Tag Archives: Sacrifice

Dude Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

When I was training to be a newspaper reporter, I learned never to bury the lead. Which meant, always start with the most important stuff right up front.

Not in the second paragraph.

And certainly never in the third.

I am, however, willing to state here, in the fourth paragraph, uncategorically, that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic, rip-roaring, rootin’-tootin’, bad-guy shooting, uplifting, side-splitting fantastically good movie.

I liked it, is what I’m trying to say.

I thought it would be difficult for any Marvel movie to surpass the wonder that is Marvel’s The Avengers, which I thought might have been one of the best movies of the decade at least. And, to be sure, CA: TWS, doesn’t surpass The Avengers, but it comes darn close.

Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, while Scarlett Johansson also is back as Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. They’re joined by Anthony Mackie, playing Sam Wilson, the Falcon, and a host of other folks, including Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. high-muckety-muck Alexander Pierce.

And they all — every single one of them — are fantastic in their role. The Black Widow, instead of being a girlfriend, or a pawn, or a sacrifice to make the male hero’s journey personal, is a formidable hero in her own right, facing down doubts and horrors from her past. She also benefits from the double-edged sword that is Captain America: She believes she can be better because Captain America believes she is better and she doesn’t want to let him down.

That’s only one of the things that makes Steve Rogers such a dangerous man.

Not only is the film well acted, but it’s filled with astonishing special effects, drastic fight scenes, Easter eggs too numerous to count (including the birth of at least two new villains, a certain tombstone near the end and namechecking the Sorcerer Supreme), and — believe it or not — an extended meditation on the idea of freedom versus security.

Following the events in New York, chronicled in Marvel’s The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. is all set to step out and take over world security. This eagerness is making Captain America a bit wary as it seems S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to start killing people before they actually commit a crime.

Should Americans and, by extension, the world give up their freedoms to become safer from a world that now contains super soldiers, aliens, gods and ten-foot-tall rampaging rage monsters?

Unfortunately, it’s not a question that will get answered in this movie, because it turns out that the entire operation has been compromised by Hydra, the bad guys from the first Cap film. Which means that the entire notion is, prima fascia, a bad idea. It sort of deflates the argument I was having in my head there, but I applaud the movie for at least bringing it up.

I’m also amazed by the actual change displayed in this movie. In most action series, there’s a set status quo and, once the movie is over, no matter what happened in the previous two hours, everything is back to the way it started. Not so in this movie.

Things change. Structures and organizations you thought were permanent fixtures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been completely transformed.

And all this before the Winter Soldier hits the scene, himself stalking out of Captain America’s past with a secret that could shatter him without a fight.

So, yeah. It’s a great movie, not just a great superhero movie.

What I loved the most about this movie can be summed up in one amazing elevator ride.

Captain America is trying to leave the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters after telling a powerful person no. He steps in the elevator. Two floors down, several men get on. Several floors after that, more rough and tough men come on. Eventually, the elevator is packed with roughboys and Captain America, who realizes what’s about to happen.

Instead of immediately smacking them all silly, Captain America first tries to settle the situation peacefully.

“Before we get started,” he says, “does anyone want to get out?”

The answer is no, so then he wipes the elevator floor with them in an amazing fight scene that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

Go pay said price of admission and enjoy yourself. This is a fantastic movie for the family or anyone else who enjoys action movies with fun, adventure, laughs and a couple of moments of genuine sadness and deep emotion.

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High School Students Sleeping In For Health

Teenagers aren’t lazy.

They don’t sleep late because they’re slug-a-beds, who’s only enthusiasm is for sleeping as long as possible. Biologically, they can’t help themselves. And having to go to a high school where classes start far too early in the a.m. doesn’t help either.

The four worst years of my life coincided with the four years Sarcasmo spent in high school.

His school started at 7:20 in the a.m. That meant he got up at 6:15 and I got up 15 minutes later, just in case. I barely made it through those four years and I know for a fact that the early start made Sarcasmo even crankier than he normally would have been.

Researchers have found that during adolescence, as hormones surge and the brain develops, teenagers who regularly sleep eight to nine hours a night learn better and are less likely to be tardy, get in fights or sustain athletic injuries. Sleeping well can also help moderate their tendency toward impulsive or risky decision-making.

That’s all well and good, but what teenager have you met who will be getting a regular eight to nine hours of sleep? Not many. After all, it seems like they can’t even force themselves to bed before 11 or 12 at night. It turns out that the reason for that late bed time isn’t just because teenagers are, by nature, prickly and annoying.

During puberty, teenagers have a later release of the “sleep” hormone melatonin, which means they tend not to feel drowsy until around 11 p.m. That inclination can be further delayed by the stimulating blue light from electronic devices, which tricks the brain into sensing wakeful daylight, slowing the release of melatonin and the onset of sleep. A Minnesota study noted that 88 percent of the students kept a cellphone in their bedroom.

That’s only one of the reasons I’ve been advocating for years that high schools need to start their days later. Teenagers’ biology basically prevents them from going to bed early enough to get the requisite hours of sleep each night. By starting school early, the school districts force teenagers into being perpetually sleep deprived.

Sure, stating high school later in the day might make sports practices end later and cut into time for some extracurricular activities or after-school jobs, but I think it’s a sacrifice that’s worth making. After all, the job of high schoolers is to excel in high school, so they can get to college and learn what’s necessary to get a good job. That’s much easier to do if they’ve been getting enough sleep every night.

New evidence suggests that later high school starts have widespread benefits. Researchers at the University of Minnesota, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied eight high schools in three states before and after they moved to later start times in recent years. In results released Wednesday they found that the later a school’s start time, the better off the students were on many measures, including mental health, car crash rates, attendance and, in some schools, grades and standardized test scores.

I think part of the problem with moving high school start times to later is that, for some reason, there’s this sense of being a macho manly type if you’re able to do without a lot of sleep. It’s as if folks believe that sleep is for weenies. Do we really need to start toughening up teenagers by depriving them of sleep and then demanding they perform as if they were well rested?

The University of Minnesota study tracked 9,000 high school students in five districts in Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota before and after schools shifted start times. In those that originally started at 7:30 a.m., only a third of students said they were able to get eight or more hours of sleep. Students who got less than that reported significantly more symptoms of depression, and greater use of caffeine, alcohol and illegal drugs than better-rested peers.

“It’s biological — the mental health outcomes were identical from inner-city kids and affluent kids,” said Kyla Wahlstrom, a professor of educational research at the University of Minnesota and the lead author of the study.

If you’re a dude who, like me, thinks it’s time for schools to start actually making decisions that are good for their students, then you should head on over to Start School Later, an advocacy group for health and safety in education.

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The Angrier I Get, The More Optimistic I Get! Wait. What?

by Richard

Don’t make me angry. You dudes wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Or, maybe you would.

Depends on whether or not you’re part of a hypothetical group of people who could be saved or killed after I make a hypothetical decision, either risk averse or risk prone. If that makes no sense at all to you, that’s all right. You didn’t suddenly drop 60 IQ points and I’m not babbling. Well, not much.

I’m talking about a 2001 study recently noticed by web writers that looks at how our emotions influence our decisions. There’s a surprising result. People who are angry tend to make decisions just like people who are happy. That is, their decisions both seem to be optimistic, as opposed to people who are fearful, who’s decisions seem to be more pessimistic.

Let’s hear it for anger! Whoop! Whoop!

 

In 2001, Jennifer S. Lerner and Dacher Keltner published a study documenting a series of psychological tests they’d conducted on undergraduate volunteers. The tests measured the subjects’ general moods, and then asked them to make a series of decisions about how they would proceed in situations where there were high probabilities that many people would be killed — but also the possibility that those people could be saved, too. What they found was that people who were angry made the more optimistic decisions, aiming to take more risks if it meant saving more people. Fearful people, on the other hand, usually made pessimistic choices where they were willing to sacrifice more people if it meant taking fewer risks.

And here’s the interesting part. The angry people scored very similarly to the way that happy people did on the same tests. What that means is that people who are happy and people who are angry tend to make decisions based on optimism. Of course, optimism also entails risk. Angry and happy people are less risk-averse than fearful ones. 

See? I think that’s pretty cool. Taking risks is seen as being optimistic because you wouldn’t take that risk if you didn’t think it would succeed. See? Optimism.

It’s obvious that fearful people would be more risk-averse, considering that they would be afraid that the risk wouldn’t pan out.

Fearful individuals consistently made relatively pessimistic judgments and choices, whereas both happy and angry individuals consistently made relatively optimistic judgments and choices … Fear and anger have opposite effects on risk perception. Whereas fearful people expressed pessimistic risk estimates and risk-averse choices, angry people expressed optimistic risk estimates and risk-seeking choices. These opposing patterns emerged for naturally occurring and experimentally induced fear and anger. Moreover, estimates of angry people more closely resembled those of happy people than those of fearful people.

Becoming angry when something bad happens in your environment might not be a bad idea. You’d end up taking more risks, which might or might not work out. But I’d consider that to be a plus over being so risk averse that you simply accept whatever bad thing is happening because you don’t want to try and fail.

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