Archive for September, 2010

King Maker is Here!!!

Spotted out in the wild by Daniel R. Robichaud in San Antonio, Texas with confirmed sightings by fellow Indiana Horror Writers, Brian J. Shoopman in Greenwood, Indiana, and Rodney Carlstrom in Noblesville, Indiana … King Maker has hit the U.S. shores!

It seems like just yesterday that I was  I was doing some volunteer work with a ministry called Outreach Inc. (they work with homeless and at-risk teens). Well, we were doing a writing exercise and I was trying to get them to imagine themselves in different environments and situations. And no one could imagine themselves past next week, much less in a different life. So I went on a rant about princes and princesses and the idea of prince of the streets kind of stuck with me. And how the kids protective were of one another reminded me of knights. Next thing you know … Arthur, cause that’s how my brain works.  It’s hard to believe that I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo only a couple years ago (literally, two years ago next month).

It DOES feel like I’ve kind of given birth … to a bouncing baby paperback.  It’s a heady mix of terror (this is it!  This is what you’ve worked toward and sacrificed for … wait, what if people don’t like it and you really suck?!?)  and excitement (MY BOOK IS HERE!  IT REALLY HAS MY NAME ON THE COVER!  WHY CAN’T I STOP JUMPING UP AND DOWN LIKE A DRUNK CHEERLEADER?  WHY DON’T I HAVE PANTS ON?).

King Maker is book one of my Knights of Breton Court trilogy.  It follows the life of King James White, a homeless teenager pulling his life together, who is the modern embodiment of the spirit of King Arthur.  The story of Camelot slowly begins to play out on the inner city streets of modern day Indianapolis.  So amidst urban decay, gangs, the drug trade, and homeless teens, there are zombies, elementals, magic, and trolls.  It’s The Wire meets Excalibur.*

You can check out some of the reviews here.  Feel free to leave me your thoughts on the book on Amazon reviews since, you know, I will be obsessively checking them and judging my self-worth by them.  To make things as easy as possible for you:

Search for an independent bookstore near you

King Maker on Amazon and available for your Kindle

King Maker on Barnes & Noble and available for your Nook

King Maker on Powell’s

King Maker on Book Depository

You can read the first chapter here.

And keep checking the News section of my website.  There I will be posting my book signing and convention appearance schedule.

Yeah, I’ll probably spend the rest of the day looking myself up on book sites and library databases then calling in the family to point at the screen and yell “That’s ME!”  They’ll NEVER get tired of that!  Never, no, never.

*Or we could do the comic book version of the pitch:  Mage meets that one Falcon mini-series where street gang members kidnap Ronald Reagan.  Or, Mage meets DC’s scrapped Milestone line.  Or, Mage meets Power Man, except none of the black people yell things like “Sweet Christmas!” … though it’s not too late for me to write that into the third book of the trilogy in order to start that trend.  I’m sure glad no one actually reads my little footnotes.

Weekly Round Up – 09/25/10

General:

In the self-promotion department, Jerry Gordon and I were interviewed for the SF Signal podcast.  I’m stunned they were able to cobble together anything coherent out of that interview.  Kudos to Jerry for remaining professional and on point while I bounced all over the place.

In the nerd department, read Alan Moore’s parody of Frank Miller’s Daredevil from 1983

Pimping my friends, Wrath James White’s Book of a Thousand Sins is getting a re-release.  I once reviewed it.  Go pre-order it.

Spiritual:

Atheist become Apologist – “A failure to understand the Christian concept of God. Dawkins thinks of God as an “entity” in almost empirical terms and here’s why: he argues that empirical data do not exist for God. Therefore, God doesn’t exist. But what this shows is:  God can’t be shown by empirical sciences; therefore, God doesn’t exist. But this proves not that God does not exist but that God cannot be proved by empirical sciences or that God is not empirical, which is just what Christians do believe: that God is not one of us but outside the empirical reality. Furthermore, this shows that atheists are locked into both belief that God must be empirical and they believe only in knowledge from the empirical sciences. It is a circular argument.”

The Gifts – “In a nutshell, I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still being given as part of God’s continuing gospel work and mission.”

Theology After Darwin – There are four major theological challenges raised by a Darwinian or evolutionary view of creation and the blog discusses how they were dealt with in the latter half of the nineteenth century making connection with our debates and questions today.

Wisdom about Words – Scot McKnight gives some great insight into the nature of words.

Writing:

An Announcement Concerning Apex Magazine – In light of the Elizabeth Moon debacle mentioned last week, editor Catherynne Valente announces that the November issue of Apex will be an entirely Arab/Muslim issue.  Speaking of which, Jim C. Hines has an Open Letter to Elizabeth Moon.  Here are some thoughts on WisCon’s response to the situation as well as Nisi Shawl’s.

Robert E. Howard was a racist. Deal with it – Jason Sanford manages to step in it while stating the obvious.

Local/Arts:

Love Guatemala – “An amazing show is taking shape for First Friday, October 1st in The ArtSpace of downtown Indianapolis. You could be a huge support to these beautiful kids and their families through the arts!”

Friendship For The Arts – “Our desire is to increase a greater appreciation for the arts in Johnson County and to create a platform for local artists to showcase their work.”

Sometimes A Cigar Means Quit Eating Leftover Pizza at 3 in the Morning

I had the most whacked out dream last night.  Actually woke up in a sweat and struggling to breathe.*  I was back in my old neighborhood in Franklin, Indiana.** I had just left my cousin’s house and was walking toward my grandparents home.  I had stopped at their next door neighbor’s house to talk to the old man tending his garden, when a lone came walking down the center of King Street.  He had a gun and a rifle and was walking along just randomly shooting people.

I take off running.  I hear the shot that takes out the old guy was just talking to.  I run down the alley which separated my grandparents’ house from the schoolyard park.  We used to play hide and seek through this neighborhood.  This alley was my standard route of escape.

(cue the harps for flashback montage of memories)

-when me and my buddies used to throw rocks at passing cars and on the rare occasions actually hit one, which would cause the driver to stop and chase us

-when the local bullies would wait for me at the bus stop (the bus dropped us off in front of my grandmother’s house which was on one end of the alley and I had to make it to my house which was on the other end).  Now that I think about it, I have an unpublished story written about this.

-whenever it was time for me to cut my own switch (read:  time to flee grandma’s house)

-even the one time I thought I could out-pedal (I was on my Big Wheel) my friend’s older sister after we had pulled some prank on her while she was talking to a boy.  She clocked me in the back of my head with her shoe.

(end montage on that image …)

So I tore down the alley, the echoes of gunfire in my ear.  I watch as several of my friends fall on the basketball court.  I cut across my aunt’s yard, dodge her German shepherd, and scurry down the basement steps to the old church next door.  I’m pressed up against the wall of the mildewed stones, the door to the basement locked, of course.  This was always our favorite hiding place when playing hide and seek.  Then it fully hits me that it was our favorite spot to hide when playing hide and seek.  And the shadowed form of my friend’s head looms over the steps.  Then I wake up.

It’s funny how dreams can seem so terrifying when you’re having them, but seeing them on the page robs them of their existential terror.  I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.  Rather than search for one, I will direct you to the SF Signal podcast wherein—starting at the 18 minute mark—Jerry Gordon and I are interviewed regarding Dark Faith, King Maker, and WARN YOU OF THE IMPENDING THREAT TO HUMANITY!!!***

(and here’s where Chesya Burke reminds me that I’m supposed to be writing.  Fiction.  She wields the Mighty Reminder Stick of Impending Deadlines!)

.

*This may speak more to me being so out of shape that even the dream of me running made me out of breath.

**One, for all of those upset about me setting the legend of King Arthur in Indianapolis, be glad I didn’t set it in Franklin.  You REALLY wouldn’t have been able to find it on a map.  Two, yes, when we first moved from London, England, we first settled in Franklin.  Absolutely no culture shock there at all.

***No, there’s no threat.  Not really.  Though I did start drinking a Shiraz (not Riesling for a change) at 8:30 pm thinking that the interview would begin at 9.  The interview began at 10.  So hilarity ensues.  Somehow they managed to edit my hour’s worth of antics down to something manageable.  My favorite memory is watching Jerry remain professional and on point while I’m doing my level best to distract him.  He’s unflappable … like a palace guard to my obnoxious tourist routine.

Conviction – A Review

No Greater Love

Based on a true story, Conviction tells the inspirational story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank).  She bartends and raises her two sons while putting herself through law school in order to exonerate her brother.  Loveable ne’er-do-well, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders.  The two bonded throughout their rough childhood, two siblings of nine children by seven different fathers.

With Kenny having been imprisoned since 1983, Betty Anne has to first get her GED, go to college, graduate, get her law degree, pass the bar, and then mount an investigation and campaign to free her brother.  This singular focus comes at the expense of her marriage, but she is aided by her best, if not only, friend, Abra (Minnie Driver) and the Innocence Project, with their star attorney, Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher).

The film is held together by Swank and Rockwell.  Swank especially, as she is given a meaty role to work with, including adopting a New England accent without it becoming cartoony or distracting.  Her “white trash roots” doesn’t turn into caricature the way Juliette Lewis’ character, as one of Kenny’s ex-girlfriends, nearly veers.  Rockwell harnesses his manic character, imbuing Kenny with an affable sense of humor while also hinting at his ever present dangerously short fuse of a temper.

“I hate the damn legal system.  It’s so fucking inconvenient.” –Abra

We’re hard-wired with certain longings, certain base ideas. Like the idea of justice. We have a passion for justice. We have a sense pretty early on of what’s fair and what’s not, like a dream written onto our hearts. We know there’s something like justice, but we can’t seem to get there.  We have a love/hate relationship with the law. We are fascinated by its machinations. The practice of law rarely makes sense, yet we are slaves to it.  Which is why we’re left in admiration for the Betty Anne Waters of the world and their strength of conviction to fight for justice.  Be it in the face of witnesses who perjured themselves or the police (Melissa Leo of Homicide: Life on the Streets) determined to close a case on the back of the innocent, the urge to fight for justice comes from a wellspring of love for one another.

“Knowing you were out here working hard for me, knowing that you loved me that much.” –Kenny

Betty Anne’s dedication is amazing to the point of heroic.  So when the question is asked “You’d sacrifice your whole life for me?” from one of her sons to the other, their mother is the living embodiment of the answer, found in this verse:   “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

As we look around at the people around us, we’re disturbed by how people actually behave versus how they ought to behave. Even at our best, we struggle with the already/not yet tension: that we are already redeemed, though not yet fully redeemed. Already holy, not yet fully holy. Something in us tells us that there is a standard of behavior that we ought to adhere or at least aspire to.  Kenny is not a nice guy and is by no means perfect.  He has a temper and is prone to fits of violence.  Certainly he had a rough childhood, one littered with neglect and having no one to stand up for him.  For many people, what we learn or come to believe about God comes first in the form of our parents.  So Kenny, spoken or unspoken, had the question “who advocates for us?”  It’s as if there is some kind of code written into each of us, the fact that we don’t live in a state of lawlessness still points to a Lawgiver. Jesus is our Advocate (1 John 2:1), pleading our case before the Father like a defense attorney.

The story of God putting things right, isn’t that he just woke up one day, decided to pay attention, and suddenly decide to do something to fix the mess by condemning Jesus to a cruel fate to satisfy some blood thirst. Nor would his passion to put the world right, fulfilling this idea of justice involve swooping in, waving a magic wand, and cleaning things up. That would be him forcing himself on us. Instead, His plan has always been to work through people. From Abraham and Israel to Christ and the Church, he stirs our spirits and acts from within creation.

Conviction plows familiar territory but is nonetheless flawed.  Betty Anne’s single minded pursuit to the exclusion of everything else makes for a straight forward, non-nuanced story.  It is her journey and not everyone is built to walk it.  The movie needed to give more room to Betty Anne’s return to school and the drama of her struggle there.  Or even to show the disintegration of her marriage so that her sacrifice feels genuine.  Because of the narrative murkiness, we’re left with the sense that she sacrifices everything for her brother, including time with her children in whom she’s trying to instill the lessons of sacrifice and fidelity.  So the audience has to wonder if it worth it (especially in light of the fact that Kenny Waters died Sept. 19, 2001, only six months after being released from prison, a factoid left out of the where-are-they-now ending title sequence).

Aimed at  the coveted heartland audience, Conviction goes through the expected little person triumphs over the looming system.  By sheer gravitas of its story, plus Swank’s and Rockwell’s performances, the audience is carried along for the ride.

Desperate Housewives (Season 6) – A Review

“Good neighbors. They loan you cups of sugar. They tell you why your car won’t start. They even help you find your lost pets. Good neighbors also come over at the slightest hint of trouble, whether you want them there or not.”

Long after her mysterious suicide, the deceased Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) continues to narrate the events in the lives of her friends living in the suburban neighborhood of Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives. Added to the mix of Susan Delfino (Teri Hatcher), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), Bree Hodge (Marcia Cross), Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria Parker) and Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delany) comes Angie Bolen (Drea de Matteo) and her family who become the focus of this season’s mystery. Season six saw the lowest ratings of the show’s history, particularly in the second half of the season.

“No one things about evil until it shows up on their doorstep…which it soon would.”

Season five ending with a five year jump at the end ensuring essentially a reboot of the show. Susan re-marries her true love, Mike. But soon thereafter her ex-husband Karl dies, leaving her a share in a strip club. Lynette hides her pregnancy but loses one of the unborn twins in utero. Her son Preston returns from Europe with a Russian gold-digging fiancée in tow. Bree’s affair with Karl ends, but the consequence of it leaves her ex-husband, Orson, wheelchair bound. She also has to contend with her son, Andrew, acting out as Sam, the son of her first husband, Rex, comes on the scene. Gabrielle, now mommy to two girls, also has to contend with her husband, Carlos’, niece, Ana the new neighborhood/barely legal, sexpot. Katherine probably has the most bizarre character arc as she goes from borderline insane with jealousy over Susan’s husband, to complete outcast, to marginally accepted, to lesbian. Plus there are the twin mysteries: what is the secret of the Bolen family and who is the Fairview Strangler.

The show basically asks “how much do you really want to know about your neighbors?” Everyone has things going on beneath their perfect surfaces. In a lot of ways, all the ways we’ve come to identify success, these women have everything anyone could ever want. And yet, there is still something missing: a (desperate) search to connect, to find something meaningful in their lives.

“We all know that evil exists. But we don’t pay attention because we’re worried about our marriages, concerned about our friendships, anxious about our employees. Yes, we don’t pay attention to evil because we thing it will never come to our house. But it does. And sometimes we let it in.”

The big draw of Desperate Housewives has always been its humor, soap opera drama, over-the-top action (this season features a plane crash, a serial killer, and explosions), cat fights, family feuds and mysteries. Unlike some series where you could miss whole seasons and pick up as if not much has happened (Lost says what?), Desperate Housewives packs so much into an episode a scorecard is needed. However, there was too much of a good thing going on in season six. Katherine was lost as a character. Also, not since Alfre Woodard was wasted with the mystery of her Applewhite family has a mysterious family not been very engaging. All in all, season six showed its age a bit and strained its ever tenuous credibility with its audience. It’s a short leap from engaging farce to a cartoon of a show.

Poo – A Review

Players: 2-8

Playing Time: 5-15 minutes

Age: Ages 8 to adult

Publisher: Sandstorm Productions LLC / Wildfire LLC

MSRP: $9.95

Contents:  110 cards, Rules

Release: October 2010

Game Description:  It’s been a tough day in the monkey cage and something in the food tonight wasn’t quite right.  In the monkey world, there’s only one thing that can be done about it – fling poo!  It doesn’t matter who started it in this fast and furious game of monkey see, monkey doo.  It only matters who has what it takes to be king of the cage!

The Review:

Kids crack each other up by yelling out bodily functions at inappropriate moments.  Poop.  Pee.  Fart.  Butt (butts are always good for a laugh).  Reduced to fits of giggles at all things scatological.  Who can forget that first proud father moment when your son drags you into the bathroom to impress you with the size of the poop he just made.  Sure, such behavior horrifies mothers while paining fathers struggling to keep their game faces on when secretly they want to laugh too.  Well along comes a card game which, knowing its audience, taps directly into their inner juvenile.

Sandstorm Productions sent me a game to play test, so I broke it out with the rallying cry “Boys, it’s time to fling some Poo!”  Poo deals in sophomoric extremes and yet is charming in the same way the Captain Underpants book series is.  The humor is genial and harmless (though, of course, in actual gameplay, gets ramped up to ridiculous levels by the players who may not know where to draw the line until one or all of them get grounded).  The artwork is cartoony and the writing completely pun-tastic.

The Gameplay is pretty simple.  If you accumulate 15 points of poo, you’ll be out of the game!  Players always keep a hand of 5 cards, and take turns either playing a card, or dumping some of the cards in their hand for new ones.  Players have only five types of cards to choose from:  Poo (which allow you to deal out points of poo to the other players with names like “Pellet Poo”, “Mighty Joe Young Poo”, and “King Kong Poo”); Mishap (played on an opponents turn, just as they are about to fling poo at you to redirect an attack such as the “Just a Fart” card or “Cramp”); Defense (also played out of turn to defend against flung poo, but they target the poo itself rather than the flinger); Clean (removes poo from your monkey); Event (has some rule-changing effect on the game).  There are up to two “Golden Banana” cards which can be used in the game to prevent an early gang-up.  A player can come back into the game with 8 accumulated poo points and continue playing.

My oldest called Poo “Uno with poop jokes”.  Kids will enjoy the game so much, because they are instantly swept away in the humor and action of the game.  Children tap into their not-so-inner compulsion to act inappropriately (or, actually, appropriately according to simian mores).  And parents get to tap into their less-than-inner juvenile senses of humor for family fun.  But, humor is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

Humor can defuse the power of what frightens us or what we don’t understand.  The Bible has its share of biological humor used to break tension or make a point.  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to make their god perform a miracle.  When they fail, Elijah jibes them with the sarcastic suggestion that they yell louder, because maybe their god is peeing. Proverbs 26:11, tells us that “a fool repeats his folly the way a dog is drawn back to eat its own vomit.” (And, wow, do I regret doing that word search of “vomit” in the Bible).

So while some may decry the childlike tendency to laugh at anal acoustics and other biological functions considered inappropriate for civilized society, as with most children’s products, Poo just wants to entertain.   Don’t expect this game to lead to a bunch of rowdy kids imitating monkey and flinging poo.  Though, if it does, that will be some great publicity for the game.

15 Movies That Stick With You [Meme]

Similar to the 15 Influential Albums, now we’re to list “fifteen films you’ve seen that will always stick with you.  List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.”  Mostly in no specific order:

1.  Do the Right Thing/Malcolm X

2.  Pulp Fiction/Kill Bill (Snatch and True Romance stick with me in similar ways, but not quite with the same impact these two did)

3.  Blazing Saddles (which may top my list of “movies they could never do today”)

4.  L.A. Confidential

5.  Big Fish

6.  Amelie

7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly/A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More/Unforgiven

8.  The Blues Brothers

9.  Glengarry GlenRoss

10.  Fight Club

11.  Fargo

12.  Crash

13.  Heathers

14. Momentum/Inception

15.  Menace II Society

*Bonus Movie:  The Five Deadly Venoms!

Weekly Round Up – 09/18/10

General:

IHOP sues IHOP over use of their acronym.

Okay, one of the latest meme involves lists discussing dating a writer.  Jennifer Brozek gives her opinion.  And Alethea Kontis gives her darker warning.  And someone is “offended by the rank objectification of writers!”

Racialicious:

Armchair Sociology: Of Saggin’ Pants, Seven Boys Named James, the Cool Pose, and The People’s Court – “The cool pose is a set of language, mannerisms, gestures and movements that “exaggerate or ritualize masculinity,””

ELLE MAGAZINE TRIES TO SHOW US GABOUREY SIDIBE’S ‘LIGHTER’ SIDE – you think white washing only happens in book publishing or on movie posters?  I think not!

Shucking and Jiving in 2010 – On black conservatives and the latest … issues.  “I saw the above image of the South Caroline Senate president, dressed as a confederate general, and two African-Americans dressed in 1800’s Gullah costumes.”

Innovation Crisis in Black America Pt. 2: Where are Black Entrepreneurs and Angels? – “There’s an economic crisis of monumental proportions occurring in Black America. The challenges stretch across a vast spectrum of education, unemployment, entrepreneurship, investment and innovation. But you won’t hear much about this crisis from any of the so-called “mainstream” media.”

Black Male Grad Rates: Despair, And A Ray Of Hope – “In the past few weeks, more than 400,000 young black men entered American high schools as freshmen. Four years from now, fewer than half of them will get diplomas.”

Spiritual:

Our History, Our Weakness – “The average Christian knows next to nothing about the history of Christian theology…What can be done about this “black hole” of our history? How can we resurrect memory? What are you doing or what do you hear others are doing? Is this a genuine problem in your view?”

I once wrote:  “We walk in tensions and paradoxes in our lives. Too often I think we have this schizophrenic view of God: half the time we treat Him like this cosmic genie doling out blessings like He’s the great Santa in the sky. The other half, we think of God like He’s a guy who hides behind the bushes waiting for us to screw up so that He can leap out, yell “ah ha!”, then heap plagues into our lives.”  Don Miller writes about “How to Manipulate God

Church Disciplines…for a Church 1 – What are the “church” spiritual disciplines?

Apologetics in a Postmodern World 2 – “Five themes in nature that led Collins to Christian faith:  1. There is something instead of nothing. 2. The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. Why? 3. The big bang. A beginning about 13.7 billion years ago. Nature doesn’t come from nothing. 4. The precise tuning of physical constants in the universe. This gets him to Einstein’s God. 5. Moral law. This led him to confront God and holiness and his sinfulness and Jesus Christ.”

Writing:

Postmodernism and SF – The Impossible Constellation, Reflected in the Never-same River: Pondering Postmodernism in Fantastika and a piece by Jeff Vandermeer

As tempests in the interwebz go, Elizabeth Moon, recently announced as a GOH at next year’s Wiscon, has some commentary on Islam which ranks up there this week.  Expect this to have long term ripple effects (racefail says what?).

Local:

Spirit & Place Civility in a fractured society – “On September 22-that’s next week!-you have a rare opportunity to meet the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in a discussion on civility in a fractured society.”

Harrison Center on First Friday – “The Harrison Center and Homeward Bound of Central Indiana present the Homeward Bound group show.”

Legend of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – A Review

“Fellowship of the Owls”

Considering how much CGI he used in 300 and Watchmen, it seemed only a matter of time before Zack Snyder directed a fully animated film.  Based on the The Guardians of Ga’Hoole books by Kathryn Lasky, he turns out a dark fantasy film reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings that is a truly stunning work.  The film follows Soren (Jim Sturgess), the hobbit, uh, a young owl who grew up listening to his father’s stories about the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a mythic band of winged warriors who had fought a great battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. While he internalized the folk tales with the secret hope of one day joining the Guardians, his older brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), rejects the idea.

Like the Biblical brother, Jacob and Esau, the brothers vie for their father’s favor, with Kludd’s jealousy leading them to a great fall from their treetop home to be carried off by the Pure Ones.  The Pure Ones in Mordor, uh, seek amass enough flecks to do great harm to the Guardians.  Soren escapes with the help of other owls, forming a fellowship as they soar across the sea in hopes of finding the Great Tree, home of the legendary Guardians of Ga’Hoole.  Only with their help does he stand any hope of defeating the Pure Ones and saving the owlkind.

“Stories are part of our culture and history.” –Noctus (Hugo Weaving)

The fundamental journey of the hero, as described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), contains a number of stages, which includes: 1. A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline; 2. A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails; 3. Achieving the goal or “boon”, which often results in important self-knowledge; 4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail; 5. Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world.  Whether beginning (Mage: The Hero Discovered) or ending their journey (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), heroes share many traits: noble, trustworthy, loyal, just, and good.  Put another way, the essential story, the monomyth, echoes the story of Christ.

“We are for power and purpose.” –Nyra (Helen Mirren)

In the state of their world, the owls had fallen. Those held captive by the Pure Ones were moon blinked:  they bought into a lie (that they were orphans) and forgot who they were, to the point where they were slaves.  Pure Ones abhor weakness, all about empire and their twisted sense of values as they have bought into their system of empire and oppression:  the strong triumph, the broken should be put out of their misery, and honor is another word for weak.  Soren chose a different path.

“Words were the only proof I had that you were real.  And that didn’t stop me from believing.” –Soren

Motivated by the conviction of things not seen (the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1), Soren’s journey began as all of ours do, with discipleship. The journey is all about wrestling with our faith and choosing what we want to believe as we attempt to become who we were meant to become. Learning how to “trust your gizzard”.  The stories shape and form him in that he made the stories real through his faith and his life’s journey.

“I just want them to be prepared.” –Noctus

Discipleship is not instant but rather it was basically apprenticeship. The goal of the student is to become as much like the teacher as possible, as discipler and disciple are on a journey together to learn how to fly.  Discipleship would involve a changed in three areas: belief (as we turn to our Master-Teacher), behavior (our lives become slowly transformed, centering our lives around living out the kingdom mission; putting feet–action–to our faith and knowledge), and belonging (we join a specific faith community), in Soren’s case, to the Great Tree as a Guardian.  The guardians’ mission, in clear opposition to that of the Pure Ones, is to make strong the weak, mend the broken, and vanquish the evil.

Legend of the Guardian:  The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a truly marvelous film.  The animation was lush and Snyder brings his eye for cinematic action to the battle scenes.  Some of the battles may be intense for young ones who may be confused and thinking they are seeing Alpha and Omega or some other lighter fare.  This is not that kind of animated film.  It is dark, it is thrilling, it has great fight sequences, and it has depth (both cinematic and in its storytelling).  In short, to quote Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush),“That was exemplary, but we’re not finished yet, boy.”

Chasing 3000 – A Review

I was never much of a sports fan. The idea of watching grown men paid exorbitant amounts of money to play kids games never really appealed to me.  While at work, I found myself listening to a lot of talk radio and Tony Kornheiser hit my radar.  I found him quite entertaining and got to know the stories and soon found myself following the storylines of sports rather than rooting for teams specifically.  For some people, the game—baseball especially—has memories attached to it.  There is a human connection which has the power to move and bond people.  That is the idea explored in Chasing 3000.

The movie follows the story of two brothers, Mickey and Roger, obviously iconic names in the game of baseball, recalling Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  Told in flashback as an older Mickey (Ray Liotta) recalls the love that he and his brother share of Roberto Clemente and why it is so important that his family make it to a very important game.  His younger brother, Roger (Rory Culkin) has Muscular Dystrophy, the stress of which causes their father to abandon them.  The family has to move from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles for Roger’s health.  Mickey has trouble adjusting to his new situation and decides that purpose can be found in seeing Clement hit #3000.  So the two decide to drive cross country.

Chasing 3000 is essentially a road movie/buddy pic with brothers trying to find their way home.  Unfortunately, the movie is as subtle as the names of their characters.  In fact, it’s a character study with not particularly interesting characters.  Roger, especially, needed more material to work with as the movie only scratched the surface with him and their relationship.

“Never underestimate the love of a mother.  Or a brother.” –Mickey

There are a couple of themes crossing in the movie:  what it’s like to have the love of a brother as well as the anguish of a mother helpless to spare her sons pain.  The main underlying theme, however, is the power of the game to touch and unite people.  And the power of story to pull family together and find healing .  The brothers want to be a part of the story and history.  They read Roberto Clemente’s bio as if it were Scripture, learning from his life and teachings as the book “gets better with each read”.

“We loved the game.  So much so that someone got into a fight nearly every day over it.” –Mickey

No matter how bad things got in his life, Mickey had the game.  Baseball is one of the few games where numbers reign.  Averages and records, RBIs, ERAs, strikeouts, streaks, true adherents can cite the magical numbers off the top of their heads.    Yet Mickey has a FAITH in the game, he feels connected to a greater story.  That’s the true heart of a fan.  It can’t just be found in a box score or stats, his belief is more than just a set of facts.

“Got to use your heart, not your head.” –Mickey

Faith is an intuitive leap to what you choose to believe and how you choose to process the world around you. Any choice of a worldview requires a leap of faith, to believe that your worldview is the “right” one. I believe quest/knowledge journeys begin with a leap of faith, that is, what we choose to put our trust in. For some, it is ourselves (the individual or humanity). For some, it is science (the determination of our senses). For some, it is the spiritual (under the assumption that there is more to this life than presented, both in terms of the spiritual and in terms of after this life). To quote from the blog of my friend, Rich Vincent:

“Christianity does not consist in a series of verifiable and interlocking hypotheses. Nor is it a philosophical system consisting in satisfactory, mutually consistent propositions… the way that truth is sought and engaged with is not through detachment but through a living relationship of faith and love with the object we seek”. The Christian seeks more than “objective truth,” facts, or information. “The goal is not to find information, or even to discern fact, but to bring ourselves, as living subjects, into engagement with reality, culminating ultimately in a participation in the ground of what is real”.

Facts can only take us so far.  Faith imbues facts with meaning, or, better said, it’s hard to get to the truth of faith through objectivity. Sometimes faith means that we have to come to the conclusion that we don’t have many things figured out. That we have to learn to get comfortable with that and the idea of mystery (read: the great “I don’t know”).  And when those facts come into question and the game has the cloud of taint, his faith allows him to still believe in the ideal of the game.  Sometimes it gets harder and harder and faith is tested, but the mission perseveres.

Inspired by a real story, Chasing 3000 scores a little too high on the schmaltz meter.  Characters are nearly reduced to tears at the mention of the name Roberto Clemente (who died in a plane crash on his way to deliver relief aid to Nicaraguan earthquake survivors in 1972 soon after he reached 3000).  The movie dragged and featured trite dialogue.  You keep waiting for the movie to take off or to delve deeper and it never quite does.