Category Archives: Books

Film Fridays: “The Losers”

Apparently, this year’s movie trend is the macho guy–team movies, far from the “Oceans 11” series (had to throw that reference. See trailer and you’ll know why).  I’m serious, there’s a formula: The Alpha male (the leader); his team of extraordinary gentlemen who each specialize in something, whether it be gathering intelligence, sharp shooting, or knife throwing; the one beautiful girl, who is usually with the Alpha male; and there’s the bad guy. The Alpha male and his team of extraordinary gentlemen are framed for something and they must do what they can to clear their names. And that usually involves a lot of ass kicking. Yes, this sounds a lot like “The Losers.” You won’t get disappointed there. But it also sounds a lot like the upcoming “The Expendables” and “The A Team.”

What I Expected

I expected lots of action and lots of people dying from flying bullets or fist fighting.

What It’s About

The Losers are a team of elite soldiers on a mission in Bolivia. They are framed for a heinous crime and must go silent to recover. A mysterious girl shows up to help the Losers clear their names, but she has an agenda of her own.

You’ll Like

The One Liners – It’s an action movie with some comic relief thrown in.

Chris Evans – he’s hilarious. In this movie, he brings a lot of that charm and laughs that he brought to Johnny Storm (“Fantastic Four”). And to think he’ll soon be playing badass Captain America.

Zoe Saldana – She’s hot–didn’t think she could pull off a killer because of her body type. She proved me wrong. However, I couldn’t help but see her as her Avatar character as she fought the bad guys.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan – he’s no Johnny Ocean, but he definitely has some on-screen chemistry with Saldana.

The Action Scenes – Did I mention this was an action movie?

You’ll Dislike

The Comic Book Mix – yes, it’s a movie based on a comic book, but it holds its own as an action movie. I didn’t like how they cut into comic book mode when they introduced the characters.

The Main Villain – come on, can you please be more evil. The character is just a narcissist with a temper and a trigger finger. Can you do more things, please?

The Plot Line – it’s an okay plot, but I wish there was more to it.

The Character Development – I like how they introduce the audience to some of the main character’s families–it humanizes for killing all those people. But I wish there was more developed.

The Cheesy Music – There are some slow motion scenes where the Losers wear sunglasses and walk out of a building looking all badass. But the music…jeesh. It only made the scene cheesy and corny. I don’t like cheese on my corn. I don’t like cheesy corn period.


I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It was a great action movie for what it was–it definitely delivered. But it lacked the emotional character development as well as a great plot. The Losers aren’t exactly losers, but they aren’t exactly winners with this film either.


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The Other Jackson

Move over Michael, there’s a new Jackson in town and he’s captivating the hearts of children and adults every where. His name is Percy Jackson, and he’s a kid from New York with ADHD and dyslexia who has been kicked out of many schools.  You see, you are not alone because the kid’s got major daddy issues. But with Percy, he can hardly remember the time he met his birth dad. He may not be a dancing machine, but he is dangerous on the battle field, receiving special training at a summer camp for demigods to survive life. That’s right, his human nature means he can die in battle, but his godly nature means he has extraordinary powers. You don’t wanna be startin’ somethin’ with this hero because he’s the son of Poseidon, which means he can control water and create earthquakes. Percy wants to heal the world of a bunch of bad guys–monsters, actually, who seek revenge and the demise of the Olympian gods. If evil triumphs, then you can bet the humans will be enslaved. Join him on his adventure–a teenage thriller–because evil just doesn’t know when to beat it.

Poseidon's Trident, Photo Credit: Flickr

Okay, there you have it–my “Michael Jackson-inspired Percy Jackson” introduction referencing some of the King of Pop’s songs.

I can’t believe the first Harry Potter film came out in 2001–nine years ago! Within that span of time, I received my high school diploma and bachelor’s degree and a horrible British accent.  I can’t help it–I grew up with the wizard. But Harry Potter lives on because his movie series isn’t close to being done. And when the Harry Potter book series finished with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, I couldn’t help but wonder what new series would captivate the worldwide audience and receive its own Hollywood treatment.

The Narnia series were the first, but they’re based on books far older than Harry Potter himself. Then came the Twilight series, and it seemed that the world was bitten by vampire mania. But unlike the Harry Potter, which appealed to both genders, the “glitter-in-the-sunlight” vampires had less male fans. The Percy Jackson series bridges the gender gap again, reminding girls that they too can be heroes and fight along side the boys.

But is Percy Jackson a Harry-Potter wannabe? Both are half-bloods (half wizard vs. half god). Both have two best friends–a smart girl (Hermione vs. Annabeth) and the comic relief (Ron vs. Grover). Both have wise sage mentors (Dumbeldore vs. Chiron).  Both attend a magical school to train (Hogwarts vs. Camp Half-Blood). Both belong to a specific team within the magical school (Gryffindor vs. Cabin 3). Both have the potential to succumb to the darkness. But that’s where the comparisons end.

When we first meet Harry, he lived with family members who detested him. Percy, on the other hand with the exception to the horrible stepfather, has a loving mother and you just have to read for yourself what kind of father Poseidon was. Harry Potter, in my opinion, is a nerd who is at first rejected, and later accepted because of all the times he saved people. Percy Jackson is a student with learning problems who is rejected because he sticks up for those who can’t defend themselves.

I love the Percy Jackson series. I love how Richard Riordan, the author, takes the ancient Greek myths and modernizes it. Some of the gods wear suits, drive cars, have businesses, etc. And as violent and sexualized as the Greek myths really are, Riordan strips that away and focuses on what it takes to be a hero and withstanding the temptation of being a villain. As a result, Riordan makes a fun adventure for all ages to enjoy. Not bad for a dad who originally conceived the idea of Percy Jackson after exhausting all the Greek myths he told his son for bedtime stories. I also appreciate how Riordan deals with death in the books. There are more deaths in here than Harry Potter. Whereas in the Harry Potter series, the deaths of heroes are surrounded in darkness and gloom, in the Percy Jackson series, death is filled with life, honor, and celebration.

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, you’ll enjoy the Percy Jackson series–he’s essentially an American Harry. You’ll want to be part of his adventures as you sword-swing, fly on pegasi, and dive into the deepest parts of the ocean. Give Percy a chance to captivate you, and the only thing that you’ll be disappointed in is how short the books are.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Percy learns that he is the son of Poseidon and must find Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt before the Olympian gods start a war with each other.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters – Percy’s best friend, Grover, has been kidnapped and taken to an island in the Sea of Monsters. Percy and his friends must find him before it’s too late while also retrieving the Golden Fleece to save Camp Half-Blood from an impending attack by monsters.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse – Percy and the gang search for two powerful half-bloods and are attacked, resulting to the disappearance of Annabeth. They must travel cross-country to rescue her and the goddess Artemis. All the while, the Titans have raised a strong army.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth – Percy and the gang discover that there is a weakness to the camp’s defenses. The famous Labyrinth, built by Daedalus, runs right underneath it. The gang must journey deep into the heart of the maze and somehow prevent the bad guys from using it.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian – The Titans, monsters, and traitorous demigods have joined forces and grown stronger ultimately leading to a showdown against the Olympian gods and their loyal children.

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The Face That Launched A Thousand Hate-Mails

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.”
– Christopher Marlowe in Doctor Faustus

It was the story that had  historical roots based on an event that occurred between 1194-1184 BC. Legend has it, three goddesses quarreled over who was most beautiful and left this judgment to Paris, prince of Troy. After Hera bribed him with ruling all of Asia and Athena bribed him with fighting skills and the best warriors, Paris ultimately chose Aphrodite. She bribed him with the most beautiful woman on the planet: Helen, queen of Sparta. King Menelaus of Sparta, as possessive as he was, sought for the return of his wife. And thus, the tragic Trojan war began.

Helen returning with Menelaus. Photo Credit:

About three thousand years later, the classic story of two men fighting for the love of one woman–a “trophy” woman–hasn’t changed…that much. Instead, it’s taken more mythical proportions. With the “Twilight” series, a vampire and a werewolf (actually, he was a shape shifter) fought for the love of Bella Swan, the “trophy.” It’s interesting that “Bella” is the Italian word for “beautiful.” But is Bella really that beautiful? I have to be very careful here. I wouldn’t want to get bitten by what I write.

You see, less than a week ago, I took on a perilous journey. I did what not many men have done before: I read the “Twilight” series. My fraternity brothers have asked me to turn in my man card and are prepared to throw me off the cliff of the Hills of Westwood. The women in my life believe that I am incredibly sensitive and courageous for even daring to read the books. And me? I wanted to understand women. I wanted to understand why they love this darn book so much. I didn’t understand why they would cry, why they would scratch, and why they would wait for days when the second movie came out. I’ve never read the books, but like most men, I knew to hate it. It was something that men had to do–had to hate the things of women because if we didn’t, we would be seen as weak. I guess it’s one of those men vs. women thing that we men are taught. Nevertheless, I wanted to understand women, and one way to understand them is by the stories they tell–stories women make for other women.

Yes, I know that Stephanie Meyers targeted this book to young teenage girls. That’s probably why I couldn’t stand the two books. It was so slow, so filled with relationships. So soap opera. So blah! I couldn’t bear reading the first chapter, let alone the entire series. But the last two books had something that men love: blood and guts. Perhaps that’s why I related so much to this half. There was a story of war, of strategy, and of chivalry. There were description about the thrill of the hunt, of working in a pack. These are things that men love, and perhaps this (at least in the perspective of one woman) is what women still desire in men despite feminist attempts. But that’s for a later post on masculinity in “Twilight.”

This post is about Bella Swan, the supposed heroine of the series. I said earlier that I had to be careful when talking about Bella and her beauty. You see, after reading pages after pages of how Edward (the vampire) was beautiful, how he should be a model, how he looked like he was cut from marble, and how he was like a Greek god, and how Jacob (the werewolf/shape shifter) was 6’7″, copper skin, huge, and muscular, I still had no idea what Bella looked like. I didn’t know whether she was a “Helen,” whether she had the “face that launched a thousand ships.” I know, you think I’m shallow, but I’m looking at it through a guy’s perspective. Two guys wouldn’t fight for her if the woman wasn’t beautiful in their eyes. Sorry, it just had to be said, but I compromised by saying “in their eyes.” Beauty is relative, right? Maybe. All I knew of Bella is fair skinned and has brown hair and eyes, that she’s a child of divorced parents, that her birthday is some time in September, and that she’s 5’4″. I later learned there’s a reason for her lack of description. Meyers left the description vague because she wanted it to be easier for girls to insert themselves as Bella.  So if girls are supposed to walk in Bella’s shoes, then perhaps Bella is the heroine of the story, a far cry from damsel in distress, right? Hmm…

The Cullens with Bella. Photo Credit Twilight Review

There have been many articles criticizing Meyers for being anti-feminist by how Meyers writes Bella’s. I’ll admit, Bella seems to enjoy the kitchen, doing all the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry for her town head sheriff father, Charlie. But surely, if she enjoys it, it isn’t a bad thing, right? I can hear the women in my life groan in unison. Come on Gio, we’re heading to 2010, NOT 1910. I think she’s more melodramatic than real-life teenage girls. So should girls really look up to this fictional character or admire what she does?

I’ve gotten a lot of No’s. It seems that many guys and some girls just hate her. Just Google “Reasons to hate Bella” or “I hate Bella” and you’ll see why this post is titled the way it is. And I for one have never wanted to slap a girl until I read about Bella. If she was a real girl, I’d probably slap her a couple times for her own good. If girls like to think they are her, then there’s a lot of girls I need to slap some sense into. I fear for the youth of this world, especially if they start acting out. Here’s my reason:

10. She doesn’t pay any attention to her friends. Being the new kid in school isn’t easy. But here, she’s surrounded by a circle of friends who actually give her the time of day and who actually like her

9. She almost dies several times, but doesn’t. She should just die–as in her character should never have seen the light of day. Okay, I’m not that sadistic. It would be better if she was able to redeem herself. All she does is complain and complain–“woe is me” crap. She puts herself in danger to get some kind of high. Leave that stuff to the daredevils.

8. She’s in love with a killer. Yes, that’s what vampires do…kill. You’re just asking for it. See #6.

7. She’s so selfish. She puts other people’s lives in danger. She doesn’t think about how her relationship affects the people who love her. See #6.

6. She kept a life-threatening secret from her dad. I know, I know, I sound like a parent. Teens keep secrets from their parents all the time. But this is life-threatening. Edward mentioned several times that he could kill her. She’s dating a guy who has the potential to kill her–who wants to kill her because her blood is so appetizing. You shouldn’t keep these kinds of secrets away from your parents. Especially, when the people that are associated with your boyfriend (i.e., all those other blood-thirsty vampires) can kill your parents.

5. She doesn’t have any life goals except just being with Edward. See #3 for more clarification. Your life shouldn’t revolve around another person. Take care of yourself first.

4. She pressures guys to have sex. This was an interesting gender-role reversal to me, and not that I’m applying that it should be guys who pressure girls to have sex. No one should pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want. But let me remind girls the power of saying “No.” If a guy doesn’t want to, quit tempting him. If you expect respect to go both ways, then do so. And, you’re a little too easy–you want it too much. That doesn’t say much about you as a character.

3. She can’t do anything without her Edward. She was depressed over a guy for almost half a year. That’s a good reason to slap some sense into someone. If you are that obsessed over a guy, you have issues. You couldn’t do anything without this guy. This girl is so clingy! You certainly do not find your identity in another guy. You need to know who you are first!

2. She uses guys. Not a big deal, right? Girls use guys all the time. We all know that she used Jacob. Clearly this is a guy who cares a lot about the girl, and all she does is lead him on. Guys hate being led on. Meyers writes it in a way as if it’s okay for girls to do this because Jacob just keeps coming back.

1. She’s so whiny! Come on Bella. You complain about the world so much. As the saying goes, “B*@&$ please!” Your life is not so bad. Even if you complain about being part of a divorced family, you’ve got two parents who love you a lot. That’s more than some people in this world.

Dear Youth of this World,

It’s okay to like the “Twilight” series. Just don’t think the real world should be like that. And certainly do not behave recklessly like Bella Swan. Perhaps that’s the only redeeming value of the character–that she is an example of what NOT to become. Your identity should not rest whole-heartedly on one-person. When that person dies or goes away, then who are you? You are your own person. You need to find your identity first before committing to a relationship.

I am thankful that Kristen Stewart did a tame version of Bella–maybe it’s because Stewart can’t act. I’m not fond of her. However, I’m glad that Stewart’s Bella isn’t as whiny as it is in the book. If she was whiny, I probably would’ve thrown popcorn and soda at the screen.

This public announcement best describes what I feel about Bella and young girls who want to be her.


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Live Free or Twi-Hard: A Guy’s Perspective On Women’s Perspective of the Twilight Series

C.S. Lewis's book looks strangely like "Twilight." Photo courtesy of W.K.

We’re a culture of story-tellers. We’ve been doing it for so long. Homer. Shakespeare. Fitzgerald. And with any good story comes a moral to that story. Stories teach us about ourselves–they teach us about our fears, what we value, lessons we need to learn. And stories, if they are good enough, will pass the test of time. They will be passed on from one generation to the next to teach the next generation where they come from and warn them of what they have the potential to be. Stories reveal our identities.

Like most guys, I find the female world mysterious and complicated. I think Relient K puts it best in their song, “Mood Ring.” They suggest that girls should get mood rings to warn guys of what mood they currently are in: “Mood ring oh mood ring/Oh tell me will you bring/The key to unlock this mystery/Of girls and their emotions/Play it back in slow motion/So I may understand the complex infrastructure known as the female mind.” Now okay, guys are somewhat mysterious too–we don’t like talking about our feelings. However, there are times that we are allowed to show our emotions. The BBC reveals some and Tremendous News reveals a hilarious set. Women often see our true emotion when (and this is some of my own thoughts) 1. Something happens to our genitals. 2. We lost a lot of money. 3. Someone we truly love dies. 4. Our favorite sports team loses. See, guys are simple.

If stories do reveal identities than perhaps those romance novels that women often like to read also reveals their identities. Perhaps it reveals a woman’s fantasy–what he should look like, how he should talk, what she believes a man must do to win her heart.

Books like "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" get kids to read again. Photo Credit: Children Book Blogs

Being a guy and knowing “Guy Land” because I live it and have researched it, I asked myself an age-old question better men than me have asked: what do women want? If stories do reveal identities than perhaps those romance novels that women often like to read also reveals their identities. Perhaps it reveals a woman’s fantasy–what he should look like, how he should talk, what she believes a man must do to win her heart. Enter Stephanie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” Series. Her 4 books have made the New York Bestseller list, and like J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series it inspired children and teenagers to stop playing video games or shopping for clothes and go to a bookstore and pick up a book. The “Twilight” series reveals a certain type of heroine in the main character, Isabella “Bella” Swan, but feminists believe she’s a “villain” (more on that in other posts). So why write anything about Meyer’s “Twilight” series? They aren’t important; they aren’t a special work of literary genius? I could care less about the series, but when a book like that spawns a movie (“New Moon”) that the Los Angeles Times reports as breaking two-box office records in one day, as well as create a pre-teen and teen frenzy during its premiere, or how book publishers have started to change the covers of their book to mimic “Twilight”–to say that the books can or doesn’t influence the next generation is to say that the moon doesn’t influence the ocean waves. I can still hear the screaming and crying girls. I shudder thinking about it.

After 2 hours of reading the first book, I’m on page 212. And what I’m learning so far…well, it’s terrifying.

A couple days ago, I wrote about the double standard with Taylor Lautner being “jailbait” I realized that before I could make more judgments, I should really be an informed reader. I’ve never read the books, but I was introduced to the first movie back in June by my friend, Jillian. She loves the movie, and loves the book even more.  To see her and other girls light up when Edward or Jacob walks into the room–it was interesting. So in order for me to understand what the “Twilight” books were revealing and how they could affect the next generation, I needed to know what the fuss was about–I needed to read the books myself. And the bet was made for me to read the books before the New Year. So I picked up the phone, called my friend Victoria, and borrowed her books. Oh, and if you’re reading this Victoria, I was quite secure in my masculinity to be walking around UCLA with the books in hand. Okay, I was a little embarrassed when I walked by the gym. I wanted to approach the book differently. Other reviews and other websites gave a woman’s perspective on the books. I wanted to give a guy’s perspective on the woman’s perspective of the books. Like I said earlier, we can learn a lot from the stories we tell, and the “Twilight” books aren’t an exception. I want to learn what it is that girls and women want in a man–or at least what they think they want in a man. I want to learn what they want a man to do. After 2 hours of reading the first book, I’m on page 212. And what I’m learning so far…well, it’s terrifying. So you’ll have to wait for the next post–I’ve got to continue reading.


Filed under Books, Life, Masculinity

My Experience With Two Women


Photo Credit: Artchive

For most people, Labor Day is spent on the road, whether it’s traveling to Lake Havasu  or San Diego, or driving down to the mall to shop with that great holiday savings. My family is definitely not an exception. We had quite a day spending breakfast together at McDonalds, leaving flowers on my sister’s grave, and driving all the way down to Ontario Mills Outlet store to do some mild shopping (I ended up buying NOTHING!) Then, my mom said she had a surprise for me. She wanted to set me up with two different women. And I, being absolutely horrified of mom playing matchmaker, reluctantly said “Yes.”

We ended up driving all the way to Alhambra. So I was quite surprised that we pulled up to the Renaissance Theater driveway. Walking slowly to the ticket counter, my mom bought some tickets. So I said, “Where are they?” My mom looked at my dad, then back at me. Then, she let out a huge laugh, and said with an Indonesian accent “Surprise!” as she pulled out three tickets. I was dumbfounded–I didn’t understant what she was trying to surprise me with. Then, I looked closer to the tickets and it turned out she bought three tickets to “Julie and Julia.” The two women she wanted me to meet was the movie she had always wanted to watch as a family. If this isn’t an FML moment, I don’t know what is anymore.

So I sat there in the theater disappointed that I was tricked and outsmarted by my mom into watching this chick flick, but relieved at the same time that she hadn’t set me up on a blind date (as some Asian moms tend to do). But as I continued watching the movie, I laughed more than I thought I would. Sure, it’s no “I Love You Man,” and it didn’t have jokes that most guys love (crude homor, violence, etc.) but to see the lives of these two women from two different time periods played out, I couldn’t help but be amazed that it was all based on a true story. Although Megan Fox wasn’t in it,  at least it does have one thing guys love: all the delicious food scenes–after all, it’s the way to man’s heart.

The movie did well portraying the different eras through the costumes and the technology that was present at the time. Take for example, carbon copy and the typewriter back in the 1950s. I am so glad for the copier and the computer and Microsoft Word! And better yet, I no longer had to explain what blogging is to my mother. She now understands what I do! But I definitely recommend this movie to everyone! I think you can also appreciate the challenges that both couples go through to keep a marriage together. It’s very anti-Disney story-book love! Real marriage takes lots of work!

Now Julie (the main character who’s based from a real life persona that wrote the book that the movie is made from) has given me a new passion for writing and blogging. As I continue to write about societial issues being revealed, I’d like to write a little bit more about my identity–perhaps more about my identity as someone trying to lose weight, gain muscle, and look leaner and meaner. You may think that’s a bit self-centered of me, and I have to admit, it may actually be. But I’d like to write about my transformation and my quest of getting back my high school abs. I know others can relate. And just like the main character approaching 30, at my current age of 23, I’m getting a whole lot older and those abs may never come when I hit 30 at this rate. So perhaps others would encourage me along this journey. I don’t know. But that’s what an adventurous journey is, isn’t it? The thrill of not knowing?

I now know for sure that my mom is quite tricky, and quite clever. Perhaps that’s where I got all that from.

Photo Credit: Artchive

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Free Audio Book by Francis Chan

A friend of mine told me about Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA.  He’s an amazing speaker and a great writer. His best-selling book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God includes a forward by singer/song-writer/worship leader, Chris Tomlin and is part of the top 5 books according to EPCA. So when I heard from another friend that his book is free via audio book, I jumped at the chance to find it. Well, it’s true. It’s free.

Click here. Add the book to the cart, check it out, then enter the promo code: JUL2009 and check it out again. Then, download it.

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An Assassinated American Appears Again

CaptainAmericaI think it’s fitting, perhaps poetic, that my first post begins with a masked superhero revealing his secret identity, only to later on get gunned down. In 2006, Captain America was assassinated in “Captain America Vol. 5, No. 25.” I know, he’s just a darn comic book character. He’s not even real, not made of flesh and blood. But his death was so full of impact that it traveled from the pages of the comic book to real life. ABC News, CNN, and a variety of news media reported it. Soon, all around the world, everyone learned of the “Sentinel of Liberty’s” tragic fate. Why was his death so meaningful and how does this relate to our society? Perhaps because Captain America  is an icon, a symbol of America. It’s like someone blowing up the Statue of Liberty. To have him killed, much less assassinated, may be a commentary of the state of America in 2007. Perhaps it is the story of how he was killed.  Cap’s death followed Marvel’s “Civil War” storyline, in which a new law was passed and required all superheroes to register their secret identities and powers to the US government. This caused a split in the superhero community. Cap believed this law violated basic civil liberties and refused to register. He became an outlaw and rogue to the country he once protected.

Two years later and Marvel, true to other comic book companies dealing with a “dead” character, decided to resurrect Captain America. However, “resurrect” may not be the right word. No, he’ll be reborn after being unstuck in time and after several twists to the plot, we may not get the Captain America we knew and loved. Read “Captain America Reborn #1” for more.

But what does this say about the current state of America? Sure, our economy is depressing. With all the people “let go” due to budget cuts, and the California government issuing I.O.U.’s, it sure suggests that the golden years of America is far out of reach. I believe comic books are our modern mythologies. They are a reflection of who we are and who we aspire to be. We need heroes, and creating a fake hero is our remedy. And with the return of Captain America in this economy may suggest that we are quite desperate for a hero. A symbol for America appears again, what does this reveal about our identities?


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