Stitches, Part 1 of 2 (Original Short Story — October 2015)

“HOLD HER DOWN!” the youngest man, the leader, bellowed. They pinned my legs beneath something heavy, but I couldn’t see because there were already three of them on top of me.

I had nothing else I could do. I screamed. His hand appeared and jabbed me in the throat violently, and my voice choked. Please, I begged silently. Please don’t; just don’t. Just let me go, I thought, but I couldn’t speak. My lungs were too compressed by his weight to even breathe, and my esophagus was bruised and swelling. They are going to kill me. This is how I am going to die.

Before I could black out, I felt the young man’s hands move again and firmly, carefully, restrain my head. My eyes were so clouded with tears I could hardly see, but now I was afraid of a fate worse than death. His fingertips, unnaturally cold, deliberately brushed the stitches beneath my eye.

I wanted to scream as loud as I could, then. More than ever before. I had heard about these sadists who hunted people for their stitches, and now — here they were, ambushing and subduing me. Ready to cut open my face and have their fun with my skull, while I was still alive and awake. I wished I could die. I wished I was already gone.

He yelled something again, this time at me: “Melissa, stop! Stop kicking!”

Melissa is not my name. I’m not who you think I am; I’m not who you want in your sick bloody fantasy, my mind screamed. I felt terror in my chest like I was seeing a hungry animal, staring at my helpless body and anticipating meat. His hands once again cradled and pressed my head into the ground as his followers started scurrying all around me, preparing something. I heard the scratching sound of medical scissors. Or something worse. I couldn’t see.

“Please, Melissa… Let’s just get this thing out of you. This isn’t you,” he crooned. Like he was getting some kind of sentimental pleasure out of this. Like the stitches on my cheek were a bad makeover, and he was about to fix my look. I whimpered because my throat hurt so much. I managed a hoarse “Don’t… touch… me.”

I felt them shove a gag in my mouth, instead.

“I’m sorry for what I’m about to do, Melissa — it’s going to hurt,” he added. I had never been so horrified in my life. This one, it seemed — this sadistic cannibal hunter — was into roleplaying. He wanted me to be his dying patient, so he could be the surgeon doctor who was going to save me.

I was not going to give him any kind of satisfaction.

As soon as he had the medical tool in his hand — looked like it was a scalpel — his other hand relaxed its grip on my forehead, so he could focus his muscles on a careful, clean incision. That was the only distraction I could count on, and now his eyes were directly over mine. I bucked my body as a counterweight and, in the same motion, slammed my head into his face.

Splashes of blood flowed immediately from his nose and lip, but with barely a grunt of pain, he was back on top of me and two more of his flunkies had my head down into the dirt even tighter. I felt a cold pulse of terror in my veins. I had barely slowed him down. I at least hoped he would scream.

No, I realized. I wanted to fight back and escape, not make him scream. But there were still five torturers on top of me, plus him, and I never had a chance. The blood from his face dripped and drooled freely off the tip of his nose, falling onto the dust beside me and then the cloth they had gagged me with. As if I hadn’t wanted to spit it out before, I wanted to spew it out now. Even if only as an insult, to him. I especially wanted him to die. I hoped he could see it in my eyes.

But, once again, his eyes weren’t looking at mine. They were gazing intently — hungrily — at the beautiful stitches on my left cheekbone.

These were my life. The sensory organ that made me… real. A real human, and not like them. They had never accepted stitches. My people had, and we were telepathic with each other because of it. Our bodies were healthier. We were vastly more intelligent. We had established world peace. We were happier; we were free from fear; we were free.

Unless the jealous and the fear-mongers, like the ones who held me now, found us. The only fears we had in this world were from the humans who viewed us as the gruesome ones, the mutants, just for our choice to insert our stitches. They were a religion now, a cult of blood and of secret murder. They hated freedom the way they hated us. We would leave them alone, and let them be free, but if only they would let us.

And they loved to cut out our stitches while we were still alive. That was what pushed them over the edge, in my mind. They never counted it a real victory unless they had taken one of us and tried to surgically remove the stitches from their face, and then brainwash the survivor to be one of their own. Most of the time, though, the… ‘procedure’ resulted in zapping the subject’s brain dead. The stitches were too close to us, neurologically, to be removed. It was like cutting out a lobe of the brain, but without sedation and without the patient’s permission. Without any need, for that matter. Only motivated by fear.

The young man, glancing at his comrades and nodding to make sure they had me fully restrained — and they did — leaned closer than before to see every last detail on my face. Ready to kill me. He was so close that I could see the intent within his eyes, and then…

I gasped, even with a thick gag in my mouth. He… underneath his left eye, he had a rough scar. It was a small patch, but just the right pattern to confirm exactly what I was afraid of.

This boy had been a survivor himself. He had stitches once, too. And they had taken them from him and fully turned him into a monster. My hopes were dashed, then. They might have a way of keeping me alive, too. I would see myself turn into one of their cult.

He made the first cut, and my breath caught in my chest. I began, again, to cry. This was the beginning of the end.

Wild gunshots broke the nightmare’s reverie over my body, and then chaos and blood erupted all over me.

The boy — the survivor — was the last to move, but he too moved once he looked up and saw the danger. Inside of half of a second, my limbs were free to move and the bodies above me were gone. Quick instinct saved me, as I reached up, threw the gag out, and tried to scramble to my feet. I stumbled, but my spine ordered me to crawl on my hands and knees until I had reached the cover of a metallic stack of crushed automobiles. I had been stupid to come here to a shady, abandoned junkyard — alone, especially. I had been trying to find a part for my motorcycle, and now I was trying to escape with only my life.

I couldn’t run any farther, though, and sat in the dirt with my back to the junked pile. I would catch my breath, and then I would move again. The gunshots, in the meantime, had not stopped. Whoever was shooting was keeping up the pressure, but I hadn’t seen them while crawling away. Surely it was only a handgun, I guessed — those high, staccato barks were too sporadic for an automatic rifle. The sound was very close by, too. Without warning, I heard the sadists start yelling to each other, and then a second later they began returning fire with guns of their own.

Someone had come to save me, but now we might both be killed.

In that moment, another ‘someone’ rushed around the corner faster than I could blink and headed straight for me. I was still on the ground, and tried to kick out with my legs, but failed. I only slumped down farther on the ground, but then in a split-second the stranger’s face was right in front of mine, and his hands were wiping away the blood on my stitches. Apart from that small, first cut they had made, I was still okay. He smiled, and then I recognized him.

Taz.

“Taz!” I exhaled, not even embarrassed at my obvious relief. “It’s good to see you.”

“Likewise,” he replied as he quickly dabbed my stitches clean and applied a quick adhesive gauze. His voice told me he was trying to remain cold and ready to kill to protect us, but his eyes spoke the same relief that I was feeling. I loved him, in that moment. I didn’t even care that he was too old for me. I would have fallen for a fish, if one had saved my life like Taz just did. “Stay here, Chell. I promise I’ll keep you safe.”

“Don’t —” I started, but he was already on his feet again, with the handgun in front of him, and ducking around the various stacks of rusted machines that surrounded us. He was moving with supernaturally quick speed: a product of his stitches’ nerve amplification and personal fitness. He caught the thought, though, that I was trying to send. Telepathically, he responded. I won’t be unsafe. They are going to lose. I won’t die on you.

…Thank you, was all I could think to him in return.

I mentally stayed with him, since he kept the telepathy open between us. I could follow his movements and see the things he was seeing; I even felt him pull the trigger on the enemy and shoot down one more of their number. His mind was keeping track: there were six sadists in the beginning, and Taz had killed one and wounded another in his first volley of shots, right when he arrived. That meant two were dead, and since the one he had wounded was still alive, there were now three able-bodied targets and one surviving casualty.

He stooped beneath a broken refrigerator bridged over uneven piles of metal, and came out directly in front of one of the sadists. The man had a gun, but had been expecting Taz to approach him from the left. He had time to give Taz one last look of surprise before Taz shot him once in the sternum, then disappeared behind a wall of junk before the man’s body even hit the ground.

Taz had never done this before, but he was performing brilliantly.

Fifteen bullets when I started; eleven bullets expended, his mind reported to mine. That leaves four bullets for three more kills. I can pull that off.

Yes, Taz, I thought to him. That’ll be enough. Whatever it takes, please just hurry back. I don’t want to be alone.

Even as I thought it at him, I realized my limbs were trembling, and not because of cold. I couldn’t keep my arms still. Taz might want revenge on all of my captors, but I didn’t want to risk another moment out here.

He didn’t quite respond telepathically, but I felt his feelings vicariously as a grim acknowledgement. Until now, he hadn’t considered how much I would have been shaken by this. Now, reaching for and feeling my emotions through our stitches, he knew.

I cut the telepathy chain between us, so I could focus on calming my breath. Watching him kill brought a certain relief that I was in good hands, but overall it was not assuaging my elevated blood pressure or the terror I felt. I still could not steady my breathing. I decided to stare at my hands. Normally soft and agile for the piano, now they were shaking and coated in dirt and sweat, which I had shed in my panic. I had never felt so exposed, or so dirty. The thought surprised me, since I often loved to work in the garden, but I was itching to wash my hands now. I suddenly realized it wasn’t the patches of dust and grime adhered to my skin that made me want to be scrubbed clean, but the way I felt filthy after being touched — exposed, captured, abused, and nearly killed — by these monsters. Monsters with human faces and voices.

Suddenly I heard two more gunshots, close together, and I thought I heard the slump of a large body falling to the earth. My heart skipped a beat, and I strained my ears. A third gunshot, at close range to its target, rang out and almost made me scream.

It could have been Taz. One of them might have shot him twice, and then once again while he was down. I had to know — I was reaching out, searching for his mind somewhere out there with my stitches…

Chell, are you safe? came the voice I was dying for. I breathed two whole lungfuls of relief, and he felt it, too.

Are they… dead, Taz?

They’re all gone. The leader; I didn’t find him, but we should leave now. I think he ran.

Taz returned directly to where he had left me, and I was happy to have waited for him. He lifted me up with both arms and made sure I was ready to stand. I wished I could express my gratitude in the way that I felt it, but he could read my mind if he wanted. I’m sure he didn’t even need to do anything but look and see it in my face. He knew.

With only a few minor stumbles, he assisted me in walking back to the wide, dirt ‘road’ which cut through the piles of cars like a finger lazily traced through chalk. In order to listen for my captors better and not warn them that someone was coming, he had left his motorbike by the fence almost a kilometer away and simply ran as fast as he could, but stealthily, through the forest of scrap until he found me.

I was indebted to him for that foresight, amongst so much more. If they had heard his engine noise coming towards us, they would have gagged me then and hid us in the shadows. Night was coming on, after all.

It was going to be a long walk, but I could just make it. We started down the road.

“Melissa,” said a voice that I couldn’t see. That name that wasn’t mine.

Taz reacted faster than I even knew what to do — he spun around one-eighty, the gun drawn and his hands tight on the grip. His eyes sighted down the barrel and he moved the gun with his gaze, back and forth between the post-consumer rubble — any possible hiding place. I tried to follow where he was looking, but I could see no one either.

Deliberately, then, the young leader stepped out with his hands exposed and no weapon on his person. Wet blood still adorned his nose. Taz pulsed a thought at me, and I knew why: One solid round left. But he didn’t take the shot, because he wanted to know why the last one was trying to approach us. Trying to communicate.

“Melissa,” again, he started. I hid my body from him, taking shelter behind Taz’s tall frame. But I didn’t want to cower from him.

“My name is Chell, you lunatic.” My voice was brave for all that I had gone through, but I couldn’t feel the courage that I was speaking.

There was a short moment of quiet. “…No, it’s not. Your name really is Melissa. I want you to see,” the boy answered humbly. I stopped myself. He sounded humble, like a pathological manipulator wanted to sound.

Taz stepped in, then. He had the sense to never lower the gun from his target. “I think that’s really brave of you to say, like you care about the woman you planned to dissect.”

The sadist scowled at Taz then, as if he had just remembered that I was not alone with him. “Go to hell,” he murmured through clenched teeth.

Taz answered for us both. “Who’s going to hell? We want to live in peace and you kidnapped a young woman —”

“Stop it!! Neither of you are sane! It’s not like that!” he spat back.

I couldn’t stay silent any longer. “We’re not sane?? You horrible fiend; you only want me to die!!”

“I DIDN’T WANT YOU DEAD!” he answered hysterically. Unlike before, his voice cracked with emotion now. A mental, serial torturer with fanatic zeal.

Next to me, Taz’s anger boiled so fiercely that I could feel it immediately. “What, you wanted her alive so you could eat her that way??” he answered in disgust. “You’ve caused enough death.” Without pause, he sighted down the raised gun and shot him in the stomach.

The ringleader groaned in pain as he fell. “Melissa… It’s me — it’s Peter…” he gasped, as he raised a blood-smeared hand out from his gut. Reaching out for me again.

I shook my head violently, trying not to retch from panic and terror. Did he think we were acquainted? “That’s not my name!!” I finally squeaked out. “I don’t know who you are!!”

Taz forcibly turned my shoulders away from the gruesome creature that lay dying, and we ran together as far as we could go; as far as my legs could stand it.


(Happy Halloween. To be continued.)

“Discourse on Home”, an Essay (Original Short Story — January 2015)

Earth is lost.

It still feels surreal to admit it out loud. We were all forced to leave before the actual end, and so no living soul was left to witness the impact. Our minds know that she must be gone — destroyed, broken, what have you — but our poor mortal hearts haven’t accepted it yet. The birthplace of our entire species and all our history is forever stolen from us, and no human alive can fully comprehend it because we couldn’t see it happen.

Seeing is believing. Still true, even after all these centuries of trusting invisible subatomic particles to thrust us safely through space (and time). How can we blindly trust in the invisible, and yet deny what we know is inevitable? Did we really think that Earth would live forever, despite her gradually dying sun? Had we really placed all of our hopes on a finite sphere of water, air, and sediment?

…I must conclude that the answer is yes; we did. She gave us each a piece of her heritage, and we reciprocated. Earth belonged to us. We belonged to Earth. Wasn’t that how it was supposed to be? How can we ever replace that planet of our genesis?

Please pardon this emotional aside. I can only assume that this deeply-set sense of loss will belong to this generation alone, and that our future descendants will be born on some other place which they call “home”. Or what if they learn to have no planetary attachment at all? Perhaps, in fact, it would be better if the latter became true. Our children may become not stubbornly devoted inhabitants, but temporary tenants with the nomadic spirit, ready to move on when the time comes. Truly, we would be a more resilient species then.

But who could live without falling in love with their new Earth? Even a world half as good to us as Earth was would be too beautiful to let go. How could anyone leave without looking back? Could we force ourselves, as we are trying to do now? Is it better to have loved and lost? Or is it better to have never loved at all?

A better question: can we even stay ourselves from loving our new home?

It was in that spirit — the spirit of loving this new planet that we have carefully identified and chosen to claim — that I designated the mountain to the north of our first landing zone as Everest. I had only hoped to soothe the shock we all seem to be feeling by alluding to this alien world’s similarities to our beloved Earth, and I had only expected it to be the one exception to an otherwise fresh, new start on this young planet.

But they are running with it. Four 29-hour days have gone by, and the mapmakers already refer to the area south of Everest as Nepal, and the area northward as Tibet. The large island, due south of our first base-camp, has been officially marked Sri Lanka, and this continent, though much smaller than the original, bears the weighty name of Asia.

The cartographic relevance of these names will, no doubt, be disputed — but no colonist here seems to mind the familiar phrases. Coincidentally, our preliminary orbital scans even confirm our new Mount Everest as the highest land point above sea level. The serendipity feels strangely reassuring.

Consequent to this news, more than a dozen of our number have volunteered to hike the virgin mountain immediately, heedless of the fact that there is simply no support system yet in place. It has taken all of my administrative power to restrain them, actually — the last thing any of us want is to have to scramble a rescue mission and risk fatalities to hypothermia or accident on our first community landmark. But their enthusiasm shows that they are willing to accept it as a new icon, or homage to the Earth for which we have mourned. Voluntary proposals have already been submitted for the christening of two nearby rivers as the Tigris and the Euphrates, as well as names for countless other oceans, valleys, glaciers, geysers, canyons, and even plant and animal life. They all point back to Earth. They will ensure positive reinforcement of the idea that We Will Never Forget — a better promise than perpetual grief can give.

But there is one name we cannot reuse. No, not anyone here feels that the revered title of Earth should be given to this new planet. But then we have no name for her. Either out of respect, or maybe hope for a better name, the people of Earth are hesitating to decide for themselves. The star-pilots and the administrators have been avoiding the press and their persistent question: “What should we call this world?” 

It seems that nearly everyone is turning to me, as if I am full of poetically appropriate names. But the name of this planet, in all of its alien grandeur and strange new ways, escapes me. In the past, when naming a colony world, they took a vote. I am not opposed to the idea, but curiously enough, the people reject it. I don’t think they trust their neighbors to choose the correct name by majority vote, as if there could be a “correct” name for a world never before discovered. Who knows what would satisfy their expectations? But still, they want me to name their planet. 

The obvious choice is “New Earth”, but something tells me that my wife would not be happy with such a transparent evasion. She is one of the expectant crowds, even as she leans over my shoulder while I write. My wife just told me to erase that last sentence, by the way. Now she is upset that I am breaking character; but in all honesty, I’m not the king of this planet, and I shouldn’t ever be a king of anything. I don’t know what to call it. Joss suggested the name Bob. I like it. I think I’ll call it that, outside of public scrutiny.

Despite all of my flippancy and sarcasm, I do know that I have to provide something more, something honest, for our posterity before I dare to close my essay. The colonists of this and every future world may one day read it, thinking (a bit mistakenly) that my writing presents the keys of wisdom and the hopes of our entire humanity. All I mean to do is offer my personal and uncensored thoughts, but I intend to make it clear that I am accountable for no one’s vote but my own. Speaking frankly, you can take it or leave it.

This name is indeed an important thing, however. It is to be the name of a starting point, and the name of our place of healing as a breed of refugees. We cannot name it Earth. This world has already been consecrated to be so much more than another Earth. It is a place of rebirth, not the true origin. Yet it will be the beginning for many countless human lives who will be raised here. 

I feel I must emphasize that this world will not be the final resting place or planet for all of humanity, so long as we can help it. We may someday leave this new world as well, when it is old. But I believe that this will be a healthy cycle. It will not feel natural to us, but it will be a part of nature. As the seasonal tree grows and every day struggles to survive, a sense of loss will naturally come when all of that cumulative effort is undone in death. It will be hard to leave that tree, with all of its gifts to us: the comfort that we felt in its shade, the fruit that it imparted without price, and the love that so many birds sang on its branches. Remember that death is a part of life, but life itself still goes on. Our new world carries the birthright of this truth. 

From another perspective, I cannot help but reflect on the name “Earth” itself. How and why were we ever so enamored by a name that meant “dirt”? I believe, in this case, that the title of Earth was used in the fundamental sense: earth, soil, rock; the elements that it was made of. 

And so whatever name we choose for this planet, if it be in the same legacy of our former home-world Earth, it should be elemental — or rather, elementary, essential, and basic. Something central to the idea of this, our new Home.

Feature Post: Our Newest Drug, and the Cycle of Drug Culture

From "Borderlands 2", a video game

Years ago, as an aspiring sci-fi author, I thought of an idea that eventually developed into one of my best story prompts. The basic idea was thus:

“What if, 600 years in the future, humanity finds a new chemical substance on a foreign planet which is extremely addictive, highly satisfying, and wildly popular… but slowly destroys the entire human species because of society’s utter dependence on it?”

I called the drug Roslin, and one day, I still hope to dig up the original draft and finish it. (Man, it felt awesome to write. It was such a crazy world.) Roslin, known as “Rose” in the story’s slang, became the epicenter of enormous political, social, economic, and physical stress — and ultimately, collapse — in “the world as we know it”.

A funny thought comes to mind when I think back on this idea: my mother, born in the 1950s, remembers advertisements from her early childhood which openly claimed that “Doctor Brown from Sheboygan” (or whatever) endorses Lucky Strike cigarettes, or ads which pretended that “More doctors choose Camel over any other brand.” Looking back now, it seems ridiculous if not a little morbid. These days, it’s common knowledge that smoking addicts your central nervous system and then, slowly and painfully, ends your life.

As a creative writer, though, I had to wonder what it must have felt like for people living back then — when medical science had just started publishing the dangers of tobacco. Try it yourself, actually. Right now, you are age 24 in the year 1946.  World War II has just ended; the economy is booming (finally); life is great — wait a minute, what is this? You just read an article in a news magazine about “lung cancer”, and how the medical community is pretty sure that it’s killing people because they were life-long smokers. The next page in the magazine is a color advertisement from Camel. “More doctors choose Camel,” it says. Which doctors are right? Minutes later, you find yourself hesitating to pull out your lighter. Smoking has always been there for you to easily relieve stress, but now… It’s stressful to even think of giving up cigarettes.

It turns out that you’re experiencing a pivotal moment in history. Before a decade passes, most everyone around you is similarly aware of supposed cigarette risks, and they believe them. By the time you have your first child, you’re convinced that you’re going to keep them from smoking at all. You probably won’t smoke in the house anymore. Or anywhere. The world has changed, and fast. It feels like you blinked and almost missed it, and now you’re scared for your friends and family because they never stopped smoking.

Kind of a downer, huh? It’s crazy to think that you almost got addicted to smoking tobacco. Your life might have been that much harder — and that much shorter.

But, on the other hand, you’re relieved you found out the truth as soon as you did. Many of your friends did not, or they didn’t believe you when you told them your feelings early on. There were conflicting messages in the media, and so they preferred to never make up their minds. Whether your smoking friends ended up dying young or not, it became obvious over the years that they were not as happy as they might have been. There’s something inherently bad about being addicted to a supply you can’t control. It makes humans unhappy, and you know what? It really should. There’s nothing healthy or normal about it.

That brings me to the most important problem with drugs: it’s not really the drug supply that is a problem. Think about it. So long as people want the drug, there will always be someone willing to produce and distribute it (for a price). That’s just straight economics. The supply only increases when people desire it more.

The uncontrollable DEMAND is what makes it addiction. Your brain demands it. Your body demands it. Your emotions play subtle and powerful tricks on you to convince you that you actually need it, and so then you start to demand it yourself. The drug changes your mind every day, and makes you want it. 

That is addiction and dependency. It is real, and it is terrifying.

This truth was what I planned to explore in my newborn novel. In brainstorming, I had toyed with the idea of making “Rose” completely harmless when ingested, and with no negative effects to human health… unless the user ever tried to stop taking it. I wanted to portray the hypothetical idea that even IF drugs didn’t gradually kill us, and even IF their only downside was addiction, then they would still have enough power to ruin human lives… and worse.

So now I have a more direct question: How would you feel if you saw a completely new drug entering the world? Like a new tobacco? A glamorous, unsuspected ritual that most people already accept?

A better question: How would you know what it looks like?

I’ll let the gloves come off now, and I’ll tell you my honest belief and the ultimate purpose of this post. I have my personal reasons for this belief, but understand that I’m not at all about shaming or attacking people. I am offering this idea because this drug attacks people.

Pornography is the new drug. It is entirely addictive, degrading, and behavior-altering. The internet has become the most popular drug dealer on Earth, and as new, solid research about the psychiatry of porn begins to develop and publish itself to the world, only a fortunate few are hesitating long enough to become educated on it. It’s tobacco all over again.

I recently volunteered to write this feature post about pornography after speaking with an organization called Fight The New Drug. I am impressed with their influence and attitude about the goal of raising awareness, and their respectable approach toward it. Ultimately, that’s all anyone has the right to do. We can offer education, even if we can’t utterly stop the demand that takes place in millions of individual brains.

Just a quick note before I throw you some links on further reading: I am not being paid by this organization or by any person. They did not reach out to me; I reached out to them and volunteered to share what I know. Fight The New Drug has a fierce and intelligent plan toward fighting the spread and acceptance of pornography and all of its consequences. If their organization had not already existed, I might have started it myself.

And, just to get this out of the way, we are not fear-mongers. We are not conspiracy theorists. We are not intolerant. Rather, we are educators. We are activists. We are thinkers, but more than that, we are doers.

Let me put it this way: We are Fighters.


 

 

 

(Educate yourself.)

FightTheNewDrug.org

The Neurochemistry and Sociological Effects of Porn

Official Blog of FTND

And Now For Something Completely Relevant

Cameron has good reasons for being nervous.

So, this is going to seem like a weird departure. But we’re going to talk about Ferris Bueller for a moment.

As a preface: the reason this post is not about science fiction is because there is something deeper than sci-fi; in fact, deeper than fantasy, historical fiction, or any real kind of narrative. Don’t get caught up in the semantics of ‘genre’ for now. All stories are trying to tell us the same thing — or at least the same idea in each story. I purport that every story we’ve written throughout history has been about us.

Us. Ourselves. Mankind. Men and women. We are all unique individuals, to be sure, but we are all human. (That sounds vague and science-y enough, right? A healthy balance of metaphysics and feel-good storytelling?)

Anyway. Today we’re going to talk about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and why it is the best movie in the universe. I mean, below The Princess Bride and What’s Up, Doc? and Star Wars: Episodes IV, V, and VI. I’m trying to stay on topic. I’m not very good at it.

Furthermore, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume that my reader has seen and is very familiar with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If there are any stragglers who just got done living in a cave for the last few decades, who have not seen it, I urge them to repent and go watch it right now. None of this is going to make sense unless you know the plot of the movie anyway.

Recently, an old friend and fellow musician of mine contacted me out of the blue on Facebook. Somehow, this random “Hi, what are you up to these days? Just thought I’d check up on you” turned into a moderately epic ’70s/’80s/’90s movie quote battle. We both happened to know a lot of old classics (and cult-classics alike), and so we started quizzing each other to see how obscure of a movie quote we could recognize and name the movie it was from. Notable examples:
— “Why, I make more money than — than — than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!” (Singing In The Rain)
— “Has anyone ever told you that you are very sexy?” / “…Actually, no.” / “They never will.” (What’s Up, Doc?)
— “I’m suggesting that you leave before I have to get snooty.” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

That last quote was my challenge to him, but since it was so obscure and out of context, he needed another one before he could correctly guess it. I followed it up with another of my favorite quotes from that movie:

“…I’m dying.”
*telephone rings — he picks up on speakerphone*
“You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.”

Most people hardly remember this scene in the movie, but it’s one of my favorites because of the way Cameron and Ferris play off of each other. Cameron, the complete anxiety wreck who has a lot of legitimate fears centered around his father’s anal expectations; and Ferris, who can (and does) get away with anything he wants, up to and perhaps including murder. Ferris is just so charismatic that the world seems to adapt to his lifestyle and how he wants to live the day. The side-effect is that the world has to absorb the consequences of his carelessness, and Ferris often leaves disaster in his wake. (Think of the way his sister Jeanie and also Cameron resent his attitude throughout the entire movie — it’s pretty clear that Ferris has been pissing them off for years, prior to this day even starting.)

I mentioned something similar to that friend of mine. Not in this essay-thesis format, of course. I just said “Cameron is a supremely underrated character. Ferris needed him in order to have any sort of fun.”

Reply: “That sounds like an activity in a communications class…”

My reply: “Ferris already knew he could skip school (like he had already done NINE TIMES) and get away with it. There was some part of him that needed an unwilling and skeptical audience.”

And while I was mostly surprised at myself for how impressive that sounded, as I had just thought it up on the spot, I’ve been thinking about it ever since because it’s totally true. I realized something incredible: the secret about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is that Ferris is not the main character. He’s hilarious, he’s likable, he’s clever and quick on his feet, and his character is obviously designed to be the one that catches your eye. Ferris Bueller demands the attention of every person when he walks into a room, and he gets it. The audience can’t help but feel similarly drawn to him.

But why, then, is he just as shallow and careless at the end of the movie as he was in the beginning? He still has that smirk on his face. He didn’t really regret any of the underhanded (or just plain dishonest) adventures that he embarked on that day. You can see that he is just a little bit more wise than he was, now that he knows how close he came to being caught and exposed by his sister — but that’s about it. In terms of actual character, Ferris hasn’t changed in any significant way. He will probably be more careful in the future, but he will still lie and cheat and have fun before he will voluntarily choose to build up some moral integrity.

There’s only one factor in this glorious movie that Ferris didn’t see coming: Cameron killed his dad’s Ferrari.

No one saw that coming. And it was the only thing about that entire day that Ferris felt even a little bad about. The next time you have a chance to watch the movie, watch closely Ferris Bueller’s face right as Cameron snaps and begins to kick the car — and then watch Ferris’s complete, stunned horror as he realizes that they can’t cover up this accident. He doesn’t know what to say, because nothing he says will be able to fix anything. For the first time in a long time, Ferris’s charisma and smooth-talking are powerless. They’re beyond powerless. It was as if Ferris himself had killed the car, and he didn’t know how to react to how badly his friend Cameron was screwed.

Strangely enough, Cameron Frye is the actual main character of the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It wasn’t Ferris’s life that was changed by the events of the movie. Ferris had fun, but he was just wasting time like he always did. It was nothing new for him. Cameron, on the other hand, had never cut loose like that before. It was an enormously radical rebellion for him to swipe his dad’s garage-queen sports car for a day and go hang out with his best friend and a pretty girl in the Chicago downtown. He had no idea that he could find the guts to do it, much less get away with it at the end of the day.

But that’s when the movie’s ultimate conflict and climax reared its ugly head: Cameron couldn’t really get away with running up miles on his father’s true love. The odometer was going to be a problem from the beginning — Cameron knew that — but with some help and earnest pressure from Ferris Bueller, he went along with it even though he didn’t know how they were going to solve the problem when they got back. It was a leap of faith. It was stupid faith, but it was an important step for Cameron because he soon saw the reason why people ever broke the rules in the first place. It was probably the best day of his life, running around Chicago and hot-tubbing and eating at restaurants they couldn’t afford and stealing the show during a parade, all up until they got back to the Ferrari’s home in the garage.

And then the ‘drive it in reverse’ trick didn’t end up working.

And then, cornered and humiliated, Cameron lost his mind.

Cameron Snaps

You see, in a perfect world, rules serve a healthy and essential purpose. We need some form of rules in a civilized society, and most of the time people are happy to live within them. But if and when rules — guidelines, laws, prohibitions, requirements, decrees, condemnations, absolutions, or all kinds — are taken too far, then the rules backfire. If rules start to be applied in stupid, unreasonable ways (and people know, deep down, when they are), then it becomes natural and even justifiable for the subjects of these rules to lash out and rebel against them.

“…It is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government.” (Sound familiar? That’s the American Declaration of Independence.)

Cameron knew he was breaking every rule he had been taught. But how could that be a bad thing, if his life at home had been such hell throughout all of childhood? My theory is that Cameron Frye didn’t realize how happy he could actually be if he just tried to have fun, even though his father’s awful parenting had taught him to literally fear the concept of enjoying himself. Up until the events of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, poor Cameron had no way of knowing if his fear of breaking the rules was rational or not, and he had no way of feeling what genuine happiness and excitement were until his reckless buddy called him and convinced him to steal a car for a day and try to get away with it. Cameron, in and of himself, would never have found the willpower to free his spirit like Ferris did. It’s not like Ferris was this wise and benevolent saint; it’s just that he happened to act as a catalyst for an emotional breakthrough that Cameron desperately needed. This movie is not so much about having a good time as it is learning to have a good time, and why that is so important. This movie is about Cameron’s struggle against overbearing rules, and his personal road to liberty. Even though he was going to suffer immensely for destroying his dad’s Ferrari, the events of this movie literally set Cameron free.

That’s why Cameron didn’t seem half as terrified as Ferris did, after he demolished the car. That’s why the movie seemed to have this huge and sudden buzzkill moment for no good reason. Liberty comes at a cost, but there is no price that is too heavy to pay for true freedom of spirit. Cameron instantly became a better man, in that moment. Not like he necessarily wanted to face his dad’s wrath, if he still had the choice. The requirement to become great was simply thrust upon him.

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” 

I wasn’t really planning on ending this with a Shakespearean quote, but seeing as I have, I’d say that there must be some actual credibility to what I’ve just typed. I’ve come full-circle. When both Shakespeare and the Declaration of Independence agree with you, you know you’re doing something right.

P.S. — This also brings up another strange, obscure, and wonderful side-reference: FBDO is a John Hughes film, and John Hughes films are the center of much attention in the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I suggest you go read that book right now, if you haven’t yet. (Don’t lie. You haven’t.)

A Netherworld of Possibilities

A Netherworld of Possibilities

So after the Death Star / “sky ceiling” confusion, I started asking different questions.

Different, as in, really intelligent and unorthodox questions.

Unorthodox, as in, neither of my masters-degree graduate parents had ever considered them. My mother remembers one in particular that I asked her when I was probably six: “Mom, do astronauts have birthdays in space?”

“Of course theyyy… I… don’t know? Wait, you mean, do they celebrate them?”

“No no no. When do they celebrate them? I mean, what day is it in space right now?”

I challenge you to tell me what day it is in space right now. I’m sure NASA’s got that little technical loophole figured out for their official records, but the truth of the matter is that once you’re free of the stratosphere, the date and time relative to Earth is nearly subjective. Unless you are in low geosynchronous orbit over Mission Control in Houston, I imagine it becomes a little fuzzy whether today is tomorrow or today is today. Today might be yesterday on Earth, but because you took a rather ambitious rocket flight yesterday (today), you are at the mercy of jet-lag’s mentally disturbed brother — especially if your satellite happens to be rotating faster or slower than the surface of the planet. Be glad that we haven’t achieved anything near light-speed yet, or I would have had to go into the Theory of Relativity and it would have been a mess. (Fun fact: temporal relativity is actually always at play, so even visiting the International Space Station on a day-trip as opposed to staying on Earth affects your ‘relative’ age in a minuscule way. Thanks, Einstein!)

Which brings me to the implicit question that I was really asking at age six. Not just, “What is the official reckoning of time in space?” The question I had intended to ask, but didn’t quite know how to phrase, was “How can time be measured in space? How does time pass?”

…Or does it pass?

See, my innocence and general naïveté meant that I would never automatically cancel out any strange questions in my head before asking them out loud. Nothing was impossible — so I was less embarrassed to ask questions exploring every bizarre possibility, because any one of them could be reality. I just had no way of knowing until I asked.

Surprisingly, no one I asked had ever thought about it before. It was painfully obvious that most of the people I knew were far too comfortable with incomplete answers, and thus, I was a special kind of sojourner. I was happy to believe in any feasible answer and accept it as truth, but if and when my random thought experiments placed something into doubt, I would abandon it as a mere theory and move on to prove the actual truth.

I was born into the metaphysical mindset. I was a knight on a lifelong quest for truth. It certainly wasn’t nurture; no one in my early life explicitly prompted me to ask these kinds of questions. It was just my personal nature. It still is.

Another question I asked, which truly mystified even myself for many, many years:

“Mom, do blind people dream?”

“Do blind people dream? Of course; I’m sure they have dreams.”

“Yeah, I know — but do they see in their dreams?”

“…Uh…”

Only very recently did I find out the answer to this question. I had thought about it occasionally throughout the last couple of years — it wasn’t super important to me, but I was still curious — and I just never got around to googling the answer. (To tell the truth, I think I knew what the answer would be, but I didn’t want to confirm it because I didn’t want it to be that way.) One day, in remembrance of my childhood question, my brother posted a link on my Facebook wall leading directly to an article about dreams in the minds of the blind. Turns out, those with lifelong blindness do not see in their dreams. Dreams are smell, sound, and touch — sometimes taste and other obscure sensations — but sadly, not even their subconscious understands the concept of sensing visible light.

It makes sense. That’s the answer that I figured must have been true, but I didn’t want it to be true because it sucks for them. On the other hand, and also predictably, those who lose their sight sometime after birth can and do dream visual scenes, but their ability to dream with sight diminishes the longer they have been blind. It’s also related to how young or how old the person was when they lost their sight altogether. So, logically, the ability to experience visible dreams is directly related to the fading of one’s memory. If you have no memory of seeing, or else have simply never been able to see at all, the subconscious has no memory to draw on, and hence your dreams will simply be heightened forms of other senses just like your day-to-day experiences.

Makes sense. It really does suck, though. I’ve often wondered whether I would rather lose my sight or my hearing, if I could only keep one. Since I’m a serious music aficionado, but also a huge fan of science fiction eye-candy in movies and concept art, it’s… it’s a really hard choice. I don’t know why I hate myself enough to dream up these awful questions.

With luck, if ever I have to choose between keeping my hearing or my sight, I’ll be so unsure and indecisive that I’ll just never make a decision and get to keep both.

Here’s the link to that article, by the by:
http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/02/26/how-the-blind-dream/

I’m sure there were more off-the-wall questions I asked as a kid. I’m kind of disappointed I can’t remember them now. If I think of them again, I’ll post them.

P.S. — My mother just put forth her two cents: blindness can separate you from things and events, but in a much harsher way, deafness can separate you from people. It’s an important distinction, and while I was a little hesitant to admit this publicly on my blog, long ago I actually did decide that I would rather be blind than deaf. I would lose my ability to drive, explore, watch movies, and play video games — not to mention having to relearn how to read — but at least I would still be moved by music and the voices of people.

P.P.S. — I didn’t say this to my mother at the time in order to not seem argumentative, but logistically, it would probably be better to be deaf because cochlear implants are a lot more feasible than actual eyeball transplants. But I feel like that contingency is maybe kind of cheating in this stupid hypothetical scenario.

Do You See the Ceiling or the Sky?

Can you see the Sky?

Do You See the Ceiling or the Sky?

When I was a little kid, circa age five or so, I distinctly remember believing several… weird… things about the world. Cosmically speaking, I mean. I was weaned on Star Wars, after all, almost a fan from birth, so I had my share of stargazing and science-fiction daydreaming.

For example, unbeknownst to any of my family, I first envisioned that outer space had a ‘ground’. As in, if you went down far enough, eventually you would hit the ground and couldn’t go any further. Don’t ask me how I figured which way was ‘down’. The only thing I thought I knew was that I wanted to go there. It would be so rad to see the ground.

This is the exact goal that I shared with my family, much to their bewilderment. As perplexed as they were with my claim that space eventually bottomed out, my poor kindergarten brain had an even more difficult time with the reality they tried to convince me of: “It doesn’t end like that, Thomas.”

Someone else added: “Yeah, space doesn’t have a ‘ground’. It just keeps going.”

My brain pumped the brakes, cautiously slowing the momentum of my worldview in case I was wrong (which I wasn’t, there was no way; I was just being circumspect). “No… Space has a bottom. What do you mean it keeps going?”

“It doesn’t end. There’s no bottom.”

“Yes. There is.” Tiny Tom was beginning to feel frustration set in, because someone he trusted was insisting on such a ridiculous thing.

It was about that moment that someone was prudent enough to ask, “Where did you get this idea? Who told you that there’s a ground?”

I hadn’t consciously realized it, but the visual memory of several Star Wars space battles had merged in my brain to create vivid and uncompromising evidence that the surface of the Death Star, when seen from a close-up camera, was actually an infinite plane of metallic and impenetrable material. (I was only five, guys.) Because of the limits of 1970s special effects, George Lucas had very diligently worked to conceal the fact that the Death Star seen on screen was merely a studio prop — microscopic in comparison to the ‘small moon’–sized structure it represented in the movie. Looking back on it now, I understand that I missed the implied connection between the camera shot of the Death Star from far away, and the scene where the Rebel space fighters are skimming its surface, flying towards a seemingly flat horizon. Because the camera never actually arrives at the Death Star’s surface in a single, continuous sweep, I involuntarily imagined them as two separate places. (I was further convinced of my ‘space surface’ theory by that one shot in Episode VI, where the unbelievably enormous Super Star Destroyer loses power and nosedives into the surface of the Second Death Star, which was even more massive. Somewhere between these two absurd senses of scale that I couldn’t yet fathom, my brain crossed some wires and decided that a ‘space ground’ made more sense.)

The great irony of my family trying to set me straight on this topic was that, after some convincing, they succeeded in resolving a major misconception in my head — but the trade-off was my assured sense of reality. Wait, so it wasn’t the bottom of space I saw, but really the curved surface of the Death Star? But it was so flat! How big was that thing? I can’t even visualize how big it would have to be! I guess it was just a movie, after all… 

Even worse, my sense of certainty completely evaporated once I realized another thing: How is there no bottom to space? The sky on Earth goes up forever; that’s fine, that’s normal, but you can’t fall forever and never stop. How do — What would — I don’t even —

I think that was the big moment, actually. That was when I stopped being an all-around, generic little kid and began my first inquisitive focus: science. I no longer wanted to be an astronaut because it was popular and famous; I needed to be an astronaut because there are things out there that I am just going to have to see and find out for myself.

Because honestly, the concept of infinite space extending in all directions, without end? That is a concept that adults struggle with. At best, one can accept it as an idea that describes truth and try not to think about it because, at the end of the day, human beings are not at all equipped with the wetware necessary to fully grasp the stark reality of ‘infinity’. It frustrated me at age five, and then just downright maddened me that not even so-called ‘grown-ups’ had a palatable explanation for coping with the ‘infinity’ clause.

So that was the first clue that maybe I was assuming certain things that weren’t necessarily true. Not too long after, I encountered another false assumption that I had dreamed up. This one had to do with the concept of atmosphere, breathability, and the polar opposite which is vacuum. I don’t remember how I ended up in a confrontation about this one, but I do remember that it was even harder to grasp and believe than the idea that space never bottoms out.

I think I was talking with someone about the space shuttle launches, which were still pretty exciting to hear about back in the ‘90s. There was something that I had never quite figured out, though, and I thought it would be a common and unassuming question to ask: “By the way, how do rocket ships break through the sky?”

Obviously, that stirred up some weird looks. I tried to clarify. “I mean, I know they can’t break through the sky; that would compromise our atmosphere and leak it all into space. But what happens when the space shuttles get to… you know, the ceiling? Is there a door or a hatch that opens and then shuts when they’re out?”

Okay, so APPARENTLY, it’s common knowledge that there is no tangible ‘endpoint’ to the gaseous atmosphere surrounding the planet’s crust. How was I supposed to know that? Between learning about the harsh vacuum of outer space, and the importance and effect of having breathable air holding steady at about 14.5 pounds per square inch all over our bodies, I was just supposed to assume that, magically, the atmosphere around us refused to be sucked away into space?

All sarcasm aside, here’s why I really thought what I did. The concept of vacuum, and the utter nothingness that it’s supposed to be imagined as, seems unnatural to our minds because we’ve never lived in anything less than fully atmospheric conditions. So when I first heard about ‘losing pressure’ in a spaceship, I didn’t see the pressurized ship as the source of outwardly-expanding oxygen — instead, I assumed that space (exotic, strange, incredible, outer space) was working some kind of natural magic it had to actively suck away the spaceship’s atmospheric pressure.

Thus, you start to see my confusion. It hadn’t occurred to me that gravity was a basic force equal in nature to the balance of gaseous pressure in a vacuum. I thought, since the idea of spaceships violently leaking atmosphere was far more exciting than boring old gravity, that the void of space was somehow inherently stronger than Earth’s gravitational force.

So logically, there had to be some kind of invisible (or maybe ‘sky-blue’, like in The Truman Show) shell that hovered around the entire surface of the globe and actually, physically, kept the atmosphere in — because otherwise, it would immediately leak into space and be lost.

After all these assumptions were soldered together in my head, the only remaining question was, “How do our rockets and spaceships even get to space? If they had already punched a ragged hole in the ‘sky ceiling’, then we would all have died of asphyxiation by now.” I guess, looking back, it was rather strange of me to presume that Earth was born with a solid, cosmic shield that literally locked us and our oxygen ‘indoors’…

But then again, some of the first astronomy illustrations detailed in children’s books are the marvelous and completely alien rings of Planet Saturn — so how could I rule out anything as impossible? What about the perpetual, swirling electrical storms in the gas giant of Jupiter, or the strangely perfect rotation of our moon that will never show us both sides of her pale surface within our lifetimes? And that’s just three terrestrial bodies out of many planets and moons in our solar system alone, and that’s one solar system out of many billions of billions within the observable universe! If such incredible and outlandish things could and do occur without man having anything to do with them, how could anything be impossible in the natural universe?

And, while I was completely wrong about the ‘sky ceiling’ theory… at least I can say that I was on the right track. Because the truth is stranger than fiction. There is no need for a ‘sky ceiling’, because Earth’s gravity and the hollow vacuum of space have already fought their tug-of-war millennia ago, resulting in the armistice of force that continues today. There are no violent pressure swells or dangerous drops in atmospheric weight. The balance has already been achieved and decided. We have quite literally been born into a peaceful inheritance, and if we are completely honest with ourselves, that is insanely miraculous luck.

So here’s the question I pose to you: when you look up, and you see the blue sky in the day or the black sky in the night, do you even see what you’re looking at? It’s all too easy to see stars in your eyes but think about student loan debt in your mind. Do you feel like you’re trapped here in your own life? Or are you glad and happy that you’re ‘trapped’ here? It could be much worse. You could have generated as a basic amino acid on a meteor as it gradually fell into the sun. You and I and everyone you know are actually quite unbelievably fortunate to be born as highly-developed mammals, with families, and self-awareness, and educations, and computers jacked into a planetary internet, etcetera etcetera.

Do you feel limited, even though you are a capable and powerful human being? Do you recognize your own influence, even if all you can do right now is lay in bed and think? Has it occurred to you what an absolute miracle your existence here and your life on Earth is in the first place?

Come on, friend. Just do this real quick, and you’ll start to see what I mean. Go outside, find a place, and look up. Do you see the ceiling or the sky?

Story Universes Which I Admire

Destiny Concept Art

Story Universes Which I Admire
(NOT in order of favorites, because you just can’t ask that of me)

  1. Firefly
  2. Star Wars
  3. Ender’s Game (including all spin-offs and sequels)
  4. Halo (excluding Halo 4 and all future spin-offs and sequels)
  5. Destiny (upcoming, and possibly a premature rating — don’t crush my hopes)
  6. Star Trek (J.J. Abrams reboot only because I can’t relate º to the older stuff)
  7. Ready Player One
  1. I like Firefly because it is not a military space-opera, unlike almost every other sci-fi story that has ever made it on screen. More importantly, though, is that the show was popular. This is especially significant in this day and age, when people have so many competing television shows and/or sci-fi stories — because it means that the premise of the show (and the movie) was written to be extremely believable ^ and relatable º. Since it didn’t depend on flashy sci-fi shootouts or constant action, the show itself was completely sustainable as a television series, and yes, I agree that the cancellation of Firefly was the worst decision since Hitler got kicked out of art school. At least they went back for a full feature-length movie. Also, Nathan Fillion and disturbed space-zombies.
  2. I actually had to think about this one. Star Wars is such an all-time worldwide classic that I usually take its popularity and its influence on me for granted. Where to begin? The story, on the surface, reflects the quintessential rebellion ^ against — what else? — a brutal empire controlled by the evil and corrupt. (Please note that I am only evaluating the Original Trilogy here, which consists of Episodes IV, V, and VI.) We know why the story sounds familiar, but why does the Original Trilogy resonate with us? Luke Skywalker starts as a relatable º protagonist because he is stranded in a life that’s going nowhere. The audience cheers at his adventures because we would like to see some kind of action ourselves. (Excluding one confrontation involving minor dismemberment on Cloud City, Luke’s life is definitely awesome.) If, however, you have seen the Prequel Trilogy (cringe), you will know that Luke is only one of two main Skywalkers – the other being his father, of course. All acting flops aside, it is good to learn Darth Vader’s backstory, so I’m glad the movie scripts of Episodes I, II, and III were written. I just wish they had been written by someone else. Someone completely different. Anyway, between Vader’s mistakes and Luke’s heroism, the father and son are reconciled with Anakin’s dying breaths. This is especially relatable º because no one wants to be remembered for the crimes they’ve committed, and even the callused, numbed soul of Darth Vader could feel that. In the moment that he singlehandedly killed the sadistic Emperor, he transformed, figuratively and finally, into the Jedi that he had started out to be. That is why I think Star Wars is still awesome, 30 years later.
  3. Ender’s Game is the best science-fiction story I have ever read. No argument at all. Star Wars has probably been more influential, because all my friends talk about it and because I knew about it longer than Ender’s Game, but no story I have ever heard of has impacted me the way that Ender’s Game has. In my mind, Ender’s Game doesn’t break any of the three rules, but it excels most at being relatable º — at least, for me it was terribly relatable. Both Ender Wiggin and I are naturally empathetic people, but when pushed, he is as fierce as he has to be to protect himself and others. Willing to kill in the face of true danger? Check; both me and Ender. Prepared to lose a battle to win the war? I’m still working on mastering that, but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment behind it. Check. There are an ocean of other similarities between Ender and me, but they are all extremely relevant to our unique identities. I fell into a completely empathetic relationship with that character with every single page, and when the book was over I was more than intrigued. I had to know how it ended — how my story ended. I read the remaining three books in the Ender story arc, and I actually wept and was pretty much depressed for a full week when Ender died in the last book. It wasn’t unsatisfying at all; it was just so humbling and sad to see that even the best of us, even the man that I would want to be, will one day be laid down to die. My poor mother was worried sick about me when I stayed in my room and didn’t speak to anyone for days on end, seemingly for no reason.
  4. Halo was never just a video game. Not for me. The true Halo that I always knew (and played and replayed and replayed and replayed, over and over again) was simply the best sci-fi story I had ever experienced that combined action-hero excitement with deeply exotic and deadly worlds of mystery. For those who are unfamiliar with the ‘classic’ science-fiction appeal of the Halo universe, allow me to sum up: in 500 years, when humanity is on the brink of losing an interspecies war and faces utter extinction, one desperate human ship leads the alien armada away from Earth when it accidentally discovers the enemy’s religious Mecca — the ancient, silent, enigmatic ring-world Halo. Having no other option, the ship’s captain and crew land on the surface of the ring and discover not only breathable atmosphere and Earth-normal gravity, but a hidden mechanism of unspeakable power. The ring itself is the weapon the aliens covet, and the scope is set to fire on the entire galaxy. Cornered and hunted by the alien zealots, caught between your duty to Earth and the pressuring of Halo’s own intelligent mind, and inexorably running out of time, YOU (as the player) have to stay alive long enough to unravel the secret purposes set in place by the primordial race of beings who built Halo millennia ago, and have long since vanished… ∞∞∞
  5. Destiny is being written and produced by the exact same company that dreamed up Halo over a decade ago. And the trailers and video documentaries of its production look pretty incredibly stellar. Also, it’s a lot more relatable º than most space operas because it’s an open world set on the planets of our very own solar system — which definitely includes a post-apocalyptic Earth ∞.
  6. Lens flare, ahoy! While the cinematography of the new Star Trek films is visually appealing and uniquely creative, it’s the way they’ve reimagined the story that caught my attention. With all of the 40+ years of fandom behind the Star Trek franchise, and hence decades of disjointed and overdrawn canon to respect and accommodate (read: bow beneath), the writers took a creative leap — and in my mind, they succeeded. From the very first scene of the movie, the beginning of the story changes due to a viscerally terrifying new development which alters the course of history due to inadvertent time travel… It may sound a little thick on paper, but was much easier to swallow ^ when viewed on screen, much to my surprise and approval. It was really quite impressive how the writers set up the story to be 100% original, but still with that old familiar spirit of exploration, heroism, and nobility in war ∞. I gave the first film two thumbs up. By the time I got around to seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness in theaters, my thumbs disappeared and were replaced by the Vulcan hand-gesture, a token of goodwill and hopeless geek-syndrome. I didn’t even do it sarcastically. As of now, I am a committed and faithful fan of the Star Trek universe as it is being re-told. It’s also super helpful that it features an all-star cast of especially talented but also relatively new actors and actresses, so the audience doesn’t remember Spock as ‘that one guy from that other TV show’. It’s easier to fall in love with the core of a character º and be drawn deeper into the story when you’re not distracted by the actor’s face.
  7. Just read it. I can’t do this thing justice. Just read this book; it’s called “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, and it was only published back in 2011, but it has been my favorite read of the last four years, at least. The paperback cover sports an endorsement saying “Enchanting… Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” I’m having a hard time describing it better than that. If you think that sounds too weird to combine those stories, just imagine them together in the most optimistic forecast you can muster, as if the best of both ideas were seamlessly mashed together ^. Then read the book, and you’ll instantly see that it’s way better than even that. Just read it. I couldn’t pace myself at all, and if I remember correctly I burned through the entire thing in less than a week. I also didn’t sleep right, because I was thinking about the stupid book. Well done, Mr. Cline ∞.

Key:

Suspension of Disbelief ^

Audience’s Ability to Relate º

Rule of Cool ∞