Infinity War and a Problem with Moral Idealism

Or, I want Smarter Heroes.

Aaah, I return to the topic of space-rasslin’.

I feel it’s been long enough that I can talk about Avengers: Infinity War without SPOILERS-upsetting too many people who have not seen it. First off, the movie just surpassed Dark Knight in theater sales *golf clap*. This is both a great thing and a terrible thing (tongue-in-cheek See Zero-Sum below), partially because I loved watching Infinity War, and because I love Dark Knight so much more than Infinity War. Second off, Infinity War continues the long-running Marvel strategy of creating strong-looking characters with weak philosophical motivations. I’ll touch on the philosophical (now, with definition links!), but my focus wasn’t on the Trolley Problem.

Vision

This post is about the phrase, “We don’t trade in lives,” and the plot-devicification of the Trolley “Problem,” and how in utilizing this decision over and over in the same movie creates a perceived (or realized) weakness in our Flag Five. Yes, I did just plug The Tick in a vague parallel between the Avengers and the lampooning super.

Note: I put the word problem in quotes because it’s more of a dilemma with two outcomes (or if you read Reddit, many speculative iterations and outcomes). While I hope nobody has to make such a decision in their lives, I often see this dilemma show up in action/thriller/superhero movies.

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How the Dinotopia Fantasy Book Series Saved Me

Breathe Deep, Seek Peace.

I know. I know. It isn’t Harry Potter, or Wheel of Time, or the Lord of the Rings, or the Dresden Files. It’s… dare I say… better?*

This post comes on the coattails of a delightful tweet where a class of students is reading Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, and one student’s reaction to an important part of the book. It warmed my heart so much to watch, and I immediately remembered when I was that age, or younger, and the series of books that hit me in the emotional space.

James Gurney - Design Heard 6

The book series was called Dinotopia, written in 1992 by James Gurney, surrounding a fictional island in the 1800’s where intelligent dinosaurs and people coexisted peacefully. The series began with three books that artfully depicted delicious, crisp scenes reminiscent of 1950’s art, da Vinci-esque machinery, and vibrant clothes, all surrounding a cast that felt almost small-town in nature; salt-of-the-earth folks. The colorful books won Hugo awards, and were apparently super successful.

And, I didn’t own either of the three of them. I read the first two, piecemeal, at Waldenbooks (rest its soul) because they were too expensive for me to buy. I randomly came across them at friends’ houses, but was too uncomfortable mentioning it because it was fantasy, and fantasy was fake.

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Should We Give Our (book) Babies Away For Free?

 

OldbooksHey everybody. A few months ago, while I worked with a SLPA (St. Louis Publishing Association)-affiliated editor–and by “working with,” I mean trying to establish how much it’d cost me to get Of Salt and Wine edited professionally–I was informed about his thoughts on how I’d get off the ground as a first-time, self-published writer. He informed me, under no uncertain terms, that I should publish and distribute my first novel entirely for free, to generate interest in my writing “brand.”

This came as no huge surprise for me, and since I didn’t have the $ available to actually seal the editing deal, I stepped away from the negotiation. There’s been enough time between our conversation and now, and enough Twitter conversation from established writers, to give me a pause. Should we, as self-publishers, give away our hard-earned first novels in order to create a base?

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On Black Panther and Symbols

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M’Baku. My favorite character.

 

Warning: there are a few spoilers ahead. Marked out for your easy identification.

Black Panther, as the rest of the world already knows, was brilliant. I had the good fortune of seeing it in the theater last night, and while it wasn’t a perfect movie (does every superhero movie require a BvS-style “Martha” moment? T’challa could have just said, Nope. I don’t recognize Killmonger as having a stake to the throne. Lock him up as an outsider.), it had so much awesome going for it, I’ll put it in my top two Marvel superhero movies EVER, and within the top five superhero movies ever (Behind Dark Knight, Batman v Superman, Blade, and Hellboy).

I feel a portion of what made Black Panther so successful was the importance of symbol-use, symbol-sets, and individual identity, and I’m going to talk a little about that in this post. Also, Claw had one of the greatest laugh moments in super villain history, and it was perfect.

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On Being “Authentic”

…as understood through Netflix and cooking.

This post is long.

Before I start, a quick note: this post isn’t intended to answer questions, but to continue a dialogue. I don’t have any answers, but I found value in what I learned and wanted to share.

The Genesis of This Blog Post: Hanger

I’m not usually a big Netflix watcher, but as the previous post and this one will show, I’ve been watching more of it lately. Besides Jessica Jones, I recently got involved with Ugly Delicious, a food series helmed by David Chang, a Korean-American chef who has met a lot of success with his cooking. Somewhere early in the series, perhaps the first episode (the Pizza Episode if anyone is interested), he discusses the idea of “authenticity” in cooking. The pretext is there’s only one way to make a proper Brooklyn style pizza, or Neapolitan pizza–as dictated by rules published by one specific group–is the only true pizza. Chang says it’s bullshit. If you call your food Authentic, he’s going the other direction, because to paraphrase and translate a little, it’s a form of gatekeeping that’s holding good, creative, evolving food creation at a minimum. And it stifles creativity.

At the beginning of this blog post’s journey, I thought the idea of Authenticity was true in almost every aspect of creation, be it art, or writing, or parkour. But my understanding shifted a lot while I wrote. I’ll try to explain how I came to my understanding, and how Authenticity-as-bad translates into storytelling. Continue reading

On Jessica Jones Seasons 1 and 2 (Spoilers)

JJ1

The intro is super sexy. Now Streaming on Netflix!

 

Hey everyone.

I jumped on here to discuss Season 2 of JJ, and realized I never wrote about S1. I finished the first season directly before watching the second, but the time between the the first ten episodes and the last three might be around two years. So S1 will be short and to the point.

Besides Heath Ledger’s Joker performance, David Tennant’s Kilgrave was easily the most unsettling and complex character I have ever seen. He commanded the story, and sold me in his manipulation. Everyone, especially JJ, had every right to be terrified, and this elevated JJ’s performance in a way that I fell in love with. It was so unsettling I couldn’t watch the rest of it for two years. Season 1 was beautiful in its gritty trauma, in its cast, in everything. It was so, so good. At least the last three episodes.

In my defense, this post really wasn’t going to be about S1; it’s about how S2 wrote itself into corners, and how it shifted the characters’ actions and personalities to fit plot, instead of the other way around. Continue reading

Two thoughts on Poetry

I like poetry. For me it is the art of putting broken words together, fixed. Kintsugi for the jumbled thoughts that exist without rule or border, where people try, fight, celebrate, and debase themselves to make sense. I don’t like a lot of poetry, despite my Twitter account constantly liking things I read. I moreso like the act of trying to create; I read words sometimes, and see the process the writer went through to make it just so. Poetry is an extreme example, and not a monolithic “one example,” as it is myriad.

Most poets I read try and put a puzzle together, where the process is clear they see the work as a puzzle: how do I make this impactful? Drawing up all the possibilities, all the -sauri meowling around in their heads like living creatures, conjuring words that yes, yes fit. In seeing the work as a puzzle, as a here fits there fits this word isn’t working, the writer is removed of a certain pace, or rhythm, or movement. A professor’s words come to mind when I write this: “Never use the word ‘Flow’ when critiquing another’s work! There’s no such thing as flow!” I laughed so hard.

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