Category Archives: Musings

The message of Star Trek Beyond


Let’s look beyond the message of Star Trek and see where it finds us.  First I’ll argue that this is an entertaining blockbuster with mediocre aspirations as a science fiction standard bearer.  Will you enjoy it as time and money well spent? Yes.  Will you think twice about it as you leave the theater? No.  If you accept the premise of mediocrity then ask me, why need we look further?

My answer takes the form of a postulated question.  Did you hear the message that mankind is its own worst enemy?

SPOILER ALERT GALORE

ICYMI: Idris Elba aka Krall embodies the role of the villain as a human, albeit one who’s enhanced far beyond mortal man.  You might say he’s kind of a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and scifi Dracula.  My complements to the script makers.  There’s nothing like mining the best, most often copied material for another bite at the apple, or the neck, or the box office.  With the dollars at stake (2013’s Into Darkness more than $450 million in revenue- Beyond budget ~$185 million) would you risk original work when you can trot out tried and true formula?

And when our esteemed thespian, see Beasts of No Nation, asks as to his motivation, director Justin Lin’s reply; why you’re a disgruntled employee!  Talk about going postal.  And Krall delivers the mail with a rare combination.  Can you say spider and bee fetish?  His base of operations is a planet surrounded by nebula where spaceships maroon while their crews become entangled in a web-like comatose state which he uses to extract from them what he needs.  The product here is not honey but hate.  His forces, however, do swarm like no hive you’d ever want to stumble across. The Federation is nonplussed to wield any technology that can withstand Krall’s weaponry.

Here I suggest is where the message digs it’s foundation.  When we lift the lid on his coffin we discover Krall was heretofore our model citizen, warrior, officer and gentleman.  What happened was that the Federation took the highly trained and experienced combat veteran and gave him a civilian job, having ended all wars and the need for his old ways.  It has been thirteen years since numbered American soldiers have faced a two front war; one in Iraq and another in the minds of those afflicted with PTSD and other related issues.  Whether or not American combat veterans have experienced being more prone to violence once returned home, the message on screen was clear.  Captain Edison struggled with the loss of his military identity.  He faced a consequence of being rewarded for his sacrifice and bravery with being lost in space.  He was left behind.  Forgotten.  Edison was ultimately left for dead with little or no sign that his employers cared about either him, his subordinates, or his service.  As time passed his mental state deteriorated, eventually creating the fertile soil from which Krall emerged.

The direct line conclusion from the path  laid out by Beyond is that societies bare the risks associated with placing soldiers in harms way.  The results could reveal themselves long after the damage has been done.

I, or shall I say the filmmakers, offer you more messages than these.

The story’s overall theme that is revisited throughout hammers home one mantra.  Families and friends who commit to unite will strive together and reach their potential to overcome whatever obstacles arise.

The danger that often occurs is when we forget this belief and sabotage it through self destructive decisions.  Chris Pine’s Kirk does just that when the unending, unconquerable, infinite space defeats his sense of adventure, his desire to be challenged, and his dream of achievement.  The subject of his failure: purpose.  Zachary Quinto’s Spock takes a different route to reach the same end.  Grief, perhaps the strongest manifestation of what causes us to question ourselves, to the point we completely derail, is this half human’s Achilles heel as well. He chooses to abandon his celestial family to serve what he thinks is his ethnic responsibility to the fatherland, or what’s left of it.

The biggest reason why 13 films and 37 years of the Star Trek saga resonate with moviegoers is the bond that built the original Gene Roddenberry TV creation.  Beyond is on target with this piece and Karl Urban’s McCoy delivers the glue gun.  The series explored not outer space so much as it did the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  Their journey through the ups and downs of complex and conflicted emotions had more to do with their survival than any technological techniques they mastered.

McCoy reminds Spock why they mean so much to each other and why it matters.  When they bring that message back to Kirk, he takes his exercise of trust, inspiration, and leadership to another level seeing Uhura, Scott, Sulu and Chekov prove once again that their place is on the Enterprise and his home is with them.

This is the best part of the science fiction Beyond offers.  There is nothing new here.  That is the basis for my grade of C.  Star Trek gets a pass from me because it is a production that keeps the genre alive though it falls short of advancing it.  I hail science fiction because I see it as the best genre for bringing together the moral and ethical dilemmas within the human condition as they intersect with apocalyptic aspects of advanced technology.  The more we role play these hypothetical scenarios the more time we will have to consider them before we have to deal with them in our reality.  Are we ready to face global warming?

So I salute Star Trek Beyond.  Beyond’s success bridges the gap between great science fiction movies of the past…Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix…and the next great scifi story which will take a rightful place in cinematic history.  As for the Star Trek franchise I offer only these words: Live long and prosper.

WRITEAHOUSE.ORG

Both sides of my family migrated to Detroit in the first half of the 20th Century.  Both of my parents were born there.  It is the place where our history, our culture, our collective memory, the proof of our existence to the physical world emanates from.  Some have left, many have died.  Others have remained to witness the horror, the transformation of a great community.

There are newcomers, such as Liana, who’s home is here because of Write A House. Here is her blog about her experience in Detroit.

 

I now do most of my writing from an upstairs room that overlooks most of my street. The room is stark, with freshly painted white walls (Thanks Write A House crew), a wooden desk and an aluminum folding chair. I’ve kept it bare to minimize distraction and maximize output. I am easily distracted. I lose focus. I am not one of those writers who can write comfortably anywhere, at any time. To get a place of pure, magical focus and creativity, I have to expend so much energy. But even a minimally decorated, quiet room has not stopped my mind from wandering elsewhere.

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Source: WRITEAHOUSE.ORG

Why The Dark Knight is to blame for our current political quagmire.

It’s been 8 years since the epic Detective Comics based mega motion picture exploded into neighborhoods across this great land.  Hardly seems like it.  Yet the damage wrought by the creative carnage has spread like a malignant tumor into the very fabric of the American ethos. Spread to the degree that our political system sits precariously now, perched over a terminally ill cliff, with a diagnosis of death by self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Let me explain.  When popular culture crowns a product with a tiara of success, it generally conveys some level of artistic achievement that transcends genre.  Our addictive obsession with film and the cult of stardom which parasitically attaches to it pay homage to the idea that is espoused with the cliché ‘life imitates art’.  So when $1 billion is earned in box office revenue alone, not to mention DVD/Blu-Ray and merchandising, consider that more clue than hint.  When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences changes its award eligibility criteria, take that as more coronation than concession.  Multitudes of fanboys attending multiple theater viewings aside, both dinner debates in the homes of moguls and agent provocateurs, along with power lunches turned hushed lecture sessions in see and be seen west side eateries, speak to the level of penetration Filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s experiment had into the collective consciousness of Americana.

Hyperbole!  You say.  Allow me to add wax.  What we have here is not a failure to communicate.  Our society has done nothing less than exemplify a failure to educate, to motivate, to compete, to shake loose the bourgeois trappings of prosperity a priori obesity, to care enough about each other, our children and ourselves.  And, for lack of a better phrase, to thrive.  As a result our institutions begin to topple.  Schools, private industry, the Congress, the White House, and SCOTUS, all frayed at the edges.  Forget about apple pie.  What happened to the foundation of our democrapitalism, organized labor?  Ask a millennial to define pension.  Don’t panic when you get a description of Orange is the New Black.  Symptoms.  Gotham City, USA has never looked so bad.  There isn’t anyone left that matters apparently, who can compare current events with the 1930s or the 1860s.  Are the recent 60s and 70s now thought of as the good old days?  Great revisionist history, Batman!

Back to the Caped Crusader, as you were.   Consider Bruce Wayne, with power nonpareil – as masked and armed – and financed the same.  Does that bring to mind President Barack Obama?  Then compare how our public is led to scorn the vigilante when he dares use his assets to do battle for the home team.  Why, some want him prosecuted!  Our hero.  Don’t they realize his intentions are to act in the best interests of those he would protect?  Metaphorically going halfway across the globe to rein in Wall Street villains in the persona of mob bagman Lau, he is thwarted by bosses Gambol, Sal Maroni, and the Chechen, when they take a contract out on him with The Joker himself, who we’ll call ISIS for arguments sake.  Gambol aka public education, Maroni aka an intransigent Congress, and the Chechen aka the exodus of middle class wage careers, conspire against him to attack his Achilles heel, foreign policy.

While his attention is diverted by an old flame Rachel Dawes, none other than Hillary Clinton, he’s hit with one sucker punch after another; Benghazi, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Israel, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations with Iran.  But who can blame him?  Rachel has a new rival for her attention, Harvey, the real Donald J. Trump, Dent.  He is the savior.  The man with a plan.  So easy, so easy, so easy, let me tell you.  So quick, so quick, so quick.  The Great White Hope, riding in on his white horse, is a stark contrast to our Black Knight.  AND light minded PEOPLE BELIEVE HIM.  Why he’s the legitimate offspring of E. F. Hutton and the most interesting man in the world.

But he’s not alone.  Championing his cause as the true blue representative of the people is Coleman Reese, who follows the Joker’s lead and attempts to expose Batman for the fraud he is, not addressing the fact that we never learn anything about our Joker other than what he cares to share in his fable-like musings. Stunt doubles for Reese include the Sean Hannity lead Fox News Network, backed by the understudies Limbaugh and Coulter et al.

Smack in the middle of this standoff is The RNC or Gotham PD, helmed by Commissioner Gordon – Reince Priebus.  Forced to carry the torch for Dent, Gordon, surrounded by corruption within the ranks, falls on his sword to save the convention ceremony and takes a bullet for the cause.  Laid up, he is helpless to prevent Dent from revealing his two-faced nature long hidden beneath the surface.  A latent xenophobic tendency which The Joker exposes with every hospital bombing and nightclub massacre.   Yet Gordon’s fate is sealed when he makes a deal with the devil to perpetuate a lie so that the public is convinced of Dent’s integrity.  Dent can’t be a fraud.  Everyone knows the Batman is to blame.  Don’t they?

In the end the Joker is defeated, and declared the loser.  Or is he?  At what cost to society was this victory purchased?  Has the interim damage opened such a crack in the foundation that constructors will be forced to start over with new blueprints?  Check back in November for the next episode titled: Doctor Strange.  Pray to God that this time art imitates life.

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10 Rules for Writing from Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

‘looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…’ Hebrews 12:2

Here are some tips that you can choose to apply to your writing. Decide for yourself.

Write so that your product will provide consumers with joy. 
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Write what is in your heart. Don’t write what you think people will like or to please other people. Follow your heart when you write and be true to who you are and what you want to say. 
Luke 6:45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Believe in your vision for what you want to write. 
The Apostle John was directed in writing the book of Revelation to “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19

Learn the art of writing. Practice the discipline of writing. 
Proverbs 23:12 Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge.

To communicate a message understand what you are saying. Be sincere, have a clear conscience, and seek to find the purist form in your words. Avoid abstract, vague, confusing language. The Apostle Paul uses this advice when sharing with Timothy how he should stay true to the message they are supposed to be teaching. 
1 Timothy 1:5-7 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Think of your writing as a sacrificial gift to others, and expect to be paid what it is worth. 
Acts 20:35 includes part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to the church elders in Ephesus. In it he states “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”. 
Likewise when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia he advised them similarly “For each person will have to carry his own load. 6 The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher. 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” Galatians 6:5-7a.

Apply careful investigation to what you write.
The Gospel attributed to Luke begins with this explanation: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” Luke 1:1-4

Have a clear and specific purpose for everything you write.
Joshua 18:4 Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me.

Write when you find yourself most challenged. Write when it seems like it’s the last thing you should do. When in doubt, write. No matter what excuse you have not to write, write anyway.
Here in John 8:6 is an example of what Jesus did: “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.”

Write for a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It is of little importance to me that I should be evaluated by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. 4 For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. The One who evaluates me is the Lord.”

Why I Support Donald Trump (a guest post) | Jeff Pearlman

Here is a question I asked Jeff Pearlman and Amy Moreno based on her blog post explaining why she supports Donald Trump, which you can read below.  In my question I basically imply that she never gave a tangible reason why she supports him!

Jeff, please ask Amy to answer this ONE question.  I have seen Donald Trump speak in person during the primary.  Why should I vote for him?  I did not vote for Obama.  He did not give me one reason to.  Trump said NOTHING during the speech I heard to answer that question.  He said two things:  he would win, we had to unite the party…and, wait for it, he would win even if we did not unite.  So his last words were essentially that he didn’t need my vote.  Now, I paid a lot of money to see him speak in person.  And that is all he said.
What perceived reality do you (Amy) have that explains why I should vote for him?  Perhaps Obama wasn’t qualified.  Perhaps Bush wasn’t qualified.  Personally, I would never assume that Trump’s resume qualifies him for POTUS.  If that is enough for Amy, so be it.

 

 

Source: Why I Support Donald Trump (a guest post) | Jeff Pearlman

5 Things not to do: The Anti-Blog

#1 Let me start with a question.  Is the trendy “list topic” a passing fad that has already become vomit inducing tedium?  I, for one, will say so.  The use and abuse of this technique is as manipulative as it is banal.  Who is our target audience for this drivel anyway? Anybody breathing, I’d argue.  We can all agree that writing has its challenges.  Attracting readership is at the top of that list.  But lets all aim for better than yesterday’s marketing tricks.

#2 That’s so offensive! Trying not to offend anyone is a guarantee that you will offend just about everyone eventually, and they will get around to telling you about it.  The problem with this goal is that your self-censorship leads to avoidance of risk, a search for middle-ground , and the inevitable ‘safe’ subjects which may have more value as cures for insomnia than interesting reading.  And it doesn’t work.  Reason one is that you cannot possibly know how others think, and that means you can’t predict how what you’ve written will be interpreted.  I can be offended that you expected me to spend my precious time reading a piece that has no value to me whatsoever.  How dare you?!  Its perfectly acceptable if you set out not trying to offend, but just know not everyone else does.  Its even better if you set out trying to be different, strive to share your unique perspective, and seek to find your own voice.  Write for an audience of, one?

#3 Give Up. You give up?  I give up.  We all give up.  Let’s make a list of all the times we have given up in our lives!  Then invite all your friends to the pity party.  It’ll be such a grand time.  NOT.  To misquote Nike, Just don’t do it.

#4 Here is an idea I just thought of, so I’m sticking it in here too.  Remember, we’re all in this together, aren’t we?  As fellow scribes, encourage one another.  Make it a habit.  Call it one non-stop campaign of mutual encouragement.  We all need it.  We all deserve it.  But it ain’t gonna happen unless we make it happen.  We can do it whenever we point out some aspect of what someone wrote that helped us, inspired us, informed us, or entertained us.  Whenever you think about commenting, go ahead and do it.  One short, simple comment that won’t take you more than a few seconds to make, could be the difference that leads to a breakthrough for someone.  See #3 above.

#5 In the spirit of our theme for today, there is no #5                     Happy Blogging

the semicolon project

A semi-colon is a reminder to pause and then keep going.

hpwritesblogs

FullSizeRender-1FullSizeRender Today I went to a tattoo artist, and for $60 I let a man with a giant Jesus-tattoo on his head ink a semi-colon onto my wrist where it will stay until the day I die. By now, enough people have started asking questions that it made sense for me to start talking, and talking about things that aren’t particularly easy.

We’ll start here: a semi-colon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semi-colon is a reminder to pause and then keep going. 

In April I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. By the beginning of May I was popping anti-depressents every morning with a breakfast I could barely stomach. In June, I had to leave a job I’d wanted since I first set foot on this campus as an incoming freshmen because of my mental…

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Through it all, there was a dog

Because life is about getting back up. I don’t think it can be described much better than this, the way Jennifer puts it. And a dog too!

The Trailhead

Seven years ago, when my first marriage of fifteen years unexpectedly went belly up, I was involuntarily launched on what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey. There are other names for this kind of experience. The writer Elizabeth Lesser calls it the Phoenix Process. Dante called it “the dark woods.” Whatever you call it, it’s a time of upheaval, pain, and eventually, transformation.  And to be sure, the year I spent ending my marriage and recovering – perhaps from the marriage as much as the divorce – was one of the most powerful and potent of my life. I still look back on it with a sense of respect and awe.

What I didn’t understand for a long time, though, was that the year of my divorce was only the opening act in a much longer voyage. Life had a great deal more in store for me than merely the…

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