Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Being A Hero vs. Doing Heroic Things: Katniss, Bond, and James B. Donovan

Several blockbuster movies this fall have presented very different views of heroism. James Bond (Spectre, 11/6), Katniss Everdeen (Mockingjay Part 2, 11/20), and James Donovan (Bridge of Spies, 10/16) all embody a version of what it means to be a hero. Are they all worth emulating? Should we make a distinction between being a hero vs. doing heroic things?

SPECTRE

At one point in Spectre, one of the expendable Bond girls says, “You’re a good man.” He’s not. He’s good at what he does, and that is a very different thing indeed. Quantum of Solace and Skyfall showed Bond with the glamorous fa├žade rightly removed. He was a haunted, hardened man, fixated on fighting for a mother country that was as ready to betray him as embrace. In the process, he left a trail of used (and often dead) women in his wake.

Those movies actually brought me back to the Bond franchise, because they rightly showed that nobody can do what Bond does without chipping away at one’s soul. Bond was no longer the man we admired because we wanted his life; he was the man we wincingly accepted because we recognize that sometimes it takes monsters to fight monsters.

Spectre wipes away the grimy image of the recent Bond and recreates the myth. He’s bigger than life, handsome, and suave; he’s always smarter, always better, and in the end he always gets the girl (even if he’s just killed her husband – which was, frankly, one of the more unsettling seductions in the Bond canon). Spectre is getting great reviews for resurrecting the ghost of Bond’s past. I wish they had let the old Bond rest in peace.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Marshes and Marshwiggles

There was a point in my life where I lost my imagination. 

I don't mean misplaced it temporarily like I do my cell phone at least once a month. I lost the ability I had as a child to see the wonder and creativity infused into even the most ordinary things in the world.  There were times when it briefly sparked, illuminating life with its light and warmth, but it would fade yet again as the business of life dampened its glow.

Several year ago, a hike through a swampy woods on a blustery, 50 degree day in Northern Michigan rekindled that spark.

I'll be honest - this was not where I intended to be. My plan for the day involved an NBA game and a nice cup of Cherry Chocolate coffee while vegging on my sofa, but here I was on a trail hemmed in by barely budding trees and surrounded by lots of wintery grays and browns.

The dullness and potential serenity of this woodsy jaunt could not restrain my 6-year-old caffeine-in-a-bundle, Vincent; his equally frenetic friend Marilee, who was at times literally a blur; and my 12-year-old son Braden, who gamely tried to keep up with the other two. Vincent took the lead ("Stop! Wait! I'm the leader!"). Makeshift wooden gun in hand, he fearlessly led us through a gray/brown maze of lingering winter bursting with wolves, superheroes, villains, and invisible zombie giants, as Marilee screamed at...something, I'm not sure what. Bugs, maybe.

I must have absorbed some of their energy, because I soon realized this ordinary woods offered a smorgasbord of very cool things. Uprooted trees might not actually be zombie forts, but they were pretty awesome in their own right. So as the kids screamed and wildly shot giants with their stick guns, I fired up the camera app on my first generation Droid and started to see the mystery and wonder of the woods.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Psychosexual Obesity And The Dating Apocalypse

Vanity Fair's "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse'" is a must-read for those who are wondering where our culture is heading in terms of dating, sex and marriage. It's not an easy read, and it's R-rated graphic. I recommend it only because it is brutally honest about trending sexual behavior in the United States.

It's also helpful that it's not from, say, the Family Research Council. I have nothing against them, but we expect conservative or Christian groups to write about the ripple effect of unboundaried sex. It's not often a source such as Vanity Fair writes a story that, while not taking a stance about what people should do, clearly shows why so many people who are conservative or traditional in areas involving sex have legitimate reasons for being concerned about certain social trends.

I'm just going to highlight some excerpts. You can click on the link to go to the full article (which, once again, I recommend with great caution).

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It’s a balmy night in Manhattan’s financial district, and at a sports bar called Stout, everyone is Tindering… At a booth in the back, three handsome twentysomething guys in button-downs are having beers. They are Dan, Alex, and Marty… 
“Guys view everything as a competition,” he elaborates with his deep, reassuring voice. “Who’s slept with the best, hottest girls?” With these dating apps, he says, “you’re always sort of prowling. You could talk to two or three girls at a bar and pick the best one, or you can swipe a couple hundred people a day—the sample size is so much larger. It’s setting up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.” He says that he himself has slept with five different women he met on Tinder—“Tinderellas,” the guys call them—in the last eight days. 
And yet a lack of an intimate knowledge of his potential sex partners never presents him with an obstacle to physical intimacy, Alex says. Alex, his friends agree, is a Tinder King, a young man of such deft “text game”—“That’s the ability to actually convince someone to do something over text,” Marty explains—that he is able to entice young women into his bed on the basis of a few text exchanges, while letting them know up front he is not interested in having a relationship.