Archive | April 2013

The Importance Of Evil

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I’ve noticed something recently.

I was thinking about a lot of ideas I’ve had over the past few years, and about a lot of media that has come out in that time.

Now, this is nothing new, but most stories recently have been skewing towards a very dark, edgy tone.

I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past as well. It’s something writers do to lend a feeling of depth to a project. It’s a complete hoax in many cases, but it’s still used a lot.

I’m not sure where this stereotype came from, but it is generally accepted that lighthearted, colorful stories are for children, and darker, gritty stories are for adults.

It’s not that this isn’t true. It is. It just isn’t true in all cases.

The problem is when stories go for a really edgy feel to them for the sole purpose of appealing to an older audience, or making the story seem more “adult”.

That, however, is not in fact the thing I noticed recently; I just thought some context was in order.

What I noticed was how important evil is in a narrative.

You see, I love discussing things I watch and read with my friends; it makes for very interesting conversation a lot of the time. What my friends would often do (and would sometimes spark debate on my part) is dance around a particular point that’s basically always the same: “I didn’t watch X show because it has Y in it.” Fill that in with what you will; didn’t watch Breaking Bad because it had drugs in it; didn’t watch The Wire because it was full of racism and violence; I’m sure you get the picture.

I was reminded of a time back in 2001 when a much younger Brendon was at his piano teacher’s house for a weekly lesson. We were talking about how our respective weeks had been, and I mentioned how I had loved seeing the first Lord of the Rings movie, which had just come out.

“Oh,” said my piano teacher. “I walked out of it with my family when the wizard’s duel happened. Too much magic and witchcraft in that movie.”

I was taken aback. She had missed everything past that point? The journey past Rivendell and that incredible ending sequence with Boromir, and all the wonderful, touching, and tense moments in between? I could certainly understand someone being unsettled by or objecting to witchcraft as a concept; but as a plot device to push forward an incredible story with an amazing message that has lasted and enthralled people for decades, finally realized on screen?

No matter my level of understanding on why she did what she did, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed at it.

And that sentiment has not changed over the years.

It is my firm belief that objectionable content, when used correctly, only adds to a movie. This clearly varies from film to film, and depends entirely on what the film is trying to achieve or the message it is trying to send. The themes that permeate it.

To have a truly moving ending, the character must pass through trials. The severity of those trials will determine how grand the climax and payoff is.

The easiest example I can give is The Pilgrim’s Progress, a story of a journey from The City of Destruction to The Celestial City. All thinly-veiled allegorical meanings aside, if this was simply a guy walking from one city to another, it would be both boring and lacking in anything that brings fulfillment to the journey. But luckily, it isn’t just walking. He has to pass through places such as the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the city of Vanity, and The River of Death; all of which obviously sound like places you wouldn’t even want to go near (though it would be sort of badass to be able to say, “yeah, I live next to the RIVER OF DEATH”). The point being, he went through many trials, faced many dangers, and lost friends along the way. And the ending is more meaningful because of it.

I think it would be best to let Samwise Gamgee sum all this up:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something.”

So I urge you today, if you are someone who has shied away from something simply because it contained an element you didn’t like, please reconsider.

Going back to the two examples I gave earlier, if I hadn’t given The Wire a shot because of all the objectionable material it contained (which is a lot), I wouldn’t have gotten to experience a very real, down-to-earth show that moved me and gave me new perspectives. It really has some incredible and touching moments.

And for everyone who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad simply because “it’s about drugs”… well, I just have to get this off my chest: you are flat-out incorrect. That show is about the characters that inhabit it. And those people are some of the best written characters I have ever seen grace the screen. Ever.

The darker the tunnel, the brighter the light at the end will seem.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “fully realizes the title of this post was totally incendiary” Regier

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The Wonderful Midnight Walks

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I find I get all my best writing done between the hours of one and four in the morning.

My “best writing” being writing which flows most naturally from the confusing recesses of my brain to the page, feeling the most inspired and making correct use of my diction without sounding horribly pretentious.

And I suppose I should clarify:

I am not an insomniac.

For a long time I called myself one, but insomnia is an inability to fall or stay asleep. I sleep fine, most nights. The issue for me is that I hate the daytime.

I feel so exhausted and lethargic during the day. It requires quite a bit of effort to do anything.

Once about ten’o’clock or so hits, however… that’s a different story.

The atmosphere is absolutely wonderful at night. If I go on a walk, I usually wait until it’s dark out. Maybe it’s the lack of people, of car noises, of disturbance in general. The knowledge that most others will be asleep means I may tread uninhibited through the streets, Coconut (my adorable dog) pulling on the leash a little as she scampers about, carefully avoiding patches of snow at all costs.

And yes, there is still a lot of snow where I live. Even though it’s almost May.

I think the fact that I know I won’t be disturbed while I write at night or walk outside is comforting. I’m just a person who enjoys the cool evening breeze, the moon and stars glowing softly above, beautiful shadows dancing across the pathway, encapsulated in solitude. It’s magic. Pure, natural magic.

Now then, on to other news:

I have finally got another short story on the go, which I am most excited about, and yet also apprehensive over.

I always feel like I’m cheating when I write short stories; as though I should probably be concentrating on my novel, but I suppose short fiction is helpful to build up my skills.

I once heard that you should concentrate on one or the other, novels or short fiction, as starting out in short fiction doesn’t always lead to a novel. This makes sense to me, but honestly, I’m not sure where my strength lies writing-wise. I suppose I’ll stick to both for now, and just see how my abilities develop.

Regardless of what I prove to be good at, my dream is still to see a novel published one day.

I gave up too many dreams from my childhood. I realized I probably couldn’t make it in the movie business, I’ll never be good at drawing or sketching, I’m not a particularly good actor, and I’ll never have superpowers.

I’m sticking to this one!

Keep an eye on those bookshelves, because one day my novel will help adorn them!

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “is trying to shorten his posts so he doesn’t ramble so much” Regier

Intent Is Everything

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Alas, sloth has taken hold of me once more!

Today is a day I feel like doing absolutely nothing at all. Just lazing about and watching movies. I’m sure every person on the planet has days like this, but I regret to say that I feel it far too often for my own liking.

I also feel quite hungry. If I had some cash in hand and was next to a burger joint, without hesitation I would stuff myself full of delicious food.

I feel very “seven-deadly-sins-ish” today, I suppose.

Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Envy, Wrath.

Honestly, the only one of those I can attest to NOT feeling that much recently is greed. But then again, it’s hard to be greedy when you are at a point of having very little to begin with.

Not that I’m saying I’m a particularly bad person. Everyone, if being honest with themselves, would find that they tend to feel many of these seven deadly sins every single day, to some extent or another.

I’ve always found it so fascinating that in Christianity, one is punished not just for one’s actions, but one’s malicious feelings. Something I’ve always tended to agree with.

I have a motto, one I used to use a lot: “Intent is everything”.

Allow me to explain.

Imagine these situations:

A person (let’s call him “John”) is very angry at another person (we’ll call him “Jack”) and comes after him with a knife. John realizes before doing anything harmful, however, that he is clearly going too far, and stops.

Alright, situation two:

John is angry at Jack, and comes after him with a knife. In the heat of passion, John stabs Jack to death.

If I was to ask, “in which of these scenarios is John guilty”, you would probably answer “both” because you knew it was a loaded question, you smarty-pants. BUT the answer I was driving you towards was “the second situation”.
Clearly, if both these situations were to play out, the second situation would be one where John was sentenced “guilty” for murder, because he did, in fact, kill someone; whereas in the first situation he would probably be innocent of murder, only guilty of assault or some such crime. Obviously, the prison sentence for murder is a lot longer than one for a simple assault. In fact, if Jack wasn’t hurt in the first scenario, then I have doubts it would even make it to court. One threat is a little flimsy to send someone to jail for, considering you cannot know whether this person would actually have gone through with what they were threatening to do.

This is where I applied my statement “intent is everything”.

Regardless of what actually happened, in both scenarios John came after Jack with the intent to kill him. He wanted Jack to feel pain because of something Jack had done. This intention, when you boil it down, was the cause of the murder that happened in the second situation. John’s action was merely a result of his intent. Therefore, should he not be held accountable for that, instead of his actions?

Cause and Effect.

John’s anger and intent was the cause, and (in the second scenario) the effect was murder. So, to sum up, he was in fact guilty in both situations because even though he did not physically commit murder in the first scenario, he still wanted to. If you throw a lit match towards a pool of gasoline, and someone swats it away in mid-air, no one would deny that you tried to light it, even though it didn’t actually happen. The same principle applies here.

One more thing I should mention about this “intent is everything” statement:

You’ll notice I didn’t mention what it was that made John so angry he came after Jack with a knife. I could have said “Jack was having an affair with John’s wife” or “Jack had just stolen several thousand dollars from John” or even “Jack had just brutally assaulted John, beating him and breaking several bones”. But that would have given John a rationalization for murder. Let us say that that last example was the thing that made John angry. Jack had brutally beat John. Most people, upon reading that, would have considered the stabbing “fair payback”. An eye for an eye, as it were. Hell, you could even argue in a court that it was “self-defense” to stab Jack.

But the reason John is angry isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that he is angry. He wanted to murder Jack, and THAT was the wrong part. Not that Jack didn’t deserve it. But John was no person to deal out death and punishment.

Most of us (me included) want a reason for John to be excused for his anger and murderous intent because, well, let’s be honest, we ALL feel like that at some point. But that doesn’t mean all of us are innocent.

It means we are all guilty.

Rationalizing anger is easy.

Dealing with guilt is the hard part.

Not that I think we should change the judicial system or anything as extreme as that. It is near impossible for us as humans to uncover someone’s intentions. Until we gain the ability to read minds, I’m afraid we are stuck with the rule of law based almost entirely on action.

And so, I come back again to the seven deadly sins. It doesn’t really matter whether you are religious or not, I think all of us can agree that nothing good can really come from any of those seven feelings.

Yes, we humans can be ugly creatures at times.

Just remember, the seeds of every crime are planted in the mind, not the body. All we can hope to do is attempt to understand one another. I firmly believe that if we just tried to gain some perspective on why other people felt the way they did we’d all be better off, and we would get less caught up in the heat of passion that leads to things like murder.

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “feels like he’s preaching too much” Regier

P.S. The painting I used for this post is called “The Seven Deadly Sins And The Four Last Things”, by Hieronymus Bosch. I can’t say I know all that much about art, but I do enjoy it, and this painting was of particular interest to this post.

Returning Home

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I have returned home.

By that, I do not mean the blog. When I say “home” I am referring to the metaphorical house of writing; the one thing I have lacked in the past few months, and the one thing I desperately need to get back to.

Writing, once left alone for a while, has a very strong allure to it. You can attempt to stay away, but it will always draw one back to itself.

So there it is. I’m home.

It’s a comfortable, familiar home.

When I first looked back on this site after my several months abroad, I was surprised to find most my old posts and reread them. Often I have wondered if people change over periods of time. Before I would have said no, that people are immutable. They can pretend to change, but they never really do.

Now?

Well, now I’d say that I was right before, but that I was also lacking perspective. Our experiences shape us, and through that, we become new versions of ourselves. When I said that people don’t change, I referred to deep-rooted mannerisms and character quirks. The little bits of ourselves that make us who we are. What I didn’t realize before was that once we gain new perspectives on things, we change in our grander outlook and become wiser.

So how have I changed?

Honestly, I’m not really sure how to begin to describe it. Over the past eight months, I’ve haven’t been doing anything amazing. Nothing most would consider noteworthy, anyway. I spend an incredible amount of time simply thinking about things far beyond my natural ability to comprehend. I tell you truly, it gives one headaches.

“Why are we here?”

“What is the purpose of life?”

“Is there really a God?”

Such is a sampling of my cognitive process of late. And I think about these sorts of things ALL the time. I’m in the middle of looking for a job, so a lot of my day ends up being looking through job listings, watching movies and TV shows, and gaming. I walk my dog a lot, and striding through the slush of melting snow, my mind tends to stray a lot. That, combined with the aforementioned watching of media and gaming, tends to merit me a lot of thinking time. Perhaps too much.

Let it be said that thinking too much leads to over-thinking and over-analyzing things, and over-thinking is the bane of many a good soul!

I suppose I could have tried to put down some of those thoughts on this blog. But when pressed, I just couldn’t think of what to say. I created this blog to post my musings and I have generally failed at that in recent times.

So then.

Now that I am at least declaring myself back, my plan for going forward is this:

1. Get a job (I feel very lazy every day I don’t have one, and let’s face it, money helps things.)
2. Write on this blog at least once a week (I used to do once a day, and burnt myself out faster than… um… something that moves really fast. Let’s not try that again for a bit!)
3. Plan some reviews (I have been thinking it’d be interesting to try my hand at video reviews of some movie I saw and enjoyed, or some TV show I like. So if this takes off, I’ll toss it on my youtube channel and link it here)
4. WRITE (This is the important one. I really, really need to write more!)

And there you have it.

I should probably clarify that by “write” I mean my novel, but I would like to get some more short fiction done as well. It’s fun to write a short story, and it gives me good practice.

Well anyway, if anyone on this website still remembers who on Earth I am, I have returned! Sound the trumpets and send the heralds forth across the land!

…actually, just a cake would be fine. Even a cupcake. A chocolate one. With some icing and sprinkles.

I just realized I’m starving; time to procure food!

Less-than-eloquently yours,
Brendon “Prodigal Son” Regier