Friday, December 30

Updating

Well, I missed updating yesterday, broke my promise again, but it doesn't matter anymore. I think I've gotten into the habit of writing. When I have something worth sharing, I think I've matured to the point that I'll write it down on Spice of Life. There's no reason to force myself to write everyday. If my plans of becoming a journalist are fulfilled, then I will be writing everyday. For right now, I'll enjoy myself. Have a good day.

Wednesday, December 28

Crash: Thoughts on a Movie

So, I got together with some friends last night. We watched some college basketball, played a few hands of poker, and, as many do, watched a movie. It came down to either Elf or Crash. I fought hard to avoid Will Ferrel and eventually won out when, while people were arguing, someone slipped it into the DVD player. We watch for maybe twenty minutes and one friend pipes up, "Hey, there are some racial undertones to this movie." We laughed at him. Twenty minutes after that, another friend finally figures out that the movie's set in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, we've been put into a talking mood and start questioning the symbolism of various characters and acts and someone yelled to stop analyzing the movie. I rejoined that this wasn't meant to be a movie you watch and forget about like XXX or any Adam Sandler movie. To not think about this movie would be an insult to those who worked on it.

So, here I am, thinking about the movie. To get this into the clear right now, I come from a small, homogenous town. Racial issues are hardly something I confront on an everyday basis, they're something I see on TV or read about. Neither have I been to L.A. Is the City of Angels really that bad? Do the people really need to 'crash' into each to feel something? I don't know, and I doubt you could get the city itself to agree. But I digress.

Race is certainly the central issue here. You'd be an idiot to miss that, but there's a lot more going on. Human interaction and communication as well as 'the system' and the progression of good and bad acts are major themes I saw in this movie. The Persian shopkeeper can't figure out what the locksmith's trying to tell him and insurance subsequently screws him. The District Attorney has to (though this is certainly debatable and undoubtedly a controversial claim) act extra nice to blacks after his car is stolen by the two kids. Then the car jacker with cornrows lets the Asians in the van go with forty dollars after the director let's him go, even after being offered five hundred dollars for each by the guy who watches Discovery.

What about race then? Looks like a no win situation to me. Some people fill a stereotype like the black carjackers who, though they didn't run with a gang, were basically thugs with personality. Others don't. Boy was the District Attorney's wife wrong about the locksmith, the only completely sympathetic character I found in this movie. The problem is we don't understand one another. Not that understanding helps much. The bigot cop explains his father's situation to Shaniqua but still gets nothing. The District Attorney's wife doesn't want to look racist and gives the two blacks the benefit of the doubt by not turning around like she wants to but ends up getting her car stolen.

You want to take a message from this movie? Here's what I found. Life's a mess because it isn't simple. There are no good or bad people. Only ones we feel sympathy for and ones we don't because everyone has done things to be proud of and things they would rather forget. I don't know how deep or thoughtful that was, but it's true. Oh yeah, and L.A. sucks. Don't ever go there.

On all other counts, I think the movie does an excellent job. The acting is good, the cinematography is good, and the story is simply phenomenal. Still, I don't think I'll watch the movie again except to pick up things I missed the first time like if the second Asian in the cafe was the insurance man or why exactly the young cop couldn't or wouldn't file a report on his jerkwad partner.

Tuesday, December 27

The Chronicles of Narnia Movie: Thoughts

I had some msigivings about this movie. I figured this movie was going to be blown hard core as Hollywood tried to recreate the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, screwed with the plot, and placed incompetent child actors in key parts, a terrible fear of mine since Star Wars Episode I. I went on opening night and was pleasantly surprised, mostly because the acting didn't suck. Besides a few lines by the White Witch and the scenes with Peter and the wolf, Hollywood did a good job of translating the book on to the screen. And I finely discovered the huge Christian allegory going on. In my defense I read the books in elementary, but, geez, there were some huge, obvious metaphors.

Anyway, I watched the movie again and something kind of bothered me about it. The movie opens up with the Luftwaffe bombing London and the Pevensie family. Later, the fight between good and evil is precipitated by the dropping of rocks by griffins upon the White Witch's forces. Personally, I feel that some of the camera shots at these two points were meant to directly parallel each other. I believe we are meant to compare these two armies. I can think of two possible explanations for this. One is to humanize the Germans. Personally I don't like this very much. I prefer to believe that is a shot at the need for the glorious battle scene that so the movie going public was anticipating. In the book, this fight was really glossed over. It was hardly a centerpiece of the action. In the movie, they're building up to it since the Pevensies meet up with the Beavers. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are not better than the Germans who bombed their homes, thus leading to their moving in with the Professor and beginning their adventures in Narnia.

Of course, noone else I talked to noticed these parallels, so, whatever, I could be seeing things. Have a good day.

Monday, December 26

Rhetorical Questions

You know what I hate? Rhetorical questions, especially when people substitute the classic "Hello" with "How's it going?" or its various incarnations. How am I supposed to give a reasonable answer if we're just passing by? My emotional state is hardly a matter to be summed up in a few words. I'm forced to either answer "Fine" or ignore their question. I have no problem being asked that question when it precedes what will be a longer conversation because I can give a full and complete answer then. When people ask "What's up?" in passing I feel as though they're attempting to show concern but don't really care because they know I can't give an involved answer which would likely lead to further questions because we're only passing each other. It's a verbal trap.

You know what? I just noticed that I used multiple rhetorical questions in this post. Seeing as how it's impossible for anyone to answer the questions I posit within this blog, they're all rhetorical. I have seen the enemy, and it is me.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a good day.

Saturday, December 24

Names

So, I was kicking around on Metaphilm.com (an excellent which I suggest everyone check out for some good laughs or intriguing takes on popular movies) and read the essay on Die Hard. It was about how the media was the true villain in the movie and how names and identities were power. Personally, I don't see how Die Hard is unique in either respect, but it did get me to thinking and writing. Don't expect any Wildean social commentary like that found in my other posts but a bunch of observations.

My name is Christopher Francis Heinrich. The origins of each individual component are as follows: Christopher was the only name my parents could agree on (and was preferable to Dwayne or Tryptophan), Francis is the masculine form of Frances (my mother's middle name), and Heinrich, as is the case of most last names, is my father's family name. Normally, I go by Chris because it's faster to say.

Then there's a horde of nicknames that people call me by. My dad calls me Spud for some unknown reason. My friends from high school have quite a few names for me. There's Marlin for the Hawaiian shirt I was fond of wearing. For a while I was called Cubore because they thought my head was square. That ended when I started to grow my hair out, but then one of my friend's dad started calling me Tina (short for Tian Turner) because of my hair. This name undoubtedly arose from jealousy seeing as how the man was bald. For a short while I was called Hurricane after Hurricane Francis went through Florida, and The Scorpion's "Rock You Like a Hurricane" became my unofficial theme song.

Then there are the name I chose for myself. On AOL I go by DarthOzymandias, a mix of the pop (Darth) and classic (Ozymandias). On a bunch of online games, I call myself DarthJoJo, a clever amalgamation of deep evil (Darth) and the ridiculous (JoJo). In high school French I went by Raoul and Sir Galahad (which would've been Sir Lancelot had I not told my friend, the name stealing jerk, my idea and then been gone the day we took names). For some reason I can't remember I created an overly long name. It was JoJo the Half-Naked Insance Australian Super Karate Master with a Doctorate in Hydro-Nucleo Sporadic Physics and phD in Donut Making, Bronzesmith of the Silver Jaws of Irony, and Part-Time Monkey Trainer, or King JoJo for short (the title was implied in the King).

There's some naming game where you combine your middle name and the name of the street you live on to create your porn star name. Mine is Francis 1st or Francis Premiere, which sounds a whole lot cooler.

Juliet said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet." Well, I have a lot of names, as you can see. Do I remain the same person because the social standards put upon me in these different situations are definitely different, and my actions are different. Does my essential identity emerge or do these different names give me the ability to conform to a new, appropriate performative identity? Ooh ... philosophical if not original. I so smart.

Made-up Holidays

I don't know when it started though I believe the whole movement gained a lot of popularity with the first Christmas episode of The O.C., but this whole winter holiday amalgamation thing is something I truly detest. I don't hear people wishing me a Chrismukkah (of The O.C.) or Chrismahanukwanzukah (courtesy of Virgin Mobile), but I'm disgusted at the their mere existence.

Quit making up holidays and trying to appease everyone! We're not all the same and aren't meant to be! Get over it! Whatever happened to the notion that differences are to be celebrated and make us unique? Or has that idea been discarded in the hope that strict conformity will prevent discord and strife?

These rabid drives at pluralism serve merely to cheapen the original holidays. Chrismukkah is nothing and Chrismahanukwanzukkah is an advertising campaign. I really see no upside to their existence. Moreover, these holidays aren't even compatible! According to Wikipedia (the modern Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and fount of all knowledge) Kwanzaa was invented as a secular humanist response to the Western religious traditions. Combining it with Christmas and Hanukkah, the very holidays it is directed against, is an insult to all involved.

I've read in a few places that these are supposed to be meant as satires on the immense secular natures of these holidays, and, in some sort of screwed up logic, I guess one could rationalize their drive to add to it.

If your lineage includes a diversity of traditions, I don't understand what prevents one from celebrating each individually. Acknowledge your roots as the separate traditions they are. If they overlap, that's great. It shows a shared set of values. Still, there's no need to ram these sacred holidays together. They deserve more respect than that.

And so I say Humbug to Chrismukkah! Fie on Chrismahanukwanzukkah! And shame to those who created these holidays!

Sorry

So, I already failed to uphold my promise of daily posts. It's really inexusable too since I wasn't doing anything yesterday, but I had writer's block and couldn't be bothered to think of any interesting topics. So, as penance, I will put up two excellent posts today. There, now we can all be friends again.

Thursday, December 22

The Office

Last night I was visiting a friend of mine, and he took it upon himself to expose me to a television series that he enjoyed immensely, The Office. The series is set-up as a mockumentary of office life. The cameras are obviously handheld and fairly often they'll sit down with one of the actors and interview them, get their take on the day's happenings. If you think about Dilbert and Office Space, which The Office certainly must draw a lot of comparisons too, you have about the right tone and sense of humor.

I had seen part of an episode on my own before and chuckled a little bit but never made an attempt to watch it again. Now, after seeing another two episodes, I can put into words why. The show is depressing beyond belief. The eccentric, quirky cast of characters the character based comedy are entirely unlikable, and, by the end of the first episode, I just wanted to jump into the TV and beat everyone with a two by four, that is if I hadn't been consumed by the despair for my future The Office generated. I couldn't look beyond the arrogance or timidity or passive-aggresiveness or total disconnect from reality any of these characters displayed and hated all of them. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if any of these characters displayed some depth or heart, but they didn't. The director's / producer's / writer's idea of moving a character beyond the single trait they were built upon was putting the boss into an improv class where he acted the exact same way he did at work.

For myself, I like reading Dilbert and enjoy watching Office Space even though the closest I have ever come to working in an office was a strange sort of free-lance marketing internship for a local bank last summer. Those had some key differences though. Dilbert is a cartoon which further discombobulates it from reality. As cruel as the boss may be or as lazy as Wally gets, they're still cartoons and not confused with real life. Office Space has a happy ending and a fully developed protagonist.

All that being said, there are still some things I enjoyed about the series. The acting was excellent. I did feel as though I was watching real office workers and not a bunch of actors, and the camera work, which I had originally expected to irritate me, actually worked in the show's favor and drew me in.

Wednesday, December 21

Cross-Racial Casting (Like Gender Bending, Only With Race)

So, this particular post was inspired by the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. A few weeks ago some friends of mine were talking about movies they were looking forward to and Memoirs of a Geisha came up. That's when I heard that Ziyi Zhang would be playing the lead role, a Chinese woman playing a Japanese. For a long time, this irritated me something terrible. I respect her acting abilities and everything, well as much as I can since I don't understand her language, but "Come on," I thought "Let's show some respect for the source material," which I recently discovered was book written by an American man.

Anyways, I thought about it some more and read a few reviews, and I like to believe that I have since come up with a more thoughtful idea. One review I read said this was a step up from the days of Hollywood where Asians were simply Caucasians wearing a little eye make-up. This reminds me of the stories I heard of Shakespeare's time when women weren't even allowed to appear on stage, and men played all the roles. Was this wrong? Yeah. These decisions were made because women weren't able to take the rigors of acting or something, and Asians probably weren't allowed to portray themselves because directors had no faith in their acting abilities. These decisions were made from a position of superiority.

Another case that came to my attention was that of Ken Watanabe in Batman Begins. I didn't really pay attention at the time but, when I was flipping through an issue of Mad later, found that his role in the comics was Arabian. Mad suggested that this casting was made because Japanese don't tend to blow themselves up when they want to protest against something they aren't pleased with. So, here we have cross-racial casting because of political correctness concerns, according to Mad. Whoo! Seven degrees of separation. Watanabe is in Memoirs of a Geisha as well!

So, this brings us to the case of Memoirs of a Geisha. To me, the problem, here is of a different manner. I've come to accept Ziyi Zhang's casting. I no longer have a problem with it. The advertisers aren't celebrating the fact that she's Chinese, but they aren't hiding it. Ziyi Zhang is a fairly well-known game in the United States as are the other two Chinese actresses cast as Japanese in Memoirs. Maybe, if they were trying to slip in an unknown Chinese actress into the role, I would have a problem with it. But they didn't.

This is a movie, art. It's not real life. At most, it's a representation. The only reason for proper racial casting is to maintain the suspension of disbelief. In different situations this may be more or less appropriate. This movie is not about race, as far as I know, it's about love. The best actor or actress for the part should be chosen according to their respective acting skills for fitting the part, not their skin color.

So there. My thoughts.

Christmas Break

Woot! I'm on Christmas break now and have copious amounts of free time now. Thus, so my writing skills don't dull over the next month, I plan on writing once every day. So, here we go.

Monday, November 21

Time

Time moves funny at college. The individual days seem tremendously long, but, as a whole, they move along so quickly. Take last weekend for example. I went on the two night freshmen retreat and didn't see many of my friends in that period. It seemed like a dreadfully long time, as though I had missed so much, but it was only two bleeding nights! Then I consider how fast the semester has gone by. Thanksgiving break is coming up on Wednesday, and Christmas break starts two weeks after that. It really doesn't seem that long ago that I was prowling the campus in my shorts and flip-flops.

Is this a good thing? I like to think so. When the days seem so long, and I miss people after such a short time, I must be appreciating things so much. With the time moving so fast as a whole though, it brings me closer to the time I can return to Baudette and see my family again. The only downside is that I don't send out enough e-mails to my family because it doens't seem I sent the last one that long ago.

My, what a short post.

Friday, November 4

Inramural Volleyball

Well, our intramural volleyball season ended last night with the same record as our soccer team, zero wins and a bunch of losses. To be fair, we did win some individual mathes and a few were really close, but we never won two out of three. Anyway, I just want to write about my experiences a little.

So everyone knows, volleyball is probably the only sport I'm arrogant about my abilities in, and it's weird because I don't really have a good reason to be that way. In sixth grade, during our volleyball physical education unit, I had the top grade in my class, even better than the girls who played on teams and in the Junior Olympians. I was really proud of that, and, for some reason, I still act as if that were true even though probably haven't played more than ten games since that time. That plus we were playing with the net at girl's height, and I could go maybe a foot and a half over the top for blocks.

So our volleyball team had maybe three people who had played on a team in high school, another three who had ever played, and something like five who had probably never played. It's not like we ever expected to win or ever had a good chance.

I think we played eight games in the season, and there were more than a few that were pretty boring because the teams we played weren't much better. If one team could get it over the net, they probably were going to score because the other team would knock it out or into the net. The last game was pretty enjoyable though. The team we played had some experience and set up a lot of spikes. It was strange though, like they were out of practice because they could really hammer the ball but it would end up in the net a fair amount of the time. Anyway, when I'd go up for a block, they were saved a few times because their spike would be shallow, clip the top of the net, and roll over while I was still in the air and couldn't do anything about it. Perhaps, if they were better at spiking, I would've had more blocks. To be fair and drain a little of my ego, they did pull of some nice tips and angled spikes, so my attempts at blocks were evaded more than a few times.

Wednesday, September 28

Actors

Hey everybody. Well, here's my first post in a long time, but I don't feel bad about it like with my other long delays since I'm in college and haven't been writing because I'm busy, not because I'm lazy, like before. Anyway, I thought I'd start off my college era blogs with something light, my favorite actors. To set some limits for this topic. First of all, I do like some really popular actors like Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks, but I'm going to try and mention some of those actors on the outskirts. So, here we go.

Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, and Tim Olyphant (The Creepy Trio)
Boy can these guys present truly frightening and, in Roth and Olyphant's cases, complex villains. No cheesy mad scientists here. Take a gander at Rob Roy, Batman Begins (like you missed that), Red Eye (screwy plot but great interaction), or The Girl Next Door (It's a love story! No, it's a raunchy sex comedy! No, it's a coming of age story!).

Johnny Depp
All right, so he's probably on a lot of top actors lists but he deserves a mention. COme on, he was a pirate, playwright, druglord, and disfigured freak. Who else can pull off such diverse characters so successfully.

Harold Perrineau
A very skilled actor. I loved his schizophrenic portrayal of Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, and his performance in the Matrix sequels was one of the few highlights (the others being Lambert Wilson, the posters, and Hugo Weaving). I guess he's been big on television, in Oz and Lost, so I'll have to try and check those out now.

Vincent D'Onofrio
This guy can pull off attitude. He was the reason that Law and Order: Criminal Intent was my favorite part of the franchise. It's his ability to pull-off more difficult roles so well that attracts me.

Friday, August 26

Million Dollar Baby

I first saw Million Dollar Baby when I accidentally ended up on first class on my flight from France to the United States. I was so excited to have a choice of what to watch that I flipped through all of the programming options for the entire flight, so I ended up only seeing parts of the film. So I guess this ruined the mid-plot twist for me, but someone had accidentally slipped this to me earlier, so it wasn’t

Anyway, my friends gave me the movie for my birthday, and I watched the whole thing a few days ago. To put it simply, I hated it, but, like everything, it’s complicated, here I am writing about it. So, here we go. First of all, I need to say that I thought the execution was wonderful. The acting was top flight, as were the costumes and settings, though the heavy shading did weird me out a little. Just a little rant on Morgan Freeman here. I like the man and think he’s a fine actor, but he always plays the same character, a kind, trusting man with dignity, no matter his circumstances. It also respected the audience enough to make its many messages and plot lines subtle and not beat us over the head with them.

My problem with this film lies in its theme. Sorry if you haven’t seen this movie, but I’m going to ruin it for you here, so stop reading if you want to be surprised. Maggie had the Blue Bear cold in the title fight. I think it was clear enough that our hero would have had it not been for the cheating. Maggie reached the pinnacle of boxing in that fight. Then she breaks her neck and loses control of her body. The woman knows indignity, having to take unfinished steak, from her job at the cafĂ©, but she can’t deal with this. When Frankie tells her he’s going to get her “one of those wheelchairs you can operate with a straw” she asks him to kill her. He gives her the chance to start a new life, and she asks for death in return. She accomplished so much, growing beyond her white trash family and becoming the greatest welterweight woman boxer in the world, but is done at 33. She’s believes that there is nothing else she can do, and that disgusted me. So there. That’s my opinion. Go ahead and disagree.

Turning vice into virtue

One of the dominant themes in C. S. Lewis’ works is the tendency of humans to turn vices into virtues and visa versa. In The Great Divorce, the human allows her love for her deceased son to become an excuse for terrible actions. In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape tells his nephew that the demons have been able to turn all vices into virtues except for cowardice. Finally, in Out of the Silent Planet, the Oyarsa of Malacandra reflects how the bent Oyarsa of our planet turned the virtue of loyalty to one’s species into a vice in the case of Weston.

It doesn’t take long to find overwhelming evidence of this on the Internet. In particular, I find the webzine Slate to be a particularly strong source of this. Now, before I really get into this, I would like to point out that I do enjoy reading most of Slate’s articles. They are generally of a very high quality, though I am put off by how their contributors seem to search for a chance to antagonize others and delight in controversy. First of all, Slate keeps an ad critic on its staff. It is this person’s job to tell us how effective various advertising schemes are, from Quizno’s talking baby to Geiko’s bait and switch to that cosmetic company’s real women/ curves. It’s pathetic that we need a professional to tell us how good these ads are in convincing us to more fully engage in consumerism. Here, the vice of gluttony has become the virtue of art.

Second, this isn’t Slate’s story so much as the New York Times’ but Slate devoted a lot of time to it. Originally the Times published an editorial or something by the author of a book on how television shows like 24 and The Sopranos and video games improve their viewers and players. I believe the title of his book was something like Everything that is bad for you is good for you. This guy was giving people an excuse for wasting more of their time on the couch. Anyway, a Slate writer took exception to some of his claims and wrote about them in an essay of his own. Eventually, the two ended up debating the issues that had been raised in another Slate article. This was great to see, and, in their debate, Slate’s writer raised some good points like that watching television only made you better at watching television and that no matter how much benefit there is to watching these shows. They’re still interrupted by commercials which would disrupt any improvement that was going on. One thing that really got me though was that no ever mentioned watching the news and trying to piece together everything that was going on there. I don’t care how complex and intelligent you can make a TV show, but it’ll never compare to real life. Besides, how many watchers of 24 can name the leaders of three other countries or even the secretary-general of the United Nations. My disgust with Slate here stems from giving this man and his book so much attention and for not mentioning these points.

My nature

When I was younger, my nature was simple. Starting around kindergarten, I identified a group as the “cool kids” and sought to emulate them. They bought Pogs and so did I. Then, for whatever reason, perhaps as a rebellion, in the third grade, I stopped acting like them. Of course I took it too far and became their opposites. I despised the sports they played and their attitudes. I actually maintained this personality for a long time, and it grew beyond being the opposite of the “cool kids.” In the 1996 election, I wanted Ross Perot to win solely because he was the third party candidate, and again in 2000, I wanted Ralph Nader to be elected for the same reason. I guess this was fostered by my German heritage. When you’re young, all any American knows about Germany is the Nazis. Well my grandfather emigrated from Cadolzburg, Germany and was proud of his nationality. Thus I took people’s insults about being a Nazi as a compliment, even though that certainly wasn’t what my grandfather intended.

Anyway, a few years ago, I was arguing with my friend about the virtues of communism, and he accused me of always taking the contrary side, no matter the issue. I took this to heart, examined my actions, and found it to be true. So, I changed. I still tend to take the more “out there” opinions, but now it’s for a better reason than simply because no one else believes in it.

The moral of this little story, if there is one, is the value of honesty. My friend was honest with me, and I was honest with myself. Had one of us not been honest, I may still be annoying and unnecessarily contrary.

Tuesday, August 16

Creation vs. Destruction

Has anyone else ever considered how much easier it is to destroy than it is to create? It's an idea I've been kicking around for a while now but only recently began to develop to any length.

Take a human creation for example. Let's say a vase because it's cliche. Without even meaning too, a person can walk into the pedestal it's sitting on and watch it shatter on the floor. Or any building. It takes an architect hours to draw up the blueprints, the contractors months to build it, and some moron with a can of lighter fluid and a match can seriously damage it if not completely destroy it.

Life is the same way. The human gestation period is roughly nine months. Before you even see light, your mother's been devoting nine months of energy into your existence. Then, take one wrong step or eat some bad meat and you're dead.

You don't even have to do anything if you want to destroy something. Entropy and time will eventually take care of.

Weapons though are an interesting phenomenon though. Creation with the intent of aiding destruction.

So, what does this all mean? Are there are practical uses of this tiny bit of philosophy? I don't know. Maybe as evidence supporting divine creation or intelligent design against random chance. Thoughts? Ideas?

Saturday, August 13

Why I don't write

Here I am, breaking another streak of silence and general lack of writing. What better way to end it, I figure than to reflect on why I don't write as often as I would like.

The problem certainly isn't time. I work roughly 40 hours a week, and my fairly decent Dance Dance Revolution skills attest to my copious amounts of otherwise inactive time. Neither is my block a lack of ideas. At first, it might have been, but now I'm devoting a lot more time to thinking about topics to write about. I can hardly keep track of them. In fact, I keep forgetting them and need to come up with new ideas. I don't care if anyone else is reading this either. I write for myself. So, embarassment at revealing whatever doesn't bother me.

Rather, I think my problem is laziness. Whenever the mood hits me, I think about the small amount of work and effort I'd have to put into writing, and I just turn on the Playstation and dance. That's pretty pathetic. Hopefully I've shamed myself into not doing that anymore and will write on a more regular schedule now.

Sunday, July 31

Winning

I assume everyone enjoys winning, to prove in competition that they are superior to their opponents. However, I believe there is something better, a good competition where everyone is pushed to their limits, and no one takes any cheap shots which the losers can grouse over afterwards. I would rather lose in one of those than win in a blow out.

I have a distaste for teams and people that seem unbeatable. I hated the Bulls when Michael Jordan was leading them to championship after championship. I've never liked the Yankees though their invincibility is certainly up for dispute. Really disliked the Cowboys, and that dislike has been transferred to the Patriots. Michael Phelps and Lance Armstrong are on my list of least favorite athletes too. For some reason, I've never had a problem with Tiger Woods though.

Tuesday, July 26

Interning at a bank

So, I work as a marketing intern for a local bank. It's an interesting choice, really. I like to think of myself as some sort of anti-consumerist/ capitalist, product of never being in true need of anything I guess, and a bank is very much a tool of the consumer. What's more, I have a problem with advertising, creating a need where none is present before. However, I don't really have to do any of that. This bank is working on creating a new website, so I've been writing the content for it. Can't hide what I believe though. My most recent assignment was to write up some basic information on credit and credit reports. My boss, the marketing director, told me that it was too dark. Lines like "Credit is everywhere in modern life. Credit companies tout gold and platinum cards on their advertisements, and banks promote their low-interest loans" and "Ignorance about credit has driven some people into the deepest debt" were not appropriate. Now I need to rewrite them to be more positive like CitiFinancial's website. I'm not even supposed to mention that interest will increase the cost of a purchase. Defining it is enough.

So now I wonder if I'm living in the 'bad faith' that Sartre spoke of (See that! I just dropped a name. Now watch me look like a fool as I butcher his philosophy. To prevent this, I'll be as vague as possible, so I can still claim that my basic intentions were correct. Can't beat me.). I'm doing something at odds with the nature I have created for myself, but I acknowledge it.

Oh well. The money is good, and the hours are flexible. And I have the chance to write. Not much more I can ask for.

Monday, July 25

Greatest Movie Scenes

Since I'm on an entertainment kick with these last few posts, I figured the best thing I could do is continue it by listing not my favorite movies (too hard) but the greatest scenes. There's some TV shows on the list too, so sue me. This is my blog, and I make the decisions.

The Princess Bride
-Inigo Montoya's final confrontation with Count Rugen
One of my all time favorite movies makes the list here. That line is just so great! "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father prepared to die." Inigo's growing strength, and Rugen's increasing terror. I just want to jump up and cheer everytime.

The Matrix
-Morpheus' sparring match with Neo
Great fight choreography matched by philosophical questions. The sharp contrast between the physical and mental challenges put before Neo, and how they become one. Simply cool as was Morhpeus's delivery of "Is that air you're breathing?"

The Godfather
-Michael Corleone becomes the godfather
What grabbed me about this scene was the perfect juxtaposition of the scenes, the peace of the baptism contrasted by the harsh murders of all Corleone's enemies. The hypocrisy! What an evil guy!

Cowboy Bebop
-The end of 'Hard Luck Woman' (Beginning with Faye's return home)
Wow. Powerful stuff here. Faye running up the hill to her house was just excellent even though I knew what was going to up there. And the music! Wow. It just carries the last few minutes of the show as Ed leaves with Ein, and Spike and Jet drown their depression in hard-boiled eggs.

Kill Bill Volume 2
-The Bride and Elle Driver fight
A different kind of fight. Instead of graceful leaps and crazy wall running we get swords that can't be unsheathed because the ceiling is too low. Pure insanity.

Kill Bill Volume 1
-A pleasant conversation between the Bride and Vernita Green
Cool lines that are well delivered. The relative calm of the scene providing a sharp contrast to the earlier vicious fight and subject of their conversation.

Mystery Science Theater 3000
-Climbing down the tree in Time Chasers
Not the best episode, but the hilarity in this scene simply wouldn't stop. The sheer length and lack of tension in this scene were perfectly accented by classic lines like "Spielberg stole that bit" to "What? Did the tree contribute money to the film? Pan off it already!" to "...and a tribe of Ewoks finishes him off!" to "It's an Ent! Hrum." Inspired hilarity.

Return of the King
-Faramir's charge and Pippin's song
Very moving. A beautiful song to stand in contrast with the brutality and futility of the Faramir's attempt to retake Osgilliath. There's nothing else to say.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
-King Arthur fights the Black Knight
I can't resist the ridiculousness of this scene. The savage Black Knight taunts Arthur roundly after taking a cheap shot when the king was at prayer and never admits to defeat, even as his limbs are hacked off. Nearly hurt myself laughing the first few times I watched this scene.

Well, I certainly have shown a proclivity towards violence with these choices. So, now you know a little bit more about me. Expect some edits as I think of more favorite scenes.

Sunday, July 24

Star Wars

I am a big Star Wars fan. I've read a whole pile of the Expanded Universe books and even played Decipher's card game with a friend until the Tatooine expansion came out and blew everything away with how devastatingly powerful it was. Never got into the action figures or other toys though.

This post is about the movies though. I watched Episode III a few weeks ago and have generally sorted out my thoughts about this story now. Yes, I found the prequels to be a let-down, but there were definitely positives like the performances of Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, and Samuel L. Jackson. I heard a lot of reviews rag on Hayden Christensen's acting, but I'm willing to cut him a lot of slack after watching him in Shattered Glass. I guess he just does whiny and petulant better than evil.

Considered as a whole, the story was amazing. I can imagine Lucas pitching the idea, had it been conceived as a whole first. "Right, so this kid gifted with 'the Force,' a kind of magic, is taken to be trained in its use. Meanwhile, as the most evil person in the galaxy is secretly twisting him, his mother dies after he dreams of her terrible pain. Then, he begins to dream of his own wife's death in the same way. The evil guy promises to show him how to save her, and he falls to temptation. For a long time, the evil guy orchestrates a massive war, playing both sides to consolidate his own power and defeat the good 'Force' users. The final half will be both the story of this first individual's redemption, and his son's own touch with evil." If I respected Shakespeare's plots, this would certainly qualify as 'Shakespearean.' But I don't will have to settle for saying that it's a bleeding cool arc.

Problems cropped up though. The writing was terrible. 'Younglings?' Good grief. The love story was out there too. A Dork Tower comic strip, put it very well with the punch line, "No, you hang up first." Lucas went overboard on the computer effects too.

Originally, I was thinking Lucas was just good at the big ideas and sucked at the little stuff, but then I remembered that Darth Maul and General Grievous were just too cool. Some of the greatest villains ever.

Not sure what I think about R2-D2 becoming such a bad boy. It was funny, I guess, but really odd. I'm just not sure.

Still a fan, but don 't know what's coming up to look forward too. I guess there's always fan films. Watched Revelations a few months back and was blown away by the effort put into it. Simply amazing. Computer was too slow though and the video kept skipping and being stupid.

Harry Potter

Well, it appears I've been a terrible slug and already broken my written promise. However, I've decided against the easy way out of self-flaggation and will make it up with a flurry of three posts today.

First up, Harry Potter, bought the Half-Blood Prince Saturday before last and finished it this Saturday after my mom had a go at it. I must say it has certainly renewed my faith in the series. The Order of the Phoenix seriously bummed me out. Some may call it dark, I just thought it was just irritating to hear Harry whine about everything for some 800 pages. Before I go on with this post, I will be revealing the ending so stop now if you cherish an unexpected ending.

And what an ending it was! Voldemort didn't show up once and it was still so threatning. It's amazing how Rowling could keep the reader's attention so long with what amounted to an extended climax from the search for the third Horcrux to the end of the attack on Hogwarts. On a sidenote, the assembling of all every somewhat important character at the end of the book reminded me of the series finales of Clone High and Seinfeld, some out-of-place humor. Fleur returned though, and that was fun. Now if only Krum will come with our intrepid heroes as they search for the Horcruxes. No more school for our heroes either. It's going to be one long hunt for evil now, though it will tick me off something mighty if this gets extended to an eighth book now. I want closure!

At the beginning of the book, I was disappointed in Rowling for having resorted to the Snape is evil red herring again. "Come on now" I was thinking. This card has been played in every other book. He's not evil. Well, I was wrong, but I'm sure he'll have a chance to redeem himself.

As far as the many mysteries this book presented, I figured the Half-Blood Prince was actually Harry's mom. It really seemed like Rowling was bashing the readers upside the head with hints though, what with Hermione's constant suggestion that it wasn't necessarily a girl and Slughorn's constant fawning over her. I found it a pleasant surprise that Snape actually had a positive trait. I never really considered what was bothering Tonks, but I'm a sucker for happy endings (as happy as this ending could be) and glad to see Lupin find some happiness. He has always been a favorite of mine, and I feel as though he has been shortchanged in the last few books.

My mom and I have a disagreement about Snape's intention and Dumbledore's reaction in the end. My mom thinks that Dumbledore was actually pleading for Snape to end his life. I think that Dumbledore started to plead because he knew about the Unbreakable Oath and knew Snape would actually carry out the plan since Malfoy was too weak to. Thoughts?

On a final note, I'm pleased with how the romances turned out here, much better than Order of the Phoenix though I'm still mad about Cho being a jerk. I liked her! Still, Harry telling Ginny they can't be together because Voldemort will use her is trash, just like in Spiderman. Just because they aren't "together" doesn't mean feelings don't exist that can't be used. Beat that, a triple negative! Also, snogging is a funny word and will have to become part of my vocabulary.

Saturday, July 16

Outsourcing and the global economy

I'm going to say this right off. Undoubtedly what I'm writing here will really irritate people. I probably will come across as arrogant or simple as well. You must understand that this is not my intention. I merely want to write what I think about outsourcing. Personally, I don't know anyone who lost their job to outsourcing, so I'm sorry too if I tread all over your feet. I would also like to point out that the only training I have in economics is a single high school course, so glaring errors and fallacies are not unexpected.

So, outsourcing. I guess it's a big issue. It was really huge a few months ago, but I continue to hear about it every so often. As far as I know, Lou Dobbs continues to devote a portion of his show on CNN to reporting on it as well. Well, here are my thoughts on it.

Good. Let's send those jobs all over the world. Hopefully this new market will allow parents in China and India to send their children to college thus raising the entire country's standard of living to that of the United States and then outsource their jobs to Africa and South and Central America and subsequently raise their standards of living. Spread the wealth around, I say.

Of course, there would be a significant portion of the labor force without a job then. Well, I have a plan in that case as well. First, the government simplifies its tax code, so major businesses and corporations can't hide behind tax havens and especially target those which outsource their workers. With these increased taxes, provide more higher education grants, so these newly unemployed people can return to school and find a new job. I hear that it's mostly accounting and tech support and jobs like that are the ones getting outsourced, so it shouldn't be hard to find a more meaningful career in college.

To better understand the context of this post as a whole you need to understand my own thoughts on globalization. I'm all in favor of it economically. One thing I did learn in that economics class junior year was that the American economy has largely been succesful because of the open market. Then let's create a truly free market. Knock down all tariffs and sign all the free trade agreements we can. Then competition will greatest and quality will improve and costs lowered as organizations contend in this new economy.

Thursday, July 14

Habits

Habits are one of the most important aspects of our being that we can cultivate. Sure, single impressive events like some tournament or contest may be memorable, but they do not have the same sway over our overall life. Though they may be small, habits lead to greater things and direct the way we view and react to things as a whole.

I'm proud of the day I started two new habits, at least 45 minutes of exercise (typically either Dance Dance Revolution or a four mile run with push-ups and sit-ups at the end) and reading the Bible. These allow me to grow physically and spiritually. Now, to improve my writing and self-expression, I resolve to make updating Spice of Life a new habit. At least once every other day, if at all possible, I'll make a new post.

Now that it's written, it will be done.

Thursday, May 12

The stuff this blog is made of

So, what will you find here when I start posting? A little bit of everything. Reviews of books, movies, music, tv series, and video games. Random thoughts. My weak attempts at philosophy. Hopes, plans, desires, dreams. Examinations of my daily experiences.

Simply put, my life and person and interests as analyzed by me.

Tuesday, May 10

Welcome

There's a saying, that the journey is more important than the destination. This is absolutely true. For all of us, our final destination is death. Life is simply the journey towards it. Our experiences, our memories, and our actions towards others are what make this journey worthwhile.

This blog will be a dumping ground for my mind. Some thoughts posted here will be frivolous, some more contemplative. Some more practical, others more theoretical. Have a good time.