Movie Review: The Dark Tower
 
I don’t do movie reviews, a statement that will no longer be true once I click “submit” on this post. The reason for that is that there are plenty of people that do a better job of it, and I’d rather refer you to them than to try to reinvent the wheel, investing time and effort into something that I know is a duplication of effort for no tangible gain.

The reason why I am breaking policy now, is because the movie in question is a film that began as a book series that I have read and reread multiple times over the past 20 or so years, and I feel I am in a much more informed position here than if I were attempting a deep dive into the latest Oscar bait. This review is not just about the film, it is about the books, and about everything surrounding the movie.
 
I am going to cover the portions of my thoughts that can be considered spoiler free first, and, following a very obvious disclaimer, continue deeper into what I liked, and what I did not about the movie. You know, in case you want to see the movie without knowing the twists and turns. I’ll try to be brief, but as you can imagine, I’m a huge Dark Tower fan and it has taken a few days to fully decompress the 95 minute adaptation, what it means to me, and how it made me feel.
 
SPOILER FREE SECTION
 
From the trailers and early reviews, I knew not to expect a faithful adaptation. At first, I was pissed off at the omission of Eddie and Odetta/Detta. I was pissed that, while an amazing actor, Idris Elda was about as far from the prescribed vision of Roland Deschaine as possible without giving him bionic implants or making him half Klingon.
 
The fact that this information slipped out early told me that they knew this would be a major point of contention for fans, and rightly so. So, in an effort to address the elephant in the room, my opinion of gender or ethnicity swapping characters skews old-school. As a writer myself, I’d want anyone attempting to adapt one of my works for film to attempt to honor the story I labored to craft as much as possible. This is of paramount importance on some characters, less so on others, and the reasons for it have little to do with the significance of the character. The reasons are tied deeply to perhaps my biggest criticism of the film, which I will elaborate more completely in the spoiler section. If the character , or their plot-based interactions with other characters of significance, is at least in part defined by their heritage, ethnicity, manner of speaking or culture, then it is my opinion that the person performing the adaptation leave them the fuck alone, and not attempt to prove that they know something about storytelling that the greatest storyteller of our generation does not.
 
Hollywood, in it’s never ending desire to keep making the same mistakes, continues to have no fucking clue what the audience of these books has invested in mental headspace and devotion over the decades. Book adaptations, especially as epic and sprawling as The Dark Tower series and the Lord of the Rings, need to have respect for the relationship between the fans and the material. Fans of Tolkien would find it ignorant if Bilbo or Frodo Baggins were swapped out for elves. A huge part of the story is their overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds as lowly hobbitses (*cough* GOLLUM *cough*).

A big part of Roland’s relationship with his ka-tet is influenced by his relationship with Odetta/Detta/Susannah. You don’t get to the mutual respect that they build for each other without starting off in the place where they did, with her deeply mistrusting/hating him due to the racial climate of the era in which she was drawn. The fallout from those early days of their relationship also helps bring Eddie and Susannah together. It’s a HUGE part of the story, all predicated on the fact that Roland is a white “honk mofo”, and the Detta half of the Detta/Odetta character hates him for it. It’s such a fundamental part of the story, that I don’t see how you can consider yourself a fan of the Dark Tower and defend the decision to cast Roland with an actor that blows this nuclear submarine sized hole in the plot and emotional dynamic of the books.
 
That said, Idris Elba is probably my favorite part of this film, but I had to fully divest myself of the notion that this movie had anything to do with the books I’ve loved in order to see it. Once I finally managed to let go of my hope that this movie had in any way shape or form been made for purposes other than to wring every last penny out of an IP that the studio did not understand or appreciate, I could see it and appreciate it for what it was-an entertaining cash grab.
 
That hundreds of other movies have been with a similar motive is obvious, and therein lies my point-they did not need to pillage one of the greatest literary accomplishments of our generation in order to make a summer popcorn flick. They could have just as easily grabbed a spec script off an end table somewhere, spent a few million on recognizable faces, and made a decent return on their investment, if that was all that mattered to them.
 
What I think happened was that the Director, Nikolaj Arcel, IS a fan of the books. I feel like he tried to do them justice, but was blackballed into making alterations because the Sony Studios lost faith in the source materials ability to turn a profit. When this movie was greenlit, Sony was hemmoraging cash, forced to admit that they needed help in making a Spiderman movie that could sell like the films that Marvel had been making. They needed a winner, so they hitched their wagon to Marvel studios and let them pull the cart across the finish line for Spiderman:Homecoming.  
 
Full of optimism over that deal, they picked up a bunch of properties in a binge and announced an ambitious production schedule back in 2015, The Dark Tower being one of those movies. No doubt, when they signed the deal for the rights with MRC Entertainment, the studio they would jointly be producing this film with, they did so believing that the partnership would be profitable as well.
 
The difference between the two partnerships, the Sony/Marvel one and the Sony/MRC one, was that Sony NEEDED Marvel, and Marvel basically told them that if they wanted their help, to keep their hands out of the damn cookie jar. MRC, a much smaller studio, was not able to wrangle the same autonomy, and the resulting mashup amounted to a “too many chefs in the kitchen” approach that left the film being bounced around during rewrites, casting, and editing.
 
Originally, Javier Bardem was rumored to be up for the role. Then, Russell Crowe. Finally, Idris Elba was cast. Having been rumored to be in the running to be the next James Bond, there was a pervasive feeling that Idris was a great actor being done the disservice of being crammed into roles that had been exclusively viewed as white. He deserved better, as he is one of the best actors in the business today, an extremely talented guy who deserves a shot at his own vehicle. I love the man as an actor, but I didn’t see a way that his casting could convincingly navigate the Odetta/Detta/Eddie dynamic that made the series so meaningful. Would they make Odetta/Detta a white woman? That would be fucked up, for the same reason.
 
In other words, they were hoping to cast a great up and coming actor, alongside Matthew Mcconaughey, who is almost always great in whatever he does, throw in some explosions, and sprinkle the mythos of Stephen Kings greatest work in to give it a minimum of gravitas as they backed the Brinks truck up to the back of the theater.

To be clear, I do not blame Nikolaj Arcel for this shit show. I blame Sony, and I blame MRC. There are so many reports of studio meddling with this film, it has become undeniable that it actually taken place, despite it being denied by the studios and a (likely threatened with blackballing on future jobs) Arcel.
 
Sony has proven time and time again that it has absolutely no fucking clue what it is doing when it comes to making movies. Oh, they hire the right people, give them great properties, but they can never seem to resist sticking their pecker in the pickle jar. It’s amateur hour over there, and has been for a long time. The movies get made, but the people in charge have so few people making decisions that know anything about what makes for a compelling story, that the good things from their movies end up being things that directors have to fight for. I have zero faith that Spiderman will be a viable property once their current agreement with Marvel expires. Enjoy Tom Holland while you can, because they will recast him with Justin Bieber or Jayden Smith as soon as the last of their agreed upon films hits BluRay.
 
Having vented my frustrations with those responsibly for costing me, the entitled book snob, the movie I had envisioned, I’ll quickly explain my thoughts on the film before delving into spoilers.
 
I enjoyed the film. I did like it. Like I said above, I had to fight through the umbilicus that kept me tethered to the story and characters that I had fallen in love with, and sit back and enjoy it as a Dark Tower themed action extravaganza. It was like a fan film made by some wannabe auteur straight out of film school that has a degree in Adobe After Effects and a vague memory of the plot of a book series that he read 12 years ago. He never read The Wind Through the Keyhole, because he’s not really a huge fan of the series. He doesn’t so much care about the story, but there were a few moments from that film that, once he’s done mining the few bits he needs from them, will make a sequence of action scenes that should be pretty dope. He’ll get to run them through his VFX pipeline though, so that will be cool.
 
Not caring about the characters, he only makes a superficial attempt to hold them to their motivations from the book before twisting them to his own ends like the minimalist plot of a big budget porno:
 
Oh, my car broke down in this scary field that I have no reason to be at in the first place. I just had a bad breakup with my boyfriend and drove off to “find myself”, and now I’m here. I better ask this guy working on the Monte Carlo under the tree next door for help, he looks like he can…oh! And now we’re having sex.
 
In short? If yo haven’t read the books, or can separate the books from this film in your mind, there’s enough going on, coupled with a good performance from Idris Elba, to keep you entertained. If you can’t do that, you’re gonna have a bad time. And with that, let’s get to the spoilers:

SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT

Alright. Time to take the leash off. This section will be much shorter, but there will undoubtedly be vulgarity because I am coming back to this piece at 12:37 at night (morning?) and I’m tired. I promised I would finish this and I’ll be away from my machine for the majority of tomorrow, so you get an angry, tired cut of this. Apologies in advance.

First things first...there is absolutely no way they can pull this story back to where the books ended if any sequels should get greenlit, which, if you’re as big a fan of the books as I am, you will hope that someone at Sony manages to reach around and grasp one butt cheek firmly with each of their hands, apply gentle pressure to lift and separate and push their head back out of their butthole so that they can hand this property over to HBO or someone that can devote the time to it moving forward that it deserves.

If you haven’t guessed, this portion of the review is being written by the part of that cannot establish a disconnect between the books and the movie, and is basing it’s review purely on my feelings regarding the adaptation from the source material (which necessitates SPOILERS).

I’m not sure I’ve seen a movie take such liberties with a book it was based on before. Everything from Roland’s ethnicity, his relationship to his father, even his motivation when Jake meets him are different.

Roland’s relationship with his father is a big part of who he is as a character. How his father withholds praise, how he is harder on him than almost anyone, how he shapes him into the man he will become, even though he’s not there most of the time. Between him and Cort (seriously, this is not a story you want to start in situ), Roland is beaten bloody and criticized almost constantly, but it makes him the toughest SOB around. In the movie, his father acts his equal in their one scene together, something he NEVER did in the movie. Roland always had more to learn, harder to work, more to consider.

Even that was forgivable, though, compared to the changes to the motivations of Roland and the Man in Black. The man in black kills Roland’s father right in front of him with the wave of a hand and two words. Stephen Deschaine dies whimpering on the ground not having fired a single shot. The same trick doesn’t work on Roland. Why? No idea. The movie never explains it, just says it doesn’t work on him. The only person in the books that ever seemed to be tougher than Roland is his father. I’m not just speaking about the ability to suffer physical abuse, but mentally tough. To see him die like that made me sad.

This entire movie isn’t even about saving the Dark Tower. Yes, you heard me right. Roland doesn’t want to save the Dark Tower, he wants to kill the Man in Black for killing his father. Saving the Dark Tower is something that will simply happen once he accomplishes his goal. The Stephen Deschaine of the books would have bawled Roland out for something like that, told him that it was “unworthy” of him, made him feel like a child for letting his emotions cloud his judgment.

And this brings me to the biggest problem I have with the movie. A lot of the changes I can accept, if not understand, but one scene, a small, throwaway scene, cemented in my mind the idea that the people making this movie have absolutely zero concept of who Roland is.

There is a scene, about half to three quarters of the way through the book, where Roland and Jake are eating dinner with the Manni folk in their village. Someone accuses Roland of not honoring his vow as a Gunslinger, actually saying the words, “You are no Gunslinger”, essentially telling him that he has forgotten the face of his father.

WHAT????

This would have NEVER happened in the books. I don’t care if Roland was down to one leg and an elbow, he would honor his role as a Gunslinger. If someone asks for help, he would provide it. Never in the books is it questioned that he is anything but the epitome of his code. And worse? He doesn’t, and thanks to his desire to kill the Man in Black to avenge his father, CAN’T deny it. This is not the Roland from the books, even if you discount all of the ticky-tack bullshit that they changed.

They go to Algo Ciento in the first ten seconds of the movie, a location that is so close to the Tower that they only go there in the last couple of books. Shit, they don’t even find out about the Crimson King’s plan to use the children as “breakers” until the fifth book, “The Wolves of the Calla”. To skip right to that eliminates thousands of pages of story, and neuters any need to “save” the Tower.

The movie also could have done with the missing half hour of footage that separated it’s runtime from a typical summer blockbuster. Everything went by so quickly that, unless you read the books, you probably had a hard time understanding half of what was going on. This was a movie that had no niche, no audience that could both understand it and appreciate it. Those that could fully understand everything that was going on could only shake their heads in mute horror at everything that was changed, and those that could appreciate it, because they weren’t invested in the entire NOVELS of shit that was cute or bastardized, saw tails and tips of interesting locations and story before they were dragged off to the next set piece.

My initial thought when I heard this was being adapted was, “This would make a GREAT series, Game of Thrones style six or seven season epic adventure. Give a season to each book, 10-15 hours to adapt each story. That’s enough time to do it justice. In the first book, where less is going on? Insert flashback scenes from his youth to fill the story out. Those can happen anywhere in the story. The Wind Through the Keyhole and Wizard and Glass are almost entirely flashback books, bits and pieces of Roland’s story that can be doled out when needed. What I’m saying is, that there are ways to adapt what they couldn’t seem to find time for in the film. There was no need to turn this into what it became, a rushed, disjointed, and ultimately harmful to SK’s legacy movie.

There is talk that audiences reacted favorably to the idea of The Dark Tower continuing on as a TV series, and Sony and MRC must still be thinking along those lines, because they conducted the exit polls themselves. I wished they would sell it to HBO, and not try to “partner” with them. MRC and Sony have lost their shot to adapt this by proving that they have no respect for the source material. There were always going to be changes made to adapt the story from one medium to another, but there was still a way to keep the essence of the story and characters intact, of which they did neither.

I’m not even sure how they would move forward with this series, taking into account how bad they butchered the plotline in this film. This movie has certainly forgotten the face of it’s father.

In closing? If you’re a fan of the books, don’t bother seeing this film if you can’t set aside your love for the books, short of a desire to see a few things you remember from them on screen. This movie is The Dark Tower in name only, and it fucking breaks my heart. I enjoyed the movie, but only because my expectations had been sufficiently lowered, but it’s one of those things that the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off.


If you’re a fan, you will see this movie, regardless, but you’ve been warned. Here’s hoping that they plan to pretend this movie never happened, and they sell the property to HBO or Netflix, someone that cares enough to make it right. 
Wow.

Just finished "Sense8" on Netflix......There weren't any huge twists at the end, or really, throughout. It defies description, spoiling, etc. To (imperfectly) quote another line from a Wachowski flick you may have seen, "nobody can tell you what it is, you have to see it for yourself".

I can't promise that it will touch everyone the way it did me, but I think everyone should see it. It takes the kind of risks that the Wachowskis probably weren't allowed to take with Jupiter Ascending, and the end result is so much better off for it.

This isn't a story that could be told anywhere else in a visual medium. That's not hyperbole, it's a fact. There are things that are graphic, because in life, there are things that are graphic. It really pulls the curtain back on society, and stands there by your side, forcing you to either accept it or not. There are many people that will not, borne out of prejudice, preference. or simply naivety. There is no way that a film studio would take this risk, some bean counter would come along and put a stop to it, saying that there is no market for something like this. TV? Yeah, watch it and tell me which network would want to test the censors with something this risky.

Oh, how many things the closed minded will have
to hate in this. There is homosexuality, one of the cast is transgendered, and there are no two of the eight that are similar. The cast is diverse, and by their own admission, not all of them are good people. They are alternatively cowards, murderers, thieves, liars, cheats.....but there is also no shortage of good qualities as well. They are also strong, loving, accepting, powerful, and brave. They're all very real characters, each with strengths and weaknesses just like you or I.

Those strengths and weaknesses are where the show makes its mark. Once the group has reached out to one another (though not entirely by choice) they realize that what they are is not as important as who they are. Sense8 is really at it's best when the characters involved are drawing from the connections between them. When one of them is in a physical confrontation, but has only ever pretended to fight on television, the German mob member steps in, taking control of their body to help out. When someone needs to provide a softer form of persuasion, that same telenovella actor returns the favor.

It shows how relationships are really just relationships, and how it doesn't matter who you love, the matter is that you love someone that loves you back. When one of the members of the group are struggling with a difficult moral dilemma, loss, or tragedy, another member that is going through (or has in the past) something similar is there to listen. I found myself wishing to be a part of something like this group, if only for the connection to others that we seem to have either lost, or to never have had.

In the show, that connection knows no geographic bounds. A member spends a great portion of the series in prison, and is still no further disconnected from the group than the woman in India, or the cop in Chicago. It's much the same way I imagine we will meet in augmented reality in the future (aside from the transference of skills).

Sometimes, it's enough to just have someone sit beside you, without touching. Just to know they are there, to help us all combat the loneliness that we all feel from time to time.

If there is anything that this show is about, it is that we are all more connected than we know. We might be different, come from different places, eat different foods, love different kinds of people, but we're all looking for the same things out of life, and together, if we stop hating each other for being different and just listen for a few minutes, maybe we can all help each other get what we are after.

Like I said above, I think everyone should watch this, but I'm also saying that knowing that a fair number of you will not like it. The ones that don't will have their reasons why, and the reasons why will tell them a lot about who they are. I'm not saying that anyone that doesn't like this is a homophobe or racist or anything, some people just won't care for the plot or the cinematography. I'm not here to call anyone anything, and furthermore, I don't have to. Those of you capable of acceptance and appreciation will do so, and those of you that can't...won't. This series will certainly draw out whatever qualities are in you, and at that point, it will be up to you to decide if you accept that about yourself, or if you wish to try to do better. For those that are willing to push past their discomfort at some of the subject matter to finish the series, I think that you will find the beauty in it.

It's important to occasionally endure things outside of ones comfort zone, to make us better people, or at least to give us a broader range of experiences to draw from. This show definitely pushes the comfort zone, but I think it does so in meaningful ways.

The vast amount of character work done in this first season will leave you feeling like you know these characters, even at the sacrifice of there not being a large over-arching plot for them to struggle against. There is certainly an antagonist, but he is presented in the first episode and not heard from until near the end. There could have been more heard from him. So it's not a perfect series, but as I say above, it takes meaningful chances, and is definitely worth a watch.




The video really says it all, so I'm just going to step aside and let video me say it.


This post will probably be polarizing for some to read, but I think if you stick with it to the end, we might find ourselves on common ground.

I love this comic, because it speaks to something that I've thought for a while, but had a hard time putting into words. Across from my apartment, there used to be a gazebo. It was a cute little thing, and it was nice to look out at it from my window. A few months back, they removed it, and re-landscaped the ground it sat on.

For a while, I had heard rumors that they were going to remodel the gazebo in a shop and bring it back, which would have been fine. Things need to be renewed every once in a while, and that is understandable.

But later, where the gazebo once stood, a sign was erected with a fundraising "thermometer" on it, charting the progress of a fundraising effort to pay for a new veterans memorial, and I had strong, conflicting emotions about that.

I appreciate everything that our veterans and active men and women do for us. To sacrifice as they sacrifice is perhaps the greatest gift one person can give another. I also hate that it is asked of them, often for little to no tangible benefit to our country. I have no problem with memorials recognizing them for their sacrifice, at least in the general sense. There is no way any memorial or number of "Thank you's" will ever even scratch the surface of reimbursing them for their work, and sacrifice.


My problems with this specific memorial are-

A: There is a veterans memorial at the mid-point of the bridge that sits not 50 feet to the right of this sign.
B: The memorial is replacing something that (admittedly, in a small way) fostered a sense of community that is sorely lacking in today's age
C: It's replacement of the gazebo is a near-perfect metaphor for an unspoken of, yet near omnipresent issue in this country-that constant war of some sort is necessary, or at least to be expected. It is the "new normal" for us, or at least that is what those that profit from it would want us to believe. Our innocence is slowly but inexorably being replaced with an endless cycle of loss, anger, and the belief that if we question the motives behind a war, that we in some way demean the sacrifice of those that pay the ACTUAL cost of it.

Now, I understand that some of you in conservative circles are not going to want to hear this, but please understand that I hold our nations servicemen and women in the same high regard that you do. They follow orders, and do an impossible job every day for us. They follow orders, many of which they might not agree with, in order to accomplish what they hope will be a greater good. That is honorable. Never think that I would think anything less, because my issue is not with the people that are FOLLOWING orders, my issue is with those that are GIVING the orders.

Meanwhile, our injured service men and women are denied healthcare, or it is made unnecessarily hard to get once they are discharged. Oh, once a big enough outcry accumulates the government requires an inquiry into what happened, and a few token heads at the top roll, but it's never anyone in Congress or in the White House. It never reaches the true top, where trillions are spent on war but only a fraction of a percent is ever spent on supporting those that fought in them. Veterans are celebrated when the cameras are rolling, but treated as cannon fodder when some new group starts rattling sabers during election an election cycle. They deserve better.

As I said above, there is this pervasive sense that constant war has become the "new normal", that from here on out we have no choice but to engage in constant war or be crushed by the rest of the globe. That there is no more "just getting along". No peace, only the unending race to procure a bigger stick than everyone else. It's Type-A warmongering at it's most pure.

We're being conditioned to celebrate war at the expense of peace, at the expense of community. I have this horrific vision of a future where we are left with no public parks or areas free from some reminder of the need for war, some memorial or graveyard. Some of you will say that I am misguided, and perhaps I am. Perhaps the rest of the world really hates us for who we are, and not what we've done. At this point, it's really a "chicken or the egg" dilemma, anyways. We've gone so far that we will never know if where we are now is the product of an attack on us or our allies, or one that we've initiated against a potential but uninitiated threat.

One thing is certain-we no longer let uninitiated threats pass without lighting whatever powderkeg might lie beneath it. We initiate every conflict, either out of strategic advantage or just because some politician doesn't want us to appear weak to the rest of the world. While weakness is the absence of a violent reaction out of fear, strength is the absence of a violent ACTION out of fear. We used to be made of stronger stuff. While our service men and women have always been strong of mind and body, I no longer believe our leaders are.

Wars are started out of ego and desire for profit by those who are least in danger. Gone are the days of leaders actually leading their warriors into battle, where wars were inescapable evils pursued by men and women who paid the cost alongside the rank and file. Now, our politicians push a button, make a phone call, and sit back in their bunkers to wait for the news of how it turned out. They are, in fact, cowards.

I actually went through part of the enlistment process in High School, but was turned away when my neck measurement was too large. Back then, I was in pretty good shape, could take one step, jump,  and hang off the rim of a basketball hoop at 5' 9"-I was not out of shape, and in fact played three sports.

Some person had decreed that I was unfit to join the military by way of a standardized measurement, and I went on to do everything that I have done in the meantime-got married, had a son, got divorced, wrote a couple of books, etc. I often wonder if I would have ended up putting my life on the line for a cause I didn't agree with, had that number on that sheet of paper been a half inch larger. I suppose I would have followed orders like everyone else, and if my otherwise decent luck failed me, perhaps I'd have my name on a wall somewhere. I'm not sure if I'd feel differently about this had I served. But it's a fair question to ask.

I'd like to think that I would still have the vision to prefer gazebos over memorials. To prefer communities over electoral districts. To prefer whole families over broken ones. That might not make the power mongers in Washington rich or powerful, but I have to believe that it would make our country both of those things. I'm not suggesting that the monuments that exist are wrong to exist. Those that have sacrificed deserve to be honored. I'd just prefer that fewer monuments be necessary going forward.

I no longer support the decision to court war with any entity that has not directly attacked us first. Not because I think our service men and women are too weak to follow the orders necessary to defend us, but because our leaders are wrong to give them those orders in the first place.

Let's start rebuilding a country that is worth living in, and not one that is just about picking fights, winning them and erecting monuments to the fallen as propaganda to support the next battle. As proud as they should be of their lost brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, I'm sure most military families who have lost someone would rather be able to sit next to them in a gazebo than read their name on some monument.
I really hoped that this post wouldn't be necessary. Something that is so clear to me, so obvious, seems to be so hard to comprehend by a large enough portion of the population that I feel compelled to do my part to share what I understand with those that lack the knowledge or motivation to see.

Net Neutrality. If you haven't heard those words over the past year or so, you've been living under a rock. Or, you're Amish. There's been so much said about it, yet so much of what has been said is not motivated by the pursuit of truth, or the upholding of our laws or Constitution.

I consider myself a Libertarian. I am also a pragmatist. So perhaps I'm not the sort of Libertarian people can point a finger to and use as part of the definition of Libertarianism, but I can sleep at night secure in the belief that where I err as a Libertarian, I do so with the understanding that the current system favors the rich and powerful, and if I have to choose a side for which to defend personal liberty, I choose the people. The world I wish we lived in is not yet a reality, and that means that the waters can still be muddied by compromise driven by corruption and ignorance. If everyone had the resources to have their voice heard, the opportunity to play by the same rules, then success would be determined by hard work and character, the way our founding fathers envisioned. I wish for a level playing field, where if a tax and oppression free society is yet beyond us, perhaps a flat tax might not be. I want fairness, if I can never see utopia.

I'm not going to give a lecture here on liberty. Suffice it to say that there are those that defend liberty, the ability for each person to chart their own course and live by whatever consequences arise from that path, but even some of those people have become confused on this individual subject. They defend the rights of corporations, yet don't understand how doing so in this regard is infringing upon the personal liberty of everyone else. Some of them have made allies that are lying to them, and some of them have made allies that have motivations that run counter to libertarianism. They have enjoyed being part of a club, rubbing elbows with movers and shakers too much. In short, they have ventured off the path.

They made a choice. Where they see Net Neutrality as an infringement on the rights of Internet Service Providers, or ISP's, a means to force their hands via government control over their companies. While I understand the mechanics of a free market ecosystem, trying to apply them to the ISP industry is to overlook the obvious-ISP's, at least in this country, are monopolies. Monopolies do not have to fight it out in a free market, by nature of colluding with each other to make sure that they do not have to compete.

Many of my readers are fellow authors, and the memory of the Apple/Big 5 vs. Amazon antitrust trials still fresh in their minds. In this, for those not privy to the events, Apple and the big five publishers were found guilty of agreeing in secret to force Amazon to charge more for their books than they wanted to. Amazon wanted to price books lower, and was willing to accept lower margins in order to sell more books. The Big 5 publishers didn't want Amazon to become a monopoly, and the way they sought to fight this was to work together, in effect to become one themselves.

Amazon is not a monopoly, but they are fast becoming one, something that needs to be addressed in publishing circles by someone doing a better job of competing with them. There is no artificial limits being placed on Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, iBooks (Apple), or any other bookseller at the moment. Amazon has earned their standing in the market by out-competing these sellers, by providing a better buying experience. They do not have exclusive agreements with publishers or authors, content creators have every right to sell their works wherever else they feel they can sell them. This is the way competition is supposed to work, and Amazon's lead in the market will continue until someone better comes along to dethrone them.

This is entirely different than what is going on with Net Neutrality.

Senator Ted Cruz, a man who has pocketed more than most from Comcast and other ISP's, recently posted on twitter and facebook that Net Neutrality is like Obamacare for the internet. He knew what he was doing when he posted this. It was a well designed lie.

Obamacare required people to buy health insurance, a product sold by private corporations in order to protect the bottom line of other corporations. I did not agree with Obamacare when it was being drafted, and I do not agree with it today. Members of my family have been hurt by it, seen their insurance premiums skyrocket. I did not agree with it, but once it became an inevitability I consoled myself in hoping that some of it's provisions might lessen the blow of the requirement to buy insurance. I'm referring to the portions of the bill that require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, or at least to remove their ability to use that as an excuse to deny coverage. My science fiction novel, pre://d.o.mai.n, was centered around a family whose coverage of a life saving cancer cure was denied by such a loophole. I also hoped that the portions of the bill would remove the shroud of secrecy around hospital chargemasters, the computer programs used to determine billing, seemingly in an arbitrary manner.

Patient bills are determined after the treatment has already been provided, in most cases, and the patient has no choice but to pay the bill, even if they have insurance. In a lot of ways, it's like eating at a fancy restaurant with no prices on the menu, and when you think you might want to go somewhere else you realize every other restaurant has the same menus.

I've drifted pretty far off track here, but I wanted to refresh everyone's memory on how unpopular Obamacare is, and how even the people that initially were hopeful that it might do some good were disappointed in it's half-ass execution, where the benefits of increased hospital billing transparency still haven't been put into practice yet.

So when Ted Cruz tied Net Neutrality to Obamacare, he did so not because the comparison is accurate, he did it to tap into the hatred of a populace too busy to bother looking too close. People don't see how Net Neutrality benefits them, and they're often too busy or disinterested to bother looking into it, to educate themselves and to draw their own conclusions.

So let me break it down for you. A brief history lesson on Net Neutrality.

First, a definition of just what Net Neutrality is.

Net Neutrality is the policy that all internet traffic, be it porn videos, cat videos, facebook posts, this blog post, Netflix videos, emails, tweets, WHATEVER, is all treated the same, or, to make it clearer-Neutrally. Oh, Netflix has to pay more, because they use more bandwidth, but the amount they pay is directly proportional to the amount of bandwidth they use, and the speed, just like everyone else.

If you want a faster internet connection, you can pay for it. If you have a cell phone, and you want to be able to use the internet more on it than your 2 Gb plan will allow, you can buy a bigger package. If you want it to be faster at home, you can buy a faster package. If you want your cell phones internet to be faster, you can buy one that has 4G capability. The point is-you pay for your service already. You don't pay more or less based on where you go on the internet, you pay for how far and how fast you can get there. So does Netflix. They pay for their connection just like you do. Net Neutrality critics behave like Netflix has free access to the internet, or that they somehow are using more bandwidth than they pay for. This is not the case.

Up until 2011, the internet was largely unregulated in terms of Net Neutrality. All content was treated equally, just like if you pay for gas in your car, the gas station can't tell you where you can or can't go with that gas, or if you can get on the highway with it or if you have to stick to back roads. It was great, and the only reason you don't notice that anything has changed is that ISP's are waiting for the other shoe to drop before enacting changes. If they make their changes now, when the subject is still up for debate, they will lose the support of whoever they've bought off because the changes will be less popular than Obamacare. No, they're biding their time, not wanting to shoot their load (muzzle loader gun reference, get out of the gutter) before the contracts have been signed, so to speak.

Net Neutrality has been currently overturned, since 2011 when Verizon sued the FCC], stating that the Net Neutrality rules the FCC had put in place were unconstitutional. The FCC had decided that internet service was a basic utility, like the electricity provided by your electric company or the water provided to your local water utility. It very much is like that. It always has been, since the very birth of the nationwide internet. You pay for electricity, and the electric company doesn't dictate what you do with it. They don't tell you how many TV's you can use, if you have to use an over or a rangetop to cook your food, or how long you are allowed to leave your lights on. Same with water. Your water company doesn't tell you how long your baths are allowed to be, how many glasses you are allowed to drink, etc. You simply pay for what you use, and enjoy the freedom to do with it what you please, so long as it isn't breaking any other laws.

Do you think that the internet, as it currently exists, sounds a lot like that? Yes. So long as you aren't Netflix. As consumers, we pay for our internet, we use it how we see fit, so long as it doesn't break any laws. Netflix, since the Appellate court overturned the Net Neutrality laws in 2011, has been fighting a losing battle against Comcast and other ISP's. Netflix still pays it's internet service fees, same as it always has, but recently it has been forced to pay additional fees in order to maintain the same level of service it was enjoying prior to the changes. Let me reiterate that-Netflix was paying it's bills to the ISP's, but the ISP's decided that they needed more money because Netflix was....well......Netflix. Netflix was already paying for their electricity, their water, but Comcast didn't like what they were using it for, so they started turning down the water pressure, and causing brownouts, until Netflix agreed to pay more money than everyone else for the same internet access.

Since I know some of you are visual learners, let me show you a graph. Netflix is the black line on Comcast. I'll let you guess when Comcast started shaking Netflix down, and at what point Netflix's first check cleared for the new billing cycle.



The graph shows that other ISP's had the same problem, but remember, Comcast is the largest infrastructure provider in the US. Meaning they own most of the interconnecting roads, so their speeds will drop as well because part of their networks run through Comcast's.

This would be like Comcast deciding that it disagrees with your political or religious beliefs, and decides to slow your connection when you visit sites that support those beliefs because it doesn't agree with them. It's an gross infraction of personal liberty, of free speech, and it is also an antitrust violation as well as a discriminatory practice. The only reason the people in charge of this are not in jail is because:

A: our government is largely bought and paid for. The only corporation that donated more money than Comcast in the last election cycle is Northrop Grumman, a military contractor, who has no customers other than the government.

B: It is currently LEGAL, under the ruling by the appellate court. Even the potential human rights violations have little in the way of legal precedent, which means that it's a veritable playground for the ISP's until the FCC finalizes it's new rules. They can point fingers all over the place, and nothing will change until the FCC dictates what the legal ramifications for this practice will be, if any.

The fact that Senator Cruz was even allowed to post something in direct contrast to facebook's stated opposition to overruling of Net Neutrality is only because they choose to not engage in the very behavior that Comcast, Time Warner, and the rest of the ISP's out there are trying to get signed into law. As the law stands, again, only since the appellate court ruling changed the landscape in 2011, they could block Ted Cruz's account, or slow down his posts so much that he would be commenting on Net Neutrality after the decision had already been made. There is no law against it now, because the appellate court has decided that corporations are people, and not only are they people, their rights are more valid than yours and mine. The Republican party has been a supporter of the new changes, of which Ted Cruz is a member. This is also the same Republican party that won landslide elections a few weeks ago, meaning that if Congress has their way, you will be paying a great deal more if you want to participate in parts of the internet that they and the ISP's of the world find wrong, or at least there will be nothing stopping them from doing so, legally speaking.

But we trust the government to dictate morality well enough, right? Oh...well how about large corporations, ones like Hobby Lobby that have decided that they can make changes to their employees health coverage at will based on religious beliefs? You know, separation of church and state, right?

If you want the government out of your browser history, you don't need to be against Net Neutrality, no matter how much Ted Cruz wants to confuse you. You need to be for it, because Net Neutrality is about personal freedom to do what you want on the internet, and to be able to pay the same prices to do it as someone that enjoys a different political, personal, or service preference than you do.

And if you're just supporting the ISP's because you think that they will cut your bill because you don't watch Netflix online, or tweet 100 times a day, then you are the worst sort of lemming. When was the last time your internet bill went DOWN? It doesn't. Just like there isn't some untapped potential in the network for a "Fast Lane." According to their own information, the information that they are supplying to twist the debate around Net Neutrality, there isn't enough network capacity to continue without future expansion, or at least for much longer. If they don't have enough capacity to provide the promised "Fast Lane", then the only thing they can do is make the current internet the "Fast Lane", and reduce the speeds of those that don't pay.

Or even worse, they're lying about not having more network headroom, and they're just holding out on everyone in order to extort more money. Whichever way, they're being dishonest.

The internet needs to go back to the way it was, or to stay the way everyone seems to think it is right now. People need to get what they've been paying for, and Comcast and the other ISP's need to stop being greedy, manipulative monopolies.

I vote FOR Net Neutrality, and I hope you do too. Or, I would vote for it, if they were allowing us to. At any rate, call your senator, and explain it to them now. Clearly there are quite a few of them that don't understand it either.


Every year I've had this blog, I have tried to include a Short piece for Halloween. Previously, it was a running joke that I submitted for a local newspaper's Halloween writing contest, one that I tried my best to write something elaborate and nuanced enough to avoid winning. This year, they cancelled the contest, so I took it upon myself to write the piece for my own (and hopefully, your) pleasure. It's called a Forest of Choice, and I barely managed to keep it to exactly 500 words. I wanted to try to write something that was a little larger than the 500 words on the page, and for my own purposes, I think I succeeded. I wanted to explore the paranoia of being lost in the woods, but I also wanted to explore the minutia of life, how the closer we look at it, the more questions we are left with. Call it anthropomorphism if you want, but I think it's a conversation worth having.

Anyways, before I go off on any more of a tangent, here's the piece. Let me know what you think?

A Forest of Choice
By: Christopher Godsoe
Word Count: 500

The storm rolled in, demarcating a shift in tone as well as climate. It brought with it the cold, and it's the cold wind that I feared most. It pushed around the branches of the birch grove I spent the night in like a spectral composer, and I shook.

I was lost, but if you asked me for how long I had been lost, I couldn't tell you. One wrong turn, a poor choice on the path, and everything I knew might as well be a thousand miles away.

Neither could I tell you when the voices started, but now they're my constant companion, telling me how I'll never escape, how I will spend the rest of my days wandering that same trackless expanse of wilderness. One choice, one solitary decision to leave the trail had been my undoing. It's been said that we are a product of our choices in life, and it's a point I can find no fault in.

As I've walked, I've been thinking a lot about choices. I wonder if our minds are simply a product of the choices inside of our brains, the billions of individual connections between neurons carrying the magic formula that makes us....us. Does consciousness arise from the noise of a billion neural connections, and we just lack the perspective to see it? I suppose it's possible.

But if a billion choices are the genesis of consciousness, might any system of sufficient complexity generate the same “spark”? Is perhaps the forest, with it's billions of tree branch vocal cords, such a being? Aren't we both nothing more than symbiotic clusters of lesser living things? You might call that crazy talk, but if a crazy man shouts the secret of life in an otherwise deserted forest, does he make a sound? Does a forest, with it's bespoke consciousness, posses an intelligence capable of whispering the horrible words that have followed me for the past few days, simply by shaping the wind through the unique pattern of branches, each fork in each branch a choice of the tree?

Or is it my mind, with nothing to do but generate false phantoms? These are the things I think about, when every survivalist tells you that I should be thinking of home, cultivating hope that I will see everyone I love again. They're not here, though. They don't hear the wind as it passes through those branches, whispering in concert, speaking to me in a tongue that only I can hear. Maybe the voices were always there, the lost language of a forest grown furious by the indifference of man. Maybe you just have to be quiet long enough to hear it's enmity.

Having listened to that incessant lecture, of how soon I will become weak from famine, how my once sure steps will begin to falter, it's a gift I wish to return.


I'm cold, rapidly depleting my pudgy excess of stored calories, and soon there will be one less voice in the forest.
(DISCLAIMER- this is the first of many chapters of a philosophical treatise I have been working on. It is titled, "Matrix as Maelstrom: How becoming ghosts in the machine will save us all." It is meant to explore the ideas behind Mind Uploading, both philosophical and logistical, from every angle I can think of. I really have no idea how it is going to turn out, but it should be an enlightening and entertaining ride. Many of you have not heard of this technology, but if you are willing to listen with an open mind, I will explain it, and attempt to explore the considerations and benefits of it as exhaustively as I can. It is posted here as a first draft, needing heavy revision, proper references, and revision. It is also a reference of sorts for my d.o.mai.n fiction series, though I assure you that the technology is very real and this treatise will in no way reference the stories in my novels.)


Matrix as Maelstrom: How becoming ghosts in the machine will save us all.

Introduction



I'd like to start off by asking a question. I like to think that the intelligence of an individual can be directly traced from the quality of the questions they pose, so I will start with one. There will be others, of course, because the scope of my topic is broad and far reaching, but I hope that this one question will breed questions of your own.

What would you do if the only limits placed on you were those of your own imagination?

By only, I do mean only. Even the limitations of your own body, long accepted as fact, are no longer a consideration. Are you no longer as young as you once were? Do you have bad knees? Thinning hair? A chronic condition that limits your mobility and weighs on you every moment of every day?

What if you could choose to have those obstacles removed from your path, as well as any other potential limitation? What would you do?

It's not a question that most of us even entertain, at least not once we reach adulthood and the physics we accept as reality are cemented in our minds. We are grilled from late childhood to "grow up" and "Stop thinking with your head in the clouds", when in reality what we need is more of that line of thought.

Nobody ever solved a problem without considering new ideas. The fact that problems exist imply that there are limits to conventional thought. So let your mind free, allow yourself to dream for a minute, and try to imagine what your surroundings might look like without any impediments.

The concept I will explore in this treatise, if such a thing can be said to fall within the definition, is that in the next 30-50 years most of us will have to begin entertaining this question in a serious nature. I am referring, of course, to Mind Uploading, the downloading of a human consciousness (or mind) into a computerized processing unit.

The technology behind Mind Uploading is still in it's infancy, but there are promising breakthroughs made all the time. To date, the progress has been relegated to decoding electrical impulses from the brain, and through brain computer interfaces, using those signals to drive physical hardware either directly connected to the person connected to the interface, or over great distances via the internet.

This book is not meant to be an exhaustive compilation of the technology to date, since such a snapshot would be quickly outdated, limiting the shelf life of the endeavor. Instead, I intend to explore the philosophical reasons for and against such technology, because I want anyone reading this to expand on my work by asking questions of their own. Better questions, hopefully, than the ones I manage to formulate here.

Woudl the world of your imagination have purple trees, rivers of gold, cool to the touch but still liquid? Would it involve you having the ability to jump from body to body, some of which were purpose built for the task you were undertaking? Or would it involve the magic of unassisted human flight, the ability to run and leap into the air like a superhero? It will all one day become possible, and very likely in our lifetimes.

No great thing comes without consequences, or potential pitfalls. I will explore these as well, since any pragmatic take on the concept will require that we examine contradictory aspects as well as those that reinforce our position, as well as potential ways to overcome them.

Make no mistake, it is my position that Mind Uploading will become a real thing, and in many ways it will be bother the greatest invention in the history of man, and also the way many of us will wave goodbye to the essential qualities that make us human.

It is not, as I have stated before, without consequence, and I am sure that there will be consequences and difficulties along the way that I have been unable to forsee. I expect that some of the more pressing questions, such as if a consciousness uploaded into a computer is in fact the person at all, or just a crude, digital copy? If it is a copy of that person, what happens to the body left behind, or what becomes of the original consciousness still in the body? What rights would such an entity have? What might a human mind behave like if it's limitations are removed?

These are just a fraction of the questions that I have thought to explore, and as I've also said before, it is my sincere wish that you have questions of your own, questions that I have not even thought to ask. I do not want this exploration to be a reference,I want it to be the beginning of a discussion that will start people thinking along the lines they will need to in order to be ready when the technology is. When a technology is ready before the people who are to use it, tragedy often results, but if we've prepared ourselves philosophically, as far as something can be done with such a paradigm shift, then I think our chances of handling it in a mature way increase greatly.

Having gone over the salient points of my theory, I will explore the different aspects of Mind Uploading in the following chapters. It is of course all science fiction at this point, but like all great science fiction, it is only fiction by it's preceding chronologically of the truth. So if you must approach it as science fiction, you have my permission to do so. Listening to the point of view of others has never required accepting it, and I would assume that a large portion of any potential audience of this work would be here, grain of salt firmly grasped in their hand.

If you are hearing me out, I can ask for nothing more.
Reporter: So, why do you write these strong female characters?

Joss Whedon: Because you’re still asking me that question.

I normally don't chase current events in this blog, there are plenty of other writers that do it better than I ever could, and that is not the purpose of this site. I had been toying around with the idea of writing a post about writing genders other than your own, in a way to open a discussion about the many difficulties that can spring up in doing so, and how popular opinion can sometimes make it so no matter what you do, you're wrong. I would find myself with an open window, a blank white page and a blinking cursor in the upper left hand corner of the screen, and realize I didn't know how to begin. 
It's a common enough problem for writers, the most common one of all, in fact, but current events involving Christy Mack, Rhianna, and most recently Ray Rice and his wife (undoubtedly there are others as well that I am missing) gave me the starting point I was lacking. 
This is not going to be another "The men of the world are 100% of the problem" posts, nor is it going to be a "she was asking for it" post. Anyone looking for either of those points of view here are going to be disappointed. This is going to be a post about responsibility in regards to abuse of any gender. This is actually going to be a post about modern day feminism, and before any men reading this post groan and close the window, you should remember that I said this is about responsibility. Not just the responsibility of men, or women, or parents, or the courts/police. I see this as everyone's problem, and everyone needs to be pulling their own weight. The first part of that is cutting through the bullshit of what people are really looking for when they say the word "equality" nowadays. 
I suppose I should get this out of the way up front. If someone physically beats the shit out of someone, it is assault and they should be prosecuted for it. Notice how I didn't start that sentence out with, "When a man". That's because the law, outside of public perception, does not specify genders. Yet that is what I am seeing a lot of in the comments of people online, and the overwhelming message in the media is one that makes pains to specify that this is strictly a men beating on women problem. I see a lot of "A man should not hit a woman!" Of course a man should not hit a woman. There are laws against anyone hitting anyone, like I said, it's called assault. 
Again, Ray Rice is clearly guilty, and he should be prosecuted even though his now wife is refusing to press charges. There is never an excuse to hit someone like that, and he should pay for his crime. His wife should have charges brought up on her as well, because she clearly instigated the fight and struck him as well. If this was a scene between two women, a jury would likely consider it a case of self defense. Since he's a 200lb+ running back, and able to drop her with a single punch, it is seen differently. Even putting aside all questions of equality, men are taught their entire life that it is wrong to hit women. Personally, I was brought up to never hit a woman. Never. If they are coming after you with a knife, you are expected to wrestle the knife free from them and throw it away, then call the cops while you restrain her (without causing physical damage) until the cops arrive. This is the correct way to handle the situation, but not because she's a woman. Because she's a human being. So there's no defense for Ray Rice. He will get what the courts decide he is due. It won't be enough for some, and the rest will think it's too harsh, there is no pleasing everyone. 
I'm sure the data says that men are the worst offenders, but I think it's dangerous for anyone seeking equality to look at it that way. Check out this video, which is at least six years old. A major news organization actually conducted research to see how society views a man abusing a woman versus how they view a woman abusing a man. I'll leave it here for everyone to watch, and I want you to really think about it as you're saying to yourself, "yeah, well......" because they actually ask the people walking by what they thought when they were walking by and seeing the abuse. 


It's not equality if one gender can attack another with impunity and the other is instantly demonized. If we really want equality, then people need to stand up and make sure that the rules are enforced for everyone, not just those you consider to be in a position of being weker physically. If men aren't able to defend themselves against someone who knows that they can do whatever they want short of pulling out a knife or a gun and it will be socially acceptable, then who is the weaker gender?

Again, I'm not suggesting that men should be allowed to hit women, I'm suggesting that neither gender should be allowed to hit the other one. Assault is assault, and if a specific demographic wants their demands of equality to be taken seriously, then they need to be ready to accept the responsibility that comes with that equality. Equality isn't just making more money, or gaining power over other people, it's pulling your weight when it comes to the less glamorous portions of life as well, if needed. 

Am I suggesting that all women be able to open pickle jars on their own, or kill spiders as well as the men, or defend their man if a robber pulls a gun? Not necessarily. But the assumption that a man unwilling to do these things is less a man is just as sexist as implying that Ray Rices wife never would have been hit if she was in the kitchen where she belonged. 

I think most people in this country have no fucking clue what true equality is. Excuse my vulgarity, but they wouldn't know it if it bit them in the ass. I think it's a convenient point to whip out when they aren't getting something they want, and easily stowed when the status quo benefits them. Gender roles are being redefined every day, which is fine, such is the pace of progress. The assumption that anyone is "owed" anything usually causes hate and discontent.

Men get tired of expecting to be a chivalrous gentleman one minute, then being told they are worthless because women "don't need a man" with the next breath. I get it, women are stretching their wings after being oppressed for far too long, but that has never been an excuse for being an asshole. How many women cheered that Blu Cantrell song "Hit 'Em up Style"? What would the public outcry have been had a man that had been cheated on lit the girls collection of Louboutin's on fire, or wrote some derogatory epithet with a paint marker on their designer handbag, or blew up their convertible Mustang? 

Yeah, you might not want to think about it that way, but these are the current stakes of equality, things that women concerned about equality should no longer tolerate out of other women (let alone celebrate), just as men are expected to intervene in a fight that involves a larger man beating up someone smaller than them, be they man or woman.

Men are taking on more of the household duties as women are making strides in the workforce. I read an article just the other day that now that men are doing so, women are finding them less attractive and divorcing or leaving them for more "masculine" men. Is it a case of women not understanding yet what they want? They wanted men to help, and when they do, suddenly they aren't as desirable any more? My point is that there are going to be mistakes made, and this process will be as problematic and arduous as it is necessary. 

I think most people will agree that there is a ton of work to be done to end domestic violence. I think fewer people out there understand that confining our discussion to only stopping men from hitting women isn't equality. If you only look at one side of the issue, all that will happen is to provide legal protection for women to enact physical violence on men, and men will be expected to take it in much the same way that in the 50's a man could strike his wife and the general assumption would be that she deserved it. Oh wait, we've already seen in the video above that this is sometimes the case now. Neglecting to hold everyone to the same standard won't bring about equality, it will simply reverse the ancient gender roles women have fought so hard to overcome.

Is it going to be an easy transition all the time? No. For a long time, there will be men who are unwilling to see women as anything but vapid eyecandy, and while I am sure many of you are going to disagree with me when you read this, you may later understand this next paragraph as devoutly feminist. 

Women are earning their place in the workforce, because they have to. They can complain about equal pay and equal rights, expecting to be handed promotions and raises because they feel that they have earned it, and perhaps they have, but it's going to be a long climb to true equality, and they will have to prove that they belong every day to the very same misogynistic assholes that they feel are holding them back. There is no shortcut, and it's not fair, but it is the way it is. It will also mean that when you do get it, you will be able to be proud of it, because no one gave it to you. You earned it because of your work ethic and your talent, and you probably earned it five times over. Nobody will ever be able to take it from you, the pride of accomplishment. I'm sure that there must be a world out there where the most deserving person for each job gets it, but it isn't this one, at least not yet. 

When it happens, it's a good thing for everyone involved, because good people in positions of power make everyone around them better. My immediate supervisor at my day job is female, and I can't think of another person that would handle that job as well as she has. That has nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman, it has to do with who she is as a person, how hard she works and how much effort she has put in learning how to handle the different personalities of her workforce. It wasn't something she was great at on her first day in the new job, but any person on their first day in a management position is going to have to feel their way into the role. 

We need to start treating everyone equally, and while that means that we give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and adjust our opinions as we get to know them, it also means that we need to hold everyone to the same standard. Men don't get an out for physical abuse, and women don't get to play damsel in distress to get out of unsavory parts of being an adult. Neither of the above is as common as the news media would make it seem, but their both more common than they should be. 

All of that excessive amount of elaboration above really boils down to treating people equally. Right now, women have cultivated certain socially acceptable loopholes that they will need to stop exploiting in order to be truly equal with men. Men will need to stop being misogynistic pigs and recognize when a woman is capable of doing the job better. And both sides need to understand that hitting is not acceptable. It is assault and should be prosecuted as such. And both genders just need to leave someone if the relationship is not healthy, for whatever reason. There's a difference between unhealthy and the typical relationship issues that people go through, however. Knowing the difference is part of being in an adult relationship. We all still have a lot of growing up to do. 

This all dovetails nicely into what I wanted to say about writing. The reason I included the above quote from Joss Whedon is because it can be taken more than one way. The concept of the "Strong Woman" is to me a laughable one. The concept of a "Strong Man" is equally laughable, yet our social gender bias made only one of those sentences acceptable.

I came up with a simple system for writing believable characters. want to hear it? 

Motivations + Resources = Character

That's it. As far as I'm concerned, each character is comprised of their motivations, what they want out of life, and their resources, what they have to use in order to reach their goals. It really doesn't need to be much more complicated at first than that. Oh, they will need description, gender, hair/eye color, nationality, personal history, etc. But really, it all boils down to Motivations and Resources. Beauty can be a resource to a small town girl trying to make it big in the city. It can also be a resource to a male dancer trying to put food on the table for his kids. People use what means they have available to them.

Their motivations need to be justifiable, and that helps you as a writer escape the "well, they're evil because they're evil" pitfall. There has to be a reason for their motivation, but it's pretty easy to come up with a justification for almost anything if you operate under the expectation that there must be one. 

In my novel pre://d.o.mai.n, the main character Miles Torvalds attempts to steal $1.5 million dollars from the federal treasury. Greed was too obvious a motivation, and a worn out trope as far as I was concerned. Additionally, I wanted you to be on his side, and I didn't have a George Clooney playing the part like he did in the movie Out of Sight to help me build that rapport. I needed a more believable motivation, and that is how his mother developed cancer and how the cure came with an astronomical price tag. 

Once I had that, I knew WHY Miles would attempt to steal the money. I had given him a believable reason for risking his freedom, something worthwhile to fight for. I also went to the effort of removing the legal options by having him exhaust them prior to the beginning of the novel. 

That left me with resources, which, as a poor kid, recently dropped out of college, would have to come in the form of the charity of others. He receives his sideARM from his cousin as a birthday present, and is introduced to ATLAS by an x-girlfriend. 

And then he was off an running.

My point is that if you start your character creation with motivation and resources, you aren't as likely to have to worry about sexism in your novels, because motivations and resources don't have to be gender specific. You see where your characters are exploitable (basically, what they need), and that's where you twist the knife. Sometimes that answer is companionship, and Miles has his issues with love/lust and loss in the book, but the female characters he comes across are more a slave to their motivations than they ever are to his needs. There are three main female characters in the novel. One is his mother (whose only real motivations are survival and the health of her family), the other wants him (but the prospect of them being together is problematic), and another that he thinks he wants but that doesn't want him (because she wants someone else, but there's a slight ambiguity as to why she wants him).

If you treat everyone the same, meaning that the equation above has to balance, then there are not one dimensional women that just want to be loved to the point where they will put up with anything, or the bad ass warrior chick who is bad ass because you want to write a "Powerful Female Role Model". That's YOUR motivation, not your characters. If you keep their motivations in mind, you will get women that have resources to achieve their goals, and whether they achieve their goals will be determined on how they use whatever resources are available to them. Be it looks, money, power, etc, they will have to make their way through your world just like the men. That's true equality. Not just that they are protected from men, that they are able to take care of themselves one way or another. That they don't need kid gloves or training wheels because their reach cannot exceed their grasp. Just like in real life. Should you choose to put obstacles in their way such as misogyny, an abusive partner, etc, how they escape that will come down to their resources at hand. 

Are they smart and independent enough to traverse those obstacles, or not? Again, resources. Resources need to be justified as well. They can't just be smart once they have a need to be. Deus Ex Machina in the form of an IQ jump from a concussion at the hands of another character? That's a quick way to devolve in to a loop like that of Walker, Texas Ranger, where Chuck Norris continued to uncover talents that nobody knew anything about (and even latent native american heritage) in order to overcome his obstacles. Resources need to be understood up front, and then any deviation from that set needs to be explained believably. 

Reduce your characters to their bases elements, and you stand a good chance of being able to write them from a perspective that is less tainted by whatever latent prejudices you may have (even if you try hard to overcome them).

And the rest of us, men AND women, need to remember one other quote:

"Be the change you would see."
-Mahatma Ghandi

"If you want equality, treat everyone equally. Don't be equal by dragging those around you down, be equal by rising up to meet them, and in those rare instances when you are able to rise above those around you, lift them up with you."
-That one's mine ;-)






Before I start, let me start off by saying there is going to be quite a bit of vulgarity in this post, but I promise that all of it will be 100% justified. I'm writing this for me, to help me vent my feelings in the only way that seems to really work anymore, as well as for anyone that loved my sister in law Kim, so if you're offended by the awkward, angry emotions of others, feel free to skip this one.

My sister in law was taken from us today, and I really don't know how I'm supposed to feel about it right now. I'm writing this piece for two reasons. One, because I want to make some completely inadequate attempt to tell the few people that might know me but not her how incredibly awesome she was-the kind of awesome that nobody ever seems to fully recognize until it's gone, and two, I need to work through some pretty strong emotions, and I'm not someone prone to speaking about my emotions out loud. I feel like a rock star that can't be what everyone expects of them unless they're three sheets to the wind, except my keyboard is my alcohol.

Have you ever met one of those people that always seemed to have a smile on their face, even when they were in the middle of complaining about someone or something? Those people that seem to be having the time of their lives, no matter what might be going on at that very moment? My sister in law was a lot like that.

I'm not even sure as I write this if I am going to publish it. This is the third post that I've written about losing someone in my family over the past year or so, and I fucking HATE that I feel the need to write it. I feel like I'm using their passing as fuel to write, and that makes me feel like the worst kind of sub-human piece of shit, even though I've used their happiness as fuel from time to time as well. So maybe I'm more of a parasite than a piece of shit. Who knows.

I'm sure there will be people that will think that, there are always a few. I don't give a fuck what they think. I hate that every time I turn around lately, my family is shrinking. Maybe it's a natural part of being an adult, if it is, where is Peter Pan when you need his fruity ass? I know it's probably just that it feels that way, but you can't always help what you feel. I hate that the better I get at putting my feelings on paper, the worse I get at sharing them in any other way. I hate that a woman that would have been an amazing grandmother now will never get the chance.

I am sure there are people in this world that deserve to die, but Kim was not one of those people. She made the world better, in a thousand small ways that we won't even fully realize until the next time we come across them. That's the first part of this that bothers me-how it's not just today that we're going to miss her. It's going to be a little here, a little there, drawn out and hurtful in the way only this kind of loss knows how to hurt us.

Today, my brother repeatedly said, "You just don't know," and he's right, you don't. Any given heartbeat could be our last. We aren't promised another, but more often than not, we get one. That we continue to beat the odds, one heartbeat after another, can lull us into a false sense of security. We believe we will all live full, happy lives because most people do, to one extent or another. To believe anything other than that is madness. Believing that tomorrow will always look a lot like today allows us to function.

Shortly after, my father said, "We've had pretty good luck, no one in our family has really had problems with drugs, alcohol, or spent time in jail." And it's true. We're not a bunch of goody two-shoes. We don't go to church, we're not vegans or anything like that, but we try to be decent human beings. I think the underlying message in what he said was that bad things happen, and we've had less bad stuff happen to us than a lot of other families. Maybe it just feels like that looking back on it, but as I looked around, it sure felt like nobody really knew what to say. It was so unexpected, and it didn't really feel that it had sunk in yet for everyone. Sometimes you come to expect things to be good because they always have been, until something comes along to show you how little it takes to flip everything upside down.

We were all still able to find the some of the same things funny that we had the Sunday before, there was just one less cackling laugh in the mix. We all enjoyed sitting in the kitchen and eating as a family, even though there was one seat empty. We did these things, in part because we really didn't know what else to do, so we stuck with what we knew. It wasn't real just yet, though it's starting to feel so for me now that I'm home with my son, alone with my thoughts. I suspect it's a little more real for the rest of Kim's family and friends now as well.

She read my book, even though she doesn't normally read science fiction. She did it for me though, to give me her impressions before I went back to edit it. Just another day in a life full of her doing things for others. Everyone that gave her a fair chance got to know a truly great person. I don't throw around praise like that lightly. She always had a smile on her face, always. That's what I'll remember most about her.

As condolences roll in, I realize that so few of us know how loved we are until it's too late for us to hear. Her life was so much bigger than I ever knew, and I would see her at least every Sunday for our weekly family dinner, at every holiday and birthday, and even other times as well. She was working on a book, and we had spoken several times on that as well. In short, we hung out a lot. Every Super Bowl, the party was at her and my brother's house.

Before every Thanksgiving, she was there for "pie night", where the women would cook pies and make the things that needed to be made before the big day. She went through the Black Friday flyers with the rest of the family on Thanksgiving, circling things they liked and looking out for what everyone else circled for potential gift ideas. She was there on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas morning. Now, she's not. Everything will feel different now, I'm sure, and there are at least four people in this world that are going to have a larger hole in their lives than I am.

Today, surrounded by family, I caught myself several times wondering where she was, because it hadn't really sunk in that she was gone. In that fraction of a second, I think she must have stepped outside to have a cigarette, before remembering that she had quit a while back because she knew they were bad for her, and she wanted to be around to see her kids grow up. It sounds like a cruel fucking joke to think about that now. I don't believe in a traditional heaven, but it's times like these that I wish I could convince myself otherwise. No thought would make me happier now than imagining her in kicking back on a cloud, wearing a white toga and chain smoking the menthols she enjoyed because they can't hurt her anymore.

I also feel guilty. Survivors guilt, I think they call it. I don't feel that my life brings enough to the table to justify her being gone and my still being here. I doubt I'm as good a person as she was. I also know I don't have a choice in the matter. I feel guilty that I'm even hurting at all, because I know her kids and husband have so much more right to be upset about than I ever will.

Then there's the guilt that I'm not crippled with sadness right now, because it feels like this isn't really happening. I feel that I should be inconsolable, but instead I feel like I will show up next Sunday to my parent's place for Sunday dinner, and she will be there wondering why everyone is so surprised to see her. But then my mind catches up to my heart, and I know that won't happen. I think that's the way these things work, they don't hurt all at once, they hurt a little bit every time you look for them and they're not there. Like I already said above, that's how this works-one little sadistic sliver at a time. It's dragged out for years, and for her kids, my nieces and nephews, it's going to last be like that for their entire life, and that's the part that is so indescribably unfair.

I know my brother loved her more than I have words to describe. During my divorce, I thought that kind of loss might have been worse than if my ex wife had died, because I had to watch her move on with someone else. I know now that I was a fucking idiot. My son gets to speak to his mom whenever he wants, even though they live on opposite ends of the country. I got to temper my loss of her against the anger of knowing that she didn't want me anymore. My brother and his children don't get that. They don't get an easy out. We have a close family, and we tend to circle the wagons well, even if there is not much we can do other than help make arrangements and provide distractions. We can't fill the hole they have now, not really. No matter how much we all wish we could scoop that poison out of their hearts and spread it over the entire family, it's still more metaphor than anything else. It's something they will have to face alone a thousand times over the next 30-40 years.

For a long time, they are going to look for her, to want to share something or ask for her advice, only to remember again that she's gone. Nobody ever leaves this world cleanly, but I almost wish I believed in a creator, so that I would have someone to direct my anger and hatred at for them. I can deal with my portion of her loss. I'm a grown up, but kids should never have to go through what they are going to have to now. I asked her youngest son today if he wanted to go outside and throw the football back and forth, just to do something different for a minute or two outside. I just wanted to try to take his mind off things for a few minutes. He didn't, but later on he asked his father to, which made me feel good. I know he didn't really fully understand what things will be like moving forward, because he's young. Conceptually, he understands, but in practice I think it's even more surreal for him than it is for the rest of us. When he came out and told his father, "She had a good run," I knew. He was just trying to put a smile on his fathers face, because that's what the rest of us were trying to do.

He was right, of course. She might not have had a run anywhere near as long enough as we would have wanted for her, but it was very, very good.

We all love you and miss you so much, Kim. I think you knew that all along, but it doesn't make it hurt any less to not be able to tell you to your face now. Try not to worry about the kids and Earl, if you can read this or read or hear the words of everyone that misses you, know that there are a lot of people here that love them and will do whatever they can to help.