For an Alternate Perspective

Cirsova explains why “Fantastic Beasts” disappointed him.

Minor spoilers in the following paragraphs. They probably won’t ruin the film for you, but there’s a warning in case you’re a stickler for that sort of thing:

The comments section is interesting if you like that sort of nerdy discussion (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably do). I think he’s correct that our biggest point of disagreement is probably that I don’t have a problem with Newt as the protagonist, and he’d prefer it to be Jacob. I also disagree that Newt didn’t change; he makes a move on Tina at the end of the film, when earlier he’s looking for excuses to escape her apartment. It was – and I don’t really know how else to say this, though it minimizes somewhat what I thought was a really good scene – a cute moment that was very much in character for both of them. They’re not “Big Damn Kiss” types.

That said, it’s possible that Newt can turn into that type of character at one point, but we’re in movie one. You can, I suppose, make an argument that the scene is weakened somewhat because of this, but I thought it was great.

It turns out that we probably agree more than we disagree, anyway. The myth arc sections were the weakest parts, though I remain hopeful they’ll bear fruit later on. Tina was great. The romances clicked well together. The trial scene was a bit Kafka-esque.

Cirsova’s criticisms are intelligent, and certainly worth reading.

Check it out!

CASTALIA Full Review: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

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From left to right: Tina, Newt, Queenie, and Jacob

(My quick review is here.)

I have a love-hate thing going on with J.K. Rowling.

On one hand, her personal and political opinions are obnoxious, nasty, contemptible, and make it very, very clear that she hates and despises people who think like me. And that’s not even to TOUCH the “Dumbledore is gay” controversy.

ON THE OTHER HAND – Her books are so whimsically entertaining, with such excellent characters and an engaging world, that even when I leave for awhile I find myself getting drawn back in almost in spite of myself.

I haven’t read much of “The Cursed Child”, but from what I have read, and what I know from the plot, I am deeply unimpressed; it is obvious that Rowling was not the writer.

Rowling has been criticized by some for going “Lucas” on us, that is, partially ruining what we loved by adding unnecessary backstory and removing some of the wonder. Honestly, I don’t agree. “Going Lucas” is something that does happen, but it happens because of the George Lucas’s of the world – that is, good idea people but mediocre writers. Continue reading

Two for One Review: “Ready Player One” and “Armada”

ready_player_one_coverI think there comes a time in everyone’s life when they start to remember the first decade of their life fondly. For a good ten or fifteen years, I remembered the 1980s as mostly a tacky of time overly synthesized music, big hair, gaudy colors, and acid washed jeans. The 1990s were where it was at, with all that grunge and acoustic alternative music. And then all of a sudden, in the mid 2000s, it was like someone flipped a switch in my head and I was humming along to “Africa” unironically.

You know what I remember fondly, now that I’m an old man? The 1980s. (I’ve mentioned it from time to time.) Do you know what Ernest Cline also remembers fondly? The 1980s. Coincidentally, do you know what South Park has made mildly critical of lately? Unthinking nostalgia.

Well. Unthinking is probably harsh. But maybe only just.

Continue reading

Two Kindle Countdown offers on Superversive Press titles!


You can currently pick up the dystopian science fiction novella The Product by Marina Fontaine in a Kindle Count down sale, proceeds from which go to feed the author as well as help keep Superversive SF alive! The Product is a story that Dragon Award winning author of CTRL ALT Revolt! Nick Cole, said ““Fontaine expertly paints a loveless future where what’s human and what’s real is dangerous and highly illegal. Taut, passionate and compelling, this vignette of a dark future reminds us that we are still human, no matter what laws are passed. A fearless warning for these fear-filled times.”, get it now before the sale is over!

Sci Phi Journal stories and article is available on a Kindle countdown sale as well. Proceeds feed authors and help keep the lights on too as well as giving you a good Sci Phi fix.

Iron Sunday

As this is the first Sunday of Advent, I will be posting the short first part of what will (hopefully :-) ) be a five-part poem, each part themed according to the Czech (Bohemian) folk names for the four Sundays of Advent, Iron Sunday, Bronze Sunday, Silver Sunday and Gold Sunday, followed up by one on Christmas Day itself, which this year also falls on a Sunday (in the American/British tradition anyway, over here the evening of the 24th is the time for the Christmas feast and exchanging of presents. Since, being a British and Czech family, we celebrate both, I think I can get away with making the most of this conjunction of dates)

Iron Sunday

Nations crushed by iron wheels,
With gladii and oblong shields,
As far as human eyes can see
Reigns Caesar unopposed, supreme.

He sees himself as a great god
To rule all with an iron rod.
“My empire has been built to last
My might will never be surpassed.”

But soon That Day will come.

Quick Thoughts: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

- That was a ridiculously fun movie

– The characters and performances were all wonderful

– That said, sections of it were surprisingly dark and violent

– When the movie followed the adventures of our protagonists, Newt, Jacob, Tina, and Queenie, it was wonderful. When it switched to other POV’s (as it did occasionally) I found myself marking time

– Everybody talks about how this is a great foundational franchise builder, but I just don’t see it. There is no reason in the sequel that ANY of the main characters in this movie ever need to show up again. They’re entirely superfluous in regards to the wider plot

– I really, really hope we get to spend time with these characters again. It took me a bit to warm up but by mid-movie or so I loved them every bit as much as I ever did the original power trio of the HP series

– The reveal at the end really is nicely executed and admittedly rather exciting

– The way the movie handled the magical creatures was, perhaps unsurprisingly, superb and a ridiculous amount of fun.

So this movie or “Dr. Strange”? Good question. With a gun to my head I’d say that “Dr. Strange” was probably objectively better, but “Fantastic Beasts” is so much fun that it’s the one I’d be more likely to rewatch in the future. Flaws aside, I HIGHLY recommend it. HP fans especially will love it.

Review: The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, by L. Jagi Lamplighter

rachel-griffinI don’t hate fantasy novels, I just generally prefer science fiction. I have my tastes, y’know? We all do. Mine usually run to things with spaceships and antimatter torpedoes and Ominous Dark Things from Beyond the Stars, but every now and then, it’s good to branch out. Get a change of pace. Get some elves in play instead of space elves. I’ll enjoy anything that’s done well enough– I enjoyed the Harry Potter films, for instance. Haven’t read the books, but the movies were enough fun that I jumped on a decently priced blu-ray set before the last two came out.

That having been said, YA fantasy isn’t usually my thing. Sure, there are exceptions. A Wrinkle in Time. Narnia. You know, the classics. And I’m willing to give most things a shot once in a while, particularly when the things are either A), free, or B), written by a friend of mine. And I suppose I might as well get the disclaimer out of the way: I was given an audiobook of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin for review purposes by the author, L Jagi. Lamplighter, who is both a friend of mine and a colleague at SuperversiveSF.

Now that we got that out of the way, on to the review.

Continue reading

Miyazaki Returns

From the Anime News Network:

In the NHK television specialOwaranai Hito Miyazaki Hayao (The Man Who Is Not Done: Hayao Miyazaki) on Sunday, acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki reported that he wants to return to making an anime feature film, after retiring from directing feature films three years ago. He has been working on “Kemushi no Boro” (Boro the Caterpillar), a planned CG short for the Ghibli Museum.

However, the special revealed that Miyazaki was not satisfied with the CG project as a short, and he presented a project proposal for a feature-length film this past August. He also noted that if a feature would take him five years to make, he would be 80 years old at the end. In the schedule listed in his proposal, Miyazaki suggested that the film could be done by 2019, before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki commented that Miyazaki will draw storyboards until he dies, and another staffer dryly noted that this would make the movie a huge hit.

Despite not officially receiving a green-light for the feature film, Miyazaki decided to start animation work on the project anyway. He plans on creating storyboards for about 100 cuts of footage.

Pfffffft, not “officially receiving a green-light”. Yeah, okay. Go on, be the guy who tells Hayao Miyazaki “no”. Come on, I dare you.

I’ve only ever seen one Miyazaki film, “Spirited Away”. It was absolutely amazing. Quite apart from the rest of his large and legendary body of work I’m more than excited to see another Miyazaki film on the basis of that one alone.

So I’m psyched!

CLFA November Booknado!

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is running it’s Novermber Booknado, featuring two recent releases that I edited, plus another one by fellow Superversive Literary Movement founder L. Jagi Lamplighter. Check them out if you’re in the mood for a refreshing read:

 

The November CLFA Booknado churns across a darkened literary landscape, demolishing tired, old, ideologically Progressive pap and blasting fresh fiction choices all across the land! Pick up one of our featured titles today and join the movement.

Click on the book image to learn more and shop!

(Titles are considered new releases and/or sold at featured promotional price points as of November 14 and 15, 2016.)

NEW RELEASES

Keeping the Faith (Book Two of the John Fisher Chronicles) by William Lehman
It was suposed to be an easy case, a good way to “get back on the horse” and because it looked like a ‘Thrope case, it was right up Detective Fisher’s alley. Of course, nothing is ever easy when Fisher is involved, and when they found the murdered Marine, it all went south…

Blood of Invidia (Maestru Series Book 1) by Tom Tinney and  Morgen Batten
Aliens, Vampires, and Werewolves…Oh, My!
These are not cute, candy-eating aliens or sparkly tween vampires. It’s time for you to run (and your little dog too)!

In the Lamplight: The Fantastic Worlds of L. Jagi Lamplighter by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Sixteen tales of wit and wonder, of mischief and magic, where simple folk and extraordinary individuals wrestle down their own fears to find the courage, cleverness and, occasionally, faith to face life’s dangers and enchantments. Come! Enjoy the wonder!

Renegades: Out of Time (The Renegades Book 3) by Kal Spriggs
Can a group of explorers, pirates, and mercenaries find out the secrets of an ancient alien facility before time runs out?

The Secret Citizen (Freedom/Hate Series, Book 3) by Kyle Andrews
Question the lies. Suffer the consequences.

Betrayals: A Jack Del Rio Thriller by Richard Paolinelli
Star FBI agent Jack Del Rio is back, and he’s the only man in America who can stop the string of assassinations and conspiracies that threatens to topple the entire government and bring the United States under the thumb of evil dictatorship.

The Product by Marina Fontaine
Would you risk your life to come awake? (Novella)

Murphy’s Law of Vampires (Love at First Bite Book 2) by Declan Finn
Murphy’s Law dictates that when you’re ready for vampires …. you have to face a demon.

Some Other Shore by Dwight R. Decker
A collection of six lighthearted romps exploring the outer fringes of history and science, with mermaids (two different kinds), human curiosities, and even a dead king who never existed.

Sci Phi Journal, Q1 2016: The Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy by multiple authors
Stories, articles and reviews to keep you entertained and questioning.

A Different Heroism (Father Jay Book 3) by Jane Lebak
A disabled priest and his brother, an agnostic cop, find themselves working together to save the son of a murdered police officer from two rival gangs.

FREE (limited time promotion)

By The Hands of Men, Book One: The Old World by Roy M. Griff
English Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald fights for his soul. Refugee nurse Charlotte Braninov fights for her very survival. The star-crossed lovers meet less than a mile from the front lines in WWI before forging their destiny in a world shattered by war, greed, and the lust for power. First book of the acclaimed and beloved historical fiction series.

Roundtable Live Chat This Saturday!

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This Saturday, November 19th, the SuperversiveSF blog will be hosting its monthly roundtable live chat.

 

 

 

In keeping with the season, this month’s topic is all about gratitude. Gratitude in fiction, characters, and day to day life.

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Come join us live! 3pm EST, Saturday the 19th,

Links to the live chat will be posted on the blog.

Everything is Problematic

From a review of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” in The Guardian. At the end of the review:

Katherine Waterston is great as Tina and perhaps gives the Rowling universe what it never quite had until now: a really strong young female lead who could tackle the bad guys on equal terms with the man – as well as having the chops for romance.

“Tell me what I’m missing here,” said Hermione.

A Day-After-Halloween Special.*

p29345_p_v8_aa*Yes, I know it’s All Saint’s Day, but then talking about horror doesn’t make all that much sense.**

**This was originally published 11/1/16 at castaliahouse.com.

I didn’t grow up watching horror movies, unless by “horror” you mean things like Frankenstein and The Wolf Man, and I don’t, particularly. As an Eighties kid, I had a pretty clear idea of what horror was just by walking down the aisle of the local video rental: Nightmare on Elm Street. Friday the 13th. Hellraiser. Movies mom and dad never rented.

Of course, kids get older and can eventually rent movies themselves, and so eventually you wind up seeing those movies your parents would never let you watch. Most of them didn’t appeal to me; I have the same complaint about Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th that I have with Saw: It’s not scary, it’s just violent and a tad gross. Then in the early 2000s comes a movie none of my friends knew anything about, except that it was marketed with this weird video that explained nothing about it at all. That movie did what every other movie I’d seen so far failed to do: it left an impression. When I got home from the theater, I was really strangely hesitant to turn my back to the TV for a few days.

The Ring scared me, and it made me love being scared. (Links to a normal trailer, sadly.) Continue reading

CASTALIA: How Netflix’s “Daredevil” can pull off “Born Again”

Full disclaimer: I LOVE “Daredevil: Born Again”, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Not like. Love. I make a point to pick it up and re-read it a few times a year, and it is one of the very few books I read – and I mean I can count them on one hand – that actually manages to give me chills.

The full list: “Awake in the Night Land”, “The Lord of the Rings” (the arrival of the Riders of Rohan at the battle of Pelennor Fields is the high point of fantasy literature), “The Last Battle”, the video game “To the Moon” (yes, really), and…”Daredevil: Born Again”. It’s that good. It holds up that well. Issue 231, the climax of the comic, is quite simply one of the greatest, most perfectly executed issues of a comic of all time. I mean look at this image by Mazzuchelli. Just take it in, without any context behind it. Look at the emotion Mazzuchelli manages to pack into this one image.

Image result for Daredevil Born Again

One of the greatest panels in comic book history. Forget “The Dark Knight Returns”. Forget “Batman: Year One”. “Daredevil: Born Again” will always be Frank Miller’s masterpiece. Continue reading

Quick Review: “Dr. Strange”

Absolutely awesome movie. The best Marvel origin movie since “Iron Man” except arguably “Guardians of the Galaxy”, which feels like the redheaded step child of the MCU anyway.

I saw it in IMAX 3D, and the special effects were INCREDIBLE, probably the greatest of all time. I mean better than even the reviews made them look. Just ridiculously amazing.

The dialogue was a little forced at times (the humor fell somewhat flat, with some exceptions), but as far as ideas and plot and philosophy it was fantastic bordering on brilliant. The differences between Strange, Mordo, and Kaecilius, and how Strange’s natural skepticism is what made him the only one ready to take on the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, are worth a whole article by themselves (possibly one I’ll write one day).

The biggest flaw of the film, besides the occasionally sketchy dialogue (though, to be clear, overall it was perfectly fine), was actually the character of Strange. Not Cumberbatch’s performance, mind you, which was terrific, but the writing. Not at any point in the movie was I convinced that Strange was anything less than an arrogant jerk. Tony Stark’s Iron Man – the character Strange was most similar too – was played with more charm and sincerity than Strange; when he had his dramatic change of heart, I believed it.

Strange honestly didn’t really get an opportunity to prove that he had redeemed himself. Yes, he saved the world but as Star Lord pointed out in “Guardians of the Galaxy”, he’s one of the idiots who lives on it. And he didn’t have Stark’s charm; he was a jerk from start to finish. Again, this isn’t Cumberbatch’s fault; it’s just how the character was written. And honestly his performance was great enough in itself that it hardly mattered anyway.

This film was amazing for a whole bunch of reasons and gets my highest recommendation, especially if you get the opportunity to see it in IMAX. Now THAT’S an experience.

The Fear of Silence

How often do you enjoy silence? True silence, not only in the atmosphere around you, but in your mind as well. Do you appreciate silence, or do you find it a burden? Unless we seek it out, is there ever a time when we are not surrounded by distractions and noise?

The past century has brought many advances in technology and changes to the people’s daily lives. From radios, to television and Hollywood, and the internet, the world is far from where it once was. Even in my rather short lifetime, things have changed a lot. I remember before social media was so present in our daily lives, when cell phone were almost exclusively for making calls, back before people started documenting their lives on their devices. And yet now, practically everyone has their phone always with them. Hand held computers make distractions so very easy. So much entertainment and temptation at the touch of a button, anywhere, at any time. The perfect excuse to avoid real-life social interaction.

Why do people become so attached to the internet? To car radios? To social media? To the endless noise and things constantly going on around them? Because the noise is easy. If they are always moving from one thing to another, they don’t have the time to look closely at themselves. The noise keeps them distracted from the thoughts and questions deep inside them. Distracted from the feeling that something is not quite right, but you don’t know what the thing is or why it bugs you. Instead you pretend it’s not there, and use noise to drown it out.

It’s not only our entertainment and gadgets that keep us perpetually busy. Everyone has school and work and activities to go to. School, for example, seems to completely take over the lives of the youth. Certainly, it is important to be educated and able to read, write, calculate numbers, and other basic things to function in our society. But does it need to be at the point where they are at school all day, doing homework all night, stressing about assignments due, and left with no time to themselves? And even when they do have free time, they are so exhausted all they can do is rest and recharge. All their critical thinking is used up memorizing the material to repeat back on the test.

Couple that with the social pressures they are subject to in school and from peers, and the media in general, how do you expect the youth today to be able to think and really know who they are by the time they are an adult?

For me, especially in my younger years, it was rather easy. Mom never allowed us to sit in front of a screen or watch TV for very long. And being homeschooled, I didn’t have the hassle and stress from the school environment. So the majority of my childhood was spent playing games with my brothers and friends, or off exploring and doing my own thing.

Then we moved to a small farm when I was ten, and not long after I got my first laptop to write on. In the years following I certainly knew, and sometimes fell into, the temptation of wasting my time on the internet – of letting the “noise” go on and on. But what made the difference for me, was that I had animals to feed. Every day I would have to go outside and tend to my animals. This can take from twenty minutes to an hour or more, depending on the season. Occasionally I would listen to music while I worked, sometimes I’d sing to myself, but mostly it was just me and my animals.

I never really realized it until now, but that was my time for silence. It was my time just to be with myself, away from the noise. I believe it is what has kept me sane – as sane as a writer can be – and secure in myself and who I am and what I think.

Growing up in such a way allowed me to spend a lot of time with myself, and thus get to know myself very well. I am in no way perfect, but I understand my strengths and my weaknesses, I know what I am and what I am not. And when you understand that about yourself, it makes it much harder for people to tear you down.

Now let me compare that to the time that I call “my crash course in everything high school.” This happened two summers ago when one of my brothers, my good friend, and I attended a college workshop for high school kids. It was simple: two days of classes, one day was a fun field trip, and on the last day we all took a test. The students that did the best, got awarded a scholarships, and we all went home. This was the closest I’ve come to a public school environment, and it had all your typical high school stuff: the bus ride, the obnoxious kids, the ‘boy’, the girl drama, the sitting in classes, and the stress before taking a test. Like I said, crash course in high school. It about ran me into the ground.

The main thing I noticed, was how out of myself I became. There were so many people around, all the time. If you’ve ever meet me, you will know how much of a social butterfly I am and how much I enjoy being around and talking to people. However, usually the social butterfly side of me is balanced by my anti-social author side. But in this case, I didn’t have that balance. I didn’t have the time or space just to chill out and be completely by myself without distractions for a very long time. I was either in my dorm with my friend, or in class with a bunch of other people, or doing activities with other people. There never seemed to be a time that I wasn’t surrounded by other people.

But allow me to explain what this constant stimulation did to me.

I was overly-hyper, jittery, constantly talking, over stimulated, and as a whole, unbalanced. I had too much energy always focusing outward, and never enough time to bring the energy back inward. After that whole experience, it wasn’t until a couple days after I got home that I felt like myself again. I was just so wound up from all that social interaction – from all the noise – that I never had a chance to unwind. And so I became tighter and tighter wound and further and further away from myself.

See, I never understood that concept I had often heard preached at teens to “find yourself” or “be who you really are.” I just didn’t get why that was such a ‘thing’ that teens needed to do. But after that week, I finally understood. Because I had already known how to be myself, I had spent so much time by myself and out of the noise that I couldn’t be anything but myself. Yet now, seeing what that buzz and noise did to me after only a couple days, I can only imagine what it would do to me if I had spent my whole childhood in that. I’d be a totally different person. I wouldn’t have the space or freedom from the noise to be comfortable and grow in myself. It would be terrible.

 

In C. S. Lewis’ work the Screwtape Letters, there is an ongoing conversation between a demon named Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood. Uncle Screwtape is encouraging and reprimanding his nephews’ work on tricking a human into eternal damnation. Allow me to quote uncle Screwtape’s comment about silence, .

 

And now for your blunders. On your own showing you first of all allowed the patient to read a book he really enjoyed, because he enjoyed it and not in order to make clever remarks about it to his new friends. In the second place, you allowed him to walk down to the old mill and have tea there—a walk through country he really likes, and taken alone. In other words you allowed him two real positive Pleasures. Were you so ignorant as not to see the danger of this? The characteristic of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. Thus if you had been trying to damn your man by the Romantic method—by making him a kind of Childe Harold or Werther submerged in self-pity for imaginary distresses—you would try to protect him at all costs from any real pain; because, of course, five minutes’ genuine toothache would reveal the romantic sorrows for the nonsense they were and unmask your whole strategem. But you were trying to damn your patient by the World that is by palming off vanity, bustle, irony, and expensive tedium as pleasures. How can you have failed to see that a real pleasure was the last thing you ought to have let him meet? Didn’t you foresee that it would just kill by contrast all the trumpery which you have been so laboriously teaching him to value? And that the sort of pleasure which the book and the walk gave him was the most dangerous of all? That it would peel off from his sensibility the kind of crust you have been forming on it, and make him feel that he was coming home, recovering himself? As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from himself, and had made some progress in doing so. Now, all that is undone.

C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters

 

Uncle Screwtape is criticizing his nephew because he allowed his patient to enjoy silence. Wormwood allowed his human to find the peace in the silence, to relax and see the world around him. He allowed his patient to enjoy something good for it’s own sake. This is very dangerous to them, because it dispels the noise and self-centeredness.

Think about going to the top of a mountain. Imagine standing on a wooden balcony overlooking an entire valley. The tops of the mountain lost in low clouds, the variety of shades of trees covering the mountain face like an impressionist’s painting, the startling drop below you as you lean over the edge, looking into the life and layout of an entire town. Are not you in awe of such a sight? Is not your heart stirred? Is not your mind caught up in the grandness and majesty? Does it not make you feel so much smaller in comparison? But not even in a insignificant way, for it does not diminish you, but lifts you. It brings you to see the wonder and majesty of God’s creation, it brings you out of yourself; so you can see that even though you are not any less valued or significant, you are only one small part of this universe. It makes our problems seem so much smaller in comparison, and you see and feel the almighty power of God.

Basically, it brings you into perspective.  But this perspective cannot be achieved when caved in on ourselves and surrounded by noise that encourages us to stay that way.

As it says in the letter, when you are opened up to real Pleasure and Pain, the illusions we build around ourselves disappear. Many people get caught up in small dramas; like what their favorite celebrity is doing, their status on social media, and other things of that nature. In small doses those things aren’t that dangerous. But it becomes a slippery slope when those little dramas totally take over our minds and, we become obsessed with it.

When that happens, it becomes such a big part of people’s thoughts that if something undesirable happens it is the worst ever! However, if something truly bad happens – like a death, illness, or misfortune – it brings things into perspective, shatters the illusion, and leaves you much more sober.

And same thing with real pleasure. You wouldn’t be talking about it just to fit in. You’d truly be filled with joy and constantly be sharing and talking about it for it’s own sake. Because it is good in itself.

The characteristic of sin and the noise is to cave you in on yourself. When you focus on the little drama that seems like such a big deal, your focus becomes self-centered. And when you only look at yourself you miss the bigger picture and the needs of others. Exactly what the enemy wants you to do.

In the little dramas you look in at yourself in a superficial way: What I want, how I look, how much popularity do I have, what pleases me. These kinds of questions happen when there’s an event or trend going on.

Yet when you look deeper the questions are: who am I? Where did I come from? Why do I exist? What is my purpose? Now those kinds of questions come when you have a near death experience, a life changing event, or when you are in silence. Because those questions or always there somewhere in the back of our minds, it is when we are out of the noise that we can hear them best.

When those questions arise, some think of it as an existential crisis. And when you don’t have the answers, which most don’t, it can be quite scary to have these nagging thoughts deep inside you, the ones that challenge and call you. But if instead of facing these questions you seek to drown them out, you are taking the easy way. It is less painful to slip into passiveness and mindless pleasure than to seek out the the answers and pursue truth. And so, to be in silence is to look at yourself, but also look past yourself, to the one who made you.

This is what comes in real silence. And this is what people fear.

But no, we can’t take a hard look at ourselves, we must stay caught up in our daily stress, we must be constantly making things easier and more instant, we must forever be talking about the drama of others, we must be outraged at every new story the media pushes at us. Because if not, we might stop to think and tune out the noise. We might realize that the world and its problems are much bigger than our petty dramas. After all, in the end all is vanity.

Coming back to my point about silence in nature, here is a passage from Brave New World, in which they are explaining how they get people to go into the country, without actually wanting to see the country.

One of the students held up his hand; and though he could see quite well why you couldn’t have lower-cast people wasting the Community’s time over books, and that there was always the risk of their reading something which might undesirably decondition one of their reflexes, yet … well, he couldn’t understand about the flowers. Why go to the trouble of making it psychologically impossible for Deltas to like flowers?

Patiently the D.H.C. explained. If the children were made to scream at the sight of a rose, that was on grounds of high economic policy. Not so very long ago (a century or thereabouts), Gammas, Deltas, even Epsilons, had been conditioned to like flowers-flowers in particular and wild nature in general. The idea was to make them want to be going out into the country at every available opportunity, and so compel them to consume transport.

“And didn’t they consume transport?” asked the student.

“Quite a lot,” the D.H.C. replied. “But nothing else.”

Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes; to abolish the love of nature, but not the tendency to consume transport. For of course it was essential that they should keep on going to the country, even though they hated it. The problem was to find an economically sounder reason for consuming transport than a mere affection for primroses and landscapes. It was duly found.

“We condition the masses to hate the country,” concluded the Director. “But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks.”

“I see,” said the student, and was silent, lost in admiration.

 

Aldous Huxley Brave New World

And again you see it is an “I”. I want to go play golf because it is a sport I enjoy. Nothing wrong with that. But as you seen in the conditioning, that is the only reason they go into nature. The people of Brave New World would never dream of going into a field of flowers and enjoying it simply because it’s beautiful. Admiring true beauty for the sake of beauty and wishing to be silent in it is a danger to a stable society.You might get people thinking!

In our world today, we are surrounded by beeping buttons and flashing light. Our attention is being pulled a hundred ways at once. There is almost no way to get away from all that noise. And because in the noise it is so hard to get to the deeper core, it is all just static. Because of that, it is easiest to just go with with is the loudest signal, and what is loudest is usually from the people with the most power. And there’s always an agenda behind that.

For people with a lot of power and something to push, the noise works very well for them. They can easily manufacture noise, they can stir up riots, they can control the media, and whatever else to get emotions of people running out of control. Because if they get people to stop checking their gut reactions and think through things, they can swings those reactions the way the want.Thus adding to the noise. Then while everyone is distracted, they can push their agenda.

Although there are plenty of corrupt people willing to take advantage of this and manipulate events, they can only really control what is in their lifetime, which is relatively short. No human can guide the events over generations. One could try but it would be imperfect, since this job would have to be passed from person to person. But if there were someone immortal being that had a grudge against all things good and holy…..

If you look back on the last century, there are some disturbing trends. There are things that have fallen in line in the past decades that would have had to be set in motion many generations ago. To think that the corruption in our society today was conducted only by human hands would be wishful thinking. For although there are human powers that have played a role, I have no doubt something more sinister is leading this march of distraction.

Now allow me to conclude with another excerpt from Brave New World. It is a scene with two characters going on a date. I believe it does an excellent job illustrating the person desiring something beyond himself, and the person who is far too complacent and happy in her conditioning, who fears the silence because it is something she can never understand.

 

Pretty harmless, perhaps; but also pretty disquieting. That mania, to start with, for doing things in private. Which meant, in practice, not doing anything at all. For what was there that one could do in private. (Apart, of course, from going to bed: but one couldn’t do that all the time.) Yes, what was there? Precious little. The first afternoon they went out together was particularly fine. Lenina had suggested a swim at Toquay Country Club followed by dinner at the Oxford Union. But Bernard thought there would be too much of a crowd. Then what about a round of Electro-magnetic Golf at St. Andrew’s? But again, no: Bernard considered that Electro-magnetic Golf was a waste of time.

“Then what’s time for?” asked Lenina in some astonishment.

Apparently, for going walks in the Lake District; for that was what he now proposed. Land on the top of Skiddaw and walk for a couple of hours in the heather. “Alone with you, Lenina.”

“But, Bernard, we shall be alone all night.”

Bernard blushed and looked away. “I meant, alone for talking,” he mumbled.

“Talking? But what about?” Walking and talking-that seemed a very odd way of spending an afternoon.

In the end she persuaded him, much against his will, to fly over to Amsterdam to see the Semi-Demi-Finals of the Women’s Heavyweight Wrestling Championship.

“In a crowd,” he grumbled. “As usual.” He remained obstinately gloomy the whole afternoon; wouldn’t talk to Lenina’s friends (of whom they met dozens in the ice-cream soma bar between the wrestling bouts); and in spite of his misery absolutely refused to take the half-gramme raspberry sundae which she pressed upon him. “I’d rather be myself,” he said. “Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.”

“A gramme in time saves nine,” said Lenina, producing a bright treasure of sleep-taught wisdom. Bernard pushed away the proffered glass impatiently.

“Now don’t lose your temper,” she said. “Remember one cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments.”

“Oh, for Ford’s sake, be quiet!” he shouted.

Lenina shrugged her shoulders. “A gramme is always better than a damn,” she concluded with dignity, and drank the sundae herself.

On their way back across the Channel, Bernard insisted on stopping his propeller and hovering on his helicopter screws within a hundred feet of the waves. The weather had taken a change for the worse; a south- westerly wind had sprung up, the sky was cloudy.

“Look,” he commanded.

“But it’s horrible,” said Lenina, shrinking back from the window. She was appalled by the rushing emptiness of the night, by the black foam-flecked water heaving beneath them, by the pale face of the moon, so haggard and distracted among the hastening clouds. “Let’s turn on the radio. Quick!” She reached for the dialling knob on the dash-board and turned it at random.

“… skies are blue inside of you,” sang sixteen tremoloing falsettos,

“the weather’s always …”

Then a hiccough and silence. Bernard had switched off the current.

“I want to look at the sea in peace,” he said. “One can’t even look with that beastly noise going on.”

“But it’s lovely. And I don’t want to look.”

“But I do,” he insisted. “It makes me feel as though …” he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, “as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?”

 

 

However, Lenina does not understand, and never will. She does not feel the pull of something beyond herself. Lenina is far too attached to her conditioning to understand the longing that Bernard feels.

Bernard wishes to do things in private, like to go on walks alone and just talk. He wants to sit in silence looking at the sea. He is looking for intimacy deeper than the constant activity and casual sex.

Lenina doesn’t understand this. And because she doesn’t understand the silence, it frightens her. It frightens her because the silence invites her to deeper thoughts and feelings, the kind she would rather take soma to forget about.

And so you see, there are many things to keep us from silence. There is always something fighting for our attentions – tempting us to take the easy way and go with the noise. And yet it is paramount that we seek out and acquaint ourselves with silence, not only for our mental health, but for our physical and emotional health as well. We need silence to properly think. That’s why people are so afraid of silence. Because it takes away the static. It takes away the convenience of following the loudest signal. It makes you question and have to listen for that whisper of truth.

People are afraid of silence because that is when the truth that is ingrained in all of us is the loudest. And truth is terrifying.

Review: “Daredevil: Underboss”

Image result for daredevil underbossBIG spoilers throughout, if that matters to you. Just so you’re aware.

After re-reading “Born Again” and reminding myself just how good a Daredevil story could really be, I’ve decided – with some misgivings – to seek out some more of the character from non-Miller writers. Specifically, I decided to take a look at Brian Michael Bendis’s run, which is almost as critically acclaimed as Miller’s. I started off with a story of his titled “Daredevil: Underboss”.

I’ll start it off bluntly: I’m just not a fan. “Daredevil: Underboss” was an odd read. First off, I’m REALLY not a fan of Alex Maleev’s art. Part of this is that I was recently spoiled by the near perfection of Mazzuchelli, but even so. I like dark and gritty as much as the next guy, but we’re a step beyond that here. I was sitting in a perfectly well lit place and still felt as if I had to squint to work out what was happening. And when it comes to expressing body language and facial expressions…well, Mazzuchelli was a master at it, so I may be being unfair here, but it’s not even close.

He’s having a rather bad day.

The comic produced a rather weird effect for me. By the time it ended, when I looked back over it I realized a good deal had actually occurred…but when I read it, I was just bored and impatient. The plot: The Kingpin is betrayed by a group of conspirators, among them his own son, who attempt to assassinate him. He survives, but goes into hiding. Meanwhile, a mysterious man has put out a hit on Matt Murdoch – not Daredevil, Murdoch. Matt believes it’s the Kingpin at first, but when he discovers otherwise it sets up a mystery: Who else knows Daredevil’s secret identity?

The story has a lot of potential. Were I writing it, it would be structured as a mystery, with Daredevil working through the criminal underworld, trying to piece together who could have figured out who he was. Perhaps he would enlist the help of reporter Ben Urich, whose investigative skills could be a highly useful asset.

But that’s not what we get. From Daredevil’s end we get several boring scenes of Daredevil going around, grabbing people by the collar, and shaking them. It doesn’t work, probably because it’s stupid. The more interesting story – told via flashbacks, which was a mistake and which interrupted the flow of the story several times – is about how the Kingpin is betrayed, and how his wife takes revenge. I say “more interesting”, but it’s only marginally so. There’s nothing clever going on here. A guy shows up. He offers something better than the Kingpin. He convinces them to try to kill him. Ta-da. It’s the same old story. The only moderately interesting twist is that Fisk’s son is the architect of the plot, but even that’s old news; even Fisk’s backstory in the Netflix series involves him murdering his father.

They know who he is now…

The story ends with Daredevil’s identity outed to the police. It’s not as if there wasn’t potential here, but it needed to be a mystery, and Daredevil needed to be smarter. It probably should have taken several issues, perhaps as traps and assassins close in on Matt Murdoch’s life and friends. It’s all right there! But instead we get a boring story that doesn’t break new ground and is told in  an annoying fashion.

It’s not exactly “bad”, however I make it sound. The dialogue is fine, occasionally great. The art is overdone but well executed. The ending reveal is juicy and looks to set up for some exciting plotlines. It’s just…I’ve seen some people claim that they like Brian Michael Bendis’s run even more than Miller’s, but from where I sit there’s no comparison. I think people forget how highly regarded Miller used to be. Some were declaring him perhaps the greatest comic book writer of all time (he’s still high up on that list). And “Born Again” was written when Miller was at the height of his creative genius; it’s a tour de force, a masterpiece. So the impression I get is that Miller and Mazzucchelli  were playing chess while Bendis and Maleev were stuck at tic-tac-toe. It’s a well-played game of tic-tac-toe, but what Miller and Mazucchelli accomplished was more ambitious, more exciting, and just generally better executed than what Bendis and Maleev did. And frankly, I really don’t find myself particularly excited to read the rest of their run, however well received it is critically.

So it goes.

2-for-1: Lightless and Aurora.

lightless-coverRecent discoveries have made me a little more adventurous with my audiobooks: Rather than shelling out for an audible subscription and trying to find the longest books I can to get the bang for my buck, it turns out there’s a nifty library app called “Overdrive” that allows access to your local library’s audiobook collection. Score! Now that I’ve figured out how to filter for what’s available and skip books like I Fell in love with a Teenage Highlander Wereraptor, it’s been pretty useful. I’ve more or less grabbed any book that looks remotely interesting, like I did when I was a teenager and had all the time in the world. Sometimes it’s wonderful, like when I discovered Tim Powers. Other times…. not so much. Complete spoilers ahead, folks.

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