Thursday, March 7, 2013

If The Valley were a movie one day...

The Valley is the very first large-scale story I ever started to conceive. The plot has undergone a continual evolution since it had its beginning, thought the lead characters have remained the same, and even grown in depth and roundness since they were born. My thoughts have brushed the idea frequently, but this is the first time I've ever sat down and attempted to cast it. I shall perhaps post a very thorough casting one day, but for now, here are some of the main characters.

Cade Lynwake
The quiet, introspective main character. Orphaned as a child during a Drel-Gorman raid, Cade's quest to find his sister and unlock the secrets of his father's past turns into a desperate fight for the freedom of his homeland, The Valley. His heightened sense of hearing and rock-like endurance and strength make him almost untouchable.
played by Liam Hemsworth

Glade Thornhart
Cade's foster brother and incognito savior. Glade left home as a boy in part to watch over his "little brother" and in part to fulfill his dream to become "the greatest archer in the world." Years and years of practice and training have resulted in incredible skill with a bow and an unbroken winning streak in archery competitions throughout the Valley. Known everywhere only as "Archer" and loved everywhere for his laid-back and friendly personality, Glade has connections and resources everywhere in the Valley. 
played by David Anders

 Rose Feldspar
Only child of Alan and Cora Feldspar, ranchers outside of Brookton and Cade's second foster family. Adventurous, artistic, and just a bit on the ditzy side, Rose has been in love with Cade since he first came to her family. But, alas, Cade is quite clueless.
played by Bryce Howard

Thara Yarlion
The daughter of the village blacksmith, and two or three years older than Cade. Once the only girl in a large family of older brothers, Thara, now a woman, is also an unmarried only child, her brothers having been slowly killed off or taken captive in Drel-Gorman raids. When Cade starts doing moonlight work to help her quickly aging father, Thara and Cade form a close but quiet friendship. Glade Thornhart is smitten with her at first sight, but his charm and good looks don't work on her like they ought to, and he continually attempts to impress and charm her, to the great amusement of everyone else.
played by Evangeline Lilly

King Drel 
King of the warmongering Gorman horse-riders of the mountains. At first just and abstract enemy, the King of those who killed his family and terrorize his homeland, Cade will find his conflict with Drel is deeper and more personal than he could have imagined.
played by the great Patrick Stewart

more to come.... maybe...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Never Ask "Does That Make Sense?"

My brother Dan emailed me this quick article. It impressed and challenged me, and I'm sure it will do the same for you.

Just as a chef is attuned to the subtleties of flavor and trends in the culinary arts, a presentation coach is attuned to the subtleties of language and trends in the communication art. One trend I've noted recently is the expression, "Does that make sense?" often used by a speaker during a conversation — or a presenter during a presentation — to check whether the listener or audience has understood or appreciated what the speaker has just said. Unfortunately, the expression has two negative implications:
• Uncertainty on the part of the speaker about the accuracy or credibility of the content
• Doubt about the ability of the audience to comprehend or appreciate the content.
"Does that make sense?" has become so pervasive, it joins the ranks of fillers, empty words that surround and diminish meaningful words, just as weeds diminish the beauty of roses in a garden. Most speakers are unaware that they are using fillers, and most audiences don't bother to think of their implications. The phrase has attained the frequency — and meaninglessness of:
• "You know..." as if to be sure the listener is paying attention
• "Like I said..." as if to say that the listener didn't understand
• "Again..." as if to say that the listener didn't get it the first time
• "I mean..." as if to say that the speaker is unsure of his/her own clarity
• "To be honest..." as if to say the speaker was not truthful earlier
• "I'm like..." the universal filler which says absolutely nothing
Responsible speakers or presenters, in their well-intentioned effort to satisfy their audience, have every right to check whether their material is getting through. However, instead of casting negativity on the content or the audience, all a speaker has to say is:
"Do you have any questions?"
While all of the preceding cast doubt on the competence of the presenter or the audience, another group of phrases and words casts doubt on the content itself:
• "Sort of"
• "Pretty much"
• "Kind of"
• "Basically"
• "Really"
• "Actually"
• "Anyway"
These, too, have taken on the frequency of fillers. Sometimes these words can have a purpose. Writer Maud Newton recently analyzed the late David Foster Wallace's predilection for "qualifiers like 'sort of' and 'pretty much.'" She deemed it a "subtle rhetorical strategy" to make a critical point and defuse it with irony. As a prime example, she cited the title of one of Wallace's collected essays: "Certainly the End of Something or Other, One Would Sort of Have to Think."
Presenters do not have the luxury of indulging in irony or — with all due respect — the literary talent to engage in such artful wordplay. Qualifying words lessen the importance and the value of the nouns and verbs they accompany. Those nouns and verbs represent the products, services, and actions of the business — the family jewels — that the presenter is pitching, and a presenter should not diminish their worth. Parents do not describe their children as "sort of cute."
Instead, follow the advice of the Strunk and White classic, The Elements of Style: "Use definite, specific, concrete language." To accomplish this you must diligently delete meaningless words and phrases from your speech, a task easier said than done due to their pervasiveness. One way to kick the habit is to capture the narrative of your next presentation with the voice record function on your smart phone, then play it back post mortem and listen to your own speaking pattern. (You're in for a surprise in more ways than one.) You will have to repeat this process several times before you start correcting yourself, but do it you must. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

On Guns

My Facebook news feed inevitably contains several gun-rights pictures and other such posts. Most of them are something along the lines of "more guns means less crime," or "taking innocent people's guns doesn't make innocent people safe."

Now don't get me wrong: I too am a Second-Amendment-er. But often we fail to recognize the fallacy in some of our gun-propaganda. Yes, gun's don't kill people, and people who want to kill people will find a way to kill people if there are no guns. But the unfortunate truth is, that fewer guns does mean less crime. Yes, we understand that guns don't cause crime, and that taking away guns won't absolutely solve our crime.
But think about it. Take 300 million depraved sinners and give them the 2nd Amendment and it's gonna get nasty real fast. Take away all the guns, and you eliminate the portion (significantly sized portion) of murders and crime that involve, or relate to guns.
Brittain has very strict gun laws and they have a minuscule number of gun-murders per year than does the US. Yes, they have plenty of murders involving other weapons, just like we do. But they have all but staunched the gun-murders. They have reduced their crime.

So yes. In the horribly depraved state our country is in, guns amplify the problem. They are very dangerous tools. But while taking away the guns would dampen the problem, it also opens the door to a much, much more frightening possibility. Tyranny.
Because the 2nd Amendment isn't about duck hunting. The 2nd Amendment isn't even about every day self-defense, ya'll. The 2nd Amendment is our safety, in the case we experience something like Germany did under Hitler, and are unable to fight back or defend our selves. Against our own military.

That means the 2nd Amendment, if taken seriously, should guarantee us the right to purchase assault rifles. Yep. Assault rifles. I'm not going up against marines with just a handgun and a 22 rifle. We get whatever they get.

That's what the 2nd Amendment is for, folks. It might be a nasty, dangerous country to live in with all those guns runnin around. But I can deal with that if I've got one of my own. And I'd rather deal with that than be helpless against a tyrant.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A way you've probably never thought about Twilight.

By Roger Ebert

If you’re a vampire, it’s all about you. Why is Edward Cullen obsessed to the point of erotomania by Bella Swan? Because she smells so yummy, but he doesn’t want to kill her. Here’s what he tells her: He must not be around her. He might sink his fangs in just a little, and not be able to stop. She finds this overwhelmingly attractive. She tells him he is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen. I don’t remember Edward ever saying that to her. Maybe once. He keeps on saying they should stay far, far apart, because he craves her so much.

Should a woman fall in love with a man because he desires her so much? Men seem to think so. It's not about the woman, it's about the man's desire. We all know there is no such thing as a vampire. Come on now, what is "Twilight" really about? It's about a teenage boy trying to practice abstinence, and how, in the heat of the moment, it's really, really hard. And about a girl who wants to go all the way with him, and doesn't care what might happen. He's so beautiful she would do anything for him. She is the embodiment of the sentiment, "I'd die for you." She is, like many adolescents, a thanatophile.

If there were no vampires in "Twilight," it would be a thin-blooded teenage romance, about two good-looking kids who want each other so much because they want each other so much. Sometimes that's all it's about, isn't it? They're in love with being in love. In "Twilight," however, they have a seductive disagreement about whether he should kill her. She's like, I don't especially want to die, but if that's what it takes, count me in. She is touched by his devotion. Think what a sacrifice he is making on her behalf. On Prom Night, on the stage of the not especially private gazebo in the public gardens, he teeters right on the brink of a fang job, and then brings all of her trembling to a dead stand-still.

The movie is lush and beautiful, and the actors are well-chosen. You may recall Robert Pattinson (Edward) as Cedric Diggory, who on Voldemort's orders was murdered in a graveyard in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Maybe he was already a vampire. Pattinson is not unaware of how handsome he is. When Bella and Edward, still strangers, exchange stern and burning looks in the school cafeteria, he transfixes her with a dark and glowering - nay, penetrating - stare. I checked Pattinson out on Google Images and found he almost always glowers at the camera 'neath shadowed brow. Kristen Stewart's Bella, on the other hand, is a fresh-faced innocent who is totally undefended against his voltage.
Bella has left her mom and stepdad in hot Arizona, clutching a potted cactus, to come live in the clammy, rainy Pacific Northwest, home of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Her dad (Billy Burke) is the chief of police of the very small town of Forks, Washington (pop. 3,120). His greatest asset: "He doesn't hover." At high school, she quickly notices the preternaturally pale Cullen clan, who in some shots seem to be wearing as much Max Factor Pancake White asHarry Langdon. Edward is 114 years old. He must be really tired of taking biology class. Darwin came in during his watch, and proved vampires can't exist.

There are other strange youths around, including American Indians who appear not too distantly descended from their tribe's ancestors, wolves. Great tension between the wolves and vampires. Also some rival vampires around. How small is this town? The Forks high school is so big, it must serve a consolidated district serving the whole table setting. The main local Normal Kid is a nice sandy-haired boy who asks Bella to the prom. He's out of his depth here, unless he can transmogrify into a grizzly. Also there are four grey-bearded coots at the next table in the local diner, who eavesdrop and exchange significant glances and get big, significant close-ups but are still just sitting significantly nodding, for all I know.

Edward has the ability to move as swiftly as Superman. Like him he can stop a runaway pickup with one arm. He rescues Bella twice that I remember, maybe because he truly loves her, maybe because he's saving her for later. She has questions. "How did you appear out of nowhere and stop that truck?" Well might she ask. When he finally explains that he is a vampire, he goes up from 8 to 10 on her Erotometer. Why do girls always prefer the distant, aloof, handsome, dangerous dudes instead of cheerful chaps like me?

"Twilight" will mesmerize its target audience, 16-year-old girls and their grandmothers. Their mothers know all too much about boys like this. I saw it at a sneak preview. Last time I saw a movie in that same theater, the audience welcomed it as an opportunity to catch up on gossip, texting, and laughing at private jokes. This time the audience was rapt with attention. Sometimes a soft chuckle, as when the principal Indian boy has well-developed incisors. Sometimes a soft sigh. Afterwards, I eavesdropped on some conversations. A few were saying, "He's so hot!" More floated in a sweet dreaminess. Edward seemed to stir their surrender instincts.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On the 2nd Amendment

Guys, I'm all about gun rights, and I understand the dangerous implications when governments start slowly taking away people's guns (Hitler and Austria, par example). I agree with the logic that says if one bad man in a movie theater with a gun tries to start shooting people, then three good men with guns in the same movie theater is a quicker and more effective way to save innocent lives than waiting for the police while the bad man kills 10 more people.

But the second amendment is not about you having the right to strap your 44. on your leg and walk down the street (though, if read literally, I suppose it does provide for that). It's about the necessity for a free state to have a (well regulated) militia. The second amendment isn't about personal weapons. It's about the freedom of a state and that it's necessary to have a well-armed militia in order to have a free state.

If you want to take the 2nd Amendment seriously, forget your handguns and hunting rifles. That amendment more closely advocates an M4 over the fire place in every household than it does Joe Blow carryin his revolver into town.

Put a government provided assault rifle in every home, and THEN maybe you can think about cutting a little military funding. Who wants to invade a land full of Americans packin M4s? And more practically speaking, who wants to rob a house where Daddy might come bustin outta the bedroom at any minute with an assault rifle?

So yes - the second amendment plainly says: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." And that means you have the right to own guns and carry them. But you have to understand why you have that right. And it's not just to be 'Murican and shoot things. It's so that if your free state is in danger, you have the right and privilege to take up arms and defend her.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Have you every thought about how much stuff you know? How much stuff you remember? We start learning as soon as we pop outta the womb and it never stops. Your brain is like a never satiated hungry monster: it just eats and eats and eats - stakes, pizza, green peas, carrots, that exotic Hawaiian dish - and never stops. And it keeps everything. Sure some stuff spills over the side if you're not careful and you might loose some crumbs of that delicious cupcake. But it takes it all in. You learn grammar, history, memorize numbers, authors and how to spell words. You take at least 2 years leaning a language in highschool, but does that mean your language capacity is filled at two languages? Nope. You learned Spanish in highschool? You could go to college and learn German if you wanted to. You don't have to erase some of the phone numbers you've memorized from your memory in order to have room for the table of elements. You can handle that too. Want to memorize the entire book of Romans? Heck, bring it on. And you can even keep Foot Prints on the Sand and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and that Emily Dickinson poem you learned in 10th grade lit. Oh, and all those songs you listen to on the radio? Sure, we got room for that. Lyrics, music, poems, you name it. Pile 'em all in. 

And don't worry. No matter what else you shove into me I can take it. And on top of that, you'll always remember that 2 + 2 = 4. Heck you'll even remember that 8 x 8 = 64, 5 x 12 = 60 and the square root of 144 is 12. You'll never forget that Hitler was a bad German and started WW2, the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, Isaac Newton discovered gravity, we beat the British at Yorktown, "Four score and seven years ago", and that 8 planets orbit our sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. (Sorry, Pluto.)

Eat it up. It's good for you. Don't worry. You're not just an 8 gig brain. You're not even just a 64 gig brain. It's limitless.

It won't stop till you stop, so why stop?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shut up, it's a sunset.

It's been a wonderful summer afternoon, it's getting dark, you step out on your back porch and BAM: sunset. For some reason we just shut up. We stand still and we just stare at it for a little while...

A scientific definition of a sunset could be: nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and argon with electromagnetic radiation filtering through at a near right angle.

Woopie. There's nothing really scientifically phenomenal about sunsets. It has to be a uniquely human thing to be mesmerized by a sunset, an innate, biological, perhaps even emotional/spiritual response to.


The day is over and it's time for things to wind down. Yet just at the close of day, just as the sun disappears over the edge of earth, he bids us goodnight with a fiery farewell. Just as the cool blue sky of day grows dreary and gray with the leaving sun, it comes alive again on the horizon, glowing with a peaceful, relaxing pink, or a warm, comforting red.

And it takes our breath away.
I guess it's because it's beautiful. What do you think?

And no, that's not a rhetorical question. There is a comment box.