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Sunday, July 5, 2015

What are the right words to say? What are the right thoughts to think?

Is it my life's work to tell you how I feel?  No, but it sure takes the sting off.


Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.[b]
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.
Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked

Some issues in life hit heavy, the ball slams into your gut and you are left numb for days.

That's how I feel about working at the Duluth Reader Weekly.  Even as I take a stance 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile or a full mile away, I feel like a ton of bricks fell on me in the middle of the night and I have been left suffocating.

No amount of fairy tales and kiss ass is going to remove the harm inflicted on me.  Yes, there may be healing but none of this would have happened if people had integrity to begin with.  What I mean by integrity is being on the up and up.  Like, Jane, this is what I want from you tonight.   

But in the swarm of confusion become the hostages of lies.  I am there like a servant obedient to a master and I get the lashes but few rewards.  I am pushed to the side by the already pre established preferences.  The editor tries to expand his horizons but then he squashes those lower on the food chain.  It's not a good feeling to be dispensable.    all 4 now.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sherman Indian High School; one of two BIA run schools in the United States

Sherman Indian High School

Sherman Indian High School
(Riverside County, California)
 The Sherman Indian High School field trip was like a walk into the past, with a hope that the Native American educational school system could preserve the unique aspects of a multi tribe academic setting.  The horrors of historical implementation in the past to Native Americans by the feds was a dim reminder to what was and what could be.
 We began the trip with a lengthy lecture in a large classroom.  The school administrator told of how Indian schools were established.  Richard Henry Pratt of the U.S. Army decided to help Indian children captured in battle in establishing a school.  Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne Indians were the first to try traditional education on.  It was under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  In the early stages the Indians were expected to fully conform: they abandoned tribal clothing, religion and languages. 
 There were two initial schools at Fort Marion and St. Augustine, Florida.  In 1879, the official first Indian Boarding school was opened in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Children were not even allowed to go home during holiday recess.  They were sent  to white families to learn their traditions.  The Perris Indian School was formed in Southern California.  It was the first off site reservation school for Indians.   It was moved to Riverside in 1904.   The lot of the school was 500 acres and the purpose of the school was to be self sustaining.  From 1909-12 it was an Industrial school and taught boys many skills such as building and carpentry.  Girls were subjected to domestic fields.   The girls helped feed the students and staff with their baking class.
 The school was built for 600 students.  There was even a cemetery for those who died related to the school.  The male welding club built a beautiful wrought iron gate for the cemetery.  There was a farm and training on the farm, blacksmith classes and carpentry.  The school was self sustaining.  The boys assisted with building furniture, buildings, machinery for the school.
In 1932, the school became accredited as an education institution.  From 1946-64, a full Navajo program was implemented including life and job skills.  In 1966, the academic slate was considered to be as broad as any state of the art school.  It became accredited with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.  In 970 the school name was changed to its present name.  There is an annual Pow Wow to celebrate the longevity of the school.  In 2006, the BIA has a new separate arm called the Bureau of Indian Education.  The school continues to thrive as Native America traditional cultural practices have new found popularity and interest.  The present student population no longer have to feel ashamed of their past but join the movement to restore their cultural roots.
 My personal experience at the school is that I felt both pride and ignorance for a culture I revere.  I wrote a Native American Play that won top exposure in the entertainment industry and was opened up to Native American audiences at the American Indian Film Festival.  I felt I knew mostly everything there was to know about the modern Native American experience.  However, it has been years since I have done research and kept up with current Native American events.  I was completely unaware these schools were in existence.  When I found out people like Russell Means' sister worked there (former head of the American Indian Movement) and taught Ojibwe and Navajo, I was felt like I had come to the right place of understanding.  I felt like the government was capable of reversing their oppressive policies and being capable of doing good and giving the Indian students a remarkable opportunity.   I feel the students have an opportunity to blend with other tribes and have a once in a lifetime opportunity.  If the student can overcome the issues of loneliness, homesickness, bad influences within the City of Riverside, they can bring home to their family a valuable experience worth sharing.  The student then can learn personal growth and independence and move on toward higher education.  They may also contribute to a greater movement of restoring Native American practices and traditions within mainstream America.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Waco Siege Series in Full (first six installments) by Jane Hoffman

a fiction based drama based on the Branch Davidian ministry of David Koresh

The Waco Siege series

Jedda Diah Whitter had a Black oil-skinned scalloped band Aussie hat given to him by a foreign agent in Alaska while investigating an illegal oil rig operation.  The rich black earth mixed with moose and caribou was his dream assignment.   Jedda Diah Whitter hands were clean now but the sweat that travailed his body was mounting even though it was a mild 75 degrees with toxic humidity in September in a late mid afternoon in Waco, Texas.    He tipped his hat to the waitress as a positive affirmation that he wanted one more cup of coffee with a side of ice.  The climatic change felt like an embraced inferno and his air conditioned quarters at the Dust Bowl Inn, federally sanctioned domicile, only provided temporary relief.  Jedda Diah was sent here on special assignment.  He had to find the inside connections of the Branch Davidians and a possibility of a crime committed by them on their compound.  A former Davidian had informed the feds that there was a meth lab but it was far from the truth and it had been destroyed by “the leader” when he took over.  Two days earlier, Jedda Diah had been in the Wal-Mart aisle of hardware when a man with shoulder length dark curly hair and large wire rimmed glasses approached him, asking him if he knew if Wal-Mart carried bunson burners.  He looked like a morphed version of a Steely Dan band member but his presence gave off more confidence than angst.   He had a square tin of kerosene oil in his hand, distilled water in the other and lighter fluid tucked in his arm below the shoulder.  He was warm with a glow about him somewhat muttering to himself inbetween conversation.  Jedda Diah said, “The last time I saw a burner like that was in 10th grade chemistry lab.”  The man retreated, once looking back.  Their eyes locked for only seconds.  “Welcome to Waco,” Koresh said and then turned away.  Jedda Diah did not miss the opportunity to tip his new Aussie hat once again, a friendly gesture in these parts.  He was confused about the presumption he was a visitor.  Was it because he was not wearing a Stetson hat?  At the checkout, Beverly Parsons, wife of the local Southern Baptist Pastor, whispered “That was David Koresh.”  Jedda Diah knew her as he attended some local churches to get the general feel of tolerance of religious denominations in the area.  On a sliding scale, the Baptists even felt the Catholics were a cult with their use of idols and exalting of the Virgin Mary.  Beverly Parsons, whose eyes displayed fear and also laughter, reminded him of the attitude of all Texans.  That this land somehow belonged to “them” even though the Branch Davidians had been in the area since the 1930s.   While pondering that trip two days ago, Mr. Whitter got up in his booth and dropped a .40 cent tip on the red checkered tablecloth for one cup of coffee which included one smile from the waitress but a minor deduction for not refilling his cup of ice.   He sauntered to his car and noticed a small postal outlet with a high standing Texas flag above the U.S. flag.   Jedda Diah crossed the street and entered the small brick enclave.  Robert Rodriguez was there with a full name tag and badge of friendliness. “Do you want to open a P.O. box today?”  “No, I get my mail directly where I am staying and usually by phone call or fax.” “You new in this town?” Mr. Rodriguez asked.  “I am just a temporary businessman with just a little bit of curiosity and a little too much time.  Time enough to decide.” He left the answer open ended.  Jedda Diah ordered two pre stamped envelopes and went over to the counter to write.  He picked up a pamphlet that didn’t seem to belong to anyone.  It had an introduction followed by a paragraph signed by a man titled prophet in signature style.  “But in the beginning it was not so, in the beginning all the heavens beheld the word of God. And God, who said let there be light, manifested the power of the invisible world, the power of the unseen, the power of the prophet, the power given unto men that they might declare what is to be. We, the children of the prophets, are to know our signs. We are to know the authenticity and the power of the word of the fathers, the family of God, the children of light.”  It was slightly wrinkled and Jedda Diah brought it back to the clerk.  “Someone left this here.  Should I throw it out?”  The clerk shook his head. “Naw, we keep those there.  That’s the last one.  You can have it.”  Jedda said “This is a federal post office, you can’t leave witness tracts in a federal building.”  Robert replied “There are 3 concepts in Texas and few unmistakable laws.  God, free will and our own authority.  Yeah, we follow the laws but we subscribe to higher laws, the unseen.  Read the pamphlet and you might get the drift.”  Mr. Whitter left the store with the crumpled tract in his hand.  While opening the door, the sun glared in and he lost his temper and turned his head directly so Mr. Rodriguez could hear him.  “There ain’t no ghosts of the Alamo here.  You are a public servant of the U.S. government.  Now start acting like one.”  He walked to his rental car at the end of the second block.   He wasn’t thrilled about the unseen.  He wasn’t even sure of his assignment.  He was used to manuals not a battle of wits.  When he got back to his hotel room, he turned the cool fan on.  The phone rang.  “Special Agent Whitter.  Don’t piss off the locals.  Robert Rodriguez is the brother in law of David Koresh.”  The dial tone returned.  Maybe there were three sets of eyes watching him.  

Waco Siege Series - Part Two

The amber light of the late afternoon sun pierced the inside of the hotel room window exposing a hand print and a reminder of casual inattentiveness of the Dust Bowl Inn.  Jedda Diah was laying down and remembered he had to call the front desk about the high humming refrigerator.  He also had to call the local police department and ask for Judson Harrell, the chief, for any pending charges on Branch Davidian members.  He was prompted to track down George Roden, Koresh’s nemesis, at Big Spring State Hospital in the middle part of the state near Midland, a good four hour drive.  Roden had done gone crazy in his years exiled as an outcast of the cult.  There was also rumored to be a buried treasure trove of some sort in Palestine, Texas where Koresh hid out two years.  After freshening up and dressing, Jedda Diah slipped on his new Black jeans with 2 rivet silver studs flanking each pocket.  A wallet with a cut leash coil chain was attached to his belt.  Jedda wasn’t a man of great material desires but the idea of wearing Western style clothing suited him.  He went to the front desk to check for mail.  Cadija, the manager, gave him a wide eyed greeting: “What did the Alaskan air blow in this time?  Mmm hmm, sporting more rodeo clothes.”  A gum chewing peroxide blonde stepped to the counter from the back.  “Here’s your mail.  Oh and you have two messages, too. These preachers keep callin’ for you.  Are you having some sort of revival?”  Jedda Diah said, “No, just questions and research.”  Cadija piped in “Jimmy Swaggert once stayed here in room 14B.  He was a hit in these parts with his sullen piano playing and melancholy hymns.”  Jedda didn’t say anything, just walked away.   Cadija’s voice trailed.  “He made a name for himself.”  Jedda yelled back, “If Swaggert was so smart, why did he drive on the wrong side of the road to pick up a hooker?  That’s how he was caught.”  Jedda pondered at the paradox of it all.  Koresh fathered 20 children by simple consent, but a mainstream preacher felt he had to go to a prostitute to fulfill a taboo then never even slept with her.  Jedda Diah then looked down at the messages.  One was from a professor at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, another from local minister at the mainstream 7th Day Adventist Church.  He went back to him room to call the professor.  Jedda dialed the number, “Professor Daven Hallstrom” please.  A voice came on quivering, “This is Daven.”  “Hello, Daven this is Jedda Diah Whitter, federal agent from the Department of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco, the ATF.  Was it my superior who prompted you to call me about this offshoot 7th Day Adventist leader?”  Hallstrom confirmed, “Yes, his name was Lucas Transmoore.  He wanted me to introduce you to the conception of the Davidians, the reason they exist in that part of Texas and what their future ministry is.”  Jedda replied, “I don’t need a prophecy.  Just a strong hint of what might be comin’ round, what to expect.  I got a few leads myself.”  Daven said “Have you ever heard of the Book of Nahum?   It’s a small book in the Bible with only 4 chapters.  David Koresh believes he is Cyrus, the re-established King of Persia.  Ninevah is where the modern day Mosul, Iraq is.  It was a city that had angered God.  Koresh  also believes he is a descendent of David.  The original member of the Branch Davidians, Victor Houteff, picked Mt. Carmel, Texas in the 1930s to go along with that prophecy.  Houteff separated his members from the regular church and built Mt. Carmel in the wilderness. Now David Koresh, years later, believes he has to protect the land from an impending enemy.   Nahum 2:1 says “He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face: keep the munition, watch the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.”  Chapter 3 says  “Behold, I am against thee… and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard. And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her?”  Koresh and his followers are expecting an earthly confrontation where their symbolic glory will be manifested.  A remnant of believers mentioned in Revelations was interpreted by Houteff, the founding member, that 144,000 were to be gathered into the Rod, move to the Waco, Texas, headquartered as an assembling point-and then, from there, all would go together to Palestine where the Kingdom of David was to be recreated under the leadership of the new group. Divine providence was to open the way so that British who controlled Palestine from 1918 to 1948 would permit them to start their theocratic kingdom which, they expected, would soon be the amazement of the whole world,” Daven continued.
From its world headquarters in old Jerusalem, the Davidians believe they are surrounded and the only way to demonstrate their God given authority is resistance.”  All of sudden there was a loud, sharp knock on the door.  “UPS” was screeched from a thunderous male voice.  Jedda Diah got up, looked out the door from side to side. There was no UPS in sight, just a square box wrapped in packing tape.  He ran to the phone “I’ll call you back, Daven.”   He found a fairly rigid toe nail cutter and opened the box.  It was a map of a campground in Palestine, Texas.  A combination of twisted trails were penciled out on the map.  An X was written with a large, circled dot.  The dot was marked “Lois Roden: hidden contents.”  Jedda Diah sighed.  He picked up the phone and called his boss.  “I need some prioritizing here, Lucas.  I need to know what I am looking for.  I got Bible preachers, pending prophecies and mystery drop offs.  I just got a box with a map of some place in Palestine, Texas.”  Mr. Transmoore replied “That’s where Koresh lived for two years off the land when Lois Roden’s son drove him off Mt. Carmel.  We have to find out what went down between George and him.  Both of them had murder charges dropped abruptly after their gun barrel fight for leadership.  There might be guns, ammo or money hidden out there in Palestine.”  Jedda said, “I need a partner and back up.  I got anonymous phone calls.  I didn’t even have time to validate if I was talking to a bona fide professor or some other far-fetched religious pontificator.  I feel alone and estranged.  I don’t know which way to turn.”  Lucas relayed “Get your bearings, I am already sending you one.  Her name is Trinity Pearl.  She was born in the South and she is going to pose as a Branch Davidian recruit.  She will find her way in.  In the meantime, make plans to go to Palestine tomorrow.  She’ll have to bunk with you tonight.”  J.D. Whitter cried “Say what?” and then the call faded out.  (to be continued)

Waco Siege Series – Part Three

Stanley Mulbridge stood in the doorway of the Dust Bowl Inn without giving Jedda Diah any elbow room.  “C’mon we gotta get a move on.  From dawn to dusk, we only have limited time.”  Stanley was a man of integrity and character and also bad taste.  He had suspenders on, criss-crossed in the back tapered with red and green plaid overlaying a thick white cotton t-shirt.  His pants were fire engine red, Wranglers at that, not even a Levis man.  Jedda stared at a hopeful apparition.  “The meek shall inherit the earth, but I inherited all the strangely frocked preacha men of Southern persuasion.”  Stanley cackled “You haven’t even known me ten minutes and you somehow bust my fashion statement.   I’m here to get to the bottom of this.  I’m saving the government money.”  Jedda and Stanley were headed off to Palestine, Texas to look for some lost artifacts of the Branch Davidians and to gather some information and maybe clues on the Mag Bag business, a gun trading operation that has sustained the group financially in recent years.  Stanley was an informant in a sense.  He had been the Pastor of the 7th Day Adventist Church for 12 years in Waco and personally knew Benjamin and Lois Roden, two leading members before they joined the Davidians.  Jedda threw on a light jacket and headed out.  “I upgraded to Ford F-150.  It’s more masculine.  My new partner is going to meet us in Palestine.”   The drive was windy and the two glided over the hills of giant fields filled with wild flowers and groves of trees.  There was a cool mixture in the air that surpassed the common humidity. Reverend Stanley said “It’s time to give you a lowdown, a brief history of the 7th Day Adventists.  It’s a legalistic church that honors many of the traditions of the Jewish diet and customs from the first five books of Moses.  There wasn’t a defector from the group until this Bulgarian immigrant named Victor Houteff left the church in the 1930s.  He took 11 people with him and built on the present day grounds of the Branch Davidians in Waco.  Before him, there were some other prominent church members, namely Ellen G. White who was considered a prophetess.  She died in 1915 and was one of the founders of our church.  She’s written many books which have sold worldwide. Well, Mr. Koresh transformed 7 founding leaders of the church into defining them as 7 angels who will open the seals of  Christ in the Book of Revelation.   Don’t you think it is rather arrogant that all 7 angels came out of one denomination in the middle of America?  I mean, wow.   Of course, it is now September, 1992, and Koresh is waiting for a mitigating event that will put the 7th seal into motion.  That will be the final curtain call before Christ’s return.”  Jedda remarked “I don’t want to ask you how you know this but how do you know this?”  Mulbridge continued “I know some of the members.  They are not strangers in the community.  Some of them have held down legitimate jobs and are relatives of those inside the Waco compound.  I wouldn’t exactly call them witnesses but the word gets out.  They have copies and videos of the sermons.”  There is one more prophecy I want to mention before we get to the site.  “You know the good old Victor, the originator?   He tried to put a time stamp on this prophecy but it backfired. His wife, Florence, announced to Victor’s followers right before he died that following a period of 1260 days that Christ would initiate His kingdom that would bring on Armageddon.  Following his death, his wife Florence, who succeeded him in leadership, identified the 1260 days as extending from November 9, 1955 to April 22, 1959.  She encouraged the faithful to sell their property and come to Mount Carmel Center to wait until 1260 days passed.  It corresponded to Revelations 11 and Ezekiel 9.  800 people came. The days came and went and no major revelation took place.  When the new leader showed up, Benjamin Roden, he self proclaimed himself to be the new sign.  Koresh assigned him the prophecy of the 5th angel.” Stanley held the treasure map in his hand and pointed.  “Turn there, brother Jedda.”  Off the main road there was a gravel driveway which was not too large.   A woman was standing there with a shovel.  She had a square jaw and dark hair and could have passed for Native American or Mexican.  She had thin lips with high cheekbones and a foul stare.  Stanley raced out first.  “Hi, I am Reverend Mulbridge of the Mount Lebanon SDA church in Waco.  And your name?”   She appeared cautious: “Agent Pearl, here to help you out.”  She was brief.  Jedda sauntered over, grabbing his own shovel in the back.  “Here’s the map, Ms. Pearl.  I’m your partner.”  Without even a breath, she began “There are steps marking off 3 sets of hills that rise to the summit. There is a rail designating each set of stairs. The three ridges are 420 feet apart.  At the top of the 3rd ridge there are 7 circles that are stepping stones placed in horizontal union.  All the stepping stones are 360 degrees or the shape of the circle but each have a dividing line.  Behind each circle is an ivory angel that is carved and placed behind the circle.”   Stanley grabbed the map from Trinity Pearl.  “I need to see that map.”   He paused.  “Where are the trails?”  Pearl replied “They aren’t trails they are symbols.”  Stanley said “420 sticks out in my mind.  Do you know why?  420 x 3 = 1260, the length of the waiting period ‘til the prophecy is fulfilled.  Seven circles x 180, a half circle equal 1260.  They build these steps as a monument and it goes along with the prophecy in Revelations 11.  I know some of it by heart. ‘Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told: ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there….they will trample over the holy city for 42 months.’ 3 And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for 1260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth.” Fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes; if anyone would harm them, thus he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to cause plagues.”  Jedda said “If we start digging, are we gunna be cursed?”  Sweat was rolling down his face.   “No” Trinity pointed out “because their prophecy is false.”
The  leaves of the white ash and the blackgum trees whisped about as the 3 ascended the stairs equipped with a shovel and sackcloth.  When they got to the top, Stanley started walking over the concrete stepping stones of the circles with lines in the middle.  “This one feels softer.”  All of them were tightly sealed except one.  The ground had pushed it up.  Stanley saw an opening.  “There’s a wedge between this circle.”  It was the third sealed circle.  He pointed the tip of his shovel and started forcing it to crack.  A raven landed on one of the ivory angels.  “Stop there,” said Jedda Diah.  “I want to follow the map.”  “You are a coward,” shouted Stanley.  “We are supposed be exposing something of potential danger that won’t deface the whole community of Waco.  I sense we are on our own timetable, our own powder keg.”  Stanley pushed harder and the surface cracked, exposing the hilt of a sword that shone so bright his eyes squinted, causing him to fall back. 

The Waco Siege Series – Part Four

The sword handle had the essence of a burning flame provoking a brazen, crimson hue from the angled sun rays.  Jedda pulled it out.  You could hear something shake beneath underground.  When he pulled out the sword, it was double edged dark blue and silver with a distinctive inner blade.  It had an etching on it: Ephesians 6:17 “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The three stood there momentarily, contemplating the sunlight as it seemed to embrace yet scorn the earth.  Stanley began reciting Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  All of sudden Jedda cried out and raised his hands “What do these people want? What are we here to discover? We won’t be able to conquer these people.” Then he knelt down and wept.  The cool air had vanquished and the sun was mounting.  “Keep digging” ordered Trinity Pearl.  “With your demeanor” remarked Stanley, “you aren’t going to convince David Koresh you want to be a humble learner when you enter his temple.” She answered “I just want to stay on task.  Did you know Koresh was once up on murder charges for Lois Roden’s son?  The local law enforcement returned the weapons to them.”  David was staying out here in Palestine when he decided to bring 7 men in camouflage and take Roden’s Waco compound by force.  Here is the list of the weapons and ammo they had.”  She crept her hand into her overstuffed pocket and handed it to Jedda Diah.  He read it out loud.  “Five .223-caliber semi-automatic assault rifles, two .22-caliber rifles and two 12-gauge shotguns.”  Jedda said, “Why are you looking for this stuff?  It could have been bought and sold by now.  David was not convicted on the murder charges even though George Roden sustained two gun shots.”  Stanley said, “George later killed his roommate who he imagined was a spy that Koresh sent to harm him.  Now he is in the state looney bin.”  “Yeah, I know.  I don’t know if it would be worth it to visit him.”  Stanley had been digging and found two more silver boxes that looked like beat up tackle boxes for fishing.  They were metal but not locked.  One had a number of gun receipts in it.  One had the birthdates of all the members of the group that had joined since 1935.  There were 8 sets of skeleton keys.  And in second box, there were 2 scrolls.   Inscribed was Daniel 11:33-35. “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” Under the verse, it said, David Koresh is the chosen vessel through whom this Doctrine was revealed.  He will be rekindled with fire and overcome its wrath.  Some shall fall by the sword or by the flame in captivity after suffering for many days.”  Trinity opened the second scroll.  “These are the revelations of the church.  There will be seven angels to unlock the seals in the last days. Some have already taken place.  The first and second angel is William Miller, the father of American millennialism.  Ellen G. White became the third angel with her prophecies and books.  Victor Houteff, founder of Shepard’s Rod Seventh-day Adventists, later renamed the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists is the manifestation of the fourth angel.  Benjamin Roden, head of Branch Davidians, became the Fifth Angel.  Upon his death, Benjamin’s wife, Lois, his successor is the “Sixth Angel.”  One final angel will break the final seal….David Koresh.  David will beget 24 children who will become the 24 elders in the Book of Revelations.”  They rolled up the seals after reading them.  “This is what I was telling you about, Jedda.” Stanley uttered.  “David has arranged it so they have manifested their destiny into the Book of Revelations.  He has taken on the messianic role of the lamb mentioned in the final book and named his predecessors of his congregation as instruments to the final days…..he believes he was part of a pre existing creation that God breathed his consciousness into when God first revealed himself to the Jews in Genesis.  Then he supplanted the symbolic lamb as a separate entity attached to himself apart from Christ.  He put himself above Adam whom he described as a material creation and defined himself as an angelic spiritual creation in which God would allow the 7th Apocalyptic seal to be opened.”   Jedda retorted, “The prophecy is the prophecy.  They aren’t toting or pointing guns at law enforcement now.  We issued a search warrant to the Davidian compound recently in Waco to examine their weapons inventory to see if all the gun sales are legal.  That is all we have done.  We should get going now.   Hold onto those gun receipts, Trinity.”  Trinity’s car wouldn’t start so all three of them piled into the Ford F-150.   Trinity began, stating. “I didn’t know you issued a warrant.  How am I going to go in there now as a possible member?”  Stanley said, “They take in people from all over the world including Britain and Australia.  You won’t draw suspicion.”  “I have a confession to make,” Trinity stated.  “I met David once in my childhood at a Bible camp.  It was like a summer camp.  He was around age 14.  He had at least 5 books of the Bible memorized.”  Jedda jerked back a little.  “What if he remembers you?  With a memory like that, he probably doesn’t forget much.”  “My hair is different now.  She stroked it down in the truck, gazing at the sunset.   “That’s why I chose this federal mission.  To see what could really come from it.”   Stanley invoked, “Explain.”  “Some things are more powerful than the government or earthly authority.  Do you think you can really get to the center of David’s heart and mind?  These Branch Davidians have been around since the 1930s.  It’s best to leave them alone.  Time will tell if they are a threat.”  Jedda argued, “They are practicing polygamy, they are not a bona fide tax free exempt church.  I believe they are causing more harm than good.”  Stanley pulled the sun visor down and a piece of parchment paper fell out, burned at the edges.  Stanley grabbed and opened it.  He read it out loud.  “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue .. and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on earth.”  Rev. 5:9-10.  “Who put this here?”  No one answered and the truck moved with the gale of the wind.  Jedda thought.  “I didn’t like the looks of the car rental person who upgraded this truck.”  Stanley said, “I don’t remember seeing it here this morning….who would have put this here?”  

Waco Siege Series – Part Five

Trinity carried the Sears battery up the hill the next day to put in her car.  Stanley Mulbridge was waiting at the bottom of the hill with his Buick Park Avenue running, circa 1988.  She was trying to shoe him away because she still had the 8 skeleton keys with her and she had seen a keyhole in the back of each angel on top of the hill above the 7 seven circles yonder.  She wanted to try the keys out without anyone around.  Stanley would be escorting her to the Branch Davidian compound later and she was very excited.  She was of Creole descent, her ancestors were from France and she was raised primarily in Louisiana.  Her great grandma was exiled from France as a prisoner to marry men in the overpopulated Southern terrain of the U.S. which was common in that day.  She came from mixed blood in the root of Southern tolerance where those of mixed blood were exalted not outcast.  Trinity remembered the days of that Southern Baptist upbringing in the Louisiana parish and that one close encounter with David Koresh who was once named Vernon Howell.  She remembered his eyes, his face, his awkward teen demeanor that was transformed when holy words uttered from his lips.  His eyes shone, his face was flushed and fixated on a world beyond that camp.  Trinity plunked the battery down and took the wrench to remove the old one.  She put the old one in the trunk and the new one was fastened properly.  She stirred the engine.  Bingo!  She hailed Stanley below “Meet me at 3 p.m. 1 mile off the Highway 84 where it meets 31…near the curve by the walnut tree.”  Jedda was off trying to find who planted the parched paper in the truck and would get back to them later.   Once she had tidied up her hands, she went into her bag and pulled out the old rusty keys.  She skipped every other step to the top and mounted the hill to look on the backs of the angels.  Four had long, flowing hair and two had delicate curls arranged around their head.  One looked asexual and the hair was flattened down.  Maybe this was the angel Gabriel she thought in her mind.  Gabriel was an angel in the Bible who stretched from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  He visited Daniel in his visions and Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father.  He told Mary she would deliver a child.  Muhammad of the 6th Century also claimed him as a divine intercessor. The substance of the angels were a heavy, metal alloy formed from copper or silver.  She wondered if the Branch ordered or made them.  With a complex as big as the one in Waco, they may have had some sort of shop.   She placed her hand on the metal and the warm sun penetrated her fingers.  She picked a key off the ring and placed in the key hole on the back of the plain angel that bore no special features.  It did not work.  She tried another key that looked more common.  She turned slowly and a barely indistinguishable square opened out of the back of so called Gabriel, perhaps, the angel of deliverance?  More papers, no gold.   There was a list of significant dates with no description.  The next significant date was October 6, 1992.  That was less than two weeks off.  She knew the Davidians celebrated Jewish feasts and holidays.  Maybe it was Yom Kippur?  She thought.  Anything she thought of now was in relation to what she could do or say when she got to the compound in a few hours.  She was on a journey of discovery not just of potential crimes but the power of David Koresh and his influence over ordinary human beings who were drawn into his world.   She felt she had the charisma to match him in looks, charm and knowledge.  But did women hold such a low position that it would not matter?  If she wanted to leave, would she be able to?  She closed the back of the angel and locked it and heard footsteps through the dust and wind.  A man with sterling eyes, a goatee like beard and a mustache coupled with a high brimmed 10 gallon cowboy hat came into her sight.  He was heavy set and tall.   He planted his feet firmly on top of the stairs.  “No trespassers allowed.  Who are you?” he syncopated.  Trinity stepped back.  “I’m an investigator….of truth.”  “Who are you?” she replied.  “I’m George Roden, do you know who I am?”  “Yes, in a sense I do.  Are you supposed to be here?”  “Why wouldn’t  I?” he said.  “Well, neither one of us has authority to be here so we best be on our way. I would like to talk to you but now is not the time.”  He nodded and spoke.  “I’m on a day pass.  My momma is buried here.”  Trinity was still stupefied and a little scared considering George Roden had killed a man and almost two.  “Here’s my number, I will call you when I have time.”  She sped down the steps with the list of dates now in her pocket and the keys concealed.
A few hours later, she met Stanley by the bend.   She had an overnight bag that purposely was a little beat up looking and not designer quality.  She had four pairs of pants and four t-shirts, four pairs of underwear and 3 bras.  She hid her walkie talkie but put her Bible on top. Stanley gave her solid instructions for the compound. “Wear white or neutral colors, don’t bring attention to yourself, appear engaged in the material.  Don’t make sarcastic remarks while he’s preaching.  Hopefully, Mr. Koresh won’t approach you for sex unless he thinks you are planning to stay.  Tell him you are on a personal quest and not ready for sex.”   She scampered up the driveway.  She wore a solid black t shirt tucked into her waist with white pants and Reebok tennis shoes.  Nikes would have been too flashy.  When she got to the door,  a man answered.   She stammered.  “I wrote a letter awhile back.  I have come to the Center to learn about God and the ways of your religion.”  The man said calmly  “Wait at the door.”   She stood there in the hot sun while she saw two children playing in a field with no adult supervision.  He came back shortly.  “Come in.”  She followed down the hall.   “The study hour has already begun, it’s right down this way by the fellowship hall.”  She had nowhere to set her bag but she managed to hit record on the mini tape cassette recorder inside her pocket.   She turned right and the room was of soothing yellow walls and there were seats like temporary risers at a football game.  She sat in the third row.  David glanced at her through his well trained eye, diverting for only a moment as to not lose his audience.  Other people craned their heads to look on.   He continued “Ezekiel 2:1-5: And he said to me, “Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak with you. When he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.  ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels, who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.  The people are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them; and you shall say to them,’ ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there has been a prophet among them.”  He closed the book.  He locked eyes with her and she swooned, feeling goose bumps on every inch of her body.  Instantly, she felt drawn to him

Waco Siege Series – Part Six

The goose bumps really began the moment Trinity stepped her foot onto the earthen clay floor of Mount Carmel Center built in 1957.  A shrouded mindset of belief-driven purpose designed to exalt one man,  not the impending Messiah. Land had been parceled off and it was now down to 77 acres.  It was crowded but a gaelic tempo of women and children were present, designed to serve one master.  Was it room to grow or to retreat into the hidden hills of Waco disguised as Palestine or the new temple mount for the self-identified sacred?  What transition did David think would take place in this God forsaken cactus studded state? The gulf did not lie between her voluntary surrender and the door.  It lay between the minds she communed with and her intention to disrupt it.  She did not fear the master.  She engaged with him on her terms, in her spiritual language with her contextual undertone to get to the root of the issue to find out his aim.  He walked up to her after the lecture and laid his finger over her scar that covered her inner forearm to the crease near her elbow.  “Where did you get that?”  he asked.  “It was a rite of passage” she stated but did not elaborate.  “Mount Carmel does not have a full open door policy, I sense you are searching and came to the right place.” Koresh said.  “We are a body of believers.” “I know that.  I am from the Ephesus 7th Day Adventist Church in New Orleans. I heard about your ministry and wanted to see what it was about.  I’m actually Lois Roden’s niece.”  She threw that in there as some sort of birthright but knew she might be busted for her lie.  “We don’t allow window shoppers.  You either choose to join the group in full or disperse quietly.”  He didn’t seem to wince at the idea that she was related to one of the Davidian nobility.  “I need a room to stay in tonight.”  Koresh hesitated.  “Evan will show you” and he cupped his hands while motioning his fingers and Evan came.  She crawled up a small tower to the third floor where there was a little room that resembled an attic.  There was a small, twin bed with white paint on the wooden frame.  A saggy mattress crouched in the middle of the frame.  The floor was creaky.  The room looked fragile and unsettling.  She reached in her bag and felt the bottom.  The eight skeleton keys were still on a ring and the gun receipts were still in a back pocket of jeans she forgot to wash.  What if David or someone would find them?  She gasped.  She lay in her bed a brief period.  She decided to walk around the compound.  There were long hallways with children running.  There were women making dinner in mini kitchen areas.  She gazed upon the layout of the place and found three closets that could use some inspecting.  Two were in main areas and one was off near the end of one hall and it looked unlocked.  She put her hand on the knob and she felt a presence behind her who spoke.  “I hate to do this to you but we have another guest coming after dinner and he will have to sleep in your room on the floor.  We have a foam bed for him.”  She winced and then said, “I am looking for a broom for the bedroom.  The floor could use sweeping.”  Evan swiftly opened the closet.  When he did, she saw 6 or 7 rifles locked in against the back of the closet.  He grabbed a broom for her, leaving it open.  Trinity was starting to feel down about the enormous prospects of calling a preacher on his own shit, one who thought he was the messenger of the divine.  She could sneak around and look for things or challenge a preacher on his own message with hopes of deflating him.  Dinner was at six followed by evening Bible study.  She helped cleared the dishes with Esther and sat next to her.  She put her gun receipts in her front pocket and had slid her bag under her bed.  She listened in a fidgety fashion to the Bible study.  Koresh was going on about the Jewish lineage of David and the chosen race held out for greater glory.  She raised her hand with wrought and commanded a verse from memory.  “In Acts 18 it says that Paul attempted to convert the Jews who were of Jesus’ lineage but they rejected him.  This opened the door to the Gentiles receiving the faith.  After Paul testified to the Jews and Greeks that Jesus was the Christ, the savior, they opposed him.  In verse 6 it says ‘Paul shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood will be upon your own heads; I am clean: henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.’  He condemned those who would not accept Christ with his own mouth and with their own blood.”  There was silence and shock  “In other words, Christ wanted to broaden the fellowship of believers not isolate them into a chosen elect. Isaiah says that the outcasts of Israel will be gathered with the sons of the strangers and serve him.  You need to increase the fold, not single it out.”  One of the deacons jumped in:“It’s time for healing and prayer.”  People began to walk up.  Their heads were anointed with holy water and they were prayed over silently.  Trinity was about to get up and walk towards the back when she saw a figure of man bent over walking slowly to the altar call.  He held a Black oil skinned cowboy hat upon his chest and he reached the front.  He appeared solemn.  He was waiting for a special anointment.  From his lips he burst out “Praise be to God who give us life and freedom from sin, liberates us from the oppression of men.”  People were rustling in conversation about the man.  He turned his head.  It was Jedda Diah, here to assist her.  They started towards each other.  Evan came between them.  “This is the man I told you about.”  He turned his head to him.  “Your name again?”  “Paul Silas.”  Trinity acted like she had never met him.  “Paul, let me show you to your room.”  They rushed upstairs to the tiny bedroom.  She sat on the bed.  “What was that about?  Shouting in the middle of the service?”  Jedda whispered under his breath.  “There are four federal agents outside.  I am sorry I didn’t have time to warn you.  We are going to raid the building tonight.”  “Why?  We are already on the inside.” she exclaimed.  “Leon said gun sales have gone up and the list of dates you got was examined.  Koresh refused to accept the search warrant on the guns and told them they would not cooperate.  The reason he let us in here is because he knows we are bait.  But he thinks we are his bait.”  Trinity sighed.  When she sighed, they was a knock on the door.  She shouted “Only gentiles here.”  She walked to the door.  David Koresh was in the doorway with a gun.  “Get out, get out now. You have trespassed on our property.”  (finale on janessaconquers.blogspot.com)  finale has yet to be written....

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Allegory of the Cave

The Republic by Plato - Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Modern Man’s Perception

In a world void of forms and limited materialism, self-awareness and enlightenment may be easier to achieve. In Plato’s “allegory of the cave,” true belief is like a moving statue that can change forms through elevated perception. The allegory of the cave is an eternal conflict of appearance versus reality.  It sets out to find the nature of truth to define the ultimate state of man’s existence. In the game of shadows where mirages of forms appear across our media and television, modern man has cultivated these forms tailored to his own desire and longing-ness.  When Plato imagined his allegory of the cave on the basis of being visually and mentally chained, he strove for a higher interpretation of existence that would create an idealized society.
The Republic begins with Socrates explaining his claim that the just man is the happy man. Socrates argues that in order to have a happy and good life, man must first have an idea of the ends of human existence.  Plato clung to an ideology in which he groped for a transcendent, supreme being who authored the idea of perfect forms that could translate common forms or objects into a divine realm of being, where they could exist at their highest perfection. However, Plato was discriminatory and believed that only few were capable of drawing this knowledge outside of their selves. He believed that knowledge was innate—it existed within and had to be cultured and refined through perception. There were three states: being, becoming, and non-being. The existence of being was eternal or fixed.  The essence of becoming was a non-static state of changing particles in which forms participated in the nature of existence to provide some type of quality or value.  What divided man’s perceptions or striving toward a better purpose or existence?  It was simply his ability to conceive and perceive.
In the allegory of the cave, there is a group of people chained to a structure. They cannot move their head or limbs and are forced to stare at a wall.  Behind them is a well-lit, continuous fire and a catwalk that objects move across. These objects can be animals or man-made things like vases or swords. Plato doesn’t define the regulation of these objects.  He only notes that the people chained to the floor can only see the shadows created by the fire behind them as these objects move across the catwalk. The chained individuals start believing that the shadows are the actual forms, that the objects do not exist in material form. People begin naming these objects.  If they hear echoes from outside the cave, they may attribute sounds to particular objects. 
There are also stairs leading outside the cave, where one comes into the light of the sun. In Plato’s world, the sun is the perpetuation of enlightenment.  The closer to the sun one becomes, the closer to the truth. The sun provides light but is not the light.  The sun is the cause of sight itself.  Man must will himself out of the cave by expanding his innate knowledge to conceive of more perfect forms. It is not necessarily contingent on a material world of objects but can include ideas like justice, ethics, and civil matters.
Is it in fact possible that all of our knowledge comes from within?  St. Augustine believed in divine illumination, in which God imparts certain key knowledge to man. We live in a world now of standardized, text-driven education where thoughts and ideas are organized in a constructed formula, issued within a relative time frame of periodic intervals in which a student digests material and then regurgitates it.  Plato lived in an age prior to the recognition of holy books like the Talmud or Bible.  His conceptions were based on his own observations. Like many cultures around the world, he could conceive of a higher being who ordered and shaped the universe, but he did not ascribe it to a certain named deity. 
I find that Plato’s flaw even in his allegory is that he perceives that man starts out chained with sketchy knowledge. Some people are born content and digest the world around them in a literal or abstract way but are not at odds with their environment.   Nowadays, people construct their world not through distorted perceptions of discourse but by linear modules of television and social media through the tool of a sun-like source known as the internet.  We define our beauty, our ambition, our careers through shared values that are exalted. In the U.S., the development of a career and the ultimate contributions to society we make are measured through our self-perceived gifts or ability to master certain subjects in school.  We can also develop a sense of being by things we are drawn to, such as likes.
Plato’s inevitable distinction was that higher forms such as justice, ethics, and the organization of society could only be envisioned by a polished philosopher king who weighed these matters through discourse.  As the sun is in the visible realm, the form of good is in the intelligible realm. It is “what gives truth to the things known and the power to know to the knower.” Whatever knowledge we attain of the Forms must be seen through the mind’s eye, while ideas derived from the concrete world of flux are ultimately unsatisfactory and uncertain. Plato maintains that degree of skepticism that denies all permanent authority to the evidence of sense. In essence, Plato suggests that justice, truth, equality, beauty, and many other things ultimately derive from the Form of the Good.  However, in the modern world, people’s perception of beauty and value, such as whom they love, is individualized.  Congress continually has disputes over social value aiming at individual preferences of what government should provide or approve.
Thrasymachus argued that the unjust man demonstrates his superior intelligence in appearing to be just. Thrasymachus attempts to demonstrate that this type of individual always gets his way through the affronted appearance of justice. If man is smart enough to duplicate justice, he can deceive and put on false airs, according to Thrasymachus.
In conclusion, there is, as Plato says, a part of the world that lives in self-sustaining ignorance.  In my perception, it is people who are chained to their own desires who cannot sacrifice for their own survival or for the common good.  Yet there is no law or restriction in America for serving one’s own desires, as long as it is within the law.   Plato left a permanent mark through his ability to imagine a higher existence and social entity, yet it is only through individual trial and error that we can gain wisdom.  We live in an age when many of our physical needs are met, which may stymie urges of exploration to wander and discover.  The definitive is everywhere and an imposition to place value on our lives.  The struggle to interpret our higher thoughts as we are exposed to them or find them is within our realm.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dawson Creek's Series

Dawson’s Creek, television breakthrough

What is the fate of Joey Potter’s human condition?  A teenage girl whose mother died when she was 13 years old, a father in prison and a sister who bore a child from an interracial relationship which interferes with her reputation of being a top honor student?  In 1998, it was a poignant question that possibly translated into the fate of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.   How  Dawson’s Creek became more than a formula of composite high school teenage actors that somehow reached their complete vision of success by the time they graduated from high school was separated by its own defined message of conflict that cut much deeper than a layered version of common American ideals and dreams.  It was probably best represented by the contrasted, dark character of Jen Lindley who comes to Capeside, Massachusetts from New York City as a product of self-indulged parents who shipped her to her grandmother’s as a way to blame her for reckless behavior.  Jen has a certain air of maturity and is the only non-virgin teenager of the small town among her close circle of new friends.  She is also in verbal warfare with Grams who is a stalwart Christian.  When Jen’s grandfather dies of a long term illness, Grams and Jen come to an unspoken agreement to tolerate each other’s religious views.  Later on in Season 1, Jen’s equally outrageous friend, Abby Morgan, dies by falling off the pier drunk and Jen challenges the entire congregation at the funeral to the theory of a just God.   Dawson Leery is the anchor of the show in the sense that he is idealistic and unique, unwavering in his devotion to movie making and true to the path of conscious expression of the film noir.  The beacon of his conceptual idol worship is Steven Spielberg who personifies the magic of technique and the possibility of the unknown.  As Series 1 unfolds, all the cast are only sophomores in high school, embarking from the shape shift transition of puberty to maturity.  Dawson’s parents and his powerful vision for his life is the heart of the series.  It’s the motherless Joey Potter played by Katie Holmes who crawls up the ladder to Dawson’s room every night to watch movies ranging from Jimmy Stewart to Cameron Crowe Films to Jurassic Park.  Eventually, she finds herself portrayed as a projected figure in one of Dawson’s larger than life homemade film versions.   The first season, they are all exploring their “firsts.”  Jen reveals to Dawson she is not a virgin, she has tried drugs but clings to the idea of a high school romance minus the Joey best friend triangle.  Pacey Whitter, Dawson’s best friend, is reckless in the same anti status quo way.  He is the son of a local sheriff who drinks too much and has given his child the permanent scar of low self-esteem with his perpetual digs into what he thinks will never happen in Pacey’s life.  That, coupled with Pacey’s brother who also went into law enforcement and is the type of brother who constantly shows up where he is not wanted making wrong assumptions about his behavior.  Dawson is the only one with decent role models for parents.  Jen Lindley’s grandma does become a rock to the teens around her and later takes in one of Jen’s friends who is estranged from his father.
One overt, common complaint which can easily be seen by a private observation is the fact that the teenagers’ scripted language is a bit cerebral and unrealistic in the normal scope of people of that age.   Their intensity and proclivity for self-analysis and reflection is similar to a Freudian mop up of Cinderella mirror like imagery.  Joey and Dawson are constantly self-examining their dual relationship of friend vs. lovers and where it has taken them.  In one scene, Joey tells Dawson, her lifelong best friend, “We are here every night. We watch a movie, preferably a Spielberg film, find an appropriate life correlation and then pat ourselves on the back for our cleverness.  Our perception is dead on but our honesty is severely lacking.”  She is referring to the fact that they are frozen in their equal admiration for each other without wanting to risk the next step in the relationship.  Eventually, they do hook up and take that plunging kiss which follows about a two week whirlwind romance only to fall apart because Joey must find herself, realizing Dawson is her whole life and only security blanket.  So she takes up painting and impulsively falls for the restaurant hand at her sister’s business.  It turns out he is gay but doesn’t fully know it.  Hence, the first ever introduced gay person into a prime time teenager television series which was in Season Two around 1999.   Jack McPhee, the gay teen football star becomes the measuring stick and sampler for how America will respond to a gay, male high school athlete.  In Season Two, Jack struggles in several episodes with his business minded father who entirely rejects the idea that Jack is even remotely on the right track to finding his identity.  Jack’s father must also cope with his wife’s mental illness following the sudden death of their eldest son.    His sister has a reactive detachment disorder to the death of her brother and imagines her dead brother’s presence with her conscience.  She eventually goes on medication and in-house treatment.  She recovers and is accepted to Harvard later on.
The element of separation is the dialogue that delivers every time to the complex social and personal situations each character must face.  Dawson says to Pacey one night: “I can’t wrap my head around this film noir stuff and turn out a paper on it.”  Pacey replies, “What we are watching tonight is the cinema of cynicism.  No self-respecting son of Spielberg would feel comfortable in a morally ambiguous world populated with hard boiled anti-heroes and duplicitous femme fatales.”  Pacey continues to say in self-observation, “I am the walking, talking embodiment of the fallible protagonist.”  Another clear observation of the intellectually transcendent high school kid who two seasons later cannot even graduate because of his lack of focus.  In the end, nobody can really figure out themselves and they decide to band together after finishing high school.  Jen and Jack attend Boston University.  Grams sells the Capeside house and establishes an apartment of Jack and Jen.  Joey attends Worthington College, partially with a large sum of money Dawson inherited from A.I. Brooks, a famous Hollywood director who gave up his career due to heartbreak from a woman and moved back to his hometown of Capeside.  Dawson gets accepted into USC Film School only to find himself disillusioned with Hollywood and it’s phoniness.  While visiting Joey one weekend in October in Boston, he doesn’t even find the strength to return to L.A.  He has a major blowout with his father who ends up dying in the next episode.  Each turn the top four actors take between three year of high school and the beginning of college is thought out and well planned.  They learn not to take each other for granted and learn to carve away the cynicism and replace it with mutual love, reassurance and bonding to each other.  Joey’s sister and her brother in law build a bed and breakfast after their restaurant is burned down.  Jen reclaims her innocence of childhood she lost in New York with friendships that last and no one expecting anything worth losing from her.  Dawson still lumbers in between the Hollywood dream and the reality of his mother with a new baby later in life and no husband because he died in a car crash.  It is a teenage drama worth preserving in the television archives by a set of actors who could grow into their perception of themselves and take the bite of chance and risk and embody an audience that make them profound and unforgettable.  They pulled it off with such cool-ness, words like duplicitous just rolled off their tongue.

I might be leaving the Reader Weekly shortly for another writing position.  I am archiving some of my articles on my blog.

Review of Winona Ryder in "The Letter" with James Franco, too by me, yours truly

Winona needs no apologies: Review of the “The Letter” (2012)

In the back corner of City Lights Bookstore, Winona is probably chewing up on the poet of the decade in a dark red beret, with the ghost of Bukowski by her side.  She breathes into your soul, “Fan or not, I don’t need your approval.”  Seam-lined in all her semi-decade artsy film reviews is a certain pitiful thought: whatever happened to wonderful Winona?
Winona has made some good films in the last few years, including playing the nemesis of Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” and the wife in “Iceman.”  She doesn’t care about living up to her teenage glory.  I recently watched a Lionsgate film on Netflix called “The Letter.” Winona plays a distraught playwright trying to re-work her script in a kind of human-like lab of experimental actors.  Her re-writes overshadow the paranoia she develops, especially when her male lead, who is her boyfriend Raymond (Josh Hamilton), seems to favor Anita, played by actress Marin Ireland.
This is the kind of film where you have to second-guess which scenes are fantasy and which are reality.  It appears as though Raymond is her rock, the boyfriend she can depend on, as the scenes progress.  As the movie develops, Winona’s character, Martine, spirals into fantasy scenes that are dark and compelling.  She sees a pirouette doll with no eyes that captures her onstage. She lies under a tree with shimmering leaves while a character played by James Franco kisses her on the cheek and plays with her loyalty.  There are a lot of poetic pauses in the film to fill the lens of the audience, the interpretation of the design.
The basis of the movie is deception.  The more she tries to analyze the movements of her actors while they utter the lines she wrote, the more she questions their sincerity.  She starts imagining her boyfriend falling for Anita.  It seems like a case of insecurity or paranoia, until her fantasies and delusions get more exacerbated.  She runs into a college friend in a coffee house.  That night, she dreams the friend got killed in a car accident right after they conversed at the coffee house.  The police come to interview her the next morning.  They play audio found at her friend’s in which she was arguing with a boyfriend.  The scene is so real that it jars her whole consciousness.  But the next thing the audience learns is that it was part of her imagination.
The movie becomes frustrating at certain points because one does not know where it is going.  The playwright writes a play.  She changes the story with re-writes based on her paranoia and observation of actors in rehearsal.  She weaves her greatest fears into the lines, including sexual innuendos between characters.  There is no ending.  A character in the play toys with the women.  James Franco makes a sexual advance to an actress named Elizabeth played by Dagmara Domincyzk.  He fingers her to full-blown climax in an office while they are waiting for Martine to come back.  She basically says “Thanks for the affection” like it was an electronic Hallmark greeting.
James Franco’s character, Tyrone, is supposed to be the antagonist in the film.  He is successful in the play never getting off the ground to performance, but the director of “The Letter,” Jay Anania, never fully defines in his script what Tyrone is after.  It seems Tyrone wants to break up Raymond and Martine.  He almost seduces Martine at the end of the film.  A blogger named Bruce in a fan letter to Winona writes, “You must’ve been insane to sign on for this maddeningly abstruse drama, underwritten and underdirected by Jay Anania, head of the directing program at NYU’s graduate film school.”  Anania had James Franco as a NYU student.  Many reviews undercut Anania’s capability as a director and also accuse him of using his pet students to his advantage.
At the end of the film, we find that Winona had been involuntarily subjected to some digested drug from South America that causes delusional brain hallucinations and alters her mind.  It appears that Tyrone gave it to Raymond and she somehow ingested it airborne.  It is kind of an anti-climactic ending to a slow-moving, action-lacking film.  For psychological thrill-seekers and Winona forever fans, it is a must see, if only to solve what the damn 94-minute encounter is about.  Forty percent of the film is Winona twiddling her hair with penetrating eyes observing the actors onstage as she continues to re-write their movements and words.  Twenty percent of the film is dreamscapes and hallucinations with no definitive outcome.  James Franco gets girls but not “the girl.”  It appears that Raymond ends up with Anita.  Winona is just Winona, creating more mystery and alluding to the fact that you will never know her, onscreen or off.   Still, you must keep trying.

Monday, June 22, 2015

reprinted poem about Steven, my brother, from June 19, 2009


The Knife

The knife is for those who cause me strife
my arm the landscape of your bites
that led me down this fateful flight
of angst and pain and fear
The edge of blood that took me down
was constant pilgrimage to your crown
you are first blood unglorified who makes the rounds
with your teeth of desire
and distinguishable frown
you make the knife go in and bleed
with savage thirst
to deny my needs
you with few words
erase mercy
you are the reservoir of my grief
you are the submissive Satan sheep
Dont look around
no one in town
to vaildate your middle ground
you are forgotten in boggy land
just north of the heart of where we grew apart
you are the one who brought mom to tears
you are the one who killed by thrills
so matter of fact with foolish pride
and your insolent wife who crucifies
your children of wrath
your inner scorn
your unrelenting chance to be reborn
your unforgiveness
your clenched fist
your death by steel
that I plan to dismiss
your fateful turn and lack of decision
your art of avoidance
and block headed precision
your false smile
your history
has made its claim
on my own longevity.