Thursday, December 5, 2019

Knives Out: A Judiciously Political Ginzo-matic Review

An all-star cast in an all too allegorical murder mystery!

"Warning! Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers!" yells this movie analyst.

"Read on anyway! Knives Out's plot is a farce!" he replies with defiance.

Yes indeedy, prepare yourselves!  From a distance Knives Out looks like a cookie-cutter whodunit with a tangled and tired Shyamalan twist ending. Grandma and grandpa will nod and smirk throughout the movie as the Murder She Wrote web of clues unfurls with Matlockian justicial flare.

And yet, Knives Out serves up a cutting edge, allegorical whodunit mystery for the contemporary era, a film more in the keeping with Get Out and Us than any polished Agatha Christie regurgitation.  Beneath the cheesy surface of the mystery, its exaggerated trove of saucy, family suspects, and layers upon layers of lasagna noodle clues, lies a delicious allegory of the rise and fall of American privilege.

The tangle: with the assistance of his kindhearted nurse/friend Marta, a successful mystery writer covers up his own imminent accidental death to look like a suicide and unwittingly avoids his would-be murder. Having changed his will weeks prior, leaving all to said nurse he denies his eccentric, financially-dependent family their expected inheritance, increasing their infighting exponentially including the would-be killer grandson who resorts to another murder in an attempt to declare the will null and void. A suave detective and two boiler-plate cops help to unravel the mystery. At the conclusion, the young nurse stands above all, inheritance secure, gazing upon the self-wrought wreckage of the family.

The allegory: founding father style, creative industriousness (the writer) has perished having only found a true connection in the hardworking, new generation dreamers (the nurse). When the privileged descendants (the family) find their promised, unearned dream slipping away from them, they rebel, retaliate and gnash their teeth to remain in power. Nevertheless, constitutional values (the detective) and justice (the police) weed out the worst of the two-faced nationalists (the failed once, successful once murderer, grandson Hugh Ransom (fittingly played by Captain America, er, I mean, Chris Evans). In the end, the American landscape (the whole, crazy Knives Out scenario) is maneuvered toward a more genuine, positive, dare I say, traditional values future where immigrant, dreamer Americans (the nurse) are passed the American baton, perhaps toward a better future and perhaps the beginning of yet another cycle of Earth-ravishing, civilization-spoiling privilege.

Spoilers and symbolic speculation, notwithstanding, see this movie! Think about the subtleties and implications. I'm sure you'll find your own unique interpretation within the story.

In the end, anytime we view artwork we might just see the cheesy surface or we might delve deeper to reflect, get off our theater-seat arses and make an effort to confront corruption and make a change in ourselves and the world.

...or we might just go home and binge watch some Disney+.

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Riders of the Sea" Reviewed

I recently attended a performance of The Synge Triptych at The Quintessence Theater. These one act plays provided an intriguing look into the nature of the human experience as envisioned by Irish playwright John Millington Synge.

Of the three, Synge's one-act play "Riders to the Sea" moved me in particular as it examines the human mourning process. Two Irish sisters seek to protect their mother from dire possibility of death after their brother was reported lost at sea. Carrying out that duty shields the sisters from the very suffering their mother finds herself embroiled in. At the play's climax, the family finds that deathly certainty alongside yet another brother drowned in pursuit of wages to support the family. With his body presented in full Irish wake fashion, the process of grief is able to progress. The sisters leave their protectiveness behind and wail at the heavens over the loss, while the mother finally finds peace in the healing breath of knowing the final outcome with certainty.

This play underscores the preciousness of human life and the mind's evolved process in defending itself from danger, not only to oneself but to ones family and tribe. Evolution is an uncaring bastard, as its primary directive is to ensure a genetic bloodline survives. As such, the increase in emotional distress is an internal flag that the current state of affairs may hold danger for the self and others that remain alive.

Personally, I question the usefulness of extended wallowing in misery. Perhaps, such suffering serves a mind clearing purpose in the grieving process. Cultural norms often encourage a "black veil' mourning period, which if ignored might go punished by the group.

Denial, on the other hand, is equally maladaptive. Only by facing reality can we begin to do anything about it. Belief that the soul moves on may seem a healing salve, alas it seems to denigrate the real life of a person now dead.

In the end, loss is inevitable. The human experience of sadness is part of human nature, and varies in intensity from person to person based on their genetic and experiential histories. One of the best things we can do when someone experiences a loss is to support them, and to allow others to support us.

Through these journeys of deep sadness healing can occur apace. And importantly, these trying moments also remind us that spending time with the ones we love by pursuing joyful experiences and effecting positive change in the world with our extended families is what really matters.

To that ends, get out and experience a great performances with a good friend or a family member often! Quintessence Theater in Mt. Airy is one such worthy venue.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Chocolate Truffles for the (Possession of) the Human Spirit #5

This short story was published as part of Tellables' October 2019 Box of Chocolates Assortment 11 of spooky stories. Box of Chocolates is an Alexa skill you can install to sample monthly short stories narrated by digital, story-telling chocolatiers . 

If you have an Alexa device, I recommend you give the Box of Chocolates skill a try. My story this month is Chocolate #8, The Salted Blood Truffle. 

Alternatively, you can read my slightly extended version of the story here

And if you like the idea of writing delicious, super-short stories (100-400 words) by all means check out the Tellables website for story submission guidelines. 

The Salted Blood Truffle

Happy All Hallows Eve to ye!

May the demons leave ye untouched this night. Sure as death, there was a time when superstition was more than sly whispers and giggles shared in the kitchen. Spirits, in particular, readily spoke to anyone who feared God or heard the wind in the trees.

Listen close and I'll share some secrets with ye. As an apprentice confectioner I was taught many traditions to ward off evil spirits, the least being food spoilage. Salt and smoke were key elements in the preservation of flesh and savory foods, but with sweets the key charm was invoking high temperatures.

In truth, prior to the Great War knowledge of confection was infused with the blackest of arts. Medicinal recipes were at the heart of my craft. Handed down orally over generations, both ingredients and process were key. Witch-hazel gumdrops could stave off the creeping ague and St. John's Wort licorice could suppress minor possessions. Such medicinal wards were my profitable specialties.

At the height of my career my ambitions grew beyond such curatives. To that end I tracked down a master confectioner who specialized in recipes that influenced living spirits. After a bit of pointed coaxing he shared a very special truffle recipe with me, the salted blood truffle. 

Allegedly from the time of Charlemagne, it promised limited immortality. I was dubious, as it required the distillation of blood and tears of a person taking their last breath. To my surprise the master confectioner provided these without too much screaming. I must say the results were quite effective as I speak to ye now more than a hundred years after my death.

If ye doubt my word, then question my great grandson Brandon tomorrow.  He won't recall telling you this tale let alone any tale on the day of Halloween since his father passed. Let's just say I live vicariously through my offspring.  Now, I can't say living one day a year on the eve of Hallows is optimum, but it beats the alternative.

Sharing this tale has been quite satisfying, alas I have other plans for the evening, so I'll bid ye good day.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Vegan Overload

Niche op-ed, initiated...for Vegans and...our Allies!

Veganism is a growing movement and millions of people everywhere are embracing this movement for a variety of hopeful reasons.

Plant-based health vegans devour gargantuan, nutrition rich, leafy-green salads daily. Abolitionist vegans march for the trillions of sentient animals forgotten. Environmental vegans minimize their carbon footprint with zeal. Rational vegans extol the ethics of compassionate reason. New age vegans glowingly build the collective soul of Gaia. Gustatory vegans celebrate the variety of delicious veggie cuisine. Animal-lover vegans cuddle with creatures big and small. Conservationist vegans reclaim habitat wildlands. Humanist vegans support developing country needs by encouraging plant agriculture.

The list goes on and on, yet so often we vegans in our attempt to live better lives and influence others to choose a better path can often manifest an arrogant righteousness that harms caring human relationships, our inner spirit, the vegan movement, and ultimately the very world we're attempting to improve.

Veganism alone is not the solution to everything, but it can be a major component to creating a sustainable, beautiful planet for humans and all of Earth's living things. Were vegans a tad more tolerant, a tad more eloquent and empathic toward non-vegans, and generally a tad more thick skinned, our efforts could be even more effective.

Most of us have transitioned from the carnist culture, an should contemplate how long it took for each of us to make the change.  Yes, it's human to be impatient when other resist even looking at the harm carnist culture does, but we must work for long term solutions alongside immediate ones. No we don't have to give up our ideals, let's just take a deep breath and work on the path that is both effective and compassionate. Some of our energy will need to be put toward forgiveness of others if only to nurture our own self to permit perseverance as we contribute to changing the world positively.

Figure out a joyful way to plant vegan seeds! Cook a meal weekly for your family, share an apple with a homeless person, make a plant-based contribution to a soup kitchen, volunteer at a nature preserve, share a vegan recipe book with a friend or a stranger, start a blog or youtube channel, just keep the joyful change rolling!

With that I'll simply harken:

"Joyful Vegans Unite!"

"Loving Humans Consider!"

"Living Earthlings Thrive!"


Thursday, September 19, 2019


the Beginning i cannot recall
yet for some reason i accept
a beginning must (?) exist

i (!) breathe in the insubstantial
without full Knowledge i thrive, i suffer
i exhale the substance of experience

the Ending i cannot fathom
and yet (.)

Thursday, September 5, 2019

States of Change: Chapter 22: Yellowhammer (Alabama)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

"Ready Gina?"

"Let's do this, my love."

On the e-room settee, Leo gives Gina a kiss on her cheek and then taps the Yellowhammer citizen e-patch on his wrist. His wife does the same.

Wireless protocols bind to their VisARs allowing them to navigate spindown menus within their augmented reality interfaces. Each negotiates through the rotating forest of configuration options. Spiraling past State Alerts, Personal Schedules, Information Access, and Database Storage they access Body Security. Drilling down through Enforced Policies and Paired Transactions they open their separate but linked Personal Relationship configuration pages.

Slipping off his stylish Emerald City glasses, Leo smirks.

"Okay, the rest of the process we have to do in Full Real with proximity-sync, since this will be a major relationship protocol change."

Gina shakes her head while chuckling.

"So silly the State doesn't trust its own scorching blockchain security in Aay Arr."

"I think it's more about giving Alabama citizens the confidence that their rights are real and not just a virtual abstraction."

"If you say so. Let's get this over with. Having my VisAR overlays down makes me feel agoraphobic."

"Sure thing, Cinnamon Scroll."

Gina smirks at the use of her pet name, then shifts her golden brown wrist holding Leo's freckled forearm to align the Yellowhammer sensors. Both patches radiate the bright lettering of nanoLED body ink bestowed to each citizen at age twenty-five.

"There. See, our consensual sex protocols are in full sync with the monogamy option invoked in August of seventy-one. Wow has it really been five years?"

"Christ in a crypt Leo, you know that's the minimum time lag before State Conception Permits are approvable."

"Yeah, I know Gee, it just gets me how five years with you has sped by at joyful light-speed."

Gina huffs softly and shakes her head, then with a follow-on sigh she runs her fingers through his long strawberry blonde hair.

"Yes, yes, my sweet Agave Leaf, for me too, but it's also been like walking on Hawaiian brimstone since day one. You know I've wanted to get pregnant since our trial marriage status got upgraded."

"Shen ji, Gee," chuckles Leo self-aware of his wordplay. "I'm looking forward to being a parent too, but you know as well as I do Alabama's procreation policy has been damn effective at preventing unwanted births. I can hardly believe back in Oosa times, abortion was even a thing. Fucking Six Nines contraception tech is the most Christian development since the communion wafer."

"Will you shut up with the politics and religion and sync with me. I want your cock in me...light-speed, doing what God created it to do."

Leo snort-laughs as if he'd taken a hit of nitrous oxide.

"You still catch me off guard every now and again, Gee!"

He holds his e-patch, still glowing the yellow of interim status, up to Gina's. With an archaic beep, emphasizing the conception permit's authorization, both e-patches turn dayglo green and scroll identical outputs.

[Transaction AL6&BT*X2 Registered]

[Consensual Sex Contract AL5Y!UR^R4 for Sexual Procreation Between Regina Alderan Honshu (RAH324) and Leonardo Davinci Johnston (LDJ987) Approved ]

[Permit Active for Ten Months. Two Renewals Remaining]

[Validated in AL State Blockchain Record 30.08.2076]

"Formalities complete, no glitches. Of course, it'll take a week for our implants to ramp down contraceptive hormone levels. I should research whether..."

Before he could get in another word, she spins onto his lap, straddling him, and buries a victorious, silencing smile into his.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Taming the Sadness Within

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be professional advice. If you are experiencing extreme sadness or other challenging emotions, please reach out to professional psychological or emotional support hotline services. Ever have a deep empty feeling inside dragging you down? You're not alone. I've been there myself many times. How do you even begin to describe the weight of emotional despair. Perhaps you lost someone close to you and are unable to cope. Maybe a relationship just went sour and loneliness and hopelessness are all that you can see. Or maybe something seemingly small has consumed you. Whatever the reasons, dreary sadness now devours every attempt for you to experience joyfulness, to have a satisfying connection, or to just return to a life of normalcy. In my experience, we all have our own natural biorhythms of lows and highs. Since each of us is a unique individual to a fair degree only we can truly assess the feelings at odds within. To that end, the foundational challenge is to have an understanding of ourselves. By knowing our personal cycles of emotion and past responses we've had, we can at least create an expectation of how we will respond to the latest mini-crisis. Then we can apply coping mechanisms that have worked in the past or try new paths to improve past results. For me, I grew up religious, and there used to be a comfort in having a higher power as a fall back support mechanism. This may still be something you can call upon, though I personally have rejected supernatural beliefs in my life. Regardless, you might find temporary solace in your faith, or perhaps like me just recognizing we all are part of a larger whole, a world with numerous communities can be empowering. Yes, some of these communities may at times be unsupportive and dark, yet some can provide light and hope, enabling us to find a place to start recovery from sadness. Being part of caring, joyful communities can be a boon in a moment of sadness. Reaching out to someone in your network of close friends might provide the listening ear you need. A family member you trust with your despair might share similar feelings, allowing you to commiserate. Maybe a colleague or acquaintance in one of your other circles can aid you in how to approach a setback in your life goals. The very act of sharing itself may provide a venting of the icky inner feelings inside and lead to relief. By sound-boarding not only the challenges, but potential solution paths one can actively begin healing and step back on a path toward satisfying, heartfelt accomplishment, even if in small steps. Sometimes, we may feel like there is no one close enough to talk to, or perhaps close friends and family members may be involved at the core of the stressful situation underway. In this case the neutrality of a professional psychologist or a support hotline may be the best action to pursue. Then again, sometimes you may just need some downtime alone, to recharge, and reassess. This is where knowing yourself comes in handy, knowing that a yoga class or outdoor hike is just what you need to replenish your verve. Maybe sensing that your favorite music playlist or adventure novel will give you the temporary escape you require. Or perhaps, cuddling with your pet in a quiet easy chair is what will help you get through the moment. The answer to coping will always be an individual solution involving one or several of the examples I've noted, and certainly others I have not.

Life is sprinkled with challenges, like raindrops that simply cannot be avoided. Sometimes confronting those raindrops head on will lead us to tiny rainbows of hope. Other times we will get wet and muddy along the way. Nevertheless, by invoking patience, a variety of community support mechanisms and our inner power, a positive path forward frequently can be found!