Resist!

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Resist! Ban! Boycott! This is crap! These were some of the words screamed from nerds far and wide when they saw The Last Jedi. I was definitely one of those nerds, prompting me to explore one of the reasons the film sucked. What I didn't think would happen was the fans' boycott of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Occasionally, I'll see YouTube recommendations on the subject of the fan backlash and news that Disney is pulling out before committing themselves to another evil stepchild of a Star Wars movie.

One vlog asked the question whether Rei is a Mary Sue, a character that can do no wrong and is good at everything. The vlogger did a much better job than I, proving why she is. And it's not about gender. For me, it's about the character set up.

This particular vlog had mentioned that Disney execs stated that the ensuing films would clear up why Rei is the way she is. This is bad storytelling.

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In fiction, be it book, film or TV, the suspension of disbelief is a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal. The reader/viewer goes into fiction with this already built in. Meaning, when an audience goes to see a film, they know that everything on the screen is fake, but they've put that knowledge aside. They want to be taken on a rollercoaster ride. They want to feel the ups and downs of the characters without risking anything themselves. So it falls to the storyteller to maintain that suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, the audience will be taken out of the experience because they'll inherently question the logic of the story.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. —Mark Twain

In The Force Awakens (TWA), Rei as a character wasn't set up well. She's never been off planet, she's not part of any military, and her parents are unknown to her, and as a result, to the audience. She's great at taking things apart, but that doesn't make her a great pilot. So when she's able to fly the Millennium Falcon like a seasoned veteran, the audience will naturally wonder how and why.

Getting back to the Disney execs. The idea that the following film(s) will show why Rei is good at everything is bad storytelling. At this point, it's too late. This has to be done first in TWA in order to support the logic for the following events. Try going to a bank and have them give you a loan before you can prove that you can pay it back. Common. I dare ya.

Well, Jimmy, have you heard of subprime loans that caused the 2008 financial crisis?

Yeah, but we've learned our lesson and banks ain't gonna do that again.

Uh...not so fast my slanty-eyed friend. Subprimes are back!

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Still, the fan backlash is real. The low box office numbers for the following film, The Last Jedi, supports it. And, of course, Solo couldn't escape the bad storytelling decisions Disney had made. Solo flopped in the box office, despite it being a better film.

For me, each novel or film has to be contained in and of itself. They can have cliff hangers. But the arc of the character/story should be complete. And they can lead to another arc or be a part of a greater arc. I've been very conscious of that when writing my novels. This is the keystone to why I love story. And of course to get chics. That has not worked out well. They don't seem to care that I'm an artiste.

Life Has No Schedule

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I went to World Con 76. Their convention is much like the San Diego Comic Con, except there aren't any big Hollywood celebrities, you're not forced to move with the crowd because there aren't 150,0000 people attending, costumed super heroes and villains don't roam the convention center, and the con centers around books. Specifically SFF, science fiction and fantasy. This is the group that gives out the Hugo Award for the genre, which is like getting an Oscar. So much of fiction is riddled with romance, because that's what sells, so it's heart warming to see an organization dedicated to SFF.

I was excited to go to the Hugo nominees' readings where the authors read a selection from their own books. There might have been sixty to eighty seats, but they were all taken, so I had to stand. I didn't care. I wanted to hear excerpts from great writers. Then we were told that the fire marshal wouldn't allow us to stand as it was a fire hazard. WhatchutalkinaboutWillis? I had a clear path to the door had there been a fire. Still, I and the other standers were asked to leave. I suggested to the room we bribe the fire marshall, but that wasn't well received. Especially from those seated. Bastards. Joking...things like bribing or paying off porn stars and Playboy models ain't my thing.

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I decided to go to a talk about how aliens might think. The panel was made of two university professors whose specialties lay in human consciousness, and a SFF author who studied AI at MIT. Her name is SL Huang, which I assumed was her pen name, since the panel kept calling her Lisa. She sort of had this Natalie Portman thing going on. Dating has been hard for me, so maybe my celebrity crush was manifesting itself in some way. But I checked out her website, and she's quite an accomplished author. She had to be in her thirties. She looked younger, but Asians don't raisin.

Then my insecurity reared its ugly head into my mind. Here, I'm writing an article that will likely never be read, had been going to a writing group work-shopping my second book when the first one isn't even published, and still trying to get representation from a literary agent. Loser!

Breath...om...Keyser Söze...

I reminded myself that life has no schedule. Except that things are born and then they die. I know, real insightful. It seems people need to plan everything that happens in between these two points. I have to graduate high school in order to go to college, then I can get a job and earn enough for a down payment for my first home by this age. I'll need to meet The One soon if I want to have kids because I don't want to have them too old, otherwise I'd be too old. Eventually I'll have to change jobs every now and then so I can get the requisite pay increases and save for my retirement. And I do want to leave something to the kids when I die because they're my children and that's what a parent does.

In the span of 105 words, I've scheduled my whole life. All of that, by the way, is crap. Life has no schedule. Some people die before they're born. Others die after more than a century has past. A lucky few make it big in their chosen industry. A majority do not. Some people earn their way in. Others do not...ahem...the Orange One.

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My writing group and I had been interviewed and on a podcast. One of our writers had an interesting story. He volunteered at the San Francisco Writers Conference where he set up and tore down rooms for presenters. He set a room once for an author who pulled out binders full of rejections letters from literary agents that had amounted to hundreds. He eventually made it, but it was through sheer effort and not giving up. In contrast, a dozen agents rejected JK RowlingKathryn Stocket, who wrote The Help, was rejected by 60 agents. The point is that different people make it at different times. And because we as humans are very bad at telling the future, we don't know what's coming around the bend. Had Stocket given up on the 59th rejection, she would have never found her current agent and her ensuing success.

Does that mean you should never give up? No. I think there are circumstances that may indicate ending something is good. I had given up on acting because I fell out of love with it. My best friend and I had decided not to open our own martial arts school after planning and working on it for a couple of years. So far a reason to give up my writing hasn't presented itself to me. Having a never quit attitude doesn't guarantee success, however you define success. But you'll never succeed if you don't start or give up too early. And be cautious about attaching your happiness to circumstance. Not making it in any industry doesn't affect your happiness.

Life has no schedule.

Nope

Couple of weeks ago I went on an urban hike in the city of Saint Francis (Frisco to yous not from dees parts). This was a fifteen mile hike through the Mission, up Russian Hill, out to the Marina, meandering through Pac Heights, venturing into hippie town, AKA Hashbury (Haight/Ashbury), saw the Painted Ladies, ending up at Civic Center where we devoured our dinner, downed some beers, and traded words, sentences actually.

Earlier in the morning, we had met up at Tartine before the hike, a boutique bakery that sold baked good. I know. Captain Obvious here. They're known for their croissants, which costs $4.99 after tax. Damn. After waiting in a 30-minute line and getting a small loan to pay for my flaky bread, I stepped outside and sat down to focus my attention on experiencing this masterpiece. With each morsel, I noted how flaky and crunchy the outside was and loved chewing on the thick moist inside. To say this is a fulfilling experience would gloss over how satisfying the croissant had been. And then I cursed myself for not buying a second one, but that would require a second small loan. Now, the sign of a good croissant is how much of it got on your lap after you're done eating it. Looking down confirmed the flake fall had been good.

 Her dog, Flake

Her dog, Flake

I looked over at our hike leader, and she was entering her calories from her croissant. "I'm trying to lose 20 pounds."

Whoa. That's like an arm!

We were off. One of the guys delved into a debate with our leader about her weight loss. I was eavesdropping, which was easy because I was walking next to them.

“So that's all you do is count calories?” the dude asked.

"Yep," she said. "Most of weight loss comes from managing your food intake."

"Don't you think adding exercise would help?"

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"Nope."

"Decreasing your caloric intake doesn't mean you'll just lose fat. You'll lose muscle as well unless you do something to keep it." The dude was correct.

When I had studied kinesiology, we explored and looked at studies in regards to this very subject. Managing your diet was key. Including some sort of weight bearing exercise helped keep the muscle a person had, which at the very least kept their basal metabolism level. Cutting calories with no exercise meant that fat and muscle loss could lead to a lower metabolic rate. Think of it this way. Imagine burning a hundred-hour candle. It'd take the flame a hundred hours to burn through it. Ok, Cap. Burning the candle at both ends would cut that time in half, much like lowering your calories and doing some exercise. But lowering your calories not only was ineffective, but your body is not a candle flame. It would adapt and lower its metabolism to conserve energy, a side effect.

I bring this up because our hike leader seemed very close-minded. I dug a little further on the reason she didn't believe this would help, and she admitted that she was lazy. Lazy? She was taking us on a 15-mile urban hike. What the hell is your definition of lazy?

I see two things going on. Being closed minded hinders progress. We see this politically. Religiously. Traditionally. When I had taken martial arts, the ol'grandmaster espoused, "What you're learning here is over 2,000 years old. There's wisdom in what I teach."

Yeah. That wisdom should have told you that shit had changed. But he was very reluctant in changing his ways, always touting formality and tradition. He touted thinking outside the box and being a leader. But you can't do those things without throwing out the old and exploring the new.

The second thing that I saw from our hike leader was her unwillingness to do whatever it took to lose those 20 pounds. I'm not suggesting she actually cut off her arm. But she had been doing the minimum, which was counting her calories. Science had proven that doesn't work. At least for the general population. Exercising her whole body could be an important component of changing her body composition. However, no amount of exercise can work off the worst diets. So her initial effort of keeping track of what she ate was the keystone to her goal.

For me, I try and learn from anything and everything. When my writing group and I meet, I'm listening to everyone's critique, even they're not talking about my pages. When I critique pages, I don't see everything. So it's enlightening when someone spots things that I miss. From that, I learn just as much as the writer whose pages are being talked about. Because I can't know everything. I don't see everything. But I can think outside of the box by listening to what others have to say.

We’re All In This Together

I watched Jim Jeffries new Netflix special. He was talking about a bit he had done about why parents christened babies, pointing out the hypocrisy of religion. 

That made me think of a person who used to be my best friend, who is mentioned in my bio. He'd gone to Isreal, worked in a kibbutz, and converted to Judaism. Despite my loathing for organized religion, I do not ever tell people not to be a part of it. It's their life. Their participation doesn't affect mine as long as they don't try and recruit me. It won't be a good experience. For them.

My friend moved back to the Bay Area, but he found it difficult living here. He called himself a modern Orthodox Jew. I call myself a human. To each their own. A modern Orthodox Jew is a person who observes the traditional ways of Judaism, but doesn't go as far as wear traditional Jewish clothes, keep their hair as they wish, and avoids iPhones. OK...Orthodox Jews use iPhones. I think.

His newfound faith made it difficult for us to hang out on weekends because of Shabbat. There weren't many places that served kosher food. Particular to the Bay, there weren't many female modern Orthodox Jews. He wanted to marry one and make modern Orthodox Jewish babies. So he moved to New York where the Jewish population had been more prevalent. He found a wife. Had two kids.

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An example of this traditional way of life showed itself when I met his wife. I greeted my friend with a hug. When he introduced me to her, I leaned in to hug her. She stood as still as a marble statue. Reading the cue from many first kiss failed attempts, I leaned back. Lean back. A betrothed wife cannot touch another man not her husband. A husband cannot touch a woman not chained to his ankle. I’m sure their own siblings are fine. Hey. I didn’t make the rules.

They eventually moved to Florida where he lives in a frum community. That was the end of our twenty-year friendship.

Though, I had seen the signs of the end. Outside of his faith, his life was changing with a full blown family. Me. I was still living the single life, free of tending to children born from my loins. Actually, that would have been from my wife's loins.

The thing that gets me is that he wanted to live in a frum community. That somehow the rest of the world wasn't good enough for him and his family. In the twenty years that we've been friends, he'd never mentioned isolating himself in a religious community.

How do I know he doesn't want anything to do with the non-frum world? Several of us had wished him a happy birthday on Facebook. We all wrote heartfelt greetings. And none of us received a thank you. Or any acknowledgement. That was last year.

Now, I'm not sure if that's the religion talking or not. But the fact that most religions require that you convert otherwise you can expect Hell to be your forever home in the afterlife is stupid. The big three—Christianity, Catholicism, Muslim—all state they are the one true religion.

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If that is true, then the people belonging to the other two will meet Satan and be his housemate. Forever. And ever! Buahahahaa.

So when I watched Jeffries' bit about dead babies, I was delighted. Not because of the dead babies. But it showed the hypocrisy of religion.

In a world where tribalism runs rampant, we are all humans. As far as we know, there are no other species of humans. Yes, we're all different. I mean, no one would mistake a chihuahua for a mastiff. Still. They dawgs, bruh. They want the same things. To be loved. To hump legs. To sniff butts. To sleep on comfy mats. That's the thing a lot of people don't realize. We all want those things. Love. Pleasure. Community. Security.

I'm not saying we need to get rid of tribalism. But if we can peek through the curtain and see past the superficial differences, we'll all come to the same conclusion. We're all in this together.

Mary Sue: Storytelling Gone Wild

I wrote a post about Star Wars The Last Jedi. It was an exploration into Why Sequels SuckThen I followed up with another post on how sequels don't have to suck.

Then I saw a Forbes' post that talked about why The Last Jedi had so much controversyHe had two points that might have contributed to the hate toward the movie: the main character, Rey is a Mary Sue, and she's a girl. Being a storyteller, I’d like to talk about Mary Sue first.

Who is this mysterious woman? Is she on Tinder? Coffee Meets Bagel? Grinder?

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That's for dudes, dude. Ooh. My bad. To put it lightly, Mary Sue is a female character that can do anything and do no wrong.

The male version is called a Marty Stu. The author pointed at James Bond and Indiana Jones as well known examples because "...both are superhuman soldiers, seducers, and puzzle-solvers, flawless individuals who are the subject of intense admiration from everyone they meet...". He shouldn't have chosen them because these two have well defined setups.

James Bond is an intelligence officer in MI6, who served in the Royal Navy. So before any James Bond book/movie begins, this history exists. Meaning, he's had training and experience.

Indy is a tenured professor of archeology in Princeton. Because of his father Indy has had extensive experience in adventuring and treasure hunting. Just like Bond, Indy has a history—the setup—that allows the audience to suspend their disbeliefs. When these two characters accomplish amazing things, we believe it because people with their kind of experience are more capable than people who have no training whatsoever.

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Rey. What's her setup? Per Wikipedia, she's stubborn, headstrong, brave, optimistic, and loyal. Oh, and she's highly sensitive to the Force. That's cool. But so was Luke Skywalker. Back to him later. In The Force Awakens, I can't recall if she had made any big mistakes or did anything wrong. In fact, she was able to use the Force against Kylo Ren, who was well versed enough to stop a laser projectile in mid-air. Kinda like catching a bullet with your teeth, I’m imagining. Also, Rey didn't know she was powerful with the Force because she was surprised when she found out. In other words, she had no history with it. Kylo had training. So either she's so talented that training is not necessary, or the training Kylo had received sucked. If that was the case, he should get his money back.

The Forbes' post goes on to say that Luke and Rey have very similar setups. Both orphans, did manual labor, left their desert homes in the Millennium Falcon, and are strong with the Force. So why all the hate toward Rey? She's female. That's why. The post then says, "The most substantial difference is that Rey hasn’t experienced the emotional torture Luke has, seeing as Luke’s foster parents were murdered and his father turned out to be space-Hitler."

Well...there's this little film called Empire Strikes Back. Many critics consider this to be the best film within the original trilogy. I agree. Within the first fifteen minutes, we find Luke on the precipice of death on the ice planet Hoth. Obi-Wan Kenobi appears right in front of Luke from the netherworld (how often does this happen?) and tells him, "You's gots ta go ta Dagobah and train with my bruh, Jedi Grand Master Y. Woot woo!" I know. I'm paraphrasing here. And half the movie is dedicated to Yoda training Luke. I mean, they spend a lot of time together. Alone time.

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At the end of the movie Luke duels his father, Darth Vader, and Luke loses his masturbatory hand, effectively losing the fight. As he should. Cause that Vader is a bad mofo.

To be fair, in The Last Jedi, Rey does find Luke. But there's very little training going on. Luke says he'll give her three lessons, but my memory barely recalls two. If there was a third lesson, then I missed it. Part of storytelling is showing the important stuff. Especially where logic is concerned. Otherwise people will be pulled out of the story, wondering how such and such happened. As a storyteller, I don't want that to happen.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't. -Mark Twain

Could some of the hate come from the fact that Rey is a female character. Sure. But that's not the reason why Star Wars fans hate Rey. It's bad storytelling. Throughout the Star Wars’ cinematic universe, the idea of training someone in the ways of the Force has been hammered into the audience. Rey has received none to little of it. However, if fans did hate Rey for being female, then they would have hated Jyn. Dude. No one hates a fine glass of gin.

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Serious? Come on! I'm talking about Jyn Erso, the lead character from the film, Rogue One. She's female. She's a rogue. She's tough. She takes no shit from no one, sistah. And that works well here. Not only did she witness her mother's murder, but she's had to hide from the Empire and survive life under that regime. By the time we see her as a young adult, she has chutzpah.

I know she has been received well because the actress, Felicity Jones, hasn't had to deactivate her Instagram account like Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, had done.

All of this is to say that storytelling done right, done well will be received in that same light. So, Jimmy, how do you explain Fitty Shades?

That ain't a real book. But...the world is big enough to have Michelin-starred restaurants and fast food establishments.

Happiness vs Joy

I don't go on Facebook very often. Maybe once a day. I'm pretty busy and am not interested in my friends’ minute-to-minute going ons. I prefer conversation. I'm old fashioned, I guess.

One of my close friends was disgusted by a couple’s posts on how to have a great marriage. She didn't like their advice because they don’t have children. According to her their ignorance can skew their advice. The couple had launched a life coaching business where they focus on health, wealth, and relationships. I know them. But they've stopped talking to me because I'm a bit silly. And I have a potty mouth.

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I tried talking to them about deeper things, but I felt they were closed to my ideas.

I decide to wade through the couple's posts and see what they have to offer. One video shows the wife saying something to the effect of "Nobody likes to be yelled at in public." I think she’s talking about respect and how to communicate with your partner. I'm not the best example, since all of my relationships have failed. However, failure is the nature of relationships. The first thing that comes to mind is that no one likes to be yelled at. Period. Unless they're in the throes of ecstasy. Then yelling can excite the activity. Or frighten little children.

They also have a video series on happiness. That peaks my interest. After hearing the advice that nobody likes to be yelled at in public, I am not too hopeful. The series talks about being grateful, having passions, having someone to love and love you back to increase your happiness. In my view, this isn't happiness. It's joy.

Joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. So if I get a big raise, I'll feel joy. If I sleep with a hot woman, I’ll feel a lot of joy. A lot. Buying stuff can evoke joy. Hence America's problem with credit card debt.

Happiness is the constant. Humans are inherently happy. Young children are evidence of this. For the most part, they're a content group of people. It may not seem like it, due to the yelling, screaming, and bad behavior. However, that's the nature of children.

Their imaginations can be captured so easily. How often do little girls have tea parties with inanimate objects? Or boys running around fighting imaginary monsters. Remember the Floor is Lava game?

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Happiness is contentment. As humans, we don't need much. Food. Water. Shelter. Health. We're good. Having only those things may not bring joy, the experiences that fill the dullness of life. But the issue is that we cover that contentment with shit like I'm a loserfeeling that thought instead.

Going back to the couple. Their videos focus on rearranging the outside world to fit what they think it should look like, fulfilling an expectation that can bring joy, which can feel like happiness. But it's not. Imagine rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. That ain't gonna stop the ship from sinking. You have to look within yourself for happiness.

The minute we NEED things like an awesome car, the perfect job, and a guy that checks off the long list of requirements is when we can become discontent with life. Wanting those things, knowing we don’t need them, allows us to enjoy the luxuries of life for what they are. Experiences. 

What about being grateful? That’ll make us happy. Right, Jimmy? It depends on what they mean by being grateful. If they require that you have to say "Thank you for this blah, blah, blah...", or have a notebook full of gratefulness, then no, it's not correct. You simply are grateful or you take some things for granted. Both happen on a daily basis without us even noticing. I'm not saying don't be thankful. Keep a notebook of gratefulness if you want. I'm just saying the act of being grateful isn't necessary to be content. Saying I love you to someone that you detest isn't going to make you love them.

The couple does hit on something that I agree with. Status. A lot of people go into credit card debt keeping up with the Joneses, which is an act of rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. So materialistic endeavors don't contribute to happiness, but that doesn't mean you can't derive joy from it. I ride a motorcycle because I enjoy riding. It surprised me how much I love it. But I don't use it as a status symbol.

The only issue that I have with the couple stating that status shouldn't matter is that their Facebook posts are filled with materialistic luxuries. From the few that I have seen, they seem to have the top of the line stuff. Again. I'm not against this. But why post it for everyone to see? Why not just enjoy what you have?

What they're practicing isn't aligning with what they’re saying. Action speaks louder than words.

Happiness comes from within. It’s our natural state. That doesn’t mean we can’t cry or have bad moments. But if we clear our minds, we come back to that natural state of contentment. 

Cobra Kai

In my last post I talked about why sequels can suck. When a character moves through their arch, they start from who they are, having a trait such as not believing in oneself. The plot will continually challenge that notion until the character realizes what it means to truly have faith in themself. And if the writer is good, then the story will test the staying power of that new trait.

Therein lies the problem for sequels that I discussed in my last post: The character has become the person they should be. So how does a writer continue that character's story in a sequel, while still having an arch to traverse?

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One of my favorite movies from my childhood is The Karate Kid. On the surface, Daniel, the main character, seems to be confident in himself. Right after moving across the country with his mother, he makes a new friend who invites him to a beach party. There he sees a girl that he likes and doesn't have a problem charming her. Her ex-boyfriend, Johnny, spots them, and he tries to force a conversation with her. Daniel stands up to Johnny and receives a beating for his efforts.

As a character, Daniel has attitude, confidence, and is unenlightened. How can someone have confidence and lack enlightenment? That's what so intriguing about Daniel.

Confidence is the trust in one's own ability. The plot shows us this. Robert Mark Kamen, the original screenwriter, knew what he was doing. Daniel's ability to make a new friend, to charm a girl and stand up for himself are signs of confidence. Confidence, however, doesn't guarantee success. So when Daniel fails by losing that new friend, the fight, and the ability to show his vulnerability to the girl, doubt seeps inside and eats at him. So what does he do? He tries to learn Karate from a book and checks out a Karate school called the Cobra Kai. He's trying to shore up his doubt by out-Karateing Johnny.

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Mistah Miyagi is Spiderman.

Mr. Miyagi has made a deal with the Cobra Kai that Daniel and Johnny will settle their differences at the All Valley Karate Tournament. Months of training fly by as Miyagi instructs Daniel. Daniel confesses that he doesn't feel like he's learned enough Karate. With a knowing smile, Miyagi says to trust in the quality of the training, not the quantity. This is important because the solution to Daniel's problems isn't to know more Karate. Nor is it to be stronger. Nor be faster.

Miyagi has always taught from a place of truth. That one must be fully committed to the task. Hard work done well is important. Balance in life is essential. Miyagi is an enlightened individual. He's detached from silly things like winning and losing. His only concern is that Daniel knows himself. That his truth lies within.

Sweep the leg.

Daniel does well in the tournament and makes it to the finals. This is where the plot tests how well he's learned his lessons. The Cobra Kai sensei instructs Johnny to cheat, so he sweeps the leg, forcing Daniel to forfeit the bout due to injury. Will he be satisfied with the current outcome? Or will he choose to fight injured?

This is a movie goddammit! So he chooses to fight injured.

Miyagi looks at his wounded student. "No need fight anymore. You prove point."

"What, that I can take a beating?" Daniel says. "Every time I see those guys, they'll know they got the best of me. I'll never have balance that way, not with them, not with Ali...not with me."

Not with me. And here we find out that Daniel is enlightened.

Now. How does a writer create a character arch who is enlightened?

Thirty-four years later, Cobra Kai.

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I was concerned that the YouTube Red series, Cobra Kai, was gonna suck ass. So much of the promotional commercials show Johnny as the sympathetic/protagonist and Daniel as a douche. That would be like doing something ghastly, taking a totally optimistic character and making him completely pessimistic—ahem—Luke Skywalker—cough. Thank baby Jesus that didn't happen—sneeze—sarcasm.

The writers for Cobra Kai continued the mythology of Daniel and Johnny. Their core character traits are still intact.

Daniel has become a car salesman. He owns a chain of car dealerships. The writers showed that that level of comfort has softened Daniel. His focus is on the good life: riches, providing for his family. What he didn't have himself: A loving father and material wealth.

Johnny's still an asshole, but from what I gather, he hasn't had a lot of opportunities throughout the past 34 years to grow into the person he should be. He started on that path when he congratulated Daniel for beating him in the '84 All Valley Tournament. The life of wealth that Johnny had came with severe costs—a stepfather who hated him.

What I love about these two characters is the gray area they venture in and out of. Both of them make good and bad choices. So my mind is always trying to categorize who the good and bad guy is. This is mirrored in the young cast of characters. The writing plays with my sense of expectations. Sometimes the story fulfills it. Other times it switches things around.

The biggest point is that Daniel and Johnny felt real because their core character traits have remained true. The nostalgia, the incredible storytelling and good acting made this series a joy to watch. Often times I forgot that I was a writer and was pulled into the story. That's a good sign. Because when I'm critiquing a story that I'm reading or watching for entertainment, it means the writing hasn't done the job of pulling me in.