Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"There's Always a Flag Flying at Half-Mast"

So, I've been working on this poem for a few months now, especially after seeing the craziness in the world of the last few years (especially last year in 2015, with the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernerdino, among other things).  We might now be into the second month of the new year, but this might be just as good a time as ever.

And so, without further ado, I gave you my latest poem...

"There's Always a Flag Flying at Half-Mast"
by Seth Shirer

There's always a flag flying at half-mast,
hanging limply up there on the flagpole,
because of some tragedy now since past,
And now our hearts each bear an empty hole.

What bad thing happened somewhere this time?
What horrific scenes will be in the news?
Go hear the rushing vehicles and klaxons,
emergency response teams, rescue crews.

No one seems safe wherever they should be,
not even the children placed in their schools.
The evil ones seek infamous glory,
While bystanders look, act and feel like fools.

Some crazy people do these wicked deeds
in the name of some worshiped foul being-
gods, demons, or merely voices in their heads-
which only they're capable of seeing.

Some bitter person has an ax to grind,
bearing grievances towards all the world,
and so the innocent people are hurt,
and from the aggressor's hand, pain is hurled.

The talking heads all across the media,
The politicians up on their hill...
If none of those folks will do anything
meaningful, then who among us will?

Everyone, hear the dying and injured!
Everyone, see the spilled and spreading blood!
Everyone, stop this advancing foul tide,
Or else you'll all drown in the deadly flood!

Until everyone becomes serious,
to sound reason everyone will appeal,
these awful disasters will never cease,
and none of us will ever truly heal.

(Thank you for reading.)

Friday, February 5, 2016

My reaction to "Look Who's Back" by Timur Vermes

So, just recently I read an audacious novel... Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes (translated from German into English by Jamie Bulloch).  The synopsis is this: Somehow, Adolf Hitler (yes, him) finds himself transported from April 1945 to August 2011, and he has not aged a day.  As he's trying to reestablish his place in the world and convince others that it's really him and he's serious, everyone else tries to laugh at him because they all think that he's some talented comedian who refuses to give up the act.  And then he becomes an online celebrity...

This audacious novel is also quite darkly amusing.  After all, who dares get into the head of one of the worst tyrants and mass murderers of all time and tries to be serious about it?  Apparently, the book's author and whoever else translated it into whatever other language, that's who.  If it was a gamble, it paid off for them, because not only is the book a bestseller, it was also recently adapted into a film.

And yet... at the same time, even as the reader laughs at Hitler getting the Rip Van Winkle treatment, the book also serves as a cautionary warning about the dangers of worship and adoration, especially in the Digital Age with the Internet and everything.  It could be far too easy for Hitler (or someone like him) to harness those tools to perpetuate evil.  Let this particular lesson be remembered.

This blog post of mine here isn't a proper book review, so much as it's just a reaction and a collection of thoughts on the matter.  One of the novel's stronger and more amusing points is how Hitler himself tries to adjust to the modern world.  True, anyone who could be instantly transported from 1945 to 2011 could be baffled and intrigued by stuff like personal computers and mobile telephones and even the Internet which increasingly connects everything, but leave it to Hitler himself to put his own racist "Aryan supremacy" and "German superiority" slants on everything.  For example, he assumes that "Vikipedia" is a nod to the Vikings (and, by extension, the Germans themselves), and he mistakenly credits Siemens (a famous German company) for inventing the smartphone simply because they manufactured the model which he owns.  And while I'm mentioning that, do you want to guess what his chosen ringtone is?  Go ahead, guess.  Once you find out, you'll know you should have thought of it right away.

And if either Mister Bulloch or Herr Vermes reads this little post of mine, I also have a list of questions, if that's quite alright...

  • What would this novel's version of Adolf Hitler have thought of his name being synonymous with evil and being used as an insult?
  • What would he have thought of the Nazis being used as an inspiration and a template for all kinds of fictional evil factions, such as the Galactic Empire from Star Wars or the Death Eaters from Harry Potter?  For that matter, what would he have thought about their respective villains, Palpatine and Voldemort, being modeled after himself?
  • What would he have thought about the Nazis being an easy-to-pick, go-to villain for just about everything else, such as in the Indiana Jones movies?
  • What would he have thought about video games such as the Wolfenstein series or films such as Inglourious Basterds, where the savage joy of killing countless Nazis seems to take precedence over everything else, even the storytelling?
  • What would he have thought about that novel The Boys from Berlin and its film adaptation, with its plot about trying to clone him and bring him back that way?
  • What would he have thought about video games in general?  Evil time-waster, or brilliant simulation device?
  • What would he have thought about all the movies about him and his role in the Second World War, especially that movie Downfall and that infamous tirade scene which was endlessly parodied?
  • What would he have thought of that infamous first contact scene in the movie Contact where the aliens send back his speech at the Olympic Games of 1936?
  • What would he have thought about the other former Axis powers, such as Japan and Italy, and their new roles in the modern world, such as Japan's export of manga and anime?  (Personally, I wonder what he would have thought of Naruto and how its titular protagonist has blond hair and blue eyes himself.  Now there's a scary thought...)
  • What would he have thought about the modern state of Israel and its being a homeland for the Jewish people?
  • What would he think about the nuclear situation with Iran, or that country in general?  (And also worth noting is how his ideas about Aryans come from Iran; note the similarity between the two words.)
  • What would he have thought about his seeming modern popularity in the Islamic world?  (Hey, I'm just pointing out how his book Mein Kampf has become a dubious bestseller there, as well as the Muslim protesters with signs like "GOD BLESS HITLER."  I'm not making any of that up, those things really have happened.)
  • What would have thought about Muslim immigration into Europe - not just the Turks in Germany (which he observed almost immediately in the novel even before he realized he had been thrown into the future), but in every other European country as well?
  • What would he have thought about international reaction to the Holocaust?
  • What would he have thought about the Holocaust denial movement?
  • What would he have thought about swastikas being banned in Germany, as well as in several places around the world, because of their usage by the Third Reich?
  • What would he have thought about all the neo-Nazi groups out there, especially those safely ensconced in the United States of America? (Something tells me that he would have been greatly amused by how America's own First Amendment is what protects their right to do that in the first place.)
  • What would he have thought about all the Nazis who fled to places like South America and how they were content to simply live out the rest of their lives in hiding?
  • What would he have thought about some Nazis, such as Adolf Eichmann, being captured, put on trial, and imprisoned and/or executed?
  • What would he think about American's tendency to compare their enemies to Hitler and the Nazis in attempts to vilify and de-legitimize them, especially in political debates?
  • What would he have thought about Donald Trump and his presidential campaign?  (Sorry, I just couldn't resist putting that in here...)
(Wow, I really had quite a lot to say there...)

Anyway, that's all I have to say for now.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

So I finally saw "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"...

I don't know if I will make it a habit of putting out reviews of stuff I see, but it just had to be said...

Two days ago (December 29, 2015), I finally saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens... not only that, I ended up seeing it twice!  (Long story, but basically, first I saw it on my own at the local theater because it was relatively dull at 10 AM, and then my friend had already gotten IMAX 3D tickets for another theater in another city, so I went along for that too.)

And my final opinion?  AWESOME!

My further thoughts on the matter... WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Well, for starters, let's get the bantha out of the room here: There was a lot of concern as to how the franchise's new owners would be able to pull it off, and luckily, they did.  Disney has been doing an excellent job with handling the Marvel cinematic universe, so there's no reason they couldn't do the same with Star Wars.  (And between this and the last Avengers movie, it seems that 2015 was quite the profitable year for them.)

So, as for the breakdown of the movie itself...

PLOT: It was a solid plot, a good intro to what will now be the "Sequel Trilogy"... the Galactic Empire has been replaced by the First Order, and now they're the new troublemakers.  Otherwise, it was solid and action-packed.  A little additional backstory about the new villains (namely Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke) would have been nice, but I guess that will be saved for what comes next.  And speaking of the characters...

CAST: One way or another, all six of the original heroes (Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2) returned to the big screen, but the new characters (Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, etc... sorry if I missed anyone there) also make quite an impression.  The new heroes are rather endearing, and the new villains are rather intriguing.

MUSIC: John Williams didn't just rehash all of the old music from the previous movies, but he did leave a few familiar cues and themes in there.  Nice new music, although I wish there had been something really strong and epic, like Darth Vader's Theme or Duel of the Fates.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: One thing which I noticed in this movie was all the callbacks to the original classic trilogy, Episodes IV, V and VI.  Ranging from scrounging for junk on a desert planet to destroying a planet-sized superweapon via flying down a trench and/or flying inside to shoot it up, this did quite a lot of that.  Quite a lot of this sense like "been there, done that."  But I'm not particularly annoyed; if anything, I think it was quite clever, because Star Wars is about the Force which guides people's destinies.  And as a certain saying goes: History doesn't repeat, but it often rhymes.)

Oh, and be wary of significant character death.

...I was going to say more, but now I forgot what.  Oh well.

So, it's not a perfect movie, but still a great first attempt by the new owners of the franchise.  Between the first attempt and my few complaints (excessive callbacks, lack of exciting new music, characters being a tad overpowered)... I give it an 8/10.  Looking forward to Episodes VIII and IX now!

May the Force be with you!

Monday, December 21, 2015

HOORAY! 3 years since the 2012 Apocalypse!

Maybe I should do my part to make this a new winter solstice tradition: celebrate a much-anticipated apocalypse or doomsday which never happened.

Happy 3rd Anniversary of the 2012 Apocalypse, everyone!

-Seth Shirer (a.k.a. StellarStylus)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

'Twas the night before the new Star Wars movie...

So, I just can't let this historic event go by without proper commentary...

I remember, well over a year ago, when we got a two-fold surprise: not only had Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars, but now a new sequel trilogy was in the works.

People started having their doubts at first, but as time went on, things looked more and more promising.  And now, with the critics' reviews coming out, it looks like they just might have pulled it off.

...I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm glad Disney and all those involved managed to do it right and make something great.  Soon enough, everyone (including yours truly) will be able to find out for themselves.  (One of my mottoes in life: "If you're going to do something, then do it right.")

And yes, I did make this blog post with its title playing on the classic poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," because why the heck not?  It's not like I made the decision to release the new film so close to Christmas...  But since I did that anyway, I might as well write a like ditty for the occasion...

"'Twas the Night Before the New Star Wars Movie"
by Seth Shirer

'Twas the night before the new Star Wars movie, and all 'round the world,
everyone got ready as the theaters' red carpets unfurled.

For countless many, Real Life concerns were forsaken,
As they all wanted to see when the Force would "awaken."

It's finally here, ready to go, this brand-new "Episode Seven,"
And for the die-hard fans, this ought to be like Heaven.

It's the usual fare, with plenty of humans, aliens and droids,
and some space battles too, maybe even a few asteroids!

A franchise forty years old but still going strong,
No one wanted to see this new movie go wrong.

Never before had one of these films been released in December,
And this was a big event which they all wanted to remember.

Undoubtedly many parents will take the kids to see this flick,
To keep them busy as their young wait for gifts from St. Nick.

...Now the author wants to stop this poem before it gets lousy,
Especially before it wears on and he gets too drowsy.

Still, a final message for the fans who stay good and true:
Enjoy the movie, and may the Force be with you!

Monday, September 28, 2015

A haiku for the blood moon

Well, the blood moon came and went, and we won't see another like it for another 30 years or so, and it was a wonderful event, to be sure.  But since I'm also on a roll with the haiku at the moment, it occurred to me to write something for the occasion...

Blood moon in night sky-
Wait another thirty years,
Always great to see.

As always, feedback is welcome.