Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dwelling on Ducks #7: The McDuck Inspiration


The only time the wildly popular author Janet Evanovich, who is perhaps best-known for her series of novels about female bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, ever crossed my radar was about four years ago when my wife (then-fiancee) and I were moving into our house and I was helping her unpack boxes and boxes of books. This was in addition to the boxes and boxes of my own books that I had just unpacked.

Sometimes, I'm not sure if it's gravity or the sheer volume of books in our house that's keeping us earthbound.

Bethany loves the Plum series, yet I had, quite frankly, never heard of them. She told me how great the stories were, I nodded, and kept unpacking. Her profusion of praise failed to motivate me to...um...plumb the depths of Evanovich's oeuvre.

So, that's the extent of my acquaintance with one of the most popular authors in the world today. I mean, apart from seeing Evanovich's books in all kinds of stores everywhere, be they dollar, grocery, or actual bookstores.

Literally. They're everywhere. And if it's not Janet, then it's John, James, and Sparks, but usually, it's all of them, with a few Browns and Thors sprinkled in for good measure.

But this week, Evanovich crossed my radar again, thanks to a link provided by one of Joe Torcivia's readers in the comments section over at his blog.

Back in December, Evanovich was interviewed by The New York Times, and at the head of the piece was this lede: "The author, most recently, of 'The Job' is a big fan of Scrooge McDuck."

Being an unabashed fan of Ye Olde Miser, that was enough to pull me in.

Sure enough, her love for Scrooge came by way of Carl Barks' classic stories:

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I loved reading, but I didn’t have access to a lot of books. I was allowed to take one book out of the library every week. And I got a hardcover book for Christmas and for my birthday. I filled in the gaps with comics. And to tell you the truth, comics were my first love anyway. I especially loved “Uncle Scrooge” and “Donald Duck,” with “Little Lulu” coming in second.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

“North of the Yukon,” by Carl Barks. Actually, I’d have to lump together all those early Scrooge McDuck books by Carl Barks. They gave me a lifelong love for adventure stories. And I still aspire to have a money bin like Scrooge and push my spare change around with a bulldozer.

******
Joe speculates that she may have meant "Back to the Klondike" as opposed to "North of the Yukon," but no matter. Both are excellent stories, each representing a different period in Barks' career, with "North" being published in the twilight of his career...



...and "Klondike" at the peak of his career...


And both stories are masterpieces of romance and adventure, elements that are apparently woven throughout many of Evanovich's stories.

When it comes to The McDuck Inspiration, I can completely relate to what she is saying. 

As I recounted here, my first brush with Barks came with the DuckTales' television adaptation of "Back to the Klondike." 

The merits of this adaptation have been debated extensively, but to the five-year-old me who was watching it at the time, I had never seen anything like it in my admittedly short life. So help me God, The Get Along Gang had never been as captivating as DT's "Klondike." 

In fact, I would be willing to wager that a Klondike bar is more captivating than The Get Along Gang.

******

As an aside, I dare you to watch The Get Along Gang theme song and not want to gouge your eyes out with rusty, shit-encrusted pliers...


Provided you still have eyes to read this, I honestly don't know how I sat through episode after episode of that mind-numbing balderdash. 

The Clubhouse Caboose toy was kinda cool, though.


Kinda.

******
As a second aside, it's not that the message of The Get Along Gang was bad. 

It was just annoying. 

As a three- or four- or five-year-old, you're already being told to get along with other people all of the time. You get it, got it, and don't want to do it. 

All *you* want to do is play with *your* toys and watch *your* cartoons. 

Please. No fine print about getting along with others who want to do the same things you want to do just a little bit differently from how you want to do them.

Still, you're hearing this message ad nauseam. And you're pretty damn sure that you've caught most of the people telling you this in the act of not getting along with others.

Then, you turn on the TV, and these way-too-cutesy creatures, who are drawn to look and talk the way all cartoons would look and talk if  "advocates" like Peggy Charren (God rest her soul) had their way, start yammering at you, just like the adults, to get along, and not just get along, but get along as a gang.

I'm a three-year-old loner! Don't force me to hang out with other kids, and I won't have to worry about getting along! 

Or if you're going to tell me it's cool to get along, at least make the means of delivering the message cool. 

Y'know, like...





******

Although Evanovich is leagues ahead (and presumably millions, too) of this unknown writer, I can also relate to what she is saying because watching the Barks-based DuckTales episode at that particular time in my childhood changed me forever. The quality of the storytelling and the richness of the characters took me through the TV-screen looking glass and into a deeper and more nuanced world of fiction, showing me the sheer pleasures the human imagination can devise and dream up.

Whether I wanted it to or not, any creative endeavor from thereon out would be influenced by the Disney Ducks in some way because they, by way of Barks, showed me there was more to entertainment than overly simplistic plotlines and one-dimensional characters. 

In fact, somewhere I have binder upon binder of roughly sketched Duck stories, plotted across several years and written sometimes after school as I put off doing my homework and sometimes on a lazy summer afternoon when I didn't have anything else to do or when I didn't want to do anything else. 

And before that, I had ripped off the Ducks and created a family of bears who looked and talked like the Ducks. 

In fact, my science project one year, in either 6th or 7th grade, was on animation, and I attempted to do a flipbook of my own Donald Duck cartoon. It was largely a failed project and probably the worst attempt at animation before Flash came along, but still, I wouldn't even have tackled such a project if it hadn't been for DuckTales and the Carl Barks comics to which the show led me. 

Of course, I've picked up a myriad of other influences along the way and I continue to discover new ways of telling stories, but the impact that even an adaptation of a Barks' story has had on my craft (dare I call it art?) can never be erased, and for that reason, as with Evanovich, Barks will always be my first influence. 

It's The McDuck Inspiration alive and at work long after his creator laid down his brush for the last time.

******

Now, picture a cluttered studio, a well-worn art table, a mess of sketchings, and a kindly, ordinary-looking 50-something hunkered down in the middle of the quiet chaos. 

Numerous matters are going through his mind, such as the dissolution of a recent marriage; the need to pay the rent; the neverending roster of deadlines (here a 10-pager, there a 32-pager); the lack of creator credit (while the guy who does get the credit has probably never read a damn word you've written since his time is spent on far-flung fantasies like theme parks and intricately animated, money-losing features); the complete disconnect between you and your readers (thanks to the just-mentioned lack of credit); the knowledge that you've written and drawn 100, maybe 200 of these stories (you've lost count) and before it's all set and done you'll have written and drawn 500, maybe 600 more... 

How do you stay fresh? How do you maintain the quality? How do you keep satisfying yourself and your work ethic? How do you pay the bills? How do you find happiness?

I'm romanticizing a bit, of course, but the last thing on this artist's mind is inspiration and influence. It wasn't until the final years of his comic-book career that Barks had any clue that his work meant anything other than disposable entertainment. 

Sure, his stories were part of the bestselling comic books of the time, but how much did he really think this remarkable feat was because of him and not because of the fella whose name was above the title?

Barks was just trying to create narratives that pleased himself, he would later say, without the realization that he was influencing a future international bestselling author, stoking the imaginations of two of the greatest filmmakers of the future, and who knows how many other creative and intellectual stalwarts. And of course, there were and are the scores upon scores of little tykes like myself, spanning generations, decades, and soon centuries, whom he was influencing.

He simply wasn't aware of The McDuck Inspiration.

I quietly chuckle when I read in-depth analyses of not just Barks, but any author who didn't have the convenient knowledge and passionate motivation of their own fame to spur them on. Today, with these authors' entire output available to us, either in printed volumes or in digitized files, we're able to analyze, dissect, praise, criticize, and bastardize their work. 

"Why was this story brilliant, yet this one wasn't? What a stupid plot twist! He really thought that story would work?! Oh, but this one is genius!! This one is tripe!!! Etc. etc. etc."

But they were just trying to pay the bills. Like the rest of us. 

And yet they did good work that will last forever. 

To me, seeing someone like Barks, who was devoted to his craft under less-than-ideal circumstances, is more of a creative inspiration than the DuckTales episode that first sparked my desire to create on that rainy afternoon in 1987.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Movie Mash-Up #13: The Devil's Parade

The other day, a friend sent me this edition of the extremely clever and slightly afflicted webcomic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

Okay, so maybe you're offended by that and maybe you're not. This style of humor is par for the panel for cartoonist Zach Weiner, the addled brain behind SMBC

Maybe the reason I enjoy the strip so much, apart from its insistence on playing only left field, is because he often screws around with religious conventions, not unlike Gary Larson once did...




And those are just four of dozens of panels Larson churned out during his heyday in which God and the Devil were as much a part of The Far Side universe as ants, dinosaurs, and fat, nerdy, overgrown little boys. I recall reading these when I was younger, finding them funny, but then nervously remembering that I should be offended at such blasphemy. 

I wonder how many Muslims actually found the Charlie Hebdo covers...

Never mind.

Sometimes, it's best not to finish a sentence. ;-)

However, when I read that particular SMBC cartoon, for some reason it brought to mind this piece of 1975 cinematic camp...


I've actually never watched this movie, which surprises me. I harbor an affection for 1970s low-budget films that feature 1960s TV stars so  hampered by their small-screen success that they were forced to take any job to pay the rent and the alimony. 

Seriously, look at that cast: William Shatner, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerritt, (Academy Award Winner) Ernest Borgnine, and Keenan Wynn.

On top of those heavyweights, The Devil's Rain was future heavyweight John Travolta's first movie, although I believe he doesn't have any lines. This would soon change. On the set, he was introduced to Scientology by one of the other actors, Joan Prather. Soon after, he joined, and suddenly he had a lot of lines to say. 

The lesson, kids, is: If you want to jumpstart your acting career, join a sci-fi religion while saying nothing in a movie about the Church of Satan that stars the world's best-known sci-fi actor.

The Devil's Rain was also edited by Michael Kahn, who would go on to be Steven Spielberg's only editor following their successful collaboration on Close Encounters of the Third Kind two years later. 

It wouldn't be the first or last time someone named Kahn would slice and dice Shatner... 

#lamejoke

Anyway, I really should watch this movie someday. When you know more than five facts about a film and you've never seen that film, it shows you have a special commitment to procrastination.

I have, however, watched this scene, which can't help but embed itself in your brain...


Hollywood was obsessed with movies about the Church of Satan and Satanism in general for a good deal of the late 1960s through the 1970s, it seems. The Devil's Rain was one of many flicks that had besieged filmgoers with the real or imagined horrors of the Church of Satan since this 1968 masterpiece tempted the insanity...

 

After recently viewing Rosemary's Baby for the first time, I could see how it captivated the nation. But what I'd really like to know is, Why then? Why in 1968 did the nation suddenly become fascinated with the Church of Satan? Did it really have that much of an impact when it was founded in 1966? 

Or was everyone just hungover from the tumult of the sixties, and the Church of Satan seemed to represent the Morning After better than any other religion?

Oh, speaking of the Church of Satan, this fella...


...that's Anton Szandor LaVey. He founded the Church of Satan.

He also appeared in The Devil's Rain. And served as the film's technical adviser.

For a low-budget, B-grade horror flick, that movie had all of Dante's levels occupied...

Now, watch this. It's not about Satan...

Monday, January 26, 2015

2 Memes About Puppies

Okay, so I'm lying. But would you have really read any farther if I had titled this post, "2 Memes About War"?

I came across this quote from President (and General) Dwight D. Eisenhower the other day from his "Chance for Peace" speech.

Now, the next sentence I should write is: "This quote still resonates, especially in light of today's wars." But would I really be sharing it if I didn't think it still resonated? ;-)

Here it is:


And here's a fuller version of that same quote for context:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

This speech was given on April 16, 1953. I can only imagine what those statistics, figures, and calculations would be today.

Well, actually, I don't have to imagine. Here's some perspective, via another meme and taken from the perspective of our returning soldiers...


Both of these memes were featured on Sen. Bernie Sanders' Facebook page. As my politics and social philosophy have slid increasingly leftward, I've become as much of a fan of Sen. Sanders as I could possibly be of any politician. (I appreciate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, too, but I'm not quite sold on her sincerity.)

Sanders says or regurgitates what I frequently think about war, the middle class, my generation (those horrible, good-for-nothing Millennials), and poverty and how all four intersect. He raises issues that are often shot down by the Right with such simplistic statements as: "Capitalism works"; "The poor just need to get off their lazy asses and find a job"; "Cut government entitlements and you solve the problem of the poor"; "Kids are too lazy and expect too much, and that's why they're still living with their parents"; and the ever-popular "Increase the defense budget."

More often than not, the Left ignores the issues Sanders raises and gives the Right what it wants, albeit in watered-down form. 

I wish we could have a Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential contest (preferably the Sen. Bernie Sanders), and I would like nothing more than if the GOP candidate was a Sen. Ted Cruz (preferably in the form of the slightly more tolerable Sen. Rand Paul). 

It would be bloody nice if our elections featured sharp contrasts in the points of view presented, but that's not how the pollsters, money-men, lobbyists, and professional campaigners sell candidates. The package has to be all-in-one-and-one-for-all. 

So, say hi to these two familiar faces...


Hey! If you've stuck around this long, you deserve those two puppy memes...



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dwelling on Ducks #6: At Last! All the Ducks Come Home to Roost!

Well, scratch that. They're not quite coming home...

Yes, Disney owns the largest comic-book publisher in the world. And yes, this comic-book publisher sold more comic books than any other publisher in the world in 2014.

But that doesn't mean Disney should be bothered with using the largest comic-book publisher in the world, which it owns, that sells more comic books than any other publisher in the world to relaunch a line of comic books featuring the very characters who made Disney comics the best-selling comic books in the world 60 years ago.

If you and I were sitting in a boardroom and we had at our fingertips the ability to publish (some of) the greatest funny-animal characters side-by-side with (some of) the greatest superhero characters on the same shelves under the same imprint, you and I would have a very short meeting, because you and I would take our palms, slap our foreheads, and say, "Thank you, frozen Walt and eternal Stan, for blessing us with this gift."

But.

That is you. That is I...I mean...me. And we are not Disney. The company. In fact, much to our mutual relief, we will never be Disney (the company).

So, Disney (the company), in its eminent wisdom, the kind of wisdom that inspired its home-video division to inform potential consumers of the recently released DuckTales The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp that they would be buying a...


...and nothing more, nothing less (but if it could have been less, then that would have meant more to Disney)...

...that Disney, owner of the...oh, never mind, has decided to outsource its upcoming comic-book relaunch of its classic characters to another, lesser-known comic-book company. Which it does not own.

For those of us still "scarred" (in a way that only we first-worlders could be scarred by an entertainment conglomerate) by the disrespect shown to our beloved furry, anthropomorphic buddies by the Boom!kaBoom! line, we can bless our bagpipes and refrain from cursing our kilts that this other, lesser-known comic-book company is perhaps one of the best publishers of licensed characters around today. 

That company is, of course, IDW, whose offerings include such excellent titles as Star Trek Ongoing and Popeye

Today, IDW announced the debut of its Disney comic-book line with this lush and handy poster that evoked all sorts of tingly, feathery feelings from this small corner of fandom...


There are two salient points to be made based on this poster: 

First, IDW has learned from the mistakes of its predecessors and has focused on establishing its Disney comics line with the "Core Four." Lifelong fan Joe Torcivia has long maintained that this is the foundational strategy for keeping these books alive in the modern comic-book marketplace. (He's right.)

They've also made these books affordable, avoiding the mistake that both Gemstone and Gladstone II made with their respective lines. Instead of being a cringe-inducing $6.95 or $8.95, Uncle Scrooge #1 will be an industry-average $3.99.*

Never fear! It wouldn't be a Disney comic-book line without completely unaffordable editions of stories that have been reprinted and repackaged a ridiculous number of times. If these yet-to-be-priced lobster rolls are your sandwiches of choice and won't tighten your money belt too much, have at 'em. And if you see me on the street someday and you happen to be carting these volumes around (probably in a cart), please, sir, may I at least see the cover and maybe the first two or three pages? Just a glance. That's all.

The second observation is directed at Disney (the company): I love IDW's Legacy Cover Themes idea. I would hope that because IDW is tying these books in with the Disney theme parks,  you, Disney (the company), will see fit to allow these titles to grace the plentiful shelves of the numerous stores within said theme parks. 

I'm sure you MBAs have heard of synergy. I know Marvel has...

Anyway, I would hope that you, Disney (the company), would do this as a boost to and celebration of the new Disney comic-book line of your classic characters, butttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt...y'know...

Regardless, beginning with this title in April*...


...Disney comics are indeed back, and this duckling-at-heart would like to give a hearty...


*Yes, they rebooted the numbering for all but Walt Disney's Comics & Stories, but at this point in Disney comics' sullied history, who cares? They're back.

**UPDATE TO THE ASTERISK: Many thanks to Chris Barat for pointing out that the traditional numbering of Uncle Scrooge has been maintained in parentheses. I'm a big fan of parentheses (as my missives frequently show), but yeah, it's a wee bit of an odd strategy. Nevertheless, at this point in Disney comics' sullied history, who cares? They're back.

Did I just repeat myself?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Movie Mash-Up #12: Recounting "Selma" and the Two Scenes that Moved Me


I had the privilege of seeing "Selma" Monday night, and believe me, I'm always glad when these non-blockbuster films find their way to the Ohio Valley. I live in an area where cinematic tastes run more Sandler than "Selma."

Overall, it's a beautiful, moving film. At times, that can mean slow-moving, but this isn't necessarily a negative. The film takes time to paint its characters, not with the broad brush of mythology, but with the garish graffiti of humanity.

It can be jarring to see icons as human beings when we're used to seeing them as archived orators and imposing monuments.

But given our species' propensity to revere and adore mere men and women, cinematic ventures should seek to right the ship on our one-dimensional course to bestowing sainthood upon such figures as the Founding Fathers, athletes, entertainers, and virtually any other human being who has been memorialized with monuments, museums, books, and Biography channel hagiographies.

Because director Ava DuVernay (remember her name), leading man David Oyelowo (remember his name), and producers Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey (you already know their names) take pains to avoid this pitfall, not only with King, but with every other historical figure in "Selma," the movie delivers a somber examination of a shameful, yet courageous time in American history. 

In fact, that's the one word I would use to sum up this movie: courage. 

There are many acts of courage on display in "Selma," all of them starkly embodied by the film's central figure. 

King has the courage to boldly proclaim the truth of equality from various pulpits and lecterns; he has the courage to stand up to a President who wants to expend his political capital on fighting poverty, not Southern racists; he has the courage to admit his moral failings to his wife and to himself; he has the courage to listen to the Spirit when the eyes of the world are on him; and he has the courage to admit when he is tired, weak, and alone. 

King is never portrayed as a saint or as perfect, and in making this deliberate choice about a man who has been both lionized and vilified, the director and the actor enable his most lasting characteristic-- courage--to stand out and challenge the audience.

Two scenes in particular, both revolving around King, stood out to me in "Selma." I'll warn you that SPOILERS abound.

******

Scene #1: The second march from Selma to Birmingham.

To fully appreciate this scene, one must first know that David Oyelowo...

Wait. I'm going to interrupt this sentence-already-in-progress to ask: Have you been struggling to pronounce his last name in your head? 

As a service, here. Brad Pitt can help you:


Now, back to our sentence, which thanks to modern technology, has been rewound to the beginning.

To fully appreciate this scene, one must first know that David Oyelowo is, in his own words, a born-again Christian.

As someone who was raised in the Christian faith and is still working that faith out in adulthood, I can tell you this: it shows in his portrayal. Above all else, Oyelowo understands how spiritual King's calling was. 

The prime example of this comes when King is leading the second march from Selma to Birmingham. For various reasons, he did not lead the first march when the protesters were brutally attacked by police officers and state troopers under orders from Governor George Wallace and as television cameras rolled.

Because of the repercussions from the first march, the eyes of the world are on the marchers as they once again begin to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 

Thirty-three percent of the marchers are now Caucasians who have come from around the country to show support for the cause. 

Law enforcement has been ordered to let them pass. 

The movement seems on the brink of succeeding in its mission of lifting the racially motivated barriers that have prevented black people from voting in Alabama and in many other places around the country.

But King abruptly stops the March. He falls to his knees, and as the crowd follows suit, King begins to quietly pray. 

He then gets up, turns around, and leads the band of protesters back to Selma. 

Many of them are furious at him. They have come a long way to show solidarity. They were prepared to suffer.

Yet he walked away. He turned back.

Even more aggravating, King won't give a clear reason why he stopped the march, simply citing a desire for federal protection from violence to avoid more bloodshed.

But James Reeb, a minister from Boston who was among the Caucasians to join the march, is talking with another pastor and says, paraphrasing, "I know why he stopped. God told him it wasn't the right time, and he listened."

I'm not sure--and I write this cautiously--that a less spiritually inclined actor could have played this moment on the bridge in the same way that Oyelowo does. 

In fact, I'll go so far--once again, cautiously--as to turn that sentence around and say: Only a spiritual actor could have played that moment so effectively. Only an actor who has experienced the divine himself could have fully grasped what was going in King's soul at that moment. 

On the bridge, you see the Spirit moving in King's eyes, cautioning him to stop, moving him to turn around. He's being prompted. He's being urged. It's not strategic. It's not calculated. It's present.

In fact, for a fleeting moment, you see a look cross his face that seems to say, "Okay, Lord. Are you sure about this?"

Incidentally, this entire scene is played with little dialogue. 

As someone who has had what he perceives to be similar, less consequential brushes with the divine, the depth of Oyelowo's choices resonated with me and drove home how the Civil Rights Movement was as much a spiritual battle as it was a cultural and political one. 

Could a less spiritually inclined actor have perceived this nuance to the extent that Oyelowo seems to have? Perhaps, but acting is as much, if not more so, rooted in personal experience as it is in technique. 

I'll leave it at that.

******

Scene #2. Thanks to the FBI and its constant surveillance of the civil rights leader, King is confronted by his wife about his marital infidelity.

As mentioned, the scene we just discussed was played with very little dialogue, and this is common throughout the film. 

In spite of the violence surrounding the events in Selma, this movie is quiet in tone and introspective in mood, much like the man himself. Many of its most powerful moments are played with little dialogue, including this second scene. 

The Washington political establishment, namely Lyndon B. Johnson (the commanding presence of Tom Wilkinson), is desperate to keep King from marching. One of the tactics it uses to circumvent King's plan is to send him, courtesy of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, a recording of one of his alleged extramarital liaisons. 

It is first received by his wife, Coretta (the powerful Carmen Ejogo). 

After playing the tape for her husband, Coretta segues into a mesmerizing monologue about the fog of death she and the family live under because of his calling. She then asks him to be honest with her, and he promises that he will be. 

It's fairly well-documented that King suffered tremendous guilt for betraying his wife, and yet he never overcame his sexual weaknesses (if he ever had them at all, something that Coretta would dispute for the rest of her life). 

In the midst of so many other spiritual victories, in the midst of espousing a nonviolent philosophy rarely heard within these shores then and now, here was one major character flaw that would forever tarnish and haunt King's reputation and the values he proclaimed. 

As I recall, he's given maybe 10 words in this entire scene, yet Oyelowo communicates the weight of King's guilt and loss through his eyes and body language. King sees himself for what he is: an imperfect man afflicted by sin.

****** 

There are many other scenes in "Selma" that could be dissected and analyzed. This fact alone speaks to the craft and artistry behind the movie. 

I urge you to take the time to view it, whether in the theater or when it is released to various viewing platforms. Following a year of racial tumult, there's no better time to be reminded of our complicated, ugly history with bigotry and prejudice and one man's nonviolent efforts to model a better way.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beyond the Dream

Today, Americans will honor Martin Luther King Jr. by attempting to "claim" him for their side.

"If MLK were alive today, he'd be a [fill in the blank] and he'd believe [fill in the blank], just like me!"

Setting aside how fundamentally unfair it is to predict how a person's beliefs would have evolved following their death and how they would have reacted to times in which they will never live, these assertions tend to overlook key aspects of a person's life that could indicate otherwise.

Most people seem to remember Martin Luther King Jr. for the soaring, eloquent rhetoric of his "I Have a Dream" speech. Beautifully articulated, most of us who were born into a post-Civil Rights era can get behind his vision of equality and peaceful co-existence for all.

But I often wonder how many of us could get behind the vision he espoused throughout his later years, a vision that challenged and chastised the very core of American culture. A vision that was arguably more radical than anything he said during "I Have a Dream" and the fight for Civil Rights.

The King I have come to admire is the latter-day King, the one who was unafraid to boldly proclaim the following observations. The one who was fearless in going after America's corrupt, war-waging establishment, its deluded self-perception of divine favor, and its wealth-loving, greed-promoting power structure...


Thursday, January 15, 2015