Cultural Commentary

Writings reflecting affairs relevant to the American culture, its trends, its future, and my feelings thereon

A Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or The Best Star Wars Film Yet

As readers of this blog are aware, I’m a bit of a Star Wars fan. I was crushed when the Expanded Universe was remade into Legends, and was generally disappointed by The Force Awakens last year. I follow the Star Wars Report (an excellent site with quality podcasts), and have dived headfirst into the new(ish) Star Wars miniatures fleet battle game Star Wars: Armada (the best tabletop game I’ve ever played, period). I had the distinct pleasure of viewing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Sunday, December 18th, and I have to say, without reservation, this is now my favorite Star Wars film by a county mile. A more detailed review follows this, but for now, this is your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. I repeat, this is a SPOILER WARNING (for both Rogue One and The Force Awakens, though the latter has been out for a year). Continue with this piece

You Owe NATO Your iPhone, or Why NATO Is Essential to the Current World Order

I have made an effort to avoid partisan politics on my blog. It’s a personal choice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if readers, especially ones who know me personally are well aware of my political views on the American presidential election happening at the beginning of next month. In response to the severe and unprecedented circumstances of this election, I am temporarily abrogating my commitment to non-partisanship for this post. I could list off all of the reasons I oppose Donald Trump, from racism, narcissism, poor temper control, dishonesty, bragging about sexual assault, or outright incompetence and ignorance. I could link an extremely short summary of only a few of the most egregious reasons he should not be president, his opponent’s flaws notwithstanding. But I won’t (list them, obviously I did link that article). Instead today I will offer a somewhat more subtle rebuke, to a particularly virulent isolationist idea he has revived into national prominence. Just over a month ago, I posted an article┬ádevoted to the future issues of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, and a way I thought it could help future-proof itself. This time, I am instead going to focus on NATO in the present, and an issue raised in this presidential election campaign: is the Alliance still relevant to American global interests, or is it a long-lived ghost of the Cold War? Does NATO have a place in a world focused on defeating international terrorism, or should America stop allowing European powers to free-ride on its own defense commitments? For myself, the answer is clear: NATO has never needed American engagement and energy more than the present moment. The long and short of why is thus: so you can have the iPhone or laptop you are reading this essay on. At a fundamental level, NATO and its security guarantee underwrite the international order that uphold the Western lifestyle and allowed the creation of that device. Not only will American withdrawal engender an international collapse, but the modern technology sector will rapidly follow global order and peace into chaos and dissolution. Continue with this piece

The Helicarrier, or An Exploration of Force and Might Through the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is without a doubt a fantastic media achievement. At the time of this writing, it spans thirteen films, with eleven in development, and four TV series, with four more also in development. One thing immediately apparent to anyone familiar with the series is that it is never afraid, like its comics origin, to provide commentary on contemporary events, politics, and cultural and social trends. Between characters, plots, villains, and more, Marvel films do not cease to provide metaphors for viewers to chew over, even as they deliver bombastic films that are whirlwinds of entertainment. I would like to propose a new vehicle through which to examine a Marvel commentary on force and power: the SHIELD Helicarrier. A gigantic craft that serves various functions throughout its cinematic career, the helicarrier and the events surrounding the titanic ship and her Insight sisters provide an unique look at the appropriate uses of force and might in the resolution of ongoing international crises and even interpersonal conflict through individual lens. Continue with this piece

A Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or I Understand the Star Trek Purists Now

Recently I saw the movie on track (or already through) to shatter every box office record it is in line for, including total worldwide and domestic box office ticket gross: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA). I saw it a few days ago now, and I think I have had the necessary time to mull over the film properly and form my conclusions about it. And I’ve come up with my short answer and my long answer when people ask me what I thought of it. Short Answer: A- as a stand-alone film, B next to the rest of the series, and C+ when compared to the Expanded Universe (EU). Long Answer: well, you’re going to have to bear with me here. It’s not going to be short. Oh, and before you read any farther, THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING, both for the film and a huge chunk of the Expanded Universe, now called Legends. I repeat, THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. Continue with this piece

11/13, or Preventing Europe’s 9/11

On the evening of Friday, November 13th, Paris, France, was attacked. Seven different locations were attacked, including a soccer stadium with French President Hollande in attendance, restaurants, and a concert played by an American band. As of the time of this writing, the known death toll is 132, with over 349 injured and 42 in critical condition. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility, in the latest and among the most egregious of a long list of atrocities. To the people of Paris, and France as a whole, and to victims of terror attacks around the globe, you have my deepest sympathies, and my sincere hope for your swift recovery and healing as a nation from these unwarranted and unjust attacks. Now, to everyone, but especially the United States of America, we as a world, standing with France, have a responsibility. That responsibility is to not allow this, for any reason, to be politicized, and we cannot, absolutely cannot, allow this to become a new September 11th. This is of the utmost importance, we cannot allow France to follow us to their destruction. Continue with this piece