You Do Not Get to Play Nazi without Getting Treated like a Nazi (Charlottesville Riots, Pt. II)

“Help! Help!” cried the torch-bearing Nazi, “I’m being oppressed!”

Peter Cvjetanovic, may you never be hired, laid, or welcomed into the company of your fellow human beings again.

You chose this path, fuckstick. You walk it.

Peter Cvjetanovic, loser at large

Peter Cvjetanovic, loser at large.

And before someone complains I’m being too harsh on that poor boy, remember that a whole lot of Black, Latino and Native American kids his age or younger would be dead by now if they’d done what he’s done… and that plenty of his apologists would vilify those other boys for doing exactly the same thing.

Oh, and another point I’d like to underscore:

He’s not from the South. I am.

The people who resisted him came largely from the South as well. Like Richard Spencer and the car-wielding murderer I won’t even name here because I refuse to give him the infamy he craves, Cvjetanovic flew in from another part of the country and used the South as an excuse for their real agenda: a public opportunity to glory in fear and ignite a race-war everywhere.

This wretched little piss-smear isn’t a hard-working blue-collar laborer from flyover country whose dire economic plight has been neglected by the sneering smug liberal elite. Peter Cvjetanovic is a well-off college boy “studying history and political science” and yet doing that so badly that he could be radicalized – not four hours’ drive from fucking Burning Man, no less – into spending more money than I make in a month to fly across the country so he could wave a blazing torch around a statue of Robert E. Lee.

And yes, let’s call it what it is: RADICALIZED. These ambulatory cockstains are being deliberately fed – and are choosing to accept – a violent agenda of overthrow and conquest as part of their ethnic identity. They have a body count, and it is growing. It is their professed intention to destroy other people’s lives in pursuit of their perceived superiority.

If they were brown-skinned dudes wearing keffiyeh instead of Oxford shirts, we would be bombing the shit out of them right now.

Neo-nazi

Portrait of Yeehawdi as a very stupid man.

This is not the cry of oppressed wage-slaves in the heartland of America. It is the whine of entitled, pale-skinned enfant terribles whose delusions of kingship exist at the expense of their fellow human beings.

He sees himself as a hero when in fact he’s a parasitic turd.

Who joins the alt-reich? Bored white boys and girls raised on a steady diet of Fox News and InfoWars who’ve spent eight of the last nine years hearing and fearing that The Scary Black President was a Muslim and a Nazi and an anchor baby and a Maoist and whatever other racist dumbshit swill happened to make the rounds that news day. They’re kids who’ve grown up without having a viable employment situation, and bloated middle-aged chawheads who got Jesus confused with Lynrd Skynrd somewhere down the pike and didn’t bother to learn what either party actually stood for when they said the things that made them great. They’re “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” who expect Trump to whip out his magic dong and ejaculate money into a seething economic wound, and rich sociopaths whose idea of prosperity involves a condescending smirk and a half-million-dollar car and if some libotard cuck bitch-ass faggots get hurt in the process then that money is all the sweeter. These are people raised on Back to the Future films who thought Biff Tannin was the hero, who watched Wall Street and cheered for Gorden Gekko. They are the backwashed inbred spawn of a self-important, deluded, narcissistic culture in which compassion is for the weak. They equate “freedom” with “my ability to ‘roll coal’ for the sheer pleasure of pissing off them libotards.” They are the pimples on Ted Nugent’s ass, shouting “Rush (Limbaugh) is right!” because that seems somehow, in their pathetic little lives, to be something a “real Amuuurikin” does.

To hell with every one of them.

You do not get to play Nazi without getting treated like a Nazi.

You do not get to play Nazi without getting treated like a Nazi.

You do not get to play Nazi without getting treated like a Nazi.

I don’t give a fuck if the Black Man in “your” White House scared you.

I don’t care if you’re doing it For Teh Lolz, or you think their uniforms look kewl.

I don’t care if you’re suffering some existential crisis because no girl or boy will suck your cock and so you seek out solace on 4Chan, InfoWars and Return of Kings for a virtual circle jerk of like-minded loser apes who masturbate to bad Conan fan-fic disguised as “alternative philosophy.”

I don’t care.

You strap on that armband, or fly that swastika, or seig heil or Trump or Hitler or whatever, then you are the enemy.

When things get to this stage, you don’t have a fucking “side to your story.” You’ve given away that right, and history has already condemned you.

Nazi

Holey Toht!

And so, I want every single one of the bastards who decided to march through a city bearing Nazi regalia and howling for white supremacy to be thoroughly, righteously shunned.

I want every turdhearted parasitical racist fuckstick in every video and every photo from that march to lose his job, his home, and his loved ones. I want cops showing up on his door with handcuffs and a warrant. I want them to live in the fear they inspire in their would-be victims, and I want every single one of them to experience the misery they openly wish for and act to bring about for others.

I want them called out in the internet and vigorously expelled from everyday society. I want their social media accounts terminated for TOS violations, and if someone decided to reveal their names and workplaces, I would not be disappointed.

I’m not worried that this will “radicalize” them because they’ve already been radicalized.

They. Chose. This. Let them deal with the results.

As Sandra Swan often says, sometimes the most loving thing you can do for a person involves allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions.

This is how I choose to love my enemies.

And let’s be clear: These people are enemies of us all.

Before some jackass “devil’s advocate” shows up to inevitably reveal their lack of understanding of what that phrase actually means, I’ll point out that the difference between this shitfest and the Occupy, Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter protests is that the latter three address real threats and grievances by the people who are protesting, while this nonsense involves directly threatening the lives and liberties of fellow citizens for the imagined crime of being The Other.

As far as “getting their side of the story,” their side of the story is simple: “I’m an asshole loser who fails at life and blames my inadequacies on the existence of other people.” That’s it. That’s it, that’s all. When you start literally carrying torches for the Nazi cause, that’s the only side you have.

This shit is not “free speech” or “the freedom to assemble.” This is calling for the violent collapse of your society and its replacement by genocidal ethnic rule. According to the Supreme Court itself, incitements to mob violence are not protected speech. (cf. Schenck v. United States and Brandenburg v. Ohio)… and even if they were, the First Amendment protects you from government persecution, not from the hatred of your fellow citizens.

These wretch-headed pissant thug-boys have violated the boundaries of a civil society. They should be treated with all appropriate contempt in return.

Nazis in VA

Where’s that Ark when you need it?

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Think Harder

I have friends on the police force. I have lived in neighborhoods where we were glad to hear approaching sirens because it meant someone who robbed us, or who’d threatened to rape us, or who was turning some poor soul into hamburger in an adjoining apartment, was about to go away in cuffs. Hell, I even named a cat of mine after a cop whose beat often brought her to our building, where she typically left with some swearing asshole learning the hard way that certain women hit back hard.

I know, from my friends and personal observation and experience, that police officers have the hardest job in the world. More than anyone outside the military – and statistically the numbers may even be higher than theirs – the people who populate the Thin Blue Line are those most unlikely to return alive from an average day or night at work.

Seattle Pig D

I realize that my friends in blue might never come back home one night because some dude with a high-powered rifle and a grudge had decided he had nothing else to lose.

Which is why I have to ask you, American police officers:

What the fuck are you thinking?

When you gather from several states around to go bash in Indian skulls at Standing Rock, what the fuck are you thinking?

When you close ranks to protect officers who falsify evidence on camera, what the fuck are you thinking?

When President Bully-Boy makes a ha-ha about slamming people’s heads into car doors, and you laugh – on camerawhat the fuck are you thinking?

When you protect literal Nazis from the people they would gleefully destroy, what the fuck are you thinking?

When one of your own tweets “ha ha love this” after an out-of-town racist plows his car into a crowd of innocent people, killing one and sending dozens to the ER, what the ever-loving fuck are you THINKING?

Because I don’t get it.

Occupy. Berkeley. Sanford. Ferguson. Standing Rock. Trump rallies. Charlottesville. As of last night, Seattle. And that’s just a short list of obvious incidents off the top of my head.

By all that’s holy, people, THINK HARDER.

The current situation is not in your best interests. Nor in ours. Nor in the best interests of the country as a whole.

This shit puts your lives even more at risk. It draws targets on you, and on your fellow officers, and on my friends who know they’re doing the right thing by standing up for the innocent against crime.

When your union backs a racist, rapist narcissist, that marks you. When Captain Klanhood says, “Go beat in Injun skulls,” and you say yes, it marks every cop alive. When that guy next you in the squad room makes a nigger joke and you smile, when that detective plants drugs on someone who “Don’t look right,” and you let her do it, when traffic stops become death-sentences, when your partner or your friend or even that guy you don’t especially like but hey he bleeds blue just like you do… when he grabs a hippie and shoots pepper spray in her eyes from less than a foot away, it marks you as the enemy to the rest of us.

Pepper

I know that many of you are standing up against these things, but much as I hate to say it, right now it’s not nearly enough of you. And that scares me.

Because I don’t want to be your enemy.

I don’t want to feel I need to hang around the scene of a car accident, with my cell phone out, if one of the folks involved isn’t white, because I’d like to at least believe they’ll make it home alive after you show up at the scene. [*1]

I don’t want to have to worry about my friends in blue.

I want to recall my relief when Officer Van Landingham pounded on the door of our abusive shitstain neighbors with her nightstick, not wonder if she was coming for us instead. [*2]

I want to hear from my friends who protest a Seattle Nazi rally that you shot tear gas and grenades at the Nazis instead of at them.

I want to believe that you’re protecting the innocents from the criminals, not the other way around.

And right now, I can’t think that.

Not because I’m a long-haired Left-Coast liobtard, but because the actions of police officers across this country, again and again and a-fucking-gain – on camera, on record, on twitter and the news – they all show me I can’t trust you.

I’m a white-ish dude [*3], middle-aged and of apparently middle-class means, and yet I’m fucking scared of you. I’m fucking furious with you. I don’t trust cops anymore, and maybe I never really should have but I know too many cops and too many criminals to think it’s all as simple as “every cop is a criminal.” And I’m not scared of you because I’m guilty, or because I “believe the media elite,” or because I think all cops are just the same. I know better than that.

I’m scared of you because when I see a blue uniform, or a cop car, or one of the ever-growing number of fucking police-force tanks showing up to protect corporate interests from citizen protests… when I know that my Black friends wonder whether they’ll die in a fucking traffic stop for the crime of being the wrong color in the wrong cop’s eyes… when I fucking watch you laugh as a man who’s in the White House instead of behind bars – where, under our supposed “rule of law,” he belongsmakes funnies about your loyalty to him, I have to wonder, with regards to those police officers, What the fuck are you thinking?

Because in a land where cops and citizens all paint targets on one another’s backs, the law is a joke, nobody’s safe, and no one – regardless of the color of skin or badge or blood – really makes it home alive.

We deserve better than this. And so do you.

For yourselves, for your families, for your brothers and sisters in blue, for all of us, for our nation, think harder. Please.

Weeping cop
____________________________
NOTES

1: For the record, yes, I DO feel I have to keep an eye on this sort of thing these days…. and so I do.

2: My former home, dubbed Domestic Abuse Central, was filled with white folks. The only non-white people in that building were a Black medical student who kept very far away from all the madness, a Native American guy who got into lots of fights, and my Lakota-ancestry now-former wife. The racial element that’s so goddamned common in the news right now was essentially absent in that time and place because almost everyone on all sides of those situations was white. That’s not the situation in the post-9/11 Land of Trump, however. Not at all. Hell, it certainly wasn’t the situation in Richmond, VA, during the late 1980s, either, but at least our police chief at that time was Black and he kept a fairly tight rein on the bigger bigots under his command.

3: New York Sicilian, actually, and we have our own history on both sides of the law… but you can’t tell that from looking at me on the street or your computer screen.

 

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Morally Wrong, Intellectually Stupid, and Historically Doomed to Failure (Charlottesville Riots Pt. I)

Because my signature achievement so far has involved Mage: The Ascension – an urban fantasy book series dealing with the subjective nature of reality and “truth” – there are people who think I should “keep an open mind” and remain apolitically neutral when it comes to topics like ethnic, gender and spiritual oppression.

My answer to that sentiment is simple:

Fuck No. Never.

Neutral

To be sure, there are many gray areas when it comes to truth and reality. Our perspectives shape the world we experience, and few people see themselves as villains in the story of their lives.

That does not mean that there are no villains.

All too often, oppressors view themselves as oppressed. Occasionally, they’re even correct to a point. (Read up on the French occupation of the pre-WWII Rhineland region for a perfect example of how even the greatest evils can grow from understandable grievances.) But even in such cases, there must be lines drawn between what is and is not acceptable in a viable society. Those lines tend to be drawn, at least initially, by the people in power, but that does not make them right in the greater scheme of things. At such times, it is essential to redraw the lines – sometimes at great risk and cost – so that those who are truly oppressed, the people whose lives and health and liberties face actual threats, not simple inconveniences, may enjoy the same rights to life and prosperity that other people have.

Yes, I understand that certain people fear a future in which they do not dominate others. I realize that some people fear their own freedoms being displaced, and I know for a fact – in part because it is my job to speak that language – that mass media profits from fear and instability, and so uses techniques that exploit the human fight/ flight response in order to catch and hold an audience’s attention. All of these conclusions are verifiable from multiple perspectives, they’re supported by evidence, and so they count as “truth” by every measure that matters.

The fear is understandable.

But those people need to grow up, get the fuck over themselves, and stop acting like cartoon characters in an action movie starring their idealized selves.

The resulting oppression, and attempts to oppress, are wrong.

Morally wrong, intellectually stupid, socially counterproductive, and historically doomed to failure.

When Nazis march down streets carrying torches and demanding “their” country “back” from the rest of us, then those people have chosen to become villains. Regardless of their perceived reality, they have consciously decided to embrace actions that endanger the fabric of their society and endanger the lives of the people they fear.

I will never “keep an open mind” about such behavior.

Fuck that form of “neutrality.”

I always have, and always will, stand on the side of respecting the lives and existence of other people.

And part of that stand involves opposing those who would kick someone into the dirt and stand on their face in order to call themselves “great.”

Greatness does not need oppression. Strength does not need to prove itself by showing off at other creatures’ expense.

A great nation is not one that needs to strut down Main Street shoving “those people” back into the shadows of its greatness, but one that accepts that progress, strength and liberty come from the freedom of all its people to benefit from, and contribute to, society as a whole.

That, to me, is the only reality that matters.

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Stewart Wieck: Awakening Our World

The finest thing a person can do in this life, I believe, is to leave this world a better place thanks to your presence in it. Stewart Wieck, who left this life yesterday at age 49, succeeded magnificently in that regard.

Stewart

Somewhere between 1985 and ’86, a pair of geekily industrious teenager brothers founded what has since become an institution of sorts: White Wolf magazine. Named for Elric, the White Wolf of Melnibone, landmark antihero of Michel Moorcock’s psychotropic fantasy series, the magazine originated as a home-made fanzine for gaming culture. Stewart and his brother Steve, however, had a lot more on their minds. While most (though not, in fairness, all) gaming magazines of that era focused on mathematical trivia in imaginary worlds, White Wolf magazine dared to approach real-life topics like racism, gender, addiction and politics, not merely in the games but in the culture that embraced them. Ferociously intelligent and possessed of a formidable work-ethic, Stew and Steve turned their high-school fanzine into a major periodical within that industry… and then into something far more.
White Wolf Mag
Combining their magazine with a gaming company called Lion Rampant, the Wieck brothers joined forces with a visionary malcontent named Mark Rein-Hagen. By that time, both sides of that partnership had gathered a driven team of hungry young creators: Richard Thomas, Nicole Lindroos, Joshua Gabriel Timbrook, and more. Founded in 1990, White Wolf Game Studio took the roleplaying game medium from a controversial niche pastime to a major (if often uncredited) influence on popular media.

More importantly, however, Stewart, Steve and Mark helped the hobby grow up.

White Wolf has been criticized as pretentious. That accusation’s not always wrong, but it misses an important point: a truly pretentious party doesn’t have the goods. White Wolf – in large part thanks to Stewart – often did. For better and worse, the company and its people addressed taboo topics with sardonic clarity and relentless intellect. History, politics, gender, bigotry, pollution, addiction, morality, metaphysics, conspiracy… the creators of this World of Darkness tossed big ideas at their audience the way they sometimes tossed rubber balls and Nerf arrows at one another in the office. In the 1990s, most staff offices in the White Wolf building had three things in common: a sound system, an impressive library, and some young workaholic or two pounding away at their computers.

Stewart’s library didn’t fit in his office; it took up several shelves in the hallway, too. I know, because I was one of those people pounding on computers back then.

Which brings me to my point:
Mage 1st
Mage: The Ascension.

One of the many brilliant ideas Stewart, Mark, Steve and their crew had early on involved creating a shared world built around five monstrous archetypes: the vampire, the werewolf, the magus, the ghost, and the faerie. Each archetype would become a metaphor for real-life issues, and the games and rules for each archetype would emphasize thematic elements far richer than “I waste him with my crossbow.” RPGs had addressed serious topics before, notably in games like Paranoia, RuneQuest, Dark Champions, and Nephilim. But the idea of playing the monster, as opposed to killing it, and doing so in a sarcastic parody of the world (as seen by American college kids in the early 1990s, anyway) – that was new. Other RPGs had occasionally strayed into monster-character territory (notably the vampiric game Nightlife), but lacked the thematic heft and sheer attitude brought to the World of Darkness. When the partners divided up the archetypes, deciding who would helm which project, Stewart said, “I want the mages.”

Up until then, mages in RPGs (and, to be honest, in most modern fantasy media) were dotty fireball-slingers in Gandolfian drag. Stewart had bigger plans for them.

Inspired primarily by philosopher Robert M. Pirsig (who himself died earlier this year), Stew envisioned the magus as an embodiment of change. Some mages moved the world forward, others tried to lock it into place, and still others tried to drag it to oblivion. Instead of spells based on calculations of size and damage, Stew’s vision of magic… or, as he preferred, the Crowleyian magick… became an extension of an enlightened individual as that person literally reworks reality itself. At the core of that metaphor, Stewart Wieck told Mage players, “You can and will change the world.” And that, especially for kids growing up on fantasy media in the 1990s, was huge.

On some levels, the concept was too big. Mage became like Stewart’s Great White Whale, and suffered some growing pains before the game finally appeared at GenCon 1993. Even then – and even now, almost 25 years, four editions, four different incarnations, and over a hundred books later – Mage remains an infuriating puzzle for most gamers, and a life-changing discovery for the folks who understand it.

That’s where Stewart’s legacy truly shines.

Stew created many things: the magazine, the company, the World of Darkness and a rather visionary (if ultimately unprofitable) fiction division for White Wolf, and other things besides. The Cain-based mythos behind Vampire: The Masquerade was Stewart’s conception, and Stew brought a new generation of readers to the works of Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison, Fritz Leiber, and more. White Wolf transformed a medium, but it has been Mage, more than anything else, which has – as Stewart intended – transformed this world and many people in it.

One of those people was me.

In the spring of 1993, I was broke, suicidal, stuck in a decaying marriage, and trapped by circumstances in a job I loathed. Though I had been writing professionally since 1989, and writing for White Wolf since ’92, my writing income was nowhere close to paying our bills. Desperate, I applied early that summer for the position of Mage line developer. That job literally saved my life, changed my approach to life, and became a sort of sacred calling I still pursue almost a quarter-century on.

I had applied for that job in June, wrote a prospectus for it in July, and worked with the company at DragonCon later that same month. By August, though, I hadn’t heard a word from them. Convinced they’d hired someone else, I crashed into a deep, frightening depression. And then – while at my job in the stock room of “Virginia’s Largest Shoe Store” – I got the call: “Phil, this is Stewart Wieck calling from White Wolf, and we’d like to offer you the job of the Mage line developer if you’re still interested.”

That was one of the greatest days of my life.

Only moments earlier, I had been core-dumping in the stock room to my friend Lynne. Once I’d heard Stew offer me the job, I began bouncing up and down, struggling to keep my voice steady while I did. Lynne mouthed, Did you get it? I nodded, and she hugged me hard. By the time I got off the phone, a mob of co-workers had gathered to congratulate me. I don’t think I ever told Stew that story, but now I really wish I had.

What’s a line developer? Another of Stewart’s best ideas.
scan0022
Most gaming and comic-book studios have a group of people – often freelance contractors – writing and drawing the material in question. Although there might be a head editor for a given series, game or character, creative decisions tend to be made by committee, often with a fair (or large) amount of executive “input.” I’m not sure who initiated the idea, but Stewart and Mark decided that each White Wolf game line should have a single creative director whose word was more or less law with regards to that game. The founders of the company, and their teams, would craft each original rulebook; once that book was done, however, another person would be hired to govern the subsequent series… and for the first few of us in that position, they gave us near-limitless creative freedom, so long as we didn’t crash and burn the line. As a result, the World of Darkness games had a degree of personality that few, if any, previous RPGs displayed. They weren’t just “product”; they were labors of love.

Thank you, Stewart, Mark and Steve, for that. I appreciate it more than words can say.

That decision was a brave and crazy thing to do. We line developers are a passionate, outspoken, often-tactless bunch who could be (and often were) breathtakingly territorial about our projects. We pushed the medium, our fans, our collaborators and ourselves as far as we could go back then, and then pushed further for good measure. The results ranged from classic to catastrophic, but that raw energy made White Wolf memorable even at its worst.

White Wolf in those days was not an easy place to be. We worked hard, we played hard, and occasionally we fought hard with one another, too. Tempers ran high, and unfortunate things were said and done. I said and did a few of those unfortunate things, and I have been sorry for them ever since. Even when things got bad, however, I never – NEV-ER – saw Stewart Wieck get nasty, vindictive or crude. Angry at times, more often sad; it’s hard to be a business owner under even the best conditions, and when you’re running a pack of hypercreative misfit toys in an uncertain marketplace during a boom-and-bust period, it’s even harder. Yet always, Stewart displayed graciousness, kindness, dry humor, and a godlike degree of patience. If he ever lost that patience, it was way behind closed doors, which was a damn sight better than the rest of us – myself included – did back then.

I helmed Mage in both its Ascension and Sorcerers Crusade iterations between mid-1993 and late-1999. Burning out, I left the staff at the end of ’98, and freelanced again until around 2000. For a while, I distanced myself from Mage and our World of Darkness. Mage, though, never distanced itself from me.

M20

Stewart Wieck’s brainchild transforms lives. I know this probably better than anyone else on earth. Since 1993, everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been meeting people from literally all over the world for whom Mage became a gospel. I’ve met fans with terminal illnesses, health conditions, debilitating diseases and soul-crushing circumstances who tell me, “I am who I am”… sometimes even, “I’m still alive”… “because of Mage.” The Afterwords of Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition (for which I returned to Mage in 2012) feature dozens of heartfelt testimonials, including two from Stewart and from me. Many of those people inspired by that theme of empowered transformation are now parents, artists, writers, game designers. Some are cops, activists, reformers, counselors and politicians. I know of one who’s a judge, several who are teachers and medical professionals, at least one who’s an emergency first-responder, and no less than two who have founded movie studios (small ones, but hey – it’s still impressive). A few years back, some fans in Greece flew me and my wife Sandi out to Athens, and became some of our dearest friends.  One of them – who now teaches English in Greece – continues to use World of Darkness games (Mage in particular) as not only entertainment but as a tool for social healing in a country going through hell. I’ll gladly take my share of credit for all that, but without Stewart Wieck, there would have been no Mage, no White Wolf, and very probably no me.

After our return from Greece, I contacted Stewart, Steve, Mark, and most of the core Mage collaboration group. “We did good,” I told them. “Mage made a bigger difference than we ever thought was possible.”

For the foreseeable future, it still will.

That’s a pretty descent legacy for some silly RPG.

Stewart, old friend, you helped to change the world.

For Mage, for White Wolf, for your courage and vision and insight and trust, for the love you gave your projects, and the respect you gave to us, I thank you, Stewart, now and always.

You helped us to Awaken, and never will we forget you.

rcbZmmm

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“First They Came For…”

“First, they came for the Latinos, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t Latino… and besides, those people were illegal immigrants, and Spanish-speaking people are scary even if they’re not here illegally, and I don’t trust ’em, and this is my country, so fuck those people anyway.

dakota-pigwagon

“And then they came for the Indians, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Indian… and besides, those crybaby redskins were trespassing, and oil is important, and every story has two sides, and the Indians aren’t perfect either, so fuck those people anyhow.

“And then they came for the Muslims, and I didn’t speak up because I’m not a Muslim… and besides, Islam is false religion built on greed and violence, and all Muslims are terrorists, or maybe some of them are, and I don’t know which ones, so fuck those people anyway.

“And then they came for the trans people, and I didn’t speak up because I’m not trans… and anyway, those queers are gross and my holy book says so, and I don’t want teenage boys scoping out my daughter or wife or girlfriend by pretending to be trans, so fuck those people anyway.

“And then they came for peaceful protesters, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t protesting… and besides, how dare they block the roads like that? And some of those people might be violent, so fuck all those people anyway.

“And then they came for the pot-smokers, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a pot-smoker… and besides, pot is bad for you, and even though it’s legal in a bunch of states, it’s still illegal on a national level, and people who smoke dope are just a bunch of stupid lazy hippies who need to get a job, so fuck those people anyway.

“And I don’t know who they’ll come for next, but it’s only been about a month, so I’m sure they’ll come for somebody else soon.

“As long as they don’t come for ME, I don’t care. Fuck those people anyway. Goddamn libotards! We’re just getting started!

“God bless America! I feel greater already.”
___________________________

dakota-trumpmerica

Obviously, the above is intended to be taken with a great deal of bitter, angry sarcasm. The thing is, the “and besides” remarks are all statements I have actually seen and heard people say in order to justify things that should be anathema to every sane American.

Some of them have even been said or written by people I otherwise respect. Maybe by seeing their remarks in this context, those folks might realize what they’re actually saying there.

This situation is fucked, people. When you have massive paramilitary forces rounding people up, they’re not gonna stop at only rounding up “those people.”

Don’t you DARE fucking normalize this. Not for a second.

These are shows of force, meant to quell dissent before it starts.

THIS IS WHAT FASCISM LOOKS LIKE.

WAKE UP.

(With apologies to the memory of Martin Niemöller, and a deep sense of rage and shame for the people of our nation today.)

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High Taxes and American Greatness

The Golden Era of American Greatness occurred in large part thanks to the highest taxes in U.S. history, as shown in the graph below [1]. Those taxes paid for an unprecedented national infrastructure, massive technological innovations, advanced education, a relatively effective government, social programs to stave off another Great Depression, and the most powerful military forces in human history.

tax-rate-eisenhower

Those sky-high taxes were mitigated by a complex system of exemptions. Taxpayers (corporate and otherwise) who invested money back into the country – and who thus sustained the economy and society with methods other than government tax-funds – could lower their taxes by directly investing in American goods and services.

When you hear stuff about America having “the highest tax-rate on earth,” 1) that’s factually incorrect, and 2) that base tax-rate DOES NOT INCLUDE EXCEPTIONS. Once you figure in exceptions – a task for which any CPA worth that name is trained and hired – that base tax-rate can drop to $0 or below.

Sadly, the federal government government kept the exemptions while – ever since Kennedy – continuing to lower the tax-rate upon which they’re based. That’s how so many corporations and wealthy individuals (like President Trump) can pay zero taxes and/ or get millions of dollars back from the government as well. [2]

Meanwhile, those same corporations and individuals continue to utilize – even destroy – the infrastructure and resources that are supposed to be tended with those taxes.

Anyone still wondering why the U.S. infrastructure is falling apart while our government maintains perpetual deficits?

Here’s one of your biggest answers.
tax-rates-1900-2010
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FOOTNOTES

1 – One of the other major reasons for that post-WWII “greatness” involved the aftermath of the War itself. Almost every other industrial power on earth had been bombed to pieces while exhausting its resources and suffering devastating losses to its work-force population.

Meanwhile, the United States, Canada, and other geographically protected combatants like Australia and New Zealand had high-functioning factories and an able-bodied work-force. While most of those other nations – being parts of the British Empire – helped to rebuild the British economy [3] the United States supported only itself.

Diplomatic arm-twisting also “encouraged” other nations to “buy American”… or else. Thus, the post-War American prosperity was unsustainable to begin with. Still, the high tax-rates and heavy investments in American goods and services propelled America’s greatest era. Without them, that era is a fading dream, nothing more.

2 – In fairness, those organizations and individuals still pay state and local taxes. That helps somewhat with regards to sustaining the local infrastructure, but does zero for the elements of social infrastructure and resources that are sustained in part or in whole by the federal government… which are actually quite extensive.

3 – An economy also sustained by Great Britain’s then-colony India, which despite geographic protection from most of the fighting lost roughly two million people to famine and disease during the War because the British Crown demanded ruinous support from the nation… a demand that led to India securing its independence shortly after WWII. 

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The Immigrant’s Song

I am a guinea wop goombah greaseball grape-stomper Guido Mafioso, a garlic-breathed Fonzi with, as fellow Siciliano Quentin Tarantio pointed out in True Romance, n-word blood.

anti-immigration-cartoon-granger

I am part Swedish meatball bork-bork chef, and part Slav – an ethnicity from which the English word slave was drawn because Slavs were so often conquered and enserfed. My grandparents and great-grandparents on all three sides of my family (Dad’s side, and the two halves of Mom’s ancestry) were part of the “great unwashed,” the Ellis Island mob of European immigrants who fled Europe around the time of World War I. My people are the people for whom the Statue of Liberty was a beacon of the future, and they were greeted with hostility, rage, and often violence.

My father and his brothers were born and raised in a ghetto of the Bronx. Their skins are several shades darker than my own, and though my father trained out his heavy accent while in the U.S. Navy, that side of my family is decidedly… shall we say, “ethnic.” This didn’t keep Dad and his brothers from serving in the military and fighting in Vietnam. Dad, in his case, became the youngest commissioned officer in the Navy at that time, commanding two ships and then helping the Pentagon update its computer systems in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s before his retirement. One of my grandfathers built ships for the U.S. during World War II, and the other was a soldier in that war.

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My father, retired Commander Philip Brucato, sr.

Thanks to my Swedish grandfather, I am essentially “white.” Dad raised us in middle-class America, and that’s the pass I’ve gotten ever since.

I didn’t grow up in a ghetto. My closest personal contact with racism came by way of mild insults about my Italian/ Sicilian “Godfaddah” heritage and being beaten up throughout my time in Hawaii for being a haole (“without breath,” a slur for non-Polynesians, especially white ones) – both pretty mild experiences in the grand scheme of things. I got the white-privilege pass, and I generally still do.

But my people are that other generation of foreign trash, that wretched refuse that “good, upstanding Americans” tried to block from entrance or ship “back to where you came from” less than a century ago.

As I’ve written in previous essays, I am “those people.”  When you attack them, you’re attacking me and my people too.

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Not long ago, we were the terrorists. The scum. The criminals. Hell, we Sicilians still are those things in the eyes of many Americans. Just ask Hollywood, whose nuanced palette of Italian/ Sicilian characters ranges from oversexed, badly dressed crooks to oversexed, badly dressed priests, with a few oversexed, badly dressed cops, boxers, prostitutes and morons thrown in for variety. (It’s funny, too, how many times non-Italians like Christopher Walken and Wallace Shawn get cast as cinematic Sicilians… though, in fairness, most non-Roman Italianates are played by actual paisanos.) Do I personally get called out for that stuff? Not too often anymore, though I’ve certainly heard my share of meatball and Mafia jokes along the way; hell, I’ve made a few of ‘em too. Beat the bastards to it, right? My point, though, is this:

We are America.

We immigrants, we built this country.

Even the ones who are “those people.” Hell, especially the ones who are “those people,” and whose labors have been so often obscured by prejudice, law, and the self-contradictory concept of white superiority.

My father spent half his teenage years in Harlem. Some of my grand-relations spoke little or no English, and all of them had heavy Old Country accents. They worked their asses off despite the hate, despite the ghettos and the stereotypes. They fought and occasionally died to make America great, and we’re still trying to get it to live up to its best ideals.

A handful of my relatives have thrown their lot in with Trump. To them, I say Remember who we are. The history of Muslims and Mexicans in Trump’s America is the history of our people too. To go against them is to shame our ancestors and go against ourselves.

siciliano

Our song is the immigrant’s song, and America is a better place for our voices.

My people built their little corner of America, and they raised me to appreciate it and to continue their work.

I’m not rich. I probably never will be. I’ve gotten a free ride in some respects for my lighter skin and an accent that’s more Southern than Siciliano, but I am a proud embodiment of the immigrant experience in America. My work, my life, my family and our legacy – they’re not huge, but they have made this land a better place to live, and a large part of my passion… and, quite often, my anger… comes from knowing that certain people, especially now, are dedicated to fucking it up.

To every hell imaginable with such bigotry. Fuck anyone who thinks that “my America” belongs only to your kind.

I am an American. We immigrants are America too.

I am the product of my heritage. If you enjoy my work, if my words inspire you, then remember that I am one of “those people” too.

Their fight is my fight, and this fight is personal.

Whose side are you on?

I know mine.

And I ain’t goin’ nowhere, and neither are the rest of us, so just get the fuck used to it.

satryr-gray

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Province of Sorcerers: The Malignant Magick of Our New Millenium

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism.
– Carl Jung, “On the Psychology of the Unconscious”

President Trump and his administration – implacable embodiments of counter-reality – are symptoms of a profound and perhaps extinction-level form of malignant magick in the Crowleyian sense of causing changes in reality in accordance with acts of will. Symbols, rituals, chants, invocations – all the trappings of magickal practices are being employed on a minute-by-minute basis by all sides of the current political divides… divides that are themselves manifestations of an industry created to generate a self-sustaining frenzy of terror and rage.

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Beyond the personal history of the man himself, Trump’s presidency is the result of a decades-long infatuation with “X-TREEEEEEEEM!!!” behavior, a mass media dedicated almost solely to generating attention (most often through constant hate and fear), and a populace conditioned to accept bullying as “dominant behavior” and the mark of “social Darwinism” – a concept that itself flies in the face of what Darwin actually said – as well as an internet culture that was literally created in the late ’80s through early 2000s by young, angry, socially marginalized white males who bestowed status to peers who “hacked”/ flamed/ burned” people on general principle.

ann_coulter_demonic_book_coverThe “alternative facts” thing is the endgame of a campaign that began in America during the mid-1950s, within a culture war that pitted American progressives (religious and otherwise) against wealthy industrialists and socially regressive evangelicals who in turn forged an alliance to undo the New Deal and dismantle racial desegregation. (For details, see the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, by Kevein Kruse.) Newt Gingrich pushed this campaign to new extremes in the 1990s by declaring total war on political opponents, using literally demonizing rhetoric as a weapon to turn public opinion against dissent of any kind. (See Gingrich’s essay “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.”) Pundits like Ann Coulter [1] – chosen either for their perceived attractiveness (Laura Ingram, Tomi Lahren, Sarah Palin) blustering “tough” personas (Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ted Nugent), or faux-concern for “values” and “American greatness” (Glenn Beck, Phil Robertson) employ Gingrich’s techniques to make literal fortunes in careers whose sole intention involves a daily stream of invective and hate which “tells it like it is” to and for its intended audience. The left has its media attack-dogs too (cf. Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Al Sharpton, Bill Maher etc.), and although liberal/ progressive progressive pundits tend to address more genuine abuses than the right-wing ones do, both ideologies love to have someone with a literal bully pulpit express the frustrations we feel behind our social masks, and all sides – regardless of objective assessments of harm – seem to feel equally abused. All of these pundits, in turn, act out shadow-plays in the Jungian sense [2], and direct catastrophic amounts of psychic intensity at whomever their targets happen to be.

This conditioning toward extremity is a literal industry. It generates money and influence by tapping into the shadow-side of cultural divisions, and the only way to keep the profits flowing in is to become ever-more “X-TREEEEEEM!!!!” At this point, empathy is quaint, outmoded, and certainly unfashionable… hell, even culturally treasonous within whichever group you happen to belong to. All forms of compromise are heresy, and “the other” (whomever that “other” happens to be) is quite literally demonized to the point where even considering a dialog makes you “just like them”… or maybe even worse. Internet social media has exacerbated strident disconnection, fanatic tribalism, and hectoring extremity, and the results are literally, perhaps fatally, poisoning our culture, its people, and our world.

We live in an era of global malefica, of destructive spells cast through apparently innocuous means. Things that were once the province of sorcerers are now everyday currency to anyone with a computer, a TV, or an internet connection. Although it’s true that a certain amount of occult influence and technology is being used by certain people in certain subcultures to advance certain agendas, the greater rituals are being enacted without deliberate metaphysical intent. We are, in information-age culture, employing – however innocuously – the most significant tools of classical magick: Symbol. Focus. Intention. Connection. On a daily, even hourly, basis, we invest psychic energy into an ever-growing network of connection, effect, and transformation. The fact that we don’t seem to have the slightest idea what we’re doing with it makes us, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, too damned powerful yet clueless for our own good. The fact that so many people use such power toward malignant ends should terrify anybody with a pulse.

baphomet-barbieAs easy as it is (and as justified, too) to view President Trump’s ascension as some malign act of sorcery, the fact is, it’s not just Trump and his people who are using malignant magicks; WE ALL ARE. Words and symbols and media have become our weaponized rituals, and we have become so caught up in the fight that almost everyone looks like the enemy. I wish I had a pithy solution to this mess, but to be honest – especially speaking as someone who has written and researched these topics for decades now – the situation scares the hell out of me. And we must be our own saviors here, too; anyone’s who’s counting on some godhead to save us from our own mistakes hasn’t read nearly enough history to see where such situations tend to lead.

We need to step back from the brink, but I’m not certain we even want to do so. After all, we are literally invested in this global evil spell, and its tools have become our favorite toys.

And no, I am not attributing our predicament to some otherworldly force. In this case, as in most such situations, we have only ourselves to blame.
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1. Compare the titles of Coulter’s books with the trigger phrases in Gingrich’s essay. There’s a lot of overlap, and I suspect that’s totally intentional. 

2. The change of character brought about by the uprush of collective forces is amazing. A gentle and reasonable being can be transformed into a maniac or a savage beast. One is always inclined to lay the blame on external circumstances, but nothing could explode in us if it had not been there. As a matter of fact, we are constantly living on the edge of a volcano, and there is, so far as we know, no way of protecting ourselves from a possible outburst that will destroy everybody within reach. It is certainly a good thing to preach reason and common sense, but what if you have a lunatic asylum for an audience or a crowd in a collective frenzy? There is not much difference between them because the madman and the mob are both moved by impersonal, overwhelming forces.
– Carl Jung, “Psychology and Religion”

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Health Care: A Social Necessity for a Viable Society

Universal health care, as far as I’m concerned, is as essential to a modern industrialized society as roads, power grids, sewage systems, telephone access, reliable energy sources with long-term viability, relatively untainted sources of food and drink, professional police and emergency-response systems, an efficient and mobile standing military force, a postal system, international trade policies, a standardized currency, a reliable and standardized definition of citizenship, and a host of other things – all of which are underwritten and/ or provided by the federal government in collaboration with the states, and none of which are explicitly defined within the U.S. Constitution, in large part because they did not exist in anything near their present form when that Constitution was drafted to begin with.

health-care

“Why,” as someone said recently regarding this topic, “do the working men and women have to pay for it?” [1] Because as history and current events show us, in countless examples from the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 to the more-or-less containment of Ebola over the last several years, IT IS IN A SOCIETY’S COMPELLING BEST INTERESTS TO KEEP ITS PEOPLE HEALTHY. Especially in a world where an illness can leap continents in a period of hours, and where a single diseased person can infect hundreds of people simply by walking down the street – much less by working behind a counter and/ or serving food in a restaurant – IT IS IN A SOCIETY’S COMPELLING BEST INTEREST TO KEEP ITS PEOPLE HEALTHY. A society in which people can and do “tough it out” when they’re sick because they have no choice otherwise is a society that is itself diseased. It is NOT – provably, according to current statistics and historical evidence – a healthy, viable society with a long-term future.
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A person’s illness is not a reflection of their moral character. You cannot wish away cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, mental illness, sensory processing conditions, infections, injuries, etc. etc. etc. by being bold enough and industrious enough to satisfy some nonsense criteria of “being a hard worker.” (Whatever that means.) The “good old days” were not miraculously free from sickness; history shows that alcoholism, crime, plague, starvation, rampant insanity, domestic violence, crushing mass poverty, political upheavals, and other social illnesses were (and still are) often intertwined with untreated physical and mental illnesses. While certain medical conditions are avoidable, the majority are not, and the idea of forcing people to remain sick or injured until they’re industrious enough to “earn” medical treatment is not only cruel, it is literally suicidal to society at large.

Invoking and debating the jots and tittles of an 18th-century document as some sort of divine mandate for the “freedom” to be sick, go broke, and possibly die unless one is rich enough to afford not to [2]… that’s an absurdist argument. Leaving out the horrific costs in human suffering, that argument still ignores the many realities of the modern world… realities that our federal and state governments already address with such efficiency that we don’t even notice the solutions until and unless we need them… and the fact that a society where the people are sick is a society that is sick and dying as a whole.

An overall standard of health among individual citizens is essential to the health of a society at large. A society in which physical, mental and financial viability are provided only to a wealthy elite is a society that is doomed to fail.
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EDIT: In the time since this article was posted yesterday, I have learned that an especially nasty influenza strain is making the rounds this winter. So far, in the 2016-2017 flu season which officially began in November, there have been over 46 lab-confirmed deaths in Washington State alone. That’s one state, with excellent medical programs, under the ACA, within a few weeks. And that figure is ten days old as of this posting. I know this because a friend’s father-in-law is currently dying of that strain of the flu at this time; oh, and she has it now too. Both of them have contracted said flu within the last 48 hours. She’ll probably survive it. I doubt he will.

Yes, illnesses kill – that’s part of what makes them illnesses. The number of people they kill, how easily they kill, and how widespread the killing is, all depend a great deal upon modern medical treatment or a widespread lack thereof. And again I will emphasize this point: The person behind the counter at the next store you visit, or in the kitchen of the next restaurant you buy food from, is as likely to have this flu as my friend and her father-in-law are. More likely, really, because they come in contact with more people in the course of their job. And unlike my friend and her father-in-law, they’re not likely to be able to afford medical treatment and/ or sick days on their own dime, so they could be spreading that illness on to you, your kids, your co-workers, and so forth. Self-righteous selfishness does not render you or your society immune.

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1 – As an even more direct answer to that person: a) Because we all pay into the mutual upkeep of our society, or we all lose it; b) Most of the people who need universal health care ARE “working people” whose employers simply choose not to provide health coverage and/ or viable compensation for their employees; and c) Because a random sick person’s illness is a threat to your health, and the health of your loved ones as well.

2 – See the following graphs:

health-insurance-rate-hikes-20120924-001

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health-insurance-costshealth-care-decline

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In Retrospect – Star Wars: A New Hope

For the first time in quite a while, my wife Sandi and I re-watched Star Wars: A New Hope (aka the REAL “first Star Wars movie”) last night. Certain aspects of it still hold up despite the passage of 40 years (!!!!!!!!!!) as of this coming summer. Other aspects really do not.

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For starters, this is a textbook example of a movie saved in the editing room and post-production process. Remove the iconic soundtrack, sound effects, editing, and visual innovations, and this film would collapse into a clump of silliness. The younger performers are more or less dreadful; Carrie Fisher salvages her role with sheer attitude, but Chloë Grace Moretz [1] she ain’t. Mark Hamill’s the best of the three, but he’s clearly struggling with a badly written role in what had to have felt like a thankless job. Harrison Ford is cringeworthy; it’s hard, rewatching this movie, to believe that this role made him a star. The veteran actors come across far better, especially the Sirs Cushing and Guinness, plus James Earl Jones and – oddly enough – Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew, who did a lot with very little material; their professionalism anchors the film, but it’s not hard to see why Sir Alec, in particular, considered this movie an embarrassment. The writing is downright horrible, saved largely by a few strong performances that feature an often sardonic self-awareness of the absurdity of it all, combined with a dedication to make the best of a bad situation. Really, this was a kids’ movie that happened to say the right things at the right time, the right way, to resonate with adults as well.

A New Hope‘s real gems, however, still shine: Its soundtrack remains magnificent, a perfect encapsulation of the epic wonder and spectacle that Lucas wanted to convey. The production design, as familiar as it has become, retains its iconic flavor; a lesser effort would have doomed the film. The sound effects convey their primal shiver, and the fact that the model-work looks far better – even now – than the downright awful CGI inserts that Lucas painted all over his masterpiece in later years [2] attests to the skills of the camera, pyro, and model-making crews.

The biggest virtue this movie has, though, and the one which sets it apart from other SF movies of its era, is its deep-universe weirdness. For despite the pulp-action tropes, the setting of Star Wars exudes an enticing sense of the uncanny. The film is loaded with odd bits that hint at a larger universe: the mouse robots, the half-heard lines, the unexplained references to alien concepts, the weird writing and evocative names, the giant skeleton and the bizarre robots… it all feels like an especially vivid dream, and that sensation grants Star Wars a sophistication that its story lacks. Few genre movies, then or now, capture the illusion of depth as well as the first Star Wars does. Even more than its rousing message of triumph over odds, that is, I think, the element that keeps people coming back for more.

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Frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing folks grouse about the newest Star Wars movies – Rogue One and The Force Awakens. By every measure of film-making craft, they’re both vastly superior to the first trilogy, and leave the CGI atrocities of the second trilogy bleeding pixels in a corner on the floor. People kvetching about plot-holes and character development in Rogue One and TFA either have not watched ANH, Empire or – gods help us! – fucking Return of the Jedi in a very long time, or else remain so spellbound by the effects those movies had on them as kids that they can’t see past how goddamned BAD those movies (Empire excepted) really are as films. By the standards of the Star Wars series, Rogue One and Force Awakens are among the very best of the lot, worthy additions to an epic series.

I still appreciate the original Star Wars despite it flaws. It changed the art and industry of filmmaking (for better and worse), and retains a mythic power well out of proportion with its weaknesses. I suspect that what many folks are searching for in the newer Star Wars films is a return to wondrous innocence and the vast possibilities that first Star Wars film unveiled. Sadly, that ain’t gonna happen again. It’s not 1977, Star Wars is a cultural touchstone, and although a film like Rogue One can bring us elements of that saga that we’ve never seen before (a potential that I, for one, feel it did admirably), there’s no way to recreate that first blare of trumpets in a realm that, once alien, now seems so familiar.

Which means, of course, that we creators can, and must, create new canvases for our imagination, and approach our possibilities – regardless of our flaws – with that eternal attitude of A New Hope.

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* – Until-recently-teenage actress known for her action-movie roles, who brings an impressive emotional complexity to her characters.

** – Jumping fucktoads, George, what were you THINKING? The Jabba footage is especially rank, giving Harrison Ford ample opportunity to shit all over his star cred while emoting badly at a vanished human who’s been glossed over by a CGI space-slug too fakey for a SYFY original movie. Especially considering that Lucas used ILM to “enhance” his “special editions” years after Jurassic Park, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day revolutionized CGI and brought the technique toward its present form, the additions to ANH are inexplicably bad.

 

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