Thursday, May 28, 2009

Checking in to say hello

I got nothing to say today.

I got lots to say today.

Much has been going on.

Not much has been going on.

The dream spigot is turned on and overflowing.

The "where do I start?" blockage is clogging things up.

I am my own plumber.

I'm working the plunger.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ecclesiastical moment

To everything there is a season. A time to say goodbye to an old friend, and a time to greet a new one.

She's adorable. She's a bundle of energy. She's exhausting.

Everyone should have a puppy. (Click on the photo for a closer look.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Staying focused

I'm going to pull dare2befree's comment from Thursday out of the comment section because it's so perfect (and this software makes you click one more time to find comments so you may have missed this) ...
Thank you. Your post had wonderful timing for me today.

Allowing yourself to be paralyzed is a choice. It can be hard to stay focused, but it is easier when you are able to recognize the fear as what it is. See it, analyze it, learn from it, and move on.

refuse to be afraid - dare to be free
The interesting thing is that dare2's post had perfect timing for me.

I've been a little scattershot lately. The lure of the Web is that you can be in the middle of a project and, if your mind wanders, you can be reading about something else in seconds. Why focus on the task at hand when you can be somewhere else entirely?

In the sense that procrastination can be an expression of fear, this wild wonderful Web (like any other instrument!) can be an instrument of fear. The next time I'm paralyzed by another review of Star Trek or even a worthy essay about freedom when my task is to finish my own writing, I'll think back to that thought: "Allowing youself to be paralyzed is a choice."

Everything is a choice, even the choice to make no choice. That's why freedom is our default position — every moment we are faced with choices and free to make one. Choose to be free — dare to be free!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mastery of fear

Courage is resistance to fear,
mastery of fear —
not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

Scared? Alarmed? Wondering WTF to do next?

Join the crowd. It's all a little overwhelming if you let it.

If. You. Let. It.

Fear is a choice. When I write "refuse to be afraid," I'm not trying to tell you to ignore or deny the existence of the little heeby-jeebies that plague your mind, your heart and your gut. It's more an exhortation to keep moving despite them.

Twain got it right — Courage is acknowledging the paralyzing potential of fear and stepping forward anyway. "Don't be afraid" is in some ways a silly thing to say. We are afraid sometimes. Life is scary. Accept it, digest it, confront it, and refuse to let it dominate you. Free yourself from the fear, and you can start to dream.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Make your life oxymoron-free

They beefed up security at the University of Puget Sound last year when columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. gave a speech, because both Pitts and the university received e-mails threatening his life if he went through with his appearance.

Of course he was going to give the speech, Pitts said: "Living in fear is an oxymoron."

Think about it. You either live free, or you are paralyzed with fear, a kind of death while breathing. Living in fear is indeed an oxymoron.

Fear is a choice. Choose to be oxymoron-free.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Great moments in shedding fear:
'Crawling Back To You'

Years later, I still remember the stress melting away, listening to Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" album for the first time. The surprised joy of finding a store that still sold vinyl records — and new ones! — had worn off a bit, and I was listening to Side 4, mostly with a contented smile, but in the back of my heart I still had the stress from some stuff I was going through, and I was tired of being scared of the future. Just then Tom sang:
I'm so tired of being tired
Sure as night will follow day
Most things I worry about
Never happen anyway
"Crawling Back To You" is not my favorite Tom Petty song, but that's my favorite Tom Petty stanza. Truer words may have never been sung.


Friday, May 08, 2009

B.W. At The Movies: Star Trek

Oh, and another thing: In the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there's a scene at the climax where a group of about three or four dozen mutants is confronted by one big bad guy. Our hero says, "You get the others to safety, I'll handle this." I turned to Sweetie and asked, "Why don't they all just gang up on the lone bad guy and whup his butt?" I had already decided it was a lame movie by that point, but that moment tipped it over into the "crummy and disappointing" category.

I mention this because I have no doubt there are plot holes in Star Trek, but when the movie is so darn fun, who notices stuff like that? Let's throw every sports cliché at this thing: Director J.J. Abrams hits a home run, throws a touchdown, drops nothing but net from downtown, and scooooorrrrrrrrrrrrres!!!!

We spent about 30 seconds looking at Zachary Quinto and saying, "Man, it's hard to forget he's Sylar (in Heroes)," but then Sylar disappeared and Quinto became Spock for the 21st century. Lest we forget, here comes the Spock of the 20th century to deliver crucial plot points. The new James Tiberius Kirk, Chris Pine, is a swaggering punk who could have used a strong father figure to shape him up a bit (Sweetie spotted Cameron from House as Kirk's mom before I did!) but figures himself out as the show races along, and Karl Urban, the new McCoy, is a cantankerous but caring fussbudget. What else could he be? This is classic Trek, and then it's not — basically a perfect combination of acknowledging what came before and setting off in a bold new direction. There are plenty of echoes from the original series and the first six Trek movies, but plenty of touches that scream "This is not a retread, this is a reinvention."

Since Raiders of the Lost Ark set the bar for adventure thrillers in 1982, no other film has been quite as fun, quite as thrilling, and quite as character-driven while providing quite the ride. Until now.

By what no doubt is not a coincidence, Sci-Fi was showing the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation when we got home Thursday night. It was an interesting comparison. "All Good Things" is full of technobabble, its pacing is clunky, and after a seven-year voyage with characters who came to be beloved, it kind of limped home. Maybe that's the difference between episode 1 and episode 176, but let me tell you, the Abrams version is a full-blown sprint.

Sweetie, who is not a lifelong Trekkie, asked as the credits rolled if they'd ever consider bringing this new crew back as a television show. James T. Kirk and company as weekly fare? It's a great idea again. It won't happen — but that's how great this film is: You want to see more. As soon as possible.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

ZAPing the drug war

It seems the fiscal and human costs of the War on Drug Users are finally starting to ease themselves into the public debate. Consider this column by a fellow named Bernd Debusmann, a Reuters columnist.
Are the 305 million people living in the United States the most evil in the world? Is this the reason why the U.S., with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and an incarceration rate five times as high as the rest of the world?

Or is it a matter of a criminal justice system that has gone dramatically wrong, swamping the prison system with drug offenders?
One would think drug legalization would have occurred to The Powers That Be as a good thing some time ago. A sedated, contented populace is easier to manipulate, after all. (Just look at our Ritalin-infested schools.) Instead billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been wasted on violent intervention and incarceration over the year.

The problem has always been that giving individuals the power to decide for themselves how to treat their bodies runs counter to the instincts of the average politico. And the average individual figures he/she can be responsible but is not so sure about the neighbors, or "those people" down there in the inner city or out there in the sticks.

But that's the tradeoff: If you want the freedom to live your life as a responsible adult, you have to concede that freedom to other individuals, to deal with their own triumphs and mistakes on their own terms.

It's the Zero Aggression Principle in action: As L. Neil Smith puts it so succinctly, "A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor will a libertarian advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else." If you wish to be free, you must be willing to respect others' freedom.

Would ending the drug war create a nation of zombies? In TPTB's fondest dreams. More likely there would be abuse and sad stories, just as ending alcohol Prohibition has led to drunken morons getting behind the wheel or committing other stupid and deadly acts. But the vast majority of responsible adults don't abuse alcohol — and it's been a long while since any alcohol distributor gunned down a police officer or a rival distributor.

Personally, I get all the sedation I need from a couple of beers a night and the idiot box. But other people like different substances and different preoccupations. More power to them — and I mean that literally.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Geek national holiday

A pair of tickets sits above my computer for 7 p.m. Thursday. I was surprised to see advance tickets on sale not for a 12:01 a.m. showing but for the evening before. But I'm not complaining.

The best description of the opening of Star Trek I've seen was in the Arizona Republic, which in its summer movie preview called May 8 a "geek national holiday." I am not quite as psyched as I was in the days before Serenity debuted, but I confess to being anticipatory.

I was there, in front of the family TV set, at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, 1966. I loved space movies, and NBC was launching a new science-fiction show that its creator called "Wagon Train to the stars." By the end of "Man-Trap," I was sold and never looked back. I have developed some philosophical objections over the years, but I still love these characters and am looking forward to seeing them reinvented with a new set of actors.

I am not a geek or a Trekkie in the sense that I'll show up in Vulcan ears or a Starfleet uniform. But I'll be there with my mind wide open, ready and willing to be blown away.

And for old time's sake:
Best TOS episode - "The City on the Edge of Forever," of course.
Best TNG: "The Inner Light."
Best DS9: "The Visitor."
Best Voyager or Enterprise: Sorry, I don't care as much.
Best Trek spinoff series: Deep Space Nine.
Best Trek movie: Galaxy Quest, er, Wrath of Khan or First Contact.
Kirk or Spock: Spock.
Ginger or Mary Ann: Beverly Crusher.

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B.W. At The Movies: X-Men Origins - Wolverine

It has a few nice moments. Otherwise pretty standard fare. This is one I could have waited for the DVD. Sorry fellow X-fans.

I confess I've never been psyched over Wolverine. I was one of the minority who got into the original run of the X-Men, which was the first second of the Stan Lee era Marvel hero books to be canceled. (The first was The Incredible Hulk.) The team was Marvel's Star Trek, very cool stuff that eventually found its greatest success in a reimagined "next generation" form featuring Wolverine and friends. X-Men was the first comic book collection that I completed: Issues 1-66. But I digress.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine has a decent enough story. I felt like I should care more all the way through. But I didn't. It was more like the moment I found X-Men 25 and the collection was complete: Well, that's over. I'm glad I went, but what was the point?

The film has some nice moments, not the least of which was the surprise appearance of — well, a familiar X-person toward the end. But that moment served to remind me of the first three X-Men movies, which were darn good and launched a new comic-book movie era. And this movie is nowhere near as compelling as those films. Seeing this character for a few fleeting seconds was a reminder of what this puppy could have been.

You want to see the best comic-book movies over and over. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not one of those. If they're going to do X-prequels, they would have been better served to compact this story into the first 15-20 minutes and followed that cameo character's helicopter for the next 90.

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