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My nemesis “wants me back.”

You’ll recall that last year, I tangled with Fifty Shades of Grey for the bargain price of $843 and somehow managed to crawl my way out with only a mild hangover.

I’ve been training. I’ve been drinking a lot of beer. But I see that the sequel has stepped up its game as well, and gone the full this could totally be an episode of Law & Order: SVU. And I have no doubt it heard what I was saying last year, about it still not being as bad as Transformers 4. It’s out for revenge.

So here’s the deal. If you want to see the grudge match between my liver and Jamie Dornan’s bulging right eye, you better pony up the money for charity.

The goal is $1000. I think that’s a not unreasonable price to put on my sanity. $1000 by February 14, 2017, and I will see this steaming yech of weirdly shot abuse apologia and attempt to kill myself with alcohol poisoning before the credits roll. And I will take notes for you. And I will write a review. And just to sweeten the pot, I will video myself attempting to explain the plot while still drunk, and post it on Youtube.

Because this is such a special, special kind of movie, the rules are a little different for your charity donations. It’s still honor system – donate money, then contact me via whatever method you prefer and tell me how much. (Also, if you want to remain anonymous, do let me know.) But like last time, I want all donations to go to domestic violence charities. And as you donate, I’ll compile the list of your favored charities so more people will see who’s doing good work out there. I’ve also copied the charities from last year over, so you have a starting point if you don’t know any local groups.

We’re a little more than two months out. My fate is in your hands.

CURRENTLY: $0/$1000

Fuck you I ain’t goin’.

Charities:

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

2016 Awards Eligibility

For 2016, I have had five short stories (<7500 words) published:

And all of them are freely available online!

In the realm of potentially other useful things:

Though if you have a favorite blog thing I’ve written this year (and I admit, they’ve gotten pathetically sparse since June) let me know!

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

To my beloved Republican family member

(This was originally intended to be a Facebook reply, but it’s so long that it actually broke Facebook when I tried to post it. Or maybe the multiple links did it. Either way, go me?)

I know I don’t normally even go here, but I saw your airy dismissal that LGBTQ rights will be “fine” under the Trump presidency and can’t really remain silent. Please don’t read this as me lecturing you, but rather trying to explain why I and so many of my LGBTQ siblings are terrified what’s going to happen to us.

There are a lot of reasons I’m extremely concerned about the Trump presidency, but I’m going to set everything else (such a mountain of everything else) aside just to focus on my perspective only as a queer individual. From that stance, the problem isn’t even necessarily Donald Trump himself. While he’s said a lot of incredibly hateful things that I’ve been horrified by, I don’t recall any being directed toward LGBTQ people specifically, other than the bitterly laughable “ask the gays” comment, which is right up there with “some of my best friends are gay” when it comes to eye-rolling. Hell, he even said he’d “protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology” after the Pulse nightclub shooting, which is… nice, I guess, though I could have done with a lot less being used to justify anti-Islamic sentiment and more addressing hateful domestic ideologies. But I honestly do buy the argument that Donald Trump probably does not give two shits if someone is gay or straight, and who knows, maybe he’s one of those lovely people who is equally misogynistic to both cis and trans women. (How refreshing.)

Rather, as a genderqueer and non-heterosexual person, the problem I have is with Mike Pence, and the Republican party as a whole. I saw you reel off the Republican agenda as you see it, and homophobia wasn’t part of that. I think it’s great that in your mind, it’s not. But we need to talk about the agenda the party has stated. Because I love you, but your personal take on the agenda is obviously not what the party as a whole believes, in their own words.

From the full, long-form Republican party platform:

From Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary:

Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values.

I don’t care how nice it sounds, this is a homophobic call to destroy gay marriage. If you read further into it, there’s direct criticism of United States vs Windsor and Obergfell vs Hodges, which are both landmark court victories for gay rights. And this isn’t just about gay people being able to get dressed up and have a nice wedding. This is about all of the countless attendant rights that come with a legally recognized marriage, including guardianship of children, inheritance, and the right of spouses to make medical decisions and even visit their ill or injured partner in the hospital. The reason this is important is so people like Mike Pence (yes, that Mike Pence) can no longer, say, try to keep a woman from being able to visit her dying wife in the hospital.

From The First Amendment: Religious Liberty:

We pledge to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control. We endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, Republican legislation in the House and Senate which will bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

FADA is something that scares the hell out of most LGBTQ people, because it’s basically Mike Pence’s RFRA on steroids. Setting aside for now the implications this will have on women, this bill would allow publicly funded programs/government employees to deny service to LGBTQ individuals based on their personal religious beliefs. This goes beyond protecting asshole clerks who want to deny marriage licenses and organizations who want to fire their gay employees, to very real danger to transgender individuals who can get denied medical care or protection when a provider decides they don’t like the mismatch between gender identity and genitalia. I suppose you can argue that this is not the intention of the law (which I would disagree with) but the point is that these actions would be protected and codified into law, and then be used to justify bigoted behavior that could seriously hurt someone. It might get fought out in the “activist” courts later, but that’s not going to save the people hurt in the meantime.

From The Tenth Amendment: Federalism as the Foundation of Personal Liberty:

In obedience to that principle, we condemn the current Administration’s unconstitutional expansion into areas beyond those specifically enumerated, including bullying of state and local governments in matters ranging from voter identification (ID) laws to immigration, from healthcare programs to land use decisions, and from forced education curricula to school restroom policies.

Emphasis mine. This is a direct attack on the Obama administration’s directive that students should be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify themselves as. Anti-trans bathroom bills have been the new anti-LGBT line for a lot of local Republicans after getting so much pushback on the gay marriage issue. I personally received a lot of political advertisements on this issue when I was registered as unaffiliated, which is actually why I switched my registration to Democrat, because I wanted bigoted local Republicans to leave me the fuck alone. This anti-trans obsession often paints innocent trans women as sexual predators and puts them in constant danger for the crime of existing in public – and is also the reason I and many of my trans male friends still continue to use women’s restrooms, because you literally have to make a calculation of which bathroom is less likely to get me murdered. Trans people get murdered for their gender identity. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

And then we look at Mike Pence himself. People like to joke that the VP is a largely ceremonial position, but Dick Cheney showed us that didn’t have to be the case. And considering that Mike Pence is now in charge of the transition team, I think that indicates that he’s going to be taking a very active policy role. Which if you were an LGBTQ person, would scare the shit out of you.

I’ve already mentioned him a couple of times in relation to the platform, particularly his anti-gay marriage stance and the RFRA.

Mike Pence: “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discrete and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.” (source)

Considering the discrimination LGB-and-particularly-T people face in many places, this is unacceptable. And while Pence said that in 2000, his position has obviously not changed considering that in 2007 he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Mike Pence from his campaign website in 2000: “Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” (source)

Mike Pence’s policies caused an HIV epidemic in Indiana. Part of this was due to his attack on Planned Parenthood (which provides screening) and things like needle exchange programs. (source) But he links HIV to sexual behavior himself in the above quote, and “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” is a common political euphemism for conversion therapy programs that try to “cure” people of homosexuality or being transgender by incredibly shady and damaging means.

Mike Pence was against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He’s against gay and transgender people being able to serve in the military. (one source of many) Needless to say, he’s long been against gay marriage.

And here’s my favorite Mike Pence, from 2006, citing one of his reasons for being against gay marriage: “Harvard sociologist Pitrim Sorokin found that throughout history, societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”  (source)

Beyond the fears that we are going to have what legal rights we’ve gained ripped away, that right there is the summary of our fear and despair. Pence himself preceded that statement by saying that (paraphrasing here, obviously) that this totally isn’t about prejudice, but then blithely continued on that the homosexuals are going to ruin marriage and family and be terrible for children. It’s not that he doesn’t like us, it’s just that we’re going to destroy the fabric of society by getting our queer all over it.

Suicide is an epidemic in the LGBT community, and hits transgender individuals particularly hard. And it’s no fucking wonder, when we spend all of our lives being told that we are unnatural and apparently the reason for societal collapse because we want to be just like everyone else–you know, work, pay taxes, have families, have our loved ones with us when we’re sick and dying, and not get murdered or abused because someone can’t handle their own puerile imaginings about what we do in our relationships or what we have stashed in our shorts. Trans people get murdered with horrifying frequency considering what percent of the population we are. At least 26 have died so far this year. Here are their faces.

And things like bathroom bills? Contribute directly to harming our community. Having an entire political party that makes it part of its platform that our families are lesser – if not directly harmful to children – and we deserve to get fired or denied service for something we literally cannot control is a constant source of harm for LGBTQ adults and to the youth who can see damn well what’s on the horizon.

So I get that you’re not anti-LGBTQ, and many Republicans aren’t. I am hoping that people will stand with us when it comes to the constant attack on our very existence in society. I know that individual Republicans do and will; I have a very dear Republican friend in Denver whom I know always has my back (and I know he didn’t vote for this mess). But when you look at things like, say, the position on gay marriage of national legislators and see only three senators and two(?) representatives who are Republican, it’s difficult to have any kind of confidence that a significant number of Republicans would take a stand for our rights, let alone our personal safety.  So you’ll forgive me if I’m not holding my breath because for so long, the Republican party as a whole was silent about us dying when it wasn’t outright applauding.

There was silence about the AIDS epidemic. There is silence about the plague of suicide that haunts us because so many kids are trapped in circumstances where they see now other way out and no help on the horizon from a society hostile to their very existence. There is silence about us being murdered, or worse, Republican politicians stoke the flames of gay and trans panic with bathroom bills and campaign advertisements that claim trans women are sexual predators. Remember, I used to be a Republican, once upon a time. I’m a pinko liberal now, but I was still fiscally conservative when I left the party. What drove me away was the ever-increasing, virulently homophobic rhetoric coming from within the party, and from conservative media like Fox News. For me, there wasn’t enough tax policy to justify the harm it was doing to me, my friends, and my community.

And maybe your Republican agenda isn’t the same as the party’s, and I think that’s great. But if you voted for Trump/Pence, you still voted for a VP whose entire political career has been defined by his hatred of gay and transgender individuals. (And now, voted for an administration that wants to fill its cabinet with anti-LGBTQ politicians and professionals, most notably Jeff Sessions and Tom Price.) If you voted for any Republican who has endorsed the platform, you have to own that, just like I have to own that by voting for Barack Obama, I voted for his shameful drone warfare program that’s killed a lot of innocent civilians. I have written letters and made phone calls and protested against it, but that doesn’t mean I get to disown my part in putting him in office and what he’s done with that power.

And if you didn’t vote for Trump/Pence, that’s awesome! I really appreciate it. But please don’t dismiss my concerns, or my fear, for myself and my LGBTQ siblings. I’d like to believe we are going to be fine, that nothing is going to backslide, but I’d be a fool to count on it when the national government is being run by a cadre of people who say our existence is a threat to society.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

The Bourne _____________

Jason Bourne is in a foreign country doing things that guys do when they have manpain. He just wants to be left alone. Then a shadowy part of the US government, headed by [old white guy] decides to do something sketchy that sets up the overly convoluted B-plot and also decides that this time he is going to get Jason Bourne. [competent female character] who assisted Bourne in the previous movie, has something important to tell him. Just then a government hit squad shows up and chases Bourne and [competent female character] through [country that has been in the news recently enough that American audiences might recognize it]. Bourne is about to get away before the government spooks kill [competent female character] in front of him.

Now Jason Bourne is really peeved. Bourne embarks on a path of revenge and self-discovery in which he cleverly avoids the shadowy government agents while the familiar score by John Powell and David Buckley plays. [new competent female character], a government agent introduced slightly earlier in the movie as helping out [old white guy], gets put in charge of running the op to capture Bourne. Because gosh darnit, this time they are going to get Bourne to come in. For really reals.

Some stuff happens with the B-plot, which involves [current buzzwords such as “social media” and “privacy” or maybe “kale”]. No one really cares, because the B-plot is overly complex and poorly explained, and really just exists to get [old white guy] into a position where Bourne can foil his plot, confront him, and then shoot him.

Afterwards, Bourne finds out a little bit more about his past and gets in a fight with [agent from yet another secret government program that no one has heard of before now], who wants to murder Bourne because he has been ordered to do so and also maybe because murdering Jason Bourne sounds like a great way to spend an evening. There is an extended car chase, things blow up, and Jason Bourne limps away with his newly acquired [information about his past that is still not quite enough] while his opponent does not.

[new competent female character] attempts to contact him, and Bourne lets her know that he has been stalking her, only it’s cool instead of creepy because he’s an ex-spook rather than a sexual predator, and that he would really please like to be left alone this time. Or else. He means it.

A new remix of Moby’s Extreme Ways starts to play. Roll credits.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

[Movie] Arrival

I’m still trying to figure out how to tell you about Arrival. What I can say other than it’s a movie that made me laugh with sheer delight as the plot came together, and then cry because at the end of a really awful week (election week) it made me feel hope for humanity. You really ought to see it.

But it’s hard for me to tell you in more detail what I liked about Arrival without seriously spoiling the plot, and it’s one where I want you to go into it unspoiled. I want you to have that same moment I did, when you realize where things are going, and it just makes you happy.

So what can I tell you?

The movie is absolutely gorgeous, for one. The shot where you first get a real look at the alien ship as it floats over the clouds in Montana is majestic and eerie. It’s not an effects/action extravaganza – a rare thing for scifi films these days, it feels like – but what they have is so well done. The moment where the characters go from Earth gravity to the strange, tilted gravity of the ship is eerie as well, an unexpected shift of perception.

Really, the inverted gravity of the alien ship rolls in with the plot, the shifting narrative to show the necessity of changing how we look at and understand the events of the film. The main character of the film, Louise (Amy Adams) is a linguist, so she’s very concerned with what is said versus what is understood, bridging perceptions. The explanations of what she does and why (such as why building a mutual vocabulary using written language is better than with spoken) are all fascinating – particularly to someone who isn’t very familiar with linguistics.

I also genuinely liked the character Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner in a rare role where wears glasses to let us all know he’s an intellectual. Donnelly starts out as very cocky and sure of himself, but once Louise convinces him that communication is key and the best approach isn’t mathematical, he throws himself behind her efforts one hundred percent. It’s a character dynamic that’s particularly rare considering the gender split, and very enjoyable for that reason.

One of the main questions of the film is how humanity will deal with the arrival of aliens, a generally peaceful first contact. Will we come together, or will it tear us apart around already existent fault lines? The only fault that I can really find with the film is that after building up an intense and complicated international situation, the third act solution is a little too simple, a little too pat. The time travel bit of the story has the same sort of problems that many time travel plots have, which is that in the moment, it’s delightful, and then later as you think about it, the problems of a deterministic universe become apparent.

Of course, it’s a film that asks a lot more questions, about relationships, about what sort of journey makes the consequences worth it – about if you had a chance to do everything differently, would you still live the same life, even knowing how it all ends? These are all big, crunchy, human questions, and it explores them beautifully.

Full disclosure, I haven’t read the Ted Chiang story that the move is adapted from, Story of Your Life. After what I’ve heard from my fellow podcast hosts on Skiffy and Fanty, it’s definitely on my list.

If you need a beautiful, hopeful film, one that reminds you scifi film can be something other than explodey or tinged with existential horror, see Arrival. It’s probably the most thoughtful film scifi I’ve seen since Her.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Tags:

For I have written a novel

I kept meaning to talk about this earlier, but thanks to the ongoing dumpster fire that is everything to do with America right now, I haven’t been able to get the necessary enthusiasm levels going. (And yes, it’s petty in the face of all other things, but thanks a fucking bunch, Trump voters, for ruining both my BFF Mike’s birthday and my book announcement day.)

So. DO OVER. The dumpster fire still burns, but I am carving out a place to be happy and excited about the fact that I have written a novel, and a publisher liked it so much that they bought said novel from me, with actual money, and will subsequently be printing it on thin sheets made from the corpses of trees and sending it out into the world.

And the cover? IS AWESOME.

hunger makes the wolf cover

(And yes, Alex Wells is me. Written under a pen name for reasons I shall explain some other time.)

It’s a book about underdogs fighting corporate greed in the place of a weak and absent government. It’s about a fledgling labor union. There’s also gunfights and space witches, so I’d like to think there’s something for everyone who wants to take down the man. And I wrote the rough draft of it many years ago.

If you regularly read my short stories, you’ve already met the woman on the cover. That’s Hob Ravani, and her origin story made an appearance in Mothership Zeta.

I’m so excited about this, and I can’t wait til you guys get a chance to read it!

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

Let this be my act of defiance.

Let me start with a geology story. I promise, there’s a point to this.

When I was a geologist at the research company, I had a core come in. There was a ten foot section of it that I didn’t know how to describe. It was fine-grained, filled with burrows. So far so good. But the mineralogy was… puzzling. Not enough dolomite to be described as a dolostone, not enough clay to be described as a mudrock, not enough quartz sand and silt to be described as some kind of sandstone or siltstone. It sat basically at the nexus of all possible rock types for that environment and was definitively none of them. In absolute frustration, I dubbed it “shit rock” and wrote all my reports and captions accordingly.

Of course, this is a business. I couldn’t actually turn in reports to the client with the term “shit rock” used. So I had a long talk with my boss. The problem with geology, he explained, is that everything we work on is a continuum. So there will always be something that falls in that liminal state where you’re not quite sure what it is, and even if you wanted to do battle with the rest of the community to coin a new term, you’d just be replacing one borderland with two. You can write definitions all day that will define 99.999% of all the rocks out there, but then some son of a bitch is going to come in with the 0.001% case because there are a lot of rocks on Earth, and one in a million things happen more often then any of us can grasp.

There will always be rocks that defy easy classification. You eventually just have to dip your toe into the art rather than science and describe it how you feel fits best – and then be ready to defend your decision.

Which comes to me. A little while ago on Twitter, I said:

And then while I was taking a shower, because all my most important thinking happens in the shower or when I’m supposed to be trying to fall asleep, I realized that it was an empty thing to say without the rest of this post.

I’ve been nibbling at the edges of this for a while, trying to figure things out. But maybe it’s the scientist in me, I don’t like committing to anything unless I’m absolutely certain – and the thing about life is that absolute certainty is in shorter supply than most people would like to believe. Because what if I’m wrong? How do I defend something that I’m still figuring out? But I don’t feel like I have the luxury of wibbling quietly into the night any more.

Because you see, in this way, gender’s got something in common with geology. Everything works on a continuum. You will always find cases that defy classification, and no matter how frustrating that is, they don’t go away. And that is part of the beauty of the world, trust me.

So how do I define myself? Queer, for certain. Sometimes it’s easier to tell people what a rock – or yourself – isn’t than what it is. I’m not female. I don’t quite think I’m male either, but I’d have to give it a good few years try out before I could say for certain. Fuck knows, it’s taken me something like 34 years to figure out the “not female” bit, but GOD it has been a relief since I reached that conclusion. So my big request here is to please use a gender-neutral pronoun (they) if possible. Or if you just can’t make that work in your brain, because I know the verb conjugation gives people mental cramp at times, masculine (he).

And please, call me Alex. It started out as… not a joke, precisely, when I came up with my pen name. But it’s grown on me, like a much more comfortable skin.

But there’s a point to this, and it’s not just me sitting at my keyboard and crying. I’ve been doing that too often in the last forty-eight hours.

When I was a baby queer growing up surrounded by kids and adults who thought “smear the queer” was a perfectly acceptable name for a game that involved throwing balls at other people so hard it gave them bruises (and I was one of those kids, because at the time I didn’t know better), it was invaluable to me when I started seeing LGBT people openly be themselves. It told me that there were more options that I knew, that maybe I didn’t have to keep trying to jam myself into a mold I didn’t fit, and I could be happy.

Since the election yesterday, there’s already been countless stories of racism, sexism, and homophobia being flung at people with renewed abandon. I live in a place where it’s relatively safe – swing state turned pretty reliably blue state Colorado, in the Denver-Boulder area – to be out. So I think that I need to be as out as possible even if I’m not entirely happy with my R-squared values, because now more than ever it’s important to make it known that we exist. That we will not go away. That people who are like me, who live in environments where they are not safe, are not alone even if they can only hold that truth silently in their heart.

Sometimes, merely living, existing, is an act of defiance, denying the narrative that we are fictional, or merely confused, or unhappy, or intrinsically broken.

Let this be my act of defiance. Let this be the first of many.

– Alex

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

[Movie] Vice

I made it my goal to watch and review one new movie per week, so I wouldn’t have a recurrence of the complete lack of any content I had in September and October. Of course, little did I know that my first weekend post-goal setting would be November 4 & 5, which offered up a smorgasbord of movies I could not even give less of a shit about (pack led by Jack Reacher) with a seasoning of movies I refuse to watch – let alone give any money to – on the principle of the thing. (I’m looking at yo, Dr. Strange and The Accountant.)

HBO Now came to my rescue. I have cable for internet but don’t actually have it for TV, but my household decided that each of us ponying up $5 a month was worth getting access to HBO. I wanted it for the Westworld TV show, since I watched the movie last month for my Patreon subscribers and thought it had some really interesting concepts. I’ve watched the first episode now and I’m really excited to see more. I’m going to try to find the time to write about the episodes as I go, I think.

But anyway, this week’s movie.

Vice is a super expensive resort populated by androids (in this world, called cydroids for reasons I never really figured out) who get their memories reset every 24 hours. The patrons of the resort are invited to do anything they want to the androids. And then things go haywire, when one android goes rogue.

Familiar, right? More Westworld TV show than movie, since it’s not about a theme park eating its patrons. And rather than an old west theme park, Vice is deliberately a setting that’s contemporary to the world in which it resides. The movie actually opens with two patrons doing a bank robbery – it’s pretty clearly supposed to be live action GTA, including all the violence against women. With that setting, there’s a little bit of commentary on society. The cop Roy (Thomas Jane) talks about how people practice to commit crimes in Vice and then do them in the real world, particularly violent crimes against women. And it’s explicitly stated that the resort can really do what it wants because it brings in about half the city’s tax revenue. Now there’s a societal implication that could have had some real meat on it.

But the focus instead is on the android Kelly (Ambyr Childers), who through a glitch is able to remember at least portions of her supposedly erased past, most of it involving being murdered by various guests. She escapes, and then there’s a lot of action scenes, because Vice wants its rogue android back, and Kelly, with a few others, wants to take the resort down.

When I explain the plot like that, it sounds like a decently fun movie, right? The problem is that there isn’t much to either of the main characters to care about. Roy is weirdly greasy and incredibly unappealing. I kept waiting on the reveal for his traumatic past (lost his wife, maybe?) that would tell use why he constantly looked like he’d just come off a month-long bender. It never happened. He’s a cipher, whose motivations, while explained, feel extremely thin.

Of course, he still gets better treatment in the script than Kelly. Despite the fact that her supposed gain of self awareness is the turning point of the plot, Kelly herself is functionally a football that various male characters pass around to move things forward. She gets about five seconds of apparent change from a passive to active character, development that is completely unearned by the lack of something even as simple as a goddamn montage, and entirely indicated by her  slicking her hair back and dressing in black leather. Set as it is against a backdrop of constant violence against women and a camera that is remarkably male gaze-y even for an action movie, it’s even more troubling.

If Vice had spent more time on plot and character and less time on its interminable, too-dark, and thoroughly generic gunfights, it might have been a decent film. Maybe. If it had also employed someone on the creative team actually, I don’t know, talking to a female human being for five minutes so that they would realize women are more than sexy robot lamps.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

(Personal) Wish List

My birthday is coming up, as is Christmas. As usual, putting this here for ease of reference for people close enough to me to want to throw a gift tied to a brick through my window.

Everyone else, carry on, nothing to see here.

In order of how desperately I need the thing:

  1. 2.5″ metal collar stays (eg: these, though I’m not sure what the length is here)
  2. Doc Martens For Life, black mens size 7 (my original black Docs are falling apart)
  3. Rockport cap toe oxfords, black, size 7 1/2 (current pair also falling apart)
  4. iTunes gift cards / send me books on Audible so I have things to listen to while I drive all over Denver for work
  5. Starbucks gift cards since I seem to be haunting Starbucks a lot during my breaks
  6. Pocket watch chain
  7. NOOK Glowlight Plus
  8. Sunbreaker T-shirt, size mens large
  9. Travel (tea) mug 
  10. Blue Yeti Microphone
  11. CycleOps Magneto | Leveling Block

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

[Movie] The Magnificant Seven (2016)

I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am that I’m only just now going to tell you how fucking amazing the new The Magnificent Seven movie is. Because it is fucking amazing. If it’s still showing in your area, you should go see it while you still can.

Though I will add one important caveat: go in with the clear knowledge that this movie is a Western, and keeps with some of the very classic motifs. (Which is a remarkable and beautiful, multilayered thing when you consider it’s based on Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai, translated to a different era, a different genre.) The villain (Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue) is a scenery-chewing, cartoonish capitalist-as-black-hat. The heroes are super stoic and the character development isn’t exactly deep. It’s all about men (and a single woman) with guns, shooting their way to justice. There are some wonderful revisionist elements called forth by the casting, but it still plays to trope.

So basically, if you don’t like westerns, you’re not going to like this movie, even though it’s wonderful.

Weeks after watching the movie, when I’m having to check my notes to remember details I liked or didn’t, there are certain things that stick with me. One, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Antoine Fuqua draws out the rugged beauty of the Western landscape with breathtaking detail, including location shots in the Valles Caldera in New Mexico. It’s landscape porn at its finest. But even when the camera isn’t making love to he scrubby desert, so much detail in the shots of the people is perfect. The opening credits of the man in black (Denzel Washington and his glorious sideburns playing Chisolm) approaching through the wavering heat of the desert gave me chills.

But beyond all that stark beauty, it’s the casting that really hit me. Denzel Washington is amazing as the Chisolm, the marshal who has his own reasons for going into this fight. Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks stole every scene he was in. Faraday (Chris Pratt) and Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) better have a serious amount of fanfiction about them on AO3 or I’m going to question fandom’s dedication to slash. And Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest stole every scene that Byung-hun Lee hadn’t gotten to first and brought a massive amount of depth to a character who said the least out of all seven.

Basically, they were all wonderful. And the act of casting so many men of color (four out of the seven) is one of the greatest revisionist acts of this version of The Magnificent Seven. It’s hopefully not a surprise to you at this point to hear that the classic Hollywood vision of the west is incredibly whitewashed, even just looking at the percentage of cowboys who were black or Hispanic. And that all four of the non-white characters are so integral to the story—the team up literally would not have happened without Chisolm at the helm, for example—shows Fuqua’s vision of creating a Western everyone can see themselves in.

(Well, everyone male, at least.)

Come for the landscapes, stay for the fucking amazing gunfights and Denzel Washington’s sideburns. You won’t be sorry.

And SPOILERS

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Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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