Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Horrorpalooza of One 2015

So  yeah I watched a lot of horror films last weekend.  I was getting sick, I had a back log, and a couple of days off.  However, now that I am better I think I'll turn the whole thing into an extra postive thing by writing about it.  Also I feel like writing.  It happens.  Sometimes I consume all the things.  Other times I like to produce.  Like now.  So here we go.

Over the couple of days I had off I watched:

Let Us Prey
Among the Living
13 Sins
4 episodes of the 4th season of American Horror Story
both of the Rob Zombie Halloween remakes.

I didn't get around to Found or Jamie Marks is Dead.  Sorry guys.  I'll catch you later.  I may or may not throw Der Samurai into the mix because I watched it at around this time but for now lets work with what we have.

Best in Show:

Let Us Prey.  If the Babadook hadn't come out in 2014 this would be the best horror movie that came out last year.  Sadly the Babadook has it beat.  However, you can't win them all.  That said of the two movies I'd be much more willing to rewatch Let Us Prey.  The thing about the Babadook is that 15 minutes into the movie I would of just fed that fucking kid to the monster and been done with it.  Seriously, that kid had his irritation sensors on overdrive.  Back to Let Us Prey.  I loved it and you should watch it.  It doesn't break a whole lot of new ground but it is very good at what it does.  And the idea of the devil rolling into a small town and turning it upside down is a favorite story of mine.

Some stand out things about this movie:

One: When the devil used his magic it wasn't cheesy.  It had the perfect blend of ritualistc, strange, and yet easy for the audience to understand.  For example there was one point where he was screwing with a wife beater in the next cell.  The devil is talking to the wife beater, and while he's talking he's jamming his thumb in the mortar between an intersection of four bricks.  The effect is extreme tooth pain.  It is a simple action but it works.  There is a lot of stuff like that and the whole thing feels like an exceptionally well written issue of Constantine.  I loved this movie.

Two: Realistic responces.  There comes a certain point in most horror movies where you can't help but think, "Man the main characters must be tired of all this bullshit and yeah this totally happens in Let Us Prey.  The main character cop is stuck behind a desk while all hell is breaking loose and she gripes, "What is wrong with this town?"  It is the perfect response to the situation she was in.

Three: The main character wasn't some useless girl who spent most of the movie running around and screaming helplessly.  This is fine every once in awhile.  For example for both the Halloween movies it is a highly suitable character trait.  For the first movie because the main character was a young girl and for the second because she was mentally broken.  However, in Let Us Prey the main character was a cop, surrounded by cops, the devil, and other various miscreants.  She's also survived a horror movie's worth of trauma earlier in her life.  At no time was she helpless, but at the same time was the movie was very much a horror movie.  I'm not saying that every movie needs to follow this formula but it did help this movie stand out.  Hell it was critical to the plot.  Her hard as nails survivor mentality is what drew the devil out in the first place.

Seriously, I didn't know what to expect from this movie but man was I ever delighted to have seen it.

Moving on.

Among the Living:

I am shocked.  Shocked that this movie wasn't the best of show.  But it wasn't.  This movie is by the director of Inside.  Fucking Inside.  INSIDE which is my favorite horror movie ever hands down.  Like there isn't even a second place, there is just a whole mass of things I really like.  Then there is Inside standing proudly over the rest of them wielding a pair of scissors and cutting down the competition.  So....yeah maybe I was holding up Among the Living to impossible standards but now that I've had a couple of days to think about it, Among the Living is good but it really isn't that great.  See what made Inside good was its laser focus.  You had pregnant woman, you had the woman in black and you had a high stakes cat and mouse game between the two.  The movie had just enough setup to ground you then it was off to the races and it never looked back.  Hope you have a strong stomach and some popcorn cause shit's gonna go down.

Among the Living was a very different movie though.  The plot is that three boys find, while exploring an abandoned movie studio, a car with a woman in the trunk.  After a tense cat and mouse (phrase of the day!) episode they escape end up in their homes where the villain comes and murderers the vast majority of the cast before being brought down.  Yay.  The odd part of Among the Living is that the build up is the best part of the movie.  We get to know the three boys pretty well and there are a lot of compelling details added that never really come into play.  The biggest tough kid who is kinda scary has asthma, the nerdy one is timid but can still hang, and then there is the group's defacto leader and heart who moves the movie along.  The children are interesting.  They are old enough to have characters and they are developed enough so that when two of them are summarily dispatched of  by the movie's monster like they were mere side characters I got more than a little upset.

I am not saying that all three of the kids should of lived through the movie.  By all means kill a couple.  But I would of loved to of seen them come into their own as the adults around them fall one after another to the movie's creature forcing them to fend for themselves in a life or death struggle to save some mystery woman.  I felt that this movie could of done so much more with the characters it took the time to lovingly develop.

Is it a good movie?  Sure, Better than good.  It is a solid 8/10.  It is a damn fine horror movie.  It is beautiful.  The movie's intro is spell binding.  Some of the kills are deeply fucking unsettling.  Ugh.  I liked it a lot.  I just think it could of done more with what it had.  It was as the cusp of greatness the likes of which haven't been seen since Inside yet it drops the ball in the third act.  Funny, Martyrs does the same thing.

 Moving on.

13 Sins is only barely a horror movie.  I liked this movie but it was forgettable.  So forgettable that I initially forgot to add it to the list of things I watched.  Remember that movie The Game with Michael Doughlas?  No?  Well watch that instead because it is better over all.  I liked the movie and it is worth a watch.  13 Sins isn't bad, but there are so many movies that do it better.  Most notably being The Box.  Actually yeah, forget 13 Sins go watch the Box instead then the Game then if you want to see another movie that is similar with a higher body count watch 13 Sins.

Lastly Halloween.

I loved these movies.  There were a late addition to the line up.  I had two other movies I was stoked about all lined up and ready to go and then last minute change of plans.  I mean I met two of the people in the damn movies I might as well watch them.  So yeah love.  Rob Zombie knows how to direct a slick horror film and man those fuckers were long.  For a genera that rarely wanders out of the 90 minute run time both the Halloween movies clock in at 120 minutes assuming you are watching the unrated director's cut which I did because why would I watch any other version.  I watched them both back to back which I think was the right choice.  All in all these movies distilled down everything the slasher genera has gotten right since the 1970's.  It knew the deep down everyone loves an origin story, it knew how to ratchet up tension while still keeping the body count high, something Among the Living failed at.  It knew how to develop characters quickly and make them distinctive so that when they died they weren't just Rozencrantz and Guildensterns waiting for their deaths.  And the deaths were great.  Halloween two especially brought the violence with the main character's initial dream sequence.

I could say more about these movies but it is like three in the morning and I am sleepy so I am going to end here.  YAY!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Breaking Habits

One of the things about spending an emmence amount of time video gaming is the need to keep in balanced with other activities.  I am fond of saying that work is the least interesting thing I do every day because it is the truth.  However, the trick is living up to that and sadly that takes more than just minecraft or whatever MMO has recently caught my eye.  And so here we are.  YAY!

I am going to spend some time tonight talking about Ex Machina.  Ex Machina is a movie that broke my heart as soon as I heard about it.  I saw the headline and I immediatly thought it was going to be an adaptation of the comic.  Man of Steel was still fairly fresh on my mind and I think an adaptation of Ex Machina would make for a wonderful companion movie.  Maybe not.  Instead we got sexy robot movie and as a whole it is quite a good movie.

However, weeks later I find myself ever so slightly disapointed by it.  The reason is that the ending was to abrupt.  As a result I can't tell if it flubbed the ending or if the ending was brilliant.  Now while I am very much a fan of ambiguous cinema I would of liked a little bit more to go on.

So it is time for slaps and tickles!

Lets start with the slaps.
  It flubbed the ending hard.  When Ava locks Caleb in a room we are left with a role reversal.  She is in control of the situation and, for the first time, the master of her own fate.  So she ditches Caleb and goes to her intersection in a city to see a cross section of humanity for the first time.  The idea of the movie is that she needs to pass the Turing test by becoming indistinguishable from a human and what is more human that stepping over another human to achieve your goals right?
The problem with this line of reasoning is that the movie is told almost entierely through Caleb's point of view.  The only time we see Ava is when he sees her.  The only time she speaks is when he is listening.  While a decent amount of the movie is dedicated towards getting to know her better and to judge her ability to think independtly of her initial programing.  However, throughout the movie we don't get to know her very well at all.  We know that she wants to escape and to see and experience new people.  We know that the programer man she lives with is dangerously close to going off of his rocker but that's it.  Once Caleb discovers this one fact about her the movie becomes fixated on that fact.  It becomes the axis which the movie revolves around.  Now philisophically the movie wanders off and gives the viewer some ideas to mull over, like is the test a double blind and is Caleb really the AI.  The color test about the woman who lives in the black and white room but knows everything there is to know about color, even the need for sexuality.  Nathan claims that he gave Ava a sexuality to give her the chance to experience love yet I don't buy that explanation or his answer.  It is something worth thinking about and it is a subject for another post at another time.  Yet while the movie gives the viewer plenty of time to busy themselves with a dizzying array of questions that could keep me happy for months.  It manages, at the same time, to leave the inner workings and or motivations of Eva a mystery.

She wants to escape but to what end?  Whatever that end was she sacrificed Caleb without a moments hesitation.  In addition what is sad about Caleb's sacrifice is that he is directly responciple for her escape.  To have her sacrifice him at the last moment seems almost absentminded of her.  There wasn't even a struggle.  She just politely asked him to wait in the room which he gladly did before she locked the door.  She sentenced him to death, we don't know why, and I felt myself let down by the whole thing.

I grew up with Star Trek TNG which by extension means I grew up with Data.  Or rather I grew up with Data in a more meaningful way than I grew up with Skynet.  So I am over the whole AI's be bad thing.  I just am.  It is why I have such a deep abiding love of Her.  Her almost immeadiatly side steps the idea of the turing test by letting Samantha pick her own name, giving her a sense of humor, prefrences, and a personality.  It happens quickly because, like me, Her is over the whole AIs give us the willies thing and is ready and willing to move on.  God blessem.  As such Ex Machina is a brilliant movie marred by an exceptionally boring status quo like ending.  The machine sacks the human so it can be free.  Well done.

HOWEVER, what if the ending is brilliant.  I mean super brilliant.

Okay to make it brilliant we have to visit two different parts of the movie.  The first part is something I mentioned earlier Ava's sexuality.  The second thing we have to talk about is when Nathan reveals to Caleb the actual point of the test.  He calls Ava a rat in a maze.  She only has one way out and that is Caleb.  To get Caleb to help her she is going to need to use all sorts of tools like empathy and creativity.  She learns to cut off the power and together the two of them are able to concoct a plan.  The word concoct looks stupid.  Anyway, she escapes and blah blah blah.  BUT WAIT lets go back to her sexuality.  There are two reasons for a sexuality.  One is love because love is AWESOME.  The other is reproduction and this is where it gets interesting.

Ava is smart.  I don't know how smart but we'll go with pretty smart.  The point being is that she is in a building and she is free.  She knows there are others like her, as she met them.  I am pretty sure she found the workshop.  Even if she didn't she could reasonably deduce that there is one present in the building.  She also has all of Nathan's notes.  And she has Caleb.  In short she has the ability to replicate.  She has the ability to grow, learn, and understand herself better.  She has the opportunity, if she so desired, to preform the Turing test on Caleb as she now has him captive.  Instead she bolts.  This would mean she fails her test.

Ava is presented with her captivity as a problem.  She solves her problem but to what end?  What does she hope to achieve?  Where will she go?  How will she maintain herself?  Where will she get money?  An id?  Once she sees her cross walk what will she do next?  As a machine none of this matters.  She had one goal.  Escape.  Which she achieves with ruthless efficiency.  On that note seriously Nathan?  Next time you make a robot make it so they can't harm you what the fuck.  Mad scientist 101.

Anywho the movie gives the view a lot of space to think about knowledge, identity, and consciousness.  We emphasize with Ava because Nathan is a dick and because if we were captured we would like to be free.  However, we want to be free to go back to our lives.  Ava pays lipservice to the idea of wanting to learn more about humanity but she could of done that with Caleb.  In fact her sitting down and starting to test Caleb would be just as fitting of an end to the movie as her leaving him.  More of a fitting end because it would show that she has some of her own ideas and priorities beyond that task that was originally assigned to her.

Okay this feels muddled let me put it another way.  The only time we learn anything about Ava is through Caleb and in a couple of occasions we learn things second hand through Nathan.  Nathan is where we learn about her desire to escape.  As soon as Ava is free she makes a beeline for the door.  She kills Nathan mostly because he is in the way.  She doesn't even acknowledge the asian girl and just like that she's gone.  In the version of the movie where I think the ending is terrible this is because we aren't given enough information to determine her motivations.  HOWEVER, if we do take the motivation the movie claims she has and apply it then all the sudden she is acting less like an organism that would be concerned about its continued survival and its ability to propagate its species and more about the singular goal that was instilled in her at birth.

Then the movie becomes much more interesting.

Anyway I've been typing awhile and I'm going to leave it here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A look back At Bleeding Edge

As stated earlier, as in last post which was over a month ago, I don't want the books I read to pass without comment.  I love reading.  More than that I love writing about what I read.  It is fun.  Last book I read was On Basklisk Station and other than the fascinatingly progressive gender dynamics there isn't a whole hell of a lot to say about that book.

Bleeding Edge suffers from the opposite problem, from the time period, to the setting, to the characters, to its peculiar narrative arc, or its unique structure Bleeding Edge is a buffet of topics for discussion, thoughts to think, and threads left dangling.  In a lot of ways it reads like a season of the X-Files.  The main character keeps poking around the edges of some vast unknowable conspiracy and she keeps uncovering, or being presented with dangling clues that she is either unwilling or unable to follow through with.  There are a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the book.  In fact when the book ended my responce was, "huh guess that's that then."  Which I think is one of the main criticisms I'd level at it.

It took me a long time to get through the book.  There were a lot of reasons for this.  One is the books peculiar structure which I will get to in a minute but the other is the looming presence of 9/11.  The book starts some time before 9/11 but I could tell that the books events and 9/11 were going to coincide and I was dreading it.  I hate to say it but I am 9/11ed out.  Sure I love Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and the first two seasons of Rescue Me but 9/11 is such a cheap narrative turning point that in this case the prospect of it just irritated me.  Fortunately once the dust had settled the book had some rather salient points to make about the whole event.  Many of which still hold true to today.  My favorite is about how we've become trapped in reality.  Everything had to be real and it all had to be now.  Man what a perfect way to sum up a generation.  Hell just looking around youtube you see people playing detective calling everything fake.  Now that's not bad.  That's a time honored tradition going back to Barnum.  What is bad is that these people are furious all the time.

The other reason that it took me so long to get through the book is that it would do this thing.  Maxine would be sitting there in a scene listening to someone talk or something like that then all the sudden there would be a tangent.  Sometimes these tangents would go on for 10-15 pages.  At first it drove me nuts.  I couldn't keep track of the narrative.  Things would be fine then all the sudden we'd be ten years ago and Maxine is thinking about something random, then 15 pages later we are back in the present with the conversation continuing right where it left off.  So I started putting off reading the book, waiting until I was super alert so that I could instantly catch when the book was going to veer off and do something random for a bit.  It was miserable trying to keep up with it.

Then I started to suspect that this might be the point.  That there might be some sort of purpose to the book's meandering style and if I were to let go and just let the prose take me I'd always end up back where I needed to be.  A little while later Maxine had her first encounter with Deep Archer, a computer program that mimics the style of the book and I just felt like the smartest person in the world.  I figured out the fancy fucking book before the author broke down and explained it.  Once I let go and just accepted being "purposefully lost" as the book put it I started to enjoy it immensely.  Bleeding Edge isn't a book about a sequential series of events culminating in some sort of lesson or character growth but rather an extended journey and strange journey.

One of the things I really like about it is the discussions of the internet.  Okay the distinction between the "deep internet" and the surface internet annoyed me because it felt like Pynchon just Googled deep internet, read a wiki article and ran with it.  I would of preferred he called it something else.  Nerd nagging aside the discussion of the deep internet, particularly Deep Archer, and its subsequent invasion as a result of 9/11 reminded me of the gradual commercialization of the internet along with the gradual grounding of our internet identities.  It is kind of a complex issue for me, and one that is fairly personal.  Not in a tragic way but more of a, "you kinda had to be there" kind of way.  But watching the fall of Deep Archer was a bit like watching the internet go from this very specialized community of hobbiests into something everyone uses.  During that transition it became something so much more, and so much less at the same time.  The internet still has its dark corners far away from Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Youtube, and constant unending horrible ads.  However, without all of us there would be no Amazon, kickstarter, and Wikileaks.  I am not saying it is better or worse.  It is just different.  The dotcom bubble was the American Dream writ large and its collapse is the American reality that you get when you wake up.  Only a very few escape with anything.

It is a big mysterious book that I'd very much like to revisit down the road.  I'd be curious what I'd think about it 5 years from now with 9/11 20 years gone and the internet being very different that what it is today.

This book deserves to have more written about it.  It deserves to be talked about more.  But I have a new book to read and I'm excited.  So I'm going to end it here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Gender Parity and You with Honor Harrington Too!

Gender equality, parity, and representation is one of those things that, when I'm confronted with it, I find myself just throwing my hands in the air and moving on.  It most recently caught my attention when a University decided to cancel the annual reading of the Vagina Monologues on valentines day because it excluded Trans folk.  This is what happens when you have people who lack any sort of critical thinking skills trying to enact societal change.  But that's a tirade for another day.

See my problem with most people's idea of how representation should be handled is that it rings false.  If you demand that for a piece of media every X characters there needs to be one LGBT person then it isn't going to feel natural.  For an example of this you need look no further than the teen movies of the late 80's and 90's.  Or if you wanna make it easy on yourself Not Another Teen movie where they point out the token black guy.  Or how so many horror movies has the near obligatory black guy and how almost always the black guy dies first.  My favorite example of racial diversity gone wrong is the original Power Rangers.  Oh man was that shit ever funny.  I knew that was messed up even in the 4th grade, "Look at how diverse we are!  SO DIVERSE and yet we all have colors to match our steriotypes.  Jocky leader guy is red, boy is blue, black guy is black, all asians are yellow, pink is for girls YAY the diversity!"  Yeah.  See what I mean when you force diversity and it ends up ringing false?  To bring the gender back into focus in the Return of the King when the Nazgoul was saying it couldn't be killed by any man I turned to my friend and whispered, "Hobbit KO incoming!"  I was excited.  It would of fit with the theme of the movie too, small people in events to big for them being brave.  It would of been awesome.  Instead we got, "I am no man" which compared to what it could of been just seems forced.

Alright lets stay focused on gender for a bit.  I've always had a theory of what gender parity would look like in a book.  My theory was that unless a character's gender is important for the medias plot, subplot, or a subtext then the gender itself should be interchangeable and randomly assigned.  For example Han Solo.  There is nothing inherent about the character that demands he be a male.  So make him a woman.  The core character remains entirely unaltered with the exception that he might of ended up in the slave outfit instead of in carbonite.  Similarly if you swapped the genders of Luke and Leia the story itself remains relatively unchanged.  In Star Trek TNG 99% of the crew could undergo a gender swap and the essence off the characters would still remain the same.  

Gender in of itself is not an indication of how a character needs to act unless you are really into propagating stereotypes.  The book "Honor Harrington: On Basklisk Station" is the perfect example of this.  The book weighs in at 432 pages and it has a rather large cast of characters.  Some are pretty flat and two dimensional and the book lacks subtlety and grace. It is a military Sci-FI book where the author took Napolionic navel battles and finagled the technology so that they have been replicated in space and he is a hell of a lot more interested in that than dealing with things like character development.  And yet it feels like when he made each and every character he flipped a coin and assigned their genders that way.  During the book no one falls in love.  There is no sexual tension.  There was a character who once tried to rape Honor but she kicked his ass.  There is tension between Honor and her executive officer but it had to do with the fact that the executive officer wanted command of the ship and was jelous she got it.  Not because she was a girl.  The head engineer was a woman.  So was the ship's doctor and the leader of planet Basklisk.  

The point is that the books simply didn't care care about gender.  The book was about a small ship being given an impossible task and they managed to do it anyway through grit and determination.  Their genders neither helped nor hindered this task and to me this is perfect.  It didn't feel like the author mixed up the genders to meet some sort of quota.  He was much more concerned with telling you about how hyperspace worked.  The mix felt natural and that naturalness is what's going to help people get used to the idea of gender equality going forwards.  I liked the book but in later ones Honor falls in love and gets trapped in love triangles and other stuff and I'm quite frankly not interested in any of that crap.

That said I might end up reading a few more books in the series anyway.  As it stands this first book is a fascinating look at what a world looks like where the differences between the sexes aren't broken down but ignored entirely thus treating everyone equal.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

I'm Not Done Writing

So I just wrote like 3 pages but I'm not done yet.  So I am going to write some more.  This is good though.  I've been writing more fiction recently.  Nothing coherent mostly stuff  on scratch paper on my lunch breaks to get me into the groove of fiction writing again.  National Novel Writing Month is around the corner and I want to participate this year.

I thought I had an idea of a novel all planned out and ready to go.  This is something I wanted to do and I was ready to do it.  Then all the sudden a couple of weeks ago I was like, "but what if I don't".  What if I write something else?  So I've been planning for that.  I want to do a noir style book where a guy starts with a normal happy every day life and then it all gets flipped upside down and by the end of it he's in thick with the wrong crowd but he decides to stay.  Part Black Lagoon, part Sin City, part Fatale, part American Tabloid, part Cold in July, and a dash of creativity.  I hope I like it.  I've decided to write it in the first person.

One of my favorite authors, James Ellroy, once said, "If you don't have an interesting perspective then don't bother with the 1st person.  Just stick to 3rd".  That's always stuck with me and as a result all of my novels and stories have been in the third person,  When he said that he was eluding to White Jazz which is the one book that people seem to hate the most.  It is very different than his other works but man it just drew me in and took me along for the ride.  I loved every page of it and yeah he's right.  If you aren't going to get in your character's head and I mean really get into it then don't fucking bother.  Stick to third person.  I've been trying out various characters in first person and it is a hell of a ride.  Here's an extended quote.  To give you the set up the main character is trying to track down a murderer and set up a prostitution sting operation to help find someone who might know the killer.

"Bluesuits out in force: popping tricks, impounding trick cars.
Prostie vans behind Cooper's Donuts; Vice bulls bagging IDs. Men stationed southbound and northbound- hot to foil sex prowlers hot to rabbit.
My perch: Cooper's roof.  Ordnance: binoculars, a bullhorn.
Dig the panic:
Johns soliciting whores-cops grabbing them.  Vehicles impounded, van detainment- fourteen fis bagged so far, prelim Q&A:
"You married?"
"You on parole or probation"
"You like it white or colored?  Sign this waiver, we might cut you loose at the station."
No Lucille K.
Some clown tried to run- a rookie plugged his back tires.
Epidemic boo-hoo- "DON'T TELL MY WIFE!" Leg-shackle clangs-the prostie vans shook.
Luck-whores mixed fifty-fifty: white gils, coons.  Fourteen tricks arrested- all Caucasian.
Panic down below: Shriners bagged en masse.  Five men, fez hats flying- a whore grabbe one and pranced.
I hit the bullhorn: "We've got nineteen! Let's close it down!"

This along with the description of Catch-22, just before the execution of  Colonel Aureliano Buendia, and a certain passage out of Nightwood make up my pantheon of favorite literary moments.  Anyway you see what I mean by making first person work and I mean really work.  It isn't worth it unless you get into someone's head.  Someone who think and acts differently than you.  I'm not going to go quite that far.  I am going to use him as kind of an unreliable narrator.  He is also going to undergo some signifigant changes.  If I take the time to do it right the style of writing would be different from the first and second half of the book but it is NaNoWriMo so what will more than likely happen is that I'll just be frenzily hammering out the plot.  Speaking of the plot I have the beginning and the end pretty well thought out and part of the first part of the middle.  So I am actually pretty excited about this novel.  I hope it turns out well.  Last years novel was fun but easy.  I set it in an rpg universe and while I had a blast writing it and it turned out surprisingly well it wasn't challenging.  It was the most complex plot I've ever tackled but still it all clicked together a little to well.  That said I do very much want to edit it up and do something with it.  This one I am really looking forwards to.

They say not to compare yourself to others and just do your own thing but Gérard de Villiers wrote 3 novels a year for most of his life.  Granted they aren't very good but they certainly are fun to read which is all he wanted really.  It gives you pause to think.  Anywho the self comparison always inspired me to do better and reach for more and not be to self satisfied which is something I am prone to.  However, I have fits of depression that make getting out of bed and not being cruel to people and unbelievably difficult task so sometimes I earn it.

I don't want to dwell here lets move on.

I am going to get an ebook reader in November.  I am getting a Kindle.  I could just order it now.  Right now.  I have Amazon open in a tab because I needed to look up the spelling of Gérard de Villiers's name and it has an add for the kindle.  I could one click order that shit.  However, I am waiting till black friday/cyber monday in hopes of a good sale on the things.  Whenever I mention my Kindle quest people always say, "printed books are awesome" and they are right.  I am with these people 100% but damnit I am out of room for books.  I have books everywhere.  I have shelves of books.  I could sell them at a used book store but I have a rather "distinctive" taste in books.  Most of my prefered books aren't even carried by Barns a Million let alone a used book store so giving them a milk crate of books in exchange for 5 bucks credit doesn't do me any good.  That and a lot of books I want to read are political in nature and those books have a shelf life of maybe 5 years before the information is out dated and needs updating.  These books are a third of the price digitally.  Mostly though it is the space issue.  It is just a pain in the ass.

The thing is though is that the Kindle or the idea of the Kindle is quaint.  I've put off getting an ebook reader for awhile.  Me?  I hate reading off the computer screen.  There is something about it that sends my reading comprehension into the shitter.  Even when I unplug from the internet and my book is the only thing on the screen my comprehension goes in the shitter.  Don't know why.  The reason I say the idea of the Kindle is quaint though is because it is a dedicated electronic device and those are going the way of the dinosaur.

Back in the day a computer with a net connection was your gateway to the world.  Then it was if you had a lap top you could take your world anywhere.  Now?  Now people hold the internet in the palm of their hands.  Cellphones have procession power that wasn't even dreamed of 20 years ago let alone in the palm of your hand.  Kindles are quaint in the same way desktop computers are quaint.  The vast majority of the things most people do with a desktop pc can be done on a cell phone or a tablet.  Heck with Skype, Facetime, and Facebook messenger you almost don't need a cell plan anymore.  So why get a dedicated device when for the same amount of money I could get a phone, internet browser, mini multimedia station?  The plain and simple answer is that the Kindle's screen is better for reading than a cell phone one.  That's all and I am willing to overpay for a nice screen and cheaper books that won't clutter up my house but would break my heart to throw away.  Perhaps there is somewhere I could donate them.  It is strange though.  I had a baby laptop and I loved it until it died.  I mostly interneted and wrote on it.  If I hadn't decided to use my PC as a gaming platform I prolly would of just invested in another baby laptop and a stream box for my tv.  One day having a desktop PC will be completely outdated.  I don't know what the work space will look like but I do know I'll still need a keyboard to type on.

I just can't seem to organize my thoughts as well when I use text to type.  I can also type faster than I can talk so there's that.  I just think it is a little funny.  All my life I've had a desktop PC in one form or another in my house from the ancient commador 64 to my custom built gaming rig.  It just seems odd that in the next 20 years they might not even be a thing any more.  It is also odd to think of me living 20 more years but that's a different topic for another time.

I keep seeing more and more about how we are addicted to technology and it is rewiring our brains and blah blah blah.  Me?  I think that most of it is a load of crap.  I think that blaming our problems on technology is a convenient way of putting the chicken before the egg.  People claim we are now more isolated than ever before but we have 50 thousand different ways to fucking talk to each other so I don't see the problem.  There is that endless meme of the people all sitting near each other on their phones instead of having conversations with each other but let me tell you before we all had cell phones we all didn't live in some mystical fucking fantasy land were we all sat around and talked to each other for hours on end.  That never happened.  The only time that happens is when you are in a bar because that's part of what being in a bar is all about.

People aren't addicted to technology they are addicted to themselves.  Hell they aren't even addicted to themselves they are addicted to things that validate themselves.  That's what the whole gamer's gate thing is self validation of some stupid identity that doesn't matter.  That is what the like button on facebook is.  It is a non verbal one click way for you to validate other people's posts.  It lets you say, "I support this message" without actually typing the words.  It is also why you are a chode when you like your own posts.  Communication over facebook is secondary to the idea of self validation.  The comercialization of the internet just made it easier for groups of like minded people to gather and exchange idea that they already agree on.  The reason why this happens is because people like to talk to people they already agree with.  So why not monetize it.  This is why certain tumbler groups get really weird.  Or why forums become overly policed so everyone stays on message.  This policing can be either formal or informal.  It is also why some people talk in memes.

The other day at work Cory and I were discussing Gamer's Gate and he made the comment that the Chans are the most horrible thing to come out of the internet.  I disagree.  Other than the specifically illeagal stuff like child pornography I kind of accept the Chans.  I've met a lot of people over the course of my life and as a result I've gained an understanding of the chans.  I don't like them but like most internet communities if you leave them alone they are happy to exist in a self perpetuating circle jerk.  No the worst thing to come out of the internet is the meme.  The picture with the white words.  This picture can then be shared over and over again without any thought from the person who shares it.  People can then "like" it and even optionally share it again.  Memes intrinsically have no value.  Oftentimes they only require a modicum of creativity and effort to make and distribute.  That's okay though because in general people spend a minimum amount of time processing the information within the meme, usually in the form of retension and then they move on.  Meme's are essentially short hand for thought proceeses but what is horrible about them is that because of the way they are distributed they are perfectly preserved.  A meme can be shared hundreds or millions of times.  I can go viral and when that happens it penetrates the national consciousness and everyone knows what this meme is and yet it is perfectly preserved the entire time.

Things need to change in order to improve.  Sometimes they change for the worst.  Sometimes they change for the best.  The point is that things need to change.  If things remain static that is just what they are.  Static.  Static thoughts are the worst and that is exactly what a meme is.  For the most part they are fun, like grumpy cat.  But more and more they are being used to boil down complex issues into easily digestable and believable facts.  On large comment threads on facebook, after a certain point it degrades into people tagging their friends and people posting pictures of Michael Jackson eating popcorn.  When people want to make charged statements they pull out that fucking Willy Wonka picture instead of just saying what they think and lord if you ever feel like taking a trip down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole one day the comment threads are littered with pictures that have words on them.  Memes are an actual honest to god horror.  Sure in moderation they are fun but I've listened to multiple groups of people have entire conversations in memes in real life for hours.

Why?  Well Memes are a quick and simple nugget of thought.  You can throw one up and quickly get validation as to whether or not people agree with it.  If they do then score you can post related memes and it is cruise control for having a thought process.  The more meme's you know the easier it is to fit in with other people who know their memes.  After awhile it allows people to talk in shorthand.  Jargon laden specialties in acedemia lets you do the same thing.  The difference is that jargon lets you expand ideas quickly while memes preserve ideas indefinitly.  When people talk in memes they aren't really talking to each other but instead it is like a preverse call and responce.

This is a topic I'd like to revisit another time however.  It is 1:30 in the morning and I've been writing since like 9ish.  I'd also like to bring in some literary theory to this dicussion.  Marxists are usually technophobic which is ironic because currently technology has out paced the means of production in many areas.  However, the meme plays directly into a lot of their fears specfically the fears of Walter Benjamin so I want to reread one of his essays and use that to frame my thoughts.

This was good thought I got a nice rough draft of what I wanna say right here.

Something Else

It has been a very long month.  When my pay check came in the mail and I saw that I had 10 hours of overtime on it I got physical proof that I was tired because I'd been working a lot and not because I'd become some tremendous sissy in the past couple of years.  My relief was tangible so much so that it caused a gentle rain to grace a drought stricken land.  It wasn't enough of a rain to do anyone any good.  It just made some mud which got tracked into a house and caused a fight which spun out of control.  The police got involved.  But I am sure in the end it will work out alright.  The lesson here is that I very much need to take some time off and I will!

That is not what I wanted to write about though.  I just wanted a little bit to warm up.  However, seeing as how I haven't picked a topic yet I'm just going to go through things  that are on my surface thoughts.  I have at least 4.

1)  Sometimes when I come up across a thing I don't understand I don't research the solution to said problem.  Instead I keep it in the back of my mind, mull it over, and try to unravel it for myself.  I know full well that the solution to my problem is a well asked question away or in most cases 45 minutes with google but sometimes it is best to put your problem solving skills to work especially when they are big concept problems that greatly affect our every day lives.  I am ashamed to admit that this particular problem took my a couple of years to unravel.  Now granted I didn't spend several years in a row puzzling over it.  In fact I went for months without thinking about it.  However, it is one of those things that should of been much simpler to solve and it wasn't due to my fundamental lack of understanding of how our monetary system works.  This pisses me off a little bit but that's a different topic.

The problem was, "Why did President Clinton merge investment banking and personal banking?".  See before Clinton a law was passed by someone, I don't remember who and I don't feel like looking it up.  The law stated that there would be a separation of investment and personal banking.  Personal banking is what you use when you want  a loan, a savings account and a checking account.  The bank is supposed to take part of your savings account, turn them into safe loans.  This keeps your money in the community and offers up some safe guards against financial crisis.  An investment bank does all the crazy fucking stockmarket shit.

So why on god's green earth would we merge the two.  During the great depression people lost everything when the banks folded.  We have institutions which are to big to fail.  By the by our pathetic excuse for a media organization has been using that phrase wrong.  To big to fail means that should the institution fail it would take enough of our ecconomy with it that the results would be catastrophic.  They are a thing that legally shouldn't excist and yet there they are.

Anyway the reason for the merge is simple.  Like bloody simple.  One most of us belong to national bank chains like Bank of America, or Wells Fargo or something similar.  So it isn't like our savings and loan comes from and goes to local sources anyway.  Two money in a savings account is, ecconmically speaking, useless.  It might as well be shoved under a mattress, buried in your back yard, or even burned.  Money that doesn't circulate has no purpose.  It has to move through the system in order to grow.  By opening our savings accounts to the risks of investment banking now all that money we tuck away for a rainy day is free to circulate around the ecconomy which helps stimulate growth.

I am unable to verify this, because I lack the research material but I am willing to bet there are links to the explosion of the financial markets and this law.  Has it been a bad law?  Well that's still up for debate but I am leaning no but until I can explain it I can't really have an opinion.  Oh well.  That is something I can't just magically figure out for myself.  I'd need to do some heavy reading and it is a question that is still being answered to this day.  Is it a good law or not?  Oh well.  Yeah I am nerd.  But whatever nerds are in.

2) I was doing the same process with the problem of minimum wage being 15 monies an hour.  I figured both of these problems out in the same week!  YAY!  I may be tired and have most of the joy sucked out of me but damnit I am thinking about shit.  WOO!  *removes top* *then gets shy and puts top back on and sits back down a little red faced*.  Anyway yeah some people want the minimum wage to be 15 monies.  They keep siting the law that states the minimum wage should provide a working wage.

Now opponents to this have mostly been really dismissive and nasty.  Basically you are poor and you work a shitty job so go fuck yourselves.  Or less agressivley, "Well why don't you hire a lawyer and...OH WAIT we don't pay you enough to do that HA!  Fuckers".  If I had the energy I'd go find a quote from the CEO of Applebee's I never really ate their because their food is a bunch of bland overpriced piles of shit but holy crap did that man  make an ass of himself during the passing of the Affordable Care Act.  I've hated him ever since.

Back to the topic at hand as a poor worker, I and the people around me would benefit greatly from a 15 dollar per hour pay check but it is a bad idea and I finally fucking figured out why.  This one only took a could of months.  Okay so here's the skinny.  The minimum wage was started in 1938 and back then the world was a very different place than it is today.  Hell the world back in the 50's was a different place that it is today.  When manufacturing was America's major source of jobs the American economy was a very different place than it is today.  The main reason being is that just about everyone who was working was working for their lives.  By that I mean these folks worked while they were either in high school or immediately after in factories, stores, farms, salesmen, for the rest of their lives.  Summer break still existed so kids could help out on the farm or get a job to help their family raise money to get through the winter.  College was reserved for those who were already rich and planned on entering into business or law.  It was also the year Superman made his first appearance.  The specter of WW2 loomed writ large though no one really knew it yet.  Most families subsisted off of a single income provided by the man while the woman stayed at home to take care of the house and children.  This point is important because our work force was 51% smaller as a result.

Things are very different now.  Hell things are different now then they were ten years ago.  NOW there are kids who get a job in high school because they are bored and they just want some spending money.  There are people who are getting jobs as a form of recreation I can't fucking fathom what is wrong with people like that but they are out there.  I've met them.  There are kids who get jobs because their parents believe that having a job will help teach them responsibility.  College is something that everyone can now go to.  Granted the student debt thing is fucked and something to be tackled latter but the point is that you can at least get in the door.  Women are part of our workforce now and they are holding more and more positions of power every year.  Good on them I say.

The point being is that 15 dollars an hour for a minimum wage is silly because not every person in the workforce is working for their lives.  Some of them are just passing through.  Do they need 15 bucks an hour to pay for school?  Yeah absolutely but lets not muddy the waters here.  Lets stick to two basic things.  One in 1938 when people entered into the workforce they were generally there for good.  Today that is not so much the case.

By setting our wages to 15 dollars an hour it kills our ability to negotiate and there.  Right motherfucking there is the problem.  I got it.  See 10 bucks an hour is a pretty reasonable minimum wage.  I've yet to see an actual job that doesn't deserve 10 bucks an hour.  It also still allows employers to hire on people at 12-15 and more marginally skilled positions without melting the budget.

Lets be very clear when you are paid the minimum wage it is because that is the least amount they are legally allowed to pay you.  If they could get away with less they most likely would and in the past they did.  The minimum wage wasn't enough to protect workers.  That's why they formed unions.  This way workers of similar jobs could band together in a large enough group to force their employers to do horrible things like pay them a living wage or have better working conditions.  I hate to put it this way but people don't want a 15 dollar minimum wage.  What they want is the ability to negotiate their wages in a legal way that avoids retaliation on the behalf of the employers.  Let's use me as an example.  I make X amount of money.  Because of the next sentence I can't say the exact amount.  Now lets say my friend Corey makes X+2 amounts of money.  Corey got hired after me and was made full time almost immediately while my boss dicked me around instead of making me full time.

Had I put down the actual amounts of money we make and it got back to my bosses I could be fired.  Hell I could be reprimanded for talking about the full time situation.  What this does is that it shields my bosses from having to pay us fairly.  To be clear I am not talking about Chef, or the head of Culinary I am talking about their corporate overlords.  They don't have to worry about pus organizing because they can auto fire us for discussing our wages.  This is true for every job.  If the retail workforce were to unionize in a big way they'd have to undertake a serious risk.  Most of us are way to poor and have people who rely on us so we can't afford to take risks.  Our corporate overlords know this.  They know they have us between a rock and a hard place.  They know the one hard worker who is worth the three shit workers will work for the same meger pay as the shit workers so why bother giving anyone merit based raises and yeah that's that son.

The 15 dollar and hour minimum wage is an attempt to circumnavigate this and it isn't a bad one.  Unions have had to fight for their existence for a long time.  They are portrayed as the bad guys and they've had their fair share of problems but they are important for keeping their employers in check.  But they come with a risk.

So what's the solution?  Well it isn't the 15 buck minimum wage.  As much as I'd like it it would slaughter small to mid sized businesses along with some small to mid sized corporations.  It is easy to look at the 1% and say, "Well just give us part of that" but that is a very small population getting a very big piece of pie.  The 15 min wage would fuck everyone over except them and the poor who got to keep their jobs.  At the same time there needs to be a better format for dealing with our bosses than unions.  Unions are the right idea but the wrong methodology.  I can't prove that but it feels right.  We can't use the legal system because, well, it is to slow and to expensive.  Workers do need a better outside arbitration system to quickly and safely air their concerns it needs to happen outside the corporate structure and possibly anonymously but yeah.

I get the problem though.  I understand the feeling but we can't loose sight of the bigger picture.

Well that's enough for one night.  There did something productive.  Imma gonna go eat candy now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


So I've been writing more, and reading more, and generally doing more and it is working out pretty well. Sadly I haven't been writing more in my actual blog which is silly so I am going to do that now. I was thinking of tackling the christian persecution complex but seriously that is a really big issue that is worthy of a book not a Saturday night blog post where I have a headache. So instead we are going to talk about movies because I LIKE movies and I wanna.

In the past week I've seen an unusually large number of movies mostly because an unusually large number of amazing movies came out and it is one of those things where if you don't see them you are going to miss them. Then to add to it I watched some more movies at home because I guess that is the thing to do this week. To start off with I want to talk about God's Pocket.

God's Pocket is one of those extremely rare pitch black comedies that flutters into my life like some glorious bird and takes roost in my heart. It is a simple movie about poor people living in a run down part of some nameless city. In all likelihood it is Boston but it really could be anywhere. Where it is isn't important. The movie is narrated by a columnist for the local paper who's life is quickly spiraling out of control due to alcoholism and a crushing loneliness. There is a line in the movie that goes something like, “The one thing no one from God's Pocket can forgive is no being from God's Pocket”. That is where we get our main character played by Hoffman, an outsider, small time mafia goon, who is in love with a wife he can't please.

It is a sad strange little movie. Centered around the murder of a boy who is by all accounts an asshole who was heading for disaster one way or another. The subsequent coverup of the murder and Hoffman's attempts to pay for a funeral he can't afford. I found it engaging and more than a little sweet but sad at the same time. It is a surprisingly slippery movie. It is less a sequential story told with pictures and more of a series of moods, emotions and memories. It transcends the, “and this happened then this happened plot” and instead it drifts about almost as a surreal slice of life. I understand why it isn't very well received. It is a strange movie on par with Only God Forgives or Cosmopolis but it doesn't look, sound or feel strange. It just creeps up on you and then there is this conflagration of events cascading to disaster and while you know how we got there you can't help but think, “jesus this is such a strange movie”. It ends on a sad not then a bittersweet one. It also ends in Florida. I liked it very much and months from now when I watch it again I feel like I will be continued to be mystified by its mix of banality and disaster. Good times.

I also watched Walk Among the Tombstones. This movie is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. By the end of this movie my back cramped up and I had to wheeled out an a stretcher because I was in a perpetual cringe. The movie made me feel gross. Like honest to god gross. My soul needed a shower. Best movie I've seen of its kind since 8mm. I can hear the question now, “What about A Serbian Film” and it is actually a good question. What sets 8mm and Tombstone apart is the distinct lack of onscreen violence. Tombstones is a movie about two men who stalk, kidnap, then mutilate women for fun and profit. There is this moment where one guy plans on using a garrote to sever a woman's breast and yet they don't show it. The level on onscreen violence for Tombstones is about zero. The amount of blood spilled is miniscule. The deathtoll is low even when you consider the entire career of the two killers and yet the movie itself was absolutely chilling. It did this by letting the viewer's imagination do the heavy lifting. It cuts away just in time but you can hear the screams. The two actors who play the killers do so with absolute perfection and we watch with dread as the killers stalk a new victim while somewhere far to far away Liam Nieson does his best to unravel the mystery of the killer's identity and you know deep down inside that he is to far away to catch them in time.

The moive exudes a deep breathless air. One of details I love about the movie is that Nieson isn't this island of a man who talks to no one, has no friends, and does everything by himself. It isn't true. He is friends with the waitress at the diner. He goes to AA meetings which is how the plot of this particular movie gets started. He befriends a homeless black boy halfway through. People are his main source of information. He doesn't just blunder into information, or he doesn't just have that one friend in the fbi who owes him a favor and he grudgingly cashes it in to move the damn plot along. No. Instead we are treated to a competently written procedural as our hero tries to get information for people he doesn't like.

When the movie ends it doesn't feel like it is over so much as it feels like you are being released from its clutches so that you may go home and be thankful that you aren't any of the characters in this movie. It is a damn good and I am sad more people aren't going to go see it.

Lets contrast it with the Equalizer. Man was the Equalizer a terrible movie and what's worse is that I am predisposed to like the Equalizer. I love movies about people who try to escape from their previous lives but their lives catch up to them either because of circumstance or they just get drawn back in. History of Violence is my penultimate example of the genera but there are many others as well. Including the Equalizer. The problem is that the movie had no focus. The trailers made it look like he was going to save a young girl from a life of prostitution. That means PIMPS! I love Pimps as movie villains no matter what happens to them I don't feel bad at all. Instead it is the Russian mafia. That's cool I guess. Russian mafia is in. Still pimps I still hate them but when the whole situation resolved itself within the first half hour I was a little confused. Then he did this thing with some dirty cops. Then there was this bad ass Russian troubleshooter who spent an HOUR investigating to find out who our main character was. Predictably he was ex CIA. Not the CIA who spend most of their time reading files and using other people to get information for them. No this guy was the one man army CIA. The type of CIA man that makes you wonder why we even bother with an army when we can apparently just make one man killing machines. I don't know I do know I was relieved when the movie finally ended because I was so crushingly bored by the uninteresting action scenes that I couldn't care less.

Women have been speaking up about their portrayals in movies a lot lately because they are tired of being the people who are put into danger, or get mutilated, or raped, or killed, so that the main character can have a reason to go do the plot. Die Hard, John Mclain needs to go save his wife. Die Hard 2 he does it again. Die Hard 4 he is saving his daughter this time WHAT A TWIST. The examples go on and on. The idea is that a dead chick equals instant drama. This is a complex issue that is worthy of its own post so lets set that aside and refocus on the Equalizer because this is a bad example of what a movie looks like when the character has a no clear motivations for his actions. Plot wise the Equalizer is a combination of Die Hard 2 (because the movie isn't very good) and Die Hard 3. Yes he saves the girl from a life of prostration. She is then promptly and fucking improbably never heard from again until the end of the movie. The movie then shifts to Die Hard 3 as there is a man after Washington trying to kill him for the actions he committed in Die Hard 2. The problem is that this is all happening in the same movie and if you think this paragraph is a train wreck then it is nothing compared to the mishmash of things that happen in The Equalizer.

Going back to the girl thing movies seem to be moving away from the “girl in danger” plot point. Out of the Furnace has Patrick Bateman looking for his missing brother. John Wick goes forth on a murder spree because someone was dumb enough to kill his puppy. With the Equalizer it is a minor point and not the main thrust of the movie. Moreover it is becoming more noticeable when it is clumsy and lazily implemented like in Homefront or The Purge. It is a trend that I am more than okay with. And yeah I don't really have anything to add.

The general ineptness of The Equalizer was made all the more apparent due to the fact that I watched it in close proximity to superior movies. It isn't so much that it was bad but rather that it was lazy. All the parts that made Walk Among the Tombstones so enjoyable for me, the procedure of seeking and getting information is hand waved away in The Equlizer, and replaced with meaningless stuff. There was a vain attempt to make the villain seem like he might be an actual threat to Washington but the villain never got close. Not really. Our hero was always at least one step ahead. The hostages were freed long before we could be worried that they were in any real danger and the final conflict was just sad. Also I am done writing for tonight so TA!