Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day, 2016

I just couldn't let Veteran's Day pass without saying something about it.  Still, this isn't merely some obligatory "better say something nice about veterans because it's Veteran's Day" post; I got something really profound to say regarding veterans and those who serve our country.  And here it is...

I make it a point to always thank those who have served our country.

Whenever I meet someone who serves or has served our country, active or retired, I always make it a point to thank them for their service.  Some might find it silly, but then again, these brave men and women risked life and limb for us.  To paraphrase what some various wise men have said in the past, "they are those who sleep badly so that the rest of us can sleep well."  They deserve my gratitude - our gratitude - and so much more.

Happy Veteran's Day, America.

Monday, October 31, 2016

In Memoriam, Tripled: 3 Great Actors

So, I hadn't wanted to wait this long to do it, but things just got hectic for me in the past few months.  Only now, at the end of October, am I writing blog posts about what I wanted to write about all this time.  And among them is something for three great actors

...Then again, maybe it is fitting that I'm doing this on Halloween, of all holidays.  Does anyone think maybe they can see this from the great beyond?  Who knows...

And so, without further ado: IN MEMORIAM, TRIPLED

ANTON YELCHIN - The young actor who did Chekov in the few new Star Trek movies (starting with the 2009 reboot) was taken from us well before his time in a freak accident.  And although Terminator: Salvation got not-so-hot reviews for its time, I still liked his role in that as well.(And unlike the other two actors on this list, Mr. Yelchin wasn't among my childhood inspirations, especially seeing as he was somewhat younger than me... ****, I'M OLD!). RIP, Anton Yelchin.

GENE WILDER - As gifted and talented as anyone else, I know him not just from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but also various other comedies, especially those by Mel Brooks: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, etc.  I also personally grieve for him not just because he's passed on, but because I once lived in the same general area as him and missed a good chance to meet him at a public event (a Borders bookstore, back when the chain was still in business).  RIP, Gene Wilder.

KENNY BAKER - Of course he was best known as being R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies, but he did plenty of other things too.  Only recently when I was rewatching Amadeus (great movie, BTW) on Netflix did I see his name in the end credits, and then recognize him as one of the opera performers towards the end of the movie when they're performing The Magic Flute.  I wonder what else he, or any of these actors, did which I should watch in the future?  RIP, Kenny Baker.

And now I can only hope that I did this post justice.

ADDENDUM: While writing this post, I wondered and then researched how to say something like "in memoriam, tripled" in Latin, just to make it truly cool and sophisticated.  According to my Latin dictionary, the adverb ter means "thrice" so I guess it could be something like "TER IN MEMORIAM" or "IN MEMORIAM TER" (remember, word order in Latin is much more flexible, allowing for more possibilities).

Truly, this is the end of summer (for now)... and Happy Halloween!

Funny, isn't it, how time flies.  I wanted to do an end of summer post all the way back in September (last month), and now here I am on Halloween, well into autumn, posting thoughts on summer after it ended.  I'd say that Halloween is definitely a good indicator of the end of summer (well, for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, of course).

So many things I want to say and have wanted to say these few months... and now I'm getting to them.

But first and foremost... HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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?
(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!