Saturday, March 31, 2012

Michael Mann

Michael Mann, climate scientist, professor at Pennsylvania State University and author of the outstanding new book "The Hockey Stick And The Climate Wars." Mann recently spoke with The Huffington Post about his new book and his disappointment in Obama's global warming record. Here Mann talks with George Stroumboulopoulos about the concerted effort by those with monied interests to silence the facts that we are changing the climate with fossil fuel emissions.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Walking Dead: RIP Rick and Shane

I’m writing this blog post to express my beef with the writers/producers of the television show The Walking Dead. I think they made a huge mistake by killing off the character Shane and in effect ending the outstanding bromance between the characters Rick and Shane. The Walking Dead is a show on AMC that is based on a comic book series of the same name. The show is so hot that AMC even airs a half-hour long show right after every episode entitled The Talking Dead where special guests and actors from the show discuss the characters and take questions from viewers. I unfortunately got sucked into it all and became obsessed with the world that is The Walking Dead. What follows in this post is the mess I have become ever since. If you don’t want to read the ramblings of The Walking Dead from the perspective of a fanatic gay man then read no further.
This post is mainly for other Walking Dead fans but for people that aren’t in the know I’ll give a quick rundown. The characters Rick and Shane were police officers, partners and best friends before the zombie apocalypse. After the zombie apocalypse happened Shane had an affair with Rick’s wife, Lori but only because Shane and Lori believed Rick to be dead. During the time they thought Rick was dead Shane cared for Lori and Rick’s son, Carl until Rick’s surprising return, ergo an intense love triangle was created. Rick and Shane had a great friendship until Shane ended up killing another character in the show in order to save Rick’s son, Carl. Then things took a turn for the worst and Shane seemed to go mad until ultimately his character was killed by Rick.  In Shane’s final episode he tricks Rick by luring him into the woods and tries to kill him. Finally Rick stabs Shane in the chest in self defense.
There was a homoerotic aspect to Rick and Shane’s relationship which I had never seen before in a television show. This made The Walking Dead unique and special to me. I think the homoerotic undertones of Rick and Shane’s relationship may have just happened as a sort of happy accident in the translation from comic book to TV show that the writers chose to exploit sometimes and sometimes not. Actor and director, Kevin Smith mentioned the homoerotic aspect and the complexities of Rick and Shane’s bromance when he discussed a fight scene on one of The Talking Dead bonus segments. It was the love triangle and the relationship between Rick and Shane that kept me viewing. This mixed together with a zombie apocalypse of course.
This brings me to my beef with the writers. In my opinion everything that happened between Rick and Shane up until Shane’s death was ruined because Rick kills Shane and that will always be the outcome and that’s wrong. In this interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jon Bernthal, the actor who plays Shane, discussed his final episode and said there was conflict between the writers/producers/actors over how Shane’s last scene should have played out. To me this is just further proof of what a mistake killing Shane was because when things are right they go smoothly. I think the writers had a chance to really keep the story arc going but now it’s just another zombie show. I’m not even sure if I will watch season three because I have no emotional investment in the show anymore. However long the series lasts, season one and two will be the only ones that exist for me because of Rick and Shane. When I go back and watch some of the older episodes the interpretation could be that everything Shane has done he did for Rick because he loves him. He killed a man to keep Rick’s son alive for Rick. He took care of Rick’s wife and son for Rick. It could also be said that Rick loves Shane. Rick forgives Shane for having an affair with his wife and Rick gave Shane several chances after he spiraled into madness. In one of my favorite scenes on the show Rick is pleading with Shane to stay on the farm (where they live) so that they can keep it safe. He says “we can make it safe.” Ergo they can make it safe “together,” safe for their loved ones and safe for each other.  I feel like that’s a kind of bond even straight men could relate to. Two men who love each other; their relationship may or may not be sexual.
          The writers sort of left Shane’s death scene open to interpretation. The way I tried to accept Shane’s death is to believe that Shane wanted to die. That he tricked Rick into killing him because that was his way of suicide. Maybe Shane wanted to die because he loved Rick and couldn’t handle it. Most viewers would say Shane loved Lori but in my head I’d like to think that it was Rick that Shane also loved. It was Rick that he did everything for. Shane’s self destructive behavior in the end was indicative of his suicidal tendencies and there were other clues to this. For example, in the lyrics to a song that was played right before the end credits in one of the episodes leading up to Shane’s death (18 Miles Out.) The lyrics of the song include: “I am nothing without pretend, I know my thoughts, can’t live with them.” And further, “I am nothing without a man, I know my faults but I can hide them.” I’d like to think the producers, or whoever, chose this song carefully as a clue to how Shane was feeling at the time. The song is entitled “Civilian” by the band Wye Oak. A fan posted the song on Youtube which can be viewed here. I highly recommend it for Shane fans.
        There’s been speculation that Bernthal wanted to leave the show after the show’s developer, Frank Darabont departed early in the series. However Bernthal dispelled those rumors in this interview with EW where he said it wasn’t true. Glen Mazzarra one of the show’s producers mentioned in a separate interview with MTV that they were going to keep Shane alive. "At one point, we considered not killing Shane," he said. So why didn’t they keep Shane alive? Of course that question was never asked which I desperately would like to know the answer to. I never read any of the comics but I do know that apparently the writers kept Shane alive much longer on the show than in the comic series. I’ve actually read comments online from TWD comic fans claiming that if the story went any different other than Shane dying it would be “an insult to his character.” Give me a break. Oh, and my personal favorite comment from comic book fans: “Shane had to die.” Um, no he didn’t it’s a television show with writers and they can make the characters do whatever they want. After reading comments like that I think I’ve just come to the conclusion that the writers killed Shane off to appease comic fans clamoring for Shane’s death. What a waste.
 I have this idea in my head about what I wish would happen next on the show. My idea is that Rick would find a suicide note from Shane. Maybe Shane tucked the note away in one of Rick’s pockets or in one of the cars for Rick to find. Of course, in the note would be a whole wish list of things I wanted Shane to say to Rick but were never said. Shane would confess that he tricked Rick into killing him because he wanted to die. Shane could say in the note that he wanted Rick to be the one to kill him but he knew the only way Rick would do it is to trick him. Finally, Shane would reveal that he loved Rick and that he couldn’t live in a world anymore where Rick didn’t trust him; a world where they were at each others throats. I know that’s not very mainstream and it would never happen on the show but it’s in my head because I was so emotionally invested in these characters. Overall I guess that is what makes the show so exceptional. Great creative writing, acting and producing makes The Walking Dead so awesome that you think about the characters like they are real people or something. It is a great escape and tremendous entertainment. A million thanks go out to the Walking Dead creators. I suppose I love you as much as I hate you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jay Smooth

Jay Smooth, Host of the video blog Ill Doctrine & founder of New York's longest running hip-hop radio show, WBAI-FM's "Underground Railroad".