Movie-time: Starship Troopers

Featuredcropped movie cover of starship troopers

I’m doing my part!

Federal Propaganda

I’m back baby! And I finally understand those memes. Yes indeed, I’m talking about the one, the only, 1997 socio-political commentary disguised as big-budget sci-fi xeno-war Starship Troopers! And it did not disappoint.

i'm doing my part!
Yes you are, you little super-vaguely-ethic and kinda-androgynous thing you!

Do you want to know more?

Let me just start by saying the interjected propaganda bits are pure gold. It’s part of what elevates the film from your standard, near-B-grade sci-fi, to a legitimate topical satire. It doesn’t hurt that Barney Stinson is one of the scientists bandying about bug brutalization and badassery.

Look closely at how frenzied the mother is as she watchers her kids stomping on cockroaches. Or how the mobile infantry recruitment tactics bear a striking resemblance to decades-past American armed forces ads. This isn’t a movie about noble humans fighting evil bugs. This is a movie about runaway big-militarized-government and ruthless imperialism, with a dash of blind nationalism for good measure.

And it’s surprisingly relevant, even today.

rico with orange bug guts on him
I killed it. ‘Merica.

Welcome to the Roughnecks!

If you start paying too much attention to the visual FX, you’ll probably say it looks a bit dated. Now, this was 1997, 1 year later than Independence Day, for example, so you may be onto something. But remember, too, that this was only the late 90s. So I would say, actually, go back and watch other sci-fi from around the same time, and you’ll find that it actually fits right in.

The war-time scenes, both in training camp and actual combat, are average at best. There is a decent amount of guts and gore, mixed with some tongue-in-cheek humor and interpersonal drama, and sprinkled with the standard lead-character heroics. However, you get frustrated with lack of tactical sense and storm-trooper-level firearm competency (that is to say, very little, for those of you who’ve never seen Star Wars). But again, this actually screams ‘parody’ to me, as though they did it this way on purpose to show how laughable most sci-fi action really is.

The characters are, generally, a bit one-dimensional. But some of the actors play it so well that you’ll forgive them for it. Like the drill sergeant and the stump-arm commander. Make no mistake, a lot of the acting IS quite bad. But is it bad.. on purpose? Think about it.

The enemy cannot push a button, if you disable his hand!

And can we just take a moment to acknowledge how incredibly forward-thinking this society was in one very small yet very significant way? Gender equality! The football team, the infantry, the co-ed showers. I mean, there was literally NO friction caused by the fact that men and women were completely equal in these environments. Hats off to that, my friends, hats off to that.

the cast agreed to do the shower scene only if the directory would film it naked too
[citation needed]

MEDIC!

Here’s the main problem I had with the character arcs and story. Right from the jump, Dizzy is framed as a strong, kickass woman who knows what she wants, and doesn’t put up with your crap. She proves it in bootcamp, and again in the field. And yet, spoiler-alert, her death scene is just so terribly weak. I mean sure, she also played up the silly schoolgirl crush on Rico, but she definitely wasn’t the lovelorn doe-eyed damsel. Maybe I’m reading the character wrong. But COME ON. “It’s OK, because I got to have you”?? PLEASE. And your competition is literally in the front seat, maybe even within ear-shot.

If I were to see this movie remade, and I had any input, this scene would be my rewrite. Oh don’t get me wrong, she’d still die horribly. But ol’ Carmen would be close enough to hear Diz’s very last words, which would be something to the effect of, “But hey, Rico, I rocked your goddamn world!”, sending that metaphoric knife-to-the-heart for Ibanez. And she would NOT beg that candy-ass of a man to “hold me” or anything as she drew her last breath.

diz gets spiked by a bug
I was also disappointed by the lack of Wilhelm Screams.

Come on you apes! You wanna live forever?

Two thumbs up, but beware the dated CGI and bad acting.

PS: OMG is that freakin Father Gabriel from The Walking Dead!?! IT IS!! Hah. Oh I can not see him as a soldier. But he tried, God bless him, he tried. =)

First Anniversary Without You

Featuredangel of grief statue at Stanford

Today is.. would have been.. our 9th wedding anniversary. That day was a whirlwind! We didn’t spend the night apart like many couples do; we didn’t feel the need to. We forgot to bring our wedding favors — our customized M&M’s. But we distributed them later at a family gathering. Your mom burned her hand on a curling iron. You got so anxious you couldn’t eat. We trekked all over the University of Redlands for pictures. And you in your 5-inch zebra heels. We almost forgot to pay the photographer! I had to borrow a check from your aunt and pay them back later.

Nine years ago, you said ‘I do’ and made me the happiest man in the world. We planned, prepared, and set everything in place as best we could. We celebrated the beginning of a new life, together with our family and friends.

And almost one year ago, minus a week or so, you suddenly and inexplicably left this world. There was no warning, no preparation, no setting, and no goodbye. And we mourned the loss of your life, alone and apart.

i feel so alone without you...

Til death do us part.

When a bride and groom say those words, they don’t actually think that they’ll truly become reality. At least not before they grow old and frail. That’s way far off in the future, not something anybody should worry about anytime soon. Living will? Death folder? Life insurance? PAH! Nonsense. A problem for future selves.

Let alone the emotional, physical, and mental implications. When you do this right, your spouse becomes your WORLD. And don’t get me wrong, you can and should retain some of your independent interests and person-hood; but by and large, you become intertwined together as one new entity, as ‘US’. So then to suddenly lose that half (or at least, large part) of your life, your “new self” that was/is ‘US’, is quite literally devastating. It’s like violently tearing apart a zipper that’s been stuck together for years and years, happily rusted together at nearly every turn — it’s gonna hurt like hell, and you’re gonna lose some pieces.

broken heart with cracks and bandage
Our hearts are strong, but not invincible.

Hold every memory.

We made so many memories in our relatively short time as US. Disneyland, beach days, Halloween parties, Christmas light tours, snow days, County fairs, occasional vacation trips, surprise Valentine scrapbooks, lazy stay-in-bed-all-days, steamy and wonderfully passionate nights… I will never forget any of them. Yet even as I say that, I know some of those memories are fading. Thank god, despite my protests and eye-rolls, you always insisted on taking plenty of pictures. I will always cherish them. And, as you know from my occasional zealous need to organize things, I will probably continue to find some excuse to sort and sift through them every so often.

Those scrapbooks, in particular, will continue to be some of my most beloved possessions. The time and thoughtfulness you dedicated to them was unparalleled. Your creativity was a marvel to me, unmatched in my eyes by anything but your love and devotion. I cannot thank you enough for these treasures, even as I mourn the loss of never seeing any more of them in my future.

I tried to do them justice when I constructed your memorial video and music playlist. I’m sure that I fell far short of potential. Yet who even thinks they’ll ever need to undertake such a task? Surely, again, not until you’re 80. And then it should have been our children’s job. Not mine, nor yours.

a heart in the sand is being washed away by the ocean

Here’s to Us.

As the song goes, from P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma album:

What about us? What about all the times you said you had the answer?
What about us? What about all the broken happy-ever-afters?
What about us? What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust? What about us?

We thought we had the answers. We thought we had our happy-ever-after. We had plans. And indeed, it ended in disaster. You were taken from this world, from us, from your family, from me. And we don’t get to be ‘US’, anymore.

But when we were… Oh, it was beautiful. You gave me purpose, life, beauty, laughter, tears, joy, happiness, heartache, inspiration, passion, ecstasy, agony, purity, drive, desire, wholeness, openness, and most of all, love.

I just want to lay on your chest and listen to your heartbeat.
But I can’t. Not anymore.

The greatest of these is Love.

Today, as I have every year since that first time I saw you in that perfect white dress, with your curled blond hair and your ruby lips and your ocean eyes, I say thank you. For all of it. Everything you did for me, everything you made me, everything you gave me. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Through hard times and happy times. As long as we both shall live lived.

And though you live no longer, in this world, know that you will always live on in my heart. I may or may not find love again; yet even if I do, it will never be the same. You were, are, and always will be, my soulmate. And I will see you again in Paradise.

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OMG PRONOUNS!

This has gotten well and truly ridiculous. I don’t care what side you come down on. It’s absolutely inane, the amount of angst and energy and dogmatism and “hurt feelings” this shit has caused and effected. (Yes, grammar nazis, that is a purposeful rule-bend.)

What am I talking about? Just skim these 4 links:

So for those of you too lazy to read, and/or who don’t understand what this online community IS, I’ll break it down for you.

StackExchange is a vast and popular Q&A site which started back in the 2000’s as a programming-help resource (coined StackOverflow). Think of it like Yahoo Answers or Quora but 100 times better (1000 times better, in relation to Yahoo), because the community actually cares about quality and takes time to curate and research and maintain the wealth of information therein.

One of the biggest and most important parts of this online community is the moderator staff — a group of volunteer users who have risen up in the ranks to have “phenomenal, cosmic powers” to be used for the good of said community. They review questions and answers, they keep other uses behaving nicely, they facilitate the ebb and flow of good quality information and contributions, and they’re generally pretty awesome guys & gals.

Oh noes! I gender-ified them! (Genderized? Engendered?) WHAT EVAR SHALL WE DO!?! Sound the alarms!!

(That’s totally not the right word, but I’m too lazy to look up what it’s supposed to be. And it’s not “gentrified”, that’s completely unrelated.)

So the drama, the uproar, the righteous indignation and press fallout, surrounds one such moderator and her discussions with the actual company staff (the corporation that owns StackExchange, i.e. the website, the software, and now apparently the content), over what was being proposed in a new/revised “Code of Conduct”.

To be clear, “Code of Conduct” is just fancy words for “expected behavior” when you’re using the site / participating in the community. The old-guard believed in the KISS principle, and basically just said “Be nice.” In other words, “don’t be a jerk.” Easy, right? However, as time went on, the size of the community (the # of users and the amount of activity) exploded, and people, being people, weren’t always “nice” to each other.

you don't say?
Shocking!

Now, the mod (short for moderator) in question was a bit concerned with the proposed CoC revision that essentially forces you to acknowledge (ok), respect (fine), and actively affirm (uhh) anybody else’s preferred gender pronoun (wat?). But it’s more nuanced than that. See, this mod, like many of us who call ourselves “writers” (loosely, of course), has developed her habits for coping with this brave-new-world where gender is no longer a binary construct (and I’m not going into that here; that’s a whole other discussion topic, dumpster-fire and flame-bait galore).

Her habits include using collective and neutral pronouns, or even avoiding them altogether with other language mechanisms; and when all else fails, disengage from the conversation with the person(s) who are having issues with it. I, for one, think this is a fantastic philosophy. It allows you to be respectful, civil, and expressive, yet does NOT force you to actively affirm and participate in a mentality or world-view that you don’t agree with. Because look, we can all be civil and respectful of each other, no matter how deeply we disagree on something, as long as you’re not forcing your viewpoint down my throat and I’m not doing the same.

But no. This perfectly reasonable work-around wasn’t good enough for the extreme liberal agenda at StackExchange. You MUST address anybody and everybody with their stated preferred pronouns, full-stop. In fact, remaining neutral, or disengaging, is now deemed hurtful and offensive. WHAT?!? Really? To quote the 2nd resignation post I linked, which I adore simply for his incredibly articulate and well-structured writing style:

The new “tolerance” is tolerant of everything except ideological disagreement. It is forced conformity.

Caleb

So. Stop the presses. Raise the pitchforks. Light the cigars. Grab the popcorn, and watch the flames. Because this is a shit-show. And it’s a sad reflection of our times.

But it’s more than that. There’s a certain elitism there, subtle, but cunning. See, it’s fairly likely that none of you, dear readers, knew about this. StackExchange was a tech-startup. Another silicon valley brainchild. And like many of its ilk, despite attempts to democratize it, the sites themselves are still relatively isolated to folks of a certain demographic — young, tech-savvy, privileged, and financially stable. So despite all of its postured attempts to say “we want to be more inclusive”, it never really succeeded to reach beyond the glass of the tech-elite walled-garden.

i'm sorry i can't hear your, your inferiority is too loud
Borrowed from this guy’s blog

Look at Twitter, for example. The weekly shenanigans of Trump and everything that happens as a result. If your only source of information about Trump was Twitter, there is absolutely no question that you’d want him impeached ASAP. If for no other reason than just being a royal douche. But you know what? Most voting Americans still don’t pay attention to Twitter. They go to work, do their jobs, come home to their families, maybe watch the news, do chores, play with the kids, get them to bed, struggle with bills, and on and on it goes. They don’t give two craps about what the idiots said online this week. As far as they’re concerned, they need more money in their bank accounts, more food on the table, less crushing debt, less smog in their sky, and more time with their kids/spouses/friends.

And that’s the same thing here. The vast majority of regular-Joe hard-working tax-paying folks couldn’t care less about what gender you think you are, much less about how that question is handled in some weird website where people ask and answer questions all day. So to even spend this much time and energy on the subject, to even have such a fallout and such vociferous outcry from all sides of the straw-man… seems downright ludicrous.

Look, I respect the original mod, Monica, for standing by her principles and expressing herself in a definitive, respectful, and humble way. I’m not saying “who cares”. I’m just saying that this is an example of the technical elite enjoying the privilege that they have to openly and freely raise these issues about which they care so deeply, in an environment that is, by comparison to the real world, SUPER soft and squishy and forgiving.

unicorn barfing a rainbow
Blech.

So here’s the point. Next time you get all bent out of shape because someone didn’t respect your fabricated right to self-identify as an androgynous unicorn, take a breath, drink a sip of your pH water, pop a Xanax, and try to put it into perspective. You are privileged. The fact that you can read this proves it. (So am I, by the way.) Channel that energy toward something good, something positive and helpful and humanitarian.

Love & light. ❤

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A Random Assortment of Dreams

Driving. Driving at night. I’m in a crazy souped-up sports car. I literally recognize that I’m in a dream; I even remember that I’m sleeping in a motel (on the way up to visit Oregon, but that’s not part of the in-dream realization!). So I floor the gas and do all kinds of crazy Fast & Furious -esque tricks, even jumping over and through traffic. Nearly flying, I would say. I’m racing against… No one. Myself. Time.

Porsche 919 Hybrid (18), Porsche Team: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
How cool would that be?

Cut scene.

I’m on a reddish desert landscape near an industrial complex of some sort. I’m talking to myself, in the dream. Acknowledging that it’s a dream. So meta. But the other self is a sort of fictionalized, almost Iron-Man-like figure. As if I’d created a robotic clone of myself. I almost said my own name. But it came out Ned. Or at least, it would have, if it had been audible.

mars outpost concept art
Like on Mars. Basically.

Cut scene.

I’m looking at a mirror. It shows my own face, yet quickly warps and distorts in shape and form. I know this is not real. I tell it to “shut up” and turn around, attempting to shatter the mirror in the process. I break through a glass wall, but find myself stuck in a cluster, or maze, of never-ending mirrors. They keep re-materializing, despite me repeatedly breaking them. Like a carnival-funhouse-turned-horrifying-nightmare.

hall of mirrors maze
Because THAT’S not at all creeptastic.

I soon find myself trapped between mirrors and unable to move, as my malformed reflection continues to warp and grotesque-ify. I never looked into the eyes until the last second. They became pitch dark and deep, like black holes. I struggled to breath and wake myself.

A false-start or two, but I finally awoke, gasped in a chest-full of real air, and took a drink of water. And then I wrote my dream notes. So that you could enjoy this post! ❤

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Disneyland is a Waste of Money

Fight me. Change my mind. Go ahead, make my day.

Listen, I get it. Your kids love all things Disney. And why wouldn’t they? Disney, as a megacorp, owns nearly every facet of modern entertainment that you can think of. All of their favorite kid shows, characters, superheroes, and toys are probably based on some form of Disney-ism.

K. loved going to Disneyland for two things: Halloween time, and Christmas time. Mostly the latter. The electric light parade was the highlight of her trip. In the late 2000’s / early 2010’s, we had our annual passes for a few years. We made good use of them. They were a couple hundred bucks back then. We had monthly payment plans and we had a handicap decal to use for parking.

disneyland haunted holiday mansion
I mean, it IS pretty neat, I’ll give you that.

She always had to have three things, and usually in this order: popcorn, a churro, and dole-whip. Sometimes a popcorn refill. These were unique to Disneyland, at the time. I mean the taste of them, not the food item itself. Lord knows they probably added some secret addictive chemicals that nobody could ever trace or prove.

Fast forward a few years to our last trip. Maybe we were growing out of it. Maybe people were getting less friendly. Maybe it was a warmer than usual day. Maybe the treats didn’t quite taste as breathtakingly delicious as we remembered. Maybe it was a combination of all those things. But as we tried to snag a bench seat for the parade — 3 hours before it starts, mind you — and we were assailed by a cranky middle aged woman who insisted that she’d reserved that bench for herself and her rabble… we just kinda looked at each other and realized: We were done.

And we never went back.

disneyland popcorn
Delicous MSG!

Now let’s look at the facts. I’ll use two resources for this break-down: TripSavvy and Costco. A one-day one-park ticket is over $150. So you say to yourself, okay, that’s not what most people are doing, right? Most people make a 2-day event out of it, at least. Fine. A 2-day park-hopper ticket is $280. Wow, not saving much are we? (Sure, you can navigate promo sales and off-days to save a few bucks, but it’s small-potatoes.)

And let’s not forget, if you don’t live locally (because let’s face it, the locals rarely go here anymore, because they realized long ago how much of a colossal rip-off it is), you’re getting a hotel. Good luck finding anything for less than $150/night close enough to make any sense. Or that doesn’t smell like cheap hookers and cheaper booze.

Oh, children are cheaper you say? Not really. For a kid — over 3, of course, because if you’re taking a baby or toddler to DLand, you’ve got bigger problems and god help you — you save maybe $6-7 on a ticket. Wow, and this is supposed to be a theme park built FOR kids and families. And they’re the ones driving the sales of all those crappy plastic souvenirs, at a 90% margin I might add, because they’re all produced by similarly aged child-slave-labor overseas.

disneyland churro
Authentically hand-rolled by Mexicans dressed uncomfortably in hot stuffy uniforms. Instead of your Mexican neighbors, who are actually really friendly and super cool, and you’d be much happier eating with them than the scum of the earth standing behind you in this line.

So let’s talk food again. If you actually plan on having a meal there, you’re already paying at least 25% above standard dining prices of comparable quality. It’s not as bad as freakin sporting events (I’m looking at you, $15 Bud Light at Dodger Stadium), but it’s not nothin. Oh, what about going outside the park to eat? Yeah no, forget about it. By the time you’ve trudged X miles back to your car, navigated the parking maze, and dealt with the always-crappy OC traffic, you’ve spent at least that much in gas and frustration. No, you’re better off just swallowing the in-park mark-up.

Alright, where does that leave us? Let’s say you’re a family of four, with two kids of appropriate age. 4 2-day hopper tickets puts you at about $1100. Hotel, $200. Food, let’s say about $20 per meal per person.. so about $350. Right, we’re up to $1650 before transportation.

Oh wait, PARKING. Duh. Oh this is rich — yet another thing that’s changed since I’ve been there. You now pay by the hour. (ish. I mean it’s a base-price and it’s limited to $65, so it’s not grotesque, but it’s still pretty horrible. You’re literally paying for the privilege of having your car close enough to the park to not die of heat exhaustion or dehydration — or criminal activity, for that matter — on your way to and from it.) So $65 for 2 days is another $130.

Let’s just round that sucker up to $1800 because we can (incidentals, snacks, whatever). Ah! Lest we forget, those crappy plastic souvenirs! How much do you love your kids? Well if you’re already doing this trip, it’s probably pretty significant. So what’s another $200 in treats and toys? Right?

For years they convinced you that this was THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD you could get this crap. That and Hawaii. NOPE again!

We now have a grand total of about $2000. And that’s not including any travel from your home to the park itself! If you’re already here in SoCal, you probably make that kind of drive on a regular basis, no biggie. If you’re a tourist, flying in from somewhere.. well first off, add another hotel night or two, depending on how exhausted and degenerate you want to appear in front of your fellow passengers.. and then the airfare itself of course. So all told that could put you at $3k or more; if you’re coming in from overseas, $5k easily.

And all this for what. Really, what? What is so goddamn special about this place? You go stand in lines for hours to see people in costumes acting like these cartoon characters from a bygone era, or if you’re lucky, a semi-contemporary hero or heroine of modern lore, just so they can take a picture with your brat and send them on their way. And more lines, more hours, to ride all these beat-up broken-down rides that used to be a marvel of modern engineering.

Sure, yeah they’re building and rebuilding and opening lots of cool new attractions. Fine. They’re still nothing special. Hell, Vegas rebuilds entire casinos more often than Disney revamps a ride or pushes out a novel new attraction.

Look, I realize I’m a 35-year-old man. My opinions about these things have changed. I’m obviously no longer a kid, I no longer have that childlike wonder and fascination and excitement for these stories and characters that once defined my formative years. Not arguing that. I’m saying that your kids, the current generation, would simply be better served by something more tangible, more fascinating, and more goddamn reasonably priced.

Think about it. You’re really going to spend what amounts to most people’s monthly paycheck, on a 2 day amusement park trip? Really?!? I guaran-damn-tee you that your kids won’t appreciate it as much as you want them to. And you’ll be freakin miserable, nearly the entire time. Don’t believe me? Ask someone who’s done it. Ask someone who’s seen the dregs of humanity among those not-quite-shining-streets of colorful caricatures and playful pretend-lands. They’ll tell you the same.

sleeping toddler in a stroller at disneyland
Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer to be this guy, not the struggling parents who are running on 3 hours sleep and 3 too many cups of caffeine just to “get through this day”.

If you value your sanity, and your hard-earned money.. Take it elsewhere. Take it to the Discovery Cube in Santa Ana (or similar science museums that exist in most places), where your kids can actually LEARN stuff. Take it to the local fair, where real local people are trying to earn a little cash by selling unique, handmade jewelry or craft-wares or art. Take it and save it for college or trade-school. Take the kids camping, fishing, hiking, rafting, climbing, horseback riding, dirt-biking (when they’re old enough obviously), etc.

Yeah, all that stuff costs money too. But not nearly as much as Disneycrap. And it’ll make a helluva lot better memories.

Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m privileged. I mean, we went to Disneyland when I was kid, probably just once. It was probably pretty expensive, for the time. Could I tell you much about it? Nope. I have exponentially better memories from the many years we spent camping together in the woods and mountains of our great state’s national parks.

in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks
Just Google “John Muir quotes”. ❤

Is that my point? Just get outside more? Kinda. I mean it’s certainly better for you. But no, my point is much more pragmatic than that. Economical, even.

My point is that Disney, with the billions and billions of dollars they make from all of their combined corporate conglomerations of capitalism at its worst–

(and don’t start with me on capitalism; I’m not against it fundamentally, but the abuse of it has led to some pretty epically horrific stuff in our time, but again, NOT in the scope of this post.)

–anyway, with what some people have taken to phrasing as that “they have more money than God” (hyperbole for the sake of emphasis) — Disney could literally afford to cut all those prices that we’ve talked about down by tenfold, and still not lose a cent. (Let’s face it, they could afford to make it all FREE, but that’s asking for a logistical nightmare.) Would such extreme price-cuts pose an organizational problem? Sure; obviously, the cheaper it is, the more people would line up to shove their grubby little minions in the gates. That’s perfectly solvable.

But again, why bother? I mean if people were reasonable, rational, mentally stable, level-headed, common-sensed, logically-minded, practical, pragmatic, responsible, financially intelligent, productive members of society… well good lord, we’d be living in a goddamn paradise wouldn’t we? But also, said people would take one look at the economics of a typical DLand vacation and scoff derisively, chortle and eye-roll to the Nth degree, at the sheer absurdity of it all.

Anyway. That’s all I have to say for now. Apologies this went long-winded. It just makes me angry, sometimes, how much stupidity we put up with in our society. And how much abuse of power, privilege, and money, that we just stand idly by and watch, even approve of and participate in.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Marvel movie to watch.

Hey, at least I didn’t pay for it. =P

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Dreamwalker 1

It begins, as most dreams do, in the middle of it. Meaning, you’re not really sure how you got there. It just.. IS.

gothic house interior living room
Looks… cozy?

The place starts to feel familiar as the walls and rooms start to solidify. You’re in a hotel; no, a bed-and-breakfast. A mansion that’s run like a bed-and-breakfast. The feeling of familiarity is fleeting and vague, yet you know it’s there. Like a word on the tip of your tongue that just won’t quite come out. 

You’re a ghost-like presence, a translucent being wandering the vaguely defined rooms and halls. This room has a secret passageway, which leads to… the pool! Oh what a glorious pool, with ornate marble statues and granite trim. Yet it is not for you. No, you slide back through the room and wonder how to keep yourself busy. You read notes in the guestbook, written to the innkeeper, with words of praise or suggestions. None of it is memorable. You find some dishes out of place and bring them to the kitchen to wash. Apparently you can hold objects, despite your less-than-corporeal state of being. 

But perhaps you aren’t so ghostly. You feel that you’re meant to tell somebody something. To pass on a message. Your gut tells you that you will be able to touch and be seen and heard by those you’re meant to see. A voice – is it your own internal monologue, or something else – waxes philosophic: “We are sometimes asked to put into words what no human should have to; and so, in the end, we decide it’s best not to.” Still, you must get a message to someone. 

You begin to talk with a man sitting by the pool – he must be the one you’re meant to speak with! He sees you and hears you. Your touch is cold but your voice is warm. The man is having lunch with his family near the pool. He attempts to introduce you to others, but not all of them can see. Not all are meant to see. One woman does feel your presence and hear your voice, albeit quite softly, if you rest your hand on her shoulder. But you are not here to tell her anything of importance. It was merely nice to be heard by more than one person.

Before you have a chance to convey your message to the first gentleman – nay, before you even understand what said message is supposed to be – you become aware of another dreamwalker. His presence feels unnatural. He resembles Joshua Jackson, the actor, for some strange reason. Your instincts tell you that his name is Danny. 

Suddenly.. “Danny’s bad. Danny’s BAD!” A young boy’s voice cries out. 

man running down a dark alley

Danny’s eyes darken to pure cold black spheres, and he lays chase to the boy. You now feel it is your duty to save the boy from whatever fate this Danny has in store for him. He only has one arm, you realize, in an abrupt and macabre revelation. 

You toss and turn through material and immaterial barriers as you try to catch up. You phase-shift through doors but have trouble keeping pace.

Alas, you awake too soon. You hope and pray that the young boy is safe, and Danny is merely a figment of someone’s imagination.

Please note: I have no qualms with anyone named Danny. Dream-interpreters would likely have you believe that there’s some trauma in my past related to a person with this name, but I can assure you there’s not. It is funny that, in most of my dreams, names are rarely, if ever, a thing that gets remembered. But I don’t usually write down notes immediately after waking up, either — in this case I did, by which I constructed this story. So take it how you will. Even if your name is Danny — I still like you, and I don’t think you’re a child-mutilating psychopath. =P

N.

A Glimpse of Happiness

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Sometimes what you really need is to simply be among friends; to talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. For in these small moments — where your troubles and worries and woes fade away, even for the briefest of breaths, the most minuscule of milliseconds — life feels worth living again.

N.

Yes, I just quoted myself. I made it up right here on the spot. You’re welcome. =P

I treat most of my journal as an open-ended letter to my dearly beloved K. I think of it as though I will someday reminisce with her in paradise over all the things that we’ve experienced while apart.

In other news, my new friends and I finally (it’d been months) had another game night! Well, we played Shanghai instead of DnD, but it was really what we all needed; and C. wasn’t finished with the DM setup anyway. The only one who’d played (Shanghai, that is) before was K., but everybody else knew general rummy rules and compared it, much like you did, to Phase 10. I brought Rubio’s fish tacos for everybody, which, since it was a Tuesday, was one helluva deal. Except W. who had to have a veggie burrito because he’s watching his weight and going to wrestler-training. Yeah, don’t ask. (Love ya buddy!) Also the huskies got along as usual, playing and exploring the new house. 

It was a wonderful night. We drank beer and played cards and laughed hysterically at all kinds of nonsense and randomness – from metal band antics to spur-of-the-moment-made-up-songs. It was just as fun as the game-nights we had with cousin J. and her gang, for those few years while she was close by. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuinely happy again.

Am I allowed to?

You’re not with us. You would have brought perfect balance to the group, with your eclectic sense of humor, your way of saying or quoting off-the-wall things, and your proclivity for fumbling words in a way that was utterly and uniquely you. God how I miss that.

I say you would balance the group out perfectly, because: A. is the accountant, math and numbers expert; C. is the creative type, musician and storyteller; K. is the former-bad-girl-turned-super-sweet-pastor’s-wife and infant nurse; W. is the semi-boisterous intellectual and history buff; I of course, the tech geek and peacemaker; and finally, there would be, should be, you: the psychologist and the empath, the one who knows best how our minds work and how our emotions ebb and flow.

The fact that we all had to get up for work the next day didn’t matter, because we realized that this kind of quality time with friends is too valuable and too infrequent to waste. I mean yes, we still dispersed by 11, but that’s not the point! =) . Also, you would have insisted we get a freakin picture, because we don’t have a single solitary one to post anywhere. But you know, sometimes, that’s the way it should be.

And now, of course, I’m alone again. Sitting to write this journal entry and wondering when or what I might have to regale you with next. Are you even listening anymore? I wish I could tell. I wish I could see you, hold you, kiss you, cry to you, wash this all away in torrents of tears and a tidal wave of lost time. Perhaps you would forgive me. Perhaps I would forgive myself. Perhaps I should try.

I love you. I loved you.

hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness -Desmond Tutu
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Movie Monday: Men In Black 4

Sure, it’s called ‘International’, whatever. It’s still the 4th one.

frank the pug from men in black
No dogs were harmed in the making of this review. Except this one. But he did it to himself. He smoked too much, drank too much, stayed out too late, partied too hard.. you know how these Hollywood types are. I can’t be held responsible. No blood on my hands. Still, I’ll miss the little mutt.

Make no mistake, I’m a fan of the series. The original was, like many Will Smith blockbusters of the late 90s, a force to be reckoned with. The elegance was in the simplicity — Smith at his standard boyishly charming cocky rookie game, Jones as the weathered old wise master, taking on a big bad with the unexpected help of an innocent-victim-turned-almost-femme-fatale. Overseen by Rip Torn at his finest. And Vincent D’whateveryoucallit amped up the ick to 11.

Men in Black Mr Jones and Mr Smith
The original. Accept no substitute.

5 years later, we get a surprisingly decent sequel. Nearly a full cadre of the original actors, and some fresh blood like Rosario Dawson added a healthy ‘oomph’ to the second step in the series. Plus it’s always fun to see Puddy do something ridiculous. Now don’t get me wrong, it was far from perfect, but overall there’s more to like than dislike.

men in black 2 agent J and K in mailman uniform
Spoiler-alert: amnesia (duh)

Another decade, another sequel. The third installment was.. passable. Again, lots of positives. Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson; the touching story of how K first discovered J as a child [spoiler alert!]. A bit more negatives, though — the villain, for one thing. I just couldn’t get past his.. everything. I mean, ‘ick’ is one thing; ‘just plain gross for gross’ sake’ is another. But the “I can see all future possibilities at once and it’s made my brain a little frappuccino-y” dude was really cute, and as I said, the timeline intersection subplot was worthwhile. So would I watch it again? For sure. Would I watch it more than a couple times? Ehhh… maybe, but I wouldn’t be ecstatic about it.

men in black 3 young J with dad's pocket watch
Probably the best scene of the whole film.

Now, we come to 2019. First of all, good luck getting ANY of those people to come back for round 4. I mean, at least one of them is dead. RIP, Rip. (And yes, that was literally on Twitter.) Fair enough; I didn’t really expect to see them anyway. No, this is a departure from the trilogy. This is… well, it’s like a remodeled apartment. The same foundations, the same basic framework, but with a lot of upgrades and a fresh coat of shiny new paint.

For starters, our new headliners — Hemsworth and Thompson (Tessa, not Emma; no relation) — are pretty. But the great thing is, she (particularly) doesn’t need to flaunt it. As the thematic undercurrent alludes to, this is no longer a ‘boys club’. This is the “Men and Women in Black”. A bit unfortunately, she still goes a little schoolgirl ga-ga over him — at first. She doesn’t let it stop her from being a badass, so it all evens out. Props.

men in black 3 chris hemsworth tessa thompson
the beautiful people, the beautiful people…

Now, the villains are immensely superior to anything we’ve yet seen, which is both refreshing and expected. On one hand, we know it’s going to take a lot more to stop them from bringing about our doom; but we kinda had to know that going in, otherwise what’s the point of another sequel? The side-story and featured NPC aliens (that’s RPG-talk for “neutral party characters” i.e. ones that aren’t the main bad-guys but aren’t necessarily at the beckon-call of our heroes either), are pretty decent.

Finally, we have this whole ‘internal intrigue’ / ‘mole in our midst’ plot. To me, it almost seemed like they wanted to make H out to be the mole, but then they wanted us to think it was C, then finally ol’ crusty boss-man. Now, this may seem like responsible mystery storytelling, right? And yes, I get it; you DO want the audience misdirected before you get to the big reveal. Obviously. But that traitor-y vibe, for me, lingered a bit too long on H’s character. I’m not sure if that’s the filmmaker’s fault or mine. Regardless, the storyline definitely does its job in taking us on the journey to a happy ending. It just felt a little too forced.

The thing I’m missing, I think, is the heart — that spirit of wonder and mystery that propelled the first film forward in a way that only truly good sci-fi does. This was more flash than function; more spark than fire. BUT! Still enjoyable. Good times.

And damn if that scene where he picks up the hammer ain’t a perfectly executed self-trolling-cameo.. I mean COME ON! You can’t not love it for at least a few seconds.

Spoiler alert: it’s not quite over…

One thumb up. Have fun out there friends! ❤

Disclaimer: None of these images are mine and I never claimed any rights over/about/related to them whatsoever. 😉

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Under Fire, Once Again

Have I written on this subject yet? I feel like I have, but it may have been via Facebook or something. Apologies in advance for the language. You’re an adult, you can deal with it. =)

So here we are, in the aftermath of yet another series of deadly, tragic, terrorist shootings. Oh, they were white you say? THEY’RE TERRORISTS. Full stop.

There is no excuse, no rationalization, no equivocating. Just like the radical Islamic terrorists that suicide-bomb the gathering places of those they hate, so too did these white racist extremists assault and slaughter those who they hate, just as vehemently and just as irrationally.

Oh, the 2nd Amendment you say? Well guess what, you ignorant asshole. Assault, automatic, and semiautomatic weapons WEREN’T FREAKING INVENTED when they wrote that. So shove it up your NRA-loving ass. To be clear, I fully support your right to own a handgun and a hunting rifle, after passing a thorough background check, psych eval, and safety training. Heck, I want good people to be able to protect themselves. Concealed carry? Sure! If you’ve proven you’re mentally capable and fully invested in the greater good of society, awesome.

But you look me straight in the eye-holes and tell me that we should sell AK-47s and their ilk on the shelves of Walmart in Texas, or at Bass Pro Shops, with a straight face. Go ahead. Be sure to explain why, too; I’d love to hear it.

Oh, the shooters obtained them illegally you say? NOT THE POINT. Not even CLOSE to the point. Obviously, that whole issue is complex, and we’re not going to solve it by arguing about it on the Internet. But you know how else we won’t solve it? You know how else we’ll make literally zero, even negative, progress toward the goal of reducing this kind of violence and carnage? By doing NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Just as we’ve continued to do for decades. Because our government is too damn lazy, and too damn full of themselves, and too deep in the pockets of super-PAC lobbyists, to be bothered to get off their old fat asses and do something real about it.

Oh, mental illness you say? Nope. Sure, you’ve gotta be pretty fucked up in the head to do this kind of thing. But there are plenty of mental patients who wouldn’t dream of it. No, this kind of behavior comes from one thing and one thing only: HATE. Pure, unadulterated, fear-based media fueled, fiery political and social rhetoric induced, intolerant, ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, unchecked and unbridled hate.

fear is the path to the dark side. fear leads to anger. anger leads to hate. hate leads to suffering.
No comment necessary.

Now I’m not a psychologist. K had that degree. I’m just a tech geek. But even I can understand that this is a complex and multi-faceted problem that requires critical thinking and hard choices. Mental illness, as a societal ill, is certainly a large problem that we need to wrap our heads around. But again, it’s not the point, and it’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about reinforced mentalities and behaviors of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred of fellow humans. And I’m too damn tired of this crap being swept under the rug as if it’s “not news” or “not something we can do anything about.”

You know what the families of these victims are really tired of? INACTION. They’re sick to death (literally) of their government representatives’ plain and simple lack of motivation to DO something about this shit. They don’t want your “thoughts and prayers”. They don’t need your tweets and your Facebook sympathies and your hashtags. They need vindication. They need to know that their loved ones’ deaths will not become yet another sad statistic in an ever-growing black stain on the American dream.

But they will. They already are. Do you know how long it takes for us as a society to “move on” from this kind of shocking tragedy? A day or two. Sometimes less. Isn’t that horrifying? We will have already forgotten about it by the time the next viral trend hits our feeds.

UPDATE: it’s already happening. Everybody’s moved on to this ridiculous “30-50 feral hogs” meme. Shameful. Disgustingly shameful.

Society is broken. Morals are broken. Justice is broken. Do we sit idly by and let it disintegrate further? Or do we stand up and cry out, “Enough!” and take action?

Write, call, and email your representatives. Tell them enough is enough. Action is the only acceptable answer.

And may the victims rest in peace. May their families and friends and loved ones find comfort in each other’s arms, and in their faith, of whatever sect or religion or creed they hold, in this time of unconscionable tragedy. And if you do know any of them personally, reach out and offer your love and support, in a concrete, compassionate, caring manner.

compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering -Dalai Lama
Foreign concept to most people, sadly. Especially politicians.
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A Grief Renewed

It’s been far too long since I journaled. Reading or listening to other authors always seems to help, and lately I’ve been absolutely wrapt by The Phoenix Project (listening via Audible, since I’m not a great reader, and nowhere near as prolific a reader as K. was!) If you work in tech, or with/for/adjacent-to I.T. management, you really should check it out.

This is an incomplete segment of journaling, because there are parts that are only for me. But I share what I can, and I hope that it helps in whatever way it might.

N.

Nearly 3 months have passed since I actually sat down to journal anything. I suppose you could count the couple blog posts, including the one about the dream, and another about how shopping for medicine reminded me of you. So much has happened. And yet, as I’ve come to realize, so little actual progress along this woeful and treacherous journey they call grief.

The simpler things. I helped your brother move into their new house. It’s huge, and new; you would love it and probably be jealous. The downside is that it’s in Yucaipa. It’s one of those “up and coming” areas that seems like they’re doing a lot of new development, but it’s still a far cry from metro-suburbia. I also helped C&A move. They’re my new friends from church, who I feel have become fairly close over the past several months. They have a precocious 2 year old daughter who I’m quite sure you’d adore, just as you did all children of those you loved and cared for. While I’m helping him reorganize his garage, I take a few furniture items off his hands for use here. Not sure what I’ll do with them yet, but it’s fun to imagine working with the solid wood end-tables and turning them into something unique.

I make an appointment with a therapist to start formally and officially dealing with my grief. With the loss of you. Your death. I haven’t said that word much, if at all, since it happened. It felt ugly to me. Yet it is, clinically and factually, the truth. Obviously the spiritual side of things is still very real to me, and I do know that in some ways you watch over me, and in other ways you are far beyond, infinitely blissful in the expanse of Heaven and the cosmos. But at the same time, you are very much absent from my physical life and my worldly happenings. Memories and triggers are all that remain, and pictures, and possessions with which we struggle to know what to do.

Feeling motivated, I make a vet appointment for the dogs to get them updated with their shots and to get them licensed, so that they’re “official” and can visit the amazing doggie-water-park I discovered in Murrieta. I can’t believe how close it was to where we used to live! We could have gone there, if we’d known. Riding the wave of productivity, I get some more debt consolidation work done and adjust some payment schedules. Work even feels more rewarding this week. As I’m writing this on Friday evening, I look back and am happy, for once, at what I accomplished.

And yet…

And yet.

There is an elephant in the room. An ugly one, at that. And it must be dealt with.

One bite at a time.

I hope you can forgive me and help me heal. Send me good thoughts and prayers for the therapy sessions, and try to make sure I stay as open as I claim to be. I love you.

But it was so cute as a baby!! o_@