Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Travelers & the Umbrella Academy - Two Tales of Time Travel share similar circumstances... (Always Spoilers)

So, after working to publish my latest book, I've had some time to Netflix binge. I started with Travelers, which a friend recommended to me - even going so far as to show me the first 10-15 minutes of the pilot, which was enough to hook me into exploring the series further. It's actually been around awhile - 3 seasons worth - but as the saying goes: if you've never seen it before, it's new to you. And here we are.

Without getting too deep into it, Travelers is about Survivors from a bleak and meager future, under the care of a massive A.I. called "the Director", who are sent back in time to change specific events which lead to a cataclysmic, near extinction level disaster. The only problem is, humans being as they are, once one event is averted, another one presents itself. And then changes to the timeline cause changes to the future world, so new Travelers have different knowledge from different Histories - and some of them, known as "Faction" members, even rebel against the Director, bringing their fight for the future back in time with them.

It's pretty dense material, as we are introduced to five seemingly random characters who quickly become our first team of Travelers on their mission to save the World. But they aren't the first ever Travelers to head back to this time, and their mission is far from the only one these Travelers are sent to manage - over three seasons, we're given a pretty solid idea of how much of an inevitable cluster fuck we humans make of things over and over again. We just can't help ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

The entire cast is solid, with many familiar faces from the Stargate realm, which is no real surprise as this is another Brad Wright project. That's not a negative, as I'm always happy to see talented Actors being given their due, and it's all good fun for Sci-Fi Fans.

The overall look and feel is at times reminiscent of the tone of those previous series, right down to the core technology used to manifest this time travel. Essentially, for this series, people don't travel full body en masse back in time. What happens is, this super sophisticated A.I., shepherded by teams of geniuses of various scientific disciplines, disseminates an individual consciousness into data that is forced into a body in our time, "overwriting" that host body's previous owner in favor of the new consciousness from the future. The bad news is, whomever that person in that host body may have been before being "overwritten" is effectively gone. There are no "transfer stones" that switch consciousnesses from body to body in this series. Maybe a few strong memories remain here or there, but that identity - that Self, or Soul, or whatever you want to call it - is gone.

It's a pretty grim one way trip with no chance of return, so no real survivors for the "host" body, or the Traveler taking it over. They overcome the moral question of murder by selecting host targets who were about to be killed, and in those few moments right at the time of their historic death, the Director inserts a Traveler to assume the identity of the person who was going to be dead anyway, to take over their lives based on what they know about them from the left over records. But the Director isn't perfect, the records aren't always complete, and random accidents are actually pretty common -which leads to some interesting performances from the cast having to create two distinct "before and after" personalities and then having to portray the adjustment to these unfamiliar circumstances.

Amongst many great moments and strong performances, we are gifted with the talents of MacKenzie Porter as Marcy Warton. Seriously, how she was overlooked for some sort of recognition with this role is pretty surprising. Going from a character who suffers from a debilitating head injury to someone who is an independent, capable Doctor & Traveler Super Agent without falling on conventional or stereotypical artifice creates a depth and humanity that makes the swerves to her story even more authentic and heartbreaking - she resonates a genuine sincerity that makes some of her more challenging scenes almost too difficult to watch, and that's a compliment to her ability as a performer.

Patrick Gilmore plays a genuinely Nice Guy. Every Brad Wright series has the genuinely Nice Guy character who is just caught up in things and trying to manage whatever crisis is brought to his door, trying to help regardless of the imposition or inconvenience or whatever - he's just a good, Nice Guy. You can trust him, even if you give him no reason to trust you. Hey. If you've got a problem, you can call him, okay? You're not alone. He's here to help.

Usually these people are the most annoying characters, as they are always getting in the way, inevitably demanding "me" time, never understanding exactly what's happening because the Heroes never tell them anything, and all of those usual tropes you'd expect from the comic relief in distress.

Fortunately, these guys have been over this ground before, and this time, instead of a whiny but willfully enabling sidekick, we are given David Mailer, who is entangled with Marcy's character in more ways than one, and develops into much more than a convenient, comedic plot motivator.

Over the three seasons, this unusual love story blossoms into something that actually closes the series on a positive note, which is refreshing in its own way and provides a lovely reason as to why anything on this earth is worth fighting for - Patrick and MacKenzie become the unexpected, against all odds, charming Love Story that wins in the end, regardless of what the future holds for the rest of us. Without these two Actors in these two very unique and nearly perfectly performed roles, the whole series is a dark and depressing fight against an inevitable, dismal future.

An unusual Love Story and an inevitably dismal future are just two things Travelers shares with the Umbrella Academy, which just had its 10 episode series premiere on Netflix. It's an adaptation from a Graphic Novel series I haven't read, so I can't compare the source material to the series. I will make the comment, though, that with Disney taking over control of Marvel and all of its characters, it seems like Netflix has turned to independent comic publishers for new source material to develop and make their own, and while I could complain for hours about the dangers of corporate monopolies, I can't say that being forced to seek original material and talent is a bad thing.

As with most new takes on traditional plot devices - like re-writing the rules on vampires and zombies to suit the story - the Umbrella Academy introduces new takes on classic Heroic Archetypes fighting to prevent an inevitable future. However, this iconoclastic piece of work starts grim and keeps the lights low as we navigate a dark, Addams Family style landscape of dysfunction and deception.

We are introduced to Sir Reginald Hargreeves, an eccentric, somewhat reclusive Billionaire who lost the love of his life years ago, yet maintains his interests in esoteric sciences, hell bent on becoming some kind of Savior to the World. In truth, right up to the moment of his death, nothing he does is for anything other than his own selfish purposes, the Bastard, and that includes ruthlessly manipulating the lives of seven special, yet otherwise completely innocent children.

The story goes that on one fateful day, 43 women across the planet who were not previously pregnant suddenly experienced an inexplicable and accelerated pregnancy, giving birth to a human child with unique abilities of one form or another - as I write this, it wouldn't surprise me if, in a future storyline, it's revealed that this old Bastard Hargreeves was somehow responsible for it, affecting atmospheres or food supplies or something in a devious plot to manifest his team of Heroes. Because out of these 43 children, Hargreeves selects 7 children (What happens to the others? Who knows?) and pays their parents ridiculous sums of money to "adopt" them, bringing them to his gloomy yet roomy Mansion in London where he can experiment on them and cast them in his image of an ideal Super Hero Team: the Umbrella Academy.

The children are given a rigid upbringing, primarily referred to by numbers instead of their actual names - numbers intended to define their order of significance in the team. Not surprisingly, Number One is the most loyal to their "father", while Number Seven is pretty much shunned by everyone as insignificant and without any real abilities or powers. Somehow she's a dud - and the other kids do their best to keep that difference painfully clear - but Old Bastard Hargreeves keeps her around and under his watchful eye anyway.

Number Five is the Time Traveler. Actually, he's a Teleporter who figures out how to heighten his ability to (theoretically) time travel, and in one of his more rebellious moments, he defies the Old Bastard and puts his theory to the test. Unfortunately, the leap reveals a future of apocalyptic devastation and traps Number Five for decades before he can figure out how to teleport himself back to his own time and warn the others.

It's not an accurate teleport - for his family, years have passed between his disappearance and return, and while they have aged accordingly in all that time, Number Five returns the same age as when he departed, yet with a lifetime of experiences intact. He's essentially a 58year old man in a young teenager's body. Aidan Gallagher takes on this role with a confident grace and charisma that anchors the entire series. Seriously. Number Five explains and motivates much of the narrative driving this existential threat to Humanity. Without this crucial casting - and solid writing backing the performance - the entire series could have been derailed, feeling unnecessarily forced and contrived by the vagrancies of poor writing and an immature Actor (Punisher Season 2, for example). Aidan Gallagher as Number Five provides a credible gravitas to an otherwise implausible world.

For example, another similar but different plot device the Umbrella Academy shares with Travelers is a bureaucracy that shepherds History along - only instead of preventing tragedies, this Bureau makes sure they go off without a hitch. Why should a Time Travel Bureau want to help Humanity destroy itself rather than prevent disaster? Because it suits the nihilistic tone of the narrative, of course! Beyond that, don't question it. But Number Five does question it, and works to prevent it, which means the Bureau sends two Agents after him back in time to ensure the end of the World.

Get all of that? Number Five discovers that the Academy is ground zero for a cataclysmic event in the very near future, yet somehow, in all that time living and learning in the future, he never learns exactly what happens to cause the devastation.

And that gets us to the cruel irony of Number Seven, Vanya, played by Ellen Page. Where Aidan Gallagher anchors the Sci-Fi side of the narrative, Ellen Page anchors the Love Story, and in keeping with the gloom and doom style of the series, it doesn't go well for her. In a masterful, multi-layered presentation over several episodes, we see the consequences of abuse and neglect on the mind of an otherwise innocent victim of circumstance. While shunned and made to believe that she is not unique or special in any way, she is, in truth, the most powerful of all the Academy children.

So powerful, in fact, that she scares the bejeezus out of Old Bastard Hargreeves, who responds to his fear of her by doing everything in his power to impede her development, including turning the other children against her and making her believe that she is insignificant.

In contrast to Professor X, instead of taking a nurturing, loving approach to his children, Bastard Hargreeves treats them like objects to serve his own purposes. When her rebellion manifests as a physical threat to his own person, he ruthlessly subjugates her to the point where, when she finally does learn of her powers, she has no training or understanding of how to control them. It's this lack of control that becomes the catalyst for the end of the World.

Because Old Man Hargreeves shunned her, she has no real understanding of her power. Because the children were turned against her, they automatically view her as a threat more than a member of their family and respond accordingly. And tragically, because of being shunned and manipulated for so many years, she is incapable of recognizing the warning signs when a Stalker, obsessed with the Academy, targets her for seduction.

Believing in her newfound Stalker/Boyfriend, she is manipulated into manifesting and (somewhat) developing her powers - but she never fully comprehends what they are or what she can do with them. At every turn where her anger could be shut down with a simple gesture of honest acceptance and a desire for mutual understanding - a sincere gesture of Love - she is instead provoked by one betrayal after another, turning her into a murderous Fury who destroys the Earth.

It's a fine piece of writing, layering irony with deception and distrust - a true Greek Tragedy of characters being incapable of recognizing their own blind spots, creating their own consequences, ensuring the Fate that they were fighting to avoid. Because their "father", Old Bastard Hargreeves, sent Number One to conduct experiments on the Moon for four years, he is convinced that whatever causes the end of the World has to do with the Moon. That is, until he discovers those experiments were just part of an elaborate lie - but wait! Number One was right! The Moon is involved - Just in no way that he could have possibly predicted because Number Seven is also involved, and he doesn't consider her to be much of anything until he considers her a threat to the family and the world. The way he acts against her - leading the Academy to attack her - becomes the last act of betrayal that dooms the planet.

If only they took the time to get to know her! To understand who she was and accept her - provide a loving environment and a measured guidance that would allow her to develop herself with confidence, alongside the others. But no, they couldn't do that because none of them had any experience with that. Old Bastard Hargreeves made sure that these kids were as dysfunctional as possible, incapable of making solid connections with each other, let alone with anybody outside their sheltered upbringing. It's an eloquent depiction of the consequences of raising children in rigid discipline more than Love.

Side note: It's unintentional, of course, but even more ironic that the real life Ellen Page shares a similar manipulation with her character in the Umbrella Academy, in that Number Seven gets manipulated into manifesting her power by her Stalker Boyfriend when he pays thugs to stage a fight, provoking her to act in defense. It's a cruel deception, but it gets the desired response. Much like this apparent manipulation of the media by Jussie Smollett, which prompted Ellen Page to personally make a stand on his behalf, and on the behalf of a much larger issue. Again, it's unintentional, and that's pretty much where any comparisons end. It's just oddly cosmic irony to notice Ellen Page associated with two staged attacks so close together in the gestalt of Big Media and information consumption.

In the context of the series, Ellen's character suffers betrayal after betrayal, causing her to lash out at the last with all the Fury such grief and outrage can muster. It's enough to shatter the Moon, and it is spectacular. And to think, all of it could have been avoided with a healthy dose of Love, Camaraderie and Companionship - but nope, the whole World got fucked because some Billionaire bought seven infants and manipulated them into believing that they were Heroes, when in fact he'd created Monsters that blew up the Moon.

Awesome. Can't wait for Season 2.










Friday, February 22, 2019

Excerpt from Chapter 16 - TRUMP: Shill, Showman, Traitor, Patsy

DONALD J. TRUMP
SHILL, SHOWMAN, TRAITOR, PATSY

This Modern Day Carnival Huckster - a blustery, bully of a man who brings his own Freakshow wherever he goes - History will view Trump's Administration as the apex of an unapologetic and terrifying Capitalist Ideology at its most corrupt - a Government seemingly devoid of compassion, promulgating all that is cold, calculating, and cruel about the Corporate Thirst for ever increasing acquisition and profit regardless of long term harm or consequences to its own Citizens or other Nations of the World.

What's most ironic about this man being chosen for Office is that it seems he didn't really want it. He told us many times during his campaign that he wasn't really interested in being President - maybe he would turn it down even if he did win! He doesn't want to show his tax returns, doesn't like talking about his business beyond how successful he is at everything he does - he didn't want to be President, he's just too good at "Winning"!

And here we are, two years in, and now we know why he didn't want the Presidency or all of that public scrutiny. Now he's exposed, and people are digging deeper - so many secrets! So many lawsuits! So much to learn about the Don and the Deals he made...

The biggest (unspoken) issue with this entire situation is that the Don is such a big juicy target for everyone. He has so much going on, so many enemies, that he will be held accountable for the majority of what has taken place, even if he had no idea about it at the time it happened - none of the Politicians who were enabled, none of the Lobbyists who enabled them, none of the Businesses that profited from the most vile actions done in his name or the name of his Administration will be standing beside him when the Auditor arrives with handcuffs.

Should Trump live through these political excesses, he will certainly be prosecuted and (likely) strike a blanket deal to be ensconced in one of his Towers, under house arrest until he dies in some publicly acceptable fashion - disgraced, powerless, ignored - unable to use the bathroom without the Feds knowing about it. Unable to profit from telling what he knows. He's old now anyway, how much longer can he last, right...?

When the time comes, he will be singled out and excoriated for the Sins of all who participated. His crimes will be exposed, his Associates will plea and bargain and negotiate themselves away from him. The real Billionaires and International Players - you know, the people Trump borrowed from and truly aspired to be, willingly falling for whatever ruse just to be among them - they will shun him, cutting loose their now useless pawn and continuing on with their global game of conquest without him.

The simple fact that the current Administration bears his name will be enough for many Criminals, who knowingly abused their position and willfully violated Federal Laws, to simply toss their crimes amongst the great many tallied under his name and absolve themselves completely - while at the same time keeping whatever gains that came from their profiteering.

Trump will be stripped of everything, shamed and shunned - his family name made a mockery, a symbol for the perversion of the American Dream for generations to come.

Having to live with that emotional torment may be enough to drive the Grand Narcissist to suicide, leaving his poorly educated and inept family to stumble through the shattered wreckage of all his useless trophies and massive debts. More likely, he'll be declared insane and be committed in some way that absolves him of any responsibilities whatsoever, living his last days being coddled in some mental institution, somehow exploiting healthcare and welfare programs he tried to destroy without having any sense of the irony.

"Winning" will no longer be such a boastful term, nor shouted so loudly, as the memory of the GOP's obsessive abuses and the consequences of this oafish Braggart's pursuit of his Malicious Legacy will become scorched into our collective DNA, making us question our own motivations and values upon simply hearing the word spoken.

"Winning" will develop into a term which, depending on context and its inflection when used, will instinctively define the perceived disparity between certain economic and social classes, and will further define their interaction, with sometimes violent repercussions. Because "winning" is all Trump does. He can't help himself he's so good at it. And all that bragging and boasting, moving fast, breaking things, denying real consequences, confidently writing bad checks, never a thought to who will pay while demanding an unlimited line of credit, never a concern for what happens to those "losers" being trampled under for profit - all that voracious, arrogant, GOP-fueled style of "winning" that Trump had mastered and inflicted upon the World - that "winning" created such a massive schism between economic classes that social interactions between them were forever tarnished - always hostile, and at best suspicious of each other - separated by an invisible tax bracket that became a more effective barrier than any slats or concrete could ever be.

The World will never let us forget that Trump's style of "winning" drove an entire Country and its People to its knees.



December 24th, 2018   

Trump: "Mitch McConnell just told a group of people, and me, that... the last two (years) have been by far the best & most productive of his career."  

To me, this sounds like Trump just confirmed that his role as President was to rubber stamp anything Congress (and their Lobbyists) put in front of him.

If that doesn't sound like a facilitator, a tool, a figurehead, a Patsy, then I don't know what does.





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Sunday, February 17, 2019

PRESS RELEASE for AMERICA'S DEAD AND YOU'RE NEXT!

HAPPY PRESIDENT'S DAY!

Announcing the release of a new Book for the Holiday - A self-published collection of previously published works combined into one more focused presentation regarding recent U.S. History, as well as Constitutional, non-violent solutions to some contemporary issues confronting our Nation today:

AMERICA'S DEAD AND YOU'RE NEXT!
The Impotent Rantings of a Powerless White Man

A collection of essays, commentaries and online posts from 2004 to 2019 regarding the transition of the U.S. Government from a Capitalist Republic to the Corporate Oligarchy that it is today. ABRIDGED & UPDATED, including the Treatise, "COMMITTING PATRIOTISM: Non-Violent Strategies for U.S. Citizens to Regain Their Government". Two Books in one Collection, a total of 230 pages written by Brad Havens, a Private Citizen and Political Spectator. 





COMMITTING PATRIOTISM
Non-Violent Strategies for U.S. Citizens to Regain Their Government

A 30-page Treatise focused on non-violent, Constitutionally lawful methods of empowering U.S. Citizens to regain control over their Government and the future direction of the Country. Includes proposed Constitutional Amendments, a fundamental re-structuring of the Election Process to enable public control of funding and oversight, and a call to replace the failed Two-Party System.


Only interested in reading solution-oriented Ideas? Tired of the conventional "Rep vs. Dem" debates and the endless Trump coverage? Interested in unconventional approaches that don't involve stopping traffic and setting fires to buildings? COMMITTING PATRIOTISM is exclusively available as an eBook (downloads as a pdf file), and you can BUY IT HERE!

For more information, please visit:



COMMITTING PATRIOTISM - excerpt from the Treatise regarding Foreign Policy

FOREIGN POLICY REFORMS - ENDING THE WAR ON TERROR

It's actually pretty simple. Perpetual Warfare is an unsustainable diplomatic policy, and yet, it is our #1 Export to the World. We've withdrawn from Treaties and Trade Agreements, introduced Tariffs and Travel Bans, and turned building a Border Wall into a National Crisis. In the past two years, the United States has done its best to tell the World that it needs to do things our way, or else it faces Scorn, Sanctions, and Soldiers.

The World has responded in different ways. The European Union has openly declared that the United States can no longer be trusted, and that it should take steps to protect itself from being caught in the middle of a larger conflict between the U.S. and Russia. Germany and France have joined Brussels in the call for the EU to remove U.S. military bases from Europe in favor of their own standing army. The U.S. reacted in true mobster fashion, telling the EU to stop worrying and be glad they weren't paying more for their protection.

Russia and China have been working to build up trade in currencies other than the Dollar, uniting Asian and Eastern European Markets using a Gold Standard. Putin has already declared that the days of the U.S. Dollar dominating trade are over, and to emphasize his viewpoint, he's been showing off his new Missile Defense System, which apparently has been specifically designed to counter any long-range tactical threat from the United States. He's quite confident, and why shouldn't he be? With the way Trump fawns over him and refuses to discuss what was done or said in those private meetings, it seems Putin may know more about the future of the United States better than Congress.

Effectively, the World has seen our cards and knows that we are bluffing. To pretend otherwise would be foolhardy and extremely shortsighted, unless the goal of the current Administration is to allow the devaluation of the Dollar as part of its isolationist policies.



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COMMITTING PATRIOTISM - excerpt from the updated Treatise regarding Election Reforms

ELECTION REFORMS FOR THE LEGSLATIVE BRANCH

"All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."  
                                                                              -- Article 1, Section 1, U.S. Constitution


"No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."                           
                                                                             -- Article 1, Section 2, U.S. Constitution


"No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."                                        
                                                                            -- Article 1, Section 3, U.S. Constitution


--->Notice that nowhere does it say you have to be a lawyer, politician, or soldier to know a damn thing about doing the job. Know the Constitution and do your best by your Country for your fellow Americans. That is all that is required of you.



The stranglehold Lawyers have placed on our Legislative Branch has prevented U.S. Citizens from any hope of genuine representative governance. By preventing lawyers and organized legal teams within the two Houses from unifying to stall the function of government, or undermine the Constitution, we would finally be able to see real Representative Government in action, and present issues which matter to Citizens, not Corporations.

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COMMITTING PATRIOTISM - excerpt from the updated eBook

EMBRACING & EMPOWERING THE REAL "FOURTH BRANCH"


"...That whenever any Form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government..."
                                                               -- Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776


It has been said that our News Organizations and the Journalists reporting on activities in Government represent a de facto "Fourth Branch" of Government after the Executive, Legislative & Judicial Branches established by the Constitution. Apparently, this title is deemed appropriate because of the scrutiny "the Press" allegedly subjects our "Representatives" and political policies to when researching and reporting stories they present to the public.

However, if this past election year (2016) is any indication, with the many examples of candidate favoritism and an overall absence of objective reporting, it has been made abundantly clear that our News Organizations have become functionary mouthpieces for supporting political agendas, as well as the agendas of their corporate sponsors. One need only query "DAPL" in a search engine to observe the astonishing lack of attention "Mainstream Media" paid to a story that, at its core, is about an Oil Company refusing to comply with Federal Law, and instead, enlisting State Law Enforcement Officers (from upwards of 5 different states at one point) to commit acts of violence (e.g. sacred burial grounds were desecrated in a deliberate act of intimidation) & unwarranted arrests against an unarmed populace attempting to protect a major water supply.

Further, our seated President was aware of these events and yet allowed these things to happen. Ignoring High Crimes that include election tampering, corporate theft, and a President abdicating his legal responsibilities to his own Citizens? THAT is a blatant failure of Big Media and "objective" news reporting. Whatever pretense may have existed, there is no other conclusion than Big Media in its current form is compromised and incapable of presenting objective information to the People. It is impossible for a tool to govern men. It cannot serve as any "Branch" of Government; it can only be directed by those it serves, and it must serve the People.

The true "Fourth Branch" of our Government, unspecified but wholly acknowledged and empowered by our Constitution, is comprised of the Citizens of the United States themselves. The fact that we have abdicated that responsibility to others, and allowed ourselves to be subjugated for so many years, does not change the fact that we are not subjects of our Government. Our Government, as provided by our Constitution, is subject to the Will of People of the United States. No Corporation, no outside Government, no Political Party within our own Government is granted any powers of government that supersedes the consensus of the People.


NO MATTER WHAT THEY TELL YOU.



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