Saturday, August 28, 2010

Same Earth, Same Year, But Everything Else Is Different

In the early to mid 90's, the people at FOX were smoking some good shit. I don't know what it was, but it was some good shit. That's how the network that invented reality tv with the "When Animals Attack", actually allowed two good sci-fi shows to get (and more importantly STAY) on the air. One was The X-Files, which I'll talk about in another blog post, the other is the subject of this blog post. It's name:

The show follows a brilliant young scientist/student, Quinn Mallory, who is searching for the equation that will allow him to create anti-gravity. Instead he stumbles upon a way to jump between worlds. Along for the ride are his best friend and would-be girlfriend Wade Welles, his physics professor Maximillian Arturo, and soul singer Rembrandt Brown. On their first trip, something goes wrong and these four become lost in parallel universes, sliding from one alternate Earth to the next, trying to find their way home.

For those of you who don't know, certain branches of science, mostly in the Quantum Mechanics arena, have theorized that every possible outcome of every decision ever made did, in fact, happen. So let's say this morning you, dear readers, got up this morning and decided to make Lucky Charms for breakfast. You could have had eggs, but decided on Lucky Charms since they are magically delicious. But, in the instant when you made the decision an entire new universe was created where you chose to have eggs, instead of Lucky Charms because it's the incredible edible egg. That universe is now a brand new slot in the infinite cd changer that is the MultiVerse. With me so far? Good.

So we have all these universes racked up, side by side, in parallel to each other you might say. They are all just as real as the next, but slightly different. In one universe, McD's could have blue arches instead of yellow, or there could be a King & Queen of America... The possibilities are infinite! Now, imagine if you could jump from world to world and see what they were like. That is Sliders!

Now I do have to admit, Sliders was kind of a low-rent sci-fi show. It didn't have much of a budget, but the show made up for it with some brilliant concepts and the exploration of those concepts. For example, the Sliders visit a world where the population is controlled by a lethal lottery. People sign up for the lottery, if they win they get one week of total posh & pomp. At the end of that week, they are euthanized and their families are given all the money they would ever need. Interesting ethical experiment, isn't it?

In another episode, they visit a world where the atomic bomb was never invented, which is about to be destroyed by an asteroid. Should the sliders give this world the atomic bomb and all the horrors that came with it? Or how about a world were anti-biotics were never created? Or a world where women are in power and display the same level of cruelty and mismanagement men have shown in this one. Are you intrigued yet?

That was the true power of Sliders for me. All the different versions of Earth and how one small change played out to huge differences especially in human morality. How differently would we think if psychics were real? If magic had supplanted science all those years ago? How would that redefine what we would currently believe is right or wrong? There is a school of thought that says we are nothing more than the sum of our experiences. With Sliders, you get the chance to see what we would be like if those experiences had happened completely differently.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Something Must Be Wrong With Me

Recently, a friend of mine turned me on to a new version of an old sci-fi show, called Doctor Who. It's a great show. My friend was right to recommend it. I'll discuss the specifics of the show in a future blog post. The point of this post is something that I realized today.

One of the cast members on the new Doctor Who is a woman named Billie Piper. This woman, in my opinion, is absolutely gorgeous. Great body, fantastic eyes, great lips, awesome smile. Here, check her out:

Beautiful, right? The only thing that would make her hotter is if she had black hair. She was awesome in the first season. In the second season, the producers of the show upped her sex appeal. It was great. I told my friends on FaceBook about how hot I thought she was and they told me about another series she's working on now, called "Secret Diary of A Call Girl". In this series, Billie Piper plays a high class call girl. Here, check out the trailer.

I did some research on the show and found that it was an extremely racy show. So racy it won awards in the UK in the realm of soft core porn. So, I immediately go and download the first two seasons, of course. I'm a man and men are wired a certain way. That download was inevitable.

Then I watched the first episode. There was Ms. Piper, in all her radiant beauty. She darkened her hair. She spent most of that show in some form of underwear. And the sex scenes were great. I should have been in heaven. I should have been ecstatic. I should have just continued devouring episode after episode until I had watched everything ever aired for this show. Instead, I felt nothing. I don't even care enough to watch the next episode.

I was a huge fan of The X-Files. In fact, I still am. When others saw episodes of the show, they commented the only reason I watched was because of Gillian Anderson. After all, she is also really beautiful. I told them flat out, a good looking woman is not enough of a reason for me to watch a series. An episode, maybe, but not a show. And now, with Billie Piper and the "Secret Diary Of A Call Girl", it seems I've proved it.

I swear, there has GOT to be something wrong with me. Why else would I not watch a show where a woman I find gorgeous spends most of her screen time mostly nude and having sex? Why must I focus on things like compelling story lines, interesting characters, intriguing show ideas? Why can't I simply enjoy a beautiful girl walking around naked on tv? Why?

Something MUST be wrong with me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What Was This Man On?

I read a great deal of science fiction. I know, duh, right? Yet in all my readings, there's one author that consistently perplexes me. His name is Phillip K. Dick. I haven't read all of his stuff, not yet anyway. But, in reading his short stories and some of his novels, one question keeps repeating in my mind over and over and over again.


And, more importantly, where can I get some!! This guy comes up with some of the craziest, wildest, most brilliant concepts I have ever encountered! It's amazing! The man lived from 1928-1982 and he came up some stuff that fits right at home, now in the year 2010!! If you don't believe me, check this out. Here are some of the movies made from his stories:

Blade Runner (1982)

Total Recall (1990)

Screamers (1995)

AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Impostor (2001)

Minority Report (2002)

Paycheck (2003)

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Next (2007)

Look up the stories of these movies, and then realize the they were written BEFORE 1980!! Can you believe it? This man was something else! God, would I have LOVED to have a conversation with him. Oh wait, and there's another movie coming out based on his work sometime next year. It's called The Adjustment Bureau. Check out the trailer:

Provocative isn't it? If you want to find out more about him, there is a website you can check out. Just click here.

An Epic of Epic Epicness

As a video game lover and sci-fi nut, I've often wondered what life would be like inside a video game. These are the thoughts that keep me from having a relationship with a significant other. And while I don't wish the same fate upon you, dear readers, I do invite you to entertain the thought, for a moment, of living in a video game. Where you would have energy bars to deal with, and power ups. Enemies to battle, traps to deal with, even warp tunnels to other areas of the world. It sounds like a blast, doesn't it??

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World puts on display a world exactly like that. Now, granted, these video game tropes are classic concepts now. Things relegated to the previous iterations of the 2D gaming world, but they're still imminently recognizable. Scott Pilgrim takes those ideas, and turns them on their ear giving a hilarious rendition of what life would be like inside a game. Now at the core, Scott Pilgrim is nothing more than another romantic comedy, but the details and presentation make it one of the most unique rom-coms ever filmed.

The story is fairly simple, in every relationship there's emotional baggage. Scott Pilgrim meets a new girl, and has to deal with her emotional baggage which comes in the form of 7 Evil Exes that Scott has to defeat in order to get the girl. Now, it does sound like a cheesy concept and in hearing about it, I knew there was a huge potential for disaster here. But, the key with any and all absurd comedies is that everyone in the film take every situation, no matter how absurd, completely seriously. The cast of Scott Pilgrim does this effortlessly, delivering in pitch perfect, deadpan fashion dialogue that reaches epic levels of sarcasm. A really interesting note, speaking of the cast, was the appearance of the latest Superman, Brandon Routh. In Scott Pilgrim, he reaches a level of super powered intimidation that easily eclipsed his turn as the Man Of Steel. It was actually awesome to see. Routh was more "super" here, in this soon-to-be cult classic comedy, than in a movie where he was playing the most powerful being on Earth. That is completely ironic, don't you think?

One of my favorite actors is John Cusack. The biggest reason for that is because there isn't a single film of his that is a straight up example of its genre. There's always something off-kilter. It's absolutely fantastic, and I keep an eye out for his projects. The main star in Scott Pilgrim, Michael Cera, seems to be following in his footsteps. And after watching Scott Pilgrim, I would have to say that he's earned the right to be called this generation's successor to John Cusack. Whether or not he keeps this title is another matter, but for right now, he's got it. Congratulations Mr. Cera!

For those of you who know me, you know that Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is not a movie I would normally watch. Yet for some reason, something about it called to me. And so I went to watch it. It turns out my instinct was right. This movie was really funny and if you're looking for a good quirky comedy, I would recommend Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.

Friday, August 20, 2010

An Exercise in Clear Thinking...

I don't know if you keep up with current events around the nation, dear readers, but there is an issue that has been gaining a great deal of the spotlight recently in New York City. There has been a great deal of controversy over the notion of placing a Muslim community center, which would contain a mosque, two blocks away from Ground Zero. Being a fair person, I do have to concede that there are two sides to this argument, and that both sides have valid points.

For building the community center there are several arguments: First, these are NYC blocks. That means the actual location of where the community center would something like a quarter of a mile away. How much further would you have people go to not "contaminate" the seemingly sacred area around Ground Zero? Second, given the construction of NYC buildings, which is mostly skyscrapers, standing in front the intended build site, you wouldn't even be able to SEE Ground Zero without X-Ray vision. In real estate, it's all about location, location, location. This particular location is completely disconnected from Ground Zero, so there shouldn't be any issue at all.

Against building the community center there are several arguments: There is a strong significance to the actual site of Ground Zero, but also to the surrounding area. The families of those who died have a strong emotional tie to that place, and the municipal government as elected representatives of those families should be mindful of the pain and anguish those families would feel as a place is built that can be seen as a symbol of the very beliefs that those who attacked the WTC followed. It would be an insult to them, to have that symbol built on ground where loved ones were treated for, and died of, wounds received in the attack. It would be like building a tribute to Charles Manson in front of each of his victims houses, or a rapist asking his victims out on a date. If the intent is to simply build a community center and a place of worship, why not respect the pain of those families and simply build it somewhere else?

There are cogent and valid arguments for both sides. And it's a difficult decision to make. A difficult line to walk. But this country, by it's VERY DEFINITION, is a land of the free. In fact, freedom is one of the core founding principles of this country. I have stated time and again, to my friends, and on this blog, that principles only matter if you hold to them when they are difficult to keep. Freedom, is an EXCEPTIONALLY difficult principle to keep. It's a double-edged sword. After all, if you're free to say what you want, believe what you want, worship what you want, and do what you want by virtue of simply being a citizen in this country, then shouldn't other citizens have that same freedom? Even if what they want to do is something you don't like? You're free to not like it, but you can't step on their freedoms. Why? Because you would NEVER tolerate anyone stepping on yours. THAT is the trick with being the land of free.

The unspoken part of sticking to that freedom is the choice to accept the consequences of letting everyone be free. Let them build the community center and the mosque. If... IF it becomes a hub for terrorists, and that is HUGE IF, the we'll bring the damn near legendary lethality of the American military to bear and take it down. In this country, it's INNOCENT until proven guilty. This community center is NOT a terrorist front, until it can be PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, that it is. So far, that proof is in the same drawer with those files on the location of Bush's WMDs.

But the part that I find most interesting is the tactics being used to subvert this community center. There are people spreading rumor and innuendo as fact across "reputable" news organizations, and they are gaining a bit of momentum. The Imam of the new mosque MAY have terrorist ties. Well, I MAY get hit by a car tomorrow, but that doesn't stop me from getting up and going about my day. But this kind of fear campaign is reminiscent of another era, where rumor was gospel and accusations could and often did, destroy lives of decent, innocent people: The Red Scare of the late 40s & 50s, led by your favorite and mine, Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Fear mongering, when done properly, always gains attention because it uses a kernel of truth to fuel the madness built into their propaganda.

There always has been and always will be only ONE cure for madness: Wisdom. And as you well know, dear readers, wisdom comes from knowledge. And from questioning that knowledge, constantly verifying it's accuracy. That is the true counterbalance for when the scales of society tip towards madness. In McCarthy's day, however, there wasn't anything there to counterbalance. Nothing to break the momentum, after all, we had just come out of WWII, we were still catching our breath from such a long time of despair and threat of death. This country was vulnerable. Now, I'm sure that because of the witch hunts led by McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities, many hidden enemy agents were discovered. But nowhere near in proportion to the damage those hearings and blacklists did to honest, innocent people.

Today, however, we do have a counterbalance. It's called comedy. Satire. Parody. When you see Darth Vader walking down the ramp of a spaceship you take notice. He's bad ass, he's scary. Then he slips on a banana peel and falls right on his caped ass. All of a sudden, not so scary, not so bad ass, because in that moment we added a bit of knowledge to ourselves and placed Lord Vader in an entirely different context. That's what today's comedy does. Sure, it makes you laugh, but it also gives an outside viewpoint, information without the fear, thoughts without the rumors, and while the laughter wipes away your fear, that viewpoint breaks the madness. If you're interested, check out this particular bit of comedy from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and tell me that this controversy doesn't seem less fearsome and more ridiculous.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting Older Can Be Creepy...

So, I'm sitting at lunch listening to my boss talk about these ring tones that only teenagers can hear. At first it sounded like a joke, but I did a little research and found on the NPR website this article. Then I did some more digging around and found a website all about these "Mosquito Ring tones".

It turns out that as you grow older, your hearing gets damaged. It's a perfectly natural phenomenon called presbyusis. But my reaction to finding out about this effect was a two-fold. My first reaction was a series of flashes of insight. An instant understanding of certain things like the constant battle between the young and old over the definition of music, why certain songs sound different from when I heard them when I was younger, etc.

The second reaction was being creeped out. Even though I had picked up on a couple of things, that hearing loss was such a subtle change that went by virtually unnoticed. How many other things have I missed, simply because I was human and by definition lacked the necessary complexity to pick up on it? It's the type of idea that frightens me down to the core of who I am. People, myself included, think that the things that change your life forever are big events: explosions, deaths, etc, and as such you have some kind of marker. You have some way of knowing that on THAT day you became a different person entirely. But that's not the truth. It's just a comforting lie, we tell ourselves so we can feel better. The real truth is that the real life changing events aren't big, but small. Exceedingly tiny moments. It's not the death of a parent that alters the child forever, it's a little after when the child realizes it has lost one of the strongest connections it had to the world. It's one step closer to being all alone. THAT is the moment that changes the child forever. And there is no signpost for that.

Most people never even notice.

Like I said, it's creepy. The idea that something that can so powerfully alter their, your, our... my reality can go by completely unnoticed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Choose. Your. Weapon.

When I first heard about The Expendables, I thought it was just some marketing ploy. You take enough old movie stars, put out the word that they're going to be in a flick together for the first time, and voila! The country starts buzzing. Don't get me wrong, in today's youth-centered economy, it was refreshing to hear Hollywood go with classic movie draws instead of the next young thing. However, there is a lot of potential for disaster here. So it was with a wary mind, that I walked in to see "The Expendables". And all I can say is, I loved it.

Stallone has had a great deal of experience with action movies. But the best thing is, he used that experience to his advantage and learned from that experience. Watching this movie, Stallone displays a rare quality in an action director: restraint. The expectation when watching an event picture like this one is that the story will just be a shoestring tying scenes of hand to hand combat, shootouts, and explosions. With The Expendables, Stallone presents action in the way it should be: as a motivation for the story as well as accenting key points in the plot. Don't get me wrong, the story is typical action fare, but the presentation (which is the core art of any movie) is not. And with keeping the action concise and restrained, Stallone manages to sidestep practically every action movie cliche to present a quality film.

Another key feature of the film is the visible lack of ego. This was a true ensemble piece, with everyone getting time on screen, not just a vehicle for one actor while the rest hold him up. This was done by handing treating each scene as a showcase and handing it to the right actors for that showcase. At the end of the day, The Expendables isn't a candidate for an Oscar, nor does it pretend to want to be. It's an action film, a fun ride with a bit more substance and a lot more style than most. I liked it and I recommend to those of you who are in the mood to have a good time.

I try to avoid spoilers in these reviews, but I do have to say this. My personal favorite action sequence in the movie was the second fight between Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren. The crispness of the combat moves, the excellent camera work, and the overall visceral nature of that battle really stuck with me. Even now, I want to watch it again, JUST for that fight. Check out The Expendables, dear readers, it's a good action flick.

Monday, August 16, 2010

24: Jack Bauer Kills

This video is just too awesome to not post on my blog. By now, dear readers, you should know about my love for all things 24. Some awesome, enterprising soul went through the first SEVEN seasons of 24 and built a vid cataloging practically every single kill Jack Bauer makes.

If you add the kills of Season 8, it's a total of 245 kills under Jack's belt. That's an impressive body count, considering that most of those kills were with a handgun!!

Another mini milestone

I just checked my blog post counter. I've cleared 100 posts this year! That is so cool. This post will be 101, just like those damned Dalmations that Disney keeps forcing on the world... Give it up! Just let Cruella have them already!! Stop damning them to a lifetime of being tormented by a woman who can't pick what hair color she wants!!!

Anyhoo, this post is going to be something of a life check. You've already read about my new bed frame. I went on the second date with Online Girl. That is her codename. In order to protect her identity from the evil Murphyonic forces out to ruin my life, I have given her this codename. Since people have been hounding me with questions about it, the second date went well. And no, I won't be writing up any other dates. It gives OG too much of an unfair advantage. Why should she be able to read my thoughts on here? She should have to learn to traverse the unruly labyrinth of my mind on her own!! And then there's the privacy issue. While I tend to live my life very publicly, there are some things I'll keep to myself, unless there are major milestones, which have to be made public.

I have other posts to write, so I have to end this one. Adieu, dear readers, parting is such sweet sorrow...

Simple man, simple pleasures

I am a man that is exceedingly simple. There are no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives, no obfuscating complexities. As a simple man, my pleasures are also very simple. Because it's the little things that give you the most lasting happiness. The look of your loved one in the morning, a hot cup of coffee before work. Finding an empty seat on the subway for your 30 minute ride, these are the things that happiness is built on. And now to the point.

If you wish, dear readers, to check the annals of this blog, you will find that I moved into this apartment near the end of October of last year. In all of the time that I have lived in Manchester, NH, I have used a mattress on the floor as my bed. I'm sure some of you have done this in the past (or are living this torture now) and now how horrendous this can be to your back. And let's not even talking about those days when you wake up and your whole body aches and you seriously contemplate creating anti-gravity just to lever yourself out of bed!!

Now you're probably asking yourself, why Rodney? Why in the name of all that's holy do you not simply go and buy a real bed? Especially if it's causing you such physical pain! And what self respecting woman would have sex with you on a mattress on the floor?? Well dear readers, the answer is simple. I didn't have the money. Beds cost in the ball park of $300 -$900. That's for a mattress, boxspring and frame. No, I'm not kidding. And no, I'm not about to get a used bed. Who knows what kind of bed bugs and other creepy crawlies are in that thing, no matter how "clean" the people seem.

Last week, I ordered my salvation, a bed frame that requires no box spring! And that can hold up to 1200 pounds! And it arrived today! I am so happy! I can finally get a decent night's sleep! I can send back the forklift I have to use to get in and out of bed every day!! (The rental & gas costs were through the ROOF! If you ever rent a forklift, make sure you read the fine print.)

Like I said, folks, I'm a simple man, with simple pleasures. A good bed, a decent night's sleep. Those are the things that make life worth living.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Striving To Put Right What Once Went Wrong...

I love science fiction. It's one of the most versatile genres ever created. However, it tends to alienate people because of the perceived notion that one must be technologically gifted or carry a great deal of scientific knowledge to be able to appreciate works of science fiction. Personally, I could not disagree more. The best science fiction stories NEVER focus on the supposed "futuristic" technology presented in the work, but instead use that technology to cast light on some very specific facet of the human condition. The far future time period, or whatever new technology is featured in the work sets the stage for a story whose themes can only be seen from the framework of science & technology. I can not conceive of a more perfect example of this than one of my favorite television programs, Quantum Leap. In fact, QL's very humanist portrayal of science fiction is at the core of why I love the show.

For those of you unfamiliar with Quantum Leap, the show is about a scientist named Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula), who becomes disembodied and lost in time, due to rushing a time travel experiment. While trapped in the past, Sam temporarily takes the place of random people, as the show puts it, "putting right what once went wrong" using knowledge of the time period he's currently in from the future. He gets this future knowledge by means of mental transmission of his partner Al Calavicci (played by Dean Stockwell), who only Sam can see and hear. In each episode, Sam fixes another person's life, during which said person is in Sam's body in the future, usually guiding Al's research into the time period from whence they came.

Now that concept is completely sci-fi. There's no hiding that, but the show itself is all about people. It launches itself off of the stage of science fiction and flies into comedy, drama, action, romance, adventure, etc. And, at the same time, Quantum Leap touches upon a wide variety of social issues, presenting its message in an a fashion of emotional power that makes it unique amongst sci-fi programming. Not even Star Trek (arguably the greatest sci-fi franchise ever to air on television) can match the wide scope that Quantum Leap was essentially built to deliver.

Throughout the course of the show, Sam "leaps" into a wide variety of people: young, old, male, female, black, white, pregnant, even the mentally or physically handicapped, in an equally wide variety of times. Tapping into the nostalgia of the America of yesteryear, where things seemed simpler, but mostly weren't. And each time, Sam does his best to correct whatever tragedy is about to happen: murder, rape, institutionalization, estrangement from family, even something as ephemeral as the loss of a dream.

Sam goes from preventing a town from tearing down a radio station in one episode, to saving the life of a wounded Vietnam vet in another. From helping a woman reach her dream of becoming a singer, to preventing a man from killing his own brother during a race riot in L.A. That's how wide a net Quantum Leap cast during its run.

In recent years, they've tried to re-work the concept into a new series called "Journeyman", which was an awesome attempt. But I think the show failed because it couldn't match the broad range of topics and genres the core concept is designed for. The producers of Journeyman tried to limit that range and it hurt the show. And now, a feature film version is being worked on in the catacombs of Hollywood. I hope they do a better job with Quantum Leap: The Movie, because I would love to see modern audiences re-connect with such an awesome show.

I'll leave you now, dear readers, with a clip from YouTube of the best version of the intro for Quantum Leap. If you have some free time, check out the show, you won't regret it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Trek inspired Tech

When Apple's iPad hit the stores, I was extremely underwhelmed. It wasn't just my normal cynicism either. While I enjoy picking apart the media hype machine with pointed, intelligent questions, there was something deeper about my lack of enthusiasm for the iPad. It was almost like I had seen it somewhere before, so I wasn't impressed when the rest of the world caught up with what I already knew.

And it wasn't until I read this article from Ars Technica that I realized what it was. 23 years ago, when I was around 10 years old, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced me to a slew of new technology. One of the most prevalent was the PADD (Personal Access Display/Data Device). Basically, I grew up watching people use touch screen technology every week. So naturally, when the rest of the world caught up to the vision of Gene Roddenberry, Michael & Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler, with stuff like iPod Touch, iPad, and other touch screen technologies, it didn't make a mark on me.

Reading this article also brought to mind a documentary I saw where the inventors of certain technologies talk about how they were influenced by the ideas they saw on the classic Star Trek series. Capt. Kirk's communicator greatly influenced the creator of cell phone technology and now we're all using flip phones!

The ARS Technica article also brings up a couple of other examples. Those little plastic devices the ST crew would carry around and pop into slots to access the ships computer look an AWFUL lot like our current USB drives and flash memory cards, don't they?

So, no, I'm not impressed with the iPad. I was witness to the core idea behind its development 23 years ago, but it's nice to see the rest of the world finally catching up. Now what would be cool is if someone could write a Mac OS skin that would make the iPad look like the Next Gen PADDs. That would impress me!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Subconscious Nocturnal Deliberations

I'm not someone who usually remembers my dreams. When I do, they tend to be on the weird side. Last night, I actually remembered one of my dreams. It was kind of funky, too. Check it out:

I was standing in front of The Chateau, which is a student dormitory from my college, Middlebury College. But it was different. Normally, it looks like a European structure. But in this dream, it looked like a craftsman version of it. With the dark wood trim and everything. It was a bright, sunny day, and I looked up only to find that the sky was actually the ocean. Thinking that was cool, I tried to lay down on the ground only to find myself not on the ground, but in water. I stand back up and look below me, but all I can see is solid ground, covered in bright green grass and light spotted with flowers.

Then it hits me, I'm dreaming! I say it out loud, and as I do, the grass in front of me starts turning brown and dying. This starts spreading out in tendrils. I jump up into the air, yelling, "No, no no no!" As I'm in the air, I float around so that I can touch the origin spot of the dying grass and I make it live again. The rest of the dead grass is also fixed.

Suddenly, I'm inside of the Chateau, at a bar (which isn't in the real Chateau). And a guy who looks like Artie from Glee was sitting next to me, talking about how I just made a dumb move. I stand up and walk to the door when someone standing on the other side of the door squirts some liquid through a hole in the door. It was such a shocking thing, I woke up.

Now that's bizarre, no? Any ideas as to what any of that could mean?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Some Good Company

In previous essays, I've written down my thoughts on love, marriage, and being single. Even now, I stand by each and every one of those essays. (But the writer in me wishes I had done a better job writing them!) However, there was always an underlying assumption in those works: I was on the outside looking in at the subject matter. While it is my contention that you can only get an objective assessment from OUTSIDE a situation, being INSIDE does afford one more detailed, and nuanced view of any given topic. And I've always believed that MORE information is better than less. That being said, I've been given a chance to re-examine my stance on the various facets of the romantic relationship from INSIDE one. Yes, my dear readers, I recently met a lovely young lady, and took her out on our first date.

Okay, now that you've gotten yourselves off the floor, and cleaned up that drool from the corner of your mouth that always happens when you pass out, here is the story.

For a long while now, I've known that going out and meeting women in the standard way goes against every single one of my strengths. Bars, or supermarkets, or whatever venue to which a man goes to pick up women all operate on an initial assessment of physical attractiveness that determines who women will talk to, who men try to pick up, etc. Any honest survey of my looks reveals that I'm not anywhere near what this country considers physically attractive. So, going out to meet women will just lead to unnecessary rejection. To counteract this, I played to my strengths and put up a profile on a couple of different online dating sites. I actively sent messages to women on these sites, and after about six months or so, I finally got a hit!

We emailed each other for a couple of days, and then started chatting on Yahoo Messenger. After 3-4 days of chatting online, she consented to meet in person for a date. Given the ever present dangers of meeting people who you've contacted online, I chose a public venue and daytime hour for our date. Our first date was for lunch at a local steakhouse, afterwards we would walk around a mall and chat, getting to know each other on a personal level. She agreed. Then I spent the next few days, in morbid anticipation of how many possible ways this date could go wrong.

Date day, or "D Day" as one of my literally inclined friends called it, arrived, and it was a bright sunny day. A good omen, I thought. I get to the steakhouse a few minutes early, only to receive a text that my date was caught in traffic and running late. Not a problem. Then she took a wrong exit and got lost. She ended up appearing at the restaurant about an hour late. For 30 minutes of that hour, I was trapped in a prison of pure psychological panic. Thoughts like "This is a sign", "She's making this up so she won't have to come.", and other such nonsense populated my mind. Then I put all that crap out of my head, and started listening to music and singing along to whatever was playing on my iPod. She showed up and parked next to me while I was in the middle of a song..... Talk about a great first impression!

I got out of my car, and since this was our first time meeting, I held out my hand and introduced myself. She'd already heard me singing, so now displaying good manners couldn't hurt. We walked in, sat down, and had a nice meal. Now, dear readers, you know that she & I had been chatting online prior to this, and she had told me she was extremely shy. During the date, this fact kept escaping my mind. So, throughout the meal, I'm being myself (Oh No!!) and chit-chatting away, and getting very little response. I work to keep the conversation going, try to keep things funny, and interesting. Meanwhile, everything I'm reading from her body language is telling me that she's SO not interested. Then we go to the mall, where I find out that I've run into one of the few women on the planet that DOESN'T like shopping. Not even window shopping. We talked a bit as we walked around, I found a Perfumania, which I led her into, remembering that she likes her guys with good smelling cologne. I find an old favorite, and much to my surprise, she likes it. We keep walking around the mall, and end up going to the Disney store where she picks up a gift for a young family member who was really into Buzz Lightyear. At this point, she's tired of the mall. So, not having anything else planned, I drive her back to her car, and we stay in my car parked outside the steakhouse and talk for another hour, hour and a half. Topics ranging from sports to kayaking, from karaoke to Glee. After awhile, she said she had to go, and I walked her to car. I gave her a hug good-bye (during which she said "Wow, you smell good!" Thank you Azzaro cologne!!), and a kiss on the cheek. And then she drove away.

And that's it. That was my first date in over two years.

My assessments after the date. She was completely bored, and regretting the whole time she was with me. But she didn't bail out early, which was mystifying. I was expecting the bail out call at any point during the date. Sometime in the couple of hours after the date, I remembered that she had told me she was really shy in person. At which point, my brain (no longer in the grips of crash & burn date panic), popped up all the times during the date she told me that she was having a good time, and that she was still kind of shy since we were just meeting for the first time.

A couple of days later, she and I chatted on instant messenger again, and we kind of did our own post-date breakdown. Turns out she had a blast!! She thought I was a great singer, and now understands why I enjoy karaoke so much. She thought I was nice and kind, and very gracious, especially when I introduced myself, and handsome! (Talk about seeing things from a different viewpoint!) That's something I *RARELY* hear from women, even though I keep telling them how hot I am! And much to my surprise, she agreed to go out on a SECOND date later this week!!

Well, dear readers? Thoughts??

Friday, August 6, 2010

New music: Recovery

I got my hands on Eminem's latest album, Recovery. After carefully listening to the album, I can safely declare Eminem back to his truest, and greatest form. Overall, his delivery on his lyrics is solid, full of that latent power that comes from someone who has experience in music and the wisdom to use that experience wisely. There was a hint that this type of album was coming with the last track on the "Relapse" CD.

Recovery exceeded all the hopes engendered by "Underground", by a long shot! This is Eminem at his best, not only performance-wise but also, in his writing. Here's the video for the first single, "Not Afraid".

That song has the makings of a true anthem! Anyone who has ever battled their own demons in a river of shit and come out on the other side of it clean and whole can relate to this song. And it serves as an inspiration for those who are still in a battle.

Yesterday, the video for the next single, "Love The Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna, was released. Giving Rihanna the hook to the song was an inspired choice, since she has had some of her own relationship troubles and that experience informs her performance. The two of them reflect the couple in the video as two damaged people caught in the fires of a extremely dysfunctional relationship.

Check it out:

My personal favorite track is "Cinderella Man", but that doesn't have a video yet. I'm hoping, though!! If you have the chance, give this album a listen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thoughts On... Humanity Pt 2 - Men

The human animal is an exceedingly complex creature, and worthy of extensive study. That study can be made more manageable by studying smaller segments of the whole and how those segments interact with each other, then integrating that knowledge into something of a cohesive whole. The easiest segmentation is along gender lines and consider human males & human females. This is part two of that consideration.

Growing up, I didn't really have very many male role-models. My biological father left when I was around two and I haven't had much interaction with him in the three decades since. My step father had something of a revolving door policy which ended with him leaving permanently a year or so after my baby sister was born. I spent most of my time surrounded by women, so most of the lessons I've learned about being a man have been more theoretical than practical. With the practical lessons being more about what a man is NOT, as opposed to how to actually BE a man. Despite spending less time "with the guys", I was able to gather a great deal of information which allowed me to understand the natural impulses that pushed at me. It was decidedly easier to learn since I was on the inside of the thought processes as well as listening to others and watching what they did.

I watched as they tested their power by physical combat, from kicks and punches to flying tackles. I saw them use that power to test others and themselves, to defend helpless friends, and to attack unwitting enemies. I listened as they covered fear and insecurities with bragging and lies so often that the lies became the truth. I paid attention as they continuously realized their lives had not prepared them to deal with the women they suddenly wanted, endured the consequences of injustices they didn't commit, and paid attention as they learned the power of strength through gentleness.

The first conclusion I came to, upon analyzing the information presented to me, is that men are just as emotionally complex as their female counterparts. But rather than ride out emotional storms, men build walls and compartmentalize themselves. This allows them to deal with the challenges of the world with little to no complications, solving their problems by facing them head on and dealing with any emotional aftermath later, if ever. Those walls bury the emotional complexity of men, and give them the cold distance which society has attributed to them.

Also, as a secondary effect, these walls disconnect men from direct, hands-on experience of their emotions. While men are still subject to the emotions, if these walls are built early enough in a man's life, he will have no knowledge of what these forces are that move him. The irony is most men won't need that knowledge until they start dealing with women. And yes, this behavior is actively encouraged by modern day society as well.

The second conclusion I came to is that men are built to exert force. Men are physically larger, and on average have more muscle mass, and are trained to focus and channel their strength to enhance it. This also reflected in the male psyche as some of the most basic primal imperatives are to overcome or destroy obstacles with strength and power. The bulk of male to male communication comes across in various forms of challenge.

The third conclusion I came to is that men are not subtle creatures. Men are expected to be able to shrug off the stresses human society throws at them. Whether those stresses are physical or psychological, men are supposed to take the hit, absorb whatever damage, and move forward with little lasting effect. These expectations are trained into men from childhood, as such men develop the capacities to handle the excesses of human society. But the acquiring of those capacities does
not allow for the development of subtlety. In learning to deal with massive snowstorms, one doesn't develop the skill to assess variations in individual snowflakes.

The fourth conclusion I came to is that the worst pain and issues a man will ever have to deal with will come not from men but from women. Everything in modern society trains men to utilize their power to deal with all the problems they face. If they stand tough, and aloof, they'll persevere. Then they try interacting with women, and the same society that has trained them to survive by being strong, cold, and direct, tells them that those tactics can't be used in dealing with the women with whom they are biologically driven to interact.

Overall, it has become apparent to me that the domain of the male is the physical world. From an early age, men are trained to compete, to absorb damage, and ignore the frailties engendered in the mind. They learn focus, control, and the advantages of planning ahead. Direct and decisive action become a man's greatest tools, allowing him to cut through obstacles to accomplish the goals. But, the focus on the physical allows for a blind spot, and for all their strengths and power, that blind spot is and always will be the chink in their armor.

In the end, men are simple creatures. With the proper information, they can be easily understood.

Thoughts On... Humanity Pt 1 - Women

The human animal is an exceedingly complex creature, and worthy of extensive study. That study can be made more manageable by studying smaller segments of the whole and how those segments interact with each other, then integrating that knowledge into something of a cohesive whole. The easiest segmentation is along gender lines and consider human males & human females. This is part one of that consideration.

Growing up, I was surrounded by my mom, my two sisters, my cousins (97.8999% of which were female), my mom's sisters and all their girlfriends, not to mention all the women around me in school. When I hit puberty and truly realized there is a difference between boys & girls, I became obsessed with understanding this seemingly eternal presence in my life. I can't tell you how much I've read, written, heard, saw, thought, and analyzed about women in service of my obsession, because frankly, I just don't know. But given the biological imperative behind it, I did what I normally do: keep my mouth shut and my eyes & ears open.

I watched as they taught each other how to use make-up, saw the rules of how the lovely creatures you see walking around are built, and paid attention to the seemingly never ending work needed to maintain that beautiful, yet ultimately false image. I listened to the things they said they wanted and seen what they ACTUALLY responded to, heard the complaints they made about the men in their lives and watched them go back to those men time & time again, and paid attention to their cries as they rang out against the injustices the world wrought upon them, while taking note of how they perpetuate those same injustices on each other.

The first conclusion I came to, upon analyzing the information presented to me, is that women are slaves to their emotions. Like a ship adrift on stormy seas, women chart their course based on their current emotional state, which is why their thought processes never seem to have any logical consistency. However, due to this heightened emotional state, women show a greater empathy for others. This empathy, coupled with the biological imperative to nurture, has earned women the role of guardians of the moral virtues of society. This is why women are consistently thought of as more virtuous. This also explains why society tends to shun women who do not live up to that ideal, especially in areas of sexual promiscuity and motherhood.

Also, because women are prone to being swept up in their own emotions, they become, more often than not, the architects of their own destruction. Time and time again I've seen women ignore the real world in favor of their own illusions. And when those illusions inevitably shatter under the weight of reality, women will grab the broken shards of their world and, barring an outside influence, immediately rebuild it. What's worse is that modern society actually ENCOURAGES this behavior.

The second conclusion I came to is that women are built to endure pain. From the purely physical stresses of childbirth, through the psychological trauma of interpersonal relationships, women absorb pain with a talent that is, at times, astounding.

The third conclusion I came to is that over the course of time, the never-ending societal pressure laid on women to look good has given them the ability to pierce and break down the images presented by other women as well as men. Minute discrepancies appear as glaring oversights in the female eye.

The fourth conclusion I came to is that the worst pain and issues a woman will ever have to deal with will come not from men but other women. Their capacity for empathy gives women the unique insight needed to undermine the efforts of the women around them, and if it takes time women will endure until the proper time. All the while watching and taking note of all the weaknesses their target displays.

Overall, it has become apparent to me that the domain of the female is the realm of the mind. It's widely known that the bulk of the human brain, about 70%, is devoted to processing visual information. With society's pressures to look good, women are trained from an early age to affect others with visual cues. That effect opens a door that women can then utilize to manipulate others, with their capacity for empathy giving them the knowledge to make educated guesses as to how others are feeling. And yet, while the mind is the realm of female power, it is also the seat of their greatest weakness.

In the end, women are exceedingly simple creatures. With the proper information, they can be easily understood.

Disturbing Trend

I've been looking back at my posting for the past couple of months, and I've noticed a disturbing trend. After my initial upsurge of posting in April, my posting has been dropping off. I'm still posting a lot, given that I'm still clearing double digits in my posts. But the numbers are trending downward. In thinking about it, I can only come up with one reason: writer's block.

I've really been stuck on what to post up here. However, this morning I felt a shift in the paradigm, a change in The Matrix. I think my writer's block is coming to an end.

Stay tuned, dear readers. There is more to come, soon!!