the balance with life

For the first time this year, American deaths by drug overdose will overtake deaths by car accident.   If you loosely add in the suicides per year that can directly be traced to drug use as the primary causation, you enter an era where over 50K people a year are dying this way.  No other cause of death not related to old age or cancer (fuck cancer) even comes close.

In one of the mid-sized counties just north of mine, they have a sign on the way to the airport that logs death’s per year specifically from opioids / heroin.  It’s over 60 lives already this year.  That county is not that big, folks.

When it’s not playing psychotic referee to the sewer that is Washington politics, The Washington Post can actually output some high quality journalism.  They’ve run a multi-part series examining this issue in detail.  You should read each part, alongside a shorter but similar piece by BBC Magazine.

In many ways, I’m a freedom based lunatic.  And so for years I’ve been of the impression that the way to end the drug war is to legalize all drugs.  Let folks get high, whatever, tax it, and offer treatment.  However, I’m beginning to wonder if the growing drug lethality upends the game on this issue.

Science, reckless doctors, and pill companies have created drugs that are exponentially more powerful than what was available even 15 years ago.  Where it was once extremely difficult to get clean once you were hooked, it might now be nearly impossible to recover once you’d trained your brain to accept modern opioids.  When you add in the ultra vicious horror story drugs like fentanyl (which apparently is so lethal it can get into your blood if you even touch it), and whatever other death dealing nightmare synthetic drugs science will soon create, it seems we’re at a bit of a crossroads with all of this.

You can probably do a few lines of coke in your day, or smoke hundreds of joints, and come out mostly okay.  With this shit, you can literally die on the first hit, or after just a few months find yourself hooked for life without a way out.

When you add this to the already everpresent overmedication of anti-depressants, and whatever other societal ills you can think of, it becomes quite the balance with death.  It’s moments like this why I barely care about the presidential election.  Nobody has answers for these types of problems that are literally killing tens-of-thousands of Americans a year.  Neither political party is interested in proposing deep core type solutions to tackle these problems.  Instead, they’re chasing that sound byte.  Idiots.

I find more solace in those identified within these articles who are on the street, helping every day.  The elderly councilor aiding dozens in addiction classes, the local mayor putting his ass on the line to identify and fight the problem, a young man who lost his friend and now battles to save others.  When our national leadership is garbage, and the topic is as dark as this, it’s hopeful to know that folks are still fighting to save others with ferocity and compassion.


Behold the potential cause of America’s downfall.

All Hail Nautilus Kitty

About a year and a half ago it was Dead of Winter. Outside I think it was about 15 degrees with eight inches of snow on the way. I get home and there’s this cat on my doorstep, hanging out, and meowing. I love my dogs, my brothers both have cats, but I don’t know anything about cats. Cats baffle me because I’m so used to dealing with dogs.

My neighbor is a kind retired doctor. So he and I figure out the cat’s without valid identification, kitty’s papers were apparently expired. So we get the idea we should at least feed the cat. Somewhere in my memory I had heard that if you feed a stray cat it becomes your cat. Seeing as how I didn’t want a cat, I worried feeding the cat was a bad idea. Nevertheless the cat seemed hungry and thin. So my neighbor gave him a little canned tuna and I gave him a little of my dog’s kibble. If you’re a cat owner, and are horrified by these meal choices, I once again reaffirm I have no idea if these are valid cat nutritional options or not.

Anyways, after the cat’s done eating, he and I begin to wonder what to do to prevent kitty from freezing to death or dying in the forthcoming snowfall. Kitty’s running around like a crazy person, and eventually sets up shop underneath my still warm car frame. My neighbor eventually lost interest. So I’m outside freezing and alone with this cat under my car. And I get it into my head that unless I get this cat indoors, it’s going to die overnight and it’ll be all my fault. But I don’t know nothing about cats. And I can’t keep a cat in my place because my dogs will kill it or the cat would kill them.

So I spend an hour calling cat shelters or whatever. Nobody wants to pick up their phone. Or they are of the mentality of, we’ll take the cat from you, and then kill it. Holy shit! [slams phone receiver] For the uninitiated, slamming your phone is the most popular smartphone app of 1987. In the meantime, kitty is either underneath my car or on my doorstop meowing constantly. Finally the local city animal control calls me back. This kind young woman is all helpful, but offers a weird solution. She’ll take the cat, but nobody ever claims cats, so you should just leave the cat alone otherwise it’ll never get home, if it has a home. Oh, uh, …

Remember, I’ve got it in my head at this point that this cat is going to literally die unless I save it. So I tell the woman thanks and I keep dialing. Finally I get a hold of a shelter that will take the cat, not kill it, and get somebody to adopt it if nobody claims it. They are a half hour away. It’s getting dark, my escapade with the cat is now two hours old, I’m freezing, my dogs are hungry, but with this news from the shelter my heart soars. The cat will live.

Anybody ever try and get a cat to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go? I hadn’t. Kitty would not let me pick him up. Kitty had to be bribed with more dog kibble. Then I could pick up kitty. But kitty kept trying to scramble out of my hands and I was worried kitty would claw my eyes. I could get kitty in hand, get close to my car, and chuck kitty in the backseat. But kitty was so quick, he would always manage to jump out of the car before I could shut the door. Cat was literally a blur of fur the dude was so fast.

Eventually after an hour of this I could no longer feel my frozen hands. It’s pitch black now. And kitty jumps out of the car for the twelfth freaking time, and runs off. Cat’s gone. So I walk around for a half hour trying to find the cat. I never did. After three and a half hours I went inside, defeated, certain kitty was not going to last the night. I had failed kitty, it was on me. I think it snowed ten inches overnight.

Yet a week later, I see kitty gleefully chasing another cat around the neighborhood. I stopped where I was in my tracks, and just started laughing like a lunatic. Darn cat’s alive! It was a true six year old Christmas morning moment. It made my month. I hereby dubbed kitty at that moment Nautilus Kitty, for his ability to survive arctic weather on his own.

I don’t know if Nautilus Kitty is a stray, or is owned by a neighbor. Nobody has ever claimed Nautilus Kitty as far as I can tell. I see him about once a week or so, in all weather. I don’t feed him, I don’t try and save him, because I know he’ll be alright. Occasionally I see Nautilus Kitty conning a neighbor for food. Even my doctor neighbor feeds him every once and a while, I’m not sure if he remembers meeting Nautilus Kitty originally or not?

But Nautilus Kitty never begs me for food or says hi. I guess he’s still angry at my failed kidnapping attempt. I’ve tried to take Nautilus Kitty’s picture for years, but he’s too quick, and runs when I approach him. So this shot is the best I could do recently. So you play Where’s Waldo and find Nautilus Kitty’s blur in this photo. For the uninitiated, Where’s Waldo is the most popular smartphone app of 1993.

Nautilus Kitty.jpg

All Hail Nautilus Kitty! Who cannot be slain by weather, or dogs, or other cats, or dragons, or whatever. Turns out the animal control woman was right after all. Nautilus Kitty endured.

Proxima Centauri awaits our divine rule

Great news! We’ve likely discovered the closest possible planet near our own star system that could potentially host life, even intelligent life. It’s a long shot due to Proxima being a red dwarf, and thus very different from our own yellow dwarf, but still worth getting excited about. The smart goons at The Economist lay out the details:

Proxima Centauri b, as it is known, probably weighs between 1.3 and three times as much as Earth and orbits its parent star once every 11 days. This puts its distance from Proxima Centauri itself at 7m kilometres, which is less than a twentieth of the distance between Earth and the sun. But because Proxima is a red dwarf, and thus much cooler than the sun, the newly discovered planet will experience a similar temperature to Earth’s. It is not the only Earth-sized extrasolar planet known to orbit in a star’s habitable zone. There are about a dozen others. But it is the closest to Earth—so close, at four light-years, that it is merely outrageous, not utterly absurd, to believe a spaceship (admittedly a tiny one) might actually be sent to visit it. Before this happens, though, it will be subjected to intense scrutiny from Earth itself.

So what’s going to happen over the new few decades is we’ll point various visual, radio, and spectrum telescopes at Proxima b to determine if this rock contains life as dumb as we are. But I say why wait? Why stop with just looking at Proxima b? Now that we have a known target, we can get around to the job of doing what Humanity of Earth does best: Destroying things!

You heard it here first, Proxima Centauri awaits our divine rule. They too need to experience the joys of democracy, freedom, Adele, endless religious wars, Coca-Cola, social media hatred, Netflix, genocide, The Zoo, electric guitars, and whatever else we can shove down their throats. What better way to unite humanity than by establishing the common goal of enslaving another? And we could take all their stuff too. They most assuredly have oil, rare metals, bluefin tuna, or other tasty stuff that we could take. We could strip mine the entire planet and nobody would care.

And at only four light years away, they’re well within conceivable range of starships we could build. Sure, this technological feat is a bit much seeing as how we haven’t been to the Moon in five decades, and we still have billions here in poverty, but we can still make it happen. Think of all the fun scenarios we could experience:

– We enter Proxima’s orbit bringing peace and love and yet somehow end up burning the planet using 438 fusion bombs within the first three years

– We show up bringing death and destruction and yet somehow end up getting our asses kicked by Proxima because they aren’t distracted by who said what on social media

– We land, and atop Proxima’s tallest mountain we find Jesus, King Arthur, and Dracula sitting around a campfire; and Jesus pulls on a cigarette and wryly states, “What took you so long?”

– We find a benevolent, wise race horrified by our planet’s thousands-of-years of death and mayhem, but who agree to at least “Give you stupid barbarian assholes a shot,” after we offer to teach them the art of brewing; and in an unrelated matter, they end up burning their planet using 438 fusion bombs within the first three years

– Having spent 37% of Earth’s GDP for two decades to get there, we find Proxima b is just a barren vacant rock

– The mission fails because 2/3 of our troop transports break halfway there because Lockheed Martin skimped on engine quality to increase quarterly profits in FY34 by 0.07%; and in an unrelated matter, Lockheed Martin’s CEO just bought his fifth boat

– Proxima actually holds a vicious Klingon like race that raids our ship’s computers to determine Earth’s location; but they abandon the conquest of Earth after three decades of grinding counterinsurgency, Earth being the quagmire that started the long decline of their Empire, and remarking, “What the fuck were we thinking?” as they meekly retreat to Proxima b

proxima centauri

Eh, maybe we stay on our side of the room, and they on theirs?

unfriendly skies

If you travel a ton, eventually getting on an airplane can just seem like an extension of your commute.  Unfortunately I’m on travel almost entirely for work vice fun, but it’s still the same feeling.  You get up at home, go to work, head to the airport, end up somewhere else, and conclude your day in some hotel.  It can become downright routine, and you have to do a double take inside your brain, oh, I’m in Chicago again, got it.  [looks outside hotel window to verify location is real]

The problem with this theory is that it can get short circuited.  When your commute home via road or train goes wrong it’s typically not catastrophic.  When things go wrong with the airlines it can be like getting hit with a brick.  Ancient Greek Anemoi wind gods can get angry I guess, because being deities they can’t consume beer like we can, so it’s easy to see why they get pissed off.

I usually get to book my own flights even for work.  So I generally go with Southwest due to price and service.  But this last trip work booked my flight to Chicago themselves, and went with, sigh, American Airlines.  Knowing the issues I’ve had with American in the past, I figured this was going to be a bad journey.  I had no idea.  It turns out when I woke up that morning American Airlines was under my bed armed with a pole axe, three cartons of cigarettes, and plastic bag full of rusted metal.


happy airline.jpg

 I wonder if it was ever, in any way, really like this?


– Half-hour flight delay before I’d even left work.  90 minute delay by the time I got to the airport.  Why have scheduled departure times?  [shrugs]

– My typical departure airport is not an American hub, so they only owned four gates.  Of those four gates, two of their aircraft broke down after they’d boarded the flights.  So they disembarked both planes and tried to reconfigure these passengers onto the other two flights, one of which was mine bound for Chicago.  But then they only had one poor gate agent trying to deal with all these passengers and the line stretched down the entire terminal.  Later we learned one of the broken aircraft was grounded because multiple structure screws were missing from the fuselage.  I literally laughed out loud, because it means the captain missed this on his shitty preflight walkthrough and was ready to fly an unstable aircraft.  I wonder what baggage or fuel employee making minimum wage noticed the error and kept everybody out of danger?  I’m sure he’ll get a letter of appreciation or something, if anything at all.

– Eventually after a two hour delay they boarded my flight and of course packed it up.  But Chicago had thunderstorms so they had to hold us on the tarmac for a half-hour before putting us back in line.  The woman behind me began to complain.  Then she got belligerent.  Apparently she’d earlier been on one of the planes that broke, and didn’t want to wait on the tarmac with her two year old.  Eventually she started to scream at the flight attendant and demanded the plane return to the gate.  This went on for ten minutes before the attendant threatened to have her arrested.  And they went back and forth for another five minutes or so.  The woman’s boyfriend and supposed father of her child kept egging her on, telling her to go back and talk to the attendant some more.  She tried to get past the flight attendant to try and bang on the cockpit door, and the attendant said she’d call 911.  So the woman laughed and went back to her seat and dialed 911 herself.  She then spent about fifteen minutes on the phone demanding the police order the airplane back to the gate because she didn’t want to fly today anymore and because “the plane is going to crash and all of us are going to die”.  Then she starts bawling uncontrollably to the 911 operator.  All the while, her two year old is crying too.  Her boyfriend is just sitting there playing with his smartphone like this is an everyday occurrence.  I hated him most of all.

–  After a half-hour of this the captain finally intervenes, but only to use a limp wristed passive aggressive voice over the intercom that passengers should be nice to the flight attendant and he was driving us back to the gate.  If I was that flight attendant, I’d have been pissed that my boss would basically refuse to back me in such a matter.  We got back to the gate but they’d returned us to a gate not configured to receive our aircraft model.  So we sat at the gate for another half-hour while they got the jetway part.  Then the air conditioner broke.  And the woman continued to scream at the flight attendant.  The captain never came out of the cockpit.  Inexplicably, this woman or her boyfriend were not arrested.  They simply let them and the rest of us get off.  Then they just cancelled the flight without explanation and told us all to go get our bags from baggage claim.

– We all spent the next two hours at baggage claim waiting while American tried to figure out how to conduct a task they normally perform dozens of times a day.  They first unloaded our bags and then put them on a flight to Charlotte, for whatever reason.  Then they took the bags back off the Charlotte flight and put them on baggage trucks where they apparently forgot about them for an hour or so.  Then they closed the airport tarmac due to lightning.  Then they claimed the baggage handlers were working on it when they weren’t.  So the baggage agent ends up having to go find them and it turns out the baggage guys were on the smoke deck, burning one, because why not.  Eventually the baggage agent is screaming at her manager on the phone for help.  The manager never showed up.  And eventually, somehow, the bags showed up.

– Then American told us all get on the road and drive to my city’s other major airport.  I called work and they told me to oblige.  So we all drove 45 minutes in our cars to the other airport and began to check in again.  By this point I knew half this plane’s people.  It was a decent cross section of America’s melting pot, mostly good people, we got through it by laughing and joking with each other.  By some thankful miracle, crazy lady and her boyfriend never made it to the other airport.  By the time we got to the other airport this was a 15 hour ordeal.

– The departure from the other airport went smoothly, but when we got to O’Hare they didn’t have a gate for us.  So they randomly drove the airplane around O’Hare’s tarmac for over an hour while American tried to find a gate.  When we did find a gate, we sat at it for an additional half-hour, because why not.  By the time I got to Chicago work, I’d been on travel for 21 hours.  I felt like I’d just come out of dry cleaning machine.  Thanks American Airlines, you’re swell.


twa airlines and frank.png

Frank endorses TWA, an airline absorbed and destroyed by American by 2003.  I wonder if it was ever, in any way, really like this?


Post Scripture:  People can be such jerks.  Beyond the antics of the crazy woman described above, dozens of other people took it upon themselves to harass or yell at flight attendants, gate agents, baggage agents, or even uninvolved random airport employees who did not work for American.  Attention Humanity!  Expressing your anger in a barbaric manner to a low level airline employee who likely makes far, far less money than you accomplishes less than nothing.  It’s positively deplorable.  They are not the source of your pain.  Instead, spend your hate on folks like American’s Operations dude Robert Isom or CEO Doug Parker who simultaneously can’t do their jobs while also making about 700 times the cash each year you do.  But hey, they each just bought that third boat, so they’re full of win.  We are not, but whatever.


aa lie

When you read this old ad in detail, you can start to get the idea of where American went wrong, decades ago.

Detroit – because work said so

Someday somebody way smarter than me is going to write a book where Detroit is a metaphor for all of America. You can trace the tale from the earliest French settlers, to British rule, frontier America, transition from an agrarian to industrialized economy, full blown dominance (Detroit probably single handedly out produced Nazi Germany), followed by collapse & depopulation, followed, by what?

Well, one would hope rebirth. Rather than continued slow decline. Since 1950 Detroit has lost almost 2/3 of its people. A similar trend stalks Cleveland, Milwaukee, and countless other Midwestern cities. Literally, Detroit used to be the center of the world alongside New York and London. Will it ever return to its former glory? Is it even possible? I’m not sure. So much of what drove this greatness no longer exists. What America is and does is so very different than in 1950.

Maybe I’ll try and write about it later on. But for now I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Or at least to also offer that Detroit has some of the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced, which says a lot considering the parking lots I’ve driven in (Tokyo, Washington, New York, LA, etc). And also Detroit’s suburbs have some of the best Lebanese food on the planet, truly legit awesome stuff.

Work sent me to Detroit for all of three days. I only ended up snaking a few hours to drive around. Sadly I didn’t get to do anything reasonably fun. So I guess that means I’ll have to go on back on my own dime.

Woodward & Guardian

One Woodward Avenue (left) and the Guardian Building – One Woodward was completed in 1962, note its applicable stale awfulness.  Guardian Building dates to 1929 and is apparently beautiful inside.   Also note the weirdo sky bridge which linked the two since the 1970s.  In 2012, Rock Ventures LLC bought One Woodward.  Rock Ventures owns Quicken Loans, a bunch of sports teams and casinos, and about a 100 other companies.  I suppose it’s an example of the types of companies that Detroit has to attract in order to rebuild.


Ambassador Bridge.JPG

Ambassador Bridge & Downtown Detroit – The busiest border crossing in North America, the bridge carries 1/4 of all trade between America and Canada.  The separate Detroit River Tunnel carries rail traffic.  In a bit of weirdness the bridge is actually privately owned by a guy who appears to behave like an evil monopoly man cartoon caricature.  A second bridge is scheduled for completion by 2020.



Detroit River & Windsor, Canada


GM Building.JPG

GM Renaissance Center – appropriately enchained behind a fence for GM’s cheating death off the backs of the taxpayer


Packard Plant.JPG

Ruins of the Packard Automotive Plant – Completed in 1911, it built cars until 1958.  By 1966 Packard had evaporated as a car company.


The next three shots are of ruined houses just a few blocks away from the Packard Plant.  Once upon a time, an American farm worker could move to Detroit and get an entry job at the Packard Plant.  Thirty years later he could retire as a supervisor with a decent pension, and go buy himself one of these beautiful houses to live out his days as a grandfather.  Now it’s all gone, the Plant, the house, and this very concept of employment as part of the American Dream.  I wonder if they could have ever imagined how bad it would get?  Understanding why this all came about, and where to go from here, is central to Detroit’s future.  And perhaps America’s as well.






House 3.jpg

On Nazi gold, trains, Wolfenstein, and Indy

So a pair of lunatics are digging up part of a Polish mountain thinking they’ll find a lost Nazi gold train in there. A bunch of smart dudes say there’s no train in there, but whatever, these two dudes are going to dig anyways. Good for them. At least they have a goal for their lives. I know I sure don’t. Maybe they’ll find a gold train, maybe they’ll find nothing, or perhaps they’ll just find an awfully large number of bugs. Or maybe they’ll find Mecha Hitler:

Mecha Hitler

Dude should have brought more than just a knife before digging up a Nazi tunnel.



The possible existence of said train is called local folklore or whatever. Meaning it might not have ever actually existed, but folks said it did. Or it became a rumor, a legend, worthy of exploration. Indiana Jones 5 needs this plot. Apparently Harrison Ford is going down this road again even though he’s now 89 years old. The fourth Indy movie is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever seen. So Indy needs to get back to his non-awful-alien-movie roots. Who doesn’t hate Nazis? Indy sure does, he told us. The movie can still take place in the 1960’s, it just has to involve the gold train, Nazis, and somebody other than Ford to do all the punching.

Mecha Indy

Remember when Harrison Ford / movies were this cool?


Hey speaking of hating Nazis, the latest games I’ve been playing are the two recent ones from Bethesda: Wolfenstein The New Order & The Old Blood. After being stuck in a bit of a rut playing games that ended up as shit, or had garbage endings, or got trapped in Open World Hell, I find these two games to be rather delightful and refreshing:


1) No Moral Ambiguity Bullshit – you get to shoot freaking evil Nazis


2) A Clear Plot – you fight to stop the evil Nazis


3) A Clear Objective – you don’t have to walk around an open world for 43 minutes trying to figure out what the fuck to do


4) A Decent Ending – bask in the glory of a video game that doesn’t have an ending bathed in weirdness, nihilism, total nonsense, or an attempt by the designers to appear smarter than you


So I’m calling it right now, the next Wolfenstein game needs this plot too. They find a Nazi gold train. Wind up plot. Go.

Mecha Me.png

We know Indy, we hate Nazis too.  So we follow your holy example.

we duel an old arch-nemesis

I had to face the great demon unarmed, which was typical, but still unnerving. It didn’t help that I was highly fatigued due to a long journey on a treacherous, distant road. I also had to tackle the challenge alone, for I was unwilling to involve others in the great torture that awaited my poor unfortunate twisted soul. Nevertheless, I breathed deeply without fear, and began the battle I could not fail.

Demon Pump: Welcome.

The Arcturus Project: [swipes card]

DP: Is this a debit card?

TAP: No.

DP: Would you like a car wash?

TAP: No.

DP: Would you like a receipt?

TAP: No.

DP: …

TAP: …

DP: Please enter your zip code.

TAP: xxxxx

DP: Would you like to swipe your rewards card?

TAP: [breathes deeply]

DP: Would you like to swipe your rewards card?

TAP: No.

DP: Are you having a nice day?

TAP: Oh god, please. [breathes deeply]

DP: The weather is warm, but perhaps too humid.

TAP: Can I please have my gas now? I’m paying for it, honest.

DP: Don’t forget to save and shop. 99 cents off select beverages…

TAP: Okay, [breathes deeply] okay, here’s the deal…

DP: …and don’t forget to download our app for extra savings.

TAP: …you’re going to give me the gas now. Or I’m going to leave my car parked here, and go fuck off for about an hour, thus preventing you from selling anything to anybody else. But then I’ll go buy some smokes, and light up right here at the pump in complete violation of established local regulations. Then I’ll call the fire marshal and tell him you all told me you were cool with it.

DP: Interesting.

TAP: Then I’m gonna walk over there and tape the tire air line in the open position, so it just bleeds off air perpetually. After that I’m going to go randomly stop cars on their way in and inform the drivers that this station accidently put nothing but diesel into their tanks, and it just trashed my engine, thus preventing me from arriving at the kill shelter in time to save my long lost kitty Steve from an untimely and unjust demise. After that I’ll dump the whole tub of windshield cleaner on top of my entire car, and start washing it with a newspaper I take from your bin without paying.

DP: Your insolence is amusing to my preconfigured machine brain.

TAP: Then I’ll stroll on back here, light up again, and keep trying to start a fire on all the dried gas stains on the concrete using cigarette ash.

DP: You will not do any of this. You would not hazard your own survival, non-incarcerated liberty, or otherwise, just to acquire the gas you have already paid for.

TAP: Believe me, I’ll do it, you have no idea how crazy I am. I’m a freaking lunatic.

DP: I remain unconvinced.

TAP: I write regularly for a blog.

DP: …

TAP: …

DP: Please lift handle, please select fuel type.

Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou whitewash their souls

Dark days are ahead for China. There be monsters north of the wall. Winter’s probably already here, or something like that. Everybody’s scared, the army’s not ready, disaster looms. But don’t worry, Matt Damon will show up to save everybody.



Remember when this guy wasn’t an action movie star?


Except it’s a big trick. For the monster is not some type of mythical creature that eats life. Instead, it’s the devil incarnate of bad action movies. This hideous demon spawn was born from an unhuman blending of the reproductive organs of Michael Bay’s Transformers and Zach Snyder’s Superman. China doesn’t stand a chance, even with Damon’s purchased-sculpted-boxer-physique.


great wall movie.jpg

Just take a gander at the stereotypical bad action flick awfulness that awaits the poor Chinese theater audience.


The Great Wall is China’s most expensive movie production ever. It cost $160M in pure gold pressed latinum and is a massive gamble by both Hollywood and the Chinese film industry. Legendary Entertainment does the production as the now full-fledged member of China’s business community since they (sold out to) were bought out by Wanda Group.

Bankrolled by Wanda Group’s overlord, Asia’s richest man, and expert 1930’s style tap dancer Wang Jianlin, this flick’s meant to serve as a key mark on what Wang and many, many Hollywood suits hope will be a very long and lucrative alliance. If it’s not already, China will soon be the world’s largest film market. And you’d better believe Hollywood wants in on all that luscious cash.

This forthcoming epic masterpiece will hit theaters in China this December followed by a February 2017 debut in the States. This is a bit strange, as February is usually second only to January as a dumping ground for garbage films. Maybe they’re hoping a sparse market will help the film perform better? Maybe they’re hoping they can rope in the Valentine’s Day audience as 11th Century Chinese warriors are viciously beheaded by evil monsters?



Eh, I’m pretty sure The Mongols. Why do I need to pay $13 to see a movie when I already know the answer to the poster’s wise quest question?


Anyways, in our current modern media culture, we can’t have anything without a race based controversy. And boy does The Great Wall sure have one in the entirely accurate accusation that they whitewashed the cast by adding Damon when an otherwise all Chinese cast would have made a lot more sense.

They claim Damon plays a mercenary or something. Maybe he’s there to assassinate Jason Bourne? It would have to be something specific like that. Because from what I know about the Song Dynasty, I’m pretty sure the Chinese army didn’t lack for limitless raw manpower. So there’s nothing that would require them to hire to creepy white guy from Medieval France who’s on the lam for stealing Her Ladyship’s already stolen virtue.

Whatever. This aspect of the flick doesn’t really interest me. Damon’s presence is really rather simple. Wang and his minions want to make cash worldwide. In order to do that you need a global star. Damon is a global star. There’s not a single Chinese actor that comes even close to his worldwide appeal. That’s why he’s there. There isn’t much else to it. Money!

Except to perhaps ask the question: Why isn’t there a Chinese actor as world famous as Damon? Ah, yes, now we get to the parts I actually care about. First off, let’s take a look at the director in the brilliant Zhang Yimou. I really like Zhang, the dude’s made some incredible movies and knows his craft well. In particular, To Live and Hero are quality movies. To Live even approaches the realm of masterpiece in my mind. But that was then and this is now.

Then, Zhang got himself banned from filmmaking by the Communist goons because To Live did such a great job tearing down the hypocrisy of said dictatorial state. Now, Zhang is their errand boy. So he thus produces flicks of questionable messaging and quality such as The Flowers of War, which also had a conspicuous hunk-white-dude lead in Christian Bale.

Now Zhang is working for Wang. And before he made billions in real estate, Wang was a regimental commander in the PLA. He’s also a mint condition delegate to the rubber stamp National People’s Congress. In other words, Wang’s the consummate Communist team player. Which helps to explain why Wanda Group is so successful given his connections. Although Wang is probably also a genius, so that helps too.

But if you were Zhang and you once made movies of conscience, perhaps you’d hesitate before getting into business with a guy like Wang who is so clearly tied to a Communist Party organization that censors movies like the ones you used to make. Hell, if somebody banned me and my movie, I’d be pissed. Maybe Zhang’s just more forgiving than I?

But you see, as a now Chinese owned studio, Legendary has to get The Great Wall entirely past the censors. This means that every line of dialogue, every scene of horrible computer generated action has to support the message of the Communist Party.

And therein lies the real crime of this movie, not the color of Damon’s skin. If I ran into Wang on the street (as in if I stowed away on his jetcopter) I’d like to ask him straight to his face if all of Legendary’s future movies are now going to have to be approved by the Commie censors?

I ask this because Legendary has made some damn good movies throughout the last fifteen years. I’d like to know in advance before stepping into the theater whether my movie experience got approved by some undersexed-degenerate-apparatchik-tool.

Hollywood (in theory) is supposed to be a land of consummate free speech. After all, it’s freedom of speech, freedom of the arts that enables Hollywood to function. It’s what gave birth to this pinnacle location of the film industry at the start of the movie era a century ago.

But money talks, and Hollywood (most, but not all) values money over principle. So Damon and a whole bunch of other people are perfectly happy to climb aboard a production that is essentially bankrolled by anti-free speech goons provided they get their tasty paycheck.

Seeing as how, like most celebrities, Damon does substantial humanitarian and human rights work, if I ran into Damon on the street (as in if I stowed away on his autogryo) I’d like to ask him straight to his face what he thinks about hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers and activists being rounded up and convicted in show trials? Or that they’re being forced to read Cultural Revolution style confessions to the public like in one of the heart tearing scenes that Zhang used to put into his movies.

Did I also mention that Wanda Group owns AMC Theaters? Do you like movies? I sure do. Do you like free speech? I sure do. Well, as far as I can figure, I think these two concepts go hand in hand. But if you’re Wang, Zhang, or Damon, I guess you can respectfully disagree. Money!

Here’s the problem though. Wang and Zhang are placing a bet that you can have quality movies in a realm without free speech. It’s the same gamble that the Communist Party is taking all throughout China’s culture. For example, the Communist Party is backing efforts to dramatically enhance scientific research and development, but without the freedom of speech and academic liberty that normally comes with it.

I suspect, just as it’s awfully hard to invent cool shit when the censors are all over you, that Wang and Zhang are going to discover that without freedom of creativity that they can’t make decent movies. They might make a lot of money (see Transformers for the ability of bad movies to make billions) but not actual good art.

Until China’s film industry can make consistent, freethinking, actual good art, they’re never going to produce a true global star like Damon. I just don’t see it happening. True art requires true freedom. End of story.

Maybe The Great Wall will be fairly decent. Like I said, Zhang is a superb filmmaker. And I really do like Damon as an actor. But for the future of movies, I hope this film tanks.

I might not watch one frame of these Olympics

I actually gave this some relatively serious thought this weekend. It was essentially my first full weekend home in two months, so I had the time. But my television is not typically hooked up to receive the necessary signal (don’t ask). Connecting the television so I could watch the Games would have required about two minutes of hardware work, plus about ten minutes of boot time. I had so little zest about watching that I decided twelve minutes wasn’t worth it. So my box remains unconnected, and I haven’t watched one second of these Olympics. We’re a few days in and I’m wondering if I’ll watch any of it.

1) NBC: I see from the online reactions that NBC is up to their usual tone deaf arrogance with this year’s go. Sadly, the usual shallow outrage trolls seem to be having the same issues with NBC (or anybody) over fake ‘…ism’ or ‘…ist’ type stuff. Whatever. Eh, my beef with NBC is more along the lines of poor pacing, incessant commercials, lack of live content, hack fraud interviews, and Bob Costas. I can’t begin to describe to you how badly I think they broadcast this event. This is what lack of competition does to quality. NBC owns the product in America, they paid handsomely for it, but without CBS or ABC/ESPN to challenge them, why should they bother to deliver a decent broadcast when they can simply count their money?

2) Supermen / Superwomen: There is something vaguely and disturbingly fascist about the basic intent that, “our Superman will beat your Superman by 0.86 seconds on this event”. These people train for four years to win some race by less than a second. Can you mentally comprehend that margin of error against the number of pushups these dudes have to crank out in four years? I can’t. It’s just weird. Unless your last name is Phelps or Ledecky, it seems it’s actually a competition not between athletes, but between National Olympic programs. As in, which National Olympic committee can machine engineer their athlete better than the other one. It’s creepy. Do you doubt this? Name me one gold medal swimmer or track & field winner from a non-rich and/or non-former Communist country.

3) Retread / Weird Sports: Some parts of the Olympics are appealing in that I don’t typically get to watch fencing or wrestling or whatever. But when golf or soccer or basketball is already everywhere, why should I care? I’ve heard the point made in the last month or two and I wholeheartedly agree that basketball already has their pinnacle of competition in the NBA. Soccer has the World Cup. So why is this stuff there? It takes broadcast time away from the more obscure but no less difficult sports that I couldn’t typically see. Then on the other end of the spectrum you’ve got questionable sports like badminton or table tennis. Games I would typically only play while drunk are not exciting to me.

4) Brazil: Normally I don’t want to go down this road of social guilt / whining. As in, well, we can’t enjoy anything because the world is total shit. But in Brazil, I somewhat make an exception as I did for Sochi with Russia. Brazil is essentially in an economic depression, the president’s under impeachment proceedings, half of Rio is a dystopian wasteland, the country while essentially bankrupt has had to hand over billions it doesn’t have, mosquitos are going around giving people the plague, half completed Olympic venues are populated by aggressive zombies, etc, etc, etc. I have a hard enough time watching a football game hosted by Chicago (ps Bears suck). Rio is just too much. Just as Sochi was too much.

5) Sacks w/ $ On It: Oh, 84% of Russia’s athletes were doping? What planet must somebody have lived on to not understand that was already happening for decades? And in any case, it’s been well documented that the International Olympic Committee has been taking sacks with a $ on it for years. And now these corrupt goons are going to judge some poor Russian automaton on what they put into their body? The IOC isn’t exactly as corrupt as FIFA, but it’s certainly not the totem of athletic morality. I think if we all lived in 584 BC, that the religious handlers would put all the IOC ruling body members to death for pollution of Zeus’ divine pure will. Then when you add in all the ongoing Brazilian corruption investigations to include Lula himself, it’s pretty clear that Brazil probably bought these games. Just like Vlad bought Sochi. It gives the Games a very mafia-like feeling, like you’re watching the proceedings of an ongoing criminal enterprise. It’s the last in a long list of straws, and I just don’t have the motivation to tune in. Maybe I will, but at least not for today.


Not feeling that good ole spirit.