The Superhero Heresy

March 5, 2016

With several blockbuster superhero films out every year, there can be little doubt that supers are hotter than ever. Batman, Iron Man, X-Men—there’s even something called Ant-Man. But, amid all the hoopla, one is compelled to wonder whether we have lost sight of what a superhero really is.

There was a time was when a superhero was the embodiment of goodness—bright, confident, and in service of truth, justice, and the American way.

Not so any more.

Of the eight major superhero pictures due in 2016, all are dark and brooding, some are violent enough to garner an ‘R’ rating, and the biggest of them feature superheroes battling, not a villain with some dark past, but other superheroes. These days, it’s the superhero who has a dark past, truth and justice are relative, and the best any of the heroes can hope for is a utilitarian solution to an unsolvable problem.

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This is a far cry from the original superheroes. In 1978, Christopher Reeves starred as the genuine and honorable Superman in the first ever superhero blockbuster movie. It was a faithful telling of a hero, who had been a beacon of hope and goodness for generations in America.

Since, the superhero genre has exploded in popularity now touting thirteen of the twenty highest grossing films of all time. But, as its popularity has grown, the movies have grown darker and the heroes have grown more anti-heroic. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s Batman (1989) presented a darker twist on the superhero, albeit in a colorful and campy way. Then came X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002, by all counts darker and dealing with more serious issues. By 2005, with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, we could see that the cheer of Superman was no longer relevant. Continue reading

Why Anti-Trumpers Might Be the Bigger Problem

As 2016 Super Tuesday results filed in, a sinking feeling could be felt across the country. Political pundits and lay voters alike realized that Donald J. Trump had a good chance of securing a majority of the states’ primaries, which meant that he could win Super Tuesday, and winning Super Tuesday could propel him toward the nomination, and if he won the nomination he could foreseeably win the presidency. That sinking feeling led to an eerie realization: The Donald could become president of the United States of America.

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What had been an impossibility suddenly became real; what was for so long a joke was suddenly no laughing matter.

A chorus arose from the commentators, soft at first, but by Super Tuesday a full-blown bellow: Stop Trump! The Donald would be atrocious for American democracy, and we must do everything we can to prevent his nomination. People pulled out the stops; comparisons to Hitler were rife; Whoopi Goldberg threatened to leave America.

But, in reading over the commentary, hit pieces, and outright propaganda that arose to stop the unconventional candidate, it occurred to me that Trump really isn’t the worst thing for American democracy—the troop of anti-Trumpers and their logic are. Sure, Trump is a clown and has no business being the president of the country. But the anti-Trump haters are out-clowning him, and almost making a Trump presidency appealing because of it.

Here’s why:

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Stella Maris

2015
Oil and Gold Leaf on Wood
8″ x 10″
SOLD

Our Misdirected Outrage over Columbus

Thanks to social media, we now know that Christopher Columbus was the only person who ever mistreated anyone in the history of the world. Everywhere we read that Columbus was a cruel tyrant of a man who facilitated slavery, wanted nothing but gold, and brought about a genocide of a people. To read these narratives, it would seem that Columbus was a man capable only of evil, that no one in his day opposed his cruelty, and nothing good ever came from his efforts.

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For those who aren’t quite eager to believe the revisionist fancies found across the Internet, here is some perspective on the anti-Columbus outrage from the authority on Western cultural history, Jacques Barzun:

The outcry in the United States denouncing Columbus during his 500th anniversary year takes us back to Madrid around 1540; for contrary to common opinion, the concern about exploitation of the natives dates almost from the beginning of Spanish colonization. Queen Isabella herself condemned the abuse and issued edicts against it; so did Charles V. The strongest of the protesters, Bartolome de Las Casas, had continual access to the emperor and aroused the public by his vehement writings. In “New Spain” itself, the clergy and the religious orders, Dominican and Jesuit, were active opponents of the evils of forced labor and lawless brutality. By Charles’s legislation these were crimes with definite penalties attached; enforcement was the difficulty: it depended on the character of the officials on the spot. Preaching the truth that these “Indians” were not red devils but fellow men loved by God even though they were not Christians could influence but few. The men and women who left the homeland for America were a mixed lot with mixed motives; on Columbus’s second voyage were “ten convicted murderers and two Gypsy women.”

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From the 2000 masterpiece, From Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun.

The conquistadors’ impelling goals have been summarized as “Gold, Glory, and the Gospel.” At any time, neither Gold nor Glory is a respecter of persons, and Gospel occasionally sins; together they do their worst when the scene is vast and sparsely populated, when communication is slow and policing haphazard. If we think back to the western frontier of the United States down to 1890, we find not exactly anarchy but free-wheeling crime and violence that took its toll of lives and goods, and sent not a few venturers scuttling back to the relatively civil order of the Midwest.

The Spanish colonists committed atrocities from greed and racist contempt that nothing can palliate or excuse. But to blame Columbus is a piece of retrospective lynching; he was not the master criminal inspiring all the rest. It is moreover a mistake to think that because the native peoples were the sufferers, all of them were peaceable innocents. The Caribs whom Columbus first encountered had fought and displaced the Anawaks who occupied the islands. The Aztecs whom Cortez conquered had originally descended from the north and destroyed the previous civilization. To the north and east many of the tribes lived in perpetual warfare, the strong exploiting the weak, and several — notably the Iroquois — had slaves. In short, what happened on the newfound hemisphere in early modern times continued the practice of the old: in ancient Greece alien tribes marching in from the north; likewise in the making of the Roman Empire, in the peopling of the British Isles by Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans; in France, Italy, and Spain by Franks, Normans, Lombards, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and later by Arabs. Everywhere the story is one of invasion, killing, rape, and plunder and occupation of the land that belonged to the vanquished. Today, this fusion or dispersion of peoples and cultures by means of death and destruction is abhorred in principle but flourishing in fact. Africa, the Middle and Far East, and South Central Europe are still theaters of conquest and massacre. And Columbus is not the responsible party.

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No, We Don’t Need More Women in the Tech Industry

If there’s one thing that all leaders and pundits in the tech industry can agree on, it is that there aren’t enough women in the field.

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As Derek Khanna pointed out in his seminal Atlantic article, women hold 57 percent of occupations in the workforce, but, in computing occupations, that figure is only 25 percent. The leadership picture is even more dismal. Of the many chief information officer jobs at Fortune 250 companies, women comprise only 20 percent. And it’s getting worse. In 1984, females were awarded 37.1 percent of computer science degrees; today they account for less than 12 percent.

If we were to listen to the popular tech writers of the day, politicians, and even a growing number of male tech leaders, this trend amounts to a great “tragedy”. As Khanna puts it, low numbers of women in tech is bad for women, bad for tech, and bad for society in general.

But can it be said that things are so terrible? The last time I checked, IT was the most expansive and innovative industry on the planet. Granted the numbers show that tech favors men, but can it be said that that is such a bad thing when it is clear that the industry is prospering so? Why is it a tragedy that only 12 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women? Why do we need more women in tech anyway?

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Dr. Selflove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Myers-Briggs

DrStrangeloveFINAL

Probably an INTJ.

I was at college the first time I had heard about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. So, naturally, I was a skeptic.

It was a hot August evening in Bloomington, IN, when I shuffled into a huge lecture hall with hundreds of other students to take the test. We were told that the test would measure our personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, and that it could help guide us in school and in work after graduation. We were told it would change our lives forever.

I wasn’t buying it. How could some stuffy academic know my interests, desires, and behavioral traits based on a few random questions? Who were they to say what is best for me in relationships and work? I took the test reluctantly and smug in the knowledge that it couldn’t possibly do what it promised.

Throughout the test, I found myself debating the wording of the questions and the method in general. For several questions, I found myself wanting to choose more than one answer. I selected the best, and carried on, sure that I would have to explain away what was bound to be a slew of errant results. Once I finished, I prepared to refute.

But, when I saw my results, something rather spooky happened. I actually agreed with the findings. Continue reading

How We Got Rights So Wrong

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Heard from the crowd: “We want to be more equal than they are!”

May 16, 2015

If the recent debate over RFRA laws and same-sex marriage teaches us anything, it is not that there are a bunch of bigots out there or that there are people being unjustly discriminated against. It is that, as a nation, we are facing a crisis of rights.

Witness the recent news item from Oregon: Last month, a judge pronounced that two bakers should pay $135,000 in damages for refusing to bake a same-sex wedding cake.

Now, we can look at this from a few angles. It could be that a couple of bigots are getting what they deserve. Or it could be that they are being unfairly demonized for doing their conscience. There are good people with good arguments on both sides of the debate.

We can all agree, however, that the Oregon case signifies a clash between opposing rights. Both sides of the argument claim to be in the right and to have the right to do what they are doing. On the one side are the bakers’ rights to conduct business as they please and to practice their conscience. On the other side are the customers’ rights to buy available goods and to not be discriminated against. The bakers’ rights necessarily infringe upon the customers’ rights, and vice versa. Continue reading

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Juliet’s Longing

2015
Oil and Gold Leaf on Canvas
14″ x 18″

 

Why We Should Hang Up the Mobile Device Ban

On Jan. 1, 2015, San Antonio will begin enforcing a new cell phone ban for drivers. The ban is, by many accounts, common sense and will catch the city up with progressive California and New York bans. It also happens to be a terrible idea.

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Sweet antenna.

To begin, let it be said that I do not condone texting or talking on the phone while driving. It is undoubtedly a distraction, the consequences of which are seen everywhere. Any time I see poor driving—swerving, driving 15 miles an hour on the highway, crashing into cement barricades—it is doubtless because the driver is focused on a handheld device and not the primary task of driving. It goes without saying that the tragedies we see in the news where kids or families are killed in accidents due to distracted driving are horrible, and we should do all we can to eliminate such senseless catastrophes.

This ban is not the answer. Continue reading

Romancing the Subconscious

A chapter from the 2014 release, Psychonomics: How Modern Science Aims to Conquer the Mind and How the Mind Prevails.

On a cool summer evening in Southern California, a group of three fashionable young women scamper into a posh hotel bar to partake in their typical Friday evening ritual of drinks, dancing, and, of course, decision-making. The girls don’t admit that they’re out looking for guys, but they aren’t opposed to the idea either. After all, they’re not spending the evening in their apartments in pajamas. They’re in high-waisted jeans at a bar with an upside-down sign.

The three women are all very attractive and, by many accounts, could have their choice of men. Over the course of the night, they are approached by several groups of guys, of which some get to talk to them for a while and some fail spectacularly. The failures can be awkward and often rather painful. “Sometimes guys just don’t get it,” one of the women, Katlyn, says as she tosses back her tangled brown locks. “It’s clear we’re not interested, but they still don’t go away.”

On the other hand, the successes can be fun and sometimes lead to lasting friendships. “You can meet some really interesting people out,” Katlyn says. “And when you click, you just know it.”

two-girlfriends-at-bar-drinking-champagne Continue reading

Five Reasons to Embrace Your Inner Perfectionist


Recently, the people at Emotional Intelligence 2.0 posted about the 9 Things Successful People Won’t Do. As could be expected, one of the items was that they won’t “prioritize perfection”. “Human beings,” they say, “by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure.” And, with a single short paragraph, they write off perfection as something that no successful person would even consider.

It struck me as odd primarily because I can think of a dozen perfectionists off the top of my head–and they are all successful. Think about celebrity perfectionists–Steve Jobs, John Lasseter, Serena Williams. These kinds of people are extremely talented and extremely successful. And, if you ask them, their success is largely dependent upon their drive for perfection. Why would the EI people suggest that successful people aren’t perfectionists when it’s clear that at least some exude the trait?

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In Defense of Photoshopping

August 2, 2014

Photoshop is killing our self-esteem.

At least, that is the consensus  on a growing trend throughout our media and culture: Advertising and editorials have combined to present an image of men and women—especially women—that is unrealistic, unattainable, and downright unhealthy.

The culprit? Photoshop and to some extent its users have singlehandedly distorted reality and made it impossible for girls and boys to be appealing. The photo editing software allows users—art directors and photographers alike—to remove wrinkles, cut fat, and emphasize tans, making women and men look flawless everywhere we turn. Take for instance, the image of a 55-year old Madonna. While the original shows her age, lines, and presents her as a little Smeagol, the final product is bright, vivid, and perhaps even youthful. In the original, she’s like a Gollum; in the final, she’s “Like a Virgin”.

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Psychonomics

Psychonomics: The Scientific Conquest of the Human Mind

We are in the midst of a brain science revolution. Highly sophisticated neuroimaging technology and cunning psychological experiments have helped researchers delve into the darkest corners of the human brain to shine light on how it works and explain human behavior.

Their conclusions boggle the mind: We make decisions before we are even conscious of our choices; we allow irrelevant influences to dominate our thought processes; and we go against our own best interest as a matter of course. In short, the latest brain science has conquered the mind and determined that we are all irrational and helpless in our condition.

But should that be the last word? In this startling account, Eric Robert Morse takes on the pop psychology establishment to show how this new understanding of the mind isn’t the paradigm-shifting revelation it is claimed to be. With meticulous precision, Morse dissects the latest Behavioral Economics and brain imaging research to reveal a discipline that is full of holes and bordering on pseudoscience.

In Psychonomics, Morse uses captivating stories to bring to life the often mystifying world of behavioral psychology. We hear tales of beautiful fashion models and brilliant finance models, of MVP quarterbacks and GDP architects. In all of these stories, Morse shows how modern science uses the most advanced techne and experiments to defeat the human mind, and, ultimately, how the mind wins.

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Ricky Wills It

Ricky Wills It: A Rock Opera in the Key of Johnny Cougar

Ricky Wills It: A Rock Opera in the Key of Johnny Cougar

Speedway, Indiana native Ricky Wills is a hotshot racecar driver with chip on his shoulder. As one of the brightest rising stars in the racing world, Ricky competes for a chance to race in the legendary Indianapolis 500, and struggles to maintain his small-town identity as he is swept up by industry fame and the charms of big-city celebrities.

Author Eric Robert Morse is a great fan of sports and all things Indiana. In his first novel, Monaco, he brought to life the scintillating atmosphere of the pre-WWII European Riviera. Now, he returns to his hometown of Indianapolis for a modern, light-hearted tale of competition and the ever-engrossing quest for speed.

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soufriere

Soufrière

2011
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 24″
SOLD

Juggernaut

Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It

Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It

By now, everyone recognizes the severity of the 2007-08 financial crisis. But, to many Americans, the bailouts, stimulus packages, and regulatory schemes aimed at solving the problem seemed to merely pull the economy further into the mire of bureaucracy, party politics, and unsustainable debt that led to the crisis in the first place. Only the bankers and officials who caused the problem were in a position to solve it, and so fixing the system necessarily meant becoming part of it—and thus making it even harder to fix. This is the crux of the Juggernaut.

A sprawling, uncontrollable system that only grows larger and more berserk the more we try to quell it, the Juggernaut has become a way of life. It is not, as many would suggest, a product of the last ten or even thirty years. Rather, it is inherent in the system itself, with roots that reach as far back as Columbus and the dawn of modern times.

In this stunning new story of political economy, author Eric Robert Morse examines why the modern system has become so unwieldy and explains what must be done to correct it. His astute analysis and fascinating storytelling take readers on an epic journey, from the dawn of Free-Market Capitalism during the Age of Exploration, through the Industrial Revolution and Adam Smith, to the rise of Keynesianism and the dominance of the Welfare State.

Drawing from all corners of political, social, and economic study, including specialism and the division of labor, competition and Game Theory, and Statism and Public Choice Theory, Morse weaves together a groundbreaking economic theory, which promises to shake up the current political discourse and usher in a new era of cooperation and prosperity.

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White House Christmas

White House Christmas

2010
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas
20″ x 16″
SOLD

The 90-Minute Effect

The 90-Minute Effect: How We Shape Our Lives by the Hollywood Formula and Rarely Reach Our Own Happy Endings

The 90-Minute Effect: How We Shape Our Lives by the Hollywood Formula and Rarely Reach Our Own Happy Endings

From Bogart and Bacall to ‘Batman Begins,’ from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to ‘The Princess Bride,’ and from ‘Ben-Hur’ to Ben Kenobi, our lives are filled with personalities and narratives that grip our very souls. What connects us with these tales so naturally and powerfully? What provides the magic of a great character or plot twist? What is it about a good story that makes us want to triumph like Batman and fall in love like the Princess Bride? And why is it so difficult to achieve those happy endings ourselves?

‘The 90-Minute Effect’ explores the subtle manner in which all good stories are molded and shows how we as audience members shape our own lives according to what we see on screen and read in books. In a comprehensive survey covering Hollywood movies, novels, television shows, plays, and video games, both modern and classic, Eric Robert Morse examines the patterns in plot structure and character development that arise in all good stories, showing how each example offers its own unique approach to the universal formula.

This fascinating and inventive study fuses a detailed look at the inner-workings of stories with astute social analysis that will rivet lovers of storytelling as well as those interested in current sociological trends. ‘The 90-Minute Effect’ stands as a mesmerizing window into the human psyche and provides an entirely new theory of poetics that will change the way you watch movies and read novels forever.

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