Sunday, September 30, 2018

Six Months

Friday marked six months since I started writing this blog.  And in that time, I've maintained nearly daily entries for the entire period.  That to me is crazy, as I've never been one before who could journal or similar.  Introspective writing on a recurring basis would just get tedious.  This at least has presented a challenge, addressing issues as they arise, and allowing the muse to lead in the direction it needs to take.  It's allowed me to get ideas out of my head that have been up there for far too long.  It's helped me find my voice.  That was something that had been developing through rants on social media, but this allowed it to get more refined.

In that period of time, I've adapted a play, condensing Pygmalion and adding scenes and characters as needed to bring forth Thou Fair Eliza(r).  Things I would have never expected to do.  Thou Fair Eliza is working through the copyright process and has been approved for use in One Act Play, both incredible blessings.  Even more exciting is to have an idea and a structure for the next thing.  And to be ready to move to it.

I know I've repeatedly said that I am humbled that anyone takes the time to read this blog and it remains true.  I realize there are many, many other things out there that can compete for attention and for anyone to take even the briefest amount of time to read anything I write, I am truly grateful.

Thank you all for reading.  I have no plan to stop anytime soon, so continue to be on the lookout for random and assorted musing on any topic under the sun.

Until next time.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Top 10 Comic Characters I Would Like To Write

For Top 10 lists a suggestion was made to list my top 10 favorite superheroes.  Right now that list is a little too daunting for me to tackle, as like many things, it becomes a "favorite at the moment" list and requires whittling down from a very long containing more than ten entries.  So I'm taking a different approach.  Instead I'm going to focus on my favorite characters that I would love to write.  That I have a specific idea for a story or story element that I would love to see implemented.  This is a much easier list to get to ten.

It's largely Marvel as I have been primarily a Marvel Zombie for most of my life, but there are a few key DC superheroes I'd love a crack at.

  • Elektra - Elektra represents probably the most pressing idea that I have.  While she is a fascinating character, and has been the subject of key exemplary stories, I feel she's largely been under served through her continued existence.  Most writers focus on her ninja background and connection to the Hand.  I think that is the least interesting aspect of her character.  There is a wealth of story potential there and in particular, a way to craft a Marvel story that has not been done before.
  • Wonder Woman - Wonder Woman is one where I would love to do a lot of synthesis.  It would likely have to be an Elseworlds tale, but I would love to be able to give Wonder Woman something she's always been missing in comparison to Superman and Batman - a fictional city that is as much a character as anyone else in the book and a cool headquarters/personal retreat.  Batman and Superman each have a fictional city that reflects their character with several specific known set pieces that can be visited with their own set of supporting characters.  For Batman, Gotham City with the GCPD (rooftop in particular), the Batcave, Wayne Manor, and Wayne Enterprises.  You can add in things like Leslie Thompkin's Clinic, Crime Alley, and even new additions like the Belfry for variety.  With Superman, you have Metropolis, with the Daily Planet, LexCorp, Bibbo's, Smallville and the Kent Farm, and the Fortress of Solitude.  If you combine pieces of Wonder Woman's history, I think you can create a very interesting similar set up for the character and would like to develop it.
  • Daredevil - Daredevil represents one of my true favorite characters that I would actually love to write (perhaps number one favorite character of all time).  I love the contradictions of the character and would love to do a big Hush style arc on the character touching all the major points and characters in his periphery.  Particular interest for the overlap of my law background and comics interest.
  • Batman - I think it goes every writer has a Batman story in them and I think I have just one.  Would not be interested in a longer run, but have one idea for a psychology based story that would be fun to explore.  Plus  it would be great fun to use a couple of the lesser known villains like the Charlatan. 
  • Moon Knight - Moon Knight is another character where the primary topic people focus on (here the dissociative identity disorder) is one of the least interesting aspects of the character.  From my reading of the early issues, it never seemed like there were supposed to be separate identities, but just aliases used (as Batman does with Matches Malone).  I would love to explore, though, the Egyptian-Jewish connection.  The son of a rabbi serving as the avatar of an Egyptian God.  That's rich for conflict and story potential.  Plus, I think there is great potential for a Times Past-style story regarding previous incarnations of Moon Knight.
  • Hawkman - The recent developments in Hawkman's character open up so much story potential.  A continual warrior who reincarnates across time and space.  Everything is on the table and can be explored.  I love the Indiana Jones aspect of the characters background and the set up in the New Orleans of the DCU, St. Roch.  Add in a His Girl Friday style relationship with Hawkgirl and it's one interesting series.
  • The Fantastic Four - It would just be exciting to write a big story about a happy family exploring the Marvel multiverse.  And I would want it all in.  The Future Foundation with the backup Fantastic Force.  Naming Puppy.  Wyatt Wingfoot, Alicia Masters, Willie and Billie Lumpkin.  Franklin and Valeria's new nanny (protector?).  Aunt Tara.  Crazy Uncle Doom who is sometimes supporting, sometimes antagonizing.  It really is the World's Greatest Comic Magazine.
  • Black Panther - Black Panther would just be so much fun to world build.  To further define the Crocodile Tribe, the Hyena Tribe, the Rhinoceros Tribe (in addition to the established Panther Tribe and White Gorilla Tribe).  To explore the neighbors to Wakanda and to flesh out Panther's rogues gallery.  Given my affection for the Priest run, I'd have to bring back Everett K. Ross, king of the whiteboys, but to be able to do grand super-heroics and Game of Thrones style political intrigue would be so much fun.
  • Shazam! - This is an idea that has been brewing since Geoff Johns introduced the Rock of Finality in opposition to the Rock of Eternity.  I stumbled across something that would make a great story regarding who sits on the Rock of Finality and how that would impact Captain Marvel and crew.  Plus,it lead to a series name that I think is particularly clever. (And no matter what they are doing now, though the book needs to be Shazam! for copyright and recognition, the character is and shall always be Captain Marvel).
  • Gambit - I may be one of the few people who like Gambit out of the X-men.  I like the Tithe Collector and the pact between the Thieves and Assassins Guilds.  I like Gambit as a solo star in New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana.  As much as I'm enjoying the Mr. and Mrs. X series with him and Rogue, my preference would be a solo Gambit nearly completely divorced from the X-men universe, getting up to a little good, a little bad, and a lot of trouble on his own.  Love-hate relationship with his ex, Belladonna, and complicated relationship with his father.  Something Southern Gothic.
That's my list, eclectic, but with some overlapping themes.  What characters most interest you and fill your fan fiction?

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Good Person - Updated

"The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."
Psalm 14:2-3

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its questioning of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Chrisine Blasey Ford.  And the day proved a study in contrasts.  The morning questioning of Dr. Ford was marked by a credible and emotional witness who described in detail the alleged assault and the effects that it has had on her life and by very measured questioning from the committee and the investigator who handled all of the Republican questions.  Dr. Ford was adamant that she was "100%" certain that Brett Kavanaugh was the person who assaulted her.

The afternoon was a much more fiery affair. Judge Kavanaugh was just as adamant in his denials, and almost defiantly so.  The questioning, at least initially, became much more of a hostile witness approach, with Kavanuagh reciprocating and treating questions from the investigator and the Republicans on the committee much more directly and appearing openly hostile to the Democratic questions.

The entire hearing was one filled with more dramatics and theatrics surrounding the timing of disclosure and the lack of a more in depth investigation.  All in all, we got what we mostly expected.  No new information, beyond confirming that Dr. Ford has a credible allegation.  We still have a he said/she said account of the events and have possibly impugned the character of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the process.

"Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions."
President George W Bush

One particular refrain throughout the hearing were the accusations of political maneuvering and conspiracy.

Republicans are trying to ram this through without a full investigation.  

Democrats sat on these allegations and have delayed until now just to derail the process.

Kavanaugh even included the possibility this was all a "political hit" and potentially all "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."

Everyone looks noble to their side and assumes the worst of the other, and both sides have been guilty of this.  If we take off the presumption that the opposing side is only acting in the worst possible way, it seems we have reached this point because Senator Feinstein had never planned to reveal Dr. Ford's accusations at all and did not do so until the information had already been leaked.  Contrary to what was discussed in the hearing, what leaked first was the fact that Senator Feinstein had a letter regarding some allegation.  This information very well could have come from one of the friends Dr. Ford told about the assault and the steps she had taken.  The letter itself did not leak until two days after the Intercept article.  Then Dr. Ford came forward when reporters began hounding her.

From what we have heard from Senator Feinstein, these allegations may very well have remained completely confidential and undisclosed had the information not leaked.  At this point, we do not know why Senator Feinstein took such an approach.  Perhaps she took confidential to mean that Dr. Ford did not want the allegations to come out at all.  Perhaps Senator Feinstein did not believe the allegations in the letter were credible enough at that point without further open discussion to derail the confirmation process.  We do not know enough at this point to assume and impugn motive.

Likewise, we impugn ill motive on the circus that has surrounded the scheduling of this particular hearing and the delay that resulted.  And while political motivation is possible and probable, there are many other complex factors that certainly played large factors.   Just in my office, trying to schedule a short meeting can be downright impossible.  I cannot imagine what occurs at this level.

For certain, there is plenty of blame to be thrown around regarding how this all went down.  But there is nothing gained (but political favor) by continuing to denigrate the opposite side.  There is nothing gained from calling this whole process a sham, as Senator Lindsey Graham so indicated, beyond continued division.  And because both sides took this approach, we gained very little in terms of questions to either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh, and instead came away more with the political theatrics and grandstanding.

Let me tell you what I wish I'd known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control:

Who lives
Who dies
Who tells your story
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story - Hamilton

What we have seen through this whole process is a tale of two Brett Kavanaughs.  Judge Kavanaugh presents his past as one where he was the ultimate goodie-two shoes.  His testimony focused on how he was top of his class, got into Yale, into Yale Law School.  He was always working, always studying, always working out or with the athletic teams.  He documented everything meticulously.  As many people stated and as was stated throughout the hearing, he was and is a "good person."  Sure, he enjoys beer, who doesn't, but he has never been that hard of a partier.  Never blacked out or not remembered the night before.  How could such accusations about him be true?

And yet, there is also the Brett Kavanaugh of the allegations.  Now three different women have come forward and have accused Kavanaugh of some form of sexual impropriety.  Some of the allegations have been corroborated, though anonymously.  Further, there are classmates who have stated they remember Kavanaugh as a blackout drunk, a belligerent drunk, a very hard partier.   There's the Kavanaugh of his yearbook which seemed to paint a different picture of his high school days that the one Kavanaugh has been stating.  Even with the more innocent explanations, there is a picture of how Kavanaugh is at least remembered by some that does not match Kavanaugh's own story.

And this matters because we are down to he said/she said.  Because we have two people who both claim 100% certainty, though in complete opposition.  Dr. Ford's testimony has the appropriate gaps in memory that we would expect from such events.  Things that are seared into her brain, while others take reconstruction or are not remembered.  This is why eye witness testimony is one of the least reliable types of evidence.  Our memories are faulty.  They leave out details, they have gaps, people focus on different things.  If you have a group of people who all tell the exact same story down to the last detail, it is generally thought of as unbelievable, as it comes across as rehearsed and likely fabricated.

Kavanaugh has left himself no wiggle room in his testimony.  His past has to be perfect or he has planted doubt as to what he is covering up.  He has categorically denied even ever being at a party like the one Dr. Ford described.  He is placing such strong emphasis of his memory of events from 36 years ago and on his transcribed record of the time, he leaves himself no room for error.  No room for anything he may have forgotten or mis-remembered.  And because we have other accounts of a different version of Brett Kavanaugh from that time, the question of his past continues to be a specter over these allegations.  Even a simple, "yes I partied hard and have definitely been very drunk in the past, but I know I never did this" (if true) could have gone a long way to address the conflicting accounts.

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.  Could Kavanaugh have been so drunk that he didn't remember being at such a party?  Could Ford have mis-identified her assailant?  Without further investigation, these are the type of questions that we will not have answered.


Ultimately and unfortunately, this is likely where this process ends.  As of now, the Senate Judiciary Committee still plans to vote today to recommend Kavanaugh for the nomination.  No further investigation is planned at this time, though one has been recommended and requested by several organizations including the American Bar Association.  We are likely never going to have more information on the accusations or the underlying facts at issue.

What we can do is work on changing the world around us to help make sure we as a society are not in this situation again.
  • Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
  • And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child.
  • 1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted or raped.
  • 3% of men have experienced sexual assault or rape (likely higher due to under reporting).
  • An average of 63,000 children a year are victims of sexual assault.
  • 9 out of every 10 rape victims are female.
  • 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will actually see prison.
  • As of 1998, it is estimated that 17.7 million women have been sexually assaulted or raped.
  • About 2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported.
  • 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
We've got to work on changing system to believe sexual assault victims when the come forward and to encourage victims to speak up and support them through the process.  Because some other statistics are even more troubling.

Of those who were assaulted and did not report, but offered a reason for not reporting:
  • 13% believed the police would not do anything to help
  • 13% believed it was a personal matter
  • 8% believed it was not important enough to report
  • 7% did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble
While the most common reason was a fear of retaliation, the reason above represent 41% that either did not believe anyone would help or did not want to trouble the perpetrator.  Because sadly, the perpetrator is most often someone they know and someone they think would be more believable than them.

Someone everyone else would think is a "good person."


Update - As of 2:00 pm ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to advance Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Senate Floor.  By 3:50 pm ET, the Senate Republican agreed to a delay of no greater than one week to allow for an FBI supplemental background investigation into the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Beyond See You At The Pole

Yesterday, students across America and around the world participated in See You At The Pole, the annual gathering where students (parents and teachers) surround the flag pole to pray for their school, the school year, other students, and other concerns.  It is held close to the start of the school year as to start the year off on the right foot.  Events can include Bible reading and singing of hymns and songs, so long as the entire event is student led.  And generally, the event is a positive, uplifting event for those involved that helps to remind them to pray for their school and for how to be in God's service throughout the school year.

The question today, though, is now what?

Will See You At The Pole be a one time blip in the school year, now matter how positive the experience, how high the mountaintop?  Or will it have a lasting impact?  Will there be something that is carried forward throughout the year in the lives of the students and others involved?

And the biggest message that I would like to promote is that it does not have to end.  See You At The Pole could happen every day at our schools.  Students could gather every single day and pray for the day ahead.

Despite what far too many people believe, all prayer in school is not outlawed.  Student led, student initiated, genuine student prayer is and has always been permissible in the school system (Tinker v Des Moines Independent Community School, 1969).  The 1995 Clinton Administration guidelines provide for school religious activities as long as they pass constitutional guidelines and even the ACLU approves of student-led prayer like SYATP before and after school so long as the school neither encourages or discourages participation.

Now, there may be consequences if a student starts praying out loud while the teacher is trying to teach, but that is more of an issue of appropriateness that even Jesus addressed.  "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."  Matthew 6:5-6.  Jesus in this passage is dealing with the motive for prayer, and one would have to question the motive of a student praying outloud, interrupting the lesson.   For that, there should be consequences.

The school prayer that is not condoned is the kind where participation is mandatory.  Where everyone has to listen.  Where a teacher prays aloud over a class or where a principal or someone else prays aloud over the loud-speaker for the entire school to hear.  That has always been problematic and should not have been condoned.

But student-led, student-initiated prayer where participation is completely voluntary and not addressed by the school, is perfectly valid and allowed.  That goes to the heart of individual religious belief.  And the school cannot stand in its way.

Can you imagine if the Christian students of your school gathered everyday before class around the flag pole and prayed for the day ahead?  Can you imagine what the school would look like at the end of that year?

Let's go further, what would the school system look like, if every Christian teacher went to their room early, before any students arrived, locked the door, and prayed for the day ahead?  If every Christian principal got to the school before anyone else and walked the halls and prayed over them to start the day?

There is nothing to stop this from happening today but our own inaction.

Let's hit a little closer to home.  What would my office look like if I stayed and prayed over it?  What would your business look like if you got there and prayed over it every day?  If all the Christians in the office/business/etc started the day with a joint prayer?  This doesn't have to be the kind of thing that only happens with a church staff or "Christian" organization.

So to those students and faculty who participated in See You At The Pole, keep it up.  Don't be discouraged, don't let this fade.  Keep praying, keep living the life you have been called to.  Find a group of fellow believers and keep it up.

Even if you're the only one, keep praying.  Keep showing up to meet God at that flag pole and pray.

After all, beyond all the publicity and notoriety the event has, that is what it is truly all about.

To meet God where we are and talk to and hear from Him.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 23 - Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Cruise Line represents one of Disney's most successful recent ventures.  Currently a fleet of four ships, the Cruise Line has current itineraries to the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and Alaska, the Pacific coast, and transatlantic voyages.  Anchored by a dedicated Terminal 8 at Cape Canaveral in Florida, and with its own private island in Castaway Cay, Disney has year round sailings and consistently high reviews from guests of all ages.

Over the next several years, Disney will nearly double its fleet size to seven ships, with a new vessel expected each year from 2021 through 2023Further, Disney is working with Port Canaveral to redesign and upgrade Terminal 8 as well as use Terminal 10 for another full-time ship, in order to handle the increased volume of Disney trafficFinally, Disney is exploring an additional dedicated location in the Caribbean for private beach access, looking this time to Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, Bahamas for a possible purchaseThis would be interesting as it would not be a stand-alone island like Castaway CayDisney had previously looked at Egg Island for a second private island, but had backed off this location following environmental evaluations.

Even with all of this current planned expansion, there is still room for additional development with this offering.  The Disney Cruise Line grew out of an entirely different nautical idea, the S.S. Disney.  The S.S. Disney was to be a floating theme park; an oil tanker that could house several different Disney rides and experiences on top of and within the ship.  The S.S. Disney could sail into port for a couple of month and then move onto the next location.  A continually moving theme park.  And while the process got fairly in depth in initial development, the board wanted to go in a more traditional cruise line direction, leading to the creation of the Disney Magic.

The idea of the S.S. Disney plays into what the cruise line represents.  It's a wholly contained Disney vacation provided at the level of quality of service that Disney used to provide in its hotels and theme parks.  The Adventures by Disney guided vacations and excursions have proven an expansion of this idea. And like the Disney hotels, vacation club offerings, and regional entertainment options explored the past few weeks, I want to take the Disney Cruise Line in a similar direction.

Of the planned expansions, the additional "private" beach at Lighthouse Point is the most intriguing, but I fear it does not go far enough.  Disney's current plan is for a setup similar to Castaway Cay.  Beaches, jogging trails, and recreation, with dining and merchandise, but not more.  Castaway Cay remains a day activities only option, as bugs and a lack of infrastructure pose a problem for any overnight stay or activities. I would push, given the existing settlement and development on Eleuthera, for Disney to develop a resort on the island.  The resort would be a vital component of a land/sea package and would allow for nighttime campfires, for night runs, for a greater chance to explore the Bahamas as part of the cruise package.

Lighthouse Point Development Plans (C) Disney
Behind further developing in the Caribbean, I would push the cruise line to explore river cruises.  Disney is currently partnering with AmaWaterways for river cruises in Europe with Adventures by Disney.  And while I would explore European vessels, I would love to start with a Disney cruise on the Mississippi on a paddlewheel steamer.  Something like the American Queen Steamboat company.  This would provide Disney an opportunity to do what it does very well, themed entertainment and vacations.  Disney has strong ties to Americana and has strong ties to the river and the river boat.  From Walt's heritage in Missouri and plans for St. Louis, to the steamboats in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and the fascination with New Orleans, American river cruises would allow Disney to bring touches of their classic entertainment to the American rivers.  Imagine a Golden Horseshoe performed in the Grand Saloon.  Touches of the Blue Bayou's menu on board.  Character dining and entertainment with Tiana and Louis from the Princess and the Frog.  This seems squarely in Disney's DNA and would allow for advertisement of cruises on the Rivers of America.

As a side note, and not cruise related, but for a similar reason, if our rail system was in better condition, I would love for Disney to get into luxury rail travel across the United States.  It again plays into Disney's Americana, historic, and entertainment strengths, while providing a completely unique vacation for America that would have symbiotic ties to Adventures by Disney and scattered Disney Vacation club and regional entertainment properties.  Something like the Blue Train, but themed to an 1800s grand age of rail vacation.

One benefit to these river cruises is that it would necessarily lead to ships with American flags of state.  The four Disney Cruise Line vessels have Bahamian flags of state.  This has multiple benefits, but requires international ports of call or destinations and precludes something like a cruise around the Hawaiian islands. Disney can further expand with an American flagged ship for a Hawaiian island cruise tied to a vacation at Aulani.  This would compete with Norwegian's Pride of America.  Like the riverboat, the cruise vessel would necessarily be smaller, but could still provide the

As the Cruise Line has proven to be a valuable asset in the Disney company, I would push to make sure it is presented and maintained in a way that values Disney storytelling and magic.


As always, thank you for reading.  Next in the series will jump company divisions and start focusing on the film side, with an overview of my thoughts on the needs of the film division.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Political News Dump

One of my favorite radio programs/podcasts is Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!  A news quiz show, relying frequently on political humor, the program had created a segment called the Trump Dump to cover the bevy of news items that seemed to continue to come from this administration.

This week seems to be particularly full in the Trump Dump, and it's only Tuesday.  It has certainly shaping up to be an interesting week so far for the Trump administration, with Thursday, September 27, 2018, looking to be a particular focal point for interest.

Things started with news regarding deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein over the weekend.  On Friday, September 21, 2018, the New York Times published an article outlining how Rosentein had suggested last spring (2017) that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos in the administration and that he had discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office for being unfit to serveBy Friday evening, Mr. Rosenstein had become convinced he should resign and offered a late-day visit to the White House to quit.  White House chief of staff John Kelly demurred.  From there, aides began planning over the weekend for his departure, as Rosenstein told Kelly and White House counsele Donald McGahn that he was considering resigning.  Rosenstein was told to postpone any discussion until Monday, particularly as there were those who believed that only the president could legally accept any resignation.  On Monday, September 24, 2018, Rosenstein and Ed O'Callaghan, his top deputy, raced to the White House for the final word.  Justice Department officials were even telling reporters they expected Rosenstein to be fired.  News went wild.  Following discussions with Kelly, McGahn, and a request for a conversation with President Trump, word leaked that there was evidence Rosenstein was not resigning nor was he fired.  Rosenstein will not be able to meet with the president until Thursday, September 27, when the president returns from the United Nations General Assembly.

Rosenstein has been a thorn in Trump's side for a while now, particularly with regard to the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller.

Trump has apparently been frustrated with Rosenstein's unwillingness to remove or fire Mueller and end the investigation. 

Rosenstein's resignation or firing would lead to a whole other set of complications.  Apparently, there is a Constitutional question regarding how his vacancy would be filled should he be fired.  The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1988 provides for the president to temporarily replace an officer from an executive agency who dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform the functions or duties of the office with a Senate-confirmed political appointee.  The law is silent, though, when it comes to such a person being fired.  This could lead to a political fight over the president's appointee.

Further, the most likely successor is Noel J. Francisco, the solicitor general.  This however could be problematic as he is potentially conflicted from overseeing the Russia investigation, as his law firm, Jones Day, is representing the Trump campaign in the inquiry.

And should Rosenstein resign or be fired, he would be the merely the latest in a list of nearly fifty top executives that have either been fired, resigned under pressure, or resigned from their posts in the administration.

Further, the allegations of the need for a wire to expose the chaos and the rumblings of the invocation of the 25th Amendment only seem to further substantiate the anonymous op ed previously published and the stories revealed in Woodward's book Fear.  More evidence that we are right to be concerned.


To add to this trouble, additional accusations regarding sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in his high school and college days, ahead of his new hearing date of Thursday, September 27, 2018.  Deborah Ramirez, a colleague at Yale, alleges that while they were both freshman at Yale and drinking at a dorm room party, Kavanaugh, as well as other men present, exposed himself to her, forcing her to touch his genitals to push them away from her face.  With this incident, there is a bit more corroborating evidence surrounding it.  The story as told was corroborated by another classmate who declined to be identified.  Others, remember the incident, but not the parties involved.   Further, a pattern has begun to emerge in how classmates referred to Kavanaugh's partying in college. Classmates have described him as an "aggressive and even belligerent" drunk and as "frequently, incoherently drunk."  His general behavior at college had even become a point of discussion among classmates following the news of his nomination.

Even Kavanaugh's high school yearbook has been poured over, revealing a version of Kavanaugh's past that does not seem to match how he describes it.  There are more insights into the hard drinking atmosphere that Kavanaugh seemed to engage in - a boast of "100 kegs or bust" for the Keg City Club on his personal page.  It also showed a reference to the "Renate Alumni," which was referenced by 14 of his fellow classmates, one of whom even included a poem, "You need a date/and it's getting late/so don't hesitate/to call Renate."  This apparently refers to a student at a nearby Catholic girls' school, Renate Dolphin, nee Schroeder.  Ms. Dolphin was one of the women who had signed a recent letter supporting Kavanaugh's character, and has indicated to a friend that while she stood by the letter's contents, she was "sickened" by the yearbook references that are coming out.

Beyond this, a third, unnamed accuser who is a former employee of the State Department and US Mint is also expected to come forward in the next 48 hours, with additional information regarding how Mark Judge and Kavanaugh behaved at countless house parties while high school students in the Georgetown area.  Michael Avenatti, attorney for the accuser, claims significant evidence of use of drugs and alcohol for gang rape.

And while Kavanaugh continues to deny all allegations, more and more evidence seems to be mounting revealing that at the very least, his version of his high school and college days does not match the version that others remember.  And that will be problematic for him.  If the allegations are true, then there is no question he must be held accountable.  As more and more comes to light, we move beyond questions of how long can a person's past be held against them.  If all of the allegations are true, we are seeing a pattern of behavior that needs to be accounted for and appropriately dealt with.  I don't know that we will see that in the hearing process, but it is shaping up to be an even uglier process than anyone could have imagined.

The President has stood by Kavanaugh and downplayed all acquisitions accusations.

Finally, Trump's speech at the United Nations General Assembly today did not go exactly as planned.  There was a bit of an awkward and unexpected moment when other leaders laughed or grumbled at Trump's boasts about his administrations accomplishments.  "I didn't expect that reaction but that's okay."

All issues creating the potential for a very explosive Thursday as the president meets with Rosenstein and Kavanaugh goes before the committee again.

Who knows what will happen next?

Have we ever been in such deep chaos with any other administration?

Interesting times indeed.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Radically Upside Down

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'  For I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners."
Matthew: 9-11-13

I think we often forget just how radical Jesus's ministry really was.

In a wonderful case of synchronicity, our Journey Group was discussing a topic yesterday that fit perfectly in with the message that our pastor had delivered that morning.

At Stonepoint, we are starting a message series called Upside Down, working through the Beatitudes.  And yesterday's was on the first beatitude.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."   Happy are the beggarly.  A complete reversal of our societal instinct to build ourselves up, to be self-sufficient, to be "good" on our own.  Instead a reminder that we are to be in constant need of Jesus' provision.  We are to beg for it.  To pray without ceasing for it.  To not be independent, but wholly dependent on God.  Radical thinking for the Jews that were hearing the Sermon on the Mount as it was happening, and radical thinking for us today.

In Journey Group, we are working through Prodigal God by Tim Keller, a book that helps change our traditional thinking about the story of the Prodigal Son.  That reveals that when Jesus told this story it was not met with a warm reception of people being amazed at the lengths the father would go to celebrate his son's return.  There wasn't that warm fuzzy feeling about the parallels in how far God goes to pursue his people.  The story of the Prodigal Son was delivered by Jesus to an audience containing a lot of Pharisees.  A lot of older brothers.  As such, the parable was more of a warning to an audience filled with the kind of people who would most relate to the older brother.  Those who had followed the law and done everything that had been asked of them, and who would likely be more than a little perturbed by their father's lavishing of gifts on the wayward younger brothers.  On sinners.  Again, a radical turn from what the Pharisees would have expected from God.  And a radical change from how many of us see the story today.

Yet, Jesus throughout his ministry sided with the wayward, younger brothers.  With the sinners, the tax collectors, and the prostitutes.  He attracted those people to him and turned their lives upside down.  And he frustrated and angered the religious, the moral, the older brothers.

He sided with a Samaritan woman over Jewish custom, a double offense.  He sided with a woman caught in adultery over her accusers.  He sided with Mary's extravagance over the caution of even his followers.  He called Matthew and ate at Zacchaeus' house, but turned over tables in the temple.  His parables spoke of righteous outsiders like the Good Samaritan.

As put in Prodigal God, "Jesus's teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day.  However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect.  The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones.  We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people.  The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.  That can only mean one thing.  If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did."

This hits home, because even being part of Post-Modern churches since the early 2000s, those churches still end up attracting the same kind of people.  Even those churches begin to look more homogeneous, instead of increasingly heterogeneous.  More mainstream than eclectic.

I've long believed that one of Satan's greatest victories was making Christianity widespread, accepted, and mainstream.  Paving the way for "social churching" - attending for the social benefits, because it's done, because it is what good people "do," to be seen, because it is the power center of the community, and on and on and on.  It's what is normal and just the way things are done in America.  Going to the building "church" for any other reason that a deeply held conviction and belief in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

It took Christianity away from the "Way," away from something that was dangerous, that was radical, that was life changing.  Something that had a cost to follow.  Away from a motley group of outsiders all living life together and sharing in the struggles.

After all, don't a lot of modern churches start to represent the Pharisees, the older brothers, much more than they do the younger brother?

If Jesus came today as he did back the, who would he be more likely to hang out with?  Our fellow church members?  Or those that we would never even allow in our doors?

Would Jesus feel comfortable in our church?

Or would he just see it as another bunch of Pharisees that are missing the point?

The verse Jesus quoted to the Pharisees, to remind them of his purpose is from Hosea 6:6.  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."  He was reminding the Pharisees of a passage that they undoubtedly had memorized, but had completed missed the meaning.  It's reflective of the entire purpose of Jesus's ministry.

The Old Testament, the Jewish way required sacrifice for cleansing.  It required the Jewish people provide sacrifices to be considered clean.  An act they were required to do for their salvation.

Jesus came and flipped the script.  Now He was the ultimate sacrifice.  And what was required for salvation was the mercy and grace of God.  And He expected those qualities to then be demonstrated in His people.

Jesus was reminding the Pharisees that He cared little for their outward actions that were performed out of duty.  For those observances that they prided themselves in.  He looked inward and showed His mercy to those who would accept it.

To the younger and older brother alike, if they would only both recognize their need.

If they would become beggarly for it.

Then theirs was the kingdom of God.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Playwright Life Updates

Wanted to pass along a couple of brief updates on the playwright process, with developments that have occurred regarding the first script.

First, a couple of weeks ago, Jamie completed the process of cutting Thou Fair Eliza into a one-act version and submitted the cutting to the University Interscholastic League for approval for use in this years One Act Play competition.  Thursday, September 20, 2018, Jamie received approval for the play.  This is a big step, particularly for an unpublished play.  Thankfully, she can proceed forward and does not have to select a new play.  It also means I'm considering going forward with a copyright on the one-act version, to have a preferred cutting protected (useful in Texas, particularly).

Secondly, we had noticed that Samuel French was licensing Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts by George Bernard Shaw, even though it did not have its own script, but was rather sending customers to a Penguin Books version.  Odd for the script issue and odd to have a license on a script with the base text in the public domain, unless they are licensing a specific revision later copyrighted.  I've been in contact with Samuel French, but am still waiting on an explanation of what their license purports to cover, specifically.  Their answer could propose a problem if they are claiming everything (improperly, though I might add).

Interesting developments all and the copyright application is still working its way through the system.  It's a waiting game, and I've never been too good at waiting patiently, virtue it may be.

I'll pass along more as I know it.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Top 10 Favorite Alternate Realities

One of my favorite television shows to watch just to unwind is Futurama.  I can just pick a random episode and usually end up with a very enjoyable thirty minutes.  The other night, I watched one of my favorite episodes, The Farmsworth Paradox.  In this episode, Professor Farmsworth creates something in a box that he cannot remember, but tells everyone not to open the box.  Of course someone does, and they discover the Professor has created an alternate universe.  "Fine, you be crummy Universe 'A,' and we'll be Universe '1.'"  That Professor has done the same thing, and so on and so on, leading to a run through a variety of Alternate Futurama Universes.  One where they have no eyes, one where they are robots, one where they are all hippies (universe 420).  And it lead me to thinking of how much I appreciate the alternate universe trope, culminating with this list of my top 10 favorite alternate universes across all fiction.

  • Age of Apocalypse (Marvel Comics, Earth-295) - What if Professor Xavier died before creating the X-men?  The Age of Apocalypse really stuck with me.  Created when Legion went back in time to assassinate Magneto, but instead inadvertently killed Professor Charles Xavier, this reality represented a timeline where Apocalypse took control of the Earth. Even more, it represented something I had never seen before in comics.  All of the regular X-Universe titles were canceled and replaced by versions from the Age of Apocalypse.  Generation X became Generation NextX-Force became Gambit and the X-ternalsExcalibur became X-Caliber.  The universe was likewise filled with off-kilter versions of everyone's favorite mutants.  Magneto ran the X-men in Professor Xavier's name.  Cyclops was a prelate serving under Mr. Sinister.  All in all a tight epic that hit me at just the right time.
  • The Kelvin Universe (Star Trek film, 2009) - I have to confess only having a passing interest in Star Trek for the longest time.  I could watch the various movies or a television episode here and there, but did not really follow it.  The J.J. Abrams Star Trek then was the right entry point for me.  Though a complicated plot to create this new Kelvin universe, having new versions of the original crew as well as the continuing Nimoy Spock, it provided enough of a context for me to begin to have a greater appreciation for what Star Trek represents.  I have even grown to have a much greater appreciation for the original Trek and to bemoan some of the differences in the later films in the Kelvin timeline.
  • Tangent Universe (DC Comics, Earth 9) - The Tangent Universe represented a different take on the creation of an alternate universe.  Tangent took the approach that many of the DC creators in the 1960s took, taking an existing superhero name, but going in a widely different direction than the previous versions.  Flash for instance was a girl who existed as a creature entirely made of light.  The Atom was an atomic powered superman.  The Joker was an anarchist heroine.  It was a world full of interesting possibilities and one I wish would be explored more.
  • Amalgam Universe (DC v. Marvel) - Back in the late 1990s when Marvel and DC played together a little better and engaged in regular crossovers, the company decided to pull out all the stops with a DC vs. Marvel event.  The event culminated with the Amalgam Universe, one where the DC and Marvel universes were combined into a single different version.  Wolverine and Batman combined into Dark Claw.  Superman and Captain America combined into the Super-Soldier.  The Iron Lantern.  The Judgement League of Avengers (JLA).  The Challengers of the Fantastic.  X-Patrol.  The combinations ranged from wild to straightforward, and the back matter was filled with references to an existing continuity that we only had a glimpse of.  Of all the universes on this list, this is the one I would love to see again.
  • Squadron Supreme (Marvel Comics, Earth-712) - What if Marvel had its own JLA?  Marvel in the 1980s doing a version of the preeminent DC team, to show what would happen if superheros tried to solve real problems like hunger, the criminal justice system, and geopolitics.  Written by the master of Marvel continuity, Mr. Alternity, the late Mark Gruenwald, the series was a brighter take on the themes Watchmen would hit.  Plus Marvel having their own version of the Justice League has been helpful on occasion.
  • Kingdom Come (DC Comics, Earth 22) - What if the Justice League had to fight the Apocalypse? A dark future of the DUC where Superman had retired as the next generation of anti-heroes and darker vigilantes had proven more popular, the series focused on the old guard coming back to restore hope to the world.  With a preacher and the Spectre (the embodiment of the Wrath of God) as our narrators, the series frequently makes allusions to Revelation.  Written by master of DC continuity Mark Waid and beautifully painted in a Norman Rockwell style by Alex Ross, the series is a favorite of mine.
  • The Darkest Timeline (Community, Remedial Chaos Theory) - A great episode of community that explores just how the roll of a die can affect reality.  The die determines who will go get the group's pizza and each different variation affects the groups dynamics.  The Darkest Timeline refers to the one where Troy goes to get the pizza and everything devolves into a Mirror Mirror evil timeline complete with appropriate mustaches and goatees.  A great episode of a fun series.
  • Pottersville (It's a Wonderful Life) - Another alternate reality that shows the impact of one man.  Here the version of Bedford Falls where George Bailey never existed.  Now a slum and a vice den, the community shows that one man really can have a difference. A great movie and an unexpected deviation into alternate realities.
  • Earth X (Marvel Comics, Earth-9997) - What if everyone on Earth became a mutant?  In this series, mutants have completely taken over the earth and humanity is no more.  Another great exploration of world building.  Alex Ross painting covers and assisting in plots.  Jim Krueger building the world as big as possible.  And great moody art by John Paul Leon.  To think, it all started from a sketch of a middle-aged Spider-man with a spare tire.  The series would then go on to continue into Universe X and Paradise X.  One of my favorite parts of the series was a two page spread early on in each issue that would tell the history of a particular character, location, or device in the Marvel Universe.  Not as well written of a series as some of the others on the list, but excellent world building.
  • Doppelgangerland (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wish) - Buffy's version of It's a Wonderful Life.  What if Buffy never came to Sunnyvale.  And in this case, without a Slayer to be in the Hellmouth, things got really dark.  Willow and Xander as vampires, Giles trying to fight instead.  A dark wish made in haste, needing to be undone.  Another great episode, allowing the actors to dig into twisted versions of themselves.

To use one of my favorite quotes, a few of my favorite imaginary stories.  Then again, aren't they all.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Rape Culture

The accusations and hearing surrounding Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasely Ford are bringing up discussions of "rape culture," particularly with the potential for an ugly committee hearing on the accusations and the new deadline requirement for Ford send a copy of her prepared testimony and biography to the committee today for her to be able to testify at all.

"Rape culture" is a term coined in the 1970s to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.  It has been defined as a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.  Under rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life and inevitable.  Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words, and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is an inevitable outcome.  It's "just the way things are."  It's compounded by statements that "boys are only after one thing," "she was asking for it (by the way she dressed, looked, where she was, etc.)," that "she should never have been alone with a boy," or that if a guy tries hard enough, he can change a "No" to a "Yes."*

It's even worse when such statements are made by those that have the power to affect change.  The following infographic, compiled by the Women's March in Minnesota, reveals the insidiousness of the language used by our elected officials surrounding rape.

The comments are appalling for several reasons.  First, many of them reveal the reason we need better sex education in our schools, as they reveal a shocking lack of understanding of basic human biology.  Second, the idea that victims should "make the most" of this kind of violation is down-right despicable.  At least Texas had the sense to vote for Ann Richards over Clayton Williams after his comment/"joke". Finally, any assertion that it should be expected in any situation devalues both the men and women involved.  Especially for the assertion to be that women should have expected it when they served in the military.  It devalues the victims and it devalues all service men and women to say that they lack such basic control over themselves that rape is a natural outcome.

The biggest problem with such statements is what it does to those hearing them, particularly those who grow up hearing such statements on repeat.  The onus it puts on young women to make sure they are doing nothing to "entice" someone to rape them.  To make sure they don't dress a certain way, they aren't in certain locations, to never put their drink down, and on and on and on.  And the lowered expectations it places on young men that they will not be able to control their urges, but instead will be ruled by them.

We have to expect better of ourselves and we have to speak better of those elected on our behalf.  I pray that should this hearing go forward, it will not be a repeat of the Anita Hill testimony in the Clarence Thomas nomination process.

We have to change the way that we discuss sexual assault to remove any shifting of blame to the victim.  No more "what was she wearing," no more "should she have been there," no more "did she fight enough," no more language that insinuates the victim did any enticing or that the perpetrator is not solely responsible for their actions.  The only expectation that we should be having around rape is that no one should have sex without consent from the other party.  Period.

Please note, we can still have a vigorous prosecution and defense in rape cases to confirm accusations.  But it changes the line of questioning from a sort that downplays the accusations and nearly assumes the victim's partial responsibility for the assault to one that treats the accusations with the severity they deserve, confirm their validity, and assigns the blame squarely on the perpetrator.

And beyond changing the way we discuss sex and rape in society, this should also impact the way we discuss sex within the church.  Currently, there is a disconnect between the way the church discusses appropriate sex and the way the world discusses appropriate sex.

This is to be expected to a certain degree.  One would expect the church's view to be narrower than the world's at large.  However, what is actually occurring seems to be the two groups talking completely different languages, leading to an apples to  skateboards comparison.

To illustrate, society's view is to break sexual encounters down into consensual and non-consensual.  Under that general breakdown, consensual sex is generally always good and acceptable, non-consensual sex is always bad. That really becomes the primary consideration.  The configuration of the parties does not matter as much as consent.

The church's view eschews consent for appropriate and sinful.  Through the general (conservative) view of the church, the only appropriate sexual relation is between a married husband (male) and wife (female) specifically.  Anything else is sinful.

The disconnect in an image
The problem is that under the church's rubric, consent is not really a consideration and it can seem to place all manner of sexual issues on the same level.  Consent is somewhat assumed in the relation between a husband and a wife, but it is not specifically accounted for.  And that is where things get problematic.  The Bible does not speak specifically to the requirement of consent in the marriage relationship, but does speak to a denial of "martial duty"/sexual relations only by mutual consent (1 Corinthians 7:5).  Some have interpreted this passage to mean that marital rape cannot exist, and this has had an affect on the laws in our country.  Up to 1993, only seventeen states had laws on marital rape.  And while all states now have laws which account for and make marital rape illegal, eleven states treat marital rape differently from other sexual assault, some requiring higher standards of proof, threats of force, or carrying lesser penalties.

Regarding the variety of sexual sins being put on the same level, it can lead to such disparate treatment as we saw between the way many in the church and on the right responded to the Lena Dunham and Josh Duggar instances.  Lena Dunham was vilified for her discussion of her curiosity regarding her sisters body parts, while many stood behind Josh Duggar after his molestation accusations came forward because he was "forgiven."  The two issues were not of the same level, and deserved very different responses than they received. (Please note, I don't agree with the title of the link and think it goes too far not understanding godliness, and though a farther left leaning article, it brings up very good discussion on the disconnect above).

We need to change the churches categories.  To build off the charts above, I would propose at a bare minimum a version like the following which should be acceptable to even the most conservative of believers:

Scholars can and have quibbled over the line between Sinful Legal and Permissible, as there is much discussion about where that line goes.  That's an entirely separate discussion.

But we have to recognize the importance of consent and its role in all sexual relationships.  For the life of me, I will never understand the conservative opposition to this notion.  And yet, when ideas to combat rape culture like "Yes Means Yes" or affirmative consent are raised, they are met often with Conservative opposition.  It should be very easy for all to say that they are behind appropriate consensual sex.  Even for the church to affirm that the kind of sexual relations that are affirmed in scripture between husband and wife should be consensual.  To view the passage in 1 Corinthians (combined with many other passages) as requiring appropriate, loving, thoughtful care for each other and not allowing for one-sided demands of each other's bodies.

This really should be an easy topic for all parties to get behind.   And "rape culture" should be something that is in our power to change.

But we've got to start with how we discuss the issue ourselves.  For each of us to rid those thoughts of "what was she wearing" or "how was she provoking it."

So let's not make it another division.


* - An important note.  For the purposes of this rant, I've continually worked under the framework of a female victim of sexual assault and a male perpetrator.  I've done so partly because of the framework of the infographic and partly as the term "rape culture" came out of feminism and as a result of the particular culture we have the plays to these stereotypes.  Even in our most recognizable literature like To Kill A Mockingbird  or films like Anatomy of a Murder.  However, it is worth noting that beliefs and statements like "a woman cannot rape a man," "a man is always willing," or that when certain biological functions work that indicates willingness regardless what a man may say are likewise damaging to our society and further indicate a downplaying of sexual assault in our society.  These kinds of attitudes are why among female victims only 36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults are reported.  The percentages are lower among male victims.  We have to change for their sake.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Church Parasites

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  

Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, " I don't need you!"  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has put the body together, giving great honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27

I've always connected to the description of the functioning church as a body. I think it is such a wonderful metaphor that explains so many things about how the church is supposed to operate and how individual members find their place in it.  Just from the passage above alone, we see that:
  1. every member has their own role,
  2. God put us in our role,
  3. there are many roles within the body,
  4. no one member of the body should be jealous of another's role,
  5. all roles are necessary and important,
  6. the different roles need each other, and
  7. the health of the body (the whole) depends on each of us doing our part.
The metaphor also carries a lot of useful instruction in regarding how church members can function together for a healthy church body.   The American Association of Anatomists lists 7,500 named unique parts of the body.  Some are large (skin) and some are small (stapedius muscle in the ear).  Many have related functionality or inter-dependent functionality (like the musculatory and skeletory systems).  Some have very well-defined functions (like the eye) and there are some we are still perplexed as to what they do (the appendix).   Some are very visible and prominently displayed (the face), some are very hidden (the pancreas), and others are kept very private, though externally visible.  And for the body to be healthy, everything most be in working order.

Likewise, there are a lot of different roles in the church body, probably more than anyone realizes or recognizes as a in existence.  There are the visible roles like pastor, worship leader, and minister.  Then there are the "invisible" roles, the sound team, the church secretary, the janitor.  There is a place for everyone to serve in the body of Christ, in ways that play to the unique creation that God has created us to be and the unique role that God has for us to fulfill.

And the church, the body of Christ, is only functioning at its best when everyone is fulfilling the role that God has appointed for them to serve in, whatever it may be.  Waste disposal may not sound like a glamorous job, but when it is not working, whether in the human body or the church body, people get sick.  Further, you may think your role is not well defined, like the appendix.  But sickness in the appendix can bring a person close to death.   And even small parts are important.  Even if you are a pinky toe or a bone or muscle in the inner ear, when those roles are not functioning properly, the body loses its balance, literally and figuratively.

Yesterday, though, I came across a role that I had not previously considered.  And its not a healthy role for the church.  It's what we become when we do not engage in the function that we were created to have within the body.

Jamie and I in our study together are reading Dr. Tony Evans' Life Under God: The Kingdom Agenda, devotional.  And in the reading for last night, he discussed those that are not fulfilling a role in the body.

"The body of Christ already has too many people who come to church and say, 'Preach to me. Sing to me.  Serve me.  If I'm sick, visit me.  If I'm hurting, comfort me.  If I need encouragement, encourage me.  But don't expect me to give any of my time, talents, or resources to this work.'
Such a member is not acting as a vital church member, but rather sucking the lifeblood of the church's ministry without making any meaningful contribution.  That's a sin and an insult to the Father who has invited us into His family."
September 19, Every Member is Vital

Parasites in the body.  He does not use the exact language, but he is indicating that Christians who come to church and continue to receive from the church without contributing back into it, without fulfilling the role God has created them to serve in, are acting as a drain, a parasite on the church body and the body of Christ.

Please note, this is not talking about the seasons of life or periods where we need to be filled so that we can then in turn fill others.  Those periods where we may have been broken and need to be built back up to continue in the battle.  He's referring to those whose continual pattern is not to serve.

To the viewpoint that church is some place I come to sing songs, hear an uplifting message, and then go about my week.  The idea of church as a day spa or country club. Something that uplifts its members, pampers them spiritually for the week, and then sends them on their way.  Which is in direction opposition to the reality of what the Church is.

The Church is not a building, not a place.  It is the people of God.  It is the Body of Christ, where everyone is serving each other and the world.  It is a living, functioning organism, that needs each part to be in working order and contributing to the whole.

So the question then is, am I a working part of the body or am I a parasite?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 22 - Disney Vacation Club Expansion

Own a piece of the magic!


Disney Vacation Club refers to a timeshare offering created by Disney to allow guests to buy a real estate interest in a Disney Vacation Club Resort.   There are currently fifteen Disney Vacation Club Resorts, located within the United States.  While most of the resorts are connected to the Walt Disney World Resort, there is a location at the Grand Californian in Anaheim, a resort in Oahu, Hawaii, a resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and a resort at Vero Beach in Florida.

Disney's Vacation Club puts a slight spin on the timeshare process, having the members buy points, which can be used at the guests home resort (i.e. where they bought the real estate interest) or at other Disney properties or connected timeshares.  This could be other Disney Vacation Club resorts, other Disney hotels (particularly for their international hotels), towards Disney cruises, towards Adventures By Disney guided vacations, or towards partner hotels worldwide in the Concierge Collection.

Plus, the Vacation Club resorts can also function as hotel rooms, allowing the unreserved rooms to be rented at rack rate (or similar) to guests who simply want to book at a Disney Hotel.

One benefit DVC brought to the Walt Disney World resort in particular was the addition of many new suites, allowing for more comfortable family stays.  Disney Vacation Club properties are generally composed of one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites.

Disney has also had plans for several additional Vacation Club properties.  These included Newport Beach in California, Beaver Creek, Colorado, New York City, New York, an additional resort at Eagle Pines in Orlando, and National Harbor, Maryland.  The Newport Beach location became a Marriott timeshare location and the Eagle Pines location ended up as a Four Seasons in Walt Disney World, but the other locations never went much beyond planning.

Disney currently has the Riviera resort under construction connected to the Caribbean Beach Resort at Walt Disney World.  Further, plans indicate potential development at the Fort Wilderness/River Country location.  Plans for additional DVC locations are notoriously kept under very tight wraps.  New units cannot be announced until the previous location has reached a certain level of sell-through, so you get to such odd results as a very visible tower undergoing vertical construction next to the Contemporary Resort that cast members can only answer with "what tower?"

With that background, my goal would be an expansion of a previous Disney plan, to bring Disney Vacation Club properties to other highly trafficked vacation destinations across the United States and to launch the DVC internationally.

In reverse order, the easiest first step for Disney to expand the presence of the Disney Vacation Club would be to expand internationally in connection with its international parks.  The two that make the most sense for a first phase roll-out would be Paris and Hong Kong.  Paris is particularly well suited as Disney now owns the majority interest in the resort and there is already a similar Marriott timeshare resort near the Disney Golf location.  A Disney Vacation Club hotel could be added in the inner loop, closer to the parks and train station. In Hong Kong, as discussed in that park entry, Disney has the opportunity for a true beach front resort, making the property very lucrative.  Vacation club would be a welcome addition filling out the resort complex.

Secondly, the expanded locations within the United States would be combined with the Disney Regional Entertainment offerings discussed last week, to ensure that a Disney resort complex is the draw that it should be.  These hotels should provide entertainment and a connection to Disney experiences beyond just allowing for additional options for members to use their points.  In an ideal world, the resort locations would further be paired with locations that have existing or planned long weekend (or longer) Adventures by Disney vacations.  This would present an ultimate trifecta of synergy, where the Vacation Club location feeds the Regional Entertainment which feeds the Adventures by Disney excursion which feeds the Vacation Club location, etc.

Accordingly, my goal would not be to over-saturate the country with Disney Vacation Club properties, but to put them in a handful of key locations across the country, such that Disney fans could engage in a handful of signature experiences with a big Disney tie.

With that in mind, I would propose the following additional locations:

  1. Additional Disneyland presence - currently the Grand Californian only has 50 units for its DVC component.  As Disney looks to expand and add a fourth hotel, hopefully DVC would be a larger component of the process, allowing members to have more opportunities to book at this resort.  Even if the DVC hotel was closer to Garden Grove, with a complimentary Minnie Van shuttle service to the parks, it would be worth exploring (though ideally, any Disney branded resort would be in walking distance of the park).
  2. Mountain Resort in Colorado - This is a dream going back to Walt's days.  And a ski resort in many ways makes a lot of sense for a Disney resort location.  Immediate connection to a built in customer base, with potentially overlapping but different clientele than the Disney parks.  Opportunities for theming the resort from Swiss Chalet, to National Parks, to rustic cabin. Because it is the type of thing Walt would do, it's the kind of thing the company should do now.
    Disney Mineral King concept art for illustration (c) Disney
  3. New York City - To me, a Disney hotel in New York City makes a lot of sense.  Disney played a big hand in the revitalization of Times Square.  Disney currently has three shows on Broadway and in the past has had four productions at the same time.  Disney owns and offers backstage tours of the New Amsterdam theater where Aladdin plays.  There is a signature Disney store in Times Square, and offers a short excursion Adventures by Disney vacation in the city.  The Disney Magic cruise ship leaves from the Manhattan port.  And it would make an excellent location for a Worlds of Disney regional entertainment indoor park.  Disney could build an incredible Disney vacation with the city as its backdrop and a DVC hotel could be a key component.
    (C) Disney
    Disney video test
    Having such a large canvas could even allow Disney to play with the augmented reality screens like they did when the Disney Store in Times Square opened. Imagine continued Disney advertisements and videos like the one above in Times Square.
  4. San Francisco - San Francisco, like New York, presents Disney an incredible opportunity to create an inclusive Disney package for the visit.  Adventures by Disney currently has a short excursion in this location, connected to Lucas Film and the Walt Disney Family Museum. It has likewise been a port of call for the Disney Cruise Line.  A hotel here would be a welcome addition. 
  5. National Harbor (or somewhere similar on the east coast) - Disney had originally agreed to develop in National Harbor and the land is still available.  Disney's location was not connected to the water, but there are other parcels that could be explored, if desired.  I feel their original location was a strong one, as it in many ways seemed to be the pinnacle of the area.  The road from the coast lead straight to the Disney location.  With Disney's connection to Americana and their presentation of American history, Disney could have a strong presence here.  Add a short excursion to Washington, D.C. with Adventures by Disney, patriotic attractions like the American Adventure, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, or the Hall of Presidents and Mickey and the Gang in patriotic attire, and Disney could overcome its lack of a waterfront.
    Original Disney National Harbor plan
  6. St. Louis, Missouri - This one is a bit of an oddball, but it plays into discussion for next week.  Further, Disney had plans to develop a smaller park in St. Louis, with Riverfront Square.  This location, though, more than anything, would help tie Disney back to Walt's past.  To Marceline and Kansas City.  A location on the Mississippi river to again tie to Americana and its history.  I could envision a Worlds of Disney bringing back the Riverfront Square concept, with a DVC resort connected. Plus, I think Disney should be in riverboat cruises and this would be a prime location for that.
  7. Alaska - I think a Disney resort in Alaska, connected to the Cruise Line would be an excellent addition.  Again, opportunities for wildlife excursion with Adventures by Disney and the connection to the cruise line.  Here no attractions, just characters, excursions, and cruises.
  8. The Caribbean - San Juan or St. Thomas - again, a connection to the Cruise Line.  An opportunity for expanded Disney Vacation in connection with the Disney Cruises.  Their private island would be ideal, but from my understanding the bugs get too bad for anyone to stay on the island overnight.  A location at one of the ports of call for the Disney Cruise Line in a United States territory would make a good compromise.
  9. And of course, a DVC connected to Disney Texas.

That's all that I would propose.  I think that provides a good balance of properties and locations to keep families and guests interested and provides good connections to other Disney offerings.


Next in the series, the Disney Cruise Line.  As always, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Evidence, Confirmation, and Kavanaugh

The confirmation hearings and process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh have proven a very interesting lesson in the importance of evidence.

To being with the first day of his hearings began with the Democratic members of the committee moving for a delay due to issues with Judge Kavanaugh's record being produced to them.  (I'm not going to address the protesters as they are an unrelated issue).  The Democrats complained that 100,000 pages from Kavanaugh's tenure in the Bush White House had been withheld and further complained about the release of 45,000 pages the night before the hearing, a move commonly known as a "document dump."  And while the Democratic's took the histrionics a bit far, there is validity to their complaints.

First, regarding the missing pages.  The purpose of discovery or disclosure is to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, that is evidence that might be relevant for trial.  It is purposefully broad, as the entire goal of the discovery process is to get to the truth.  There are exceptions to what can be discovered, but by-and-large information that might be relevant will generally be made available to both parties in suit.  We do not want parties winning a suit by withholding relevant information.  By concealment.  We want the truth out, so the truth can set us free, literally and metaphorically.

The same holds true in these political proceedings.  We do not want appointments to succeed because of concealment or a lack of disclosure.  Particularly with judges, where precedence will matter and where their appointment will be a life-time one, we want the full-record available for examination and thorough debate.  We want the members of the committee to be able to review as much as possible regarding the candidate's record, to determine the most important questions that the candidate should address.  They need to be able to sort through the whole set to see if there are any surprises. If there are things that would affect their vote.  And to be able to review such materials in a sufficient amount of time before the hearing.

Second, regarding the "document dump."  "Document dump" refers to the practice of sending your opponents thousands to millions of pages of documents, sometimes of very little value, often as close to the discovery deadline as possible, to make it very difficult for the opposition to sift through the documents to find anything useful.  It can be used to bury damning or harmful documents, forcing the opposition to really have to work in order to be able to find them.

Contrary to popular opinion, it's not good practice for attorneys to engage in a "document dump."  First, modern discovery really doesn't work that way anymore.  With most documents being digitally stored (email, computer files, etc) the bounds of discovery are often set through search terms and custodian identification.  Negotiating search terms can often be one of the more tedious negotiations in the process just to ensure you capture what you want, without bringing back too much extra with it.  So even for those companies that just run the terms and produce nearly sight unseen, the set is generally more limited than it used to be in the past.  Second, missteps with discovery can lead to heavy sanctions, up to and including "death penalty sanctions," like the striking of the parties' pleadings.

We should expect better than a document dump the night before the committee hearing.  There is no reason to push this appointment through on such an accelerated time frame, other than politics. It is sad that we are at the point where such appointments are now voted on strict party lines, but it does not excuse a hurried procedure. We've seen what terrible results come from bills too large pushed through Congress with little reading.  We do not need that in our appointment process as well.

So, while the Democrats deserve no praise for their theatrics in making their objections so theatrical at the beginning of the hearing, the Republicans likewise deserve no praise for their attempts to overly expedite the process, leading to the concealment of documents.

Another interesting turn regarding the process came with the discussion of use of the "Committee Confidential" designation.  Before the third day of the hearing, Senator Cory Booker released "committee confidential" documents without the approval of the committee, so the documents could be discussed in the hearings.  Again, bad actions and histrionics by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The "committee confidential" designation is one that applies only to the committee process, here the judicial committee, and has no connection to actual designations for national security.  It has been used in the past to cover potential embarrassing or sensitive materials.  It was in the past, a designation applied by agreement of both parties in the committee.  It referred to areas both parties agreed would not be discussed.  Here, Chairman Senator Charles Grassley (R) alone designated the documents committee confidential.  And the Democrats then fought to have the designation removed, to the point of releasing the documents in direct defiance.  The issue ended up being moot, as the documents released were cleared for release very early that morning (2:00 am - 3:00 am).  I suppose no one read their email that morning.

Again, likely a battle that could have been completely avoided, had the parties been a little more patient in scheduling.

Finally, we come to the new issue that has come up through the nomination and hearing process.  Judge Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault (attempted rape) in the 1980s by Christine Blasey Ford, a fellow high school student in suburban Maryland at the time.  Ford alleges that Kavanaugh and a classmate, Mark Judge, both stumbling drunk at the time, corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers, pinned her to a bed, groped her over her clothes, and attempted to remove her clothes.  When she tried to scream, she alleges Kavanaugh put her hand over her mouth and Judge turned up the stereo to muffle the sounds.

Ford contacted the Washington Post through a tip line in July when Kavanaugh was announced on a short list, contacted her local congresswoman, Anna G. Eshoo, and sent a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.  In all methods of contact, Ford asked to remain anonymous and confidential, but wished to pass on her story and concern.  Ultimately, she decided she did not want to go public with her story due to the upheaval it would bring to her family.

Ford's story leaked in the Intercept on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, who reported on the letter that Senator Feinstein had received.  Though Senator Feinstein had the letter since July, she released a statement revealing that she kept it confidential as requested, but referred the matter to federal investigation.  By Friday, September 14, 2018, the New York times reported the letter's contents, but not the author. Ford then decided to come forward through an interview with the Washington Post on Sunday, September 16, 2018.

Kavanaugh categorically denies the allegations.  Both Kavanaugh and Ford have agreed to testify before Congress regarding the allegationsAnd the senate committee will hold a public hearing on the issue.

And now we have one of the most challenging evidentiary cases affecting the nomination; what essentially boils down to the he said/she said all to common in sexual assault cases.  And the battle lines have been drawn.

Conservatives are quick to point out how and why Ford is lying.  Because it happened so long ago, because she waited so long to tell anyone, because she first gave notice anonymously, because it's only happening now that Kavanaugh is nominated for a high office.  Her liberal bias and donations are showing so she can block his nomination - she has the most to gain.

Liberals are quick to side with Ford against Kavanaugh, choosing to immediately believe the accuser.  They argue he has the most to lose; of course he would lie to protect his interests.  Or worse, could it be an episode where he was so blackout drunk he remembers nothing.  The other alleged perpetrator's book includes mention that would seem to paint Kavanaugh as a pretty hard partyer and drinker at the time.  Further, it seems odd Kavanaugh would be so quickly able to get 65 female friends from that time period to be able to write him a character recommendation.

Of course, all of those views in those two paragraphs above are speculation.  Our system of jurisprudence requires two things: we take the allegations seriously (we believe them and we investigate them fully) and that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.  The allegations are not proof.  They are the start of the process and they must be treated with appropriate weight.  We cannot just dismiss them out of hand.

To Ford's accusations, it appears she has notes from her therapist regarding the incident dating back to 2012, when she first discussed it, and there are multiple mentions from that time forward with her therapist and husband.  She further has undergone and passed a lie detector test regarding her allegations of the incident at the advice of counsel.

And we should not be surprised at any delay in a sexual assault victim coming forward.  It is much, much more common than you can imagine.  It is in fact, more surprising that she ever decided to come forward at all.  It is believed only 15.8% to 35% of all sexual assaults are ever reported.

So we have a nomination process shaping up now to be a lot more like Clarence Thomas' nomination than anyone would have expected, with major differences of course.  There the accusations spoke to Thomas' actions while in government life.  Here, the accusations go to Kavanaugh's youth.  At what point do the actions of our youth become the "foolishness of our youth?"  Though it does not seem that there was any personal atonement according to Ford, what is the proper penitence for one apparent horrible action in your youth?  And the more serious question, was it truly only the one incident or will we see more allegations come forward?

Further, the allegations against Thomas went to sexual harassment; against Kavanaugh, sexual assault.  Surely that raises the stakes and the severity, but to what degree?  If the allegations are true, it would seem he deserves some punishment from the crime, but to what ends?  What would be enough?  Does blocking him from the Court satisfy the wrong or is there more that would need to be levied?  Would charges be brought and criminal penalty?

These are the kinds of questions now before the Committee and the public.  And it's further confirmation of why these confirmation proceedings are so important.  Why they should not be rushed.  Why all evidence from the person's record of communications to the letters received by the committee members regarding the nominee should be made available and reviewable by the committee in a timely fashion.  Why the hearing that is now before the committee will be the most important hearing of the entire process.

Evidence matters.