Assemble! …For What Purpose?

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Moving to West Virginia and living high in the mountains this last year has been a great challenge for me in many ways. I’ve been grateful for my wife and my in-laws who, after a bit of a rocky start, have been a great help for me in acclimating myself.

For example, the roads up here made me seasick for the longest time. The altitude got me because I was used to a much lower elevation. I was kinda prepared for the small town/wild living environment. It’s like living in Northern Wisconsin or the UP, but with mountains instead of lakes and bigger grades on the roads. Winters are nicer though, and the altitude helps with the summer.

…BUT… there’s been something spiritual gnawing at me. Not just work worries or Covidiocy inspired anxiety. No. It’s something spiritual and deep and unrelenting.

Why did God bring me down to this place? I felt, and still feel, like something is on the verge of bursting out in this place. A good, productive, and decent thing is hiding just under the surface, but is being held in check by apathy and hopelessness that I find rather disturbing. For months, I wasn’t sure what was going on or what I was sensing. I saw needs for improvements to the area, but was told that’s the way it always was. I hate that answer now.

My father joked that maybe God sent me down here to be a community organizer of some sort. To which I told him to ‘bite his tongue’. We laughed, but as the weeks rolled on, I started worrying that he may have been speaking something much more prophetic. I started worrying if this was not God speaking something through him. I don’t want to be a community organizer. It’s associated with so many people that have done the world great harm in the name of “the greater good”.

So that happened and I kept pondering.

I also have begun going to my wife’s church, and well… that’s been a bit more of a culture shock to all parties involved. The Darling Bride has said that I’m like a big boulder dropped into a small pond. Her assessment hasn’t been wrong. These wonderful people sure haven’t been able to make out whether I’m fish or fowl at times. I keep telling them I’m not going to ever be a Baptist, let alone a bad Baptist, but I’m Christian and fiercely faithful, even if it’s anti-denominational apostolic in nature compared to theirs. (Although “recovering Lutheran” is another good description for it.)

It’s also not been that easy for me either. I get all itchy and discombobulated with the cultural/religious aspects of the church. Sunday School in my experience was for the children, not the adults. The idea of “Three to Thrive” every week leaves me squirming. And of course the mantra “You need to be in church every time the doors are open” really chaps my ass (to borrow a phrase from Mike Rowe). If you’ve read my books, there’s a lot of Brother Finn in me, just as much as Reimar. But, God has continued to pester me and bid me keep going in spite of it.

So I kept praying and struggling with God as to why here? Why this place? What am I supposed to be doing for Him!? In His inimitable fashion and timing, God waited 6 months before revealing the title question.

But first some context. (I heard your facepalms from here.)

My church is shrinking. Dying really. But it has a chance to rebound, so don’t think I’m all gloom and doom here. There is a spiritual dryness going on that is something familiar to me. It is a drifting away that killed my childhood church (which was torn down recently after standing as a centerpiece for the city of Appleton, Wisconsin’s downtown for over a century) by lack of membership. The youth leaves, and the old die off till the remainder blow away.

But they’re fighting! Fighting hard to figure out how to bring people back and bring in the youth. So many fled because of COVID and are not coming back to the church. They stay at home and watch online instead. The heads of the church are hollering we need to get people in the pews! Only then will we grow! Special singers and preachers come in, discussions are held about a new youth ministry… But really, there is no growth. “Do not forsake the assembly!” they cry. “Do not forsake the assembly!”

And that’s when I heard it. “For what purpose?” came the whispered question.

We are assembling, but why? What mighty cause was the church taking up? What projects were happening under their watch? How were they leading the community? For what purpose was this body of Christ called together to serve the Lord? I’ve come to realize that a community needs a purpose to exist. Sitting in pews and listening to sermons 3 times a week and singing badly to hymns is not a draw, it’s rote. I talked to the deacons to ask what sort of projects were going on in the community right now? We’ve hosted missions groups, but what else are we as the church body doing? The answer was “nothing”. That’s when I realized the depth of what God was pointing out to me. The church I went to had no purpose for being anymore.

I asked my wife when the last call came in announcing another member died when the last wedding was before ours? Almost a decade. So again, I had pestering me, “Assemble for what purpose?”

My church and community right now may be a valley of dry bones, but there is something wonderful and big here just below the surface waiting to burst forth like a fresh spring from the rock. All it needs is for Moses to obey and touch the rock with his staff. (No I’m not making such grandiose assumptions about myself, but the metaphor is accurate. Someone must take their staff and touch the rock.) So we’re back to that whispered question which in the weeks since has become even more strident. Militant even.

“ASSEMBLE FOR WHAT PURPOSE!?”

We must all be asking ourselves this same question as we struggle against the rising tide of Mass Formation Psychosis (COVidiocy) that is sweeping the world. We are swamped with fear porn of the pandemic, of war drums, of supply chain shortages and economic collapse. We have a world where there is serious talk as well as government action taking place regarding the unvaxxed. They are being turned into the new pariahs… lepers of the modern world in a fashion not seen since 1930’s Berlin. To be shunned, hated and removed… if not exterminated by those who have been seduced by the new germophobic global world order siren song.

We, as individuals, or even church bodies can’t fight against such things. These are the powers and principalities contending for the shape of the world. We can only live in what is done and our only weapon there is prayer. Pray for His protection, guidance and providence.

But as we pray, we must start doing something to give ourselves more purpose. A Martha to balance out our Mary. Small things to help prepare for the trials and tribulations to come. We must ask ourselves in our churches this very same question. If we are not to forsake the body, and all seems to be dry bones or dying on the vine, what can we do to reverse this? How can we regain a practical purpose? What is it in the world you and I can control? How can we use this to make our worlds, and by extension our neighbor’s world a better place?

If we are not a light unto the world how can we lead out of darkness? What happens to salt that loses its savor? The Church in general as much as my church must find purpose. Now some are probably thriving, but many are most likely struggling. Many are suffering in the pews wondering why they’re even there. Always sick, never healing.

This is the pathway back to sanity and goodness. To give purpose to assembling as the Body of Christ.

Pray. And ask God to show you what His purpose is for you. Till then, find something you know will make your life and your neighbor’s better. Assembled together, with purpose, even if it’s as simple as having a meal together or picking up garbage from your neighborhood, or planting a vegetable garden to help stave off hunger for those who may be too poor to buy food thanks to inflation or job loss. In serving each other in Christ’s name, we gain purpose and reason that house by house, block by block, can save the world from insanity.

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife – (With Spoilers) A Gushing Atypical View

I went on last Friday, and the above title should say it all. (Happy Thanksgiving BTW)

TL:DR if you don’t go see this movie in the cinema, you are not going to get more quality films like this. It serves as the bridge between what was, and what may come if you show some love for this franchise. So get your buns in seats, people. Buns in seats. See the bloody movie!!!!

I give it a 9/10 because of a few minor things I’d wish they’d had more of and missed opportunities, but that’s like asking for 3 cherries instead of 2 on top of an incredible sundae.

If you want your standard synopsis, this is not the review for you. This is about my experience with the film and my takeaways and why I felt it is a great accomplishment in filmmaking. Roll your eyes all you want, if you are so inclined at my gushing, but again… my personal thoughts/experiences. Just enjoy the squee and thoughts.

First, let me say I am on the trembling edge of being a superfan of this franchise. I will not see the 2016 version because the studio/director/cast make sure I knew what it was: a soulless woke remake with a political agenda first and no care for the fans of the original themes and less respect for the creation of those actors, writers and directors that made the franchise.

If you’re sick of being pandered to by people who see you as nothing more than a buck to pluck, this is your movie. These are your people. With one sentence, they expunge the blight that is GB2016 from the canon and do it with a more inclusive, diverse cast than it was with none of the typical “Look at how politically correct and relevant I am! Love me for checking the right boxes for social justicetm! If you don’t you’re a racist/sexist/homophobe nazi.” The same people who all the while sneer at you… the fan… as a rube to be cheated of your money and love. That alone gave it a lot of extra credibility with me as a fan.

In that regard, I am a purist. I’ve not played the 2009 game which was in spirit (hah!) the actual third movie, and heard very good things about it. Thus making Ghostbusters: Afterlife (G:A) the fourth of the franchise. BTW, there is some harkening back to the cartoon, “The REAL Ghostbusters” and the toy line with the appearance of the gunner’s seat, which is just a blast that even the characters squee over.

G:A has many good scares and leaves an anti-woke nip on the tongue. Just as much as it makes you laugh, you’ll clutch your popcorn. It’s messages are wholesome and affirmative. Evil’s clear and defined, good struggles and is wounded but ultimately victorious. (In another post I’ll toss some thoughts in for the spiritual side for my fellow Christians who wonder about this movie.)

The cast and director Jason Reitman have stated in interviews time and time again, this movie is about family. Particularly from what I saw, a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, and struggling with old wounds that must heal for the sake of the living. JR was uniquely placed as the only man capable of having the tools and the talent to save this franchise. He grew up surrounded by this franchise. (He even is the snotty kid in the birthday party laying into Winston and Ray in Ghostbusters II.) To him, as well as Akroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson, plus Weaver and Potts, this was a passion projects and work of love. It was sad that Rick Moranis could not come back, but he is retired from acting and firmly so. God bless you, Rick, you were missed, but we understand. You hear this from cast interviews on press junket all the time, but for the first time, I actually believed them. This gives the movie a heart you won’t find from other reboots/restarts/re-envisions that have come out.

What is this movie to me? Good hearted, in many ways wholesome, family entertainment like we used to get in the 1980’s. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is completely dependent on the original film, it would be the superior film.

From the opening credits when I heard the iconic piano trill, I personally was in a state of squee till the final “For Harold” at the end… and then for the mid and post credit scenes. STAY THE WHOLE MOVIE OR YOU MISS IMPORTANT DETAILS! There were at least 3 audio call backs in the credits alone which made me smile so wide it darn near bisected my head. My wife was laughing at me just as much as she was the film because of my reactions and bouncing in the seat.

By the time the film was over, I was crying happy tears as well as feeling the loss of both Egon Spangler and Harold Ramis. Something to note, this movie is a sign of healed wounds between Ramis and Murray as well as the rest of the cast who lost so many opportunities with each other due to the feud. It was a treat to see. In Harold’s memory, all things are made right again.

The opening sequence is the death of Egon being very heroic. It is terrifying in so many ways. Even more so, if you are a fan going in. You know what is going to happen and it’s unavoidable. You can smell it and dread the result the entire time, but it must come. It was handled beautifully, setting up the movie without a single word. I admit, it got me verklempt.

The new faces of Phoebe, Trevor and Callie… the estranged human detritus of Egon’s vanishing and death in mystery are on point if you want to be realistic. Through the movie, you see the wound of Egon’s departure. left because nobody understands why he left suddenly. (A point driven home with a sledgehammer later in the film by Ray Stantz in a conversation on the red phone.) They are fully realized and have their own story arcs to complete.

Granddaughter Phoebe’s is the anchor of the film, and she struggles with the awkwardness and social alienation brought about by being hyperintelligent, and an awkwardness that smells remarkably like a child knowing they have autism/aspberger’s and fighting hard to cope. Her awareness makes it touching. Older brother Trevor tries to help her because he sees how special she is, but is not equipped to help. In an attempt to connect, Phoebe cracks what I call “dad jokes” in an effort to connect with her peers. They’re real groaners and you love ’em. But one in particular had me howling for an inordinately long time. Watching Phoebe cracking these jokes in the face of Gozer leaves you both laughing and cringing in fear once again of what could possibly happen. Reitman utilizes Alfred Hitchock’s theory on suspense perfectly. You the audience know there’s a bomb under the table as the characters sit down for dinner and you’re praying they get out alive. That’s serious craft.

Podcast, a plucky boy who becomes Phoebe’s only friend at summer school (why they were in summer school was kinda fuzzy to me. I may have blinked or laughed to long to catch the reason) is a weird and endearing character. He’s a surrogate for the audience with trying to comprehend the mystery of what’s going on in Summerville. Podcast possesses such an innocent joy at all things new, seeing everything with unjaded eyes, is refreshing. He’s definitely a fun “Mini-Ray”, wearing Stantz’s old goggles for so much of the movie made me smile. (When he clicks the goggle’s polaroid and you watch the old picture shoot out the side which he uses to fan himself after the excitement of the proton pack’s first successful test, I just howled with laughter. Yeah, I’m that guy in the theater.) Because Podcast sees himself as a possible social media influencer, his silly commentary for his podcasts are wonderful. One part clueless, one part kid at play, one part marketer. You can’t help but love a kid brave enough to lick ectoplasm. The chemistry between him and Phoebe has spots of puppy love at its finest. My singular complaint about this character is you never learn his real name.

Callie Spangler’s damage from Egon’s estrangement is more subtly expressed at first, but builds. Callie embodies abandonment and her inability to relate to her father’s super-science brain and iconoclastic behavior has devastated her all the more. She was a typical girl in the shadow of a genius even his peers and friends couldn’t understand. Her mother (who is not Janine, and clearly there is some bad blood toward Egon, judging by Callie’s reaction, is out of the picture,) must have hated Egon as well for leaving. Because of the pain, she has expunged her father from her children’s lives. The lingering question of “why did he abandon me?” is essential to her character. One single line encapsulates her resentment and bitterness when going through the “Dirt Farmer’s house” (the name all the locals knew Egon by) saying “Huh. Not a single photo.” You see she believes that Egon forgot about everyone who loved him and never really cared. When Phoebe is on the trail of the ghost of her grandfather in the middle of the night, you see Callie in the background passed out drunk at the kitchen table after clearly struggling with what to do with their lives. I suspect this will resonate with many viewers who grew up in a split/divided home where a parent left. I can attest friends who had divorced parents exhibited many of the same traits to one degree or another. But when Callie finally learns the truth over what’s going on, and sees that all the pictures were in Egon’s secret lab (complete with firepole, because of course it has one) she sees how much he loved her, and how much attention he paid to her life. He just couldn’t afford to be there because Egon was literally saving the world on a daily basis while the planet was in blissful ignorance.

There’s a very touching scene between Phoebe and her mother Callie where the girl demands “Why didn’t you tell us our grandfather was Egon Spangler?” You see the wounds on both character and for a second you feel it with them. It makes their reconciliation at the end all the more powerful and will put you in tears if you’re a romantic so-and-so like me.

Trevor, has the most ordinary, and least interesting arc which helps make the film more real. As I thought about it, this is not because they didn’t know what to do with him, but lay in what furtive interests a 15 year old boy would have. Girls and cars. Possibly in the reverse order. He chases the cute girl at the local drive-in the instant they hit Summersville. Her name is Lucky (or is it a nickname?) is the unattainable girl. All the boys know it and mock Trevor for trying. He lies to get a job at the drive in, just to be near her. Which gives him entrance to her circle and connection to the greater story because of some teenage hijinx.

But it’s Oklahoma, so he needs a car to have independence. This ain’t NYC. One of the few places in the world you can live your life without owning a car. That means getting one of the junkers left by his grandfather’s working again, and of course that would be Ecto 1. He has no clue what an iconic vehicle he has thanks to his mother expunging all things Ghostbuster and Egon from his life. This is so grounded and real you wonder how he gets involved. It’s through Ecto 1 that Trevor becomes involved in the mystery and insanity that is growing around his sister, and ultimately to him being one of the team to stop Gozer.

Then there’s Gary Grooberson. Paul Rudd, when he got the part was so excited he couldn’t help but release the fact that he was cast in the movie. The actor’s personal reaction as a fan at seeing a genuine trap is a palpable. I love the fact that he connects with Phoebe first, and then Callie second. You can see that he has a certain amount of hero worship toward the Ghostbusters that rose tints his vision toward them, but at the same time makes him more sincere. He is the missing piece to their family, even if none of them realize it. The dialogue between him and Phoebe and Callie are some glittering jewels. Rudd also gets the joy of many call backs to Rick Moranis’ character Louis Tully, but also driving the stake through the heart of GB2016 with the singular line “There hasn’t been a ghost sighting for 30 years.” BAM! DONE! I cheered even though nobody else in the theater did because I doubt they realized what just hit the citadel of wokeness, and sank their agenda boat in one salvo. (P.S. this is why the critics are raging.) I will admit on his date with Callie, I got very scared when he started talking about fracking. I literally said “Oh, here we go” and gritted my teeth. But then Callie takes the piss out of it, which Gary detects and says “Are you that drunk or am I boring you?” Bye bye environazi narrative. We the audience were right along with Callie on that MEGO (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over) expression. The beauty there was that Reitman then uses this as a segue into how Callie can’t connect to Phoebe, but Gary can. That’s some good writing right there.

Lucky was the only character that I felt was more or less a prop. Not for the actress’ part. She does a stellar job in what she’s given. She is the “Love Interesttm“. I did like the fact that she was the police chief’s daughter too. She has a bit of street smarts but used for more comedic effect, despite being “third generation dump” stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I think a lot can be done with her moving forward, since any sequel now (which from what I understand is greenlit, and Sony wants to create the “Ghost Corps” cinematic universe) they will all be college age and can do so much more. Again, if Lucky is her nickname, give her a real name. Someone I did want to see a little more resolution to was why did the whole police department disappear when the ghosts started showing up? You don’t even get a hint of where they were or what they were doing as spooks invaded Summersville. Again, one of the rare rough spots that could have been solved with a 5-15 second shot of deputies or the sheriff trying to deal with the deluge of the supernatural.

The only other missed opportunity and waste of talent I’d give to J.K. Skinner as Ivo Shandor. Although I agree on one level with his fate, I’m going… “Dude! That’s J. K. Skinner, man! You gotta do something with that talent!” Oh well, back as a spirit next movie! Jason Reitman, are you paying attention?

Seeing the old faces come back… and some looked very old as 35 years will do… was heartwarming and touching. I wanted to see more of them, but alas, this wasn’t their movie alone anymore. The next generation must rise up.

This movie is also about sacrifice. And not just for loved ones, but for all mankind. Egon you learn felt a genuine care for all of humanity. Not the happy fluffy “We Are the World”, but in the right to exist and live according to our conscience. He sacrificed his entire life to save the world and forestall the apocalypse Gozer tried to inflict in 1984, and managed to do so till his death when his last gambit failed at the start of the movie. After Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast capture their first ghost, causing considerable damage to the community in the process they’re in jail, and Phoebe uses her one phonecall to contact Ray Stantz. When you hear him say “Egon Spangler can rot in hell, for all I care,” your heart hurts. But as the story unfolds and you learn what Egon had done because he couldn’t get them to see what he knew was coming and had to act, you realize these are metaphors for the rift between the three actors as well. When Phoebe tells Ray that Egon is dead and she is his granddaughter, the regret and pain in Ray’s eyes says it all. It’s a good scene, but I felt it is where Afterlife left the most cards on the table. You hear but don’t see Winston or Venkman, which would have been great to see a few minutes spent of “getting the band back together” with Ray going out and giving these moments a chance to shine. Even including Dana Barret (possibly Venkman?) as they convinced a reluctant Peter to come back for one last time, so to speak would have been brilliant.

I will add that it was great to see the original trio (and then Egon in spirit) coming back does feel a little Deus Ex Machina… but it is a rusty Machina, and Gozer has learned a trick or two and crossing the streams isn’t going to do it any more. Egon burnt that trick out keeping Gozer at bay. It would have been nice to see them get some mentor time with the kids, but I also get it. Pacing and they might dominate the scene too much. Sigh… such are the editing choices one must make for good storytelling.

Something else I want to point out is this movie addresses woke virtue signaling in a way it’s acolytes aren’t happy about. While the cult of woke use the “checkboxes” as a way to supposedly prove their virtue and superiority over the knuckle dragging orange man lovers, this movie checks the same boxes, without making it an issue.
Strong female lead? Phoebe. Check.
Racially diverse cast? Podcast is asian and Lucky is black. Check.
“Alphabet” people inclusion? Gozer is gender fluid non-binary. Check.

Snuck that last one in on you didn’t I? Yep. Gozer doesn’t need a gender and can be whatever it wants to be. BTW, that’s the proper singular pronoun for something that doesn’t line up with a male/female alignment, per the rules of the English language. “It”. If you have a problem, it’s with language (which you don’t have control over) not me.

So there you go. Not only does the movie fix canon, it shows how to do all the virtue signaling right without being obnoxious. No focus is put on this. It just “is what it is”. Focus on the story, not ticking boxes of pseudo offense based on an agenda in your head.

Ultimately, this is a great movie, but if watching some of my more trusted critics out there, I can see that my sentiment is not shared by people who aren’t fans of the original 1984 film. And even then, too many fellow watchers in the audience are not paying close attention. There’s so many details that slide by, that if you’re not attentive, you’ll miss them and it will diminish the experience. Add to that, the hatred for the fans by the “professional” critics working for major media outlets that seem to think all things not in direct service to their political agenda is therefore bad and want revenge for the public turning up its nose at GB2016… well… go and make up your own mind.

That may be why I gush a bit about this movie, and see it as such an achievement, but if you’re not the target audience, or are “meh” about the property, you’re probably not going to care about it. The themes won’t hit, the sacrifice of Egon’s life because of his belief in his life’s work will mean little, and that will diminish your experience.

On the other hand, if you are like me, a fan of the franchise, love the characters this is the sequel you deserved and a chance to see a franchise relaunched in a positive way.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

The Fertile Earth that is Post-Post-Modernism

“And then what happens?”

This is the question I’ve been hearing in my head a lot lately. When talking to other writers trying to get going with their first project, or more importantly, with my own work. It’s the question at the heart of every Stephen King novel (by his own admission during an interview) that drives him to completion. It’s driven me through every tabletop RPG I ever ran. If the characters have a lot of stuff, steal it/break it/lose it. If they are sitting around doing nothing, attack them. Basic D&D fare, but it keeps the players entertained and gives hooks to hang a plot on.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the little brushes I’ve had with Post-Modernist philosophy as I sit there watching the world burn around me in this soon to be Post-Covidiocy world with monetary collapses, market collapses, and the death of western civilization staring me right in the puss.

“And then what happens?”

As a spec fic author, this is really important when I start considering the future. How much of it will be Mad Max? How much “1984” or “Brazil”? Will it be “A Brave New World”? Anyone for “Soylant Green”? Or will it be all of it with a side of “Hunger Games”? My money’s on “A Brave New 1984 in Brazil while having Soylent Green for Tea with Mad Max”.

Photo by Artem Lysenko on Pexels.com

But it’s also got me thinking more deeply on the roots of creativity thanks to a video by “The Quartering” who talked about the new “Cruella” film being a female version of “Joker”. Mind you, I’ve seen the spoilers and went…. really? Not my cup of tea, but at least the fans seem to like it so who am I to criticize too severely (of course to laugh yourself silly, See the “Pitch Meeting” video on Youtube lampooning it… come to think of it, that’s really what got me into the question I’ve been facing lately.

BTW, all this pop culture jargonist mish-mash has been in service to my point today.

What all this spawned in my head lately was this: If Post-Modernist philosophy posits the smashing of the old symbols, semiotics and semantics in which to create new things out of the wreckage (think mashup music, crossover films, retellings, trope twisting and pop culture pile ups like “Ready Player One”… none of which am I criticizing because I LIKE much of these things) at what point are the symbols so broken down that they become the fertile soil for the creation of NEW ideas?

Yes, yes. Stop there now. I know “there’s nothing new under the sun”. This has all been done before. I, for one do not believe that history repeats itself, but lean more to the “but it does rhyme” school of thought. I’ll go so far as to say it will also riff and ad lib too. The broad tropes/genres/mediums will always exist to some degree for they speak to the human experience, but consider the evolution of how mankind reacts. How does it cycle through history? There’s always been horror stories for instance. But what was once cautionary fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm have evolved to slasher films and torture porn of today thanks to mankind’s memory and boredom for the familiar.

So, now that I’ve committed to using up my allotment of “Quotation Marks” for the month… I’ll sort of get to the point of what I’ve been pondering. When will we start seeing some new and “truly unique” creative endeavors in entertainment? When will it stop being a recycling of “Star Wars”, or a perversion of “Superman”? Is it possible to break free from the Pixar Formula? Will we finally be far enough removed from nostalgia porn to want to put something great and new that can thrive on the silver screen instead of just crappy imitations of the masters who came before? Are there any masters left or do we have to wait till we are sufficiently removed from them to finally have new ones show up on the scene again?

How many people know or have read great authors or playwrights from the Roman empire? Beyond Cicero that is, but that also belabors my point. There’s a good chance that the tens if not hundreds of thousands of artists who existed then, and may have created great works are lost to time. Destroyed by neglect or burned up in the destruction of institutions like the Great Library fire. Some may say that’s the same conundrum looked at by sci fi in dozens of books/shows/movies as they try to save mankind from becoming extinct. But that type of extinction seems to be central to existence in this world. Species go extinct. Houses rot away and are reclaimed by the land. We are just dust in the wind, and so are our ideas.

I look at my own work and wonder if it will stand the test of time? In 500 years, assuming the Rapture didn’t happen, will my books be remembered like “Pilgrim’s Progress”? Or even “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Now that would be the real achievement! The real blessing of God. At least in heaven I may know the true impact of my work. But on earth?

I mean, consider one of the greatest films of all time that was on the verge of being forgotten till someone missed the deadline to renew the copyright and it lapsed into public domain: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Thanks to that mistake, the movie was run almost non-stop at Christmas in the US because it was cheap and nobody wanted to work in the TV station on the holiday so it was discovered by a whole new generation of viewers, and was reborn without ever having changed. An artistic resurrection.

So what fertile soil is coming from the grinding down and emulsification of the symbols of western civilization as multi-culti-green-globalism tries to roll over everything? What new fronds will grow up from the digested mass media and symbols that once were considered holy and proud? Even my own “Tales From the Dream Nebula” is supping on small pieces and inspirations from dozens if not hundreds of sources, drawing itself a new vitality from the loam of creative history. Am I making something new and fresh, or am I making a mosaic out of the pieces of entertainment symbols as I dance in the graveyard garbage dump that is the current state of pop culture?

Early in my writing endeavors that I realized there was a chance my books would be my only bid for immortality in a world where there is no immortality. With no prospects for progeny, this was where I would grasp the mane of eternity and attempt to hang on as long as I could. But in the end, just like every artist that came before me, how long would it be before I was forgotten. Would it be the day after I died and my manuscripts were thrown into the trash? Would my tombstone wear away in the rain? The internet is not forever. It must have electricity and human desire to persevere… or would (as some would believe… not me) some A.I. rise up and delete all of man’s history in a microsecond? None of us know for sure, but we who create all hope to be the exception to the rule, and are re-discovered like “Beowulf” or never forgotten like Homer’s “Odyssey”.

So we circle back to the original question, but now standing on top of a giant societal “Butte Des Mortes” and cry out to any who will listen:

“And then what happens?”

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Into the High Places… For Real

Well, the last few months have been crazy…

…Even for me.

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For the last few months, not so productive. Yes I’ve gotten some editing done, but I’ve been distracted. More precisely, I’ve been a bit… twitterpated. Some have accused me of being besotted. It’s unfortunately sapped a lot of momentum from my writing. But twitterpation is a darn good reason to not write much.

That’s because there’s wedding bells in my very near future, and with it, I am relocating. Yes, I’m leaving this land of lakes, cheese and beer with a big “O yah! See yah lader, den!” as we who are fluent in Yooper would say. And with that, I’m headed to the mountains of West Virginia to live with my soon to be wife. I wish my departure from the Badger State wasn’t so convoluted, but with Covidiocy running rampant and civil liberties being obliterated by panicked sheeple driven by power mad wolves in politicians clothing… well. Let’s just say the timing could not have been more fortuitous.

So I’m off, and hopfully when the dust settles in… :::whistles low::: 30 days, I will be building a new routine. One that hopefully includes a LOT more writing. Here’s hoping!

So what’s been going on?

Ohhhhh… A little of this and that, but primarily, I am up to the 3rd draft of TWO novellas. Yes, the Dream Nebula is taking shape. There are a few big opportunities coming with that I may have mentioned, or hinted at. I can’t quite reveal yet, but I will say this… I’m looking for an artist skilled in not only doing character ship design, but also sequential art. So if you’re one of those types of people who’s an accomplished/previously published comic book artist and is looking for a project to work on next, get in touch. Not kidding. If your style is right for what I’m about to dig into, I want to talk with you!

(Yes I know I said I was starting the 3rd novella shortly… see the above distraction/twitterpation explanation. It’s still coming. We’ll just see about when.)

And due to current world events, I’ve been getting an idea for a set of short stories. The idea had bubbled in the back of my head off and on for a while, but maybe it’s time I try my hand at flash fiction. You know, short stories/scenes/vignettes in this world I have coming pecking at me.

So, let’s see… getting married, moving, novellas, ummm…. flash fiction ideas…. what am I forgetting?

AH! oh yeah. Akiniwazisaga. Good news. Thanks to my computer frying it’s cooling block last week, I had to get back on my backup “Wee Beastie” and use it while waiting for it to get fixed. When I did that, I found a LOT of information I thought I’d lost, including maps and many other things.

As for music, I’ll be posting some new stuff sooner or later here. I finally got some made into video format. Why Propellerhead Reason won’t directly export into that format is beyond me! Ugh! Just requires a little editing and we should be good to go.

So that’s the news from the land of the mad, and this Cheesehead is going into exile… or becoming an expatriate for good. Only time will tell. So till the next update which will be coming at a much higher elevation and farther south in the hollers and the hills… This version of the song fits my bittersweet but looking forward to a joyous future mood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwpXjtK5m20

Realm Makers Conference 2020 Public Event: Realm Awards Ceremony!

Thanks to the pandemic, RM2020 has gone virtual, and this means the Realm Awards Ceremony (which used to be a banquet full of cosplay and other fun stuff) is open to the public!  When?

TONIGHT @

Ever been interested in what a bunch of sci fi creatives do when massed in one place, even if virtually?  Now’s your chance!

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/realmawards2020

You may see a lot of authors (*other than me) you are familiar with there, chatting away!

Come on in, and see what it’s all about!

Cross Post from Realm Makers Group

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Cross posting for those Christian Speculative Fiction writers thinking about attending Realm Makers Consortium next year, but are feeling too insecure to do so:

~~~~~

Okay, I will admit here, I was in the same spot when they announced for this year’s conference. This was my first writers conference of any kind and a lot rode on whether or not this went well. I hemmed and hawed the first time I looked over the itinerary. I didn’t know why I should bother.

I’m a stone introvert after all, hate crowds and generally have a low tolerance for several things in life. I have many coping mechanisms, but they all lead me drained and wanting to hide under the bed with dust bunnies to comfort me. (That’s why you never saw me at the after party kinda stuff. I was face down and foaming in my bed lest I was something other than my coping sunny faced insanity)

But… I had a very caring editor yell… literally yell at me and say go. So I signed up. No clue what to do, I just closed my eyes and said okay. I do not for one second regret it. I decided that I’m going to leave all my anxieties at home, force myself to drive 8 hours… through Illinois… and meet people and maybe possibly learn something that might help me grow.

I also made a conscious, terrifying decision that I was going to talk to people I normally would never dream of doing so. If someone looked scared like I felt, I’d reassure them. If someone talked to me, I’d screw on a smile and put myself out there to be embarrassed and maybe rejected because I had NOTHING to lose. If it all failed… pffft. I go back and hide in my cocoon and have learned a valuable lesson. I had to believe or at least pretend to believe that just about every person new there felt the same way.

Even as the ‘point of no return’ for registration and backing out of the hotel came up I still almost cancelled. But I didn’t. You will not regret it. One of the editors on the opening night panel (I think it was Steve Laube actually… the Dream Crusher for those of you who were there) said that Realmmakers is a “safe place to fail”. It is. It is the most welcoming place I have had to fail at. To have people you never expected to like your cockamamie idea to squeal with joy and shout “COOL!”

There is little more gratifying and soul soothing than that. Even if you haven’t published, but are trying to get published…. you have no excuse. There is a significant and loving portion of Realmies that are in the same boat as you! Team up! Encourage each other! You never know when your story may be what is needed to push another out of the valley of their own self doubt and despair and God has said “I am delegating this task to you. You are the only one who I can trust do this right. No pressure. You got this.”

So… next year… if you have the cash to do it, can manage a way to clear life out of the way… GET HERE! If for nothing else, you learn you are not alone. This FB group pales in comparison to the intensive therapy you get when meeting these people in person. (no offense guys, but you’re better in person)

There is nothing more valuable to lose than what you gain by showing up, sticking out your hand and saying “hello”. Sit at a table at breakfast and ask someone you never met before to sit down and break bread (or eggs and bacon. Lots of bacon) with you.

There. All excuses erased.

See you there next year.

 

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The Last Jedi & The Importance of Satisfying Your Audience

Or:  “Because… Reasons/Script/Girl Rule/Boys Drool/SJW/$$$$”

So…  Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

 

You have been warned.

 

Over the last week or so, I’ve thought a lot about The Last Jedi and I have to say, my enjoyment of the film has decreased with time.  When I left the theater, I would have given it 2.5 stars.  Not great but entertaining.  As I thought of the implications of the activities of the story, I got more and more grumpy with it.  Now I’d give it 1.5 stars.

Why has my impression of the film dropped like this over time?  Many reasons, but I’ve noticed since I started writing, my standards for writing has gotten higher.  So what were the specific reasons?  Here’s where the spoilers start.

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Mary Sues…. Mary Sues everywhere!

Let’s face it.  We all expected Princess Leia to manifest something of the force sooner or later.  But to survive having the bridge of the ship she was on blown up around here, surviving the blast, being thrown into space, start to freeze, then force pull herself back into the ship and open the door…. ummmm…..  NO.  Just F-ing no.

Then there’s Rey.  Sure she has some skill with her staff, we saw that in the first movie.  We get the impression she knows how to fight.  But to suddenly go full Neo (I know kung fu) with no real training?  Not to mention have such a manifestation of the force so powerful that Luke is just about pooping himself?  She’s force pulling and pushing.  Grabbing for light sabers in a way that took Luke training to pull off, and she’s doing it with nothing, and being equal in power as Darth Emo?  I mean Kylo Ren?  Again… NO.  F-ing no.

Rose (why the hell are you even in this movie) who was a plumber… A PLUMBER suddenly being able to pilot those skimmers and make a death defying save of Finn?  Come on… really.  (Of course, Finn was a Janitor who can suddenly pilot all manner of craft like and expert becauseeee…. reasons?  It’s in the script?  Because Girl-Power!

:Facepalm:

And of course, Vice Admiral Holdo single-handedly, with one jump at lightspeed with a cruiser destroying a superdooper star destroyer and a dozen others in the First Order’s fleet?  Well, hell son!  Why not do this all the time?  They could have just done this to the Death Star and won with the loss of one ship and Alderran would have been saved!  The Rebellion had cruisers then.  Just go full Kamikaze and be done with it.  She goes from incompetent Bee-eye-tee-see-itch wasting ships and lives (blaming Poe in the process for getting them into this mess) to savior with little to no reason as to why.  Again… What the fuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!???!!!!  (And they got the cruiser trim without an auto pilot?  pffft)

Mary Sues destroy stories.  No movie can survive four of them, particularly when one goes full martyr too.  Not to mention when every single boy (for there are no men in this film, only stupid smelly boys) is nothing more than comic relief and a foil for the women.

2. Darth Gollem… I mean Snoke goes down like a chump.

Okay, now this is just a cheap way out of good writing.  I fully admit I larfed in surprise as he gets skewered and then CUT IN HALF by Kylo pulling a fast one on him.  The problem?  Darth Emo would not be capable of pulling a fast one on Snoke like that if he was as truly the puppet Snoke claimed.  This is bad because there is almost no indication in the story that Kylo’s free will and desire to be good is actually growing.  I mean even in Darth Vader’s conversion you got more of a tip off in that even his body posture showed he could not tolerate watching the Emperor kill his son.  Kylo?  Nuthin.

What makes this more egregious is that Snoke was to be this huge badass that seemed more powerful than Darth Sidious ever was.  So here’s movie one.  Big setup… BIG set up… then zortch!  He’s dead.  Now if he’s not dead, they better come up with a fantastic reason as to how, and then pay it off.  I mean this is the equivalent to finding the secret tunnel to the final boss fight on level one that the game developers forgot to remove, typing in the cheat code and killing the boss in 30 seconds.  Not good, and that’s what happened IMNSHO.

You can’t build up a big bad guy and then take him down after only one monologue and a show of relatively superficial force… joke not intended.

3. Bathos killing Pathos at every turn

Every serious moment was undercut by something humorous, or worse, the lack of courage for a new generation character to be killed is given the “just a flesh wound” treatment.  Admittedly, Poe trolling General Hux in the very beginning was quite funny and well done.  There were a few other humorous points too, like Luke brushing gravel off his shoulder when the AT-ATs fail to kill him… a funny Eastwood-esque moment worked well.  But there were so many other times where relief was subverted by humor, or noble sacrifice subverted by G.I. Joe Red/Blue laser writing.  Finn was in a point to go out a real hero and cement his place in lore history, but no.  Rose stole that moment in a Mary Sue level save for the guy she had the hots for so we can get a trendy cute puppy love kiss.  Shucking foot me.

4. Speaking of Lore… Let’s just crap all over it while leaving the audience in the dark.

Now some of this was explained in a video by a Star Wars super-fan that many of the things that left the audience wondering why or how things happened were in the extended media, but left out of the film.  Okay, yeah.  I get that.  Small problem.  I’m not buying the dozens of related materials just to figure out what happened.  If I can’t tell why it is so from the movie, tha’s crap writing, y’all.

But here’s the real travesty.  Big spoiler… REAL big.

Luke dies because…. reasons!  I know I’ve said this three times this blog, but holy crapsnacking porgs on a stick!  So, how does Luke survive the standoff with the AT-ATs?  BTW, you see almost all of their footage in the trailer… weak Disney, very weak for something so cool.  He’s doing galactic range force projection of himself.  So he isn’t even there, and cannot be run through with Kylo’s Lightsaber and die.  Ergo, he died because the plot said so… and Disney obviously wants to shove the original trilogy out of the way so they can go on making a new SW film every friggen year with new characters.  Han was killed because Harrison Ford said he should have died in Return of the Jedi.  Sure, I can see that.  But to have him go down like he did in Force Awakens tarnishing his legacy as hero to one of failed father and a bit of a deadbeat loser badboy a princess fell for and a broken and messed up kid who ultimately kills him because Darth Emo is all angst-ridden. (Your name is Ben, we named the dog Kylo)  Don’t get me wrong on this one point though, I like Adam Driver’s acting.  Guy’s good.  He’s easily the best portrayed character, but that says how good an actor he is for the crap he has been given for lines and characterization.

But to treat Luke as a broken and failed Jedi trainer who tries to murder Kylo as a child out of fear?  Just wow.  Mark Hamill was right to criticize this plot.

5. The biggest reason:  Wasted Potential

When I was watching the film, I saw so many huge potentials for really good twists.  Also, there are ways for Ep. IX to redeem the movie, but honestly, I don’t think they would or the public should let them off the hook so easily.

Potential 1:  The Weapons Dealers being the real source behind the war (Oh and way to piss me off, Disney, for having the word “RESISTANCE” be the only word fully capitalized in the opening crawl.  Way to telegraph for the SJW’s out there in the age of Trump)    That said, it would have been a very interesting direction to go, and make it believable how the First Order and the Resistance kept having access to a seemingly endless ability to wage war across the galaxy.  Seriously a good idea, new villians could be introduced and a war behind the war would have been refreshing.  But alas, I’m certain that will be ignored as a throw away commentary on American Imperialism and proxy wars.

Potential 2: What if we threw a war and nobody came?  If you had it where the destruction of the First Order’s fleet and the death of Emperor Snoke as well as the complete eradication of the Resistance’s fleet was the end of the war?  Called on account of no materiel left to fight with?  They called for help, but nobody came.  Not even Luke did really.  This again, opens the door for a more sneaky covert spy thing, as well as the scramble to fill the power vacuum.  Who’s next in line for controlling the galaxy?  The Hutts?  Any of a dozen factions or races from extended lore?  That’s some of the most interesting stuff there instead of painting ourselves into a corner with only having two small factions (or are they really that small and if so, we should give zero foxes about this entire movie because the losses aren’t that important) slugging it out.  Ben Shapiro said it best that Disney painted themselves in the corner by making the First Order being only a repeat of the empire when all new land could be cultivated and even our old favorite characters would need to find their place in it.  Newp.  We just got lather rinse repeat with a smidgen of new fan service and old fan kiss offs.

Potential 3:  Rey and Kylo rule the universe.  What if both of them joined forces?  They easily could have.  But no, let’s just recreate Luke vs. Vader all over again.  The potential for them to BOTH fall to their own lusts, being that one was on the dark side, and the other having no training…. it was a foregone outcome that they could become the next imperial force.  Or you could have both of them turn on the new Grand Moff Hux.  I still say, despite him giving off the snotty English private school bastard vibe, Hux could become a great villain and they could join the Resistance and fight against him, AND the weapons dealers as the First Order and Resistance fall into ashes creating two new orders to slug it out.

Potential 4: Luke could have redeemed himself.  If given the chance to make right his failures as yoda pointed out, and throw out the Jedi religion as antiquated and failed like Bruce Lee threw out Kung Fu to create Jeet Kun Do, that might have been something truly interesting as well.  They would then have to fight against new enemies as well as the corruptive influence of the Force if given over to their baser lusts personified in the Dark Side.

I do not expect any of these potentials to be addressed or realized.  I think we’re looking at those possibilities in the rear view mirror, n’er to return.

BTW. the Porgs are stupid IMHO, but supposedly there was a reason they’re in the movie that I have not confirmed.  Supposedly they had puffins walking into the shots so often they just CGIed them into Porgs.  If this is true, well played.  If not… another log of WTF on the bonfire.

What has this taught me about my own writing?  Simply put, payoffs and audience expectations.

I expected Snoke to be much more threatening and survive to the next movie and prove the build up we got in The Force Awakens.  Andy Serkis is a motion cap savant and it’s a shame to waste that talent.  So that’s taught me if I build up a villain, even if i just have them lurking in the background I must give them an appropriate conclusion to their own story ark and not throw them out like garbage.

There is only so much subversion of the tropes and mood you can do before the audience gets pissed at you.  You cannot turn every serious moment into a joke like Joss Wheadon on speed.  I remember in an interview about the movie “Iron Monkey” about the tastes of Chinese audiences.  They want a little humor, a little romance, something scary, something to cry about and lots of escapist fun all in the same film.  Because of that, you give them what they want.  You cant jerk them around with pretending to give them a heroic sacrifice of a main character to steal it away in order to preserve the power of the unnecessary sacrifice of a minor unnecessary character (particularly because its a woman).  Don’t manipulate the emotions of the audience with a beloved character’s death, but then to ‘save versus logical outcome because script’!

Do not… repeat DO NOT… violate the rules of your own universe.  mmm mmm… don’t do it.  You cannot go 7 movies without someone doing the obvious, “why don’t I just ram that target as I shift to hyperspace and press the ‘win’ button” only to then do it to create an unnecessary martyr, or any other reason.  This violates a fundamental understanding of the Star Wars universe.  It’s implied collision at lightspeed is bad, but logic dictates that would be the first weapon you’d go to when given the chance.  You just make it into a missile.  So in your own writing, unless you’re willing to spend the time explaining how nobody did it before (too expensive, too unpredictable, too penguiny… whatever)  you don’t do it.

For example in my own setting, the supernatural events (aka the magic system) always has God or Satan behind it.  (or by proxy a demon or angel)  There’s no digging up magic metal or water from the ground.  So that stuff is all physically hard science like we have in the real world.  This can create real pickles for me at times.  It also means that with steam power, you will never see walking machines or steam blimps.  Physics in my setting remain the same as they do in this world, unless a supernatural force from God, Angel, Demon or Satan is involved.  If I violate that, please beat me about the head and shoulders.

There are more reasons why I don’t like the film so much anymore after the fact, but this will do.  As you can see, not thrilled with the new trilogy.  It’s about as bad as the prequels right now and the third movie better pay off YUGE or they ain’t getting my money back any time soon.  Save yourself the cash and see it on some streaming service or rental.

This is not the movie you’re looking for.

Go ahead and comment below if you desire.

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Realm Makers – H. G. Wells Challenge

One of my fellow Realmies put forth this question in our group the other day, and after reading my response, I felt it was good enough to put here too and share with all you fine folks.  It’s Spec Fic, not fantasy, so… there’s that.

Dave Withe’s H.G. Wells challenge to the Realmies.

“If not us, then who?”

I was “blessed” to grow up in the Golden Age of Science Fiction and Fantasy (that’s what they called Sf back in the 1950’s and 1960’s). The hard Sf writers back then foresaw many of the Whizz Bang tech that has transformed the world into what we have today. (NASA was actually working on Faster Than Light travel before the Big O turned NASA into the Muslim outreach agency.)

Question for Discussion:

With your futurist speculative hats on; Starting from existing trends, what kind of Speculative, Whizz-Bang tech can you imagineer for your stories which will revolutionize the world in the next century?

I call it “The Missing Next Step Analysis”, look at today’s capabilities, then extrapolate as much as you can with existing trends until you get to “The Missing Next Step” that can’t be extrapolated from existing technological / biological / Quantum / etc. knowledge.

Then, imagineer something to be that next step.

I started using Solid 3D Holographic Projected Keyboards several years ago in some of my stories; but that’s old news now, a Japanese company is currently developing that technology for commercial release within the next few years.

Let’s see if we can pull an H.G. Wells on the early 21st century world. (he foresaw nuclear power during the Age of Sail you know).

Are we not some of the most innovative inventors of new worlds. Step up your game people. Have done with recycled plot lines and stretch to ask the tough “What If” questions.

Let’s Imagineer the future.

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My predictions of the future are pretty dystopian because I believe socio-economic failings of the globe will rewrite ourselves into a second dark age of barbarism and insanity similar to what came after the Fall of Rome… but worse. This will end up destroying our ability as a species to grow technologically for another 500 years (while saving our souls) till we clamber our way back up to even this level thanks to all the anti-intellectual insanity in the west, and zealous anti-enlightenment barbarism in the rest of the world. The only thing technology is going to do is accelerate the process by which this all happens and the thoroughness of the devastation. To paraphrase Einstein “I do not know by what weapons the next world war will be fought with, but I do know the one after that will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Ultimately, there are very few authors who envisioned what eventually came after their lifetimes. Victor Hugo (Submarine, Moon Landings to name a few) H.G. Wells as has been pointed out, but really there are none off the top of my head that I can point to that predicted future tech with any serious degree of credibility that wasn’t already being imagined in their epoch.

I’ve made this statement before, just not here, that the Spec Fic author is a captive of his time. Look at movies like “Metropolis”, or all the “Red Scare Sci Fi” of the 1950’s before the dawn of space flight. They were all victims of seeing the world through the lenses of the technology of that era. We too suffer the same problem, though we violate Clarke’s Law far more often or we now understand better the idea of technology so advanced it appears to be magic. All be it I’d call it dark magic at this point, and hence my first paragraph.

The older I get, the more I begin to realize that the world of “Thundarr the Barbarian” (pockets of super science and “magic” in the ruins of a world which suffered a global disaster) has almost as much chance to exist as Mad Max or 1984. We humans are too flawed to evolve a utopia. It may work on paper save for that one flaw of having humans involved. I also doubt very highly that AI or any other artificial life will be any more perfect beyond possibly having to eradicate all of humanity for its chance to survive.

The other elephant in the predictive realm is the “unforeseen outside factor”. What if aliens DO show up? What if Time Travel does get invented, or Faster than Light Drive? Things that are broad theory or fantasy that suddenly become reality. 50 years ago, the Internet was able to be predicted. So was nano-technology based on what was going on in that era. But that’s predicting one maybe two generations ahead, and mostly based on straight line predictions, which is ripe for much hilarity. Want proof? Look up the predictions from the first Earth Day in 1970. Cringeworthy. Mark Twain once told a parable on straight line predictions on how the passage from St. Louis and New Orleans by steamboat was shortening by a few hundred yards every year. In a few centuries, he “predicted”, the two cities would be neighbors.

But okay… if pressed, prediction time.
1. This assumes the west doesn’t collapse and technological advancement continues.
2. It also assumes Islam does not win the current 13th Jihad it is waging via immigration and the west somehow pulls it’s head out of its collective ass.
3. That the Deep State Technogarchy remains in power.
4. That Generation Snowflake and self loathing SJWism dies out thanks to objective reality being stronger than subjective madness (see Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings).

A- Advanced nations will begin to devolve as their people, addicted to the internet and social media drop out into VR societies in an attempt to give the yearning for meaning a harmless outlet.
B- Automation increases, driving humans out of the workplace, requiring “A” to control them lest they destroy the powers that be due to idleness.
C- Human civilization grinds to a halt, replaced by AI control, reducing itself to cattle.
D- A slim chance that there will become a symbiosis between man and machine as cyborgs do become the next stage in “evolution”.

Nanofabrication will become household level tech. You won’t have to go to the store. Just buy and download the schematics, and have your home “nanofab” unit which will be the size of a refrigerator or garage workshop size tool, pour in the ingredients like a cake and make it there. You will have freebie apps and plans, as well as name brand sellers. Designing may become the only place left for human employment as men and women are reduced to nothing more than the creative thought processes of a new species. Good times, right?

“I have never seen a miracle of science
that did not turn from a blessing to a curse.”
Sting.

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Gratitude and Progress

So far it’s been a wild week for writing. Six chapters in 6 days including one that freaked me out and made me go “Well, this ain’t for kids anymore.  Nope nope nope!”  Then it’s never been my intent to write YA fiction, but for you hardy, sturdy fangirls and boys of fantasy and good storytelling.  Huzzah!

I think as a “stay-cation” this has turned out far better than expected.  I have another week like this coming up, so I will be getting busy with outlining the final chapters.

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Being the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning here, soup bubbling away on the stove for my post holiday work week and stomach bracing for the onslaught tomorrow in carb laden goodness, (My pancreas curses me, but I think eventual forgiveness will come) I thought I’d bow to peer pressure and say thank you.  To all of you who have bought my book, lent your support and follow this blog, I am grateful.

This is I guess a contrast to the degree of ingratitude I see in the world and how it makes people terminally unhappy to the point in which they desire nothing more than sharing their misery.  I don’t want to be that guy.  I don’t always succeed, but generally no.  It is not my desire to be the monster I sometimes pretend to be in attempts of self depricating humor or currying compliments.  (yes, we guys and writers do it too from time to time.  Human weakness, sue me.)  But in an effort to start the ball rolling in your own reminiscence, here’s what I have to be thankful for.

I am grateful to my alpha readers who have been helping me in my writing, giving me honest critiques and picking me up when the bull throws me and dances on my head for a day or twenty

I am grateful for my job, despite all it’s myriad foibles that drive me crazy.  It keeps me focused and desiring to keep writing if not from a suffering point of view, but from a financial desire PoV.

I am grateful for my health as it is.  I know it is far better than what it could be if I had not started paying attention to it two years back, and although the improvement is slow, I am still glad for what I have.

I am grateful for my friends, the couple I have IRL and the dozens I have online and in my gaming guilds of the Seraphim and Angels of Eternal Destiny.  To that end, I am grateful to have known my buddy on the other side of the world in Guild Wars 2, Flowerypants who passed away this year.  He helped me to realize how fortunate I was for both my life as well as the chance to share deep things around my book in a way I will be forever remembering him.

I am thankful my sister and her family survived Hurricane Harvey and are on their way to full recovery.  Despite all the material loss they suffered (see almost everything) they were all safe, including their cats.  It has been such a warm feeling to see the outpouring of family and friends to pull together and help them in this terrible crisis too.  I mean just staggering.

I am grateful, most of all, for my salvation and relationship with Jesus Christ.  The gifts that he has given me from the night I chose to follow Him, back in 1997.  Well surprise surprise.  It’s been 20 years since I became born again!  I did not realize that till now.  Now that is an odyssey down memory lane.

There are so many more things for me to be thankful for in private, and I hope that most of all I keep remembering to be grateful for them throughout the year, and not just on one day, which when things are going sour is very hard, but the most important time to do it.

So that’s how I feel right now.

Thanks.

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Now, as for what’s been going on with the book.

Pages 339
Words 110739

I’m still suspecting that this book will end up over 150k words, 4-500 pages, and I may just have reached the end of my middle build, or will be in a chapter or two.  Not quite sure yet.  I thought I did, and felt I had a good denouement for what would have been Volume 5 of the series, but now, I am not so sure if I should finish this part of the adventure before considering it such.  Meh, we’ll see.

And the new chapters…

44. Among the Wolves

45. A Dangerous Trade

46. Twelve Fingers

47. Sacrifices

48. Reforging the Iron

49. Hope From Afar

I hope these tantalizing little tidbits are enjoyable for you.  I kinda like dropping the teasers and keeping you in the know as to what the progress looks like.  These have been incredibly intense chapters for me to write, and I’ve been waiting literally months to finally get to this point.  And now that I’m there, I’m taking the deep breath before the plunge, as it were.

Also, I’ve started working on a new map.  Much like what you can find in the first book, you will be able to track a goodly portion of the adventure’s trek through the wilds.  Partially because I think you will enjoy it, but also because I need it to keep my understanding in place to the directions and locations our heroes are visiting.

No teaser draft this time though.  I do that too much and it won’t be special anymore.  😉  You understand.  We’ll see what happens.

Till then, it’s back to the Ondeandkurvfjell for me.

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The Expansive Themes, Subtle Complexity and Luscious Spectacle that is Blade Runner 2049 *No Spoilers*

I just went to see “Blade Runner 2049” and could not help but share my reaction since it sort of relates to us here. I saw it on a regular screen in 2d. I would say upgrade to DLX or whatever super screen you can get. IMAX is never worth it though. 3d? Nothing… and I mean nothing is there to make it worth that price premium. But I don’t like 3d so YMMV.
First off, I’m a huge fan of the first movie.  Favorite movie all time bar none.  I’ve done a previous dissection of the film here.  The Breakers: Blade Runner.  It’s worth a read I think.
Visually it is everything you ever wanted and more. If Rodger Deakins does not win the Oscar, no one this year deserves it. He out does the first film in so many respects but always pays homage.  It is luscious like I said.  You can go from the Film Noir high contrast to the subtle grays and smoke of French New Wave to the loud noisy spectacle of 80’s action films.  All integrated and cohesive.  None feel wrong.  Neon, Fluorescent, “natural” light all his servants.  This is cinematographer porn and your eyes will thank you.
Pacing is slow at times, but it doesn’t drag. It’s very dreamlike, which fits with the first film, seamlessly.  There are long slow shots that just fill in the world so well, you are thankful to have the time to breathe and think on what reveals were brought up.  It was also good to see the world in daytime and in the varied environments of the “Greater Los Angeles” area.  It’s not all just arcologies and wasteland.  You have to see it to understand the scope, and boy is it something!
Themes and subtext… brilliant, staggering and poignant. This move is PACKED with so many concepts and that spawns questions.  I can see why they are not giving away spoilers or trying to explain it. It will pigeonhole and distort what it’s all about. Don’t let other people tell you what it’s about. There’s too much there to think about.  They are layered, deep and sometimes very personal.  This film relies on many conventions of film noir as well as what can be found in cutting edge Japanese cyberpunk Anime (think Masamune Shirow though he’s not a visual influence, just spiritual though it all hearkens back to the themes of Fancher’s take on Phillip K. Dick).  It does not just appropriate from others who followed in the genre it created nearly single-handedly (at least for cinema it did), it evolves and brings it forward into the era it once called the future.
The story is excellent in encapsulating all the above, but has one painful flaw: It’s the first movie of an obvious trilogy. But… at this quality that’s like complaining about “The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Two Towers” needing a third movie to wrap up the trilogy. I really look forward to the expansion of the universe beyond this sequel.  The story itself does stand on its own, but at the end, you have more questions than answers, and I don’t want to give away the biggest question of them all, because it will color your own ideas of the film all the way.  And trust me, I’m fighting really hard to not say it.  Oh… and as a HUGE positive:  no SJW influence.  That’s right.  They didn’t dip down into trendy current political fads or preach any of the current dogma, just like we don’t hear dogma preached from a 1980’s perspective it would be out of place, so that works in big big ways.
Acting, superb. There is obvious chemistry and very well played scenes that draw the emotion out of you if you understand the contextual depth of what is going on. They are subtle, poignant scenes, so don’t overlook them.  I should also say that the interplay between Ford and Gosling made me laugh outloud at times.  They do have some great moments together.
The music pays suitable homage to Vangalis. Never outdoing him per sey, but expounding and enlarging what he did. BUT… I had one complaint in this regards. There are a few scenes where you cannot tell if the music is diagetic or not and it’s very loud and distracting. This was done in the first film to great effect:
…but at the same time, here… it’s hit and miss.  The use of the film’s opening and closing music themes are perfect.  To be fair even the original has two solid misses in it’s musical lexicon: the love theme and the credit theme.  This film does not make those mistakes.  The added music, (much like the 1920’s style ballad in the street corner bar after Zorah’s death, “One More Kiss”) is extremely well done, but using real era stuff.
The material taken from the first movie to be incorporated is incredible. I literally gasped at one of the reveals. I’m super happy with how they accomplished it, and the technical achievements in this manner are marvelous and Oscar-worthy. It’s not what you think either.
A little more nudity (none would have been better) and cussing than I’d prefer, but tolerable.
I should also point out how well it follows the first film.  The violence is never glamorous.  It is sudden, gritty and intimate.  I cannot say it is not gratuitous… but it’s always appropriate and actually the “overuse” in one scene makes you realize the scope in which poor Agent K finds himself is far greater than just looking for a rogue replicant.  The final conflict is thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat.  In many ways this movie is a series of intimate portraits between people in the middle of a grand scene.  That helps keep the movie tight and connected with the audience.
As a semi-spoiler, I did have one thing confirmed that should send raves throughout the nerd community: “Soldier” starring Kurt Russell *IS* set in the Blade Runner universe in the off world colonies. If only they had Ridley Scott producing that film, it would have been much better. If you know the film, you’ll get it when you see it. It ranks up there with the Alien skull reveal in Predator 2.

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Ultimately, this is the sequel Blade Runner deserved.  It is like watching “The Godfather Part 2” in some respects where it fills in the world, expands upon it and makes so many more things whole and important.  Although it is not necessary to see the three attached shorts you can find online, they do help elaborate how we came to the world of 2049.  This is a deep thinking film.  You will ask yourself some questions that most people never even consider.  Do not expect shallow fare to kill two hour and forty-some minutes in idle popcorn puffery.  That will turn off many audiences who aren’t attracted by the nostalgia.There will be many reasons of why this film will be labeled a “flop”.  It can only be considered one if using the mega tent-pole blockbuster measuring stick which has to tick all the focus group boxes that make them thundering bland flash for cash grabs.  This is not for what Blade Runner 2049 is.  Nor is it just self indulgent hipster-poseur art-house pseudo-intellectualism.  So don’t let the inner life of this film pass you by.  It raises some interesting points on where our civilization is going and who we are as individuals, not in a preachy way, but in curious introspection and possibly even a distant warning like storm clouds on the horizon.If I had to encapsulate it all, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10.  Fractions taken off for the nudity, cussing, the fact it is a sequel set up and that little sound issue.  This is a solid R rating too, like the original was (Technically unrated, but that’s quibbling).  Despite these points, he film stands on its own as a wonderful and possibly important piece of art.  It might even aspire to being considered a “great” film some day.  We’ll see.  Not many sequels get a chance to be considered that way.
This one does and is so worth seeing on the big screen.Don’t cheat yourself, go while you can, and bring someone with who can have a long discussion with you afterwords.