Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie Reviews-Don Jon, 47 Ronin

Don Jon
directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Don Jon is a nice heartwarming little comedy despite its unfortunate overreliance on broad stereotypes of East Coast Italian-Americans and its explicit subject matter. Although it's not really in the same universe as (500) Days of Summer, like that film it has something to say about how men and women see and use each other. There does appear to be another nod to that film when the protagonist's little sister can see things more clearly than the protagonist. The growth and change is once again done primarily by the male character.  I appreciated that this movie subtly called both men and women on the carpet for unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. Everyone has fantasies. They can be escapist but they can also shape what we desire in the real world. Some argue that these fantasies are completely socially constructed and unhealthy. I tend to disagree with that. But the cultural zeitgeist tends to be that male fantasies are nasty, degrading and disgusting and should be suppressed if not stamped out while female fantasies are wholesome, uplifiting and something that males should aspire to fulfill. Right. Well as anyone who's ever been intimate with anyone knows, the reality is usually very different than the fantasy. Often the reality is better in the long run though it's always more challenging. The film seems to be saying that there's nothing wrong with fantasies per se, but that you should never let fantasies prevent you from enjoying real life. 

Jon Martello (JGL) is a bartender who appears to have been a perfect fit for The Jersey Shore. As he explains in voice over there are a few things he really cares about. These include his friends, his family, his girls, his ride, his body, his church, his home and his porn. That's pretty much it. He and his friends Danny (Jeremy Luke) and Bobby (Rob Brown) do the dance club/night club circuit where they attempt to have as much meaningless sex as possible with the female versions of themselves. They can be friends because they all have slightly different tastes in women. Jon, aka Don Jon for his success at loving them and leaving them, prefers the leggy hourglass shape. Bobby likes a woman with a healthy bottom frame while Danny seeks a more slender figure. Their preferences all occasionally overlap of course but one thing that all three men can agree upon is that becoming attached to just one woman let alone getting married is completely out of the question. 
Jon however has found that no matter how much or what kind of sex he has there's no woman out there who can give him the physical and emotional transcendence he attains from visual pornography. So as far as Jon is concerned porn is a permanent part of his life. Any woman he's intimate with will just have to accept that. But when he has a chance meeting with Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johanssen) this is put to the test. Barbara meets or far exceeds all of Jon's physical requirements, so much so that he tells his stunned buddies that she is beyond a "10". When he admits to being in love his friends know he's lost his mind. Barbara's mojo is such that she can make Jon wait for intimacy until she's ready. This is unheard of! Barbara can even force Jon to go back to night college classes.The white collar worker Barbara doesn't see herself in a long term relationship with someone who didn't graduate college. Jon's parents, Jon Sr. (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenn Headley) are super delighted that Jon finally appears to be on the verge of settling down and starting a family. 
Things look like they're going well. But both over time and in some darkly humorous sudden shock setpieces, Barbara reveals both deliberately and unwittingly that she has fantasies and expectations that if applied to real men, are just as restrictive and unfair as Jon's porn driven dreams of no holes barred sex are to women. Barbara doesn't like pornography and is not shy about letting Jon know it either. This leads to static and to Jon questioning his values and what he wants out of life. An older student in his class, Esther (Julianne Moore) provides a different sort of catalyst to Jon's growth. This was Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut. It worked. It's a smart funny film. It's ironic and probably just part of the human condition that we can see so clearly the weaknesses, contradictions and foolishness in someone else's fantasies while being blind to similar drawbacks in our own. Such is life. Be aware that Don Jon contains numerous brief clips from hard core adult movies which are used to puncutate Jon's thoughts or ridicule his oft-altered state of mind. His frequent confessions are also played for laughs.

47 Ronin
directed by Carl Erik Rinsch
47 Ronin is a fantastical reinterpretation of the true story of 47 Ronin in Japan, who against the odds and the law avenged the unrighteous death of their feudal lord. 47 Ronin should have been a better movie. Unfortunately there is never a sense of massive scale or that these particular masterless samurai are such bada$$es that being outnumbered by high ratios is no big deal for them. If you wish to impress me that only 47 men pulled off an impossible task then you need to show me greater numbers of opponents so that I understand. Give me a way to tell the Ronin apart. Have some of them have an interesting backstory or special power. For example this was done to great effect in the first Matrix movie (where Neo and Trinity storm the building to save Morpheus), the movie Equilibrium (where Preston fought his way past all the bodyguards to kill Brandt and DuPont), or the classic Five Deadly Venoms movie (pick any scene). Unfortunately 47 Ronin doesn't really have any scenes like that until the very end where it's probably a bit too late. This is definitely a wait for DVD, Saturday afternoon kind of film.

Nevertheless the story is quite familiar even though I hadn't heard of it previously. Some things are just universal. We have familial rivalries, deceit, forbidden love, death before dishonor, the execution of a beloved father figure, the destruction of a clan's power and a princess captured by her family's enemies and forced to marry those who murdered her father. And bloody revenge. I wonder if George R.R. Martin was familiar with this story.
One thing that doesn't translate well in my opinion is the Japanese tradition of seppuku, or ritual suicide to avoid or atone for misdeeds or dishonor. It's one thing to fight to the last man giving no quarter and accepting none, blow yourself up in order to take down some of THEM with you, or take a position that you know will be overrun in the hopes that your fight until hell freezes over and then fight on the ice sacrifice will inspire fear in your enemies or give your distant comrades enough time to regroup and avenge you. I get that. It's something else again to kill yourself because you offended your military leader or broke some code of honor. No thanks. If I'm going to die anyway I'm taking some enemies with me.

When Kai (Keanu Reeves) is a child he is discovered running away from a witch/demon den by Japanese soldiers. He's half dead already. As the soldiers don't trust him anyway they are about to kill him but are prevented from doing so by their Lord Asano (Min Tanaka). Lord Asano is a kindly man and raises Kai as his ward. This doesn't prevent his soldiers from bullying Kai about his mixed ancestry or prevent Kai from having to accept his low non-Samurai status. As a child Kai grew friendly with Lord Asano's daughter and heir, Mika. As an adult he and the beautiful Mika (Kou Shibasaki) struggle with some obvious and complicated feelings for each other. Lord Asano is blind to this but his other samurai pick up on it and don't like it one bit.
During a hunt for a wild magical beast Kai notices some strange events in the forest but is ridiculed when he tries to bring this to others' attention, especially Oishi's (Hiroyuki Sanada). Oishi is Lord Asano's most powerful and loyal retainer. But he's not overly fond of Kai. The shogun (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and the powerful Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) are arriving for festivities and a tournament. Lord Kira has goo goo eyes for Mika, who isn't betrothed yet. He lets her know of his interest by the traditional time honored male tactics of the slow gaze that takes her in from head to toe, the invasion of personal space and of course the old mistaking her for her father's concubine routine. Do those moves still work ladies? Anyway via sorcery from Kira's concubine, advisor and much much more, Mizuki (Rinko Kukuchi):
  • The Asano family loses the tournament.
  • Kai is disgraced and sold into slavery.
  • Lord Asano is forced to kill himself.
  • The Asano lands pass into Kira's control.
  • Asano's samurai are stripped of titles and expelled, except for Oishi who is arrested and tortured for months.
  • Sansa Stark Mika Asano is compelled to marry the smirking Lord Kira, in order to bring peace between the two families.
  • Revenge is strictly forbidden via direct order of the Shogun himself.
But if you want to stop revenge you never should have left Oishi alive. Inexplicably released from prison Osihi goes to find Kai. They're going to put the band back together. They intend to take bloody revenge and shake the pillars of heaven. This was okay just somewhat underwhelming. The penultimate battles were nice but most of the film just didn't live up to what I thought it could have been. As usual, Reeves is a bit vacant. There is a fair amount of magic and fantasy interwoven into the story. I've skipped the trailer here as the ones I've seen give away the film's only impressive surprise. And I don't know if anyone told Megyn Kelly but in the actual historical event there weren't any Caucasian or even semi-Caucasian Ronin. 47 Ronin is visually impressive at times but there wasn't enough there.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Phil Robertson, Justine Sacco and Free Speech

I didn't want to write about this until it had reached some level of closure and now that A&E has rescinded its non-suspension suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson I'd like to discuss a few things.
We've talked about this before here and here and here. People should understand what free speech means. With a few exceptions the government, (state, federal, municipal) can't physically prevent you from expressing or sharing your opinion, fine you or put you behind bars for your thoughts, pass laws to make your opinion illegal, or require you to get permission from the government before expressing your opinion. There are increasing attempts by governments at all levels to undermine these protections. The First Amendment limits government actions. Private actors are far different entities. The blog lawyers could detail the case histories but corporations and individuals often have the right to hire and fire as they see fit and associate with whom they want. Their money, their company, their rules. If you don't like it well go find another outlet that more closely approximates your belief system. So when Phil Robertson said: 
"Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right" 
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person," Robertson is quoted in GQ. "Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” 
It was no violation of his free speech rights for A&E to have suspended him from Duck Dynasty (which was just PR as the new season was already filmed) or for other groups to have criticized him.

When  PR exec Justine Sacco sent out her joking tweet about AIDS and her employer decided that it could continue to make money and thrive without her contributions, again, there was no threat to her free speech. No one put her in jail. She is free to make all the jokes about AIDS and Africans that she wants to make. Go for it I say. At least for now she can make such statements without being encumbered by such constraints as gainful employment. But I'm sure she'll land on her feet eventually. She must find an employer with different values than her previous company, one that understands and accepts her odd (racist) sense of humor. I doubt that will take too long.
Those doggone white people

You would think that conservatives, who at least when it comes to contraception, abortion and racist speech, champion the rights of corporations and individuals to exercise freedoms of speech, religion and association, would understand that the door swings both ways. These freedoms apply to everyone, not just conservatives. Regarding the content of Robertson's statements I'll echo what most intelligent people already pointed out. Robertson was born in 1946. He was a boy when some of the first court decisions opposing segregation came down and a young adult by the time the South was forced, kicking and screaming, to allow desegregation. When Robertson says he didn't know any black people that were saying "those doggone white people" he might have considered the fact that many black people in 1950s and 1960s Louisiana would have thought twice before expressing their honest opinions to any white person, self-described "white trash" or not. It was after all often the "white trash" who were burning buses, beating sit-in protesters, and committing other violent acts. Robertson doesn't say if he or his family members were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. If he had been perhaps he would learned people's true thoughts. Or Robertson might have, if he were so inclined, when he was 18, travelled to Jonesboro, Louisiana and talked to the Deacons of Defense, a group of armed black men, who intended to protect themselves and their community from conservative violence both official and non-official. The Deacons shot back when they were shot at, something which infuriated racist whites. 
In fact given Louisiana's vicious history of segregation and violence, you have to wonder what planet Robertson was living on if he thought black people were happy with their lot in Louisiana or anywhere else in the Jim Crow South. I wish the GQ interview had delved a little more deeply into the difference between Robertson's claimed experiences and the reality of what was going on. Why the hell does Robertson think Nina Simone wrote Mississippi Goddamn?  Because that's not a very happy song. No it's not a happy song at all. Since I do happen to know and be related to black people who lived under Jim Crow I can safely say that Robertson doesn't know the whole story. "Welfare and entitlements" don't have anything to do with being harassed or murdered because you opposed the Southern terror state.

There is actually scripture that would seem to condemn gays. AFAIK there's next to nothing in the Bible that would seem to condone a GLAAD approved positive view about homosexuality. However there is also scripture that would seem to condemn just about anyone. Although Paul condemns homosexuality, Jesus doesn't speak on it. Theologians can argue but people tend to pick and choose which sins they condemn. Jesus talked about this hypocrisy in his Sermon on The Mount but apparently no one listened. When you set yourself up to judge, well that's not really a believer's job, according to Jesus. If you don't adhere to Robertson's views on gays, find a different Christian interpretation that's more to your liking. There's no shortage of sects. But this whole discussion about Biblical injunctions presumes that the Bible should be the basis of secular law or morality. Unless and until you're ready to start stoning disobedient children or allowing men who rape unmarried virgins to make amends by marrying them and paying their father fifty shekels, you might have to admit that the Bible might not always be the best basis for a modern legal or moral system. 

Robertson's comments bothered me less than the hypocrisy of conservatives who sought to cast him as a free speech martyr even as many of the same conservatives did their best to harm the careers of other people with whom they disagreed. Do you remember the conservative rush to protect the free speech rights of Lupe Fiasco, Ward Churchill, The Dixie Chicks, Martin Bashir, Louis Farrakhan, Van Jones and Reverend Wright to say what they wanted without criticism or danger to their careers. Of course you don't. 
Free speech is an endangered species. Those “intolerants” hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.
-Palin speaking of Phil Robertson
"Those with that platform, with a microphone, a camera in their face, they have to have some more responsibility taken," she said on Fox & Friends.
-Palin speaking of Martin Bashir
All we learned from the Robertson and Sacco incidents is that money talks and bs walks.
Robertson is an integral part of cable's top show. His family backed him up. A&E and its advertisers, business partners and other corporations made the financial decision that they didn't want to lose millions in revenue. Sacco was not that valuable to her employer so they let her go and kept it moving. So if you're going to say something controversial or even outright vile, make sure you either work for yourself or are extremely valuable to your employer.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Reviews-American Hustle, Prisoners

American Hustle
directed by David O. Russell
Okay first things first. You should be prepared to see Amy Adams in a whole new light. Heh. There was a joke going around that she should win an award for least supported actress. In almost every scene Adams is braless in extremely low cut blouses, gowns or dresses. Perhaps this look will catch on. Snicker. You definitely notice her attributes, which, as she is playing a con woman, makes sense. The marks pay attention to her cleavage and not their cash. Decolletage aside this was a good film with some nice acting and writing. I'm not sure it was a great film because the film's ending third is somewhat telegraphed IF you were paying attention. It still had some interesting twists and turns, however. American Hustle is based on the ABSCAM scandal. The director uses that scandal as inspiration for his own story. American Hustle is set in the seventies but except for the music choices and tasteful use of hairstyles and vehicles this movie could pretty much take place today. Although American Hustle features four relatively young stars in Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper, it's an ensemble movie. Nobody dominates the screen. The rest of the cast all fit near seamlessly in their roles, including Robert DeNiro in a quick cameo.
I don't know if Russell was influenced by Scorsese. But the multiple voiceovers, flashbacks and captions certainly reminded me of Goodfellas. So I was inclined to like this movie from those techniques alone. It's like sitting into an comfortable old chair. You know what you're going to get. There are few completely bad guys here. Everyone is a shade of gray. The four primary characters all have positive and negative traits. This film confirmed what I already believed. I don't like the federal government's seeming ability to convert almost anything into a crime and then pick and choose which crimes it will prosecute. But that's my pet peeve. So what's this movie about?

The story is less important than the characters and their interactions. It starts with the chance Long Island pool party meeting of con man/businessman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a stripper and con woman. They bond over a shared interest in Duke Ellington. They discover that besides a similar taste in music they also share an interest in making it big. I have heard that Bale gained weight for this film. Perhaps but it didn't seem to have shown in his face much so maybe his frequently shown pregnant looking belly is a prosthetic? No matter. He's quite convincing in his role. With Sydney at his side, the put upon and one french fry away from a heart attack Irving is able to improve his fake art and fake loans scams. Nonetheless I think that if I were desperate enough to give someone $5000 as a "fee" for a loan that I never received I also might be desperate enough to return to their place of business and commit a crime upon their person. 
Anyway Irving and Sydney love each other, despite the fact that Irving is unhappily married to the shrewish Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Rosalyn is the sort of irritating individual who is never at fault no matter how stupid her actions were. Rosalyn is somewhat of a thankless role. Lawrence tries her best at making the character sympathetic. But then you remember that she's not. If Rosalyn can't manipulate Irving with the obvious she'll guilt trip him about his responsibility to their son. Irving's not too crazy about Rosalyn anymore but he does love her son, whom he's adopted. Rosalyn isn't book smart. But she is cunning and cagey. From Irving's POV she has a bad habit of knowing more about his criminal enterprises than he thought she did. For now Sydney accepts being the other woman.
This barely stable balance is disrupted when Sydney (pretending to be a British "Lady Edith") and Irving run across a too eager client. His spidey sense going off, Irving tries to abort the deal but Sydney pushes on and actually takes the check. The "client" reveals himself as FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). He arrests Sydney and promises hard times ahead. Richie knows that Sydney and Irving have a personal relationship. He manipulates Irving into agreeing to set up four other con artists in order to have charges against Sydney dropped and no charges brought against him. Richie doesn't hide his attraction to Sydney, even though he has a fiancee. Each man has his own style but hitting on a woman you just arrested seems classless. When Irving declines Sydney's post-arrest suggestion that they run away together, we see Sydney drop her indifference about being "pretend-wifey". Some serious female rage emerges. Or is this a con too?

Richie's ambition requires bigger criminal fish than just small time con men. When Richie thinks he might be able to entrap more important folks, like the Camden Mayor Carmine Polito, (Jeremy Renner in the film's best role) he pushes ahead over Irving's objections and those of his FBI supervisor (Louis C.K). This leads to multiple cons, interactions with the Mafia, and hotel meetings with corrupt or altruistic Congressmen and Senators. 
This last is really important. It's something that is embodied in the Carmine Polito character. Some people seek to do good without enriching themselves but don't use kosher methods. If you can only help the people you care about by doing questionable things, does that make you a bad person? Polito's a genuinely decent guy. He cares about bringing jobs to Camden and New Jersey, especially for Black and Latino people. He's faithful to his wife, lives in a modest middle class home, hasn't stolen public funds and is respected across racial and class lines. Is he as culpable as killers who intend to skim casino proceeds, or Congressmen looking to pad re-election funds? It's something to think about. I'm not sure this was a great film but it was a very very very good one. Other actors/actresses include Jack Huston and Shea Wigham (both from Boardwalk Empire), Michael Pena, Robert DeNiro, Elisabeth Rohm, and Paul Herman.

directed by Dennis Villeneuve
Such disparate films as The Tortured, Unthinkable and Zero Dark Thirty have investigated the efficacy and morality of torture. Some famed civil libertarians as Professor Alan Dershowitz have even argued that the government should be able to seek torture warrants in certain situations. Most of us probably wouldn't agree with torture. But we're faced with the ugly fact that evil, for lack of a better word, often works. Evil can get things done where good can be impotent. If you live in the United States you're living on land soaked in the blood of Indians. If you live in the Western World period you're living in societies built on conquest and domination since 1492. Just about every group on this planet has done some dirty deeds. It is what it is. Some situations can't be undone even if we deplore the methods used. Even if you're a vegan Jain doing his or her best to avoid killing, it's still a fact that your very existence requires the death of other living things. 
Being a devout Catholic, the author J.R.R. Tolkien argued, especially in Morgoth's Ring, that the world is marred by the Evil One, so our choices are often bad ones. It can be hard to discover the good. Most would agree that the good, whatever it might be, does not include the harming of children. But how far would you go to prevent the harming of a child. If you're Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) you might do whatever it takes and worry about morality and consequences later. We can understand and accept this and yet realize that there absolutely must be consequences for such behavior. That's where Prisoners differs from such films as Zero Dark Thirty.

In Pennsylvania Keller Dover and his wife Grace (Maria Bello) are middle class folks on a tight budget. They go with their children to visit their friends the Birches, Franklin (Terence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis) and their kids for Thanksgiving dinner. The younger daughters want to walk around the neighborhood but are only allowed to do so with their older siblings tagging along. An unrecognized RV is seen. Everyone comes back but in the post dinner sluggishness both the Dovers' and Birches' youngest daughters go missing. And the RV is gone. It is scary that just that quickly someone's life can change forever.
An APB is put out. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds the RV and its driver Alex Jones(Paul Dano). Dano is mentally slow, uncommunicative and down right spacey. He claims ignorance and just wants to go home to his aunt (a totally unrecognizable Melissa Leo). Despite being pushed in ways both hard and soft by Loki, he sticks to his story. There's no physical evidence that either girl was ever in the RV. Despite Keller's impassioned and vitriolic pleas, the police brass order the release of Alex. Keller gets wind of this and runs down to the event to beat up and/or beg Alex for information. Alex tells him "They didn't cry until I left them". Unfortunately no one else hears him whisper this to Keller.
But Keller knows what he has to do, even though it's wrong. He shortly afterwards kidnaps Alex and starts to torture him in increasingly vicious and inventive ways to get information about the girls' location. Remember, Alex is developmentally disabled. Keller gets reluctant help from Franklin (does Howard ever play men who don't whine or cry) and later Nancy. Nancy wears the pants in that marriage and has punked Franklin into letting her know what he and Keller are up to at nights. Grace is out of it. She spends most of the movie in a drugged daze.
Meanwhile, deprived of who he thinks might have been a witness, if not a perpetrator, Detective Loki continues to work the case, looking for links between past kidnappings and known sex offenders. Loki has a reputation for never letting a case go unsolved. Though he hides his sympathy from Keller, in part because he's starting to have suspicions about Keller and in part because Keller's not a cop, within the boundaries of the police department people think that Loki's lost his professional distance (and his mind) and has gotten too close to the case. Although it's very slow going both Keller and Loki think they start to make progress. Or maybe they don't.

This was a very dark intense thriller. I probably wouldn't want to upset Keller Dover. And neither would you. If love, especially of the parental kind, is essentially self-sacrificial, you might argue that this is at its core a love story. What would you do to save a family member? How much of your moral or religious core would you throw away to see them again? Jackman really brings it in this movie. But Prisoners never ever ever lets you forget that no matter how justified Keller feels, he is deliberately inflicting pain on someone who may lack the capacity to understand why. There are no easy choices here. Prisoners will excite you and may even make you cheer at times. It can also drain you. Just when you think things couldn't get more tense, the director ratchets up the suspense. Good stuff but sobering.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Edward Snowden Christmas Message

If you didn't see this or hear about this already it's worthwhile in my opinion to view a quick message from the man whose actions continue to have extended repercussions both domestically and internationally. We're living in interesting times. I guess one man can make a difference after all. Say what you like about Snowden but he wasn't the one lying to you. Your government was. Wake up.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Movie Reviews-The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
directed by Peter Jackson
I finally decided to see this movie. I was initially apprehensive of the invented female character butt-kicking elf-warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and her involvement in battle. However while watching the previews, I saw an ad for 300: Rise of An Empire, which is a sequel to 300. This film stars Eva Green as a well, butt-kicking ship captain, Artemisia. What some may not realize though is that Artemisia actually was a real life Greek Queen, who did indeed command troops and fight in battle, most notably at the Battle of Salamis.

Queen Artemisia supported the Persians and was responsible for the death of many Greeks. The Greek war leaders hated her, viewing her not only as a traitor, which was bad enough, but as something almost unnatural. A woman fighting and leading men in battle was considered sinful. The Greeks had a special interest in capturing Artemisia alive. This wouldn't have ended well for her. I don't know how the film will depict this but history tells us Artemisia survived the Persian defeat at Salamis. Most Greek sources agree that despite her treason she was a skilled commander. She was the only female leader among the Persians. I mention this just to remind myself that life can be stranger than fiction. We (I) shouldn't automatically dismiss fantasy interpretations of female warriors, rare though they may be in real life. I'll have more on Tauriel in a minute.

Moving along.
The fundamental problem with the Hobbit movies is that Peter Jackson decided or had it decided it for him, to make three near three hour movies from a book that is just under 300 pages, depending upon your edition. To quote Bilbo Baggins, this is like butter that is scraped over too much bread. There just isn't enough source material there. So Jackson and company made up storylines and characters. Some filling in of details is ok. The book The Hobbit is exclusively concerned with the adventures of Bilbo, the Dwarves and Gandalf. Nothing happens except through Bilbo's eyes. We occasionally get some exposition from Thorin or Gandalf or authorial insight. In the movie, Jackson decided this wouldn't work and so we see every little thing that was only implied in the book or was spoken of off-handedly in the LOTR appendices. It's when Jackson starts getting too enthralled with his additions that he runs into his second major problem, which is related to the first.

His tone's all wrong. It's the wrong tone. Now while I certainly don't suggest that anyone stab Peter Jackson in the face with a soldering iron, the fact remains that this is really more LOTR- The Prequel, than The Hobbit-a standalone children's book. Forbidden love in the LOTR? We have that here too. Hobbit poisoned with Morgul weapon? We see that again. The film contains tons of violent scenes which never occurred in the original book. It's not aimed at kids. Until the book's end, when there is a slightly jarring nod to the fact that yes, good people really can die, The Hobbit retains a cheery, whimsical tone. This spirit is completely lacking from THDOS. This movie is very deliberately a prequel to LOTR, sometimes annoyingly so.

THDOS is an adaptation though some purists might call it a butchering. So the interpreter has the right and duty to alter the source material for reasons of commerce and media and his own caprice. The Hobbit, as a book, lacks women characters. I don't automatically see that as a flaw but many people do. THDOS, as a movie, pulls in women and girl characters from the LOTR and makes others up. This might be okay if the writers and director didn't seem to think, as many modern filmmakers do, that a woman must be "kicking a$$" in order to connect with moviegoers. I'm not sure that's the case. If we're saying that the only way a woman can be valued is to do exactly what a man would be doing, isn't that internalized sexism? YMMV of course.
Nevertheless Tauriel wasn't as bad as I had feared. She didn't ruin the movie. She's just a symptom of Jackson's compulsion to pad running times and basically create fan fiction from The Hobbit.She's an invented character that doesn't work. Jackson severely alters canon characters in worse ways. Beorn, your not so friendly neighborhood lycanthrope is turned from a gruff, brusque, solitary mountain man who nonetheless is capable of laughter and humor into an ugly scarred paranoid PTSD survivor. The book's introduction of Beorn to the dwarves is humorous. The movie's is violent. Thranduil, the elf king, is a cynical liar. There's little whimsy or sense of seeing a bigger world, which is critical to the book.
And yet, I can't quite fall into the Megyn Kelly trap of sneering and snarling that the source material can and must be only the way I imagined it. If there are some women Hobbit fans who might enjoy seeing a woman character who actually has something to do besides look frightened and hide in the caves with the children while the men battle the orcs, who am I to gainsay them? Similarly, the filmed human population of Laketown actually includes some humans of African and apparent other non-European descent. They have no speaking roles IIRC but nevertheless there they were. That's certainly not canonical but then again Laketown (Esgaroth) is a trading town where people from near and far do business.

When last we left our intrepid heroes they were within sight of the Lonely Mountain, and thus their lost realm of Erebor. Thorin (Richard Armitage) can finally start practicing his various acceptance speeches for his inauguration as king. Unfortunately the orcs have also caught up with the dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Gandalf leads them to Beorn's stables and locks them in. Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), in bear form, is not exactly happy to see them but the next morning in human form he's a bit less dangerous. He loans them horses and ponies to take them through Mirkwood. The orcs, being cowards, do not attack while Beorn is around. When they get to the forest entrance the party sends the horses back to Beorn as he is a vegan animal rights activist who would look unkindly on dwarves getting his friends hurt or killed in Mirkwood. That's when Gandalf, having been in secret mind-meld conversation with Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) gets the request, really more order (this isn't right as old and powerful as Galadriel is, she's NOT the head of the White Council and can't really give orders to Gandalf but whatever) to look into what's going on at Dol Guldur where some young punk wizard named The Necromancer has set up shop. No one has heard of him before and both Gandalf and Galadriel have a bad feeling about him. So Gandalf tells his buddies see you on the other side. He's got to leave. He warns them to stay on the path.

Of course the dwarves and Bilbo don't stay on the path. They get attacked by giant spiders. Bilbo saves them, using his magic ring, but just as they are about to be on their merry way they get ambushed by wood elves, including Prince Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his guard captain/semi-love interest Tauriel. Elves aren't overly fond of dwarves, or vice versa, as Thorin is keen to point out. So the entire party is arrested and taken to prison. Thorin refuses to kiss King Thranduil's (Lee Pace) skinny behind, confirm his treasure hunt or offer Thranduil any treasure. That's just how Thorin gets down. Meanwhile Kili (Aidan Turner) is trying to convince Tauriel that the rumors about dwarf men aren't true, if you know what I mean. 
Bilbo arrives to rescue everyone before Kili can finish running his game but such is life. This kicks off the second half. We learn that Bard the Bargeman Bowman (Luke Evans) has some unresolved feelings about his dad failing to kill Smaug, that the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn't recognize the smell of hobbits but knows dwarves all too well, and that Gandalf isn't the most powerful wizard of the Maiar. To sum up, if you liked the first movie, I think you will like this one as well. If you didn't like the first movie, there's not a lot here that is done better...EXCEPT for the pacing. It's 161 minutes and still too doggone long for me but it did move a little more quickly than the first film. The special effects were well done. I liked Cumberbatch as Smaug. If you haven't read the book I suggest that you do.


Does Dialect Map Quiz Correctly Predict Your Home?

I like hearing the different accents and dialects which people use. I did a post on this before but enjoy revisiting the subject. A 25 question NYT interactive quiz claims to show you your primary accent based on how you pronounce certain words. It also shows other regions you might be from or where people have dialects similar to your own. Some of these make more sense than others. I was correctly pegged as being from Detroit. As I have repeatedly pointed out, only somewhat tongue in cheek, people from Michigan generally and people from Detroit specifically don't have accents. It's the rest of you folks who have accents. Or so I was told.  =) My other close places were Maryland, which is where both of my parents spent some time and is within shouting distance of the Carolinas, which is where my maternal roots lie, and of all places Yonkers(???!).

Maybe Yonkers came up because I do tend to strongly pronounce the "au" sound in words like "aunt". I never understood how anyone could pronounce the word for an older female relative exactly like the word for a ubiquitous hardworking insect.  The "u" is there for a reason. It seems that distinction is still found among some in southern Appalachia, parts of New England, and of course in my particular Detroit circles. I retook the test and again came up with Detroit as home but this time had similarities to Grand Rapids and Buffalo. Interesting. "Caught" and "cot" are also different words to my ear, but apparently that's not the case for everyone. Anyway have a go and let us know if this quiz correctly predicts where you are from. Or mebbe yew doan tawk a like yore kin no more.
Take this Test

Was the test accurate?

Where are you from?

Do you think you have an accent?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Reviews-Wolfsangel, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, Demon Shield

by M.D. Lachlan
Wolfsangel is a somber historical fantasy tale of the origins of the titular German rune and of the werewolf legend. It intertwines this with Viking action adventures and the ongoing battles among and between the Norse gods the Aesir. This was enjoyable but in a far different way than I had expected. Although there are a few scenes of extreme violence and horror, the book tends to avoid those to concentrate on mental agonies, worries and magic, much of which is wielded by women. So the action is actually relatively infrequent or at least I thought it was. M.D. Lachlan is the pen name for author Mark Barrowcliffe.

The Aesir are among my favorite gods to read about simply because they are almost all serious bada$$es. War and battle are their primary focus. This tends to be true even of those deities who represent more peaceful elements of human existence such as fertility, farming, love, travel, etc. The Norse eschatological myth, or Ragnarok, is similar to other Indo-European myths and indeed to some things that are described in Revelations. There will be horrible wars. Humanity's violence, lust and lawlessness will exponentially increase. Families will dissolve in violence and incest. People will murder and rape each other with glee. There will be seemingly endless winters which kill off large numbers of people. Eventually all the bonds restraining evil entities will dissolve. The forces of evil, giants, demons, etc will meet the Aesir and their chosen human heroes from Valhalla in the Final Battle. Unlike Revelations however the "good guys" are doomed to lose. Odin, AllFather, King of Gods and Men will be killed and eaten by the wolf Fenris, who is said to be so large that his lower jaw scrapes earth while his upper jaw reaches heaven. Other wolves will swallow and eat the Sun and Moon, putting out the world's lights. The fire demon Surtur will burn the world, indeed the entire universe, destroying everything. But the world will be reborn with new even more powerful gods. This fate can't be changed.

The father of Fenris, the evil trickster god Loki, was banished from Valhalla when he admitted his involvement in the murder of Odin's son Baldur. Loki was bound with his son's entrails at the center of the earth and placed beneath serpents dripping venom onto his face and eyes. There he will stay until Ragnarok. 

In Wolfsangel the Viking King Authun has a vision that a Saxon woman has a son destined by the gods for great things. He leads a suicide mission (for his men, not himself) to raid the village and seize this child to raise as his own. Authun is surprised when he finds twin babies instead. But he takes them both and returning to his land, raises one boy Vali, while giving the other, Feileg, to the witches. Vali eschews raiding and direct violence, preferring to win via tactics and trickery. Vali's considered the biggest coward in the North. Because Authun has a well earned reputation for being the hardest and most brutal man in the North, the prospect of a "weak" son inheriting his kingdom causes political and personal problems. Feileg is sold to wild men and literally lives as a wolf. As both brothers grow to adulthood it becomes apparent that there are magicians and non-human entities that watch them. Each brother has powers that are dangerous to their enemies...and their friends.

Wolfsangel has some interesting points to make about the nature of good and evil and whether one is possible without the other. Odin, who raises strife for his own amusement and is the patron god of berserkers, hanged men, and magicians, is perhaps not "good" at all, while Loki, who constantly torments and tricks the Aesir but rarely harms humans, may not be as "evil" as some might think. Or maybe eternal beings are by definition beyond good and evil. Even in the Abrahamic traditions we have God acting in ways which are opaque to humans. In a theme shared with Christianity and some other religions Odin sacrificed himself to himself and hung dead on a tree, his side pierced with a spear, for nine days and nine nights. He did this to gain more knowledge, particularly the runes. Wolfsangel suggests that the experience and the knowledge may well have driven Odin insane and made him even more brutal than before.

This was a good book, if not quite what I was expecting. it was different, I'll say that. It moves at its own pace. It will definitely take a moment to figure out what's going on. Hints are given throughout the story but I didn't think they were obvious ones. Magic is not shown as something easy that works quickly. It's slow, painful and may work in quite different ways than the practitioner intended, if at all. It's mostly associated with women and may be related to childbirth. The shamans wielding magic always have to pay a cost.

Sundiata, An Epic Of Old Mali
by D.T. Niane
The Mali Empire was a West African multi-ethnic superstate that lasted roughly 400 years. It was famous for its wealth, legal administration, education (Timbuktu was a center of learning), music, culture and war making abilities. It had standing armies with chain mail clad knights and specialized infantry famed for skill with spear and bow. The leading group of the Mali Empire was the Mandinka people. Eight current states of West and North Africa make up the former Mali Empire. The founder of the Mali Empire was a historical figure who has since taken on legendary qualities. His name was Sundiata. This is, as was traditional among his ethnic group, a combination of his mother's (Sogolon) and father's (Maghan Kon Fatta) names. It translates into English as something close to "Son of the Lion" or "Sogolon's Lion". That's a pretty cool name for a prince if you think about it. Anyway the story starts when a king of Mali (Maghan Kon Fatta) receives a hunter/griot in his court who has the gift of prophecy. The fellow is smooth. In fact he's so smooth that he may not only be a messenger from God but perhaps supernatural in origin himself. He tells the king that his true successor is not yet born. No the king must marry a supremely ugly hunchbacked woman. This woman will bear him a son who will lead the Mandinka to heights of power not yet dreamed of. Well the king thanks the visitor for the prophecy and doesn't pay a lot of attention to it. 

Some time goes by and the king is holding court outside when he receives some visitors from the outskirts of his empire. They are accompanied by a hunchbacked maiden (Sogolon) of surpassing ugliness. Sogolon is as ugly as the king is handsome. In fact she's so ugly people call her buffalo woman. Heeding the prophecy the king decided to marry her. She bore him a son, Sundiata, who was as ugly as his mother. Sundiata did not walk until the age of seven and apparently could not talk. Now the king already had a wife, the beautiful and ambitious Sassouma, and an heir, her son Dankaran. Neither was pleased with Sogolon or her son. Both made fun of them and tried to undercut them at every opportunity.
Shortly before the King died he told the seven year old Sundiata that he would be king after Fatta's death. The King also expressed that wish to his nobles and counselors. However when he died Sassouma convinced everyone to ignore those wishes and install her son as king instead. And she then conspired to kill Sundiata, his mother and his sisters. Eventually Sundiata and his family had to flee the royal court. And this starts an epic tale of magic, intrigue and plotting which sees Sundiata travel many lands and gain much wisdom and experience before eventually returning home to liberate his people. This is taken from oral traditions. It's a very short book without a lot of dialogue. My edition ran less than 100 pages. It's reminiscent of stories like The Illiad or The Silmarillion in that via a mix of legend and history it communicates the particular cultural values of one group of people as well as telling the common Hero's Journey that is found in every culture.

Demon Shield
by Bruce King
There are slightly different explanations among monotheistic religious traditions as to why Satan and his demons/devils war against God and despise man so much. Islam's take, which is echoed elsewhere, is that Satan and his rebellious angels were jealous of the gifts and love which God gave to man, whom they considered a lower form of being. Upon being ordered to love and serve man, Satan and company scornfully refused and initiated a war in heaven, which of course they lost. Being consigned to eternal hell and blocked from God's glory made them if anything angrier and more jealous of man, who having an eternal soul, has the possibility to join with God in heaven, something that is forever denied to Satan and his minions. So from pure spite the evil forces of the universe attempt to profane, mock and destroy God's shining achievement, humanity, and drag human souls down to hell with them.
That is the story told in Demon Shield. This was the writer's first novel but it certainly didn't read like it. Unfortunately the publisher went out of business shortly after this book was released. I never did get any other books by the author, though having re-read this, I would certainly like to do so. This book remains out of print. However if you like grim visceral pulpy horror that hearkens back to Stephen King's grimier stuff -- Bruce King wrote a note giving thanks to Stephen King and hoping that the book would scare him -- you might want to pick this up if you can find it online or in your local used book store.

A yuppie couple, Angelica and Robert Marsten (she's a bookstore manager, he's a law student and public defender paralegal) moves in next door to an abandoned church which has, via evil magic, become home to a Satanic entity. Via some stupid decisons, bad luck and personal weaknesses, the entity is able to start scaring, influencing, and ultimately possessing the wife, Anjelica. Ultimately mayhem ensues but the book takes its sweet time getting there. The demon is much more interested in savoring human fear and corrupting the human soul than it is in just killing humans, though obviously it enjoys that too. This particular demon's primary initial tool happens to be lust so the book is full of explicit and nasty sexual situations which become more and more outre. Demon Shield is subdivided into four parts , Foreplay, Penetration, Obsession, and Release. This is truth in advertising. If prurient in your face horror is not occasionally your thing, this is simply not the book for you. But if you love possession stories and battles with the devilish, this is worthwhile.

The couple's only hope is Merin Whitley, a magician/exorcist who has previously tangled with demons and has the literal scars to show for it. He lost his wife in the last serious dust-up. Merin is worn down from his long battles. Once he enters the fray he realizes that this demon is the one he's struggled against before.This is pretty hardcore horror that definitely won't appeal to the Twilight or True Blood crowd or anyone who's looking for misunderstood monsters. The monsters here are not misunderstood in the least bit. They are Evil. They don't like humans. Period. They don't like dogs either. The Marstens have a devoted Rottweiller which tries to warn them of what's going on.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Live Preliminary Exam for Theodore Wafer: Renisha McBride Killer

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What's Your Excuse? Maria Kang Tells It Like It Is: Fat-Shaming or Truth Telling?

Smoking is bad for you. It causes and/or correlates with lung and throat cancer, hypertension, heart disease, yellowed teeth and fingernails, erectile dysfunction in men and several other nasty medical conditions in both genders. Smoking gives your hair, clothing and breath what I find to be an unpleasant odor. Being around smoke gives me a vicious headache. I don't allow smoking in my home. I avoid cigarette smoke as much as possible. Yes we all know of or have heard of someone who smoked three packs a day, had clean pink lungs and lived to be 107 or of someone else who never touched a cigarette and died at 31 hacking up his esophagus and lungs. But those are considered to be outliers. Most people, even many smokers, accept, grudgingly or otherwise, that smoking is bad for you. Although the anti-smoking crusade may have gone too far in some aspects, there aren't many groups, other than tobacco company fronts, who argue with a straight face that not only should you have the right to smoke but also that smoking is a positive good. If you smoke there are few support groups who claim that other people should stop trying to "smoke-shame" you. But oddly enough, many people see overeating as being different from smoking.

Despite consistent and increasing medical and scientific evidence that overeating, avoiding exercise and carrying excess weight is, generally speaking, bad for you, there are several people who won't accept that fact and don't want to hear other people raise it either. Sometimes their defensiveness slides into rage at a person's justifiable pride at being in shape. 

Exercise enthusiast Maria Kang found this out when she was temporarily banned from Facebook and had her post deleted for writing that while we shouldn't hate fat people neither should we normalize obesity. Her post brought about a firestorm of criticism, presumably from overweight women, and Kang's words were said to be akin to hate speech.
I am a firm believer that one should love their body in order to start loving and nurturing it. What I don’t like is the fine line we are walking today – which is love and accept your body versus love and progress your body.  We should celebrate any person who makes their fitness and nutrition a priority. There is no one-size-fits-all in fitness. It’s unfortunate that we don’t see more variety in the physiques that bombard our media streams. I get that. That’s why I’ve never posted a motivational poster with a fitness model attached to the message (you can now look at my FB history) because I don’t want to perpetuate the notion that ‘fitness’ looks a certain way.
Please start your keyboards now (as I know many are thinking I encourage people to look like me) because I’ve never said that. I am not a size 0 like most runway models and I don’t have a six pack like most fitness models. I am not a paid celebrity. I don’t work in a gym. I have a stressful life. I don’t have the perfect marriage. I have struggled with food addiction. And I was not blessed with the best genetics. I run when I’m tired. I avoid food when I’m stressed. I discipline my constant desire for chocolate. I am barely 5’4. I have stretchmarks. I have excess skin – and while not perfect, I know this is how my body (not everybody) manifests after children through consistent nutrition and exercise.
While fitness changes lives, the lack of fitness destroys lives. I hate the pain of watching my mother not take care of herself. I hate watching friends pop prescription pills for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. I hate reading news about our healthcare crisis and I hate seeing people blame others for their lot in life.
 I know many people still get riled up with me and my convictions but the truth is I KNOW how it is to work your ass off and not have energy at the end of your day. I know how it feels to be overweight and not drop an ounce after years of disordered eating. I know how difficult it is to raise multiple children – all born a year apart – and make my fitness and nutrition a priority. Lastly, I know how it feels like to grow up with an unhealthy mother wondering if she will live to see your wedding day. I know it’s hard. I know it’s not easy to break habits and build new ones. I know your environment challenges you and I know making your health a priority amongst the many priorities to stay afloat in today’s world is difficult. But I will tell you this: IT IS WORTH IT.
Kang evidently didn't like seeing stories about lingerie for fat women designed to make them think of themselves as beautiful and perhaps similar stories of other bloggers attempting to spread fat acceptance. Curvy Girl Lingerie Owner Chrystal Bougnon reported Kang to Facebook for making "anti-fat" comments. "I want to be a safe place for women to talk about being fat," Bougon told NBC Bay Area. "People are sending in their photos and telling me they never felt beautiful until they found my page. I want to have a sliver of cyber space without people hating on us." Bougon feels that Kang – best known for her flat abs Facebook post in October with her kids, asking “What’s Your Excuse” – is “fat shaming” her and others who are overweight.
Bougnon, who has accused Kang of stirring up the controversy to sell fitness tapes, obviously also has a financial interest in keeping the pot boiling as she has used her Facebook page to promote what she sees as "real" (read overweight) women in all their glory and imperfection. I am aghast by the attempts by some "fat positive" activists to downplay or dismiss legitimate health concerns about weight or diet as "hate speech" or bully people into saying that fat women are always just as attractive as normal size women. Having read Kang's facebook and blog post I find nothing that's hateful.

There are a few points which I think are worth making.
1) The fashion industry, which excites so much attention from some women and subsequent rage at supposedly male derived beauty standards, is not in fact run or generally consumed by heterosexual men. The constant news about this or that celebrity mother's weight gain and loss during and after pregnancy is something that most men have little to no interest in. This is about competition between and among women. The women that heterosexual men idealize who are represented in the media are generally speaking a little heavier, often shorter, more feminine, and rather obviously differently shaped from fashion model types. Men are more accepting of women's weight than many women might think. And fat women get married, date, and have children like anyone else. And they seem to be increasing in number. Americans in general are getting fatter.

2) That said, everyone has an ideal of what's attractive in the opposite sex. That's life. Getting angry about this is like getting mad that when it rains you get wet. You can curse, scream and pout all you want but you're still gonna get wet. Since you can't control the rain, the smart thing to do is to get inside, wear a raincoat or carry an umbrella. This goes for both genders. The overweight or obese women complaining that weight related beauty standards disadvantage them could decide to lose weight OR they could find a man who, perhaps because he may not be what most women consider attractive, may be more accepting. Or maybe a larger woman can find that successful attractive man who just likes larger women. Those are the choices. Those choices are under the control of one or two people. But trying to change what millions of men find attractive, well quixotic doesn't even begin to describe that challenge. Good luck with that. Bring a lunch because I think it's going to be a while.

If you're overweight or obese, generally speaking it's because you are eating too much, eating the wrong foods and not exercising enough. It's simple math. 3500 calories = 1 pound. If you consistently eat more than required you will store the extra calories as fat. I don't know all the reasons WHY a person might be doing this. The reasons are as varied as the stars in the sky. But I do know math and mechanics. Burn more calories, consume fewer calories, reduce or eliminate bad foods, lose weight. Eat more calories, eat crappy calories, sit on your fundament all day, gain weight and eventually become fat. Obviously there are several external factors, what with subsidized sugar pumped into so much of our food supply, food deserts, and time constraints. However, an adult decides what he or she puts into their mouth. No one chased after a thin person, strapped them to a gurney and force fed them until they became obese.
It's probably compassionate to spare someone's feelings as you try to convince them to change something about themselves. I've done that myself for people I care deeply about and there are people who could honestly say they've done that for me. No one likes blunt criticism, especially from an intimate. Yes, the long term solution in solving someone's weight gain will involve finding out why they're eating more food than their body needs, not moving around enough and eating the wrong foods. There may be some deep emotional wounds that need healing. That can take some time and some pretty deft maneuvering around emotional and psychological landmines. But sometimes you must dispense with politesse and tell it like it is. If you are around (and I have been) when someone is undergoing diabetic ketoacidosis or experiencing a heart attack, it's too damned late to hold their hand and try to gently convince them that no they don't really need that extra sugar donut or that sodium and preservative laden fried food. No. If they are lucky enough to survive and wind up in the hospital the doctor will likely force them on a very limited diet that doesn't include the mentioned items.  And if they don't survive, well then you will have be proud that although you'll never see them again, at least you didn't hurt their widdle feelings. Wonderful. You were so freaking brave. You deserve a medal for your sympathy and empathy and compassion.
I've been there and done that.
Because of some painful experiences I have less and less interest in trying to spare anyone else's feelings on this topic, especially if they are people I care about. Being fat doesn't make you a bad person. I hope that is clear.Your problems are just more obvious than other people's. But being fat could and often does put you at higher risk for a variety of life threatening or life altering conditions. I've seen far too many people die, get permanent unpleasant conditions, suffer amputations or have eyesight issues. We shouldn't be silent about health issues just because some vain fat women wish to harangue people into attesting that fat women are beautiful. I don't believe that fat people must walk through life with people pointing and laughing at them. I've never done that and never will. But that just isn't what Maria Kang was advocating. The people who claim she was are just showing their own guilty consciences. When someone showing justifiable pride in her own accomplishments is accused of hate, our society is warped.

I think that people know that being morbidly obese is not a healthy or desirable state. And no amount of jawboning, guilt-tripping or whining about "fat-shaming" can make me think otherwise. But if someone disagrees that's fine. They can live their life as they see fit. If they want to desecrate the temple of their body, go for it. Eat buckets of ice cream and platters of donuts. Guzzle down high sugar drinks. Have not only dinner seconds but also thirds. Hook yourself up to a glucose drip if you like. Just don't tell me I must agree with or applaud such actions or their impact on your body. Because I won't.

Ever. Never. Ever.
If you're that rare person (and I know a few) who has underlying medical conditions which have caused weight gain that is obviously an entirely different kettle of fish. But most people who are overweight simply need to eat less and exercise more. As Kang said in a non-apology apology:
What you interpret is not MY fault. It's Yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn't create them. You created them. So if you want to continue 'hating' this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain. "With that said, obesity and those who struggle with health-related diseases is literally a 'bigger' issue than this photo. Maybe it's time we stop tip-toeing around people's feelings and get to the point."

What's your call?

Was Maria Kang engaging in hate speech?

Should her facebook post have been removed?

Is "fat acceptance" a good idea?

How did criticism become "shaming"? 

If you're doing wrong, shouldn't you be ashamed?