Why Even Bother Stopping the Boats?

A hot issue in Australian politics right now is stopping the influx of 'boat people', refugees/asylum-seekers coming into the country via profiteering people smugglers. The pretense is an issue of safety, with several boats having recently capsized causing the loss of life, some of which were children.

Then there's the secondary concerns like whether these people are even genuine refugees and just the fact that they've 'jumped the queue' to get into this country (suggesting that refugees have access to a formal process of leaving their own country).

If these boat people do actually make it to Australia we spend thousands (millions?) of dollars putting them into detention centres on neighbouring islands, spend months processing refugee status claims and, now, ship them off to Papua New Guinea for resettlement.

What the hell, Australia?

Why not turn this problem to our advantage and put the onus back onto the countries these people are fleeing from to secure their own damn borders. Get them to stop their own boats.

Perhaps we could offer people smugglers a big fat bonus if their boats are approved to a certain level of sea worthiness and not overcrowded when they arrive here?

Lets stop spending on detention centres and start building refugee towns/communities near where the boats are arriving - why not even build ports for the boats?

Why not make these communities 'halfway communities'. The intention being that they are a pleasant place to stay and learn about Australian culture/lifestyle whilst each person's refugee application is being processed. Hire the refugee's themselves to maintain the community. Get them started on earning money for themselves and their families. Once their application is approved give them choices about where to resettle so they can put their knowledge into practice and really start a new life in the lucky country.

At the end of the day a refugee has just as much of a chance of creating new business and jobs as they do becoming reliant on welfare. There's no absolutes. There are plenty of stories of refugees becoming successful business people in our history. Since we're processing applications anyway, why not direct skilled refugees into locations that need those skills?

I've never bought into the idea that refugees will take our jobs. If that was really a concern, then stop letting people immigrate here through conventional channels, those people are taking our jobs too.

Let's start treating refugees like people. Let's show we actually care about giving them a new life and recognize their potential as a resource for economic growth. Let's stop wasting everyone's time with 'stopping the boats'.

If those countries don't appreciate their biggest resource enough to keep them from leaving then it's their loss and our gain.

Why Wonder Woman Doesn't Need an Origin Movie

Rileah Vanderbilt as Wonder Woman.
Rainfall films.
In the wake of the recent announcement at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con that the sequel to Man of Steel will feature Batman I've kind of got superhero movies on the brain.

Consensus among comic film watchers is that a Superman/Batman movie is definitely another step towards the Justice League film that Warner Bros has been trying to get off the ground - since before anyone believed an Avengers film would even work, let alone make more than a billion at the box office.

Inevitably that leads to questions about the introduction of other Justice League members, particularly Wonder Woman, who is arguably the most iconic superhero on the planet to not yet have a modern make-over, kick ass film for today's generation. Not through lack of trying. Even Avengers mastermind, Joss Whedon, had a Wonder Woman script ready to go before moving to Marvel.

If you're like me, you may be getting a bit tired of superhero origin films. Especially for iconic characters like Wonder Woman (Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Hulk) who already have mainstream familiarity. Most mainstream audiences even have some idea who the Flash is through his TV series but may not be as familiar with his alter ego(s).

Main stream audiences, if they do know Wonder Woman's origin story are more likely to know the the seventies TV show version. I've tried to follow the origin story of the latest incarnation of the character in DC comic's New 52 universe and, quite frankly, it's a dog's breakfast of ideas linked to Greek Gods and mythology, with no explanation of her first contact with the modern world and how that all went down.

Getting around to the point of this article (finally), until recently (after doing research as I don't read comics at all), I didn't have clue about Wonder Woman's origin story but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the character or wanting to see her finally get her own big screen, live action film. Which leads me to wonder, why does her first film need to be a detailed origin story? Especially when it has been shown that they're not essential.

If you look at past DC films, Batman  '89 wasn't a Batman origin story even though it was the first live action Batman on film since Adam West and was a complete redesign of the live action version of the character.

At most it was a year one story, as Batman seemed to be just at the beginning of spreading the word about himself. His origin was addressed in flashbacks and through other characters investigations, but they weren't the focus of the film.

If anything it was a Joker origin story. Batman was pretty well established with his suit, car, tech and cave. All that was left was to introduce himself as a crime fighter to Gotham.

Coincidentally, the Joker, who is a hugely iconic Batman villain, was given no origin story at all in The Dark Knight. Everything you needed to know about him was told by his cohorts in the film's opening scene. Everything else you learned from the Joker himself as the movie progresses.

Even when you think you're learning the back story of his scars, the Joker later retells it differently, and you realize the first story is probably not how he got them either. By the end of the film you know as much about the Joker's origin as you did at the beginning of the film.

I'm not saying Wonder Woman's origin should not be addressed. I just don't see why that has to be such a big part of the movie? Can't Wonder Woman just show up to some major crisis, wow the socks off everybody, then we gradually get to learn about her origin as the movie progresses.

Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy both were far more interesting films when they started to explore how the military, government, local law and wider community reacted to having to deal with the introduction of a superhero into those worlds. Why not use that angle with Wonder Woman right from the get go, whilst she deals with whatever the wider threat is that brought her to the public's attention in the first place?

By the time Wonder Woman is introduced into the DC cinematic universe, people in that universe will have started to come to terms with superheroes, particularly one as powerful as Superman. The appearance of Wonder Woman would still be major news and potentially still one for government concern. However just like the end of Man of Steel, there's no reason why Wonder Woman couldn't be welcomed into that uneasy alliance Earth has already established with Superman.

There's also quite a lot of potential future plot lines in that alliance for future movies. Yes we treat superheroes as allies but that doesn't stop the military and other organisations from keeping a wary eye on their activities should they become a threat.

All of these superhero movies are intended to be franchise films. This means that we could be learning about their origins over multiple films.

How about a plot line where Wonder Woman doesn't actually reveal her origin? If you go with her original origin she probably wouldn't want to disclose the existence of an undiscovered island of female Amazon warriors on Earth. There could be a character (Lois Lane perhaps?) that spends their time trying to discover the origins of such a fantastical being over several movies.

There's so many ways to introduce mainstream audiences to superhero characters without starting with an origin story. Why do we need to know everything about them before they save the planet? When you make a new friend it can take years to discover their history and even then you'll probably never know all of it.

That's actually why I think Wonder Woman doesn't need an origin movie. She would be a much more intriguing character if you didn't know her back story. People are always saying Wonder Woman needs to be sexy. What's sexier than a woman who's a total mystery to begin with?

That's why Wonder Woman doesn't need an origin movie. There's already precedent for other iconic DC characters not to be given an origin story as their first film. It means you can get right into putting the character on screen sooner and allows the audience to discover the origin as the main story is told.

The Resident Attacks Crowd Funding - I Say She's Wrong.

Ever since Video Producer and Youtube Ranter Lori Harfenist, better known as The Resident, produced her video Kickstart My Fart (embeded below), a rant against crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter that basically accuses people of begging and fostering a culture of entitlement, I've found her rants increasingly harder to stomach. Which is a shame since I've been subscribed to her Youtube channel as far back as 2006, when she first started posting to the site.



My problem with this video, and Lori's general delivery of many of her videos, is that she puts up a proposition and then proceeds to ram that proposition home as if it is a fact.

In this particular video she does highlight some of the positives of Kickstarter but when she states something that supports her proposition she'll shout it louder and with more energy, giving that thought more weight and thus making it more memorable for the viewer.

I thought I'd take a page out of her book and not be a 'sheeple', as she sometimes calls people who don't take an active role in understanding, government, big business, current events etc. and question her point of view.

Lori's proposition is that Kickstarter and sites like it could be seen in another way...

"They could be seen as proof of, or the impudence behind, the fact that we have become a nation of self entitled beggars who think that we all should get money for nothing!"

She immediately follows this statement by pointing out several different crowdfunding projects of supposedly dubious nature - millionaire actors funding their films, faux journalists raising money to buy incriminating videos and kickstarters that simply pay people to travel around and post to Facebook. All true (yes I looked them up).

But are they dubious really or is Lori just imposing her moral judgement on projects that you can choose to invest in or not? Is she glossing over the fact the the study she's about to reference notes that quality projects tend to me more successful in achieving their funding goals?

Based on my research people have more faith in millionaire actors and faux journalists than they do people who simply wish to travel and post to Facebook (didn't spot too many of those successfully reaching their funding goals).

Next Lori points to that research I mentioned saying that:

"75% of products funded through Kickstarter are delivered late, if at all."

Proving that Lori is not above skewing the data to support her own proposition - yes question everything, even The Resident.

If you follow the link given in the video you'll discover that's not actually what the research is saying. It says that 25% of projects studied (from a sample size of just 381 products) were delivered on time and only 3.6% of projects failed to deliver at all. That's actually 96.4% of products delivered, albeit 71.4% were delivered late - but still delivered.

If you look into the report even further the potential for fraud, whilst quite high, has been rare. In this study, 3 products issued refunds and 11 had stopped responding to backers (this is actually where the 3.6% figure mentioned above comes from).

Yes the potential for fraud is there with Lori quoting from Wired Magazine (like they're some kind stalwart for factual and balanced reporting). The article she cites is talking about businesses using crowd funding to raise capital and the need for them to be transparent about raising money this way.

Everything is susceptible to fraud, that's not unique to crowd funding (as someone who's managed to be caught out by an auction fraudster on a now defunct auction site, I'd rather be defrauded out of my $20 kickstarter donation than the $300.00 I paid for a Laptop I never received).

Next we get to listen to Lori debunk four reasons, pulled from the study, that people invest in kickstarters with her opinion. The four reasons are:
  1. Access to investment opportunities.
  2. Early access to new products.
  3. Community participation.
  4. Formalization of contracts.
Lori quickly dismisses item 1 by linking it to equity. Since Kickstarter isn't about equity at all, and the study was about Kickstarter, clearly that's not the kind of investment opportunity it refers to. In my opinion the 'investment opportunities' here are in the more general sense, where you invest in a kickstarter to earn one of the projects rewards and/or to see the project succeed.

Item 2, Lori dismisses right away because "since products aren't always delivered or are available anywhere on the web... ...that's a bit of a stretch". What the? I don't even know how she reached that conclusion? Products that need funding to even be built are available anywhere on the web?

I know of at least one relatively prominent Youtuber that has contributed funding to kickstarter projects to get them early and has even reviewed kickstarter products on his channel.

Item 3 she dismisses because "the entire web is community participation!" Which is like saying participation in the web can be discounted since people are already participating in life on planet Earth. Obviously community participation refers to the community developed around specific projects and is extremely relevant if the members of that community are all excited to see their specific project/product succeed.

Lori thinks, then, that it all comes down to formalization of contracts. She then spouts that crowdfunding sites "legitimize our own projects making our pretend time real." Again WTF. What the hell is 'pretend time' and what is wrong with wanting to legitimize something that you care about?

Then she goes on, complaining that "we're living in this culture where everyone wants to be the boss and no one wants to work for anyone, or work at all in general". Implying that all Kickstarter projects are created by unemployed people who don't want to work and that there is something wrong with wanting to work for yourself.

She continues that people just want to work on their "Personal brands... whatever that means?" as if she isn't aware that she's been working on her own personal brand since 2000 according to her own website. She claims social media has turned us all into "micro stars with brands, so why shouldn't we get paid for whatever we want?"

Here's the real kicker. Lori includes this statement towards the end of her video:

"It's true that a kickstarter campaign is only as stupid as the people who invest in it"... did you notice the source on this 'fact'... "source: Me. Just now"... so not actually true then, just Lori's opinion. What if every investor is a Mensa Genius?

Finally, her bottom line is that "not everybody deserves to get paid for doing whatever they want". Implying that posting a project on any crowdfunding site is a surefire guarantee to getting paid for every little whim of an idea you had today. Even though the study that she references notes that people tend to back projects that they perceive to be of quality. Many kickstarter projects, worthwhile or not, simply fail to reach their funding goals and receive no money at all.

In the end she pretty much tells you to go out and get a job and earn your own damn money. Stop 'begging' because eventually your social media friends are going to get sick of you mooching off them all the time.

My bottom line is, she's entitled to her opinion but her superficial view point lacks vision or understanding. She assumes the people putting money into crowd funded projects don't weigh up the value of the project they're supporting before donating their 'hard earned dollars'. She also assumes that the people starting kickstarter campaigns do have a sense of entitlement and no work ethic.

There will always be negative aspects to crowd funding but Kickstarters can achieve amazing things that actually do require hard work, don't necessarily give a big return on investment or can be funded by a weekly pay cheque... like human powered flight... it's one way to spend your 'pretend time'.

Movie Opinion: Super (2010) - Be careful what you ask for.

Having listened to a lot of commentary about Man of Steel and the fact that it didn't really give much realistic attention to the supposedly millions of civilian casualties in the climactic fight scenes I was prompted to think about a 2010 superhero flick called Super staring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page.

More about that in a moment - including a very gruesome image at the bottom of this post. Scroll slowly if you don't wish to see it.

One thing that I found odd about criticisms of Man of Steel was that the same commentators that criticize the film for its lack of realism with casualties, in the same breath, criticized the film for being too realistic with scenes reminiscent of 911. People being covered in rubble dust and fleeing plumes of dust and debris. Make up your mind people!

Back to 2010's Super which is best described as a black comedy, along the lines of Kick Ass (also released in 2010) where the film's main character, Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson),  is inspired to become a Super Hero to fight crime and, more importantly, save his wife from local drug dealer, Jacques (Kevin Bacon).

Unlike Kick Ass, Super is 'R' Rated (age 18+) due to some fairly extreme graphic violence. Frank Darbo's super hero persona, The Crimson Bolt and his side kick, Boltie, definitely don't draw the line at no killing.

Super is one of my favorite super hero films because Frank is probably the most unlikely super hero you're ever likely to come across. He means well but his use of excessive force to fight crime isn't always appropriate. Such as when he bashes a couple with a pipe wrench simply for cutting ahead in a line for the cinema. It's a little bit of a defining moment for the Crimson Bolt.

The graphic violence means the film is not for everyone. Even when I watch it I come to the end of the movie having gone through more of a harrowing experience rather than a sense of having been entertained. However it's thought provoking with it's realism of what it might be like to be a self made super hero with very few resources.

Which brings me back to Man of Steel. If you want to see real people getting hurt in a superhero movie then Super is one way to sample what that experience might be like. Is that something you really want to go through when you see a super hero film? Civilians actually dying, losing limbs etc.in graphic detail.

Regardless of what your expectations are of who Superman is, one thing we can all agree on is, he can't save everyone, even if he tries. It's one of the core internal conflicts of the character.

As much as Man of Steel tried to be more realistic, for me, it was already dark and realistic enough as it was without needing to remind me that, in all likely hood, quite a few civilians died or were severely injured (not to mention all the Kryptonians that did die). I'm quite happy to have that kind of thing implied in my escapist entertainment. It doesn't need to be spelled out for me.



Super hero casualty. Super (2010).
Do you really want to see this kind of shocking
detail in a summer super hero blockbuster?






Movie Opinion: Man of Steel (2013)

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that reading reviews and listening to other people's opinions of any superhero film will detract from your enjoyment of the film, rather than enhance it.

Too often the loudest voices are those who wish to vent that a film isn't their version of the character or even the version of a character they've read about for years in the comic book source material.

As such they denounce the entire film as nothing short of an abomination. If you actually enjoyed the film, too many of these types of rants can really make you wonder if you even watched the same film as they did.

I get that, particularly with a character like Superman, everyone has their own expectations of what the character is, what he's capable of and what moral standards guide him but lighten up.

If Man of Steel isn't your Superman, that's fine. Maybe in your opinion the film makers got it wrong but one thing is certain, the film makers hoped you'd like it. They didn't set out to to personally offend you.

By all means criticize and discuss what didn't work for you and why but don't be a baby about it. Yes there are details that should be discussed and worthy of debate but overall Man of Steel delivers a thoughtful interpretation of the character.

Personally I think Man of Steel is the best depiction of a Superhero character on the big screen since Iron Man. It's not a perfect film by any means but in terms of an epic cinema experience, and creating a Superman that I can believe could exist in our real world, I think it succeeds.

Warning! There are spoilers ahead!

I went into Man of Steel with a very cynical attitude. My first thoughts on seeing Krypton, and particularly it's wildlife was that it looked like the grunge version of Pandora from Avatar - mostly thanks to whatever that creature was that Jor-El was riding. Then we saw all the babies being incubated and my head went straight to The Matrix.

Jor-El and son.
I also raised an eyebrow at Jor-El being the only one to assist with the delivery of his own child? Advanced culture and all that (don't they have doctors etc.) but this was explained a short time later as natural child birth being a definite exception to the norm and implied that it may even be illegal.

However the new technology of Krypton with the almost liquid-like monitor screens on Jor-El's robot assistants grabbed my attention as something I hadn't seen before. This helped draw me in, along with a story that did gain momentum very quickly.

I liked Russel Crowe's Jor-El. Much less enigmatic than Marlon Brando's and much more committed to ensuring his son's survival. It was a little bit of a stretch that a scientist was also an action hero but no one ever calls Tony Stark out on his ability to fight, even though he's mostly an engineering genius.

As much as I liked Terrance Stamp's General Zod, Michael Shannon's Zod in Man of Steel has a much more defined purpose and reason for tracking down Kal-El. The fact that Zod also agrees with Jor-El's point of view on the state of Krypton is a high point too. They just have different ideas for a solution.

The Codex, that Jor-El steals, is a little like the Tesseract in The Avengers. We know it contains the blue print for the Kryptonian's DNA but how it works and why something that looks like a burnt out skull is so unique is unclear. Couldn't they just get another Kryptonian's skull? What makes this skull so special and how is it possible that it could become fused somehow with Kal-El himself so that it needed to be 'extracted'? Alien technology is mysterious like that.

I'm not going to go through the film and mention every little detail. What was important to me was that, for Superman's origin story, it pretty much had all the same key moments as 1978's Superman the Movie. Though they were fleshed out much more, and tweaked in some cases, to better serve this new Superman's need to be cautious with revealing himself before the world is ready.


Jonathon & Clark.
I particularly like the angle that Jonathon Kent (Kevin Kostner) highlights for Clarke that "you are the answer to, are we alone in the universe?"



Perry White & Lois Lane.

I liked that Lois Lane (Amy Adams), for the first time actually felt like a real, globe trotting journalist and not just a reporter. (I'm also one of the few who think Margot Kidder was miscast and is the most unlikable Louis Lane on film). You actually get to see this Lois' process of tracking down a story. A big story that required a fair amount of investigation.

The only other thing that's really important to me in a Superman film is how his power and abilities are handled. To date, every previous Superman film has forgotten that, whilst Superman is incredibly strong and seemingly indestructible, the rest of the world is still subject to the laws of physics. In my post The Trouble with Superman I wrote how mishandling his powers can really take you out of the film.

Thankfully, Henry Cavill's Superman never obviously breaks the laws of physics when interacting with his environment. Most notably demonstrated in the scene where he tries to stop an oil rig tower from falling. He's strong enough to delay the fall but ultimately the tower structure still fails and falls into the platform.

Damaged Great Wall of China,
Superman IV.
All of Superman's powers seemed to be handled really well with a fresh take. From how he flies to his super speed, strength, x-ray and heat vision. No wacky made up or unexpected powers either - like rebuilding walls with some kind of mind control in Superman IV.

The only thing that took me out of the film was Superman breaking General Zod's neck. Not because of any stupid idea that Superman doesn't kill. Though this idea may be cemented into the sequel. In this movie, it's Superman's first official day on the job and he's fighting someone hell bent on continuing the carnage indefinitely. I can give him a pass this time.

Why the neck breaking thing took me out was because, if Superman can break Zod's neck with his bare hands, then why can't he break his neck by throwing concrete blocks at Zod's head etc. Or why can't Zod break Superman's arm by snapping it over his own leg perhaps? These two are supposed to be indestructible under Earth's yellow sun. Just because they're both Kryptonian it doesn't necessarily follow that they are strong enough to damage each other.

That aside I don't have a problem with Superman killing if that seems to be his only option at the time. I also don't have a problem with a Superman that makes mistakes and doesn't always make the right choices. Like it or not he's more human than alien and even Jonathon and Martha Kent made mistakes.

Superman for me has never been about an ideal to strive for or aspire too. He may be a great protector but he's not a savior of the human race. He's not Jesus, or a God - no matter how many parallels are made to our own religious iconography. He's an immigrant from another planet, who's chosen a path for himself that enables him to put his abilities to good use for the benefit of others. It fits with the ideals and values taught to him by Jonathon and Martha Kent.

He was sent to Earth with the purpose of preserving the Kryptonian race and perhaps bringing two races together in harmony. A task which he fails to fully achieve in this film thanks to Zod throwing a spanner in the works. At best he manages to achieve one Kryptonian living in peace with the human race on Earth.

George Reeves as Clark Kent.
As with Batman, I'm not married to Superman's history. I've enjoyed the quietly confident Clark Kent of the George Reeves TV series and the Bumbling comedy of Christopher Reeve's Kent. There's enough in this film for me to know it is Superman and it will be interesting to see how the changes will inform future films.

For example, just how many people at the Daily Planet will see through Kent's deceptively simple disguise. Does Perry White know? What will the dynamic be between Lois and Clark whilst at the Daily Planet given she knows Clark is Superman?

Mixing things up provides new dynamics to explore. To me that's a good thing. When you have a character as old as Superman, you don't want to keep exploring the same tired relationships time after time between the main cast of supporting characters.

I'll leave my final words on the fight scenes within Smallville and Metropolis, particularly Metropolis, which reminded me a lot of similar fight scenes in the Superman Doomsday animated feature. Superman fights Doomsday in an epic battle in Metropolis and, unlike Man of Steel, the city hasn't made any attempt to be evacuated.

Incidentally Superman kills Doomsday in both the movie and the comic it's derived from (though it does show Doomsday survives in the comic but as far as Superman knows he killed him). It would not surprise me if the scenes of Superman and General Zod fighting in Man of Steel were inspired by Superman Doomsday.

Although I thought the final fight scene possibly went a little too long (just like they do in Superman Doomsday) ultimately I thought, it's about time! Superman being part of a proper fight and fighting back with everything he has.

I enjoyed this film and will not only be buying it on Blu-ray but will be looking forward to its sequel - and hopefully a Justice League movie sometime within my lifetime please.

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