Friday, November 28, 2014
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an amazingly talented actor. He did such an excellent job writing, directing, and starring in Don Jon (2013) that I had to say a few things about it, even after all this time.
The premise of the movie is an eligible young bachelor, Jon (played by Gordon-Levitt), who is a notorious Casanova. Throughout the movie he reiterates a list of things that are important to him: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn.”
Jon is also addicted to porn to the point where he’s no longer satisfied with actual sex. Jon meets Barbara (played by Scarlett Johansson), a beautiful young woman from an upper class family who falls in love with Jon. Both want their relationship to work out, but both have a problem.
Jon’s porn addiction and constant viewing becomes a major thorn in Barbara’s side. At the same time, Barbara is enamored with romance movies with predictable Hollywood happy endings. Both partners’ consumption of their preferred media has given them severely unrealistic ideals on love and relationships. Barbara wants the working-class Jon to be her Prince Charming while Jon wants the uptight Barbara to be his super-whore in the bedroom.
Needless to say, this is a recipe for disaster.
The ill-fated lovers’ breakup gives Jon the time and motivation he needs for some serious soul searching. In meeting and eventually dating a widow named Esther (played by Julianne Moore), Jon comes to grip with his addiction and realizes he needs a lifestyle change to be free from his addiction and raise his quality of life.
This is a movie that hits home for a lot of people. There are tens of millions of teenage boys and adult men looking at pornography at any moment of the day. Like any other addictions, porn addiction can consume people and change their lives. Yes, porn actors and actresses are typically voluntary agents utilizing their bodies to make a living in creating a product that men and women around the world voluntarily consume. However, continuously watching porn objectifies men and women alike as sex objects. It’s voluntarily produced and consumed, so it’s ultimately none of our business, but let’s just be real about these false images our primal subconscious would have us believe.
As we see in Don Jon, porn distorts men’s ideals on women, sex, and relationships. It’s not only prevalent in porn, but in popular culture. Think of all the music videos with scantily-clad women shaking their chests and asses. Think of popular movies like American Pie, which give young boys ludicrous ideas of how amazing high school will be. (Frankly, I’m still terribly disappointed that high school did not offer me the chance to get naked with a foreign exchange student, have guaranteed sex on prom night, or to hook up with a friend’s attractive mother. I want my four years back!)
The same applies to media consumed by women. While many women do reject the iconic image of the sexually empowered female in pop culture, they do often tend to cling to images depicted in The Notebook or 27 Dresses. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve dated with whom it didn’t work out, all because they seriously expected me to come riding up on a white horse to take them to a million dollar house with two cars. On the flip side, I've lost count of how many relationships could have blossomed if the woman wasn't scarred by some jerk who treated her only as a sex object.
These unrealistic images on our electronic screens of the ideal man or woman are marketed and sold to people because those images are entertaining. However, it’s always been up to We the People to figure out that fiction—a pretend series of events in an author-controlled environment—is not to be mistaken for reality. What so many people never realize is that life really does imitate art. Art itself embellishes life, and people who consume one or another form of media often fail to realize that a true happy ending takes a hell of a lot of work, compromise, and self-improvement.
In my opinion, the healthiest way to approach to any relationship is for both partners to openly discuss and be on the same page about where they are in life, where they’re going, and where they want to be, both as individuals and as a couple.
What I especially love about this movie is the way it portrays human action. We might not think of the romances depicted in the movie as economics, but economics is ultimately the study of human action. Dr. Ninos Malek, lecturer of Learn Liberty’s “Sexonomics” seminar, would agree.
Economics plays a major part in dating and relationships. When a woman expects a man to provide her with a home and a certain standard of living, she’s setting a major economic standard for the success of their relationship. Likewise, when a man expects a woman to support him—or to be a stay-at-home wife and tend to his every whim—he sets a major economic standard for the success of their relationship. In the latter scenario, the stay-at-home wife’s education or career becomes the opportunity cost for his happiness. For Jon in the movie, his romantic and sexual relationships become the opportunity cost for his happiness—porn.
By the time Jon and Barbara break up, their relationship is a sunk cost. However, this is where market self-regulation plays in. This break up is a very difficult sunk cost for Jon to bear. He made a bad investment and a series of bad decisions. He’s faced with a choice to repeat those failures, or to correct his behavior in order to never go through that kind of heartache—or sexual dissatisfaction—again.
Jon chooses to renew his mind and change his lifestyle. He breaks his porn addiction and leaves porn behind. He continues taking his night college courses not because his (now ex-) girlfriend will put out, but because he chooses to create more opportunities for himself. Instead of club hopping and bringing random women home for sex, Jon chooses to be in a relationship with the widow Esther, who’s older and from whom he can learn a lot.
Best of all, the nanny state is in no way involved in Jon’s transformation! It was never necessary to "fine" or "tax" or jail the pornographer or the porn addict. This isn’t entirely different from someone kicking their drug habit.
While many people may get court-ordered to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, the ranks of those support groups are dominated by everyday people who made their own decision to get clean and voluntarily participate in the program. They’re tired of letting people down, they know their lifestyle will be lethal if left ongoing, and they’re ready to try to rebuild their lives.
Like a recovering addict, Jon’s changes in behavior all result from social consequences. His actions cost him a relationship. He has to deal with the public scorn of women he hooked up with and then discarded. He identified that these events are indicative of failure, and he wants to experience success. Don Jon is about personal responsibility—a concept we libertarians hold in the highest esteem.
Being aware of economics as human action made this movie even more enjoyable to me because I was able to see economics happening and unfolding right before my eyes. It doesn’t simply include money and graphs. Economics is all around us, not only in the way we spend our money, but in the way we spend our time and in the company we keep.
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Don Jon movie promotional images courtesy of DonJonMovie.tumblr.com
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Thank you for reading more about my quest to do meaningful, productive things while I kill time before returning to my amazing job that I love.
Day 3. Sunday had a productive start. Not only did I open both eyes, but I even managed to crawl out of bed and slide into some clothes that were probably clean. I decided to press my winning streak by writing some more—the more I write, the more I can publish and share with the world.
I sat down for a good minute and I wrote a libertarian review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. The review primarily focuses on guerrilla warfare in Mockingjay and ties that imagery into Murray Rothbard’s writings on guerrilla warfare in the American Revolutionary War (Rothbard, Conceived in Liberty, Vol. IV, ch. 3). This one has been one of my more highly trafficked articles of late, so I’m pleased at the exposure it’s getting.
I burst out of my creative trance, hightailed it through the shower and picked up both of my teenage nephews at noon. I like to spend as much time with those boys as possible, especially since their old man took off years ago. It’s good bonding time, plus I get to talk to them about things that matter.
My nephews and I enjoy seeing movies together. I took them both to see the awful Red Dawn remake, and the younger one accompanied me to Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein on the big screen. This time, I took the boys to see Fury before it’s out of theaters. They really wanted to see it, I certainly didn’t mind seeing it again, and I figured this is a good way to round of the last two WW2 movies I’d showed them: Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
I don’t know what it is about this generation of kids, but they’re way too fond of Holocaust jokes and Call of Duty has made them all think they know what war is. Basically these intense, gut-wrenching, realistic movies have given them an idea of what violence and suffering really look like. They’re great teaching aides and Fury was a great finishing touch, with its depiction of Allied misconduct in the war while it still praises the overall heroism and courage of the Greatest Generation.
The boys enjoyed the movie and got something out of it.
Sunday night I got together with some good friends for a backyard bonfire. Not gonna lie, I take great pride in the fact that I can build a fire in this age of technology. I figure if some natural disaster happens and the power grid goes out, a lot of people are going to suffer needlessly. Other than that, knowing how to build a fire is super nice for relaxing outside in cold weather.
Day 4, Monday, was largely uneventful. I wrote a bit before working on manuscripts for near-future publications.
In 2015 I plan on launching an independent publishing house. This won’t be like Political Spectrum Publishing. I’m very proud of PSP and the amazing book it produced—VOICES OF REVOLUTION: Americans Speak Out for Ron Paul. However, after the Voices book was released and it became increasingly clear Ron Paul wouldn’t be the Republican nominee, the whole train lost steam. Also, real-life commitments got in the way (such as other campaigns I worked, my job, a toxic relationship, and of course, finishing college).
PSP was a great learning experience, but that was the worst time in my life to have tried—or half-assed—to start a business.
Realistically, a startup business is more like a newborn baby than a Giga Pet—if you don’t know what those are, thanks for making me feel old!
Therefore, my new publishing house is going to be something I can show my own father, look him in the eye, and be proud. Hey, if I’m not proud to present something to the man I respect most, what business do I have presenting it to the world and even asking for their money?
I’m tentatively calling it The American Liberty Library (ALL). The name is catchy yet meaningful—the focus will be both fiction and nonfiction books that simultaneously entertain or engage and promote libertarian ideas. Other than forming my business model and plan, I’ve actually been preparing product, hence my working on manuscripts.
Of course the American Liberty Library will be my preferred method of publishing my own books—almost done with #3!—but that won’t be all. It’ll include some essential classics like Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and the writings of Bastiat, but I’ve also been doing hours of searching for dormant manuscripts. There are many remarkable books on liberty and in sync with libertarian ideas, but they’ve been lost to time and are in the public domain. I think it’s time some of these forgotten classics made a comeback!
Tuesday, Day 5 of the Boredom, was an interesting day to say the least!
Ever since we saw each other Friday night, the special gal from Rancho was been acting very strange toward me. Tuesday morning I found out what I needed to know. I wish she had just been honest with me instead of getting my hopes up, but it’s better to know anyhow. Now I don’t have to wonder.
I went to the gym and had a great workout to get my mind off of things. Then I swung by In ‘N’ Out for a protein-style Double-Double and animal-style fries, washing it all down with a cold Dr. Pepper. It was a feast fit for kings!
I finished digitally restoring the manuscript for Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel, The Copperhead. Some of you may be familiar with the novel’s movie adaptation, Copperhead, by Gettysburg director Ronald F. Maxwell. It’s a well-written novel and has a totally different ending than its film adaptation, so this is good!
That evening, I picked up some friends for what was to be an amazing night out. For months, whenever I’m in town, I’ve headed up to the Saddleback Inn at Lake Arrowhead, California for karaoke and fun times. The people there are always really cool and there’s never drama, only people trying to enjoy themselves.
Unfortunately, it was dead that night. I’ve never seen this normally-cracking place so entirely dismally dead. Therefore, one of my friends decided it wasn’t going to be a good night. He got ridiculously drunk—we hadn’t even been there an hour before he was smashed—and he ended up getting belligerent and talking a ton of trash to the bartenders.
Needless to say, the owner of the establishment personally asked us to get him the hell out of there. Basically, I’d driven everyone there for a solid one-hour each way drive, for us to be home by 11. That night was a loss. I was really disappointed that one of my closest friends could make such an ass of himself in public and embarrass me in front of people I respect at one of my favorite hangout spots. They were all cool about it, they knew he was drunk, etc., but the company you keep is the name you carry, and they’re going to remember that I brought that guy.
Day 6, Wednesday, I woke up a little later than planned. I emailed a client regarding a side job, and then did what was unpleasant, but necessary. I called the girl from Rancho to give the breakup talk. She didn’t answer; I didn’t expect her to. So I left a long voice mail balancing a list of grievances with respect and the promise that I would neither cause her any drama nor stand in the way of her happiness.
So here I am. Now, I’m off to go do something useful. Check back in a few days for another update on The Boredom.
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Mockingjay Part 1 art is the property of Lionsgate films and other respective owners and stakeholders, used here according to Fair Use laws for the promotion of the movie. Copperhead movie poster is the property of Swordspoint Productions, Brainstorm Media, and other respective owners and stakeholders, used here according to Fair Use laws.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
This libertarian movie review contains SPOILERS.
These spoilers DO NOT give away the plot, but they do reveal certain things viewers will see in the movie.
You’ve been warned.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, starring Jennifer Lawrence, is a thrilling action/sci-fi film about a revolutionary war in a dystopian future. Like its predecessors in the Hunger Games Saga, Mockingjay Part 1 is remarkably well made and will keep viewers glued to their seats. However, the “Part 1” in the title should clue people in to the fact that the movie is a total cliffhanger.
The setting itself hardly needs to be analyzed to find the striking libertarian imagery. In Panem we see an oppressed people living and dying under the yoke of a totalitarian government—a massive surveillance and police state. First there is Katniss Everdeen’s individual defiance against the state through seizing freedom of speech and expression in the Hunger Games. In the second installment, we see the birth pangs of the revolution amidst the Quarter Quell Games. In the third and fourth installments—Mockingjay parts 1 and 2—we see the revolution become a brutal civil war.
Because the film is divided into two parts of two hours each, the producers could afford to take their time telling the story. Therefore, the exposition is slow and the plot is slower to unfold. This first half is less about the revolutionary war to overthrow the Capital than it is about Katniss Everdeen’s transformation from stunned tribute into the Mockingjay, the face of the revolution.
One of the benefits of slower, longer movies is the increase in time spent on showing depth and detail in the story, characters, and setting. We get a heavier taste of Katniss’ post-traumatic stress following the games, as well as new challenges to her fragile sanity as the war begins to take its toll on loved ones. We also have time to see the general way of life in the rebel capital, District 13. These glimpses create an authentic look and feel of wartime, combining images that cross World War II with the Fallout video game series.
Even more intriguing is Katniss’ interaction with President Coin, the rebel head-of-state played by Julianne Moore. Coin’s stirring speeches to her soldiers and their Spartan, in-unison responses invoke mental images of the post-World War II archetypal dictator, fist high in the air, riling up the troops. This causes viewers to question whether the rebel cause is a just cause—after all, replacing one police state with another is hardly an improvement. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also adds a good performance that complements both Lawrence’s and Moore’s. This movie is one of the last times we’ll see Hoffman’s face on the big screen.
Moving past the gritty details of character and exposition, there is one element of the on-screen revolutionary warfare that intrigues me. We get to see several glimpses of oppressed civilians rise up, with or without weapons, and fight the Capital’s “peacekeepers” (jackbooted thug troops clad in white). In the lumber workers’ IED attack on the peacekeepers and the hydro-engineers’ destruction of the dam, the viewer is looking at guerrilla warfare in action.
Murray Rothbard writes about guerrilla warfare as the most libertarian way to wage a just war for a just cause. In analyzing the American militia’s tactics and actions at Lexington and Concord, Rothbard says:
“In brief, a guerrilla war would be the libertarian way to fight a war fully consistent with the American revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality of rights, and, therefore, the only way to achieve the libertarian goals of the Revolution. A European style, orthodox war would be heavily statist, and would inevitably lead to the resumption of the very statism—the taxes, the restrictions, the bureaucracy—which the colonists were waging the revolution to escape.
“What is more, guerrilla war would be enormously more effective; for that is the way any subjugated people—not only libertarians—can fight against a better-armed, but hated foe. The efficiency of guerrilla fighting as against European warfare had not only been demonstrated in the unbroken victories of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys in the Vermont revolution, but also in the victory at Concord, a guerrilla engagement so individualistic as to be almost completely leaderless. In contrast stood the slaughter at Lexington, where the Americans had fought in fixed ranks and in the open.”
Slaughter is definitely a recurring theme in the Hunger Games Saga, no less in Mockingjay Part 1. This is a reminder that few revolutions are bloodless, and like the American war of independence was no tea party for the American revolutionaries, it will be no walk in the park for Panem’s rebel army. We see revolutionaries and rebel guerrillas gunned down by the dozens, yet they keep coming until they overpower the peacekeepers.
Sometimes, the only way an oppressed people can overcome a better-armed minority is to use their strength in numbers in a guerrilla war. History showed us this when the American militia pushed the British out of Concord and besieged Boston, when the Red Army pushed the Germans back west and besieged Berlin, and in modern days as the Kurdish guerrillas continue to press against the Islamic State psychopaths, using hardly more than single-shot rifles.
Despite being a giant appetizer for Part 2—the real Mockingjay film—Part 1 is still a dynamite flick and certainly raises a high standard for Part 2 when it debuts in November 2015.
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Mockingjay Part 1 art is the property of Lionsgate films and other respective owners and stakeholders, used here according to Fair Use laws for the promotion of the movie. Fan-made movie poster by Kim-Beurre-Lait, courtesy of Mockingjay.net.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
I love my job. I don’t often say very much about it, but I’m a military contractor. Nearly every month of the year, I drive to a military base in California’s high desert where I’ll spend the next 2-3 weeks.
I serve as a crisis actor, embedded with Operations Group Lead Team, by which I assist in training combat medics and combat lifesavers for treating battlefield injuries. When I’m not screaming my head off, bleeding Hollywood blood in the desert sand, I’m contributing to after-action reviews and coaching individual soldiers on how to improve their medical response.
I take a lot of pride in my job. What I do with Ops Group helps make soldiers into better soldiers, and our work has proven its value in saving lives in Afghanistan. It’s rewarding to know that we’re giving parents back to their children, children back to their parents, and spouses back to their better halves.
On Thursday, November 20, I began a lengthy drive from the high desert of the far reaches of eastern San Bernardino County. I made my way out of the blackened, cloudy desert towards Los Angeles County.
When I’m not working and living on base, I’m back in my home town of San Dimas, California. I’m in love with my beautiful hometown and it’s always a relief to see it again after a strenuous rotation on base.
There’s only one problem: I easily get bored out of my skull when I’m back home.
It’s not that there’s nothing to do back home—I keep myself occupied well enough. It’s that I have a special connection with my job. Sure, the desert sucks, but on the flip side, I have a mission out there. I enjoy spending time in the field, I always get an adrenaline rush from the war games, and my brothers are back in the desert.
My longing for the field is the reason I’m starting this series, The Boredom. Until I return to base in January, I’m committing to doing something every week that’s not only productive, but also meaningful and personally fulfilling on some level.
Day Zero was mostly spent on base where I was closing out some business and keeping promises at my employer’s office. However, there was one special highlight. On my way home I stopped in Rancho Cucamonga to meet a young woman who’s smart, sassy, and remarkably beautiful. Inexplicably, she’s into me—ever the surprise since I’m a geek who regularly quotes Star Wars and a number of cult films and songs no one else cares about. Whatever, I’m one lucky SOB!
Day One, Friday the 21st, I spent a leisurely morning sleeping in. I had to, since I lost a ton of sleep from the creepy, apocalyptic thunderstorm that enveloped my town at 2 AM. There was torrential rain, quarter-sized hail, and blinding lightning strikes every three seconds that completely illuminated the angry gray sky. Needless to say, it’s hard to sleep through the Book of Revelations.
I did my morning cleaning and home maintenance routine and then read a little from a really cool novel, Empire State, by Adam Christopher. The plot covers an alternate New York City, the Empire State, a stand-alone city-state in a parallel universe. The story includes gangsters and Prohibition, corrupt cops and City Commissioners, superheroes fighting against each other, a mysterious war that never ends, and killer robots on the loose. I’ll write a review on it soon.
|Kabuki restaurant, Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga|
After spending way too much money at the mechanic’s shop for car repairs, I closed out Day One by meeting that special someone in Rancho for an amazing date. We went arm-in-arm to Kabuki, an upbeat and upscale Japanese restaurant at Victoria Gardens, near Ontario Mills. They had some amazing rolls! The company was great and we ended up making out under the stars like high school freshmen. That was exactly what a first date should be!
Day Two, Saturday the 22nd was mostly uneventful. However, I took the time to go see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. It was very dark, but very awesome as well! No dedicated libertarian needs more than twenty-five seconds to articulate the libertarian symbols with which the film is riddled. Check back on my blog tomorrow and I’ll post a libertarian film review of Mockingjay Part 1.
Now, those of you who made it this far might be asking why I’m even doing this project. The honest truth is that, when I get bored, I easily lose motivation to do things. Frankly, I don’t like to lose motivation because I’m a big thinker, and big thinkers don’t just run out of steam and quit.
Even though I’m not out in the field “embracing the suck” with my brothers, I still have big projects to work on. I figure that if I write about my progress and keep you all posted, I’ll have every one of my readers holding me accountable so I don’t get lazy during the holiday season. There’s much to be done, and the main challenge is killing the down time.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.