Watership Down… The Aftermath [Film]

It seems there has been some interest in my previous review of the infamous movie Watership Down. I would like to think this is because of my uber awesome writing skills, but I’m afraid it probably only means that far more people had their childhoods ruined by this film than I originally thought. As such, I felt it was appropriate to give a follow-up on this. Maybe it will help bring us closure, and hopefully allow us to move on with our lives as normally as we can. I know it’s hard after you’ve been exposed to a melee of bleeding rabbits, but here we go.

Let me begin by saying that I grew up in a farming family. Not only did we farm, but we hunted too. I’ve seen many rabbits go the way of the buffalo in real life and I can tell you beyond any doubt that it’s nowhere near as violent or disturbing (or even as bloody) as the poor bunnies in this animated film. It is because of this that I am shocked at how striking the images in this film were, and more so than that, how deeply it effected me. How could I be so moved and so traumatized by some over-dramatized, anthropomorphized rabbits? I think the answer lies in the fact that on an instinctual level, we know the film isn’t really about bunnies. We see through the cute and fuzzy wrapping paper that the rabbits represent to the core message of the story, and the real injurious scarring comes from our ability to empathize with the characters and situations that they are presented with. Coming to terms with the hard reality of the true message the film is the hardest part to wrap your mind around. We don’t want it to be true… We hope is really is just about the bunnies… But we know it’s not. And that scares the living hell out of us. As horrible as the truth may be, it is why this movie has stood the test of time and become a classic with a cult following. We don’t remember many animated films from the 1970’s, but we sure as hell can’t forget this one.

Like many great stories, Watership Down is probably written on many different levels. You could probably take many things from it by peeling back the layers of the story like an onion, but I believe the core message of the story is about the struggle for freedom over tyranny, and more importantly, the terrible cost of that freedom.

The story begins by placing us in a setting where the rabbits live in a “warren” or a social structure that although isn’t the best, has worked for them for ages. Then they’re forced to deal with their first challenge, a coming change that will threaten their whole system of living if they don’t act upon it. The failure of their leader to act in a way that would provide for their safety and well-being is what gives them the drive to become independent and seek a place where their freedom and safety is more assured. The rest of the movie mainly revolves around the trials and hardships they face along the way.

Many brave rabbits gave the ultimate sacrifice for the opportunity to live free. Nothing was guaranteed, there was no “promise” of safety or even success. In fact all the odds were against them from the beginning. Some of the rabbits died in an almost random fashion, such as the one picked off by a hawk out of nowhere. But they were all working toward the same goal, and the cost of doing nothing was unbearable. In many ways the story could have ended at that. It could have been the equivalent of a slasher film where they’re all slowly picked off one by one until none we are left to tell the tale, and the story could have still remained true to its core. Sometimes the struggle for freedom ends badly. In the real world, there is always a chance that the things we fight for remain out of reach. As hard as this story is to swallow, at least it doesn’t leave us hanging like that.

Above all they secured a future for their children and their children’s children. The cost of that was high, and many of the rabbits never saw their dream fulfilled, but the lesson to take away from this is that the dangers and hardships never held them back from striving to achieve a better existence. Every generation faces its own trials, and this story was about one generation paying a price for the next. The same way those who came before us carved out an existence so we could thrive, and gave us an opportunity (although not a promise) of safety and security, so long as we ourselves could keep it. Just as we will do the for our next generation. So in a very real way, WE are those rabbits in that story. Our fathers and grandfathers were those rabbits, and one day our children will be those rabbits. And that’s a very scary thought. It’s an uncomfortable truth isn’t it? That you could do everything right, keep fighting the good fight, and get nothing in return but scorn from your peers, shot at by hunters, chased by dogs, and even if you evade all of them, you might still be snatched up by a random hawk out of the blue. But we keep trying anyway. We keep up the struggle because we must. Because the cost of doing nothing is too high. And why should the movie sugar coat this? They were right to not pander to our delicate sensibilities. There is only one real truth in life, and that is that none of us are going to get out of this alive! We all go to that big warren in the sky in the end. The best we can hope for is that we did something good and left the world a better place than how we found it.

Part of growing up is the realization that nothing really worth having comes without some kind of fight. We shouldn’t shrink away from that. Glory and fortune comes to those who triumph, and there can be no triumph without some kind of hardship. Some people spend their whole lives trying to come to terms with this concept. As a small example of this, have you ever heard this one? “If there is a God, how could he allow THIS to happen to his children”? Maybe you’ve asked that yourself. And just to illustrate what I’ve been saying I could answer you in this way. Imagine I placed you in the shoes of God himself. This could be in the form of asking you to be an author, and create a story of your own, about a character you created. And we’ll say that I ask you to write a story about this person in which this person grows as a human being throughout their life, and becomes a better person as a result. You would almost immediately start picturing all kinds of hardships for your character! Not because you wanted them to have a hard life, but because you wanted them to overcome and to grow and share and use that experience to help others, and end up as a better person because of it. Now that’s a rather nebulous exercise, but it’s the same concept.

So is it any wonder why this little story about bunnies has lasted as long as it did or why it gained such a following? Perhaps it was meant to ruin our childhood. Maybe people like you and me only care about that movie because it was one of the things that pushed us into the cold hard reality of this world. That little cartoon rabbit showed us the world as it really is. Strange how things can work out that way. And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll see someone triumph over hardship and death and say with a tear in our eye “I haven’t cried this hard since all those bunnies died for our freedom”. Try to keep your head up, and try to keep moving forward toward the greater good. And above all, trust that the good things we do here in life are never really lost.

As good as that message really is when you think about it… That doesn’t mean I can bring myself to watch it again though.

Be sure to check out Ray’s original film review of Watership Down as well.

Women Asking Men Out For a Date?

Too much to lose, to ask her out,

I want her to choose, there’s no doubt.

For if I ask, and she rejects,

she’ll drop me, our friendship next.

She’ll think I’m a creep, a horny guy,

wanting one thing, and that’s a lie.

All I want, is her with me,

to treat her nice, like a lady.

So I’ll rest, and quiet I’ll be.

playing the game, of wait and see.

Our friendship to risk, so I sit and pout,

till she gives me a clue, or asks me out.

-From the Pistolero Poet.

What a profound question! Yes, profound! If it’s 1957…

So I’m talking to my roommate the other day about dating. I shared my (often humorous) experiences in the dating world. Being gender-variant clearly never helped my case… Ever. Primarily because having a more feminine mindset is a pretty terrible thing to have if you’re trying to pick up women. This is probably because we were both thinking the same thing; “I’ve given them every indication that I like them, why wont they ask me out?” And thus, we eventually walked away feeling like the other person just wasn’t all that into us when in all actuality, we were crazy about each other. Me with my crippling shyness, and her not wanting to impose or step on my toes wasn’t a good combination. I often wondered why my friends consistently tried to hook me up with other shy people. What happens when you put two shy people in a room together? No one speaks! Oddly enough, my shyness is what attracted many of those same women to me, but due to our cultural axioms, they never thought about making the first move. I related to my roommate that I could have had many more relationships had the girl just taken the first step. I’m not saying she should have swept me off my feet and paid for everything, but a simple “I like you” would have been enough for me to see that she had the same feelings for me as I had for her and would have given me the confidence to ask her out without fear of ruining a sterling friendship. What is the deal with women never wanting to make the first move? They joke about how unobservant, unintuitive, unempathetic and emotionally detached we are, but in the same breath they expect us to know what she’s thinking and if the mood is right.

My roommate said that most guys are intimidated by girls asking them out. That their fragile ego would prevent them from accepting the experience as a positive one. She went onto say that most guys want a more submissive girlfriend, and asking them out would show that they were too assertive. Obviously, I disagreed. She said that my experience as a male wasn’t a typical one and that other people would agree with her. Luckily, I just happen to work in an environment that is packed full of macho bravado. So, off I went to work to ask what everyone thought. I wanted to ask everyone I could to get a good cross-section of what the popular male opinion was on the subject. Without fail, every single guy said the same thing… They were totally fine with a woman asking them out. Some preferred it, most felt that the concept of the old tradition was outdated and irrelevant. A surprisingly progressive outlook for such a traditional area! I asked the question outside of work, in casual conversation. Again, everyone said that it was fine, some even went so far as to say that the whole idea of men asking women out was silly because women are more picky, thus if women asked men out you could eliminate much of the risk of rejection.

A history lesson from an old timer really put it in perspective for me. He related that back in the old days, women didn’t work (unless they were a teacher or nurse). So women were seen as not really bringing anything to the relationship. More of an object, something that needed to be taken care of. Since the man was the only provider, it would have been seen as imposing or vain for a woman to ask a man out. Something like the old adage, “beggars can’t be choosers”. I told him that it sounded incredibly sexist, he agreed but added that it was a common belief back then. Everyone thought that way. After I heard that, I couldn’t understand why women would want to perpetuate such a negative tradition.

Some of the comments I’ve heard after asking the question; How would you feel if a woman asked you out?

– Flattered.

– It would be refreshing, I’d really like that.

– Even if I didn’t like her, I’d still take her out just for asking.

– The best relationship I ever had started when a girl approached me.

– I’d be all about that. It takes all the guess work out of it so you have nothing to lose.

– Some guys may be intimidated by that. But they’d have to be really weak to be intimidated by a girl who liked them.

So, it seems the verdict is in. Girls take heed… If you want a guy to ask you out, get over yourself and ask him. It’ll be ok, really. You’ll probably win some cool points in the process.

I would ask that we keep this going. Is anyone out there offended by the idea of women asking men out? Anyone at all? I’m interested to hear what other people have to say about this subject, just leave your comments in the section below.

More Than “Male”

Gender variance… The quantum mechanics of the gender world.

The whole topic of gender is a much more murky concept than most people give it credit for. It certainly goes further than what’s on your birth certificate or driver’s license. I debated for a long time on whether or not to actually write about this subject, and I think most people will understand why by the end of this.

Most people think they have a pretty clear view of what gender is and how it works. It seems cut and dry doesn’t it? You’re born, the doctor slaps you on the ass and tells your parents “congratulations, it’s a boy” (or girl as the case may be) and that’s that. The only gray area may be in the case of someone who is intersexed, or possesses parts or pieces of both genders. But, the further you dig, the larger that gray area becomes. You see, when the doctor says “it’s a boy” when you’re born, a more correct phrase would be “it appears to be a boy”. Being intersexed comes in many forms, some of which may look and even function like that of being totally one gender or the other. I won’t dwell on this too long, and I don’t want to get too technical, so suffice it to say that just because you have a wank or a hoo-ha doesn’t necessarily mean you’re male or female. It really takes a science lab to know for sure. Even then, there can be some variance. When they look at chromosomes, “XX” usually means female, but not always, just like “XY” usually means male, but not always. Other codes are the markers of being intersexed.

Your gender was formed before you were born. If you’re male, then at some point a wave of testosterone washed over you as a fetus and changed the way your body and mind formed. But what happens if for whatever reason that “wash” was incomplete? What if it affected the way your body formed, but not your mind? Well, that’s one theory of how we came to have variance in gender identity.

Now that the waters are sufficiently muddied, it’s a perfect time to bring up the topic of gender identity. Most people are “cisgendered”, that means that their gender identity and their birth gender match up. People who identify as the opposite of their birth gender can be called “transgendered”. If you feel that you are both genders at the same time or one gender more or less than the other, you can be called “androgynous”. If you feel that you are neither gender, then you’re “gender neutral” or “neutrois”. If you feel like you have a dual gender identity, then you can be called “bigendered”. If you feel like you’re two or more gender variations, then you can be called “trigendered”. There are many more variations too, and I over-simplified my definitions quite a bit. This all seems like it could be very complicated, and it gets much more complicated once you find out that gender identity isn’t even limited to the standard gender binary of male and female. If your gender identity is neither here nor there, difficult to label, or constantly changing, you can use the term “gender fluid”. All of these can fall under the umbrella term “gender queer”, although some people find that term offensive.

This gets into what I call “crazy label land”, where every different nuance of your personality comes with a new label.

As for me, I identify as being bigendered. Hold on a minute, I’ve got to close the closet door. In a nutshell, there’s as many ways to define exactly what bigenderism is as there are people who identify as being bigendered, which isn’t many. Somewhere around 3% of males and 8% of females identify with the term. For me, basically, it’s like being both male and female at the same time, although sometimes I lean more to one side or the other. Originally, I thought I was transgendered… To be specific, I thought I was a failure at being transgendered. For several months I actually lived full time as female (and yes, I was hot), but after some time, living that way became tedious. Sometimes I felt totally cisgendered and wondered why I even went down that road. In those times, feelings of regret and shame about my identity were common… Sucks to have gender dysphoria in either gender. That’s about the time I figured out that I was bigendered, but by then I was so fed up with the whole thing that I just ignored it for a few years. Yeah, it didn’t go away.

The outward effect of being bigendered isn’t an obvious one. It’s something like the Native American concept of “two spirit” people. I’m just more than male. I can carry on a conversation about anything from bear hunting to eye liner. I’m totally male, but part of me is also totally female. The way I see it, some personalities are just too wide to be defined by one gender. I like to think of it as a harmony between masculine and feminine thought patterns. The best of both worlds, if you will.

To wrap all this up, gender isn’t something most people think about. After all, if you’re cisgendered, it would be a little like a fish thinking about how wet they are. No matter how much we think about it though, it’s a big part of who we are and our identity. Probably the first thing we notice about people we meet is what gender they are, since that defines how we relate to them. Our gender defines how we relate to the world as well. It’s not a stretch to say that gender largely defines how we experience life, yet it is still one of the least understood bits of who we are as human beings and as a society.

I’d be more than happy to answer questions about this one since it’s pretty much impossible to sum it all up in one post.

Zip Line Tour Of My Musical Memory

The journey of a thousand songs begins with one step down memory lane.

I listen to the radio a lot. More than most people I suppose. It’s the background soundtrack to our jobs and really, life in general. I have a lot of time to think, so I’ve started to pull together my rather nebulous thoughts on music. Hopefully, some of you can identify with some of the thoughts I have.

Although I’ve listened to almost every genre of music in my life, rock has had the biggest impact on me. You can blame my taste in music on my brothers, both of which had their musical preferences shaped firmly in the grip of “Generation X”. By most accounts, I came about very slightly after that generation ended, which is unfortunate because I can easily identify with them, and not so much with the younger “Millennial Generation”. To start this, I suppose I should begin from my first recollection of music…

As I search the chronicles of my mind, the very first music video I ever remember seeing was George Harrison’s cover of Got my mind set on you in 1987. What a fantastic video! I sat in front of the TV and moved to the beat as best as I could. I had no idea what he was singing about, but I knew I liked it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who liked it, the video went on to be nominated three times for MTV’s video music awards. The main thing I remembered from this one was all the crazy shit flying and flapping around in the background while George calmly strummed his guitar and sang like it was no big deal.

It wasn’t long before watching MTV was as regular for me as cartoons were for most kids. Those were some interesting childhood memories, from around the same time period I remember seeing the controversial (at the time) video for Don’t come around here no more by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. From what I remember, this one did win a VMA. I have to admit, as many times as I’ve heard the song, the video is more memorable. I always imagined that it was pretty close to what one would experience if you tried shrooms while watching Alice in Wonderland. Come to think of it, Alice in Wonderland probably encourages people to try shrooms anyway. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers remain one of my all time favorites even today.

My brothers, seeing my interest in all things that were totally rad quickly introduced me to their favorites, which of course became my favorites too. I vividly remember them sitting in their room listening to Guns N’ Roses new cassette tape Appetite for destruction and trying to decide which songs would be hits. Good Lord, how could you possibly go wrong with that! They even had a Guns N’ Roses poster that was so much more bodacious than my Roger Rabbit poster that seemed so out of place in my room. undoubtedly, that is where my love of silver revolvers and thorny flowers came from. There were others too of course, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Metallica, and many more.

My next memories came a few years later. By this time I had a radio in my own room and my oldest brother was already enlisted in the Army. My other brother had his own car by now, a white Pinto with red leather interior. His big thing now was the Grateful Dead, but he still listened to what he called classics. You know, Jimmy Buffett, and the Rolling Stones. Soon after, he would enlist in the Navy and I would be on my own to pick out what was cool for myself, and fortunately, there was a new genre on the block ready to greet me with open arms and dirty Dr. Martens, Grunge Rock!

Grunge is what I remember the most from my childhood. It was the first thing I ran to once my brothers were out of the house, and the first new sound of the 90’s. It shaped every aspect of my life at the time, and I can see how it affects my sense of style even now. Primarily, my liking of simple, cheap, durable clothing items, slightly baggy and comfortable jeans, my misuse of flannel, and love for thrift store pick-ups. In many ways, it’s very similar to early punk rock styling. Grunge was simple, and that’s what we loved about it. No flashy antics, no gimmicks, just straight forward music that spoke to the masses of a generation trying to find out who they were. Oh, the memories! Vaseline and Interstate love song from the Stone Temple Pilots were huge hits, and who could forget that freaky ass music video for Black hole sun by Soundgarden? Ah, I remember them all. Bush, Hole, Collective Soul, Candlebox, and of course, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. This began what I call the “post Bill and Ted era” of music. The one and only complaint I have about this era (other than the absence of “happy” songs) was the difficulty in figuring out the song lyrics. Even if you could use all your mad crypto-linguistic skills to decipher what they were saying, the songs largely seemed to make absolutely no sense at all. Really, what the hell was Yellow Ledbetter about? It was the one song you couldn’t help but (try) to sing along with and I had no freaking clue what they were saying or what the song was about and neither did you. Apparently, it may have been an anti-war song… Who knew?

Eventually, the sound started changing. Grunge faded into the larger genre of Alternative Rock, and that gave us the soundtrack to our junior high years. The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers probably spurred this change in sound more than anyone. Segments of punk rock and ska were going mainstream, and there were newcomers with a sound all their own. Harvey Danger came out with Flagpole sitta, Chumbawamba had Tubthumping, others followed. Pop was actually getting fairly good too. It seemed like the golden age of music! There was a lot of strange stuff that came out around this time too, like the Dresden Dolls, Marcy Playground and Aqua… But the rest was pure and great and shiny and new. Audioslave, Fastball, the Cranberries, Fuel, Third eye blind, they were all fantastic.

I took a quick trip into mainstream pop for a while around my high school years, but rock was always there. Linkin Park, Kid Rock, the Verve, Sugar Ray, Sublime, Tool, and the Offspring were the main ones I listened to. Along with Blues Traveller, and even some Creed. Now that I think about it, there’s no way to name all the bands I listened to through high school… Everything from Blink 182 to Bad Religion. Put on any music from 1999-2002 and I probably remember at least something about it. This was also around the time I got into punk rock and folk punk… There’s one you don’t hear much about. Remember the Presidents of the United States of America and their hit song Peaches? The timeline splits innumerable times here, everyday was something new. A new sound, a new band, the world was wide open, MTV was dead, and the internet was changing how everyone bought music.

It was a brave new world. Then I enlisted in the Air Force. Music took a back seat for a while I learned the finer points of folding underwear. I actually don’t remember much good music coming out for the next couple years, and it seemed like the bubble had burst. There was no new Aerosmith, no new Metallica, no new Ozzy… No one there to take their place and fill the void. Rock seemed dead and the best we could hope for was a rehashing of an old song or an old band coming out with something new that vaguely reminded us of the good old days.

However, in this modern age of information, many indie bands and independent artists are coming out with great stuff and unlike the old days where you had to see them in person to hear their sound, we can easily find them on the web. There’s a brand new day for finding good music now, and no shortage of small time bands to suit any connoisseur of rock. Find the good ones where you can, and support them. This is the grass-roots heart of music fandom, and if you’re lucky, maybe one of them hits it big. Then you can act like a snooty hipster and tell people you were into them before they were mainstream.

Enjoy the music. It’s the heartbeat of a generation, and an art that transcends canvas. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and rock out for a few hours.

Watership Down [Film]

I was feeling bored the other day so I thought I’d watch a movie to pass the time. Something light, maybe even cheerful, so when I came across an older children’s movie with a cartoon rabbit on the cover, I figured it would fit the bill. What could be more cheerful and light hearted than happy bunnies right? Boy was I wrong!

The movie is called “Watership Down”. Not a particularly descriptive name, especially since they never actually mention the name in the movie. Apparently, Watership Down started as a book by Richard Adams, and was later adapted to an animated film in 1978. I suppose my first clue as to how this movie would be should have been the tag line on the cover; “All the world will be your enemy. Prince with a thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you… But first, they must catch you.” That’s pretty heavy stuff for a kid’s flick huh?

The movie starts out with a typical 70’s style of animation showing how the world of the animals were created. This story has it’s own god figure, and it’s own parables and unique mythology scattered throughout the movie, so this beginning stage is very important to understanding the rest of the movie. The main things they talk about in the beginning is how “Frith” (the god figure, represented by the sun) created all the animals in the world the same, and they all ate grass. But, because the rabbits ate too much of the grass, Frith gave gifts to the other animals to allow them to eat the rabbits to keep them under control. That’s where things start to get a little gruesome. So, after being chased around for a while with all his people getting eaten, it’s now the rabbit’s turn to receive a gift, but because he’s scared now, he turns his back on Frith and tells him that if he wants to bless anything, he’ll have to bless his back side, and so Frith gives the rabbits powerful legs to jump and run faster than their predators. Not much of a gift but Frith promises the rabbits that they will always be allowed to thrive so long as they can out smart and out run their enemies.

After that brief introduction, we cut to the actual story where we’re introduced to the main characters, Hazel and his brother Fiver. Fiver is the runt of the litter, and is also a psychic (he sees visions), but seems like he displays many symptoms of mental illness and is quite paranoid and prone to very disturbing fits. After some small talk, Fiver sees his first vision, the field they live in filling up with blood and all the other rabbits dying a horrible death. We’re not even ten minutes into this movie and already I’m imagining children watching this getting wide eyed and having nightmares. The scene reminded me of the part in “The Shining” where the kid sees a vision of the elevator doors opening and the hallway filling up with blood. Anyway, that sets the rabbits on a journey to find a safer place to live. The journey, however, is anything but safe. Each time they try to get anywhere, more trouble befalls them, and many rabbits perish along the way. What strikes me is how graphic the scenes are.

You remember in most children’s movies when a character dies, it’s usually off camera? You get a cut scene, and usually a sound effect to tell you what happened. Not in this movie. There are very few exceptions. One that comes to mind is when the rabbits are resting in a corn field and “Violet” goes just a little too far to get something to eat. We see a hawk flying overhead, then a close up of the hawk’s talons as it swoops down, then a cut scene with a “thud” sound effect, and then the spot where poor Violet was with nothing left but a tuft of fur left blowing in the breeze. You think you’ll get lucky with the next death scene as one of the rabbits run into a bush and you hear a “choking” sound like he’s caught in a snare… But then they show the rabbit caught with a snare around his neck as the others try desperately to get him out. The scene seems to go on and on as eventually the rabbit starts to cough up blood and even after the other rabbits free him, he appears to die. The other rabbits stand around his bloodied body and say a prayer for their fallen friend. This is one of the most gruesome death scenes I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. Luckily, the rabbit doesn’t actually die, he gets up a few minutes later, apparently he was only knocked out. This is one of the very few times in this movie where you think a character has died, but they actually make it. Most times here, it’s permanent. They move on, and other bloody, gory, and terrifying scenes follow quickly as they meet up with one of the rabbits that didn’t leave the field with the main group. He’s almost dead, and tells them that the vision Fiver had was right, the field was bull dozed for development and they don’t hesitate to show rabbit burrows clogged with dead and dying rabbits as he tells the tale. This theme continues through the rest of the movie with rabbits dying one by one in the most horrible and disturbing ways. There’s even some mild cursing. One thing is for sure, this ain’t Disney.

There’s not enough room here for me to describe all the deaths in this movie, so I’ll just jump to the one that people remember the most. Probably the saddest moments I’ve seen in any movie, let alone a cartoon. The end of the movie, the main characters have made it to a safe place to live and they are prospering. In my mind, this is where the movie should have ended. And they all lived, happily ever after… But, alas, it’s not to be. We see Hazel, now a very old rabbit, wandering away from the family group to graze. Then, he hears a voice, it’s the voice of the “black rabbit” (the grim reaper of the rabbit world).

[Black Rabbit] “Hazel… Hazel… You know me don’t you?”

[Hazel] “I don’t know…”

The apparition reveals himself as the black rabbit and Hazel gasps

[Hazel] “Yes my Lord, I know you”

[Black Rabbit] “I’ve come to ask you if you’d like to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you, and I know you’d like it. You’ve been feeling tired havent you? If you’re ready, we might go along now.”

Hazel looks back at his family

[Black Rabbit] “You needn’t worry about them. They’ll be alright, and thousands like them. If you come along now, I’ll show you what I mean.”

“So leaving his friends and no-longer-needed body behind, Hazel departs Watership Down, slipping away, running easily down through the wood where the first primroses were beginning to bloom.” This is shown by the rabbit’s body slumping over and his transparent spirit getting up and following the Black Rabbit away. Now that everyone who saw the movie is in tears, I’ll move on with the review.

I know in days past, cartoons were supposed to teach children something, and many cartoons taught children about death. However, I’ve never seen one quite so graphic or heart wrenching as this. Many people (like me) would say that this is in no way a children’s movie. Given the complexity of the situations and constant loss of life and mutilation in very dramatic fashion, there’s no way I could recommend this film for children. Now, it’s fine to explore the topic of death in a cartoon, but I really think they should have let the audience experience it in an easier way. But what could let you down easier than dealing with it by using fluffy cartoon bunnies? I suppose I see both sides of the equation, but the graphic nature of the film was more harsh than watching real life events on the Discovery Channel. Far from a light hearted experience, this film left me in somewhat of a somber stupor while I contemplated the meaning of it all. Do you think when the folks drawing this were depicting a rabbit dying in a snare with blood gurgling from his mouth that even one of them thought “hey, do you think this will freak kids out”? I can’t imagine anyone bringing up the question and then deciding that it was just fine.

I suppose, that even though we may be prepared for facing our own mortality, there really is no preparing for facing the mortality of loved ones. And this movie brings that to the surface in shocking fashion. This movie is harsh because life is harsh and the harshest part of life is when it comes to an end. Ignorance is bliss, but that’s why children are happy, because they’re ignorant of all the perils of the world and how it can all fall apart. This movie removes that innocence. Other than the constant and terrifying deaths, this movie is quite epic. The story is complex, the rabbits have their own caste system, religion, and even their own language. The story is one of searching for a safe place to live free. To endure hardship and trials so that those who come after you will have a better life.

So if it wasn’t for being scarred for life, nightmares of mangled bunnies, or losing your innocence and being scared shitless of horrible deaths, then the movie would be a masterpiece. One thing is for sure, it certainly leaves an impact on those who watch it. If you’re looking for a light hearted or inspirational film, look elsewhere. Black Hawk Down will be more likely to give you that than Watership Down.

Fake Centurions and other Bull.

Wow. Seriously? No comments at all? I write a very political blog, taking my own views to a fringe point of view (although one I was willing to defend for the moment to play devil’s advocate) that could easily be taken the wrong way, pointing my bony finger of blame in a vague direction that I figured someone would pounce on, all in an attempt to stimulate some conversation (if not debate) to liven up this place. I wrote in coarse language that I normally would never use in my blogs for shock value, perpetuating a “red neck”, “red state” stereotype, hoping it was like hanging “red” meat in front of hungry beasts. I used sarcasm when it was totally inappropriate, and only lightly touched on some real issues, telling only half the story, in the long shot belief that someone may just want to jump in, make Paul Harvey proud, and tell “the rest of the story”. But instead, I get more response from waving at strangers in traffic. Okay then. Either people around here are unusually tolerant of the political beliefs of others, no matter how half told, or this place is just not getting many readers. Maybe we should decorate it differently? I’ve tried writing nice, I’ve tried writing mean, so I guess the last thing to try is just to bring up a handful of topics and hope someone wants to talk about one of them. If you throw enough mud at the wall, eventually some of it will stick.

Before I start, I’ll clear up my personal political beliefs. I’m a Libertarian. Yes, just like everyone’s favorite Libertarian… Drew Carey. I don’t blame Obama for the downfalls of the current economy, although I am a bit miffed that we were promised real change in Washington politics, transparency, and honest reform, and we’ve seen none of that thus far. I do tire of his “blame game”, we all know Bush wasn’t what our country needed, but it’s been two and a half years and the people are tired of hearing about it. It’s beyond time to let go of the past. I place the blame of excessive spending on the various branches of government. I remember every year when I was enlisted, it was a chore to spend money. If we didn’t spend the entire budget, we didn’t get that much to work with the following year, thus rewarding excessive spending. Fraud, waste and abuse abounds, and it’s time to shine the light into that and scrape the sludge out of the sides of our economic hull. Downsize, and leave what’s left to work faster and more efficiently.

As far as the situation in London, there are racial undertones, however the larger story is that you can’t walk down the street in certain places in London without getting searched and hassled by the police. There have been over 300 deaths reported from persons in police custody with no real investigations or convictions as a result. The police in London have nearly been an opposition force against the people, and they have become untouchable and unaccountable through traditional means. That’s what filled the keg with powder, waiting for the right match to strike, and eventually it did. I would say that the “flash mobs” here in the states probably have a similar undertone to them.

Now with that cleared up, onto other news. A 12 year old boy scout has gone missing from a fishing trip in Utah. Being an Eagle Scout myself, I would like to believe that he has the skills to know what to do in that situation and will be found in short order. Although, he’s 12, the youngest age one can be in scouts, so he probably doesn’t have a lot of experience. If he was in the cub scouts, he’s undoubtably been taught what to do when you get lost and how to increase your chances of being found. Lost hikers are usually found very quickly, since once they’re lost they tend to travel in large circles and are normally found within a few miles of where they were last seen. In any case, I hope it works out quickly and the worst thing that comes from it is a future story he can tell around the camp fire of the time he conquered wilderness survival. Maybe he’ll grow up to be the next Bear Grylls.

In other news, an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Oregon… Who knew there were volcanoes there? Nothing happened, just an underwater lava flow. I don’t know what it looked like, but I imagine the Oregon coast looking like a hot tub with freshly steamed delicious fish washing up on the shore. Sounds like it could have been a popular vacation spot had we known about it in advance.

In more dubious news, centurions crossed blades outside the Colosseum in Rome. Apparently, a popular occupation is to dress up like a centurion and get tourists to pay to have their picture taken with you. This has been a common thing in the area, although lately there have been complaints of “fake” centurions and gladiators charging excessive amounts of money for a picture, sometimes using the tourist’s own camera and then demanding more money before they give it back. They also charged visitors for tours that never panned out with no refund. Undercover police dressed as centurions formed a “sting operation” to catch the criminal frauds in the act, and apparently when the badges came out, a sword fight ensued… I’m not kidding. Seriously, I would gladly pay to see that. With the help of some more undercover cops posing as street cleaners, the spurious Roman soldiers were taken into custody. When in Rome, do as the Romans and only deal with licensed Colosseum guides. Supposedly, the real ones are required to speak fluent English and be friendly. If you ever feel like you’re being mugged (or crucified), report it to police immediately. Apparently, that won’t be very hard since it seems like there’s legions of undercover cops in the area. I wonder how that looked when they were booked at the jail? “What’s your name, son”? “I’m Spartacus”! Another one stands up, “I’m Spartacus”, and another “No, I’m Spartacus!”

And finally, a bull was loose in the streets of a Washington state town last night. Police chased it for hours with no result, apparently bulls are easily spooked by the slightest things, like flashing blue lights and sirens. Eventually a cowboy sitting on the hood of a patrol car (again, I’m not kidding) was able to lasso the bull and end the rampage. You have no idea how long I’ve waited to say those words. Way to take the bull by the horns! I’ll be here all week folks! Take it easy, we’re all in this together.

Poverty Polls and Issues Ignored.

This week Gallup posted a poll that said that Obama’s support is suffering among “the poorest Americans”. Poor, according to them was defined as anyone earning $2,000.00 or less per month. I suppose that means I’m poor. My first clue should have been that I met a “homeless” couple who made more than I did. Well, maybe not, it did say those who “earn” $2,000.00 or less and I “earn” $2,080.00 a month, but since my heath care costs doubled when Obama announced his “Obamacare” plan, and through taxing, my net pay is around $1,400.00 a month. Apparently, that’s pretty poor. I had no idea I was poor. I have a vehicle, make rent, buy food, and I obviously have internet access. I can’t afford all the food I want, I don’t have cable, or even a real bed or any real furniture that didn’t come with the trailer I rent, but I never thought of myself as poor. Sure, I just turned in my third request to my job to get a new pair of boots because my old ones are falling apart, and I can’t go to all the places I would like to go because I can only afford so much gas, but again, I’m not “poor”. When I want more money, I just work overtime.

I mentioned a “homeless” couple I met the other day. I put that in quotations because they aren’t homeless anymore since they just rented a trailer next to mine. Before this, they lived in a nearby tent city though. Their job is to stand on street corners and sell a locally published homeless newspaper. And like I said, they make more than I do. By Gallup’s definition, they aren’t “poor”.

So that brings me to a conclusion… I think this poll is skewed! A media poll that’s skewed? Say it ain’t so! I know, it’s crazy right? But I really don’t think that this poll says anything other than they expected low income Americans to fully support a Democratic party in office, and now even us “poor folk” are becoming disillusioned with Washington politics as usual.

Onto other news, London is burning! Riots are breaking out all over the place because someone was shot and killed by police officers. I haven’t seen the whole story reported here in the US. All they say is “young people” are rioting… No one here is reporting that the reason they are rioting is because they think the police shot this man because he was black. I think however, that police shot him for being a criminal illegally possessing a handgun and shooting at the police officer… I could be wrong though. I don’t know the officer, he might just be a racist prick. Other people are joining the riots because they say that the local government is ignoring predominately black neighborhoods in the city. According to the rioters, burning their own neighborhoods down is supposed to improve things though. Other people are joining the looting because they say they’re poor and can’t afford the things they want. Apparently, they make less than $2,000.00 a month. Well, according to Gallup I’m poor and I follow the law so there really is no excuse for this kind of burning and pillaging in my mind. I wonder if S&P will downgrade their credit rating now since it requires rioting in the streets to get their social-economic politics under control?

Dang, London, I thought you all prided yourselves as being all civilized and junk! When they do riot, they apparently go all out! You would have thought that someone made a bad call at a soccer game or something! I’m sorry, that really isn’t fair to say. They call it “football” over there don’t they?

Meanwhile here in the states, we have our own problems. So called “flash mobs” are springing up everywhere. The suspects are noted as “young people”… Didn’t I just hear that someplace else? Hey I did! But unlike Brittain’s news, there was one report of racial tensions at a flash mob at Wisconsin’s state fair when the attacks were targeted at white fair patrons. Even though people were injured at other mob attacks, no one reported any racial tension. Which leads me to a question;

If we’re supposed to be so evolved, why can’t anyone bring up race? Why can’t we call this what it is, social, economic, and cultural problems? It’s not limited to one race or culture either, look at the crazy white guy who shot up those people in Norway, or the white teenagers in Mississippi who killed a black man by driving over him in a truck. But everyone is skirting the issue, saying that it’s a poverty issue, or a gun control issue, or a political affiliation issue. If we can’t say what’s really happening, we’ll never be able to properly address and work through this problem in a peaceful, organized way. We’re all evolved and adult enough to tackle tough issues, so why the silence on the real problem? Ignoring social and cultural issues and hoping something fixes the problem makes about as much sense as ignoring your hair being on fire and hoping it’s just indigestion… No offense intended to anyone in London who may have lost their hair in fire riots…

Thank God for Guns

I work at a prison, in the city. It’s not the biggest city ever, and it isn’t the biggest prison ever. In fact, it’s one of the smallest ones in the state. The main point of this prison is to house the worst of the worst that the state has to offer. As you may suspect, this leads to some hair-raising situations, and I’ve seen many. However, last night was a new one on me, because the threat wasn’t from the inmates, we’re prepared for that, this threat was from an area where we have no jurisdiction or authority, the community.

Correctional Officers don’t tend to have many fans. Most citizens never think about us, and those who we come in contact with regularly tend to wish they were somewhere else. Yep, no one wants our job and even we would like to see the need for our job diminish. It’s one of those thankless endeavours that I have built my life around. I do patrol on the graveyard shift.

We had just settled in to work another night when the radio lit up. Talk of needing medical personnel, a stretcher, and an ambulance. Here we go again. After some doing, we eventually had the ambulance on the compound and a crew of people ready to take an inmate to the hospital. All that went fine, but when our officer was on his way back from the hospital is where things went wrong…

A voice came over the radio saying “central control, you’ll need to send someone out to get me, my vehicle broke down. I’m in a bad neighborhood”. I’ll have the change the names of the places and people here for privacy reasons. We’ll say this guy’s name is “Officer Black”.

Then a voice answered. We’ll call him “Sgt. Gray”, “Yeah, 10-4 Officer Black, we’ll send another vehicle out as soon as possible”. All seemed pretty normal, after all, state vehicles break down sometimes. Several minutes passed.

“Hey, I’m in a really bad neighborhood, you need to send someone quick, I’ve got a lot of eyes on me right now” Officer Black said, sounding a little more panicked than before. “Yeah 10-4. Officer White, are you on the way?” Sgt. Gray asked. “Yes, I’m on the way now, I should be there in about 15 mike” Officer White said as he drove off with a state issued van. “Hey you’ve got the shotgun with you right, Officer Black”? Sgt. Gray asked, “10-4 Sarge” was the answer. Several more minutes passed. Sgt. Gray told central control to try to get a wrecker from the Department of Transportation to go to “South Street” to pick up the vehicle.

By this time we were hanging on the radio to hear how things were developing. From the sound of it, it wasn’t going well. Every minute or so the calls from Officer Black became more frantic. “Hey Sarge, more people are showing up” followed by “These guys are armed, get here fast”. At this point, Sgt. Gray informed Officer Black that there was no wrecker to be found at this time of night and to stay calm, we’re calling the police. Meanwhile, a crowd of 10 to 15 people had formed around our officer and were closing in. Each minute seemed like an hour as we did all we could do, listen and wait.

Apparently, the crowd became violent. Officer Black was forced to take action. He evacuated the vehicle with the shotgun, and instructed the crowd to disperse. “Central control, tell metro that I’m armed, these people are armed and they’re not backing down”. Was the next nervous call we heard. The hoard refused to comply, they knew that this officer was alone, that he was from the prison and didn’t have the authority to arrest them. However, they didn’t know if he had the authority to use that shotgun to defend his own life… He did have that authority, and it looked like he might have to use it. Metro was called again, but there were no blue lights in sight.

Things were looking bad for Officer Black as the mob grew more brave, but at that moment, Officer White showed up. The people scattered. “Central, this is Officer White, I’m here and it looks like everyone is headed back inside”. We all cheered, thinking that things were finally safe. Officer White had brought a can of gas and a set of jumper cables to try to get the vehicle working again. Things were looking up… Until the crowd saw that Officer White was unarmed… Either way, the presence of Officer White had changed the dynamic of the situation. The mob saw things in a different light now, but they still weren’t happy at the appearance of prison officers in their neighborhood. Slowly, things started going south again as the crowd assembled once more.

After a few more moments, to our horror, there were now two panicked voices calling for assistance. “This is getting serious guys, get metro out here now, we’re like sitting ducks!” Officer White shouted on the radio. The only thing they could do was cling to that shotgun, and hope help arrived. Sgt. Gray instructed them to stay in their vehicles until the police arrived, then try to put gas in the vehicle or jump start it when the police have secured the area. Little did we know, it would be another half hour before the police would get there as they were held up on another crime on “North Street”.

Several more tense minutes passed, I was now wondering why they don’t have convoy training at the academy and debated trying to explain to them what a box formation was and how to do 360 degree security. It’s hard to do all that with only two vehicles and one gun though. Eventually, there was no getting around it. The armed members of the crowd were back and our officers had to take action since help was just too far away. It’s a good time to note that they weren’t out in some remote area, they were in the middle of a sub-industrial part of one of the largest cities in the state. Officer Black held the mob (About 20 people by now) at bay with the gun again while White tried to get the vehicle running. Unfortunately, it was broke hard and still wouldn’t start.

Luckily, as the crowd was about to try to take the two in a rush, blue lights flashed down the street. The police were here! Well, one was there anyway, but that was enough. In an instant, the crowd was gone, and order was restored. The police called their wrecker to tow the vehicle back to the prison and everyone got back safe.

Situations like this is the reason I choose to carry a gun when I’m off duty. You never know when you’ll be thrust into a bad situation, and in this case, if it wasn’t for that one shotgun, our man Officer Black would have been skinned alive long before help could get to him. No matter how safe your neighborhood may seem, you never know where chance will take you. In the end, criminals don’t care about who you are, they only care if you have the means to defend yourself or not. As I got home this morning, I watched the news only to find that a woman on the other side of town had to use her handgun to defend her life when two robbers broke into her house, The police can’t be everywhere at once. Keep your head on a swivel out there, we’re all in this together.

Rites of Passage

I’ve been doing some thinking about rites of passage lately. Mainly, how our current culture doesn’t really have them.

In nearly all primitive cultures, there is some event that signifies the transition from childhood to being an adult. In some cultures it’s marked by the accomplishment of some act of bravery, in others it’s noted with the achievement of some level of wisdom. In ours, it’s mostly attributed to living to the age of 18. There are “mile stones”, obtaining a driver’s license, getting a first job, graduating high school, but no real rite of passage.

I feel this is one of the reasons why we have a surplus of grown men and women in our society acting like children. We really can’t hold them accountable, no one ever formally told them that they should “grow up”, so how can we honestly expect them to act like adults when they’ve never demonstrated that they could act in that capacity. I think the “should” part has the most impact here. Why should someone “man up” when they don’t have to? There’s honestly not much benefit to it, I mean, growing up sucks! In the minds of many people, there’s no up side to it. Who would want to accept all that responsibility? Trying to make a relationship work, raising kids, keeping a job, maintaining a household, being accountable for your own actions, it’s really hard! Wasn’t it so much easier when no one depended on you? When the only consequence to doing poorly was making a bad grade? When you got an allowance rather than having to work and someone else provided you with a home, clothing and food? Any amount of money you had could be spent on the things you enjoyed because someone else provided all that you needed. Those were the days huh? Why shouldn’t they last forever? Why couldn’t they?

Well, there’s no easy answer to that these days. In traditional societies, people were looked down upon and scorned if they didn’t grow up. When they did, it was cause for celebration, a welcoming into the ranks, respect, and the endowment of those things that would otherwise be unobtainable. In today’s culture, many whine their way into the ranks, demand celebration, have no concept of respect and still obtain the same things as anyone else. Peter Pan Syndrome is actually rewarded in many ways. Can’t hold a job, never graduated, can’t budget, never got a driver’s license? Don’t worry, we have social programs for that.

Much of this could be eliminated with a set rite of passage. Now, I’m not necessarily advocating that people strike out to kill a lion with a spear or walk barefoot into the wilderness for a vision quest. Our social structure isn’t set up for that and if you tried it you’ll probably get kicked out of the zoo or taken to jail for suspicion of drug use. “Honest officer, I’m just looking for spiritual enlightenment”. Our civilization doesn’t recognize the tradition anymore and I think it’s a shame. I honestly can’t think of one way that it could happen, and we’re dealing with the fallout of that now. I had thought in the past that some rite of passage could be implemented at the family level, but it still wouldn’t change how society sees our youth. No celebration for doing things right, no condemnation for doing things wrong. Since the days of personal responsibility are gone, the only thing we can do is understand how this affects our culture and do our best to deal with the consequences of that.

I do think it’s interesting to note how in almost every culture throughout time, the rite of passage is accomplished right around the time a child is turning into a teenager while our current culture holds off on calling someone an adult until they’re nearly two decades old. Maybe many adults act like children because they’ve been treated like children much too long? Maybe that’s the reason why teenagers are typically rebellious? Every fiber in their being is telling them that they need to go out into the world and gain some real life experiences to come to terms with their mission in life, but society tells them to shut up and be good little kids and stay quiet in class. We could very well be forcing kids to embrace being a child for years after they’re biologically ready to move on. Is it any wonder why so many never “grew out of it”?

Aliens, Squirrels, Conspiracy and Society.

Alright, here’s a little mental exercise in sociology.

Imagine that you turn on the news and a UFO has just landed on the White House lawn and little gray aliens walked out and said that they come in peace. Would society as we know it end on that day? Many people think it would. But why?

Anyone who makes a habit of listening to late night talk radio knows that there’s a large group of people who think that aliens from other worlds exist and that they’ve been visiting Earth for thousands of years. Many believe that the world governments know all about it but are suppressing the information to keep the public in the dark. But why would they? It is a possibility that the governments wouldn’t want the public to know about something like that because they think that people would panic. Some think of it as a vast “cover up” based in some insidious effort to control the world’s population. Others think that it’s just such a rare thing that the governments may still be in the dark. There is no end to the theories surrounding this scenario.

In western civilizations many people believe that aliens could not exist because they think it would be contradictory to Judeo-Christian theology. I fail to see why and think of such lines of thought as bordering on faithlessness. Why would belief in extraterrestrials contradict western theology? Some people say it’s so because the bible never mentions aliens… At this, I like to point out that the Bible never mentions squirrels or penguins either but we have no problem believing in those. The next logical step in the argument is to say that the Bible couldn’t possibly mention all the different types of animals but it does mention animal kind, plants, human kind, and spiritual beings and those are the only types of life that God is accredited with creating in the Bible. God created Adam and Eve, not Adam, Eve, and E.T. At this, I would like to point to the story of Adam and Eve and note that they are only said to have had two children, and when they were of age, they left and found wives… So where did the wives come from? It’s clear that Adam and Eve weren’t the “first” humans, but only the first specifically named by God. The Bible isn’t so much of a history book as it is a family tree that follows one blood line, the blood line of Jesus. Adam and Eve were the first of this blood line, but we can clearly see that there were humans created on Earth before them. If Eden was a literal place, most experts theorize that it’s location would have been around the “fertile crescent”, and all the happenings of the Bible revolve around the same geographic region on Earth, around the Middle East. In fact, we can see that God’s “favorite” place on Earth is Jerusalem. Maybe “favorite” isn’t the right word, but it’s clear that he seems to focus on the location of Jerusalem quite a bit. When he speaks about the kingdom of heaven coming to Earth, he says that Jerusalem is where it will be located. Out of every place on this Earth, he has chosen this one location to focus on. Does that mean that no other place on Earth has meaning or could be reached by the salvation of Jesus? Clearly not.

It took a long time for the message of the gospel to reach other places on Earth. Distance from Jerusalem has never been a factor of salvation. Jesus died for the salvation of Native Americans, South American tribesmen, Australian Aborigines, and Alaskan Natives just the same way he died for members of the early church half a world away. Since distance isn’t a factor, wouldn’t it make sense that people on other planets would be treated the same as those from other continents on Earth? Who’s to say that there aren’t humans like you and me on other worlds? By this line of thought, it would seem that the Christian thing to do upon meeting extraterrestrials may be to convert them.

Even the Chief Astronomer of the Vatican has made the statement that belief in aliens isn’t contradictory to belief in God because they would still be the creation of God.

Getting back to the original line of thought here, it could be true that if the government is aware of aliens, they may actually want to disclose that information. Clearly, if aliens did exist, they don’t seem to be a threat to national security since they haven’t overthrown our world and enslaved us all yet. It would seem that if they can travel the cosmos, that they would also have the ability to make their presence known to all human kind regardless of what our governments think if they wanted to. By that line of thought it would seem that the aliens don’t want to be widely known, possibly for fear of how such a shock would be to our fragile civilization and they don’t want to interfere with our Earthly way of life. Something like the “prime directive” mentioned in Star Trek. This begs the question of how aliens would view our planet. Maybe not as another rock in the galaxy to conquer or study for some scientific gain, but as a sovereign nation of intelligent beings on the far side of the Milky Way neighborhood. They probably don’t take into account the belief or will of every individual on this planet, but view us more as a democracy. They may be waiting for the “majority” of Earthlings to call for contact with anyone who may be out there before they send an invitation to us to join the galactic housing committee. There are endless possibilities for why aliens may exist, why we wouldn’t be privy to that information, and that if they do exist that it really wouldn’t change life all that much as we know it.

The main point in this mental exercise is to decide for yourself how strong (or weak) society is. More importantly, how strong is your own belief in society when faced with something only slightly outside of our collective civil norm. Society may just fall apart. But if it does or doesn’t it will be the result of the individual’s own ability or inability to hold onto their own beliefs and self-identity when faced with something “alien” to their view of civilization. In short, my example of “aliens” is just a metaphor for any form of civil unrest.

The truth is out there… And it lies within yourself.