Introduction to Elite Legends: My Time is NOW
I’ve been collecting action figures as an adult for nearly twenty years. As a child, my scale of choice was 1/18–more popularly known as 3 3/4 inch. Prominent examples of this scale are the original Star Wars toys made by Kenner in the late 70’s to early 80’s followed shortly thereafter by Hasbro & their iconic GI Joe: A Real American Hero line. Collectors frequently refer to this line as the “small joes” to distinguish them from the original classic 12-inch GI Joe that debuted in the 60’s. As an adult, I began with what I played with as a child but eventually grew to desire more realistic & posable action figure which brought me up the 12-inch figure, also known as 1/6th scale. The idea being that the ideal action height for a normal human is 6 feet tall so that a 1/6th scale toy version of such a human such stand about 1/6th that height–meaning one foot, or twelve inches.
For Christmas 2021, one of my brothers bought me two GI Joe figures for the newer 1/12th scale line. I had known about this scale since around 2010 when Marvel Legends figures would fill the pegs when I went on a hunt for the more traditional smaller GI Joes. I never bothered picking up a 1/12 figure but had been intrigued with the recent decision Hasbro had made to introduce GI Joe into that scale. I had decided that I have enough to waste my money on so I had avoided them; but now that my brother had handed me two such figures at no cost, I was intrigued. The debate began; 1/6 scale figures no longer had a major retail presence & they took up enough space to boot. I knew I’d have to give up collecting for a while or perhaps adopt a smaller scale moving forward. Would 1/12 the the answer?
Regardless of scale, the focus of toy collection at any age has always been action & adventure. While I realize that some people may find this insensitive to say, but that focus frequently meant military themed figures like GI Joe; or at least, warrior-themed ones like He-Man & the Masters of the Universe. I had never been a huge fan of wrestling figures a la WWE because I didn’t see much potential for them outside the ring. The big draw of toy collecting, even as a kid, was inventing numerous scenarios that brought your favorite heroes until dangerous situation; situations that frequently could only be resolved through violent conflict. Wrestling, though combat oriented, was still a sport to me. I wanted my heroes in extreme harm’s way playing higher stakes than just championship belts.
GI Joe Classified, the 1/12 scale Hasbro figures that my brother’s Christmas gift were a part of, had been my intended target for future toy collecting. The problem is, they are rarely available on shelves. After a three month break from toy hunting, I decided it was time to try my luck at my nearest Target store. I just had a feeling I would find what I was looking for. Interestingly enough, there was one GI Joe character available on the pegs that I had been interested in. But the prospect of owning this figure didn’t “wow” me. I decided to look at Masters of the Universe just to see if they distribution would be much improved over GI Joe Classified but I had pre-determined not to buy anything. Next to the Masters I saw a slew of WWE Elite Legends figures, which I normally do. I thought I may as well take a look at this collection since they were at least commonly available. My glance came upon a normal looking male wrestler in a T-shirt & camo pants & that light bulb in my head went off.
I could see possibilities in this particular figure as we wasn’t sculpted exclusively in his wrestling wear. Plain camo pants would work with my military themed plots in my imaginary adventures & fan-faction pieces. Plus, the presence of genuine cloth gear (soft goods) in lieu of clothing sculpted onto the figure intrigued me. I liked the big joes because you could use your same handful of figures & gear them up for different environments & dioramas. To accomplish this same thing with smaller figures which often had their clothes sculpted onto them often required buying numerous version of the same character in different gear. I grabbed the package, based on a character named Road Dogg, tor a closer inspection. This figure looked bigger than the GI Joe Classified but still fairly close to 1/12 scale. Well, long story short, I took the figure home & after removing him from the package–the debate was settled. I would be collecting WWE Elite Figures in conjunction with the occasional GI Joe Classified figure when a character of interest was available. The went to Target looking for a particular solution in mind. I didn’t find it; but found an even better solution. It just wasn’t the one I had expected to find.
Military & adventure will always be the foundation of my toy collection for as long as I continue to do it. However, my discovery of Elite Legends allows me to execute this same ideas through different molds. I no longer have to limit myself to GI Joe, Ultimate Soldier, or similarly themed toy lines. Moving forward, I plan to cut my current 1/6 scale figures in half & suspend purchasing anything outside of 1/12 scale for a while.
It’s not that I’m giving up on GI Joe–it’s more that I’m no longer limiting myself to them. That line will always have a special place for me because of how much it played a role in my childhood, spending time with my friends & cousins & brothers happily living out one adventure after another. But right now, I’ve found something better out there–something that bridges that gap between my beloved small & big joes. Truth be told, it’s really as sure a thing as a body slam! WWE Elite Legends are the definitive mass retail 1/12 action figure line–for now at least.
So that’s what I’m going with–for now at least.
Safe in School: I know how we can do It
It’s the beginning of June. Most schools have just concluded their academic year. Memorial Day Weekend has passed. It’s truly the beginning of summer–a time of happiness & fond lifetime memories like summer camps, family vacation, & sunny weather. However, the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX still casts a dark shadow over what should otherwise be a bright time of the year. It just so happens that it’s a national election year. Predictably, we find ourselves in another quagmire as to how to contend with what we’re told is exclusively a problem in the US–the epidemic of gun violence. It’s a debate that has continued since the 1920’s & the days of Prohibition. Yet suddenly, what we have been unable to resolve over the last 100 years we must resolve before the next school year. That gives us about three months. It seems impossible–but trust me when I say that people on both sides of the argument want our nation’s kids to be safe in schools. The disagreement arises in the manner in which we accomplish this shared goal.
Mass shootings are always tragic, but when they involve kids this young, the emotional impact often becomes amplified. While this is understandable, emphatic statements by lawmakers like Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from CT, stating “Spare me the bullshit!” are unhelpful. While statements like this certainly energize one side of the argument as well as grab headlines, they always prove counter-productive in the end. By the same token, efforts by the GOP to pinpoint mental illness as the primary factor behind tragedies like this end up simply angering the opposition, rendering compromise unlikely. Regardless of how fiercely we stand on one side of this debate or the other, I stress that we all wish to accomplish a shared goal. And to do this, we have to build a bridge across the aisle, across the political spectrum, across either side of this debate. If we share the goal, then we have to share the solution. This is exactly why pointing fingers at the other party & shouting obscenities is completely useless. If you haven’t figured it out by now, one one side–no one party–can solve this problem alone. We need each other–enemies need to become allies–enough of us at least, to pass some legislation that both preserves civil liberties while minimizes the threat in our schools.
I’m not proposing any specifics–yet, although, I have some obvious measures in mind that should be acceptable to both sides of the argument. But before we get into the “how-to,” we must address the “why.” We will accomplish nothing specifically until we establish something that is broad; something universal to any argument. We have to have compassion for our opponent.
If you really want to help, stop saying “It’s absolutely lunacy for any American to want to own a gun!” Or, “There’s no place for that kind of thinking anywhere in America!” Because saying things like this, given that there are numerous people in America who actually do think that, serves only to alienate half the country. And, disagree as we may, we need people on both sides of the argument to share ownership of the solution. No one side of the coin, no one party can solve this problem alone. Do you want proof? Well nationally, we are under single party rule currently. The Democratic party, the supposed party of gun safety, controls the White House, the House of Representatives, & the Senate. Yes, technically, the Senate is a dead tie, but the Vice-President has rights to the tie breaking vote. If they don’t make the schools safer by November, do they really deserve your vote? If they can’t pass some kind of meaningful legislation right now, then when?
“The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3). Since 1789, 291 tie-breaking votes have been cast.https://www.senate.gov/legislative/TieVotes
My point is, no one party can fix it; no one party can doom us. We need everyone to take their share of ownership in this matter. But to do that effectively, we have to have compassion. People on the Left have to respect their neighbors from the Right who would be for some gun control measures that would certainly keep the schools safe. But they fear that proponents from the left will use this opportunity to over-react & take away the rights of every gun owner, not just those who pose an obvious threat. In similar fashion, responsible gun owners should recognize that, while self preservation is a universal right, not every member of society is equally suited to be trusted to do so with a firearm. The very firearm that may allows the responsible gun owner to sleep easy makes his neighbor feel uneasy. We have to learn to value & the concerns of our opponent in order to find a solution that attempts to address the concerns of both sides, because they are equally legitimate.
The second phase to solving this 100 year old enigma of balancing inherent rights with public safety is compromise. As a member of a civil society, we all enter into a social contract. The social contract isn’t perfect, but it tends to offer a solution that is at least comfortable for most of the participants. There will always be outliers who will remain unhappy–but the goal is to keep as many members of the population under this social contract comfortable enough to live out a productive life. But in our current political climate, especially when it comes down to debates like civil liberties & even more so, the safety of our children–we often devolve into hateful rhetoric & stubborn inflexibility. This type of behavior makes all of us an outliers–people on the fringes of the spectrum who no longer wants to share their society with the neighbor who happens to disagree with them.
Remember two simple things. Compassion & compromise. You may not understand why this or that is important to your opponent, but if you don’t accept it, you’ll never reach a compromise. We can’t change our neighbors. We must understand that for them, as for us, some things are non-negotiable. Some things are absolute. Recognize that your opponent’s fears are just as valuable as your own. If you don’t respect that, you’ll never find a way to work around them. Meaning, you’ll never find a path to compromise. And without compromise, there will never be change. We can’t change the way our neighbor’s think. But we can try to make changes to the social contract that account for how we both think.
You want to make meaningful change? You want to enact restrictions that both gunowners & CNN viewers can agree on? Then recognize that the hateful bickering hasn’t worked. Let’s try something revolutionary–compassion & compromise. I guarantee, we’ll get further doing this than we’ve gotten so far…..and that’s a start.
Joes: Audit 30 May 22
Just checking out what my collection looks like including all the pieces in storage. I like having my collection organized into smaller teams of 3-5 figures with each team being assigned to a specific set of tasks. For me, it’s like playing that video game The Sims. I’m simulating how I’d use the figures in my collection as a military task force. I try to limit theirs tasks to the number of operatives I actually have on hand. It’s a fun exercise in balancing the level of impact of group of about 30 well-trained operatives can really have on global affairs.
Alpha Team is the primary light infantry combat element for my collection: First Operational Detachment X-Ray. In true military terms, it’s only the approximate size of one standard US Army Rifle Squad featuring seven fulltime members & as well as access to 2-3 augmentees for any given mission.
Alpha Team acts as the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for base security. In addition, they have access to two FAV–(Fast Attack Vehicles), light four-wheel drive SUVs, to perform patrols around the green zone as well as investigate disturbances within driving distance from base. On longer range missions, they are granted use of an up-armored HUMVEE, but this vehicle is not exclusive to this unit & is frequently in use by Bravo Team.
In terms of weapons, Alpha Team follows the basic structure of the typical US Army rifle squad, with the M-4 carbine or M-16A2 serving as the primary weapon. They always deploy with at least one operative armed with the M-249 light machinegun & one operative with a 40mm grenade launcher. Alpha Team also uses hand grenades, flashbangs, & smoke grenades. Unlike Bravo Team, they never use submachine guns & only issue pistols to vehicle drivers, if at all.
On more advanced missions, Alpha Team can be supported by a 2-man sniper team or a light mortar team on rare occasions. Their primary goal is to act as a show of force to deter aggression against their military presence in any area as well as a probe to determine the severity of any sudden disturbance. When they encounter a situation of increased sensitivity, they escalate to Bravo Team.
Bravo Team is rarely the first team sent into action; but when they do go in, it’s because the stakes are extremely high. They spend as much time gathering intelligence, observing patterns, & building relationships with indigenous people. In the simplest terms, here are the unit’s primary areas of responsibility, although they are not limited to these areas only.
- Human Intelligence
- Counter-terrorism including Urban CQB
- Recovery of Sensitive Material or Personnel
- Unconventional Warfare
Unlike Alpha Team, this unit remains in constant communication with the HQ element. In addition, they acts as the QRF for the Military Investigative Unit. That unit conducts investigations, interviews witnesses, & apprehends suspects. They are armed primarily for self-defense purposes but not conflicts of extended duration. Because of the often sensitive nature of their work, Bravo Team serves as their cavalry when the investigators find themselves pitted against superior firepower.
SRT–Security Response Team. These operatives once served on as Marine Raiders with one of the Corp’s most frequently deployed MEU’s–Marine Expeditionary Units. In addition to their roles as primary sentries for element Headquarters, they can be called to augment either Alpha or Bravo Team as needed. Their skill set matches those of Bravo Team but they lack in repetition & overall cohesiveness of that team’s core operatives. They serve best as occasional substitutes for core team members or as a support element like a sniper team attached to Bravo Team on select missions.
Coming Soon–Military Investigative Unit
Coming Soon–Headquarter Element
Civilian First Responders
Bravo Team in Action
Sex (Used to) Sell(s)
Without divulging my exact age, let’s say that I have an awareness of the 80’s. For kids we had Transformers, 4-in GI Joes, He-man & his twin sister She-ra. For teenagers, we had break dancing & Michael Jackson’s “moonwalk.” For those into politics, we look back at this decade as the pinnacle of American wealth & global influence. Russia was the big enemy but we were safe enough at home to usher in the age of the Material Girl & a “trickle down economics” system that made the 80’s the “Me Decade.” And when it came to marketing, it was all Miami Vice, fast cars, & hot girls. For the longest time, it was socially acceptable & even fashionable to say, “Sex Sells.” And then one day, we weren’t allowed to think such a thing much less say it aloud. In today’s social climate, I’ve probably violated enough sensitivities in this opening paragraph to earn myself a lifetime ban from social media!
So, assuming I haven’t been LOCKED OUT of my account yet, let’s move to the next step. Hopefully I’ve established what used to sell. But what is it that sells now? And once we figure out what sells now, we can progress to the why behind it.
Sex used to sell. Now, it’s banned–at least, on the surface anyway. But, to stay on topic, I won’t delve into those particulars. What sells now is RACE.
Now, WAIT! Before you bombard me with innumerable insults & make assumptions about what I look like, how I vote, how many guns I own, what kind of flag I fly, what my education level is, & how rusted up the pickup truck is that must be parked in my yard is–know this. I’m a minority. I’m NOT white. Although I was born in the American southeast & have never lived in any other country, I endured constant reminders of how different I looked from the typical American boy. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been asked, “Hey–where are you from?” Or, in less polite encounters, “What ARE you? Go back to wherever it is you came from!” Many of these questions persisted past adolescence & into adulthood. Know this: I endured my transition from a boy into a man before “Yes we CAN!” I earned my stripes without the protection of mainstream media policing every social interaction & stigmatizing any instance of potential racism. But then came November 2008 and American finally had its first Black President. Instantly, it was finally warranted to be proud to be American. I’m not exaggerating–there were actual public figures who made statements like this. As though we were finally worthwhile because we had elected a black president–an act that ushered in “a new color-blind society” & better America. And admittedly, the election of Barrack Hussein Obama was a landmark event. In our nation’s most visible leadership role we had a bi-racial man who proudly exuded overt African American features who could have indeed brought about civil harmony. But, the way I see it, the Democrat party & the main stream cable news networks that were so enamored with him never transitioned away from the victory lap phase of their triumph to the mending fences phase. In almost every sport, you’re taught to go after your opponent with all the savage energy you can muster within the rules. Great winners like Earvin ”Magic” Johnson commented on numerous occasions that you could be friends after the season but during the NBA finals, you had to hate your opponent if you wanted to win. Then when it’s over, we can accept the outcome, shake hands, & be friends again. In fact, growing up, I remember hearing an unflattering term for competitors who failed to do so. They called such people “sore losers.” Many coaches, commentators, & athletes pushed the idea that losing is bad but acting like a sore loser is even worse. Well, in the case of the Democratic Party & cable news apparatus–from this point forward to be referenced here as “the Left”–they acted like sore winners. They never stopped gloating; never bothered making an attempt to shake hands with their opponent once the outcome was decided. I don’t even blame Obama, but I do blame the Left for how poorly they mismanaged his victories in two consecutive presidential terms. Anytime Congress didn’t go along with a Presidential objective, it was because they were racist. We’d see numerous interviews with Democratic congressman along with cable news talking heads laugh off any disagreement with Obama as sore loser syndrome. I even remember MSNBC interviewing a handful of congressman who said, “Well, the truth is–we have a black president. And that’s a hard truth to swallow for many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle.” Yeah—that’s the reason.
Looking back, I wish that Obama’s two terms could have brought about the healing that the Left proclaimed it had. But the truth is, they never made an attempt to re-unite the country. It was as though they thought–“Well, we just elected a black president! To hell with those losers we didn’t vote for him. We’re taking this country into the future with or without their approval. We have a black president–we don’t need our idiot neighbors anymore!” Before you label me racist, remember that these observations are coming from a man who had been asked “Hey, what ARE you?” numerous times in the most hateful tones. But it comes down to this: the Left kept proclaiming we were a color blind nation and that it was so true, they didn’t have to remind us anymore. However, every time there was a disagreement or the Democrats didn’t get their way, they made it about black vs white. So much for color blind. Have you heard that phrase that you can’t have it both ways? You can’t advocate a color blind utopia while constantly crying race every time things don’t go your way. It’s as if Americans can’t be motivated by anything else other than race—and if that’s the ONLY consideration that matters. But I thought we were moving away from rendering wholesale judgments based exclusively on the single trait of race. Isn’t that, by denotation–racism?
What bothers me the most about the Left’s posturing as the champion of racial equality is that they define racism so narrowly. It’s essentially the negative or unfair treatment of black Americans. I’ve had liberals laugh in my face when I relayed instances of racism that I’ve endured. You think it hurts me any less because I’m brown, not black? Is my suffering worth so much less because, although I’m not white, my skin isn’t dark enough to really count as racism?
In recent years, the Left has moved to the catchphrase of diversity to put a new face on an old concept. Just last year, an Asian American woman won a regional election in Michigan as a member of the Democratic party. A few national headlines appeared citing dissatisfaction within the Democratic party for having chosen a candidate who “was not diverse enough.”
I know I’ve angered enough people already so I’m going to wrap this up. You never have to vote Republican for all I care. I’m not telling you how to vote much less how to think because that’s the one thing that infuriates me the most about progressive overreach. But I will ask something of you. If your resigned to voting Democrat solely for the status as the anti-racist party, just take a moment to re-examine how well they’ve lived up to that mantra. Consider what I, a full blooded minority who has been told by white Americans to “go back where I came from,” am about to say.
Obama was a bi-racial candidate. In 2008, it was socially acceptable to say he was “half-black,” which means he was also “half-white.” In theory, he really could have fulfilled MSNBC’s prophecy of ushering in America’s Pax Romana for race relations. After all, what better way to signify the perfect union of the great United States in the modern era but through a handsome, athletic, likeable man who was both black & white? Obama should have been a symbol for what was possible for all Americans. We could have christened him the President for all people, as he was black, white, & everything in between. No matter what we looked like or what insults we had suffered, he could relate to all of us. We were so close to a societal breakthrough. But instead, the Left used him as a mascot for their superiority. They had the moral high ground–Republican American, racist America, be damned. If you disagreed, media personalities openly ridiculed you, welcoming you to leave the country if you didn’t like its leadership. Doesn’t that sound almost as hateful as “Go back to where you came from?” A distinctly remember a journalist from MSNBC grinning arrogantly as she challenged citizens who weren’t happy with Obama to “go ahead & succeed & try to fight your civil war. If you remember, it didn’t work that well for you last time you did that! Ha-ha!”
Does that statement sounds like the sentiments of a party whose goal it is to unite? And since this speaker was a member of the press, do these sound like the words of an unbiased free press?
When Trump won the presidency in 2016, these same media pundits called him the “Divider-in-Chief.” But this minority thinks that the way the Left used Obama like a mascot for their ultimate triumph over the Right did way more to divide us than Trump did. Obama was a politician who was equally black & white; but the Left chose to celebrate him exclusively for his blackness while ignoring the inconvenient truth of his whiteness. They divided Obama into the quality they could use to hang over everyone’s head. And maybe–just maybe, they’re doing the same thing to divide us. Why? Because a divided population is easier to control because it’s easier to distract.
You don’t have to vote Republican. You don’t have to reject the Democrats. You don’t have to like me. I’m not going to tell you what to do but I will humbly ask this of you. From a man who has been through “the struggle” himself–maybe not the same struggle that black American has struggled against but a struggle nonetheless & one that’s worth mentioning even if neither party can benefit from it . . .
When you go to the polls this November & you cast your vote, please ask yourself why you’re voting for that particular party. Have they really made things better for us? Do they really embody your core values? When I cast my vote, I’ll be absolutely resolved as to what drives me to do so. And if you think it’s because I’m racist than you’re just willfully ignorant. Recognize, as I have, that politics has less to do with race & more to do with selling us someone else’s version of reality. We just constantly hear about race these days because–well, because that’s what sells these days.
But this minority—this survivor of life before Obama, cautions you—BUYER BEWARE!
Stranger than Fiction
I had a scary dream. It was extremely vivid & intense. I felt as though I were fighting for my very survival! I awoke in a drenched t-shirt & bed sheets, gasping for air. And once I regained my composure, something became unquestionably clear to me.
The dream occurred in a high-rise building that felt like St. Mary’s hospital (the biggest hospital in my small hometown) & the elementary school lobby area that often appears in my dreams combined into a single structure. In practice, the hospital was a lot larger than either & resembled the size & layout of Meadowview in TN (the hospital that my small town would send you to for serious emergencies). You could easily get lost inside.
There was some crisis. Me and a companion were hurriedly making our way down the hallway. There was a stir of anxious activity everywhere as everyone was making an attempt to respond to the crisis, which at first was not paranormal in nature. My companion in tow was a female romantic interest of mine. Of course, she was similar in height & build to the (censored for privacy) girls, perhaps just a tad shorter & less athletic though. She was concerned & obviously deferent to my ability to handle the current danger. Like a scene out of the first Resident Evil movie (2002), an agitated patient accosted us. Unable to talk him down, we engaged in a brief struggle. I rather easily gained control & shoved the patient to the ground. But triumph quickly evaporated into shock as the patient instantly got back up to pursue further aggression. This time, I struggled to keep the patient’s face, which now featured a fierce scowl & sharp teeth, inches from my own with the palm of my right hand while my left arm fought to push his torso backwards . Instead of just trying to wrestle me, as he had done before, this idiot was trying to bite a big chunk out of my neck! A shoved the fiend down again & took a couple of steps backwards, pulling out my pepper spray canister. I fired a few bursts into the creature’s face. It paused & then laughed as it realized the liquid had little effect. Recognizing the creature to be diabolic in nature, the tenor of the dream shifted into a scene straight out of Constantine. Instinctively, I pulled out a flask of holy water & splashed it onto the creature’s face. Steam rose from the fiend’s burning flesh as it shrieked under the pain from the divine power. I splashed more holy water onto the creature, including it’s torso this time. Simultaneously, I forced it to the ground with my own muscular physique. While I stood over the creature writhing around in a puddle of melting acid with various undissolved limbs still moving around in the cesspool, I stomped onto its limbs to guarantee its total demise. The creature’s jaws were still a threat, even as its body had devolved into an immobile steaming puddle. I remembered a scene I saw from another movie starring Matthew McConaughey. A young woman working as a live-in nanny in a haunted mansion used salt at the threshold of her bedroom door to prevent an evil spirit from entering. Suddenly armed with two full sized canisters for Morton salt–the kind in the blue package with the sketch of the woman holding an umbrella–I showered what was left of the enemy in two waterfalls of salt until there was nothing left but a puddle of dark liquid. My love interest screamed as several other patients in a similar frenzied state now began surrounding us. Having been so absorbed in my solo combat, I had failed to notice the gathering of similar zombie-like creatures. I knew that just up the hallway I could take a quick right down another hallway. About three doors down on the right there would a chapel, a la that chapel in the lobby of St. Mary’s hospital. I belted out my plan to my beautiful female companion in a single word: “Chapel!” Then, “Follow me!”
I grabbed her hand after shoving one zombie down & grabbing another by the neck & then thrashing it into the wall. Taking her hand in mine, we ran, dodging zombies as though I were a kick returner in football breaking loose for a big return. We navigated the maze of antagonists until we crossed the threshold of the small chapel. There were a few other survivors huddled inside. The creatures seemed to linger in the hallway, hesitant to enter the sanctuary even when the door was opened. Still, I wanted to fortify this stronghold as a last stand if need be. I didn’t think there was another way out, which meant that I could have just backed myself & girlfriend into a corner! I sprinkled the threshold with salt & the nearest beast shrieked with fear, taking two steps backwards. “Now I’ve got you,” I thought as I took a handful of salt & slung it into the creature’s face. It cried out & pain, its head thrashing skyward as it fell to its knees. Then, just like a scene from a movie, I suddenly saw myself lining the entire rectangular perimeter of our sanctuary with salt. As it I did this, the chapel became my parent’s three story great house in the valley. My vision panned back as though I were watching the whole scene unfold for afar, revealing my parents house on the hill protected by an outline of salt while surrounded my swarms of zombies. It was a scene reminiscent of the last scene of Season 2: “Walking Dead” after Rick gave his “Ricktatorship” speech. Cue the theme music.
When I awoke, a clear message had sunk in.
I watch waaaaaaay too many scary movies & TV shows!
Grey Skull’s Greatest Secret
Do you remember Masters of the Universe from the 1980’s? Do you remember how Castle Grey Skull was supposed to house the universe’s greatest secrets which, conveniently, were never spelled out for us? I’ve finally cracked the code–the secrets were revealed to me in a dream. If you’re willing to keep reading, I’m willing to share my discovery.
Warning: This content is legally protected creative property. Do not share, quote, or re-use any portion of this content for commercial use without expressed, written permission from the author.
If you are unfamiliar with the toy line that launched a franchise complete with two cartoon series, numerous comics, & one live action movie–I’d like to summarize the premise of Masters of the Universe. The toy line emerged on the heels of the massive success of Kenner’s Star Wars line with board games like Dungeons & Dragons appearing not too far in the background. In an attempt to combine adventure with a simple construct of rules to go by, Mattel pitted the great hero He-Man & his allies against Skeletor & his dark minions. Using a formula similar to the childhood game of “Capture the Flag,” He-Man’s goal was to prevent Skeletor for conquering the mysterious Castle Grey Skull–a fortress that allegedly housed the secrets of the universe. The person who conquered Grey Skull could claim themselves to be “Master of the Universe.”
The Secret Revealed
Skeletor finally conquers Grey Skull. He gloats over his triumph only to discover that his “reward” is damnation to Hell. His time on Eternia as Ruler of the Dark Hemisphere was actually his last sentence in Purgatory. God, in His mercy, had given Skeletor two prior opportunities to purge himself of his sins. Each time, Skeletor squandered his opportunity in the exact same manner. Hellbent on conquest at the expense of everything & everyone, Skeletor had doomed himself bit by bit to his current fate. The previous incarnation of Skeletor as Keldor was actually his 2nd opportunity in Purgatory. His transformation from Keldor into Skeletor was actually a death & rebirth. Since this was his last go-around, God dispatched Eternia’s greatest hero–He-man–to dissuade Skeletor from this path. All along, He-Man was an agent of God in Purgatory. What Skeletor perceived as He-Man’s interference was actually an attempt to save him.
But now that Skeletor had finally vanquished He-Man & breached the inner-sanctuary of Grey Skull, the truth became clear–all the memories came flooding back & the Skull Face that made Skeletor notorious once again became flesh as pieces of all his past lives came together once more. His face of flesh proved more terrifying than his face of bone & emptiness! For, in order to be either damned or saved, a soul would have to be made whole again. Because both Damnation & Salvation are absolute conditions; there’s no coming back from either. And because it’s all or nothing, the soul must be made whole before admittance to either.
For the entirety of his three lives as an immortal soul, Skeletor had sought to uncover the secrets of Grey Skull. And now, the day of his triumph became the day of his greatest failure. The Greatest Secret of Grey Skull is this: God loves us so much that he gives us the freedom to choose. Skeletor chose his own damnation–not once, not twice, not even three times. The soul that we know as Skeletor had chosen an obsessive path of merciless conquest four consecutive times: the first was in his mortal life on earth and the last occurred in Eternia. Eternia is Purgatory. It’s called Eternia because, one way or another, any lifeform on that planet chooses the place it will spend forever in. Those who ascend graduate to Heaven while those who repeat past mistakes devolve into Hell. And some souls choose to stay where they are–on the planet that they call Eternia, not realizing their home was meant to be only a waystation for souls but never a permanent home. But God loves every soul so much that He gives them choice; and some souls choose to dwell there.
As Skeletor’s eternal soul evaporates into the cold darkness of Hell, be bellows out a ghastly shriek. To his credit, he doesn’t make excuses–he doesn’t blame He-man; he doesn’t curse God. He curses himself as a single tear slowly drips down his left cheek.
On the outside, the imposing fortress known as Castle Grey Skull temporarily features the face of a stunningly handsome man. It is the face of God; and, as with Skeletor, a single tear slowly makes it’s way down His cheek. As great as He is, God cries every time a soul chooses the eternal death. He loves Skeletor as He loves all of His creation. He loved Skeletor so much, he gave him three more lives in Purgatory to recognize the sin he committed during his initial mortal life on Earth.
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These are the Secrets of Grey Skull.
- There is but one “Master of the Universe” & that is God.
- Souls, especially those on Eternia, frequently consider themselves to be “masters of the universe” because they are ascended life forms, meaning they have lived a previous life in the flesh on earth or another fallen existenceunder God’s domain. God has crested life on more planets than earth & in more realities than just our own. Moreover, they are “masters”because God has given them the freedom to choose their eternal paths.
- And finally–the greatest secret of Grey Skull is this: Since we are all born with an element of God & an element of the Devil inside us, we all have the choice to decide where we will spend eternity. And that is the greatest power any flesh & blood being can hope for.
This upcoming weekend features Easter Sunday–a celebration of salvation & resurrection. Remember that God gives us each a choice just as Skeletor had a choice.
Please choose carefully.
Don’t Walk that Path!
Although it’s been three years since Loy passed away, he’s appeared in numerous dreams. Sometimes the dreams are of us when we were young & feature my childhood home as the setting; more often, the dreams occur in current times & feature the house in the valley. In the dreams, I am usually surprised to see him because in the back of my mind, I know he’s supposed to be somewhere else. However, it’s one of those social situations when it’s best not to say what you’re thinking. Normally, he is aware that I know he shouldn’t be there yet plays along as though everything is normal. Sometimes he even has a scar that bears witness to the place he had been before; like Loy was sent away to a special school or camp with harsh conditions & now that he’s back, no one wants to mention it.
I also dream frequently of the house in the valley. Almost invariably, the dreams involve the wee hours of the morning before the sun rises, when the sky is still as dark as midnight but the clock indicates that sunrise is on the way. These dreams normally feature a pervading dread as I am loathe to depart from my bed to prepare for school or work. Just as frequently, I dream of an even more imminent threat like a home invasion or the presence of a dangerous predator outside. Last night, I had a dream featuring both archetypes combined into one. It was a disturbing dream; & when I awoke from it, I had about an hour to lay in bed before I was had to get up for work. I ending up calling out sick & went back to sleep. The next conversation I had was with a nurse from my doctor’s office who explained that my latest labs showed an extreme increase in my triglycerides. My bloodwork has come back consistently clean since 2016 & nothing has changed in my medication. My cholesterol was good, but tri’s & sugars were high. I was stunned as I fumbled around to answer the nurse’s question: What have I done differently over the last 6 months? Now, I was at elevated risk of diabetes, pancreatitis, & perhaps another heart event.
Over the last nine months I’ve made a great deal more money; but lost my gym access in the process. In addition, over the last 6 months, the time since my last lab, I’ve endured a great deal of additional stress & enormous ownership at my current workplace. In addition, I’ve made a concerted effort to save money & acquire quick calories. I’ve kept sodas around the house b/c they were on sale at the grocery just to keep them around & but have often found myself drinking them daily, which I hadn’t done over the last five years. In addition, I bought cheap store brand coffee which doesn’t taste good black, the way I used to drink my coffee–so I’ve used creamer. And then, work has been so strenuous that when I come home, I eat dinner. Then I partially clean up & lay down “just for a few minutes” only to remain on the couch until it’s time to get up for work again. I’ve become progressively more tired after each week so recently, I stopped using my stationary bike as often. And this is how my health goes downhill so quickly It’s the same formula that doomed me initially; I just didn’t realize it in time. I’ve always struggled holding down a high-responsibility job while maintaining healthy habits too. I did it back at Crutchfield, but I was younger back then. But over the last twenty years since Crutchfield, I’ve picked up an additional health problem here & there. Gout at 30. Severe depressive episode at 37–heart attack at 40. There’s always another burden placed upon me so it’s gotten harder rather than easier in a lot of ways.
Anyway, back to the dream. Dad had thrown a huge wild party & the drive way was full of cars. I was trying to manage traffic. There were a ton of roughnecks who really weren’t close to the family & it was a struggle to maintain order. Anyway, one of the drunkards lost control of his vehicle & it went careening down the hill towards the Gupalan house where it exploded & caused a fire. The crowd just sat & stared in amazement as if they were watching a fireworks show instead of rushing to help. The chaos resulted in the police arriving in masse. They admonished us for not helping & demanded to speak to the person in charge which was me. They threatened me with legal action for hosting an irresponsible party to which I told them my Dad had thrown it & I was only helping people locate their vehicles. Dad was on the porch. I told him to explain. He told me that it was my fault & that I should take the blame for it. He had too much to lose regarding his reputation & etc—and I needed to take the fall.
Patsy was with me & someone else–Walter, Loy, somebody. They were discouraged by Dad’s response & were trying to coach me up on how to handle the interrogation. At that point, I big white ball of light appeared low in the sky halfway down the driveway hill. Patsy started following it, as if hypnotized. I followed her & Loy followed me, trying to coach me up all the while. When I saw the sphere hovering over the driveway against the dark blue pre-sunrisen sky, I became mesmerized. It seemed to emit a strange humming noise & beckoned me to come closer. My mind went blank & all I could think about was getting closer to that white ball. Lou became frantic, telling me not to walk down the road–yelling that it was a trap but I barely noticed him. Further down the hill, I began to fear the sphere of light, sensing something evil about it. And yet, I couldn’t stop myself from walking towards it! It felt like that time I fell while skiing down the advanced slope & began skidd uncontrollably towards the support beam to the ski lift. A cataclysmic collision seemed inevitable!
Just then, Loy tackled me from my right side & knocked me into the grassy slope along the drive way road. He explained to me that the sphere of light would lie & manipulate me the same way the police would do when they interrogated me. He told me not to walk down that path.
After that, I woke up with a severe sense of dread, hoping to garner the willpower to go to work although i dreaded it. I had gone to church the day before. I hadn’t just lounged around the house on my Sunday off, having done laundry, folded some clothes, & gone to the grocery. I had prayed to God to slow down time while I gathered the strength to face another weak of customer complaints, flight changes, & answering questions about material I barely knew about. Oftentimes, God mercifully obliges at time slows down while I fire up my willpower just in time to make it out the door for work. But today, almost sinisterly, the clocked ticked away rapidly. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wouldn’t be going in on this day. When it wasn’t too early to be inappropriate, I called my boss to report. The next conversation was with my nurse as she delivered the shocking & disturbing news.
Once it was over & I processed the implications, I thought of the dream. I thought of my inexplicable reluctance to go to work that morning. I hadn’t been checking my voicemails, which the nurse had admonished me for. I had forgotten my password to MyChart, which the nurse admonished me for since my doctor had made attempts to contact me that way. Had I gone to work, I would not have answered the phone call. It was as if God had incapacitated me in order to receive this warning.
And then the dream about Loy. He was trying to prevent me from walking down this path, numb to the consequences. I don’t think that it was Lou’s spirit trying to speak to me directly; but rather, God using my knowledge of how tragically Lou died when it had been completely avoidable. God wanted to give me a chance not to continue down the same path. I would have to make changes or suffer for failing to do so.
Two Sides of the Coin: Bravo Team’s routine Patrol
Bravo Team of the J.U. (Justified Union) patrols the outskirts of the green zone, which is still a contested area. In order to bolster confidence in its allies to renew the trade agreement, the J.U. has amped up it’s presence on the outskirts, especially along the primary trade routes. Ordinarily, a routine patrol is a task beneath Bravo Team’s talents; but things have been quiet lately. Bravo Team has grown hungry for live action & command recognizes that training against simulations only won’t keep the team sharp over the long term.
Bravo Team calls it “walking the dog.” They slowly patrol a pre-determined route along the main trade route equipped with an FAV (Fast Attack Vehicle). The vehicle is there mostly to carry extra gear & communication equipment. It’s not even big enough to carry all members of the patrol. Two members walk alongside each flank. The small patrol barely averages 3 mph; but it’s a short segment & the slow pace gives the operators a chance to examine the area more carefully.
Their goal is two-fold: to establish a visible presence & to scout the area for potential hazards once hostilities recommence. Where are the bottle necks? What areas are vulnerable to ambush? Where would a potential enemy hide? What would I do if the roles were reversed? After all—there are two sides of every coin. On top today; someone else tomorrow.
Contact is unlikely, based on intel. But, unbeknownst to the intelligence section, a simple but determined danger lies in wait.
As the patrol arrives to less than 50 meters from the next chokepoint, this determined enemy aims his Dragunov sniper rifle at them. The Dragunov is a large caliber sniper rifle that could have been deployed accurately well before Bravo Team approached the chokepoint. The sniper, from his elevated position, still believing to have the advantage, squeezes the trigger.
“Zhhhhhhoooooommmmm!” The high velocity round whips just feet above its mark. The proximity of the shot makes it easier for Bravo Team to pinpoint the point of origin. In a fight, there is always an advantage in throwing the first punch–assuming you land it solidly, of course.
The flipside to throwing that first punch, however, is leaving yourself opened for the counter-punch. The element of surprise works once–then it’s a fair fight after that. If you’re going up against someone who is faster, bigger, or punches harder than you do—you may not want to throw that first punch. In theory, you have a 50% chance for success & failure—a coin flip. But that’s all academic. In the real world, there are other factors that play a role in determining the outcome.
“Contact, left side: one tango, sniper rifle! Returning fire!” Maddox is the newest member of Bravo Team. It’s possible he’s auditioning as the permanent replacement for the rock star Bowman, who currently serves as driver while he tries to recover from a recent injury.
Maddox’s MP-5 submachine gun variant fires light recoiling shots in semi-automatic fashion. While it’s not the ideal weapon for this situation, the relative proximity of the sniper & the light-recoiling 9mm round in semi-auto mode allows him to return effective fire almost immediately.
While Bowman holds down the right flank, a hidden danger emerges from the left. A second insurgent breaks cover, armed with a 12 gauge shotgun.
While robust & versatile, the shotgun is not the ideal weapon for this situation. However, the fighter has misdirection & the element of surprise on his side. Moreover, his shotgun is loaded with rifled slugs today for greater effectiveness at range. He knows he doesn’t have the firepower to win the fight; but he has enough to leave a mark. The 8 large slugs are enough to make one or two of these men suffer for their pride & arrogance. The 12 gauge is large enough to test the resolve of the J.U.’s alleged military might.
The 2nd insurgent’s first slug strays slightly to the left, impacting just above the driver’s side wheel-well. He racks the action to load another slug while the Bravo operator tries to locate the origin of fire.
It doesn’t take long for the experienced operator, Master Chief Compton, to locate the new shooter. Compton takes aim just as the insurgent cycles the next slug. It probably only took a split second in real time, but for a moment, it was as though time stood still. In that instant, the highly trained veteran & the angry but novice insurgent were locked in a stare down. It was like a scene from one of those old Western flicks. And then . . . two triggers drew backwards.
(Insurgent 2) Arrrrhhhh! Three shot bursts! I wasn’t expecting that!
The insurgent’s second slug impacts a little higher, entering the driver’s side hood where it’s stopped by the engine block. Unlike Maddox on the other side, who’s MP5 sub machinegun is configured for semi-auto mode, Compton’s weapon is set for 3 shot bursts. The rapid succession of projectiles catches the insurgent off guard as he dives for cover.
Just as it appears Bravo Team will make quick work of the amateurish ambush, a 3rd insurgent emerges from cover from an elevated position. While he is only armed with a pistol, the small FAV is close enough to be at risk. At last, it becomes apparent why the 1st insurgent waited so long to take the first shot despite having the long range weapon: he had intended to draw Bravo Team into a kill box! Suddenly, the amateurish ambush seems a lot more sophisticated.
A 3rd insurgent opens fire on Bravo Team. Intel determined that contact would be unlikely. So much for probability. That was all academic now. For the 3rd time today, a shooter takes an uncontested first shot at the J.U.’s elite force. For the 3rd time today, the J.U.’s elite force is caught off-guard. However, training & experience has allowed the team to react quickly & effectively. But even cats only have 9 lives! Will the 3rd time finally be the charm for the opposition force? Will the earth’s only military Super Power absorb a shocking defeat?
JOIN me NEXT SUNDAY for the conclusion of Two Sides of the Coin: Bravo Team’s routine Patrol!