Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day three... Why Pit Bulls?

Wikipedia says this image is public domain, if this is your image and you'd like me to take it down, I will happily do so for you.

I'm the sort of person that when I find a problem, I have to chew on it for a little while.  I'm still not over the idea that 58,000 people feel so strongly about a dog that mauled a little boy that they'd go like a Facebook page set up for the dog and not the child.  I can understand dog lovers wanting mercy for the 2.7 million animals put down every year due to overpopulation.  This dog would not be my priority to save when so many animals that have never caused anyone harm are destined to die.  When a story like this really catches my attention, I run down every lead I can find to get at the truth. 

In this case, I'm talking about the much maligned pit bulls. There are advocacy groups on both sides that make unbiased information virtually impossible to find by clogging up Google searches and setting up dozens of web pages that either sugar coat the situation or try to frighten the browser with anecdotes.

It's very difficult to find reasonable explanations as to why 5% of the US dog population is caught up in 78% of last year's dog bite fatalities, and why sometimes when bad things happen, people rally around dogs rather than pitying the families involved.

I'm not a strong believer in the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, but I'm quickly becoming somewhat hard pressed for answers.  He defends pit bulls, and is quick to point out that the dogs that bite him the most frequently are chihuahuas.  That statement is inherently flawed, because the dog's temperament has very little to do with its fatality rates.

 The chihuahua is what Eddie Izzard would call a  "small yapper type dog."  I tried to find some actual evidence that a chihuahua has ever been involved in a dog bite fatality.  There is at least one Wikianswers post that says it happened one time, but then I couldn't find a credible news source or any real life statistics that show a chihuahua has ever killed a person.  There are plenty of news stories about a person being bitten or even viciously attacked by chihuahuas, but I think a dog that small has a very difficult time killing even a small person.  It'd be like someone coming after you trying to drown you with only a teaspoon of water.  It's allegedly possible, but it's probably pretty difficult.

I did find a couple of news stories about small dogs killing infants, including a Jack Russell terrier killing a baby, which is horrible.  It is possible for things like this to happen, especially to a newborn left unattended.  As I mentioned in another post, newborns are 370 times more likely to die of dog bite related injuries than adults.  Infants are very easy for an animal to kill.  In fact, I was able to find instances of babies being killed by ferrets.  Leaving a baby alone with any animal is not a good idea.  It's difficult to find statistics on things like how many babies have ever been killed by dogs weighing less than 20 pounds, or how many people have ever been killed by ferrets.  Those sorts of things don't happen often enough that people think to keep statistics on them.  Most of the headlines I found about ferrets or small dogs killing babies were a few years old.  Instances resulting in death are infrequent.

Going back to what Cesar Millan said about the number of times he was bitten by chihuahuas, that might be an indication of aggression.  Indeed, pit bulls perform well in tests that determine aggression.  But aggression is not necessarily an indicator of whether the dog will cause a fatality, as you will see in this case.  The family owned the dog for eight years without ever having a problem, and suddenly the dog killed their two year old son.  An aggression test was given to the dog after the incident, and the dog passed.  Here's another dog, this dog was adopted 24 hours before he attacked his owner.  This is a dog that passed temperament tests very soon before being involved in an incident.  That indicates to me that there's more to fatalities than simple aggression.  Notably though not damningly, both of these dogs were pit bulls.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that 78% of all dog bite fatalities last year were from pit bulls or pit bull mixes, but why?  Let's look at exactly what a pit bull is.  The Wikipedia says that pit bull is a generic term based on physical characteristics.  The wikipedia even goes on to say that the same pit bull can be registered in two different breed organizations as two different breeds of dog, the Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  When is a pit bull not a pit bull?  Apparently while it's also a pit bull.  There's also the breed called American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which is apparently also a pit bull.  The wikipedia lumps in mixes of those three breeds as pit bulls.

But the Wikipedia goes on to say "visual identification of mixed breed dogs is not recommended by the scholarly community."  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?  Pit bull is a generic term for a dog with a certain appearance, but you're not suppose to use that term to describe the dog's appearance if you don't already know by some other means that the animal is a pit bull?  This is the dumbest academic argument I've ever read.

I've seen a lot of youtube comments that claim many dogs involved in fatalities reported by the media are not real pit bulls.  But what even is a real pit bull if we're talking about three fast and loose breeds of dogs and all mixed breeds that spring from them?  It's hard for me to buy the "that's not a real pit bull" argument when there isn't really a solid definition of what a pit bull is.  If pit bull isn't a breed of dog, it's a way a dog looks, why are we debating whether or not the animal should be considered a pit bull if it looks like a pit bull?  Does every dog involved in a fatality have to be AKC registered before we can consider the statistics involved relevant?

It's becoming clear to me now that passions are high on both sides of the argument, between people who feel strongly about dog bite fatalities (and luckily in Kevin Vincente's case, only very severe injuries) and people who see mentioning the breed of the dog involved in the case as an accusation of all dogs of that general amorphous shape (as pit bull is not a breed of dog).  That is an exhausting sentence, which reflects an exhausting situation.

On one end of this debate (that really shouldn't be much of a debate) are people like Millan, who believe that any dog can be rehabilitated.  Millan is not, by the way, without his detractors.  On the other end, there are people who believe pit bulls are universally vicious.  And on both sides of this argument there are the families of the victims, some of which were pit bull owners themselves.

After days of study, I'm beginning to believe there is no understanding, and that the pit bull is a mythological creature.

Regardless of what the truth about pit bulls is, I disagree with Millan on one important point.  I believe that because dogs are animals and not automatons, they can snap suddenly even with intense training.  I think it just happens.  I think dogs have thoughts and feelings, and for whatever reason, whether it's the dog's temperament or a tooth ache or a fit of jealous rage, sometimes dogs just flip out.  Sometimes it's a dog that has a rocky past, sometimes it's a dog that has never been mistreated and has always been a member of the family.

I've seen so many families in past news reports over the last few days in shock over what their own dog did, to themselves, to their children, or to a passer by.  These are trusted family dogs that just suddenly lose it.

Another layer to this problem, as I see it, is the tendency in dog owners, breeders, and people writing about dogs to believe all dogs of a certain breed have certain personality traits.  Let me give you an example, this is from the Wikipedia page for the Bedlington Terrier:

Their courage has been compared to a bulldog's, and some dogs have extinguished candles at the request of their owner. They are also known for their intelligence and tenacity when it comes to taking on vermin. Bedlingtons are quite fond of fighting, and are prone to jealousy when around other dogs. One dog would become so jealous when around other dogs that he would grab them by the throat and attempt to kill them. One man stated that "this dog was about fit to kill any other dog of his weight" and compared him to the fighting dogs used in dog fighting. They have also been used in pit fighting.
However, both the AKC and the ASPCA call the breed "mild" and "gentle" and recommends it as being good with children. PetFinder says the breed is soft in temperament, companionable, demonstrative, loyal, and a quiet housedog. Although the breed may chase small animals outside, it is accepting of them inside. Playful and cheerful, the breed can be high-strung and excitable, and is prone to being headstrong. The New Zealand Kennel Club warns against keeping them with dogs that have dominate personalities, "as once challenged they are terrifying fighters, despite their gentle appearance", but otherwise the breed is good with other dogs.

That grouping of information has the same kind of nonsensical vagueness and lack of cohesion as astrology.  The dog is both good with other dogs and terribly jealous and aggressive with other dogs.  It's mild and gentle but it can kill practically any other dogs in the same weight.

What this all makes me think is that we have a tendency to assign personality traits to dogs based on anecdotal evidence, and those personality traits become a fixture of how the animal is perceived even when the combined traits don't make any sense taken together, and any one dog is prone to vary wildly from the standard. Whole breeds of dogs are stereotyped and then when the dog doesn't act the way it's suppose to, he's a special snowflake. That explains some of the fear and also some of the romanticism involved in the ownership of any breed.

The conclusion I've come to is that I am opposed to BSL (breed specific legislation) not because I think pit bulls are universally safe, but because I know fits of extreme violence against people are rare in comparison to the number of pit bulls there are living in this country.  The American Humane Society is against it.  I've come to feel that dogs are like people in the respect that you can't generalize that all dogs of a certain type or breed are any certain way in terms of personality.  If pit bulls didn't exist, I think some of the bad pet owners who cause at least a few of the horrifying situations I've been made aware of over the last few days would go buy another big scary looking dog.  If it wasn't the pit bull, it might be the rottweiler, the doberman, or the boxer that would become the most common assailant.

Pit bulls are certainly more dangerous than chihuahuas, and I'm not in a hurry to rush out and buy one for a child under seven.  Regardless of whether you own a pit bull, you should know that chained dogs are involved in 25% of all dog bite incidents.  In fatal instances, 24% of the time the dogs were unrestrained and off their property.  These are things we know, if you have a fence that will hold your dog in and hold children out, your dog will be less likely to kill someone else's child.  Of fatal attacks, 92% are done by male dogs, 96% of which are not neutered.  If you neuter your dog it lowers the odds it will be involved in a fatality.  Where dogs are concerned, this is where the focus should be.

Most of the focus, however, should be on survivors like little Kevin Vincente, victims who've lost their lives, and families who pick up the pieces.

If you need to be reminded why people love dogs after all that, and if you've made it this far, I'm sure you will, here's a Youtube playlist.  These are videos of real life heroes who happen to be dogs, a few of which are pit bulls.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Update on Kevin, the victim in the dog bite incident.

Reports are saying the boy lost most of his teeth and is unable to open one of his eyes.  58,000 people have joined the Save Mickey group to support the dog.  Only 134 people have joined Unbiased Support for Kevin Vincente.  It's just so wrong to me that this dog has more people pulling for it than this great kid who is shown here hiding his face from the camera.  It breaks my heart.  No child should ever have to feel like that.

I don't care about the dog.  Put the dog in a rescue where he won't be exposed to children, and I won't care what you do with him.  Or euthanize him, it won't hurt my feelings. 

Whatever is done with the dog, somebody should do something for this kid.  Show this kid you love him, that the dog isn't more important than he is.  Show him he can go on like this, and that people will still love him no matter what he looks like.  He has no one here but his mother and his big brother, who is only a year older than him.  His grandma is in Guatemala, she can't come hug him and make him feel good. 

It's just so wrong that this kid has so much surgery ahead of him, and he'll have scars and damage the rest of his life, and people aren't showing him the same support they're showing the dog that disfigured him.  Ugh.  I just don't understand that.  I don't understand that people can raise thousands of dollars to defend a dog in court, and they're not doing as much as they could be doing to help this family pay its medical bills.  This kid is four, and people are resorting to name calling and trying to rally against the baby sitter who is at this point irrelevant.  The concern here should be about helping this kid and his mom.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dog Bite Fever: Pit Bulls in the Media. The Animals. The owners. The Children.

I know I post all kinds of crazy things on here.  Today is no exception.  Apparently I like controversy, so I'm opening up a conversation with you about pit bulls.

Clearly this is a tragic situation.  The kid was very badly injured.

Some people think that the child is responsible for what happened, but the poor little guy is four.  Four year olds are not rational.  They're barely more than babies.  They learn a lot at that age, but they're also stubborn, willful little people who know a tiny amount of what they need to know to get by in life.  Bad things obviously happen to unattended four year olds.  But it's extremely easy to get distracted while preparing a snack, or the toddler could sneak off while you're in the bathroom.  And, let's face it, doggies are interesting for little people.  One minute, their just standing around, both of them minding their own business, the next the child's head is in the dog's mouth, and he's being shaken violently.  And this is a good kid, my kind of kid.  The kid that likes super heroes, especially Iron Man.  And now he's going to need surgery.

On the other side of this discussion are 50,000 people who have rallied to save the dog through a facebook page called "Save Mickey."  I looked for a Facebook group for people supporting the kid through his recovery and the series of plastic surgeries he will have to have, the one I found has only 130 supporters.  The dog was on a chain in its own yard.  Pit bulls are not an inherently bad breed of dog, though they are frequently mentioned in the media related to dog bite statistics and deaths.  They're big working class dogs, common in North America, and known for their stocky, muscular build.  I've known many pit bull owners over the years, none of whom has ever mentioned any incidents to me.  Anecdotally, one particular comrade of mine is a pit bull owner, and I know that animal to be a sweet creature.

But here are the facts:  Large breed dogs can do more damage than smaller dogs.  Don't believe me?  Look at lists of "dangerous dog breeds."  I'm not saying this particular list of breeds provides an accurate description of a dog's inherent temperament, but just looking at the dogs, what do they all have in common?  They're not small lap dogs.  The Chihuahua bites.  It can be mean spirited and rotten, right?  But it's not on this list, because it's a tiny little dog with a tiny little mouth that can't reach very far to bite you, and an adult human being can easily overpower it.  The dogs on this list, they're all big dogs.  It stands to reason that big dogs can do more damage to a person in a small amount of time even with a person resisting the damage than little dogs can do.  It's not because little dogs are better, or sweeter, or don't need to be socialized.

Pit bulls, along with other large breed dogs, have a lot of qualities that make an attack from them more dangerous.  They're muscular.  They have a lot of bite pressure.  They have a heavy body that can be used to knock people down, which is dangerous enough by itself when you're talking about an elderly person who can easily break a hip.  When a healthy person is prone, it's easier for an animal to get at the head and neck, which can lead to fatal attacks. 

Last year, there were 32 fatal dog attacks in the US.  By the same source, 78% of the animals involved were pit bulls or pit bull mixes.  Possible reasons for this:  they're large dogs that can do a lot of damage quickly, pit bulls are popular dogs in the US (with this source siting 5% or less of the US dog population), and it's not a breed so much as a fuzzy group of breeds, so it takes less genetic similarity to be considered a pit bull than it does for a dog to be considered (for example) a German Shepherd.  This source sites 56% of the fatalities last year as children under 7.  Sixty-one percent of these kids were four or younger, like Kevin.  Ninety-two percent of children who died in dog attacks last year were killed by pit bulls.

Here's a link to another dog bite fact sheet, but I'll go ahead and tell you what I found interesting from the statistics they've gathered as well.  92% of the animals involved (this list includes non lethal bites) are male dogs, 94% of which had not been neutered.  25% of the animals were chained.  Chains are not a good preventative measure against having your dog attack a child.  The insurance industry pays out over a billion dollars in damages because of this problem every  year.  Unattended newborns are 370 times more likely to be killed by a dog than an adult.  That is some really, really awful information there, and if you want to read the whole list, I encourage you to do it.

This source lists a resource for parents to teach their kids about safe dog handling, which is for kids from age 4-7.  We can't be sure that this would have prevented Kevin from having this problem, after all, he's four.  Kids at that age are very dangerous, not because they're bad or foolish, but because they're inexperienced and curious.

The dog fact sheet linked above has some suggestions for responsible pet ownership, and if you're a dog owner, I urge you to follow these directions.  Statistically, neutering your dog greatly reduces the risk of it biting a child.  Training and socialization are crucial elements of dog ownership.  Get your dog use to other dogs and people, and the world will be safer for it.  Good fences make good neighbors, keep your dog behind a fence.  Don't leave your dog on a chain.  Don't leave a baby alone with a dog.  Those are all really good suggestions.

I'd like to add, make yourself aware of animals living in your neighborhood, and assess yourself as a dog owner.  If you have a dog that shows aggression, please, take whatever steps are necessary to protect your neighbors.  Seriously.  Things are going to happen.  Knoxville has a map of places where dangerous dogs live, and it's because there are incidents.  I urge you to love the children who live in your neighborhood more than you love yourself or your dog.  There is absolutely no shame in doing the responsible thing in this situation, even if it is painful.

The point of all of this is not to disparage pit bulls or their owners (many of which are fine dogs owned by fine people), it is merely to provide relevant dog bite and fatality statistics and address the overwhelming majority of respondents to this case who rush to the aid of the dog to the exclusion of the child.  I've seen people expressing the concern that it's wrong to punish the dog for what it has done because it doesn't understand and isn't responsible for its actions.  Putting the dog down would not be a measure to punish the dog, it would be a measure to protect children who will eventually be exposed to the dog.  There is no malice or justice involved in this process, only a cautionary measure taken to prevent potential further incidents.  This is a dog that has killed another dog and injured a child severely.  I've heard people say there's no such thing as a bad dog, and maybe that's true, but I think there is such thing as a dangerous dog, and I think it's reasonable to say this particular dog has proven dangerous.  It should never be allowed near a child again.  If they can safely keep it penned at an animal sanctuary, good.  The safety of children should be the primary concern.

If you take nothing else away from having read this blog entry, remember that statistically, neutering your dog and keeping it behind a fence that will hold it rather than on a chain where children can walk up to it seems to dramatically decrease the odds that the dog will bite a child.  If everyone who keeps an unsupervised outdoor dog were to do these two things (neuter the dog and keep it behind a fence), I think dog related deaths would become much rarer.

If Kevin's story has touched you the way it touched me, or if you just feel like helping a kid in need, here are some ways you can help Kevin.  You can donate to his medical care fundraiser.   You can buy him some supplies for his hospital stay (things like Batman pajamas and tasty snacks to cheer him up) using his Amazon wish list.  Or, you could show support to the family by liking a Facebook page set up to support the child.  I chose to send the kid some oreos, some books, and a Superman cape, because he really is a super kid.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happiness is a cold book.

Post by Game of Thrones.

The new trailer for A Game of Thrones series 4 looks amazing, I'm really looking forward to April.

In the meanwhile, I've just purchased Terry Pratchett's new book Raising Steam!  I'll let you know what I think of it soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Finally, A Worthwhile DC Title

Here's some background for people who don't know me personally.  I'm a pretty hardcore Marvel comics fan.  I don't do DC.  I use too, before the New 52 was a thing.  I was a pretty regular reader of Gotham City Sirens.  I loved that cast.  Catwoman, Harley, and Ivy.  All of them awesome, well developed female characters with flaws and interests.
And then the New 52 happened.  It completely reset that world I liked so much.  It infuriated me with new, more skimpy costumes for women.  Catwoman's actions didn't make any sense anymore, she just became this thrill seeking character with ridiculous scenes of Catwoman and Batman having rooftop liaisons and pouring diamonds over her breasts.  It just completely lost me.  I didn't want to read that even a little bit.  The friendships that won me over to GCS were gone overnight.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the characters I liked were saintly in the first place.  Harley allows herself to be continuously abused.  Ivy drugs people with her plants.  Catwoman steals from rich people.  All three of them are criminally insane.  But they're awesome female villains, or they were before the New 52.
 I swore off DC.  After Harleygate,  I was so deeply disillusioned with DC comics as a company, I was pretty sure they were never getting my money again.
 Enter Injustice: Gods Among Us.  It's just a video game novelization, right?  I mean, it's not even canon.  It's a little pocket universe created for the purpose of making an interesting video game.  Maybe that's what DC needs to do.  Their characters and plots are so warped and twisted from the way they started, maybe they should just go ahead and throw any notion of canon out the window and just write a series of what if books.  Who would think that's a viable strategy to revitalize a project like this?
The thing Injustice Gods Among Us is most similar to so far, I think, is the Marvel Civil War arc.  Some people hate Civil War, but I love it.  It's high drama.  It tests relationships.  It forces characters to confront some of their issues.  It's fast paced and unafraid of applying preasure to the main characters by killing off major characters and fan favorites.  This series really condenses a lot of action and drama to each issue.
I love the way this series treats characters like Aquaman as and the Flash as the major players they were designed to be instead of demoting them to the back seat their characters frequently take.
I found myself riveted by interactions between characters who have never come across each other before.  Oddly enough, I came out of volume 1 shipping the Green Arrow with Harley Quinn.  OTP.
DC is still doing an awful job at the character design level when it comes to female costumes.  In this particular book, however, the actions of all my favorite characters are in line with who those characters are.
One of my favorite scenes, one that I think was very daring, was an accusation by Superman that Batman loved the Joker, that he kept him alive because he enjoyed their games.  The writing in that scene was so spot on, so true to the anger those characters felt towards one another.
I ate it up, and now I want to read some more.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Ideal Relationship

One of my previous posts went into detail about some very messy fictional relationships that I think are better examples of romantic love than the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights.  That's kind of like making a list of books that have more developed love stories than Twilight.  Wuthering Heights would be one of those, by the way.

It got me thinking about what my ideal relationship would be like.  And I think I know.  I'm certainly not looking for a relationship.  I have other goals, and not an excessive amount of interest.  But if I'm ever up to the challenge of falling in love again, I hope I find someone I can build a relationship with that works the way Gomez and Morticia Addams do.

I want a relationship of equals with someone who appreciates my zeal.

Someone who can tolerate my odd hobbies, and maybe even share them.

And I hope I find someone who enjoys my awkward dancing.

So, basically, I'm an eccentric romantic.  I'm definitely not looking for a relationship.  But for me, Morticia and Gomez have the perfect relationship.  They share a world view.  They have some interests they enjoy together, but then they each have their own hobbies they do alone (Morticia's gardening and knitting, Gomez's train set).  They care deeply about each other.  They each have their own agency, but they don't fight over details or belittle each other the way some sitcom families do (like the Munsters). 

I'm more of a Gomez than a Morticia.  I'm passionate and excitable more than graceful or demure.  I can be pretty, but I'm not about pretty.

So, while I appreciate the dark romantic stories of "The Phantom of the Opera" or "The Great Gatsby," I understand that those are not healthy relationships of equals, and if you're going to have a relationship, you should want a healthy relationship of equals.  I'll probably talk more about some relationships I like on another occasion.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sebastian Stan to play Bucky Barnes for 9 movies

WARNING:  The following post may prove spoiler ridden for those of you who are not comic book readers.  This post includes information of a speculative nature.

Sebastian Stan has signed on to play James "Bucky" Barnes for 9 movies.  Interestingly, Chris Evans is signed to play Steve Rogers for 6 movies.  Lets' do some math.  Let's imagine that The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier count for two Bucky movies.  We know that three of Chris Evan's movies as Steve are The First Avenger, The Avengers, and The Winter Soldier.  We also know that Evans will play Rogers in The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, and Captain America 3.  We don't know what other films Bucky is going to be in, only that there are five of them up in the air.  One could certainly be Captain America 3, another could be the Black Widow movie.

This leaves potential for Bucky to be in movies without Steve.  Now.  What is Bucky doing in movies without Steve?  Could we be moving on to Bucky Cap?  Will Bucky Barnes become Captain America?  Are we going to be seeing a Marvel Cinematic Universe Civil War arc?

If we are, it's possible things are going to go very differently.  Robert Downey Jr. is signed for Avengers 2 and 3, but not for an Iron Man 4.  It would be harder to set up Civil War without Tony gung ho for a registration act, and they would need a lead in for that, possibly using characters like the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

Here's another interesting tidbit:  Tom Hiddleston is signed to play Loki for five movies.  We've seen three of them, Thor, The Dark World, and The Avengers.  He could be convinced to do more movies, but for the contract he has, that's two more appearances of Hiddleston Loki.  Remember that Loki could easily become Lady Loki in a future title, or even Kid Loki.  Chris Hemsworth is signed for Thor 3 and Age of Ultron.  I've seen some speculation that Thor 3 could involve Surtur, which would lead to some interesting storyline developments for Loki.

All of this, of course, could be impacted by salary disputes by the talent involved.  We shall, of course, see.

But I'm thinking Civil War, and very likely Bucky Cap there after.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thanks for being there for me, T-Pain.

This is probably the most ridiculous blog post you'll read today, but hear me out.  Sometimes I get low.  Sometimes I make mistakes, like reading Wuthering Heights for fun.  Sometimes I have trouble finding a job, get lost downtown looking for a trolley stop, and walk around in circles with only my own foul mood to keep me company.  Sometimes I miss people I don't know anymore, and sometimes I miss the me I use to be.

When times get rough, I take a little advice from my buddy T-Pain, who reminds me to snap my fingers and do my step, because I can do it all by myself.

I know that's not what he means in his hit song "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')."  But I think what matters is the impact the words have on me.  It's one of those communications principles, the message that is received is just as important as the one sent.

And for me, "Buy U a Drank" isn't about getting drunk and having fun, it's about getting up when you're low.  "Snap yo fingers, do your step, you can do it all by yourself," becomes an almost literal benediction for me.  "Let's get gone, walk it out, just like that that's what I'm talking about," are like words of encouragement for my progress.

All the rest of the lyrics are completely lost on me, meaningless.  I don't drink or enjoy a party lifestyle, so all of that is irrelevant to me.

As ridiculous as it may sound, "Buy U A Drank" only speaks to me on a spiritual level.  He reminds me, oh, yeah, I can do this.  I do have money in the bank.  I'm just going to snap my fingers, do my step, and do this all by myself.

So, thanks, T-Pain.  You've really helped me out.

Monday, March 10, 2014

...but have not love...

I had a conversation the other day about something rather nerdy.  I'd mentioned Wuthering Heights, and a comparison was made between Heathcliff and Loki in the Avengers movies.

They are comparable.  They're both regrettable foundlings.  They both ruin the lives of the families who take them in.  But I think there's a huge difference, the thing that I think makes one more insidious to me than the other.  You may not agree with me when I say that I think Heathcliff has the blacker heart, but here's my reasoning.

My perception here is that Heathcliff's motive doesn't really hold up.  When you love someone, and I mean actually love someone, you care more about that person's happiness than your own.  Sure, you fight to the greatest of your ability to make the relationship work.  Real love is worth fighting for.  But the things you should be fighting are things like poverty and expectation.  You should never be fighting the other person.

I guess the real comparison I want to make is between Heathcliff and Jay Gatsby from the Great Gatsby.  What Gatsby does is essentially the same as what Heathcliff tries to do.  Heathcliff and Gatsby go out and try to make their fortunes to become better contenders for Cathy and Daisy's hearts.  The difference is that while Gatsby's only aim is to win Daisy back, Heathcliff is possessed by rage and desire for vengeance.  He wants to punish everyone in reach for a few lost years, even and especially people who had nothing to do with it.  He even goes so far as to punish Cathy.

Gatsby makes a different decision.  The way I read it, and this is somewhat interpreted, Gatsby takes the fall for Daisy when she hits a woman with Gatsby's car.  Gatsby's pain and death were irrelevant, because Daisy would live.  Love isn't about winning

The whole premise of the book is that Heathcliff is driven by two things: his love for Catherine, and his desire for revenge against the people who kept them apart.  He chooses hate, pain, and death over the person he's meant to love.  He destroys her and her family, all because of his own selfishness.  Love is not a word that describes that action.

Half Heathcliff's motivation evaporates without love behind it, and all that's left is ugliness.  He's got the dark passions of some of the best tragic love stories, but he hasn't even got the Phantom of the Opera's heart.  Erik lets Christine go, he spares Raoul, he rejects his own jealous possessive nature because when you love someone, you have to want what will make them happy.  Erik is evil and he still gets this right by the end.  Real love inevitably causes pain, but real love cannot corrupt your heart to hate.  Hate is all Heathcliff's heart seemed able to do without Catherine.

There's certainly a parallel with Loki.  They're both found, taken in, and treated as though they are less than the rest of their families.  They're both alienated and dehumanized.  They're both obsessed with their foster sibling.  They both do irreparable harm.  There the similarities end.

I don't buy that Loki's crimes are done in the same state of mind.  Loki is not a human being, nor is he Asgardian.  He's a Joten, a creature known for its treachery and malice.  For a frost giant, Loki is remarkably restrained.  He also had no inkling of the fact he was adopted or that he wasn't Asgardian until he was an adult, which makes him question his entire belief system.  During his time fighting the Avengers in that film, he is being manipulated by the cosmic cube and strong armed by an alien race.  His actions in Thor:  The Dark World are less defensible, but still, Loki sees himself as a foreign prisoner denied justice.  And, given many excellent opportunities to kill Thor, Loki has yet to do it.  Movie universe Loki, anyway.

I don't think Loki is really driven by hate at all.  He's driven by a desire to prove himself, certainly, and envy of his brother.  To quote the man himself, "I only ever wanted to be your equal."  He's driven by desire for power.  He's certainly suffering from some mental illness.  But he doesn't hate Thor in any way that counts.  He'll hurt him, he'll side against him, he'll break his brother's toys in a tantrum.  When it comes down to it, though, when all is said and done, Thor is alive, and the only good reason is because Loki still loves him.

So, the conclusion I come to is that Loki isn't as detestable as Heathcliff.