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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Lessons From a Crappy Movie

So I just watched the 2008 movie Jumper. I honestly only watched it to see Hayden Christensen's acting skills in a movie other than a Star Wars one. And with that, I was suitably impressed. Dude can act, y'all. But the movie itself (and I knew this from the start) is kind of crappy.

Don't get me wrong, the premise is great and has tons of potential, a man who has teleporting powers and is hunted by an organization that wants to kill all teleporters. But the movie had several mistakes along the way that turned what could have been a great movie into a lackluster one.

The biggest problem was that the writers didn't trust their viewers to understand the backstory without voiceover. The first couple of scenes are filled with voiceover from the main character, David (Hayden Christensen). Voiceover in movies is always risky because it's the epitome of telling instead of showing. And us writers know that's a big no-no in most cases.

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The thing I noticed, though, was that the movie didn't even need the voiceover. All the things in the voiceover were shared through the scenes. The emotional beats were strong on their own and would have impacted the viewer much more than they did with the voiceover. The voiceover cheapened the emotional beats that could have made the beginning of the movie strong.

The second problem that doomed the movie was David himself. Hayden Christensen played him very well, no doubt, but the writers gave their protagonist no redeemable qualities and no reason for the viewers to root for him. David was an objectively bad person. He robs banks to fund his lavish lifestyle of hopping around the world with his teleporting ability vacationing all the time. Nevertheless, he could have been a sympathetic character viewers rooted for with just one simple action.


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A common term for making antiheros likeable is "petting the pooch." If in the beginning of his kind of crappy lifestyle, David had pet a pooch, then that could have solved the likeability problem. This didn't need to be literally petting a dog, though. In fact, the movie had the perfect opportunity to have David pet the pooch. After the beginning set-up scenes, David is zipping around his apartment filled with pictures of his travels, generally having a good time and living for himself. He turns on the TV and watches a brief news clip of people stranded in a flood. The reporter even says that there's no way to get those people out. David takes this clip in, and what does he do?

He hops up, gathers a bag, and travels to London to pick up a hot date. He then travels to Fiji, which was just hit by a big storm, so he can catch some large waves.

Jeez. Talk about insensitive.

If, instead, David had used his buildup of supplies and money to help the stranded people and then gone on his vacation, that would have presented an interesting dichotomy, where he is using his gift compassionately, yet also doing terrible things with it and living a pretty selfish life. This simple change could have given viewers a reason to root for David.

One more simple change could have brought this movie up from lame and forgettable to memorable. This is the acceptance of moral nuance and introduction of a character arc. David, a selfish Jumper, is chased by a fanatical organization that wants to kill him simply for possessing his abilities. The movie uses this plot to emphasize the message "Murder bad, David good." However, there were seeds of complexity that could have enhanced the movie if capitalized on. For instance, the main bad guy (he was played by Samuel L. Jackson, so he was too Samuel L. Jackson for his name to register) tells David that all of the Jumpers, even if they start out good, always end up using their abilities for selfish ends, which in his mind justifies murdering them all. This claim actually is a fairly valid one, coming from the classic Invisible Ring scenario, which posits that any normal man, given an invisible ring, would become completely immoral and selfish, taking whatever he wanted because he has the power to do so.

David protests that he's different, but this conversation, which should have come earlier in the movie, could have been the impetus of his character arc (which was practically nonexistent in the movie). David is different, in that he didn't have a slow slide to selfishness but started out that way. A slow realization of his selfish behavior, and that he actually does fit the reasons Samuel L. Jackson wanted to kill him, could have slowly transformed him from the selfish man living for himself to the man you got a glimpse of in the pet the pooch moment we didn't have. In the end, without the character arc, David ends up in pretty much the same place he started out in, as does the bad guy, except for the fact that David has a girlfriend now.

Hayden Christensen is a good actor, but the writers for this movie really dropped the ball.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

It's All Greek to Me

   When I was little, my mom read D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths to me and I was intrigued by all the crazy stories of Greek gods. I got a little older and read more in-depth stories of the Greek myths (two in a row that said the exact same things and I have never let my mom forget it). A couple years after that, I read the Percy Jackson series, and in high school I read The Odyssey and Oedipus Rex. I can explain the story of Atlas and Prometheus and identify Aphrodite in Renaissance paintings.
   I have noticed that many Christians are afraid of letting their children be exposed to views opposite of their own, telling their children not to read the part in history books about Greek myths, banning movies that mention such things as evolution or magic, shielding their kids from anything that might make them doubt Christ for their entire childhood. This has never been my experience. I listened to The Wizard of Oz on four cassette tapes over and over again when I was small, even though my mom didn't believe in good witches. All I got was a warning, "There's no such thing as a good witch," and I was free to memorize The Wizard of Oz and the preview chapter of Pinocchio to my heart's content. I've studied evolutionary theory from a Christian perspective and I read On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (I might be a little bit obsessed with the full title). I've read the Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx had issues, man) and several different books explaining the prevailing worldviews in the world today. I watched Star Wars at age eight and Lord of the Rings several years after. I read The Hunger Games at twelve. 
   My parents were open to letting me be exposed to the world (at appropriate ages, of course) and discussing views that differed from ours. In no way did this hinder my connection to God, but instead it strengthened my convictions. I was not hidden from the attacks Christianity has come under and was able to learn the counterarguments to these attacks. I know evolutionary theory probably better than most who believe in it, and so understand the weaknesses inherent in the model. I can recognize communism in the world, and I didn't become a Communist by learning about the worldview. I was allowed to question everything because in that way I received answers and grew in knowledge and understanding of my faith and the world I live in.
   In many ways, I can't help but see how such a restrictive, protective lifestyle actually hinders the Christian walk rather than helping it. When one is told what to think and not how to think, that leaves the person vulnerable to any person with an authoritative stance on a subject. A faith cannot truly become personal until it is tested, and a child raised in a Christian home is crippled by not exercising his brain and solidifying his faith until he grows up and is thrown into the real world as an adult. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
   Not only does the absence of exposure to differing worldviews hinder faith, it makes it almost impossible for a Christian to relate to those in the world, understand them, and reach out to them. This world has been built by those who did not follow God, and if one does not understand their beliefs, one cannot understand our world either. For example, let's go back to my good ol' Greek myths. Sure, they were the center of pagan worship of false gods. Yes, they seem kind of silly to us today. But the Greek myths have permeated Western culture far more than any of us quite realize today. At the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor in Walt Disney World, Mike Wazowski tells a joke about Roz and how ugly she is: "The face that launched a thousand lunches." It's a silly thing about Roz being so ugly that she makes people throw up, but the joke is also a twist of the classic "face that launched a thousand ships." This phrase references Helen of Troy, who was kidnapped by Paris because Aphrodite promised him the most beautiful woman in the world, and the Greeks went to war with Troy because of it, launching a fleet of a thousand ships across the sea to fight for Helen's honor.
   Missing out on this joke because of a weak understanding of Greek mythology doesn't truly hinder anyone in much. But this is just one example of how much Greek mythology has affected the world we live in. "Achilles heel". "Between a rock and a hard place." "Trojan horse." "Mentor." "The Midas touch." "Opening Pandora's box." "Narcissists." Many of the Renaissance paintings done by Christian men, such as Raphael, Michaelangelo, and Botticelli. That hideous statue of George Washington hidden somewhere in Washington DC that posed him like Zeus. Without an understanding of Greek beliefs, we can't understand why the Renaissance paintings so frequently featured naked people. Even in Acts, the Greek and Roman gods are mentioned. In one town, Paul was labeled Mercury because he spoke to the people and the man accompanying him was called Jupiter. In Ephesus, he was not very welcomed because he was cutting in on the merchants' sale of Diana (Artemis) statues to those who came to visit the temple in the city. Without an understanding of Greek mythology, we miss out on the context of so many things that have come to be in this world. 
   If Greek mythology is so integral to understanding the world, how much more is understanding modern belief systems important? So many times I have heard Christians insult those who believe differently than they do from an attitude of superiority when they don't truly understand why they believe differently. Without understanding of those differing beliefs, you cannot have compassion for those who believe them or have a real conversation with them. And without compassion, you will turn people away from Christianity rather than bring them in. If you do not deign to understand what those who are different than you believe or participate in cultural landmarks such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, how will you ever be able to understand those who live in the world and befriend them? If you cannot befriend them, how will you reach them with the truth? And how can you ever make a difference in the direction the culture is going if you won't participate in or understand where the culture is now?
   I can't say I understand the move to keep your children from everything you disagree with. To be frank, it's all Greek to me.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

I'm Alive!

 I bet you thought I wouldn't be back, didn't you?

Silly you.


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So what have I been up to in my six-month-long blog absence?

I went to Realmmakers.


And had a great time! (No younglings were harmed in the making of this photo.)

I learned a lot about writing and injuries and had a bunch of fun with my sister and Jaye L. Knight and Tricia Mingerink, my roomies. Definitely recommend! (Although my bank account cried because of it.)

I got all As in my college classes!


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I just about went crazy doing it, but I survived! 


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I wrote a bunch of Star Wars fanfiction!


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And I'm not even sorry. It kept me sane while my brain was sucked away by papers and I had none left to get unstuck in my original work.


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I learned some things in my foray into the world of fanfiction along with having a great time. 

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First of all, no one understands how to spell discreet. It's not discrete, it's discreet. Merlin did not sneak down the hallway like a whole number, he snuck down the hallway attracting little notice. 


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There is no such thing as Force suppressors besides ysalamiri, yet people are obsessed with putting it in their works. 

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Most Star Wars fans that write fanfiction take the side of Anakin without stopping to consider that the other characters had very valid points and that Anakin's view is incredibly colored and biased.

#disappointedbutnotsurprised

Also, some people in this world really need Jesus.

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I have been horrified by some of the ships out there. Padme/Han, Leia/Boba Fett, Luke/Boba Fett, Luke/Din Djarin, Anakin/Ahsoka, Jango/Obi-Wan, Vader/Tarkin, Ahsoka/Maul...

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What is wrong with some of you guys?

Also, I really wish books had AO3 tags. It would make it so much easier to find the books I want to read without being shocked by main characters dying at the end, making me want to throw the book across the room (but I can't because it's on Kindle. Ugh.) Enemies-to-Lovers, Angst with a happy ending, Hurt/Comfort, Whump... I just need AO3 tags on my books, please.

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Not related to fanfiction, I have learned I really hate the old people Facebook memes bashing the current generation because back in the Revolution they were real men, not wimps, they didn't have allergies and chronic illnesses and mental health issues and such.


I read a lot of great books!


And some...not so great ones.


What even was that incest plotline in City of Bones? Why would you write that? What is wrong with that author? Somebody spent a little too much time watching The Empire Strikes Back.


And Jesus and John Wayne was just...there are no words.

I also got a cat!


Isn't he a beauty? I named him Pippin and it fits so well, crazy guy.

All in all, it hasn't been a bad year. Here's to a new one in which I don't drop off the face of the earth for six months!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It's Time to Stop Romanticizing the Past

   I hear it all the time from many people I know. "It wasn't like this back in [insert era]." "Kids these days are so weak. They aren't raised like they used to. Kids used to be tough." "Back in the Colonial era [or the days of the Ancient Israelites, or what have you], there weren't any teenagers. Kids grew up a lot faster. None of this nonsense we have now." Or "America used to be such a God-fearing nation, and look at us now! If only America was the same as it was in the day of the Founders." "In World War Two, we had real men, and now, young men get PTSD from social media posts!" I've even heard someone say that this is the only era where kids really disobey their parents, that before modern times, children obeyed without question.
   Look. I won't deny that the past had its bright spots. We wouldn't have civilization without the bright spots of the past. But, much like human nature itself, the history of the world is a long, varied history of misery and destruction and sin. We tend to focus only on the brightness of the past as contrasted with our present mistakes, but that gives us a rose-colored view of history.  This age isn't any better or worse than any previous time. The eras of the past did not have it more together than we do. The miseries we focus on that we claim are all our own are often reflected in the past by similar miseries.


   1. The past century is hardly the first with US government overreach. John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers, the second president of the United States, pressed for and signed laws that made it illegal to speak out against the president or government. He thought such talk was treasonous and would doom the republic. He made sure newspapers were shut down and people were jailed for criticizing him. Incidentally, this is the primary reason he was a one-term president.

   2. Abraham Lincoln had many instances of government overreach. Among those was calling up the militias of various states without prior authorization from the proper parties, writing executive orders that were treated as legislation even though he had no jurisdiction over the places he attempted to order around (ever heard of the Emancipation Proclamation, anyone?), and suspending the right of habeas corpus (that is, the right to be brought to court to determine whether you were lawfully imprisoned).
  
   3. The ancient Israelites did indeed declare their children adults at around the age our children become teenagers, which is understandable for a time when life expectancies are incredibly low and the most important part of becoming an adult is producing offspring. This, however, does not mean they were wiser than we are or that their teenagers were more mature than ours or that any of the ancient Israelites had it more together than we do. Here's a short list of things the ancient Israelites frequently did based only on Old Testament accounts: 
    sacrifice their children on burning altars to the idol Molech
    worship the literal sun
    sell their neighbors and each other into slavery
    frequently gang rape travelers (Judges 19, in case you were wondering)
    fight a civil war over said gang rape, ostracize an entire state, then kidnap Israelite women and force them to marry random men just to make up for rash promises made in the heat of battle
    sacrifice their children in the name of God (also in Judges, just so you know)
    worship any and every god that came along from other places
   frequently practice polygamy
    set up Temple prostitutes (not the gender you're thinking of) right outside the Temple built by Solomon
    somehow lose the Law of Moses for generations, multiple times
    occasionally resort to cannibalism and petition the king to mediate because one woman killed her son and ate him and the neighbor broke her promise to do the same
   I could go on, but I feel like I've made my point.

   4. The vice president of Thomas Jefferson killed a prominent politician while he was in office. Aaron Burr's political career was ruined after killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

   5. While many Americans during the Colonial era were Christians, or at least attending church, the Enlightenment was spreading through Europe, an atheistic movement that depended on reason to figure out truth. This movement did not leave America untouched either.

   6. And let's not forget the glaringly obvious issue of the Colonial era we so hold up. Yes, many of the Founders hated slavery, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. But it was still very legal and very present in America and pretty much everywhere else in the world. Not to mention all the
    smallpox
    malaria
    yellow fever
    measles
    bad water
    dysentery
    cholera
    terrible medical practices such as bleeding
    surgery without anesthesia
    lack of running water
    high infant mortality rates
    backbreaking laundry and scalding soap
    reliance on wooden ships for overseas products
    no air condition
    general disregard for women
    lack of decent education available to the poor
    a life expectancy of 36 
    the church bells rang for the dead so much that they were deemed by law to be a public nuisance

   7. Talk about race riots. Back in the 1850s, there was literal guerilla warfare on both sides of the issue of whether Kansas would enter the union as a free or slave state.

   8. While I forever honor the sacrifices of the generation that fought in World War II, this is not to diminish them. However, we still ought to acknowledge their faults. For instance, the lack of regard for mental health professionals and mental disorders that led to many veterans struggling alone with alcoholism and other addictions, PTSD, and pornography. Not to mention the higher rates of domestic violence, disregard for women, and polio. Also, this was the generation that fully endorsed eugenics and even began practicing it until the news of the Holocaust broke.

   The point I'm trying to make is that while there were good things about the past, there were also plenty of bad things, and we can't pretend like there weren't. Many in mainstream society tend to only focus on the negative aspects of history, but we can't let this drive us to only focus on the positive aspects. Both are dishonest and don't lead to a proper understanding of the past. For if we don't know the mistakes of the past, how can we hope to not repeat them?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Actorek: The Void

   My sister's new book is coming out! Check it out below! I'd say more about it, but my brain is mush from studying for a college term paper and all I have the brain capacity to talk about right now is Martin Luther's view on the Jews, so just see below for more information about this awesome book.

 


About the Book

 Which would you choose—save your sister or save the world?

 Emma Edsel’s first priority has always been protecting her blind sister Carla. So when Carla begins to develop science-defying abilities that threaten her life, Emma will stop at nothing to save her. With nowhere else to turn, she seeks help from Mitchell, the new boy at school who seems to know much more about it than he will admit.

 After his last mission went horribly awry, Mitchell Banks is relieved to have a simple task: seal a small, accidental portal between Earth and other worlds in the multiverse. He didn’t count on his growing feelings for Emma—and the dangerous levels of dimension energy contaminating Carla.

 Carla knows the voice in her head is evil. Manipulative. Feeding her with a strange energy she can control. She doesn’t know that she is the key to a coming global catastrophe and Mitchell’s boss will use any means possible to prevent it…including blackmailing him into murdering her.

 

Buy Now!

 

Add to Goodreads

 

About the Author



Morgan Elizabeth Huneke fell in love with sci-fi and fantasy at age seven when she first read A Wrinkle in Time and The Chronicles of Narnia. In the time since, she’s spent an inordinate amount of time exploring new realms and bygone eras through countless books, movies, and TV shows. She also spends a great deal of time talking to her imaginary friends and writing down their stories in books such as the Time Captives fantasy trilogy and Twisted Dreams, a sci-fi/fantasy Sleeping Beauty novella. On the occasion she remembers she lives in Georgia in the 21st century, she can be found working at the local library, playing and teaching violin and piano, singing along to Disney and Broadway soundtracks, making casseroles while blaring Casting Crowns, sewing her own clothes, turning pirouettes in the kitchen, and volunteering for political campaigns. 

 

Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of Acktorek: The Void! Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.

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 Monday, October 26

·       Tour Announcement at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

·       Book Review at Living Outside the Lines

·       Author Interview at Isamonkey Reviews

 

Tuesday, October 27

·       Book Spotlight at Jaye L. Knight

·       Author Interview at Living Outside the Lines

·       Interview with Emma at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

 

Wednesday, October 28

·       Book Spotlight at The Music of a Story

·       Interview with Mitchell at Living Outside the Lines

 

Thursday, October 29

·       Book Review at Tricia Mingerink

·       Interview with Carla at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

 

Friday, October 30

·       Tour Wrap-Up at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

32 Signs You're a Star Wars Super Fan

    AKA Signs you're a huge Star Wars nerd.

1. You know the difference between an AT-AT and an AT-ST.

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2. You will correct anyone who confuses the two.

3. You know who Sy Snootles is.

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4. You know who Sy Snootle's ex-boyfriend is.

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5. You really wish you didn't know that Sy Snootles ever had a boyfriend.

6. You know who Maximilian Veers is.

7. You can pick him out in The Empire Strikes Back.

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8. You know he has a son named Zevulon Veers that joined the Rebels.

9. You know that Jar-Jar Binks has a girlfriend.

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10. Not only do you know who Mara Jade is, you know what year she was born, the color of her eyes, and the manner of her death. And her employer. And the colors of her various lightsabers.

11. You can trace the path Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber took through its life. In both Star Wars universes.

12. You're afraid to know how many times you've watched Star Wars.

13. You know who Bib Fortuna is the instant you hear his name.

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14. You've heard of Tatooine, Klatooine, and Dantooine and know the differences between each planet.

15. You know Obi-Wan Kenobi's home planet's name.

16. You know who Porkins is.

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17. You know the band "Figran Dan and the Modal Nodes." And you enjoy their music.

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18. You can hear any Star Wars quote and instantly know what movie it's from, who said it, and what's happening in the scene it's in.

19. The Star Wars music from any part of any of the first six (or the only) movies is instantly recognizable to you, even though you don't listen to the soundtrack that often.

20. You know who Yaddle is and where she came from.

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21. You know every change George Lucas made to every Star Wars movie. And you don't actually hate all of them.

22. You know who Captain Panaka and Captain Typho are, and that Typho is Panaka's nephew.

23. You know what model of freighter the Millennium Falcon is...though of course it's heavily modified.

24. You know the names of the seven different lightsaber forms.

25. You know that while he was a padawan, Obi-Wan favored Ataru, but after Qui-Gon's death, he switched to Soresu.

26. You know that Qui-Gon Jinn wasn't all that great of a master.

27. You know that he only accepted Obi-Wan as his apprentice after Obi-Wan threatened to blow himself up to save Qui-Gon's life.

28. You know what an ysalamiri is and can recognize it in the background of any scene.

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29. You know that Jan Dodonna and Crix Madine both used to be Imperials.

30. You know that in Legends, Thrawn could not have disappeared into Wild Space with Ezra Bridger before the Battle of Yavin because he was briefly mentioned as Captain Thrawn meeting with the emperor after the Death Star blew up in Rebel Force with Crix Madine.

31. You know that Sebulba bought Anakin's pod when Qui-Gon sold it.

32. You know that Luke Skywalker once podraced.

I can't believe I know all that. What obscure Star Wars facts do you know?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How Pride Changed the World



    Pride is the downfall of humanity. It can be found everywhere, in every man. Even those who are humble are often, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, proud of their humility. But the unlikeliest of outcomes can emerge from the pride of a few men. 

   Way back in 1763, life was good in the American colonies. The people had formed militias, marched alongside their British brethren, and defeated the French. A new land was open for settlement and opportunities, and that was all thanks to their British domination. They were proud to be British subjects. They were happy.

   Others were not so happy. Fighting wars is expensive, and the British government had dug themselves into a money hole. No matter, they thought. We'll just raise taxes. The colonists in America will surely be glad to help finance the war we fought and won for them. 

   And they were right. The American colonists would have been perfectly happy to comply and give them everything they asked for. But a simple, ordinary event turned into a world-changing one. Something that should have been easy and barely a mark on the history books turned into the revolution that would rock the world. What happened?

   See, the colonists in America all saw themselves as normal British subjects with the rights of British subjects, just as if they were living in England. They had set up their own governments and legislatures akin to Parliament that were recognized by the crown as the only legitimate government for the colonies. After all, it was impossible because of the distance to ever have Parliament govern the colonies. And those governments were happy to do the crown's bidding just as Parliament was. All the king had to do was ask for a tax, and the governments would levy a tax. They had never denied a request for a tax before and they had no plans to change now.

   However, a certain pride had overtaken many in England, especially in the government. The colonists in America weren't seen anymore as equals, but as second-class, inferior to the people and government in England, unable to govern themselves properly, and bound to obey the government of Great Britain in all things. They didn't see the colonists as deserving of the English rights protected by the Magna Charta and the Glorious Revolution and so valued by all British subjects. They were simply servants, akin to the people living in the Caribbean or India or any other British colony.

   So the British government didn't ask the colonies to levy taxes to help pay for the war. They simply levied a tax themselves. The infamous Stamp Act of 1765 was this tax. And the colonists were furious. They were a people with a rich history of peaceful rebellion and restraint on government. They had certain prized rights that their ancestors had defied kings to ensure. They weren't going to take an incursion on their rights lightly. The colonists formed a congress made up of representatives from their legislatures that wrote up a petition politely telling the king that Parliament had no jurisdiction over them and could he please reign in the excesses and power grab of Parliament? Less politely, the colonists made the lives of Stamp Act collectors so miserable no one wanted the job, and Parliament was forced to repeal the Stamp Act.

   The incident could have ended there. But pride reared its ugly head and set the course of history on a different path. While repealing the Stamp Act, the members of Parliament declared that they did indeed have all authority to do whatever they wanted to the colonists. They told the colonists that they were indeed represented in Parliament, but virtually. In the same way as children, women, criminals, and the mentally insane weren't competent enough to elect their own representatives, but still represented by the members of Parliament, so too were the colonists.

   Naturally, the colonists didn't take such an insult well at all. They didn't appreciate suddenly becoming second-class citizens when they'd been equals to mainland British subjects for so long. So when the Townshend Acts were passed, they were completely ignored. And the path had been set. The British government would not budge in treating the colonists like the second-class citizens they believed them to be, and the colonists would not let themselves be abused without a fight. British pride and superiority had destroyed the amicable relationship of the British and the American colonists.

   And the rest? Well, it's history.