Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This Is Unacceptable!

A disturbing report has come out of San Diego in the wake of Comic-Con. Early Sunday morning, a 17-year-old girl was attacked, sexually assaulted, severely beaten, and left unconscious on the side of a road. The teen was a participant at Comic-Con and, according to one report, was dressed as a “Roger Rabbit” character. She had been out with friends on Saturday night, but had left the group following a disagreement. 

One report said the victim is in ICU with a brain bleed. Another report said she is steadily recovering. A 29-year-old suspect has been taken into custody.  

Having just yesterday posted a blog concerning Comic-Con and the bad behavior of some of its participants, the Captain pondered whether that blog should remain up or not out of respect for the victim. After some deliberation, we have decided to leave it up. The message seems clear: No means no.

 What happened early Sunday morning in San Diego was not simply “bad behavior”. It was not about catcalls or surreptitious photos or even groping a voluptuous female. It was not about racing teenage hormones or indulging some comic book fantasy. 

IT WAS RAPE! - an intentional act of violence perpetrated against a teenage girl. For such there is no excuse.

The Captain encourages all his readers to pray for the young woman’s full recovery – although I don’t know how one recovers mentally and emotionally from such violence.

And should the suspect prove to be the perpetrator, may he be subjected to the full force of law.

And perhaps a good public flogging…

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Think We're Stuck...

Reading the news this morning, the Captain wondered if we are not stuck on a theme. Here are some of today’s headlines:

--“Victoria’s Secret Model Sunbathes Topless”

--“Paris Hilton Rocks Swimsuit in Racy New Commercial”

--“How Kate Upton Feels About Her Boobs”

I kid you not.

Of course, they tried to balance all of this overt sexism with a pictorial of “Olympic Beach Volleyball Photos That Focus On Athleticism”. Not surprising, of the 18 photos shared, only one was of a men’s beach volleyball team.

Keep in mind, this is the year 2014. Haven’t we moved beyond the idea of women as simply “arm candy” and “playmates”, whose primary function is to be ogled and appreciated only for their sexual charms?

Apparently not.   

And from what I can tell, this is not just a problem in America. From Kazakhstan we hear, “Sabina Altynbekova Is Too Beautiful To Play Volleyball, Critics Say”. According to this news article, the 17-year-old Sabina is so beautiful that her coach says she is drawing too much attention away from the rest of the team; people are flocking to volleyball matches just to get a glimpse of her.

What has prompted this blog post, however, is another headline coming out of this past weekend’s “Comic-Con International”. Begun in 1970 as simply a comic book convention, “Comic-Con” has grown into an international gathering of geeks nerds comic book aficionados and sci-fi fans, now numbering well over 130,000 attendees for the four-day affair in San Diego.

After strategizing for months on how to get one of the coveted tickets (which are not cheap), these lucky fans then get to stand for hours in lines often stretching to more than a mile long with the hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite actors, directors, etc. An autograph or even a “selfie” with said actor makes it all worthwhile.

But the long wait is not always boring. As it turns out, many of the fans at Comic-Con dress up as their favorite comic book /sci-fi characters. “Cos-play”, they call it. And some go to extremes to fit into their costumes look the part.

Unfortunately, apparently not all attendees at Comic-Con are well-behaved. The headline that grabbed my eye read: “Sexual Harassment At Comic-Con Leads To Call For New Convention Policy”.

A group of women from Philadelphia – “Geeks for CONsent” – launched an online campaign seeking formal anti-harassment policies at Comic-Con. They say female attendees frequently complain of being groped, followed, and unwillingly photographed.

Now, before going there, let me point out that the Captain has been very clear in the past: No means no. Even if a woman is standing completely naked in front of you, you have no right to touch her without her permission.

However, if you’re going to dress like that, the Captain IS going to look!

Here’s the problem, as I see it. In our hyper-sexualized culture, girls have embraced their freedom to dress more provocatively, and boys are becoming exponentially more frustrated. Transfer all that hormonal energy into an atmosphere like Comic-Con and you are just asking for trouble.

I mean, think about it. You’ve got a convention center full of “fan-boys” who have been reading these graphic novels about “larger than life” female superheroes since before they reached puberty.

I have written about this problem before. I used to read comic books. I quit buying them when they became too expensive – at 75 cents! But even as a pre-teen I recognized that the male figures were drawn with an unrealistically exaggerated musculature, and the female heroes were titillating extremely buxom.

…and always wearing high heels!

In the horror genre, which I especially enjoyed, I found it curious that “Dracula” almost always dressed like he was going to the opera, while “Vampirella” pranced around in a sling-shot bikini and high-heeled, knee-length boots! I used to think this must have been because Vampirella was a stripper before she was turned into a vampire. But according to the official storyline, she is just a creature from another planet.

Apparently a warm planet.

Yes, sexism lives unapologetically in the pages of graphic novels.

So there you are at Comic-Con when, suddenly, there is a reasonable likeness of Vampirella standing right in front of you… literally “in the flesh”.

That noise you hear throughout the San Diego Convention Center is the sound of the jaws of a thousand “fan-boys” hitting the floor as “Puss in Boots” walks by.

Wait… What? When did “Puss in Boots” become a hot chick?

I saw signs of hope recently when a photo of the “new” Wonder Woman was released. The current rendering has moved away from the star-spangled double-D leotard (a la Linda Carter) to a more muted version of what an actual “Amazon Princess” might wear.

Unfortunately, they still put a 3” heel on her knee-length boots!

Hear me when I say, women need superheroes too. In 1943, William Moulton Marston wrote an article for “The American Scholar” explaining his concept for Wonder Woman:

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetypes lack force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving, as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weaknesses. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

But what women don’t need is men designing their costumes!

But I digress…

The group “Geeks for CONsent” is simply asking for a code of conduct to be placed in the convention guide which all attendees receive.

No groping. No cat-calls. No photos without the subject’s permission.

Sadly, yes, we still need someone to tell us how to behave in public.

But a larger issue remains. As long as female superheroes are drawn as merely a pair of super-human boobs encased in spandex, “fan-boys” are going to have trouble controlling their very-human urges.

You see, it’s not just a Comic-Con problem, it’s a comic-book / sci-fi culture problem.

I blame Stan Lee.

[Captain’s Note: Even as I write this, I am reminded of another headline from just a year ago: “American Bra Size Average Increases From 34B To 34DD In Just 20 Years, Survey Says”.]

But I can’t leave it there.

My geek friends would be mad at me.

What I’m talking about here is a problem in the larger American culture as well. Despite advances women have made in the past few decades – climbing the corporate ladder, moving into higher government offices – they are still largely viewed through a distorted sexual lens. The “ideal” female body is being used more and more to sell everything from perfume and clothing to beer and chicken wings to magazines and newspapers… and yes, even blogs!

Yes, the Captain knows why you read this.

Will we ever get to the point where we can respect one another as human beings, created equal – and equally beautiful – in the eyes of a loving God? Will we ever get to the point where we can appreciate the human body in all its glory without feeling the need to grope it or “use it” or “possess it”? Will we ever get to the point where we can have a sane discussion about human sexuality?

Frankly, this ol’ Captain would just once like to say “booty” without someone snickering!

Until then, we just get more rules.

No groping. No cat-calls. No photos without the subject’s permission.


Sunday, July 20, 2014


So last evening the Captain found himself at a bar. 

Okay, no surprise. It’s not like I suddenly sobered woke up and said, “WTF! I’m in a bar!”

I took myself out to dinner. The First Mate was visiting another port, so I was on my own. And I had a hankering for one of my favorite dishes called “Fisherman Pasta”.

The First Mate refers to it as “bait”.

But I digress…

In preparation for my second career, I like to sit at the bar when eating out so I can watch the bartender at work. Unfortunately, business was slow for a Saturday night. The bartender says that happens whenever the city puts on a street fair, which they do several times throughout the summer.   

Note to the City: Maybe your street fairs are really not good for the local businesses after all.

Anyway, with only a few exceptions, the bartender mostly just poured beer.

Note to self: Okay, you’ve got the wine thing down, and your list of mixed drinks is growing. But if you’re going to run a bar, you really do need to know more about beer.

Although I already know that the “champagne of beers” is not really champagne... and hardly even beer. And I know what PBR is. My grandpa used to drink that cheap piss. And you have to pour Stella in a special glass.

And I thought wine drinkers were pretentious! 

So as I am sitting there enjoying my meal, a gentleman walks in and sits down.

I knew he was a gentleman because he kept the obligatory distance of one seat between us.

For what it's worth, the same rule applies at the urinals in the men's restroom wherever possible.
He called for the bartender. He wanted a Scotch. Actually ordered the 15-year-old Glenfiddich.


The bartender poured a generous two fingers, and the customer immediately asked for the bill. And in the blink of an eye, he downed the drink, threw some cash on the bar, and left.

I thought this curious. Aren’t you supposed to sip Scotch? I commented the same to the bartender. He laughed and said this was not uncommon. Not just for this man, but for others who patronize the restaurant.

Here’s the thing: The bar sits at the back of the restaurant. So do the bathrooms. Often times, according to the bartender, a diner will want to order another drink, but his wife (in this case) will say, “Don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink?” So instead of ordering the third/fourth Scotch at the table, he excuses himself to go to the restroom. But once out of sight, he turns left into the bar instead of right toward the restrooms. He must order and finish his drink in the amount of time it would take a normal, healthy prostate to do its thing – the Captain is allowed extra time – and then return to his dinner companion who is blissfully unaware.

He will most likely have to visit the bathroom for real in just a short while, but that’s not his immediate concern.

And when the ambulance arrives at the crash scene later that night, his wife will tell the paramedics, “I don’t understand… He only had two drinks all night.”

Friends, if you drink, drink responsibly.

And here’s a good Rule of Thumb from your Captain: If you have to sneak it when you drink it, then you’re not drinking responsibly!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

I don’t know how I feel about this. I’m putting it in writing to help process my thoughts.

Last year, the local independent movie house launched an internet “Kickstarter” campaign to raise donations for a new digital projector. A non-profit organization, the theater was required to upgrade – it was a $500,000 project. Having once served on the theater’s Board of Directors, I wanted this project to succeed. In exchange for 6 months of on-screen advertising, my church made a nice donation. I don’t know how the campaign ended up, but the new projector was installed last month, so I assume it was a success.

Good for them!

Not long ago, actor LeVar Burton launched a $1 million campaign via “Kickstarter” to bring back the television show “Reading Rainbow”. The original show, hosted by Burton, encouraged children to read. It ran from 1983-2006 and received more than 200 broadcast awards. To date, Burton’s campaign has received pledges in excess of $5.4 million, with a $1 million matching pledge!

Good for him!

I’ve heard of people launching similar campaigns to produce independent films and to fund their inventions. And that’s okay.

Which brings us to this past weekend. Two friends have launched separate campaigns to raise funds for trips. One is headed to a gamers convention; the other to her husband’s boot camp graduation. Worthy causes, to be sure. And they’re asking their friends - and even strangers - to pay their way.

Because they are my friends, I hope they will be successful. But because I’m not sure I like this idea, they won’t be receiving a donation from me.

Where do we draw the line? Do we need a line here? I am beginning to think so.

A man recently launched a campaign to raise $10 to make potato salad. I think it started out as a joke. But last week he was featured on “Good Morning America”. His campaign has raised more than $50,000 in pledges from strangers around the world!

Boy, are people ever stupid!

Is there a reason for your Captain to be concerned here? I recognize that in the past we have relied on patrons of the arts, or compassionate people with deep pockets, or federal or corporate grants to fund major projects.

But now, it feels like we have a technological hand out simply looking for hand-outs. 

The good news for you, my friend, is that you no longer need to hold up a sign offering “Will work for food”. Just start an online campaign. People who would normally step over you on the city street will now send you buckets of money - and you won't even have to work for it!

What really concerns me is that the current trend in online begging is not about acquiring the necessities of life. Want a new car? Start a campaign. Want a new house? Start a campaign. Want to go on vacation? Start a campaign.

Hmmmm… Wait a minute! Maybe I could start a campaign to pay for my next trip to Margaritaville!