The Historic Collapse of the Wissahickon

The Wissahickon Creek Valley, locally known as Valley Green or simply “the Crick”, has experienced a vast increase in local and tourist traffic over the years. The biking and hiking trails are kept clean and challenging to novices and experienced adventurers alike. The historic park features pristine views, ample wildlife, and a distinct lack of Flamin’ Hot Cheeto’s bags along its Northwestern Philadelphia trail. At least, it did.

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Crick has seen an increase in visitors of close to a million, or a 1/3rd increase since the previous year. Of course, an increase of this magnitude to any location would result in a strain on resources and organization efforts, but something about this increase has been different.

The shockingly unreported–or purposefully avoided–elephant in the room is that massive tour buses and organized groups have been routing large amounts of poor and urban communities to the park. Philadelphia Inquirer has decided to blame the increase in hazardous waste on “climate change” and some strange 1950’s Archie Comics idea of punk teens leaving a mess by Devil’s Pool (a historic makeout point and teenage death trap swimming hole in the park).

This fact has been largely brushed off by the local Roxborough and Wissahickon community, including the so-called Friends of Wissahickon–the volunteer organization tasked with cleaning up the soiled diapers, old broken charcoal grills, and Takis bags that have mysteriously built up in the Valley Green area, replenishing just about every week during the Summer.

It’s worth mentioning that Wissahickon Creek Valley has several grilling and picnicking areas designated that have been enjoyed by families and other groups for decades with little-to-no evidence they’d ever been there at all. However, the new phenomenon of increased traffic and waste has been collecting primarily in park areas where this behavior is prohibited.

Some locals have even suggested that the issue of North Jersey bus companies bringing in massive groups from Brooklyn and other areas, leaving a tidal wave of trash in their wake, is a systemic problem, and the only way to combat the issue is to ban plastic packaging and other non-biodegradable materials. Of course this is just an absurd self-punishment and hand-wringing white guilt that makes up a majority of the transplant progressive influx in the blue collar Northwest Philadelphia area; a natural byproduct of those pretending to care about property destruction by implementing strategic and widespread self-flagellation.

The entry points into the park are scarce, and meant to be kept clear for visitors and emergency vehicles. It became clear when I personally visited the park through the narrow entry point on Wises Mill Road, that the police presence–which I had never before experienced in the park–was overwhelmed.

Vehicles parked up and down the narrow pathway were all receiving parking tickets by one or two officers, blocking off the road even further. As I continued down the path to the parking lot beside the famous Valley Green Inn restaurant, even more police were stationed around a large group of urban cookout attendees. Based on what I could tell, the cops served primarily as babysitters, unable to stop the attendees from having their fun, spreading trash, hanging plastic bags from trees and building charcoal fires precariously on the creek side.

According to the Inquirer, police have been largely unable to write violations for any wrongdoing aside from parking citations (over 250 in the beginning of Summer alone). They claim they prefer to “educate,” whatever that means. Police also seem to be unaware of the rules and regulations of the park regarding swimming, camping and grilling in the area; or, more likely, they are all but disabled by their superiors and the District Attorney’s office from performing their duties as required.

A sad, castrated white volunteer unintentionally creates the most apt parody of the current world.

With the influx of certain groups to the area, crime has gone up as well. Vehicle theft, equipment theft, property destruction and damage to the park have all increased by metrics never before seen in the community. And what’s even more concerning is that no one seems to care in any meaningful sense. Coordinators for the Friends of Wissahickon volunteer group admit that the scenes are common, but have all but washed their hands of any responsibility, content to simply bury their heads in the sand and pathetically shadow the perpetrators cleaning up their mess week after week.

Other members of the park volunteers have said they hope to “change the culture” of how certain individuals use the park. But the only response that seems to have been attempted has been tacking laminated signs to trees, hopelessly begging visitors to use the trash cans–an act reminiscent of officials in India pleading with residents to stop pooping in the streets.

All the while, the City of Philadelphia has been relying heavily on volunteers in middle class areas to police themselves and take impossible hours out of their schedules to clean and maintain public schools and parks where the government can’t be bothered. City government has no problem increasing your taxes to pay for their dwindling efforts, but then wind up spending it all on diversity awareness campaigns forcing those who pay a majority of the taxes to fend for themselves.

When the inevitable occurs and an uncontrollable fire breaks out in the Wissahickon Valley, the media and locals will surely continue to blame the disaster on climate change or some other such nonsense, rather than the evidentiary cause of all of these increasing widespread infernos: mass migration of individuals who have destroyed their own communities to areas they are even less likely to treat with dignity and respect, illegal cookouts, incompetent fire building, and wayward junkies.

In the end, if locals, law enforcement, and volunteers should ever hope to accomplish the Sisyphean task of completely reversing the baked-in cultures of third world communities that they seem so desperate to welcome into their neighborhoods, the very least they could do would be to present some intellectual honesty about the degradation that their stalwart patronizing ideology brings to the table.

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Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: The Mighty Ducks Franchise

It’s been almost 23 years since we last cheered on the District Five, Junior Goodwill Team USA, Eden Hall Mighty Ducks and the country is worse off for it.

In 1992, The Mighty Ducks kicked off a string of Disney children’s sports films–which were all basically rip-offs of The Bad News Bears–which almost never happened. When NHL great Wayne Gretzky got traded to Los Angeles, he brought a tidal wave of hockey excitement into the Hollywood market. Well, not a tidal wave, but enough drops in the proverbial bucket to  warrant Disney picking up a sidelined script about a disgraced lawyer being forced to coach a ragtag group of multi-racial street rats.

The motley crew of poor-to-lower-middle class punk kids includes a young Jussie Smollett who proudly chants the team’s new mantra: “Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant,” which may explain how the events of his later career transpired…

Anyway…

The first Mighty Ducks film, despite being viewed and thoroughly enjoyed as a classic of childhood cinema by perhaps every Millennial in the country, has earned a shockingly tragic score of 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

At first, it makes you wonder who could have panned this film so mercilessly that it resulted in such a low score. Then you see reviews such as this gem from Janet Maslin of the failing New York Times:

“The film is remarkably oblivious to the fact that if the team weren’t hell-bent on a championship, young moviegoers would be significantly less interested in its adventures.”

Imagine this review being lobbed at any other film… Star Wars is remarkably oblivious to the fact that if the heroes weren’t hell-bent on defeating the Empire, young moviegoers would be significantly less interested in the adventure.

It becomes increasingly clear that these finger-wagging, anti-sports, Fun Police Critics have zero tolerance for any film that boasts the benefits of teamwork and athleticism without shoehorning in some message about transgender acceptance or how all of the white kids are racist until they figure out the magic of intersectionality.

No, The Mighty Ducks is a film where children of all races are playing hockey (of all sports) as a unit. Unsuccessfully, of course, at first, but nothing a reluctant alcoholic in a kids’ movie can’t fix! Unlike The Bad News Bears, the message of children of different ethnic backgrounds playing together is a non-issue. The District Five “Ducks” even have multiple girls on the team and it’s never even so much as mentioned.

This is what drives the critics nuts. There is only one major conflict or message in The Mighty Ducks outside of the journey to become the best junior hockey team: father figures. This is another theme that cuts into the progressive narrative that companies like Disney, for a time, seemed keen to thwart, but critics and journalists refused to support: Having a good father figure builds character.

This patriarchal theme is apparent in all three franchise films but really hits hard in the first and third. Let’s briefly play it out:

Image result for the mighty ducks franchiseGordon Bombay seemed like a sweet kid, passionate about hockey and impressing both his Father and his surrogate father, the Coach of the Hawks. His father passes away and his Coach becomes disillusioned by his failure. Gordon then turns to the supportive embrace of a local Minnesota sports gear shop owner named Hans.

When Bombay becomes a lawyer, his boss, Mr. Ducksworth replaces all other father figures. At first, Mr. Ducksworth seems to take Gordon under his wing (pun intended), but later abandons him almost arbitrarily over some favor he owed a client.

Gordon turns back to Hans for support, but now the tables have turned. The star player on Bombay’s new ragtag group of kids is a kind-hearted boy, passionate about hockey, who has…drumroll please…no dad. Feeling guilty and emotionally connected to Charlie Conway, Gordon ostensibly agrees to be Charlie’s Coach, Father, and Guardian. The film ends on a high note. All the poor kids have fatherly guidance in their lives and they’ve proven to themselves that they had the moderate talent it takes to win a junior hockey championship.

The 2nd and 3rd films in the franchise are less memorable, are often more goofy, and offer a bit less substance, but are still enjoyable nonetheless, and are far better than their abysmal 20% scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Image result for d2 team usaIn 1994, the Gordon Bombay returned in D2: The Mighty Ducks, where he makes a decent run at minor league hockey before getting injured. He was then offered a lucrative position as spokesperson for sports gear company Hendrix, as well as the opportunity to coach the sensational Mighty Ducks once again, but this time as Junior Goodwill Olympic Games Team USA.

The lesson in D2 is a convoluted one. The Ducks have gained plenty of nationwide fame somehow, even to the point that Anaheim, California has named a new team after them. Their fame continues as they dominate countries like Trinidad and Tobago (who I guess have a hockey team?). Pride starts to go to everyone’s head, especially with the addition of a new handful of players that appear to have been taken straight out of a Street Fighter game.

When it came time for the Ducks to go up against more reasonably competitive countries, Gordon Bombay fears that team, and he, will be humiliated. Bombay begins to push the team to practice hard, thus turning him into what is essentially a Disney Villain. The team loses their faith in Bombay as a coach and seeks affirmation in a band of inner-city black street hockey playing youths led by trash-talking Keenan Thompson.

Gordon apologizes for trying to coach them, Charlie Conway accepts that even though his “dad” works too hard, he still loves them very much. The team adds to their roster again, and Bombay, the old Ducks, the figure skater, the cowboy, the suave hispanic guy who can’t use his brakes, the girl-goalie, and the Bash Brothers defeat Iceland (the real bad guys) and save the day for competitive sports merchandising!

D2 suffers from the strange absence of central character Mrs. Conway and even more essential character, Gordon’s mentor Hans who is inexplicably replaced with a similar-looking character named Jan… It is easily the least-memorable installment in the trilogy.

Image result for d4 the mighty ducksD3, released in 1996, completes the cycle and returns to form on the theme of role models, arrogance and the influence of male authority figures in the lives of young boys. Gordon Bombay pulls some strings and gets the entire Ducks team JV Hockey scholarships at his alma mater, Eden Hall. He wishes them well, and heads off on the road to work his new job with Hendrix Sports Gear.

This sends Charlie Conway into a downward spiral of abandonment issues, resulting in lashing out against the team’s new Eden Hall Academy coach who just seems like a normal guy who wants his team to do well. Charlie’s actions get him cut from the team and his constant tantrum-throwing disappoints Hans to death.

The gang re-unites for Hans’ funeral, where an emotionally broken Gordon Bombay explains to Charlie that he only left because he trusted that Charlie would take his place as leader of the team.

Charlie rejoins the Eden Hall JV Warriors which temporarily rename themselves the Eden Hall Ducks and win an ultimately meaningless scrimmage with the Varsity team. Having saved the team, and the team’s pending scholarship from imploding, a self-satisfied Gordon Bombay disappears into the crowd as if he never really existed at all.

Charlie Conway’s behavior in this final installment almost accidentally comes off as a hyper-realistic example of the effect paternal abandonment has on young men. He begins lashing out at everyone, including his friends and replacement mentors. He points the finger at everyone who doesn’t want to follow him on his crusade, accusing them of being treasonous and artificial.

Image result for emilio estevezIf Disney ever comes back with a D4: The Mighty Ducks after all these years, I would expect the plot to feature Charlie Conway, a barely-scraping by 38 year old alcoholic, breaking into Gordon Bombay’s home to complain about how none of the Mighty Ducks want to get back together. All of his former team-mates are now coaches, retired NHL players, or career-driven mothers and fathers. All except Charlie.

Seeing that Charlie is in a desperate state and ultimately self-destructive, a middle-aged Gordon Bombay secretly does one last favor for his old friend: convinces the old Mighty Ducks to get back together and compete in a fictional tournament against some college hockey teams.

Image result for joshua jacksonIn the midst of realizing they are no longer good enough to compete against young college athletes, the Mighty Ducks accidentally let it slip that this was all a rues so that Charlie Conway wouldn’t drink himself to death. This revelation lights the spark in Charlie to get the team motivated and competitive, bringing back classic old moves like the Flying V, Knuckle Puck, Triple Deke, and Fulton Reed’s concussive slap shot. The Ducks win the tournament, but what really matters is that Charlie learns the lengths his old friends will go to just to make sure he doesn’t die.

Hopefully the clock hasn’t run out on making this film happen. I think the nostalgia value alone would more than make up for the crippling darkness of the plot.

And this is exactly why there will never be another kids’ film franchise like The Mighty Ducks. Something happened to our culture after September 11, 2001 that increased our desire for two things: looking back at a time before 9/11, and escaping completely from reality. Superhero movies and Fantasy flicks rule the day, and the only reprieve we get are shallow remakes and Muppet Movie-style cameos that give us a fleeting feeling that our childhoods are not entirely corrupted and lost.

I have more confidence that Disney will eventually reboot The Mighty Ducks, destroying the cast dynamic irreparably. The coach will be a trans female, and the ragtag group of inner city black hockey playing kids from Chicago will have to learn to take orders from a “girl” coach in order to improve to the point of winning the PeeWee Hockey Championship. But let’s face it, they were the best and most talented team all along anyway. Let Disney take the loss.

Image result for the mighty ducks franchise

Maybe our relationship with video games isn’t so simple

Every time a seemingly random act of violence occurs, our brains rely on social and cultural clues to bring some sense of reason to what is potentially unreasonable. Our brains, however, have another natural response to contradicting stimuli or irrational behavior; and that’s called “cognitive dissonance.”

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 3.44.48 PMCognitive dissonance occurs when one is aware that something is observably true (such as the unhealthy and psychologically violent online behavior associated with video game addicts) but refuse to connect the dots to other observations (such as one of these mentally unstable fatherless autistic boys going out and hurting people) due to a perceived political stance (such as the fear of being ideologically aligned with people you don’t like).

Because a lot of out-of-it politicians and boomer parents have been making connections between violent media obsessions and actual violence for decades, many people have determined that it can’t possibly be true. But, as it turns out, it is.

First, we should outline the reasons people experience cognitive dissonance when addressing this topic. People are obsessed with simple causation.
“Does marijuana use cause heroin use? No? Well, then the two can’t possibly be related.”
“If you watch Professional Wrestling, do you have a 100% chance of putting your friend through a card table? No? Well, then there must be no connection.”

When we consider studies and data in terms of black and white causation and correlation, we have a habit of ignoring the underlying data that is often not addressed by the study in question.

And that’s where we are with video game addiction…and the dark web culture that dwells in it.

America has the highest level of video game sales. So saying that other countries play video games and don’t have many mass shootings is irrelevant. Other countries have higher rates of suicide than the United States. Does that mean that suicide isn’t an issue, or that alienation mixed with video game addiction don’t increase suicidal thoughts?

Well, as it turns out, all of the studies that you see your friends referencing on social media regarding video games being a contributing factor to aggressive behavior are demonstrably and horrifyingly incomplete.

Researchers have essentially determined that normal video game use (violent or non-violent) lights up very important parts of the brain. It can help normal young people and middle aged folks engage in team work, play, feel small senses of accomplishment, and increase social activity. That’s what all of the studies you’ll hear about will explain.

Unfortunately, you’re not hearing the studies that relate to video game overuse and addiction on the unhealthy brain. Those studies are tougher to conduct. It’s not exactly like you’re going to have volunteers raising their hands saying “I’m an introverted sociopath, research me!” Nor would you necessarily want to test long-term video game use on the chronically suicidal.

Video games, because they engage the user on a participatory level, connect psychological experiences in complex ways. And the science has shown this for decades. You could have a violent reaction toward feelings of failure, a psychological connection to your online persona, or even make unhealthy real-world substitutions for digital fantasies.

If video games didn’t have psychological impact that was well-researched and considered, we wouldn’t have things like micropayments and delayed gratification in mobile games. Scientists know how gaming impacts human minds. And they know how it impacts diseased minds. Most importantly, they know that most minds aren’t diseased, so as long as we don’t talk about it, no behavioral change needs to be discussed.

The problem with wanting to have real conversations about sociopolitical or cultural data and how it impacts the human condition is that most people you observe discussing “science” are people who are woefully out of date and arrogant when it comes to actual research…

…and we tend to have an issue admitting that behavior we often engage in may actually be destructive for certain people. They will accuse you of wanting to censor their hobby, or buying into some artificial social construct that one can not engage in A without resulting in B.

The fact remains that all addictive behavior is similar with similar treatments and similar psychological profiles. However, not all addictions have dark corners of the web to which they can retreat, hole-up, and cultivate that behavior discussing kill counts and violent fantasies.

fullsizeoutput_260Of course video games aren’t solely to blame for violent behavior. Neither are movies, music or any other form of art. But to ignore the psychological impact that an unhealthy relationship with any aspect of media can have in certain individuals, and the proliferation of manipulated data to dissuade others from honestly discussing the matter, absolutely ensures that the problem will fester and grow irreparably.