Good Knight, Sleep Tight

SPOILER WARNING, especially for The Yellow Knight of Oz

Ruth Plumly Thompson introduced the character of Sir Hokus of Pokes in her first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz, and he quickly became a standard part of the royal court of the Emerald City alongside such familiar faces as the Scarecrow and the Patchwork Girl. He’s an old knight who speaks in the style of English commonly associated with knightly romance. Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion find him in the slow city of Pokes, where he’s been trapped for centuries, and help him escape. When he first meets his rescuers, he tells them, “Long centuries ago, mounted on my goodly steed, I fared from my father’s castle to offer my sword to a mighty king.” Hokus doesn’t remember the name of this monarch, but Dorothy suggests it could be King Arthur. When escaping, he sings “verse after verse of an old English ballad.”

And in Kabumpo, Thompson explicitly ties the knight to Arthur: “Yet the knight was so old that it would give me lumbago just to try to count up his birthdays. He dated back to King Arthur, in fact, and had been wished into the Land of Oz centuries before by an enemy sorcerer.” So he’s from medieval England, right? Well, not according to Yellow Knight, which explains Hokus’ past in detail, but doesn’t entirely match up with what we’re told in earlier accounts. And yes, I had thought there were other mentions of Hokus being from Arthurian England, but I couldn’t find any. Thompson actually becomes somewhat more vague about the matter after Kabumpo. Cowardly Lion just refers to him as “a knight so many centuries old that only in Oz could he be alive at all.” Lost King establishes that there might be some mysteries wrapped up in the knight’s past. Thompson writes, “Dorothy and Ozma, remembering Sir Hokus’s strange history, felt that he might easily be the lost King of Oz.” Perhaps she was starting to consider delving into Hokus’ back story, but I’m not sure how he could have been Ozma’s father if he’d lived for centuries in Pokes. The knight is somewhat forgetful when Dorothy meets him, however, and his own account of how he ended up in the sleepy town could be a planted memory. Gnome King gives Hokus’ age as seven centuries, presumably meaning he was born in the thirteenth century. Geoffrey of Monmouth placed King Arthur’s reign in the sixth century, but later details of the Arthurian legend, like the knights in armor with a code of chivalry, match up more closely with the thirteenth. Of course, Arthur couldn’t have been the ruler of England during a time when we have detailed historical records of the monarchs. T.H. White purposely joked on the anachronisms in The Once and Future King, but I don’t know if Thompson had any opinions on this matter. Not that it makes much of a difference for our friend Hokus, however, as Yellow Knight makes it clear he’s from Oz in the first place.

As per Yellow Knight, Hokus’ real name is Corum, the Yellow Knight of Oz and Prince of Corumbia. Yes, Thompson had a thing for making all her characters with mysterious pasts turn out to be royal, but some of of the Knights of the Round Table were as well. He was on his way to the neighboring kingdom of Corabia to compete in a challenge for the hand of Princess Marygolden. The Sultan of Samandra, fearing an alliance between the nations, transformed everyone in both kingdoms. He was also the black knight and sorcerer who banished Corum to Pokes. His stay there is confirmed as having been about five centuries, which means he was around 200 years old when he set out from his father’s castle. If his recollection in Royal Book that he has “never had a real adventure–never killed a dragon–nor championed a lady–nor gone on a Quest” is accurate, it leaves the question of why he waited so long. It also implies that the Corumbians were already really long-lived at this point, despite other suggestions that Ozites aged at what we would consider a normal rate until around the time of Ozma’s ascension to the throne. He also claims while in Pokes that he’s never heard of Oz and expresses surprise at the Lion talking “quite manfully” even though his horse is revealed to have been able to talk. He remembers the sorcerer-sultan as having shouted, “Live, Wretch, for centuries in the stupidest country out of the world,” while in Yellow Knight he remembers it as “Live, wretch, for centuries in the stupidest Kingdom in Oz.” Is his memory coming back or getting more confused?

At the end of the book, Corum is restored to his old self, including regaining his youth. (Strangely, that last sentence is not a contradiction.) As fans have pointed out, a young knight doesn’t have the potential as a blustery, constantly frustrated old knight. Royal Book presents him as a man out of his element, seeking to fight dragons and giants but rarely getting to. There’s a bit of Don Quixote about him, except while Quixote lived in the mundane world and encountered windmills when he expected giants, Hokus instead finds a childish giant made of candy and an ancient, tame dragon who doesn’t put up a fight.

He becomes more used to modern Oz in later books, even picking up some American slang from Betsy Bobbin and Trot, but continues to always have the desire to go on quests and fight monsters.

Thompson rarely used him after his disenchantment, although he does make a visit to the Emerald City in Wishing Horse and is mentioned a few other times. John R. Neill does use him, but pretty much ignores Yellow Knight, instead giving the character his old name, appearance, and personality.

Thompson herself seems to follow suit in Yankee, in which the character is only called Sir Hokus during his brief appearance, never Corum or the Yellow Knight. This confused me when I first read the books, but perhaps the simplest explanation is that he aged a bit and grew back his mustache after Yellow Knight. J.L. Bell’s suggestion is that fatherhood might have been what drove him back into old habits. Whether Corumbia has anything to do with Arthurian England remains to be seen. Maybe it was settled by members of Arthur’s court who discovered some way into Oz. I think it’s pretty clear that Hokus himself never actually lived in England despite some evidence to the contrary, however. Then again, there ARE those mysterious 200 years before he was sent to Pokes.

Posted in Arthurian Legend, British, Characters, John R. Neill, Mythology, Oz, Oz Authors, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trumped-Up Trickle-Down

I watched the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last night, and it was both entertaining and terrifying. Do these debates ever actually change anybody’s mind, or do viewers just want to see the person they don’t like look foolish? I’ve never put much stock on calling a winner for a debate. There’s no scoring system you can use to determine that, and it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway. Yes, I think Hillary did better than Trump, but that’s like Usain Bolt sprinting better than a slug. I don’t think she really did that well in terms of actually explaining her policies or exploring issues on which she might have changed her mind. I’m not talking about e-mail or Benghazi here, but about stuff like whether she still thinks NAFTA is a good idea, or her thoughts on race relations. I don’t think this is her fault, however, as she was just kept so busy refuting Trump. And when she did try to say something, Trump either yelled “Wrong!” or lied about what he’d previously said.

Hillary didn’t pull any punches in her criticism of him, mentioning how he didn’t allow black people to live in his buildings, claimed global warming was a conspiracy made up by the Chinese, and constantly insulted women.

When Trump didn’t deny these things, he tried to paint them as positive. This is a guy who’s apparently PROUD of not paying taxes, stiffing contractors on payment, taking advantage of the housing crisis, declaring bankruptcy, harassing Obama until he pointlessly released his long-form birth certificate (which he then insisted was a fake anyway), and insulting Rosie O’Donnell. Hell, he might even be proud of being repeatedly audited. To him, that’s all business (except possibly the O’Donnell thing). Aside from how that’s pretty much how the Corleone family talked about whacking people, it just goes to show how government and business are largely incompatible. Theoretically, the President is supposed to be a public servant. He’s responsible to the country and its people, and to some extent the rest of the world, not the bottom line. But this is a person who advertises hotels while he’s campaigning.

I get the impression he’s not even a particularly GOOD businessman considering how many of his ventures have failed, but even if he were, how is that going to improve the welfare of Americans?

Some of what Trump proposes is just basic Republican stuff, like trickle-down economics. It doesn’t work, and I don’t even see how it could possibly work, but they just keep calling for it.

Politicians like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney just seemed totally out of touch with anyone outside their economic class. I’m not even sure it was on purpose. The thing is, I’m not even sure Trump cares about his fellow billionaires, or for that matter his own family. He certainly has no problem with discarding wives. As such, why would ANYONE support him, even those who liked Dubya and Romney? I saw a comment on Twitter last night about how it’s easy to support stop and frisk policies when there’s not much chance you’re going to be stopped and frisked.

I was thinking about the same thing recently with American-born white people making policies on immigration, and men on abortion. But Trump has screwed over other white men when it suited his purposes, so that doesn’t even totally apply. And in regards to his comments about “taking the oil,” does he still hold to the spoils belonging to the victor? Isn’t that a somewhat outdated notion?

Yeah, there are still war profiteers, but even Dick Cheney was more subtle than that. Not to mention that he seems to think “taking the oil” is a simple matter of filling a really big barrel and sneaking it onto a plane, or swiping it like Indiana Jones. I read a Mother Jones article on how Trump has so much working against him that Hillary can’t form a coherent narrative on why he’s bad. Mind you, you’d think pointing out any one of them would be enough. I don’t think Trump supporters see it that way, though. They’re not going to turn against him because he doesn’t pay taxes or because of his racist rhetoric, because those aren’t bad things in their minds. Okay, I’m sure they are for some of his supporters, but then they can just pretend he didn’t actually make any racist comments. Even the fact that Trump isn’t particularly religious doesn’t stop him from getting evangelical support. I’m not going to predict that a victory for Trump would mean the end of American democracy. We’ve had plenty of bad presidents and the nation has survived. On the other hand, plenty of PEOPLE haven’t survived, and aren’t they allegedly in charge of the country?

For all the dude talks about “law and order,” he’s about as close as politicians have come to chaos personified.

PICTURED: Graphical rendition of Trump’s victory speech

Posted in Christianity, Corporations, Current Events, Fundamentalism, Politics, Prejudice, Religion, Snobbery, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mandatory Weirdness

Last night, Beth and I saw “Weird Al” Yankovic at Radio City Music Hall, the last performance of his Mandatory World Tour, in support of an album that came out two years ago. I think the guy deserves some rest at this point. The show was sold out, and I’d actually bought tickets back in February. I think this was the seventh time I’ve seen him (I said sixth on Twitter, but I was forgetting when he did a shortened show at Hershey Park, so maybe it’s more like the sixth and a half), and the show has been pretty standard over the years. The setlist changes from one tour to another, but there are some standard inclusions (“Fat,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Amish Paradise”), and older ones that he’ll give a rest but then bring back. While Al and the band go backstage for costume changes, a screen will play clips of media in which Al appeared or was mentioned. I wonder if he has interns who collect all this stuff for him. For instance, “Dare to Be Stupid” was part of the set this time.

The first time I saw Al live was on the Bad Hair Tour in 1996, and I seem to recall him doing more live bits in between songs, but those seem to have fallen by the wayside. The show opened with “Tacky,” which had a video of Al coming in from outside the venue and making his way up the aisle to the stage.

For “Perform This Way,” he wore a purple octopus outfit.

As usual, there was a medley of song parodies featuring quick costume changes. In fact, a few of the transitions were done specifically with the costumes in mind.

“Party in the CIA” led into “It’s All About the Pentiums” because a black suit and tie were appropriate for both, and the pink bathrobe Al wore for “Inactive” is mentioned in the first line of “Ebay.” There was also a second medley of old parodies performed acoustically, made up of “Eat It,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road,” and “Like a Surgeon.” Making further jokes out of songs that were already jokes is kind of bizarre, but it worked.

Al did a James Brown bit at the end of the main set, then returned for his standard encore of “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda,” accompanied by a dance line of Storm Troopers with Darth Vader in the middle.

I actually saw him once when he DIDN’T end with those two songs, but he still played them, just earlier in the set. When he sang the line “I guess I’ll train this boy,” he motioned to Vader, who lit up his lightsaber. “Yoda” is still performed in its original accordion-and-percussion arrangement rather than the close-to-the-original version on Dare to Be Stupid. It includes a chant performed by the band, which adds a little bit on each new tour. I’m not sure if any bits have been removed over the years; it does seem like a lot to remember. Lin-Manuel Miranda joined Al on stage to sing a line. I actually already knew he was there because Michael Ian Black mentioned it on Twitter, but I didn’t know whether Al would acknowledge the fact. After the show, I bought a “Word Crimes” T-shirt, which I think people who have known me for a while will find appropriate.

Posted in Concerts, Humor, Music, Star Wars, Weird Al Yankovic | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Power of Christ Compels You to Read This Book

The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty – The movie version of this was one of the first films Beth and I saw at the theater together. I’m pretty sure the VERY first was X-Men, but we saw the re-release of this one in 2000.

She grew up watching horror movies, while I didn’t. The story is partially based on an actual exorcism that occurred in Maryland, or at least there’s a popular rumor that it did. The common account is that, in the late 1940s, a boy was said to be moving and levitating objects in his vicinity. His family was Lutheran, but the pastor suggested consulting a Catholic priest. Unsubstantiated accounts claim that, during the exorcism, the boy loosened one of his arms from its restraint and attacked a priest with a mattress spring, and that his bed was shaking and words appearing on his body. I don’t believe the boy’s real name is on record, but he was commonly called Robbie Manheim in articles on the case. Blatty’s possessed girl, Regan MacNeil, has the same initials. We have a cat named Reagan, and while we didn’t name her, Beth prefers to associate her with The Exorcist rather than the former president. And yes, I know the cat’s name has an extra A. The book confirms that Regan was named after King Lear, and that her mother considered naming her Gonerill. The Wikipedia article states that Father Merrin’s first name and appearance were based on Gerald Lankester Harding, an archaeologist (but not a priest) who was responsible for much of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And I’ve already written a bit about the demon Pazuzu.

Due to an unusual amount of down time when I wasn’t able to access the Internet, I read the book in two days. I noticed it was very similar to the movie, right down to much of the dialogue. There was an additional subplot about the Swiss housekeepers having a daughter who’s a drug addict and her mother thinks is dead. The book does a good job of building up Regan’s possession little by little, with it being a long time before anything indisputably supernatural happens.

Father Damien Karras was a well-developed character, and Beth has said he’s one of her favorite literary/cinematic personages.

Posted in Book Reviews, Catholicism, Christianity, Religion, Urban Legends | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mangaboos and More

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz isn’t one of my favorite Oz books, perhaps because the Emerald City seems less welcoming than usual. And after a journey as dark as the one in the rest of the book, where the characters frequently have to kill or be killed. The characters journey through several underground lands before almost reaching the surface and having to call on Ozma for help. The exact location of these countries isn’t entirely clear, as Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz, and their companions reach them through fissures in the ground caused by California earthquakes, yet L. Frank Baum’s own map places them on the Ozian landmass adjacent to Boboland. The International Wizard of Oz Club’s map shows them as being underneath Boboland, which makes more sense, but still doesn’t explain how anyone could get there from California. If you consider Oz and its environs to be physically on Earth, I suppose places deep underground would be underneath many different places, as there’s less room down there. In Yellow Knight, Speedy reaches Subterranea by burning through the ground on Long Island, and arrives in Oz through another hole right next to it. And Giant Horse has Benny falling into a hole in Boston and ending up near the Emerald City, which seems to pretty much require magical as well as physical travel. All of these underground places are considered fairylands, where magic is fairly commonplace and animals can talk.

I’ve written before about the Mangaboos, but I think there’s more to be said about these strange vegetable people. They live in a city of glass surrounded by picturesque plains and mountains. It’s lit by six suns that hang in midair, each of a different color, providing light but not heat to the people below. Because the five smaller suns revolve around the biggest one, the colors of the land below keep changing. The Mangaboos are beautiful in form but largely unemotional, humanoid with expressionless faces and clothes permanently attached to their bodies. There are men and women, but since the people grow on bushes and have no internal organs, this is presumably only a cosmetic matter. The text compares the Mangaboos to potatoes or turnips, even though those are root vegetables and Mangaboos grow on bushes.

All Mangaboos living in the city are adults, as they aren’t picked until they’ve reached adulthood.

They generally only live for about five years, and are planted after they die. The Mangaboos have no need to eat or sleep, so the fruits that grow in their gardens are purely decorative. The Wizard catches a fish in a brook, reasoning that they wouldn’t be vegetable because “[f]ishes are not animals, and they are as cold and moist as the vegetables themselves.” Obviously he isn’t too knowledgeable about zoology, but he apparently turns out to be right. The fish he catches has glistening scales, and either no bones or barely noticeable ones. Undesirables are either thrown to the Clinging Vines, writhing plants that crush everything they touch; or imprisoned in the Black Pit. Fortunately, this pit leads to another country. At least, all of this is true at the time of this book. Melody Grandy’s Disenchanted Princess has Tippetarius (then calling himself Amadin) brought to the Vegetable Kingdom by Himself the Elf. He escapes, taking a Mangaboo who actually feels compassion with him, and later returns with Zim. Zim’s experiments in cross-breeding the Mangaboos with Rose Kingdom royalty result in their becoming longer-lived and actually caring about each other. We’re told in this book that Mangaboos fear the Black Pit because they need light to function, and are healthier the closer they are to their suns. We also learn the names of the suns: Midron, Firenth, Wichtar, Augreth, Imton, and Kizrioth. One of the Mangaboos tells Tip, “Names are for those who are different,” which explains why the only one with a name in DotWiz is the sorcerer Gwig. Most Mangaboos who don’t meet the standard of beauty are weeded out, but the prickly sorcerers are allowed to remain due to their useful skills.

In Sherwood Smith’s Trouble Under Oz, Kaliko magically transports Dori, Prince Inga, and Ruggedo’s son Rikiki to the Vegetable Kingdom, where they find the Mangaboos just as heartless as before, even though this presumably takes place after Zim’s biological reforms. Dori even speculates that their ruler is the same princess Dorothy and the Wizard picked, but this is probably not true considering how short-lived the people are.

The visitors in this book learn that there are mermaids in the waters of the kingdom, and the Mangaboos keep covering them with glass to preserve their beauty. Dori convinces them to stop doing this. In Scott Dickerson’s Ruggedo, the Mangaboos are still largely unemotional, but somewhat kinder than before, and many of them now have names. They are largely obsessed with doing their duty and what is proper. Only members of the royal family are able to lie. The vegetable people also adopted some foreign habits that aren’t strictly necessary for them, so they have a cafe that serves only air and money that isn’t really worth anything. They have no written language, but shops advertise their wares with pictures. Ruggedo goes there to take the Colorless Gloves belonging to Queen Ssyr, which are able to grab anything, no matter how far away. The Mangaboos themselves are apparently unaware of this power. The old Nome King reaches the place by means of a pineapple-shaped mountain in the Land of the Phanfasms, which leads to a passage through an ice volcano, then to the Vegetable Kingdom. Tizzland, which as per Phyllis Ann Karr’s Gardener’s Boy, is a country that can be reached through a mud shaft under the lake in Jinxland, is apparently a “few valleys over” from the Mangaboos’ land.

Inhabited by insect people with wings and inundated with new hatchlings, it’s the law that anyone who lives there more than three months is put to death. Their ruler was whoever possessed the Crystal Butterfly, but since they didn’t much care for rulers, they weren’t all that upset when the Rakpat turned it to china and it broke. The executioner Big Zector and his mate Zuzanna left Tizzland to found their own country, which they did in the mountains east of Oz, calling it Zectorland. It’s not specified whether anyone changed in Tizzland.

On the other side of the Black Pit is the Valley of Voe, a lush place “shaped like the hollow of a great cup.” It is known for its dama-fruit, which makes anyone who eats it invisible. It tastes so good that pretty much every animal there does, including the ferocious bears. The fruit apparently only works in the valley itself. Jack Snow proposed that its name might be an anagram of “Adam,” since he ate the forbidden fruit. There’s also a plant that allows people to walk on the surface of the water, where the bears won’t venture.

Dorothy and the Wizard visit a friendly family, but learn nothing about the government of Voe. One of John R. Neill’s illustrations shows what looks like a castle in the background, however.

There’s an Oziana story, Jay Delkin’s “The Mysterious Palace of Voe,” that has the Wizard exploring this castle while under Glinda’s tutelage.

Trouble adds that the beautiful Tasca Birds don’t eat the dama-fruit because they’re so proud of their plumage, and that some caves there lead to the Nome Kingdom. Also in some of these caves are the snake people known as Hizzers, who hate Nomes.

The reptilian Dinods and nasty Spider-Bats also live in the area and are enemies of the Nomes.

At one end of the valley is Pyramid Mountain, home to the Braided Man, from which a flaming black sea is visible. Cloud fairies and giant birds can be seen above it, but not much else is known about this area.

The mountain ends in the Land of Naught where the wooden Gargoyles live.

They’re totally silent and hate any kind of noise, and I’m wondering if there’s an intentional theme of each place visited in DotWiz lacking something we normally take for granted. The Mangaboos have no emotions, the people of Voe are invisible, the Gargoyles make no sound, and the Braided Man makes intangible products. The Wizard sets fire when leaving Naught, and in Disenchanted Princess the whole place is in ruins and uninhabited. At least one Gargoyle, Gorry, must have escaped the fire, or been away at the time. Andrew and Rachel Heller’s “Celebrating Ozma: The Silver Jubilee Issue” indicates that some Gargoyles work at the post office in the Emerald City. The city is back and thriving at the time of Ruggedo, so maybe there was a rebuilding project at some point. Maybe the Wizard himself had to go there and help out in order to do penance for burning the place down.

Finally, discussing the Mangaboos gives me an excuse to plug the photography of Xenia Joy. She has several Oz-themed pictures, including this one of the Mangaboo Princess.

Posted in Art, Jack Snow, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic Items, Melody Grandy, Oz, Oz Authors, Phyllis Ann Karr, Places, Ruth Plumly Thompson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Funny Book Families Fall Out

So, here are three reviews of movies that don’t have anything to do with each other aside from my having watched them recently.

Uncle Buck – I never saw this as a kid, and pretty much all I knew about it was John Candy flipping a giant pancake with a snow shovel, and the poster where the family is trying to keep him out. The former did actually happen, but the latter did not. The movie is basically about kids with rich parents who tend to ignore them, contrasted with their lazy, uncouth uncle who actually cares about them. Two of the kids like him pretty much right away, while the oldest daughter hates that he doesn’t want her sneaking off without permission to see her sleazy boyfriend. He has to save her from being raped in order to win her over. I think the movie is a bit inconsistent on how much of a screw-up Buck is supposed to be, in that he’s mostly nice but unorthodox, but I don’t think it’s that cool that he curses out the principal or lets the dog drink out a toilet with that blue cleanser stuff in it. Those things might be even worse than betting on a fixed horse race, which he decides not to do. The class divide seems to be a favorite theme for John Hughes, although in Home Alone everyone appears to be rich except the really mean, really dumb burglars. Even the lonely old man looks well-to-do and lives in a fancy house. Anyway, I do miss John Candy.

Willow – This is another one from my childhood that I didn’t see then, and I’m not sure why. I remember thinking it was the kind of thing I would like, but apparently not enough so to seek it out. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it then, and I did as an adult as well. It stars Warwick Davis (who doesn’t receive top billing, but is the main character) as a Nelwyn, a sort of little person similar to hobbits. Willow himself is a family man with two kids, a farmer, and a stage magician who desires to learn real magic. When the evil Queen Bavmorda (played by Jean Marsh, who had a similar role in Return to Oz) threatens to have a baby killed due to a prophecy foretelling her downfall, a midwife places her on the river in Moses fashion, and Willow’s kids find her. Willow is charged with taking the baby to safety, and is joined in his quest by a comically arrogant swordsman played by Val Kilmer, two brownies, and a transformed sorceress. This review of the movie was posted just a few months ago, and it makes some good points about how it’s a progressive film in giving major roles to little people (Billy Barty is also in it) and making a woman a warrior without anyone commenting on the fact. This warrior, Bavmorda’s daughter, is initially loyal to her mother, but switches sides when she falls for Kilmer’s character Madmartigan. That was a little difficult to buy, but I suppose love conquers all, or something. There’s also a definite tenderness to Willow, both with his own family and the baby. The movie is full of fantasy tropes, but that’s actually part of what makes it work.

Captain America: Civil War – I had wanted to see this at the theater, but never got the chance. It’s based on the Civil War storyline in the comics, but that was about secret identities and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions of these characters don’t have them, so instead it was about United Nations oversight for the Avengers. Captain America is opposed to this, and we can see where he’s coming from, but that’s partially because we already know the superheroes are well-intentioned. If they existed in real life, I’m sure I WOULD want them to have some kind of oversight. This issue is never actually resolved, because the UN is bombed during the talks on the convention, with the bomber framing Bucky. This becomes the focus of the movie more than the oversight thing, with Steve wanting to help his friend, and Iron Man wanting to turn him over to the government. The whole thing turns out to be a plot by a guy whose family was killed during an Avengers mission, and who seeks to divide the team in order to bring it down. His trump card is a video of Bucky killing Tony’s parents while brainwashed. Ant-Man shows up to fight on Steve’s side, and at one point turns into a giant. The film also marks the first MCU appearances of Black Panther and Spider-Man. The latter is introduced quickly, but does anyone NOT already know the basics of his back story? The main difference between this Peter Parker and his earlier film counterparts is that his Aunt May is younger than usual. Obviously there was a lot they wanted to pack into this film, yet it still seemed to gloss over some things too quickly and drag others out. Does every superhero movie these days have to be so long? I also felt that it was somewhat lacking in humor, which sort of makes sense for a movie with such a dark theme, but other Marvel movies have worked in some more levity even when the overall themes were pretty bleak. Still, it did a good job at exploring and developing Steve’s character and how he relates to his compatriots. I like that there’s an ongoing narrative to these films, with even the side stories often having some lasting effect on the big picture.

Posted in Comics, Humor, Magic, Relationships, Snobbery, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stations of the Flag

I don’t follow sports, so I doubt I ever would have heard of Colin Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the national anthem before a football game if it hadn’t been all over the news. But I did see a few comments that got me thinking about how the anger at this and other such protests demonstrates how patriotism is so associated with religious ritual. Kaepernick’s reason for sitting was to protest how the country treats black people, which is certainly a valid argument, and I’m sure there’s some racism involved in objecting to it.

It’s been pointed out that Donald Trump, the guy whose main campaign slogan implies the United States isn’t that great, said that Kaepernick “should find a country that works better for him.” Another point I’ve seen a few times is that white people tell black people to protest quietly, and then complain when someone does exactly that. A few days ago, I noticed someone had replied to a tweet by Kate Upton, a woman who is famous for having large breasts, about how members of the Miami Dolphins kneeling during the anthem on September 11th was somehow unpatriotic.

Apparently EATING the flag is okay, even though Dr. Zoidberg got in trouble for that.
She had Geraldo Rivera, a guy who recently defended Roger Ailes, agreeing with her. They’re allowed their opinions, of course, just as Jenny McCarthy is allowed to say that a kid sharing the same mental condition I have would be worse than their dying of the measles. I do kind of wonder why anyone would listen, though. I’m sure there are women who take off their clothes for pictures and aren’t that insulting to minority populations.

The thing is, even if these protesters didn’t have valid points, would that really be so terrible? Why do we put so much stock in patriotic rituals? Why is the Pledge of Allegiance still a thing, with or without the words “under God”?

It was common for people who hated President Obama to circulate pictures of him where he’s the only one in a group picture not holding his hand over his heart or wearing a flag pin.

These were generally, perhaps always, taken out of context. Even if they weren’t, however, how does making the proper hand motions indicate whether you love the country, and whether you’ll be a good chief executive? I get that ritual is important, a way to feel like you’re part of something bigger, but ultimately it doesn’t really affect anything. I don’t think the flag really cares if you salute it. If it stands for liberty and freedom, as people are fond of insisting, doesn’t that include the freedom not to participate in these rituals? When there’s a separation of church and state, that means the state can’t become a church any more than we can institute a national religion. It’s not too surprising that there appears to be a correlation between evangelical fundamentalist Christianity and American exceptionalism.

Or is it? I mean, the United States was founded as a secular nation, and Christianity was created as a religion not tied to any specific nation, so it’s kind of a contradiction. I might well have mentioned before that the Pledge of Allegiance and mandatory prayer are merely a nuisance to atheists and agnostics, but must be downright blasphemous for those who follow a different religion. I know Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed to the Pledge.

And really, how can you say you support liberty, and then insist that everyone has to follow your religious standards?

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