Sunday, October 6, 2013

Group Dynamics: A Commentary On The SUV vs Motorcycle Band Incident.

When the recent incident made the news, of an SUV being surrounded and chased by a band of motorcyclists, I took a moment to watch the footage and related newsbroacasts, and was appalled. Let alone the horror of the situation itself, I was outraged by the general hesitation of the media to see fault where it laid.

It is really just a matter of numbers: one against many.
Would a passerby or small group deliberately instigate a confrontation with a larger one? Let alone a man driving with his wife and child? No.

What we have here is simple group dynamic:

First, there is a group of individuals, preferably males, preferably YOUNG males, who feel their confidence boosted by their numbers. Furthermore, the individuals feel their confidence boosted by group unity (insignias?) and equipment (in this case, motorcycles).

Now, within this group, there will always be a more volatile individual, one which, particularly defensive, will feel particularly aggressive when within the group. This volatile individual will then over-react at a perceived slight. Why? Because he feels over-confident within his group and entitled to respect, and anybody whom he perceives as not addressing him with said respect is therefore disrespecting him.

The volatile individual at this point will initiate a confrontation with the passerby (who only chanced to be at the wrong place at the wrong time). The passerby will naturally feel intimidated by the volatile individual, let alone the numbers standing behind him. He will panic, and try to run for his life - which is precisely what the man behind the wheel of the SUV did.

Now, the other members of this group, though not directly involved in the confrontation, add to the situation by sheer presence. You see, if the volatile individual were to hurt the passerby, their fault lies in standing there and allowing for it to happen - even keeping an eye out, as it where, for incoming law enforcement. If, by the odd chance, the passerby where to hold his ground and hurt the volatile individual instead, the members of this group would then step in to overwhelm him with numbers (this being the chase which develops during the length of the footage).

Hence, the other members of this group are not without fault. If ANYTHING, these members should have the rightful intuition (if not rightful honour) to halt the volatile individual before he does something stupid. They know who he is. Everyone in a group of three or more knows who the volatile individual amongst them is, yet they prefer not to do anything about it. Why? Because he is part of their group. It is like having a dog which is out of control. What does it matter if it threatens others so long as it is no threat to us? He won't bite. Not really.

Lastly, I saw at one of the news broadcasts that the motorcycle club issued an apology stating they do not encourage nor endorse acts of violence. That is fine, but an apology without reparations is just  words recited. The club knows who was there that day, they know who this volatile individual is. And unless they turn this man in to answer for his actions, they are protecting him sill, thus only perpetuating the problem.

It is to be remembered that, until not too long ago, there were (or maybe still are?) serious and dangerous crime organizations linked to motorcycle groups, here in the very state of New York. And even though this club may be a mere recreational association, it inevitably evokes the fears forged by these criminal bands, especially when they commit acts such as what was witnessed nationwide last Sunday.

Like I said, I am outraged that the media promotes such hesitation in finding fault where it lays. It is disturbing to live in an age where media overshadows common sense, and technology eclipses our understanding of human nature, specially when it comes down to the same group dynamics which have been since the beginning of time.

For all the video footage and commentaries, there is only one truth which says it all: one against many.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Heroic Speeches in Movies: Weaker and Weaker?

Heroic speeches in films are getting weaker and weaker.
I remember 'Braveheart' and its legendary speech written based on Shakespeare's Henry V. I mean, who does not remember, "They can take our lives! But they cannot take our Freedom!"

But now, the last two speeches I recall seeing are the ones from 'Immortals' and 'Pacific Rim' - both cases in which it feels like the soldiers are responding to a cue from the film's director rather than to the words said by the protagonist.

Pretty lame, huh?
And by the way, disclosure, Pacific Rim kicked Kaiju ass!
But back to speeches; I absolutely LOVE what HBO did in Game Of Thrones, when Theon Greyjoy makes a heroic speech before his raiders, with glorious music and all, only to be clubbed in the back of the head and betrayed to enemy! (I don't think this was even in the books?)

And on that note, let us not forget the all-time predecessor of Speech-Interruptus: who can forget Samuel L. Jackson ( the man who belligerently demanded to know whether Marcellus Wallace looked like a bitch?!) giving a motivational speech in Deep Blue, only to be swallowed whole by a shark even before he was finished! Legendary!

Let me just say that 'Deep Blue' is worth watching just for that one scene.

And yet, if anything, these last two examples illustrate only what a mockery inspiring speeches have become. But why is that? Have we seen too many? Are we a generation so desensitized that we can't be moved by a strongly voiced oration? Or are the films nowadays just so lame that we can't bring ourselves to care whether the characters make it or not?

-Georg Freese

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Movie Without An Intro?

Are the first thirty minutes of any movie really that essential?

I remember when I was a kid growing up in Santiago, Chile, my granddad would take me to the rotary cinemas downtown. At these cinemas, a given film was played in an endless loop. One bought a ticket and walked in at any point in the film and watched it until the end, and then, if one wanted to, could stay to watch the film start from the beginning again.

I watched Rocky I, II, III & IV like this in rotary cinemas with my granddad.

Later in life, as a pre-tween, I remember finding myself with a few hours to kill, in downtown Santiago, and I decided to drop into one of these cinemas which, by then, I had not visited in a while. I still recall the film - it was 'Strange Days' with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Lewis. I sat halfway into the movie and the conflict and the chase, and had a great time assuming by the interaction between the characters what the relationship between them was.

Then I watched the beginning and had one of those 'Oh! So THAT'S why such and such was doing this or that!' moment. It was awesome, and in a way, it was like watching a prequel (which are so popular these days).

This 'Oh!' moment was fully blown-up when I went to an art house cinema to watch Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a masterpiece which influenced me radically and spurred the style of writing I pursue today. No, the art house was not a rotary cinema, but if you have watched Pulp Fiction, you too had that 'Oh! So THAT'S why he did it!' moment.

That being said, I think that - unfortunately - most movies are very predictable. In fact, I become the most bored during the fight/chase scenes, because I can tell beforehand what will happen, namely that the hero will not get hurt and that the bad guy will be demised (But that is the topic for another blog, one which I will name, 'Cut to the chase? Why not cut OUT the chase?")

If a movie is likely to be predictable, watching it from halfway through adds some excitement to it. Now I'm busy trying to figure out who is who DURING the fight/chase, adding another dimension of interest. And, if the denouement turns out to be interesting, hey, I'll watch it from the beginning next chance I get.

The most hilarious example of this is when, while now living in Los Angeles, I took a friend to see Aliens Vs. Predator - lame, I know. I told my friend we could do without the first thirty minutes of the film, given that all that happened during that time was the introduction of your run-of-the-mill characters, each of which will get slaughtered, one at a time.

We went instead to a Starbucks across the street for some Frapuccinos ( Fraps + Air Conditioned cinemas being the perfect antidote for the swelter of an L.A. summer ). When we returned, we walked into the cinema just in time to see the eggs hatch, the face-huggers pounce and the massacre begin. And guess what, the plot was so lame there really WAS no need to get to know any of the characters beforehand. Bang!

So ARE the first thirty minutes of a given film that important? I don't know. Maybe for films which are excellent; hallmarks or classics or revolutionaries. But then again, iconic films of this calibre, I will probably watch more than once - from the very beginning, to the very end. As for the rest, well...

-Georg Freese

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Disclosed Ending

Who-done-it? This is such a cliché there is even a genre named after it. But does it really matter who did it? I mean, is a novel/film less interesting when one knows who did it ahead of time?

This is not the case for me. As a writer, I enjoy a good story just as much whether knowing or not who did it, i.e. the denouement or ending.

In fact, every time I come across an awesome story, I make it a point of reading/watching it again, and I enjoy the insight I have gained on the characters and I sympathize for them who do not know what is going to happen to them.

If the story is good, and the characters solid, knowing the ending does not alter the enjoyment of the experience the book/film offers - the ability to transport the audience into a fictional reality - which is what matters to me and, I think, to a lot of people who enjoy watching their favourite films over and over again.

But where did this topic come from? Well, friends and acquaintances often will recommend me a film they really enjoyed. When I ask them what it is about, often they will say, "Oh, I can't tell you without giving away the ending." But the fact is that I have a busy schedule and, unless I can be guaranteed a good denouement/ending, chances are that I am not going to bother going out of my way to sit down and read said book or watch said film.

If, on the other hand, the plot actually is interesting to its end, I will make it a point to read this book or watch this film, comfortable in the fact that I know there is a good denouement at the end of it, and that I have not just wasted 800 pages or 2 hours on a book or film which sucks.

Furthermore, when writing, I always come up with the ending first and work my way towards the beginning from there. I don't know. Maybe it is just the way I am wired. But still, I guess that what I am saying is that a good story is a good story, whether the ending has been previously disclosed or not. And, in contrast, a bad story is a bad story no matter how the creator/audience try to hide its ending.

Because, if the story is boring, it does not really matter who-done-it. The only thing that matters then, is when-is-this-over?

-Georg Freese 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dragon Girl

Artwork by Liz Ortiz

Story by Georg Freese

Someone once asked what drove me to push myself to suicidal limits, and I answered that if the world had no place for me I would make one by force.

Many saw me as the odd girl who shouldered her way into the world of men, an aristocrat who wanted to stand amongst the ranks of the laymen, but that was not my true oddity. My difference, and my frustration, is that I would not envision myself the wife of any man. I loved a girl.

The first time I became aware of the strength of this love was when she, my best friend, a girl I had grown up with since childhood, was betrothed by her father to a youth we knew. It is hard to describe, given all the emotions fluttering within my adolescent heart, how deeply that had affected me, but I suppose it was the sudden awareness that she would no longer be free to ride horses with me anymore, that we would not share the sunsets anymore, and that I could dream of having her to myself no more.

Out of desperation, I kissed her. But she did not feel the way I did. She became estranged. I became miserable.

Someone once asked me what drove me to such suicidal limits. Men will never understand the overwhelming sorrow of unrequited love.

The only way to release my frustration was riding mares through perilous cliffs and across open plains until they panted and frothed with exhaustion, challenging with training swords every squire in my father's household, and my older brothers, defeating them all in joyless victories. I then challenged my father, but him I could not defeat, for his age, his strength and his wisdom surpassed me immeasurably.
I told him one afternoon, as our breaths calmed and our sweat cooled following our duel, that I would not be betrothed to a man. He was kind and offered me the rare chance to chose the youth to whom I was to be married. But he did not understand, and I did not have the nerves to tell him, that he was the only man in my life, and that in my heart there would never be a place for another. Not as a husband. Not ever.

I was admitted into the regiment of sentry cadets given the influence of my father, even when I told him not to intercede, even when I could have gained admittance on my own skill at swords and horses. I know he meant good, but still, ever since I was a young girl I was disregarded from contests of archery, sword and horsemanship, contests reserved almost exclusively for men. As a girl, my sense of frustration at not being regarded adept was only increased when challenges where won on my behalf. It was as if I was not even given the chance to compete, but allowed to win out of sympathy. 

When I entered the sentry cadets regiment I was received with the sniggering hostility I was used to when stepping into the domain of men. And even though I kept to myself and my frustrations, still they challenged me. After defeating their champion in a sword duel, he dared me to a flight by night, which involved breaking into the stalls at midnight and stealing away with two dragons for a race to the marches at the limits of the realm and back. I had never ridden a dragon before. I was terrified. I was thrilled. I was excited.

That is when I met her who, restless at our presence, paced within her cage, eager to burst with fire but for the guard about her beak. The cadets dared me to ride her, and I did.

She was restless indeed, and once we swooshed from the stalls, up into the blackness of the night skies, she bucked and swerved and rolled to cast me off her back, yet I was too stubborn to let loose. In the meantime, my challenger had ridden his dragon far into the distance where his silhouette faded in the dark.

I then yanked at the reins and yelled at the dragon, telling her that, rebellious as she may be, that man was winning the contest to which he had challenged me, and that I was not about to allow for that to pass. And to my surprise she hearkened, and she obeyed, of her own volition.

She undulated with mythical grace as she gained velocity, and I held onto her, undulating with her as we soared across the night skies with such swiftness that my heart pounded with a thrill greater than racing the fastest horse could ever arouse.

We reached the end of the realm, the snow-peaked eastern marches, just as my challenger returned with his dragon, taunting me with jeers as he swooshed past. I whispered for my dragon not to disappoint, and again, she hearkened and, swerving wide over the marches, we began the stretch home at such a velocity that my eyes watered at the chill of the oncoming wind, yet still I glanced ahead as we approached the challenger and overtook him, returning to the headquarters first.  

Elated as I was, once my dragon landed, I found not the cheering of congratulations I had expected, but an ominous silence, for the commanders had received word of what happened at the stables and had arrived to set order. I was sentenced and punished to spend three days in solitary confinement, three days endured in misery and contemplation. The freedom I had experienced flying that dragon was then just a memory recalled within the confines of my cell.

At last I was released and asked to present myself before the commanders' council in full uniform. I did, expecting to be further disciplined. And, even though I was severely scolded and threatened, I was eventually congratulated for having dominated the dragon which none other had been able to ride. I was surprised and elated when they told me that, though I was still to undergo cadet training, she would be reserved for me exclusively.

Something inside of me fell off that day, a heavy anchor which had been dragging me under for years, a frustration which I no longer felt for, bonding with her, and soaring the skies patrolling the marches, I felt the most exhilarating liberation I could have ever dreamed of.

With her, I was free.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Angel Incarnate

There once was a man, a man whose days passed in solitude and whose nights passed in loneliness, a man who had no woman to call his own, a man who had no woman to love.  

He was a good man, and the women of his town, who allowed him onto the doorsteps of their hearts yet never past their threshold, told him that one day the right one would arrive into his life, and that she would love him for who he was, and that together they would be happy.

But she never arrived.

Growing desperate with the years, the man prayed to the gods in the heavens for a nymph, an angel whom he could care for and pamper, a woman whom he could worship and love. He prayed within shrines and within temples, before the sea and beneath the stars, to Aphrodite the goddess of love, and to Eros and the mischievous darts of his bow.

Then one day, as the auburn sun sank bright in the autumn dusk, across the fields of hay and the eventide bay, a nymph descended from the heavens, a winged angel of such beauty and kindness as the loftiest gift the gods could bestow on the world.

The man gaped at her radiance and, falling on his knees, offered her his undying faithfulness and love.

But the angel, shedding her wings, and wrapping her slender arms about herself, shivering nude in her now human flesh, shunned this man, leaving him then for another, a man whose strength enticed the desires of many women in the town, a man whose nonchalance made the angel feel warm inside, a man whose confidence made her feel moist below.

For, having descended from the heavens and taken human form, her breast beating with a heart pumping with desire, the angel did not long to be worshipped.

She yearned to love.  

-Freese, June 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Craft And Time.

Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York the other day, I found myself thinking how interesting it is that, for every work of art, all sorts of information is provided - its style, its epoch, its technique, etcetera, all but the time it took for the artist to complete said work of art.

Everything else is talked about - the stone a sculpture was chiselled from, the oils used on the canvas, its realism, its surrealism, its expressionism, its impressionism, even anecdotes about the artists' lives - all but how long it took for him to create what is now before our eyes.

Maybe our appreciation would be different if we knew this. For example, knowing it took a sculptor a whole year to shape a given statue, and this only after completing two models in a smaller scale, perhaps we would take a moment longer to appreciate the statue instead of just glimpsing at it while passing by.

Think on all those weeks and months spent dedicated to this one piece, while maybe completing others, while probably dealing with mundane problems, like a mean neighbour, while most certainly paying rent and most likely being hurried to complete the work even as he hastened in order to collect the commission in order to pay some of his way out of debt.

Who knows? And it's not only the time it took to create that given piece, but also the time it took for the artist to hone the skills which allowed him to create such a craft - a lifetime of craftsmanship.

There is something very human about this aspect of every work of art, an aspect which takes the artist down from atop a glorified pedestal to let him stand amongst us as one of us. Appreciating the artist as a person makes his achievements all the more awesome.

The next time you go to a museum, think on this, and maybe take a moment longer to appreciate something which took a long, long time to create. 


Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Guiltless Wheel

Thoughtful of a good friend of mine who is suffering from a debilitating health condition, and has come to think of her ailments as payback for wrongs she has done earlier in life, I would like to take a moment to write a little of my view of life and the world.

I am taking a chance by blogging this for two reasons: firstly, my understanding is not whole nor near ready to be committed to screen. Secondly, I know there are many out there with different points of views, particularly those following a single god, who may disagree with what I am about to say.

Having thus disclaimed myself let me now speak of the Wheel.

The core difference between monotheistic and pagan beliefs is that monotheists see the world and life as being linear, while pagans see it as being cyclical.

Within the monotheistic view, a man is born, grows, becomes who he is and then dies, his soul migrating thereafter to an eternal place of peace or an eternal place of suffering depending on his deeds.

Pagans however (and I am generalizing here) see the world as a sequence of birth, growth, deeds and death, followed by another’s sequence of the same, in an eternal cycle.

Hence a pagan lives aware that he only has but the little time in this world he is given.

To where the soul migrates thereafter varies from pagan belief to pagan belief, though there is always the importance of honoring the dead, in particularly family members who have died, and by extension forefathers who have passed away.

Hence the notion of "Honoring one’s forefathers with one’s deeds," meaning to do honorable things in life, meaning to do good deeds, not to please a mighty god who will judge a man upon his death, but doing them to please those who lived before him, without the efforts of whom the man could not have been born nor live the life which he lives.

But let me take a turn here, for it is life and not afterlife I wish to speak of.

In the linear view of monotheism, it is natural to fall into a cause and effect understanding of the world, even when there is no direct connection between two given events. To draw an example (and a very superstitious one at that), if a man cheats another and later a branch falls on his head, it could be understood that this happened as a punishment for his earlier, wrongful deed... the "one god" being somehow behind this rebuke.  

In a cyclical view, it is understood that men will cheat and branches will fall as they always have, as they always will, and one event has little to do with the other, though it can be said, for argument’s sake, that the man who has a guilty conscience will resent the branch more, as the accident will ripple in his stressed state of mind.

What I want to get at (for this topic can digress in a dozen different directions) is that good things happen, and bad things happen, both for no good reason. The universe does not have a will to favor or obstruct any one particular individual, it simply "is."

Now, the universe is dynamic, and it can be influenced, and yes, it can favor or obstruct a man in a subtle way, but this has little to do with the man, and certainly nothing to do with morals. Understand that morals is a human concept, not one of nature, and it is man who will desperately try to understand the world in terms of good and evil, which is really a twisted notion of beneficial or harmful.
Bad things happen, good things happen, and we can only react. This is the wheel, always turning round and round, good things followed by bad, bad things followed by good, like the seasons of the year, summer followed by winter, winter followed by summer.

Thus it may be best not to see the universe in a moral context of cause and effect, of guilt and reproach, but just as it is; good and bad things happening at random, or at least, for reasons which do not involve any one person individually.

So what is the point?

Just like in the eye of the storm it is the most peaceful, at the center of the wheel it is the most stable. The way to get there is not to get too excited when things are good and not to become too desperate when things are bad. This goes along with what Buddhists would call "to follow the middle way."

But let me go back to the turn of the seasons mentioned before, and let us look at trees: in winter, when conditions are harsh, trees shed their leaves ridding themselves of everything that is not strictly necessary. During this time they do not grow; they just survive. In summer, when conditions are optimal, the trees flourish with flowers and foliage, growing in girth and height, their seeds flying with the wind to spawn new saplings.

If one were to apply this same wisdom to one’s life it would read as follows: in times of harshness, cut back from all that is not strictly necessary; luxuries, comforts, treats (it is hard, I know). Do these things without questioning why bad times have befallen on you of all people, because they befall on everyone.

When times are good, celebrate and be merry. Further your plans, invest your time, work hard and make the most of the moment. Do this rather than just being grateful to a god (it is hard, I know). Good things befall on you because they befall on everyone.
To hold back when things are bad and go forth when things are good, to be proactive rather than reflective, to question not the reasons why good or bad things happen, to just understand that they happen and that it is the only thing one can do to make the most of any situation... This is the way of balanced, cyclical thinking.
Understand that good and bad things happening have nothing to do with you, but what you do with the situation does. It has everything to do with you. That is your turn at life and your responsibility; to do what you can with the time that you have.
Do not empower your grievances with guilt because you are only making your problems stronger. It is your charge to solve problems, to overcome obstacles and to defend your right to live your life to the fullest, and defend it with all that you got!
And finally, do not let guilt haunt you. Guilt is a correcting device meant to kick in when in the near of the possibility of making the same mistake again. That is where it belongs and that is where it must stay.   
If you messed up, just make sure you do not let it happen again the next time around (and you can bet there will be another time around, there always is).
Move on. Don't let guilt hold you back. 
Always remember you are an amazing being, full of life and full of light...
Stop dwelling on guilt, and shine!