Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Comic Book Movies

As all my friends and family know, I'm a huge comic book/super hero fan. I love super heroes. I've been playing City of Heroes for nearly 5 years now (57 months and counting), I read comics, and am passionate about them. I love comic book movies, even the bad ones, because it brings one of my passions to another medium I love-- movies. I have blogged at great length and with great frequency about various aspects of comic books and super heroes.

With those caveats out of the way, I have a startling thing to say: I wish there were fewer comic book movies on the way.

I'll let you catch your breath.

Yes, that's right-- I'd like to see fewer super hero movies on film slates in the coming years. And here's why-- too many properties are either not handled right (i.e., Catwoman, Elektra, first Hulk, etc.), many are produced just to jump on a bandwagon (i.e., Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, et al), and too few are handled in a serious manner that is both faithful to the source and excitingly new (i.e., current Batman movies, Iron Man, Spider-man 1&2, etc).

At this point, producers and directors have a blueprint for what works and what doesn't. However, you still have crap being made and people going so far from the source material that fans wonder why the filmmakers bothered. Both The Dark Knight and Iron Man show what can happen when you treat the source fairly, have excited people trying to make a good "movie" as opposed to simply a faithful "comic book/super hero movie," and get good talent on both sides of the camera to usher the movie to completion.

Also, the fans primarily want the big, recognizable names up on film. They want to see some of the seminal classics of the genre filmed, or something entirely new. Fans want to see Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash. They don't necessarily want to see Aquaman, Green Arrow (unless it is a film of Longbow Hunter), Red Tornado, or Apache Chief. Fans want to see Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man. They don't really want to see the lesser names like Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and others.

Fans are finicky, too. Watchmen, for example, I expect to have a lot of wildly excited reviews and a lot of absolutely hate-filled reviews and very little in between. Fans of the source will be disappointed that this part or that part didn't make it into the film, while others will know that you have to cut a lot out and gloss over a lot to make a 12-issue maxi-series fit into a 2 hour film.

You have filmmakers hiring the exact right people to do a film (Joss Whedon doing Wonder Woman, for example) and then absolutely hamstringing what he is allowed to do with the property to the point where he has to leave due to "creative differences." You have film studios saying "The Dark Knight was successful, and it was dark, so all of our upcoming super hero films have to be dark" rather than acknowledging that Batman is a darker property and was done "right," and similarly the other properties should be done "right" -- whatever right is for that property (Superman, hope and light. Captain Marvel, innocence and wonder. Etc.).

Lastly, the proliferation of super hero movies means that the audience gets bored. It's like with the Western; there are only so many tales to tell using that genre, so it has always waxed and waned. It was big in the past, then died away. It came back with a surge in the late 80s and 90s, then died out again. You don't hear about too many westerns on the slate right now. Comic books have ridden high for a while now, and there is going to be a backlash. I'd rather the movie producers realize this, only produce the big ones (and fully commit to them), and put the smaller titles on the back burner for some other time.

I look at the upcoming slate of super hero movies and I, as a fan of this genre and of the source material, am not overly excited about them. I wonder what a non-fan is thinking about having all these films with properties and names they don't even recognize coming out?

Enough is enough. Scale back. Make what you make good, first and foremost, and don't burn out your audience with crap.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Recession, What Recession?

The NFL head office released about 200 staff and the Commissioner and others at the top all took a 25% decrease. They fixed their salaries for this year at last year's rates, too. The NBA, NHL, and MLB all are axing jobs, salaries, and scrambling around, as the poor economy hits the main revenue streams for the sports-- those who advertise with them. The NFL even voted to keep ticket prices at 2008 levels (which any fan can tell you is way over what the average American can or wants to spend in the first place, but it is a start).

But I'm reading about Albert Haynesworth getting a $100 million contract from the Redskins in the NFL. I'm reading how Manny Ramirez, a 37 year old player, is rejecting a $25 million one-year deal and a $25+20 million two-year deal.

If the respective clubs can afford to offer one player on their roster this much money, how can we be in a recession? Or, why not keep that $25 million and save approximately 625 jobs in the MLB instead? Or 2,500 jobs in the NFL with the $100 million (I can't find a consensus average American income figure, but most I find are between $35k and $45k, so I'll use a median number of $40k/year).

The NBA is gearing up for 2010 and beyond, as it may wind up running without a collective bargaining agreement. Currently, the NBA players command 60% of the revenue that the NBA brings in, and it is likely they will ask for more.

Average Salaries
NBA, 2007-2008 - $5.3 million
NFL, 2007 - $770,000 (of course, top-tier players are much higher, the lower tier players balance this out)
NHL, 2007-2008 - $1.9 million
MLB, 2008 - $3.15 million

At the low end, the average salary of an NFL player per year is the equivalent of 19 average Americans' salary (assuming, again, the $40k/yearly income). The other main sports leagues pay their players progressively more. NBA players have absolutely no room to complain about the wages they receive.

It is hard to care when the players complain of being "disrespected" or needing to "feed their families." Not with a recession on and the rest of us truly having to make do with less.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mini or Series?

My wife and I have discussed this a few times recently. It seems like a lot of TV shows and ideas suffer from being continuing series. We lament the loss of the '80s style mini-series.

Take Heroes, for example. Tim Kring had an awesome and inspired idea for a show. He crafted it and honed it over years and finally was able to sell it to a network with the huge super-heroes tide. And season one was just that: awesome. It had a great villain, it had a great cast, and the storyline had a strong beginning, middle, and end. It was like seeing a favorite comic book literally come alive week to week.

But the problem was, it had a season two. And now a chapter three and four (season three). None of these new chapters/seasons has come close to living up to the first, because Tim Kring didn't have years to write a good plot, story, work out the problems, and then shop it.

If the networks weren't so greedy and stupid, they would have done season one as a maxi-series and then told Tim that they wanted first crack at the next one, should he develop it. And Tim should have then gone off and worked on it as he did the first and get it right.

Lost is another example. How many "crappy" seasons have fans had to go through after the first season? You read blogs and boards dedicated to the show and, while there have been bright spots and resurgences, the show has never been as good as in the first season.

It could be argued that 24 suffers the same way. Season one was so good (well, minus the incredibly crappy female characters who were written to be dumber than doors), and nearly every season has suffered in comparison. Some have edged up the ratings and kept it going, while others have been lamented by its fans as racist, biased, claptrap.

Desperate Housewives could be included. The first season was campy and funny and did well. But then subsequent seasons have struggled and gone in different directions and been much less successful. They had to resort to rebooting the entire seasons "5 years later" (or however long it is) and basically go back and do the same stories from season one again in order to gain back viewers and regain their ratings.

Another example that shows this effect clearly is the recent attempt at reviving Knight Rider. The two-hour premiere movie that aired wasn't too bad; it had most of the elements from the TV show we liked, the new car was interesting, and it did well in the ratings. But, when they turned it into a regular series, they ignored the original show's working premise, they ignored what worked in the premiere, and they went off in a different direction. And it tanked hard and fast. They tried to fix it by going back to that original premise, but by then it was too late-- they had killed their promising new show. Bionic Woman did nearly the same thing.

One reason that the cable networks have been so successful at drawing audiences away from the networks is because of a) when the shows run and b) how long they run. Most cable shows have 7-11 shows in a season, go on hiatus for longer periods of time (often only running over the summer, so they have the longest hiatus in which to write really good episodes). They take the time, generally, to write a complete storyline for the season and have the time to edit it and knock it around and get it right. Another thing they do is try not to compete too directly with other cable networks; in that way, they don't loose audience to those that like both shows and won't switch if the two shows are on concurrently.

Now, imagine if the shows above had been conceived as mini-series or maxi-series. Imagine if the networks had just shown the one season as a special event and then allowed the creators to work on it for a year before coming back with a new special event. Imagine if, instead of having 22 weeks interrupted regularly by sporting events and things like the awards shows, we got 52 weeks of new programming? Imagine having new material of your favorite shows less often, but with higher quality, and with other shows to try and hopefully like while that first show is off? Imagine if the networks got wise to the fact that the 60s-80s way of doing things no longer applied and actually tried hard to give the audiences what they wanted, rather than shooting themselves in the foot on a seasonal and, these days, weekly, basis.

I can dream, can't I?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Snow Pics

We have a winter storm here. It arrived about the same time as the Oscars last night and continued to dump superfluous snow on us long after the Oscars stopped doing the same.

Here's the mound-o-snow that is on our deck. I have actually hit the right side of this mound twice in an attempt to minimize the weight and area of snow. You can't tell I've done anything.


This is out the front door. I've highlighted the top of a three-foot tall driveway marker. It is the only one of the many driveway markers that can be seen. Now, I'm not implying we have had three feet dropped; just that we've had enough snow drop and drift and not melt that we are to the point of having a solid three foot base available for skiing. also note that the snow is right up to the top of the stairs on our front porch. Anyone who has been here knows how tall that is.


Note: The snow is still falling. We've got around 35 cm (not quite 14 inches) so far.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Er... What?

A cartoonist recently drew a political cartoon making reference to two high-profile news items, the escape and rampage of a chimpanzee from a zoo and the fact that the stimulus plan was poorly written. The cartoon showed two policemen (or game wardens) shooting a chimpanzee and one of them saying, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

My first thought when seeing this cartoon had a couple of components:

1. Good tie together of recent news.
2. Funny reference to the fact that many politicians act like monkeys.
3. Slight reference to the old adage that if you put a million monkeys in a room with a million typewriters, sooner or later one of them will write Shakespeare.

However, someone, somewhere, decided this was a racially pointed attack on President Obama. Someone decided that the cartoonist was referencing the fact that blacks were often compared to monkeys and apes by those who wanted the continued segregation of the races. Someone decided that the cartoonist was using imagery from early film and TV (especially black and white cartoons) where blacks were often portrayed looking very chimp-like.

Now, of course, many blacks (and quite a few whites) have jumped on this bandwagon. Having been shown something that they did not see at first, and apparently strongly persuaded to agree with that position, the NAACP, among other groups and a strong minority of voices, are calling for the termination of employment of the cartoonist. the NY Post has issued an apology after initially defending the cartoon and the cartoonist.

I find it reprehensible that people can take this so out of context, be so uneducated as to not get the references, turn this into something racial when that was not the intent, and, finally, push a newspaper around to the point where it apologizes.

This reminds me a lot of the supposed "gaffe" that President Obama made during the campaign trailer when he used an extremely common phrase, "put lipstick on a pig," to mean even if you dress up something it remains what it is at its core. A phrase that was shown to have been used by McCain just a few weeks prior, and yet did not promote outrage.

Here we have a case of a vocal minority of people being offended by something that they simply misunderstood. However, because this minority of people misunderstood it and decided it was racist, it has become national news. And, frankly, whenever Rev. Al Sharpton gets involved, doesn't that show how stupid it is? When was the last time he was relevant? He only makes the news if he shouts "Racism!" so that is what he does-- regardless of the content, meaning, or implications. All he has in his toolbox is the hammer named "racism," so the only solution he sees are nails named "the man," "whitey," and "oppression." He and those who follow him have done more harm to race relations in this country in the past 30 years than any other group or person.

My hope is that someone in the black community, preferably President Obama, will come out and say something on this cartoon that shows that he/she understood the intent, didn't find it racist at all, and tells this vocal minority to shut up and go home. Political cartoons are supposed to invoke thought, and even controversy. However, in this case, the controversy was about the chimpanzees who work in government, regardless of race, who can't understand what it will take to improve the economic situation in America (and the world). It was not motivated by racism and those who say it was must have their own agenda for saying so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Too Trusting

It's a good thing I try hard not to be Evil. Since moving to Canada I have seen a variety of ways in which Canada does things that just wouldn't fly where I'm from.

For example, my doctor called in a prescription to the Meditrust down the road. Jennifer from the pharmacy called to confirm some things, as I was not in their system yet. When she got to the "Do you have prescription insurance" I answered affirmatively and she responded with, "Is it under Melissa's name?" and I again said yes.

When I just now stopped by the pharmacy to pick up the meds, the woman ringing me out did not even ask to confirm who I was with a photo ID or the pharmacy insurance card.

Now, let's say I was Melissa's ex-husband and we had a very bitter divorce. I would now be getting drugs on her account at a great reduction of cost.

While I agree with my Canadian friends and family that Canada is a nicer place to live in regards to how people generally treat one another, I think there is nice and then doing things that could hurt your business. The pharmacy really SHOULD check a photo ID and/or ask for the pharmacy card before selling a person medications. Yes, it slows down the check out process slightly, but they lower their chances of being sued, being ripped off, and over medicating someone who is playing the system. Just makes good business sense, to me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Harry

I recently watched all five Harry Potter movies in a marathon (well, not a true marathon-- I watched four one day and the fifth the next morning-- misjudged how long it would take).

These are really good movies that show what can happen when you stick relatively close to the source material. While staring child actors predominantly and with special effects so prevalent, they could have easily gotten out of hand or had such poor acting that they were laughable. Which leads me to...

Chris Columbus was an absolutely inspired choice for the Sorcerer's Stone. I know many people find his direction of this movie a little pedestrian, given the content, I think that is exactly what was needed here. In the first film, you are introducing everyone to the visual world of the cinematic Harry Potter universe. You have a ton of effects, creatures, people, and story lines to get people into and used to. By having someone like Columbus directing it, the audience is not additionally burdened with odd, hectic, unusual, or bad direction. No "shaky-cam" to jar you out of the world during the action scenes. No odd camera angles or weird color palette to confuse the audience during the dramatic scenes. Everything was laid out, the majority of the book's central themes, characters, and plots managed to make it into the movie, and it is clear and clean to watch for just about all ages.

Of special note in this movie is the strong adult cast, headed by Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, and Robbie Coltrane. Without the strong adult cast to help the child actors with their parts, but also let the children shine in their roles, this movie may have been sunk before it began. But the adults were able to help coax better performances by being foils to the young actors.

All that being said, I think Chris Columbus was a poor choice for Chamber of Secrets. This movie starts moving the HP characters into dire circumstances, begins to show that the world of HP is not all light and fun, and has some dark and moody sets that could have been really explored. Columbus is not the director to do any of that. So, we get a staid, bland, and no sign of the moody, eerie, almost horrifying areas of the forest and the Chamber.

Unfortunately, this is the last of the series starring Richard Harris, who died shortly after making it. While I do not mind his replacement, I thought Harris brought a little extra something to the table and really took on Dumbledore. When I read the books now, it is his face and voice I hear for this character.

For Prisoner of Azkaban, the production crew hired Alfonso Cuaron. This is the most visually interesting and most unusually directed movie in the series, and it makes me wish Cuaron had done more than one (and especially Chamber). In this film, the children are growing up fast, the world is becoming more deadly around them, and the plots are more nefarious. Harry is under siege from his classmates, the Ministry, and, it seems, even his teachers.

Cuaron uses his sense of style to move the color palette into a darker, richer arena, which befits this story. He also uses some interesting camera shots and angles. One of my favorites is when Harry is trying to defend Sirius on the shore of the lake. As Harry falls unconscious, the camera stays locked on Harry's face, so it looks more like the world around Harry is moving, rather than him falling unconscious to the ground. His style manages to emphasize the shifting allegiances and unstable ground on which Harry walks in this story, without being overly jarring or overdone.

This movie is the first with Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Gambon does a wonderful job, and doesn't try to be the same Dumbledore as Harris. However, I just don't believe him in the role in the same way as I did Harris. I know others who think Gambon is a better Dumbledore, and I accept that. To each their own. I also cannot imagine a better person for Sirius than Gary Oldman, who brings the right amount of passion and fatherly love to the role.

Goblet of Fire sees Mike Newell step in as director. This is the darkest Harry story yet, and includes the first big death in the Harry Potter, so it could have really kept the momentum going from Cuaron's direction. However, instead, Newell goes back to a more staid style and straight camerawork. While the palette remains dark, everything else comes across a little blandly.

The good thing is that the children really start to blossom with their acting here. In the first two films, the adults really helped the children to give great performances and ensure the movie a strong rudder. In Azkaban, the main children start to break free and become stronger performers on their own. In this movie, those performances start to be nuanced, adult, and interesting. Their emotes seems genuine and they don't seem to be "acting" so much. This is good, because the adults really take a step back in this one and become much more secondary characters, allowing the main three children in particular to step into their lead roles in the series.

David Yates takes on the directing chores for Order of the Phoenix. His style is a little looser and more interesting than Newell or Columbus, but not as stunning as Cuaron. We get Harry out in the "real world" more, and a lot more danger for everyone. This story continues the darkening trend of the story as a whole, and Yates adds a lot of nice touches to the dream sequences and action scenes. He also uses a richer color palette to show the differences between the dreams and reality; the dreams are almost all in a cool blues, greens, and blacks, while the real world has bright, warm, but deep reds, yellows, and browns. Which makes the climax that much more interesting -- it slides from the cools to the rich warm colors and back frequently, and the combat between Dumbledore and Voldemort uses both palettes in the same scenes.

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in particular show a lot of growth as actors in this film. Daniel appears to become the leader of the actors that Harry has become of the students in this story. Evanna Lynch is incredibly spot-on as Luna Lovegood, and hits all the right notes as the dreamy, strange, misunderstood good who becomes a valuable ally to Harry. Imelda Staunton is the adult stand out in this film; her Delores Umbridge is perfect in her pink outfits, with her high-pitched laugh, and her oily, unctuous smile.

My biggest complaint about the second through fifth films is how they felt they must cut a lot of the side stories out and focus entirely on Harry's tale for the movies. While this makes sense and I don't mind them doing it, I would have liked to see some of those side stories brought to life. For example, I think the entire story of Hermione trying to free the house elves that live in Hogwarts would have been a nice, light side story to have in an otherwise darker story. But, again, I understand the reasons why they did it.

It was fun revisiting these films and watching them all together. As the primary actors, crew, and writers are virtually the same on all of the films, the direction is really the only difference between them (of note, Steve Cloves wrote the screenplay for all the films except Order). It is too bad they couldn't get Cuaron to do more than one film, and that the direction choices since then have been more staid than energetic. However, Yates did a nice job on the last one and should do a nice job on Half-Blood Prince.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mmmm... yuck?

I have often been noted as saying that everything tastes better with either chocolate or Italian dressing. Well, I have found at least one thing about which that statement is wrong.

While out doing some shopping on Valentines, my wife and I went by the Laura Secord shop. We stopped to get some chocolates, because we both were craving a little. And wife had an old card with some credit still on it.

I noted both milk and dark chocolate ginger treats. My mind immediately did a "what the fuck?" when it thought of ginger and chocolate together. My hesitancy prompted some questions to the assistant manager (who claimed she didn't like chocolate-- which makes me less likely to buy from them in the future) and she provided me with a sample.

One small bite of the gooey ginger center and the dark chocolate coating was enough to turn me off of this "treat" forever. I like ginger in many asian foods. I love chocolate. The two together were a horrible assault on my senses! The ginger was spicy, and the flavor kept rising and gaining in strength. The dark chocolate was sweet and subtle, and totally lost in the ginger.

As most know, I like almost anything in chocolate except coconut, nuts (except peanuts), and marzipan. I love fruit filled chocolates, which a lot of people don't care for. But this ginger infused jelly was almost enough to put me off chocolates for a good while! I was, and I mean this literally (wife can verify) still tasting it LONG after the treat was done, and we had moved on to eating other things. The way the ginger reacted, I was starting to think I might have an allergy to it (I know I don't because, again, I have enjoyed ginger in other things). My first reaction was that it tasted like really strong mint toothpaste and chocolate. NOT a good combination.

My guess is that you would have to really, really like ginger to find these treats to be tasty in the least. And, even then, I'm not so sure. Ugh.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Little Rest

One of my favorite shows is South Park. I now own many seasons (but not all) of the show, and I look forward to new episodes on Comedy Central.

Lately I have undergone watching each of the seasons I have in order. What I have found is that I can make it through two, sometimes three, before falling asleep. I have fallen asleep while watching South Park the last four times I have attempted to watch it!

M and I have joked that maybe this is the cure to my frequent insomnia. Head out to the couch, put on some South Park, and fall gently asleep until the morning (or the DVD ends). I have yet to try it with any seriousness, but it seems like a solution in the offing.

Awhile back, when I first got the original Godzilla, I had the same problem. Every time I put it on I didn't make it more than 10 or 15 minutes into it before falling asleep. It took me three weeks to finish the film. Again, a case of something I enjoyed yet couldn't stay awake for.

Luckily, M has her own Achilles' heel-- Law and Order. She enjoys that show quite a bit, yet gets sleep and often falls asleep while watching it.

What is it about these types of situations that causes a stupor? It seems odd to fall asleep during a favorite show or movie. Could it be familiarity? The known is so reassuring that we feel okay in drifting off while watching it? Whatever it is, I'm seriously considering using this the next time it hits 2am and I haven't fallen asleep yet; I'll pop on some South Park and drift off to sleep. I'll let you know if it works.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rain

I like the rain. It has always been a comfort to me, and a sound and weather that I love to experience.

This was, of course, while I lived in the desert. The rain there is sparse, short, sometimes powerful and angry, and always welcomed, even in too-great a quantity. Here, however, the rain is not such a happy event, I'm finding.

Our house is at the end of a cul-de-sac. Directly in front of our house is a storm drain. However, our position on the block means two things in relation to that all-important storm drain-- a) most of our property is at or below the level of the storm drain so, if water gets past it, our house gets it and b) the snow plows pile up the majority of the snow right at the drain-- clogging it with layer upon layer of ice.

I've been out trying to break up the inches-thick layers of ice around where I believe the drain to be. I'm wading out into inch to two inch deep pools of water. I have dug now four holes in areas I believe the drain to be in, one about 6" deep and then I struck concrete-- too close. Another about the same depth and a foot away-- nothing but more ice, so hard-packed I couldn't break through it any farther. Another about a foot past the second and about 4 inches deep-- nothing. The last way too far out into the road area, but just to try it and about 3 inches deep-- nada. I then put a bunch of salt down on the area, hoping it can worm its way through the ice and find the drain. Once a hole is made, the water will do the rest of the work for me.

We have water all around our house. Most of our driveway is an ice rink covered in a solid inch of water now and rising. Most of the water is finding its way to the path to the porch and front door, following that to the stairs, then going under the porch to the side yard. With luck, the majority of the water continues all the way to the bottom of the property where there is a water drainage ditch dug to a different storm drain.

Our sump pump has started going off regularly and for large quantities when it does. Which is good, as that means vast sums of water are not pooling under the house and threatening to come inside, as has happened to M two seasons in a row until her dad (with very little help but a lot of kibbitzing from me) installed last year. I do the rounds each time I feed the fire and I see no signs of water in any of the usual suspect areas. But the fact that so much is pooled all around us, and moving past us, has me concerned.

I see the maintenance people working on the roads around us. I'm hopeful they will soon reach our cul-de-sac and realize the issue and work on it. I may even go out and talk with them if they don't seem to.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Physics in Action

I was driving home from an enjoyable day spent with Stew and decided to take the "back way" home. The road (don't ask me the name of it-- has the Martello Tower and the school on it) is narrow to begin with, but with the ice and snow piled up on one side was even narrower.

As I drove up the road, around the bend came... a public bus. Large, square, many-ton piece of steel, rubber, and glass. A quick mental calculation of the amount of room it needed and the amount of room I needed and the amount of street available indicated that there was not enough room by far for the two of us.

Thinking fast, I cautiously applied the brakes and drove up onto the snow/ice bank, which happened to (luckily) be wider and flatter in that area. By doing so, the bus driver had just enough room to squeeze by on the other side of the road, and I cautiously drove back down onto the part of street that was clear. I'm not sure what we would have done had I not thought fast enough and determined I could do that maneuver safely enough. The bus was going way too fast around the bend to have stopped in time; guess he didn't expect oncoming traffic on that bend or on that road. I might have stopped, but I'm not sure what that would have accomplished if the bus couldn't stop. Glad neither of us had to find out.

As I drove down Westgate toward our house, the same basic situation applied to the street (not wide enough due to ice/snow buildup on the sides). However, in this instance, a person had decided to park his SUV on one side of the narrowed street and another parked his car on the opposite side. And, of course, they didn't park as close to the ice/snow as they could, because they each must have had passengers who needed to disembark. So what is a narrow two lane road normally was now an ice-slick hazardous slalom course between two parked cars. Not sure what the drivers were thinking. Had there been a car coming, there is no doubt at all that only one of us could have gone through at a time. As it was, a car came up as I cleared the obstacle and I slid on the ice trying to get back from the center of the lane onto "my side" of the road, which, of course, is the side with the most ice build up. Luckily the oncoming traffic recognized the situation, slowed and got to his right, and gave me the room I needed to maneuver the slide and get out of his way.

And I won't even mention the ice/snow build up on Gaelic, which I am a little worried that M's car won't be able to power through on her way home. My truck had trouble with it.

Talking with Alex the other day, he was mentioning that our neighbors thanked him the other day for his plowing. They recognize how lucky they are that he comes to plow out our driveway on snowy days. Doing so frequently means he is the first and, sometimes, only, plow that Gaelic and Erin Court sees. Without him plowing his way in to us and plowing his way out again, many of them wouldn't be able to go to work in the morning.

I also helped Stew with the spreading of salt on his driveway, and he taught me how to spread the salt so I can do a better job on our own. Maybe, now that I understand the quantity and purpose of it, I can do a better job on our ice rink... er, I mean "driveway" in the future.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Evolution

When human beings were ignorant of the world, fearful of nearly everything around them, and had no way to explain what was going on, man had many gods. There were gods in the lightning, in the trees, in the streams and oceans. Gods were the wind, the sun, the moon, and the stars. When gods were angry, fires raged, eclipses happened, floods occurred, and people died. When gods were happy, man caught fish, had a clear, sunny days, and did not get eaten by predators. During this time, man's fears and greatest threats came from all sides-- food, shelter, and procreation were the main focus of life and there was not time to worry about the future or how the world worked or man's place in it.

As human beings advanced, a little bit of understanding of the world crept into the mix and man's gods coalesced into defined pantheons. These pantheons had gods in charge of specific areas of influence; Thor was the god of thunder and the storms, Ares was the god of war, Ra was the god of knowledge and understanding, Shiva was the god of death. Each pantheon had basically the same set of gods performing the same set of tasks-- tasks that were still for the most part out of the understanding of the common man and beyond man's ability. However, much more was left to man's ability and the idea of free-will and man's ability to overcome nature and other obstacles started to form and be discussed. Man's fears shifted from everything in the natural world to more esoteric and undefinable vagaries like death, man's place in the world, and the future.

Human beings progressed some more, and the idea of a smaller pantheon or singular god crept into the world. First with the Jews, who had an angry god and a bunch of angels and archangels to perform specific tasks, and the prophet Moses to bring the word; then with Christianity and its concept of "one god" (however, Christianity also paid homage to the pantheons by having that god in three incarnations -- a mini-pantheon -- of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost), plus angels of many types, and a variety of prophets and saints; and in Islam, with Allah and his prophets, in order, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, plus good and evil djinn. During this evolution of thought, man "conquered" much of nature, his understanding of the world and how it worked grew by leaps and bounds, and people's fears about the future, nature, and man's place in the world all dissipated. Man's last fear, of what happens after death, becomes the primary area in which his gods provide guidance and insight. The idea of man's free-will becomes the foundation of many faiths and belief systems.

Currently, there is a surge by many human beings, a groundswell, toward a truly singular god and even no god at all. People are unifying churches and religions into a streamlined and universal concept. Many are turning from the idea of a god toward philosophies and concepts that are more universally accepted by humanity as a whole, and which do not carry the baggage of previous religious concepts. The purview of this god is as a watcher and unseen force behind that which man understands and accepts, and the retribution behind those things man does not accept or understand. Science, as it helps to explain all things and demystify the world in which man lives, has almost become a religion unto itself. Man's greatest fears have turned full-circle back to Nature and his own survival, but now it is from a position of stewardship. He fears nature not because of ignorance but from knowledge-- he has broken it and must figure out a way to live in harmony with and to fix it. He still fears death, but primarily only from other men and his own bad decisions. Man's biggest issues involve cultural clashes and his inability to see himself as one part of an entire species with global diversity. Ironically, many of these conflicts stem from localized belief systems and concepts of god and religion.

If this evolution of thought continues, soon man will have no gods or religion, per se, but a concept of fair play, acceptance, and harmony that allows him to live in peace with himself, his fellow men, and with his world. He will give back as much as he takes. He will accept the wild diversity that nature provides and will revel in harmony with nature and philosophies. He will no longer seek to destroy that which is different from him, but will embrace the diversity those differences bring to the whole and the growth that diversity can create. He will no longer feel as a steward to the world, but its custodian.