Oh, Great Spirit

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others.
Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – Myself.
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame
“.

Great Spirit Prayer
By Yellow Hawk, Sioux Chief

I’ve been a bit all over the place this week and, ultimately, have felt a big need to anchor and centre myself somehow. To put my energy and focus where they really belong.

I was reminded of the beautiful prayer above. It’s a personal favourite.

I don’t think a person has to be religious to pray, or even to necessarily believe in God or a “Great Spirit”, though I sort of do myself.

Saying a prayer can sometimes be just a way of accessing our own spirit, and focusing our own intentions. A way of asking the highest part of ourselves – the least purely self-interested and most honourable person within us – to be the driver in our lives and call the shots.

Drinking from the poisoned well

There was once a wise king who ruled over a vast city. He was feared for his might and loved for his wisdom. Now in the heart of the city, there was a well whose waters were pure and crystalline from which the king and all the inhabitants drank. When all were asleep, an enemy entered the city and poured seven drops of a strange liquid into the well. And he said that henceforth all who drink this water shall become mad.

All the people drank of the water, but not the king. And the people began to say, “The king is mad and has lost his reason. Look how strangely he behaves. We cannot be ruled by a madman, so he must be dethroned.”

The king grew very fearful, for his subjects were preparing to rise against him. So one evening, he ordered a golden goblet to be filled from the well, and he drank deeply. The next day, there was great rejoicing among the people, for their beloved king had finally regained his reason“.

–Author Unknown

This story is told in a scene from the film Serpico (directed by Sidney Lumet and released in 1973) between the title character (played by Al Pacino) and his girlfriend Laurie (Barbara Eda-Young).

Serpico covers twelve years (from 1960 until June 15th 1972) in the life of NYPD officer Frank Serpico. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same title by Peter Maas and is about an extremely diligent police officer who discovers a hidden world of illicit activities among his own colleagues – witnessing cops doing drugs, committing violence, taking paybacks and other forms of police corruption. He decides to blow the whistle on the rot within, but doing do so leads to him being harassed and threatened, suffering great personal hardship and even enduring life-threatening situations. After being shot in the face during a drug bust on February 3, 1971, Frank Serpico eventually testified before the Knapp Commission, a government inquiry into police corruption between 1970 and 1972.

The fact is that going against the grain is never the easiest choice.

And voicing the unpopular can often make us terribly unpopular as well.

But sometimes the very things people are least willing to see and hear are the very things they most need to be told and have their attention drawn to.

Remember that Galileo was thrown in prison about 500 years ago for trying to tell everyone that the world wasn’t flat.

And until relatively recent times some people had the legal right to keep other human beings as slaves.

And doctors once used to advertise cigarettes.


“More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other Cigarette”

So even if you can’t beat ’em, don’t ever be tempted to join ’em.

Be strong and be brave, and refuse your drink from the poison well.

The lonely voices of reason and sanity can take a while to make themselves heard, but without them the world would stay unhealthy, unfair and incorrect.

People come into your life for a reason

A friend of mine posted the following incredible poem on Facebook today. It’s by an unknown author and I couldn’t find out much about it, except that it’s included in a short film on Youtube called “People come into your life for a reason” (included at the end of the post).

People come into your path for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you know which one it is, you will know what to do with that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a dificulty…

To provide you with guidance and support…

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually…

They may seem like they are a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die…

Sometimes they walk away…

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand….

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled…

Their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has now been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON.

Because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons.

Things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life…

Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime

~ unknown author

Fantastic Conspiracy Theories

No doubt you knew that the moon landing was faked.

And that the Roswell alien landing was covered up.

And that the CIA killed JFK.

And that the lottery is rigged

But did you also know that a race of beings called “Agarthians” live deep below us in the centre of the Earth? Apparently, they were first discovered in 1947 after an expedition to the North Pole by Admiral Byrd. (Sounds like 1947 was a big year between this and Roswell!). Byrd was in the U.S. Navy when he made two flights into the hollow earth, which has only two openings – one at the North pole and one at the South pole. The U.S. Navy, of course, are keeping all this information Top Secret.

And you know what else? Shapeshifting reptilian aliens are really running the planet and controlling everything. – the government, the media you name it. David Icke should know – he used to be a reporter for the BBC! Okay, he was a sports reporter, but who cares…He knows the truth about the “Reptilians” (or “Reptoids”, or “Reptiloids” or “Draconians”…guess they’re still struggling the naming process), an alien race which colonised Earth long ago which includes everyone from George W. Bush to the British Royal family. (And you thought “V” was just a television series!)

“The scariest and most powerful thing about conspiracy theories is they can’t be disproven, because any evidence that contradicts a conspiracy theory can be immediately dismissed as a plant of the conspiracy itself, created and disseminated specifically to disprove it. That’s what’s so clever about Fantastic Fest selection “The Conspiracy“. writes Matt Singer of Criticwrire (in a piece called “Fantastic Fest Review” 26th September, 2012).

The Conspiracy is a faux documentary which uses found footage and was written and directed by Christopher MacBride.

The film follows two doc filmmakers who decide their subject will be a man who’s made a name for himself by yelling protests in the streets of Toronto. This man explains that we’re all sheep (think real life Matrix), and slaves to a government attempting to become one powerful entity. The tales that are spun come directly out of conspiracy forums and are essential in integrating a level of believability to this intriguing mockumentary. When the old man goes missing, the filmmakers piece together his office full of newspaper clippings – which leads them down the rabbit hole of “truth.”

… what makes The Conspiracy so compelling is that it’s based on real conspiracy theories. Everything that’s suggested in the film is something I’ve known or read about, which makes the mockumentary that much more believable and even more thrilling.
according to Mr Disgusting at the Bloody Disgusting.com (“Chilling ‘The Conspiracy’ Brings Found Footage Thrills!” 23rd September, 2012)

Some people simply do not like the discomfort that a conspiracy theory creates. But for others, conspiracy theories are intriguing. They like to explore all of the possibilities that a conspiracy theory presents, in the same way that they like to explore puzzles or mystery novels. Sometimes a conspiracy theory is ridiculous and learning about it is a form of entertainment. Or you may find that the theory is credible and it makes you think. It’s interesting to consider the theory, weigh the evidence and come up with a conclusion“. Marshall Brain, “How Conspiracy Theories Work“. (How Stuff Works.com)

Personally, I struggle to believe that the world is being run by shapeshifting reptiles… but maybe that’s because their minion helpers – the microscopic carnivorous slug aliens – have hijacked my brain and I can no longer even trust my very own thought processes! Because they control them…telling me what to write at this very moment!!

Whatever. They’ve managed to be a bit more productive at this whole blogging thing than I have recently. Maybe I should leave them to it.

Not faking it

Ever watched something and gotten the feeling that somebody was trying to cheat in some drama?

Trying to cover up a weak plot with gaping holes with a gratuitous ton of fight or battle scenes? Or car chases? Or sex scenes? Or explosions? Or over the top plot twists?

Desperately hoping nobody would notice just how boring the story actually was?

Ironically, watching the truly magnificent series “Breaking Bad” has gotten me thinking about this. About how much poor storytelling I have settled for as a viewer in the past, because I didn’t think I could do any better.

You know what it’s like. Things start out with so much promise.

You start watching an exciting new TV series and get thoroughly hooked. Just falling in love with it.

And then the “inevitable” decline in quality begins.

Things get stale as it wears on.

After a while you know the magic is gone, but you find it hard to let go. Hoping that things can somehow be good again.

And then the abuse starts.

The plot just becomes more and more ridiculous, overblown and insulting until you finally have no choice but to preserve your own sanity and stop watching.

I get the feeling that “Breaking Bad” is a series that will never treat its audience that way.

I’m just about to commence watching the 4th season of “Breaking Bad”. (I know – I’m way behind the rest of the planet. Story of my life. Nevermind…)

And what never ceases to amaze me if how consistently strong the writing still is.

Not only do the character and relationship arcs never lose their momentum and dramatic build, but every moment of every scene in every part of the plot is brilliantly motivated.

And the plot twists – especially the big dramatic moments – are genuinely surprising. (Understatement. I never see them coming. And I’m usually one of those unbearable people who can usually pick the big plot surprise about 3 minutes into the story. I’m loving this!)

(Sigh) If only all drama could be this good…


Breaking Bad Trailer (Season One)

Prophets of Science Fiction

The science fiction genre in storytelling provides an excellent vehicle for social philosophy and social commentary, often taking an aspect of contemporary society and projecting it into an extreme vision of the future to make a point about it.

The world in which it is set, or its “social stage”, is therefore one of the most important features of science fiction. And the technology within that world is equally important, as science fiction is often, fundamentally, a comment on technology.

Prophets of Science Fiction” is a documentary television series produced and hosted by Ridley Scott for the Science channel.

SBS aired the series earlier this year and their overview of the series states

“Each episode of this series examines and celebrates the life, ideas, convictions, philosophies and genius of eight legends of the science fiction realm. These are pillars of the genre, representing the most ground-breaking conceptual viewpoints of their eras. Notable for some of today’s greatest sci-fi concepts, these writers and their works continue to inspire the minds of young and old around the world.”

(I thought that was a really excellent description of it, so I lazily stole it instead of working on one of my own!)

The eight chosen visionaries the series examines and celebrates are

Mary Shelley who started writing “Frankenstein” as a teenager, in 1816.

Philip K. Dick who was both a literary genius and a paranoid outcast. His work inspired the films “BladeRunner“, “Total Recall” and “Minority Report“.

H.G. Wells who wrote stories like “The Time Machine“, and “War of the Worlds“, and famously wrote his own epitaph – “I told you so…”

Arthur C. Clarke who co-wrote the script for the “2001” with Stanley Kubrick, the pair having based it on a short story by Clarke called “The Sentinal” (although he was quoted as saying that comparing “The Sentinal” with “2001” was like comparing “an acorn to the resulting oak-tree”).

Isaac Asimov who wrote “I, Robot“, and hoped for a better future where we had nothing to fear from technology.

Jules Verne who pioneered the science fiction genre, writing about space, air, and underwater travels before practical means of had been devised. He is best known for “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea“, “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Around the World in Eighty Days“.

Robert Heinlein who is “a walking contradiction. His stories address themes of patriotism and duty, while stressing the importance of personal freedom and expression”. The theme “What is freedom?” permeates his work, which includes “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Starship Troopers“.

George Lucas who gave us the epic space mythology of Star Wars and the concept of “the used future”, and changed the way movies are made altogether.

Critics of the series have deemed it to be “light on the substance and heavy on the exaggeration“. And, at times, I agree with that statement. (Especially with respect to the final episode, number 8 on George Lucas).

That said, it is still a fascinating, thought provoking and very worthwhile series to take a look at in my humble opinion.

The Stuff of Nightmares

According to Douglas Winter, in his 1982 anthology Prime Evil “Horror is not a genre, like a mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion”.

Stephen King once said “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones”.

Perhaps fictional horror provides us with a relatively safe space to inhabit the fear (without the genuine threat) of real horror.

The horror genre essentially revolves around the questions of “What is human?” versus “What is inhuman?”

I heard screenwriting guru John Truby give a talk about genre a number of years ago in London. His view was that horror generally comes from something inhuman trying to act like a human being. The monster is the hero’s greatest fear made physical.

And the best horror stories often tend to involve a “flip” of what is human and what is inhuman, so that somewhere in the story the monster becomes the hero and the hero becomes the monster to fully mine the idea. (For example, Frankenstein).

Horror is also a very metaphorical form and horror archetypes stem from different fears.

Werewolves and vampires stem from the “fear of the animal” – the fear of animal passion and the loss of control. (This genre is all the more popular in a repressive world. Could that, perhaps, have some connection to that fact that a devout Mormon ended up writing a best selling vampire book series?).

A scene from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)

Zombies, on the other hand, represent a “fear of the machine” horror – a fear of the loss of identity and individuality.

A scene from the “Resident Evil” computer game

These archetypes never really seem to go away, but rather undergo periodic reinvention and surges in popularity according to the relevant societal context.

For me the best horror film ever made is “Jaws“, the story of a giant man-eating shark which terrorises a (fictional) summer resort town called Amity, in New England. I first watched it on video (back in the dark ages, obviously), as a twelve year old, one Saturday afternoon.

It scared the living crap out of me, but I still thought afterwards that it was probably the best film I had ever seen.

When Jaws came out in 1975 it scared the living crap out of a lot of other people as well, and was a massive hit. It also cemented the idea in public consciousness of sharks as monsters lurking in the ocean, waiting to devour us – an idea that is still taking much effort to change.

The film taps into a strong preexisting primal fear – the horrifying fear of a very real animal which has the power to shred a human body or swallow them whole. Even with the knowledge that shark attacks are incredibly rare, and much less commonly fatal, the nature of a shark attack can provoke a lot of fear in most of us.

One thing Jaws exploits very well is the fear of the unknown, or the unseen. Often what we imagine can be more terrifying than what we see and director Steven Spielberg tapped into this fear by denying his audience any clear visual of the shark – especially not in its entirety – until late in the film. The use of music (that iconic theme by John Williams whenever the shark is around) and objects being moved by the shark through the water (e.g barrels that Clint, Hooper and Brody attach to hunt/kill it in the second half of the film) are used instead to let the audience know that the shark is lurking and present.

In part, this could be an example of what Sidney Lumet meant when he said “For any director with a little lucidity, masterpieces are films that come to you by accident”.


A short film about the infamously problematic mechanical shark in Jaws, called “The Shark that Didn’t Work”.

A highly unreliable mechanical shark – which was often out of action, and already forcing the film well over budget – made it necessary to shoot in ways where the shark in the story was only hinted at.

Years later, Spielberg remarked, “The shark not working was a godsend. It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen“.

Another gift the mechanical shark’s perpetual failure gave to the film was time and focus invested into strong naturalistic performances. As Spielberg put it “The more fake the shark looked in the water, the more my anxiety told me to heighten the naturalism of the performances.”

Clint’s famous speech about the SS Indianapolis in a scene from Jaws.

Often in horror films the characters and relationships are highly reduced because the hero/es spend/s so much time running away from or fighting against the monster.

One of the things that truly sets Jaws apart from most other horror films is the naturalistic responses and moments of touching believable humanity in its characters.

Brody’s famous “You’re going to need a bigger boat” moment in a scene from Jaws.

In my opinion this is still a film, especially a horror film , that comes closer to answering the question of “What is human?” than many others.

As Peter Biskind wrote in ‘Between the Teeth’ in Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media No. 9 (1975) “Jaws flatters us by holding out the promise that such triumph over unspeakable terror is within the reach of us all”.