Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beware of Soundwave

Jewish date:  6 Tammuz 5769.
Today’s holiday:  Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Today’s quasi-holidays:  Paul Bunyan Day, Summer Fairy Fun Day.
  1. New tactic:  “Churches use social networking to sell themselves to a new generation”.
  2. This is somewhat disturbing, and I do not seem to be alone in thinking so:  “Seeking funds and congregants, the Church of England turns steeples into billboards”.
  3. “Clergy appeal over organ donors”
  4. More religious intolerance:  “Pakistan: Tortured Christian Languishing On False Charges”.
  5. “Jewish school broke race laws by refusing boy whose mother had converted”:  This case is an example of blatant judicial incompetence.  A boy has been refused admission to a Jewish school for the simple reason that he is not Jewish, period.  To be Jewish under Jewish law (not “custom) one has to be either born Jewish (i.e., one’s mother is Jewish when one is being born) or a convert.  His mother is a “Progressive” convert, and since “Progressive” is a gloss for “heretical”, her conversion is invalid.  Therefore the boy is not Jewish.  Calling it a race issue is untenable, as no one cares what race the boy or his mother belong to.  Judaism has no concept of race and welcomes converts of every ancestral background.  What Judaism does have a concept of is that converts must seriously and genuinely accept upon themselves to believe in Judaism and practice it.  What this case is really about is an attempt by heretics to abuse the law by mischaracterizing their case to try to force people to accept their heresy as valid.  Shame on them!
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is Today’s weird thing is the text a reply to the recent statement by Autobot Commander Optimus Prime, included below.  Enjoy (or be scared or disgusted or something) and share the weirdness.

Greetings, people of Earth.

There have been numerous reports in the human media regarding the recent assault on the Cybertonian embassy-at-large.  These have been, at best, inaccurate.  Much of the information in these reports was supplied by Optimus Prime, who was removed from our custody in the attack.  Although those controlling the media in much of Earth have been uncooperative in providing an unprejudiced view, we, the duly appointed representatives of the Republic of Cybertron, feel it important to correct these errors.  A number of commonly reported points are inaccurate, not only in sanctioned Autobot press releases, but also statements personally made by Optimus Prime himself, such as in his recent appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.  A few of the more important ones are addressed below.
  • Optimus Prime was not a political prisoner, and neither was any Autobot in our custody.  Cybertron recognizes no political parties and allows full freedom of conscience.  All citizens are permitted opinions on matters of governance.  It is actions, however, on which they have run afoul of the law.  All the Autobots who settled on Earth have been targeted for arrest for serious criminal acts.  Copies of the warrant for their arrest and removal have been presented in many nations, and the original print version has been delivered to the headquarters of the United Nations.
  • The crimes listed on the warrant are sufficiently grievous to require an interstellar police action.  The presence of the Autobots on Earth constitutes an illegal settlement under Cybertonian law.  The Autobots left Cybertron with no intention of returning and intentionally settled on an inhabited planet without prior consent of its inhabitants.  The support of autocratic governments, mercenary actions, subversion of democracy, and murder are also illegal.  Under Cybertonian law we have universal jurisdiction in these matters.  Out of respect, we have been minimal in our intrusions into the territories of other countries.  The incursion into United States territory that resulted in the arrest of Optimus Prime actually saved him from suicide, for which all should be thankful.  Human governments also use such practices; “extraordinary rendition” by the United States sets the precedent for its acceptability.
  • At no time was Optimus Prime or any other Autobot in our custody mistreated, let alone tortured.  All coercive practices are forbidden in interrogation by Cybertonian law.  Aside from moral concerns, it does not produce reliable results, whereas more appetitive methods may be more effective.  The brig aboard the Cybertonian embassy, which has been enlarged to contain the Autobot population on Earth, is reasonably spacious, and a basic level of power, nutrition, and comfort is guaranteed.  Additional privileges are provided based on cooperation and progress at reform.  The goal of imprisonment is rehabilitation, and many Autobots who have been arrested have been successfully graduated into law-abiding citizens.  Several Autobots who have surrendered to us claimed to have done so as they found this a better alternative to continuing to live under oppressive Autobot rule.
    It should be noted that Optimus Prime was not cooperative during his stay.  We made numerous attempts to counsel him and treat his psychological issues.  As has been previously noted, Optimus has had to cope with conflicting roles, which he was not able to resolve adequately.  Had he been more cooperative, we believe he could have been successfully treated.  However, he spent most of his time while in custody refusing to interact with anyone.  His lack of progress is sufficiently serious that we have already sent warning to certain former human associates that it is not safe to be near him.  Jazz was similarly uncooperative.  He made numerous unsuccessful escape attempts and was unable to converse without making elaborate and improbable threats.  Regardless of the situation, he would divert to talking of politics and religion, especially how the Autobot god Primus would destroy the “Decepticons.”  His progress was equally small.
  • Media reports of how the assault on the Cybertonian embassy-at-large was conducted are at best incomplete.  The Autobots used diversionary tactics, assembling several robots in an isolated area that we were monitoring.  Several officers under the command of Constable Starscream were dispatched to arrest them.  The Autobot assembly included several hidden participants who emerged when the officers arrived, including Huffer, Ultra Magnus, and Inferno.  The Autobots were able to effectively occupy the officers while the real assault by a contingent of flying Autobots occurred.  This included Silverbolt, Powerglide, and Buttmonkey, among the largest Autobots in existence.  Following a missile strike, they were able to penetrate the embassy and free several Autobot prisoners from the brig.  Not as many were freed as they portrayed (actually just six), and there were four Autobots executed by other Autobots during the incident.  This included Mirage, who may have been seen as a traitor for his cooperation.  During the attack, the Autobots used flamethrowers similar to the one cobbled together by Arcee.  The damage inflicted on those guarding the embassy-at-large was severe. Ambassador Megatron was among those critically injured, and three guards were murdered.
  • An attack on an embassy is generally considered forbidden on Earth, especially one which is unprovoked.  However, this is not the most disturbing aspect of the operation.  We have analyzed the remains of the missile and determined it that was built by the Military Arms Research Syndicate (MARS), a weapons supplier with numerous customers, including the United States military.  A marking on a recovered missile fragment indicates it came from the terrorist organization Cobra, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of humans.  As we have previously revealed, the Autobots are associated with the arms dealer James McMullen XXIV, head of MARS and frequent associate of the Cobra commander.  We suggest McMullen used his connections with Cobra to help the Autobots with the assault.  McMullen regularly receives income from the United States government’s use of the Autobots, of which he is considered their “owner.”  He thus is motivated to protect his investment in them.
These are difficult times for the Autobots.  In the schism of the Autobots two years ago, several on both sides were severely damaged.  The true Autobot commander, Ironhide, was damaged beyond repair.  Ultra Magnus, the nominal Autobot commander for the humans, proved completely incapable, and for some time the Dinobot Grimlock was effectively in charge.  Bumblebee, the Autobot communicator, was also damaged but was repaired and repainted.  He has taken over as Autobot commander under the name “Goldbug.”  The Autobot spymaster Elita One appears to still be operating in that role, though we have reason to believe she has expanded her role to more fully monitor the Autobot population.  The rebuilding of the Autobot forces has been slow following the schism, especially as Ratchet and Wheeljack were themselves injured.  Neither of them is a true medic, and First Aid, who has more of a medical background, has been overwhelmed by the complexity of the repairs.
The number of Autobots still under the control of the hierarchy may be more diminished than previously believed.  The renegade Autobots in hiding have been reformatting themselves, usually through cannibalizing existing vehicles.  The discarded parts, of course, must go somewhere.  Piles of exterior plates have been found in some junkyards, the removed pieces of Tracks were located in a storage unit, and parts from Wheelie were left in the backlot tour of Universal Studios, where they were unnoticed as such for several weeks.  Some of these pieces have ended up in the hands of mechanics and dealers and have made their way into the marketplace.  There are photographs showing that former talk show host Jay Leno has purchased the discarded exterior plates of Arcee and Hot Rod and had them mounted on new vehicles.  The sheer number of Transformer parts appearing on eBay indicates that the number of renegade Autobots is very large, perhaps a quarter of the population previously housed at Groom Lake.  With so many Autobots missing, their value as a fighting force is severely decreased.  It is little wonder that the Autobot hierarchy wished to retrieve some of their most skilled warriors which were in our custody, such as Jazz and Sideswipe.
Public relations with the humans have also suffered.  The new United States president Barack Obama has said he is willing to talk to the renegade Autobots and the Cybertonian embassy-at-large, contradicting the unyielding and simplistic views of his predecessor.  The behavior of some Autobots in public has also gotten worse.  The Dinobots in particular have roamed farther from the Groom Lake facility than previously and have caused traffic problems on both local streets and Interstate 15.  Snarl and Slag have frequently taken it upon themselves to “inspect” vehicles to determine if they are “Decepticons.”  This has resulted in several innocent motorists having their vehicles damaged.  There was also an incident at Nellis Air Force Base where Grimlock held up operations as he thoroughly inspected the aircraft for signs of “Decepticon” infiltration.  Additionally, Cliffjumper and Brawn have taken to making embarrassing public statements.  It is understandable humans do not like being called “puny” or told that “you’ll make great pets” and especially not that “they make a cool crunching noise when my tires roll over them.”  They have also been less than tactful making statements such as telling humans “you look like a bunch of little monkeys.”  While humans are biologically classified as primates, the comparison for historical reasons may be considered racist and offensive.
The timing of the movie Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen may relate to these factors.  It is a transparent attempt to project a more positive view of the Autobots at the expense of the “Decepticons.”  Once again, Michael Bay has returned as director, and this continues to show how little they think of the public.  Like all Michael Bay films, it is mindless and loud, with the aim of trumpeting one specific and simplistic view.  It contains all the worst elements of the first movie and multiplies them.  This one is louder, longer, has more Transformers, and is even less plausible.  The overall effect is far from satisfactory.
I will not attempt to fully describe the plot, in part because there is no point.  While the plot is semicoherent, it is so poorly told that even seasoned critics have a difficult time following it, or caring.  There is a complicated backstory that greatly adds to the length of the movie without improving it.  The movie has an evil Transformer named the Fallen (played by Razor Face) visit Earth thousands of years ago, trying to use a device to extract “energon” by destroying the sun.  The energon is supposed to be essential to Transformer reproduction and the survival of the species.  (This, of course, is silly.  All we need for that is raw materials and electricity.)  The Fallen was defeated and appears to have been living on one of Saturn’s moons, apparently not repaired in all these thousands of years.  Using a piece of the Allspark from the previous movie that was somehow (incompetently) overlooked, the “Decepticons” revive Megatron (played by Omni Imperator) and begin a plan to activate this device, which is hidden in one of the pyramids at Giza.  The situation is complicated by the death of Optimus Prime, who is the only one who can defeat the Fallen (apparently using a missile or an explosive device is never suggested as a plausible alternative), and his resurrection involves the use of magic dust found at Petra, which has to be carried by a human, on foot, in a sock, without adequate coverage (making repairs and rebooting him was never considered).   There is, of course, more to the story, but discussing it further would not make the movie sound any better.  A slight advantage to this movie over the last one is the increased number of lines given to robot characters, especially Starscream (played by Buttmonkey).  In all likelihood this was a response to demands from the Autobot actors, any of whom could easily crush Bay.  This might potentially give them a chance to be more fully developed as characters, but Bay squanders this opportunity.  So one-dimensional are all characters that some critics have made the understandable but prejudiced suggestion that the human actors are actually robots.
There are numerous points in the movie that make one seriously question what is wrong with Bay.  That he is racist is obvious.  The token Hispanic character (played by Ramón Rodríguez) is panicky and wimpy and has a humiliating scene where he appears publicly with his pants and underpants at his ankles.  While there is a token African-American character (Tyrese Gibson), he does not do much.  However, Autobot characters Mudflap and Skids (Kingfish and Crunk) are portrayed as googly-eyed, big-eared, and bucktoothed, using African-American English slang and acting out negative stereotypes (especially being characterized as illiterate, violent, and stupid), a type of portrayal which harkens back to minstrel shows.  The treatment of feminine characters is also generally negative.  Sam Witwicky’s mother (Julie White) spends most of her time onscreen being fussy and foolish.  The “Decepticon” Alice, who can make herself look like a human, acts out the femme fatale stereotype.  The Autobot Arcee, portrayed as a trio of robots who turn into motorcycles (Buttercup, Zap, and Thrillkill) gets few lines and is the only Autobot to suffer a graphic onscreen death.  (We believe this is in retaliation for the real Arcee’s leading role in the Autobot schism.)  Even the character of Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox), the “good” female human, is completely uninteresting and seems to exist only to repeatedly demand her boyfriend Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) tell her he love her, give him someone to cheat on, and run in slow motion next to him from explosions.  Among all the poor acting in the movie, hers is especially wooden.  There is also a surprising amount of sex-related material, even for a movie rated PG-13 by the MPAA.  Nothing in the story is helped by portraying two dogs engaging in homosexual relations (we kid you not), nor by showing two wrecking balls hanging between Devastator’s legs like testicles (we kid you not), nor even by having a small robot humping Fox’s leg (we kid you not).  Nevertheless Bay has included such gratuitous material, which indicates much about his character.
Additionally, Bay’s view of the military is disturbing.  The United States military (with token input from Great Britain) is shown operating with impunity across the planet.  This includes intruding into independent countries such as Egypt and China without any objections.  So effective is the military that incursions can take place almost instantly regardless of location.  The United States can even order the militaries of other countries to do its bidding.  This is the same troublesome disregard and hubris which got the United States into serious trouble under the previous president George W. Bush.  Under such conditions the behavior of the “good guys” can be shocking.  The Autobots and their (United States) human allies are shown hunting down “Decepticons” across the planet and summarily executing them.  An early scene of such a robot-hunt in Shanghai has a long chase through populated areas causing considerable damage, followed by Optimus Prime dramatically parachuting in (!) and graphically killing the “Decepticon.”  Outside of an actual war, such actions, without probable cause, warrants, or opportunities to surrender peacefully, amount to police brutality and murder.  It is shocking to see the United States portrayed using a death squad, one of the crimes former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was accused of.
There is also the issue of trust and belief.  Witwicky is somehow “chosen” and destined.  The entire Autobot-human death squad changes its operation to serve his whim without any justification.  This includes soldiers hijacking an airplane, acting without authorization, and abandoning a superior in a foreign country.  This is all so Witwicky can have explosions going on all around him for his glory while he runs across a stretch of desert (without even sweating) with a sock full of magic dust.  It is difficult to imagine the military acting with that kind of disregard for the chain of command, not to mention the severe lack of justification.  Even in Iraq War II reasons were given before proceeding, albeit fraudulent ones.  It is only because people trust him so completely that this can happen, even though in the context set up by the film, his reason for what he is doing makes no sense.  (The “matrix of leadership” found in Petra is supposed to be necessary to revive Optimus.  However, it crumbles into dust at his touch.  Logically then he cannot revive Optimus.  However, he collects the magic dust anyway and is able to revive Optimus.  Why?  Because he believes he can, and this works what amounts to magic.)  None of the characters around him, though, should believe this will work but they conveniently trust him anyway.  What message people should get from this is unclear.  Perhaps Bay idealizes the gullible and the foolish.  Or perhaps they should just know who should is the “chosen one” and follow regardless of logic.  This is certainly the reasoning of many politicians who want to be supported regardless of their actions.  It is also the type of reasoning the Autobot hierarchy depends on.
This sort of movie offering is beyond libelous.  It is a love song to illegal military operations, brutality, and blindly following those who in real life would not be worthy; it is propaganda passed off as entertainment.  It is not merely a bad movie, but transcendentally bad, going beyond mere overblown plotting, stereotyping, complete lack of character development, and excessive use of explosions and special effects.  Virtually nothing that appears in this movie is remotely plausible, from the absurd way a college class is conducted (one wonders if he ever attended a college class) to alien symbols appearing all over Earth throughout history but never being noticed by archaeologists.  Bizarre events are pointlessly used the same way an addict takes drugs, from a former government agent having a secret basement full of classified material (he would never be able to accumulate so much without it being known, let alone the problem of installing the basement) to a robot committing suicide so his parts may be used by another like a magical suit of armor (such an exchange of parts would require considerable amount of time to install.)  I have even been told (credit to Microtron) that the Witwicky-Banes relationship is unlikely as “there is no way someone as boring as Shia LeBeouf could ever get someone as hot as Megan Fox.”  Unlike the previous movie, this one resorted to using computer-generated characters, such as a giant sand-sucking monster formed from multiple vehicles (“Devastator”) because the designs were ones no robot would actually take and would be difficult or impossible to engineer.  There are so many things seriously wrong that to fully explore them would require a lengthy work, and with each viewing one might find even more wrong aspects that were previously missed.  He has thus reached a state of sublime abomination that has surpassed even the worst films of Ed Wood.  He should easily win at the next Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony.
Some might enjoy this movie for its shock value, or as a form of anti-art.  However, as anything more than the basest entertainment, it works as nothing more than pro-Autobot propaganda.  Truthfulness aside, the human population has better ways to waste its time than this.
We wish you well.
--Soundwave, Cybertonian Communicator
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