The FENX and the Dark Lord (of the Sith): Redemption and removing the mask

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, FENX 4.0, Star Wars | 1 Comment

Star Wars lightsped it’s way back into theatres this weekend, in 3D no less, so in honor of it’s return, I want to talk a bit about what I, among many, affectionately call “The Wars”.  I’m an unabashed Star Wars fan, a FANBOY if you will.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen the Star Wars films or the Star Wars:  The Clone Wars animated series; I lost count long ago (let’s not even get into the comic books and ever expanding novel collection I have).  The only things that has had a greater effect on me if life are the Gospel of Jesus Christ and my own unique story (and yet Star Wars has had it’s own role in that).  Late last year, a friend pointed me to the “Never Beyond” series that has been created by a group called People of the Second Chance.  The idea is to focus on individuals (real or not) who’ve done things that they should certainty be condemned for, but that even for them redemption is still possible (or achieved in some cases).

Which brings me to Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith formally known as Anakin Skywalker (one of the figures that the People of the Second Chance has highlighted).  The first time you see Vader in Star Wars (only later changed to Star Wars:  A New Hope in a theatrical re-release prior to the release of Empire Strikes Back in May of 1980) you know nothing about him, except that his very presence exudes fear in those that do not know and dread in those that do.  His troops have just wiped out the resistance to their boarding party, and his ship just plain dwarfs the Blockade Runner/Tantive IV.  Watching him threaten the hapless rebel trooper while he lifts the trooper under his own power, choke him to death, and then toss his lifeless body aside like a rag doll, you know this guy is bad news (and this is just the start).  He goes on to threaten/capture/torture a teenage Princess Leia (who he doesn’t know is his daughter), restrain the princess while they both watch Leia’s adopted home-world be destroyed in an instant along with almost two billion people, strike down his former friend and teacher in a duel, and almost kill Luke Skywalker (whom he doesn’t know is his son) in a space battle; and this is just the “first film”.  Except for Episode I:  The Phantom Menace, the Star Wars saga is filled with Anakin/Darth doing unspeakable thing: wiping out an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders after he watches his mother die because of their treatment of her, beheading Count Dooku, killing younglings during the siege on the Jedi Temple, wiping out the Separatist Council AFTER the Clone Wars are over, almost force choking his pregnant wife to death, cutting off his son’s hand (and destroying his innocence), and watching while his son gets tortured almost to the point of death by his Master, Palpatine/Darth Sidious – but I’ll come back to that one.  As an aside to buttress the point of Darth Vader being a bad dude, there is gargoyle of him hidden high on one of the towers of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC; the stone carving  was part of a competition to choose a representation of evil, and Vader won out.

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The FENX, the Phantom Menace, and kids from “across the pond”

Posted on by Aaron in FENX 4.0, Star Wars | Leave a comment

Sometimes all I can do is smile and laugh like the Joker at small blessings in life.  Star Wars came roaring back into theatres this weekend with the 3D release of Episode I:  The Phantom Menace.  Naturally, I went to see it – twice.  Driving the FENX to Chinatown this afternoon to meet my friend Isaac for the second screening, the wind was howling and the snow flurries were flying.   It wasn’t until after the film was over and dinner at Fuddrucker’s had concluded that it got really interesting.  As I neared Union Station, I happened upon a group of teenagers from England.  Having never seen anything like the FENX before, their reactions were exclamations of awe, wonder, and one “It’s like Artoo-Deetoo or something”.  At this, I of course stop, pop the canopy, and inform them that I was driving home from just seeing Episode I in the theatre.  Somehow they weren’t that surprised.  As we all continued along the same route, I see one of them running alongside me to keep up and I slow down upon hearing music.  Popping the canopy again I realize the young fellow is playing the Star Wars theme on his phone, and I tell the group “yeah, I actually listen to that a lot when I drive this” to which the chaperone of the group asks “but can you make it in less than twelve parsecs?”    Pausing just for a moment, I tell him “here’s the thing, a parsec is a unit of (and he repeats with me) distance not time”.  Suddenly one of the teenagers shouts to the adult “You just got Star Wars-ed”.

After that, I couldn’t stop laughing as I continued to drive on home into the distance (obviously minus the binary sunset); just another day in the life, I guess.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

The FENX and Thinking Long: When the Sowing Turns to Reaping

Posted on by Aaron in FENX 4.0, NBC News, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Capitol Hill is not an easy place to plant oneself.  The hours can be arduous and the scenarios frustrating.  It is in this nexus of power and ideology that staffers find themselves.  A lot of time can be spent working hard to sow ideas, meet objectives, fix problems, and fight injustices – with no guarantee that a resolution will come or if/when it does you will be there to see the sowing turn to reaping.  It is in this environment that the long view of events must be taken and the long game played, worrying not about who gets the credit or when the victory comes, but just working to ensure that outcome.

However, there are those rare times when the sowing turns to reaping during your time; today was one such day, and there hasn’t been a day like this for awhile.  In October of 2008, a hospital in my Home Congressional District in Michigan came to my boss and I asking for our help.  This hospital was contesting  that they had erred in a Family Medical residency program that the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Studies (CMS) had helped them get off the ground in 2004 to serve disadvantaged populations in Michigan.  I didn’t know anything about their plight then, but I learned a lot.   In short, if it was determined that this hospital had erred, the residency program would have to shut down and the funding from CMS paid back (and it wasn’t a small amount of money).  Over the next three years various attempts were made politically and legislatively to persuade CMS to admit there was no error on the part of this hospital; all of these attempts failed.  Late last year, the hospital took their case before a special review board hoping for a favorable decision.  In January of this year the review board ruled in their favor.  It’s important to note that the decision of this review board is non-binding, CMS does not have to comply with this decision if they do not wish to and 85%-90% of the time CMS does not.

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The FENX and the camera crew: Behind the Scenes of the “Facing Life Head On” interview featuring The FENX Project

Posted on by Aaron in FENX 4.0 | Leave a comment

It was a cold and blustery Sunday morning in late January and I was in a suit, tie, and sweater headed for Capitol Hill.  The FENX provided as much shelter from the frigid wind as it could on the sidewalks of Washington, DC as man and machine prepared to go in front of TV cameras to tell the story of The FENX Project, it’s pilot, and it’s creator.  I was to meet with the production team of Facing Life Head On, an Emmy award winning show that tackles the abortion issue and along the way tells amazing stories of inspiration and perseverance for the sake of LIFE, endeavoring to show the world that life is sacred and that the practice of abortion does, in fact, deprive the word of wonderful individuals who would have been a joy and blessing to those they would have encountered.  The entire time-line of events leading up to this interview actually taking place was initiated by Olivia Braaten, a friend and fellow Fall 2005 intern with the Heritage Foundation Young Leaders Program, who is a field producer for the television show.

Arriving early, I parked the FENX outside the all-access entrance to the Longworth House Office Building, across from the United States Capitol building. Making my way through the labyrinthine underground tunnel system that connects the three House office buildings, I was headed into the halls of the Rayburn building to the office of my boss, Representative Thaddeus McCotter.  I was anticipating a phone call from Rachel Reeves, the producer of Facing Life Head On, as I plopped down into the chair in my little office known as “The Batcave”; a hovel filled with Star Wars novels, historical tomes, and a number of volumes from the Philosophy and Popular Culture series.  Soon, the call came and I retraced my steps back to the entrance in Longworth to meet the crew and escort them through security (there was quite a lot of gear for multiple cameras and monitors).  As we walked back to the office they asked questions about the FENX, how I came to be on Capitol Hill, and what it’s like for someone with a “disability” to be here doing the work I do on various policy issues – it is an interesting question to ask when you are the only individual you know of with a obvious physical condition like Cerebral Palsy working in Capitol Hill in a congressional office. (Ed: It is a unique spot to be in, often difficult, wherein you’re blazing a path in hopes that others will follow in your tread).

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The FENX and the Captain: Thoughts on the Silverscreen treatment of Steve Rogers’s Origin

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, FENX 4.0 | Leave a comment

“I’m just a kid from Brooklyn” – Steve Rogers, Captain America

I can only imagine the roar and applause that must have erupted all across movie theaters in Brooklyn, NY Friday when die-hard fans and those just curious sat down to watch Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend. Captain America: The First Avenger is the latest offering in the Marvel Studios series of silver screen solo adventures for the heroes that will assemble into Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in May of 2012, a day many a fan of superheroes has waited decades for.

The origins of Captain America revolve around Steve Rogers, a twig of a man young who has been bullied all his life but wants nothing more than to join the Army and fight along side millions of others who have joined the military to fight the Nazi threat. As he says in the film “There are men laying down their lives, I can’t do any less”; his best friend Bucky Barnes had already received orders and was to ship out to the front. He’s tried to enlist multiple times in various cities, each time being declared “unfit for service”. Having witnessed this, a defected German scientist named Abraham Erskine offers Steve his one opportunity to actually serve in the American military by selecting him for the Super Solider program.

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The FENX and The Autobots: Thoughts on Transformers: Dark of the Moon *minor spoilers ahead*

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“Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons” – Transformers Theme

Those words, familiar to many a Transformer fan for nearly three decades, have never rung as true as they do in the case of the new Transformers movie, Transformer: Dark of the Moon. Of the three films, this is by far the darkest and most intense and the war between the Autobots and the tyranny of the Decepticons comes home in a big way. The last installment in the franchise was a disappointment and there was no doubt it had fallen from the great heights of the first film (even if I liked it more than most folks did). This movie redeems the franchise on many levels.

The film opens with vivid and fantastic scenes from the final days of the war on the Transformers’s home planet of Cybertron, detailing a failed mission that, if successful, would have allowed the Autobots to prevail against the Decepticons. The mission focuses on a secret ship that crash lands on Earth’s moon and NASA detects it. This sets off the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s in an attempt to discover what happened. History goes forth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin arrive on the moon on Apollo 11, but really to embark on a secret mission, wherein they discover the crashed Autobot vessel and special pods. Fast forward to present day and Sam Whitwicky is a recent college graduate living in DC with his girlfriend Carly (long gone is Megan Fox and her character) who previously worked at the British Embassy and now manages a car collection for a character played by Patrick Dempsey who functions as a foil for Sam on multiple levels. Sam is struggling to find both a job and himself, not understanding why after helping to discover the Transformers and save the world (twice) he can’t make something of himself; as Sam says “I just want to matter”

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The FENX and the Emerald Power of Will: Thoughts on Green Lantern

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, FENX 4.0, Star Wars | 1 Comment

“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight; those who worship Evil’s might, beware my power, GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!” – The Oath of the Green Lantern Corps.

Those words were first penned many decades ago and for many decades since then, fans of the Green Lantern comics have waited for silver screen treatment; on June, 17, 2011, it came (kicking off a big weekend for me which included a birthday and the return of The FENX to Washington once again for my use). The story of Green Lantern is very much a cross between Top Gun, the original Star Wars and The Last Starfighter (all movies I love). The main character, Hal “Highball” Jordan, is a former United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who works as a test pilot for Ferris Aerospace a company started by former USAF pilot Carl Ferris (a friend of Hal’s aerospace daring father who died in a crash Hal witnessed as a young boy). Hal works alongside Mr. Ferris’s daughter (and fellow pilot) Carol “Sapphire” Ferris with whom he has an on again/off again romantic relationship. Both characters are asked to fly a sortie against a pair of UAV fighters that Ferris Air is development for the Department of Defense, an exercise which results in another plane crash.

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The FENX and the First Class

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, FENX 4.0 | Leave a comment

Warning: Spoilers and Continuity issues ahead!

Recently I went to see X-Men: First Class the 20th Century Fox/Marvel prequel/reboot of the X-Men movie franchise. Even though I am an unabashed comic book/superhero fan I rarely offer my thoughts in a written review on such movies, but a recent discussion with a wise friend of mine has convinced me otherwise (as well as my own adventures as a Xavier-esque character with the FENX).

This particular X-Men outing is produced by Bryan Singer (the director of the first two X-Men films, and the ones I enjoy the most) and directed by Matthew Vaughn (who previously directed Kick Ass and was originally going to direct X-Men 3: The Last Stand after Singer left – but he too left the project) so creating a comic book movie isn’t something new for either of them.

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The FENX and Wounds: Thoughts on a piece of wisdom from A.W. Tozer

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Over the last few months I’ve begun to listen to sermons given by Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas. This morning, as I was listening to his sermon series on Habakkuk he quoted something he attributed to Martin Luther while it’s really something offered up by A.W. Tozer: “It is doubtful whether God can use a man greatly, until first He wounds him deeply.” Now I don’t know if this is true in one-hundred percent of cases (therefore I can’t say it’s a law in the same way the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is a law – always true in very case) but in my life it appears to be truth. I also wonder if the term “wound” is synonymous with “burden” – it would seem that it could work out as such. These deep wounds in my experience are often things which, as a result of carrying said wound, forces an individual into closer proximity and deeper understanding of both themselves and the Heavenly Father, the Creator and Master of the Universe. This proximity is something He desires for us but we don’t desire for ourselves because of the sacrifice and/or pain that is often required to bring someone to a point wherein an epiphany occurs: alone, you cannot hold your own life together – you are in need of something more (and He IS that something more) in order to cope with the difficult thing life WILL hand to you. When this realization occurs, often amidst trial, then closer proximity to Him can follow. (Not to say that it cannot happen otherwise, but the crucible of trial is often the best teacher; it is why what the Apostle Paul has to say about suffering – In Romans 5 – will ALWAYS be leagues better than anything Jedi Master Yoda can come up with.)

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The FENX and the Chris Rush Project

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It is rare for me to come across something that I find so compelling that I have to act. A good friend of mine recently commented to me that we often come in contact with situations which impress upon us and move us, but they do not impact us enough to actually do something about it. For some it’s poverty and/or homelessness. For others, like Mike and Heather Colletto, it’s the trafficking and subsequent slavery of another human being – the robbing of another of that individuals’ inherent dignity bestowed upon them by the Creator by seeing them as less than human and ensnaring them in to a life of bondage either by deception or force. Still, for others it is the sacredness of human life – especially the unborn. This is a cause to which I have attached myself, along with countless other friends and strangers. In the midst of ALL that seems to be transpiring in our great Nation over this issue in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a particular “sub-issue’ which isn’t addressed all that often, maybe because it gets wrapped up into the various facets of the larger issues at play within the Pro-Life Cause. This crucial “sub-issue” is the “quality of life” for individuals with medical conditions, physical challenges, handicaps, disabilities – call it what you like.

Previously, I wrote about my experience being interviewed on this very subject by an Emmy-winning pro-life television show, because of my life experiences, trials, and triumphs with Cerebral Palsy. Since that interview four weeks ago to the day, this issue of quality of life, the importance of it, and the lies surrounding it have been made starker than ever before.

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