Archive for December, 2016

The Story Pt. 2

December 10, 2016

the-story

I suddenly fell face first onto what felt like a futon. If you have ever been on a futon, you will know that this was not an altogether pleasant thing to land on but it beat many alternatives. I moved my hands and felt what definitely seemed very much like a futon. I lifted my head and let out the breath I guess I had been holding. The futon was blue and very futon-like and I was happy to land on something familiar and grounded after my trip through the abyss. I slowly pushed up onto my hands and feet and tried not to throw up my student center cheese fries. I stayed still for what felt like a long time. My stomach settled and I realized there were people standing around me. I started to stand and Booker moved to help me up.

“You should have been here when we didn’t have the futon,” She said with a chuckle and that same goofy grin from back in the library.

“I can’t imagine it was pretty. Where the Hell are we?” I asked, cutting to the chase. My head was still pretty much spinning. I did not realize I was still carrying my messenger bag until it bumped into my ribs. It made me flinch, much to Booker’s amusement.

“We call this Wonderland. It’s kind of our underground base of operations. Don’t worry, it’s more animated Disney Wonderland than it is live action Disney Underland. You’re safe here,” Booker said as she started walking. I took my cue to follow her, I guessed we were ignoring the other people who were slowly filtering away but they were eyeing me hard as they did. We were in some sort of tunnel. “Specifically, I call this section The Burrows.”

“An obvious name. Why am I here?” I asked. The word ‘why’ had been a question I felt still needed answering starting back in the library. However, we had barely stopped moving so far and I was getting worried nobody was going to explain.

“We’re going to meet with my boss,” Booker said. “She’ll explain everything.” She acted like that was sufficient enough of a statement.

“Who is your boss? What is this? What is going on?” I asked loudly. I had had enough.

We turned into a huge dome-shaped room. There was a woman in a red and blue dress. She had an easy smile on her face determination in her eyes. One eye was green and the other was black and it was both unsettling and captivating.

“I am the boss here. My name is Alice,” She said. “Welcome to Wonderland, William.” Oh great, another stranger who knew my name.

“Oh, I get it. I fell through a hole into Wonderland and now I am meeting Alice Very original,” I said, fighting not to laugh nervously. “What’s next? The Red Queen?” It was all too much. I admit now that this was a lot of sarcasm to lay at the feet of a woman I didn’t know. She knew my name, though.

“I guess you could call me the Red Queen too if you wanted to but it is a bit formal. I can be both the inquisitive Alice and the ruthless Red Queen. I am what I need to be,” She said. “And yes, this is our Wonderland but not the Wonderland, of course. We have fashioned a strange but safe haven here.”

“It has definitely been strange. Why am I here?” I asked. It felt like I was getting a headache but I also felt like we were making headway towards an actual explanation.

“I can answer that by explaining who we are. We are formally known as the Danali but we have been known by many names throughout our history. Currently, we move under the banner of Wonderland which is both a place and a movement,” She said. This much made some sense. “We are an ancient order of magic users devoted to making the world better. We want to bring magic back to the world for the benefit of mankind.”

“And the editors obviously don’t want that,” I said. The guns seemed to be proof of that but I wanted Alice to confirm.

“No. They definitely do not,” Alice said with the briefest of nods. “They are the Order of St. Francis de Sales but the term ‘editors’ is a cute name that is both shorter and very descriptive of their motives. They are trying to control the story.”

“And the world is the story. Booker told me,” I said. I noticed that Booker had left the room at some point.

“Yes, that’s how we see things. The story has grown cold and we want to heat it up again. Bring warmth to the world again,” Alice said. “That’s where you come in.”

“Wait, that’s where I come in? I have nothing to do with magic.”

“We often tap artists, writers and dreamers to join us here.”

“I’m a researcher,” I said. “I am an editor. I am kind of the enemy.” I smiled weakly.

“You understand the flow of a story. You understand what makes things tick. I believe yo could be a dynamic ally,” Alice explained.

“Against the editors?” I asked.

“Yes and the Oncoming Storm.”

“The what?”

“They are a what and a who. They are our true opposite number. They seek to use magic to dominate. They want to cleanse the Earth through destruction.”

“So, basically the evil army?” I asked.

“In the simplest terms. Our main task these days has been to keep them in check.”

I took a deep breath and I turned away from Queen Alice. This was a lot to take in. When I woke up I did not believe that magic was real. In fact, I had not believed in magic since I was very little. While I had a very strong suspension of disbelief, that was not the same as buying into all the great fiction I had seen in my life. Now I was being told that this was not just fiction and that some elements may have been real this whole time. I would have doubted that more but, barring heavy drugs, I was pretty sure that I had already experienced magical feats.

Alice was standing there and waiting for a very important answer to a very heavy question. Magic was real and there was a three-way battle over how to deal with that fact. Alice had said that Wonderland was ancient and that meant the battle was probably an old one. Long campaigns with no definitive answer were misery. The question was whether or not to enlist in that campaign. If the answer was yes, there was the promise of learning how to harness magic. This was attractive but it was attractive like a campfire was. If these people though they were in complete control of something like magic, they were insane.

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Media Update 12/8/2016

December 8, 2016


Suicide Squad

I went into this movie with incredibly low expectations. I still have not seen Batman V. Superman and, at this rate, I may never see it. It helped that the movie was written and directed by a more competent man in David Ayer who made Training Day. The movie apparently had a lot of studio meddling in it. A lot of the movie felt like a music video with supervillains in it. I clocked at least three different popular songs in the first four minutes which just reeks of trying to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy. The highlight of the movie is Margot Robbie who is the highlight of most movies she is in. Her portrayal of Harley Quinn was heavily quotable and brought a lot of life and comedy to what otherwise could have been a much darker movie. A lot of people complained about Jared Leto’s Joker but I really think he did a fine job. What really bothered me was that he did not really need to be in the movie because he barely impacted the plot. They could have reduced his role even more, made the movie shorter and saved him for when he would have more impact later. Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman also really stood out as Amanda Waller and Rick Flag. Davis was especially great with her nearly sociopathic performance. While it was dark, it was in line with the comics and previous portrayals of the character in media. Kinnaman had a tough job of trying to stand out and remain likable but he really pulled it off. Will Smith should not play bad guys. He just was not believable as a contract killer to me. He was fun but he was not the one for that role. Overall, I liked the movie and I really think they should continue with this franchise instead of the Superman franchise. I recommend it but realize that it is still connected to the current DCU movies.


Yoga Hosers

I never saw Tusk (the first film in this trilogy) because it never appealed to me and I also listened to the podcast where Kevin Smith detailed pretty much the whole concept. I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith. Amid all the dick and fart jokes, a lot of Smith’s movies spoke a lot of truth about life. This movie was written and made while Kevin Smith was smoking a lot of pot and it kind of shows. However, that is not quite a horrible thing. It is a love letter from the US to Canada and also a family affair. This movie is very playful and has a lot of meta, self-referential humor similar to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The movie also has a similar kinetic energy to that movie. The power of this movie comes from the chemistry between its stars Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith’s daughter) and Lily-Rose Depp (Johnny Depp’s daughter). The two of them have been best friends in real life since kindergarten and that was definitely channeled into the movie. Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp are also in the movie. Smith is like a Looney Tunes character and his joke gets old but then suddenly gets funny again. Depp transforms into a character from Tusk, a pathetic French detective who enlists the young girls to combat evil. Finally, there was Ralph Garman who managed to work his celebrity impressions into the movie despite it not making any sense but he was still fun. There are also a ton of fun cameos. The movie really makes me want to see Lily-Rose in more stuff. I definitely recommend it for Kevin Smith fans and fans of goofy movies.


Jungle Book

I have been wary of watching this movie because the original was such a good movie on its own. It has some really good Disney music and some really good animation. It is a classic for a reason. When I saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it looked pretty but it was clear that it was not a musical. I kept hope that it was still a musical but it was not to be. Strangely, there is one single music number almost halfway through and again over an hour in. I would have rather they just left it out at that point. While I kind of missed the musical aspects (the score is nothing special) the movie is stunningly beautiful. It is incredibly hard to believe that this was shot with one child actor and a boatload of computer generated animation. The animals are all so lifelike and well-animated that they feel almost like real animals (except for the speaking perfect English part). The kid, Neel Sethi, is really good for his age. He put in a lot of work and does a lot of good acting and some stunt work. The voice work of all the famous actors they hired is fantastic. Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyong’o especially were fantastic. Scarlet Johansson was also excellent but she was only in the movie for less than two minutes. I think they should have cast somebody besides Christopher Walken. Bill Murray was good. I think what I liked about this is how much better the writing is from the original story. It added more lore to the story as well, drawing more of Kipling’s work. I recommend this one for sure.

Music of the Week:
Red Sun Rising – Amnesia

The Record Company – Off The Ground

Eli “Paperboy” Reed – Come And Get It

Blackalicious ft. Chali 2na & Lateef the Truthspeaker – 4000 Miles

Getter – Rip N Dip

Weekly Updates:
– I am now on Season 2 of The Office
– I continued to watch Season 2 of Dark Matter
– I am caught up on Season 2 of Ash vs. The Evil Dead
– This week’s theme is “Unlikely Heroes”
– I continued Season 2 of Parks and Recreation
– I continued Season 1 of Luther
– “Not expecting much but being surprised and happy” is probably a secondary theme this week

Interview Questions 6

December 5, 2016

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?

I would probably pick Houdini. Harry Houdini was a masterful magician and escape artist who delighted fans around the world. I love the art of stage magic since I was a little kid. A really good magic trick can fill your mind with wonder just as easily as actual magic would do if it were real. Houdini’s main trick was escaping from dire situations. He escaped from barrels filled with beer, straight jackets and even from burial. That is a fun trick to have up my sleeve. While I have stage fright, I do like entertaining people and perhaps being Houdini would spark a new side of me. He was also the president of the Society of American Magicians and that would have made good company. Houdini named himself after his idol Robert Houdin. Later, Houdini found out that his hero was a fraud and was able to survive and thrive. It inspired in him the desire to debunk and expose frauds who preyed on the weak and vulnerable. He exposed spiritualists who claimed they could communicate with dead loved ones. Exposing these horrible charlatans would have given me great pleasure and a feeling of accomplishment. Of course, if I was Houdini I would have died at age 52 but it would be on Halloween with a life well-lived.

Besides your family, who has influenced your thinking most? Why, and in what way(s)?

I would actually have to go with Mr. Pappas, my high school physics teacher. He was one of the first people to present me with options. My parents were Democrats and I went to a pretty liberal Quaker private school from first to twelfth grade. I met a lot of interesting kids in school who all came from different cultures and different walks of life. Even though there were a handful of Republican kids at school, I never thought I could be anything besides a Democrat. Mr. Pappas did two things to shake that firm belief. As a teacher at my school, he had a discount on tuition for his son. He decided to send his kid to the best public school in town instead. This was a clear message that maybe my private school was not the perfect golden palace of knowledge that I thought it was. He also handed me a copy of the Communist Manifesto and discussed it with me. Communist is a dirty word but we discussed it openly and honestly and I took a lot of the good elements to heart. I learned that being rich is not a virtue, it is a privilege. Using the power you have unselfishly is not only respectable but can also help everyone around you. Both of these actions made me think more critically about the world and convinced me that the status quo will not always be the status quo.

If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?

I have learned over time that I prefer my steak rare or close to it. I especially like rare steak when it is prepared by a restaurant. Of course, this does not apply to dives but they do not usually prepare steak below medium anyway. Good restaurants prepare rare steak in a safe and flavorful way that is usually very tender. For the longest time, I was a no fuss diner and still prefer to act that way. If I ask for no tomatoes and there are tomatoes on my burger, I just take them off. I am not allergic to any food items and I do not mind managing my own food. Still, getting my steak overcooked is something that I would consider mentioning to the server. However, I would only mention it during a casual meal with friends or family. A business lunch is meant to be brief and the concentration should be put on business. Business lunches are also often supposed to be brief and professional. I would not interrupt a business lunch to complain to the server or the cooking staff about edible food. I know many people who mention these things in order to help the kitchen staff improve but I do not feel that is my place or my duty. I would focus on the task at hand and eat my well-done steak. I might ask for some sauce, though.

The End and the Beginning

December 3, 2016

Bron lay face down in the dirt. When he opened his eyes he could see it was dirt. He was not sure where he was or even if he cared where he was. He closed his eyes again. He tried to think about the night before and it was like pulling on a fishing line. As he pulled, the memories started coming to the surface.

All he had known was life in the Blacktooth camp. It was brutal and dangerous but there was a joy in joining the fight every single day. He had grown up believing in the survival of the tribe against all odds. The kids his age had made that hard. They had always ganged up on him. They had not cared that he had no father. Bastards were common enough. They were upset that Bron was only half-orc. They hated his human side.

Bron did not see it that way. His human half did not make him less, it made him more. The thought fueled him and the hunting and the hunting and constant challenges made him even stronger. Too strong for the elders of the tribe. They had told him that he would never be accepted. Bron had countered that eventually they would die and he would take over. Then he would have to be accepted. They promised that this would never happen. Bron had just laughed and walked away from that meeting. That was what he assumed was the day before.

In the night, they came for Bron. They dragged him away and into the wilderness and he fought but there were twelve of them. One against all is not good odds. Every time he fought back, they hit him with fists or clubs until he was dazed or blacked out. They pulled him to his feet in the middle of a field. He was face to face with Urka. He did his best to spit blood in Urka’s face. He succeeded.

“You’ve never beat me, Urka. So you needed your friends to join in,” Bron said.

“Your time here is done, Bron. Your words are useless,” Urka said.

“You will have to kill me to get rid of me.”

“Good.” There were no speeches, there were no announcements. Urka pulled out a long, wicked dagger and immediately Bron fought hard. He charged Urka but suddenly he was blindsided by an orc with a spear. Bron could feel it going through his body. Then another spear hit his other side and pierced him. Urka walked toward him, grinning like a devil.

The knife drove deep and Bron instantly knew that it was very bad. Urka cradled his head as Bron sank to his knees. Urka drove his knee into Bron’s face. Something cracked. He drove that knee again and again and there was warmth and wetness. The world turned black after that third knee landed.

So here he was. He had no idea how long he had been out. He pushed himself to his feet but the high sun was much too bright and Bron found himself blinking and shielding his eyes for a moment. Beneath his feet, there was a great pool of blood that had mixed with the dirt and then dried. There were two spears as well but no knife. Bron thought Urka must have taken it with him. Bron smiled to himself. He was not dead. He actually felt fine.

He turned and there was a small robed woman standing and staring.

“Who the hell are you?” Bron growled.

“Hmm. It is a long time since I had a name,” The woman said. As Bron approached to strangle her, she held her hand up and he paused. He was merely surprised at her courage. “You can call me the Noonday Witch for now,” the woman said.

“Whatever,” Bron said dismissively. “What do you want? I have necks to snap.”

“I healed you. I did not want to depart without making sure you were alright.”

“I’m fine,” Bron grunted.

“You did not look fine,” The woman said softly and carefully.

“There was twelve of them.”

“Twelve and you lived. Impressive,” The woman said with a slight smile. “The currents of fate may have something big in store for you yet.”

“Whatever. I’m going back there and I am turning Urka inside out.”

“Do you feel the pull of Grummsh that strongly?” The woman asked. The name sent pulses of dread through Bron’s body.

“I am half-orc. I do what I want.”

“If you do not share their ideals, you will never rule them and they will never rule you.”

“What do you care?” Bron asked. “It’s all I know.”

“My point is that there is more world out there. There are challenges more worthy of confronting,” The woman said.

“Like what?” Bron asked. He was suddenly interested. He loved a challenge.

“I see your path going that way,” she said. “If you go that way, it will be hard not to continue down the path.”

Bron squinted at the witch. “Those currents. Can you see the future?”

“Maybe,” she said and smiled cryptically.

“Maybe?”

“It depends on if you go where I suggested,” she said with a shrug.

“Maybe I will. Maybe I will show them my strength,” Bron said. Visions of new faces awed by his strength danced behind his eyes. Maybe he could create his own tribe. A new tribe to crush the Blacktooth for rejecting him.

“Maybe,” the woman and seemed to think about it for a moment. “I like maybe. I hope you will carve your own path some day.” She seemed to flicker like the flame of a torch for a moment and then she was gone. In her place, there was a great ax. Bron walked forward and greeted as if it was a new friend.

Media Update 12/1/2016

December 1, 2016


Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie

I originally skipped this because I thought it was a legit documentary created by Trump’s folks. It is not. It was created by Funny or Die after Trump won the New Hampshire primary and it is a satirical send-up of Donald Trump’s life. Unlike most things I have seen after the election, it is not as sad now. The conceit of the movie is that Ron Howard (yes that Ron Howard) found a copy of a super rare movie Trump made about the book he published in 1989. From a production standpoint, the movie is absolutely amazing. They put so much work into making it look a lot like a crappy VCR recording of a television movie. It really brought me back to when we taped stuff off of television a lot and just dealt with the poor quality. The movie is also really funny. The movie’s framing device is Trump explaining “The Art of the Deal” to a kid as he goes about the normal business of his day. There are several flashbacks as we visit points in Trump’s life where he made good business deals but at the cost of being a decent person. Here, they do not need to exaggerate and just tell the story pretty much straightforward. There are plenty of great actors who get to play actual historical characters but my favorites are probably Patton Oswalt as Merv Griffin and Alfred Molina as Trump’s real estate lawyer. Trump is actually played by Johnny Depp who undergoes a transformation and becomes the man he is meant to play. It is not unlike the methods he must have used in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You should definitely check this one out as it is only 50 minutes long.


Mascots

So, one of my favorite movies is This is Spinal Tap which is probably the best mockumentary ever made. It perfectly encapsulates the most important and the least appetizing parts of being a rock star. The highly improvised movie was directed by Rob Reiner but it was co-written by Lord Christopher Guest (among other people). Guest went on to create quite a few great mockumentaries in the same style with a lot of the same usual suspects. I have not seen them all but Mascots caught my eye as a Netflix original. (I should mention I’m not in any way sponsored by Netflix but I would make a deal in a heartbeat.) As with all of his mockumentaries, the subject matter ends up being pretty dark but Guest and his excellent actors have a great ability to bring lightness to the dark. These sports mascots have real human problems that they have to put on hold in order to perform. Most of the time that people are paying attention to them, they are embodying a character who is larger than they will ever be. Some of my favorites were Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Fred Willard and Guest himself. A special shout out goes to Chris O’Dowd (from the IT Crowd) who I was happy to see being an absolute slimeball. The movie was a lot of fun with a ton of dark humor and also some genuinely touching moments. I definitely recommend this one.


The Office (USA)

I have seen a little bit of The Office before this week. Actually, I have seen a little of both the US and the UK versions. However, the bulk of the American version was watched during my “I Hate Anything that is Popular” phase. The Office is a favorite of both of my brothers and a professor used clips of it to illustrate points in employment law. So, I thought I would actually give it a real shot from the beginning. My first impression of this show is that it is fueled by awkwardness and horribleness. It is kind of like a hybrid between Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Parks and Recreation. It is a comedy but a lot of it is not really laugh out loud funny. A lot of it is humor from misery. Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is very similar to Fred Willard in Mascots. He’s oblivious, racist, sexist and overly familiar with people he should be tactful with. He is not willfully malicious but ends up causing a lot of collateral damage. Obviously, the real stars of the show are Jim and Pam who are just two people trying to survive the day to day in an office. I also like a lot of the smaller parts of their coworkers who are just normal people trying to deal with all these weirdos. I have watched the first season and I like the show enough to keep trying it. I think Parks and Rec is a better show but The Office was not worthy of being dismissed out of hand. I would recommend it but you have probably all seen it already.

Music of the Week:
Justice – Stress

Manicomio – Cosculluela

Zebra-Tell Me What You Want

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Go Robot

In This Moment – Burn

Weekly Updates:
– I finished the season finale of Galavant and it was so good.
– I finished Person of Interest as well and it was the perfect ending
– I watched more Season 2 of Dark Matter
– I watched more of The Grinder
– I want to go to the movies to see Dr. Strange or Magical Creatures
– This week’s theme is “Mockumentaries”


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