Ant-Man is by far the weakest of the Marvel movies

The biggest problem with “Ant-Man” is that it is way too complicated for its own good and therefore makes very little sense. Neither the villains nor the heroes have good plans and there is far too much comedy to take anything seriously. And warning: There will be plenty of spoilers in this review. If you want to see this movie… Don’t. But if you still want to see the movie, stop reading now.

Right off the bat, the scheme to get Scott Lang into the Ant-Man suit was far too complicated. In order for Hank Pym’s scheme to work, absolutely everything has to go 100% perfectly. When your entire plan can be defeated by a question that begins with “Why don’t you just…” your plan is several times more complex than needed.

First. Pym manipulates Lang into breaking into Pym’s house to steal the Ant-Man suit. What if any of the multiple people needed to pass the rumor on to Lang decided not to spread the rumor? What if Lang fails to steal the suit? Do you find someone else? What if he sees the suit and does not take it? What if he never puts the suit on? What if he does not mess with the controls to activate the Pym Particles? What if Lang actually died in any of the multiple life-threatening situations he finds himself in after activating the suit?

How did Pym know that Lang’s roommate would be coming in to turn on the shower at the very moment that Lang was trying on the suit, and activating the Pym Particles? What if, instead of breaking into the house and returning the suit, Lang had brought it to Stark Industries, SHIELD, the news media or the police? What if Lang refused to don the suit when the ants brought it into the jail, and decided to go back to prison instead?

So here we begin with the questions. Instead of having Lang break into your house, why don’t you just invite him over and show him the suit? Instead of having Lang arrested, why don’t you just make up a lie and say he was testing your security system? Instead of having the ants break Lang out of jail, why don’t you just walk into the police station and say you do not want to press charges?

It is one thing to suspend disbelief for science fiction technology. But this plan is so full of holes that no rational person would behave this way. Furthermore, the way Lang is treated after he gets out of prison makes no sense. His ex-wife is nasty to him for no reason. Lang is not a thief. He went to jail for being a vigilante – he found out his employer was stealing from customers (many million dollars’ worth) and hacked their system to give the money back to the victims. The police also treat him like a thief, even thought he is a vigilante. Yes, he needed to go to jail for what he did, but it is absurd to treat him like a common thief.

I would be remiss to note that Lang’s buddies and their crew are uncomfortably close to being racist stereotypes, and I am being generous here.

Pym’s former associate Darren Cross is trying to recreate the Pym Particles, but why did he not see the military application in the “malfunctioning” particle ray? The idea is to shrink organic matter, but it instead kills the subject and transforms him into a tiny blob of goo. (I think people would notice the fact that a member of the board of directors went to the bathroom and never came out.) The next time the Hulk is on a rampage and flattens half of New York City, they could shoot him with the “malfunctioning” particle ray and kill him. It would also be very useful to hand to soldiers the next time there is an alien invasion. You would not even need the Avengers to show up.

The movie tries to put over the Pym Particles as a huge deal, and is successful when the original Ant-Man easily dispatches an armed enemy battalion all by himself. Pym even mentions the Pym Particles are far more powerful and dangerous than even the Iron Man armor. But the final battle is far too silly and filled with slapstick. The movie jumps from intense action scene to a toy hitting the carpet over and over and over, and the drastic tonal shifts ruin the mood of the scene. Comedy can be worked into a superhero movie effectively, but if it is overdone it cheapens the experience. It was overdone here several times over.

I meant to go see this movie in the theater, but I never got around to it. After renting it, I am glad I missed it and did not waste the money to see it on the big screen. This could have been so much better, with a more straightforward plot and a whole lot less comedy. If Marvel wants its lesser-known characters to be viable properties, they have to treat them more effectively than they treated Ant-Man. There was enough good here that it does not deserve an F, but the stupid overshadows the good.

Final Grade: D

A two week "ban" for all commenters on HTO

On December 21, the Herald-Times announced that the comments would be closed for two weeks due to the increasing incivility and large numbers of abuse alerts. (I am sure that holiday vacation schedules contributed to this, as some moderators being on vacation would leave more work for remaining moderators.) Comments are scheduled to be open on January 4, though it honestly would not surprise me if they never open again.

Was it an overreaction? One person estimated before comments were closed that there were probably at least two thousand comments over the same period that there were two hundred comments reported as abusive. Of the ten percent of comments that were were reported, less than ten percent of those were actually removed. Is it an overreaction to suspend all comments for two weeks because less than one percent of all comments over a ten day period were found to violate HTO policies and were removed by a moderator?

I have said dozens of times that the lack of a “three strikes” rule is a huge part of the problem of uncivil behavior in story comments. Back in January of 2012, the H-T implemented a policy where someone who had three comments removed over a fourteen day period would be automatically suspended from commenting for two weeks. That rule drastically improved the tone of HTO comments in 2012-2013, because knowing that you have to control yourself or you sit in the HTO penalty box for two weeks was a powerful incentive for people to behave. Unfortunately, the vastly inferior TownNews.com software does not have this feature.

The current software also does not have the ability to notify commenters when a comment has been removed, which is also unfortunate. Unless someone goes back to look at a thread that is a couple days old, he may never know his comment was removed, and this is compounded by the fact that the big red “comment removed” box only shows up for deleted comments that had replies. If you do not know your comment was removed, you may not know what rule you broke – especially given the very bad habit of HTO moderators to change the rules on the fly. If the H-T finds a way to restore the autoban feature, comment removal notifications will be absolutely necessary.

Without the two-week autoban feature, the only real stick the Herald-Times has left is to ban people from commenting altogether if they refuse to behave. It is extremely rare for the H-T to actually ban people, though they have threatened to ban a number of different posters several times.

Threatening to ban posters but never following through (especially when someone has been warned more than once already that he could be banned) is a sure fire way to convince trolls that they can post anything they want and will not be disciplined other than having their posts removed. The practice of banning needs to be used far more frequently. Banning removes troublemakers and serves as a warning to others to follow the rules.

The dangers of alcoholism – and teetotalism

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. – Proverbs 20:1

I grew up believing that drinking alcohol was sinful. While I realized years ago that I was wrong, Barry Cameron nonetheless provides a helpful perspective on the dangers of alcohol abuse. Many people have had their lives ruined because they could not control their desire to drink. Sadly, it is not only the alcoholics’ own lives that were left in tatters, but the lives of husbands, wives, children and even total strangers.

It is true that it is not possible to become an alcoholic without ever taking that first drink, and Christians are wise to be very aware about the dangers of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. It would be wise to never assume that drinking cannot be a problem and will always be under control. No one who has ruined his life with alcohol thought it would be the brutal master it eventually became.

Alcohol is a big part of the intense concern over campus rape. Women who are impaired can be more easily victimized, and men who are impaired may take horrible actions they would never consider if they were stone cold sober. Even when no crime is committed, fully consensual drunk sex can lead to false charges of rape.

I am a teetotaler, but the reason I do not drink alcohol is the same as the reason I do not eat grapefruit. I cannot stand the taste of it. I can almost tolerate hard lemonade but even that I can barely take more than a couple sips. I have tried a variety of alcoholic drinks and have found nothing I like.

But alcoholism is not the only danger that surrounds strong drink. Teetotalism has dangers as well – specifically the danger of pride and idolatry. It is very easy for teetotalers to think they are more holy than their neighbors because they never touch the “demon rum.” Even teetotalers who do not think drinking is sinful can be proud and arrogant over the fact they cannot be tempted by alcohol while non-sinning social drinkers can be.

This pride is idolatry – worship of self. Christians are, of course, free to refuse alcohol if they believe it is the right choice for them. What we may not do is decide that we are more holy than God. Remember, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine, and from the context of that account it is clear that it was alcoholic wine and not grape juice. We must not judge others who are not in sin and we must not believe ourselves to be superior because we have used our Christian liberty in a different way than our brother or sister in Christ.

Do not begrudge people who have things you do not

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. — Exodus 20:17

In our self-worshiping age, it is very easy to be resentful of someone getting an honor you do not have, and to feel neglected and disrespected when someone else is honored for what they have done. It is easy to resent someone who has done you no harm because they have something you do not have. I have been tempted to this wickedness myself, and looking back I wish I could talk to my younger self – or more accurately, to slap him across the face.

Here is an example. A couple weeks ago on Twitter, someone asked this about my church: “Rather than Mother’s Day celebrations, they give carnations to Child free or Never Married / Divorced?” (sic)

I found the “rather than” line extremely instructive and helpful, as well as a rebuke to my own wickedness over the years. Was the person actually advocating that women who are not mothers be honored instead of mothers on Mother’s Day? Granted, Twitter is 140 characters at a time, so there’s no way to know that. But people who actually have that attitude display a bitterness that is not healthy or helpful. It does not in any way dishonor single women or childless married women to honor mothers on Mother’s Day, any more than it dishonors single men or childless married men to honor fathers on Father’s Day. We can honor and respect both, and there is nothing wrong with two days a year to honor our mothers and fathers. (Of course, we should do that every day.)

I understand bitterness, because it has been a temptation for me my whole life. For many years, I resented Valentine’s Day because I did not have a wife or girlfriend. I even resented others for having a happy birthday, if my own birthday the previous year was a bad day. When I was a teenager, I even resented someone getting an award I did not get, but would have gotten had I made a few different choices. It is easy for people with an absent father to begrudge someone who has an active father, and it is easy for someone without children to begrudge someone who does. But it is wicked and shameful to begrudge the happiness of someone else if you are not currently enjoying that thing.

As wicked men and women oppressed by sin, we are hard-wired to be self-centered. It takes effort to be anything other than that. But the only way to truly kill that sin is through the cross of Jesus Christ and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. The blood of Christ will wash away that sin so that God sees His Son’s righteousness. But because we are sinners by nature and by choice, we may still struggle with envy and resentment. We may still begrudge those who have something we do not. This is where sanctification comes in, and we must pray for that power.

Donald Trump is a Nazi.

It just keeps getting worse.

Donald Trump wants to murder the innocent family members of terrorists.

Donald Trump is literally proposing barbaric policies that qualify as war crimes. Trump literally proposes emulating Nazi Germany – and that is not hyperbole.

I will NEVER vote for Donald Trump. I will vote for the Libertarian Party nominee if ‪Donald Trump‬ is the Republican nominee for President.

Is playing video games inherently bad?

I have often heard people criticize video games and young men (and older men!) who play video games. I understand the point being made with these criticisms, that young men who spend many hours of their days and nights playing video games are not becoming mature, responsible adults who can provide and care for a family. Video games are a legitimate source of entertainment, but should not be a vehicle to escape the responsibilities of manhood. I understand this because I used to be that guy – the 20-something adolescent.

These criticisms paint with too broad of a brush. Video games can be a means of escaping responsibility and remaining a teenager forever. This is a way for young men to continue living in “Guyland” instead of actually being men. But that can also be said about television, movies, novels, sports, board games, music, web surfing, watching funny videos on the Internet or any other kind of entertainment. I do not think that video games themselves are a vice, though they can be.

The problem is not video games themselves. The problem is “Guyland.” Excessive time spent playing video games is just one way for young men to escape being responsible adults – from truly being men. A “guy” who is determined to avoid manhood can smash his video game console and then get lost in something else just as easily.

What that “guy” needs to do is be committed to the responsibility and respectability of manhood. The first step to manhood is being part of a Bible-believing church with pastors, elders and older men who are committed to helping “guys” escape the extended adolescence of “guyland” and entering manhood.

MCCSC records request is just plain creepy

Note: I originally wrote this for Hoosier Access in 2013. If Sue Wanzer runs for re-election in 2016, this is another reason to vote against her.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation recently asked the state for the names and addresses of students who are using vouchers to attend a private school, and the state denied their request. The Bloomington Herald-Times followed up by making a request of their own, leading to an editorial by H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg whining about the denial.

Why does the newspaper and the school system need the names and addresses of these students? Is it to open the parents who used vouchers to harassment? Does MCCSC want to find out if any MCCSC employees are using vouchers so they can be punished professionally?

The state should provide the number of students who got vouchers locally – and they do. The newspaper published those numbers on December 15. The state should also disclose the amount of money spent, and the money that MCCSC lost in funding due to vouchers.

However, there is no public good in publishing the names and addresses of school children who are attending a different school via the voucher program, which is what the Herald-Times wants to do. Pursuing this data is just plain creepy and a little scary, to be honest. It gets even more creepy and scary when you read the statement by MCCSC School Board member Sue Wanzer:

I think the state doesn’t want to reveal it because they don’t want to reveal that a lot of the people getting this money aren’t necessarily the people that the vouchers were intended for.

The state has made a good case that we’re going to make these vouchers available to poor people who can’t afford private education, and I think what they’re afraid people will find is that a lot of this money is going to middle class or upper middle class people who really could perhaps manage this tuition, but instead are opting to take the state money for a private education.

If the logic behind publicly revealing the names and addresses of school children is that we need accountability by tracking people who benefit from a government subsidy, then let’s take that to its logical conclusion. Monroe County government’s health insurance plan is self-funded. Does the public have the right to know about every medical procedure that has been covered by the county’s health insurance? Should this also apply to Medicaid or Medicare? What about details of what people are buying with food stamps?

No one is forced to take food stamps, Medicaid or Medicare. No county employee is forced to sign up for health insurance. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what kind of sensitive information can be public record for the sake of fiscal accountability. That is where this “logic” leads. So make all of that public, right?

Wrong.

I oppose using vouchers for private schools, because of the potential for government meddling in the operation of private schools. This position is not helped by the childish and petty behavior of the Herald-Times and MCCSC. They should both drop this request and end this dangerous harassment.

Election Board

I spoke to the Monroe County Election Board a couple weeks ago. I had missed a deadline to file a campaign finance report and was asked to attend. I have no good excuse. I thought I had another week and I was wrong. I fixed it and turned in my report the next business day, and have already turned in the report due in January. Thankfully, the board was understanding. This is a mistake I will not make again.