Fat Mogul vs. Destiny

I’ve had a computer in front of me for as long as I can remember.  My parents had an Atari computer, you know, the one with the floppy disk drive and a keyboard, instead of the much more popular dedicated video game system.  Oh, you don’t know?  Not surprising.

Also doesn’t matter.  What matters is that for as long as I can remember, I’ve been working with computers.

Which is why it was so odd that when time came to choose a career, one in computers was one I wanted to hide from.  I know my reasons, but even I knew they were off.

Especially since every job I’ve ever held has led to me being deeply involved in the computers and/or technology of the company.

Last week I made a decision to begin my education again (more on that later), and in the past 2 weeks of working with(learning) the Python programming language, I have been able to create a computer program which is capable of doing pretty close to everything I had already been doing in my job.  I have already figured out how to create a new tool which will fix an issue that the company doesn’t even realize it has yet, which I believe I’ll be able to craft tomorrow.

In other words, with just a little bit of effort (okay, I’ll take a bit more credit, I’ve been cramming hard for the past 2 weeks), I’ve been able to completely change my skillset, and suddenly today I’ve started looking at what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years in a completely new light.

All because I allowed myself to actually study something that interests me, something that’s a marketable skill, I’ll add.  Something that I should have been studying for the past 20 years.  Something I was doing when I was 8…

Destiny.

So, yeah…I started taking classes online, mostly just to see if I could actually get into it again.  The idea was that I would start with some of these free classes just as a test and if so, then I would go full bore…I didn’t get through the testing phase before plowing much more deeply into things than I had intended to at full bore.

And I’m pretty darn excited about the stuff I’m learning.

What does this have to do with writing?  Well, actually, both very little, and a whole lot.  Now that I’m thinking about what I can new with my newly burgeoning skills, I’ve got some ideas for new forms of written entertainment…things that are still percolating.  Things that could be a heckuva lot of fun.

But mostly, I’m just really excited to be learning new stuff again and wanted to share it with you.

By the way, since they’re giving me all sorts of free knowledge, I feel I should give them a plug in return.  Udacity.com is an incredible site.  Purely incredible.  And they offer every single class for free. They have something they call nanodegrees you can pay for, but if you’re purely just looking for knowledge, they’ve got more than you could want.

And they do a damned good job.

Have fun out there!

30 Minutes 2 Bedtime

Hey folks, big news for you today.

I just launched a new site!

I know I haven’t been too active on here as of late, which I’m working on a return for, but me and the family have been hard at work lately on a very new idea that I know many of you are going to love.  30minutes2bedtime.com is a parenting blog that focuses on the adventures that can be had with your kids, whether at home or out in the world.

It’s a lot of the stuff you’ve seen here over the years, but more directly focused on the family.

Need more reason to go check it out, then catch a glimpse at our first post and video.  I think you’ll agree it’s going to be a lot of fun!

 

 

Fat Mogul vs. Dreams

I’m fairly certain I’ve visited this topic a number of times on here.  That being said, I’ve been inspired to hit up on it again.  So, you know, if you don’t like reading about dreams…too bad!

At some point in their lives, everyone has a dream.  By dream I mean a prime version of themselves that they wish to reach at some point.  I like to think that in the multiverse, this dream version of oneself is the one on Earth Prime.  As in, this is who we would be if everything went the way things were supposed to go.  That places us currently in one of the other universes. Not Earth Prime, but one of the ones where someone made a decision that moved us off that path.

But just because you’re not on Earth Prime doesn’t mean your dreams aren’t acheivable.  Actually, if anything, that theory makes it more plausible you could achieve your dreams.  Somewhere out there in the multiverse there is a version of you who has made it.  That version of you actually managed to make your dreams come true.

So why not you?

Somewhere out there, in Earth Prime, I’m sitting on my farm, with my wife and kids, putting the finishing touches on another novel.  His life isn’t that different from my own.  He just has a bit more land and the opportunity to spend his days pursuing his creative side more.  He’s still got the same awesome wife and kids.  He probably doesn’t have much more money…maybe less.  He’s not that different from me, just spends his days differently.

In Earth Prime, some were born a woman instead of a man, white instead of black, skinny instead of fat, rich instead of poor, sane instead of insane, abled instead of disabled, famous instead of obscure.  We all have dreams.  And they run the gamut of options.

But dreams aren’t just things you want. There aren’t the same as seeing the newest toy out there and wishing you could afford it.  Dreams are a yearning of the heart, a constant tug pulling you toward a version of yourself, the Earth Prime version of yourself.  Dreams stay on your mind nearly constantly.  Dreams are a part of you, incapable of being separated unless you let them die.

I’m not a man who wishes for much.  I don’t spend my days thinking about all the cool things I would buy if I were to ever be rich.  I don’t generally fantasize about wealth. Having fulfilling days has always been my dream, for as long as I can remember.  I remember being a young boy and hoping the future me would simply be happy with his job.  Yes, I wanted to be writer, but that seemed silly to me, even when I was young.  I just wanted to be happy.  It took me ages to figure out what that meant.  Ages to realize being a writer wasn’t as silly as I had thought.  In Earth Prime, I’m guessing I was a bit quicker to learn that.

That’s not to say I’m unhappy.  I love my life.  It’s just not quite my dream.  It’s just slightly off from Earth Prime.  I’m not the goateed mirror universe version of myself.  Just the few days of beard growth version.  If fact, if Earth Prime Adam’s life was all that different from my own, I’d probably turn down the opportunity to change places, should he appear and decide he wants to Prince and Pauper things for a bit.

But that’s getting off track a bit.  What I’m really getting at is the very same question I ask myself whenever I start feeling down about my dreams.

Why aren’t you pursuing your dreams?

If I didn’t ask myself this question, I’m pretty sure my dreams would have fizzled out and died long ago.

I don’t want my dreams to die.  Dreams give me something to aspire to.  I want to be Earth Prime Adam, instead of the man constantly feeling his pull.  Living in his shadow, somehow.

Often the answer comes in the form of “It’s impossible”.  Yet, there are so many people in the world achieving the Earth Prime versions of themselves, or at least their own Earth Prime versions of themselves.  And some of them are going to incredible means to satisfy the pull their Earth Prime counterpart has on them.  If they can achieve their dreams, why can’t we?

If a man can become a woman, why can’t I achieve my dreams?

If a white woman can run a black organization as a black woman, why can’t I achieve my dreams?

If Donald Trump can be President, why can’t I achieve my dreams?

Okay, so the last one isn’t quite true, yet (and I honestly hope it never is), but seriously, people are doing some mighty amazing things to reach their own dreams.  Things that seem impossible.  All to reach the Earth Prime version of themselves.

Why aren’t you?

The answer is simple.  The only reason you can’t achieve your dreams is because you’re not trying hard enough.  I know that for a fact for myself.  I constantly give up.  I constantly fail myself under the assumption that my dreams are impossible.  I constantly stop trying.  But our dreams aren’t impossible.  They might be difficult to reach, but not impossible.

If you’re like me, you might spend a lot of time dwelling on historical choices that might have kept you from reaching Earth Prime You.  I think you’re already aware that’s not going to get you anywhere.  But the reasons above, as well as millions of examples more, show there really is no limit to what you can achieve.  You don’t need to spend your life wishing to be the Earth Prime You.  It’s already happened in some universe.  Why can’t it happen here too?

Figure out your dream.  Then figure out how to reach it.  And don’t stop.  I don’t care what people say.  I don’t care what your brain says.  It’s not time to give up.  It’s time to dig in.  Reach for the stars.  Be your dream. Don’t give up.

Be you.

Fat Mogul vs Evil

(DISCLAIMER: This post gets long. It gets political. And it gets even a little bit religious. Three things I typically keep from putting on here, but, well, I’ve decided to change things up today)

As an author, I get to craft evil villains. I love crafting evil villains. I like developing back stories, coming up with over the top intentions, and ultimately, I love just allowing the crazy to come out and become a living (fictional) being.

For a long time, possibly due to the naiveté of youth, I didn’t really perceive evil in this world. Sure, I grew up during the first Gulf War where Saddam Hussein was painted as this absolutely atrocious human being (which he was, don’t get me wrong, just let me get to the point), but he still appeared human. He had motivation, albeit mostly power, and well, he still seemed like a person. He wasn’t like those guys you see in the movies and comic books, those like the Green Goblin or Lex Luthor whose motivations outside of insanity can appear hazy at best (depending on who is writing them). Or, more notably, the Joker, whose real motivation is purely to create havoc.

That’s what I saw as evil. Something you couldn’t predict. Something that was done purely for the sake of chaos. Something that was so absolutely insane that attempting to find the reasons for it were an impossible task. Hussein, at least in my childhood mind, was just a really mean dude, not someone who might suddenly decide to blow up another country.

This was my perception of the world for a long time. There were bad men, but not really EVIL men. Then one day, I realized Adolf Hitler was a real person. Not that I confused history with fiction, but that I had never really considered what the reality of Hitler was. He was just this bad man in the history books who started a war. Suddenly I realized that this man, who, for the record, did a heckuva lot of good for his country, was absolutely bonkers. And evil bonkers at that. Adolf Hitler wasn’t just killing traitors, he wasn’t just killing enemies (which is why folks like Stalin and Mussolini make a bit more sense in my mind). He was killing an entire race of people.

That’s comic book evil. That’s what I understood to be evil.

To be fair, before this realization with Hitler, I did see one form of comic book evil through The Devil, but that is an entirely different conversation for an entirely different time.

Of course, as I got older and the specifics of the civil rights movements or the history of the Native Americans were learned past the history book versions of “something bad was going on, but it’s getting better”, I realized that evil is pretty much anywhere.

I want to stop here for just a second and note in a highlighted form what I just said. Racism is evil.

Now, obviously all racists are not of the lynching genocidal type. Also, I think the term racism gets thrown around a little too loosely nowadays where terms like insensitive and uninformed would probably be more appropriate. Just take a look at the textbook definitions of racism. They all infer a belief of superiority, but even if you just take the definition as being prejudiced at face value, well, like I said, I think we’re a little over-eager to slap the term racist around.

I make this distinction because I don’t believe all folks who are insensitive or ill-informed or just plain stupidly stereotyping individuals based on a characteristic they inhabit are evil. Racists are evil.

For example, perhaps you honestly believe that people of a certain color have a predisposed attraction to the flavor of watermelon. That’s not evil, just uninformed. Should you believe that those people are less intelligent than you because of their color, evil.

Now you may be saying, but Adam, just look at the statistics, you can prove certain things about certain races. There are statistically valid reasons for believing my stupid belief about these people. Shut up, you’re dumb. And you’re probably evil.

Why am I so ready to plaster the word evil to folks who think this way? Why couldn’t I just say prideful, or stupid, or, I don’t know, white? (<—-see that right there, that’s called using an obviously inflammatory statement to make a joke. You know, because I’m stereotyping a group when I’m writing a post about how we probably shouldn’t do that. Unbunch your underpants)

Simple. I will call you evil because of folks like Hitler or those who lynched [insert category of people here, could include blacks, Native Americans, or witches, as well as many others]. I’m calling you evil because you represent a group that has time and again followed through on their beliefs with evil. Time and again these racists have followed through on their feelings of superiority by declaring that these other groups shouldn’t even exist on this planet anymore. Or, maybe they should be around but considered animals to be used for harvesting crops or building giant funeral palaces made out of sand bricks.

Evil.

The man who entered a building this past weekend with presumed intention of killing people based on what category they fall into? Evil, obviously. Heck, even if it turns out that he just got mad because some dude turned him down, he’s still evil, but that doesn’t really apply to what we’re talking about here.

Because what I’m talking about here is that folks are now starting to recognize evil. Or at least they think they do. When Hitler came around and starting rounding up people of a particular lineage, the world was relatively slow in declaring evil. The US still hasn’t done any form of apologizing (as far as I’ve been able to find) for the mass genocides of Native Americans that have happened throughout the majority of our 200 year presence. But now, we see evil. Those folks who ran planes into buildings. Those folks who created shoe bombs and make us take off our shoes at the airport. Those folks who bombed a big group of people just trying to run impossibly long distances for reasons no one will understand (yes, I’m questioning why runners run). Actually…I’m sorry, no, Muslims. That’s who we see as evil. Muslims, right?

A few months back I was talking to a local Muslim (honestly, didn’t know we had an organized group of them in town until I chatted with her) about how they had received a bomb threat regarding an event they had put together for giving food and water to needy people (or something like that…I’ll admit that it was long enough ago that the specifics of their event were lost to me, but I can promise you that it wasn’t to plan terrorist attacks on our country). Let that sink in for a moment. The Muslims were receiving bomb threats…

Because, you see, Muslims are not the issue here. In fact, the second you begin labelling that entire group as the problem, you start running into the racist territory, thereby gaining my designation as evil. But most people don’t realize this. Most people see Muslims, all folks who have this category attached to their name (or, in many cases, just people who look like they might), as being evil. And it’s not going to be long (if it hasn’t happened already…I’m not immediately thinking of any such thing occurring) before we see mosques getting the same attention as our Baptist churches or gay night clubs or giant buildings of commerce. All because of people thinking that other people are the problem and deciding they don’t deserve to be on this planet any more.

Whether you’re destroying towers with planes or shooting up a night club or attacking people because they look like the people who attacked you earlier, you have the same evil problem. You’ve stopped caring for life. You’ve determined that your life and your beliefs (thoughts, desires, whatever you want to call them) are more important than the existence of that other person.

Evil.

But how do we respond to evil? Whenever events like the tragedy in Orlando occur, the discussion immediately turns to gun control. One side says we need to get rid of all the guns so things like this will never happen again (an impossible dream to be certain), the other side says we need to load up on weapons so everyone is strapped and we’ll be in a constant Mexican standoff (is that racist? I’m not sure…well, obviously not evil racist, but possibly insensitive…I’m not familiar with the etymology of the phrase) where no one will shoot because of everyone being capable of shooting. So…you know, a version of the Cold War, but between every single person on the planet.

Of course, both of those are wild exaggerations on the thoughts of the majority for each side of the debate. I think if you discuss with most folks, you’ll find that they all fall somewhere in the middle quite close to each other. Do people need to be walking around with semi-automatic assault rifles strapped to their chest as they go in for their happy meal at McDonald’s? I’m guessing a very small number of people really think they do. Do we need to live in a gun-free world? Well, to be honest, I’m not totally against it, but I don’t think guns are evil here. I just don’t think we need to have them on our person at all times.

Gun control has this terrible connotation with it, as least as far as gun proponents see it. It says that the guns will be taken away. But does it? It might say control of your guns could be taken away, but not necessarily your guns. In fact, there are very few proponents (in my experience) who are for removing all guns from private possession. America is the land of explosions and hunting and whatever else. We like to shoot things. But I think there needs to be some social understanding in what is acceptable gun usage. We currently have some gun control, in that if you shoot someone with your gun, the law will get involved. Let’s start there. Threaten someone with a gun, Law. Carry your gun around in public…there are many laws, some of which are cool with it, some that aren’t. My personal thought: Why? Bringing your gun down to the Wal-Mart with you isn’t going to do you any justice.

So often I hear the comment from gun proponents about how they’ll be willing to save even the anti-gunners. That statement terrifies me. Does this not sound like the words of someone who sees themselves as the white hat in the wild west? How many people do we want pulling out guns in a situation like the one in Orlando? Yes, it’s possible that the issue could be resolved faster and with fewer deaths. It’s also possible that things could be a lot worse.

Let’s say some ‘terrorist’ comes out and decides to shoot down everyone who likes warehouse shopping. Are you that much of a Die Hard fetishist that you honestly believe having your gun on you is going to help? Most likely, you’ll create dangerous cross-fire due to your lack of training in the resolution of such conflicts and you’ll not only injure innocents, but make it difficult for the people with the training to get in there and help out.

You’re not John McClane.

Which brings me to idea #1 of gun control in this current world where everyone is terrified of everything. Societal Gun Safety training. Folks who are out there getting their hunting permits have to take a hunter safety course (at least in Wisconsin…I think they have an apprenticeship option as well, which seems a little scary, but I digress). If you’re planning on being the guy to save the day in a crisis situation, shouldn’t you be required to have some training for that as well? The gun lobby appears to be against much for limitations on licensing, but if a reason for getting strapped is because you want to hero up, why not be required to be trained in being a hero for these situations? You know, simple things like how to shoot, where to shoot (you know, things like disabling a shooter instead of a head shot (which is more likely to miss anyways)), and possibly some sort of actual issue resolution training that doesn’t involve guns. If you want to be a hero, get yourself deputized somehow instead of just being a wannabe vigilante with a gun. Having a gun does not make you safer. It makes you much more dangerous.

Second idea: we need to severely decrease access to items resembling military grade weaponry. It should not be so easy to get your hands, legally, on a semi-automatic assault rifle that you can do so with even the most limited knowledge on the gun purchasing process. Sure, you want your assault rifle because you think it’s fun to shoot. I like my fireworks, I get how much fun it can be to blow stuff up. Yet there needs to be a better process in place. A process which puts more emphasis on the safety of the public when a weapon designed for the purpose of mowing down dozens of people with a single press of a trigger is being put on the public streets.

Number one, in my opinion, don’t let these guns on the streets. You want to have one, great. Perhaps it has to stay at a registered gun range. Or even more lenient, you can keep it at home, but attach a friggin house arrest bracelet to that puppy or something to make sure it’s not leaving home without someone being alerted. These are dangerous weapons. They need to be treated as such. When I see these pictures of people wearing them like a fashion accessory, I can’t help but think something is seriously wrong. Whether or not you’re planning on using them to kill someone, that’s what they were designed to do. They weren’t designed for hunting, they weren’t designed for fun. They were designed for killing. Let’s keep that in mind here.

Bottom line is, I don’t think guns should be taken away. I love venison, I love duck, I love rabbit, and although I wish old school trapping techniques were more in vogue, I’m not the one doing the killing, so I’m not going to judge. I also totally understand they’re probably a lot of fun to shoot. I did my share of recreational shooting as a young boy growing up in South Carolina.

But safety needs to be a concern with these items, especially when you’re talking about people-killer weapons (by that I mean weapons designed for the purpose of killing man). The current debate seems to have the gun proponents sounding as though they are against any legislation on guns, simply because the bad guys are going to still have them. That’s dumb. We can make a lot of idiotic laws based on that precise logic. Why not open up nuclear weapon sales to the public? (<—That’s called exaggeration, used to make a point)

God did not give you the right to carry a gun. Nowhere in the Bible are guns even mentioned. The Bill of Rights gives you that right (or perhaps the right to own grizzly arms…), but not all rights are given without some sort of governing over them. You have the right to live, but there are many rules placed upon you within that life. You are given the right to liberty, but that’s liberty within a very constrained framework. And you are given the right to pursue happiness, but again, as long as you follow the rules. Hell, historically speaking (and not entirely historically speaking), people have been kept from pursuing their own happinesses due to laws about interracial or homosexual relations.

Regardless, your right to pursue happiness ends at the moment your pursuit endangers or threatens someone else’s pursuit. If it makes you happy to wave around a gun naked in the middle of a bank, I guarantee you will not be allowed to continue to pursue that happiness. Your right to bear arms should be considered similarly.

Guns need control. People need control. And ultimately, we need to learn to live in a little less fear and a lot more hope that the world can get better. One way we can help make the work get better is to start loving a lot more and hating a lot less. Because when you start hating an entire group of people based on one simple characteristic, you start heading down the road of evil. And I think we already covered how I feel about that.

Fat Mogul vs The Real Job

Nearly a decade ago I entered the professional world by taking an entry level position for a health insurance company. I took the job intending it to be for only a brief period of time, six months was the number I often stated, but ended up staying there for almost 8 years.

Now the odd thing about all this is that a week into my employment, not even having received my first paycheck, I got a call from the director of a local dinner theater, offering me a role in a show they had to fill immediately, due to losing an actor on short notice.

This would have been a paying gig (not much, but paying) and although it would have only been temporary work, the group was known for recasting the same people over and over again, meaning that if I were in one show, it was quite likely I’d get in more.

Now, although this was a dream job for me and I had only intended for the job I had just started to be temporary, not to mention that it was in a field I didn’t really consider to be a viable offer, I turned him down. I remember the exact words I used. “I’d love to, but I just started a real job.”

Nearly a decade later and guess who I see at the car lot when looking for a van to cart my family around in. That same director. The dinner theater had closed down a few years ago and he turned to selling cars. The job honestly makes a lot of sense for an actor.

Now I don’t bring this up as a comment about how my decisions were better than his. To the contrary, I often wonder where my life would have led if I had taken the creative career option. And this man had a very successful and long career doing exactly what he loved. I’m jealous of him in more than a few ways.

I bring this up because during my time with him as a customer at the car lot , he used the phrase ‘real job’. I couldn’t help but consider it might be a callback to when I implied that a job as an actor wasn’t a real job. Then again, I’m guessing that whole conversation is not even in his memory, considering how long ago it was and how little difference it made to his life.

But that consideration got me thinking all the same. My real job is what actually got me to put some real effort into my creative pursuits. If I had been acting for this company, would the same have happened? My ‘real jobs’ for all the frustrations they have caused me, have done a lot towards helping me develop myself creatively. Not to mention that the money gained over the pittance artists make has allowed for a much more creative and comfortable life than I would have had.

But here’s the real deal, folks. The reason I chose professional over artistic at that precise moment can be blamed on one thing. I had just gotten married.  I knew I needed to think about and provide for the future. If it weren’t for that simple fact, if the offer had come about a month earlier, if, if, if, I would have probably made the other choice. And although there would have been parts of that alternate time-line which might have been better, I’m certain that the majority of the things I love about my life would not even be around.

I’m not saying that money buys happiness, but I am saying that it would be a lot less likely that we would have had kids so early, or do all the fun family things we do together, or even have that much time together because the life of a creative generally means long hours.

Actually, when I start to look at things through that light, the annoyance of the boredom so much of my professional life has been defined by seems absolutely dumb to even consider.

The ‘real job’ has given me so many opportunities I would have never seen without it. And most importantly, I’m still allowed to be a creative as well.

But most importantly, my real job has given me my family. They are everything to me.

Second item to note, however, is that my professional life has been able to support my creative life. If I were an actor, I would never have been able to produce my books. I probably wouldn’t have even cared to, considering how I would have already had a creative outlet.

I have done a lot of complaining over the years about my professional life, but I feel it’s time that I admit to you and myself that it has always been entirely my own choice.

And I’d do it again too.

Granted, if someone wanted to pay me to write full-time, I’m not sure I’d turn them down because of my real job😉

Have fun out there!

 

Book Review: Life, Love and Death by Cat Nicolaou

(I know…two book reviews after a long period of silence…Sorry.  Been mighty busy.  Got some stuff I want to write soon, just have to find the time)

Book reviews of short story compilations just never seem to be something I feel I can do while giving the actual compilation justice.  Reviewing each story on its own doesn’t give you a true idea of what how the compilation works as a whole, and reviewing the compilation often comes across as rather vague and generic.  But…I go with the second option all the same.

Cat Nicolaou’s short story compilation seems to be the author’s attempt to time and again subvert not only the romance genre, but also the reader’s expectations.  Nicolaou appears to have fun leading the readers on to expect one ending, while turning it around on you and giving you something completely different.  Until you begin to expect the unexpected and she hits you with something a bit more of what you should have expected.  Life, Love and Death is an amazing compilation in that it seems so perfectly curated.  These aren’t just stories with a common theme, they, at many times, almost come across as stories that are directly connected.

We see old couples fighting, but then we see old ladies missing what they once had.  We find ladies running away from stalkers, while also finding stalkers getting what they deserve (or do they?).  Throughout this compilation, Nicolaou forces the reader to question what they know to be the truth, and often times sheds light on a much different aspect of a tale that we’ve come to know through other writer’s efforts.

This is a mighty strong effort by a new author and I can’t wait to see what she might have waiting for us in the future.

Buy it now!

Book Review: Steeple in the Distance by Deborah Ude

In my efforts to bring you ever more obscure and difficult to find books that you absolutely must read, I present to you, Steeple in the Distance.  How obscure and difficult to find, you may ask?  Well, as far as I’m aware, there are only two possible locations in which to get this book.  You can either get it through the CLC Bookhouse or through the author herself.  How did I happen to get my hands on a copy?  Well, the author just so happens to be the mother of one of my closest high school friends, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a read.

At first glance, I fear many of you may be turned off by the fact that it sells itself as a wholly Lutheran piece of fiction.  I’m not going to lie to you, there is definitely discussions about God which occur throughout the novel.  But the heart of this story is so much more than that, so I truly hope that you give it a chance (should you find it in your hunt for great reads).  Set in the early 1900s, this is a beautiful period piece which painstakingly showcases what life was like at the time before and during the first world war for those living in the Midwest.  You see simple country life for a small family going through the crisis of losing their mother.  You see how something which today is still quite tragic, was capable of causing life to be almost impossible.

Even more than that, Ude does a marvelous job of striking impressively detailed images of a life without electricity (at first), phone lines (at first), and the Internet.  Where the car was something that you used only if absolutely necessary.  And where church was the main social gathering of the week.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Little House on the Prairie books,   Yet these are not books intended for young readers, these are books that are written for readers with a verbose vocabulary who can appreciate a talented writer taking her keyboard out for a long ride.

I honestly can’t express how fully impressed I was by this debut outing for a new writer.  Every page was filled with the results of dedicated research and endless knowledge of a life that disappeared well before the author was even born, a world that was quickly changed at the coming of the world war.

But even more than the detail and the quality of writing, is the uplifting tale of the central character, Nan, who time and again shows her dedication to keeping her family afloat and alive, although it might (and actually does, on several occasions) cause her bodily harm.  Nan is a great example of a strong female character capable of existing within the old world where feminism wasn’t quite yet the twinkle in the world’s eye.  Where women’s place was in the kitchen because the men were out in the fields all day.  Where the difference between man’s work and woman’s work was more a case of tradition and necessity than it was about keeping people within their gender roles.  Nan, among all this, is capable of showing that just because she was doing woman’s work, it wasn’t because it was what was expected of her.  In fact, over and over throughout the text, she chooses it, because she knows her family needs it.

I could go on and on about how spectacular this book is, but honestly, you should just read it. Seriously.  You can borrow mine, if you want.

For now, at least check out Deb’s blog where you can get little tastes of her poetic prose.

The evolution of man

Hey everybody! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Life has been busy for yours truly.  But I haven’t forgotten about you!

Anyways, I wrote a little something that I thought I’d share. It’s rough, it’s just a test of concept, it’s more than a little experimental, and it’s completely first draft with absolutely no edits made on it. But I’m sharing it anyway.

Here it is :

Evolution of man

 

Man starts out life small.  Very small.  Microscopically small.

In fact, when Man first starts out, no one generally notices him. Which he’s pretty cool which.  He doesn’t have much going on, doesn’t have many ideas or plans for the future.  He’s just there.  Chilling and having a good old time.

Things change pretty quickly from there for Man.  Before he’s even a blip on the screen, he’s suddenly growing all sorts of new body parts, and quickly gains a sort of sentience that causes him to be aware that there’s a heckuva lot more going on in the world that just around his simple little swimming pool.

There are noises.  Lights.  And all sorts of cool, amazing sensations like bouncing.  Life is pretty darn awesome.  Even if it feels a little lonely at times.  But it’s safe.  In fact, it’s so safe, Man hasn’t even gained a concept that anything could ever go wrong.  Life seems pretty damned cozy for our little Man.

But then things change.

Change is something that’s generally fairly constant for Man.  From day one to the last, things are always changing, even though Man might not always be aware of it.

The change that happens here, however, is not something that could easily go unnoticed.  It’s epic.  It’s life-changing.  It’s Man’s introduction to the world!

That’s right, suddenly Man is expelled from his warm womb into the hard cold world.  And how is he greeted?  With being made to cry.  Yep.  If Man doesn’t come into this world crying already, his betters are damned sure to make him.

This concept is one that will not be foreign to Man as he continues to evolve.  Although Man may adapt and learn to hide his tears, life will, time and again, give him a hard smack on the bottom to cause him to show he’s still alive.

Because that’s what those tears really mean, right?  That he’s alive.

But this is a dangerous time for Man.  He’s weak.  He’s vulnerable.  He’s fragile.  That’s why most Men, at least the lucky ones, are placed with Caretakers.  Larger beings who can provide for him during this period of evolvement.

Life takes a quick turn here for Man.  He goes from a comfy body-temperature pool where he is constantly connected to his lifeline where he doesn’t even need to wake to be fed, to one where everything is a struggle.  He needs sleep.  He needs food.  Where previously his awareness of any stimuli was minimal, now he is inundated with it.  Hugs, kisses, goo-goo noises, and a whole host of different ways to amuse himself that it’s no wonder that sometimes there can be too much and all Man can do to deal with it is scream.

And there’s also that whole mess with those special undergarments he’s forced to wear.

But Man is adaptable.  He evolves.  And before long, he’s gotten the routine down.  He’s so good at the routine that sometimes he has to remind his Caretakers that they may have forgotten a piece of it.

And as time continues, he learns that sometimes it might be necessary to just take those matters his Caretakers have forgotten into his own hands.  That is, of course, after he has evolved into a mobile being.  One of autonomy.  Of action.

Where previously Man led a life far removed from the world in which he lives, now Man has learned how to interact with it, how to manipulate it.  Man has, in his own mind at least, evolved into something god-like. No longer must he wait for his Caretakers to provide him with his needs.  He can provide for himself.

And this is when the ever-evolving Man is first introduced to a concept which will haunt him for the rest of his days.  Rules.

Man hates Rules.  By their very nature, Rules can only do one thing: Keep Man from evolving into his fullest potential.  So it’s no wonder than Man instinctually resorts to his oldest response to new stimuli.  He cries.  He cries to let the world, and his Caretakers, that he is alive.  That he is here.  And it works.

Where his tears had, at once point, served as a beckoning method for his Caretakers, Man suddenly learns that his declarations of life can also bend their will.  Man learns that he has a power.  A special power that can allow him to manipulate his situation.  To manipulate The Rules.

But this power doesn’t last long.  Man soon learns that the more he uses his newfound power, the less effective it appears to be.  Until the day where Man puts all of his energy into that very same power that seemed capable of moving mountains, only to find himself splayed out on the ground, covered in his own tears, and still not any closer to his goal.

And Man evolves again.  The evolution here is one of many points in which Man’s path may divert from one another, but in each and every situation it does one simple thing.  It causes Man to realize he’s not as powerful as he once thought.

In fact, the evolution of Man is filled with such moments.  Where Man starts out life feeling as though the world is nothing more than something placed there to amuse him, he learns throughout his many stages of evolution that the world expects something back from him.

Which is when Man is introduced to the two-sided coin that is Adolescence.

Adolescence is both wonderful and terrible.  The wonders of Adolescence seem to be more apparent to those who have already evolved past it, but they are there all the same.  The terribleness of it, however, is all too obvious to Man.  Now that he has evolved to a point where he can interact more directly with the world, those Rules seem to become even more demanding.  He sees his Caretakers do many things that he knows full well that he can do with ease, yet his Caretakers seem to want to keep him from reaching his full potential .  Whole areas of his living space are declared off-limits, although easily in reach. Many parts of the world, in fact, are simply prohibited from his involvement.  Items which he may have held only moments prior, with his Caretaker placing the item in his hand, are stated to be not for him to utilize.  The world is a place of contradictions for Adolescent Man.  Contradictions that are difficult for him to reconcile.  Contradictions which will cause him great trouble if he doesn’t quickly grasp them.

And so Adolescent Man learns something new.  Although he is powerful, the Rules can, and often will, strip him of such power.

And he will cry.  Often.  And although the Caretakers may attempt to console him, Man has again been changed.  He has evolved.

This evolution period can take some time.  It does not generally happen overnight, but when it does, Man will find himself a new creature.  Prepubescent Man.  Prepubescent Man is one who seems to have forgotten much about the previous evolutions.  His tears have brought about something that doesn’t seem to care.  He will dive headfirst into the things that interest him and gain as much power over it as he can.  Because here is where Man learns that the true power is knowledge.  His ability to interact with his fellow Man decreases at this point.  He’s learned that he is weak and will do anything he can to keep from appearing as such.

This is also when Man learns something new about his tears.  They have now become a weakness.  What was once his greatest power is now the thing which can most destroy any semblance of power he is able to produce.  So now although Man still continues to cry, he does so in secret, so as to keep from allowing his weakness to be known.

If there is one thing that Prepubescent Man needs more than anything, it is power.  And since he feels powerless, he retracts from the world, hiding within himself until he can find his way back on top.

And then something happens.  Man evolves yet again.  Yet this time we see an evolution unlike anything we’d seen before.  His voice changes, his body changes, he grows hair in previously unseen locations.  His body now produces new smells and he feels new emotions.  Man is born anew and all those previous uncertainties begin to melt away, bring Man into the new period known as Pubescent Man.

This Man bursts from his cocoon like a new Man, ready to use his new features to craft himself anew.  And the world itself seems to have changed for Pubescent Man as well.  He becomes aware of things he had never noticed before.  Particularly Woman.

Pubescent Man himself is a contradiction. His new awareness brings about new uncertainties.  Yet his changed features brings about new power as well.  Pubescent Man is constantly on the brink between attaining everything he wants and losing it.

One thing that seems to stand in the way most of all are his Caretakers and their Rules.  But Pubescent Man has learned from his previous incarnations.  The Rules, while seeming to have contained great power previously, appear to be only as strong as The Caretakers themselves.  And Pubescent Man has learned something in his newest evolution.  The Caretakers aren’t truly as powerful as they had once seemed.

This realization can, and often does, cause a rift between the Caretakers and Man.  This rift is necessary, although quite painful for both parties.  Man is at the most vulnerable period in his evolution here.  He has reached the point where he must find his power and use it before it is lost for good.  Because of this, he must push back his weakness, making sure his tears are no longer holding him back.  He must assert himself.

He must become Fully-Realized Man.

This process in the evolution is difficult and depending on how Pubescent Man makes his way through it, can cause great differences in his interaction with the world.  The period immediately preceding his evolution into Fully-Realized Man is the one which will determine his power for the rest of his incarnations.

But this evolution generally goes unnoticed.  Suddenly Fully-Realized Man is fully self-sufficient.  He no longer requires The Caretakers, or their Rules.  He provides for himself now.  He has finally attained precisely what he had been working toward since he was Adolescent Man….and he begins to wonder whether it’s as great as he had thought it would be.

Fully-Realized Man looks back on Adolescent Man and wonders why he would ever have wanted to evolve past that period. He idolizes that period within his own evolution and looks to find ways to return.  Many Fully-Realized Men will actually return to the Caretakers, hoping to gain back some version of the Adolescent Man that he has lost.

But ultimately, he can’t go back.  He has already evolved past that point.  And he wants to cry.

Yet he can’t.  He evolved past that weakness, although he’s now realized its power.  Fully-Realized Man has now become trapped in a whole new world of Rules, crafted by an entirely different group of Caretakers.  And now he has the added concern of Responsibility, leading him to feel even more powerless than ever before.

This causes Man to evolve yet again.  He is now Middle-Aged Man.  And Middle-Aged Man feels more powerless than any other version of Man.  Yet since he has evolved past any form of emotional outbursts, he is left feeling empty.  Yet, Middle-Aged Man has found a way to go back along his own timeline.  Here he returns to the routine of his origination.  Eat, Work, Sleep.  This becomes his life day in and day out.  Middle-Aged Man finds himself stuck within a loop.  Man is powerless. And most importantly, he has lost his sense of life.

After this loop has run its course enough times, Middle-Aged Man begins yet another transitionary period, one in which Man himself attempts to develop a new power.  This transitionary period is known as The Mid-Life Crisis.  Middle-Aged Man has found himself with a new power called Money.  And with this Money he had determined a method for traveling back along his own timeline and reentering a previous step in his own evolutionary chain.  Through a sudden burst of excitement and energy, Man uses Mid-Life Crisis as his new tears, his new method for declaring that he is alive, only to find that his plan is doomed to failure.

Once this transitionary period has finished, Man enters what, for most Men, may be their final evolution: Mr. Man.  This period is so named by Man’s sudden realization that he is now being referred to by other Men by new terms, generally involving the use of the preface Mr. or Sir.  Although Man might battle this change, he has attained a new form of power.  Wisdom.  He is able to look at the world from an outsider’s perspective, while still being able to interact with that same world.  He can now see the world for what it is: a testing ground.  This world which has hardened him time and again as he sought out power, now seems to hold little power over him.  He has learned how to manipulate his surroundings to allow himself to do what he wants.  He has found a way around The Rules, around The Caretakers, and around all those things which make him feel powerless, so that he can finally find his period of piece.  He may not have power, but he has his own corner of the world in which to assert himself.  For many Men, this occurs only within the confines of their own mind, causing many Men to pursue solitary pursuits.  But Man has come to terms with the world in which he lives.  And whether or not he likes it, he has finally come to terms with it.

And he’s learned to cry again.  Although generally not in the same way he once had.  This man has often shut himself off from showing his emotions publicly, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel them.

And they do give him power.  As well as weakness.

Book Review: Secret Origins by Michael C. Bailey

I got this book a while back as part of the Superbundle at Storybundle.com.  As I whittled my way through my book queue this summer, this was one that I somehow kept overlooking.  And I wish I hadn’t.  Although at first glance this book does come off as pretty standard YA fare, it’s much much more than that.

Bailey takes those basic ideas of what a teen would do, should they happen upon superpowers, and turns it into a real coming of age story, where the authority figures are the established superheroes and life lessons come from taking down supervillains with cool tech-manipulating powers.

But this ain’t no lofty tale of kids going through metaphorical puberty.  It’s a kick-ass book about some talented youngsters learning to work together as a team to show those old fogeys what for.

And at the heart of this first book in an on-going series, is a strong female figure who reads like a real live person who, you know, doesn’t always know what to do, but it still pretty darn capable of getting the job done when she needs to.  You know, like any high schooler.  But she just so happens to have to do this while dealing with the fact that some alien gave her superpowers.

This book is goofy, but serious at the same time.  And it’s seriously great.

Honestly, I can only believe that the rest of the series gets better.  Will have to move those books up in my reading queue a little higher…which means I should get to them sometime around 2018:/

Seriously, pick up a copy.  Especially if you dig some superhero fantasy fun in your books.

Buy it now!

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Of course I made it out to the opening night for the cage match all superhero fans have been waiting for. And I was nervous. Heck, back when they announced it I was concerned over the scope of the film. As details emerged, I became more and more concerned that the scope of the film would exceed what could be done over the course of a couple hours (which the running time of the flick does exceed, but not quite enough for the story they needed to tell).

When the reviews started rolling in and were primarily negative, I was feeling somewhat heartbroken, although still hopeful since most of these folks seemed to need to comment how marvel could do no wrong (meaning they must have missed iron man 3 and age of ultron).

Needless to say, although I’m one of those folks who consider man of Steel to be a solid flick, I feared this movie could mark the death of superman in film.

After seeing the movie, I find myself incredibly conflicted. Although most of the negatives stated by others against the film, it still has so much amazing stuff going on in it.

So, let’s start with the negatives. This film suffers from trying to do too much. Not only do we get the requisite batman origin story (something that was needed to set up who this batman is, but could have been done without using the way overused death of Martha and Thomas sequence that every bat-flick has to steal from frank miller), but we also get the titular battle, background on what’s been going on the last two years, origin on lex luthor (only sorta),  and a whole host of things that just mentioning could be considered spoilers. This movie is stuffed to the brim with set up, both for this flick and the upcoming ones. My guess is that just like age of ultron had to much studio involvement for the purposes of building a franchise, this flick was doomed from the start.

To Snyder’s credit, most of this set up fed directly into the current movie, but still caused the whole thing to feel bloated. And most importantly, it meant that time had to be taken away from the pieces that would have made the movie make a lot more sense. I’m guessing there’s a five hour director’s cut somewhere that causes many of the narrative issues to be patched up.

The other big complaint is about character choices. I honestly like most of them. Lex was annoying, but no more annoying than gene Hackman’s version… And much more maniacal. Batman goes back to his initial roots, and I could talk for hours about how I appreciate how they’re building superman to become superman, as opposed to him just starting out as perfect. The build of his dichotomy between god and man could end up to be brilliant (more later on how a lot of my feelings toward this and MoS rely on how the franchise moves forward).

There is plenty of places where this movie falls short. I think the characters choices aren’t one. These are some heavily beloved icons of pop culture who mean something to almost everyone.  That’s why everyone freaks out every time a new batman is announced. They have their expectations and anything that goes against them immediately causes an outcry. I think if you look at the comics, you’ll easily find these characterizations have a place in the character histories (just realize that The Watchmen was initially written with batman as rorschach and superman as Dr Manhatten, and I think you’ll note some easy similarities to what’s being done here) . And, more importantly, these characterizations have an amazing story they could tell.

I think that’s even more apparent when you note how very few people seem to care that Aquaman looks nothing like any version of him we’ve ever seen ever. Or the fact that wonder woman has only 16 lines (based on some random Internet source), seems to be based off the least beloved comic version of the character, and she is being touted as the best part of the movie (I’ll admit, she’s definitely a strong highlight).

But the point I’m wanting to get at here is that I think this movie is good. Maybe not the movie I wanted it to be, but definitely better than Age of Ultron, which is a fairer comparison than most Marvel flicks, considering scope of story being told. Civil War will be an even better comparison when it finally comes out.

And I want to highlight that I believe this is a highly superior movie to Ultron. You marvel fan boys can disagree all you want, I’m digging in my heels on this one.

And here’s why :

First, batman and superman aren’t moody, they’re men with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The avengers spend their time playing and partying when they’ve got time off, this batman and superman don’t have time off. And every failure in their performance causes them to sink even deeper into their own personal abysses.

There’s a wonderful scene between Clark and Lois/Bruce and Alfred that highlights this succinctly.

But this movie also shows that this may be the end of that. The ideal behind the justice league, as Bruce discusses by the end of this movie, is that this world saving business can’t be done alone. This movie ends with a sense of hope, coming from batman himself, a character who, in film at least, has not had a hint of hope at all.

Where I see the true brilliance in this movie is that it harbors a literary allusion to the end of the dark and grim DC and a beginning to one that fights to make things better.

But there is so much more to love about this movie than just that. So much. If only people will give it a chance. Sure, the bat-dreams get confusing and are mostly unnecessary, but they do give us a glimpse that Crisis is coming.

And watching lex have a full fledged strategic plan to take down the one man he considers a threat is a lex that the movies has never done justice, and honestly the only reason comic book Lex is actually a bad guy.

You should love this movie because it has the prospect of being so amazing in retrospect. Like Empire Strikes Back. I cant imagine folks left the theater entirely happily when that movie first came out, and they barely knew the characters. But coming from Jedi, that movie makes a lot of sense, and it considered by many to be the best of the original trilogy.

There are some serious storytelling issues with BvS, but it’s also the most real superhero flick I’ve seen. And I think it did my man Supes a heck of a lot of “justice”.

 

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