There are a lot of X-Men movies. They are all based on comic books about mutants with superpowers, most of which defy the laws of physics. If such people really existed, regular people would be correct to be terrified of them.
We're not talking about people who are "different" and therefore entitled to tolerance and respect in our current political climate (as opposed to people with conservative religious and political beliefs, who should all die, and do so silently).
We're talking about people who can kill you with a beam of hot light from their eyes, or blades that emerge from under the skin of their hands, or by invading your brain, or dropping huge objects on you, or passing small metal items through your jugulars, or disintegrating you, all without breaking a sweat themselves.
Please go to another planet, X-Men.
But of course the movies are all about how ordinary humans just won't let these mutants with movie-star looks live out their lives in peace. The X-Men never initiate conflict; they are always Just Trying To Help. Such unrelenting virtue would be laughable if all these Good People were, say, Christians whose superpower was praying for people. But complete innocence can be bestowed in a comic-book movie with the stroke of a pen.
After nine X-Men movies (if you include Deadpool), plus a couple of off-line Wolverine movies, if you can keep the storylines straight you are something of a mutant yourself, I'm afraid. In fact, the true fans of the series divide it into two chronologies -- one that takes place before the time alterations of X-Men: Days of Future Past and the timeline of events that happen after they altered the past.
Confusion does not lead to suspense, it leads to tedium. What saves you from dying of boredom is that the constant search for new superpowers and new villains leads to such absurd antics that you have to gaze in wonder.
Here's the miracle of X-Men: Apocalypse. Long after I stopped caring about the series enough to bother keeping track of it -- I've seen several of the more recent films only as they appeared on HBO, and then only in bits and passages -- I went with a friend to see Apocalypse on Monday night and found that by the end, I was moved. I cared.
Plus, there were enough bright lights and simulated violent acts that my eyes were continually engaged with the screen. This is the crudest definition of entertainment, but the CGI did its job. The spectacle was there, even if the premise was fundamentally incoherent.
The prime silliness was that the whole story rested on having a super-mutant from ancient times assassinated just as he's transferring himself to a new, unkillable body. The transfer is completed via the sacrifices of his four mutant assistants, but he is buried under tons of stone and he's in a coma for four thousand years.
When a worshipful cult, plus a CIA operative, expose his resting place to sunlight, he wakes up and immediately has the power to push the stones out of his way and rise to the surface, where he plans to resume his role as a god.
How many movie and book plots have depended on the persistence of a secret cult through thousands of years, waiting for the return of a powerful being? Yes, I know perfectly well that there are real analogues to this -- but (a) they aren't secret and (b) they have a lot of activities beyond mere chanting, wearing funny hats, and waiting for godot ... or elvis, depending.
Think of the stupidity of Nicolas Cage's grandfather's cult in Peggy Sue Got Married. Or the stupid secret societies in various Sherlock Holmes and The Mummy movies.
But at least when this demon-god (Oscar Isaac) arises, X-Men: Apocalypse plays him with earnestness rather than campiness (though the campiness is there, because it can't help but be).
My friend and I were entertained and, as I said, were even moved by the characters' storylines. But at the end of the movie, when I said, "I'm so done with comic book movies," my friend agreed.
It's possible for a popular genre to run its course, the way mafia novels did during the years after The Godfather. Yes, the diehard comic book fans will still love their comic books -- that's not at issue. It's the willingness of the general public to plunk down their money and put their bums in theater seats to watch random special effects that's in question.
Westerns followed this trajectory. In the 1930s, some of the hugest stars in cinema history specialized in oaters, and if you couldn't or wouldn't ride a horse, you cut yourself out of a significant percentage of Hollywood roles. When television came along, every network had a full stable -- literally -- of western series. And some of them, maybe even a lot of them, had good human stories told within the tropes and cliches.
Shane had every cliche in the book, I think -- but if you don't feel at least wistful for the boy calling out Shane's name as he rides away, you have no heart.
Likewise, the fact that some of the comic-book movies are good stories does not mean we're going to keep watching them forever. Westerns lasted a long time, despite such fantasy tropes as the hero never needing to kill anybody because, firing a pistol from his hip, he shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand. But along about 1970, Westerns went away.
It was partly a decision of television network executives to go a different direction, but nobody wept, because those execs had sensed something true: The American public was done with westerns.
Maybe it was even simpler than that. Maybe it had become impossible for television writers to come up with new western series ideas to pitch. Maybe it was the growing shame of the fashionable Left about American history. Maybe it was the death of the myth of the Good Guy ... and it took comic book movies to resurrect it.
As for movies, the comic book franchises are so expensive to film, partly because of the huge casts of actors able to be convincing in front of a green screen, and partly because of computer effects that require a dozen different CGI companies and a year of post-production, that they have to earn a lot of money to repay the costs.
Poor DC Comics seems to be on the cutting edge of the death of the comic-book movie franchise, especially because the Justice League is even stupider than the X-Men, who at least have a coherent premise to work from.
But Marvel isn't immune. How many times are they going to try to make us believe in and care about the Fantastic Four? How can we possibly take the Avengers seriously when we have Norse gods commingling with a World War II-era action hero who uses a shield that can deflect, well, everything?
It took us exactly one movie to be done with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland "franchise"; the sequel was made because nobody realized that even the general public can only be pushed so far when it comes to obnoxious, unfunny "comedy" that includes nobody we care about. All Tim Burton movies star Tim Burton, and maybe, to my great relief, we're done with his pretentious ain't-I-cool style.
The movie studios are generally led by executives who have no clue what a story is, so if they can slap a numeral on the end of a previous hit title and be sure of making money, they know they won't lose their jobs.
That's why we see travesties like movie series based on books, where they split the (usually weak) last volume in two so that they can eke two more guaranteed money-making films out of the franchise. The extreme example is, of course, The Hobbit, an embarrassing "trilogy" reconceived as a prequel to all the stupid mistakes Peter Jackson made in wrecking the storyline of Lord of the Rings.
But this year seems to be showing that sequels aren't such a sure thing, even when they're pretty well written and very well performed by living actors and computer graphics artists alike.
I didn't feel like I wasted my time watching X-Men: Apocalypse. It was better written than it deserved to be; I cared about some of the characters. But if Jennifer Lawrence never has to paint on that blue body suit again, and instead gets to play characters who are commensurate with her talents, we movie-goers will be better off, and so will the actors.
When modern movie-goers dip into the black-and-white westerns of the past, they quickly learn that, even when the writing and acting are good and they are certified as "classics," if you've seen a half-dozen great westerns, you've seen them all.
Twenty years from now, or even sooner, I think younger movie-goers will watch a few comic book movies from our time and say, "Millions of people paid money to watch this? How did they stay awake?"
We already feel this way about the original Christopher Reeve Superman franchise, and the constantly rebooted Batman and Spider-Man franchises hit the point of sadness long ago -- though the kid they've got playing Spider-Man in the latest Avengers movie is so promising that yeah, I'll probably watch the third reboot of Spider-Man since 2002.
Has any other franchise been rebooted so rapidly? At least the Fantastic Four movies have all stunk the great stink, so we probably won't see a third reboot of that mess.
Is there any comic book series so stupid and awful that it doesn't have a legion of diehard fans pushing for a live-action movie?
Maybe we've still got twenty years of mostly-computer-generated comic book movies ahead of us. Or maybe, mercifully, X-Men: Apocalypse is helping to lead us out of such nonsense franchises at a decent level.
Because some of them are very good, I tend to pick up books about fairly commonplace aspects of our world. Salt, pencils, the sea, seeds, rust ... they have all provided me with informative and, usually, entertaining treatments of a broad subject that touches on many aspects of history and contemporary life.
It's hard to think of a more ubiquitous, familiar, and not-thought-much-about subject than rain. Cynthia Barnett, in Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, does a very good job of making rain seem like an unknown phenomenon that deserves our rapt attention, even when it's not falling.
I had just finished listening to Rain (read by Christina Traister, from Audible.com) a few days before I drove up US 29 to visit a friend in Potomac Falls, Virginia this past Saturday. In the early evening, with plenty of light in the sky, I ran into one of the worst gullywashers I've every experienced.
On the hilly, winding four-lane between Charlottesville and Culpeper, the wind gusts were so powerful that the rain was truly sideways for many seconds at a time. During such gusts, there was so much water in the air that I not only couldn't see the white stripes at the side of the highway, I couldn't even see the hood of my car.
My only guide was the taillights of cars ahead of me, which happened to be at enough of a distance that there might have been some curves that I wouldn't see. Fortunately, the gusts were intermittent, so a second at a time I could see the stripes on the road very faintly, allowing me to continue -- at a speed somewhere between ten and fifteen miles an hour.
Cars behind me, following the guidance of my taillights, became impatient, and some of them whipped past me at a speed I thought very unsafe. So did they, since they always braked very quickly when they passed me and no longer had my taillights to guide them. Oh, they were thinking. That's why that old coot in the Hyundai Santa Fe was going so slow.
I can reassure them: Their assessment that I've gomered out and drive like an old man was quite correct. Even without my lights ahead of them as a guide, they were able to drive at twenty-five or thirty miles per hour, soon leaving me behind. But I didn't mind. Once they passed me, I could use their taillights as a guide, greatly improving my own safety.
Gullywasher? Frog-strangler? We do have colorful language to describe heavy rainfalls. As non-aquatic mammals, we do sometimes find ourselves in rainstorms that feel as if we're underwater -- or, because of flooding, actually put us under the water.
Cynthia Barnett went through a list of equivalents to "raining cats and dogs" from other cultures. Because I listened to the audiobook, I don't have the book open before me and couldn't easily look up the list if I did. Instead, I'm looking them up where she quite possibly found them, at Omniglot.com:
They range from the obvious -- Catalan "It's raining barrels and casks" -- to the creative -- Danish "It's raining shoemakers' apprentices," French "It's raining like a pissing cow" or "It's raining nails," German "It's raining strings," Greek "It's raining chair legs," Japanese "Earth and sand are falling," Polish "It's raining frogs," Serbian "The rain falls and kills the mice," Spanish "It's even raining husbands," and my favorite, Welsh "It's raining old ladies and sticks."
Speaking of "it's raining frogs," Barnett, while trying not to commit to it, had to take the claims of frogs falling like plagues from the sky rather seriously, because there have been so many occurrences of this phenomenon, with many credible witnesses. The best speculation seems to be that waterspouts suck frogs up along with their pond water, and then, miles later, the frogs fall back down to earth, fouling the water barrels and swimming pools where they splat. (Unlike cats, frogs apparently do not always land on their feet.)
Barnett deals with drought and flood, and her history of human mistakes about both is sad reading. When the Army Corps of Engineers was assigned to tame the Mississippi and stop the damage from periodic flooding, the result of their construction of miles of levees was to demonstrate the principle of the Venturi tube, in which fluids confined in narrow channels flow faster and with more force in order to move the same volume of water through a narrower space.
They soon learned that while the levees protected against ordinary flood seasons, they made the abnormally heavy flood years far worse disasters, partly because the confined waters, breaking through, struck with more force, and partly because, reassured by the levees, people had built homes and towns much too close to the river.
People who build close to flood-prone rivers are like people who build beachfront houses -- and like the people who chose to stay on Mount St. Helens despite the warnings of impending eruption. We'll miss them, but what were they thinking?
Even sadder, though, were the homesteaders who tried to farm cheap land in parts of the country that were once called "The Great American Desert." Tall grasses grew there, because their roots made such a thick sod that whatever water fell there was soaked up and remained long enough for the grass to thrive.
But farmers broke up that thatch, and their annual crops didn't build up enough of a root system to retain water or shield it from evaporation. At various times in the late 1800s, there was a series of wet years when rain fell copiously enough to raise good crops. After all, the Gulf of Mexico is busily evaporating water all summer, and when the winds are right, that moisture gets blown up into the prairie states where it gets dumped out like sticks and old ladies.
Then come the years when the winds are different, and all that moisture falls on Georgia and North Carolina, leaving the prairie states high and very, very dry. Long before the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, homesteaders on the high plains had to pick up and move back to the east, where rainfall was far more dependable.
Of course, there's always Seattle, as the rainiest place in America. Right?
Wrong. Barnett looked at the actual rain statistics, year by year, and while there are incredible rain levels near Seattle -- the Olympic Peninsula gets up to 200 inches of rain a year in the higher elevations -- Seattle itself is not all that close to being America's rainiest city.
Think of Seattle with 38 inches in a year, Portland Oregon with 43 inches, and you can understand why they're so green.
But then look at Tallahassee, Florida, and Port Arthur, Texas, with 61 inches a year each; Mobile, Alabama, with 67 inches -- the wettest place in the U.S. -- and Miami, West Palm Beach, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Pensacola somewhere in between -- and you begin to understand that Seattle's people are so depressed, not because it's raining, but because it's cloudy -- and because it rains so often.
Portland and Seattle, for instance, usually have 154 days each year in which rain falls, compared to only 59 days with rain each year in Mobile.
Along the Gulf coast, it doesn't rain all that often -- but when the rains come, they're vast.
By the way, Greensboro gets an average of 43 inches of rain each year, as much as Portland and five inches more than Seattle, while the U.S. average is 37 inches. No wonder our city is so lush with tall trees and beautiful gardens.
Compare all these with Los Angeles's average of 15 inches a year, and you begin to wonder. How can they tell if L.A. is having a drought?
Well, since L.A.'s own rainfall is ushered out to sea as quickly as possible, it doesn't matter how much rain falls on Los Angeles. What matters to Angeleños is how much rain falls in the watersheds of the rivers and reservoirs from which they pipe their water.
And Los Angeles is lush compared to my teenage home in Mesa, Arizona, with less than ten inches a year. Hello, cactus!
With all our rain in Greensboro, we suffered several water-shortage years mostly because we're at the crown of a watershed and have few places to catch all that rain and save it for later consumption. Anti-human environmentalists delayed Randleman Dam, and then lazy and incompetent local governments delayed the distribution system, long enough that we had two completely unnecessary water shortages during the 33 years I've lived here.
In other words, rain's gonna fall, but it's up to us what we do about it.
Barnett spends a good number of pages on the effort to develop waterproof clothing using the sap of the rubber tree. After coming up with the brilliant idea of sandwiching the rubber-in-naphtha solution between two layers of cloth, Charles Macintosh had to struggle with the smell of rubberized clothing, as well as the fact that stitching the fabric he finally developed caused it to leak along the seams.
Somehow the coat named for Macintosh acquired an extra "k" so we now spell it "mackintosh"; and after years of fading, the company he founded is once again prospering as genuine Mackintosh raincoats are upmarket fashionable again ... to the tune of hundreds of dollars per waterproof garment.
One of the most entertaining parts of Barnett's book was her account of rainmakers in the United States. I really like Richard Nash's play The Rainmaker (made into a pretty good Katharine Hepburn/Burt Lancaster movie) and Jones and Schmidt's musical 110 in the Shade, based on the play. In this story, Starbuck is a professional rainmaker who comes into town pretending he can make rain by pounding on drums and other such magical nonsense. He finally admits to the woman he falls in love with that he's never made rain in his life; he's a con man, just as she supposed.
But rainmaking in America did not begin as a con. In fact, it began as a government investigation into a phenomenon that was often remarked upon during the Civil War.
Massed artillery in Civil War battles produced incredible barrages, and volleys of rifle fire were so intense they could cut down trees. Then, as many soldiers and civilians noted, within a day of the battle, and often right as it ended, the battlefield would be soaked in a heavy rainfall.
People speculated that it was the concussion from the booming cannon that brought thunder and lightning; others suspected it was the smoke from burnt gunpowder that formed clouds that turned into rain. This made a perverse, magical kind of sense, because clouds of gunsmoke look like, well, clouds, while the booming of cannons can sound like thunder.
But what people overlooked was that most of these battles were fought during thunderstorm season in a very rainy part of America. Given ordinary weather patterns, it would have been a surprise if it had not rained on these battlefields within twenty-four hours of the battle.
After a year of congressionally-funded experiments with firing off artillery and other nonsense, Congress cut off the rainmaking research program. But the experts who were performing the experiments had already demonstrated one of the most common ways that science goes wrong: They were trying to prove something, and in order to succeed, they would seize on anything that looked like a positive result.
They embarrassed themselves by claiming that any rain that fell within a few counties of their experiments, whether upwind or downwind, was the result of their efforts. They claimed clouds as theirs even when there was no rain.
But the real reason for their failure was that they were trying to produce rain in places and seasons where rainfall was rare. If they had performed their experiments in Greensboro, they'd have had a much greater chance of "success."
Despite the withdrawal of congressional support, their flamboyant methods and their wishful-thinking claims of success were much publicized in the newspapers, so the profession of traveling rainmakers was born. They not only tried the government-attempted methods, but also added various chemical stews, which they boiled to make chemical steam or put into shells and rockets that burst high over the area they meant to bless.
Some of these rainmakers may well have believed, or at least hoped, that their methods actually did something. Yet because rain simply happens, it's probable that sometimes rain will fall reasonably close to the site of a rainmaker's antics, and he can claim success.
The most successful rainmaker in the 1920s would draw up a contract with a municipality, specifying that if X number of inches of rain fell anywhere within a certain area between a certain start and end date, they would have to pay the equivalent of a very good annual income ($10,000, in the case of San Diego, California).
Invariably, his target inches were several below the average rainfall in that locale during that season, so his odds of "success" were pretty good. In the case of San Diego, however, he got more than he bargained for. His mix of chemical emissions apparently worked so well that he brought down a murderous flood of rain that overwashed a dam or two and caused millions of dollars in property damage.
He hid from a wrathful public for a time -- after all, he couldn't very well claim that the flooding was not his fault or he'd be out of business entirely -- and then, when he came to San Diego to collect, they told him they'd gladly pay, if and only if he also covered the millions of dollars of damage from the rain he brought.
The litigation lasted years, and San Diego's case was weak because the contract said nothing about indemnities for an excess of rain. The rainmaker died without ever collecting. Rainmakers weren't the only liars and frauds working the public during that time.
Then Barnett goes on to tell of genuine rainmaking, which wasn't possible until crop-dusting airplanes and equipment were invented. By the middle of the 20th century, scientists had come to understand a great deal more about clouds and rain formation, and they began to experiment with cloud-seeding -- spraying clouds of the right size and type with various particulates and chemicals that could form the kernels around which raindrops coalesce.
This was controversial, not because it didn't work -- it did, to a measurable degree -- but because many people feared that cloud-seeding upwind of them would wring out all the rain and leave them dry.
Fortunately, cloud-seeding isn't all that useful, and remains uncommon, because if you have the right kind of clouds for cloud-seeding to work, they're probably going to rain anyway, so what are you spending all that money for? Besides, the substances being sprayed up there were going to come back down to levels where they might pollute the ground or the drinking water or the lungs of those who breathed them in, exposing the cloud-seeders to a risk of fines and lawsuits.
Here's what amused me most about Barnett's treatment of the pretensions of the would-be rainmakers. She saw how ridiculous it was for "scientists" to claim the random occurrence of rain within a ridiculously large area as proof of the effectiveness of their pathetic efforts. And as she pointed out, there was no control against which to compare -- nobody could say how much rain would have fallen absent the booming and blowing-up of the rainmaking cannoneers.
Yet she went on and treated the even phonier science of human-caused global warming with great solemnity, as if only idiots and liars could fail to believe that carbon dioxide was going to cause calamity.
This despite the fact that global-warming alarmists face exactly the same problem in their fake science that the rainmakers faced: There is no control. They can't tell us what the global temperatures would have been without the increases of carbon dioxide emissions.
There was already a global climate change in progress long before human carbon emissions reached a level where they might possibly affect global mean temperatures. The Little Ice Age of about 1250 to 1850 (people choose different start and end dates, but that's close enough) had caused increases in glaciers, drops in ocean levels (port cities left a mile or more from the ocean), and so much cold weather that crop failures and disease epidemics were common.
But when the Little Ice Age ended, we moved into an era of -- let's admit it -- Good Weather.
While global warming shifts wind and rain patterns, so that some areas suffer bad outcomes from a warming trend, and other areas lose coastline because ocean levels rise, this is a "disaster" that has happened with great regularity for thousands of years.
People simply change their dwelling places.
A constant shift between centuries-long cooling and warming periods has driven history; Genesis shows Jacob having to take his family to Egypt like his grandfather did, because drought was making it impossible to live in the ranges where cattle used to thrive. It has happened over and over since then.
The fall of the Roman Empire was preceded by devastating epidemics that left cities depopulated and land unfarmed -- which always happens during extended cold periods. But then the Medieval Optimum, from about 950 to 1250, brought far better conditions, to the point that wine grapes were being grown in the south of England, something that is not yet workable today despite our not-yet-remarkable warm period.
In other words, we have zero evidence that this temporary warm period has anything to do with human carbon emissions. While it's true that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so that an increase in it is bound to have a warming effect, it is also true that scientists cannot yet measure or even estimate the natural balancing and venting processes that keep global climate more or less regular.
The most important of these is that during warming periods, ocean evaporation increases, and the greater volume of clouds causes more light to reflect out of the atmosphere at altitudes where the greenhouse effect can't trap it. Thus, to some degree, water vapor -- the most powerful greenhouse gas -- also has the opposite effect because clouds are white.
Global temperature is absolutely the result of the amount of solar radiation that reaches the lowest levels of the atmosphere. Astronomy rather than meteorology may offer the best account of the cycle of global warming and cooling. We cannot prove or disprove the idea that human carbon emissions have caused the climate to reach dangerous or even different average temperatures than would otherwise have prevailed.
The only thing that might have supported this is if global temperatures tracked with increases and decreases in carbon emissions, but there is no correlation whatsoever. If global warming were not an article of faith in the religion of Environmentalism, real scientists would regard this failure to correlate as a strong indication that human carbon emissions were relatively trivial in accounting for temperature fluctuations.
Instead, like those rainmaking "experts" in the 1800s, they seize on average warming that was already happening and use it to "prove" that human activities are causing it. Then, in the best tradition of prophets of doom, they keep making predictions of disaster that don't happen.
Not one prediction of the global warming alarmists has come true. A stock portfolio manager with a track record as bad as theirs would be selling shoes or running a movie studio by now.
Yet a sensible, talented author like Cynthia Barnett can write about fake science like the rainmaking experiments and recognize all the logical and methodological errors in their well-meant but ridiculous efforts, while never even examining the methodology (and outright fakery and puffery) of the global warming alarmists.
It's easy to recognize the bad science of the past, while ignoring the wishful thinking of the present. Global warming alarmism is so useful in trying to further the agenda of destroying the global industrial economy, which true-believer Environmentalists regard as a desirable outcome, not in spite of but because of the drastic reduction in human population that would ensue.
Such are the times we live in. It's easy to see the absurdity of beliefs and practices of earlier and inferior cultures; it's always harder to detect the absurdities of common beliefs in our own time.
So I don't regard Cynthia Barnett's blind spot about global warming as a particular flaw in Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. Just as with racism in writings from before 1960, when stupidity is endemic in the culture it's unfair to point out particular writers and hold them responsible for going along with the witchcraft and humbuggery of their day.
After all, it isn't Barnett who's trying to criminalize good science by creating an Inquisition to punish scientists who question the dogma of global warming. She's just repeating the lies she's been told.
How long did it take anthropologists to realize that Piltdown Man was an obvious fake? Because it seemed to play a key missing-link role in the arguments between religious creationism and scientific evolutionism, those impossible bones found in England were not debunked for forty-five years, during which time many scientists wrote of Piltdown Man as an important discovery in the study of human evolution, on a par with Peking Man and Java Man and Neanderthal Man.
When there are ideological reasons to cling to fake science, scientists, being human, often leave ridiculous lies on the table as if they had some truth content. But at no time since Galileo has the insistence on fake science been so dangerous to the practice of science as a whole as the Global Warming Inquisition is today.
And books like Barnett's, that treat global warming as a settled fact when it hasn't yet been subjected to anything like rigorous scientific examination, do the same job as the newspapers that spread the word about every rainmaker in a distant state or county who had been "proven" to be able to bring rain.
Never mind. I mean really, never mind. Barnett's book is a good one, within its limitations, and even though the Outer Banks of North Carolina are not under ten or twenty or forty feet of water, as should already have happened according to the predictions of global warming alarmists, and there has been no increase in storms or decrease in worldwide vegetation as predicted, we can still enjoy the vast majority of Barnett's stories about rain, giving us a fresh look at a natural phenomenon that we take for granted except when umbrella shopping.
Because I've used the word a couple of times in this essay -- correctly -- but have recently listened to several audiobooks where it was used wrongly, let me point out that one event is a phenomenon, while multiple events are phenomena. Recently I've actually read books and articles in which the authors flipped those, using the "na" ending for the singular and the "non" ending for the plural.
Please. Please. If you can't remember that the singular is "phenomenon," don't write about "a phenomena" or "the phenomenas" or "all those phenomenon" or any other such absurdities.
Just say "event" and "events." It's not a perfect synonym, but at least it doesn't make you sound hopelessly uneducated.