Monday, August 25, 2014

Finding God in a Seashell

Finding God in a Seashell

Walking on the beach with the love of my life lost in the splendor of our surround.  We spend an hour in the unforgiving sun, seeking out the perfect shells that will soon end up forgotten in some box hidden deep within the recesses of her closet along with the rest of the past crustacean collections that have accumulated over the years of vacationing.  In the process, I marvel at the inspired patterns, shapes, and bizarre yet enchanting mixing of hues possessed in each curve, elevation, and edge.    The majestic etchings; artwork of the ocean with its never ending crafting with age, honed by both the gentle and passionate embrace of each current and wave.  Scarred and stained by the amorous thrusting of every riptide, as the sea intimately grinds unique markings deep into their essence, enveloped and later revealed in the sands of the ocean floor.  Sculpting an existence that is as original as a snowflake or raindrop.   We watched as the infant clams washed ashore, frantically burrowing into the soft silky silt to avoid the ravenous appetites of the assaulting gulls who strike with the speed and precision of a cheetah stalking its prey in the blistering heat of the Savannah.    Pelicans glide down as if they are weightless, opening and filling their gaping beaks with sea water only to later sift through desperate to find the next tasty morsel like a seasoned Gold Panner at the height of the California rush.   The sun glistens off the water, its rays dance across the surface like a rush of pixies tickling the twilight.  Echoes of the crashing surf echoes through the air as it carries on the fragile breeze, eclipsing the interruption of the glee's of children as the frolic in the bosom of the tide.  Heat kisses the skin, softly at first, then biting with the ferocity of a virgin lover, reckless and obsessed with desire.  The day is a poem, the sky a symphony, the horizon lost between water and air.  And as I witness this spectacular show I am offended that anyone would dare insult nature's majesty, but assuming any of this was birthed by some freak cosmic accident, a child of unconscious, callous chaos.   This is artistry in its absolute form and only one example of the performances in an eternal divine theater.  It takes the careful, loving hand of a creator, to weave this tapestry of beauty on a loom of infinite possibility.   This is not accident, it is miraculous purpose, defined by its own existence, born of its own truth.  Nature is the daughter of grace, sister of mercy, mother of uninhibited fury,  life's one true lover.  To call her formation a mistake is to call da Vinci's awe-inspiring feats mere doodles and toys of an absent-minded dreamer.   Evolution and adaptation are merely the painters signature, the final brushstroke, after the commission is completed by a limitless master.   It is only when we understand that, that we can truly see God in the simpleness of a broken shell.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Signing at Summerfest

                I think most would consider a ten hour day, suffering through a heat index of 95 degrees, among thousands of South Carolinians, during a book signing and paperback sale only to sell two books and one T-shirt, an absolute fail.  Add into that, having your booth situated between Obama's definition of "God and Country."  The Gideon’s handing out mini, Clemson colored bibles to everyone and anyone who passed by, whether the unsuspecting "passerbyers" wanted them or not.  And a couple of hunting club members raffling off, what I think may be the largest shotgun I have ever seen, as if they were carnival barkers on meth.  In fact, most potentials arched wide to avoid the biblical giveaway only to be driven, like heat stroked cattle, to the Jurassic Park size dino-hunting gun on the other side inadvertently avoiding me altogether.   So epic fail right, I mean by my own description, it seems like an awful, vaguely hilarious, unbelievable ironic Peter Griffin segue at best.   However, and you knew that was coming, and if you didn't, I can only say, really?   In that near half day of giving away numerous one sheets and explaining to festival attendees, who would lend me their brief, sweaty ears, about why I wrote the novel and a deeply abridged summation of its characters and story, I discovered a small group of individuals who were willing to share with me their own stories of trial, pain, loss, and triumph as cancer invaded their lives and the lives of those whom they love and loved. 
                 A woman who proudly and defiantly announced her 20th year of surviving both breast cancer and then battling Myeloma.  The family celebrating their son's remission from Leukemia sporting neon green graphic T's to memorialize their gratefulness.  The woman who fought, through tears, to tell me about her mom's recent passing.  Then her rape, at sixteen years old, and the subsequent the daughter, created from that assault, that she had to surrender for adoption because of her drug addiction.  She wept as she confessed to me the comforting vision she had just a few weeks ago, her deceased mother, looking healthy and at peace consoling her, telling her that everything was going to be alright.  The myriad of precious souls battling this disease and its nightmarish hydra of forms, standing strong despite their prognosis, wanting not just to survive, but to live.   Stories that constrict the heart and both inspire and torture the spirit.   I gave them each an armband emblazoned with the slogan that was first spoken by my own mother.  One that I have since adapted to my own life and hope to instill deep into the minds and hearts of my children.   
               It is within that stretch of oppressive humidity and capitalistic defeat that I realized why I wrote this book.   Maybe I knew it all along.  To tell the story of characters that may be not so fictional after all.  They are images, symbols, shadows of the people I know and meet everyday who wage war, moment by moment, against a monster, a machine, that possesses no mercy or distinguishes between its opponents and victims.   An immortal entity that seems to fear only one thing, the undeniable strength and perseverance of the human spirit.  It may not, in the end, be the cure to its physical toll, but it is without doubt, the indestructible force that overcomes the mental, emotional, and spiritual assault that this predator utilizes as it tries to ravage the body.   I saw it in the eyes of every one of those wonderful people who took a moment to recount their own stories.  I saw Alex, Kayla, Rick, Tara, and Jude visit me time and time again as the day progressed as the sun relentless cooked the asphalt below us.  And as we spoke, laughed, consoled, and baked, I watched a simple science fiction tale transform into something very special.  
             The story of hope, not just as a tag line, or catchy literary slogan meant to grab the attention of my potential audience, but real, unadulterated hope.   An evolution I am not worthy to call my own, extremely humbling, overwhelming gratifying.  And although, my dream, is to become a successful, and yes, a bestselling author, even though I know that is taboo to admit and many of my peers would cringe to have a fellow pen pal admit to such a selfish thing.  Because we are all doing this for the mere pleasure with no intention of renown, and if you believe that, let me dig into my magical bag of beans because I know I have a sure thing of sale.  No, I do want to leave a legacy of literature that gives something unique and treasured to its audience, and at the same time, make a career of writing that I have dreamed about since I was sixteen.   
          But after today, I was given the privilege of witnessing that words and ideas do matter, they can matter in a way that defies preconception and careful planning.    They matter with such depth that they transcend entertainment and interest and, sometimes, engage the most secret, fragile, and intimate parts of our essence.  And with that new revelation, that sudden enlightenment, I realize I have a huge responsibility to that knowledge, to wield it with the utmost in care, concern, and caution, as not to ever abuse or trivialize it.   
         So, I failed in the most productive and amazing way ever, and I can't tell you how deeply moved and satisfied I am about that.  Not in a way that would do it justice.   I embrace failure, it is the most effective teacher, wisest professor, and keeps our ego and humanity in check.  Those who are afraid to fail will never truly succeed.  And if I fail in a way that gives gentle souls an opportunity to express their innermost tribulations and victories, then what a spectacular and beautiful failure that is.    So, with all of that said, I move on to the next book signing, eagerly anticipating my next education.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

One Minute Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Before I begin my turtle dissection, I have to say, the one kudos that this film can proudly take full credit for, is that it did something that very few, if any, have in the past.   It kept my 6-year-old son quiet and completely focused for two hours, with only the occasional outburst of pure glee and delight as his heroes on the half shell, c'mon, you know I had to do it, did their ninja thing in full, digitally mastered, cheesier than mozzarella, cowabungapoolaza, style.   The CGI was amazing, action sequences thrilling, and chemistry between the reptilian brotherhood simplistic, yet endearing, keeping in the full tradition with their predecessorial, ya' I know it's not a word, incarnations that we boys in the 80's and 90's came to know, love, emulate, and, usually injure our younger siblings or ourselves in the process.  But that is where the praise, for this newest adaptation, unfortunately ends.   First, there is absolutely zero chance of overcoming the now nauseatingly retold origin story and predictable plot devices that follow said rehash.  Second, Megan Fox can't act, we all know this, and yet we still encourage her through the payment of exuberant ticket prices.  Third, Bay has finally run out of original ideas and things to blow up because, in the end, the storyline is a complete, almost down to the letter, rip off of The Amazing Spiderman.  Seriously, I was waiting for the Lizard to join his cold-blooded brethren at any given moment.   And Shredder, can anyone say, hey that's Megatron lite.   He even has an entire action sequence take place in a runaway eighteen wheeler down a snowy mountainside.  I mean just paint the damn, thing red, blue, and silver and call it a day.  The ending is predictable, but that is utterly unavoidable.  With all of that said, the film moves quickly and fluidly, and does what every cinematic venture of this kind, directed at that particular demographic, is designed to do; provide a palatable level of juvenile humor and entertainment so the kiddies feel all warm and fuzzy, or, should I say, shelly inside, I know, I can't believe I went there too.   2 out of 5 Kernels:  My greatest compliment, it could have been a bigger disaster, but delivers exactly as it had the potential to do so.  Still trying to figure out what the whole purpose of having Whoopi in the film for all of her fifteen minutes, but that's just one of the mysterious ways Mike's mind works, I guess.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Lost Guardian Update

The Prologue is done & Chapter 1 is 3/4 of the way through.  Got 3 hours of concentrated writing done today, which translates into about 2600 words, not great, but still progress.   6600 words and 14 pages down, this is going to be long one.  I don't want to set a certain goal on the number of words or pages with each session, that has been counterproductive in the past.  No more rewrites per chapter either, just doesn't pay off in the long run. So far, I am very pleased with the way this one is evolving.  This story has been in development for over 7 years and has gone through multiple adaptations.  I Think I have finally achieved the right idenity for it now

One Minute Movie Review: Lucy

This is one of the most blatant examples of the cinematic bait and switch I have ever witnessed, as the trailer effectively deceives the viewer into thoroughly believing they are going to see one movie while delivering an utterly inferior and truly disappointing  two-hour symposium that is ridiculously pro evolution.   It is almost as if, the creators, oops Freudian slip there, got together and said, "let's make a hip and cool flick for the kids about Darwinism and layer it with a bunch of really unoriginal special effects and car chase scenes, starring this hot chick, who's not Black Widow, she may be the actress that played her, it may look like her in the beginning, but it's not, cause we will change it up, so its totally doesn't look like Black Widow overdosed on Valium even though it totally does, but it's not Black Widow, it's nothing like her, don't even think it is, cause it's not."  This film is an absolute insult to the range and talent of Johansson, who truly is an astounding actress and very possibly, the next A-List action heroine if the Hollywood elite would "man-up" and take the risk of making such films.  The script is just tedious, laden with B-Roll TLC and Animal Planet cutaways and Freeman droning on and on about the theoretic science behind the film as if we all need a convincing to buy the movie's concept and remain in our thirteen dollar seats.  If that was the case, it was monumentally unsuccessful.   I have such a deep respect for Freeman as a man and thespian, there must have been one hell of a paycheck to sway him to star this steaming pile of primordial soup, note how I worked that in, pretty clever, no?    And by the way, if anyone is wondering, it is far less expensive to film in countries other than America so that is why it seems like every recent movie takes place in either Taiwan, France or, believe it or not, Serbia.   0 out of 5 Kernels; this feature's entertainment value becomes extinct from scene one, but what can you expect from Besson, who's last great Sci-Fi venture was the Fifth Element, and we all know how that worked out.   Hopefully Johansson's career won't take the same hit from this film that Willis' took from that celluloid tragedy.

One Minute Movie Review: 3 Days to Kill

Right out of the gate, they missed the mark on the title, it should have been called 2 Hours to Bore to Death. Of course, it's really my fault, trusting any flick directed by a guy who goes by the name McG, and directed such cinematic classics like the near franchise ending Terminator Salvation and Oscar worthy fare (note the deep, biting sarcasm) such as Charlie's Angels and the sequel that nobody wanted, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.   Despite my palatable tone of disdain, up to this point, I have to say the premise is solid and somewhat original, it is an absolute fail in execution.  The performances are either utterly stale or calorically hammy.   The action demonstrates the stark and harsh reality that Costner, and I broach this subject gently and with all due respect,  has aged beyond the action hero role.  His fight sequences reflect back to the ineffective, nearly ridiculous, blur and cut away tactics used in Taken 2, desperate to conceal and compensate for Neeson's similar senior status, as well.   The script is predictable, story limps along, and the scenes designed to be heartfelt and humorous are mediocre at best.  It is obvious this director is more concerned with flashy, avant-garde camera angles and film tricks and totally incapable of real character development as the connection between audience and cast is barely made and rather than feel or root for the hero or anyone else in this cinematic snooze fest, you find yourself watching the clock, deeply anticipating the end credits.  0 out of 5 Kernels; I am stretching to find any comment on a positive note, well at least it was better than Waterworld, does that count?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Quality Time

My wife was upset at me, today,  because I hadn't posted anything about Jessica's Birthday on Facebook.  Truth be told, I was too busy actually spending the day with my kids to post anything until now.   Her request, however, did intrigue me.  At what point did we lose our grasp on what is considered real of quality time?  Quality time that does not include social media, but actual, live in person, contact.  Are we so blissfully ignorant that we just missed it?  Or have we become so foolishly self- important that we no longer really care?
 Never let your ego grow so large that your lofty musings left to float aimlessly along the cybernetic river take precedence over one single moment spent truly interfacing with your children.   I want my kids to know their father, not LIKE him.  To share meaningful conversations with my children, not simplistic, content and quality restrictive, TWITTER bursts.   My INSTAGRAM happens when I see the smile on their faces when we shoot baskets, throw a football back and forth, or hang out at Chucky Cheese.
My SMARTPHONE is only as intelligent as the diatribe I input into it.  I am embarrassed to say if my IQ was judged by the content stored on my Android there would be squirrels that may seem to possess superior intelligence.  It is not my friend, companion, or worth the distraction that it presents when I am trying to provide my son and daughter with the attention they absolutely deserve.  Maybe if I do right by them, they won't require a machine that only creates superficial and artificial relationships, permanently warping their social skills.     I want to be a Dad, not a FRIEND, a father, not a Buddy, a mentor, not an example of an endless journey of mind numbed trivial pursuits.    And, by the way, if you LIKE this little tirade of mine, you are part of the problem, not the solution.  Just saying.

Friday, August 1, 2014

One Minute Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

I think back to my younger days, experiencing the wondrous anticipation & excitement as I entered the theater & joined the rest of the audience in viewing this strange & new space adventure that we all had anxiously waited for over the last few agonizing months, something called Star Wars.  Soon the screen came alive & I was riveted to my seat, thrust into a magnificent & exhilarating universe of uniquely invented characters as they interacted with each other with such elegant chemistry it seemed less like a movie & more like the privilege of watching close friends forced to struggle together, fighting for each other, in this amazing adventure unfolding before my eager eyes.   The cinematography awe-inspiring, the effects unbelievably fantastic, & the story, simply told, but deeply engaging.  It was everything that real cinema should be, not just a movie, a mere moment, but an unforgettable experience that changes you in some way & leaves you with a treasured memory all made possible by a man named Lucas.   Fast forward to the middle age man who fully believed that spectacular moment could never be recreated.  And then, a low budget, unremarkable, almost unknown director, James Gunn, is given the opportunity to prove him & any other "naysayers" wrong.  This is, hands down, to date, the best Marvel film made.  Beautifully crafted, skillfully performed, with astounding imagery, & a thoroughly entertaining story, that may be a bit simplistic at times, somewhat over the top at others, but unmistakably energetic & sincere.  The cast is pure magic, driving the well-written plot forward with little, if any, resistance, whether flesh & blood or voiced CGI.   The effects compliment rather than eclipse & the scope & sweep is epic.  Filled with fluid & well-timed humor, nostalgic references, & enough back-story & character depth to satisfy even the harshest critic, this is the cinematic joy I experienced long ago.  It will hands down, be one of my favorites for a very long time & contains one of the best soundtracks & greatest movie line of all time. To add to that monumental achievement, to think, they did this with one of the so-called "D" list titles of comic book fare, identified by only the most-committed fan-boy.   5 out of 5 Kernels; yes you read that right, every piston fires, laser hits its mark, & a definitive Marvel legacy is born.