Posts Tagged ‘Joss Whedon’

In the Star Wars three-quel, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker:  “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” as a statement of finality and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth Vader: innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy as one of the greatest Jedi Knights; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; too self-aware; arrogant; prideful; discontent; susceptible; a deceiver and deceived; fallen; enslaved; instrument of tyranny; destroyer of millions; redeemed.   Luke Skywalker:   innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; humbled; learned; self-sacrificing; truthful; caring of friends and family; champion over evil; agent of redemption.  Two hyperspace lanes diverged in a star system…and Luke Skywalker took the one less navigated through.  Two lives, with such an effect on an entire galaxy and a far reaching legacy that bled over into (at least) the next generation.

Phil Coulson, Agent of the Strategic Homeland Intelligence Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD), and supporting character in the Iron Man films and, more importantly, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.    One man. No special abilities. A greater hero than the Avengers combined…because he combined them.  He believed in The Avengers, the heroes, when they didn’t believe in themselves.  His death served as “The Push” that was needed to coalesce the Avengers into the Family of Heroes the world needed them to be in order to defeat Loki and the Chitauri invasion.   Coulson knew a push was going to be needed and was at peace with and willing to have his death be that catalyst.  His sacrifice saved New York City – and the world – more than Iron Man’s willingness to fly the alien bomb into space.

This is all thought-provoking and inspirational pondering;  the type of fictional stories that inspire and spur on humanity; giving us hope the world will continue to spin on.  Such inspirational stories in real life are rarely like this and they involve homeless men, a wake, and telephone poles even less.  Nevertheless, one such story does involve a homeless man, another a wake, and yet another, a telephone pole of sorts.

Peter Bis lived on a bench near Union Station in Washington, DC.  Peter Bis was an institution on Capitol Hill. Peter Bis always referred to himself in the third-person.  Known by many on Capitol Hill as a friendly homeless guy who talked to everyone and actually remembered you, he recently passed away.  There’s actually a memorial spot under the tree near the bench he used to sleep on where people have been leaving flowers and messages (which I recently visited).  From interns to congressional power-players everyone knew him and often chatted with him.  I used to see him all the time when I was an intern with the Heritage Foundation seven years ago, as his “Sheldonian Spot” – long before there was a Sheldon Cooper – was less than a hundred feet from the front door of my intern housing that Heritage provided.  While saddened at his passing and the loss of this quirky institution of a man, I didn’t really grasp the extent that was Peter Bis until I realized that articles were written about him, in memorium, by National Review, The Washington Post, National Journal, and The Huffington Post (linking to a article in Roll Call).  The area that many consider to the the most powerful square footage in the world – as far as power, politics, and influence goes – has mourned the loss of a homeless man; a single life who spent most of his days on a park bench.  That’s inspiration.

A dear friend of mine will sometimes tell the tale of something that happened at his father’s wake years ago.  A young man arrived at the wake, one my friend had never seen before.  He slowly approached the casket and just stood there for what seemed an eternity.  Standing there, this younger man broke; the dam burst and the emotional flood water swept forth with great intensity.  My friend watched this both intrigued and mystified.  As the young man turned around and walked back down the aisle my friend asked him: “how did you know my father that it would produce such a reaction?”  The younger man explained:  “I didn’t have a Dad growing up and your father was the only man I ever knew who took time for me, who talked to me like a man, like a son, who invested in me; I’ve never forgotten that”   Therein was a life to emulate.

Telephone polls aren’t considered to be inspirational either but I happen to know one that is, it’s at Lake Ann Camp and I climbed it…and then jumped off.  Even though I’ve already told the story, it’s told from my point of view.  It isn’t told from the viewpoints of any of the thirty-plus people who watched it happen.  Recently one of the Reborne Rangers from Alpha Week 2012, Maggie Syme, posted a  picture to Facebook of what the scene looked like before my climb of that dastardly telephone pole.  The caption she included with the photo said “The most inspirational moment of my life; Thank you, Aaron Welty”  I saw  that photo – with that caption – and I was speechless.  Yes, I conquered The Leap.  Yes, it was hard – seeming near impossible at moments – but I’d been through tougher things; things I’d even talked about earlier that week.  In being taken so aback my this, I thought, and even said, “it’s not like I saved NYC from an alien invasion like The Avengers did.”  Later, Maggie told me that she cried long and hard after seeing me make that climb and leap because it had impacted her that much.  I’ll never forget, Katie Decker, another Ranger, leaning over my exhausted body as I lay face down on the ground, telling me “you just changed my life”.  At the end of the week, Josiah Wyse, whose incredible story I’ve also already  relayed, told me that there were two moments that week where I left him without words: one was bequeathing the lightsaber, the other was this climb.

This was a huge “lollipop moment” for some; a moment that was much more significant for them then it was for the one doing it, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for me at all.

Mind your surroundings, be aware of the power and impact of your life; be an inspiration to others and invest in them.

Reborn Rangers praying before I began my climb.

On Wednesday evening of this week, I missed a fight for the first time.  In almost thirty years of flying I have never missed a flight.  I was to catch a flight from Ronald Regan Airport to Detroit Metro to spend time in Michigan, a well-worn routine.  While this summer flight to Michigan generally happens in August, part of the reasoning for an early trip was needing to get to Lake Ann  Camp next week to speak to the Alpha week of Reborn Rangers 2012, a special leadership program that has run each summer since 1999; the other reason, because my family was already planning on being at the Watchtower in the Upper Peninsula (the lake house in the middle of nowhere) and extra travel on their part to retrieve me wasn’t going to happen on my account.  In preparation for this  flight, I made sure to do two things: (1) to book a cab ahead of time, and (2) check with the TSA to make sure that I was allowed to pack a toy lightsaber into my carry-on bag for use at Lake Ann Camp later on.  I checked with the TSA and booked the cab; that cab never arrived. The company tried to track it down, never did, and sent another cab.  This second cab whisked me away to the airport, but to no avail; TSA security took their time making me wait for a special screening – since I can’t go through detectors – and did nothing when I clearly heard my name being called for this flight to Michigan, which happened to be the last flight to Michigan for the night.  Rushing to the gate was an exercise in futility as I realized the door was closed and the plane moments from pulling away.

“When is the earliest flight tomorrow?” I asked the girl behind the Delta counter. “6 am, and you might want to be on that one”, she replied.  Calling my Dad, I explained the situation and after conferring with him, elected for the 6 am flight.  With my next move decided, I grabbed my bags and walker and slowly made my way out of the airport to a cab, feeling a bit deflated and defeated as the cab drove me home to The Sanctum.  Upon arrival home, an out of state friend calls and I explain the situation, considering the possibility that there was a reason I missed that flight beyond a cab driver’s mistake; her affirmation was simple “there’s probably someone you’re supposed to meet tomorrow” and I left it at that.  Later that evening I posted about the debacle on Facebook and a friend mentioned “sounds like you might be living an episode of Touch”; the FOX show about an autistic boy who can see the connections between people – expressing what he sees through patterns and numbers – and his struggling father who aids the boy in ensuring that certain lives cross at the proper time.  I went to bed that night knowing I had to be up at 3:45 am to catch another cab at 4:30 am for this 6:00 am flight.

Awaking the next morning, I got ready for the long day ahead and packed some last minute items.  As I was going about this task, a verse from the Book of Genesis exploded into my mind in song form – thanks to all those years of listening to GT and the Halo Express – Genesis 1:27, so I began to hum and sing it as I went about my business.  In short order I received a text message to my phone informing me the taxi I scheduled was en-route to my location.  I hurried out the door with bags and walker to meet the taxi in front of my apartment building.  As I approached the car, I noticed the identification number: 127.  I stopped, looked again, smiled, and got in the car; maybe I WAS about to live a television episode.

Upon arrival to the airport, personnel were kind enough to get me through the security line quickly and no TSA agent went rummaging through my carry-on to inspect the lightsaber traveling within.  Past security, I stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s near my departure gate and had to execute the child-like stunt  of sneaking under the barrier to get in line.  This caught the attention of a man standing in line named Mark, who helped me pass the barrier once he caught on to what I was doing; there aren’t too many in line for McDonald’s at the airport at 5 am on a Thursday.  We got to talking about still being child-like when you grow older and the wonderful gentleman offered to pay for my breakfast.  It’s afterwards that we began to talk about why he was in town and where he was from.  I learned that he was in town to talk to members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation about some hunting and conservation issues.  Asking what offices he visited, he mentioned two offices where I knew folks who worked there and we talked about who those people were and my connections to them.  Unfortunately our conversation was cut short as he had to catch his multi-stop flight back to Minnesota.  Reflecting on that, the small voice in the back of my mind insisted I contact him to share the story of my own journey with no idea the effect such a tale might have.  Considering the last time that clearly happened, a “chance” meeting which lead to The FENX Project appearing on NBC around the country, I have complied with that prompting and hopefully it encourages him in the midst of a world where there is less and less to smile about.

On a lesser note, during my flight I heard a young lady in my row ask the person next to her why it was that the “superhero base” in The Avengers was a “flying, invisible boat.”  I seized the opportunity to set her strait and explain it’s from the comic books and you need to sometimes do things to keep the fanboys happy; besides, it is Joss Whedon we’re talking about.  As one friend later remarked to me, “And you wondered why you were on that flight…”  With this whole “adventure within an adventure” behind me, who knows what next week at Lake Ann Camp might bring, but I know I’ll be meeting some folks for the first time whom I am meant to connect with.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

In May 2008, movie-goers the world over were introduced to Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man; it changed things forever. Marvel had formed their own movie-making apparatus and had an ambitious plan: release movies about the origins of characters in the Marvel universe (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) that made up the more recent incarnation of the Avengers, known as “The Ultimates” and release them in a specific order, connecting one to another to build up to something that had never been done: an Avengers team-up film. That film released this weekend and the assembly required was worth it.

Picking up where some of the previous movies ended, Nick Fury and the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) are in possession of the Tesserac (or Cosmic Cube) last seen at the end very of Thor and in Captain America. SHIELD is running tests on the cube, hoping to turn it into a new energy source for Earth. Unexpectedly, Loki (Thor’s brother and the villain in the Thor) materializes via the Cube, and begins wreaking havoc on SHIELD HQ to steal the Cube and use it to subjugate Earth with some extra-terrestrial assistance. Comprehending the gravity of such a threat, a rouge Asgardian allied with a an army not of Earth or Asgard, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the Earth. Such a defense is not without difficulty, as personalities and world-views clash spectacularly. Captain America follows orders; Iron Man and Bruce Banner don’t trust Nick Fury and Banner doesn’t trust himself, Black Widow and Hawkeye have personal issues to work through, and Thor is, well, Thor; throwing around muscle and Mjolnir, his hammer, at anyone who looks at him wrong and dialogging as if William Shakespeare were possessing him. It’s not until the team suffers a sobering defeat that they coalesce and, thus inspired, become the teammates that Nick Fury (and the audience) knows they can be (and needs them to be). As always, something awaits those with patience at the end of the credits and the big reveal won’t disappoint those familiar with the Marvel-verse, but may leave the average movie-goer wondering what the big deal is; trust me, it’s huge.

There’s no question where the lines are drawn in this film: there are heroes and there are villains, human and flawed. Captain America struggles to lead the team as a man separated from all he knew, often charging shield first into battle. The Invincible Iron Man is found to be less so, but willing to make the sacrificial call others won’t. Black Widow feels compelled to rectify past sins and pay the debt she owes to another. Hawkeye learns he has others he can trust and lean on, needing not to be so distant upon wherever he is perched. Thor begins to see that he doesn’t always have to be the one out front, and that despite all that’s happened, he still cares for Loki and wants his brother to return home to their family; face justice, yes, but reunification more so, to show the past (and Loki’s origin) is the past. Bruce Banner finds someone who believes in him in Stark and a family in his fellow Avengers, fearing less the green-gamma demon within. And the gruff, yet fatherly Fury? He shoulders the burden of managing such a powerful force, knowing all to well the cost of fighting such a war and making the hard choices. The final scene at the absolute end of the credits illustrates how amazing it is to see this team unite on, and off, the field of battle. This film, as well as some of it’s predecessors, gives reason to believe in heroes in a time of great tumult and uncertainty.

Executing an endeavor such as The Avengers, making a movie not only about beloved characters, but also a dream team of fan-boy heroes AND have the story of each character moved forward, is a Herculean task to say the least and cannot be done by just anyone. Enter Joss Whedon, the mind behind Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse and Astonishing X-Men; he’s no stranger to heroes or the Marvel universe. So much of this film was classic Whedon; from snappy dialogue filled with humor, internal and external conflict, character motivations, the exploring the dynamics of family, and the heroes never emerging unscathed. At times it felt like I was watching aspects of his previous work spill over onto the greatest canvas he has ever been given and the picture he paints is, well, marvelous. Not to mention that Harry Dean Stanton’s roll in the film might be the greatest cinematic “in-joke” I’ve ever seen (and only Whedon would have done it). It’s clear that after toiling in the shadows of Hollywood for so long, working to tell the stories that he burst at the seams to tell despite difficulties and cancellations that Joss Whedon is the Prom King now; Long Live the King.