The Three Hundred and Thirty-Ninth Post: The One Where I Draw One Line While Stepping Over Another…

I’m normally not political on this blog, but I had a notion and I thought ‘sure…why not’?

Complaining that we’re living in the midst of tyranny has become a new e-sport. Either the tyranny of the right or left, we are toiling and waiting to be freed – and only armed revolution is going to fit the bill. No, I’m not being hyperbolic. ‘Nazi’ is being thrown about by either side with abandon and frankly, the Overton Window can’t slam shut on this fast enough for me.

The point I am going to try to defend is this:

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If we stop and look at the situation, it’s not very dissimilar. This is a topic that is going to be worth a deeper examination later on…say…late October to early November of 2020, but for now, I’m going to hit the highlights of what I can pull off from memory.

The big similarity? The rallies and the protests. We have fascists on one side and communists on the other. This is not more hyperbole from me. There are pictures of the red and gold flags from the Soviet Union being bandied about at the protests. While we’re not at the ‘running gun battles in the streets’ level of violence, but these protests are getting rather hairy on average. There’s been at least one notable death and several injuries. I don’t see it calming down any time in the future.

What of the economy? Oy vey…while the Chinese trade war isn’t doing us any favors, we’re not in a recession…yet. From what I’ve glanced at, 2020 could be the year that kicks off a recession, and that might give other interested people the impetus needed to toss their hat in the ring. While we’re not having to pay the murderous reparations that Germany had to do, which was a contributing factor to the rise of the Nazi party, but our national debt continues to soar with no end in sight. Unless the Trump administration does something soon, I don’t think his chances of retaining the Presidency will be very high.

So – what do we do? How can we put our time and knowledge to work for us, rather than waiting what seems to be the inevitable?

For Jesus’ sake – everyone needs to take a step back and breathe. While I don’t believe that most of the foment is engineered by those in power on either side of the aisle, I certainly am sure that no one is letting this crisis go to waste. I think it’s the ones who are very vocal and easily agitated who are steering the national conversations right for the icebergs. Facebook, news media and political organizations on both left and right are profiting from these fights with either cash or attention (which they can turn into cash). The more wound up we are, the less likely we’re going to examine the situation more critically.

Are we doomed? No. We have a lot of hindsight and history to guide us if we choose to examine it. I would like to think that at some point, we as a nation are going to step back from the brink.

Nations do behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Blog: The One Where I Went to a UFO Convention and Met Someone!

First off, I want to apologize for missing a deadline. I do have a good excuse, and it’s tangentially linked to this post. Next time, if I’m struck low by con crud – I’ll just throw up a little message or some amusing cat picture explaining there is no post this week.

Now – I went to my first UFO convention a week ago, partially for the novelty of it and to see a person who is well known in these circles.

Travis Walton disapproves of the quality of this photo

If you’ve seen the movie Fire in the Sky or read the book of the same title, this is that Travis Walton. He is the reason why I went out to Knoxville and added to my speeding ticket collection (only 46 more states to go!).

I’ve been asked if I believe in UFOs. ‘Believe’ is a loaded word for me. To say I believe in something means I accept it as a facet of life without reservation, even if given evidence to the contrary, or even lack of evidence to its existence. I don’t believe in UFOs like a child believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I accept their existence, but if someone showed me evidence of a hoax, I would change my view.

Having said that.

I believe Travis Walton.

I got to see him three times. Twice at the convention, and once in the elevator at the hotel where I was staying. He’s friendly, a little reserved and signed my copy of Fire in the Sky without fuss. One might say aloof, but then again – if you’ve gone through what he’s gone through, I think you’ve earned a little distance from people.

But if you look at him, you can’t help to think that he’s undergone a trauma reserved for combat or dark alleys. The best way to describe his demeanor is: something scooped out everything that was Travis Walton and left the husk behind out of politeness. I don’t think he’s pulling a con, or that he had a serious of events in his mind that could be interpreted one way and he chose the other. He was abducted by beings from another world (dimension?), held for five days and then dumped back down. Whether it was their way of saying “Sorry about that blue flame hitting you, but Gazorth is a little quick on the trigger. Here’s fifty bucks and we just settled out of court” or this was a deliberate attempt to take someone for tests and it backfired a little, it did happen. A conman wouldn’t keep this up for forty-four years. I can’t keep up a self-imposed deadline for a month apparently, much less claim to be abducted.

Another thing about the convention and comparing to the local Comic-Con or GenCon, is the atmosphere. Outside, it was like other conventions with wares being peddled (you know what attracts aliens? Clean gutters and tattoo artists) and celebrities selling autographs (Dean Haglund from ‘The X-Files’ was there!). Inside the lecture hall was a different matter.

Even as some of the presentations were…odd…there was an atmosphere of serious scholarship. Comic-Con and GenCon had more of a free-wheeling feeling to it. Everyone there to see their favorite actors or writers or artists and play games. In Knoxville, it was an almost monastic silence and perhaps only five cosplayers (in order of complete costumes: Scully, Spock, George Norry [including a woman sporting the dyed black hair, brows and mustache], and silver lame generic alien). I should also mention that this is the inaugural convention, so I’m sure as it goes on there will be more to it. Will I go? Not entirely sure.

It’ll come down to my belief and acceptance.

Thanks for stopping by! I will be more diligent about maintaining my deadlines in the future. To the right, as always, you can buy me coffee or check out the books written by good friends. If you like this blog, be sure to spread the word.

Always: keep watching the skies.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Seventh Blog: The One Where I Complain Groundlessly About Hollywood, Again!

I was worried that I wouldn’t have a topic for today, and I would have to rely on one of those Hemmingway Cards again…then I saw this.

I’m not very happy about the possibility of this movie getting shelved – especially with the talented cast the studio fielded (not to mention the crush I had on Wolfsbane). Sure – Disneywood Fox Studios killed the X-Man franchise with Dark Phoenix and re-shoots have been ordered for the movie, but none had happened so far. While Feige is eager to pick up mutants and the Fantastic Four from Fox – I don’t think we’re going to see a New Mutants release anytime soon on the big screen.

Why? Well – if Fox had read my earlier post about how I feel about the whole Dark Phoenix saga, they would have avoided a whole lot of woe. I’m not saying that I wanted God Loves, Man Kills in its place. The comparisons to X-Men 2 would be completely justified. I really wanted to see New Mutants – not for the fact that I’d get to see some of my favorite actors and characters, but because of how the movie was set up.

The one thing I like about the MCU is that they’re not superhero films, they’re other genre films that happen to have superheroes in them. I know I’ve talked about this earlier, but in all the superhero movies out there – only one film dared to approach horror and that was Brightburn, which is a massively underrated horror film in its own right. Horror is a genre that is under-represented in movies unless it’s Halloween (the holiday).

The MCU has a lot of horror in their back catalog, and a lot of adaptable properties. The Brood? The Aliens rip-off homage that took over their host, absorbing a mutant’s power until it finished gestating and transformed itself into the alien body. We’ve seen that The Shadow King and Legion can be handled excellently on the small screen (don’t spoil it for me, I know the last episode came on recently), so why not one or the other on the large screen.

And don’t tell me Disney can’t do horror. Jesus Christ – the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen is Something Wicked This Way Comes. Let’s face it, the House of Mouse can be blood-curdling when they set their mind to it. There is some supposition that New Mutants is going to end up on Disney+ (what does the plus mean? +$!). No. No, that will not do. It needs to be on the big screen. I need to be sitting in the darkened theater with pop corn and soda in my lap and waiting for Wolfsbane and Magick and Sam “Cannonball with Ears” Guthrie.

Is that too much to ask? For the MCU to continue to push the art forward and for Disney to stay the hell out of the way?

Well, this isn’t what I was oringally going to talk about, but I thought I had seen something on TV that Dredd was going to be released in 3-D and that put me into a tizzy. Sadly (?), I couldn’t find a trailer or a date of release. I might have been mistaken.

If you’re looking for some original work – on the right side of the page, you can find some well-written books from dear friends, or you can find my stuff. If you’d like, you can also donate to my kofi account. Thanks for stopping by. Have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Blog: The One Where I Glorify Insomnia as the Solution to a Work-Life Imbalance!

Of course not! I have 32 hours of things to do in just 24 (minus at least six hours for sleep if I’m lucky). I don’t think anyone has any semblance of good work-life balance, be you a chemist, mother or scribbling desperately writer. Sure, I do tend to shoot myself in the foot often (like now for example – I’ll reddit later…after this page…really) and I could get more productive if I just applied some discipline.

However…

The ideal work-life balance would be this: I work more in the evenings at my dreaded day job (shout-out for my own work) and do more writing in the mornings and early afternoons when I am awake and firing on all cylinders. I have more energy in the morning and my mind seems a lot clearer then as opposed to the later afternoon and early evening when I finally get home from the mail room and all I want to do is watch Critical Role, irradiate my dinner and go to bed. I know that should get some writing done when I get home, while I have the energy to do so. Instead, I succumb to bad habits.

I know I should break myself of these rusting chains. I’m not going to get anything done the longer I slump on the couch and watch Mercer and Co.  It’s just…the old saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, you just can’t make him drink’ is very spot on with me. Yes, I can come in hear as soon as I walk through the door, plop down in my chair and tell myself that for the next hour, I am not leaving here until I crank out at least five hundred words.

Which makes me cruise the cat pictures on reddit that much harder. Yes, even to myself, I am a contrarian prick.

Back to the ideal work-life balance. I never minded doing my work at night. I am a night owl – as much as I now like being away during a majority of the day, but if I had my druthers, I would like to do my work during the night and have those few precious hours when the world is asleep to really write somewhat undisturbed. As the world begins the long process of waking up, I’m closing my bedroom curtains and settling down. That would be nice.

Too bad the meth-heads and the construction down in the alley would keep me awake for the day. As much as I love the schedule, it would be impractical. So, I guess that I’ll just have to settle down, prioritize things and get back to writing rather than Top 10 weapons you can farm in Borderlands 2 or another YouTube offering.

Well – that’s all for this card. I’ll probably do another one and then chat about the latest wave of the MCU. I heard who the antagonist is going to be for the Black Panther sequel, and some questions I have for the movie.

Thank you for stopping by, and feel free to donate some coffee (speaking of working third shift) to my kofi account or buy one of the books I have on the right-hand side of the screen. They’re good and cheap.

Take, care now.

The Three Hundred and Thirty Fifth Blog: The One Where I Talk Quite a Lot About What I Liked in Black Panther!

Do I have to say *spoilers* for Black Panther? I mean – if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re probably not a Marvel fan and just stumbled onto this blog by accident, but I am going to probably spoil it for you badly.

Wait! Wait! Come back! There’s value here! Really!

First off, I am going to admit that I am a Marvel fan. I am going to try to be objective about this, but I make no promises.

The first time I watched the movie – I had a typical fanboy response. I loved it. I loved that the T’Challa’s main arc was started in an earlier film and what we got from Black Panther was the second act. His first act happened a whole movie ago! The third act was a movie after this one, wrapping up T’Challa’s redemption and forgiveness arc. For the story minded fans (like me), this was a great reward for paying attention to what was going on in the MCU. Even the Black Panther movie itself had three acts (T’Challa’s ascent to the throne, his fall and his subsequent reclamation), like all heroic movies have nowadays. If Joseph Campbell even gets a 1% royalty from the use of his formula, that man is stinking rich.

For those of you who might not know what I am writing about, Joseph Campbell examined myths from different places and different times and came up with what he calls The Monomyth. Every heroic tale from long ago has a pattern to it. While Mr. Campbell uses Hindu mythology in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, we can see it clearly in that old, old epic Star Wars.

I’m not going into deep, deep detail about the Heroic Cycle. Just go out and buy Hero with a Thousand Faces. If you’re a storyteller, or interested in how stories are told, then this is the book for you. If you can’t get the book, head over to TV Tropes on the Internet and they have a whole subheading dedicated to the Heroic Cycle and all of its variants. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to use very broad strokes for this.

The first step is always the Call to Adventure. Going with the Black Panther, we had his call to adventure in Captain America: Civil War with the death of T’Chaka. The Call to Adventure is never pretty. It’s not supposed to be. Its purpose is to force us out of our comfort zone into the wide world. Sure – Luke Skywalker’s call to adventure was the hologram, but what got him out the door was the death of his aunt and uncle. T’Challa would have been happy to be the Prince of Wakanda for another ten for fifteen years, but that would have been a bad movie (Black Panther: Breakfast is Cold). He had to be pushed on the path and it took The Winter Soldier to do it.

You know who else had a Call to Adventure?

Killmonger.

Like I said, the Call is ruthless. Erik’s call was the death of his father at the hands of the King T’Chaka. If that hadn’t happened, Erik never would have done all the things he dd to get to the point where he was Killmonger…which brings us to the next big step.

Finding the Mentor.

The Mentor is the one who provides the Hero with the Boon or the Item to be carried with him on the journey. In Star Wars, the Mentor is Obi-Wan and the Item is the lightsaber. With T’Challa, everything is laid out for him easy-peasy. He had Zuri to guide him through the ceremony where he talked to his father in the Ancestral Plain. With Killmonger, the Mentor comes in two parts. The training comes from the biggest mentor of all: The U.S. Government. They give him the warrior’s skillset and the intellectual’s wisdom (Navy SEAL and M.I.T. – literally ‘go hard or go home’). The boon comes from the other half of the Mentor: Ulysses Klaue. The boon, unfortunately for Klaue, is his dead body. This is also where we begin the next part of the Heroic cycle. For Killmonger, this is also Crossing the Threshold. This is a point of no return for the Hero. Everything he’s learned and done has led him to this point. He and T’Challa must now Enter the Underworld.

Entering the Underworld is exactly what it is. The Hero must enter a place of darkness and despair to find and defeat The Dragon – otherwise known as the villain or the protagonist. With T’Challa, this is after his second fight at the waterfall which is a mirror to the first fight. The first fight with M’Baku is at the height of his story. The second fight? Not so much, but the hero must fall before he rises. You can’t fall much farther than death.

In the Ancestral Plane, he meets and defeats his Dragon, and this the strength of this movie. T’Challa’s villain isn’t Killmonger. The Black Panther’s Dragon is him accepting two things: that he is suddenly King (honestly, who among us is ready to deal with the death of a parent?) and that the man and King he revered was at the end of the day just a normal man like the rest of us. A man who made mistakes and never fixed them. That was T’Challa’s Underworld, his decision in trying to make things right and foregoing death was his battle. He could have stayed behind with his father and ancestors, let others clean up the mess. Instead, he makes the right choice and comes back.

For Killmonger, Entering the Underworld is more of a figurative event. You might think it’s when he’s in the mines and fighting T’Challa. That’s the climax. The real descent begins in the throne room and challenges T’Challa for the throne and mantle. His descent, however, almost brings down Wakanda with him. The fight on the Waterfall is him Defeating the Dragon – with T’Challa being the embodiment of Killmonger’s Dragon which is the nobility that killed his father and abandoning him to the United States. The fight in the mine is another fight for T’Challa against his Dragon, again it being embodied in Killmonger. The dragon this time is the sentiment that Wakanda needs to assert itself on the world scene in a violent fashion. The end of this fight is T’Challa Returning Home.

Returning Home is the Hero coming back with wisdom or power to use for the good of his immediate environment. In Star Wars – Luke has gone through the Underworld in the Death Star, witnessed the death of his Mentor and Defeated his Dragon (Darth Vader is indeed the Dragon of the whole series, but the Death Star is the Dragon of his movie. Vader doesn’t really get Dragon status until the second movie) and Returns Home with the power and the knowledge of the Force. With Black Panther, he Returns Home (breaking the civil war and restoring order) with Power (he has the last heart-shaped flower in him, so he is also the last Black Panther, which is also symbolic of the old world that’s left behind) and Wisdom (what Wakanda does has ramifications for the world beyond their borders) to use them for the betterment of the nation of Wakanda, and the world at large.

Killmonger…well…his is a bit more complicated. While his material goal of supplying weapons and sparking a revolution failed, his other goal was far simpler: getting Wakanda to take its place on the world stage. He Returned Home with wisdom of what happens in Wakanda doesn’t always stay in Wakanda. His goal was achieved at the cost of his life, but being a hero means that sometimes you must make a sacrifice. He won, and he got his reward to see a Wakandan sunset. The tragedy is that even in death, he couldn’t let go of the hatred (from imdb.com):

T’Challa: We can still heal you…

Erik Killmonger: Why, so you can lock me up? Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.

 

Everything gets wrapped up, T’Challa shares his wisdom and his nation. WE watched two heroes – fighting for opposing reasons – reach their goals. Black Panther is a great film, certainly one of the best Marvel films to come out. Its greatness comes from the fact that they changed the conventions of movie story telling and it paid off. Hopefully, this trend will continue, and not just in Marvel.

Wow – I think that’s my longest post ever. Next time, I’ll try not to run off at the mouth. Please consider the books on your right as they were written by friends far more talented than I am or consider getting me a nice cup of coffee with the kofi link. Thank you all for listening and I wish you well.

p.s. – still meeting deadlines! Huzzah for me!

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Fourth Post: The One Where I Discuss Wild Dreams Like Peace and Quiet in My Neighborhood!

What’s one action you could take today that would make your work life easier?

Well…do we mean my 9-to-5 job? If so, the best way to make my work life easier there is to give me my own office space. I don’t need a lot – something with four walls and a lockable door. Let me turn on my music (or podcasts) and open mail in peace. That’s all. I’ve found that I am way more productive when I am pretty much left alone. Example: I opened about 700 pieces of mail and on that day, I responded if talked to (or at in some cases) and carried on conversations. The following day I was left alone, I opened about 1,100 pieces of mail. This wasn’t a one off. When I am left alone, I am more productive. It’s that simple.

Now, if were talking about my other job (The Unknown Writer) …surprisingly, there is little in the way of change as to what I need. I just need an office space with a lockable door that is at least a fifteen-minute drive from my house. Preferably a room on a high floor with a sturdy oak door.

While, yes – it is a dream of mine to work from home as an author, but there are so many distractions. Between the motorcycles, hot-rod wannabes and the drifting meth-aficionados there is little in the way of peace and quiet. I do listen to music while I write, but that’s just to keep me in the mood and to keep my mind focused on the words and not on what’s that strange sound (no, seriously – is that an opossum? Freaky little things!).

I also have people here that will traipse in and out – asking questions and favors while I’m working. Even when I’ve told them: Hey – I’m going to be getting writing done, so…I need privacy, it will be twenty minutes before someone comes in and asks for something to be looked up, or a question about what happened today. Things like that get under my skin because I must stop, answer the question and get back into the mindset. Sometimes it’s easy. Other times, it’s not and I lose another productive session. (not that I have a lot of those).

If I sound like I’m whining or bitching…well, I am. However, this is within my realm to change it. I either:

  1. Hammer out a schedule where I can have solitude enough to write.
  2. Become a mega-successful author and buy office space in downtown.

 

I would to like to get option b, but I might have to settle for a. I’ve had a lot of other distractions both here and elsewhere, and I have handled them with making small changes: buying a small laptop that is only for writing and certainly not video game playing. Getting the Hemingway cards so that if I can’t think of what to write, I fall back on those so I can get in the habit of blogging on a regular basis. I have to realize that there are some changes I can make (writing in the morning as it’s peaceful) and others that are impossible currently (stringing taut piano wire to behead the motorcycle riders who insist on zooming down the short block). This is going to be an exercise is stoic philosophy, but it will be fruitful in the end.

On a very different note, I watched Midsommer and thought it was a decent flick. Written and directed by the same guy who did Hereditary, the movie is a deep study in how a person deals with loss. I’ll put up my thoughts next time.

Well, thank you for letting me bend your digital ear. I’ll try to write something far more smart sounding for next time. Until then – to your right are some of my works, and the works of dear friends, so check them out. Also, consider buying me a cup of coffee with the Kofi app, or just throw money at me. I’m cool with that.

So long and have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Third Post: The One Where I Point Out the Obvious!

I know this is going to be a bit late, but I really had no idea what to write until this morning while I was in the shower. So – in trying to make the self-imposed deadline of Thursday, this might appear a bit scattered. All I really have to go by is a hastily scribbled outline and a crack-pot idea.  Y’know…Thursday afternoon.

I was in the process of showering up and thinking about going to go see a movie on Friday when two ideas hit me. One is for the novel I am (perpetually) working on, and the other explains how the Marvel Cinematic Universe got so prominent as it is today, and why the DC Cinematic Universe seems to be lagging way far behind.

When the MCU was getting put together, Marvel had a bit of a problem: their two big properties for the movies: Spider-Man and the X-Men series were not Marvel properties. They were owned by Sony and Fox respectively. Remember those days when Fox was its own entity and not in the tightly gripped paw of the House of Mouse? Well, apparently Marvel had some problems keeping the lights on. If you watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they’re never referred to as ‘mutants’ (Fox owned that word…seriously) but ‘enhanced individuals’.

With their big money makers tucked away in the arms of others, Marvel had to do something, so they got creative. They reached way back in the back of the catalogue. They had the makings of the Avengers, which was something they could work towards, but they needed filler. This was a huge gamble for Marvel. While Iron Man isn’t a third-tier character like Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy, he wasn’t Wolverine either.

This set-up forced Marvel to work on the world and the storylines that would become the Phases. It was a gamble to be sure, but it was one that would pay off spectacularly. Big enough for Sony to loosen its grip on Spider-Man to allow him to have a place in the MCU.

We have the exact opposite problem with the DCU. They have the heavy hitters: Superman and Batman. Like Marvel, they have an extensive world already put together. This should have been as easy as plugging in a lamp. Why did it collapse in two films? Why is the DCU seemingly now getting their feet back under them.

Because they relied on the aforementioned heavy hitters. They rushed where Marvel took their time. Thinking that they could throw up a film that treats us to another origin story and everyone would run to it unthinking, and then giving us what should have been the midpoint movie in the first arc to prelude the movie that should have ended it is a face palming offense. I’m not saying the movies are bad, but just not well placed.

However – the DCU has shown that they can learn. Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam get it right. We get to meet characters that were rarely given time elsewhere. Remember when Aquaman was the butt of many jokes? I do. Heck – thanks to Jason Momoa’s performance, Marvel can’t release a Sub-Mariner movie without getting the inevitable comparisons (and the Sub-Mariner is two years older!).

I must admit that I don’t know a whole lot about Shazam, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying a film about a boy finding both family and purpose. I can’t wait to see how they treat other properties. Could Cyborg be the DCU’s body horror tale – injecting some much appropriate terror into the series? Can we Jordan Peele to direct? Can the Flash be as humorous, I hope? Having Barry and Leonard trading quips while hashing out a gentleman’s agreement while in the middle of a bank heist would give a little humor to a universe that seems to take itself a little too seriously at times. As much as I am a Marvel fan…I like what they DCU has given us so far. I just hope they can keep it up.

Well – that’s my opinion. Maybe next time I’ll delve a little further into how I would have worked the DCU’s first phase.

If you’ve liked what you’ve read and if your last name rhymes with Schmigey – hit me up on e-mail. I work cheap and fast (and I know that I can be afforded. I mean – what’s a few hundred grand between friends, right?). Also please consider checking out the book links on the right.

Have a good day, and I’ll see you next Thursday.