Wonder Woman: On the Shoulders of Aphids

Wonder Woman is the first installment in the DC Extended Universe that I found to be at all watchable.

Granted, I haven’t seen half of the DCEU (Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad), with Man of Steel being my only point of comparison, so I can’t in all honesty make a completely fair judgement.

But compared to Man of SteelWonder Woman knocks the 2013 Superman film out of the ring and into the concession stand.

It’s humorous, at times touching, and boasts some kick-butt action sequences.

Chris Pine’s portrayal of Steve Trevor is without a doubt the stand-out performance of the film. His charismatic presence combines with a knack for comedic timing to create a well-rounded leading man.

Gal Godot as Diana, the titular (though yet-to-be-dubbed-as-such) Wonder Woman is also a good foil to Steve, setting up a lot of decent punchlines. The fish-out-of-water gags that dominate the first half of the film are much cleverer than those displayed by Thor.

Speaking of Marvel’s resident demigod, if I had to give a gauge on Wonder Woman‘s overall quality, I’d compare it to the 2011’s Thor. Overall, I’d say that they’re on the same level, but unfortunately, its in the specifics that the comparison ends.

Whereas Thor has a likable but dull hero and a cool and sinister villain in Loki, Wonder Woman has a marvelous heroine and a terribly weak set of villains.

For those who don’t want spoilers, I’ll save my digital ink, but I will say that the real villain of the piece turns out to be a combination of Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and the Duke of Wesselton from Frozen.

It’s just as silly as it sounds.

Wonder Woman is great only because all the DC movies that came before it are mediocre, at best.

But it is, at the very least, a decent popcorn movie. I look forward to future installments.

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A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Conclusion)

This post is the conclusion of our series A Business Plan for the Renton Printery

Due to the sensitive nature of the sections of the business plan not yet covered (such as the Management Team and Personnel, Setup, and Financial Plan & Projections), I will be concluding my series here.

To go into more detail about the Renton Printery’s management team and personnel would require me to divulge certain private details, such as their specific qualifications and who they actually are.

I do not feel it is a good idea to name these private persons without their permission, and do not think it worthwhile to get all of their respective permissions ahead of time, like a chicken running with its head cut off.

I will simply say that we have plenty of people to fill the positions listed in the Executive Summary, and I have full confidence in their individual ability.

The Setup, that is, logistical matters such as our building, machinery, other equipment, and IT, are equally private matters. To put it simply, I do not think it wise to divulge operational details in a public forum.

At the very least, I would have to get my boss’s permission, which would be, for lack of a better word, an extended hassle.

Finally, the reasons for the Financial Plan and Projections being impossible and inconvenient to carry arise from two main reasons.

First, because I would have to consult heavily with my boss regarding the shop’s current operating costs. Again, more hassle, more in the public eye, and more conversations trying to convince the boss that it is plainly Not A Bad Idea.

Second, because even if I had all the permission in the world, I currently lack the expertise in accounting and graphing to present these findings in a logical manner.

I could theoretically do it, and even if it was done badly, it would at least be done. However, I would rather take some time to do it privately before showing it off to the whole world.

But such difficulties are the nature of business. Although I am dismayed to say that I cannot offer these important details, I can say with absolute integrity that I did, based on my limited knowledge of these matters, write up some things related to these matters on paper in my own time.

Perhaps someday a more complete version of those notes will see the light of day on this blog.

In the meantime, thank you all so much for reading this.

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A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Part 3/3)

The following is the third part of our series A Business Plan for the Renton Printery.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

In this section we will identify our target market, why we want to reach this particular target market, and how we intend to sell our products to them.

Our target market is made up of:

  • The controllers and managers of large manufacturers.
  • The Executive Directors, office administrators, marketing executives, and and business development officers of large non-profits and B2C companies.
  • Similar such persons at large unions.

Why these persons?

Controllers and managers at large manufacturers frequently need stickers, labels, and the like, plus large quantities of signs, banners, and business cards. There might be an occasional order for other big-ticket items, such as company-patterned vests, hats, and shirts.

Various gate-keepers and decision makers at large non-profits are likely tasked by their bosses with finding printers for their events. Accordingly, we will want to target them too.

Similarly to non-profits, many large unions need much printing done, including mailers, t-shirts, signs, bumper stickers, brochures, business cards, stickers, newsletters, and more. The same people who buy printing for non-profits tend to also populate unions.

How do we reach these groups?

The relevant execs at large manufacturers can easily be found at Kent, South King County, and Auburn Chambers, along with certain local conferences of various manufacturing associations.

The problem is being able to make it to these events without stretching ourselves too thing. Another possibility is to become involved in the Kent Rotary, but the feasibility of such an idea remains to be seen.

It would be a simple matter to find clients from appropriately sized B2C corporations and non-profits by frequenting local Chamber of Commerce events in Seattle, Bellevue, and Issaquah, not to mention the Renton Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.

But first we must ask, do we want to extend northward into Seattle and the Eastside? Can we afford it? Is it logistically possible?

These are questions that continue to puzzle the Renton Printery’s management team. Until then, we will continue to focus on the south.

Speaking of which, we will be discussing the Renton Printery’s management team and personnel in the next post in this series.

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A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Part 2/3)

The following is the portion of a Business Plan for the Renton Printery, Business details.

Business Details

We are a family of printers. My father, grandfather, grandmother, and two of my aunts are in the trade.

Situated in downtown Renton, we’re a family-owned and operated, locally based, union print shop. The shop itself has been in business since the 1950s, but my grandfather first acquired it in 1971.

We can offer a broad range of products, such as:

  • Brochures
  • Envelopes
  • Letterhead
  • Business cards
  • Booklets
  • Programs
  • Newsletters
  • Mailers
  • Signs
  • Banners
  • Stickers
  • Labels
  • Tags
  • Notepads
  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Bags

All this, along with many other things I may not have thought of.

Our reason for being is simple: To make a spit-load of money.

To be more specific, to do so while being known for honest, efficient service and high quality products.

Our customers are chiefly other businesses. Our ideal clients are people who put a lot on a lot of events or spill a lot of ink, or else need a lot of words attached to things.

Accordingly, we will seek the business of:

  1. Large to mid-sized manufacturers.
  2. Large non-profits
  3. Large unions
  4. Large-to-mid-sized B2C* companies.

These clients will ideally be located in the South King County area, within the vicinity of Renton, Tukwila, and Kent. We will discuss this further in the next section, titled “Sales and Marketing Plan.”

Our Key Employees will not be named here, but they will include:

  1. The President or CEO
  2. A pressman
  3. A bindery man
  4. The Marketing Director
  5. The Goodwill Ambassador

Our accounting will be subcontracted to a local accounting firm, and we will occasionally hire freelancers to help with graphic design work and bindery. The permanent employees will also find themselves wearing a lot of different hats.

In the next post, we will go over my favorite part: The Sales and Marketing Plan.

* B2C meaning, “business-to-customer.” The Renton Printery would fall under “B2B” or “business-to-business.”

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A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Part 1/3)

In this post we will detail the Executive Summary of the Renton Printery’s Business Plan.

Executive Summary

My grandfather, a pressman by trade, first acquired the Renton Printery in 1971.

Little did he know that eventually, his business would grow into one of the most respected institutions in the city of Renton, now run by his son (that is, my father.)

The Renton Printery can profitably deliver printing services to the South King County area by marketing to key figures in our target audience and by commencing operations with the right personnel.

Under the management of my father, the shop has cultivated a specific customer base who are willing to buy our shop’s products.

My father, along with myself and several other employees, currently operate the shop, bringing our accumulative expertise to making sure the shop stays profitable.

The financial and logistical affairs of the shop, such as our accounting, facilities, equipment, and IT, are matters which are too sensitive to discuss in his post series, but are nonetheless very important.

In this business plan, we will examine all of these and how they will be melded together to form a clear pathway to prosperity for the shop.

The Renton Printery, steeped in family history, craftsmanship, and service to the local community, can bring all of these strengths to bear in the tough and competitive printing market of today.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, a personal hero of both myself and my father: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

Thanks to this business plan, we will not fail.

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A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Introduction)

Those of you who know me personally know that I currently work at my father’s print shop.

This family business has helped me to remain gainfully employed, to one degree or another, since 2011.

I currently hold the title of “Marketing Director,” but in reality I am responsible for a wide range of tasks, including data entry, bookkeeping, and sales.

The accumulated experience I have gathered in my work at the shop has led me to decide to engage in a not-so-short thought experiment, wherein I will outline a business plan for the Renton Printery.

Are you ready to begin? Return tomorrow.

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Goodreads Review: The Gospel According to Jesus

The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says “Follow Me”? by John F. MacArthur Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This rather old book by John MacArthur was a read that rocked me to my core. I had previously heard of MacArthur’s controversial doctrine of “lordship salvation” from persons (or persons who knew such persons) who clearly had a bone to pick with him.

But I am convinced that MacArthur’s theology is grossly misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, MacArthur does not espouse a works-based-salvation theology. Rather, he advocates for a doctrine as old the New Testament itself: “You shall know a tree by the fruit it bears.”

In a nutshell, MacArthur’s main beef is with ministers who refuse to question the idea that mere assent to basic theological facts (i.e., the so-called Four Spiritual Laws) is equal to saving faith.

Instead, says he, we will know if a person is saved if their actions reveal a changed heart. They are not saved if they insist that they are saved but to do nothing to demonstrate such a reality.

What MacArthur’s ideological opponents have wrong is that they believe that he is espousing a “faith-plus-works” theory of salvation. Such a view is obviously heretical, but this man is no heretic. MacArthur would be a heretic if he stated that we will be saved if we do enough good things meriting salvation, our faith be darned.

But MacArthur plainly does not say this. Instead, he says that faith is good, but it will be known to be genuine, saving faith if a changed life is the result. Such a change can only be effected by the Holy Spirit, a doctrine which no one doubts.

I therefore highly recommend this book as a good kick-in-the-pants for the spiritually lazy. It sure did for me.

View all my reviews

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Beard Gives Madison High Marx (Federalist 10)

While watching a Hillsdale College Online Course on The Federalist Papers, I discovered why I so intensely dislike John Green.

It seems that Charles Beard, a noted political scientist of a progressive mindset, caused an uproar in academia in 1913.

Beard, in his own studies of the Federalist Papers, came to a startling conclusion regarding the political philosophy of James Madison.

It all came down to Madison’s definition of “factions.” Madison defined them in Federalist 10 thusly:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

The problem arose when Beard determined that James Madison’s talk of “factions” in Federalist 10 was not in reference to what we today call “special interests.”

According to the Dr. Paul Moreno, Beard instead believed that Madison was actually referring to political parties, which included Madison’s own Federalists, along with Washington, Adams, and so forth.

If this is the case, then the inference can be drawn, as Beard evidently did, that Madison was glibly alluding to politicians like himself quarreling over the right to exercise power and expand their personal interests.

Such reasoning led to Beard being called a Marxist, but his book nevertheless remained quite influential.

Why does any of this matter?

It matters mainly because Beard’s ideas, which I believe are recorded in his 1913 book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, have been extraordinarily influential in modern, popular accounts of American history.

This was plain to see in a 2004 PBS documentary on the American Revolution which I saw on a Netflix DVD a few weeks ago.

Much emphasis was placed on the Founders’ desire to achieve gentlemanly dignity on the level of the crowned heads of Europe.

Similar cynicism is on display at John Green’s YouTube channel CrashCourse, which includes a playlist on American History.

In one video which is characteristic of all of his content, Green takes every opportunity to portray the leaders of the American revolution as greedy, power-hungry bigots.

His annoyingly smug display of ignorance is, I’m quite certain, attributable to an understanding of American history stemming from Charles Beard. I would not be surprised if recreational marijuana use was also a factor.

(Incidentally, I highly doubt that Green, best known for authoring The Fault in Our Stars, has enough historical literacy to even comprehend that Beard’s philosophy was likely popularized by the late Howard Zinn, which was in turn disseminated in legions of American public schools.)

Charles Beard’s linking of James Madison’s talk of factions to Marxist theory has thus led to scholarly confusion, resulting in ignoramuses like Green endlessly spreading misinformation about history.

(For more on Green’s ignorance, see this blog post by J. S. B. Morse.)

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Guest Post: Make A Trendy Noise Unto the Lord

Note: This is a guest post from David van Mersbergen.

Coming from a musical family with a church organist parent and grandparent, David began musical training at the age of eight years old with piano lessons. He began vocal training and choral singing in high school and continued in college with several tours of major cites in North America. He has studied music theory and history. His study of aesthetics as a branch of philosophy had guided his efforts to seek out music and art worthy of study, analysis, and praise. He continues to pursue musical performance by participating in community and professional organizations.  

The discovery was made when I performed “Hotel California,” a piece I had previously detested.

It had been sung very badly on many long bus rides to basketball games, track meets and field trips. Worse was that this piece had been singled out by many charismatic preachers in the late ‘70s to be about the church of Satan.

On playing it, however, the chord progressions were sound and made sense according to the rules of music theory. It should come as no surprise that the shock at how good this song was had context.

After playing Christian contemporary music with its three-chord variety for the last eight months, a song with eight distinct chords was welcome. How fun it was to play music that had intelligence to its chord progression.

I found it odd that music written about ‘materialism and excess’ was more musically deep and lyrically profound than most of the music written for praise and worship.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of pop music is trite, stupid and poorly written so as to appeal to the masses of musically illiterate consumers, but why is it that Christian contemporary music strives to emulate that kind of music?

What makes Christian contemporary music so horrible has been the subject of many posts on Facebook, as well as an episode of South Park.

Lyrics that are theologically untenable or fallacious, as well as overwhelmingly sentimental, provide little more than mind numbing ear candy for churchgoers.

Christian lyricists are not poets by any means.  If a song about creation contains the word “trees,” there will be in the following line the word “breeze.” Sadly, too many lyricists are not familiar with basic theological principles.

Songs proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ come across as if the singer is in love with a matinee idol. Don’t think so? If a song actually names our Lord and Savior instead of just using “you,” substitute “Justin” or “Liam” for Jesus and see how one-dimensional this praise and worship song is.

Pop songs that come across as desperate and codependent are now fit to bring into church because it’s Jesus you’re singing about. They are insulated from literary criticism by virtue of their being “spirit-filled” or “anointed.”

The unfortunate implication is that lyrics are more important for working a crowd or congregation into an emotional high rather than for opening the mind to hear the law and gospel of God.

Why does CCM all sound the same or just plain awful?  The limited number of keys that most CCM is written in explains a few things.

Sadly, the guitar has replaced the pipe organ as the instrument of choice for the church and music director. The keys of E, D, G, A and C are the most comfortable keys for the guitar player. This is true for many pop and country and western songs.

One humorous YouTube video (Editor’s note: Video contains brief profanity) claims that all country and western music is the same, splicing clips of different songs into one loop until it sounds like a regular song.

Why? Aside from topics (trucks, beer, women), the keys and chord progressions are the same. The I-V-IV and I-VI-IV-V chord progressions are the most commonly used progressions in popular music.

Any melody can be written over these three or four chords with hardly any effort at all. With no harmonic variety in the music, the songs end up fundamentally sounding the same.

Praise and Worship leaders with little education in Western music, whose only exposure to music has been radio, television, and movies, churn out songs that reflect that exposure to the three-chord harmonic progression.

The result is that second-rate lyrics and simple chord progressions that were once the bastion of pop music have become customary in the Christian contemporary music.

Taking their cue from pop culture’s standard of quality, pastors and worship leaders embrace the lowest common denominator and clean it up (or wash it in the blood of Christ) for church.

Christian contemporary music is bad because the popular music it copies from the world is bad.  Lost is the idea of sacred music and the effort to produce it.

For most of the history of Western art in general, and music in particular, the Church, along with some of the aristocracy, was the major benefactor funding music for church worship services and ceremonial occasions.

Now the Church has become a consumer of popular music in its effort to reach a broader audience.

Pastors with little adherence to orthodoxy and practically no education in music or art now think the process of approaching God with humility, begging for forgiveness, receiving pardon for sins and resolving to lead a sanctified life should make way for a more palatable, seeker-friendly message.

Wanting to attract newcomers or those who are “turned off by traditional religion,” pastors and church leadership make the church service entertaining.

Congregations now confuse worship with entertainment, as if God needs a catchy tune get an audience. Such an objective can also be accomplished via a pole-dance.

Getting membership has become more important than proclaiming one’s sins can be and are forgiven, and that we are restored to a relationship with God.

Pastors have allowed the attention-seeking lead singer to educate the congregation on what music is.

Hymns with four-part harmony and theologically sound lyrics are replaced with karaoke-style sing-a-longs.

The cycle is complete when the young musician with mediocre talent decides to go to school to be a music leader, but has never read or sung a hymn, heard an oratorio, or seen an orchestra perform a symphony.

The church used to transform the culture, now it has become transformed by it.

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Building my Own Threshold

Early on in the maintenance of this blog, I planned a series of posts centered around Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

The monomyth (more popularly known as “the Hero’s Journey“) was supposed to guide my own endeavors as I sought to succeed in obtaining employment.

The problem with my original set of posts regarding the subject was that my presupposed outline for my life hinged on me being accepted into the Praxis program.

After being tossed off the metaphorical threshold steps (twice!), I sank into a period of aimlessness. I took whatever work I could, trying to make sense of everything.

In many respects, I was quite lucky. I had no debt and my friends and family supported me.

Looking back on this period in my life, trying to track my life-goals according to a mythological theory was quite foolish.

Life, quite obviously, is not a story. I believe it was in the recent film Their Finest that one character stated: “Stories have structure, purpose, and meaning… unlike life.”

I should really watch that movie.

So what am I doing now?

For one thing, I have recently enrolled in fall classes at a local community college.

I’m doing administrative, marketing, and sales work at my family’s business.

I’m researching possible careers to pursue and the best course of academic study to fit such a career.

I’m reading a lot of old books, working on several creative side projects, and am writing this blog.

In a word, I’m building my own threshold, where the only threshold guardian is me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth, as espoused in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

As a guide for story structure and dramaturgy, it’s an excellent tool.

But regrettably, it’s a pretty suckish model to plan your life around.

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