Friday, December 31, 2010

The Immortal War

As promised, I return to the subject of immortality as a cautionary tale in fiction, and, I believe, will actually occur in real life - within the next hundred years or so.

Very briefly, let me caution the reader that God DOES want to give us eternal life - and that will include real, physical, corporeal bodies that will never grow old or age or die or suffer disease, hardship from environment, etc. According to the Bible we who believe in Christ and have trusted Him with our lives are to be given these bodies in the resurrection.

But that is a resurrection - and it is God chooses who lives and who does not. Not money, nor mind, nor mystic ability - just the Creator.

Well, we humans don't like Him making that decision. We want to. As Victor Frankenstein says in Frankenstein: The True Story, "I'd make a pact with the DEVIL if he would show me how to bring my [loved one] back to life!"

Indeed, as the story pans out, Frankenstein learns the secret and it is devilish. In his Faustian enlightenment, he brings a horrible curse down on himself and his wife and unborn child because of his brilliant mind, broken heart and lack of omniscience.

He destroys every one he loves by creating this 'Adam' who is a conglomeration of mind and spirit of different souls and different body parts. The Creature even quotes the Bible to find a name for himself "My name is LEGION for we are MANY!"

Now the fun thing about movie horror is that it is safely distanced from you. You don't have to deal with it.

But we will, poppets. We will.

From a controversial article by The Guardian, some data stands out:

The aging process is poorly understood, but scientists know it is caused by many factors. Highly reactive particles called free radicals are made naturally in the body and cause damage to cells, while smoking, ultraviolet light and other environmental factors contribute to aging.

The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called "senescence". The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with aging.

So if you could stop the 'snipping' of the telomeres, we'd keep on going - at least further than we live now.

Many therapies are being hunted down, but the hope is that by extending our death date again and again, a form of immortality may be found to stop the process altogether.

Say we can give you a treatment of certain drug therapies over the course of a year. Then on top of that we replace some of your organs - from ones we have cloned from your own body when it was younger. AS long as we have spare parts and a good hand, you can be rebuilt biologically. Like restoring a '57 Chevy.

I'd be all for this except for that fair warning I read in the Bible about the Beast being literally able to shrug off a fatal wound - and the WHOLE WORLD marveled. soon, he's got them all in his hand. You can't buy or sell without his mark.

Why? Well, folks, if this anti-Christ has the secret to immortality and gives it to you, you belong to him. But that's not all. By REFUSING to have his mark, you are saying you want to live a normal life. That means you will age and die and no longer be productive. So why should you be fed or cared for? You are part of the problem, not the solution.

You would have to be eliminated, you waster of resources you!

Oh -I have to go - it's getting to be be bedtime....


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Frankenstein: The True Story & the War for Immortality

Frankenstein: The True StoryI am fascinated by the concept of immortality in fiction. The idea of a man who can not die, who lives for ages and ages and is, by all human reason, unstoppable, relentless, familiar with many cultures and many great minds and has, by some mysterious power, outlived them all.

Duncan MacLeod, Casca, Ahauseurus or The Wandering Jew, Vandal Savage, and others -they are our attempt to explore what living forever would be like. But in these cases, it is a singular advantage they and they alone possess. They watch all the people they know and love die as age catches up with them.

Have you ever heard the saying "Death is part of life?"

It is not.

Oh, I know the wisdom they are espousing - in this world, you have to accept that what you love will die and go away - and it can even nourish the next life to come.

Sure. Got it. Thanks for the info. But strictly speaking, death is NOT 'part of' life - it is the ENDING of a life. Of a good life or a bad life, it matters not - it is the end. So it is not 'part of' being alive - as a NECESSARY element - it is the cessation of an organism. If it weren't there, I think we would be glad it were gone indeed.

Unless it ALSO meant suffering would never end. OK, I can see that. Who want's to be an immortal crawling on the ground his body wracked with cancer for eternity? Not me! Disfigured, disgustingly diseased and damaged, but unable to die? No. Too awful to think about.

But all of these concepts are wonderfully and horrifyingly played out in an old made-for-TV movie entitled Frankenstein: The True Story. A movie I saw re-played in 1976 or so, but stuck with me for over 30 years - I got to watch the entire 3-hour film on DVD last night. While it is actually a re-imagining of Mary Shelley's masterpiece, it does a great job of bridging several Frankenstein movies into a cohesive story that is a bit richer IMHO that Shelley's original work.

I thought the acting was superb - especially Michael Sarrazin as 'The Creature' - I truly felt the child-like pathos of the monster and could actually 'hear' the different personalities embedded in him [I missed this as a child], saw the anger and blasphemy that brought Dr. Frankenstein and his bride to their doom - IMHO, its a damn fine cautionary tale, well-played and inescapably tragic.

Does anyone know how Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, a 19 year old girl, came up with such a fantastic horrifying tale that outlasted her literary betters in print for so many years? I'm going to go out on a limb, here.

She knew her Bible and the God revealed there, like so many of her age. She had read the account of Adam and Eve and knew that if any man dared to replace God, only evil and death would come of it. I'm NOT saying she was a devout believer, but those who know the origin of evil know that God gave us humans a death sentence as a form of severe mercy to SAVE us. Just imagine if Hitler were immortal, or Stalin, or Jim Jones, or... well, you get the idea.

You see, God made everything Good - and it was GOOD. The Tree we were not supposed to eat of was the Tree of Knowledge of Good AND EVIL.

We got what we wanted. We got the "AND EVIL" part - and shame followed immediately. It has been passed down from generation to generation since. The First Adam failed. So the Last Adam came to bring us back.

Thus Christ was sent to save us - from our sins, from our own willful decisions, from our own greed, pettiness and spite, and yes, from death - but I am afraid what we want is not repentance and a resurrection but more time to HERE to do what WE want.

We want to live forever - without God's approval. We are already working on it in several life-extension programs.

And I think, if we are not careful, Frankenstein WILL become a TRUE STORY.

Because, this morning, I read Revelations 13 about the Beast who was wounded yet lived, and guys, I think that the Anti-Christ will be an unkillable man.

An immortal, if you wish. With the power to emulate life.

And if that is true, we would love him - and be damned by doing so.

[more next post]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Coyote for Christmas

Norma Joyce McClanahan CarmonI wrote this a few years ago as I was remembering one of the best Christmas gifts I ever gave to my mother before she passed away - and who really deserved the credit for thinking of it.



A Coyote for Christmas
When I was 15, I loved in a terrible co-dependent way my hometown of Southaven, Mississippi. To be fair, it was all I knew, and I didn't want to leave. But then my dad was able to use his seniority to land a job in Laredo, Texas and there - years before the rest of the United States would sample this fine cuisine - I was to discover the delectable taste of fajitas. Fajitas that had been marinated for hours and slow-cooked over mesquite wood. Yumm!

So we moved. From the land south of Elvis to the land south of El Paso.

I hated the very idea. I even used the Lord's name in vain. He didn't mind. He moved me anyway.

There my mom, my dad and I had to live in an apartment. I had a swimming pool, no yard to mow and was within walking distance to my school. Also that year: mom and dad had their 25th wedding anniversary, I made about a dozen friends, and I got a tan for the first time in my life. Life was good.

So score another point for Jesus. (I guess now is as good a time as any to say I'm sorry: Sorry, Jesus!)

But still, my mother was unhappy. She was a stranger in a strange place. I saw that. I would listen about her struggle to understand this non-egalitarian culture and how much she missed the green grass of Graceland (nee North Mississippi). The long shrubby grasslands of south Texas were certainly not very comforting to a woman accustomed to verdant scenery.

She was more homesick than either of us. But soon she found someone who lived in the arid climate whom she could relate to: a Mr. Wylie Coyote. Yes. You heard me right. The crafty cartoon canid who managed to screw up every single plan he ever conceived –and usually paid the price for his folly by a long fall ending unceremoniously on the hard desert floor.
[ youtube link: ]

It was ridiculous, this teen and his mother religiously watching something so absurd every Saturday morning. Together we howled at his unquenched desire for the Road Runner, his intricate plans going inescapably awry. The sound no faithful follower can ever forget was the slow whistle of Wylie falling from some great height, once again so stupefied by the turn of events he wouldn’t utter a single sound before he hit the ground with a resounding thud. Wheeeeeeewwwww - POW!

You don't see that kind of quality entertainment anymore. Too violent, they say.
We didn't care. We liked the violence. We understood. He'd be all right. We'd see him again next week. So we laughed and laughed until tears came down our faces, week after week. We enjoyed Wylie. He was our friend.

So when it came time to get my mother a Christmas present that year in Texas, I decided to get her something memorable: I bought her a coyote. A stuffed Wylie Coyote. I wrapped it and placed it under the tree nervously, not sure if she would think it was too childish.

Later, I paced my room. I argued with myself about getting such a silly gift. More than once I thought I should've gotten perfume, even cheap perfume.

Morning came. As we stood around in our robes, I gingerly handed my present to her. "Here, uh, mom, I hope you like it." I held my breath. She opened the box curiously, carefully laying aside the wrapping paper.

Then my mother, a former business professional, portrait artist and vocal supporter of the Civil Rights movement squealed out loud. Note that word: squealed. Like a little girl.

"You like it?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"Oh, honey! It's wonderful!" She cuddled the coyote. She kissed me on the cheek. She held him at arm’s length. She laughed. "Look at those eyes! Those crazy ears! Oh, thank you honey!"

I was amazed. I was expecting a tolerant laugh, but this was way above and beyond. If it had been a Tiffany diamond, I could not have gotten a better reaction.

There was some strange magic at work here, and I knew it wasn't just me getting lucky. I'm smarter than that. Something weird was going on. No way a 49 year old woman should be so excited over a stuffed animal. Uh-uh.

But Jesus knew what He was doing.

You see, we didn't know it at the time, but my mother had cancer. In less than three months, mere weeks after her 50th birthday, she would have to have a mastectomy.

That sounds bad, doesn't it? It was.

As we went to visit my mother in the hospital after her surgery, she had one firm request: "Please bring me my Wylie!" We obeyed. There she sat, this wild Irish woman, propped up by her pillows, brushing her coyote's ears and laughing.
I’ve thought about that a lot.

And I believe as she sat there laughing, God was filling her heart so she could run the terrible race before her. The proof of this was in her asking not for a legal will, nor last rites, but simply for the coyote she got for Christmas. From me. From Jesus.

He would sit beside her in that antiseptic hospital room, accepting Norma as she was, not as she wanted to be. With all her flaws and missing parts, loving her with an unspeakable love no man could understand. He would be fuzzy just for her. He would be silly just for her. He would let her hold him as closely as she needed to when she wept alone at night.

I'm not into heresy, but I think a part of Jesus was in that coyote. Maybe a small part, but a part nonetheless.

For it is impossible for a sixteen year old boy to get so perfect a gift in his own wisdom. No. No, it was Jesus I tell you. It was too timely, too perfect. I didn’t know Him, but He knew Norma Joyce. Jesus used me.

And a coyote for Christmas.



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man - on DVD!

Dear children of the 70's, Uncle Justice has some AWESOME news for you - about two weeks late, but you can still get it before Christmas if you hurry.

After years of wrangling, The Six Million Dollar Man is available on DVD from Time-Life - all FIVE seasons, with all three PILOT movies and all THREE Reunion movies PLUS 90 minutes of interviews, commentary and even more coolness.

Ends up being FORTY DVDs of coolness. [insert bionic sound]
[Link for clip below: http:// ]

I got to say this story inspired me to make my hero [from the novel I am writing] an astronaut who loses nearly everything yet keeps going.

It was the producer Harve Bennett who pointed out that what makes Steve Austin awesome is that he's got a lot of heart and compassion, even as he does his job. I think he's right - I think that darkness and coldness may have been what killed the reboot of The Bionic Woman. And that applies any movie where the hero lacks compassion: Daredevil, Ghost Rider, etc.

I myself have lost a lot of compassion for certain individuals and its hurting my ability to minister.

But Steve - he who lost most of his limbs, his fiance' and several other friends in the line of duty?

He keeps coming back.

In slow motion. [Link for clip below: ]

Not only because it looks cooler, [it most certainly does] but because you and I want to savor every moment of action. Of victory.

If you've lost a lot of yourself this year, don't worry - you can come back. You can win.

A be better, stronger, faster than you were before.

Just don't give up. And trust that God is smarter than Rudy Wells as He re-builds you.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Apologies for Two

I have recently been shown that one of my recent super-heroic drawings posted on Facebook was a bit too 'graphic' or sexual for the general pop, especially for those who have struggled with the false expectations of their sex by such exaggerated human anatomy. There are those who are deeply hurt and offended by a Christian man portraying nude figures of imposing proportions, and I hear their pain.

I reply: But these aren't nudes. They are figures in spandex - but that is very close to a nude proper when done in line drawings, so I apologize for my poor visual interpretation.

So to all the MEN out there who were offended by the six-pack abs, amazing lats and triceps of this square-jawed paragon of manhood I DEEPLY APOLOGIZE.

I know that men who see this may find themselves crying themselves to sleep at night, begin binging and purging to somehow get down to the mythical 5% body fat and will spend countless hours in front of a mirror, applying makeup and false padding to increase their slim jaws to manly levels.

To these poor souls I say:



Well, maybe I shouldn't say THAT, but the way to the exit door of self-hatred is usually a gentle slap in the face.

Now on to my second apology...

I have been informed in three different ways by the same individual that a corporation registers the rights to a trademark to protect the creators from outside theft of their identity.

That sounds noble and good.

Only, when those who are so protected want to use the trademark FREELY without that corporation's control, they are informed they cannot use it.

Well, they CAN use it - if they pay a lot of money. Somewhere between $45,000 - $70,000.

Those figures may be wrong. I am going by hearsay from one of the creators:

Jeff Dee writes:
A decade or so ago, when Jack and I were trying to get Scott to pass the V&V license to other, *active* publishers (R. Talsorian and White Wolf both made offers), Scott put a pricetag of $45,000 on the V&V rights. In an email exchange with me a few weeks before Jack and I re-released V&V ourselves, Scott raised that pricetag to "$50,000 to $75,000". Make of that what you will.

But if they are right - or if the offer was made, it sort of destroys the "I just registered it to keep you safe" argument.

In either case, one of two things are happening - false stewardship or owner's rights.

If they are holding the trademark to PROTECT the Creators and the Creators want it back, as in "Thank you for helping keep us safe - we'd like our trademark back now." and the answer is "No. We keep it FOR you. Safe." then we've got a problem. It is not a real stewardship. It's a false one - akin to the Steward of Gondor in LOTR.

If they offered the trademark for SALE, then they are saying "It's ours and you can buy it for $$$$." But then they are not acting FOR the Creators. Nope. The Creators are merely the most interested buyers [among others, theoretically] who's original concept is now being held hostage until a ransom is paid.

Well, I hope I don't offend anymore protective and corrective people who are writing me 1,000+ words to teach me what is right.

You don't need to explain so much. Keep it simple.

"If your right eye offend thee, puck it out!"

So if you do not like my drawing, DELETE it. Keep your heart safe, please.

"Do not steal!"

Hey - whose property is it anyway? Those who create or those who watchdog it? I'd say give it to the creators - and may God bless you for doing so.

That's it.

Have a very Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Joseph the Righteous and the Pregnant Virgin

You know the Christmas story, don't you? Mary as a young virgin was told she was to give birth to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned last year, this is why we call her the mother of Christ, not the mother of God - the divine part came from God, not Mary. She supplied the human part.

But someone is almost always overlooked in this story or even mocked - in medieval tales they made him out to be the 'cuckolded husband.'


"Joseph [was] a righteous man..." we are told. We are further informed that he had married [by legal document] the young Mary. He was a hard-working man as a carpenter.

A year was the typical between the time of the marriage contract and the actual nuptials. It gave the bridegroom time to prepare their home, finish business, etc.

If he died in this time period, the almost-bride would even be called a 'widowed virgin.' Unusual, but it happened. Thus, when she is found to be pregnant - and Joseph KNOWS it is not his child, he plans to 'divorce her quietly.'

Now you have GOT to feel this, so you don't blow past it: he's found out that his fiance'/bride-to-be is PREGNANT and he was BUILDING their home, all excited about his soon to arrive Lover - yes, fanboys, Joseph was a virgin too - and she's 'got busy' with someone else?!

I know of a case where the bride had sex with the Best Man - SO the next day AFTER the VERY ELABORATE ceremony AT THE $$$$ RECEPTION, the Groom gave to all the guests present photos of the act.

That was cold. Perhaps even vengeful. But, as Chris Rock once gleefully acknowledged, "I understand."

Joseph was not like that. Heartbroken, he was not going to punish Mary. He knew the shame and humiliation she would receive would be enough. And in this small village, who would marry her now?

No - he refused vengeance though heartbroken.

And then God through an angel comforted him...

"Do not be afraid! What is born in her IS of the Holy Spirit!"

Modern translation for the non-religious: "Its OK, Joe. She did NOT cheat on you! God is at work - like He was at Creation!"


Now think... can you imagine him going over to her house to reconcile? How so many of the family were glaring at him, SURE that HE did it and wouldn't own up? Or that by not marrying her, they would have to live with the shame? [So their anger is really fear disguised?]

But when he sits privately with her and says "I had a dream... and an Angel told me...", I believe she started crying.

"So, Mary, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Yes...*sniff*... Joseph?"
"Is October 22nd still good for you?"
"...YES!....." [smiles through tears] is VERY good!"

And then the families are relieved. They KNOW Joseph is being a GOOD man.

He is taking on his responsibility; OF COURSE IT IS HIS CHILD! Mary had eyes for no other - and he would NOT marry her if it was not HIS child!

That is what must have gone through their minds, for God only spoke to Mary, Joseph and Mary's distant cousins Elizabeth & Zechariah.

They thought they had him pegged. They were glad he was a good man, though.

But they were wrong, kids.

Joseph was not a good man.

Joseph was a RIGHTEOUS man.

And a righteous man surpasses a good man like a supersonic jet surpasses a biplane.

He's a man who did what was right and would sacrifice anything to make something that was wrong into something that was right.

By marrying the pregnant Mary, all her shame was transferred to him.

This is SO like Jesus, I cannot tell you.

That was his secret power and glory. His personal choices against all voices. Against ignorance, against cynical certitude - even his own.

Think about him this season and realize that Joseph was the man God hand-picked to raise His Son Jesus on Earth.

He was something else, indeed.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Injustice, Inc.

Sorry its been so long. I have had a hundred things hit me and between a wake to attend, snow to shovel, books to read and a house to clean, I am pretty much out of energy.

Oh I usually have so much I can keep flying but recently my heart was emptied at realizing I have spent 10 years of my life trying to get my favorite RPG, Villains and Vigilantes to come back to life only to find that now that it has happened, a dogpile of deceit has become attached to it.

Let's just put it this way: even though it is PERFECTLY CLEAR that the creators should ethically and legally have back their rights to both the copyright and the trademark, they are going to have to fight to make sure the original publisher - who's corporation disappeared 20 years ago - stops publishing materials that use the trademark they are using.

They own both legally. [Contract is clear and the conditions of their ownership have been met. When the parent corporation went defunct, they got all their rights back.]

They own both copyright and trademark ethically. [They created both. Then they got up and said "This is ours!" and then proceeded to submit the proper documentation. They have claimed both 'children' as their own. They made this public. VERY public.]

They own both morally. [This was not stolen from someone else. It IS their property. For over 20 years they were not aware that they owned it with the parent corporation becoming defunct. They found out at the beginning of this year and FINALLY, exercised their rights - oh, and they had been ASKING to 'buy back' their rights previously. Can you imagine the sheer ANGER they must have felt, discovering they were being asked to pay tens of thousands of dollars for something THAT WAS THEIRS BY LEGAL RIGHT? It boggles the mind.]

Unfortunately, human drama cannot be avoided because we all have an amazing capacity to justify our actions even as we point fingers.

That's injustice for you.


Friday, November 19, 2010


First, I LIKE Ryan Reynolds; I think he CAN pull off the serious, well-intentioned hero, but got way-too-many-girls-after-him attitude.

But when a superhero trailer STARTS OFF with sex appeal, I get worried. Sure, its there - but its secondary by far...

I also prefer a little more verisimilitude in their public heroic presentation. That means updating a hero's costume to look good on film - but not going SO far as to make it overly weird or complicated. Sorry to say, I'm not a total fan of the aesthetics of the presented suit - the mask is REALLY throwing me off - but I will withhold my judgment until I see it more in action.

[In my interpretation, all GLs where a form fitting bio-suit like the Freemen in Dune. The Green Vestiture is added over that to show their rank, species, and gender. The white gloves are like our Beta cloth protection gauntlets - those rings drip energy in EVERY spectrum and GLs need them on to be safe in most cases. And justifying the 'mask'? That's a retinal, nasal, voice print shield for officers wanting to remain anonymous. In other words, its FAR more than a mask - and its good at granting higher levels of vision and hearing as well!]

The heart of the GL Corps is that they are swashbuckling, never-say-die, cavaliers roaming across the universe to protect life and promote peace and justice. Let me show you the official trailer - and then a fan-made trailer that got everyone all excited.

See which one appeals more to you or leaves a more heroic taste in your mouth.



While Ryan Reynolds looks good and there is a lot of 'Iron Man' vibe and energy going on, I'm afraid the fan-made nails the epic grandeur we fans really want.

There's QUITE a bit of difference between Tim Burton's Batman and Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. Both are good but Nolan's really gets closer to capturing the fierce intelligence and driven attitude of an urban vigilante realistically.

Ah well. I think it'll fly.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back from Memphis and Feeling Groovy...[plus church humor]

I had a great time visiting my family and friends down in the Mid-South. A lot of things had grown and changed but perhaps the saddest thing to me was to see things or people that had NOT grown and changed.

We are all plants; we are either living and growing or dead.

I'll talk more about that later, I guess, but I got a 'Humor email' of various church bulletins where typos and misused grammar totally changed the meaning they were trying to convey. It was simply too good not to share.

Knowing firsthand the innocence, gentleness and simple naivete' that is so common to many of the good-hearted women in our smaller churches, I found myself laughing out loud over each one - not in ridicule as a cynical unbeliever, but in the absolute HORROR it would be for such sweet godly women to realize WHAT they'd said or had implied publicly. "Mortified" I think is the right word for how they'd feel.

[Mark Twain wisely said: "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between a lightning bolt and a lightning bug."]

Laugh with me if you will.


They're Back! Those Wonderful Church Bulletins!

Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services (Summer, 2007 Release).

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due to a conflict.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
---- ---- --------------------------------------------------
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
-------------------- --------------------------------------
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: 'Break Forth Into Joy.'
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
------------------------------ ----- ---------------
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
------ -------------------------------------------
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
--------------------------- --------- ------------------- ---
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
-------------------------------- ------------
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan: Last Sunday: ''I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Key to the Fantastic Four Re-Boot, Pt. 2

I got a couple of "Likes" from two of my published readers last week on the FF Re-Boot I suggested - all I can say is thank you! Approval by knowledgable peers [i.e. UBER-geeks] is a source of great satisfaction. ;)

We left off with Victor becoming the new monarch of Latveria, and it begs a question of how we could show this "CNN style" and get the audience to fear, respect and accept our super-science magic using villain as 'the real deal.'

With Victor as a master of robotics - and that would include robot tanks, robot planes, robot enforcers - he would not need a human army to hold Latveria. And since he would NOT appreciate our 'eyes in the sky' he'd probably either keep Latveria under a light cloud cover [using sorcery] or just scramble the snot out of any satellite above Latverian airspace, say in a 30 degee cone.

We'd grab some footage from the Iraqi War and just re-title it "Latverian Drone Fighter: footage supplied by Latverian Military Forces to CNN" and show the deadly precision of this and other robotic drone craft.

We would also see Stark as Iron Man meet with Doctor Doom - in front of U.N. and shake hands. "Latveria is a soveriegn nation - and America will respect her autonomy!" says Tony Stark. Real Reason: US is glad Doom is bringing SOME stability there and, like when Saddam Hussein was put in power, think it better to have Doom than no one.

Another reason: Doom has powerful EM generators and shielded electronic systems, enough to stop Iron Man cold should he dare cross their border. It's a bloody technological stalemate. [Stark whispers as he shakes Doom's hand: "Nice armor. Sure you designed it?" to which Doom would reply "You should have known I was your superior when I was at M.I.T., Stark. Pray you do not offend me now that I am a monarch."

And for a second, just a second, Stark's systems shut down. They re-boot and Tony says "Jarvis, what the hell was that?!" "I'm sorry sir, but I was given a command to reboot by you, was I not?"

Close-up on Doom's eyes behind his face-plate. They twinkle with malevolence. He speaks loudly to the crowd and newshounds while still gripping Iron Man's hand: "I, Victor von Doom, am proud to see we have clarified our new relationship with the United States and all of its... citizens."


He rockets away and the TV cameras track him.

We turn OFF the TV and find ourselves with Reed and Ben and Johnny and Sue.

"He's been busy..." says Reed, shaking his head. Around him we see blueprints, a mock-up of a space ship, trajectory plans on a white board. Obviously, it s a think tank for someone planning on going into space.

"Yeah - well so are we!" grouses Grimm as he looks at the model spaceship. "Listen Reed, NASA ain't going for this privitization of spaceflight using the engines junior here's designed. I even talked to the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, beggin' him to just listen, and he ain't coming on board either, 'cept to say 'good luck'!"

"That and a buck will get you a cup of coffee at McDonald's," snorts Johnny who's doing some more 3D engine design on his laptop.

"Reed - we've just about run out of funds, HOW are we going to pay for this?" says Sue as she hand him some coffee and puts her arm around him - its CLEAR she loves her man.

Reed grins and gives her an over-the-shoulder smooch. "I don't know Suze... corporations do like helping corporations..."

He stops. He's looking at a picture of Times Square. He looks at a McDonald's logo. He looks at a Nike logo. He starts grinning.

"Listen up everyone! We are going to form a corporation! We are ALSO going to get sponsorships and sell stock - with enough investors, we will have the money. Johnny - what was that site that shows what everyone's doing by video? New Tube?"

"YOU Tube!" corrects Johnny.

"How about we show EVERYONE what its like to fly - LIVE?! They'll pay $10 for a LIVE video feed - and we will send them a copy later."

"Sort of Reality TV in Space?"

"Yes! And we will get sponsors as we build, sponsors for our launch..."

Even Grimm starts smiling. "We're gonna be famous." Then sighs. "But who will do the talking Reed? You get too high-brow all the time, and hotshot here..." Johnny responds with an obscene gesture; Ben returns it casually. "...he don't know when to stop!"

"Sue," says Reed. "She's great with people!"

Sue looks horrified. "I'd rather disappear! Reed! You can't put me in front of a camera!"

"Why not, sis?" smirks Johnny. "You DO look pretty good in front of one. Remember the ads you did for Sweet Sixteen? And how many guys came calling?"

"That was ten years ago!" she protests. "I'm big and fat now!" All the guys look at each other and just shake their heads. Obviously Susan has NO idea of how pretty she is. Reed starts laughing.

Reed puts his arms on her shoulders. "Susan, you'd be FANTASTIC. And we need you."

She scowls and looks around at the guys who both give her a thumbs up of approval.

"FINE!" she huffs. "Well, MISTER Fantastic, what would you call our corporation?"


FANTASTIC FOUR, INC. is in bold blue stylized letters on office door.


We'll continue next week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Key to the Fantastic Four Re-Boot

First, I have no idea who will deign to spend their good time reading this. If you are here, I will do my best to give you an entertaining view or an enlightening view of heroic fantasy - and how incredible it is to find it in the Christian faith as a real expectation.

I have a very personal view that the Bible contains almost every kind of story or tale that needs to be told and that by studying it, you could at the very least create a new piece of fiction for this generation, and they would 'oooohhh' and 'ahhhhh' and still have no clue that they were just getting an old tale re-vamped for the modern age.

So it follows that if I want to say "This is how we should re-boot the Fantastic Four" I am going to be doing some allegory or parallel from the life of David or Samson or Abraham or Jesus, etc. - right?

Not precisely - we get to mix and match too. Jealousy and hatred are as old as the story of Cain and Abel, King Saul and King David, the Pharisees and Jesus.

So maybe I should say all the archetypes and dramatic motives are there in the Bible.

The first thing to do is separate the story into 3 parts and reveal what the stakes are - what would gained or lost should our heroes succeed/fail: world, family, money, scientific advancement, reaching the stars, etc.

First, as Mark Waid has pointed out, the Fantastic Four is about family. Reed Richards is married to Susan Storm, and his best friend, Ben Grimm is their pilot. Johnny Storm, Susan's younger brother is a brash mechanical genius before they all become one fantastically empowered fighting unit who spends much of their time fighting Victor Von Doom.

Secondly, it should start as all great heroic tales with a great loss and something precious being destroyed. That precious thing is the friendship of Victor and Reed. As Victor goes further and further emotionally into the Darkness after his Big Error, Reed finds hope and [at least some] redemption in his love and friendship with his crew for his Big Error.

Thirdly, it should start when there was some hope that Victor would be a good kid and we need to make the audience weep for the villain even as we support the hero. [ Following images respectfully stolen from Go visit a cool blog! ]

By the way, I think Victor Von Doom was the dark reflection of Tony Stark or Reed Richards, and when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created him, they were facing down the barrel of the Cold War with European dictators popping up as puppets of the Soviet regime. So this will start as a social-political theme and get more personal.

Victor Comes to America, Land of the Free
1) Reed Richards becomes roommates with fellow physics/electronic engineering major Victor "von Damme" - he survived the Bosnia-Herzegovina bloodshed as a child, though his mother died as a gypsy and a witch. His father, a more educated man who had fallen in love with her wild ways, took the boy into universities and tried to get him away from the superstition of his clan. War broke out and with the threat of racial cleansing, his father ran for his life. He was able to send Victor to America under the care of Boris, but died soon after. His homeland Latveria was re-formed as hostilities ceased, and he entered MIT.

2) With both losses, Victor stays isolated, unwilling to share his grief or pain with anyone else - who could possibly understand? Enter kind Reed Richards and Susan Storm. Sue Storm is a compassionate woman and deeply respects Reed, who's her senior by ten years. Reed is also a bit of a father figure to Johnny her little brother, and they try hard to get Victor out of the labs and dorm room and have SOME fun.

3) Reed ends up befriending another sour-puss named Ben Grimm, who's an astronaut wanna-be. Reed's theories on accomplishing FTL travel intrigue the gruff pilot - and after defending Reed from some local toughs, they become fast friends. "You ever need a pilot, buddy, let me know!"

Doom Is Unimpressed
4) Victor sees the brightest minds of the Marvel universe at MIT: Tony Stark, Henry Pym and Bruce Banner, and each one fails to impress him in one way or another. But Richards, he begins to respect. He is open to ANY suggestion and will think it through. When his father dies and his personal effects are returned - along with his mother's 'special diary' of witchcraft, he begins to see a possibility of merging scientific method with sympathetic magic at the quantum level. "Are not quarks 'magical'?" muses von Doom.

5) Eagerly, he explains it to his buddy Reed and no one else: Victor dreams of escaping the boundaries of space-time for exploration, possibly even to set his mother free from hell. With the proper equipment, Victor can even unravel the mysteries of quantum foam, including hidden dimensions and tap into their power source. "Think Richards! We could learn the very secrets of creation!"

6) Richards sees the cynical Victor begin to express hope for the first time - but 'such a hope'! He tries to reason with him, especially on this space-time formula that could rend their local environment uncontrollably. "It would be the equivalent of a runaway nuclear reactor, Victor - only it would be dismantling our universe! It's a great idea - brilliant even - but if this theoretical constant is not what you are guessing - if you've made one error..." "Doom NEVER makes errors, Richards!" Angered at Richard's wisdom, he moves out of the dorm the next day.

7) For weeks, no one knows where to find Victor - at the last moment, Richards does - in an old sub-basement of the particle physics lab. - and sees the portal grow, get unstable and BLOW UP in Victor's face. Victor flees civilization, going where no man can find him or see him.

8) "Science has failed me!" growls the angry young man. "I will now seek my answers elsewhere!" in weeks he's traveled from Eastern Europe to Northern India and from there to Tibet.

9) He learns self-control and mastery over his body and delves into magic whole-heartedly. [As a small joke, one monk says to another 'This white man is TWICE as angry as the LAST one.' 'I agree, my son.' Turns to another monk - "Brother Lotus, what was HIS name?' 'Wain. Broos Wain.' ;)]

10) With his wealth, Doom makes himself a suit of hi-tech body armor so he can return to Latveria. Sick of the hounding his family has received at their hands for generations, Doom plans and executes a full coupe using robotic soldiers.

Now the tyrant, Victor christens himself "Doctor Doom" and announces that Latveria is a sovereign nation unto itself.

We'll pick up from there next time...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What Christopher Nolan Should Do for Batman 3, A Fan's Prayer

I am not a fanboy.

I am a Fan MAN.

And that means I know what good writing and good characterization has done for super hero films, making them as emotionally powerful on screen as they were in our little minds and hearts way back in the day when comics were still sold for twenty-cents at Seven-Eleven Stores.

There is a reason Superman the Movie will never be topped and there is a reason the Fantastic Four movie sucked all kinds of eggs. The first was written by men who were going to tell us a mythical story and fable that touched all our hearts and minds but the second was corporate gang bang with no emotional depth whatsoever. Someone listened WAY too long to the Marketing Department on THAT piece of trash -and to the dumb little fanboys - who also ruined Spider-Man 3 with their childish demands for Venom.

Avi Arad should be ashamed of himself.

They ARE re-booting Fantastic Four, thank God, and I will tell you what they need to get IT right in the next blog [hint: Dr. Doom's origin is the key, NOT the FF's].

As for re-booting Spider-Man? STOOOO-PIDDD. Raimi was and is still the Man. But let's move on, shall we?

OK, we all agree that Christopher Nolan has rescued the Batman franchise from stupidity and campiness in just TWO movies, right? I mean, NOTHING is further from the 60's camp than The Dark Knight, right? Right.

It's because he's not here to make a 'Batman' film but a film about a man who refuses to lay down and let evil rule him. Lots of hard-working artists worked on this film, and it shows. [They were merely following wisely in the footsteps of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams who gave us back the World's Greatest Detective in the early 70's...]

I'm listening to the TDK SOUNDTRACK for the 28th time, and I tell you kids, next to John William's epic score for The Empire Strikes Back and Superman, no one comes close to nailing pathos, heroism and nerve wracking tension. Just an A+ piece of music. Sweet Lord Almighty, it makes the Batman Begins soundtrack sound like a warm-up.

Let us say that there are artists who can draw, and artists who can create, and then there are artists who just slap your face into the dirt, walk over you and make you gasp for air. It's like discovering Michael Golden all over again. Nolan is to film what Golden was to comics back in the day. Seriously.

Now all that gushing out of the way, I've got to speak my peace and put my ideas out for Batman 3 BEFORE it happens, so everyone can be praying hard that Nolan does something EVEN MORE WONDERFUL after creating lightning in a bottle with TDK.

First, do keep in mind Nolan wants to end his Batman arc here. No Batman 4 for him. So Batman 3 must either be a huge tragedy or a terrific legacy, cause the 'Nolan Tales of the Bat', she be ending. And we have established, "you either die a hero, or you end up a villain."

Secondly, according to rumors, will we have a good 'could exist in the real world' villain - The Riddler. With movies like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en to draw inspiration from, including his own work, Memento, Nolan is going to play HARD with a villain who wants to tease Batman and prove he is his superior, risking lives along the way.

Thirdly, with Rachel dead and Harvey Dent dead/absent, Bruce Wayne will be suffering in an emotional vacuum and social dissonance. He will NEED another love interest and possible 'believer' that supports his war on crime. He will crave a woman who is strong-willed yet able to handle herself.

He will want someone to mentor and inspire, though he may not admit it. Batman has been an inspiration to Gotham City - but what does it inspire them to do, those who NOW want to wear masks? Would it inspire one to DEFY the police [as Batman is an outlaw] and yet another, to try and take justice into his own hand [as Batman has reportedly done].

So two people come in his life to fill these gaps - Catwoman [Frank Miller style from Batman: Year One] and Robin [a teen boy, on the verge of manhood, who saw his parents murdered after they refused to pay protection to the mob.

Or even better... they were killed by the Riddler while performing, as a 'test' of Batman. In the original story Bruce Wayne is merely watching the circus when Grayson's folks are killed. "Question: when does a bird fly? When it leaves its perch. When does a parrot stop talking? When its an ex-parrot. Last, what bird is the most cocky?"

In a Nolan version, Wayne could have figured out the riddle ["A 'cock-robin'], and simply was unable to move fast enough in time to save them. Thus, in guilt, he takes the boy Dick Grayson, i.e. 'Robin' in. Dick lives only a few days at the mansion before he drives off to get revenge. Batman stops him - but promises justice will be done. Great opportunity for some heart-wrenching dialogue, with a semi-masked Robin in his circus tights telling Batman off for failing to protect the innocent. Bruce would know it was because he was getting self-absorbed and makes the boy an offer - that they work together, and he, for his part, will supply the teen with everything he needs to fight crime - past getting justice on his parent's killers.

Grayson agrees and become Robin - but we use a Princess Bride style mask for our swashbuckling teen wonder, and more of a cloak/hood combo perhaps.

Fourthly, the battle here will be mostly on the Batman as a savior of Gotham who wants to leave an enduring legacy. In this vein, we could start the movie with "10 Years Later" to show he's been trying to make an impact; he's winning the battle but he's losing the war.

Fifthly, if Robin does come in, and Batman is 'finished', he can end up taking Batman's mantle - just as he recently did in the books in Batman R.I.P.

We might even see the death of Batman. And if Selina Kyle is a love interest, but somehow was responsible for his downfall, we could end the movie with her meeting Batman's successor - i.e. Dick Grayson and state "You aren't him."


"You can never be him, you know?"

"I know. But he was a symbol - incorruptible, everlasting. A sign that good men do not need to be afraid of the dark. A warrior who brought hope when there was no hope left."

"Do you hate me - for what happened to him?"

"No - he did what he thought was right. That's what he always did."

Then we CUT HARD to the funeral and graveside. The Riddler cannot resist coming to see Batman dead - for now he knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. He's mingled in the crowd and then - is last to leave, just as it begins to rain. "What do you call a dead billionaire? An ex-Batman!" Hahahahahahahahaahaahahhaa!"

Fifthly, and then, in typical Nolan fashion, we turn the tables in the last 60 seconds of the film. Batman appears ALIVE AND KICKING and beats the living hell out of the Riddler, sending him off to Arkham, fully insane because, as he says, "You were DEAD - and there ain't no coming back!! I killed you!"

Sixthly, its Alfred Pennyworth who steps forward and delivers the punch line. He says to Batman, "It worked like a charm, sir. With Bruce Wayne dead, he could not have expected Batman to appear. He must be wondering if he's gone mad!"

And Batman growls, "I don't wonder. I know."

"You do, sir? And what precisely do you know?"

"I know who I am and who Batman is. And what legacy he can leave behind..."

And as he goes to take off his cowl, we CUT HARD TO...


Roll credits.

What's the title?

Title: Batman: Legacy, of course.

Here's to Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer and everyone who will work on this.

May the Lord give you great wisdom.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Villains & Vigilantes: which is which, exactly?

OK, here's my golden opportunity to alienate nearly every fan of this game including the creators themselves and the long-time publisher of record, FGU.

"Never miss an opportunity to offend someone," I think has become my motto on the web, simply because it is impossible. [Remind me to tell you of the guy who gave me a negative rep for announcing to my buds that I was taking a break from my regular superhero game forum and then promptly did the same thing himself a few weeks later. If I do it, it's bad form - if he does it, it's a necessity. LOOO-SERRRR]

How do you tell a villain from a vigilante, is my question - both are breaking the law, so are not BOTH guilty?

Well, whenever someone makes the law a god instead of a servant, you get questions like that. Jesus had to deal with a fair amount of legalism in the religious leaders of his day because they thought by abiding simply by the rules, they were right and everyone else is wrong.

Now Jesus did not tell them the law was WRONG - but their application of it was wrong. they did not use the law to protect and serve but to beat and abuse those who failed.

Their response was sort of like Lex Luthor's in Superman Returns: WROOOONGG!!

Now as a former victim of my self-imposed perfectionism and always eager to please some verbally abusive alcoholic, I am pretty aware of how people NEED the law to stop excesses. The law, she can be a most useful tool.

But she is an editor, not a creator. She only shows up to mop up a mess caused by others. We write laws to protect people from other people. If we are not careful, we can overdo it and - just as the religious leaders did - misinterpret the words to fit what WE want them to say.

So, again, what makes the difference between a villain and a vigilante?

A villain is self-serving. He decries the injustices of the world and demands re-payment. If not satisfied, he takes matters into his own hands and begins his personal quest for self-actualization. He thinks of himself as a hero and the world and the government as his enemy - a 'self-righteous hypocritical enemy' at that.

This was best shown by Bill Willingham in the mini-series JLA: Salvation Run.

From the blog a full synopsis is given of Lex Luthor and this part is especially true - for ALL villains as well:

Other villains fight men. Luthor is, when you get down to brass tacks, a man trying to fight God.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Luthor shares a number of personality traits with Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Able to inspire/charismatic? Check. Proud? Big check there. Narcissistic? Check. Selfish? Check. Unwilling to dignify his opponent by speaking of him plainly? Oh, check. (In Paradise Lost, Milton uses Satan’s arrogance to avoid the trap of having to describe God – Satan defines God in loose, etheral terms rather than speak in the plain specifics of which he’s capable. Sound like anybody? Hint: “the alien.” [i.e. Superman]) Utterly self-confident? Check. Said self-confidence (mostly) justified? Again, check. Utterly obsessed with his enemy, who is only his enemy by choice? Oh my check.

Great writing. If you leave my blog for his, I wouldn't mind. He nailed it.

Villains serve themselves. Vigilantes - the superheroic kind - are out to serve the public good. They exist to restore rights to victims, not take rights away. The problem is they don't wait around for 'official approval' having seen the officials drop the ball too often.

And if you are watching a legal system fail in front of you, you stop trusting it - or fearing it. A corrupt police officer or judge does more damage than they know; they EMPOWER the criminals. When the supposed 'authorities' cannot be trusted, what do you do? Wait until they repent or start cleaning up ASAP? You see this cycle often in the inner city: Kids who grow up under the care of abusive parents or parents who neglected them learn quickly that mommy and daddy really aren't going to do too much for them, so they have to fend for themselves.

How can you respect an authority that keeps failing you? And I don't mean 'Daddy told me I couldn't go to the Jerry's house party!' I mean 'Daddy spent the paycheck at the casino.' Let's be real here.

Hmmmm. In reading the above, I realized that my example showed that the crime was irresponsibility. We write a lot of laws to show people they have responsibility to the family, to their employees, to the public in general.

And right now, a trademark battle is being waged, where it is the creators versus the publisher of record. Both sides are claiming the right to use the trademark with FGU saying it never lost the right. On paper, FGU has a strong claim. In the hearts of gamers and friends, Jeff and Jack have the better claim.

So here's the final tally on Villains & Vigilantes, my favorite role-playing game of all time:

Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, as Creators: 1
Scott Bizar, FGU, as Editor in Chief/Publisher: 1

Jeff & Jack, as Copyright holders [actual game rules]: 1
Scott: 0

Jeff & Jack, supporting game after 1988: 0
Scott: 1 [yes, it's been available]

Here's the conundrum in my mind: merely publishing this game kept FGU as the trademark holder for Villains and Vigilantes under the original agreement, done WAY back in 1978 when these guys were in their late teens.

I think publishing has changed so much, a sympathetic judge may fairly rule that Jeff and Jack have the right to use the trademark. You see, with Print-on-Demand, and easy electronic file transfer on the web, a publisher who prints a bunch of copies and pays the cost of printing and ships them out to various stores to be bought is a thing of the past.

That was how things worked - and that was why the law was created to keep respect and honor and equitable treatment between the Publisher and the Creators.

But if 'publishing' means 'keeping an electronic file up on some server somewhere so it can be downloaded' then as long as THAT criteria is meant that the creators will never get their rights back.

You see in the real world, after a while, you'd just let go of the trademark since it was no longer profitable. If no demand, no printing. And then the rights revert back to the creators.

So should FGU give the rights back to Jeff and Jack - though they [FGU] have done nothing wrong?

Legally? Don't know. I really don't.
Ethically? Yes.

You see, the problem is, FGU is just an entity. We, the gamers, do not know them. We are glad they have served honorably and done the job they were supposed to do. I have personally talked with Scott Bizar and was very pleased to hear how he paid commissions, etc. I think he's been very good to Jeff and Jack.

But in the end, FGU only owns the trademark. Not the concepts, art, rules, or anything else. In other words, they own the label on the package.

And "a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet."

So what I hope for is this; that FGU would, for the next 2-5 years, would SHARE the trademark with Jeff and Jack. Both would publish materials compatible with the V&V Second Edition rules.

If Scott has any backlog of scripts or material, NOW would be the time to publish it. Get it out and into the hands of fans.

THEN hand the keys over to Jeff and Jack, with his blessings.

I know. Sounds like a fantasy, doesn't it? And I am not so naive as to think this the only solution.

But I love reconciliation. And I love heroes.

And I want to see both the creators of V&V make a wise agreement in 2010 with the man who published their work when no one else would.

Its a bit like Siegel and Schuster vs. DC comics all over again. Without DC, Superman would never have lived. But because of DC, those men never got the recompense they could have had. Finally, citing 'moral obligation' and fearing bad publicity on the eve Superman the Movie's film debut, DC decided to honor the creators of Superman and start paying for some medical bills, etc. DC had no legal order to do so. They did not have to do it. But they were smart: they watched the fans.

Fans may be the ones who decide this in the end.

Well, we've waited 20 years to see a great game come back to the forefront.

We can wait a little more.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Strange Tales: DVD Double Feature -Redemption of the Lost and Damned

Man, talk about a strange double feature! I watched two RedBox movies yesterday: Daybreakers and Wild at Heart. Well, maybe that wasn’t as strange as they might first appear since both are movies of men being trapped in darkness and unquenchable thirst and, with the help of others, get out into the light.

It’s just that in the supernatural effects-laden Daybreakers, the battle is more obvious, more visual, as in all fantasy tales. It has lots of gore but a positive message in the end.

Back in the day of Strange Tales, Weird Tales, House of Horror and other such comics, many a cautionary tale was told in dark supernatural tones – with the unrepentant and gloating getting a HORRIFIC come-uppance in the end. Well, in Daybreakers, I can only say that the filmmakers stayed true to formula.

Also of note, these guys - the Brothers Spierig - are from Australia and only did one Indy low-budget film before this. But they were SO thorough, SO willing to write and re-write their script, and able to roll with several punches – shooting in a ridiculous 40 days instead of 60 – AND were such masters of digital video effects that they PERSONALLY did 300 effects shots, that you are amazed at the quality of the film for the budget given. It was very impressive to see. It was completed on-time, under-budget and made a respectable showing at the box office. I thought they had a $80-100 million dollar budget.

Nope. They had $20 million. The Punisher had more than that!

Hats off to these two!

It has Ethan Hawke who is ALWAYS retro-cool, Sam Neil, always a thoughtful man – especially even scarier when evil - and Willem DaFoe, who plays the unforgettable auto mechanic cured of vampirism nicknamed ‘Elvis’ – yeah, I loved that, as Memphis boy.

He gets some of the best lines too: Vampire: “Who are you?” Elvis/DaFoe: “We’re the folks with the crossbows!”

But even better, near the climax, when a cure for vampirism is discovered – and a strange side-effect is ALSO discovered, DaFoe’s character says something profound. It goes something like this:

“Vamps think they own this world. They think humans have to hide from them… But that’s not true. Vampires can never survive. That’s the truth. Every day the sun comes up. “Elvis Presley once said, truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin’ away.”

Just try to keep that in mind folks: the truth always comes out. We tend to think otherwise, but light always conquers darkness.

It’s the cockroaches that run from the light, it’s the criminals who have to hide from the police and it’s the demons who flee from Jesus. Meek, mild and sweet Jesus terrifies the snot out of them, see Mark 5.

And if you need to know the relationship between the wicked and the righteous, just read Proverbs 28.

Be the light, not the darkness.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

What If...

What If... is a movie starring Kevin Sorbo [of Hercules and Andromeda fame], Kristy Swanson and John Ratzenberger [Cheers, ALL the Pixar films]. It tells the tale of a man who refuses his ministerial calling for the world of high finance - and is shown by God what his life COULD have been had he followed his calling to be a minister.

What is chilling is how UN-dangerous and sharp and wise and generous he is even as he is 'in the world.' But - as the film progresses - it IS second-best and frankly, empty of love and warmth and family. [Same message was in Iron Man if you were awake.]

If God showing him his OTHER life sounds familiar, you must have seen It's a Wonderful Life. The difference is, the structure is neatly reversed: he has to go back to his empty life and DECIDE to take whatever steps he can to 'restore' or 'recoup' the family life he has been missing over the last 15 years. So, this is not a slam-dunk. He may only get something LIKE it if he returns to God's calling...

Suffice to say, I loved the film. I was very impressed with the quality, dramatic timing and respect given by the actors. It is not going to win any Oscars, but if you ARE a believer in Christ and want a movie to watch with your family, you must see it.

My one complaint: the title is too uninformative and vague. It should have been "A Road Not Taken" or something similar, in reference to the great poem by Robert Frost and the lead character's choices.

We make decisions - and they have consequences. Let us pray God give us His counsel and that we would have the courage to listen.

Enjoy these two amazing videos of these famous poems done for the Union Bank of Switzerland.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

If... by Rudyard Kipling


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You're a Wonder, Wonder Woman [Pt. 2]

[Ed. Note: I did some late edits - just trying to make this blog better for all.]

It’s been nearly a week since my last post, and I’ve been reading about Wonder Woman, her origin and her author, taking special note of WHY she was created in the first place – and frankly, remembering how funny and lively some of those old 1940’s adventures were. I was introduced to those early escapades of the amazing Amazon as reprints when DC Comics would do “100 Pages of Comics” back in the mid-70’s.

It was a more innocent time and a time when stories of gods were taken very lightly.

Now, in a post-Christian culture, we find darker stories of such ‘gods’ – and treating them lightly will not enhance any character connected to them. Funny thing is, Wonder Woman, with her mythic origin, belongs in the Vertigo realm of characters much more than the mainstream of DC Heroes.

Now I have seen her new costume and while it is not utterly awful, it is just not Wonder Woman [though it would be great for a Wonder Girl, IMO]. And I know J. Michael Straczynski is re-writing her origin even as we speak, trying to re-boot the character with issue 601 [see a fangirl's review below]

I have no idea where he is going, but maybe we will see the same problems and solve them the same way – maybe we will solve them differently.

Now here are some of the conundrums/problems in Wonder Woman’s origin and history; some of these have been addressed, I know, but they need a better solution or at least a more elegant reason that is either more human and accessible to young women or at least more believable.

1) She is made out of clay by mom and given life by a goddess. Even if, as a believer you have no problem with a ‘false’ or ‘minor’ deity making life out of non-life, you have to say “Why?” Mom hated sex but wanted a kid? We need another virgin birth?

2) Why does Paradise Island exist? Because there are no men to mess it up? Would an island full of men be 'Hell Island'? [I mean I think an island full of beautiful women could be paradise - but I'm starting to sound like a Muslim fanatic if I say it out loud...] Just questioning the etymology of the name, that's all...

3) How exactly did a bunch of women become immortals? [We are assuming they too were not made out of clay.] The more I think about this place, the more it sounds like that castle with the "Grail-shaped beacon" and sex-starved women in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Perhaps it should have been called "Fantasy Island!"

[Ed. Note: O.K. - a little risque' at the end, but I'm sure William Moulton Marston would have loved it. And if you don't understand that comment, you REALLY don't know his personal life, do you?]

4) How can you have a ‘robot plane’ AND a magic Lasso AND Mental Telepathy to command the plane? I mean, what machine shop on Paradise Island comes up with this stuff? And why does her mental telepathy only work for the plane?

5) Did Diana’s mom, the Queen of the Amazon, ever like men at ALL? Or maybe too much [supposedly she was seduced by Hercules originally]?

6) How do bullet-proof bracelets and unbreakable ropes work, exactly? "Magic" you say? I can accept that they are magical - but still why isn't Wonder Woman just plain ol' invulnerable? Can these devices of bondage have a better or deeper reason for existing?

I think these questions need to be handled wisely so Wonder Woman can become more relevant to the women of the 21st century. She needs to have more understandable issues to give her writers something extra to chew on.

To sum up, she needs more tragedy - realistic tragedy - to show off her heroism and her humanity.

BTW, Superman's origin has been re-done at least four times, Batman's about the same. The core elements remain intact but how they mix and mesh and become part of the milieu have changed. And to be honest Wonder Woman's origin has been changed about as many times as well but who's been paying attention? OK - there was the BIG one in the 80s by George Perez, but it just re-shuffled more than re-defined.

The essential difference is that Superman and Batman have experienced great tragedies and the loss of their homes/worlds; Diana has not. This may be in fact what JMS is trying to remedy.

O.K. I've delayed enough. Here's what I would do:

I would set the formation of Paradise Island by Queen Hippolyta firmly in a mock-historical framework, so we could keep all the good historical aspects, but shy away from the 'BANG! It just happened by MAAAAAGGGIICC!' scenario.

We want a supernatural story about humans who struggle and survive and live and love. Not a story about supernatural events that we have to accept "hook line and sinker." [Ironic that I, a pastor, am telling you this, eh? Trust me, the more you see the humanity of Christ and read between the lines in the Bible, the deeper your faith gets. It is a most "realistic" myth if you dare call it such.]


1) The recently-widowed Queen Hippolyta fell in love with Heracles, who seduced her [just like in the first origin] and then betrayed her to capture her lands. His soldiers killed all the men under her rule with the intent to enslave their women and use them for their sick pleasure.

2) Fooled by her own blind heart, Hippolyta witnesses the carnage wrought and swears revenge for her sisters. She prays to the gods for merely the strength to set her sisters free or die trying. "Strength equal to that of Heracles, for Nature has not given me the demi-god's strength, but I have a warrior's heart and much of his skill!" Nothing seems to happen.

3) The next day the ship they are on runs aground on an island that has never been seen before. This is Paradise Island, and the reason it is called such is that it is NOT bound by time, appearing on the seas only once a year. At the center is a huge silver meteorite, fallen from the heavens; it is an unknown metal, responsible for making this a 'land no longer bound by the waters of time.'

4) Hercules and his men begin to chip off bits of the metal, for it gleams like silver but seems as hard as iron. In an act of grandiose insensitivity, Heracles fashions a belt and bracelets from this metal "to adorn his new queen." Hippolyta plays the role demurely, signaling her distraught sisters to also play along. "We will get our revenge, sisters!" she hisses.

5) That night, in Heracle's tent, Hippolyta strikes him, intent to kill him in his sleep. However, he is not caught off guard and smugly backhands her, "Witch! I knew you'd not go so easily! Do you take me for a fool, woman?" But something strange happens: she gets back up. She is still conscious - and that blow would have felled an ox! She surmises that somehow the girdle and bracelets have helped her. She hits him back - and he goes flying!

6) Hippolyta calls all her women to strike and strike hard! Some die, but many kill their captors. simply due to their fiercenss and Hippolyta's leadership. She faces off with Hearacles in front of his men. He swings and she blocks clumsily with her bracelets - but they stop his blow! She also sees she can dish it out - her fists move like streaks of lightning, while all his moves look like they are in slow motion.

7) In minutes Heracles is humiliated - and Hippolyta has tied him up with the very chains he had used. She holds a knife at his throat and says "Swear to me that you will leave and never return - neither you nor your men - or I will kill you here and now." Heracles swears perfunctorily. She smacks him so hard he goes ten feet backwards. His eyes bug out. He is stunned by her new might. "If you ever return, I will remove your manhood and have dogs eat it while you watch!" This time he swears more frankly. His men also nod humbly. "Get. Off. My. Island." she commands.

8) The men leave and the surviving women begin to build and develop this jewel of an island. They discover that by staying near the center of it, time is slowed greatly ["Look my queen, at the sands in the hourglass!"] but at the shoreline it flows normally. Thus they can develop inventions for years at the heart of Paradise Island and then bring them out to the 'normal areas'  - allowing them to build cities and machines in mere days.

9) Thus WW's Invisible Plane is more of a 'plane out of phase' since its skin is an alloy of this time-altering metal. Her bracelets are also of this metal. Anything that comes in contact is slowed by a factor of 10x to 100x - so bullets, etc. touching these bracelets are basically stopped in time! Her lasso is threaded with this material so it is unbreakable as well. [Ed. Note: so the question is, why is neither Wonder Woman nor the Amazons slowed by this time-altering metal when THEY touch it? Simple - it is mentally controlled; it obeys the mind! And the women were indeed doing all the thinking...]

10) Now this does NOT mean that the previous origins were wrong - but they were stories handed down over the centuries and this element was interpreted as interpreted as magic, etc. The Greek gods are simply other dimensional Greeks of ages past who have this amazing metaphysical command and knowledge.

11) Finally, the big shocker: Because Hippolyta was wearing this girdle and jewelry when Heracles used her, it held what he did to her in abeyance inside her body. Do you understand what I am saying?

12) One day after their great victory, Hippolyta went to the seashore by herself to bathe. She laughed and said to her amazons it would seem like mere seconds before she'd be back They smiled and said, 'That is the only amount of time we can live without you, our queen!'

She took off the jewelery and swam in the ocean she loved so much. But the seed of a demi-god was inside her and she immediately became pregnant as time flowed again. It took years before she was aware of it. She had no desire to remain pregnant for a thousand years, and she would not kill her offspring, no matter how ill-conceived - so she stayed exiled from her amazons in real time for nine months, giving birth all alone. She returned to the center of the island, where minutes had passed, and told her sisters how 'the gods had granted her prayers and given her a daughter from a lifeless piece of clay!' [That was her idea of referring to Heracles. Her joke, if you will.]

13) THIS IS THE DARK SECRET: DIANA WAS BORN OF HERACLES AND HIPPOLYTA. No one has ever 'heard' differently and no one WANTS to know differently. Diana is therefore supernaturally strong and fast. Everything else is equipment and skills. In some origins her bracelets actually KEEP her from going beserk and using her strength in an uncontrolled manner. THIS REBOOT WOULD EXPLAIN THAT. You ever note how many writers can't get her characterization right? THIS IS WHY - she has two polar personalities at war in her! Peace and pleasant life vs. passion and a warrior's fury!

14) Steve's plane crashing on Paradise Island gave the Amazonian scientists a model to build after - and his colors became her costume. ["What are they DOING?! They stripped my plane!!" "Do not be afraid pilot - our engineers are merely copying each piece. It will be re-assembled properly..."] But the reason she is the emissary to the 'world of men' is threefold:

a) Hippolyta knows she cannot stay on the island. She must experience war and overcome it - just as her Amazonian sisters have.

b) She can inform them and forewarn them of any threat to Paradise Island as well as be an ambassador.

c) She is the offspring of their hated enemy; he WOULD have the right to come to the island if he knew this, as her FATHER. To avoid this, she must not live there.

d) If she cannot best the Heraclean nature inside of her, she will become a threat to Paradise Island. Sadly, she would have to be permanently exiled. And as long as Diana craves battle- and she does in her deepest heart - she is a stranger to her sisters. Far better for her to enter the world than have the world enter Paradise Island.

15) Oh - last thought - Diana could have helped the World War 2 Steve Trevor, gone home for a month or two, come back and found thirty to sixty years had passed. I think that's what Bruce Timm and Duanne McDuffie were showing in the DCU Animated Series. [advance to 8:50 or so]

Well, that's all for now.

Hope you've liked this re-imagining of her origin!