Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Hobbits!

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Merry Christmas from a man in his very own hobbit-hole in Wheaton.


I might as well finally admit it to myself - I have a wonderfully full, cozily cluttered warm hobbit hole, thanks to a lady who loves good food and gardening.

Yeah.

She be a hobbit, she is.

And living here is good, especially on quiet nights after a busy day of cooking, singing, worship, yard work, present wrapping, clothes washing and cleaning.

AFTER we ate breakfast this morning in downtown Wheaton where I ate TWO stacks of deee-lectable blueberry pancakes. I really did - I liked the short stack served with my meal so much I ordered another side of blueberry pancakes!

I helped vacuum and clean mirrors and watched the ending of 'It's a Wonderful Life'... crud, I AM A HOBBIT!

Not that that is a bad thing, but it is far too domestic for a saint... or is it?

I suspect I will have to go on an adventure [re: mission trip] soon to keep my heart right and not TOO comfy - but for now, it is a loving bit of grace.

You know what is even more hobbit-like?

We intend to have five guests for dinner tomorrow. Heh. I hope they won't be too offended if i refer to them as 'dwarves'. ;)

Well, I guess I better get to bed.

Santa's coming!

And for those of us who love hobbits, here's the newest trailer - the two-part film is due to hit the cinemas next December with part one: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.



MERRY CHRISTMAS, HOBBITS!!

Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Economy Is Down But The Dark Knight Rises

"I have never seen the righteous begging for bread."

That's from the psalms, and effectively, the author is confirming "what you sow, you reap" principle Jesus stated - and that upright men and women get their needs met by God and His people all the time.

We like to think otherwise, because we are full of pride and self-justification. If we are poor, it someone else's fault. That is almost true - the fact is we just put our trust in the wrong place, not God. When we trust God and keep working, we win.

But I had to LEARN that myself. It's taken a while.

I am SO lazy, so easily made comfy in the least settings, I see it faster in myself than anyone else. My out-go exceeds my in-come all the time. It is stupid and I need to repent of it. Frankly, I am filthy rich with goods and food - I am only CASH poor.

It was when I came to Christ, in a very wealthy church, that I finally grokked that just because so-and-so has more money than me, it is not HIS fault for not paying my bills.

I am just a bad manager of money. Period. To make it, invest it, sacrifice and not waste it, takes a lot of self-discipline I just do not have. But when I trusted God, I began working hard for Him and trusting Him to provide as I obeyed and in 10 years, I paid off a $30K debt. These days, I have a credit card with a couple grand of debt on it and frankly, if I sold everything I owned, I'd be flush.

So, clearly, I am no Bruce Wayne.

[Girls interested in matrimony - RUN! Yes, both of you! ;)]

The reason I am saying this is because the Nolan boys are tapping on this "the rich SHOULD be victims" nerve we all feel in bad economic times in the latest trailer for The Dark Knight Rises.

Anyway, watch the trailer and you will see what I mean:



Looks awesome, does it not? The destruction of Gotham, the chaos and carnage and battle on what looks to be City Hall steps...

In my experience, I have found that MOST of the men I met who had wealth - MOST - were incredibly generous and only wanted to find how they could keep employees employed, and what cause was the best to donate into, how to keep using their wealth to provide good things for others.

Money was a tool, not a god.

I think, once again, the Nolan brothers will remind us that "to whom much is given, much is required" and we must ALL vigilantly defend our hearts against the jealousy and hatred that is so tasty to our souls when someone else succeeds.

Heh. A thought came to me. I might as well confess it.

One of my favorite pastimes in college before I came to Christ was to spit on each and every car that had a personalized license plate - what I saw a symbol of utmost vanity and pride.

I WAS the one with the pride - it was just manifested as self-pity.

God showed me I did not have to hate someone for NOT suffering as I did.

I needed to ask Him to make it better.

May you too ask and find His love and provision today.


Amen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm & backwards masking

I am sitting at Wheaton Public Library, typing away on my new laptop in the 'silent room' reserved for serious students.

Due to the re-modelling of the library a few years ago, I have a spectacular winter view of Adam's Park as the sun sets.

So to aid me in my solitude of sound, on a bleak December afternoon, I am listening to the Batman: Mask of the Phantasm soundtrack crafted by the late great Shirley Walker. It matches the chill December afternoon well with its somber brass and melancholy themes.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is an overlooked gem. It was WAY ahead of Batman Begins, taking a key motivational element from Frank Miller's Batman: Year One in its retelling of WHY Bruce Wayne became not only a crime-fighter, but the masked Bat-Man - a terrifying scourge for the underworld!

The movie plays out the tragedy and heroism that surrounds the Batman - that what keeps making Batman such a heroic figure IS the personal hard choices. It is good stuff and folks, if you have not seen it, you ought to. Personally, I was blown away by it in the theater [I had no idea it was coming out, so poor was the marketing] but my best bud only remarked "I just paid $6 to watch a cartoon?" so my opinion and rave is NOT universal.

Visit Prototype_EX's site on Deviantart.com
If the EXACT same script had been shot with live actors, I think his tone would have changed.

Bruce Wayne does something with taking on this identity that Christ-followers in service need to do. We need to wear and be Christ, just as Bruce needs to be this avenging angel of the night. He wants the criminals to FEEL the terror they dish out to others, and frankly, I have no problem with that for the unrepentant.


But while Batman is created to instill fear, we Christians are to instill hope and love and faith. And as Wayne admits in Batman Begins "I cannot do this as Bruce Wayne -" we also find WE cannot do it as merely our natural selves.

That is not a spiritualized metaphor. If we do NOT ask for Christ to live in us and try to work against the world's onslaught, we are going to lose immediately. "Apart from Me, you can do nothing," Jesus says.

So when we ask for "Give us this day our daily bread..." keep in mind that Jesus IS the bread. So we need to keep asking for Him one day at a time. We need Him to keep us from being like the rest of the world.

That covers the internal need to be like Christ - but what about the EXTERNAL style of being Christ-like?

Do we need to wear sandals? Or more Christian-themed clothing? Or put another fish on our car?

Would that be deceitful to put it on - or cowardly to NOT do so?

Would it be cheap superficiality or crass advertising? Maybe the answer lies in our motive for the 'mask' we wear - or do not wear.

There is one disturbing thing in Batman Mask of the Phantasm, and I just found out about it these 18 years later. The beginning theme, sounding so ominous and brooding, has a Russian
choir singing what sounds like Latin. I tried to find out what the lyrics meant, and what I found blew me away. You see, you are SUPPOSED to think it is Latin. It is played and performed as if it is some ancient Latin chant.

It isn't.

It's the names of several of the orchestral team and support staff, spoken backwards.

Yeah, I'm afraid it is true. Shirley Walker was crunched for time, so she did it as an in-joke to give some hidden credit to her peeps - and one of her sound editors caught on to it.

It's nonsense Latin, created just to sound good. It means nothing - unless you KNOW its the names of the support staff, disguised.

So Shirley, vigilante-style, put a 'mask' on her good deed - giving hidden credit to the orchestral staff that worked so hard and got so little credit.

It was her own version of backwards masking -for a good cause.

You know, Jesus Christ wore a mask - that of an ordinary man. With it, he was able to do many mighty deeds before his crucifixion. We evangelical types work very hard to reveal the divinity of Christ, it gets frustrating at times.

I am beginning to suspect Jesus doesn't WANT to reveal Himself to everyone. Not just yet, anyway.

Maybe wearing a mask can have a good purpose, even a spiritual one.

Maybe Christ-followers need to mask themselves more, not less. There is a lot of power in covert ops in a fallen world.

Maybe it is best if people misunderstand and underestimate us.

If we understand that fame is often VERY constrictive and expectations turn all too often into condemnations, we may very well see it as a blessing to do what we can do without recognition or fanfare.

I have been so ashamed of my past disobedience, I have been quick to show my current obedience to Christ. I am glad, rightly so, to be serving Him.

But to be even more like Him is to do greater things with even less recognition.

Maybe my own narcissism will get in the way but I am going to give it a try.

So that, one day, someone will be singing my name loudly in heaven!

Backwards, just to keep me humble.

;)

May God bless you as you decide to live for the Lord who wore a mask for you.
"None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bob Kane Gravestone

When I think of certain heroes, I find I like them WAY before I know the reason why.

Later, as I examine their portrayal, their motives, I see what attracted me to them more fully. And when something is taken away, or changed ever-so-subtly, I can smell it.

Now, I want you to read this final gravemarker of Bob Kane, creator of Batman - and yes, geeks, I know he got a lot of help from Bill Finger - but still, the character is there and Bob Kane is the one who got him started.

And obviously, this was written by loving family member, so it is not very critical - but who wouldn't have been proud to have their family relative create the World's Greatest Detective?


These words at the end are wonderful for me to read as a Christian:
"Batman is known as the 'Dark Knight'
but through his deeds he walks in the
Light of a Higher Power, as did his
creator -- Bob Kane!"
This language of a 'Higher Power' are borrowed from the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous - a reference to God without using 'religious' words.

So I don't know much about Bob Kane's ultimate faith - and I have heard some negative things about his 'creative originality' - but I like the hope and reason and ideal expressed here.

I like that one of the world's most famous characters is identified this way:
"A ' Hand of GOD' creation,
Batman and his World personify
the eternal struggle of good
versus evil, with God's laws
prevailing in the end."
If we create, and do it well, let us also give credit where it is due: to our creator God.

May we also understand that there IS evil in the world and it must be fought - both internally and externally.

If we do that, perhaps we will be blessed with having creations that endure year after year, decade after decade, century after century

Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Uncharitable Charity

I watched a sweet widow try to give a man a little money for helping her. He refused it completely, and even gruffly.

I could have thought it was noble at first, but something about NOT taking the small gift seemed - I don't know - inappropriate? If he had accepted it graciously as a thanks, it could have been a blessing to her heart and then given away to another if he did not need the money.

But I suspect this hard-working man despised the idea of taking charity - even from a willing giver. A very thankful giver. Why?

Well, I find it is probably pride - pride in personal self-sufficiency. Pride that we are ABOVE needing help or charity. To even have an appearance of receiving money from someone in a lesser position - or anything of value - would seem evil.

The fact is it was a gift rejected. She offered and even said "If you don't want it, put it in the offering plate!" Still, on those terms, he laid the money on the nearby wall. "Nope!" he said.

Now you and I can see that as almost noble - not taking money from a widow.

But you are also not accepting her gift.

Oswald Chambers showed me that we also do this with God and Christ.

The gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equally intense resentment, because the truth that it reveals is not palatable or easy to swallow. There is a certain pride in people that causes them to give and give, but to come and accept a gift is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom; I will dedicate my life to service— I will do anything. But do not humiliate me to the level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to do is accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts. We must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest spiritual blessing we receive is when we come to the knowledge that we are destitute. Until we get there, our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us as long as we think we are sufficient in and of ourselves. We must enter into His kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are “rich,” particularly in the area of pride or independence, God can do nothing for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is placed and made effective in us by the Holy Spirit. He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, making us truly alive. He takes that which was “beyond” us and places it “within” us. And immediately, once “the beyond” has come “within,” it rises up to “the above,” and we are lifted into the kingdom where Jesus lives and reigns (see John 3:5).





Thursday, October 20, 2011

Burn Notice - & Burn Recovery

My current fave TV show I am watching in re-runs is "Burn Notice."

Michael Westen is a spy who's been let go by his handlers for no honest reason - "fired" so to speak, and so the term used in the spy game is he got a "burn notice" or was "burned."

Makes as much sense as being 'fired' don't you think?

Funny how we use that term "I was burned by my ex..." "I was fired from my job..." - both idioms mean that we've been hurt badly - and I think we like the term and accept it so easily is because we feel the anger and rage at the unfairness, the injustice of it.

We've gone through the flames - of hatred, self-doubt, self-loathing, fury at our impotence, etc.

I think that we are foolish to imagine we will NEVER 'get burned' - never be betrayed, never be deceived by a friend or lied about - no, we MUST expect that will happen in a Fallen World.

It is just a matter of time - or opportunity.

I have found that when I am my happiest over some event - say I just got all my bills paid off, or I've just won an award, or I've just darn happy, someone believes it is their solid and sworn duty to burn me.

It's happened so quickly on so many grand occasions, I suspect a Malevolent and Diabolical Foe [just like the One mentioned in the Bible] is prompting these responses.

But it could just be old-fashioned jealousy and envy. No supernatural push required.

You see, I am thinking about this because only two days ago, I ran into a woman who seemed familiar to me and she said the same. We went through a laundry list of places we had served in Wheaton, and which churches we attended. Then she mentioned she used to work at the headquarters of a relief organization, and I went "AHA!"

I was given a 'burn notice' some 11 years ago at this Christian Relief Organization. I had left everything to come to Wheaton to serve Christ here and in 50 days, I was being run out the door. I hated that because, frankly, I loved my job and the variety of Christ-followers working there.

But my department manager? She was infamous there. And this woman not only knew of her, she had worked UNDER her for many, many more 'days' than I had - years in fact. I saw the pain and fury in her eyes as she spoke of this particular manager, what she had said, what she had done. She had endured so much under her "leadership" that she honestly had mental and physical health issues.

She still smelled of smoke, if you catch my drift.

I would love to say I've moved on adn it doesn't bother me at all, but the fact is I have a a bittersweet memory of those days and that unforgettably manipulative dictator.

At first, I was VERY happy to work with so many saints. I was joyous and busting my butt to prove myself.

But then I uncovered the small fact we were spending $30,000 on a 'new' web site design that simply would not work. It was being designed in a frameset and no one, I mean no one [in 2000] was doing that anymore. Too many times 'bots ignored tags, you are asking for two pages from the server when one will do, bookmarks would always lead you to the 'Main' page, CSS is simpler and more elegant, etc. Lots of reasons.

To say manager was not happy with my 'revelations' and 'observations' would be an understatement. Before you know it a paper trail was being created to show how I was not performing to speed. In a classic, 'you've got to be kidding me', a list of 24 items were typed up for me to have accomplished - an 'impossible' task by their reckoning - to be reviewed that day at 1:00! [I got this at 10:00.]

I got the task list done in 30 minutes. [Yeah, I am that good... O.K. they were THAT ignorant.]

I was grinning at this silliness and thought it absurd. I was just trying to get this ship I'd signed on to going in the right direction as fast as possible. I tried to reason with my immediate supervisor. Oh, it was ugly. Pride and anger and envy rose up. The word 'insubordination' was used.

It was too late. I had angered her [by challenging her ignorance] and she sat me down in her office. She began laying it on, how I was not working with the 'team' [who had no training and were her personal sock-puppets of opinion.] In the end, I distinctly heard God say "Resign" as she was hotly giving me this "talking to."

"I resign!" I said, being the compliant Spirit-led guy I am supposed to be. [Your applause is appreciated.]

Her "Good!" sealed the deal.

I was saddened to be honest. I hated being betrayed, but I knew something that Joseph knew.

The OT Joseph, that is. The one betrayed by his family and then his employer. He knew this: God was watching.

What makes Joseph's story great is not the burns he got but his burn recovery.

He ends up saving people from starvation. He ends up leading Egypt.

In six months, my department manager was let go. I ended up staying in Wheaton and starting a ministry. I've seen several souls be healed, miracles happen and lives permanently transformed.

That is wonderful. Not the process, but what it CAN produce, if we allow God to use it.

The reason I watch 'Burn Notice' is not because Michael Westen is a burned spy - but because he's a burned spy who STILL cannot help but use his skills and abilities to fight evil, help the defenseless and basically take down the bad guys. In Miami. With people who'd die for him.

Sure, he's still obsessed with "WHY?" but in the end, the answer doesn't matter to us. We are glad he's at home kicking but not in Afghanistan. We know the character of the man because he is NOT in self-pity mode. He rolls with the punches. He keeps coming back.

That is the joy in the character. Jeffrey Donovan plays him as a poor man's James Bond - cool car, but an old black Dodge Charger it is. Hi-tech surveillance - made by hand from cell-phones and whatnot. Beautiful women - on the Miami beach.

And Michael is not distracted by these things. He only wants to clear his name and get to the truth. Why? Why was he burned?

Frankly, we don't REALLY care - we are glad Michael Westen is home, helping his family and friends.

Folks you may have been burned - and recently. The answer to why you were burned is simple - someone who was selfish wanted you out of the way.

But take heart. God sees. He knows. He's going to make it right.

You have more friends than you know. You just have to keep going in the right direction.

I'm not trying to give you the Romans 8:28 bullet of comfort. I am telling you that being burned will stop only PAPER, not METAL. If you are going to be soul of sterling silver, worthy to be given everlasting life, you MUST expect this process.

And as I have accepted it, I have begun to laugh again, to preach of God's goodness and even to be amazed as He has made very difficult paths straight as I continued to trust and obey Him.

Like Joesph, bloom where you are planted - even if in a prison.

Like Michael Westen, keep doing what is right, serving others - even if you have no job history, no money, no "assets."

Because "there is nothing hidden that will not be uncovered" said Jesus.

And you can count that the Perfect Man knew precisely how much uncovering would be necessary. And how those who burn others will themselves be burned.

Don't worry. Keep laughing. Keep doing what you are good at.

God will restore everything. Just give Him some time.

Amen.

p.s. "Keep Calm and Carry On" was a motto the British developed to raise morale in England as it was facing imminent disaster in 1939.

It is a good motto.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wonder Woman re-boot - and yeah, I was right.

Wonder Woman's origin is going to be re-told!

And they are addressing half of the issues I had with her origin in one classic swoop: she has a Dad and his name is Zeus.

My original blog - 14 months ago - pointed out this need.

Should I wait for a check from DC? Nah. Great minds think alike, that's all.

But if I WAS of some help - say some in editorial at DC READ this and GOT an IDEA - I would like the first 12 issues sent to my house, signed by Brian Azzarello.

Here's my original blog: http://justicecarmon.blogspot.com/2010/08/its-been-nearly-week-since-my-last-post.html

And here's the article on the re-boot:

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/10/10/wonder-woman-zeus-father-daughter/


Glad they are moving in the right direction.

Amen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Steve Jobs  1955-2011 [This is a Sad Mac]I loved the first time I ever used a Mac.

I remember asking the computer aide at Memphis State [now University of Memphis] how to save a file I had been working on. I was patient. I knew it would be a SAVE command with some colon with some other letters, etc.

He said "You just drag it to the disk - like so..." and proceeded to use the mouse instead of typing in some arcane drive letters separated by innumerable slashes. I was floored. I fell in love.

As a graphic artist, I found work, career and so much more far more wonderful and enjoyable because of this one inventor who thought computers should be user-friendly.

We all did.

I liked Steve Jobs for that reason.

He really did change the world.

Sorry you left so soon, Steve.

Blast.

God bless the Jobs family as they cope with their loss.

Amen.

p.s. a short Windows Movie Maker video - sorry, Steve! - I did to honor him and his wonderful achievements that truly opened up worlds of communication to us all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Lifetime - a tribute to my father

The night before his memorial service, my niece and her husband diligently worked to bring to life the video I imagined.

Inspired by the first five minutes of Pixar's movie Up, and using a selection from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Inception, I think we created something very, very special - showing the life of my father in pictures.

If you knew him, his uncomplicated love of life, his deep concern for his family and his joy in manly things, you will get a special treat as you see it all here.

If not, let this serve as a testimony of a life transformed - literally transformed - by the grace of God.

We share this because we loved him.



Thank you, Dad.

Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remember the Loss of September

As the air turns cooler and the smell of autumn is in the air, we remember those who are gone.

The Loss of September
Remember, remember, the loss of September.

The day we paid for befriending the people of God.

The day miracles happened even as tragedy fell, and the price, though dear, was cut in twain, one hand of Providence at a time.

And in the fires of hate, heroism did arrive, running up floor after floor, unable to see, to breathe, to know what would happen next after the unimaginable had occurred. Before the unthinkable happened.

Towers fell as the terrible chapters in the Book were read and we wept. Knowing all things MUST end, does not us prepare us for the shock of hearing so. Who can judge such things besides God? Have mercy, O Lord.

Have mercy, O men. Weep with those who weep - and remember, remember that day in September.


__________________________________

I spent the entire afternoon recovering from a cold and writing and re-writing my father's obituary to beat The Commercial Appeal's Monday morning deadline. It cost an amazing amount of money to put this into the paper, but it was worth it, short as it is.

"Earnest Lee Carmon, 79, former resident of Memphis, died Friday August 26, 2011 in Spokane, WA. Mr. Carmon served in Korea as a U. S. Marine and worked as a trucker in the Memphis area for over 30 years.

"A Christian, he served as an elder in the 1st Presbyterian Church of Laredo, TX. Beloved son of William Ellis Carmon III and Lutinia B. “Tinnie Lou” Powell, his wife, Norma Joyce (McClanahan), gave him two sons, Sean W. Carmon and Rev. Brian J. Carmon. Upon her death after 29 years of marriage, he married Brenda Faye Webb, of West Memphis, AR. Beloved stepmother, they celebrated their 26th anniversary.

"He is survived by brother, Thomas “Sonny” Carmon of Missouri; and sister, Dora Mae Carmon of California; three grandchildren, Cristin Carmon Franklin, Michael Sean Carmon, and Katie Carmon Kimball, and three great-grandchildren, Clay, Jackson and Aiden.

"A memorial service will be held Saturday, September 17, from 1-2:15 p.m. at Lifepointe Baptist Church, 50 Getwell Rd South, Hernando, MS 38632.

"Also, a public graveside service with military honors will be held Monday, Sept. 19th from 10-10:30 a.m. at Crittenden Memorial Park in Marion, AR."

____________________________________


"We mourn - but not as those who have no hope," wrote the apostle Paul.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Digital Inks - Right On, Baby!

This is posted to clarify a definition I had used in response to a detractor on a forum where I said "digital inks" and meant taking the the artist's original pencil sketch through stages to sharpen them up and make them suitable for print.

The poster said in all his years of art training he'd NEVER heard of that usage.

I was feeling pretty down in the dumps. I am Irish and we CAN create names to fit what we want on the fly - sort of like German philosophers. But I've been doing it this way for years - was my terminology that far off?

Then my library got the latest and newest copy of Stan Lee's How To Draw Comics, and on page 148, I was exonerated. To my detractor's credit, the term is used BOTH ways: to simply correct 'real inks' or to pull the pencil values into the reproducible 'ink' form.

I remember the first time I showed two comic book pencillers this new ability to work STRAIGHT from the pencils was available to them and they did not NEED an inker. It was back in 1995 or so. {I will say a VAST majority of good inkers IMPROVE the penciller, so this is NOT for all artists.)

They got quiet.

Here's to those who learn quickly -



Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Crazy Comics Code, and How It Made Great Comics

Ever notice how when we talk of great films, we talk about the "Golden Age" of film?

They had great stories and some especially adult themes - try watching Casablanca or Gone With the Wind and count how many sexual subtexts there are - but they also were under a fierce watchdog: the Hayes Commission.

You had to mind your manners. You could tell the story, but you could not violate good manners and taste. It HAD to be viewable by kids and adults. It had to be available to all.

Then the ratings system came in and that all changed. Still, today, if you want to make the MOST money, you keep it fairly clean. Economics are on the side of the "Let's take the whole family to see this" on Friday nights. Add to that the voice of the church groups and school outings, and you can see that keeping a broad market gives you more chances to make your money back and even find venues to sell your film.

We had a watchdog when I was growing up. It was The Comics Code Authority, and it made sure that comics - designed for kids - were acceptable to their parents.

Now somehow, every one thinks having restrictions is BAD for creativity. Au contraire!

It is the creative writer who has to come up with a new way of saying "Shoot!" or "Darn!" or "You could've knocked me over with a feather!" who finds the strength to meet the challenge.

I mean, outside of comics, I have NEVER heard anyone say "Oh my stars and garters!"

Have you?

[Love ya, Beast! Image courtesy of http://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2010/03/365-days-with-hank-mccoy-day-76-oh-my.html. Thank you - I had this issue, but you saved me the trouble!]

The Comics Code was a reaction against horror and gore and crime comics that were going a WEE bit too far. And as sinful as all human hearts are, you cannot read a single thing about this reaction that's positive in the minds of comic-lovers.

Well, I haven't yet.

But I submit it was NOT insane or crazy or fascist to put our collective foots down on this stuff that was appealing to baser instincts and aimed at children, esp. young boys. Still, the praise for the end of the Comics Code Authority by the so-called enlightened moral relativists of this generation seems to be echoing through the web.

Folks, we just hate to be told "No." We don't even care what the reason is. We just don't want ANYONE telling US "Nope. Sorry. Can't do that." And when you want to change that sentiment to "I don't want anyone telling me what to do..." you go too far again.

Editing out gore and crap and especially visceral horror elements is NOT the same as "telling you WHAT to do" - it is simply telling you the boundaries to abide within.

And why is it necessary?

Because we care about what kids read, imagine and put into their mind. We care about that more than lining your fershlinger wallet, you moron.


And I want to present to you this terrible, fascist code that SOMEHOW we are better off without (sarcasm) - keeping in mind of course, that without this general, all-must-comply code, we kids would NOT have had comics to read for mere pennies on the racks at every magazine stand, drug store, 7-11 and Walgreens.

You see what I am saying? Like the "Golden Age" of movies, under the restrictions of the Hayes Commission, comics also had a "Golden Age" and it was so powerful, some our BEST creations occurred UNDER those restrictions - and those restrictions enabled superheroes to fill our homes and offices, 'cause they were safe.

Well, I've said enough. Read the following code and tell me how many violations we accept today REALLY 'enhance' the comic genre:

Here ya go, True Believers. I think you will find these guidelines... enlightening.


STANDARDS OF THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY FOR EDITORIAL MATTER AS ORIGINALLY ADOPTED

Source: Comix, a History of Comic Books in America, by Les Daniels, copyright 1971 by Les Daniels and Mad Peck Studios.

Code For Editorial Matter
General Standards Part A:

1) Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
2) No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.
3) Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.
4) If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
5) Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.
6) In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun-play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
8) No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.
9) Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged.
10) The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.
11) The letters of the word “crime” on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.
12) Restraint in the use of the word “crime” in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.

General Standards Part B:
1) No comic magazine shall use the word “horror” or “terror” in its title.
2) All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
3) All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
4) Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
5) Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

General Standards Part C:
All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.

Dialogue:
1) Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
2) Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.
3) Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.

Religion:
Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.

Costume:
1) Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
2) Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
3) All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.
4) Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities. [ED: Not anymore!!]

NOTE: It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialogue, or artwork applies as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.

Marriage and Sex:
1) Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor shall be represented as desirable.
2) Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
3) Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for moral distortion. [ED: Oh, I love this one!]
4) The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.
5) Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.
6) Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
7) Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden. [ED: Ooooooo... guess what THAT excludes, kiddos?]

Code For Advertising Matter:
These regulations are applicable to all magazines published by members of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc. Good taste shall be the guiding principle in the acceptance of advertising.

1) Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable.
2) Advertisement of sex or sex instructions books are unacceptable.
3) The sale of picture postcards, “pin-ups,” “art studies,” or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.
4) Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.
5) Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.
6) Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.
7) Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
8) To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.
9) Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the Advertising Code.
____________________________________________

Comics may have better art and better coloring and better paper and my even be more respectable in many ways today.

But they also lost loyal readers - and perhaps a humility that made them worth buying by the dozen.

Think about it.

Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Farewell, Dad


My father, Earnest Lee Carmon, aged 79 and having just celebrated his 26 year wedding anniversary with his second wife Brenda yesterday, passed away this morning in Spokane, WA.

His ashes will be sent to me and I will journey to the grave of my mother, his first wife, Norma, to re-unite them and lay his remains to rest at her side.

Your love, prayers & support as I celebrate his life and grieve this immediate loss of his presence will be much appreciated.

He was a big ol' bear of a man who feared God and loved his family.


peace
justice



p.s. If you HAVE ALREADY seen Tron: Legacy, please watch this moving clip from the very end. It is a beautiful piece about fathers and sons and their love and the opposition that tries to stop them from connecting. Link: http://youtu.be/zD8v-goYl0E

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wizardly Worlds, Pros & Cons...


I went Saturday to Wizard World Comic Con in Chicago. Parking ALONE in a hotel about half a mile away was $19.00 - ouch!

But I needed to get my geek fix, though I suspected God had some other plans as well.

I FINALLY Jack Herman, co-author of my favorite RPG of all time, Villains and Vigilantes and shook his hand. We geeked on what movies were good and what scenes we loved and I got to show him my portfolio for ANY art in the next edition of V&V. He signed my old adventures modules too - stuff that I have had for 30 years -GEEK!

I met Peter S. Beagle of The Last Unicorn fame - and he told me about his meeting with Jeff Bridges "a nice young man" - and how impressed he'd been with Loyd Bridges, his father, because of a emotional LIVE TV performance that was scandalous since, in character, Lloyd had actually cursed at the 'raging mob' in a Playhouse performance. [Got a bit too 'in character' as it were.]

I also met a dear Christian brother who working hard with Walter Koenig [ST:TOS's Chekov!] on a new comic called "Things to Come"! He had helped with the creation of Fiefdom of Angels and so I shared with him my story and vision for my novel about intergalactic knights, etc. We may be collaborating, but even if not, it was SO good to see him!

Are you getting tired of my exclamation marks?! It's the super-dialogue in me! ;)

I also got to meet Patrick Gleason and get him to sign my hard copies of Green Lantern Corps and thank him for an old blog comment. I kvetched about the design on the GL movie, but he liked my one remark: "Oa looked like Detroit after 500 years!....ehr...sorry..." "No, no - you're good. I'll remember that one!" [I apologized because sometimes we forget as Fans Who Have Opinions that these guys ARE working professionals who are trying to make a living.]

They have to follow directives and do things they may not like; and Patrick may very well have been friends or on a working basis with the art director - or may have just met the guy and liked him. I was unhappy with the movie's art direction and opened my mouth.

Not a wise idea.

Not if you want to serve, to help others.

You see a Pro wants to serve others; a Con wants to take. Take your time, your money, your efforts but in the end, produce nothing.

Pros are gracious. Cons are not. Do you see how I am slightly redefining these from abstractions into identities? "Pro" means you are FOR something, i.e. Pro-Life. CON means you are AGAINST something - and it is so negative, even in our common slang, we change stances to STAY on the "Pro" side. So someone for an abortion will not say they are "Con-Life", but "Pro-Choice."

I can only say in respect that God makes choices too. And He has, in the past, indeed chosen to use unwanted pregnancies to save other lives and change the world. Abortion is death; adoption is life. I will say no more.

As for becoming a Pro in the Comic Book SF/Fantasy field, I have come to realize it is about giving away your time and your energy working diligently to bring to life to imaginary worlds.

I met Bill Sienkiewicz, he of Electra Assassin fame and much more. Funny thing is, I REALLY liked him - though some of his work I did not think 'worked' in storytelling, he is truly a very radical and ground-breaking artist. I asked if I could get a picture, and he smiled, obviously having a grand time - and I had to say as others backed away for my shot, "Let me get a picture of a good-looking man!" Bill grinned big. "Bill, tell me if one shows up later, O.K.?"

His grin turned into laughter as his ear processed past the constant din of the crowd. "I got that! That was good!"

Then I met Larry Elmore and man, we chatted like two old Southern boys who remember the days of outhouses.

Now, my DAD was the one who instilled in me the harsh realities of being a Kentucky farmboy, and rural living, so THAT was my touchstone with Larry, not my own personal experience, mind you.

But Larry Elmore has been there and done that.

He told me stories about drawing with ONE pencil by candles that were in paper sacks [like Xmas luminaries] until the pencil was no more. He told me about sitting on the front porch and listening to folk stories and ghost stories out in the Kentucky woods before electricity had gotten within miles of his home. Or running water.

Dang, he'd LIVED almost a medieval life! "You can still see a lot of references in my work to those days," he said. I sure could, from log cabins to oil lamps!

But it was in such conditions he learned to create and imagine - and he could make and shape a world with a piece of charcoal from a fireplace because of it.

"That type of imagination is missing today from this generation," he lamented. He wasn't saying the kids had NO imagination, but we had made it commercialized and packaged and marketed - and it did not HAVE to be. I had to agree.

What a gentleman! I could have listened to him for hours. And all started because I said "Larry, I remember your first work - an ad for DragonLance in which you had PERFECTLY captured a winter sky. Man -it put me in that world!"

He understood. He loved doing that -bringing worlds to life. His joy showed in his craft.

And that's what a Pro does, folks. They can take you to a world that exists on in the mind and heart and make you want to stay there.

If we are to create, let's be Pros.

There are enough critics for all the Cons in the world.

Amen.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Superman, by Cavill and created by ????

I remember seeing Henry Cavill in The Count of Monte Cristo as the young Albert Mondego. Great movie with Guy Pierce being his evil foster dad [unbeknownst to him] and Jim Caviezal as the Count [ the former Edmond Dantes who was utterly betrayed by his friend and shipmates].

Good looking kid. Now a good looking man. I think he'll do well, if the script is worth a plug nickel.

Cool pic, huh?

Sort of sad though. The reason they are working so hard on this film is because of some litiginous mess created by the families of Shuster and Siegel keeping the rights to the very very FIRST presentation of Superman and Warner Bros. owning all the rights to what was developed over the years.

Long story short: it'd be like owning the rights to the pilot episode of a TV series, but none of the characters or developments that happened later.

And you KNOW how much changes over the years, but some of the essentials remain?

So frankly, Superman as we know him will probably be changed only in certain ways - like kiss the red trunks good-bye and maybe lose the spit curl. Maybe lose even the blue body suit??!

But Shuster and Siegel's original creation could not fly, only "leap tall buildings in a single bound."

So he still can fly - legally. And to keep this and other rights, the studio had to get out a Superman film ASAP.

The reason this is depressing is not that the families of the creators want their rights, but rather they never were paid PROPERLY in kind for the amazing contribution of their forefathers and so they are suing. Essentially, for "back pay."

[Edit: according to Wikipedia, they got some from other arenas - Like the TV show Smallville for instance.
A July 9, 2009, verdict on the case denied a claim by Siegel's family that it was owed licensing fees. U.S. District Court judge Stephen G. Larson said Warner Bros. and DC Comics have fulfilled their obligations to the Siegels under a profit-sharing agreement for the 2006 movie Superman Returns and the CW series Smallville. However, the court also ruled that if Warner Bros. does not start a new Superman film by 2011, the family will have the right to sue to recover damages.
Now, this is tricky, because I am certainly for creator's rights - and right now ANOTHER comic related property, my favorite RPG is in litigation to see who owns the right to publish it.

But I am not in favor of non-creative control. And if Warner Bros / DC Comics dodges this "right" by making some minor cosmetic changes to the character we know and love, and keeps making millions, the Siegel and Shuster families did nothing but screw around with the character and waste everyone's time. They are not going to get the money they want.

They aren't going to get anything but a 'right' that ends up being useless. Superman has had his origin re-told and so MUCH was added to the mythos AFTER that initial page of origin, almost nothing will be impacted.

Well, we can only hope.

Shall We Create What We Can Lose?
See there is a weird thing in creating something. You create - but you must have an impetus to do so. And someone to take you further. You spark an idea - but if you don't carry the ball, you tend to see others run with it.

It is humbling to realize that letting go of creative control MAY be the best thing for your creation, but the downside is others may profit more than you ever will.

It's a dangerous marriage, contracts and creativity; too much control and your creation may die.

Too little control, and you may lose your creation to some greedy jerk.

Great Creations that Owe More to Those Who Came After
Bob Kane created Batman, right?
He created the one with purple gloves and a gun, bunky. Originally, he was red with a domino mask. We owe writer Bob Finger a LOT - like the COOL Batman with a cowl. Like Robin, the Batmobile, the Batcave, Gotham City, the Joker, Two-Face, etc. Need I go on?

Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, right?
Yeah - with the monotone uniforms and NO Klingons. Compare the first pilot and ST:TMP and you will see Gene wasn't really that good at drama. His idea of the future was too idyllic. We owe Gene Coon a LOT. The Prime Directive, Starfleet Command, Klingons, etc.

You see, when you have a REALLY good idea, others WANT to join in, pitch in & help and if you are humble enough and wise enough, you let them. You listen hard. You say "That will work!" as often as you can. Why?

Because your Good Idea needs others to live. By all means, keep control by Leading the Way, but not by micro-management. Stay in the mix and be diplomatic, learn to play well with others. Stan Lee knew how to do it, even though he became simply the High King of Marvel Comics, not involved in day to day business affairs.

Otherwise you can sit with your Great Idea alone in the "My Way or The High-way" box you made.

And if you owe your success to someone with a Great Idea, you had better keep them on good terms. If they want $$ - not $$$$$$$$$$ - but if it is something reasonable, give it to them.

You won't be keeping that cash anyway. 'Cause lawyers and judges do not create; they dissect.

And a beautiful idea dissected is a bloody mess.

This blog is as much to me as to anyone out there - 'cause I'm trying to create a TV series with a bud. I need his input and encouragement with my idea. As long as my name is in the credits and I get paid $$, I think I will be happy. I need to write a lot of episodes to keep my vision alive. But if I wear more than just the "IDEA" hat and work hard on it, I think I will have served not just my family but humanity - and the Creator of All Good Things.

Let us all Create and keep the Edits to a minimum, OK?

And pay your opponent instead of your lawyers.

It is cheaper.

You betcha.


peace
justice

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Evangelical Batman - Sir Rev. Dr. John Stott - Dies at 90

Just found out. Was so busy attending a wedding last weekend, I missed the news.

Lifelong celibate, Anglican minister and author of over 50 books, he was knighted in 2007. He lived a life that made Billy Graham look like Hugh Heffner.

I mean, this saint was disciplined - VERY disciplined. You knew PRECISELY where he placed his hope.

Wow.

For geeks, I can clarify: if Batman became a minister of the gospel, he'd be John Stott.

Here's the NY Times article [props to Org for link]:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/world/europe/28stott.html?pagewanted=all

__________________________________________________________

Rev. John Stott, Major Evangelical Figure, Dies at 90
By WOLFGANG SAXON
Published: July 27, 2011

The Rev. John Stott, one of the world’s most influential figures in the spread of evangelical Christianity over the past half-century, died Wednesday in Lingfield, Surrey, in the south of England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by Suanne Camfield, a spokeswoman for his publisher, InterVarsity Press.

The religion scholar Michael Cromartie once said that if evangelicals could elect a pope, they would be likely to choose Mr. Stott. Though less known in the United States and hardly a household name outside the evangelical sphere, Mr. Stott, an author, preacher and theologian, was often compared to the Rev. Billy Graham, his American contemporary.

But while Mr. Graham’s influence is rooted in a rousing preaching style and a personal magnetism that has filled stadiums, Mr. Stott’s relied on a proliferation of books — grounded in learning but accessible to all — and the evangelical organization he founded, Langham Partnership International, named after its cradle, All Souls Church at Langham Place in London’s West End.

“We must be global Christians,” he once wrote, “with a global mission, because our God is a global God.”

Beginning at the college campus level and branching out country by country, the Langham Partnership (known as the John Stott Ministries in the United States) grew into an organization comprising 5 national and 10 regional nondenominational movements.

Before then, through the Anglican Church, Mr. Stott had led a revival of evangelical Christianity in Britain, exhorting Britons to find personal salvation by repenting sin and accepting Jesus as their savior.

But he also demanded that evangelicals look beyond liturgy and Christian tradition and remain engaged in worldly matters — “to take more responsible attitudes toward economics, the arts, politics and culture in general,” as Mark A. Noll, a University of Notre Dame professor and scholar of the movement, said in an interview in 2007.

“And perhaps most importantly,” Professor Noll added, Mr. Stott became “a patron, mentor, friend and encourager of thousands of pastors, students and laypeople from the newer Christian parts of the world.” He became a bridge, Professor Noll said, “between the West and the rising Christian world.”

Mr. Stott was dedicated to helping the poor in developing countries, what he termed the Majority World. Using royalties from his books, he set up trusts to help gifted students from the developing world earn doctorates abroad and then return to their native countries to teach in theological seminaries.

How He Lived [emph. by J.C.]
For all his fame on several continents, Mr. Stott’s travels and appearances were remarkably devoid of pomp, befitting his simple message of reason and faith and his unassuming demeanor. Those in his ministries knew him simply as Uncle John. In his later years, he lived in a two-room apartment over the garage of a London rectory, and for many years he kept a small cottage on the Welsh coast, where he did much of his prodigious writing in longhand and, until 2001, without electricity.

“Pride is without doubt the greatest temptation of Christian leaders,” Mr. Stott said in 2006 during a visit to the United States. “And I’m very well aware of the dangers of being feted and don’t enjoy it and don’t think one should enjoy it.”

Believing the college campus to be the most effective pulpit from which to preach, he frequently led weeklong evangelist meetings at universities in Australia, Asia, Africa, North America and elsewhere around the world. One event drew as many as 18,000 students. Until 2003 he was an active vice president of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

“I declare myself an impenitent believer in the power of preaching,” he told an evangelical group in New York in 2006, by then a frail and stooped figure walking with a cane. “The pew cannot rise higher than the pulpit.”

Mr. Stott, a leading evangelical theologian, was regarded as the framer of the Lausanne Covenant, a declaration of the movement’s beliefs and global aspirations. Drafted in Switzerland in 1974 at an international evangelical congress, it is regarded as a 20th-century milestone of evangelicalism.

Mr. Stott was the author of about 50 books published in 65 languages. Among his best known are “Basic Christianity” (1958), “Christ the Controversialist” (1970) and “The Cross of Christ” (1986).

“Basic Christianity” alone has been translated into more than 60 languages and has sold more than 2.5 million copies, according to the John Stott Ministries, which said his books have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. His last book — he himself described it as such — was “The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling,” published in 2010.

“To read Stott is to see someone practicing ‘thoughtful allegiance’ to Scripture,” David Brooks wrote in The New York Times in an admiring column in 2004 titled, “Who Is John Stott?”

“For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously.”

The books have become staples of evangelicalism, said David Neff, editor of the evangelical publication Christianity Today. “Almost anyone who is a leader in American evangelicalism has read those books and been shaped by them.”

John Robert Walmsley Stott was born in London on April 27, 1921, the youngest of three children of Sir Arnold W. Stott, a prominent physician and an agnostic, and his wife, Emily, a Lutheran who attended All Souls. His older sisters died before him. A lifelong celibate, he left no immediate survivors.

The young Mr. Stott originally intended to train for the diplomatic service, but influenced by the Christian Gospel, he changed plans while still in preparatory school, determined to enter the Anglican Church.

He graduated from Trinity College at Cambridge in 1943; transferred to Ridley Hall Theological College, also at Cambridge; and was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1945. He started as an assistant curate at All Souls Church. After receiving a master’s degree at Cambridge in 1947, he advanced, at the age of 29, to rector of the church in 1950. When he turned rector emeritus in 1975, he moved from the rectory to a modest apartment over its garage.

The British government acknowledged his contributions in 2006 by naming him a Commander of the British Empire. He was appointed a chaplain to the queen in 1959 and served in that post until he reached retirement age in 1991. In 2005, Time magazine selected him as one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People.” He retired from the public ministry in 2007.

An avid birder and bird photographer, Mr. Stott took his binoculars and cameras on all his travels and wrote a book about the many species he encountered. Titled “The Birds Our Teachers: Biblical Lessons From a Lifelong Bird-Watcher” (1999), the book is illustrated with his own photographs.

At Mr. Stott’s death at the retirement home, his friends and associates were at his bedside, reading Scriptures and listening to Handel’s "Messiah," the All Souls Church Web site said.

“The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen,” Mr. Graham said in a statement on Wednesday, “and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisers. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to heaven.”

Dennis Hevesi contributed reporting.

______________________________

Awesome man. "'Well done, good and faithful servant!'" said one pastor I know, echoing the words of Jesus.

I can add nothing to that.


peace
justice

Monday, August 1, 2011

Raising the Dead, Pt. 1

BTW, if you read this blog with ANY regularity, go ahead an mark yourself a Follower, OK? Gives me encouragement.

I just read four unrelated news articles, two of which personally affected people I know and care about.

First, a 'family friend' of Nancy's called with some bad news. His roommate died four days ago. We were schocked and looked up the details on the web, as it was reported. Seems a heroin dealer gave him some product - maybe for the first time - and it killed him. Here's the article and the picture of the dealer: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110729/news/707299848 .

Investigation is pending, but with 38 other packets, I doubt Malcolm will be coming home for Christmas - for a decade or two. Anyway, I hope he repents and realizes what he's done.

Secondly, in another drug-related tale, our favorite Mexican restaurant La Playa Cantina, in Glen Ellyn right next to Trader Joe's, has been closed. Yeah, it seems business was so bad the owner decided selling drugs was the way out. Funny thing is, I never saw it as a hopping place, but we both liked it, Nancy and I. Article here: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110729/news/707299876 .

That was so interesting on the Daily Herald page, that I had to investigate the double homicide listed - of a mother and a prostitute. What I read was so dark and violent and foolish and stupid and cruel I nearly threw up. Still drinking Kool-Aid and eating popcorn to ease my stomach and my nervousness. Long Story short: evil man-child goes clubbing, comes home, stoned/drunk/whatever and decides to take out anger on mom - who had him when she was 12. Yeah. Look at the ages.

Stabs her so many times and is so violent he nearly decapitates her. Decides deed is done and calls some hookers. First two call girls have no trouble, then the third sees something she shouldn't, gets concerned, calls her pimp. This gets ire of man-child who then stabs HER to death. VICIOUSLY.

Here's the article: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110727/news/707279868 .

After all that, I did find one POSITIVE story: The lady Senator Giffords [D.] who was so brutally shot through the head, recovered and came back to the House to vote today amid thunderous applause! Article here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-debt-giffords-20110802,0,4910712.story

What's Your Point? Joy Takes Time
Now what makes all these disparate articles so enticing to me is that tonight I was teaching on John 11 in the DuPage County jail. About Jesus WAITING until Lazarus is dead BEFORE raising him up. How he did it so they would KNOW experientially that HE was 'the Resurrection and the Life', i.e. it wasn't just going to be some event - it was Him Who Had That Power.

In other words, Jesus Recycles!

We are the material. And because there IS a resurrection, because we have a compassionate Lord who WILL let death happen, weep painfully over it, and then go beat the snot out of it - death cannot stop Him - we can stop being crushed by this world.

Still confused? OK - why DO you need drugs? Or fat cash? Or random sex?

To feel better. To feel secure. To live As We See Fit.

But Frankly, Dear, The Consequences Suck
When we place our faith in drugs, we become drug dependent, if not simply addicted.

The drug may be illegal, like heroin or cocaine. It may be legal, like nicotine or alcohol or caffeine. But if you cannot 'be nice' unless you have 'your fix' something needs to change. It is ruling your emotions and your personality. It may kill you, too.

When we place our faith in people, if we do not receive the love or care we demand of them, we turn on them. We gossip or lie or simply write them off of our invitations. We demand what they cannot give far too often.

If sex is our god, we will pay to have it, worship/vilify those who give it/withhold it, and basically destroy ourselves to have it. From same-sex unions to simple fornication, we hear the horrors of "love" [really lust] gone bad.

But when we place our faith in the Person of Jesus Christ, we have relationship, love and fulfillment. We don't just have a 'Get Out of Hell Free' card. We have more. We own Boardwalk. We own Railroads and Utilities. Heck, we own the entire board!

You see, we all want to be happy - but Jesus Christ has the ultimate monopoly on true eternal happiness.

We don't want death; we want life. But real life can take time to arrive. There are no shortcuts. Half of our struggle with 'faith' is simply adjusting to life here and saying 'God is here and everything will be OK.'

According to John 11
Martha and Mary knew Jesus loved them and Lazarus, but "He stayed where He was three more days."

He wasn't trying to be cruel, but He had a higher calling: to make them believe and trust in Him for everything.

When we DON'T trust Jesus or our heavenly Father, you know what we do? We find some way to fill in the God-gap - and THAT ends up being poisonous to our souls.

Before you get so desperate as to either sell drugs or sell your body, do yourself a favor, OK?

Ask Jesus to help you, heal you and save you.

And if you don't know Him yet, at least sit down and ask God to show you what the truth is. Amen.

peace
justice

Friday, July 22, 2011

Capatain America: The First Avenger

Created back in the heydey of the 40's to answer the question of the European war with fantasy, Captain America is well named "The First Avenger" - to right wrongs done, to fight evil and to do it out of desire to protect the innocent, NOT to simply, as Dr. Erskine asks in the latest film "ready to kill Nazis?"

I'm gonna guess you are familiar with the classic story: how patriotic and puny Steve Rogers, classified 4F due to multiple health issues problems is unable to serve in the U.S. army. However, a sympathetic Dr. Abram Erskine overhears his plight and offers him a chance - to undergo a special treatment and become America's first "super soldier" - with a form of instant bio-engineering. It is a smashing success, but the good doctor is subsequently killed by a Nazi spy, and key elements of the process are lost. Thus, Steve Rogers remains the only living example of the super soldier formula.

And in the comics, he immediately begins fighting for Uncle Sam on the battlefield.

The movie is a bit more savvy - Steve too prized a possession to use that way! We need money for the war effort - and so he's used on USO tours across the US in that classic spandex costume - to entertain and garner support for the war. It is to Steve's credit he plays along, until he meets real enlisted men who mock him on stage.

He realizes its time to do what he was created for - and thus the heroic front line, pure action Captain America is born.

Yes, poppets we were impressed. Nice blend and lots of wisdom with some gags to get us in a good, period piece of Captain America. Like the previous films of Spider-Man and Iron Man, this is not QUITE the historical America, but Marvel Comic's version of it: replete with super science biggies fighting behind the scenes - SHIELD [sort of} and HYDRA.

It was a good set-up for the Avengers movie next year. And yes, we saw the trailer/teaser - it looked good.


Actors - did they pull it off?

Yes. Chris Evans did for Captain America what Christopher Reeve did for Superman the Movie back in 1978.

You see, Christopher Reeve made Superman so emotionally vulnerable, you liked the fact he had powers, but it was his heart you could see - and that made him WONDERFULLY approachable.

If you do a movie about a super soldier, and make him tough as nails, you will get a lot of "Hell YEAH!" from the fairly stupid fanboys who think Punisher, Wolverine and Robocop should all be in one film together killing things - I mean people - as worthless objects.

I can enjoy that mentality - for about 15 minutes. After that, my anger wanes, my bloodlust is satisfied and I'm wondering what else to do with my time.

Chris Evans plays a heroic, had-no-time-for-girls-they-had-no-time-for-me, geek who loves to read, can draw and is willing to stand up for what is right - even if it means getting his face punched in. While Superman PRETENDS to be Clark Kent, Steve Rogers IS Clark Kent!

And THEN he becomes a super soldier.

Look, I cannot gush on and on, but Chris Evans nailed it. Steve will grow and become the dynamic "never say quit" guy later on, but this origin points PRECISELY to WHY he is that way. And the fact that he has a wise Jewish doctor, Dr. Abram Erskine [played by Stanley Tucci], speak into his life, really makes this movie shine.

Reservations
I wish we had seen more Nazis. I wish Steve's costume for the battlefield looked a little more realistic or had come together more serendipitously.

I wish it had a little more Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers realism - but I guess the filmmakers wanted to keep it lighter. I can see that.

Achievements
You will never forget the Red Skull. Hugo Weaving was awesome.

You LIKE Steve Rogers BEFORE he becomes Captain America. You are GLAD he is picked.

Tommy Lee Jones almost steals the show with a not-quite-period deadpan world-weary attitude and hound dog eyes.

From Brooklyn Antiques storefront, to Phineas Horton's artificial man [nee The Human Torch] at Howard Stark's World Fair Expo, to Cap's Shield serving as a motorcycle windshield, there a PLENTY of 'fan boy' Easter eggs known only to those who grew up with Cap in the 60's and 70's.

But the ending has just the right amount of surprise and pathos.

Conclusion(s)
Cap can't stay in World War II, you know. And the fact that they spent 98% of the film there made the ending all the more impactful.

You see, Cap does not have one origin. He has two.

He went from being Steven Rogers, frail and helpless to Captain America, super soldier. No problem.

But then Cap goes missing in action in World War II and was never found. He is M.I.A.

Until he is found, decades later - originally by the Avengers, now by SHIELD - and brought screaming into the modern era - the 21st century.

His country is no longer the same. His family is gone. He is an American, but of another time.

What this character does - and thank you Marvel for doing it - is remind us of the values, style and heroism of men of the last century. Men who put their country and lives ahead of their personal comfort. They felt far less 'entitled' and had a different set of morals they espoused.

You respect them for that. You really do.

They saw evil in the flesh and fought it. They were flawed but they were willing to be trained and to change. They fought, but for peace. I suppose Stan and Jack were thinking of this when they brought him in - or at least as middle-aged men they saw the 60's a bit different than the younger adults.

Cap gives us a touchstone to timeless truths we accept - or have accepted - as a nation.

Justice as Cap
I went to the premiere dressed up as a "Southern style" Cap - with shorter sleeves and blue jeans tucked into black boots. Had helmet and shield too.

When I walked into the 90% full theater, I had only one thing to say to the sudden comments on the costume: "OO-RAH!! Semper Fi!!"

Yeah - its the Marine Corps chant, but everyone loved it. As I went up to find a seat, I saw a lot of appreciative smiles and comments "cool shield Cap!" and then one guy said "Hey Cap - what do you think about our troops in Viet Nam - AFGHANISTAN?"

I turned towards him, feeling very suddenly the challenge of playing a character that has to show patriotism without being a mindless flag waver. The challenge of standing up for a country that is flawed but you love. He about 20, lean and with a very short 'high and tight' haircut. Very possibly military himself - or friends who were. Possibly even now serving.

As a jail minister, I have to answer some tough on-the-spot questions about God, and this was one about our policy in the Middle East. From a solider.

I 'heard' the reason behind the question, because the question is NOT the question. The REAL question was 'Do you think its RIGHT to send our young men to die in some God-forsaken desert for a people who probably will not change nor even care because their leadership has such a evil grip on them?'

I responded respectfully: "I want every American to come home safely."

He nodded. "I can agree with that!"

We all can.

I had thought about this even as I worked on the costume - what if I ran into a real vet of WW2? Would he like it or think I was insulting him? Being a soldier has a cost.

But those who pay that cost wear the distinction of being labeled as heroic and loving. They loved their country, their people, their home.

And to take that away from a man, not once but twice, and is what makes the fictional Steve Rogers such an awesome Captain America.

Cap is a super soldier - but because of his heart, not his abilities.

And I think, in my opinion, every man in uniform has that honor for serving.

Well-played Marvel. Well-played.

peace
justice

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Right Focus

After a much needed break, and working on some of my portfolio pieces, I'm re-appearing with some good news: this week I will be teaching two classes on Sequential Art at KARITOS on July 16th, 2011, and right now I am working on a painting to submit to the juried art exhibition; it's based on "The Woman at the Well" from John 4.

Why the Joy?
A dear friend, Lynn Zuk-Lloyd, graciously got me involved this year, and encouraged me MIGHTILY with many words and emails to put my art out for sale.

Here's one image she nearly twisted my arm to get out - an old illo of my superhero Knightstar [see right]

She herself has written and illustrated some great books about finding your way when you don't know which way to go [Surviving Tough Times], and they are deceptively simple - and really right on the money for the wounded soul.

Her message in a sentence? "Don't focus on the darkness; focus on God."

Surviving Tough Times by Lynn Zuk-LloydNow the cynic in me fights such words - my issue is too complex for that, what a bit of jingoistic pablum! It's not that easy! etc, etc. blahblahblahblah....

Lynn's right, folks. It's the Gordian Knot of our internal life.

Marksmen and artists know the same truth: you hit what you look at. Truly, it is just a matter of concentration and patience.
"If you gaze long into an abyss," said Nietzsche, "the abyss will gaze back into you."
You know what Jesus said?
"But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. Therefore, if the light within you has turned into darkness, how great is that darkness!"

Basically, the same thing: a toxic focus will destroy you.

Focus on God and His Love.

And if you find yourself getting upset, do it again.

And again. And again.

It is a discipline, no doubt.

But it will save your soul.


peace
justice