Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts On... Villains

When I was a little kid, somewhere around 7 or 8 years old, I was in love with being a hero. I loved Superman, and all the goodness in the world. But something happened to me around that time (I don't know/remember what), and all that went away. My fandom & worship changed. My love for Superman died, and my interest in Batman was born. But the more interesting thing was I stopped being interested in heroes and became focused on villains. For a long time, I didn't know why, but I've long since figured it out.

Your traditional hero (which does NOT include the more fun anti-hero), is someone who is a solid dependable person. They believe in the rules of society and that everyone is a decent being worthy of trust and all that comes with it. All of them are like that. Every. Single. One. After awhile, that gets really fucking boring! But the villains are totally different.

All these cookie-cutter heroes get pit against a variety of evil-doers and each one is unique. Each one was vibrant, and amazing. They all had different motivations, different views on the morality of their actions, as well as the morality of society around them. It is so much more interesting exploring the mindset of the villains, and seeing things from their perspective. Looking at how they cut through all the accepted behavior of society to see things in what appears to be a much more accurate way. And you can learn so much from that world view.

Challenging the images you have in your head of how life is or should be in the extreme way that can only be brought about by a real villain, shows you what you truly value in life. It breaks the illusion that humanity is really as civilized as it would claim to be. It shines a harsh light on the true dual nature of humanity, and how that dichotomy is the true testament of the strength of our species. Now, granted, I would never want to actually meet any people of the likes of Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, Lex Luthor, Erik Lehnsherr, Norman Bates, or Gordon Gekko in real life. But I can fully appreciate their appeal and contributions to society.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Favorite Shows: Californication

For the last four years, I have been witness to what basically amounts to an seemingly endless train wreck. It's a show called Californication. The show follows the life & times of one Hank Moody, a New York writer living in Los Angeles. Normally, this type of show is anathema to me, but I'm a big fan of the sarcastic and witty stylings of David Duchovny. And in Hank Moody, Duchovny introduced me to a man who I look to whenever I think my life is the most fucked up thing possible in the universe.

Watching Hank Moody live his life is like watching an ongoing exercise in chaos. He does crazy shit, and while the consequences of that shit is hitting him, his friends do crazy shit and he gets caught up in it with them. And when all that wanes away, random crap hits him, and he deals with that. And it's that aspect that constantly draws me to the show. No matter what happens to Hank, he deals with it. He survives it. Sometimes through his own efforts, sometimes with the help of his friends, but he deals. When I'm seriously fucked, I look at Hank's life & I am given hope. Not only that my life isn't the most fucked up thing around, but that I can handle what my life is throwing at me.

Not only that I can handle it, but that I'm not the only one having issues in and with life, love, and humanity. I'm not the only one stumbling around, tripping over my character flaws, and falling flat on my face. In the end, that's the true appeal of the show. I'm not alone. I'm not the only one living a fucked life. I'm not the only one that is embittered, and cynical. We are many!

And while it may seem that we glory in each other's misery, the truth is we relish the mistakes others make because they are the things that link us together. That sameness that allows for the empathy that cuts through all the differences in race, creed, religion, and gender. The mistakes we make are the threads that tie us together and define that ephemeral concept we call "The Human Condition".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Having a Toddler Is Like Being At A Frat Party...

Now, anyone who's dealt with little children (as in below the age of 3) knows that they are no joke. While they can be adorable at times, they can also be crazy, wild, out of control, and completely reckless. In fact, it's just like being at frat party.

Tricia, a friend of mine who is currently dealing with the whirlwind of a toddler, has found a list written by someone who is also overwhelmed, made that connection, and decided to laugh about it. Here now are the top ten reasons having a toddler is like being at a frat party:

#10. There are half-full, brightly-colored plastic cups on the floor in every room. Three are in the bathtub.

#9. There's always that one girl, bawling her eyes out in a corner.

#8. It's best not to assume that the person closest to you has any control over their digestive function.

#7. You sneak off to the bathroom knowing that as soon as you sit down, someone's going to start banging on the door.

#6. Probably 80% of the stains on the furniture contain DNA.

#5. You've got someone in your face at 3 a.m. looking for a drink.

#4. There's definitely going to be a fight.

#3. You're not sure whether anything you're doing is right, you just hope it won't get you arrested.

#2. There are crumpled-up underpants everywhere.

And the #1 reason having a toddler is like being at a frat party:

#1. You wake up wondering exactly how and when the person in bed with you got there!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What If You Could Be The Best Version Of Yourself?

It's been my experience that Hollywood has difficulty in creating movies about how someone with a genius level intellect processes the world, and I can understand why. After all, how can you accurately convey to non-genius people how a genius thinks? How does a non-genius writer put into words how a genius interprets the world?  To get around this, most movies & tv shows have that "moment of epiphany", where the genius just "Gets It" and then spends the next few minutes explaining stuff to everyone else. Or, they take a different tack and focus on the genius' issues in relating to the people around them, either emotionally or through pop culture. So when I heard about "Limitless", a movie where someone BECOMES hyper intelligent, it immediately piqued my interest. 

"Limitless" is about a writer named Eddie Morra (played by Bradley Cooper), who is given a pill that unleashes the full potential of his intelligence. Walking into the film, I was very excited to see how they would portray the transition from normal to hyper intelligent. And, I'm pleased to say the movie did not disappoint at all. The director, Neil Burger, did an excellent job walking the audience through Morra's experiences. From subtle color palate manipulation, all the way to some crazy special effects sequences, Burger never lost the audience while managing to not pander to the audience either.

I've been a fan of Bradley Cooper ever since I saw him in Alias, and in Limitless he showcases everything that made me a fan of his work. Cooper effortlessly flows from self deprecating to warm and caring, from enthusiastic to sarcastic, from fearful to hostile and any where else in between while maintaining a sincerity that is truly amazing. Cooper portrays the casual mercurial nature of your average person while infusing it with a natural charisma that makes him a joy to watch. And in this movie, it was needed. Any other actor in this role would have tipped the movie either too much into the cerebral for mass appeal, or played to the lowest common denominator, killing almost everything the movie was trying to explore.

And the concepts the movie was trying to explore were the biggest draw for me. Ideas like the difference between experience and intelligence, or the difference between the real world and the theoretical world, the necessary balance between intelligence and emotion, all get explored in interesting and new ways.

All in all, I would recommend this movie to anyone who's looking for a good ride with a little more substance thrown in the mix. The story leaves some questions open for interpretation, which is good for after movie discussions. Go and watch this with your friends. You'll have a great time!

Re-Examination of Batman Gameplay Trailer...

So, I am anxiously awaiting the new Batman: Arkham City game. As such, when the first gameplay trailer came out, I watched it OVER and OVER and OVER again!! And I thought I had caught every detail there was to see...

Then I watched IGN's Rewind theater and realized how much I really missed! If you haven't already, watch the Arkham City gameplay trailer first. Then, check this out:

See?? I didn't even pick up on the possible cameo of Black Mask! But that level of detail is the thing that I liked about Arkham Asylum and what I'm liking so far about Arkham City! It really shows that this game was made definitely for the fans!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gremlin Attack!!

Back in the day, mechanics wholeheartedly believed that there were little creatures whose pride and joy in life was to get into machines and break them. There were two kinds, the wise ass mischievous ones that cause small annoying issues and the mean mofo's that just destroy machines. Last night, a couple of wise ass ones hit my dear Bianca.

I was getting ready to drive my sister and mom back home after spending the day hanging out together like most Sundays. I get in the car, turn it on and put it reverse. I let go of the brake and start turning the steering wheel like I've done hundreds of times since I've been at my new place. This time, the wheel doesn't move. It's locked in place!!

Come to find out, the little buggers popped off the line that goes from the power steering pump to the engine! How? Well, I'm glad you asked. See, they swelled up the line itself and deformed the metal crimp that is supposed to hold it in place. The line then just popped out and all the power steering fluid in the car leaked out on to the ground. It turns out that the steering wheel wasn't locked in place, it just required the strength of a T-800 to move the wheel. I was impressed that I got it to turn 1/8th of the way. Not that it was enough to get the tires to move, but I had an effect! A testament to the true power of humanity!!

Or not... Anyways..

Thanks to my landlord, who has smaller arms and could actually REACH the damned fluid line (stupid car engine design), we were able to partially attach the line. Given the EXCELLENT timing of the gremlins (bastards, wait till I get them!), I had to wait till this morning to get the line completely fixed, by an actual mechanic no less! This is also where I found the apparent cause of the issue as well. I was able to arrange for the safe return of my family to their homes, but to be safe, I'm getting the line replaced this Friday. I may gripe a lot about wanting a Durango, but no one messes with Bianca! NO ONE!!!

Finally Watched The New Karate Kid...

This past weekend, I finally broke down and watched the "re-imagining" of The Karate Kid. Despite all the hype and publicity surrounding the film (not to mention the ringing endorsements from my friends), I couldn't bring myself to be interested. I was sure that no matter what, they wouldn't be able to capture that ephemeral magic of the original. For some reason, though, I was able to get past my issues and watch the film.

The first thing that stood out the new movie was the respect for the Chinese culture that was evident throughout the film. Despite the nostalgic appeal of the original, there was a lack of knowledge about and respect for the culture they were showcasing. By taking the main characters out of the US and immersing them in the Chinese culture, they changed the emotional focus of the film. It expanded the "fish out of water" experience of main character, exacerbating his sense of alienation which adds whole new levels of gravitas to the moment when he integrates into the world around him.

Much to my surprise, the movie was able to recapture that relationship between the mentor and student, old and young, surrogate father and adopted son that is the core element of the original. I also like the comedic aspects of the film. They were integrated into the narrative of the movie in a much more effective way.

I can't say that this movie is better than the original. I can say it's more culturally aware than the original, and that it's an excellent re-telling of the Karate Kid story. I hate to say this, but my friends were right. In the end, this is a good movie.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This Ain't No Place For A Hero...

For those of you who don't know, one of the greatest superhero games ever released (Batman: Arkham Asylum) is getting a sequel: Arkham City. The first game covered the events that happened when the Joker broke out of custody and took over Gotham City's most notorious mental health facility, Arkham Asylum. Batman, already on the grounds since he's the one who brought the Joker to the asylum, immediately takes steps to deal with the issue.

The sequel takes place a year after the events of the first game. The former warden of Arkham Asylum, Quincy Sharp, took credit for the defeat of the Joker and parlayed that credit to get elected as mayor of Gotham City. Sharp then initiates a plan to wall off the slums of Gotham and dumps all the inmates of Arkham & Blackgate prison into the newly created Arkham City. In this new region, the inmates can do whatever they want, so long as they don't try to escape. To run Arkham City, Sharp appoints the psychiatrist Hugo Strange, who seems to have his own agenda, according to the trailer.

Bats, of course, keeps an eye on the place knowing that eventually hell is going to break loose. Which happens when Two-Face, newly arrived to Arkham City and looking to gain clout, decides to kidnap and publicly execute Catwoman. Batman enters Arkham City to stop the execution, which is (presumably) where the game starts.

Today, video game developer Rocksteady Studios released THE FIRST actual game play trailer for Batman: Arkham City on IGN!! I've been DYING to see this ever since I saw the full trailer for the game. Seeing this trailer, made me put in my pre-order within mere SECONDS of finishing it. Check it out:

Rocksteady claimed that Arkham City was going to take what was good about the first game and expand on it, and seeing this trailer, they have done an EXCELLENT job! You have more areas to explore, more abilities and gadgets, and rumor has it that they are adding even more Easter eggs through the game! I can't wait to get this!!!

My good friend, David, has been virtually orgasmic about this new show coming to HBO called Game of Thrones, based on one his favorite series of books. While I'm not at his level of enthusiasm (I haven't read the books.), I do find the show appealing. Normally, I would be making fun of his excitement, since he's normally a very stoic person. But, in this case, I can't. Because, I know EXACTLY how he feels, because I feel the same way... about Batman: Arkham City!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoughts On... Low Cost Dating

As you know, dear readers, I am a man on a budget. I'm not too good to sticking to that budget, so I tend towards not having very much money at any given point in time. Usually if I have more than $30 in my pocket, it's a good day. Since I also am trying to push into the dating world, I asked my friends to recommend ideas and activities for low cost dates (LCD).

My basic process is to get as much information as I can, and then mine that information to get the really good data that I can actually use. A good portion of my friends responded (including an ex-girlfriend of mine!) with a lot of good ideas.

Analyzing their input, there are four factors that determine the feasibility of a low cost date activity.

1) Budget
2) Type of Date
3) Prior relationship with person of interest
4) Confidence level

First, budget. This is obvious. After all, Donald Trump and I would have EXCEEDINGLY different points of view on what constitutes an LCD. For me, I would say a low cost date would have to be under $20 for total date cost.

Second, type of date. Is this a "first date"? A "Double Date"? Each date type brings about a different type of pressure on the guy attempting low cost dating. For example, with a double date, you have a second person that might be willing to pool resources to attain a higher cost activity while still being low cost to you. If it's a date later on in a relationship, the pressure lets up (slightly) cause your date can accept a less expensive option in favor of something more personalized to the existing relationship. The effort of personalization can bring up the cost of a date, however.

Third, prior relationship. The pressure is amped up with a person you don't know as opposed to someone you've interacted with on a regular basis, prior to asking them out. There is more pressure to impress on a first date with someone you don't really know, and an easy way to impress is to spend more money on a fancier activity. No matter what women say, this approach works. There's a reason 70 year old rich men get 25 year old women that are gorgeous. There's also another thought to consider with dating a person you hardly know.

In a time of assholes like the Craigslist killer (who met women through the personals section of Craigslist and then murdered them), a guy does have to present himself in a non serial killer, mostly safe way. I say "mostly safe" because every woman on the planet wants an element of danger in her guy. Just a little bit, even if they won't admit it to themselves. This limits LCD activity types because inviting a girl you hardly know to a dinner & a movie at your place can seem a bit creepy to her. Not to mention the fact that the woman herself might be psycho (Lorraina Bobbitt, anyone?) and you may not want her to know exactly where you live. This leans more towards a public venue for your LCD activity which, if you don't know where to look, can make dating much more expensive.

When it's someone that you know, the pressure is still high, but different. She knows you, and you know her so the psycho serial killer pressure is off, but now you want to shake up her view of you so that she sees you a romantically (and sexually) viable candidate. This would lead to doing something unique that she's not used to doing or seeing you do. But in this country, unique can also be a lot pricier.

Fourth, Confidence level. This one determines a great deal in a very subtle way. Because, while the other three factors limit the range of activities, your confidence level is what determines the actual activity for the date. No matter what kind of date it is, you're inevitably going to go with the activity (or activities) that you feel are the most impressive to your date while still holding some type of comfort level for you as well.

For example, if you're not comfortable being one-on-one with your date, you might want to suggest a group activity, like a movie night with a bunch of friends, to make things more comfortable. But the risk here is that without the proper level of intimacy, what in your mind is a date, could come across as just a gathering of friends, since a good portion of women in this country relate a man's interest level (in them) with the man's attempts to get them alone.

I thank my friends for helping me in working this out, and I hope to put it to good use in the future. Now I have to work on getting women to say "yes" to going out with me, But that's another challenge in & of itself.

Friday, March 4, 2011

If You Believe in Free Will... In Choice... Fight For It!!

I have written several times here about my penchant for thinking for yourself, and the power of choices. And I've found that it's rare for Hollywood to really explore that concept. There's tons of movies that are about the consequences of your actions, but a only a select few that focus on the choices themselves. After several delays, another such movie has finally been released: The Adjustment Bureau.

I included the trailer for the film on this post about the author of the story Adjustment Bureau is based on, Philip K. Dick. Now that it's been released, I hunted down some more information about the movie and found a featurette that gives a little more details about the movie. Check it out:

The one key thing that got me about this particular featurette was the exchange between Matt Damon's character (who is campaigning to be a NY senator) and the Adjustment Bureau Agent:

"Why won't you let me be with Elise?"

"Because she's enough. If you have her, you won't have to fill that void inside of you with applause & votes."

I find that interesting because it adds entire volumes of meaning to the actions of the AB. Think about it. If Damon's character doesn't become a senator because he falls in love, then he won't be in a position of power to stop a damaging piece of legislation that ends up killing millions of people, or to help a state law come into existence that is a key that leads to something great, or he just won't fulfull his potential. And in another point in the featurette, the AB make it clear that the same will happen to her. All her dreams and aspirations (of becoming a dancer from what is shown) will not come to pass presumably because she'll be fulfilled with him as well. They will lose their drive to succeed because of their love for each other.

It's kind of like the thinking behind Chaos Theory. One small action can lead to hugely varied events, and that action is the result of ONE SINGLE CHOICE. It's EXCEPTIONALLY thought provoking! I can't wait to see this movie and how they play this out.