An Exploration into Mayhem

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When an action/horror flick comes out called Mayhem, starring a male Asian lead from an incredibly popular zombie series, I have no choice but to watch it. Steven Yeun stars in Joe Lynch's movie about a virus gone wild in a law firm's towering skyscraper. The entire building gets quarantined until the virus runs its course, 24 hours. Although the virus, unlike on the Walking Dead, doesn't change their human hosts permanently, it does remove inhibition, leading to unhinged acts of violence, lust, and more violence. Yeun's character, Derek, is trapped in this building, an exec in said firm. And to make it interesting Derek is involuntarily chosen to be the fall guy for a costly mistake the law firm made. He decides he needs a face-to-face with the sadistic CEO, no virus required, to resolve this issue. So he has to reach the top floor, negotiating–fighting really–the corporate lackeys who are overworked, under appreciated, and fucking pissed off. Good times.

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I enjoyed the movie. I can relate. Not because Yeun is Asian, but because the character has to reconcile his choice of living the corporate life instead of delving into his life's passion in the arts.

I work a day job in the cold, ugly corporate world, which is soul-sucking. I'm a bit fortunate because I get to work from home. But I still have to act within the confines of political correctness, which I absolutely despise. At night I ride my mechanical steed to a Starbucks, sit down in my spot, and dive into my world of fantasy. Freedom!

The film Mayhem seems to pit corporate life and passion in a fight to either drain Derek's soul or save it. So what does one do? Work a black hole of a day job to pay the bills? Or be a starving artist and try to live life to the fullest? Derek's trek up the building seems to symbolize this internal conflict. Kind of an homage to Bruce Lee's Game of Death, the actual version, not the one that was released by Columbia Pictures. So what would you choose? Soul-sucking job? Or starving artist?

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One of my favorite stories is Michelangelo's day job. They had day jobs back in the fifteenth century? I know, right? Looking at his paintings and sculptures, it's almost impossible to see that his true passion laid in sculpting. To say he was a master at it is insulting. Many argue he was the GOAT. No, not a four-legged sheep with horns. Greatest of all time. So what was his day job? Barista at an Italian bakery? No. His regular day job was a painter. And not the kind that painted your house. Well...unless it was the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel. And from what little I know, when the Pope commissioned him to do this, he had to finagle the deal to ensure that Michelangelo would finish painting the Chapel.

Now Lynch wasn't clear in his film that quitting your day job was a requirement to follow your passions. That would be a ridiculous notion. And parables such as this doesn't paint a clear map of how to negotiate life. That's our job as individuals. But the film does illustrate something that I've always prescribed to. And that is to follow your dreams. The opposition always states that the chances of making it is really, really, really low. Three really's indicate how low the chances are of being successful, according to pundits and pessimists. However...

"Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” –Alex Noble, author.

In other words, the journey is the reward.

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Hell naw. I want riches. Fame. Glory!

As a not-starving writer, I totally get wanting people to read and love and know my work. I crave it. It's probably why I love my writing group. They're the few people who've read my stuff, and I get to hear how awesome...or bad my work is. (Listen to a podcast where we talked about the writing process, our group dynamics, and how masturbation is very similar to writing–for me anyway.)

The fact of life is that not everybody gets to make it big. But most people don’t even try. And to make it big the work has to be done. So why not enjoy the work–the journey–as we stroll toward whatever life may present?

It's a lot like sex. The goal of sex is rarely to make a child. Hence condoms and birth control. Though, sex is the only way to make a child. That's the reason why it feels so good. It pulls the curtain to the Hell that will come when the parents have to raise the child. Sorta like having dessert before dinner. Joking. Eh. Kinda. But sex feels good because we're connecting with our partners, exploring in adult play, trying to get each other off. Again the reward is in the journey.

Fame!

A lot is going on here!  What do I look at?

A lot is going on here!  What do I look at?

I just saw Fame, the 2009 version.  I never saw Fame, the 1980 version.  I should since it won two Oscars.  And I'm not one of those people who watches only Oscar winners, but the 2009 version got bad reviews.  And I know why.

Get outta my way

Get outta my way

In the 2009 version, we have a cross section of characters that are admitted to Performance Arts High School.  Clever name.  In this cross section, we have freshmen who deal with issues with shyness, self worth, preconceived ideas from parental figures, grades that lead to being expelled, and people in the industry who've scammed money.

This seems like a lot but a lot of stories have this many sub plots that help drive the main story line.  Problem here is I'm not sure what the main story line is, and these play like sub plots with no main plot.  You could also say they are all main plots but that would be too many.

The second problem is we move from admission to graduation in a period of 107 minutes.  I'm not saying this can't be done, but when you have many sub plots with no main plot, or a whole bouquet of main plots, it's going to be difficult to develop these characters.  Hell!  It'd be difficult with just a single character.  Again, it can be done, but you better be one helluva screenwriter.  The issue here is no character development.  Here's an example:

Whoo!

Whoo!

There's a character named Malik who runs into the problem of parental limitation.  His mom says he ain't all that.  Not in those exact words, but it's a good problem.  We've all at some level--friends or family--have been told we ain't all dat.  Is any of it true?  Of course not.  But the movie doesn't show Malik overcoming that issue, finding that he's special, then realizing he is truly talented.

What if he wasn't?  The movie doesn't show that either.

So is the message of the movie saying that none of us are special (not in the yellow bus way)?  No because the movie is called Fame.

So what's the message?  Not quite sure.

Throughout the whole movie we get performances that are well choreographed.  There must have been a dozen.  To take up 107 minutes with that many performances ruins the pacing and doesn't spend enough moments on what is truly important, the story.  It's like having a ton of special effects with no substance.

We go from admission to graduation, and, in doing so, the characters who are faced with character arc problems either don't solve them, or we don't see them solved, or are not solved.  One ballet dancer is told he won't make it by his teacher, told that he might be a decent teacher.  He believes her, submitting to becoming a ballet teacher.  So does the teacher see herself as a failure?  Then why is she teaching?  As the term character arc states, there's an arc.  We basically go from beginning, miss the keystone moment and BAM!  We've arrive at the end.  And we're not sure why.

Karate Heah

Mr. Miyagi points to his head. "Karate heah." He taps his heart. "Karate heah." He grabs his belt. "Karate nevah heah." photo

I was reading an article in one of those karate or kung fu magazines. It was written by a practitioner. He was discussing how spirituality was missing from MMA, specifically targetting UFC fighters. That all fighters wanted was to be champions, to have fame, fortune, and busty ladies swarming around them.

Hell...what man wouldn't want that?

It's obvious there's a huge misunderstanding of how spirituality should be practiced, or that MMA fighters don't practice it. And it was also obvious this practitioner didn't watch MMA, read the forums, interviews, and watch post fight conferences like I do.

It's one of my many vices.

The wise practitioner, the writer of this wise article, full of wisdom, full of research, and full of shit harped on the lack of inner peace. Through his wise words I knew this person never fought, or if he did, then he approached it without inner peace. As wise and full of wisdom as he ascertained.

I'm a huge MMA fan. Watched hundreds of hours of interviews. And one thing that all fighters strain to get is inner peace. One of the most popular UFC fighters is former light heavy weight champion Chuck "The Iceman" Lidell. His monicker indicates that his nerves are as cold as ice before, during and after a fight. Every fighter praises him for that. Because if a fighter gets too excited, they'll waste energy, suffer from an adrenalin dump, or are prone to mistakes. And mistakes in a game where there are literally dozens upon dozens of ways to lose isn't a good thing. Keeping your cool is essential. And the current dominant fighters of the UFC and Strikeforce exhibit this without a doubt.

I get more nervous watching them fight.

Back to this all wise practitioner. His practice of inner peace is through meditation. I'm surmising here. But it's pretty common. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's pretty easy to reach inner peace when you're peaceful.  It's kinda like going into a room full of yellow balloons to look for a yellow balloon.

Now, if we place a fighter punching this all wise practitioner in the face, how well would he be able to keep inner peace? Not well. But MMA fighters do this every day. And their ability to keep this inner peace allows them to adapt to the fight. It's very common to see one fighter losing the fight badly, and with a slight change of strategy he comes up with the win.

This can't be done if the fighter panics because he isn't present enough to analyze what's going on.

MMA fighters also practice 6-8 hours a day. They have to love the process and love the journey to continue to learn and challenge themselves. Another principle of spiritualitism.

All fighters want to be champions. But as they climb the ladder to contention, they remain present and focus on their current opponent. They study tapes, go over strategy, hire fighters who can mimic their opponents, and rarely think pass them. The principle of being present is at work here.

MMA fighters practice inner peace, but they do it in an environment that doesn't elicit it.  So who's more skilled at inner peace?  Someone who practices in a peaceful environment?  Or someone who practices in a violent one?

I wrote this because it struck me as a huge misunderstanding of MMA fighters.  To be misunderstood is a sore subject for my main character in my book.  He's continually misunderstood by the people he's sworn to protect, but he pushes on because it is what he does.  What hero gives up?