The Hero Inside

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Today’s graphic speaks for itself.  The heroes we hear about in the news do great things that should not be discounted, but there are many small acts of heroism every day that will never be known to the public.

Be there for your child or your spouse or your friend even if you’re in a hurry and it slows you down.  Help a stranger even when it would be easier to just let things go. Say something when you see bullying.  You won’t make the news but you can be a hero to the person you help, all the same.

 

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

 

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Television Heroes

Heroes and superheroes are popular topics for films these days, causing television to try to get into the act.  With the success of the X-Men and Avengers films in theaters and the series Arrow last season, others are jumping on the bandwagon.  Arrow is returning, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is starting, and there’s talk of a new version of The Flash potentially spinning off Arrow.  Even reality television is joining the party.  Over the summer, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hosted a reality competition called The Hero, which tried to put ordinary people in situations that would make them face their fears.

Superhero series have generally not done well on television in recent years, often dying quickly.  Various people have looked at the reasons for their failure from a television critic’s point of view.  I would like to look at it from a fan’s point of view.

I admit it.  I have watched superheroes on television for most of my life.  When I was young, I used to rush home from school to watch Marvel Superheroes and a Japanese import called Danguard Ace, among others.  Since that time, I’ve seen a great many series come and go, with varying levels of success.  What makes me reject one series and embrace another?

  1. I like my superheroes to be heroic.  Sure, they need to have flaws and weaknesses to make them interesting characters.  They can’t go too far into the “dark side”, though, unless it’s a temporary condition caused by something done to them.  I shudder whenever the critics describe a show or its characters as “edgy” or “out-of-the-box”.  Generally, that translates to “I’m going to hate it”.
  2. The show can’t be too preachy.  The heroes stand for right and justice but they need to show that by their deeds, not through a bunch of boring speeches.
  3. The show needs to have a sense of humor.  Characters that are all business, all the time, are dull.  There needs to be a balance between the world-saving ‘big events’ and the interplay between characters.
  4. The show needs to stay true to the established mythology for the character, when there is one.  If it varies too far, unless there is a rational progression to the change, I will reject it.
  5. While I enjoy exploration of the mythologies, preferring it to the ‘bad guy of the week’ technique of story telling, the writers need to be careful about making the mythology so convoluted that it requires a written flow chart to follow.
  6. I do not want my superheroes either swearing constantly or jumping into bed with everyone in sight.  For me, these are not heroic characteristics.  Quite frankly, I have very limited tolerance for them in any show and I won’t put up with them in my superheroes.

I’ve told you my view of what makes a superhero series good or bad.  What’s your view?

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Alone in a Crowded Room

Have you ever been in a room crowded with people, feeling completely alone?  I suspect I am not the only one who has felt that way.  Over the years, I have found ways to reduce that feeling of aloneness.  Maybe my techniques can help you a little in similar situations.

Before I enter the room, I check to see if the way I am dressed is at the same level of formality as most of the people in the room.  Do I have any chance of fitting in with these people?

These days, I usually am.  That was not so true when I was younger.  Back then, I lacked the experience to know what was expected at different functions.  My reading growing up was mostly science fiction, fantasy, or period romances, none of which gave me good clues to fill the gaps in my actual knowledge.  The result was that I was often over dressed, which only added to my discomfort.  Now I have more experience and generally get it right.  If there is a mismatch, it can still be alright, though.   Just smile and think of it as ‘having your own style’ rather than ‘getting it wrong’, and you will be fine.

Next, I look around.  Do I know anyone here?  Most of the time the answer is a resounding ‘No’.  When I am in these situations it is generally because I am attending a professional or work function.  Even if I have corresponded with some of the people present, I won’t recognize them because I have no idea what they look like.  If I know someone, I approach them.  We have something to talk about and the rest is relatively easy.

If I don’t know anyone, the usual case, I enter with trepidation, especially if I’m attending alone.  Part of me wants to just leave, to avoid the uncomfortable situation entirely.  A bigger part of me knows I should stay.

I get a drink and some snacks.  That way I can delay the actual interaction with strangers just a little bit longer.  I know this is cowardly but …

Finally, with no more excuses, I approach whatever group of people is closest to me.  I listen to their conversation for a little bit, trying to find an opening.  I smile at the people I’ve joined.  Most of the time they all know each other well, so I still feel out-of-place.  If I haven’t found an opening after five minutes, I’ll smile and wander off to join another group.  Generally it doesn’t take too many tries before I find my opening.  Once that happens, I can relax a little and enjoy the conversation.

You might wonder what topics of conversation give me the desired opening.  I’ve read quite a lot of books, so that is one possible avenue.  Unfortunately, most people at the functions I attend don’t seem to read or, at least, they don’t talk about it.  It helps to be aware of current events and able to discuss their fine points.  The best subjects, for me, are when the conversation turns to specific activities that I know about from personal experience – in my case, travel, horses, cooking, skydiving, scuba diving, and photography are all potential topics.  Company functions are a little easier, in those cases I can always fall back on “What do you do for the company?” to start a conversation.

For you, the subjects will be different.  It depends on your personal experiences.  If you have children, that is often a good topic.

The important thing is to connect, at least on a superficial level, with a few of the strangers.  You will feel more relaxed and probably enjoy the event more.  After all, what are your alternatives?  You can either spend the evening near the food table, periodically helping yourself to a snack, as I occasionally did when I was younger.  You can leave, and possibly miss meeting someone whose company you would enjoy.  Or you can put yourself forward, joint the conversation, and maybe start to feel a little less alone for an evening.

I recommend the last option.

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry.  The themes I blog about run through my work.  If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Friends give you an honest report

On Facebook you may have thousands of friends.  On Twitter, you may have even more followers.  Most of them you probably don’t even know.  So how do you tell your real friends?

One thing about friends is that they are the ones who will tell you the truth you need to hear, even when it’s not what you want to hear.  They will try to do it kindly, seeking not to hurt you more than necessary, but they WILL tell you.

Others tell you what you want to hear.  They will tell you that you are wonderful, even when you’re acting like a jerk.  They will agree with you when you complain that you didn’t get a promotion you wanted because you don’t play up enough to management, even if they know the truth is something else.  These are the people who will be your ‘friends’ as long as you are rising, as long as you are successful.  They will be the first to pretend they don’t know you if your fortunes change.  They are just acquaintances, people you happen to know.

Real friends are different.  These are the people who will stick with you through the not-so-good times as well as the great ones.  They will tell you if they think you are making a really bad decision – whether it is about a job, a trip, the person you like, or anything else.  You might not like what they have to say sometimes.  You might even be angry with them because of it.

When that happens, and it will sooner or later, take a step back from your anger.  True friends are hard to come by and more valuable than gold.  They may not always be right, but they will always tell you what they believe is the truth.  Forgive them if they make you angry with their words.  You may not agree with them.  You may choose to ignore their words.  That is your choice and it may be the right one for you.  If they are later proven right, though, and your choice works badly, they will be the ones that stand by you an help you recover yourself.  For your own sake, do not stay angry with them.  Instead, try to be as good a friend to them as they are to you.

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

My Biggest Hero

My biggest hero is my father.  He is gone now but, to me, he was everything a hero ought to be.  He didn’t often talk about his beliefs.  That wasn’t his nature.  If you knew him, though, you knew what he stood for because he lived it every day.

He was honest and honorable and didn’t believe in cheating his way to success.  Sometimes that caused him problems.  I remember a case when he prepared his department budget for the following year and was stunned when his superiors cut it by some percentage, 10%, I think.  When he inquired, he was told that was done because “everyone pads their budget.”  He argued with them, explaining that he was not in the habit of doing that and that he would promise to continue to send honest budgets if they would promise not to cut them arbitrarily.

I’m not sure what the resolution of that incident was but it speaks volumes about who he was – always honest and straightforward.

In our world today, sometimes we are often pressured to be otherwise and many of us will give in to the pressure.  Think, though, how much more pleasant the world could be if everyone would conduct their affairs as he did – with honesty and consideration for others.

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.