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I guess like most anyone alive on the planet, I have pop culture experiences which echo in my life.

I’ll bet most anyone you talk to will have something along the lines of “oh, that was a real insert favorite movie moment” or “that was their ‘Ross and Rachel’ relationship”.

Its interesting to think — did those moments or happenings occur independent of the cultural reference or is connected somehow, was it manifested because of the reference? Do we mirror things we see, just as they were drawn from the writer/creator’s imagination based on their own experience – or experience of an experience and so on and so on.

I know what you are thinking, stop with the weird metaphysical bullshit. Sometimes a thing is just a thing, there’s no meaning to it other than the one you assign to it.

I guess that’s my fatal flaw, thinking too deeply about the significance of events, trying to discern what they are for – perhaps perversely looking into the abyss. But maybe its not a flaw. Maybe it’s a strength.

In 1981, John Boorman brought the legend of Arthur to the screen in Excalibur. There is a line of dialogue during the middle of the film, after Arthur and the knights have successfully united the kingdom, when Merlin charges the knights to remember what they have done:

Be silent.
Be still.
That’s it.
And look upon this moment.
Savor it.
Rejoice with great gladness.
Remember it, always…
…for you are joined by it.
You are one, under the stars.
Remember it well then, this night…this great victory…so that in the years ahead you can say:
”I was there that night, with Arthur, the King.”
For it is the doom of men that they forget.

I loved Excalibur, the film. Still do. Because it was a visual feast – gaudy, extravagant, epic. It was also mythic, and I will forever be drawn to the mythic. We are steeped in it these days – as we geeks and nerds see more and more of our heroes come to life on the big screen at the rate of six or more superhero films a year. For that’s what the Arthurian Knights were, really, superheroes in plate armor, saving the world from evil.

For the last seven years we have been dealing with a great deal in this country, and in a very real sense may never regain the greatness that once was the hallmark of this nation. I’m not talking about politics here, or morality.

I’m talking about the sense that this was the land of opportunity, the land where you could have not just what you needed to survive, but what you needed to live. Truly live.

I believe that a great many people in this country are just surviving. And that is a terrible way to live.

I’d like to know what other’s think about the following – because I feel it not only applies to me but to many many others as well. please watch this: Smile or Die.

When I was growing up, I was told I had to read a book called The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I’m not sure if I ever did. I think I might have started it, read a few chapters and then put it away. I was fourteen or fifteen maybe and my interests weren’t about the real world then. I was too busy reading about adventures and other worlds to be overly concerned with how a positive mind could help guide or influence my career. What the video representation of the talk says is that: that it’s not really a good thing to think positive all the time. Sometimes, you need to think bad about things.

I’ve run into a number of situations where I was told to “Chin up. Things will get better. Think positive. Something else will come along.”

This was generally in response to my tendency to go inward when dealing with issues, the loss of a job or end of a relationship – to pull pain and disappointment to me and hold it, feel it, completely absorb and then let it slowly drain away. I’ve been told its tough to be around me, that I don’t mask my feelings and so everyone knows when I’m upset or down or sad. And what strikes me about the video is that Western culture (here in the States and In England where my ancestry is from) is all about the Put on a Happy Face, Smile and the World Smiles with You and ‘everything will just get better’ mode of thinking.

Or as Pharrell Williams ubiquitously tells us he’s Happy — and by the way – I love that song 🙂 so don’t think I’m advocating doom and gloom, there is a point to all of this – the second verse speaks volumes I think:

Here come bad news talking this and that
Yeah, give me all you got, don’t hold back
Yeah, well I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine
Yeah, no offense to you don’t waste your time
Here’s why:

Because I’m happy

It doesn’t say to just act like nothing’s wrong, it is in fact saying — bring it, I can take it. I’m not hiding from my worries or troubles or woes. I claim them and I will carry them.

If Barbara Ehrenreich’s speech is correct, then this attitude of positive thinking, this culture of always trying to be upbeat and forcing ourselves to be cheerful when everything around us is falling apart, when every instinct in our bodies is screaming that it isn’t right that there is something terribly wrong – then we should look it straight in the eye. Don’t turn it away, or self-medicate or rush to get a Prozac.

The other thing about her speech that just floored me is the use of the term Vigilant. Man, I’ve written about that before and I really really really need to self-publish that damn superhero story of mine. 🙂

Which bring us back to Merlin and the Doom of Men.

Do not forget that you are meant to be unhappy, meant to be sad, meant to work through all of that – so that when those moments and hours and days of happiness occur, they are ever brighter because of the gloom.

Embrace the storm.

Relish it.

Because it is in the storm that you are alive.

 

 

Creative Tangenting or is there a type of “Sampling” in Writing or Literature?

So, one of my favorite film series of the last fifteen years was the Jason Bourne trilogy, starring Matt Damon. It’s a great spy/conspiracy action-adventure series. I’ve watched them quite a number of times and there is an interesting character relationship that at first seems innocent but — is it really?

What started me thinking about all of this was watching Mark Ronston’s TED talk about sampling – and how just about everything is being sampled, not just lkyrics or hooks or notes of music. He makes use of other TED talks and snatches of phrases to make a music track from them – it got me thinking – is there a style of writing or literature that does that? Or will there be in the near future?

Is a reboot of a film franchise or comic book a type of sampling? There was The Seven Samurai and then The Magnificent Seven, right? Spider-Man and then The Amazing Spider-Man, right?

The closest thing I can think of is slam poetry – I can’t think of a specific one, but I know I’ve heard several that weave popular lyrics into the narrative and they are more powerful because I know the lyric and understand how it fits into the stream of the poem which elevates it because now I feel I am sharing that same moment with the poet. Its creative licensing of a sort or perhaps a kind of hyperlinking where experience and knowledge meld – which is nothing new I know, I’m just trying to work it out 🙂

A good friend and my ex-wife and I took a number of trips to Massachusetts to visit friends in the mid-late 90’s and it was like a 12 hour car trip. My ex and my friend Wayne ad a great way of interacting, which I would feign annoyance about much to their amusement – I used to play up getting upset because it seemed like they could not stay on one subject for more than two minutes tops before rocketing off on another one that may or may not be related to the previous one – I was usually driving during these rapid-fire storm of words between them and was listening to the exchange with both wonder and yes a bit of chagrin. Because while I could follow I really wasn’t keeping up with them – I had my own train of thoughts while they were tangenting and tagenting and tangenting – it really was fascinating. And annoying 🙂

But what I appreciated about it was the ability and possibility of what was going on – and recognizing that it happens all the time, all around us.

So, getting back to Bourne — and what really makes this pop for me is because the third installment actually ‘samples’ a moment from the end of the second installment — sort of 🙂

I’ve done this before with films or stories from films (thinking about the story from a different angle – Willow for example – maybe Elora Dannan isn’t the savior we think, maybe she will bring destruction and the evil queen trying to kill her really is the good guy – it could happen!), so this isn’t new for me, or these fine folks at Cracked After Hours– but I was thinking about this one in particular because I’m just wondering what the writers of the films actually were thinking about the relationship.

In the first Bourne film, The Bourne Identity, we are introduced to a character named Nicolette Parsons played by Julia Stiles. In this film she’s portrayed as a low-level tech liaison between the Paris op center and the Treadstone team in Langley, VA.

Jason lets her live when he confronts the baddie near the end and she appears in the two sequels, playing a really big part in The Bourne Ultimatum, mirroring almost exactly the same relationship with Bourne that Marie (Bourne’s love interest played by Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy) had, short of becoming a romantic one.

So, why am I making a fuss about this? Forgive me, this next part requires knowledge of having seen the films – so spoilers if you haven’t seen them.

Well, what I thought during subsequent viewings of the films – and what the spy /conspiracy film uses as a trope most of the times – is that nothing is ever as it first appears.

Nicky is in all three films – she seems like an innocent – but is she? The first two films establish her as an almost pawn, someone just following orders – but my thought was – what if she’s not? What if she is the one who orchestrated the whole Treadstone program from the very beginning? It puts a real “OMG” twist on the films if you think about it.

In the first film, she’s established as being stationed in Paris – she’s Bourne’s contact point before he goes all amnesiac.

In film two, she’s “dragged” back in by Pamela Landy when she is digging to get to the bottom of who is responsible for this black ops program – she’s used as bait to try and trap Jason.

In film three, she is conveniently assigned to the exact field office that Jason goes to to when tracking down info on Blackbriar and accompanies him to Tangiers to track down the fleeing field officer and after almost getting assassinated, she goes on the run, fleeing the Agency for good.

The real question would be – if this were the true underlying truth to the Bourne films – that Nicky is the real head of the Treadstone/Blackbriar program – why would she allow all of this to fall apart around her?

There are a number of possibilities:

1. She wants out, to cover her tracks and so uses Bourne as the instrument to destroy the program she built.

2. She is an agent of chaos (see what I did there :)) and just wanted to see what would happen

3. She loved Jason and wanted him to be free.

or any number of others –

A really really really smart head of a spy program could do that – orchestrate an elaborate layer after layer after layer program, operate through proxies, hide in plain site and so on…

I guess it’s sort of fan fiction or idle fancy to extrapolate on things like this – but the idea of sampling just struck me and stewed in my brain.

But in the end, it’s always good to explore storytelling, how it works, what doesn’t – taking it apart, putting it together, telling it again – the same thing we’ve been doing since we all first sat down around the bonfire and asked:

“Tell me a story.”

I don’t think I nailed this exactly – but its still something that has a kernel of something, an idea or a thought – or maybe I’m just not thinking of it the right way. I know I’m just not sure if I expressed it well…

i-photodotus

So this is the kind of thing that really blows my mind. The Music of Trees.

I have no idea how it works, or how the program or the tech chooses which notes correspond to the bumps and grooves of each of the tree rings and honestly I don’t care – I just find it completely fascinating that it works or that someone thought of how to make it happen. That someone (in this case a fellow by the name of Bartholomäus Traubeck) was looking at the concentric rings on a tree and made the connection that they were somehow musical. Perhaps its not as far fetched as I am making it, I mean for a long time records were grooved like trees, and maybe it has been done or tried before but this is the first I’ve heard of it.

But, it makes you wonder…

Can other lives be measured just as musically? Can a human’s life be composed of such a symphony of sounds? Does anyone know if our orbital resonance has been translated this way? Can you imagine the song you are producing? The song you make when joined with another? The song a mother or father passes from child to child to child?

The ancients thought so. There are creation myths about the world being born of song (ala Tolkien and the Silmarillion), the musica universalis, the song of the universe.

textsecret227

Music is magic to me – something that is infinite and constantly surprising and inspiring. I love the idea that all of life is music.

I have to wonder if the song is set however – in the case of the cross section of the Ash tree in the musical example. If the program chooses a different tone or frequency, does the song change? It’s pretty dramatic as a piano piece and you can just imagine the details of what the tree experienced from year to year through the notes… very very cool.

As I write this I am listening to the movie’s score and am also one hour away from seeing the new Captain America movie.

When the Dark Knight Rises opened there was the shooting in Aurora and yesterday, another shooting at Ft. Hood.

As excited as I am to see this new movie – I am also bothered by the negative and tragic incidents that mirror the violence and conflict that are a part of most comic book heroics.

I love Captain America. For me, he is the ideal American male – what we should strive to be. He is the little guy who made good, who was granted a gift and used to to defend and protect, not exploit or to hurt. As a young boy growing up I had the sense that America was the greatest country in the world… but now, at 51, I know what a lot of us have been thinking for a decade or more: we are not the greatest country on the world.

Cap was symbol of American greatness for me, something that went deeper than the red, white and blue. Cap was a defender, a front line combatant, the guy who would stand and who would compromise or quit.

*I am back from the movie – So pleased:)*

I wanted to write a post about all the good that Cap represents, my frutration with the decision to kill him in the comics and the elation at seeing him finally presented on the big screen just as I had imagined him from the comics – or at least what I remember him to be, colored of course by my own notions of what I want him to be.

Cap was and is a vibrant example of the ‘good guy’ standing up against the bully or those who use fear to subjugate and control. I want to believe in Cap… but what I am begrudgingly having to admit is, that Cap is just too good to be true.

I wanted to write this post about how excited I was about seeing the film to provide my thoughts about the film and where I thought they were taking things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was caught up in the excitement of seeing part of my childhood brought to life… instead it was marred by an act of violence in the real world.

I wanted to fill this page with giddy child-like glee. But I’m forced – through terrible circumstances – to confront the fact that this ideal I look up to is part of the problem. That Cap is just too good to be true – the morals and justice he represents, is just absent from the USA today. The major symptom of the problem I’m talking about is gun violence in America.

I’m not going to get on a soap box about it. My feelings and opinions about gun laws and controls and whether or not we should own guns or what type is simply my opinion. I’m not going to tell someone they are wrong for wanting to own one or to keep it in  their home, for whatever reason.

A long time ago I wrote a short story that was turned into a overly long and not very good film with the help of some wonderful friends at my undergraduate university. I say it was not good not because of the acting or whatever, but because it was a first time film-making process by a bunch of folks who were not well schooled in the hows and whys of film-making. Anyway, the point is there was a two lines of dialogue that opened the short story and that were used in the film:

Like a raindrop that shatters the serene, mirror-like surface of a deep still lake, a single event can occur that completely disrupts the dull routine of our lives.
And like the concentric circles spreading slowly outward from the point of that drop’s impact, so do the effects of that event reach out and touch every aspect of your being.

On some level I realized that each moment we have isn’t just a moment when it comes to others.

In the new Cosmos series with Neil deGrasse Tyson, at the end of the first episode he relates a story of a moment that profoundly affected his life – when as a young budding scientist he wrote a letter to his idol Carl Sagan, the host of the original Cosmos. Dr. Sagan, after reading Tyson’s letter, responded by inviting him to spend the weekend with him.

How generous, how positive and how far reaching that moment was. Another scientist or astronomer might have just been content to write a letter, or another might not have done anything at all. But because Dr. Sagan allowed reached out and touched Mr. Tyson’s life, that effect has blossomed through the years and advanced not only the knowledge of one man, but of many more besides.

The ripples of that event are still ongoing. And I hope will continue for many more years to come, shining light into the dark corners for all of us.

On the opposite hand, you have people like the shooter at Ft. Hood, who – because of circumstances we may recognize or identify with – do the exact opposite.

I am not judging or condemning the horrific act perpetrated by a lone gunmen – I am merely pointing out that that moment also has far reaching effects, effects that will continue to ripple outwards, undoing the positive in people’s lives, creating grief and misery and a host of other feelings that will echo for years to come. Blotting out the light that others are trying to keep illuminated.

Captain America is a source of light for me – but the violence and reality of the world I live in keeps that light dimmer than it should be.

I want to believe in Cap, I really do.

I want my heroic reality – the one where someone saves the day – not the reality that results in the senseless deaths of others because someone was hurting to the point where they saw no other recourse but to act in an un-heroic manner.

 

 

 

If I were an Evil Genius, I think I have found where I would build my secret underground lair.

Aogashima, Japan

This is Aogashima, of the coast of Japan.

Of course I would have to re-locate the 200 or so inhabitants and infect the world’s spy satellites with a bit of code that would block the view of the are before beginning construction of my super cool new abode. It would be an awesome complex: state-of-the-art, high-tech uber-base, replete with Bond villain like aesthetics and squads of Omnidroids that would patrol and persuade intruders or visitors that perhaps they might want to vacation elsewhere.

I would also have the unending financial resources to make this a reality of course.

I don’t think I would try for the whole world domination thing though… I mean, why be greedy?

I might have research projects and science projects that I would show off – like a giant sea-water hydro-plant system that would produce clean energy and as a by product, a filtration system that produces far more clean, fresh water that I could never use. I’d probably give that away. But I would laugh evilly as I did so – gotta keep up that Evil Genius image after all. 🙂

 

 

VSE

I’ve posted before about Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books.

When I first read them in high school, I was fascinated by the world of the books and intrigued by the main character – he was I think the first character (outside of a comic book) that I understood to be an anti-hero – someone who rejects the heroic mantle offered him. He is also a leper and the book illustrates that the disease destroys the nerve endings, so he cannot feel the way others can – and so, unless he is not careful, a bruise can turn into something worse, a cut left untended can fester and turn gangrenous. He has to perform was is called a VSE – a visual surveillance of extremities – so he can make sure he isn’t hurt.

This idea was one that captured my attention and one which still I find myself doing on a regular basis – only I’m not scanning my outer body for cuts or bruises. I do deep painful examinations of my inner life, my motives and my experiences, my place in the world – because I believe, at my very center, that I am supposed to contribute what I can to the betterment of others… and while that may sound noble, how I go about that doesn’t seem to be very noble, and I never feel I am doing all I can.

pisces

When I was in my late teens and early twenties – like a lot of creative or spiritual types – I read a lot of books about astrological signs and was excited and fascinated by how ‘spot on’ they seemed to be when it came to the attributes and characteristics that supposedly defined what my sign is – Pisces, the fish.

Here’s an example:

Down to their bones, Pisces are lovers. They are by nature selfless, giving souls. Shy, gentle and perceptive, a Pisces’ giving nature can get Fish into hot water if they’re not careful. Pisces have a tendency to be easily taken advantage of, so they must learn to focus in the real world now and then to watch for troublemakers.

Their highly sensitive and emotional qualities can make Pisces desperately fear criticism and judgments. If Fish aren’t being heard — or believe they’re not being heard — they may lapse into despondency and pessimism which will eventually lead them into procrastination and indifference. I’m sure you’re aware by now, if you weren’t before, of just how awful indifference is to Fish.

Pisces have a highly evolved intuition, are spiritually oriented, and incredibly perceptive.

Fish are defined by their feelings. This can be heavy for signs looking for lighter lovers. Creative and artistic, Pisces can, at times, become very focused on their own inner journeys, leaving their love interests and others in the dark.

Whether or not you are interested in astrology or believe in the study of it or that human beings are defined by what positions the stars were in when they born – it is interesting to look at the descriptions of what your sign is and think about what parts apply to you or if they apply to you at all. The above description was cribbed from Kate Wood. And upon reading it – and in light of recent events, and events going back the last decade or so, here I am once again performing another VSE on myself, my nature.

And if you follow the link and read her post you’ll not that I left some parts of her description out – only because I don’t feel they apply to me, not at the present time and if I’m honest almost never.

I am hyper-critical of myself, and as my last post no doubt revealed, I’m quite put out by certain behaviors that happen around me. But the real answer to that is my response to those behaviors and how I allow them to affect me. As much as I would like to see myself as wise and worldly, it bothers me to no end how I am affected and allow myself to be affected by the actions of others.

And so, when I read that a Pisces primary goal is the helping of others, I look at myself and find that that is not the case – I find myself looking at my actions and my reactions and seeing everything I do as an act of selfishness, not selflessness.

And I turn inward, fold in on myself and find myself having that same old argument I’ve had since high school – I’m not a good person, I am too focused on my own wants and desires.

Here are some of the positive qualities I see posted about Pisces – Imaginative, Kind, Compassionate, Intuitive, Sensitive, Selfless.

And while I may be compassionate – I feel way too much sometimes about others, hurting for them and being hurt by them (which is listed as one of the negative characteristics about a Pisces) – but I would never say of myself that I was charitable and utterly self-sacrificing. That isn’t me… I can’t be that way, not without losing myself. And I guess that’s insightful or wise, but on the other hand it sounds selfish – completely the opposite of selfless and giving.

What makes this even more depressing for me is that its not who I want to be – and try as I might to be better – I find my reactions to circumstances define who I am. And my reactions of late have all been ugly and angry. And while the extreme part of my nature fears I’m not ever going to get back to a place that allows me to be anything other than that – I know that everything changes.

Circumstances will either change for the better or for the worse – but what truly matters is my reaction to them. Action is character after all, and how I choose to act or react defines me.

I cannot afford to be selfless – I just don’t have the economic base or emotional reserves to be selfless at present. After two years of struggling to fit back into a place I would have liked to have called home I found myself unable to make it work financially. I made a decision to retreat, and up until the beginning of February of this year, had no income to speak of and so was stagnant and stuck. Fortunately I have found work and am getting my feet under me – but I find I am still in hunker mode, wrapping myself in a protective shell until I can breathe easier. ** as a caveat to that last bit, I did find time to write, to create and so it wasn’t at all as horrible as it sounds – if you just ignore the “I have no money” bit.

Don’t get me wrong – all of this seemingly negative stuff is me getting it out, rather than holding it in. A purge.

I like me, I like what I have to give – even though when I see or read terms like self-sacrificing I get real down on myself because self-sacrificing isn’t how I would describe writing stories or acting in plays.

Friends who read this will have a variety of reactions – from understanding to derision. But I point them to the part of this post that refers to a characteristic of Pisces that is very true about me – if I’m not being heard, if I’m not being seen – then I wither and retreat.

I am in retreat mode. But keeping an eye and my heart open for still waters and a safe harbor.