Movies

“Let It Go” is a song of evil

By which I mean, the popular song from Disney’s Frozen is not an anthem for an attitude that would be at all healthy to have in the real world.  Embracing indifference is not exactly something to celebrate.

After all, let’s not forget what the song is about: a sad, scared, angry queen embracing indifference toward the world.  The philosophy she is deciding on is evil.

Let’s look at some lyrics that reflect the evil Elsa’s embracing:

  • Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know – Hints out how she was dealing with her problem wrongly from the beginning.
  • Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door – She’d rather evade her problems than face them.
  • Let the storm rage on – She has no consideration for who that storm may be hurting.
  • The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all – She’s replacing them with all new fears, particularly the fear of facing others with her uncontrollable powers, or letting others, like her sister, try to help her at all.
  • No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free – Oh dear!  The most obviously evil lyrics here.  No right or wrong?!  Yikes.
  • You’ll never see me cry – She’s embracing indifference.  Not good.
  • I’m never going back, the past is in the past – It’s one thing to forgive yourself and move on, it’s another thing to stop caring completely, which is clearly what she’s doing.
  • The cold never bothered me anyway – Again, she’s embracing indifference.  And she’s lying.  Her powers have always bothered her and they’re still bothering her.

So, it’s a song about embracing indifference toward the world and her self-image.  Though cathartic, it’s clearly not the right solution to her problem.

And the storytellers know this, of course.  The song isn’t her climactic solution to her problems after which she lives happily ever after.  The song portrays her creation of even bigger problems, both in her own heart and the outside world that she’s cutting herself off from and plunging into eternal winter.  Her living alone in an ice castle out in the mountain boonies is never portrayed as a good thing.  In “letting go” of her concern for control of her powers and her self-image (an effort which initially came from a genuinely good place, even if she was dealing with it wrong from the very beginning, after being traumatized by injuring her little sister), she still holds on to the fear that keeps her away from her kingdom.  If she was truly “letting go” of what she needed to let go of (her self-image fear, her over-self-consciousness), she wouldn’t feel any need to stay away from her kingdom and those she loves, particularly her sister.

Story-wise, the song serves the same purpose as Sweeney Todd’s “Epiphany” (though Todd’s pledge is much more sinister – to murder innocent victims until he can get revenge) and as Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity.”  In Sweeney Todd and Wicked, such goal-changing decisions eventually lead to tragedy in one form or another.  Fortunately in Frozen, Elsa realizes her mistake and changes by the story’s end, thanks to her sister.  Still, her song is about a character who’s been struggling with something and is deciding to embrace a clearly wrong answer.

But of course that’s also what gives the song it’s power, in the dramatic sense; we can relate to Elsa’s emotions completely, even if we know she’s choosing the wrong thing.

But that’s also why it’s a bit funny to see videos of young children belting out the song proudly.  They’re singing about becoming evil.  Yes, I know it may be over some of their heads, but I still find it funny.  The music is great, but its beauty and power are misleading, as is Elsa being all smiley and happy about it; the philosophy she’s embracing is ugly and tragic.  After all, I don’t think we want children to actually let go of things like worrying about right and wrong.

The right answer to Elsa’s problem: love (as Elsa learns by the film’s end).  The wrong answer: cold indifference (as Elsa embraces with “Let It Go”).

So when you sing “Let It Go” while taking your evil shower (Sims joke), let’s hope you’re not singing the lyrics with actual conviction.  Because that would be, you know, evil.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Philosophy

We must become saints

Author John C. Wright has written a long essay called Restless Heart of Darkness. He writes in the first part:

At the risk of giving away the surprise ending (which, honestly, I suppose is not a surprise to anyone but me) I realized why it is that the current mainstream modern thought, despite its illogical and pointless nature, is so persistent, nay, so desperate.

I realized why they never admit they are wrong no matter how obvious the error, nor can they compromise, nor hold a rational discussion, nor a polite one, nor can they restrain themselves. They can neither win nor surrender.

I realized why their hearts were so restless. It is obvious once one sees it.

The essay has four parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. It is a long read, but should be of interest to anyone who, like me, finds himself constantly growing confused and angry with the direction of the modern world. (And it’s not just a matter of blaming a younger generation; I’m twenty-eight, still a bit too young to do that. But it won’t be long!)

I quote the essay’s conclusion here (with a few typos fixed), which I found to be the best part. (Yes, I’m blatantly giving away the surprise ending.) It was something I needed to read at the exact moment I did, as if it were answering my thoughts:

Despair is the key. It explains nearly everything that is so puzzling about the madness of modern life, the pack of self-contradictory dogmas that make up the default assumptions of the Dark Ages in which we live.

They have nothing else. No wonder they are bitter. No wonder they are irrational. No wonder they lie like dogs. No wonder they boast. No wonder they are full of envy and malice. No wonder they kill babies in the womb and fete socialist dictators and mass murderers. No wonder they love death. No wonder they admire, protect and love Islamic terrorists. No wonder they admire, protect, and love sexual perversion.

It is because they have nothing else. They live in a world of darkness, without hope, with nothing but their seven great friends to sustain them: pride, which they call self esteem; envy, which they call social justice; wrath, which they call activism and protest; sloth, which they call enlightenment; gluttony, which they call health food and legalization of recreational drugs; greed, which they call fairness in taxation; lust, which they call sexual liberation.

The modern age is suffering from spiritual and philosophical starvation in the midst of what should be the greatest feast of mind and spirit imaginable. Someone has told them offal was food and food was poison, and so they gnaw on foul things which cannot satisfy them, which make their hungers grow. They are dying of thirst, and someone offers them seawater to drink.

Let us now and forever eschew anger and indignation at these creatures. They are like blind kittens who cling and claw and scratch the hands that come to feed and comfort. No man should be angered at a blind scratch.

Neither should we do them the honor of assuming theirs is a philosophy, political or otherwise, or a coherent worldview, or anything that can be discussed or debated. It is a dream, a delirium, a vision, a nightmare.

Surely was can answer, or at least fend off, any questions they might have concerning our vision, which is brighter and better and sane and whole and true, because more often than not, it is a frivolous reason, a matter of mere emotion, which prevents them from seeing this light. Their eyes are closed, their reason is dark. Reason is of limited use to them, who have no faith in reason.

Beauty is the key to lure them into opening their eyes. I mean not merely the physical beauty in song and architecture and story telling where Christendom has no lack and has no peers; I mean also the beauty of virtue, of charity, of sympathy, of humanity, of heroism, of martyrdom.

Did not the sheer mind-boggling beauty of Mother Teresa of Calcutta attract more skeptics to our banners than did the sneering sarcastic ugliness of Christopher Hitchens attract to his?

They are lost in the dark. That is the truth that stabbed my soul like lightning. They wander in their jerky motions from one idle fashion and meaningless fancy to the next not because they are bored, but because they are desperate, because they are starving.

To cure them we must love them. That is what I saw.

To cure them, we must be a light to them.

We must actually live up to the difficult, nay, the impossible task of becoming saints, as humble and glorious as stars in the host of heaven.

We must first cure ourselves.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Animation

February projects

Here’s a short random update on what I hope to be working on this month:

Middle grade fantasy novel

I’m almost finished the first draft of my second attempt at a middle grade fantasy novel. I only have a few more chapters left to write. This month, I hope to finish this draft, edit it, write and perfect a good query letter to represent the novel, and once again begin an agent search.

Short stories

I am working on co-writing two short stories. I will probably also write some short stories on my own after I begin my agent search.

Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program

According to this post from Cartoon Brew:

[Nickelodeon] will choose a minimum of 10 pitches to develop into shorts that will appear on air, on Nick.com, and the Nick app. The shorts also have the potential to be developed into full series…

I put together pitch material for an animated series proposal back in 2012. This looks like a great opportunity to put the material to good use. I somehow missed this program last year, probably because I was busy finishing my first fantasy novel (which never went anywhere, thus becoming my first “trunk novel”). So I hope to write and storyboard a potential animated short featuring my characters.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Confession of a metaphysical experience

Here’s a weird post for you. Not sure if this will mean anything to anybody, but I can assure you that it’s true. And I really don’t care if you believe it or not.

On the night of September 3rd, 2012, I had a profound experience.

I won’t bother explaining how I got there, because that’s even weirder and I don’t really understand it myself.

But I passed through a portal of some sort. (This was a very ineffable experience, so it’s pretty much impossible to find words to describe it, so a lot of these words should be understood as approximations more than anything else.) Through this portal, I saw and experienced my true self. I want to say the true self is love. But love as it is experienced in this world is like a drop of water; there it is more immense than an ocean. Still, love is the closest word. It is infinite and completely fulfilling. Somehow, existence is “pure” there. That’s the best word I can think of; it’s pure. The core of your being, of your true self, is pure.

I was able to see my connection with the universe. This is a profound thing to see. It was nothing visual; it was an innate understanding, obvious yet profound. I saw that I was an essential part of the universe, part of God Himself, as are all people. You hear the idea that “we are one” or “we are all part of each other” in many philosophies. But it’s hard to see and understand in this world because we have separate bodies and minds. There, your connection to all things is obvious, profound, and beautiful.

If you have ever been with a great group of friends or family, and you feel like you have a place among them, like you belong, and you don’t feel superior or inferior to anyone in the group; it is like that only multiplied by infinity. The feeling of being “at home”, the feeling of “belonging” is infinite. It is because you can feel and understand your connection with the universe and understand that you are an essential part; not better or worse than any other part; you are not comparing yourself to anything; but you are essential.

I remember thinking to myself, “Of course I feel at home here, I know who I am here.” But even those words hardly communicate the profoundness of it.

And this love that makes up the core of your being, your life essence, somehow flows, or vibrates; it is alive itself. You can feel it flowing through the core of your being and through all the universe. It is what connects you to all things. It is living itself and is giving you your existence; you cannot exist without it. I know, it sounds bizarre; it is pretty impossible to describe.

Negative emotions of any sort are impossible there. You cannot be embarrassed about anything. You cannot feel insecure. How your body looked, what worldly success you achieved, it’s all completely insignificant. You cannot be ashamed of anything. You cannot regret anything. You do not long for anything. You cannot be afraid. You are completely fulfilled.

One of the most surprising and profound things I realized is that you cannot be bored there. Every moment of existing is so vibrantly alive and somehow new. It is like every moment is as fresh as being newly born.

I can’t even fathom it in this world. In this world, we have to be doing something or we’ll get bored. We constantly have to find things to stimulate our brains. We have to keep moving. Even when we’re happy, it’s a fleeting happiness and we eventually grow tired and have to move on to the next thing.

There, existing in and of itself is a completely different experience. There is no boredom. You don’t have to be doing anything, and yet you cannot be bored. It doesn’t make any sense in this world. I remember experiencing it and yet I can’t rationally comprehend it. But there it is. You cannot be bored.

There are no negative emotions. So even if you had the worst life imaginable, even if you lived in prison camps your entire life and watched while your entire family was tortured to death, nothing can take even a grain of sand away from that experience; the fulfillment is infinite and pure. No negative emotions. Not that you forget bad things or forget what negative emotions are; it is simply impossible to experience them.

In a way, it felt like I was only there for a few seconds, and yet the experience seemed so large that it felt like longer. As I said, every moment felt like new, so there’s no way to describe time. (The experience may have been more profound if I had actually thought about time while I was there, but I did not.)

Anyway, in the end, I somehow “fell away” from the experience and was back in the world, or back in my body, or back to being aware that I was in a body, or whatever. I’m pretty sure I didn’t die, I don’t think I have anything to die of, but I certainly know the experience was metaphysical. It’s impossible for the brain to experience that. When you experience something like that, you just know that it’s not something the brain can do; the brain simply cannot experience that sort of infiniteness. If it could, we would all just die, because we’d be infinitely fulfilled; we’d just lie down with no reason to move and we’d all just die. Of course, one of my first thoughts after the experience was thinking, “Maybe that was just a dream.” But that immediately didn’t make any sense. It was too pure to be a dream; it was even more profoundly real than this life. I know that doesn’t make any sense from the perspective of this life, but you just know it innately when you experience it.

I don’t know why I had the experience or what it was all about. It wasn’t Heaven, though perhaps it was a glimpse of how the self is experienced in Heaven. I didn’t talk to God or angels or anything, I didn’t see the future or the past, I didn’t even really see anything visually beautiful; it was all sort of inner-self-sense stuff. In some ways, it’s frustrating, because not only do I long to experience it again, I also wish I had answers about it!

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this now, since it happened over a year ago. And I’ve always believed in God, so it’s not like the experience converted any of my religious beliefs or anything, though it certainly deepened them. I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d ever share this at all because it’s probably hard to relate to and probably makes me sound a bit crazy. But, for some reason, I want to. I mean, it was an awesome experience.

I think the most profound things I received from the experience was, firstly, the realization that we are all intimately and profoundly connected to God, and to each other through God; God Himself flows through the very core of our being and gives us life; our life source is God; our creation happens at every moment. And secondly, the revelation of what it’s like to experience no negative emotions, including even the trivial negative emotion of boredom; that all pain in this life is temporary and that we are all profoundly essential to the universe, regardless of the ways in which we think about ourselves or compare ourselves to each other in this life.

Hope this is interesting to someone out there and doesn’t make me sound too crazy. (Or, if you already think I’m crazy, now you have another clue as to why.)

By S P Hannifin, ago
Year's best

My 2013 favorites

I’ve been posting my favorite movies and books of the year since 2010.  This year, I’m a little late in posting, but there were still some movies from 2013 that I wanted to see.  So here are my 2013 favorites.  For books, the nominees are books I finished reading for the first time in 2013, regardless of their publication date.  Movies and film scores must have been first released in the USA in 2013.  I’m not doing a TV show this year because I didn’t really watch much, and wasn’t very impressed with what I did watch.  So, only five awards this year.

Year’s best live action film:

gravity

Year’s best animated film:

frozen2

Year’s best film score:

Year’s best nonfiction book:

zen

Year’s best fiction book:

neverending

By S P Hannifin, ago
Interesting finds

Cousin Gregory Peck

More random genealogy trivia.  (This stuff is perhaps meaningless, but it’s fun.)  I knew actor Gregory Peck was supposedly in the family tree somewhere, but I like to find the exact connections to prove it if I can.

So I knew my great great great grandmother was Nora Ashe from Ireland.  (My father’s father’s father’s father’s mother.)  And I knew the Ashe family tree from Ireland was large.  Gregory Peck’s Wikipedia page mentions a grandmother named Catherine Ashe.  Aha!  Ashe!  That’s the connection!  So, if this Ashe family tree I found online is correct, I just had to find out how Catherine and Nora were connected.

The connection is a James Ashe, who would be Gregory Peck’s great great great grandfather (his father’s mother’s father’s father’s father) and my great great great great great grandfather (Nora’s grandfather, or my father’s father’s father’s father’s mother’s father’s father, if you like).

Which makes actor Gregory Peck my fourth cousin, twice removed.

So why didn’t he ever come to visit us?  I’ll never know.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Writing

Writing nonseriously

Earlier this year, I wanted to find out what self-publishing an eBook for Amazon’s Kindle was like. So I quickly wrote a terrible fantasy book. It was a ridiculous story featuring awful writing, and I gave it a cheap home-made cover. I used a pseudonym for the author’s name and did no promotion for it. Would it sell? After six months, it sold! One copy! 65 cents for me! Cha-ching!

Obviously, it was not a serious endeavor, and I still aspire to be traditionally published. But quickly writing a really bad fantasy without worrying much about quality or editing was very helpful. I become a bit of a perfectionist with my work sometimes; I become afraid to write, fearing my work will not be good enough. So writing something that I consciously know is not-so-serious is rather therapeutic. And fun.

So I’m going to do it again, but this time through the blog of fake author Nicholas Oringuard, as he writes his epic fantasy, “Children of the Shattered Cosm”, which will end up being one of the longest fantasy novels ever written. (Sure, why not?) It tells the story of twelve children from twelve different worlds who slowly discover that their worlds are linked and that their own spirits are pieces of a grander shattered spirit who had the power create worlds. The children learn they must unite their spirits to save their worlds from destruction. Or something like that.

Check it out here. If you want to.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Philosophy

Catholicism and homosexuality

And now a more serious post. The religious blog Deus Nobiscum recently finished posting a series of short articles worth reading. They do a nice job of explaining my beliefs on this subject. (They’re short. It doesn’t take long.)

Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 1: Equal Persons
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 2: Unequal Acts Part 1
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 3: Unequal Acts Part 2
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 4: The Call to Chastity
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 5: The Rugged Cross
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 6: Love, Not Hate Part 1
Catholicism and Homosexuality Part 7: Love, Not Hate Part 2

They are written more concisely and with more grace than I would’ve ever been able to manage. This subject continues to be a touchy one among some of my good friends. It can be a very difficult thing to discuss. I know it is often sentimentalized by TV and Hollywood to be a struggle to be oneself and find love in the midst of oppressive institutions, outdated ideologies, and naive or downright prejudiced individuals. I can only hope my friends can give my understanding of this subject a little more credit than all that.

At the very least, even if you don’t agree with it, you owe it to yourself to not be afraid of or offended by people who understand and speak about sexual morality (and the spirituality behind it) and its related issues in this way. When I, or a Catholic priest for that matter, mentions these things, it is not an effort to shame dissenters. It is an honest (and, in my opinion, very beautiful) understanding of sexual nature. There is nothing to fear about it.

God bless!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Stupid things

On flame wars

Just a short post here, but I was recently reading about a little controversy that’s going on in the sci-fi blogging world. I won’t go into the specifics, because it’s not really that interesting, but there are all these flame wars appearing on a bunch of blogs about it. (And of course, I don’t want my blog to be one of them!)

I just have to say: If you’re offended by something you read on the Internet, you’re an idiot. Don’t engage in flame wars. I know I never would, that’s for sure.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

NotateMe, notation software for mobile devices

This looks like an interesting tool:

It won’t work on my current phone, but maybe I can try it on my next phone, or if I ever get a tablet. I would love to be able to write music on a mobile device. (At least, I think so. I’ve never actually tried it.)

Maybe the creators would like to buy my melody generator technology? I am selling it for only $1,000,000.

By S P Hannifin, ago