Not-So-New Resolutions

Fall 2017 was the busiest of my life as I took on a second job (a return to swim coaching for the same team I last coached 20 years ago), as well as becoming a board member (as secretary) and an elder candidate at my church. Naturally, the first thing that suffered was my writing.

I managed to complete the sequel to my book (called Heart of the Dragon) and begin outlining the final book of the trilogy (still untitled), but my blog has gone almost untouched. Before I disappear into the haze of the coming quarter, I thought it would be good to revisit my 2017 resolutions.

As I wrote, it was the first time I’d had any resolutions in years. I met two of my three goals (my son graduated high school and I had such a good meet I wrote an article that was published). I did not find an agent, but I stopped sending out query letters while I finished book two, then did some major twiddling with book one. That leads me to my writing goals for 2018: finish rewriting my query letter and start sending it out again.

These were just goals, however. My resolutions had to do with how I live my life. My aim to practice justice of some sort (as in defending the poor, weak, and defenseless) went mostly unfulfilled beyond a bit of research and a bit of financial support to AJS. I don’t want to give up on this resolution, but I’m going to have to make a greater effort in 2018.

My other two goals were to be more kind and more humble. I really did try hard on these two goals, and hopefully I made progress. While my friends and acquaintances are far better able to testify to my success or lack thereof, I rely on how I behave when I’m driving alone. No one can hear me yell obscenities when I’m failing or see when I’m courteous. I have to pray before I leave and literally tell myself to chill while I drive. By the time I climb out of my truck, I’m either irritated or laid back, and my ability to be kind and practice humility are directly reflected by my attitude.

Did I improve in 2017? Definitely. Did I improve enough? No. Remaining chill while I drive is goal I achieve only a fraction of what I’d like. So that’s my biggest resolution for 2018. If you want to ask me at any point this year how I’m doing on my resolution, feel free. If I’m better with my time, I’ll find occasions to blog how I’m doing.


My Recent Publication

Due to a suddenly crammed schedule, I have not had much time to write lately. However, I did have an article published in the most recent Swimmer magazine about my journey to become a sprint swimmer. Since the online version requires a password to read, I’ve scanned the page and posted it here in case you’d like to read it. It was actually written last April and accepted in early May, so this might give you an idea of how long it takes just to get a ~650-word article published! Hope you enjoy!


Our Culture of Hate

For the past month, I’ve been unable to get out of my mind a column I recently read in World magazine by Andrée Seu Peterson called Being in Hate. She contrasts our well-known emotional state of “being in love” with “being in hate.” In particular, she said this:

“People who are in hate don’t know what they have lost. What they have lost is their very humanity.”

hateHer final paragraph references America’s current political state as hate-driven. I’ve thought about this quite a bit and realized it’s not just our political state, but our culture. We think of the KKK and other white supremacists as the worst of the worst, as they proved in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. However, whether it’s President Trump, the LGBT community, Evangelicals, Black Lives Matter, the NRA, college students, or the ACLU (to name just a few), most rhetoric pours out as hate speech. Usually, those speaking (and their supporters) don’t hear the hate, and sometimes even claim their words are meant in love.

Our president, with his unfiltered tweets, is possibly the worst individual offender outside of true hate groups (such as the KKK) I’ve ever seen. The snobbish attitude among our leaders in the Democrat Party towards voters who supported Trump, however, is just as wicked. Those who compare Trump to Hitler and Evangelicals to the KKK are more hate-filled than Trump himself. The same goes for those who claimed President Obama was the Antichrist and LGBT supporters are equivalent to Nazis. (For the record, I find all of these comparisons to be deplorable.)

colin_kaepernick_vet_protest_apOur reaction to the Colin Kaepernick saga is a perfect example. The venomous hatred spewed against him (and other athletes who have followed suit) is horrific. When I mention Colin’s name to those who are perfectly rational in most circumstances, spit flies and hate creases their face. On the other side, however, are his supporters who grow just as livid and irrational about his supposed blacklisting by the NFL. There’s no possible middle ground, no chance that his monetary demands are too great for his skill level. No, they demand it’s a conspiracy.

I understand both sides, because both sides have valid points. What I see, however, is a microcosm of America’s current culture of “being in hate.” There’s no rational dialogue, no allowance for the other side, no willingness to listen. It’s no longer just “my way or the highway.” It’s become “If you disagree with my viewpoint, you’re a racist bigot who hates (fill in the blank–it’s your worldview).”

Today, every side name calls. Read editorials on MSNBC or Fox News. Sure, they can make a few rational points, but most of those points–if not all–are nothing more than carefully couched insults that barely hide the disgust the writer holds for those of an opposing viewpoint. Follow that up by reading the comments to articles. Talk about hate! It doesn’t matter if the poster is right- or left-wing.  If those are too vicious for your stomach to handle, go to ESPN and read the nasty comments between fans. It doesn’t get any better.

I’m not claiming to be above this. I’ve been just as guilty in the past and I continue to fall into that trap today (especially when confronted with idiot drivers! LOL!) and probably will do so until I die. What I am trying to change is my heart. I am trying to love Republicans and Democrats (I am neither), evangelicals and atheists, the NRA and the ACLU. I’ve found that when I know someone personally from a particular group, I can no longer make the blanket claim that everyone from that crowd is wicked and heartless. If I do, I am in a state of hate. To be in a state of love–that is, love for my fellow person–I cannot succumb to the temptation to lash out at those with different worldviews. I need to listen and care.

10 Best Scenes from Lord of the Rings: #1

10 Best Scenes from Lord of the Rings: #1
Click to view video

1. Gollum’s Dual Personality Scene. This was the easiest choice for me. I thought the gollumscene was great in the movie and was amazed at how well the animators had captured both the Smeagol (good Gollum) and the Gollum (evil) sides of the villain’s character. Once the DVD came out and I got to see how motion capture was used and understood the animators were simply transforming Andy Serkis’ performance, I realized why there had been a push to nominate Mr. Serkis for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. His performance is phenomenal.

Of course, the scene is not merely a marvelous feat of motion capture/animation, but one of the most moving scenes in the entire trilogy. Smeagol’s victory over his evil persona is a satisfying triumph for the viewer, and sets up his tragic fall when Frodo fails to protect him. Without this scene, Gollum remains a pathetic, spiteful creature. With it, he becomes the empathetic villain Lord of the Rings otherwise lacks, and thus provides a far greater depth to the story.

Most interestingly, this scene–as it is written–exists only in the movie, not in the book. Tolkien certainly hinted at Gollum’s schizophrenia, but it took the writers, the animators, and especially Andy Serkis to bring it to life. This brief video shows a side-by-side clip.

For more on how Andy Serkis and Weta Digital created Gollum, watch this video.

Continue to #2

10 Best Scenes from Lord of the Rings: #2

10 Best Scenes from Lord of the Rings: #2
Click to view video

2. “I am no man!” Even as a 14-year-old boy reading Lord of the Rings the first time, Eowyn’s cry as she delivers the death blow to the Witch King eowyn.gifwas my favorite line of the series. To see it recreated so well—especially Miranda Otto’s perfect delivery—made me cheer out loud in the theater. Tolkien loved the underdog (or understood how much readers identify with the underdog) and Eowyn’s side story as the princess who wanted to be a warrior is a great compliment to the little hobbit who overthrew a seemingly invincible tyrant.

The video includes the entire scene from the Witch King mortally wounding Theoden to Merry wounding the Witch King to Aragorn killing Gothmog. It does not include Theoden’s death scene.

Continue to #1Continue to #3

10 Best Scenes From Lord of the Rings: #3

10 Best Scenes From Lord of the Rings: #3
Click to view video

rohirrim3. Theoden and Gandalf leading the Rohirrim at Helm’s Deep. The two rides, as a pincer movement, are possibly my favorite war scene ever. Gandalf and Eomer’s appearance atop the crest just as the sun rises is The Two Tower’s most iconic moment, and their charge down the hill and leaping into the orcs’ spears is glorious. Just as impressive, although often overlooked, is Theoden and Aragorn’s charge out of the citadel and down the rampart, sweeping orcs aside. After the desperation of the previous night’s hopeless battle, one cannot help but cheer as sure defeat turns into unexpected victory.

Continue to #2 Continue to #4