, but for now I will just suggest reading The Christian and Anxiety if this is a topic that has ever concerned you. Von Balthasar is a brilliant man, and I have no doubt that if you read his works then your faith will be strengthened by the experience.

Secret Empire #3: Nick Spencer event is really his ‘Secret Lecture’

Marvel’s Secret Empire #3 came out this week, although at this point it really should be called Secret Lecture. As I have said before, writer Nick Spencer is an intelligent man who knows a thing or two about the technical aspects of storytelling. The problem, however, is that he uses his gig at Marvel as a psychiatrist’s couch and a college professor’s podium. He seems to care less about entertaining readers than he does about working out his own political issues and lecturing America for electing President Donald Trump.

There’s much more to say, but for that I invite you to check out my latest YouTube review. If the format is up your alley, then make sure to subscribe and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Kathy Griffin goes full Jihadi John with Trump beheading ‘art,’ apologizes after CNN gig put at risk

Kathy Griffin CNN Trump

It takes quite a bit of insanity to make your friendly neighborhood blogger swing into explicitly political material these days, but when Hollywood comedians go full “Jihadi John” it seems a though it’s time for the blog posts of old to return.

Jihad John

For those who somehow managed to avoid the news, Anderson Cooper’s regular New Year’s Eve broadcast buddy, Kathy Griffin, released images from a photo shoot today that she promised would “make noise.” TMZ was given exclusive access to the “art” project, which included Ms. Griffin holding up a fake version of President Donald Trump’s decapitated head.

This, dear reader, is “the resistance” that Hollywood directors like Joss Whedon are calling for because Mr. Trump will allegedly trick the nation into massacring gay people. The entertainment community now finds itself weirdly peddling the idea that Mr. Trump should have his head chopped off to … stop him from chopping off heads.

Get it? If you do, then please explain it to me in the comments section below.

Joss Whedon Trump tweet

Ms. Griffin apologized when the ensuing outrage spread like wildfire across social media, but that begs the question: Did she mean it, or was she trying to save her annual payday with CNN? When someone looks up repeatedly while apologizing, it comes across as, “Okay, okay. I’ll say I’m sorry. Can we just get this over with and move on? Yeesh.”

Consider what the comedian said just hours earlier to photographer Tyler Shields: “We’re going to go to prison — federal prison. Call your dad, apologize.”

She knew people would be angry and disgusted, but she did it anyway. She just didn’t realize that there are still enough people with common decency across the political spectrum that she would become professionally toxic to many of her peers. 

Kathy Griffin Apologize

Mr. Trump is a lot of things, but he most certainly does not deserve to have his fellow Americans sending the message that he should be executed ISIS-style. Nobody deserves such a fate, but for some disgusting reason the Hollywood community has decided to try and equate him with “Nazis” and Hitler and any other group that serves to transform him into a monster.

The reason is simple: Once you dehumanize a man and turn him into a demon, then it is easy to rationalize any action(s) used to destroy said demon. The entertainment industry has decided that a rhetorical and “artistic” scorched earth strategy is acceptable for “resisting” the president, even if it further tears the nation apart.

My guess is that Ms. Griffin, like many comedians, has a whole slew of psychological and emotional issues. People should be mindful of that as they respond to her “art.” Regardless, she should be held responsible for her a behavior. It is up to good people to take a stand against Hollywood’s most ghoulish political hacks, because the industry’s aggregated efforts have a huge effect on shaping young minds.

If you want to know what the future of America looks like without the right actions of morally upstanding individuals today, then look no further than the social media feeds of men like Joss Whedon and women like Kathy Griffin. Absent a miracle, I firmly believe that our nation is bound for many dark days ahead.