Friday, December 02, 2005

I am.

And I will be back. Look for me soon.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Oh yeah, that guy...

Holy guacamole, where have I been? Well, frankly right this minute I am in one of the six most beautiful places in the world, Garmisch, Germany. Being here in paradise for a month or so you can certainly understand how I could blow off my blogging duties and instead stroll along the Bavarian Alps and drink coffee in a sidewalk cafe with the rest of the Eurotrash. Alas, I must soon return home, but I have the advantage of the beloved Jennifer, and the Dan-spawn to entertain and keep me there, and that is the number one paradise for me anyway (it's also where my guitars and GI Joes are).

I'm finding some peace again, having lost much more than I thought during my time in Babylon. Of course the first step is admitting you have a problem, and the second is finding out how to express it (other than moping and anger). Much better now, though no happier with the crapstorm we are leaving in our wake there.

Speaking of storms, my thoughts and prayers go to those in New Orleans. May we all learn humility from the fact that the old aphorism that civilized society collapses after three days without a proper meal is actually a bit optimistic. Among people just trying to survive in a situation exacerbated by bureaucratic masturbation, some decided to revert lower than savage and do things like shoot at rescue workers and helicopters, and mutilate corpses in relief points. I am waiting for the stories of heroism- I know they are there. We are an amazing species to be so capable of full spectrum reactions to catastrophe. Everything from subhuman tribalism to selfless life-risking; what a race we human are.

Still grieving my Dad of course, but not fixating. I miss him, mostly when I want to tell him what movie I saw or what book I just read. He passed before he got to see a good Batman movie- may the angels and ministers of grace buy him a balcony ticket.

I was using the bathroom the other day when a woman walked in thinking that I was in the wrong room- I was in fact correct, but was struck by the fact that it was really a trivial matter, and started thinking about the male/female segregation we practice as Americans- there's no way around it, it's segregation based on old fashioned social mores passed to us by our puritanical ancestors. I wonder if there will ever be true gender equality in America so long as we don't share bathrooms?

I will do my best to get here more often, I beg forgiveness- meanwhile, give some cash to the Red Cross and groups like Doctors Without Borders. They're good folk.

ps- sorry to have turned on word verification for comments; please forgive me the extra step, but someone spammed me. Don't I see enough commercials without them coming to my blog? Aren't I the one doing the advertising here?

Monday, July 11, 2005

There’s a war on…

I’m really trying to stay away from frivolous blogs these days, but I just saw a movie that blew me away; the new Steven Spielberg “War of the Worlds.” The movie is something of an amalgamation (There- I said it again) of Spielberg’s films. This is ET meets Schindler’s List. The smart little girl from Jurassic Park is in the car with Dennis Weaver from Duel. And they are all definitely going to need a bigger boat.

Tom Cruise, personal life notwithstanding, is fantastic as the father who doesn’t really care- the jerk jock in high school who has gotten the crappy life his karma dictated when he refused to see the world as something more. He’s no action hero, and in the course of the film is driven to do the unspeakable to survive- and that is all, survive.

This film would not work so well five years ago. This is the fourth major incarnation of War of the Worlds. The first, the original novel, was written by H.G. Wells as metaphor for the destruction of the Great War. Orson Welles brought a panic to the Northeast with his radio play version. It fed on the audiences fears if the growing fascist juggernaut in Europe- remember, Orson gave us his version in Halloween of 1938. The invasion of Poland was a year away. In 1953, George Pal gave us a movie version that holds up surprisingly well today. Gene Barry starred in a film that came at the end of Korea with the red threat hanging over the ocean, “duck and cover” being drilled in schools, and McCarthy just getting warmed up.

Now, Spielberg taps directly into angst from the War on Terror. Some few spoilers here, so be careful. The emergence of the first tripod is filmed in such away as to recall the shaky footage we saw filmed at the scene of the World Trade Center destruction. The character of Rachel even states this for us to a degree. As Cruise and his kids are fleeing the mounting destruction, she’s asking “is it the terrorists?”

The movie is pure tension from that moment on. Never has a film kept me more involved in the plight of its characters, or had me feeling their fear more. I squirmed with them, I was as revolted as they when Cruise comes home covered in dust which a few moments before was living breathing humans. And the red vines…? Whoa. It makes me wonder how much of my involvement with this film is a result of my recent trip to Babylon.

There is a shiny happy moment at the end that I don’t think works in the context of the rest of the film, but it was not enough for me to spoil the prior tow hours.

So I applaud Spielberg as a movie maker for this piece, and his keen eye in putting the classic tale in a context that would give his audience the most commiseration. That’s a movie maker’s job, to prey on the viewer’s emotions and make them think about why they feel that way.

Now my question is why my government feels they have to? Why do I have to be yellow scared or orange scared? Hey George- leave the theatrics to Spielberg and actually run the country, OK? Thanks.

One more observation I want to make about this film. If you are familiar with the previous versions, you know how this one ends. If not, don’t read my next paragraph until you’ve seen the film.

Though this movie uses the same method to end the invasion that the other versions do, this is the first time it struck me with what Wells was trying to say with his micro biotic heroes. The renowned futurist seems to be saying the world around us is interconnected. Earth is a web of life. The organism is attacked by an outsider- the human scale antibodies don’t work, so the Earth uses another line of defense. Maybe I’m over-reading it, but I see this message- the connectivity of our homeworld. Damn, if we and the germs are pulling together, maybe we the people should too…

Friday, July 01, 2005

Oh wait, there I am...

Yes, true believers, I have been away from my blogging duties, and for this I can only apologize. Been in quite the funk lately in regard to the news about Babylon, and the current Powers That Be response to these issues. The simple fact is we screwed up, mishandled it from day one, and now there is a civil war. You know, when one of the powers says "the insurgency will last a decade" and another says "the insurgency is on its knees" ALL IN THE SAME WEEK, there is an obvious lack of coordination at work.

But, I'm trying not to let them get me down (after all, they haven't told me to go back...yet) and focus on some lighter things. I have finished the first four scripts to a comic book that I hope to get published- fun stuff. Also very pleased with Batman Begins; now if they can get Superman that correct it'll be fanboy heaven.

Thinking of going to see Italy soon, drink some wine, get some sun. Lovely country that. Polite even as they pickpocket you (but that's reserved for the big cities).

Looking at a possible political position in the future, or at least a job around political people. Could yours truly possibly be a voice of reason in the Casa Blanca? Time will tell...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Movies A la Dan!!!!

Well, I have been remiss in spreading my propaganda, haven’t I? It seems I did this more in Babylon than I do now in Germania- of course, in Babylon less people who deserved my attention were clamoring for my attention.

So rather than go off on another absinthe inspired tirade, I am going to keep this one short and simple. The five best and five worst films of all time as chosen by…

Well, me. No real criteria here but my own personal likes and dislikes. So here we go:

The Five Greatest Films Ever Filmed-

5- The Empire Strikes Back: Everything an action adventure movie should be, and introduces us to the best bad guy theme music ever. This is Lucas writing at his strongest, and having sense enough to let someone else direct. Golden Moment: “No Luke, I am your father!”

4- The Blues Brothers: a perfect mix of music, comedy, religion, and surrealism makes for Belushi and Aykroyd’s best movie, and a damn near perfect film. Golden Moment: “The BAND!”

3- Blade Runner: Stunning visuals that stand up to this very day in an SF film noir classic made 40 years after any other film noir movie. The excellent Ridley Scott creates a world both familiar and futuristic. Personally, I prefer his darker not so happy ending to the theatrical version, but I kinda miss Harrison Ford’s droning narration. Golden Moment: Rutger Hauer lets go of the dove.

2- The Usual Suspects: Wow, it’s the movie that gets better every time you see it because it shows you all the clues to the trick (which I refuse to spoil here) ending are right in front of you. Golden Moment: “That’s when he showed these men of will what will really was…”

1- Fight Club: It’s gross, socially irredeemable, and is the most subversive argument for nuclear families ever made. A great adaptation of the book that puts a movie ending on that wouldn’t work in a book and abandons the book ending that wouldn’t work in a movie. Golden Moment: “In Judeo-Christian society our image of God is based on our Fathers. What if you don't have one? We are a generation of men raised by women…”

And now, lets see how bad they can get:

5- Blade: Awful performances, confused villains, and a complete rejection of 500 years of vampire lore make this just an awful film. It made me angry that I wasted my time to watch it. In fact, all of these five did that in increasing degrees the further we get down the list. Crappiest Moment: Deacon Frost wants to kill every human on earth; what are you going to eat, dumb ass?

4- Hollow Man: There’s not a single likeable character in this to commiserate with- I don’t care what happens to the bad guy, the good guys, or the people in the middle. The director’s love for senseless shock scenes and the sudden bestowal of super strength on the villain about ¾ of the way through earn this special mention. Crappiest Moment: Having just left the villain for dead in the hallway, the heroes run by. His body is gone, AND NO ONE NOTICES!

3- Terminator 3: I love it when someone writes a sequel to a movie they didn’t understand. T2 was all about the fact that Judgment Day was not destined, and we can make our own destinies. Not now, now it’s going to happen regardless and our heroes just postponed it long enough to piss me off. Crappiest Moment: Sara Conner was so confident in her natural born leader son at the end of T2 that she filled her grave with weapons for him to use when he is proven wrong. No wonder Linda Hamilton wouldn’t come back- but why, Arnie? WHY!!??

2- Alien Resurrection: I loved the first three (yes even Alien 3, I dug it) and I love Joss Whedon, but what the director did to his really interesting script is unforgivable. The movie bounces between slasher movie and schlock horror, never being enough of either to be worth the effort. A total waste of a decent idea. Crappiest Moment: In the throes of having a chestburster, well rip through his chest, a character exacts revenge on another character by running across the room and holding his victim’s head in front of his sternum. What?

And the worst film ever made:

1- Batman and Robin: Arnold strikes again in a film that took everything that was wrong with the barely passable Batman Forever and focuses on those parts. A complete failure from the very beginning it has entire sections of dialog replicated from the third film, and takes The Batman’s most brilliant and formidable foe, Bane, and turns him into a monosyllabic bit player. Crappiest Moment: Everything between the opening credits and the end credits. If I have to pick one though it has to be the Bat Credit Card. Adam West wouldn’t put up with that crap…

Well, nothing Earth shattering, but it’s what’s on my mind. Or at least what’s left of my mind (insert maniacal laughter here…).

Friday, March 18, 2005

Civilization and stuff...

Well. Been forever since I got on here, eh? Well, I am surviving, if still occasionally dealing with both Post Traumatic symptoms and the death of my Dad. They say you have good days and bad, and mine are now mostly good, so I can’t complain too much. Distance has not changed my feelings on the misadventure that is Babylon, but as much as I tried to affect the situation there, I would imagine there is even less I can do here.

So, in lighter news, I just made my first visit to Paris. All I can say is wow. The city is beautiful in ways no other place in the world is. Saw all the important things, but most interesting was actually two hours outside of Paris in Rheims. There I saw the Cathedral and the tomb of Joan of Arc.

Let me let you in on a little secret; since I was a little boy and first heard the story, I have been madly in love with Jeanne D’Arc. I suppose I can dismiss hormones, as there are no photographs, and let’s face facts—she must have been a dirty medieval French girl with horrid teeth and hygiene (though, looking like Leelee Sobieski would not be bad). Also, since this particular obsession has lasted decades, I have to assume it is the real thing. First, like me she hears the Divine (though, her voices were obviously much clearer than the Holy Charades I have to play with the Almighty). Then, she was a soldier, so we share a professional interest. Thirdly, she was basically sticking it to the man. As a 16 year old girl she maneuvered herself into being a Kingmaker, runs mental and spiritual circles around the Inquisitors at her trial, and sponsors enough adoration that the Church not only recants the heresy charges (which does little to recant the flames mind you), but make her a Saint. Then of course there’s all the mystical possibilities; the Maid of Larraine legend was not a Christian prophecy, but one of the older religions.

Now, as much as I hated the book The DaVinci Code (crappy mystery), the information is interesting. Nothing I hadn’t read elsewhere in a better-presented form. But, if Rabbi Jesus’ progeny settled in France as the Merovingian Kings… hmm, is it possibly that Clovis or another of those early freaky French diddled with someone who would later be the great great grand mother of dear Joan? Jeanne D’Arc, granddaughter of Christ? The possibilities are endless if you consider the spiritual side of things, and if you don’t, that had to be a hell of a woman to get on a horse in front of an Army in the 1400s.

Is it possible she was just a figurehead used to rally the rabble around the legend of the Maid? Sure. Is it possible she was just schizophrenic rather than Divinely touched? Yeah. Is it possible she was just a scared crazy little girl used by power hungry and ruthless men? Very. But I dare you to read the trial transcripts and go see her in Rheims. I think she’ll change your mind.

Just remember though—I saw her first, and I’m taking her to the dance.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Eulogy, delivered for my Dad...

As many of you are already aware, I have spent a great deal of my life looking at God. Be it from a foxhole or a classroom, the simple fact is I see Him. In my head is the image of God, as plain as any photograph, and I would like to take a few moments to describe how I see Him.

First of all, God is strong. God has a strength that permeates all of creation. It is God's strength that carries the Hebrews through their bondage in Egypt and Babylon. It is God's strength that allows a small population of people to remain a recognizable separate culture that is basically responsible for writing down the rules that became Western Civilization. It is God’s strength that enabled a first century carpenter to walk up a hill outside Jerusalem bearing all of our mistakes. God is strong.

Sometimes, God is angry. God releases His anger on the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai, and again and again we see that divine anger swell like the raging sea. If you look closely at these instances however, that anger comes not as a result of vengeance or spite, but rather as a result of sadness; that we as His children were capable of so much more, but chose to lie rather than take responsibility. Chose the easy way out instead of doing what was morally correct. God's anger is the result of us not living up to our potential, when all God really seeks is the opportunity to be proud of us.

And God, as much as certain groups organized in His name would like to deny, has an enormous sense of humor. I'd like to point out the instance in Mark chapter 7 where Jesus says that it is not what goes into a man's body that makes him unclean, but rather what comes out. Sure, there is a deep theological meaning there, but to the audience in those days the surface phrase is simply a potty joke. Again and again Jesus uses plays on words and jokes to illustrate His message, and some of them by the standards of the day are simply raunchy and scandalous. God is funny.

Why? Because God is love. Behind every inscrutable situation in the Bible or history, behind every commandment that we don't quite understand, behind all of it is the love of a Father for His children. He shares His strength with us because He loves us. He is angry with us because He loves us. He jokes with us because he loves us. That is how I see God.

The author Chuck Palahniuk says in one of his books that in our modern culture and society, we as men base our image of God on our fathers.

He is absolutely right. My Dad was strong, my Dad could be angry, my Dad was funny, and my Dad loves me as much as I love him. I thank God for my Dad, and I will miss him terribly.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Well Damn...

Hello ladies and gentlemen...

The good news is I have left Babylon behind me, and I can now hope the Lord of All will be kind and keep me from ever having to go back to that hellhole. My nation and Firm have done many questionable things there, and I am tired of being complicit in those things.

However, the reason I have evacuated early is that my Dad has died. I miss him terribly already. I am sad, angered, relieved, and just wish I could talk to him one more time.

I have a lot more to say to him, but nothing more to really say here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Oy, where are the updates...

Well, can’t say I’ve been rather diligent in my blogging, but I beg forgiveness, for as the eve of Babylonian elections draws ever nearer, the number of guests in my inquisitors chamber grows in direct proportion. I am not going to talk about Babylon or walks on the dark side or bad things this time though—lo I have become rather depressing dear reader, and surely you are ready to find a happier site ( or something). So this entry if going to be fun. I’m going to talk about comic books.

I love comic books. I mean really. Career, sure it’s OK. Family guy? Sure I am, and I like to think I’m OK with that too. But I love comics. Is it the seamless blend of visual art and narrative storytelling? Is it the iconic heroes embodying concepts like Truth, Justice, and doing the right damn thing? Maybe it’s the epic stories that span years of real time and generations in the comic book world. The fact is these modern myths thrill me, and I am hooked. There is of course the question that plagues all American comic book fans: DC or Marvel?

I love both. I will give my description of why I love each, and then we’ll talk about which one I prefer. Marvel Comics offers a variety of colorful characters who have miraculous powers, but are people like you and me. When Spidey laments over Gwen Stacy, we feel it. When he’s worried about classes, we understand it. We can commiserate with these characters because as Stan Lee says, when he wrote these characters he put his own thoughts and personality traits into them. Hulk is Stan’s anger. The Everlovin’ Thing is Stan’s sense of being an outsider. They are ordinary people in extraordinary situations and we love them for it.

DC? These are gods. Superman is all that is good and beyond temptation. Batman is the concept of justice in persona. Flash is the essence of speed itself. These are not people you commiserate with, these are people you aspire to. I don’t identify with Batman, but I want to be him. These are characters of a new Olympus.

So which do I prefer? DC. I like the bold presentation of iconic characters with no excuses. Sure I enjoy Wolverine, and love the well-written tales of his struggle with the animal within (sound familiar?), but as I said before, I want to be Batman. I want to be Superman.

OK, there are other comic companies too. Sam Keith’s The Maxx for Image was terrific, and Devil’s Due has some great franchise (GI Joe) and originals (Love Bunny and Mr. Hell). No issues with the good independents, but I think they will always be just that—the independents. I will always love Marvel; Hulk, Spidey, and anything Ultimate. But then there is DC. I can see my grandkids reading Superman like my grandpa did. Maybe 2000 years from now, High Schoolers will have to sit through American Mythology instead of Greek mythology. No more “Explain how Zeus gave birth to Minerva as the Goddess of wisdom…” but rather “How did Jason Todd succeed Dick Grayson, and what happened to him post Crisis?”

Wish I could be there. I’d get an A.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

North by Northwest

Our Moral Compass. We all have one, for better or worse. Gives us our directions of Right Action. Mine usually shows up as that little voice in the back of the head that tells you when things aren’t quite right. Is it the voice of guilt? Sometimes, but like those cliché angel and demon that pop up on your shoulders, every little good voice in the back of your head has a little bad counterpart that thinks it would be a good idea to take the last cookie, throw a party while Mom and Dad are away, or institute a plan of ethnic cleansing across southern Europe.

I will admit that I have been under a fair amount of stress lately. Though admittedly the “things that blow up really good and throw fast moving sharp pieces of metal” quotient has diminished, the inverse of that is more of the ones that would send those things our way are waiting for my inquisitional skills. They’re off the streets and I spend much of my time sitting in a small room with people who would just as soon see me bleed, asking if they can tell me where their bad guy friends are. As a result of my stress, I have found my mind wondering to places I freely admit I am not comfortable with it going. Nothing to do with torture and such, I’m just not the guy to do that, and I really don’t entertain thoughts of it. Times though, I just want to kill folks.

Easy now, I’m not sharpening my knives and making victim lists, but as abhorrent as I find killing I just sometimes run into people that in a cold dispassionate way I think would make the world a better place by leaving it. Then, the guilt sets in for thinking that way. I don’t really want to kill people says saintly figure on right shoulder, and let them taste their own blood says horned figure on left shoulder. Yes I belong to an organization that kills people and breaks things, but in my career I have yet to confront the first one of those. I’m hoping I don’t have to, I really hope I don’t have to.

So, dealing with the death dealing, I go looking for solace elsewhere. And what goes with violence? See, my life mate is well chosen. Pretty much perfect for me. And she is my solace: in heart, in soul, and certainly in body. There is nothing that cleanses my demons better than kind words, acceptance, and physical contact. It can be as simple as a hand on mine, or hours of sweat-drenched, breath-taking… well I’m sure you get the idea.

But what do I do when she’s not here? I can’t tell you how happy I am the darling of my life is not in Babylon. Yet I yearn for her touch and her love. Without her here, the yearning doesn’t stop. The need for that acceptance and touch is just as strong, perhaps stronger because there is no release. And there comes the guilt again, the warning signs that keep us all members of society or families. But as with the other issue the thought is there. The little red guy with the horns telling me what to do and how to hide it. The guy with the halo though, sets him straight. But…

What if my moral compass pointed South? What if I could slaughter my way across Babylon and fuck whoever was left? What if for a single day I cast aside every compunction, every ethic, every little shred of moral decency that keeps me on the majority of people-I-like’s good sides? If I actually held down that Babylonian and used my ballpoint pen to do major cerebral adjustment through an eye socket? If the glance young girl-soldier gave me was pursued to the creative use of an empty tank? What happens then, when I become one of the bad guys? Do you come back from that, can you?

I really need to go home. I am tired of being this way, tired of contemplating how much I would be satisfied doing the wrong thing. The Negative surrounds me, and I feel it pulling my compass needle away from north, away from the Right, away from Her. Without her, I am another one of the masses that make the world worse instead of better.

I don’t know what takes one charismatic leader and allows him to become Jesus, and makes another Adolf Hitler. What makes a brilliant leader Gandhi, or another Napoleon? The things around us? Jesus got Mary Magdelene, Adolf got mustard gas. God gave me Her. I have Her. Except right now I don’t. I have mortars and rockets. I have…

…to hold on. Just a little while longer, I hope. Before everything goes South.