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Walter Hudson

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, and as president of the Minority Liberty Alliance. He hosts a daily podcast entitled Fightin Words, proudly hosted on Twin Cities Newstalk Podcast Network. Walter is a city council member in Albertville, MN. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.
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Marvel Studios Clarifies Spider-Man Deal with Sony

Friday, June 26th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Ever since the improbable news dropped that Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had struck a deal to include Spider-Man in the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe, questions have swirled regarding how the two studios would interact. Who has final say regarding how the character is used? Can we expect other Marvel characters to appear in stand-alone Spider-Man films?

Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige shed some light on those questions in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

After Civil War, how much will Marvel be involved in Sony’s Spider-Man movie?

FEIGE Well, we’re producing it for Sony. It’s exciting, and we’re treating it like we treat all of our films. To try to make the best version now of Spider-Man and a version of Spider-Man that inhabits this universe that we’ve created. We’re in lockstep with [Sony Motion Picture Group chairman] Tom Rothman and [producer] Amy Pascal at every turn.

So some of your Marvel characters will show up in the Sony Spider-Man movies?

FEIGE Specifics of the story aside, the agreement that has been made between Sony and Marvel is that we could do that.

Do you risk giving up any of your autonomy by working with Sony?

FEIGE Without getting into the contracts, it’s definitely a Sony picture, produced by Marvel Studios. We’ve been working with each other for a number of months now. It’s been just as healthy as any of our internal discussions. We just look at it as having additional team members. We wouldn’t want to do it if we couldn’t do it in the way we’ve done all the other movies, and I think that’s what Sony wants from us.

From these comments, one might assume that Sony is effectively yielding creative control to Marvel. That would certainly make sense, as Marvel’s track record of success certainly eclipses Sony’s efforts with the now twice rebooted Spider-Man.

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A Black Libertarian’s Thoughts on the Confederate Flag

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

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In the wake of nine racially motivated murders in South Carolina, attention has focused on displays of the Confederate battle flag. Many retailers have pulled Confederate flags from their inventory. A bipartisan group of politicians and public figures have called for the removal of the flag from South Carolina’s capitol grounds.

To some, the flag represents a noble Southern heritage. To others, it evokes a vile history of racial violence. As a black libertarian, I see in the Confederate flag interwoven tragedies which echo through history.

The first tragedy is the most obvious, the one most cited, the one fueling the current debate. The Confederate flag reminds us of a time when human beings were bought and sold as chattel, when the rights of individuals were denied based on the color of their skin. The institution of slavery cannot be washed from Confederate symbolism. For that reason, it remains reasonable to question why anyone would want to associate themselves with that symbol.

The second tragedy is amplified by its obscurity, the fact that few seem to recognize or appreciate it. The original constitutional vision of the American republic took form in a compact between the several states, where they granted enumerated powers to a federal government and established a first of its kind dual-sovereignty. The ultimate check on federal authority was the capacity of the states to withdraw from the compact. Among the many causalities of the Civil War was this original vision of dual-sovereignty. Today, we pledge allegiance to a union “indivisible,” affirming the supreme authority of the federal government to dictate law among the states. We can argue whether the states retain certain powers in theory. But in practice, the feds call the shots in far more ways than the Founding Fathers ever envisioned. That’s largely a product of the Civil War.

Therefore, when I look at the Confederate battle flag as a black libertarian, I see tragedy for all parties concerned. I see the history of racism and human indignity which motivates the current debate. But I also see the loss of state sovereignty which compromised the Founding Fathers’ vision for republican government. To the extent people choose to fly the Confederate flag in honor of that latter heritage, I can’t fault them.

That said, let’s be clear why state sovereignty was lost. It was lost because the southern states delegitimized it.

Next: The moral right to invade…

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Conservatives Have Greater Self-Control Than Liberals, Studies Suggest

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s something conservatives have inherently known, but can now back with scientific evidence. Conservatives tend to have greater self-control than liberals. At least that’s what a series of studies detailed in a paper published Monday suggest. The key, it would seem, is the conservative belief in free will and personal responsibility. The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Conservatives tend to believe they had a greater control over their outcomes, and that was predicting how they did on the test,” said Joshua Clarkson, a consumer psychologist at the University of Cincinnati and the lead author of the paper.

The results make sense. Someone who believes that they control their own outcomes will naturally seek the liberty to do so. Conversely, someone who believes that life drifts along currents of fate will naturally regard success as a product of “privilege.” If you’re not responsible for your own outcomes, you hold no responsibility to control them.

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Next Indiana Jones Rumored for Late 2018

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s a great time for belated sequels and franchise reboots. Jurassic World just finished its second weekend, remaining number one at the box office against Pixar’s newly released Inside Out. The dino adventure flick pulled in another $102 million domestically, adding to its record-breaking half-billion-dollar haul worldwide. Jurassic’s success raises expectation for other franchises, particularly Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which hits theaters on December 18th.

Another franchise which Disney gained with their acquisition of Lucasfilm is Indiana Jones. Producer Kathleen Kennedy has confirmed intentions to continue the franchise, though the exact nature of the next film remains unknown. Will it be a reboot? Will it be a continuation starring an aging Harrison Ford?

Either way, a source cited by Ain’t It Cool News claims the next installment has been slated for release in the forth quarter of 2018.

I asked some friendly spies in and around Lucasfilm for confirmation and didn’t get it, but also didn’t get a denial, either.

Plans made that far in advance could easily change. Much no doubt hinges on the success of Disney’s efforts with Star Wars.

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First Set Photos from All-Female Ghostbusters

Friday, June 19th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Production is underway on the long-awaited reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise. Bridesmaids director Paul Feig heads the project, bringing along his alumni performers Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones round out the cast.

Collider got their hands on an unofficial plot synopsis:

Wiig and McCarthy play a pair of unheralded authors who write a book positing that ghosts are real. Flash forward a few years and Wiig lands a prestigious teaching position at Columbia U. Which is pretty sweet, until her book resurfaces and she is laughed out of academia.

Wiig reunites with McCarthy and the other two proton pack-packing phantom wranglers, and she gets some sweet revenge when ghosts invade Manhattan and she and her team have to save the world.

Here are the first photos from the set:

 

The new Ghostbusters is expected to hit theaters a year from now.

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Dan Aykroyd Praises All-Female Ghostbusters Reboot

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

In case you missed it, Bridesmaids director Paul Feig will be rebooting the Ghostbusters franchise with an all female cast. The film will star Bridesmaids alum Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, alongside Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

Original Ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd recently sat down with Spinoff Online to discuss the project. He had high praise:

Yeah, it’s going to be hot! The new one’s going to be big! The interplay, and with each of them, their individual voices are so well defined. They’re just such different characters, and there’s a friction. There’s a dynamic there. I’m not going to spoil it for people, but it’s going to be big, big!

There’s more to the story than a single film though. Reports have indicated another Ghostbusters film will be developed, produced by and starting Channing Tatum. Those reports hinted that the Tatum project may not be connected to the Feig project, and may take place in different cinematic universes.

Asked about that by Spinoff, Aykroyd failed to clarify:

The thing is, you’ve got creators all around Hollywood who saw the thing at the original time and are going, ‘Wow, I think I’ve got a take on that. I think I could do something under that umbrella.” And so we’ve had brilliant creators walk in, from Paul Feig to many others. And we loved the concepts they’re coming up with. And this one with the four girls is going to be massive. Oh, man, it’s funny. It’s intelligent. It hits the right notes, and I’m really excited about it.

So how many of these takes are going to be realized, and how do they connect with each other? For now, we don’t know.

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Jon Bernthal on Joining Netflix’s Daredevil as the Punisher

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Marvel’s handling of their cinematic universe has set a standard for the film industry. Shared cinematic universes have become the goal for every conceivable franchise, from Ghostbusters to Transformers, Star Wars, even Robin Hood.

Marvel’s cinematic universe has carried over into television, first with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter on ABC, and most recently with the well-received Daredevil on Netflix. Using television as a medium for lesser known characters is a strategy that has so far been successful.

Joining the cast in the second season of Daredevil will be Jon Bernthal. Perhaps best known as Shane in The Walking Dead, he was recently seen in the Brad Pitt war film Fury.

Bernthal spoke with ABC News about playing Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher:

“Oh man, it’s just a huge honor to play the part and that’s all I can say about that,” Bernthal told ABC News. “I’m very thrilled and we haven’t started yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Fan reaction has been as enthusiastic. Bernthal brings an intensity and obsession to his characters which fits the violent vigilante perfectly.

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New Oculus Rift “Touch Controllers” Make Virtual Reality More Real

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You may have heard of the Oculus Rift, perhaps the most talked about virtual reality platform in recent years. A commercial version of the device is due to hit the market next year.

Those who have had access to development versions of the hardware have reported issues with motion sickness. Part of the disorientation emerges from seeing a 360-degree three-dimensional world and interacting with it via a traditional gamepad. The body expects to interact with what it sees in a way that it is used to.

Oculus will address that with its “touch controllers,” also coming next year. IGN tech editor Alaina Yee writes of her experience testing the devices:

My demo took place in the Toybox test environment that Oculus mentioned last week at its pre-E3 press conference—the one Oculus uses internally to fine-tune the controls for the Touch. The scene I was dropped into was fairly barebones: a very nondescript workshop with a variety of objects scattered over a workbench. I spent the first few minutes acclimating to the Touch’s controls; though the controllers feel pretty good to hold, with most of the input placements right where I’d want them, I didn’t take to them right away. The middle-finger trigger felt odd at first. I had to get used to the position of it relative to where my actual middle finger is.

After I’d adjusted to that, though, I just had to learn how to use the middle-finger trigger to pick up and hold things like blocks, Zippo lighters, slingshots, and guns. (Squeeze once to grab something; keep it depressed to hold onto the item; release to drop it.) Though it was a pretty basic mechanic, my brain still refused to accept the scheme at first, since I was looking at fingers opening and closing. I had to practice several times before I began equating the virtual fingers with pushing down on a button.

Read Yee’s complete account at IGN. Check out the entire Oculus Rift conference from this year’s E3 below.

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Rachel Dolezal Case Provokes Questions: What Is Race? Does It Matter?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Among reaction to the Rachel Dolezal story, many have attempted to draw a distinction between her attempt to pass herself off as black and Caitlyn Jenner’s attempt to pass himself off as female. I argued Tuesday that no such distinction exists, that both Dolezal and Jenner have denied objective reality. If what Dolezal has done is fraud, as some have claimed, then what Jenner has done is also fraud.

Indeed, Jenner actually holds a weaker objective claim to womanhood than Dolezal does to blackness. As I wrote Tuesday, race is merely a social contrivance. That prompted this from a reader:

To claim “Race is merely a social contrivance” means you’re 1) being facetious 2) drunk the kool aid 3) fear your PC masters or 4) are ignorant. Please clarify.

What’s to clarify? Race is subjective.

I’m both the product of and a partner in interracial marriage. What race am I? What race are my children?

My wife claims status as a Native American and has even received tribal assistance for her education. Her skin is lily white. But she’s something like 1/16 Native. What race is she? Where’s the line? Who draws it? On what basis?

We can examine a man and tell you definitively that he is such. No such clear standard delineates race. Therefore Dolezal’s claim has greater objective standing than Jenner’s.

You might counter by observing that racial differences have genetic markers. This is true. However, these genetic differences do not distinguish one race from another in the same fashion that we distinguish gender. I could describe myself as black, bi-racial, mulatto, etc. Each term is subjective. I’m not completely black. I’m not a mix of two “pure” races. But I’m most definitely and wholly a man.

These observations support the conclusion that race is a social contrivance, our way of categorizing each other for various purposes. The legitimate uses of race include things like medical heredity and physical descriptions. But such distinctions occur within races as much as between them. Not all white people look alike or have the same medical issues. Heredity is heredity. In this way, race only matters to the extent it serves as a shorthand for communicating a broad set of descriptive facts. In an age where racial groups intermingle, which they always have to one degree or another, old descriptors apply less and less.

The problem with many in our society is that they’ve placed the racial cart before the utilitarian horse, pretending as though race matters beyond communication of objective fact. That’s the mindset that informs Rachel Dolezal’s transracialism. She thinks being black matters. Those most offended by her actions are offended because they agree with her. Being “truly black” matters to them. Of course, that notion should be as offensive as any notion of being “truly white.”

Also read: 

Rachel Dolezal: No Surprise Here | Rule of Law 

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Transracial Rachel Dolezal, Transsexual Caitlyn Jenner, and the Denial of Objective Reality

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We new media professionals surf a choppy sea of social whim. Whatever people talk about, we write about. It’s supply and demand. That said, there are certain stories which I resist chiming in on no matter how big they get, stories which I find either distasteful or ludicrous.

The story of Rachel Dolezal stands as an example. The drama surrounding her masquerade as a black woman strikes me as tabloid garbage, warranting a sidebar mention at best, and then only for laughs.

Unfortunately, my attempt to avoid the story has run up against this piece at Reason, in which editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie attempts to draw a distinction between Dolezal’s transracialism (yes, spell check, that’s a word now) and Caitlyn Jenner’s transsexualism. He writes:

To say that Jenner’s very public coming out disturbed social conservatives is an understatement. Between the ritual unwillingness to use female pronouns in relation to Jenner to exhortations that she is clearly deranged, it’s fairer to say that cons lost their shit. “A surgically damaged man appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, and the applause is mandatory,” opined National Review‘s David French. ”If we’re not going to defend as a [Republican] party basic principles of male and female, that life is sacred because it comes from God, then you’re going to lose the vast majority of people who’ve joined that party,” howled Iowa talk-radio host Steve Deace.

Gillespie cited Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis, who wrote:

[It's just] another attempt by social conservatives to demean transgender people, a phenomenon that has been quite prevalent on that side of the political spectrum over the past two weeks. Even taking the arguments at face value, though, they don’t add up….

Rachel Dolezal didn’t “choose her race,” she committed fraud by lying about her background. She can choose to adopt whatever culture she wishes, but that’s not what happened here. She lied about her background, not just to the public but apparently also on job applications. That’s fraud. The people who are trying to use this case to draw analogies to, or mostly just to make stupid, snarly comments about, the issues raised last week by the Caitlyn Jenner story, are just being obnoxious jerks.

Obnoxious jerks, or adherents to objective reality?

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Jurassic World Review: Big Dumb Fun

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Warning: Some plot details from Jurassic World will be disclosed.

Believe it or not, it has been 22 years since Jurassic Park premiered in theaters. For many, that film stands as a landmark cinematic experience. Never before had computer-generated characters been so convincingly portrayed on-screen. The technology manifest in Jurassic Park went on to reshape the film and television industries, empowering creators to build whatever they could imagine, for better or worse.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park debuted four years after the original. Despite being again directed by Steven Spielberg and again based on a novel by Michael Crichton, the sequel failed to capture the same magic. By time Jurassic Park III came around in 2001, the good money was on the franchise’s demise.

But if there’s anything Hollywood loves, it’s a comeback story. In an age of belated sequels and franchise reboots, Jurassic World has emerged as an unprecedented hit, making half a billion dollars in its opening weekend, the largest debut haul in film history.

There’s clearly been a long-harbored desire to return to Isla Nublar. The question remains, despite its commercial success: is the film any good?

Pros

True Sequel to the Original

Perhaps it would have been better for all parties concerned if the second and third Jurassic Park sequels had never happened. Indeed, Jurassic World pretends they didn’t, referencing nothing from either film. It’s telling that no such references are necessary.

Jurassic World proves to be a true sequel to the original film by building off its events and advancing its themes. Entrepreneur John Hammond’s dream of an attraction sans illusion was never fully realized, cut short by the tragic fulfillment of Ian Malcolm’s chaos predictions. Here, that vision has finally come.

Chris Pratt

Though he takes too long to appear, once he does, Chris Pratt commands the screen. After his breakout role in Marvel Studio’s Guardians of the Galaxy, observers have been looking to Jurassic World for an indication of whether Pratt has persistent star power. The verdict is in and, as observed by an admirer in the film, he’s a badass.

Early glimpses of the banter between Pratt’s Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s uptight Claire Dearing raised concern that we were getting another version of Star Lord. That’s not the case. While Grady and Peter Quill have a similar sense of humor, the former proves much more reliable and mature. Grady plays an amalgamation of Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm, fusing practical expertise with a sense of humility before nature. Unlike Quill, Grady’s the voice of reason here. And Pratt sells it.

Evolving the Franchise

Jurassic Park was built from ambition outpacing caution. Jurassic World proves no different, made worse by years of apparent success. With the public (and we the movie-going audience) no longer in awe of living dinosaurs, the park’s corporate masters demand ever more shocking attractions. That leads to the creation of the Indominus Rex, an amalgam of monsters both modern and prehistoric.

Jurassic World continues to ask where man should stop meddling with nature. Whether the application is entertainment or something more nefarious, should humans play Frankenstein with the building blocks of life?

Like the original’s Barbasol can full of embryos, Jurassic World leaves a fairly obvious opening for follow-up films. Given the monstrous success seen thus far, and Pratt acknowledging he’s been signed for additional films, we can bank on seeing where things go next.

And now for the cons….

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Live Like an Immortal

Friday, June 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” That’s what the Apostle Paul suggested we should say if there is no resurrection. If our lives truly flame out after a few short years on Earth, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the time we have.

To this day, the world echoes that sentiment. We say carpe diem, live for the moment, seize the day. We say life is short, live it as best you can now, because death comes at any moment.

Of course, Paul didn’t believe that. Paul believed in the Christian Gospel. He believed that, through Christ, death had been overcome and life could be lived eternal. That belief fundamentally transformed his worldview, reshaping it into something distinct from the “live for the moment” attitude most prevalent in the world.

As a believer, the older I have gotten, the more I have considered the implications of my belief. The limitations of time define so much of our existence, our routine, our priorities. What if there were no limitations? What if we knew, for a fact, that we would live forever? How would that change our approach to living?

From a believer’s perspective, the question brings conviction. Does our life reflect that expectation? Does it bear out in how we spend our time, how we engage in relationship, and what we prioritize as most important?

Even for non-believers, a thought experiment in immortality may prove enlightening. Indeed, for many transhumanists, immortality remains a goal of science. So the question arises: what would you do with life eternal if you got it?

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Open Letter from Politically Correct College Student Proves Jerry Seinfeld’s Point

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

The culture of political correctness has gotten so bad at college campuses that even bleeding heart liberal comics like Jerry Seinfeld feel out of place. The venerable comedian told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd last week that he avoids performing on college campuses, and has been advised by those who have to stay away. From Entertainment Tonight:

Seinfeld says teens and college-aged kids don’t understand what it means to throw around certain politically-correct terms. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice,’” he said. “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

Tuesday, the Huffington Post published an open letter from a self-identified “‘politically correct’ college student” which proved Seinfeld’s point. San Diego State University pupil Anthony Berteaux took issue with Seinfeld’s comments, even as he demonstrated their accuracy.

According to Berteaux, it’s not that college students in our “progressive culture” expect comics to be unoffensive. They simply expect comics to “offend the right people.” Berteaux writes:

… yes, Mr. Seinfeld, we college students are politically correct. We will call out sexism and racism if we hear it. But if you’re going to come to my college and perform in front of me, be prepared to write up a set that doesn’t just offend me, but has something to say.

Speaking on behalf of his peers, Berteax commands Seinfeld to “use the medium as a way to create social commentary and dialogue.” He evokes routines from Amy Schumer and Louis C.K. which, to his mind, meet this critical threshold. The comic’s job, he says, is to make people think about important social issues.

Seinfeld, by contrast, seems to think that his job is to make people laugh. Who can blame the performer for wanting to avoid a humorless crowd that takes something like comedy so seriously?

 

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What Is Colonel Sanders Implying About KFC in This Ad?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s cool that KFC found a guy who looks exactly like Colonel Sanders to play the iconic chicken peddler in new TV ads. What’s odd is how they’ve chosen to utilize him. Have you seen the baseball-themed spot embedded above? Here’s the colonel’s dialog:

If there’s two things I’m certain of, it’s one: baseball will always be America’s number one sport, free from corruption, scandal, or cheating of any kind;

And two: the summer meal featuring my Kentucky Fried Chicken tastes better than a no hitter.

Evoking the popularity of baseball and tying it to a great American meal like fried chicken makes sense. But why would you associate a false perception of baseball with a claim about your product? The ad seems to indict the colonel’s judgement right before presenting his endorsement. It’s an odd strategy.

But hey, it’s got us talking about fried chicken. So mission accomplished.

 

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Fifty Shades Scribe Hasn’t Seen the Film

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

How bad does your experience making a film have to be for you to skip seeing the finished product? Ask Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter who penned the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. From Variety:

Marcel opened up about her thoughts on the film’s sexual content and her role in the film’s production on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast, PodcastOne, this week, revealing the fact that she still hasn’t seen the movie that she wrote. Marcel said she has conflicting thoughts on the film’s events.

“A lot of what happened on ‘Fifty Shades’ really broke my heart,” Marcel said.

The book has been described by many as horribly written by author E.L. James, who has nonetheless exerted control over the film and its forthcoming sequel Fifty Shades Darker.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson will not be returning to helm the sequel, reportedly due to conflicts with James. Writing of the second script will fall to James’ husband, Niall Leonard.

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James Cameron Endorses Terminator: Genisys

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Filmmaker James Cameron, who began his blockbuster career with 1984′s The Terminator, has taken the unprecedented step of endorsing a sequel which he had nothing to do with.

“I wasn’t involved in the making of the film,” Cameron says in the clip above, describing his experience sitting down to preview the forthcoming Terminator: Genisys with “no idea what to expect.” He relates an experience glimpsed in the trailers, very familiar settings evoking the original films, but spun in a new direction.

“I feel like the franchise has been reinvigorated, like this is a renaissance… I feel like [this new film] is the third film.” That’s a slight against the third and fourth entries in the franchise, which Cameron did not produce. Audiences and critics agreed with Cameron’s assessments of those films. Whether they agree that Genisys is a renaissance will be seen when it releases on July 1st.

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How Supernatural Horror Shows Constantine and Sleepy Hollow Hemorrhaged Viewers

Monday, June 8th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

NBC’s cancelled supernatural horror show Constantine, based on a DC Comic series, will not be picked up by another network. The news comes as no shock to this viewer.

I was excited to check out the new series when it premiered last fall. The film version starring Keanu Reeves was serviceable and entertaining despite departing substantially from the source material. The television show stuck closer to the comic book portrayal, with a blonde Brit in the title role.

Unfortunately, it was clear after two episodes that this show was doomed. Why? Because it failed to do the one thing which all science fiction, fantasy, and horror must – establish and adhere to plausible rules.

The problem with Constantine was that his world was completely random. Threats were too easily overcome by convenient supernatural talismans. There’s no sense of drama in a show which can pull a deus ex machina rabbit out of a hat at any moment.

A show which suffers from the same problem, yet has proven more successful, is Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Another show I really wanted to like, Sleepy Hollow became boring in its second season, hemorrhaging millions of viewers. Like Constantine, the ongoing feud between the Headless Horsemen and Ichabod Crane became too contrived, too convenient, and thus lost all its dramatic tension.

Shows which have succeeded in this genre, like Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have done so by rooting their fantastical elements in strict narrative rules. Viewers must know, understand, and trust in the limitations of both characters and their world. Otherwise, it just becomes the threat of the week overcome by the talisman of the week. That gets boring real fast.

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Digital Dreams: The Frustrating Search for a Legitimate Online Business Opportunity

Friday, June 5th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s like the gold rush of the of 1850s. Many sense that there is wealth to be mined in the online wilderness. That sense emerges from both fact and sensational promises. Certainly, there are people making a living working from home running online businesses. Fewer make a decent living at it. Fewer yet become truly rich. Regardless of the odds, the plausibility of limitless income, capped only by one’s ability and resourcefulness, holds an alluring appeal.

This essay will be the first in an ongoing series journaling my personal foray into the labyrinthine online business world. Spoiler alert: I haven’t struck it rich. In fact, when expenses are factored in, I haven’t earned one cent of profit. There’s no happy ending here. Indeed, there’s no ending at all. It’s an ongoing drama. I share my experience to entertain, to warn, and to perhaps attract guidance and spur discussion.

Note that I am not currently an affiliate marketer of any product or service mentioned below. There’s no ulterior motive, and I will not be providing links trying to sell you anything.

Why Start an Online Business?

Perhaps like you, I spend a lot of time online. I would love to say that most of that time is spent in productive endeavors that serve some higher purpose. In truth, much of it is wasted. I have an app on my computer that, among other things, tracks how much time I spend playing computer games. I recently noted that a particular game has eaten enough of my time to equal more than a month of full-time employment. Suffice it to say, I waste a lot of time online.

What if I could take even just a fraction of that time and apply it to a profitable venture? That question has prompted me to explore several possibilities over the years. Clearly, I have the time. All I need to do is figure out how to use it effectively. Simple, right?

Snake Oil by the Gallon

If only it were that simple. Enter “work at home opportunity” or “online business” into your favorite search engine, and you’ll be inundated by various incarnations of snake oil salesmen.

Some are easier to spot than others. Typically, if an ad claims to offer some “secret system” or “elite program” that can have you earning $700 a day by this time next month, it’s a scam. At the very least, it’s going to cost you money well before you make any, if you make any at all.

However, the greater hazards online today are the scams that aren’t so easy to spot. In fact, if you type a particular “program” into a search engine along with the word “scam,” you will likely find affiliates of the product posing as objective critics before you find honest reviews or exposés. As a result, it’s very difficult to locate good information on any given “opportunity” presented on the web.

The Allure of Domination

A few months back, intent upon finding some way to make money selling items on eBay, I tripped upon a “program” that defied conventional categorization. If you’ve done any probing around YouTube for videos about selling on eBay, you’ve likely come across at least one promoting DS Domination.

The DS stands for dropshipping, the practice of selling items warehoused by a supplier, who then ships direct to your customer when they buy from you. It’s brilliant in concept. You never have to touch the merchandise. You don’t have to maintain an inventory. You don’t need to package items, buy postage, or make trips to the post office. You just post items for sell on eBay, then forward the order to your supplier when a customer buys from you.

It may sound too good to be true, but dropshipping is a legitimate wholesale distribution model. That said, the way DS Domination teaches dropshipping (at least in the earliest and cheapest levels of membership) proves unsustainable.

DS Domination teaches people to source products from Amazon and sell them on eBay. You literally find a product for sell at Amazon, copy and paste the description to eBay with a mark up, and have the product shipped to your customer when the listing sells.

You might ask: why would anyone buy something from you at eBay when they can get it cheaper at Amazon? All I can tell you, from personal experience, is that they will. I imagine it’s due to simply not shopping around for the best price and buying on impulse. If benefiting from that doesn’t bother you, then the DS Domination method can make you money.

Here’s the rub though. First, it violates Amazon’s terms of service. Once I found that out, which was pretty soon after I started, I stopped. To my mind, a business model that requires you to violate agreements is not sustainable or desirable.

Second, even if you muscle your way past the ethics of the ToS issue, it’s difficult to control your expenses when sourcing through Amazon. The price they offer today may not be the price they offer tomorrow. And any increase on their end can eliminate your margin real quick, if not cost you money.

Third, it’s very difficult to process returns or otherwise offer customer service after the sale. You’re basically banking on everything going smoothly. If the customer isn’t satisfied, you have to get them to return the item to Amazon, which can get awkward real quick. Either that, or you eat the cost.

Above all, the major drawback of DS Domination is that it’s a multi-level marketing scheme. You pay a monthly fee for access to their training materials and marketing tools. So you’re starting at a loss and the clock is ticking each month toward you losing more. In one sense, this provides motivation to get listings up and make sales. On the other hand, you wonder after awhile what you’re paying for.

I have no doubt that, if I was willing to continue with the unethical practice of violating Amazon’s terms of service, I could have become profitable with the DS Domination method. But I’d rather make money in a way I can be open and honest about.

Going Legit

That led me to SaleHoo, a website that provides a directory of verified wholesale distributors, online training materials, and a community forum for one flat lifetime fee. What I like about SaleHoo is that it’s, to the best of my knowledge thus far, completely legit. There’s no promises of vast riches. There’s no membership fees beyond the initial reasonable investment. You get what you pay for, and you have it forever.

SaleHoo is in league with another service called Terapeak that offers comprehensive market research to members for a monthly or annual fee. I tried their free trial and quickly grew frustrated. The research tool worked great. I had no problem finding fantastic products that were selling well. The problem was: that information does you no good without a wholesale source for those products that can result in your profit.

My frustration with the Terapeak trial combined with other life events led to my shelving the online business endeavor indefinitely. All told, I spent $722.71 on expenses related to my various efforts. My revenue came in at $537.75, adding up to a net loss of $184.96.

It’s worth noting that a large chunk of those expenses came from membership fees and an Amazon Prime subscription. If you take those out of the equation, my expenses were only $449.56 for actual product. That means, had I simply sold the same products without buying into any of the training, I would have come away with a $88.19 profit.

Of course, thought experiments aside, expenses are expenses, and loses are loses. I didn’t lose a ton. But I didn’t make anything either. That said, I feel good about having tried, and am now looking to delve back into the effort with lessons learned and upfront costs paid.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Warner Bros. Chief on Dark Tone of Batman v Superman

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Warner Bros. film chief Greg Silverman on a broad range of topics related to the studio’s transition from one set of established franchises to an emerging set. Silverman addressed concerns that the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be “too dark,” raised by some in the wake of the film’s first trailer.

There is intensity and a seriousness of purpose to some of these characters. The filmmakers who are tackling these properties are making great movies about superheroes; they aren’t making superhero movies. And when you are trying to make a good movie, you tackle interesting philosophies and character development. There’s also humor, which is an important part.

The last bit about humor contradicts previous reports of a “no jokes” policy applied to Warner’ production of DC Comic properties. Humor plays a vital role in even the darkest of tales, providing some relief from what would otherwise be a monotone experience.

 

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Michelle Duggar: Daughters More Victimized Now Than Before

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

In an interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, matriarch Michelle Duggar indicated that the current media hubbub surrounding revelations of sexual misconduct has proven more victimizing than the original incidents. Josh Duggar, son of Michelle and Jim Bob, has admitted to fondling five girls when he was 14 years old. Among those he touched were his sisters.

In the interview with Fox, the Duggars indicated that their family had considered the incident long resolved. What has been news to the rest of the world has been an old wound to their family, one that has been reopened recently in the most public manner. From the Associated Press:

The couple criticized the leaking of police records on the case as “an unprecedented attack on our family” that should be investigated.

Michelle Duggar said her daughters “have been victimized more by what has happened in the last couple of weeks than they were 12 years ago because, honestly, they didn’t even understand and know that anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it.”

Amidst criticism of the Duggars has been much expressed concern for the victims of Josh. Little thought appears to have been given to the effect of piling on the family now. This is something that happened over a decade ago between minor children, and yet has been heralded as if Josh were an active pedophile. According to the family, any damage done all those years ago has only been exasperated by the modern frenzy.

 

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Fresh Star Wars Rumors: Boba Fett, Han Solo, Yoda All Getting Origin Flicks

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Ever since it was first announced that Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm would result in a slew of new Star Wars movies, speculation has swirled around planned stand-alone films. Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts near Christmas this year. The first stand-alone film called Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One, which will reportedly focus on a group of rebels stealing the plans of the original Death Star, will hit theaters in 2016.

Each year thereafter will see a new Star Wars film through at least 2020. Rumors have suggested origin stories for popular characters like Han Solo, Boba Fett, and Yoda. Recently, a new source claimed that Solo and Fett will feature together in the second Anthology film due in 2018. The source also suggested that Yoda’s mysterious origin will be unveiled in 2020. From Schmoes Know:

It’s understandable that some may still be weary of a spin-off series, but unlike most Cinematic Universes where there’s unnecessary prequels, the Anthology films look to be telling a story we want to see, and it definitely seems to be in fan service. It’ll be hard for anyone to step into the roles of these iconic characters, but there’s a lot of talent out there…

… While Rouge One will be a war film and the 2018 film will be a western, the third Anthology film will be much more “mythological and spiritual” based. While it was once reported that a Mace Windu movie may be in the works, there’s been strong speculation that this could be an origin story regarding Yoda.

Expect to hear analysis from Schmoe’s Kristian Harloff when he hosts AMC Jedi Council this Thursday.

Also read: 

5 Reasons Star Wars Actually Sucks

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AMC Theaters Under Investigation for Antitrust

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

AMC Theaters, one of the largest cinema chains in America, has been targeted by a Justice Department probe for alleged violations of state and federal antitrust law. Variety reports:

A Spanish-language Houston moviehouse sued AMC Theaters last month for using its market power to block it from getting studio licenses to screen films like “World War Z,” “Iron Man 3″ and “Fast & Furious 6.”

Viva Cinema Theaters said it went out of business six months after opening because AMC threatened distributors that it would not show any of their first-run movies, English or Spanish, at any of its 30-screen theaters in Houston if they licensed to Viva. The suit claimed violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, tortious interference and violations of a Texas antitrust law.

Let’s say the accusations are 100% accurate. Should AMC’s alleged actions be punishable by law? Who’s rights were violated? Was Viva entitled to exhibit blockbuster films? Were studios entitled to distribution in AMC theaters?

Antitrust laws encroach upon the freedom of association, a critical individual right which should not be lost when wielded corporately. The freedom of association plays a vital role in the functioning of the market. It may seem distasteful for AMC to leverage its market position to exclude smaller competitors. But that’s what competition is, an attempt to excel and thus exclude others. The brutal interaction of competing self-interest produces both quality and efficiency.

There exists no right to run a successful movie theater. If AMC’s practices result in a bad product for consumers, opportunities for competitors will arise. That’s the check on big business power. The lack of such opportunities should not constitute a crime on AMC’s part.

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Anti-GMO Hysteria: Doing to Food What the Green Movement Does to Energy

Monday, June 1st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

gmo meme

Yes, Mr. Fox. Your meme does make me think. I imagine that most people from “hundred (sic) of years ago” would call you crazy for suggesting their life, literally scratched out of the earth, proves somehow preferable to modern civilization. As author and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress Alex Epstein suggests in a recent Prager University video embedded below, most anyone from three-hundred years ago would be overjoyed to witness modern marvels and their impact upon our quality of life.

Anti-GMO hysteria seems to hold sway over a cross-section of ideological persuasions. Unlike the green movement, which tends to remain rooted on the political Left, GMO haters gonna hate from the Left and the Right.

That’s odd, since the two issues otherwise share similar characteristics. Both manifest from an irrational technophobia which cites negative impacts in a vacuum, completely disregarding the tremendous benefits.

Not long ago, the chief greenhouse gas scientist at NOAA told a radio audience that reversing anthropogenic climate change would require bringing carbon emissions down to zero. In other words, since everything human beings do produces carbon directly or indirectly, we should end human civilization.

In a similar way, anti-GMO crusaders bemoan the actual or perceived hazards of genetically modified food without considering the consequences of going “organic” on a global scale. The whole point of genetic modification is to produce more food at a lower cost, which enables abundant quantity and lower prices. That’s a good thing, enabling the wealthy to invest in things beyond their basic survival, and enabling the poor to eat as opposed to not.

Anti-GMO hysteria is to food what the green movement is to energy, a solution infinitely more catastrophic than the problem. I’ll take life with diabetes over human starvation and economic stagnation any day, assuming that’s the actual choice (which it isn’t).

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Have the Duggars Made Christianity Look Bad?

Friday, May 29th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

I’ve never been a fan of the Duggars. It has nothing to do with them. I just don’t watch reality television, or much television of any kind. My knowledge of the abnormally large family has been entirely secondhand. I know they’re conservative Christians, as am I. I know they’re popular among that crowd. And I can tell that they like to have kids.

Given my lack of interest, I’ve been fairly successful in ignoring the ongoing controversy regarding Josh Duggar’s confessed crimes against young girls committed in his teenage years. I was content to remain blissfully ignorant and unconcerned about the hubbub, right up until I read this column from Michael Reagan berating presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for speaking in defense of the Duggar family. I then listened to Christian broadcaster Brannon Howse opine on the subject and interview Reagan here.

Reagan and Howse seem to share the opinion that the Duggars and their business associates have undermined the integrity of the Christian mission by, well, engaging in the Christian mission. Apparently, if you’ve ever done something horrible, you should never serve in a missionary capacity or otherwise stand publicly for Christ. It makes the rest of us look bad, Reagan and Howse claim.

They might want to tell that to the Apostle Paul, who before becoming the greatest first century Christian evangelist whittled away his days hunting and killing Christians without mercy. After that, they might want to chat with King David, a murderer and adulterer who nonetheless authored Psalms and served under God’s grace.

After those conversations, they may want to take a good long look in the mirror and consider prayerfully and honestly how wretched their own condition remains. I know mine does.

Look, I don’t know Josh Duggar at all. I’ve never watched his show. I couldn’t pick the guy out of a lineup. He could be a pinnacle of Christian virtue with a dark past, or a monster hiding in plain sight. I don’t know either way.

What I do know, unequivocally and without the slightest shred of doubt, is that no man or group of men can make Christianity look bad. If you claim to understand what Christianity is, yet continue to look to men as indicators of its merit, your understanding may need tweaking.

The situation with Josh Duggar stands as a tremendous opportunity to communicate the Gospel, to demonstrate our need of a savior, and potentially — depending upon the condition of Josh’s heart — to witness the power of God to transform lives. That should be the focus of Christian commentators and believers, not a conventional view of public relations, as if the world’s opinion matters.

Whether Josh Duggar is an unrepentant child molester or a good and faithful servant of Christ, the power to compel the lost remains with the Holy Spirit. It’s not on Josh Duggar or his family or associates to put on a good front so the Gospel can work. It works in all times and circumstances.

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