Random thoughts and discussion about many a thing

That's the spirit of the whole thing, isn't it? A place to discuss whatever is on your mind - ask questions when you have them, propose theories or explain thoughts when they come to you. An open place for conversation among many diverse individuals.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

What has James Cameron ever given the world other than showing us Kate Winslet's breasts?

And honestly, that's far from her best role, so suck on that Cameron.

I know what you're all assuming I've been dead because I haven't updated since December 4th... that's like a crazy long time, easily my longest absence since I've started my Blurty, originally. Ahh, Blurty, how useless you became once better services became available. No offense to anyone reading this on Blurty...

So I have a lot to write about, naturally, given the three month absence and honestly, the only reason you're getting me is because I have a decent sized paper to write tonight that was due last week. Man, I'm really uninspired in that class, hurts my grades. Have to work on that, motivate myself to bust out some good writing tonight yet, so I'm going to get myself warmed up with this. I have to write about the changes in ethics regarding what is property in terms of the Internet and the new age of knowledge, etc... Should be a good read once I actually get around to writing it...yeah, that's it.

I'll start with work - work is great, for the time being. I was put on the automated scripting team which means I'm doing legitimate programming. I'm doing a lot of other things still with reporting services, which is good for my resume and I like that too. The bad news is that I'm basically on a 'stop when we don't need you any more' contract and because the project launches on the 8th (essentially a week), I don't know how much longer I'll even have a job. Oh well, all I can do is keep plugging away and hope for the best, I'm sure given that I actually have some experience now, I should be in good position to get another job. I'm doing some freelance stuff as well, so hopefully that stuff has the ability to pan out. Maybe.

Moving to school, school is school. I like the programming stuff, the rest I could do without. Ain't that the way it always go. I have finals this week (minus Monday's class, that is next week because I had President's Day off for some reason, but it buys me a week to write that paper). I think I get a week off there and then I have some more classes, should be a good time, although nothing on the docket that really excites me in terms of a pure programming class.

Christmas was good, Tori and I went a little overboard because we had a good year, for the most part, and felt we needed to do something good for ourselves and families. I got Tori a laptop, which she loves. I need a new laptop myself, I have no hard drive space and hardly enough memory to run my programming software, particularly if I need to multitask. I have a computer built from Dell, just a matter of affording it ($1100, give or take). I'm excited about it, but not likely to be able to afford it for a few months, at the latest, Christmas this year. So leading up to Christmas last year, I complained to Tori that I always ask everyone I know for CDs for Christmas and never get any, so she got me CDs...not only did she get me CDs, she got me 10 of them as a matter of fact. She also got me a Snuggie (laugh all you want, that thing is crazy comfy, Cuppie has gotten to it, so I'll need a new one soon), Super Mario Bros. Wii (awesome fun), and a hard drive for the 360. I'll talk about the 360 later, remind me.

So anyways, the 10 CDs I got were...
  • The Black Keys - Attack & Release
  • Coldplay - Viva La Viva
  • Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
  • Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
  • Muse - The Resistance
  • My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
  • Orenda Fink - Ask the Night
  • Park Ave. - When Jamie Went to London... We Broke Up
  • The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
I also got a pair of Tim McGraw albums for my brother from another mother (but same father), Jamie. I'll talk about each one shortly. Overall - getting a bunch of CDs for Christmas...awesome. Especially that many, lots of good listens. By the way, there would be a very easy solution to my hard drive space issue, namely removing all of music but it actually angers me a little bit that I can't have all of my music with me. I'll figure out a solution at some point. I'm currently down to about 7gb free, so I'm not in dire straights yet, but something that worries me in the long run.

So anyways, the albums...I'll keep this brief, since I have a bunch more to write about.

The Black Keys - Attack & Release, this is sadly my first Black Keys album but I know it won't be my last. They have a lot of the root elements found in the early White Stripes, rooted in blues guitar rock, but it's good. Very good indeed. Suggested tracks - "Same Old Thing", "Psychotic Girl", "So He Won't Break"

Coldplay - Viva La Viva, the good news is that this is probably the best pure Coldplay album. There is enough trying new things to keep it interesting (something X&Y sorely lacked), but has that same catchable rock attitude that made A Rush of Blood to the Head such a success. Coldplay is an interesting band because they are essentially generic, but they are very good at that and it is no different here. Suggested tracks - "Viva La Viva", "Cemeteries of London", "Life in Technicolor"

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below, so I first heard of Edward Sharpe from last year's NPR review of SXSW and then again when they did a tiny desk concert for NPR (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113758518). I liked what I heard, but wasn't convinced, until I heard "Home" used in an episode of Community (talk about that later as well in a general TV review), it was then that I got it. Odd how that happens, catching a song out of its normal context and 'getting it' as it were. The particularly odd thing about Edward Sharpe is that the lead singer's former project, IMA Robot, sounded like this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txFgWTA7-Ys. Raises some questions about musical identity, in my mind, but hey - that's his battle, right. Either way, it is a solid album...there are some where the whole freak folk thing doesn't work for me, just not interesting, but most of the songs are engaging and encompassing, though I'm guessing they are 100 times better live than on album, just the nature of that particular beast, I suppose. Suggested tracks - "Home", "Janglin" "Om Nashi Me" Honestly, the band seems a bit volatile, similar to the first Libertines record although obviously a completely different style, so if I can, I'll try to catch them in concert as I suspect this star will burn out quickly.

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue, first and foremost, note to Jenny Lewis...of your musical boyfriends, Jonathan Rice is by far the least talented (I only know of two and Blake wins hands down), so lets try to minimize his involvement in writing in the future. There is currently word they are working on an album together, which I'll get because Jenny Lewis gets that kind of respect from me, but I'll be weary to say the least. It is very interesting to see how Rilo Kiley alum (they haven't officially broken up, but they are pretty much on permanent hiatus as they are 5 solo albums in from their core four members). What's interesting is the sound that the band has adapted in recent albums (more and more pop oriented) and the sound the solo albums have taken (basically, somewhere between country folk and country rock). If you combine the solo albums with the band's latter albums, you basically get the band's early albums. Very strange how their influences manifested themselves that way, no? Honestly, I miss the old Rilo Kiley, but that's me. Back to Acid Tongue, which basically starts up where Rabbit Fur Coat left off*. That being said, Acid Tongue is a lot looser of an album, a lot less formal and intentional, which works to its benefit as it sounds more sincere which is always good when you're making a folk album. Suggested tracks - "Acid Tongue", "The Next Messiah", "Sing a Song For Them"

Muse - The Resistance, so I have a few scatter Muse tracks that I've collected overtime and I've always respected the band, so the fact that I just now picked up a Muse album is a little disappointing. So yeah, this is a damn good album. It works on so many different levels and I dare you not to listen to this album and think of Queen at their best. One, the drummer does more on this album than most band's drummers do in concert where they are supposed to shine. Two, there is a great dynamic of volumes throughout the album which so many modern rock albums are missing these days. Three, man...that voice is epic, just saying. Note to self, by more Muse. Suggest tracks - "United States Of Eurasia / Collateral Damage", "Resistance", "Uprising". Reading through that list, you may jump to the conclusion that the album is top heavy and it may be a little as the band tries to overreach a little on the Exogensis Symphonies that close the album, but that is no reason to knock the attempt as it isn't, by any means, bad...it just doesn't work as well as the stand alone tracks. I wouldn't be surprised if their next album is a complete concept album.

Watching the Breakfast Club, Molly Ringwald is a tease...good times.

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade, speaking of concept albums... This album is definitely my favorite of the bunch (possibly the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but right now it is MCR). Their last album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (actually their sophomore effort and from what I've heard of their debut, they were still getting their sound together), really set the stage for Black Parade but I don't think I could have expected what I got. The best parts of Three Cheers are here...that can't finish the song fast enough guitar style, the frantic singing, and of course the Alkaline Trio inspired lyrical motif, all of those are here in spades but refined and used much more effectively when necessary. No one will ever mistake MCR's lyrics for Bob Dylan's, but they are quick and effective, and there is always something to be said for efficient use of words in this style of music. Like Muse, they overreach, this time when they try to get a little soft, like on "Cancer" or "Sleep", where they lose steam a little bit, but they start and stop so well, it hardly matters. Suggested tracks - "The Black Parade", "Teenagers", "Dead" "House of Wolves" "The Sharpest Lives". Again, like Muse, I would put the house on throwing out all the stops and going full blown concept as well for their next album as well. As a matter of fact, given the current direction of a lot of music, I would say we are in for a full slate of concept albums in 2011 or 2012. Queen and Bowie will reach all time highs in popularity, at least in terms of inspiring successful acts.

Maybe the US would have won today had Emilio Estevez been coaching, yeah...

Orenda Fink - Ask the Night, man...I miss Azure Ray. I like Orenda and Maria solo just fine, but something about them together just worked wonders. Probably the layers of vocals, especially with Andy LeMaster's production, but I suppose we who don't create can't really complain to those who do. This album is a lot more organic than her first solo and it works well, seems a lot less conscious about what it is. It is odd to think of her as the utility player in the Faint (she's also married to their lead singer), Rilo Kiley (plays trumpet, along with a few other instruments) and Now It's Overhead, given how straight forward most of her music is. Simple guitar and singing sweet songs. There aren't really any duds here, but not any real stand out tracks either. She seems very spiritually accepting of where she is, and that's what really stands out when you listen to it. Suggested tracks - "Alabama", "Wind", "That Certain Something Spring"

I'm glad Anthony Michael Hall grew up to be the bully in Edward Scissorhands because he's a pussy in this one.

Park Ave. - When Jamie Went to London... We Broke Up, I grabbed this one because it was finally available. Basically, if you don't know, Park Ave was an off shoot band for Conor Oberst and some members of Tilly and the Wall before before they were Bright Eyes and Tilly and the Wall, obviously. So they were a bunch of friends who made an album, then broke up because, well - Jamie went to London (as the album name suggests). The album really does sound like a bunch of friends making an album, but instead of sounding like an inside joke that only they could truly appreciate (and I'm sure they do appreciate it on a different level than you or I can), it feels like they invite you in on the experience and let you, at least when you're listening, to be part of the band. A lot of the elements of both Conor's early music (pre-Lifted) and Tilly's infectious style, can be heard here in their formative stages and just for that, it is worth a listen, but moreso - it is just a good album with solid songs. I'd be most interested in hearing this album redone with proper production, but I doubt they could capture the mood and spirit of it again. Suggested tracks - "Lachrymose Obsequious Vehement Elated", "All Boy Band", "She Teaches Art?". In case you're wondering, Jamie is back from London and one of the members of Tilly and the Wall...she's the tap dancer.

If you're an outcast girl, have a popular girl give you a makeover and the jock will like you. The nerd still gets no love. There really is no connecting the dots in this plot...just suddenly, it dawns on everyone that they should go with their social opposite, except the nerd of course.

The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely, oh Jack White...you are possibly the most talented musical artist of our time, at least since...honestly, I can't remember a more dynamic songwriter and guitarist, at least one who was so demanding of the spotlight, whether he likes it or not. The true strength of Jack White is his ability to shine through whatever he's doing, even if it is unintentional. I don't think he can help it, he just does. That being said, this album is a lot closer to a Jack White album than I think he intended. A lot of the elements from the White Stripes last album, Icky Thump, can be found here - like the Mexican inspired sound on "The Switch and the Spur" in particular. White really does benefit from having the other members though as they clearly have input and all his sound to become cleaner and tighter. Suggested tracks - "Old Enough" "Top Yourself" "Rich Kid Blues" "Salute Your Solution"

Did you realize that Mr. Yang on Psych was played by Ally Sheedy, the misfit girl from the Breakfast Club. Interesting.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! Like I mentioned when talking about MCR, this is close to my favorite album and some days...it is. The thing about the YYYs is that they continue to evolve. Their sound from their debut to It's Blitz is amazing, as they went from a very post-punk guitar based sound to essentially, keyboard based dance music, without losing their core attitude (almost entirely Karen O). Words cannot describe this album, it has to be heard. Suggested tracks - "Zero", "Dragon Queen", "Hysteric"

Tim McGraw - Not a Moment Too Soon, I make a habit of asking for Tim McGraw CDs for Christmas from my family because I like Tim McGraw but never enough to buy the albums, and I know they probably will. I had this one on cassette back in the day and it holds strong. Sure, a song like "Indian Outlaw" is more offensive than fun now that I'm older, but the album as a whole is a good listen for more traditional country sound. He has definitely improved his sound since then. Suggested tracks - "Don't Take the Girl", "Not a Moment Too Soon"

Tim McGraw - Let It Go, hey look...a latter album to exemplify how I just said he improved his sound. Unfortunately, this one is more generic than some of his other albums. When you have a cornerstone artist in a particular genre (especially one as rooted in tradition as country), it is hard to experiment with your sound too much without alienating your fanbase. He has gotten looser since this album, which I think is a good sign, basically he spent Everywhere, A Place in the Sun, and Set This Circus Down getting that sound down and Let It Go kind of plays like a culmination in all of those albums. The two albums between Circus and Let It Go were a bit looser, so it makes sense to have a return to sound, so to speak, to reaffirm your fans. It is a solid album, nothing wrong with it, just nothing really to write home about if you're looking for an expanded sound from a great tradition. Suggested Tracks - "Let It Go", "I Need You", "Last Dollar (Fly Away)"

So there you go. I did have a footnote in there, which I will talk about here - see. *Is it fair to discuss an artist's former work when discussing their latest? As in, is the current release really a culmination of all their work, the expectations formed from theme, and their growth as an artist or is it better to rate each work on its own merits? Discuss amongst yourselves.

See, lots and lots to say tonight. It is like I haven't posted in three months. Where should we start - movies or TV? I guess movies, then I segway into TV. That seems good.

So I haven't seen many movies recently, well - I probably have, but I don't remember a lot of them...sign of the times. I've been watching a lot on Netflix, because I have it and it is easy to catch up on a lot classics as well as more under the radar movies that Tori doesn't particularly care about. Let me think about some of the movies I've seen recently, either in theaters or at home...

Sherlock Holmes - it was...what it was. I don't know how true it was to the character of Sherlock Holmes, I mean, yes he figured out a pretty obscure mystery, but I doubt on repeated viewings it would be any more revealing as far as subtle context which we missed on the first run. It was a good time, for what it's worth, quintessential movie where it was entertaining and nothing more.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - yeah, I didn't hate this movie, but I have a serious problem with the current theme in literature turn movie. Basically, you take a mythological concept, where be it vampires (Twilight) or Greek mythology and changing it for their own convenience. Now, I understand taking mythological concepts and using them to craft the background for a story - it is a good way to build an immediate understanding of general, sweeping characteristics without having to go into details like character development, and there is a better way than Tolkien's mythological masterpiece. The problem now is, they change the mythology to fit their story and assume the audience won't dig deeper into it, just assume that the story is close to the source material. Sure, mythology is in its essence, fiction and thus should be malleable, but at this point some mythologies are just understood - like vampires and Greek mythologies, these are set in a somewhat more rigid context and just changing them seems really cheap in my mind. I would be a lot less effected by this, especially in the instance of Percy Jackson, had they just taken elements from Greek mythology and made their own. I understand in the context of vampires, there isn't an easily developed alternative, but the instance of Greek Gods, just steal concepts and change some names, make up a nationality and mythological culture to go along with it, this also allows more flexibility in your story because you can take better concepts from Eastern cultures or some of the lesser known European myths. Just saying, if I can look it up on wikipedia and find your you're full of it, you lose. Rowling did it right, she took a mythological concept (wizards) with a very broad definition, and molded it into a lifelike world. Just saying...
When In Rome - yeah, Celebration Cinema has a facebook page and they put up coupons sometimes, this one was free. When I walked out I said to myself, I'm glad that was free. I like Kristen Bell, but I find her a lot more appealing in backup roles, or at least in co-starring roles. She doesn't carry a film as well as some other leading ladies. She also shouldn't wear low cut shirts, they don't do her body justice, in my opinion. It doesn't help that it was a lazy script with very little depth or characters or really anything.going for it, maybe if she was given (or took) a role with more meat, I would think differently. There was a funny scene with a small car in an elevator, but that was about it and I gained nothing from watching the movie. I didn't waste 90 minutes, and I didn't waste money, so win...I guess.

Clash of the Titans - you know, the original. You know, if any movie deserves a CGI redo, this is it, because they try so hard to blown away their audience and I'm sure in 1981, they did at some level, but it just looks awful. The new one will probably be awful as well, but at least it'll look cool.
Year One - this was terrible, Jack Black and Michael Cera playing their most annoying characters in a crazy, goofball environment. Yeah? No. Just no. There were parts I chuckled, sure, but it was overall pointless and unnecessary. It didn't even look like it was fun for the stars, which is sometimes what I suspect when I see an especially bad movie with big names, not like Black and Cera are Pitt and Depp, but they are worthy standouts from the comedy genre and were reduced to pathetic bit players here (okay, Black has been reduced to a bit player at this point in his career as he has shown little range to date). I'm guessing this was one of those, "you know what would be funny" ideas that by the time they realized it wasn't, it was too late. Count your losses and put it out.
Pineapple Express - yeah, this was alright. Again, chuckled at times and that was about it, didn't give me much to think about and I didn't really expect it to. David Gordon Green directed and he's doing the Suspiria remake which interests me, although he's known more for his art house work than this kind of thing (although another movie he's coming out with soon is Your Highness about weed in medieval times so maybe he wants to be that stoner director that the world so desperately needs, in between his day job as a good director). I didn't take much from the film, but I don't feel like I wasted the time watching it either. However, the comical part was the ridiculousness of the final fight sequence. It is one thing to have to suspend belief, it is another to completely throw it out the window.
Cashback - art student gets dumped, gets job at super market, falls in love with easy to miss at first glance check out girl. Doesn't sound familiar to the letter, but nothing new in the world of film or even storytelling really. It was a nice movie, well shot, etc... but it didn't really go anywhere. For such an arty movie, it never really stretched itself which disappointed me a bit.
Bart Got a Room - this one I kind of liked. Basically, it is about a loser kid and his quest to find a date for the prom. Yes, you've seen this movie a dozen times and no, this one isn't going to blow the doors off the concept, but it was funny and well done. It had Alia Shawkat who is close to becoming my next Jena Malone if she ever got a role to really stretch her wings. The winners here are Williams H. Macy and Cheryl Hines who play Danny, our protagonists, well intentioned but oblivious parents. As they are going through their own comical divorce, they are trying their best to teach their son about the beauty in finding love, or at least a date, but they fail miserably as do the rest of Danny's plans. Again, nothing shocking, but a fun watch regardless.
Let the Right One In - so I watched this one last night with Tori after hearing a lot of very positive (and no negative) reviews about it and I was not disappointed. I highly suggest anyone to watch it immediately, if you have Netflix, you can watch it instantly. It is in Swedish, so you have to read subtitles, but like Pan's Labyrinth, it is just as rewarding, maybe even moreso as it is a lot more tangible of a story, even given the presence of vampires. It is also a horror, but only in the lightest sense, as there are moments of intense violence and moments of suspense, but nothing like what would we expect from an American film (by the way, they are remaking it, we'll how well they capture the essence of the film). Throughout the film, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the use of still frames really captures the loneliness of our primary characters and the desolate landscape where they live. The film is based on a book and from what I've read, some things are left out of the film, but only partially, which leaves a lot of questions after watching, but even with these issues with the jump (the writer wrote the screenplay, so it is a little confusing why they left some of the details out, or put them in if they weren't going to explain that particular subplot entirely), but the film is great either way. I would gladly host a movie night and watch it again, if anyone would be interested, would require very little work on your part, although the movie is probably best in an intimate setting as it is a very quiet film. Either way, watch it - seriously.

Finally, on movies, who's excited about this year's slate? We have the first part of The Deathly Hallows, Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton/Disney style (haven't we always said Tim Burton needs to do Alice). Personally, I'm excited about The Last Airbender although as I re-enjoy the first season (the movie will be based on the first season alone, as part of the trilogy), I grow concerned over how much the film will lose because of time constraints. We'll see where they focus their energy in this one, if they want to make a successful trilogy, they'll need to establish good characters and have an engaging storyline. The story is there, but it depends on how much of it they use, the writers of the series had 400 minutes to work with, M. Night has about 120. There are some other movies that intrigue me, but I'm not going through the list now, it is already two!

Now on to television.

I've been watching Community more frequently as it started out, as a series, a little slow but has really has found its voice now. Good stuff.

Psych is back (for the time being) and I have two beefs, neither with the actual show. 1) USA needs to figure out their schedules, having Psych go from September to November, then January to March is crazy lame and annoying. It is bad enough we only get 16 episodes a season, why not show them all at once. 2) Show the damn episodes in order so the Psych writers can explore more complex story arcs with their characters. Typically, I get frustrated with role shows (like House) doing story arcs that put the characters in overly dramatic situations but I have faith that Psych could pull this off, given the right story arc, without dampening the show. The show is nearly getting repetitive. It is hard to say that because three of the five episodes shown thus far in 4.5 have been great, above par, great, but it would be very easy for the show to become formulaic and stale, and more complex stories for the characters would help. USA showing the episodes to fit their needs, moving what they think should be the debut, finale, etc... really hurts the writers of the show and I hope they get more respect next season to do more with what they have. This was especially clear in the Abigail goes to...wherever she went...episode as the scene at the airport felt tacked on and forced, especially the "I'll be back in town on the 24th" part - like they had to explain why she was in town for an episode they know will show later. By the way, the episode that showed on the 24th didn't have her in it, so now they look stupid for putting that in anyways. Now, to the Psych writers - you're getting too close to Shawn/Juliet, back off and let them have their little sexual tension game again. Also, Judd Nelson was a great character and I would totally for having him play a permanent helper that appears randomly to answer sciencey questions - not like he's doing anything else these days. That would also give you two Breakfast Club alum doing reoccurring roles and that is something to be proud of, in my mind.

I was also watching FlashForward on ABC, which apparently had a schedule six month hiatus. News flash to ABC - terrible idea. For starters, the storyline wasn't moving nearly as quickly as it should have and seemed unfocused, and it was already struggling to get viewers so having it disappear for six months pretty much guarantees it will be cancelled. When you have a good concept for a television show, then you throw it away for one reason or another, like not actually coming up with the ending, just the concept, then you are doomed to fail - take note if you're making a pilot with a cool concept, know where you're going with it. I'm more disappointed with that then Harper's Island because I knew what I was getting with Harper's Island and it was as shallow as I suspected, it could have been better, but they did what they advertised. FlashForward clearly had no focus going into the project and jumped off the rail pretty quickly.

I still watch the Simpsons and it is still hilarious, I don't understand the hate because they are just as good as they ever were and aren't nearly as repetitive as MacFarlane's three show suite. I think that is MacFarlane's ultimate goal - kick off the Simpsons because he knows that in the battle of mocking each other's show, he lost because at heart, he is a rip off. I doubt he'll get the Simpsons' episode count combined from all his shows, just saying.

That's pretty much it for stuff I watch on TV, sad really. There is nothing good on, at least not on the channels I get. I watch Weeds and Big Love on DVD because I'm not about to pay premium prices, ridiculous. Those are good shows, damn good shows. Especially Big Love, that is what makes good television. Complex characters, strong story arcs, constant themes. And big up to HBO on their DVD packaging, they spend their money well.

As I've gotten older, I've made the following observation. 1) I watch more movies now than I used to, primarily because they are more of an instant experience than say, listening to a song. I used to listen to more songs because they were shorter and in terms of time, the emotion shared with a song seemed more immediate, but really to really get into a song, you have to spend a lot of time with it and you can't really force that experience, it just has to hit you at the right moment, whereas a good movie can really bring you in to its world and make you feel for those characters right away. It is a good use of two hours for an emotional high, if you're up to accepting it. 2) Television is a disappointment and always has been, because it has a lot more potential than it ever tries to reach. I was thinking of two things earlier - the animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Simspsons' and how they are interlinked. Basically, both series constructed an entire world out of essentially nothing. Avatar did it much quicker by establishing the premise for the world in the title sequence and building it from there. I think it being focused at kids also helped as it allowed it to be more flexible in the world creation process, like inventing the flying bison and odd animal combinations seen throughout the series. They clearly had a lot of fun developing the world which Aang lives in. But they also gave the world a very deep and complex history, with a very strong mythology (based primarily on those of Eastern religions). The beauty here was that they were able to do this because they had 1200 minutes, approximately, to tell their story and develop their world. They kept the story moving along while revealing more and more of the world to the viewers. The Simpsons' world kind of developed out of necessity as 21 episodes in, not all could be about the same 5 people (one of which is a baby that doesn't talk), so expanding to the side characters and really developing them into more three dimensional characters just made sense and now the Simpsons' really do live in a world with a dynamic relationship with all those around them and even while most things never change and rarely are events remembered (Maude's death excluded), that is possible to stay somewhat fresh (given the general bounds of storytelling) within the world. I speak of these two fictional worlds created on television because that is how I feel television should be. Basically, in a movie, you have about 120 minutes at best (longer and you risk losing the interest of the audience) to establish plot, characters and setting whereas, on television in the course of a season you have, at worst, about 320 minutes (16 episodes, 20 minutes each) to do this and, with the right format, you could have 900 minutes (24 episodes, 45 minutes each). I speak exclusively of seasons because that is how television should be seen - a complete season is a single storyline (rumor has it, FlashForward was based on a 5-season plan). The problem, of course, is a movie has the benefit of uninterrupted storytelling whereas in a television series you have to plan for commercials and weekly showings. The patience of the audience, namely the mindset people get in when they sit down to watch a show, needs to change as well, but I think that the main problem is that people are conditioned to expect something from television shows and react poorly when they don't get it. I have no method of getting around the audience issue, maybe networks need more patience (I know, they lose money, they panic and I don't blame them, but still) and the audience will catch up. I do have some ideas.

A television season should run from February-June (about 20 weeks), straight. Weeks off throw off the flow of a series, plain and simple. Nothing kills momentum like preparing for those 3 weeks around Christmas where nothing new is shown. A short season can run from August-December, though I would be tempted to cut it before Thanksgiving to maintain that consistency of an episode a week. I understand the downside of showing a series, particularly debuting a series in the summer, when people may be on vacation, but given how people watch TV these days (Hulu, DVR), if they were interested, they'll catch it eventually and be able to catch up.

Stop with the stupid cliff hangers. The thought process that a cliff hanger will bring the customer back needs to stop, because people know when they are being manipulated, especially in such an obvious manner as week after week of cliff hangers. Your story should be engaging enough and your characters sympathetic enough to keep the audience wanting more, if you need cliff hangers than you are doing something wrong.

Stop toying with audience emotions - shows like Grey's Anatomy and CSI focus on horrific crimes, or grisly injuries, and then put a humanistic side to them so we can relate the characters on screen. Everyone thinks child rape is wrong except child rapists, and even they probably think on some level it is wrong but clearly have issues listening to that part of their brain. Getting us to relate to your characters because they think murder is bad too means your character is shallow and poorly developed. Shows like How I Met Your Mother and Friends work because anyone can relate to one of the primary characters, or know someone like one of the characters - if you're making a drama, I would really hope you could develop more complex characters than sitcoms, just saying.

Write the entire season, then figure out the episodes. I'm not saying this would be an easy task, but finish your thought before you start slicing and dicing it for mass consumption. And actually, tell a story to begin with. If you're going to do a show where every episode, this this and this happens, then your show starts out formulaic and stick with it, but if suddenly you get the urge to be more with your quasi-developed characters, don't just throw in random storyarcs and kind of see where they go, figure out your stories before you show them.

So anyways, that's my beef - TV is disappointing because given the screentime alone, characters could be a lot better developed and stories more complex and worlds more thoroughly created, but instead we have three or four CSI shows and at least four hospital dramas. Maybe originality is dead in Hollywood. I hope someday I become an eccentric billionaire, because I will gladly lose millions of dollars to put on decent television.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tribal Beats

This blog has officially moved over to Google Wave. We will likely work on embedding, etc... in due time. If you're interested in joining us on Google Wave, nathan.driftwoodprose@googlewave.com or if you need an invite and are interested, send me an email, nathan.driftwoodprose@gmail.com (sense a theme?)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

State of Horror

As Halloween is coming up...

  • What are your favorite horror movies?
  • Favorite horror movie clich├ęs?
  • Is horror any better or worse than it was during the "Golden Age" (late 70s?)
  • Are our throwaways better than the throwaways of the day?
  • Does the horror industry's tendency to continuously produce sequels detract from an original's quality?
  • Where is horror right now and where is it going?
  • Any must see horror movies this Halloween season?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Monday

Mondays have never really bothered me, truth be told. I think, more than anything, it's a consistent thing to complain about - something to talk about at the water cooler. Personally, Tuesday have always been the worst, can't explain why. Just bums me out whenever it's Tuesday.

There's obviously the issue of sleep deprivation, on weekends we get to (relatively) sleep in, whereas we always get up earlier than we wish on weekdays...at least, you know, not-morning people.

I think we're stuck, as a society, in this work cycle that is terribly outdated. A decent portion of company's now work four days, ten hour days which I would prefer since I commute an hour a day, but also - the first hour of every day is usually spent getting set up and organized for the day, so I'd gain about an hour a week in that respect. But in the bigger picture, why work 9-5? Is there really any benefit to everyone working the same hours? We've gone global to the point where work is almost always being done, so why localize it? I think the whole world should be 24 hours, I never really understood why we limited ourselves to this arbitrary time cycle constructed by farmers. Nothing against farmers, they clearly have to respect the Earth's clocks, but we don't. If I work best 7:30pm-3:30am, why can't I? Or work a good twenty hour day, take twenty hours off, do it again and then come back next week. When I was young, I said to myself that my company would allow people to work whenever. As long as you put in 40 hours and your productivity is there, I don't care. With the advances in meeting and collaboration software, meeting face-to-face in a room is almost out-dated, I think. Not to mention, things discussed in digital form versus face-to-face discussion has a paper trail, which is always a good thing in business.

Just my thoughts.

On a side note, I got an invite to Google Wave from my brother Doug and rumor has it, I'll be getting 8 invites of my own as it's only as worthwhile as the number of people you know using it as well and while I've gotten into some engaging conversations on the public threads, re-imagining Weekend Philosophers in that aspect would be a good thing. Right now, they have cut off the invites, as the servers adjust to the constant influx of users and prepare for more, but as soon as I get them, Evan and Jana are on my list. There is the possibility to put our conversation out on the public forum, but as of right now, I'm hesitant at best, for this approach as it's easy for others to come in and kind of hijack a wave and the creator can't regain control. I think exploring it on our own and seeing the potential of the system before going that route is the way to go. I think it's really going to open up a lot of conversation possibilities for us though, it's not integrated into gmail or anything yet, so it's basically another inbox to check right now, but the conversations are a lot more fluid, like a chatroom or forum, but allows more of the conversation process to take place (in-line replies, etc...). I'll keep you guys posted on that.

Anyone seen Zombieland? Good topics there. Come up with some rules, given Halloween's fast approach, for surviving 1) a vampire, 2) a werewolf, 3) zombie outbreak!

Later.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mondays

Why indeed do we hate Mondays? It's not like the weekend won't arrive in a matter of days. Also, after that weekend there will be another Monday and so on and so forth. How about a different approach? Yay Monday! Like Chili's Margarita Mondays.

I do agree that it is tough. Especially if you hate your job, which unfortunately a lot of people do. We do have to fulfill the basic necessities, food and shelter and lub. Maybe I'm an idealist, but why not enjoy every day to the fullest? To be honest, if you live in America, you have a lot to be thankful for. Sure, you may not be the wealthiest, but you are rich compared to 80% of the world. You have the freedom to go to the grocery store to buy food and you can clothe yourself. My intent wasn't really to make people feel bad. Just realize that the gift of life and freedom is so often taken for granted.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Google Wave

The Internet is about to change, and the worst thing is, only about 2% of Internet users will either utilize it.


Do you ever see something or hear of something and you think to yourself, that could change the world? Google Wave is one of those things. And as of right now, only 100,000 people have invites, and those 100,000 people received 8 invites to spread to their friends. This is a social app, first and foremost, if you're using it alone, then you aren't using it at all. This concerns me slightly because there is a lot going on here and that may turn off a lot of people before they even try it. By the way, Google's Chrome browser is by far the fastest and best browser available. I convince my friends to install it, they open it - there's no main menu, no menus at all actually, and they feel lost so they close it and never use it again. Spend one solid web surfing session with Chrome and you'll know it's the best. Google Wave is so much bigger than just a browser, as it is essentially every previous Google App out there...it is gmail, it is Google Docs, it is Blogger, it is iGoogle, and it so much more. Google Wave could, potentially, be the end of email...or at least, the beginning of the end. This is beyond huge and it could be here by the end of the year.

By the way, come Google Wave - this blog becomes solely run on Google Wave (watch the 80 minute video and you'll see how that works). Google essentially promotes conversation, which is what we want and sharing is instantaneous. Greatest accomplishment of the past ten years, easily, and we haven't seen the full potential this can reach yet as they made it infinitely expandable. However, and I stress this again, it is pointless if people don't use it. Get excited about this, get it out there, because this could be big.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Let's talk about...love...baby?

Sorry, crazy 10-hour days at work, plus school and not doing homework have left Nathan a bit lacking in the time department. However, we are known as Weekend Philosophers for a reason - because I used to work long hours, thus could only post on the weekend...seems so familiar looking back now.

I'm glad you picked up on the topic of the hopeless romantic because it is clearly one that we can dive much deeper into, a lot of meet to that one. That's not to say that emotion manipulation by part of Hollywood is any topic to scoff at, the number of people who tuned in to Grey's Anatomy only to cry for two hours is beyond me. I'm naturally a cold person, don't make many attachments and this'll probably come up in the romantics talk in a second, but in this case, I make even fewer attachments to fictional characters with fictional problems (I often frustrate Tori by saying, "(s)he'll be fine" in response to anyone being murdered in a horror movie).

Anyways, moving on to the topic at hand...the hopeless romantic. Now, being a hopeless romantic sucks and it's all in the name - it's hopeless. We're looking for some crazy concept which probably isn't out there. We are so drawn to this perfect picture of love that we have in our minds, even though we've seen no evidence (at least I haven't) is real life where it works out the way we see it working, but we try nonetheless. There's absolutely no logic in it at all, and myself, being a logical person, can't stand it when I find myself going into these bizarre fantasies or flights of fancy where this kind of thing does exist. What's more, is that when we're identified as romantics, there comes this expectation for over-the-top romantic actions and I don't know about you, but it's just not there for me. It's not that I don't want to hold up my boombox outside your window or whatever, it's simply that I don't want to cross that line. I've experienced enough backlash to my romantic gestures that I know that there is this clear line between sweet and endearing versus kind of creepy. I've learned now that when a girl withdraws or shows disinterest, I just shut it down completely and wait for them to come back because it seems whenever I try to fix it myself, I only make matters worse. That could just be me sucking at this game, not sure. And the whole thing is that we're fulfilling all these self-prophecies because we see heartbreak to be almost as romantic as love itself. A great movie, and it's possibly in the book as well, I forget (High Fidelity) asked the question - am I sad because I listen to pop music or do I listen to pop music because I'm sad? Think about it - most songs are either about love, or love-lost, so we have this great relationship with the concept of being this pitiful, heartbroken soul. We think to have loved and lost is a great personal achievement, like we accomplished something by fucking up a possibly great relationship, and we kind of build off of that because it's honestly easier to be alone than it is to be with a person, and then we can wear this badge of honor that it didn't work out but I really care for her.

Then there's this whole concept of love, what's that about anyways? If I were asked to define love, I would be at a loss for words. That being said, I know that to the best of my perceptions of it, I love two people in the sense that I think I'm supposed to - Tori, my wife and Josh, my best friend. I like plenty of people a lot, a like plenty of people a little and I hate a whole bunch of people, but there you have it. There is family and there is family love, and I love my family in that sense...it's almost a guilty love, where I feel like they have to love me because I'm their son/brother, etc and thus it would be very easy to resent those feelings, then pass that resentment onto the person...doesn't happen in my family, that resentment clearly goes elsewhere or into more subtle passive-aggressive behavior, but it's no wonder most families are off the wall.

Marriage, an extended definition of family, is the same thing. It completely defines logic that a legal document is needed to signify love. That being said, I'm married and I couldn't be happier with my decision to do-so. I always said growing up that marriage was unnecessary, if someone loves you and you love them, then stay together - don't make a piece of paper tell you to stay. However, when I met Tori, I had to marry her. There was probably a thought in my brain that said, "lock that down, don't let it get away because you're likely to fuck up soon" and I have no way of telling if any number of fuck-ups between then and now would have caused her to leave permanently had we not been married. It would be very easy for me to take that paranoid approach and then loath the marriage certificate for keeping her here when she wanted to leave, as that's my biggest fear, but I do my best not to over-analyze things. I find that my problem in most relationships, that I over-analyze every interaction, every little hint that may or may not be intentional or even subconscious indications of one's true feelings. I think this is another habit of the hopeless romantic which leads to our downfall in most relationships, we rarely let things take a natural approach and feel we need to force things to go the way our minds tell us they should.

Back to love though, is the concept of love as it is sold to us by greeting cards and TV shows and crappy romance novels a complete myth? We all grew up hearing these fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after, but is this ever realistic? Obviously, happy ever after is a myth, there's no question about that. It would be impossible for two people to grow and mature at the same rate over an extended period of time. If you met the 'love of your life' at ninety-two and then both of you died the next day, congrats - you're the first couple to never have a fight - for the rest of us, however, that damage control is crucial. Then we have that concept that there is one person out there for you, and that's bogus beyond bogus. I'm in the belief that any two people can get along in the right circumstances, either through just common niceties to get through a conversation or project at work, so just meeting someone at the right time and place in order to make that connection over a single common interest and bonding with that. That ability to make almost instantaneous bonds with others is one of the things that make humans so unique, that we can 'love' and personify and attach to almost anything. At some point in your life, you likely rooted for a talking toaster. I'm just saying. So if everything we're sold about love is a myth, is the whole thing? Is this a trained 'emotion' I'm told I have by years of conditioning? Is it possible we'll ever know the truth?

I recently listened to an interview with a former nun who was discussing the concept of God. Too often, people attempt to personify God as a supreme being or try to assign God a he or she pronoun, thus bringing the immortal more down to our understanding, however - she said - God is more of a concept, a thought of something too great for us to perceive (forest through the trees, type thing). Is love this way too? Is love a formulaic expression that we've taught ourselves to validate sexual impulses or is love something bigger, something grander than we can truly conceive or even experience in it's full sense?

That's enough for tonight. Just to conclude, all of us hopeless romantics are doomed, but we probably wouldn't want it either other way as the heartbreak validates our need for romance. Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From Evan via Facebook

So, it's been awhile since I've posted in here. mostly due to the fact that I'm trying to get myself settled. I feel like I've done that now.

The movie sounds interesting, at the very least, and i too identify with the hopeless romantic. I will definitely have to check this film out. The names of the girls are indicative of the seasons too. When you think of summer you think of summer flings. Autumn seems much more reserved and and calming. A better fit for a hopeless romantic.

Do you remember Cathy? For those of you who don't know her, she's a hot Hispanic chic that I dated that epitomizes the summer character in this film. She wants to settle down eventually, from what I gathered, but her actions suggest otherwise. She's never happy with what she has for too long and she's always looking for that perfect man. Which, is actually on the romantic side of things.

I wonder if she'd be even happy with the "perfect" guy. In my experience, humans are innately imperfect, so the search for "the one," as such is futile. Yes, I believe that there is someone who is right for you out there, but it's not only one person. It could be any number of candidates, it just depends on the sequence of events. Your willingness to grasp this concept will help your prejudice and help you discover wonderful relationships to which you might have otherwise been oblivious.

Doing the right thing. That's a loaded phrase in itself. How often does doing the right thing end up in humiliation for yourself, or alienation from the one person you were trying to do right by. What is the right thing? Is it based on moral conditioning? Your personal gain? The needs of your family? The benefit of society? (the list is in no specific order)

I'll leave that for another discussion. Go hopeless romantics, go get em. never change a thing. The world needs our idealism.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

(500) Days of Summer

Have you ever seen a movie and related to a character so naturally that you actually looked at their flaws and said, "that's how I come off" to yourself? I had this moment while watching (500) Days of Summer recently in regards to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL)'s character in the film. He's this hopelessly romantic male who gets so wrapped up in getting things right, he doesn't let anything take it's natural course, which of course back fires and he ends up alone (kind of, it sets him up for a nice rebound with 'Autumn') .

So anyways, the plot is good - it bounces back and forth throughout the 500 days that JGL's character knew Summer, played by the wonderful Zooey Deschanel. Essentially, we go from bad days (usually 100+) to good days, and back again. We follow the un-chronological storyline through a day ticker between scenes, as well as the background tone of the ticker, indicating if we're in for a good day or a bad day. There's really no mystery in the film, so revealing a scene's mood prior to jumping in is a nice ploy so that mood doesn't have to be established. Quite a time saver if you're making a cheap and fun indie flick.

The thing I liked most about this film was Summer, who followed in this footstep of archetypal females who aren't all about love, commitment or settling down. For some reason, these women always attract the hopeless romantics. Summer reminds me a lot of Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that kind of magnetism and promise of something more, even if that's not really what she wants. It's really an interesting dynamic, these characters. I'd like to see more of them.

The film has some truly funny moments, some touching, some kind of pathetic (on the part of JGL's character, the ones that made me somewhat ashamed). In the end, it was a very enjoyable movie-going experience and what more could you ask for? I got exactly what I expected from it, maybe even a little bit more.

It's really good to see JGL back though, am I right? I never liked Third Rock From the Sun, but I always thought he was an alright actor. He's been a couple, mostly indie, flicks recently and that's good to see. I hope he has continued success because I think he's not terrible.

I'm going to find it more interesting to follow the career of Zooey, I think she's absolutely fantastic and while she's kind of niched herself as the indie comedy queen (with the exception of Elf, but still isn't exactly the start of a serious acting career). I'd be interested in seeing her explore different roles, and see how she fares.

So there you have it folks, brief wrap-up. Respond here, or on Twitter, just make sure to include 'weekendphilosophers' in your post.

Thoughts

So I was thinking about it, in my head, of why I don't update this as much as I say I will. I want this blog to succeed, but I think I'm seeking too much and I'm approaching it wrong. Let me explain - what I want are these great, somewhat random, or at least fluid conversations. However, what I'm getting - and this is just the nature of the blog format - are short essays which take longer to write and aren't exactly conversation promising, so as an additional side project, I suggest we move some thoughts to Twitter.


Just add #weekendphilosophers to the beginning of your update, or we can decide on a shorter topic if we want the space back, but then we'd have about 120 characters to put out a thought, or respond. It'll be much more fluid conversation, I think. Just a thought. I think we should still use the blog and just link to it when a new post is up on the Twitter feed. Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Without getting into the philosophy of Time Travel, which should definitely be on our to-do list, I went and saw the Time Traveler's Wife with MY wife and...I was surprised?

First, I'd like to say that Rachel McAdams is a pretty good actress, however her two most well known roles have been The Notebook and probably this...if she could grab a starring role in a solid (non-romantic) drama or comedy, she'd blow it up. Some people saw her in Red Eye, but that movie was nonsensical, she was overshadowed in Mean Girls where she played the villain, and her performance in State of Play was understated...the last one there, I actually think is a strength, since most actors always try to pull the attention to them on screen, where she's able to take the attention off of herself. Anyways, not enough praises on Rachel McAdams, but she needs to get out romances because she's going to end up pigeon-holed and then we'll never see her again.

Anyways, onto the film! I was, not really surprised, but content with the film. It was exactly what I thought it was going to be, it toyed with emotions and that was about it. I would first like to say, I have a love-hate relationship with movies that toy with me like that, for instance, Homeward Bound, the Incredible Journey - I hate it, absolutely hate it. They set it up so you think that Shadow is dead and they milk it, they drag it out, you start to see this kid realizing his dog is probably dead and then...BAM! Comes running over the hill, and the music swells, and it's the happiest moment ever. The happiest moment in a film should never, ever follow the saddest moment - especially if the saddest moment is a presumption of the worst. Don't toy with me, Disney. So anyways, in the case of the Time Traveler's Wife, about half-way through, there's a revelation that because of his time traveling condition, Eric Bana is going to die and he's going to die relatively soon. And again, they milk it for all they can. They build it up...within a year, he's going to die...within a day, he's going to die. Then he dies and it's like - so no surprises there, but the anticipation of his death has swelled so much since it was first revealed, it's almost like a relief that he's finally gone. You're toying with me.

So anyways - just a few philosophical questions that this movie raises...

The daughter (who can also time travel, but can control it), tells the daughter that her Dad is going to die. But how did the older daughter know - she clearly remembers when her Dad dies, which is understandable, but wouldn't she remember being told by her older self? And if that's the case - who knew first? Are they indeed two different beings?

Eric Bana's character meets Rachel McAdam's character when she is just a child and he's in his thirties, so that when they meet later in life - she knows him, but he doesn't know her. They even go as far as to suggest that the elder Bana travels back in time an develops a romantic relationship with underage McAdams. Ignoring the questionable ethics of wooing a minor, with the knowledge that you'll someday marry, again - what came first?

Now onto the ethical matter, is it cheating? Is sleeping with your partner, albeit your partner from another time, indeed cheating or being faithful? This is somewhat parallel to the different beings question. In my mind, I don't know future or really, past me...and either way, it's not me - it's future or past me, so he's another man. Just me?

Finally, a time space question - in the film, he randomly travels to different points in time and different places on Earth, although he usually gravitates towards the same general locations. It isn't explained in the film, and I doubt it is in the book, how these times and places are determined, only that he tends to wind up by 'big events.' Okay, I don't claim to understand how the universe (or universes) work, but I'm pretty sure that's not it. So there's this random mechanism in his genetics, which makes no sense, which manipulates HIS body to go someplace else in the time-space universe. Lucky, this place is always Earth, right?
Fact: The Earth is moving through space
Fact: Our sun, which the Earth revolves around is moving through space
Fact: Our galaxy is moving through space
I would make a guess that at no time in history, has the planet been in the same place speaking solely from a 3D plane. This concept that traveling back in time will land you in the same place as you were before is ridiculous because that place wasn't there at that time. We don't even know how fast we are moving through space, we know how fast we are moving in relation to the sun and that's pretty fast, so for all we know - someone goes back in time one minute, they could end up some unknown place of the universe if their physical location were to remain the same. Think about it. Woah.

So, to wrap it up, movie good but if you think too hard about it, concept bad. Go into the movie knowing you're being played though, make it less emotional for you. I have a bunch of tedious work to get to now. Ta.

Funny People

Sometimes at work, I have to wait for things to execute. This is when I get things like this done.

So anyways, the latest Judd Apatow film came out a while back and after a couple weekends, I was finally able to go see it. The reviews of the film were fairly mixed, especially in comparison to Knocked Up and The 40-Year Old Virgin. Peer reviews, mostly from Facebook status updates, were brutally negative. I think the major problem with the film, at least in the context of people who aren't critics, was that it was terribly misrepresented in advertising and I was only aware of the overall mood of the film by reading through the lines...this isn't a comedy, it's really more of a drama, involving people who are funny. Apatow's previous two films were comedies in the sense that the plots were extreme to comical effect, here - the plot isn't funny at all, it just happens to revolve around comedians. Let me next say that I liked this film, I liked it a lot. I say that now because most of the following is going to come off pretty negative. The film was good, I thought, despite of itself. I think most of the people who hated it probably went in with a perception of what an Apatow movie is, and didn't get it, others likely saw the film's flaws as a greater problem then myself.

I listened to an interview with Apatow shortly before the film's release and he kind of explained how the storyline came to be, how he originally wrote a movie about a dying comedian, then another romantic-comedy sort of thing involving an ex, and then a buddy film about comedians...but none of the stories really panned out, and eventually he kind of combined them into a single film. As anyone may be able to gather from that explanation, none of the stories really pan out and they don't exactly flow together well. There are three very clear acts in the story, but they seem almost irrelevant to each other. The film isn't sure who it's about - Rogen or Sandler - and it suffers from this lack of focus, like many of my posts. It's kind of a hard movie to wrap an opinion around because, while it was an enjoyable movie going experience, it didn't come right out and make that clear. You had to try to enjoy it, which is never a good thing in terms of any form of entertainment.

What did you think about it?

First Days of Spring

Sometimes, I take up a cause. Generally speaking, these causes are bands which I feel are under-appreciated or unknown. I still strongly believe that Biirdie could be a big the indie scene, they're precious and not overly innovative, but they write great songs which is kind of...you know...the whole point to music? Going out and doing something completely new is great and wonderful, but nothing can replace solid songwriting and honestly, the best instances of this great experimentation is still built on great songs. So anyways, my latest cause is Noah and the Whale. I put on a great, long review of their album, Peaceful the World Lays Me Down, somewhere on this blog. Well they are releasing their next album, The First Days of Spring in the US on October 6. The album is actually streaming now from their myspace, and I highly recommend a good listen. I'll first warn you, it's not as light and fluffy as their debut album, and what's more - this is a straight up break-up album. It's not a bummer though, it's full of hope, as their debut was. The biggest difference here is that it's much more orchestrated, likely a bigger budget, but it really shows up the songwriting (somehow, sometimes when a band gets a bigger budget, they cover up their songwriting). Anyways, check it out and...there you go.

By the way, I'm 15 posts behind, so I'm working on catching up. Well, 14 now. Here's my list...

  • Funny People
  • The Time Traveler's Wife
  • (500 Days) of Summer
  • The Jackson 5
  • The constructs of family (continued)
  • Generational Gaps
  • Black Christmas (the orig. vs. new)
  • Unbreakable
  • The Hazards of Love
  • Disney Factory
  • The State of Horror
  • I want to do something..
  • A case for slashers.
  • Violence in...
  • Sex in...
  • Violence and Sex, one in the same?
  • The Beatles
  • Online and unknown, privacy and security

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

  • Funny People
  • The Time Traveler's Wife
  • (500 Days) of Summer
  • The Jackson 5
  • The constructs of family (continued)
  • Generational Gaps
  • Black Christmas (the orig. vs. new)
  • Unbreakable
  • The Hazards of Love
  • Disney Factory
  • The State of Horror
  • I want to do something..
  • A case for slashers.
  • Violence in...
  • Sex in...
  • Violence and Sex, one in the same?
  • The Beatles
  • Online and unknown, privacy and security
But first, a response to our newest contributor, Evan. By the way, my recent post in which I responded to "Max" was actually Evan, as I suspected but had he been under a pseudonym, I didn't want to take away that security blanket that Internet anonymity brings.

So I'm in class right now and we're supposed to be doing lab work, but I think I'll save it for this weekend because I'm quite tired and I feel like doing this. I recruited Evan very strongly, then I disappeared which was kind a of a dick move I'm pretty good at. I've been busy and preoccupied with a lot of things, but as I always promise - I'll try to be better. Key word is try, as in fail. Anyways, onto the response and maybe I can bust out a few more posts tonight yet.

I haven't spoken much of 9/11. I remember, about six months after the attack, I was on a field trip with some people from school, none of whom I would consider friends and one of them said, as a means of starting up a conversation - 'what is everyone's thoughts on 9/11?' I responded, lethargically, with no comment and I'd likely do the same today. I remember the day itself very clearly, as I know everyone who was alive at the time does. I stayed home from school that day and I woke up late, and walked out into the living room. I sat down on the couch and the TV was already on. All I saw was one of the tower's smoking badly, I thought it was a strange and morbid daytime movie or something, when all of a sudden, the second plane came in. I hadn't been sitting for more than five minutes when it happened and that's when it dawned on me - this looks like a scene from a movie, but this is real, unbelievable it seemed, but real nonetheless. Obviously, we all remember the next week of media coverage as well - the TV became a source of hope, or discouraging news, stories of heroism and stories of great loss.

Evan brought up the concept of religious motivation for the attacks and that does seem to be the principle reason for what happened. I've heard the conspiracy theories that we (America) was behind one or more of the attacks, money to gain or war to initiate. I don't know, either way you look at it - there's no rational justification for the attacks, for that amount of loss of life. In context, however, we as Americans really need to be more aware of the world around us. In our attempt to become this world power, policing the nation, we still maintain the separatist thinking that served us well between the Civil War and WWI. We think we're the best at everything, although in truth we really aren't at anything. The same goes for loss of life - while it is a great tragedy that 5000+ people, just doing their daily thing, were killed that day - the same happens all over the world, usually in greater numbers, and it gets no press coverage and nobody remembers it. In context, for America it was a great loss, but if we really strive to be this world presence, we should have the place of mind to realize that.

Jumping back to religion, I've never truly understand the blind following of the church. I was raised Methodist and at a certain point in my early teens, I decided I wanted to strengthen my faith. I began questioning things I hadn't questioned before and assumed that my church had these answers, I just had never asked. However, every question that I got answered, it raised ten more questions. Eventually, the questions started raising the questions that they had originally answered. The deeper I got into it, the less logic I saw in the whole thing. Nothing made sense at that point. I got desperate, I went out and bought a bunch of 'faith through logic' books which theoretically proved the truths in the Bible through historical evidence, but every supposed point they had seemed to prove them more wrong in my mind. Perhaps I had just gone into it already doubting the existence of God, but by the end of this I realized, there very likely isn't a God. Since then, I've realized that there's possibly a chance there is a greater power out there, but the likelihood that it is in any form related to the deities we call Gods is almost completely impossible. The biggest problem I had in this time of life when I was questioning everything is, when I questioned I was scolded. Only one religious figure (I should say quasi-religious figure, he was a preacher in training who worked at Taco Bell as he went to night school), who accepted me questioning his beliefs and actually tried to argue, with quite a bit of logical reasoning, the existence of God. It was one of the best conversations I've ever had, truthfully. Obviously, one cannot argue for the existence of God without first assuming the existence of God and vice versa. And truthfully, there is no argument either way, but the concept that questioning is wrong...how can any society be built on that? Questioning every aspect of society is how society gets improved. Questioning if the Earth is round leads to the discovery of America for the Europeans. Everything should be questioned. I'm not saying we should do away with religion as a whole, or the concept of faith or morals, but to take these to the extremes that most of these religious nut-jobs...it makes no sense, because they clearly aren't questioning anything and what's more, is they rarely question their own reasoning. They'll misinterpret, or takes things too literally, and all of a sudden they are crashing planes into buildings. Frankly, I'm not going to do anything rash in this life for anything in the afterlife, you know why? I'm guaranteed this life - I'm already here, but there is nothing promised to me in the afterlife that I know I'll get for sure.

I do accept the reasoning that there are three greater parts of the human life - body, soul and mind (as oppose to just mind and body), but the concept of the soul living on beyond the body or mind seems improbable at best. Then again, it could just be beyond our comprehension.

I've kind of lost focus now, I'm afraid, and honestly I don't know if any of that was comprehensible. I know it wasn't coherent. Anyways, respond and we'll see where we go from here - I have a lot more to say on religion, it's a great topic...and just as a disclaimer, nobody here is attacking anyone else's beliefs (and don't do so), just good conversation. Don't take anything personally. Ta.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11

Today marks the 8th anniversary of this tragic event.  My heart goes out to all those who had personal connections or loved ones lost.  A constant reminder that we are not as isolated as we wish to be.  America is still somewhat aloof to the rest of the world, but the world is much smaller than it used to be.  Of course, this tragedy wasn't merely an attack of the infidels, it was a religious statement.  In the minds our islamic brothers (humankind, not religious), they were merely carrying out the wishes of their religion.

I'm not really a fan of organized religion, so I'll say that up front.  If religion subscribes to calamities, such as 9/11 and the crusades, which hunts, etc, then I want to have no part in it.  Even the indoctrination of the entire German nation, you could argue that as a form of religion.  After all, what is religion, but a submission to doctrines derived from years of interpretation and loosely based on archaic texts.  Not to the extreme of the terrorists that attacked our country, but in a similar vein, i met students at Calvin College that blindly "believed" in their faith.  If you were to ask them why they believed in the Heidelberg Catechism or what in fact their personal stance on the divinity of Christ was, they could form no opinion.  Blindly following, without considering the consequences of you actions or beliefs, that in itself is tragic. Think people!  

The basic moral compass and a capacity to understand good and evil is inherent.  Conditioning and repetition in either direction will dictate who you become.  Routine clouds judgement.  If you have always done things a certain way without considering your initial innate inclination then you will continue on the blissful path of unknowing.  I understand that people can have chemical imbalances, which make their decision process much more difficult.  However, the ability was there at one point, it just a matter of whether or not they can retrieve the skill.  

As you may have gathered, I believe people to be fundamentally good.  It's the exposure to varying experiences both good and evil that helps hone the ability to do the right thing.  Life is way too short to harbor feelings of malcontent for our fellow brothers.  I take this from the Christian perspective, but I agree whole heartedly, love your neighbor as yourself.  If you love everyone equally, only good things can ensue.  Of course, I am a realist, there are some people that are too corrupted by their own way of thinking and you can't  reach them.  Mourn for them because they will never see how life can be lived to the fullest extent.

"Statistics are like loose women, you can do what you want with them."

  • Funny People
  • The Time Traveler's Wife
  • (500 Days) of Summer
  • The Jackson 5
  • The constructs of family (continued)
  • Generational Gaps
  • Black Christmas (the orig. vs. new)
  • Unbreakable
  • The Hazards of Love
  • Disney Factory
  • The State of Horror
  • I want to do something..
  • A case for slashers.
  • Violence in...
  • Sex in...
  • Violence and Sex, one in the same?
  • Once
I know, I'm a big Blog liar. I never update when I say I will. I was going to knock out a couple during the NFL kickoff last night, but I didn't. For some reason, I am more capable of splitting my attention between a movie, or TV show, and writing an entry versus trying to do so during a football game. This is odd because typically, in a visual story like a movie or TV show, the plot is just as important as the ending, whereas in a football game, more or less, it doesn't matter how you get there, the end result is the only thing that matters. The Titans, in many ways, won the game last night based on the 'plot' I saw, but the scoreboard says differently and that makes all the difference, doesn't it. This bodes poorly for me who also intends on doing homework during football on Sundays. We'll see if I can split my attention better in the future.

We did have a comment on my most previous post regarding Pandora, to which I will respond directly, "Max" said,
I have been aware of Pandora for about the past year. I hadn't participated until recently and I must say good work AI research people. Of course, it's not a perfect system. I don't think it's possible to create such a system that uses logic and cross references to calculate personal taste. Currently, I am inclined to say I don't like DMB, only because it plays him every other song. True AI, as seen in "I Robot" is a long way off. Perhaps over time, Pandora can assimilate a close relative, but to be a cognitive entity that learns and understands a person fully is the not yet attained dream.
I had a Pandora profile for the longest time but rarely used it because, like you're facing now, it wasn't very accurate. My flash drive, which contained all the mp3s for my laptop died, so I was forced to come up with a music solution for my long work days, so I rediscovered Pandora. First and foremost, it requires patience and rate your songs as often as possible. If you give the same artist two thumbs down on a given radio station, that artist will be banned from that station (assuming they aren't listed as one of the artist nodes). Also, create lot's of radio stations. I have 22 radio stations and more often than not, listen to 20 of them on QuickMix (two of them are very specific moods, in which I am rarely). I have a radio station with my top songs, I have another with my top ten artists, then I kind of veer off into more genre based music. I found that having a radio station only associated with the Beach Boys plays a lot of lightweight pop from the 60s (Jackson 5, Frankie Valli, etc...), however adding any of these specific artists skew the variety, the Beach Boys are the perfect middle of the road band for this. I try not to double up any of my artists, but I have things like 'Rap' (Atmosphere, Jean Grae, The Streets) and 'Pop Rap' (Eminem, Kanye West, OutKast). I try my best not to choose two similar artists (I wouldn't include Dizzee Rascal on my rap station, he's too similar to the Streets).

Here's my profile - http://www.pandora.com/people/nathan.driftwoodprose - where you can see all of my radio stations, songs I've thumbed up and down, etc... I bookmark songs I really like, so I can add them to my "Wanted Media" list, which is a Google Doc where I track CDs I want...I send it out to family members around the holidays in hopes I get CDs for Christmas...I never do. As anyone can see, I have very eclectic tastes, but I think I did a pretty good job as far as variety on my QuickMix goes.

As for the AI, no - it's not perfect and I like the approach, attempting to break down a song into specific elements and finding tastes accordingly, it is going to be inaccurate. For me, I generally like most music, so I'm probably an easy customer to please. There's also a memory aspect that Pandora can't account for, if I can't listen to Pearl Jam because of a terrible memory from my childhood, there's no accounting for that if I build a radio station with Nirvana, Soundgarden and Sonic Youth. Honestly, I'd probably be disappointed if I didn't heard Pearl Jam almost immediately. So you're right, there's no accounting for taste, really and while this computer tries it's best, it'll always play something God awful that you just have to thumb down.

Nathan out, hopefully some posts this weekend (watching Once tonight, maybe some posts during the movie). Ta.