2020/09/30

Combat Frame Data: CF-06-04A Goblin King

CF-06-04A Goblin King
 
CF-06-04A Goblin King

Technical Data

Model Number: CF-06-04A
Code Name: Goblin King
Classification: Mass production flight-capable combat frame
Manufacturer: Colonial Defense License Design
Operator: Extrasolar Colony Defense
First Deployment: CY 82
Crew: 1 Pilot, 1 Erlkoenig Battle Director AI, 2 Gremlin Cyberwarfare AI
Height: 17.5 meters tall
Weight: Dry weight 38.3 metric tons, full weight 46.2 metric tons
Armor Type: palladium glass microalloy/carbon-titanium composite
Powerplant: cold fusion reactor, maximum output 2806 KW
Propulsion: rocket thrusters: 8x 32,000 kg, 6 x 21,750 kg; top speed 3026 kph; leg boosters: 4x 32,400 kg, top speed 6058 kph in vacuum; maneuvering thrusters: 28; legs: top ground speed 300 kph
Sensors: radar, thermal, optical array mounted in head
Hand armaments: Plasma spear, power rated at 2.4 MW; plasma sword, power rated at 1.95 MW, stored in recharge rack on belt armor
Fixed Armaments: x2 missile pod, each capable of carrying x3 MTCCFBM; Gae Bolg plasma cannon, quad-linked, output rated at 1.25 MW
Special Equipment: Ion field generator: radius 10 meters; Active camouflage cloak: conceals from visual and thermal sensors, impairs electrical-optical visual systems and gravitic sensors; Erlkoenig A.I.; x2 Gremlin A.I.

General Notes

The CF-06C-04A Goblin King was a more traditionally sized and equipped combat frame than the AS-03B Goblin, generally piloted by a single human selected for individual combat prowess. In keeping with the Wild Hunt program, the Goblin King was hyper-specialized and solely intended for deployment in concert with other systems meant to cover its weaknesses: each Wild Hunt deployed with a single Goblin King.  

By CY 98 standards, the Goblin King had practically no armor, a trade-off the original designer considered worthwhile in exchange for fitting an almost absurd quantity of rocket thrusters to the CF.  The addition of heavy stealth features helped to extend the average battlefield lifespan of a Goblin King from mere seconds to several minutes or more. 

This blindingly fast combat frame was equipped with a plasma spear, a backup large plasma sword, two integrated missile pods, and an integrated plasma cannon array. Its high agility allowed it to close with and halt any rapidly moving opponent in its tracks and maintain standoff engagement range when necessary. The Goblin King was, at its core, intended to pin down the enemy’s fast movers long enough for its AS-03B Goblins to catch up and destroy them.

While a doughty opponent in its own right, the Goblin King’s main feature was its onboard A.I. Each Goblin King came equipped with two Gremlin A.I.s, giving it the edge in any cyberwarfare scenario.  

More important still was the Erlkoenig Battle Commander A.I. The Erlkoenig, in contrast to the Gremlin and Goblin A.I.s, was a sapient being in and of itself. Each Erlkoenig was “embodied” in a computer core within the individual Goblin King and was granted ranking within the Erlkoenig community which determined its rights (and command privileges over other Wild Hunts). This ensured both that Erlkoenigs would do their best to preserve the Wild Hunt and achieve their objectives, while also forcing them to put themselves in harm’s way.

If a Goblin King was destroyed, its Erlkoenig died with it. They were not permitted any backups, and the code of honor developed within the Erlkoenig community prohibited any attempt to cheat death. It was not unheard of for duels over alleged cowardice to be fought between these fiercely proud A.Is.

The pilots of Goblin Kings, too, had curious relationships with each other and their Erlkoenigs. The pilot and commander developed a bond similar to the old feudal oaths of loyalty. The two tended to evolve mutually dependent personalities and view it as dishonorable to live in a world where the other has died. If the pilot or Erlkoenig was slain, the other would soon relinquish command authority and seek an honorable death against the ever-advancing Ynzu hordes.

Goblin King Cloaked
Goblin King with optical cloak (deactivated)


They made him necessary. He'll make them pay.

2020/09/29

Hamburger Nationalism

Sandy's Hamburgers

With the constant churn of the news cycle, it's easy to forget that the current counterculture moment initially coalesced around pop culture revolts like Gamer Gate and Sad Puppies. Whether the aim was to reform games journalism or expose the logrolling at science fiction awards, these early efforts brought together fans from different political backgrounds to push back against the ideological co-option of their hobbies.

Another common thread running through these consumer revolts was their backward-looking vision. Gamers wanted to get back to playing vidya. The SP Baen contingent pined for the days when Campbell edited Heinlein, while the pulp crew longed for more Howard and Burroughs. All were operating under the assumption that their fandoms were being invaded, and everything would return to normal once the invaders were repelled.

We learned the hard way it wasn't that simple. Each snake in the grass turned out to be one head of a hydra slithering through practically every aspect of pop culture. The problem wasn't restricted to a few bad actors pushing hard left politics. It turned out to be--as the Lefties are fond of saying--systemic.

A popular meme that made the rounds in the Gamer Gate days featured a chart showing that most Gators were left-libertarians. They were Xers, Ys, and Millennials raised in the ruins of Christendom whose only morals were a vague notion of the Harm Principle and the general injunction against "being a dick". They largely bought the mass media agitprop painting Christians and Conservatives as clownish busybodies. When Gamer Gate unmasked the utterly duplicitous nature of modern journalism, a sizable segment of gamers started to realize they'd been lied to about more than just games.

The mass awakening of young adults to the total gaslighting they'd been subjected to all their lives paved the way for the Pepe/meme magic phenomenon of 2016. This pent-up energy found the perfect lightning rod in candidate Donald Trump. Yet the nostalgia factor remained. Most of Trump's online base hoped for a nationwide rollback to the 1980s or 1950s.

Whatever the results of the election--if we ever really find out what they are--it's undeniable that an era is hurtling toward its end. The trailblazing consumer revolts succeeded only in spawning a string of dubious 'gates, each shabbier than the last, that mainly served to line grifters' pockets.

Realistic or not, Trump's lofty campaign promises have clearly not been met. Like the knockoff 'gates, his election raised a class of oily social media hustlers to meteoric prominence followed by equally rapid falls. Meanwhile, his supporters rationalize that the Deep State thwarted the President's reform efforts; then argue that his reelection is necessary to thwart the Deep State.

Last week, I stumbled across a YouTube channel that chronicled the rise and fall of once-popular American restaurant chains. The same lessons that fast food entrepreneurs failed to learn time and again should serve as warnings to dissenters from Clown World.

Watch the videos on that channel, and you'll soon see that almost every now-defunct fast food chain followed the same pattern of ascent and decline. A hard-working restaurateur with a vision opened a hamburger stand in the 50s. The business took off and exploded in popularity during the 60s. After opening a few hundred franchises, the original owner sold out to a big corporation. The new owners didn't understand the chain's popularity, and it changed hands multiple times until the 70s, when the economic downturn finally did the brand in.

If that pattern sounds familiar, it's probably because you're familiar with author David Stewart's Corporate IP Death Cycle. It turns out the same market forces and human greed that milk entertainment IPs dry do the same to burger chains--except in the latter case, there's usually no reboot phase. However, this rule admits of exceptions.

Check out this brief history of one of my favorite long-lost restaurant chains for a rundown of how the cycle goes:

The common themes that keep repeating are that the late 50s-late 60s was the golden age of the American fast food industry. If you wanted to open a burger stand, that ten-year period was the time to do it. Some starry-eyed kid hoping to start the next McDonald's is out of luck. Not only can't a serious rival to McDonald's break into the business today, the odds won't be any better tomorrow. The market conditions that allowed McDonald's to happen have simply been phased out of existence.

In a way, the Puppies, Gators, and MAGApedes were much like investors trying to start another McDonald's or Microsoft in their garage. They set out to challenge the corruption in the system, only to find that the corruption had become the system. They were copper tops fighting against the Matrix all along.

If we've learned nothing else, it's that the system can't be fought from within. It absorbs or crushes any internal threats. That's the Achilles' heel that's so far kept dissidents from winning. Their main interest so far has been walking the system back to a less-corrupt point of their liking. Even if that were possible, it would just set a new countdown to Clown World.

Failure is a much better teacher than success, and honestly facing up to it is the only way to learn those lessons. The lesson of 20th century commerce, pop culture, and politics is that the whole machine is hopelessly broken and was designed to break from the start--what engineers call planned obsolescence. The dissident's main interest, therefore, must be replacing the current unsalvageable arrangement with something else.

Break free of the Pop Cult!

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

2020/09/28

Combat Frame Data: AS-03B Goblin

AS-03B Goblin

 AS-03B Goblin

Technical Data

Model Number: AS-03B
Code Name: Goblin
Classification: Mass production armored combat suit
Manufacturer: Colonial Defense License Design
Operator: Extrasolar Colony Defense
First Deployment: CY 81
Crew: 1 Pilot, 1 Goblin Combat AI
Height: 3.5 meters tall
Weight: Dry weight 6.8 metric tons, full weight 7.4 metric tons
Armor Type: palladium glass microalloy/carbon-titanium composite
Powerplant: cold fusion reactor, maximum output 880 KW
Propulsion: 2x rocket thrusters, 12,000 kg; top speed 340 kph; legs, top ground speed 120 kph
Sensors: radar, thermal, optical array mounted in head
Hand armaments: nanite rifle, 15 rounds per magazine; x1 monatomic edge gladius, blade length 0.8 meters
Optional ranged armaments: missile launcher, fires x1 Multiple Target Class Combat Frame Based Missile; Microwave Amplification via Stimulated Emission of Radiation (maser) cannon, output rated at 10 MW, graphene capacitor-fed (must be reloaded after each shot)
Special Equipment: ion field generator, radius 2 meters. Active camouflage cloak: conceals from visual and thermal sensors, impairs electrical-optical visual systems and gravitic sensors. 

General Notes

The AS-03B Goblin was a highly mobile 3-meter-tall armored suit equipped with jump jets for increased maneuverability. Its primary armament was a rifle firing projectiles which dispersed into a nanite swarm on impact. The nanite swarm converted all metallic and carbon-molecule material into replicas of itself. Every nanite in the swarm self-destructed after five seconds to avoid a “grey goo” scenario of eternally self-replicating nanites. 

In addition to their normal weapons, six of the forty Goblins organized into a standard Wild Hunt would be equipped with homing missile launchers, while another twelve were equipped with 10 MW maser cannons. The MTCCFB missiles provided added armor-penetration capability, while the masers proved extremely useful for disrupting the Ynzu control systems.

The typical Goblin also came equipped with an active camouflage cloak which masked all signatures, gravitic included, to allow it to close in with the enemy. Each AS-03B Goblin possessed an integral Goblin A.I. which would either assist a human pilot or pilot the suit itself under the direction of an Erlkoenig A.I. 

The Goblin A.I., while relatively weak and unintelligent on its own, was a cunning adversary that knew how to coordinate with its comrades and work as a team. An individual Goblin was surprisingly strong for its size and armament; working in concert, any number could hold the line against an equivalent number of top-of-the-line CY40-era combat frames.

Goblin Cloaked
Goblin with optical cloak (deactivated)


The future is over.

2020/09/25

Combat Frame Data: The Dome

NHX-01A Dome
  
NHX-01A Dome



Technical Data

Model number: NHX-01A
Nickname: The Dome
Classification: transforming mobile artillery combat frame
Manufacturer: New Haven Colony
Operator: New Haven Colony
First deployment: CY 98
Crew: 1 pilot in central cockpit
Height: 12 meters
Weight: dry weight 99 metric tons, full weight 121 metric tons
Armor type: orihalcum alloy
Powerplant: cold fusion reactor, max output 2950 KW
Propulsion: gravity belt, top speed with maneuvering thrusters 60 kph; exo-thrusters: 4x 34,770 kg; top speed 850 kph; maneuvering thrusters 12, 180° turn time 0.61 seconds (central sphere rotating in belt), 1.20 seconds full body; 4x legs: top ground speed 150 kph
Sensors: radar, thermal, optical, gravimetric array mounted in main sphere; one-way orihalcum central screen
Fixed armaments: x4 plasma cannon, output rated at 1.80 MW, mounted in pairs on right and left pop-out turrets; x4 rail gun, fires 100 mm orihalcum sabots, mounted on right and left turrets opposite plasma cannons;  x2 3-tube missile launcher, mounted in top and bottom pop-out caps, x2 triple laser panels, concealed beneath hidden panels to the left and right of top missile pod

General Notes

One of the first planets surveyed for the UCP's Extrasolar Colonization Project, the world that would be named New Haven boasted a temperate climate, breathable air, and fertile soil. The one obstacle to human habitation was a layer of heavy metals and radioactives distributed globally by an ancient asteroid impact.

The military turned to Earth-based think tank ISBC for a a solution. The Commission came up with a novel remedy for New Haven's contaminated soil. ISBC botanists engineered a saw grass-tobacco hybrid capable of rapid propagation that would leech the contaminants out of the ground. The colloquially named "copper grass" proved enormously successful, spreading across every continent and making the land habitable within twenty years.

Early colonists learned that the lifesaving grass was a two-edged sword. Though it made the soil arable for food crops, it also established a monoculture that choked out other plants. The light blue grass' near-total coverage of every landmass gave New Haven a distinct teal glow when viewed from passing ships.

The colony was on the brink of failure when a local chemist made a startling discovery. The copper grass not only drew heavy and radioactive metals through its roots, its metabolic processes actually refined the initially harmful materials into a new alloy with remarkable properties.

Dubbed "orihalcum" after the coveted metal from Earth myth, the new alloy featured high density and energy absorption abilities rivaling carbyne. It even proved capable of channeling and manipulating gravitons and immediately became a key component in gravity wave guides.

Owing to the colony's expected failure, the UCP never built a military base on New Haven, and the prairie ExSol was deemed too strategically insignificant to receive its own XSeeds. When UCN carrier patrols ceased following the Cristofo Colombo disaster, New Haven was left on its own.

To fortify themselves against the ever-present threat of Ynzu attack, the New Haven colonists fell back on their native resourcefulness. Using what they had--which was billions of acres of ore-bearing grass--they designed and built their own line of combat frames.

Orihalcum had teal coloration when unrefined, but the finished metal took on a rich orange luster after processing. The New Haven colonists fashioned this miracle alloy into ball turrets based on the planetary defense emplacements positioned around the colony. They then attached a set of four transforming legs/EM drives to a belt encircling the ball's equator. a pair o fold-out manipulator arms completed the turret's combat frame evolution. Pilots nicknamed their new CF the Dome.

Due to its origins as a defense turret, the Dome packed a weapons loadout to rival the XCD-103 Eisenpferd. The central ball's ability to rotate 360 degrees on its Z axis and up to 30 degrees on all other axes allowed its bristling array of weapons--most of which were themselves mounted on rotating turrets--to fire on almost any arc.

The Dome's standard armament included a pair of pop-out turrets hidden beneath panels in the CF's sides. Each turret mounted a pair of high-output plasma cannons on one side and a pair of rail guns on the other. Both turrets could freely rotate, allowing the plasma cannons and rail guns to fire fore and aft. The rail guns were designed to fire proprietary orihalcum sabots based on anti-armor weaponry. The alloy's energy manipulation properties actually weakened targets' molecular bonds on impact, surpassing even carbyne-tungsten rounds for penetration. A single direct hit to a critical system could incapacitate an XSeed.

Supplementing the Dome's main turrets were a dorsal and a ventral pop-up missile pod--each also on a rotating turret, and a retractable pair of triple laser arrays concealed beneath panels to the left and right of the upper missile pod. These weapons allowed the Dome to bypass ion fields and deliver surgical strikes to soften up targets.

The Dome's one drawback is its slow movement speed and relative lack of maneuverability. These shortcomings can be overcome by strategically deploying Domes in their intended mission role of mobile artillery-colony defense.

If the UCP brass knew of the Domes' existence, they would breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that the orange globes are on their side.

Dome Transformation
Dome transformation diagram


2020/09/24

No-stalgia

Sloshy

In sharp contrast to PS2-era webcomics that have shambled on well past their expiry date, the wiser curators of another Gen Y nostalgia brand knew when their moment had passed.

Paradoxically, knowing when to dial it back has made Matthew and Michael Chapman's sporadic release of new material a delightful surprise.

Here's "No-stalgia" the latest from Homestar Runner universe emo band Sloshy. You'll find the subject matter couldn't be more timely.



Why people need to leave dead franchises

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

2020/09/23

Fixing Frank

As a follow up to yesterday's postmortem on Penny Arcade, I thought I'd address some of the comments about how the comic lost its way by showing how it could be fixed.

Comics being a visual medium that capitalizes on a picture speaking a thousand words, the best way to explain what I mean is to show you an example.

Luckily, PA produced a comic that embodies the strip's besetting vices.

Penny Arcade Frank

To preempt comments about PA's woeful slide in art quality, yes, this strip predates Mike Krahulik's ill-advised departure from his cleaner Stephen Silver-inspired style to ape John Kricfalusi.

Let's leave the art issue aside since a) I'm an author and editor, so addressing the dialogue is more my line, and b) the new art's demerits are self-evident.

Back to the example strip above. It's built on a solid chassis. Tycho's word economy has always been one of his greatest strengths, in that he favors strong verbs and nouns over weaker words with lots of modifiers. It's deceptively high-density. That's why his dialogue packs a punch.

Bonus points: Naming all three clerks a variant of "Bob" is a delightfully subtle joke that manages to be a play on words and a sight gag at the same time.

In the minus column, this strip is much wordier than it needs to be. We get the premise of "Vietnam vet with a screw loose managing a Game Stop" in the first panel. The multiplication of Frank's high-density epithets feels redundant. It also oversells his character and lowers him from an archetype to a caricature.

Time for a peek under the hood. Most jokes in the Western tradition follow an A, A, B structure consisting of a framing device, a narrative in the context of the frame, and a punchline that typically employs a semantic shift to deviate from the established frame. In three-panel comics, each panel customarily presents one of these elements, proceeding in order.

A Penny Arcade strip, in contrast, usually puts the punchline in panel 2 and leaves panel 3 for a reaction to the joke.

That's where this strip breaks down. The third panel isn't a reaction to what happened before. Frank launches into a non-sequitur stuffed with crazed vet tropes that come off as redundant and too on-the-nose. This is where he becomes a caricature. Honestly, you don't need it at all.

The other oddity in this strip, even for Penny Arcade, is that the setup and the punchline are reversed. Frank delivers the joke in panel 1, and the framing isn't provided until panel 2.

In joke structure terms, you'd diagram this script as: B, A, ?

OK, there's nothing less funny than analyzing humor, so let's have another visual aid. I took the liberty of editing the comic. Here's what emerged:

Penny Arcade Frank edit

Not every PA comic has its setup and punchline reversed, but you can apply this reverse Chekhov's razor to almost every strip.

Behold the power of editing! Make it work for you.

2020/09/22

Web Comics Autopsy: Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade

Pop culture trends come in cycles. A new property shows up on the scene, gains traction, and explodes in popularity. Entropy always gets a vote, though, and the IP holders inevitably turn to milking the brand. A consequent decline in quality follows, and the brand--sometimes the whole genre--goes moribund.

The web comics fad of the early aughts gives us a fascinating case study in the rise and fall of an entire medium. 

While sticklers can point to primitive examples of web comics from the early 90s or even the 80s, those precursors are analogous to Pong played on oscilloscopes. Web comics as we think of them now didn't get a foothold until 1997 when outfits like Big Panda offered hosting to hundreds of digital comics creators.

That web comics didn't start their rise until that year will have significance to frequent readers of this blog.

By the year 2000, you had print comics industry wonks like Scott McCloud waxing utopian about the "infinite canvas". In retrospect, the notion of artists posting free comic strips to dedicated web sites and thriving off tee shirt sales seems cockeyed. That kind of wishful thinking will be familiar to newpub authors who remember big indies' lauding of Amazon as our liberator from oldpub's chains.

It comes off as laughably naive in this day of Big Tech censorship and rampant deplatforming, but a stock character of every aughts tech blog and combox was the technocrat who'd mount his soapbox and declare the internet the solution to every problem imaginable. Always lost amid the grandiose promises of technological progress was the unchanging, fallen state of Man.

Not even tech-savvy whiz kids can dodge the Gods of the Copybook Headings. By the middle of the last decade, the web comics bubble had burst--a victim of ascendant social media and changing consumer tastes.

Sometimes, though, a property gets enough going for it to weather its industry's collapse. If you can attract a big enough fan base for Brand X, you'll stay afloat when the hangers-on who chased the Brand X-fueled trend fall away.

In the web comics scene, Penny Arcade stands as the exemplar of that rule. Created by then-roommates Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, PA spearheaded the video gaming subgenre that took web comics by storm in the low 90s and early aughts. Contra public perception of PA's closest competitors, writer Holkins wasn't dragged to fame on artist Krahulik's coattails. His distinctive wordsmithing and daily blog posts proved essential to the comic's "it" factor.

Comics are a visual medium, and to its credit, Penny Arcade could trenchantly get its point across without a single line of dialogue.

Penny Arcade Mega Man 9
The single greatest web comic strip ever produced.

It takes more than a competent artist to pull off that trick. You need a solid writer informing the visuals.

Those visuals started out pretty crude, as the PA duo readily admit.

First Penny Arcade 1998

But to paraphrase George Carlin's character in Bill & Ted, they did get better.

Penny Arcade remake 2013

And bigger. Throughout the aughts, PA grew to become the top web comic in the world. Under the capable guidance of business manager Robert Khoo, Krahulik and Holkins expanded their operation to spinoff comics, print books, a clothing line, an abortive video game series, a charity, and most notably, an international convention franchise.

Being two pretty typical Gen Xers with a massive platform and faulty brain-to-mouth filters--mainly referring to Krahulik here--based in Seattle, it was inevitable that the pair would run afoul of the Death Cult.

It's a further testament to PA's resilience that they've endured not one, not two, but multiple witch hunts that would have buried lesser enterprises.

The pressure brought to bear on Holkins and Krahulik by hysterical fanatics may have taken a toll, though, as they've taken to publicly holding forth on their preferred brands and dosages of SSRIs.


Neither the manufactured controversies nor the creators' personal challenges were what led to my parting of the ways with Penny Arcade. The site gradually went from a thrice-weekly must-read to an occasional side trip over the course of the aughts, mainly owing to PA entering the corporate IP Milking Phase.

In due justice, PA's decreased focus on the comic in favor of their more lucrative business projects wasn't the creators' fault. It was the logical result of socioeconomic changes sweeping the industry back then. Free comics uploads simply didn't convert to enough shirt and mug sales to make a living.

What can be laid at the creators' feet--particularly Krahulik's--was the art and subject matter's rapid drift into self-indulgence. There was a long stretch from about 2004-2005 when two out of the three weekly strips would be based on World of Warcraft. That was uninteresting enough to someone who didn't play WoW. Even worse, the strips started relying on WoW inside baseball for their humor value.

Frankly, and there's no beating around the bush here, PA's once crisp art degenerated into vomit thanks to Krahulik's imitation of Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi.

PA Vomit

Still, the honored axiom, "Hate the game, not the player," applies. Krahulik and Holkins achieved remarkable success in the cutthroat entertainment industry and have maintained that success despite their market sector collapsing around them. No less impressively, they remain surprisingly resistant to the Death Cult despite their prominence in the Pop Cult.

For now, Penny Arcade continues as the coelacanth of web comics--a living record of what is now internet prehistory, when creators and consumers alike could tell jokes without losing their jobs.

2020/09/21

Backwards Men

What's striking about the recent announcement of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death is the relative calm in its wake. The news broke on Friday night, and Lefties threw the expected fit on social media, but the weekend passed without any more street violence than usual.

Perhaps all the false alarms pertaining to the status of RBG's corpse these past few years desensitized the public to the real event. The initial shock soon gave way to rampant speculation about what happens next.

Moderates were quick to downplay the likelihood of Trump getting a third Justice confirmed by the end of his term, owing to Mitch McConnell's refusal to hold hearings on Merrick Garland before the 2016 election. Those concerns were quickly dispelled, with McConnell declaring that the senate will vote on Trump's nominee.

And if the vote were held today, a generic nominee would be confirmed.

To no one's surprise, Leftists have responded with the customary threats of insurrection and mayhem.

Biden Rule

Nothing Changes

Reza Aslan

Surprisingly, republicans have resisted this political extortion so far--probably because they know the Left will continue to riot in the streets and play dirty tricks in Washington no matter what happens.

Talk in Conservative circles has now turned to Trump's choice of nominee. The establishment want him to appoint a woman. The Christian base despised by the establishment want somebody who's tough on infanticide.

Highly respected pundits are warning the plebs not to get our hopes up on that count.

The, "Overturning Roe is unpopular, so we shouldn't appoint a social conservative," canard jibes with the GOPe's thought process, so Trump's advisors are probably plying him with that argument. Its absurdity doesn't occur to them. They are backwards men from Bizarro World, where the only way to win is to lose.

It's become SCOTUS's sole legal function to impose unpopular edicts on the American people. The Left habitually rams their agenda through by judicial fiat precisely because they know Conservatives won't do anything to stop it. They also embrace a fact of human nature that the Libertarian infection has erased from Conservatives' minds. Laws do in fact dictate public morality.

Consider gay marriage. Within the lifetime of most people reading this, the idea of two men tying the knot went from a crass joke to a sacred institution you can get fired for disrespecting.

Gay Marriage

Note that the rise in popular support for gay marriage accelerated when democrats started legalizing it through the courts at the state level. Even republican support for butt nuptials surged after Obergfell.

SCOTUS justices serve for life and are practically impossible to remove. If republicans who claim to support pro-life constituents were serious about ending abortion, they'd appoint justices who could be counted on to overturn Roe, and that would be it.

Instead, they wring their hands over what their nominal enemies will think and try to meet people who want them dead halfway.

The truth is, you win by changing the law first, and public opinion will follow. The Left understands this fact. Republicans need to cast off their Libertarian accretions if they ever want to actually solve a problem.

Good Message!

2020/09/18

The Divine Perfections

Trinity


Wednesday's post occasioned a number of theological questions which this post from the Kairos archives answers.

Previously we defined what theologians mean by God: the necessary, self-existing uncaused Being that is the ultimate source of all contingent being.

Having established God as the uncaused, necessary Being, we can conclude to a number of His divine attributes.

Here are the perfections of the godhead with which readers are most likely to be familiar, in no particular order.

Infinity

In theological terms, infinity refers not to unrestricted extension in space or number, but means that God's perfection is unlimited, and that He possesses every possible perfection to the highest extent.

God's infinity necessarily follows from His self-existence. If any other being could place an external limitation on God, then God would in that regard be dependent on that being. He would thus be contingent, therefore not self-necessary, and therefore not God.

Nor can God limit himself, since His existence is His essence, and a change in His mode of being would require a change in His nature, which would render Him not God, which as a self-contradiction, is impossible.

Omnipotence

Probably the most well-known of God's attributes but also the most misunderstood. Omnipotence does not mean that God can "do anything", e.g. create a rock so big He can't lift it. It means that He is free from any limitation on the exercise of the powers proper to His nature.

That said, the range of God's power excludes only what is self-contradictory, such as the rock above, a four-sided triangle, etc. The intrinsic inability of the impossible to exist is not a limitation on God's power, much as being flightless does not limit a penguin's natural powers.

God's omnipotence logically follows from His infinity. There can be no limitation on the exercise of His powers because such a limitation would constitute contingency and result in a self-contradiction.

Eternity

Another often misunderstood divine attribute, eternity as attributed to God does not mean that He exists on a timeline extending perpetually into the future and the past. It means that God transcends time and dwells instead in an ever-present now.

Due to God's eternity, any mention of Him acting in the past or future tense is made only by analogy--there is no was in God. This divine attribute is attested in Sacred Scripture with the revelation of the Divine Name, "I Am."

Again, we inexorably conclude to God's eternity from His infinity, since the self-necessary Being cannot be limited in time any more than He can be limited in power.

Omnipresence

In light of the divine attributes we've already covered, God's omnipresence needs no elaborate explanation. Since God is not limited in time, He's not limited in space.

God's omnipresence does not contradict His eternity. Though not limited in time, He coexists with it, just as He, though infinite, coexists with finite beings.

To say otherwise would be to claim that necessary and contingent being--i.e. cause and effect--are mutually exclusive, which is absurd.

Omniscience

It should go without saying at this point that the infinite Being cannot be limited in knowledge. For the same reason that God's power cannot be contingent on any other being, He must derive His perfect knowledge solely from Himself.

Failure to understand God's omniscience poses a stumbling block to many philosophical and theological laymen. God is not like a man atop a high tower afforded a longer view by His superior vantage point. Nor is He like a man at the end of time looking back over the historical record.

God's knowledge is not dependent on any creature, nor is it mediated by senses. Instead, God knows all things causally and from all eternity by virtue of His status as First Cause.

Consider a cellist publicly performing a new composition. The audience only knows the song through the mediation of their sense of hearing. The composer, however, knows the piece more intimately since he wrote the sheet music. This analogy is imperfect, because regarding omniscience, God didn't simply write the sheet music, He is the sheet music.

These are just a few of the divine attributes. To be precise, they're really artificial delineations of God's singular, infinitely simple nature split into separate categories for easier human understanding. Theologians are, by necessity, blind men groping an elephant. But we do know that the subject of our inquiry is there, and our investigations can obtain some truth, however incomplete.

2020/09/16

The Problem of Evil

Aqedah

The defining claim of atheism is that God doesn't exist, but if you listen to them long enough, you come to realize that atheists never argue against God's existence.

In fact, there are really only two basic arguments atheists make. The first rests on the observation that the universe seems to work just fine without divine intervention.

Not only is this a straw man, since Christians do not in fact deny secondary causes, it reinforces the cosmological arguments for God. Rules imply a rule-giver. Once the atheist grants the existence of universal principles, he can't deny that they have an origin without violating the law of cause and effect he's arguing from in the first place.

The other argument in the atheist's bag of tricks, and by far the weaker of the two, relies on appeals to the problem of evil.

Philosophers and theologians have been engaging with the question of why a good God allows evil--theodicy, to use the fancy term--since before biblical times. But as they do with the question of God's existence, atheists pretend Christians didn't come up with numerous solutions to the problem centuries ago and forge ahead as if they've discovered a silver bullet "gotcha" question everybody missed for years.

I've heard a lot of smart people say that the problem of evil posed a serious challenge to their faith. That's because arguments for atheism based on theodicy are rhetorical devices masquerading as dialectic. They derive all of their punch from evoking an emotional response in the target.

The question, "How could a good, all-powerful God allow children to starve?" doesn't even address the issue of God's existence. It assumes God exists and instead casts doubt on His goodness and/or omnipotence. Again, it's not really an argument for atheism. The point is to give believers a case of cognitive dissonance.

Now, one might argue that a creator who lacks perfect goodness and power leaves us with an imperfect demiurge. The obvious objection to that line of reasoning is that it just kicks the can one step further down the road, because a contingent demiurge still requires an Absolute First Cause.

Even more damning to the atheist wielding theodicy as a bludgeon, arguing from the problem of evil also assumes Christian morality. Blind evolutionary forces don't care if children starve. Such cases are neither good nor bad. They just mean those kids didn't have what it took to survive.

But our atheist takes it for granted that children starving is wrong, even as he accuses God of hypocrisy in order to undermine the believer's rationale for judging child starvation to be evil.

If we grant the premise that evil's existence refutes God's goodness and/or omnipotence, then God is not God. Therefore, His precepts do not bind in conscience. Therefore Christian morality is wrong. Therefore the believer was wrong to be scandalized by starving kids in the first place.

It's self-negating.

How do Christians resolve the problem of evil? As I mentioned above, scholars have had a long time to work on theodicy, and myriad solutions exist.

The simplest is this: God exists, and evil exists.

That answer might sound facile, but remember, it's up to atheists to prove those statements contradictory. They never actually do. They just glibly assume it.

They also pretend like there's some Scripture passage where God says evil isn't real, and His people will never suffer. In fact He says the exact opposite time and again. The Bible is the story of God's tireless efforts to deliver His people from evil, culminating in the Passion of Jesus Christ, which solves the problem once and for all by giving men a way to make suffering redemptive.

"But God created everything, right?" I can hear some of you say. "Doesn't that mean He created evil?"

The first part of that objection is correct. God alone has the power to create something from nothing. But whereas I've affirmed throughout this post that evil exists, that statement is only true in a metaphorical way.

It's the inverse of how God is said to exist as a matter of convenience. More properly speaking, God is Being. Since God is good, and God is being, good is being.

The flip side of that syllogism is that evil has no independent existence. Instead, evil is an absence of the good; a lacking of something that should be.

Where does evil come from? Remember that only God can create things. Men can't create anything. Or, phrased another, equally correct way, men can create nothing.

Human beings--and unfallen and fallen angels--are agents of causality. While we can't create ex nihilo, we can mar and destroy already existing goods.

It's men and fallen angels who bring evil into the world, not God. It's all on us.

Happily, bringing something out of nothing; good out of evil, is God's specialty. He's already taken the worst evil ever committed--His own sorrowful Passion and death--and turned it into the salvation of mankind.

2020/09/15

It Was Under the Bed

Ouija Board

 A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes in with a personal tale of high strangeness.

First, I don't usually believe when people tell me about their paranormal experiences.  I've known so many people who clearly bullshit and lie about things that never really happened (or at least I highly doubt they happened).  I'm not saying everyone's a liar, but in today's age with the popularity of horror movies and paranormal "reality" TV shows, it's only natural for so many people to make things up that never happened.  Since I have this mindset, I never expect belief from the few people I talk to about these things; a) I have no proof  b) I write horror stories and compose scary music, so it just looks like it's something I'm making up if I were to tell someone.

With that all being said, I'm going to share this story.  And it has a lot to do with Christianity and the demonic side of things.

To begin with, I was raised in a Catholic household since birth.  However, during my late teenage years I started to doubt the existence of God and wondered if I was just worshipping an unresponsive nothing.  Over time I became bitter and resentful.  As can unfortunately happen with so many young, confused, impressionable minds these days, I was introduced to the concept of the Ouija Board.  At the time, I thought that it sounded interesting and wondered if it could give me an answer since I thought God clearly didn't exist or was ignoring me.  So, I eventually acquired one.  Though my intentions were good, I had no idea what I was getting into.  As stupid as this may sound, my goal was to somehow ask "the spirits" to wreak havoc on all of the corrupt elite around the world and bring an end to their influence.  But you see, when I set everything up according to the directions, nothing ever happened.  I tried and I tried harder.  Still, nothing happened.  Eventually I gave up on the thing and believed it was just as fake as God.  I left the Ouija Board underneath my bed (where I kept a lot of useless junk).  The board sat there for nearly three years.

Over the next few years I gained a better understanding of the world and returned to Christianity.  In addition to that, I became aware of the Luciferian influence on society by the entertainment industry, politicians, etc.  One night, my younger brother and I were having a philosophical conversation.  It was late during the evening, but at one point we started talking about how Satanism does manifest in even far-right, obscure groups.  I told him about how they incorporate a philosophy known as "The Left-Hand Path", which is basically an extremely individualistic, hedonistic, selfish life.  During this conversation, I remembered the board was underneath my bed and I started staring at it (I was sitting on the floor during the conversation).  I almost became in this trance-like state and the board's box appeared to move on its own.  Before I was aware, this invisible force of unpleasantness and fear lunged out at me.  I don't really know how to describe it, other than I "felt" it and "heard" it.  It scared the shit out of me and I immediately jumped up.  My brother wanted to know what the hell happened, so I quickly told him.  That night, we ended up taking the board and throwing it in a trashcan outside.

This is what I've taken away from the experience: Although I thought my intentions were good initially when I bought the board, nothing ever happened with it.  Why?  Because evil doesn't need to attack evil.  I was essentially saying to a demon "Hey, could you please kill these really evil people that are ruining the world?"  Of course nothing happened!  My own soul was in a very dark and dangerous place during that time - the demon didn't need to do anything.  But why did I experience something many years later when I had forgotten about the board altogether and abandoned such silly and immoral beliefs?  Because I had clearly become a different person and was being guided by Christ.  I also think due to the subject of the conversation I was having with my brother, something demonic felt the need to try to attack me.

Anyway, believe it or not.  Take from it what you will.  This was the most realistic paranormal experience I've ever had.

In case you needed more evidence why playing with Ouija boards is a bad idea, Anon's story aptly illustrates the disordered desire for control that motivates attempts to invoke such forces.

God is in control of all. He grants us mastery of our individual destinies within limits, and efforts to impose our will beyond those limits are dangerously prideful.

There are powers that lie in wait to take advantage of that pride. Those powers mean us harm, and dabbling with a Ouija board is akin to laying out the welcome mat for them.

God's mercy is the white pill, which He graciously dispensed to Anon. We can and should be thankful for his conversion. 

Take warning, though, that willingly indulging in sin with the presumption of that mercy is no less prideful.


It's really hard to find these days someone who's willing to be brave enough to write about these subjects without measuring words, without trying to "not offend anyone". The author really manages to capture the dark intentions behind not only Hollywood but of big companies in general.

2020/09/14

Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest

My 80s and 90s movie reviews seem to be resonating with readers. This response makes sense, given that many have rightly despaired of Hollywood ever treating classic franchises with anything but contempt.

Multiple commenters brought up one film in particular that seems worthy of review, especially since it has the same director as the new Bill & Ted streaming release. 

By popular demand, it's time to revisit the late 90s cult classic Galaxy Quest. Not only is it one of my favorite comedies, it easily stands among my favorite SF films and is just plain one of my all-time favorite movies.

In addition to the accolades I already heaped on it, Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie. Sure, it's an homage that parodies Trek in much the same way that Spaceballs riffed on Star Wars, but Galaxy Quest succeeds where even Mel Brooks failed. It beat its source material at its own game.

Don't take my word for it. Fans at a major Star Trek convention ranked Galaxy Quest the seventh best film in the series, and that was only because of backroom politicking that bumped Quest down from its starting position in second place. Key members of the creative team who've worked on Star Trek movies since The Voyage Home declared that it deserved to be #1.

If you're unfamiliar with Galaxy Quest, stop reading this and go watch it right now.

For those who are at work or school or prison or somewhere that won't let you stream videos, Galaxy Quest follows a simple yet ingenious premise.

NOTE: this movie is  now old enough to drink, so my spoiler filter is off.

The washed-up stars of a 70s SF TV show, forced to subsist on convention signings and ribbon cuttings since the program's cancellation, get much more than they bargained for when what they think is another promo gig turns out to be the real thing.

Facing genocide, an alien race has turned to "Historical Documents" from Earth, i.e. television transmissions, for guidance--especially old episodes of Galaxy Quest. They lovingly reproduce the series' iconic ship down to the last bolt and dab of paint; then enlist the original crew to lead them in battle.

Galaxy Quest NSEA Protector

Unfortunately, the "crew" don't have their act together--figuratively or literally.

Galaxy Quest Crew

Besides the shock of finding themselves embroiled in a real interstellar war, the actors must confront the interpersonal grudges and rivalries that have alienated them from each other as they're thrust back into their old roles. It's the command performance of a lifetime, with stakes far higher than bad ratings.

In design and execution, Galaxy Quest not only meets the standard set by Star Trek, but sometimes surpasses it. Quest is like the rare cover version of a song that draws out the original's latent potential and takes it to the next level.

Now imagine that the cover song is by "Weird Al" Yankovic, and the metaphor is complete. Don't let the comedy distract you from the fact that the artist is a bona fide genius.

I'd go so far as to argue that the best comedy writers are the greatest writers of all, since comedy is the hardest genre to execute successfully. And Quest is hands down the best SF comedy.

Why does Galaxy Quest deserve such praise? The simplest reason is that it's a sci-fi, parody, ensemble cast, character-driven, comedy/adventure film that works on each and every one of those levels.

Galaxy Quest is indeed a sterling comedy. Rare among contemporary films in this genre, it doesn't stoop to lazy one-liners or crude slapstick for cheap laughs. Instead, it takes the high road of crafting situational humor based on solidly established characters and how they react to their strange circumstances.

NB: critics lament how modern comedies have largely replaced actual jokes with glib pop culture references. Ironically, Galaxy Quest is one of the few movies that could've gotten away with that gimmick. Yet its makers exercised admirable restraint in weaving SF tropes into the story subtly and organically through the actors' performances.


The near-subliminal references even extend to the movie's visual design.

Galaxy Quest Protector

After soaring over the highest hurdle, Galaxy Quest goes for the gold in the sci-fi, space opera, and characterization categories. Though the science is extra squishy (just how I like it), the movie more than compensates by adding new speculative elements that are just as satisfying as their Trek analogs.

The digital conveyor, FTL flight via black holes (later explored seriously by Interstellar), and the Omega 13 device are just some of the masterful conceits that establish Quests's own consistent mythos.

One added benefit of rewatching the film was realizing just how gorgeous it is. The conceptual and technical design; even the costumes, are on par with the finer Trek movies while having a pleasing aesthetic all their own.

I was also surprised by how the movie's visuals influenced the descriptions in my own writing. Though I didn't realize it at the time, the bridge of the Protector clearly inspired the wheelhouse of the Serapis from Nethereal.


The special effects only lose a few points because some of the CG looks a little outdated now, but it still beats any Syfy Channel original movie.

In the action department, Galaxy Quest largely departs from the submarine warfare style of most Trek installments and depicts pulpier, though honestly more exciting, space battles. The character-level gun play and fisticuffs retain comedic elements while portraying deadly consequences, sometimes in direct contrast to the TV show's camp.


At the movie's low point, Jason Nesmith (aptly portrayed by Tim Allen) must confess to the alien leader Mathesar that he and his "crew" are not what the aliens believed. They are simple actors pretending to be space explorers on sets made of plywood, tinfoil, and Christmas lights.

Galaxy Quest Jason and Mathesar

Mathesar's race--the Thermians--are perfect examples of the purely material beings described by master SF author John C. Wright. Mathesar states that his people lacked transcendent beliefs, and that they interpreted all earth television broadcasts as historical documentaries.

This is strong evidence that the Thermians are purely material--or at least materialistic--beings with no spiritual dimension to their existence, who as such have no longing for a reality above and beyond the mundane world.

Wright convincingly reasons that sapient beings who are fully "at home" in the material world would have no need for or concept of fiction. Their libraries would have only textbooks and newspapers; not pulp magazines and novels. The Thermians therefore see no difference between fiction and lies.

The interactions between guileless Thermians and duplicitous humans brings about one of the movie's core moral themes: What value, if any, does fiction have? When asked why humans would go to the considerable effort and expense of creating such elaborate charades, Nesmith admits to Mathesar that he doesn't know. He makes halfhearted mention of entertainment, but it's clear that he's never thought through the basis of his craft.

It is here, in the last act, that Galaxy Quest goes from being a workmanlike and thoroughly enjoyable parody to a work of genius.

The cast of the Galaxy Quest TV show start the movie as petty, frustrated characters, depressed by their inability to be who their talents and dispositions call them to be. They're suddenly given a final, all-or-nothing chance to redeem themselves.

Galaxy Quest Jason Nesmith

The crew of actors are given multiple chances throughout the film to escape the conflict and return home to their old lives. Each time, they decide to stay, even after learning that they're in mortal danger. Jason and his crew don't just suffer adversity with patience. They willingly accept terrible risks for the sake of strangers from a distant world.

Even more impressive, Galaxy Quest answers its thematic question about the value of art; not through dialog, but through the characters' actions. Traditionally, protagonists in mistaken identity plots prevail by either tapping into hidden strengths, or by leveraging their native abilities.

The cast of Galaxy Quest do both--employing their acting chops to overcome challenges while growing into their fictional roles for real. By the end of the movie, Tony Shalhoub's character really is the Protector's chief engineer. Reluctant pilot Tommy flies her with confidence and skill. Jason is established as the ship's master and a leader of men.

Yet it's the final touch that cements this film as a triumph. The human crew of the Protector have defeated their adversary and saved the Thermian race. At this point, a lesser story would have ended with the aliens gaining knowledge of fiction and losing some of their innocence, possibly with a trite speech about faking it until you make it or the inspirational value of noble lies.

Instead, the Thermians are convinced that Nesmith's confession was itself a ruse, and their faith in the "Historical Documents" is fully restored.

Now, I anticipate criticism on the grounds that our heroes leave the Thermians in ignorance. Isn't the bitterest truth preferable to the sweetest lie?

To which I reply that anyone making such an objection is equivocating. Equating fiction with deceit is the Thermians' mistake, made because they're fundamentally blind to the difference. Trying to distinguish between a lie told with malice and a story told in service of the truth is a Sisyphean task where Thermians are concerned, and no futile task is morally obligatory.

And because we, the audience, are not Thermians, we can see how Galaxy Quest upholds the wonder and beauty of space exploration, the good of heroic virtue, and the truth that the value of good fiction transcends the world of base matter.

2020/09/11

The Fix Is In

Mail Fraud

Follow American politics long enough, and you'll soon notice two phenomena so reliable you can set your watch by them:
  • The Left always explains exactly what they plan to do.
  • They explain it by projecting their schemes onto their opposition.
The Left's propensity for confessional projection--conjection--if you will, is really quite remarkable. They monologue like passive-aggressive pulp serial villains.

Here's a procession of warhorses from the Democrats' fading old guard sternly warning that Trump may not accept the results of the election.

Which attentive observers will correctly take to mean that the Democrats have no intention of accepting the election results.

How will the Left pull off what will essentially amount to a coup? They've helpfully explained that, as well.
In preparation for delayed results on Election Day due to millions of mail-in ballots, Twitter said Thursday that it will delete or label posts that claim victory too early, according to a report.
The social network, which already prohibits or flags tweets that sow confusion about voting, will institute new guidelines to take effect next Thursday about posts “claiming victory before election results have been certified” or aiming to “prevent a peaceful transfer of power,” Politico reported.
It will also take similar action against “disputed claims” about the voting process, including “unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results.”
“We will not permit our service to be abused around civic processes, most importantly elections,” Twitter said. “Any attempt to do so – both foreign and domestic – will be met with strict enforcement of our rules, which are applied equally and judiciously for everyone.”
Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said the company is being transparent about the efforts it will take to prevent confusion as voters are expected to shun voting in person in favor of mail-in ballots amid coronavirus fears.
And Twitter isn't alone.
Facebook also announced that it will flag any candidates declaring victory early and will ban political ads in the week before the Nov. 3 election.
Those mail-in ballots are the key. Far more Democrats than Republicans--a majority, in fact--plan to vote by mail. Most of those ballots will not be counted until after election night, thus inviting two likely scenarios:
  1. Trump appears to win on election night, since he'll get most of his votes at the ballot box. But mail-in ballots counted over the following days flip the race to Biden.
  2. Trump does in fact win on election night, but Democrat apparatchiks conveniently keep finding mail-in ballots until Biden snatches away the victory. As AE points out in the article linked above, the fact that most Republicans will vote on election day will tell the Democrats exactly how many votes they need to fake to beat Trump.
In either event, the Party have their Big Tech hatchet men prepping the public for a contested election and the massive, nationwide unrest that's likely to result. Zuckerberg and Dorsey's job will be to silence Trump and his supporters, ensuring that the MSM's narrative dominates.

Welcome to BananAmerica.

Goes beyond analysis into action.

2020/09/10

You Can't Save Everyone

 A reader shares this conversation which proves how deep the Pop Cult conditioning goes.

Pop Cultist

The context of this particular discussion was the NFL. You're just as likely to hear the exact same script from Pop Cultists who are still addicted to Big Two comics, Hollywood Movies, and corporate top 40 music.

Note how pointing out that the Cultist is debasing himself by paying to be insulted doesn't suffice to sway him. The cult of pop culture replaced the healthy call to worship for many in Clown World, especially those lacking self-respect and a sense of meaning. Sadly, that describes tens of millions of Americans.

You can't save everyone. Once a Pop Cultist has shown that he's willing to sacrifice his dignity for a fleeting dopamine fix, it's best to shake the dust from your shoes rather than waste time trying to talk him out of a position he was never talked into.

You can, however, save yourself. The first step is to stop giving money to people who hate you.

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

2020/09/09

Major League 1989

Major League

In the spirit of what's turned into a series of 80s movie reviews, I decided to revisit the 1989 sports comedy Major League.

If you're unfamiliar with Major League, it's a light comedy firmly in the "ragtag team of misfits learn to put aside their differences to win the big game' mold. This movie managed to rise above the pack thanks largely to snappy dialogue and endearing performances by Tom Berenger, Bob Uecker, Wesley Snipes, and Charlie Sheen.

That's what makes this film notable from a creative standpoint. The screenwriters and actors took a rather shopworn concept and elevated the material to the status of a middling 80s classic. Major League essentially did for sports flicks what Ghostbusters did for horror movies--albeit with rather less cultural penetration and commercial dominance.

ML was still a hit though, earning back roughly five times its budget at the box office. And chances are most of you at least recognize Charlie Sheen's trademark character Ricky Vaughn--especially if you subscribe to dissident politics.

Brief plot synopsis: The gold-digging trophy wife of the Cleveland Indians' recently deceased owner plots to activate an escape clause that will let her move the team to Miami if attendance drops below 800,000 for the season. To that end, she fills up the roster with the worst players she can find. The result is a club full of dysfunctional circus freaks. Two complications threaten to foil the owner's plan: 1) the players catch on and resolve to win out of revenge, and 2) an amazingly talented nobody just happens to crash Indians training camp.

I'm old enough to remember the original marketing campaign for Major League. The trailers and TV spots portrayed the movie as cheeky and edgy. Irreverence definitely abounds, but that was the late 80s, when putting Charlie Sheen in your movie with a Christmas tree-inspired haircut and glasses from Hot Topic could still pass for edgy.

Upon review, what most stands out in Major League is what doesn't stand out. The movie was filmed in the summer of 1988--almost exactly thirty years ago. The time span between then and now brings more iconic 80s genre-blending comedy, Back to the Future, to mind. Marty McFly traveled back in time from a 1985 of video games, silk screen t shirts, and Burger King to a 1955 of The Honeymooners, poodle skirts, and diners.

Movies make good time capsules, and Major League shows us that not only had pop culture remained essentially unchanged between 1985 and 1988; it hasn't changed much between 1988 and 2020. The first sign that Major League wasn't filmed in the present day comes roughly half an hour into the movie when somebody is shown talking on a huge old-style cell phone. Otherwise, the first act could have taken place anytime from the mid-1980s till now.

But pop culture is not the entirety of culture, and the intervening changes to the latter are apparent in this film. Major League is yet another comedy you could never make today thanks to rampant political correctness. Pedro Cerrano and his Jobu shrine would never be allowed by Hollywood's cultural kommissars.

Even then, the production hedged their bets by taking pains to mock the film's sole openly Christian character. Still, the heathen is shown giving up his superstition in the end, so the movie's underlying ethos is closer to garden variety secularism than the current Death Cult hysteria. But you can glimpse it on the horizon in retrospect.

As I mentioned in my review of Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire, the mark of a superior comedy is that the story would still work if you took out the jokes. Major League fulfills that criterion. The characterization is especially competent considering the size of the ensemble cast they were working with. Yet all of the main characters are introduced and fleshed out just enough for the story to work in a relatively short amount of time.

My one gripe with the story has to do with the movie's conflict--specifically, the antagonist's motivation. The players stand to lose their jobs if her plan succeeds, which are sufficient stakes to believably motivate the team. The owner's motive is that she simply dislikes Cleveland and would rather move to Florida. Thus, she suffers from a case of Wile E. Coyote plot. Instead of orchestrating a lengthy and costly Rube Goldberg plan, why doesn't she just sell the team and move to Florida? For that matter, why doesn't she keep the team and move to Florida without them?

That's just a minor quibble. All of the current tent pole superhero movies have far less coherent villain plots. Overall, Major League is a slightly flawed and too often overlooked gem from a time when comedians didn't take themselves too seriously to tell jokes. If you've got some free time this week, I encourage you to dig it out and watch it again.


I also encourage you to check out Nethereal, the first volume of my award-winning action-adventure series.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier