Monday, September 30, 2019

What is there for Obi-Wan Kenobi to do in his own series eight years after Revenge of the Sith?

There's a lot of people who think that the Disney + streaming service is going to save Star Wars. It seems like a bit of an overreaction given that there seems to be an insatiable appetite for all things Star Wars. I guess when movies like Solo and The Last Jedi fail to hit certain expectations, despite it still making buttloads of money, the general "overreaction" seems to be to panic and then claim that the whole thing is now destined to go straight down the toilet.

I (among many) am looking forward to the streaming service's launch in November, not just for original series like The Mandalorian and the Obi-Wan Kenobi series (starring Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan), but for the other Marvel series that have been announced. However, I've got to say that after my initial joy of hearing that Obi-Wan was getting his own television series post Revenge of the Sith, I started to wonder what that might look like. And given what I know of what happens, it's actually starting to sound a bit boring.

From what I know, Obi-Wan basically watches over Luke on Tattooine until he's an old man, occasionally going into Mos Eisley for supplies and a drink and to rough some people up, but he's essentially retired. I mean...there's some obvious drama that could happen between Uncle Owen and Obi-Wan...the comics have hinted at this much in panels like the one below:
But how could stuff like that fill a series? The above conflict would be a single episode that I'd watch. And we know what happened...Luke Skywalker by the time of A New Hope barely knew Ben Kenobi. So he spent zero time around him (his uncle having won the argument against Ben training him).

I'm also hoping that it's not a whole series of things like a young Luke bullseyeing a womprat in his T-16 while Obi-Wan watches from the bluffs, using the Force to freeze them in place before each shot. That would just be silly. I'm hoping there's more to Obi-Wan than just hanging out on Tattooine. But with Darth Vader on the loose and the Emperor hunting down all of the remaining Jedi, it seems to me that hiding in one place might be the only thing he does for sixteen years. So what do you think? What is there for Obi-Wan Kenobi to do in his own series eight years after Revenge of the Sith? Any ideas? I look forward to your comments.

Friday, September 27, 2019

This week Greta Thunberg joined Anne Frank by denying that true evil actually exists.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably heard Greta Thunberg's emotional speech given at the U.N. Climate Action Summit this week. Lots of news agencies have covered it. But in case you don't know, she's a climate activist, and she is sixteen years old.

Just to get some political housekeeping out of the way before I dissect a small part of that speech that I was intrigued and horrified by, I want you to know that I agree very much with Greta. I also hope that her message prompts change, but the pessimist in me feels that it was just a bunch of wasted words. And in a way, she showed why they are wasted words in her own speech with this single paragraph (the bold is my emphasis and not hers):

"You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe."
It honestly reminds me of something I read in A Diary of Anne Frank a long time ago: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." And then...well, you know...she was caught and executed by Nazis.

So here's the thing, folks (and the point of my writing this): Ignoring evil is a good way to end up dead. It's a simple concept, and one that I find gentle-hearted people don't seem to grasp (and this statement stems from my own beliefs).

The universe owes any single one of us absolutely nothing. It cares not. Evil that is not rooted out and actively punished will find a way to grow. Denying that it exists is just stupid. There are plenty of evil people out there. They cannot be rehabilitated. They cannot be reasoned with. Even Game of Thrones rests its roots on this very basic concept: the world is only changed from the rule of tyrants through Fire and Blood ("Fire and Blood" being the Targaryen way of dealing with evil). And unfortunately, we saw in Game of Thrones that to employ "Fire and Blood" makes you "evil." So it's a catch-22. However, unless you're willing to get your hands dirty, then True Evil is just going to ignore everything you say and keep on going on.

That's the way it has always been, and that's the way it will always be.

But, on this Friday, I tip my hat To Greta Thunberg. I hope she proves me wrong. After all, I'm sure just one more impassioned speech from an innocent girl would have changed Cersei Lannister's mind, and the death of King's Landing would not have been necessary. We can all hope, right?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Dungeons and Dragons cartoon from the 1980's got a live-action conclusion in a car commercial filmed in Brazil.

Back in the 1980's, I was a kid that liked getting up for Saturday morning cartoons (a few of you may remember these). I watched shows like "Thundarr the Barbarian", "Space Ghost," and the "Dungeons and Dragons" cartoons. There are some 27 episodes of the D&D cartoon, and the plot was very simple: kids at an amusement park got on a defective ride and got transported through a portal into the fantasy realm of Dungeons and Dragons. Here in this fantasy world, all evil was represented by a character named "Venger," who seemed to be in an eternal struggle with a five-headed dragon who went by the name of Tiamat. Most of this stuff is pulled from the various source materials of Dungeons & Dragons. However, there really wasn't a consistent audience for the cartoon, and it got canceled before the kids could find their way back home. So as far as anyone knows, they were stuck in this alternate fantasy universe for the rest of their lives.

Well, I guess that even decades later, the cartoon is still immensely popular in Brazil of all places (and the characters are very well known). I'm not sure why, but it just is. It does make me wonder if Brazilians play the actual roleplaying game enmasse, but I'll probably never know the answer to that. The popularity of the 1980's show is so big that there's a car commercial featuring the characters from the cartoon, and it shows how they get back to Earth. It's a live-action commercial, and it's in Portuguese (the native language of Brazil), and for what it's worth, I thought it looked kind of expensive with some pretty impressive special effects. You see Tiamat (the five-headed dragon), Venger, and Dungeon Master all show up (the last one in the getaway car that sends these five kids all back home). The actors playing the parts of the kids are good stand-ins for the actual cartoon characters.

Anyway, I'll link the video below. If you have the time (and remember this cartoon), it's honestly worth a watch. Also, you can find the 27 complete episodes of all three seasons streaming on YouTube (and you don't even need YouTube Red to watch them). 

Monday, September 23, 2019

This picture of Jupiter with a big black spot on it made me do a double-take and think of 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

When I first saw this image online, I thought it might have been a joke, playing on the old "2010" storyline by Arthur C. Clarke in which he envisions Jupiter being ignited into a sun through the collective power of the mighty (and mysterious) monolith replicating itself over and over again.

However, it was no joke. The large black dot is a shadow cast by Jupiter's own moon, Io, and the image was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft. It's pretty creepy though, right? It makes me wonder if Arthur C. Clarke got the idea from having seen an eclipse on Jupiter before. Or barring that, maybe he saw a picture of what an eclipse looks like on Earth (when seen from space) and thought, "Hey, doing something like that to Jupiter would be really creepy and mysterious and it sounds like a great idea!"

Anyway, I just thought I'd share the pic with you (and my thoughts). Have a great Monday.

Friday, September 20, 2019

I don't think people understand what the word "mediocre" actually means.

This meme appeared on my Facebook yesterday from a friend who shared it from the Utah Harm Reduction coalition. A bunch of people liked it and passed it on, but I don't think people actually "read" it or even know what "mediocre" means.  The word "mediocre" just means "ordinary." So this meme is suggesting that vulnerable, kind, and generous folks are "extraordinary" and that attracting "ordinary folk" is a toxic burden. It was the most pretentious thing I've read in some time. Why do I use the word "pretentious?" Allow me to explain.

First, you should know that I consider myself to be an ordinary person, and I can tell that whomever wrote this meme is (in Southern language) "putting on airs." In other words, they think they are better than me, and I'm like...whaaattt? Did you not get the memo that being vulnerable, kind, and generous does not make you extraordinary? There's lots of people who are vulnerable, kind, and generous. I work with hundreds of people who define this every day. There are millions and millions of people who are vulnerable, kind, and generous. The antithesis of this, psychopaths, make up around 4% of the population (I got this statistic from a book called The Sociopath Next Door). This means that 96% of the population of the United States could probably be said to be at least "kind" and "generous." Charity is huge here. So what the hell is going on? Why does someone who wrote this meme think this qualifies as extraordinary? Why is "mediocre" lumped in with the words "abusive" and "terrible?"

The non-profit organization Utah Harm Reduction is an organization interested in promoting safety and well-being among a population of substance consumers. I get that. I know some ravers and partiers who get super excited to dance under an electric sky, to engage in P.L.U.R. (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect), and they like their ecstasy and other drugs because it's fun and allows them to escape the banality of existing in a world which doesn't appreciate them all that much. Done. I understand and wish them all well on this journey. But using drugs, enjoying music, having public sex, wearing costumes, and saying "f*ck you" to the establishment does not make a person extraordinary. Not in my book, at least. It just makes you human. Congratulations, you do what you want. You pierce what you want. You tattoo what you want. You sleep with whom you want. It's nice to have freedoms and welcome to the human race. People have been doing this kind of thing for thousands of years. You are not extraordinary. You are, in fact, ordinary. And if you look at your life, and see how far you've come and what achievements you've put under your belt without the aid of others, you will probably see how ordinary you are. In fact, you may only be in a good place in life because you had the "luck" to be born in a country and a society which has allowed these things to flourish.

But here's the thing: being ORDINARY IS NOT BAD. I'm an ordinary guy. Everyone I work with is ordinary. I play ordinary games like Dungeons & Dragons, I read ordinary books (some of which are actually written by extraordinary folks) and I listen to music (a lot of which is produced by extraordinary folks). There are plenty of extraordinary people out there, but that's only because we have a world population of 8 billion. One percent of 8 billion is still 80 million people who have talents that are mind-blowing. Take Kodi Lee from America's Got Talent or Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnast. These are people who are truly extraordinary. And here's another moniker of the extraordinary: they usually make their mark on the world by their early twenties if not their teens. If you are past thirty, and you are not well known, chances are...YOU ARE ORDINARY. This isn't to mean that you cannot be successful and make it into the middle class. The Middle Class is full of ordinary people who drive cars, own houses, and can even afford cars like a Mercedes Benz or a Range Rover. Lots of middle class "ordinary" people live fulfilling lives, pumping out a few kids, getting married, getting divorced, smoking weed, and sexting with a partner or multiple partners (if you're into polyamory--which is also not extraordinary by the way).

This "idea" that I'm seeing where individuals hold onto a belief that they are extraordinary is toxic and poisonous. People who think they are extraordinary will not want to do everyday tasks that people need to do in order to live a healthy life. They will miss opportunities for love, because they believe someone is beneath them, and they will wait for a truly extraordinary person (or opportunity) to find them (and this will never happen). They will have unrealistic expectations about life, and they will come up wanting. And the thing is...all of this will lead to a mental health crisis. We will see enmasse depression and anxiety cropping up in the population, because that's what happens when people have unrealistic expectations about reality: you get depressed. It's honestly not rocket science.

I wonder (deeply) how we even got here as a society? Why are there so many normal folk who think they are better than others, and what kind of damage is going to be inflicted upon our society as a result? Can we please not demonize the word, "ordinary?" If you do, you risk not only demonizing me, but demonizing you are more than likely an ordinary person (especially true if I know you personally). 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Look at this spider!

I play Dungeons & Dragons, and I also collect minis. This particular mini is in the "Huge" category of sizes, which means it takes up a space of three inches by three inches on a battlefield grid. A human-sized miniature takes up the space of one inch by one inch. So this thing is three times as large as a human, which would be immediately apparent were you playing D&D and the little miniature you use for your character is suddenly confronted with this monstrosity.

I'm so excited to have this thing in my collection. The artist is a local guy by the name of Steven Oaks, and he operates an Etsy store for his 3D art (which is code for fancy miniatures that he paints and sells online). It cost me a pretty penny, but when it was delivered, I was wowed by the detail. I think when it gets used on the players this Saturday, there will be squeals of horror followed by in-game screams of characters as they are trapped within the network of this spider's sinister webs.

Let the (evil cackle).

Monday, September 16, 2019

Will Grand Admiral Thrawn appear in The Mandalorian?

Will Grand Admiral Thrawn appear in The Mandalorian? It's an interesting question. If you don't know who Thrawn is, he was first introduced in the book Heir to the Empire, which came out about the same time as I was attending college in 1990. It's written by the author, Timothy Zahn, and featured a cunning villain by the name of Thrawn, who studied art pieces produced by a civilization in order to develop strategies by which he could defeat them. In the course of the series, it seemed to work quite well, and I have my own personal theories that Thrawn was based upon Hannibal Lecter, and that Timothy Zahn was an admirer of Thomas Harris (the author of the Silence of the Lambs). Thrawn is a very Lecter-esque villain, minus the whole cannibalism thing, because Star Wars doesn't allow that kind of thing to be portrayed on screen.

Thrawn has appeared in the canonical animated series (like The Clone Wars for instance), so we do know that he is a character that exists within the framework of the Lucasfilm live action storyline. What I find interesting is that the showrunner for The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau (you may know him as Happy from the Marvel films), seems to hint rather heavily that Thrawn may make an appearance. It's an interesting and exciting thing to think that Disney is actually contemplating bringing the worlds of the television show and the movies together into a more cohesive package. There are astounding revelations that came from the animated series. Darth Maul is still alive is one of them, and it was confirmed when we all spotted him at the end of the movie, Solo. But if we meet Thrawn, then there's also a chance that we'll meet heroes like Ahsohka Tano, and that just gets me all kinds of excited. Ahsohka was an amazing character, and if we meet her, I think it may be enough to really energize the whole franchise.

Disney (in launching their streaming network in November) feels very much like it is breaking ground on storylines that sorely needed to find new directions in which to grow. Mining the expanded universe of Star Wars (for example) for gold nuggets seems like a great place to start. I wonder what all else may turn up as discussion points, and what we will actually see come November.

So what about you? If you are familiar with the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, would you be excited to see him in the live-action t.v. series? I'll look for your comments

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Dark Crystal Age of Resistance is a strange show.

There are spoilers in this post for Netflix's series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

I should have expected this, but my fondness of the things in the Dark Crystal movie are separated by a gulf of time and a lot of nostalgia. I'm about 70% done with watching the Age of Resistance show on Netflix, and I am having fun with it, but it's just super odd in its weirdness. However, it is very Jim Henson. So I think they nailed the things the great puppeteer loved when he was alive, and I think they've done very well by his legacy. Here are a few of my strange observations:

1) The podling scenes remind me of a personal friend who drives truck. He makes strange loud noises with his face, and it just makes me picture my friend doing that every time I see it on the screen.

2) The world of the Dark Crystal feels very original and richly detailed. Most fantasy genres will play on elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. and just go with that. The Dark Crystal doesn't lean on any well-established fantasy races. It has its own races, who come across as very authentic despite the fact that the puppets don't display much range of emotion.

3) The rock golem creature is asymmetrical. It messes with my sense of rightness every time I see it on screen and just weirds out my eyeballs. So there is that.

4) The carriage that the Skeksis use is powered by giant pill bugs that roll on the ground and respond to electrical shock. I just gotta say, those things go really really fast. Surprisingly fast. And they are all-terrain, basically making the royal carriage into a monster truck.

5) The hunter Skeksis is a lot faster and more agile than the other Skeksis. It makes me wonder why the other Skeksis are so slow and clumsy. I feel like I could outrun a Skeksis that wasn't the hunter, and that is saying a lot about how slow and clumsy they actually are.

6) The gelflings strike me as an entire race of well-meaning, compassionate, but ultimately defenseless (because they are kind and respectful) creatures who are into granola bars and hugging trees. It's all quite lovely, but in any version of the comic book story, The Walking Dead, these are the people that all died to the zombie menace within the first week. They just aren't equipped to handle anything truly evil.

7) Aughra is the most irresponsible wizard, and is definitely a far cry from Gandalf. She slept most of her life away, caring not for the job to which she was assigned. Then when she realized something was amiss, it was pretty obvious that it was because the crystal had gone dark and was being abused. It was also very apparent that the Skeksis were responsible and evil. She had several opportunities to just go to the tribes and tell them personally and help the gelflings prepare for war. But rather than do that, she decided to wait around the base of a tree to see if the earth would eventually teach her its song again. That seems like a colossal waste of time.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the show, but its definitely weird. It also does not shy away from gross things, which was another surprise. Who knew puppets could be so gross. I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing a Skeksis sending out three streams of urine...but ya know...that's just a thing I saw that I can't unsee.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Deception is a remarkable thing.

I know several deceivers, and they are small time creatures who weave webs of lies to cocoon themselves within their own realities. What strikes me as remarkable about this is that it seems so apparently obvious to me, yet it isn't obvious to their families and even one fiancée in particular (you'd think that a fiancée would know, but they don't). Though I don't care all that much, I wonder why I'm able to see things that they are not. And I think it all boils down to one thing: the family and the fiancée want very much for life to appear a certain way. The fiancée does not want to be single, and I think she believes she is running out of time with one failed marriage already under her belt. I believe she's put a lot of time into this relationship, and that she just doesn't want to see anything wrong with it. It's like a cost vs. benefits thing. "There's no effing way that I've spent this kind of time investing in this thing and I'm not gonna get a reward for it!" It's like a cognitive dissonance or something similar....

What the family wants is a bit different. They want things to be defined a certain way. To them, bad people look like non-whites who are flashy in the way they dress (or sexual). Bad people are the ones with the tattoos, the ones with the piercings, and the ones who are blatantly honest with their sexuality. A person who is very open and has no problem saying, "I'm gay and I like dick," is a bad person not to be trusted with underage boys because (obviously) they are just waiting to molest. But a person who is closeted, who outwardly says all of the right things...the deceiver if you the person they invest with all of the trust. It's truly baffling, and all of the signs that they are "in the closet" are right there (and perhaps up to nefarious things). But it's not worth digging any deeper to them because it might spoil what they really want (a Norman Rockwell life?), which in my opinion doesn't exist.

I've come to observe that a willingness to take lies as truth comes from fear, and I wasn't expecting this. I have a very healthy and honest relationship with fear. If I'm afraid of something I say it. I also embrace fear in many ways, realizing that (as an emotion) it's purpose is to keep me safe. But I've never been struck by a fear of truth (I guess) because I've always embraced truth and didn't care what other people thought of me. I'm gay, I'm fat, I'm two years from my fiftieth birthday...all of these things are true and I don't care. I say blunt things because this is how I think and I feel bluntness is good and solid communication that has no risk of being misunderstood. When people I've barely met ask to use my computer, they act stunned when I say. "Yes. But I should warn you that there's naked pictures of guys on there so don't open certain folders if you are offended by that kind of thing." I just don't care, but I'm also comfortable living a life alone. I've had people say to me over the years, "You are so courageous for living alone like this." I usually look puzzled and say, "Um...I like living alone. This isn't torture you know?"

One of my friends even said, "Living like you would make me want to commit suicide." I think I was eating ice cream and watching t.v.  I was like, "What?" And they clarified, "I just don't know how you do it?" And I was like..."Do what? Eat ice cream?" And then they started saying how it must be miserable to be single, and I quickly said, "Look, I only suffer from loneliness or depression honestly about once a month or once every two months. I actually love all the space I have and I love being single. It's great. I go to movies all the time, and I only have to buy one ticket. I never have to arrange myself around anyone else's schedule. I eat what I want every night. I watch what I want. It's actually pretty great." But they would have none of it. They thought I was miserable.

There's a weird kind of shaming that happens with our society around folks who are single. We must all be the biggest losers that humanity has ever pooped onto the Earth, and we must all be suffering and one inch away from suiciding out. But that is not the case at all, I assure you. But it's this "idea" and "fear of being single" and "going your own way" that opens people up to deception. It's the idea that there is only one formula for happiness, and that if you stray from that formula, well you're basically f*cked so you should accept anything that happens to you (or that is told to you) as long as it preserves the formula for happiness. It's complete and utter bullshit. And it makes me think ultimately, that a lot of people are not equipped to detect deception, because ultimately they don't want to do just that. Essentially, people find comfort in being lied to as long as it fits the formula for happiness. What they don't like are the things that threaten to derail the formula for happiness. Even if these uncomfortable things are facts and are completely true, they will be labeled as lies by people in order to preserve what they know.

That is so messed up. So yeah...deception is a remarkable thing. And it's just another layer of what it's like to live in this messed up world. Do I have any advice to people out there who want to be able to spot deception and to be free of it? Yes, and it's actually pretty easy. Embrace the fear of being alone. Embrace the fear of walking a path alone through life. Be your authentic self. Get to a point where you don't care what people say about you. Get to a point where you are not dependent on anyone else, and you can truly say "No" to opportunities (because if you wanted to you could just do them yourself). Once you've arrived at that point, you will spot people who are lying to you. You will unmask the deceivers and the manipulators.  And you will probably learn something about yourself along the way.

Monday, September 9, 2019

I'm not excited to see Joaquin Phoenix play The Joker.

The Joker is probably the Batman's most iconic villain. Growing up and collecting Batman comics, Detective Comics, and reading the stories written by Frank Miller, Sam Hamm, and others...probing the subject matter of Death in the Family (in which Jason Todd dies) seeing the appearance of Tim Drake in Batman Year Three and on and on and on. I collected, consumed, and loved these stories. I understand that comic books are an industry, and that all of those stories were just money grabs. Comics kind of lost their way when they started making panels so huge that only one or two of them could be featured to a page, and some were being released with alternative covers so you had to collect all five. Do you have the special "black bag" edition when Superman dies? Why yes I did. I fell for that. However, I had fun at the time, and as a kid an an immature nerdy adult, I guess that's all that matters.

I have spent many nerd years thinking about the Joker, and I honestly don't think he's anything more than a psychopath that dresses like a clown if he is shown in a story without the presence of the Batman. I've heard that Joaquin Phoenix has turned in a stellar performance as The Joker, which (to be honest) doesn't surprise me. Joaquin Phoenix strikes me as one of those people that probably couldn't do any other job than the one that he has because he's probably got mental illnesses and demons of his own to wrestle with. Being in a field where he can channel all of that into a character for an audience just suits him well. It'd be like having a super beautiful young woman who likes to be naked a lot in front of other people and have exhibitionists sex seeking out the career of a porn star. People might say, "You are so great at your job! We've never seen anyone perform like you!"'s what they like to do, and it comes naturally to them. Do we praise mountain goats for climbing mountains and cliffs really well? It's what they do. For what it's worth...I've heard that sharks are excellent swimmers. Go figure, right?

The thing that makes me annoyed about the Joker probably stems from my like of the character. I think the Joker is an excellent villain. However, the character (because of its mental illnesses and demons) has become an "award grab" rather than a "money grab." Every actor out there who wants to prove their acting chops slavers at the idea of turning in a "Meatloaf worthy" performance as The Joker, because the character's range is built to handle that. As a caveat, I know that may not have been Heath Ledger's intention, however, his performance as the character pretty much defined it for a whole generation of people. But so did Nicholson's.

I'm old enough to remember people who talked about how great of an actor Nicholson was after walking out of Tim Burton's Batman, and how Nicholson's turn at the Joker cost some $50 million (which was an unheard of sum back in the eighties when it was released). Nicholson (at the time) was already an Academy Award winning actor, so he had nothing to prove other than to turn in heavy and drippy art worthy of his reputation. It's the same thing that countless other artists do: anyone remember Francis Ford Coppola mailing in the visual feast that is Dracula? I call this kind of spectacle the "Meatloaf" phase of art, because it all strikes me as incredibly overwrought, kind of like a lot of Meatloaf's songs. Celine Dion after finally making it, turned to singing ballads worthy of Meatloaf just because she could (think of it's all coming back to me now). Michael Jackson went from just doing music videos to making mini movies filled with crazy special effects. So did Madonna...I remember the video for "Express Yourself" was just over-the-top.

Anyway, I think that is what "The Joker" as a character has come to represent. It's something that artists who are intent on proving themselves to the world seem to want to portray (as the icing on the cake), and that disappoints me. For one, there should be more crazy roles out there for people who truly want to stretch their acting chops (like Brad Pitt's go at Twelve Monkeys). The Joker being cast and recast and done and redone is removing anything that was special about that particular character. And I'm not sure I'm interested in watching yet another talented actor pour their heart and soul into a role that has been done before, and by people who took it just as seriously. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Why am I the only one who takes to heart the phrase "If it seems too good to be true it probably is?"

I know a young woman (18) that may be getting targeted by a female human trafficker (of about the same age if not the same generation) looking for sex slaves to sell in eastern Europe or the Middle East (take your pick). I know that sentence is not what you expected to read when you came to my blog, but I have no other way to say it. I've thought about why I think this, and also, please know that I have not been vague at all in expressing my concerns to the mother of this girl and to the girl directly and as bluntly as possible. Thus far, I've been dismissed, in the similar way that a crackpot or the boy who cried "Wolf!" might also be dismissed. That doesn't bother me. However, what does bother me is that I'm the only adult in a group of older women who are observing the behavior with any red flags going up. Here's the situation:

This young woman (I shall call her Bee for purposes of this blog post) is attending the University of Utah as a freshman for the first time. Bee's classes (as of this writing) started approximately two weeks ago. Anyway, Bee met another young woman who sat next to her in a Biology class. They started talking, Bee followed the other woman on Instagram, and they've hung out some. Within the first week of knowing each other, Bee's new "friend" told her that her father was super rich, the owner of a Marriott hotel that overlooks the water in Athens, Greece, and that he has a private yacht. She's invited Bee to go to an all-expense paid vacation to Greece for spring break. This offer has since been sweetened to a tour of Greece, Italy, and Jordan (where the woman's mother lives). I was flabbergasted while Bee and other adults were overjoyed at Bee's "good fortune." I was the only one that said, "Who is this woman? Is she a human trafficker?" And then I expressed that this sounds way too good to be true and probably is.

I said, "You will be in a foreign country and can't speak the language," directly to Bee who was horrified that I was being so serious about this. Her response, "Well I would be with this woman." And my response was, "She IS the kidnapper. She could discuss your sale price, which could be $10,000 to some Arab that she plans to pass you off to right in front of you and you'd never know. One man could overpower you, grab your passport, then push you into a van and off you go to Eastern Europe to be gang raped by ten guys a day and then they get you drugged up and addicted to heroin (in your off time) while you are chained to a bed. As for your mom, she'll never see you again."

I should point out that Bee is quite a lovely girl. I think all of you would find her attractive. She is tall, slim, very fit, blond, and with blue eyes, and I don't think she has had sex yet, though that is none of my business. However, I'm just throwing that all out there so you can at least see where I'm coming from and what my concerns are. In the least, she is a bright-eyed girl who dreams of going to medical school and becoming a doctor and doing humanitarian work. However, she's got this desire inside her that wants to derail all that because what she REALLY wants is to be a woman like Kylie Jenner. She wants to be famous without really having any kind of talent that justifies the fame...and I think ultimately she wants to be famous because it would mean super acceptance among the most beautiful people that walk the earth. It seems like a really shallow want to be able to date the most handome bachelors like Tom Holland or Shawn Mendes and to pick and choose and have young, handsome, rich men fight over her. Bee's favorite show is called "The Bachelorette," which should tell you something about this girl. Her mother, by contrast, lives a poverty-stricken life mostly because she doesn't work. Most of her waking hours are spent pursuing a polyamorous lifestyle and social connections and then having situational anxiety over money flow and facing the fact that age is happening. I'm not sure where her daughter picked up the desire to be "like a Kardashian," but she sure did.

And here's the thing: Bee is not the only one I know who shares her similar desires. Bee (and other girls) want only the cream of the crop of the youngest most handsome men the world has to offer. They actually did very little dating in high school because none of those boys that asked them out were good enough. Seriously, I heard their conversations (gay men are privy to all kinds of things that get said in front of them). Get this...I will even dare to say that every young woman I know in the State of Utah has the same desire. They all watch "The Bachelorette," they all have no skills whatsoever unless "fashion" and "makeup" counts as a skill, and they all just want rich, good-looking, young men to fight over them. These women are too proud to take the bus. I know one that absolutely complains that she has to take the bus anywhere, trying to blackmail her mother into driving her places when she's perfectly able to take the bus to any destination (Salt Lake City has excellent public transportation), and they complain that they have to get up in the morning (I've gotten up at 6:50 a.m. five days a week for as long as I can remember). They want to be able to snap pictures of themselves and post them on Instagram and make tons of money so that they can be invited to the Oscars and wear the latest fashions. What the actual f*ck is going on?

And you know what? All of that "desire" to be famous for just being you and not even stretching yourself beyond that is resulting in some disastrous behavior. For one, these girls all think that getting invited to stay on a yacht for Spring Break that is all expenses paid (off the coast of Greece) is perfectly normal. It happens to Kylie Jenner, right? So why not me? Well for are not Kylie Jenner! Without the ability to recognize when you are being lied to by someone, there is a strong chance that you will be taken advantage of in a serious way (human trafficking being the ultimate bad scenario here). Second, a lot of these girls will never ever be famous. A huge percentage of them will fail. If they hold onto this desire to be famous through their adult life, they will never commit to perfectly fine average partners with mediocre jobs (which will result in them probably realizing they've gotten old someday and don't have anyone) and they will experience profound dissatisfaction with life and end up depressed with anxiety and on meds to manage it all while they draw social security because they don't want to face the shame of working for a low wage (because that's all they're qualified to do). So instead of being in the middle class, they actually land in the lower class or even homelessness. Instead of having a home of their own...they don't even have a trailer park at the age of fifty to call home. I've seen this scenario happen over and over, so I'm not making it up. The party only lasts so long folks, and you've got to commit to something or you miss being the last one there.

Bee is in a hurry to have it all (incredible house, nice clothes, yacht, fans, invites to exclusive parties, sex with the handsomest men on the planet, and glamour), and it's very frustrating. She has no idea how much any of that costs at all. Whatever happened to her wanting to be a doctor? feels very much that the career of "doctor" was merely a catch phrase because she couldn't envision a path to this "other career" that she wants very much. I've known a few doctors and 1) they got lucky to even get to medical school and 2) it required extreme focus at the expense of everything else. And I would point out that there's a reason why "becoming the next Kardashian" is not taught in school. It's not a path that most people are able to follow. It's like trying to get winning lottery numbers ahead of the lottery. Not a whole lot of people are able to do that.

I should note that my concerns have found some ground with the mother, so we'll see if it actually goes anywhere. But in the aftermath of me almost pointing a finger at Bee's newly found "Jordanian" friend and shouting "human trafficker" (I suppose I stopped just shy of this), I can tell that my comments ruffled some feathers (I honestly don't really care because I like to call things out as I see them). I did stalk the new "friend" on Bee's Instagram follow list. It was the most peculiar Instagram I have ever seen. There were exactly 60 photos all going back to 2016 where they just stop. Each picture is staged, and there are no other people. No pics with friends or family. Just one person...this girl...and someone behind the camera (who is taking these pictures?). They are not selfies. Each picture has between 50 and 100 comments, but no words. Every picture is just filled with users who are posting emojis. Multiple lips or hearts or kissy faces. Every...single...picture. Like...that isn't a red flag for anyone but me? Every instagram I follow has people posing with friends. Even the Kardashians do that. Bee says, "I think this girl is lonely, and I'm just lucky to become her friend." Yeah...lucky...or you've got a huge bullseye on your back and can't see it.

This "friend" also doesn't live on the University of Utah campus. Bee lives in the dorms, this woman lives by herself in a two-bedroom apartment that is close by, and she lives by herself. The rent on this thing has got to be $1600.00 a month. I also checked with the University of Utah, and although they have an international campus for countries like South Korea, they do not have one for Greece. Which makes me wonder...why the hell is a woman who has the resources to go to school anywhere find herself in Utah of all places?

Anyway...I may never get answers to all the questions that circle in my head. Bee certainly doesn't ask any questions of her new friend. She's afraid to, as it may chase her away and cost Bee these beautiful opportunities that she is eager to pluck with greedy fingers. I can see Bee's mind churning at the thought of posting Instagram pics of herself in exotic locations looking good and making her friends from Utah jealous. I can see herself thinking, "I'm going to be a rich social media influencer and everyone will see how ignoring me was a bad thing to do! I can't wait to meet Taylor Swift so we can be besties!"

Nowhere in Bee's mind does she picture herself being knocked out and raped in some dungeon in Jordan and then sold to ISIS soldiers in Syria looking for a bride. The thing is, there's a word for this: desperate. So I ask you, what are parents doing these days that are raising girls to be so desperate for fame? Why do girls even want fame? Is there anyone left that just wants to be a refrigerator repair person? That's a respectable profession? I thought about learning to repair HVAC systems before I got hired in Assistive Technology. Whatever happened to just grinding away at something and finding success over many years? That's what I did. Was the path that I walked so bad? It makes me feel like no one wants to put in the time anymore because there's something shameful about that. But walking the slow path is also a much safer path, especially given that today's world is so filled with everyday dangers.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

My home is honestly the best place for me to write anything.

Today is the first Wednesday of September, and I'm hearing the lyrics to Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends." That being said, it's also time to post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

The IWSG is a monthly blogfest originally created by Alex Cavanaugh. Since that time, it has become a writing force in the online world. I participate in it every month and you should too. To sign up, go HERE.

Each month you get a choice to blog about something related to writing, or to answer the monthly question. I'm doing the latter this month, so without further ado, the September question is:

If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

I think I would still write my story in my home. Honestly, I've created a nice space for my writing, and I think it is the best place I could find inspiration were I truly to seek it out. Right now I'm prioritizing some personal projects ahead of any fiction writing, and it might remain that way for some time. But I recently published a friend's book on KDP print and kindle, and I've got to say that I rather enjoyed working on it. It's made me think that I should publish something of my own, but then I get distracted by the afore-mentioned projects (if you must know I'm drawing a map of my Dungeons & Dragons world using an old edition of Photoshop while watching Netflix or Amazon Prime). Anyway, I find the space I've carved out for myself in my home to be the perfect place to relax and pursue art projects--whether those projects are writing or drawing. And there's close proximity to homemade cookies and refreshments, which I think are a plus when burning mental calories.

So there you have it folks. I'm off to read other's answers to the above question, and I wonder just how outlandish these answers might get. Thanks for the read.