Tag Archives: crime

Boredom: The Epidemic Of The Future?

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Back in August of 2013, a very heinous, very unusual crime made headlines around the world. In Dunkan, Oklahoma, a group of three teenagers allegedly murdered Christopher Lane, an Australian exchange student just out for a jog, in cold blood just because they were bored.

Think about that for a moment. A bunch of teenagers got so bored and were so desperate form stimulation that they resorted to cold-blooded murder just to get their adrenaline flowing. We, as a society, are so used to crimes of passion and desperation. They’re basically the premise of every episode of “CSI” and “Law and Order.”

The fact those shows keep getting renewed show that we have a certain concept of what inspires and propagates crime and deviance. People who commit these crimes usually have some sort of overpowering motivation that overshadows any sense of decency they have. They’re desperate for money, they’re hopelessly in love, or in some cases, they’re pathological psychopaths with fatal flaws in their biology.

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What makes the murder of Christopher Lane so horrifying is that it completely upends that narrative. The killers, in this case, weren’t motivated by revenge, money, or personality disorders. They were just bored.

That is extremely disconcerting because we’ve all felt bored at some point in our lives. There was this one time the power got knocked out at my house for nearly two days and I couldn’t do damn near anything. When it got dark and I had no more light with which to read comics, it got to be damn near agonizing. I never did anything stupid because of it, but this crime should give everyone pause.

The fact that we’re all capable of being exceedingly bored reveals a disturbing possibility. If three bored teenagers are capable of such a heinous act, then are others just as capable? Are we, personally, capable of such horror? Depending on how bored you’ve been in the past, that’s a disturbing question to even think about.

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However, it may become an increasingly relevant question in the future. Usually, when I talk about the future on this blog, I explore the more positive ramifications of our advances in technology. I talk about how this technology will cure infectious disease, enhance our cognitive abilities beyond our caveman limits, and improve our sex lives to amazingly kinky heights.

I know, at times, it sound downright utopian in my vision of the future. By our current standards, wherein we live in a world where 3.7 million children die before their fifth birthday, it certainly seems rosy by comparison. However, I stick my fingers in my ears and start singing John Lennon songs when I contemplate potential problems in that vision. This is one issue that’s easy to overlook, but has major implications.

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At this moment in history, society has a great many distractions in terms of entertainment and productivity. Most people have jobs, of some sort, to keep them busy. The three teenagers who killed Christopher Lee were on summer vacation and had nothing productive to do. It’s hard to know whether a part-time job at a fast food joint would’ve averted a murder, but they would’ve had to find a different excuse.

Whether you’re toiling in the fields of a small farm or running around an office like an episode of “The Office,” we’ve always had some kind of work to keep us, as a species, occupied. For most of human history, we had to work. If we didn’t, then we starved to death. It was that simple.

It’s another rare instance where caveman logic seems to apply equally across time and history. It doesn’t matter whether we’re hunter/gatherers or sweatshop workers putting together barbie dolls. We’re a species that’s wired to work. It may not always be the work we prefer, but we know why it’s necessary on some levels. We need to gather and manage our resources to survive.

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That, however, is where the chink in our boredom-busting armor might start. For most of human history, we’ve always had to work ourselves to the bone to keep our species and our civilization moving. That’s rapidly changing due to trends in automation. Add in the growth of artificial intelligencethe rise of 3D printing, and the possibility of lab-grown food, and suddenly we don’t need millions of people toiling anymore.

Now by most measures, it’s a good thing that we don’t need people to endure back-breaking labor just to get the bare minimum of sustenance. Most people would rather not work in fields of cow shit or work 12-hour shifts in a factory. They’d rather work a reasonable number of hours that provides them abundant leisure and family time. That’s wholly possible in a modern economy.

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However, at some point, technology will make even that reasonable set of hours won’t be necessary. Our ability to make our food, purify our water, and generate power might become so efficient that the amount of work needed is minimal. Given our tendency to screw up on the job, it may get to a point where having human workers is a liability.

It could lead to a huge mass of unemployment or under-employment. However, that wouldn’t mean everyone would have to live in poverty. On the contrary, it may eliminate poverty altogether because we could allocate the basic necessities of life so efficiently. Policies like the universal basic income, which I’ve talked about before, may effectively decouple the link between work and survival.

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This is all well and good for people who hate doing menial jobs for low pay, but it creates a situation that we, as a species, have never dealt with before. What happens to our bodies, minds, and biology when we don’t have to work at all and are subject to the constant threat of boredom?

That’s not entirely a rhetorical question. It’s also one of those questions that’s impossible to answer now, but might be possible to address in the future. We’ve never had a functioning society where nobody has to work and everybody has access to the basics of life, free of charge. It’s so unprecedented that it’s hard to know whether we’re even wired for it.

The ghastly murder of Christopher Lane implies that our minds and bodies don’t react well to boredom. It makes us think crazy thoughts, do crazy things, and act on crazy impulses. What else other than boredom can explain people dedicating so much time and energy into making paperclip chains?

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It doesn’t just reflect to our basic caveman settings. These are essential survival instincts that every species that has ever lived have built into their biology. Every creature, be it a lion or a dung beetle, dedicates a significant amount of its existence simply securing food, avoiding predators, and finding a mate. Given the never-ending competition of nature and evolution, there’s literally no time to be bored.

Humans are in an unprecedented situation compared to other species. We’re basically like players in a massive multi-player video game armed with cheat codes. We are so dominate, so powerful, and so adaptable that no other species has a prayer. Sure, a deer may kill an unlucky human every now and then, but deer are just not able to dominate the way humans dominate.

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The problem is that this undermines the very mechanics of evolution and survival instinct. What happens to a species where it doesn’t need those instincts to survive and reproduce anymore? With our tools and technology, humans can kill any predator and beat any disease.

That means our only concern would be reproduction. That might already be playing out to some extent. There have been some links, albeit weak ones, between adolescent boredom and teen pregnancy. When you think about it from a survival standpoint, it makes sense. If there’s no food to gather or predators to avoid, your next instinct is to mate. At the very least, having kids gives you something to do.

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However, technology may make that unnecessary as well. Between advances in contraception and artificial wombs, even that most basic instinct won’t be necessary for the propagation of our species. In that scenario, sex would have no reproductive purposes. It would just be another thing we do with our bodies when we’re bored. While that might mean more people get laid, it also means risking even more boredom.

Can we, as a species and as individuals, function with that kind of boredom? In a future where we have so few concerns to our survival, safety, and propagation, can we actually tolerate life? Again, it’s not entirely a rhetorical question.

Just imagine yourself in that situation. You wake up in a nice, comfortable dwelling every day. You don’t have to work. Anything you want to eat is readily available. If you want to have sex, there are apps to connect you with people or sex robots that make that as easy as ordering a pizza. You have all the time you want for hobbies, sports, and what not.

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It might be fun at first, but what happens when you get bored? How do you fill every hour of every day? What happens when you’ve read all your books, beat every video game, and collected every stamp? What will you do to entertain yourself?

That’s not to say some people will resort to the lengths that those teenagers in Oklahoma went to when they murdered an innocent man. However, the fact that this happened today when we’re still a long way from that rosy future is telling. It might even be a warning that we’re not prepared for the boredom pandemic to come.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Sexy Future

Ten Ridiculously Real Excuses That People Made (In A Court Of Law)

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Whenever I talk about serious issues or concepts on this blog, I do so knowing that at some point, I have to take a break. I need to find a way to make people laugh or get them horny or both, if possible. I’m not sure how many people get horny from discussions about sex robots, but people have all sorts of kinks.

When it comes to talking about reasons and excuses, it’s hard to make anyone horny from that. I knew that as soon as I decided that I would flesh out this issue. Now I have done my best to apply the concept to sexy situations, including those in my novels. I still doubt anyone needed a change in panties after that.

So I guess I’ll settle for the next best thing, which is making people laugh. When it comes to reasons and excuses, there’s actually a treasure trove on top of a mountain of chocolate. When it comes to humor, you won’t find any shortage that comes from people making stupid excuses for the crazy stuff they do.

Now we all do stupid things and make stupid excuses. That’s just part of life. In fact, many of us first discover our creative side when we have to make excuses as to why our parents should buy us that giant bag of Skittles. Those with a creative side probably got to eat a lot of candy as a kid.

It’s one thing for kids to make excuses over candy, though. It’s quite another when actual, functioning adults make them and in a court of law no less. If ever there was a place not to make excuses, which didn’t involve a rectal examination or a tax audit, a court room is at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, that still doesn’t stop some people. For some, the stupidity impulse is just too strong. In some cases, it’s pathetic. In others, it’s hilarious. Sure, it may undermine your faith in humanity, but that doesn’t make it any less funny.

While court rooms are supposed to be serious domains where the cold, but just hand of law can peacefully resolve disputes, it can still be a source of comedy. The number of stupid things people have said and done in a courtroom is simply too voluminous for an erotica/romance writer to sift through.

Thankfully, the folks at DailyTop10s have done some sifting for me. In the following video are 10 of the most ridiculous excuses ever given in a court of law. How ridiculous does it get, you ask? One of the excuses involves Bigfoot. I wish I were joking.

 

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Filed under Reasons and Excuses

How To Be An Effective Superhero

This is a direct follow-up to my previous post about why modern superheroes are inherently incompetent and designed to stay that way. I felt I needed to scrutinize the cracks in the foundation, so to speak, before I get around to discussing the stuff build on top of it. That will help make the discussion in this post more relevant and concise.

Even without the context of my previous post, it’s not hard to understand or even acknowledge that so many superheroes are inept, irresponsible, and incompetent at their jobs. Their villains always escape. Their friends/lovers/parents always die/suffer. The world they want to better never changes. It’s a flaw in the system as much as it is an exercise in futility.

Now, I’d like to take a step back, acknowledge the forest from the trees, and offer a solution of sorts. As I’ve done with other issues, I don’t just like to point out flaws. I like to offer viable solutions. Those solutions may not be practical or possible at the moment, but I try to make sure that the concept is sound.

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I’d like to apply that method to superheroes now. By that, I mean I’d like to create a guide of sorts that helps establish the tactics, strategies, and ethics of being a competent, effective superhero. I say this knowing that it could never work in any comic book or major movie. This is mostly just an exercise in the actual pragmatics of superheroes.

First off, let’s establish some guidelines for a prototypical hero that would utilize these tactics. In order for them to work, they have to meet a certain criteria. Here’s a quick list of what that may include:

  • The goal of the hero is to reduce crime, confront injustice, and undermine corruption

  • The hero has a concerted interest in protecting as many innocent people as possible

  • The strategy in question cannot rely on the use of certain superpowers, although the use of superpowers can help supplement the strategy

  • The strategy is equally usable by male, female, and alien characters

  • The hero in question is willing to operate in a manner outside the framework of traditional law enforcement

  • The hero in question is willing to cross a certain set of moral lines, but only to an extent

I’m sure there are other ways to refine and supplement this list, but for now, this is what I’ll use in devising my strategy. In order to ensure that its applicable, heroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Daredevil must be equally capable of implementing it.

Keep in mind, though, that some heroes have goals that go beyond just administering justice. Characters like Superman and the X-men have other goals, some of which goes beyond justice. I’ll save those goals for another post. For now, I intend to focus on the traditional superhero goal of justice and countering evil.

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In order to formulate this strategy, it’s also important to acknowledge a few unpleasant truths that would make Superman and Captain America cry. By that, I mean that the strategy cannot, for practical means, rely heavily on ideals. This is supposed to apply to the real world and, unfortunately, the real world is extremely unforgiving when it comes to ideals. Just ask Bernie Sanders.

So if we’re going to create a strategy that operates in the real world, we must make sure it accounts for the eccentricities of human psychology. It must utilize caveman logic and pass the Simpson filter. It can’t be too concerned with the nuts and bolts of people and why they do the crazy things they do. It must focus exclusively on results.

Does your brain hurt yet? Are you wondering if I’m asking you to contemplate dry water, a one-handed clap, or a decent Fantastic Four movie? Bear with me because there is a strategy that checks all these boxes. It’s a strategy I came up with thanks to two books, “Freakanomics” and “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big.”

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I’ve read both these books over the past few years and I’m a big fan of their style. They dig deep into the hidden intricacies of how the world works and challenges readers to think about how doing things in new and novel ways. Seeing as how I have the kind of imagination that links robots with a dominatrix, they fit my unique mentality perfectly.

For the purposes of this discussion, I want to cite an article that the authors of “Freakanamics” wrote a number of years ago on terrorism. Basically, with a gross negligence to the high emotions that come with terrorism, the authors used their understanding of economics and human behavior to come up with the most cost-effective way to conduct terrorism. What they came up with was pretty damn terrifying.

My general view of the world is that simpler is better. My guess is that this thinking applies to terrorism as well. In that spirit, the best terrorist plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be. The chaos would be unbelievable, especially considering how few resources it would require of the terrorists. It would also be extremely hard to catch these guys. The damage wouldn’t be as extreme as detonating a nuclear bomb in New York City, of course; but it sure would be a lot easier to obtain a handful of guns than a nuclear weapon.

Think about that for a moment. If terrorists used a tactic like this, how much fear and dread would it inflict on our daily lives? If those terrorists were even marginally competent, then it would be even scarier. No matter what we did, we would dread that we would be a victim and it wouldn’t be entirely misguided.

This is where “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big” comes in. That book talks heavily about how stress and uncertainty affect people. It also teaches on how you can use that to your advantage. It makes painfully clear that the human brain is an irrational device with faulty wiring that hasn’t been updated in 200,000 years. If you’re going to influence it, then you might as well exploit those quirks.

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With these two principles in mind, we can formulate a strategy for our prospective superhero. If utilized, then the criminals, villains, and future threats they face will either be defeated, deterred, or nullified.


  • The hero operates in complete secrecy, working at night or under a different identity. If the hero uses a uniform, then that uniform must not be identifiable or have some sort of stealth feature

This first part of the strategy is simple and not entirely new. Characters like Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles utilize some form of stealth. They operate in the shadows and generally avoid being seen.

Some heroes are even more well-equipped than others. Characters like Solid Snake from the “Metal Gear Solid” video games utilize a stealth suit that utilizes camouflage. Characters like Mystique can shape-shift into looking like someone else. This makes it easier for them to utilize this tactic, but someone as resourceful as Batman could use it just as well.

However, there’s room for improvement.


  • The hero must not have an identifiable name or make themselves known to the media in any way or coordinate with the media. They must, at all costs, avoid creating an identifiable persona

This is where Batman, Spider-Man, and pretty much any hero with a publicly-known name fails. The issue isn’t the name itself. The issue is that by having a name and having some kind of media exposure, they create a tangible, identifiable target.

From a practical perspective, that’s a big problem. That means enemies, be they a mugger or Lex Luthor, have someone they can target and identify. Entire teams of enemies, like the Legion of Doom or the Sinister Six, can rally around a common enemy. That makes enemies stronger and no strategy can succeed with that.


  • The hero must conduct detailed surveillance on villains and criminals, know their crimes and how they connect with others, and focus on those who are high in rank and influence

This is another tactic that most heroes already use to some extent. Batman is probably the most well-known. He uses his detective skills to determine who is a threat, how big a threat they are, and how to go after them. Other heroes, like the Avengers or the Justice League, generally have some type of monitoring system to determine pending threats.

This strategy requires the kind of extensive intelligence and understanding that someone like Batman could appreciate. When Batman determines that someone is a big threat, he’s almost always right. Any hero using this strategy must have similar certainty. Knowing the threat is the first step towards actually defeating it. That’s just a basic rule of war.


  • The hero must defeat their villains/enemies/criminals by making them disappear without a trace, either by killing them and destroying the body or by sending them into a domain from which they can never escape

This is where the strategy conflicts with nearly every major hero, especially the Batmans and Supermans of the comic book world. For the most part, the heroes avoid killing. It’s seen as an ideal. Taking a life is seen as morally abhorrent and for good reason.

However, that moral absolution ends when those same villains, such as the Jokers and Green Goblins of the world, live on to torment again. Despite defeating these villains multiple times, the heroes never do anything to end them. They try and try to lock them away in a prison cell, but they just keep escaping. From a moral standpoint, the suffering those villains inflict is on the heroes’ shoulders.

For most heroes, this means killing is unavoidable. It’s the only sure-fire way to ensure that a villain is never a threat again. For more resourceful/powerful heroes, there are other options like shrinking them to the size of atoms like Ant Man or sending them into the far-distant future, as Superman did with Doomsday.

However, it’s not enough to just kill a villain or enemy in this instance. Superheroes have killed before. Some, like the Punisher, kill a lot, but it still backfires in the long run. Why is that? Well, that’s where the next part strategy comes in.


  • The hero must make sure that nobody knows the villains they kill or disappear are dead, must never take credit for their disappearance, and must do everything possible to disconnect themselves from the villain

This is where even the brutal tactics of the Punisher fail. It’s also where the Freakanomic strategy comes in. The problem with the Punisher’s harsh methods isn’t that they’re harsh or that they result in a lot of killing. The problem is that they give the villains another rallying cry.

The Punisher’s enemies knows he kills. The Punisher usually likes to make clear that he’s the one who killed their associates. While this may shock and horrify some of them, it also has the effect of rallying them against a common enemy. Whether someone is a criminal or a hero, giving your enemies a common threat to rally behind is always a bad idea.

This is why the Punisher’s methods often fail in the long run. Criminals may fear him, but they know he’s responsible. The threat they’re up against has a face. There is a target for them to direct their fear and anger. This means that the criminals and enemies of the hero know who to fight against and in the long run, that never works out for the hero.


  • The hero must make sure that the villains, their allies, and their enemies don’t know why others are disappearing and must never make themselves known. Most importantly, they must make sure the villains are free to make wrong, misguided decisions

Here is where the methods of Scott Adams intersect with “Freakanomics.” In “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big,” Adams constantly talks about how people are at the mercy of their caveman brains. When they’re uncertain or anxious about something, they’re prone to making bad decisions for bad reasons. Make too many of those decisions and you tend to doom yourself to failure.

With this method, the hero must make sure that the villain is free and able to keep making those decisions that will ensure they defeat themselves. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the villain never knows that the hero is even fighting against them. They can’t have a mask, a costume, or a symbol to rally against. If it’s one big unknown, then their irrational caveman brains will do the rest.

The Norman Osborns and Lex Luthors of the world will start making up their own targets, irrationally lashing out at what they think is the source of the threat. The hero, for the most part, just needs to sit back and watch it unfold. Let them attack their rivals, make new enemies, and falter under the pressure. So long as they don’t know who or what they’re fighting against, their paranoia will eventually work against them.

In the long run, the villains will lose. They’ll end up dead. They’ll get caught. Most importantly, from the hero’s perspective, they’ll never know who to blame or why. That’s a scary thought, even for a hardened criminal. Nothing scares people more than the unknown.


  • The hero must never seek any kind of recognition, adulation, or compensation for their deeds

This is the final part of the strategy and, arguably, the most important. The problem with characters like Batman and Superman are that they want to be symbols. They want to be recognized for their efforts. Practically speaking, that’s a mistake.

By being symbols, they give their enemies a clear target and something to rally around. No matter how good the hero is at their job, they still make themselves a target. No matter how many villains they defeat, more will emerge and more will know who to fight.

Remove that symbolism. Remove the recognition. Remove the masks, costumes, and iconography of a hero and suddenly, the world of villains is very scary. They don’t know who to fight. They just know that by doing what they do, they could disappear without a trace and never be heard from again.

That’s more terrifying than any torture or punishment because their caveman brains will fill in the blanks with the worst they can conjure.


This caps off my official perfect superhero strategy. To date, no hero in a comic book uses these tactics and for good reason. If it were a comic book, it wouldn’t be very interesting because the outcome would be too final. The hero would be too competent and that’s just not very interesting.

Remove the need for sales, lunch boxes, and porn parodies and imagine how this strategy could work. Say there’s a superhero that wants to take down organized crime. Say that hero has the power of Superman or the Flash. Using their abilities, they quickly locate the top level bosses and associates of these criminals and just make them disappear.

There’s no body. There’s no trace. There’s no police report. There’s no trial. They just disappear. Not knowing who to fight, the criminals start attacking others they think are responsible. When they don’t know who, they just pick random people they think are enemies.

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This makes them more enemies, both from other criminals and law enforcement. No matter what they do, anyone who becomes a boss just disappears and they don’t know why. As a result, nobody even wants to be a crime boss anymore. The organizations just collapse on their own. Criminals still disappear, ensuring even low-level criminals have an incentive to stop. In the long run, the hero accomplishes what they set out to do.

It works with criminals. It works with those who are corrupt. It exploits the quirks of human nature, but also relies on the traits that make us function as a species. Again, it’s a tactic that I doubt any major heroes with movie rights could ever use. However, if they really do care about results, then this is the best way to go. Spider-Man should take notes.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes

Why Spider-Man Is The Most Incompetent Hero Of All Time

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Whenever I talk about comic books and superheroes on this blog, I generally try not to single one particular character out unless I’m trying to make a point. I find that singling out one too many characters is like pointing out all the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. It just becomes too frustrating and futile in the long run.

That means if I’m going to dedicate a post to a character, it better be for a damn good reason. They must be a uniquely compelling sex-positive female character or a potential prelude for future female villains. Well, after talking about why most superheroes are incompetent by design, I feel compelled to single out one particular character who is, within this context, the worst offender.

That character isn’t some obscure, little-known sidekick from a bygone era either. In this case, the worst case of inept superheroes who take their incompetence to the next level is one of the most recognizable superheroes of the past 50 years. He’s had multiple movies, multiple cartoons, and multiple actors play him with varying degrees of success and/or failure.

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Yes, I’m talking about Spider-Man, also known as Peter Parker. He is, by far, the most recognizable and iconic of Stan Lee’s many creations. He’s also, by a ridiculous margin, the most profitable superhero in terms of merchandise sales. He makes enough money for Marvel every year for them to eat caviar every day off diamond-encrusted gold plates.

So why, then, is he the most incompetent superhero of all time? Why is Marvel’s most iconic character a case study in how not to operate as a superhero? Well, some of it has to do with the built-in incompetence I mentioned before. Spider-Man can’t be too competent, otherwise his overall narrative just wouldn’t be as compelling and his toys wouldn’t sell.

However, compared to the many other orphaned heroes who get their powers through accident or tragedy, Spider-Man sets himself apart by not just screwing himself over, but also by completely undermining the very principles of power and responsibility that he pretends to cherish. He’s not just an incompetent hero. He’s a hypocrite, albeit not on purpose.

So what exactly makes Spider-Man so inept by both the standards of a superhero and the standards that he sets on himself? Well, that has everything to do with his tactics and how he goes about them. If you’ve ever read a Spider-Man comic, seen a Spider-Man movie, or watched a Spider-Man cartoon, you know those tactics well. It goes like this:

  • Someone commits a crime
  • Peter Parker springs into action, putting on his costume and mask
  • Spider-Man fights the criminal, making jokes and quips along the way
  • The criminal whines and complains about how he’s ruining their master plan
  • The fight plays out and Spider-Man wins
  • Spider-Man ties the criminal up with his webs for the police
  • Spider-Man goes back to being Peter Parker and uses the pictures he takes of himself to make a living

This is Spider-Man’s primary method for dealing with crime and irresponsibility. It is the primary structure of every major battle he’s ever fought, be it the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, or Venom. While he wins/survives many of those battles, and even goes onto marry a supermodel for a while, it’s only when you step back and scrutinize the larger picture that you see how he loses his war against irresponsibility.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish that Spider-Man is one of those heroes who doesn’t kill. Like Superman and Batman, he goes out of his way to prevent the loss of life, be it innocent life or that of his enemy. That’s an understandable position to take. Killing is one of those unambiguous moral lines and many superheroes define their heroics by respecting that line.

For Spider-Man, however, this moral stand against killing is a major liability and the catalyst for his ineptitude. Granted, it’s not intentional, but the byproducts are unavoidable and those close to him have suffered as a result. Just ask Gwen Stacy.

Now I’m not saying Spider-Man is directly responsible for such suffering. Like all heroes, his intentions are good. He wants to help people. He wants to save lives. The problem is that, with his tactics, he’s doomed to hurt far more people than he helps.

This is because his tactics essentially guarantee that he will be a target, his loved ones will suffer, and his enemies will become stronger as a result. This isn’t just because Spider-Man refuses to kill them, although that is part of it. It’s because of the very persona that Spider-Man creates that his efforts are so inept.

Spider-Man, unlike Batman or Daredevil, doesn’t present a very intimidating presence. He’s many things, but intimidating isn’t one of them. His costume isn’t that intimidating. He doesn’t operate in the shadows or anything. He’s actually a well-known public figure, thanks largely to his own efforts and those of his boss, the ultimate blowhard that is J. Jonah Jameson.

This is a huge problem because it ensures that Spider-Man’s presence isn’t considered a major threat or danger to his enemies. He’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience. Whether they’re the Green Goblin or a simple mugger, they know Spider-Man isn’t going to kill them. He’s not even going to seriously wound them. He’ll just fight them, tie them up, and give them over to the police.

Even for those without access to overpaid lawyers, that’s not so much a threat as it is a frustration. On top of that, Spider-Man doesn’t really have meaningful conversations that get people to rethink their choices. He’s just cracks jokes, makes lewd comments, and generally carries himself with the maturity of a 13-year-old. Granted, this is part of his charm as a character, but it also ensures his tactics are doomed to fail.

It’s one thing to anger and annoy an enemy in the heat of battle. That can work to a hero’s advantage. However, the problems with Spider-Man manifest after the battle is over.

By annoying and angering his enemies, all he does is give them more incentive to fight him and hurt those he cares about. On top of that, he wears a flashy, distinct costume that’s easily recognizable in both night and broad daylight. It’s also well-known, thanks to his own efforts at taking pictures of himself and selling them to a newspaper.

Even before the era of smart phones and Twitter hacks, that’s putting a pretty big target on his back. He makes himself an identifiable figure on which his enemies can focus on. Even if they don’t know his identity, they know the source of their frustration. Since Spider-Man doesn’t scare them, they have every possible reason to fight him.

To make matters even worse, he gives his enemies a common threat to rally against. Anyone who knows anything about social psychology, or has just been to a Taylor Swift concert, knows that nothing unites people better than a common cause. He doesn’t just make his enemies stronger as individuals. He makes them stronger as a team. How is that responsible?

In essence, Spider-Man doesn’t intimidate his villains, doesn’t do anything to deter their irresponsible decisions, and gives them a common enemy to really around. If being responsible is deterring the kind of criminals that killed his Uncle Ben, then he’s the most irresponsible hero of all time.

I’m not saying Spider-Man has to start killing like the Punisher. I’m saying that his own tactics undermine his goals. Now you could make a similar criticism to characters like Batman or Daredevil because they don’t kill and their enemies constantly escape to torment them. However, there is one key difference that sets them apart.

Batman and Daredevil, despite their gaudy costumes, are intimidating. In fact, intimidation is a key tactic of theirs. Batman said it himself in the early scenes of “Batman Begins.” He seeks to strike fear in those that prey on the fearful. In this sense, he does succeed.

You could make the argument that because of Batman’s presence, there people in Gotham City who choose not to enter a life of crime. The prospect of dealing with Batman is scary. Fear is a powerful deterrent. Only the truly deranged criminals dare to enter this life and take on Batman. In that context, it makes perfect sense that the kind of villains he faces are the exceedingly deranged kind.

Spider-Man can’t make that claim. He can’t claim that he scares or intimidates people into not choosing a life of crime. If anything, his tactics may annoy ordinary people who wouldn’t otherwise consider such a life, but try it anyways just to shut him up or make a name for themselves.

Every hero is different. Every hero has their own set of tactics, goals, and ideals. However, no hero is as inept, incompetent, or irresponsible as Spider-Man. So long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, and Marvel has a huge financial interest in never allowing it to change, he’ll continue emboldening his enemies while guaranteeing that everyone around him suffers.

It’s both an irony and a tragedy. In his efforts to be responsible with his powers, Spider-Man conducts himself in the most irresponsible way possible. Even if it’s indirect and unintentional, the results are the same. He can still call himself a hero because of his principles. He just can’t call himself a very competent hero.

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Sex, Lies, And The Future Of Truth

Admit it. You’ve lied before. Maybe it involved drinking in high school. Maybe it involved  strippers at a bachelor party. Maybe it involved a promise to pull out. Whatever the case may be, regardless of whether you got caught or ended up paying child support, you’ve lied at one point in your life. As the great Dr. House once said, “Everybody lies.”

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with lying. It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re lying to tell a story, which is basically what I do as a writer, then it’s not wrong. If done right, it can actually be pretty damn sexy. If you’re lying to deceive a lover, cheat on your taxes, or prevent your children from knowing about condoms, then that’s pushing it.

I bring up lies because, in watching my share of both superhero movies and romantic comedies, there is one common theme that binds many of these conflicts. No, it’s not Robert Downy Jr. or Hugh Jackman’s sex appeal. It’s that a lot of these plots are built on someone lying and working way harder than they need to in order to keep up the lie.

Take “The Proposal” with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock for example. In addition to being one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past several years, it’s entire plot was built around a lie that Bullock’s character crafted and Reynolds had to help preserve. Sure, it made for a hilariously entertaining story, complete with awkward nude scenes and moments with Betty White, but it was all built on the foundation of a lie.

Why do I bring up lies? Well, to answer that, I’ll have to get a little personal again and this time, it has nothing to do with me sleeping naked.

I’ve gotten a lot of romantic advice over the years from friends and family. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it just plain crazy and involves some rather improper uses of food. However, within the good advice I’ve gotten, there was one common theme and it amounted to this.

DON’T KEEP SECRETS.

I write that in all caps and bold because they didn’t just tell me this as a casual aside. They made it a point to really emphasize the importance of being honest with those you love. No relationship can really function in the long run when both sides are keeping secrets. Say what you will about the Bundys or the Simpsons, but they are honest with each other, often brutally so.

Beyond the advice, there are a lot of romantic stories that involve secrets, lies, and deception. It’s not always in the smooth, sophisticated ways of James Bond either. Stories about lies, affairs, and elaborate deceptions are basically the bread and butter of these stories.

I’ve certainly used those themes. In “Skin Deep” and “The Escort and the Gigolo,” a big chunk of the plot is built around certain lies and deception. Not all of them are intentional either. Sometimes, the characters just don’t have a reason to believe someone is telling the truth.

This brings me to another thought experiment of sorts. Granted, it’s not exactly the sexy kind, but it has the potential to be. It involves the ways in which we expose lies. At the moment, we really can’t be 100 percent sure if anyone is telling the truth. We can’t even be 80 percent sure. People who lie, cheat, and manipulate others still operate and thrive in this world. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Our entire justice system is built on the understanding that we can’t exactly know for sure whether someone is guilty or innocent. We can put them under oath all we want. People can and will still lie. That’s why we have principles that presume innocence and require that we prove guilt, and the lies by default, beyond all reasonable doubt.

As good as our justice system has served us, to a point, it still struggles to uncover lies. It can interrogate and intimidate all it wants. It won’t always be able to get out the truth. In fact, it can even create even more lies in the process.

This is where the thought experiment comes in. What if we had a device that could, with nearly 100 percent accuracy, tell whether someone was lying? What would that do to our justice system? What would that do to our relationships with others? Would it effectively force us to be more honest with our friends, family, and intimate lovers?

This is another one of those thought experiments that isn’t overly fanciful. Creating devices to detect lies is not a new idea. In fact, it’s been in development for over a century.

Contrary to popular belief, however, there is no functioning “lie detector” yet. Those who claim there is are probably referring to a polygraph. A polygraph is not a lie detector. If anything, it’s a stress detector. It doesn’t detect lies. It detects the stresses on your body. I’m sorry if this completely changes how you see “Meet The Parents,” but that’s the hard truth.

For that reason, the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that the vast majority of research on the use of a polygraph for lie detection is unreliable, bias, and unscientific. It’s also why polygraph tests aren’t considered a reliable form of evidence in a court of law.

This is because it is possible to fool a polygraph. It’s been done before. There are even entire YouTube videos dedicated to helping people beat a polygraph. As a lie detector, it’s not much better than flipping a coin.

Beyond the polygraph, which only measures physiological responses, there is another emerging technology called fMRI, or Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This technology is more functional in principle because it measures the very source of all lies, namely the human brain. However, our limited understanding of how the brain forms lies prevents it from being a full-fledged lie detector.

Even so, the use of fMRI has been shown to be an effective way at detecting lies. It’s still not perfect. In an episode of Mythbusters, one of the hosts was able to beat an fMRI. If it can be done on a TV show, then what hope does it have in a court of law with people who lie for a living?

Despite this flaw, research has shown that an fMRI was able to detect lies with 24 percent more accuracy than a polygraph. Overall, it’s accuracy is about 78 percent. That’s pretty good. If it were a winning percentage in baseball, it would be a playoff team. However, when you’re dealing with law and relationships, 78 percent just isn’t enough.

At the very least, the technology is improving. As the science of brain imaging continues to improve, it will eventually be possible to detect lies within someone’s brain with a degree of accuracy that would make every court drama much more boring.

There may even come a day where detecting lies is as easy as talking into a smartphone. Remember that smart blood I mentioned a while back? Well if someone had that in their system, then their brains could be scanned in real time. That means people could know whether they’re lying in an instant. That would basically destroy the entire pick-up artist community.

Now that kind of lie detection is a long way off. However, and I know I say this a lot, there may come a day within our life time when this technology is functional. Given the ongoing development into fMRIs, it may only be a matter of time before someone creates a system that can detect lies with 99 percent accuracy.

What will this mean for criminal justice? What will this mean for divorce proceedings? What will this mean for relationships in general when people know there’s a way for their lies to be exposed? It’s a strange and ominous idea to imagine, but the cold hard truth is that we may have to deal with sooner than we think.

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What Lawrence Phillips Taught Me About “Evil”

Every now and then, I come across a story, sometimes fictional and sometimes non-fictional, that resonates with me in an unexpected way. Sometimes it’s a movie. Sometimes it’s a comic book. Sometimes it’s even a video game with a powerful story that actually gets me choked up at the end.

I don’t deny it. I’m human. I may be a heterosexual man, but I do get emotional at times. Sure, I’m not one to cry when Bambi’s mother dies in a Disney movie. Everybody responds differently to certain things. It’s part of what makes us such a diverse species and it’s part of what frustrates every single marketing department that ever lived.

With that in mind, try not to bust my balls too much when I say a recent sports documentary really struck a nerve with me. That alone might not surprise too many people. Sports fans can be an emotional bunch. Just ask any Eagles fan since 1960.

However, this particular documentary involved a guy by the name of Lawrence Phillips. Okay, now try even harder not to bust my balls.

Who is Lawrence Phillips and why should we give a damn? Well, anyone who has followed the NFL or college football over the past 25 years has probably heard his name at least once. He’s not so much an athlete or a football player anymore. He’s become the ultimate cautionary tale. Get football fan talking about him and they’ll usually talk about him with the kind of disdain they usually reserve for bullshit pass interference calls.

To be fair, Phillips earned that disdain in multiple ways. He was an insanely gifted athlete who helped the University of Nebraska go undefeated for two consecutive seasons and win two BCS National Championships in the process. After that, he was drafted 6th overall by the St. Louis Rams in 1996. This is the ultimate dream for a football player and Phillips, despite all his talents, proceeded to piss it all away.

It didn’t happen all at once, but in many ways, that just made it worst. This was a guy who seemed to get arrested every other week and kept finding excuses to beat up women. By the end, he was less respected by the NFL than Scott Norwood is by Buffalo Bills fans. He is now regularly cited as one of the greatest NFL Draft Busts of all time.

Now as a noted NFL fan, I fully admit that I saw Lawrence Phillips in this light. When I follow the NFL and I see someone get into serious legal trouble, a part of me rolls my eyes and things, “At the rate he’s going, he’ll be another Lawrence Phillips.”

That’s what happens when someone becomes a cautionary tale. They become a symbol for the flaws we see in others. As a result, that person ceases to be a person. We don’t even see the person anymore. We just see what he or she represents. It’s harsh, but it’s how we process certain concepts about ourselves.

Then, when we get a chance to actually learn about that person, we find out that just calling them a “cautionary tale” is kind of a dick move because it ignores a much bigger, much more complex picture.

That’s where this documentary comes in. It’s called “Running for His Life: The Lawrence Phillips Story.” Even if you’re not a football fan, I highly recommend this movie. It accomplishes something truly remarkable. It peels back the layers of the cautionary tale that is Lawrence Phillips and reveals the man.

This isn’t a documentary that tries to make excuses. It does not try to glorify Phillips or gloss over his egregious flaws. It just explores the whole of a complicated, volatile, yet gifted man.

It spends a lot of time exploring where he came form and this is important because where we come from has a huge impact on who we are. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but his mother moved him out to California. He was estranged from his father and did not have the best relationship with his biological mother. His home life, to put it mildly, was anything but stable.

The documentary tells stories about the abuse he suffered as a child. It even recounts a story where one of his mother’s boyfriends held him down an urinated on him. Sadly, it gets even more disturbing than that.

After running away from home, Phillips became a ward of the state and bounced around foster homes. Along the way, he lived in a few group homes with other kids. The way the documentary describes this place sounds like something that would make Charles Dickens himself cringe. These are places where things like love and innocence go to die.

Eventually, Phillips did end up in a foster home with a loving mother who tried to help him. However, the damage had been done. The boy had been scarred in ways that never truly healed. The documentary described these scars as demons that he struggled to deal with. A lot of people claim to have demons, but let’s not lie to ourselves. Some are more powerful than others.

Despite these demons, Phillips still had insane God-given talent. The documentary make sit a point to highlight just how talented this man was. By every measure, he had all the physical tools of a gifted athlete. He did try to use those tools as well. Football helped him escape the rough, abusive world he came from. He could’ve been a success story like John Randall or Randy Moss. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

The documentary eventually starts to reveal just how dark a turn this man’s life took after college. It described a man who was cold, unloved, and did not know how to show love to others. The women interviewed described a man who just could not control his emotions and when there was upheaval, violence was his first, second, and third reaction.

This fits perfectly with the mold of someone who has an abusive personality. When women’s centers list warning signs, Lawrence Phillips checks most every box. He came from a world of abuse. Naturally, that’s the kind of world he forges around him.

However, the women also took the time to emphasize how good he could be at times. That good cannot and should not be completely ignored. It’s still not an excuse, but it does make clear that this man had other aspects to his personality. He wasn’t just the scary ex-football player who abused women.

This, in my opinion, is the most important message of this documentary. It’s also the most important lesson we can glean from the story of Lawrence Phillips. I’ve talked a lot about evil on this blog. There are plenty of people who would rightly call Phillips evil for the crimes he committed, one of which may have been the murder of his cell mate in prison. However, he was still a human being.

No matter what anyone thinks about Lawrence Phillips, whether he’s a cautionary tale or a violent abuser, it doesn’t change the fact that he was a person. He was a child once. He had a life and he tried to live it. We like to think about evil people as nothing more than monsters. It’s easy to just think of them as wannabe Biff Tannen’s from “Back to the Future.” That still ignores the person and the full story of their lives.

At the end of the documentary, there’s a haunting message about Lawrence Phillips that I think many of us can relate to. It talks of a man who was so physically gifted that he could outrun anybody, but he could not outrun his demons. At one point, an old friend of his said he was always running from his demons, but in the end, the demons caught him.

Whether you’re an aspiring erotica/romance writer, a football fan, or just a decent human being trying to make sense of this crazy world, it’s a message that’s worth hearing. It’s a message we shouldn’t forget. There may very well be another Lawrence Phillips-type story in the future, but let’s not make light of that story. In the end, they’re still people. As soon as we forget that, we cease heeding the lessons of that story.

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When Obsession Becomes A Crime

Ever feel like you’re being watch? No, I’m not talking about the kind of watching that those in tin-foil hats and poor mental health talk about. I’m talking about the feeling of actually being watched by someone who isn’t a CIA agent, a lizard person, or an agent of the Illuminati.

This isn’t a spy movie or a conspiracy theory. This is an extension of the whole love vs. obsession discussion I began yesterday. When I started writing about this topic, I realized quickly that one post was not going to be enough. There are just so many aspects to this issue that it’s hard to capture everything necessary to convey the message I want to convey. Even this part will only convey part of that message.

When you break down the fine, but obscure line between love and obsession, you enter a strange part of human emotions that borders health and unhealthy attitudes. Love is probably one of the healthiest things you can do for your soul. There’s a good reason why those who marry and form stable, loving relationships live longer than those who don’t. In some sense, sexual healing is a real thing.

Obsession, on the other hand, is not going to increase your lifespan. It’s not going to help your social life either. Obsession at a certain level becomes a symptom of mental illness, be it crippling depression or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s hard to know where that level is, which is why it’s so hard to know the difference between love and obsession.

There is, however, one clear line that becomes painfully apparent once crossed. It’s a line that represents the endgame of sorts in the love vs. obsession conflict because it turns emotional upheaval into an actual crime. That crime, in this case, is stalking.

Unlike obsession, stalking is a crime and can be prosecuted as such. It takes obsession, dips it in napalm, and throws it into a furnace to create a perfect raging firestorm of emotional unrest. It’s the point where any and all potential for romance fades, becoming instead a case-study in what happens when emotions go haywire.

To make matters worse, the age of the internet and social media makes a stalker’s job so much easier. It’s no longer a matter of just asking the Yellow Pages to not list your address and phone number. If you have an internet presence of any kind, someone obsessed enough can exploit it. It’s scary as hell, but that’s the age we live in.

For most of us who don’t have a vindictive ex-lover, we don’t have to worry about being stalked most of the time. It’s not a passing concern, which is why the whole love vs. obsession conflict kind of flies over our head. For celebrities, though, the concern is real and so is the harm.

So in the interest of providing perspective in what happens when obsession goes too far, here’s a video by WatchMojo detailing some of the most disturbing cases of celebrity stalkers in recent memory. They don’t include cases where the stalker was intent on murder, as that kind of skews the issue. This is just about people who took their love and obsession too damn far.

I admit these cases are extremes. The people involved have serious mental issues and I’m not just talking about the eccentricities of the celebrities either. This is what happens when emotions go haywire and become so unhealthy that it leads to real harm. For an erotica/romance writer who wants to tell stories about healthy romance, it’s an important lesson to heed.

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