Archive for September, 2011

Premium Justice

Legacy: He Insures JUSTICE!

For the past week and for the next five weeks, I am in my company’s training program. I’m in a hotel about 70 miles from home, but it looks and feels like the midwest suburbs. When people complain about suburban sprawl, they complain, knowingly or not, about this place. It’s not that it all doesn’t look nice, I just can’t tell where one strip mall ends and another begins. 200 yard across the parking lot from the AMC 30 cinema, there is another multiplex with 22 additional screens. That’s 52 screens sharing one parking lot. But no one’s showing “Bellflower,” (just for example)?

All of this to say, I recently finished the first draft of a screenplay, so I’m writing a short film as a kindof creative wasabe before jumping into re-writes next week. Taking a page from a combination of current circumstances/goings-on, the short film concerns an insurance adjuster handling claims for damage done by a superhero from the brand new, wildly popular, destined-for-greatness card game “Sentinels of the Multiverse” (I obtained permission for the use of their characters).

Well so last night as I was outlining the story – God-willing, it will be under 15 pages – it occurred that a hero or villain’s insurance policy would have to be different from a regular policy, and I needed to understand before I wrote it what coverages, exclusions, and conditions were present in the policy, so that I don’t have to figure it out during the writing. So, as an exercise, I created some specific, applicable portions of the insurance policy in question, from the Greater Good Insurance Group, a premiere insurance carrier for high-risk, costumed clientele (including [for additional premium] the sidekicks, wards, protégés and the like who may reside with them), and their moral counterparts. Here’s what I’ve got:

Please refer to your Greater Good Insurance Group, Inc.’s  S-27 Heroic-Form Homeowners Insurance Policy  – 09/2008, which states in part:

Section-I – Exclusions

We do not cover the Dwelling, Other Structures – including hideouts, caves, fortresses, lairs, anti-aging chambers, and the like – nor Personal Property, if the damaged items were intended for use in whole or in part for any of the following:


#1. Serious Criminal Activities – As stated in the Definitions for this policy, “Serious Criminal Activities” are any criminal activities above a normal Misdemeanor offense or which could be punishable by death.

#2. Overthrow of Government – Any use of covered property, in whole or in part, for the proven purposes of the overthrow of any governmental agency, whether local, state, national, or international – and also including governmental and international peace-keeping or organizational agencies – shall be excluded from all losses under this policy.

#3. World Domination – Any damage to property during the planning, building, scheming, conniving, or any other similar preparation with the provable purpose of – or any direct attempt at – total world domination, takeover, destruction, anarchization, or other similar effort will be excluded under this policy.

For all Exclusions, any loss to covered property NOT being used for the overthrow of government or world domination, damaged as a result of any excluded damage caused to property, will be covered under this policy, unless that property NOT being used for the overthrow of government or world domination in any way necessarily impeded the stoppage of the overthrow of government or world domination (e.g – Damage to personal property in a room – as well as any part of the walls, floor, ceiling, and framing members of the room itself – NOT being used for overthrow of government or world domination, but which shares a wall with a room being used, in whole or in part, for excluded activities or measures, which was necessarily destroyed as the best or only means of access to any property being used, whether in whole or in part, for the overthrow of government or world domination, is also excluded by these policy provisions).

As well, any personal property in any room being used, either in whole or in part, for the overthrow of government or world domination, will be considered to be aiding and abetting the excluded activities or measures, so long as said personal property resides in said room.

Section-II – Personal Liability

We will cover accidental direct physical loss, damage, or harm caused or inflicted by you toward any individual(s) not named on the Declarations Page of this insurance policy and to public or private property – whether residential or commercial.

We will also cover intentional direct physical loss, damage, or reasonable harm caused or inflicted by you toward any individual(s) not named on the Declarations Page of this insurance policy and to public or private property – whether residential or commercial – provided that such person(s) or property posed a legitimate, provable threat – whether latent or operative – to the Greater Good of all Mankind, as outlined in Section-I – Exclusions of this policy.



I Understand Completely

I got into a debate online this week about whether or not this has been a good year for movies so far. Apparently a lot of people think it’s one of the best in a long time (one guy even said it was the best since 2005, which is just plain not true, since 2007 is far-and-away the best since 1999 [which, itself, is, in many people’s opinions {mine included} the best year in cinema history]). I think it’s been decidedly lackluster, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t liked a fair number of movies. I have. But I haven’t out-and-out loved any movie released in 2011.

Usually by early-mid September, there are five or six that could find themselves in my top ten list at the end of the year. Right now I have…zero. There’s usually one or two summer movies I just have to see again. This year, none. I was underwhelmed by the final “Harry Potter,” and the laundry list of sequels. Even movies I’ve enjoyed, like “Bridesmaids,” and “X-Men: First Class” and “Captain America” – or movies that took me by surprise: “Fast Five,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – just haven’t compelled me to see them again. Neither did my favorite movie of the year so far, “Super 8.” I really liked it, but there’s been something missing.

And it’s not just the big studio movies. I saw and liked both Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” and Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Both films have a lot to offer, and they stand out against the backdrop of the majority of films this year (as does, for that matter – though on a substantially less level – Kevin Smith’s “Red State) simply by virtue of their uniqueness. But neither film inspired the fervent love in me that they seemed to for so many.

Overall, the movies have been mostly fine, fluctuating from decent to mildly impressive, but I can’t think of a time this year when I felt like I was seeing something truly brilliant. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you don’t have to say something no one’s ever said before. What I do require, though (and what I’m going to be writing about as well), is that there be some true storytelling going on that emerges from the characters, not just from someone trying to fit all of the standard pieces into the plot-driven puzzle.

Aside from “Super 8,” which spent lots of time with its characters, the two movies that have come closest for me have been two late-summer sci-fi disease-driven thrillers: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Contagion.”

Come on, Get Happy

I’m trying to catch up on the stuff I haven’t seen, now. I’m going to go see “The Help,” and “Horrible Bosses,” renting “Win/Win” and “Hanna” and “Certified Copy” and, maybe if I’m feeling like watching something I’m not interested in at all, “Uncle Boonmee…” (as well as the handful of documentaries).

Hammer Time

I do have pretty high hopes for some upcoming films, like “Drive,” “Moneyball,” and “Melancholia,” and as we get into the end of the year, there are more and more movies I’m interested in seeing. Between all of these, it could end up being a very good year at the movies. But at the moment, I can’t do much more than throw up my hands to those who think it’s a banner year. I just don’t see it.

More Than a Feeling

I read this article by David Brooks – “If It Feels Right” – in the New York Times the other day, and it made me wary and then it made me think. Lacking the usual implication of impending apocalypse at the hands of “youngsters”, Brooks pretty calmly suggests that people my age lack any real guiding sense of morality or ethics that goes much beyond doing what feels right at a given moment. The article contains quotation after quotation from my generation, claiming to know as little as possible about as much as possible. I went to college, so the perspective isn’t all that surprising.

It’s true that there are things we simply won’t ever know; and it’s true that admitting you don’t know is better than pretending you do know. But that’s not what this is. My generation, by-and-large, likes to camp out at the openings of the trails past generations spent their lives navigating; only, we couple it with a cynicism that scoffs at effort, unless we know precisely where the path will lead us (and a stupidity to think we deserve to choose what we’ll find at the end).

So there you see my default position: annoyance at my peers. But the article, while not giving them a total pass, significantly relegates the burden of blame to mostly general lack-of-maturity/ lack-of-experience type charges, which, okay I agree that those are true, but then you also have to discuss the growing syndrome of 20-somethings intent on acting like teenagers for longer and longer, and so eventually you still arrive at a place where some responsibility has to be laid at the feet of those who have the ability to grow up, just not the desire (and sometimes maybe not the incentive) to.

Interestingly, the article states that “the study says more about adult America than about youthful America.” Now that could just be interpreted as the classic blame-it-on-the-parents argument; but the more I thought about it, the more I perceived an air of validity and truth to it.

I Think the Sheer Fact of This Movie is Judgment Enough

I just started reading the Book of Judges, which, you may or may not know or care, many scholars believe was written by Samuel, whose mentor, you may or may not know or care, was Eli. And it turns out that Eli’s relationship with his sons contains an interesting parallel with Joshua and Israel. Both Joshua and Eli were incredibly esteemed by their communities for their leadership and guidance. But both also failed to train the generation that followed directly after them, in the ways of the Lord.

Joshua failed to prepare the next generation of Israelites, who, we learn, were not brought up in the knowledge of the Lord or what he did for Israel; Eli had two sons, whom he let basically get away with everything, until they pretty brazenly took the Ark of the Covenant (which essentially contained the Lord’s essence…just read the Bible) into battle – which was forbidden – where they promptly got it stolen before they were both killed. There’s a sad, poignant moment in 1 Samuel, chapter 4, when Eli, old and blind and alone, is sitting along the side of the road, waiting for news from the battle. He is filled with regret for not raising his sons better, and he knows the news isn’t going to be good, and he’s right.

All of this has made me think. I agree that a lot of late 20th Century parenting did a bellyflop of a job when it came to preparing their kids for adulthood, and they may be responsible for creating the seeming allergic reaction to personal responsibility. But the kind of wholesale moral relativism/individualism has just as much to do with a youth culture that saw an opportunity and just ran with it. This is all, as well, to say nothing of the roles innumerable other cultural variables (e.g. 9/11, increasingly techno-driven society, etc…) play in this whole matter.

And yet. I was a little bothered by how one-sided the article was. I kept waiting for them to share some perspectives by responsible young people who are engaged and intelligent and thoughtful, as opposed to merely the lethal combination of opinionated and outspoken. I know that other side exists, because I know them. They have brilliant ideas. They are wickedly funny. They understand technology and how to use it in uniquely creative ways. They hold jobs, they have ambitions, they don’t flinch at monogamy.

But the biggest difference between them actually isn’t probably that they make any fewer mistakes, it’s that they’ve stopped romanticizing their mistakes so unrelentingly damned much.

It Has Come to This

September 2011
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