A Tale of Two Trailers

So, within 48 hours of each other we have two very different trailers released for two movies that look to be quite different – but both of which, theoretically should be very interesting to SFF fans.

First up is the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The first teaser trailer for it left me decidedly underwhelmed. And that was a little frightening: I literally camped out for all three of the prequel films (yes, even after the disappointment of The Phantom Menace) – and had a blast doing it. If you put out a trailer that didn’t sell me… that’s dangerous. On the other hand, the trailers for The Phantom Menace were freaking awesome, and the movie itself… well, we all know how that turned out.

As underwhelming as the first trailer was, however, this new one more than makes up for it. I am, finally, officially stoked about the new film.

Coming barely more than a day later is the new trailer for Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice. And I have to say… unlike the first Force Awakens trailer that left me underwhelmed… this one leaves me actually worried. Zack Snyder is capable of bringing a fantastic sense of fun to his films. 300 had it in spades. Sucker Punch had it… although it admittedly didn’t have much more than that. But Watchmen was already losing it and apparently while he was filming Man of Steel he’d just left it in his other pants pocket or something because it just wasn’t there.

Now we get this trailer, ever so promising that it might actually bring some fun back to Superman. For those who can’t tell through my brick-like subtlety, that was sarcasm. This trailer is gloomy and broody and moody… Look, this is Batman and Superman in a big budget film for the first time. This movie should be dripping and oozing with fun. Fun that is, apparently, nowhere to be found. I am a gigantic Batman fan, and a pretty good Superman fan as well. And this trailer almost has me wanting to skip the film. We’ll see how things turn out, but I’m not feeling it here.


Democrats Want to Upgrade my AR-15

A group of pro-gun-control democrats wants to provide me with a tax credit for upgrading my AR-15 – they just don’t realize it yet.

Though DeLauro is in favor of stronger guns laws that would completely ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, she emphasized this bill would not force gun owners to turn in their firearms.

The legislation would provide up to $2,000 in tax credits for gun owners who voluntarily hand over assault weapons to their local police departments.

My AR-15 cost me around $750 in parts and I assembled it myself. It is very entry-level. $2000 would get me quite a bit more than the initial cost did. If the gun control crowd really wants to pay for me to do this, I’m all for it. Or maybe I’ll just get two of the same one and pocket the extra… hard call.


Good Friday

There is nothing quite like going to Good Friday mass during a thunderstorm with a couple of well-timed blasts of thunder.

For a moment, though, put aside religious beliefs. Whether you are a believer or not, I challenge you to read today’s scripture without being moved. Remember, the man they are putting forth is not only actually innocent of the declared charges, he’s also been declared innocent by the authority of the day.

So Jesus came out,
wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.
And he said to them, “Behold, the man!”
When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out,
“Crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate said to them,
“Take him yourselves and crucify him.
I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered,
“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this statement,
he became even more afraid,
and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus,
“Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him.
So Pilate said to him,
“Do you not speak to me?
Do you not know that I have power to release you
and I have power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him,
“You would have no power over me
if it had not been given to you from above.
For this reason the one who handed me over to you
has the greater sin.”
Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out,
“If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar.
Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out
and seated him on the judge’s bench
in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews,
“Behold, your king!”
They cried out,
“Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered,
“We have no king but Caesar.”
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

Two thousand years later we are still crucifying people – people who are either innocent or who have committed minimal “crimes”. People who are later exonerated. We sacrifice them to the angry mobs in the name of “peace.”

When Progressives try to sell you on their Utopian future, remember that human nature has not changed one iota in two thousand years. We are no better now than we were in the time of the Romans. Why should we think that another social program or three will magically transform us into a society of perfect beings? Place not your faith in the institutions of man.


We Legislate Morality All the Time

There’s a particular kind of complaint against particular laws that goes something like this:

I don’t like it when people try to legislate morality.

On the surface this makes a lot of sense, and the person who makes the statement usually comes off as very moderate indeed. “Oh, I agree with you that that’s bad. I just don’t like to legislate morality.” The arguer here is attempting to placate both sides. On the one hand, it allows him to say: “Oh, I really agree with you. I’m not arguing. This is definitely what everyone should do.” On the other hand, it allows him to pretend to keep peace with the other side: “But I don’t see how we can legislate that. We can’t actually enforce morality, can we? If we made a law about that, it would just be silly.”

And so the first, obvious, problem is that it’s an attempt by the arguer to have his cake and eat it, too. He’s trying very hard to please both sides and appear that he agrees with them. Indeed, as mentioned, the goal of anybody making this statement is almost always to appear as the moderate voice of reason.

But there’s a much bigger problem: we legislate morality all the time. Indeed, the vast majority of our legal code is ultimately based on legislating morality.

When you get right down to it, most of our legal code deals with some very basic issues:

  • Protecting life and health. Obviously we have laws against murder. But we also have transportation safety laws (seat belt laws, helmet laws, speed limits, etc), workplace safety laws, product safety laws – even environmental laws at the end of the day are there to protect life and health.
  • Protecting property rights. Almost the entirety of contract law. Copyright and trademark laws. Real estate laws. Laws against theft, robbery, and squatting. Environmental laws (again).
  • Protecting individual liberty rights. Anti-slavery laws. Minimum wage laws. Labor laws and anti-trust laws.

All of this – every bit of it – is nothing more or less than legislating morality. And if you ask random people on the street what the basic functions of government are even the most hardcore libertarians will pick at least a handful of the items on these lists. In other words, everybody agrees that the government should legislate morality.

But that’s not really the issue anyway. When people raise the “I don’t like to legislate morality” argument, what they universally mean is, “I don’t want you to legislate your morality.” They are perfectly fine with legislating some other version of morality. But your morality is inconvenient for them in some way. Even more importantly, this is not a valid dialectical argument. It’s a rhetorical argument, and it’s meant to shut you up and get you to stop arguing and concede whatever point of view the person who plays this card is putting forth.

Don’t let them shut you up. We live in a democracy – one that, as demonstrated above, already legislates morality. If we’re legislating morality anyway then yours is just as good a candidate as anybody else’s. Make them argue for or against your version on the merits rather than trying to pretend in some crazy amoral vision of government that doesn’t exist, never has existed, and never could exist. And don’t fail to point out that if our government truly were amoral, they wouldn’t want to live in it either.


Online Reviews Have Serious Issues

If you’re like me then you use online reviews to help you pick an awful lot of things. Books, movies, electronics, services, restaurants… you name it. Unfortunately, there are some very serious issues with online reviews in their current form. A couple of examples:

Let’s start with the GoodReads page for my latest published work, Ghost of the Frost Giant King. Now, Silver Empire is still a pretty small publishing house. We’ve only been in operation since January – less than three months. So our sales are pretty small at this point, and the number of advance preview copies we’ve sent out is pretty small as well. And most of our sales have been direct or nearly so. What this means is that we have customer data for about 90% of the copies of this work that are “in the wild” currently.

So, back to the GoodReads page. As of this writing, there are two ratings – neither with a text review. One of those ratings is from a contest winner who won the book on a GoodReads.com book giveaway. The only problem is, that rating was entered before the book shipped. The person had not yet received it before leaving a rating. The second review was left by someone who is not on my customer data. Now, it’s possible – possible – that it’s a legit review. But no reviews have been left at any of the locations where that purchase would have been made if it were legit, so it’s a tad odd that there would be a review on GoodReads and not the purchase site. Possible. Just odd.

Now, I’m not complaining. These two reviews averaged together give us a 4 star rating. And it’s better to have a 4 star rating from two reviewers than no rating at all. So hey, it’s a win for us. But this is completely unhelpful for our potential customers, which is uncool. It also completely fails to give us any actual feedback – constructive or otherwise – about the product. That’s kind of frustrating, because we’d really like to know if what we put together is any good or not.

Second example: Facebook reviews for my dojo. Out of all of the reviews on our page, we currently have two that are not five star reviews. One is a two star review from a man who explicitly acknowledged that he didn’t mean to leave it… and yet he also hasn’t removed it or changed it. One is a one star review from someone whom I have tracked down and shown to be a student at another dojo. The reviewer has never set foot in my dojo. I’ve even talked to his sensei about it. And yet the review is still there.

I’m still not really complaining. This one is a bit more annoying than the first, as these are definitely bringing down my dojo’s rating on Facebook. But… they bring it down to a 4.8 star rating. I can’t complain about that. And there are also a number of five star ratings from friends who haven’t been students but who are trying to help me out (thanks, by the way – I really appreciate that from all of you!). Which is great – but Facebook really shouldn’t allow it. Hell, Facebook allowed me to leave a rating, even though it’s my own page. Talk about a fail.

Not all online reviews are created equal. Amazon, for instance, does a lot to help things out. If a customer leaves a review on an item that they purchased through Amazon, it gets flagged with a “verified purchase” note. That lets you know that that person actually got that item. Amazon will not allow me to leave ratings on any items that I’ve published, which is good. That keeps at least some honesty in the system. But even there the system isn’t perfect.

Do I still use online reviews? Definitely. But be aware that there are issues, and try to actually read some of the reviews if you get a chance.


Majority of One or Just an Asshole

Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one. — Henry David Thoreau

A more accurate but less feelgood version of the original quote:

Any man who is actually right when his neighbors is wrong constitutes a majority of one.

And the corollary:

Any man who isn’t actually right but insists that he is a majority of one is just an asshole.

The world seems to have a plethora of people in the first and third categories. It’s unfortunate that we have so few in the second category.


Kids Smoke More Pot When They Have More Time To Smoke Pot

Breaking news:

Schools that use suspension to punish drug use, or that weakly enforce any of their drug policies, have higher rates of student marijuana use than schools with more consistent and less-punitive approaches, according to a new study.

First, that sentence doesn’t even make sense. Schools that “weakly enforce” have higher rates than schools with “less-punitive” approaches. What? And before you jump on the “those idiots at Fox News” bandwagon, note the byline and realize that this story is from Reuters and is just being served up by Fox.

Second… um, duh? Kids smoke more pot when they get suspended and… have more time to smoke pot?

Look, we all knew it when we were in school. The vast majority of the kids who get suspended don’t view it as a punishment. They don’t want to be there anyway (who does?). Also, if they’re smoking pot or getting suspended frequently (much less both), it’s very likely that they don’t have parents that are paying enough attention to them. So you send them home and they have more unsupervised time to… smoke pot.

The second half of the “findings” should fall under the “duh” category as well: that schools with consistent enforcement policies have less marijuana use than schools with inconsistent or lenient policies. Um… yeah. Consistent punishment and enforcement lowers the behavior you’re punishing. This is basic psychology.

These people get paid to do this kind of thing?