Gun Control vs. Self-Control

Two days ago, an 18-year-old murdered nineteen children and three adults in Texas – just ten days after another 18-year-old shot thirteen people, ten fatally, in Buffalo, NY. The New York shooter was a known racist, while the Texas shooter had no record of violence and no known ideological agenda. But the two shared one chilling trait:

Madness.

Ecclesiastes 9:3 says, “There is a malevolence that infects the human race, and the same destiny awaits them all. For their hearts are full of evil — madness is in their hearts while they live, and then they die.” When we fail to find what we’re meant to live for, the festering madness Ecclesiastes speaks of can emerge, offering something to kill for.

Every time there’s a mass shooting, the gun-control debate is revived. “Guns kill!” “Guns don’t kill, people kill!” Versions of the latter will, no doubt, echo at the National Rifle Association convention in Texas tomorrow (just four hours’ drive away from the mass murder site). And while it’s true that no gun ever killed anyone without a human pulling the trigger, it’s also true that no human ever killed anyone by pointing their finger. Nevertheless, both statements are half-correct:

Guns kill.

And so do people.

Therefore, any real solution must address both issues.

Guns kill. The U. S. Constitution was written at a time when rural self-protection, hunting, and citizen’s militias were central to society. But the Founders clearly did not envision the culture—or weapons—of today. Will vastly improved gun control stop people from killing? No. But it will diminish it. And diminishing human chaos is the best any law can hope for.

People kill. It has always come down to Self vs. Other. Cain slew Able because Able had something Cain wanted. The highest moral codes have always striven to check this madness, to promote selflessness over selfishness. But when accession to moral codes erodes, anarchy ensues. When the ethics-driven Roman Republic became the power-driven Roman Empire, truth faded: Sports and arts devolved into spectacles in which human beings were raped, tortured and murdered for entertainment. The masses believed in everything, and the cognoscente believed in nothing.

“Madness is in our hearts.” Modern culture is undergoing a sea change like that of ancient Rome, only it’s happening far more quickly. Former civic values—duty to God, family, country and community—have become outmoded, replaced by duty to Self alone. Can the trend be reversed before we dissolve, like Rome did, into chaos?  I honestly don’t know. But I do know this:

For it to happen, families, schools and communities would have to recommit—deeply—to teaching civility, character and selflessness, to modelling not what to kill for…

But what to live for.

“Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.”

~Ephesians 5:15

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I Am Right Behind You

AnnabelMy Featured Blogger this Week is Annabel of The Modern Etiquette. Annabel is a poet, writer and professional dancer, as demonstrated in her beautiful classical Indian-inspired piece above. There’s a delicacy and tenderness streaked with enduring strength in everything Annabel undertakes. Enjoy, and visit her blog to see more!

It seems I’ve deviated from your gaze,

Hiding safely inside April’s coy dews,

Longing for a crystal world of my own.

Smiles, tears, dancing all my life,

dreams as the north wind blows restlessly,

to bleed, to rest in penance ever willingly,

and to wake at dawn still, holding a fragment

of life’s lamenting song in billowing cold.

But do not worry, my friend,

Wherever you go,

I am walking right behind you.

This spring has been a very busy season for me since I’m working on a few dance projects at the same time on tight deadlines. Nevertheless, I am happy to share this new dance of mine. It was inspire by a beautiful Indian song and I tested it out as a preliminary work for a site dance project💕. Hope you enjoy!

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Monsters I Have Known and Loved

My Real Memoir

The seed was planted when I was five years old. I’d enjoyed the poolside home of Mommandad’s old friends. They were childless and I was an only, so I played alone, shouting frequent, “Mom, Dad, look at me!s.” But after grilling, they broke out the card table and exported me to a loveseat in a tiny den far away, with a rabbit-eared TV as my only companion.

The moment they left, Dracula flapped into view. I became instantly obsessed. And terrified. Two states of mind that are oddly intertwined. Behind the TV was a sliding glass door, and beyond that pitch darkness—Count Dracula’s favorite setting. I built up a Hoover-Dam-full of pee, yet dared not budge, knowing the moment I did the Count would fly into the room and “sahk my blahd!”

It was my first scary movie, but not my last. I developed an abiding love for the classics (Wolf Man, The Mummy, Frankenstein and his inexplicably sexy Bride), and cried when they whipped The Hunchback (“Why was I not made of stone like thee?”).

All the great monsters, it seemed, were misunderstood, not really monsters, just as my earliest friends were. Aaaaand the really scary ones disappeared when the sun came up, or when you turned off the TV. Real terror was one thing. But pretend terror?

I couldn’t get enough!

Plus, monsters were one of the few interests Dad and I shared. The first time I watched King Kong, Dad told me about stop-motion animation and I became a lifelong fan, even making a few stop-motion home movies. After seeing Jason and the Argonauts, Dad and I talked for days about the “skeleton army.” I may have gotten my creativity and bookaholic genes from Mom, but Dad gave me my sci-fi gene!

I drew caricatures of my friends as monsters, while watching “from” movies on TV, like Creature from the Black Lagoon and Invaders from Mars, or “versus” movies like Godzilla vs. EveryOtherMonsterEver!

Then, Aurora Plastics began advertising their Universal Monster models in Mad Magazine (which I read religiously), and Rory and I decided to build them all! My masterpiece was an artfully dirtied actual gauze-wrapped Mummy!

But then, against Mom’s wishes, Dad bought me a three-foot-tall King Kong model. I obsessed over him for weeks, gluing clumps of real fake hair onto him until he looked impossibly lifelike! Finishing after bedtime, I put him in the kitchen where Mommandad would see him first thing in the morning.

Around 2 a.m. a blood-curdling scream filled the house. Dad and I jumped from our beds and ran into the kitchen to find Mom backed up against the refrigerator, pointing in horror at the moonlit behemoth next to her sink. Cool! My monster had made a real human lady scream! Still, I did feel sorta bad.

After Mom calmed down, the three of us laughed…and laughed…and that…

Was the best special effect ever!

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Things Change

Stamps

Thought for the Week

Boomers (bought stamps for 5¢) “Well, my baby, she wrote me a letter.”

Gen-X (bought stamps for 18¢) “You must lick ’em, lick ’em good!”

Millennials (bought stamps for 34¢) “You used to lick stamps? Why?”

Gen-Z (“What’s a stamp?”) Boomer: “It goes on a letter.” Gen-Z: “What’s a letter?”

The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that things change. And while it’s true that change isn’t always good, it’s also true that it’s always irreversible. We can’t go back to “the good old days.” But we can go forward to “the good new days.”

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An Unknown Future

Unseen (mitchteemley.com)

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
~Corrie ten Boom

~AΩ~

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Zack’s Back!

Falling Up - photo by Henry & Co. (pexels.com)Image by Henry & Co.

The Wishing Map is a full-length fantasy that is being posted episodically at this site. To read the previous episode, click here. To read the entire novel, begin here.Wishing Title (logo only)

The moment Zack wished himself home his downward plunge ceased, his head jerked upward, his feet pointed downward, and he shot up into the sky. His fall into Ismara had been weird, but nothing compared to this. After all, he’d fallen down before, but he’d never fallen up. His lips peeled back in an involuntary grin and his eyes acquired the shape of reverse teardrops; his elongated body ripped through the clouds as he rocketed upward. Once again, he caught a glimpse of a sweet girlish face as he passed through a particularly thick cloud. But before she could say anything, he was gone.

His return trip took a fraction of the time his fall had. His theory was that the initial plunge had broken a whole gob of natural laws, so his return “flight” was a sort of reset.

The final second was the freakiest of all. Looking up, he saw the bottom of the Wishing Map with all its words in reverse, and beyond it the ceiling of Gina’s bedroom; it was like looking out from inside a mirror.

And then he popped up through the Map. He thought for a moment he’d ripped it, but he hadn’t, he’d simply squeezed through a glowing blue circle, and then stopped. It felt like when a roller coaster comes to a halt. Only his body didn’t lurch; instead, it re-gathered itself into the position it had been in just before he left, almost as if it didn’t know it had been gone. There was a vacuum beneath him, like a tide sucking at his feet. And then everything was quiet, except for the groaning of Gina’s medieval box fan.

It was a sticky August evening, just as it had been when he’d left yesterday. He was trembling from a mix of strained muscles, frozen skin, and residual fear. He collapsed onto his knees and began hugging the tongue-in-groove floorboards. “Good old floor!” he laughed as he petted the wood. It smelled of home and Mom and all things clean and lemony.

He looked at the clock beside Gina’s bed: 5:32. Huh? Seven minutes after he’d left yesterday. He wasn’t sure why, but it occurred to him that it might actually be yesterday. Everything seemed the same: Gina’s room, Gina’s clock, Gina’s box fan. But something was different, something was missing…

Gina!

Before he could examine this fact, Mom called up the stairs: “Gina? Zacky? Your dad’s running late, so we’re going to be irresponsible parents and feed you popcorn for dinner!” She giggled. “And Dad’s going to pick up some root beer from Crullers!”

Zack forced his brain to process: What to do? Act as though he didn’t just hurl through space and hadn’t almost had his leg bitten off by a giant bird!

“Zacky? Gina? Are you—?”

“Uh…yeah…cool, Mom!”

“Good! Twenty minutes, OK?”

Why weren’t Momandad freaking out? If he’d been gone since yesterday there would have been cops all over the place, and Gina would be trying to explain to them how her brother had fallen into a giant map and—wait.

“Hey, Mom?”

“What?”

“What day is it?”

Mom chortled, “Has being out of school rotted your brain?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“It’s Friday, silly.”

“Hey, Mom?”

“Hey, what?”

“Is Gina down there?”

“No, she’s with you, goofball. What’s your surprise?”

“What?”

“Gina, what’s the surprise you were talking about?”

Zack answered in his Gina-voice: “Um…if I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

Amazingly, Mom bought it. “OK, you two. Be downstairs in twenty minutes, and don’t forget to wash up.”

So it was still yesterday, and only a few minutes had passed since he’d fallen into the Map! But where was Gina? Had she fallen into the Map too? No. He’d seen the look on her face when he started to disappear. She’d tumbled back on her bed and—aha! He jumped up and ran around to the other side of her bed. But there was no Gina waiting to shout, “Gotcha!” Only the remains of her latte, now well-soaked into the comforter.

No, no, no, no! This was massively bad! Zack walked back to the front of the bed, and then he saw the note peeking out from under the edge of the Map:

“Zack: Went to find you in Map.”

φ

Thoughts: Have you ever been in a situation so unique there was simply no way to determine what to do?

Wishing - Ismara

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Abandoned

Abandoned cars, ships, factories, houses. Some seem lonely, orphaned. Others deserve their fate. They cry, “I was beautiful and important once!” And we reply, “No, you never were.” Many are beautiful only now that they’ve been reclaimed by a splendor which existed long before their human creators, desperate for immortality, gave them their garish facades. The more they merge with the world around them, one that existed long before they were born, the more the beauty of that world and of its Creator adorns them. How many people are the same?

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to start slide show.

“The smell hit her first. Mold. Dampness. Cold lifeless things. Within, there was a darker sort of silence, as if the building had been holding its breath for so long it had forgotten how to breathe.”  ~Angela Panayotopulo

          “All is as if the world did cease to exist. The city’s monuments go unseen, its past unheard, and its culture slowly fading in the dismal sea.”    ~Nathan Reese Maher

“He stood there for a moment looking around the silent room, shaking his head slowly. All these books, he thought, the residue of a planet’s intellect, the scrapings of futile minds, the leftovers, the potpourri of artifacts that had no power to save men from perishing.” ~Richard Matheson

“I bought this place for a pittance, because it was a dump. Rejected, abandoned, unwanted. Like me. I fixed it up. Made it mine.” ~Jasinda Wilder

“The greatest loss lies in our inability to accept loss.” ~Craig D. Lounsbrough

   “God draws near to the brokenhearted. He leans toward those who are suffering. He knows what it feels like to be wounded and abandoned.”    ~John D. Richardson

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My Next Big Box-Office Hit?

Horror thrillers and Movies for Women are among the most successful movie genres. Could this be my next big hit:

'The Texas Chainsaw Manicure' - Mitch Teemley (mitchteemley.com)

A Filmmaker’s Journal

2020 was my biggest year ever as a filmmaker. Oddly enough, thanks to the-pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named, I had three feature films released, two, Healing River and Notzilla, as the writer/director/producer, and one, Promises to Keep, as the lead actor. I also play small roles in two movies released since then (Divine Decision: Double Down, 2021, and The Pope Drops In, soon to be released).

Both Healing River and Notzilla were originally intended as theatrical releases. But then the coronavirus (remember when we “affectionately” called it that?) shut down movie theaters everywhere! And film production came to a screeching halt (hence, my lack of Filmmaker’s Journal posts).

On the other hand, streaming outlets like Netflix and Amazon Prime were starving for titles, so my production company struck a deal with Prime to release seven already-completed feature films (including mine)!

But now movie theaters are coming back to life! Especially with blockbusters like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The next big blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick is due next week, but it has a dangerously short title. It should probably be expanded to something like Top Gun: Maverick, the Longest-Delayed Movie Sequel Ever Made!

So, what big blockbusters am I working on? All kidding aside, I’m actively pitching several projects to the studios and networks, including (among others):

  • A comedy fantasy in the style of Bruce Almighty
  • An epic limited-series about a post-pandemic world in which a handful of survivors attempt to reboot the human race
  • And a rom-com about a movie star who chucks it all (maybe) to become a teacher

Will any of these be a “box office smash?” Or even get produced? Only God knows. Meanwhile, I’m negotiating a publishing deal for my novelization of Healing River, and will be doing speaking dates tied to its desperately-needed message of forgiveness. Oh, and you have my promise that I will never make The Texas Chainsaw Manicure (although I did have fun creating the poster), no matter how much…

The studios beg me for it!

Posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies, Popular Culture & Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , | 39 Comments

A Skewered Look at Life

Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Livin’ Large at Age Eleven

(Not my actual family)

My Real Memoir

It was New Year’s Eve. But I was only eleven, so it would be at least two more years before I was allowed to attend a Real Party. The moment we stepped into my Aunt Fran’s suburban shoebox I was exiled to the Kid Ghetto: “Go play with your cousins, honey!”

Yeah, right.

The cousins my age were MIA, and the older ones were at Real Parties doing Inappropriate Things. So it came down to me, two eight-year-old girls drinking pretend tea, and four kids under five, not one of whom was interested in discussing anything remotely intellectually stimulating. On the other hand, the kid’s room was full of challenging games: stacking rings, six-piece puzzles, a smiley-faced telephone. Oh, yeah, and a spring-mounted rocking horse.

Woo-hoo.

In short, “go play with your cousins” meant babysit. But at least there was punch. The punch in the bowl on the low table was syrupy and disgusting. The stuff in the bowl on the tall table looked better. But the adults were busy talking, so I helped myself. It was citrusy and fizzy and not half-bad. I drifted back into the Kid Ghetto and ended up reading picture books to a couple of tow-haired toddlers between trips to refill my cup. Strangely, the more I drank the thirstier I got.

Then I climbed onto the rocking horse. It was absurdly small. Which made me laugh. In fact, everything made me laugh. The more I rode, the funnier everything got. I kept laughing, refilling my cup, and riding the rocking horse, laughing, refilling my cup, and riding the rocking horse… At some point the room began to spin.

And then I threw up.

My parents were disappointed at having to leave so early. But when your kid is sick… “Do you think he has the flu?” Five minutes from Aunt Fran’s, we stopped at a gas station bathroom so I could throw-up again.

Eight gas station bathrooms later we finally made it home. Dad plopped me down onto my bed while Mom called the doctor. I was giggling between dry heaves. “Wait,” Dad said, “what punch bowl did you drink from?”

“The fizzy one.”

“Cancel the doctor!”

The next morning, I felt like I’d swallowed the Gobi Desert. With a chaser of death. And so it was that my party-hearty pre-teen lifestyle ended…

As abruptly as it had begun. 

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