In Defense of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet. Everyone knows the name. The classic love story, Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, and possibly one of the most retold tales since storytelling began. The plot is a simple one of forbidden love, paid for by the deaths of those who deserve it least. The original tale is thusly:

In Verona are two feuding families who have been at war for centuries. The entire city is torn apart by their bloodlust and hatred. At the time our story begins both houses have only one heir. Juliet Capulet is fifteen and innocent. Romeo Montague is sixteen and already world-weary. Romeo’s friends, in an attempt to cheer him up, take him to crash a Capulet masked ball. Here Romeo and Juliet meet, fall in love, subsequently marry, and through a series of most unfortunate events, die. Juliet actually dies twice. The rest of the death toll includes Romeo’s best friend Mercucio, Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, and Juliet’s suitor Paris. Heartbroken, the parents swear over the graves of their children to end their feud and live peaceably together.

The story is, in all senses, absolutely tragic. And yet there are those who hate the story. I have no idea why. Some of the standard reasons are that the characters marry without their parents’ approval and that it’s a tragedy. The only thing I can think of is that these people are judging the story by the synopsis and have no idea what they’re missing. The first reason is pretty self explanatory. The second one is the story of real life.

So the children openly defy their parents. Take a look at these parents! Not exactly the best role models. According to their parents they should hate each other. Since when is hatred a good thing, even when commanded by parents? And their parents have to be arrogant fools to even be continuing that feud so, again, not really the best people to be deciding their children’s future.

And Romeo and Juliet didn’t act without guidance. Sure, they didn’t listen to their parents, but they did listen. and the Friar who married them was more of a father to Juliet then the man who actually claimed the role, and he approved. He could have told her it was a fool idea and sent her home, but he didn’t. He said it was actually a very good idea and that if they played it right they might even find a way to end the blood feud between the two families! Which would be a Very Good Thing.

So on the tragedy front, it begs a little bit of supension of disbelief. Not only is there a very high death count, but some of the characters die more than once! After Romeo is banished from Verona, Juliet is told she must marry the nobleman Paris. Juliet is already married to Romeo, but it’s a secret. So what is a girl to do? Marry twice? Tell her father the truth? She goes to the friar and begs his help and he gives her a sleeping potion to make her appear dead. Do such things exist? I have no idea.

Then he sends a letter to Romeo to tell him to come and fetch Juliet out of her grave. Juliet is dead now, so they can go into exile together and live happily ever after. But Romeo never gets the letter. Convenient plot device? Maybe.

Romeo hears about Juliet’s death and is devastated. So he goes to an apothecary and gets some real poison. He then goes to Juliet’s tomb, weeps over her dead body, and kills himself.

Meanwhile the friar knows that the letter miscarried and goes to rescue Juliet himself. But somehow he doesn’t get there in time…

And Juliet wakes up! Alone, afraid, in a really nasty crypt, and lying beside the newly dead body of Romeo. Does she ask “What’s going on?” No, she has no clue why Romeo killed himself, only that he’s dead. So she cries and she kisses him and then she takes his dagger and she stabs herself.

Of course it’s tragic. It’s a tragedy. But that’s what makes it so worth reading. I mean, if Romeo and Juliet really had succeeded in escaping Verona to live happily ever after what would the point of the story have been? Seriously! Yes ,the tragedy is a bit over done (how many death scenes do we need?) but that was the style of tragedy in Shakespeare’s day. High death count was the fashion then. It doesn’t invalidate the point of the story.

Instead, after all of our long beautiful death monologues, the survivors of the play shows up. They’re confused, and alarmed. What is Romeo doing here? How can Juliet be bleeding fresh when she’s been dead for days? What devilry is this?

And in comes the friar. Too late to save Juliet he gives a stern lecture to the assembled parents. Grief- and horror-stricken they repent of their selfish and arrogant ways and vow to never fight each other again. And so the feud is ended after hundreds of years of bloodshed, through the sacrifice of their innocent children.

That’s the crux of the story – if Romeo and Juliet were not a tragedy than the feud would have continued. And which is the greater travesty? The untimely deaths of two beautiful and innocent people or the continuation of hatred and bloodshed and murder that permeated Verona for so long?

And so the defense rests.Really, if you don’t believe me, go read the story. The original Shakespearian version. Romeo and Juliet is the number one example of how to write love scenes, and poignant tragedy, and Shakespeare is unequaled in usage of the English language. To ignore his masterpiece is a crime of literacy.

As a postscript I would like to point you in the direction of the most remarkable adaption of the story I’ve ever seen – a french musical version that really brings the story to life. Really, Romeo and Juliet was made for the french.  So go watch it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Perfect Circles

In my last post I touched briefly on why Christmas takes place on December 25th. There is so much controversy surrounding the date that I am extremely reluctant to stick my neck out on the topic, but there is one theory that deserves some elaboration for consideration.

One version I heard of how Christmas ended up on that date points to the Roman Catholic Church. I was told that they believe God does everything in perfect circles. And since Christ was crucified in the spring, he must have been conceived in the spring also, in order to complete the year. This would put his birth in December, and thus the date for Christmas was chosen.

At first this seems a little far-fetched. But I always wondered, if Christmas was just another winter solstice celebration, how come we celebrate on the 25th instead of the 21st? It doesn’t make sense that the date would shift by so little. If it were going to shift at all shouldn’t it have been a bigger difference? It seems too close to the Solstice to be completely independent, but it’s too far to actually be the Solstice.

Now I’m going to talk about the Ptolemaic System of the Solar System. The Ptolemaic system is, as you know, the version where the Earth stands still and the sun and all the planets revolve around it. This system was widely accepted and used for many, many years before being overturned by the simpler, messier Copernican system.

Ah, you noticed I said messy. That’s because the Ptolemaic system was beautiful, both visually and mathematically. You see, all the planets had orbits that were perfectly circular. The system was perfect. Except it had some issues. It didn’t always predict the planets orbits correctly. Ptolemy realized there were some discrepancies and so he developed epicycles. The planets all moved in little circles as they went around the Earth in big circles. Everything was still done in perfect circles.

The church persecuted Copernicus, and all of Galileo’s problems can be traced to his defiant support of the Copernican system as the correct one. Copernicus’ theory was thrown out not because it meant the Earth was no longer at the center of the universe, but because his planetary orbits were elliptical and no longer symmetrical. His version was less perfect, and thus disrespectful to the glory of the Creator.

I am telling this story for a reason. The catholic church was very obsessed with the idea of perfect circles. We don’t have any records of their decrees regarding Christmas, but we have a mountain of evidence in how they treated Copernicus over the same issue. It is my opinion that, given their obsession with circles, it is entirely plausible that they chose the birthdate of Christ based on the same reasoning.

A Brief History of Christmas Trees

There are many people who don’t celebrate Christmas because of it’s pagan roots.

There are many people who celebrate Christmas but eschew the Christmas tree because of it’s pagan roots.

There are many, many, many legends about the Christmas tree. So many that one begins to wonder if it’s even possible to track down the origin. Every year my family meets some new person with some new argument against Christmas trees, and it sparks a whole new research project. As a result I’ve acquired significant understanding of the origin of Christmas trees. The tale is both simpler and more confusing than any version you’ve heard before.

One fact that many legends agree on is the origin of the original Christmas tree. All the legends point to Germany as the source of the practice. Whether it’s attributed to Martin Luther or St. Boniface, it all points to Germany. Hold onto that thought, as it will become important later.

Those who eschew Christmas as a pagan celebration believe it to be a descendent tradition of the Roman Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was a festival that took place around the Winter Solstice to celebrate the carefree by-gone days of Saturn. Long ago in Roman Mythology a war took place and Saturn was overthrown by his son Jupiter and driven far away. This is an important element in Cosmic mythology that leads cosmologist to speculate that the planet Saturn used to be Earth’s sun and was “driven away” into the cold outer reaches of the solar system. But I digress.

The Saturnalia was a time of reveling and idolatry and general pagan merry making. Because of the similarities in dates people say that Christmas is the same festivity. Oh but! The Winter Solstice is not a pagan rite. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year – the beginning of winter – the day that people in the far Northern reaches hold their breath and wonder if the sun is going to come back or not. It’s a time for celebration – halfway through the woods. Many cultures other than Rome celebrated the Solstice. It’s a perfectly naturally normal time to have a party. Winter would be too depressing otherwise.

Most of these cultures were pagan. So were most of the celebrations. The reason for this is that Christianity didn’t exist yet. Once it did the pagan traditions quickly became Christian traditions, but the celebration remained. It’s the coldest, darkest day of the year. Of course the celebrations remained!

Which brings me back to the Christmas trees. In the days before modern commercialism, before they even had dye to color fabric, before electricity or any kind of interior decorating, unless you were an extremely rich nobleman with a castle and tapestries to hang on the walls your home was a miserable, cold, dark hovel. Especially in Germany. Germany is one of the coldest and nastiest countries of them all. England at least has the Gulf Stream! So in the midst of this dark misery is it any wonder that people would collect evergreens and bring them in to brighten up their homes?

The legend of Martin Luther says he saw the evergreens sparkling in the starlight and attempted to recreate it for his children using tinsel and candles indoors.

The legend of St. Boniface says he urged people to bring in evergreens to remind them of life in an attempt to abolish the pagan practice of child sacrifice.

Green is the color of life. It’s a reminder that spring will come again. It’s hope for the sun. It’s a way to brighten a dark interior. It’s a beautiful gift from God and it is not pagan or evil. If one studies the psychology of the culture that the practice originated rather than obscure and apocryphal history Christmas trees suddenly make a lot more sense.

Parellel Elements – It’s Bigger on the Inside!

Mary Poppin’s Magic Carpet Bag. In one simple bag she carries around lamps, mirrors, hat stands, and who knows what else.

Snoopy’s Dog House. It’s a bit hard to depict in a photo, but he has everything in there. Far more than should be able to fit, space-wise.

And the original of this trope – The TARDIS.

And because it’s Christmastime – how else do you suppose Santa fits all those gifts in his sleigh?

Basics of Interviewing

I have a lot of friends who are writers, and a lot of them worry about interviews. Interviews are an integral part of marketing, but they’re also a little daunting to think about. Writing tend to be a little reclusive. They communicate their ideas through words for a reason. To try to formulate all that into conversation, on the spot, while being recorded? Are you insane?

The truth is that interviewing really isn’t that hard. Most of the work will be done by the interviewer. A good interviewer will be friendly and charismatic, and quickly put you at ease. He or she will go over the basics first, so you’re not caught off guard by any of the questions.

“But how will I know what to say?” You ask. “What if my mind goes blank and there’s an awkward pause?

That’s the interviewer’s job. If your interviewer notices you’re having trouble with a question they’ll fill in the silence, or rephrase the question. They’ll keep the ball rolling so that awkwardness never occurs.

Here are some basic tips to remember so you don’t have to stress out the next time you get an offer to be interviewed on a podcast, radio, or TV show!

Be understandable.

Enunciate your words clearly, so that people can understand what you’re saying. Project them, don’t mumble. Don’t worry speaking loud enough, that’s what mikes are for. Use a normal, conversational tone of voice, but speak clearly.

Be concise

Take your time answering questions, but don’t ramble on for ten minutes about that time your cat sat on your keyboard and erased half the project before answering the question about how you got the idea for your novel. Find out from the interviewer how long the interview is going to last, and keep that in mind when you answer your questions.

Come Prepared

If you’re a writer the interviewer will be asking about your book. You should be prepared to give a nice concise summary of the plot of the book, as well as relevant information such as length, genre, target age, and where to get it. You should have this information on hand and memorized to spout off at the slightest indication that someone might want to know.

For TV

TV interviews are different, since you’ll actually be visible to the people watching the show. There are a few extra tips to keep in mind

Hands

No one ever knows what to do with hands. The best thing for a short TV interview is to put them in your lap and leave them there. And try not to think about them too much. Don’t fiddle with things – it’s distracting to everyone.

Where to Look

My co-director in theatre doesn’t like the TV and movie industry. He prefers the organic nature of live theatre. When I interviewed with him he freaked out, despite being the older, more experience of the pair. His main concern was – where do you look?

Look at the person you’re talking to. We all know this from basic manner school. This means either the interviewer, or the general direction of the camera. The audience is on the other side of the camera, so it’s okay to address them directly. If you don’t know where the camera is, ask the interviewer. When in doubt, just keep your eyes on the interviewer and talk directly to him or her, like you would in a normal conversation. Don’t worry about the cameras.

Smile

Like any in-person situation, always remember to put on your best smile. It makes you look friendly and outgoing and likable.

Good luck!

Myers-Briggs vs. Astrology

I can hear the screaming across the time-space continuum.

“Myers-Briggs is scientifically proven!” you say. “It’s science. Astrology is pagan, idolatrous magic!”

“Yeah, maybe,” I’ll tell you, “But that’s the only difference.

“It’s the only difference you need!” you shout.

Um, no. Sorry. See, here’s the thing. Myers-Briggs and Astrology may be completely different sciences (yes, I just called astrology a science, but that’s a subject for another blog post) but they have the same result. They’re both very accurate in pinpointing a given personality, and they’re both religiously adhered to by the people who follow them.

Don’t believe me? I have people ask me my personality type and my astrological sign in about equal quantity. The difference? I know my astrological sign, I can never remember my personality type. It’s also a whole lot easier to look up the personality description of an astrological sign; the Myers-Briggs takes quite some time to complete.

Still don’t believe in the similarity? Let me prove it to you. Here is a description of my personality as described for those born under the sign of Leo.

The zodiac signs and meanings of Leo is about expanse, power and exuberance. Leo’s are natural born leaders, and they will let you know it as they have a tendency to be high-minded and vocal about their opinions. That’s okay, because if you observe, the Leo is usually correct in his/her statements. Leo’s have a savvy way of analyzing a situation and executing swift judgment with a beneficial outcome. It comes from being a leader. They are brave, intuitive, and also head-strong and willful. Beneath their dynamic persona lies a generous, loving, sensitive nature that they do not easily share with others. They might be a bit bossy, but those who know them understand this comes from a source need to do good, not (usually) from an inflated ego.

The fascinating thing? For the most part, this is really, really accurate. That’s a good summing up my personality right there. So here is a similar description, only describing my Myers-Briggs personality type, ENTJ. (Yes, I did say I don’t know my personality type. I took the test while writing this post.)

ENTJs focus on the most efficient and organized means of performing a task. This quality, along with their goal orientation, often makes ENTJs superior leaders, both realistic and visionary in implementing a long-term plan. ENTJs tend to be fiercely independent in their decision making, having a strong will that insulates them against external influence. Generally highly competent, ENTJs analyze and structure the world around them in a logical and rational way. Due to this straightforward way of thinking, ENTJs tend to have the greatest difficulty of all the types in applying subjective considerations and emotional values into the decision-making process.

ENTJs often excel in business and other areas that require systems analysis, original thinking, and an economically savvy mind. They are dynamic and pragmatic problem solvers. They tend to have a high degree of confidence in their own abilities, making them assertive and outspoken. In their dealings with others, they are generally outgoing, charismatic, fair-minded, and unaffected by conflict or criticism. However, these qualities can make ENTJs appear arrogant, insensitive, and confrontational. They can overwhelm others with their energy and desire to order the world according to their own vision. As a result, they may seem intimidating, hasty, and controlling.

A little harsher, a little more detailed, but just as accurate. In fact, the two quotes are describing the same personality. So what does this mean? It can mean many things. The two that come instantly to mind are: “Astrology is right” and “Astrology is just as accurate as the Myers-Briggs.”

Which is to say, not accurate at all.

Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not dissing the Myers-Briggs. After all, they got my personality right, right? The point is, so did the astrologers! I know people who swear by astrology. They say that the first question you should ask a new acquaintance, or someone you’re considering in a close relationship, is their astrological sign. That tells you about their personality, eliminates surprises, and tells you if you’ll get along with that person or not. Christians and other free-thinking folk tend to dismiss this as absolute twaddle but…. 95% of the time they’re right. Does this mean I’m going to start reading my horoscope and asking my friends for their signs? No…. but.

I know a lot of people who go around saying the Myers-Briggs test is the greatest thing ever invented. One of the first questions they ask new acquaintances is what their personality type is. They say it describes them so well, and what sort of people they’re likely to be close to. They dismiss Astrology as magic, heathenism and twaddle… but is their so-called “science” any better?

Astrology has a basis in astronomy. Myers-Briggs has a basis in neurology. Both are accurate. I understand neither. Mostly because I’ve never tried. And here’s why: I don’t care.

We live in a frighteningly disordered world. One of our ways of trying to make sense of it is to label things, and pretend we understand them. So we label people: high class, low class, public school, private school, catholic, protestant, christian. Liberal, conservative, atheist, black, white, republican, democrat. Child, adult, retarded, weirdo, dork, Leo, Capricon, introvert.

I don’t want to know your astrological sign. I don’t care about your personality type. I want to know you: who you are, what you get excited about, what you love to do, without any preconceived notions about what you should be, think, or do. I don’t want to “snag, bag, and tag you.” I don’t want to cram you in a box, slap a label on, and then leave you on a shelf to be ignored. I don’t want to list humanity under the “Solved” portion of the world’s mysteries.

And I don’t like being treated like a specimen who proves yet another one of sciences marvels. I don’t like people pretending they understand me because they read my personality profile, or expecting me to read theirs instead of talking and getting to know each other. I’m a person, not a project, a profile, or a personality. I consider designations interesting, quirky, and ultimately useless. I don’t care what your personality type is, or how many times you tell me you’re introverted.

You’re a human being, and that’s the only designation I need.

Manners

Or why the world is such a mess.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about introverts. No, you didn’t miss it, I simply never published it. The reason for this is that I was afraid all my introverted friends would never talk to me again. After reflection I realized what I really wanted to lecture about was manners or why there is no excuse to be rude on the internet, including the oft-repeated line about introverts.

So there are two simple rules about manners – consideration and respect.

Consideration: Greeting

When you walk into a real room, or a chat room, and you see your best friend who you haven’t spoken to in ages is there your first reaction is probably going to be to squeal in delight, talk really fast, and give that person a glomp or hug. This is fine, cute, and normal. The problem arises when you proceed to completely ignore everyone else in the room.

I don’t’ care how long it’s been since you’ve seen this friend, what news you have, how excited you are, or if your only reason for entering the room was to find that person. I don’t care if everyone else is a bunch of boring dweebs. If they say hello, you have a moral obligation to say hello back. Don’t like being around people? Deal with it. A little socialization, no matter how uncomfortable, will not kill you.

Consideration: Listening

So! Point two on my list! People who don’t like socializing will hate me for this one, but it’s still true. If someone is talking to you, you have to listen to them. Even if you really want to be talking to your best friend. Even if the person talks a lot and is really, really annoying. Even if the person is a moron with no clue what they’re talking about. You don’t have to say much, or get involved, but you need to appear genuinely interested.  If the person is obviously just trying to get attention you can bend the rules on this a little bit, but as a general rule “I don’t have time for you” is one of the rudest things on earth to do. And a simple “Mm-hmm,” before going on about a completely different subject is essentially the same thing.

And that brings me to my next point…

Respect: Opinions

So the person you’re stuck talking to is a moron who has no idea what he’s talking about. Guess what? Not only do you have to be polite and listen to him, but you’re not allowed to tell him that he’s a moron with no idea what he’s talking about. Why? Because it’s rude. And you don’t want to be rude, do you?

Do you?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how wrong. You are welcome to disagree, politely. With grace and dignity. Without becoming heated, dismissive, or snide. At no point in time is it acceptable to say “That’s ridiculous. What kind of a moron would believe such a thing?” or even this: “Well, you’re entitled to your opinion but if you bothered to look at your facts you’d realize I’m right.”

Respect: Choices

Not only do people have their own opinions, but sometimes they decide to act on those opinions. They’ll get a job, or not get a job, or get a new haircut. They’ll get hair dye, or wear nail polish, or decide to get married. They’ll live with their parents, or decide to make a career of astrophysics. You may not agree with them. You might think that astrophysics is the most boring and pointless subject ever, or that blond hair looks hideous on them. You might think living at home is old fashioned, or that they could get a better job elsewhere.

You, like the rest of the world, are entitled to your opinion. The better you know the person the more strongly you are allowed to present said opinion, as long as it’s presented in a polite and non-judgmental way. However, there comes a point when you’ve said everything you have to say and *gasp* your friend still doesn’t agree with you. They’re still going to get that apartment or keep that job. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it.

At this point you have two choices. One – act like a rude, selfish jerk, fight for your own way, throw a tantrum, and ruin your friendship. Two – back down and wish your friend luck in their endeavors. Ultimately the decision is theirs and you have no right to try to force them to do what’s best for you. You’re welcome to say: “I think this is a bad idea,” but only if you’re willing to add “But I think you should do what feels right to you.”

Respect: Life, Liberty, and Property

In the era of the internet it can be very difficult to deduce people’s ages. This leads to a lot of down-talking, and general condescension. Most people on the internet are morons, and therefore we assume they all are. One has only to read comments on Youtube to see this.

So here’s the question: do you want to sound like a Youtube commenter? Do you want to be the rude, self-centered moron people are always rolling their eyes at? If not then the first rule is to stay off of Youtube. But other than that it’s a very good idea to remember that we’re all people.  Every ignorant child, every weird old man, every needy acquaintance is a real person, with a real location, living a very real, very painful life. And you treat them like worthless dirt and walk away.

A character in a movie ones said of the Roman gods: “Privately, I believe in none of them. Publicly, however, I believe in them all.” Take that as a motto for dealing with morons on the internet. Privately expect them to be as ignorant as children. Publicly treat them like wise, experienced men. Be respectful. Be considerate. Don’t scoff at their knowledge, or laugh at their ignorance. Listen to them when they chatter aimlessly. Support them when they make difficult decisions.

And maybe, at some point, in the vastness of cyberspace, crawling with creeps and rogues and morons, if you’re polite and outstanding than maybe, just maybe, you’ll make a friend.

The Anatomy of War

A few years ago my family attended a Civil War Reenactment at the request of some friends. My dad used to be in it before we moved, but we hadn’t really done anything recently. My brother was delighted after our friends outfitted him in costume and asked him to fight in the mock battle. All in all it was a great deal of fun.

Today I was looking at the pictures from said reenactment and I wondered what idiot thought war was a good way to settle anything.  Here we have two groups of about twenty men, with no personal quarrel, marching towards each other with intent to kill or be killed. This makes sense how?

War didn’t start that way. War started with one person wanting something from another person. So he gets his bullies together and they go and take it, and the victims can’t do anything against this “army.” So the person in charge of the victims decides not to let this happen, so he gets together his own army of defenders. So when the bullies show up ready to take what they want by force someone else of equal strength is there to meet them and they fight it out.

So then the leader of the defenders says, why wait for them to come to us? Let’s go meet them on the road and ambush them! It’ll be easier! So they all march out, and ambush the bullying army. And the before you know it we’re building bigger armies and it becomes a huge complicated maneuvering chess game where people go sneaking around in the woods to kill other people with whom they have no quarrel for a cause they can no longer remember.

A very good example of a logical premise taken way too far.

An outside observer watching the reenactment of this battle would have been at a complete loss. In order for any fight to make sense it works best if you have a woman, tied to a tree, screaming. And a dragon ready to eat her.

Fighting to free slaves might sound like a noble cause in your head but what does traipsing around in the woods shooting at people do to help? If you really want to help slaves do like the Quakers did and help the underground railroad. Go in undercover and smuggle them out. Or buy them from their masters and set them free.  Much more effective, and much less people die.

Fighting to save the union sounds like a noble cause, but going around destroying it doesn’t sound like a good solution! Shooting the people you’re trying to save is idiocy. It’s like Solomon and the baby all over again. If we can’t have it, then nobody will.

When wars get so big that there isn’t something tangible at risk then we’ve stepped over a line that was never meant to be crossed. If there isn’t something immediately behind you worth defending then how do you know that you’re defending anything at all? And so while going out to ambush the raiders might sound like the best idea is it worth sacrificing your principles for an easy victory? Because once you take that step away from home, once you go out and kill for the sake of defeating the enemy rather then protecting your homes, then you are on a downward spiral that will lead to the loss of more lives than those you were originally attempting to defend.

More Scifi Thrillers

Told you I liked these! These are borderline in the actual scifi thriller genre. They’re described as action thrillers, action scifi thrillers, and other strange combinations. But they have what I like – action and scifi. So we’re good.

In Time

In Time actually disappointed me at first. The entire premise, that everyone’s life energy is the currency of the world, was never explained. At all. In fact, I could devote an entire article to how it worked, or how it came out… but if you stop thinking about it as a hard scifi film (which it will never be) it gets better almost instantly.

Because at its core In Time is an allegory. It’s a mirror showing us what we are capable, given the opportunity. It’s really not much different from today’s society, just exaggerated, bringing out the best of the best and the worst of the worst so that society becomes crystal clear instead of the grey we usually see.

Source Code

In retrospect this movie makes no sense. At all. And I spent a great deal of it being confused. If you watch the trailer you get a completely different picture then what the movie is actually about, which is also confusing. The characters are, at times, unbelievable, but the MC is likable, if not consistent. The premise was bizarre and unexplained, but the setup it created was a nice backdrop for the moral dilemma presented.

What really knocked my socks off was the ending, though. I never saw it coming (which is always a good thing) and while it’s confusing and contradictory it’s also beautiful. It’s hard to impress me with an ending like that, so I can’t help but give it my approval, despite the story flaws. The emotion was carried perfectly. I walked away from that film feeling amazed, and that is a special thing.

Minority Report

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen this movie but, other than being grossed out by the eye surgery, I remember liking it. Flashy tech! The premise of being able to tell the future and what to do with that knowledge was good. The moral dilemma surrounding the use of the precogs was very well executed, and the ending carries a message that I still utilize in my writing today. You always have a choice.

Even when the stars have dictated otherwise, even when it’s been predetermined and inescapable, even if it’s been foretold from your birth, even when it’s already happened, even when you’ve seen your own fate… you always have a choice.

Even when it’s not your choice, even when it’s not your fault, even when someone else is to blame, even when you have no other options… you still have a choice. You still choose.

You only. You alone.

You.

Stephen W. Hawking

It is hard to put into words just how much I respect Stephen Hawking. When I first read one of his books, “The Theory of Everything” I understood string theory for the first time. I’d spent years on-again, off-again trying to understand string theory, but it always looked like gibberish. Stephen Hawking explained simplistically and effectively the concept of a multidimensional universe and how it applies to our physical world. I was amazed.

But there is one problem. Stephen Hawking didn’t just explain String Theory, he’s one of the originally developers as the idea. And I laugh at string theory. Mathematically it’s a beautiful explanation for how the world works, but practically it’s simply ludicrous. I explained string theory briefly in my article “Imaginary Numbers” where I pretty much said that it only works if you dismiss everything we know about the physical world.

String theory is an attempt to reconcile quantum physics with Newtonian physics, and to explain relativity while it’s at it. It’s trying to find a common “string” in all the different elements of the universe. Hawking and his buddies think that with this theory they can explain “everything;” how the universe began, how it will end, and everything in between. The idea is that we have all the pieces, and they just need to be organized into a cohesive picture. We know it all, we just don’t understand it. We have nothing left to learn.

They’re attempting to answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Is it any surprise that the answer they’ve come up with is a meaningless string of numbers?

And yet Stephen Hawking also developed the Big Bang theory, now widely accepted over the static universe. The Big Bang theory indicates that the universe had a beginning, and that it will have an end. It explains the expansion of the galaxies. It was implied by Einstein, but never accepted until Hawking.

Reading Stephen Hawking’s books, or watching one of his TV shows, you can often catch me smiling at his statements regarding the universe, because I strongly disagree. But you will never catch me making fun, or down-sizing his accomplishments. I wanted to review his work and I couldn’t figure out how to do it – how do I express such complete disagreement without giving the impression that I completely disregard the author?

Hawking was working on his Ph.D when he was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease that left him crippled in a wheelchair. The doctors gave him only two years to live.  He’s still alive today, developing his theories and writing books. He can’t move at all, and has to communicate through a speech generating device that allows him to type by detecting the movements of his eyes. And in spite of that he’s one of the top theoretically physicist of today.

That alone is an absolutely incredible accomplishment. But another factor to take into consideration is that even though he’s wrong (in my opinion) he’s still brilliant. Very few people in the world could do what he did, with such a degree of success, let alone from a wheelchair! Being wrong isn’t even a bad thing – someone has to be wrong, at some point, for other people to be right.

I see science as a maze. You have to try every tunnel blindly to make sure it’s the wrong way. and even when you think you’re on the right path you don’t truly know when you’re going to hit a dead-end and have to turn back around. You don’t know how big the maze is. We’re really working in the dark when it comes to establishing the theory of the universe.

But the most impressive thing is that even though he’s successful, widely acclaimed, told he’s right by everyone in the world who matters, he’s not full of himself. He’s not arrogant about his science. He’s not dismissive of other people’s opinions. In fact, he’s more respectful of the people he considers wrong than I’m being in this article! Despite being an atheist he doesn’t rule out the possibility that there’s a creator. And he’s not smug about it, like anyone believing in a creator is a superstitious idiot. He’s genuinely respectful. If one didn’t know his life story one might suspect that he had religious views himself.

Respectful scientists are rare. People who overcome tremendous adversity are rare.

Whether you agree with string theory or not, or whatever reasons you have for said disagreement, it’s always best to know what you’re disagreeing with, and there is no better teacher than the author of the theory himself. And remember the next time you hear me dissing string theory that whatever I may think of the science, I think the world of the scientist.

So you wanna read Stephen Hawking now? Cool! Want one of his books? I generally recommend “The Theory of Everything,” but what I’ve got is “A Brief History of Time.” You want it? It’s yours. All you have to do is comment below explaining why you want it or some kind of assurance that you’re actually going to read it at some point. If I get more than one entry I’ll hold a random drawing for it. If no one wants it I’ll keep it, and give up all hope in the world’s education.