Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting at the River

Today, I helped my grandmother on her last journey. We walked her to the gravesite, and stood silently, reflecting. I watched my grandfather's face as said goodbye to his wife of nearly 55 years, a love that never dimmed. My mother and her siblings held one another as they patted her hands in the funeral home. I thought about all the things I'd learned from her.


You see, my grandmother taught me to cook. A little, at least. I grew up underfoot in her restaurant, she showed me how to make hamburger patties and chop onions. She ate the pretend food I made in my little kitchen in the back. She taught me to make milkshakes and banana splits.


She also taught me a fair bit about music. If there were five seconds in a row that my grandmother wasn't singing, they were sometime in her sleep. Any sentence, word, phrase, or glance reminded her of a song, and I swear she knew every lyric to every song written before 1970. That's not even counting the time she sang with her husband in gospel quartets. That's an entirely different set of awesome.


Mostly, though, she taught me about what the word "Christian" really means. They took us, she and Papa, to church every Sunday. She talked about Jesus as often as she talked to Him. Her every action was full of kindness, and I never heard a harsh word come out of her mouth. Granted, she got onto us plenty. We misbehaved like mad. But everything she said, even when she was trying to get our attention, was out of love. Everything she did, she did to help others. She'd put her own aches and pains and heart-hurts aside and ask other people, "what do you need? what can I do?" She was truly Christ-like, in ways I can never quite compare to.


Sitting there in the chapel pew, I heard the speakers crackle. My grandmother's voice flooded the room. She sang a song I'd heard her sing so many times in the past, but this time, it was different. "I'll be waiting at the river for you." This time, she meant it.Many people ask why I believe what I believe. I have plenty of reasons, but there's another to add to the list. Granny said she'd be there. And I never heard Granny lie.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

These Days.

Last night, I attended a book release party in celebration of a friend's work. I must admit a twinge of trepidation, as I knew I tend not to get that "I fit in!" vibe around his typical entourage. Every time I hang out with these people, I feel like I'm an 8th grader loitering around the high schoolers' lockers, trying to catch cool as though it were a stomach virus. The sheer amount of artistic talent contained within these people is enough to power a small state for weeks on end (if you add in the amount of coffee and cigarettes they consume as possible energy sources, it becomes decades), and their almost cliché attitudes about life and art and hardship make you realize exactly where the stereotypes come from. Walking among these people is like stepping into an early-90's graphic novel, and you never really know what to do with yourself once you're there.

The party was astounding. There were readings from the book, by the author and his friends. A band played what I can only describe as the least likely, yet most beautiful musical style for the occasion, as bluegrass emanated from the kind of guys you expect to see at a skate park or tattoo parlor. The first selection presented was by a fabulously blue (literally) man on stilts, and Pablo Neruda's poetry made a cameo while waiting on repaired guitar strings. An artist in a TMNT hoodie gave her views on social media, something that's been gnawing at me since before Facebook boomed into the ever-present nonsense it has become, back when people were still taking shaky, blurred photos for their Myspace pages. An entertainer from NY struck out with part of the crowd, but was lauded as a genius by our little corner, who chuckled uncontrollably as he played Tool on the uke and told jokes too big for such a small-minded small-town crowd.

At one point during the evening, just after food was served, the man of the hour took me aside. He said he had an opening in the program for the evening, a slot he'd like me to fill with a reading. "I know you're a performer," he said, "and I wanted to give you a chance to say something tonight." Defensive and unsure, I reminded him that I hadn't yet finished reading his book, and that I couldn't pick a piece from it to present. "You can do something of yours, if you want. Or something you enjoy. Anything, really. Just, get up there and say what you want to."

I agreed, and excused myself to finish dining, to think on what I would say. A million thoughts rushed through my head. Panic pinned me to my chair, and I demanded a hug from a beauty at the table. I nibbled at pizza and spinach dip, and my heart sank.

I'm proud of him, you see. This author has worked so hard for so long on so many things, and with such raw talent, that to see him succeed is utterly amazing. However, this "my friend is epic" vibe is tempered with the very real knowledge that I have done nothing worthwhile. There exists no tangible record of my successes, only my failures. I have dabbled in so many hobbies and projects and wasted so much creative time, and this whole ordeal (much as I am proud of him, mind you) is like uncorking a bottle of bitter wine, made from the most sour grapes. I worried, therefore, that no matter what I did, or what I said behind that microphone, that it would echo these thoughts. And I just couldn't have that, not on his big day.

So, I panicked. Clearly, I couldn't read any of my old stuff; I didn't bring any, and I use poetry as a way to get thoughts out of my head, so I don't keep the poems in there once they're written. I didn't want to read one of the selections from the book, because I didn't know what other people were going to do later in the evening, and didn't want to step on any toes. Besides, I didn't know which ones I liked; I had only read a handful of pages before life got the better of my quiet time, and I had to put the book down for a bit. I panicked again. What does one writer say to another? I asked myself. What common ground do all poets share?

I borrowed a pen from the lovely lady in the Ninja Turtle sweatshirt, and some paper from the gentleman who brought us an interpretation of Neruda's literary voice, and started scribbling. I stood up in front of a room (well, a patio, really) of artists, in the artsiest district of the region, nervous as a whore in church. I spoke, and they listened. And it was good.

For the first time, my careers as a writer and a performer came together. My artistic debut, the first performance of my work by its author, wasn't a complete failure. It felt good, whether or not it was received that way (for I ignored everything but the light and the page). It felt like I was actually doing something again. And I think this is the start of my own personal renaissance.

You can read my friend's blog here, and you can purchase his book, The Years Distilled, on Amazon.com

Friday, June 11, 2010

DEAR CHRISTIANS.

Salve and Shalom and Salaam and Salutations to you, brethren and sistren!

Over the past few months and years, I have noticed a few things that should concern those who share my faith. I wished to write about them where the greatest number of people would see them, thus, Facebook. I invite everyone who reads this to share this with any and all of their Christian friends by linking back to it here.

First, I would like to stress that this letter is intended for my fellow Christians. As such, it will be written from a Christian perspective, one that treats matters of the Christian faith as fact rather than opinion. Please be forewarned that the King James version of the Christian Bible will be used as both a religious and historic source text throughout, as that is its purpose within the Christian faith. If you are a Christian, and you are reading this, and you cannot abide by that interpretation, please continue reading, as I have a point to make about that in a moment.

Secondly, since I am discussing Christian issues with Christian people, I would request that any non-Christians refrain from posting non-constructive comments in the Comment section. This is not to say that I don't love all my Jewish/Muslim/Wiccan/Buddhist/Astaru/Hindu/Taoist/Atheist/Agnostic/Hellenic/Mithraic/Shinto/Zoroastrian/Pastafarian/etc. friends, nor should it suggest I'm not interested in your religion (or lack thereof) and discussing it with you in a civil, intelligent manner. It simply means that today is not a day where I'll be bringing religiosity to the fuzzy-wuzzies or discussing your opinions in public; instead, today I am literally preaching to the choir. My intent with this note is to make us people you'd rather hang out and less like people you want to strangle, so I'm doing you a solid here. Please return the favor.

Thirdly, and I cannot stress this enough, I am not talking to all Christians here. Only some. Hopefully not even a majority. When in doubt, ask yourself "Am I a good Christian?" If your answer is "No." I'm probably not talking to you. If your answer is "Yes," please, in the name of all that is holy and sacred, keep reading. If you still aren't sure, continue reading anyway, and see if any of the points I make apply to you.

Now that we've got the legalese out of the way, let's have a fireside, shall we?
--M. Willie

Dear Christians:

  • YOUR BIBLE IS LAW:Period. I am sick to death of hearing "I'm a Christian, but I don't believe Jesus is God's Son." or "I'm a Christian, but I don't believe in Hell/I believe everyone goes to Heaven." or "I'm a Christian, but I believe there is more than one path to Heaven." Sad news, folks: if you've said any of that YOU'RE IN THE WRONG RELIGION. There is no room in this faith for someone that non-committal. Revelation 3:16 is pretty clear on this point--"Therefore, because you were lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth." Your Bible, the law of your faith as a Christian, states the rules in simple terms: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) That means that, to a certain extent, it is AGAINST YOUR RELIGION to be open-minded and pluralistic. What do we find in the second chapter of Exodus? "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me...for I, the LORD thy God am a jealous god." If you can't handle the idea that the LORD thy God should be your first love, and that Christ Himself is the only path to the Father, go find you another, more forgiving religion. We have stuff to do over here.
  • REMEMBER THE COMMANDMENTS: Christ said "You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart...[and] love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40) How many of you keep even one of those rules? More on this in a moment.
  • STOP THIS DENOMINATIONAL NONSENSE:At least in public. I don't care how righteous you think you are, telling me I'm going to hell in front of a non-believer we're both trying to minister to does nothing but confuse everybody involved and piss me off. Apparently, according to the different denominations, I'm going to burn for eternity in Hell because I believe that God performs miracles, hang out with non-believers, wasn't baptised according to a certain script that's older than most fossil records, or because I love people they think I should hate. This is nonsense. How much further could we expand the Kingdom if we'd all just shut the frakk up and preach? We all follow the same God, we all preach the same Christ, why are we getting hung up on whether or not women are "good enough" to teach gospel, or how many songs you have to sing to get God's attention, or whether or not musical instruments are "sinful" in worship and contraceptives are a heinous sin? Let's pick the stuff we all agree on (y'know, that little book I was talking about earlier?) and stick to that in public. If you want to tell me why I'm going to burn for all eternity, where there is weeping, and gnashing of teeth, and the worm dieth not, at least have the kindness to do it in private, so we aren't making Christianity look like a bunch of headbutting rams with no brains to share between them, 'kay?
  • YOU AREN'T SAVED BY WORKS, SO STOP SAYING YOU ARE:i hate this self-righteous crap. It serves no one. Really. Baptism doesn't save your soul, donating money doesn't save your soul, feeding the homeless doesn't save your soul. You can't earn your way into Heaven. You can't. It's impossible. Remember the story of the man who tried to buy the Holy Spirit from the Apostles? Tried to pay his way into God's grace? Doesn't work like that. No ritual, no selfless act, no amount of "conversions" are going to get you in with the Big Guy. Just faith. Let me say that again: ONLY FAITH. How do I know this? because I know Galatians 2:16, Titus 3:5, and Ephesians 2:8-9 ("For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast."). It is this faith that has caused God to give us, freely, something we could never earn on our own, for "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). None of this is to say we shouldn't do good things--James 2:17 reminds us that "...faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."--it's just to say that we should not do good things assuming they're a replacement for faith in Christ. Feeding the homeless will not get you into Heaven if you have no faith, but it will show others God's love if you do. Think about it.
  • JUST BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE HOMOSEXUALITY IS WRONG DOES NOT MAKE HOMOPHOBIA RIGHT:This is something the majority of Christendom fails to understand. The church at large is split somewhat on this issue, but that's not what matters here. What matters here is individual hearts. If you believe (as I do, using scriptural backing from both halves of the Bible) that homosexuality is a sin, that's your business. It does not give you a license to discriminate against homosexuals in any capacity, however. It does not you a "get out of showing them God's love free" card, either. Regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, homosexuals are still God's children, and we should show them the love, respect, and kindness that all God's children deserve. They aren't contagious; you can't catch "teh ghey" by being around them, or letting them hug you, or eating at the same restaurants as them. You can't be "turned" by drinking from a water fountain they've used. It's just as stupid as thinking you'll become an alcoholic if you share a lollipop with one, or that you'll turn into a ginger if a redhead with freckles kisses you on the cheek. And, ultimately, you have no business at all trying to butt into someone else's private life.Your only job is to show them God's love. Period. Not to tear them down, or make fun of them, or hate them, or discriminate against them. Judge not, or you'll get the same. Leave them to work it out with God, and you just treat them like the people they are.
  • REPRESSION DOES NOT EQUAL STRENGTH OF CHARACTER:If you genuinely believe that you shouldn't hang out in bars, because that's too much of a temptation, that's fine. But if you think that front huggin' leads to lusty baby-makin', you have more problems than can be worked out in 12 steps. I'm not sure if any of you realize this or not, but repressing your desires without learning to really deal with them in a healthy manner is like forgetting you left the pressure cooker on. The more you ignore temptation instead of confronting it, the worse that temptation will get, and the less stimulus will be needed to set it off. I'm not telling you to give in to your animal desires. I'm telling you to have the strength of character to maintain your convictions no matter what. If you can't control yourself at a restaurant that serves alcohol, or have to resort to "side hugging" to keep your carnal impulses in check, you need to re-evaluate your life a little. If you can go out to dinner with friends, though, who are all ordering cocktails, and you can convince yourself a Diet Coke is better for you, you've just reinforced your convictions, and made that temptation easier to deal with in the future. Don't go crazy with it, know your limits, but understand that fleeing from temptation takes a lot less strength than enduring it. And as long as you'll live, temptation will too--will you run all your life? Or will you be strong, like your Savior, and live your life on your terms?
  • YOU CAN LOVE PEOPLE WITHOUT AGREEING WITH THEM:Simple enough. Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean you have to treat Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Unitarians or Scientologists like second-class citizens. God loves everyone, and you should too. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Deal with it. Racism, religious intolerance, sexual discrimination--all these things are hallmarks of a lack of God's love. And if you aren't a beacon of God's love, you're doin' it wrong.
  • STOP TALKING CRAP ABOUT THE JEWS:I don't know if you guys have noticed, or not, but Jesus? He was totally Jewish. Moses was, too. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob...you get the idea. It makes me sick, too, because in the Middle Ages, Jews were banned from so many countries, and yet Christ was everywhere (I guess it's because they made Him look Nordic, with a patrician nose, and paled Him up a lot.) But srsly, gaiz, Jesus was a Jew. He kept the law. He studied the prophets. YOUR. SAVIOUR. WAS. A. JEW. So let's be nice to them, 'kay? Oh, and all this "let's blame them for the crucifixion" stuff? We can cut that shit out, too. Was it their fault? Sure. Should we hold it against them? No. Christ, as He was dying from blood loss, asphyxiation, and heartbreak, forgave them. We should too. Old news, water under the bridge, let's get together an play nice. Since we're technically a sect of their religion, let's learn about them while we're at it; we can discover more of our history that way.
  • JESUS WAS NOT A PUSSY.: And I don't care if you like that word or not, I'm using it. I'm sick of people painting pictures of MY JESUS as some weak, scrawny, blonde, 98-pound weakling who was nice to everybody. You wanna know what Jesus was really like? Let's take a look! First off, given His heritage (a genealogy is given in the Bible, if you'd care to check), we can determine He was very Israeli, complete with a Middle-Eastern skin tone, a Jewish nose, and probably dark, curly, probably coarse hair. Since His earthly father was a carpenter, and the customs of the day would have Him working at His father's trade, we can assume Christ worked with a fair amount of lumber. These were the days before Ace Hardware and Home Depot, so I'm also going out on a limb here, and I'm going to assume that Jesus was a buff dude. I can also safely assume He was probably at least slightly barrel-chested; a quick glance shows that men who gain muscle bodybuilding are ripped, but men who gain natural muscle through work are shaped like a keg, generally speaking. He had a beard and long hair, which we can safely assume because of the Jewish mitzvot against cutting the corners of the beard and the sides of the head, and we can assume He also dressed like a Jew: that the "hem of His garment" was probably the fringe, or even a tzitzit from His tallit. Now, as for Jesus being this super-meek, super-mild, Clark Kent sort of guy? Stow that. Christ overturned tables, violently, and chased moneychangers around with a makeshift whip because He got SO HEATED about the moneychangers in the Temple. Christ got miffed at a fig tree and told it to die because it didn't have fruit for Him to eat, even though it was the right season. Christ stood up and told the wind and the waves to "STFU" because He was trying to sleep, and all the pre-pubescent whining of the wussy sailors woke Him up. Christ yelled at the religious authority constantly because they were doin' it all wrong. So, you go ahead and paint my Jesus in a robe with bitty muscles and this Clark Kent look on His face if you want, but that's not the Messiah I worship. Mine could tear you apart quicker than Chuck Norris on speed, but He chooses not to, 'cuz He'd rather love you and feed you and make you feel better about yourself. And, to me, that's the best kind of strength there is.
  • YOU SHOULDN'T BE A PUSSY, EITHER!:A corollary to the previous point, it is important to note that Christians should not be pushovers. We are Christian because that word means we belong to Him, and we're supposed to be like Him. We're supposed to be Christ-like. If Christ wasn't a pussy, why are so many Christians? We sit back and let everybody push us over, like a reed in the wind. That's not how we were designed! We are a Kingdom of Kings, and Priests, and Warriors! We are to be like Christ--powerful, yet merciful; awe-inspiring, yet gentle; fearsome to behold, but kind to those who need it. We are to be like Aslan, the Lion--we are not meant to be safe, we are not meant to be nice, but we are meant to be GOOD. Learn the difference, and walk with a swagger in your step. You aren't some lowly peon, you are a Child of God, adopted into the family of the Creator of the Universe, and you should ACT LIKE IT. Stop acting like spoiled, scared children! Get out there and be men and women of God! Men and women who cause hope in the hopeless and fear in the evil hearts and light in the darkest places! BE POWERFUL. STOP BEING PUSHOVERS. Quit being Clark Kent and start being Superman! You are heirs to the most powerful Kingdom in creation, ACT LIKE IT.

  • And, above all else, stop giving the rest of us a bad name. Some of us are really trying to make the world a better place. Stop working against us, and start doing your damned jobs.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    "The unanimous Declaration..."

    I'd like to share a bit of our nation's founding with you today. I do this to reflect on what has become an ignorance of the nature of our fine country and the way it was meant to operate by the Founding Fathers. I will be quoting extensively from the Declaration of Independence, described as "the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," which can be found in public domain in many forms. I have provided a link to the complete text at the end of this article.

    Let us begin, shall we?

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    The congress of the day has decided, rightly so, that when two bodies must sever political ties, it's only fair to let one know exactly why. In fact, this is something I believe stretches to every relationship, from social to formal.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    We're all with them so far, right? Good. Moving on.

    That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

    This is where we silly Americans get the notion that our government works for us—because that's the way we bloody designed it.

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    The right of the people. Hear that. Say it to yourself for a moment. The right of the people. This is one of those they spoke of earlier, one of those "inalienables." This isn't a Republican right, or a Democratic right. This isn't an English right or an American right. This is a right of the people. Which people? ALL of them. All over. Our super-progressive founders have just brought out, into the public court, the idea that everyone has the right to be governed in the best way possible for themselves.

    This is something Americans are very passionate about. This is what President Wilson meant when he said "The world must be made safe for democracy," before we entered The Great War. This is why we joined hands with the English, the Canadians, the Soviets, the Australians, and many others to stop the rampant growth of Hitler's Nazi regime and the unchecked expansion of the Empire of Japan in the second World War. It is why we have opposed communism the world over—in Korea and Vietnam, against Cuba and China and the U.S.S.R. It is why we went into Afghanistan and Iraq and made a bit stinking mess of everything. Because we, in our heart of hearts, believe that everyone should be free to choose the government that works for the people, and wherever this right is threatened, the United States of God-Blessed America is polishing its guns and looking angrily in a Clint Eastwood smile at the oppressive regime responsible.

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

    This is the part where they remind us that we shouldn't undertake any of these things lightly. Old governments that work shouldn't be abolished for causes that can fix themselves, or can be righted within the system. There's no sense scuttling your ship if you can just replace the sail, so to speak. This is very sound advice we've always heeded. It's why such a volatile, rebellious, violent, passionate people have kept a stable system of government for two-hundred and thirty-four years.

    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    Are you reading the same page I am? When a "long train of abuses and usurpations" lead toward "absolute Despotism", it is not a right anymore. It becomes a duty. It is a right and a responsibility. It isn't something that a people should tolerate. One must rise up and cast off the shackles of oppression. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a form of government. Because you should shout, "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" You should have the courage to tell others to see the violence inherent in the system, to continue the comedic metaphor. It is your right. Your responsibility. If you choose not to take it up, you are remaining silent to the plight of thousands and millions of others who lack the voice to speak for themselves.

    The enumeration of grievances attributed to the King of England reads like a bulleted list of accomplishments by the last few presidents, including (but not limited to) the following:

    • Refusing to Assent to Laws "most wholesome and necessary for the public good."
    • Forbidding Governors to pass Laws "of immediate and pressing importance" until Assent could be obtained.
    • Obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners
    • Obstructing the Administration of Justice
    • Erecting mulitudes of new offices
    • Sending "swarms of Officers to harass our people"
    • Rendering the Military independent of and superior to "the Civil power."
    • Mock trials
    • Imposing taxes without consent of the people
    • Depriving citizens of the benefits of trial by jury
    • "Taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments."
    • "Suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever."
    • Plundering the seas, ravaging the coasts, burning towns, and "destroying the lives of our people"

    Sounds vaguely familiar, does it not? Especially in the last two administrations. Democrat of Republican, Right or Left, you cannot deny that list of grievances doesn't feel fresh in your mind after the last three elections. Recent Executive policy seems to be giving the American public a play-by-play recount of these issues with each passing day.

    How did the Founding Fathers handle this?

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Oh. That's right. I nearly forgot. These fuckers invented the phrase "Tea Party."

    Think about it for just a minute—the last time this many Americans got this pissed about the way their government treated them, they gave it the finger and started a new one. Then we fought a war, and put the ass-kickin'est war hero we had in our top slot on the new slate. Wise up, Congress. If this shit happens again, you'll be going up against "President Chuck Fucking Norris" commanding regiments of angry, rabid bear cavalry with robot laser eyes ridden by gun-toting Southerners and air support from flying sharks piloted by gangsta G-thugs blinding you with bling. And that's a battle I'm not sure even Bill Brasky could win.

    History—learn it, or repeat it. Or get a penguin army marching on your tailpipe.

    =Further Reading=

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    TESTIFY!

    I will admit it: I have a soft spot for musicals.

    As such, I am a huuuuge fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, because it also has healthy doses of sci-fi, horror, and humor cobbled in. It is a cult classic, and I will stand up any day of the week to testify that it is utterly amazing.

    That being said, the fan base is pissing me off.

    They are lashing out uncontrollably and frothing over the release of Repo Men, a completely unrelated film based on the same premise: that if you fall behind on your organ payments, a repo man will hunt you down and reclaim the "property."

    The films diverge, from what I can tell, at that point. In addition to the not-being-an-opera thing, Repo Men tells a completely different story than Repo!, according to the trailers. Repo Men is made on a larger budget, and is based on a novel that was being written by the author of the screenplay, since published in 2009. Repo! is, however, over a decade old in its earliest incarnations, having been developed from a "ten-minute opera" called The Necromerchant's Debt. The Repo! film was released in 2008, I believe, before the novel on which Repo Men was based was published.

    Is Repo Men a ripoff?

    No.

    Yet, the fans of The Genetic Opera seem to think it is, going so far as to publicly bash Repo Men before its release and boycott the film. While this is perfectly within their rights, I don't believe they really understand what is going on here.

    By bad-mouthing a film they've never seen, even after they've been asked by Terrance Zdunich (co-creator of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and subsequently co-author of their collective fandom) to "kill 'em with kindness" in regards to this new film, they are making themselves look very, very bad. It makes them look rabid and intolerant and utterly incapable of coherent thought, as their mouths are moving without lease from their minds. By speaking out of emotion and hurt rather than taking a moment to think out their displeasures and put them into a logical framework, it makes them look rather silly. As a Repo! fan myself, I don't want to be labeled as such, unless it's the good kind of silly. The kind you'd find at the Ministry of Silly Walks, for example.

    In his posts on the subject, entitled "Idea Repossession?" pts 1 & 2, Zdunich explains the events that lead both to Repo! and Repo Men as he understands them, and expresses his wishes to his fandom. "Sweetly recommend that they check out REPO! Opera," Zdunich requests, "because the film, and the community surrounding the film, is awesome."

    In my opinion (for this is a blog of opinions, and not one of newscasting), the community isn't showing their awesome at this very moment. I fully understand that they feel hurt, as they are so deeply emotionally tied to Repo! as a fan-base, but I believe that by lashing out against this new film in anger, they do little to show their greatness. Instead, I believe it is a show of ignorance.

    The fans pine and wail about how "unique" Repo! is, and how the very idea of Repo Men is stolen from Zdunich's hands, like an apple plucked from a neighbor's tree. They rail against Repo Men, some going so far as to say that one should be allowed by law to copyright an idea.

    As a writer, I feel these statements are the same as saying "It should be federal law that only George Romero may make zombie movies." Or "Every robot movie ever made is just a rip-off of Capek's R.U.R.." Or that "The Chronicles of Narnia shouldn't exist, as it's merely a re-telling of the New Testament."

    I do hope you see the fallacy in these claims.

    Many stories start as other stories. Good tales are retold time and again. The Lion King is merely a retelling of Hamlet, mixed with a local African epic of a similar nature. Star Wars is basically a combination of Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" and every epic, mythic tale of a young journeyer with a wizened hermit archetype to guide him. Nearly all of Kurosawa's films had plots based in stories around the world, and just as many of them were remade as westerns for the enjoyment of Americans.

    Hellfire, even the idea of organ repossession wasn't originated with Repo! In '97 or '98, I wrote a short story for a class project that dealt with the same idea: two young lovers were in a car accident, and ran away from the hospital. They were chased by an agent of the hospital to "reclaim" the work done to save their lives. I mentioned it to a friend of mine, and we began playing a Shadowrun campaign based on the notion. I hadn't even heard of Repo! until it's theatrical release in a nearby town, sometime in late '08 or early '09.

    Stories are retold. Ideas are reused. It happens. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. So long as there is no plagarism afoot, enjoy what you enjoy for the reasons you enjoy it. Repo! is unique, and will continue to be so, no matter how many other "dystopian organ repossession" stories there are floating about. Talking trash, however, is never a good way to get anything done.

    In closing, I strongly suggest you check out both films and draw your own conclusions. I am a huge fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and plan to see Repo Men as soon as finances permit. I also heartily entreat you to check out the "Further Reading" section of this post for more information on everything I have mentioned here. Thank you, and goodnight.

    = Further Reading =

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    "The Intolerance of Intolerance"

    Tonight I had the great honor and privilege of attending a lecture given by Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Murray State University. Archbishop Tutu discussed reconciliation through forgiveness with the heart of a saint and the sort of jokes your grandfather might tell at the dinner table. He spoke with a warm, soothing passion that boiled up from the depths of his heart and spilled through the microphone, washing over a packed house. It was an amazing, unforgettable experience, and it has left it's mark upon me.

    The Archbishop told anecdotes and parables that illustrated mankind's great depths of both depravity and compassion. He spoke of the amazing capability of human beings to destroy one another through vengeance, and of their equally amazing capacity for unconditional forgiveness.

    I will endeavor to take this message to heart, to be more forgiving, to be more understanding, and to seek reconciliation with as many people as I am able. It will not be easy, but nothing good ever is.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Home at last.

    FINALLY got back from my trip. I've been gone for three weeks, and what a three weeks it has been.

    I was invited to a LARP convention in Milwaukee, WI (Midwinter X, to be precise). The people who invited me offered to pay my way and pick me up, but live two hours from me, so I had to stay with them "a few days" until the time of departure. No worries, the event was in mid-January, so I figured I'd head up there on a Wednesday, stay 'til we left Friday, and come back to Kentucky on Sunday.

    Wrong.

    I was informed, due to financial reasons, that I'd have to come up on the 3rd and spend a fortnight in a small cluster of towns in central Illinois. I packed my things and began my journey.

    When I arrived, it was to a two bedroom mobile home with no internet and newly frozen water pipes. There were two couples, a toddler, a pit bull and her 6 puppies, and two hateful but inquisitive cats occupying this cramped, broken-down space. Anyone who knows me well at all knows that while I am a social creature, my need for privacy is legendary. This was already shaping up to be a superb trip.

    I was relegated to a small couch on one side of the living room, across from the futon (sleeping quarters of the second couple, parents of the toddler). As it turns out, both couples are swingers, so there are many numerous iterations of relationships between these four individuals, each with it's own high school puppy-love drama. Add to this the fact that one couple has a completely outsider third, who was there as often as I was, and that brings the count up to 5 adults, a child, 7 dogs, and 2 cats before we consider myself, the other couple that came over literally EVERY DAY with their 4 month old child, or the 7 or 8 other people who floated in and out as though they owned the goddamn place themselves. It was day two of thirteen, and already my sanity is wearing thin.

    Did I mention their pipes were frozen? I didn't drive myself there, so I had no car, so I had to wait until the members of the house went somewhere (which was rare) to beg showers from complete strangers, or to use the bathroom (Ironically, at the time I was reading the Humanure Handbook on my laptop, and wishing I had the materials to construct a composting toilet. Had I but known, I could've alternately ordered a Shit Box). I would like you to note, dear reader, that the household itself felt no need to cease urination in the toilet-with-the-frozen-drain, though they were kind enough to save their "deuces" for the gas station restroom at the end of the road.

    I will never understand how people on government assistance programs get more money for food in a month than I usually earn in two months when I'm employed, and yet still never have REAL food in their house. With two couples in the same house (and a third visiting, and therefore eating, every single day), all on government food assistance, you'd assume they'd have some of the basics, like flour or pasta or rice--staples in any intelligent kitchen. No. All of it was ramen and quick-yet-unfilling junk food. Every. Last. Dime. I had to FIGHT to find 1/4 of milk, not because they used it, but because they never purchased more. WTF, people? So there was nothing to cook. Not that it mattered; there was no water for clean dishes, so the point was really one of principle.

    This is the part where I tell you that every single woman I met while I was there was trying her dead-level best to get into my pants. The only two possible exceptions were a pair of sisters--one was happily taken, and the other flirted, but I didn't see her often enough to discern whether she was sincere or not. This last woman was gorgeous, and single, but the rest were all taken and definitely not my type. They, however, didn't really catch onto this, so in addition to the drama caused by the botched swinger vibe, they were all backstabbing each other to try to get into my good graces. The punishment continues.

    I had to completely reteach them all how to play this game, and when the event finally came around, I was ready to strangle them all with piano wire. The next two days were spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with lots of gaming, non-drama, free booze (thanks White Wolf!!), and the most beautiful gamer girls you could ever hope to see. I'm not sure how many of said lovely girls I hung out with on the first evening (I had a bit to drink, apparently, because the security guard asked me to either go to my hotel room or go to prison at around 10 am when I was sleeping on the couch), but when game opened the second day, there were many flirtatious winks cast my way, so apparently I'm still charming when I'm "what-the-fuck-am-I-doing?" drunk. Game was a blast, I made a lot of new friends, and then it was over as quickly as it had begun.

    Back to central Illinois to await a ride home. Knowing they were strapped for cash, I offered to stay until Friday because then we could catch another LARP game closer to home, where I knew people who could drive me the rest of the way home. The day before I left, the water thawed. I was so pissed. Then I found out that I didn't REALLY have to come up on the third; my hostess just said that because she was too lazy to pick me up the week of the event, and wanted more time to try to sleep with me. I was quite angry.

    Now I'm back home. I couldn't be happier.