Friday, November 20, 2009

Glory Days... well, they pass you by

My 20th high school reunion is next year! And I've been thinking about it on and off for awhile. Hell, I might even go.

I wonder what happened to everyone. Some classmates I'm still in touch with, or have had other reasons to check in on over the years. I think we all know that guy who peaked in high school and hasn't achieved any greatness since.

I was reminded of this recently when I learned they recently released a 20th Anniversary special edition of Say Anything, the teen romance film starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. The release of this special edition DVD was practically timed with the release of John Cusack's big budget John Emmerich disaster porn epic, 2012,

Talk about peaking in high school... jeez.

BTW -- THIS appears to be the original 1980's era music video of the infamous boombox song. No, I don't understand it either. That Peter Gabriel is one weird dude...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Last Week... on V

Last Tuesday saw the re-arrival of V, the remake of an 80's sci-fi show that was vaguely about WWII as prosecuted by evil Nazi space lizards and casting the United States in the role of Occupied France. Apparently no body thought of Red Dawn, or how gun-toting middle America might react to an invasion by oppressive aliens from anywhere...

Honestly, I missed the new version (something about knowing the space aliens are lying from the beginning ruins it for me), but I know they've made a few changes to the human side of the story. I might also point out that Morena Baccarin (above) is smoking hot as the eeeeeee-vil alien leader, Anna -- but I digress.

One of those changes is that a Catholic priest is one of the principal human characters. Apparently he doesn't trust the "Visitors." I have to admit, I enjoy mixing my science fiction with religion. Often, there's no consideration for this basic human impulse in a high-tech science fiction background. When it's treated right, putting the two together can be very interesting -- say in the post-apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, or the subtle background of Firefly. And although I got a huge charge out of the ending of the new and improved Battlestar Galactica, I appreciate how it went way over the top for many viewers with a sudden literal Deus Ex Machina; an example of poor execution of religious elements in sci-fi. In some ways, the Mormon elements of the original Battlestar were better...

A basic question inherent in the current V scenario is obviously, "How does the proof of extraterrestrial life affect a priest's faith?" Does he hate them solely from a reactionary world-view? I don't know, maybe I'll watch to find out.

But I read, with great interest, an article that appeared in last Sunday's Washington Post entitled, "When ET phones the Pope." It seems that Vatican recently convened a conference of astrobiologists, legit scientists who examine the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.

Believe it or not, this isn't a new question for the Church. Giordano Bruno, a 16th Century Italian monk, theorized that other planets existed, and that intelligent life likely existed on them.

That much of his theory seems to be okay with the modern Church. Fr. Jose Funes, a Jesuit astronomer, was quoted in the article as saying that the possibility of "brother extraterrestrials" poses no problem for Catholic theology.

Really? Well. Why not?

Possibly for the inverse of the reason Giordano Bruno was executed back in the 16th Century. The second part of Bruno's theory was that Jesus Christ was incarnated on each of these planet supporting intelligent life and replayed his Passion appropriately. However the Church leaders considered the first part of the theory at the time, the idea of "multiple incarnations" was -- and still is -- too much.

Christ died -- once -- for our sins.

So, what the Catholic Church is really saying is that it has no problem with extraterrestrials so long as they accept that Jesus Christ was incarnated as a Homo Sapien and died for the sins of all sentient beings everywhere. I'm sure that some perfectly logical aliens will accept this...

...Assuming that aliens we meet follow human logic.

Who's to say that intelligent extraterrestrial life wouldn't have their own vivid religious life? Maybe they'll come to proselytize us! Consider that humanity has many instances of first contact between cultures, and in the most recent cases, the more technologically powerful culture tends to bludgeon the less technological culture into submission and erode the traditional cultural values. So what would really happen if mile-wide saucers appeared in the skies tomorrow? Would we convert the lizard creatures to follow the "Book," or would their ways slowly usurp our own?

While scientists point to the constants of math and physics as a common language between humanity and any alien space brothers, there is no guarantee that a universal constant exists for emotions or faith, both seemingly necessary for the religious experience. What if a devotion to cold logic is twisted in the extraterrestrial such that they regard humanity's religious enthusiasm as a flaw in the species?

Or a threat? I mean, no one could possibly look at the way religion has influenced the course of human history and see a threat -- could they?

My point is... we should pay more attention to HP Lovecraft's idea of cosmic horror: when we finally meet the alien, we must contend with the utter "alien-ness" of it. Given that we have such a hard time understanding each other here and now, maybe we aren't ready for that yet.

Just some thoughts...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hoist the Colors!

The truth is... I've been busy. I've been busy with a million things. We had a huge Summer blow-out party in September. If you're just hearing about it now -- you weren't invited. My daughter turned five and started kindergarten (real school, sniff) that same week. She's been testing that new pair of wings and that keeps a guy pretty busy.

At that party, i handed a copy of my old Beowulf movie script -- which predates the animated Zemeckis/Gaiman movie -- to my friend and fellow blogger, Dan Dorman (see his blog in the list on the left). This got me thinking about returning to fiction writing. Although no words have been put to paper yet, I did start reading a better class of fiction. If you don't see the connection between reading good fiction and writing, you just don't understand the writing process.

Talking to Dan got me in the movie review mood, so that one reason why the life-support I've thrown this blog has been movie news. Movies are safe topics. I haven't had much else to say -- and I promised myself I wouldn't write anything overtly political -- which is the other "easy" blog topic.

I took the family to the Renaissance Festival one weekend. That's always fun.

Why no martial arts posts? The easy answer is that I've been getting my fix by posting on a major martial arts web forum. But I've been wrestling with my martial arts practice over the past few months. I have lots of ideas, but I'm not sure they are well-formed enough to carry a full essay in this space. But I have been training.

By default, and not for my lack of trying to avoid it, I've been mostly responsible for taking a new Bujinkan shodan through his curriculum. This consists of the kata in the final portion of the Tenchijin no Maki. I know there are some out there who are already rolling their eyes about kata training; but this is the curriculum. I've actually found it very enlightening for me and it's been crucial in my re-evaluation of my own practice. I've even... considered teaching on a consistent, regular basis! But my wife will kill me if I do this and don't get paid.

In my own training, I've sought out some cross-training opportunities to improve some specific weak points. There's been a lot of Tae Kwon Do in recent weeks. Bujinkan kicking is rudimentary at best. I won't say a heel stomp kick is useless, but I'm looking to expand the arsenal and improve my kicking mechanics. TKD is one of the premiere kicking arts. It helps that my training partner also enjoys sparring using Kyokushin bare-knuckle rules rather than Olympic TKD rules. I've had some very interesting exchanges. I'd like to be doing more BJJ or try out Judo, but the opportunities haven't been there in the same way. I'm sure their time will come.

As often happens, certain themes emerge in my activities, and for the past six months, the theme has been: Vikings. I decided to start painting my next Warhammer 40K army and chose Space Wolves -- essentially Space Vikings with some werewolf imagery thrown in for good measure. I'm not quite halfway through painting my initial army list. Here are some samples of my work:

An HQ choice; a Rune Priest with plasma pistol.

Another HQ choice: Ulrik the Slayer, a Wolf Priest character.

Part of my first Grey Hunter squad, including a Wolf Guard (second from left with a power sword).

A detail of two converted Grey Hunters.

A full shot of what's complete so far. 28 models, 2 HQ (Rune Priest and Wolf Priest), a pack of Blood Claws, a pack of Grey Hunters, 1 model from the Long Fangs Pack I'm currently painting, and a pack of 5 Fenrisian wolves.

Geeked out yet? I think they're looking pretty good and I'm enjoying the converting and painting opportunities.

Anyway, I've been reading a lot about Vikings to get in the mood and understand the mindset while painting. I recently finished a fantastic translation of Norse mythology. I'm re-reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods and I'm eyeing up the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf (which is not, strictly speaking, about Vikings). Heck, I've even gone so far as to pull plans off the Internet for building a Viking shield from scratch and I'm seriously considering making one.
So... Yeah, I've been busy. And it's going to be busier still with the Holidays coming. I got talked into spending Thanksgiving with my wife's family in Disney World. I've been learning to speak "Mouse" and hide my wallet. There's always something... I'll try to add some new content over the next few months, but...
Look, the bottom line is: if you want good, meaningful blog posts; you have to let the bloggers live their lives and have some material to blog about. I'll be seeing you around.