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A Whole New World

♫A Whole New World♫

“Join me! Together we will rule over a new world; a world of order from chaos, where we will rule with an iron fist!”

Yeah, we’ve all heard it before. Blah, blah, blah, monologue, etc.
It’s so cliché that complaining about it has even become cliché. Heroes no longer are really persuaded anymore. Not even a little. It’s actually become “hip” to reject the chance at changing the world.
This makes one wonder…is it the fact that the world will have to change that makes the hero dig in their heels? Or is it the image the “villain” paints of this new world?

At this point in time I’m going to go with Option B. See, in the movies the villain has a tendency to describe a new world of order from chaos but the image they paint with their eloquent words is a world bereft of…well, pretty much anything good. Usually red skies, tentacles from portals, demons ruling the Earth, common man scrambling for cover as random military attacks occur for no particular reason on an unsuspecting populace…I could
go on, but do I need to?

You’ve seen the movies and shows. You know what I’m talking about. They want to shut down the system that is power now and rebuild society in the image of what they want. But in overtaking the powers-that-be the villain must cause chaos, disorder, murder, theft, and mass amounts of destruction.

In Die Hard 4 it meant turning off electricity, which deprives hospitals thereby killing critical patients. It means disconnecting communications meaning no one can call for help after getting into a car accident caused by all the traffic lights switching to green.

In Hellboy, demons would be given access to Earth and thereby become our overlords and the world will burn away the chaff…which is most of us.

In others it involves a nuclear strike that prompts all the governments to also launch and the new world will be built by those who were strong enough to survive. Survival of the fittest.

This is overdone, in some minds.

Why can’t the “villain” actually have a really good world view that actually makes others want to join?
A world of peace, quiet, and clean living. A world where there is no poverty, no sickness. No hungry, no war. A world where pollution is anathema. Why is this not something these supposed geniuses actually attempt?

People like Ra’s al Ghul, Magneto, Ronan, Lex Luthor, or even Adolf Hitler. They have these grand ideas of what the world could be like and they get so close, but then they go too far. They want all the money and glory, they want to control everyone, or they hate certain people so much that they want to wipe them from the Earth. They have the followers, the power, the prestige, and the ability to make real global change and to actually build something wonderful…and then they want too much and it all falls apart.

A world where everyone is safe and accepted in a lot more desirable than a world where there is peace but only for certain types of people. Everyone else must be rounded up, interred, and eventually killed. That kind of world is never truly accepted by any true hero. Nor should it be accepted by even the common person. In fact, one could say that denying a world like that is pretty heroic.

Now if we could just get the villains to understand that it’s easier to get heroes to join you when you offer them something that actually desirable then something that is destructive and murderous…then we might finally see a hero waver in their fight…and, possibly, make the movie that much more interesting to watch.

Our Rogue One Review

Rogue One is good for a Star Wars film. That means it’s almost as good as the worst Star Trek fan film ever created.

Ok, do I now have your attention Warsies?

Great, time to get real then. I just had to let my Trek flag fly before I actually got to the business of writing a (gag) Star Wars article. Especially one I actually proposed!

But in all seriousness, I love both Trek and Wars – I just have a lot of fun with the rivalry and since I’m more partial to Star Trek the Wars… y’all gonna get trolled Warsies!

And no, Rogue One is not on the level of a Star Trek fan film – or any fan film for that matter. It’s a beautiful work of cinematic art that is filled with an amazing cast and awesome hat nods and easter eggs to what’s gone before (what’s going to come? All this prequel stuff gives me a headache…). That said – it is not as good as all the hype is indicating.

SPOILERS AHEAD – RAISE DEFLECTOR SCREENS AND FIRE PROTON TORPEDOES!!!

You also have to give Rogue One props for taking a huge chance in going as dark as it has. I mean it takes guts to KILL OFF EVERY MAJOR CHARACTER. I can see where that would make things easier to deal with narratively – for example quelling the question of “how come we never saw these guys in the original trilogy?” – but still that takes guts!

But that doesn’t mean they always did it right.

For example, Saw Gerrera’s character played by the amazing Forest Whitaker, is an amazingly tough rebel extremist who’s sacrificed much of his body and health in fighting the Empire. Someone who’s incredibly paranoid that anyone approaching him or his men could be trying to kill him. Someone who’s desperately fighting to survive and deal his enemies yet another blow. In fact, when he first meets Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, he’s looking forward to having her on his team again to fight against the empire.

So why would such a survivor just simply give up and let death come when he realizes the city he’s in is about to be destroyed. Especially considering the fact that the difference between survival and oblivion was the difference between walking and running at a moderate clip – which even his rickety robot legs could have managed.

The answer is forced emotional beat. They wanted to create an emotional beat that would push Jyn, up to now uninterested in “politics” as she put it, into being committed to the Rebel cause. Problem is, the message from her father 20 seconds earlier had just put her down that path. Making the emotional impact from Gerrera’s pointless sacrifice fall completely flat.

But this isn’t the only point where Rogue One tries to force an emotional connection on the audience. When Wen Jiang’s character, Baze Malbus randomly expresses his affection and dedication to Jyn it comes out of nowhere without buildup or reason.

Basically, what we’re dealing with here is a war movie that has way too many characters and tries to hard for us to care about them all so that we give a shit when they (all) die.

But remember what I said earlier – it’s not AS good as the hype. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film by any means. The acting is spectacular even of the script has missing beats and explanations and the CG work is AMAZING. They literally brought actors back from the dead! Regardless of how you feel about that on a moral or creeped out level it’s an incredible feat of computer engineering and CG artwork!

Beyond the technical side of things, what I DID Like about the story and script was the fact that they A) had the guts to kill off so many characters and B) made the Rebels hands as dirty as the Empires. That’s right kiddies, the murder-for-convenience and torture on the rebel’s tool list as much as they are on the empire’s. Which is great not because I want to see the heroes be tarnished but because it shows them wanting to be redeemed and helps give meaning to their sacrifice at the end.

What really saved the movie for me was the last 20 minutes (give or take). Not only were the Saving-Private-Ryan-Level battle scenes absolutely stunning, but this is where I actually started to care about the main characters. Where we say the efforts of the last 2 hours pay off so that, when Jyn and Cassian comfort each other as they watch their end inevitably move toward them, I wanted to scream at them to run, find a ship, or CBS to lend Disney transporter tech.

But alas, the poetry of our heroes’ demise was too perfect to avoid.

So from Darth Vader’s badassery to teary moments of sad poetic self-sacrifice, Rogue One is one hell of a movie. Even if it’s not as good as the hype Disney has created for us.

-The Fearless Leader

Spotting Sketchy Science

Howdy, this post goes up on a bit of a special day for those of us in the United States. Given the occasion, it seemed only fitting a special post be made, away from our normal jovial nature. It’s a long standing issue, and one that might need extra wariness in the current time. Namely that of bad science studies being utilized to prop up viewpoints that may otherwise have little or no proper evidence. Institutions, corporations, even government agencies can take shortcuts or produce research which is distorted or not up to proper standards – and, given the prestige the names of the authoring body, may produce undue import and acceptance unto said bad study. To try and combat this some of the tactics used are produced below with an explanation. The presence of any single one should not immediately disqualify something, but should definitely raise red flags.

The Correlation Coefficient (Or Lack Thereof)

A correlation coefficient is a value between 1 and -1 that tells you how correlated data is. If it’s in the negatives that’s a negative correlation, whereas if it’s positive it’s a positive correlation. Generally scientific papers deal with positive correlations, and they subdivide into weak correlations and strong correlations. Depending on the ‘hardness’ from physical science to social sciences a strong correlation goes from c = .8 to .5, and a weak correlation goes from c = .5 to .2 So if you see correlations under .2 being reported as majorly significant, that should be a red flag. If they do not report a correlation coefficient in their analysis, again that should be a red flag. If somehow you see a correlation coefficient greater than 1, some mistake somehow somewhere was made.

2) Citations and References

Ordinarily citations are given to other academic papers, and referenced with the author name and year like so (NAME 20XX). Likewise towards the end of a paper or report tend to be a number of references which is all well and good. But if you see say the exact same author being quotes, or no citations – or sketchy references to non academic sources such as links to files on a harddrive or nothing but personal communications to another author this should all raise red flags.

3) Sample Size

In a nutshell if there’s a sample size less than N = 30 or so, for statistical reasons known as the law of large numbers means that variance owing to random factors or those unaccounted for in the study could influence the results. As an example, if you had six randomly selected dogs and all six happened to be trained and survived an encounter with accidentally eaten chocolate, you could say dog training makes dog’s immune to chocolate eating, a ridiculous claim. There’s also something to be said about sample composition, if its not representative say we only used labradors in the above sample and applied it to all dogs it’s not representative of the population of dogs as a whole. Needless to say if you encounter these, red flags apply.

4) Meta-Studies

Meta-Studies are studies that make use of a large number of other studies in order to minimize distortions or bad methodologies in other studies by sampling reviewing large numbers. It can be if utilized correctly a very valuable tool to try and tease insight out, however, meta-studies using large numbers of questionable studies can invalidate a meta-study, so it might be helpful to see a list of what studies were involved. If a number of very partisan or otherwise questionable sources make up a large number of the studies being analyzed by a meta-study that’s a red flag, and if they use the same study multiple times that’s another huge red flag.

Concluding, while peer-reviewed scientific research is the way to go as far as advancing our knowledge of nature there exist a number of influential bodies that try to push junk science, often by trying to dress it up as real science. Several techniques were left out such as faulty interpretation of questionnaires, not revealing margins of errors for polls, unjustified oversampling and so on. By looking for these techniques above, you can get a solid idea of whether a paper should just be accepted as a good source, or whether it deserves much greater scrutiny before acceptance as a source. Here’s hoping this critical thinking serves us well in 2017 and beyond.

Do you have any thoughts? Any stories about how they may apply? Any sketchy studies passed around? Please comment, and share to help fight the sketchy science so often embedded in fake news.