Monday, May 21, 2018

Borderline Personality Disorder

Ah, the month of May.

A notable month because it contains my birthday (which I share with Tony Stark), as well as Andrew's birthday (which he shares with his twin brother), as well as National Brain Tumor Awareness Month (which it shares with Skin Cancer Awareness, Garden for Wildlife, Foster Care, and Haitian Heritage).

But I would like to talk about two things closer to home than Golf or Burgers.  (Yes, May is also Golf Month and Burger Month.)

May is Mental Health Awareness  Month and, even more obscurely, it's Borderline Awareness Month.

Most people have never heard of Borderline Personality Disorder, or if they have, they've confused its acronym, "BPD," with bipolar disorder.

 Bethlehem Police Department.

Borderline is one of those harder-to-define disorders, one of those you'll-know-it-when-you-see-it types that lacks an identifiable mechanism and therefore a clearly defined treatment.  Highly stigmatized, it's a lifelong disorder of thinking that is highly stigmatized even among therapists.

Let's dive in!

First of all, let's talk about what it looks like.  You might have seen Girl, Interrupted, in which the main character is diagnosed with BPD.  She famously asks, "Borderline between what and what?"


People with BPD commonly suffer from mood swings and uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world. As a result, their interests and values can change quickly. Combined with very black-and-white thinking, I think the "borderline" moniker comes from the tendency to polarize emotions, thoughts, opinions, relationships, and self.

You only need 5 out of 9 traits from the DSM to get diagnosed, but the truth is, BPD is one of those things that's remarkably easy to identify once you know what you're looking for.  Diagnosis can be tricky because many of the symptoms are themselves disorders: things like depression, anxiety, alcoholism, et cetera.  And some common traits, such as the tendency to obsess over a person (more on this later) are not in the DSM at all.

BPD has often been called "psycho bitch" or "crazy ex-girlfriend" disorder, and I'd like to take this opportunity to say that the Netflix show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is actually the best goddamn portrayal of BPD I have ever seen in media.  The main character, Rebecca, is highly intelligent and creative, with a tendency to manipulate others and self-sabotage.  She obsesses over her ex Back in season 1, I was saying, gee, she seriously appears to have BPD.  By season 2, I felt that the writers knew what they were portraying.  And then, in season 3, the main character actually gets diagnosed.  Called it!

Hopefully in season 4 we'll see some of the treatment process.  BPD is not something that you can treat with pills (although pharmaceuticals may be used to treat symptoms such as depression).  The main treatment involves long-term therapy: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy, which for a long time I thought was some sort of Scientology thing).

Do yourself a favor and don't Google image search "CBT."

One of the reasons I like the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is that it does a good job highlighting the non-clinical signs of BPD.  People with BPD tend to be intelligent, and creative.  The lack of "self" lends itself well to a rich inner fantasy life, portrayed in the show as colorful, incredible musical numbers within Rebecca's mind.

Rebecca's ability to manipulate others lends itself well to the phenomenon of making instant close connections with people that are later fraught with conflict.  Her highs are high and her lows are lows.  She suffers from depression yet also from a deterministic streak, often going to insane (ha!) lengths to get what she wants (for better or for worse).

And, of course, the central theme of the show is Rebecca's obsession with her ex, Josh.  Josh is her Favorite Person, a term widely used in BPD communities to refer to the object of one's obsession.  The tendency to obsess over a person or idea is a HUGE player in the life of someone with BPD, which is where the "crazy ex" stereotype comes from.  (Fun BPD activity: push people's limits so you know at what point they'll leave you!  ...oh crap, you just pushed them away!  Respond by having a big freak-out to win them back!)

Like just about any other personality trait (or set of traits), BPD can be harnessed and used for good, when people who have it get the right help and have a strong, steady support network.

For example, although 1 out of 10 eventually commit suicide, 
the other 9 out of 10 have a crazy strong meme game.

I think that, although it's a personality disorder that is heavily stigmatized and difficult to treat, the advent of the internet has lent itself well to various support communities and a better ability to share and understand the triggers and personality traits associated with BPD.

Including, but not limited to:
BPD is, like any other disorder, not fun, not easy, and not to be taken lightly.  However, it is treatable, and although people who suffer from it can be difficult at times, I'm inclined to believe that the world is slowly finding better ways to help people manage their demons.  Personality disorders are rarely as strong as the people they inhabit, and with growing awareness of the symptoms and treatment options, I have a lot of hope for the future of those who suffer.

 Always relevant.

Monday, May 14, 2018

On Guns

In light of the recent viral sensation, Childish Gambino's "This is America," I have decided to make a blog post on gun violence in America.

It's a polarizing issue, with some people calling for an outright ban on guns and others refusing even marginally more regulation, citing Second Amendment freedoms.

My own opinion is, as usual, somewhat moderate.

I don't think we should make guns illegal but I also think it's reasonable to ask for more regulation and more difficulty in obtaining a gun. For example, you are not allowed to drive a car without getting a license, and you have to take a test to get a license. Why isn't there a test and license for gun ownership?

I personally would like the following:
  • a federally instituted waiting period for obtaining a firearm.
  • a state-issued license or permit to own and operate a firearm, similar to a driver's license, which would require an initial test to demonstrate competency and safety knowledge, as well as a periodic refresher course.
  • a national OR state registry.  Again, similar to the DMV's registration process for vehicles.  Since many guns are obtained from interstate traffickers, a national registry makes more sense to me, but I understand how this is a difficult law to get on the books.  So let's start with a state registry.
  • an enforced requirement that guns be safely stored by their owners. 
  • government buy-back programs to reduce the number of guns in America.  (Guns bought secondhand are the most likely to be used in crime; people should be able to safely sell their guns back to the government or to gun shops.  A gun shop subsidy for buy-backs might be a good compromise if people don't want to give up their unwanted guns to the government.)
  • stricter sentencing for "straw" purchasers.  (Again, this is currently very hard to enforce because of a lack of any sort of ownership registry.)  

Many people will point out that some states already have laws similar to these, but they are poorly enforced and not universal to all states.  Also, there's no federal registry; gun ownership registries are kept on hard copies by the seller, which means that, if a gun is used in a crime, the investigation is slowed by the unnecessary bureaucracy of trying to track down registration and license records from the seller.  If the seller has gone out of business, the hardcopy records end up in state archives.

The Firearm Owners' Protection Act of 1986, aka FOPA, is an amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968.  FOPA makes it illegal for the national government or any state in the country to keep any sort of database or registry that ties firearms directly to their owner.  People who whine about the Second Amendment should be aware that it was only in the eighties that we decided against a registry, even though there's every indication that such a registry would be hugely beneficial to federal criminal investigations.  Most people who are against a registry seem to think that this is a bad idea because the government will then know how many guns they have.  Which is exactly the point.  And let's be real.  The government already knows. 

We live in the information age.  Every time you post to Facebook, the government learns a little bit more about you.  Need proof?  Look no further than the targeted advertising you see every time you log on to the internet.

This is my actual "recommended" list from Amazon.
Apparently it thinks I need cockroaches, inflatable toast, a terrifying medical baby, and an electronic pickle.
...yeah, I'm definitely on a watchlist.

People against any sort of gun regulation will argue that criminals will get guns no matter what.  And it's true.  Criminals get drugs no matter what, also. But when drugs are illegal, they are harder to get.  And while it's true most criminals already get guns illegally, the lack of any sort of national gun registry or gun database means that interstate trafficking and private sales are made fairly easy, and the suppliers themselves can avoid persecution.

In a perfect world, the guy who handed the Winter Soldier this semi would be a felon.

To the people who say gun control "doesn't work," I ask them, then, why not give it a whirl and see what happens?

We see a strong correlation between gun deaths and gun ownership.  This does not, of course, equal causation.  I personally think that gun culture in America is fairly diseased.  Our fetishization of guns is part of the problem.  To be fair, our nation was born from gun violence; we literally founded our country after overturning the government using guerilla militias.  So, you know.  Historically, it makes sense for Americans to be wary of the government and obsessed with home militias, although, in this day and age, with drones and tanks and all that, I'm not sure a stockpile of hanguns is going to do much good if it comes down to a standoff between you and Uncle Sam.

I'd like to tell a personal anecdote now.  Earlier in the year, there was an actual drive-by shooting on my block, two houses down from mine.  I have an English penpal and I had been intending to write to her that evening but, because the police had cordoned off the street, I was unable to get home.

My initial reaction, as both an American and a millennial, was pure annoyance at the inconvenience of the situation.  When I finally got home after a few hours, I wrote to my friend that I had been delayed coming home due to a drive-by, and she was like, "Oh, yes, traffic sucks."

My English friend did not even know what a drive-by was.

Drive-by shootings are so common to our urban culture that we have shortened slang for it.

When I explained to her that I basically live in the Wild, Wild West, she was shocked and appalled.

Incidentally, that movie has a lot of gun and perfume and steampunk spider violence.

I don't know why Americans are so convinced that they need guns to defend themselves.  Everyone else in the world seems to be doing okay with more restricted gun access.  Why are we so paranoid, so convinced our freedom will be taken away?   It's not like Europe is a totalitarian regime of unimaginable horror.  Yet Americans seem convinced that we're one gun regulation away from the total collapse of civilization as we know it.

Let's look at some statistics.  In America, 2/3rd of gun owners cite "personal protection" or "safety" as their reason for owning a gun (or multiple guns, which is baffling, as the average American has onl two hands with which to wield them).

In 2015, 102 people were killed during home invasions in the US, compared to 505 killed by accidental gun discharge.  (For those wondering, the 102 killed during home invasions were NOT necessarily killed by a gun.)

Not necessarily a gun.

In other words, if you are scared of dying in a home invasion, and buy a gun, congrats. You are now statistically 5 times more likely to die. Good job.

"But it won't happen to me!" cries the average American, setting down their Budweiser indignantly.

That's why the FBI stats make a distinction for "accidental discharge." Because those 500 deaths were people who thought it wouldn't happen to them. Those were people who didn't want to die.

As for those who DO want to die, in 2015 there were about 22,000 suicides by gun alone. "Expert gun owners" are 44 times more likely to get bummed out and kill themselves on purpose than on accident. These are often people who are experts in a literal sense: there's an overwhelming number of veterans, for example, who know exactly what they're doing when they pull the trigger.

As for whether or not guns actually prevent crime when placed in the hands of "expert" gun owners, well... annually there's about 250 "justified homicides" according to the FBI. These are situations where a gun was used "in self defense." This includes but is not limited to home invasions.

I think the math speaks for itself. About 1/3 Americans own a gun. Every year, twice as many accidentally kill themselves than defend themselves.

You are more likely to get hit by lightning than to ever have an armed gunman try to break into your house. You would be better off buying a lightning rod than a gun. Can't accidentally kill yourself with a lightning rod, as far as I know.

Norway has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.
The Norse mostly just defend themselves with hammers.

Let me play Devil's Advocate for a moment and mention that total defensive gun uses are generally held to significantly exceed the number of justifiable homicides and include things like warding someone off via brandishing (but not using) the weapon.  55,000 instances per year tends to be the low-end estimate.

However, it's difficult to say what constitutes "defensive gun use." I used homicide rates because they've got an objective and measurable use. DGU research is a bit wishy-washy for my taste and relies pretty heavily on self-reporting and assumptions.

The implication here seems to be that, in the extremely unlikely (more unlikely than being struck by lightning) event that your home was invaded by someone whose intent was to kill you, then it would behoove you to have a gun. This makes logical sense to me.

However, the suicide odds ratio is higher than the homicide avoidance odds ratio. Which brings me back to my original hypothesis that having a gun in the home is probably more dangerous than beneficial.  And while I'm not at all against people owning guns, I think that the idea that they are needed for protection is utterly ridiculous. And I think we need much, much better regulation, as evidenced by the amount of people getting killed by guns meant to "protect" them.

You can protect yourself with measures other than guns.

Ultimately, it's political rhetoric that is one of the things most likely to doom good policies on gun control. (To say nothing of conversations ABOUT the policies.)  Regardless of where you stand on the subject of gun control, I think everyone should support political candidates willing to talk, listen, and push towards finding a better objective model of the costs and benefits of firearms ownership, separate from political rhetoric. 

At this point in time, emotions are high and the issue has become a partisan one, with people on either side unwilling to compromise.  And if you'll excuse the pun, it's the disenfranchised American who is caught in the crossfire.

I say "disenfranchised" because many of the victims of gun violence are children who cannot vote on issues that affect them.  In the Parkland Florida shooting in February, for example, 13 of the 17 killed were too young to vote.  And here's some other disturbing stats:

  • Alyssa played soccer
  • Martin had a younger brother.
  • Nick had been accepted to the University of Indianapolis.
  • Jennifer went by "Jaime."
  • Luke loved Lebron James.
  • Cara was a dancer.
  • Gina had "spa days" with her mom.
  • Joaquin was naturalized as a US citizen in January 2017 and had an Instagram dedicated to artistic urban graffiti.
  • Alaina was active in JRTOC and volunteered after Hurricane Irma.
  • Helena shielded her best friend, Samantha, with a textbook. Samantha survived.
  • Alex loved roller coasters and played trombone in the marching band.
  • Carmen received a letter one day after her death declaring her a National Merit finalist. She never got to read it.
  • Peter was shot while holding a door open for classmates to run to safety. He was in JROTC.
Oh shit sorry those weren't statistics; those were facts about the 13 kids who are dead now.

On the four "adults" we lost:
  • Meadow was 18 and had been accepted to Lynn University. She posted tweets about it 1 day before being killed.
  • Scott was 35. He was a geography teacher who was murdered while escorting students to safety.
  • Aaron was 37-yr-old assistant coach. He used himself as a shield to protect students who were being fired at.
  • Chris was a 49-yr-old Naval reservist who had been deployed to Iraq in 2007. He had given students lunch money and rides to school.
So, please explain to me why having your guns taken away is more important than any one of these people being taken away. Please explain to me how guns protected these individuals. Please explain to me why you still believe there's NOT something very, very wrong and very, very sick about our culture.

 Presented without comment.

I believe that if we want to keep our guns and uphold the Second Amendment, then it is critical that we pull our heads out of our asses and start trying to reach regulatory compromises (such as safe storage, or gun buy-back programs to reduce the number of guns) before it's too late.  Because, sooner or later, people are going to get sick of gun violence and ban them outright (as most developed countries already have).

I believe that it is in the best interest of BOTH parties, as well of the best interest of the American people and the Second Amendment itself, to push for reasonable federal regulation.

The stance that "something needs to change" is a non-partisan one, in my opinion.

As usual, if you are reading this and don't agree, then no judgement. If you would trade in any one of these individuals for your AR-15 then feel free to say so. But I want you to admit it, boldly and unapologetically, that the cold aluminum semi-automatic rifle you're clutching is valued more than the 17 American lives we lost that the Second Amendment was designed to protect in the first place.
If you can admit to that without shame, you may keep your weapon, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Ye Olde Renn Faire Post

Last weekend I took the twins out to the Renn Faire.  Located in scenic Irwindale, the SoCal Renaissance Pleasure Faire is the original first-of-its-kind "Renn Faire."  Despite the name, it's not a weird sex thing.

At least, it's not advertised as such.

The Renn Faire is basically interactive Medieval Times and it's fun for the whole family, assuming the "whole family" is made up of you and your crippling alcohol problem.

The #1 thing to do at the Faire is to get stupid drunk; there is a huge amount of alcohol.  I suppose it makes sense, since people back during the Renaissance drank lots of beer and wine, although I felt that the mixed peach schnapps drink that every booth was promoting was a little anachronistic.

Anywho!  My review of the Renn Faire.

If you've never been to a faire, then the first thing you should know is that it's expensive.  You'll have to make at least one stop to Ye Olde ATM.  (Be sure to call it that.  People always laugh at that joke no matter how many times you say it.)

I went dressed as Thor because that was the Renaissanceyest thing I had on hand and, let's face it, any excuse to wear a cape, right?

Within moments, my cape lust proved to be my downfall, and I purchased a new cape despite having a perfectly good one on hand and the temperature being a sultry ninety-two degrees.  Another visit to Ye Olde ATM was made.

Like most fairs, the Rennaissance one is essentially made up of vendor booths.  There are some rides and some performances (hope you like bagpipes because all Renn performances are legally required to have a bagpipe guy in a kilt), but the glue that holds the place together is the food and the shopping.

 Ye moste fattening churros.

When you go shopping, you will find:
  • corsets.  So many corsets.   Because every corset place is desperately trying to distinguish itself, you'll quickly start seeing shit like Batman corsets, glow-in-the-dark corsets, snakeskin corsets... every gimmick you can think of has, at some point in time, been made into a corset.
  • crystal stuff.  Apparently ye olde Renaissancers were very into crystal healing.
  • bone stuff.  You'll see lots of cool bone stuff.  Personally I like the bone stuff.  I like that you can wear the bones of your enemies as earrings, assuming your enemies are squirrels.
  • personalized kitsch.  Has anyone ever actually bought a wooden carving that says "YE OLDE BEDROOM OF BRAYDEN'S?"  I don't know why, but these are at every fair (and faire) I've ever been to.
  • mugs.  Renn Faires sell LOTS of mugs, chalices, goat horns, and other containers to drink out of.  This makes sense because you start feeling weird walking around holding a plastic Coors Light cup in garb.  "Garb" is what you call your Renaissance clothes in order to convince people that the sheet of red cloth you pinned to your shirt is totally a real cape and not just literally a sheet of red cloth you pinned to your shirt.
  • hair crap.  Renn Faire puts Coachella to shame with the hair wreaths and crowns.
  • smelly stuff.  Incense is HUGE.  So is soap, which baffles the mind, as it was my understanding that people in the 1600s were not known for their washing habits.
It's hard not to spend money.

On the plus side, I came across zero multi-level marketing stalls.  Every vendor at the faire seemed to be an ACTUAL small business owner, not just a soccer mom shilling doTERRA or LuLaRoe.

If you're a cheapskate, you can forsake the desire to shop in lieu of people-watching.  Here's a fun game: take a shot every time you see:
  • a lady with EE boobs exploding from her corset.
  • someone on a Rascal scooter.
  • a neckbeard sporting Ye Olde Fedora and m'ladying at the lady with the EE boobs.
  • obvious Game of Thrones cosplay.
  • Deadpool.
  • stormtrooper.
  • furries.
  • old dude who might literally be a time traveler, with an impeccable costume and completely authentic weaponry.
  • pirates (bonus point if they are clearly Captain Jack Sparrow, have a mermaid with them, or are drunkenly hitting on uncostumed college girls).
  • steampunk shit.
  • fantasy creatures.  (Guys, NEVER existed, not even in 1600!)  Usually it's fairies for the gals and hobbits for the guys, and you'll see lots of pointy elf ears on all genders.  There seemed to be some confusion about whether we were in England, or Tamriel.  There were a lot of Khajiit who had wares, if I had coin.
  • gladiators.  I saw several Roman gladiators who appeared to be at the wrong festival.
It sounds like I'm being critical, but I'm not.  Except of the Stormtroopers.  Fuck off out of here with your space shit.  I don't go to Star Wars conventions dressed as a zombie or the scarecrow from Wizard of Oz; they are different fandoms, and seeing stormtroopers really breaks the illusion of the quaint English village I'm trying to enjoy.

I can get behind the Lord of the Rings and Elder Scrolls shit because those fantasies were inspired by medieval stuff and, ultimately, at a Renaissance faire, you are roleplaying a medieval fantasy.  So they make sense.  But seeing people dressed as Stormtroopers infuriates me.  Even the steampunkers and Dr. Who fans manage to blend in a little.  But Stormtroopers are a glaring mar on an otherwise perfect festival, in my opinion.  Imagine if you had some Legolas-dressed bozo at a sci-fi screeching "WHAT BLACK MAGIC IS THIS?" every time someone pulled out a stun gun.  Yeah.  Kinda breaks the illusion, makes things less enjoyable.

Speaking of enjoying, the best bang-for-your-buck is 100% the petting zoo.  Six dollars and you can touch so many animals.  Yay!

 The pig squealed when I hugged it.
Ye loude porker doth refuseth my hugs.  :(

I bumped into four or five friends at the faire which just goes to show how ubiquitous the faire is, or maybe just how nerdy all my friends are.

One group I met up with at the beginning, which had started at eight strong, had dwindled to two: two were in a med tent thanks to too much alcohol, two had been thrown out, and two were MIA.  This should give you some idea of the level of drinking that occurs at the the faire.

A lot.

Anyways, in summary, it's totally worth the $30, but expect to pay more for drinks, food, and souvenirs.  And leave your Stormtrooper costume at home.

There's no such thing as lightsaber jousting, although, having said it, 
I realize that I have a mighty need for such a thing to exist.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

[SPOILERS] Infinity War Review

Last weekend, Avengers: Infinity War set a record for the biggest weekend box office opening of all time, at $641 million.

I contributed by seeing it twice and, now that the weekend is over and the reviews are rolling in, I would like to offer my own review.


If you haven't seen the movie yet and don't like spoilers, STOP READING NOW.

While plenty of people liked it, nay, loved it, I think that the emotional impact of the film was softened for me as I had already seen so many promo materials that there was nothing that I didn't expect.

My rating of the film?  Probably a C+.

It was a steaming pile of fan service.  Like a scale toothpick model of goatse, it was, architecturally, a masterpiece, but it left me asking, "Why?"  There were so many twists, turns, and plot devices propping up the leviathan that was this film, but in the end, I felt that Marvel had flown too close to the sun on this one, and I was not impressed.

This is only my own opinion.  Most people liked it and were impacted in a very big way.  They sat there in shocked silence as the credits rolled, devastated, many crying as though the theater had accidentally screened "Marley and Me."

Of course, part of me wonders if, with time, people are going to reflect and determine it was over-hyped after all and they didn't like it as much as they thought they did.  It's too soon to tell; right now, it's fresh in everyone's brain, and they are gushing about it.

Don't get me wrong.  It was an enjoyable film.  Marvel gave us 17 good movies prior to this plus a ton of shows and events and merchandise, like this Captain America waffle iron, so I think they were allowed to ask us to suspend our disbelief and pretend to enjoy this movie like it was the Emporer's new clothes.  And we did.

 By the way, canonically, Cap apparently prefers pancakes, not waffles.  
Get your shit together, marketing team.

But as far as where this movie will rank among other Marvel movies in the long run, I would put it after Age of Ultron.

Plot recap:
  1. Thanos bumps into the Asgardians and using the Power Stone, kills them all.  He kills Loki for the Space Stone.  First major death, complete with bulging eyes and neck crick.  Audible gasps from fangirls in the audience.
  2. Heimdall also dies, but not before Bifrosting the Hulk back to earth. 
  3. On earth, Bruce Banner warns Dr. Strange and Wong about Thanos coming.  Dr. Strange goes to get Tony Stark, who is currently serving his deep-fried balls to Gwyneth Paltrow.  They need to warn Vision!  
  4. Cut to: Scotland, inexplicably.  Vision and Wanda are having some hot sentient-robot-on-mutant-twin action!  Aliens come to attack Vision but Steve, Natasha, and Sam Wilson show up to save the day.
  5. Cut back to: alien attack on New York!  Aliens abduct Strange (who has the Time Stone); Iron Man and Spider-Man chase after him.  They are now in a giant donut that is hurdling through space.  The last time Tony was having a crisis in a giant donut was in Iron Man 2.
  6. Cut to: SPACE.  The Guardians find the ruins of the Asgardian population and hit Thor with their car, just like how Thor gets hit with a car twice by Jane in Thor 1.  They learn of Thanos's evil doings.  Rocket and Thor agree to run off to Space Ikea to get Thor a new hammer, while the Guardians go to Knowhere to check up on the Reality Stone that Thor left with the Collector.
  7. Steve and the rest of the crew show up to say hi to James Rhodes, Tony's paralyzed BFF.  Rhodey immediately does something to get himself court martialled.  They bail on America and head off to Wakanda.
  8. The Guardians find Thanos about to get the Reality Stone, and Gamora kills him.  PSYCHE!  He already got the stone, so it was all a vivid hallucination.  Gamora begs Starlord to kill her but Thanos takes her away.
  9. Thor and Rocket find the magic forge where they can create a new hammer.  Of 30 magic space dwarves, only one is left.  Peter Dinklage!  They finagle the forge on (Thor needs to trip the circuit breaker) and Groot generously donates an arm for the handle (because one of the Marvel rules is that someone always loses an arm).  With a new eye from Rocket and a new hammer named Stormbreaker, Thor is ready to roll!
  10. Thanos goes to seek out the Soul Stone.  He tortures Nebula in order to get Gamora to show him its location.  They go there.  Holy shit, Red Skull is there, looking fresh as hell.  (Seriously, CGI is WAY BETTER than it was the last time we saw him.)  Thanos sacrifices Gamora for the stone.  Hot damn, now he's got 4.
  11. Aliens are attacking earth.  The Avengers in Wakanda agree that they do not "trade lives," and decide to throw the entire Wakandan army to their deaths in order to protect Vision, who is basically a fax machine that talks.  Shuri will try to remove the gem from his head while still leaving enough of a person in there for Wanda to bang.
  12. Iron Man and Spider-Man save Dr. Strange and crash their ship on Titan, where they bump into the Guardians of the Galaxy.  After a hilarious bunch of quipping, Thanos shows up for Strange's time stone.  They engage in battle during which they very nearly pry off Thanos's gaunlet, but then Starlord fucks up and Tony gets stabbed.  The audience goes DEATHLY silent as Tony begins coughing out blood.  Then Dr. Strange trades the Time stone for Tony's life and Thanos takes it and disappears, leaving Tony to somehow spray nano science onto his wound and fix it despite coughing blood earlier.
  13. On earth, the battle rages!
  14. Thor shows up like a badass, along with the Rocket.  Rocket asks Bucky for his arm, as we were all expecting.
  15. The effects team are already overbudget so there are no Hulk transformations.  Instead, we get Bruce in the Hulk Buster armor.  He gets an arm torn off because, again, Marvel loves limb losses.
  16. Thanos shows up.  
  17. Wanda tries to kill Vision so that Thanos can't win.  (Apparently she's strong enough to destroy one of the six elemental forces of the universe.)
  18. Thanos LOLs at her, reverses time, and rips the stone from Vision's head.
  19. With all 6 stones, Thanos snaps his fingers and half of all sentient life disappears from existence, turning to ash and disappearing.
  20. Thanos, having won, goes and watches a sunset.

Here's some highlights from the movies:

My Top 5 Must-See Beforehand: The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, Civil War, Black Panther.

People who saw none of the previous 17 Marvel movies.

Honorable Mentions: Captain America 1 (if only for Red Skull), Iron Man 1, Winter Soldier, Thor: Ragnarok.

Most Badass Scene: When Thor shows up to the fight in Wakanda, throwing around Stormbreaker and his eyes are all lit up with lightning... oh my God.  This was also the coolest part of Ragnarok.  Same concept and well worth recycling.  You could have a two-hour movie that was nothing but Thor berserking and I would be thrilled with it.

Of course, I also clapped when Dr. Strange uses his Images of Ikonn spell to create duplicates of himself while he's fighting Thanos, and the part where Bucky picks up Rocket and spins around shooting his gun.

This but one of the hands is holding a raccoon who's holding another gun.

Most Hard-to-Watch Scene: Nebula's torture or Peter's death.  A lot of people have said Peter's death at the very end, after Thanos has snapped his fingers and turned half of the population to ash, was hard.  It was; Tom Holland did a good job of weeping like a teenager turning to ash while stranded on a foreign planet in the arms of the billionaire who probably molested him.  But we know Peter comes back, since Spider-Man 2 is already in the works, and we know there's a Time Stone to reverse shit and we know that all the ash-people at the end were probably not real deaths.  The only four real deaths were Heimdall, Loki, Gamora, and Vision.  Goddamn, Nebula gets tortured and is screaming bloody murder; that was way harder for me to watch, personally.

Best Quips: In a movie full of pop culture references and insult humor, I'm going to give Best Quip to Steve Rogers, who, as usual, is obliviously serious to everything.  When he meets Groot, Groot says, "I am Groot," to which he replies, "I am Steve Rogers."  Drax is likewise wonderfully literal and oblivious throughout the movie, at one point asking the incredibly existential (and surprisingly foreshadowy) question, "Why is Gamora?"

The Runner-Up for Best Quip would be the smash-cut to the Guardians' ship in the beginning with the helpful placard "SPACE."

Worst and most utterly unnecessary part: Tony and Pepper talking about having a baby.  It added nothing to the plot whatsoever and was completely out of character.  They might as well have been looking at color swathes for their wedding or trying out cake flavors.  Nauseating. Wasn't the entire plot of Iron Man 3 centered around Tony bullying a kid?  Isn't his whole relationship with Peter kind of toxic?  Doesn't he still have a bunch of weird daddy issues?  Marvel, you stop that baby train right now.

Best throw-back: Tony having a crisis on a giant donut.  Runner-up: the return of Red Skull.

Most Pointless Pop Culture Reference: Squidward and Grimace.  Runner up to Starbucks though.

 How much did Starbucks pay to be mentioned by Okoye?

Most Cringe-Inducing Plot Devicey Bit: Starlord's freak-out.  I will concede that it was in character, because Starlord is a bit dim and extremely impulsive.

Why Loki Shouldn't Have Died: SO OUT OF CHARACTER.  Loki has NEVER been dim or impulsive, so his decision to try to stab Thanos in the face was utterly Starlord-level retarded.  Loki is a literal back-stabber, not a front-stabber!  Loki should be cool and clever enough to convince Thanos to let him live, then, in a typical Loki power-grab move, try to steal the gauntlet.  Worse, Loki tries to stab Thanos after he's already sic'ed the Hulk on him and after giving him the Space Stone, knowing full well its power!  Goddamn, Loki, what the hell happened there?  Loki would never act the way he acted during his 5 minutes on screen.  He deserved that death for his utter un-Loki-ness.

Best In-Theater Moment: When the girl two seats over had a legit breakdown at the end and couldn't stop sobbing.  Runners-up: when a guy nearly got into a fight with another guy who wouldn't stop talking, and when the Russo brothers showed up beforehand to say hi.  (I got to hug one of them.) (They were accompanied by Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Dr. Strange, and Kevin Feige, who plays Kevin Feige.)

Potential Resolutions: Everyone's yapping about the Time Stone but did we all forget about Adam from the end of Guardians 2?

Meanwhile, somewhere on earth, Clint was sitting around his dinner table with his wife and three adorable kids, who are all probably piles of ash now, which is a good reason for him to say "fuck this I'm going full-on Batman" and showing up in Avengers 4 as Ronin with a HUGE chip on his shoulder, and by chip, I mean Ant-Man, who I hope at some point crawls into a wound on Thanos's body and then explodes to his full size, spraying blood everywhere.  That would be so satisfying.

 If he dies by mere stabbing, I will be disappointed, 
and Loki's unnecessary death will have been for naught.

One of the things I noticed that was glaringly absent from Infinity War was a lack of Tony getting squished in the face.  I assume this will be resolved in Avengers 4.

I feel like so far my review has been overly critical so let me reiterate that I did enjoy the movie enough to see it a second time.  For me, Marvel movies are meant to be experienced more than watched.  They provide friend groups excuses to go out, to dress up, to talk extensively about what they would have done, et cetera.  So while this movie wasn't my favorite, I feel like I still got out of it what I needed to, which was an opportunity to strut my stuff in costume and hang out with my friends.

Going to Avengers movies in costumes is something we've been doing since Age of Ultron and it's a hell of a lot of fun.  We were the only ones who left the theater smiling; we went to a rooftop bar and then walked around Hollywood high-fiving people.

For a more comprehensive discussion of our personal Avenging after the movie, check out Andy's blog, where he delves into the details (including how he met Tom Holland) and reasons cosplaying is fun and totally not gay.

Straight as one of Hawkeye's arrows!

All in all, I wasn't thrilled with the movie but I appreciated that this was one of the most ambitious cross-over events of all time and in terms of cinematography, effects, and overall pacing, it was incredible.  If they had removed Gwyneth Paltrow, I would have bumped it up to a B-.

 It's certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and also Deadpool approved!

If you were on the fence, buy a ticket, if only to see the horrified, silent shock of the audience when the bad guy wins at the end, and to bask in the knowledge that, at least for the next year, every Marvel fan is experiencing a drawn-out existential crisis.

Avengers 4 comes out May 3rd, 2019.