From My Father

From My Father

The importance of a good work ethic, the importance of proper education, and how the two grow relatively inseparable. Our intelligence is directly tied into what we can accomplish, therefore the more that we know, the easier it becomes to achieve. My father works long and laborious hours, sacrificing his own personal time in order to be certain myself and my sisters had (and have) everything we could need or want. What little time he had left to himself was often spent taking us to events, spending quality time with us, and ensuring we were happy. Having been the only child on his side of the family until my 11th birthday, my father focused on me and made an impression. Since as far back as I can remember he has always tried to share his knowledge on how different devices and mechanisms work. When I got my first car, I didn’t know how to change the oil, so my father taught me. When I needed to get new rotors and brakes on my car because I had driven it to the point where I was actually eating at the rotors with the brake pads completely worn away, my father taught me how to change them. When we needed to remodel my little sisters room and build a closet in my room, my father taught me. At each point that I can remember in my life that I didn’t know something and he grokked it, he shared with me and oversaw that I at least understood the concept. He has always been generous with knowledge and freely states without shame when he does not know something (at least in this respect). This is yet another great lesson: When you do not know, Admit it. I can’t say that I’ve always adhered to the idea, or even that my father does in all scenarios, but the truth is it is better to pretend you don’t know when you do, rather than pretend you do know when you don’t. This conflicts with the premise of “fake it till you make it”, but of course, all things in moderation.

Respect for your elders, even when they may be wrong. This one took me a while to get right, as you’ll learn how to best correct those older than you as you attempt to incorporate this lesson. Among the best advice I can give on the subject, asking “what” instead of “how” or “why”; ex: “What led you to think this?” Rather than “Why do you think this?” Or “How can you think this?”.

Always laugh and be courteous to others until they give you a reason not to be. My father is not rude to others, nor does he laugh at the misfortunes others have. To this day, he does not laugh at drunkards in the street, and has corrected me even as recent as this past year when dealing with them in public. You have nothing to gain from laughing at the misfortune of others. You also have nothing to gain in taking out your personal feelings on strangers. Regardless what is going on with him, or with our family, my father has always been courteous to strangers. The exception to this rule is as follows:

Do not ally yourself with people who are not genuine. My father has counted very few people his friends, and for this I am grateful to him. It helped show me the value of friendship and how rare a true friendship is. In my youth, I believed myself to know what this meant and was wrong. He had no problem letting me know the realities of life in this respect, even if he withheld other truths for my own sake. Some people will screw you over, and when they do, you don’t get even. Your best course of action then is to just get away, and learn to make peace with it. The willingness to get back at someone, the drive to do others harm will only eat away at you in the end, and will make it so that your joy is consistently ruined by the anger you’ve held onto. In making peace with these situations, you’ll help prepare yourself for the harder part of being screwed over. When people deserve second chances, you’ll know, and if they don’t, you’ll also know.

My father has always treated our animals with care, treated them with respect and trained them to know their boundaries. We have always shared table-scraps with our pets, as far back as I can remember. The animals have always known not to come up to the table, only allowed what is given and never to take what isn’t handed to them. The only exception is our current cat Kali, who actually smacks you on the leg for food because she believes she is a dog. All our other dogs have known they are to patiently wait, and if they’re not receiving scraps a simple “No, go lay down” usually does the trick. My father has never made an animal sit by without giving them a reward; in this I’ve learned that if you are in command, you must not toy with the idea of a reward. It is not right to tease others with what they do not have, and it is both admirable and becoming of us to share what we can with others.

If it is within your power to help others, then you should. Do not think this means you should spend all your time committing to favors for others; it isn’t. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the event that you do this, whatever compensation you are given is a welcome gift; do not ask for more than what was given, and don’t speak of it. If you’re willingly helping someone, then you should be helping them and not expecting a reward in return. That is the definition of a good deed. To do for someone else without the expectation of any reward or praise, or the need to flaunt what you have done for them. Once you try to call upon the good you have done in the past as if it is a voucher for something you want in the present, you’ve nullified any good your deed once held.

Cleanliness is important (and this is “a do as I say, not as I do” moment). My grandmother was a very neat woman, and my father wanted the level of cleanliness she always demanded, even if he isn’t always as clean himself. Organization is vital, even if only you understand it. It is not becoming to sleep in late or stay up late; early to bed and early to rise. I am unfortunately just recently beginning to grasp this concept at 28, it would’ve served me much better a decade ago. For those of us working the night shift, those after-hours drinks shouldn’t prevent you from getting up in time to get anything done before your next shift.

There is no shame in being a sentimental creature. No man is weaker for sharing his love with the world, but there is also no need to flaunt your affections and cheapen their power. When you say “I love you” too often, it becomes weaker. Save it for goodbyes, and the moments that count. Never hang up the phone with a loved one without saying it. This bleeds out into all other relationships I’ve had with loved ones.

When you are doing wrong, ensure that you admit you are doing wrong. It is worse to declare you’ve done nothing wrong when you have, than to simply admit you’ve done wrong and see through it’s correction. My father never wanted me to smoke, and told me from the earliest age that even when I was old enough, I shouldn’t, because it wasn’t good for him. I didn’t listen, of course. I snuck cigarettes until my mid-20’s and eventually he found out as parents always do. He respected that I made a choice and just said “you should quit now, while it’s easy”, so I did. Admittedly, I do occasionally have a smoke when I’m drinking with friends, but it’s serious progress after having rolled my own for a few years and sneaking into the yard for a smoke when my parents had fallen asleep. In this I understood something about my father: he respected me enough to let me decide, but he made his view known without conflict or exerting some authority over me. That’s all you can do with the adults in your life, and anything beyond that would be grounds for conflict.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my father, is to let your parents call you by the nickname they gave you as a child. It is yours and yours alone, and should forever be a mark of honor and power for you. No matter how old I get I will always be “little man” to my father and there isn’t anything in this world that can take that from either of us. What’s the story behind your childhood nickname? What great lessons do you know you drew from your parents, whether by example of what to do, or by what not to do? Share in the comments and let me know, I’d love to hear from you all.

The Dark Tower; a film review with and without spoilers

Let me begin by saying this: I am a huge fan of the Dark Tower series. That being said, I enjoyed the recent film while sitting in the theater for reasons that aren’t valid, entirely sentimental, completely personal to me. Looking at trending news, the film pulled in less than half its budget (19.5 million profit on a budget of 60 million) during opening weekend, and has been less than well-received by critics. That aside, I have some actual “story” issues with the film which I’ll address further down the page, but the bulk of this post will be spoiler-free. I will clarify when I’m about to spoil anything, so rest easy and avoid skipping ahead if you’d rather avoid ruining any of it for yourself.

 
While King’s epic storyline contains seven main books and a handful of shorter additions in the form of Marvel graphic novels and reference books, this film is attempting to condense enough of that information (settings, characters, worldbuilding, etc) into an hour and a half to pull off a story. Admirable in theory, but damn near impossible to do well. There is too much information to condense into such little time. There is an idea floating around the internet which would render this film a purely fan service endeavor, and while I’m not convinced by this idea I’ll still address that premise later. For anyone intending to go see this film, keep in mind that there is a whole new world you will be dropped in. Without giving examples or details here, try to imagine cutting any Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter film down to an hour and a half and attempting to explain the full extent of that world; it’s not easy. The film is forced to make every single scene count, with very little time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Does this make it feel rushed? Honestly: yes.

 
The main plot here is Roland Deschain of Eld, a “Gunslinger” (the Dark Tower’s equivalent of a Knight) is trying to chase down the dark sorcerer, Walter a.k.a. “The Man in Black”. Roland’s prowess will appeal to any fans of action films, and Walter’s “dark magicks” are a mix of extreme persuasion, incendiary heat/fire, and psychic abilities. The two are fighting a war of determination and will, one on the light side and one on the dark. While not a novel idea, it’s the way these characters interact that makes the story interesting.

 
Idris Elba is as close to the Roland I remember as anyone is going to get. The defeated old knight who no longer feels he deserves the honor he was once bestowed, marching on to find the evil sorcerer that only he has the power to defeat. Matthew McConaughey becomes The Man in Black for an hour and a half, embodying the constant taunting that Walter does throughout the series, using his “magicks” to force his way into Roland’s mind and make him relive past tragedies as if they were preventable if only he were stronger. The beauty of these characters is that Roland’s will is pure-good and constantly tested by the guilt that maybe he could’ve been strong enough to save those he loved, while The Man in Black is not simply a villain in the usual conflict sense, but also gives an insecurity and anxiety to a character we would otherwise not expect to deal with such traits. While I won’t speak of events here in order to not ruin anything, the narrative progresses at a pace that feels slightly quick without leaving major plot holes. Sitting in the theater, people seemed wowed by the action, but underwhelmed by the multitude of easter-eggs that fans will recognize. The film is going to suffer from having a divide of those who know too much about and those who are just finding the series. If I had to assume the perspective of someone who didn’t know the series at all, I’d likely give it a 6/10, and this only because Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances mesh as well as they do.

 
As a fan, I had a very different experience. I squealed in my seat with the excitement of finally seeing the Gunslinger come to life on-screen, The Man in Black and all his dark magicks at work, and being in the world of The Dark Tower. My problem was after the film, when I looked back and realized we have to take this snippet of the immense lore and enjoy it, resigning to the same problem most book-to-film translations have. In condensing what took months to read into a single evening’s time, you’ll be losing a lot of material in order to make sense of it for a larger crowd, and satiate very few of the original fans in the process. Sometimes this can be done well, like Marvel’s single-hero titles. Other times, like in Marvel’s team-up films, the action serves to distract you from the fact that the story isn’t giving you all the details it should or could. I’d like to believe this isn’t the latter of the two, but in retrospect, I feel that it is. That being said, let’s dive into the non-spoiler free stuff.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD.

 

An article on Looper by Claire Williams addresses the premise that Roland has the Horn of Eld this time around, meaning this film takes place after the events of the book series. I’ll refresh the memory of anyone who hasn’t picked it up since the mid 00’s when the “final” book was released since I had to do so myself before seeing the film. Near the end of Book 7, The Dark Tower, Roland arrives at the Tower and cannot free Gan/God because he doesn’t have the Horn of Eld. He is then returned to the beginning of his journey without complete recollection that he had been to the Tower (something it is hinted at that he has done before, as many as 18 times) this time with the Horn of Eld and a voice in his head singing the sweet promise:

 

“maybe this time will be different.”

 

Roland then sets out again on his journey (potentially the 19th attempt). Williams does a great job noting each little intricacy and poses her own theory, but let’s focus on the horn for now. A difficult task, considering it’s never shown in the film. I’d have no issue with this if it was just speculation on Williams’ part, but Stephen King posted a teaser image described over a year ago in May of 2016 on his Twitter, as you can see here:

 

 

Also referenced is “The Crimson King”, which despite multiple sightings of “All Hail the Crimson King” and the “eyes” showing up on Jake’s wall, also makes no appearance. Instead, the film revolves around Roland’s grudge against The Man in Black. This is a Game of Thrones movie with Ramsay Snow/Bolton as the main villain. Again, not an issue if only we weren’t told this wouldn’t be the case. In the cannon, The Man in Black isn’t our main antagonist. While we do end on a note of Roland inviting Jake along on his adventures, it is not stated if this is simply to accompany him back to Mid-world or to head for The Tower and finish what has begun. Worse, while we see these Crimson King hints everywhere, we know nothing of him and have no word on a sequel. If the box office is any influence on this decision (as it usually is for series projects outside printed media) we likely won’t get a sequel, nor does the ending tease/warrant one.

 

 

The Jake we get in this film is the same Jake that would’ve died in the mines. Roland and Jake should be running across the Mohaine desert to find him. Instead, Walter has some strange mechanism configured to use children’s minds as ammunition to topple the tower and allow demons into our universe. This very loosely addresses the story as it was in the series, where it is The Crimson King who wishes to restore Chaos to the order which Gan has brought to creation, where the Man in Black doesn’t even live to the end, where Eddie and Susannah Dean live with Jake in NYC, etc. I could go on about the differences. The issue here is we were told this is cannon and it shouldn’t be. I can understand the play at work to get fans of the series roped in, but with 90 minutes on your plate, this is a little less “Book 1” and a little more cashing in on an idea.

 

SPOILERS OVER. RETURNING TO NO-SPOILERS MODE

 
Now while this review may have some negative views of the film to it, I want to reiterate that I DID ENJOY the film. I do recommend anyone to go see it at a local non-chain movie theater and enjoy it themselves. It may not be the summers action blockbuster but it was an entertaining ride and it was fantastic to see Idris Elba firing off some of the most epic gun play I’ve seen in a while. The film tugs at all the right strings and while a bit scary at times, should definitely serve as a good jump-on point for younger viewers looking to be intrigued, or anyone that hasn’t yet taken a trip through Gilead and felt a bit curious what happens when a world has moved on. As an entry way for the series, this would’ve made me pick up Book 1 the next day and dive right in, and it definitely made me want to revisit Gilead. If that was King and the production crew’s intention, mission accomplished.

 
Idris Elba is said to be in a TV series next year which runs more in line with the books, and that I genuinely look forward to. His time as Roland here was worth the watch, as was Matthew McConaughey in his role as The Man in Black. The Jake Chambers we see here will do Jake of NY justice if he’s allowed to continue on the series as well. By that time, most new readers will likely just be finishing off Book “7” (King recently published a “Book 4.5”). For now, all we can do is wait, ya kennit?

 

Thankee Sai.