Saturday, December 26, 2009
If I were more hip I'd have made this a three-part series, discussing in turn The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly parts of Avatar. But I'm not more hip, and so I lumped the Bad and the Ugly together in a wonderful concoction of Win and Joy. To read said concoction...look lower down on this blog.
Some of you imaginary readers might think, based on some of my statements in the first part of this review, that I didn't enjoy Avatar or that I scorned it. (Actually, I sorta did scorn it, but more on that later.) The fact of the matter is that I did enjoy Avatar; I enjoyed it very much, in fact. Partly because it is beautiful; partly because it engaged me. Let me elucidate.
Avatar is hands-down the most beautiful film I've ever seen. Much has been made of its aesthetic, technological brilliance; I must add my voice to the clamor. I guess the film to which I can most compare it is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Both Avatar and RotK specifically rely on visuals to communicate; both feature well-rounded subcreations, and a feature of good cinematic subcreation is the reliance on aesthetic to fill in the otherworldliness.
As I sat in the theatre watching Avatar's forests and mountains rush towards me in glorious Technicolor, my mind kept flitting to the vistas of Fangorn Forest and the Misty Mountains that Peter Jackson flung at us in 2003. What set Avatar apart, though, was the attention to detail. Whereas Jackson's subcreation served the plot, Cameron's subcreation was served by the plot.
All the attention which has been paid to Cameron's aesthetic attack is worthy of note, in my opinion: perhaps it goes to show what was more important to Cameron. I've heard from reliable sources that he waited 5 years to make Avatar, just because the 3D technology wasn't ready (and yes, I am too lazy to use the Interweb to go verify that). I propose, without any support for my opinion in the least, that Cameron is more in love with Pandora than with what happened there.
Example: the helicopter-lizards. There isa beautiful section during the training of Jakesully (as Na'vi) in which we get a closeup of a red-glowing lizardish thing which also slightly resembles a seahorse. Then Jakesully comes in to touch it, and it starts flying around, but not with wings--with a helicopter-style motion. Oh, and the wings are glowing, so all you can see of them is this disc of reddish-yellow light. It's super-amazing: and it doesn't affect the plot in the least. They show up a few more times, but have no impact whatsoever on the plot of the film.
So they're gratuitous, and that's the whole story. Cameron is more interested in building a memorable setting than building a memorable story. Not that the story fails, in the least. For despite its regrettably derivative elements, Avatar draws you in. You know what's going to happen; you know that the day will be saved, because...well, you've seen it all before. But you want to see it again, because it works with this unreal setting. Perhaps, even, the predictability of the storyline throws Pandora's surreality into sharper relief: it makes the weird seem even weirder.
Now, I mentioned that I scorned the story, a little. I did: and my previous entry will prove this. But Avatar is an experience, and I was caught up. I've intentionally veered away from talking about the 3D element, but it's vital to understanding what makes this film magical. I can't describe it; it's, again, part of that experience, and as I've mentioned before, Cameron's decision to wait for the 3D technology was very, very wise.
My recommendation? See it, and allow yourself to get caught up in it. It's sort of a miracle that I actually enjoyed it, given my skepticism, but I did enjoy it. As a film, I give it 4/10; as a mind-blowing, HOLY-CRAP-THIS-IS-AWESOME, I-can't-believe-that-just-happened-but-it-did experience, it earns 8/10.
See Avatar, and see it in 3D. You won't regret it.
Long live being of two minds!
I knew little about Avatar's plot when I went to see it, but I had heard it was unimaginative, derivative, and cliche. Unfortunately, all of those descriptors are correct regarding the plot, and not just the plot: characterization, themes, and message all are things I've seen before. Perhaps I should have entitled this entry "So Many Cliches--So Little Time". Either way, there was nothing content-wise I hadn't seen before.
Briefly: apparently this film is quite like Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I haven't seen Atlantis, but I'm told that the similarities are striking--a life-force to which all of the natives are connected, a protagonist who struggles with priorities and ends up going native, etc.
First, the plot: much has been said about how derivative it is, so I won't begin on that. I must point out, however, the repeated deus ex machina, which did enforce the characterization but also got a little bit old. For instance, the shuttle being hit at the exact moment necessary and in the exact fashion required to keep the mining explosive from sliding off the ramp; the amazing way the shuttle listed off away from the sacred tree-area; the super-awesome return of Sully at the EXACT moment that the blue chick was about to be knifed by the scarred guy; and, most blatantly, the divine intervention of Eywa, sending out the hammerhead rhinos and the pterodactyls to kick the crap out of the Evil White Men. The last is such an obvious and literal deus ex machina that Cameron must have known--he must have realized just how blatant the device is, and he must have decided to cut his losses and go with the deus ex machina.
Characterization was better, but still not top-notch. Here's the problem: the characters were good--well-rounded and interesting--but they were stereotypes. Jake Sully is what I call a "chocolate" Marine: his outside is hard and solid, and then there's a soft, gooey center that's so, so sweet. Jake's choices could be the blueprint for the cliche (there's that word again) "going native". He's a tough-guy who realizes that he's been on the wrong side all this time, etc. For another like him, watch Soldier with Kurt Russell--same sort of premise.
Grace Augustine--good performance from Sigourney Weaver, by the way--is scarcely more original. She falls into another stereotype, one she's played all her life: the smart scientist who can also kick a little butt and just happens to be female. The emphasis in her character this time is on her formidable intellect, and also her scientific morality. Again, she's well-developed and interesting; but we've seen her before. To see another like Augustine, check out any National Geographic film about Africa or South America; there's sure to be an Augustine-like character somewhere in there.
The Scarred Dude--who imdb tells me is named Miles Quaritch--is another stereotyped specimen. Stephen Lang, in another one of his amazing performances (the man can't be stopped), plays the Angry/Bloodthirsty Drill Sergeant Type Who Ends Up With Too Much Power But It's Too Late. He brings as much as he can to the role, but once again, he's just so stereotypical it's almost funny. Another incidence of Miles Quaritch's character is Jacob Keyes, in Halo: Combat Evolved, only Keyes is good and Quaritch is bad.
(Tolja I'd be a spoiler.)
So we've been over plot and characterization. All that remains is themes/message, and I will try very hard to be objective here. Because, frankly, the film's themes and message really made me uncomfortable; I found myself "rooting for" the side I thought maybe I shouldn't be "rooting for". Anyway: the main theme of the film is the conflict between natural and artificial, with natural being Good and artificial being Bad--which is, like almost everything else content-related in Avatar, a major cliche. Everything else thematically revolves around this and branches out from it: the idea of divine providence v. human planning, skepticism v. belief, morality and responsibility, etc. And Cameron has no doubts about the message he's trying to send to his viewers: appreciation for nature, simplicity, and traditionalism are good and desirable, while utilitarianism, skepticism, and the bottom dollar are bad things. While this is true, Cameron commits the fallacy of sweeping generalization (here I go, losing my objectivity); basically, his film argues that since some humans are obsessed with materialistic aims, all humans are obsessed with materialistic aims. Avatar's message is not so much "humans, stop being base" as "humans, stop being human". Sully's final redemption is not making humanity human again; it's escapist--he stops being human in order to be saved.
So that's what I didn't like about the film. Plot- and character-wise, Avatar turns up no new ground. Thematically, it's a poorly-constructed hippie acid trip. As regards moral--well, if James Cameron believes what he says in Avatar, he's one depressed guy, because while the technology to produce this film may exist, the avatar technology is still a long way off.
Later today I'll post another entry, detailing what I liked about the film. Believe it or not, there's a lot that I liked. I'll also include in that entry my rating of the film, and whether or not I recommend it.
Long live cliffhangers!
I'm going to blog extensively later today about Avatar, but first I thought I'd give you a warmup post, mostly about something entirely unrelated to cinema: boxing.
Before I begin, let me say that I kind of wish I were a boxing fan. It has such a rich heritage of dedicated fanship (no, I'm not kidding--boxing is one of the oldest sports in the world) that in today's environment of shrinking sponsorships and lamesauce promoting, I wish I could be a fan before it dies out completely. Alas, I have more and better things to waste my time on, like this blog.
Anyhow: here's a link. Pacquiao and Mayweather, Jr., are arguably the best two fighters in the world right now--definitely the most well-known--and while I wasn't planning to watch it live, I was looking forward to reading analysis and breakdown of the fight.
And now, apparently, Pacquiao is getting all angry because he thinks that the Mayweathers are trying to accuse him of HGH. Whatever. Pacquiao should realize that this could be the biggest fight of his life, and he should do whatever it takes to make it happen. Personally, I think he's a better fighter than Mayweather, Jr., and were I a betting man, I'd put my money on Pacquiao.
I'm no one to talk about boxing, because I am a boxing n00b, but there's my uninformed opinion: Pacquiao should suck it up, do what Mayweather, Jr., asks, go in there, and win the fight. End of story.
Long live boxing!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
What is it?
See it. You should. If you don't want to, here's some rundown: the official site (which really only has trailers. It's not a worthwhile source of information about the film), the imdb entry, and the rottentomatoes page. See what a nice guy I am? I spoon-feed you all the information you need, so you don't have to find it for yourself. I'm so cool.
I've told you to watch the movie, so if you don't want to get it spoiled, go away now. Because I want to talk about the movie, and the first thing I'm going to end up saying is related to a spoliative finish.
While you're leaving, here's the poem that the film centers around. It's called Invictus, believe it or not, and it was written by a dude named Ernest William Henley. Here it is:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbow'd.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
I could have linked to the poem, but I wanted to give some of you, my imaginary readership, the chance to leave before I spoiled the ending. Anyway, here's the spoiler: South Africa wins the Rugby World Cup, and Nelson Mandela survives to the end and is triumphant.
Now, my first problem is this: the film is too predictable. I mean, it doesn't even really try to be unpredictable. Even possible threats of violence, like the newspaper dude in the beginning and the airplane pilot about two thirds of the way through, become opportunities for the scriptwriter to stick it to the audience. And the win at the end? I could see it coming a mile away.
Second, Invictus is not self-aware: the movie doesn't know what it itself is. Is it a sports movie? If so, why the puffing of Mandela? Is it a biopic? If so, why is the film so rugby-centered? Is it a cultural statement? If that's the case, why is racism such an obvious plot device instead of being center-stage?
Finally--and most important to this still provincially-minded blogger--Invictus is a statement (whether conscious or not, I can't tell) against the sovereignty of God. See, the "moral" of the film is that you are in complete control of your ultimate destiny--read the poem if you want to know more about this particular mindset. My problem with this is that it's stupid. If we just have to want something enough in order to get it...well, why was Mandela in prison for 27 years or however long he was there? Why did the Springboks suck at rugby? Was it because that was their chosen destiny? Did Mandela say to himself, "I will myself to stay in prison for 27 years"? Did the Bokkes get together at a team meeting and say, "We hereby choose to continue failing for years and years to come"? Of course not! Yet this is what happened to them. For the last time, humanity: YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL! Free-will is involved, of course, but fundamentally, humans can NOT choose their destiny. I won't even say that God is in control, though I believe that; before even that statement may be made, humanity as a whole needs to get it through its collective skull that humans are NOT the masters of their fate--they are NOT the masters of their own souls.
What is Invictus? Sports movie? Puff piece? Biopic? Drama? Romantic comedy? What? See it, and let me know.
Ps. I did like the rugby. Now there's a man's game; no pads, helmets, or skin-tight pants. Just a fight to the finish. And some pretty complicated rules, too.
Long live cinematic confusion!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Some preliminary notes: this is an exercise for my German Lit class; we're supposed to write a personal interpretation/reboot/whatever of Aysel Ozakin's short story Die dunkelhaarigen Kinder von Berlin, which is all about two dark-haired (non-German) children who really don't fit in in Berlin. So I wrote the following.
Now, it's in German, because I wrote it in German, and some of the emotional power relies on the connotations of the German words I chose. But for all of you who don't read German, or who don't want to bother translating it, I include my own translation at the bottom of the page.
Finally, I plan to begin blogging again with more regularity after finals conclude this week.
With no further ado, then:
Meine Geschichte ist leider klischee, aber ist es trotzdem die Wahrheit. Die zwei Kinder über wem ich spreche hat mir stark beeinflusst, wann sie in die Nachbarschaft hat gewohnen. Niemand kann sie vergessen; sie war human, und Humanität ist selten, diese Tage.
Die Kinder war beide jung; sie hatten keine Eltern, soviel wir (die Nachbarschaft) wussten. Ein Tag in Januar kamen sie, plötzlich, ruhig; es war eigentlich der Mitten von Februar bevor wir hat sie gesehen. Sie wohnten in einem kleinen Wohnen an die Ecke, der war kalt, dunkel, und sehr billig.
Wir lernten die Namen der Kinder nie; wir bezeichneten sie als “die kalte Kinder”. Ich entsinn mich, wann ich sie traf; es war Mittel-Februar, nach Abendglocke, und durch Zufall sah ich die Kinder sein klein Ecke-Wohnen hinausgehen. Natürlich lief ich sie hinterher, und zum Glück fing ich sie bevor sie zu weit gingen. Ich kann mich noch an seine kleine Gesichte, blaue-gelippt und hohlwangig, mit dünn Watte Halstuch gerahmt, denken. Sie blickten zu mir auf, besorgt, während ich dringend sein Gefahr erklärte. Ich weiss nicht, wenn sie mir verstanden; trotzdem gingen sie wieder im Haus.
Ich sah die kalte Kinder nächst in März; ein Outsider hatte irgendwie die Grenzlinie durchgebrochen und an die Kinders Ecke zerfallen. Er war offensichtlich infiziert; die Symptome war alle da. Aber die Kinder entweder sahen nicht, wussten nicht, oder machten sich nichts aus die Symptome. Sie brachte der Outsider Wasser.
Natürlich, niemand hilft ihnen. Die Krankheit allein war genug, und niemand wilkommt die behördlich Beachtung das kommt wenn man hilft einen Outsider. Aber die kalte Kinder hatten nicht von diese Dinge gehört; sie sahen ein Mann, der Hilfe brauchte, und sie halfen ihm. Das war alle, für sie.
Auch natürlich, erstarb der Outsider. Wasser hilft die Ansteckung nicht; nicht hilft. In einer Stunde war der Outsider tot.
Drei Woche später kam ein weiterer Outsider. Wieder brachte die kalte Kinder ihm Wasser. Wieder hat die Nachbarschaft seltsamerweise zugeschaut. Wieder erstarb der Outsider schnell.
April beginnt die jährlich Filterung; im Normal, unser gesetzestrue Nachbarschaft war ruhig, und die Einsammeln-Vans kamen durch unsre Strassen nicht. Dieses April kamen die Vans, mit Leuchte und Martinshorns. Sie haltet an der Ecke.
Wir haben die kalte Kinder nie wiedergesehen.
The Human Children
My tale is regrettably cliche, but it is nevertheless the truth. The two children about whom I speak left their mark on me, while they lived in our neighborhood. Nobody can forget them; they were human, and humanity is rare, these days.
The children were young; they had no parents, so far as we (the neighborhood) knew. One day in January they came, abruptly, quietly; in fact, it was the middle of February before we saw them. They lived in a little dwelling on the corner; it was cold, dark, and very cheap.
We never learned the names of the children; we referred to them the Cold Children. I still remember when I met them; it was mid-February, after curfew, and by chance I noticed the children leave their little corner-room. Naturally, I chased after them, and luckily caught them before they went too far. I can still remember their little faces, blue-lipped and sunken-cheeked, framed by thin cotton scarves. They looked up at me, puzzled, as I urgently explained the danger they were in. I don't know if they understood me, but they went back inside.
I saw the Cold Children next in March; somehow, an Outsider had penetrated the boundaries, and had collapsed on the children's corner. He was obviously infected; the symptoms were all there. But the children either didn't notice, didn't understand, or didn't care about the symptoms. They brought the Outsider water.
Naturally, nobody helped them. The infection itself was enough, and nobody welcomed the official attention which inevitably came when one helped an Outsider. But the Cold Children knew nothing of these things; they saw a man who needed help, and they helped him. That was all that concerned them.
Also naturally, the Outsider died. Water didn't alleviate any part of the infection; nothing alleviated it. In an hour, the Outsider was dead.
Three weeks later, another Outsider came through. Again, the Cold Children brought him water. Again, the neighborhood looked on, curiously. Again, the Outsider died quickly.
April signaled the beginning of the yearly "filtering"; normally, our law-abiding neighborhood was quiet, and the collection-vans didn't come down our streets. This year, the vans did come, with lights and sirens. They stopped at the corner.
We never saw the Cold Children again.
Long live the Dour!
Friday, August 21, 2009
Shut up. Just...shut up.
So I discovered the "celebrity tomatometer" on RottenTomatoes (what an unique gimmick, by the way. Rotten? Fresh? Awesome.) The Celebrity Tomatometer works just like you'd expect it to: it calculates the percentage of the actor's films which are rated "fresh" by RT. So, naturally, I began goofing off, checking on various peeps, and found some interesting stats. At least, they were interesting to me. I like stats. Maybe you don't, invisible reader; but this is MY blog, not yours. Which means I do what I want, not what YOU want.
Customer service? A moot point.
Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise have the same CT: 62%. That means that for the both of them, about 3 out of 5 films are critically acclaimed.
Samuel L. Jackson (one of my all-time favorite actors) is at 53%. For every good movie he makes, he makes a terrible one. Interesting point: his highest-rated film, The Incredibles, is an incredible 97%, and he didn't appear on-screen for it.
De Niro is another one at 62%. Tom Hanks, who's had his share of huge commercial and critical successes, is one percent higher at 63%.
Here's a shocker: George Clooney (yes, that George Clooney, the Batman with the...realistic suit) is at 66%. I honestly didn't expect that.
Al Pacino, whose name sounds like a gangster's (I'm sorry; it's just me...), is just behind him, at 65%.
Christian "Batman Smokes Four Packs A Day" Bale is at a respectable 68%...which was quite surprising indeed to me. I suppose he's been in one or two goodish flicks.
Charlton Heston's CT is 59%. The lower rating is not quite surprising, given some of the pulp the man starred in. In contrast, another tough-guy actor, Clint Eastwood, whose CT is at an impressive 78%.
Compare Eastwood, who apparently knew how to pick his movies, to folks like Bruce Willis (38%), Arnie (42%), and Val Kilmer (38%).
Among directors/producers, Martin Scorcese is understandably near the top, with a CT of 86%. George Lucas isn't far behind (83%), and James Cameron, known for his work on Aliens, The Terminator, and Rambo II, is at a respectable 75%.
However, the most stellar--almost unbelievable--score I found was John Ford's: his CT is at 97%. 97%! His lowest-rated film on RT is Donovan's Reef, which is at 56%. It's his only non-fresh rating.
Now, I know that RT is not in the least the ultimate in movie criticism, but I love stats, and these stats were cool, sometimes surprising, and inevitably awesome.
Long live pointless ramblings!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Apparently the "snitch" program has attracted a lot of attention out here in the blogosphere, a community of which Ian the Pontificator is a reluctant member. The more I think about this program, the more I think that perhaps the outrage, if florid, is at least somewhat merited. Of course, a percentage of the outragers are morons who want to believe a certain way, but there's some reason for indignation/concern.
So what's the commotion about? Well, apparently the White House is concerned about the negative press that ObamaCare (what a stupid nickname, btw) is receiving. So they've launched a PR campaign to give the public the real facts about ObamaCare, and to answer popular myths about ObamaCare. It's called Reality Check, and it looks very slick.
However, the part of Reality Check that's receiving all the attention is...well, here's what whitehouse.gov says about it:
"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org."
Now, I'm willing to give the White House the benefit of the doubt. It's possible that they want to just keep tabs on this "disinformation", and no more. In support of this hypothesis, note that they don't ask people for information about the propagators of the disinformation; they just want citizens to forward "fishy" stuff. They could be just trying to keep tabs on the "disinformation" out there.
For the record, I'm NOT going to enter the debate about the validity/invasiveness of ObamaCare. By extrapolation, I won't give an opinion on whether or not the "disinformation" is actually true or not.
But that's a minor point. I'm willing to give the White House the benefit of the doubt, because it's possible that it's all PR-related; they just want to know what's being said out there about their plan. The danger, of course, is that they'll stop asking "What's being said?" and start asking "Who's saying it?" And then...well, that's what some of my fellow bloggers are concerned about.
As long as they're still saying "What's being said?" I'll trust them. But...this is a terrible, loaded comparison, but remember what the Inquisition asked people to do...
I hope we're not headed in that direction.
Also, Joel Schoeneck wants me to say that Hulu sold out to the man. I think he sold out to the Youtube. And is working for them. And spreading disinformation. So...take his words with a grain of salt.
Long live free speech!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Well, being the theatre addict that I am, I began thinking about a stage adaptation...I mean, it would be interesting to see such a simultaneously epic and focused storyline translated to the stage--or, even better, to film. So I did some research, and I discovered that The Brothers Karamazov actually was made into a movie. And it starred Yul Brynner and...wait for it...William Shatner.
Apparently, the movie wasn't that great. Understandable...
And then I began thinking about other classic novels which really would have trouble translating to the screen well. Books like Moby Dick, Bleak House, Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion--okay, that one was a joke--Catcher in the Rye, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy...well, I'm sure there are others. Not just books, either: think about a movie based off of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Or Milton's Paradise Lost.
The problem is that all of these wonderful excellent classics are great books, and when the movie industry hears "great book" they think "fan following" and then they think "blockbuster" and that's when the dollar signs start dancing before their eyes, if said dance hadn't started previously. Most of the works I mentioned do have captivating stories: just story-wise, think about a movie based from the Rime. Gripping, no?
But the sticking point is that these classics go beyond just a cool story. They touch on Themes, and as a rule Themes don't translate well from the page to the screen. Think, if you will, of Moby Dick, one of my personal favorites. The book deals with questions of identity; it talks about theory of authority; it discusses revenge (of course); evil is symbolized and explored; death, community, friendship, race relations...the book is a veritable wealth of psychological and philosophical discussion. And then there's the detailed--nay, exhaustive--descriptions of how a whaling vessel works, along with whaling history, whaling superstition, and whaling tall tales!
It just wouldn't work. Even theatrical productions of books like The Brothers Karamazov would end up being shallow narrative-centric failures. Which, to some extent, is a good thing...
I do wish, though, the laws of...Whatever...like, the Way Things Are, would take a vacation for a while, because a Rime movie would kick butt. I'd see that.
Long live impenetrability!
Monday, August 3, 2009
1. Appeals to human reason should be used wisely and sparingly. People like to argue, people like to debate, people like to think they're being super-rational. But the fact remains that in the Fall, our reason fell. Logic itself didn't fall; the rules that govern how ideas work and how the universe works are the same as they were before the Fall. But human perception of logic fell: therefore, it is impossible for a human to make perfect logical sense. Just like it's philosophically impossible for humans to produce inerrant truth in literature, no fallen human--which means, no human any of us will ever have contact with--can make a logically perfect statement. Thus, any appeal to human reason will be inherently flawed, and such appeals should be used sparingly.
2. Those most like us are the ones we hate the most. I've noticed this before, but it has been reinforced to me strongly, of late. "Opposites attract" for a reason: when we find someone very like us, we dislike what we see of ourselves in the other person.
3. Football is the American pastime. Every year the coverage of the NFL voluntary team stuff/training camps/preseason--it expands, it grows. And that's not even taking into account college football, which is in a golden age right now, as it were. The fact that the UFL, or whatever the latest attempt at a separate pro football league is abbreviating itself as, has gotten as much press as it has...
4. Stemming from this, creating a new franchise in ANY sport has become more and more difficult. Why? It may have something to do with expectations. Also, regulations. Also, the rising cost of publicity. Also...well, that's pretty much it. Even moving an already-established franchise is pretty horrible: I give you the Oklahoma City Thunder. Also, the Florida Marlins.
5. We have it pretty good here at my school. It could be a lot worse.
6. I wish I could do this. It's the definition of a niche skill.
7. Scared? Find out what your fear is called. Also, related to this, I can't wait for the final season of Monk to begin this weekend. RAH Monk!
That's all for now, folks. Tune in next week, or sometime in the future, to catch more of Ian the Pontificator's Uninformed Opinions. You never know what he'll talk about: radishes, movies, constabulary, innovation, philosophy, redaction, fanfics--now THAT sounds like a snappy blog--cheese sticks...the list goes on. You stay classy, San Diego?
Long live linguistic literacy!
Also, long live alliteration!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
No words can express how incredibly infuriated I am with Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr., and everyone else behind Sherlock Holmes.
Yeah. Sherlock Holmes the movie. The movie due to be released Christmas Day, 2009. The movie that destroys the real Sherlock Holmes and sets up...well, all in due time.
When first I heard about the new movie (trailer here) I was mildly intrigued. Holmes as a character is quite difficult to capture on the big screen, in part because he's usually played by a human actor, and Conan Doyle's Holmes is not quite human. So I was mildly behind the film, because I liked Robert Downey, Jr., in Iron Man, and I wanted to see The Soloist, too.
Then they released the first trailer.
If you haven't seen it, and you haven't clicked the link above yet, do so now, please. It's a travesty. Now if you have never read a Sherlock Holmes story, I'm sorry for you because your life is lacking something, and DON'T READ ANY HOLMES until after you see this movie. You will thank me later.
Now, two points before I continue: 1. I know about not being able to easily translate things from page to screen, etc. I know that's difficult. Hey, one of my favorite movies of all time is an adaptation of a book, and not scrupulously faithful, either (Return of the King.) 2. This could very well be an entertaining movie.
The last statement may be puzzling, but let me deal with my points in order. Yes, I know it's hard to take things from written media and translate them to the screen. Something like Holmes, something as difficult as Holmes, needs to have some alterations: a direct translation would be wooden and maybe rather boring.
But what they seem to have done? Gah. Conan Doyle's Holmes is cold, he's calculating, he's precise, he's logical, he's consistently misogynistic, he's messy, he's brilliant, he's addicted to cocaine and later tobacco, and he's TALL. Conan Doyle's Watson is loyal, he respects Holmes, and he is Holmes' inferior in almost everything.
Ritchie's Holmes, on the other hand, is, from the trailers, "depraved," a ladies' man, startlingly vulnerable, someone who "underestimates the gravity of coming events" (that's not Holmes! he thinks geometrically), a comic character, a "lazy intellectual", "the first superhero", "Tony Stark sucked back in time to turn-of-the-century England". Richie's Watson is cocky, superior to Holmes, unappreciative of Holmes' intellect, and, as Rotten Tomatoes would have it, Holmes' "BFF".
And then there's the matter of, you know, the rest of the film. Richie's plot involves the supernatural, it seems. This I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, because more than one Holmes story revolves around allegedly supernatural events that are proven to be merely natural and highly "grotesque", to use Holmes' descriptor. And Irene Adler, who's no longer a classy, if mysterious, consort of princes, becomes a vulgar prankstress who tries to murder Holmes.
The verdict, part 1? This is going to be a travesty.
Now for my second, seemingly insane point: the film could be quite entertaining. I'm not saying I'll be entertained by it: but it will possibly be entertaining, could garner good reviews, could make a lot of money. The thing is, there are elements of Holmes for all the casual Holmes-philes out there, there's humor for the action-comedy fans out there, there's supernatural-type-stuff for all the supernatural-type-stuff fans out there, there's That Guy Who Played Iron Man for fans of That Guy Who Played Iron Man, there's action and slow-motion punching for all the straight-up action fans out there...the point is that I can see how it'd appeal to a wide audience. Which is one ingredient in the recipe for success. (I'm betting that the rabid Holmes-philes, like myself, will stay home.)
The verdict, part 2? This movie will make a lot of money.
You know, I'd even go see this movie if they hadn't attached Holmes' name to it. It looks like a fun ride. But: the dude in the trailers is not the Holmes I grew up reading! The dude in the trailers is Tony Stark, except with an accent. I like American Tony Stark better. Nothing against the Brits: Tony should stay American, is all. AND NOT TRY TO BE SHERLOCK HOLMES!
The verdict, in totum? I will be royally angry from about December 25 till maybe the first week of January, as Guy Ritchie's new movie Tony Stark Goes To 1890's England--I mean, Sherlock Holmes--rakes in the cash.
Long live fidelity to source material!
Now that that's out of the way...
I was doing some thinking about subcreation. Also, how the thoroughness and consistency of a creator's subcreation can heavily affect the success or failure of the narrative in question. Now, two things to note about that last sentence:
1. I used media-nonspecific terminology (creator instead of author, narrative instead of book or story). That was on purpose.
2. The word can. I didn't say does, because that would seem to indicate that narratives live or die by their subcreation.
Before I go any further, though, a word on subcreation.
The theory of subcreation is that whenever someone sets out to deliver a narrative (book, movie, radio play, graphic novel, holographic re-enactment, whatever), the narrative must have a subcreated background, a world in which the narrative takes place. Of course, many creators do very little subcreation, setting their story on modern-day Earth or some point in Earth's past history. However, technically even a narrative that claims to be reality will have some degree of subcreation: creation of fictitious characters or fictitious speeches delivered by real people, even, are subcreation.
Of course, there are brave and wonderful creators who decide to go ahead and create something from scratch, or roughly from scratch. Every subcreation will have hints of reality in varying measure, in part because it's SUBcreation: the human mind is not programmed to create ex nihilo, even hypothetically.
Good examples of the brave and wonderful set are J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy, and J. K. Rowling, author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series. Tolkien takes subcreation to an extreme, creating a world which may or may not (it probably doesn't) have any physical connection to the universe as we know it. Tolkien's masterpiece, Arda, is its own entity, complete with multiple sentient races, racial tensions, definitive cultural and linguistic qualities specific to each race, and countless other signs of a highly sophisticated subcreation.
Rowling's subcreation, though less abruptly other, nonetheless deserves respect. Rowling sets her novels on the planet Earth--mostly in England, in fact--but operates from an intriguing premise: that there is a hidden European (if not global) community of beings like humans, but with special abilities and with access to special knowledge; that these beings know about humanity, though humanity knows practically nothing about them; that many "human" innovations were actually pioneered by members of this hidden community. Rowling's subcreation is complete, and yet patchy: her wizards divide into factions over the proper use of power and knowledge, yet wear sneakers and dye their hair (although it's not technically dye, but a magical ability, that allows the change of hair color). Part of what makes Rowling's subcreation almost more compelling than Arda, perhaps, is that patchiness, where the reader can relate to the struggles of the witches and wizards on the page.
Perhaps the best example--the prototypical subcreation--is the concept of the comic-book "universe" (as in the Marvel Universe or the DC Universe). Somewhere, someone concieved the idea of allowing heroes, villains, and everyone in between from one storyline cross into other storylines and interact with the characters. While this may have begun as an infrequent practice (I don't pretend to be a comic-book expert), it has become the norm. While at first glance "universes" may seem to be shoddy subcreation, in fact they are highly sophisticated and thorough. Laws of physics are bent, implicitly, to allow Superman to fly, laws of biology are bent implicitly to allow Spiderman to shoot web from--wherever, laws of chemistry are bent to allow Scarecrow to infect people with his hallucinogens. "Universes" must, of necessity, be thorough and painstakingly consistent; comic-book devotees will spot any inconsistency and bring it loudly to the public's attention.
An interesting iteration and aberration of the "universe" concept is the subcreation behind the 2008 superhero film Hancock, starring Will Smith and Charlize Theron. For the record, spoilers follow. In the film, Smith's character Hancock is a drunk who can fly, who seems indestructible, who recovers from injuries abnormally fast; he turns out to be what's called an "immortal", who only is vulnerable when near his spouse. The appeal--the peculiarity--of Hancock is that it seems to begin using a minimal and realistic subcreation, but over the course of the film, a much more extensive and fantastic subcreation is revealed.
Subcreation is difficult to do correctly, and examples of failed subcreations abound. Perhaps the saddest is the world of The Matrix, a subcreation with considerable potential. The Matrix subcreation was unique in that part of the subcreation was a subcreation: the titular Matrix is an apparently realistic computer-generated construct in which people consciously exist. However, outside the construct is a post-apocalyptic Earth where machines run things. The subcreation obviously had potential, but the sequels to the original film focused more on the post-apocalyptic Earth section of the subcreation rather than the CG construct section. (Be that as it may, it's irresponsible to blame Matrix Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions' failure on merely poor choices in expansion of subcreation.)
C. S. Lewis, friend and associate of Tolkien, knew subcreation well. Two of his series deserve especial notice for their subcreative differences. The first, controversial and anomalic, is The Chronicles of Narnia. A series of children's books, Narnia's subcreation is notoriously sloppy; Lewis blends elements of Greek, Roman, and Teutonic myth, not to mention the extremely strong Judeo-Christian influence. While Lewis may have thought that the consistency of his subcreation didn't matter, the inconsistency does tend to be distracting from the overall excellence of the series, at least for me. However, the series has stood the test of time, so perhaps I'm just being overly picky.
Lewis' other series, the Space Trilogy--a hidden jewel, in my uninformed opinion--has a much more intriguing and complete subcreation behind it. The subcreation of the Space Trilogy really needs to be experienced, so I won't say much about it. Suffice it to say, though, that in true Lewisian style, the subcreation skirts the edge of rationality and intellectual believability. This is a true accomplishment; to develop a subcreation that not only draws the experiencer in, but seems nearly believable to the reader, is quite a feat.
At the other end of the spectrum, far away from Arda and Rowling and the Space Trilogy, lies well-researched, respectable historical fiction. Jeff Shaara's historical fiction has perhaps the least subcreation of any narrative I've ever experienced; Shaara's work invariably is impeccably researched and almost pure history. His books have subcreation, but it's exceedingly minor: he relies on history to provide a backdrop for his works.
The title of this (very long, now I look at it) blog is Subcreation and Success. I haven't dealt much with success, but I will note that while extensive subcreation often accompanies success (Tolkien, Rowling, comic-book universes), sometimes it doesn't assure success (The Matrix subcreation) and success can be had without complete or exhaustive subcreation (The Chronicles of Narnia, Shaara's novels). While subcreation can be wildly popular (see the Halo series of video games, for further proof), excellent storytelling, good characterization, and relatable themes also contribute largely to success. As a rule, if something has an extensive, well-crafted subcreation behind it, it's more likely to be worthwhile, but one shouldn't take anything for granted.
Wow, this was long indeed. I'm interested in feedback: what are your thoughts about subcreation? What subcreations can you think of? Can an extensive, well-crafted subcreation ever hamstring a narrative? Talk.
Long live impromptu philosophizing!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
You didn't even...notice...I was gone?
Wow, I feel loved.
Anyway, I was doing some thinking. Which I am getting better at, by the way...I have decided that there are three different types of blog. I've been doing some research on the subject, too, so...you'd better believe me.
1. The first type of blog is the Brief Opinion blog. These blogs are the ones which are most like Twitter feeds: mostly people's kneejerk opinions on various things, like sports or culture. These blogs tend to be short, unsophisticated, and generally annoying, and have little draw for the average blog reader, unless the opinions are a) presented in a humorous, engaging, or otherwise enthralling fashion or b) those of someone whose opinions are innately interesting (i.e. Tony Romo's opinions about the Dallas Cowboys.)
2. The second type of blog is the Unstoppable Linkage type. This type of blog is, incidentally, what Ian The Pontificator's Uninformed Opinion has been in danger of becoming. The Unstoppable Linkage blog is devoted entirely to stupid or mildly amusing links. The blogger's time is devoted entirely to finding such links. The Unstoppable Linkage blog is one of the laziest blogs out there.
3. The last type of blog is the Original Content blog: this is the most difficult blog to write and the most interesting blog to read. Mark Titus' Club Trillion is a good example of an Original Content blog; Titus' posts are long, entertaining, and full of--wait for it--original content. This is what Ian The Pontificator's Uninformed Opinion attempts to be.
In other news, if you take out the second n in uninformed, it becomes uniformed.
That's all for now, folks. But there will be more. Rest assured.
Long live triumphant returns!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Stop laughing, BlogEater.
Oh, you guys haven't heard about the BlogEater?
Well, here's your chance to hear about him. Her. It. Whatever.
The BlogEater is a shark-sized reptilian creature with glowing ochre eyes, three feathery wings, a long, broad tongue, a Boston accent, a very annoying sarcastic bent, and a disgusting affinity for failed blogs. It's a well-known fact that blogs, in this day and age, are quite--some would say too--easy to start up. It's equally well-known that 99.9% of all blogs die a natural death less than three weeks after they are begun. Now, of course, these failed, dead, decaying blogs have to go somewhere, and burying them under a mountain in Nevada is not going to work. So some scientists somewhere genetically created the creature now known as the BlogEater to deal with the dead blog problem.
It's worked out pretty well so far, but the BlogEater has grown rather aggressive, and has even helped kill some nearly-but-not-quite-dead blogs. While this is technically okay, there is some concern that eventually the BlogEater will begin attacking young, promising blogs. Supporters of the BlogEater point to the extreme statistical improbability of such an occurrence, but the question remains: could we lose the Next Great Blog to this monstrosity we've created?
So...that's the BlogEater. He/she/it was laughing at me a while ago, and I had to shut him/her/it up. He/she/it won't get the Uninformed Opinion!
For the record, I was not being PC there...I really can't tell the thing's gender. Ick.
So Das Blog has returned. Deal, peeps.
Also, I went to the midnight premiere of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and it was...interesting. I saw it on a Large Screen, the kind that's an IMAX wannabe, but I was way down in the front, and way to the right of the screen. (In a related and creepily coincidental story, I saw The Dark Knight on a Large Screen, and my seats were almost exactly the same. Different cinema, but same position relative to the screen.) We really should have gotten there earlier. Oh well.
The movie was...hmmm. I was caught up in it, which I suppose was what they were trying for, but the movie did drag a bit. I loved the effects, and Bay pulled out all the stops with this one, constructing world-record-size gasoline bombs for some of the explosions.
By the way, what is it with Michael Bay and explosions? I mean, okay, everyone knows how much he loves them...but explosions? Why, Mr. Bay? It's just...weird, and it's creepy. But what do I know? I'm not a critic.
Anyhoo, I thought the funny parts were pretty funny, but the whole thing seemed somewhat episodic. I didn't get a continuity throughout the whole thing; I mean, Good Griffin! The climactic event (trying really hard to not be a spoiler here) was pretty freakin' awesome, but the plotline which led to the climactic event wasn't really elucidated until about 90 minutes in, or maybe less. I mean, there were things which foreshadowed the plotline from the beginning (including The Fallen in the title) but it wasn't a straightforward slow-reveal setup.
That's the only conclusion I can reach: Bay was aiming for the slow-reveal. But Bay should NOT do slow-reveal stuff. He's not that kind of guy; his movies should just lay out the plot premise in the first five minutes and then turn up the action, noise, and explosions the rest of the way.
I don't know...I enjoyed the experience, and I'll probably rent the DVD eventually. It's grander in scale than Transformers, but ultimately that hamstrings it, because the story is not grander in scale. Or if it is, it's in fragments. The film has potential, but I don't think it measures up to Transformers. I give it a 6.5 out of 10.
That is all. And this may be the last blog for a while, but hang in there, you my imaginary readership!
Shut up, BlogEater.
Long live revivals!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
To that point...not beyond.
Anyway, he said something in that class which stuck with me. I asked him one day after class, "Dr. Mobley, are you a free-marketer or a Keynesian?"
(For those of you unfamiliar with economics and things, that's the equivalent of saying "are you conservative [free-market] or liberal [Keynesian]?")
He said to me--and this is where it gets good--he said, "Ian, I don't believe in having ideologies, except in one area. I suppose you'd call me a Muddle-Headed Middleman."
Naturally, I asked for an explanation, and he said that with a lot of things, "what works" is the most important, not "what's right." He said that especially with economics, religiously clinging to one or another "camp" could really hurt everyone involved. And then I had a class, so I raced off and sorta forgot about the whole thing.
But...well, it's summer, and I have nothing better to do than Think, sometimes, and I began thinking about ideologies, and how having Ideologies can be really very dangerous.
Explain, Ian! you shriek with your creepy, nonexistent, disembodied voices.
Well, let me start by explaining the one ideology I do hold, and proudly:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Yes, that's the Nicene Creed. Deal with it.
I live by what that document summarizes. Actually, I live by the rules of the Bible, but that was too long to put in here. The Nicene Creed is a bit shorter.
Where are you going with this, Ian? you shriek again.
Just hear me out: this is an acceptable ideology--even, it's a GOOD ideology to have. The problem arises when people start adopting ideologies about things which should not be ideologized. Like, democracy. Or...economics.
Now, I recognize the Bible does touch on how governments should interact with God (humbly, pretty much) and how money should be handled (responsibly). But when people start talking like Democracy or Keynesianism or NoCopyrightLawsIsm or any other Ism or Ocracy or whatever is on the level of the only worthwhile Ideology, red flags should go up.
Ah, it's hard to explain what I'm thinking. Christianity has its ardent apologists, as well it should; but should capitalism have as ardent apologists? Aren't those apologists perhaps slipping into idolatry? The only thing that can save us is the atoning blood of Christ; reduced emissions can't save us, deregulation of gun ownership can't save us, lower taxes can't save us...
Nearly all ideologies are chiefly concerned with bettering the human condition; it's my contention that if we live at peace with all men and wait for the Better Country, God will Iron out our problems here in this brief pale for us.
There's a Bible verse which talks about this, but...well, I can't find it.
Long live Dithering!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Fun for its own sake. Also, what sort of message is the designer of this gimmick attempting to send? That it's okay to screw around with animals' DNA? I'm mystified. Also, designing this...whatever it is...interesting math-wise. By my calculations, there are 45 different options...Eh? True? or False? (Math Geeks, this is directed at You.)
Ready to be freaked out? Actually, I don't care what you're ready for, because you don't exist. So check out this awesome site. It makes me just a bit scared...just a bit. THE COMPUTERS IS READING MY MINDS!
Humor, my friends, is a good thing to have. However, too much can cause Problems. Like, um...like...errrr...oh, just stop bothering me and check This One out. If you don't laugh, you're probably dead. Or sleeping. Which raises the question: why are you dead and reading my blog? Did my blog kill you? or, perhaps, a different question: why are you asleep and reading my blog? Did my blog kill you?
Finally, a sobering reminder about the dangers of bread. Considering it seriously, though, it's a comment on how statistics can be made to say pretty much anything. Pity, really.
Okay, that's all. No more links for you tonight!
Long live posterity!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
You know what? Maybe, when it comes to self-awareness, one CAN have too much of a good thing. Eh?
Anyway--back to Movie Franchises.
I was recently cogitating on the scarcity of Great Movie Franchises recently. Looking back in history, some of the greatest movies of all time have been parts of franchises--hallmarks for their genre, and genre-transcending films as well. For instance, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is part of what has come to be considered a trilogy, directed by the same person (Sergio Leone) and centering around the same person (Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name"). The Dirty Harry franchise is widely recognized as one of the greatest action series of all time, as is the Death Wish series (starring Charles Bronson) and Die Hard (with Bruce Willis). Drama has had its lucrative franchises as well, with The Godfather, a film many consider the best of all time, sparking two sequels. Significant benchmark sci-fi (Alien), horror (Friday the 13th) and comedy (The Pink Panther) franchises, as well as genre-benders (Back to the Future) have also attracted much attention.
Looking at these well-known franchises, a few things jumped out at me, and the first thing to do an Olympic leaping act was the fact that with the exception of Die Hard, none of these franchises have had an iteration released in the past decade. Interesting, and rather sad.
Another thing, more true of older franchises, is the willingness to NOT use the franchise name in the title of the films that make up the franchise. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the James Bond film franchise, in which each film (there have been 22, to date) has had a different, unique title. However, in the Eighties, Advertising Gurus, or somebody, figured out that if you are NOT creative with your titles (The Godfather, Back to the Future) people will recognize that This Movie Is Related To That Movie Which Happened A Few Years Ago. This trend has grown to the point that franchises which do the Old-Fashioned Thing, like the Riddick trilogy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick) and, to some extent, the Transformers franchise, which added "Revenge of the Fallen" to the second iteration of the series, are unusual.
Another point--this one somewhat random--is that Structure in franchises, perhaps intuitively, is rare. In other words, directors seldom set out to make a four-film franchise: usually the franchises are open-ended, and die a natural death (or live disturbingly long, as is the case with the Bond franchise). Obvious exceptions to this rule are book-to-movie interpretations, such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. A less obvious, and therefore more intriguing exception, is the Star Wars franchise, which saw two trilogies being completed, rather than a Long String of Sequels. Another random point, perhaps important, perhaps not, is that other than Return of the King, the last iteration of a franchise to win Best Picture was Rocky in 1976.
Also, why does horror tend to invite franchises? Why are there so many horror franchises and so few comedy franchises?
I have no idea where this whole bunch of Drivel is headed. I just wish good franchises were still being originated, but are they?
I suppose this post sorta invites comment. So...
Long live blithering!
1. The best situation for a player's name is when he/she/it is in pain and/or injured, but still wins. An example of this is Tiger Woods' stunning win at the U. S. Open last year. The guy was injured, and people knew it, and he still won.
2. A close second is playing not-hurt and winning. An example of this would be Tom Brady and the Patriots a couple of years ago, when their playmakers were iron men and the team won 18 games before the Super Bowl loss.
3. Next-most-acceptable is when a player is hurt, everyone knows they're hurt, and they lose. An example of this...the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL, people...seriously!) this year in the playoffs. They lost their best player to injury, and as a result they got eliminated from the playoffs. Everyone knew that the player was hurt, so when they lost the series, the responsibility was lifted from their shoulders a bit.
4. Less desirable is when a player or team is healthy but loses. Note that the disgrace of this event fluctuates, changing according to the quality of the loss (close vs. blowout), the quality of the opponent, and the missing of opportunities. For instance, the Celtics' playoff series loss to the Bulls was not very disgraceful for the Celtics at all, because the series came down the wire. However, the Pistons' playoff series loss to the Cavs was quite disgraceful for the Pistons, because the Pistons basically lay down and handed the series to the Cavs.
5. Most despicable, though, is when a team or player loses and THEN informs everyone that he/she/it was injured. For example: Rafa Nadal, who lost in the fourth round of the French Open at Roland Garros recently, just now lets everyone know that he's injured--his knees are giving him trouble. Now, everything seems to indicate that Rafa is in fact injured, and his injuries most likely did hurt his ability to run around on the court. So this is, quite possibly, a valid excuse...but should athletes give excuses? The answer is a resounding no.
And yes, I realize I didn't get into Movie Franchises at all. That post is upcoming.
Long live fringe sports!
Looking at some of the pictures I took over the weekend, I noticed that the looks people were aiming for didn't always translate to the photos. For instance, somebody would be trying to look nonchalant, and they'd come off as inebriated. It's safe to assume, then, that in photography, and perhaps by extrapolation most visually-representative art, it takes training to be able to translate Intention to Presentation.
Continuing to cogitate, I remembered similarities in acting, where often actors claim to be trying to communicate one thing, while in fact their actions read quite differently. As a matter of fact, I myself have fallen into this trap, when I played Dr. Rank in Ibsen's A Doll House. I attempted to communicate hopeless, love-lorn sickness, but my attempts at communicating hopeless, love-lorn sickness read instead as creepy, homeless rapist, or at least Stalker.
I've run into this tendency many other times in acting: people, sometimes I, think that the character is clear and evident on stage, but to the people in the seats, something vastly different is occurring on-stage. And it's not just limited to characters and intangibles: physical motion, business that seems almost overstated from the actor's point of view, reads from the seats as almost understated.
So what? Given my Dutch ancestry and my good Presbyterian upbringing, my nature abhors the absence of Application. Again, so what? Perhaps the moral of this story is that people shouldn't be too confident that they know what vibe they're giving off. Perhaps we should judge our behavior not from the standpoint of where we think we are, or where we want to be, but from where others say we are. We should put ourselves in the shoes of others; but beyond that, we should let others occupy their own shoes.
Of course, self-confidence is vital. If one has no trust in himself, herself, or itself, one won't go far. But to bring this to a spiritual level, the human heart is desperately wicked. What's more, people decieve themselves. Sad, but true, and the more dangerous for its allure. Self-deception is one of the most crippling of sins.
We must not try to create a mold for ourselves and then fill that mold. That'll only end in failure and humiliation. Only by living outward, by being advised, by NOT getting into Ralph Waldo Emerson's "self-reliance" can we truly succeed.
Wow, that was actually rather...MOTIVATIONAL!!!! OH YEAH! OH YEAH! RAH RAH RAH!
Seriously, though, it's my opinion that motivational efforts (books, magazines, speakers, etc.) are the most despicable life-forms on the planet, and if the self-help genre were to be blotted from existence and memory, life for many would be much more wonderful.
It's 2.18 in the morning. I'm going to eat mac'n'cheese, and then go to bed.
Long live spection!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
(I get paid for every capital letter I use.)
(I don't know. The money gets shoved under my door every morning.)
(Creepy? Of course I think it's creepy. But it's also free money. Which I like.)
(You know what? Shut up. Can't you see I'm busy Blogging my little heart out?)
(Oh, real mature. Walk away. Jerk.)
I think it's funny that the TV spots bumping Burn Notice's new season have ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man" for their music. I mean, I realize that the lyrics fit, but seriously? ZZ Top isn't exactly Spy Show music. Whatever...
Contrary to what you're probably thinking right now, you imaginary readers, this is not going to be a post dedicated entirely to Raving Lunacy. That's tomorrow's post. No, I am actually going to give you some awesome links, beginning with this video, which I'm pretty sure is not doctored. I mean, it's possible to doctor pretty much anything these days, but this looks relatively clean.
There is still dry humor out there on the web! Most of these are good--there are a few groaners--but Mr. Glenn Jones and his T-shirt designs is a keeper...Is a keeper? Are keepers? Are a keeper? I'm lost.
Again, thanks to the Telegraph for this story of a mother bird being innovative in her drive to protect her young. Reminds me of the oft-quoted verse from Matthew 6: "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" God provides. Pretty cool.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume everyone reading this blog can See. If you can't...um. Well, then this groovy and simple little illusion won't appeal to you. The rest of you...OH MY GOSH! ISN'T THAT SO UBER-AWESOME??????
Fine, whatever. I thought it was sorta cool.
Finally, something which will cheer everyone up: a mystery! Woo Hoo for wikipedia, btw. Aliens? Hmmmmm? Creepy, indeed.
That's all for now, imaginary folks. Keep it quasi-real.
Long live eclectic tastes!
Monday, June 1, 2009
(Cue Tropic Thunder reference: "What do you mean, You People?")
Yes, I know you so well. You were just pining for another wonderful glimpse into the twisted, convoluted, mirth-inducing, and jawdropping mind of Ian the Pontificator. You were pining, I say: and no wonder: you hadn't had a glimpse in, like, 4 days. So that's, like, a lot. And stuff.
(Of course I know that my "readership" exists only in my mind.)
(No, it doesn't make me crazy.)
Sorry about that. Having a little argument with myself.
So Friday, I went DramaMinistrizing (a real word...BECAUSE I CAN!...look, we'll discuss my right to create new words some other time, okay? I'm in the middle of something.)...Friday, I went DramaMinistrizing. It was enjoyable, I injured my hip slightly, we got to see people praising God through dance, and I established that I can, indeed, play something I'm not (a strong person.)
That last point is important, believe it or not, because most of my theatrical roles so far have been a) crazy, b) egomaniacs, c) pirates, d) emotionally tormented, or e) so small as not to really be developable as characters. You could argue, of course, that I am not a pirate, but I would ask you to search Youtube for "Ian DeJong pirate cutthroat swashbuckling grainy footage walk the plank", and your opinions will be dramatically altered. Yes: I played a bodybuilder, and I felt pretty good about it.
But that's not the point of thish-yar post: I'm going to pontificate on the use of drama to worship God.
Here we go.
Ready for this?
See, the question needs to be asked. More churches these days are replacing proper preaching of the Word with dramatic interpretations of the Word. No churches I attend (thank God), but it's happening. Should this be happening? I recognize that drama can be used in non-worship settings to edify and instruct, but should drama replace preaching to become the focal point of worship?
Part of the problem when looking more at the question is the absence of precedent. For a long time, drama has been considered sinful, despite any explicit or implicit condemnations within the Bible. Thus, any correspondence or cooperation between drama and formal worship is a 20th-century innovation. I think it's fairly clear that although drama sometimes can be a breeding ground for sinful behavior, it's not inherently sinful, and can be used to instruct and edify believers. However, since this was not the prevailing notion for centuries, there is no precedent about the question.
Perhaps the answer lies in the inherent qualities of the respective methods of ministry. Preaching tends to be instruction- and edification-centric, given its essential lecture format. Drama, however, is much more an entertainment form. While preaching's primary goal is building up the faith and knowledge of the hearer, the goal of dramatic performance often is to entertain, rather than teach. In addition, drama has a connotation, an accompanying reputation, as entertainment-focused.
Hearing the Word expounded doesn't have to be boring, and drama can indeed instruct and edify. It just seems to me that drama, while useful in informal worship settings, would be more distracting and less edifying than the proper preaching of the Word. Drama should still be used in especially informal worship settings.
So...that was some pretty heavy-duty Pontificating. At least I thought so. I'm not sure even of my position on the exact place of drama in formal worship. But drama should NOT replace preaching as the focal point of the service.
Long live pontificating!
(It's quite therapeutic, in my uninformed opinion.)
Long live pontificating!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
As most of you nonexistent people know, I've struggled recently with one of my greatest fears in life, which is NOT a stupid fear at all. I'm mortally afraid of being an imposition, of imposing my considerable personality upon people, and their innate politeness being too well-developed to allow them to tell me to step off. Even worse, I'm afraid of being so dense and self-centered that I can't see it when people do try to tell me to leave them alone.
I've had people impose themselves on me, and it's no fun. Politeness and a Judeo-Christian standard of ethics dictates that someone being imposed upon can't just say Buzz Off. What to do? And I'm mortally afraid of putting someone else in that position, related to me.
But today, as I've mentioned, an epiphany came. I need to stop thinking only about myself, because that's what I have been doing: it's all about Ian, what effect he has on people, how he's going to ruin someone's happiness. If I can convince myself that I'm not really that important--if I can instead direct my energies outwards, to serving others--who knows what I can accomplish? Everyone likes being served; nobody will be Imposed Upon if I'm serving them.
So that's the theoretical solution. Those of you who know me well--none of you, probably--know that my theoretical, hypothetical concoctions aimed at self-help seldom translate into action. But this is a possibility...there's a first time for everything.
Long live epiphanies!
We all know just how important studying is. We all know that sometimes, Other Things can interfere with our study time. So why not invent--or reinvent--an ancient device for keeping people in one place? Like...the ball-and-chain. No, seriously.
For all you Bikers (meaning bicyclists, not motorcycle fanatics) out there, Mom now has a way to track where you rode...guess this innovation means you'll pray for more rain.
Gamers beware: real-world stuff can happen in your MMOGs. Real-world stuff, as in epidemics. Actually it's fascinating even for a non-gamer like me.
At least British soldiers will be protected from stray bullets. As they say, give a man a duck and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to duck and he'll be able to dodge gunfire for a lifetime.
Finally, a rather sobering (and disturbingly sensible) speculation about death. Creeeeeepy!
Long live teh internets!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Again the short sweet walk across the courtyard
Whispers sublimity to my soul.
Again the soft spit of rain against my upturned face,
Spitting compassion, not disrespect,
Again the drab dark grass,
Again the spotlit maples,
Their adolescent leaves drooping sharp against the white wash of color.
Why, Father, do you taunt us with touches of heaven?
Why do you show us what we must die to obtain?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
Yet in my flesh shall I see God.
I rail at the glimpse
And yet I ever yearn for another.
Long live Inspiration!
Okay, so I hate LeBron James with a passion. The guy is worshiped--Worshiped--and I don't care that he's great skill-wise. I refuse to call him The Greatest until he wins a championship. People, especially LeBron homers, don't like to hear this, and they trot out all sorts of bogus comparisons. Allow me to make one of my own: the USA men's basketball team for the 2004 Olympics had LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan, Carlos Boozer, Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, and several other big names. But they didn't win the gold. The 2008 team was quite similar: stars were added, including Kobe Bryant, but the roster was definitely similar to that of the 2004 team. The difference was that the 2008 team won gold. My point? Even though the teams were similar, the 2008 team has a measure of respectability, because they won gold. LeBron won't gain my full respect until he gets a ring. Oh, and here's a link which says what I think, pretty much.
In other news, for those of you not passionately interested in sports, aerogel is still out there, and the stuff creeps me out. Seriously, whoa.
Muslims aren't allowed to eat pork. I remembered that, and that made this brief doodad make a lot more sense. The Afghanis are doing a good job keeping sickness away.
Remember the American version of Godzilla? Well, obviously NOW you do, because I gave you that refresher link. But the movie begins with, and accounts for the origins of the monster with, nuclear tests in the Pacific, which mutate iguanas. (Stick with me--this is going somewhere.) Obviously, when you nuke something, it gets big and angry and goes to smash up New York. Lesson learned: don't nuke animals. Especially, don't nuke this sucker. Think what devastation it could wreak. It probably wouldn't stop in New York: it'd probably hit D.C. and Boston, maybe head inland to Ohio, destroy Cleveland...though, maybe that'd be a good thing. Seriously, though! Yeesh.
Okay, that's almost all for today. But just in case you were wondering: there Is a conspiracy. Big Corporations are including subliminal messages in their logos. Don't believe me? Now you do.
Long live linkage!!!!!!!!!
Also, long live lots of exclamation points!
Soooooo...I'm thinking about writing a sequel, only for older audiences, and about baseball rather than animals. It'd be called Baseball Games Do The Strangest Things. Here's a link to illustrate my point.
Aaaaand here's another one. To understand this one, you need to understand that a few days ago, the Twins (may they rot in Hell) whooped these ChiSox 20-1. So, what do the skidding ChiSox do? Only go and clobber the L.A. Angels 17-3. And this makes sense how?
Long live America's Pastime!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
And yes, I'm doing my best to begin my posts with inane, obvious sentences. It's a fun thing to do.
And yes, that was an inane sentence. Also, it was obvious.
This is not going well. Perhaps I'd best get to the point.
So during this past semester, my life was all structure. What with 22 hours of class per week, 9 hours of work, and the inability to say No when it came to theatre, I had few hours to call my own. At the beginning of the semester, especially, I was freaking out, rather, because I didn't know if I could handle all the work. Apparently I could, because I did. By the end of the semester, I wasn't exactly Reveling in the responsibility, but I survived.
Towards the end of the semester, things got really, really rough, because all sorts of things, like projects and papers, began to Throng upon me. But eventually, the March of Time marched me right through Finals week, and I found myself stranded on the desert island of Summer.
(This, dear readers, is where the story gets interesting.)
So now, I find myself missing the structure of the semester. I have nothing happening, except work, which doesn't exactly count because there's nothing happening down there. So it seems that what my grandfather said in his book Teaching For a Change was true: people are in love with boundaries, and without them, they're unhappy.
I mean, I'm not unhappy. I am loving the whole Not Doing Stuff thing. I'm loving sleeping in.
But I'm thinking that by the end of the summer, I'm going to be pretty tired of Not Having Structure.
Long live structure!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Long live The Onion!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
So I was just sitting peacefully at my desk here in Audio/Visual when a professor, who shall remain nameless, but with whom I've had trouble before, barged in and asked rudely for a VCR and a TV on a cart to be brought to the classroom in which he was teaching. He said he had booked the VCR and the TV, but it wasn't there (effectually accusing me of not doing my job.)
I consulted my calendar, and lo and behold, there was the booking, and sure enough, he'd asked for a VCR/TV cart. But that room had a VCR connected to the LCD projector in the ceiling, which meant that there was no need for a VCR/TV cart to be brought there. So when I had delivered his laptop earlier in the afternoon, I had not brought the unneeded equipment.
I explained to this dunderhead that there was already a VCR in the room, and there was no need for a--but he cut me off, saying quite doggedly that there was no VCR in the room, that I was mistaken, that he and his twelve students had all looked, that there was no VCR in the room. Now, according to him, I wasn't just a slacker, but I was also a liar.
I found his claim that there was no VCR in the room extremely suspect, especially because I had helped install the VCR in the room last winter. But being a respectful, well-trained worker, I swallowed my ire and got a VCR/TV cart out of the storage room. I brought it upstairs to the classroom and left it outside the door. I went in, opened the cabinet where the VCR was supposed to be, and there in its conspicuous, obvious, and visible glory was the VCR.
I showed it to him; he said to his students, and I quote exactly: "See? I was right and you were wrong. There IS a VCR in this room." That was the final straw: I was not a liar, I was not a slacker, and I did not get an apology. Instead, he deceived all of his students.
There is really no reason I should post this all here on my blog, except for the fact that I can write what I want here. If the professor in question, and all of his ilk here at my school, were to read this, though, I would say to them the following: I am trained specifically to do what I do well. If you want help, come down here humbly and professionally, and accept my professional opinion. Then, accept my help OR, humbly and professionally, point out how I'm wrong. However, if you just want to be a jerk to someone, don't choose me. If you want to take out your frustration on someone, don't choose me. I am not your whipping-boy. If you can't be humble or professional, what are you doing a) teaching at a "Christian" school and b) teaching at all? You'd be better off breaking rocks somewhere.
Long live humanity...
Unfortunately, I think it's already dead. Anyway...
Long live humanity!
Okay. On to the links: got a couple for you imaginary readers today. First, grillz. Grillz are disgusting, in my opinion, but a lot of other people disagree with me. For instance, ancient Mayans liked gems in their teeth: it's true! There is, indeed, no accounting for taste. Yeesh.
Here's another link for you, and this one is difficult for me to post. Why? Because, as I've previously mentioned, I despise the Minnesota Twins, and I adore the Chicago White Sox. But today, unfortunately, the Twins managed to steal one, beating my beloved ChiSox 20-1. Oh dear me--please excuse me while I weep tears of rage and disappointment.
Finally, the kind of professionalism and dedication one would like to see spread across America: some pranksters go all out. Imaginative, too.
I have online gaming to do. Also, I can't wait for the season premieres of Burn Notice and EUReKA. Which are coming sooooooooon!
Long live the Internets!