Wednesday, November 30, 2022

no confidence in Maricopa County

You may have seen the news that the infamous Maricopa County, in Arizona, recently certified its election results despite the distinct probability that those results have been tainted by a combination of incompetence, technical difficulties, and outright fraud.

Sam Bankman-Fried finds a home

Headline (Genesius Times):

BREAKING: Pentagon hires Sam Bankman-Fried after proving he can lose money as fast as anyone

US—The Department of Defense has hired embattled cryptocurrency Ponzi schemer Sam Bankman-Fried after he lost $16 billion overnight.

“We saw the headline and thought, wow, losing $16 billion in one day? That’s a DOD-esque number!” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in an exclusive interview with Genesius Times.

The Department of Defense recently reported that they couldn’t account for $2.6 trillion and look to bolster that number with new hire Bankman-Fried.

theology vs. religious studies

To the layman, there might not seem to be much of a difference between two seemingly related fields: theology and religious studies, but these two pursuits are markedly different.

As one of my profs put it, going back to the Greek roots of the word, theology is "ordered discourse [logos/λογός] about the Absolute [theos/θεος]." Most people who "do theology," so to speak, engage in it because they have a vested interest: they're believers of some sort. They accept certain basic premises such as the existence of God, and that God has specific properties. So theological statements are generally about the divine and its implications. But because such statements are about the divine, it's important to note that one can be an atheist and make theological statements, the quintessential atheistic-yet-theological pronouncement being, of course, "There is no God." (Or, as a further denigration, "There is no god," losing the capital G.)* For the most part, though, theologians are believers: they're invested in their work, and for them, something is at stake. If there appear to be logical contradictions as one teases out a description of the divine, a theologian either attempts to resolve the contradictions or relegates them to the mental shelf labeled "Mystery." Some theology is about the further description of divine attributes; some theological efforts fall into the category called apologetics, in which one forms logical theological arguments (called apologies or apologia) in defense of a doctrine or of divine attributes. Theology also plays a role in homiletics, the construction of sermons (and a field unto itself).

To understand religious studies, it might be good to go back to the term's German roots: Religionswissenschaft. In French, this translates to science des religions, which is literally "science of religions," but in English, we use the more cautious term religious studies and not religious science. But where the word studies tends to obfuscate things, the German Wissenschaft—science—makes clear that this field is about the scientific study of religion as a psychological, sociological, anthropological, historical, cultural, cosmological, and even biological phenomenon. This field is, then, necessarily comparative and interdisciplinary, and one doesn't have to be a believer to have an interest in it. One of the essential questions in this field is "What is religion?", a question I've attempted to answer on this blog (2006). One's definition of religion informs one's approach to religion.

So basically, a theologian tends to be personally invested in the question of God, whereas a student of religious studies has a more scientific interest in the phenomenon of religion. 

This brings me back to the definition of theology given above: ordered discourse about the Absolute. The term Absolute is about as neutral as one can get when dealing with all the different religious traditions' views of ultimate reality. Taoism's Absolute is the Tao. In Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, it's God or Allah. In Buddhism, its sunyata (emptiness). And so on. So now, it's easy for you to see that my prof, in defining theology, came at the term from a religious-studies angle. A theologian wouldn't define theology quite that way: s/he'd be more likely to use God-language instead. Which reminds me: once you move the concept of theos beyond the meaning of an Abrahamic God, you open the word theology up to some interesting uses, such as in the phrase Buddhist theology. Academics have, in fact, used that phrase, even while some scholars would argue (wrongly, I think) that Buddhism has no gods.

I hope that clears up the essential difference between these two pursuits.


*This should be further unpacked. The atheist is saying there is no God, so from the theist's point of view, this is a theological claim because it says something significant about God. For the atheist, though, saying there is no God is an affirmation that a certain X never existed to begin with. One might as well be denying the existence of the tooth fairy. From the atheist's point of view, then, the claim "There is no God" is simply a way of refuting the possibility that a certain concept might be instantiated in reality. It can't be a theological claim because the label theos has no referent.

Itaewon disaster: an explanation

Initial chaos often resolves into sensible narratives, and the video below provides one possible explanation for what happened on October 29.

The video mentions a death toll of 156, but I'd heard it was 158. See here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

we've been here before

Ructions in China as protests flare up in thirteen cities. Some commentators are calling this the most serious flareup since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

We've been here before, of course, and in two senses: (1) I was recently captivated—and hoodwinked—by the optimistic notion that China might be undergoing a real-estate crisis that would collapse its economy. Cooler heads in the comments section advised me not to get excited, and sure enough, months after the predictions of doom, China is still chugging along with no zombie apocalypse in sight. Maybe there is a real-estate crisis in progress, but the battleship presses on, even if it's in flames, and I won't be bamboozled again. And then there's (2), the argument from history: it's a simple enough question to ask—so how did Tiananmen turn out? Is China now a paradise of human rights, or is it, more than ever, a North Korean-style surveillance state where only the yes-men, the party apparatchiks, are happy? Since we all know the answer to that question, the followup question should obviously be: why should we think that the current flareup will end any differently? I wrote this over at Instapundit:

We love rebels and the underdog, but it's good to remember not to map our hero-mythology onto other cultures. While I'd love to see China's authoritarian regime collapse, all I have to do is look at North Korea to realize that, in some places, the people never become brave enough to rise up against authority, and when they show signs of bravery, the authority will raise its boot and crush whatever spirit it finds. Then there's the question of what might arise after a collapse happens. The Chinese, as a whole, haven't shown a love of independence. They're a people looking for a strong guiding hand, a nanny state. The CCP sucks, to be sure, but what monster waits to replace it?

You might counter that Romania rose up and took care of the Ceaușescus, but again, Eastern Europe is not the Far East. Sure, I'll hope for a real collapse in China like the rest of you, but realistically, I don't see this ending well for the current protestors.

And that's about where things stand. The video below wants to argue otherwise:

TL;DR: hopeful but extremely skeptical. I see citizens being rounded up and shot long before I see China going down in flames.

another "Rings of Power" criticism

The guy notes that "Rings of Power" hasn't been criticized enough:

criticism and social commentary

Been a while since I last watched this movie:

old video: "Why is 0! = 1?"

For you math nerds:

the Alyssa Milano saga continues

A few days ago, woke harpy Alyssa Milano declared, in a paroxysm of virtue-signaling, that she had traded in her Tesla for a Volkswagen EV to protest Musk's takeover of Twitter and the ensuing re-blossoming of free speech there. She immediately got shit for choosing a car made by a company that had been founded by Nazis, but Milano, ever determined, found and retweeted one sympathetic Twit who backed her up by saying that Volkswagen had rejected its Nazi past, so there was no problem getting a Volkswagen today. The response from the right was fairly predictable: "So, it OK to forgive Volkswagen, which has transcended its past, but not OK to let America off the hook for having transcended its past?" I don't know that this response is really a logical reply to the Twit's sentiments (feels a bit like moving the goalposts), but the right is correct to point out that this new argument from the left is in contrast to previous arguments from the left.

The above video also points out that Milano used to be a big-time Tesla/Musk fangirl.

no alcohol at the World Cup?!

over 40K

Sometime over the past few days, I got boosted over the 40K mark in terms of monthly site visits. I don't expect to have another month like this anytime soon, and of course, half of this traffic is bots, so the whole thing has to be taken with a big boulder of salt. Still, the site-traffic monitor currently reads 40,432, which is better than what I've had in a while.


Styx once again on the student-loan debacle:

Cenk Uygur once again proving he's the left's version of Alex Jones:

The right is hitting the left hard on the issue of "identifying as trans":

Return of Antifa?

You know you'll click because of that naughty thumbnail:

We could produce our own fuel, but the Dems prefer moribund, authoritarian Venezuela:

Plenty of idiocy to go around.

la chute de la culture américaine?

At one point during the discussion, people make reference to a stand-up bit by comedian Jim Breuer (who was a member of "Saturday Night Live" for several years), in which Breuer talks about how his daughter came home from college utterly brainwashed by the PC curriculum. I got curious and found the 1.5-minute bit on YouTube:

If I had kids in America today, I'd be homeschooling them and prepping them for trades. They would not go to college, not with the American educational system as fucked as it now is. If the kids want to learn loftier things than just trades, they can do so under my supervision or under the supervision of local people that I implicitly trust. Regular school? Fuck regular school. Fuck it up the ass with a splintery broomstick.

ADDENDUM: Tim Pool's video ends with Pool saying, "Homeschool your kids!"

ADDENDUM 2: I expressed the above sentiment on Instapundit, and one genius replied with, "Well, then, what are we supposed to do about doctors?" Yeah, you tell me, bud! What are we supposed to do when the newest crop of doctors is more worried about using proper pronouns and being PC than about actually practicing medicine? Should I send my kids to become doctors when med schools are just as likely as humanities schools to be ideology factories these days? I'd rather take my chances with fewer docs, thanks. Maybe that's the only way humanity is going to learn that wokeness doesn't pay: we'll need to live through a whole generation (or more) of stupid, incompetent docs before someone finally gets a clue and realizes that science isn't supposed to give a shit about wokeness.

call me sentimental

Iron Man dies as he uses the Infinity Stones to save the universe

Over the weekend, as I was dealing with my neck pain, I rewatched "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." Both movies went down easy, and I don't think I have quite the animosity toward them that I did. I still stand by everything I wrote: "Infinity War" has better pacing and a better Thanos, but "Endgame" has that over-the-top, Peter Jackson-style battle royale at the end. Together, the movies form a connected, somewhat coherent pair, and whatever the problems caused by time travel, the movies tell a decent, likable story.

This is especially true now that we've weathered the woke mess that has been Phase IV, the supposedly "cosmic" phase that didn't turn out to be that cosmic except maybe for "Eternals," "Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness," and the universe-hopping "Loki" TV series. I didn't watch most of Phase IV (that includes skipping those new Marvel TV series: "Ms. Marvel," "Falcon and the Winter Soldier," "She-Hulk," "WandaVision," "What If," "Hawkeye," and "Moon Knight"), and from everything I've heard, the whole thing is a wretched mess.

At this point, I'm all Marveled out, and for my "head canon," as they say, the whole adventure ends with "Endgame." I did see the Phase IV "Spider-Man: No Way Home," but that's been about it. I will see Phase V's "Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3" when it comes out because, well, how can you miss out on James Gunn? But I doubt I'll have any interest in the other movies of Phase V, which already feels like another big crash waiting to happen.

Monday, November 28, 2022

once was lost, but now is found

The contact lens I'd lost some time ago (I just looked, and I guess I didn't blog about this) has reappeared. The day I lost it, the lens seemingly just disappeared. I searched high and low for it and never found it, but I trusted that it would come back, and sure enough, voilà. The lens magically reappeared on my floor, near my bathroom door. As I've learned from experience, the lens will be hard because it's hydrophilic and will have dried out from a lack of saline solution. The thing to do is to drop the lens—which feels like a fingernail—into a some saline and let it soak at least a few hours. Take the lens out, check for rips, rub it gently with a fingertip while rinsing with more saline, and pop that bad boy back into your eye. I did all the above, and now I have two left lenses. I'm going to put one of the two into a contact-lens container, and I'll store it for whenever I might need a spare lens.

Does anybody triumphantly say Woot! anymore? Probably not.

World what?

I heard there's some soccer tournament.

more leftover ideas

I still have a ton of roulade filling left. This filling is primarily puréed spinach, cheese, and fried mushrooms, so I'm thinking this would convert nicely into a ravioli or tortellini. All I need to do is make the pasta, and that shouldn't be difficult. As for the sauce: I have a good bit of heavy cream and some white wine, plus a whole mess of crab and a small brick of Gruyère, so I can make a creamy crab sauce to pour over the ravioli. That sounds amazing, frankly. Or I could mix my crab meat straight into the filling, then make crab ravioli with regular cream sauce. Either way, glory is ours.

the sad story of Sam Bankman-Fried's collapsed empire


Analysis: What in the Actual F— Is Wrong With These People?

You can't make this up. Earlier this month, some dough-faced dork named Sam Bankman-Fried—an MIT grad and son of Stanford law professors—vaporized the GDP of a small country after successfully conning the entire world of so-called educated elites.

All of them. The freaks in Silicon Valley, the freaks on Wall Street, the freaks in Hollywood, and the freaks in Washington. Even (or especially) the journalists who are supposed to be holding everyone accountable. The smartest, most enlightened professional experts and self-appointed moral referees.

Bill Clinton. Tony Blair. The Democratic Party. Larry David. Tom Brady. Fortune magazine. Andrew Ross Sorkin. CNBC. The bald guy from Shark Tank. BlackRock, the $10 trillion investment firm where former Obama aides go to get rich and serve as "Global Head of Sustainable Investing."


I had to add some herbs and seasonings, but the ad hoc chowder that I made from Thanksgiving ingredients came out well enough:

This was mainly a way to deal with those disappointing peas. So I dumped in all of the peas and carrots, and I added most of the corn pudding, and I slipped in most of the rest of my chicken roulade, which was made with bacon and smoked duck. Oh, yes: I also dumped in the rest of my mashed potatoes; I was too lazy to cube and boil more, so I simply let the mashed potatoes add to the rib-sticking texture of the overall chowder. Because of all the heavy cream I poured in, I also added a tiny bit of salt, a good deal more pepper, some powdered garlic, and a mess of dried parsley. Overall, I think the Gestalt makes for a good chowder that I've containerized and will eat over the next few days. This will wreak havoc on my blood sugar, but my blood sugar's been shot for a while. Extreme penance to follow once all the leftovers have been dealt with. The penance will be a nice lead-up to Christmas.

I should say, too, that the roulade might have tasted salty on Thanksgiving, but it tasted a lot better over the ensuing days. Couldn't say why. Maybe my duck/bacon theory of saltiness was wrong. I did preserve enough of the roulade to eat it properly on a plate along with a mess of other trimmings; the rest of the roulade ended up in the chowder. What kind of chowder is this closest to? Corn chowder? Pot-pie filling? Maybe. Maybe it's something else. Let's just call it a Thanksgiving chowder that was and will be good.

stupid but funny

Saw this over at ROK Drop:

Although I seriously doubt you'd have five Kims on a single team. But you can't go wrong by also mentioning common surnames like Lee, Park, and Choi (pronounce it "cheh," not "choy"—the "oi" represents the ae or wae sound depending on the situation).

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Andong-walk photos now enlarged

This won't make a difference for most of you, but for what it's worth, I've enlarged all the photos from the Sangju-to-Andong portion of the long walk I did this year. Start with Day 22 and move forward to the end. Enjoy!

Alyssa Milano trips over her own dick

Alyssa Milano, openly and rabidly woke, recently said she's traded in her Tesla for a Volkswagen to protest Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter. She apparently didn't know that Volkswagen was founded by the very Nazis she's thinks she's protesting against.

Zee car uff zee people! Ja! Vee luff you, Alyssa!

the race to 40K

It trickled off a while back, but that huge influx of visitors a few weeks ago really put my stats over the top. I'm currently at 38K unique visits for November—just 2K more will push me over the 40K mark. So come on, bots! Get me over the cliff! Just 2000 more visits to go, and I'll have doubled the number of monthly expected visits! You can do it!


I'm sure the left has lots of questions.

Amazing, isn't it, how distracting Elon and Trump can be.

And the cat speaks in Christian Bale's gravelly voice.

Why blur out the face in the ID? It's obviously the same face in the main pic.

Or Twitter. Or pretty much any social media.

Well, you have to have the proper priorities.

zactly, bitches

The memer needs to up his comma game.

And the cat runs away as you approach. God's sending mixed messages.

I understand that this is a fake. Funny all the same.

the introvert's shirt

sad but true

Yet idiots relentlessly vote Democrat, anyway.

to everyone who voted for Biden and stands by that vote

...and then you don't leave Twitter.

We miss you, Sam.


Singer Irene Cara is dead at 63. Cara is perhaps most famous for her hit "What a Feeling" from the movie "Flashdance." The 1984 song earned her both an Oscar and a Grammy. I never saw the movie, but I did love the song, which had a cheerfully liberating feel to it. You might have to dig back further into your memories, but Cara also had an acting part—including a nude scene!—in the 1980 movie "Fame," for which she also sang the movie's theme song (you may remember the lyrics "I wanna live forever"). Cause of death is currently unknown, but she died at home in Florida. I know Cara pretty much for the two songs mentioned above, but those songs loomed large in my youth and marked my formative years, so there's a great deal of sentimentality that comes with learning this terrible news. The news of Cara's death truly saddens me. Even if her career had consisted only of those two songs, it could still be said that she brought joy to a lot of people. Rest in peace, Ms. Cara, symbol of a simpler time.

cause for despair

I wrote the following on Instapundit a day or so ago in response to how Elon Musk is rolling back a lot of the damage caused by the leftist wokies at Twitter before Musk's takeover:

I cheer, along with everyone else, what Musk is doing, but this is accompanied by the sad realization that swamp-draining really does require help from the rich and powerful, like Musk, who are motivated to solve these deep problems and do some good. Could normal citizens have laid bare the dark machinations of Twitter? I don't think so. It doesn't much bolster my confidence in "the power of the people." When it comes to major changes in society, we hoi polloi can't do much, I think, short of engaging in violent revolution. We are a huge, armed populace, still quiescent, and in theory, we could accomplish great things at gunpoint, but revolutions carry their own risks once the dust settles. All that said, I don't want to think of myself as a mere plaything of the powerful, but I can't help feeling it's the rich, powerful, and influential among us who create the tides that carry the rest of us along.

I'm open to hearing the opposite viewpoint. Hopeful, even.

Many religions ask you to accept and embrace your own smallness in the face of larger forces. American values ask you to cherish the power that comes with your human freedom. But how much power do we really have when we lack money and means?

And to be clear: I don't care how much Musk improves Twitter: I'm never going back. Freedom of speech might improve, and canceled people might be un-canceled, but as long as the usual idiots remain on the platform, I have no reason to go back. Burn it all with fire, I say.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

all praise to ibuprofen

What a difference a couple of ibuprofen pills make. Ah.

Apple TV update

So, praise Allah, I was able to get my Apple TV service working again. The problem seems to have been a combination of authorization and VPN issues. I re-authorized my Apple TV app (do I have to do this every time I change my OS?), then I looked on YouTube for further insights into my problem, and one video mentioned that one's VPN (I use Surfshark) can get in the way of performance. Sure enough, when I turned off my VPN, Apple TV started working again, and I could finally watch "Rick and Morty" and "Black Adam." So those issues have been resolved, although it's interesting to note that, while I was still using Mac OS Monterey (OS 12), I was able to watch Apple TV content without having to turn off my VPN. I use my VPN pretty much all the time now, so turning it off for two hours just to watch an Apple TV movie makes me a little nervous. One solution would be to download my full movie and TV-series library, but I have so many movies now that such a move would leave me with almost no storage space on my own hard drives. As things are, I never download anything from Apple TV: I store it all on the Cloud and watch it from there. This isn't much different from "owning" movies on Amazon Prime, a topic I discussed years ago.

PS: that "Rick and Morty" episode has to be one of the best ones this season. It's utterly meta, and it satirizes the internal process of writers, especially the creatively bankrupt ones.

when the pro-vaxx virologist dies "suddenly"


Top Virologist and Member of FDA Panel Who Voted For Covid Vaccine Emergency Approval Dies Suddenly (Video)

Top virologist and member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel, Dr. Almyra Oveta Fuller, who supported emergency use authorization for the Covid vaccine,  died suddenly last week.

Dr. Fuller, a University of Michigan professor, died Friday at 67 years old.  According to reports, she passed away after a short illness.

A lot of vaxxed people have been dying "suddenly" since taking the vaxx and its boosters. Many of these people have been young and otherwise healthy. Strange, right?

To be fair, the above-linked article is doing its best to imply that Dr. Fuller herself received the jab and may have died as a direct result of that decision. If you read the article, though, you'll see that the piece at no time explicitly says that Dr. Fuller took the shot. Also strange. Beware of manipulation on both sides of the aisle.

oh, Karine

the Great Rebuff continues


We Can Assume Trump Won’t Be Using Twitter Anytime Soon After Elon Musk Backs Ron DeSantis

There was excitement throughout Twitter earlier this week when Elon Musk had Donald Trump’s Twitter account freed. But the President hasn’t posted anything for his 88-million followers since getting access returned to him. Now, it seems unlikely he’ll ever Tweet again following a declaration by Musk.

According to The Blaze:

Elon Musk has indicated that he would support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president in 2024.

“My preference for the 2024 presidency is someone sensible and centrist. I had hoped that would [be] the case for the Biden administration, but have been disappointed so far,” Musk noted in a tweet on Friday.

When someone asked Musk if he would support DeSantis, Musk replied, “Yes.” He then added, “But Twitter as a platform must be fair to all.”

DeSantis, who just won reelection during Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial contest, has not announced plans for a 2024 White House bid, but is widely viewed as someone who could potentially run for president.

I keep hearing that DeSantis has vowed not to run in 2024 if Trump is running. Trump has now declared his intention to run... but it's still not clear to the public whether DeSantis will run against him? Is the lack of clarity DeSantis's fault or the media's?

Stay tuned for more shit-shows as Republicans continue to rebuff Trump.

neck pain

I guess I slept with my head in a weird position because I woke up this morning with severe neck pain. It's hard to do much of anything right now; I'm mostly in bed, with my head in a more comfortable position. This will eventually go away, as previous pains have done, but it might be a few days. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for some ibuprofen to kick in so I can at least swivel my neck a bit. Right now, raising my right hand over my head is extremely painful. A nerve got pinched, I'm sure. Am I groaning like an old man yet?

attacked by Matt Walsh

A funny little skit.

"Black Adam": review

[WARNING: spoilers.]

"Black Adam" is a 2022 superhero action film that has been a long time in the making. It stars Dwayne Johnson, who has been a fan of this DC character since forever. Johnson is also listed as one of the film's producers. "Black Adam" is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, and if you're scratching your head as to who that is, well, frankly, so was I until I looked him up: Collet-Serra most famously directed the shark movie "The Shallows," starring Ryan Reynolds's wife Blake Lively. "Black Adam" also stars Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Bodhi Sabongui, Mohammed Amer, Marwan Kenzari, and Quintessa Swindell.

In modern times, a team of archaeologists in the country of Kahndaq is searching for an ancient crown made of a super-dense metal called eternium, a material known to be imbued with magical power. The ancient story is that, over 4500 years ago, a king named Ahk-ton wanted to forge a crown of that metal, so he enslaved most of his kingdom's population and set the slaves to digging. One slave boy, Hurut, took a chunk of eternium from a slave who found it, and with thoughts of rebellion in his head, led the local guards on a merry chase before he was caught.  Right before he was executed, though, a group of wizards who had noticed his purity of heart and his desire to free the slaves gave him the mystical power of Shazam which, as in the movie "Shazam," turned him from a teen into an adult with superpowers—someone called simply the Champion, a being who now had the strength to overthrow the king. The king's fortress eventually crumbled, but the Champion disappeared, as did the crown. Back in modern times, the team discovers where the crown is hidden, but right as they are about to move the crown to a safer place, a platoon of Intergang soldiers arrives, and all hell breaks loose. Arianna (Shahi) tries to escape the Intergang soldiers, but she gets captured. An archaeologist with a knowledge of ancient languages, Arianna desperately invokes the ancient powers described by the hieroglyphs written on the walls of the catacombs she's in. In doing so, she releases Teth-Adam (Johnson), a huge and powerful being of magic who has been trapped under the mountain for nearly 5000 years. Teth-Adam makes short work of the Intergang troops, killing them all, but stopping short of killing Adrianna and her brother Karim (Amer). Although he seems invincible, Teth-Adam is wounded by an eternium-enriched weapon. Adrianna and Karim take Adam back home. In the downtown part of Kahndaq's capital, Adrianna's son Amon (Sabongui) has encounters with Intergang troops, who occupy Kahndaq as a foreign force. Amon seethes with resentment because his nation has been under one foreign boot or another for centuries. Meanwhile, Teth-Adam reawakens in Adrianna's apartment and talks with Amon, who does his best to fill Adam in on modern life. In the United States, the Justice Society of America is alerted to Adam's reawakening, and they head to Kahndaq, worried about the threat to the world that Teth-Adam represents. Meanwhile, someone close to Adrianna and secretly working with Intergang has designs on taking the eternium-crown, called the Crown of Sabbac, for himself. Teth-Adam must find his place in the modern world while dealing with the incoming Justice Society, the occupying force of Intergang, and the secret enemy.

I know nothing about the comic-book character of Black Adam, so all I have to go on is what I saw in the movie. With the hulking Dwayne Johnson in the title role, Teth-Adam—who is addressed as Black Adam only after the credits start rolling—is an imposing figure. The suit for Black Adam was hilariously designed to allow Johnson's monstrous trapezius muscles to bulge out, making his head and neck into something like a pyramid. If I've read the movie correctly, Teth-Adam starts out as a simple human being (the twist ending, which I won't give away here, reveals that his origin was not what we are at first led to believe it was) who is magically gifted the powers of Shazam. So unlike Superman, who is an alien from a faraway world whose cells respond mightily to the light of our yellow sun, Adam's home is Earth, but his first loyalty is to his memory of the Kahndaq from nearly 5000 years ago. The movie portrays Adam as perfectly willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.

Johnson is actually not bad in the title role, which doesn't require Oscar-level acting. No longer a spring chicken (he's 50 as of this year), Johnson has the craggy face that shows the wear and tear of a man who has led a sad existence and awakened to more sadness. In fact, Johnson's acting in scenes where he has no lines to utter is almost—dare I say it—powerful. He's able to project sorrow and anger and rage. Maybe that's a product of Johnson's theatrical pro-wrestling background, or maybe he loves the character of Black Adam so much that he really can just slip into the role. I think it's safe to say that Dwayne Johnson owns the character; I can no longer imagine anyone else in that role.

I enjoyed the fact that the story went all-in with the idea of Black Adam as an antihero who doesn't hesitate to kill. And while the movie shows a disturbing amount of property damage that presumably brings with it great loss of innocent life, I see that loss of life as the inevitable consequence when great powers contend with each other. Heroes (and antiheroes) can't all take the Superman or Spider-Man route and try to save all life, all the time. The omelet requires some broken eggs. Can't be helped. The movie faces that issue head-on and doesn't flinch from showing the damage.

Black Adam is supposed to be roughly equivalent to Superman in power level, so I can imagine there must have been a real temptation to depict him fighting like Superman. For the most part, the filmmakers avoid this; Black Adam has his own weirdly distinct fighting style, and even the way he flies around Kahndaq's capital city has a very un-Superman-like feel to it. I appreciated all of that. Adam is also gifted with Palpatine-like lightning abilities, allowing him to kill from a distance.

Another of the movie's positives is the way it allows the members of the Justice Society of America to interact with each other. The two older members of the team are Hawkman/Carter Hall (Hodge), and Dr. Fate/Kent Nelson (Brosnan). Hawkman seems to have a degree of super-strength, along with some sort of nanotech wingsuit, helmet, and mace (all made from something called Nth metal, which is in theory indestructible). Despite these assets, he's not a real match for Adam. Dr. Fate is blessed or cursed with the ability to see and interpret visions of the future. He seems to see possible futures, although some of his visions are more persistent than others. The term "fate" gets bandied about whenever he's in the room, but he also seems open to the idea that fates can be changed. He wears an alien helmet that apparently chooses the wearer—think: Dr. Strange's cape—and that seems to enhance his ability to see into the future. Like Marvel's Dr. Strange, DC's Dr. Fate is also a magic-user, and a compassionate one, at that. He has none of the arrogance of Dr. Strange, and the movie plays up the strong, if contentious, friendship he has with Hawkman. I thought the bond between these two characters was well written, but I'd have liked to see even more of it. The two younger members of the Justice Society are Cyclone/Maxine Hunkel (Swindell) and Atom Smasher/Al Rothstein (Centineo). They meet each other for the first time during the story, and a sort of flirty bond develops between them, although it's obvious that Atom Smasher, whose superpower is the ability to grow huge, is the goofier of the two. Cyclone, meanwhile, can manipulate air à la Marvel's Storm from the X-Men, although when Cyclone does her thing, strangely billowing rainbows appear. The movie is smart enough to show that, because this team of four has come together like this for the first time, they don't operate that smoothly, and the resultant property damage in Kahndaq is horrific.

While the film had plenty of positives, it also had its share of negatives. The story did a good job of making Black Adam quite unlike Superman, but it was hard pressed to differentiate Dr. Fate from Dr. Strange. There's a scene in the third reel in which Dr. Fate fights the movie's main villain, who has undergone a transformation from human to demon, and the fight plays out a little too much like the heroes' fight against Thanos in "Avengers: Infinity War," with Dr. Fate even multiplying himself the way Dr. Strange did. (I see that a lot of online speculation has been brewing about who would win a Strange-versus-Fate sorcerer fight, with many sources confidently claiming that Fate would win.) A common complaint among many critics has been that the film ends with the usual CGI-heavy fight against an enemy who, being entirely CGI, is impossible to take seriously. I don't know about that: Thanos was entirely CGI, but because his character had been so well developed by the time of that first many-against-one fight on Thanos's homeworld, viewers were invested, CGI or not. True: the demonic villain at the end of "Black Adam" has nothing on Thanos in terms of character development, so maybe that's why the CGI is put forth as a complaint. A lot more could have been done to make this an even darker movie. I think the filmmakers should have gone for the hard R rating: more blood and gore, more cruel acts by the villain to cement our hatred of him (as it is, he comes off as someone with the typical supervillain's lust for power and domination—ho-hum), more dark acts by Black Adam to reinforce his antihero status. The movie also becomes a bit muddled as to what modern Kahndaq's problem is: is it the occupation by Intergang (a stand-in for oppressive Western occupiers), or is it the hellish army of the dead that briefly appears at the end of the film? The movie is brave enough to present some meaty themes that would have been cool to explore: the idea of Black Adam as a merely regional hero, not a hero who wants to protect the whole earth; the question of Western occupation in the Middle East; the idea of a so-called "hero's" moral worth (one of the main characters rages at the Justice Society for never once making an appearance in Kahndaq despite decades of Intergang occupation); the ethical question of letting villains live when you know they'll merely go back to their destructive ways, and so on. Plenty of big ideas put forth, but none probed deeply. The movie had the chance to go profound both philosophically and emotionally, and it failed to do either. I was also a bit confused by the Kahndaqis' constant use of English despite the fact that, when we see flashbacks to ancient Kahndaq, everyone is speaking a foreign language. Why did that change in modern times? One last criticism: we went most of the movie without seeing a single sky beam, and I was ready to breathe a sigh of relief, but in the scene where the demonic villain finally sits on the ancient throne, which is still preserved in modern Kahndaq, a sky beam appears and lights up the clouds. Jesus Christ.

So while there was plenty to enjoy about "Black Adam," which doesn't deserve the drubbing it's getting from critics, there were some major problems, too. This is a good, dumb, enjoyable film that hints at something even greater. In terms of the political reality of the film—the diverse, mostly non-white cast and all the rest—I couldn't care less. The casting choices all made sense given that the story is mostly set in a fictional Middle Eastern country. Does it matter that Hawkman, in the movie, is black? Not to me. I'm not invested in the comic-book version(s) of the character, so Hawkman's race didn't matter to me. Apparently, in the comics, Hawkman is also something of a mystical being who has gone through many reincarnations and retained the memories of his past lives (thus giving him vast knowledge and myriad abilities with weapons and languages), so why couldn't he be black in this incarnation? There's nothing in the movie approaching a "Rings of Power"-level disrespect for previous canon here. Aldis Hodge also does a fine job of portraying Hawkman, so how could anyone resent that? That reminds me: Black Adam is released from his 5000-year imprisonment and already speaks English... how? I guess the answer should be obvious: magic. I wish the movie had taken more time to explore the whole "fish out of water" aspect of Adam's reappearance in a world that has long forgotten him. The language nerd in me would have liked to see Adam trying to talk with the locals in ancient Kahndaqi, only to discover how much the language has evolved over millennia.

Watch "Black Adam" with my blessing, knowing it's a flawed work that you shouldn't think too deeply about. Would I watch it again? Yes. Do I anticipate a sequel? Well, the mid-credits scene at the end teases the return of Henry Cavill's Superman (who cryptically tells Black Adam, "We need to talk"), so yes, I anticipate a sequel. And since Black Adam has much the same power set as Billy Batson from "Shazam," I expect that Batson and Adam will also run into each other at some point, perhaps in a third movie. Also: know that "Black Adam" is a mostly serious film, but it's peppered with plenty of humor. I laughed out loud at Adam's inability to walk through doors: he simply walks straight through walls with no regard for a building's structural integrity. Adam also learns about how to deliver catchphrases: as young Amon tells him, use the catchphrase before you kill your enemy: "Tell them [i.e., the powers of hell] the Man in Black sent you." Adam has to kill several enemies before he finally gets it right. And in a scene where Hawkman fights Adam while they're inside Adrianna's apartment, the fight moves into Amon's room, with its posters of Justice League heroes, and we watch as, one by one, images of Superman, Batman, and Aquaman all get destroyed as Hawkman and Adam duke it out. For all its flaws, "Black Adam" has its moments. I did not come away a hater, and I hope the movie does well on home video.

Friday, November 25, 2022

this made me a bit sad

No turkey for our Thanksgiving. My boss did grumble about that. He tried to pass it off as humor, but in some measure, he was doubtless displeased to have his ideal vision of Thanksgiving violated. I think, next time, I'll have to try harder to obtain proper turkey meat. Maybe that means going to John Cook Deli Meats a week earlier and ordering turkey breast that can arrive with time to spare. Maybe that means biting the bullet and ordering a whole turkey from Coupang, then breaking the bird down and roasting it in parts. (The Walmart where I used to live in Front Royal sold whole turkey breast, which I fed to my buddy Dr. Steve back when Dr. Steve used to come over for Thanksgiving. That would be ideal for me. Maybe that, plus a turkey leg or two.)

In the aftermath of our big meal, as I was mulling over the whole no-turkey thing yesterday evening, I saw that Chef Brian Lagerstrom had put up a new video: what to do with your leftover turkey. And the three suggestions that Lagerstrom came up with were genius. Which caused a pang: I don't have the turkey to make the things he shows in his video. So as the cats in the memes say, I has a sad.* Enjoy the video all the same.


*I never understood why people would think that, if cats could speak, they'd be ungrammatical. That whole I has a sad or I can haz cheezburger thing is just not appropriate for cats. In my imagination, if cats would speak, they would talk in impeccably grammatical, posh British English, maybe switching to less grammatical Cockney when under stress. Dogs, on the other hand, are considered good-hearted but goofy, so making their English sound mildly retarded makes sense to me, although I'm not a big fan of those memes and subtitles that use dog puns like What the fluff? or Fluff off! or cutesy words like heccin' (canine for "fucking") and chimkin (for "chicken"). And I'd make allowances for grammatical dogs if we're talking about breeds with a serious, stern, guardian temperament like German Shepherds and Dobermans. Those dogs would sound grammatical, like drill sergeants verbally cutting you to ribbons with their precise, vivid language.

Ice Cube refuses "motherfuckin' jab"

One of the things not well covered by the leftie mainstream media is the widespread refusal, among many members of the black community, to take the COVID jab. When prominent members of that community refuse the jab, though, you have to pay attention:

No one's going to confuse Ice Cube for a conservative Republican anytime soon, so this can't be dismissed as rightie paranoia or fearmongering. The black community, in particular, has every right to be leery of new medicines, especially ones aggressively promoted by the government, given past government betrayals like the Tuskegee Experiment and so on. (The government didn't confine itself to black folks, though: look up Operation Sea-Spray.) 

I don't blame Ice Cube one bit.

pic of the eppel peh

Ignored yesterday, attacked and ravaged today:

The pie got another grunted "It's good" from my boss, and my American coworker gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up. I don't think my Korean coworker has eaten any pie today. The resistance is strong within him. My boss took a slice of pie over to a Korean colleague down the hall; when she saw me later on, she gushed about how good the pie was and how she had no talent for cooking that sort of thing. I had my own slice and thought the pie was pretty good even though this isn't my usual huge-ass dessert (I used only four apples to make a modest pie this time). My one annoyance is that my American coworker used a metal knife against my metal pie plate to slice his piece of pie, thus leaving scratches on the pie plate, visible in the above photo. Grrr. I put out a plastic cake knife for the rest of the crew to use.

what to do with bad peas and carrots

I was disappointed with the peas I'd bought for Thanksgiving, but I think I've come up with a solution for how to get rid of them without wasting them: make a chowder. I have other Thanksgiving elements that could be thrown into a nice, rib-sticking chowder: my corn pudding (of which a lot remains), plus my chicken roulade (although I might have to scrape out the spinach/cheese filling). Add potatoes, mushrooms, and heavy cream, and you've got a nice chowder. It'll look like vomit, but it ought to taste amazing, and I'll have found a way to take care of the peas and carrots. (The carrots were fine, but I combined them with the peas, so they suffered guilt by association.)

French level: 25 out of 25

Randomly saw a dude offering to test the level of your French. He divided the proficiency levels into beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Spoke French—slowly and distinctly—the entire time. Presumably is French: his "About" page on YouTube says he's learned Chinese, Spanish, English, and Portuguese. His informal test concentrates mostly on grammar, so it's by no means a true test of one's fluency (you'd have to include accent,* range of vocabulary, ease with idioms, ability to talk about varied subject matter other than just everyday life, etc.). That said, I rolled through the video and tackled his 25 questions, garnering myself an easy 25 out of 25. Nothing in the test really rises above the level of say, high-school French 2. I don't know how many of my readers speak or read French, but if you happen to be one of them, knock yourself out and take Fred's test by clicking on the video below.


*You can argue about whether accent should be a consideration when determining fluency. If the ideal is native fluency, then yes, accent counts. As a practical matter, though, I don't consider accent to be a factor unless the accent is so thick that it prevents comprehension. The prof who taught us Korean, back when I was in college, spoke fluent English and French, but she had a strong Korean accent in each language. Still, she was obviously fluent: she occasionally wrote me emails in English, and they were always impeccably written, grammatically perfect, etc.

Here in Korea, simply having a foreign face can be enough to prevent comprehension: many Koreans' brains will shut down when they see you're a foreigner, and people will simply refuse to understand you no matter how clear your Korean is. This is a constant gripe of mine.

Thanksgiving images