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No Coincidences

The older I get, the more I realize that there are few real coincidences. Most of the time it’s God’s providence or timing, some of the time it’s actually man’s plans or timing. Today’s post is just a comment on political events happening right now. Next reviews will be Chicago Typewriter Kdrama, which I’m really digging, and the yet-to-be-read tacky Regency Romance, Monday’s Child.

On to politics: As I’ve mentioned a few times, I follow Qanon, or Q. Q is real, as in someone is making posts to 8kun (formerly 8chan). Q is not a conspiracy theory. It may be a hoax, but it’s more likely not. Q or the Q team are not presenting theories on something. They are disseminating information, specifically regarding enemies to freedom, and asking questions that they encourage readers to take to heart. Many followers of Q have done just that and have amassed a large amount of research showing that much of what Q has shared is, in fact, true.

A lot of Q’s posts center on the Obamagate FISA-gate or spy gate scandal, whatever you want to call it. I didn’t first hear of this information from Q, however. I heard it from Sundance over at The Conservative Treehouse. Whoever Sundance and his team are, they are amazing researchers and have covered Obamagate in a way that puts every MSM journalist to shame. If you want the details on the whole, entire, tedious thing, go to that site and start reading.

When I started following Q, I quickly realized that Q was sharing much of the same information on the treasonous spying the Obama administration engaged in, and I wondered at the time if Q was getting the information from Sundance or if Sundance was getting information from Q. It also was baffling to find out that Sundance didn’t think much of Q and certainly didn’t follow him or them.

About a month ago, Sundance explained that if the Justice Department did not start unlocking indictments and getting the process started on the numerous criminal prosecutions that absolutely deserve to happen, he would himself begin to reveal the ongoing investigations to the general public, forcing the department’s hand. The deadline that Sundance and his team chose was mid-August, so, right about now. Sundance says he has been in talks with key players, giving them information that they should know, but don’t. Q, who has repeatedly said they “have it all,” referring to info on criminal actions, has also said indictments are coming and that August would be the start of Movie 1, the spygate scandal.

Now, it would appear that something is happening. Whether that something is due to Sundance’s efforts and hard work, or whether it’s due to the longterm plans of the mysterious Q team who has been silent since 7/31, time will tell. Hey, maybe it’s one for the Justice Department itself, but I really doubt it. It is odd, to the point of surely not being a coincidence, though, that Q said Movie 1 would start in August and Sundance made his deadline for action from the Justice Department also for August 2020. Is Q following Sundance? IDK! It’s just a really strange thing. In any case, everyone welcomes what is hopefully the first step in a very long, thorough prosecution of a band of very terrible criminals and people: a coming to us soon guilty plea by former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith.

At the same time there appears to be a renewed effort by the Masters Of The Universe to unperson all people talking about Q. With Q being brought up to the President during news conferences now, one has to wonder if the MOTU are actually on the Q team’s side. Are they completely unaware that the more they suppress this, the larger it will grow? But then, Q often says, “these people are stupid.” And, really, if Sundance and Q are right, these criminals are truly stupid, for the amount of evidence beggars belief. Well, I’m hoping justice is served, but humanity brings out the skeptic in me. Either way, Q, Sundance, thanks for trying to save our republic in such an entertaining way. We don’t deserve either of you. Now, more popcorn…so I can avoid wearing that totally-not-political-at-all-DNC mask.

The Garden of Words: A Mis-step

With the highly anticipated digital and DVD release of writer-director Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You just around the corner, I thought it might be fun to check out another of his anime films, The Garden of Words. Although on the one hand Garden can be considered a great story, it’s also a giant mis-step in storytelling and knowing one’s audience. Spoilers and much negativity ahead.

As with Weathering with You and also, Shinkai’s previously popular Your Name, the artistry in Garden is amazing. Rain, storms, any sort of weather, really, gives the illustrators the chance to really show off what they can do. It is a feast for the eyes. The trouble here is the story, or rather the ages of the people in the story, or rather that it involves a high school student and an older woman…who works at his school.

Let me explain, and I’m by no means the final opinion on this, but sometimes one has to know the waters into which they are dipping their toes. Maybe Japan embraced this storyline and didn’t think anything of it, but for American audiences, this story is a turn off due to not only the age gap, but to the fact that the 27-year-old woman works at the teenager’s high school. Why does she end up leaving her job? Accusations–wrong, but still–accusations of inappropriate behavior with the students. Talk about a storyline in which you are all but assured you’ll be misunderstood.

People are often uncomfortable with relatively harmless stories like Big starring Tom Hanks, a comedy where a kid gets to experience being grown up for a time. Despite the funny, rather endearing story, there’s a serious creep factor involved in having any sort of relationship that’s not a family relationship between a child or teenager and an older person. It’s a truth that cannot be avoided. In the past, sometimes teenagers were thought of as adults, but for many countries they are now considered children, no matter how mature they may be for their age. Artists today continually pick at this boundary, trying to make something palatable in the main stream which should not be. Quite a lot is at stake regarding this. Great harm can come to children and teenagers because of it. Monsters prey on teenagers and children precisely because they are too young to truly understand how they are being manipulated.

Even one of my favorite dramas, High School King of Savvy starring Seo In Guk, weirds people out, though in that he’s the American equivalent of 18, pretends to be ten years older for much of the story, and great pains are taken to show how mature and responsible he his. It would just be a more comfortable story if the character was, say, in college, but then it wouldn’t be as funny. Although the romance was done well, it’s just an uncomfortable story all around.

In the teenage world, even a year can be a big difference. When dealing with teenagers having any sort of relationship with an older stranger, one must consider first that this will be a turn off to the audience, and rightly so. Making the character as young as 15 is not a wise choice. It’s a mis-step, because the likelihood that you and your story will be misunderstood is very high. Again, I don’t know a whole lot about Japan or Japanese culture, but the director here doesn’t help himself in the slightest. He very much makes their relationship romantic–a beautiful rainy garden, facing a storm together, quoting poetry, him tracing her feet, the boy mistaking what they have for romantic love, and so on.

It’s a story meant to show a connection between two strangers. Sometimes when one is extremely lonely, it is a complete stranger who fills that void and becomes a badly needed companion, but due to the age gap of the characters and the fact that she works at his school–I think she’s a counselor or something–it’s just, again, a great mis-step. To his credit, the young man gets rightly angry when he finds out she works at his school and didn’t tell him. Shinkai may think that what he’s asking of his audience is to appreciate a connection of companionship between strangers, but in reality, that’s just not what he presented. A lonely, alienated from both friends and family teenager is exactly who adult pedophiles pray on, and women commit this sin just as men do. I talk about this more a bit further on.

Let me take a break to give some background involving a newer phenomenon surrounding pedophilia and what the media calls conspiracy theory. To me, the term conspiracy theory is a made up term created to stop people questioning certain things. One of those things that people really need to start questioning, is what the rich and powerful do with all that money and time. Because many are involved in human trafficking and the sex slave trade.

Have you heard of Q-anon? That whole Q thing is entirely about good people battling the pedophiles. Supposedly President Trump and certain people in military intelligence are breaking up pedophile networks around the world. This is something you can actually look up. Since Trump took office, there have indeed been a very high number of people caught doing these things and there have been many, many children saved, all around the world.

Believe that’s Trump’s aim or not, I thought it pertinent to mention, because the other aspect of this is the still-under-the-radar slow push to make pedophilia ok in the mainstream. This follows on the transgender push for teens–these people know exactly what they are doing. The slow push manifests itself not only in films like this, but continual pedophilia jokes from celebrities and comedians on Twitter, the demanding that young children have the right to choose their gender (and thus consent to sex, right?), and the growing number of articles about the poor pedophiles and their plight. The crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislane Maxwell are only the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on here.

For those who followed Pizza Gate, which was actually not debunked, and now for those who follow Q, there is evidence that those in power, politicians, celebrities, a staggering amount of people, are all involved in human trafficking of minors–and using our money to do it. You don’t have to take my word on that, but if you’re curious, there’s plenty of research to find online–well, the stuff that the “masters of the universe” tech companies haven’t censored yet. I warn you, though, it’s not a happy place to go. The only comfort in the knowledge of the bad going on is the knowledge that whether it’s Trump or the Q team or not, some people with the power to do it have been slowly bringing these monsters to justice.

Back to the film: All that above is probably something that the director wasn’t aware of, but it’s just another angle to the whole age gap that reveals what a poor choice making the main character a teenager, and even a young teenager at that, was, at least for an American audience. Again, I am not sure how the film was received in Japan, but I do know that the director’s other films are wildly popular.

The creepiest part of the story is the fact that the woman works at the boy’s school and the accusations against her. At least in America, we have a very real problem with teachers and school workers preying on their students in a sexual way, specifically female teachers. In the past ten years there’s been way too many new stories about yet another 30+ year old woman teacher having sexual relations with her male students. These true incidents are why a story of this sort is a really difficult sell for Americans specifically: The audience is being bated to some degree to say this is ok. In a story like this, we are being asked to agree that it’s ok for a teenager and older adult to have a friendship like this.

But in reality even a friendship is not ok, because even if the adult sets appropriate boundaries, the teenager is likely to confuse things, just like he did in this story. Teenagers are just figuring out love and the opposite sex, and it’s up to the adults to not put them in situations in which we confuse them more, something the female character absolutely did in this story. She withheld information from him and it speaks volumes for her character that instead of facing her troubles, she goes to the park to drink beer, eat chocolate, and spend time with a student, eerily close to what she’s being accused of. I’m not sure any audience should be feeling sympathetic towards this woman. She’s completely clueless to a degree in which one has to question if she actually is clueless.

I’m sure I’ve now overstated my case twenty times over, but the choices made in this film, visual amazingness aside, were such a mis-step that it begs incredulity. Again, what exactly is the audience being asked to condone and why? It’s hard to believe that the creators of the movie are actually that naive. For those who love the film, perhaps just as I love High School King of Savvy, these stories are really flawed, and maybe it would be better not to admire them–for the children’s sake.

Reset button

If only life came with a magic reset button. Ok, ok, most of us would use it all too often, and would never actually move forward, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish life came with one. Especially when it comes to relationships with others: Imagine being able to reset and take away all of the hurt and confusion and just be good friends or family or lovers or whatever. Imagine that.

True forgiveness is a reset button of sorts, but with true forgiveness we are supposed to forget the hurts or trespasses that happened before. That’s hard for humans to do. We aren’t God who can know of our sins, but not “see” them, and see only the holiness of Jesus instead. I think the hardest part about it is forgiving ourselves. Maybe we really don’t see what the other person did anymore, but we see what we did or how we reacted, or what we said all too clearly. It’s difficult to reset that, and perhaps it’s that it just takes so much time that we don’t have on this earth. Anyway, I’m glad God has a reset button:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. –Lamentations 3:22-23

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” –Isaiah 1:18

That’s as close to a magic reset button the universe has this side of Judgement Day. In this mortal life God never has us completely start over at day one. He helps us through the difficulties more than he erases them. The hurt, the pain, the sin, will all truly be gone in heaven, and that’s what I look forward to.

Still, often I hope that in this life God will grant me a few more second chances, especially with people. It’s not a total reset, but it’s more a chance to really appreciate and experience what you missed the first time around.

Maybe you didn’t really get the full experience of how amazing it is to have kids, because you were busy, tired, and working, but now that you are a grandparent you experience the pure joy of those little children. Maybe you were creative when younger, and as you get older, you find true joy in the same things, but in a way you never understood back then. You also may find more success at it. Maybe in high school you and another person were always as odds or just didn’t connect, but now, years later, you find they are the person you most long to hang out with.

Resets, seconds chances. If only God would help us all see them, for it’s my inkling that he offers them far, far more than we realize. All things are possible with God.

How Much Is Freedom Worth?

How much is freedom worth to you personally? That’s the question we have to start asking ourselves as locations across the country starting putting even more draconian laws in place for a virus not much worse than the average flu. This week, my city council voted on an ordinance requiring everyone to wear masks whenever they are indoors in a public place. This in a month when tons and tons of people have been exposed to COVID and are getting tested. If anyone still thinks this is about health, your health, or your neighbors health, I have a bridge to sell you. This is purely about power and money, and by and large the supposedly freedom loving Americans are letting their freedom of expression and even breathing freely to be taken away without even a single shot being fired.

How did we get here? Complacency and also fear, not fear of the virus, no, no. I know any number of people including myself who vehemently disagree with what’s been happening regarding the response to this virus. Why don’t we take a stand and stage our own protests? Freedom doesn’t come cheap, and winning it for oneself and others costs even more. We could lose our jobs, our incomes, and thus our places of living, our cars, and the list goes on and on. What is happening in our country and the world is truly frightening. And we wonder about those people in the past who were “just following orders.” We’re finding out we’re really not much different than them when it comes down to it. Not even my church dares stand up against this, though I guess when it comes down to it they won’t deny Jesus…right?

Right? I ask this as a Christian for myself, especially. Is that the only line drawn that matters? That everything that comes before them asking us to deny Christ are not lines that we should hold, lines also of truth and freedom? Jesus didn’t come to overthrow society in a political revolution, that’s true, but I wonder if he’s really happy with us allowing the crazy people and also simply the afraid people to rule us. If all we value is absolute safety, we’ll never have any freedom ever again. C.S. Lewis showed it best when he portrayed Aslan (representing Jesus) as a Lion, a loving yet dangerous Lion. God is ok with danger, he experienced the worst danger one possibly can to save the world by sacrificing himself on the cross. Really hard to see Jesus hiding behind a mask, and he told the leaders of his day to stop hanging more and more laws around people’s necks so they could barely stand up under the weight of them.

It’s just sad that no one seems to understand that this forced mask wearing is directly against our God-given right to express ourselves freely. It’s also against the First Amendment of our Constitution. COVID is not nearly bad enough to warrant such drastic measures, but even if it was, say, Ebola, this would still be against our right to freedom of speech. And they’ve notably left out a date as to which this will all end.

We have a God-given right to live with danger. In fact, God asks us to live dangerously, to befriend those we normally wouldn’t, to go to places we normally wouldn’t, all for the sake of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am disappointed in myself because all I can do is write. There’s no other job I can go now where they won’t require a mask that restricts breathing and will likely give a large number of people lung issues for the rest of their lives. It’s no choice. C.S. Lewis was right, the moral busybodies are the worst, they give you no choice, when even God gives us choices!

But I am more disappointed in my church. I always thought, even if I was scared or weak, that my church would stand strong. Not so, and it disappoints me greatly to see it. But the leaders of our churches are only human, and sadly, many, many of our men today are weak and just want to go along to get along. As far as Gospel sharing, I can see why this is a good approach, but I don’t think it’s a good way to live, not standing up for anything else. How can we stress to people we care about their eternal well being if we don’t care about them being able to live well in this life? And wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from everyone, and living in constant fear of sickness is not living well.

I am being dramatic, but doesn’t drama and emotion fit somewhere? Is there no time that we’re allowed to get upset about having to go along with a lie? Multiple lies? Lies about COVID, lies about masks, lies about social distancing, and on and on? We are being asked to live a lie and even our fellow Christians are sadly asking us to do so, making it even harder to take a stand against it. I mean, who wants to be all alone standing for freedom? Is God really asking us to go along with this lie? At some point, shouldn’t we stand against these busybody bullies who think wearing a mask bestows virtue, and in some cases, power on themselves? Sure, we don’t want granny to die of COV, but if her life up until her death is worse than prison, that’s ok, is it?

This is all a power play and getting us ready to be forced to take the vaccine, whenever it’s ready, and no matter how unsafe it may be to take. So I have to decide: How much is my freedom worth to me? Is it worth losing my job? Is it worth not be able to find a job or likely even work, as every single company will likely require a vaccine? Is it worth losing friends and family? Is it worth even, possibly, not being welcome at my church or any church? Is it worth losing everything in this life? Live free or die?

I can tell you I don’t want to take a vaccine. I no longer think they’re safe and I no longer trust anyone in science or healthcare–neither science or caring for health is what’s going on with those industries today. I don’t want to take it, but I am weak, and although I’m excited to go to heaven someday, I’ve no desire to artificially hasten that time along by stepping into homelessness and starvation. If all this isn’t a mass psychological torture, I don’t know what is. As long as I don’t deny Christ, nothing else matters, right? Is that true? Doesn’t ring true in my heart, not today. How I wish this post could be more hopeful. Can’t the good guys in power who are able to do something see that they are giving the average person no way out? If this isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. Not sure anyone’s coming to save us from this, not even our great president, so, again, ask yourself: How much is freedom worth to you? You may have to seriously decide in the very near future.

This month I’m trying to sit down and reassess a story I wrote about vaccines. A story set in the future. It’s a satire and harsh look on our blind devotion to what we call science. But what we are living through right now is crazier than this story!

Normal Life

This past weekend, because we couldn’t have a proper baby shower for my little sister, I arranged a Drive-By Baby Shower instead. It was a providential day; God blessed us with sun and good weather. No one was sure how it was going to work, but we set up tables and chairs outside and told guests the time frame for dropping off gifts and picking up a cupcake. As people did show up in bunches, it was fun to just stand in the front yard grass and talk, and at the end, those who were still there spread out on the grass to watch the new mom open her gifts. It was just a normal, wonderful afternoon spent with family and friends that I’ve sorely missed.

A big part of my life has always been going to church, and I miss that, too, but we’ve been doing Drive-In Church Services, and they are quite fun. Especially in a snowstorm. Bible Studies Online have also been a wonderful blessing as well, and it’s great to see everyone on screen even if we can’t be with them in person. These times are sure interesting with people finding ways to connect that they never really thought about before.

Besides that, I’ve been doing a lot of writing. 20,000 words and counting on the first draft of Trolls for Dust, Season Three, and I have been watching some Korean dramas.

Two Weeks starring Li Joon Gi: I really, really wanted to like this show, but by episode 10, I just wasn’t into it. For an intense storyline, father escapes from police custody in order to make it to donate bone marrow to his dying daughter in two weeks, the episodes were rather slow. It also took forever for the writers to flesh out the back story, how the cute-as-a-button little girl’s mom and dad fell in love and out of love in the first place, how mom ended up with her new man, etc. I get why they did it that way, as a big crisis for the mom is realizing that her boyfriend is actually a very good man after all, but I found myself wanting more back history and less present time. The villains were also one note and tedious after the first couple of episodes. This is the reason I never finished Lawless Lawyer, also starring Li Joon Gi. The villains repeated the same scenes or very similar ones ad nauseam. Not even including flash backs.

Watching an uninteresting story, makes one crave interesting, good, well written ones, so I turned to W: Two Worlds Apart starring Lee Jong Suk and Han Hyo Joo. To say this show is well written is an understatement. In fact, I’m surprised Hollywood or an American television hasn’t done a remake of it yet. The show breaks 3rd wall, 4th wall, 5th wall, all the walls. It’s a really fun show to watch and keeps both the characters and the audience guessing. Lee Jong Suk is perfect as a leading man, though maybe just a bit too baby-faced. The actor who really shines is Kim Eui Sung, who plays writer Oh Sung Moo. Poor Oh gets wrung through the wringer and back. This show really has a good combination of character and plot development, and the plot is so interesting that it’s often okay that it overshadows the rest. The writer for W definitely hit her sweet spot with this project, and it’s definitely on my top ten list for Korean dramas.

The others on my top 10 list are, not in any particular order: City Hunter, Faith, Boys Over Flowers, Goblin, You’re All Surrounded, Hello Monster, High School King of Savvy, I am Not a Robot, and Descendants of the Sun. Although I like the romance in Korean dramas, it’s the more interesting, action or fantasy-oriented plots that really keep me hooked. Honorable mention to K2, except for the last four episodes or so. My next drama to try is Tell Me What You Saw starring the awesome Jang Hyuk from Fated to Love You (by a truckload of tissues for the latter half) and Slave Hunters (really long, but epic).

A Good Friday

Since Two Weeks is actually taking me a good two weeks to watch, I don’t the review ready yet. I will say, though, that so far Li Joon Gi (Scarlet Heart Ryeo) is almost having to overact to compensate for most of the other cast members who are all just phoning it in, especially the bad guys. Further review coming next week.

Aside from the shutdown or collective quarantine or coronavirus panic, or whatever we’re calling this craziness in 2020, I had planned to have this day off, anyway. Sometimes with work going on, many church services I wish to attend, and added duties like directing choir or getting Lenten meals set up, the Lenten season and Holy Week are often just too busy for me to reflect properly on the wonderful gift of salvation in Christ.

Today, I do have off for Good Friday, for once, and it’s great to have the time to just be quiet and think, to think on my sins, and more importantly, to think on their forgiveness. That a sin can be forgiven is true magic, otherworldly magic. No amount of pixie dust or cauldron spells can touch that. They can’t even come close, either in our imagination or our reality. The real suffering of Christ was from God’s abandonment, his forsaking of him at the cross, due to the world’s sins placed on his shoulders. It is the worst pain to ever exist and something we can’t even fathom. Sometimes in life, it seems like God has gone away from us, but usually it’s actually that we’ve gone away from Him, focused on other, earthly things, or fallen into a sin. If God had truly gone away, the world would stop, literally stop, and we would all be gone.

God could have truly abandoned us–we did and do deserve that, due to the evil in our hearts, but He didn’t. Instead, He abandoned His own perfect Son, who suffered and died in our place, transferring the benefits of his holy life to us, and taking on our sinfulness to himself. And that’s how Jesus won forgiveness, a truly great act of magic, only it’s real, there’s no trick behind it.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13 (NIV)

Remembering Outbreak

Sadly, I don’t own the movie anymore, but for awhile Outbreak (1995) starring Dustin Hoffmann, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman, was my favorite disaster movie. Contagion, made in 2011 I thought kind of meh in comparison. Hoffmann’s really not much of a leading man, in my opinion, but I think he shines in the role, especially as it’s not so much a story about a worrisome viral outbreak, as it is a tale about corruption.

I think with the current Coronavirus outbreak going on, we can all see just how many of our politicians use situations like this to gain more power and money, often with little care for their citizens. With their mouths they say they care, but their actions often go against that.

In the film, a deadly virus escapes from Africa in the form of a cute monkey being sold on the black market. The monkey ends up in California, escapes, and subsequently starts infecting the people he comes across. One of the best scenes in the movie, comes with Patrick Dempsey, clearly sick, on an airplane with other passengers. Germaphobes everywhere will have nightmares, as they also will from a movie theater scene where they show how the droplets from coughs and sneezes spread everywhere.

Offhand, I don’t remember how deadly the disease in the movie is, but am pretty sure it is many orders of magnitude higher than the current virus we are dealing with. In Outbreak, panic is truly justified, both from the CDC and from the average person. Despite that, though, the fictional Americans in this movie would hardly recognize the Americans of today. I think they would be baffled at putting the whole country–whole countries–on lockdown for something with symptoms not much different than the yearly flu. For the town that gets put in military lockdown and quarantine, those who are still healthy would be scratching their heads at how quickly we current Americans all acquiesced to a much wider quarantine. These days are strange days, and I wonder if all flu seasons hereafter will be different. If people will now actually stay home when they are sick and if employers will mandate them to do so. Hey, maybe we’ll all get more sick days to use. Maybe, though, it will be a mandated yearly loss of freedom of movement, gathering together, and the like. Many people are worried this will be the end result.

The best thing about the movie is that they find a cure, not a vaccine, which oddly people seem to equate to a cure, but an actual cure. Here we all are being encouraged to wait on a vaccine that will be ready well after we’ve all been exposed, when the virus has multiplied into many different strains, and, well, you get the idea. For many, this seems like a fear psy-op initiated by the media. I tend to agree. The numbers just don’t seem to justify the response, and there’s almost no analyzing of the data: For example for Italy, how many were and are older and already had compromised immune systems and underlying health issues? This matters because these are people who should already be self-quarantining almost all the time, but especially during times of the year when sickness tends to go around. Does it really make sense to restrict the movements of everyone who has a healthy immune system? Our current “science” will tell us it makes sense, just like they tell us the only way to protect these people from other diseases like measles is to vaccinate everyone, no matter any adverse effects of immunization on otherwise healthy people. Another thing I’m curious about from Italy: How many infected and/or dead are actually Chinese workers from Wuhan? I have heard they imported quite a lot of workers from there in the past year or so.

I have been waiting for the numbers of infected to rise, for hospitals to be overwhelmed and the like, because I don’t want this to be a psy-op, I would rather it be real. Awful as it sounds, it’s far more frightening to me if it’s fear pushed on us to get more power. I would much rather deal with a truly deadly virus than a hoax fomented by people salivating to bring the world to its knees. Real or not, the panicked reaction is almost impossible to go against. This is peer pressure at its finest, a real-life Stanford Experiment playing out right in front of us.

At the end of the movie, Dustin Hoffmann saves the quarantined town from getting annihilated off the face of the earth. Thankfully, we are nowhere near calling for the deaths of sick people, yet we are almost callously sentencing quite a few of our fellow citizens–healthy and sick–to very dire straights should we let this forced economic collapse continue. Every year there’s a dangerous disease out there, spread like a cold or flu–sometimes it just is a bad cold or flu. Are we really going to stop our lives every time flu season hits? With something like Ebola that has a very high death rate, to stop everything would be justified, but this… We didn’t do this for Ebola. We didn’t do this for SARS or Zika, or swine flu, or any other outbreak from recent memory.

Whatever the truth is, I know God’s in control, but sometimes I’m not sure what to pray for: An end to disease or that we wake up from this spell we’ve been put under? Probably, it should be both.

For a different perspective on this whole outbreak–I am not the only skeptic–checkout Del Bigtree’s Highwire show and Amazing Polly, both on Youtube. Del, especially, in his most recent show from yesterday goes through quotes from many doctors who also think the freakout just isn’t warranted. Also weird that the freakout continues despite clear forms of treatment showing quick results. If this is a bioweapon, as some claim, it’s not a super effective one, but that wouldn’t be the point, would it? No, if it were a bioweapon, manufactured by the evil people of the world, it’s just enough, just enough to keep that fear going, for the next time. A next time that may never happen, but now will always be a collective fear until it fades and a new fear trends.

This all reminds me of a couple of short stories I wrote considering Totalitarianism. They are below. Happy reading.

A Society of Health (written in 2010)

“Aaachoooiee!!”  Alyssa Taylor sneezed mightily into a tissue from the box on her desk.

“Bless you.”  Raymond Bins, her coworker said as he tapped away on a computer spreadsheet.  “Coming down with something?”

“I think it’s allergies.  Ever since we moved here––”

“Who sneezed?”  Ariana Blight stepped ferociously around the office partition.  She looked a bit like a crow with her tiny, birdlike frame, black sweater and pants.  Her dull gray hair was pulled tightly back into a bun that rested heavily on top of her little, wobbling head.  

Alyssa raised her hand.  “Guilty,”  She smiled sheepishly.  “Sorry, I know my sneezes are so loud.  My daughter always says I sound like a firecracker.”  She drew back into her chair as the older woman stepped up to her, the woman’s beady eyes bright with anticipation.  

“Do you have a cold?”

“It’s…just allergies.”  Alyssa exchanged a glance with Raymond who had stopped typing.  “This building is so full of dust…”  Ariana continued to inspect her, bending low enough to look up her nostrils.  “Is everything all right, Ariana?”

“You have mucus,”  She pointed to the left nostril.  “There.  It appears yellow, not clear.  Blow into this.”  The small woman brought forth a crisp handkerchief from the bowels of her sweater.  Laughing a little, Alyssa obliged.  Raymond rolled his eyes and made crazy signs that the old woman couldn’t see.  It had never been clear to them what exactly Ariana’s job at the company was, but she always seemed to know everything about everyone.  Ariana fearlessly opened the handkerchief and proceeded to inspect the leavings.  “As I thought. Yellow, going on green.  You, Ms. Alyssa Taylor, have the beginnings of a very bad cold, an infection.”

Alyssa shrugged.  “You know, I did feel a bit off yesterday, but I thought it was the weather.  And my allergies get so bad this time of year…”  She trailed off when she saw the glinting triumph in the older woman’s eyes.  “Is there a problem?”

Ariana Blight pulled a small flip-top notebook out of a sweater pocket.  She proceeded to read:  “United States Code, Title Forty-Two, Chapter Two, Section Eight Thousand Four Hundred and Nineteen:  All persons shall take precautions to prevent the spreading of the common cold.  Subsection D, Four:  Any person expectorating or sneezing in a public place shall be examined for infection.  If infection is found, said persons are duty-bound to report to the nearest Health Center and receive treatment.  Upon refusal to do so within one hour of infection report, said person may be subjected to a fine of One Hundred Dollars or up to Thirty days in the local quarantine cell.  Subsection D, Twenty:  Any and all persons failing to comply with this Chapter shall be labeled as a Spreader of Disease and a criminal under this Title Forty-Two.”  

“What?”  Alyssa blinked up at her.  “I don’t…I’ve never heard…”

“They didn’t publish it, you see,”  Ariana whispered softly, leaning over her.  “Only passed it, our wonderful…New Congress.  Now, let’s come along down to the office Health Center, shall we?”  Alyssa sat there blankly.  “Ah, and Raymond…”  The crow-like woman filled out a yellow slip from her pad of paper, ripped it off, and handed it to him.  “The citation number, should you wish to pursue legal action in the near future.  Being around her nine hours out of the day, you are the likeliest to suffer from her…negligence.”  Raymond took the paper and paled at its contents.  “Of course, should you also come down with said infection and fail to address it immediately, you will be issued a citation as well.”

Mottle Knows Best (from 2010)

Mrs. Mottle scurried after her neighbor, Rose.  Rose stopped abruptly on the sidewalk and turned around with a grimace.  “Following me again, Mrs. Mottle?”  She put one hand on her hip.  “Let me guess, block party meeting this evening?”

“We are a social group.”  Mrs. Mottle said, taken aback at Rose’s fierceness.  “We get together and talk about the happenings in the neighborhood.”

“Gossips, the lot of you.”  Rose tapped her heels impatiently.  “I’m due at the office in twenty minutes.  If I arrive late and someone else grabs up the spot, I’m blaming you.”

“Me?”  Mrs. Mottle’s heart fluttered.  “Rose, you are so irritated at me when I’m only trying to help you…for your own good!  They may take you away!”

“What?”  Rose’s eyes narrowed and she stepped forward.  “What did you say?  What have you been telling the block party, Mrs. Mottle?  Only too happy to ‘report,’ aren’t you?”

Mrs. Mottle realized she’d said too much.  “N-no, of course not, dear.  We’re only here to help!  I would never get you…in trouble, but for your own good, it––”

“Then what is it?  What did I do this time?”

“Rose, you must understand that I have your best interests at heart.  This morning,”  She sighed, “Now prepare yourself…this morning your shower was seven minutes.”  Mrs. Mottle looked up hopefully only to find Rose staring down at her open-mouthed.  

Rose crossed her arms.  “And?  I’m waiting for the punch line…”

The younger woman laughed shortly.  “Oh, Rose, why, you’ve forgotten!  The new edict!  Now let me see if I remember it straight, ‘all citizens are responsible for their water use.  To go beyond the recommended five minutes for a shower is shameful and a waste.’ So you see––”

“Oh, shut up!”  Rose pulled her handbag up higher on her shoulder.  “What does it matter if I take a seven-minute shower?  What does it matter if I take a twenty-minute shower? I’m paying for it!  We have entire oceans at our disposal, and, apparently you haven’t noticed because you’ve been too busy spying on people, it has rained cats and dogs every evening for the last eight days!  Oh, and another thing!  You think the Higher-Ups really care about these things?  You think the block party does?  Damn it, Mrs. Mottle!  Can’t you see what they’re doing?”

“Of course, Rose, but Practical Science states––”

“Ha!  As if PS is ever practical!  Or right!  One day eggs are good for you, the next they’re bad!  Why, I saw an article just the other day on the evils of fruit!  Fruit!  You know what it is, don’t you?  They want us to eat only that dog food for humans they keep manufacturing, while the Higher-Ups feed on steak and wine!  Oh, I can’t believe I let you rile me up this early in the morning!  Good day, Mrs.  Mottle!”  Rose tromped off in her heels.

Her neighbor looked sorrowfully after her.  Little did Rose know the danger she was in.  Two more strikes and she would have to be put in rehabilitation…for the common good, of course.  Mrs. Mottle didn’t like her task, but the important thing was that the laws be kept.  Rose was always going off about the “stupid, ridiculous, impractical laws that made real living impossible!”  Mrs.  Mottle didn’t think that was for them to judge.  That was for the Higher-Ups, the people who knew better.  She wasn’t sure at that moment why they did know better, but surely they must, as they were in charge.  She must inform the party of Rose’s seven-minute shower.  The young lady puffed out her chest.  They would talk it through.  They would come up with a solution and show Rose how her thinking was wrong.  It was only a matter of time.  

Life As a Story Addict (Part 2)

Last time I went through some of the pitfalls and downsides to a story addiction, especially a fiction addiction. Addictions of all sorts basically come down to this: Something else takes over our lives and gets in the way of our relationships to God, family, friends, and neighbors; gets in the way of our financial goals; gets in the way of how we spend our time; in the way of our health, physical, spiritual, and mental; and lastly, gets in the way of being the best person we were born to be. Me addicted to caffeine or staying up all night to watch six hour-long episodes of a drama I just have to finish, is not the best me. It’s a me that’s hyper, tired, cranky, and down due to lack of sunlight and sleep.

Addictions vary widely in how harmful they can be, however. A severe drug or alcohol addiction can immediately impact a person’s behavior and thinking, while something like too much caffeine, for most people takes a much larger dose and longer time period to show evidence of harm. The great thing about being human is that we have a lot of control in the choices we make in our lives. We can choose to change an addiction from something negatively affecting us, to a positive pursuit. When it comes to story, for example, a young woman who spends her youth with her nose stuck in romance novels may one day be a best selling romance novelist. She still has that passion, but has turned into something she masters, not the other way around. This is why I call this blog A Life of Story, rather than An Addiction to Story. A passion for good stories leads to good things.

The biggest benefit of loving stories is that stories are largely the way humans connect. Though they may not say it, many people are delighted to have listeners and readers of the stories they want to tell. They are anxious to share, whether it’s the old man telling that big fish story one more time, or the mom pealing with laughter over the funny thing her toddler said. For teller and listener, this is a learning and bonding experience. Everyone has at least one great story to tell, as they say, but once one starts listening to people, really listening, one finds they are telling that story or parts of that story almost 24-7. That story is them in some way.

So many story addicts are also writers. This is great, they are attempting to turn their addiction into a good thing. Some are more successful than others, but nearly all simply find peace in writing down the stories they want to tell, often even if no one wants to read them. It’s a bonus if someone does want to read them, and the general public thus has reams and reams of stories both online and off to read, and often for free to boot.

Reading or watching stories, whether fiction or non, are also a great way for people to “travel” in their minds without actually physically traveling. It’s also a way to communication without actually directly interacting with the creators of the stories. We don’t think about it often, but it’s really quite an interesting phenomenon that I can read Crime and Punishment many years after Dostoevsky’s death and still be connecting with him and his thoughts. Some people may want to go see China, for example, and may never have enough money or opportunity to do so, but they can read stories about China, watch movies set in China or made by the Chinese film industry, and if they’re really adventurous they can make China a part of their own story by taking up Chinese cooking or dancing, or language skills. In my own love of Korean dramas and a previous addiction to Bollywood movies, I’ve picked up quite a few phrases in both Hindi and Korean. Stories area great way to learn knew skills or introduce oneself to a potential career or job.

Lastly, stories can be helpful in our spiritual lives. Most of the world’s religions have a creation or origin story to tell, and that directly impacts how a person sees the world. For me as Christian, I know that God created me, that he is a righteous and holy God who demands perfection, but also a loving God, who, when humanity failed to remain perfect, sacrificed himself, his own Son Jesus Christ as a payment for that sin. Instead of trashing the world entirely, God instead decided to save it by great pain and sacrifice on his part. I don’t begin to understand it, but I believe that it’s true because the Bible, tells this story of sin and redemption over and over and over again. This is God’s big fish story, and for believers in him, the greatest story ever told. Story addiction often causes me to sit down and read the Bible. I just want to read the story of Job or Esther or Daniel one more time. Jesus himself spoke in parables, fictional stories with a heavenly meaning or lesson. Our God is a great lover of stories, too, and it’s amazing that we can connect with him in that way, whether by reading the Bible or listening to it read in church. These stories tell us we’re not alone in our sin and weaknesses, that even the best of people, like the apostle Peter, still mess up, but that God is always there to give us a helping hand. Plus, he encourages us to not let the addictions rule us, to not give the devil a foothold, but to always hold firm to the truth. And the Truth is the greatest story ever told! I just think that’s pretty awesome for Christians to consider.

Prayer and living with purpose are the best ways to fight any addiction, or at least to turn it into a beneficial passion. We need a plan of action and spiritual support in that plan. In some cases we are simply too affected by the story or drug or whatever it is and our plan of action has to be to drop it entirely. I had to give up Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series at book 3 because all I was doing was reading, reading reading those books and it was exhausting and hard to focus on everything else in my life. I think story addiction is a kind of addiction that can be made into a passion and a pursuit rather than a monster ruling over me. Along with prayer, my plan of action as I get older is threefold: 1. Limit my consumption of fictional stories, either limit the time spent or be more discerning with the content. 2. Work on my own stories more. I love storytelling and have so many stories I want to tell, and sometimes my desire to read other people’s stories gets in the way of this. 3. Spend more time with people. Okay, this seems like it would counteract step 2, but all the steps work towards the same goal, staying away from addiction, and connecting with people is one of the best ways to do that. Step 2 is a little tricky, because I could very well become addicted to my own fictional stories, so that time, too, should be and must be limited. Oh, I should add a step 4: Always tell myself the truth. As in, it’s ten o’clock, put the book down, it’ll be there for you to read again tomorrow after you get plenty of sleep.

Life as a Story Addict (part 1)

Ever had the experience of spending half of your day running around town, trying rental place after rental place, or library after bookstore looking for a certain movie or book that you just HAD to see or read now? How about skipping work or school to catch the latest release? How about being so lost in a good book, you don’t hear the doorbell or the pot on the stove boiling over? Stories are addicting, more so for some than others, and it is an addiction I have struggled with my whole life.

Stories are generally how humanity operates. It’s part of our basic operating system as people and how we get from point A to point B. Story telling is involved in cooking and recipes, project planning, package delivery, budgeting, insurance, and so on and so forth. Not only that, though, storytelling is a part our souls, a way we express our thoughts, and a way we relate to the people around and also to our Creator.

There is a big difference, however, between the everyday stories we need to hear and tell, and those that come out of our imagination, the fictions we make up. Modern life is awash in fictional stories to become immersed in, from TV shows to movies to novels to manga, and to even headline news. These days we also have near-instant access to any piece we want to read or show we want to watch, as long as we’re able to pay. For an addict like myself, these stories are too often instant fixes that I have to employ a lot of willpower to resist or I may not be able to pay my bills or put food on my table.

I’ll get to the good stuff later on, but I wanted to contemplate the bad first, or the dark side of story addiction. For a good story, I’ll do a lot. For even the promise of a good story, i.e., the blurb on the back of cover, I will plunk down my hard-earned money to end up all to often being disappointed. Sometimes, and I shudder, it is the opposite, where the story is great and there are five more seasons or twelve more books to go and I am tempted to buy and watch or read all of them in one fell swoop.

Spending money on addiction is child’s play. We’ve all done it, whether it’s on coffee, alcohol, new bags, new clothes, cars, and what have you. It’s a very basic part of an addiction, but it’s not really what makes an addiction so, so awful. The awful part about a story addiction is that one begins to replace one’s real life for a fictional one. Not true! You may say. Maybe not for you, but I have done ridiculous and despicable things all under the sway of a compelling story.

How did this addiction begin? I learned to read early and quickly started tearing through books of dubious moral quality. As I got older, this only increased and was a continual push and pull between and my parents. We like to think that books or movies don’t really affect us that much, but they can affect us in ways we barely understand. Let me explain the spell at work here:

A basic example can easily be found in the news, which is so often exaggerated from any side, political or not, to be considered if not outright fiction, very close to it. The people reading and watching stories from say, the Left side of politics have a world view drawn from what they consume. Same for the Right. It’s one of those “plank in the eye” examples, because everyone on one side just knows that the other side has been somewhat brainwashed in what they believe to be true. And that is often true. What the accusers fail to see, though, is how they themselves are under a similar spell, how they themselves are not thinking for themselves or questioning either. We are all to some degree seeing clothes on an emperor that he’s just not wearing. Some people see purple spandex, some a business suit, but it’s all a spell woven together by the media.

How did and does the spell work for me? As a teenager I not only had my nose in a book constantly, which was bad enough, but got seriously–seriously–addicted to watching movies, where I just had to watch them all the time. Where I would offer to walk on foot the ten blocks to the convenience store to rent a movie I just had to see and that I thought my family just had to see. During an ice storm. By the end of college, I was so enamored with Hollywood, their stories, and the actors, that I often considered what they had to say as people as vitally important. They were authorities to me, and a definite idol in my life. A common view they all shared was negativity and disdain towards God, his son Jesus, and his followers. A constant drum beat that I did not agree with, but nevertheless continued consuming at breakneck speed. I am old enough now that Hollywood’s stories have little hold on me anymore as I have developed a lot more discernment in what I watch. They are once again just stories or movies, but I’m sorry now that I spent so much time watching them and giving so, so much of my money away to those people.

It gets worse. There were times in the past that movies had such a hold on me that I would pick the movie over the people in my life. A good friend traveled from out of town to see me, but when she came to my house, she found out that instead of waiting to see her and catch up with her, I had instead gone to a movie. A stupid movie. And I knew full well she was coming over. Another time I was with friends and felt such a compulsion to see this superhero movie one more time in the theater, that I left the bar we were at, borrowed my friend’s car, went to see the movie all by myself, and then came back later to return the car, and only to return the car. When I say that stories, and in particular, movies cast a spell on me, I’m not kidding. Nowadays it’s easy to see the signs, but still a struggle for me to resist the pull to watch, watch, watch.

An exciting story–not necessarily a good story–can be a drug. Take the Twilight series, for example. It was impossible for me to put that book down, it was that interesting to me to find out what happens next. And it’s a story I barely think about now and will never read again, but while reading it, I just had to keep reading, I couldn’t stop. There were plenty of other things I wanted to do, daresay needed to do, in my life at the time, but I could not stop reading. If you are a reader, you’ve probably read a book at some point that is like playing an arcade game–you just can’t stop turning pages, just like you can’t stop putting more coins into the machine. And while that’s a credit to the storyteller, for the addict replacing their actual life by living in this story, it’s just one more day lost. One more day they could have spent with family or friends, or outside enjoying the weather, or planning for the future. Or even finally getting that story that they wanted to write written. The cool thing is, often with really good quality stories, they actually send you back into reality. You want to take a break from them, to contemplate the themes and concepts and consider how they match up to real life. I’m finding this while reading Crime and Punishment again. I can’t sit and read it all day, though it is great writing and a great story. The Classics are all like this, good stories and writing, but you don’t feel like you’re on crack or something while reading, and there’s a life in them, for lack of a better word, that stories like my own Trolls for Dust or Twilight cannot hold a candle to.

It is my belief that fiction story addiction is actually worse than being a dreamer. Dreamers may have their heads in the clouds half the time, but at least they are dreaming up their own dreams and their own stories. Fiction story addicts are spending their time in someone else’s world, someone else’s viewpoint. And if that someone else is a devil, while you’ve just given him a foothold, a great foothold into your life.

Really, I thought this article would be funnier, but I’ve finding it very sobering. So addicted to a story am I, that I will listen to the worst gossip, the most ridiculous conspiracy theories (you’re thinking of Q, but Q is actually far from ridiculous), and the most blatant liars, just to find out the ending of the story. Met this guy once who had every form of vileness spilling out of his mouth about ninety percent of the time, but he told good stories, and I would sit and listen to him while the people around me blanched from the terrible things he was saying. And all the time I knew that, but I just couldn’t let the story go. I didn’t believe his stories were true, but others may have thought that I did believe them. Nowadays I know to back away if I become so enthralled in another’s story telling that I am listening to things that gouge my conscience.

So, what’s the good side of all of this? The good side, in my opinion, is that story addicts, and in particular fiction story addicts, will listen. They’ll give you a listen, they’ll hear and consider your side. They’ll read your story. It may be all crap, but they will at least give you a chance. Right now I’m reading a story that I like, but the writing, although not terrible, is just not my style. But the story is good, so I’ll continue reading it.

To put this in an even more positive perspective, there are quite often times when the truth really is stranger than fiction, and someone, someone needs to believe you, or at the very least hear you out. That person might very well be a story addict. In an age where a media spell covers the land in lies, it may be story addicts that actually latch onto the truth and share it. But it’s not as if they are thinking outside of the box; no, they are following their story addiction. Like the Kennedy Assassination, for example. Every few years, I just want to read and watch stuff by Jim Garrison, the attorney who investigated the events, and watch movies like Oliver Stone’s JFK and just really wallow in the whole conspiracy. Over the years I’ve read and watched so many different theories about what happened, and the biggest take from it all is simply that the official story must not and cannot be true. That’s kind of as far as a story addict can go. The addiction is about consuming stories, not using them as a benefit for oneself or other people.

Next week I’ll consider more the actual workings of story addiction and some of the ways in which it does spur people to action in a positive way and also how the love of story connects to my faith as a Christian. As pathetic as some of my memories above are, a love of story tempered and put in its proper place can actually be quite a jewel in one’s life, just like an exquisite wine adds flavor to the meals of those not enslaved to alcohol addiction.

2020 Vision

It’s kind of cool that this year is 2020, which is also what we use to describe perfect or clear vision 20/20. Will this coming year live up to that name and bring clarity with it? Only time will tell, but it’s interesting that so many people are waking up to new and also old, ideas on health, nutrition, finance, business, politics, history, and so on. It’s a time for truth–well, at least some truths–to come back into the mainstream. The search for truth is also a search for purpose and so many of us see each new year as a new chapter to try again at being who we want to be and to meet the goals we want to meet, whether it’s losing weight, eating right, saving more money, and preparing for the future.

The past couple of months I’ve been a bit obsessed with checking out planners for the new year. After much debate, I settled on a $10 planner from Walmart that says 2020 in flowers on it, and also decided to keep using an small notebook I have for on the go. After checking out some high end planners that are very cute, my desire to get my finances under control won out–a good thing for my pocketbook.

Since new years are for trying new things, I thought I would splurge on a budget planner and for some reason I settled on a complicated one from The Budget Mom. The Budget by Paycheck Workbook is a tome, a hefty, doorstop tome, but if it keeps me fiddling with numbers instead of perusing shops and books on the internet, then I win. Also, it’s really not that complicated, but seems so at first. My favorite part is the calendars. The visual of seeing what days I need to pay bills or spend on certain things is great! It’s so simple, but writing it down really helps me focus and remember. It was a little pricey, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end. And I like her spunk and way of explaining things.

Another new planning tool I’m trying out in 2020 is a bullet journal. Never really knew what these were before and just started looking them up one day. Well, I am not very artistically talented, so my journal will likely not have any cool pictures and trackers, but why not give it a try and see if it helps motivate me in my writing? Plus, it is fun to at least try and be creative in a way other than writing stories. Again, I turned to Walmart to start and found a dot journal for $10. If I like bullet journaling, maybe I’ll move up to a Moleskin or Leuchtterm.

Finally, I have a regular journal from Barnes and Noble and made of leather. Since I am as terrible at keeping up with journals as I am at keeping up with planners, again, I’m trying something new: Journaling as if I’m writing to those I love. Hoping this motivates me to put down more than: Woke up, had coffee, went to work, read this book, watched this movie.

My vision for this year is to actually have a consistent vision for the year, and goals that come with that, especially for both writing and finances. Already writing things down more helps me pay better attention and remember those cool story ideas that flicker past and normally just disappear. Tracking both areas of my life will help motivate me towards results, not just getting by. Better planning will help be better use the gifts and blessings God has given to me. What’s your vision for 2020? Is it clear?