“Spider-Man: Homecoming”, A Bullet Point Review

– I cannot praise Tom Holland’s Spider-Man enough. He was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It was honestly my favorite live action portrayal of a superhero EVER, even more than Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. What an incredible performance.

– The score is absolutely awesome. Michael Giacchinno actually reworks the original, iconic Spider-Man theme as the main theme of the movie, to fantastic effect.

– “Homecoming” sort of feels like two movies smushed together, one very, very awesome movie and one that’s kind of “meh”. There’s the superhero movie about a young Peter Parker who wants to gain the respect of Tony Stark and become an Avenger, but who still hasn’t really gotten this whole “hero” thing yet, and makes a lot of mistakes. That movie is fantastic! It’s the best Spider-Man movie yet, even better than the awesome Toby McGuire starring “Spider-Man 2”!

…And then there was the sort of meh teen drama going on with Peter. It was…adequate. Okay. A thing. It did the job in humanizing Peter, but beyond that it didn’t really add anything. For a few reasons…

– This was a movie that had Spider-Man surrounded by a bunch of characters who never appeared in the comics before but shared the same names. We had Flash Thompson, who looked and acted nothing like Flash but shared his name, Ned, who was apparently an Ultimate Spider-Man character who never actually had anything to do with Peter Parker, Aunt May as Marisa Tomei, who, what, Liz Allen, a minor character that like 5 people remembered from a short-lived television show, and MJ, a character who is actually a character about as close to the polar opposite of comic book MJ as you could possibly get. Even the Vulture isn’t anything like comic Vulture, but as he’s much more awesome I’ll let it slide.

There is something very, very weird about somebody making an adaptation of something and then not just not using the source material but perverting it into something completely different. SJW’s seem prone to this, leading me to…

– I stand by something I said on this site previously. “Homecoming” was not itself an SJW movie, but it was an envelope pusher. Marvel is testing its limits. Expect the movies to trend more and more leftward the years to come.

– Zendaya’s character is the absolute worst, and that she is supposed to be MJ is a travesty. Just throwing that one out there. Spit in John Romita Jr.’s eye, why don’t you.

– ALL OF THIS SAID – When “Homecoming” is good, it is really, REALLY good. The best thing about the MCU, that the DCEU was missing up until “Wonder Woman”, is that it understands why people love superheroes, and why people love these characters, and it gives people what they want. This movie is packed with insanely cool imagery – Spider-Man climbing up the Washington Monument, Spider-Man rising from the rubble through sheer willpower to rejoin the fight, Spider-Man running into towering flames to rescue a man, Spider-Man attempting to hold a cruise ship together singlehandedly. The Vulture, one of comics’ lamest villains, gets a huge and awesome upgrade here.

And it has those stand-up-and-cheer moments that the MCU is so good at, too. Spider-Man’s character development is expertly handled and immensely satisfying to watch. And even that “meh” half of the film is anchored by Tom Holland’s outstanding performance as Peter Parker.

– Did I mention how great Tom Holland was? So, so great. What a terrific performance, and a terrific portrayal of the character.

OVERALL: Recommended. Probably not up with the very best of the MCU, but it was money very well spent to see it in theaters.

Review: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright

It’s hard to look at John C. Wright’s work without comparing him both to his prior work, and to other heavy writers in the field who have deep prose steeped with mythology. I’ll make a confession that, up until this point, I’ve liked Mr. Wright’s work, but not loved it. My prior experiences include Count To A Trillion and Somewhither. While both are imaginative beyond my wildest dreams, both books I believe suffer at points as Mr. Wright has a habit of getting lost in his own prose and introducing new concepts – beautiful prose to be sure, but prose that sometimes bogs down the storyline and confuses the overall plot. Though there are certainly a number of concepts in Swan Knight’s Son that appear out of left field at points, I feel like this was a much tighter story than the other works of his I read, and there was not a single point where I felt bogged down at all.

I’ve compared Somewhither to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, both books that take us into a dark otherworld that overlaps with our own in some ways, modern combined with the fantasy. In keeping with this comparison, I view The Swan Knight’s Son as Wright’s Stardust, in that it showed us a lighter side of things, combined “being in a real world” with magics and how it all worked, and felt like a much lighter tale suitable for all ages.

It’s also impossible not to evoke imagery of the way C.S. Lewis wrote with this book. The characters calling men “Son of Adam” marks a direct callback, but with the personified animals through the main character’s magic, the way the story ebbs and flows like a classic fantasy, I believe this work actually is up there in feel and quality with the Chronicles of Narnia, high praise but well deserved.

We meet the protagonist named Gil, with the last name Moth (which is partially where the Moth & Cobweb title gets its name) who is having trouble at school, and has a bizarre life that gets set upon an otherworldly adventure. It took me probably three chapters to get into it, as it was disorienting at first, and then the talking to animals threw me a little, but what’s interesting is while I usually get irritated with personified animal concepts, Wright’s versions of dogs and bears and all sorts of beasts felt natural over the course of the book in a way where I accepted the magic.

Gil goes on an adventure, getting kicked out of his home to go find a job, and he stumbles upon the fantasy world at this point. He determines, with a little help from his friends, that his calling is to be a knight. What follows is a coming of age adventure steeped in Christian concepts and history, mixed with mythology and combined with fantasy concepts like elfs and mermaids and all sorts of cool things that develop over the course of the book. I won’t spoil more than that, but it’s a very deep fantasy world with unique takes on all of the familiar concepts. I can’t applaud the worldbuilding aspects of this book enough.

Same with the characters. Gil is supremely a character that you can root for. A young boy who has a mysterious past that gives him a destiny. He has a noble heart, a desire to do what’s right and a strong wrok ethic—really a great role model for a young boy. Ruff, his faithful dog companion is about as wonderful as he gets too, truly a boy’s best friend. You can see classic archetypes and Americana through these characters, as well as the past concepts of chivalry and honor. Gil’s mermaid cousin who we meet later in the book is someone quite easy to fall in love with as well. I wanted more of her in the book and hope that future installments feature her a bit more.

I mentioned issues with pace in Wright’s prior work to this that I read, and there was none of that here. I didn’t want to put this down at any moment in the book. I was gripped the whole time with a desire to know what happens next. All one can ask for in a book.

My other main issue with Somewhither was the way it ended. While this book certainly left Gil’s fate with a question mark, it was oddly a satisfying spot to end the book. He had his hero’s journey and anything that came out of the I’ll call it series set up in the end would have felt like a different story. I’m content there, but I may not be able to hold off on reading the next book.

If there’s one word I could use to describe Swan Knight’s Son, it’s refreshing. Heroes are heroes. Magic and night creatures have evil in them. Morals and doing right give you power. It’s everything that’s been missing from fantasy these last few decades. It was short like a Narnia book, filled with adventure, and one of the most exciting books I’ve read in the last few years.  I rarely give perfect marks to a book, but this hit the spot. If you like hidden fantasy worlds, and youthful adventures, I highly recommend this book.

10/10

Superversive SF Roundtable on Pulp stories and the launch of Astounding Frontiers

We will be chatting with some of the Pulp Revolution guys and celebrating the launch of Superversive Presses new magainze Astounding Frontiers 1: Give us 10 minutes and we will give you a world

You can get Astounding frontiers from new magazine Amazon and other good book retailers

Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop Invites you!

To all the science fans among our readership:

TVIW 2017
October 4th – 6th 2017
Huntsville, AL
Downtown Embassy Suites

The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, in partnership with Starship Century and Tau Zero Foundation, proudly announces that registration to the October 4-6, 2017 symposium is now open! We will also have exciting pre-symposium events on October 3rd if you are able to come early. 

Their Registrar says:

We hold symposia every 18 months, and have been doing so since 2011. The next symposium will be in Huntsville, AL, October 3-6. We have a strong schedule of scientific papers being presented, seminars on various topics, panel discussions, and interactive working track investigations. We’re partnering with Starship Century and the Tau Zero Foundation to present detailed, accurate, and up-to-date looks at all aspects of interstellar investigation.

The first day of our symposium will be opened by Pete Worden, the Executive Director of the Breakthrough Initiatives, and will feature the first (I believe) detailed public description of the Breakthrough efforts, by the Breakthrough investigators themselves.

The second day will be opened by Mark Millis, the founder of the Tau Zero Foundation, and will include talks about their efforts as well as papers from other researchers from around the world.

The third day will be organized by TVIW ourselves, and will include papers from NASA researchers as well as a briefing from Rep. John Culberson of Texas, chair of the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds NASA.

We would welcome your participation, and certainly would look forward to seeing you! If you know of anyone else for which this symposium would be a good fit, please forward this invitation to them also. (I really am trying to get to everyone!)
To register or learn more about their Pre-Symposium Seminars and Tour, visit their page.

 

One Page Podcast: A Pius Man by Declan Finn

A Pius Man is live! Get your copy at Amazon.com in print or ebookebook.

Murder in the Vatican!

As the head of Vatican security, Giovanni Figlia must protect a new, African Pope who courts controversy every other day. The Pope’s latest project is to make Pius XII, “Hitler’s Pope,” a saint. Things haven’t gotten better since the Pope employed American mercenary Sean Ryan.

Then a body fell onto the Vatican doorstep.

Mercenaries, spies, beautiful women, international intrigue and ancient secrets – The Pius Trilogy has it all!

Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon del Arroz

A couple of weeks ago, I took my 12-year-old daughter to the town library in search of something to read. When I asked the librarian in charge of the YA section to recommend something without suicide or sex, she said, without hostility but quite firmly that we were in the wrong section. Apparently those were the predominant themes of modern YA literature. (Mind you, this is the stuff offered to them as pleasure reading, in addition to the doom-and-gloom highbrow literature they’re already required to read for school.) And then we wonder why so many of today’s teens are A. depressed and B. avoid pleasure reading at all costs.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I report on this latest offering from a science fiction author Jon del Arroz. For Steam and Country is, as the title implies, a steampunk adventure first and foremost, but it also succeeds brilliantly as YA.

The protagonist, Zaira von Monocle, is a 16-year-old, who–shocker!–actually behaves as a normal teen, even though the circumstances of her life are anything but ordinary. Sure, she is a daughter of a great adventurer, who inherits her father’s airship and goes off to far away lands and gets involved in battles that might decide the fate of her country. Yet at the same time she is subject to the same challenges and emotions as any teen. She has a secret crush on a neighbor boy who, frustratingly, only sees her as a friend. She feels sad about having lost her mother at a young age and devastated at the news that her father is presumed dead. She has a comically adorable attachment to her pet ferret (yes, there’s a ferret named Toby, and he’s important to the plot!). And, as most teenagers, she has her flaws: she is stubborn, occasionally rash, doesn’t know her limitations while at the same time being insecure… Did I mention the “normal teen” thing? If you don’t have teens of your own, just take my word for it. Zaira is true to life, perhaps more so than the cynical and too-smart-for-their-age creatures that populate modern YA fiction, especially the kind geared towards girls.

 

Read the full review at Marina’s Musings

Back to future past — feminism — philosphy

I find myself missing philosophy — I know it’s still out there — but I’ll be nice and keep my thoughts on that and comments to myself.

Be forewarned — I like old stuff — This century is worthless for philosophy — generally.

We are going to see if our Mr. Richard A. Wasserstrom and friends can educate us on feminism, primarily using their own words. This is all old stuff – nothing new happens in feminism – all research is limited to 1993 and prior. Just short of twenty-five years.
We first need to determine exactly what it is we are discussing here. If we are to look at sexism and the efficacy of Wasserstrom’s assimilation theory, then for the purposes of this discussion, I am considering Wasserstrom’s idea of sexism to be:

‘…taking…sex into account in a certain way, in the context of a specific set of institutional arrangements and a specific ideology which together create and maintain a specific system of institutions, role assignments, beliefs, and attitudes. That system is one and has been one, in which political, economic, and social power and the advantage is concentrated in the hands of those who are white and male'(9).
“Additionally, the assimilationist ideal is a society in which the sex of an individual is ‘the functional equivalent of the eye color of individuals in our society today’ (9).
‘In our society, no basic political rights and obligations are determined on the basis of eye color. No important institutional benefits and burdens are connected with eye color'(20).

John Stuart Mill (and perhaps Harriet Taylor) might well contribute,
“The very words necessary to express the task (we) have undertaken, show how arduous it is'(150), but this must not keep us from this duty.

‘That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes–the legal subordination of one sex to the other–is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it out to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other'(150)
…this concept which you seem to share, I find irrefutable. My only difficulty with your position is in the implementation.
‘All causes, social and natural, combine to make it unlikely that women should be collectively rebellious to men. They are in a position far different from all other subject classes…All men…desire…in the woman…not a forced slave, but a willing one…'(153)”

Wasserstrom would come back with;
I too have difficulty imagining the implementation of this concept,
“The assimilationist ideal in respect to sex does not seem to be as readily plausible and obviously attractive as it is in the case of race…the assimilationist ideal would require the eradication of all sex–role differentiation…(21)'”

We aren’t really disagreeing yet, but Mill/Taylor is likely to add;

“‘When we put together three things–first the natural attraction between opposite sexes, secondly, the wife’s entire dependence on the husband…and lastly, that all…can in general only be sought or obtained through him, it would be a miracle if the object of being attractive to men had not become the polar star of feminine education and formation of character…'(153).

Wasserstrom would likely come back with,
“I also and unsure of how we might accomplish this transformation, yet, ‘There does, however, seem to me to be a strong presumptive case for something very close to, if not identical with, the assimilationist ideal'(29).”

Friedrich Engels might bring in the Teutonic idea of;
“This is a great goal and an honorable pursuit–yet it seems more is attempted than required. If we look to the problem at its root…
‘Then it will be plain that the first condition for the liberation of the wife is to bring the whole female sex back into public industry, and that this, in turn, demands that the characteristic of the monogamous family as the economic unit of society be abolished'(170).

Wasserstrom might be a bit self-evident in his position,
“There is substantial, vehement and apparently intractable disagreement about what individuals, practices, ideas, and institutions are either racist or sexist–and for what reasons”(1).

Until our first female Marxist here today, Heidi I. Hartmann reminds us;
“Mr. Wasserstrom does not go too far–he goes not far enough. He has a radical adjustment for a deeper problem he does not understand. We have much more that need repair. True,
‘…it is in studying patriarchy that we learn why it is women who are dominated and how…(196)
but
‘…we must organize a practice which addresses both the struggle against patriarchy and the struggle against capitalism. We must insist that the society we want to create is a society in which recognition of interdependence is liberation rather than shame, nurturance is a universal, not an oppressive practice, and in which women do not continue to support the false as well as the concrete freedoms of men'(200).
“Until and unless we do this–we do both too much and too little. Trading an oppressed society of women for an oppressed society of men and women is not the direction we wish to negotiate. Equality is a necessary condition, but not an end when it is not complete.”

Wasserstrom comes back with;
“Granted, ‘complex and sophisticated accounts have been developed which utilize the theories of Freud, Levi-Straus, and Marx to explain the oppression of women'(2). They just don’t seem to provide a solution.”

And Charlotte Bunch brings us some perhaps well-deserved sarcasm;
“Well, I’m amazed. In a discussion of feminism paradigms, you actually let women speak! Albeit a woman who completely supports your ideals–or is it simply that she idealizes you. That has always been the problem. ‘So a real woman is a woman who gets f—ed by men'(174
“Women don’t need to be androgenized. We don’t need to be fixed. Should we become more like you? I’m sure your intent wasn’t to make yourselves more like us. Sure, we should all become part of the problem–that’s a great idea. That’ll solve everything.
“Women are not the problem–but we’re working on a solution. We are bonding together and creating systems that work. Sexism is the root of all oppression–sex and sexual characteristics are not to blame–the oppressors are to blame–the men are to blame.

‘…woman–identified–woman, commits herself to women not only as an alternative to oppressive male/female relationships but primarily because she loves women…It is political because relationships between men and women are essentially political, they involve power and dominance…it is a political matter of oppression, dominance and power'(175).

Wasserstrom seems almost apologetic;
“I don’t disagree. ‘By almost all important measures it is more advantageous to be a male rather than a female'(5).

Charlotte (Bunch) keeps up the pressure,
“We don’t need men, not ‘even for procreation'(176), and we sure don’t need your androgynous assimilationist society. Fix YOUR problems–eliminate YOUR oppressions–then we can discuss the society of the future. We ‘must form our own political movement in order to grow'(178), We’ll get back to you on your male ideas after we take care of that little bit of business.

Wasserstrom, perhaps a bit dazed by that last strike of Charlotte’s;
“The point is there is something that needs to be fixed. ‘Sexism could plausibly be regarded as a deeper phenomenon than racism. It is more deeply embedded in the culture”(8). Assimilation seems the most logical answer–or at least the only one that is not logically flawed.

Wittig is being witty;
“We already have your assimilationist society–it is called lesbianism.
‘Lesbianism is the only concept that I know of which is beyond the categories of sex (woman and man), because lesbian societies are not based on woman’s oppression and because the designated subject (lesbian) is not a woman either economically or politically or ideologically. Furthermore, what we aim at is…the destruction of heterosexuality–the political system based on women’s oppression, which provides the body of thought of the differences between the sexes to explain women’s oppression'(181).

Wasserstrom comes back solid;
“The fact that we regard this assertion of the transsexual as intelligible seems to me to show how deep the notion of sexual identity is in our culture …It is even clearer in the case of sex than in the case of race that one’s sexual identity is a centrally important, crucially relevant category within our culture”(5).

We find another female philosopher, Monique Wittig;
“Your assimilationist theories are inexorably tied to that concept of differences. You play at removing them while you revel in their existences. You are as false as it is possible to be. You are the enemy playing at cooperation and support, and as such you are the most heinous and by far the most dangerous.
‘Our fight aims to suppress man as a class, not through a genocide, but a political struggle. Once the class of “men” disappears, women as a class will disappear as well, for there are no slaves without masters…'(181).
And Charlotte Bunch is quick to back her up;
“Lesbianism lacks direction now because it has failed to understand the importance of heterosexuality in maintaining male supremacy and because it has failed to face class and race as real differences in women’s behavior and political needs”(177).

Wasserstrom just won’t let go,
“I don’t think we are that far apart.
‘Even though there are biological differences between men and women in nature, this fact does not determine the question of what the good society can and should make of these differences'(24).

Wittig stays feisty;
“It is our turn to exist–you shall not take that from us. We will not let you. We will fight for our ‘separateness of ego’ and ‘autonomous entity’. We can agree on the destruction of some terms–though not upon their underlying entities. You seek the recreation of society in your own image–still obsessed with a God-like perception of your own male perfection. We reject your concept because,

‘…once we reject the basic determination “woman” and “man”, once we have no more attributes by which to identify ourselves (I am this or that). We are for the first time in history confronted with the necessity of existing as a person'(182).”
Wasserstrom states the obvious,
“It sounds like you agree with me.
‘…the socially created sexual differences…tend to matter the most. It is sex role differentiation, not gender per se, that makes men and women as different as they are from each other, and it is sex role differences which are invoked to justify most sexual differentiation at any of the levels of society'(24).”

And Wittig finishes with a grand slam, of sorts;
“It is because you hear with your genitalia. You hear what you want. We are different–we just don’t want to be punished by you anymore for that difference. You can’t get past that. We ‘have to be something else, not woman, not man, a product of society not a product of nature, for there is no nature in society'(180). And you cannot inject it with an assimilationist theory.”

WORKS CITED

Bunch, Charlotte. “Lesbians in Revolt.” Feminist Frameworks. Ed. Alison M. Jagger & Paula S. Rothenberg. New York:
McGraw-Hill Inc., 1993. 174-178.
Engels, Friedrich. “Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.” Feminist Frameworks. Ed. Alison M.
Jagger & Paula S. Rothenberg. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1993. 160-170.
Hartmann, Heidi I. “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union.” Feminist
Frameworks. Ed. Alison M. Jagger & Paula S. Rothenberg.
New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1993. 191-200.
Mill, John Stuart (Harriet Taylor). “The Subjection of
Women.” Feminist Frameworks. Ed. Alison M. Jagger &
Paula S. Rothenberg. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1993.
150-158.
Wasserstrom, Richard A. “Racism, Sexism and Preferential Treatment: An Approach to the Topics,” UCLA Law Review.
24 (February 1977), 603.
Wittig, Monique. “One Is Not Born a Woman.” Feminist Frameworks. Ed. Alison M. Jagger & Paula S. Rothenberg.
New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1993. 178-182.