Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Rocktagon Recap of UFC 172: Jones vs. Teixeira!

Featuring wacky submissions galore, a surfeit of Ray Lewis-inspired dancing and the greatest shocker in modern UFC history..."Rumble" Johnson ACTUALLY making weight for a fight!

Another Saturday night, another UFC pay-per-view spectacular, amigos and amigas. Tonight’s show features a main event title bout that trudges up the age old MMA chestnut -- what happens when sheer technique collides with sheer power? -- as long-time champ Jon Jones goes one-on-one with all-around ass-kicker and Jay Glazer-look-alike Glover Teixeira. On the undercard, we have a light heavyweight bout with major title implications, as Phil Davis tries to make himself a bona fide belt contender against the returning Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, whose probably going to have more trouble making weight for the match-up than he is actually fighting tonight. And beneath that, a whole bunch of undercard tomfoolery, which may or may not prove interesting or worthy of our respective times.

You ready, folks? Well, you best be, cause its nigh time for the Rocktagon Recap of UFC 172: Jones vs. Teixeira!

We are coming to you LIVE from Baltimore, Md., while I’m calling this hootenanny from BWW in ‘Murrieta. Our hosts, as always, are Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, and also as always, if it any point tonight’s show gets too boring, I am SO ditching this recap to go play the Dig Dug machine in the corner.

So, since it's a crowded house tonight, me and Mrs. Internet is in America have to share a table with some random people, who just so happen to be an ethnically parallel male-male couple separated by about 30 years, who REALLY enjoy talking about the Atlanta Braves. And also, I am pretty sure our waitress, whose eyelids are the same color as a Tampa Bay Lighting jersey, is pretty upset at us, probably because we skipped ahead like twenty people on the waiting queue, but you know what? Like the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a "fuck," so to speak, I no longer give.

Featherweight Bout
Andre Fili vs. Max Holloway

Fili is a promotional newcomer, a California fighter who bested Jeremy Larsen in his UFC debut. According to the Wikipedia, the one-loss Fili is also something of an indie hip-hop/punk sensation, which makes me hate him on principle alone. Holloway has a 4-3 record in the Octagon, with his last bout resulting in a Knockout of the Night against Will Chope. Both guys could really boost their own stock with a victory here, so expect plenty of attempted KO shots in this one, folks…

Fili has to wear these bandages on his ears, most likely because he has those goofy holes cut out in his ears like some kind of A.F.I. homosexual or something. Holloway, on the other hand, is quite possibly the single most hideous human being that has ever existed, and considering the fact we live on a planet with Lyle Lovett, that's saying something.

Holloway and Fili begin the first round by exchanging leg kicks. Nothing really connecting so far. Fili with a barrage of punches to the stomach and then he whiffs on a high kick. Holloway fires back with two really stiff right hands. Fili kicks him in the shin and secures a takedown. Holloway shoots back up and knees Fili hard before the bell sounds.

Right out of the gate, Holloway comes roaring with some spinning kicks -- think, all of that shit Cung Le used to do in Strikeforce. Fili grabs Holloway's leg on a whiffed kick and sends him crashing to the canvas. Holloway stuffs a takedown attempt and crunches Fili with an elbow. Now Fili gets a takedown. Back up, and Holloway tries to land another spin kick. Fili concludes the round by trying to secure another takedown, but Holloway just pummels him with knees in the clinch instead.

Third and decisive round. Fili trying REALLY hard to land a takedown, but it ain't happening. And as soon as I say that, of course, Fili gets a takedown. Back up, and Holloway is landing some rights. Fili aims for another takedown, but LOLOOPS! Holloway traps him in a guillotine choke instead! It's deep, and Fili isn't going to be saved by the clock. An impressive performance by Holloway, who is then given way too much face time in a subsequent post-fight interview.

Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone is in the house tonight. And hey, so are Jon Jones' brothers, one of whom used to play for the Baltimore Ravens!

In case you are wondering: tonight' I'm having a black bean burger with both queso AND the Thai curry sauce. And they messed up our order. Not really a surprise, I suppose...

Lightweight Bout
Jim Miller vs. Yancy Medeiros 

Miller is a journeyman lightweight, perhaps best known for that time he almost bit his own tongue off being subbed by Nate Diaz. Or that time he got submitted by Pat Healy, only to see that contest get overturned because Healy just had to enjoy himself a pre-fight doobie. Rather fittingly, Miller’s opponent tonight is Yancy Medeiros, whom, as fate would have it, had his last victory overturned due to ganja use as well. Medeiros, a one-loss Strikeforce import, is acting as a last minute substitute for fellow Strikeforcer Bobby Green, who pulled out of the fight on one week’s notice. On paper, this sounds like an interesting match-up, being the old “cagey vet vs. the spruce up and comer” routine and all. So, does Miller still have what it takes to finish off his fledgling foe, or will the cannabis-smoking Hawaiian smoke his elder adversary in the Octagon tonight?

Miller and Yancy exchange kicks to begin. Miller rattles off a half dozen or so body shots. Miller with a takedown, and he's thinking "guillotine, motherfucker." And he's got it clamped on Yancy, deep. He refuses to tap, and Yancy is out cold, with his eyes bulging out and shit. A super-impressive performance by Miller, who says he wants to fight everybody in the world who weighs 155 pounds in the after-fight interview.

Well, the Atlanta Braves fans have left, and now we get to dine with a gaggle of frat-holes, whom, as an interesting variable, all attended Christian colleges. Trust me, you don't know what a winning argument for atheism really is until you've heard ding dongs of the sort drone on and on about cursing before Easter services for an hour...

In other playoffs news: the Grizzlies are beating the Thunder, and the Kings are rallying against the Sharks.

Erick Silva will fight Matt Brown in an upcoming PPV event you have no intentions of ever watching. Or even DVR-ing, for that matter.

Middleweight Bout
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch

In addition to having the most made-up sounding real person name in history, Rockhold is a former Strikeforce champion, whose only loss under the Zuffa umbrella has been against Vitor Belfort and his TRT-modified genes. Aside from beating such notables as Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy, he was last seen kicking Costas Philippou so hard, he may have actually killed half of his opponents’ organs. Journeyman Boetsch is pretty much the definition of an inconsistent fighter, scoring impressive victories over the likes of Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard, but then getting his ass handed to him by Phil Davis and Mark Munoz. Currently riding a one-fight winning streak, the notoriously hard to put down Boetsch is looking for one more upset here -- will his devil-may-care retard monkey fighting technique be enough to propel him to victory, or will Rockhold’s more cerebral tactics prove triumphant once more?

Almost immediately, Rockhold shoots for a takedown, and holy shit, he's got Boetsch locked in a rarely seen -- but awesome-as-hell looking -- inverted triangle. Boetsch is able to hold on, but he can't do anything while the sub is locked in...and Rockhold definitely isn't going to let him loose. Rockhold with some elbows, and now he's got a KIMURA to complement the triangle! Holy shit, Timmy is effed, and hard. Not surprisingly, "The Barbarian" taps, as Rockhold challenges Vitor "TRT" Belfort and Michael Bisping in the post-fight. Dude's definitely gotta' be considered a top five middleweight after this bout, for sure.

Hey, Chuck Liddell is in the house! Surprisingly, the camera doesn't knock him out as it zooms in on him.

Light Heavyweight Bout
Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson

Oh, boy, where to begin here. Phil Davis, for the most part, is Jon Jones Lite -- a really talented, super athletic wrestler, apt with submissions and, at times, a downright surgical striker. With a sole lose to Rashad Evans, “Mr. Wonderful” has since gone on a three fight tear, last seen besting Lyoto Machida in something of a surprise victory. His opponent tonight is Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, a UFC castoff best known for him incredible inability to make weight -- indeed, such was the very reason he got cut from the promotion last time around. However, after accumulating six consecutive wins on the B-circuit, Dana White decided to bring him back, and a win over Davis tonight would seem to put him in automatic title eliminator contention talk…that is, IF he can make weight for this bout at all, anyway.

For starters, Johnson...who through some Voodoo magic, actually made weight for this bout...looks about twenty five pounds heavier than Davis, and that may in fact be an underestimate. And also, the frat boy in front of us...who, surprisingly, isn't drunk...keeps referring to both fighters as "Obama," because...crypto-racism? Yeah, probably.

Johnson out with some hard rights to begin round one. Davis is looking for a takedown, but he isn't getting any traction. Davis backpedals, and Johnson is bringing the heat. Rumble stuffs a Davis takedown attempt. Davis with another feeble takedown attempt, to which Rumble replies with some low kicks. Davis whiffs on a high kick to end the round.

An exchange of lefts to start round two. Davis with another failed takedown attempt. Johnson with some high kicks and a couple of uppercuts. Davis firing back now, but nothing's connecting. Davis with a head kick, but it does little to Rumble, who then launches an uppercut that briefly staggers "Mr. Wonderful." Another failed takedown attempt by Davis, and we're headed to the third. Surprisingly, it's been ALL Johnson thus far into the bout, and Davis looks plum exhausted at this point.

Johnson with lefts and rights and Davis with, you guessed it, another failed takedown attempt. Johnson with a knee and some close range punches. And ANOTHER fruitless attempt by Davis to wrestle Johnson to the ground. Davis spends the final minute of the bout desperately hoping for a single leg, but to no avail.

30-27, across the board, in a shockingly facile win for the returning Rumble. Johnson looked so good here tonight, that it's probably only a matter of time until he gets fired for a failed urine test.

What's the name of that show on Fox about the middle eastern looking kids who hang out with a supernaturally-borne Michael Jordan bobblehead? Well, whatever it is, it looks kinda's interesting, I guess.

According to the in-house trivia monitor, cashews are close relatives of poison ivy. I suppose that means walnuts are closely related to Mr. Freeze, then.

In case you were wondering: the fried pickles here are actually pretty great, especially with the proprietary southwest ranch sauce...which I am almost certain is what all of that "comeback sauce" hullabaloo on the Pinterest is referencing.

Hard sell for UFC 173, which, yeah, is one hell of a hard sell, to be sure.

And, of course, Ray Lewis is in the house. Like a game of "Clue," there's always at least one murderer among you, I suppose.

Jon Jones (Champion) vs. Glover Teixeira (Challenger)

Since winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship back in 2011, Jon Jones has successfully defended his belt six times. Despite looking nigh-unstoppable in his first five defenses, some apparent chinks in Jones’ armor were exposed in his last bout against towering Swede Alexander Gustafsson, whom was able to successfully takedown the champ and keep him at bay with ranged punches. For defense numero seven, Jones will be taking on ferocious Brazilian striker Glover Teixiera, who is 5-0 in UFC competition. Known for his ungodly knockout power, Glover may very well be the most dangerous striker Jones has ever tussled with, although at this point in the game, the Brazilian’s grappling skills -- and perhaps most notably, the depths of his gas tanks -- are still in question.

History seems to indicate that Jones’ cardio and technical striking will be enough to allow him to coast to victory here, but Glover’s sledgehammer-like blasts prove an intriguing variable. Are we on the verge of witnessing the first gargantuan upset of 2014, folks? There’s only one way to find out, of course…

Tex comes out all smiles, which is something you'd probably expect from the whitest-looking Brazilian dude of all time. Of course, Jon Jones, who comes out to "Hot in Herre" gets a huge pop, not only because he's the champ, but because he does THIS prior to walking out to the cage...

Jones and Tex exchange kicks and strikes, but nothing going early. Jones looking for a takedown. Jones has Tex bullied against the side of the cage, and he's looking for an arm crank. Glover escapes, and shoots for a takedown of his own. Not happening. Jones with some retaliatory kicks, and a time out because Tex got poked in the eye. Glover with some punches, and Jones takes him down. Both men are back up, and Jones connects with a medium power spin kick. Jones with a late axe kick as round uno concludes.

Jones immediately shoots for a takedown, but Tex blocks it. Jones with a ton of low kicks now. Jones looking for a guillotine, and he gets a stern warning from the ref about those dirty-assed eye pokes. Now Glover is rattling off some heavy shots of his own -- the first that have really connected all night. Jones and Tex exchanging lefts now. Tex with another takedown attempt, but es no bueno. Jones with a spin kick and some shoulder charges against the cage. Jones with a target-less spin kick to end the round. So far, it's been fairly competitive, but if I had to, I'd give the first two rounds to Jones.

In between rounds, Glover said he wanted some ice on his shoulder. Foreshadowing, maybe? Jones storming Tex with left, rights and kicks. A spinning elbow, and an uppercut sends Tex's mouthpiece flying out of his mouth. Glover blocks a takedown attempt with some uppercuts. A damn solid striking exchange going on now, with both men throwing punches and knees galore. And Jones connects with one of his deadly elbow strikes to the forehead, and Tex is gushing blood like crazy. Jones getting the better of Tex in the waning minutes of the round. A super exciting round, with the elbow strikes probably enough to give Jones the 30-27 advantage heading into the fourth.

All Jones in the first minute of the round. Tex thinking takedown, but Tex is thinking wrong. Clinch time, and Jones is landing some ghastly elbows and knee. A funny moment ensues when Tex has his mouth piece knocked out again, and after putting the dirty device back in his mouth, he realizes how gross that is and asks his corner man for a new one. Jones is just raining elbows now, with a few knees for variety. And Jones with a takedown as the the round expires. Tex has no choice but to finish Jones in the next five minutes.

And Jones with a nearly instant takedown to begin the final round. He's looking for a guillotine, but abandons it to work on some more elbow strikes instead. An awesome striking exchange, with Jones on the verge of dropping Glover until Tex's mouth guard conveniently goes flying out of his mouth again. Tex looking for that big uppercut, but Jones is just too fast for him. About a minute left. Tex is chasing Jones, but the champ easily keeps the Brazilian at bay with his reach. Tex put on a valiant effort late here, but this one has to be a unanimous victory for Bones.

50-45, across the board, for Jon Jones. He thanks Jesus for the victory, and gets booed, so he name checks Ray Lewis to save face. And that, folks, might just be my favorite sentence I've ever written.

SO, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Obviously, Jones/Gus 2 is the most logical Light Heavyweight Championship follow-up, with the winner of the Daniel Cormier/Dan Henderson bout (spoiler: the one that ain't a chalkie) getting the winner of the aforementioned hypothetical match-up sometime in early 2015. As dominant as Johnson was tonight, though, you could really argue that he's conceivably a top five fighter in the 205 division now; why not set him up against Rashad Evans for a late summer showdown? And, utilizing our time-honored "Super Street Fighter II" loser bracket algorithm, why not stage a Tex vs. Phil Davis bout on the same card? Since Rockhold called out Belfort, I say it's a terrific bout to make for an early fall show, and is there anything in this world more inevitable than a Donald Cerrone/Jim Miller lightweight tussle on the next Fox TV card? 

THE VERDICT: While having to fraternize with people I didn't really want to fraternize with sucked considerably, I really can't complain one iota about UFC 172 as a PPV event. With so many finishes and hilarious ass-beatings, this may very well be the best all around Pay Per View UFC has put on since UFC 146 -- you know, the all-heavyweights hootenanny best remembered for Cain Velasquez turning Bigfoot Silva into a human tampon. With this and UFC 171, Zuffas has put on probably the best back-to-back cards since 2010, although one glance at the next two PPV shows is more than enough to send your optimism into remission, sadly.

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: Shit, every fight on the main card was enjoyable, and there were more than a few doozies on the undercard, too. Maybe the third, and most competitive, round of Jones/Tex, perhaps?

SHOW LOWLIGHT: Honestly, the entire show was pretty good, from start-to-finish. Umm...does having to listen to a bunch of Christian college frat boys ramble on and on about inconsequential things for the last two fights count? 'Cause that's what I'm picking here, regardless. 

ROGAN-ISM OF THE NIGHT: "He had to tap out with his feet!" (stated during the finish of the Benavidez/Elliot pre-lim bout)

  • Guillotines didn't stop being effective during the French Revolution, apparently.
  • A really good strategy to defeat an opponent is to outweigh him by a good 30 pounds. 
  • Eye pokes are legal in the UFC, as long as you maintain a Nike sponsorship.
  • It's normal to switch mouth guards half a dozen times throughout a single round.
  • If mentioning the savior of humanity fails to garner a pop from the crowd, try mentioning a local homicide suspect instead. 

Well, that’s all I have for you this week, folks. Crank up "Waking Up in Vegas" by Katy Perry and "Closer" by Tegan and Sara, and I’ll be seeing you in just a few.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spider-Man: Web of Fire on the Sega 32X!

It’s definitely one of the strangest Spidey video games ever released -- and is it also one of the most underrated?

I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and my hopes for its upcoming sequel aren’t very high, either. Sure, sure, there’s a possibility that a movie about Pig Vomit turning into a Transformer and teaming up with Django -- now a super-dork Blue Man Group castoff with electricity-powers -- to beat up that dude that got screwed out of Facebook royalties might not suck, but odds are? That thing is going to be a monumental cluster fuck of 2007-sized proportions.

Alas, while we can simultaneously fawn and fume over Spider-Man’s shaky record as cinema icon, I think its safe to say that Spidey -- especially compared to most other super hero IPs -- has fared quite well as a video game character. Whereas Batman, the X-Men and especially Superman have starred in their fair share of interactive turds over the years, I have a hard time thinking of an out-and-out awful Spider-Man game -- shit, even that game on the Atari 2600 was fairly above-average, considering its competition at the time. From Peter Parker’s sole foray on the NES to his eighteen bajillion Xbox 360 appearances, Spider-Man video games have been largely enjoyable, and some of them -- like “The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin” on the Genesis and especially its Sega CD upgrade -- are among the best platform titles of their respective eras.

Which brings us to one of Spider-Man’s most unusual video game sojourns ever -- “Web of Fire” on the Sega 32X.

Yes, yes, the 32X -- the cartridge-based peripheral that allowed Genesis owners the ability to play games like “Virtua Racing” and “Virtua Fighter” without their consoles catching on fire (or, in the case of the first mentioned title, spending upwards of $90 bucks because the in-game chips were so damned expensive to manufacture.) While pretty much everybody reflects on the 32X as a major business blunder, the reality is, it wasn’t a bad console (add-on?) at all, with a fairly respectable library that, with just another year or two of support, could’ve given us some TRULY awesome experiences -- I, for one, weep knowing that none of us will ever know what it feels like to commandeer a “Virtua Hamster.”

“Web of Fire,” then, is basically a Sega Genesis game, only with amped up environmental effects and some glossier visuals that kinda’ sorta’ makes the title look like its 2.5D -- i.e, an attempt to “Donkey Kong Country”-fy the experience.

Apparently, all 32 bits went towards maximizing tackiness

From the get-go, there is good reason to get excited about the potentiality of the game, since it was made by Blue Sky -- the same folks that gave us the beyond awesome “Vectorman” games on the Genesis. Indeed, the gameplay structure is very similar in “Web of Fire,” and even the opening title screen -- which allows you to monkey around with a Sega logo -- is directly inspired by the Genesis forerunner.

Plot-wise, the 1996 release has a fairly comic book-y premise: the nefarious neo-Nazi terrorists in HYDRA have entrapped the entire city of New York underneath a gigantic laser web (hence, the name of the game), with the Daily Bugle informing us that all of Manhattan is being held hostage for one billion dollars -- which, to me, sounds like a bit of a discounted rate, considering the actual dollar-to-dollar value of the real estate there, but I digress.

So, the New Enforcers (talk about an obscure super-team there!) have captured Daredevil, and it’s up to Spidey to save the day and rescue a certain blind lawyer who may or may not be Ben Affleck incognito.

The controls are pretty intuitive, the animations are really good and the attacks are quite varied for a mid-90s, cartridge-based release. As old Webhead, you can fire web globs, tie up bad guys with webbing and throw a variety of strikes, including some mean looking uppercuts and a few Jose Aldo-style leg kicks. Keeping with the MMA, theme, you can even tackle enemies and “ground and pound them” Tank Abbot style, which is certainly as cool as it sounds. You can also wall crawl, and of course, the game employs liberal usage of web slinging, although -- as was the case in “The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin” -- you have to constantly refill your web fluid to pull of such feats. Overall, the gameplay here is quite fast, which is one of the things that makes it stand out from other Spider-Man games from the era, most notably the glorified beat ‘em up “Maximum Carnage.”

Stage one takes place amid the New York skyline, with Spidey swinging from rooftop to rooftop fleeing generic thugs, falling debris and killer Roomba vacuum cleaners. After avoiding the DEADLY air conditioner fans, you get to free Daredevil (trapped in a gigantic birdcage, for some reason) and if you go to the select screen and highlight him, he’ll swing across the stage, make everything blink red for a moment, and do considerable damage to your enemies. Of course, you have to pick up special power-ups to use this attack, so unfortunately, you just can’t spam bad guys over and over with it.

Spider-Man, seen here running from a purple exploding person while a dude standing on top of a propane tank curses the sky above.

The stage itself -- cloaked underneath a dark violet sky, with the laser webs ominously hanging overhead -- is actually quite large, and even has a street level floor to explore. In the background, all of the buildings are either on fire or partially destroyed, and satellite dishes are goddamn everywhere -- you know, like NYC was modern day Giza or something. Anyway, after enough dicking around, you come face to face with the game’s first boss battle…against Fantastic Four D-Villain Dragon Man? Ok. Beating him requires the use of a roping strategy -- in essence, you tie him up, sock him a few times, retreat, dodge his attacks, re-rope him, and repeat until the game lets you move forward. After roughly three billion hits, he ultimately explodes…because he’s a robot in this universe, I guess? After you destroy a doomsday device (which is found at the end of every stage), you get a brief “Daily Bugle” message, and then, it’s time for stage 2.

Stage two takes place in a purple-colored power plant (why all of the generators have blue and yellow, Egyptian-looking coils on them, I have no clue) with only slightly modified music from the first stage -- the entire soundtrack, it is perhaps worth noting, consists of very warbled, static-sounding Genesis beats, by the way. Here, you encounter more robots and goons, but now, you can actually punch through certain infrastructure -- these panels, thankfully, are conveniently darker than the surrounding ambiance. Since it’s a power plant, electric hazards are all over the place, and the labyrinthine design of the stage prevents you from web slinging throughout most of it. Eventually, you’ll encounter these cobalt metal dudes that clink when you punch them, which is a nice touch. The end boss is a generic looking blue and purple guy, who is hardly distinguishable from all the other goons in the level. Per the Wikipedia, the adversary is supposed to be The Eel, but he doesn’t do many eel-like things when you fight him -- effectively, you can defeat him using the same strategy you used to best Dragon Man, only this time around, the fight as a whole is WAY easier.

Stage three takes place on the George Washington Bridge. Under heliotrope skies, you hop over abandoned cars while seagulls with metallic-sounding squawks periodically fly by in the background. For the first part of the stage, you’ll be beating up more of the same old robots and thugs, but now you can pummel phone booths, “Streets of Rage”-style, too! Eventually, a new enemy appears -- a laser cannon toting goon -- but since the stage is so linear, you can pretty much swing through all of it without engaging with any opposition. This leads to the second part of the stage, which takes place within a burning oil refinery. With all the orange and flaming drum obstacles, its definitely the most impressive level, visually, in the entire game. And also, be prepared to hear lots of “ooos!” and “awws!” from Spider-Man, as he’s going to be constantly getting hit by fire obstacles.

More thugs, robots and metal blue guys await you as you traverse your way through the maze, which, like in level two, has plenty of breakaway floors. Eventually, you’ll encounter a new kind of Roomba enemy, which looks like a piranha and shoots these really fat laser beams at you. Soon, you’ll start seeing this dude in a business suit (The Vanisher, according to Wikipedia) start appearing atop exploding propane tanks in the background, but as his name implies, he just safely teleports out of harm’s way. Since you never actually face him -- and can’t even be harmed by the explosions -- you really have to wonder why the game designers even bothered including him in the title…boredom, obsessive fandom and/or autism being the only rationales I can think of here.

Needless to say, HYDRA really needs to rethink their interior design blueprints. 

Which brings us to our third boss fight, against a dude named Thermite. Rocking a white and blue track suit -- with what appears to be one exposed bare leg, and a yellow boot -- he might just be the gaudiest looking enemy in the entire game, and trust me, that’s saying a lot. His fireball attacks have really long reach, but he can easily be swarmed with punches in bunches from close-range. Randy Couture him a few times in the grill, and you’re rewarded with a Daily Bugle message letting us know that Spidey saved the city, and that Hydra is hauling ass on a fleet of spaceships.

The fourth and final stage takes place aboard a Hydra airship. Lots of blue and yellow infrastructure here, with ominous grey clouds flying by at 10,000 miles per hour in the background. My favorite touch is all of the hyper-pastel, super antiquated looking technology aboard the craft -- it even looks like they have one of the original “Pong” machines” onboard! Blast through some facile bad guys, and you’ll encounter an enemy rocking a Green Bay Packers uniform, who is joined in battle by one of those blue metal dudes with Mohawks for a mini-boss fight. The Wikipedia informs me that the Green Ranger looking adversary is known as Blitz, but I’m not really seeing the resemblance. Once the blue dude explodes, he’s replaced by a really fast dude who kinda’ resembles Batman. They gang up on you while the air ship plummets into the ocean, but once again, they can easily be dispatched with the punches in bunches technique.

From there, you’ll find yourself in a completely submerged shuttle, complete with sharks and shit swimming by in the background. Here, you’ll have to rely on your wall crawling to literally move on up the vertical stage (an excuse, perhaps, for the designers to show off a really cool “flipping animation” for Spidey, most likely) while avoiding cacti-shaped sentient cannons, mechanical rollers and goons on floating platforms. Yes, it does feel like a mediocre NES platformer, circa 1989, at times.

The third act takes place inside a pastel vomit-colored bomb chamber -- what, with all of that eye-scorching green, red and yellow all over the place and all. You begin the level by battling what appears to be a white and pink clown, whom the Wikipedia calls “Tangle,” which is precursor to a stage rush that forces you to haul ass across the stage while the ceiling collapses above you. After that, you do battle with the game’s final boss, SUPER-ADAPTOID, a generic silver guy who can shape shift into all of the previous bosses. Beating him really isn’t all that difficult at all, since you can just perch yourself in the top right hand corner and punch his head until victorious -- a permutation of the old “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” trick, it seems. Failing that, you can just drop down with more punches in bunches, and if that doesn’t work, you can just rope him up and ball punch him until he’s dead. Once he’s vanquished, you have a minute to escape the soon-to-explode air-ship, “Metroid” style! This is easily the hardest section of the game, since web slinging is complicated by all of the damn robots everywhere. Once you finally do escape, you’re greeted with a final message from the Daily Bugle, and a post-game sequence in which Spider-Man beats up all of the game’s enemies one more time.

That's how I always envision Spider-Man...surrounded by heaps and heaps of dead bodies. 

Obviously, “Web of Fire” has a lot of obvious flaws, beginning with the fact that it’s just so damn short -- it’s just four levels long, and pending you can make it through the last stage, most seasoned gamers could probably triumph over the title in less than an hour. As a solo-player affair with hardly any replay incentives, its hard to see much longevity stemming from this one.

As for the pros, however, there are a few noteworthy ones. The graphics are pretty interesting, and the animations are downright fantastic. Spidey’s moves feel very fluid and fun to control, and the levels -- although frequently annoying -- are generally pretty fun to explore. It’s nowhere near as much fun as the “Vectorman” games, clearly, but for a mid-90s’ comic book game, it’s slightly above average…which, I know, ain’t exactly saying too much.

To me, the thing most people would hate about the game -- the weird-ass villain selection -- is the thing that makes the title so weirdly appealing. Sure, we could’ve done battle with The Green Goblin and Venom for the four millionth time, but when was the last time you’ve ever gone toe-to-toe with The Eel or Super-Adaptoid in a video game? Granted, it may not be as cool as that one Game Boy title that lets you steal Green Goblin’s glider and fight Graviton, but the novelty factor of “Web of Fire” is pretty hard to ignore, regardless.

As a Spider-Man game, it’s probably a mid-tier offering; a bit better than “Spider-Man 3” and “Arcade’s Revenge,” but definitely a step or two below “Enter Electro” and Sega’s 1991 arcade game that nobody ever talks about, for some weird reason. As the last true North American release on the 32X, probably the game’s biggest claim to fame today is its alleged rarity, with copies of the game fetching well above $100 USD on eBay. And to think: I saw it in the bargain bin at one of the fly-by-night video stores in my hometown, circa 1998, for about five bucks.

If you’re a hardcore Spider-Man fan, it’s probably a game worth tracking down on the emulators, although most non-fans would probably (and perhaps rightfully) call it just another mediocre platformer and go on with their daily business. Beyond being so weird, is there much to talk about regarding “Web of Fire?” Well, not really, but as a wacky piece of yesteryear, it’s worthy of at least minor praise, I reckon…

Friday, April 25, 2014

Malcolm X: Hero of American Conservatism?

Forget the works of Richard Weaver or Whittaker Chambers: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” may very well be the touchstone of modern conservative politics in the United States

-- Malcolm X,
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965)
P. 276

For the longest time, I refused to watch “Do the Right Thing,” the critically-revered 1989 film that put Spike Lee on the proverbial Hollywood map. For the most part, I postponed viewing it, because in my mind, I had an idea of what I thought the film would be like -- in essence, just a bunch of whitey-blaming while one-dimensional honky stereotypes do racist things to innocent, 100 percent conscientious black folks for two hours straight.

Eventually, I ended up watching the film, in its entirety, one particularly uninspiring afternoon. And when I finally gave it a shot, it absolutely blow me -- and my preconceived notions -- away. Instead of being a reverse racist film that violently condemned those rascally white devils, the film was a shockingly unbiased glimpse into just how uneasy we still are as a nation about race relations. Perhaps the film’s most iconic scene -- a montage of people, of various ethnic groups, saying various insensitive things about other ethnic groups -- demonstrates this best.

The undeniable beauty of “Do the Right Thing,” to me, was the fact that Spike Lee didn’t even attempt to tell us what the titular “right thing” was supposed to be. The film concludes with an incinerated pizza parlor and young black man choked to death by the police, and the only commentary the film feels necessary to send us home with are two completely contradictory quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. In a world desperate for easy answers, I had to applaud Mr. Lee for having the testicular fortitude to come right out and say that there aren’t any real answers -- it’s that unashamed, and shockingly unemotional, honesty that quickly catapulted “Do the Right Thing” into my pantheon of all-time favorite movies.

I believe it was for those very same reasons listed above that I was so reluctant to pick up “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the 1965 book penned by “Roots” author Alex Haley. For years, I had heard about the book, and although I hadn’t seen the 1992 film adaptation (coincidentally, directed by Spike Lee himself, and perhaps just a bit ironically, spun-off from a screenplay penned by Jewish playwright Arnold Perl), I certainly recall the controversy surrounding the film when it was originally released -- by the way, I was just six-years-old at the time, and proud to say that much of my worldview had been shaped by that great 1990s institution, “In Living Color.”

As an elementary schooler, I remember spending half of February each year listening to my teachers drone on and on about MLK and Rosa Parks -- almost always giving us the sanitized, fit-for-mainstream consumption version of their respective life stories, of course; meanwhile, Malcolm X’s name was mentioned only in passing, if it all. In middle school, “Letters from Birmingham Jail” was required reading, but I’m not even sure my library even had X’s autobiography on the shelves. By the time I was in high school, the narrative passed down to me was that Malcolm X was basically the Magneto to MLK’s Charles Xavier, and the former’s autobiography was nothing more than hate-filled, antagonizing anti-white propaganda for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Even in college, the multicultural, inclusiveness uber alles experience it was, not once did I hear a lecture on Malcolm X, or even faint words of praise for his works, from even my most liberal of professors.

I was oblivious to the fact that so many people didn’t seem to want me to read the damn book (almost always a sign that the contents therein are generally worth reading) until I was almost 30, and when I finally decided to pick up a copy and read it for myself, I had yet another “Do the Right Thing”-like reaction. Not only was the book not what I expected it to be, it was almost the complete night-and-day opposite.

I always wondered why white folks -- in particular, the super-liberal and super-guilty types -- championed Martin Luther King Jr. and always seemed to pretend that Malcolm X never existed. I always kind of assumed it was because of that whole “By Any Means Necessary” stuff, but as it turns out, their peculiar aversion to Malcolm X most likely stems from altogether different political reasons. Simply put, modern liberals don’t shun X because he “encouraged violence,” but simply because he called them out on their bullshit and backed political remedies to urban black plight that sound dangerously close to conservative talking points.

The not-quite-socialistic-but-definitely-not-capitalistic perspective of Martin Luther King, Jr. seems a perfect ideological foil to Malcolm X’s socioeconomic doctrine, which at times, seems to both condemn government entitlements and vaunt private sector wealth generation. Indeed, the entire civil rights discussion seems to ignore the reality that Martin Luther King Jr. was born into an already-wealthy family, an individual who, in every sense of the word, was about 100 times more “privileged” socioeconomically than a majority of white folks in the southeast. While King lived a relatively pampered existence -- hardly fraught with any of the adversities most regional blacks had to face at the time -- Malcolm Little was clearly a man of the soil, a poor kid from Michigan who grew up eating dandelion weeds while King cosplayed as a migrant worker in Connecticut and was told he was too good to marry a white lunch lady. By all traditional liberal measurements, it seems as if the school-of-hard-knocks trained, self-made X would be the progressive poster boy of the Civil Rights era, but wouldn’t you know it, lefties for half a century have instead been championing a man who refused to leave a will to his own family [*].

[*] To be far, neither did Malcolm X, but considering all of the money MLK made/inherited during his lifetime, X’s “oath of poverty” excuse, I surmise, is just a tad more defensible than King’s. 

The story of Malcolm X is really a permutation of two time-tested tales; the ascension of the unlikely and the classical Greek tragedy. The tragedy part is quite evident, even to X himself, who many times throughout his own autobiography, predicts his own imminent, violent early death; that he saw this coming from a mile away only heightens the inherent tragicomedy -- with the ultimate swerve, of course, being that his death came not at the hands of the vile “white devils” he spent literally his entire life railing against, but the very Nation of Islam “brothers” that he once said he would die for himself.

Malcolm Little has inconspicuous roots. He grew up in abject poverty, with a mentally ill mother, whom more than likely, was driven insane by her husband’s grisly murder at the hands of racist whites. From a young age, Little was aware of “white oppression,” but he saw it as something a little more abstract than obvious displays, such as cross burning vigils and lynchings. You see, in Little’s eyes -- and remember, these are the thoughts of a relatively young child -- white oppression wasn’t just a tangible social edict, it was a psychological state. The society itself, he thought, was responsible for fostering in the American Black a sense of inferiority, which the black community itself mindlessly propagated through criminal enterprise shortcuts, drug running, vapid materialism (then it was conks and zoot suits, today its iPhones and hair extensions) and playing the “numbers” game. Whitey had imposed his superiority upon the blacks, and the blacks responded by immersing themselves in a culture that -- inadvertently -- proved the points of racist whites. When confronted with prejudiced allegations of laziness, shiftlessness and moral impieties, Little saw a black society that responded with greater investments in drinking, gambling and other vices; ever the astute youngster, Little also observed how Christianity was being used as a literal deus ex machina for blacks to self pardon themselves for their excesses and general aimlessness.

And so, Malcolm Little lived the life he was expected to live: he became a porter in New York and Boston, spending his weekends at clubs in Harlem and buddying up with numbers runners and cat burglars. Funnily, Little’s escapades in home invasions is manifested in a sardonic safety tip; if you want to keep would-be robbers out of your house, try leaving the bathroom light on all day and night.

And so, Little continues to smoke reefers and drink heavily and run afoul of some particularly nefarious crime folks. All the while, his hatred for the white devil increases, especially after he comes into contact with New York’s underground sex trade; bet you didn’t think diaper fetishism would be a prominent plot point in his autobiography, did you? And then, Little’s luck runs out, and he’s sent to the slammer for about a decade; according to himself, the extra time was tacked on because of his “unofficial” crime of hanging out with white women.

In prison, Malcolm Little makes a statement fairly similar to Mike Tyson in his autobiography, saying that his time in the clink was more or less his equivalent of attending college. After converting to Elijah Muhammad’s super racist version of Islam, Little starts reading like a motherfucker, and begins having scholarly debates with his cellmates. Given time to think, Malcolm Little more or less read his way to intellectual -- and eventually, physical -- freedom.

The communiqué between X and Muhammad reminded me a lot of the camaraderie between Philip Seymour Hoffman and River Phoenix’s brother in “The Master” -- albeit, with Malcolm X serving as a much more lucid and cognizant protégé than Joaquin's character. In hindsight, you kind of have to wonder how X was unable to see just how full of shit Muhammad was, but then again, X’s story is a tragic ascension; he needed Muhammad’s eventual betrayal to goad him into realizing the abject racism -- not to mention the batshit madness -- of the Nation of Islam, and why it wouldn’t be until he rejected the Man-God he formulated for himself that he would be able to truly grasp the “reality” he had sought since elementary school.

Oh, there’s some irony to be found here, of course. For one, Malcolm X himself acknowledges that if it hadn’t been for the white devil produced “The Hate that Hate Produced,” he never would have taken off as a national spokesman. Similarly, it was the financial contribution of the white devils in academia and the press that eventually allowed X to travel to Mecca, and keep him from becoming insolvent after being blacklisted from the Nation. Still, that didn’t prevent X from criticizing MLK for his own collusion with liberal whites, at one point referring to the March on Washington as an orchestration of the white devils themselves. Alas, many today seem to overlook the veracity of X’s “by any means necessary” call-to-arms; while the peaceful demonstration and integration policies praised by King worked, we tend to overlook the fact that those policies worked only because the maestros behind them were a.) wealthy as fuck, and b.) already had backing from the political elites. What X promoted, then, was a policy for the truly downtrodden black American: that, in the absence of socioeconomic political power, the only just response to externalized force until that socioeconomic political power was obtained was to physically defend oneself. In that, X’s highly-criticized “By Any Means” platform was actually a ways to a means, and not the intended destination point at all.

Throughout the book, it’s quite obvious that Malcolm’s disdain of the white man stemmed from perpetual cultural indoctrination. Daddy Little was a faithful adherent of segregationist pioneer Marcus Garvey -- so profound an influence on Malcolm’s upbringing, Garvey’s name is mentioned literally on the first page of his autobiography. That ideology ultimately led to Malcolm developing an intense hatred of all whites, which was effectively sublimated into the unabashedly racist teachings of Elijah Muhammad -- and thus, kick-starting X’s own career as a political firebrand. Of course, Muhammad’s jealousy would lead to X being ousted from his own social movement, and later on, be the catalyst for his own death; peculiarly, it wasn’t until X traveled to Mecca that, like a ton of proverbial bricks, the error of his whitey-hating ways bopped him on the head:

Funny how today, on both sides of the political spectrum, hardly anyone at all has taken X’s advice against blindly following personalities and other social movements to heart, no?

One of the thing that X keys in on in his autobiography, and its something Ossie Davis somewhat rephrases in the paperback’s epilogue, is that the most insidious form of racism imaginable isn’t blatant prejudice, clearly visible in social policies and folkways, but rather, institutionalized paternalism, in which the whites reiterate their “superiority” over the black man by preventing them from becoming self-sufficient. Indeed, X’s own cries for voluntary segregation was less an attempt to escape racial hostilities than it was an attempt to allow the black man to build his own society, create his own industries and businesses to generate his own income, and become a self-made man without the constant oversight of white bureaucrats. Segregation, per X (at one point in time, anyway), was the only viable alternative to permanent dependency upon “the man.” Indeed, X called the efforts of Northern Freedom Riders to “rescue” imperiled blacks in the south a “ridiculous” endeavor:

…their own Northern ghettos, right at home, had enough rats and roaches to kill to keep all of the Freedom Riders busy. I said that ultra-liberal New York had more integration problems than Mississippi. If the Northern Freedom Riders wanted more to do, they could work on the roots of such ghetto evils as the little children out in the streets at midnight, with apartment keys on strings around their necks to let themselves in, and their mothers and fathers drunk, drug addicts, thieves, prostitutes. Or the Northern Freedom Riders could light some fires under Northern city halls, unions  and major industries to give more jobs to Negroes to remove so many of them from the relief and welfare rolls, which created laziness, and which deteriorated the ghettos into steadily worse places for humans to live.” (P. 276)

If all of this sounds eerily similar to the perpetual anti-welfare tirades from the right, it’s because, fundamentally, X is espousing the exact same ideological premise. Indeed, he even touches upon Goldwater-era conservatism as a far superior alternative to LBJ’s sprawling social services reform:

Granted, it’s not exactly great praise heaped upon contemporary conservatives, but just a few sentences later, X drops this little atom bomb on us…

In the eyes of X, even the most brutal forms of southern-conservative racism was less oppressive than the liberal policies imposed upon the black community; indeed, whereas the empty promises and token gestures of northern liberals merely cemented African-Americans into poverty, the unabashedly aggressive policies of the southern conservative forced the black community into taking action and seeking self-sufficiency. At the end of the day, Malcolm X’s big call to political arms within his autobiography is really no different than the central thesis of the work of someone as far right as Charles Murray: it’s not until the black man is economically independent and capable of living his life without the assistance of the government and other paternalistic whites that he can call himself truly free.

Of course, it’s a hard sell to most arguing Malcolm X as a modern conservative pioneer -- especially to Tea Party contemporaries, who would almost certainly blackball him on grounds of being a “moose-limb” alone -- but even then, it seems as if X has more in common with modern neo-cons than today’s leftists. Even as a Muslim, X’s religion mandates a vaunting of asceticism, the traditional family construct and considerably conservative-sounding fiscal principles, which are all near anathema to the Democratic Party’s current platform. And hell, X is a clear cut ally of the NRA if there ever was one, and as an appeal to the conspiratorial libertarian crowd, he also seemed to have a thing against Jews and the Freemasons, too.

While “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” may not exactly be “Atlas Shrugged” or “Road to Serfdom,” there’s no denying the unexpected similarities between X’s sociopolitical values and those of Red State America. Of course, X himself would probably hate the ever-loving shit of today’s hardcore conservatives, but odds are? He would probably hate today’s hardcore liberals even more…which, to some degree, probably explains why his autobiography remains one of the nation’s most celebrated -- yet seemingly unread -- nonfiction works to this very day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An Atheist Review of “God’s Not Dead”

It’s the movie that has churchgoers all across America creaming their proverbial Sunday Best. So, how does the film's finer points fare under an atheistic perspective? 

“This is a cause for celebration,” the stereotypically exuberant African-American missionary proclaims. His accent is so thick and nondescript that, conceivably, he can be from anywhere: Ghana, the Dominican Republic, heck, he could even be a Continental descendant of the Moors, for all we know. His jubilance, however, belies the fact that, just seconds ago, he watched a man literally die before his very eyes. It’s OK, though, because he knows that lost soul punched a last-second ticket to the Pearly Gates, and thanks to the magic of SMS, hundreds of thousands of youngsters will be exposed to the same central message: “God’s Not Dead.”

As soon as I saw the giant cardboard display for the film -- helmed by Christploistation shlockmeister Harold Cronk and featuring Disney Channel castoff Shane Harper -- I just knew I was in store for some Grade A, misguided-as-misguided-can-get religious propaganda. The film itself is basically a feature length adaptation of the old “noble college student versus antagonistic unbeliever professor” chestnut, complete with all of the murky apologetics and “god of the gaps” arguments you’d expect such an undertaking to consist of. It’s more or less a big screen version of the Jack Chick tract “Big Daddy?” -- indeed, some of the film’s debate scenes seem to be direct recreations of that (uncredited) source material.

Of course, “God’s Not Dead” is a polemic film. All of the Christian-conservative organizations (and their alike-minded kin) think it’s terrific, and virtually everybody else in the world -- as apparent by the film’s Metacritic score -- think it’s a cinematic turd de resistance. Before we get too critical about the film’s Christian apologist arguments, I think it’s fair that we first examine the film as a piece of entertainment, and secondly, as a film with a clear-cut political agenda.

As a movie -- and just a movie -- “God’s Not Dead” is pretty boring and uneventful. It’s about this college frosh named Josh Wheaton (boy, I wonder where THAT namesake came from), who, despite being a freshman at the university, has been dating his girlfriend for six years. Ever since his youth group met hers, it’s been true love, we’re told.

So, its registration day on the campus green, and Josh has to sign up for a philosophy course to fulfill his “liberal arts” requirements. Everyone in the movie, it is perhaps worth noting, uses the term “liberal arts” with palpable disdain, as if it’s a waste of time that keeps pre-law students like Josh from finding out algorithms to predict the Stock Market or cure lupus and shit. He’s told that his professor is a hardcore atheist, and advises Josh to drop the course. However, that would mean Josh would have to reschedule his classes, and God forbid he -- gasp -- find another professor, or, you know, just take the class next semester.

The first day of the philosophy class, we’re introduced to Professor Radisson -- played by, of all people, Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo, whom most really owe some wicked back taxes to have signed up for this one. Harkening back to a completely-misconstrued Florida Atlantic incident, Radisson asks his pupils to write down “God is dead” on a piece of paper, so they can skip a few weeks worth of fruitless arguing, but of course, our hero Josh says he ain’t going to do it, and this leads to a challenge between instructor and pupil where the young ‘un has three class periods to “convince” his peers that God exists.

Since that’s not really enough meat for an entire movie, we’ve got a couple of side stories going on to fill up the running time void. There’s this redheaded blogger with a big schnoz who likes to Michael Moore “Duck Dynasty” cast members because her car has animal rights and pro-humanism stickers on it, and she’s dating Dean “Superman” Cain, who is this really unprincipled atheist businessman fellow who breaks up with her because she has cancer (and in an MRI sequence, it's also heavily implied that she has vaginal piercings, too). Dean’s sister is this theist brunette -- whom also happens to be Kevin Sorbo’s love interest -- whose mom has dementia and tells her pastor that her boy-toy gets “verbally abusive” with her just because he offers counterarguments to her Old Testament edicts. There’s also a Chinese student, whose dad is some big shot in Beijing who thinks the government is listening to his phone calls, and a “rebellious” teenager who goes against her Muslim father’s Sharia leanings by downloading MP3s of Billy Graham’s son’s sermons. And EVERYBODY is excited about the Newsboys coming to town, for a concert that in no way, shape or form will ever serve as a pivotal plot device in the film’s finale. Oh, I almost left out Pastor Dave and the aforementioned missionary, whom, for some reason, just can’t get their cars to start so they can go to Disneyworld.

I reckon you can figure out the rest of the movie on your own. Josh’s first counter-lecture -- on why The Big Bang allegedly conforms to the teachings of Genesis -- doesn’t go over too well, and he gets really motivated and starts checking out a ton of library books and his girlfriend breaks up with him. His second lecture is all about why evolution is bullshit and some guy named John Lennox is right, and after that one, Professor Hercules decides to physically confront him in the hallway (not an action that would result in his termination or arrest, of course) to tell him that he’s going to give him what-for next time. Then the professor’s girlfriend breaks up with him, and the not-Muslim girl gets the dog shit beat out of her by her daddy, and on the third and final lecture, Josh “successfully” argues why morality can only come from God himself, how evil can simply be explained by free will alone, and that deep down, all atheists simply reject God because bad stuff happened to them in the past. With the utterance of “how can you hate something that doesn’t exist?”, Josh wins over EVERY last one of his classmates, and the professors runs to his office and reads a letter his dead mama wrote him. Dénouement City, here we come.

So, literally EVERYBODY in the film decides to go to the damn Newsboys concert. The liberal blogger sneaks into the building, and the band prays for her immortal soul, turning her Christian automatically. Meanwhile, Dean Cain is hanging out with his absent-minded mama, who tells him that atheistic success is actually a self-made prison, and when Kevin Sorbo attempts to amble across a walkway, SURPRISE! He gets waylaid by a hit and run driver. Thankfully, Pastor Dave is there -- thanks to his car not starting earlier -- so he can pray for Kev’s soul, turning him Christian right before he dies. It’s all part of God’s grand schema, he tells the dying professor. If God didn’t want him to accept Jesus, he says, why didn’t he die as soon as the car struck him? And with that, the atheist prof finds God, and at the concert, Josh, the not-Muslim girl and the Chinese boy that Josh seemingly has a crush on all groove to some good old-fashioned evangelical rock and roll, with one of the Duck Dynasty people telling the concert-goers -- and the theater patrons themselves -- to literally text everyone they know the message “God’s Not Dead.” A listing of about two dozen or so court cases about colleges infringing upon the rights of Christian students scroll, and this one is over and out.

So, as a film, the movie is, to use a technical term, “a real piece of shit.” As melodramatic and heavy-handed and syrupy as the film itself is,  however, the underlying politics of the flick itself are rather insidious. To begin, atheists in “God’s Not Dead” get representation that’s about as fair as the Jews got in “Triumph of the Will” -- of the three atheistic characters in the film, all three are completely miserable, misanthropic materialists, whom have no real understanding of true human terms like “love” and “integrity.” In “God’s Not Dead,” it’s the atheists that are the ones that are blindly loyal, and one-dimensional, and excessively dogmatic -- the fact that 66 percent of the atheistic characters end up either dead or stuck with a terminal illness, I suppose, should tell you everything you need to know about how the filmmakers view the cultural “other” here.

At the end of the day, “God’s Not Dead” is hardly a spiritual film at all. Indeed, whereas movies like “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” and even something like “The Ninth Configuration” were inherently about man’s faith, this is a film steeped in political hatred, through and through. It’s not the love of the Gospel or Jesus’ teaching about charity and forgiveness that unite the heroes of the film, but rather, their communal disdain of leftist forces. As with countless straight-to-DVR propaganda flicks of the like, this is a film that absolutely revels in the thought of Christian persecution, to the point where you wonder if these people aren’t getting some sort of sadomasochist sexual titillation from their perceived repression. The target audience for this film are the kind of folks that express dire outrage over chain e-mails, oblivious to the full facts of the incidents but so empowered by believing they are being disempowered that things like “reality” no longer seem to matter. In a nation where three-fourths of its inhabitants believe in a higher power, films like “God’s Not Dead” are convinced, convinced I say, that the nation as a whole has some sort of conspiracy going on to silence them; of course, they would never, EVER put the shoe on the other foot and decry private universities that bar homosexuals from teaching, or the countless kids that were tossed out of loving, Christian homes for the sin of being gay, or even dating someone of the “wrong” color or ethnicity, or even the state-funded(!) school boards that seek to bar evolution from being taught, in this, the year two-thousand-and-motherfucking-fourteen. As a whole, the only thing “God is Dead” is 100 percent effective as, I would suppose, is oppression pornography for the Dave Ramsey-listening, WND-reading, Chick-Fil-A eatin’ evangelical set -- chiefly, those who complain about the alleged “War on Christmas” serving as cultural subjugation, while conveniently forgetting about clear-cut examples of actual historical subjugation like The Inquisition and The Crusades.

Perhaps the film could be a little more tolerable had the apologetics been a little more convincing, but alas, such is not the case here. Josh begins his campaign to convert his heathen classmates by stating that the Big Bang is the act of an “uncreated” creator, an example of the faulty “first cause” argument that’s been around since the days of Aristotle. The logic here is never really rebuked: if God can be an uncreated first cause, then why can’t the Big Bang itself be an uncreated first cause?  Even Josh’s attempt to link up the Book of Genesis with the scientific rationale behind the Big Bang is biblically erroneous: per the first two sentences of the bible, the Earth and its waters were already formed before God said “let there be light” -- a fairly massive oversight that, right from the proverbial get-go, makes the Big Bang and the biblical story of creation completely incompatible. A secondary postulate served up by the heroic theist -- that the bible clearly states that the universe is expanding (thus, making it congruent with current cosmological theorizations) while most scientific theorists until the the 20th century got it wrong -- is just a big old steaming pile of horse shit, and then some.

Josh’s second lecture is about as error-ridden as his first. He starts off by saying that Stephen Hawking and his kin are guilty of believing that the universe needed to create itself, and since nothing can arise from that which doesn’t already exist, everything from the atheistic Big Bang framework to Evolution is a bunch of manure. Slighting his professors appeal to authority, Josh cites the fairly obscure preachings of Gavin Jensen (whose degree, it is perhaps worth noting, is in graphic design) as a counter appeal to authority, then makes the asinine claim that since Earth life has gone from prokaryotes to humans in just 3.8 billion years, it’s far too little time for the Darwinian sciences to take effect. After all, Josh, reminds us, wasn’t it Darwin himself who said that “nature doesn’t jump?”

The character’s suspiciously professional looking PowerPoint slides offer virtually no hard evidence to refute the hard sciences that contradict his religious leanings. In fact, pretty much all of Josh’s argumentation is based on hypothetical logical presuppositions, which don’t actually ADDRESS the realities of evolution or cosmological sciences at all. For everything wrong with Josh’s take, here’s a fairly interesting diatribe that covers pretty much all of the scientific and philosophical bases for you.

Which brings us to the third and (diagetically) decisive argument, which is about the nature of evil and free will. Here, Josh does away with science altogether and tells us that since humans have free will, we are allowed to deviate from god’s wishes and embrace sin and all of that other nasty shit. HOWEVER, Josh also says that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and since he controls and dictates every human life by “circumstance,” that means every moment in our life is, essentially, pre-determined. It’s a logical error you could drive a truck through: if an omnipotent being guides us throughout our entire life, how in the blue blazes is it possible for us, as individuals, to have anything that even remotely resembles free will? God, he tells us, is about choice, ultimately, a matter that demands faith (aka, thoughtless allegiance) and not empirical knowledge. And from a logical fallacy to outright insanity, he argues that ONLY morality can come from God and his desires, and if God’s morality didn’t exist, then how come his professor looked down upon cheating? This is quite possibly the most fascistic element of the entire movie, and definitely the most troubling; per the Christian adherents, the only pathway to a noble, charitable, meaningful and altruistic existence is through THEIR specified blueprints -- without God existing, Josh tells us with all the fury of a fiery despot, “everything is permissible,” and as such, life itself has no inherent meaning. The deadening crux of Josh’s argument is so nihilistic, it makes Nietzsche seem like a glib optimist: the ONLY thing that makes life worth living is death, for all of the universe and all of reality is utterly insignificant compared to existence on this plane outside of existence that NO ONE HAS EVER SEEN OR COULD POSSIBLY VERIFY THAT YOU CAN ONLY ACCESS BY BELIEVING EVERYTHING WE TELL YOU TO. If the liberal statists in “God’s Not Dead” are terrifying absolutists and tyrants, then I suppose that makes born again Christians, by virtue of their own philosophies, an ideological force of subjugation on par with 20th century communism's heaviest hitters.

The ending of the film is vague, yet ominous -- the wooed Christian youth celebrate their (canonically, unacknowledged) triumph over atheistic oppression at the concert, which is symbolized by the very real death of their professor. Of course, this means everybody fails the class by default, but who cares! Our opposition was removed, by the greatest and most humanistic force we have -- the death of those fostering ideological differences, with the auger of divine wrath exonerating us from feeling guilty about their own expiries. The frenzied youth all gleefully march towards the reward of death, their only real reason to be in this form of existence being to forcibly make everybody around them believe in the same post-death reward/punishment they do. If divinely-endorsed free will does exist, then it’s the Christian themselves that seem most hell-bent on taking it way from everybody else.

Of course, it’s a little silly to go off on such a long-winded rant against something like “God’s Not Dead,” which is clearly preaching to the choir with no aspirations of winning over the opposition with things like “fact” and “reason.” Ultimately, it’s just another propaganda movie, a stupid little flick for neo-cons to mentally masturbate to and give smug, well-represented church people yet another excuse to run around claiming victimization.

It’s not a good movie. As propaganda, it’s even worse. But as a commentary on the mindset of today’s evangelicals? Folks, this might just be the most terrifying movie of the year; films about real-life zombies, after all, are always more horrific than films about the fictitious brain-dead.

Monday, April 21, 2014

100 Potential Names for Atlanta's New MLS Team

Atlanta was recently awarded an expansion franchise by Major League Soccer. Here's one hundred potential nicknames for the ATL's latest pro sports team...

Soccer is a sport with huge appeal to Atlanta's growing Hispanic population, which is something that is looked upon favorably by all of metro-Atlanta's residents. 

  • The Atlanta Sex Traffickers --  quaint local behaviors have always been a staple of sports nicknaming: Brooklyn had its trolley Dodgers, Nebraska had its Cornhuskers and Atlanta has its shadowy human cargo economy.
  • Do Black People Really Care About Soccer FC -- the million dollar question nobody in Atlanta has the balls to ask, even if you gave the question asker one million dollars.
  • The Atlanta White People Pretending to Care in Order to Appear Cultured -- an expected 75 percent of season ticket holders will consist of said demographic.
  • The Dribbling Dead -- because there's some kind of zombie show filmed in Atlanta or something. 
  • The Atlanta ATL -- because calling any other city's team the "ATL" just wouldn't make any sense. 
  • The Atlanta Hackneyed Outkast References -- which is what most suggestions for the team nickname have consisted of up to this point
  • An Excuse to Tax Hotels FC -- because honesty is always the best policy.
  • The Atlanta Publicly Financed -- when Arthur Blank said the team will be "owned" by the fans, I think he really meant to say "paid for."
  • The Atlanta Delayed Flights -- especially if there's more than an inch of snow on the ground.
  • At Least We Have a Decent Airport FC -- pretty much the standard Atlanta apologetic retort.  
  • The Atlanta Georgians -- is it really any worse than calling a team the Houston Texans?
  • The Atlanta Hashtags -- the sound of people clicking their cellphones to tweet their friends could become the team's Tomahawk Chop equivalent. 
  • Oxycontin FC -- drive twenty miles outside of Atlanta in any direction, and you'll figure out why this namesake is fitting.
  • The Atlanta 2 AM Waffle House Patrons -- Pittsburgh has its steelers, and Atlanta has its creepy-ass, almost assuredly intoxicated early morning hash brown munchers.
  • Kroger FC -- because Kroger plays such a valuable part in modern Atlanta lore
  • The Atlanta Downtown Connectors -- named after the worst thing that's happened to Atlanta since Sherman's march.
  • The Atlanta Madeas -- named after Atlanta's most important pop cultural contribution, of course.
  • The Atlanta Still Palpable Augers of Slavery -- plantations in the east, crumbling ghettos in the west, really nervous white people in the north and really bitter and dejected black folks in the south. Culturally, this may hark back to something, although I really can't put my finger on it...
  • Way More Gay People Here Then You’d Think FC -- because when it rains in Atlanta, it's always a rainin' men
  • T.I. FC -- because this new MLS team will give you, ahem, "whatever you like." (It's funny because that's the name of a T.I. song.)
  • Dem MLS Franchise Boyz -- but will league officials let them play while wearing platinum chains?
  • The Atlanta Whoomp -- an homage to local rap duo Tag Team, who in 1994, gave us the anthem of an entire generation.
  • Fuck the Georgia Dome FC -- allegedly, a bumper sticker spotted on Arthur Blank's Rolls Royce.
  • The Atlanta Vegan Girlfriends -- named after Little Five Points' most valuable societal contribution. 
  • The Atlanta Scared Old White People -- the players can wear their shorts all the way up to their belly buttons and constantly complain about an impending "race riot" instead of actually playing soccer.
  • The Atlanta Dragon*Cons -- arguably Atlanta's most popular attraction to the 18-34 demographic (and also, child predators.)
With so many themed restaurants in the area, families of all shapes and sizes should have no problem locating a fine, after-game dinner. 

  • The Atlanta Day Traders -- probably the most dangerous wildlife in the entire city.
  • The Atlanta Orange Drinkers -- goes great with a bag of rags and a bloody steak.
  • The Atlanta Wait A Minute, Don’t We Still Have the Silverbacks? -- because it's true.
  • The Atlanta Beat with Penises -- since the Beat is the name of Atlanta's all-female soccer team, this one makes more than enough sense, no?
  • The Atlanta REALLY Hoping to Capitalize on the Hispanic Market -- si se puede...profiteer!
  • The Atlanta This Sounds Really, Really Familiar For Some Reason -- and it should. For good reason.
  • Freaknik FC -- if they ever win a league championship, we have no choice but to party like it's 1995.
  • The Atlanta High Functioners -- if you've ever watched Cartoon Network programming, you'd probably agree with me. 
  • The Atlanta We Used to Have Two Hockey Teams -- two of them! Here's hoping Moose Jaw or Medicine Hat enjoys the team we send up in 2027.
  • The Atlanta Vampire Diarists -- how its any worse than calling a team "The Mighty Ducks," I'm not really sure. 
  • Deportiva Adult Swim -- because Atlanta is the world leader in hipster-manufactured bullshit, after all. 
  • The Atlanta Flaming Thrashers -- the second most homoerotic nickname imaginable...
  • The Atlanta Thrashing Flamers -- ...and the first.
  • House of Payne FC -- if we had a team in the 1980s, it probably would've been called Matlock FC.
  • The Atlanta Superfluous -- and since the CDC is headquartered in Atlanta, having a team with the words "super flu" in their nickname is all kinds of awesome.
  • The Atlanta Expansion -- because meta is the "in" thing at the moment.
  • Chicken and Grits FC -- alongside overpriced indie beer, components of most Atlantans' breakfasts.
  • The Atlanta Bobby Browns -- fans can threaten to beat the opposing team "like Whitney" as part of a cheerful, family-friendly pre-game ritual. 
  • The Atlanta Successful Black Females -- instead of playing, the team can just watch Bravo with their girlfriends and complain about not being able to land a husband. 
  • Fulton County Jail FC -- it's where half of Atlanta's pro sports stars wind up, anyway.
  • The Atlanta Kooky, Presumably Homeless Street Performers -- travel to Ponce de Leon Ave., and you'll figure out why this one gets an official nod.
  • The Atlanta Unhealthy Eaters -- because if you live in the ATL, you don't really have any other choice.
  • The Georgia Forced -- a great pun, especially if you're one of those Tea Party types that don't won't your tax monies going to finance a new Dome.

Contrary to popular misconception, relics of antiquated racial prejudices have all but disappeared from the metro-Atlanta area. 

  • Trying to Downplay Local Confederate History FC -- just pray that ticket buyers don't decide to travel north up I-75 to Kennesaw after the game. 
  • Failed Public School System FC -- because it's far and away the most terrifying thing about the city
  • The Atlanta Violent Criminals -- if nothing else, it's a statistically appropriate nickname.
  • The Atlanta Child Murderers -- it's certainly more historically fitting than the Hawks, at least. 
  • The Atlanta Abortion Clinic Bombers -- see above
  • Clermont Lounge FC -- a loving ode to Atlanta's most famous building
  • The Atlanta Wolfmen -- encouraging fans to "ask for Donna" would be a real hoot and a half. 
  • TitleMax FC -- it's not really the holiday season in Atlanta until you start seeing this commercial playing every five minutes on Peachtree TV. As far as Atlanta iconography goes, its hard to beat the images contained therein.
  • Bad Street Atlanta, FC -- the meanest damn street, in the whole U.S. of A, is worth naming a pro sports team after.
  • The Atlanta Foxworthies -- because he's still, somehow, our cultural ambassador to the world at large
  • Why Are There So Many Assholes on Bicycles FC -- because if there's one thing Atlanta needs, its a reason for traffic to be even slower. A fitting, albeit frustrating, symbol of the city itself.
  • The Atlanta Underemployed Grad Students -- it would make for a hell of a logo, at least.
  • The Atlanta 2,5,6 and 11 -- only REAL Atlantans should be able to get this one.
  • The Atlanta Black Crackers (of Soccer) -- because those who forget history are destined to exploit it for future profits
  • The Atlanta Humidity -- the arch foe of many a towering hairdo in the Dogwood City. At any given moment, the thing responsible for at least 80 percent of the city's concomitant woes. 
  • Designing Women FC -- because ain't nobody going to fuck with the Sugarbakers, that's why.
  • The Atlanta Groupons -- since most Atlanta residents wouldn't go to a soccer game without an online discount. 
  • MARTA FC -- to commemorate a quarter century of the city providing urbanites with the finest public transportation system in the nation.
  • The Atlanta Rolled Up Windows -- named after the instinctual first move of anyone traveling down Moreland Ave. 
  • The Atlanta Paternalistic Whites -- because nothing says Atlanta quite like well to do white people, who are more concerned about the plight of poor black people than poor black people themselves. 
  • Surrounded by Dope Fiends FC -- Cherokee, Bartow, half an hour in any direction, and you'll be sure to encounter some colorful exurban residents. 
  • The Atlanta Vacant Shopping Centers -- because in Atlanta, there's more empty commercial space than there is greenery. 
  • The Atlanta Chipotles -- since overpriced burrito bowls are the proverbial lifesblood of the city.
  • The Spirit of ‘96 -- an ode to simpler days, when Coca-Cola could buy an international competition and guys that really, really hate gays could blow stuff up, all indiscriminately and what-not. 
  • The Atlanta Crank Addicts -- it makes sense as an official nickname. I mean, you're not supposed to slow down in soccer, right?
  • The Atlanta Bad Ideas -- because sometimes, the obvious is so obvious you don't even need hindsight