11.15.12

A Game of Thrones—It’s a Rap!

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:46 pm by Administrator

i’m now midway through a “Storm of Swords” (book 3) and am beginning to feel a combination of admiration, amusement, and even fatigue at how the Game of Thrones story is proceeding. i have likened the experience to watching “Lost” (the most tedious television show i’ve ever witnessed in my life), but i don’t make the comparison because i dislike Game of Thrones. it’s just becoming obvious that the story is being written to prolong the story. there are no real answers, there’s no hope of closure, and there’s only the dim hope that the architect of the story will have some sympathy for his haplessly addicted readers in the end. in the case of “Lost”, i got off the island after suffering through season 1, and i never looked back. with G.O.T., i’ve suffered through so much sex, violence, incest, and betrayal that i figure i might as well let GRRM bury me on Westeros. no matter how bad this series might become, i’m tepidly committed to seeing it through, however long the plague of winter may stretch.

it’s difficult for me to articulate exactly what i love and hate about G.O.T., so i figured i would write a short mockumentary replete with spoilers from the first 3 books so as to capture the essence of this series:

———————————————————————–

EDDARD:

Being the very paragon of justice, even to the point of fatiguing self-righteousness, Ned Stark looked upon his ancestral sword Ice and saw in its reflection the truth of his destiny.

Ned’s face looked old. And boring.

Recognizing that all hero prototypes are destined for betrayal and death, Eddard willingly surrendered himself to a fate befitting a Stark. He would do something both noble and stupid; and hence, he would be beheaded.

Winter, as he knew, was coming.

ARYA:

She couldn’t believe that the young king had cruelly killed her father Eddard—the great and noble Hand of the King!

She began to rehearse the list of names of men that she would have to kill. It was a familiar list, one that she had deeply imbedded in the catacombs of her dark 12 year-old mind. “Joffrey. The Mountain. Sandor. Queen Cersei. Every bloody Lannister. Everybody in the whole world! I’M SO ANGRY!”

Arya was not yet flowered; but she was just old enough to be that frightening, frightening sort of teenage girl that one could only underestimate at great personal cost…

JAIME:

“Quiet, wench!” Jaime yelled, as he exerted himself upon his sister, for the thirteenth time that moonless night. Cersei smiled at him, beneath her curls of lustrous golden hair weighed down from the dew of their lovemaking.

“This is so terribly wrong,” Jaime thought to himself later, as they stretched out in bed next to each other. “I’m so terribly misunderstood. I did murder my liege, but he was a bad guy. I did impregnate my sister, but she’s so pretty. But confound whoever would judge me. I’LL CUT THEM TO PIECES. Imbeciles, all of them!”

He rested in this one comfort, as he drifted off to sleep. “I’m a beautiful blonde-headed man, in a white man’s world…”

JON SNOW:

Bastard, he thought to himself. Bastard! Bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard!

The word could not stop echoing in his mind. Tearing apart his insides, it was like a brand upon his mind. For moments, he would have another thought. But then even the thought would be crushed by the unceasing weight of the reality of his identity, his eternal burden, summed up in the one painful word of all words, the word he could never transcend, the word he—”

BASTARD!

SANSA:

She knew she had to be brave, she realized. The cruel young king Joffrey could strip her naked, beat her in front of the entire assembled court, and spit on her, but still she would accept her fate with a smile. The blood of the First Men and of Eddard Stark flowed in her veins; she could not fail to be both naively stupid and lovable, even in her humiliation.

“But even as a hostage here in King’s Landing, surely there is a white knight who shall come to save me!” thought Sansa.

TYWIN:

The Stark girl is both pretty and stupid, thought Tywin. She ought to be married off to a man who’s ugly and smart.

Cold logic dictated a clear answer. Tywin could almost feel his teeth cracking in his mouth as he bore down to pass a rock-hard bowel movement. The Lord of Lannister was not passing gold; he was simply constipated, as befit his personality.

“She shall marry the Imp—that God-forsaken abomination who took my wife, my pride, and my name!”

TYRION:

Indeed, they were mocking him yet again. But Tyrion had a secret plan, to shut them up. He had many secret plans. He would make his father proud.

Cersei, his beloved sister, slapped him in the face, so hard that he could taste blood in his mouth.

“Do it again!” he cried out. “Only this time—” and he turned around to lower his pants, “do it like a Lannister!”

DAENERYS:

Many nights had passed since Khal Drogo had last entered her tent, promising the sweet ravage of brutal intimacy. Daenerys licked her lips; and then she hated herself for it.

Still, she wandered the Free Cities, awaiting her sign. “Khaleesi,” her maids beseeched. “Tell us that story you always like to tell us.”

“I’m Daenerys Stormborn,” Daenerys could hear herself say, for the millionth time. “And I’m going back to Westeros to claim my kingdom. But not for another three books… We must string this story out for as long as humanly possible, so that slaves can be freed, dragons can be born, and books upon books can be sold…”

11.13.12

skyfail

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:46 pm by Administrator

it would appear that luke thompson is the only reviewer that actually watched the same overhyped and painfully mediocre Bond film that i did. i would assume the other 91% of RT’s reviewers saw a “new and improved” version?

http://www.nerdist.com/2012/11/lyt-review-a-contrarian-take-on-skyfall/

my experience of skyfall reminds me a bit of when i watched “Black Swan” with my friend grace a couple years ago. we both walked out of the theater laughing, both of us thinking that we were laughing for the same reasons. after we finally stopped laughing, grace said, “man, that was so good.” it was like a slap in the face. i’d of course been laughing because i’d found Black Swan to be frighteningly bad.

with skyfall, i would have clapped with the rest of the audience at the very end, except that my clapping would have been equally misinterpreted. this was a Bond film pretending to be an art film; how ridiculous is that? the result of Mendes’s “genius” is a thoroughly boring Bond movie, with ploddingly self-reflective scenes that mysteriously fail to lend any real arc to any of the characters. like thompson suggests in his totally on-point review, mendes’s gimmicks are not only obvious but also tiresome.

my wife thinks that i didn’t like skyfail because of my history with other Bond movies. but i’ve had a couple days to think about it, and i don’t think skyfall simply fails by comparison. after all, the majority of the Bond movies i’ve seen have been quite formulaic. but most of them don’t try to be “beautiful” movies. prior to “Casino Royale”, a Bond movie was a slick action flick replete with stereotypical machismo, ludicrous gadgetry, one-dimensional villains, and the occasionally hilarious one-liner.

Mendes’s insistence on transcending the mold suggests to me that he was trying to equal (or surpass) Casino Royale, the one Bond movie that broke the rules. but he fails—miserably. Casino Royale has a very clear story to tell about James Bond, the man beneath the machismo capable of falling in love and experiencing real pain. Skyfall comes across as self-important, pretentious, and pointless, simply because it has no such story to tell. and even when the movie brings us to Bond’s ancestral origins, it drops us off there unceremoniously, as if we are to be dumbstruck and impressed by something utterly banal. the ending action sequences are laughably dull by today’s standards.

i think that some recent and colossal failures in the action/intrigue genres remind me that the choice of director is everything. Greengrass can do Michael Clayton, but he apparently cannot do a Bourne movie. Mendes can do his American Beauty stuff, but he’s a fish out of water when it comes to Bond. let guys do what they do best; like James Bond himself, some things are best left unchanged

11.07.12

post-election thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:50 pm by Administrator

i was on the fence about whether or not i was going to vote until i woke up yesterday morning. i didn’t have to get to work til mid-morning, and there was no line at the poll (just a hundred yards down the street), so i made a spontaneous decision yesterday to vote.

as i was walking in, my old friend james kung happened to see me and yelled out my name. i haven’t seen james in about six months, mostly because he’s doing well, so it was a bit of a surprise reunion. in any case, i asked james how he was voting (Romney, anti-tax hikes) and realized right away that perhaps my vote would be important after all. i went ahead and punched out my choices (Obama, all tax hikes, and anti-death penalty) and proceeded afterwards to have what i felt was my best day in a long time.

today, i feel decidedly unimpressed with the results of the election. ironically, i would’ve been more excited if Romney had won—because there would be significant change to anticipate. though i voted for Obama, i was scarcely enthusiastic about him. i’ve written about Obama to a nauseating degree. in short, i like Obama’s image and i agree with him on policy, but i hold him responsible for losing the House and alienating the American people with his odd combination of heavy-handed politics and inconsistent messages to the public. he’s a nice guy and a bad leader. and i think his prime legacy—healthcare reform—will be considered in future generations to have been both forward-thinking and poorly conceived.

according to my voting record, i’m a liberal Democrat. but i don’t perceive myself as a Democrat. and to be honest, i regard the recent failures of the GOP with some trepidation. the U.S. needs two legitimate political parties (if not more) to preserve any semblance of real representative democracy. the cataclysmic failure of the GOP to achieve major victories during a time of economic collapse causes me real consternation. the White House should have been theirs to win by a landslide in 2012. the fact that they lost so badly is a testament to how poorly the Republicans represented themselves during the campaign.

in a way, i’m sympathetic to some of the messages that the GOP tried to communicate (albeit ineffectively) over this past year. in broad strokes, vagaries, and oversimplistic rhetoric, the GOP tried to emphasize the importance of entitlement reform, fiscal responsibility, and competitive big business. i think that many civically minded Gen X voters are beginning to express their innate anti-government sensibilities by embracing this aspect of the Republican platform. i think that if the Republicans had conveyed specifics while projecting greater sensitivity to the grieving American worker, they might not have lost key battleground states that were positively impacted by Obama’s stimulus package. here’s where Romney’s aloof manner, his 48% comment, his personal wealth, and his opposition to the auto bailout really killed the GOP’s chances. the macro discussion on economics should have carried the GOP, but they lost control of that discourse in the two or three months leading up to yesterday’s election.

i think that where i (and others of my generation) continue to have a distrust of the GOP is with respect to their deeply entrenched moral positions. granted, i’ll probably never agree with or respect the Christian Right on any of their conventional stances (i.e. anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, pro-death penalty, anti-legalization of marijuana). but beyond this, i think it’s a concerning sign that the moral discourse is losing some traction in the political forum. the GOP really didn’t want to talk about moral stances or moral philosophy during this election season, except in a few local races where they completely botched the discussion on rape-related abortion. while a lot of people might be encouraged by the GOP’s move away from the moral discussion, i find this to be a little worrisome. is the moral political discourse going to fade away? i feel like we need vigorous discussion and debate on what constitutes morality in the context of the greater good. it’s a debate that has defined American culture, and it’s a sign that we still care as citizens about right and wrong in the philosophical sense. if we lose that aspect of our political discourse, then we’re no different from Europe.

i’m hoping that instead of fading to irrelevance, the Republicans can change with the times and identify the core principles that still matter to the emerging voting population. gay marriage is the wrong battle for them to fight; and their anti-immigration stance is futile. they need to move on. they need to reconnect with the young and middle-aged voters. as a generation, we are going to legalize gay marriage for many good reasons; but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost a moral compass on political issues. there are moral issues that we need to begin debating in anticipation of social change. healthcare for the elderly for instance. is limiting futile therapy truly equivalent to death paneling? the war on drugs is another moral issue that we need to bring back to the fore. why have we lost the war on drugs? how do we defend people from the ravage that the illicit drug trade inflicts on families and communities? we’ve stopped debating this issue in the national forum because we fear the futility of the discussion, and because we’re afraid to confront the root causes of the drug war south of the border. we are responsible for the Mexican drug war; we are the primary consumers of the world’s opiate trade. we must begin contending with that now. the legalization of drugs, the way we educate our youth, and the way we jail offenders—all of this constitutes a discussion with deep moral ramifications, and that discussion needs to be resurrected in order to redirect our national priorities.

i’m not a Republican, but i’m not a Democrat either. i want the Republican party to become something relevant, for the sake of the country. yesterday’s election was a blow to their prospects, and i hope it triggers a deep search for political identity. for the last decade, these two parties have converged toward an unsatisfying center, and the price of this dilution of interests has been the alienation of the public from the political machine. political parties in America should stand for something. they should give us real choices, as opposed to what they offered us yesterday—an incompetent incumbent and a spineless buffoon.

11.06.12

the time has come

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:01 pm by Administrator

i’ve heard you.

your longings. your pains. your words, both true and false. i’ve seen what you have been through for this past year, and longer. it is time for you to know that i have listened.

what you ask me for now is different from what you once asked for. before, you asked me for relief. now, you ask me to make you a partner in the harvest. you ask me for favor beyond ordinary favor. you ask this, despite knowing what you are; and you have asked me of this for a long time.

i issue to you a rebuke and also a challenge. you say with your lips that i am God, strong and mighty. but you live as the rest of your kind. when you are beseiged, you seek the counsel of the flesh. when you become weary, you entitle yourself to selfishness. at the hint of trouble, you do what others do; you think, speak, and act as one who rejects God. so how are you to be my face to the world, if you do not recognize who i am?

every man who has lived has encountered me. when they choose to submit their lives to lesser things, they declare themselves to be people who do not love me. i do not pity them, because they have defined what they are. they will pass from this life into the next as those who are not mine. but you, who profess with your lips to belong to me? i pity you, when you claim to be something that you have no love for.

if you wish to be godly, if your consuming wish is to obey me even to the point of death, then you will demonstrate this in your life. you will show this in all the singular moments when you are desperate, hungry, restless, and afraid. if you give these moments to your world, you relinquish moments of intimacy with me. is it any surprise then that you feel alone and far from me? in all the times when you could have sought me out, you gave yourself over to whatever relief or pleasure was at hand. you have defined yourself as one who has no desire for the things of God.

in the midst of your struggles, your sin, and your loneliness, i have heard your cry of anguish. i give you an open door. be of one mind, and be defined by your belief in me. in the moments when you are unsatisfied, be satisfied in me. in the moments when you are angered, be indignant in me. in the times when you are empty of feeling and yearning for renewal, be jealous for my favor. be what you believe yourself to be, in my eyes. take my promises for what they are. be real in your faith, and i will be real in your life. i will give you this life that you crave; i will lend your life a sharpness and an anticipation that you have never known, not in yourself or in anyone else. i will establish you, and you will witness me at work in your time. but if you trade me for an idol, then your life will be as it was; your fate will be that of the rest.

for years, you were like a child. you ran to me when you were needy and afraid, and i gave you comfort. i did not ask you to change your heart, but now you come of your own volition with a new heart, to be close to me as my partner and my friend. so, i will not deal with you as a child any longer. this is the time when you will define what you are, either by obeying me to the fullest or rejecting me as your enemy. now is the time when i will look closely into your heart, to judge you and to discern your true desire. if you show that you are mine, as i am yours, then i will send you with my spirit.

tell me what you want, in your thoughts and in your actions, and i will give you what you ask for. you begged for this day to come, and it has arrived. be a man then, and live out what you believe

11.03.12

the Law

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:16 am by Administrator

i take life hard. stuff that doesn’t bother other people really bothers me. lifestyles that other people are happy with aren’t interesting to me. on one extreme, i tend toward indignation and strong anger; and on the other extreme (and the more dreadful extreme), i often experience pervading boredom. the boredom is the worst thing; there’s really no antidote for it.

at one point i was content to attribute my sensitivity to clinical depression. i tried zoloft for a year and a half. it was effective at preventing that disabling sense of boredom (which is medically better described as anhedonia). i found that the SSRI accomplished this by preventing me from ruminating; i found myself simply unable to think intently and continuously about any particular subject for a sustained period of time. zoloft precluded obsession; but in the process of doing this, it changed my entire personality. i lost interest in my work; i stopped experiencing real pleasure; i wafted in life, from one event to another, as a listless man.

zoloft convinced me that my problem wasn’t clinical depression.

i’ve tried to overcome my boredom in many different ways. for the past five years, i’ve tried taking up new activities: acting classes, board gaming groups, dancing, meditation. every year, it seems, i take up a new hobby, for a short amount of time. these things serve as diversions for me on a very superficial level; but ultimately they don’t get to the thing deep down that remains fundamentally unmoved and unchallenged. it’s as if there’s a guy in my soul sitting back with his arms crossed, constantly saying, “Impress me.” and no matter what i accomplish, none of it impresses him.

a few years ago, i began to use this blog to look more critically at the way i was raised. the postulate i first entertained was that i grew up in an intense environment that made me permanently attuned to crisis. in other words, if i was not dealing with something urgent, then i was depressed. the postulate in some ways makes sense. after all, i grew up watching my parents fight constantly, and i grew accustomed to a certain and consistent level of high drama in my life. even outside my home, my childhood was extraordinarily intense; my life was a series of standardized tests, academic obstacles, and extracurricular competitions that i dedicated myself to winning. everything in my life was a battle. it makes sense that i’ve emerged from that childhood raring for a fight, equipped for crisis, and yet woefully unable to carry on a normal life of ordinary routines.

while there might be some truth in this theory, it doesn’t give me much to work with. after all, i can’t undo my childhood. moreover, the theory doesn’t really explain everything i suffer from. my problem isn’t simply that i crave constant competition, intensity, and stimulation. the problem is also that the competition, intensity, and stimulation are no longer sufficient for my happiness. i can accomplish something significant and receive recognition for it, but i don’t experience the satisfaction from the achievement that i would have expected. this is the change; it’s not enough to be a winner. and in fact, some of the worst times in my life as of late have been times when i’ve reflected on something that i accomplished at great personal expense. the reflections make me realize that there is a disconnect between the value i perceive and the value that i feel, regarding the things i have in my life.

i think it’s time for me step away from the old constructs; because my best efforts and solutions have been ineffective at reversing my pattern of steadily devolving malaise. assessing my personality, studying my childhood, and analyzing my relationships only brings me to the conclusion that i have not yet discovered what i am looking for in life. the history of my life, as i see it, simply proves that i have not been equipped with the tools i need, whether social, psychological, or spiritual, to identify the elements necessary to my happiness. my education has been futile. everything i have learned in school, in church, from my family and friends, and even from the Bible itself has failed to afford me any view to real satisfaction in life.

i can choose to point fingers and blame these people and these things for their inadequacy in preparing me for success. but at this juncture in my life, i’m looking for a new construct. when i was younger, it was convenient to work within the old construct and critique it as a malfunctioning vessel. i’m a man now. i see the old construct for what it was; it was a leaky ship that ran aground, and it will never sail again. i have to build my own ship. i have to live on different terms now.

this doesn’t mean that i’m necessarily going to throw away everything i once relied on. there were important things that my parents taught me, about human nature and about work ethic. and there were important things i learned in the church and from the Bible. my schooling, while decidedly Western and dominated by a certain brand of secular humanism, did train me in a certain manner of pedagogy, and because of my education i’m able to navigate this society. but beyond these rudimentary things, i find myself a social neophyte. i still cannot answer basic questions. what is the meaning of my life? what gives me enduring pleasure in my living? who are my people? what do i stand for? once upon a time, i had broad and philosophical answers to these questions. now, i recognize that i do not have any real answers to these four cardinal questions. my identity is more nebulous to me now than it ever was before; and i think this is because i have had two decades to work through the commonly acknowledged truisms—and have found them untrue.

a thing i wonder now is whether this unhinging of myself, this rejection of my past construct, is part of the answer to my chronic malaise and unfulfillment. i liken it to the Pauline concept of “The Law”. one can get so accustomed to a life governed by law—a life of proper actions, improper actions, putative outcomes, probabilistic scenarios. society prescribes its life pattern for each caste, for each class, and the citizen’s first duty is to understand these rules and navigate its imperatives. life can be consumed by this Law.

obviously, Paul spoke to the Law of the Israelites—a moral code. but it’s an appropriate analogy for a life derived from inherited constructs of any kind. for many people, living by the law is enough. for me, living by the Law has choked the life out of my living. i’m not of that ilk. my whole life, i’ve been advised and counseled on how to live and how to be happy, and very little of what i’ve learned has proven to be true. i’ll say this about the Law; it has protected me from catastrophe and loss. but that’s not the same as experiencing profound fulfillment.

today, i thought of Jonathan. Jonathan did something extraordinary in his day. he and his armorer went out into the field against hundreds of Philistine soldiers, unarmed. his assessment of the situation was fairly simple; if God was going to give him victory against the army, then he was going to have it. though he had no sword, and though he was outnumbered a hundred to one, Jonathan and his armorer single-handedly killed a dozen men and sent their army fleeing. it precipitated one of the most remarkable Israeli military victories of all time.

Jonathan broke every idea of law, inherited or innate. the Law of logic, the Law of life and death, and the Law of war all dictate that an unarmed man would be crazy to go against a superior force. but Jonathan didn’t see his life through the lens of any law. Jonathan had a sense of identity that transcended Law; simply put, he understood himself as a chosen warrior of God, and in this light he became consumed by a righteous indignation against God’s enemies. Jonathan’s life was anything but boring, because there was more than enough effrontery against God to fuel a lifetime of battles (and triumphs) in Jonathan’s world.

i think to myself, it’s Jonathan’s life i want, not my own. i am governed by the laws that dictate duty, retirement contributions, life insurance, schooling and indoctrination, and subservience to a global capitalistic empire. this law puts me to death; this law oppresses the man in me that defies such loyalties and obligations. but there was once a man who walked this earth who defied every law of common sense, who fought the battle worth fighting because he carried in himself a totally unrestrained and empowering sense of identity. he actually believed something—and allowed everything else in his life, even rational thought, to submit to that belief. that was Jonathan’s new construct, to transcend the laws of the people and of the king. that was Paul’s new creation—the unfettered man, able to live fully and express the central passion of living.

i’m nearly 37. i’ve failed at little but succeeded at less. i’m half a man. and if the rest of my life is not to be a total waste, i’ve got to discover Jonathan’s secret, the core of Paul’s teachings. what makes a man fully a man; what makes a man free of the Law? what does it take to be a conqueror, in a world full of cowards? my best guide lies in Bible stories; but ironically, the Bible has given me no real answers. is it a key that i lack, to this colossal gateway? is life a game to be played, to trick the master out of the answer? i’m tired of keys that don’t fit; i’m finished with the game.

God, you did not fit in my old construct, even though you were such a big part of it. i want you to fashion me a new vessel now, fit for the high seas and for the edge of the world beyond. tell me what i am. tell me what you want. then i will know what i want. how foolish it sounds, and how simple. but it is the only thing i’ve learned in my entire life