Don’t Decieve the Audience

Ultimate fans of the Star Wars saga were shocked, just shocked that Rian Johnson, writer and director of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi won the Saturn Award for best writing recently. Their disdain for the film is nothing less than hate, depression and disappointment and the internet trolls have called for nothing less than the entire film to be remade, including a fundraising campaign to do just that. The recent news of Johnson winning an award for a work they consider substandard is just another justification for the fans to go bananas.

In a previous post, The Last Jedi As a Plot Exercise, I affirmed that I liked the movie, despite its glaring plot holes and questionable story points. I attempted to explain my views on where the plot of the saga should go at this point in the overall storyline and not whether the quality of the story writing was deserving of any praise. Because of the serious issues of the story which either don’t make sense or drags the plot along, in my opinion Last Jedi does not deserve the praise the director probably wants.

But the sad part is, both sides are right on this issue as crazy as that sounds. Johnson and the Disney Corporation are right because the film does fit into the “canon”, the overall epic derived from the George Lucas era. The fans are right too. Some of the characters are disjointed with the context of the previous films and the surprise leading of fans down one path from the previous script and going completely off on another tangent in the next confused people. My issues are less technical than they are with the story, although fans are not that stupid to not notice these flaws. As writers, we cannot decieve the audience and tell them they aren’t perceiving any flaws. If there are obvious problems, say nothing, but don’t tell fans they are wrong. I think that is what wrankled people.

Johnson clearly short-changed the general audience, the bulk of film goers who aren’t rabid as the fanboys with plot cheats, even though it is science fiction and it is allowed up to a point. But the unnecessary characters (Rose, the other Admiral What’s Her Name) and secondary plots (the whole excursion with Rose and Finn) do not help bolster Johnson’s or Disney’s argument that there is nothing wrong with the film and fans should shut up about it. But they might as well shut up about it and wait for Episode IX because the final episode of a trilogy can and must sum up the story in the final part. Explain things. Tie up any loose ends. If Disney and writer/director J.J. Abrams cannot do that then the new Star Wars films of this generation was a complete failure in terms that they didn’t entertain or inspire as well as the original films did thirty-five years ago.


I don’t believe that Disney is intentionally decieving the audience, nor are they making a non-quality product. Eighty percent of Last Jedi is indeed brilliant. Johnson did do a good job of carrying the saga forward into the new generation and preparing for the next film. Questions remain whether or not the trilogy will be concluded satisfactorily. In my mind, those rabid fans will probably never be satisfied and their whining about it will solve nothing.

Curiouser and Curiouser….

The odd way that the Disney Corporation deals with itself is, well, odd. The amount of actual physical property and intellectual property the company owns is staggering, yet given its history of mismanagement of that property (i.e The Muppets, Star Wars, the upcoming potential deal with 20th Century Fox, the physical layout of Disneyland post-Walt and WDW and the incarnation of EPCOT we got in 1982) we’re left to wonder if the old-timer “Imagineers” have been replaced by corporate robots and moronic yes men. Correct on both counts I’m sure, but I’m also sure that wasn’t ways the case even in the leaner years of the history of the company in the immediate death of Walt in 1966.

To replace a man of genius like Walt Disney has proven to be difficult, and like all companies that try to find their way post-living-legend, bonehead moves get made. Bad deals get approved. Questionable movie projects are done (hello The Cat From Outer Space and The Black Hole). But the parks have remained the staple of the Disney revenue, evidenced by the steady increase in ticket prices adjusted for inflation.

Recently, Disney has announced it finally has plans for the abandoned section of Walt Disney World formerly known as River Country, the first water park that Disney World opened in 1976 and closed and left abandoned since 2001.

The circumstances are not perplexing on why the park was closed: two new on property water parks that were built in the 1990s could meet the high demand of visitors while not filling to capacity too quickly; and of course, location location location. River Country, although extremely popular in its heyday, was essentially out of the way of guests, near the Fort Wilderness campground which geographically diagonal from the Magic Kingdom. River Country was one of the first water parks in the nation and because of its newness, there was a learning curve.

But don’t get me started on the brain-eating amoebas supposedly in Bay Lake.

Still, why let prime, prime theme park (lakefront no less) real estate in Florida sit dormant for nearly twenty years and rot? Literally rot. Well, historically the Disney Corporation has not utilized optimum success in planning out its long-term future in regards to their theme parks. Yes, Disney himself invented the theme park industry with the creation of Disneyland and after the building of Walt Disney World in 1971, the company has developed the “vacation industry”. Or a better phrase, the “resort industry” with individual themed resorts and parks as part of a larger entertainment and fun experience for the whole family.

Disney World fans and afficianados tend to be traditionalists and nostalgiats, wanting to recreate moments of their childhood for their own children to experience. While WDW does that successfully for the most part, an organization who thrived in change, now has a history of questionable redos and updates and “forcing” them on vacationers without thinking. It is good to experiment and tinker, but what doesn’t work, doesn’t work. And as magically nostalgic as WDW is to people who have experienced the parks, change is often the last thing wanted.

Urban explorers have questioned the abandonment of the River Country property since the closure and for good reason: Disney does a terrible job of trying to hide it. It is the same reasons that others wonder, the fact that lakefront property has not been used for something new. And as previously inferenced there have been no end of ideas, some good, some bad.

Plans are now being made with a contractor (one worked with on previous projects) for a new moderate resort on the space where the old water park still stands. While this is a good thing for vacationers and Disney afficianados, we’re still left to question why it took so long for the company to do it. Revenue has always been steady. Property values in Florida has always been steady. The sheet number of acres purchased for the Disney World project in the 1960s (nearly 28,000!) has not run out. Plus there are a dozen–yes a dozen–of already existing resorts. And WDW has had plenty of abandoned ideas for concept resorts in its history (See previous blog post called The Strange Appeal of the Mouse).

So why now build a new WDW resort on the abandoned River Country property? Well, capitalism is still the best form of economics and the best way to generate more money in this industry is to add value by renovation, (dreaded) change and expansion, this time expansion being the way of adding such value. And in the minds of the current generation of Imagineers and corporate types, it was simply time to make that land valuable again as a potential resort experience. Never mind that it took eighteen years to come to an obvious conclusion.

No One Gets Out of Here Alive

Conspiracy theories know no limits. They reach everywhere apparently, even in the worlds of art literature and music. There are two pop musicians that have conspiracy theories surrounding their deaths, Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison. Both of the conspiracy theories suggest that one or both of these singers could still alive and faked their deaths to escape the pressures of fame, stardom and the industry as whole.

Whether or not Elvis is managing a gas station in Wisconsin or up in a cabin in Alaska is not up for debate, considering there is strong evidence that Elvis indeed died from a drug overdose and has been buried in his grave in his Graceland mansion in Memphis, TN for the last 41 years. For some, it is less believable that for former front man of The Doors has been buried in Paris for 47 years after a similarly questionable drug- related death.

Jim Morrison was an enigma in his own era and even today is misunderstood by critics and fans. I’ve once heard him described once as a “slightly androgynous rock-and-roll-god”. While that is an interesting, yet clearly generalized take on the man, the real Jim Morrison was a lot more complicated. In the 1991 Oliver Stone film The Doors, the depiction of Morrison can hardly be called a biopic because of its loose amalgamation of what Morrison and the band were really like and the history of their rise to fame in the late 1960s. Even the surviving band mates say this film was not true to life, but what biopic really is. Yet people still base an opinion on the man based on the portrayal concocted by director Oliver Stone and actor Val Kilmer.

Obviously growing tired of concerts, promotion and touring after the Miami incident where he supposedly exposed his genetalia to a concert crowd, Morrison took an escape to France with his girlfriend at the time to regroup and rejuvenate. There’s no need to go into detail about how Morrison died, but the “official” cause of death was heroin overdose. Thus begins the conspiracy theory.

Suspicious minds note that Morrison was afraid of needles (the standard way heroin users take the narcotic internally) and that he was not fond of the drug in general. In fact, Morrison’s preferred choice of getting high was alcohol with occasional trips on the standard recreational drugs of the 1960s a la marijuana, LSD and barbiturates of all kinds. They say any heroin he took was snorted and not injected.

All of this makes the 1960s seem even less appealing.

Whether or not any of what the “experts” say is true or not, it is a historical fact that any famous musical person of this era was seen as subversive and evidence has been leaking for decades that police departments and the FBI were trumping up and kinds of charges against stars like Morrison, Elvis, John Lennon or any number of rock musicians to decrease popularity and render neutral in public perception. It is highly possible that the FBI had files on Morrison considering they had files on Elvis and Lennon (all the Beatles actually) too. Could it be that this constant pressure of the trumped up indecent exposure charges in Miami drove Morrison to an early grave?

While evidence has been bubbling up over the years that the exposure incident that started Morrison’s downfall may have never actually happened, pulling out your junk at a concert doesn’t seem to be in line with Morrison’s reserved nature. True, drugs do make you do stupid things outside of your nature, as does alcohol. Although exhibitionism is inherit to lead singers of rock bands, the surviving members of The Doors would tell you that the late lead singer of their band was a lot shyer than you would imagine.

Now the meat of it: the odds of anyone publicly recognizable being able to fake their own death and live out the remainder of their lives successfully in anonymity is extremely low. In search for simple truths, it is best to say other rock musicians of this time who died young (i.e. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin) got lost in stardom and got over their heads. Of course, recreational drug use and burgeoning alcoholism cannot be factored out. Combined with a seeming depression from being that “androgynous rock-and-roll-god”, it makes complete sense that Morrison would try to cram down the demons of the fame he probably didn’t like with heroin. To say either that he was murdered with a heroin overdose or secretly walked away from stardom never to be seen again is denigrating an already short life of an iconic individual.

Do Not Forget the Important Days

Imagery of the pivotal battle of the Second World War pales in comparison to the real life struggle the Allied invasion armies had on that day in June of 1944.

These are American men in their Higgins Boats on their way to assured death and destruction. And as we go further and further linearly away from that date, the survivors of the event number less and less each year that goes by. We as modern Americans try to remember those who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of France and of Europe itself only to realize that the memory of American lives has faded in the current generations. Those conspiracy theorists who believe that the United States was tricked into the war or those libertarian minded who insist that millions of Americans were needlessly lost in a war that President Franklin Roosevelt should have never let happen only deepen the hole that the memory of this important world event has been crammed down into, unceremoniously mentioned breifly on social media and possibly the news media if we’re lucky. Whatever your opinion is it was still a war America had to fight. For the sake of the world this was a battle we had to win

History is a great teacher if you look at it objectively. What the D-Day invasion teaches us is that as difficult as something may seem to be, if it has to be done, it must be done. General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, agonized for days on the cost of this battle in terms of life and materiel. The outcome of the invasion was never assured. Many packs of cigarettes were smoked before and during the battle by the great general.

All that we ask as people who study and revere history is for everyone to not forget the important days. On this day, do not forget the cost to secure the future we have now.

Memorial Day 2018 Editon

A little late, but better late than never:

As Americans know, or at least partially realize, the last Monday in the month of May is designated as Memorial Day. I imagine most people understand the significance of the holiday by taking the family on a semi-long trip or by firing up the grill and cooking copious amounts of meat. While both of those options are satisfactory (I certainly enjoyed the three-day weekend away from work and time with friends and family), let’s be totally honest about what you are grilling steaks and chicken for: a day created after the War Between the States and officially set aside in 1971 to honor American military war dead. Do those burgers and ribs cooking over flames justly grieve and honor those sacrifices?

The tradition of honoring the deaths of soldiers is not a new concept of course but we Americans have taken it to a more solemn and revered state. We’re not a nation of war, yet we fought one to gain our existence and independence, with a “rematch” in 1812. And it is very true that the United States has sent soldiers sailors and Marines to die in seemingly unnecessary and for sketchy reasons (see a previous post about the beginning of the Vietnam War) yet the respect that a good majority of our populace has for the fighting man or woman has never waivered.

On the other hand, having discussions with men and women that I associate with both at work and friends who have served, many of them are reticent about their feelings of Memorial Day. To quote an anonymous friend “I’ve experienced too many guys that I served with commit suicide to get into the so-called spirit of the holiday”.


Memory is a strange thing, tied to all emotions. Memory of death specifically resulting from war and the grisly nature of it is extremely powerful. Remembrances, mainly unwanted, of those events are what causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, originally called “war nerves” and “shell shock”. Perhaps those who took their own lives to keep from remembering should be included in the annual memorial.

The original question posed still remains unanswered: Do we do a service to those servicemen who died in war with the way that we celebrate it? Are we doing it appropriately? Well, we Americans are continuing to live our lives, raising our families and enjoying the fruits of our own toils in freedom and liberty.

I’d say the dead probably do approve.

A Domain of Evil, It Is…

Does villany warrant any influence over us, either real villany or imaginary? I don’t mean to say that I looked up to evil characters, wishing to be like them when I grew up. Fictional villains are parts of great stories, some we hate to love and some we love to hate. The villians in out stories and myths are empathetic, but they certainly are not supposed to be emulatable. Society today does not necessarily boo or hiss at the bad guys. Maybe that is good and maybe it is a cultural mistake.

Take for instance the villian from the Star Wars saga that a while generation has come to “know and love”: Darth Vader.

Within the saga, Vader has killed many people on the screen and who knows how many others inside of the overall storyline. His origins start as a precocious child strong in the Force to an adult haunted by loss and more importantly the potential of loss of loveones. Added to that a suspicion of his Force-wielding peers and a deep questioning of whether there is any moral side. Redeemed at the end? Sure, but are we to envy his “bad-ass-ness” (yes, Force choking is an ability I would like to aquire) before realizing what a true monster he was? And yet his shiny black helmeted visage is on just about every Disney-related and endorsed product (I’ve seen Vader on a Valentine’s Day card once–sheesh).

Right now we are in the Marvel comic movie craze. Comic books traditionally have the most over the top villians. Currently, Thanos from the big Avengers movie (have not seen it yet) is the top comic related villain now. But the previous Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, the villain is an artificial intelligence with a twisted sense of importance and a need to destroy humankind before they destroy themselves, beginning with Earth’s mightiest heros, The Avengers (The film is not really an amalgamation of the comics otherwise it would get way too complicated). Ultron is a villain who sees the flaws in people and is ultimately disgusted by it and hates the world he was originally created to protect which makes him more dangerous.

On the D.C. Comic side of things, many fans have a particular love for The Joker, brilliantly portrayed by the late Heath Ledger in the 2008 The Dark Knight a darker and much less campy version of the character. The Joker has been a villain people hate to love…and occasionally idolize, but why? Why idolize a psychopath? Why try to emulate that amount of menace in real life?

Well, as it turns out it is a lot more psychological than you realize as the metaphoric changing of a face reveals a person’s true self, that the mask doesn’t hide it but rather brings it out. And in this version of The Joker the clown makeup is not there to hide the fact that he is a terrorist. It is to scare more people.

The best villain to counter the spy hero James Bond is always Auric Goldfinger. There is no better and more realistic foil to the British spy than this character. Obsessed with the most precious and beautiful metal on Earth, Goldfinger has a dastardly and realistic plan to triple the value of his own huge stash of gold. A lust for gold at any cost and at anyone’s expense makes for a dangerous and despicable villain. Yet again, the charm of the character combined with the gold makes him enviable.

I cannot forget Khan. The most insidious villian of Star Trek was not an alien but a human being. Suave sophisticated and well-spoken, Kahn has a charm that draws people to him yet his genetically created super intelligence also created in him thirst for power and a disdain for anyone considered inferior to him.

What do all these fictional villains have in common? Frankly, they all think they are better than you, the law-abiding decent person. They all have a deep desire to dominate over not just their foes but everyone. They also don’t care what or who they have to walk over to get to where they want to go.

So why should we have empathy for any real life villian that has no empathy for us? Why would we aspire to be like our real villains? Because in real life, the villains aren’t as obvious to identify than in fiction. And occasionally there is no hero to easily fell them as in myth.

Update to the Golden State Killer

So, apparently my theory that the Golden State Killer has been dead for a few years and would never be caught was incorrect. So sue me. While the Sacramento County, California Sheriff’s Department and District Attorneys Office seemed optimistic, I was not. When I had heard they had made their arrest recently of Joseph DeAngelo, a 72 year old stil living in the Sacramento area I was shocked.

Their assertion that the connection would ultimately be made through DNA turned out to be spot on, but in an unusual way: via a third-party business that uses DNA, specifically The legality of this method of using familial DNA profiles in a private database will come into question in court I assume.

This method of using’s familial DNA profile database is being considered for solving other high-profile unsolved cold cases, the identity of the Zodiac for example. All legal questions aside, is this the best way to put cases like these to bed when conventional investigation has exhausted all means?

Nevertheless, now that DeAngelo is in custody three questions now come to mind: 1) How was he able to get away with it for so long? 2) Why did he do what he did? 3) Why did he stop? Question one may be the most difficult to answer seeing as DeAngelo had been blending in for decades. But it is true that looks don’t necessarily define crooks and being described as a “suburban grandfather” is a great mask to hide one’s true self.

What we know of DeAngelo’s work history seems to indicate that between 1976 and 1986, the decade of the Golden State Killer’s activity, he was a police officer in a small municipality around Sacramento and also in Southern California, both places where the Killer’s victims were. This aspect of the Killer’s criminal profile, beside the fact that he was a local, turned out to be accurate. In fact, having been fired from the Auburn Police Department in 1979 for theft (one of the Killer’s early criminal stages) could have been the trigger for DeAngelo to progress from being a burglar and rapist into a killer.

Since we have absolutely no gauge to determine who will become a killer or when, it stands to reason that there should be no one to blame for this case going cold for so long. As with similar cases, good investigative work has been done with tangible results only to never make an arrest or sometimes not even narrow down a suspect. It still amazes and confounds me how a person can fall through the cracks for so long. But with DeAngelo now arrested I am reminded that justice will prevail with patience and perseverance, maddening as it is.

A Lenghty Part of History, Compacted For Our Benefit

For history buffs, there is no quintessential event from the twentieth century like the Second World War. Countless films TV series and books have been created based on the six-year long war which forever changed the face of the world and shaped it into.

Perhaps there is no greater volume on the war than R.A.C. Parker’s The Second World War: A Short History. If there was only one to choose, this one would be mine. In fact, it has been cited by me in many research papers I wrote in college and I’m proud to own a copy.

While it seems impossible to condense an important historical event into a book the size of your average novel, Parker achieves it with ease. Unlike the account written by Winston Churchill–a six volume, long winded but otherwise incredibly important personal historical account–this book sticks to boiled down facts without opinion.

To get a non-fiction book without opinion nowadays is rare. Moreso in films. Having finally seen recently Darkest Hour which is a brilliant performance of Winston Churchill and his rise to Prime Minister in during the beginning of the war on the British perspective. Other such films that are both entertaining and historically accurate are The Longest Day (1962) about the D-Day invasion and Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) about the events leading up to Pearl Harbor and the attack itself. Parker’s book cover all three aspects from the War.

Fist published in 1989 as Struggle for Survival, Parker states in his preface that he examines the very decisive parts of the war, in particular the ones that determined the final outcome. Also in that preface he stated “The effects of the war still dominate world affairs. This book endeavors to show their variety and importance by reviewing a sample of the most far-reaching and durable.” And he does indeed in this 2001 edition despite the difficulty in filtering what is important to take away from the war.

While Parker’s syntax is quite “British”, I think his presentation is very accessable. Although there are more statistics than would interest most, particularly the statistics on the strategic bombing campaign that the British utilized to a debatable victory (large-scale targeted bombings from the air did not necessarily shorten the war and cost a lot of pilot’s lives). Parker’s expertise was in documenting and deconstructing the United Kingdom’s naive attempts to appease Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. Even if the book is skewed British I still believe that it is as relevant to an American audience. Study of the Second World War is also still relevant decades later for the study of the past shapes the decisions for the future.

The Book Was Blue?

In the annals of UFO lore the name Project Bluebook is probably the most infamous and possibly nefarious. In the nearly twenty year history of the United States Air Force’s internal investigation into unidentified flying objects (also known as “flying saucers”) the definitive claim by the group that UFOs are not a threat to American national security bothers many today. The conspiracy of intentionally concealing truths about what has been flying in our skies was born with that seeming non-answer. And now we’ve come to an important anniversary of its closure.

In previous posts I have mentioned my interest and study of the UFO phenomenon has made an impact on me as a person and a writer. I’m using this anniversary of the end of Project Bluebook to discuss in a roundabout way a more abstract influence on my life, the ability to open my mind to possibility while at the same time having faith. What I mean by faith is the ability to see truths that exist when all other voices tell you something otherwise. This is essentially the basis of the UFO and extraterrestrial phenomenon belief. To believe the extraordinary.

When Bluebook ended in 1969, sightings were not necessarily on the wane. The wave came mostly in the 1950s. But after it’s lengthy inquisition the study apparently came to its conclusion:

Yes, a large percentage of reports could be explained away either as natural or hoaxes, but what no one would admit was the five percent or so remaining of the cases explored during Bluebook’s run could not be explained away as easily as the rest. In fact, that sliver percentage of unexplained reports is what caused civilian scientist and investigator on Bluebook, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, to completely turn around his thinking of UFOs from that of skeptic to believer and champion of its inclusion into mainstream scientific study.

Certainly with all the hi-tech experimental aircraft that we’re flying in our skies during the Cold War it stands to reason that a layman would say that what he saw was a “flying saucer”. And why not? It was obvious at this time in our history that the US Air Force, particularly Strategic Air Command, was playing fast and loose with another lesser known Project Pluto (a nuclear-powered ramjet engine aircraft that could circle the earth four times before refueling).

I choose to believe that not everything could be explained by misidentification or a bored yokel trying to pull a fast one or get attention from the government. I use this historical example as my inspiration for being able to leap beyond the logic because of one thing: my instincts. My insides tell me when two and two don’t add up and Bluebook is one example in history. When a government downplays a legitimate phenomenon to cram American hysteria over “potential” Soviet invasion back down into a hole, you have to wonder. I continue to choose to have a more open mind.

Understand the Target Much?

In shooting, the expression “aim small, miss small” takes the meaning if you aim at a smaller spot on a larger overall target and miss, you will still hit the target. As writers, we try to hit a target too, that is, an audience of perspective readers. In reality, we should be doing the opposite: aiming big. We’re told again and again to strive to reach our targeted audience to maximize our exposure…but only within our genre and to not stray outside of those lines. A hundred years ago, there was no such thing as a target audience. If fact there weren’t any marked genres. But over the decades, certain gems of brilliance from our author forefathers created a “standard” for the present crop of writers which we look up to and emulate. It’s perfectly fine to do that until you realize that the “target audience” was very specific: those who were literate.

In the twenty-first century, where literacy rates are much much higher than a century ago, we’ve been told to write for a target audience. Many potential authors fail because the focus their target too tightly and find that no one in the mainstream of the industry will take them as authors seriously. We waste too much time on who will be our readers (or really who we think will be our readers) when we should be shooting for everyone to be our potential audience.

Realistically, we shouldn’t expect everyone to be interested in our work. Individuals have their own individual tastes of course as I have mentioned in other posts. But it doesn’t mean that writers should completely give up on reaching the whole of humankind and asking them to take a chance on reading what we have been working on. It does not help when you have the publishing industry in the state it is today.

Publishers are correct for wanting to put their capital into authors who will make profit. The same goes for all those damn literary agents (mainly in New York City) who want clients that will do them the same. Way too often though, publishers are on the look out for trends in fiction in the same way that they looks for what celebrity or issues trending for potential no fiction books. And at the same time, many potential authors do the same thing, attempting to latch onto a particular genre trend that will make a quick buck because readers are conditioned nowadays to follow the trend. It’s simply viral marketing and it can be successful.

The truth is though that trends are fleeting. Flighty. Hard to predict. Useless. Meaningless. And riding the wave of trends to target a trend audience who you know will read can only get you so far. You would have reached out to your target audience only as long as the popularity continues.

Lasting interest in your work from every demographic is achievable when you stick to writing a fantastic book from cover to cover and don’t stay pigeonholed with your work. Know what kind of work you have written but never limit who it is written for. So, when you aim big, you can miss and still hit the target.