The “Let’s Get Sober” Podcast: What Could Have Been, What Should Have Been

Copy of LET's GeT Sober (4)

Like pimping, podcasting ain’t easy.

The My Life With Kant podcast took everything out of me. I once said that it was like a part-time job. But I was being modest. It was my actual job because I was working on it on the clock during my full-time job.

Yet I wish to make a return.

Not by rebooting My Life With Kant. Fuck that. But by turning THIS thing, whatever the hell it is, into a podcast. I’ve been kicking the idea around for awhile.

But like I said, I’m lazy. It takes us an EXTRAORDINARY amount of time. And I want to do it right.

“You can’t even get your blog to look right! What makes you think that you can do a podcast?” You’re probably asking.

First off, I like the bare-bones look. Secondly, If you don’t like it, feel free to fix it yourself. Thirdly, fuck off.

But really, a podcast is in the development stage. Don’t expect one anytime soon (not that you are) as I need to get my schedule squared away. Perhaps once when another side project is completed (which I’ll discuss sometime in the near future), then I’ll be able to dedicate myself full-time to the Philosophy Redux podcast.

But earlier this year, I did make an attempt at re-launching another podcast. It was called Let’s Get Sober. Look, I’m not good at naming things, alright? It didn’t last long, as I wasn’t very good at staying sober.

Yet I recently got a chance to listen to one of the episodes. I was quite surprised. Frankly, I thought it was going to be a piece of shit, yet I found myself thinking “Yeah, I make a good point!”.

Had I been able to stay sober, it might’ve taken off. Rehab.com asked me to mention them. For free of course. I know that doesn’t sound all that impressive, but when they approached me, I thought I was the shiz. It showed a lot of promise, but in the end, it wasn’t to be.

But maybe it can serve as a template for what’s to come. I like to think of it as the Phase II to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And I know that that analogy sucks. But it’ll provide you with a peek behind the curtain of what will likely be the Philosophy Redux podcast.

Now the episode I’m presenting mentions this “9am God”. And boy, I forgot how much hangovers suck. Up until recently, I forgot that I even mentioned such a thing. But every alcoholic and addict finds themselves praying to that “morning God” that will forgive them of the sins committed the night before.

For some reason, we forget about those prayers. Perhaps we think that we can avoid such regrets.

I’m glad that I discovered this episode when I did. Being nearly two months sober, it’s easy to forget what the mornings after feel like. I needed the reminder.

So I hope you enjoy this sample of Let’s Get Sober.

And for good measure, here’s another one:

Thought of the Day: From Hyde to Jekyll

Certain sensual  triggers can take you back. For me, there’s smells that bring me back to the bar. They aren’t pleasant, nevertheless they were scents that I’d smell while drunk.

If you’ve logged hundreds of hours in bars like I have, you know what those scents are.

I’ve been away from the scene long enough, yet recently I caught a whiff that stench. Normally, this would prompt me to long for a cold beer, jello shots, or some strange mixture on the happy hour menu.

Not this time.

When I thought back on the actions of bar-hopping Wes, I hated that guy. I took my last drink a month and a half ago, yet it feels like it’s been an era. I don’t recognize that man. It feels as though those memories aren’t even a part of me, like they’re some alien implant. But they are me.

The common (and idiotic) saying is “a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.” And it’s not true. I say shit when I’m sober that I don’t mean. BUT, those drunken words do emanate from somewhere.

Since I’ve been sober, I keep hearing this saying: “I have to remember where I came from, so that I know where I’m going.” Or something like that. And when I hear those words, they never quite sit right with me.

I get it. But I don’t want to remember “who I was”. Do I need to? I don’t even recognize who that person was!

When I was in rehab, I was placed on a medication. No shock there. But I began experiencing what I thought were side effects. I was feeling exceptionally joyous in the afternoons. Thinking that it was something that needed to be reported to the psychologist, she simply said “perhaps that’s just you being you and you haven’t felt that way in a long time.”

Weird, I know.

But could it be true? That it’s been so long since I’ve felt happy that I thought it was strange when I started feeling HAPPY? Where has that Wes been for so long? Well, obviously drinking, but….I completely forgot what it was like to be me.

That side of me has been buried for eight years. For eight long years, I was buried in self-pity, paranoia, and general discontent…brought about largely due to alcoholism.

(Mind you, I was drinking before then. But it was 2009 where I’d say it exploded into full-blown alcoholism)

Now that I’m on the path to where I’m somewhat regaining this “pre-alcoholic” Wes, I’m coming to hate “alcoholic Wes”. That guy was an obnoxious asshole while drunk, and just plain an asshole while sober, while on the inside he was fretting over problems that he made in his head. I hate that guy.

I hate his ideas.

I hate his cynicism.

I hate his humor.

I hate his drunken hobbies.

Yet I am him.

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde analogy gets thrown around a lot with alcoholics and addicts. It certainly feels apt in my case. Yet even during my sober hours, I was still that dickhead drunk. For me, Mr. Hyde overpowered Dr. Jekyll and stayed that way for years.

Only now the genuine self, I believe, is emerging. And it’s difficult to recognize him. I’m slowly growing to the point that I don’t hate everyone I meet. I’m far more present in the now, I feel, than I’ve ever been. I don’t feel that piece of shit that I was for so long.

And it’s strangely alarming to think that that was who I was. Perhaps he’s still lurking somewhere in the dark corners of my mind, waiting for his chance to rise once again. I know I haven’t fully overcome that. And maybe that’s why it’s important to remember who I was.

That bastard’s waiting. Waiting for a slip up. I can’t forget for one second that he’s there.

But in the meantime, this so-called “real me” is prevailing. Joyous occasions aren’t some abnormal experience, that’s who I’ve been the whole time.

 

The State of Perpetual Revolution

I’m cranky most of the time.

In spirit, I’m an 80 year old man stuck in a millennial’s body. So I don’t really have time in my life to pay attention to Demi Lovato. I’d rather gripe about grandkids and drive around with my turn signal on.

That being said, Lovato made it into the news recently for something that isn’t really newsworthy. She declined to talk about a specific area of her personal life…her sexuality. This prompted several articles like this to be written.

Now I’m a straight white male, I have a relatively easy time in America. I’ll admit. So the gentleman that wrote the article previously mentioned is calling out Lovato for her reluctance to declare her sexuality because, to him, it shows that she might be embarrassed in an era when the LGBT community needs to be loud and proud.

Makes sense.

The average white American male might read that article and think: “who cares?” or “that’s none of our business.” or “people’s sexual lives need to be kept quiet”…and so on. This view, of course, allows the heterosexual to take their sexuality for granted because they are never judged for such behavior. You see where this is going. BUT amongst the liberal heteros that might get peeved at such an article, by believing that Lovato’s personal life doesn’t belong to us, there’s still a wanting to make non-heterosexuality a normal occurrence in everyday life….thus taking away the necessity for such cheap articles.

Am I making sense?

Basically, I think that the author of the article (and his supporters) and those that might despise the article are arguing the same point from different angles. Both sides wish to normalize LGBT lifestyles to the point where it isn’t debated like heterosexuality….it’s simply a normal function of society.

Now I gave Star Trek a lot of shit in the last post. But one thing it did well was SHOW how the various HUMAN cultures interacted without controversy. In the 60s, there was a Russian navigating the ship, a Japanese guy piloting it, an African-American woman handling communications, a drunken Scottish guy running engineering….and no one batted an eye. It wasn’t even talked about. It was simply a part of everyday life. In fact, I don’t believe that the show ever addressed (or went in-depth) the prejudices that were going on while the show was airing. Within that universe, humans evolved passed the point where those things ever became an issue.

The universe of Star Trek was (is) what I like to call a “post-revolutionary” society, at least as far as Earth was concerned.

I believe that it was Slavoj Zizek that said (paraphrasing), “it’s not the revolution that’s the problem, it’s what happens after the revolution.” Honestly, I don’t know if he said that, and if he didn’t….then I just did.

But what that means is, supposing some “radical” political force achieves its objectives, it must quickly establish a degree of normalcy within its society. It can’t continue on in a state of perpetual revolution. Else it exposes itself to a series of “counter-revolutions” that might jeopardize its achievements.

Every political movement must concern itself with its “post-revolution”. By remaining in a state of violent upheaval, either through ACTUAL violence or radical expression, only begets similar reactions against the movement.  (Of course, what makes a movement “revolutionary” or “counter-revolutionary” is based upon the perspectives of the respective movement) How this is achieved is open to debate, but it’s assumed that it might require being gracious in victory RATHER than enacting vengeance against former enemies.

These so-called “revolutions” don’t necessarily mean “physical violence to overthrow the state”. They can be simple cultural revolutions. The information age opened up a wave of change across the globe. Suddenly, the internet was opening windows to perspectives that were previously living on the fringe. I don’t imagine that same-sex marriage was too popular in Ronald Reagan’s America. In fact, in 2004, I recall that several states voted to ban it altogether. Yet a decade later, it was legal across the nation. This can be an example of a “cultural revolution”.

Barack Obama seemed to have captured the zeitgeist of this particular revolution. And like all good revolutions, a counter one was soon to follow. This one was spearheaded by Donald Trump and the alt-right. (Although these two sides might argue which one is the “revolution” and “counter-revolution”)

Movements and revolutions are products of their age. Usually their successes come at such at rate, that it’s difficult or outright impossible for a generation to fully grasp their effects. Again, the information age, the age of the internet….science fiction from only a few decades earlier failed to predict its rising. No one saw it coming. But it changed everyday lives and American culture.

That was why Barack Obama came seemingly out of nowhere. The openness provided by the internet brought forth a new age of left-wing politics. Reagan-esque conservativism went out of style. It’s no wonder that Donald Trump came in the wake of its destruction. After the successes of Obama, both culturally and politically, many people were left wondering “what the fuck just happened?”. And then the Alt-Right became the digital-age’s counter revolution to Obama’s liberal popularity.

And on and on, this mad cycle goes.

This thing happened so quickly, that this generation didn’t have time to consider a “post-revolutionary” phase. We’re still caught up in the revolution ITSELF! And in the heat of the struggle, everything becomes about winning and vanquishing your enemies. This is why there’s no middle ground in the fight between the Obama Coalition and the Alt-Right. And because of this lack of middle ground, the revolution is allowed to continue, therefore permitting a perpetual cycle of movement/counter-movement. The clashing of these revolutionaries MIGHT endanger the very ideals that the two sides promote. And being birthed in the Information Age, these two sides MIGHT have more in common than what they realize.

Their ideals might be manifesting themselves in different ways…which is why it’s IMPORTANT to find middle ground, because failing to do so would endanger those ideals. But thinking about how a “post-revolutionary” world might look, is a step towards de-escalating tensions and ENACTING the principles that are behind the revolution itself.

And I already forgot how Demi Lovato fits into all of this.

I should mention that, being on the side of this so-called “Obama Coalition”, I am not saying CONCEDE to alt-right talking points. But on a larger note, it’s important to not fall into the idea of imperviousness to being wrong. When that happens, you’re already wrong. So avoid that.

That’s all I got.

Thought of the Day: “Star Trek” in the 70s

Star Trek is returning to TV. And I don’t care.

Mind you, I’m a sucker. So I’ll definitely end up watching it. But Star Trek has sort of well…sucked as of recent.

Yesterday’s post has caused me to become paranoid about sounding “entitled”. But I’m not angry that Star Trek has been terrible since the 2000s….unlike most fans. I just feel that Star Trek and I have been drifting apart. It has nothing to do with the quality of the product, it’s just philosophically speaking….the show just doesn’t speak to me anymore. The relationship has just been compounded by the fact Star Trek just isn’t Star Trek anymore.

What do I mean by “philosophically speaking”?

Well, frankly, I wrote a couple of minor posts last year that attacked our common notions of artificial intelligence and intelligent life…which are both things Star Trek explores. Those ideas were a long time coming, and even if my arguments didn’t convince anyone else…they certainly convinced me. So now it’s just difficult for me to watch the franchise without thinking “this is total fucking bullshit”.

Plus, the older I get, the more cynical I become. And Star Trek is positive. It promotes a brighter future. That’s what it was meant to be. Anybody that tries to make it something else (JJ Abrams) should go fuck up some other franchise. But optimism, for the most part, just makes shitty storytelling.

But I get where Gene Roddenberry was coming from. If we want to create a better future, we must SHOW IT. Hence we get Star Trek, a franchise that promotes these so-called ‘ideals’.

The Original Series might not have been perfect at this promotion, but it still showed a future where all of humanity is equal and strives to get better. Or at least it tried to. Remember, this was the 60s….you know, Mad Men and all that shit….so it was very much a product of its time.

When the series was prematurely cancelled, its fans stuck around. And we all know how that story goes.

When the 1970’s rolled around, the Animated Series was produced. After the popularity of Star WarsStar Trek was resurrected and another series was ordered. This series was infamously titled Phase II, but when that project fell through, it was later turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, directed by Robert Wise.

Now the Motion Picture is not a perfect film. No one claims that it is. It’s not even a good Star Trek movie. But it is a decent science fiction film. It’s like watching a big-budget, 1970’s sci-fi book cover. And that alone has its charms.

Unfortunately, The Motion Picture might have set a bad template for future Star Trek. It was sterile. It wasn’t funny. It was slow. It was just…too…damn…boring. It might have been the vision Roddenberry had, but neither the audience nor the studio were pleased with the final product despite its box office success.

This explains the violent tonal shift with its sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Even though Star Trek II was a brutal change that proved popular with the audience (and might have single-handedly ensured Star Trek’s continuation), it still maintained a sense of Roddenberry’s touch…even though director Nicholas Meyer clearly favored a much more violent and cynical approach to Star Trek.

It’s worth mentioning that Meyer is the closest thing to an auteur that Star Trek has ever had. If, in some alternate reality, had he of been more involved with Star Trek after  1982 (by accepting to direct Star Trek III), there’s no telling how the franchise might’ve progressed. In my view, Meyer was far more suited to handle Star Trek in the 1980s than anyone. (That being said, he would go on to direct Star Trek VI)

I like to think that the Motion Picture and the first season of The Next Generation were the closest representations of Roddenberry’s true vision for Star Trek (boring, sterile, not fun, etc). Or so he would have liked you to believe. While I don’t doubt that he believed in those ideals, I imagine his vision for Star Trek was probably far more malleable early on. Particularly in the 1970s, when auteurs ruled Hollywood.

While we think of Star Trek as being this family-friendly space adventure today, things could have been quite different.

Prior to the planning of Phase II, another project was developed. It wasn’t a television series, but a film. Infamous auteur Philip Kauffman was tasked to direct, with James Bond’s Ken Adams to design production. Naturally this project fell through, which lead to Phase II (which lead to the Motion Picture).

It was to be titled Star Trek: Planet of the Titans.

The plot of this proposed film was standard Star Trek fare (and much of it was later used in the Motion Picture). After its original writers left, Kauffman offered his own story…which was to be more “adult” oriented by partially exploring sexuality. This too was to be rejected. Even had the original story been green-lit, it was clear that Kauffman’s vision for Star Trek was to be far more adult-friendly. And being the 70s, it’s not hard to imagine that chances would have been taken. Indeed, had Kauffman’s movie been produced, we probably wouldn’t think of Star Trek being this largely sex-adverse, sterile, family-friend adventure it is today.

Kauffman would later drop out and was replaced by the studio-friendly (yet legendary) Robert Wise.

Yet even the Motion Picture had a chance to be SOMEWHAT daring. At one point in the script, the character played by Persis Khambatta was supposed to appear nude. Due to her objections, the scene was filmed nudity-free. This might not sound like a big deal, but this being the first filmed production of Star Trek post 1960s (when censorship was greatly loosened about a show that went knee-deep in its exploration of sex, but clearly wanted to go deeper), Khambatta’s seemingly innocent decision turned The Motion Picture into a standard G-rated affair and halted any “full-frontal” exploration of sex that the Original Series was inching towards.

Thereafter, Star Trek became a brand for the family.

By the way, I don’t want anybody to misread me here. I’m not bitching about Khambatta’s decision, I understand where she was coming from. So I’m not DISAPPOINTED that she didn’t appear nude (even though she was hot), I’m just stating my interpretation of history (or of history not realized). Introducing such adult content early on to Star Trek would have opened it to doors that we would find unimaginable today.

In fact, I’d argue that because Star Trek didn’t realize its full potential in the 1970s, it is a lesser franchise today. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. BUT, had Star Trek been subjected to the auteurs that were so prevalent in the 70s, it likely wouldn’t be limited by its own lukewarm capabilities.

 

You Don’t Matter…You’re Welcome

(FYI, I didn’t really want to post the video above. I really wanted to post this YouTube video here. But CBS News won’t let you. I guess that’s understandable.)

If there’s one thing that I hate, it’s gripe posts.

Unfortunately, I write what I want to read. And I’m pissed off for no good reason at all. So I’m gonna have to break one of my own rules (not that I really had any to begin with).

What set me off was reading a post from Slate that addressed those that get pissy about cashiers saying “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome”. Unfortunately I only read the title because I was too lazy. So, like an idiot, I read the comments first where there were some heated opinions.

(Come to find out, the article is pretty much arguing my point. Which you can read here.)

A few thoughts…

First off 1.) Fuck you if you get pissed off when an underpaid cashier tells you “no problem”. 2.) “No problem” means the EXACT same thing as “you’re welcome”. 3.) “Thank you”, “No Problem”, and “You’re Welcome” are all empty words that we say to one another because of social conditioning, so you’re reading WAY too much into the words. 4.) You’re a piece of shit.

Look, I love to write. But words don’t mean shit.

I hate the English language. Unfortunately it’s the only one I speak, so I don’t know if other languages work the same way. But no one owns the English language. Not even the dickheads who write the dictionary. Only arbitrary rules hold it together and they change all the time.

Do you hate slang? Well guess what….that’s what the official English language will sound like in the future.

Words don’t matter. I don’t give a fuck what George Carlin said. It’s the intention of the words that matter. If a friend tells you to “suck my dick”, that intention can sometimes mean “I am fond of you, but you can kindly go to hell”. Everyday interaction doesn’t involve the LITERAL interpretation of words. There are many other factors that are involved.

Mind you, if a stranger ran up to you and said “your hair makes you look like a fucking idiot”, when he REALLY meant “hey, wanna fuck?!”, you would rightfully be able to claim offense. BUT, if we only listened to his words, we would be completely missing the fact that he’s a weirdo. THAT’S the point we should be taking from that interaction.

“Why are you hating on words and language, Wes?” you’re asking me.

I don’t have to give a fucking reason!

I once had a girlfriend that couldn’t eat bratwursts because it had the sound “worst” in the name. She also thought ‘Punjab’ was a dumb name, even though it’s derived from a different language than English so it doesn’t conjure up the same images in the brain as say, oh, someone living in PUNJAB.

But that’s the kind of hole that you dig yourself into when too much value is placed on language.

Yet I guess what REALLY set me off in the Slate article is the demand placed on low-wage workers. I’ve mentioned before that this doesn’t make sense.

Plus, who gives a shit?

When I walk into a store, my first instinct is to find the product that I want to purchase. In fact, that’s my ONLY instinct. I don’t want anybody to talk to me. If I have to talk to an employee, all I want is a YES or NO. Getting angry about either answer is futile because, in all likelihood, the employee I’m speaking to can literally do nothing about it. All I want to do is hand them my money and be on my way.

I only need a neutral experience. If they do something to intentionally piss me off, then clearly that would make it an uncalled for negative experience. If they’re really nice, then I’ll leave with a positive experience. But either way, I only go in with the expectation of buying a product.

Saying something like “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome” can, in no way, cause me to have a negative experience. Before today, I have never thought about this stupid problem. If it causes YOU to have a negative experience, then YOU are the problem.

Asshole.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting problem that the first-world has. It’s the problem of customer experience. It’s the problem of…..entitlement?

It’s the problem of “No Problem”. (Don’t laugh, it’s not funny)

Even the most liberal-minded among us still walk into a places of business, knowing full well what it’s like to work for these places, expecting to get a handjob for just spending $5.99 at their establishment. Anything less would qualify as a negative experience.

I’m not saying that employees of these establishments necessarily have “hard work” or are underappreciated by their management. I’ve worked plenty of these jobs and largely enjoyed my experiences. HOWEVER, (and I’m speaking purely from experience), it’s highly unlikely that it’s that employee’s only occupation. And if it were, it’s even more unlikely that they were living quality lives. They’re probably a student or work another full-time or part-time job. And they aren’t getting paid SHIT.

They’re primarily concerned with keeping up their grades for their expensive education, feeding their kid, and keeping roofs over their heads. And here YOU come along, bitching about the s’mores Pop-Tarts being out of stock….

….Or not saying “you’re welcome”!

America doesn’t appreciate these jobs anyway, why should we expect “superior service” from them?

This entitlement isn’t about the decline of western civilization. Western civilization has been in decline since there’s been a western civilization. This is about thinking that WE matter.

The harsh reality is that no one matters. If you or me were never born, reality would continue on without you. It didn’t need you to exist at all.

Now this runs contrary to the feel-good liberalism that lefties like me eat up. We believe in telling children that they will someday change the world. Yet we all know deep within our hearts that it’s bullshit. But shedding this notion of “mattering” is also relieving.

Besides, why would you set that kind of expectation on a child? Making them entitled would be the least of their problems. Can you imagine the stress and disappointment they’d experience?

But knowing that we “don’t matter” sets us free to pursue our own paths…to not live under some imagined expectations that world places on us. Not only are we beholden to no one, but no one’s beholden to US. They’re free to pursue their own paths. So we don’t have to be disappointed when someone says “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome”.

It’s not the decline in “values” that’s causing a perceived decrease in customer service. It’s entitlement to think that you’re, well….entitled to it!

Now you can argue that I haven’t followed any of my advice.

And that’s all I have to say.

 

Criminal Justice Reform: Americans Aren’t Ready.

I’m not good at remembering things. So keep that in mind.

But I was watching Bettany Hughes discuss Socrates on Genius of the Ancient World on Netflix. I didn’t go back and watch the episode because as I’ve said before, I don’t do research (because I’m lazy), but towards the end of the episode she mentioned that Socrates believed that the purpose of justice was to reform (as opposed to being a simple act of vengeance committed by the state).

After the episode ended, Netflix recommended that I watch The Confession Tapes which describes itself as a documentary series that explores false confessions committed within our criminal justice system. Of course, I didn’t watch it (because I’m lazy).

I remember that a couple of years ago, Senator Cory Booker mentioned that there were some hard choices that Americans have to face if they were to be serious about criminal justice reform.  Americans seem to be sympathetic to the non-violent offender that just seemed to have a bad day (or week, or month, etc.) After all, good people sometimes fuck up. BUT, that might be easier said than enacted. Us liberal-minded folk might feel good about ourselves when we give an inmate the benefit of the doubt, but we’d probably feel different if we knew the prisoner’s exact story. I was quite surprised to hear a US Senator bring up this point.

For example, while in rehab, I hated most of my fellow patients. Never mind the fact that I was a fucking dirtball alcoholic sitting in the exact same rooms. I thought they were pieces of shit. If they ever found themselves back in jail, they probably deserved it.

This was only a few weeks ago.

YET, if I heard about their stories via the internet through some left-wing publication, I’d probably feel sympathy. I’d wish them the best. If they became incarcerated, my blood would have boiled.

Americans like the IDEA of criminal justice reform. But the truth is they can’t stomach it. Why? Because concepts of JUSTICE, and GOOD GUYS VS. BAD GUYS are cemented into our culture. Tales of the Wild West, Superman, Chuck Norris…they all solidify our deep-held beliefs that the good guys always win and the bad guys get PUNISHED.

There are few second chances in the United States.

Sure, some felons make a turnaround. We might be able to forgive white-collar crime, former (non-violent) drug dealers, and even those that facilitate dog fighting. Those are easy to forgive.

But can we forgive sex-offenders? Murderers (of the non-serial-killing type)? Child-beaters? Wife-beaters? Clown-beaters? Etc. etc. Even if they were fully ‘reformed’ and capable of full integration back into society?

I have my doubts.

Now some of you have an easy solution to these criminals: “Take em’ out back and shoot em’!” Fair enough. Of course, now the question is where do we draw the line? Are all of these crimes worth getting shot for? I mean, should our justice system kill a guy for just taking his dick out in public?

But, of course, once when that man is released back into society his chances of employment plummet and his likelihood of homelessness skyrocket. Thus costing tax-payers more money for having him be a non-contributing citizen.

So he might as well be shot!

I’ll concede that I might be missing the point (I’m lazy, how many times will I have to say this?). There are deep racial disparities firmly embedded into our criminal justice system that need to be rooted out. Incarcerations for drug offenses are outrageous. There are an abnormal amount of people found guilty of offenses they didn’t commit. THAT’S the point behind current criminal justice reform.

I get it.

MY POINT is that we, as Americans, are not for CRIMINAL reform…we are just looking for better methods of CRIMINALIZATION…hence the current push for criminal justice reform. This is why the US has the highest incarceration rates. Even if we fixed all of the problems I previously mentioned, I’d venture to guess that we’d still have a disproportionate amount of people behind bars. (But feel free to throw some data my way).

America’s need to “deliver justice to bad guys” is the disease out of which we have racial-inequality, recidivism, a stupid War on Drugs, and a host of other societal ills as symptoms.  Our “moral code”, as established long ago by Christianity, feel-good liberalism, etc…has made us unable to view ourselves as having the capacity for both good and evil.

“We” are good. Everyone else is evil….and there’s no coming back. Once a criminal, ALWAYS a criminal. That’s the American way.

I’ve always felt (and I’m probably wrong) that people throughout history have lived vicariously through their rulers. Even authoritarian ones. That is, after all, how they got their power. We like strongmen. Especially Americans.

Michel Foucault mentioned somewhere in Discipline and Punish, that prior to the Enlightenment, gruesome punishments were a means of power restoration to the monarchy. When a crime was committed, it was committed against the state and therefore the crime in some way diminished the monarchy’s power. So when punishment was enacted, the monarchy became fully restored, and so on…

I’m not sure where I’m going with that…

BUT, Americans somewhat feel that way in current times. That when a crime is committed, it is being committed against the American ideal. And punishment is a means of restoring that ideal. The drive for justice is hardwired into what it means TO BE American. To relinquish the need to punish criminals would mean relinquishing the foundations of the United States of America itself.

There’s no room for forgiveness.

I was surprised to learn that Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand which subsequently led to World War I, wasn’t sentenced to death because he was too young (he was 19). He was also only given 20 years in prison (although he died while incarcerated). This was in 1914.

Why does this surprise me?

Imagine if this happened in the US. Today. Instead of being 19 years old, imagine if he was 16 (or some age where one can’t receive the death penalty). What do you think his sentence would be? Would there be any sympathy for him?

I might be going off the rails again, but…in imagining current US/European relations, I’m reminded of Greco/Roman relations of ancient times. The Ancient Greeks were the intellects. The Romans, while having many achievements themselves in engineering, military, etc.. couldn’t touch the Greeks in their intellectual prowess. There aren’t many notable Ancient Roman philosophers. The Greeks, like the Europeans of today, were around first and the Romans found a great deal of influence in their culture. The United States has its foundations in European culture. And like the Romans, although we have many achievements of our own, the United States just can’t touch the intellectual prowess of the Europeans.

Aside from a few exceptions, there just aren’t many notable American philosophers.

Where am I going with this?

I’m not sure, but basically…stop being stupid.  And if we want to get serious about criminal justice reform, we have to look at reforming the criminal.

 

Thought of the Day: “License To Kill” Revisited.

I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell is this, a James Bond blog?”

It is now.

And I want to address what is perhaps the most controversial time in James Bond history: the 1980’s.

When the series was started in the 1960’s, it defined a decade. When you think of film history during that time, you can’t help but imagine Sean Connery in a white tuxedo electrocuting some poor bastard in a bathtub. Everybody was watching that stuff.

It was thought that upon Connery’s departure, there was no way that the series could continue. The man WAS James Bond. Then Roger Moore appeared and brought stability to the franchise. Although he wasn’t the best Bond (IMO), we likely wouldn’t have 007 today if it weren’t for him.

But the 1970s were a strange time. Moore’s first two outings attempted awkwardly to fit in with the pop-culture by emulating blaxsploitation and kung-fu films. Neither attempt worked. After a three-year hiatus, Bond returned with The Spy Who Loved Me. Although considered a classic, its follow-up Moonraker went over the top by attempting to compete with the sci-fi hits of the era.

Although a massive hit, the Bond producers realized that they were hitting the cocaine a little too hard with Moonraker. They needed a return to the basics. It was also the beginning of the 1980s. And one man was tasked with bringing 007 into the new decade: Director John Glen.

I feel that John Glen did to James Bond was what Rick Berman did to Star Trek: He made a noble effort, continued the popularization of the series, but upon departure…it was clear that deep changes needed to be made. And Glen left a dark shadow over the series that would continue into the Pierce Brosnan era.

But the producers faced another problem. The 1980s were the AMERICAN years. Capitalism, extravagance, the rise of Donald Trump, and even MORE cocaine. James Bond, however, was able to maintain relevance due to the Cold War. And although poshness was in vogue, Roger Moore was decidedly too British.

In 1985, at the age of 57, Moore stepped down from the role.

The late 80s also saw the rise of a new genre: the VIOLENT action-films. While action movies as a whole were popular long before this time (i.e. the James Bond films!), they were increasingly becoming far bloodier and realistic, as evidenced by Robocop, Aliens, Die Hard, etc. James Bond in comparison was simply cartoonish and safe.

After completing The Living Daylights, both Moore’s replacement, Timothy Dalton, and John Glen felt that they needed a “harder-edged Bond”. The result was License To Kill, released in 1989, and remains perhaps the most controversial in the series. It’s either hated or respected, and it remained the most violent Bond until the Daniel Craig era.

The last time I watched License to Kill from start to finish was probably 10 years ago. Although I included it in my top 10 Bond films, much of it I forgot. I’d also usually come to the defense of Timothy Dalton. Although I consider it one of the better 007 movies, there are clearly many, MANY, problems.

And problem number 1 rests with Timothy Dalton.

Since the Craig era, history has revised its position on Dalton. Many once accused him of jeopardizing the series, to which Pierce Brosnan would later come in and save it. Then Daniel Craig was cast, and many now see that Dalton was trying to do what Craig would later SUCCESSFULLY do.

Daniel Craig would have CRUSHED the part in License to Kill. Timothy Dalton didn’t. While Dalton looks fine when in action, I never bought the delivery of his lines. I didn’t buy that he was a ladies man. He just looked like a man that was mildly peeved that he had to be in this movie.

While Carey Lowell was perfectly fine (IMO) as the leading Bond girl, her interactions with Dalton were just strange. It’s unclear where the failure of their chemistry rests. Was Dalton too playful, and slightly creepy? Did the screenwriters quit giving a shit? Did John Glen not know what he was doing?

James Bond was just plain a complete bastard to Lowell’s character. And it’s unclear what the reasons were for this. However, my interpretation was that Bond was just trying to playfully push her buttons….not that he actually BELIEVED the shit he was saying. Either way, that point was never made clear.

The first half of the movie, which takes place in the Florida Keys, is also a bit off. I don’t think that the screenwriters OR the director truly understood Americans. They would have been better off not trying to play up the American caricatures, but this was the 80s afterall. Plus, go back and take a look at Felix Leiter’s office. It’s like all that they knew about Americans was that we liked SPORTS. Not any particular team. Not any particular sport. Just SPORTS!

But one of the biggest criticisms of this film is, even more so than other Bond films, this one is particularly dated. Michael Kamen’s score is usually a key point. The movie also engages several 80s clichés. Yet honestly, I find that most of these work. Sure the theme song is a little lazy, but Kamen’s score is one of the best in the series. Even when the action scenes are meandering about, the music usually tightens it up. Bond movies are very much a part of their decade, and that’s part of their charm.

Yet one of the most overlooked aspects of License to Kill is the role of the villain, Franz Sanchez, played by Robert Davi. God bless Davi. Regardless of what you think of his politics, when the man’s on screen…he steals the scene. But the filmmakers chose to do something different with the villain: they decided to make him likeable….even empathetic at certain times. I don’t know if that was intentional, but either way, Davi does an incredible job. Easily a top 3 villain (if not the best).

In fact, Davi’s charisma greatly overshadows Dalton’s. Almost to the point where you wish DAVI could play Bond.

John Glen directed 5 James Bond movies…all in the 80s. He went 4-1 with his villains (falling flat in only The Living Daylights). His direction might have had flaws, but the one thing the man could do is direct bad guys.

But ultimately the failure of this film rests not with John Glen and Timothy Dalton individually, but rather their inability to achieve each other’s vision. Glen showed that he was competent enough to direct a “heavy” film with For Your Eyes Only. A brief look into Dalton’s career shows that he’s a great actor. But both Glen and Dalton’s styles simply didn’t mesh.

Dalton wanted a return to Ian Fleming’s Bond. Glen also wanted a “harder-edged” Bond, but at the end of the day, his style was still camp. License to Kill therefore became an odd mixture of goofiness and late-80s violence…an attempt that would later divide Bond fans for generations to come. *

*an exaggeration.

Even though this film continues to feel out of place within the James Bond canon, it provoked a re-evaluation of the character. It stripped away the campiness of the Roger Moore-era, and provided a vision of Bond that was all too human. Perhaps that didn’t sit well with the audience at the time, but now that we’re in the Daniel Craig era, we can appreciate this film for what it’s worth.