Monday, December 10, 2012

Prior to This

There was a time in which a person could have visited all the sites on the entire internet
Prior to that a person could have played every video game that had ever been sold
Prior to that a person could have watched every TV show ever broadcast
Prior to that you could have listened to every radio broadcast in history
Prior to that a person could have seen every movie ever filmed
Prior to that read every magazine that had been printed
Prior to that read every newspaper that had been edited
Prior to that read all words that had been written on paper
Prior to that skimmed all words on cloth
Prior to that looked over all words chiseled into tablets and walls
Prior to that you could have heard every word in every language
Prior to that you could have heard every word ever spoken
Prior to that you could have dreamed every dream
Prior to that you could have seen every sight a human had ever looked upon
Prior to that you couldn't have done anything, as that was the earliest thing a human could have done, and been called a human...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Thoughts on "Rise of the Guardians"

I have decided to write a couple blogs.  This is after way too long without writing, and even when I am just commenting on things out in the ether I still feel a creative pressure valve has been turned.  To that end, I am going to write about "Rise of the Guardians", which might be the most poorly titled movie I can call to mind... Maybe "Inception" has a worse title, and the title of "Mind Heist" or something more touching like "Dreams of Home"... I am off topic, "Guardians".

This.  This is the movie that I am talking about.

"Rise of the Guardians" is an uneven movie, when it is good it is great, but there are so many little hiccups that keep it from breaking out.  It is a timeless movie, I imagine this will be played and watched for years to come whenever Easter or Christmas rolls around, but it is not special, it is not "Toy Story" or "Shrek" when it comes to impact or emotional weight.

If you want a short review: 6/10.  It is good, certainly worth watching.  The imaginative worlds that are portrayed take into mind so many cool ideas and expand them in original ways that still make sense and give them a beauty that is more than skin deep.  There are some problems with the animation, like Santa's beard doesn't move like hair, but nothing that breaks the movie.  The jokes are small, punchy, and used to lighten a scene but never detract.  The main character has a good back story that is explored well in the film, and his growth and arc as a character do a good job of framing the story and bringing the audience along for the ride.

All that being said I want to talk about the three big things that I thought were wrong with the movie.  Each of these things could be considered to cost one or two points, if each of these things had been fixed, than I think this would have been a 10/10.  SPOILERS.

Number one, the metaphysics of this universe are a little unclear and move at an unhealthy pace.  It makes sense from a narrative perspective, the Boogey Man has been slowly taking over the role of the Sandman without Sandy knowing, gathering nightmares to serve as minions, then Pitch attacks the North Pole so that Santa will gather the Guardians, since the Guardians are not protecting their home bases this allows Pitch to then attack the Tooth Fairy's kingdom since she works everyday of the year this quickly starts to spread disappointment and disbelief across the globe, as the Guardians fight back Pitch Black then defeats Sandy, the groups most powerful member and the other member that works each day of the year, Pitch then shuts down Easter and at that point all of the members are knocked off balance... But it all happens in a week.  Not every child in the world had a nightmare, not every child across the globe lost a tooth, and not everyone celebrates Easter, but yet every child except one stops believing?  That is a bit much.  It makes sense narratively, but not logically.  Maybe this is just more of a heart-not-head movie, but even there I have a problem.

Yeah, it really doesn't make sense.  Though I suppose that was half the point of having a main character with amnesia, so that he can serve as an audience surrogate, that as the audience asks questions, Jack can ask the questions on there behalf thus allowing the world to be explained organically through dialogue according to the needs of the story...

The Guardians are powered by belief, they raise belief by fulfilling their task, they have the ability to fulfill their task because they have power, power granted by being believed in... It is a Mobius Strip of faith.  What starts the ball rolling?  What spurs the belief that causes them to be real and to be Guardians?  That makes no sense.  Also, I find Jack Frost's core principle (fun) to be at odds with the others, Wonder (Santa), Hope (Bunny), Dreams (Sandman), and Memory (Tooth Fairy).  The current four seem to be part of growing up: dream of new things, wonder at new things, hope for better things, and remember the good from before... Fun is more an ideal of the present, it is a shirking of responsibility in favor of living in the moment, that is not really in tune with the others... It is odd, and that is why I don't really think Jack Frost was an ideal main character, good not perfect.  What would make a better protagonist?  Well, that takes me to my next point.

Number two, the bad guy has a valid point.  Pitch Black is fear, and fear is a healthy part of growing up, it is facing that fear that allows us to push beyond and grow as people.  It is how we move from child to adult, and it is in facing fear that allows the little boy Jamie is able to bring Sandman back to life at the climax (more on that in number three).  The Boogey Man does not have a balance though, he just wants everyone everywhere to experience fear unending, and that is clearly bad.

This is my real complaint: they did not compromise in this movie.  There was no Halloween character... A black cat, an old witch, Dracula, or a Jack Lantern to represent Halloween, the fun time of year to be scared and it be a part of being a child.  I think a fight between Dracula and Pitch Black would be good, they could talk about how fear has a place in growing up, but that Pitch is an aberration and is breaking the system.  This debate would underline what is really wrong with the character, not fear, but imbalance.  But a conversation like this never takes place.

Though I suppose if you try to make Dracula a good guy you'll just end up with something that looks like a piece of shit... Like "Hotel Transylvania".
Conversely they could have had an alternate ending, with Pitch Black beaten he could repent and join the Guardians as that Halloween/fear type of character.  Pitch would become the scary but still heroic member of the team (like Batman) and try to make things right, correcting the system he threw out of whack.  This would make for a strong arc on Pitch's part, and would have been a better ultimate ending... This type of redemption ending actually happened in the two part pilot episode of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" in which the night god (Nightmare Moon) is shown the error of her ways and asked to rejoin the civilized world in her role guarding the night.  That is good story telling.

Number three, and this is the one most people will probably differ with me on, but this is the biggest and most important one, PAY OFF.  In this movie, two very big things are shown on the topic of death, the first is how Jack Frost became a magical entity, heroically saving his sister from thin ice and dying in an icy grave from doing so; the second death is Sandman being killed by Pitch Black, Sandy had been invested with a lot of personality and was ostensibly the most powerful member of the group, Sandy's death showed Pitch to be a threat, and gave the movie weight.  When they bring Sandman back at the end of the movie, a lot of that weight is lifted, and that causes the film to lose a lot of oomph.

Now, I am not just saying Sandman should have stayed dead, I am saying the movie should have ended with a new Sandman being born.  The movie started with Jack rising out of the ice, and the movie should end with the new Sandman rising to be the rookie protagonist of the next movie.  So who should have been the new Sandman?

In the movie there is a young boy named Jamie.  Jamie still believes in Bigfoot, the Tooth Fairy, and all the other magical creatures of the world, he is the last boy to still believe as Pitch starts to extinguish belief throughout the world.  Jamie has a little sister that is adorable and is present during the final confrontation with Pitch.  Logically, Jamie should die saving his sister from Pitch, just like Jack died saving his sister from the ice.  Then Jamie would rise as the new Sandman, that would be the pay off of his character, he went from believing in his dreams, to being the supreme dreamer.  That way the movie bookends with the RISING of two different GUARDIANS... You know, like the title.  You keep the emotional weight of Sandy's death, you also have Jack's death, and then you have Jamie's death, but from that a new beginning... Helps that the movie takes place on EASTER, you know, new beginnings, hope... The theme of the movie.

It makes his character have an arc too.  Arcs are important to narrative.  Without that, he starts the movie as a believer, and ends the movie as a believer, he is in a holding pattern for the film even though he practically saves the day anyway.
            What is more, much like the redemption ending I recommend in number two, this sort of ending has happened in this type of story too.  In the Vertigo comic book, "Sandman" written by my favorite author Neil Gaiman.  The titular Sandman dies during the course of the story and is replaced by a child named Daniel who is invested with all the power and memories of the previous incarnation.  This comic book is so different in tone from "Guardians" though that these similarities are skin deep, this series has a lot of violence and murder in it.

But yeah, those three things held the movie back, each more than the previous.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Some Thoughts on Death

            I have recently been thinking about the nature of reality and life and death.  Mostly because I am far too sullen for someone in his mid twenties who is as attractive as I am, and partly because I am deep and intellectual and actually do write poetry from time to time.

            While musing to myself, drinking tea, listening to podcasts of people describing psychedelic experiences, and staring at an optical illusion image that always seems to be moving I remembered this chestnut: when you die it is said that your body looses 21 grams.  How they could possibly measure such a thing, as a gram is only about 1/27th of an ounce and could literally be placed in the palm of your hand without you noticing, they don't seem to have a real answer to, but this little bit of factoid has led people to claim that it might be (or in the more extreme cases just flat out declare that it is) the soul leaving the human body.  I am somewhat skeptical.

            Regardless of this, I found myself having to do what I always do and came to this conclusion, be an incredibly cynical raincloud over everyone's afterlife picnic.  You might inexplicably loose 21 grams when you die, but there is something more certain, you do empty your bowels.  Guess which of these two things has a greater impact on the world you leave behind.

            Death is not majestic, graceful, or romantic.  Death is at best an escape route for the one doing the dying, at worst it is the final punctuation to a life that meandered and left unfulfilled.  For those left behind it is a pyrrhic victory, hopefully the person who just died will be thought of as no longer a burden or threat, at worst we are denied the further much needed or desired companionship of a person who is now beyond the veil.

            So I guess those are the thoughts I had while waiting for my tea to steep.  Now I will go listen to some aimless melodies and do some stretches before I head off to bed.

Tik-Tok on the clock and the Party don't stop...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thoughts on "The Dark Knight Rises"

            I'm not going to mince words, my favorite movie this year is "The Avengers" I loved it.  A sense of adventure runs through the whole thing; the heroes are battered and wrung out by the end; it has variety, color, and personality throughout; and it is a fun well paced story.  All that being said, "The Dark Knight Rises" is pretty good too, but it suffers from some things.

It's like it is missing something that I can't quite put my finger on.

            In "Rises" time and pacing are the enemy of the story, there are scenes that transition with ticking clocks running, and the transition is between bright daylight and stark night.  This happens twice.  That is a serious oversight.  But let's ignore that because really that is fridge flaws (flaws you notice when you are walking to the fridge to get a snack and the split second you are not being bombarded with media allows you to have some revelation because of the momentary window of clear thinking... This also happens while in the shower, or when you are pooping and have nothing to read).  the real problem with "Rises" is that it is two movies.

            The first movie, perhaps we could call it "Fall of the Dark Knight" takes a broken down Bruce Wayne and draws him into a conspiracy because he is assaulted in his home by Catwoman, over the course of the movie a love triangle (trapezoid) forms between Catwoman-> Batman = Bruce Wayne -> Miranda (another new character whom Bruce grows close to because she is trying to help him save his company), the movie ends with Batman being broken by Bane and the audience is left with the foreboding words, "When your city is in ashes, then you have my permission to die."  That is a whole movie, and it perfectly illustrates why Batman should not be Batman, Miranda is a healthy relationship that is helping him do good outside of being the Dark Knight, Bruce becomes the champion of the downtrodden that Harvey Dent failed to be.  What is more, Catwoman betraying him to Bane illustrates how his life as Batman has no healthy relationships for him.  What is more it has an "Empire Strikes Back" ending in which the hero is beaten by a guy in a gas mask.

Seriously, Luke literally falls for what seems like miles, kind of a pit like image right?

            The second half of "Rises" which should have been called, "The Dark Knight Rises" is Batman escaping from the prison (which is really a strong shout out to the comics Lazarus Pit, and a great literal interpretation of the Hero being at his lowest point), and the Gotham Police fighting with Bane and dealing with being hunted down.  This is also when Catwoman becomes a bigger character as her being trapped in Bane's Gotham is a fitting story metaphor for being guilt ridden over her betrayal of Batman and wanting to change things.  WE also have enough time to see how Batman breaks back into Gotham, a scene that does not appear in the current movie and is hand waved away as "I'm Batman".  Catwoman starts to fight against the reign of terror, Scarecrow's court, representing her trying to become good, Batman sees that she has changed and recruits her to help, the rest of the movie plays out as it did on screen: "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb".

            Yes, this means two movies that are each two hours long rather than the two hour and 40 minute bladder buster that we got, but two movies that would be better paced and have real developed character arcs for Catwoman, Matt Modine (whose lack of real development makes his heroism at the end come far too late and seem extremely weak), Joseph Gordon Levitt (though one might say that his story was the most complete arc left in the movie outside of Batman's) and Batman himself, as he lets Bruce Wayne die with the occupation and let Batman become the symbol he always aspired to make it.  (Link leads to a very interesting history of Bat mythology through history)

 I'm going to show the people of Gotham that the city doesn't belong to the criminals and the corrupt. People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. I can't do this as Bruce Wayne. A man is just flesh and blood and can be ignored or destroyed. But as a symbol... as a symbol, I can be incorruptible, everlasting.

Overall 4/5 stars.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The NeXt "X-Men" Movie

            Apparently the sequel to "X-Men: First Class" will be based on the X-Men comic "Days of Future Past", generally considered on of the best stories in X-Men.  In the story, the far off distant year of 2013 is a complete dystopia (It was written in 1981).  Giant Robots called Sentinels have wrecked the world, a holocaust of billions ensues.  Turns out the Sentinels were created by humans to fight back against Magneto and mutants in general, but since Mutation is pretty much the destiny of all human lineage, the Sentinels took to scorching the world to stop the proliferation of mutants.  The last of the X-Men send an envoy back in time to stop the rise of the Sentinels.

They have also been Mecha in the past, but that would not serve the narrative very well I think.
            The story has been adapted a few times, giving important roles to different characters, sometimes it is Wolverine (Ultimate Universe) that goes back, other times Bishop (90's Animated Universe), and in the Original story it was Kitty Pryde, a character that was portrayed by Ellen Page in "X-Men: The Last Stand" (a well casted shitty movie).  The story is often mixed with other time travel stories, mostly involving the character Apocalypse, who has yet to appear in the movies and is a very cool and interesting character.  To that end the story has a lot to offer in the way of characters, bad guys, and more over story opportunities that would help to explain why the "X-Men: First Class" film was not entirely in continuity with the other X-Men Franchise... The same reason "Star Trek" (2009) was not in strong continuity with the old series: TIME TRAVEL SHENANIGANS.

            However being a fan of the comics, cartoons, movies, and other X-Crap, I would like to offer suggestions on what should, or could be in this movie.  It's a Top 5 List.

            5) Cast Members from the first three movies.  You could get Ellen Page back playing a more grown up Kitty Pryde, come from the future to warn of time traveling Sentinels coming back in time to kill Prof. X and Magneto, sort of like "Terminator" but with the X-Men.  You could also have Hugh Jackman do another cameo of him fighting killer robots in the Future.  You could also get Taylor Kitsch, the guy who played Gambit, as I think his career is effectively over and he would be an inexpensive character to add.

My lack of necessity is only matched by my complete inability to be recalled.
            4) Master Mold.  The Sentinels are some of the most stylized robots ever conceived.  No where is this more evident than the sky scrapper sized factory, which is also shaped to look like, and is fully functional as: a giant robotic holocaust on poorly drawn feet.  Master Mold is a walking factory bent on the Annihilation of mutants and humans alike.  It is Sky-Net crossed with Mecha Godzilla.  It would serve as a huge set piece for the movie that could out do "The Avengers" in over the top awesome factor.

Seen here in all his 90's animated glory.  By which I mean the tortured attempt to bring to life the over drawn designs of Jim Lee, who never meet a cross hatching or wild inking he did not like.
            3) New characters based around the idea of time travel.  Bishop and Cable are both front runners in this category.  And both have been the time traveling hero in previous adaptations of the story (although when it was Cable, it was really a future version of Wolverine, who was traveling back to stop Apocalypse... but you could cut most of that crap).  Really, I think that Cable would be the easier character to cast, as Stephen Lang (the military leader from "Avatar") looks the part and is comfortable working in genre fiction, but I think Bishop would be the better character to go with, as the X-Men (who are supposed to be a metaphor for diversity) don't really need another white guy on the team.  Jason Mamoa, IdrisElba, Djimon Housou, or Chiwetel Ejiofor would all be good picks to play the character.

Bishop and Cable also share an unlisted super power.  The ability to hold gigantic guns and not look silly.

            2) Time Traveling VillainsNimrod, Trevor Fitzroy, or Legion would all be top candidates, and they all serve very different functions.  Nimrod is a nigh unstoppable Robot that even if reduced to component parts can pull itself back together, and would work if the "Terminator" with X-Men idea went forward.  Trevor Fitzroy, is the archenemy of Bishop, and the son of Shaw (Kevin Bacon's character in "X-Men: First Class")  having him come back through time to seek revenge on the X-Men for the Death of his father would be a good starting point for the movie, just have Bishop follow afterword, from a future in which Xavier wasn't around to call for peace.  Legion is the child of Charles Xavier, he traveled back in time to kill Magneto so that Xavier would be able to pursue peace without having to apologize for Magneto's terrorism, thing is Legion is a fuck up and accidently killed Xavier, leading to a world in which Magneto had a full on war with humanity unchecked by Charles.  Each has strengths, each could work.

If Nimrod were the character it has another advantage: You could have the X-Men fighting thousands of Nimrods not unlike the alien invasion in "The Avengers", or the army of Terminators from "Salvation".

            1) Apocalypse.  Aside from Magneto, Apocalypse is the number one bad guy for the X-Men.  He was the first mutant, and with the help of alien technology he has lived forever slowly through war and destruction fostering the growth of Mutant kind.  He made the world into a eugenics crucible to produce the X-Men.  Having him be the ultimate mastermind behind it all, having created the Sentinels as a way to kill of the weakest of the world by the millions and the experiment getting out of hand would be a great story.  You could go so far as to have Apocalypse from 2013 send Bishop or Cable back in time to stop Apocalypse in the 60's (the presumed setting of the next movie).  Hell, you could have it that the Hellfire Club (the villains from the first movie) were trying to start a nuclear war because they were working for Apocalypse, possibly knowingly.  It is major villain, with a major plan, and a lot of power, and a lot of grandeur that would explain the stylized appearance of the Sentinels.  He is a perfect villain for the movie.

"I am the rocks of the eternal shore.... crash against me AND BE BROKEN" 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Poem, "Lonely Dante"

Dante was alone.
Along golden roads
empty, and unowned
vacuous commodes.

Bustling Dis gone.
Sinners disavowed
together, not one
went on head bowed.

Earth and Hell,
that is where
we all dwell.
Does He care?

So few do know,
better to rule
together low,
rather than fool

the crowd
to pray,
quite loud
each day.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Review "Prometheus"

            "Prometheus", or as it could be subtitled, "Why are they doing that, it seems really dangerous and stupid?"

            I saw this the weekend it came out, which is very uncharacteristic of me, as I am incredibly cheap, but it looked like a really genre defining movie.  To be honest I have never been a fan of the "Alien" franchise, it is only okay in my opinion, as the first movie is rather boring, and I actually have had no drive to see the others.

            There is nothing in this movie I did not understand.  It did not go over my head, I've read about this soon to be tired concept many times.  The only thing that escapes me is what was going on in the minds of the shitty characters.  People react to things so inconsistently with how a normal person would react (with notable exceptions) that it detaches you from the movie, and grows frustrating.  "Looks poisonous, let me have a lick." "Is that barbed?  Let me check by shoving it up my own ass."

"Jesus, I know we transported down to dangerous locations all the time, but we never had a budget for cool space suits, its not like we had them and didn't use them correctly."

            Let me go over the things I liked.  I liked the main character in spite of her "faith", which is a major point of stupidity in the movie, she openly states that she believes and acts on assumptions she makes without evidence (I can't remember the character's name).  I liked the Captain in spite of him leaving more than one crew member to die in an alien fortress so he could dip his dick in Charlize Theron, honestly she is so pretty and the characters he left to die were so annoying I can't really hold it against him (can't remember his name either). I liked Michael Fassbender's performance so much that I think he should get a best supporting actor nod (though the character does numerous things that make no sense, even in context, even after you have seen the whole movie).  And I really like Charlize Theron, she was a really cool character who was frequently the most level headed and sensible (so of course the movie tries to make her look like the bad guy through a good chunk) (SPOILER: she dies in a really stupid way).

            I very much enjoyed the look of the movie, the Alien colony/base is really creepy and alien in its appearance, because Giger knows how to make alien things look actually alien.  There are several good scenes.  And the ending I feel works, for the most part (though there is a certain cheapness to it).

I typed "Cheap Sci-fi Ending" into google, and this image from "Prometheus" was in the top 15 results.

            What I dislike is so numerous I think I will have a hard time listing it all to completion.  Chief is this: Characters don't act intelligently or with any sense of self preservation aside from those few I liked (and I primarily only liked them because of that trait).  The dialogue does not make sense with what is on the screen many times, with people wondering if the massive obvious structures, runways, and faces carved into mountains are artificial constructs.  The idea that these scientists just confirmed extraterrestrial life and they are not all ecstatic for such a discovery.  And good god: the tired stereotypes that appear that have no place in this type of film, those tropes were made fun of in "Cabin in the Woods" earlier this year.

            I dislike the way people rudely treat the Android character, David (Michael Fassbender), who is for all intents and purposes a human being with intelligence and a will of his own.  I can understand talking to him like a subordinate, he is there to assist, but it comes off so dickish.  I sympathize with the character and I just see him as a character in a movie.  The characters in the movie actually interact with him, shouldn't somebody talk to him as if he were a person using "please" and "Thank you" and asking him his opinion?  I mean, the idea of a sentient machine has existed for so long in science fiction I would like to think that if a group of forward thinking, planet hoping, diverse and adventurous super scientists met a thinking Machine they would be less obnoxious and more curious and open.  These scientists probably grew up in a world were movie making technology was hyper immersive (as evidenced by the hologram technology they used) and since these are scientists they probably are not unfamiliar with Science Fiction presented very convincingly.  These scientists would not be this thick headed... they're fucking scientists.

There is also a lot of goo in this movie.  So much so that at one point all I could  think of was that scene from "Ghostbusters 2" when Ray yells, "SLIME!  ITS A RIVER OF SLIME!"

            There are also little things that just don't make sense from a practical standpoint.  They don't take weapons with them on their initial exploration of the alien structure, and take off protective gear in situations that no sane person would do so (I said, "put your fucking helmet on" out loud in the theater, and had to stifle myself half way through the sentence).  Characters act maddeningly inconsistent (at one point the map maker, who has his own scouting robots, gets lost in the facility).  There are twists so lame, that when they were "revealed" to the audience people saw it telegraphed from a mile away (one reveal actually had a guy in the back of the theater say the word, "GASP" in the flattest tone I have heard this side of Ben Stein).

            And I would say that is my biggest complaint: this movie is dumb.  It has a consistent tone, cool realistic appearance (to a point, the last monster and space gods looked very CGI).  It is just that people make way too many objectively bad decisions for people who are trusted with representing mankind on a 100 billion dollar space exploration mission to find intelligent life.  And being a person who doesn't usually get mad at movies, this one pissed me off.  Which is a shame, the questions they meant to leave unanswered were thought provoking.  It's like a really beautiful a delicious looking cake, that someone walked in and shit on.  You shit on my Ace of Cakes.  It was something great marred by stupid and that makes it all the worse.

            I am actually thinking of more stuff to complain about, as I am sitting down to publish it, I could go on for pages.  And others have.  SHIT ON MY CAKE!

Ace of Cakes.  Like that, but with Shit on it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Poem, "Wolves"

Learn the Difference
Werewolf: a man who turns into a wolf
Ware-wolf: a wolf that buys and sells things
War-wolf: those of House Stark
Where-wolf: it might be behind you, right now
Whir-wolf: you'll hear it coming
Wear-wolf: they are snuggle conducive
Were-wolf: now it is a decorative throw rug

It Were-wolf.  It isn't anymore.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Some Stuff this Week

            The last few days have been too productive.  I hung out with friends three nights, one of which was Dungeons and Dragons, the next was getting Mexican Food, and the last was watching Anime and eating at Applebee's (it was the first time in multiple years I had eaten at an Applebee's, and it will be multiple years before I give them another chance, at one point I actually felt like throwing up on the table, not kidding).

            Of the Anime we watched I have mixed feelings about one in particular, it has double long episodes, and is a Japanese take on the sci-fi superhero genre, both too much and too little is explained many times.  It is called "Giant Robo", I liked the first episode well enough, lots of action good pacing, but the second episode we just watched, had terrible continuity, and I don't mean it went against the last episode (it did, but that is not too important) I mean that it contradicts itself several times in the final 10 minutes, so much so that the basis of the story, the motivations of the villains, and the capabilities of the heroes are all left confused and at odds with literally what just happened in the scene.  It was a mess, and it kind of ruined the series for me, because as much as I like the animation and initial impressions of the setting.  But it doesn't follow its own rules, and has some silly assertions about the world.  I can't recommend it because of those reasons.

Bit of a Shame, not going to lie.

            Yesterday (6/10) I continued with my weekly self evaluation to see if my summer gym visits are having an impact.  And I am doing alright, with almost universal improvement over last week:

Blood Pressure: 134/84 (Last week: 132/73)
            This is the only thing that did not improve and I have an explanation.  Normally I take 3 readings in 5 minutes and average them, that seems to be the better method than just taking one and done.  Even the machine says that multiple readings are necessary to get an accurate assessment of one's blood pressure.  But things were weird this time.
            I was approached by someone I knew from my study abroad trip to Istanbul, and I had the typical panicky reaction I have to social interaction that I have not been expecting, and while this doesn't manifest outwardly, aside from my usual blathering insanity, it did cause my blood pressure to spike on the first reading to 142/96, a bit of an outlier, so today I took a second to calm down, from the nerve wracking task of saying a pleasant hello to a very polite woman who I had previously talked to on a regular basis for more than a month (I am a shit head).  Then I took 5 readings, dropped the highest and the lowest, and averaged the other three.  It seemed sensible at the time to not queer my progress, though I think the impact still remains to a lesser extent (stupid public places with their people and chit chat).

Chin-ups: 6 (Last Week: 5)
            This may not be impressive in the grand scheme but I have not done this many in many, many, many months.

Leg Extensions (70lbs): 28 (Last Week: 26)
Bench (95lbs): 32 (Last Week: 28)
            Honestly I don't see this going too much higher, I have worked at this a lot and I am glad for my progress, but I doubt I will be getting beyond the upper 30's lower 40's in repetitions.

Leg Lifts: 22 (Last Week: 20)
1.5 miles: 20minutes 54seconds (Last Week: 21:30)
            This remains my weakest area and I think I will have to just try and do this exercise on a different day prior to exercising, rather than doing it as part of a larger evaluation.

Curls (25lbs): 33 (Last Week: 30)
Fly Extensions (10lbs): 40 (Last Week: 35)
Hold Breath: 56 seconds (Last Week: 52 seconds)
            This I also changed the way I take the data.  I usually average three attempts taken in 5 minutes, this time I did five attempts in 7 minutes and dropped the highest and lowest result before averaging the middle three.  I have no idea if this will have a meaningful impact on things.

Weight: 215lbs (Last Week: 216.5lbs)
            Not my best, but I am hoping it is just muscle.

Also, these are the boxes from the Cadbury Eggs I ate around Easter time.  That is three to a layer, 8 layers, equals 24 boxes.  Each box had 5 eggs, which means 120 all told.  The Cheez-it box is present for a sense of scale.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Donating Blood

            I gave blood for the first time this week, I was walking out of the Library on Wednesday and was hit by a one two punch of charity, a group selling brownies for breast cancer, and a woman asking people to give blood.  I bought two brownies, in part because I had not eaten since 5 hours prior, and that had been a spoonful of peanut butter and a tiny cup of yogurt, then had spent the rest of that morning doing homework and not thinking about food.  The brownies, I think helped with the blood donation.

            It was kind of funny the questions they ask, I think I had to confirm more than once that I was not in fact a drug user, and had never had sexual contact with a man, hopefully they are as probing with their questions to everyone and not just me, I think it would be a little rude to question me twice because I give off some sort of vibe, though what vibe a gay smack user gives off is unknown to me.

            Then there were the questions relating to going abroad, the attendant knew that Greece had some questionable cities on it, but none of the islands I had visited on my trip were on the list, and when I asked about Istanbul, the attendant stared blankly into space for a minute before deciding it was best to check.  Turns out, Turkey rings a few questionable bells, and I was in at least three places for which bells were typically rung.  London is also an issue, because of the angry cows, but they decided that you have to have been there for a certain period of time to be of issue.  During all of this they handed me crackers and juice, because brownies and yogurt was not exactly robust dinging and they thought I might get woozy without some additional calories.

This is me months ago, next to the Tigris River.  Not contracting any blood born pathogens.

            Then they pricked my finger and squeezed the bejeezus out of it to check my iron levels, which were fine.  Why they could not check that numeral by punching a hole in the back of my hand or the fleshy part of my palm so it didn't hurt as much I do not know.

            Then they laid me back, hooked up a shocking number of tubes, and stuck me.  It hurt, evidently this nurse had never been a user of intravenous drugs either because it was not the distant light stinging I had expected.  Either way I squeezed the stress ball, imbibed more juice and waited until the bag was filled, they handed me a receipt for my blood.  I relaxed for a minute watching them juggle and mix my vitals, using this little clamp thing to push the blood out of the tube that had ran to my arm, up into the sack which would be its final home, before being pumped into some poor sod who needed it.  I then was told to go home and eat and rest.

            I did, I went home, ate something, probably much smaller than I should have.  And then napped for 5 hours, it was lovely, even though I ended up having some really strange dreams as a result.

            And that was my last Wednesday.

            I also realize I have not been keeping up with updating my progress to get more in shape over the summer, so here is last Sunday (5/27) which shows a lot of improvement, though that might just be because I did the exercise after taking a day off to recuperate, where as before the battery of exercise came at the end of the week:
 Blood Pressure: 135/81
Chin-ups: 4
Leg Extensions (70lbs): 27
Bench (95lbs): 23
Leg Lifts: 21
1.5 miles: I lost count and couldn't tell you what time I was on.  This is a boring exercise.
Curls (25lbs): 30
Fly Extensions (10lbs): 30
Hold Breath: 55 seconds
Weight: 214.25lbs

And just yesterday (6/3) which had some big ups and several small downs:
Blood Pressure: 132/73
Chin-ups: 5
Leg Extensions (70lbs): 26
Bench (95lbs): 28
Leg Lifts: 20
1.5 miles: 21minutes 30seconds
Curls (25lbs): 30
Fly Extensions (10lbs): 35
Hold Breath: 52 seconds
Weight: 216.5lbs

            I am also reading a book I bought about 3-4 years ago, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell who is my favorite non-fiction writer.  The book is about geniuses and the environmental factors that produce extreme results.  How a large IQ is helpful, but only to a point; about how 10,000 hours of practice or study very much defines a persons ability to succeed in what they are doing; and how raising children to ask questions and to be willing to engage with those around them will make them vastly better at utilizing that high IQ and those hours of practice.  It is a fascinating read, sort of makes me wonder how different my life would be if I had gone to school at a different time, or if I had focused on writing more as a hobby in middle and high school to get the 10,000 hours of practice.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Some Random History

            In 1453 the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed II conquered Constantinople and absorbed the last of the Byzantine Empire.  Mehmed was 21.

And what have you done with your life?
             The last Emperor of Constantinople was Constantine XI, the final Caesar to rule Rome, but that was not their supposed end, it is however alleged that the Emperor's niece married into the rulers of Russia, and so the word Tsar, or Caesar was taken as title of ruler ship for the leaders of that nation, who considered themselves the Third Rome.  This line was put to an end by the Bolshevik Revolution, when Nicholas II and the royal family were killed.

            One might think that Rome, being the sexually liberated place that is was would have produced a lot of Caesars, genetically if not legally, Julius was called the Bald Adulterer in addition to his title of Unconquerable God.  But truth be told there were not that many illegitimate births in Ancient Rome because the Romans had an Herbal remedy that served as a morning after pill, Silphium, which was used to the point that only the memory of it lives on, the plant had been driven to extinction.

            Even if this was only in vogue for a century or two there were other barriers to the passing of the divine lineage of Caesar, that many of them were gay or bi-sexual, driving down the number of possible accidents that might result in unwanted child support payments.  Julius Caesar for instance is known for the famous line in Shakespeare's play, "Et tu, Brute?"  Naming one of his numerous assassins, Marcus Brutus.  This line was often explained that they were friends, which is likely; alternatively that they were illegitimate Father and son, which is unlikely as Julius was only 14 or 15 when Brutus was born; and what I think is the most likely explanation, they were gay lovers, as it was said that Caesar covered his face and surrendered to the assassins when he saw that Brutus was in their number, and that level of betrayal makes sense.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Dream I Had

            Had a nap, and got one of the most awesome dreams I have ever had.

            I was dreaming that I was in a city of dreamers, populated by people who were in comas or just sleeping very deeply, but they moved through a city that was very strangely laid out; now that I sit here it was kind of reminiscent of a nearby district of Istanbul that I lived near when I was a Koc University.  It had a lot of open store front restaurants, but with a added things like a lot of neon lights and it was really ethnically diverse.

            I was sitting in a Thai or Chinese store front area eating with and talking to this really old man, he had been in a coma or something for a very long time and had aged in the dream city.  We were talking about how you could get a free commemorative cup from the restaurant if you asked them to serve you your drink (and this is hard to describe), if they would serve you your drink in the cup that was pictured behind the counter (like someone had taken a picture of the cup and had it framed and hung it up behind the counter), the server then reached into the frame and pulled out two commemorative cups for us.  Cause this was a dream.

            Now at some point I ended up having some kind of freak out, because sometimes when you are in a dream and you know you are dreaming your mind goes to the worst possible thing you can think of.  For some people it is being naked in public (which I never got, when I dream of being naked in public I mostly just go with it), for other people they start to remember bad things that happened to them, for me I just went full blown nightmare.  The old man said to me, "Careful, you're going to start lighting this place up".

            Then these things started to slowly appear as everything got really red, because the sky was raining blood (probably had something with me having just donated blood and it being on my mind).  The things that appeared were monsters and killers, and horrific things that lined the street shoulder to shoulder like they were waiting for a parade to go by.  Nothing was too out there, there were guys (covered in blood from the rain) wrapped in chains, others had sacks on their heads, other were covered in scars or tattoos.

            And they were all just comely standing out as the residents of the dream city just kept on about their lives, as if this happened all the time.  Kind of like the Dark World of "Silent Hill" when I think about it.

            And then the nightmare passed like a quick rain storm, the blood vanished, and I went back to exploring the dream city.  Later I went into a very pricy looking store that had very fancy escalators, and slides to get back down, but that is not as interesting.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Short Story, "You have to be There"

            "You have to be there," I said.  "It isn't about the ruins, it is about what happened in the ruins."
            "I understand you like history," Rae replied.  "But when you have seen one ruin you have seen them all."
            I sighed, and walked up behind her, and put my hands over her eyes.
            "This is a little invasive," Rae said.
            "Just be quite for a second and think with me," I said.  "Picture the ruins."
            "You covered my eyes so I could picture what was right in front of me."
            "Yes, smart ass, now do it."
            "Okay," she said.
            "Relax as we travel back through time a bit," I started.  "You are not from here, you don't speak the language outside of the words for inn or food, you use your fingers to show how much you are willing to pay for something and you are surrounded by people who all dress, eat, talk, and think different from you.
            "You lead a pack animal, he is smaller than the one you started with who died at a pit stop and you sold for meat, along with a good bit of what it had been carrying for a stunted profit, all in hopes of lightening the load, all they had were smaller animals."
            "Why did you stop?" Rae asked.
            "Let me show you," I moved my hands from her eyes.
            "Oh, my God," she leaned back into me and gazed around, shades of old merchants and soldiers walked around us, see through, but still having the color of their skin and clothing, a shine to their armor dulled by the haze of time being looked back through.  "What is this?"
            "You have to be there."  And so we walked through the ruins of this long ago world, through the shades of those who had gone before, seeing the stories of those whose names had been forgotten, whose wares had been unsold, the few who had been robbed or who lived in poverty.  "Time may have passed, but it was, and in these places, time is, and that is why I like them."
            "Okay, this is less boring."
            "It was never boring," I replied.  "You were just bored."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Civilization V, pt3

            I would also like to see more wonders of the world, at launch the game only had 4 of the original 7, which is insulting as they later sold them as a mini game booster along with the Korean Civilization.  But if I had to suggest a couple I would suggest first, Burj Khalifa, the worlds half mile tall sky scrapper in Dubai, it appears for construction when you research the Mass Market I mentioned last blog; I think it could give a bonus to nearly any stat but I think the best thing it could do is boost trade benefits from international partners, granting extra happiness and money from each deal with a City State, since in real life the thing was intended to bring international attention and investment to the country.  I also think that since some wonders, like Machu Picchu require proximity to mountains that a really good mountain proximity wonder would be Mount Rushmore; it would appear for construction when you get Dynamite; the best bonus would be to generating Great Persons (special historical figures like Thomas Edison or Patton who do different things in the game), they have a wonder that does it currently the Hagia Sophia, so this would be an even bigger bonus being much later in the game.

A picture of me in front of the Hagia Sophia.
             More Wonders, the Hoover Dam, comes when you get electricity, and can only be built in the city is on a river it will grant a bonus to Production (another resource used to build buildings an units like soldiers), or a bonus to production in all cities and a free Hydro Electric dam in the city it is actually built in.  I also like the Panama Canal, it would be unique in that you would have to build it in two coastal cities that are only a certain distance apart, it would allow you to transport a naval unit between the two cities as if it had been led down the Canal.  And the Golden Gate Bridge would be another one, researched with Metallurgy (right now the only thing you get with Metallurgy is a shitty mounted unit) the Bridge would have to be over a lagoon type area on a coast, and it would grant a small bonus to units moving along roads.

            The Ancient Cities of Petra (an ancient city in Syria that is carved into a canyon wall and served as a place to get water and safe passage through the desert) and Timbuktu (a wealthy African capital city) that could also be added.  Petra comes with Engineering, gives the city a free Aqueduct with its construction granting a bonus to city growth on top of the Aqueduct.  Timbuktu would appear with Theology (as it was an important Islamic center), only be buildable on a river and grant a bonus to developing a religion.

The Oracle, a Wonder of the Ancient World... Kinda.
            Another could be the Las Vegas Strip (a massive expenditure of electricity and hub of money for the United States), have it appear with Electricity and have whatever city building it get a free Casino (a new building I think should be added), it would generate two Great Merchants, like the Louvre generates two Great Artists.  Probably the best one would be The Internet, you get it researching Computers and it should give a bonus to spies in enemy countries (like the Arab Spring in real life) and at the same time give you a bonus to pretty much everything.

            Really, I am hooked, and whatever they throw out there I will devour, I just hope it is good.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Civilization V, pt2

            There are things missing from the game that I don't really lament, but find odd.  For instance when you build the legendary wonder of the world "The Great Library (of Alexandria)" you get a free Library in the city as one of the benefits, cause that is common sense.  So when "The Louvre" one of the largest museums in the world becomes a buildable Wonder of the World later in the game you would think that as part of building it a free Museum would be one of the benefits, that is not the case.  On the topic of Museums, there is only one type, it grants a bonus to Culture (a resource used to buy policies in the game like Liberty or Patriarchy), that makes some sense, museums should provide a cultural benefit, but what about Science museums?  Why can't there be 2 types of museum, one that gives a big Culture benefit, and another that gives a smaller culture boost, but also gives a small science boost, and maybe a boost to your national happiness (another resource that builds up to a "Golden Age") if you are a country that is really focused on science?  Likewise, Libraries don't grant a bonus to culture (which, really the word "culture" is a stand in for philosophy in the early parts of the game, and Media in the late parts).

The Great Library.

            There are other things that could be added too.  Like for instance, there are 4 big buildings that grant happiness, Coliseums, Circuses (if you have horses or elephants), Theaters (which give no bonus to culture), and Stadiums.  Where are the amusement parks?  I know it is a little thing, but it would be a cool addition when you research railroads you get roller coaster parks that cities can build to increase Happiness.  For that matter, why are there no Zoos, Casinos or Breweries?  Currently the technology you start off with in the game is Agriculture, it costs nothing and allows you to build farms, but you can't build Granaries until you research Pottery, why not have Granaries come with agriculture and get Breweries when you research Pottery, the Brewery adds to Food production and some Happiness?  And Casinos could happen when you Research Electricity in the late game, have them give happiness and money.  Zoos would come with Biology, giving more of a happiness bonus.  Just make each structure cheaper to maintain, and have a lower overall bonus to happiness so you are not generating too much happiness and in doing so making it a nonfactor in the game play.

            I also think that researching Skyscrapers should be a technology that grants access to Apartment Complexes, which should give a bonus to city growth like the Aqueduct or Hospital.  Later they could have you research Mass Market, which would grant access to Grocery stores and allow Luxury items like gems and dyes to grant bigger bonuses to happiness (because it is making these items more available to you citizens.  They could also use Airports, which would allow you to fly a unit in a city to another city with an airport, and give a bonus to production.

            There is also the lack of alternative power, currently you can only get a Solar Power Plant for structures in the desert, and Hydro Electric Dams next to rivers, why not Wind Turbines as an upgrade to Windmills?  They could come along with the Solar Plants when researching Ecology in the late game.

This is the symbol for Ecology, a guy diving.  What do you get for researching Ecology?  Solar Plants, cause that is what you do to build Solar Plants in the desert, you go diving.

            So I guess there are a few things I would like them to add in the expansion, Amusement Parks, Breweries, Casinos, and different types of Museum.  What are some other things?  Well, since they are adding Religion as a new resource and mechanic then that means some culture buildings, Temples and Monasteries are going to have to change function.  So I guess new culture building will have to exist, maybe add Artist Communes (which existed in numerous ancient cultures) and maybe Academies (like the one Plato started in Greece), both of these could generate culture.