Monday, December 18, 2017


SPOILERS BELOW (I'll keep the first couple of paragraphs spoiler free).

To properly analyze STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI, you have to go beyond the trappings of fandom and look at the movie as a part of a larger product of Disney-Lucasfilm storytelling. Approaching this as anything other than a corporate juggernaut mainly concerned with moving merchandise and building the next generation of consumers will result in total anger, confusion and regret.

This might sound cynical and cold, but it's only the acknowledgment that Hollywood cinema is big business and sometimes actual art will slip through the image factory despite their best efforts to curtail imagination and wonder.

I'm not saying THE LAST JEDI lacks imagination or wonder, but there's definitely a middling corporate influence throughout the movie that simultaneously keeps the movie in an inoffensive zone of bland character moments while setting up Rian Jonhson's long-term vision for the STAR WARS franchise.

What makes THE LAST JEDI interesting is that it deliberately erases the nostalgic underpinnings of the STAR WARS saga being about the Skywalker clan. Now this is where you see a lot of online outrage regarding THE LAST JEDI (even when you remove the kneejerk right-wing racist backlash to the movie being "too diverse") with the main complaint is that it "feels different" than previous Star Wars fims.

There seems to be different rules in this movie. Suddenly, no one from the ORIGINAL TRILOGY is safe. None of the original cast behaves like they used to (with the exception of Han Solo and Chewbacca, and we saw what happened to Han). Leia is a disconnected bureaucrat fighting for a rebellion she's incapable of saving while Luke seems like a raving homeless man living on a distant island with frog nuns.

Gone are the beautiful, powerful characters my generation (children of the 1970s and 80s) fell in love with. Some see the growth and evolution of the original cast as a kind of blasphemy. "How dare they change those characters," some angry geeks are saying, "They're nothing like how I remember them!"

This is an important element because Lucasfilm wants to get beyond "HOW YOU REMEMBER THEM." There's an interesting thread running through THE LAST JEDI about how people are remembered and how legends are formed. There's a repeated line about the resistance being the "spark" for hope that will eventually destroy the First Order. The theme here appears to be that heroes of the past should be used mainly as a guide for future salvation but we need to realize when these heroes have outlived their usefulness.

There's a push for the Original Trilogy heroes to step aside and allow for new ideas and new ways of behaving. The big war online seems to be between those who can move on, and those who cannot or will not. At the age of 43, I've learned in the last 5 years to let go of the very toxic mentality of NOSTALGIC OWNERSHIP. Just because I loved a consistently evolving corporate franchise in the early years of its development does not mean I have a right or an ability to control what the actual owners do with it.

Let me repeat that:

Just because I loved a consistently evolving corporate franchise in the early years of its development does not mean I have a right or an ability to control what the actual owners do with it.

Nostalgic ownership is dangerous, petty, infuriating, exhausting and ultimately pointless. If you don't own it, complaining endlessly won't change anything.

So, about the movie itself... THE LAST JEDI feels like a piece of a larger puzzle. I don't believe it can stand on it's own as a full on cinematic story. That's only a problem in the pre-shared universe days of cinematic storytelling. Now, it is expected that large-scale, major event tentpole movies will bleed into sequels, side-stories, novels, comic books, video games and podcasts.

As a piece of a corporate franchise, it does a good (not perfect) job of putting all the chess pieces into place. With the exception of the overlong and ill-paced Canto Bight casino adventure with Finn and Rose, everything else fell into place with style and power.

All the scenes with Luke, Rey, Kylo and Snoke crackled with intensity and repercussion. Mark Hamill and Adam Driver give excellent performances alongside Daisy Ridley who is clearly coming into her own as a dramatic actress. She's got the face of a silent movie star and that's a great compliment.

John Boyega, Oscar Issac and Kelly Marie Tran were also a lot of fun to watch, and it was nice to see Poe Dameron get a little arc of his own as a soldier learning how to be leader in the face of impossible odds.

One of the things I have a problem with as a narrative strategy is the lessened degree of galactic politics in the story. The Prequel Trilogy was centered around how the Empire was formed. The Original Trilogy was centered around how the Empire was destroyed. The new trilogy is less concerned with the galactic situation than reworking how the Jedi operate and what is the true nature of the Force.

That would be fine if there was more of a explanation of what happened to the New Republic in THE FORCE AWAKENS. Remember that scene when Starkiller Base blew up those planets? Turns out that was the complete eradication of the New Republic. The First Order murdered billions of people in that moment and destabilized the galactic political structure. There appears to have been NO BLOWBACK from their actions.

As this movie begins, we're learning that the entire resistance movement is down to a few hundred people who are currently on the run. As an audience, we should be more alarmed at this situation but there's no dramatic weight given to how bad things are for the heroes. Further on this point, major Original Trilogy characters like Admiral Ackbar are wiped out and there's no reflection on their loss and their deaths are treated as an afterthought. It was as if Rian Johnson didn't care how old school Star Wars fans would feel and that attitude seeps throughout the movie on every level.

At the same time, THE LAST JEDI gives the old school community a chance to say goodbye to Yoda, Luke and the traditional structure of the Star Wars movie. I'd never seen flashbacks used in a Star Wars movie, this narrative trick worked extremely well as we're given the perspective of the unreliable narrator between Kylo and Luke's recollections of the fall of the Jedi Academy (another major moment completely glossed over and deserving of further exploration).

With that said, there were some really cool elements in the movie:

-the hyperspace starship suicide attack sequence
-Luke talking to Yoda as the tree burns (by the way, that tree was the last remaining piece of the Jedi temple from Coruscant)
-Leia using her Jedi powers onscreen for the first time
-the kids on Canto Bight being potential Force users
-Kylo killing Snoke and the resulting battle
-the final battle scene between Kylo and Luke
-Luke gazing at the twin suns before transitioning into the Force and fully completing his circle

What do we have by the end of THE LAST JEDI?

We've got a mixed bag of missed opportunities to flesh out the current galactic status quo.The lack of explanation on the fall of the New Republic, the importance of the Jedi temple tree (and also the Jedi scriptures), the weird way that Luke Skywalker leaves us and the awkward handling of the deaths of major characters from the Original Trilogy are definitely problematic.

However, the characters of Rey, Kylo, Finn, Poe and Rose get to take center stage and their characters grew considerably beyond where we first saw them. If the message of THE LAST JEDI is that old school heroes are important for the sake of inspiration and little else then Rian Johnson's vision for the Star Wars saga was a success. If there was any other message in the movie, it got lost among the big SFX battle scenes and internal power struggles between Laura Dern and Oscar Issac's characters.

THE LAST JEDI will be remembered as the first non-Star Wars Star Wars movie. It is the film that changed the rules and pissed off a chunk of the perpetually flaky online geek community who searches for something to be outraged about. Younger viewers without the attachment to the Original Trilogy will be fine and older viewers will have to take Obi-Wan Kenobi's advice about "letting go."

For the original generation of Star Wars fans, that's going to be the hardest part.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Is it unreasonable or problematic to expect others to have respect or be considerate of their fellow citizens in public spaces? Are manners a form of social control? Throwing the question out there to the masses and let's have a good conversation about this topic.
Also must give props to #NERDSOUL and the Ill Kid himself Michael Young IIfor donating a nice webcam to this show.
Please watch before commenting and YES I KNOW there's a watermark on the screen. I'm currently teaching myself to use various video editing software packages.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


I've spent the better part of the last 20 years being overweight.

Sometimes bigger. Sometimes smaller.

Never anywhere close to the threshold of being socially acceptable with the "cool" kids.

As I have recently lost 90+lbs on the way to a healthier existence, I note how different the world reacts to my presence.

Mind you, I'm still a 6'2" Black guy with broad shoulders and therefore (according to Fox News) I am automatically a raping, drug-dealing, mean-spirited, uneducated thug whose main goal in life is impregnating as many White women as possible to give them kids to be on welfare.

That Trumpian nonsense aside, since I've lost weight, people are definitely nicer to me and the 15-foot stick people keep between you and them is slowly getting smaller. I'd say the stick is about 8-feet now.


Please read it when you get a chance. :)

I'm not going to go over that situation again, but I would like to offer some support and guidance for my brothers in girth who have to deal with various indignities because of their increased size.

I know a lot of bigger dudes who are definitely feeling the pain and I wanted them to know that I've got their back.

Also, I've found it necessary to share some rules of behavior to save you from unnecessary heartache as you run into hordes of shallow and superficial morons who are incapable of understanding the phrase "content of character."

1) Always smell nice. Wear nice clothes. Defy the expectation. Everyone assumes fat men are sloppy, smelly, slovenly and simple-minded. Don't be that guy. Nice clothing increases confidence and sends the message that a big man can still take care of himself in social environs. 

2) Be very careful about complimenting women on anything. It will be seen as flirting and things get awkward. Even if it is a harmless compliment, just be careful. Regardless of what the Men's Rights Activists (MGTOW) clowns believe, most women aren't evil harpies poised to rip your guts out and dance with unfettered glee. Women are human beings with frailties and imperfections. However, many women are accustomed to being flirted with 24 hours a day/7 days a week (twice on Sundays) and have ways of kindly deflecting unwanted male interest. 

The problem is when your kindness is mistaken for romantic desire and you end up getting "let down easy" by a woman you weren't even interested in. It's annoying and it stinks. The best way to avoid these scenarios is to treat every woman you meet like a criminal court judge. Keep your distance, be respectful and only give direct answers unless otherwise prompted. 

If a woman is interested in you, she'll let you know. 

3) Learn how to navigate the weirdness of other people's body shaming. It's not your fault they project their insecurities onto your flesh. The issue of body dysmophia is serious and ingrained in our society. It's described as a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance.

Some folks just go overboard with fashion and makeup to cover up these flaws, while others starve themselves and develop eating disorders. The advertising industry is built upon digging into our collective insecurities to trigger a desire to spend money to "improve." Since being overweight is considered the opposite of "healthy" and "attractive" there are many out there in society who feel the need to reject you based upon your appearance. 


Yes, it hurts. Yes, you feel like shit. Yes, you would love to "fit" in. 

The people rejecting you will often be the most popular, the funniest, the coolest and ridiculously beautiful. 

But guess what... FUCK THEM. Seriously. Fuck. Them. 

Go back to the core phrase: "Content of character."

All that truly matters at the end of the day is whether or not you can look yourself in the mirror and not feel as if you have compromised your integrity or moral code. It takes time (sometimes it takes a REALLY long time) but you will eventually discover a circle of decent people who won't give a damn what you look like and will care more for the person underneath the skin. 

A lot of the "beautiful" people are going through all kinds of internal nonsense that has nothing to do with you other than the fact you are a physical representation of their self-loathing. Don't be anyone's dart board

4) Make a health plan that is congruent to how you live your life, not to make other people feel comfortable around you. In the long run, you will need to lose weight, but don't do it because people are pressuring you. A lot of the "concerned" folks are preoccupied with aesthetics, not your well-being. 

Eating right and developing an exercise plan is hard work. Do it for you. We all gained weight for different reasons. I tend to be an emotional eater at night. I don't eat a lot of bad stuff all day long, but with my crazy work schedule, the pressures of the day required some comfort food at the worst possible times. That caused my excessive weight gain. I had to change that. 

Get rid of those reasons and move forward. Your life depends on it. 

5) Understand that there's little to no support out there for bigger guys so learn to find solace and stability with yourself. Get to know yourself, spend more time alone and learn to love what makes you... you. 

The entire "plus size" movement is based around how horrible it is for women to be overweight because - apparently - all the men out there want women under a size 6 and can't appreciate a woman with curves.

I truly believe that many of the plus size women out there are looking for their Ryan Gosling/Ryan Reynolds/Denzel Washington/Drake dude and ignore decent men because they're under the impression that "regular" guys aren't worth their time. So much of the current dialogue around weight and attractiveness is framed around long-suffering women and how they're treated in the dating world.

This idea presupposes that fat guys have their veritable pick of the litter and that there's no societal body shaming or alienation aimed at us. That is utter hogwash on every conceivable level.

Let me break it down for you - I don't know when this happened - but these days, men are all supposed to have perfect bodies with six-pack abs, high-paying jobs, nice cars, a couple of homes, a degree in finance and access to private international transportation all day long.

I see it and hear it all of the time, everywhere I go. I'm not in the dating arena anymore (thank God) but I hear and see this stuff from my single male buddies who are a bit on the pudgy side.

When you're a social pariah, the best thing to do is learn more about your inner spirit and strength so you can become attractive to yourself. It is a sincere form of selfishness that eventually becomes self-preservation that will lead to stronger self-esteem and self-respect.

In practical terms, don't be afraid to do stuff alone: go to the movies, a museum, a bar, a lounge, a restaurant, a poetry reading, shopping, etc. Get to know what makes you tick instead of defining yourself by the neurotic trappings of deeply damaged folks who hide their beaten souls behind the veneer of white teeth, tiny waists and chiseled cheekbones.

It's a tough world out there. You can't do it alone. You have to find the right people to accompany you on the journey of life.

Good health and good luck to you all.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, January 30, 2017

White Friends... Welcome to the World of Racial Gaslighting

Credit: Tony Puryear

gerund or present participle: gaslighting
  1. manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

    "in the first episode, Karen Valentine is being gaslighted by her husband"

As I watch many of my white friends and colleagues go ballistic about the clear and present fascist regime our country is dealing with, I have only one thing to say: welcome to the world of African-Americans.

Please do not consider this an "I told you so" piece, but this Trump and Steve Bannon embarrassment fully illustrates the reality of institutional racism and how the most vile and prejudiced White guy can ascend to the top of the world simply by having the right set of compatriots and using white skin privilege to the nth degree.

Allow me to share a short story from my time in Los Angeles: after I got my first break working in animation in 2011, I was surrounded by a small population of very angry and depressed White (male and several women) writers who toiled under the impression that the reason that it had been "harder" for them to get animation writing gigs was because of the "forced diversity" imposed upon the industry.

When I met these people (all of whom had been vetted as "cool" by White friends and trusted allies) they were spiteful, dismissive, petty and altogether boorish. At first, I assumed I had done something wrong but upon further inspection, I noticed an interesting pattern:

All the White people I knew believed these people were awesome but all the Black folks I knew considered these writers racist as hell - or at the very least - NOT fans of African-Americans and particularly fearful of African-American men.

This illuminates the phenomenon of what I call the "One in Ten Racist" Problem. There will often be a White writer (in this case) who is universally beloved amongst the ranks of other White writers but has a ridiculously negative appraisal amongst the ranks of Black writers. This situation occurs in pretty much every aspect of American life and vocation; I only use my experiences in this town as a clear example.

However, if you report your experiences of bigotry and bad vibes to your White friends and allies, they often react with shock, disbelief and the unspoken accusation that you must have "done" something to deserve that reaction. Why else, in their estimation, would this "awesome guy/lady" treat YOU that way, they don't treat anyone else like that - so it must have been YOU.

African-Americans have had to live with that kind of racial gaslighting since 1865. Before that, we were enslaved, and you pretty much knew where you stood for better or worse (mainly worse).
This flips around to a valuable currency that Black folks DO NOT GET in this society: THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. We have to prove what we're NOT before anyone grants us a modicum of humanity.

We have to prove that we're not:

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

A guy like Steve Bannon (an open racist, anti-Semite, homophobe, etc.) can utilize coded Neo-Nazi doublespeak and still be given the benefit of the doubt. A guy like Trump can openly insult the POTUS, make horrible sexist remarks, trash entire ethnicities and religious groups and still be given the benefit of the doubt to run the most POWERFUL NATION ON THE EARTH.

In spite of EVERYTHING that is occurring, there are still those who want to "give Trump a chance." Seriously. They are out there and in great numbers.

If you're naïve to the existence and scope of weaponized prejudice and bigotry: THIS IS WHAT INSTITUTIONAL RACISM LOOKS LIKE.

Meaning people in positions of power applying their sick ideals to impact hiring practices, budgets, educational opportunities, residential movement and voting rights.

There are Trumps and Bannons in high finance.
There are Trumps and Bannons in real estate.
There are Trumps and Bannons in law enforcement.
There are Trumps and Bannons in health care.
There are Trumps and Bannons in Hollywood.
There are Trumps and Bannons in academia.
There are Trumps and Bannons in the House and Senate.

There have been since 1778. This is what African-Americans been saying ALL. THIS. TIME.

You cannot go back to sleep. Our planet is on the line.