Sanitized For Your Protection?

With the book in final review stage, waiting on the cover to go, I’ve been picking at it, finding little stray hairs of errors and cleaning up the glossary of things I should have caught long before.   Then, I had something come to light that forced me to look hard at my creation.

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The Prodigal Son by James Tissiot

One of my reviewers, whom I thank for taking up the task, let me know that the book was inappropriate because of something that happened in it.  Now I bring this up not to bash, nor to seek to shame or take to task, but to help myself and others understand my work.  I keep the book relatively clean.  There are only a couple points where the language gets ‘blue’, but there apparently is one thing in here that someone found unforgivable.  It was put to me the challenge of whether or not I should remove the phrase from the book to make it ‘safe for a Christian audience’.  That caused me to think about it over the course of a day on what was the purpose of the use of the offensive/blasphemous oath.

I asked myself about the phrase.  Was it gratuitous or unnecessary?  No to both.  What the phrase did was set the tone for the kind of environment the characters were about to enter.  It was not a completely safe place and not everyone there were good citizens or Christians.  They were complex fallible people who sinned, but also gives a hint to several things deeper in the future and serves as a warning sign to the reader that not everything is as it seems.  Yes the phrase is blasphemous if you want to strictly adhere to the law violating taking God’s name in vain.  Something that we in modern times are often guilty of dozens if not hundreds of times a day.  But for a sailor in the 16th century… this is right in line with the speech and attitude many had despite being a faithful person.

What I then realized is that the reviewer’s statement was not going to be uncommon.  There will be thousands if not tens of thousands of Christian readers who will see this one statement get very offended and ban the book from their own libraries and possibly others.  I was heartbroken about this realization.  I did not foresee it.  But I also saw the solution.  Remove or soften the phrase.  Now, I’ve done this once before already, and I’m still troubled by it being the right choice.  Is leaving this phrase in the book a hill I want to die on?

I finally realized yes.  It is going to stay and here is why.

Although I want this book to be edifying and uplifting to Christians, they are not my target audience.  It is not primarily for legalists and purists of the faith.  I will be ecstatic if they read the book, get something out of it and love it none the less.  I really hope they do.  If my beta readers and some of my reviewers are good indicators, this will be the case.

The main audience I hope to gain with this book is not just nerdy Christians who have been in the faith all their lives and have never been outside God’s grace like I had been.  This is a book aimed at nerds who have never been exposed to Christianity in this way.  Who don’t want to be preached to.  Those who do not want to hear a sermon and talked down to like they are the sinner and must be saved.  I think I accomplished that even though the characters in it live their faith out loud.  You are talking a monk dealing with ecclesiastical problems who is being punished by his superiors for failing to toe the line and is caught in a crux of the plans of others.

I want those people to find a book that is entertaining… scratch that… I want them to be THRILLED by the book!  I want those Christians who are slipping or doubting their faith or wondering if they are good enough for God to be encouraged by what they find.  I want them to see characters who are not perfect Christians and fail and sin and are hot messes but God loves them and is with them inspite of themselves, while others who seem pious and in God’s good graces to have to take a step back and realize that is not all sunshine they’re standing in.

I want them to the little heresies of life to be evident, because it might inspire someone to look at their lives in a new way.  Under all the entertainment, that is what I want them to find if they look for it.  I want those who have never seen Christianity in the same ‘cool’ lighting and stagecraft before like we so often see paganism, pantheism, atheism and other occult philosophies.  How often have we read fantasy novels or even Sci Fi novels that are chock full of “ancient weapons and hokey religions” and nobody blinks an eye at it being preached and praised?  That’s what I am doing with Christianity.  “Azeroth Metrion Xinthos…” see nobody bats an eye at something that although made up, it stands in for praise of something occult when you boil everything away.  Change that to “In the name of Jesus, demon come out!” and you get the point.

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This also speaks to the other reason I am leaving the blasphemous oath in.  I have a hard time reading most Christian fiction because everything seems to be… sanitized.  Even the villains seem to be only Disney Channel level of menace.  Even demons seem that way at times, but people are sanitized the most.  Nothing that could besmirch the squeaky clean image of the Mouse is there.  A lacquered Jesus that doesn’t even get dusty.  Never do we see the real challenging aspects of faith in a mud and blood spattered mess that is mankind.  I mean even JRR Tolkien is grittier than them and he never cusses or deals deeply about crisis of faith in any of his books, but the people there feel more real than the glossy clean brand image you’d expect with people’s Easter Sunday behavior.  This is what I hope to avoid as a writer, because I want these characters you root for to be relatable because they walked in situations like you have and do on a daily basis sometimes because being a faithful Christian can be hard and we fail over and over again, which necessitates God’s forgiveness more and more.

On the other hand, you can completely gloss over the Christianity and just treat it from a historical POV slapped into a fantasy setting like you would if you watched the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Name of the Rose” (Nobody but crazy literary people and scholars actually read Umberto Eco do they?  I love the movie though!)  The rest you can treat as typical low/historical fantasy with heavy steampunk elements thrown in on top.  Nobody will fault you for it and honestly, if you don’t care about the spiritual stuff, just enjoy the story.  So I pray what I put together actually stands up that way and does not rely on faith and sermonizing to work.  It’s part of the setting and historical context, but I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m evangelizing them deliberately.

That means I now realize even more than ever this book is in God’s hands.  Hell, this whole SERIES will be in His hands!  He’s gonna do with it as He sees fit.  But then again, when doesn’t He?  ;c)

Lastly, I also realized two things that form a viscous worrisome stew in my head.

1. I realized that if this book somehow only ends up on the shelves or pages of Christian Bookstores or online retailers, I will have failed in my mission to deliver something good for nerds and fantasy geeks.  I will have missed my intended audience and gotten my secondary one.  That’s not bad, mind you, but it will go against my hopes.  And I refer back to “God’s gonna God”.

2. I’m probably going to get hate mail from multiple sides over religious purists who will not like my handling of the faith, spiritual warfare or history, despite this is a fantasy and fantasy twist that comes from a historical basis.  It is biased to my understanding and is not perfect as theologians may say.  In fact, I deliberately have mistakes in it because it’s part of the setting and/or based on historical precedents of the medieval Catholic Church and monastic system.  This will piss off legalists who will come up with a laundry list of reasons to hate this.  Ultimately I will unashamedly refer to “It’s fantasy and welcome to the liberal use of Handwavium.” if I must.

But you know what?  I am going to have to learn to deal with it.  I wrote all this because I really felt it appropriate in the book itself.  This novel is what I felt God wanted me to write, and so I’m going to do it the way my understanding guides me and let see what happens.

Just like I cannot pick my fans (thanks artists who demanded Ivanka Trump remove their art from her walls for teaching me that… but did not offer to buy it back.)  I just need to say, “Thank you.  I am grateful that you love my work.” and respect the fact that I touched someone I didn’t intend.  But God knows what He’s doing, and that is what I’m going to have to rely on.

Thank you for reading.

 

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The Breakers: Mad Max:Fury Road -Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Breakers was the original idea for this series title.  Its more of what I was thinking of but derped when trying to name it.

Just for those who didn’t guess it by the title:

spoilers

 

Originally, I was going to write about only one movie, “Something Wicked This Way Comes”.  A gem of a little film and the first horror film that Disney ever really did.  Sure there are scary parts throughout many other films (The Black Cauldron or Darby O’Gill and the Little People), but this one was devoted to it.

What I was going to discuss was the dissection of story with the Hero’s Journey again, but had an epiphany about it while talking to a friend on what I was going to write.

I realized that Joseph Campbell’s “Clock” denoting the 12 main ideas of the Hero’s Journey were handed extremely differently between Mad Max: Fury Road and SWTWC.  I further realized that this is not an isolated thing, save for MMFR.

First, here’s a reminder for those who don’t remember what the clock looks like.

What is this monster realization?

Well, first off, In SWTWC (and also in T5E I looked at last time) is that if you look at the clock, and treated it as proportional time given to a story, proportionally.  On the other hand, when you watch most movies, the first six steps take up well over three quarters of the plotline, leaving sometimes only 15 minutes of a two hour story  (and in some cases even less… I’m looking at you SW:ANW).  For the last three steps (Return, New Life, Resolution) it is somewhat short shrift IMHO.

Furthermore, sometimes half the movie is spent in steps 1-3 and then spends most of the last half shoving through 4-9, while leaving 10-12 hanging.  I realized that I saw this in many films actually, but this is the first time I realized that Roger Miller did something very different from this in MM:FR.  He flipped it to a certain extent.  Now, the setup (Status Quo, Call to Adventure, Assistance and even Departure) are all crammed into the first 15 minutes, while the ending four slices of the clock take up almost 30-40 minutes on their own.  Even better that it works astoundingly well.

Mind you, Roger Miller got to cheat a little.  He was not establishing anything new.  If you were going to this film you had either seen all of or at least some of the previous movies so you knew what the status quo was.  In such an apocalyptic setting, it didn’t take much for him to get that call to adventure, nor help… though he does get it twice (The first when Nux demands him up front on his car and the second when Furiosa includes him on the escape getting him to drive the war rig)

The best part of this film is that it pays off with an all in royal flush even though a lot of the action occurs after a lovely trick of a “Lesser Reward”.  They are already looking a “New Life” and ready to start their resolution when Max shows them a greater reward and that is to reverse the “Return” and try to stealth by Immortan Joe and the rest and steal the coveted green space from him.  I am not sure if this is a pushing back of the clock to the “Crisis” point again, or an expansion of the Return.

But with them going back regardless of how you look at it, the return, is fraught with its own peril akin to the “Result” on steroids.  Immortan Joe is defeated… messily, they take the citadel and begin their new lives, with only Max deciding to be Max in the end.  Oh well.  Helloooooo new sequels!  (Which apparently are already started).

Such a bad trailer… I mean wow.  Marketing really didn’t know what to do.

 

On the other hand, SWTWC spends almost 30 minutes setting up the Status Quo alone.  Now, this is definitely NOT a poorly spent 30 minutes.  It is immersive and very much a pleasant departure to a pastoral 1930’s small Illinois town that is somehow untouched by the Great Depression.  It’s one of the first times you will see a writer “Chew the Scenery” like Ray Bradbury does, and Disney lets him get away with.  Some of my favorite in cinema.  It sets up the dichotomy between the evil that is coming and what I think so many of us wished we still lived in.  Not only that, the “Call to Adventure”, “Assistance” and even the Departure almost take a full 50 minutes or so into the 90 minute film before the approach starts.  I like to consider the Departure to be synonymous with the breaking of Miss Foley’s window.  Although we have been watching the damage done by Dark’s Pandemonium and Carnival, its been set up for the trials or at least dangers that threaten Will and Jim and Mr. Halloway.

The final conflicts of the movie occur in 2 points, and they are mostly internal in nature.  Heavy on the temptation and the ultimate failure of Mr. Halloway to stand up for the boys in the face of evil, but he is only toyed with as Mr. Dark retrieves his McGuffin (the boys) and is satisfied with having suitably cowed Mr. Halloway into cowardice.  Of course, this fails, and the final confrontation of inner demons happens at the mirror maze in what could be viewed on one angle as cheesy, but on another, it makes a great morality play on the power of love over regret and sorrow.  Even if you call that the “Result” stage which culminates in the freak storm, it has stepped over the “Reward”, which it turns out has become a bitter sweet reward of a new, changed perspective while retaining a lot of what was loved about the first 30 minutes of the film in protecting the status quo.  Yes, it has changed for poor Mr. Tetley, Miss Foley, Ed the Barman, and Mr. Crossetti forever, but that is to be expected, and thank God Disney did not insist that they be saved from their choices.

BTW, the Reward, Return, Result and New Life take place in the final 3 and lasts less than 1:50 of the movie before the credits roll.  But on the other hand, the handling of those final 110 seconds is masterfully done.  In that, the establishing shots reconnect the viewer with the original ideals, explain what had changed for the characters but yet what was still retained.  In this, Ray Bradbury, who wrote this screenplay as well, was sublime.  It takes real skill to provide a satisfying ending like that in so short a time and not leave us feeling cheated.  Of course, having good skill in using the narrator’s voice helped a ton.  The use of voice-over at the beginning and end are well handled and appropriate as it is done by an adult Will.

Now, why do I consider though this to not be bad goes back to a ‘throw away’ piece of set design.  When the Barber, Mr. Crossetti is discovered to be missing, the only indicator is his pole is still turning and a sign in the window saying “Closed due to Illness”.  Now, I find this brilliant because of something I know of history.  The nation had become numb to many horrors thanks to WW1, which is hinted at with Tom Fury walking with his army uniform and Campaign Hat on with chin strap.  But also a sign like that in Mr. Crossetti’s would have been very familiar thanks to the Swine Flu epidemic which ravaged the US in 1918.  That influenza epidemic was horrifically deadly and often killed those who seemed healthiest in society (by a process which we now understand called a Cytokine Storm), and left many a house behind the quarantine sign.  Which made the excuse perfectly legitimate and believable as well being a very subtle touch for authenticity.

Honestly I thought the movie was more into the early 1920’s, but then realized that the bar was operating openly during a time of prohibition.  Therefore, it must have been after, and I doubt it would have been before because of the cars.  Otherwise it goes into that magical Disney era of Walt’s youth that blends the most pleasant aspects of society from a child’s point of view during that era.  Walk down Walt Disney World’s Mainstreet USA and see what I mean.

What this all is teaching me is that there does not be a balance in how much time is devoted to each “hour” of the Hero Journey clock, but rather how it moves the story forward.  Not only that, sometimes the reward is not always what you think it means.

Scrapyard: Improving My Craft

First, a hat tip to David Lawrence, another aspiring author, head of The Seraphim Regiment : Christian Online Gaming Guild and co-inspirational goofus for driving me in this drive towards making writing my career and really working at my craft.  Thanks for the inspiration to try this out.  Go check his blog out.

Two resources have been put front and center in my writing life right now.  First is one I found and latched onto like a lamprey, while the other has come up behind me and clubbed me a good one thanks to Dave.

The first is “The Story Grid” by Sean Coyne while the second is “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey.  The two are revolutionizing how I write and work with my stories.  What’s even better is to realize how much I used before learning more about these things on instinct.  I think I can blame 30 years of being a GM for various RPGs and participating in oral storytelling for most of my life.

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So last night, I started analyzing some of my favorite films.  Yes, 2am, Christmas Eve/Day is a good time to watch a movie when you should be keeping your regular schedule.  What did I pop in?  “The Fifth Element“.  Not the most holiday-like of a film but it was what I wanted to see as I resisted the re-watching of “Blade Runner” because I’m on a giggly anticipatory edge for the sequel.  That, I will watch later today.  What I wondered was why, although “The Fifth Element” is an incredible movie, it doesn’t quite go over the ‘critical hump’ to make it a masterpiece.

What I realized is that it did not quite manage the “Hero’s Journey” in a completely satisfying manner or its delivery of obligatory scenes was not quite up to snuff, and made up for the gap in the storytelling with a richness of top notch production design (which nobody can disagree with.  Nope sorry, your argument is invalid because reasons.) and good acting.

Luc Besson spends a long time building the universe, and although it’s fun to watch everything up to the point of Korben Dallas getting into the story (the true personification of the hero in the story) it is about 20 minutes of setup that is more or less dithering on establishing the “Status Quo”.  It doesn’t really dig into the actual story, which in effect is a very short and basic.

You have also have a lot of parallel villains and macguffins.  Now this isn’t bad per sey because Zorg (and Mr. Shadow) with the Mandalorians are all seeking the stones.  The three threats are all striking similar chords and add some delicious betrayal and complexity, but each time, it slightly weakens the overall whole.  Mr. Shadow is a “Man Vs. God” level threat, and the other two are “Man vs. Man” threat.  You have a small “Man vs. Self” threat in terms of Korben’s depression and helplessness but that is almost an afterthought to create the ambiance of his character as the burnt out veteran. Even though the man vs. self does a quick return at the finale, it’s got no real power other than some base sentimentality and emotional manipulation to make the “gets the girl” trope work.

The movie does spend some good time with the next three steps of “Call to Action”, “Refusing the Call”, “Assistance” and “Departure” which comes in many various flavors.  The movie is more like a rope in this manner rather than a beam.  Many things working together, providing great flexibility and art, which is good, but it is not as strong in the end as a singular focus.  The call comes to adventure comes to Dallas through multiple sources, same does his assistance.  Again, although they are alloyed together and echo each other, it is not as strong.

As for the “Trials” honestly, this is almost non-existent and is wrapped up in the coupled fights before and after the Plavalaguna’s Concert, but it’s also mixed up in a disorderly mess where two of the three villians (Zorg and the Mandalorians) are dispatched leaving only the real Man vs God threat as Mr. Shadow goes right for the temple to kill everything and so too must our heroes.

“Crisis” is present when Leeloo is wounded, but again, it is easily overcome, which hurts.  Yes Leeloo is wounded with some great buildup and diminished, and then we get some angst out of Korben, but that’s about it.  Combine with that the emotional shock of the self sacrificing Diva, we are back to that “rope” I’ve referred to.  Good, flexible, textured, but again, not as strong.  The obligatory scene of “Hero at the mercy of the villain” is here with Zorg vs Leeloo, but again, its a little weak on its own, but with the death of the Diva and Korben trying to figure out where the stones are, it’s strengthened.

Then comes the final battle which combines “Crisis”, “Treasure”, “Result” and “Return” all into one quick 10 minute event.  Leeloo is fully realized, Korben gets the girl, evil is defeated for another 5000 years and they’re all back on Earth.  Badaboom, it’s resolved and for me, the first time I saw this movie, it was satisfying, beautiful and fun just like every good thrill ride.  But why did the movie not make the jump to true “classic” film?  I think it’s because it used rope versus versus a steel beam of singular sources of hero and threat.

We even get an “all is lost” moment in when they assemble the weapon only to not understand how to make it work.  As I think about this movie, it works a lot on thematic echoes.  Protagonist Korben is echoed by Leeloo and to some extent Father Cornelius.  The Villains are echoed.  The Macguffins are singular, but in four parts.  The departure (boarding the spaceplane) is repeated FOUR TIMES!  The “Crisis” and “All is Lost” moments are echoed as well.  And again, what it does it sets up a nice harmonic, but goes back to my basic criticism I think to where it keeps this movie from being considered a true classic, but rather an “Honorable Mention”.

The movie itself hits a ton of obligatory tropes:

  • spaceship with FTL
  • Flying cars
  • Megacities
  • Aliens
  • Cool new technology (that nanoreassembly is an incredible bit of SFX)

They even give a few 1990’s cultural twists that were popular ironic social observations.

  • Cynical former military hotshot
  • Benevolent or at least benign but incompetent government
  • Big Business cooperating with evil blinded by profit
  • Damsel in not so much distress (Damsel saves Knight)
  • Scatterbrained priest with undefined strange religious trappings (Dem robes y’all)
  • Shallow uber-sexual narcissist media figure idiot
  • Stoner ground crew of the Reggae variety

But how about obligatory scenes/events common to sci fi/space opera?

  • We get a few battles in flying ships.  (Flying cars and spaceships)
  • Learning about the alien culture (Leeloo learning human culture… now with nudity!)
  • Big spaceship explosion (So long, Fhlostan Paradise)
  • Hokey Religions and Ancient Weapons (Meet Leeloo the deified ancient weapon)
  • Plucky Rebel against insurmountable odds (Korben and Leeloo vs a cast of several)
  • Last second salvation  (The rainbow barf pew pew that saves the universe)

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Now I’m not trying to minimize how much fun this movie is, because dagnabbit, it’s a blast and I like to watch it regularly.  But as I learn more about my craft, I realize why it’s not a seminal classic or rated among the best films ever.  Now I get it.  Hold this up to say “Blade Runner” you can see how it differs in that manner (even though this is light space opera adventure versus a cyberpunk film noir thriller).

Anyhoo, this is me having fun with mah new skills.  I think I may make this a regular series when I sit down and tear into other movies using the ideas from Shawn Coyne and Joseph Campbell.  If not to help myself improve my craft, but to give observations that may help other writers, or just be entertaining.  So, let’s see if my “Scrapyard” will become a regular series of articles.

<Insert awesome sign-off tagline here>

 

 

Penultimate Logo Poll!

One more poll after this one I think and that will determine the winner of my logo competition.  The five remaining artists have really stepped up their game.  I mean just wow!  A little tweak here and there for the font, but I think these are it.

So which logo speaks strongest to you?

https://99designs.com/contests/poll/fl534v

Vote for only one, rate and comment on all you desire!

Rough Grace

My own personal comments are below. Great retelling of a great memory, Mr. Teemley.

Mitch Teemley

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It was 30 years ago today, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was crawling with pre-holiday misery. Planes were late and tempers were flaring. The holidays might be impending, but the holiday spirit was nowhere to be seen. And then the announcement came: Our flight to Denver had been cancelled. No reason was offered. Which meant the airline was responsible; if the airport or weather were to blame, it would be the first thing they’d say.

Cranky passengers were greeted by an even crankier Steward. Allen (my partner in the comedy act Mitch & Allen) and I knew that FAA regulations required them to put us on a competitor’s flight if they didn’t have one of their own leaving within four hours. We also knew they would not offer this unless it was demanded.

The only person who…

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Writing Playlist

Yes.  I have a writing playlist that I use to put me in the mood.

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Many people listen to music while writing.  Others do not.  Some can even do it with the TV going and other distractions.

I like writing to music.  Tea at the ready in the wee hours of the morning.  I seem to not get really rolling till after 4am lately.  This I think has more to do with working nights, but I prefer to write when its dark out.  Just the way I am in my inconsistent manner.  So what do I listen to?  Here’s a list of songs and artists I have in my playlist.  I wish I could put up an actual playlist so you could all enjoy, but hopefully you then have enough information to look on your own if you are interested.

Okay, maybe some samples will show up if they are on youtube or something.

The “Official” Akiniwazi Playlist (exerpts)

Two Steps from Hell

  • Moving Mountains
  • Heaven Hell
  • Nero
  • Norwegian Pirate
  • Heart of Courage
  • Strength of 1000 Men
  • Breathe
  • Cry
  • El Dorado
  • Ocean Princess

Vangelis

  • Conquest of Paradise
  • Monastery of la Rabida
  • Light and Shadow
  • The Bounty

Mychael Danna:

  • Phoenix Anastasis
  • Nakawe
  • Visions of Bernadette

Loreena McKennitt:

  • Prologue
  • Marco Polo
  • Night Ride Across the Caucasus
  • Dante’s Prayer

James Horner:

  • Jack Dawson’s Luck
  • On Hallowed Ground
  • The Oglala Sioux
  • Proud Nation
  • Thunderheart

Dead Can Dance

  • The Host of Seraphim
  • Ascension
  • Circumradiant Dawn

 

Hans Zimmer:

  • Progeny
  • The Emperor Is Dead
  • Reunion

Other Cinematic music from:

  • The Civil War
  • The Fog
  • The Island
  • Schindler’s List
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Hannibal
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • The Professional
  • The Crow
  • Prince of Egypt

Various Medieval music, both classical, modal and re-envisioned:

  • Hildegard Von Bingen “Illumination”
  • The Empire Brass: “Passage”
  • Gregorian Chants from the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos
  • “Sing We at Pleasure”
  • Native American Flute by Coyote Oldman’s “Thunder Chord”
  • Nordic Roots Albums

Classical classics like:

  • Faure’s Requiem
  • Night on Bald Mountain
  • Mussorgsky “Pictures at an Exhibition”
  • Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” plus a re-envisioned version.
  • Hall of the Mountain King  (you just knew it was going to be in there, didn’t you?)

And several dozen from various artists I found for free on Soundcloud and other sources.  I shall leave you with a favorite of mine.  I use all three “versions” out there.  The full, acappella and instrumental:

 

Vacation: Achievement Unlocked

My Minnesota Adventure is now complete. I have to say that it has been both a good time and revealing time to go out and remind myself a place I called home for just about 5 years. I would had a grand time seeing old friends, and going to some of my favorite places that I used to enjoy when I lived there.

Unfortunately I was also reminded all those reasons why I fled living in a big city like that. It wasn’t that I dislike the place, no I cannot tolerate the oppressive atmosphere hopelessness and anger that pervades the areas where I was forced to live. Don’t get me wrong, the Cities are fine if you have money. Then you can live safe and content, generally avoiding most of the areas which would cause worry and fear to be touchstones of your daily life. Unfortunately I had neither money or safety when I lived there. So I was able to see personally and within touching distance how bad life can be for people who have limited means. Plus, I worked in a job that kept me in constant contact with some of the best as well as the worst Elements of Life in the Twin Cities. That unto itself is an education. How I managed to get through this time without being assaulted, robbed, or worse, yes, living there taught me there probably is worse than those two things, is amazing. I know friends thought I was a big chicken, because no one was going to assault someone who looked like me according to them. It didn’t matter. I did not come from this kind of a background. So that meant I was not willing to take the risks or assume that the behavior of the people around me that was, shall we say, less-than-stellar was acceptable or normal me Big City radar. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t able to recognize danger, or realize you always had to be aware of your surroundings, but those activities were exhausting and painful to undertake.

Another pleasing aspect was I got to revisit one of my favorite places to go when I was in the Twin Cities, The Source. It had moved, which was good because it took it to a much more convenient place as far as I was concerned right across from the HarMar Mall. For those who do not know, the HarMar is a dumpy little place with the best Barnes & Noble you could possibly want to find. With a penchant for really good events. Unfortunately the first time we went to that Barnes & Noble for old time sake, it was completely overrun with Harry Potter fans. As I have stated to many people, I will never read, nor watch anything Harry Potter.  They were holding a youth event and within 30 seconds I was over stressed. But that is when we discovered the source was directly across the street.

Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was closed for the evening. So, the following day we went back, not only for my edification, but because my friend’s daughter had just been introduced to Magic: the Gathering. Her friends were nice and gave her a deck and which to learn to play… of all the cards they did not like or had a few extra. No, it’s not often that generosity sometimes leaves you with a bitter spike in the back of your head. These were not good cards nor a good design really.  That is being a bit unfair, for one or two of the cards were good.  But that was all. This left her completely at the whim of her friends to beat up on her when they play the game. I decided to remedy that.

Thankfully, they had a Bargain Bin. $0.20 a card and we took full advantage of it. There were a few tricks that could enhance her deck so i used the. With a few choice cards and a starter box, that all changed. I took the skills that I had earned as an old-school Magic the Gathering player from way back when and it became a frustratingly naughty little deck. I just loaded myself up with squee thinking about how her friends thinking they knew what she had would react once they dealt with a deck that was tuned to play in tournaments  when they themselves we’re not familiar with how to play in a tournament.

I must admit that was probably the highlight of my vacation, of going full-on nerd and making a teenage girl the alpha nerd of her social circle.

Of course that’s not quite true. The highlight was being able to go to my favorite “always gotta go there” restaurant for brunch on Sunday. If you ever get the chance to go to brunch at Jax Cafe in Northeast Minneapolis, do so! It’s expensive, and worth it. None of my friends who came to be there with me I never been there before. So I was given the wonderful response being able to introduce them to a real gem the restaurant scene in Minneapolis.

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All in all, I’m glad I went. The time away from work was refreshing, and it provided me with more experiences to enjoy in my memory.

We shall now engage in our regularly scheduled posting.  See you Friday.

Animal Farm Lives Matter

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I think trigger warnings are a joke, but I am giving you one if you are so intellectually weak and unstable that you cannot hack another person possibly having an opinion different than you.  With that being said, and the title itself should be a good indication of what’s to come, you’ve been warned.

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I am going to diverge a little today. Generally speaking I avoid political stuff for this blog, but this is going to cross the line a little bit. Mostly I am going to deal with ethical, cultural, and spiritual aspects, rather than the politics of what I see going on .

Black lives matter.

Blue lives matter.

All lives matter.

The problem is, no matter how much you want a particular group of lives to matter the other side of the equation matters as well. I am not an apologist for the police, nor will I stand up for the actions of race based activists. Right now in America we have created a breeding ground for hatred that this nation has not seen since the 1960’s.

There are very few eras in American history where neighbor turned on neighbor to the point of violence. The labor issues of the early 1900’s was also quite a time of upheaval and brother vs. brother, particularly in the coal fields and before labor unions became a force for good (an era that died out in the 1970’s where they became more of a bane) Before that time which civil unrest was high the previous ways this stress and disagreements over cultural vantage points what’s by bloodshed on Civil War scale. Both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War came from similar levels of disagreement of the people against each other as well as against the governing.

I fear in 2016, we are coming up on another era that has the potential to become another War. Why is this upon us now? Because the last two generations have stripped out from our society the value of human life. In all truthfulness, this began far earlier than this. The me generation of baby boomers was the beginning of this erosion of ethical values by not teaching their children the idea of an objective concept of Good and Evil or the value of human life.  Instead everyone was left to follow their feelings, and objective reality was buried under a horrifying blizzard of feeling based subjectivism.  To steal a line from Dr. Laura:

“You feel hot, you feel cold, you feel sad, you feel mad.”

Feelings change and they change often Emotions are fickle and not a basis for rules, law or society.  Look at what we have now and you cannot deny this is truth.  They do not think or reason, and yet Gen X and now Millennials have been indoctrinated into believing feelings are more important than reason or thinking.

The intention was good, but as my grandmother was fond of saying:

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

In an in an effort to right the wrongs of racism that had been banished totally from the Civil War and even went through a Resurgence in the 1930s with Jim Crow and Segregationist policies.  All things that had to be ended.  Instead of getting on with their lives after they had won, they decided to make it a life cause and overcorrected. Now, they found themselves needing to perpetuate the illusion the threat was still there to keep their paychecks and livlihood.

That generation forgot the words of some of the leading cultural philosophers of that era where content of character should matter more than color of skin.  Martin Luther King no longer led the charge of culture in the world of race relations, Malcolm X gained popularity and now has started to supersede the non-violent personal responsibility laden guidance of the former. A hand that is now clenched like a fist, but not without your provocation.

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We are seeing a rebirth of Malcolm X vs Bull Connor. Extremists in both rhetoric and action are beginning to lead.  Police have forgotten that they are Servants of the people not their keepers. The growing militarization of police and the insistence on Zero Tolerance policies has caused a combative impasse between cultures. But what hides beneath the surface is that both sides of this equation have little to no respect for the value of human life or anyone who disagrees with them.

So why the title Animal Farm Lives Matter? Simple, too many people believe that all lives are created equal, those they agree with or identify with matter more, and therefore must be given supremacy.  Just like the pigs become like humans in the book while little changes for the rest… or in many regards, get worse.  Thus, George Orwell’s damning indictment of special rights for special groups comes home in a stinging slap to our American cultural face.

To say that only one group of lives matter, is to become the racist, bigoted evil you claim to hate.  You assume that other group of lives matter less than those you support.

This is the racism.

This is hatred.

It is no better than what the Nazis used to teach children in school.  (You can take your Godwin’s law and shove it sideways up a tender orifice if you try to play that card with me.  Reasonable comparisons are valid.) When you reduce another person to nothing more than a caricature or straw man in which you can vent your spleen upon, you are dealing with abstracts that do not exist, nor exonerate you  from any  guilt for having such evil desires in your heart or actions taken with your hands. Why anyone would want to teach a child this let alone act like this is an adult is abhorrent to me. Yet it happens every day.

Where did this come from? When people decided that there was only one arbiter for what is good and what is evil, as well as divorcing legality from morality.  With that, we set up a culture in which cultural immolation would occur.  If the individual is the only valid arbiter of what is right and wrong, good and evil, legal or moral, then there is no universal code in which we understand how to relate to one another as a culture.  There is no agreed upon social contract which then creates chaos, and we descend into the theoretical hell of Social Darwinism till a new societal paradigm stabilizes in the form of the strongest authoritarian voice.  We still live in a world that is controlled by use of force and the side most willing to kill and die for their cause will become the dominant one.  Don’t believe me?  Publish a cartoon of Mohammed.  See what happens.  Who’s culture is winning there?  That’s right.  The one willing to kill you.

But until that new ‘strongman’ culture takes over,  there is only one possible course: chaos and nihilism. If people cannot or refuse to recognize that other lives outside of their own personal existence or tribe’s existence have value, how is it that we can even preach to another person the idea of goodness, charity, or righteousness? If you do not believe that even your own life has value, how can you see any other result then complete destruction of a society?

If we are to get through this without destroying ourselves as a nation and divorce ourselves from what our founding fathers created, all lives must matter. This is not a negotiable point. We can’t sit there and scapegoat like the Nazi’s did, first to the communists, till they secured their power, and then to others like the Jews and Gypsies.  If all lives do not matter equally, even the lives you don’t agree with or value, then no life matters at all. This is why we are stuck in such a terrible crossroads. You do literally have two camps… no let me rephrase that we have three camps actually forming.

One that believes all lives matter and every life is important.  I will call these “Rationalists”, because they are using more than just their emotions and bias

Another camp that believes only the lives that look and act and think like they do matter.  I will call them the “Bigots”, for they want to destroy anything that is not like them.

Those that do not care if any life matters because their own life does not matter to them.  These are Nihilists and Anarchists who just want to watch the world burn.

The problem is made worse because the Bigots want to protect themselves, but destroy the rest.  The Nihilists want to kill everything, and will sabotage any attempts at bridge building.  The Rationalists are caught in the crossfire between two groups of bigots and the Nihilists trying to make things as bad as possible.  What needs to happen is more people to move into the Rationalist all lives matter camp.  No special rights, fiefdoms or powers.  The corrupt and wicked need to be rooted out from all sides in this, and all must turn on the Nihilists and take away their power or ability to incite cultural sabotage and disaster.

Sure, you might think that is a hypocritical statement, but its not.  You cannot have people running around who’s goal is to foment destruction and chaos in any society.  They must be neutralized.  But from a rationalist point of view, you must also realize that there is a point that comes along that when you have no choice but to put down mad dogs.  Be they bigots, or be they nihilists, or even if they’re rationalists who somehow pervert the right for people to coexist.

Of course, none of this will happen till we can come upon a new objective, universal set of societal rules that can be learned, taught and enforced.  That means this emotionally driven trigger-warning, offensensitivity culture must go too.  Society cannot walk on egg shells anymore because you think you have the right to be as comfortable as a day-care toddler.  That life ended when you became an adult.  Sorry it’s such a shock, but time to focus on being adults, or get out of the way and be quiet so the adults can fix this mess.  We’ve run out of time and money to coddle anymore.

You’re offended?

And?

Life’s offensive.  Learn to deal.  Your opinion is not worth more than mine.  Your life is not worth more than mine.  Develop some mental toughness and stop trying to call for mommy to come get you from your day care culture by throwing a tantrum.  Learn to overcome intellectual adversity and deal with your stress.  Only then, when you can behave like rational, thinking adults, do you become a valuable member of society instead of a turd chucking monkey playing law of the jungle with other people’s lives.

Nor will spouting slogans and catch phrases fix this.  Real debate and discussion is required.  A skill long abolished from universities across this nation because feelings have become supreme and people call objective facts racist.  I saw a wonderful little Q&A with Ben Shapiro the other day where a woman wanted to talk about institutional racism.  Ben was all fine with that!  What institution is racist, and what did they do?  The problem is, that was just a buzzword to the woman.  She had never considered that for an accusation to be true, there must be a real, objective noun behind it, not just a feeling.  Demanding the elimination if institutional racism is fine in theory, but we are talking practicalities here.  Mr. Shapiro challenged her to name the institution and the actions they had done so he too could fight them with her.  She had nothing, because nothing really existed.

This is what we have to overcome.  Objective reality and facts come first.  Subjective feelings and theory come last.  To take an ill used quote from George Bernard Shaw:

You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?

In the realm of culture like this, the answer to “why not?” is “Because it is not.”  We must deal with what is.  Then, and only then can we move forward and fix what is wrong with this nation.

All lives matter.

Now butch up, Sally Frillypants.  We have work to do in repairing our culture, and throwing tantrums is helping no one.