Sunday, August 13, 2017

America - Here's What You're Saying

Oh internet, we have such a love/hate relationship with you. So much information is available, and yet the status quo seems to be spreading misinformation and insulting strangers.

I hate the whole Left vs Right thing, but it seems the divide is getting greater every day. I would think common sense would rule out, and everyone could come together and just rally against hate. But I don't think anyone really knows who to hate or why. It seems everyone just wants to choose the lowest common denominator: Insulting strangers online.

We will NEVER agree on everything. There will never be 100% approval on any policy, or law that is passed, but there are some things in the world people need to start accepting, like it or not. And after recent events in Charlottesville Virginia, we need to figure this out sooner, rather than later.

So maybe we can all agree, nobody wants violence. Maybe in movies or video games, violence can be fun and often therapeutic. But in the real world, beating someone, destroying property, or running them over with a car is something that NOBODY wants. Seriously. ISIS and North Korea are sitting back and laughing as we prove what morons we really are by destroying ourselves. Does anyone remember: Divided we fall. And we are falling pretty hard lately.

So according to SOMEONE, there are "many sides". Both the left and right know this is pretty ludicrous. There is ONE side. Hate. But who hates who, and why so much?

After reading many (too many?) comments/insults from strangers online, I want to try to put both views into perspective. And like MANY of you, I am extremely unqualified to talk about any of this. But based on all I've read recently, let's look at the players involved in what will soon be known as our newest Civil War.
Civil War II: The Fight for Stupidity.

Nazis. I can't believe I'm actually saying this. Yes, Nazis. I'm sure you've seen the memes that call them out for being extremely un-American, and not patriotic. Yes, the entire world fought against them. That's why it was called WORLD War II. They were fascists. They believed in racial superiority, and enjoyed torturing and killing Jews. Today, we enjoy fighting against them in video games and movies. It's fun!

So what causes someone to legitimately accept this philosophy in America???

Well, they say they are NOT the same. They want control of America, not genocide. They call themselves NEO-Nazis. But in the end, it IS White Supremacy.  The new KKK.

The events in Charlottesville began because a group called the Unite the Right (aka Alt-Right), wanted to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee. He was a general in the Confederate army during the first Civil War in America. His statue has been residing in "Lee Park" for some time now, and recently, they've decided to remove it. Oh and it's not called Lee Park anymore. Now it's Emancipation Park.

Why the change? Well, one reason is because the Confederate army had no problem with slavery. So the idea of having a General from that army honored so predominately in a public place, is quite disturbing if you've experienced racism in your life. Imagine how you might feel if for example your family was forcibly brought to the US as slaves long ago. Getting rid of this type of references in the US seems like a lot of common sense behavior. Sure we can study about them in history, and I think that's great. But having their statues on display could be uncomfortable for many people.

But wait...! Some people are offended about removing his statue! Apparently, they feel it is a matter of important history! They want to be proud, and and don't want to erase the past, and will tell you this is NOT about hate.

So, instead of just shrugging quietly at home and listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, they protest. Instead of trying to actually see things from another perspective, or trying to show any form of human compassion or empathy, they complain. They raise their Wal-Mart bought tiki torches high and cry about how oppressed they are and how they feel their rights are suddenly being taken from them. It's almost as if to say their white privilege is not important anymore. Suddenly, they feel the same thing that minorities in the US have felt for hundreds of years. And they can't take it. Weird.

For most sane people, this behavior is pretty disgusting. Nazis (or Neo-Nazis, or White Supremacy, or KKK) is the bottom of the food chain and this type of bigotry is not only ludicrous, it's nauseating.  America is (supposedly) a land of freedom, for all races and religions... remember?

So people protest the protestors. Anti-protestors. Also called Antifa. The "Left".

Antifa is the newest way to say Anti-fascist. Someone who is against fascists. 

A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Yikes. That pretty much goes against the entire idea of a democratic society. But to be clear, I think America has become an Oligarchy. But that's a topic for another day.

So yes, being Antifa doesn't seem like such a bad thing, does it?


Here's where it gets fuzzy.

Let's look a bit deeper, and talk about a group called Black Lives Matter (BLM). Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about a LOT of police brutality/killing of unarmed black men in the last few years. In every incident, there is a lengthy trial for the police involved. And in every case, the police are found not guilty. So BLM was started to make a strong statement about this type of unfair treatment towards the black community. They want to clearly point a finger at the racism that still happens in America.

For some reason, the "Right" doesn't get it. They say ALL Lives Matter. And most recently, they are bold (and clueless) enough to say WHITE Lives Matter. It's like they just don't get it. And honestly... they don't. They don't feel the same racism or oppression that many in this country have felt for so long.

According to the "Right", they say BLM is a violent group! They have some knowledge of them rioting violently, and in every police incident (according to them), they have been resisting arrest, so the police were justified in their deadly actions (instead of... I don't know, subduing someone without killing them).

And the Alt-Right says the same thing about the incident in Charlottesville. "We were protesting peacefully, until Antifa and BLM arrived, because they hate first Amendment Free Speech so much!".

I've already seen things that said the driver that killed and injured many by slamming his car into the crowd, was apparently scared because of the Antifa attacking his car violently.

But I've also seen posted that he considers himself to proudly be Neo-Nazi. 

So who threw the first punch?

Was it Antifa/BLM for violently opposing free speech because they don't like what you're saying and it's "fun" to punch a Nazi?

Was it White Supremacists because they have an extremely violent history against others when they don't like something and think they should control it all?

Was it NRA for putting out a video clearly saying that "if you don't like us, we will fight against you"?

Was it the guy online insulting strangers, who enjoys calling someone a "Libtard", or "Snowflake", or idiot, or any list of other common insults I've read?

Was it some idiot wannabe politician separating us and them, having rallys about you can punch them in the face if they disagree with you? 

Does it matter who's fault it is anymore?

This is America 2017. I don't want to get into the politics of it all, but I'm sure everyone can easily see that also has a big influence over how people are feeling. We do need leaders who can bring us together, and not talk about us and them and "many sides".

I encourage EVERYONE to actually read these comments from both sides. It can be painful sometimes. But the moment you start insulting someone, you have no defense. Pay attention. Use common sense. Have some empathy. Educate yourself. Research things before posting/sharing. And when you have nothing else... accept they could be correct. Because the moment you start lashing out at strangers, they stop listening to you, which just builds more hate. You aren't educating them. At that point, YOU are part of the problem.

Good luck and stay safe out there kids,

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ocasek and I - or Why I Like The Cars (the band)

This may come as a shock to some of you, but in the not so distant past, a variety in music was not always readily available to people.  I should also note that in those days, music was also known to be more creative, skillful, and melodic... but that's a topic for another day.

Yes, in a time prior to the internets, there was no such thing as Spotify, Pandora, YouTubes or satellite radio.  We had to listen to music the old fashioned way:  FM radio.  And as modern historians will tell you, this was broadcast by cavemen playing stone records with a pterodactyl beak, (which is incidentally how the term 'rock music' was coined).

There was also a definite correlation between the the size of your town and your listening choices.  In smaller mid-western areas, too much variety, or anything new and different was often considered "devil music", and just not allowed.

One particular small town in northern Indiana is called Nappanee (current population about 6,500).  This is where my story begins.  The nearest radio station was in South Bend, Indiana.  So for popular music, I had one choice.  Some might say it was a 'Top 40' station, but it was more like Top 20.  I do recall a rival radio station became available later, but in the end, they played the same songs so everyone would just switch back and forth.  There was one other choice, but I never hung out with 'those type of kids'.  

I was aware of bands like The Cars, and I remembering hearing Shake It Up, Just What I Needed, Let's Go, Drive, and You Might Think often.  Their other songs were (probably) too extreme for regular rotation on my radio station.  No, I don't think I'm exaggerating.

The simple conclusion to this story would be, as a nerdy guy, I should instantly gravitate towards nerdy bands like The Cars.  But at that time, I just didn't care about them.  I was more obsessed with my movie soundtracks, like Ghostbusters, Fright Night, Breakin' 2, and Star Wars.  I was also into Sheena Easton, post Prince influence, mostly because she was hot.

But as with all great life changing experiences, suddenly there was this girl...

Before getting a license and a car, (or friends with a car), I took the bus home after school.  Normally it was uneventful, but on one particular day, there was an extra passenger.  She had a very nice smile, and I thought she was very pretty.  She sat alone, across from me, and I had no idea who she was.  Due to my extreme nerd status, I never socialized with anyone outside of my very small circle of friends, so I had no idea where she came from.

And because she was new, different, and alone on the bus, the other kids decided to pick on her, because as you know, kids can often be mean and stupid.  I felt bad for her and wanted to protect her, but a nerdy guy like me just wasn't brave enough to get them to stop.  I did however feel chivalrous enough to make an encouraging comment to her when the bus stopped at my house.  I said something like, "Oh they're just jealous...", or "They're mean because they really like you", or some other lame, innocent thing, knowing that I would probably never see her again.

At this point, maybe you're thinking I'm a hero and this story is soooo cute.  And maybe it would be sweet if it ended here.  But surprisingly, I did start seeing this girl in the hallways of my school regularly.  Never in person, just from afar.  I discovered she was in the same grade as me, but we didn't share any of the same classes.  I never saw her on the bus, because most likely, she had friends or family that would drive her home.

I need to remind you, I was lame.  I was insecure.  I really was clueless, uncool and girls just freaked me out because I had no idea how to talk to any of them.  It also didn't help when I learned she had a boyfriend, although I sincerely doubt I would have been brave enough to approach her even if she didn't.

So yes, looking back now, I know I had a very unhealthy infatuation.  It wasn't even unrequited love, because I didn't know anything about her.  Fortunately, I did get over her and soon after, grew out of it.
The End.

"...But Deeesher, what about The Cars!?!?"

Oh, that's right!!

During one particularly forlorn evening, while switching back and forth between my two radio stations, I heard a new song:
Why Can't I Have You, by The Cars from the album Heartbeat City.  

Holy crap, Ric wrote that song for me! 

Okay, maybe he didn't write it specifically with my situation in mind, but he most definitely understood my anguish.  I had to listen to this song often, because it helped soothe my (imagined) pain.  I listened to this song daily.  Hourly... continually.  It somehow helped me focus on the rest of my life, because my feelings were actually put to words and music.

Eventually, the cassette copy I made from the radio with slight static and a DJ talking over the intro wasn't good enough.  I had to have the absolute best quality of this song, so I bought the album Heartbeat City (aka cassette).  I don't think I listened to anything else from the album except that one song.  I mean, Drive was mildly acceptable but that's it.  And, I will go so far to say, I kind of disliked You Might Think.  Sure the video was cool, but ugh... what silly music!

Fast forward a few months... (yikes, was it a year??), and I did get mildly brave enough to talk to a few other girls.  I remember talking to one girl I was sort of interested in, and she said something silly like, "The rest of the album is pretty good too!  I like Stranger Eyes".  So from her advice, I stepped outside my comfort zone and listened to the rest of the album.  Suddenly, I realized she was right!  There actually were a lot of other good songs here!  ...Except You Might Think, of course.

Then I got curious about other Cars songs, and I remember talking to a radio DJ one morning and saying, "Do you have that one song by The Cars, something about 'ribbons in her hair...?", because I always liked that lyric.  They easily identified it as Just What I Needed, which I suddenly really enjoyed also.  So I thought, I should buy their debut album too, because maybe it has some other good songs on it.  That was when I discovered It's All Mixed Up, which seemed to sum up my general frustration about any typical girl... because they were still weird and mysterious to me.

Then I had to get Candy-O because... duh, the Vargas girl on the cover is hot!  Are you sensing a theme here?  My obsession had switched from this girl on the bus, to this band.  I had to have it all!

After getting the studio albums, I ordered the solo albums.  I loved Beatitude and This Side of Paradise from Ric Ocasek, because he wrote all The Cars songs, so it all had a familiar vibe to them.  Later I bought Change No Change from Elliot Easton, Niagra Falls from Greg Hawkes, and The Lace from Benjamin Orr, but wasn't so impressed, because the song writing wasn't quite the same.  Eventually, I managed to find a company that sold bootleg recordings, and bought a few live Cars concerts, as well as the original and rare Milkwood album (1972 Ric and Ben acoustic).

Somehow, I was fortunate to find another girl who was also quite obsessed with The Cars.  We spent quite a bit of time together, and she gave me a much needed musical education.  She would play songs for me all the time from other bands that I never heard before in my sheltered small town life.

Me: "This sounds great, who is this??"
Her:"That's a band called The Doors!"
Me: "This is awesome, what is this??"
Her: "That's a band called The Who!"

Me: "This is amazing, who is this??"
Her: "That's David Bowie!"


I had no idea there was so much awesome music in the world!  So within a year or two, I overloaded in classic rock music, that was all new to me.  I even got brave enough to listen to the local "devil music" station, which I learned was actually an AOR station, meaning they played a bit of everything new and old.

The next life changing moment for me came with the release of Door to Door in 1987.  No, I'm not talking about having a real girlfriend at the time, nor am I talking about the first speeding ticket I got on the way to their Indianapolis concert.  And I'm definitely not talking about the pain of hearing about the breakup of The Cars soon after.

I'm talking about how Ric produced this album, and how a picture of him mixing over a console was maybe one of the most inspiring moments I ever had in my life.

This awesome image meant the world to me, and I wanted to know what every button and knob did.  I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I discovered there are actual schools that teach music production, and if I could have left home that night to start studying, I would have.

I found a school in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and eagerly signed up for it.  Well, there were schools a bit closer in Chicago, or even Atlanta, but... I sort of liked the idea of living near the beach and seeing hot girls in bikinis daily.  Looking back, I think I went to the beach only a handful of times while I lived there.

Studio work seemed to come very natural to me while studying.  I soon found out, it is in fact easy to fool with the sound.  My goal was to one day work with Ric in the studio... or at the very least, win a Grammy award for producer of the year.

My first few years in the studio will always be the best of times, and the worst of times.  I was often broke and frustrated, but through amazing luck and many long hours/days/nights/weeks, I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic, talented people.  Many of those people are still very good friends today.  I am very proud of some of the stuff I did in my early days, and I cringe thinking about other parts of it.

While studying engineering, one of my instructors, who wound up also being one of my best friends, was Eddie Mashal.  He had Grammys for his work with The Eagles on Hotel California.  He also recorded their followup album, The Long Run, and worked with many other great classic rock artists, but he never did work with anyone from The Cars.  However, Eddie was quite a nerdy guy like me, so we had a lot of great conversations about music, recording, as well as comic books, movies and television shows.  He was a fantastic mentor for me, not just in the studio, but in life too.  Sadly, he passed away a few years ago, and I miss him every day.  I wrote a bit of a eulogy to him here if you're curious.
So, I never did get a chance to work with Ric, despite my efforts.  I also never got my Grammy award, but that's fine.  I did however, get to work regularly in one of the top five studios in Miami, which happened to have the exact same model of recording console Ric was working on in the picture.

I guess in the end, you could say I got just what I needed.

EPILOGUE:  I'm still not a huge fan of You Might Think, but I've learned to appreciate it a bit more.  And girls still freak me out, and I still don't how to talk to them.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Twin Peaks Season 3 Mid-Season Review

I completely missed season one of Twin Peaks when it originally aired.  For sake of argument, we'll just say I was too young, (don't question it, just accept it).  But the unique power and popularity of this 1990 series could be felt pre-internet buzz.  So prior to the season two premiere, I was curious enough to watch the hour long recap of the first season, explaining all the characters and strange nuances of this small northwestern town.  

And to clarify, it is a small town of 5,120 residence, despite what the welcome sign says at the opening credits.  Apparently, the network preferred a bigger city, prompting creators to add another digit to the population.  Later they justified it by saying the sign has a typo.  Which seems accurate in this unusual town.

So, what I learned from this recap, is there are three elements to Twin Peaks:
1.  A silly part
2.  A mysterious part
3.  A weird part

All of which I love, so I was sold!

I became even more invested watching the intro of season two, with Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) laying on the ground after being shot, talking to himself about the experience... and then suddenly a giant appeared to give him some cryptic clues.

I instantly became a huge fan, re-watching episodes repeatedly, buying magazines about the show (Wrapped in Plastic), getting all the soundtracks, and purchasing several books, including Laura Palmer's Secret Diary, and The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes (which I highly recommend!).

So yes, I'd call myself a fan.

And now, based on a passing comment in season one during a dream sequence, David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, revive the series twenty-five (ish) years later.

Before diving into season three, I wanted to re-watch the first two seasons, as well as the prequel movie, just to remind myself what It was all about.

I'm glad I did because I made some interesting discoveries. 

Season one is still awesome!  Eight episodes, each one with strange interesting characters, moving the story forward. 

Season two, is not so good.  Of course there's still plenty to love.  But with twenty-two episodes, they had a lot of space to fill.  Often it seemed they had no idea where to go with the story, or what to do with so many characters.

It's interesting to note however, other than creating the show, David Lynch only directed and co-wrote a few episodes.  Mark Frost seemed more involved in writing the series, but mostly they were dependent on a random group of other writers and directors.

So I'm curious, did these other contributors make the show more cohesive?  Dare I say... common? 

Season two started strong, and held up for about nine episodes. But what followed may have been too "mundane" for fans to accept, which resulted in it's eventual cancellation.  Fortunately the finale returned to it's weird roots, and left us all wanting more.  But everything prior to the powerful conclusion felt like it was dragging it's feet, not the jazzy shuffling little person we grew to love.

Soon after the series ended, we did get the theatrical release of the prequel, Fire Walk With Me.  But maybe audiences weren't quite ready to accept Lynch in all his freaky glory. It was booed at Cannes Film Festival, (although currently it's showing 61% on Rotten Tomatoes).  So with such a poor reception, and bad box office returns, the studio cancelled any plans for a sequel.

But maybe in the crazy, mixed up world of 2017, we are finally ready for David Lynch's visual insanity.  But more importantly, as eager as fans are to return, does Lynch want to revisit the town of Twin Peaks?

Well, midway through season three, I have good news and bad news.  There are moments that will put a big smile on your face.  But there are many more moments that will make you question your own sanity, or consider the real possibility that someone might have actually drugged you before the episode began.

Kyle MacLachlan is still an important part of the show, although after so much time has passed and considering his experiences, he's not the same Special Agent Dale Cooper we knew and loved.  And don't expect to see much involvement with other regular cast members.  Many appear as brief (obligatory?) cameos, and seem completely unnecessary to the plot.  But for me, seeing some of those legacy characters appear were the best moments so far. 

It also feels as if the town of Twin Peaks itself is a cameo, since we spend so little time there.  Most of the show takes place everywhere from South Dakota, New York, New Mexico and of course 'the other place' (Black Lodge?).  Is it still Twin Peaks if during an hour long episode, we only spend five minutes in the sheriff's office, and another few minutes in the Roadhouse for a musical interlude?

Which brings me to another great aspect of the series: The music.  I do love the music they chose for season three, but don't expect the same jazzy/industrial orchestra as before.  Many scenes have no music, or at most an eerie music bed, where you might expect something to play.  It's as if Lynch holds back just letting the scene speak for itself.  But later, we get a great band with a full performance in the local biker bar.  It's different, but still good. 

I wouldn't say you should lower your expectations, but simply change them.  If you love David Lynch, and enjoy feeling like your brain is being bombarded by radiation while on acid, you will like season three.

You still get all three elements, (silly, mysterious, and weird), but maybe the balance feels off for me.  Too much weird.  I can appreciate the visuals, but I'm always looking for a story.  I never want to watch a twenty minute Youtube video explaining what I just watched, (which I've had to do).

It feels like Lynch/Frost are dropping breadcrumbs for me to enjoy each episode.  I do like many aspects of it, (great cameos, all the disturbing and unique visuals, and of course the music), and of course I'm eager to know where the story is going.  But maybe it just feels like I'm a drug addict, wanting more and more, and then after each episode, I'm filled with regret.  
Does this mean I've 'peaked' too soon?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wonder Woman Review

There are so many things I could say about women, and their portrayal in movies and television!  But as a guy, I'm extremely unqualified to write anything about it, and just barely smart enough to know that I shouldn't even try.

And I really can't say I'm an expert on Wonder Woman either, because I've never followed the comics.  But, I loved the Lynda Carter 1975-1979 series!  She's always been the perfect embodiment of what I felt Wonder Woman should be.  If you're interested, I recommend watching season two and three when the show was moved to a new network and took place in modern times. Even as a kid watching, I remember thinking the World War II stories in season one were cheesy. 

I'd also suggest the Justice League animated series from 2001 which often featured Wonder Woman, as well as her solo animated movie from 2009.  For a long time, I kept shouting, "Why don't they make a live action version of this!"  

But nobody ever listens to me.  Instead, we get:

Is it wrong for me to ask how this version of Wonder Woman... stacks up to others?   I have a feeling I will be apologizing a lot after writing this...

Traditionally, Wonder Woman was associated with World War II.  However, someone at DC/WB decided to move her origin story a bit further back to begin in World War I.  This way nobody would try to confuse/compare it with Marvel/Disney's Captain America: The First Avenger.  But in the world of 2017, I don't think people notice the difference.  It's still a war against Germans.

And the Amazon women on the island of Themyscira don't know the difference either, because they are hidden and completely isolated from the world of men (which could be for the best).  Until Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) shows up accidentally, bringing the war with him.  Typical. 

Yes, this is an origin story.  And as far as theatrical superhero/heroine origins go, this was awesome!  After so many misses from DC/WB, it's nice to finally see them do it right.  They created a fun and cohesive story that kept me entertained from beginning to end.  In my (simple) mind, I don't think they made a movie for women or for men.  They just made a movie that everyone could enjoy.  And if someone tries to tell you it's just a rip-off of Captain America... they're an idiot!  Other than fighting Germans in a war, there are soooo many differences.   

And yes, I know casting Gal Gadot as Diana was not anyone's first choice (or second... or third choice).  But she did fine.  I sort of accepted her accent since she was far removed from America.  I could even accept her physicality for the role.  I know prior to filming, she had been training hard to appear less frail, and it showed.  She had the intensity when needed, but remained feminine as well.  She also played a great fish out of water character, but still appeared emotionally invested during key moments.  I didn't see her (or anyone in the cast) delivering an Oscar winning performance, but none of the acting took me out of the movie either.  I did appreciate all the key characters.  Everyone in their final ensemble were well crafted and interesting, creating a lot of depth to the story.

But all hail the real Wonder Woman here:  Director Patty Jenkins.  I could see the action, and I loved her use of colors!  *gasp*  I don't think DC/WB has accepted color since Christopher Nolan banned them in Batman Begins from 2005.  To me, this has always been the biggest difference between the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and DC.  Marvel knew how to make things colorful.  DC seemed to film everything in mud... in the dark.  After seeing how well Wonder Woman worked visually, I sincerely hope that DC/WB producers can finally understand that sharp reds, blues, and well lit scenes will not terrify audiences.

And I know, a lot of people have said that Patty's use of slow motion during fight scenes was overused, and most likely stolen from Zack Snyder.  To this I say Bah!  I always loved the slow motion fights from Zack!  But I don't think she borrowed/stole this idea from him.  Maybe producers heavily suggested it to her, but I clearly remember watching awesome fight scenes on television from the Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Incredible Hulk, AND Wonder Woman, where they often fought in slow motion.  Those were fun!  Okay, sure it's always nice if a movie has impressive fight choreography, but to me, I want to see the camera pulled back so I can watch it.  Sadly, too often you can't see it because the camera is so close, or the scene is edited too quickly.  If those are my options, I'll take slow mo any day.   

So yes, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable Wonder Woman was.  Maybe if you're not into fantasy/comic book stories, this isn't really for you.  But if you are, it's a very well directed movie, with some interesting characters, while making some very powerful statements about war, and gender differences, without being preachy.

But I still think they created the worst theme song ever (which originated in Batman vs Superman).  That annoying guitar riff seemed a bit more buried in orchestration here, but it was still there, grinding painfully into my brain.  Maybe they should have let a woman create her theme song.

Okay, I think I've done enough mansplaining for now.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Long Division

Math just sucks, amiright?  Sometimes numbers just don't add up.  Between the multiplying, dividing, and all their freaky formulas, I just don't get it.  Maybe that's why I've always appreciated words so much more.  But, you know what sucks more than math?  Politics.  And when politicians start dividing us, that's when we have real problems.

United we stand... Divided we fall.

Most of us want the same things.  We just want to live peaceful, happy lives.  And apparently (for some reason), venting about politics on Facebook or Twitter has become vital to our inner peace. But when did insulting strangers become an essential part of our collective happiness?  Of course not everyone does this, but recently, politics and online fights are becoming the standard way of living for some. 

To be clear, at it's core, this is not about politics. Hating politicians is part of human nature.  When the very first caveman became leader, Grog was pissed because he knew Gork would be a better choice.  But whenever he complained about it, others just rolled their eyes and figured it was because he was stepped on by a woolly mammoth as a small child, so they would just ignore him.  But with the advent of social media, it's becoming easier to insult others, when you don't have to look them in the eye.  

So here is the formula of words.

Someone makes a statement online concerning their views on a current political situation.  Whether the statement is true or not doesn't seem to matter.  People don't listen.  They insult.  Sure, the comment may garner a lot of support from others who wholeheartedly agree, but often dozens (hundreds?) of others start name calling. Everyone wants to be a comedian. 'Likes' are becoming the newest designer drug.  Shares are suddenly much more important than compassion or *gasp*... facts.  Everyone is too eager to have the most powerful zinger that will finally butt-hurt the original poster into shame and submission.  It seems Conan was right about what is best in life (look it up).

But when are people going to figure out... this ain't working.  

Do you really think you're going to educate someone if you start insulting them?  All those 'likes' you got, isn't going to solve the problem.  Nobody will listen when you use common popular buzzwords like "libtard", "snowflake", "deplorable", or "nasty women".  Can't you be original, or are you so indoctrinated by those politicians you love, that you have to rehash the same comments ad nauseam?  

And if you scroll through enough comments, there is always the truly deep thinkers that just tell someone to kill themselves for being so stupid.  Don't be too disgusted.  They usually get quite a few 'likes'.

The comments from regular people have gotten out of control, and "they" are successfully dividing us.  

"Hey you lost, get over it!"
Not everyone sees the world the same way you do.  And what's wrong with a peaceful protest?  People have been protesting for thousands of years, and sometimes it actually works!  But my personal feelings are, current politicians don't care.  They worry about their own 'likes' (read $$$$).  They've made choices about our lives, and most of them are so out of touch with who we are, it doesn't matter what we do or say.  Welcome to the United States of Oligarchy.  If something really bothered them, they'll fix the problem.  

But, on the off chance that protesting actually does help, or even if it makes you feel better... great!  You're not hurting anyone. 

"These 'peaceful' protestors are starting riots!"
I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican or Independent.  There will always be violent protestors.  I'd like to imagine both sides have peaceful people as well.  But with the help of social media idiots, they'll only focus on one group that got out of control, but if we share it enough times, maybe people will think they're all violent.  Just stop.  In the words of Corpsman Rhomann Dey, I don't believe anyone (or any group) is 100% a dick (Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014).

"90% of them don't even know why they're protesting!"
Seriously?  Just like the violence, I'm sure there is a small percentage of idiots that have no idea what they're doing.  But most are very passionate about recent events, if you took the time to actually listen to what they say.  Maybe if you listen, you could understand their reasons. 

Those are all comments I've read in the last couple weeks.  For every horrible comment against, there are literally thousands of comments in favor.  So who is right?  What makes everyone so sure they are right and thousands (millions?) of others are wrong?  Think about what someone says.  


We will NEVER agree 100%.  So what's the solution?  Civil War?  East and West America?  I have a silly idea.  Let's figure out what we do agree on and maybe make an effort to talk to each other and listen without the condescending attitudes.  

We ALL need to be educated.  Learning about the world is good.  Understanding how people think is awesome.  But remember there are so many better ways to be happy in your life.  Be aware of what's going on in the world, but don't let it bring you down so much that you can't focus on what's right in front of you.  

And be very aware of how the powers that be, seem to be trying to divide us.  I wrote a whole conspiracy rant on it, if you're interested in checking it out here

And I seriously need to stop reading the comments on social media, because it is making me quite ill.  I have better things to do with my life than worry about the opinions of strangers.  I have plenty of nerdy things to focus on. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One Review

Remember long ago, when Star Wars never came to the theater?  We would wait years for the possibility of a sequel or prequel.  Then eventually we gave up hope ever seeing another big screen version again.

But things have changed.  Disney gave us a new hope.  Last year they released The Force Awakens, and now this year we have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Way back in 1977, Star Wars (aka A New Hope, aka Episode IV) was released in theaters.  This is where the franchise first began, telling the epic story of a boy, a girl and a Death Star.  One of the important elements of this movie was the plans to destroy said Death Star.

But where did those plans come from?  I'm glad you ask!  Because even if you didn't want to know, Disney is going to tell you about it anyway.  Rogue One is essentially Star Wars Episode 3.9, giving creators plenty of room to write episode 3.1 - 3. 8.  And realistically, I'm sure as you read this, someone is working on a novelization of Episode 3.95.

If you recall this time last year, I was not a huge fan of The Force Awakens (aka Episode VII).  As the kids say, it was "aight".  Visually it was nice with some cool moments, but for the most part, the story felt like an elaborate re-hash of A New Hope with some fairly shallow characters.  And, if you know anything about me, my opinion of the movie's director, (J.J. Abrams) is fairly low *COUGH*overrated*COUGH* (read all about it here).

So you can imagine my curious anticipation to see director Gareth Edwards involved.  For the most part, I was not disappointed with his efforts!  Some scenes were a bit muddy and dark, but he also included many visually amazing moments with action you could follow, without resorting to a shaky cam or lens flare! *gasp*  I also loved getting to see some new worlds in this universe like Jedha and the tropical Scarif.  And just watching ships launch and dogfight in space was very cool.  Even the ground fights were fun to watch.

My biggest concern going in, was this would be a very dark, uncomfortable war story.  At it's core it is, but they remind us, it takes place in the Star Wars universe, so they know how to make it exciting as well.  There were definitely a few clap and cheer moments to appreciate.

The story presents us with a lot of new characters although, some of them are a bit forgettable.  For myself, I mostly appreciated K-2S0 (Alan Tudyk), Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), and of course Chirrut (Donnie Yen).  However, this is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor's (Diego Luna) movie, and they did pretty decent too.

But other than a few dark, murky scenes and some extraneous characters, I can't find much wrong.  If I'm nitpicking, I would complain about Vader's appearance.  He didn't seem as tall and narrow as he should.  But I'll just imagine he did some binge eating before the movie, then a quick Force workout before the events in Episode IV. 

Did this story need to be told?  Was all the fan service really necessary?  Of course not!  But it really looked cool, especially for fans.  Trust me, you'll be very happy.

And if you've never seen a Star Wars movie before, what rock have you lived under??  But this is a very good place to begin before seeing Episode IV. 

What about Episode I - III you ask?
Those are not the movies you're looking for...


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Writer

Once upon a time, there was a writer...

Well, he wanted to be a writer, but he was never very good at it.  He'd just stare at a blank page all day, waiting for something to happen.  He continued to stare and kept hoping the words would spontaneously appear.  But sadly, they never did. 

The more he stared, the more frustrated he became.  There were so many wonderful, imaginative things he wanted to share with the world!  But no matter how much he concentrated, all those interesting things just cluttered up his mind.

So, he just sat there, staring...

Then one day, The Writer had a revelation. 

"What if I use my hands and fingers, in some way, to convert those thoughts into words..."

He was surprised he'd never thought of this before.  Of course the words won't magically appear.  You have to make some kind of effort!

The Writer was filled with optimism for this new idea.  This had to work!  Getting those things out that constantly swirled around in his brain was becoming a necessity.  An obsession. 

So The Writer took a deep breath, trying to determine the best way to begin.  He started gently at first, slowly gliding his hand across the page. 

Nothing happened.  He began swaying them back and forth, a bit faster.  He added some flourishes to the movements, trying to wave them around.  Nothing happened. 

"Maybe I'm not using my fingers enough", he thought.  So he started pointing and gesturing.  He began casually, but seeing the page was still blank, he became more frantic.  He started acting like a caged animal in his attempt to put something on the page, hitting and punching the emptiness pleading for freedom. 

But his efforts were in vain.  No matter how desperately he moved his hands and fingers across the blank page, nothing happened.  Covered in sweat, mixed with tears, he shouted in exhaustion.

Then suddenly, through his wild behavior, The Writer noticed he had cut his finger.  He cringed in pain, but froze when he saw something new: Blood.  He held his breath as he looked at the light streak of red across the previously empty page.

He turned to look at his finger, still in pain, and then back to the page that now clearly displayed all the emotions he was feeling.

"Is this the only way?!?" he shouted to the sky.

The deafening silent reply gave him the answer.

So through tear stained eyes, The Writer finally started to write...