Media Update 9/29/2016

September 29, 2016


Ip Man

This movie has been recommended to me more times than I can count. It has not been recommended by any actual humans but computer algorithms have waved it in my face repeatedly. Since it was made in 2008, IP Man has become incredibly popular and it spawned three sequels which I will probably eventually see. The movie is an adaptation of the real-life martial artist Yip Man who was a legendary practitioner of Wing Chun. You might remember Wing Chun from when I reviewed the movie Wing Chung (1994). It is a Chinese martial art that has unknown origins but we know Yip Man did not create it. What Yip Man did do is teach a lot of people Wing Chun including the equally legendary Bruce Lee. The movie follows a fictionalized account of the man in question surviving during the second Sino-Japanese War which eventually was part of World War II. He was recognized as the best martial artist in Foshan before it was occupied by the Japanese. It is a great good vs. evil story where the invading Japanese are portrayed as oppressive monsters. Donnie Yeng plays Ip man (name changed to protect the real person, I assume) and there is a fire in him that burns hot when he sees injustice. The movie starts slow but picks up before the second act kicks in and then never really lets up which I think is good. Before I knew it, the movie two-thirds over. I definitely recommend it, especially for the awesome Chinese and Japanese martial arts styles.


Flash Point

After I enjoyed Ip Man, I just had to look up Donnie Yen and see what he was about. He’s apparently the next big thing in Hong Kong action and martial arts and I wanted to check out more of his stuff. Luckily, there was another film on Netflix that teamed up Donnie Yen with the director of Ip Man, Wilson Yip. Yip (not to be confused with Yip Man) has a great eye and clearly can coax good performances out of his actors. In this movie, we get to see a different Donnie Yen. In Ip Man he played a calm, quietly suffering martial arts master. In this movie, he plays a hot-blooded cop who plays fast and loose with the rules. It was so interesting to see him taking on a different kind of role so soon after watching Ip Man. The styles of martial arts he uses are even different. Instead of the legendary Wing Chun, he uses what looks like a hybrid style of all of the different martial arts Yen knows. His style is dirtier in this film but definitely not sloppier. Also, in true Hong Kong action style, there is a lot of great gunplay and they do some interesting things by pushing the envelope with firearms. I like these Hong Kong movies that show a hero (or heroes) taking on organized crime. It reminds me of movies like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon where the heroes have little chance but beat the odds anyway. The whole movie is driven by a great score that pulls the action along at a killer pace. When there is no action on screen, the police drama simmers like everything is about to explode. It was a little hard to follow at first but that is par for the course with foreign subtitled movies that move as quick as this one does. I definitely recommend it.


Kung Fu Killer

After watching Ip Man and Flash Point, I was interested in watching  something that Wilson Yip did not direct but Donnie Yen starred in. This is the most recent movie I watched this week and it definitely showed right away. Of all the movies here, it had the highest production values as they definitely spent their money liberally to make more of a blockbuster here. Ip Man was supposed to somewhat portray actual history and Flash Point was a fairly grounded police drama. Here, they pulled out all of the stops with little concern about being realistic. The best way I can describe it is that it is The One and Red Dragon tossed into a blender. Here, Donnie Yen plays a man who has been arrested for murder. He agrees to help the police catch the titular Kung Fu Killer in return for his freedom. Yen’s character and the police track a sadistic killer using Yen’s martial arts mastery. The fights are excellent and there are a lot of brutal ones. Again, the fighting style is different as we see kung fu that is as much form as function. Every move is showy and a lot of moves are unnecessary to any practical combat. That sort of thing does not bother me as long as they keep up the aesthetic throughout and they do. I am still not used to some of the editing here as things move a little too quickly sometimes. It is also in Chinese which requires me to read all of the dialogue to follow the movie. It is something I can do but not something I like to do all the time. I guess the story was not compelling enough to hold my attention a hundred percent of the time. I still recommend it if you like martial arts movies.

Music of the Week:

Tove Lo – Cool Girl

Kane Mayfield – Hello!

Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?

Thrice – Black Honey

The New Breed – Jrifted

Weekly Update:
– I watched some of Bones Season 11 in an effort to catch up some
– I started Gotham season 2 and I like it
– I am finally done Supergirl Season 1. Yes, I am behind.
– This week’s theme is “Donnie Yen Fight!”
– I randomly watched another episode of From Dusk Till Dawn
– Halloween starts Saturday. Strap in!
– I watched a ton of Youtube stuff as well

It’s Still September!

September 26, 2016

halloween-2016
You know what time of year it is but I’ll tell you anyway. I cannot hold off this announcement any longer. Believe me, I tried. For the last two years, I have filled the month of October with Halloween related stuff. For me, Halloween lasts at least 31 days and I celebrate it more vigorously than Christmas. Last year I kicked Halloween on the blog into a new gear and I intend to continue that tradition for the foreseeable future.

 
From the mind of Tobe Hooper.

The main tradition that I am continuing is that I will fill the month with reviews of movies that are Halloween-y. A lot of the movies are horror movies but not all of them. I like all kinds of Halloween-adjacent genres so anything that is scary, supernatural, dark or silly has great potential for a good October movie review. Basically, I will be reviewing 13 movies throughout the month and then I will review three movies on Halloween itself. The schedule has been set and you will be getting a review every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of October. The selection has not been fully set in stone yet but I can definitely tell you that we begin on October 1 with Invaders from Mars. The selection for Halloween is definitely bloodthirsty.

 
Look at his eyes, Snipes knows this movie blows.

The movie selection largely relies on accessibility as I do not want to buy dozens of horror movies just to narrow it down to the sixteen. Some movies are hardly deserving of watching let alone reviewing. For example, I like watching horrible supernatural movies but they have to be the right kind of horrible. This is something I figured out last year. I thought it would awesome to watch Gallowwalkers, the Wesley Snipes zombie western movie. I had never heard of it and I thought that watching anything made while Snipes was in a financial panic would be a riot. It was so boring. On the other hand, anything by Charles Band is totally rotten but absolutely hilarious.

 
This game takes forever but it is really fun and actually inspired me.

I have been working on a horror story that will exclusively be published on the blog during the month of October. I do not want to spoil too much but it is based on my recent forays into Lovecraftian fiction and especially playing the board game Eldritch Horror. I have been playing with the story structure and I really like what I have written so far. I like pushing myself to try new things and I like writing in the horror genre although it is difficult. I really love writing and these stories often just flow from me like a river sometimes. Last October also saw the birth of Fanfictober and I may still write some fan fiction but it has not been written yet.

October Schedule (So Far):

Monday: Movie Review
Tuesday: Lovecraftian Story
Wednesday: Movie Review
Thursday: Media Update
Friday: Movie Review
Saturday: Wild Card?
Sunday: Nothing. I need a day off.

In closing, you will get one more non-Halloween Media Update on Thursday and then Halloween begins on Saturday. So let us end these opening ceremonies with some style and a song that has haunted my phone for a while now.

Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure 9

September 24, 2016

Felix Osaka

“Are you sure you tracked that thing here?” May asked as their car pulled onto a street far off of the beaten path. Felix had listened to May and Jun question Makoto the whole ride from the Sentinel station. Motoko had claimed that there had been some magical residue on the HVAC grate on the outside of the building. They had climbed into the car and left Daisuke and his Sentinel team behind.

“The trail is clear as day to one of my abilities,” Makoto said and Felix wondered what exactly those abilities were. It was the first time he had wondered what sphere Makoto belonged to.

“How much farther did this thing go?” May asked, still sounding a little skeptical.

“I believe the question you are looking for is ‘Are we there yet?'” Makoto asked with a sly smirk.

“Yeah, I guess so. Are we?” May asked.

In answer, Makoto got out of the car and started to walk down the street. They all climbed from the car and Felix looked up at the warehouse that was Makoto’s focus. Thankfully, the place was in a disused part of town so there was no traffic. Of course, no traffic could also be a good sign that some evil mojo was driving people away. Of course, Felix and the rest of the team had had to convince themselves that the people inside were not evil. Something mystical had possessed them, crawled inside their skin and did their best impression of a human being. Regardless, it was time to bring the Oni into custody one way or another.

“I half expected this mystery to end at Osaka Castle,” Felix said gently. He must have said it to fill the ominous silence.

“Don’t worry, Felix. We’ll take you there after this is all over. I promise.” May said with a smile and Ren nodded with a half smile that echoed hers.

“The tourist doctor. We will show you things that are not in your guide book,” Makoto said with what sounded like a slight chuckle.

“I would like that,” Felix said with a smile. He knew Makoto was probably making fun but he appreciated the sentiment.

“I’ll buy you all dinner if we can make this a happy ending,” Jun said quietly.

“Deal,” Makoto said.

Before the team could reach the building, a tall thin man stepped out of the building. He was not just tall for Japan, he was at least seven feet tall. Felix instinctively slipped behind everybody else and Makoto joined him. She let her stern face slip for a second and smiled reassuringly. The worry drained out of Felix and it was replaced with certainty. Somehow, this young girl was able to inspire undying loyalty. He smiled back and Makoto returned to the front line.

“State your business.” The mysterious tall man said. His voice seemed to reverberate up and down the street.

“We have come for the Oni. Come with us peacefully or come with us unconscious,” May called out with a thunderous voice and paused for effect before continuing. “or dead.” Everybody tensed as if ready for battle.

The man barely smiled, snake-like eyes darted from party member to party member with deliberate movements. There was a coldness behind those eyes. He was standing in front of a giant loading door. The door started to pulse in and out slowly as if the door was breathing. Then there was a mechanical sound as the door started to rise. Behind the man was a row of armed men and women who definitely looked like bespelled animal rights activists. Behind the Oni was a two-story tall dragon. Felix’ eyes went wide as he could feel the dragon’s breath on his face. He could also feel the cold, hard gazes of the Oni.

“I guess you are welcome to try, gaijin and friends.” The man said, his voice hissed inhumanly.

“They are not alone!” Daisuke Inoki called out. He had appeared from somewhere with a whole troop of his sentinel deputies.

“Father!” Jun called out in obvious relief.

Daisuke smiled fiercely. “Apologies, but it took us some time to catch up. I do not mean to insult you but it looks like you could use some help. How about we take the dragon and you take the Oni?”

“Agreed. We shall see whose team finishes first.” Makoto called out.

The man gestured and the dragon lunged out into the street. Felix and the team dodged out of the way. Daisuke and his crew eagerly began to engage the dragon. Felix followed the rest of Makoto’s team into the dim warehouse to take on the Oni.

Media Update 9/22/2016

September 22, 2016


Clone High

I have heard over and over that this show was awesome and iconic for its time but I never saw it when it came out. I was in college at the time so this came out a couple years after I stopped watching MTV animation. Until recently I also had nowhere to watch it either. It was driving me crazy to hear people like Kate Leth rave about the show and make inside jokes about it when I had missed out. Finally, I get to check it out and see what all the fuss is about. This show would have been right up my alley. The show is a parody of teen dramas like 90210 and Saved by the Bell. Every episode is a “special episode” that deals with some teen issue and parodies how horribly most shows dealt with real issues. Honestly, they could have stopped there and it would have been a really entertaining show. What they add is that all of the teenagers in the school are clones of famous people from history. The main cast includes clones of Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, John F. Kennedy and Cleopatra. Abe Lincoln is a weak-willed guy who is just trying to be popular. Gandhi is an ADHD hardcore partier. Joan of Arc is a goth. John F. Kennedy is a womanizing idiot. Cleopatra is obsessed with popularity and getting it no matter what. Seeing our heroes bent into twisted reflections of their real-life counterparts is really weird but strangely funny too. I definitely recommend you seek this out as it is only one season long.


Camp WWE

I was going to pass this up but then I heard that Seth Green had creative control on it. I was a big fan of Robot Chicken which made me smile at its worst and made me laugh until I was breathless at its best. I wanted to see his take on the WWE roster. I was also intrigued because the show is a hard R while the animation looks incredibly childlike. The show is about all of the WWE stars as children at a sleepover summer camp. The camp is run by Vince McMahon who voices this caricature of himself. He comes across as somewhere between Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam. He’s insane and money hungry and it is really funny what they get away with. The counselors are made up of Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and various legends. The show is really adult but it never goes too far at least not in the first five episodes. Obviously, the show is funnier if you know the performers in question. It gets even funnier with every scrap of backstage knowledge you know as well. It is definitely a love letter from fans to something they love but obviously they know it’s not perfect. Obviously, those stars cannot be expected to voice their child counterparts so the voice actors they got are really good and add to the cartoonishness of the show. It features performers from now all the way back in the eighties and there are plenty more used as gags in the background. Every episode so far is on the WWE Network but that is as it should be because nobody but a WWE fan is going to want to watch it.


Daria

This show came out right in the middle of the Grunge movement and various other similar movements surrounding the rise of the unpopular kids. It stars an low key, annoyed teen girl who does not buy into what is popular. She alternately uses sarcasm and unbridled honesty as her weapons against those who would try to put her down. Normally I would see her as horribly anti-social and she should just try to get along. However, everybody around her is either corrupt or horribly incompetent including her family. The only person who seems nice is her best friend Jane who is just as bitingly sarcastic and disaffected. This was in the nineties when our ideas on mental health were even worse than they are now. Nobody realizes that being depressed or being different is natural especially for hormonal teens. The animation is actually not great and is pretty ugly and rough. Beavis and Butthead didn’t have the best animation either at least compared to other Liquid Television shows and what other studios were doing. The strength of the show is the voice acting and the offbeat writing. Like Clone High it is very exaggerated but it somehow feels pretty true to my experience in high school. However, the do not really depict us nerds and geeks in the best light from the get go. I liked it but it did not live up to all the hype that surrounds it. I guess I just had to be there. I recommend it because it is pretty funny.

Music of the Week:
Extol – Inferno

Up For Nothing – Sink

Genya Ravan – Love Is a Fire

StarVation- Wolf Pack

The Knocks – Love Me Like That (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

Weekly Update:
– I finished Person of Interest Season 4 and I am hungry for more
– I also finished Once Upon a Time Season 5 and it was really good
– I watched more Charmed I had missed
– Started listening to The Worst Idea of All Time podcast again
– I picked up The Following season 2 again
– I am almost finished with Dark Matter season 1
– I am excited for The Magnificent Seven
– This week’s theme is “Parodies of Childhood – Animated”

Perfection in Entertainment?

September 19, 2016

I felt like I would take a few moments and talk about fandom and perfection. Actually, imperfection is probably a better word to use here. I am a fan of a lot of different media and real life stuff. As we every Thursday, I consume a lot of media and fiction especially. We all take ownership of the stuff we love and clasp it close to our heart. I have been there a million times and I imagine some of you have been there too. We fall in love with a show or a movie and we fully consume it and internalize it. If somebody else mentions it, we jump out of nowhere and want to discuss it in detail. We defend it to the death and hate when anybody criticizes it. To give you a real life example, I am a fan of the Baltimore Ravens and I hate when somebody talks smack about them.

 
They may be thugs but they are our thugs.

Of course, we love something until it changes or we start noticing imperfections that start to annoy us and then we keep picking at it until it falls apart. We took ownership of that bit of entertainment and when I say that, I mean that we became that hipster band geek. We say to ourselves that we love that show or movie and nobody loves it as much as we do. Movies, books, television, podcasts, theater and other similar stuff are easy to make an emotional connection with. While it is not even close to the same as an emotional connection with other human beings, fiction has a hold on you. Why else would we binge watch television shows or worry about whether or not we have seen the latest movie? Connecting with fiction helps us connect to the world.

 
Possibly why we get so mad at our friends and family when they screw up.

However, none of what we watch is perfect. Nothing we are fans of is flawless but it can be hard to remember that. When we notice flaws in what we are consuming, it sometimes can cause a conflict. Our fandom goes to war with our critical mind and then the sparks begin to fly. That is when we start sending letters to the editor, asking for them to change things. It is also when people start leaving angry, acidic comments on youtube videos. People will call them on it. They ask them if they don’t like it, why don’t they just move on and stop watching? They answer because they are a fan and they are just trying to help. The thing is that the people who make this stuff do not need our help. They are doing the best they can and they will continue to do so.


This is not perfect but I love it.

I am not immune to the feeling, I feel the same impulses. I watch something that is not quite perfect and I feel the need to let the creators know. In fact, you can see me criticize WWE programming on my twitter during Monday and Tuesday night programming. I am trying to curb that. Criticizing something is definitely worthwhile. I do it on this blog. However, your tone is important. I am trying to accentuate the positive. Lately, I tend to talk a lot more about the stuff I love than the stuff I disliked. It is a balancing act, though. When I hated The Boss, I needed to talk about that and I needed people to hear me. We all want to be heard and sometimes we cannot wait until we have calmed down.


This is still the true face of evil.

So what am I talking about in this rambling mess? I just want us to remember that the authors and creators out there are not perfect. In fact, we would not want them to be perfect. Perfect is boring. I am a fan of a lot of stuff and I love it all despite its flaws or maybe because of them. For example, I love Once Upon a Time and it is the most convoluted show that I have ever watched. The show goes through cycles of redemption so much that at Season 5, the characters are even pointing it out. Still, I binge watched Season 5 in a week. I rarely do things like that. I watch Pro-Wrestling which has some of the most inconsistent quality of anything on television. Yet, I continue to watch it every week.


Logic in the WWE? What!?

So, enjoy your fandom. Revel in it and talk about it as obsessively as you want to. Just remember to keep it sane. Keep disagreements civil and do not pollute the air around you with your negative opinions. Try to give things the benefit of the doubt. Use your suspension of disbelief to move past those parts that irk you. Save your outrage for the really problematic bits. There is plenty of real injustice in the entertainment world and the real world. In short, if we sweat each and every papercut, we will have no energy to deal with the real damage.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Lingo

September 17, 2016

WILPW

Since I started this part of my blog, I have used a certain language that is unique to the sports entertainment world. It is cobbled together from the early days of pro-wrestling and incorporates a lot of carny slang designed to confuse the fans if they overhear it. Gradually, as the internet became a thing, this language was learned and deciphered by the fans. I figure I have been using it enough both here and on my twitter that I should explain it a little for the layperson. Today we will explore two dichotomies that exist in the sports entertainment world.


Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are probably the best current example of Face vs. Heel

Babyface vs. Heel


Bayley is definitely a big time babyface.

These are probably the two terms I used the most when talking about sports entertainment. A babyface or face basically boils down to ‘good guy’. Although, it can be a little more complicated than that. A babyface does not need to be a good person or a role model. A babyface usually fights for what is right. More importantly, a babyface fights for the fans and earns their respect one way or another. There is a general code that babyfaces go by. In general, they shake hands, they fight hard and they do not cheat unless their opponent cheats first. Of course, there always exceptions to even these loose guidelines.


Ricky Steamboat was definitely another example of a white meat babyface.

There used to be something called a white meat babyface. They were paragons of virtue and always did the right thing no matter what. Hulk Hogan is probably the most well known example of this phenomenon. He told everyone to say their prayers and take their vitamins before it stopped being cool. Eventually, the business realized that nobody, not even fictional characters can be perfect. Now, babyfaces and other characters in sports entertainment are done in shades of gray.


Brock Lesnar: Total Heel

Heels are bad guys and usually the villains of the story. You cannot have babyfaces without heels just like you cannot have light without dark. Generally, heels are not card-carrying villains. It is important that they have a reason for doing the bad things they do. It does not have to be a good reason or even a logical reason. All that is required is that they believe that they are doing the right thing. They will fight against the fans because the fans just do not understand or, in the heel’s mind, the fans are cheering for the wrong person. Heels spend most of their time doing everything in their power to make fans hate them. We may love to hate them but we still hate them. The psychology of a match depends on the actions and reactions between the hell and the face.

Work vs. Shoot

We all know that wrestling is ‘fake’. John Stossel told us ages ago and Vince McMahon admitted it when the World Wrestling Federation became World Wrestling Entertainment. While the athleticism and bodily risk is real, the storylines are written in a collaborative system. A lot of people have a hand in creating a performer’s character and guiding their storylines.


Thankfully the Higher Power storyline was a work or most of the WWE roster would have been sacrificed to Satan by now.

When we say something is a work, we are acknowledging that what is being shown is make believe. It is all part of the planned and written storyline. For example, a worked injury is when a performer either fakes an injury or fakes the severity of an injury. For instance, sometimes they will ‘break somebody’s arm’ to allow them to leave the tour and get some shoulder surgery. Most storylines are a work. When something is a work, you can better control the crowd’s emotions and the performers’ actions.


The shoot angle in my example below actually happened.

On the other hand, a shoot is when things get real. You see these performers might be playacting but they are also real people behind the costumes. They have real feelings and do real things. For example, say a performer sleeps with another’s girlfriend in real life. A shoot would be when that real life conflict is used in the storyline. Shoot can also refer to elements of a character that are also true of the real performer. Due to the nature of the business, it is hard to tell what is a work and what is a shoot for sure. However, a good indicator is the appearances of a storyline in actual news sources.

Media Update 9/15/2016

September 15, 2016


Almost Famous

I had heard about this movie when it came out but I was focused on watching the Matrix and the Lord of the Rings instead. I was also in rehearsal or in performance all the time. This was another movie that I was not ready to see even though it is about a kid in the same place I was when it came out. The movie is about a young high school kid who gets to go on tour with a struggling rock band in order to do an article for Rolling Stone Magazine. It feels way more plausible when you watch the movie. From the start of the movie they put out there how important music is. Music is what pulls us through life and it is music that we remember later in life, interwoven with the memories of our own lives. There are too many good performances here to name them all but I really liked Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Frances McDormand and especially young Patrick Fugit. The movie is a great road picture that is kind of what you expect but also not. It is definitely a great ode to the seventies and the great rock music that I grew up on because this was the music my parents embraced. I understand that this was semi-autographical for the director Cameron Crowe and it really shows. The movie is pretty funny but there is a lot of thoughtful drama in it as well. I really liked this movie and I definitely recommend it.


The Get Down

I remember the first Baz Luhrmann production I saw. I was in my freshman year of college and I still had time and the inclination to go out and be sociable with people outside of my major. The local student center had a print of Moulin Rouge and a couple of us walked over to go see it. I liked the movie that night but on subsequent viewings, I have liked the movie less. It feels like it is all flash and very little substance and its central message is kind of trite and obvious. So when I saw The Get Down advertised on Netflix I thought it would be like Glee mixed with Moulin Rouge but with Disco and Hip Hop. It is not that. The miniseries is very musical but it is not that often that the main characters are doing the singing. Their world is one where they are surrounded by music as there is some song playing about ninety percent of the time. Still, the emotion feels way more real in this one than in Moulin Rouge as everybody comes off as more human and people I would want to hang out with. In fact, after watching two parts, I feel like I have hung out with them. I do not usually think of subtle when it comes to Luhrmann but this was definitely much more subtle. The young actors who star in this are all so good as well. I am excited to see more and I definitely recommend it.


CBGB

I never got to go to CBGB but I am sure I would not have enjoyed it as I do not really enjoy bars too much. Also, there was a dog that was allowed to crap on the floor there. What I definitely would have enjoyed was the music that was played inside the club. It was a pretty rough joint if legends and this movie are to be believed. Hilly Krystal (no relation to Billy Crystal) was a man who just wanted to start a Country Bluegrass and Blues bar but that never quite worked out for him. Instead, he ended up creating a club that helped birth the punk genre and furthered a lot of musician’s careers. The movie mostly centers on the creation of the club, the early days of The Ramones and Krystal’s managing of the Dead Boys. Alan Rickman plays Hilly and is great as the kind of curmudgeonly positive man who runs this club by hook or by crook. There are great performances by Rupert Grint, Stana Katic, Ashley Greene, Freddy Rodriguez and Donal Logue. The movie is just kind of a ride through a history. There is a central message that says if you help people, you create something beautiful and they just might be there when you need help. I definitely recommend it because it pays homage to a great genre of music.

Music of the Week:
Devil Doll – Why

Dead Boys – Sonic Reducer

Kompressor feat. MC Frontalot – Rappers We Crush

D Boi Da Dome – Black and Orange (Orioles Anthem)

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message

 

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “The Power of Music”
– I am almost done with Person of Interest Season 4
– I am halfway through Once Upon a Time Season 5
– I started watching Charmed again
– I watched a little more Narcos and it’s still good
– The TV Crimes podcast is genius
– Started listening to Harmontown again
– The soundtracks on all of these are excellent

Walking

September 12, 2016

So I have been walking a lot more lately. I have lived in the same place for a long time now but I never walked around that much. I could probably count on one hand how many times I went on a walk starting at my front door. If I was going to walk, I would waste time before a movie in the parking lot in Columbia or go to the gym. After this, I’m not sure I can go back to walking on a treadmill after spending the last week and change walking around. It started with walking around Druid Hill Park because it’s so close but I have started to take different paths through my little corner of Baltimore City. Of course, the impetus of this walking is Pokemon Go but I also want to see something new every day. Sometimes it’s seeing a herd of deer within a few feet of me and sometimes it’s finding something in a corner I never thought existed.

I walked up the hill and started to take a path that I had taken a long time ago. I remember walking it with my mother when she lived in the area. I knew that the path went to the Baltimore Zoo eventually and I had taken it that far once with her. I decided to take a different fork in the path and ended up deep in the woods. Of course, the path was still paved so it was hard to worry too much. In the middle of Baltimore you really don’t have to worry too much about dangerous animals. The worst I’ve seen are foxes and rats the size of small dogs. People are nice in this area too. Everybody just wants to go about their business and the majority of them are jogging or walking their dogs. What I stumbled on was a lane in the woods called Three Sisters. I could not help but think of Macbeth as I stopped to rest and battle a gym.

On another day, I turned down a different path. I was looking at all the paths laid out on the Pokemon Go display and I saw an awesome circular pathway that had a ton of pokestops on it. I headed in that direction and instead of finding my destination, I found a fence. I tried to walk around the fence but too late I realized I had found the backend of the Zoo. There was no way I was getting in that way and there was no way that I would ever jump a fence at my age. Not that I couldn’t but unless you’re a kid, breaking the law like that is never going to end well. So I kept walking down the Mountain Pass even though there are no mountains in Baltimore. I did not expect the road to get so steep. By the end of it, my calves were screaming. I still got home alive, though.

Of course, one of the nicest places to walk that isn’t in the middle of the woods is Clipper Mill.  A lot of my walks include some part of it either as a jumping off point or a cool down period.  The streets are flat as hell and easy to walk down.  Everybody is friendly and everything is sunny and I just feel good walking through that little neighborhood.  I’ve always found it interesting too.  Long before I was born, the mill burned down and left only shells of buildings.  When I moved into the area they were just starting to rehabilitate the area except they didn’t tear it down.  They left most of the buildings up and just made sure they were safe.  The place is clean but it is designed to look like reclaimed architecture.  The industrial became residential.  I love the feeling of walking through the future that is made from the past.  It’s a great area.

fire-memorial

Finally, yesterday I went down a road I have only gone down once but it was when I was tired  and in a car so I could not pay attention.  So, I decided to pick that specific path to go down.  It runs particularly close to the light rail tracks so it pays to  be wary where you walk.  The first thing I noticed was how run down the building I was walking next to was.  It looked like people had thrown rocks through a lot of the windows and nobody had fixed them.  Ah, Charm City.  That is not what interested me most.  Instead, I started to stumble on graffiti.  See, when I was in high school, I was friends people who tagged and some of them were real artists.  Sure it may be illegal but it is a form of human expression and it often doesn’t really hurt anyone and I think I can back that.  The stuff I found yesterday was cool.  It was almost cute.  I’ll leave it here for you to check out and make your own decisions.

At this rate, I will probably keep walking.  It is more fun than the gym and I feel like I am having an adventure.  Of course, I am catching a lot of interesting Pokemon but I am starting to see the world around me.  I get restless in my apartment and going to class does not always fix that.  So, I will see what’s out there and maybe get a little healthier in the process.

Death Dealer

September 10, 2016

Sann looked out over the crowd and idly wondered how many of them were guilty. Walking through the marketplace just being eaten by their sins. They might not even realize they were being consumed. They might walk around without a care in the world that their morality was forfeit. Then there were the ones with the shifty eyes and crooked, wary smiles. The obviously guilty. So obvious that even they realized and shrank away from sight when you looked directly at them. They were the easy ones.

Of course, the whole marketplace was guilty. The whole marketplace was guilty because everybody was guilty. Everybody born under the sun was guilty of something. The King had once stated that this belief is what made Sann a great executioner. No hesitation, no remorse. The King’s tone had not indicated that this was a positive trait. Sann had to agree with the King on that point. If he executed every last person in the world, Sann would have to execute himself last. Of course, he would do so without hesitation.

It was the third day of the Grand Festival in Cammaratta and Sann was bored already. He had no heart for festivities and so he only wanted to remain on duty during the festival. Unfortunately, during the Cammaratta Grand Festival, there was a moratorium on executions. Not that there were many executions in a normal day but having guaranteed none was torture. There was no difference between being given a vacation and being forbidden from doing his job. No death was a big thing to ask for Sann. He did not hunger to kill but it gave his life structure.

So, Sann was sitting in a high place at Cammaratta’s largest marketplace. He scanned the crowd for the visibly guilty. The place was teeming with citizens of Cammaratta and other places in Altiria and many travelers from outside Altiria’s borders. He had to see their crime before he could punish them. No killing was allowed but bodily injuries could be very instructive. For that, Sann carried a long bow. In fact, it was close to double the length of a normal longbow. Its distance was unparalleled. For a more personal touch, he had a broad scimitar he had gotten imported from the southern continent. It could be very brutal and just the sight of it dropped crime rates.

Of course, there were always exceptions to every rule. One of those exceptions was illegally grasping an apple off of cart some distance away. There was obvious intent to steal. Before the man could pivot his feet to run, Sann had drawn back his bow. He let the arrow fly and watched and he watched the arrow hit the man’s hand, just missing the apple. The shrill, wounded cry he let out was thanks enough for Sann doing his duty. He watched the man sink to the ground. Two little field mouse guards scurried across the marketplace to retrieve the prisoner. Sann smiled proudly as the crowd acted with nervous dread and horror.

Sann turned to grab another arrow from the bucket behind him but froze instead. There were two stern-looking guards standing very close behind him. Too close.

“Stand away,” Sann barked, “that was a clean strike! My target will live. For now.” He added the last as an afterthought.

“We’re here on behalf of the throne. Collect your things and come with us.” The blond one said.

“Not unless I am given a good reason,” Sann said and moved to reach for another arrow anyway.

“The crown has a job for you.” The red-haired woman said.

“A job, you say? That is more interesting,” Sann said with a tiny smirk. “Fine. Lead on.” Sann picked up his weapons and started to follow the guards, noticing they kept their distance from him.

The two guards were silent as they walked toward the palace. They could remain silent but they had said so much already. They had been vague in their statements but they had been careful to use the correct pronouns. They had called it the crown and the throne which were meaningless terms. They referred to inanimate objects and not people. Those words could mean anyone with authority from the King all the way down to the smallest sniveling official. Sann normally only took his orders from the King and nobody used euphemisms instead of referring to the King. Most people felt that orders from the King were an honor and would never stop using that word. Something was strange and Sann wanted to find out what it was before refusing these new orders.

He wondered what had happened to the King.  If he was dead, perhaps he had been murdered.  Killing the King was the worst crime in the land.  The idea excited Sann almost far too much.  His heart began to beat faster at the thought of somebody guilty of regicide.  The crime would potentially make that person the guiltiest person that Sann had ever been given.  Killing that person or persons would feel better than any he had killed before.  It was an outrageous thought.  The thought brought such pleasure that Sann knew that it must not be true.  The King was merely away on business or incapacitated.  Nothing truly good ever happened to Sann and he guessed that nothing ever would.  He would die, his work of killing all the guilty people would remain unfulfilled.

Media Update 9/8/2016

September 8, 2016


Lucy

When I first saw The Fifth Element, I was completely sold on Luc Besson as a writer and director. After I saw Leon: The Professional, I was even more sold on his abilities. I wanted to see more of his stuff and when the trailer for this movie originally hit, I was a little skeptical. The movie takes the whole “we only use 10% of our brain” myth and runs with it. While I am usually annoyed by the use of this myth as a story concept, this was so ridiculous and innovative that I eventually let it slide. If you liked Leon and The Fifth Element, you will probably like this one too. The movie has incredibly visually appealing action sequences although this does not always include actual combat. There are great music, funny dialogue and very interesting concepts. The movie is kind of about the evolution of humanity and what we are at our best. I did not expect this movie to get as trippy as it did and the special effects were surprisingly beautiful seeing as how Leon had no CGI and the Fifth Element effects were purposely cheesy. Scarlet Johannson was very human and then she becomes not human and actually funny in an offbeat sort of way. Morgan Freeman is as warmly charming as he always is and Amr Waked kind of reminds me of Leon in his understated humor. I definitely recommend this since it surprised me that it was so good.


Narcos

Somebody recommended watching this show because it follows the real life escapades of Pablo Escobar, famous Colombian drug lord. I thought it was worth a shot since the whole thing is still on Netflix. The show is split into two points of view that look at one central storyline. We see the experiences of Pablo and crew of Narcos (drug traffickers) and how he views himself. We also see the efforts of two DEA agents who are trying everything in their power to take down Escobar’s operations. The first point of view is mostly in Spanish while the second point of view is mostly in English. There is narration from a DEA agent named Murphy that ties the whole show together. It also reminds the viewer that Pablo is the bad guy. That’s not to say the character’s morality is black and white. There are definitely good guys who do bad things and the cartel does a lot of good for the community. I did a little research and the show is not completely accurate and the changes they made were to make the story more compelling. Just like with American Crime Story, I do not depend on television dramas for historical information or accuracy. The first few episodes were paced weirdly like they were trying to cram as much as possible into them. As the first season continued, the pacing slows down and the drama and tension get drawn out more. I loved the characters but the clear frontrunners are Pablo himself and Murphy the DEA agent tracking him. Pablo is confident, intelligent and charismatic but pretty ethically bankrupt. Murphy is driven and charming as hell. I also have to say how good the music is. So good. I definitely recommend this one.


Russell Brand: End the Drugs War

I was interested in this documentary after watching some of Narcos and listening to a few episodes of TV Crimes. What has become apparent to me is that our country has continuously failed in our “War on Drugs” as we have failed in all of our other figurative “wars”. Nancy and Ronald Reagan started us off on the worst foot by starting the “Just Say No” campaign which oversimplified the drug problem. Our Justice Department then further compounded the problem by lumping all drugs together instead of approaching addiction as the complicated, nuanced problem it actually is. Anyway, it was interesting to watch this because it covers England’s war on drugs from the point of view of a man who has been through rehab and has had his own legal problems from drugs. I wanted to see what things were like in England. He talks to the both the police and a lot of people connected to actually helping people on drugs. He also explores how the issue is tackled in different countries. It’s actually fairly dark stuff but Brand keeps it light while also keeping it real and human. The point that Brand tries to stress over and over is that drug addiction is a health issue and not a criminal issue and advocates for decriminalization. I agree. I don’t agree with all of his points but it pushes the dialogue in the right direction. This also is not a long documentary so check it out, I promise that it is interesting.

 

Music of the Week:
Corinne Bailey Rae – Been To The Moon

Veronica Bianqui – If Love’s A Gun, I’m Better Off Dead

Julien K – Kick The Bass

Blackstreet – No Diggity

CHINGON – Cielito Lindo

Weekly Updates:
– Lucha Underground started last night
– I’ve been digging Smackdown Live a lot
– I have watched yet more Person of Interest
– I have seen a few Supernatural episodes I missed
– Same with Bones and Castle
– I still want to see Suicide Squad
– 3 and a half weeks until Halloween (aka October)
– Watched the Game Grumps Freddie Mercury fundraiser stream over the weekend
– This Week’s Theme is “Drugs Are Complicated”


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