Saturday, July 9, 2011
I had a feeling it would come to this. Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to announce the end of The Room of Shattered Glass. I have a full-time job and a novel to edit. Plus my family. Something had to give. If you want to see some more foolish writing, see the official site for The Kingdom Trilogy.
I may begin to write this again in the future. That part I leave to God. For now, here’s one final guest post from Colin Kelly, offering some thoughts on the recent Casey Anthony madness. He’s a real breath of fresh air after all the hype.
“Hi, my name is Colin J. Kelly, and I’m obviously guest-posting here. I cannot promise to be as humorous as the previous guest-poster, so I’ll attempt not to be.
I’d like to talk about Justice. I’m not a law student; I’m an ordinary Joe who knows little, and just has some thoughts. See, there’s something that happened recently that I’ve discussed with numerous people, read articles on, seen news reports and talk shows comment on. It keeps bringing me back to Justice.
That thing was the trial of Casey Anthony.
You see, I grew up the son of a criminal defense attorney, and I’d hear people ask him how he could defend those criminals. My father would answer calmly that the people he defended weren’t criminals. They were accused of criminal actions and according to the law, they had to be proven guilty. My father’s job wasn’t to get criminals off, but rather to see that justice has been served.
The Bill of Rights starts the basis for how our justice system operates. Most importantly, a person accused of Capital crimes needs to be tried before a grand jury, and only once can they be tried for the death penalty for that crime, (Article 5) the accused shall be tried by an impartial jury, and shall be informed of the nature and causes of the accusation, be confronted with the witnesses against him, and shall have the assistance of counsel for his defense. (Article 6) The Supreme Court has had several decisions on how to interpret that bill, and the constitution to further our system.
So, when you’re charged with a crime, you have someone to help defend yourself (usually a public defender if you can’t afford one) because the prosecution has to prove to a group of random people that you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That makes the Prosecution’s job harder than the Defense, as if there’s a speck of doubt, you should be found, not guilty.
That’s how our justice system works. Sure, maybe there are loopholes; sure, maybe guilty people get off. But the point of the justice system is to make sure that the people behind the bars of our prisons are guilty, and not innocent. Blackstone’s formulation: “it is better ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Even worse than letting a criminal go, is incarcerating an innocent person.
I’m not going to talk about whether or not Casey Anthony is guilty. That’s not my purpose here; you believe what you believe, and I’m not going to tell you otherwise. The Question is whether or not Justice was served.
I didn’t know much about the case. I never paid attention to it. Then I checked my Twitter feed, and read all the venom violently spewed at her, and the death threats, and the cries that justice had not been done, and that Casey will get her own when she meets God. I’ve seen some common threads on my feed before, but I’ve never seen my entire feed discussing one thing at the same time.
And you know what my first thought was? Sympathy. I felt sorry for Anthony, and I’m not going to say she’s guilty or not, because that isn’t my place. The people whose place it was to decide that, took a look at the evidence that was presented, and said there’s something here, but we are still in doubt about whether or not she’s guilty. And so we can’t do anything, but find her not.
Beyond reasonable doubt made the jurors spare Anthony from the death penalty, and I’ve got people I follow crying for her blood.
If Anthony was guilty, then maybe the system didn’t work this time, and a criminal escaped punishment. If she had been found guilty, and been given the death penalty, then justice may have been served. I say “may” only because I feel that justice includes redemption. There is no redemption after death.
But (and I hear my father saying this) what if she is innocent?
If Anthony is innocent, and the jury had given her the death penalty, all twelve members of that jury would have just committed legal homicide. They would have gone, yes there’s some doubt here, but we’re still pretty sure she’s guilty. That’s injustice.
If Anthony is innocent, then all the people I saw crying for her blood, and talked about assassinating her have threatened a human being. She has got to hear that, and it hurts.
The worst experience that I ever happened to me was that I was accused of something I had not done, and the jury of my peers sentenced and executed me in their minds, without allowing a chance for me to defend myself. By calling for Anthony’s blood, we partial, biased people have sentenced her without allowing her to defend herself and to face her accusers. That is injustice, and I feel sorry for Anthony.
There is enough reasonable doubt for twelve people who saw the evidence, heard the arguments, watched the reactions of the accused, and didn’t see the media saying she’s guilty (unbiased, impartial jury, remember?) for them to say, “We don’t know, and we’re not going to commit injustice.”
I don’t care whether or not she’s guilty. Those twelve people had reasonable doubt; it would have been unjust to sentence her. Justice was served.
If I’m ever accused of a capital crime, I hope I can have jurors as committed to doing justice."
Colin J. Kelly is just an ordinary guy, with little common sense, random knowledge, a lot of empathy, insecurity, and naïve ideals. You can find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter as CrazyColinKelly. He knows Sean from sitting next to him in British Literature class, and moving away when Sean verbally dug himself into holes.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I heard a story once about a man from India. It was his first time in a grocery store. An American grocery store. Apparently, he was walking down the bread aisle. He looked to his left, and to his right. He saw loaves of white bread, wheat bread, honey wheat bread, and so many more flavors that he couldn’t count them.
There was so much bread that he began to cry.
I was helping my mother shop at such a store yesterday. Have you ever stepped inside a Sam’s Club? It’s just like Wal-Mart, but not as pretty. Concrete floors, metal shelves, and ugly freezers are the norm. Without the shiny white walls and decorations that populate most stores, the goods for sale are thrown in stark focus.
There is a blistering array of food. Huge shelves overflow with cans, bags and boxes full of it. I can walk down one aisle and find myself in a white tunnel of flour and sugar bags, stacked high and running down for what seems like a hundred feet. I walk down another one, and see crates full of apples, oranges and bananas, ripe and beautiful and begging to be bought. The candy aisle alone is stuffed with so many bright colors and names that I don’t know where to look first.
It was one of the most disgusting things I had ever seen in my life. This is too much surplus for any human nation.
I don’t have to tell you about the woes of what we call the Third World. But I will ask you how much you think about them. I’ll honest, to encourage you to do the same. I never think about the people who starve from day to day. I’m too comfortable. Why should I have to worry about the pains of others when they’re so far away? Elie Wiesel puts it even better.
“Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one's sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?”
I can’t answer that. What I can do is wonder why we have so much, and others so little. The poor may always be with us, but that does not excuse us from action, does it? If the American people rationed their food and sent the rest to countries that need it, what would happen? I like the idea of it, myself. I can put up with tightening my belt a little bit, if helps out someone else. At the very least we can store some of this food in case a drought hits, or some other disaster kills food production.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
In a burst of warmth for my family, I agreed to sit down with them a few weeks ago and watch Robots. If you don’t remember this, don’t kick yourself. It’s one of many animated kids comedies with celebrity voices and pop culture references, trying to be the next Shrek. If you’re a parent, odds are you know what I’m talking about.
Somehow I cringed my way through the whole thing. A while later, I had an interesting conversation with a friend. I don’t have it verbatim, but this is the general idea…
Me: I noticed something scary in that movie.
Me: It has no respect whatsoever for genocide. All of the less-developed robots are going to be exterminated, and melted down for scrap metal, and all anyone cares about in individuality. Nobody praises Rodney for saving thousands of innocent robots like him from destruction. When he’s celebrated at the end, he’s celebrated for following his dreams. You ever see Hotel Rwanda? No? Well, there’s this hotel manager who saves a bunch of Tutsis from being killed by Hutus. Would you praise him more for saving those people, or for following his dream to be a hotel manager?
Friend: Well, you know, Sean, Robots is a kid’s movie; it doesn’t have to be realistic.
Me: What? What about The Lion King? It’s one of your favorite movies of all time! One of the best children’s movies of all time! When Mufasa dies, it’s pretty darn serious!
Friend: Well, not every kids’ movie is The Lion King.
Me: But it still has to show respect for death! Kids’ movies show them a view of the world. Do we want them to take in information demonstrating that an individual’s aspirations are more important than other peoples’ lives?
Friend: How about you just let your little brothers watch it, and leave me alone?
Sometimes I wonder if I’m obsessing over details. More often than not, though, I think I’m not. I am a Barney child. I watched that stupid purple dinosaur tell us how wonderful we were until I was at age 8. Since then, I have scorned children’s entertainment.
Kids are constantly taking in the world around them. They’re looking for cues on how to live. They’re walking out of a tunnel, wondering what this strange world around them is, and how they need to act in it. Whatever signals they get, they translate into a view of the world.
Go watch children’s programming on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or PBS. You will see a constant parade of self-esteem, tolerance, and friendship. It portrays a world of perfect peace and harmony.
But this is not a world of perfect peace and harmony! Anyone, regardless of religion or creed, must recognize that this world is rife with bloodshed and evil, and has been for mellenia. I have trouble to this day remembering that. Imagine millions of kids like me. All of us, watching the TV that our mothers bought us so we would leave them alone.
If the TV doesn’t show anything seriously evil, and we are shown nothing seriously evil by Mom and Dad, it naturally follows that we find it hard to conceive that serious evil even exists.
But that’s okay. Can’t we all just hug and make everything better?
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I am up to my armpits in my novel. Therefore, I shall turn you over to my comrade from Benedictine College: the one and only Master Ean. His take on a certain beloved pop star is to be commended. Enjoy!
“First off, I'd like to thank Sean for giving me some space to share my research with you all. It's often difficult to find a platform from which to reach a good portion of right-thinking individuals, and it's much better to have a blog with a preexisting readership than to start from scratch and hope somebody pays attention to me.
As a longtime student of supernatural beings specializing in vampirology, a particular interest of mine is the way in which some vampires masquerade as human seemingly right in front of our eyes—especially as celebrities, whose high profile and subjection to public scrutiny would seem to make them easy targets for discovery. My research efforts in this area have been long and involved (in fact, I have a forthcoming book on celebrities and vampirism—self-published, of course), but for the sake of brevity, I will restrict my interpretative analysis to one work by one celebrity. We find some of the most convincing proofs of pop artist Ke$ha's vampirism in her inherently repellent yet obnoxiously catchy song “Tik Tok.”
One of the most telling lines in the song says that Ke$ha will fight through the night until she sees the sunlight. The key point here is that the fighting will cease once sunlight becomes visible, implying that there is a clear boundary here that causes her to cease her chosen activities, ex. What exactly she is fighting is rather uncertain. It could be that she struggles against her vampiric nature and its attendant bloodlust, or she could be duking it out with drunken werewolves in a Soho bar. Or it could just be a usage contrived to rhyme with 'night' and 'sunlight.' Regardless, the boundary between nighttime and daytime is clearly important.
Of course, Ke$ha has been sighted in the daytime as well—so why hasn't she burst into flames, or at the very least developed a severe rash? The answer lies in another peculiarity, which is her penchant for glitter. This love is well-attested, but it raises the obvious question: why would anyone go so far as to cover half of their body with glitter? I maintain that the glitter is a cover for a vampiric condition that has achieved increasing prevalence since first being brought to public attention in the Twilight books: sparkling in the sunlight. As these books mention, not drinking human blood is a tradeoff for not burning to a crisp in the sun—it still keeps vampires alive, but it does result in sparkliness. They're a bit shaky in other aspects of vampirism, but they did get this aspect of it right. Ke$ha's reliance on glitter, then, serves as a cunning ruse: if anyone catches a stray sparkle, it is assumed to be glitter, nothing more. One might feel that only drinking animal blood is a bit of a wussy move, but at least Ke$ha has a good reason for it, unlike the vampires in Twilight: she is high-profile enough that someone would probably notice if groupies began to go missing. Yes, even Ke$ha groupies.
The world Ke$ha inhabits is one fraught with violence—witness the speakers being exploded and the boys blowing up telephones and later being kicked to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger. This last line in particular reminds one of the extreme longevity of vampires: I think it goes without saying that anyone who's actually attracted to Mick Jagger is going to be old. Like, really old. But the point is that a hectic, nocturnal lifestyle full of partying, drinking, and aggression can only be successfully navigated by someone with superhuman strength, keen nighttime senses, and a propensity to avoid death—a vampire, in other words.
If I may make a small note about the alcoholic beverages, specifically the “bottle of Jack” with which Ke$ha brushes her teeth: she would have to be mentally unstable, severely confused, or rascally drunk (the three are not mutually exclusive) in order to brush her teeth with an alcoholic beverage. Given this, I charitably elect to believe that she is in fact cleaning up with a bottle of blood from somebody named Jack in order to keep her pearly whites nice and pointy. I'm sure she'll take her human blood where she can get it, and a darkened glass bottle would be rather less obvious than carrying a roadie around on an IV drip.
Of course, there's a bunch of ridiculous stuff in this song about pedicures and trying on clothes which she probably threw in there to ensure that the song, and consequently its fans, would be divorced from the sort of people who are likely to actually believe in vampires and to obscure the vampiric references just in case vampire believers truly listened to the lyrics. I must admit, it took me a while to treat her as deserving of serious investigation, which just goes to show how becoming a celebrity can be an excellent disguise for a vampire, but after analyzing her song lyrics and observing her behavior I must say I am convinced. There is one lasting enigma, though: the question of why she wakes up in the morning (morning for vampires is of course dusk for us) feeling like P. Diddy.
Having read this, you may question my analysis or its necessity. Why look for this subtext and these improbable coincidences? Why does it even matter? All I can say in response is that it takes a special caliber of person to recognize these clues and string them together. Besides, do you really expect me to believe that someone would come out and admit it if she were a vampire? Vampires are dangerous and cunning. Dangerously cunning, even. What better disguise for one than a glittery pop star with addictions to AutoTune and other illicit substances? Mark my words: vampires are out there. They exist, and they are coming.
Coming Soon: Vampire Weekend! They're so obvious.”
– Ean writes from the Pacific Northwest and goes to school in the Midwest, where he is working towards a double major in Vampirology and Youth Ministry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or with a very long stick.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
If you don’t read the technology articles in the Wall Street Journal, you should. They’re just a click away. I keep an eye out for news on tablets, smartphones, and e-book readers, myself. I’m writing a novel myself, and it’s important for me to track their development. A thought hit me this morning while I was reading, and it went a lot bigger than screen sizes and sales numbers.
This morning found me reading a piece on ultrabooks. Basically, an ultrabook is a skinny laptop. As I read about which companies were releasing them, and how they thought customers would respond, I had the big thought.
Why in the world are people paying so much scrutiny to pieces of plastic when there is so much death in this world? I’ve also been reading the Wall Street Journal for details on violent clashes in Yemen, the bloody aftermath of the Joplin tornado, and tensions on the Gaza Strip. Human suffering is everywhere. Can we forget these fancy toys and focus on the pain of real people?
That probably won’t happen any time soon. But I couldn’t let that be an answer for a question that big.
After some thought, I got it. Of course! Technology is the very thing that has been helping some of these people in their suffering. Social media has been a huge part of the Arab Spring. Food processing gives us the ability to keep food fresh, and transport it out to poor countries that need it. But what about these fancy laptops that only the rich can buy? They help us to collect and create data and information. If we use it right, we can make a better society that can share this information and enrich its citizens.
It’s our duty to follow technology, then. Not only for a hobby, but because it’s the tools that we use to make society better and better. We can keep helping these other poor countries, and when they come to our level, we can have perfection.
Well, not perfection, but as close as we can get. Doubly good reason to keep an eye on who comes to power in this Arab Spring, by the way. Thoughts?
Monday, May 23, 2011
I’ve heard a lot of talk about the “John Paul II Generation”, and I’m not sold on it. The way some people talk, my generation is going to do everything. We’re going to topple Roe vs. Wade, make peace in the Middle East, and stop R-rated comedies from making any money. That’s hyperbole, but don’t you get the idea?
For those of you are so optimistic about my generation, ask yourself some questions. Who are we, first off? What do you mean by the “John Paul II Generation”? Are you thinking of rich white Catholic college students?
I don’t know what terms you’re using, so bear with me and let me use mine. If they are wrong, I beg you to correct me. When I hear “John Paul II generation”, I think of white Catholic college students like me. It makes sense. People call college students the future leaders of America all the time. With our degrees, learning, and youthful energy, how could we fail?
One of my professors at Benedictine College voiced a worry that will haunt me for years to come. I don’t remember the precise words, but here’s the gist of it.
“There is a strong danger of graduates from such a Catholic environment to be so brittle, that on contact with opposing viewpoints they will break instead of responding.”
Do not mistake me. My fellow youth and I are doing great things at Benedictine College. But we must be cautious. In the whirlwind of Daily Mass, Adoration, FOCUS Bible Study, and pro-life activism, it is far too easy to forget the outside world. One of the reasons I write this blog is to make contact with that outside world. An anonymous commenter criticized Confirmation a couple months ago, and set off a debate that I sorely needed.
What good is a Catholic who cannot make dialogue with the rest of the world? The word “catholic” means universal, doesn’t it? If Catholic youth want to make a difference, the kind that people are talking about, they must be able to interact anywhere in society, not just in the Campus Ministry office. That’s why I want to branch out when I go back to campus, and make friends with more diverse backgrounds and interests.
This is not merely self-improvement. This is a responsibility. Have you seen Black Hawk Down? Have you read All Quiet on the Western Front? Do you keep an eye on world news? What if my generation had to fight World War III tomorrow? How are we going to interact with China?
Think about that. Then tell me what my generation can do. Here's "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" by Cage the Elephant, to remind me and you that we're all rotten sinners.
If you want this song for yourself, by the way, here's a link...
If you want this song for yourself, by the way, here's a link...
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
This is the first new post in nearly a month, and I have a good reason why. I have been hard at work, studying for my finals, and working on a special project that I am announcing publicly for the first time.
I am self-publishing a novel this fall. It’s called The Kingdom: The Quest, and it is the result of four years’ work, sacrifice, and ideas. I love it dearly, and I cannot wait to share it with the world on October 20, 2011.
Find out more on the official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kingdom-Trilogy/171441202912869
Follow the official Twitter page, and keep an eye out for future developments: http://twitter.com/#!/TheKingdomBooks
Follow the production blog, where I share my progress report on perfecting The Kingdom: The Quest and accidentally mention juicy details from time to time: http://thekingdomthequest.blogspot.com/
I thank you deeply for reading The Room of Shattered Glass. Really, I do. It’s been great. I love your comments, and there have been memorable things said since last fall. I’ll keep posting, but the posts won’t be as long as before. In the meantime, I invite you to explore The Kingdom: The Quest with me.
Monday, April 25, 2011
It is long past time to pay my respects. There’s a special movie I saw a long time ago, and two special characters that I have wanted to write about ever since I began this blog.
Say hello to Blythe and Hendly. They’re Allied POWs in The Great Escape. If you have not seen this movie yet, I urge you to see it. And don’t read the rest of this post, because spoilers abound.
In these two, I find the most endearing friendship in the movie. If you can’t remember, Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe (Donald Pleasence) is the forger among the POWs. He’s a wispy, quiet little man, with a keen eye for German documents. Working day and night, he creates fake passports and other documents. A true introvert, he would spend his days bird-watching if there was no war.
In every way he contrasts with his cellmate, Flight Lieutenant Hendley (James Garner). He’s big, canny, and assertive. He is “the Scrounger”, and gets materials for the other POWs by hook or by crook. He swindles German officers and guards with a smile. With a wink he slips wrenches and rations to the other POWs. You don’t hear much about his history in America, but I can just see him telling a joke to a dozen people at the bar, and making them all fall off the bar-stools laughing. He knows what makes people tick.
As the time nears to break out, Blythe goes blind from too many nights of squinting at papers in dim light. He’s desperate to make sure no one finds out. Blythe wants to be a part of the escape. He doesn’t want to hang back, even if that was the safer road.
Blindness is hard to hide. Bartlett, the leader, catches him with a simple test. It’s pathetic to watch. Blythe had laid a coin on one end of his room, and practiced walking to it, “seeing it”, and picking it up. Bartlett isn’t stupid. When Blythe takes the coin, Bartlett calls him back and trips him easily. A blind man cannot crawl through a tunnel, or sneak through the forest quietly, or evade the German army. Bartlett forbids him to take part in the escape.
And then Hendley makes his sacrifice.
“Blythe isn’t blind so long as he’s with me,” he said. He offers to escort Blythe out of the camp, and out of Germany. Bartlett accepts.
What a humble, beautiful sacrifice. It’s surprising Hendley had any bond with Blythe at this point. They have next to nothing in common. They were cellmates, but their conversations were never that animated. They had little in common. Why did Hendley reach out? Did he feel that much pity for quiet little Blythe? Or had he truly become his friend, and was reaching out as any true friend would?
Blythe begins to back out later, but Hendley convinces him to stay with it. Now it is set in stone. They both sit in the room. It is brightly lit. Somehow you can feel the weight of the looming jailbreak, dense and dark in the air. My heart is thumping at this point. And a light comes up in my eye when I see Hendley- confident, crafty Hendley- pledge his life to Blythe. Frail, quiet little Blythe.
Together they go. As the escape attempt falls apart, Hendley guides Blythe through the forest, and through the Nazis that come after them. They seize the airplane. They fly to the Swiss Alps! The triumph is unlike any other triumph in the movie.
Except that it’s not a triumph. They run out of gas and crash-land. The Nazis swarm in, and before Hendley can reach Blythe and warn him, the guns go up and shoot Blythe down.
Hendley was in enough danger on his own, but he chose to take this withdrawn, blind man with him. It would have taken courage for me. It would have taken humility. If I was as resourceful and energetic as Hendley, I would have been annoyed to be saddled with Blythe. I would feel like a 12-year-old told to take his little brother with him to a party. It’s so petty, but Hendley must have felt it. Just a little.
Yet he shows nothing but compassion and companionship. He dares to sneak through the might of the Third Reich, and do it with this feeble man with him. He chose it, freely. He chose the burden, and he transformed it into the most touching friendship among all of the POWs.
Can this story teach you something?
Sunday, April 17, 2011
I don’t have time to write anything worth writing. So I choose this Sunday to show off music from my generation. Forget the Ke$ha and the Wiz Khalifa everyone's talking about. This is where the real music is playing. There is a God in heaven, and He shines through these songs.
“Field of Daggers” by House of Heroes. This is the penultimate track from their timeless masterpiece, The End Is Not The End. It swings between weary sorrow, and fierce optimism, and it takes you places that 5 minutes shouldn’t be able to take you.
“Traveler’s Song” by Future of Forestry. Thank you, Marc Barnes, for promoting this amazing artist. I cried when I first heard this song.
“Drama Queen” by Family Force 5. I dare you to find goofier or cooler songwriting on the face of the planet.
“Scottish” by The Ascendicate. Prepare for ferocious, agonized heavy metal, where the singer screams his pain of being trapped in sin. This is why God allows metal to exist.
“Wretches and Kings” by Linkin Park. They swear a couple times. Which disappoints me, because for the most part this is a powerful, stunning battle song. This was my motivation for portraying an angry mob with my friends in Julius Caesar.
“Abracadavers” by The Classic Crime. Matt McDonald’s vocals are so gut-wrenching and wrought with anguish that the results demand a place on this list.
“A Conversation With the Sky” by Abandon Kansas. Everything this band puts out is a little weird, and completely breathtaking.
“So Far Away” by House of Heroes. If these voices do not melt your heart, you have been kidnapped by cyborg robots and given a virus extracted from Ebenezer Scrooge's blood.
This is barely the tip of the iceberg. I could post dozens more, but you don’t have time for dozens. If you have time to comment, that would be amazing.