Rambling and Rumbling

Rambling is something we all do, in long ways or short ways, and rumbling is either what’s going on in your stomach or your mind or past the horizon as we hear rumors of war, earthquake, famine and the four horsepeople of the apocalypse.

I’ll use my particular rambling and rumbling to catch up on things, though that should be “things” with a capital T.

First off, in no particular order of important, some of the homeless here in California (and there are a LOT of homeless, as, among other things, they tend to move here from other states due to weather, benefits, the degree of law enforcement or lack thereof, etc) are starting to build tiny houses in various spots with greater and greater degree of utilities: power, water and sewer. This tends to happen in the public right of way, such as this story about a homeless community along the 110 Freeway in southern California. Light, water, a fridge, a tiny home on public land.

This sort of thing is starting to make me think of the pioneers homesteading in the American West, back in the 1700s and 1800s. History is repeating itself, but with a tinge of Mad Max.

Speaking of movies… I’ve been hired to —— for an ——– for a ——–. More news coming out on that later. I’m not allowed to say much about it, so I need to confirm (and then reconfirm) the restrictions of the non-disclosure agreement. NDAs make a little paranoid, so I’d rather be ultra-safe than just safe.

Needless to say, this new job is on top of my pre-existing job working in land use, policy and land management here in central coast California, so that means finding hours and half hours early in the morning, in the evening, during lunchtimes and on the weekends. Not a problem, because I enjoy creative writing, particularly when it’s not post-modern nihilist nonsense.

I recently learned that Greenland has only three stoplights. This is sobering news. I think we all take stoplights for granted. Stop and reflect on the sheer plethora of stoplights that exist in your life. You are blessed with stoplights. Don’t take them for granted. Remember the poor people of Greenland who must only make do with three stoplights between all of them and the seals, musk oxen, polar bears etc who also make their home there.

Sad.

In other news, the homeschool year is about to come to an end in several weeks. The children’s minds are brimming with Latin, logic, literature and many, many other things that start with L but that I can’t recall off the top of my head (really, that phrase should use a different preposition). They can’t wait for non-school days so they can busily jettison all that knowledge to the best of their abilities and industriously use their synapses in other pursuits. Worthy pursuits, I’m sure, that don’t involve video games.

Speaking of throwing words around (and that’s exactly what we’re doing here), I just finished reading Dean Koontz’ newest book, The Bad Weather Friend, and I have to say–he really throws his words around in a delightful manner, even when he’s writing about somewhat disturbing topics. May Dean Koontz live long and prosper, and may he write many more books. One of the interesting things I find about him is that he writes from an absolutist moral order of the universe, that Man does not define meaning, but that Truth (with a capital T) exists outside of Man and it (and the founder of that truth) is what defines Man. This approach creates the perfect philosophical framework for writing proper suspense and horror. After all, of what worth is a horror story if the author (and the reader) don’t believe in the absolute concepts of good and evil? If you don’t believe in that, you can’t have a genuine horror story. All you can have is a dreary piece of nihilist gore with nothing at stake.

 

Christmas Movies

Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, contrary to what some crazy people think. It’s an action movie that happens to take place during Christmas. People get killed in a tower in Los Angeles, or they get thrown from the tower. That’s not exactly all Santa Claus and Jesus born in a manger, is it?

Top four best Christmas movies (in no particular ranking order): Muppet Christmas Carol, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Elf.

My question these days (actually, I have a lot of questions, but this is the question in context): is Hollywood capable of making a proper Christmas movie? My money is on no. Sadly.

 

Sauron in the time of Marvel

Tony Stark would be no match for Sauron.

My eldest has recently become interested in the Marvel movies. So, under no great duress, I’ve been watching some of them with him. I’ve seen most of them before, but it is a pleasure to watch them again, chiefly due to seeing how he enjoys them.

For the most part, they aren’t bad movies. They’re fun. Worthy of popcorn and putting your brain completely on hold for a few hours. Though, I have to say, Marvel has become addicted to a particular sort of end routine. It usually consists of huge things blowing up in the sky while New York or the world is about to end (yet again). This gets old after a while. There are a couple Marvel movies that deviate from this ending, such as the two Ant Mans, Black Panther (a rather dull movie, in my opinion, other than the world-building of Wakanda and Andy Serkis’ character) and Spiderman: Homecoming, but the Avengers movies are the worst offenders. 

Big hole in the sky? Check. Weird creatures from other dimension/galaxy showing  up? New York City smashed to bits for the umpteenth zillion time? Check. Small country in the Balkans about to get nuked? Check? The first Infinity Wars faithfully followed this tried and true recipe, with the somewhat ritalinizing addition of people vanishing en masse and an open ending (due to the fact that Marvel and Disney are intent on squeezing more nickels from the turnip via the sequels).

Despite, the frivolous amusement of the Marvel movies, they share a collective vacuum, a narrative absence equivalent to a galaxy-killing black hole. The villain. There are no Saurons in the Marvel universe.

The villains, large and small, from Michael Keaton’s conflicted father-businessman in Spiderman: Homecoming, to Josh Brolin’s Thanos in Infinity Wars, are really a bunch of shallow, whining milksops. They behave badly enough, I’m not arguing that. They blow stuff up, murder people, don’t seem to recycle, etc., but they aren’t villains in any profound way. They’re villains because of dreary things like resentment (Adrian Toomes in Spiderman: Homecoming), greed (Darren Cross in Ant Man 1), environmentalism (Thanos in Infinity Wars), resentment (both Loki and  Hela in the Thor movies), lust for power (Hydra in various movies).

I’m not saying these motivations make for completely dull villains. They’re decent motivations. In fact, they’re humanizing motivations because all of us as individuals fall prey to these temptations in different ways and in different intensities. And, while I don’t subscribe to environmentalism in any degree that would prompt crime on my part, there are nuts out there who run amok accordingly due to love of trees, small rodents, plankton, etc. However, these motivations, recognizable in their familiarity (as we all have the potential to be wicked in the quietness of our hearts), cannot stir us much beyond our cinematic enjoyment, because of that same dreary familiarity. 

Thanos, the most impressive of the Marvel villains, to put it mildly, is not Sauron. 

Thanos, despite his dedication to wiping out half of all life in the universe, is a bit of a dud in the villain occupation. There’s not much more to his wickedness than that. There’s no profound depth of evil in him. There’s no articulation in the choices of his character that evil is an absolute thing, a thing of vile corruption completely devoted to destruction of truth, beauty and goodness, a brutal concept that has existed outside the universe from before time began. 

Thanos is merely mixed up in his logic about natural resources and how their potential interacts with the purposes and needs of society. He went to the wrong college and took the wrong classes.

Tolkien had a much more profound grasp of villains and evil. He ran deep in his writing, plumbing the depths of what evil and good truly mean, while Marvel seems to find most of their material for villainous behavior on the floor of the psychologist’s office. Or, arguably, at best, ripped off from the dark nihilism of German national socialism. I have to admit, that’s probably been their best villain motivator, and they’ve certainly gone to that well plenty of times.

Hela, the goddess of death in Thor: Ragnarok, had tremendous promise. But she was reduced to a ho-hum motivation from a failed father-daughter relationship. Tolkien would have been wise enough to not use that color. He might’ve dabbled in it for some cosmetic dressing, but he would have scorned it as the dark foundation. He saw the world from an absolutist point of view, that good and evil are realities that exist outside of Man, that evil does not spring from the choices of Man, but that Man chooses evil. Or good, hopefully, from time to time. And this one difference, as opposed to the mindless materialist view of the Marvel universe, creates a great divide between Sauron and the spandex moderns.

Tony Stark would’ve died in Mordor. Sauron would’ve seen to that. All of today’s cheerful choices to defend freedom for the sake of freedom, built on an airy framework of nothing at all (at least, that’s what it’s become these days), would’ve crumbled into ruin on those dark plains. If they’d have even gotten that far.

The foundation stones of Barad-dur go down very far. Far below our everyday villainry. Far below even the best philosophies of our material world. And, as such, the hero who seeks to defeat such an evil must do so with something that is not a comfortable native of the world of men. 

Humility.

Which, again, is why Sauron would’ve easily defeated Ironman. 

Various yarns that weave into one

Whether you subscribe to the chaos theory approach to life, the universe, etc., or a more theistic approach, both philosophies are comfortable with the idea that life is made up of various yarns that tend to come together into one rope.

Sure, they might wander off in random directions, intersect, diverge, re-route, whatever and whichever and however you might imagine, but they tend to converge. The road in the yellow wood that split into two will one day emerge from that wood as one road again.

That said, we’ve all our various yarns weaving together into the tapestry of our lives. For me, that includes the Rangers film having had its first screening last week in Virginia. Next, it’s off to Fandom Fest, August 7-9, in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as at Gen Con in Indianapolis, July 31. Rangers is the second script I’ve written that’s actually been made into film (Rise of the Fellows Hip was the first–same production company: OAP); I’m not expecting it to be the last.

Speaking of film, I’m trying my hand at shooting a music video for a song called Little Zombies (local band called Skypilot, from their upcoming Galactic Holler album). Should be interesting to see what happens with no budget. Could be a trainwreck or could be awesome (as in: eliciting some awe). I think I’m going to go for a horror film approach, plus kids on bicycles.

Other yarns? Slowly (see: glacial) chipping away at another Tormay book. I refuse to divulge information about it right now, as that would be akin to opening the oven door to look at a cheese soufflé mid-bake. Never a good thing.

What are your threads these days?