Friday, March 30, 2012

What March 30th Means To Me: Being A Writer Sucks

At the risk of sounding whiny, I'm going to keep this as honest as possible.

I have a message for the US Military:

I've never been waterboarded, but if I could recommend a humane torture for "terrorists," I'd say lock them in a room with a typewriter, and put them through the writing process.

I'll be the first to admit that writing, for me, is not just a hobby. Yes, I love to write.  I love writing books, I love writing scripts, I love writing texts and emails, and I love writing this blog.  But I do have greater hopes for my writing beyond entertaining myself and my friends, therefore I feel constant pressure to both think of good ideas and to execute them.  This doesn't sound like such a big deal, and it shouldn't be, right?  After all, how hard is it to write? We've all been writing book reports and greeting card messages since we were in elementary school.  Hell, we all tell stories everyday! That tale you told me about flipping the bird to the guy who cut you off this morning on the way to work? High-larious!  So, if it's so easy, why is the writing process the reason I'm miserable 97% of the time?   

Here's a quick rundown of what it's like to be a writer:

1) You Get An Idea - It's a great idea. Sure, it's only a kernel of what it'll become, but it blooms in your head quicker than wildfire.  Soon, tons of thoughts, quotes, and characters populate your imagination in a mishmash of something that probably resembles spin-art in your brain. It's a rush. It's euphoric. It's GENIUS, you think. So amazing that you start planning the rest of your life with the knowledge that you have your golden ticket.  And then you are like this...


for the rest of the day. Until...

2.  It's Time To Write -  After you let the idea germinate for a while, you finally sit down to start your masterpiece.  But just as you place yourself in front of your computer, staring at a blank screen with that fucking blinking cursor, your apartment suddenly feels a little too dirty. So, of course, you have to clean it.  A good, deep cleaning. Then, once done with that, you're probably tired and you need some coffee.  Drive to the Starbucks?  Why do something silly like drive, when it takes six times as long to walk?  Hell, it's nice out, right?  In fact, it's so nice out, skip the Starbucks down the block, and stroll to the one a few miles away.  And once you've secured your coffee and have walked home, you, of course, need to relax for a bit before you get started with your creative masterpiece, so you check your TiVo:  "oooh, House Hunters International in Croatia?  Well, I need to watch that just in case I'm ever in the market for Eastern European property!" So, once you watch that, then take a nap (of course), you finally write.  And it's a beautiful three or so hours of straight writing.  You're nailing it.  You're on top of the world.  That is, until you review your work.

Because it sucks.  And then....



Because your life is over.  All your dreams are shattered because your story, as always, was better in your head.  But you keep working at it because you're a slave to your own misery, have nothing better to do, and have tied any possible future happiness to your writing.  You drag yourself through the highs and lows.  You find creative ways of taking breaks.  You commit your life to it.  You write write write, you edit edit edit until....

3) You're Finally Done!  -  Yes, it was a struggle. An epic struggle.  Blood, sweat, and tears ... and tears and tears and TEARS.  But you've worked countless hours, sacrificed all your social time, and now, you finally have a finished product you think is great. Congrats, right?  Well, maybe. Now, you're confident, and you can't wait to show it to friends and family for feedback.  Of course, they also think it's wonderful because you wrote it, and most friends aren't willing to give damning criticism because, well, they are your friends.  So, with all the confidence in the world, you're ready to...

4) Submit Your Work!  -  Agents, publishers, production companies, whoever.  And you're convinced that once one of these entities agrees to read it, they will do so in a timely fashion, call you a genius, and throw loads of money at you.  "This is so good," they'll say.  "We were going to give you a million for it, but why not two!  Hell, lets give you three! That's how much joy you've given us with your words."  But, of course, it doesn't take them three days to read, or even three weeks, if you're lucky, it takes three months. 

Now, all my career, I've heard this piece of advice regarding rejection: "Don't take it personally."  In fact, I've probably dispensed it myself.  But here's the honest truth:  You HAVE to take it personally.  How else should it be taken?  There is NOTHING more personal than writing.  Every word you write, every character you create, every story you concoct is part of you.  It's made up of your life experiences, your hopes and dreams, your darkest secrets, and everything else that makes you you.  It's complete exposure.  So when you get a dismissive rejection letter or phone call with some bullshit "I think I'm just not the right person to champion your project, but good luck" response, it hurts. It should hurt. How can it not hurt?  Because you spent eleventy billion hours baring your soul on the page, and while you know the reader will never care as much as you, you still feel that its been carelessly dismissed.  If that doesn't hurt, then your writing probably isn't very good. And if it doesn't make you a little...


Oh, Khaleesi, thank God you're back this weekend.  OK, enough digression.  But I love you.

...then you should go back to the drawing board. 

Anyway, the other cliche in the creative business is "it only takes one person to like it."  In Hollywood, that's not exactly true, but that's another conversation.  Which brings us to...

4) Someone wants your work and is willing to pay actual money for it.


It's the best feeling in the world.  No doubt.  Suddenly, your story storms through town, talent wants to do your script, people want to read your novel, whatever.  Compliments are heaped upon you, your self-esteem is sky high.  Then, of course, after the effusive praise is given, the inevitable question is uttered:  "So, is there going to be a sequel? What are you working on now?"   I've never had huge success, so I'm not sure what it feels like to have written something so popular that you never have to work again...but...

A buddy of mine recently sold his novel (and the movie rights. woo!). In fact, they enjoyed the story so much,  they've commissioned him to write a second novel on the same subject.  When I asked him about it, he said (paraphrasing):  "It's a rush of complete euphoria ... followed quickly by deep dread after I realized I have to come up with another novel."

And then you repeat some version of the process above. 



See? I guess it never stops.

Sure, it could be worse, but I have a feeling that anyone who has ever written anything can understand.

Anyway, happy Friday!  Go get your mega-millions tickets.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

BONUS BLOGGING! Guest Post About American Soccer

Admit it!  In the summer of 2010, you got interested in American Soccer.  You cheered when Landon Donovan scored that last second goal against Algeria to propel the USMNT into the World Cup elimination rounds.  You were, at least, mildly disappointed when we lost to Ghana a week later.  It was water cooler talk. You started to care!

So, were you looking forward to seeing how the American's would fare during the 2012 Olympics?  Well, you're out of luck because the American U-23 team shit the bed in qualifying.  My buddy Mike was kind enough to write an in-depth (and quite passionate), guest post detailing the loss, it's effect on American soccer, and the future of our team.  On a personal note, as a casual fan, I've grown more interested in US soccer and figured the 2012 Olympics would be a nice showcase for its growing future. Something to help build further interest for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  So much for that!  I have often heard that the "fun" of being a soccer fan is the constant state of disappointment and misery.  Join in the "fun" below!

Here's Mike's take:


I had to watch everything via the streaming feed on my 24-inch computer monitor. At times, the feed stuck, went out completely for a few seconds, or simply sputtered. But the most important moment of all was crystal clear. As Sean Johnson bobbled the hapless 40-yard shot deep into stoppage time, I watched in disbelief as the ball caromed off his hands
and with a bastard's backspin, trickled over his feet -- bouncing once,
twice, and finally over the line for the third time, into the back of his
net.

El Salvador goal. Game tied 3-3. We needed a win to advance. A tie would
leave us crashing out at the group stage without even the opportunity at a
winner-take-all semifinal for a shot at this year's Olympic games in
London.

When the referee blew his whistle seconds later, Freddy Adu was already
crying. Terrence Boyd, who had been sucker punched once and bloodied, hung
his head low and sobbed as fresh gauze still plugged his nose and mouth.
Everywhere, the U.S. Under-23 Men's National team players were
collapsing to the field in disbelief. Sean Johnson himself was apoplectic with grief. Viewers
at home watching him gripped in the embrace of his fellow teammate, Bill
Hamid, could clearly read his lips as he said over and over "I had it. I
had it."

But they never did. Not once.

A 6-0 drubbing of 10-man Cuba led to a fiasco of a loss to an inspired
Canadian team, 2-0. Going into the El Salvador game needing a win was
the least of our problems, though. Fans are saying it now -- but they
wouldn't admit to it earlier. Heck, the coaches were almost admitting the fact by calling
reporters out on the notion: the team believed their own hype.

So now we're not going to the Olympics. At least not for soccer.
People were talking of medaling this year, but we won't even have a
team on a charter to Heathrow in August. That's the bottom line. But
the silver lining is a bit more mysterious, and fans, both casual and
die hard -- are asking it. What the hell does it all mean?

Is the sky falling? No.

Is this a huge step back? No.

In short, we just suck right now. We're just not there. It's tough for me
to admit that, but it's true. And yes, I know -- "suck" is a catch-all and
a vacuous term to use as an indictment of a sports program. But really,
it's apt. It's a combination of things, you see -- from coaching, to player
development, to an endemic sports culture issue. But I'm gonna try hard to
break it down for you, baby birds, because I still think there is hope on
the horizon.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. "Hope?" Seriously? We just watched
the most devastating loss in U.S. Soccer history and somehow there's a
silver lining of hope?  Yes. And because for every rainy day there is a
rainbow. There might not be a pot of gold (medals) at the end of it in this
case, but there is still a great example to follow. I hereby give you our
friends south of the border. Mexico.

You see, 2007 was a horrible year for Mexican football. They had
budding young stars on a stacked Gold Cup roster that June -- and
steamrolled into the final looking like a locomotive firing on all
cylinders. And then a funny thing happened. They ran into the United
States. Even die-hard fans of the U.S. saw an up-and-coming team full
of unproven new stars with a few holdovers and some aging vets. They
were coached by Bob Bradley -- who that year could have won an award
for Most Boring Human in Press Conferences.  They seemed to stumble
into the final, riding a wave of luck past Canada in the semifinals to
their matchup with El Tri. And then an even funnier thing happened. Mexico
lost to us.

The United States came back from a goal down and beat el tricolores
2-1. Regional bragging rights notwithstanding, the defeat meant Mexico
would lose out on a place in the 2009 Confederations Cup -- a
quadrennial tune-up to the World Cup in the host country one year
ahead of the big dance. It would be a clear chance to test some fringe
players and some tactics -- possibly even to get used to the climate
and altitude in South Africa. Mexican players would only go if on
vacation.

Then, to add insult to injury, the year of our Lord 2008 rolled around
-- and with it came Olympic qualifying. The team's young stars were
still hungry and determined after summer 2007 -- and were without a
doubt the most technically talented group of footballers in the
tournament. However, the team had the gross misfortune of being
coached by a man named Hugo Sanchez -- who was a terrific player in
his day, maybe Mexico's best, but one who firmly believed he was the
closest thing to a walking God since Cuauhtémoc. He was a hype machine
personified, and thought his team could simply step on the field and
Jedi-mind-trick everyone into conceding victory. Problem was, no one
did. Mexico crashed out at the group stage. Their only victory was
over -- you guessed it, Cuba.

This meant Beijing 2008 would be open to the Mexican team only as
tourists. To this day, the Mexican federation can neither confirm nor
deny that any players made their way to China or cried upon watching a
country like Nigeria bobble their way all the way to the silver medal.

Anyway, Sanchez was fired, and on came a man named Javier Aguirre...
who only wished that he somehow managed to coach the Under-20 national
team come 2009. But he didn't. He was in charge of the full men's
national team that had to watch their younger generation lay a big fat
goose egg in qualification for the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt that year
-- which completed the pattern of two missed youth international
championships in two years to compliment their full team's failure.
Immediately, questions came pell mell:

Are we done?
Has the world passed us by?
Why do we suck so bad?
Are our young stars really entitled brats that have no heart?
Should we take up badminton or something?

Even the Mexican press starting teasing their players in press
conferences about the team's futility. In turn, at one point the
players themselves started blaming reporters. Forward Nery Castillo
took part in a heated press junket in late 2009 that Telemundo had
to cut away from because he and a local El Diario reporter got into an
expletive-laden exchange about what it meant to be "Mexican." It was
deemed ill suited for the consumption of impressionable youth.

But therein lied the problem. The youth. Mexico, it seemed, wasn't
churning out any young talent. Or at least any young talent that could
get the job done. On the surface, this was a comfortable argument to
make -- and one bandied about in press circles and on message boards
ad nauseum. But really, it couldn’t have been further from the truth.

And to understand Mexico’s current state in 2012, we have to flash
back once more. We have to look back ten years -- specifically, to the
afternoon of June 17, 2002. It’s a date that most Mexicans dread. In a
hundred-year sports history, it’s still nationally recognized as the
country’s footballing nadir. As my friend Mizael refers to it,
it’s La Gran Putada. Because as much as Mexico might have tried and
failed to win a World Cup over the preceding hundred or so years,
while punching above their weight, or playing down a level given the
opponent, they had still never let anything befall them as crippling
as the loss they would witness that day. A loss to the USA in a World
Cup knockout game.

June 17, 2002 was a new beginning for both countries. For the USA, it
made the game relevant, for once, in a country that
had consistently thumbed its nose at the sport. For Mexico, it was the
grandest of wakeup calls, a comeuppance that in most people’s wildest
dreams couldn’t have come closer to being anyone’s worst nightmare.
And after that day, Mexico vowed to sure as shit never let anything
like that happen again. Like, ever.

For the first time, the federation realigned how its club teams worked
to produce young talent and stratified its youth academies. The sport’s
governing body demanded that money be funneled into these programs and
go towards scouting, training, and coaching. Whereas before, the
national team held regional youth camps that traveled around the
country to scout its budding stars, within two years, the task was
solely up to Mexican club teams to farm their youngsters and develop
from within. The implements and change came about as a direct result
of the United States game – and we see the results bearing fruit
today. It’s ten years later, and Mexico is a juggernaut.

The 2010 World Cup was supposed to be a coming-out party for the USA.
After going all the way to the final of the Confederations Cup in
2009, some expected the team to make a legitimate run at a place in
the semifinals. In the end, we barely made it out of our easiest group
ever thanks to a last-gasp goal against a woeful Algeria. Even then,
we used all that momentum only to lose to Ghana in the first knockout
round.

How did Mexico fare after missing out on their youth tournaments and
the Confederations Cup in 2009? The same. They met with Argentina in
the first knockout phase in the World Cup and played a great game only
to lose by a pair of heartbreaking goals.

Now, it’s March of 2012 and we’ve traded places with Mexico. We lost
the 2011 Gold Cup final, fell flat on our faces in 2009 with our
Under-20 team, which ably laid the foundation for a giant
shitting-of-the-bed with our Olympic Under-23 team earlier this week.
We’re running 0-3 and now the only thing that stands between us and a
big fat piece of footballing oblivion is a place in the World Cup 2014
in Brazil. I think we’ll qualify, and you know why? Because as much as
our teams have sucked – our individual players have never been better.

And that's what's so strikingly odd about this debacle. And yes, it's
a debacle on a semi-grand scale. The U.S. exists in a region
equivalent to footballing Siberia and international competitions (ones
that mean something) are few and far between. Missing out on the
Olympics is a big deal because now a group, nay -- a whole generation
of young players will not be able to test their mettle at a point in
their careers that weeds out the haves from the have-nots. We simply
won't know the ceiling of these players at the highest level. It will
always be a mystery.

The truth of the matter is that no one can measure long term progress
with short term results. Since 2002, we've been on an upwards
trajectory that only leveled out last year. In order to move forward,
you have to take a step back. Like Mexico, we've taken three of them.
And if history is any indication, we should come back from this in due
course like Lazarus wearing a toga emblazoned with stars and stripes.

Major League Soccer has kept growing since its inception sixteen years
ago. The American player pool continues to expand with each and every
passing year. For the first time now in history, the United States
goes into youth tournaments in our region as favorites. The last few
results have been as much the byproduct of growing pains as a result
of an identity crisis. Whereas the 2002 World Cup team went into the
tournament with the biggest of chips on their shoulders, now, our
teams shoulder the burden of expectation.

Buying into the hype is a rite of passage for a sports fan – the
instant your team crosses the Rubicon from fledgling to force is a
watershed moment all sports fans should be entitled to. The problem
is, the athletes always have to prove their worth and can never get
complacent. That crucible exists strictly for observers and pundits –
the people who have no shot at ever stepping on the field where the
cream has to rise to the top. Complacency begets failure, and the hype
machine will churn you up and spit you out just as quickly as it took
for the ride to the top.

Don’t believe me?

Ask Mexico.






 




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What March 28th Means To Me: Supreme Court Healthcare Debates

I won't pretend I'm an expert in this field, but I am more than a casual observer, so I figured I'd throw in my two cents regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate, and whether or not I find it "fair" to implement the most controversial part of the law.  I don't think there will be any surprises here!

After listening to the arguments from both sides, I couldn't help but feel that "legalese" and business ethics were clouding basic common sense.  While I completely understand why opponents of the law do not want to set a precedence in which the federal government forces you to purchase products from private enterprise, we have to step back and realize that healthcare is a very unique business.  For one, health is not a luxury, and we as a community should support each other in an effort to provide basic healthcare for everyone.  If that means that all citizens must pay into the system (which effectively is a tax/think Medicare) to keep premiums down, then so be it.  Also, it is law in this country that emergency rooms cannot turn away patients with acute illnesses (as well we shouldn't).  The costs of this law amount to 50 billion a year in unpaid medical costs that's essentially on the government's dime.  I heard someone on NPR say it best (I'm paraphrasing):  If your favorite college basketball team makes the Final Four and you don't have a TV in which to watch the game, you can't storm into Best Buy and demand one because of your allegiance.  But if you have a heart attack, you will be treated in the emergency room regardless of whether or not you have insurance. 

We are still the only country in the world with a functional healthcare system that doesn't cover its citizens universally.  If this means we all have to buy into a system to keep costs down, then that should be law.  Healthcare is not a car.  It's not a TV.  We all either need it, know someone who needs it, or will need it at some point in our lives, and considering we live in a community of equal citizens, affluent people should not be able to play God with the ones truly affected by this decision. 

Obviously, a single payer system is either years and years away, or is just a pipe dream, so if we must play within what already exists (a mostly privatized system), then the rules for Healthcare should be made to fit this system.  And if it's "unprecedence" that's influencing the Supreme Court's decision, it wouldn't be the first time they made a unique ruling for one specific case (Bush v. Gore being a famous, recent one).  For opponents who think this is the first step into complete government takeover, grow up. 

---

At some point soon, I'm gonna have to write some lulz.  It's been a while since we had lulz.  Bring on the lulz!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What March 27th Means To Me: TiVo

Why does my Tivo only record the Iceland episode of No Reservations?

Maybe its a sign.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What March 24-26th Means To Me: Hunger Games Thoughts

That popping sound you hear is from the champagne corks at the Lionsgate offices.
The Hunger Games proved itself to be the shiniest object in the American zeitgeist this weekend, as it broke all sorts of records on its way to a 155 million dollar box office gross.  For those that care about box office numbers (I've always found them interesting from a sociological standpoint), that's third highest all time, and the highest opening for a non-sequel (it was only bested by the last Harry Potter flick and the Dark Knight.)  Though experts predicted it may make less money because it was a franchise debut, I think The Hunger Games might have more staying power for the same reason.  Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 2's gaudy 169 million opening represented 44 percent of it's total gross, probably because most Harry Potter fans saw it that weekend, and people who were never invested in the series certainly weren't going to start with the 8th installment.  I believe people who originally had no intention of seeing The Hunger Games may give it a shot considering it's the first in the series, thus giving them the ability to get in on the ground floor. 

Though I suppose movies are never as good as their source material, the film adaptation of the Hunger Games is, well, damn close.  An incredibly faithful adaptation of the book, the film hits all the correct beats and, though it couldn't add all the great scenes from the novel, it effectively brought to life a story that is more difficult than one might think.    

Here's some random thoughts:

I actually like "Movie Katniss" better than "Book Katniss":  Katniss is a character with a ton of admirable attributes.  She's brave, yet vulnerable.  Unrefined, but refreshingly honest.  She loves her family and would do anything to protect them.  She's a loyal friend that has strict morals in a moral-less society.  And these traits were all wonderfully displayed in the movie, and Jennifer Lawrence's performance really carried the entire film.  But "Book Katniss" also has a whiny side.  While in the arena, she's constantly mentions that her "love" for Peeta is a sham, just a show to keep them alive, and, at times, she sounds like a 2nd grade girl complaining about cooties.  "Book Katniss" can also be, well, catty.  She's quick to make fun of the first names of the District 1 tributes, and isn't shy about criticizing capital couture.  She, at times, presents a "holier than thou" attitude. While both Katniss's are rough around the edges, I couldn't picture the film version of her displaying much bitterness.  And that's a good thing. 

Wonderfully Casted:  Going into the movie, I had a general good feeling about the cast (with maybe the exception of Josh Hutcherson), but I have to say they all showed up.  I think the only casting choice I had an issue with (and this is REALLY nitpicky) was Clove, for no other reason than she's not what I pictured.  And the only scene in the entire movie I took umbrage with was the one in which Clove almost killed Katniss at the Cornucopia (the second time).  I can't remember how the scene was handled in the book, but the whole "I'm gonna talk to you for a while and admit my sins when I could just kill you" was a bad story technique I wish they did without. 

The Mockingjay Pin:  There was something about the emotional scene where Prim gave Katniss her newly acquired Mockingjay pin that gave me some inner lulz.  In the novel, Katniss receives the pin from Madge, the mayor's daughter, who didn't make the movie cut.  So, for the film, Katniss finds the pin in the Seam, and gives it to Prim moments before heading to the reaping to "protect her."  Now, we don't know the child population of District 12,  but lets put the highest odds of Prim's selection at .2% (assuming there's 1000 children in the District 12 age range and 500 are girls. Add the fact that Prim had never taken a tessera, giving her only one entry in the lottery and, well...is my math right? I got shit math grades in high school for a reason).  Anyway, pretty low odds she beat, some good that Mockingjay pin did her.  So after Katniss volunteers as tribute, and Prim says her farewell, she, of course, returns the Mockingjay pin for Katniss's protection.  Prim should have said, "Katniss, we should burn this fucking thing."

Katniss/Cinna:  Because a movie clearly can't include everything, their relationship got the short end of the stick.  It was arguably my favorite in the book, and though they shared some nice moments on screen, I couldn't tell how well their relationship was developed because my mind automatically fleshed it out with what I remember from the novel. Though, my favorite scene in the entire movie was the one they share seconds before Katniss entered the arena. 

Scenes I Missed:   I really missed two moments from the book.   1) The scene in which Katniss receives the bread from District 11 after Rue dies. (I actually liked the District 11 riot choice, though).  2) There was a moment in the book when Haymitch realizes that he finally has two contenders in Katniss and Peeta, and vocalizes the opinion.  It was a nice moment where they officially won him over. 

Biggest Surprise: How roundly mocked the Twilight teaser was.  Though the Hunger Games is a movie that will have more general appeal than Twilight, it seemed a lot of teen girls in my theater were laughing and poking fun at the preview.  Perhaps Twilight's time has passed, and the kids are on to the new thing?  Maybe much of the Twilight audience has simply grown out of it and turned on the thing they once loved (hardly shocking)?  Either way, I expect that last Twilight movie to do just fine at the box office, but I wonder if it will do as well as it's predecessors.

Where Do We Go From Here:  As I've written before on the blog, I think the Hunger Games books get progressively worse, with the third book bordering on horrible.  The beauty of the first one is how personal the story is.  It's a tale of survival and the sacrifices we make for loved ones.  The next two books concern Katniss's fight against an oppressive government, and the story becomes entirely too big for the arc.  It's incredibly interesting to learn about Panem, the games, and Katniss's life in the first book, but a young adult story about a 16-18 year old girl leading a revolution?  Eh ... it just doesn't hold up, but may the odds be ever in their favor.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What March 23rd Means To Me: The Hunger Games Opens


Clearly, I'm very excited.  And if the lines around the corner of your local movie theater are any indication, a decent sized percentage of the public is too.

I've kept my head out of most of the reviews, though I know word has been good, and yes, I'm fully aware the movie will not be as good as the book. And though the trailer provides hints of the storytelling, I am excited to see how director Gary Ross handled one certain aspect of the book.


Katniss's POV/POV of Panem

For those who don't know, the Hunger Games itself is a televised fight to the death in an enormous arena.  Cameras are omnipresent (and hidden), but every single one of their moves is captured for all of Panem to witness.  Since the book is written in first person style (from Katniss's point of view), the author allowed us to plunge into the arena with Katniss and, though the fact that it was a TV show wasn't forgotten, the author never really dealt with the logistics because she didn't need to.  And we never saw how the public reacted to the events in the arena, though we could infer here and there. 

But movies, unfortunately, cannot truly be told in the first person.  Within the world of the book, our minds can fill in the blanks, allowing us to imagine how, for example, District 11 reacts after Katniss's swan song to Rue.  But since movies fill in the blanks for you, and we need to be constantly reminded of the power of the television show, handling this dichotomy was probably one of the major challenges to the director.  My best guess is that he jumps back and forth, and does so in a way that provides an intimate look into Katniss's time within the arena, while still displaying the power of the games to the Panem public. I imagine cuts to district wide viewing parties in large public squares.  Cheering sections and tears. Stuff like that.  Also, since, I assume, Prim will be character throughout the movie, we'll see glimpses of her watching Katniss in the arena from her home in District 12.  It'll be interesting to see how Ross pullsthis all off. 

Other thoughts...

The Love Triangle

I keep hearing people claiming things like, "I'm so glad they didn't pull a Twilight and concentrate on the love triangle (between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale)."  Every time I hear this, I wonder if they read the same book as I did.  While Collins's kind of forcefeeds us the love triangle in the second two books, it's not really all that existent in the first.  There's so much that needs to be established about the world and games, that the "love triangle" mainly exists in the background.  I can't imagine a movie version of this that features a love triangle considering Gale really isn't in the book all that much (save for in Katniss's thoughts from time to time).

The Money Scene

The scene in which Katniss and the other tributes first enter the arena has the potential to be the most intense, coolest scene in the movie.  Can't wait to see this one.

Social Commentary

Much has been made of the social commentary behind The Hunger Games, though I'm not sure of how much of it was intended to go beyond a surface level.  Though it certainly touches on the idea of totalitarianism (bad!), class warfare (badder!), oppression (baddest!), the book only lightly broached the subject and mostly concentrated on Katniss's personal story.  Sure, there are discussion points that can be created from the text, but the book doesn't really dwell on making some grand statement and never hints of any intention to do so.  I hope the movie doesn't either, as it would be a poor platform for it.

Lookin forward to tonight!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What March 20-21 Means To Me: My Open Letter To Jets Fans On Tim Tebow

Dear Jets Fans,

You're gonna love Timothy Richard Tebow.  Yes, love him. I promise.  I know some of you are upset, and don't understand why the Jets engineered a trade for a quarterback who "can't throw," but trust me, you're going to be pleasantly surprised. 

I'm a lifelong Broncos fan that loves Broncos football pretty much more than ...well...anything in my entire life.  I am not a Tebowite that thinks he's invincible, predestined to be a huge star, or a demigod. I'm beyond happy that we got Peyton Manning, and fully understand that Tim no longer had a place on our team. But I've watched every single one of his snaps (pre-season,regular season, playoffs) and most of them more than once. Hell, I've watched Tim Tebow tape more than a 17 year old boy watches porn.  If you're interested in how he can help your team, read on.  If you're going to hate him for his Christian beliefs (and trust me, nothing he ever says is all that interesting), feel free to stop reading now.

Let's first discuss what Tim Tebow does poorly:

He is woefully inaccurate:  His completion percentage is under 50 percent, this is common knowledge.  This is partially because he never checks down (instead always looking for the big play), and partially because the mental side of his game isn't where it needs to be.  Also, his long motion isn't all that bothersome, but his terrible footwork is.  Some high school quarterbacks have better footwork than Tim.  Honest truth.  Because of this, he's pretty shit at short and intermediate routes.  When he's in rhythm, he can hit these, but that's not often.  Having said that, some of his failure as a passer is due to some pretty crappy scheming by the Broncos offensive staff.  Because we would usually max protect (and rarely spread the field), we normally ran verticals without a checkdown option.  It's hard to complete passes deep downfield when all three guys are covered and there's no outlet.  

He can't read defenses:  Not much at all.  He is way behind in the mental part of the game.  If he faces a cover-three, he'll drop back, notice his first read isn't available, panic, and look for room to run.  This often ends with little to no gain because, generally, the linebacker spying him is all over it.  Tim isn't all that subtle or elusive.   He didn't face a ton of cover-2, but if opposing safeties are somewhat competent, he's kind of useless on this front too.  He did start figuring out how to look off a safety in cover-one (see Pittsburgh), but he certainly hasn't mastered that either (see Buffalo). Because of his inability to decipher these, he generally holds the ball too long.  He hates throwing into tight spaces (which, in the NFL, in a major problem), and has little ability to "throw receivers open" (this may improve in time, but right now its an issue). 

Now, mastering the above is pretty essential to great quarterbacking, but you can pretty much ignore everything I wrote because, if my assumption is correct, Tim won't have to put those skills (or lack thereof) to much use.  Considering the Jets just extended Sanchez for three more seasons, and also signed Drew Stanton to be a back-up, my best guess is that Tim will only play spot duty, much like Brad Smith used to play for you guys (and you missed the change of pace last season, didn't you?).  Except here's the thing:  Tim Tebow is 1,000,000 times better at it than Brad Smith.

Now, let's talk about what Tim Tebow does really well.

The read-option:  The Broncos were a crappy passing team last year.  Everyone knew it.  Yet we still somehow led the league in rushing while facing consistent 8 and, many times, 9 man fronts.  The read-option (which I break down fully here) is not a "gimmick" that teams will "figure out" and, therefore, will become obsolete.  It's not a simple wildcat play that you were used to with Brad Smith (that had little to no passing threat).  What the read option does is create a natural mismatch between the offense and defensive front seven.  And because Tim is so damn good at reading it, teams generally need to keep two defenders committed to the back side of the play to guard against him keeping the ball to the weak side (and even, sometimes, they overcommit to the strong side, leaving Tim with wide open running room).  Because of this, there's a natural mismatch on the strongside (usually a 7 on 6 or an even 7 on 7), and that equals yardage.  Afraid you don't have any backs that can effectively run the read option?  No worries.  Willis McGahee had never ran it prior to last season either and, after one week of practicing it, he was gashing the Raiders defense for over 150 yards, and finished with a 1,200 yard season.  If you face a team with two incredibly athletic defensive ends (who can recover quickly), it's more easily controlled, but there aren't many teams that have this. 

Timmy can throw it long:  One obvious way of stopping the read option is by committing 9 guys to the line, but we see how well that worked for Pittsburgh.  There's a misconception that Tim has a weak arm, but trust me, he can make all the NFL throws.  He can place a really nice deep ball, and did so several times to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker throughout the 2011 season.  This keeps the defense honest and will open up more lanes in the running game.  Plus, Tim hasn't even started sixteen games in the NFL.  His throwing and recognition skills will improve.  He may never be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but any improvement will just enhance his running ability in the read option because play action out of this formation can be very troublesome for unsuspecting defenses. 

Now, the Broncos pretty much used this offense exclusively, and that isn't sustainable without a more credible passing threat.  But in bits and pieces, it'll make for a great change of pace because 1) defenses won't be used to it on gameday, and football is a game that relies on quick reactions and 2) defenses will have to prepare for it in practice, distracting them from normal preparation.  The more you throw at a team, the better.  Tim is also incredible at extending plays out of any formation.  Sometimes this works to his detriment (he fumbles), but often it can lead to a big gain that wouldn't be there if not for his escapability.  Also, he generally doesn't throw too many picks.  So you don't have to worry about that. 

But best of all...

The Goal line:  Mark my words, Tim Tebow is THE best goal line threat in the league.  Bar none.  In fact, off the top of my head, I can only remember one set where Tim did not score from the 3 and in (a failed 2-point conversion against Minn.)  Because of his size and amazing nose for the endzone (mixed with his ability to pass...watch out for the jump pass), he's unstoppable here.  For YEARS, the Broncos had trouble scoring from the 5 yard line and in, it was our annual Achilles heel.  Those problems disappeared overnight when we drafted Tim; he's too much of a duel threat in this area.  Think Michael Vick, if Michael Vick had the strength of a dominant full back.  If NOTHING else, he will have success here. In fact, you guys saw this in that game at Mile High in 2010. 

But, perhaps most of all, you're gonna love his attitude.  I'm a born and raised New Yorker, and I know New Yorkers ADORE passionate guys who play physical.  Remember Anthony Mason from those 90's Knicks teams?  Meet your new Anthony Mason (albeit a more Christian one).  He loves contact and isn't afraid of anyone.  He's gonna truck guys, he's gonna make plays, he's gonna score touchdowns, and because he won't be relied upon every down, he's going to be a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.  Plus, and this is well documented, he's got ice water in his veins.  Nothing fazes him.  It's infectious to his teammates. And you gotta love that in any football player. 

Sure, there's media hoopla that surrounds him, but you guys have a weapon.  And for what?  Essentially a high 4th round pick.

Not bad.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What March 20th Means To Me: The Walking Dead Finale Thoughts

The uncertain future of The Walking Dead was propelled into an entirely new direction during a gruesome finale that finally breathed a little life into a stale plot, restoring a sense of uncertainty and danger that was sorely lacking during the entire second season.  We spent far too much time inside the safe confines of Herschel's farm, so much so that I felt the herd of zombies that overran it was the metaphorical audience insisting that our characters do something else other than argue with eachother and tut tut about morality and whatever the hell we wasted twelve weeks doing. 

But even though the show effectively reintroduced terror and uncertainty, it also proved that it has a lot of work to do.  Because while the battle scene was intense, I never had any fear that we'd lose some of our main characters.  In fact, I was hoping some would be killed off.

The fatal flaw of the show still exists within its nucleus:  these boring ass people.  Earlier this season, we were promised that Daryl would pull a Sarah Palin and "go rogue," but he's settled on falling in line and just looking badass with his crossbow and very loud motorcycle.  I'm not sure if Carol and T-Dogg have their names in the opening credits, but if I'm the agent of Rick's red truck or, hell, even a blade of grass that blows in the wind on the side of the highway, I'd fight for my clients' names to appear alongside them because those characters serve about as much purpose as house plants.  I suppose I enjoyed Andrea's solo mission after she was separated from the group, though I still take issue with her character arc as a whole.  Her sudden transition from delicate, suicidal fawn to the cocky Annie Oakley was never properly explored.  Now she's this killing machine with incredible marksmanship.  (Actually, they all are.  A couple of weeks ago they were learning to shoot guns in Shane's gung-ho shooting clinic, now they are blasting non-stationary targets between the eyes from moving vehicles.  That Shane must be one good teacher.)  And after we roll our eyes at Maggie and Glen's thin romance, all we are left with is TV's worst family: The Grimes Clan. 

Actually, I am enjoying Rick's struggle with leadership because it's clearly something he's not used to, and right now, this is probably the strength of the show.  As a sheriff, we were lead to believe that he was always in control, used to having the right answers, and thought of himself as honorable.  But now, in this new world, his decisions are backfiring and the instincts he once trusted have betrayed him.  His leadership comes not from powerlust, but from love and the desire to keep his group safe.  This could be an effort to inflate his self-worth, but I suppose no good deed is completely selfless.  Rick's speech to the group about killing Shane could have used the help of some political spin (next time, immediately claim self defense, don't start with "I killed my best friend for you people"), but the seed of desire to kill Shane was implanted by the insufferable Lori, who desperately told him that his best friend was danger to the group. Which leads me to the scene where I realized that maybe the Walking Dead really learned nothing.

During the private moment in which Rick confessed to Lori that he killed Shane, she was shocked and appalled as if it wasn't her idea all along.  But even though the notion of her husband as a cold blooded murderer was difficult enough to handle, she seemed to keep it together until Rick evoked ....


Of course. Carl and his dumbass hat.  Because just when the creators think their scenes need more emotion and motivation, they always bring up Carl.  Everytime they are on the brink of something new, chaotic, and interesting, they reground it in the hackneyed "childhood innocence" plot line.  So, of course, after Rick informed Lori that Carl shot "zombie Shane," she was inconsolable.  Fuck it, just have the cast sing "We Are The World," around their campfire. Seriously, can we kill Carl just so the creative team isn't tempted to use him as a crutch?  The show might switch locations and ramp up the gore, but really, it's just the same bullshit every week and causes the tense scenes to feel unearned.

Also, before I conclude, the show, once again, reaches nonsensical conclusions to motivate their actions.  The group could question Rick's leadership due to his obvious unraveling (and the declaration that their little community was no longer a "democracy," though, really, when was it ever?), but instead Carol suggests that Rick's hiding of some pointless info (the fact that they are all carriers of the virus) creates mistrust and causes doubt as to whether or not he should lead.  Even Glenn steps on the pedestal and infers that this omission of information is somehow a death knell to his leadership. Who gives a fuck?  What does this have to do with staying alive?  Why do they continue to find bullshit reasons when clearer ones exist?  No, it's not the characters new heightened reality that causes them to make strange decisions and focus on odd details.  It's shoddy writing, plain and simple. 

And that's really the issue with the Walking Dead.  It's a great concept and an admirable effort to show how humans (communities) deal with a new world order in a post-apocalyptic society.  But we've spent hours and hours in these characters lives and heads only to discover that they aren't all that likeable.  And not in the Tony Soprano way where you like him even though he's bad.  These characters are just poorly developed and uninteresting.

I haven't read the comic book, but next season certainly looks like it's headed in more of a, well, "comic book" direction.  With the introduction of a hooded, katana wielding zombie slayer, and the promise of the prison I hear so much about (the last image of the show), it appears the show might take on a new feel.

I hope it's for the better. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

What March 16th-19th Mean To Me: Weekend Thoughts

How was your weekend?  Good?



Sweet.  Just a few thoughts about mine:

More Old Reminders!   I spent the vast majority of my weekend doing work in various cafes in an effort to keep my surroundings fresh.  During the Saturday night dinner hour, I overheard the following conversation between four friends who appeared to be in their mid 20's.

Friend 1: So I've been watching this old show on Netflix.  It's called Cheers.
Friend 2: What's that?
Friend 1: You know, have you ever seen the show Frasier?
Friend 3: Oh!!! Right right. I know that show.  What's that show about again?
Friend 1: It's about this guy that owns this bar.  (That's what Sam Malone has been reduced to).
Friend 2: Cool, was that show popular?
Friend 1: I'm not sure actually. 

That just speaks for itself.

Walking Dead:  I haven't watched it yet, so I can't tell you what parts of it sucked this week.

Nastia Liukin:  She looks pretty cute these days, must be all that Subway she's eating.  Eat fresh and all.  Still, I swear that characters in Street Fighter scream her name before they release that ball of fire attack. 

Hunger Games:  This friday! WOOO! 

Amazing Race:  The race stopped through Bavaria this weekend, and now I'd really like to go to Bavaria.  I always knew many fairy tales originated from there, but never actually saw footage of the small towns that exist within that old German region.  A lot of my Euro fascination comes from childhood interest in fairy tales, and as I've said, part of my Swedish interest is based on false information I got long ago that claimed many fairy tales were set in Sweden.  Regardless, after seeing these quaint towns, I want to go.  Maybe the next vacation.

It Looks Like, as of a few min ago, Peyton Manning is a Bronco.  If this is true, I'm bustin, Jerry, I'm bustin!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What March 14th and 15th Mean To Me: Back To The Future in the 1980's

The other day, someone brought to my attention the fact that if "Back To The Future" were made today, and used the same time frame of jumping back 30 years, the movie would be set in 1982. 


Yeah, old.  But my first thought upon hearing the above wasn't "Oh shit, I'm old," it was, "Geez, that'd be a shitty movie."  Clearly, I wasn't born in the 1950's, and my knowledge of it is limited to stories, movies, television, and history books, but it seems that it was a decade we view with reverence (even in 1985, clearly.) 1950's and 60's America is generally portrayed as a booming time of innocence, a great time to live in America, and were decades that were still feeding off the American camaraderie fostered by WW2.  The 50's also appears to be a period chock full of iconic images and sounds that conjure positive feelings.  Whether it be the old style movie theater, the cars, the newspapers, the diners, the songs, the clothes, or the language, the 1950's displayed in "Back To The Future" successfully beats the nostalgia drum.

Now, imagine trying to make a "Back To The Future" about the 1980's.  What's the first thought that pops into your head?  Ugly cars, clothes, and graffiti?  What iconic images would even exist that make the 80's (and beyond) an appealing place to be?  If we were to recreate the scene in which Marty introduces the 1950's crowd to rock and roll by covering Chuck Berry, what would be today's equivalent?  Marty rapping "Dre Day?"  Marty screaming "to the window to the wall to the sweat drip down my balls?" What about the scene in which Lorraine accosts Marty in the 1950's car?  Would that be as fun to do in a Volkswagen Cabriolet?  Or some 1980's Chevy pick up?  I would love to see an attempt that handles the 1980's with the same respect as BTTF did the 1950's.  Is it possible? Because it seems like every movie about the 80's is a comedy that does little more than cheaply poke fun at the culture.  Why is nothing in the 80's positively iconic? 

I was talking about this with my brother, and he posited the reason is because we've become such a disposable society.  And there is a lot of truth to that, as I don't think we value goods like we once did, due to the sheer volume of products out there and the expectation that they all have short shelf lives (know anyone with a first gen iPhone?).  But were we like this in the 1980's?   Or would our perception of today's society cloud our viewpoint of a decade that really wasn't all that long ago? 

Perhaps it's that we've just collectively become more cynical.  Maybe society's move towards consolidating services into huge corporate entities have made us feel like less of a community.  Or maybe this is all just my perception and I'm completely wrong.  I really have no clue. 

Well, those are my poorly laid out thoughts of the day. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What March 13th Means To Me: Nothing!

But I did just read this fascinating Times article I figured I'd share.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/magazine/teenage-girls-twitching-le-roy.html?pagewanted=10

Salem in the 21st century?  Long article, but worth the read. The human body does strange things.  Just another reason to always consider the community as part of the individual. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

What March 10-12 Means To Me: Signs Of Life From The Walking Dead

I've spent a lot of time ripping the fabric of the Walking Dead, essentially equating it to a super talented athlete that would rather spend his time banging hookers and "making it rain," instead of honing his skills in the gym.  The show often drowns (while holding itself under) in needless plotlines and conversations that tend to drag episodes, and make the audience crave blood, or anything that's not a walk in the woods or a lightweight, philosophical conversation about life, death, and how the world will never be the same.

Well, last night, we got something a bit different, which hopefully will lead to a compelling season two finale next week.

For the first time all season, the characters of the Walking Dead allowed humanity to sink its teeth into their collective personality so that it, too, could rise from the dead.  Instead of taking their cues from B horror movies (or Hallmark cards), we were treated to an honest conversation between Shane and Lori, and some well earned tears while Andrea and Glenn reminisced about Dale fixing the Winnebago (even though it hasn't moved in what seems like 65 years).  Hey, even T-Dogg, who I'm convinced is afflicted with the same curse Eddie Murphy's character has in "A Thousand Words," warbled a few syllables to help advance the plot.  But the show's chief relationship reached a fever pitch in a hauntingly beautiful duel between Rick and Shane, after weeks of clunky build-up, unnatural fights, strange threats, and obvious observations.  The creators effectively unraveled Shane to the point where it was easy to believe he'd carelessly snap Randall's neck after slamming his own head into a tree, which inspired some kind of wild goose chase in the woods to isolate both he and Rick so they could, once and for all, settle their differences in the most primal fashion.  The scenes leading up to the Walking Dead's now famous fight were taut, tense, nuanced, and just...shockingly well done.  It would have been easy for the creators to prolong their fury towards eachother for another season, but to their credit, they realized they reached a point of no return and "resolved" their situation with a brutal death scene, thus shifting the show into overdrive. This, hopefully, will produce more interesting conflicts than searching for a missing girl in the woods, and deciding whether or not to kill a prisoner that really never seemed like that much of a threat in the first place.

But it's not all good...and for those who know my Walking Dead rants well, you know where this is headed. 


Oh, Carl, you ruin everything

I'm willing to forgive the strange mutation of the virus (which apparently now brings any dead back to life, regardless of whether he/she is bitten), I'm even willing to forgive the fact that Shane led Rick miles into the woods to some secluded place that was actually within shouting distance of.... Herschel's farm (odd)! Hell, I'm even willing to forget that Daryl, a character oozing with potential, has been relegated to no more than a human bloodhound.  But the show's fatal flaw is it's insistence to use Carl, or more broadly "childhood innocence," as it's foundation.  Though none of the characters are superbly thought out, over these past few weeks, we've seen a well developed downward spiral from Rick and Shane that plants seeds of doubt within the audience's inclination to trust them.  It's a compelling character study to see two hardened men used to making the right decisions crack under the pressure of an evolving society that they cannot comprehend, even if it's staring them straight in the eyes.  This boiling point has had a trickle down effect on the other characters who take their lead from these two men.  Their vitriol and indecision has permeated the rest of the group like a silent virus, and has warped their decisions to the point where insanity has become the new normal.  Because of this, the supporting characters have brief glimpses of lucidity that are often overwhelmed by the realization that they will never be the people they once were, and are now paranoid monsters who have lost the capability to truly value human life.   That is complex. That has the potential for something interesting.  But each time the show is caught in the middle of this creaky rope bridge that straddles an endless chasm, they ground it in Carl's plotline/character arc and simplify it to the point of complete boredom.  I get that Carl's young, I get that the Carl represents the future generation of this lost world, but there's only so much complexity and emotion you can draw from a twelve year old, because so much of his world is black and white.  Children don't make decisions, children don't fall in love, children generally don't have dark sides that aren't of the unnatural, horror-movie creepy type.  Not to mention, generally children are shitty actors and don't have the capacity to adequately pull off inner struggle.  Carl's strange arc in this episode (and season) was a consistent grinding halt to the faced paced nature of the quickly transforming relationships between the adults.  And with the small zombie army descending on Hershel's ranch for the season two finale, let's hope Carl's emergency brake doesn't get in the way of what potentially can bring some high-octane intensity.   

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bonus Hunger Games!

Need some econ lulz?

Matt Yglesias tackles the economy of Panem and the possible"Tesserae Inflation Issue"   I love a good wonky "criticism" of a dystopian YA novel, but it also got me thinking.

If you didn't click the link, the "tesserae" is explained as so...

Tessera (plural: tesserae) is an option available to children in the districts of Panem, who are eligible to participate in the Hunger Games. If their family is starving, they can add their name into the reaping draw more times in exchange for tesserae. Each tessera is worth a very meager year's supply of grain and oil for one person. However, this is not enough to survive by for a year as money for rent, soap, thread and candles are needed. The entries are cumulative.

Now, its established within the book that the Hunger Games have been around for over 50 years (i forget the exact figure) and that kids from some districts are actually raised as "career tributes," which essentially means that they are bred warriors in case they get selected.  They want to be selected because they were born for this.  Since the games are the defining aspect of Panem culture, it wouldn't be silly to believe that every district would have these career tributes, or it wouldn't be hard to raise some children as them.  After all, a culture influenced completely by violence would probably breed macho children eager to fight (like in Ancient Greece or Rome).  With this in mind, why couldnt each district isolate these career tributes and have them take thousands of Tessarae and distribute the food amongst the hungry? The career tribute would fill the lottery with his/her own name, thus nearly guaranteeing him/her a place in the games, which is essentially what he/she was born to do.  Hunger problem solved!

This would also improve the quality of the games because there would be no weak links within the arena.  It would be like an all-star Hunger Games each year.

Lets get re-writing, Collins!

What March 9th Means To Me: KONY 2012?

After seeing the following video populate my friends' Facebook pages and Twitter feeds like multiplying cockroaches, I finally decided to take the thirty minutes to watch the below:


For those who haven't seen it, or deem it too long to watch, essentially its a viral campaign, by the Invisible Children organization, to bring awareness to the Ugandan war criminal, Joseph Kony, who abducted thousands of children and enlisted them in his youth army in an effort to retain his power.  Kony's crimes redefine the word "appalling," and he has been recognized as a top war criminal by various international organizations.  Arresting Joseph Kony is a worthy endeavor, and one that would bring justice (or some kind of peace) to thousands of Africans who have been affected by his deplorable actions.
So, knowing all the above, why does this video bother me? 

I have to fully admit the video is 100 percent effective, and I have zero doubt that they've already made raised a ton of money for their cause.  With its slick design and manipulative tactics (using his child!), it not only challenges the general cognitive dissonance that usually accompanies these sorts of efforts, but the grass roots feel of the video creates the appearance of an underground movement that America's youth can grasp.  This could be the "cool cause" that helps assauge the guilt for a whole youth generation not partaking in more charitable endeavors.  Essentially, the video (which is an admitted experiment) attempts to be the iPhone of civil rights movements. 

Before I even searched the Google to verify skepticism, like you can find here, I was bothered by the fact that the video seemed to be more about the filmmakers efforts than about actually bringing Kony to justice.  My impression is they are more interested in building a community or movement without having much of a plan (as inspired by the Arab Spring).  And, of course, and perhaps this is the cynic in me, but it appears that the filmmakers may have a slight desire to be famous, and are using this movement to satisfy some subconscious need to feel important (and that's something I guess we all can relate to).  I couldn't help but feel that way after their whole spiel about targeting famous people, not to mention the constant attention given to the filmmaker himself.  Yes, this could be a way to personalize the message (and, actually, that works), but there is a twinge of narcissism there. After all, the filmmakers own kid thinks Daddy's job is to "fight the bad guys," which kind of puts Daddy on a pedestal. 

Also, for 30 dollars, apparently I can get a "kit," which includes a cool bracelet to show support for the movement, but I still don't understand the overall goal.  Even in the video they claim that Kony is in hiding, and isn't even in Uganda anymore.  His army has been severely neutered (from articles I've read), and it would be incredibly difficult to find him.   The US spent billions searching for Osama Bin Laden, had the power of the entire US army, and it still took nine years to capture him.  So, what exactly am I throwing my 30 dollars at?  Their video fund?

I'm not trying to be too much of a cynic here because I strongly believe that finding Kony and bringing him to justice is a worthy cause.  And hey, the video has people talking about his atrocities and me writing about it, so I suppose that is the overall point.  I just wish the movement had more of a direction and overall goal other than simply raising awareness in exchange for money.  I guess I'd feel more comfortable if it didn't seem like a sales pitch to buy their snazzy lil packet and bracelet.  I'm glad people are discussing and sharing this video, that is definitely important (and should be continued), but you might want to read up on the Invisible Children organization before plunking down the cash. 

Either way, its a beautiful piece of propaganda that hits the right emotions needed to take action.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What March 5th - March 8th Means To Me: Getting Excited

Every so often, a movie is released that stiffens the nipples to such an extent that it sends me to internet fan pages to consume information quicker than a fat kid eats chicken nuggets.  Then, just when I think I can't take anymore, my inner child screams, "MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MOAR NOW" 

On that note, I just bought my advanced tickets for The Hunger Games.

Yep, that's me.

Now, millions of people worldwide have read The Hunger Games, but an astonishing amount of my friends have not only not read it, but have no clue what it's even about.  When I mention the bestselling trilogy, the following conversation is generally a variation of this:

Me: Have you read The Hunger Games?
Person: Is that about Vampires?
Me: No.
Person: I heard it was about vampires.
Me: It's not about vampires.
Person: I don't like vampires.

Me either...good thing ITS NOT ABOUT VAMPIRES.

For those who don't know, here's how wiki summarizes The Hunger Games:

The Hunger Games is a young adult novel written by Suzanne Collins. It was originally published in hardcover on September 14, 2008, by Scholastic.[1] It is written in first person and introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, holds absolute power over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.

Great, now that that is established, allow me to say I'm not the world's biggest Hunger Games fan.  I found much of the second book to be a waste, and think the third book is actually just bad.  But that shouldn't take away the power and importance of the first book.  Though the story is set in a dystopian future, and many questions remain about the history of the future (that sounds weird), the story accurately taps into our current societal fears and intolerance.  Ideas of totalitarianism and oppression are hardly new, but for me, the story expertly portrays two points of view that hit on something that I've both written about and that truly scares me: the inability of a human to truly put themselves in another's shoes.  Within the world of the Hunger Games, an entire population of people see the tributes (contestants within the games) as widgets for their entertainment.  Through the pomp of the games (which is handled like we would the Super Bowl...times ten), we understand the characters as chess pieces.  Though the fans of the games know the contestants are human, and do care for them while they are in the games, there is true a disconnect between seeing them as pieces in a game and understanding them to be human.  But since the actual story is told from the point of view of one of the contestants, we also get an inside look of how it feels to be a pawn in someone else's game.  The helplessness, the fear.  The understanding that the people in charge don't actually care and will ultimately forget about you as quickly as they loved you, except the price for their fleeting entertainment is your life.  I believe the book expertly captures both these aspects to life and puts them on display in an amazingly created futuristic world that is as interesting as it is brutal.  For the characters in the game, it's a no-win situation which features a glimmer of hope that keeps motivation alive, no matter how bleak it is. 

After reading the book, my first thought was that a film version of it would ultimately be challenging considering we'd need to see the story from both Katniss's point of view, and also the point of view of the audience watching the games.  But I also knew that there were some amazing scenes and moments that can truly be brought to life on film.  The world Collins has created is nuanced, endless, memorable and I personally can't wait for the chance to see it....which is why I bought advanced tickets.

See?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What March 3rd - 5th Means To Me: Weekly Walking Dead Hate

Shortly after "The Walking Dead" aired this week, I noticed the following on a friend's Facebook thread:  "I stopped watching a few episodes ago, but let me guess. Lots of talking. Talking talking talking. A philosophical conversation about life, god, how the world is now. Even more boring, poorly written talking. And then a zombie attack at the end."

Wow, pretty much exactly. 

Except this week we lost the "voice of reason," Dale.  I guess we'll have to find a replacement "V.O.R." to tut-tut around the farm spewing morality.  But once again the show threaded its dull needle through the show's most boring character, Carl.  When Dale tried to convince Rick to spare the "prisoner's" life, whose name did he invoke?


When Rick was seconds away from killing said prisoner in the barn, who interrupted the execution with his approval?



And when Dale was finally slaughtered by that persistent Zombie, who felt responsible because he may or may not have lured the walker to the farm?



Yep...yet another episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead!"  Did anyone else's nipples stiffen with delight during the scene in the woods when Carl almost became that muddy zombie's dinner? I actually deluded myself into thinking they might kill him off (and violently), but then remembered that the Walking Dead is the safest show on TV, and they wouldn't dare. They really need a new trick because the age old "do it for the children" routine is stale.  Actually, it was never fresh to begin with, though the Walking Dead drinks from that pond like the show is the Sahara and Carl is the only oasis. 

Also, the Walking Dead has a habit of creating "important moments" through incredibly forced and unnatural motivations.  Dale was slaughtered by the zombie because, for some reason, he decided to take a midnight stroll on the perimeter of the farm.  Earlier, Dale was upset because his opinion on the execution was overruled, but, regardless, why was he storming around like a petulant child? Where the hell was he going?  Similarly, Glenn and Herschel's conversation in which Herschel gives him a family heirloom was just...amazing.  And by amazing I mean amazingly shitty. From his deeply unnatural "check-in" on Herschel's other daughter (who is still "sick" in bed) to the "heartfelt" passing of the torch of Maggie's keeper...ugh, the whole thing was a bigger mess than the guts coming out of the side of the dead cow that Dale happened upon moments before his demise.

Also, a weekly suck award can also go out to Andrea, as her Annie Oakley persona is getting old quick.  I did enjoy the fact that she eventually sided with Dale, showing an inkling of humanity, and maybe she can carry that torch from now on.

T-bone showed up this week!  Is that his name?  T-bone?

How many more weeks till Game Of Thrones again???

Friday, March 2, 2012

What February 29th-March 2nd Means To Me: I'm Cooking

Hide the women and children, I'm engaging in dangerous activities. 

Not that this is a news flash, but eating out is expensive.  It's probably my favorite thing to do in the world, but I suppose doing it every single night is a bit excessive and unnecessary.  So, for the first time in my entire life, I've decided to actually go to the grocery store for more than just popcorn and Coke Zero.  Oh yes, watch out gas bill, you're about to go up over 5 bucks a month because I actually plan to turn the stove on. 
But, on that note, two things always scared me about cooking.  Yes, scared me. 
1)  I would somehow poison myself
2)  I would burn the house down.


Thank you, Beavis

So, with this fear still embedded,  I've started slow. No stove yet, no gas.  I know what you're thinking, but no crockpots, no George Foreman grill (yet).  Even slower. 

Operation Sandwich

But, please, even that one pictured is way too complicated for me.  And I don't eat bacon. Well, unless it's of the turkey variety, but regardless, it's not on my sandwich. But, hey, it's a start. The problem with sandwiches are that they are never very exciting. My mother used to send me to elementary school with a turkey sandwich everyday, and I'd generally pick at it out of guilt until I felt it was the right time to devour the Oreos.  But, one day, I discovered this magical instrument called the toaster and my world was changed. 

I'm a man who loves crunch.  If I can't have my bread toasted, I generally stuff my sandwich full of Baked Lays to achieve a maximum, audible eating experience.  This was why, in 1999, I was elated to find a sandwich shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming that actually toasted the bread.  I was so excited by my small town discovery that I called my buddy in New York to tell him about this ingenious idea from this place called "Quiznos."  Yeah, I had never seen one up until that moment. Laugh all you want.  Ironically, I don't like Quiznos nyway, though I did during that magical summer day...but I digress.

What I do like is that my personal toaster toasts the Denver Broncos logo into my toast, not only making my sandwich tasty, but also provinding the experience an extra dash of excitement.  It's like when your mother used to cut the crust off your PB&Js. 

In the coming weeks I'll try more complex eats than sandwiches, and perhaps I'll even get the Foreman grill and battle with the possibility of salmonella. But, before I get too crazy, I should probably buy a few pots and pans first.